Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 19, 2019


Openers:  The evening before his wedding Ronny Huckaby was killed by the chickens.  It wasn't an easy thing for them to do.  Chickens are inadequately equipped for murder, and Ronny, who had turned twenty-two a month earlier, was strong and healthy.  (He was also handsome, hung, and quite the local stallion, which did not affect the outcome one way or the other.)  But the chickens managed.  Through perserverance, dogged determination, a certain cavalier disregard for their own safety, and a great deal of surprise, they managed.

-- Tom Reamy, "M Is for the Million Things" (from New Voices 4:  The John W. Campbell Nominees, edited by George R. R. Martin, 1981)

The ultra-talented Reamy (1935-1977) died from a hert attack at age 42, the author of thirteen critically-acclained stories and one novel.  A collection of eleven of thos thirteen stories, San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories, was posthumously published in 1979; the twelfth story was published as noted above, and the thirteenth story was sold to Harlan Ellison's never-to-be-published-(at-least-not-yet) The Last Dangerous Visions.  The novel, Blind Voices, reputedly lacking a final rewrite from Reamy, was posthumously published in 1978 and was well received by critics and fans alike (and remains one of my personal favorites).  Reamy was a major talent gone much too soon.  If you have not read his stories and his novel, what the heck are you waiting for?

Countries for Sale:  So Trump wants to buy Greenland.  H\e's not the first U.S. president to suggest  this.  After World War II Truman proposed buying it for defensive and political reasons.  Denmark did not want to sell, and the world went on just fine as the imagined reasons for buying Greenland faded with time.  The United States currently maintains a military base on the island.  (Buying territory from Denmark had been a thing in the past -- that's how we obtained the American Virgin Islands in 1917.)

Anyway, Denmark does not want to sell, has no reason to sell, and Greenlanders are scoffing at the idea.  And why would Trump think it was a good idea?  Well, it would certainly fit into his ego to go down in history as an expansionist president.  And the political concerns -- having control of such a large area strategically placed near the Arctic Circle may add weight to ocean mining claims under the Arctic.  And then there are the resources.  As global warming continues -- something Trump is accelerating and, despite his denials, knows is happening -- more and more of Greenland will be exposed as the ice sheets melt, revealing a lot of potential riches for the country which controls them.  And if America owns them, I'm sure Trump will try to figure out a way to get a cut of the action.  With Trump's proven lack of business acumen, however, any business plan he develops will almost certainly be a disaster.

Plus, imagine Greenland as an American territory under Trump.  Ask Puerto Rico how that has turned out for them.

Samlesbury Witches:  As English witch trials go, the one against three women from Samlesbury, a village in Lancashire, is one of the most famous ones.  Today is the 407th anniversary of that trial.

Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley were accused of withcraft by a fourteen-year-old girl, Grace Sowerbutts.  (If anyone ever had an apt name, it was Grace Sowerbutts, although being English, the name could well have been pronounced Chumley or something like that.  The English are funny that way.  I digress.)  Young Grace was the grandaughter of Jennet Bierley and the niece of Ellen Bierly.  Grace stoutly claimed that Jennet and Ellen had the power to change hemselve into dogs and, among the instances of instances of years of haunting and vexing the young girl, they had flown her to the top of a haystack by her hair.  Among the charges Grace laid out were child murder and cannibalism, claiming that the two women stole a baby to suck its blood, and that, after the child was buried, the two disinterred it in order to cook it and eat it.  Grace also said that her grandmother and her aunt, along with Jane Southworth, regularly attneded sabbats each Thursday and Sunday where they met with four black demons with whom they danced and had sex,  I'm not sure which was the worse sins at the time, dancing or having sex.

Caught up in the witch hunting frenzy of the time, a local JP began investigating the Samiesbury area, eventually bring charges against eight women, three of whom went to trial for witchcraft.  There is no prize for guessing which three.

Lancashire at the time was considered the back of the beyond, a wild territory still held in great part by (**gasp!**) Catholics.  Since the ascension of Elizabeth I, Catholic priests had been forces into hiding, although in such a lawless territory as Lancashire was, masses were still being held, usually in secret.  In 1612, the year of the trial, with James I on the throne, it had become illegal not to attend Church of England services.  The Reformation and its aftermath had split many english families.  In Samiesbury the Southworth family was headed by Sir John Southworth an avowed Catholic.  His son John joined the Church of England and was promptly disinherited.  The remaining Southworths remained Catholic with at least one son, Christopher, becoming a Jesuit priest.  Jane Southworth, married to the disinherited son, had been a widow for only a few months when she was accused of withcraft.  It did not help her case when it was revealed that Sir John refused to even pass by her house, fearing that she would kill him.

Things did not look good for the accused, but then Grace Sowerbutts was taken aside for further questioning where she freely admitted that all her accusations were lies.  Grace, a Catholic, had been coached on her entire testimony by Christopher Southworth, the Jesuit priest.  The trial was laid bare as a papist plot against three members of the Church of England.  The trio were released.

The trial gained noteriety when Thomas Potts, the clerk to the Lancanster Assizes, was order to write an account of the proceedings, The Wondefull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, which was published after trial judge Sir Edward Bromley discreetly edited it.  Bromley was hoping to be promoted to a circuit nearer London and hoped this might impress King James.  (It worked.  Bromley was promoted to the Midlands Circuit in 1616;  Potts was also favored by King James, who named him breeder and trainer of the king's hounds in 1615.)

William Harrison Ainsworth, the well-known nineteenth century novelist, mined the trial for his 1849 novel The Lancashire Witches, the best and most popular of his thirty novels and the oly novel of Ainsworth's that has remained continuously in print since its first publication.

Musical Interlude:

Florida Man:  Ah, the dog days of summer, especially this summer with its record heat.  Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night August heat shall stay Florida Man from his appointed weirdness.

  •  In Belleair Bluffs, 22-year-old David Murray Biggs was having a days-long argument with 24-year-old Darius Johnson.  Biggs eventually won the argument by driving to Johnson's house and shooting him.  When officials arrested Biggs for murder, they did not say what the argument was about.  My theory?  They were arguing about the most effective way to kill someone dead.
  • In Panellis Park, Ty Kelley added himself to the "People of Walmart" meme by taking a $6.98 bottle of wine and shoving it down his pants.  Since cheap Walmart wine doesn't travel well he took it into the men's room, where he chugged it down.  I'm not sure whether the wine was a red or a white.  What does go best with the ambiance of a public bathroom?   Perhaps he will meet David Murray Biggs in jail and they will argue the question...
  • In Vero Beach, Carlos Gullen was arrested by sheriff's deputies for smoking pot.  Guillen stated he had been attending a church convention about four milles from where he was arrested.  The pot, he said, was to prepare for the coming of Jesus.  This explanation may be explained by the half-empty bottle of Hennessy cognac next to him in the passenger seat.  The story, as reported online by the very anti-religion "Friendly Atheist," ends with, "Needless to say, if he's waiting for Jesus, Guillen -- like all Christians -- will be staring at a watch for a very long time.  As they say, He was nailed to a cross, not a boomerang."  Ouch!
  • I'll leve this one to your imagination.  The headline reads, "Half-Naked Florida Man Walks Goat in the Rain."  The half that wasn't naked was covered by bright yellow underpants.  The location was Highway 231 just North of Panama City.  And Florida Man wasn't really walking.  "He had a strut with a bit of sashay."
  • In Jacksonville last week, Florida Man Robby Stratton carried an alligator into a liquor store and chased customers with it.  It may not surprise you to know that this week Stratton said he has no memory of the incident (which was caught on tape, by the way).  Alcohol may have been involved.

Today's Poem:

I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.

And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.

They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaine river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees 
with their women and children
and a keg of beer
and an accordion.

-- Carl Sandburg