Friday, August 31, 2012

The Blue Moon

Well, I completely missed the boat when I wrote about the full moon the other day(“The Moon is Amazing,” August 14 ) because when I told you to check out the next full moon on August 31st, 1 overlooked the the fact that this moon will be one of the fabled blue moons that we only get to enjoy about every two years.


I wish I could take credit for this picture; alas, I can’t. Alamelu Sundaramoorthy of Portland, Oregon, took it on July 31st, so while it is not the anticipated blue moon,  it is an intriguing shot and probably looks similar to the moon as we will see it tonight. It is just so cool, I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.

So do you know why this moon is considered blue? I’ve used and heard the phrase “once in a blue moon,” and knew it referred to something that didn’t happen very often, something rare,  but I don’t know that I ever understood where the phrase came from. So I googled it. And here’s what I found out.

Two explanations are out there, the original one being that the blue moon is the fourth full moon in a season. The second definition surfaced in 1946 after a writer for Sky and Telescope magazine came up with two full moons occurring in the same month, which seems to be the more popular and accepted definition today.

Blue moons occur on the average every 2.7 years, but that doesn’t always hold true. Even rarer than a blue moon is a year with two months of blue moons. The last one happened in 1999; the next year with two blue moons will be 2018. All of this happens because our calendar months and the moon’s orbit don’t match up exactly. The moon’s cycle takes 29.5 days, and since our months are all longer than that, except for February, the way the timing works out, some months are blessed with more than one full moon from time to time.

So tonight, Friday, August 31st, while you are out enjoying that moon as you watch the football game-many of you will be watching a football game, right?-ooh and ahh over that glowing ball in the sky and bask in its light. And if you are not outside, grab a lawn chair and get yourself out there. You’ll have to wait till July 31, 2015, to experience it again.

Yes, the moon is still requesting your presence.

Pappas, Stephanie. “Catch Friday’s blue moon, or you’ll have to wait until 2015.”…8/30/2012.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stuck in the 50s, 60s…or 70s…Heck, Maybe Even The 80s

My son AJ actually accused me of hopelessly floundering in a sea of music oldies. Well, based on today’s music, I think this generation of kids and young adults is floundering in a sea of really bad music. Of course, the generation gap couldn’t possibly have anything to do with this difference in opinion, right?


We have Sirius/XM radio in our vehicles and way more stations than we will ever care to listen to. But it is so nice not having to endure stupid, irritating advertising and having the option of tuning into just the kind of music we want to hear. Which means the stations that I wear out are right in a row- 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, along with Elvis, B.B. King’s Bluesville, and Willie’s Roadhouse. See, there’s that generation gap again-Willie’s Roadhouse plays old country music, not this current stuff that is too many times pop masquerading as country. I will have to say, though, that when Willie’s station plays some of the really old stuff, I switch stations. Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, Bob Wills and early Ray Price are about as far back as I care to go. And I will also have to admit that some of the 50s stuff  sounds corny now. Pat Boone, some of those stupid girl group songs, and Lesley Gore?  Yuk!  Chuck Berry, early Elvis, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly-now we’re talking classic rock and roll.

I found a music soul mate in Don Drachenberg  when I was gathering information on the Triumphs (“Let Me Tell You About The Triumphs,” August 21). He and I are stuck in about the same music time warp, and we had a lively conversation about music trends and what we thought was good music.We are both fans of old rock and roll, songs that had a good beat, an actual melody, were sing-able, and weren’t all gloom and doom lyrics.

Live concerts performed by bands like the Triumphs used to be about the music, not production extravaganzas. I told him about our trip to Lubbock to see George Strait, Reba McEntire, and Lee Ann Womack (“George, Reba, and Lee Ann Sing for Us,” March 29, 2011). Let me recap for those of you who probably didn’t read that post. Lee Ann I was not familiar with, but the crowd was, as she had been a music student at South Plains College in Levelland, near Lubbock, and she did a nice warm-up set, nothing out of the ordinary. Reba, apparently always the showman, even dating back to her early days when I saw her open for the recently discussed BJ Thomas in Clovis, New Mexico, in 1984, was resplendent in a sequined gown and billowing clouds of dry ice. In the Lubbock show she was still the showman,  with costume changes, lights, and a slide show. When it was George’s turn, he came out with trademark cowboy hat and guitar, and just stood there and sang. And the crowd ate it up. My point to all this is that in most of today’s concerts, a show is perhaps more important than the music and can mask less than spectacular music. And I guess that is fine if a show is what you are after, as most people today seem to be.  But we older generation are perfectly happy with groups like the Triumphs who basically stand there and sing good songs.

I have seen Elton John four times, the first time being with Billy Joel on the Face to Face Tour in Las Vegas in 1995, which was mostly the two of them and their pianos. I can remember at each of the following three concerts the whistles and bells were in full force which is probably to be expected since  Elton John is known for that sort of thing.  But he also plays music that has a melody and interesting lyrics. I would have gone to just see him, the band, and his piano.

I don’t know what category to put the music in that seems to be the dead-air filler of choice at various restaurants and businesses these days. For me it is mostly whiny voices wandering aimlessly trying to follow some tune with no real point and sappy lyrics. These are singers, and I use the term loosely, whose mothers must have told them how wonderful they were and to make a record. So they did. And obviously someone bought them, so what do I know?

Don was not a fan of disco at all, and I tend to agree, but I will have to admit that one of my favorite albums of the 70s is the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. And we both lean toward rock and roll that came from blues roots, like Bobby Blue Bland, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, even early Elvis.

And rap? Well, by now you could tell we don’t even consider that music. To me it is basically a monotone beat with a lead singer-and again I use the term loosely-who is only adept at grabbing his crotch and making in-your-face hand gestures. In the beginning some rap was tolerable because it was usually mixed with actual song, but it sounds like a distant cousin to today’s noise. One song comes to mind that does bring a smile to my face when I hear it, and that is Tone Loc’s 1988 hit, Wild Thing. I was teaching a leadership class at the time, and the kids were doing seat work that was appropriate for working with background music, so I turned on the radio, turned down the volume, and we were all happily busy when that song came on. It happened to be the first time I had heard it, or had bothered to pay attention to it, I suppose, and I became aware of the kids squirming around in their desks and watching me. By the time he got to the part about “I get paid for doin’ the wild thing…,” I couldn’t help but smile and look up to be greeted by a sea of grinning faces eagerly awaiting my full reaction. They laughed, I rolled my eyes, and work resumed eventually.


Which brings me back to why people make the musical choices they do. I hear certain songs and they bring back memories that make me smile or laugh or reflect or even cry. That’s why I choose to stay stuck in the music of those years. That and the fact I have yet to hear much that tempts me to listen elsewhere. That’s why my parents’ generation liked their brand of music and wondered why on earth I was listening to Elvis. And so AJ will make his music choices and I will never understand why, either. And his children will make choices he won’t understand. Ha!

Now, all of that being said, I am about to load a new CD I just bought by Bruno Mars and give a new artist a try. But, really, when I heard him play on the Grammys he sounded sort of like old time rock and roll, so I am not really straying that far from my roots, I suspect.

I guess we are who we are, and some things never change.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let Me Tell You About The Triumphs


If you read last week’s blog, “I Saw Old People!,” you know we attended a Lamar Consolidated High School All 60s Class Reunion and had the pleasure of listening to the music of The Triumphs and a special appearance by BJ Thomas, who used to sing with the band back in the early days. If you are about my age and  from my part of the world, the Texas Gulf Coast, you know who I am talking about. If not, read on to learn about the quintessential circuit band of that era.

TRIUMPHS Photo 1960 001

1960-Tim Griffith, Denny Zatyka, BJ Thomas, Teddy Mensik, Don Drachenberg, Tom Griffith.


2009-left to right, front row-Tim Griffith, Gary Koeppen, Don Drachenberg, Tom Griffith; middle row-Jim Criswell, Steve Wendtland, Walt Wendtland; back row- Ron Petersen, Doug Griffith. This is the band as we know them today.

In the summer of 1959 the Griffith brothers’ dad came home with an electric guitar and amplifier a man had offered him as collateral on a loan. The man never returned to reclaim the guitar, so Mr. Griffith gave it to Tim, who started messing around with it, learning to play. One thing led to another and before long friends Denver Zatyka and Teddy Mensik joined in, and they decided to start a band.

By December of 1959, the band added members Don Drachenberg and BJ Thomas, and  now had a name, The Triumphs, thanks to Denny and Teddy, inspired by the car of that name and the fact that car names for groups were popular back then. Their first public performance was in January of 1960 at the Teen Canteen in Richmond, and they actually got paid for their next performance in February at a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) dance, a whopping $5 apiece!

Don Drachenberg shared with me that Denny Zatyka’s dad, Felix, who  owned the Lone Star beer distributorship in Rosenberg, was always very generous with the boys, allowing them to practice in the warehouse, which worked out really well. They had a clean concrete floor to set up the equipment, plenty of electrical outlets, fans, and plenty of room to make as much noise as they needed without bothering neighbors like they would have in someone’s garage. Having the beer franchise made Mr. Zatyka a very comfortable living, which meant he had money to spend on the boys when they needed something in the early days, like a station wagon to drive to their gigs, gas money, and other incidentals along the way. As BJ fondly joked at the concert, having a beer warehouse in Fort Bend County was like having a license to print money, and Mr. Zatyka was happy to share with the band when they needed something.

By 1962 Tom Griffith and Gary Koeppen had joined the band, and they were making a name for themselves playing for dances in places like Riverside Hall in East Bernard, Pecan Grove in Wharton, Swiss Alp Dance Hall between La Grange and  Schulenburg. They had recorded some songs that did well in the Houston area, I Know It’s WrongLazy Man, and I’ve Got A Feeling, the last two making it to the top 10 of Houston’s top 40 list. In 1964 Fred Carney joined the band to play keyboards, and in 1965 they recorded an area favorite, Garner State Park, written by friend Mark Sharon specifically for them, reaching number.1 in Houston and number 5 in the national charts.

The band’s success with these songs and the popularity of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, which was a national number 1 hit in 1966, was the catalyst that convinced BJ to leave the band in March of 1966 and go solo, eventually earning  five Grammies and building a solid fan base.

TRIUMPHS Photo 19671967-Tim Griffith, Ron Petersen, Don Drachenberg, Fred Carney, Tom Griffith, Gary Koeppen, Teddy Mensik.

After BJ left, there were other changes in the band. Denny Zatyka left to honor his father’s wishes that he continue the family business. Ron Petersen joined in 1967 followed by the youngest Griffith brother, Doug, in the mid-70s. Fred Carney, Sam Boswell, Steve Haygood,  Albert Gonzales, Bill Pace, Jon Perry, Mike Taylor took their turns with the band for a while as well.

TRIUMPHS Photo 19761976-Tim Griffith, Steve Haygood, Tom Griffith, Bill Pace, Don Drachenberg, Doug Griffith, Albert Gonzales.

TRIUMPHS Photo 19781978- Tim Griffith, Jon Perry, Don Drachenberg, Doug Griffith, Tom Griffith, Sam Boswell, Mike Taylor.

By 1980 the band had enjoyed 20 years of success working the Gulf Coast circuit and covering the hits of their musical influences like Chuck Berry, Bobby Bland, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Wilson PIckett, and others from that era.  But they had also watched the world embrace disco, they missed spending time with their families, and they were tired working weekends and holidays. It just seemed like time to pack it in. So they did.

But, as Don said, once a musician, always a musician, and by 1992 the principal players were ready to give it another go, with the addition of  brothers Steve and Walt Wendtland, and Jim Criswell, but losing original drummer Teddy Mensik who was ready for a break. This time they played to their strength, good solid rock and roll, 60s hits from their heyday, popular 50s and 70s classic songs, and an occasional hit from the 80s.


Walt and Steve Wendtland both graduated from Lamar, and it just so happens that their dad, Dr. Walt Wendtland, was the band director at Lamar for many years and was my band director. I can’t help but believe that he was pleased that his sons went on to make music, and I think it is neat that they both chose to be a part of the Triumphs’ legacy.

Fans still follow the Triumphs and pack the house. The Summer Reunion Tour of 1992 became the start of a revival for the band, and now they enjoy an average of 18 bookings a year. Expanding from the original five members to nine over the years (most of them still having ties with Lamar) and adding instruments has given the band the versatility to expand their playlist, including big band hits such as In The Mood, which they do quite well and is fun for them and the fans. Many fans have a long history following the band and the band enjoys seeing those familiar faces over the years and talking to people who still enjoy the music.


While the Triumphs were enjoying their own brand of fame, BJ, meanwhile, was making a name for himself as well. After I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry came hits such as Eyes of a New York Woman, Hooked on a Feeling, Rock and Roll Lullaby, and I Just Can”t Help Believing. He has enjoyed success not only in rock and roll and pop, but also on the country charts as well as some Christian music. He earned his fourth gold record for Hey Won’t You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, which holds the distinction of being the longest titled number 1 hit on the Hot 100, just so you know for your next trivia game. That song happens to be one of my personal favorites and was a real crowd-pleaser at the Lamar reunion when he invited the crowd to sing along, and boy, did we!

DON AND B.J.Don and BJ at the Fort Bend Country Fair in 2008.

IMG_8817BJ at the Lamar All 60s reunion August 11, 2012.

The Triumphs and BJ have teamed up more than once since the old days and plans are afoot to do it more in the future. Even though he left the band, they are all still friends. When that all happened people wondered why the Triumphs didn’t go with him. To some it looked sort of like the high school quarterback who gets recruited while the line who defended him gets to stay home and take regular jobs.  According to Don, they were all happy for his success and were equally happy to stay right where they were, doing their own thing. I suggest that their relationship was a two-way street, each helping the other find their place in the musical world. And we, the fans, benefit on both sides.


Being a circuit band was what has made it fun for the Triumphs all these years. Don said they tried, very briefly, their hand at the club scene, a situation where a club hires a different band to play each night of the week on a regular basis. They didn’t like the smoky stale smell of the bars, the drunks, the attitude in general. That lasted about three weeks, and they gave it up. Playing favorite dance halls, county fairs, reunions, weddings, birthdays, and  festivals was much more fun and personable for the guys, and actually made them more money than the club scene. But the money was not the issue; it was enjoying the music and the people that kept them in the game.



So if you need a band for a special event or want to enjoy some great music that is good for listening or dancing, google the Original Triumphs, check out their upcoming performances,  and knock yourself out!


Thank you to Doug Griffith and Ron Petersen for helping with this article. 

A very special thanks to Don Drachenberg, who was so generous with his time to answer my phone calls, emails, and to share pictures with me.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Saw Old People!


That’s what class reunions are all about, right? What, you were expecting people to be walking around in some mystical reincarnation of their senior year portrait? Maybe at a five-year reunion, but not at an all 60’s reunion, like I attended last Saturday. This reunion marks the fifth time former students of Lamar Consolidated High School in Rosenberg, Texas, have pooled their resources and hard work and pulled off a combined reunion for the classes of 1960 through 69, although I see on the program that the classes of ‘59 and ‘70 managed to tack themselves on to this get-together as well. The main attraction this year was the reappearance of BJ Thomas with the Triumphs, and that may have prompted these two bookend classes to tag along. For my class, the class of 1964, this marked our 48th year of life after high school.

TRIUMPHS photo 1960 scan

BJ Thomas and the Triumphs were a huge drawing card in the Rosenberg area during the 60s, playing at dances held at Knights of Columbus halls and such on many a Saturday night, and I can remember going to these dances. BJ was the singer for the band, and  If you are as old as I am, you might know who BJ Thomas is and that he went on to fame and fortune with his hit song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. If this means nothing to you, go ask your mother, smarty pants.


But I digress. More about BJ and the Triumphs next week. The topic this week is the reunion.

And I had a great time. Some people, for reasons known only to them, never go to their class reunions. Others, like me, seem to always show up for the party and enjoy seeing old friends and seeing how everyone turned out. I suspect we all see people we didn’t know well or run around with in high school who seem like really nice people now, and we wonder why we didn’t hang around with them at the time. Amazing what a little maturity does for a person’s perspective.

Time is also the great equalizer. Often the ugly ducklings grow up to be the best looking, the shy ones become the extroverts, the quiet people wind up with really cool jobs, and the most beautiful/handsome lose their looks or their hair. And there are those who turned out pretty much the way you expected them to. But aside from seeing who everyone grew up to be, it is mostly just fun to visit and share stories and relive memories. Or just talk.



Danny Slavinski grew up to be a CPA. I never knew he liked numbers that much. He and his wife Sharon (Klasel), who grew up to be a teacher and is also class of ‘64, make all the reunions, so we see each other from time time. He asked me this time, '”Are you still at Cut and Shoot?” Cut and Shoot? Really? Even though geographically Muleshoe and Cut and Shoot are miles and miles apart, in totally different areas of the state, Muleshoe being West Texas, and Cut and Shoot being East Texas, about forty miles north of Houston, they are both small towns with sort of unusual Western names, so I said, “Well, no, I’m still in Muleshoe, but thematically, I guess they are kind of close…” to which Sharon laughed and said,  “Thematically? Does that sound like a teacher or what?”


Janis Reimer Manuel and I spent lots of time together as younger kids and then  played volleyball together all through junior high and high school. I credit her with helping me come up with butchered English phrases that to this day I have to think about before speaking; otherwise short and fat becomes fart and shat; clever and witty turns into clevey and witter. This penchant for misplaced syllables carried over to my teaching career when twins Amber and Wendy Green finally gave up and learned to answer to my new names for them-Andy and Wember.


IMG_8750Eugene Reichle is one who got one of the cool jobs-airline pilot for Continental. But no one would know him by Eugene; we always called him Bookie. And as I write this, I realize I have no clue as to why we called him Bookie. So that should be our first conversation at our 50th reunion coming up in 2014.


Then there is Lonnie Zwernemann, the quiet kid turned wild child who has recently moved back to Texas from Alaska where he worked for many years on pipeline construction, I believe, and even if I do have the job wrong, it is cool to say you worked and lived in Alaska for a while. His dress code was considerably different to the rest of the crowd, what with his sleeveless Harley t-shirt, shorts, head gear, tennis shoes, and flamboyant  display of tattoos. I think he enjoyed himself all night.


IMG_8719It was great to see Sue Ginsberg Perlo and Carol Sue Koenig Hausler. When Sue would come to my house Daddy would always make her smile when he would say, “Sue Who?’ just because he liked the rhyme. Carol and I like to say we have known each other from the womb because our mothers were friends before we were born, and we grew up as part of each other’s family. When I would spend the night with her we would shut the doors to the living room, turn the air conditioner down to freezing and curl up in a comforter on a pallet on the floor under the piano and giggle all night.


IMG_8728Diane Hundl Smith has been all over the world with her husband as he moved with his job. Lee Briscoe went to work for NASA when he graduated from Texas A&M and went on to be the voice of Mission Control for many of the manned flights. How great is that to travel that much, and not many people get to say they talked to the astronauts.


Kathleen Hopmann McMahon was my back door neighbor. We made many a mud pie with gravel frosting and built lean-tos in the corner of the chain link fence with bamboo shoots where we shared many secrets. Kathleen is the class of ‘66, but she brought back memories of home that I just wanted to include.


Lloyd Hartmann was even there, the first reunion he has attended in a long time. From first grade all through grade school I had a mad crush on Lloyd, so naturally I was just thrilled when in first or second grade we had the heady experience of walking from school to the Cole Theater to see Disney’s Living Desert, and I got to walk with Lloyd, which mean we got to hold hands, as the teachers thought they could keep up with us better if we walked in twos. By junior high I was over him, but we were always friends. Lloyd became a dentist.



LInda Owens Carroll and Danny Gerken are our hard-working classmates who have seen to it that we have even had reunions all these years. I know I appreciate all their time and trouble and I hope by the time the reunion takes place, they are able to relax and just enjoy it.

Every year the list of those who have passed on grows longer. I counted 186 names on our graduation program (yes, I still have one; it's in the scrapbook) and 28 on the memorial list. So that means that 158 of us are still around, even though they don’t all make the reunions.


Lupe Rodriguez is one that we lost early to cancer. I can remember her entrance to one of the early reunions. She was an attractive, slender girl, and when she walked in, all eyes turned to her in her slinky long red dress and pretty flowing hair. She was a detective with the Houston Police Department, which I thought was pretty neat. I mean, really, how many of us actually know a police detective? To me it was like rubbing shoulders with a rock star.



And speaking of rock stars, the band and BJ were a big hit. After the registration, visiting, and picture-taking, after the catered meal and more visiting, the Triumphs played songs that put us all back in Riverside Hall in East Bernard or Pecan Grove in Wharton or just back to our teenage years. And then BJ came out and did his hits. The dancing seemed to stop at that point as all eyes and cameras were on him. Afterward, he and the band patiently and graciously signed autographs. Many in the crowd had brought their ancient LP albums to be signed and others grabbed whatever was handy. Tom Griffith was nice enough to share one of the playlists they use on stage, so I had BJ sign that.


Since the All 60s reunions involve a lot of people and have the Triumphs, they usually make money after expenses. This year was no exception. Total attendance this year was 930 former students and spouses.  The reunion committee chose to donate $1000 to the Lamar band for their big out-of-state trip coming up in the fall, which is a nice way for us to give back to our alma mater.


I see that this piece is running a bit long, so if your picture is missing from the story, and I am sorry if yours is not included, then I guess you will just have to make it a point to come to our 50th reunion in 2014 and find your picture in my scrapbook that Linda and Sharon Vallet Wollingford are checking out. I finally dug out the Sakowitz box that I had carried school pictures around in for all these years and decided that they and all the reunion pictures I had collected weren’t of much use the way they were, so it all went into a Lamar scrapbook.

So in two years drag out the old walker, put in your false teeth, change the batteries in your hearing aids, clean off the bifocals,  and come join us to relive those thrilling days of yesteryear. It really will be fun.


Thank you to Danny Gerken and Linda Carroll for their continued work in planning and executing these reunions, and a special thanks to Linda for helping me with details and information for this article.

Thanks to Don Drachenberg for the group pictures of the Triumphs and to Tom Griffith for sharing the playlist with me.


The Moon is Amazing


I hope you had a reason to be out and enjoy the full moon last week. It was spectacular. The moon just has to be one of God’s best ideas. It gives us light to find our way at night; it serves as a marker that a month has passed; it inspires stories of romance, mystery, and werewolves; it kindles a desire for exploration and discovery; it seduces us with its beauty.

I am sad to report that with this full moon I did not make it outside in time with my camera for any really nice shots as it was making its grand, and as usual, speedy ascent out of the horizon and into the sky. As with sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, and clouds, timing is everything for a good picture. I do have some nice shots taken in the past with my 35mm film camera, but alas, they are tucked away and would be a needle in the haystack search that I just can’t do right now. So I searched through my digital images and found a few to share with you. My night photography is still a work in progress, and these aren’t the greatest,  but I have come to the conclusion that even great pictures don’t really do the moon justice. Especially the contrast made by shadows in darkness, the softness of the silver luminescence, the brightness shining up there in the sky.





After the night of a full moon and the sky is just beginning to lighten up, the moon makes it descent in the west as the sun is coming up in the east. When I was teaching and would leave the house early, it seemed to mark my path as I drove to school. As it dropped toward the horizon, it seemed to get bigger, the craters were more pronounced, and it was always a pleasure to start the day under the glow of its light before the busyness of the day  stole my attention. These days I seldom make myself get up early enough to relive that sight. But I need to make the effort; that is one picture I would like to have.

I also enjoy driving on a moonlight night. The moon casts enough light that the sky is blue and the horizon makes a distinct line around you. Clouds can be seen drifting by, lights twinkle in the distance, and shapes take form with a hint of color. I remember a trip to Dallas one moonless night by myself on an unfamiliar highway. The darkness seemed to swallow me up; it was unnerving and spooky. How I wished for some moonlight that night.


This first shot is not the best, but it does show how bright the moon was that night and how it reflected off our metal roof, just like the sun. The second picture was taken at Pagosa Springs, Colorado, on a ski trip to Wolf Creek.


I can understand why man has the desire to travel to the moon, but considering human nature and the tendency to litter, I am not sure that is a good idea. We don’t need to make a mess of it like some people have of  the earth. But I digress; that is another story one of these days…


Walter de la Mare wrote a poem about the moon. Perhaps you are familiar with it. My senior English teacher, Ann Sandal, was, and it was in the list of poems we were to choose from to memorize and recite to the class for a grade. My friend Billy Chase, who was always on the low end of achievement in that Honors English class, not because he wasn’t smart, but because he just wasn't real serious about English, selected that poem for his recitation. He went to the front of the class, turned, and very seriously said, “Silver. By the Lone Ranger…” (Those of you who are too young to know who the Lone Ranger is, ask your mother. Or go see the upcoming Johnny Depp/Armie Hammer movie.) The rest of us, right on cue, laughed out loud and thought it was pretty funny. Mrs. Sandal was not amused. Billy had to get down on his knees and beg for a second chance to do it right. She gave it to him, but I don’t remember what grade she was willing to give him. And I suspect, having been an English teacher myself, that after the kids were gone, she laughed, too.


Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees;

One by one the casements catch

Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;

Couched in his kennel like a log,

With paws of silver sleeps the dog;

From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep

Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;

A harvest mouse goes scampering by,

With silver claws and a silver eye;

And moveless fish in the water gleam,

By silver reeds in a silver stream.

-Walter de la Mare

I especially like the last two lines of this poem because they have such a musical quality-moveless fish in the water gleam by silver reeds in a silver stream-and because the effect that moonlight has on everything it touches is so magical. It is that incandescence, that ethereal glow that comforts the senses.

And just so you know, shoon is plural for shoes in some dialects.

So the next full moon is expected to rise on August 31st, a Friday. We tend to take the moon for granted; we always expect it to be there, and it always is. This time watch it make its ascent into the sky with a new appreciation. Take time to step outside and experience the gentle shock and awe that the moonlight can create.


Sometimes a picture just isn’t enough. The moon requests your presence.