Going to the Dogs. And other such sayings…

Knock on wood. Why? How come we need to do that?

I was updating our online menu page (bumped up the priorities list to the point it finally got completed!) and saw a previous blog headline, in which I implored myself to “knock on wood.” It seemed appropriate at the time.

While moving some books around this afternoon, I came across a little volume entitled “Heavens to Betsy!” (which is a whole ‘nother story…) and I looked in the index. Sure enough, “knock on wood’ is listed among the “400 Colorful Words – and Their Origins” in the book.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one curious about the origin of the superstition, but – according to the author – the exact beginning of the phrase has been lost to time. He quotes a similar book from 1946 in which the writer attributes it to an old game called “Touching Wood” or “Wood Tag.”

I’m old enough that I remember playing outside games. And I seem to recall one in which we raced around wildly trying to get from point-A to point-B while whoever was “It” chased us. If you touched a tree or a porch railing – something made of wood – you were safe, and could dart away again when “It” went after someone else.

Remember, we didn’t have video games back then. We chased each other around. Get over it.

At any rate, the 1946 author seemed to think that whole thing dated clear back to the old, Old Days, when people believed that there were tree spirits that could keep people safe. (What? Tree Spirits aren’t Real?) He also suggests that it could have something to do with the original wooden Cross and taking an oath on a crucifix.

This is how work in the book shop tends to be put off – reading one tiny paragraph in a book leads to another, and the next thing you know, a half hour is gone.

I was trying to put the little “Heavens to Betsy” book down and spotted a phrase that made me immediately think of my dear grandmother, who exclaimed with exasperation, “For Crying in a Bucket!” when she was put out by something.

The book says Granny was doing a turn on “For Crying out Loud!” which is called a ‘minced oath,’ which many of us are guilty of professing on occasion – like saying “Shoot!” instead of that four-letter expletive that is the originating profanity. These days many things that never would have been said aloud are spoken with reckless abandon, including “For Christ’s Sake!” – which waaaay back when was lumped in with those other words and phrases never said publicly or in mixed company, for cryin’ out loud.

This I recognize from Charles Dickens novels in which even such phrases as “By G–!” are dashed instead of put forward uncensored, to avoid offending the dear reader, who might become so astonished as to grumble:

For Crying in a Bucket!

Magnanimous Magazine.

Mystery solved. At least partly.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had comments about our “ad” or “article” from folks who have come in for lunch.

Huh?

Today, the gentleman making the reference trotted out to his car and grabbed his copy of the magazine, which he had brought as a guide to our location. Wow! A full-page article, complete with photographs, hours, phone number, and website address.

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Not only that, but it was a nicely written, flattering article, that was pleasing enough to me that I read it twice.

Lindsay Morris is the author, and I owe a debt of gratitude for the kind press, however surreptitiously researched. Guerilla journalism, in a way, because – you would assume that someone would be noticed as they moved about a shop taking pictures.

Not the case.

In the immortal words of Sgt. Schultz (Hogan’s Heroes, Google it…) “I see NOTHING! I know NOTHING!” Granted, the photographs were taken during the lunch hour, when I was more than likely trotting around from table to table, old man style.

Reading the article, I did recall a brief exchange with a lunch guest – specifically, a book title mentioned in the article and the specifics of a shepherd’s pie presentation. Didn’t know I was being interviewed for a magazine article though.

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Having done a number of Q and A sessions (on both sides of the reporter’s notepad), I’m guessing that was among the most painless ever, with about as pleasing a result as could be expected.

Obviously, the magazine has a readership, since it has been mentioned here in the shop several times already, with its January 2018 date.

Our thanks to the author and editors for honoring us with an inclusion!

True Grit from the Wichita Lineman.

I didn’t remember it, but one of the stars of the 1969 film True Grit – was Glen Campbell, who played La Boeuf, a Texas Ranger. I probably didn’t remember it because I’m pretty certain I never saw the movie.

The BIG star, of course, was John Wayne. And that may be the reason that I never saw it. (I was never that big a fan of Mr Wayne, an admission I put in parenthesis to keep it on the down-low.)

After reading the Wiki listing, I now know that Glen Campbell also sang the theme song, which made the music charts back then. That’s Back Then, as in – back when movies began with a fixed camera shot while the opening credits rolled up the screen.

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That was also Back When I didn’t ever listen to country music (a practice I have since changed). Back When I didn’t watch Westerns – movies or TV shows – or read Old West fiction. Times do change.

I still don’t read a lot of western books, but True Grit is a genuine classic, in my opinion. It’s also fun to read, in that it takes place in this general area, with specific references to McAlester, Oklahoma, where I graduated high school. (…and where someone who REALLY liked John Wayne also attended, thus the above down-low admission.)

All of that makes the book that came in today all the more special.

I’ve written about True Grit before, about how author Charles Portis was able to weave authentic western Arkansas colloquial phrases into stretches of dialogue that are almost poetic. The book was an instant hit when it was released in 1968, and Mr Wayne won his only Academy Award for his performance just a year later.

The First Edition hardback that arrived today features an inscription on the title page, hand-written by Glen Campbell that reads “You’re gentle on my mind, always.” Gentle on My Mind, of course, was the name of the theme song for the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, his popular variety show. (Variety shows used to be popular. That was before they invented Reality.)

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I’m sure the book would be more valuable if signed by Charles Portis. Probably John Wayne’s signature is more collectible than that of Glen Campbell. As it is, I’m happy to have in the shop a copy of one of the most memorable western stories ever to be made into a couple of movies.

The movie opening is available on YouTube, and was an instant reminder of the singing abilities of Glen Campbell, regardless of his acting skills.

Now, if I can just get the book to talk I’ll learn all about how it went from the hands of Glen Campbell – circa 1969 – all the way to Broken Arrow, OK, 2017.

Might be a great story right there!