23 May 2022

Ellis Millsaps: Cranky English Major Strikes Again

 Yes he's back again but this time maybe less cranky and more analytical. I'm going to be examining some current trendy jargon and speculating on its staying power but I'm saving that for later. For now I want to look at slang and the evolution of language in general.

I started my research on this with “cool,” and learned that as I thought going in it sprang out of black jazz culture between two world wars and pretty much stayed there until the Beat Generation adopted it as part of their discovery of jazz. The word didn't become mainstream until the hippie counterculture adopted it in the sixties.

 It then pretty much obliterated ”swell” as a general expression of approval. We heard Andy Hardy peppering his speech with a lot of swell.  Wally Cleaver used the expression but Maynard G Krebs, Cheech and Chong never.

 So swell is an example of a slang expression which was commonly used for quite a while and then virtually disappeared as slang.  I suspect that “awesome” will suffer the same fate. I think I've noticed  the decline of its use among young people.

 Other trendy expressions appear to be here for the long haul in spite of the cranky English Major’s strong disapproval. The most notorious of these is “ veggie,” which sounds like, and I suspect it started as, baby talk. Similarly but to a lesser extent I cringe when I hear ”24 -7.” It's as if the speaker is saying” look at me I'm cool,” which isn't.

Another such expression is ”share,” as in “I'd like to share something with you.”  I understand what is meant but it ain't what Jesus meant. The speaker is not giving up anything as an act of Christian charity. On the contrary, that person is going for self-aggrandizement.

So our language evolves naturally and you may or may not like particular manifestations but that's entirely subjective. Next time I'll give more examples and reflect on their origins.. 

- Ellis Millsaps

03 May 2022

Past Piedmont Chronicles: Presley Jones & His One-Man War in Covington vs The Yankees in 1864

 *originally published in About Covington to Madison Magazine in ____

**ed. note: Wow...almost a full month w/out a post. Mea Culpa. We're gonna be workin' hard to get bettah on that, rest assured. You CAN count on us! 

Presley Jones Takes on the Yankees 

~From the April 2012 edition of About Covington to Madison Magazine~

Greetings! Good to be back with everybody. I was so glad that so many of you enjoyed the last column on Mr. Buster Chadwick. I got a lot of positive feedback on that one. Thanks so much! As always, I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

I had previously mentioned that I was going to be concentrating more on human-interest stuff and less on historical things, but…what can I say? Like a moth to the flame—I just can’t help myself! There are so many things that I’ve mentioned in passing (or not at all) that I’d like to expound on. With that said, I will still be doing some more of the human-interest writings in the near future, but I will also be sticking to my historical roots. This month we’ll cover a topic I had mentioned briefly in my Covington column from the Summer of 2009. Hope you enjoy!

In July of 1864, well in advance of his famous march to the sea, Sherman had directed Brig. General Kenner Garrard to ride east from Atlanta and head to Covington with his cavalry division to start tearing up railroad tracks; destroying bridges, rail cars, depots, and locomotives; and burning stores and commercial properties. He actually wrote the following in a letter to Garrard: “…but of private property only take what is necessary for your own use, except horses and mules, of which you will take all that are fit for service, exercising of course, some judgment as to the animals belonging to the poor and needy.”

On July 21 Garrard left Atlanta and proceeded to Lithonia, GA where he started destroying the railroads and moving east at a pretty good clip. On July 22 Garrard and his raiders entered Covington. After having no resistance throughout their journey, I’m sure the Yankees were caught off guard when they came across an old man by the name of Presley Jones. Jones lived on what is now known as Washington St . and apparently had a “hatred of everything blue” and had vowed to kill the first Union troops to come into Covington . When word started to get out that Federal troops were advancing on Covington, Mr. Jones grabbed his rifle and hunkered down in front of the Covington courthouse. When he spotted his first Yankee he fired and killed the man. He then moved to another location and brought down another Union soldier a short time later. He was able to wound two more before he was captured and shot. The Yankees then proceeded to “beat out his brains with the butts of their rifles. He doubtless anticipated such a fate and went coolly to certain death with no hope of fame and with only the satisfaction of getting two for one (Sgt. Walter Clark, C.S.A.).”
Unfortunately, the “two for one” deal would not stand. According to multiple sources, it was widely believed that the Yankees were so infuriated with what had happened that they decided to find another victim to placate their revenge. It just so happened that a Confederate quartermaster by the name of George Daniel was on furlough and back home in Covington during this time. The Union troops tracked Daniel down and court-martialed and executed him. According to reports, the Yankees tried to blindfold him but he refused, saying “no, a Confederate soldier can face death without being blindfolded.” He was shot and killed and the count was evened—two dead Yankees; two dead Covingtonians.

Well, we all know the rest of the story. A few months later and Sherman would come through on his way to Savannah and the War Between the States would draw to a close just a few months after that. The shootings carried out by Mr. Jones and the subsequent retaliation by the Yankees would be the only warfare that Covington would see within her city limits during the Civil War.

Hope you enjoyed that. Future columns will cover more specific, historical events in Covington, Madison, and the surrounding areas. In the non-historical vein, I'll be rolling out a column about another musical talent from our area. And finally, after a lengthy delay, my installment series on the Moore's Ford Bridge killings will be up and running on my blog by the time you read this column. There will be a link at the top of the main page. Until next time... 


07 April 2022

Ellis Millsaps: Spring Sports Roundup

  It's time again for my semi annual state of baseball commentary. You know, the crack of the bat, the smell of rawhide and other cliches I don't recall at the moment.


First to the rule changes. After forty nine years the  HD is here to stay in both leagues.  This isn't really a rule change. We now have the Shohei Ohtani exception because of the phenomenal Japanese starting pitcher and designated hitter. A pitcher can now stay in the lineup to hit even if he's replaced on the mound. Thus you can possibly have two designated hitters in one lineup, i. e., two players who are hitting but not playing in the field.

This year there will be no seven inning doubleheader games. That's a good thing in my opinion but unfortunately we still have the what has come to be called the “ghost runner” rule where all extra Innings begin with a runner on second. I've hated this rule because of what it does to the baseball sacred record-keeping, but at least last year it was imposed because of covid, a problem which is hardly there now. This year the justification is the shortened spring training, a problem MLB brought on itself. They're allowing expanded rosters for the first 30 days. With two extra pitchers a team ought to be able to handle extra Innings. So it's another year in the books with an asterisk after it.

Fortunately this change expires at the end of the season. Unfortunately it can't be changed back until next year.

 There are other changes being contemplated for 2023. One is larger bases, which I suppose might prevent some injuries, but it would also shorten the throw to first base, a benefit to the defense. We can't have that. A beauty of the game is that records set in 1922 are still challenged under the same rules of play.

Even worse in this regard is the proposal to ban the shift. No, No, No!  Teams have always been able to position their defenders in any way they choose. The fact that the shift has somewhat changed  the strategy of the game is not a rule change.

Then there's the usual consideration of putting a time clock on the wait between pitches, fourteen seconds with the bases empty and nineteen with runners on base. It would limit throws over to first, a perennial boring aspect of the game, but I can see potential base steelers just waiting out the clock before they take off. After say fifteen seconds a pitcher would not be able to attempt a pick off then beat the clock to the plate.

I'm writing this on the day that the final four games begin. I picked these teams as a final four with the exception of Gonzaga rather than Duke. I have Villanova beating the Zags for the championship.

It's been for me one of the most fun tournaments to watch because of the magical run of St Peters. Against Purdue they looked like a middle school team playing against grown ups but they executed almost flawlessly to get to the final eight. It had to end. Carolina thumped them soundly.”Here's a truck stop instead of Saint Peters.”( Stipe at al,” Man on the Moon”)

I feel good about the Braves. Their lineup is one of the game's most formidable and that's before we get one of the game's premier players, Ronald Acuna, back soon. The bullpen looks outstanding. We have three very good starters and some real talent competing for the other two spots and someday Mike Soroka may make a comeback. Sorry to see Freddie Freeman go but he made his own problems. Doesn't he already look evil in that Dodger blue? I'm excited to see his hometown replacement. 

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved... 


31 March 2022

It's Been 80 Days Since The University of Georgia Last Won a National Championship in Football: my UGA Piece

How 'Bout Them Dawgs! 

Ed. note: this is a piece I've been working on off & on for the better part of two months. At one time I had a rambling draft pushing 2,000 words that I ended up scrapping. But, finally, here it goes. - MBM

My first distinct memories of UGA football were as a 5-yr old boy in 1980, the season UGA last won it all in the 1981 Sugar Bowl vs. Notre Dame. 

Apparently I went to a couple of games that year in Sanford Stadium but don't have any specific recollections of those; however, I do vividly remember watching that Sugar Bowl on the TV New Year's Day. 

My parents, brother & I had driven down to southeast Mississippi to visit w/ my aunt, uncle & cousins a couple days before. On the 1st they went down to NOLA & my brother, cousin & myself watched it in my aunt's living room in Greene Co, MS. 

I definitely remember the "longest onside kick in college football history" as well as Herschel's over-the-top soon thereafter. And then the sea of red that engulfed the field once the game ended. 

I've previously written about some special Bulldogs memories in this space such as the time my dad directed traffic to get us out of south campus & also my first trip to Columbia, SC (that didn't go so well). 

My most vivid memories from my childhood were in the mid '80s when maybe things weren't quite as good vs the few years before but did provide for some of my most exciting & passionate experiences, being that we always went to home games as well as a few road trips.

Hell, I was a member of the Junior Bulldog Club complete w/ a membership card signed by one of my true heroes -- Vince Dooley

Later, I matriculated at The University (and remember, you have to pronounce it in that proper, genteel southern way) from September of '93 to December of '97, the end of the Goof Goff era & beginning of the Donnan years, so those were pretty lean times though the 1997 season was definitely a highlight especially w/ the victory in Jacksonville over the dreaded Spurrier-coached Gators. 

The Richt years, for the most part, were really great. He definitely set the table for Kirby & will forever & always be a DGD! Plus, he's just a prince of a fella. Love that guy.  

A friend of mine not too long after the national championship game who is a very loyal supporter of another SEC program said something along the lines of this to me: 

"It's really not surprising or bothersome that y'all've been so damn arrogant & insufferable. Hell, you've been that way for 41 years." 


And he's right, you know. 

It's for good cause, however. We ARE the best. Always have been & always will be. Regardless of the fact that we've only technically won three national championships (if we counted 'em like the techies, it'd be more like seven) - putting us maybe just a step below a handful of the blueboods - we've always been the best. Uga. Downtown Athens. The Chapel Bell. The Hedges. Go You Silver Britches! The splendor of North Campus. So on & so forth; or, to quote the great one, Larry Munson: 

There is no tradition more worth of envy, no institution worthy of such loyalty, as the University of Georgia.

But, and this is the kicker I believe, we were due. We really were. And the catharsis of January 10th, and just the sheer, brilliant joy of it, was damn well earned & deserved. 



18 March 2022

Ellis Millsaps: Tallulah & The Dog

 I know you've been dying to know what I've been up to lately. Well fret no more.

 I've been talking a lot about dogs lately, but I've simultaneously continued my voracious reading binge. (Although a dog will turn up before this is over.) At first I concentrated on things I'd always meant to read but hadn't, e.g. Tolstoy, and then on things I read long ago that I wanted to reread, e.g. The Magic Mountain , Fair and Tender Ladies.

Then I started on a project to read every winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. That constitutes around a hundred  books. Recently I’ve knocked off seventeen, pretty much starting with the most recent and going back in time. Coupled with the eight I’d already read I'm about a forth of the way through.

But I've had offshoots into other works by Pulitzer winners when I discover a writer I particularly like.  My favorites of these are Bel Canto by Ann Patchet and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles whose excellent The Lincoln Highway is under consideration for the prize  this year. I'm also usually mixing in a work of nonfiction. I'm currently reading The 1619 Project. Several of its essayists have been awarded Pulitzers in fields other than fiction. 

At the same time for the past month or so I’ve spent some time most days learning Spanish or somewhat relearning it. Seven or eight years ago I learned enough to be somewhat able to carry on a conversation with native speakers. I learned  the first time by listening to CDs on my way to work and back and by attending the Hispanic Baptist Church at Calvary for a year or so. This time I'm relearning from unlimited lessons from Babel on my laptop.

 The first time I was prompted by a mistaken notion that Spanish fluency would get me some Latino clients– mistaken because I had no experience in immigration law, a very specialized field necessary to attracting those clients. This time I'm inspired and challenged by my five year old granddaughter who’s learning Spanish at school in New Orleans. Here we see her instructing her dog Soul Train. Soul Train in his six years has developed understanding of a few words in English but as you shall see is bewildered and befuddled by Spanish.


(“No me gusta, Soul Train,” means - “You are not pleasing me, Soul Train.”) 

 - Ellis Millsaps

16 March 2022

A Check-in From Your Semi-esteemed & Maybe Slightly Lazy Editor

 Greetings, Old Friends. 

Well, when I previously publicly announced the format change I'd promised at least a post a week. For the previous three months we've averaged 3 posts per month, so more like a post every week & a half approximately. 

Hey, not too bad. 

The Road Ahead 

The latest from Da will hit on Friday. It's, not surprisingly, a superb piece & I can't wait to get it out there. 

Next week I will finally be releasing my "art piece" on the UGA National Championship in football. After having at one time been pushing 2,000 words, it's going to end up being right around a grand. 

W/in the next few weeks I'll be publishing a history column on a card game gone wrong replete w/ whiskey & murder that occurred in the home city over a hundred years ago. 

Stay Tuned...

As always, we appreciate you reading. 

- MBM 

02 March 2022

Guest Post by Lee Weber: Baseball is Important

Baseball is Important

It is particularly important to three types of Americans.
Older Americans.
Those with disabilities.
Kids have time.
And few responsibilities.
And imagination.
Gives them something to be excited about every day.
Older Americans.
They’re home.
For the last few years.
Gives them something to be excited about.
Those with disabilities.
They can’t always get out and about.
Or may not be able to see.
Gives them something to be excited about.
Baseball is a radio sport.
Always has been.
Always will be.
The crack of the bat.
The punch of the ball in the mitt.
The sound of the umpire’s call.
Am not a kid, an older American, or disabled.
Baseball is important to me.
Nothing like a game on the radio on a long drive.
Gives me something to be excited about.
“Baseball isn’t a pastime.”
“It’s a habit.”
“They play almost every day.”
George Will.
Baseball is important.
Now to be unpleasant.
The Commissioner has two jobs.
Make sure they play the games.
Protect the integrity of the game.
Rob Manfred has failed on both.
The All-Star game nonsense.
The lock-out.
This guy is bad at his job.
Fire him immediately.
Baseball is important.

image: wp.wmu.edu

Lee Weber Lee shares his time between the Great States of Georgia & South Carolina. A headhunter & politico by trade, he's been known to cook game birds on his cast iron stove. He has a true affinity for nature & loves dogs, sports, America & his family.