The lynching tree?

The lynching tree?

Every few days a silhouette of a tree and the invitation to play Hangman appear on my iPad. It’s a real tree with limbs and branches with a kind of Halloween orange sky behind the black silhouette and the noose.

In America there are TWO hangman histories. One seems harmless enough: Hangman, the English word game of British origin some of us played as children. The other is deadly.

As one who’d never heard of the game until it appeared on my iPad, the image is grotesque. It called up America’s long history of the lynching tree when the people who played hangman hid their identity with white hoods over their heads, walking in the dark with torches ablaze, erecting and setting afire crosses on the properties of blacks and whites who hadn’t shown proper respect for their doctrine of white supremacy.

Advertisers are experts in cultural anthropology. They prey on a people’s cultural history and belief systems. Commercials like the one for Hangman are created as a result of research into the fears and hungers of a people. Their ads hold out the bait to attract the quick click to the ap.  I didn’t click, but, if I were a gambler, I’d wager that many who did weren’t thinking about an innocuous word game when they clicked. They may have been seeing what the advertisers meant them to see: a symbol of “the good old days” when white men were in control.  In 2015  America the old racist hanging tree and its hangman are still soliciting successfully, especially when we choose not to remember.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 29, 2015.

Verse – Eugene Field…

Eugene Field
is Spinning in his Grave

The computer, smartphone, and iPad too
Are all that this child could want.
With Clash of Clans, and Auto-Theft 2,
I’ll always be so smart
School studies can suffer–no homework tonight–
I might watch a little TV,
But my brain is exploding, I’m feeling all right,
There’s nothing the matter with me,
I’m happy as I can be:
With computer,
And Pad.

Now Mother and Father will sputter and fuss–
They don’t understand at all.
For Granny and Gramps said, “Read! You Must!
Or all your grades will fall!”
But we take exams on computers at school,
No notes, but txts we snd!
The Principal axed the No Gizmos rule
So our school-wide strike would end–
“Unions Forever, my friend!”
With computer,
And Pad!

  • Steve Shoemaker, September 2, 2015
  • NOTE: Click HERE to read Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac posting on Eugene Fields, author of such poems as “Wynken, Blinken, and Nod”.

Remember pen and paper?

Pen & Paper

Pen & Paper

Both my gizmos, as she calls them,
iPad and my precious iPhone,
are updating and recharging,
unavailable for writing,
FaceBooking, emailing, texting,
or for playing on-line Scrabble.

I have looked and found a grey pen
that writes even held upside-down.
Only one lined pad for writing
was discovered after searching
through the cabinets, closets, shelving.
When did I last try to scribble

words on paper? I lie back, then
face empty space above the line–
fingers, thumbs, want to be typing…
Will the gizmos still be waiting
when these words I will be adding
to the electronic babble?

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, September 27, 2014


The Non-Exchange at the “The Corn Exchange”

“The Corn Exchange” is not like the Grain Exchange or Wall Street; it’s a French restaurant with a New York chef…in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. It’s a classy place.

We’ve come here for dinner on recommendation of Carol and Kenn, the innkeepers of Hisega Lodge in the Black Hills. The food is fine; the people watching is equally good or better.

You’re not supposed to stare at people, especially in a restaurant. But sometimes you can’t help it. Like when a beautiful 30-something Asian woman dressed to the nines and a 30-something guy wearing  a t-shirt, jeans, and jogging shoes are seated at a table in full view for people-watching.

The couple at The Corn Exchange



They seem to be on a first date, a bit nervous with each other, maybe matched by a dating service or something, awkward with each other. The first indication is the woman talking on her cell phone. Her date seems a bit irked, or so I think, until he pulls out his iPad, puts it in front of him on the white linen tablecloth, and begins to do whatever he is doing – perhaps showing his date that he, too, has nothing at stake, is cool, detached, not vulnerable, killing time in the awkward silence.

The woman has finished her three phone conversations.  Her mind is back where her body is, at the table with the guy in the t-shirt, jeans, and jogging shoes. But he’s not there. He has his iPhone in one hand and his iPad on the table. Maybe he’s texting himself back and forth. Whatever he’s doing, he seems oblivious to the beautiful, well-dressed Asian woman who has come with him to the fancy Corn Exchange…for a date…and is ready now for him to play the game of hot pursuit. He doesn’t notice. She’s tapping her foot. She’s staring out the window in disgust, her chin resting in her left hand, as if to say,  “B o r i n g!”  

The rest of the meal is like pushing a replay button. The exchanges at the corner table at The Corn Exchange are predictable. He’s preoccupied; she taps her foot. She’s looking out the window when he’s ready to engage; he’s wiggling his leg. She looks at him; he turns his body to the side and looks away. He looks at her; she looks down and takes a bite.

Desserts arrive. The pain endurance contest is almost over. He smiles and begins to pay attention. She smiles back and pays attention. Then the rude people-watchers see an exchange they’ve missed along the way of trying not to be so rude. You can’t stare all the time. The two cell phones – his and her’s – and the iPad are now in his custody, on the windowsill beside their table. We’re’ confused.

Only then do we see the ring on her finger.