By Bob Huber
June always reminds me of Stephen Duck, the favorite poet of Queen Charlotte the Illustrious, wife of King George II of England, circa l683-1760.
I don’t know why Duck sticks in my mind. I suppose it’s his name.
Duck was a self-made bard who wrote “The Thresher’s Labour,” which caught the eye of Queen Charlotte, who brought him to London, gave him a yearly pension of 30 pounds, and encouraged him to write even worse poems, which he did, and that’s probably why you’ve never heard of Duck. And that takes care of that.
But June also reminds me of weddings, honeymoons, and that sort of stuff. And why not? My wife Marilyn and I were married in June.
Me: “My God, has it been 51 years?”
Marilyn: “No, it just seems like 51 years.”
But June remains the traditional wedding month, although no one really knows why. Legend has it that June was the only month when all nature was in a whimsical frame of mind, except for a water bird called the loon, which had a fancy to mate in February. I suppose that’s where the term “looney” came from.
In rural Scotland folks used to have a wedding tradition called “Creeling the Bridegroom,” in which young husbands had to run around town with a basket, or creel, of rocks on their backs. The origin of creeling was lost, but the custom held on until the middle of the 1800s, when the Scots finally realized there was nothing worthwhile to it.
So “Creeling the Bridegroom” stopped, and the puzzle is that it ever started. I suppose the same thing will happen to the Loch Ness monster one of these days when the Scots realize there’s not much to that either.
If we must find a June date with genuine significance, I think June 5, 1723, will do. That was the birthday of Adam Smith, the deep thinker who penned “Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” It turned out to be a super classic, so classic, in fact, that college professors haven’t even read it.
I won’t comment on Smith’s book here, because it’s a long story and this isn’t the place to go into it, but if you’re waiting for the movie, forget it. It’s all about rent, wages, profit, capital, labor, and stuff like that, and even if they cast Arnold Schwarzeneggar in the lead, it wouldn’t attract much attention.
But Flag Day will brighten things up on June l4, commemorating the adoption in l777 of the Stars and Stripes as the national emblem. Betsy Ross made the pattern for the flag. No, that’s not just legend. Betsy was the widow of John Ross and her maiden name was Griscom, and I know she was real, because I saw her picture in my third-grade reader.
Two years earlier the British cornered a bunch of terrorists on a rise called Bunker Hill in Boston, and nothing has been the same since. There are differing accounts about who actually won the battle there, but I like to think it was the terrorists. I’m just wild and crazy that way.
June 15 is another important date. That’s when Ben Franklin went outside in a storm to fly a kite and was darned near fried on the spot. In spite of that hair-raising adventure Franklin went on to invent the lightning rod, a stove, a smokeless chimney, the bi-focal lens, and dozens of earthy homilies like, “A penny saved isn’t worth much these days,” which proved what my mother always said, “Get out from under the bed, Robert. A little lightning never hurt anyone.”
I suppose this collection of historic snippets wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that Henry VIII and I were born on the same date in June, albeit 440 years apart. I’ve always been rather proud of that, because not a single other notable person in the history of the planet was born on that date.
Incidentally, June is a good month to catch up on your Scottish proverbs, such as: “He that winna lout and lift a preen will ne’er be worth a groat.” A good conservative doctrine. “A whang off a cut kebbuck’s never missed” is even better.
Ask any true Scotchman what these proverbs mean, and he’ll say, “Mony tynes the half mark whinger.” There’s no arguing that.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist.