Last night I ran under a full blue moon. It was brilliant, beautiful and white. As I write, today is the 21st, and you may be puzzled. How in the world can there be two full moons in one month with one in the middle of the month?
Our definition of a blue moon is modern and wrong! I was brought up thinking a blue moon was the second full moon in a month. Actually, it means the third full moon in a season with four full moons. An even rarer occurrence than two full moons in a month, the next blue moon will not occur until July 2015.
Back in the 1937 “Maine Farmers’ Almanac,” a blue moon indicated that it fell after the summer and midsummer moons, but before late summer moon. Huh? Someone had named the moons, but what about the extra one. Well, they could not call the fourth moon a late because that meant the last one in the season; thus, the third was called blue.
I am with you, it is easier just to say the second moon in a month is blue. Because it was difficult to predict blue moons in a Lunar Cycle, as per an answer to a question posed to Lawrence J. Lafleur in the 1943 July issue of “Sky and Telescope” magazine, spawned the expression, “Once in a Blue Moon.”
All this to say, I just ran across a book with unforgettable characters that comes around once in a blue moon. Just like the four phases in 1937, this phase has yet to be named.
The book is not Erskine Caldwell’s, “Tobacco Road,” but you get the poor white Lesters afraid of work in the Dinmore family. Nor is the book akin to Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People” where Joy Hopewell loses her artificial leg to a traveling salesman, but our character Stella Jo just wants to replace her peg with a real artificial limb. The book’s characters are poor white trash, not the marginal mean characters that permeate Harry Crew’s Dirty South genre.
For me the example of a blue moon is “Mean Moon Blues” by retired Northwest Mississippi Community College English instructor, John Osier. It lies between my midsummer (O’Connor) and late (Crews) moons.
Osier tells the story of a moonshine family, Dinmore’s, living off greens now that they have no money for meat and Sleepy’s trotline is as empty as his belly. With the help of his no good neighbors, Poot and Dent Wingo, a plot is hatched to make some money. Enough cash to eat a fine meal with new choppers and a little extra for Stella Jo to get a real artificial leg.See, Charles Henry, president of the small town of Dreg’s bank, has died and Sleepy thinks his widow will pay a pretty sum to get the body back if they kidnap it. Yes, whiskey is involved.