Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday things

Today was a productive one. Many things on my work to-do list fell into place, and I took care of some budget business that had been keeping me awake at night. It seems I hadn't spent ENOUGH money. But my new boss at work jumped on it, and we found a solution that will make everyone happy.

Before I left work, I got a text from the publisher at the paper who asked if I'd do a feature story on an old friend of mine. I was thrilled. Calling my old friend, I set up an interview just after work.
Like me, she lives in the sticks and before she lost her husband and her health began failing, she had outdoor gardens, trellises, shrubs, and trees that are still beautiful.  But time reclaims even the most beautiful gardens.

We talked a long time, and I would probably still have been there, but Jilda sent me a text from where she was working that said it looked like storms were headed our way.

After saying our goodbyes, I headed home. The road to my friend's house took me across the crest of a ridge and from that vantage point I could see almost to Mississippi.

Storms can be beautiful from a distance, and I pulled to the side of the road and snapped a few frames before heading home.

I didn't notice it until I pulled the photo up to post it here that I saw a face in the clouds in the upper right-hand corner of the frame. Can you see it?

The first wave of rain didn't settle the dust at our house, but the cold front is still off to the west. We're saying a prayer that it brings us some much-needed rain.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breaking ground

The town in which I was born is a small community across the river from the county seat. We've struggled with an image problem for years because it seems most of the news that comes from here is bad news – drug overdoses, suspicious fires, arrests, and other things that do not help the image of what is a good place to live.

Many years ago, the city had some unused and undeveloped property close to the city. The council got together and built a golf course. I know what you're thinking. A small rural town builds a golf course. It can't be that good. But planners managed to get a golf course designer involved who did an amazing job with the creeks, ponds, hills, and hollows. 

The city spent all the money on the golf course, leaving almost nothing for a clubhouse. They did the only thing they could think of, and that was to put doublewide trailers. They would have to do until they could do better.

The main complaint of golfers who visit the incredible golf course but the trailer clubhouse and snack bar took away from the experience.

The city elected a new mayor four years ago, and one of his campaign promises was building a beautiful clubhouse for the golf course. That sounds easy enough, but apparently, not everyone was as enthused as the new mayor about spending money on a new clubhouse.

The new mayor was tenacious, putting bids, making plans and following through on his promise. 

He decided to run for re-election in August and took the high road. He ran on his record. Apparently, voters rallied behind him because he won the seat without a runoff for four more years.

Last night I got a text from him asking if I could come to the golf course at 12:30 p.m. He wanted me to take a picture of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new clubhouse. I was all too happy to oblige.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Sunday morning as Jilda and I made our first lap around the barn on our daily walk, she pulled up short. 

She automatically thrust her arm out as if to restrain a child standing beside her in her in the seat of her car.

It's unlikely she would do that in real life because her car doesn't crank unless everyone is buckled in...but bear with me.

I stopped in my tracks and instinctively looked on the ground for  rusty nails, saw briers, or a pit viper. When I saw nothing I looked up and followed her gaze. It was a spider that looked as big as a bat dangling in the center of an intricate web.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped several pictures trying to capture the image. But the light was wrong and backlighting from the morning sun was non-existent. I shot several pictures anyhow before giving the spider a wide berth.

Had I been walking alone, I would have gotten a face full of a dreadful Arachnid, and I would have spent the remainder of the day slapping imaginary creatures crawling up the back of my neck and onto my head.

Normally, the weather is cooler when they start building in paths trying to trap moths, wasps, and other small flying insects but apparently they build when the angle of light alerts them that it's autumn.

NOTE TO SELF: Be very mindful over the coming weeks so that a spider as big as Rhode Island doesn't jump on my head and suck out what little remaining brains I have left.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October has a lot to offer ~ My column from Sunday's paper

The national elections are in a few weeks, and some people seem ready for Facebook fistfights. The atmosphere seems negatively charged, but I think October still has a lot of good things to offer. What follows are a few.

This past week when we pulled into Little Giant in Sumiton to score some produce, there was what looked like a truckload of sweet potatoes. Through the years we’ve learned that the ones from Mississippi seem to be the sweetest in October. My lovely spouse Jilda baked some on Sunday, and we had them for supper. I always save my sweet potato until the last
and eat it for dessert.

Fried pies were one of my mother’s specialties. Most people clamored for the peach and apple, but my favorite was her sweet potato pies.

Jilda’s sister Pat makes a sweet potato casserole with roasted pecans chopped and sprinkled on the top. She makes this dish on most holidays, and while most of the family dives head first into the dressing, I go for the sweet potato casserole first just to ensure I don’t have to scrape the bottom of the Corningware.

Another good thing about October is the World Series. Even though I don’t follow major league baseball throughout the year, I love watching the World Series.

This month is also chocked full of college football. Alabama plays Tennessee in October, and hopefully Auburn will spank the Razorbacks this year.

One of the things on my “Why I Love October” list looks like it won’t happen this year.

I’ve enjoyed the aroma of burning leaves as long as I can remember. I liked it so much that I didn’t mind the chore of raking.

We had a sycamore tree in our yard in Sloss Hollow that I couldn’t reach around. In the fall, a mountain of leaves fell from that tree. On autumn afternoons I’d rake leaves for hours.

Later in the evening when the wind died down, I’d set them ablaze and feed the flames until dusk. Spraying the dying embers with a hosepipe before heading inside was one of mama’s rules.

The smell of smoke would get infused in my hair and clothes. My mom wasn’t as fond of that smell as I was. She’d make me leave my jeans and shirt on the back porch so she could run them through the washing machine. She would probably have tossed me in as well but I was too big to go through the wringer.

This October has been dryer than stale snuff here in Empire. We’ve had no rain in over a month. Most of the streams and ponds are as low as I’ve ever seen them. The last time my sinuses were this dry, I was in the mountains of Colorado. We could use a little rain.

Stepping outside this past week, the smell of smoke sent alarm bells off in my head. It looked like something burning down behind our barn. I hustled down there, but the fire was further away than I first thought. Before heading inside to call the Empire Volunteer Fire Department, I heard their sirens out on the main road.

Grabbing the keys, I jumped in the truck and drove out to the main road. The fire was raging between the main road and our barn, but the wind out of the north kept our property safe. The firemen were guarding the homes that were in harm’s way.

I know our small volunteer fire department is underfunded, but they do an incredible job and I feel fortunate to have them watching our backs.

We called 911 a few years ago when we thought a family member had a heart attack. The Empire Volunteer Fire Department was there in a matter of minutes. They had the situation stabilized before the ambulance arrived.

Even with the anxiety of the November elections on the horizon, let’s not lose sight of the good things October has to offer.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reminiscing about Wyoming

Three years ago our friend Wes invited us to join them in Jackson, Wyoming. We flew out of Birmingham just after breakfast that morning changing planes in Salt Lake City. That leg of the flight is beautiful from the sky.

When we arrived early afternoon in Jackson, the sky was topaz blue with downy clouds. The air was crisp, but the temps were mild, and I feared I'd overpacked by taking my cold-weather coat.

After a short nap, we accompanied our host on a tour of the area. We must have driven a hundred miles round trip. We snapped pictures of mountains, lakes, and aspen trees. Every direction when viewed through the camera lens looked like a postcard.

We thought we'd be wading through snow, but the weather was Alabama-like. The next day we did
more sightseeing and I almost filled the storage on my phone with pictures.

The next morning when I rolled out of bed to fetch coffee, I glanced out the north facing window and snow was blowing sideways. Before we went outside, there was almost a foot on the ground.

It was then that I was thankful for the LL Bean jacket that Jilda had bought me for winter. It's rarely cold enough in Alabama to wear it, but I can tell you it felt good in Jackson Hole. 

While we were there, we went to Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The last day while driving through Yellowstone the roads were treacherous which stressed us all. 

We spent Halloween there and flew home the next day. Jilda had a raging sinus infection and didn't feel well, but as always she is a trooper.

This evening here in Empire, the temps were in the upper 80s. There was a hint of rain this morning. I stepped out on the deck, looked up at the sky, and opened my mouth to allow a few precious drops to fall on my tongue. The clouds dissipated, but the weatherman says we have an excellent chance on Thursday. We've got all our appendages crossed.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Quirk Dog

When we first took Hook to the vet to get him evaluated before we decided to adopt him, I told the vet tech that I thought he was deaf. She said that was common in white bulldogs. I asked about the chances of getting someone to adopt him.

She smiled and said she would give it a try, but that an older dog with heartworms and deaf would be
a very hard sell. When I looked down at Hook, he was looking first at me, and then the vet tech. He seemed to understand the weight of the conversation, so he sat down and seemed to look deeply into my eyes. I stood there for a long while before telling her to treat him for the infections, mites, and red mange. The vet tech smiled, and said, "Quirk dogs are often the best ones."

People ask how we manage a deaf dog. The truth is, it's not that hard. He can't hear, but he's got great eyesight and sense of smell. He responds to hand signals. When he sees me motion for him, he comes running. Caillou the show dog can hear perfectly but I can call him until I'm hoarse and he only comes when he's good and ready. Taz the other show dog ignores me totally but she does come when Jilda calls her. So in the scheme of things Ol' Hook's hearing issue is not that big of a deal.

We've spent most of the day on the road going to the gig in South Alabama and then driving  back afterward. A neighbor passed away so we drove to the funeral home for visitation. Darkness had set in before we returned home.

Realizing that I hadn't closed the gate to the chicken pen and turned on the electric fence (to keep critters out),  I grabbed the flashlight to do that final chore.

Ol' Hook makes every step I make so when I headed off the deck, he was right there beside me. I flipped on the flashlight and waved the beam around to get my bearings.  Hook started running around the backyard and barking. It took me a moment to realize that he was chasing the flashlight beam.

I swished the beam close by and he lunged at it barking. I waved it around the backyard and he chased it from one end to the other. I tried to video it but I was laughing too hard. I thought, that Vet Tech knew what she was talking about when she said that Quirk Dogs are sometimes the best.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Kids love parades

Today is Homecoming at our local high school. Our great-nephew Jordan called last night to see if we'd check him out of school and take him to see the parade.

I do the alumni website for the school, but thousands of people line the parade route and watching the parade and taking pictures takes a lot of effort. Jilda had just as soon stay home. But Jordan would not get to see the parade if we didn't take him because all of his folks work.

Last night when he called to ask, Jilda told him she'd love to take him. This year, they took a different approach. She called her sister Pat who lives near City Hall where the parade starts and all her grandkids watch the parade there. When Jilda called to see if it would be ok for Jordan to join them she said, "Of course."

That made the ordeal a lot better because they would play in the yard, eat pizza, drink juice and blow bubbles until the parade went by and then they could go inside a cool off.

The kids had a blast and it wasn't nearly as grueling for Jilda.

I, on the other hand, walked about two miles down the parade route taking pictures of the crowd and when the parade went by I got pictures of that too.

Tonight, I'll run down to the game and take pictures of the Homecoming Queen, but I won't be watching the entire game tonight. I'm not sure my knees could take it.

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