Thursday, October 08, 2015

Moving gallery

How long has it been since you've been stopped by a moving train? With the hustle of traffic these days, it doesn't happen often.  Bypasses, overpasses, and tunnels have almost made waiting on trains a thing of the past.

But today after my meetings, I drove to the co-op for chicken feed. The co-op is located down by the railroad tracks. I could have dodged the train and drove several blocks to the viaduct, but instead I cut the engine, rolled the window down and watched the train rumble by.

The day was warm, but a breeze out of the west was refreshing. The Northfork-Southern engines passed the dinging crossing gates dragging a caterpillar of cars behind.

Tank cars were up close to the engine, but behind were boxcars. Almost every boxcar had word art sprayed on the sides.

It occurred to me that these boxcar painters were urban artists. Once their work is finished, it crawls across America to not only the big cities but also small towns.

As the train passed, I snapped a few pictures through the windshield of my truck. Leaning my chin on the steering wheel, I watched as the cars passed. Some of the artwork was so old, it faded to a shade of rust, and some of it was so fresh you could almost smell the acrylic.

I thought to myself that trains give the artists a silent voice. Their work may never make it to a museum, but they can rest assured that people from all across this great country has seen their work.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Angel wings

Each year  a patch of weeds grow at the edge of my garden. In years past, I cut them down. But last year my weedeater died at the end of summer which gave the weeds a chance to show me something remarkable.

In October when the season changed, they began flowering. One evening when the setting sun highlighted them from behind, they looked the wings of angels. This year I couldn't bring myself to cut them down.

This afternoon I was mowing the field and when I saw the clouds move away from the evening sun, I cut the motor and reached for my camera and shot this picture.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Let the games begin

Unlike Jilda, I didn't begin reading much fiction until much later in my life. But once I got started, I average a book every week or so.

When the BBC did the list of 100 books and estimated that most Americans had read six or fewer, I took the challenge. I'd read 28, but after posting the list here a few weeks ago, many of you had read more than I had. If you didn't get a chance to see the original list, click here.

Since then, I've read two more of the books on the list. Currently, I'm reading Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac which was published in 1958. I find his use of language and rhythm of his words fascinating.

I've come to understand that there are more great books out there than any of us will ever have time to read.

I'm curious. What's the best book you've ever read?

For everyone who comments between now and Friday with a favorite book, I'll put their name in a hat and get my lovely spouse to draw one out. The name she draws will win an autographed copy of my first book Remembering Big. International shipping is pricey, so I'll have to come up with an alternate gift for anyone living outside the U.S.

Let the games begin.

Monday, October 05, 2015


Grandparents Day was a few weeks ago and I spent time that day perusing Facebook to see all the pictures of grandparents. I posted my favorite pictures of ours. But I took time reflecting on the impact my grandparents had on my life. 

My grandfather on my daddy’s side was born in the fall of 1901. He raised his family during The Great Depression, and like so many of our grandparents, he was no stranger to hard times. His resume during those lean years would have been colorful. Each time I take a tool from my shed, I miss him.

In the late 1950s when my family moved back to Alabama from our short-term stint in Indiana, we lived in a camp house made from rough-cut pine.

Later we bought an unfinished Jim Walter house for $2995. My mama fretted that we’d never live to pay it off. We finished the inside work ourselves. 

When we moved out of the old camp house, my grandparents moved in. I couldn’t believe our good fortune of having them next door.

After they arrived, my grandmother Willie got a brindle Chihuahua named Chi-chi that followed every move she made, and Pap had a parakeet with aqua-colored feathers. I was amazed the first time I saw that little bird sit on the frame of Pap’s glasses and watch him eat breakfast. I’ve wished a thousand times I had taken pictures back then.

They lived in the old camp house while carpenters built their Jim Walter home. But Pap built a workshop out back, not far from the outhouse. In the late 1950s, there was still a demand for mule-drawn mining cars that resembled squatty wagons. 

Pap landed a job constructing the cars from rough lumber. He also made horseshoes for the mules that pulled those cars. He was an artist with hot steel and a hammer.

In summer, he started to work early before the sun made working with an open fire unbearable. You knew he was working long before you stepped outside. You could smell the sulfur from the burning coal feeding his fire pit and the steady ping, ping, pinging of his hammer as he shaped the steel shoes on his anvil.

Most days he wore Liberty overalls while he worked. In the front pouch, he carried a tin of Prince Albert tobacco and rolling papers. When swinging the hammer made his arm weary, he’d sit on his bench and roll a cigarette on his pants leg. 

Firing it up with his Zippo lighter, he would sit quietly thinking as if he were solving a complex problem in his mind. After each puff, the lazy smoke drifted off with the morning breeze.

He eked out a living doing odd jobs and when he died in 1970, he didn’t need a will because he didn’t own much to leave behind. But he did leave a family that adored him and a hole in our hearts that could never be filled.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on You can contact him via email at

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Flag burning

The clouds cleared just after lunch today and the sun felt warm on my back as I did long neglected chores.

Soon I was pushing my long sleeves up above my elbows and fanning the tail of my shirt to disperse the heat building on my body.

After finishing, I sat on the lounge chairs for a long while with my eyes closed. A silent jet streaked across the sky to the south dragging the sound behind it. I wondered where someone would be going early on Sunday morning.

Jilda and I shoe'd up to take our morning walk when my niece Samantha and her son Jordan  (the kid) came over from next door to play in the garden.

Jordan is into challenges. Even when he doesn't want to walk, I can convince him by challenging him to a race.  We raced, power walked, hopped, skipped and jumped at imaginary finish lines.

Before long, I was close to my daily goal of 10,000 steps.

This evening I stepped outside to put water in the bird feeders for the deer that come in the night to drink.

When I turned to go in, I noticed the setting sun made the autumn flag look as if it were on fire.

This evening I'm bushed. I'm guessing it will be an early night.

Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

End of the day

The weatherman missed the boat again today. There was a 20% chance of rain, but it started around 10:30 a.m. and rained on and off all day. Some festival goers made a run for their cars. Others pulled out umbrellas and had fine in spite of the rain.

Even though it was messy, we saw a lot of people we hadn't seen in a long time.

Both Jilda and I were drenched to the bone. On the way home, I pulled over and snapped the picture below which seemed to sum up the weather.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Dreary Friday

It's been a dreary day today. No rain just threatening ash-grey clouds blocking the sunlight. I've been a little down today and I'm not sure why. I guess it's the normal ebb and flow of the spirit.

My dance card is fully punched first part of this weekend. I maintain the websites for my local high school (alumni) so I take pictures at most of the home games. I take several action shots, but few of them are very good. But I always take pictures of the band, cheerleaders, and the people in the crowd. People seem to enjoy these as much as any.

Then tomorrow, the Frog Festival  kicks off bright and early. I do the website for that too. We'll be there until about lunch taking pictures. 

The temps dropped here so tomorrow afternoon I plan to build a fire in the fire pit so that Jilda and I can kick back and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

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