Monday, November 12, 2018

A debt we can't repay ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We celebrate Veterans Day today. For some people, it will be dinner with family or shopping at the mall, or maybe watch pro football on TV. Some people will click LIKE on a few Facebook pictures of soldiers. We celebrate the federal holiday on Monday. People can sleep in and do a late lunch with friends.  We can do these things today thanks to the contributions of veterans.

Serving in the armed forces is optional now. It’s a career path young men and women choose to learn skills that will pay dividends later in life. 

Serving wasn’t always optional. I was drafted into the US Army in the early 70s. After induction, I took a battery of tests that revealed that I would do well in electronics. That was interesting because I didn’t know an amp from a volt back then, but I spent the next six months learning. 

After completing my electronics training, I received orders for my permanent duty station in the Panama Canal Zone. The young man who slept in the bunk across the aisle from mine went to Vietnam.  

In the scheme of things, all my service cost me was two years of my life. I did not bring home any permanent scars. For some veterans, the cost was much higher. Three guys I knew personally, Eugene Childers, Larry Black, and Ricky Wise, came home from Vietnam in coffins. I had an uncle that paid the ultimate price too.

In December of 1941, my Uncle Marvin Lee Ferguson was on the USS California in Hawaii.
He sent pictures home of him riding what looked like a Moped. In the photograph, he had on his Navy white uniform with his Dixie Cup hat. 

He looked like he was having the time of his life. He was dead before Christmas. He died in the opening hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I am proud of my Uncle Marvin Lee. The VFW in Jasper is named in his honor.

Each year, Jilda and I attend the ceremony at the Sumiton Veterans Memorial. This year, Bill Fowler, who is the director, asked us to sing a couple of songs. We sang "This Land is Your Land" and an inspirational song that we wrote entitled "The Storm Brings Out the Eagle." Singing a few songs to honor veterans is such a small price to pay. 

Walking through the memorial is a melancholy experience for me. The pavers around the memorial contain the names of men and women who served our country. There’s a paver there for Jilda’s dad, Sharky, who was a decorated medic in the US Air Force.

Those pavers represent a sacrifice. For some, the sacrifice was time away from loved ones. For others, the sacrifice was much greater. Some soldiers lost arms and legs on foreign soil. Some lost their lives there. And some came home with wounds that you cannot see with the naked eye. 

Some debts you pay off on the installment plan with interest. With a few clicks on your phone, you can determine your balance and know when you can expect to be debt free. Veterans Day brings into focus a national debt that we as a country can never repay.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Life gets away

Jilda and I did chores today. We had a box of things to donate to the Thrift Store that has been sitting in our spare bedroom for weeks.

As Jilda threw a few additional things into the box, she asked if there was anything in the office that needed to go. Before I was finished, we had to find another box.

The house seems to be breathing easier since the tidy-up.

I didn't get a chance to shoot a picture today so I went to the archives. I picked a year at random and went to November of that year. The picture I found wasn't taken in 2011, but it was the year I scanned this picture and uploaded it. That's me on the back on the far left.

The photo is the last family photograph of my family. Jilda shot the picture. My dad looked fairly healthy in this photograph.  I think it was taken in 1984.

Life gets away.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Pure joy

Jilda and I played at the annual Veterans Day Ceremony this morning. We rarely do songs we didn't write, but a song that we've done in the past seemed fitting. Woody Guthry wrote a song in the 1940s entitled This Land is Your Land. It seemed to resonate today. We also did the song we wrote called The Storm Brings out the Eagle. The crowd was gracious and we were thankful for that.

Afterward, we had to go get a new washing machine. Actually, we did what we do every 10 years or so. We bought a rebuilt washing machine from a small company nearby. They take the old washers, dryers, stoves, and fridges that were built without all the fancy computer parts. We paid a fraction of what we would have paid for a new device that was manufactured overseas.

They will deliver the washer Monday and take away the old one. I'm guessing they'll rebuild it and sell it to someone else.

This evening, before sunset, we took the dogs for a walk. We've been so busy today, we haven't paid them much attention. When we took them out, they all yipped and ran. Have you ever watched pure joy in motion?

I snapped a picture with Hipstamatic and let it do its magic.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Happy Weekend

It was rainy-fied again today. The weather app on my phone kept sending me notifications that the rain would end by 1:45 p.m. Then, it said 3:10 p.m. The next notification I got said, "Who in the heck knows when it will stop raining in Empire?" 

The dogs were restless, so I bundled up and took them out for a while. It was misting with a wind out of the west. I flipped up the collar on my insulated vest. After a hellish summer and fall, the cold felt good on my face. 

Our old coffee maker was on its last leg. It was still making coffee, but it was leaking. Using some of my mad money that I've made writing and bought a new coffee machine. It came today. I won't say much about it because I plan to write my column for next week about how we decided on this particular machine.

The light has been dreary all day, so I went into the archives and got a picture of the old house down by the barn. I took the photo in November 2016.  Hopefully, the sun will be back tomorrow, and I can take some fresh pictures.

Happy weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Plan B

Normally, I write Sunday's column on Wednesday. That didn't happen yesterday. I sat down with my laptop and tapped the letters off the keyboard without writing a coherent sentence. 

That happens from time to time. My standby ace-in-a-hole didn't work either. I dropped Jilda off at work and headed to a local coffee house. They have wireless connectivity and plenty of tables. I ordered a coffee and found a table in the corner. Slipping my laptop out of the bag, and pulling up Word, I was ready to jam out some copy as soon as my coffee arrived.

I picked up my java and sat back down with purpose and intention.  Nada.

The conversation around me is normally a droning sound. But yesterday, I could pick up snippets of people talking. A group of what looked like high school girls were at a table nearby and they kept giggling. Without being obvious, I checked my zipper to make sure my barn door wasn't open and I also checked a reflection of my face on the screen of my laptop to make sure I didn't have a booger. No on both accounts.

I finally decided they were just enjoying each other’s company. 

After a while, I snapped my laptop closed and sipped my coffee while looking out the window at the rain.

Droplets rolled down the glass. It looked like the windows were crying.

When my timer sounded, I loaded my laptop in the case, tossed my cup in the recycle bin, and headed back to pick Jilda up. I figured I'd get up early this morning and knock out the column. Turns out, I was right.

On our daily walk this morning I snapped the picture of a mound of ferns that sprang up. I had not seen them this week and this morning, they were there. Maybe I missed them, but I can't help believe that aliens came and planted them overnight.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Waiting for peak color

I'm out of words today. I've tapped the letters off my keyboard with little to show for it. Some days are like that.

We walked early this morning. Another line of thunderstorms was still an hour to the west so we took advantage of the lull and walked.

Peak foliage is still a week or so away. I thought it would come sooner, but I dare not rush it because once the peak arrives, the leaves turn cinnamon brown and began falling. But that's not all bad.

Smelling of autumn leaves burning is almost as beautiful to the nose as the colors are to the eyes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Busy day

It was raining this morning when I first opened my eyes. Acorns falling on the metal roof sounded like a kettle drum. The predicted severe weather never materialized. The winds remained aloft for the most part.

Jilda got up when the coffee maker beeped. The rain was still falling. The long chimes on the back deck sounded like church bells.

I had early meetings so after coffee I put my "reporter face" on and headed out. Jilda headed at the same time and we met at our polling place to cast our lot. We took a selfie and posted it on social media to encourage others to get out and vote.

By days end, I'd written three news stories. Tonight, my head is empty.

The picture below is one I took a few years ago. Did I mention that I love this time of year?

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