Wednesday, September 19, 2018


I had therapy early this morning so I was out after coffee. When I crested one of the Appalachian toes. I noticed the pastoral scene toward the west. No other commuters were behind me, so I stopped, rolled down my window and snapped a few frames. 

My camera would have rendered the scene more dramatically, but all I had with me was my phone.

After therapy, I headed to Birmingham. In a weird synchronistic sequence, Jilda dropped her phone earlier in the week and cracked the screen. I dropped my yesterday. You might have guessed, it cracked my screen. I had the foresight to buy insurance when I purchased the phones so getting them repaired was not nearly as bad had we had to pay the entire charge out of our pocket. 

A bonus is that while the technicians replaced our screens, I sat in a Starbucks and wrote my column for Sunday. You guessed it. It's about our phones.

I hope your Wednesday has been a good one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It gives me hope

Even when it's hot in September and people living here in the "hot country" feel that cooler weather may never come, Mother Nature knows that it will be autumn soon. She's confident. And to give us hope, she sends signs.

My walking wings are still clipped. I won't be able to up my exercise level for another week. Right now, I'm walking the maximum allowed number of steps just doing the things I have to do in my job and the chores I do around the house.

But Jilda gives me a report each day. She put a beautiful picture out on Instagram yesterday.

I had to go back into my archives and find one from September of last year. It gives me hope.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Stay safe in the storm ~ my column from Sunday's paper

As I write these words, Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Southeast coast. Florence looks like a beast. I read that some people plan to stay and ride out the storm. I’m concerned for their safety. We here in Alabama know firsthand about the wrath that storms can bring. 

The first major storm that I remember growing up was Camille. It hit Gulfport, Mississippi, in Aug. 17, 1969. Jilda and I had been dating for about a year. She was vacationing with her family at Laguna Beach, Florida when the storm passed. Laguna Beach wasn’t hit directly by the storm but the weather there was brutal, she remembers. 

Authorities urged residents of Biloxi and other coastal towns to evacuate. Many did, but I read stories about people who stayed in hotels having hurricane parties. This turned out to be a tragic mistake.  When the 24-foot storm surge inundated the area, the death toll surged to 259 people.

I was working in Birmingham at a plant that manufactured bottle caps for Coca-Cola and other beverages. We had an order for a million caps from a bottling company in Gulfport. By the time the wind and storm surge subsided, there was no bottling plant. We wound up tossing a million bottle caps in the dumpster. 

Storms of this magnitude come into the Gulf of Mexico every now and then. It's always a mess. The effects are far-reaching. Many who think they are hurricane safe learn too late just how vulnerable they are.

 Here in Walker County, we are 300 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. When Hurricane Opal came made landfall in 1995, it left a path of destruction through Alabama and northward.

I remember watching the weather that evening until it was time to go to bed. Sometime during the night, the eye of the storm passed over us here in Empire. It still had hurricane force wind gusts. We felt the low pressure in our chests as it came through. We lost power that night, and more trees than I would have thought possible from that storm. It blew the top of the massive sweet gum tree in our backyard onto the roof of our house.

When looking at images of hurricanes at sea from satellites in space, it’s hard to get a feel for the size of the storm. Once they move over land, the clouds often cover entire states. 

Hurricane Florence looks as if it would cover all of South Carolina and Georgia. The jury is still out for what category it will be when it makes landfall somewhere on the Southeastern coast, but it could leave millions of people in the dark. 

Convoys of Alabama Power trucks are headed to that area to help with restoring power when the wind stops blowing. I also read that the Talladega Speedway opened up its vast facility to people fleeing the storm from the Carolinas. They are providing hot shower and restroom facilities, in addition to water hookups for campers and RVs.

I just hope everyone played it safe and headed for higher ground.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Wind chimes

We have wind chimes on our back deck and on the screen porch. Some of them are cheap ones we've picked up at yard sales and discount stores. All of them appealed to us on some level.

But we also have a few that are exquisite. There is one set that has tubes that are almost four feet tall. When the wind blows through the cheaper wind chimes they tinkle, twist, and sparkle. But we have one set that is tuned which means when the wind blows through it, the sound is deep and melodic.

This picture is from 2011. Ol' Buddy was out back fussing about something and I stepped outside to check. The sun was setting in the west. Shafts of light found their way through the pines and lit up the wind chimes on the back deck.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Showing out

Even though it is hotter than Lucifer's hibachi right now, there are signs of autumn. The docs still don't want me walking like I did before my surgery so I'm having to pace myself so as not to do damage to my knee. Restraint is hard for me.

I shot this picture a couple years ago. It was September and I was near the spillway where I flyfish. The locks were on and the river was rushing below. This young poplar tree was showing out at the water's edge. I thought the contrast in color was striking so I snapped a few frames. I'm glad I did.

Y'all stay cool.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Nature's fruit

Walking around the barn a few days ago, I noticed that muscadines are ready to pick. These are wild grapes native to this area. There are wild green grapes as well but they are called scuppernongs. My grandmother called them muskydimes and skuppynines.  So naturally, that's what I've called them all my life.

Back when I was a kid, people used to make wine using these grapes. I'm sure they still do, but I don't see it as much now as when I was a kid.

I tried my hand at it as well when I was about ten. I think what I ended up with was grape juice because I drank a quart and didn't get a buzz. My friends told me that a couple of sips would make me loosy-goosy. So, I was disappointed.

Not a lot going on here in Empire. The heat index is a 102 right now. Earlier, I sat on the back steps for about 15 minutes to get my daily quota of vitamin D. By the time I stepped back inside, I was dripping sweat. I know the cooler weather will come here someday. 

Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Slow down when it rains

I had a city council meeting to cover tonight. As I was leaving a 6 p.m., I heard thunder in the distance. The sky was cloudy and it would have been too dark to walk had our security lights not been on.

No more than a mile from the house, rain began splattering on my windshield. Not enough to swish, but enough to see that I was headed into more.

A bit further and a gentle rain began to fall. The thing about "a little" rain around here is that it mixes with the grunge on the asphalt and turns the roads into a sheet of ice. Most people know that and slow down. But some people don't.

I came across one of the latter before I reached my destination. A woman was going to fast when the light changed to red. She slid through the intersection and hit a Walker County Sherriff. Talk about bad timing.

I sent the police chief a text and asked if anyone was badly hurt. He returned my text saying that everyone was OK.

I'm guessing no one will have to tell her in the future to slow down when it's raining.

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