Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It's all about the light

Today is a picture day. I worked late this evening so I had to look back in my archives for a picture. I searched for Autumn leaves. This was the first picture it returned from the thousands of pictures in my files.

I shot it last October. The oak and hickory stand on the hillside overlooking the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River. This was taken about 9 a.m. in the morning. The sun had just risen over the trees to the east. It looks like late afternoon light, but the evening sun comes from the opposite direction.

The one thing I've learned about taking pictures is that each frame is all about the light. Once my eyes picked up on that one fact, my pictures improved.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A lot to love about October ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There’s a lot to love about October. Aside from high school and college football, the month has much to offer. The colors alone are worth the price of admission. If you don’t believe me, take a walk in the woods and “see” for yourself. But there are also some great festivals in October. And then there’s Halloween.

Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a kid. It was right up there with Christmas. Back when I was trick or treating, we didn’t buy our costumes. One year I decided on an old pair of overalls and a plaid flannel shirt. A red bandana tied around my head seemed just the ticket. Using fireplace soot, I made a black patch around my right eye. I thought the getup was a great pirate costume, but none of the other kids “got it.”

The houses in our community didn’t do much decorating like people do today, but they all had candy. The candy in those days was made with real sugar. My bags were full enough after that night to keep a sugar buzz until Thanksgiving.

After Jilda and I married, we became one of those houses where kids hit the candy jackpot. We bought candy by the bushel. On Halloween during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, our doorbell jangled like a bluegrass banjo. The next morning, our candy bags were empty. Except, of course, the handful of Mary Jane candy that I held back. I love Mary Janes. It’s one of my favorite pieces of candy. I once lost a tooth while eating that tacky stuff. But it was worth it.

These days we buy a little candy, but we end up giving most of it to our great nephew, who lives next door.

A few years ago, Halloween fell on Saturday. My nephew, James, asked if we’d do a birthday weeny roast for his son, Stone. Stone was born on Halloween, and it’s haunted him all his life. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) We agreed. And a tradition was born.

Each year toward the end of October, we have an outdoor party. Some people dress up, but most just show up for the food and fun.

We pull out all our lawn chairs and benches so that our friends and family can sit around the campfire. There’s no better aroma than hickory and oak wood burning on a small fire.

A few years ago, we did a hayride for the kids. My nephew, Haven, has a tractor and a large trailer. We filled the trailer with bales of hay and a herd of kids. The adults with good knees jumped on the trailer to help supervise the ride. Haven pulled us around the property. Most of the kids had never been on a hayride. Before the ride was over, he drove the tractor under the apple tree in our field. Each kid had a chance to pick their own apple from the tree.

Through the years, Halloween has gotten a bad rap. A few mean people tainted candy and hurt some kids. Evil has no conscience. Churches also became vocal about the spooky holiday. Something about celebrating Pagan holidays, but I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

All I know is that I never once thought I was turning my back on the Good Lord when I was stuffing my face with Halloween candy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can mushrooms cry?

The weather is changing. Even though it was still warm today, you could see changes in the sky. And there is a promise of rain A front dropping down from Kansas City or somewhere up to the north and west.

We walked early. A quick text to our niece Samantha and her son Jordan confirmed they were in. So we walked a few laps around the Empire Walking Club track (a private joke.) We actually walked around the perimeter of our farm. It's a good walk.

Climbing the steep sides of the hollows gets the old heart pumping. On the second lap, Jilda noticed something by a stump from a tree we lost in a storm a few years ago. It was a mushroom. She didn't have her phone, so she pointed it out to me. When I took a closer look, I found it interesting. It has a weed growing through the cap. When I leaned in closer to snap a photo, I noticed a drop of water. I'd never seen that before. It looked like a tear.  

Can mushrooms cry? What could have made it that sad?

Saturday, October 14, 2017


We had chores on our to-do list we've been dreading for months. My shed is a disaster area. It should have been condemned. A wiser man would have struck a match to it, taken the bucket loader on the tractor, loaded onto the truck, and hauled the debris to the dump.  But that's not what happened.

Cleaning the guest room was also on the list. That where gifts land. The room is rarely used so each time there's a birthday, graduation, or other gift-buying occasion, we put the gifts in there until they can be wrapped and delivered.  We never invite company over during Christmas because we have no place to store the stuff.  Cleaning that room was long overdue. 

We also, we have a deep freezer. Its been in our laundry room for years. In the past, we cleaned it out and defrosted it annually. We missed a year. Then another. The last time I looked, frost was creeping around the lid. It was so bad that the lid wouldn't seal. I was beginning to worry that it would break free during the night and freezer would cover everything in a frosty crust. We wouldn't be discovered until the next power outage and our frozen bodies thawed.

So, those were the chores on our list today. I considered calling in drunk, but I didn't We got busy after breakfast.

Jilda headed to the guest room and I headed outside to the shed.  We both worked until lunch. By mid-afternoon, we'd checked all three chores off our list. Tonight I feel like I"ve run a marathon. But I ran down to civilization, picked up some Chinese food, and we are kicking back.

I actually feel taller tonight.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Old Maids

I have fresh Old Maids (zinnias) in a small porcelain vase on my bathroom vanity. They are pink, burnt orange, yellow and red. Jilda picks them every few days from the patch on the edge of our garden.

We start picking them in early summer. There aren't many at first, but thanks to the warm sun and summer rain, they flourish. They do better than any other flowers in our yard.

These are perennials. All we have to do next spring is to dig around them and work a little compost around the roots. They return the favor with beautiful bouquets until frost.

The rain these last few weeks turbocharged the grass. When we walked this morning, the dew on the grass soaked my sneakers. I knew it was time to mow. 

This afternoon after the sun dried the grass, I hopped on the John Deere and let it do its thang. When I cut close to the Old Maids, the butterflies had a fit. 

The weather is changing. Soon we'll have frost and I'll have to mow the Old Maids down for the coming winter. But they'll be back.

Old maids from 2014

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Do something fun

I've felt a little down today. Folks I've been working with the last three years heard that my grant was not renewed. Several of them stopped by the last few days to make sure I was OK. The thing is, I don't have to work. I work because it's enjoyable. I have a feeling the next few months won't be as much fun.

I'm already thinking about moving my personal items back to my office at home. There are shelves of books to consider. I'll leave my college diplomas up until my work there is complete. But I'll move the potted plant this coming week.

In a few months, someone else will sit at my desk and watch through the window at the kids performing Death of a Salesman on the Courtyard. 

I'm putting out feelers – looking for opportunities for writing, or a job where I can take pictures. I love doing both. 

After work today, I decided to walk. The sky was cloudy for several days after Hurricane Nate passed through here, but the last few days have been sunny. Today was cooler than yesterday. This weekend should be even cooler.  I'm not breaking out the longhandle underwear yet, but maybe it won't be long. 

During my walk, I came across another interesting growth on a fallen limb. This one looks like a mushroom blossom. 

Both Jilda and I are off tomorrow. We are planning to do something fun. As your social advisor, I recommend you take the day off and do something fun too. Tell the boss I said it was OK.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Ray Bans

The ragweed has been brutal this fall. And my eyes are the proof. I wear contacts and they don't play well with irritated eyes. I can wear my regular prescription glasses but during daylight hours, the sun makes me squint. 

I kept telling myself to buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. I'm picky about my shades. I know I could have gotten a cheap pair somewhere, but sunglasses are more than about protecting your eyes. Or at least they are to me.

I've been looking for a decent pair that would make me happy. Today, when I went to pick up my new contacts, I browsed the sunglass section while the fetched my order. I found a pair of Ray Bans. I've never bought a pair of Ray Bans. I own two pairs but one pair belonged to my younger brother and my mother gave them to me after he died.  
My sister also gave me a pair that she'd had since Clinton was in the White House. Young people stop me in malls to ask where I found those glasses. When I tell them they are antique, they skulk off. But, I can only wear these shades when I'm wearing my contacts.

The Ray Bans I found today are exactly what I've been looking for. I keep my mad money in my wallet. It's the money I earn writing my columns and doing my sideline work. When I saw the glasses, I whipped out a few crisp bills and ordered the glasses. The ones on the showroom floor aren't prescription so it will take them a week to put my lenses in there but I'm excited.

As your sunglass consultant, I urge you to NOT settle for cheap sunglasses. Save your money and get the ones that make you feel like a rockstar even though you're an old fart.

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