Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dogwood protector

There's a dogwood tree by the drive in our front yard that has been here since we moved here in 1980. I measured it once, but can't recall the circumference, or how far the limb-span is, but it's massive.

It turns a beautiful green in spring before many of the other trees, and then the dogwood buds pop out with white flowers as big as tennis balls.

It turns that part of my drive into a fluffy white cloud that dances in the breeze.

In autumn, the leaves turn a beautiful shade of red, before putting on berries.

It's berry time now and I snapped a photo this morning.

It's the one tree in our yard that would chain myself to if the power company were to insist it has to come down.

Every four years they send a new crew of cutters around and I always see them walking around the tree before I get outside.

"You can't cut this tree," I say firmly.

"It's on the power company's right-of-way," they say.

"I don't care if it's growing through the center of the power company president's living room, you can't cut this tree."

The standoff begins.

"Tell your supervisor I want him out here," I tell them.

"He's in Tuscaloosa," and that's 60 miles away.

"I don't care if he's in Kuala Lumpur," I say glibly.

The team lead is standing his ground.

I pull out my cell phone, and dial a retired area manager that I've know for years.

About three minutes later, the radio in his truck squawks.

It's the team lead's supervisor and I hear him say, "Call me on my cell phone."

Mumbling comes from the back of the truck.

The team leads gives instructions to the crewmen standing around who are now smiling a little, and they pack up their saws and move on down the road.

"We've decided to watch this tree for a few years," he says.

"That's an excellent idea," I say.

Three or four years from now, I'll replay the scene with a new crew team lead.

I'm a reasonable guy, but there is no way limbs that are no bigger than threads can hurt the power line and they aren't going to ruin my tree.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A simple hunch

I'm wrapping up loose ends on a story that I've been researching for weeks. Most stories are assigned to me and after making a few calls, or visiting a person or two, I knock the story out.

But this was a self assigned story. One that I got wind of last Christmas while playing a gig at the local college.

I transcribed hours of audio interviews yesterday and today and looked back over all the notes and old news clips I'd uncovered.

A few days into the research, it looked as if it might be a dead end, but I decided to call an elderly friend what I've known for several years.

"Yes, I remember that," he said.  He gave me a great deal of background details that I'd missed. 

He told me that he thought he knew someone who might have been a player in the story and volunteered to track them down.

A little further research took me to the local library, and the lady who's worked in the archives for over 25 years became interested in the topic and did some searching on her own. 

She found a story from March of 1943 that lit me up.  

One thing lead to another and as it turns out, I was right. This is a killer story. 

I'll start outlining and drafting the story tomorrow. I'm excited. 

I think the story would make an incredible short documentary film. I'm going to plant a bug in a friend's ear who has contacts with filmmakers at the University of Alabama.

Who knows where a simple hunch will lead.

On a side note, I'm experimenting with a new software that makes tintypes photographs. This one is of our barn that I took this morning.
It does look like an old photograph I think.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The show begins

Things move slower here in the south. It takes trends, and fads are slow to take root. In fact, we don't get Wednesday's TV programs here until late Friday afternoon.

Autumn also drags its leaves here in Alabama. I've seen stunning photographs of autumn foliage from the northeast and midwest, but it's been green as mint here, until this week.

The oak and hickory have begun the transition and when the light of the setting sun hits them in later afternoon, the color is beautiful.

We drove to Birmingham this afternoon and on the way home we drove the backroads which turned out to be a good idea.

Within a few week it will look like fall here.

I love it when the show begins.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Show dogs

Jilda and I've always had dogs. Most of them were throw-away dogs. Some show up limping, with mange, the worms, and some with ears and tails missing from living hard between owners.

When they show up here, they hit the lottery. They get medicine, vet visits, and three-square meals a day with tasty scraps of chicken, and other treats that somehow tend to fall from our plates.

The dogs live with us until they die. Some go soon after they arrive, and others have stayed as long as 15 years. We've loved all of them.

The Universe bent slightly the last few years because instead of gimpy mutts, the two animals that arrived at our door have been show dogs. One a thoroughbred collie, and the other a thoroughbred Yorkie.

They want the same thing as the mutts -- Attention, petting every now and then, a decent plate of food and a place to get when it's cold or it's August in Alabama and hotter than Satan's in spandex.

But these dogs need a good bit more than mutts. Each time we walk with Caillou, he runs through the woods with wild abandon. When he comes back, he's dragging briars and brambles in his tail.

Today after my nephew Haven helped me move the stove and fridge back into the kitchen, we were standing in the living room sipping a cold glass of water.

When I looked down, Caillou was standing beside and when I looked at him, he had a broken corner of commercial tile covered in glue tangled in his tail.

I had to cut it out with shears. He looked a little embarrassed as if to say, "I have no idea how that happened daddy, I promise."

The Yorkie has a few quirks, but I think that's what my column this coming week will be about so I won't spoil the fun here.

Below is one of my show dogs, bless his heart.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whupped but happy

A few years ago the line to the icemaker on our fridge developed a small leak. So small in fact, that I didn't realize it for several weeks.

At first only a tiny bit of water seemed to seep from between the tiles. I thought we'd dropped an ice cube, or that one of the dogs had a slight accident, but that seemed unlikely as we have a doggy door and they come and go as they please.

After a while, I realized something was wrong, so I checked the drain pan on the fridge, I check under the house to see if one of the pipes could somehow be squirting water up.

I even when into my bathroom and dug under the sink in search of a leak, but nada.

Then my reminder sounded telling me it was time to replace the filter on the ice maker. When I pulled the monster out from the wall and peered behind with a flashlight, I saw the pipe spraying a tiny thread of water onto the floor.


Back then, we didn't have a cutoff valve behind the fridge, so I had to crawl under the house and find the valve on the line serving ice maker.

I made those repairs and the seeping stopped, but  a few months later I began to notice the tile sagging a little. The louan subflooring, soak for months, began to collapse.  Our issues with cracking tiles and an ugly kitchen floor started there.

Fast-forward until this morning. Our old carpenter buddy Ray showed up at 8 with his toolbox and we moved the stove and fridge to the living room. We then ripped out the old tile, the old louan, before beginning the slow process of repairs.

Tonight my knees are screaming, my back feels like it has a 10-inch icepick in my right kidney, and I'm finding glue in unexpected places (don't ask.) But the kitchen floor looks amazing.

Digging through our pantry, I found a nice bottle of merlot. I can promise you, I will sleep well tonight.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ebb and flow

One thing I've discovered through the years of blogging is that most writers go through an ebb and flow.

Some days ideas for posts and columns come at me so fast I have to swat them away with a flyswatter, and at other times I can't buy and idea.

These last week, has been low tide for me creatively. That's not to say I haven't been productive in other areas, but the quality ideas have been elusive.

Understanding that it's ebb and flow is helpful, because at the end of the ebb, comes the flow.

Original places

We played at Local Color Cafe tonight. It's one of our favorite venues. Performing on weekends in the south during footballs season is sketchy business.

Most places don't have live music until later on Saturday nights, because it's hard to get a crowd to come out.

Rick and Jilda at
Johnson City Folk Festival
last year
Even Friday nights are not usually that good because of high school football.

But Local Color had a decent crowd tonight. We shared the stage with our good friend Skip Cochran.

One of the benefits of playing Local Color is the food, and they always feed the musicians well. We had Brunswick stew tonight and homemade cornbread. Gary, one of the owners, does the cooking and he is awesome.

During the last set, it's hard to perform because Gary bakes a pan of biscuits for the musicians after the show.

Once the crowd filters out, and the equipment is stowed, he brings the hot-buttered biscuits out still steaming. With the biscuits, he brings honey, jelly, and cane syrup along with a steaming pot of coffee.

I never thought about eating biscuits at night until we began playing there several years ago.

Gary and Merle are great people who love music (Merle is a fantastic singer.)

Places that support original music have a special place in my heart. Local Color is one of those places.

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