Sunday, October 22, 2017

I miss the horses

I drove down a road I haven't traveled in some time. It's changed. I remember the first time I traveled this road. Bear with me.

I graduated from high school and worked for the State Highway Department that first summer. That fall, I enrolled in a community college in Birmingham.

The first semester was sad. I was around new people. Until then, I led a fairly sheltered life. But in college, there was a lot of cool kids from all over. I spent more time on "fitting in" that I spent on studies. My grades in December were less than stellar. They were closer to the cellar.

I was the first in our family to attend college. My folks took a sharp pencil to their finances to pay for tuition and books. But they were ahead of their time with the philosophy, "No Pass, No Pay."

There was a hard lesson there. If I wanted to stay in school, I'd need a job

There was a guy in my sociology class that friended me up. He worked at a manufacturing plant nearby. He put in a good word for me, and within a few weeks, I was a janitor. My starting salary was $2.45 an hour. I reported for duty at 11:00 p.m. My first class the next morning was at 8:00 a.m.

To say I struggled is an understatement. But since I was footing the bill for tuition and books, I struggled and passed by the skin of my teeth. It was a learning experience.

The road that I drove for those two years, was the same road I drove down today. There was a section of that road that was my favorite. The asphalt dissected a beautiful ranch. Cows and horses grazed near a split rail fence that bordered the road on both sides. The ranch extended all the way to the Locust Fork River.

But beneath the land was a seam of Black Creek coal. Anthracite coal almost as hard a diamond. Black gold.

I'm guessing the landowner got tired of chasing cows because he sold that land. Soon draglines and dynamite turned paradise into a moonscape. Mountains of slate rock the color of a kindergarten blackboard. Nothing grew there but scrub pine and cottonwood.

Today when I drove down that road, I saw something I didn't expect.  A tiny stretch of beauty. Queen Ann's Lace by the side of the road was enough to make me turn my head.

I pulled to the curb, put my emergency flashers on, and stepped back to take a few pictures. The wind was ripping so it was difficult to get a picture that was in focus.

I smiled as I stepped back to the truck. That was beautiful...but I miss the horses.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I'm not sure if it's Halloween or some kink in the DNA of spiders that brings them in October, but they're everywhere.

I went to the shed this morning to get a shovel to plant a gardenia that we'd rooted from a blossom this past spring. When reached for the sharpshooter hanging just inside a door, a spider the size of a chihuahua dropped from the shelf next to my hand onto the floor and scurried under my new tool chest. Hmmmm. I considered diving in after the "recluse'ive" spider but decided against it. I did tell him his day are numbered.  I usually don't squash things just for the heck of it, but those spiders bite.  And the wound often needs medical attention. So they don't have free reign here.

We had to run to Birmingham to pick up my new shades and some things at Costco. As we walked out the door, Jilda said "Wow. Look at that." It was a spider web in the shape of a heart near the apex of our roof.

I snapped a picture. I think that one is a garden spider. If so, it might live if it doesn't get too close.  But I'll keep my eyes on it when I bring the citrus trees in.

How about you. Are you a live and let live person when it comes to spiders or do you smite them?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Stuff

Today has been delightful. Jilda put on sweatpants and a light jacket when we got ready to walk.

Soon well bring our citrus trees inside along with other tender plants. The inside of our house shrinks, but it's pleasant sitting among the foliage.

I finished the training on podcasting and began taking inventory of the things I'll need to produce them. I think I have most of the hardware. But content and branding will require thought and planning.

Yesterday when I took my mail to the mailroom at work, I walked by the college library. They have a table outside where they place old books they no longer need. They are free to a good home. Often they are textbooks or other books that are of no interest to me. But yesterday, they had several books that I scarfed up.

The first one that caught my eye was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I read that book 40 years ago. It's a classic. A copy still rests on our bookshelf of old and cherished books. But I got this copy for my great nephew Jordan.

His nanna had surgery yesterday and she called to ask if I could pick him up today. Not a problem, I said. 

I put the book on my front seat so that it was the first thing he saw when he climbed into the cab of my truck.

He'd read chapter one by the time we pulled into the drive at home. It might be a little advanced for him but there's also a chance he might be able to wrap his young mind around it. I could kick myself for not getting a picture of him reading it. But I didn't

So tonight is a picture I shot in October of 2010. I call it Spider Moon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Podcasting anyone?

I'm learning how to do Podcasts. I subscribed to a few that interested me a few years ago but lost interest. It seemed like a passing fad. I thought that about blogging too.  But I was wrong.

I'll be celebrating my 12 blog-a-versary in December. Except for a few days when storms blew my electricity to South Carolina, I've blogged daily.

Recently I began following a blog about songwriting. The creators of that blog suggested a Podcast that also dealt with the topic. I subscribed.

When I began looking I found that not only is the medium surviving, it's thriving. There were several that I now listen to on a regular basis.

So, I thought why not learn how and see if I can use Podcasting to complement my blog. I'll tell you more once I get a little further along.

This picture is from October 2012. I pass this pond sometimes when I have business near Birmingham.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October Monarchs

We're having a family gathering here later in the month so we've been cleaning the house room at a time. That's how we're spending our off days. 

In the past, we've waited to the last minute to do the cleaning and by the time company arrives, we're so whupped we don't enjoy them as much as we should.

We wanted to get the day off to a good start so we decided to walk first thing. Today was the first day since winter that we've worn long-sleeve shirts when we walked. The dogs were ecstatic. 

The Old Maids are looking ragged, but I won't cut them down until after the first frost.

I think the Monarchs are happy with that decision.

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.

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