Monday, April 27, 2015

Things your grandparents said to you ~ my column from Sunday's paper

A lot of who I am as a person came from the words and deeds of my parents and grandparents, who were as much a part of my young life as eating and breathing.

In most situations, I often do and say what I learned from them during those formative years. Whenever leaving the house, I pause at the door, think about where I’m going, what I’ll be doing and what I’ll need when I get there.

Pap, who was my grandpa on my daddy’s side of the family, did that. He was handy and good at many things. He built flat-bottom fishing boats under the wild black cherry tree in his front yard. Before leaving his shed, he’d pause and stand, scratching his whiskers as he contemplated his task. He’d fill his overall pockets with hammers, nails, screws, tape measures and other tools.

Most times he wouldn’t need everything he took, but he rarely had to walk back to the shed once he left. I asked him why he took all those tools with him and he said, “I’d rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” These are wise words, and I embraced them.

He also taught me a lesson about Mother Nature’s creatures. I’d gotten my first BB gun for Christmas, and I was blasting at everything that moved, flew or hopped. He saw me take aim at a robin and asked if I planned to eat it. When I told him no, I saw the disappointment in his eyes that hurt me worse than a whipping. From that day on, I never shot a creature that I didn’t plan to eat.

I asked my Facebook friends if they had favorite sayings from their grandparents. The topic struck a nerve, and I received many comments. Below is a sample of the things their grandparents told them.

Susan Hoffman said her Grams advised her to never date (or marry) a man that treats his mother poorly.

Trisha Gardner said her grandmother told her to NEVER pray for patience, “because God would teach you patience.”

“My grandmother taught me to choose to be happy and to make the best of any situation,” said Karen Norman, who lives in California. “She also taught me how to throw together a great little meal from whatever ingredients are on hand and how to make sweet pickles.”

Local plumber Haven Phillips remembers the advice from his grandpa Sharky Phillips, who was also a plumber: “The grass might be greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s probably because there is more crap on it.”

More great advice came from Asa Faith Randolph’s grandma who advised her, “Asa Faith, put your panties on!”

Dr. Tom Camp’s grandmother told him to “respect your fellow man.”

One of the most profound came from Rachel Davis, whose grandmother told her, “Before you take someone’s advice, you should see how much corn is in their crib.”

My grandparents, like many of yours, grew up in the rural South during a time when surviving left little time for formal schooling, but the things life taught them were valuable lessons they don’t teach in school.

I know I am a better person because of their wisdom.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

RIP Charlie

Our friend Charlie Watts died this weekend. I've talked about him before. He's had many close calls, but he always managed to cheat death and come back strong.

He was a radio announcer in the 1950s and he interviewed Elvis, along with his mother, Gladys and father Vernon Presley.

Later he landed the job on Congressman Tom Bevill's staff and in that position, ran in the elite circles of power in Washington D.C.

I met him when I was a staff photographer for the local newspaper in 1973. He was kind to me, but our friendship did not take root until about five years ago.

Since that time, we've spent hours visiting. He, his wife Yvonne, and their son Randall dined with us one summer evening. As we sat in the great room and chatted, the birds outside the front windows put on a show, with hummingbirds hovering as if posing for a snapshot.

Just after we sat down at the table to eat, I heart Charlie exclaim, Look!  When I followed his pointing finger, there were deer just beyond the fence in the garden playing tag.

The conversation paused while we watched the deer play for a long while. When they scampered off into the woods, Charlie said, "We're in Shangri-La."

We swore upon parting that we'd have them back over, but his health steadily declined, and unfortunately it never happened.

When I saw him last week, I knew he would not be here much longer.

Yvonne asked us to play a few songs at his funeral tomorrow. I know it will be hard, but Jilda and I were both humbled and honored to be asked.

Rest in peace my friend.

Charlie Watts, second from the left wearing the hat.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Festival season begins

We rolled into Kosciusko, Mississippi this morning just before 10 under soot-grey skies. Rain had swept through last night taking the bad weather along.

We've played at unsheltered festivals under a brutal sun, and this could have been one of those, but the clouds kept it at bay.

The sound was very good and we had a decent crowd. We didn't sell any CDs or books, but so it goes. We don't judge gig by commerce. I thought we sounded good, so I consider it a success.

After the gig, we drove north on the Natchez Trace toward Tupelo. The Natchez Trace is a historic stretch of road stretching from Nashville down to southern Mississippi.  It's a National Park, and the stretch of road is beautiful, except for the few miles where the violent tornados of April 27, 2011 stripped leaves and bark off the trees.

About mid-way between Kosciusko and Tupelo, there is a place called Frenches Camp. We pulled into a log cabin restaurant for lunch. They serve soup and sandwiches. I ordered potato soup and a
sandwich called the Big Willie. The Big Willie is a BLT with 10 pieces of bacon. Obviously I couldn't eat a sandwich with a hog on it by myself, so I had the cook quarter the bovine banquet so that Jilda and her sister Pat's arteries could help carry the load. Everything was scrumptious.

There was a faster, more direct route home, but experience has taught me that Interstates are like smartphones. They're really convenient, but if you don't leave them behind now and then, you tend to miss a great deal.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This time of year

Yesterday when I walked to the barn, I noticed the cottonwood trees were beginning to bloom. They, along with the persimmon trees, are the last to join the spring fashion show but when the cottonwood begins it does it right.  A swarm of sticky purple blooms that have a fragrance like grape bubblegum.

It’s warm enough now to write on the screen porch. Sometimes when I get stuck, one look at the chimes hula swaying and singing in the breeze gets me my creativity flowing.

Another benefit of beautiful weather is that people who’ve been cooped up all winter will take any opportunity to be outside. For example, today while working at Bevill State, I heard a commotion out in the courtyard. Stepping out to investigate, I saw a courtyard full of teachers and students. A moment later I realized it was the Bevill State Players doing the Macbeth. I stood for a long time in the noonday sun watching the actors perform for the lunchtime crowd. I was blown away by the level of commitment and talent these young folks displayed. I thought to myself, what a gift, to have the opportunity to lunch, enjoy the warm sun, and some culture.

This week kicks of the festival season, which is good news for singer/songwriters like Jilda and me. We’re playing every weekend in May.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A little piece of land

We bought a little piece of land that adjoins our property down by the garden. I think it will be a great place to plant blueberries, apple and peach trees. It gets more sun than most of our space, so plants will enjoy that.  The lady has kept it well maintained, and it looks like a lawn.

Of course, this means that I'll have to spend more time cutting grass, but that's OK with me. Some people get creative bursts when they're in the shower or other places, but my mind wanders when I cut grass.  It's not a chore.

We signed papers this afternoon and this evening I walked around getting a feel for the lay of the land. It was blissful.

On another note, I spoke during lunch for the Walker County Genealogy Society. The original speaker had a conflict and couldn't make it, so they asked me to fill in. I talked about the story I did a while back about the Piano Memorial at the college.

It's a fascinating story that almost didn't get written, but the cards fell into place and it turned out well. It's the one the American Legion Online Magazine posted late last year.

Pansies on the porch

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Trouble with the muse

My muse was on holiday today as the deadline for this week's column zipped toward me at the speed of failure. I started, stopped, cussed, started, stopped, cussed, and so on.

I'm frequently approached by writers who aspire to write columns for a publication, asking what it's like. I tell them I love the work, but the deadlines are like weekly cutoff notices from the power company. Mr. Watson, we hate to inform you, but unless you pay us a zillion dollars worth of your blood sweat and tears by 5 p.m. on Wednesday we'll not only turn off your power, and rip out your meter but we'll also send Guido to your house to grind your brain up and sell if for Vienna sausage. Guido will also kick your dog just for good measure.

Sooooooo, after I'd tapped the letters off my keyboard, I rounded up Jilda and the dog to go for a long walk.  A gentle breeze out of the west made the oak and hickory leaves do a little hula dance, and the sun warmed my face. It felt good to be alive, and I wondered why I'd been so stressed....I had plenty of time before my deadline.

Once back in the house, I grabbed the laptop and headed to the screen porch. After watching the silhouette of a moth inch up the screen, an idea came to me as suddenly as a sneeze. Within 30 minutes, I'd printed the column for Jilda to proof.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blue sky

If I were to tell you that today the sky was blue, you could close your eyes and conjure up a sky blue thought, but it was bluer than that.

Sitting at my computer tapping keys, I tried to think of a metaphor that wasn't moldy, or a simile that wasn't weary but none came to mind.

Sometimes I tweak pictures, but this one was a straight selfie taken with my iPhone when I stepped outside this morning to sip green tea and get a firsthand weather report. 

I sat at the picnic table for a long time with closed eyes letting the day wash over me like a warm shower after a tiresome day.....and it felt good to be alive.

Please consider sharing