Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This is America

My buddy Danny and I were on the road early this morning. We had an appointment to shoot Facebook and Cable TV ads with a company in the northern part of the state.

We practiced our script on the drive up. When we drove through a small community called Nectar (such a sweet name for a community) Danny spotted a produce stand with mountains of sweet potatoes out front. Apparently, he and his wife love sweet potatoes as much as we do.

It took about an hour in the green room to get all the pieces video'd. Afterward, we headed back south.

We'd also passed a sign that said there was a historic covered bridge a short distance down a side road. 

I decided to have a look at the bridge. You don't see these every day. The brief side trip was worth the time. It was a beautiful, well-preserved bridge constructed of wood and metal. It was built in 1927.  We snapped several pictures and then headed back to the main road.

As we drove, we watched for the roadside stand. We saw it ahead and I hit the blinker to turn in. That wasn't necessary because I think we were the only car for miles on the two-lane.

The old gentleman minding the stand greeted us as we walked in.  A giant chicken fan over on the side of the tin-roof shed kept the air moving. It was hot in the sun but the stand was like an Oasis.

I walked around and looked as Danny gathered the things he wanted to buy. I noticed a sign by the exit that said: Put your produce in a bag and put your money in the cashbox. They still sold produce on the honor system when the owners were away from the stand.

Danny bought a basket of sweet potatoes, Vidalia Onions, and a basket of vine-ripe tomatoes. 

Standing there in this produce stand in the middle of nowhere was something I needed at this moment in my life. Things seem crazy right now.  Politics, the weather, and world news are enough to make a sane person crazy. But here in the "real world" people are growing pumpkins, potatoes, and tomatoes in their gardens. And they are willing to share their abundance with the people passing by on the honor system. 

As we stepped back into the college SUV and pulled out of the parking lot, I thought to myself, "This is America."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Predicting the weather

There is an art to predicting the weather. Even with all the newfangled satellites and meteorological equipment, predicting the weather is still unpredictable. 

Hurricane Irma was a head scratcher for days before making landfall. They knew the storm was massive and the general direction it was heading. But no one had a clue whether it would go up the east side of Florida or come into the Gulf. 

While I would never wish bad clouds on anyone, I couldn’t stand the thought of that beast coming into the Gulf and hitting Texas.  Hurricane Harvey had already made a mess of things there. I kept hoping it would curve eastward into the Atlantic and fizzle out. But that didn’t happen.

Our local meteorologist kept saying Hurricane Irma would go up the east coast of Florida. I’m not a weatherman but saw the storm ravish that state’s west coast.  The tropical storm passed through Empire, Alabama on Monday night. 

After the storm, I fretted about our friends who live in Florida. We’ve now heard from most of them. I got a text last night from my friend Brian who lives near West Palm Beach, Florida. They decided to weather the storm. After boarding up their home, stocking up on food, and water, they hunkered down. The text last night said they made it through OK, but the power is out, and they’re not sure when it will come back on there. 

The fascination with weather extends back through the ages. The Babylonians tried their
hand at short-term weather forecasts hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Early civilizations understood a great deal about climate, but history tells us it was a crapshoot back then too. 

I remember Mr. Plunkett was a weather guru. He was our next-door neighbor in Sloss. One September I was sitting on his front porch with him and his two boys Joe and Johnny. It was late afternoon. He rocked forward and spat a stream of snuff into the red clay dirt and predicted that it would be a cold winter. During those days, weathermen rarely predicted rain until they heard it thunder.

But Mr. Plunkett would listen to barking squirrels, watch their activities.  He also studied the size of acorns to gather information before making his predictions. After careful observation, he would say, “It will be a cold winter this year.” Or, “This fall will be a wet one.” I wish I’d been smart enough to pay attention and see if he was right. He followed that up with, “If you don’t believe me, just read the Almanac.” No one argued with the Almanac in those days.

The best I can remember he was right on the money about half the time. His batting average was as good as those of weather forecasters today.

I thought about Mr. Plunkett today as Jilda and I did our morning walk. As we walked under the oak tree in the barnyard, she exclaimed, “Look at the size of that acorn!” Leaning over, I picked it up. It looked the size of a robin’s egg. I looked into the canopy trying to see if there was a squirrel up there. I rolled the acorn between my fingers like a marble. And I wondered what Mr. Plunket would predict for the coming winter.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book “Life Goes On” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fungi tales

We walked later yesterday and the temps and humidity were brutal. The cool spell last week spoiled us. But the weather here is such that you can swim for a good chunk of autumn. We decide to walk a little earlier this morning to keep mold from growing in my ears as I walked.

And speaking of fungus, I spotted some this morning as we walked. There was a gentle breeze out of the southwest and it felt almost pleasant in the shade. After a few laps around the barn, I looked as if I'd swam in my clothes. The upside is that I managed to get my steps in today. I also snapped a picture for the blog.

I also wanted to mention that for those that read my blog last night and asked to see a picture of ZuZu Petals. She slept through the festival yesterday but there was a picture of their family on his Facebook page that I put on last night's post for those who asked to see her.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Small town festivals

We heard the music while I was pulling the lawn chairs from the truck. And by the time I clicked the button locking the car doors, we smelled the aroma of hickory smoked BBQ. 

It was the Foothills Festival by the courthouse square in the county seat of Jasper. We went late to hear John Paul White. He is a songwriter/musician from Florence, Alabama. He was half of the duo The Civil Wars. He's won Grammys. This young man is an incredible talent. 

We found a place in the shade away from the main stage. Though it was 4:30 p.m. The temp on the asphalt was hot as a welding rod tip. A gentle breeze out of the west kept it pleasant there on the corner. 

I know they had snow cones there because I saw several kids with blue tongues and teeth. One kid carried a disco dinosaur. It was a small dinosaur with a battery-powered disco ball in its stomach. I didn't see that coming.

After we sat, we began seeing friends we haven't seen in too long. As we sat there I got a text saying that some of our friends were eating at a restaurant a few steps down the street. 

We hadn't seen our friends in forever. He's struggling right now with cancer.  Seeing him and his lovely wife was a gift.

I love small town festivals. They make me feel more connected. Alive. Grateful.

My nephew was there with his family. They have a new baby that's younger than the apples on our table. 

The baby was the hit. People weren't interested in the music or the popcorn, but everybody wanted to pinch that baby's jaws.  Her name is Zuzu Petals. Yes, that's not a mistake. Zuzu Petals. Any of you that are a fan of It's A Wonderful Life might recognize this name. Jimmy Stewart's daughter's name was Zuzu. And Zuzu had given Jimmy Stewart some rose petals that he carried around in his watch pocket. When he came back from his encounter with the angel, he looked for the Zuzu's Petals in his pocket to make sure he was really back. 

It's been a delightful Saturday.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thank You

My mind was a vacuum tonight. I sat and typed the letters off my keyboard but no words came to mind.

I clicked on Google and searched for holidays celebrated today. There were 19 holidays. National Hug Your Boss Day, National Linguini Day, and National Cheese Toast Day were all contenders. But the holiday that took my ribbon was National Thank You Day.

By nature, I'm a thankful person, but I still don't say thank you enough. The Walmart checker who rang up the shopping cart of the turd in front of me today without slapping them nakid' and hiding their clothes. She deserved an award or at least a thank you.  The garbage man that runs each Friday morning who hauls off things that we toss in our can all week. That can is toxic by Friday. Also, the bank teller who pointed out that I'd cheated myself out of a hundred dollars on my deposit slip today. She didn't laugh or say point out that her daughter in grammar school was better at math.

Or the people who read my blog each evening. I haven't said it in the past, but I truly thank you all for being my blog buddies.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Uncle duty

My day at work was winding down when I got a call on my cell. When I looked at my phone, it showed the picture of my niece. She never calls me at work. Humm, I thought. Something's up.

She sounded stressed. Her mom, who usually picks up my great nephew Jordan was stuck in an unending meeting at the board of education and she wouldn't be able to pick Jordan up from school.

One of my "uncle duties" is to fix things. When she has a flat in the boonies and needs someone to change it for her – she calls me. When she needs a new fridge, she asks me to go with her so that the salesmen (yes it's often men) don't jack her around. I cosigned for her when she bought her first new car.  I'm not whining. I'm actually flattered that she asks for my help.

Today she asked if there was any way I could run by the school and pick up "the kid."  I told her I could. A few minutes later, she called back and said her mom was supposed to pick up my great nephew Anthony too.  "Not a problem," I can handle it.

When school lets out, it's a madhouse. Hundreds of "walkers" come out to the front walk so that their parents, grandparents, and uncles can collect them. I"m on the approved list for all my nieces and nephews.

I picked the boys up and buckled them in the truck. I handed my phone to Jordan and told him to do a selfie of us all and send the picture to his mother so she'd know I'd picked up "The Packages."

He took the picture below while I was stopped at an intersection and with a few taps, sent the picture to his mom.

I smiled as we drove toward home, "That little turd knows more about my phone that I do."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Snake tale

It was overcast and chilly here today. The temps didn't venture out of the 50s all day. The storm day Monday made our week wonky again. Jilda had to go in early this morning and then again this afternoon. 

We decided before lunch to walk. Stepping outside, I realized a short-sleeve tee shirt wasn't going to get it, so I went back inside and dug through the plastic storage tub where I store my sweats shirts and pants. I pulled out my favorite sweatshirt. I bought it over twenty years ago when we were in San Francisco.

The sweat shirt felt like an old friend as I pulled it over my shoulders and shook it on. This is dog weather. They could relentlessly chase deer and rabbits without getting so hot they step on their tongues.

This afternoon when Jilda headed back to work, I decided to get the rest of my steps. After a few laps through the new walking trail, I circled the barn to head to the house for water. At the edge of the barn, I saw an old friend. It's a chicken snake almost five feet long. He'd been in the barn but was headed for the old truck which is parked a few yards away. 

I think he was about to shed his skin for the last time because his eyes were blue. Normally the snake's eyes are black and see everything around them. I think this snake heard me, but I don't think he saw me.

I moved in close to snap a picture. The advice I gave him was to get in that old truck fast before Ol' Hook came back from the chase. The dog is not a fan of critters.

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