Friday, June 30, 2006
They used to do pig roasts. Tom did a lot of research to determine the perfect way to cook a pig in the ground. The first year a bunch of us gathered on Friday night and dug the pit. We put in dried hickory and started the fire and placed the pig on a piece of tin and lowered it into the pit. We drank beer for a while and played some music on the bank and then after the proper length of time, we buried the pig to allow it to cook all night so that it would be ready for the main crowd the following afternoon.
Everyone started arriving just after lunch on Saturday and it was a carnival atmosphere. When Jilda saw the pit she immediately announced that she would not be eating pig but the nice hot dogs she brought.
We dug that pig up and hauled it out of the hole for inspection. There was a guy there who was the local vet and he moved in to check the meat. He cut it open with a sharp knife and promptly announced to the crowd that if the pig had a shot of penicillin, it just might live. A short time later we threw the pig in the river and we all ate hot dogs.
There were times we went there with just our small circle of friends and took boat rides up and down the river.
One time Jilda took paper and small sets of water colors like you buy at Foodworld. We found a quite slew and we all painted multicolored landscapes with cheap brushes. Afterwards we read poetry and watched a big blue heron catch his supper.
Thoughts of the river always put a smile on my face. It will be good to go there tomorrow. It would not surprise me if Tom is didn't try another pig in a pit.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I think it's because of the velocity of life. You are constantly bombarded with messages on your computer, on the radio, magazines, newspapers, cellphones and conversation in the hall at work. There comes a time when you must shut it all down and reboot, to use a computer term. Like the computer, if you don't reboot occasionally threads of things unfinished hang around and jam up the machinery. That's how I feel now. So excuse me while I take a few minutes and reboot.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I haven't had a lot of luck with blueberries, but it is my intention to remedy this. I put a reminder on my calendar to order in August and they will ship in September. It will be a year or so before we have berries but it's just a matter of time.
Our nephew Haven gave us a bushel of purple hull peas. When I finish with this entry, I'm going out on the screen porch to help Jilda shell the peas. Tomorrow evening we'll have squash from our garden, tomatoes, peas and cornbread for supper. There's a line in our BBQ song that says "I'm in heaven and I ain't dead." Well, that's how I feel eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Life's a garden, enjoy the bounty.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The thing about it is, that little voice knows just what to say. It knows where you weak points are and it has a knack for cutting to the bone.
Today I was listening to "The Writing Show" which is a a podcast by a woman writer somewhere out west and she interviews authors, publishers, agents, and others associated with writing. The show has great tips but there are many struggling writers out there and they sound so beaten. After listening for a while, my inner voice chimed in "they're right you know. No one wants to read junk you write. Why don't you drink some beer and watch reruns of MASH."
If I could get my hands on that little weasel I'd stomp a hog waller in its butt then stomp it dry. It's a coward and it wants me to be one too.
As I sit here on my porch tapping away at the keys on my laptop, I know that I do this because I love to write. The notes I get from the folks who visit make it worthwhile. I will concede that the more I learn about writing, the more I realize I don't know much but that's what keeps it interesting.
On a side note, I got a note from my friend Dale who is an exceptional writer, who told me he read one of my entries on "seeing". He took my challenge, shot a photo and sent it to me yesterday. I think it is remarkable.
Tonight as the lightning bugs start their show and the night birds are finishing their chores before night falls, I'm not concerned about that little voice in my head.
I have a saying carved on a small piece of wood that sits on my desk which says "whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right." I feel blessed and there is nothing that little voice can say that will change that.
Monday, June 26, 2006
All of a sudden my pager started chirping off my belt....are you on top of this??????? Well no, I'm eating my balony sandwich.....cuss, cuss, cuss, fuss, fuss fuss, .....you get the picture. I didn't leave work until almost eight tonight and the thing is still broke.
I was in the truck on the way home, my mind was buzzing trying to think of what I should do, what I should have done, and all the questions that will need to be answered....when I round a curve facing west and whoa Nellie. There was a sunset like I have not seen in some time.
I pulled the truck to the curb, pulled out my trustee camera and shot a photo. I'd rather you didn't share that little piece of information with my boss as he would take a dim view of me slowing down even to go to the bathroom much less shooting an artsy photo of a tequila sunset.
It's funny how you get all wound up worrying about things that won't really matter tomorrow when the Good Lord throws something at you to put it all in perspective.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
One Sunday in early May when I was about eight years old, a chicken snake wandered into our house. It was about five feet long. My sister went to get a glass of water and found it lying in front of the sink. To say she freaked would be a gross understatement. My mom and dad raced into the kitchen. My mom, who is not afraid of Satan himself, did not like the snake in our house one bit. Daddy reached down and caught the snake behind the neck and carried if off behind the shed in back of our house. I had a huge time teasing my sister. For days afterward she would jump like an Olympian at the slightest brush of a limb or string.
Several days later, while we were at school and Mr. Chicken Snake decided that he would have more fun at my sister's expense. Problem was, my sister was not home. Mrs. Hodges had come over to drink coffee with my mother and when they went into the kitchen, the snake was coiled around the leg of the kitchen table. Mrs. Hodges (even then she was older than Methuselah) was out the back door like a flash but she was back in with a garden hoe and she chopped that snake in to hot dog sized portions. Mrs. Hodges swept it with a broom into a long handled shovel that my mom was holding. They threw it into the outside toilet which was still in service at that time.
There are so many memories of those days in the West Pratt community and I'm not sure what brought this particular one to mind, so I thought I should write it down.
I hope you all have had a great Sunday.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Jilda cooked some vegetables and some potatoes while were were gone.....she also made a chocolate cake.
When we returned, Alesha was shelling the peas and her fingers were as purple as an eggplant. It tickles me that they have a garden. Most young folks I know would not bother. In fact I've heard more than one person say, "why do you grow stuff....you can go to Publix and get all the vegetables a lot easier than growing them." What simple silly people they are. It's not about how cheap or how easy it is to get food at a super market....it's understanding that if things were to get weird, you know how to do things for yourself. Plus, there's nothing quite like eating things you grow yourself. I'm proud of both of those kids. They both have great jobs and bright futures, but they are also grounded. They appreciate the good things in life.
Haven grew up next door and I had the good fortune to be apart of his life. He's not afraid of work, he has a good heart, he thinks for himself when it comes to politics and he had the good sense to find and marry a woman who is beautiful, smart, funny and doesn't take any crap...from anyone. It's a bonus that they both are fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
We don't have children, but if we did, I would be thrilled if they shared some of the qualities of Haven and Alesha.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Tomorrow I'll have to cut grass because a hint of rain will make it grow like kudzu, but I'm not complaining.
I saving to put a tin roof on our house. It should last us the rest of our lives and it will have the added benefit of being a sleeping aid on rainy nights. Most of the good memories I have of the years we lived in our trailer was on rainy summer nights. We'd open the windows, lie under the sheets and listen to the failing rain.
We used to have an eight-track tape by Jose Feliciano and our favorite song on the album was "Listen to the Rain" the lyrics are:
Listen to the pouring rain
Listen to it pour,
And with every drop of rain
You know I love you more
Let it rain all night long,
Let my love for you go strong,
As long as we're together
Who cares about the weather?
Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall,
And with every drop of rain,
I can hear you call,
Call my name right out loud,
I can here above the clouds
And I'm here among the puddles,
You and I together huddle.
Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall.
The old man is snoring,
Went to bad
And bumped his head,
He couldn't get up in the morning,
Listen to the falling rain,
listen to the rain
Maybe it will rain again tonight.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Here's a good description for highway 280 South - "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Also - "You can observe a lot just by lookin'" . And one that's appropriate for Alabama today - "It ain't the heat, it's the humility. "
I'm going to use a "get out of writting a blog entry" card tonight.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The summer I graduated from high school I got a job with the highway department. For the most part it was a breeze, but one day I made the unfortunate mistake of angering our crew chief. He was about the age that I am now and I made fun of his bald spot. The next five days (August 1968) I inspected asphalt.
The contractor was resurfacing a section of highway and someone from the highway department had to check the surface to ensure that it didn't have high spots or low spots. Due to my glib and unbecoming commentary regarding the hair loss of my beloved boss, I became that inspector. I realized right away that this did not look good as all the folks working around me were as red as a rugburn.
About noon on the second day it occurred to me that he must be folically sensitive. Everyday's a school day. When I got back to the work center on the third day (eight pounds lighter), I caught him before he left for the evening. I promised to wash his car, rotate his tires, change the oil and bring him some of my mamma's blackberry cobbler. He smiled and said "let's talk on Friday."
I never mentioned hair again. In fact from that day forward, I was mindful of everything I said to "Mr. I'll-throw-your-butt-in-a-vat-of-scalding-tar bossman."
The thing about hot weather is this: when folks come from up north in October and November they think "hey, this weather is great!!!!" They go back to Michigan and sell the homeplace and move here. They are sooo happy until summer. At that point they accost you in the Wal-Mart parking lot screaming "HOW CAN YOU REDNECK HILLBILLIES LIVE IN THIS HELLHOLE!!!!! HAS NO ONE EVER POINTED OUT THAT IT'S A FURNACE HERE!!!!"
I always smile and say, "you should have lived here before we had air conditioning."
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
He often asked me that when I came home after fishing trips. Pap (that's what I called him) I caught a fish this long - "Are you pullin' my leg?" Well maybe it was just this long....altering my estimate.
He died in the early seventies before personal computers became commonplace and a fancy phone was one that was any color but black. If you had a mobile phone then, you'd better have a long cord. I know he would be constantly amazed (and probably alarmed) by technology today.
Tomorrow I will be teaching a class via a virtual classroom and my students will be scattered across the globe. My assistant is in Sacramento, California and there will be students all across America, parts of Europe, India and Australia. Obviously the folks on the other side of the planet will be on night shift (It will also the winter solstice in Australia). I'll be standing in a conference room in Birmingham, Alabama.
The thing about it is, this technology is fairly old...as technology goes. It's been around for about five years, but it's still quite remarkable.
Today the company gave me a new pager to keep in touch at all times. I have a small mobile device that's not much bigger than a deck of cards and I can send and receive email, browse the internet, pull up spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, databases, and listen to music. I can also shoot a photograph or do a short video if the mood strikes me. I wanted to hold out for one that could cut my hair and give me a pedicure but my boss failed to see the humor of this request.
The more I learn about computers, the more I realize I don't know squat.
It seems like the world is getting smarter and smarter and going by at a velocity that is very hard to comprehend.
When our administrative assistant was telling me about my new pager today, I got the irresistible urge to say "are you pullin' my leg?"
Monday, June 19, 2006
We have a string of Christmas lights around the porch which give it a festive serenity. I know this sounds strange but it works in an offbeat bohemian/redneck/artsyfartsy kind of way. I ran speakers out here so we can listen to soft music as we watch the evening fade to night. On days when we're fortunate enough to have a good breeze, the wind chimes provide the music. At times when the light is just right, it feels mystical.
It's the little things that make a home. I've known people who have big houses that are decorated like they came right out of Southern Living, but I could never bring myself to put my feet up. Most of our furniture is stuff we've collected through the years from our parents, grandparents and other relatives. An iron bed here, a oak table there, a chifforobe and a depression cabinet that's way older than me. The Arts and Leisure channel would call it Shabby Chic but it suits us just fine.
If you ever happen to be driving through Empire in the summertime, stop by. We can sit on the porch and drink some ice cold lemonade.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
On Friday night we went to a cookout at my sister's house. It was in honor of David and Danielle (my niece and nephew) who are heading out in the morning to Burma for eighteen months. All of them go to Grace Baptist so a lot of the folks from their church were there. Mary Lois asked Jilda and I to play a few songs for the crowd. I pulled out the old Taylor guitar and played the only two gospel songs I know and the crowd seemed to enjoy those. They were less enthused about the other songs we played: Margaritaville, Swervin' in My Lane, and some other hard drinking songs. But for the most part I thought it went well. Patrick and Julie, another niece and nephew were down from South Carolina and Patrick is a picker too. We played for a few hours.
Driving home a red fox ran out in front of us. I saw him in time and braked almost to a stop so that he could escape back into the woods. I'm betting he was looking for water.
I've got a recording of a thunderstorm programmed into my computer and I play it now and again when I long for rain. There's something about the sound of a summer thunderstorm off in the distance marching ever closer, soaking the parched earth on its beneficent journey. A rain after a dry spell is extraordinary because you can almost hear the trees and shrubs rejoicing.
If it rains tonight, you may hear me rejoicing too.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I just put my old Chevy up for sale. I've enjoyed driving that car through the years but it's time to let it go so that someone else can enjoy it. I'll take the proceeds and do some work on the house so that I don't have to deal with it once I'm retired. I may get something a little smaller to tinker with. I can see myself in a Porsche.
In retirement, it's my intention to only do the things I love. -- writing, taking pictures, doing websites, gardening, and traveling. That's basically what I'm doing now except for the inconvenience of driving to my day gig. Jilda had an excellent idea which is to teach Yoga on cruise ships. We know a couple that teaches ballroom dancing and they have one class a day and the rest of the time on the ship is theirs....a free cruise for doing what they love. How cool is that? So we figure we could cruise the Mediterranean and the rest of the world at someone else's expense. When we're not on a cruise, I'm thinking we could "summer" in Italy or perhaps the south of France, and work on the novel then come back home when we're tired of their cooking. Maybe spend some of the winter in Saint Martin's down in the Caribbean. The only hitch about the latter part of the plan is that I haven't figured out how we will finance that part, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Maybe I should put a tip jar on the blog "Help Rick Retire Early." I've done some preliminary work on the "Best of Life 101" so it looks like this will happen later this year. I've already taken some pre-orders on the project. Now if I could sell about a hundred thousand copies, I'd be in business.
Imagineering is fun. It's like daydreaming with a purpose -- you daydream but then start putting things down on paper and finding creative ways to make your crazy dreams come to pass. I highly recommend it.
Friday, June 16, 2006
On the Fourth of July, we went to my Aunt Edith's house (every other year we'd go to Aunt Nannie's) and the food there was pretty good, but what made that event memorable was the home made ice cream. It was always hot so home made ice cream was the perfect desert. She'd have kids on the porch turning hand cranked buckets and other's fetching ice to keep the cream at the perfect temperature. She and my mother tried to out do each other. I can tell you my mother is not slouch with it comes to making desert. She's made peach, vanilla, butter pecan, black walnut, hickory nut, banana, orange sherbet, and strawberry. My mother's philosophy is: if you're going to eat cake or ice cream, it should contain enough sugar to put you into a coma.
She also made these pound cakes that were really moist and they were kind of gooey on the bottom. You could slap some ice cream on there and you were in heaven.
I'm not sure what happened to her ice cream freezer. I looked for it last summer when I went by to cut her grass. She doesn't remember.
I went on a quest to buy one for Jilda and me. I looked in the Williams and Sonoma Catalog and they were $199.00 plus shipping. I remembered The Old Vermont Store Catalog carries the White Mountain freezer ---- $199.00 plus shipping. It's beginning to look like I'll have to shell out about two bills to get a fresh taste of that old memory, but the more I think about it, I think it will be a small price to pay.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I have a really good friend that is a remarkable guitar player and he played with a really famous star. He traveled around the world on a Lear Jet and stayed in the best hotels. For years he drank excessively, smoked pot, and did every kind of drug imaginable. He was married, and had a house in Aspen, Colorado.
Things started to unravel for him and he lost the marriage, the house, and he landed in jail. He called his elderly parents for help but they refused. He had called one time too often. They had put him through rehab, bailed him out of jail, paid fines...he repaid their kindness with more insanity. His parents had enough and his dad said, with tears in his eyes, "you'll have to work this out for yourself."
My friend said he was furious...he cursed, screamed and beat his hands bloody on the walls of that cell. He called all his old friends but no one came. He was locked away for months. He had a chance to take a long hard look at all his life decisions.
When he got out, he was a new man. He made his way home and asked his folks to forgive him. He started attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and he got his life back together. He has been clean for many years. He remarried a beautiful caring woman and they now own a horse farm in Dallas. He has a successful business. I asked him once what took him so long to "get it." He said "I am a lovable person and everybody wanted to help me except me. I never once thought about getting my life straight until I hit bottom. The view is much clearer from down there," he explained.
I asked one of the folks I mentioned at the first of this entry if they had ever imagined what their lives would be like had they taken a different path and she had a poignant reply: "yes I have thought about it a lot. I know that I would have finished college and gotten a really good job....and I could have gone places." I saw a sadness in her eyes that was deep and profound. I truly hope she has the strength to make good life decisions from now on.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Life can be a drudgery if you let it. But it can also be quite remarkable in unexpected ways. In one of my daily newsletters it talked about life around us. Even cities are teaming with life. Birds, bees, chipmunks and squirrels. Flowers spring up out of window boxes and roof tops.
One of the things I remember most about Hammond, Indiana when I was six years old was the smell of fresh baked bread at an Italian bakery near where my grandmother lived.
How do you get from being a spectator in life to a participant? It's not hard, but it takes some practice. The next time you get a chance to go for a walk, walk outside instead of inside on a treadmill. If you have a small camera, take it with you. As you walk, be mindful of the sights and sounds around you......see if you see wildflowers, birds or maybe a chameleon. Find something to photograph. Forget about work, forget about the bills, forget about the chores and just be there..in the moment and try to use every one of your senses.
I challenge everyone of you to "see" something that you've never seen before. If you get a good picture, send it to me and I'll share it on the blog.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
We made good time and found our way to their house on the bay just as the sun was setting.
We stood in silence watching the show. I shot a few pictures as the sun dropped down out of a bank of angry clouds which were hovering just above the horizon. In a clear strip of sky which mother nature had reserved for us, the sun made a final show of defiance.
I felt thankful. Thankful for our friends and for an abundant life.
We talked for a long while and then Wes fired up the grill and threw on some amberjack. He had already prepared a crab and corn chowder as well as asparagus and spinach. We had a feast on the screened deck and listened to a frogs and crickets serenade.
We got up early and drank coffee on the front porch and watched the world come alive in the scrub pine and palmetto. We did the nature walk before breakfast.
A little later in the morning we went to the beach. The red flags were out so swimming was not advised, so we did another long leisurely walk picking up shells.
We'll head out tomorrow but we've really enjoyed our stay. Florida has a way of relaxing you...and that's something I really want to do more.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
The Second Sunday in June in my family also means Homecoming and family reunions. Each year all my kinfolks on my mothers side of the family used come to my mom's house to eat lunch. I have to say they were troopers through the years because my mom's house has only one small window air conditioner and it usually started struggling at 9 a.m. because of all the food being prepared in the kitchen. Potato salad, green beans, cole slaw, butter beans, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, fried squash, fried okra, and fried green tomatoes. The cakes and pies were usually baked beforehand. When folks started to arrive after church, the house was like a sauna. Had it not been for the quality of the food, most of the younger folks would have said "I just can't take the heat!!!" But those fresh baked apple pies with fresh homemade vanilla ice cream....well most folks would walk through hell with a gallon of gas to get to a bowl of that...I know I would. I truly believe that Jilda would not have married me after having survived the first Second Sunday in June had it not been for those pies. Jilda asked my mom for the recipe for those pies and for years she would not give it to her. "You won't eat them if I tell you," mamma said. Finally a few years ago she aquiesced and said well you start out with three cups of sugar, (some more stuff) and a scoop of lard. Jilda doesn't make them often but when she does, they are really good.
Since mamma's health has deteriorated, she stays with my sister and her house is much cooler and there's much more room but things are just not the same.
Anyhow, I hope you all have a remarkable day.
My next blog will be from the beach. I just hope I have internet connectivity. If not, I'll post two entries on Tuesday.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
My dad sat under one of these tents on many second Saturday's (and Sunday's in June) before he got too frail. This year was twenty years since he passed away.
In May of 1986 my job kept me on the road a good deal. Dad’s health had deteriorated and every time the phone rang in the night, I was afraid it was “the call”. My mom was on pins and needles and every time he took a turn for the worse, she would call and say “Daddy’s not doing good.”
On May 22n, I was in
I called the airport and caught the next plane to
We made it to Jasper in record time. I don’t think we got caught by a single red-light. I rushed into the hospital and up to intensive care. The look on my sister’s face said everything. The nurse took me back to my dad and his breathing had already become labored. I stood there with my older brother Neil for a while and listened to the beeping and clicking sounds of the machines. He opened his eyes and looked at Neil and then at me. I said I love you daddy. He softly squeezed my hand. The nurse came in and stood beside us for a long while before saying softly “you know this is the end.” We both nodded. His blood pressure started dropping and a few minutes later came the steady tone of the heart monitor uninterupted by heartbeats.
Walking out to a waiting family to tell them he was gone was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have always been grateful for the decision to come home that day. I have always said, especially since then, that you should listen to your inner voice.
So today, I’m sitting here under this tent as a slow moving train crosses the number 11 trestle blowing the horn for the Samoset crossing. I find comfort somehow in knowing that I’m doing what he did on the second Saturday in June all those years ago.
Friday, June 09, 2006
The car was too cool for air conditioning. When ever I drove it anywhere, all four windows were rolled down because it looked better that way. Jilda didn't like that aspect because she had long flowing hair and five minutes with those windows rolled down and it looked as if she'd been in a hurricane.
Later that summer she and her family went to Laguna Beach, Florida for two weeks. I decided to go visit her one weekend while she was there. My cousin Tommy Lowery had a dune buggy that wasn't street legal but he thought it would be fun to have it there so we hitched that puppy to the back of "The Beast" and headed south at warp speed.
I got a ticket in Clanton for doing 90 miles per hour. As I sat in the back of that sheriff's car he said it looked like the dune buggy was actually sailing. We had a big laugh, but the mood was dampened somewhat when I learned how much the ticket would cost.
When we got to Laguna Beach, Tommy and Garry Butler wanted to take the Beast down on the Miracle Strip. I wanted to spend time with Jilda so after threatening them with certain death if they so much as put a scratch on the Beast, they drove off.
A few hours later we got a call at Mr. Quinn's house from the Panama City Police. It seems that Tommy got caught burning rubber to impress some girls. The policeman quickly determined that the car didn't belong to them so he called me. "These boys say that you let them borrow your car." I decided to have a little fun so I told him that my car had been stolen a few hours ago...."Stolen, the cop repeated." I could hear Tommy and Garry in the background saying he's kidding ....he's kidding. I then told the policeman that I was actually kidding but he could beat the crap out of them if he wanted to. I heard him laugh a little.
A short time later they rolled into the yard.
We had a lot of good times in the Beast. I think I loved it more than any other car I've ever owned.
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Thursday, June 08, 2006
I started this blog in December of 2005 and the initial entry said I'd be "making entries from time to time". Turns out, I've written every day. I've been trying for years to develop this discipline. Through the years I've made regular entries in my personal journal but in looking back, there were gaps and the things I wrote seemed mundane. I tended to repeat myself and I spent a lot of time talking about things I wanted to do and I beat myself up about things I failed to do. But I've learned the clock only moves forward and all the wishes in the world will not turn the second hand...not even one tick.
When I started writing for you, something changed. I found new motivation to put down on paper (or webpage) the things that resonated with me. I found the stories about my past and my view of the world flow almost without effort. I have found that when I'm pressed for time, the words tend to come across thin.
I think traveling has a positive impact on my writing....a change of pace and scenery seems to do wonders for my outlook.
I'm on vacation next week and we plan to go to the beach for a few days. This is the first time in a few years and I look forward to the sound of the surf, the taste of the salt, and the smell of cheap sun tan lotion.
I'm hoping our friends have internet connectivity but if, I'll have to find a "wired" coffee shop or some other place to connect. If for some reason I cannot, I will write each day and publish the stories and pictures when I get home.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
One Saturday afternoon we were driving south from the 78 highway towards West Pratt. I was sitting on his lap driving as we approached the swimming hole near the old sulfur spring. The Dora Police Chief was standing by his 1956 Ford Fairlane on the left side of the road. He'd probably stepped over to the spring for a drink of cold water. As we passed, he got in the car and pulled in behind us. We had not gone far when he turned his lights and siren on. I know my eyes must have been as big as saucers as we pulled to the side of the road. Chief Robinson walked slowly up to the window and leaned his head inside. "Can I see your license boy?" I freaked......I don't have a license I said with tears a word away. I couldn't see my dad's face but I know he must have been smiling because Chief Robinson pressed on. "Well I might have to take you to jail." This was not going well for me I was thinking. "Slide over here son," my dad instructed "let me talk to him." Dad got out and they both walked back to lean against the black and white cruiser and they talked for a long time. I could barely see them in the rear view mirror but it looked to me like they were laughing and smoking.
When dad came back he said "the chief's gonna let you go this time, but he said he better never catch you speeding or showing out behind the wheel."
I'm not sure if it was because Chief Robinson scared the living daylights out of me that day or not, but I've always been a mindful driver.
Chief Robinson was the father of my friend Joel Robinson that I mentioned recently. A few years ago when I told him that story we both had a great laugh.
I still love driving.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I had no idea of the amount of work involved with this position. The Pioneers had a list of charities that we supported as well as individual requests for aid. There are a lot of people in need.
During my two year term as president we had many causes. The guys that worked with me, in the hardware maintenance group put their hearts and souls into the effort. We sponsored kids at Camp Smile-a-Mile (a program that sends terminally ill children to a summer camp), the Cerebral Palsy, area schools, and many other charities.
One of the guys talked a local merchant into donating a very nice go-cart to raffle off. Tom was at the front door of the building early selling chances. He sold $400 worth before breakfast. There was an upperwardly mobile executive woman heading into the building and when Tom asked her to buy a chance on the go-cart. She snapped "I don't have time for this" as she brushed on by. Tom said I understand mam....the kids at Camp Smile-a-Mile don't have a lot of time either. The woman's pace slowed as she entered the building. Tom turned back and asked others coming into the building to buy a ticket. The woman who was in a hurry came back. She said "I'm sorry I was rude to you. I actually have plenty of time." She bought twenty tickets.
Late that November we learned of a man in Hueytown who had fallen ill and his family was up against the wall. There were a number of factors that contributed to their condition, but their circumstances were sad. They didn't have the luxury to think about Christmas presents for their three small children because they were worried about where their next meal would come from.
I felt so badly for the family and I decided that I/we should do something. I sat down and wrote an email to everyone in our building. At that time a few thousands folks worked there. I must have been in "the zone" that evening because the words I chose were eloquent and painted a compelling picture that touched hearts. The next day money started to show up in company mail. Some of it was checks, some was gift certificates for food, and a lot of it was cash sent anonymously with the simple instructions "for the family."
We raised more money in a few days than I ever imagined. I know for a fact that it help a family through a very difficult time.
After that I did use the email appeals every now and then, but only when the need was great. But it was then that I realized the power of words.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I took the first steps toward making my book a reality today. It will be self published. I have a great editor. My friend
I’ve been toying with the idea for some time and I have mentioned it before on this blog, but a note I got today sealed the deal. My old friends Joel and Ann Robinson sent me an email. It seems that Ann was browsing back through some Daily Mountain Eagles and came across a mention about the website. When she went to the site, she found this blog. She read some of them to Joel. She said she wound up printing twenty-nine pages to read to him. Joel doesn’t use computers these days. He's is a retired attorney in Jasper that is the most remarkable story teller I have ever heard. I could sit for hours and listen to him tell about the people of
He told me a story about a military funeral he attended many years ago. The family was from a hollow deep in the rural part of the county. He said the deceased had served in World War II and seen things no human should witness. The wife, the young son the soldier’s mother and grandmother were there along with friends and neighbors near and far. They had just lowered the casket into the grave and the bugler was playing Taps which is the saddest song I have ever heard. At the end of the song the color guard fired the first of a twenty-one gun salute. Joel said when the rifles sounded; it scared the grandmother so bad, she fainted and fell into the hole on top of the casket. The young son exclaimed “the sombitches have shot grandma!!!”
I laughed so heard when he told that story I literally cried.
Joel’s life story is a remarkable one. Like many people in rural
I’m not sure if Joel realizes this, but he is partially responsible for me wanting to become a writer. Joel has always made me feel special. I’m not sure how or why…I can’t put words to it, but it’s the truth. Maybe it’s because we both came from humble beginnings and somehow found our way in life, or maybe it’s because we are kindred spirits that had the good fortune to find each other and spend quality time telling stories.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Today was a beautiful day in Alabama. The sun was warm but the humidity was low and the breeze kept the temps perfect. Early this morning after coffee, we drove to Dilworth to put flowers on the grave of Jilda's brother. We saw our old friend Becky Wright and her mom. Becky lost her husband last year and I know she is still grieving. I can't imagine what she must be going through.
The cemetery looked better than is has looked in years. People from all over were there walking slowly through the tombstones and remembering those who have passed on. Decoration in the south is a special time. I'm not sure they do this in other parts of the country. What a shame.
After an Irish breakfast, got to work cutting grass, treating the dogs for fleas, relocating our container garden, fixing damaged tiles in the kitchen and cleaning off the screened porch.
Tonight we worked on Jilda's Podcast. We recorded her message, so now it's up to me to make it work.
I know all this probably sounds mundane but I could feel the harmony. I was where I should be and doing what I should be doing.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Behind us was a double rainbow that you could see from end to end. It was remarkable. People driving by must have thought us crazy because the rain was still falling. Some even blew their horns but we just stood there transfixed by a rare gift from mother nature.
We are so immersed in television, movies, computers and advertising graphics these days that it is easy to let the "real thing" slip by unnoticed. I try to never let that happen.
Every time there is an eclipse, a comet, a meteor shower or other show put on by nature I make it a point to have a look.
In 1980 when I was in Mobile working for BellSouth (South Central Bell then) to clean up the city after Hurricane Fredrick we had the opportunity to drive across Mobile Bay to Fairhope one warm summer evening. We sat down at the state pier and listen to the tide slap the pilings gently on the moonless night. We sat on the edge of the pier dangling our feet off and enjoying the ambiance when we heard someone yell jubilee, jubilee.....and suddenly there was a lot of excitement from homes and businesses near the water. When we looked out at the already dark water and it grow even darker. We saw crabs, shrimp, flounder, sting ray, eels and other fish in swarms. The shallow water near the shore seemed be boiling. The people that lived there grabbed buckets, and nets and anything that would hold the fish and rushed down to the waters edge to gather a bounty of seafood. It was an instant party.
I read up on this phenomena afterwards and apparently Mobile Bay is one of only two places on the planet where this happens. Yes mother nature does strange and wonderful things. Never, ever miss an opportunity to witness one of her wonders.
Friday, June 02, 2006
We've had seafood that was almost as good only a few times in our lives. Once in Ireland as I mentioned in a previous post...once at Red Beards on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola....and once in San Francisco in a small restaurant in the Castro district.
It's interesting how you change over the years. When we were young, we gauged the appeal of a place by how good the "party" was. "OH Man WE PARTIED DOWN' which was always said in a Ceech and Chong voice. Don't get me wrong, I still love to party...as long as I can get home by bedtime.
As you grow older and mature, your tastes change. These days, we have much different interests and we schedule vacations around things like museums, natural beauty, places conducive to practicing Yoga, places where fly fishing is good and of course places with good restaurants.
Jilda has always been a really good cook and perhaps it's because I've grown to appreciate food more as I've aged, but she has gotten REALLY good. We have friends over for dinner and they want to move in. My friend Steve has told me more than once that he would never have played in The Overalls group with us had it not been for Jilda's cooking.
She will get a night off tonight. If you live in the Birmingham area and have never tried this place, I suggest you meet us there tonight.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
I've read that the Great Library of Alexandria had over 500,000 books (they were actually handwritten scrolls as printing presses and ink jet printers had not yet been invented). But these scrolls contained a world of knowledge that was lost when the library was destroyed by fire some time in the third century B.C. Can you imagine the knowledge we lost to those flames. The loss of the library is widly considered to be a great loss to humanity.
A while back, Jilda and I took our niece Samantha to the library and spent the better part of a Friday going through books, magazines, and music. We needed a shopping cart when we left.
The Birmingham Regional Library (Central Library) is a great place to go to do research on almost any subject you can imagine. When I spend time there I feel smarter.
I know that you can find a great deal of information online, but the experience of actually visiting a library is much more fun.
If you have kids, I suggest that you pack a picnic lunch and take a field trip downtown to the library.