Sunday, May 31, 2009
Not only does Jeans have very good home cooked food, but they have sudden service. Even today, they handled the after church crowd with the speed and agility of Olympians.
While we stood in line, a few strangers walked up to me to say they love my column. My head might have swollen, but Jilda was there to bring things back to earth. That's a value-add service she provides for free.
Jean's on the River also sells my book and they are rocking and rolling. As I looked around it became apparent when they do so well there. The folks that go to Jean's are my folks.
They are what my stories are about. Everyday people with remarkable stories.
This evening after our Sunday nap, we stepped next door to watch our great nephew Jordan play in the water sprinkler. He's about a year and a half old and he is into water. The look on his face was pure joy. That's what I love about kids. When they are happy, they show it.
I wish I had worn my bathing suit because I would have joined him.
It's back to work tomorrow. Have a great week.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
The music is simple. You can usually whistle the melody. But these songs are powerful because of the words.
They are usually about justice, hope, and the search for peace. Bob Dylan certainly wasn't the first folk singer, but he was instrumental in weaving the genre into the public consciousness during the sixties. Of course he wasn't alone. Pete Seger, and Peter, Paul & Mary, Eric Anderson, Ian & Sylvia, The Kingston Trio and a host of others sang songs both new and old.
In going back over our old song books, we started a list fore The Overalls. I will post it below, but if you have a favorite, please leave me a comment and we'll see if we can do it too.
Thirsty Boots - Eric Anderson
Blowin' in the Wind -Dylan
I Shall be Released - Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man - Dylan
Don't Think Twice it's Alright - Peter Paul & Mary
Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter Paul & Mary
500 Miles - Peter Paul & Mary
Catch the Wind - Donovan
Four Strong Winds - Kingston Trio
Cotton Fields - The Highwaymen
This Land is Your Land - Woody Guthry
If I had a Hammer - Peter Paul & Mary
Where Have All the Flower's Gone - Pete Seger
Goodnight Irene - Kingston Trio
Early Morning Rain - Peter Paul & Mary
If I were a Carpenter - Cash (among others)
Tom Dooly - Kingston Trio
The Times They Are A Changin' - Dylan
Keep on the Sunny Side - The Whites
Wayfaring Stranger - Emmy Lou Harris
This is just to get us started. Please send your favorites.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
It seems the gnats always attack when your hands are busy. I had one gnat as big as a humming bird fly right into my eye and try to wriggle himself underneath my contact lens.
I blinked my eye and rubbed against the sleeve of my shirt and finally knocked him away while I finished with the plants.
Afterwards I walked toward the barn to check the deer feeder. As I walked, I could smell the tomato plants on my hands. I held them close to my nose and took a long inhale.
The garden looks good in spite of all the rain. It's still too wet to hoe out the middles but the weatherman said we have several days of sun headed our way so hopefully I can work the garden early Saturday morning before the sun gets too hot to hoe.
I hope all your gardens are bountiful.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
It's rare to see the really good ones. Good movies for us is not about action, or violence, but the story.
We watched "The Curious Tale of Benjamin Buttons" last night and I was blown away. It was a beautiful story about a person who basically was born old and lived life in reverse dying as an infant.
I never really knew that Brad Pitt could act, but he did a remarkable job in this movie. Also, this movie had some incredible lines.
"You never know what's coming for you."
"We're meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?"
"You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You could swear, curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go."
"Some people, were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people, dance."
If you haven't seen Benjamin Buttons, and you have three hours to invest, I highly recommend this movie.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A gray squirrel fat from all the corn I feed them, is peering through the screen trying to see what's going on inside.
I guess he's trying to focus because he's moving his head back and forth trying to see. I'm so close, I could reach out and touch him if the glass and screen were not there. I guess he managed to get an angle so the glare off the window didn't obstruct his view because when he saw me, he jumped straight up and almost missed the rhododendron limb. He clambered to the top of the tree well out of reach and turn to put me in my place with what I can only imagine was squirrel profanity.
I'll think long and hard before I scare a squirrel again
It's back to work for me tomorrow. It's been a fun, long weekend and I'm whupped. Fun ain't cheap.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I just opened the curtains and looked out to see a flock of geese flying overhead. I think the lead goose must have been hitting the sauce because he was all over the sky and the rest of the team were struggling to maintain the V. I could almost hear the followers - WOULD YOU PLEASE MAKE UP YOUR FREAKIN' MIND!!!!!!
This is the first time we've ventured down here in almost a year. The state of the economy has affect this place too. One of the large hotels that's part of the complex is only opened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Over all, the economy seems to be doing better. There for a while, people were afraid to spend money on anything except necessities. My research is unscientific, but it seems stores are doing fairly well.
When fear rules, people circle the wagons. I think the media helps fan the flames of fear. Good news doesn't sell that well.
I hope you all have had a great Memorial Day and I hope you found the time to thank a veteran.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The sun was shining one moment with humidity not unlike that of the rain forest, and the next moment a torrential downpour. Then a few minutes later the sun peeks back out.
I was in the communications corps when I was in Central America and we had an incident where one of the locals hit on the idea to generate a little cash. He went out into the jungle and dug up about four hundred feet of communications cable. He then sawed the cable into short pieces and paddled away in a a small boat...actually he probably had friends and there were probably several boats because that much cable is very heavy.
Anyhow, our commander decided that we should start walking the cable route three times a week to prevent future cable thefts.
That sounded like a good idea until I realized that I was one of the walkors.
I've never been so hot in my life. Today, standing on our back deck brought back that memory.
The pattern will be here for most of the week. I'm just glad I'm not having to walk the cable route.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I got on the riding lawnmower and cut my grass. I had about a billion (OK, maybe that's a stretch) small limbs from all the recent storms. So I piled all that up and burned it in my burn pit. The dampness kept the fire from raging but the slow burn was effective and now all that remains is ash which I'll spread in my garden if the rain ever stops.
I then fired up the tiller and tilled the weeds from the garden and tilled up two new rows for the okra and more squash.....if it ever stops raining.
I have several other improvements and repair jobs that I have on my todo list. They've been there since winter turned to spring. I'll do them if it ever stops raining.
Tomorrow we're having company come over to visit and grill out.....if it ever stops raining.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I really don't remember the last time I've had a long weekend away from work. I'll have to be retrained when I head back next Wednesday. I hope I can remember where I sit.
We don't have a lot of plans except to kick back and enjoy some R&R.
In fact, I'm starting now.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
We kept our decision close to the vest so it came as a surprise to Brittany.
I also spoke to Ms. York today. She is the school librarian and also the sponsor for the team that does the Dora High School yearbooks.
She is recruiting some students to help with pictures, interviews and events at the school.
This will make keeping the content fresh and interesting on the website.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We'll give out our annual scholarship to a deserving student who plans to study the arts.
Athletes, high academic achievers, and those who plan to join the military usually get the big money. I proud of these kids because most work very hard to get where they are or they are willing (in the case of the military scholarships) to make a huge sacrifice in order to get an education.
Our scholarship is much smaller by comparison because we fund it out of our household budget. I also donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of my book "Remembering Big" to the effort.
I don't think it is the amount that matters. I think the kids are touched that we have enough faith in them to invest in their future.
I'm excited for our kids. I hope they all go out into this wacky world and do something remarkable.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
My mother and mother-in-law reused aluminum pie plates and plastic baggies and guess I never really understood why. They also recycled plastic milk jugs, empty lard cans and almost anything else they came in contact with. They believed that wasting food was a sin This always amazed me.
I’ve even had a little fun at their expense until Jilda’s mom Ruby set me straight when shesaid “if you lived through the hard times we lived through, you’d never take this stuff for granted.” She was of course talking about the Great Depression.
Most folks I know had no frame of reference because the economy, except for a few downturns, had been chugging right along.
That all changed last year when a combination of scandals, the implosion of real estate markets, bank failures, and rising unemployment made the prospect of a economic depression a reality.
Trillions of dollars in net worth evaporated like steam from a cup of hobo coffee.
Unemployment today is running almost nine percent and I can tell you it was frightening, thankfully it now looks like the pace has slowed down.
During the Great Depression, the unemployment rate was almost thirty percent. People went hungry. Some say the free fall began on Black Tuesday which was October 29, 1929 and lasted in some areas for ten years until the country cranked up to manufacture supplies for World War II. Our parents lived through these hard times, and they never forgot it.
The recession of 2008/2009 was a shot across the bow for all Americans. Even the wealthiest Americans have seen their fortunes shrink like a cotton shirt in a clothes dryer. The possibility of losing our jobs forced most of us common folk to take a hard look at our lives. It no longer seems strange to be recycling and reusing things.
One piece of good news I read is that more people are saving money for the first time in their lives.
More people are eating at home with the family and taking vacations closer to home. Does that sound familiar mom?
I’ve also noticed that more people seem to be taking their lunches to work instead of paying top dollar for cafeteria food.
I know all of these cutbacks are slowing down the economic recovery, but I think part of the root cause is unbridled growth fueled by people living beyond their means.
Call me old fashion but I think people should be able to pay for the houses they buy. There are a lot of people living in new houses paying interest only. That’s almost like renting from the bank
Here is some advice our mom’s (Ruby and Elwanda) would give younger folks today:
Grow a garden
Reuse, recycle, and repair stuff instead of tossing it
When it comes to your car, drive it till the wheels fall off. It rides better when it’s paid for.
Save and pay cash instead of using plastic
When you can, get out of debt.
Until recently these ideas seemed old fashion, but it’s amazing how modern and hip they sound these days.
Monday, May 18, 2009
We got the system up this morning but as luck would have it, I had back to back meetings until lunch.
When I got a break I walked outside and looked up and there was not a cloud in the sky. The sun was warm and the plants were rejoicing.
I found a soft piece of grass out in the yard, laid down on my back and blissed out for a while. I noticed the earthy smell of the grass and I could hear birds singing spring songs.
I can't remember anything that felt so good. I used to do that daily when I was a kid. I would lay there for hours and watch the clouds trying to see images form.
I'm not sure why grown ups stop doing fun things.
I thought I was through for the day but my pager went off and I'm back to the races.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The dogs were ecstatic and almost tore the deck down getting to the yard. We opened the gate and they launched down towards the barn as if they were race horses. Jilda and I walked over to inspect the garden. Everything is doing OK, but the tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans really need sustained sunlight.
When we walked over to the blueberries, we found the first ripe berries that we've had in years.
We had a few small plants several years ago that we had planted incorrectly. As a result, they never did that well although we would get a few ripe berries each year.
We regrouped two years ago in the spring and bought several bushes. This time we did our homework and placed them where they would get the right amount of sun. We added a bunch more last spring.
And today when we looked they bushes were hanging full. We both found a nice juicy berry and popped it into our mouths. Yum! It was all I could do to keep from picking the "almost ripe" ones too.
This evening Jilda whipped up a batch of chopped cantaloupe, pineapple, apple, and our fresh blueberries. Now this is what living is all about.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I do this for my friend George who loves bluegrass music more than life itself. He was one of the original founders of Brushy Creek Bluegrass back in the late 70's. The Brushy Creek festival caught on like a summer cold. All the advertisement was word of mouth and the hills and hollows were filled to capacity. You couldn't find a parking place anywhere. But as you walked toward the stage area, banjos and fiddles rang out from campsites all around the lake. I consider the success of that little festival a phenomenon.
Blackwater Bluegrass has struggled a little. It is a beautiful venue, with plenty space for parking, RV pads, and camping areas, but the crowds have not been that big. It's great for the bluegrass fan, but not so good for George who is paying the bills. I wish I knew the answer.
I have been distracted for most of the day. I'm on call this week so I'm tethered to my phone and my computer. I normally don't mind this, because it's part of my job, but my cousin Joe was buried today in Florida. So I've been a little heartsick because I couldn't go to Flordia.
His wife Janet will be doing a memorial here in Alabama for family and friends here. It's comforting to know that we can bring closure. Joe meant more to me that he ever knew. I'm sorry I couldn't be there for him today.
Friday, May 15, 2009
This weekend is the Blackwater Bluegrass festival. I took Ol' Buddy with me this evening to shoot a few pictures fore the website. It didn't take long to realize that was a mistake. He's a trooper but he was panting. I had to take him down to the creek to cool off.
He doesn't like to get his feet wet so I had to pick him up and sit him in the shallow water and let the cool water flow over his feet.
He wasn't happy, but it did the trick. I had parked the truck in the shade so I hung his leash on the bumper, got his bed out of the truck and I left him were he was cool while I finished up the pictures. He wasn't happy but he wasn't hot.
I'm on call this weekend so I hope it is queit.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I did mine today at 11 a.m. They deleted my eyes....OK, I know it's dilated, but deleted sounded better when I told the story to my co-workers. Anyhow, when she put that solution in, I was fine. Dr. Paige (I don't recall her last name) completed the tests and I was on my way. When I walked out into the noon day sun, I realized the light was harsh even with good sunglasses.
Tears as big as kittens rolled down my face. Thankfully the glass in my truck is tinted so I managed to get back to work without incident.
But I struggled to read my computer screen for most of the day. Even now, thing are a little blurry but that's due in part to the fact that my prescription changed a little and my brain is adjusting to the difference in the lens.
Anyhow, I can promise you this - next year when it comes time for the eye exam, I'll either take the day off or get a driver.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I flew down to Tampa and drove north to Spring Hill, Florida last month. I've sent good thoughts his way, but I knew deep down he would not be with us long.
The cancer seemed to come out of nowhere and he began to rapidly lose weight. I've stayed in touch with his wife Janet, texting or speaking almost every day. The last few days I stopped asking how Joe was doing because I knew the report would not be good...but I did ask how she (Janet) and the kids were. I knew the answer to that question too.
Joe didn't have a lot of material things. He was in an accident a few years ago and got broken up. I'm sure they struggled at times to get by. But Joe had a loving family, and in my book, that made him wealthier than most.
Joe's moved on now and he's no longer tortured by pain and suffering that is hard to imagine. He is finally at peace. I feel badly for his wife and kids. I know the road ahead will not be easy.
Time will ease their loss but I know there will be an empty place in their hearts that will never fade away.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
So far this year I think we have a surplus rainfall of over twenty inches. The earth has been soggy for weeks and the tomato and pepper plants need life jackets. I fear many more days of rain will take its tole.
My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Sanford had a little poem that she would recite to me right now:
As a rule, man's a fool
When it's hot he wants it cool
When it's cool, he wants it hot
Always wants what he aint' got.
I smiled as I typed these words because they are so true.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I had to fess up and tell the crowd that before last night, I had no idea what the Kiwanis Club was all about. One quick Google search told the story. As it turns out, their mission is to serve the children of the world.
I told them that Jilda and I had been practicing Kiwanism without a license. I told them the story about teaching guitar to the local home for disadvantaged youth and how one kid gravitated to the guitar.
He was a very hyper kid and he drove the counselors crazy. When he turned his nervous energy into practice, he improved exponentially. Within a matter of months he was better that me.
When he left the system he made it to college and later married.
He focused on Christian Rock music, playing and recording all over the south. His story is remarkable.
I admire all the work of the Kiwanis Clubs across the world. I'm sure the work they do pays dividends in interesting ways.
Here is what I think: even a little time spent helping kids will pay huge rewards in the future. It's almost like planting a seed. You may never see it bare fruit, but you feel deep down in your bones that one day it will.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I've only used a manual (crank) ice cream freezer in the past, but I was thankful that the one she bought was electric.
We'd planned to have sort of a picnic today for a bunch of my great nieces and great nephews with the crochet set in the back yard but it rained most of the morning. We still cooked the dogs on the grill, but I set the freezer up on the screen porch and fired that baby up.
I didn't read the directions for the freezer at first because I was trying to keep the hot dogs from burning into charcoal. Then, our company started arriving so I still was unsure how you know when the ice cream is done.
I flipped through the book several times and I could not find out when you know when the stuff is ready to eat.
My nephew James picks up the book to the exact page and read "STEP 7, you'll know when your ice cream is ready when the motor slows down which normally takes about thirty minutes."
Everyone had a big laugh at my expense.
But, the bottom line is, we had some of the best ice cream I've ever put in my mouth. I don't know why we didn't buy one of these things years ago.
Everyone was ranting and raving. Here's the deal - ice cream is a treat that you only eat occasionally so when you make it, you make it with the real stuff. No low fat, artificial sugar or anything.
We both my kick out at a young age with clogged veins but we both agree that it's safer eating a little of the good stuff than eating a lot of what we consider the bad stuff.
We went down this evening and spent some time with my mom. I try to aggravate her a little each time I visit.
As we talked to my sister, my mom closed her eyes to doze. I took my foot and shook the arm of her chair. She immediately whacked my on the knee with a walking stick that my younger sister had lent her.
As I limped out after the visit, I thought to myself, "she may be old, but her reflexes are still very good."
Happy Mother's Day all.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Most people buy baskets of flowers because they don't have the time or talent to do the arranging themselves, but give Jilda a pair of wire cutters and some dried flowers and she gets lost for hours. I can talk to her but she doesn't hear me because she's in the Zone. Hours pass without notice to her. It just one of the many things she's good at.
If the weather holds, we're playing in Old Towne Helena, Alabama tomorrow. We are not playing at the Buck Creek Festival, but for one of the local merchants. We'll be on the street.
Helena is a fun place and on Buck Creek Festival day, it is really a hoot.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
He expects a walk when I get home but I was busy and forgot.
I decided to go for a walk to see if it freed up my mind.
The path is coming to life. You can't see them in this photograph, but mixed in with the yellow wild flowers is tiny white and purple ones.
The blackberries are also in full bloom so we have that working to complete the nature path motif.
When I returned, I had supper and now I'm in a much better frame of mind.
A few years ago, loggers came through this property and pretty much clear cut all the pine, hickory and oak. Both Jilda and I were too depressed to walk our little path for a long time.
But Mother Nature has a way of reclaiming her own.
Given a little time, things will return as beautiful as ever.
As I walk down there today, the pines are on their way. It will take much longer for the oak and hickory, but in time they will return.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
I snatched my phone up and call home. Jilda said the storm came over just north west of our house.
When I came home over the mountain, there were huge oak trees blown down on both sides of the road.
The weather patterns seem to be changing. I know that the county where we live seems to have more violent weather than any other place on the planet, but it has gotten worse....if that is possible.
Since the first of the year, there has been four tornado's that have either come over out house or come within two miles to our house.
You would never know it this evening as the sun came out and now the sky is clear as crystal this evening.
I think I need to build a storm pit.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Why I love Cinco de Mayo
Photo to the right is Rick & Jilda summer of 1980
We have several friends who have been married 30 years, but most of them have been to multiple spouses.
We had our first date the night I graduated from Dora High School in May of 1968. We dated a few years but we split up when I was drafted into the Army.
I came home in 1973 after my tour of duty and we started dating again later that year. The following year, we decided to tie the knot.
We lived in a small singlewide trailer for the first ten years we were married. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer but it was our home. Jilda has a gift for taking ordinary things and putting them together in extraordinary ways. Our little trailer was homey and we hosted some legendary parties there.
We built a small house on the outskirts of Empire (the natives will smile when they read this) in 1984 and we’ve been here ever since.
What keeps two people together? Many things go into a successful marriage. Love, passion, respect and values all play a big role, but staying together takes more.
I believe having things in common is the key. Jilda and I had the good fortune to share a love of a lot of things. We both love to travel, we love working in our garden, visiting with friends and we love good food. But we both share a love of music that has remained as strong today as it was when we were skinny kids.
A short time after we married, she encouraged me to buy a Gibson Dove guitar that cost more than the car we drove. We paid it off on the installment plan and I have no idea how many hours we spent playing and singing to the music from that bundle of wood and strings. We couldn’t afford to air condition our trailer but we had a good guitar.
The music allowed us to meet people, go places, and do things we would have never been able to do otherwise. I consider the ability to play music a gift and part of the glue that has held our marriage together.
Now I would be lying if I said there had not been difficult times. Like the time I decided I wanted to camp out at Horse Pens 40 after an October Bluegrass Festival. My planning included packing a quilt for us to use as a sleeping bag, a cooler, and a sack full of peanut butter sandwiches. The rumbling started when I pitched the quilt on a rock at the edge of the woods. When the temperature dropped in the forties, I came as close to dying as I’ve ever come. If she could have driven the Plymouth, which was a straight-shift, she would have left me there with a fingernail file driven through my temple.
I can say without a moment’s hesitation that the good times far out weight the bad.
If someone today asked me the secret to a good marriage, I’d have to say, “open your eyes before you say I do.” If a man loves to fish, hunt or play golf before you get married, he will enjoy those things after. If a woman wants a house full of kids and to live close to her mama, that desire will not go away once you are married.
Be willing to give and take and to listen. Be willing to say I’m sorry sometimes, even if you don’t think you did anything wrong. Get ready to laugh and to cry, and to be surprised. Do yourself a favor and take lots of pictures, because time goes by in the blink of an eye.
Happy Anniversary Jilda.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful. I walked down before dark to look at the garden and it looks like the pole beans have grown three inches since yesterday.
This is a fun time of year. After being cooped up through January and February, it feels great to be outside with your hands in the soil.
I plan to shoot some photos tomorrow so you can see what we've done so far.
I'm whupped tonight so I'm turning in early.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
We spent the day getting the house back in order. Jilda and I both have been under the weather the last few weeks and the last thing on our mind was cleaning the house, but things were beginning to grow in unexpected places.
We divided up the chores and went to work and things came together nicely. Jilda knocked off about noon and whipped up some chicken tortellini soup which was scrumptious. It's amazing what comes out of that kitchen.
Tuesday is Cinco de Mayo. That means that it's our 35th wedding anniversary. It is difficult to comprehend where the time goes.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
I put on some old clothes and pulled off my shoes and promptly sunk down almost to my knees.
I had expected it so it wasn't much of a shock. I used hand tools to dig the holes for the rest of the tomatoes and peppers. The upper part of the garden wasn't quite as muddy and that's where I planted the eggplants. The garden has great drainage so it will dry out quickly.
I planted cucumbers, squash and zucchini in different sections because I didn't want them to cross. Jilda says her mom made that mistake several years ago before she passed away, and the results were inedible.
I put in a couple rows of purple hull peas for good measure. I'll plant a few rows of corn and some more beans when it dries out a little more.
The pole beans that I planted Tuesday shot up and we should have a fence full before we know it.
The weatherman just commandeered the TV because there are tornado warnings just west of us. We'll probably spend some time in our safe area tonight.
Y'all keep my cousin Joe in your thoughts are prayers. He is gravely ill.
Friday, May 01, 2009
I was amazed watching him and his crew work. There were some limbs hanging precariously over our house. One wrong move and we'd have sweet gum for dinner. But Aaron and his crew used tree gaffs, ropes and chain saws and cut the tree from the top down.
One guy drove a BobCat tractor with angry looking jaws. The bottom jaw was like a big scoop but the top jaws were these gnashing pincher teeth.
This particular BobCat must have been built specifically for this chore because he would ease in the back yard, chomp down on huge sections of the felled tree and haul the stuff outside my fence to a place designated for the debris.
By the time they were finished, there was nothing left of the two huge trees but some sawdust.
I love to watch craftsmen work. They were methodical, polite, they listened, and they did what they said they would do for the price they said they would do it for.
I'm going to hit the couch and stretch out for awhile. There's a very good chance this will be an early night in the Watson household.