Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ephemeral Blue

It's rained for days. Thursday night after the Christmas parade, it began and it's only stopped to catch it's breath a time or two.

Jilda's started painting Christmas cards right after coffee this morning. She stopped long enough for us to walk the dogs. 

She slipped on her raincoat, but the skies had lightened, and by the second lap, the rain had stopped. The gray clouds moved off to the east. I smiled.

She was letting Taz the Wonder Yorkie find a place to do her business so I sat on the thinking bench and waited. 

I leaned back and snapped a picture of the sky. 

When Jilda and Taz walked up to me she said, "Don't get your hopes up. The rain is not finished."

I doubted it. But this evening as we left to go to the office Christmas party, it was pouring rain.

Ephemeral Blue

Friday, December 14, 2018

It's a rainy night in Alabama

We did a little Christmas shopping today. Well, to be truthful, Jilda shopped while I pushed a cart and nodded a lot. 

We bought gifts for our grand-nieces and nephews. Jilda has a degree from the Atlant Fashion Institute. She worked retail for years, before working at the next level at merchandise marts in Dallas and Atlanta. She knows clothes. 

I picked out a color that I thought would be perfect for our niece Breeze. Jilda shook her head. She said the feel of the fabric would drive Breeze crazy and we'd bought her a blouse the same color last year. Apparently, both were show-stoppers. 

She dug through racks of clothes that had started looking the same to me and found beautiful items for the kids. I know they will love the gifts.

It started raining last night shortly after the parade ended and it hasn't stopped. We drove home today with our windshield wipers swishing. 

Even now, I can hear rain on the roof.  

I hope you have had a good Friday. Be safe this weekend. There are crazy people out there.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Parade duty

I had to shoot pictures of the Christmas Parade tonight. My bones are weary. I'll do a better post tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Winter scene

Summertime here is oppressive. We walk daily because we have to just to stay fit. But walking in winter is a joy. This morning I felt like the Michelin man. I cacoon'd up in several layers of clothes and headed out.

We had freezing fog which is something we rarely have here. It coated leaves and limbs. I snapped a picture of the blueberry bushes which had frosty leaves. It felt good to be alive.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Looking like Christmas ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Christmas time starts off slowly. We don’t even acknowledge the holiday until the Thanksgiving turkey has digested and we’ve eaten the leftover dressing in creative ways. You haven’t had dressing until you’ve had it pressed and toasted in a waffle iron. But this past weekend, I fetched a half dozen plastic storage containers from the storage shed and each day something new appears on the mantle or in my bathroom. It’s beginning to look like Christmas here.

Christmas lights around here are blooming like flowers. Each time we drive home after dark, we see another home with lights strung around the eves and in the yard. For years my mom was the queen of Christmas yard-art. The family always spent Thanksgiving afternoon propping up plywood snowmen, sleighs with a fat Santa and his reindeer. She kept her Christmas lights in garbage bags. I know that the Good Book said that Job had patience but untangling mama’s Christmas lights would have made him cuss like a sailor.

Jilda always helped her mom Ruby decorate at her home. Ruby didn’t scrimp on Christmas decorations in her house. She had two Santa figures that stood about 18 inches tall. Those Santa figurines looked so real I half expected to hear their reindeer snort as the fat guy dragged his sack down the chimney. They were the first things you saw at Christmas when you walked into her living room.

Before Ruby died, she gave Jilda those Santas. Now they spend the Christmas holidays on our mantle.

Through the years, our friends have given us other Christmas items. Our friends Wes and Deidra gave me a fly-fishing Santa complete with a fly rod and a trout basket. Keith and Roberta Watson (no relation) gave us a small Christmas country church scene.  When Jilda worked at Wallace State College in the 1980s, her friend Beverly gave her Christmas bears.

On our coffee table is a tiny Nativity scene that Sharkey and Ruby bought us shortly after Jilda and I married. It looks as if it were carved from ivory. Once we did babysit duty for my nephew James and his wife Andrea while they attended a Christmas party. While the kids were there, Stone was fascinated with the Nativity scene. There was a small accident with the coffee table. Sheep, camels, and donkeys were scattered all around the great room. “Baby Jesus, come back," Stone pleaded as he peered under the couch. Jilda fetched a wooden pasta spoon with which we were able to reach the sleeping infant and pull it back to the safety of the Nativity scene. I laughed hard that I almost had a hygiene issue.

This weekend we’ll go to the Christmas Tree Farm where we go each year and pick out a tree that we can plant after the new year.

While she decorates (I’m not allowed to handle some of the “special ornaments”) I’ll put up the exterior decorates which include a Christmas Pig, Christmas Chicken, three small trees, and a bicycle.

Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.



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Sunday, December 09, 2018

A good day

The schedule was sparse today. The only thing we wanted to do for sure was to pick up a Christmas tree. We chose the same kind of tree we had last year. A blue ice cedar. It's a beautiful tree.

An older gentleman at the tree farm that could have doubled as Santa, helped us. After picking out the tree and settling up with the cashier, I headed out to bring the truck up to load the tree.

Santa guy started giving me instructions on setting up and caring for a live tree. Jilda and I both listened politely. When he paused, we told him we'd planted our last 35 Christmas trees. It took a moment for that to sink in with him. He smiled and said, "I'll get the kids to load it for you." 

It's a beautiful little tree. After Christmas, we'll find the right place on the farm where it fits and adds to the feng shui and what not. 

After the tree thang, we ate left-over dumplings which are always better on the second day. Then we took a long rainy nap.

I woke up with Ol' Hook and Caillou both sitting by the couch and watching me sleep. They didn't get to walk this morning and they weren't about to let that slide. 

Even though it was late, Jilda and I took them out. Most of the heavy rain had moved off to the northeast, but there was a mist in the air thick enough to lick. 

It's been a good day. I hope yours has been too.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

It rained today

It rained today.

Hard.

I had to shoot pictures in the rain.

Did I mention that it rained today?

Hard? 

Tonight, it's raining.

Hard.

I know because it's making random rhythms on the roof.

My coat and hat hang dripping on the shower stall rack.

Jilda had chicken and dumplings cooked when I walked in the door.

Did I mention that I LOVE chicken and dumplings?

There is no better food when it's raining.



Friday, December 07, 2018

A little color on a rainy day

It felt like winter today even though the solstice is still two weeks away. I wasn't as frigid as it's been the last few days, but with a heavy mist, it felt much colder. The sky lightened once but the sun never broke through.

Today was laid back. We ran to the craft store to buy Jilda some paint to start on her Christmas cards. Afterward, we went by the produce stand. The family that ran the business since I was in high school, closed it a few months ago.

When we heard that another family was reopening, we were giddy.  We buy a LOT of fresh produce and raw honey.

We spent a good bit of time in the car and didn't have many steps so when we got back home we decided to walk.

While waiting for Jilda to get Taz the wonder Yorkie's sweater and halter on, I took the big dogs to the field and jogged in place to get some steps. The only color visible was the blueberry bushes. They are showing out right now.

I'm on call at the paper tomorrow. I'll have to shoot parade pictures, a Jingle Bell Run, and a toy distribution event at one of the local charities.

It's supposed to rain all day so it won't feel so bad having to work...or at least that's what I'm telling myself.





Thursday, December 06, 2018

Mushroom Village

I covered the launch of a partnership between Bevill State Community College and Mercedes-Benz this morning. It was a big deal for this community. Students who go through the co-op program have an opportunity to train with the Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama and get jobs that pay more than most Liberal Arts graduates.  It's a big deal for our community. 

After the event, I came home to work at my office here. I had several stories that were on the cusp of being print-worthy so I tapped keys.

Jilda stuck her head in the door and asked if she could interest me in a brisk walk. It was still chilly outside, but the sun was out and a walk sounded good.

On the first lap, Jilda pointed out a photo op that I had missed. It was a mushroom village that appeared overnight. I thought mushroom liked warm wet weather, but apparently, there are some that wear sweaters.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Fun in the sun

Jilda was being interviewed this morning for a local documentary. The videographer talks to people about their experience growing up in small towns around the county.

Rather than have the dogs interrupt the session, I took them outside for a long walk. Our niece Samantha's dog decided to join us.

The day was beautiful again today. There was not a cloud in the sky.

Jilda said she would text me when the interview was over so when I got through walking, I found a sunny place in the garden. The wind out of the north was frigid. The temp was 41 degrees but with the windchill, it felt much colder. The sun was warm on my face.

As I sat there, I noticed pine needles falling from a nearby tree. They sailed to the ground like skinny paper airplanes. Some of them circled slowly and some came toward earth as if they were swan-diving.

Caillou and Ol' Hook were down in the woods, but Sam's dog Lady came and sat with me to enjoy the sun. Lady is a rescue dog that Samantha has had for years. She's a part of their family but when they all go to work, she ambles over to our house to spend time with her "daytime family."


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Evening clouds

Yesterday it was almost warm enough to swim, but the temps started dropping last night. This morning it was chilly.

The cool weather must create deeper shades of blue because the sky was amazing today. Driving to work this morning my windshield was a picture frame. 

I covered a city council meeting and I did three interviews.  It was a fun day. When I got home the sun was sinking lower in the sky. When I looked at my Fitbit, I realized I needed more steps. 

Putting on a toboggan, and a vest I headed out for a late walk. The dogs were thrilled at this unexpected treat. 

When I got down toward the barn, I noticed the sky to the west. It was the color of orange sherbet. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames with a blueberry bush in the foreground. It was almost too dark, but I think you can get an idea.


Monday, December 03, 2018

Man vs Limb ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I’ve learned a lot of things in my life, but something happened this past week that reminded me that – The more learn, the more I realize I don’t know squat. Let me explain.
A couple of weeks ago, Jilda and I took advantage of the cooler weather to go for a brisk morning walk. We decided to take the long walking path. It’s a path that I cut through a swath of our property that runs through trees that are older than me.  The limbs of oak and hickory form an awning of autumn leaves. With peak color, each step was like a Kodak Moment. The dogs were ecstatic. They chased squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. 
A thin layer of wood smoke hung in the air from a neighbor’s fireplace. This is our favorite time of year.
Winding down one side of the hollow near the barn, we came upon a small tree that had blown down a few nights before when a cold front moved through. We tried to find a way around it, but the under bush was thick and tangled with saw briers. Neither of us wanted to walk through vines with thorns as big as tiger’s teeth, so we turned and headed back the way we came.
Last Saturday, I decided to clear the downed tree from our path. Gassing up the chainsaw, I headed down to do the deed. The wind had blown several limbs and other debris in the path which I cleared. 
The top of the tree had gotten tangled in muscadine vines and was suspended about head high. In my head, I calculated the trajectory of the tree once I cut the thick vines holding it up. Apparently, my math was all wrong because when I cut the last vine the top of the tree didn’t fall in the intended direction. In fact, a limb the size of my forearm whipped back toward me at blinding speed. 
I didn’t have time to flinch before the limb whacked me across my nose and eyes. It raked the glasses from my face taking gouges of hide with it. I dropped the chainsaw and hit the ground with an uuummmpppphhhh! 
It took a second for me to get my breath back and then my nose started “bleeding like a stuck hog.” 
Picking up the chainsaw with one hand and holding my nose with the other, I headed home. I had enough foresight to stop at the backyard hosepipe and wash the blood from my hands and nose before walking inside. Jilda still almost had a coronary.
After cleaning the cuts on my nose, we were able to survey the damage. My nose was not broken, and the cuts were not as deep as I feared. With our first aid kit, I was able to fix my face. It did look as though I’d gone ten rounds with Joe Frasier, but I was thankful it wasn’t worse. I’d dodged a bullet – too bad I couldn’t have dodged that limb.
Part of our walking path


Sunday, December 02, 2018

13th Blogiversary

I wrote my first blog entry on this day, December 2, 2005. So today is my 13th Blogiversary. I just looked at my Blogger numbers and I have a few posts shy of 5,000.

When I first started, coming up with entries was easy. I was writing for the high school alumni website and my audience was for people who grew up here. I was full of stories.

As the days turned into weeks, months, and years I found that the ideas were more scarce. I had to look within for inspiration. Sometimes the words flowed like cold water from a well dipper. Sometimes the words came slower. But they came.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to write daily. The professional bloggers didn't advocate daily blogging but they said it was important to be consistent.

After a few years, I convinced my wife Jilda to blog too. I wasn't sure she'd take to it, but she did. She's been at it a long time too.

The thing I tell people who ask why I blog is this: Blogging regularly helps you find your voice. And I think that is important. Being able to express oneself is a skill that can help throughout life.

We spent time with Jilda's siblings today. Now it's time to put on some Christmas music, pour a glass of red wine, and toast bloggers across the world.


Saturday, December 01, 2018

Happy Birthday Mama

Today would have been my mama's 94th birthday had she lived.  I've written a great deal about her in the past.

She was the middle child in a family with 13 kids. She knew the value of work and she could stretch a dollar enough to make it cover a football field.

My dad got a job as a welder. Craftsmen didn't earn much in those days. We ate a lot of butterbeans and cornbread. That was fortunate for me because I loved butterbeans and cornbread. 

When I was a kid, women didn't work outside the home. They cooked, cleaned, washed, starched, and ironed. She did that for not only us also but also for people in the community that were more affluent. She used this money to buy things...mostly for us kids.

Christmas was a big deal for her. She cooked for weeks before the holiday. She baked pies, cookies, and other goodies.

She loved putting up the tree each year. Ours had tinsel, old ornaments, and bubble lights that fizzed when they warmed up.

My mama taught all of us kids the value of work. Slothfulness was an ugly word to her. A few of our kinfolks "wouldn't hit a lick at a snake," as she used to say. She always warned us – "Be like them and you'll never have anything."

Being lazy was close to being a sin to her.  Even now, when I get caught up with the things on my todo list, I feel a little guilty for taking time off. 

Happy birthday, mama, I miss you.



Friday, November 30, 2018

Old buddy, new blog

Jilda and I have a friend in Tennessee. Tommy grew up in South Alabama and spent most of his career in the newspaper business. Like me, he's retired now and picks the jobs he enjoys doing.

We share a love of music. He got us a gig playing in Helena, Arkansas when he worked for a paper there. We also got VIP passes to the King Biscuit Blues Festival. We heard the roots of rock and roll that weekend. Neither Jilda and I are fond of whiskey, but we sipped hooch from pint hidden a paper bag with some of the old artists there.

On Saturday night, we were invited to a shot-house in the middle of a cotton field in the Mississippi Delta. We went to hear "the real stuff." We were the only white folks there. We felt welcome.

We have a lot of fond memories from the times we've spent together.

Tommy started writing a blog recently. You can read it hereHe lives in Tennessee now but he grew up in South Alabama.

I think you'll enjoy his writing.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ring Thing

I had the 10 a.m. shift this morning at the front entrance to Walmart. It wasn't as cold this morning, but I still wore my long underwear shirt, my red sweater, and my new Santa hat. Halfway there, it started raining. I wasn't looking forward to getting wet, but before I arrived the rain stopped.

Two ladies from the paper had the 9 a.m. till 10 a.m. shift and they were glad to see me walking up a few minutes early. Apparently, they'd done this in the past and the relief ringers were always on time.

They passed the ringing torch to me and they were off. I know from past experience that some ringers simply stand there and ring the bell. Others wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I took the have fun with early morning Walmart shoppers approach.

"Does this bell make me look fat?"

"Hey, where did you get your license to drive that shopping cart?"

"Hey, don't start with me, I haven't had my coffee yet!!!"

To the Lumis Money Truck driver that was bringing money to Walmart for the day's business, I said, "Hey man, I appreciate you donating, but I don't think all of that money will fit into the kettle.

And so on.

I wasn't sure if it would work or not but after a while, I got in a groove and could tell which people to harass.

It was fun and the hour zipped by. I'm not sure how much the kettle took in, but I think I did OK for the first time.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ringer

I took Jilda to work this evening and then headed to buy me a Christmas hat. The newspaper volunteers each year to ring the Salvation Army bell. I took the 10 a.m. shift and I realized this afternoon that I was hatless. My great nephew Jordan absconded with my old hat a few years back.

I could call and ask for it back but that would have been a waste of time. 

So after dropping Jilda off at work, I headed to a nearby town. I found a hat at Dollar Tree. It fit, but it had reindeer antlers on it. There was a Hobby Lobby next door and they had one that was just right.
There's a Starbucks across the parking lot and I had about an hour to kill, so I bought a coffee and did some pre-Christmas people watching. Watching people is fun. I like making up life stories of the people I see. 

I'll do a selfie tomorrow of me doing my ringing thang. Until then, I'll post a picture of some foliage that I took today down by the barn.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A gift

Today was a postcard that Mother Nature mailed to me. A kaleidoscope of autumn color at every turn.

The temps were in the twenties last night with a stiff wind out of the north. Soon those beautiful leaves will be gone...except for the pictures I took with my camera and my mind's eye.

It was nice yesterday too. On the way home from an errand, I ran by the small lake a few miles from here. I snapped several pictures and then stood for a long while in the silence of the afternoon. It was a gift.

I hope the weather has been beautiful where ever you are.




Monday, November 26, 2018

Cars ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Last Saturday I was on call for the paper, and one of my assignments was taking pictures at a car show. I take pictures of old cars for fun, so this was not really work. I think I may have drooled on the hood of Johnny Capps’ 1957 Ford Fairlane convertible. I think America forgot how to make beautiful cars after the 1960s. My mind wandered as I strolled through the vintage metal. I’ve had a few cars in my lifetime.

I’ve written about my first car. It was a 1946 Plymouth Coupe with moon hubcaps and paint the color of a plum. The radio in the dash hummed when you turned it on, but once the tubes warmed up, WSGN came through a tiny speaker loud and clear. Even though the Plymouth was 20-years-old the mohair seats smelled like an expensive sweater.

My mom loaned my brother the money to buy the car, but he moved to California for a few years and defaulted on his payments. When I turned 15, my mom gave me the car for my birthday. Have I mentioned before that I LOVE my mama?

License and insurance might as well have been optional when I was 15 because I had neither. That didn’t stop me from driving the car to school each day. The battery was a little weak, so I had to back into a parking place at the end of the lot. This made it easy to open the door, step out, and give the car a little push to crank the engine.  That was a small price to pay for the level of “cool” the car afforded a 15-year-old.

Later when I started to work, I bought a 1965 Chevy Impala SS. It had a motor bigger than Rhode Island. I loved that beast, but apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Someone stole it one evening while I was shopping for tools at Sears in downtown Birmingham.

After the beast, I owned a 1952 Chevy two-door hardtop, a 1953 two-door hardtop, and a 1957 Bel Air two-door hardtop. All three cars are rare today.

When I received my draft notice, I sold all the old cars I had except the Plymouth. I parked it in the backyard.  It was my intention to restore that baby when I returned from the Army. While I was in Panama, my dad sold my car. That hurt.

Since then, most of the cars I’ve owned were uninteresting pieces of rolling metal that took me from point A to point B. When they wore out, I looked for another one. At one point several years ago I found a 1966 Chevy Impala SS that looked great. I drove it back and forth to work in Hoover for a few years, but when gas prices soared, I parked it in the barn and bought a vehicle that was easier on gas.

The old Chevy looked sad sitting in the barn. I didn’t have the time or the money to invest in restoring the car, so I sold it for three times what I paid. I realized after the transaction that I could have gotten more, but I was happy it found a good home. I later learned that the couple restored the car.

Last Saturday, as I browsed through the entries, I was hoping I would see one of my old cars in the car show, but that didn’t happen. But I pull them up in my memory when I’m feeling nostalgic.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Turkeys and foliage

I promised earlier in the week that I would share the pictures of the wild turkeys after it ran in the paper. Below is the picture. The picture ran on Thanksgiving. The cutline I wrote was:
These wild turkeys showed up near Sipsey at the top of Pump Hill. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, their timing could not have been worse.



Today was cloudy and cool here. The leaves are incredible now. Driving by the river, you can see the oak and hickory leaning over the water like a colorful canopy.

We have a small maple tree in a large pot in our backyard. I don't remember who gave it to us, but it is showing out right now.

I snapped a picture when we returned from our walk this morning. I hope you aren't tired of autumn pictures.








Saturday, November 24, 2018

Game day with injuries

Today was gameday here in Alabama. The University of Alabama played Auburn University. The state has been in a tizzy all week. The state of Alabama ranks at the bottom or near the bottom in practically all the bad statistics that come across the wire.

The one thing that we're not last at is college football. One of these two teams that played today has been the national champion six times in the last 10 years. The team that wins has bragging rights for the coming year. The other team is ridiculed like a college freshman wearing stripped bellbottom pants and a polo shirt.

I got up before sunrise today and hung my Alabama gameday flag and snapped a picture to post on social media.

After breakfast, I headed down to the walking path to cut a small tree that had fallen on the trail. I cut one of the limbs from the tree and it was tangled in vines. When I cut it free, it launched toward me and hit me in the nose. It knocked my glasses off and the scraps on my nose started bleeding like I'd lost a limb.

When I got to the house, I stopped outside and washed my face and hand with the hosepipe before going inside. I didn't what to give Jilda a heart attack.

She doctored it and this evening when we changed the bandaids, it was two small scratches.

Oh yes, tonight, my team put a butt whuppin' on the Auburn Tigers.

Roll Tide.


Friday, November 23, 2018

The day after

I felt like a toad when I went to bed last night. I didn't think I'd eaten that much but apparently, I had. The dogs were stuffed too. We don't feed them a lot of table scraps, but it seemed only fitting to share the bounty of Thanksgiving with our critters.

After cleaning the kitchen, we blogged and turned in early.

This morning when the early morning light filtered through the shades, I rolled out and started the coffee. My Fitbit said I got eight hours of sleep which is rare for me.

After coffee, we had a few chores. Jilda did some things in the kitchen and I wrote a story for the paper. When we finished, we took the dogs for a walk. They were still lethargic.

Down by the barn, I heard Jilda exclaim LOOK. In the hollow, three deer that had been eating acorns scampered deeper into the woods. The dogs never saw them.

This evening, I had to cover a Main Street Christmas Jubilee for the paper. We saw a bunch of old friends, and I took a ton of pictures. The paper will only use one or two, but I figured while I was there, I might as well document the moment.

The rain will move in later this evening. The weatherman said we could get an inch or so. What's was even better, it looked like California might be getting rain today too.

I hope you all survived Black Friday. We didn't go near a shopping place today.




Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Jilda started cooking last night. She baked a sweet potato casserole and a pumpkin maple cheese pie. Had you asked me before today what my favorite Thanksgiving dessert was, I would have told you sweet potato casserole. But not now. The pumpkin maple cheese pie was incredible.

The crowd today wasn't as big as in years past. It was Jilda's brother's family and our friend Fred. 

We had Windham Hill playing on Spotify. It's beautiful piano music that is a perfect background music. 

The kids ate a little, but at their age, freeze tag, and mother may I are more appetizing the turkey and dressing. They ate a little and then it was out to the backyard.

After we ate, my nephew James asked if I'd do a family portrait for him. We all walked to the old house and snapped a few frames. I'm guessing one of them will end up on their Christmas cards.

The autumn air was invigorating.

Tonight, both Jild and I are whupped. So we cleaned the kitchen, and we're ready to veg out before bed.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Road time

Even with a part-time job, I find that I'm on the road a great deal. That's OK because I love driving. The scene through my windshield is ever changing.

Today, I was headed to do the interview about the local family that found a half-sister in England. When I called for directions, they said they'd changed their minds and decided not to make their story public. I was disappointed, but I understand when people get protective of their privacy. I thanked them for their consideration.

Instead of going home, I decided to drive up to the place where I go fly fishing. It was cool this evening, but there were two men there with their young sons fishing. They weren't catching any fish, but from a distance, I could tell the boys were having quality time with their dads.

Rather than disturb, I observed from a distance for a few minutes. Before leaving, I saw some autumn leaves near the water. Since I had my camera with me, I snapped a few frames.







Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Busy day

My agenda today included an early morning city council meeting. Some of the council-people must have called in drunk because there wasn't enough present for a quorum, so the meeting was canceled.

My second stop was to run by the senior center to do an announcement for a monthly dance. It's open to anyone, but most of the people who attend are on Medicare. But while I was there, I heard the lyrical accent of someone from Great Britain. A few minutes later and I got a lead on a feature story. It seems one of the couples at the senior center had been shaking their family tree on Ancestry.com. They discovered a half-sister who lives in England. They connected, and this week the sister hopped a flight to Alabama. I think this will be my kind of story.

This evening, I interviewed the young lady that I met at the car show on Saturday. She is restoring a 1963 VW Beetle. I think it will be a good story too. Once they are published, I'll share them on here and let you make up your own mind whether they are any good or not.

Finally, on the way down this morning, I passed a field near the river. Glancing over while I drove, I saw about a dozen wild turkeys feeding. As I passed, I thought to myself, "Had they been on the other side of the road, I would have rolled down my window and snapped a picture."

Less than a hundred feet down the road I said to myself, "Turn your butt around and go back. They will put them on the right side of the road."

I snapped several pictures. What's interesting is that wild turkeys are very skittish. Usually if they see movement anywhere, they scoot. These didn't. It seemed that three of them posed. Pulling to the side of the road, I put my telephoto lens on the camera and fired off about 20 pictures.

Later when I got to the office, I looked at the pictures, and they were better than I thought they'd be. I edited the best one and sent it to the editor for consideration for the paper. I'll post it here on Thanksgiving.

I snapped the picture below when I drove by the river. Mossy rocks and autumn leaves.

It's been a busy day. I'm about to have some hot tea and call it a night.




Monday, November 19, 2018

Coffee ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I had a minor crisis in our lives this past week. Our coffee maker died. It was a slow, tragic death. I should have seen it coming, but I neglected the telltale signs of tepid coffee and an unexplained leak. Then last Thursday, it spewed and gurgled one last time. That’s when the Watson household went into crisis mode.

My Army training kicked in. Situation analysis: Jilda will be awake soon, and if there is no coffee, there could be bloodshed. She is even-tempered 99 percent of the time, but those numbers drop dramatically on mornings when she hasn’t had caffeine. 

I riffled through the back of our pantry for the old glass coffee press that we use when the power goes off. Blowing the dust off, I washed that baby off and fired up the kettle on the stove. Soon we had two steaming cups of java on the coffee table – crisis averted.

Then came the search for a new coffee maker. Most people would have gone to Walmart and bought a cheap coffee maker to solve the problem. But “we ain’t most people.”

Jilda said we have to get the right coffee maker. She’d just read about a journalist who interviewed the musician, Tom Petty. I Googled the story. It didn’t take long to realize that Petty was into coffee too. During the interview, Petty talked about his music and life on the road. But the conversation took a turn, and Petty talked about his love of coffee. When he was a young starving artist in Gainesville, Florida, he would go to a diner for coffee. This was when he couldn’t afford a piece of pie to go with his coffee. That experience of sitting for hours in that diner with his fingers around a hot cup of coffee was an experience that stayed with him throughout his life. 

Later in Petty’s career, he could afford exotic coffee from anywhere on the planet and the best coffee maker ever made. He bought two Bunn Coffee Makers because he never wanted to wait for a fresh cup. We also thought it interesting that Petty’s choice of coffee was Maxwell House. After reading the article, I looked at Jilda and said, “We need a Bunn.” 

Doing some research, we decided on a BX Velocity Brew 10-Cup Home Brewer. I used my mad-money that I made from writing this column and purchased one online.

Even though the UPS man brought the box late in the afternoon, we felt compelled to have a cup of coffee. Who needs sleep?

I rarely read instructions, but I wanted to make sure the Bunn was set up right. It took about 30 torturous minutes to complete all the steps. 

Once we were satisfied the coffee maker was ready to go, I meticulously measured the right amount of java for two mugs of coffee. 

I closed my eyes. The aroma of coffee soon drifted from the kitchen. Through the years, we’ve belonged to expensive coffee clubs and tasted coffee from around the world. I’m not sure any of those coffees were better than our first cup from the new Bunn coffee maker. I’m glad we took Tom Petty’s advice.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Evening sun

Today has been beautiful here. It's long-sleeve weather, but it's perfect for walking. This morning we did an abbreviated stroll because we were eating lunch with Jilda's sister.

Her kids, their kids, and their kids were there. It was a madhouse. I gave Parker, who is in the fourth grade this year, a joke book for kids last Christmas. Now every time I see him, he tells me jokes. Today he was on vampires. I learned that the favorite building in the world for vampires is the Vampire State Building :)

I was stuffed when I waddled out of her sister's house. When we got home, we both decided a Sunday nap was in order.

Once up, we were refreshed and decided to finish our walk. The sun was lurking near the horizon but it still felt great outside.

The evening sun shining through the autumn leaves was stunning. I snapped the picture below at the barn.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Not a bad job

I was on call at the paper today. There were only two assignments – an open house for a new Tractor Supply and a car show.

As I read the assignment, I smiled and thought of my blog buddy Jack over at Shiplog. If it's possible to love old cars more than me, then I think the award would go to Jack. Almost all of his posts start off with a vintage car.

Today, as I strolled through the parking lot, I saw some new cars that were very nice. I saw an old VW Beetle that a young woman is restoring, and I saw cars that made me drool. 

My favorite ones are cars from the 50s and 60s. That was when American car manufacturers were at their peak for designing and building beautiful cars.

As I packed up my camera and headed into the office to upload the pictures, I thought – hey, this is not a bad job.





Friday, November 16, 2018

Family history

I saw dozens of photo ops the last two days. Yesterday afternoon as we drove south to our gig, the late afternoon sun joined together with the autumn foliage to make a kaleidoscope of color. We were in rush-hour traffic and drivers behind me would have taken a dim view of me holding up traffic to snap a few frames.

This morning, we had to make a run to COSTCO to stock up on Thanksgiving stuff. More pictures glided by as we took mental snapshots through the windshield.

One of the things we bought was a fresh turkey. It has to stay cold so we rushed home and tossed the bird into the fridge. After slamming down a couple of grill cheese sandwiches, we headed to the school to watch our great nephew Jordan be inducted into the fifth-grade Honor Society.

So tonight, I don't really have pictures from today. Scavaging through my archives, I came across another picture that I took years ago. It's Jilda and me along with her brother and his family. The little girl in front of me in the photograph is my niece Samantha who is pushing 30.

Our friend Kaye snapped the picture of us standing at the edge of the water at the Gulf of Mexico. You can tell a great deal about family histories by looking at old pictures.




Thursday, November 15, 2018

Turkey's a comin'

We had a gig tonight and just got home. It's WAAAAAY past my bedtime. I looked through November pictures from seven years ago. I came across pumpkins, gords, and some other stuff I cannot name.

The picture reminded me that Thanksgiving is a week from tonight. Let that sink in for a moment.



Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This time of year

It was misting rain when we walked this morning. A chilling wind came out of the north. We didn't wear rain jackets, but I was glad I'd worn my thermal tee shirt.

The color in the hollow beside the barn road was muted, but I kept looking at the ever-changing patterns of the fallen leaves on the path. Each step was another piece of art.

I snapped a picture, but a camera doesn't do justice.

I love this time of year.



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Twisted

I came across a funny picture from my archives. I was looking through November of 2012. That was the year I published my book Life Happens. I came up with several marketing ideas. Some were bad and others were just slightly better. 

What can I say? I have a twisted mind.







Monday, November 12, 2018

A debt we can't repay ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We celebrate Veterans Day today. For some people, it will be dinner with family or shopping at the mall, or maybe watch pro football on TV. Some people will click LIKE on a few Facebook pictures of soldiers. We celebrate the federal holiday on Monday. People can sleep in and do a late lunch with friends.  We can do these things today thanks to the contributions of veterans.

Serving in the armed forces is optional now. It’s a career path young men and women choose to learn skills that will pay dividends later in life. 

Serving wasn’t always optional. I was drafted into the US Army in the early 70s. After induction, I took a battery of tests that revealed that I would do well in electronics. That was interesting because I didn’t know an amp from a volt back then, but I spent the next six months learning. 

After completing my electronics training, I received orders for my permanent duty station in the Panama Canal Zone. The young man who slept in the bunk across the aisle from mine went to Vietnam.  

In the scheme of things, all my service cost me was two years of my life. I did not bring home any permanent scars. For some veterans, the cost was much higher. Three guys I knew personally, Eugene Childers, Larry Black, and Ricky Wise, came home from Vietnam in coffins. I had an uncle that paid the ultimate price too.

In December of 1941, my Uncle Marvin Lee Ferguson was on the USS California in Hawaii.
He sent pictures home of him riding what looked like a Moped. In the photograph, he had on his Navy white uniform with his Dixie Cup hat. 

He looked like he was having the time of his life. He was dead before Christmas. He died in the opening hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I am proud of my Uncle Marvin Lee. The VFW in Jasper is named in his honor.

Each year, Jilda and I attend the ceremony at the Sumiton Veterans Memorial. This year, Bill Fowler, who is the director, asked us to sing a couple of songs. We sang "This Land is Your Land" and an inspirational song that we wrote entitled "The Storm Brings Out the Eagle." Singing a few songs to honor veterans is such a small price to pay. 

Walking through the memorial is a melancholy experience for me. The pavers around the memorial contain the names of men and women who served our country. There’s a paver there for Jilda’s dad, Sharky, who was a decorated medic in the US Air Force.

Those pavers represent a sacrifice. For some, the sacrifice was time away from loved ones. For others, the sacrifice was much greater. Some soldiers lost arms and legs on foreign soil. Some lost their lives there. And some came home with wounds that you cannot see with the naked eye. 

Some debts you pay off on the installment plan with interest. With a few clicks on your phone, you can determine your balance and know when you can expect to be debt free. Veterans Day brings into focus a national debt that we as a country can never repay.



Sunday, November 11, 2018

Life gets away

Jilda and I did chores today. We had a box of things to donate to the Thrift Store that has been sitting in our spare bedroom for weeks.

As Jilda threw a few additional things into the box, she asked if there was anything in the office that needed to go. Before I was finished, we had to find another box.

The house seems to be breathing easier since the tidy-up.

I didn't get a chance to shoot a picture today so I went to the archives. I picked a year at random and went to November of that year. The picture I found wasn't taken in 2011, but it was the year I scanned this picture and uploaded it. That's me on the back on the far left.

The photo is the last family photograph of my family. Jilda shot the picture. My dad looked fairly healthy in this photograph.  I think it was taken in 1984.

Life gets away.




Saturday, November 10, 2018

Pure joy

Jilda and I played at the annual Veterans Day Ceremony this morning. We rarely do songs we didn't write, but a song that we've done in the past seemed fitting. Woody Guthry wrote a song in the 1940s entitled This Land is Your Land. It seemed to resonate today. We also did the song we wrote called The Storm Brings out the Eagle. The crowd was gracious and we were thankful for that.

Afterward, we had to go get a new washing machine. Actually, we did what we do every 10 years or so. We bought a rebuilt washing machine from a small company nearby. They take the old washers, dryers, stoves, and fridges that were built without all the fancy computer parts. We paid a fraction of what we would have paid for a new device that was manufactured overseas.

They will deliver the washer Monday and take away the old one. I'm guessing they'll rebuild it and sell it to someone else.

This evening, before sunset, we took the dogs for a walk. We've been so busy today, we haven't paid them much attention. When we took them out, they all yipped and ran. Have you ever watched pure joy in motion?

I snapped a picture with Hipstamatic and let it do its magic.






Friday, November 09, 2018

Happy Weekend

It was rainy-fied again today. The weather app on my phone kept sending me notifications that the rain would end by 1:45 p.m. Then, it said 3:10 p.m. The next notification I got said, "Who in the heck knows when it will stop raining in Empire?" 

The dogs were restless, so I bundled up and took them out for a while. It was misting with a wind out of the west. I flipped up the collar on my insulated vest. After a hellish summer and fall, the cold felt good on my face. 

Our old coffee maker was on its last leg. It was still making coffee, but it was leaking. Using some of my mad money that I've made writing and bought a new coffee machine. It came today. I won't say much about it because I plan to write my column for next week about how we decided on this particular machine.

The light has been dreary all day, so I went into the archives and got a picture of the old house down by the barn. I took the photo in November 2016.  Hopefully, the sun will be back tomorrow, and I can take some fresh pictures.

Happy weekend.


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Plan B

Normally, I write Sunday's column on Wednesday. That didn't happen yesterday. I sat down with my laptop and tapped the letters off the keyboard without writing a coherent sentence. 

That happens from time to time. My standby ace-in-a-hole didn't work either. I dropped Jilda off at work and headed to a local coffee house. They have wireless connectivity and plenty of tables. I ordered a coffee and found a table in the corner. Slipping my laptop out of the bag, and pulling up Word, I was ready to jam out some copy as soon as my coffee arrived.

I picked up my java and sat back down with purpose and intention.  Nada.

The conversation around me is normally a droning sound. But yesterday, I could pick up snippets of people talking. A group of what looked like high school girls were at a table nearby and they kept giggling. Without being obvious, I checked my zipper to make sure my barn door wasn't open and I also checked a reflection of my face on the screen of my laptop to make sure I didn't have a booger. No on both accounts.

I finally decided they were just enjoying each other’s company. 

After a while, I snapped my laptop closed and sipped my coffee while looking out the window at the rain.

Droplets rolled down the glass. It looked like the windows were crying.

When my timer sounded, I loaded my laptop in the case, tossed my cup in the recycle bin, and headed back to pick Jilda up. I figured I'd get up early this morning and knock out the column. Turns out, I was right.

On our daily walk this morning I snapped the picture of a mound of ferns that sprang up. I had not seen them this week and this morning, they were there. Maybe I missed them, but I can't help believe that aliens came and planted them overnight.







 . 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Waiting for peak color

I'm out of words today. I've tapped the letters off my keyboard with little to show for it. Some days are like that.

We walked early this morning. Another line of thunderstorms was still an hour to the west so we took advantage of the lull and walked.

Peak foliage is still a week or so away. I thought it would come sooner, but I dare not rush it because once the peak arrives, the leaves turn cinnamon brown and began falling. But that's not all bad.

Smelling of autumn leaves burning is almost as beautiful to the nose as the colors are to the eyes.


Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Busy day

It was raining this morning when I first opened my eyes. Acorns falling on the metal roof sounded like a kettle drum. The predicted severe weather never materialized. The winds remained aloft for the most part.

Jilda got up when the coffee maker beeped. The rain was still falling. The long chimes on the back deck sounded like church bells.

I had early meetings so after coffee I put my "reporter face" on and headed out. Jilda headed at the same time and we met at our polling place to cast our lot. We took a selfie and posted it on social media to encourage others to get out and vote.

By days end, I'd written three news stories. Tonight, my head is empty.

The picture below is one I took a few years ago. Did I mention that I love this time of year?


Monday, November 05, 2018

Walking weather ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I walk year around. Each season has its own rewards and challenges. During winter when the temps drop, we wear more layers than an onion. When it rains, we put on the raincoats that we bought several years ago before traveling to Ireland. When it’s hot, we walk naked. My favorite time of year to walk is autumn. To me, early autumn is walking weather.

Today, when we walked, I wore walking shorts and a sweatshirt. An awning of clouds hung overhead. The temperature was in the mid-50s with a wind out of the west. It felt good to be alive. Taz the Wonder Yorkie pranced. She’s getting up there in the years and is not as agile as she once was. She hates August, but this tiny critter loves cool weather as much as we do.

As Jilda and I walked around the barn today, I felt a solitary drop of rain on my face. We both wondered out loud if the weatherman got the forecast wrong. The showers never fell, so we kept walking to get our daily steps.

The leaves in the hollow beside our walking trail are beginning to turn. Right now, the colors are yellow, amber, and snuff brown. Soon orange and crimson will join in forming mother nature’s kaleidoscope. I snapped a few pictures, but the light wasn’t right. The frame-worthy photographs are still a few weeks away. 

I’ve already heard people complaining about the cooler weather. Jilda struggles in the heat, and I fear if someone whines about autumn within earshot of her, she may smack them. She’s been known to do that.

On the second lap, I caught a whiff of burning leaves on the breeze. This aroma conjures up fond memories from my childhood. 

When I was in grammar school, one of my chores was raking the leaves of the giant sycamore tree in our front yard. These crunchy mountains didn’t last long because I couldn’t resist running as fast as my legs would carry me and doing a swan dive into the middle. The leaves itched when they got into my shirt, and down my pants but that was a small price to pay for a little fun.

Mother wouldn’t let me burn the leaves unsupervised so that duty fell to my older brother Neil. He hated raking, but he didn’t mind watching me work. He enjoyed burning the leaves. After firing up the piles, we’d sit on the concrete steps and watch them burn. Watching autumn leaves burn can be hypnotic.

When piles burned down to ash and winking embers, we’d head inside for supper. Our clothes smelled like we’d been fighting forest fires. 

Neil was several years older than me, and we didn’t hang out as much as I would have liked, so these memories of time spent with him are special. 

Happy autumn, and just for the record, Jilda and I don’t walk naked when the weather is hot.



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