Thursday, October 18, 2018

Kids

Jilda is still struggling with sinus crud so she went in for a followup visit today. She could probably have gone alone, but I wasn't sure what all they would have to do so I decided to take my laptop and write in the waiting room.

I knocked out my column for Sunday and most of a news story while I waited.

At one point, my eyes were weary from looking at the screen so I looked toward the window at the blue sky. Across the way, I noticed two young children. I did not know them but I'm guessing they were brother and sister. 

They were two cute kids and got along together well. As I watched, the young boy was showing his sister something on his iPad. The light was perfect. I wasn't sure who their parents were, but I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a quick photograph. I'm glad I did. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Weather Lore

An old neighbor used to say that when there are "a plenty" of hickory nuts "a fallin'" then it's bound to be a cold winter. If that's true, I'm buying some more long-johns. 

Each day when we walk, we have to tiptoe by the old barn because walking over the hickory nuts is hazardous. It's been a while since we've had this many.

When I was a kid, my grandmother used to pay me in candy to crack hickory nuts for her. She wanted enough of the "goodie" (the edible stuff inside the nut) to back a cake. I thought I was taking advantage of her because there was nothing I enjoyed more than beating the crap out of things with a hammer. 

I soon learned that hickory nuts have mother nature's version of titanium. I beat the hide off of both my thumbs and most of my fingers. I finally got enough for a cake, but I thought she should have given me the entire box of candy.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Locked out

Today has been jammed. I went to a city council meeting this morning. When I got out of the truck,  I had both arms full of stuff to take inside. Once the meeting was over, I headed out to the truck to go to another appointment, but I couldn't find my keys.

I traced my steps to see if I had dropped my keys on the way inside. Then I walked over and peered through the tinted glass. There they were dangling from the ignition. DANG! I thought.

I pulled the cell from my pocket and called Jilda at home. She was walking the dogs, but she hurried back inside and drove the 12 miles to the city hall to bring my spare key.

She didn't hound me or give me a hard time. She just opened the door, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, "I'll see you later."

When I went to the newspaper office this afternoon, I stopped by the Ford dealership and had a spare key made.

Hopefully, I won't be stranded with keys locked inside my car again.

An old picture of the beast.




Monday, October 15, 2018

Big Rocks

There is a mossy rock in the hollow behind our barn. It’s nestled under a canopy of oak, hickory, and pine trees. It’s a peaceful place. When my life gets crazy, I carve out enough time to visit the rock and think for a while. The sound of songbirds and whisper of the wind in the trees helps me find perspective – to put my life into balance. I don’t visit that big rock enough.
These past few weeks it seems I’ve spent my all my time juggling. The to-do list in my daily planner looks thicker than the U.S. tax code. Each time I strike one thing off, three more appear at the bottom. It seems the more my life gets out of balance, the more daunting the list becomes. It’s a pattern that repeats every few years. 
Just when I’m at the point of jabbing an icepick into my eye, I do a mental reset and go back to the basics. I know how to handle situations like this, but sometimes life and logic get tangled up.
Jilda and I took a class several years ago that put things into perspective. It was a Stephen Covey class entitled What Matters Most. He did an exercise with a volunteer from the audience that drove his concepts home.
On the podium was a bucket. Beside that were a few pounds of sand, some gravel, and some large rocks with things written on them like family, health, education, work life, money, and spirituality. The gravel represented things that weren’t as important but seemed urgent. The sand represented things that weren’t important but were URGENT!
He asked the volunteer to pour the sand into the bucket and then asked them to put in the gravel. Lastly, he asked them to fit the big rocks into the container. 
No matter how hard the volunteer tried, they could not fit the bigger rocks into the container. They simply would not fit. The volunteer had to leave the rocks representing family, health, or education out of the bucket. That bucket represented our lives. 
When it was obvious that all the rocks wouldn’t fit into the bucket, he pulled out another bucket. This time he had the volunteer put the big rocks in first. Then they poured in the gravel, followed by the sand. This time they all fit. The key was to put the big rocks in first.
This exercise made a tremendous impression on both Jilda and me. We’re both great at putting out fires. In fact, we are professionals. But so many of those fires are like candles that the wind will blow out in time. 
This afternoon, I wandered down to my big mossy rock and spent some time meditating on the big rocks in my life. When I got home, I scanned my to-do list and moved about 90 percent of them to my “Ain’t Gonna Happen” list. 
I already feel more in balance.



Sunday, October 14, 2018

Waning Zinnias

It's been a low-key Sunday for both Jilda and me. We laid down after lunch for a nap and didn't bother to set a timer. I think I may have slobbered on my pillow.  After the nap, I decided to do something productive. Cutting the grass was on top of my list so I got to it.

This afternoon a breeze out of the west was cool but the sun was warm. That means it was perfect weather to cut grass. Topping off the tank of the old John Deere, I started mowing.

Cutting around the garden, I had considered mowing down the Zinnias. As I approached them I cut the engine and got off to inspect. Normally, these beauties thrive and decorate our mantel and bathrooms until frost. But these are beginning to look sad. The late August and September heatwave had its way with the plants.

The butterflies still had not given up on the flowering beauties and I thought it would be a shame if I did. So I gave them a reprieve for a few more weeks. Maybe if we get rain, they'll make a comeback.

I hope your Sunday has been a lazy day too.




Saturday, October 13, 2018

Anything less

We had a show tonight with our good friend Joe Greg. He's a steelworker and gets very few days off work. He took vacation so that he could play with us tonight. And we were grateful that he joined us.

We had a small but enthusiastic crowd. We knew going in that we were up against SEC football. This is not our first rodeo. 

Some songwriters and bands get discouraged when the crowd is not overflowing. We take a different view. Each person that comes to see us deserves the very best we have to offer. We played and sang as if we were at the Astrodome playing to 50,000 screaming fans. We would never consider doing anything less.

This pictures was taken a few years ago.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Getting vitamin D

I had my last therapy session early this morning. After I hugged necks and shook hands with all my therapy peeps, I swung by Starbucks for a coffee and a paper. 

Once home, I grabbed my laptop and headed to work. I soon knocked out the first draft of a feature and the  wrote a news story. 

Wrapping up, I headed to the house. This was our first chilly day, but it was warmer in the afternoon. Heading out to the back deck, I sat in the sun to get some vitamin D. Samantha's dog Lady came out to join me. 

Sitting back in the Adirondack chair, I decided to meditate for a few minutes. My eyes were closed so I never saw Lady as she slipped up to me and gave me sugar. I took a selfie of us and sent it to her mama.

Lady, Hook, and Caillou had jumped a deer earlier in the day when Jilda walked them. Lady still had beggar lice on her nose from the chase.

Samantha is saving for a house of her own. Both Jilda and I told her that she could move, but she had to leave Jordan and Lady with us. I don't think she's convinced yet but we're standing our ground :)





Thursday, October 11, 2018

Failure to communicate

I've always prided myself with my ability to communicate. Being able to express myself with kids, professionals, and people like me who grew up dirt poor is important to me. But today, I had a failure to communicate. 

I saw the company that trims power right of ways in our neighborhood last week. I called the power company and told them I wanted a supervisor to call me and discuss what needed to happen in my yard when the trimmers got to my address.

The supervisor's office was in Tuscaloosa which is an hour and a half from here, but he drove to my house.

I was working but Jilda explained our situation. He assured us he would have the crew chief talk to me before the crew cut the first limb.

The crew chief came at 7:30 this morning. I walked outside holding a mug of coffee and we walked through the yard. He said the oak limbs hanging over the power lines would have to be trimmed back. I knew that and had no problem with that.

He said they would have to snip a few limbs off the dogwood. I flinched a little and he assured me that it wouldn't be that much.

He mentioned a couple other places that needed a little attention and we shook hands.

I had an appointment to interview someone just before lunch and when I got back, I quickly saw they were trimming more than what I was promised. 

I grabbed my cell and called the crew chief. He was a few miles down the road. By the time he got there, they had trimmed our hemlock. We've had that tree over 20 years and it was barely 15 feet tall. It would never have grown tall enough to have been a problem around the power lines. 

When the supervisor walked up, he knew I was angry. I told him to tell the guys to stop cutting. "You are through cutting in my yard," I told him.  They started packing up.

He apologized and said he thought we were on the same page. I told him that I thought the same thing. I also told him I would do a better job explaining the next time.

I rarely get angry. In fact, I don't remember the last time I was angry. It bothers me that I let this get to me. But this place is our home. We planted almost every tree, shrub, and flower here. Most of them have stories behind them. 

This much I know for sure. The next time these folks come around there will not be a failure to communicate.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Woke up to the rain

I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof and a gentle ticking of the rose-of-sharon bush outside our bedroom window.

The weather-folk said we could have rain later today at the earliest. But the hurricane in the Gulf changed the dynamics in the atmosphere.

Jilda and I shoe'd up after coffee and headed out for a walk. The rain had stopped but the grass was wet enough to dampen our shoes and sox.

The light was a little wonky, but there were a few photo ops. The yellow heart is a muscadine leaf and the red is what I think they call pin oak.

The hurricane made landfall on the Panhandle of Florida and moved over southern Alabama. A cold front from the west is pushing the circulation eastward. It's now over Georga heading for the Atlantic.

If any of you are in the path of the wind, stay safe.


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Finding a mother: Adopted sisters discover their heritage ~ my story in today's paper

SIPSEY - This story would have been told years ago, but it got tangled up in excitement, joy, and grief. The fact that things happened the way they did is extraordinary. Some would say it was a lucky coincidence. 
Three sisters, Linda Vandiver of Empire, Brenda Willingham of Argo, and Regina Richardson of Jasper believe it was divine intervention.
Brenda and Linda Holt were born at a clinic in Sipsey in 1960. Their mother, Fay Holt, was a single mom who was living at home with her father. After the infants were born, Holt’s father left, and the young mother had no food or no place to turn. She did the only thing she knew that would give the young twins a chance to survive – she gave them up for adoption. 
Mary Watson and her husband Albert lived on the Hull Road between Sumiton and Sipsey. Mrs. Watson decided to adopt the twins without discussing the matter with her husband. There is a black-and-white photograph of Watson in an old rocking chair with the twins in his lap. It’s hard to tell if the look on his face was one of surprise or happiness. 
It didn’t take long for the twins to steal his heart. “We were daddy’s girls,” said Brenda Watson Willingham, who is one of the twins.
“Mom and dad always introduced us as their adopted daughter,” Willingham said. “But we were not sure what being adopted meant until we were older.
In the late 1970s, when the twins were 18, they went on a quest to find their birth mother. All they had to go on was that their mother’s name was Fay Holt. They weren’t able to locate their mother. The adoption records were no help, but the girls never gave up on their quest to find their mother.
In 2001, the twins had just turned 40. They renewed their efforts to find their parent.  Linda Watson Vandiver of Empire was the second twin. She was at Randy’s Store in Sipsey, and a man overheard her conversation about trying to locate her mother, Fay Holt. The man told her he thought he knew who she was talking about. This was a glimmer of hope that Vandiver and her sister had longed for.
The man gave Vandiver the name of a man that he thought was the younger brother of Fay Holt. He was dead, but his name was Dennis Holt.
When Vandiver gave her sister this tidbit of information, Willingham got on the internet and searched for the death certificate of Dennis Holt. With the death certificate in hand, the twins were able to find Dennis’ children. His son David lived in Haleyville.
The twins called David. “We’re trying to find our birth mother,” Willingham said. She gave David her name. David said he had an aunt named Margaret Fay Holt. Willingham asked for the number.  David gave her the number of Regina Holt Richardson, who was Fay’s daughter.
The twins called Richardson and told her they were looking for their birth mother. Richardson asked, “Is this Linda or Brenda?” 
“This was a crazy time. I had just adopted a daughter who was premature and was on a heart monitor. I’d also just learned that my mother was dying of brain cancer,” Richardson said.
A few weeks earlier, when her mother had fallen ill, an aunt had told Richardson that she had two older sisters who’d been adopted as infants. Their names were Brenda and Linda. With Margaret Fay dying, the aunt felt that she should share the information with Richardson.
“When I got the call from Brenda that day, I thought it was someone else,” Richardson remembers. But then she realized the voices on the other end of the line were her sisters. “It had been hidden from me my whole life,” Richardson said.
The twins were anxious to meet their mother, but they wanted to make sure their adopted mother didn’t mind. Mrs. Watson was happy the twins had found their birth mother and gave them her blessing.
Regina was in the process of transferring her mother to an assisted living facility in Jasper.  At this point, Holt could barely talk and only had days to live. Regina asked her mom if she wanted to see the twins. She did.
“When the twins went into the room to see mother for the first time, she had a look on her face that was incredible. It was the first time I ever saw her peaceful,” Richardson said.
“God put us all together at the perfect time,” Willingham said.
The tumor had attacked the part of their mother’s brain that controls emotions. “But she mustered up the strength to say, “I love y’all,” Vandiver said.
During the following days, Willingham took her children to the Terrace to meet their birth grandmother. The three sisters spent the next four days with their mother and were by her side when she died.
Those last hours with their mother were emotional. “It was a thrill just to find her and know that all of their lives, they only lived 12 miles apart,” Vandiver said. “We were happy we found her and got to spend time with her.”
When Willingham and Richardson’s sons met, they looked as if they could be twins, according to Willingham. “There is no denying that Regina is our sister,” she said.
Through the years, Holt knew where her twin daughters lived and followed them from a distance throughout their lives. Richardson said that her mother would often disappear for hours at a time and no one knew where she was.  She now believes she was going to watch over her twins. 
“I often had a feeling that someone was watching me,” Vandiver said. She understands now that it was her mother.
Growing up, whenever Regina needed a birth certificate her mother would run by the health department and get an abbreviated card.
After her mother died, Richardson got her full birth certificate and learned something that neither she nor the twins realized – they have another sister.
Their unknown sister’s birthday is January 15, 1963, and all they know is that she was adopted by an attorney who lived in Mobile. They’ve learned that the missing sister was taken from their mother by the Department of Human Resources because Fay had given up the twins for adoption.
Vandiver met her mother by accident the year before she died. “Mother worked at a kiosk at the mall, and I went there to buy something,” she remembered. “I didn’t know who she was, but she knew who I was."
People ask Brenda, why she wanted to find a mother who gave her up? She answers, “There was a reason she did that. She couldn’t care for us, but she gave us to wonderful parents that she knew could care for the young children,” Willingham said.
Since the sisters learned of each other, they’ve grown close, and their families vacationed together at the beach.
The three sisters hope the renewed interest in their story might help them find their other sister. 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Graduation day

This coming Friday is graduation day for me. There won’t be any diplomas or gifts, exchanged, but
the time I’ve spent has been life-changing. Friday is my last day of therapy.

I’ve known for a few years that at least one of my knees would have to be replaced. I started with drugs, but my stomach does not play well with anti-inflammatory meds. The knee doc gave me shots with needles the size of kindergarten pencils. They used steroids and a type of viscous material that offered some temporary relief for knees that were bone on bone. 

Earlier this year, it became painfully clear that I’d have to put my big-boy undies on and have my left knee replaced.

My niece Samantha is a physical therapy assistant who knows her stuff. She sat me down, and we had “the talk.”  I’ve given her those “talks” since she was in diapers. I can’t help but believe that she got satisfaction on some level from telling me what I had to do to make my knee better.  To her credit, she didn’t giggle, smile, or say, “You’re going to get it, mister. Payback is going to be brutal.”

She recommended a doctor based on the results she had seen in his patients coming through her facility. I made the appointment for the consultation. He didn’t sugar-coat the procedure. Jilda and I were both impressed with the doctor and his staff. Getting my surgery scheduled was a matter of clearing time on my calendar.

Several weeks before surgery, my niece put me on a pre-therapy routine. This helped to build strength in the areas that would be affected by the knife, saw, and mallet.

A few hours after surgery, a physical therapist had me up walking around the hospital halls. I went home the next day. The following day, Jilda drove me to where Samantha works to get started with therapy.

Those first few sessions were not fun for me although I thought my niece seemed to have a mirthful look on her face at times. But maybe that was just my imagination.

Doing yoga with my lovely spouse was also helpful before and after surgery. Whenever the pain seemed unbearable, I could hear Jilda’s voice saying, “Acknowledge the pain and breathe.” I learned that the technique worked for me.

My recovery progressed steadily over the following weeks. I was driving after the second week which actually extended my life. If I’d spent much more time on the couch, my cabin fever would have forced my wife to kill me with a dull butcher knife. “I’m not sure what happened officer. One moment he was whining about not being able to drive, and the next moment I just snapped.”

This past week when I went to my knee doc for a follow-up appointment, he was almost giddy with my progress.

Yesterday was the first day in many years that I have not felt excruciating pain in my left knee. In fact, there was no pain at all. I wanted to do a little dance but didn’t want to push my luck.

On Friday when I graduate, I plan to drive over to the coffee place and get a fru-fru coffee and a New York Times newspaper. I think I “knee’d” to celebrate this graduation.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Laying sorry

Today has been a restful one. I needed it. Spending time on Friday and Saturday at the festivals was fun, but this morning it all caught up with me. "I laid sorry most of the day," as my grandma used to say. 

We left today open for the most part. My nephews' wife is recovering from mono and Jilda promised James that she'd make lasagna and bring it to them for dinner this even. 

After we got home, it was early, but we both looked at each other knowingly and donned out pajamas.

I can promise you it will be an early night tonight.

Sorry for the brief post. I'll do better tomorrow.

A picture of us from the archives.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Fun Ain't Cheap

This has been a froggy weekend. Last night we played at the Frog Level Festival which is in a city about 70 miles west of here and today was the Frog Festival which is here in our hometown. 

I take pictures for the Frog Festival so even though my rear end was dragging this morning, I loaded up the camera and headed to the Festival. It was even hotter today.

I shot over 200 pictures in about three hours. At lunch, I went to my favorite vendor at the festival. It's a family that BBQs ribs, Boston Butts, and all things piggy. I got two rib sandwiches to go.

When I got home, Jilda was waiting. We ravaged those sandwiches.

I had my PJs on by 5 p.m. this evening. Bedtime will come before long.

This much I know for sure, Fun Ain't Cheap.


NOTE: Some of you asked last night for a link to the song I blogged about. You can hear it here on Youtube.


Friday, October 05, 2018

Poignant moment

We played at the Frog Level Festival in Fayette tonight. When we took the stage at 6 p.m. it was still 85 degrees and still as a crypt. I can't remember it ever staying this hot in October though I could be wrong.

The sound folks did a remarkable job. They have the high-dollar equipment. Our sound guy Fred went with us last year and lusted all over their amps, racks, and speakers.

We closed out the set with World Keeps Spinning. It's a melancholy song about turbulent times. The idea came from the stories Jilda heard from the military folks coming from a war zone. It's not a happy song, but we think it's an important one.

After we finished, a veteran who was sitting in the audience came up to Jilda and shook her hand. He saw things that we sang about. It was a poignant moment.

I love this festival. The arts and crafts are remarkable and the people are friendly. 

Places like this are why we keep playing music.


I used a picture from the Frog Level Facebook page.


Thursday, October 04, 2018

Sharing possibilities

My assignment this morning was to cover a career fair at the local college. The paper wanted a story and pictures. Local high schools bussed Juniors and seniors to the college campus. They came through the doors in droves. There were a lot of hands-on exercises they could do to get a feel for what jobs in that industry might be like.

Some of the kids were excited and participated and others just strolled around gazing at their phones. After shooting pictures for about 45 minutes I started to go. One of the organizers caught up with me and asked, "Are you not going to man the newspaper's booth?" When I looked, there was an empty table for the paper that the college had set up but apparently, the paper didn't realize they had a table.

I put down my camera, sat down and started talking to kids. One of the questions I asked was one I always ask, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" For the ones who had an idea, I encouraged them. For those who didn't, I asked if they'd ever considered a job in media.

I told them about the kinds of things I enjoy about my job. I also told them that jobs in the media weren't all newspaper jobs. Many are video, photography, drone photography, YouTube channels, and TV.

My pitch was compelling. One of my friends owns a local TV station and he sat down to chat for a few minutes. A group of kids came up and I gave them my pitch. When they left, he said, "I wish I had recorded that. That was a great pitch. You gave them some of the reasons I went into the media."

Who knows if any of the kids will decide to make a career in media. It was not my job to sell them. It was to share possibilities.



Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Hunting for apples

I was between projects this afternoon so I filled my glass full of water from the sink and stood looking out the window at nothing in particular. Something in the field caught my eye and it took a second to realize it was a deer under the apple tree.

It was standing on its back legs trying to reach one of the apples but the low-hanging fruit was the first to go. He couldn't reach the ones that were left.

I pulled the phone from my pocket, but the image of the deer was too small. Stepping to the computer room, I got my big camera with a telephoto lens and stepped to the back deck.

Even though I was in stealth mode, the deer wasn't fooled. It was on full alert. I shot of one picture before it darted through the field and disappeared behind the barn. 

I used to feed them corn to hold them over until the winter food source came in, but hunting season is just around the corner and I didn't want to draw them here because they have to cross land on which people hunt.

So, they have to come back now and then to see if an apple has fallen or if there are persimmons for the munching.

Travel safe my little buddy.



Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Road time

I put a lot of miles on my vehicle today. An early morning city council meeting had me rolling just after coffee and afterward, Jilda had the crud and went to see her ENT. These appointments can be squirrely because of her Meniere's Disease so I took her.

Once home we had a quick lunch and I was on the road again for appointments in another city.  One stop was at the Bankhead House and Herritage Center where they are having an exposition on music. I loaned them one of my guitars so I loaned them one with a story behind it.

Organizers also asked Jilda and I to perform there later in October. We'll be playing acoustic in the living room by the fireplace. It was 94 degrees here today, so I doubt there will be a fire burning while we play.

As I was leaving, the beautiful fall color taunted the heat so I shot a picture in support of her defiance.

By the time I got home, I felt as if all the air had been let out of my tires.


Monday, October 01, 2018

My thinking bench

The late August and September heatwave coupled with the lack of rain had my hopes of a colorful autumn fading. The dust on my truck was thick enough to plant potatoes. It looked like the leaves of too many trees were turning as brown as tobacco and falling to the ground. Then a few nights ago, I heard salvation drumming on the roof just before dawn. It was a soaking rain.
Some people complain if it rains for more than an hour, but I love rainy days. It seems to cleanse my spirit.
Today I took a break from writing when the clouds thinned, and the rain slowed to a drizzle. Gazing out the window, I thought that a walk in the rain might clear my head. Grabbing my hat, I opened the door. Ol’ Hook, the bulldog that adopted us, almost knocked me down running out the door. I guess he had cabin fever too. 
A few steps down the barn road and he jumped a deer. Like a flash, he was off through the hollow like a shot. I used to try to call him back up, but I could holler until I was hoarse and that dog would not slow down a step because he’s as deaf as a post.
All along the barn road were signs that fall was near. Crimson sumac leaves had blown onto the road along with poplar leaves the color of fresh butter. The quality of the light also seemed different. Maybe that’s what sent the hummingbirds south.
Down at the barn is a persimmon tree draped with a muscadine vine. That vine has been on that tree since we first moved here in 1980. The vine near the ground is as big around as my bicep. 
The wild grapes ripen this time of year. The vines hanging from lower branches make the muscadines easy to reach from the ground. I stopped to pick a few choice grapes and shined them on my pants leg. When I held it up to the light, they were the color of a California Merlot. I popped one into my mouth, and the tart sweetness exploded. 
My thinking bench was a few steps away, so I thought it was only fitting that I sit for a moment and think about the changing season.
When I was a kid, there were only two seasons. Christmas time and summer. The other seasons were unending days between the real fun.
As I aged, I’ve come to enjoy all the seasons. One of my favorite songs of all time was written by Pete Seeger and recorded by The Byrds entitled, Turn, Turn, Turn. Seeger lifted the words from the Bible out of the Book of Ecclesiastes. 
The words resonated with me the first time I heard the song in October of 1965. They strike even closer to the marrow now that I’ve gotten older. 
It’s sobering when I realized that time is running out on all the dreams that I promised myself I’d do one day.  One day is now. 
This is what I thought about on this rainy day in September while sitting on my thinking bench.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Apple time

The August-September heatwave had its way with our crop of apples this year, but a few have survived. They are a few weeks away from being at peak picking time.

Jordan has grown impatient. Throughout the summer when he came to walk with us, he would stand under the tree and look at the fruit longingly. "When will they be ready?" He knows the answer, but he is anxious to have one that he picked himself. He thinks that apples taste better when you pick them yourself. I tend to agree.

He came over yesterday and picked a few low-hanging apples. One of the ones he chose was almost as big as a softball.

I like shining them on my pantsleg and eating them in the field. He prefers them peeled. His mom enjoys coming over and sitting on our back deck to catch up with everything that's going on with us, but he wasn't having any of that. He wanted to go home and eat apples.

Even though they are fewer this year, they are scrumptious.  The deer agree. Each morning, we'll see a few down there checking the ground for apples that have fallen.

I haven't been able to get a picture of one this year, but I looked through my archives and found two under the tree that I'd taken a few years ago. I think it will get my point across.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Smiling

We attended the wedding of a friend today. She lost her husband a while back. They were close. She is Jilda's age. We fretted that we may never see her smile again. 

Then something remarkable happened. A man came into her life. They started off slowly. They went to the movies, attended rock concerts, and spent time at his house on the beach and her house on the river.

A few months ago, they came to hear Jilda and I play at the local coffee house. As we surveyed the crowd from the stage, we saw her smiling. 

Today, they had a morning ceremony in her front yard. Hickory trees that reached to the skies dropped golfball sized hickory nuts on the metal roof of the gazebo during the service. Just behind the happy couple I noticed a blue heron on the bank of the river.  Crows fussed off in the distance during the prayers. And our friend smiled the whole time.

On the way home, we saw a field of goldenrod and wild daisies. I pulled to the edge of the road and snapped a few pictures. 

The daisies seemed to be smiling too.


Friday, September 28, 2018

TIMBER.........

We've had a dead tree in our backyard that had been on my todo list for some time. About a year ago, I called a tree cutter to get an estimate.

Before he made it to our house, a storm with straight-line winds swept through and blew down thousands of trees all over the county where I live.

Suddenly, the tree guy's dance card was punched for months. One thing the storm did do was blow the top out of my dead tree. Instead of the tree being 80 feet tall and within reach of our house, the shed, and our fence on three sides, it was now only 40 feet tall. 

The tree still needed to come down but the urgency dropped dramatically. 

When our neighbor died, his daughter gave Jilda and I his utility shed. It is huge. We decided it would be perfect for Jilda a workspace for her painting project. This building had the potential of solving several problems we've been coping with for years.

The only thing – before we can take delivery of the shed, the neglected dead tree had to come down.

Calling the tree guy, he remembered me and where I lived. He said he'd run by and give me an estimate this afternoon. 

When he got here, he said this shouldn't be a problem at all. "If I'd brought my saw, I'd do it right now." I told him I had a chainsaw. I know he thought I was about to pull out a consumer-grade saw made for cutting twigs and small firewood. When I fetched my chainsaw from the shed, he nodded his head. "Yep. This'll work." 

A few minutes later the tree was on the ground and he was sawing it into small pieces so that I can move it with my tractor. 

I should have taken a picture while he was doing the deed, but I wanted to be out of range of that dead tree.

I will post pictures of Jilda's new painting room when we get it moved and set up.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Weary

I'm word weary tonight. I've been writing for most of the day. My column due and I started working on that but then I got an alert from the local college that they were under a lockdown because of an escaped felon.

As it turns out, the police had him back in custody within 30 minutes, but the editor wanted a piece written for the paper. My column went on the back burner while I called the police chief and got the scoop.

After that, I completed my column and then transcribed a feature story about a set of twins that were adopted shortly after birth. It took them 40 years, but they found their birth mother. I think the story will be a good one.


This evening, I had to cover a city council meeting. 

Jilda had dinner ready when I walked in the door. The rain kept me from getting a decent picture today, so I went back to the archives.

This is a restaurant on the river in Tuscaloosa. Great food with a great view. 


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Practice

This is post number 4724. I was looking at something in my blog setup and clicked on posts. When I saw this number it did not register at first. A couple hundred shy of 5000 posts. 
No wonder I get out of ideas every now and then.

My first post was on December 2, 2005. Since starting, I've missed very few days posting. Most of these misses were due to storms. After the 2011 tornados, we were without power for over a week. Even that didn't stop me. When they cleared the roads, I drove 12 miles to McDonald's and used their free WiFi to post my blog.

Every now and then I think of quitting. I run out of things to say and think, "What's the point?" But then something will happen and I can't wait to share it on my blog. Or, I'll come across an incredible scene and capture it with my camera. 

I think that the discipline of writing every day has helped me find my voice. I know I've said this before, but I think it should be repeated. If you want to get better at anything, it takes repetition...practice.

Here's a picture I shot a few years ago. I'm not sure if I posted it or not, but it's rained all day today and the light muted the colors around here. So this picture is what I chose to brighten up my blog.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Mistaken identity

The goldenrod is coming out. I started seeing it on the roadside. It's often mistaken for one of the causes of sinus irritation in the fall, but ragweed is usually the culprit.

Ragweed has white fuzzy blossoms and spread in the autumn wind like dandelions. Goldenrod on the other hand just stands there looking pretty and taking the heat from ill-informed sneezers.


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Monday, September 24, 2018

Being in sync isn't always fun ~ my column from Sunday

Jilda and I experience synchronicity all the time. When preparing to go somewhere, we’ll get dressed in our separate bathrooms. When it’s time to leave, and we meet in the great room by the door, we’re often wearing the same color tops and pants. 

Maybe it'ss the 44 years we’ve lived together, or maybe it’s some cosmic prankster having fun at our expense. We always laugh and call each other copycats. This week we experienced synchronicity, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

On Monday evening before heading to her community yoga class, I heard her make a pitiful mewing sound. It was kind of like a cat with a hurt paw. 

Stopping what I was doing, I looked to get the scoop. She’d dropped her phone. It didn’t fall that far and didn’t seem to hit the floor that hard, but there was a hairline crack that went from top to bottom of her phone. It still worked fine, but the crack caught the light and was distracting. 

Calling AT&T support, I asked about repairing the screen. I figured I’d need to knock off a liquor store to pay for the damage. The service rep sounded chipper. “Fortunately, you have insurance on that phone,” she said. 

Our moods brightened. That’s not too bad, I thought. We could probably hit a lemonade stand and get enough for that. Jilda failed to see the humor in my suggestion.

Fast forward to yesterday. I headed to Sumiton City Hall to cover a council meeting. I needed a llama to help carry all my stuff inside, but I did something I’d never done before. Instead of putting my phone in my pocket, I put it under my arm. My thinking was that after I got out of the truck and everything situated so that my new bionic knee was happy, I’d slip the phone into my pocket. That didn’t happen. 

When I started to walk inside, the phone slipped from under my arm and smacked the pavement hard. I knew before picking it up and looking at the screen that it would be cracked. I was right. That involuntary mewing sound came from somewhere deep inside. 

Everything worked, but every time I looked at my phone, it seemed to be screaming “SIMPLETON.” 

When I called AT&T support, I got another service rep, and she was a chipper as the other one. That must be a job requirement now. When I told her the story about my wife breaking her phone earlier in the week, I thought I detected a snort of laughter. 

She gave me a ticket number for the repair place for our phones. 

So, today on my day off, I’m not fishing or doing something fun, I’m sitting in a waiting room for a couple hours while technicians replace the screens on our phones.

I think I’m going to cruise around some of the neighborhoods around here looking for a lemonade stand I can knock off.

I shot this picture this morning on the way home from therapy. It has nothing to do with the post, but then my pictures often don't.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fun Sunday

I missed commenting on the autumnal equinox yesterday. That's what happens when I whine. The weather has been hot, but the weatherman swears that by the end of next week, things will change and the highs will be in the low 80s instead of mid to upper 90s. That will make a huge difference.

Jilda and I have a show the first Saturday night in October. We spent a few hours practicing today. We both stay so busy that we don't get as much time as we like practicing together. Both of us practice guitar and vocals individually to keep our chops sharp, but there is no substitute for practicing together.

We're working on some new material. One song we wrote a few months ago with our friend Joe Greg is entitled Coffee. It's a bluesy song and it is a lot of fun to perform.  We plan to play it for the first time in front of a crowd when we play.

It's been a fun day. I hope your Sunday has been a good one too.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sun ivy

I've spent more time on the couch today than I have in a long time. My biorhythms must be in the tank.

I had to look at archives to find a picture for tonight. Tomorrow will be a better day.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Historic church

I had errands this afternoon in Jasper, which is the county seat. I had to pick up a check from the coffee house for the last gig we did in August. Then a dash by the seed and feed store to stock up on dog food, bird seed, and chicken feed. As I drove through downtown, I passed the old Methodist Church. It's a historic place. Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the funeral of Willaim Brockman Bankhead. He was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Harry Truman also attended the funeral. 

It's a beautiful old church. As I drove up the street today, I looked over and the clouds behind the church were stunning. No one was behind me so when I stopped at the stop sign, I rolled down the window and snapped a picture.

I'm out of steam tonight so this is the best I have to offer.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A gift that keeps on giving

The temps were in the upper 90s today. This afternoon when I walked out to take the garbage to the road for pickup in the morning, the potted plants on the deck looked sad. It's not from lack of water, because we keep them moist, but it's the heat.

We've had the plant below ever since we've been married. Jilda's grandmother Mammie gave it to her. We've cared for this plant through the years like a frail baby.

Each spring we hold our breaths until it starts poking it tiny tendrils out. It's the last plant to put on blooms, but it also blooms until frost.

It's a gift that keeps on giving.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Cracked

I had therapy early this morning so I was out after coffee. When I crested one of the Appalachian toes. I noticed the pastoral scene toward the west. No other commuters were behind me, so I stopped, rolled down my window and snapped a few frames. 

My camera would have rendered the scene more dramatically, but all I had with me was my phone.

After therapy, I headed to Birmingham. In a weird synchronistic sequence, Jilda dropped her phone earlier in the week and cracked the screen. I dropped my yesterday. You might have guessed, it cracked my screen. I had the foresight to buy insurance when I purchased the phones so getting them repaired was not nearly as bad had we had to pay the entire charge out of our pocket. 

A bonus is that while the technicians replaced our screens, I sat in a Starbucks and wrote my column for Sunday. You guessed it. It's about our phones.

I hope your Wednesday has been a good one.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

It gives me hope

Even when it's hot in September and people living here in the "hot country" feel that cooler weather may never come, Mother Nature knows that it will be autumn soon. She's confident. And to give us hope, she sends signs.

My walking wings are still clipped. I won't be able to up my exercise level for another week. Right now, I'm walking the maximum allowed number of steps just doing the things I have to do in my job and the chores I do around the house.

But Jilda gives me a report each day. She put a beautiful picture out on Instagram yesterday.

I had to go back into my archives and find one from September of last year. It gives me hope.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Stay safe in the storm ~ my column from Sunday's paper

As I write these words, Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Southeast coast. Florence looks like a beast. I read that some people plan to stay and ride out the storm. I’m concerned for their safety. We here in Alabama know firsthand about the wrath that storms can bring. 

The first major storm that I remember growing up was Camille. It hit Gulfport, Mississippi, in Aug. 17, 1969. Jilda and I had been dating for about a year. She was vacationing with her family at Laguna Beach, Florida when the storm passed. Laguna Beach wasn’t hit directly by the storm but the weather there was brutal, she remembers. 

Authorities urged residents of Biloxi and other coastal towns to evacuate. Many did, but I read stories about people who stayed in hotels having hurricane parties. This turned out to be a tragic mistake.  When the 24-foot storm surge inundated the area, the death toll surged to 259 people.

I was working in Birmingham at a plant that manufactured bottle caps for Coca-Cola and other beverages. We had an order for a million caps from a bottling company in Gulfport. By the time the wind and storm surge subsided, there was no bottling plant. We wound up tossing a million bottle caps in the dumpster. 

Storms of this magnitude come into the Gulf of Mexico every now and then. It's always a mess. The effects are far-reaching. Many who think they are hurricane safe learn too late just how vulnerable they are.

 Here in Walker County, we are 300 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. When Hurricane Opal came made landfall in 1995, it left a path of destruction through Alabama and northward.


I remember watching the weather that evening until it was time to go to bed. Sometime during the night, the eye of the storm passed over us here in Empire. It still had hurricane force wind gusts. We felt the low pressure in our chests as it came through. We lost power that night, and more trees than I would have thought possible from that storm. It blew the top of the massive sweet gum tree in our backyard onto the roof of our house.

When looking at images of hurricanes at sea from satellites in space, it’s hard to get a feel for the size of the storm. Once they move over land, the clouds often cover entire states. 

Hurricane Florence looks as if it would cover all of South Carolina and Georgia. The jury is still out for what category it will be when it makes landfall somewhere on the Southeastern coast, but it could leave millions of people in the dark. 

Convoys of Alabama Power trucks are headed to that area to help with restoring power when the wind stops blowing. I also read that the Talladega Speedway opened up its vast facility to people fleeing the storm from the Carolinas. They are providing hot shower and restroom facilities, in addition to water hookups for campers and RVs.

I just hope everyone played it safe and headed for higher ground.



Sunday, September 16, 2018

Wind chimes

We have wind chimes on our back deck and on the screen porch. Some of them are cheap ones we've picked up at yard sales and discount stores. All of them appealed to us on some level.

But we also have a few that are exquisite. There is one set that has tubes that are almost four feet tall. When the wind blows through the cheaper wind chimes they tinkle, twist, and sparkle. But we have one set that is tuned which means when the wind blows through it, the sound is deep and melodic.

This picture is from 2011. Ol' Buddy was out back fussing about something and I stepped outside to check. The sun was setting in the west. Shafts of light found their way through the pines and lit up the wind chimes on the back deck.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Showing out

Even though it is hotter than Lucifer's hibachi right now, there are signs of autumn. The docs still don't want me walking like I did before my surgery so I'm having to pace myself so as not to do damage to my knee. Restraint is hard for me.

I shot this picture a couple years ago. It was September and I was near the spillway where I flyfish. The locks were on and the river was rushing below. This young poplar tree was showing out at the water's edge. I thought the contrast in color was striking so I snapped a few frames. I'm glad I did.

Y'all stay cool.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Nature's fruit

Walking around the barn a few days ago, I noticed that muscadines are ready to pick. These are wild grapes native to this area. There are wild green grapes as well but they are called scuppernongs. My grandmother called them muskydimes and skuppynines.  So naturally, that's what I've called them all my life.

Back when I was a kid, people used to make wine using these grapes. I'm sure they still do, but I don't see it as much now as when I was a kid.

I tried my hand at it as well when I was about ten. I think what I ended up with was grape juice because I drank a quart and didn't get a buzz. My friends told me that a couple of sips would make me loosy-goosy. So, I was disappointed.

Not a lot going on here in Empire. The heat index is a 102 right now. Earlier, I sat on the back steps for about 15 minutes to get my daily quota of vitamin D. By the time I stepped back inside, I was dripping sweat. I know the cooler weather will come here someday. 

Y'all have a great weekend.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Slow down when it rains

I had a city council meeting to cover tonight. As I was leaving a 6 p.m., I heard thunder in the distance. The sky was cloudy and it would have been too dark to walk had our security lights not been on.

No more than a mile from the house, rain began splattering on my windshield. Not enough to swish, but enough to see that I was headed into more.

A bit further and a gentle rain began to fall. The thing about "a little" rain around here is that it mixes with the grunge on the asphalt and turns the roads into a sheet of ice. Most people know that and slow down. But some people don't.

I came across one of the latter before I reached my destination. A woman was going to fast when the light changed to red. She slid through the intersection and hit a Walker County Sherriff. Talk about bad timing.

I sent the police chief a text and asked if anyone was badly hurt. He returned my text saying that everyone was OK.

I'm guessing no one will have to tell her in the future to slow down when it's raining.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Higher ground

I feel for those people living by the shore on the southern east coast. Hurricane Florence looks like a beast. Storms of this magnitude come into the Gulf of Mexico. It's always a mess.

Jilda and I live 300 miles inland and when Hurricane Opal came made landfall in 1995, it left a path of destruction.

It was after we'd gone to bed for the night, the eye of the storm passed over us here. We felt the low pressure in our chest as it came through. We lost trees and power from the winds from that storm.

So, whenever there is a storm warning here we don't take it lightly.

Convoys of Alabama Power Trucks are headed to that area to help with restoring power when the wind stops blowing. I just hope everyone heads for higher ground tonight.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11

I've seen a lot of tributes to 9/11 today. Even though it's been 17 years ago, I still remember where I was, what I was doing, and the clothes I was wearing. If I close my eyes, I can still taste the corporate coffee I was drinking.

I'm not sure I can add anything significant here, but one of the tributes from a few years ago resurfaced today was a slideshow with incredible pictures. The heavy metal band Destructive sang the Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Sound of Silence." The tribute brought tears to my eyes.

This morning, after I watch the slideshow, I took my mug of coffee to the back deck and sat for a while. The song reminded me of something about 9/11 that I had forgotten. The sound of silence.

Even living in a rural area, I can look up at the sky any time day or night and within a minute or so, I will see a plane overhead. When I got home on 9/11/01 I walked out on our deck and the silence was deafening. No matter how hard I looked at the sky, there were no planes, no contrails, or no whispering sound of an aircraft full of people flying into the sunset. Only silence.

That day changed us all forever.


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