Tuesday, July 17, 2018

As I get older

I came across a photo op yesterday. A poison ivy leaf had fallen onto a bed of moss in the barnyard.
The recent rains had turned the dull green moss into little pieces of velvet carpet under the oak and hickory.

The poison ivy leads the pack in color. They start mid-summer with a few leaves get a headstart turning crimson before the others follow in September and October.  

Mother Nature's ebb and flow are easy to overlook.  It wasn't until my 5th decade that I began to notice things that had long escaped me. 

I'm looking forward to this improving insight as I get older.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fly Fishing Fever ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I caught a bug when I was in Telluride, Colorado several years ago. It’s rarely fatal, but I’ve found it’s incurable. Professionals call it “fly fishing fever.” 
Jilda and I were surprised when our friend Wes and his wife Deidra asked us to spend the first week of July in the Mountains. But it was hotter than Satan’s sauna here in Empire, and we both feared that if we didn’t get away, we’d melt like a candle on asphalt in August. 
So, when our friend offered us free room and board for a week, we jumped at the chance. I wasn’t sure what to pack for the trip, but I put long-sleeved shirts, and blue jeans in my bag. 
Soon, we were winging our way over Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Kansas before touching down in Denver. From there we took a crop duster to Durango, Co and a shuttle picked us up at the airport and drove us the last few hours to the resort.
The mountain air was thin but much cooler. It made me feel taller. 
Our friends had several things on the agenda for the week. The next day was the 4th of July. We ate ourselves silly, watched a parade, and that evening we went to a fireworks show in the park. 
Watching the fireworks explode against a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains is a sight I will never forget. While standing there in the park, it started snowing. It was only a few flurries, but enough for me to catch flakes on my tongue. 
The next morning, Jilda, Deidra, and their girls headed to the spa while Wes and I headed for the water. He’d hired a local fly-fishing guide to take us fishing. It was cool that morning. We stood on the
water’s edge listening to the guide’s safety briefing. My breath came out in clouds. As I looked around at the water, and the mountains in the distance, I thought to myself, “I could get used to this.”
I thought I knew how to use a flyrod, but I spent the first half hour untangling my line and fetching flies from nearby bushes. 
There’s an art to casting a lure which weighs less than a sneeze. It took a while to get the hang of it, but I soon fell into the rhythm. After a few hours, I could put a fly almost anywhere I wanted in the range of my fly line. 
The fish were a little slow to come to the fly, but as I’ve said before, fly fishing is not about the fish. I got several strikes, but my timing was wrong when I tried setting the tiny hook. I learned that there’s an art to that too. 
We ate a sack lunch as we changed locations. Coming to an old farm, we parked near a pond fed by a cold mountain stream. The first cast, I caught a rainbow trout. It wasn’t a big fish, but in retrospect, I realize that’s where I caught the “fly fishing fever.” 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sadness at the Forks

 I took this picture on June 9. As always, I pulled in one evening after I finished an interview in Birmingham. The guys were sitting there shooting the bull with fishermen as they came into the loading ramp after a day of fishing.

I sat with them for a long while watching the water. The mallards that took up residence here squawked around looking for bits of food or bait discarded by the incoming boats. Even with the distant drone of outboard motors heading in, it's peaceful at the Forks.

When I left I told them I wanted to interview each of them the next time I came down for a story. As always I got some serious responses and a boatload of grief :) I love those guys.

Then one day last week, Jilda was reading the obits and exclaimed Kenneth Suchey died! I had her read it again and then read it for myself. It was true. One of my buddies at the Fork had died.

When I talked to Leo, who is the unofficial mayor, he told me the story. He said that Kenneth started having problems breathing a few weeks. ago.  He went to the doctor and learned that he had lung cancer. One week later, he died.

I'd known Kenneth for most of my life. I saw him pitch in a semi-professional baseball game when I was in junior high school. It was a playoff game. That night the batters could not have hit his pitches had they used a boat paddle. He was in the zone.

He was a kind-hearted man who was quick to smile and slow to anger.

I haven't had the heart to stop at the Forks in the evening since.

Kenneth is second from the right in the picture below. He will be missed.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Kayak race

I was out early this morning. The Sipsey Heritage Commission held their 2nd Annual Kayak on the Sipsey race. I told the editor I don't normally work on Saturdays, but this is my place.

A few hundred feet north of where I took this picture is where I fly fish. The river winds 12 miles through unmolested land.

When I arrived, I took pictures of the kayakers getting ready for the race. There was a VW bus there that had been converted into a camper. Apparently, at least one boater didn't want to be late.

I shot about 50 pictures for the paper. I think they are putting together a picture page for tomorrow but I'm not sure. I'll know along with everyone else when I open my paper as I sip coffee.

The winner stood and used the kayak as a paddleboard. He shot out from under the bridge, which was the starting point, and he never looked back. He did 12 miles in about an hour and 45 minutes. This wasn't his first kayak rodeo.

The temps were sweltering, but the water was 52 degrees. Standing next to it felt as if I were standing in front of an air conditioner.

Below is a photograph I shot from the bridge over the water.  It was a beautiful thing to behold.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Somewhere where it's cooler

It was hot enough to bake a biscuit in the dash pocket of my truck today. Jilda works at a place where they have people coming in from other parts of the country. When these visitors come in the spring or autumn, they fall in love with the area. 

The ones that stay until July and August usually say, "How the hell can you people live here??????"

We take it one day at a time. We exercise early before the sun comes up and we take it easy when the temp spikes after lunch.

Tonight as I was looking for a picture to post, I came across this one that Jilda took of me a few years ago when we were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in October. 

The first day the sun was out and we woke up the next day to snow. I would never wish my life away, but looking at this picture makes me think we should summer somewhere where it's cooler.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lunar Eclipse

There's a lunar eclipse in our future. Some folks are non-chalant about this, but Jilda and I celebrate celestual events.

We prepared for the last solar eclipse weeks in advance. We bought special glasses and had an eclipse celebration. Our great nephew Jordan was here to experience it with us.

We've instilled the excitement of these events in him and he's excited about the upcoming eclipse too.

I now have a much better camera than I had the last time so I hope to capture some pictures to share.

If you live in much of Europe, much of Asia, Australia, Africa, South in North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and Antarctica could see at least part of the eclipse.

I think we'll crank up the firepit and do s'mores while we enjoy the show. Do they make lunar eclipse glasses?

This is not an eclipse but it's the only picture I'd taken that I  could find of a full moon. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A place of honor

Ol' Hook has made every step I've made today. I'm not sure why some days he doesn't want to be in the same zip code and other days he wants on my lap. All 90 pounds of him. Today he's been a lap dog.

I hauled my computer bag out to the screen porch after coffee. Actually, I took my last cup with me as I wrote my column for Sunday's paper. Hook had been snoozing on his bed by the front windows, but when he realized I was no longer on the couch, he came in pursuit.

The door was closed to keep the bought air from escaping, but he started barking for me to let him out. He is persistant. I could ignore him for a while, but I've learned that he will not stop.

The ceiling fan silently whurred overhead, which made it comfortable for me, but it was warm for him. He found a spot and laid down.

I stood up and stretched when I finished the column. He must have sensed the movement because he stood, stretched, and sat down leaning against my leg. His behavior reminded me of Ol' Buddy.

If you've followed my blog for a while, I've written about Ol' Buddy before. He was my sidekick for years before developing cancer. Once afflicted, he lasted less than a month. It broke my heart when I lost him. I have this picture of him in my office.

One day, Ol' Hook will hold a place of honor in my office too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fell in my lap

Driving home this week I saw a painted rock that I've seen at least a hundred times. The first time I noticed it I thought it was a cool thing to do with a rock. Then I didn't think about it, but it made me turn my head as I drove by. 

Finally, the feature writer that was sleeping in my brain woke up. I'd been to the only store in Empire for lawnmower gas. When I drove by the rock, I thought to myself, "I wonder what the story is there?" 

When I got home, I mentioned it to Jilda. She said, "You know his daughters, send one of them a note and ask if her dad would mind me shooting a picture of the rock.

I sent the note and within five minutes she'd responded. "He said he'd love to talk to you about the rock. He said if you're not busy, to come now." 

I grabbed my camera and hopped in the truck. My intention was to get a picture and enough information for a cutline for the picture. I wound up talking to the gentleman over an hour. I think it will be a remarkable story.

I won't say much more until the story is published but I will post this one once it runs.

Until then, I'm posting a picture of one of our sunflowers from a few years ago. The ones we planted this year have not bloomed yet, but they are on the cusp.

Monday, July 09, 2018

A fun Fourth ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had some of our nieces and nephews over this week to celebrate Uncle Sam’s birthday. We don’t do midday heat very well, so we asked our guests to come later in the day when our house and yard are in full shade. After a meal of ribs, potato salad, and baked beans we retired to the back deck where we spent a few hours watching the kids. It’s one of my favorite past times. 
Most of our nieces and nephews live in subdivisions. Their yards are beautiful and suit their houses, but they aren’t designed for a yard full of kids playing the old games. We have enough room here at our house for them to stretch their legs.
I’m not sure who taught them how to play freeze tag, red-light/green-light and kick the can, but they played these games in our yard. It’s funny because these are the games we played when I was a kid. We didn’t have phones, iPads, or other electronic games. The most high-tech toy I owned was a bicycle. 
Every few minutes, one of the kids would run to the porch to get their moms to brush grass off their legs and backs. While the mamas brushed, the kids tanked up on lemonade or juice boxes.  Now and then we had to doctor them up with Bactine and Band-Aids before sending them back into the game. As they say, “Fun ain’t cheap.”
I thought to myself, these kids will sleep good tonight. 
Someone snapped a picture of me sitting there leaning against a deck rail. When I saw the picture, it reminded me of my mother. She lived for holidays. Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day were special to her. The weather was usually warm, and the kids could play outside instead of being underfoot. 
One Fourth of July before her health declined, she played touch football in her front yard. Her grandkids and a crew of neighborhood kids ran over to join the fun. Even in her early 70s, she wasn’t a bad wide receiver, and none of them could trash talk better than her. She’d taunt the opposition with things like, “You get in my way, and I’ll call your mother you little squirt.” They usually gave her a lot of room. 
All these things came to mind when I saw the picture of me on the deck. Now that I’m older, pictures are like time machines to me.
At dusk, our niece Samantha pulled a bushel of sparklers from a plastic bag. She began lighting the sparklers and passing them out. Soon our backyard was filled with what looked like fizzing lightning bugs. After those were gone, she pulled out a larger bag of multicolored sparklers. The kids ran around the yard leaving trails of rainbow smoke behind them. 
Our nephew Haven provided the fireworks finale. His were the colorful aerial fireworks. 
After the smoke cleared, the kids came in and tanked up on ice cream and pound cake that was fresh out of the oven.  
It was a fun “Fourth” for Jilda and me. I know my mother would have loved it.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Hope for a happy ending

Jilda's sister Nell called yesterday to talk for a moment. During the conversation, she told Jilda that someone had dumped a mama dog and three puppies near her barn.

She has her hands full now with her husband and daughter. Both of them have health issues. Also, her sister has a small farm and she spends a lot of time tending her critters. She cannot have any more critters just now. She told us she was going to take them to the local shelter.

Often when dogs and cats go there, things don't end well for them. If no one adopts them within a few days, they are euthanized to make room for other critters that people bring in daily.

I told Jilda to tell her that I'd take a picture of them and see if we could find them homes with some of our Facebook friends.

I took the picture below. It was hard holding all three of them so we settled for two. I put the picture on Facebook with a brief note. The post was shared a dozen times within a few minutes. I've had three people send me private messages so far asking for my sister-in-law's number. 

I have my fingers crossed that things end well for these little guys.

Saturday, July 07, 2018


It's rainy here. Sometimes in summer, it gets hot and dry. But there are times, like now, it's hot and rainy. The sun comes out warm and by lunchtime, the heat chases everyone inside except those poor souls who have to venture out. Then the rain comes. 

This evening as we drove home from a Birmingham gig at a retirement village, we could see storm clouds to the west. Our house is west of Birmingham, so we called Jilda's brother to get a first-hand forecast here at our house. He said the sun was out, but he could hear thunder in the distance.

By the time we got home and unloaded our equipment, we started hearing fat drops of rain falling on the metal roof. Soon the bottom fell out.

The tomatoes love hot and rainy weather. We have green tomatoes as big as my fist on the plants in the planters at the edge of our deck.

Another species that loves this kind of weather is mushrooms. I've seen hundreds of mushrooms when we walk each day. This morning as we walked, I saw one almost as big as a soccer ball. 

Tonight will be an early night here at the Watson's. I hope your Saturday has been a good one.

Friday, July 06, 2018


Ok, I'll admit it. I'm a little envious of our friends Wes and Deidra. Seven years ago they invited us to vacation with them in Telluride, Colorado. They had a condo with several bedrooms. Both their daughters were too young to date then. We all had bedrooms with private baths.

The altitude took some getting used to. The thin air caused Jilda did pass out once as she was coming back from the bathroom one evening and she whacked her head on a wall. She was a little embarrassed, but she wasn't hurt. But the town was incredible. We fell in love with that place.

Well, both their kids had the audacity to grow up and get married. This year, THEY All went to Telluride and apparently our invitations were lost in the mail or in cyberspace (this should be read with dripping sarcasm.) We're miffed :) Well, not really miffed, but we are envious.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Fly fishing fever

I spent much of the day writing. My column was due yesterday, but the office was closed for the holiday. Wednesday is a self-imposed deadline. The editor won't start pasting up Sunday's Lifestyle page until Friday evening or Saturday morning. But it's easy to fall into bad habits.

I did walk early this morning, but by the end of the second lap, my pores were seeping. Jilda walked the third lap, but I went inside to hydrate and to start writing.

By this evening at 4 p.m., I'd written the column and two features. I am officially "caught up." At least for the moment.

One drawback of slamming words is that I didn't get a chance to shoot any pictures. Looking back through my archives, I found a picture from seven years ago. It's a picture of me fly fishing in Telluride, Colorado. That was a beautiful trip. I didn't catch that many fish, but I caught a bug. It's not fatal, but it's incurable. It's the fly fishing fever. This week I have it bad.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Happy 4th of JulyMy

Jilda baked ribs, with potato salad, and baked beans this evening for the kids. After we ate, the kids went out back and played with sparklers. When it got dark, my nephew Haven shot a few of the bigger, booming fireworks. The dogs are not fans of fireworks, so Jilda and I stayed inside and comforted them until the show was over.

I hope you all had a delightful day.

Our great niece Joy sharing the joy of the day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

A beautiful sight to behold

Walking down our barn road in summer is like walking through a tunnel. A canopy of sweet gum, oak, hickory casts the old red rock road in shadow. A strong-willed sun will weave a ray through the branches and leaves to shine on a subject like a stage light.

Yesterday, as Jilda and I on our early walk almost needed a flashlight as we traversed the road from the barn to the mailbox. Then about halfway home, I saw moss on a log. The sunlight made the emerald green sheen on the fallen log, vibrate with color. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Welcome to July ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I shoed up early this morning to walk before the temperature and humidity made it possible to boil an egg in my pocket. A tender breeze out of the west felt good on my face. From somewhere down in the hollow, I heard an owl hooting. I usually hear Mr. Hootie at dusk, but we often hear and see some interesting things each time we walk.

I’d planned to rent a Bobcat and clear another walking path on our new property, but this year it went from winter to August, and my motivation for the new path dropped dramatically. Maybe we can do it in the fall.

On the last lap of today’s walk, I saw something in the front yard that caught my attention. Stepping closer to get a better look, I saw that it was a tiny bird’s nest. Not just any nest, but a hummingbird’s nest. I looked up into the water oak to see where it came from, but it was impossible to tell. 

There were no tiny eggshells lying around. It was hard to tell if the nest had been knocked
out of the tree by a rowdy squirrel, or if had blown out during a recent thunderstorm. I hope the babies hatched and headed for the zinnias in the backyard, but it’s hard to say.

Leaning over, I picked up the nest for a closer look. It was not much bigger than a silver dollar. Woven from lichen and pine needles that weren’t much thicker than thread, I could hold the little nest in the palm of my hand. The construction was sound and the little nest was not as fragile as I had imagined. I put it on the screen porch so that I can show it to my great nephew Jordan when he comes over.

I had only seen a hummingbird nest up close one other time in my life. It was many years ago while Jilda and I were visiting our friends Tom and Judy at their place on the Warrior River. It was springtime.

The day was warm, and everyone wore swimsuits with towels draped over our shoulders. We were going for a boat ride. Judy pulled us aside and whispered as if she were sharing a secret. “I only show this to our special friends,” she said. Near the edge of their boat dock was a privet bush overhanging the water. She leaned over and gently pulled one of the small limbs down enough for Jilda and me to see the hummingbird nest. Inside were three eggs that were not much bigger than an English pea. 

Wrapping my mind around the teeny creatures inside was hard. I shook my head in wonder as Judy gently guided the limb back into place. That was before my phone had a camera, so I missed that picture. But I can close my eyes and with a little prompting, see myself standing on tiptoes in the warm sun on that dock and see those tiny eggs for the first time. 

I know I sometimes whine about the heat and humidity. It’s during these times I dream of summering in the mountains of Colorado or Montana, but I’d miss the things I see around here on our daily walks.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

A good day

The year is half over. It hasn't sunk in yet, but I flipped the page on my day planner to July 1, so I know it's true. Also, in looking back at my last few posts, it seems I've been whining about the weather.  Note to self – stop complaining you big whiney baby!!!

This evening I saw my niece Samantha walking up the hill toward our house. Her son Jordan came. He's in training for a triathlon. He's on a team with two of his older cousins. He kicks it off with a two-mile run. His cousin Breeze has the swim piece of the match, and his older cousin Stone will finish off with the final two-mile run. 

He ran this evening. I couldn't have jogged to the barn, but he ran from our back gate around the barn and back seven times and didn't break a sweat. I wanted to smack him. 

Jilda fetched him a cooling towel and some water, but he didn't need it. The swim team has him in excellent condition. 

While Jilda and I sat on the deck and watch, a beautiful butterfly lit on the banister. Apparently, she wanted to watch Jordan run too.  I didn/t have my new camera, but I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a quick shot before he flitted away.

Today had been a good day.

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