Saturday, December 31, 2005

I Miss My Dad

I have a plant in my office at work that I’ve had since May of 1986. I remember the date I got it because the people with whom I work sent it when my Dad died. It was a small green Fichus plant but now almost twenty years later; it is over 8 feet tall. I’m afraid to bring it home because there are pulp wood cutters that live in our neighborhood and I fear that they might break into our house to harvest the Fichus.
I miss my Dad….As I sit here alone in my office at home working, there are squirrel’s outside doing an acrobatic circus act just for me. Dad loved the outdoors. He spent every possible moment outside fishing, hunting, or simply hiking. Catching fish or “getting a buck” really was not that important to him because being outside communing with nature is where he found peace.
He could read, but with only a 5th grade education, he never acquired a love of books, and traveling was rarely an option unless it was work related so he spent his spare time on the Warrior River, or in the Sipsey Wilderness, or up on Smith Lake. Later in life, he had the opportunity to buy a small lot on the Warrior where he built a cabin. Our family spent many enjoyable weekends there. He taught me to water ski and to handle a boat and how to fly fish.
Before he died, he gave me his fly fishing rod and reel. I kept them in the barn until this past summer. For some reason I got fed up with technology so I got out the fly fishing gear, cleaned and oiled the reel and put on new state of the art fishing line. The spillway just below Smith Dam is only about fifteen minutes from my house so Buddy (my fearless K9) and I went there to wet a line. The water coming out of Smith Lake is cold as an iceberg but in August, it felt great to be standing there waist deep in crystal clear water. I promptly feel on my butt on a slick rock and soaked my old digital camera, my cell phone, my pager and my watch. Oh well, every day’s a school day. I laid the stuff on a rock to dry in the warm sunshine. I heard some old timers just down stream in a boat chuckle at my mishap, but I didn’t care. It was almost as if my father was there with me….he would have said “don’t mind them every fisherman worth his salt has busted his ass on a slick rock.” I smiled at the thought and waded further into the water.
As I fell into the rhythm of casting the weightless fly, time seemed to stand still. I looked up and saw a great blue heron glided effortlessly down the stream and all was good with the world. I didn’t catch any trout, but that didn’t matter to me because for those few hours out casting in that stream made me feel close to nature.....and closer to my Dad.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I Miss My Hair

My hair started thinning several years ago and I could have invested in spray paint for the noggin or utilized the amazing comb-over technique where you grow the hair just above your left ear to a foot in length and then combing it over the bald spot and pray for a windless day. Instead I invested in an electric hair trimmer and I keep the thin part shaved. The only time I really miss my hair is on cold days and when I run into people that have not seen me since high school. On cold days, if I don't put on a hat, I stay cold. When I run into old friends, they never recognize me unless I'm with my wife Jilda. I could be an assassin. I can almost hear them say: "I'm not sure officer; I'd never seen him before....he was bald with a beard and looked like one of those guys from the Taliban or perhaps from West Virginia." If I were an assassin, the ones I'd take out are the guys from high school that still have all their hair and haven't gained any weight. At high school reunions they come up to you and say "Oh, I almost didn't recognize you still live around here?" They don't deserve to live. OK, you know I'm just kidding.Actually, not having hair to fuss with saves a lot of time. I can jump out of the shower and I'm ready to go in a matter of minutes. No muss, no fuss. Towel off the head, throw on some jeans and a tee shirt and your on the road again. It's all in how you look at things. You could choose to be self conscience about your hair, make yourself miserable, and avoid reunions but where's the fun in that? So what if no one recognizes you? You could always be a hit man in your spare time.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Paying Attention

I take a lot of stuff for granted.  Sitting at my desk this morning at 5 a.m. trying to think of something to write about, my attention drifted to the antique lamp on my desk.  It’s been sitting there forever but I’ve never really looked at it….not really looked at it.  It’s a white ceramic lamp with a brass base and what appears to be hand painted pink, soft blue and yellow flowers.  The base needs polishing and the shade could use a good dusting, but the lamp is really quite beautiful.  There is also a hand carved wooden box with what appears to be a small crystal ball as a handle.  How long did it take someone to carve this little box?  When I opened it up, there were a few coins, a guitar pick, old artist passes to City Stages and a small photograph of a kid that I don’t recognize.  How long have I been sleeping?  Where did all this stuff come from?
I’m reading some books on how to become a better writer and one of the assignments is to observer what’s around you. In doing this exercise, it feels almost as if I have been living in a fog. It occurred to me that I’ve got to do a better job if I ever hope to be a decent writer.
I just read Crusader’s Cross by James Lee Burke and his descriptions of the scenes and the people are incredible.  He describes the way things look, the smell, the sounds and tastes.  Whenever Burke describes a scene, you feel as if you are there. James Lee would know where my lamp came from and he would know what kind of wood my box was carved from, who carved it and what kind of knife he used.  He would also know the name of the printer that printed the City Stages passes.  
So here goes the awakened writer; a circle of incandescent light cast by the hand-painted antique ceramic and brass lamp cast a soft glow over the sparsely furnished oak desk.  In the circle of light was a small cedar box hand carved forty years ago by an introspective Tibetan Monk with a bone handled carving knife that was as sharp as a barber’s razor. The box was filled with souvenirs from a life unnoticed.
OK, maybe that was a little overboard, but I’m going to pay closer attention to things, that’s for sure.
More on this later.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Learning Guitar

It was the summer of 1965 and I was 14 years old. My neighbors had kinfolk visiting from Chicago. Among the crew that made the journey south were two teenage guys, Joe and Allen and both played guitar. They had Fender Telecasters with Fender Amps and what they lacked in skill, they made up for with volume. The thing I noticed right away was how the girls in the community watched them.
I was hooked. Joe and Allen were actually very cool. They let me strum on the Telecaster and even showed me a few chords. As I stood there on the front porch of that row house in that tiny mining community in rural Walker County, I made up my mind that I would play guitar.
I started the campaign immediately. I badgered my mother unmercifully. I whined, cajoled, gave her the silent treatment but she wouldn’t budge. There simply was no money in the budget for a guitar. Case Closed.
Not having a guitar of my own was made worse by the fact that both of my cousins who lived nearby got guitars for Christmas the year before and they never played them.
My friend Donnie Pinion asked me to go camping down at the Backwater which was a slough (pronounced Slew) that back up off the Warrior River below Dora. It was late in June and the days were warm and at night, skeeters big as bats swarmed like buzzards on road kill. You also had to watch out for Cottonmouth Moccasins that made their home in the warm shallow river water.
I met Donnie down there late that afternoon and we set out trotlines and baited them with night crawlers and crawfish. We were hoping to catch some big ol' honkin' catfish for supper.
We built a fire at dusk and he pulled his old flat top guitar out of his truck and we sat around the fire, and he played them old country songs. I asked Donnie if he would teach me how to play. Unlike the guys from up north, Donnie had a lot of patience and he showed me the chords over and over until I could crudely make them. He taught me “Green, Green Grass of Home.” I was fascinated by the sounds coming from that old cheap guitar.

I went home after a few days on the riverbank and I borrowed my cousin’s guitar for a few days and I practiced what Donnie had taught me.
The next Christmas, I asked my mom and dad for a guitar, but things had not improved that much for our family and I had little hope of getting one, but I did what the Bible told me to do and I asked. On Christmas Eve after I opened my presents which were school clothes and a box of shotgun shells, my mom brought out a large box. My spirits lifted dramatically. When I opened the box, I found inside a Tesco DelRey electric guitar from Sears and Roebuck. Looking back I realize that the guitar was not expensive as guitars go, but my mom had ironed many, many shirts to buy it for me and I was truly grateful.
For the next six weeks I played it every waking moment and promptly made poor grades in school. Punishment was quick and harsh. No guitar until the grades come up. I would have preferred a whipping with a rose bush but my mom was smart. That was the longest six weeks of my life (except for the Army).
I brought my grades up and was allowed to play the guitar but I never made the mistake of making bad grades again.
I learned to play the guitar and I am actually pretty good. I had the good fortune to marry a woman that loved music as much as me. We started playing together soon after we met and we continue to play today. Playing guitar is one thing I learned that has given me the opportunity to do things I would never have gotten to do.We have played all over this country as well as in Ireland. We have met remarkable people and we always get invited to fun parties…”by the way, y’all bring the guitar,” they always say.
Although I started playing young, it’s never too late to get started. I have taught people in their 50 to play. All it takes is a burning desire, a guitar and time each day to practice. If you’ve ever wanted to play, why not make it a New Year’s Resolution. I promise you will not regret it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What Do You Want To Do

This time of year always finds me looking back to see what I did right the past year, what I could have done better and what I didn’t do that I should have done.
This past year has had its challenges, but there were many good things that happened as well.  It’s easy to forget the good things and remember only the bad, but I keep a private journal and looking back through the entries for 2005 some very interesting things happened.  I made new friends and I renewed old friendships that I had neglected.  While I made progress in some areas of my life, I let other areas slide.  It’s a matter of focus.
This coming year there are a number of areas of my life on which I intend to focus.  My health is good, but I have let my waistline slowly expand. This year I had a goal to “improve my health by exercising more and eating/drinking less”.  It’s a great goal, but not very specific. In order for a goal to be effective, you have to be very specific and place a time by which you intend to see improvement.  I currently weight 215 pounds so my goal for the New Year is:To improve my health by losing from 215 pounds to 195 pounds.  I will do this by reducing my caloric intake and increasing my activity level so that I drop about a pound a week.  I didn’t gain the weight in three weeks so it will take a while to knock it off.
In order for goals to be effective, they must be specific, they must have a time associated with them and they must be measurable so that you know if you are making progress.
I have also been saying for years that I am going to write a book.  You can say you’re going to write a book until you are blue in the face, but until you schedule time, sit down, draw an outline, sketch out the characters, and begin to write, the book will never come to pass. This blog has helped tremendously. It takes discipline to write daily, to play guitar, to sing, to get you real estate license, or to become a nurse.  Anything worthwhile in life requires that you trade your life force in order to make it happen.
It all comes down to wanting to do something in life.  You can go with the flow and get by fine, but at the end of your life, how will you be remembered?  As someone who “got by just fine,” or “someone that did something remarkable”?
I believe that we all are blessed with creativity, talents, and abilities that enable us to do things.  The question is, what do you want to do?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Getting Ready for the New Year

I've always enjoyed the week before New Year. I have done goals for as long as I remember. I don't really do resolutions, but I do take the time to refocus on the coming year and think about the things I want to accomplish. In life, there are many things to do and if you don't have goals and priorities, the things you do will fill up the time you have. As Jim Rohn says, "most people spend major time on minor things." What I think he means is that people fill up their lives chasing after things that won't make them happy, or move them any closer to their goals. I've heard people proudly say "I don't have goals." I could never be proud of the fact that I don't have goals. Not having goals is like cruising on a ship without a rudder. You'll end up somewhere, but it might not be where you want to go. Major time on minor things.....many self-help coaches feel that only a few areas in your life make the most difference. Your health - without your health, you cannot enjoy the bounties of life. You can have all the money in the world but if you are sick, you cannot enjoy it. Relationships - again, you can be very successful, but if you have a poor relationship with your family, your friends, God or the community, there will be something missing in your life. Finances - Money is not everything, but if you have enough money you can enjoy the finer things that life has to offer. Having money is not at the top of my list, but it's on my list. Education - Every day is a school day. Many people feel that when they walk out of high school with their diploma that their "learnin' days are over." I'm here to tell you that my education started when I left school. I read a short article in Science of Mind which is a magazine on spirituality and life, but it talks about "Going to the Movies" each morning. The author said that he started in college writing scripts for movies that he constantly played in his mind. At first his movies were of him walking out of class with a perfect score on his Calculus test. Then the movies involved other goals and activities that he wanted to get done....finding the perfect mate, landing a great job, building a dream home etc. He says that the outcome is not instantaneous but for the most part, all his movies have come to fruition. So this week, I'm working on my own movie scripts. I hope you go to the movies this next year too.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mrs. McMichen an Extraordinary Teacher

Mrs. McMichen was an English teacher at Dora High School for many years. The impact she had on students who passed through those halls was remarkable. Many have told me that once they completed her classes that English 101 in college was a breeze. I wouldn’t know because I dodged Mrs. McMichen. I went to summer school one year so that I could graduate from high school a year early and one of the classes I took was senior English. It was by design. Everyone had told me that she was a bear in class and since I was loading up to get out early, I didn’t want to fail English. That was one of those life choices I lived to regret. I have struggled with English all my life. I failed freshman English in college once. I dropped out failing a second time and only on the third attempt did I squeak by. To further drive home the error, I decided later in life that I actually loved writing and what I didn’t know did hurt me.
The sad part for me is that I’ve always loved Mrs. McMichen. Her mother and father lived across the road from my family in West Pratt and they were the neatest people. I often went across the road in the summertime and sat on the porch and drank lemonade with Mr. and Mrs. Galloway. The house was always white as a church and the floors had a fresh coat of grey paint. The hedges were always trimmed to perfection and their yard looked like it was kept by the grounds keeper at Augusta Country Club.
Later when I got old enough to drive, I cut grass for people in the area. One of my clients was Mrs. McMichen. She had a small yard, but it was steeper than the ski slope in Gatlinburg. I cut the front with a rope tied to the handle of the lawnmower…pulling it up and letting it down with the rope. Mrs. McMichen would always say “I can’t wait to have you in my class.” She was a petite and gracious woman who spoke impeccable English. I never heard her raise her voice. When she would have to put someone in line, her voice would get stern and you knew she meant business.
I had the good sense in later years to visit with her mom and dad before they passed away and record them talking about how they met and how they come to live in West Pratt. I later gave that tape to Mrs. McMichen and she thanked me every time she saw me for that simple act.
In thinking about the past, I have very few regrets. The decision to take senior English in summer school and dodge her is one I do regret because I truly believe she would have made my path easier.
Mrs. McMichen passed away on December 24th 2005. As her spirit ascends to that higher place she can go with the knowledge that during her time here on earth she made a profound impact on my life and the lives of countless others who knew and loved her.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Home for Christmas

Christmas, without a doubt, is my mother's favorite time of year. When we were children, she would start planning and saving for Christmas gifts before Valentine day. My daddy was a welder and made just over minimum wage for most of his working career and it took most of that money to put food on the table and clothes on our backs so if there was anything extra,the money had to come from somewhere else. My mother ironed clothes for people and one year stands out in my mind. With the money she earned ironing shirts and pants for the business folk of Dora she managed to buy my sister a Sylvania transistor radio with a leather carrying case; she bought my older brother a pellet gun and me a Huffy bicycle that I rode until I was grown. She also somehow managed to buy a few gifts for other neighborhood kids whose families were less fortunate than we were.Our house was always decorated with a live tree and lights as big as goose eggs. We also had several strands of bubble lights that had to warm up before they started bubbling. With all the gifts and the lights, our tree was more colorful than a lot full of Toyotas.
When I got drafted in April of 1971, it almost killed my mother. Vietnam was still a hot spot and likely destination for Alabama boys with limited "pull". She asked me as I was getting ready to leave, "do you think they'll let you come home for Christmas?"The first year I was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and I was able to come home, but the second year I was in Panama and coming home was not an option. She sent me boxes of candy, gifts and Christmas cards from all ofmy family and friends. When I called home on Christmas eve I could hear all the commotion in the background, but the noise did not drowned out the sadness in her voice. She said it sounded like I was a million miles away.Last year when mother fell in early December and broke her hip, the pain was almost unbearable. I came in after work a few days after the accident and she was crying. I asked if she was in pain, she said her hip was hurting but that was not why she had tears in her eyes. "I won't get to be home for Christmas." I was crushed. I was so distracted by her accident that it had not crossed my mind that she still might be in the hospital for Christmas.She has ALWAYS been home for Christmas.As it turns out, we got to spring her on Christmas day and we had afew hours to be together and sang Christmas carols, opened gifts and ate turkey till we spewed. Mother got to come home for Christmas and for this I was grateful, but there are thousands of men and women in the armed services who will not enjoy this gift. My heart goes out to them all, and to their mothers who undoubtedly feel their children are a million miles away.Merry Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2005

I Can See Clearly Now

I am late updating the blog today. I had an early appointment to get my eyes checked. I haven't had an eye exam for many years. They have all kinds of new fancy equipment now. My intention was to get one of those new MonoVision contacts so that I can read without glasses. The doc said while checking my vision "dang, did you drive here?" sounding glad that she had not been on the road at the same time. Yes, why? "Well, it looks like you've been in a fog for years.” She fitted me with some of those new fangled soft contact lenses and SHAZAM as Gomer would say; I could see things I had no idea I was missing. Why didn't somebody tell me I had hair growing out of my ears.
Getting older is interesting. There are a lot of things that don't work like they used to. Besides my eyes and my sense of smell, my hearing is drifting away too. Sometimes the latter can be considered a blessing when I'm trying to tune out the spousal unit. When she says "You need to take out the garbage and change the light on the front porch," I can honestly say "I didn't hear you say that." I can't lie to her...she can smell a lie from the next room so I stopped trying to do that years ago....but the hearing angle works.
The thing is stuff starts to fade away. If it happened more quickly, you'd be alarmed and you'd get things checked sooner but it's like a lobster in hot water. If you dump a lobster in hot water, it flails around but if you put him in and let the water slowly come to a boil, he never sees it coming.
I'm really not bitter about aging nor do I want to sound as if I'm complaining. I love my age. I feel more alive now than when I was twenty. I know for a fact I'm more interesting and have more interesting things to say. I really like the quote by Samuel Ullman that goes like this:

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting out ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


My wife Jilda is a certified Yoga instructor and she is very good. She teaches at local gyms, community centers, corporate facilities, and substance rehabilitation centers in the area. She has been doing yoga for a long time and she finally convinced me to give it a try.
I resisted for a long time because I thought it was a bunch of hooey. But I'm man enough to admit when I am wrong and I WAS wrong.
I took the first class and what looks like gentle moves and stretches are a lot harder than they look...especially when you hold the position for eight or ten breaths. Within the first ten minutes, I was sweating rivers. I had to hose off the mat after class. I learned to focus on breathing and trying to do the poses as good as I can. As Jilda says, "it's a journey." If you don't do the poses just right, you do them better next time.
When I told the guys at work that I was doing yoga, they thought I had lace on my underwear but I've been practicing for over a year and I discovered some remarkable things: I can look back over my shoulder at yield signs without turning my body around like grandpa did. I can walk up stairs without getting winded. I can bend down and tie my shoes without sitting down and the treadmill test I took in September was the best one ever. I stayed on the treadmill 50 percent longer than the test I had the previous year and the only thing I've done differently is yoga.
Your body is an amazing machine and the most important thing you own. If you do not take care of your body, you cannot enjoy other things in life. Money cannot buy you good health.
Do yourself a favor and attend a yoga class. If you are afraid of what others might say, buy a yoga tape or DVD and practice in the privacy of your home. Try it for about six month and see for yourself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Power of Now

I've been reading a book called "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. It's not lite reading. I'm not sure even what made me buy it several months ago. I loaded it on my MP3 player a recently and what I've heard has been fascinating.
What I've learned is this: you do not exist except in the "Now". The past is a thread to what you experienced in the past - one moment at a time. The future is a "now moment" yet to be experienced. All you have is Now. You cannot go back and change the past nor can you go forward and change the future. All you have is Now.The author suggests ways to get to "Now" by using meditation and other techniques and by doing so, filter the chatter of the mind. I've experimented with the techniques and have had some success though it is not easy, it has been rewarding.Yesterday I went for a walk to get my daily exercise. I focused on my breathing and my steps. Each time my mind tried to wander to something I need to do, or something I should have done, I forced it back to the task at hand...which was walking. I struggled at first, but then my mind acquiesced and allowed me to focus on walking. Somehow the sky seemed bluer and the clouds appeared to be 3-D rather than the flat uninteresting picture you get with a cursory glance. I saw birds scurrying through bushes and trees and heard them more clearly than ever before. I also jumped a herd of deer and I stood for a long time as they scampered out of sight. It all appeared like a movie unfolding just for me. All this and no drugs were involved. Deep down I already knew that it is better to focus on the now. I've heard the saying "where ever you go, be there." This is really important because you cannot fully appreciate your family, your friends, or your surroundings if you are constantly bombarded with memory reruns from your mind. So, it is my intention to spend more time in the "Now." I'll give updates as to my progress.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bus Stop Softball

There must have been thirty kids that lived in West Pratt and went to school at Dora. Each morning before the bus ran, everyone gathered in front of our house. The area was the community bus stop. We always were out there 20 minutes before the bus ran come rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine.
There was always the game of keep-away…this is where you grab somebody’s hat and run them ragged. The group would torment the kid and when one of the mean kids got the hat, it was usually kicked around like a soccer ball. The life span of a hat in those days was painfully short.
When the weather warmed up, we would always play softball right there in the road. Morning traffic in West Pratt was pretty much non-existent and if a car or truck did come by, you could see it for a mile in either direction. One morning when I was in about the second grade we were playing softball. My older sister was tall and gangly in those days and she was one of the most feared hitters in the bunch. She could knock the cover off of a softball and send an outfielder scurrying to the high weeds for the ball. The count on her that morning was three balls and two strikes and she hated to strike out. The pitcher lobbed one right over the plate but a little high. She stepped back to get a better angle on the ball and when she swung, she clipped the catcher in the back of the head. The bad thing was, I was the catcher. The last thing I remember was thinking I might be a little close then wham…I’m laying face first on the gravel pavement.
My sister freaked and snatched me up quickly dusting off my clothes. I was conscience but I was acting quite loopy and my sister pronounced me fit as a fiddle. She really didn’t want me going back in the house because she knew my Mom would have a fit and that usually didn’t turn out well for the one that had crossed her.
Just at that moment someone saw the bus come into view and the crew of kids started chanting BUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS in a sing song voice. I’m not sure why we did that. Anyhow, when the bus arrived, my sister dragged me on the bus and when the feeling started coming back in my head, it started to hurt like crazy. I wanted to go back in the house and let my Mom have a look, but my sister snapped “SHUT UP YOU LITTLE WUS”. All my friends looked at me as if to confirm….well are you a wus? The peer pressure was great so I sat down and went to school. I acted goofy all day, but as I usually acted goofy, no one really noticed. On the ride home, my sister had thought about the situation all day and knew she was in a fix. I could tell mother about the incident and she’d be in trouble so her attitude was all sugar and spice. How are you feeling? She asked. I had been scheming all day too so I told her I’m OK, but I’d feel a lot better if you’d let me listen to your radio. The Sylvania transistor radio was her most prized possession. These radios were rare in those days and were admired by all. She thought long and hard about the proposal but knew I had her over a barrel. She agreed. When we got home and my mom asked about our day…my sister held her breath. Mary Lois…..I paused for effect…..knocked a home run this morning, I reported and my sister did a sigh of relief as my Mom went about making the cornbread.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ol' Buddy Changed My Mind

I've always had big dogs...German Shepherds and Bulldogs….Dogs that could take off a limb if you crossed 'em. We had a Shepherd named Duke that weighed as much as Jilda and we kept him for over 13 years before he passed on and we both wept as if he were a child. Buddy on the other hand, belonged to my mother-in-law Ruby Phillips and weighed about 10 pounds soaking wet. I had thought many times about smothering him with a pillow when we visited her. He was hyper and he yapped a lot which really got on my nerves. But Ruby loved Buddy and Buddy loved Ruby. He made every step she made. In September (2003) Ruby was working in the yard when she fell and broke her leg and spent the next six weeks in the hospital and in rehab. Jilda and her sister Pat remained by her side at the hospital for most of the time and that left me to tend to Buddy. The first night when I went to let him out to use the bathroom and to feed him, he raced out to where she had fallen. He sat down on the spot where she lay until the paramedics rushed her to the hospital. I tried to coax him in the house with food and treats but he would not budge. He simply sat there and stared in the direction in which they took his mamma. I had to physically pick him up and carry him back in the house. The next day when I returned, it was the same story. I was his only human contact and he did not eat for days. One Saturday, about three weeks later, when I went down there to feed him, I just sat down on the ground beside him. I had a couple of Slim Jim sausages and I broke off and fed him little pieces while sitting with him staring down the road. I know that people passing probably thought I was disturbed, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Slowly he crawled up into my lap and we sat there for a long time.. I walked over to my truck and opened the door and said let's go. Buddy jumped in and he's been with us ever since. Ruby eventually went home but she could tell that things had changed so she told us to keep him but that we had to bring him for visits. These days, Buddy weighs about 10 pounds more than he did a year ago because he ate here and there too. He went to see Ruby every day as log as she was alive. He has calmed down since he came to live with us. He loves to ride in my truck and he especially likes exploring down in old Dora. His favorite trip so far was visiting the old Library. I never really thought I'd care for a little dog, but Ol' Buddy changed my mind.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas - A Time Of Sadness and Joy

For me, Christmas is a time of both sadness and great joy. I am saddened that we do not have all the time we want to spend with our family and friends....I'm saddened that for some reason, some companies decide the time to lay people off from work is at Christmas.
A few years ago, our friends at Christ United Methodist Church bought some toys for us to give to some neighbors who were having a hard time. As it turns out, our neighbors had moved away sometime back and we did not have anyone who needed the toys. We called the local fire department and the dispatcher said that they had already made their deliveries for Christmas....but she said that she had just learned of a family in Cordova who has 5 small children and the father had recently lost his job. They had a baby 3 weeks old.
We left the toys and the lady dispatcher said that she would personally take the toys to the family. Jilda and I had another errand to run and as we drove, we decided to drive back by and give a little money to the family as well. I had a hundred dollar bill that I have carried in my billfold for years..... I saved it just in case we ran into hard it turned out, we did run into hard times.... but they were hard times for someone else. Jilda ran in and gave the dispatcher the money and turned to walk out and the lady "asked who are you, please give me your address so that they can send you a thank you." Jilda told her to tell the people Merry Christmas. She said the lady's eyes filled with tears....which put tears in our eyes.
There will always be sad stories which are made more so by the fact that they happen at Christmas, but there are also happy stories. We ran by my niece's house yesterday and her little boy was so excited, he was beside himself. He was showing me some things in his room and he slyly you know who comes tonight? I said, yes of course, the tooth fairy...He said "well NOOOO". The Easter Bunny? "Did you get bumped on the head?" he asked. He finally said SANTA!!! I said Oh, I remember now. He looked as though he felt sorry for me. The look on his face was remarkable.
This year I am happy and thank the Good Lord for all we have, especially those things we take for granted. I am joyful for all our family and friends.
Merry Christmas
Rick & Jilda

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Be Happy

Abraham Lincoln said that “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I have found that this is true. I know there are people who have a right NOT to be happy, but for the most part it’s a choice. When people greet me and say “how are you?” I always say, “I’m living a dream.” About 90% of the people to whom I say this, say “I am too but mine’s a nightmare.” I always wonder why they would be living a nightmare.
I read in a self-help book by Jim Rohn that “it’s not about what happens to you, but what you do about what happens to you.” That way you are in control and you are not relinquishing control to “IT”. Victor Frankel was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp and underwent unspeakable treatment by his captors, but he never relinquished control over his reaction to their actions.
I’m not sure about you, but that puts a slightly different spin on how you feel about being stuck for an hour in Birmingham traffic. In the context of what some people must endure, being upset by a traffic jam or working for a boss that is a goober is a little bit petty .

I have lived a gifted life. I was born in what would now be considered poverty but I never felt poor. My mom and dad were both proud people and they worked very hard to provide the basics for our family and I cannot remember going “without”….ever.
I’m not sure when I made my decision to be happy, but it was fairly early on. One situation comes to mind. Back in 1980, I worked as a repairman for South Central Bell. I came in one day in April and they told me they needed me in Mobile, Alabama to help with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Fredrick. They said I would be there at least 6 months living out of a Howard Johnson’s motel. Many of my co-workers complained and resisted. I headed home and threw a suitcase and a cooler in the back of the truck…I loaded up my wife and and my German Shepherd Duke and set out on an adventure.
We worked hard, but we played harder. On the weekends, we went to Biloxi, New Orleans, Panama City and all points in between. I met lifelong friends there wrote stories in my journal that are a scream.

As Danny Kay says “Life is a Big Ol’ Canvas so throw a lot of paint on it.” If you’re not happy with you life, change it. Meet new friends, go to the library, go to a new bar, a new church, or go somewhere you have never been….but go expecting the best because I have also learned that if you go expecting the worst, you usually find it. Be Happy.
NOTE: The photo above is from 1980 - when I had hair.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mornings Are Magical

There is something magical about mornings. My desk sits in front of an east facing window in my office and I can sit here and watch the morning come alive. The first indication is the black night sky turns a deep indigo and then a million shades of blue, orange, rust and silver....and that's before the sun even peep up over the horizon.
The birds are the first to get in on the action. They are zipping from bush to bush making sure all their friends made it safely through the night. They are cranked and anxious to get on with the day.
Next come the squirrels and chipmunks out foraging for an early morning snack.
I do my best thinking this time of day. My mind is more clear and the thoughts unhampered by pressing business that keeps bankers hours. This morning time is all mine.
My wife Jilda and I do not buy expensive cars and our house is modest by today’s standards, but we do not scrimp on coffee. We buy Gevalia coffee and I brew it up fresh each morning in a European coffee press. The smell is intoxicating.
The greatroom in our house has floor to ceiling windows from end to end. We don't use curtains so we have an unobstructed view of the morning's activities as we drink our coffee. This morning I counted over 20 different kinds of birds at our feeders.
Every evening I start winding down early and I'm ready to go to bed while most people are getting ready to watch the evening news and Leno. That's OK because that leaves the magical mornings for me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

No Longer Cool

My wife Jilda kept our niece Samantha from the time she was a few months old until she started to first grade. She is now 15 going on 30. They lived next door to us and her mom and dad both worked so rather than take her to daycare, Jilda volunteered to keep her. She was fun to keep and neither of us minded the investment we made in her. She was exposed to all kinds of music, classical, the blues, rock, and folk. We read her books and poetry. Jilda and Sam were always doing projects...building things, painting, glueing, and hammering. When she was about 3 years old she enjoyed playing school. She would always be the teacher and she loved saying OK, we're going to have a pop test. Jilda would always do a great mock protest "aw we didn't know were were going to have a test today," and whine a great deal. This was to her delight. She would then proceed to ask Jilda a question and Jilda would answer. No matter what Jilda would say, Sam would always say "that's correct". And no matter what I said, it would always be "incorrect, you must stay after class to study." I would whine and groan and she would giggle. These were the days when we were cool.
When she started to school, it was almost like the empty nest syndrome I've heard people speak of. We still saw her a great deal but not like before she started to school.
She still went to plays and concerts with us. Jilda and I are in an acoustic band and every time we played a show or festival, she would usually go.
But as she grew older, her life got much more complicated and the times we saw her became infreaquent. She got new friends and both Jilda and I realized we were no longer cool....which was a hard pill to swallow.
We should have seen it coming, because we also kept her older brothers when they were young and the pattern was similar with them but when they got a little older, we came back in favor. I have to believe that Samantha will think we are cool again. I'd love for her to give me a pop quiz.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Photographs, Words & Music

I bought my first good camera when I was in the Army. I was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone and there were duty free shops where you could buy the best cameras available and they were fairly inexpensive. I chose a Canon FTb single lenses reflex camera. I took pictures of everything imaginable.
When I got out of the Army, I was lucky enough to get a job at The Community News in Sumiton, Alabama. Small-town newspapers as a rule are rags, but this one was exceptional. Dale Short was the editor and he was a genius with words and pictures. It was a small operation (5 people) so I spent a great deal of time with Dale learning how to compose, shoot and print photographs. Dale was also kind enough to teach me a lot about writing. He had a knack for writing things that touched your heart. I'm not sure if I've ever written things that have touched people's hearts, but that is my goal.
The things Dale taught me have served me well. One thing he told me is that Photographs are like a window to the past. I know this is true because I've experienced it first hand. I have software that does a constant slide show on the side of my computer screen. I can be working away and a photograph will pop up that sends me back through the years.
I have photographs of my mom and dad when they were 25 and they looked like they were having the time of their lives....they weren't elderly, they were frail or sick. They looked happy to be alive.
I also have pictures of my wife of 32 years and I at various stages of our lives and I cannot look at them without getting a smile on my face.
One thing that I have experimented with in recent years is photographs and music. There is something about those two elements that is so powerful. I did a slideshow a while back of my old high school and put it to music. I co-worker saw the show and he told me it put tears in his eyes and he did not even know any of the people in the photographs. Here is the URL if you'd like to see for yourself
The link above is a fairly large file so it will take a while to load if you're using dialup, but I think it's worth your time. I think you'll see what I mean by Words, Pictures & Music.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Life Decisions

This is a note about a chicken and some very bad life decisions. I have several neighbors that have chickens. One of the chickens escaped and come to live in my front yard. We have tons of birds in our yard and I'm a live and let live kind of guy so I let him stay yesterday.
I did not feel well yesterday. I had the crud so I decided to work from home. Last night when I went to bed, I felt even more rotten than I did yesterday morning. I was restless and irritable so that's what made Mr. Chicken's first poor life decision so bad. When he started crowing at 2:30 a.m. I thought it was a neighbor calling for help. I sprang up in the bed and wiped the sleep out of my eyes and listened. I thought to myself, could that have been a dream. I had just dozed off when I heard it again and I knew at once that it was the rooster in my front yard. I was madder than a hornet so naturally I put the dogs on that bad bird. The first dog out of the shoot was Astro. He is a Lab, Doberman, Cheetah and Shetland pony mix breed. He is a magnificent animal with muscles like the California Governor. Poor life decision II for Mr. Chicken was that he roosted on a low limb. Astro was out the door like a shot and was at the base of the tree in a heartbeat. I was a pure miracle that the tree had low limbs that slowed Astro's pace just long enough for the Rooster to scramble up several more limbs to safety. I got the dogs back in the house and I haven't heard another peep out of the bird.
You may ask what this little story was titled Life Decisions has to do with me....well, it's because we are faced with Life Decisions almost every day: should I bother going to night school to improve my skills...should I look for a job where I would be more happy.....should I visit my mom on her birthday or miss a great opportunity to go to the beach? Life is about choices so try to make choices that help you to become a better person; a better husband; a better son. There are just a few things in life that make the most difference, some of which are your education, your relationships, your attitude, and your health. There is one thing I would recommend that I think is key....never roost on a low limb.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Tree

We put up our Christmas tree last night. I love doing the tree thang. We get out the decorations, put on some Christmas music pour up some egg nog and enjoy the experience. We always get a live that we can plant. We've done this for years with a great deal of success. We've only lost about three trees in the past 20 years. Our first tree which is just outside our window is a white pine and it now stands about 40 feet tall. It's a magnificent tree. We usually get out trees at Fry's Tree Farm, but we read in the paper that Mr. Fry is sick this year and the tree farm is closed.
I looked out at last year's tree and though it had grown about 2 feet, I decided to use it again this year so I dug that puppy up and bought a big honkin' flower pot and it is beautiful. I thought I was going to have to cut a hole in the roof to accomodate, but luckily it fit.
We turned the tree on this morning and turned off the room lights and drank our coffee by the light of the tree. I love this time of year.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

How Will I Be Remembered?

Lives of great men all remind us
We can live our lives sublime
And in passing leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time

Have you ever given thought to what people will say about you when you leave this earth? I think about it now and again. How will I be remembered? I've tried to live my life by the golden rule, but there is always a chance I could have wronged someone along the way.
Being a writer, there is a chance that my words could live on.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My Grandad - Pap

My granddad was a charecter. His name was Charlie Watson and he lived in West Pratt until he died in the late 60's. He had worked many years in the coal mines of Sloss, Hull and Kershaw.
He moved to Indiana when the work in the mines played out in the late 50's and lived there for about 10 years where he worked in the city garbage dump. I thought that was the coolest job in the world when I was a kid. One time when we went to visit him he gave me a gallon jug full of marbles. He had collected them at the dump. He found other stuff too, but the marbles stand out in my mind.
When he and my grandmother moved back to Alabama they built a small Jim Walter house next door to us. It was great having them home and living next door. I would run to their house every morning and eat breakfast. He had a parakeet that they let fly free in their house. It would lite on his glasses and watch him eat. I thought that was a hoot.
I helped Pap build a flatbottom fishing boat and we took it to #11 (the Backwater off of the Warrior River) in the back of his old Chevy truck. He taught me to fish for bass. We put out trotlines and caught boat loads of cat fish.
He also shoed mules for the small mine operators. He had a little blacksmith shop behind his house. An old anvil was mounted on a sycamore stump is where he pounded shoes into the right shape and size.
He taught me a great deal. As he went about his work, he would tell me to "focus on what you're doing and do the task the best you can". It might not always be perfect, but you will finish knowing that you did your best. I took those words to heart and I've always tried to live by them.

Friday, December 09, 2005



When I was about 10 years old, an aunt was visiting our family. She drove an old blue 53 Chevy pickup truck. As she was leaving, her truck would not crank. She tried and tried but it would not start.
It was during the day so my dad and brother were at work. My aunt was about to panic. She opened the hood and peered in but she might as well have been trying to read Chaucer in Sanscrit.
I hopped up on the bumper and surveyed the engine. I looked very closely for anything that appeared out of place. I saw a wire that looked as if it had come loose. I asked my aunt, could that be what's wrong? She said I don't know but I'll connect it back and try. When she tried again, the old Chevy fired up.
She got back out of the truck and hugged my neck and said you are a really smart boy. I'm not sure how smart I was at that time in my life, but I chose to believe her.
I think that those words had a significant impact on my self esteem and how I think about myself now. At work, I am a problem solver. That's what I get paid to do. Look at situations, evaluate root cause, and formulate solutions. But further, it's how I approach life. I feel like I can do anything I sent my mind to do. Obviously I do some things better than others, but I can do a lot of things.
I have said all that to say this: the mind of a child is like a sponge. They seek approval from people they love and trust. If you are helping a child with their homework and they are having problems with math be mindful of what you say. A statement as simple as "you are just not good in math" could have a profound impact on how that child views himself/herself.
I've heard parents say within earshot of a roudy child "I can't do a thing with him." That sends a message to the child that could cause very serious problems in the future.
I'm not a phychietris but I have seen first had what words can do. So I am very mindful of what I say not only to kids, but to anyone with which I interact because you never know if they will believe what you say and take it to heart.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Do Something Remarkable

I got a note from my young friend Will Justice today. He had been so excited because they were going to do a Christmas play at Dora. He had become interested in acting and theatre and was ready to jump in with both feet but he sent me a note last night saying that the play would not happen. I'm not sure if it was a funding issue, a lack of commitment or what, but Will was disappointed.
My advice to Will was that when you depend on others, you are sometimes disappointed. What's important to you might not be a priority for someone else. I suggested that Will get a Black and White art newspaper (printed and distributed in Birmingham) and look through the announcements for plays, skits, and other acting gigs. If nothing worked out with that, to try and start something here. A community theatre would be great! Maybe involve not only the students at Dora, but also Sumiton Christian and Bevill State.
There is one thing I've learned: life is about focus and energy. If you want something you focus on it and put energy into making it happen. I've see people do incredible things, but sometimes you have to make up new rules as you go.
Good luck to you Will. I hope you do something remarkable.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Worth of Music

I'm teaching my niece Samantha how to play guitar. She's busy with school activities and dance, but I think she will play well in time. In looking at this photo which sits on my desk, I decided to post this.
My Dad never saw the value of music. He was a welder by trade and spent thirty years in an open-air tin shed in North Birmingham welding fans as big as Rhode Island. In the winter it could get freezing cold and in the summer it got as hot as Haiti. He wasn’t a whiner so I never really heard him complain. When I started playing guitar at thirteen, I was hooked. I played every moment I could play. In fact, the only six weeks of school I ever failed was when I got my first guitar. My father and mother took a dim view of that failure and seized control of the guitar until my report card improved. Those six weeks were an eternity. The next report card, I was back on the A B Honor role. I got my guitar back, but I was mindful of the books.
My Dad could see that I loved music, but he never understood it. Even when I began to improve and started playing local bands, he would say “boy, if you spent as much time learnin’ a trade as you spend foolin’ with that guitar, you could make something of yourself.” I’m not saying that he didn’t like music. I still recall my Dad sittin’ in our old Ford in the driveway listening to Ernest Tubb’s “I’m Walkin’ the Floor Over You”.
My Dad is dead now, victim of some weird form of cancer that I’m betting was related to inhaling welding rod fumes for all those years. The sad part to me is that he never saw how playing music enriched my life. He never knew all the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone and the things my wife Jilda and I got to do. I’ve always instinctively known that music was important, but I had a situation that happened to me that drove that point home.
Several years ago, Jilda and I did volunteer work at a local home for disadvantaged youth. We helped with their homework and with computer work and other things. But there was this one boy about 14 years old that was hyper and he was driving the counselors up the frigging wall. He was in to everything. I had an idea….I asked the director if it would be O.K. to teach guitar lessons to those kids that wanted to learn. He reluctantly agreed so we went out one Sunday and took my guitar and played a few songs for the kids. Most of them were captivated. When I asked if anyone wanted to learn, they all raised their hands.
We needed a practice guitar and that proved to be a challenge. The local music store declined to help, but I called around Birmingham to music stores without success until I got Herb Trotman and Rickey Stone at Fretted Instruments. They thought about the request for a short time and then agreed to donate a practice guitar. This was an act of generosity that I have never forgotten and I’m pretty sure they’ve made their money back on the many instruments that I have since bought from them. But I digress…..We set up lessons for several of the kids at the home, and the one hyper kid was drawn to the guitar. He caught on really fast. He directed all his hyperactivity towards learning guitar. The councilors were amazed. In fact, they were able to use access to the practice guitar as disciplinary action. If the kid misbehaved, he couldn’t practice on the guitar for two days. The kid turned into a model resident. Less than a year later, he was much better than me. He could play country, heavy metal, and jazz and most any other type of music.
As time passed, we went less and less to the home and the kid reached an age and he went out on his own and we lost touch completely.A while back, my phone rang and when I picked up. The voice asked, “Do you know who this is?” My mind raced…it sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. “It’s Jimmy (not his real name).” After he left the home, he went on to college, got a job and recently got married. I asked if he still played music, and he said “every day”. He’s currently in a Gospel Heavy Metal band playing all over. “I’m not sure I ever thanked you for teaching me how to play,” he said “it gave me direction during a time in my life when I needed it most.” We talked for a while and I wished him well and we promised to stay in touch and as I hung up the phone, I would have given anything if my Dad had seen the impact music had on Jimmy’s life and realized the worth of music.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Google Story

I'm listening to a book on my MP3 player called The Google Story. I am fascinated by this book. Google got its name from the number googol which is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros. When they were brainstorming names for the website, someone suggested googol but the word was mis-spelled when it was written - Google. The name stuck.
The book is more about two guys that wanted to have the best Search Engine on the web. They worked to perfect it first without regard to making money and in the process, they both have become very wealthy. I believe that had they set out to make money first, the result would not have been the quality of service we have.
If you have never had a chance to check out Google Earth, do yourself a favor. You can go to Google and on the page click More and then go to Maps and type in and address. I think you will be impressed with the results.
What strikes me is the notion of pursuing your dream, doing work that you love. When you do work you love, its not really like work. When you work, you are "in the moment" and you never watch the clock.
For kids starting out, I highly recommend that you give a lot of time thinking about what fascinates you, what you are passionate about.... what you love doing. Then do that work...the money will follow.

Monday, December 05, 2005


You could smell the turkey and ham from the yard as you approached Ruby's house on Thanksgiving morning and as the time neared noon, the place got busier than Grand Central Station in New York City. Kids and grand kids would be ferrying in bowls of potato salad, baked beans, hot buttered rolls and sweet potato casserole. Ruby directed household traffic and oven controls like a conductor at the symphony. Every surface in the vicinity of the kitchen would be brimming with delicious food. Jilda always camped out early down by the desert table eyeing the red velvet cake and the pumpkin pie. I could always scarf up a piece of ham or turkey without notice. This was all that kept me from diving face first onto the table of food and eating my way off with my bare hands. This was a crucial time at Ruby and searches house because there was a great deal of jockeying for position at the head of the line. "Michael, there's someone at the door could you open it please? I would say so innocently." Michael left the front of the line to check the door, I would move up one more slot. SUCKER I would murmer to myself, and step a little closer to the hot rolls.
Now I'm all for saying the blessing, but on Thanksgiving, the shorter the better..."Good food, good meat, thank you Lord, now let's eat" is perfect for me. But on Thanksgiving, Sharky Phillips would start thanking the Lord for everyone and everything starting with the president of the United States (unless of course there was a republican in the White House) and would move right on down the list until he had thanked the Lord for the makers of the plastic forks and plates. He did this of course to torture us. I caught him looking around once during a particularly long Blessing. Everyone else had their heads bowed and eyes closed. I had my head bowed, but I had an eye on him. He had his head bowed, but opened an eye to scan the crowd to watch us squirm. As our eyes met, he grinned a little and then trudged on thanking the makers of the beautiful table cloth and the tea kettle. I loved those Thanksgivings.
Sharky passed away in 1991 and things changed. The food was still good, and the tea as sweet but there was an empty spot in our hearts and at the dinner table. Our food has never been properly blessed since then.%0

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Daddy Taught Me How to Cuss

Dora, Alabama
My daddy, rest his soul, taught me how to cuss. Not that he sat down with me and discussed the different ways in which to use profanity, but I learned from him just the same. You see, he had a 1955 Ford Fairlane with a beautiful two-tone paint job. It was dark green on the bottom and the light green on top was the color of lime sherbet. In those early years, Ford hadn’t yet perfected the automatic choke. That’s the mechanism in a carburetor that helps the car start properly in all kinds of weather. During the warm spring, summer and fall months, the car cranked perfectly. But come the first cold days of winter it turned into a big ‘ol boat anchor.I remember one morning in particular we had an early freeze and the frost on the ground looked like a young snow. My daddy slowly approached the Ford, which sat in the driveway just by my bedroom window, and I could hear him say, “O.K. baby, I know it’s cold, but I know you would never let me down.” He sat down, patted the gas pedal, and turned the key…AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. “Come on baby, he coaxed.” AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. Nothing. He patted the gas and tried again. A few choice word with which I was unfamiliar came out of his mouth. AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. Then the sound of his voice got a little louder and the expletives became more creative. AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR AR. He stepped out kicked the wheel and let out a stream of language that had the meter and pacing of a Beat Generation Poet - except with x-rated words. He assembled creative new word combinations never heard before. He made use of body functions, sexual deviation, and barnyard animals. He also talked badly about the linage of the people in Ford Motor Company who had designed and built the Fairlane. I’m telling you, his tirade would have made a Rap star blush.At 5:30 a.m. even in rural Walker County, Alabama people began to notice and lights in the neighborhood started coming on. Mother walked from the kitchen wrapped up in her housecoat and offered to give it a try. Daddy, in a colorful way told her to give it a try. She stepped in touched the gas pedal one time turned the key and the Ford sprung to life. I know that it was by the Grace of God that daddy had forgotten his pocketknife that morning because I am certain that he would have carved her into little pieces and left her twitching on the driveway.He jumped into that car, slammed it into reverse and backed into the gravel road that ran by our house. With the gas pedal to the floor he jammed it into low gear and roared off full throttle…still in low gear. That motor was wound as tight as a weed-eater and he drove it that way all the way to the Dora junction which is three miles away. That motor got so hot you could have cooked breakfast on the hood.A few days later, we had a new car. It was a 1957 Plymouth and it cranked like a champ even when it was cold.There have been a few times (very few) when I have been angry enough to use the cussing skills my dad taught me, but they are there just in case. Every day is a school day.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Rain Moves In

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on my rooftop and it sent my mind back in time to the old house in which my family lived in Sloss. It had asphalt siding that was imitation brick and the roof was tin and when it rained, it sounded like a cheering crowd.
When I was very young, my daddy lost his job in the coal mines and we moved up north to Hammond, Indiana. He went to work in the Goodyear tire factory and we lived in an apartment next to a field of oil tanks. I'm not talking about tanks the size that gas stations use, I'm talking about tanks as big as 3 story buildings. I can remember the constant smell of bus exhaust fumes and unrefined oil.
I was in kindergarten there and a hell kid that lived a few doors down from us tormented me relentlessly. His name was Jimmy Miller and he was in junior high and took particular pride in picking on little kids. My sister Mary Lois was his age and she kept telling him that if he didn't stop bothering me that she was going to kick the crap out of him. He just laughed. One day the weather was brutal with snow about 6 inches deep, he came running by and pushed me down face first in the snow. Mary Lois helped me up but then looked around for a weapon. She spied an icicle on a nearby fence which was about 4 inches in diameter. She broke off about a 6 inch section and chunked it at Jimmy. The earth must have been in perfect alignment with the stars because that icicle sailed high and true and whacked the running Jimmy on the back of the head and he went down hard. I looked up and Mary Lois and said "dang, you've killed him." We both bolted from the scene post haste. We saw him a day or two later and he had a big ol' bandage on his head. He gave Mary Lois a lot of room after that and he never bother me again.
We lived there for about a year before my dad started longing for the hills and hollows of Alabama and we made our way back.
I started to Dora Elementary school the next year.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dora High School Alumni Blog

The Bulldog Blog is a new feature for the alumni website. I'll be posting entries from time to time.
It was cool this morning here in Empire, Alabama. I cranked up the fireplace as we drank our morning coffee. Squirrils scampered around in the yard in search of the birdseed we put out each day.
Thanks to Will Justice, a student at Dora, for shooting a photo of this years Mr. & Miss Bulldog. I thought the picture was really good. My hope is that I can get others to start submitting pictures and announcements. It is hard keeping the content fresh by one's self.
If you have a new addition to your family: a new child or grandchild, a new pet, or a new car please shoot a photo to me and let's post it.
Stay warm.

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