Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Old Dora Library Today

Someone asked me the other day about the old Dora Library and if I had seen it in my trips down memory lane. I had to admit that I had completely forgotten about the library. I remember it as a kid. It was built during the Great Depression and local folks were hired by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to do the construction. These meager government jobs kept people from starving to death in those days.
Buddy the Wonder Dog and I went down and weaved our way through the brush and brambles on a quest to find the old stone structure. To my amazement, the library is still standing…..Well, that might be a bit of a stretch. The roof and floor and some of the back wall are gone, but much of the structure is intact. The old rock fireplace looked as if it was ready to be fired up.
I began to wonder, just who owns that old building? I called the Mayor of Dora but he was not sure. I called the Walker County Courthouse but they said I'd have to come out there and show them where the place was located on the map before they could help. So one of my next excursions will be there. I might have to carry Buddy inside my backpack because they probably take a dim view of canines in the courthouse.
You all might think I'm crazy, but I was wondering if we could save the old Library. What would it take? What if the old building is available and could be purchased for a song? Do we know anyone with the skills that could help us revive that old building? What could we do with it once it was restored? It's too small and isolated to be of much use as a library, but it struck me as Buddy and I were sitting on the hearth that it was really peaceful there. Maybe it could be turned into a meditation room or a reading room. Maybe we could turn it into the world's smallest museum. In the winter we could build a fire on cold days and listen to the crackle of burning hickory and drink hot cidar.
I then got to thinking about the rest of Old Dora. I know that it is isolated and could probably never thrive like it once did, but maybe people could buy up what's left and rebuild what has since fallen in and turn it into an area where artists paint and musicians perform....a place that comes alive once a month with a Trade Day and main street fills with multi-colored tents. Street vendors selling arts, crafts, antiques and cotten candy would sit under their tents and howdy up with the crowd. Music would fill the air and street performers, face painters and people doing card tricks would entertains kids with balloons. And the people, who have long since moved away, would plan their vacations around one of the festivals and come home to see us all.
The little walk-through tunnel would be spick and span and we could all go through it and scream our heads off just to here the echo.
Who was it that once said "if you're going to dream, dream big"?Rick

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mamma Watson

My Grandmother on my father's side lived to be 96. Her mind was fairly sharp until the end but her body simply gave up slipped away over the later years of her life.
I'm not sure if it was her age or the fact that she no longer felt the need to hide the truth, but she told me some remarkable stories about my family. I'm thankful my mother doesn't have a computer because she'd whip me with a rose bush if she thought I was writing this for the world to see.

My granddaddy was a rounder in his younger days. Apparently it was just before and during the depression and he did what he had to do to feed his family.
Mamma Watson told me about how my granddaddy made moonshine whiskey. She said that he made good stuff and that he was smart enough to never get caught. He was fast afoot and whenever the revenue’ers would try to catch him he would "tear out running and leave 'em in the dust," she said. It was difficult for me to reconcile this picture in my mind, but I listened further. She said that one reason he never got caught is that he would never bring the whiskey home. He would always hide it somewhere and if the "law" came, there was nothing to find.

One night, she said he must have been doing some quality control tasting of the whiskey because he came home really late and he had several pints of the homemade shine with him. He put them in a butter churn in the kitchen and went to bed. Early in the morning, they heard the sheriff coming up the dirt road before sun-up. The kids all woke up and came to the kitchen to see what was going on. My aunt Christine who was three years old at the time walked over and sat on the butter churn....not to hide the whiskey, but because she wanted a place sit so she’d be out of the way. That way she could watch what was going on. The sheriff and the ABC agents tore the house upside down looking for the whiskey. They went into the attic and the crawled under the house. They checked under the bed and in the cedar chest. They looked in the well and they looked on the roof but they could not find a drop.
Dejectedly, the all piled back in their old Fords and drove back to Jasper. They had no idea that the whiskey was in the churn under Aunt Christine.
So Pap lived to bootleg another day.
I know some people might be embarrassed about stories like this, but I love them. These stories make me who I am today. I've never made moonshine, but if somebody had a good recipe, please let me know.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Today I was reading Discover Zen which is a book I checked out of the library. It is a nice little book that talks about the origins and the practice of Zen. I'm not currently interested in becoming a Zen Buddhist but I just wanted to know a little about he subject.
One of the exercises is to observe something in your immediate surroundings. It said that if you looked at it long enough, you could see something totally unexpected. I chose to look at a small piece of stained glass art that hangs in the window of our great room. While objectively looking at the piece of art I saw a green lizard come strolling down our lemon tree....inside the house. I thought to myself now that's unexpected. The lemon tree has been inside since before the first frost. Apparently the lizard lived in the tree and he took up residence inside. They eat small bugs, meal worms and spiders. I hadn't thought about it, but I haven't seen very many spiders or other insects that hang around. I watched the lizard for a long while and he observed me too. He looked wise. I looked back at the Zen book and thought dang this is pretty unexpected.
You know, there's a lot going on around us each day and it's easy to fall into the mindset that "I" am the center of the Universe, but everything is connected. We are all apart of the dance of life and there is room for us all.
I hope Mr. Lizard winters well in our home and when spring brings warm days and fresh rain; he goes back outside to his friends and family to say "you won't believe where I've been. I love the Watson’s."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thanks to Mamma

I was looking at some old photographs today and I came across an old picture of me in a Twist Shirt. I guess I was about 10 years old judging from the Rose Hair tonic glistening on my temples and that debonair twirl on my forehead.. That would have been about 1961 when the Twist craze swept the nation. I looked good in that shirt. That was before permanent press but my clothes had nary a wrinkle. My pants were washed nightly and starched with Faultless starch. My mom would then put the blue jeans in pants creasers and hang them to dry behind the Warm Morning coal stove. When they dried, they would stand up by themselves. She still had to iron the top part, but the legs had creases you could cut your finger on.
Being a mother is a tough job. There are so many things they do that go unnoticed....unappreciated.
My dad didn't spend much time in school when he was a kid so the jobs he had never paid that much. We had the basics, but my mom paid for all the extra stuff we enjoyed.
She washed and ironed clothes for folks in Dora and she saved the money for Christmas and to buy us the extras. She started washing for one of the prominent businessmen in the area and the first time he came to pick up his white shirts he said "this white shirt is luminous." My mom looked at the shirt in horror. "I'm so sorry, I can wash it again, she apologized." "No, no I don't think it was this clean when I bought it," he said smiling. I had to look the word up because I didn't know what it meant either.
As a kid, I don't remember thanking her for all she did.
My mother has had a lot of serious health problems the last few years and she now lives with my sister. I'm sitting with her tonight to give my sister some time off. I asked mom if she remembered the Twist shirt. "Naw, I don't remember much anymore," she said. But when I asked if she remembered how she paid for it, she made an ironing motion with her hands and gave me a smile. We talked for awhile about those days and I told her thank you for all she ever did for me. She smiled again, nodded her head, and looked back at her hands. "I was glad I could do it," she said quietly.
I hope my mamma lives a long time and I hope she realizes that she did a remarkable job. I know am thankful for her and all she has done for me.

Friday, January 27, 2006


I love Fridays. I know one reason was back in the old days everybody got paid on Fridays. When Jilda and I were in our early twenties, we had parties EVERY Friday night. Our place was always a favorite destination. Even though we lived in a 12' x 65' house trailer at the time, I had a stereo that would blow the windows out and render you deaf if you sat with ears facing the speakers. I also had guitars, a great dog, and a wife that was/is a great cook.
Like us, most all our friends were broke and couldn't afford to go out to restaurants very often, but Jilda would whip up meals that even now make my mouth water just thinking about them. Everyone would stop on the way over and by wine and cheap beer and after eating like royalty, we'd sit around playing cards, Mancala, and Backgammon while listening to Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, and Deep Purple.
We had a party one Friday night that became a weekend party. I had old Army buddies from Minnesota visiting and they pitched tents out in the back yard. About 10:30 on Friday night we heard the distinctive rumble of motor cycles. Another friend rolled up with about 25 couples on Harleys. The party spilled out in the yard and the only reason our neighbors didn't call the law was because they were at the party too. For weeks afterwards, we found weird things throughout the house. A record album we'd never seen before, whiskey bottles in the bath tub, a switchblade behind the cushion of the couch and women’s underwear (not Jilda's) in the clothes hamper...not sure what the story was there and was really afraid to pursue it.
Like the lyrics of one of the most beautiful rock songs ever written (Kansas), our friends have scattered like "Dust in the Wind." We still stay in touch, but we rarely have an opportunity to get together. Only a few of our gang are still married to their original spouses. But that's the way life goes.
So tonight, I can smell cornbread baking and sour krout with smoked sausage cooking on the stove. I've opened a bottle of wine (not the cheap stuff these days) and I just cranked up Jimi Hendrix on the stereo. Happy Friday night.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Play A Little Every Day

The more I learn about guitars the more I realize I don't know squat. Just when I think I'm pickin' pretty good, I run across an artist like Monty Montgomery and I get depressed. I'm convinced that Monty has eight fingers on his left hand but he has them cloaked so that no one can see them.
I heard someone ask Monty how he got so good - to which he replied "I play a little every day." I'm guessing for Monty "a little" means 12 to 14 hours a day. But deep down I believe what he says.
If you really love something, you have to find a little time every day to do it.
So even though I've had a really long day today, and the sleep monkey is sitting on my shoulder, I'm going to play a few songs on the old Taylor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Library

If anyone knows of a more remarkable place than the Birmingham Library I wish they'd tell me about it. I love that place. I could take a lunch and sleeping bag and live there. There must be a million books...but that's not all! They've got movies and DVD's you can check out, a list of CD's of any kind of music you can imagine, they've got books on tape...you can even check out a painting to hang on your wall. They have book readings, study groups, and it's one of the best research facilities in the South.
I'm not sure if they pass out happy pills to the employees but that bunch is the most helpful people on the planet. You go in WallyWorld and ask someone where something is and they point and say "it's over there." When you ask someone in the Library for help, they take you where you need to be.
I was there today and as I was getting ready to check out, I noticed a huge painting on the wall. It's an original piece of art. It depicts not only the history of Birmingham, but the spirit of the city. To my astonishment, my friend Dale Short is in that painting. I couldn't believe it....but there is no mistake.
Anyhow, if you want to do something really fun on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I recommend that you go to the Library. I know you'll love it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Friend Jocko

I got a letter from my friend Jocko Crawford today. I haven't heard from him in some time but his letters are always a joy to read. We were in the Army together in 71 and went through radio school at Fort Monmouth New Jersey and later to Panama (Canal Zone).
We worked night shift at the transmitter site near Fort Clayton just outside of Balboa. It was a backup site so we rarely did any real work other than swat mosquitoes and answer an occasional phone call from the First Sergeant. He would call now and then to make sure someone was there who was sober enough to answer the phone.
We spent most evenings sitting on the concrete porch in the thick humid tropical air watching the stars and talking about home.
Jocko came from Atlanta. His father worked for the New Yorker Magazine and someone said they lived near the governor's mansion. I don't know that for sure because I never asked and he never said.
He was an unassuming person, deep in many respects but with a sharp wit that slid by most draftees. I always got the feeling that he had lived more than me even though we were the same age. He is the only person I have ever met that was actually at Woodstock in 1969. He said he wandered around the crowd of 500,000 people asking "where's the music dude?" The folks there would always point in one direction and say "it's over there man and it's far out."
He introduced me to John Prine and Crosby, Stills, and Nash as well as Jimi Hendrix. I had played guitar for several years, but I had always been a hack. Jocko could actually play....well. I learned a great deal from him.
I took Spanish at Balboa College when I was at Fort Clayton, but Jocko got a girlfriend and actually learned to speak the language.
I got transfer papers after I had been at Fort Clayton for a few months and the talk was that we were all shipping out to Vietnam but in the end I was transferred to the other side of the Canal Zone...Fort Sherman which is about 50 miles away.
Jocko helped me pack on Friday and we rode the train over to Colon. As evening slipped upon us, we both sat on the steps of the caboose and dangled our feet off the platform as the train ambled through the verdant tunnel of lush vines and banana trees. We talked some, but mostly just sat and listened to the rhythm of the clacking wheels on steel rail.
We were collected at the train station by some friends who were in the class ahead of us in radio school in New Jersey. When I got settled in we all met in the day room and played guitars and drank cheap Panamanian beer until we forgot about home.
Once out of the Army, we all scattered like marbles on a hardwood floor, but a few of us have stayed in touch. I am thankful that Jocko did.

Monday, January 23, 2006

You Are Where You Are Supposed to Be

Driving home the other night the moon was as bright as a spotlight in the sky. Back when I was young and wild, I used to love driving on summer nights when the moon was full. I would turn off the headlights on my old Chevy, roll down the windows and fly like a maniac through the night. It's a miracle I'm still alive. I believe that we have guardian angels riding with us. I am thankful for the protection they offer.
I read somewhere about a list of people that did NOT die in the World Trade Center attack. One man's alarm clock did not go off. Another guy spilled coffee on his suit and had to go back and change clothes which cause him to miss his ride and he was late. One woman had to stay home with a sick child and another stopped to pick up doughnuts for her office when tragedy struck. I just watched the Buddy Holly Biography and his two band mates were supposed to accompany Buddy on that fatal flight. Waylon Jennings gave his seat up to J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), who was running a fever and had trouble fitting his stocky frame comfortably into the bus seats. Tommy Allsup, the other Cricket, flipped a coin and lost to Ritchie Valens who was the third musician that died on that flight.
I think about these stories now when I get behind someone driving 45 miles an hour in the left lane of the interstate or when someone slows down just enough so that you can't make the green light and you have to wait an extra minute or two. Instead of stewing and cranking my blood pressure up a few notches, I simply take a deep breath and say thanks because I know that I am where I'm supposed to be.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


I saw my old friend Skip Tucker on Friday night while we were in Montgomery. We've grown apart the last few years. He didn't get married until after he was 50 years old and now he has a young son that keeps him hopping. But I remember back when Skip was the editor of The Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, Alabama and he was bigger than life. He invited us to some of the best parties we ever attended. The old ranch parties where George and John lived were legendary. They played bluegrass music for days on end and they went through prodigious amounts of beer, liquor and other party beverages.

One weekend we were there, someone rode a horse through the living room. Yeeeee Haw.

One Monday after a killer party I had an encounter with Skip that I'll never forget. I worked for South Central Bell at the time and I was an installer. Installing a phone in downtown Jasper at about 9 a.m. on a January morning, it was about 28 degrees outside and I was up a pole on hold waiting for the dispatcher to tell me what cable pair to put the new phone on. When I looked down, who should drive up but Skip Tucker. He drove an old Ford Maverick then and he had scraped a small circle of frost off the windshield and drove hovering over the steering wheel like a ninety year old so that he could see the road. He left the motor running as he got out at a corner curb market to browse for some fruit. There's not that much fruit to choose from in January in Alabama so it didn't take him long to select some bananas and a couple of apples and he headed back to the Maverick.

Since I was 30 feet up the pole, he did not know there was a soul around, but I called out to him --- Skip. Skip abruptly stopped and looked around only to see no one within a hundred feet or so. He started for the car once again and I said --- Skip Tucker -- a little louder. This time though he wasn't alarmed, he was concerned. He was hearing voices and no one was anywhere near him. I imagine he was wondering if he had indeed sobered up enough to go to work that morning or if he should call in drunk.
I then said OLAN CLAUDE TUCKER JR. which is his given name ---what his mamma called him when she was mad. He FREAKED. He walked around his car.....looked under his car and all around before he looked up to see my grinning face. He bellowed RICKY WATSON YOU SOMBITCH -- I THOUGHT I WAS BEING CALLED TO PREACH!!!!!

I reminded him of that story on Friday and everyone there had a great laugh. It’s good to reconnect with old friends.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

You've Got Mail

Jilda and I went out of town over night to a concert in Montgomery. Our friends Wes and Deidra bought us tickets for Christmas and we met them at the Coliseum for the show. The sound was not that good for some reason, but we still had a great time. We saw Blain Larson, Van Zant and Gretchen Wilson. The music was much louder than I remember from concerts we've attended in the past, but it could be the first sign of oldfartism creeping on. Even with bad sound it was a lot of fun seeing the show and seeing our friends.
This morning when we got home Jilda went to the mailbox and when she came in she said "You've Got Mail". No it's not like email because it was not an offer to get a college degree in three days or something that could double the size of my penis overnight, it was a package from my friend Dale Short. It was a copy of his new book "Turbo's Very Life." I've only read the first short story in the book but it is delightful. Emmett is the name of the story and the teller is giving directions on how to find Emmett. The language Dale uses knocks me out. I know it is only a matter of time before the world discovers my friend Dale and I'll get to say... I worked with him and he made me want to write.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fly Fishing

It won't be long before it's warm enough to do a little fly fishing. My nephew Haven says we can catch some Crappy on the Warrior River soon. He has a boat and a gift for fishing. He's been catching fish since he was a small boy. I'd take him and he'd catch his limit and I'd catch a cold. I got an L.L. Bean fishing catalog yesterday so I spent some time looking. It's a beautiful catalog with equipment for everyone no matter what level of fisherman you are. I've got most of the equipment I need to fish, but it never hurts to look.
We plan to take a trip to Freeport, Maine this summer so that I can go to a fly fishing school. It should be a hoot. I've been up the east coast, but I've never been all the way to Maine. I've heard that they talk funnier than we do. Anyhow, I plan to learn those valuable skills and come back here and terrorize those trout below the dam.
If you have any fishing stories, feel free to share them with me.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

No Place LIke Home

I just got home from Atlanta. I know I was only gone for one night, but it seemed much longer. Atlanta is a great city with great museums, galleries, book stores, and restaurants but the traffic is dreadful. I stayed in the Marriott Courtyard in the Executive Park last night. It's close to I-85 North. The drone of traffic was constant. Today when I mentioned it to someone at work who lives in Atlanta they said they no longer hear the traffic.
I live on a dead end road in Empire and a traffic jam here is my neighbor heading to work just as the paper lady is delivering the news.
I'm sure the people in Atlanta would be bored to tears living here, but you cannot get a better meal than I get each night. My wife is a master chef. In the spring, I can sit with the doors open listening to the birds and rarely hear a car pass and I can honestly say, I have never heard a horn blow unless it's someone trying to get my attention so they can wave. And in the mornings, I awake to the sound of crowing roosters instead of the drone of traffic. I know this might not be for everyone, but it's just right for me. There is no place like home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Driving on Ice

Nature has a way of thinning out the herd. You can see it everywhere. For example, this morning I had to drive over to Atlanta for a 10 a.m. meeting. It rained into the night last night and then turned off cold. That usually means one thing --- ICE. Most thinking people who drive know that ice usually forms on bridges and overpasses whenever this situation occurs. Even if you’ve never actually experienced it, the news media says it incessantly “BEWARE OF ICE FORMING ON BRIDGES AND OVERPASSES.”
So this morning I got up really early and headed to Atlanta and the first bridge I encounter is on I-65. I slow down to about 40 mph and ease cross the bridge no problem. At that time I’m the only vehicle in sight. Closer to Birmingham, the traffic gets a little more congested and when I approached the bridge in Gardendale, I slowed down even more. But those from the shallow end of the gene pool apparently believe that the only way to tackle ice is at a high rate of speed. As I start onto the bridge, there is an auto ballet that took place before me. I was in the middle lane doing fine, but the cars on either side that made the unfortunate decision to utilize the speed method, both hit the concrete guard rails and came to a stop near the end of the bridge. A young girl in a new BMW, who had taken a dim view of my slow approach to the ice, whipped out into the other lane and blew by me just as the ballet was ending. Apparently she thought that BMW’s transverse ice better than other vehicles. When she touched her brakes (mistake #2) the beamer started act three of the ballet. She spun around three times but somehow missed the cars that had wrecked moments earlier. I’m betting that she had to clean out her pants and the leather seats of the beamer.
That was just the first wreck I saw. I sat on the interstate for two hours before another multi car pile-up was removed. I’ve heard Southerners remark “well people from up North can drive on ice because they get bad weather all the time.” One of my buddies from Michigan heard one such remark while visiting us last summer and he said “I beg to differ, but no one can drive on ice unless you’re driving a tank with tracks instead of tires.”
I really hope no one was hurt this morning but I also hope some folks learned their lesson. If I was a betting man, I would bet you that the next time we get ice on the roads we will have a bunch of wrecks…..but I bet no one will have to tell the girl in the red beamer to slow down when there’s ice on the road.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Today has been a long one. I'm whupped. I could complain, but the fact is, I'm grateful for the job I have. It has bought my house, and several cars, it has paid for my education and afforded me the opportunity to travel. The people I work with are great folks. So in the scheme of things sometimes you have to work hard sometimes you don't....today I did.
I'll write more tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Do What You Love

Do what you love. I’ve heard this for many years and it rings true. You will be faced with many opportunities in your life. Oftentimes an opportunity will mean more money for you and your family but the work may not be what you want to do. I read somewhere that 80% of Americans that are working are in jobs they hate. There are so many quotations regarding work but the one I like best is "make your vocation your vacation." I know for a fact that when I’m writing stories, blog entries, or songs, I lose all concept of time. I think it’s like the theoretical situation in which if you were to ever to move faster than the speed of light, you would actually take years off your life.
I read a story about a man that worked in a job all his life that he hated. Every day was met with a sense of dread. His disposition was often sour and he rarely smiled. On weekends he fished. He would take his wife, his kids, and his friends fishing. He was an extraordinary fisherman.
Then one day he went to work and his boss met him at the door and told him he no longer had a job. He was crushed. He looked around for a long time for a “regular” job but was unsuccessful. Then one day out of the blue, his old boss called him to say the he had some clients coming in from out of town and wanted to work in a fishing trip while they were in town. The boss asked if he would be interested is being a guide for a day. He jumped at the chance.
Once he opened up to the idea that he could actually make a living fishing, things blossomed for him. He put classified ads in fishing magazines, and he gave out business cards to other businessmen and slowly he started picking up work. That was several years ago and now that’s all he does and he’s making more money than ever before….and he’s doing something he loves.
The reasons people continue to do work they hate are many. Some people take the first job that comes along and stay with it for unknown reasons. Sometimes it is the security of a regular paycheck. Some people are in jobs because it’s what their parents wanted for them. Some people don’t think about the things they really love.
Sometimes you do not have the luxury of doing the work you love. You may have a family and responsibilities and life pulls you away from your dreams. But if you must work a “day” job that you hate, at least spend some time each day doing work you do love. Oftentimes this will take you toward your dreams instead of away from them. In doing this, you will build needed skills and make contacts in the field you love. You will be in a position to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself.
Don’t be like the 80%, be like the 20% that do what they love.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Birthday Boy

Today is my birthday but we celebrated last night. I had my music friends over and we played music into the night. There is nothing I enjoy more than having friends over playing music, drinking wine and telling stories. Our friend Randy Palmer and his wife Karen came over and Randy (Frog to his friends) had us all in tears of laughter. No one tells a strory like Frog.
Jilda enjoys these gatherings as well and she makes the guests welcome by preparing great food. Last night we had taco soup and cheese potato soup with cornbread.
I can't think of a better way to spend a birthday. In fact, next year I plan to have a party barn so you are all invited. Bring your guitar and a bottle of your favorite wine.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Fifty Five and Counting

On the eve of my 55 birthday I’ve had some time to ponder. It seems like yesterday I was graduating from Dora High School with the world by the tail. I’ve lived a blessed life as I have said before, but life will slip through your hands like a wet catfish......often unnoticed. But I’ve worked to keep that to a minimum by journaling. I have my computer remind me weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly to go back and read what I have written so that I can relive the highlights of my life. By keeping a journal, I keep those precious memories fresh and not let them fall victim to the goo that settles in the cracks and crevices of my brain only to be covered by mental crap that deluges us all each day.
Looking back, I would not change a great deal even if I could. I think I would have tried to plan a little better for the phase of life on which I am about to embark. I think I would have started keeping a journal earlier and I think I would have taken better care of my knees.
All in all, I feel good about this birthday. I’m a little over weight, but I walk regularly, do Yoga, and eat fairly well. I’ve tried to do my family and friends right, though It’s very possible I have fallen short at times. I am also excited about my life. I’m doing things I really love doing and traveling now and then which is always a pleasure.
It is my goal to retire from my day job within four years. With a little luck and the help of a good publisher or with any luck with our songwriting it will be much sooner.
Once retired, it is my intention to continue to write, except I want to write some from exotic places. I want to continue playing music, but play for “my people”.
I want to learn to dance. I intend to live large.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Self Discipline

I wanted to blow off the BLOG today and start fresh tomorrow, but I decided against it. We went out of town yesterday and had a late night so my mind feels like a marshmallow that lingered too long near the fire. But I wrote here when I first started that I wanted to do updates daily and so far, even though my day job interferes with my creativity, I have been faithful to the promise to myself and to you.
Self discipline is a valuable thing. I’m listening to River of Doubt about former president Teddy Roosevelt and he was a poster child for self discipline. Once he had a direction and a goal, he never let up even under extreme personal tragedy and hardship.
Strong self discipline will make you stick to an eating regimen when you set a goal to lose weight. It will keep you from smoking even after years of using nicotine. It will keep you practicing free throws, kicking field goals, running in the rain or practicing guitar even when those around you are questioning your sanity. It will make you study for an important examination even when peers are out having the time of their lives. It is important that you know yourself and know where you are going and to know when you have arrived.
Of all the things that contribute to a successful and healthy life, a strong self discipline is one characteristic that will help you get to where you want to go.
I want to be a writer and writing this BLOG is like practicing free throws...it will help me learn the tools, techniques, and the creative aspects of writing. I don't think you are born with self discipline, it's a behavior you adopt and every day is a new chance to test your resolve.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The seed and shrub catalogs arrived late last year, but I’ve really started looking in earnest the past few days. I went to the barn and put some gas in my tractor and cranked it up just to hear the sound of the engine. Gardens are magical things that Jilda and I have done almost every year we’ve been married. We both start getting a little antsy just before time to plant.

Last year, we didn’t do a garden. Practically all our free time was spent caring for our mom’s so we made a labored decision not to have one and I think we both regretted it during the summer and fall. Gardens are a lot of work, but the nature of the work is such that we don’t mind at all. In fact, digging in the earth is a form of therapy for us both.

People with whom I work make fun of me when I tell them we do a garden. “Why don’t you just go to
Wal-Mart and buy vegetables. You can buy all the fruit and vegetables you want at a fraction of the cost,” they chide. But anyone who has ever planted a garden, nursed it with tender loving care and harvested the bounty with their own hands would simply smile and shake their heads at someone so naive. And anyone how has ever enjoyed a sandwich made with fresh tomatoes grown in your own garden will know exactly what I mean.

I’ve ordered some blueberry bushes and I just recently planted a fig sprout given to me by a neighbor. Fruit trees are an investment. We planted apple trees over 20 years ago and now each year we eat green apples and later delicious red apples. We also have pair trees, and a pecan tree that will probably only be enjoyed by the folks who get our farm after we pass on but that’s OK. It’s our gift to a future generation.

The weatherman says that we still have plenty of cold weather headed our way so I’ll have to bide my time looking at Stark Brothers catalogs and thinking about them fresh mater sandwiches.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ol' Red

After I graduated from high school I went to work for the Alabama Highway Department and soon afterwards for a place called Hutchinson Company in Pinson.  I started making pretty good money but I was still living at home.  I needed a car but I had no credit. Luckily my dad had great credit and said he would sign with me so one Saturday morning in June we went a-lookin’.  Once we were in Used Car City (Jasper, Alabama) I immediately saw the car I wanted.  It was a 1965 Chevy Impala SS.  
It was fire engine red and had a motor bigger than Texas with a four on the floor.  It still surprises me that he signed for that rocket but he did and I drove that monster home.
It did not take long to realize that car was really fast.  
Back then, street racing on the 78 highway or other major roads was common. I won more races than I lost.  
One Sunday afternoon I was on highway 31 in Gardendale stopped at a red light when just as luck would have it, a guy in a 1967 Pontiac GTO stopped beside me. I looked over at him and he raced his engine, I revved mine and we both knew it was about to be a thang.  We were both ready with motors just at the right RPM with the light about to change when by chance I looked in my rearview mirror……..there was a State Trooper right behind me.  Just then the light changed and I let off the gas and started off slowly.  The poor guy in the GTO was so focused in getting the jump on me he never saw the policeman and he almost burned the rear tires off his car. The trooper pulled out behind me and started after him.  He was in third gear running about 90 mph when it finally dawned on him that it was not a race…..I can’t even imagine what he was calling me when he saw the cop.  The GTO slowed and pulled to the side and the trooper was getting out of his car with his ticket book in hand as I passed by at 40 mph.  I tried to put on one of those “hey man, I didn’t see him in time to warn you ….I’m soooo sorry”, looks but the guy wasn’t buyin’ it.  As I drove by he stuck his hand out the window and gave me the middle finger salute.
It was probably fortunate for me the car was stolen a short time later (probably the guy in the GTO just to get back at me) and not long after that I was drafted into the Army.I’ve never had a car that I’ve loved like Ol’ Red.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fly Like an Eagle

Keep your feet on the ground as you reach for the sky
It’s not sin to fail till you fail to try
When bad seeds are planted, the harvest is thin
You can’t fly like an eagle on the wings of a wren

Jilda and I wrote this a few years ago and tonight I was flipping through our old files looking for inspiration and the folder fell open to this song.  I had forgotten about even writing it.  We didn’t write that many songs last year, but over the past ten years we have been quite prolific.  
What these words mean to me is that you stay grounded in your pursuit of your dreams. You’re going to fail sometimes.  Edison, they say, failed over 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb.  When someone asked him if he got discouraged when materials didn’t work and he was exuberant in answering “no, I’ve found something else that doesn’t work.”  Edison could not conceive of quitting.  
We have written songs for many years and we’ve driven to Nashville, flown to New York, and California and play our songs for many people.  We have had a little success with our music, but we’ve had a lot more rejection.  Someone said to us once “I think I would just quit,” but I can’t imagine NOT writing songs and stories and columns.  Whether we ever get rich is immaterial.  I/we write for the simple pleasure of writing.
I hope you all have something that you truly love and I hope you do it with all your heart.

Monday, January 09, 2006


We shifted furniture around yesterday. I needed a writing table in my office so we moved a small table from in front of our windows in the living room and replaced the table with an antique trunk left to Jilda by her grandmother Mammie Phillips.
Mammie was a character. She was a gardener extraordinaire and an avid reader and a midwife. She knew the names of trees, birds, and most any other critter that she came across. She knew herbal cures that today modern science is now “discovering”.
She was over seventy when we married but she was still sharp as a tack. I've heard people say her hearing aids whistled in church because she turned them up loud to hear the preacher. She had what seemed like hundreds of grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren….so many in fact that she had trouble with the names. One grandchild’s name she did remember was Jilda. Each year at Christmas she always got me the same gift – a pair of white sox. Always beautifully wrapped. She could never remember my name so she wrote on my gift To: Jilder’s husband. Even thinking about those sox right now makes me smile.
Mammie had another gift and that was beautiful craftwork. Each year at Decoration at Dilworth Church, she worked for weeks on end making crape paper flowers and she somehow coated them with wax. The result was stunning arrangements that were one of a kind. She also made delicate crotched scarves, dollies (pronounced doilies) and tablecloths. When Mammie died, most of her handmade things got distributed. It’s hard to say who got what, but I hope whoever received these things treasure them.
Before she died, she gave Jilda a few dollies and a headscarf. They were in the trunk and I had never really looked at them. I can’t imagine the amount of effort and time it took to produce these fragile works of art. They are truly things of beauty.
She also left Jilda something else more subtle --- a love of animals, birds, and most any living thing. She won’t even step on a spider or run over a snake with her car if she can avoid it. She also loves plants. Anyone that comes to our house will understand as our living room doubles as a greenhouse. We have every kind of plant and herb you can think of and her summer salads are legendary.
I am thankful for all my friends and family, but I am especially thankful for Mammie and the impact she had on our lives.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Forever Young

My mother’s baby brother Marvin Lee Ferguson was one of the first soldiers killed in World War II. Marvin was on the USS California at Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 when the Japanese attacked. He was just a kid. My mother says that receiving that telegraph was the most traumatic things that had happened in her young life. The image that stands out in my mother’s mind is of Marvin Lee standing proudly in his Navy whites with his sailor had cocked to one side smiling for the camera. He has not aged a day since December of 1941.
War, can seem distant and impersonal. But if you were members of one of the 2210 families who have died in Iraq (seventeen on yesterday alone) the war becomes very up close and personal. In fact, it will change those lives forever. There will be children who will never know their mother or father. There are mothers and fathers that will grieve for the rest of their lives.
I have attended military funerals. All funerals are sad but seeing that flagged draped coffin and hearing the twenty-one gun salute and the lonesome sound of a bugle playing “Taps”, it reaches somewhere inside and evokes a sadness unlike any other.
There are those who debate whether this war is justified and they point evidence that shows that the president was right or wrong, but the soldiers I have known did not get into that debate. Right or wrong their country called upon them and they kissed their wives and kids and mamma and daddies and brothers and sisters goodbye and they went off to war and left the debate to the scholars.
History will tell. Historians will look back through the magnifying glass of time and evaluate the evidence and pass judgment on this administration. And it will be written for all to see if the war was a blunder by an inept administration or if it was justified and somehow made the world a better place.
I can tell you this: no matter what the verdict, there will be families that will be forever changed because of pictures on mantles of smiling faced soldiers who will remain forever young.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


I woke up thinking about Sedona this morning. We went there for our anniversary in May of 2004. When we left Birmingham the temperature was a little bit cool for that time of year, but when we landed in Phoenix it was a different story. We got there just after lunch and it was hotter than the hinges of hell.We picked up our rental and opened our trusty road Atlas and headed north to Sedona. Just outside Phoenix, we started seeing these big honkin saguaro cacti (that cactuses for us here in Alabama) the terrain started a gentle upward slope. Things were dry when we were there but shortly after leaving the desert around Phoenix, the temps started moderating and the scenery started changing. You know you are approaching Sedona because the colors change and the contrast between the vibrant blue sky, snow white puffy clouds and the brown colored rocks which jut up skyward like rusty skyscrapers.
There are many areas suitable for hiking which puts you up close and awestruck to these natural wonders. Jilda and I took water, snacks and the camera on a hike to Cathedral Rock, shown so often in movies and photographs. What struck me was the feeling of peace that came over me. It was a very moving experience.
There are many that say the area contains vortexes similar to the ones associated with the Bermuda Triangle. It can be described in many ways: an area of increased energy, power, and some think it is magnetism. Some think it improves psychic ability and our ability to heal. Some think it’s a bunch of New Age Hooey practiced by potheads from the 60’s and those who took one too many trips on electric koolade.
I didn’t feel any additional psychic powers (I was keen on receiving the Powerball Lottery numbers for the drawing on Saturday night), but I did feel a peace and a sense of reverence I had never experienced before.
We had the good fortune to get a cabin at Canyon Wren. It’s in a small area just north of Sedona on a small creek. The cabin was for two people with a small living area and a bedroom upstairs. The deck looked out over the creek and the back yard was full of all kinds of birds and wildlife. It was peaceful. The owners were Mike and Molina who were very good hosts. They had breakfast ready early in the morning and they sat around with us drinking coffee and describing places we might want to visit.
We visited Jerome which is an old mining town turned artist community. We walked and toured, and ate, and photographed, and talked to the locals. I was amazed at what you can do if you put enough imagination and energy into a place.
We also went to the Grand Canyon. I won’t even try to describe the canyon because words and photographs can’t even come close to bringing that scenic wonder to life.
I love to travel because it presents so many new perspectives. Unlike some of my friends that can always find fault with the places they visit, we always meet interesting people, see interesting things, and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
I can’t wait for our next vacation.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Snow Flurries

I think Wal-Mart owns the Weather Channel.  That thought occurred to me last night as I waited in line behind a big woman with a shopping cart full of milk and bread.  Making chit chat, I asked “why all the milk and bread?”  “It’s going to SNOW” she spat.  Oh, I thought.  When I got home I learned that there was a slight chance of snow flurries today.  I could almost see those Wal-Mart executives in a board room……our numbers are down for this month….let’s stock up on milk, bread and batteries then forecast snow in Alabama.
The last big snow we had was in 92 or 93.  I had been at work and Jilda kept calling me saying “when are you coming home it’s starting to snow.”  I thought of all the times in the past…all the false alarms. We’d get a dusting this morning and you could lie out and get a sun tan that afternoon.  But Jilda kept calling and finally I acquiesced and headed home.  As the visibility diminished, I realized that this was not a regular snow day.  I made it home with a lot of effort and we made hot chocolate, sat on the couch and watch the snow fall out our front windows.  We went out and played in the snow with our nieces and nephews who live next door. It was a lot of fun and I can see why kids love the snow….well the fact that they get out of school figures large in that equation.   But it got a lot less fun as the snow kept falling.  Before we knew it, the white fluffy stuff was butt deep to giraffe and then our power went off.  This was NOT good news for us because our house at that time was total electric….no heat, no stove, and the next day we had no phone. I felt like Robinson Caruso with a snippy wife.
We made it through the first day because we had a gas grill on the porch and we were able to make coffee and heat up soup but that stuff didn’t go very far.  By the third day, we were wrapped up in layers of clothes and lying in the sun that was peeking through our garden doors. Lying there with our breath escaping in clouds that looked like cigarette smoke, I had not had a bath, had not shaved nor talked to the outside world for three days.  Jilda looked up at me as said “we look like street people,” and I had to agree.  The thing that saved us is Jilda’s brother who lives next door had a gas range that did not require electricity.  So we managed to eat.  
The next day when the temps started rising and the snow gradually began to melt, I made an important decision.  I called Country Gas and asked them to install a propane heater and a gas stove in our all electric house.  It might snow and we might lose power, but we’ll never feel like street people in our homes again.  
Hey, I think I just saw a snowflake…think I’ll see if we have some milk and bread in the fridge.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Maybe Tomorrow

I've sit down at this keyboard a number of times today to write my daily entry but my mind has gone blank each time. I've cleaned my keyboard, my monitor, adjusted the print on my printer, watered the plants on my desk and reloaded the stapler but the words would not come. My mind is usually like a brood of mockingbirds - chatter, chatter, chatter but nothing. Maybe it's my biorhythms. I've heard that when you're in a down cycle you can't think of squat. Maybe I had a limited number of ideas and like a well that been dipped in too often my mind has dried up.
Upon reflection, it's probably because I stayed up until almost midnight last night watching the USC - Texas game. I usually go to bed with the chickens and staying up late takes a lot out of us older folks. Anyhow, I'll start out tomorrow fresh and rested we'll see what happens. One thing is for sure, my computer is clean as a whistle.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Begin it Now

“The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” This quotation is kind of harsh, but it is true.  I often write down things that I want to do but they just don’t get done.  When you’re talking to an old friend on the phone and she says “let’s get together,” and you respond “we’ll do that sometime.”  You really intend to do it, but often it never happens.  I’ve heard people say time and again “I’m going to learn how to speak Spanish one day.”  What they are really saying is it would be nice if I could speak a foreign language, but I am unwilling to take a class or listen to language tapes. This person will never learn to speak Spanish…until they make up their mind to do what it takes.  I was at a party several years ago playing oldies songs and a guy that was over fifty years old said “I’d give anything to play guitar.”  I asked him if he’d be willing to give an hour a day for the next two years.  He looked at me oddly.  We said our goodbyes and we went home.  The next day my phone rang and it was the guy from the party.  He said “your question put me to thinking and I asked myself  if I would seriously give up an hour a day to practice?”  After giving it a great deal of thought, he decided that he would indeed pay the price.  I told him to go out and buy a cheap practice guitar so that if he decided that it was not for him, he wouldn’t be out much.  He called me a few days later and he had purchased a $4,000 Martin guitar.  He was committed.I gave him eight or ten lessons and he learned quickly. It was obvious at his progress that he put in more than an hour a day of practice.  I saw him recently and he is still playing daily. He now performs at his church.  I was thrilled for him.
I have a saying on my desk that says:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation).  There is an elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dream would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
-- by Goethe.
Zig Ziglar says “whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.”   --- but first you must commit and you must begin.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Habits are strange things. Everybody has them. Some habits are bad....Smoking and excessive drinking or gambling are considered by some to be bad habits. It's not my intention to pass judgment only to make an observation. Habits are something you do without thinking. You can have good habits and then without warning or written consent BAM you fall into a bad habit. Instead of practicing guitar, writing in your journal or taking a walk, you're sitting on your couch drinking beer and eating Doritos. I know sitting in front of the boobtube can be relaxing, but if you do it too much, it'll make you butt get big. Now this is information you won't get in any book nor will many of your friends impart that information but take it from me, it's the truth.
The thing about a bad habit is you can do it for a while and nobody notices. You won't get big over night, you will not lose that promotion, or break up a marriage but if you continue bad habits over an extended period of time, it will take its toll. Jim Rohn who is a great self help writer and speaker says that bad habits repeated year after year can spell disaster.
I used to think that homework was only done while you were in school but homework is a metaphor for going the extra mile no matter what you are attempting to do.
When I was in school, there were kids that had a habit of always doing their homework. They went to the library and checked out books that weren't even assigned. These kids were almost always chastised by the "hip kids." "Whatcha doing reading all them books nerd," and they all had a big laugh at the conscientious kid's expense.
Do you know what the "hip kids" say the conscientious kids later in life????? "Hey dude, you want fries with this order?" As the "hip kid" watches the nerd drive off in the BMW it occurrs to him...."dang, I wish I had done my homework."
How do you form good habits? Simply put, you do it until you don't have to think about it. If you are out of shape start walking every morning before breakfast. After a few weeks, you'll feel out of sorts if you DON'T walk before breakfast.
For most people there are only a few areas in life that make the most difference; their relationship with family and friends, their health, finances, education and vocation. I truly believe that if you do your homework and form good habits in all these areas you stand a really good chance of living a good life.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Your Money or Your Life

Your money our your life. No this is not a cyber-stickup it happens to be the name of a book I read a few years ago by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I know I often talk about books in my writing but this book had a profound impact on the way I view work, relationships, and purchasing things.The premise is this: you exchange your life energy for things. You have a finite number of hours on this earth and you make decisions each day about how you will spend those hours. When you calculated the number of hours you have a year you get 8760. Now, you multiply this number for the life expectancy of the average male, which is around seventy seven you can calculate the total number of hours the average man has to live. (When I do the math I have about 135,000 hours left until I reach 77.)
Now, most people sleep a third of that time which brings down the number of annual waking hours to 5869 and change. Most people work 40 hours a week and get two weeks of vacation so work time equals about 2000 working hours a year.
Now here is the interesting part. When I buy things, I make a decision about how much life I must exchange for the item I want to purchase. A person making $15 an hour will spend over 1333 working hours paying for a car that costs $20,000. The sad part is, this calculation doesn’t even take into consideration taxes on your income or interest on the car loan. Even smaller purchases can cost you a significant amount of life force to foot the bill. The purpose of this blog entry is not to give people a hard time about spending money, but at my age (54) I carefully consider all major purchases. I ask myself: Is it worth giving up a significant portion of my life in exchange for this car, vacation, or guitar.
Obviously there are different things people can do….you can invest in an education and earn more money so that the hours you spend working can buy more things. You can arrange your finances so that you are getting unearned income from rents, royalties or investments and you can earn money while you sleep. But statistics show that a majority of people don’t do this. They get up in the morning, they brush their teeth, they put on their cloths and drive to work. And when they buy expensive homes and cars, they spend their life paying for them. Again this is not a judgment, it’s just something to consider – your money or your life.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Years Eve

My friend Don owns a train. I’m not talking about a model train but a sure enough train. We spent New Years Eve with him and several of our friends last night. He has the baggage car fitted with a commercial kitchen and it is decorated with flowers, antiques and other beautiful things. Don worked for the railroad for many years. He followed in his father’s footstep who was also a railroad man. Don quit his job several years ago, but he didn’t stop loving trains so he started buying train cars. Not only does he have a baggage car, but he also has a passenger care, a sleeper car and passenger train engine and a caboose. All are either restored or are in the process of being restored. His wife who runs a Wedding Chapel business on Green Top Hill uses the train for wedding parties.
At last nights’ party, we all gathered in the passenger car and ate, talked and played music. Don not only owns the train but is a great piano player and knows every old song that has ever been written. I took my guitar and together we played and the other guests sang along. It was a great way to bring the New Year in.
Today I’m putting together the finalized plan for the coming year. I’ve spent the last several days gathering information and brain storming about the kinds of things I want to accomplish. Now all that is left is put the finishing touches on my plan, put measures in place to keep a check on my progress and execute.
I’m excited about the coming year. I hope you are too. Be sure to eat your greens and black eyed peas so that you’ll have plenty of money this year.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required