Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Music is a Powerful Thing

I usually listen to books on my mp3 player during my commute each day but this morning, I wasn't in the mood for a book so I just played songs. In addition to my books, I probably have a hundred or so songs on my player. I pressed random and it picked some incredible songs. One song in particular "Traveling Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks puts a lump in my throat each time I hear it. This morning was not different.
It's about a young girl who befriends a soldier shortly before he goes off to war. They fall in love but he is killed there. She vows to "never hold the hand of another guy." I can almost hear a young girl say those words. The song reaches deep inside of me because of what happened in real life to one of my friends.
Just after I graduated from Dora High, I enrolled in Jeff State Junior College and because I didn't have a car, I had to ride the bus. For the most part, it wasn't cool to arrive at college on the bus but fortunately there were a bunch of other's who were also "un-cool travelers" and we all became great friends.
The year was 1968 and the war in Southeast Asia was raging and it seemed like the southern states gave more than their share of young men. The fiancé of one of our friends, I'll call her Kathy, got his papers and she immediately went into depression.
We all did what we could to keep her spirits up, but she had a foreboding….a heavy heart that no amount of cheerful support could ease. As it turned out, her fears were justified because shortly after getting to Vietnam, he was killed.
Kathy was never the same again. Her youth and a piece of her soul died along with her fiancé and even now looking back it's hard to understand what it was all about. I lost touch with Kathy and I'm not sure if she "ever held the hand of another guy." I do know that seeing the anguish on her face is something I will never forget.
All of this came rushing back through my mind as a result of hearing "Traveling Soldier" on my player…….and sitting on interstate 65 this morning in rush hour traffic, I had tears rolling down my face.
Music is a powerful thing.

Monday, February 27, 2006


When I first read about the book How To Think Like Da Vinci I thought to myself...hell, how hard could that be, they guy's been dead for over 400 years...his brain is probably dust by now. Ya know what? I'm still alive and my brain feels like dust tonight. So I'm going to take a "get out of writing a blog entry" pass tonight and make it a point to do better tomorrow.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Remembering Tim Robinson

(This is a story I wrote a few years ago about a friend who passed away. His Alma Mater, Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama is doing the first annual Timothy Sumner Robinson Forum on April 11th 2006. The forum will deal with issues in journalism . I wrote the following about Tim at the time of his death.)
It was in the early 1980's and Jilda's first trip to New York City. We were there visiting our friend Keith Watson and pitching songs to a record producer. We called up Tim Robinson, a fellow graduate from Dora High School Class of 1961 just to say hello. He sounded delighted to hear from us and asked us to meet him for dinner that evening. We both agreed and found ourselves at a quaint little restaurant in Soho which had tables with white tablecloths and real napkins. They served warm fresh baked bread. I ordered sweet tea and the waiter looked at me as though I had a railroad spike stuck through my head. Tim looked at the waiter and said we are all from Alabama and the waiter nodded his head with understanding. We didn't get sweet tea, but I did have my very first cappuccino.
We had a wonderful dinner and talked about what was going on in our lives. We told him about what we were trying to do in our music quest and he talked some about his life. At that time, he was Editor and Chief of the National Law Journal, which was the largest selling journal in America, read by lawyers. In short, Tim was a very successful and important person and he was sitting there with Jilda and me talking about the old school.
After dinner, we walked around the city for a while and he told us places to go and things to see before we left town. It was an extraordinary evening.
We have kept in touch with Tim through the years and he was always very kind to us. He was a big supporter of the DoraHighSchool.com website. I asked him several months ago about doing a profile on him but he was a little hesitant. I got the distinct feeling that he did not want to appear to brag. I thought his story would be an inspiration to the kids coming along. He did agree to let me do the story, but with his move from California to D.C. it got put on the back burner.
Tim was the son of Clarence and Edith Robinson, both were teachers at Dora. He has three brothers, Nelson, Gerald, and Michael and one sister Terah Sherer.
Tim was only 58 years old, but he crammed a lot of living into those years. He started out as a reporter for The Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper in the 60’s and attended Walker College. He moved on to work at the Birmingham Post Herald as an assistant state editor and also worked as a reporter and photographer for the United Press International news service.
When I did the story last year about remembering the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Tim sent me a note about his memories of that awful day.
He went on to graduate from Samford University, in Birmingham and he received a master's degree in communications from American University and a master's in studies of law from Yale University.
He moved to Washington in the late 1960s to be a speechwriter for Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman. In 1968, he became editor of the Washington Examiner, a short-lived experiment in newspaper publishing by D.C. Transit owner O. Roy Chalk.
Tim joined The Washington Post as assistant city editor in 1969 and later was night city editor and day city editor. He began covering federal courts in 1973 and was assigned to the Watergate trials. He also did investigative reporting on judicial and police corruption and national security matters and wrote about developments in the legal field. He wrote a weekly column on lawyers for the Washington Business section. He also served as chair of the Newspaper Guild unit at the newspaper.
In 1989, after his stint in New York, Tim moved to California where he
Became editor and associate publisher of the Los Angeles Daily Journal. He went to work with Excite in 1995 just as the Internet was taking off. Tim worked on the cutting edge of technology and publishing and appeared on televisions shows such as Today, Larry King Live and McLaughlin.
Tim and his wife, Janet Andrew, operated a media-consulting firm. He also lectured on legal and media topics. His interests included the piano, singing and New Orleans cuisine.
He recently moved to Washington D.C. to take a position with Time Warner AOL. He was diagnosed with cancer a short time later and died from complications from surgery.
Tim Robinson is a great example of how someone from a small town can make a big difference in the world. He meant a lot to Jilda and me and I can tell you he will be missed.
Tim will be at New Horizon Funeral home in Sumiton. The viewing will be from 11:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m and the funeral will be at 1:30 p.m.

NOTE: Parts of this story appeared originally in The Washington Post.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sick as a Dog

My wife Jilda rarely gets sick. In fact, she's the one that usually takes care of others. We were out of town the night before last and she started feeling bad. By the time we got home yesterday she was sick as a dog. So I've spent the day fetching water, green tea, antibiotics, and ice cream.
The day has been cold and rainy so if you're going to be sick, why not pick a day like today.
I ran down to Sumiton to the local Chinese Restaurant and got bowls of hot and sour soup with some egg rolls and fortune cookies. It's always good at Yi Cuisine, but tonight it was excellent.
I told the lady at the restaurant that my wife was sick and craving their soup and she said "Dere's no-thing like good hot n sour soup when you no feel good." I had to agree. When the food was ready and I paid the bill, she said "you tell wife I want her to feel better soon."
I think the soup did make her feel better.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Fear is a habit; so is self-pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation. You can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves: I can!!! and I Will!! - Manin Morrissey
My young friend Will had a gig to play for a beauty pageant in front of hundreds of people last February. He panicked, messed up and was embarrassed beyond words. We talked a little about it afterwards and I offered some words of consolation, but I can tell it really made a deep scar that won't soon heal without some work.
Fear is an innate response that helps man to survive. Back in the early days when mankind was young, before guns and knives, man wandered around unfriendly places and was at the mercy of wild animals and other strange things they did not understand. If faced with a danger, his very existence depended upon the fight or flight response.
Modern day man does not face these situations as frequently...unless of course his car breaks down in "bad part of town" at night....but the fact is, fear rules.
It's a fear of failure that keeps people from being all they can be. It's a fear of looking foolish or a fear that someone to whom you look up to might not approve of your actions....you may fear that you won't "fit in."
Fear can paralyze you and make you docile....it can rob you of the very essence of your existence and cause you to lead a life of mediocrity.
In Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural address he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself."
I love the lines in the song written by Susanna Clark that goes like this:
You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody's watching
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I decided to grow a beard back in 1976. Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president in January and I got a wild hair (pun intended) to see if it would grow. I figured I'd let it grow for a while then go clean cut again. It took no time for it to get full enough to have my mom and dad start badgering me about it each Sunday when we visited for dinner, but I paid them no attention. Seems they didn't want folks to think they had raised a hippy. By all the fuss they made, you'd think they thought I had decided to become a bank robber, ax murderer, or perhaps a republican.
As it turns out, here it is thirty years later and I have had some form of facial hair ever since. I'm not even sure what I would look like clean faced. I have old photographs of me without facial hair, but it doesn't look like me now.
That's probably why most people from high school and others from my past don't recognize me. If it were not for the fact that EVERYONE knows my wife, I could live in total anonymity. But when I'm with her they look at me and say "RICK?????" Yep, it's me I confess.
One of my mother's sisters loved my beard and one of them hated it. The one who hated the beard would give me a hard time every time we visited. She would look at me, scrunch up her face and say”I can't stand beards." I was tempted to break the news to her, that her beard was almost as full as mine, but in the end I decided against it.
I used to let my beard get long enough to braid, but these days I keep my beard clipped fashionable short.
So today when I encounter a young smart-elec whippersnapper I quickly put them in their place by saying "he bubba, my beard's older than you."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

High School Not Nirvana For Everyone

I loved high school. There with all my friends in the ebb and flow of small town life, I was somewhat insulated from the world outside and the worst thing that happened to me was being occasionally scolded by a teacher for goofing off.
I have so many fond memories of that time.....but I have discovered since starting this site, not everyone shares this view. I have spoken to some people about the site and how it is an avenue for linking up with old friends and classmates. More than one person has said in venomous tones that they could care less about classmates or anything associated with high school. I was dumbfounded.
How could someone after thirty years feel so negative about their experience at our school?
I talked to my wife Jilda and she said that "unlike your experience, high school was not Nirvana for everyone." She was popular in high school and had her share of friends, but she weighed eighty four pounds when we first started dating in 1968. Now that's thin for a sixteen year old. Even her grandmother pulled me aside at a family gathering a short time after Jilda and I started dating and said "Jilder looks a little wormy to me." (Yes her grandmother called her Jilder.) If her grandmother said that, I imagine that the kids in school had much worse things to say. In fact, Jilda said that she was constantly the brunt of skinny jokes, some of which cut a little too close to the bone. Now she's always been a scrapper and she can fend for herself, but there are others who get scars that are tender to the touch even years after the initial wound.
I got a note last night from an alumnus who said she had been in touch with a classmate who used this site to contact old classmates and apologize for their behavior in school.
I was humbled by this note. I've tried to think back and remember if I caused anyone pain on my journey through that place. I don't recall, but oftentimes the one who does the hurting has forgotten the incident by the time the laughter fades and the one who has been hurt carries the injury for life.
It's funny that something which started out as a simple tool for use in planning reunions (the Dora High School alumni website) could be used as a vehicle by people to try and "right some old wrongs."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Long before the horror stories about hitchhikers, I used to hitch rides all the time. When I was in the military, my friend Kirk Trachy and I hitchhiked from Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey to New London, New Hampshire over the Thanksgiving weekend. We threw our stuff in our duffel bags and headed out on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. We hitched a ride with a guy from the post who was headed home to Pennsylvania so he dropped us off at the connection for the turnpike and we headed northeast. We learned early on to wear our uniforms and we caught a ride within minutes and they took us all the way to Massachusetts. Our luck ran out before we got to Chesterfield and we were stranded on the interstate at 2 a.m. I began questioning the wisdom of hiking when a big white Ford slowed to a stop where we had sought shelter under a concrete bridge. We both ran and jumped in the car before we noticed that it was a woman traveling alone who had stopped. We both thanked her profusely. We were cold, tired and hungry. She asked where we were headed and we told her New Hampshire. She asked if we were hungry...we lied and told her we were fine because we didn't want to inconvenience her. We were truely thankful when she said she could use a cup of coffee. We pulled into a truck stop and I think we ate a dozen doughnuts each and washed it down with hot coffee before hitting the road again. I think she must have sensed we needed something to eat.
I wondered to myself how she found the courage to stop and pick up two stranded soldiers at that time of the night, but as we drove into the night, she told us that the reason she stopped was because she had a son in the military. He was currently serving in Vietnam. She went on to say that she realized it was risky picking up hitchhikers in the middle of the night, but when she saw us in uniform she stopped anyway. "I just thought to myself, what if that were my son?"
We rode on into the night, lost in our thoughts as we listened to James Taylor singing "Rockaby Sweet Baby James," and Mother Nature kissed the windshield with tiny snowflakes.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Love at First Sound.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard an Eagles song. It was the fall of 1971 and I was in the PX in Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. I was about to have a Panama Jack Cheeseburger when I heard "Take It Easy" come out over the jukebox. It was love at first sound.
This past weekend, I went to our barn to retrieve something for Jilda and underneath a throw cloth was a stack of milk crates filled with our old vinyl albums. I'm talking Neil Young "After the Gold Rush", The Beatles, The Stones, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstatd.
A flood of memories came rushing in.
As I have said before, music has always had a special place in our lives. You can buy CD's at Wal-Mart but the artwork is so small. You don't get a feel for just how beautiful the album coves were. Back in the 60's and 70's, the album covers were works of art.
Putting those old records on our turntable has been a treat. You do hear some snap, krackle and pop, but analog sound has a quality that I'm not sure digital sound captures.
I think that we live in a very special time...and I don't think I would trade places with anyone.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Turn Turn Turn

Jilda's brother who we visited on Friday took a turn for the worse and passed away early Saturday morning.
Her brother had two kids, three grand kids and two great grand kids...the last great grand child was born a few months ago. At the funeral home tonight I started thinking about the song made popular by the Byrds. The words come from the Bible and the music was written by Pete Seger. It's one of my all time favorite songs and it seems appropriate at this time.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Signs of Spring

Even thought winter is throwing its best at us right now, I look out my window and see signs of springs. It started out with daffodils down on the terrace by the mail box and then some baby's breath. Today down by the barn I saw the yellow bells have started to bloom.
If the sun is warm for a few days, it will coax out the peach and apple trees but the persimmon tree in our front yard has never been fooled. Each year, I think the tree has died because most all the other trees in our yard have budded out and things are beginning to turn green.
The persimmon tree is like the wise old farmer who waits until the almanac says that frost is over before putting seeds to ground. It seems to be saying, yes I could get a head start and bear fruit a few weeks early, but I think I'll wait a while just to be sure. More times than not there will be a late frost and all the early fruit is bitten.
You can almost hear the persimmon tree say "you see there, I told you so."

Friday, February 17, 2006


I've spent most of the day at the hospital. My wife's older brother had an operation earlier in the week to remove some cancer from a lung and he took a turn for the worse today.
If I had my choice, I'd rather be fishing or picking guitars, but being there with her brother's family is important. People in waiting rooms are often bone tired and a simple comment can cause them to laugh uncontrollably or it can cause them to weep. They want so desperately to hold on to the person who is sick and they feel so helpless because nothing they say or do makes a difference. So they pray and they reminisce and become lost in their precious memories. They want to keep the image of the loved one in their minds so strongly in the hope that it will somehow help pull them through.
I have witnessed this many times in my life and sometimes the sick folks make it through and sometimes they don't. I hope for my wife and her brother's family that he makes it through cause I know from experience that it is very hard to lose someone you love so dearly. There are words of comfort, but none really do the trick. So keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


When I walked down the isle on graduation day May 20th, 1968, I was certain my school days were over. I drove away and thoughts of that school faded from my mind like the image in my rearview mirror. I wanted to see what the world had to offer. I was proud and cocky, but I found out that opportunities were few for a kid who “thought” he knew it all. I managed to get a job with the Alabama Highway Department for the summer.
After graduation I lived at home with my parents. I decided that I wanted to go to college. My mother was delighted since no one else in my family had ever gone past high school. I enrolled at Jefferson State Junior College. In those days, Jefferson State had a bus…..and I didn't have a car so it was a natural choice.
I did well for the first few months until I learned just how much fun you could have at college. My grades soon fell like bird droppings on a freshly washed car.
Unfortunately for me was that my parents invented the NO PASS, NO PLAY rule long before they enforced it college athletics. I stayed in school, but I had to foot the bill. I quickly discovered that when you have to work your way through college, you don’t have as much time to party and you tend to do better than when going on someone else’s dime
After a stint in the Army and several job changes, I manage to graduate from Birmingham Southern College with a Master’s Degree in Business (1997) in a short twenty-nine years.
Since then, I have come to realize that college looks good on a resume, but most of my “real” learning came from making mistakes…..being bit on the butt
I now realize that an education does not make you “smart” and the lack of one does not make you “dumb”. I’ve found that you can learn a lot more by listening than by talking. I also discovered that no matter how hard you try, others will not love you until you love yourself.
I also learned that everyone is good at something. I went to elementary school with a young boy that was “slow” (the teacher’s words, not mine). He struggled with reading, writing, and math. He was different and he was the object of a lot of cruelty from schoolmates. But he was great with his pocketknife. At the age of ten years old, he could carve animals, fish, and birds from small pieces of wood. He could also draw pictures with his pencil that looked like black and white photographs. He never finished grammar school, but he was one of the kindest most talented people I ever knew.
I talked to him several years ago and he never “went far”, but he lives in a house that he built himself and he's debt free. He has a wife and kids who love him. He's happy.
I've invested a good portion of my life to school and I don't regret it. It's the path I chose but I have come to realize that the more I learn the more I realize I don't know squat.
The best education any one could hope for is to learn to be happy with yourself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


It's been a long day today and I've stared at this screen till my eyes are sore but the words are hiding somewhere in my mind. Some days my mind is like a radio with good reception - words, and phrases come to me easily. Other days it's a struggle. The "other" days usually coincide with times when I have either stayed up late the night before or gotten up really early. Today, I was covering for my co-worker in Miami so I got up early.
But I'm really trying to develop discipline and I think sometimes it's not necessarily what you write, but that you write.
My friend and guitar teacher Dan Crary once told me that it is much better to play the guitar 10 minutes every day than to play it for an hour on the weekend. It's the discipline of playing each day.
So, today it's slim pickins' but please come back. I'm sure tomorrow the words won't be playing hide and seek.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine Day

A few years ago I made a major faux pau. I had been out of town on business and in the rush to make it home on Valentine's Day I forgot "the stuff" until I was almost home. I made a quick u-turn and headed back to the nearest store but to my alarm, they had no Valentine cards. So it was back in the truck and to the next store.....still no cards.....back in the truck and twelve miles back to Wal-Mart. To my utter amazement, the only cards they had were "To My Favorite Sister". Not only did they not have cards, but there were no roses...indeed no flowers of any kind. I was a dead man. I thought quickly and snatched one of the sister cards thinking I can scribble through sister part and make a little joke....problem solved. So there I was, standing in line with the lame card and a pot of basil from the garden shop. I tentatively headed home.
Women can get away with crap like that. My wife said one of her girlfriends forgot her boyfriend on Valentine's Day so when he came in, she was sittin' buck naked on the couch with a six-pack of beer and she was pouring Bosco all over herself. The boyfriend thought it was the greatest gift in the world.
My wife on the other hand was not amused at my oversight. While she didn't say anything, I could see the hurt in her eyes. As luck would have it, she had scurried around all day buying aged steaks, French bread, red wine, scented candles and a bouquet of beautiful flowers. I managed to get through that night, but I told myself that never again would I let that happen. And I haven't.
A few days ago, I went to Barnes & Noble and bought a killer Victorian Valentine card and a box of Godiva chocolates. I also made arrangements with a local beauty shop for my wife to have a manicure and pedicure. I did good. But I did stop at that same Wal-Mart to pick up a bottle of Champaign and for kicks I strolled by the Valentine Shop. There were guys frantically looking for candy and flowers to no avail. I saw one poor guy holding a pack of Reese’s Cups thumbing through the sympathy cards and shaking his head in disbelief. I thought "you poor devil, I bet you won't do this next year."
It's like I always say "every day's a school day." Happy Valentine Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Moon

Tonight driving home the moon was as bright as a streetlight on a dark night. When I was young and crazy, I had a car that was as fast as the wind. On full-mooned nights in the summer I would roll down the windows and jack up the radio, turn off the lights and drive through the night like a run away train.
I'm not sure if it was the moon, or that restless feeling that comes over you from time to time and makes you do crazy things. But the wind blowin' through your hair and those songs that speak to you on a level that's hard to understand, somehow combine to make you do things that's hard to explain to people who are sain.
Anyhow, driving home tonight I got the urge to do it again but my better judgement talked me out of it. But I did jack up the radio and look back over my shoulder at that big ol' moon.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Organizing My Music

I spent some time today organizing my music. I had it all over my hard drive and there was not rhyme or reason to how I had it stored. So today I went through and put some much needed structure. Most of my friends are more selective and like country, rock, heavy metal, hip hop or maybe classical. But I like it all....well that's not really true, I don't like hip hop but this is a discussion for another time.
While organizing today I listened to "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain, "You Look Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton, "Live Like You Were Dying", "Life in the Fast Lane" by the Eagles, "Moon River" sung by Andy Williams, "Our Town" by Iris DeMint, and "Forever Young" by Dylan. I also listen to Mozart, Pacobel "Canon in D Major", and George Jones sings "He Stopped Loving Her Today". Greg Allman sang Jackson Browne’s “These Days” better than Browne himself. I watched Forest Gump the other day and there is a scene in that movie when he is in Vietnam and when they come under fire from the Viet Cong and a song performed by Jimi Hendrix called "All Along the Watchtower" comes on. Hearing that song made the hair on my arms stand up That is what good music does.
Maybe I am across the board but these are the songs I love. Now excuse me while I listen to Champaign High by Sister Hazel.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lonesome Tonight

I felt a little down today and I'm not sure why. I've thought about my brother today. My older brother Neil died on February 13th 1994. He was only 50 years old when he died. He leaned a little toward melancholy and he seemed to struggle to find his footing at times. He was several years older than me and he moved away from home while I was still in high school. He lived in Indiana and California for a while but he missed my Mamma's cornbread and came on back home to live around Dora.
He was the first born and my mom and dad cut him very little slack as he was growing up. My first night home after I got out of the military in 73, he took me bar hopping in Birmingham. I don't remember much about that night, but he said I had a great time. We didn't hang out together enough.
Neil was quite and a bit of a loner. It seemed to me that he spent his life looking for something that he never found. I don't know what it was and the fact is I'm not sure he could have told me himself. We were never as close as the brothers on the Walton’s, but he was always there and I could always count on him to come if ever I called.
Sitting here thinking about my big brother, I miss him a great deal and I guess that's why I feel a little lonesome tonight.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ridin' Round With Buddy

Jilda had to work today and I worked around the house till lunch. I then whistled Ol' Buddy up and we jumped in the truck for a mid-afternoon adventure. Most dogs I've had in my life will fight you tooth and nail if you try to put them in the truck because most of their truck rides turn out badly. Most of their rides take them to the vet and hey take a dim view of the vet. Mostly because they know that they will be poked, prodded, muzzled, drugged and sometimes cut on. All in all, not a good experience.
Buddy on the other hand, gets to ride up to Smith Lake to look for trout or take a leisurely cruise down to Dora and hit the drive-thru at Jacks where he usually gets a hamburger and fries. Afterwards we'll drive down through Old Dora and down to the backwater off the Warrior River. We walk out on the train trestle and dangle our feet over the creek and throw rocks and splash water on turtles snoozing on logs.
I spend a lot of time working and it requires focus which can become stressful. There's nothing like an afternoon riding around with Ol' Buddy to make it all right with the world.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

It's Got To Come From the Heart

There is a quote that I have heard often. It comes from a song written by Susana Clark and Richard Leigh and it says:

You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance, dance, dance like nobody's watching
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work

When you listen to music or when you listen to people talk, when you look at a painting, or when you look at someone's work you can always tell if they're doing it for the money.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"A" List

My mother is getting on up in the years and she doesn't get out much these days but she's still kind of scrappy. She has been all her life. All us kids towed the line.....actually, I still tow the line with her. She is as good as gold...until you cross her.
Mamma works on the two column system. She keeps a list of names: the names of the people who have been really nice to her and the ones who were not.
The ones on column "A" can expect Amish bread or perhaps a pecan pie.
The ones on column "B" should be afraid, very afraid.
When we were kids, two boys moved in next door to us in West Pratt. We all had bikes and we rode them a million miles. One day we were riding in the yard.
Mother had just washed a fresh load of clothes and they hung on the line blowing in the summer breeze in the back yard like kites. She called through an open window in a normal tone, "Boys, don't be riding around the clothesline, you'll get up against the sheets." Mother never had to tell me twice, I immediately headed for the front yard, but Jerry (not his real name) made one last pass and held out his dirty hand to touch the sheets as he rode by.
I heard fast moving footsteps coming from the house and I did not like the sound of it one bit.
She came out the back door with a razor strap and headed for Jerry. He was a cocky boy and I heard him say, "You ain't my mamma." She snatched him by the arm and gave him about five good lashes across the legs with that strap. She looked deep into his eyes and said in a slow measured voice, so that he would be sure to understand, "When you're in MY yard, I AM your mamma." Jerry took it hard....he also took his bike and headed for home.
What was unfortunate for Jerry, his mother had seen what went down and not to be outdone by my mother, she she cut some limbs from a nearby peach tree, snatched him up by the collar and striped his legs some more.
That day was a school day for Jerry and he learned his lesson well because from that day forward, he always said please and thank you to my Mamma.
I see him time and again and he always asks how mamma is doing.
I always work hard to keep my name on Mamma's "A" list, because there's a really good chance that if I were to somehow manage to get on the "B" list, she just might "stripe my legs."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Watkins Field

Watching the Super Bowl Sunday started me thinking about football. I remember the first time I went to a football game at Watkins Field at Dora High School. I was in the fourth grade at Dora Elementary. It was a Friday night in September (we never started back to school until September) and dad had to park down the road by the Dora Church of God and we walked up the hill to the gates. The stone entryway to Watkins Field was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the depression and it looked as big as the Parthenon.
As I we approached the field, the lights were as bright as day. The cadence of the drum squad and the noise of the crowd had my heart racing with excitement. I could smell popcorn, peanuts and cotton candy. The Blue and Gold crepe paper streamers and banners hung from goal posts and fences and fluttered in the autumn breeze. Boys my age playing catch and tackle with a small football in the end zone. Young girls lined the fence and watch every move the cheerleaders made..

I was in awe. As the game started, I didn't know a lot about football, but I knew that we were supposed to beat the crap out of Cordova....Which we did that year.
I ate so many hotdogs that Oscar Meyer had to put on a shift of overtime to catch up.
That stadium was packed and I recall seeing people in trees outside the fence in the old graveyard that was next to the football field.. Times were tough then and even though it only cost a quarter (I think); there were those who could not afford admission.
The event was like a carnival and it instilled a love of football that stuck with me.
But as I stood in front of Watkins Field this week shooting this photo, the stadium looks so small. The field is now being used as a soccer field. I had never even heard of soccer until the Olympics in Atlanta.
One of our out of state alumni sent me a note last week and he wanted to know if the Watkins Field was still standing. I said yes, it's there, but not as big as I remembered.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Snow Day

We talked to our friend Karen Palmer last night and the subject of snow came up. We shared some great snow stories. Back when we were kids, weather forecasting was limited to our neighbor watching squirrels gathering hickory nuts and running up the north side of a tree or maybe a turtle dove lighting in our chicken pen to snatch up a little cracked corn before the game rooster charged spurs kicking. Mr. Plunkett would study the "signs", scratch is chin, spit a little tobacco juice off the porch and say "Yep, we're in for some weather."
He read the almanac and carefully monitored the comings and goings of all kinds of creatures. He was our local authority. Sometimes he was right and sometimes he was wrong....kinda like modern day weather forecasters. But when he was right, we'd wake to up a world of snow. Thanks to Mother Nature, our drab surroundings would be turned into winter wonderland.
We'd put on our "long-handle" underwear, four shirts, three sweaters, a scarf, toboggan, two pair of sox and a pair of boots. Mamma would wrap our boots in plastic so our feet wouldn't get wet. We'd stay out riding homemade sleds, having snowball fights, eating icicles, and making snow angels. When we finally made it inside to stand by the old Warm Morning heater, mamma would make us a big ol' mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows as big as golf balls.
We always gathered some clean snow in a big dish pan. Mamma would take the snow and mix it with vanilla flavoring, Carnation Milk and a bucket of sugar. At bedtime (9 o'clock) we'd still be twitching from the sugar buzz.
Nowadays, we have the Doppler radar, satellites, and computer generated weather models to help predict the weather. You know what; they still get it wrong sometimes.
As I got up this morning, not to a winter wonderland, but to pouring rain I thought to myself, I wish Mr. Plunkett were still alive the squirrels would have told him for us not to get our hopes up about snow.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


I have been fooling with computers for many years. My job at BellSouth got me started in the 80's and I got a PC years before most folks got one. Something I have taught from early on is to backup your data. If something is important to you...if it took you a long time to create, then you need to make sure you back it up.
I've been fortunate for most of my PC career. I’ve had many computers and I haven't lost a hard drive yet, but I still back up my data. I'm so glad that I did.
Tonight I was working on my Dora High School Alumni mailing list. I have about 500 names and email addresses in this list. It's what I use to send out information to all the alumni. Tonight as I was doing some maintenance I got a message that said fatal error on file DHSList.gdx. No biggie, I get error messages frequently. But this time when I went to re-launch my alumni list is said the words you never want to read....."File not found". I got out of the program and re-launched but the file had been corrupted and it was gone. I thought CRAP!!!!!!! It would take hours to recreate this list. Then I remembered my backups. I did a full backup on 1/31/06. So I looked on the backup drive and there was my file. A simple click of the mouse and Wahlaaa, my file was back.
If you work with computers a lot, it is crazy NOT to have regularly scheduled backups. If you don't do backups, I suggest you start....today.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Overalls

We’re back, we’re rested and we’re ready to play. The Overalls did not perform in 2005. We had family commitments that kept us close for the year but things changed and we are beginning to practice and work on a new show.
We did some soul searching and we have decided, after conferring with friends, to play our favorite cover songs to the show.
My Buddy Wes recommended Wayfaring Stranger and Landslide. Jackie and Kenna said that we should add “I just don’t look good naked any more.” What we’ve decided to do is to add the songs we do best and we’ll retain the original songs that we really love.
We should be ready by late spring or early summer to start gigging.
We’re excited and we hope all our friends will come out and support the new and improved Overalls.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Good Food

One of the best Christmas presents we got this year was a gift certificate for Nikki's Restaurant in Birmingham. We went tonight with Jilda's sister and niece. I know there are some very good restaurants in town, but none that I like better than Nikki's. I look at the menu each time we go and I consider the blackened catfish, trout almandine, and crab cakes, but I always wind up ordering the same things. Nikki's Seafood Platter broiled Greek style....yum.
The food is always cooked to perfection - baked oysters, shrimp and steamed crab claws. The dish also comes with amberjack and some crab cakes.
At one time, I think they made up their salads in advanced and kept them in a refrigerator cause it sometimes had a little freezer burn on the lettuce but not these days. The salads are fresh and crisp. They bring baked potatoes with sour cream and heated butter on the side.
As a bonus, they give you a homemade cinnamon roll as big as a cantaloupe) well maybe not quite that big) that we always save to have with our coffee the next morning. Pat and Jayna sat in the back seats and offered to hold the rolls for us, but we're much too clever to fall for that.
We rode home in silence as no one had the energy to speak. Off in the distance, lightening licked the sky like the tongue of an electric snake.

It will be an early night here at the Watson household, but I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning when I get a whiff of that orange roll heating in the oven and smell the aroma of fresh ground coffee……Life is Good!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day

Jilda and I have a ritual. Every February 2nd she fixes a great meal, we pour a little wine and we pop in a copy of Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. I've seen this movie no less that twenty times and I still love it. Being a self improvement freak, it's the ultimate movie. Phil gets a chance to do the day over and over again until he gets it right.
When the movie starts out he is extremely shallow. Once he learns that he is living the day over again, he squanders his days doing meaningless things. But about halfway through the movie, he gets it and it is there he starts his journey of self discovery and self improvement.
He learns to speak French; he becomes an ice sculptor and learns how to play a piano. The last part of the movie, he spends helping people.
He fell in love with the Rita character early on, but he could never win her affections because he never took the time to be who he could be.
I would not want to live the same day over and over, but I do sometimes long to have the time to do the things I really love...time to learn new and interesting skills....time to get things right. With the velocity of the world today, time is a most precious commodity. Jim Rohn the motivational speaker says you really shouldn't spend major time on minor things.
I hope you all have a great groundhog day and that you all find the time to do the things you really love.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Growing Up in West Pratt

Out of the blue I got an email from my old friend Joe Plunkett. I haven’t seen him in over 20 years. We grew up together in West Pratt. His family moved next door when I was in grammar school. He had a brother Johnny my age, but Joe and I hit it off from the start and became the best of friends.
We explored, hunted, and fished every trail, hollow and stream within twenty five miles of our house. When I got old enough to drive, my dad had an old 52 Chevy pickup that he let me drive and wheels extended our territory.
One Saturday in April, the weather turned off really warm and we had spring fever really bad. Joe had an idea and it caught on fast with all us guys there in West Pratt. Robert Sperling had a car and we drove it down to Albritton’s Fishing camp. I followed in the pickup. He parked his car and jumped in the back
of the pickup with the rest of the guys. We drove back to the 78 highway and headed towards the Warrior River bridge in Lynn’s Park which was about ten miles away. We made a quick pit stop at a gas station to air up inner tubes and we parked under the bridge and we all jumped in the river on our tubes. We drifted ever so slowly, down the river….all the way to Robert’s car. It took us all day long. We saw bass, and birds and a hornet’s nest as big as a Volkswagen. We all looked like sunburned prunes when we got out of the water, but I can’t remember a time when we had more fun.
Joe graduated in 1967 and was drafted into the Marine Corps in 1968, the year I graduated. That’s when the Vietnam War took on a special significance to me. I never had been the praying type, but I said alot of prayers for Joe.
Some time later the Dora-Cordova road went under construction and men from the state came to our house and said that the highway was coming through and everyone on the west side of the road had to move.
It didn’t hit me at first, but that bureaucratic decision made in Montgomery or wherever those decisions were made, split our community. They took our house, my Uncle Pete’s house, my grandmother and grandfather’s house, the Castleberry’s house, and the Plunkett house. There were no discussions, no bargaining, we were just told to move…so we did.
The state paid to have our house moved about hundred feet off the right of way, but the angle of the roadbed made it impossible for the other families to move their houses back. This left them no option except to find homes elsewhere.
My grandmother bought a trailer and moved it nearby. Uncle Pete and his family moved about five miles away to old Dora across from Red Star Hill. The Castleberry’s moved to the Bryan Road and the Plunketts moved to Cordova.
We all agreed to stay in touch and for a while we did, but we drifted apart and that piece of my childhood was gone forever in the name of progress.
Now I’m not saying that we all would have made our lives there in that little coal mining community - different dreams take different paths but the highway made the parting more abrupt.
My path took me to the Army for a couple years and when I returned, I started to work for The Community News and was there for about three years. It was a job I loved, but it didn’t pay much. New management at the paper put me in the unemployment line for a year before I got a shot at a job with the telephone company.
I started to work there in 1977 and I’ve been there ever since. They put me through college, both an undergraduate and a Masters degree and I learned about computers. Eventually the path led me here….to a small farm in Empire, Alabama where I write, take pictures, and scan yearbooks for http://dorahighschool.com This is what I do for fun. Work often winds me up tighter than a banjo string. Sometimes when I’m up to my butt in alligators, I think back to that warm spring day when Joe, Robert, and a bunch of us guys floated lazily down that river and I just have to smile.

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