Friday, March 31, 2006

Home At Last

I started my journey home long before the sun came up. Colorado Springs airport is very easy to reach but it took much longer to go through security than the drive to get there.
The flight was uneventful just as I like them. I was scheduled for an hour layover in Atlanta and then home for a late lunch......hold the phone I strolled off the plane and by one of the monitors a big red FLIGHT 467 ATLANTA TO BIRMINGHAM CANCELED.
What? I strolled up to the counter and asked there must be some mistake. Surely my flight has not been canceled? Yep, the pilot had flown too many hours and the FAA says get some sleep bubba. Many of the people who were supposed to be on that flight started yammering, and some started to get downright ugly. Being upset is one thing but being ugly to the worker bees....there is no excuse for that. Once I thought about it for a while I realized that I don't want a tired pilot flying the plane.
I strolled over to the rental car booth thinking heck, I'll simply drive home. Wrong! They only had cars that you picked up and dropped off in Atlanta.
So I sat myself down in the corner, pulled out my mp3 player with soothing music, I pulled out my book "The Crossing" and I sat there and read until they got a pilot that was rested up.
It took a little longer but I'm home now....bone tired....but I'm home.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Last Night in Colorado

I said my goodbye's to my classmates this evening and headed off to the hotel. I met up with the instructor, our host and a few others at a country club at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain. In case you've never heard of Cheyenne Mountain, it's the mountain into which the North American Areospace Defense Command (NORAD) is's probably the number one target for a nuclear attack on the planet. So there I was sitting within a mile or so of ground zero sipping a nice red Australian wine and talking about politics, gun control, religion and the flagrant disrespect for the law regarding the use of turn signals. Conversations can run deep when a good Merlot is involved.
The folks here have been gracious and kind. They have been very hospitable. I think they are a socially conscience people because the streets and highways have very little litter, the air is fresh and can see forever. There are bicycle lanes and walking tracks everywhere. I saw very few police, but people on the road were driving about the posted speed limit. They wouldn't make it to Graysville on highway 78 before someone ran them off the road and talked bad about their lineage.
So on my last night here I would say I'm glad I came. The only thing that would have made the experience more enjoyment is if my wife Jilda and my dog Buddy could have joined me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I awoke early this morning and looked out my hotel window towards the west. I could see the mountain in the distance with the snow covered peaks showing iridescence as the day dawned. The sky behind the mountain was ink blue with a few grey clouds hovering like ghosts waiting to be chased off by the first sign of daylight.
I wiped the sleep from my eyes and threw on my sweats and walking boots and drove off towards a nearby park looking for a place to shoot photographs of the mountains at sunrise.
I drove through a valley of sorts and before I reached the park entrance I spotted a road that turned up a hillside on the opposite side of the valley from the mountains. At the very top of the hill was a residential area for the lucky few who could afford such a spectacular view, but just before the crest was a small park perfectly situated to enable one to enjoy the view for free. I pulled in and sat on a stone bench made from the rocks found nearby. The air was brisk as it came down from the mountains but sitting there was really peaceful. You could smell the Colorado blue spruce and the Ponderosa pine. The people here don't seem to get up as early as we do down south. Most of them would never hear a rooster crow.
I looked toward the west as the sun came up over the eastern horizon behind my back and hit the snow capped mountains. I shot several pictures. As the sun continued its journey upward, it lit up the outcropping of the rocks in the Garden of the gods park and transformed them from a Dove Bar brown to a brilliant rust that was close to red. Again I shot several photos but it is very difficult to get a photograph that comes close to the beauty you experience first hand.
I forgot the cable that connects the camera to my laptop so I will have to post the photos when I return home.
I will be winding down my class tomorrow and I will leave Colorado early Friday morning.
It will be good to be back home

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


There is always something good in every place you visit. Even places like Tulsa or Plano, Texas have things working in their favor. Colorado Springs has been a surprise to me. I didn't do a great deal of research before I came and I guess I was expecting it to be greener with a lot of snow. Fact is, the grass is brown like in Northern California or Sedona and it was 55 degrees today. I was also expecting the city to be in the mountains. It actually is over a mile high, but I didn't see the first mountain out the window of the plane until we were about to land. Colorado Springs is actually at the eastern edge of the Rockies.
The air is thin here and my noise feels as dry as talcum powder. I've had a little bit of a headache and I couldn't seem to get my breath the first day or so, but you look out of any window and you see those mountains and you can't help but think...this is really beautiful.
Today the sky was powder blue and big white fluffy clouds drifted lazily over the peaks of the mountains and it looked like a photograph. I'm sorry I didn't have my camera with me.
After work today my buddy Brian and I walked across the street to a small restaurant called Marigolds. The waitress sat us next to a window facing west. As we sipped our California Merlot and ate fresh sourdough bread we watched the sun slip behind Pike's Peak on its quest to reach the other side of the world.
I decided to try the house special which was blackened salmon with roasted red bell peppers, baby green beans, raw spinach with carrots spikes and zucchini. The dish had a lemon zesty marmalade sauce. It was all I could do to keep from eating the plate along with the fork. It was very good.
While Colorado Springs is not home, it has some very nice features. The photo above was taken Sunday by our host in the Garden of the gods park In the picture is me, my friend Brian Mitchell and the instructor for the training class we're attending. Miles is from Australia.
More tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2006


My buddy Brian and I are still on central and eastern time so we got up very early this morning to go to work. Our thoughts were that we'd get there and check our email, get our coffee and settle in for our class which started this morning.
When we arrived at the building, apparently these people are on mountain time so we were about 30 minutes early and had to sit in the parking lot. While sitting there, we saw a beautiful black and white bird with long iridescent tail feathers. It was unafraid of us and came very close.
We sat and watched this bird building a nest. Spring is fairly close here too. Once the crew finally showed up, I asked a local about the bird we had seen. "Oh that's a magpie he said." It looked like a panda bear with wings. As you well know I love birds.
The terrain here around Colorado Springs reminds me somewhat of California just south of San Francisco. The grass is a golden brown with rocks as big as Buicks everywhere. The air is clean and the people seem friendly.
I hope to get out of class early enough tomorrow to drive around a little more to shoot some more photos to share once I get home.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Colorado Springs

I don't know much about Colorado Springs except the weather this time of year is not unlike the weather in Alabama. The daytime temps are in the 50's with nights in the 20's. The wind blowing out of the west down the eastern wall of Pike's Peak on its way to the great plains is cool. Outside tonight you can hear the wind moaning like a grieving lover.
The elevation of the city is 6035 feet above sea level which is over a mile high so the air is thin and dry. On the leeward side of the slopes the combination of rust color rock and the snow produces coloring that resembles a Palomino horse.
I hope to get a taste of the local cuisine tomorrow night so that I can provide the goods on what's good here.
There's a place not far from here called Cripple Creek and I asked our guide if it was the same Cripple Creek made famous by the bluegrass song by that title. He didn't know but I hope to get to the bottom of this mystery too.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Good Time

We drove over to Philadelphia for Jilda's birthday on Thursday and donated a little to the Indian Educational fund via the Roulette table. The room and the meals were free so the donation was a wash.
We got up early Friday morning and had some coffee and headed out highway 16 west towards Carthage, Mississippi and ultimately to Jackson. The wind was chilly, but the sun was warm and the sky was blue as a robin's borrow
a line from a Joan Baez song. One thing I've noticed about Mississippi is that their roads are getting much better. Apparently they are putting some of our money to good use.
A few miles past Carthage we turned south towards Jackson on highway 25. It was about 8:30 in the morning and traffic was lite.
I had to deliver some computer parts as a favor to one of my co-workers but a short time afterward we were standing on the portico of the Mississippi Museum of Art on Lamar Street just a few blocks from the state capitol.
Jilda had read a few weeks ago that the museum has an exhibition of Georgia O'Keefe paintings so we decided to go for her birthday present...Jilda's not Georgia's.
The museum was very easy to find and the people were friendly over the phone. Once we got there and paid our $10 we strolled up the stairs to the exhibit. They gave us little tour recordings that described the background of the paintings and gave hints on things of interest. Also included in the exhibit were letters exchanged between O'Keefe and her curator in New York. These letters revealed a down-to-earth woman who loved her work.
What's striking about O'Keefe's work is her remarkable use of color. She was a pioneer and one of the first female American artists. She painted the things around her. She was a good artist in the early 1900's yet she was unknown. It was her acquaintance and subsequent marriage to Alfred Stieglitz the world famous photographer that launched her career and helped groom her for the New York crowd and made her famous in her lifetime.
She started spending time in Santa Fe, New Mexico and that's where she lived and worked for much of her life. The area's beauty influenced her work a great deal and is evident in her paintings of various bones and landscapes bleached by the desert sun.
Seeing art in pictures is good but being in the presence of great art does something to your soul on a level that is very hard to describe.
We spent most of the morning viewing the paintings and the black and whit photographs of Georgia taken by some of the best photographers on the planet.
After we left the museum, we drove a short distance to a restaurant about which we had read. It's just off of interstate 55 on Northside drive and the place is called Juleps. It's a small establishment but you know the food is good when people start lining up to get in at 11 a.m.
We managed to get in and get a corner table and on the menu we saw something unlike anything I had ever tried....Shrimp and Grits. I know what you're thinking, but it was scrumptious. The grits had melted Cheddar and smoked gouda cheese, corn, chopped onions, basil and some other mystery ingredients. I almost ate the plate.
Now we're back home and I'm getting ready to fly out tomorrow to Colorado Springs for a week but I'm thinking about shrimp and grits, Georgia O'Keefe and what a good time we had.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Taylor the Blunder Dog

My dog Taylor has strange and wonder history. As a puppy, someone had thrown her out at a roadside dump. I pass dogs on the side of the road all the time, but something about her caught my eye. Early one morning as I headed to work I drove by this dump and she ran out to the edge of the road and looked me over good before turning and walking back to the pile of trash. I didn't think to much about it, but she was there when I came home that night...same story. She came to the edge of the road as if looking for someone and when she saw I was not that someone, she went back to her pile of trash. I was off the next day and didn't think anymore about her but the following day when I went to work she was still there and thin as a pencil. . I made up my mind that if she was there on the way home, I would pick her up. Apparently she kept waiting for her master that had left her there to guard the trash. He would come back to get her. ..he wouldn't leave me here to starve...she must have thought.
She remained faithful. When I came to the place on the third day she was still there. I don't think she had eaten or drank anything as she sat alone on her vigil. She was reluctant to get into my truck, but I finally coaxed her in and she's been with us ever since.
That was a few years ago and recently she developed a problem with her foot and it required surgery. When I went to pick her up yesterday she had what appeared to be an upside down lampshade on her head. It's to keep her from chewing on her stitches the vet explained. She looked like the RCA Victor Dog that had an unfortunate encounter with a megaphone.
She weighs 86 pounds so this "bonnet" is as big as a basket. Taylor never has been a graceful animal but now she's literally like a bull in a china cabinet.
I helped her into the house and the bonnet caught on the edge of the door, then on the couch then on the love seat. When she rounded the corner she raked Jilda's cup of coffee along with books, magazines and a candy dish right off into the floor. When she tried to turn around she knocked over two plants sitting by the window.
We quickly went through the house and "Taylor Proofed" everything. She is hilarious to watch. The other dogs avoid her like the plague. She's a mobile SETI listening post.
I know this is uncomfortable for her, but we get three additional satellite channels on the TV when she's in the room

Celestial Light Show

Today my mind drifted to Panama and my time there when I was in the Army. Initially I was stationed on the Pacific side of the canal, but I got moved to the other side.
Once my orders came to move to Fort Sherman on the Atlantic side of Panama, I spent a great deal of time exploring. This side of Panama is less populated and more remote. Fort Sherman which lies just across the bay, about ten miles by water, from Colon, Panama which is the country's second largest city. Sherman was hacked out of the jungle and consisted of about 5 barracks and a few houses for non commissioned officers. There was an open-air movie theatre that showed movies on Friday nights.
During one of our expeditions the guys showed me Fort San Lorenzo which is a Spanish fort built in the late 1500's by engineer Juan Antonelli by order of Philip II of Spain. The stone walls, battery emplacements and some of the old canons still exist on the deserted site. It sat near the mouth of the Chagres River which provides access to the interior of Panama by water. The fort itself stood at the crest of a cliff and on a clear day it seemed like you could almost see Jamaica.
I loved Fort San Lorenzo and went there often but one of the most remarkable visits was late one night when the moon was full in the fall of 1972. I was lonely and it felt like I was a million miles from home so I mounted my dirt bike and rode off through the dirt road that cut through the jungle like a tunnel in places.
Once there I knew I was the only soul for many miles. I took my flashlight and walked out on the stone wall and sat down on the edge facing northward toward home. The surf which was crashing on the beaches several hundred feet below where I was perched had a ghostly hue and rumbled as it had for eons.
I sat there for a great while lost in my thoughts. I was looking at the sky which did not have to compete with city lights or smog and it was magnificent. All of a sudden I saw a shooting star that had a vapor trail which reached almost to the horizon from where it appeared. I bolted upright and wiped my eyes. I thought at first I had imagined it, but a few moments later another one appeared just as brilliant as the other. I soon lost count of how many I saw, but it was the most remarkable meteor shower I have ever seen.
It was then that I stopped feeling lonely and started feeling blessed to have witnessed such a celestial light show.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

They Don't Make Drugs This Good

I'm on vacation this week and it's been low key. We didn't have a lot planned because Jilda had to work. We hope to get out of town tomorrow for a while to celebrate her birthday.
This evening I went to fuel up her car and to buy a few things at the Piggly Wiggly (Is that a great name for a grocery store or what) and on the way home I took the Arkadelphia Road west out of Warrior as the sun was setting.
I could see clouds but there was something about the angle of the light that caught a jet airplane draggin a vapor trail which made it look like a Comet in the evening sky. I know these planes are always there but you don't always see them until the light is just right.
The sun was putting on a show in the powder blue sky with clouds that were burnt orange, magenta, mauve, and dark purple the color of grape bubble gum I chewed as a child.
At the crest of the hill before the road plunges down toward Albritton Bridge, I passed a field of collards. Now some might ask what's special about that, but the quality of the light and the yellow blooms of the collards gave the field a luminous quality and the scene resembled an Ansel Adams photograph - except in color. I've traveled this way a zillion times but today the experience was like looking through an electric kaleidoscope.
I swear I'm not on drugs....they don't make drugs this good.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why Am I Here?

When the sun returned today I sat out on the deck for a while to bleach out some of the stains left on my soul by three days of rain. My mind drifted as it often does and I asked myself - "Why am I here?" Not to get existential and all, but simply why am I Empire, Alabama on a small farm with fruit trees, wild birds, seven dogs, a beautiful wife and a pickup?
I've had many opportunities in my life. I worked construction in Florida just after I got married but I quit after a while. It wasn't the work, but the place just didn't feel right. After I started to work with the phone company, I could easily have been like many of my friends and co-workers and moved south of Birmingham but again it just didn't seem to fit.
After sitting for a long while, I decided to take a walk back towards the barn and as I walked the sun filtered down through the newly forming canopy of oak, hickory, and poplar trees and I spotted the first hint of a bloom on one of the thousands of dogwood trees on our property and I remembered "why I am here."
I first walked on this property back in the early 70's. It was this time of year. Someone had told me that Lily Mae Hamrick, wanted to sell the land. I drove up during my lunch hour from my job at The Community News and walked around. It was a warm day and I could see bees and butterflies scurrying around in frenzy. I sat on the bank of a small spring fed creek that runs through the property and it felt like I was in heaven. Since that day, I knew that I loved this place.
We were broke as the 10 Commandments then and I was afraid that the land would slip sold to someone who would cut the timber, scrape it flat and fill it up with junk cars....but as luck would have it, we told Jilda's dad about the property and he did have money and he bought it because he fell in love with it too. When he passed away, it was his wish that we get the land and Jilda's mom honored that wish and we have lived here since 1980.
Our house is small by today's standards, but it is just right for two people who love dogs, squirrels, bees, butterfly's and lots of trees. Especially those dogwood when the bloom this time of year.

Monday, March 20, 2006


My wife Jilda loves quotes and inspirational stuff as much as I do. She came across one the other day that blew me away. I'm not sure of the author, but it goes like this:
My mind is a garden
My thoughts are the seeds
My harvest will either be
Flowers or weeds

What beautiful words. I know for a fact that they are true. I got up this morning and I was in a good mood. We were drinking coffee and listening to music. I pay most of our bills online now. One exception is our water bill and I thought Jilda was sending the check and she thought I was sending the check...bottom line, if it didn't get paid today it would be late. All of a sudden, my mood was shot. I was aggravated at her and in turn she got miffed at me.
I then thought back to this little mind is a garden my thoughts are the seeds.......I then apologized for behaving badly.
I smiled and made another cup of coffee. I decided to change my thoughts. Buddy and I would take the opportunity to run out to Jasper and do some sightseeing and pick up some things there and pay the water bill.
It turned out to be an enjoyable experience and my day was salvaged.
The thing is this: crap happens to everybody there is nothing you can do to stop it, but you can change they way you react to what happens.
Y'all stay warm on this cold and rainy night.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Old Cold Rain

Today's been a day to stay in. I only ran out briefly to get the Sunday paper and to throw out some birdseed. Jilda had invited some of her family up for lunch today and they showed up at noon. Jilda had made slaw, cornbread and a big ol' pot of beef stew. It's hard to beat beef stew on a cold rainy day. I've spent most of the day transferring my blog entries from the old site to this one. If they get the old site fixed soon, I'll continue to use it because I like the functionality better, but I can't take any more three day outages. Today was my old friend Ron Norris' birthday. He passed away a few days before my younger brother in 2000. Ron was the first person I ever knew that was into computers as a vocation. He encouraged me to work in the field. He and his wife Kaye lived in Atlanta for years before selling their condo and moving to the beach at Blue Mountain, Florida. We helped them move their furniture and we visited them often. Ron also loved playing guitars. He was never really that good, but what he lacked in skill, he made up for in enthusiasm. He had picking parties at the beach twice a year and pickers from all over the south would show up to play old songs and new. The day of the party was always spent racing around the area picking up fresh vegetables, fruit, seafood, beer and a Key Lime Pie or two. After the mid afternoon nap, Ron would bolt into action juggling kitchen utensils, cutting boards, herbs and secret spices that were used to make his world famous gumbo. When all the shrimp had been peeled, all the veggies sliced and diced, the seafood poured in at the optimum time the crowd of hungry pickers was almost in frenzy. Ron would have someone put on the Little Feat's "Mighty Rad Gumbo" song on the stereo crank up the volume to maximum and the gumbo dance would start. It was a rule of the house....if you eat gumbo, you got to get in the gumbo line, dance past the stove and give the gumbo a stir. Now I'm not much of a dancer, but I loved Ron's gumbo and so I danced. When the song was over, everyone would line up and go through the gumbo serving line and get a big helping of one of the most delicious seafood dishes on the planet. After the food, we all pitched in to clean up the kitchen while Ron kicked back and tuned his guitar. Afterwards we would play....usually, all night long. So happy birthday Ron on this cold rainy day.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


This is my weekend to sit with my mother while my sister gets out for a while. I'm sitting on her back deck trying to come up with an idea. When all else fails, close your eyes and breathe.
I am amazed by all the things happening around me constantly to which I am oblivious. If your not careful, you can go through life on autopilot and miss a great deal.
After a while, I caught the aroma of bread baking. One of my sister's neighbors is apparently making homemade bread. I fought off an urge to go over and introduce myself and ask for a slice. I can picture them saying "O.K. weird guy, go away before I put the dogs on you and call the cops."
I can hear the sound of chirping birds and overhead I hear a jet traveling to the west towards the setting sun. I'll be traveling to Colorado Springs the week after next. I've never been to Colorado but people tell me it's nice. It's over a mile high and very close to Pike's Peak. I haven't been skiing in many years and I doubt my knees could take it now, but I plan to do some hiking and you can rest assured I will take pictures and share some on the Blog.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

I noticed the next step towards spring today. As I walked the path behind our house I noticed the hickory and oak trees are budding out and you can see the yellow green leaves beginning to show. I'm sitting on the deck this evening writing on my laptop and watching the sun sink slowly behind the horizon. The wind is cool this evening but today when the sun was high, I basked in the warm rays like a turtle on a log.
Just now my dog Taylor tried to get in my lap. Ordinarily I would let my dog get in my lap, but Taylor now weighs about 110 pounds. She gained most of her weight since last summer's rabbit hole episode. That's a story for another time.
Jilda's in the kitchen cooking for our guest that will be here shortly. I can smell the Irish bread and the smell of the corned beef simmering is heaven in a crock pot.
I hope you all have a wonderful St. Patty's Day.
May the Irish hills caress you
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish infold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

St Patricks Day

St. Patty’s Day is a fun holiday. It’s not an official holiday at work, but I often take a day’s vacation. I’m not Irish though my wife Jilda has a lot of Irish blood in her family. Each year we invite a few friends over to eat Corned Beef and Cabbage and we listen to Celtic music and drink Guinness Beer. When the guests have left for home, we watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People. It was one of Sean Connery’s first movies…back when he had hair. We also watch “The Matchmaker” which is a beautiful movie set in modern day Ireland. Jilda and I traveled to Ireland a few years ago and we both fell in love with the country and its people. We chose not to take a tour but instead we got off the plane and I got in the passenger side of an Opel and drove into a lush green and flowering landscape. People asked if it was weird driving on the wrong side of the road. I reminded them that I lived in Walker County where it is the custom to drive on the wrong side of the road and they usually nod with understanding.We had the good fortune to play a few gigs with Dan Crary who is a world class and world famous guitarist. We also played in pubs in small towns and communities all across the island. The Irish love music and we’d take a guitar in a place and ask the barkeeper if we could play a few songs and they’d say “sure you will. That would be brilliant.” The odd thing about playing there is that when you are in a true Irish pub and you start to play, the crowd grows quite….they listen. The only place where that did not happen was a pub that was frequented by tourists.We found the people of Ireland quite remarkable. They were extremely intelligent and they knew more US politics than most Americans. The people we met were charming, thoughtful, gracious and kind. They made us feel at home.So on St. Patty’s Eve, I want to give you’re a short history of St. Patrick’s day. Enjoy and my you have the Luck of the Irish.
Saint Patrick was the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity in the late 300’s A.D.
Historical sources report that Saint Patrick was not even Irish! He was born around 373 A.D. in either Scotland or in Roman Britain (the Romans left Britain in 410 A.D.). His real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, but he changed it to Patrick after he became a priest. At the age of 16, while living in Ireland, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery.
During his 6-year captivity, he worked as a shepherd. He found strength in his faith. He finally escaped and made it to France, where he became a priest (and later a bishop).
When he was about 60 years old, St. Patrick traveled back to Ireland to spread the Christian word. He used the green shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Trinity - father, son, and holy spirit. The Irish people embraced him. The old saint died in his beloved Ireland, March 17th, about 460 A.D. The land which once enslaved him, he had set free.
Today, Saint Patrick's Day is a basically a time to wear green and party. The first American celebration of Saint Patrick's Day was in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!" Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick's Day parades, the largest held in New York City.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Long Hours

Today's been a long day. I'm not sure if it's the way the stars line up or what, but I've had conference calls all day. People from all over the country needed my attention today and I gave it to them. The down side this this is it's more tiring than if I was doing physical labor.
I used to work outside with the phone company and there were days I was up and down telephone poles all day but I enjoyed that work. Somehow life seems clearer from forty feet up.
Anyhow, I've run out of steam now and tonight's entry will be short.
Hasta Manana.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bad Cloud - Continued

We survived last night thank goodness and hopefully there will be few if any close calls this spring. The title of the entry brought an amusing story that was told "as the truth" by my good friend Skip.
He said a number of years ago there was a guy that lived in Guin, Alabama and he was terribly afraid of storms. He had a wife and three adolescent kids and every time it came up "a bad cloud", he'd gather up his family and they'd all go to the storm-pit. Now those of you reading this who are not from the south might ask "what the heck is a storm-pit?" Basically it's a hole dug into the ground with about twenty tons of concrete poured on the roof. Enough concrete to withstand an F5 tornado which usually come around here each spring.
Anyhow, every time it came up a "bad cloud" he would gather up the family and they go to the storm-pit. To the rest of the family it was a pain and they always grumbled and complained. Ahhh Dad....but there was no arguing with him.
About twenty five years ago the weather man predicted rough weather and sure enough he gathered up the family..... over the protests, he guided them all to the storm-pit. A short time later they heard a frightful roar with crashing sounds. When they emerged some time later, he held his family close and surveyed the damage. He noted that there was not a roof left on a house in Guin. In fact, a lot of the houses were gone. The man looked at his family and back at the utter destruction and said "this is more like it."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bad Cloud

Jilda called this afternoon and said bad weather was on the way. I had come to a stopping point so I headed home. As I drove down the mountain from Warrior towards Empire, the light had an eerie tint. It wasn't green, nor was it yellow but somewhere between. In one direction the sky was clear, but towards the west it was dark and foreboding. I could see bolts of lightening off to the northwest and birds and small animals were scurrying for cover.

I pulled to the side of the road when I had a clear view of the horizon and stepped outside my truck to get a better view. There was a slight breeze that was very warm one instant and cool in another. I could tell the air was really unstable. Off in the distance I could hear rolling thunder.
I was still several miles from home so I headed out post haste. When I got closer to home I could see a wall cloud and protruding down was a funnel cloud. When I got within a hundred yards of the house, I could tell that the storm was about a mile north across the Mulberry River at the edge of Walker and Cullman counties. I stopped again and shot the picture above.
We're not out of the woods yet because there are other storms to the west, but hopefully as the night gets cooler, the ferocity of the storms will diminish.
Say a prayer for those to the east that are in the path of the storm.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thinking About Tomato's

Writing outside is different somehow. Maybe the wood, glass, insulation and wires inside the house somehow bend the thought waves or filter your thinking. A few nights ago I sat out on my deck and listened to an owl in the distance and to the wind blowing through the pines and the words flowed more freely.
We did some clearing this weekend getting ready for planting season. There were some scrub pines and hedge bushes that has sprouted up. I'm a tree hugger and rarely cut them down, but I take a dim view of any vegetation that adversely affect my homegrown tomatoes.
I have friends are work that give me a hard time about having a garden. They say those tomatoes cost you a fortune in time and supplies. I have to smile because they just don't get it. In fact, if you have never gone out to your garden in the evening and picked and eaten a vine ripened tomato still warm from the afternoon sun, you would not understand the attraction. I know you can get them cheaper at WallyWorld but there's no telling where they came from and no telling what was used to make them grow. I know mine are grown ogranically with a lot of love and respect for the land from which they grew.
I don't try to convince them otherwise, I just smile as the thoughts of tomato sandwichs dance through my head.
Here is my recipe for the best tomato sandwich on the planet:
Take one vine ripe tomato about the size of a softball
Slice it into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices
Take two pieces of wheat bread and pop them in the toaster
Get out the jar of Helman's mayonnaise and spread it liberally while the bread is still warm
Place the tomatoes one the bread and salt to taste.
Pour a glass of Lipton's sweet sun tea
Close your eyes and taste a little piece of heaven.
Repeat if necessary

Saturday, March 11, 2006

For the Love of the Game

We just watched "For The Love Of The Game." My songwriter friend Marty recommended the movie. I'm not a big Kevin Cosner fan, but I said O.K. because like him, I love baseball.
This turned out to be one of my all time favorite movies. I think this is a perfect script. The cinematography, the music, the story.....everything was perfection.
As a kid I played the sport. I also played softball, football, a little tennis and I bowled, but baseball was my favorite. I was a pretty good catcher and not bad with a bat. I had friends that I grew up with that turned out to be phenomenal ball players and the time we spent on the ball field still ranks in my mind as special.
I recall the last time that I played organized baseball. I don't recall the year, but it was pony league and we were playing Gardendale. Gardendale was a much bigger town and we thought they would beat us senseless, but that's not how the game turned out.
Ricky Joe Conners was our leadoff hitter and he smacked the first pitched of the game over the centerfield wall. He trotted around the bases and smiled as he came into the dugout....."It’s batting practice." We jumped on those guys quick and never let up.
It was the last game of the season and the coach told me up front that I would play 5 innings and the other catcher would finish up the game.
We were leading 6 to 2 in the top of the 5th and I came up to bat. The pitcher was pissed because we had beaten him up badly. He reached somewhere deep inside and threw a fast ball down the center of the plate. It looked like it had a string on it when it left his hand...POW strike one. He was on a roll and threw a curve that looked like it was going to hit me in the face but instead dropped in for call strike two. I backed up and wiped the sweat off my face and looked to the dugout. Ricky Joe smiled and said "it's batting practice." I looked back at that pitcher and smiled. When he released the ball, it was like it was in slow the pitches that the coaches had been throwing all year long in practice. I swung evenly and connected with a fastball that was low and outside and launched that baseball right over the leftfield wall. I heard a Gardendale fan say "oh no, not again." We spanked those big ol' boys like a bad child.
I don't recall why I didn't play organized ball after that, but I went out with a bang.
You don't get to do that enough.
If you love baseball and you've never seen "For The Love Of The Game", do yourself a favor and rent it. I'd bet anything you'll love it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's Good To Be Alive

Last night was a non event thank goodness. I could look to the west last night and see fierce lightning and I could hear the wind roaring in the clouds. The oak, pine and sweet gum trees around our house dipped and swirled like a giant ballerina but the wind remained aloft and we were spared this time. I am thankful.
Today was beautiful. The clouds were gone this morning when I awoke and the morning light had the birds and squirrels scampering trying to get a head start on the day and happy to be alive. The earth looked fresh and clean as I looked through the garden doors toward the south where our garden will soon be.
My wife got up in a great mood and we sipped our coffee and listened to "A Place Without Noise" which is a beautiful CD of piano music.
After a long while, I went in to check my email and to return some correspondence when the smell of bacon frying drifted into my office room. "How 'bout a nice Irish breakfast" she called. That sounded good to me. So we had fried eggs, grits, bacon and toast with real butter.
After breakfast we did some chores around the house, and I made some updates to I got a great story from one of our alumni which I posted. I sent a note to the newspaper to see if they would be interested. Lona Vines, one of our new friends who works at the Daily Mountain Eagle called to say she was interested in the story and would be collecting more information. I was tickled.
Later Jilda and I went down to Sumiton to run some errands and we had lunch at Yi Cuisine, our local Chinese Restaurant. I love that place. They have the best Hot and Sour soup on the planet.....well at least the best of all the worlds I have visited so far. My sister Mary Lois and my nieces Danielle and Tara came in and brought my great niece Zoe. Impromptu reunions are always a hoot.
Afterwards we picked up some things a WallyWorld and we saw several more people we knew so we shot the bull some more.
On the way home we stopped at Jolly Cholley's Produce. It's a small family owned produce stand that has the best produce in the county. The also have homemade peanut butter, jams, brown honey (with part of the hive inside), parched peanuts and chow chow.
The people are friendly......and again, we saw people we knew. The day was like what I imagine heaven to be like. A place with good food, good friends and warm sunshine.
Like the birds, I feel that it is good to be alive.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Welcome to Springtime in Alabama

I'm making my blog entry a little early today. The weather channel says we have 80 mph straight-line winds headed for us so we are battening down the hatch and getting pillows ready to put on our heads.
The last time this happened in recent memory was in 95. We lost hundreds of pine trees. I was driving back from Montgomery and the closer I got to home the more it resembled a war zone. The power was off for days. I'm hoping that is not the case this time.
In the event that it does, I not be able to upload an entry until we get power. I plan to continue to write them on the laptop and I'll upload them when I can.
Welcome to springtime in Alabama

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Three Months Anniversary

Today marks three months since beginning the blog. I've written every day. Some days more than others but as I've said before, it is my intention to develop a discipline towards writing.
It has become a habit now and I jotting down ideas throughout the day. If the day has been hectic I often sit down at the keyboard and stare at the screen. I'm not sure where I'm headed with this effort. I've read the blogs of others and some are very good and some are not.
It is my intention to continue because I believe that the practice makes you better. Thanks to all the readers who visit.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ask Buddy

I'm thinking about starting a new BLOG called "Ask Buddy". Buddy is my little mongrel dog. I know he can't really talk and he's not a very good typist, but he is wise beyond his years.
Just yesterday Jilda and I were reading a story in the paper about children with behavioral problems. Buddy seemed interested in the story too and after a few grunts, a scratch or two I realized what he was saying: "Kids don't behave because their parents are too busy to be bothered. A shock collar and three days in obedience school would make a world of difference," Buddy explained.
Another story talked about a philandering politician who got caught cheating on his wife. I looked to Buddy for guidance and he quickly replied.... "neuter him."
I asked Buddy if he had any other advice to which he replied. He went on to say always stretch when you get up in the morning and keep the varmints run off you property. Don't growl unless your gonna bite. Lay out in the warm morning sun whenever you get a chance. Always be loyal to your friends and play every chance you get. Drink a lot of water and never pass up a chance to pee.

Monday, March 06, 2006


I don't know what size clothes I wear. I come home from work and there are new clothes on my bed. Apparently the clothes fairy comes by every now and then and leaves them. They are always the right color and size. Shoes too. It's amazing. When I get ready to leave for work each morning, there is a lunch kit packed with a nice sandwich and soup. And inside the front pocket of my lunch kit, there is always a treat of some kind.....come to think of it, I'm not sure where the lunch kit came from either. One day I was carrying my lunch in a brown paper bag and the next day there it was....right by my backpack.
O.K. I know it's not the clothes or lunch fairy, it's my wife. She always knows the things I like. I think she has ESPN.
The women with whom I work are always saying they just don't have the time or energy to make their lunch or do other things. I told one woman today that what she needed was a wife. She agreed but she can forget about mine because I'm crazy about her. She works hard herself and still finds time to do things for me. I just hope I'm half as good a mate as she is.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Good Kind of Tired

My rear is dragging this evening. Jilda and her family are getting Ruby's house ready to sell and so they're giving away furniture and keepsakes to siblings, grandkids, nieces and nephews. The one thing that none of them want is her flowers. It's just too much work.
Ruby was a gardener extraordinaire. She has plants, flowers and shrubs that she has collected for a lifetime. Before she died she gave us a broadleaf tropical plant that is over 35 years old. It is remarkable to look at. She also gave us avocado, lemon, orange, and grapefruit trees that she planted from seed. One day she was sitting on the porch eating a grapefruit....she leaned over and poked a seed in a nearby pot and today we have a grapefruit tree in our living room that touches our fourteen foot vaulted ceiling. There is a pineapple on her porch right now that is full grown and ready to cut and eat.
Every time she visited anyone after the frost retreated north and the days began to get warm and longer, she would asked to go out in their yard to look at their plants. She would invariably leave with a bunch of new plants. Jilda has an Army issue entrenching tool in the trunk of her car and she has dug up what seems like thousands of plants for her mom. When people visited her this time of year they always left with "cuttings" of plants.
Today we went down and I dug up a lilac bush, an azalea, lilies, peonies, hostas, and a truckload of other assorted plants. I could almost hear Ruby giving instructions..."now plant that one in full sun.....that one needs'll have to keep 'em watered until the rain sets in."
Ruby always liked me and I think one of the main reasons is that I'm not afraid of hard work. Whenever she needed things moved, cut down, dug up or hauled off, she always called me.
Getting this house ready to sell, neither Jilda nor I could stand the thoughts of leaving all her prized plants because the property is commercial and if it gets bought by a business, the front of the place will probably get paved for a parking lot. So today we went on a search and rescue mission and dug up half her yard and got plants that we'll enjoy for years to come.
I'm tired this evening, but it's a good kind of tired.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Watkins Field - A Different View

A very good friend of mine who I worked with for years at BellSouth/EDS played football in Shelby County and he played once at Dora in the 60's. When he read my note about Watkins Field, he offered a different perspective of Watkins Field. His comment follows. It is a facinating story.
To paraphrase part of your blog, Rick, I too "remember the first time I went to a football game at Watkins Field at Dora High School." I wasn't in the fourth grade, though. I was a junior at Thompson High School in Siluria(Alabaster, Alabama).
My memories weren't as fond as yours, but they were unforgetable just the same. I was a starting lineman/linebacker for the Thompson Warriors, with hopes of college scholarships and football fame. We knew Dora was an exceptional team, with many super athletes in that fall of 1963. We proved to be no match for the Bulldogs that night, having been manhandled by halftime. This, by the way, was when I left the game. On the last play of the first half my dreams of sports ended and my path through life changed, with the crunching and tearing of a left knee which would never be the same. Even though that night at Watkins Field I didn't know the severity of the injury, eventual surgery and rehab couldn't restore it to good use.
All of that night was not about pain. That is not what this comment is about.
I remember a pretty good half of football I had, against a very tough team.
I remember two young Dora cheerleaders who came to check on me as I watched the second half from Dora's side of the field.
Three years later, in the Fall of 1966, I was drafted into the Army for the buildup in Viet Nam. The knee again failed me and after only two months the Army discharged me. I was injured, hospitalized, discharged, and returned home.
I mention this because, if I have the story right, Dora High School lost a favorite son in Viet Nam, possibly a player on the field that night in 1963.
I've often wondered if he could have been the one who set my life to tumbling, changing my life that night. I wonder if by chance he took my place. Could a chance meeting of the two of us, have directed our fate?
I remember it Rick, but I've yet to decide if, after over 42 years, Watkins Field cursed me or blessed me.
Ken Owens

Friday, March 03, 2006

From a Distance

I have the FoxFire Browser loaded on my pc and it has a feature called Stumble. When you click on the Stumble button it randomly selects one of about a billion webpages and brings it to your computer screen.
Today when I did that it returned a picture of earth shot from space by one of the NASA crafts and it is quite beautiful.
This view put a song in mind: "From A Distance" The lyrics are below.

From a Distance by Julie Gold
From a distance, the world looks blue and green
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
and the eagle takes to flight.
From a distance there is harmony
and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
it's the voice of every man.
From a distance, we all have enough
And no one is in need.
There are no guns, no bombs, no diseases,
No hungry mouths to feed.
From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance.
From a distance, you look like my friend
Even though we are at war.
From a distance I cannot comprehend
What all the fighting is for.
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land.
It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves.
It's the heart of every man.
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I listened to a self help program recently and the speaker had a great analogy on the things that are important in life. He was standing in front of a class trying to illustrate a point. He has in front of him a two gallon fishbowl and a bunch of big rocks. He calls a student up and says "life is a lot like this fishbowl." He then instructed the student to put the rocks in the fishbowl. The student diligently puts about fifteen fist sized rocks in the bowl and he turns to the class and asks "is the bowl full?" A few of the students say "yes, the bowl is full." He then reaches under the podium and pulls out a quart jar full off pea gravel and he pours that in the fishbowl. "Is the bowl full?" A few more students chime in this time saying "yes, it's now full." The professor then pulls out a container full of sand and begins to pour it into the fishbowl and the room is now buzzing.
"Is the bowl full?" Even more students call out yes, yes the bowl is full. Now everyone in the room is a full attention. He reaches under the podium and pulls out a gallon of water and pours it into the fishbowl as the class cheers and claps.
The speaker then ask the room: "what does this mean?" The room fell silent. It means that if I had not put the big stuff in....the important stuff into the bowl…..into my life first, then there would not have been room in my life when I filled it up with all the small unimportant stuff."
Life is too short to fill it with unimportant things. Call your mother today if you can…. hug your child, call a friend. Do something important before your life becomes filled with unimportant things.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Do Something You Have Never Done Before

I'd been in Panama for several months when my friend Dave Clark suggested we go snorkeling on the following Saturday. I didn't have any gear so Dave made arrangements to borrow a truck for the fifteen mile trip from Fort Sherman to the Post Exchange in Coca Sola. We perused the sports department and I picked up a mask, a snorkel and some fins and we headed over to the VFW for supper. I ordered a cheeseburger and some fried Wontons along with a rum and Coke. Rum was cheap in Panama because they make it there. Couple of drinks and you were bullet proof.
It was payday weekend so we punched some quarters in the jukebox and settled in for a leisurely meal. I had just discovered the Eagles and John Prine so we sat around the old club and listened to records, drank cheap rum and talked about our dreams.
It was one of those times when it would have been so easy to tank up and sleep it off in the back of the truck, but Dave told me that we had to hit the water bright and early in the morning. So we paid the check and headed south through on a jungle road that had lush green bushes, shrubs and banana trees right up to the pavement. It was like driving through an electric green tunnel as the sun set over the bay of Colon. Just before nightfall, we passed a native that had what must have been eight iguana lizards over his shoulder. Not sure what he did with them but the scene looked surreal and even today I have to ask myself if it was a rumvision.
Sunrise came early and Dave was excited to get in the water. We ate breakfast in the mess hall and walked out towards the breaker wall that separated the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Colon. On the ocean side, the waves were breaking hard over the rocks, but on the bay side of the wall, the water was a smooth as a bathtub. We put on our gear and made our way to water's edge and slipped in. The morning sun was warm as always and the angle of the light made the water a deep indigo.
I got the hang of snorkeling almost immediately. Dave and I swam side by side until my eyes adjusted but then my brain was assaulted with vivid color darting about just inches from my face. What I saw was nothing less than remarkable. Swimming in the shallow water near the rocks of the breaker wall I saw thousands and thousands of fish. Fish of every color that you can imagine. Small fish that you might see in a fish bowl and larger fish that could eat your cat The variety was amazing and they were not afraid of humans. Some of them would swim right up to the mask and look in as if it were me that was in an aquarium.
It occurred to me that day that we live in a garden and life is a gift. I encourage you to try and do something each day that you have never done before. And if you get a chance to snorkel, I guarantee that you won't regret it.

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