Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday Afternoons

The rain started this morning before my feet hit the floor and remained for most of the day. We spent the morning doing routine chores but just after lunch we took a nap.
Most often when I nap it's short and shallow but still enjoyable. Today I drifted deep and dreamed. The rain has that effect at times. When I awoke, I was looking out the front windows and noticed a redbird alighting in our fuschia plant. When I moved closer to the window to have a better look I noticed that she had actually built a nest within two feet of our window. She flew out when I went for the Sunday paper so I eased up and took a look and there is a single tiny ivory egg. I wanted to build some kind of shelter but was afraid any interference from me might scare her away.
This evening as Jilda was grilling up the portobello mushrooms and the steaks the sun made a brief appearence. It threw a sunbeam on the branch of a sweet gum tree just off our deck and it looked like a performer in a stagelight. Just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. The plants in our new container garden seemed to be rejoicing.
All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Arbor Day

Arbor Day was yesterday. Yes, I'm a tree hugger. Anyone who has ever visited our house would have to concur. It is very rare that I cut a tree. It must be suffering with some untreatable malady before I put saw to grain. When people come to our house they sometimes remark about the lack of grass in our front yard, but the canopy of Oak, Pine, Sweet Gum, Cyprus, and Persimmon make a ray of sunshine a rare thing indeed.
That's why I had a very hard time last year when the tree slayers showed up on the property adjoining ours which is owned by a large corporation. A logger with tattooed arms as big as cross ties showed up at our back gate and asked if we'd mind them using the driveway between our barn and the road that runs in front of our house. "It shore would make our jobs a lot easier," he explained. I simply said no, but the unspoken words were "I'd rather have an 18 inch knitting needle shoved through my eye and out the back of my head." I foolishly thought this would slow them down but they promptly brought in a huge machine that cut a swath big enough to land a Boeing 747 through our beautiful forest and built their own crude road that even now washes mud and silt into the creek each time it rains. We had maintained a walking path from our property down across the company land to a bluff overlooking a beautiful pond. The path had large rocks, wild honeysuckle bushes (they resemble azaleas), wild iris, and other beautiful plants. We walked that path almost every day and often we would come across deer, wild turkey, quail, rabbits or some other critter.
The cutters started long before the sun came up each day and for weeks we heard the tortured sound of falling trees. When the deed was done, nothing remained except a few scraggly pines and low brush and shrubs that were fortunate enough to not be in the path of the destruction.
I could not bring myself to walk back there for weeks afterwards. When I did it was a sad day in my life. They had cut many tall trees and simply let them fall and they are still lying there today. Jilda still cannot walk down there.
So yesterday...on Arbor Day, I found a small dogwood that was struggling for the light under the lush leafy umbrella of our hollow, and I dug it up. I found a place on the clearcut property and I planted it deep and I hauled in fertile woods dirt so that it will grow strong and tall.
You might ask why I would even bother....well that's what a tree hugger does on Arbor Day.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Container Garden

In years past we always had gardens. Sometime they were more ambitious than others. I've got an old Ford tractor and a Troybilt tiller as well as all the other gardening tools needed to break a sweat. But Jilda's mom broke a hip and had subsequent health problems a couple years ago so the garden fell by the wayside. That's not to say that in the spring we didn't look at the almanac and all the seed catalogs.....and look wistfully at our garden spot.
I knew we'd miss the tomatoes, peppers, squash and okra. The corn was always hit and miss so the years it made, we considered it a blessing. For the most part, we spent a great deal of the time cursing crows for pulling up the freshly sprouted plants.
This year we've been quite busy as we're getting our lives back together after burying her mom so we are getting a late start with the garden. We decided to try our hand at container gardening. Our friend Jimmy that owns a garden center says that the containers are much easier to maintain and produce more than enough food for a small family.
Today I rounded up some large containers, top soil, potting soil and other garden stuff so that this weekend we can make our garden happen. Obviously it will be a topic of discussion in this blog. Anyone who has any advice or lessons learned about container gardening, please share.
It will be an adventure. I can almost taste those tomatoes even as I sit here and type.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Indigo Sky

Tonight the new moon added no illumination after sunset and the sky quickly turned indigo before fading to black as the stars twinkled to life. Off the back deck I could see a firefly blinking in the darkness like a distant lighthouse. The dogs won't be fretful tonight I thought...not like on a night when the moon is full and the shadow of a night bird or a prowling opossum would send them into a frenzy.
My old friend Ed Boutwell used to come to our house on nights like this to look at the stars with powerful telescopes. We'd walk down toward the barn away from the streetlight in the front yard and setup. We'd put on long sleeve shirts and long pants to keep the skeeters at bay and we'd watch the sky. When you look at stars with a really good telescope, they quickly move across your field of view unless you have a scope that has a tracking system that slowly moves in sync with the stars. We saw constellations, the rings of Saturn, and the Orion Nebula....and the remnants of a supernova somewhere deep in the galaxy.
Ed has spent a great deal of time and energy traveling all around the country to get a better view of the stars. He says Texas up close to Oklahoma and over in New Mexico are the best. But he enjoyed coming to our house too. Not only could we lie our on backs and watch the show without the interference of city lights, but also because we always had a good meal and enough wine to keep us warm even when the nights were cool.
We haven't seen Ed in several years but I thought of him tonight when I saw the indigo sky.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sometimes The Words Won't Come

I have looked at this screen for a long time tonight and the words simply won't come. I've conjured up pictures, of my mamma, my first dog, my favorite car, the love of my life, my old school and pizza, but the words won't come. Not sure what causes this. Some call it writer's block but I call it a brain fart. It does not happen often, but when it does I might as well be trying to solve the problem of world hunger.
It is my policy to not beat myself up when I can't find the words. Writing is something I love and if I make it too much of a chore then it will become a JOB and I might as well go fix computers. I can tell you that I've made a lot more money fixing computers than I've ever made writing.....but I don't love it. So, I'm going to give myself a pass tonight and I will try do a better job tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

April Sunset

Jilda worked tonight so I was in no particular hurry so my drive home was at a leisurely pace. When I got off the interstate I rolled my window down and got slowly intoxicated on the scent of wild honeysuckle. As I approached the collard field on top the mountain before heading down to Albritton bridge, the sun was sinking low and the western sky was turning the color of a rusty plow.
I pulled over to the side of the road and watched the waning moments of the descent. I shot a few frames but no camera can capture the magnificence of a sunset.
In looking back through the hundreds of thousands of photographs I've taken in my life, a good many of them are dedicated to sunsets.
A few years ago we took our niece Samantha to San Francisco and one evening we drove south of the city to Santa Cruz and strolled down the boardwalk at sunset. We stopped for a while and dangled our legs off the edge of the weathered pier and paid a silent tribute to a remarkable day.
You haven't lived until you spend an evening in Ireland facing towards the west off the Cliffs of Moher and contemplated the earth and just how small we are as the sun heads towards America.
Even when my life is chaotic and I sense the sand slipping through the hour glass, a sunset will stop me in my tracks and put my priorities in order.
Life has a way of filling up any unallocated time. If you don't take some time for yourself, someone else will take it and make it their own.
It is my recommendation that everyone take a moment at least once a day to ponder the gifts delivered to you each day free of this April Sunset.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I can remember my first computer. It was in the late 80's and had a 286 processor 64k of ram with a 20 meg hard drive. This was in the early years when Windows was young so I did everything from the DOS command line. I was in computer geek heaven.
nowadays I have had a single file that is larger than 20 meg and my watch has more memory.
Today I bought a small memory chip at BestBuy for $39. It holds one gigabyte of data. That's a billion bytes. When I put it in my camera and turned it on, the counter said I could put a 1015 photographs on this chip that is the size of a postage stamp and just slightly thinker than a matchbook cover.
I know a good bit about computers but the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know squat.
And this is just the technology that they let us know about.....I'm not sure I want to know about the really advanced stuff.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Campbell Field

We had to drive up to Bradford where Jilda works early Friday morning to deliver some relaxation CD's she'd created. The sun had just risen over the eastern horizon and the morning mist was beginning to dissipate. We decided before we left home to drive to Gardendale and have breakfast at Cracker Barrel but as we crested the hill on Arkadelphia Road we passed Campbell Field. Until a few months ago the only thing there was a grass air field where Piper airplanes land and take off.
Then the people who own the airstrip added on to the old building that has stood across the road for as long as I can remember. Out of almost nothing evolved a small restaurant and soon after it opened, the parking lot began to fill early in the morning and on the weekends.
We took that as a good sign and instead of going to Cracker Barrel, we delivered the CD's and came back to Campbell Field.
We entered the restaurant and no fewer than three people behind the counter and standing in the dining areas welcomed us. We were seated in front nearest to the airfield. The new part of the restaurant is like a sunroom with big windows, pine floors and a vaulted ceiling. The menus I'm sure were printed on their computer but it had all the stuff.
An older waitress hustled over to the table and fetched us some fresh hot coffee and we decided on the Breakfast Platter. We read the menu while they fried our eggs to perfection.
The restaurant a Campbell's Field is a family owned establishment that is on a farm that has been in the Campbell family since the mid 1800's. The airstrip across the road is a dream of Fred Campbell. He crafted an Alabama hayfield into his own airport. He has given many folks their first airplane ride. Several of those have become pilots themselves. Carolyn Campbell Wigley had a dream to open this restaurant to provide good food and a relaxed home-style atmosphere to enjoy. Welcome!
As we sat and sipped our coffee and ate our food, a small blue and white plane appeared out of the morning sky and drifted down toward the field like a well flown kite in a gentle breeze. The pilot hopped down out of the cockpit and strolled over toward the restaurant for breakfast.
As we paid the check the folks behind the counter were greeting the pilot like an old friend and I thought to myself is this a great country or what?

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I get a ton of jokes through email and for the most part I've heard most of them all. I got one today that was really funny and I had no heard it before.

When John found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly

Father died, he decided he needed a woman to enjoy it with.

So one evening he went to a singles bar where he spotted the most

beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath


"I may look like just an ordinary man," he said as he walked up to her,

"but in just a week or two, my father will die, and I'll inherit 20

million dollars."

Impressed, the woman went home with him that evening and, three days

later, she became his stepmother.

Women are so much smarter than men...

I've got the Dora High School Alumni reunion this evening so I won't be doing an entry tonight but I'll be back on track tomorrow.

Friday, April 21, 2006


The rain moved in this afternoon and it's falling still. I opened the door for a while just to listen. When I was a child we lived in a mining camp house in the West Pratt community. Our house had asphalt siding that looked a little like brick. The old house had coal fireplaces, vinyl floors, and a tin roof. I can remember lying in bed at night listening to the constant whisper of rain on that roof. The wind would sometimes vary the pitch but it's a sound that even today makes me fall asleep with a smile on my face.
During my time in the tropics while I was in the Army, our barracks didn't have glass in the windows, only screens. During rainy season the wind off the Atlantic would blow misty rain through those windows. Late at night I would stand alone in front of those windows and it made me feel closer to home.
When I started dating Jilda in 1968, her family was quite religious and wouldn't let her go to movies, ballgames, swimming, or most of the places that young folks enjoy. They would let me take her to the Mug and Cone for a chocolate shake or maybe to Randy's Creme Cone in Dora for the best cheeseburger on the planet, but we had to be in the yard before 9 p.m. We didn't get to do a lot of the things our friends got to do, but we sat in her front yard and listened to songs we loved, we talked about our future, and on special nights we watched the rain dance on the windshield of my old Chevy. How could you not love falling rain?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Endearing Charms

Our high school alma mater was written by the mom of some good friends of mine and the words are to the tune of an old English tune called Endearing Charms. I'm putting together a slideshow from the 1956 yearbook the that music. I've said it before, but there's something about pictures and music that is touching. I got misty eyed tonight as I was editing the slideshow.
When I was in high school, I must have sang the Alma Mater a thousand times but I never REALLY paid attention to the words that Faye Thomas Bobo wrote, but looking back now through the years with some living under my belt, they ring very true.

The Dora High School Alma Mater by Faye Bobo
May the Blue and the Gold of our banner so bright
Fill our hearts full of joy and delight.
To our dear Alma Mater we'll ever be true
No matter what e'er be the tide.

We pledge all our love, and our loyalty, too
To maintain the high standards begun
May the Gold never tarnish, the Blue ne'er grow dim
'Til the goals of our hopes have been won.

Thunder Storms

When I got up this morning to make the coffee I stepped out on the deck to toss the grounds from the coffee press and I could tell then that it was much too warm for this time of year. The wind was still and you could hear the Whip-o-wills off in the distance telling the news.

I worked from home today and didn’t go outside except to get the mail and the morning paper. This evening when we went for our walk, you could hear the sound of distant thunder off to the north. When we turned on the TV James Spann the weather man was talking about storms that were moving southwest which is opposite than their normal path.

As I write this entry the sound of pea sized hail is pinging the front windows and Buddy the scardy dog wants to be in my lap.

The rain is quite welcome because we’ve had to water by hand all the plants we’ve planted the last few weeks.

Today as I was working on a presentation that I’m doing tomorrow for some big wigs, I looked out my office window and I saw the first bloom from our rhododendron bush. These flowers are big as a small plate. The bloom is actually a cluster of smaller azalea/rose colored flowers. It’s a remarkable shrub.

Last Sunday we put our lemon tree, grapefruit tree and our ficus tree which live in our house during the winter months outside. They don’t winter well in Alabama. All three touch the vaulted ceiling but begin to look depressed by late February. Tonight they look as if they are rejoicing the coming of the rain.

Just before I was set to upload this entry, a big ol' bolt of lightening hit somewhere near and our cable connection went scurring for cover so this post is late.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I got home later tonight than usual and the warm sun had already sank below the horizon. I had promised myself earlier in the day that I was going to walk, but I was tied up in meetings so I never got around to it. I decided to walk before nightfall set in because I didn't want to break a promise to myself.
I read a poem entitled the ballad of Sam McGee which has an incredible line:
"A promise made is a debt unpaid."
Not wishing to leave a debt unpaid to a very important person, I got Buddy and we went for a walk.
I have a driveway about a hundred and fifty yards long that meanders behind our house to the barn. It's like a green tunnel this time of year and walking through it makes me think of scenes from "Lord of the Ring". When fading light gets caught in the branches and leaves it has a mystical quality that's hard to describe with words. At the end of the driveway is our old red barn that's seen its better days. One reason for its demise is a huge Cottonwood tree that has decided to sprout from the north side much too close to the foundation.
Cottonwoods grow fast and this one now stands taller than the apex of the roof. I know I need to cut it down and repair the damaged foundation but the reason this has not happened is because at this time of year, the tree puts on trumpet shaped purple flowers that have a bouquet which is a cross between grape coolaid and a good French Merlot. The hardened seedpod are as sticky as bubblegum.
This is a smell from my childhood, long before I had an inkling of just how good a good French Merlot smells. The tree grew in our yard in West Pratt and every year before school let out for the summer, the old tree would bloom and give off this heavenly fragrance. I used to pick up some of the fallen blooms and put them in my lunchbox and take them to school. Each time Ms. Carter, my first grade teacher, strolled down the isle to check the progress of our work, she would catch a slight scent of the flowers and would pause ever so briefly to try and detect where the smell was originating. Perhaps it reminded her of her childhood.
So tonight my walk was made more enjoyable by those little flowers. I picked one up and brought it home to inspire me while I wrote this entry.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Investment In Knowledge

Ben Franklin said an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. Ol' Ben was a clever guy. He has a million of these sayings that ring true and go deep.
Since I've been doing this Blog, I've become interested in the use of words to describe ordinary things. James Lee Burke writes detective novels and his use of language makes his books a joy to read.
I had the good fortune on my birthday back in January to receive a book entitled "The Clearing" by Tim Gautreaux. So far the story has not been a block buster but the use of language is extraordinary. There is a phrase or a description on every page that literally blows me away.
I read in Steven King's book "On Writing" that in order to become a good writer you should read books by good writers. So I've made a point of seeking out really good ones.
The jury is still out as to whether my investment in time reading great fiction will pay interest with my own writing, but I don't think you can go wrong reading good books.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


My niece Danielle has a daughter Zoe that is about three. She is a beautiful child. Today we were at my sisters house to have an Easter Egg hunt. Zoe and her older brother Zack and a Brittany Poe were the only kids hunting eggs but it was still a joy to me to watch kids.
Today Zoe who still speaks in tongues for the most part has learned to say RICK. She had on a pink dress and a smile that could melt the coldest heart. She had an Easter Basket that almost dragged the ground and when I'd find an egg I'd call her over and say look there by the tree and she'd look. I'd scrape the leaves back with the toe of my shoe and say look at the tree Zoe and when she spied the egg a look of utter joy would cross her face. If you could somehow capture the feeling of that moment put it in a bottle and sell it to sad people you would never have to work another day of your life.
I'm not sure why Zoe has chosen me to be her friend, but I can tell you I feel blessed.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I spent the afternoon with my Mom today giving my sister a chance to go out and eat with friends. After open heart surgery, a broken leg, a broken hip, and a slight stroke, my Mom's over chit chatting. When she needs something she asks, if she wants you to know something she tells you but the rest of the time she prefers to watch the game show network. Her hearing is going as well so the TV must be of an amplitude equivalent to that of a chainsaw in order for her to hear properly. This makes conversation spotty at best but I've come to realize that she has sacrificed all her life for her family and if she prefers to watch Richard Dawson and the Family Fued, that's O.K. with me.
When I got home this evening the sun was bathing our yard in warm golden light and I saw a gift that Jilda's Mom gave us. It's a Bearded Iris which has two colors...a plum colored beard and the top of the bloom is the color of English toffee. This photo does not do this flower justice.
To say that Jilda's Mom and Dad were into flowers is an understatement. They spent a miners pension on Iris, Tulips, and Daylillies.
Their homeplace will be sold soon so we all have spent a great deal of time digging up clumps of flowers, shrubs and other assorted plants. Not only will these plants make our homes more beautiful, but the springtime kaleidoscope of color and the heavenly fragrance will remind us of them as long as we live.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Our high school alumni reunion this year is honoring the class of 1956. I was five years old that year. I'm putting together a slideshow with music for the event next Saturday and it's been an experience. I scanned all the photos today from their annual. I also looked online for the things that was popular that year. Paging through the list put a smile on my face because it is so different than today.
In 1956 the songs that were popular were all across the spectrum....obviously there was not hip hop/rap, but you had Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Johnny awesome is that?
The top movie that year was Giant with James Dean...the king of cool. In 1956 the kids were still grieving for James who left us in September of 55.
Flat tops were the rage and it was common to have pistol-legged jeans with white tee shirts and kids somewhere might have rebelled, but the kids in Dora, Alabama still said yes mam and no sir. They might have driven souped up flat-head Fords and rolled up cigarettes in the shirt sleeves but for the most part their parents words were the law.
Times have changed and I know technology, music, movies and the culture have changed our lives a great deal. Most days I would say it was for the better....but looking back at the faces of the kids that donned caps and gowns in 1956 I wonder if they had something that the kids that came later will never know.
I think I'll ask that question next week as they celebrate their 50th class reunion.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Trapeze Swinger

There's a song I heard while watching the movie Good Company called the Trapeze Swinger. The song had a profound impact on me so after the movie I went to my computer to search iTunes and I immediately downloaded the song. It's simple and honest and the words weave an ethereal mental picture that is compelling and poignant. I never seem to tire of the ballad. Just listening somehow knocks my left brain out of gear which gives my acquiescent right brain an chance to get a thought in edge-wise.
While listening I glanced up on my old roll-top desk at the many photographs that live there and saw a picture of Jilda, our friend Kaye and her deceased husband Ron and my friend/brother Steve. Steve and Ron were blood brothers. We were at the beach enjoying a magical day that involved incredible seafood, guitars, heartfelt renditions of our favorite songs and I'm sure a great deal of wine.
Looking at the picture always puts a smile on my face but it also makes me feel a little heartsick too. Ron died way too soon. He was younger than I am now. He had a heart condition similar to the one that took Lewis Grizzard's life. He had done well with his work but he could not get insurance because of the pre-existing heart condition. He was in the hospital when he died, but I believe that it was the lack of insurance that ultimately took his life. The death certificate says a blood clot but there's more to the story than will fit in the small space on the official record.
I refuse to allow myself to get upset tonight...but as I listen to the Trapeze Swinger and look at the pictures of the people I love, I find myself asking if we as a country are paying attention to the things that are most dear to us.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I know all the arguments. It's often said that people who buy lottery tickets are simple and bad with numbers. They say that lotteries are a rip-off and hurt the poor. I don't have a logical argument for these claims. I know for a fact that the chance of winning a major lottery jackpot is MILLIONS to one...but you know what? Somebody wins these lotteries and to me it's worth a dollar to dream.
I don't buy tickets until the pot gets over a hundred million. I currently have a ticket for the Colorado and the Mega Millions both of which are approaching 200 million.
While driving to work or sitting in a boring meeting I can let my mind drift to the things I would do if I won a hundred million dollars. I've heard people say "I wouldn't quit work; I'd go to work with a smile on my face." Well I would not even go and pick up the stuff off my desk. They could keep my books, my pens, my plants, and my pictures......well I'd probably pay a friend handsomely to send my pictures to me.
What I would do is build a library in my home town. I'd also fund the Mission of Hope in Dora. I mean buy them a new truck and a computer. I hire permanent staff to help the people in our area who are in need. I'd fund college scholarships to students from our area who show promise in music, dance, science and letters. I'd hire a medical helicopter to fly my mamma to a Braves game and I'd go fetch her a Chalupa from Taco Bell (one of her favorite fast foods) and some ice cold sweet milk just to see her smile.
I would also fly my lovely wife to Ireland again and later to Amsterdam and Prague. We'd come back through Paris and spend time strolling beside the River Seine and spend time in the Louvre and look at the Mona Lisa.
Yes I might be bad at math; but I'll pay a buck any day for a good dream

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On The Road Again

I worked from home today so I cranked up at 5:30 a.m. Unlike yesterday, I got a ton accomplished. Things that had been languishing in my follow-up folder for some time got knocked out with ease. You'd be surprised at how much work you can get done when you're not at work.
Tomorrow it's back on the road again to Atlanta for meetings but I'll be home tomorrow evening. One observation that I have made is that the road between Birmingham and Atlanta is not very interesting. The never ending construction and the army of state troopers aside, the landscape is just so so.
The trip to Nashville or south to Mobile or even east to Jackson by contrast is more enjoyable to me.
A few miles north on Interstate 65 towards Nashville the highway winds between hills, valleys, and beautiful farms. Something that might enhance my view of that trip is that when I go to Nashville it is usually to do something interesting with music or to go to a party with friends. You can bet there is a guitar in the back and a good time will be had by all.
I could actually go to Nashville tomorrow, but my meeting is in Atlanta and that would sort of defeat the purpose.
Anyhow, if you're headed to Atlanta in the morning, let's stop at the McDonald's in Leeds and have a cup of coffee.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Days Like Today

I've been on conference calls with the world today and every inhabitant wants me to do something...NOW. I'd no sooner get off one call that I'd have to be on another. My todo list grew exponentially. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for my work. It pays the bills and puts vittles on the table. But it's days like today that make me miss those carefree days when I was young. When I spent the sunshine exploring the hills and hollows of my home town. I know where there used to be a sulfur spring with water that smelled of rotten eggs and where there was an artesian well with water cold as a popsicle. I have never tasted better water. One day I was hot and sweaty and I made the mistake of jumping in the glass clear pool that served as a cistern for the well. I did finally catch my breath, but I had to lie in the bright sun for a long while to warm up enough to walk.
One day our crew reallocated a railroad tool cart. It's the small flat trailers that get pulled behind the small railroad vehicles that inspect the rail before the real trains come through. It was sitting there all alone on the spur that came to the coal tipples of Sloss. What were we to do? We looked around and there was not an adult in sight so we started pushing. The thing about these cars is that once you get them moving, the hard steel wheels have very little friction on the steel rails so once we got that puppy moving, we could all jump and and ride for a long while. We pushed that cart up and down that stretch of railroad for hours on end. At the end of the day, we were all to exhausted to return it to where we found it. We ditched it at the end of the line and played dumb the next day when the railroad people came looking. "No sir, I can't imagine who would have taken the cart. Yes sir, if we hear we'll be sure to let you know." None of us would have told if they threatened to pull our tongues out with pliers.
Anyhow, today while I was absently jotting down another action item, my mind wandered back to that day lying on my back on that slow moving railroad cart, listening to the click clack of the wheels on the rails and I'd give a weeks pay to be there right now.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Change Of Pace

We got up this morning and had our coffee on the veranda. The sun was warm but the air was still cool as a refrigerator. We usually go about our Sunday chores after breakfast but I suggested we do something different today so we cleaned up and headed up Interstate 65 north to Cracker Barrel. We ate more than we should and then drove on up to Lacon flea market which is a strange and wonderful place. It is a hodge-podge of buildings (I use this word loosely) that resemble a third world shanty village. It has junk and treasure and everything in between. You can buy puppies, kittens, chickens and other critters. You can buy tools, tires, and a Velvet Elvis. Some places sell books and it's hard to get away without buying some. They sell the best roasted peanuts I've ever had.
They people you see there range from the young and upwardly mobile shopping to people who look like they might not be able to eat if they don't have a good day selling their stuff. I find myself becoming a little melancholy if I stay too long.
We bought a book, some peanuts, a flute and some plants. It's only by the Grace of God that we didn't buy all the dogs and bring them home. Jilda is like the pied piper...every dog in the universe wants to live with us.....many of them do.
We left Lacon and drove Highway 31 south instead of taking the interstate. It meandered through Vinemont, Cullman, Hanceville, Garden City and Blunt Springs. Somewhere before we got to Cullman we looked off to the east and saw about 10 skydivers drifting earthward like colorful feathers.
We passed a sawmill/lumber yard that sells rough lumber which is exactly what we were looking for as we are about to build a new barn so we stopped long enough to write down the phone number.
We ambled on towards home with the sunroof open enjoying this beautiful spring day. There is a small community near Blount Springs called Mountain Brook. It gets its name from a small mountain brook that rushes through the limestone rocks on its way to the Locus Fork River. We pulled over to sit on rock and listen to the sound of rushing water for a long while. I shot a photograph but it does not do justice to this little rarely do.
Today was a really good change of pace. I think I needed it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Looking Out For the Dead

The wind blew hard last night. The weather man said it would and he was right. We went to bed late and it looked like the worst was over but sometime after midnight we both had a rude awakening when a bolt of lightening struck something hard very near our house. When we got up to check things out you could hear thunder rolling and constant lightening. One strike looked like a jagged spotlight being shown down from the heavens on a hapless tree that stood on the ridge beyond our property. Fortunately the storm moved very fast and soon it was over and the constant drone of rain set in and we fell asleep.
This morning I got up early and the humming birds were already hard at work. The sun came up unobscured by clouds and shown through our windows as if nothing had happened the night before.
I had some work to do in the morning but around lunch time Buddy (my dog) and I went down to Davis Cemetery to lend a hand in an effort to clean up the cemetery before Easter.
I guess I thought more people would be there, but either folks were busy or maybe they came early and left before I arrived because Earl Hicks and I WERE the clean up crew.
We picked up old flowers and some debris. We cut a gimpy old pine that was leaning precariously across the road and left it for the city cleanup crew to haul off.
I used a weedeater to clean the graves of my brothers and father. The sun was warm and the trees and shrubs put on a show as they do this time of year.
When I finished I sat on the tailgate with Buddy and looked over the graves of the people buried there. I'm one of the folks who never moved away so I knew many of the names written on the tombstones. I knew where they worked and what kind of car they drove. I knew their people.
As I sat there in silence a freight train slowly made its way through Old Dora and French Town on its way to points south and west. The engineer blew the horn before crossing the trestle at Singleton Road. I've heard this sound described in stories and songs as lonesome but I never really got it until today. The sound echoed off hills and hollows and it had a sad and lonely quality.
Most people work hard throughout their lives and when all is said and done the only thing left is a rock on which their name is written and the memories they leave with friends and family.
The pace of life is fast and so many things vie for your time. I consider it an honor to spend a little out for the dead.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yard Work

Today has been a beautiful day. The winds out of the south have been blustery but the sun was warm. I worked in the yard all afternoon cutting grass and trimming low hanging limbs. I love this work because you can see instant results. Often times with the work I do in the computer world is obscure and unremarkable to the untrained eye. In fact if I do my job well, nothing happens. The computers on which my company depends don't fail. I know when I've done a good job, but the results show up to my boss and our customers as a blip on a system availability graph.
On the other hand when you do work in your yard even a casual passerby can see the result your work....a cinnamon scented spicy pink flower peeks out from a rock azalea in full bloom the color of a desert sunset catches an eye and for an instant they see something beautiful if they are clever enough to notice.
I know that some people might not get it...they may think it's a waste of time and in the scheme of things maybe it is, but it seems right to me. Mainly because when I'm working with my hands I'm'm not worried about commitments, or deadlines...I get lost and it gives my mind some time off. I think that's important.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


A while back I began using Firefox as a browser instead of Internet Explorer and there is a feature with this browser called Stumble. The first time you use Stumble it will ask you the kinds of things you like. After you enter your preferences it will store them for future reference.
I did this several months ago and it's a great tool for getting unstuck. When I'm trying to write and I run into a brick wall, I point to the Stumble button and click. The software looks at the things you like and then looks out at the billion or so website on the planet and says....I think Rick needs this at this moment in time. Sometimes it will take you to a website that is not very interesting....but I have found that more often than not, it takes me to just what I need to go to get unstuck.
Tonight when I clicked the button it took me to
which is the website of a photography/artist site. This is one of the photographs I found.
I love photography and I can take decent pictures but this one took my breath away.
I think some people have a better sense of beauty and how to capture it on canvas, marble or on film.
I think everyone is good at something. The trick is to find what you are good at. One thing I have learned personally is that melodies come easy to me. It's as if I have a radio in my head and when I tune it to the proper channel, a melody comes through my brain and out through the strings of my guitar. It's hard to explain where inspiration and creativity come from. I've learned not to question it but to embrace it.
Some nights sitting at the keyboard waiting for the words to come the work is effortless. Other nights it's like pulling teeth. The one good thing about the nights when it's hard is that I almost always Stumble onto something the photograph above.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Evening Light

I whine a great deal about the time change in the spring...losing an hour of sleep is always an issue with me but I do enjoy the fact that I don't have to drive home in the dark. And when I get home, there is still enough evening light to walk around the yard and look at all the flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees. Today as I did my inspections I noticed that the pear and the apple trees are blooming. The grape vines are only a day or two from blossom.
I get an email each day from the Daily OM and quite often they are profound. The one for yesterday talks about a simple leaf. If you look at a leaf closely enough it can be as beautiful as a work of art. The remarkable thing is that it's connected to a stem and the stem is connected to a branch and the branch to the trunk and the trunk to the gound. The leaves inhale in what humans exhale. Leaves exhale what humans perfect is that? Everything is connected on some level. There is a cosmic dance that goes on around us every day and it's very hard to tell where one eco system begins and the other ends.
As I walk around my little eco system in the fading evening light I feel a connection and I feel blessed to be right here, right now.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Old Cars

America has built some great cars. I started driving when I was very young. We had a used 1957 Buick Roadmaster when I was about twelve years old and my mom hated driving it. When she needed something from the store or when she needed to make the occasional trip to the doctor she always let me drive. I was kind of tall for my age but even so I had to look through the steering wheel and over the hood that seemed as long as a football field to see the road.
It was two-tone green light over dark and had a motor as big as Texas. The beast was as slow as an oxen on take off but once you got those big wheels rollin' that sucker would fly. I felt like a giant driving that car. No seatbelts and no padding on that dash....your head hits that and they hose it off and sell it to someone else. You could put all your friends in that car.
The thing about those old cars is that they were beautifully designed and easy to work on. I wonder why the cars today can't be like that. I believe that if the American car manufacturers stopped trying to copy the Japanese and the Germans and just designed beautiful cars that look good, drive good and work like they should, no other country could compete with us.

Monday, April 03, 2006


It's amazing what a few warm spring days can do. It was only a few days ago the grass was brown and bitten close to the ground by frost. Then the sun comes out and warms the earth and all of a sudden the world turns as green as a new John Deere tractor.
I was on the plane from Colorado Springs with a lady who came through the south on the way to New York City to visit her daughter. When she looked out of the window as we started our desent into Atlanta she exclaimed WOW! I can't believe how green it is here. I told her she hasn't seen anything yet. Come back a another week and the entire south will be lush and verdant as a rain forest.
The cycle of life both in nature and in higher life forms is remarkable. Indeed nature is often used as a metaphor for life. Life so closely mirroring the seasons. Just when you think winter will never end you start seeing a few daffodils, some yellowbells, then some bradford pear trees start to bloom and then just before Easter you have dogwoods. We have hundreds of dogwoods on our property but there's one in our front yard that looks like a fluffy cloud right now. The flowers on this magnificent tree are white as bolls of cotten.
I think a mentioned a few entries back about the collard field near our house. With the time change, I was able to catch it in good light and I stopped to shoot the photo above.
I hope you all like spring and the rebirth of green as much as I.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

RattleSnake Rodeo

I do the website for the Opp, Alabama RattleSnake Rodeo and this was the weekend for the event. Jilda had a yoga class scheduled but the venue changed and they didn't notify her so she missed out on the class and she decided to go with me.
This was beautiful weekend in south Alabama and the rodeo was a huge success. I love small town events. There were thousands of people who came out and brought their kids and enjoyed all the rodeo had to offer. There were horseback rides, kiddy mountain climbing, and all kids of other fun stuff for children. There were also RattleSnake demonstrations with barrels full of eastern diamondback rattlers which looked as big a cross ties.
The wind from the south fluttered flags, banners and ruffled tents. Helium balloons were launched by crying children too young to understand the properties of balloons that are lighter than air. Food vendors were out in force serving corn-on-a-cob, fried onions, fried chicken, funnel cakes, fish sandwitches and fried rattlesnake. Call me a wus, but I drew the line at the rattlesnake. I did however have the best fried shrimp Po-boy I've ever put in my mouth.
Last night Joe Nichols, the famous country star, performed his hit songs for a huge crowd. After the concert we went back to the home of my friends Wes and Deidra to played music with members of the band Second Wind who opened for Joe. We sat around the pool out back and played old songs, new songs and songs that we had written. It was a magical night. When the band left, Wes, Deidra, my nephew Haven and his wife Alesha, Jilda and I got in the hot tub and solved most of the world's problems. At about 3 a.m. I took my prune-like body out of the hot tub and headed for bed.
Today we made out way back home and it occurred to me while driving through Covington and Montgomery counties that spring had already arrived there. The shades of green were much deeper and the foiladge much more lush. Just south of the city of Montgomery we passed trees with Spanish Moss drooping down from the limbs like gray beards. The blooming Wisteria looks like bunches of lavender grapes hanging from trees. We rolled the windows down and the scent was intoxicating.
There is a small country store on highway 331 that sells Peach Nehi drinks. I haven't had one in years. I personally don't think a better soft drink has ever been made.
We're home now and tomorrow it's back to work for me. I've been away from my desk for two weeks. I'm assuming all my plants are dead from lack of water. There is a pretty good chance that I'll have to be retrained. But the weekend is nice.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Jet Lagged

I do the website for the Opp RattleSnake Rodeo and that's where we've been all day. Shooting photos and tonight we heard Joe Nichols. He put on a great show.
I'm wimping out tonight. Sorry. I'll do a better job tomorrow.

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