Friday, June 30, 2006

The River

Tomorrow we're going down to the river to visit our friends Tom and Judy. It's been quite a while since we've been down there. There was a time we saw them almost every weekend. We'd go out on their pontoon boat and drift lazily down the river and talk for hours. I always had my camera and took boxes of pictures.
They used to do pig roasts. Tom did a lot of research to determine the perfect way to cook a pig in the ground. The first year a bunch of us gathered on Friday night and dug the pit. We put in dried hickory and started the fire and placed the pig on a piece of tin and lowered it into the pit. We drank beer for a while and played some music on the bank and then after the proper length of time, we buried the pig to allow it to cook all night so that it would be ready for the main crowd the following afternoon.
Everyone started arriving just after lunch on Saturday and it was a carnival atmosphere. When Jilda saw the pit she immediately announced that she would not be eating pig but the nice hot dogs she brought.
We dug that pig up and hauled it out of the hole for inspection. There was a guy there who was the local vet and he moved in to check the meat. He cut it open with a sharp knife and promptly announced to the crowd that if the pig had a shot of penicillin, it just might live. A short time later we threw the pig in the river and we all ate hot dogs.
There were times we went there with just our small circle of friends and took boat rides up and down the river.
One time Jilda took paper and small sets of water colors like you buy at Foodworld. We found a quite slew and we all painted multicolored landscapes with cheap brushes. Afterwards we read poetry and watched a big blue heron catch his supper.
Thoughts of the river always put a smile on my face. It will be good to go there tomorrow. It would not surprise me if Tom is didn't try another pig in a pit.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I have been absolutely slammed the last few weeks. When you have a lot on your plate, it's sometimes hard to figure out where to begin. It's like a log jam on the river. Nothing moves and things start to stagnate. With me, ideas come more slowly and it seems the things I actually do are half hearted which is unlike me. But what do you do? Well as my lovely wife counsels....just breathe. She says if your mind jumps to something you need to do, just pull it back into the "Now" an breathe. One thing that helps me is to pay attention to sensations in my body. Yes, there's an itch on my right eyebrow...a twinge in my stomach.....dang, I need to update the Dora website....STOP....breathe think about now. I can tell you, this is a lot harder than you might think. If you can go fifteen minutes a day grounded in the "Now" you are exceptional.
I think it's because of the velocity of life. You are constantly bombarded with messages on your computer, on the radio, magazines, newspapers, cellphones and conversation in the hall at work. There comes a time when you must shut it all down and reboot, to use a computer term. Like the computer, if you don't reboot occasionally threads of things unfinished hang around and jam up the machinery. That's how I feel now. So excuse me while I take a few minutes and reboot.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Bounty

Have you ever eaten fresh blueberries picked right off the bush? I mean when they've been warmed by the morning sun. I have and some were as big as dimes and juicy. We found a neighbor that grows them now and Jilda went over this morning and picked a gallon. This weekend she's going to make blueberry waffles. She makes the waffles and then whips up this blueberry syrup concoction that is delightful.
I haven't had a lot of luck with blueberries, but it is my intention to remedy this. I put a reminder on my calendar to order in August and they will ship in September. It will be a year or so before we have berries but it's just a matter of time.
Our nephew Haven gave us a bushel of purple hull peas. When I finish with this entry, I'm going out on the screen porch to help Jilda shell the peas. Tomorrow evening we'll have squash from our garden, tomatoes, peas and cornbread for supper. There's a line in our BBQ song that says "I'm in heaven and I ain't dead." Well, that's how I feel eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Life's a garden, enjoy the bounty.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Self Doubt

It sneaks up on you like a cold. You're not sure where it comes from or what triggered it but this little voice in your heads starts to chide "well, that's kind of stupid don't you think? That's been said a million times. A lot of people smarter and better than you have tried to write book."
The thing about it is, that little voice knows just what to say. It knows where you weak points are and it has a knack for cutting to the bone.
Today I was listening to "The Writing Show" which is a a podcast by a woman writer somewhere out west and she interviews authors, publishers, agents, and others associated with writing. The show has great tips but there are many struggling writers out there and they sound so beaten. After listening for a while, my inner voice chimed in "they're right you know. No one wants to read junk you write. Why don't you drink some beer and watch reruns of MASH."
If I could get my hands on that little weasel I'd stomp a hog waller in its butt then stomp it dry. It's a coward and it wants me to be one too.
As I sit here on my porch tapping away at the keys on my laptop, I know that I do this because I love to write. The notes I get from the folks who visit make it worthwhile. I will concede that the more I learn about writing, the more I realize I don't know much but that's what keeps it interesting.
On a side note, I got a note from my friend Dale who is an exceptional writer, who told me he read one of my entries on "seeing". He took my challenge, shot a photo and sent it to me yesterday. I think it is remarkable.
Tonight as the lightning bugs start their show and the night birds are finishing their chores before night falls, I'm not concerned about that little voice in my head.
I have a saying carved on a small piece of wood that sits on my desk which says "whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right." I feel blessed and there is nothing that little voice can say that will change that.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Tequila Sunset

Things started out pretty good this morning but began spiraling downward around lunch. We had what seemed like a simple little server that crashed but we soon discovered that a lot of big servers depended on the little one.
All of a sudden my pager started chirping off my belt....are you on top of this??????? Well no, I'm eating my balony sandwich.....cuss, cuss, cuss, fuss, fuss fuss, get the picture. I didn't leave work until almost eight tonight and the thing is still broke.
I was in the truck on the way home, my mind was buzzing trying to think of what I should do, what I should have done, and all the questions that will need to be answered....when I round a curve facing west and whoa Nellie. There was a sunset like I have not seen in some time.
I pulled the truck to the curb, pulled out my trustee camera and shot a photo. I'd rather you didn't share that little piece of information with my boss as he would take a dim view of me slowing down even to go to the bathroom much less shooting an artsy photo of a tequila sunset.
It's funny how you get all wound up worrying about things that won't really matter tomorrow when the Good Lord throws something at you to put it all in perspective.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

West Pratt

I drove down through West Pratt yesterday and they've torn down Mrs. Hodges old house. I had sat vacant for many years and was is disrepair. She lived across the street from us when I was a kid. She was a square jawed no-nonsense woman that spoke her mind. Her hair was the color of a tarnished quarter and she wore it in a bun on the back of her head. The floors in her house, at any given time, were clean enough to eat off of. She and my mom were friends.
One Sunday in early May when I was about eight years old, a chicken snake wandered into our house. It was about five feet long. My sister went to get a glass of water and found it lying in front of the sink. To say she freaked would be a gross understatement. My mom and dad raced into the kitchen. My mom, who is not afraid of Satan himself, did not like the snake in our house one bit. Daddy reached down and caught the snake behind the neck and carried if off behind the shed in back of our house. I had a huge time teasing my sister. For days afterward she would jump like an Olympian at the slightest brush of a limb or string.
Several days later, while we were at school and Mr. Chicken Snake decided that he would have more fun at my sister's expense. Problem was, my sister was not home. Mrs. Hodges had come over to drink coffee with my mother and when they went into the kitchen, the snake was coiled around the leg of the kitchen table. Mrs. Hodges (even then she was older than Methuselah) was out the back door like a flash but she was back in with a garden hoe and she chopped that snake in to hot dog sized portions. Mrs. Hodges swept it with a broom into a long handled shovel that my mom was holding. They threw it into the outside toilet which was still in service at that time.
There are so many memories of those days in the West Pratt community and I'm not sure what brought this particular one to mind, so I thought I should write it down.
I hope you all have had a great Sunday.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Saturday in Empire

My nephew Haven and his wife Alesha came by this evening to share some good news. They had just picked their first mess of purple hull peas from their garden. We sat and talked for a while so we asked if they would like to have dinner with us. They had not planned to stay but it seemed like the right thing to do so they did. Haven and I jumped in my truck and ran down to Sumiton to get two more steaks and a few more goodies.
Jilda cooked some vegetables and some potatoes while were were gone.....she also made a chocolate cake.
When we returned, Alesha was shelling the peas and her fingers were as purple as an eggplant. It tickles me that they have a garden. Most young folks I know would not bother. In fact I've heard more than one person say, "why do you grow can go to Publix and get all the vegetables a lot easier than growing them." What simple silly people they are. It's not about how cheap or how easy it is to get food at a super's understanding that if things were to get weird, you know how to do things for yourself. Plus, there's nothing quite like eating things you grow yourself. I'm proud of both of those kids. They both have great jobs and bright futures, but they are also grounded. They appreciate the good things in life.
Haven grew up next door and I had the good fortune to be apart of his life. He's not afraid of work, he has a good heart, he thinks for himself when it comes to politics and he had the good sense to find and marry a woman who is beautiful, smart, funny and doesn't take any crap...from anyone. It's a bonus that they both are fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
We don't have children, but if we did, I would be thrilled if they shared some of the qualities of Haven and Alesha.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer Rain

We got some rain this afternoon. Not much, but enough to make the trees rejoice. This evening I'm sitting on the porch listening to my neighbor's rooster's crow and the tinkling of the chimes.
Tomorrow I'll have to cut grass because a hint of rain will make it grow like kudzu, but I'm not complaining.
I saving to put a tin roof on our house. It should last us the rest of our lives and it will have the added benefit of being a sleeping aid on rainy nights. Most of the good memories I have of the years we lived in our trailer was on rainy summer nights. We'd open the windows, lie under the sheets and listen to the failing rain.
We used to have an eight-track tape by Jose Feliciano and our favorite song on the album was "Listen to the Rain" the lyrics are:

Listen to the pouring rain
Listen to it pour,
And with every drop of rain
You know I love you more

Let it rain all night long,
Let my love for you go strong,
As long as we're together
Who cares about the weather?

Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall,
And with every drop of rain,
I can hear you call,
Call my name right out loud,
I can here above the clouds
And I'm here among the puddles,
You and I together huddle.

Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall.

It's raining,
It's pouring,
The old man is snoring,
Went to bad
And bumped his head,
He couldn't get up in the morning,

Listen to the falling rain,
listen to the rain

Maybe it will rain again tonight.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It's like deja-vu, all over again.

Yogi Berra said some very funny yet profound things. He often twisted the sentence and that made what he was saying hilarious. "You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there. " I can tell you for sure that I've been there before. More good advice from Yogi - "You should always go to other people's funerals, otherwise, they won't come to yours. "
Here's a good description for highway 280 South - "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Also - "You can observe a lot just by lookin'" . And one that's appropriate for Alabama today - "It ain't the heat, it's the humility. "
I'm going to use a "get out of writting a blog entry" card tonight.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Before Air Conditioning

When I said a few posts back that I like hot weather, you may have gotten the fallacious impression that I enjoy weather like today. I'm here to tell you I was lying through my teeth. I drive a black truck (I know, what the heck was I thinking) and by ten this morning the pavement was hot as a skillet. I fully expected my wheels to melt.
The summer I graduated from high school I got a job with the highway department. For the most part it was a breeze, but one day I made the unfortunate mistake of angering our crew chief. He was about the age that I am now and I made fun of his bald spot. The next five days (August 1968) I inspected asphalt.
The contractor was resurfacing a section of highway and someone from the highway department had to check the surface to ensure that it didn't have high spots or low spots. Due to my glib and unbecoming commentary regarding the hair loss of my beloved boss, I became that inspector. I realized right away that this did not look good as all the folks working around me were as red as a rugburn.
About noon on the second day it occurred to me that he must be folically sensitive. Everyday's a school day. When I got back to the work center on the third day (eight pounds lighter), I caught him before he left for the evening. I promised to wash his car, rotate his tires, change the oil and bring him some of my mamma's blackberry cobbler. He smiled and said "let's talk on Friday."
I never mentioned hair again. In fact from that day forward, I was mindful of everything I said to "Mr. I'll-throw-your-butt-in-a-vat-of-scalding-tar bossman."
The thing about hot weather is this: when folks come from up north in October and November they think "hey, this weather is great!!!!" They go back to Michigan and sell the homeplace and move here. They are sooo happy until summer. At that point they accost you in the Wal-Mart parking lot screaming "HOW CAN YOU REDNECK HILLBILLIES LIVE IN THIS HELLHOLE!!!!! HAS NO ONE EVER POINTED OUT THAT IT'S A FURNACE HERE!!!!"
I always smile and say, "you should have lived here before we had air conditioning."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Are You Pullin' My Leg?

Back in the day when someone told my grandpa Charlie Watson something that was hard to believe, he would exclaim - "are you pullin' my leg?" It was like he was giving you a chance to amend your story and not sound like a liar.
He often asked me that when I came home after fishing trips. Pap (that's what I called him) I caught a fish this long - "Are you pullin' my leg?" Well maybe it was just this long....altering my estimate.
He died in the early seventies before personal computers became commonplace and a fancy phone was one that was any color but black. If you had a mobile phone then, you'd better have a long cord. I know he would be constantly amazed (and probably alarmed) by technology today.
Tomorrow I will be teaching a class via a virtual classroom and my students will be scattered across the globe. My assistant is in Sacramento, California and there will be students all across America, parts of Europe, India and Australia. Obviously the folks on the other side of the planet will be on night shift (It will also the winter solstice in Australia). I'll be standing in a conference room in Birmingham, Alabama.
The thing about it is, this technology is fairly technology goes. It's been around for about five years, but it's still quite remarkable.
Today the company gave me a new pager to keep in touch at all times. I have a small mobile device that's not much bigger than a deck of cards and I can send and receive email, browse the internet, pull up spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, databases, and listen to music. I can also shoot a photograph or do a short video if the mood strikes me. I wanted to hold out for one that could cut my hair and give me a pedicure but my boss failed to see the humor of this request.
The more I learn about computers, the more I realize I don't know squat.
It seems like the world is getting smarter and smarter and going by at a velocity that is very hard to comprehend.
When our administrative assistant was telling me about my new pager today, I got the irresistible urge to say "are you pullin' my leg?"

Monday, June 19, 2006


I spent some of my vacation last week doing repair work around the house and cleaning off the screened porch. I replaced a rotted seal and fixed a screen that the dogs had torn. We painted the furniture and hung new plants. Several years ago we bought a fountain that sits next to the stairs outside and I'm listening to it now as I write. The sound of flowing water has a calming effect that can smooth the edges off a difficult day.
We have a string of Christmas lights around the porch which give it a festive serenity. I know this sounds strange but it works in an offbeat bohemian/redneck/artsyfartsy kind of way. I ran speakers out here so we can listen to soft music as we watch the evening fade to night. On days when we're fortunate enough to have a good breeze, the wind chimes provide the music. At times when the light is just right, it feels mystical.
It's the little things that make a home. I've known people who have big houses that are decorated like they came right out of Southern Living, but I could never bring myself to put my feet up. Most of our furniture is stuff we've collected through the years from our parents, grandparents and other relatives. An iron bed here, a oak table there, a chifforobe and a depression cabinet that's way older than me. The Arts and Leisure channel would call it Shabby Chic but it suits us just fine.
If you ever happen to be driving through Empire in the summertime, stop by. We can sit on the porch and drink some ice cold lemonade.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Praying for Rain

It's been as dry as a box of snuff around here. This spring I was afraid it would rain all summer and stay cool. Jilda was all for that but I like it hot. Well I got my wish. It hasn't rained in weeks and my grass is turning as brown as sage. Last night at dusk I could smell smoke off in the distance so I walked down to the barn to make sure it wasn't close. Fortunately it was down south of here too far off to be an immediate threat. The weatherman is saying we have a shot at some showers tonight and tomorrow. I'm sitting on the deck as I write this piece to see if I catch a scent of rain.
On Friday night we went to a cookout at my sister's house. It was in honor of David and Danielle (my niece and nephew) who are heading out in the morning to Burma for eighteen months. All of them go to Grace Baptist so a lot of the folks from their church were there. Mary Lois asked Jilda and I to play a few songs for the crowd. I pulled out the old Taylor guitar and played the only two gospel songs I know and the crowd seemed to enjoy those. They were less enthused about the other songs we played: Margaritaville, Swervin' in My Lane, and some other hard drinking songs. But for the most part I thought it went well. Patrick and Julie, another niece and nephew were down from South Carolina and Patrick is a picker too. We played for a few hours.
Driving home a red fox ran out in front of us. I saw him in time and braked almost to a stop so that he could escape back into the woods. I'm betting he was looking for water.
I've got a recording of a thunderstorm programmed into my computer and I play it now and again when I long for rain. There's something about the sound of a summer thunderstorm off in the distance marching ever closer, soaking the parched earth on its beneficent journey. A rain after a dry spell is extraordinary because you can almost hear the trees and shrubs rejoicing.
If it rains tonight, you may hear me rejoicing too.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I've been spending a lot of time imagineering lately. I'm on my four-year retirement plan. I know 55 is a fairly young age to contemplate retirement, but I don't plan to quit work...I just plan to quit working for someone else...and in four years I'll be 59 1/2.
I just put my old Chevy up for sale. I've enjoyed driving that car through the years but it's time to let it go so that someone else can enjoy it. I'll take the proceeds and do some work on the house so that I don't have to deal with it once I'm retired. I may get something a little smaller to tinker with. I can see myself in a Porsche.
In retirement, it's my intention to only do the things I love. -- writing, taking pictures, doing websites, gardening, and traveling. That's basically what I'm doing now except for the inconvenience of driving to my day gig. Jilda had an excellent idea which is to teach Yoga on cruise ships. We know a couple that teaches ballroom dancing and they have one class a day and the rest of the time on the ship is theirs....a free cruise for doing what they love. How cool is that? So we figure we could cruise the Mediterranean and the rest of the world at someone else's expense. When we're not on a cruise, I'm thinking we could "summer" in Italy or perhaps the south of France, and work on the novel then come back home when we're tired of their cooking. Maybe spend some of the winter in Saint Martin's down in the Caribbean. The only hitch about the latter part of the plan is that I haven't figured out how we will finance that part, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Maybe I should put a tip jar on the blog "Help Rick Retire Early." I've done some preliminary work on the "Best of Life 101" so it looks like this will happen later this year. I've already taken some pre-orders on the project. Now if I could sell about a hundred thousand copies, I'd be in business.
Imagineering is fun. It's like daydreaming with a purpose -- you daydream but then start putting things down on paper and finding creative ways to make your crazy dreams come to pass. I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ice Cream

Growing up, most holiday's were spent with relatives. Christmas Day was spent at my grandmother Ferguson's house in Townley. We really didn't celebrate New Years but Easter and Forth of July were big ones. Aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors came to Aunt Edra Mae's house for Easter. She laid down a feast that would make a hyper child want a nap. After lunch came the Easter Egg Hunt. This wasn't just for the kids because my cousin Jimmy was a master of deception and he had a sadistic streak that was legendary. Like the Easter he hid the big prize egg in a fire ant bed.
On the Fourth of July, we went to my Aunt Edith's house (every other year we'd go to Aunt Nannie's) and the food there was pretty good, but what made that event memorable was the home made ice cream. It was always hot so home made ice cream was the perfect desert. She'd have kids on the porch turning hand cranked buckets and other's fetching ice to keep the cream at the perfect temperature. She and my mother tried to out do each other. I can tell you my mother is not slouch with it comes to making desert. She's made peach, vanilla, butter pecan, black walnut, hickory nut, banana, orange sherbet, and strawberry. My mother's philosophy is: if you're going to eat cake or ice cream, it should contain enough sugar to put you into a coma.
She also made these pound cakes that were really moist and they were kind of gooey on the bottom. You could slap some ice cream on there and you were in heaven.
I'm not sure what happened to her ice cream freezer. I looked for it last summer when I went by to cut her grass. She doesn't remember.
I went on a quest to buy one for Jilda and me. I looked in the Williams and Sonoma Catalog and they were $199.00 plus shipping. I remembered The Old Vermont Store Catalog carries the White Mountain freezer ---- $199.00 plus shipping. It's beginning to look like I'll have to shell out about two bills to get a fresh taste of that old memory, but the more I think about it, I think it will be a small price to pay.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Life Decisions

Have you ever wondered where you'd be if you made different life decisions? I think about it now and then....especially when I encounter folks whose lives are a mess. I've come across a few of theses the last few days. They did things early in life that started them down the wrong path. At first it seemed harmless enough but things snow-balled and soon their lives were out of hand.
I have a really good friend that is a remarkable guitar player and he played with a really famous star. He traveled around the world on a Lear Jet and stayed in the best hotels. For years he drank excessively, smoked pot, and did every kind of drug imaginable. He was married, and had a house in Aspen, Colorado.
Things started to unravel for him and he lost the marriage, the house, and he landed in jail. He called his elderly parents for help but they refused. He had called one time too often. They had put him through rehab, bailed him out of jail, paid fines...he repaid their kindness with more insanity. His parents had enough and his dad said, with tears in his eyes, "you'll have to work this out for yourself."
My friend said he was furious...he cursed, screamed and beat his hands bloody on the walls of that cell. He called all his old friends but no one came. He was locked away for months. He had a chance to take a long hard look at all his life decisions.
When he got out, he was a new man. He made his way home and asked his folks to forgive him. He started attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and he got his life back together. He has been clean for many years. He remarried a beautiful caring woman and they now own a horse farm in Dallas. He has a successful business. I asked him once what took him so long to "get it." He said "I am a lovable person and everybody wanted to help me except me. I never once thought about getting my life straight until I hit bottom. The view is much clearer from down there," he explained.
I asked one of the folks I mentioned at the first of this entry if they had ever imagined what their lives would be like had they taken a different path and she had a poignant reply: "yes I have thought about it a lot. I know that I would have finished college and gotten a really good job....and I could have gone places." I saw a sadness in her eyes that was deep and profound. I truly hope she has the strength to make good life decisions from now on.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Look Without Seeing

I was listening to a podcast today. It was an interview with Michael Gelb who wrote "How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci." Da Vinci said "People look without seeing, hear without listening, eat without awareness of taste, touch without feeling and talk without thinking." It's almost six hundred years later and this quote still rings true.
Life can be a drudgery if you let it. But it can also be quite remarkable in unexpected ways. In one of my daily newsletters it talked about life around us. Even cities are teaming with life. Birds, bees, chipmunks and squirrels. Flowers spring up out of window boxes and roof tops.
One of the things I remember most about Hammond, Indiana when I was six years old was the smell of fresh baked bread at an Italian bakery near where my grandmother lived.
How do you get from being a spectator in life to a participant? It's not hard, but it takes some practice. The next time you get a chance to go for a walk, walk outside instead of inside on a treadmill. If you have a small camera, take it with you. As you walk, be mindful of the sights and sounds around you......see if you see wildflowers, birds or maybe a chameleon. Find something to photograph. Forget about work, forget about the bills, forget about the chores and just be the moment and try to use every one of your senses.
I challenge everyone of you to "see" something that you've never seen before. If you get a good picture, send it to me and I'll share it on the blog.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home

We're home this evening after a quick trip to Florida. We had a wonderful time with our friends. Staying longer was not an option this time because Jilda had to get back to work.Last night we all went to Baytown which is an area within the Sand Destin Resort. It's a self contained village of shops, clubs, and restaurants. It's built in the style of New Orleans. We ate at a sidewalk cafe and drank cold beer as crowds of people walked by. It was a festive atmosphere.The aroma of baking pizza and other foods hung in the air and served as a guide to where we had dinner. We ordered a bucket of beer and a seafood pizza with crab meat, shrimp, scallops, and amberjack. As we sat there we could hear music coming from a nearby piano bar. This was no ordinary piano bar because they had two piano players who swapped songs. They had the crowd dancing. We stayed out late and took the shuttle back to the house.This morning we walked back down to Baytown and had breakfast at the Broken Egg in Baytown. They had some of the most interesting things for breakfast I've seen in a great while. I played it safe and had an Italian Omelet but Jilda had a crab meat omelet with onions and cheese. Our friend Wes had blueberry pancakes with a bowl of blackberry grits.....they do amazing things with grits.Our trip home was uneventful except for the quick side trip to the childhood home of Hank Williams Sr. which was in Georgiana, Alabama. From the looks of this house, his family was not dirt poor as I had lead myself to believe.I'm on vacation this week so it will be Up-and-Adam in the a.m. to get stuff done around the home place.....I have to agree with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, there is no place like home.

Monday, June 12, 2006


We left yesterday afternoon to come to San Destin to visit our friends Wes and Deidra who have a house here. The drive was not crowded because we opted to take county roads instead of 331. South of Troy we turned toward Elba. The landscape becomes noticeably flatter and the vegetation changes. It's dry in South Alabama so the fields are brown as sage. The contrast between the color of the dried grass, azure sky and billowing clouds looked as if it were fall of the year.
We made good time and found our way to their house on the bay just as the sun was setting.
We stood in silence watching the show. I shot a few pictures as the sun dropped down out of a bank of angry clouds which were hovering just above the horizon. In a clear strip of sky which mother nature had reserved for us, the sun made a final show of defiance.
I felt thankful. Thankful for our friends and for an abundant life.
We talked for a long while and then Wes fired up the grill and threw on some amberjack. He had already prepared a crab and corn chowder as well as asparagus and spinach. We had a feast on the screened deck and listened to a frogs and crickets serenade.
We got up early and drank coffee on the front porch and watched the world come alive in the scrub pine and palmetto. We did the nature walk before breakfast.
A little later in the morning we went to the beach. The red flags were out so swimming was not advised, so we did another long leisurely walk picking up shells.
We'll head out tomorrow but we've really enjoyed our stay. Florida has a way of relaxing you...and that's something I really want to do more.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Today's Decoration Day at Davis Cemetery. I think "Decoration Day" is a southern tradition. I read somewhere that decorating graves started during the Civil War when families near battlegrounds went out in late spring-early summer on a warm sunny Sunday and scattered flowers over hallowed ground.
The Second Sunday in June in my family also means Homecoming and family reunions. Each year all my kinfolks on my mothers side of the family used come to my mom's house to eat lunch. I have to say they were troopers through the years because my mom's house has only one small window air conditioner and it usually started struggling at 9 a.m. because of all the food being prepared in the kitchen. Potato salad, green beans, cole slaw, butter beans, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, fried squash, fried okra, and fried green tomatoes. The cakes and pies were usually baked beforehand. When folks started to arrive after church, the house was like a sauna. Had it not been for the quality of the food, most of the younger folks would have said "I just can't take the heat!!!" But those fresh baked apple pies with fresh homemade vanilla ice cream....well most folks would walk through hell with a gallon of gas to get to a bowl of that...I know I would. I truly believe that Jilda would not have married me after having survived the first Second Sunday in June had it not been for those pies. Jilda asked my mom for the recipe for those pies and for years she would not give it to her. "You won't eat them if I tell you," mamma said. Finally a few years ago she aquiesced and said well you start out with three cups of sugar, (some more stuff) and a scoop of lard. Jilda doesn't make them often but when she does, they are really good.
Since mamma's health has deteriorated, she stays with my sister and her house is much cooler and there's much more room but things are just not the same.
Anyhow, I hope you all have a remarkable day.
My next blog will be from the beach. I just hope I have internet connectivity. If not, I'll post two entries on Tuesday.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Second Saturday in June

It’s a warm day today. I’m sitting under a funeral home tent at the Davis Cemetery in Dora. There’s a slight breeze blowing from the southwest that feels good to the skin. This is an annual thing for me. I’m here collecting money for the clean-up fund which is used to keep the grass cut at Davis Cemetery. The cemetery is on a list of historical places in Alabama. Many of my kin folks are buried here.
My dad sat under one of these tents on many second Saturday's (and Sunday's in June) before he got too frail.
This year was twenty years since he passed away.
In May of 1986 my job kept me on the road a good deal.
Dad’s health had deteriorated and every time the phone rang in the night, I was afraid it was “the call”. My mom was on pins and needles and every time he took a turn for the worse, she would call and say “Daddy’s not doing good.”
On May 22n, I was in Atlanta and Jilda called in Atlanta and told me that dad was not doing well.
I had commitments there and I debated not going home until that night but when I talked to mamma and heard the sound of her voice something deep inside said “you need to go home.” When I told my boss that I needed to go home because my dad was ill, he sounded annoyed. “Well I need you here but if you have to go, then go.” Under normal circumstances, those words would have been enough for me to stay. But in my heart I knew that I should head towards Alabama.
I called the airport and caught the next plane to Birmingham
. All the flights were full but I got a seat because someone else didn’t make the flight. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Before I boarded, I called Jilda and she met me at the airport and took me to Jasper. I rode over to Atlanta with my boss so didn’t have a car.
We made it to Jasper in record time. I don’t think we got caught by a single red-light.
I rushed into the hospital and up to intensive care. The look on my sister’s face said everything. The nurse took me back to my dad and his breathing had already become labored. I stood there with my older brother Neil for a while and listened to the beeping and clicking sounds of the machines. He opened his eyes and looked at Neil and then at me. I said I love you daddy. He softly squeezed my hand. The nurse came in and stood beside us for a long while before saying softly “you know this is the end.” We both nodded. His blood pressure started dropping and a few minutes later came the steady tone of the heart monitor uninterupted by heartbeats.
Walking out to a waiting family to tell them he was gone was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
I have always been grateful for the decision to come home that day. I have always said, especially since then, that you should listen to your inner voice.
So today, I’m sitting here under this tent as a slow moving train crosses the number 11 trestle blowing the horn for the Samoset crossing.
I find comfort somehow in knowing that I’m doing what he did on the second Saturday in June all those years ago.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Beast

The summer of 1969 I had been at Jeff State College for almost a year and was working at Hutchinson Company at night. My dad signed for me a car in the spring of that year and I'm still amazed that he did. It was a 1965 Chevy Impala SS. It was fire engine red with a four speed manual transmission. We popped the hood and there was an engine under there as big as a voltswagon. I cranked that baby up and I could not believe my ears....a sweeter sound I had never heard. Dad walked around that car and kicked the tires and looked down the side of the care from rear to front as if he was sighting a gun. He was trying to see if it had been wrecked. An hour later the deal was done and I was rolling downtown Jasper towards Sloss Hollow.
The car was too cool for air conditioning. When ever I drove it anywhere, all four windows were rolled down because it looked better that way. Jilda didn't like that aspect because she had long flowing hair and five minutes with those windows rolled down and it looked as if she'd been in a hurricane.
Later that summer she and her family went to Laguna Beach, Florida for two weeks. I decided to go visit her one weekend while she was there. My cousin Tommy Lowery had a dune buggy that wasn't street legal but he thought it would be fun to have it there so we hitched that puppy to the back of "The Beast" and headed south at warp speed.
I got a ticket in Clanton for doing 90 miles per hour. As I sat in the back of that sheriff's car he said it looked like the dune buggy was actually sailing. We had a big laugh, but the mood was dampened somewhat when I learned how much the ticket would cost.
When we got to Laguna Beach, Tommy and Garry Butler wanted to take the Beast down on the Miracle Strip. I wanted to spend time with Jilda so after threatening them with certain death if they so much as put a scratch on the Beast, they drove off.
A few hours later we got a call at Mr. Quinn's house from the Panama City Police. It seems that Tommy got caught burning rubber to impress some girls. The policeman quickly determined that the car didn't belong to them so he called me. "These boys say that you let them borrow your car." I decided to have a little fun so I told him that my car had been stolen a few hours ago...."Stolen, the cop repeated." I could hear Tommy and Garry in the background saying he's kidding ....he's kidding. I then told the policeman that I was actually kidding but he could beat the crap out of them if he wanted to. I heard him laugh a little.
A short time later they rolled into the yard.
We had a lot of good times in the Beast. I think I loved it more than any other car I've ever owned.

New Feature Added

This is not the "Real" post for the day but a note that I have added a new feature by the comments section. It's a way to easily email a link to this blog to a friend you think might enjoy reading my blog.
Just click on the pencil icon at the bottom near the comments link.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Six Months and Counting

I started this blog in December of 2005 and the initial entry said I'd be "making entries from time to time". Turns out, I've written every day. I've been trying for years to develop this discipline. Through the years I've made regular entries in my personal journal but in looking back, there were gaps and the things I wrote seemed mundane. I tended to repeat myself and I spent a lot of time talking about things I wanted to do and I beat myself up about things I failed to do. But I've learned the clock only moves forward and all the wishes in the world will not turn the second hand...not even one tick.
When I started writing for you, something changed. I found new motivation to put down on paper (or webpage) the things that resonated with me. I found the stories about my past and my view of the world flow almost without effort. I have found that when I'm pressed for time, the words tend to come across thin.
I think traveling has a positive impact on my writing....a change of pace and scenery seems to do wonders for my outlook.
I'm on vacation next week and we plan to go to the beach for a few days. This is the first time in a few years and I look forward to the sound of the surf, the taste of the salt, and the smell of cheap sun tan lotion.
I'm hoping our friends have internet connectivity but if, I'll have to find a "wired" coffee shop or some other place to connect. If for some reason I cannot, I will write each day and publish the stories and pictures when I get home.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


When I was a kid...I'm talking seven or eight years old, my dad would let me drive. Of course he would mash the gas and breaks and keep a keen eye on the road to ensure I didn't drift in the oncoming traffic. That wasn't much of an issue then. The old Sloss Road was a red rock path just wider than a pickup. When you'd meet a a car, one of you would have to pull off the road to let the other pass. We were never in a hurry so we always pulled over. In the summer both cars would leave a plume of dust that eventually settled on the tangle of blackberry bushes and buckeye.
One Saturday afternoon we were driving south from the 78 highway towards West Pratt. I was sitting on his lap driving as we approached the swimming hole near the old sulfur spring. The Dora Police Chief was standing by his 1956 Ford Fairlane on the left side of the road. He'd probably stepped over to the spring for a drink of cold water. As we passed, he got in the car and pulled in behind us. We had not gone far when he turned his lights and siren on. I know my eyes must have been as big as saucers as we pulled to the side of the road. Chief Robinson walked slowly up to the window and leaned his head inside. "Can I see your license boy?" I freaked......I don't have a license I said with tears a word away. I couldn't see my dad's face but I know he must have been smiling because Chief Robinson pressed on. "Well I might have to take you to jail." This was not going well for me I was thinking. "Slide over here son," my dad instructed "let me talk to him." Dad got out and they both walked back to lean against the black and white cruiser and they talked for a long time. I could barely see them in the rear view mirror but it looked to me like they were laughing and smoking.
When dad came back he said "the chief's gonna let you go this time, but he said he better never catch you speeding or showing out behind the wheel."
I'm not sure if it was because Chief Robinson scared the living daylights out of me that day or not, but I've always been a mindful driver.
Chief Robinson was the father of my friend Joel Robinson that I mentioned recently. A few years ago when I told him that story we both had a great laugh.
I still love driving.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Power of Words

I can remember the first time I realized the power of words. I was the president of the Telephone Pioneers (a charity supporting organization) at the Hoover facility. I sort of fell into the position because the current president retired in the middle of her term. No one else would take the job so I thought...sure, I'll give it a try.
I had no idea of the amount of work involved with this position. The Pioneers had a list of charities that we supported as well as individual requests for aid. There are a lot of people in need.
During my two year term as president we had many causes. The guys that worked with me, in the hardware maintenance group put their hearts and souls into the effort. We sponsored kids at Camp Smile-a-Mile (a program that sends terminally ill children to a summer camp), the Cerebral Palsy, area schools, and many other charities.
One of the guys talked a local merchant into donating a very nice go-cart to raffle off. Tom was at the front door of the building early selling chances. He sold $400 worth before breakfast. There was an upperwardly mobile executive woman heading into the building and when Tom asked her to buy a chance on the go-cart. She snapped "I don't have time for this" as she brushed on by. Tom said I understand mam....the kids at Camp Smile-a-Mile don't have a lot of time either. The woman's pace slowed as she entered the building. Tom turned back and asked others coming into the building to buy a ticket. The woman who was in a hurry came back. She said "I'm sorry I was rude to you. I actually have plenty of time." She bought twenty tickets.
Late that November we learned of a man in Hueytown who had fallen ill and his family was up against the wall. There were a number of factors that contributed to their condition, but their circumstances were sad. They didn't have the luxury to think about Christmas presents for their three small children because they were worried about where their next meal would come from.
I felt so badly for the family and I decided that I/we should do something. I sat down and wrote an email to everyone in our building. At that time a few thousands folks worked there. I must have been in "the zone" that evening because the words I chose were eloquent and painted a compelling picture that touched hearts. The next day money started to show up in company mail. Some of it was checks, some was gift certificates for food, and a lot of it was cash sent anonymously with the simple instructions "for the family."
We raised more money in a few days than I ever imagined. I know for a fact that it help a family through a very difficult time.
After that I did use the email appeals every now and then, but only when the need was great. But it was then that I realized the power of words.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Best of Life 101

I took the first steps toward making my book a reality today. It will be self published. I have a great editor. My friend Dale Short has agreed to edit and work with the layout. A local printer that I have used for other projects verified today that they do what’s called Print on Demand. It’s basically a way for beginning writers to publish their work without having to buy hundreds of copies of books that sit in a closet until they sell…..and if they don’t sell, they just sit in a closet.
I’ve been toying with the idea for some time and I have mentioned it before on this blog, but a note I got today sealed the deal. My old friends Joel and Ann Robinson sent me an email. It seems that Ann was browsing back through some Daily Mountain Eagles and came across a mention about the website. When she went to the site, she found this blog. She read some of them to Joel. She said she wound up printing twenty-nine pages to read to him. Joel doesn’t use computers these days. He's is a retired attorney in Jasper that is the most remarkable story teller I have ever heard. I could sit for hours and listen to him tell about the people of Walker County.
He told me a story about a military funeral he attended many years ago. The family was from a hollow deep in the rural part of the county. He said the deceased had served in World War II and seen things no human should witness. The wife, the young son the soldier’s mother and grandmother were there along with friends and neighbors near and far. They had just lowered the casket into the grave and the bugler was playing Taps which is the saddest song I have ever heard. At the end of the song the color guard fired the first of a twenty-one gun salute. Joel said when the rifles sounded; it scared the grandmother so bad, she fainted and fell into the hole on top of the casket. The young son exclaimed “the sombitches have shot grandma!!!”
I laughed so heard when he told that story I literally cried.
Joel’s life story is a remarkable one. Like many people in rural Walker County, his family didn’t have a lot. He joined the Navy and served in WWII and when he returned after the war, he put himself through school, then law school and became a country lawyer in Jasper. He reminds me of Atticus Fintch in Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
I’m not sure if Joel realizes this, but he is partially responsible for me wanting to become a writer. Joel has always made me feel special. I’m not sure how or why…I can’t put words to it, but it’s the truth. Maybe it’s because we both came from humble beginnings and somehow found our way in life, or maybe it’s because we are kindred spirits that had the good fortune to find each other and spend quality time telling stories.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


We get the Science of Mind magazine each month and it has a daily guide....things to ponder during a busy day. Today's note was on Harmony. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin." Matthew 6:28. This thought struck a nerve with me because I am happiest when I'm working at the things I love....when I'm writing, playing guitar, working here on the farm, or visiting with friends. I can always tell when I'm not doing the things I should be doing because it's like I'm trying to swim upstream....I'm not in harmony....I can feel it in my stomach and time seems to stands still.
Today was a beautiful day in Alabama. The sun was warm but the humidity was low and the breeze kept the temps perfect. Early this morning after coffee, we drove to Dilworth to put flowers on the grave of Jilda's brother. We saw our old friend Becky Wright and her mom. Becky lost her husband last year and I know she is still grieving. I can't imagine what she must be going through.
The cemetery looked better than is has looked in years. People from all over were there walking slowly through the tombstones and remembering those who have passed on. Decoration in the south is a special time. I'm not sure they do this in other parts of the country. What a shame.
After an Irish breakfast, got to work cutting grass, treating the dogs for fleas, relocating our container garden, fixing damaged tiles in the kitchen and cleaning off the screened porch.
Tonight we worked on Jilda's Podcast. We recorded her message, so now it's up to me to make it work.
I know all this probably sounds mundane but I could feel the harmony. I was where I should be and doing what I should be doing.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Double Rainbow

A thunderstorm moved through Birmingham last night as we ate dinner at Niki's. We had to dash to the car to keep from getting too wet even thought the setting sun had re-emerged from the threatening clouds. As we headed west on highway 78 into Adamsville, Jilda exclaimed WOW!!! I almost swerved because I couldn't see what she was seeing. She said pull over you've got to see this...she rarely gives bad advice, so I did.
Behind us was a double rainbow that you could see from end to end. It was remarkable. People driving by must have thought us crazy because the rain was still falling. Some even blew their horns but we just stood there transfixed by a rare gift from mother nature.
We are so immersed in television, movies, computers and advertising graphics these days that it is easy to let the "real thing" slip by unnoticed. I try to never let that happen.
Every time there is an eclipse, a comet, a meteor shower or other show put on by nature I make it a point to have a look.
In 1980 when I was in Mobile working for BellSouth (South Central Bell then) to clean up the city after Hurricane Fredrick we had the opportunity to drive across Mobile Bay to Fairhope one warm summer evening. We sat down at the state pier and listen to the tide slap the pilings gently on the moonless night. We sat on the edge of the pier dangling our feet off and enjoying the ambiance when we heard someone yell jubilee, jubilee.....and suddenly there was a lot of excitement from homes and businesses near the water. When we looked out at the already dark water and it grow even darker. We saw crabs, shrimp, flounder, sting ray, eels and other fish in swarms. The shallow water near the shore seemed be boiling. The people that lived there grabbed buckets, and nets and anything that would hold the fish and rushed down to the waters edge to gather a bounty of seafood. It was an instant party.
I read up on this phenomena afterwards and apparently Mobile Bay is one of only two places on the planet where this happens. Yes mother nature does strange and wonderful things. Never, ever miss an opportunity to witness one of her wonders.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Eating Out

Our niece and nephew helped us out a few weeks ago and we offered to take them out for dinner. The first place that came to mind is Niki's West in Birmingham. Niki's is a seafood restaurant extraordinaire. They serve seafood in a lot of ways, but our favorite is Greek Style. We get the Seafood Platter which has amberjack, crab claws, oysters, shrimp, scallops, and stuffed crab. It is scrumptious. The service is always excellent and the beer is cold. What more could you want?
We've had seafood that was almost as good only a few times in our lives. Once in Ireland as I mentioned in a previous post...once at Red Beards on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola....and once in San Francisco in a small restaurant in the Castro district.
It's interesting how you change over the years. When we were young, we gauged the appeal of a place by how good the "party" was. "OH Man WE PARTIED DOWN' which was always said in a Ceech and Chong voice. Don't get me wrong, I still love to long as I can get home by bedtime.
As you grow older and mature, your tastes change. These days, we have much different interests and we schedule vacations around things like museums, natural beauty, places conducive to practicing Yoga, places where fly fishing is good and of course places with good restaurants.
Jilda has always been a really good cook and perhaps it's because I've grown to appreciate food more as I've aged, but she has gotten REALLY good. We have friends over for dinner and they want to move in. My friend Steve has told me more than once that he would never have played in The Overalls group with us had it not been for Jilda's cooking.
She will get a night off tonight. If you live in the Birmingham area and have never tried this place, I suggest you meet us there tonight.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Comfort in Books

I read a lot...well actually I listen to a lot of books. At home we have no fewer than ten bookshelves and every one is full of books. I haven't read them all but I take comfort in knowing they are there. We have books on Yoga, books on natural healing, health, finances, computer (a bunch of them), on writing, on cooking, architecture, history, and tons-o-fiction.
I've read that the Great Library of Alexandria had over 500,000 books (they were actually handwritten scrolls as printing presses and ink jet printers had not yet been invented). But these scrolls contained a world of knowledge that was lost when the library was destroyed by fire some time in the third century B.C. Can you imagine the knowledge we lost to those flames. The loss of the library is widly considered to be a great loss to humanity.
A while back, Jilda and I took our niece Samantha to the library and spent the better part of a Friday going through books, magazines, and music. We needed a shopping cart when we left.
The Birmingham Regional Library (Central Library) is a great place to go to do research on almost any subject you can imagine. When I spend time there I feel smarter.
I know that you can find a great deal of information online, but the experience of actually visiting a library is much more fun.
If you have kids, I suggest that you pack a picnic lunch and take a field trip downtown to the library.

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