Monday, July 31, 2006

High School Yearbooks

It is my intention to scan all the yearbooks for Dora High School and upload them on for all to enjoy. Currently I have them from 1939 all the way to 1985. I only need a few more to have them all.
As I was going through the pictures, I came across the "In Memory" page in the 1967 yearbook. We lost our friend Phyllis Sellers that year. I remember the day she died as if it were yesterday. She and I were friends. Someone called our house one night and said that there had been an accident on the Dora road near where Phyllis lived .I thought to myself "I'll call Phyllis and get the scoop." Her father answered the phone and when he started to speak, I sensed that something was wrong. I asked to speak to Phyllis, like I had done many times before, but I was unprepared for what I heard.
What came out of the phone was one of the saddest sounds I have ever heard in my life. He broke down and began to sob and through his grief stricken voice he told me that Phyllis had been struck by a car and killed. I apologized over and over and over, but he was too lost in his sorrow to acknowledge my apology. I was devastated as were all her friends.
As I looked back through the 1967 yearbook and saw her picture, I was snatched back in time and I relived that experience one more time.
That's what these yearbook do. As you flip through them, they bring those bitter-sweet memories back fresh and strong. I believe that folks love looking back through these pages because they help to remind us who we were and from where we came.....I understand that it is these memories and the associated experiences that help to make us who we are today.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Rainy Sunday

I got up this morning and the rain came which put a damper on my fishing plans. Some fishermen would call me a wimp, but I really don't like fishing in the rain. I opted instead for sitting on the screened-in porch drinking coffee and listening to the rain rattle in the trees in my yard. Rain makes me kind of lazy and I think it has the same effect on wildlife. I think the song birds even slept in.
The day cleared up and the sun came out strong and by mid afternoon big iceberg clouds drifted east in a sky that had been cleansed by the summer rain. I called up my nephew to see what he thought about and afternoon fishing excursion....but it was already coming up a "bad cloud" at his house so fishing was a bust this weekend.
I did get a lot of other work done which is good. I had three people to come look at my old Chevy, but no one's come off the hip with the money yet so I guess the jury is still out on that. I just want it to go to a good home because it's been in my barn for over ten years. Two of the guys that looked at it specialized in old muscle cars and both said it was a steal. If it doesn't sell this week, I'm going up on my price.
Jilda came home tonight and she was a sight for sore eyes. She was draggin'. Apparently two days of intense yoga training was not a walk in the park Well it's like they say "fun ain't cheap."
Hope you all had a great weekend. Let's do something remarkable this coming week.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


The morning was cloudy today and it kept the heat close to the earth like sauna. I spent part of the day working on the home of Jilda's mom. We are trying to get it ready to sell. My dog Buddy went with me and he spent most of the afternoon lying on an air conditioning vent. After lunch the clouds moved in from the west and the sky looked angry.
A clap of thunder sent Buddy hurdling off the vent and into my lap. He doesn't "storm" well. It rained hard for a while so I had to reschedule my fishing trip until in the morning.
Tonight I'm looking out my window as the sun sets and making the horizon a magenta gray.
Tate Shaneyfelt, who is currently serving in Iraq will have a story in tomorrows' Daily Mountain Eagle. He's been writing Letters from Iraq in which he tells what it's like there. I'm posting the letters on alumni website. I mentioned this to a report from the Eagle and she thought it would be a good idea for a story.
I asked Tate what the weather was like in Iraq and he sent me a photograph of a thermometer and it was over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes!!! I thought it was hot here today.
Hopefully the rain will hold off tomorrow until I've caught my limit of big honkin' bass.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Are You Lonesome Tonight

I've got the house to myself this evening. Jilda is in Chattanooga taking a class all weekend so I'll be catching up on all the stuff I've let slide for some time. As I sat paying tribute to the writing muse trying to come up with an idea for this entry, a song drifted across my mind.
Are You Lonesome Tonight -- sung by Elvis Presley

Are you lonesome tonight, do you miss me tonight
Are you sorry we drifted apart
Does your memory stray to a bright sunny day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight

I felt a little sadness just reading the lyrics. I would not be surprised if a lot of people were not driven to the bottom of a bottle listening to Elvis sing this song.
I've become accustomed to the comfort of knowing that Jilda is here when I get home. On the rare occasion when she's not, it feels strange and unfamiliar.
I plan to go fishing tomorrow if the weather's good. I haven't been this year even though my nephew Haven has asked me a number of times.
So tomorrow should be fun, but I'm lonesome tonight.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Would You Do?

What would I do if I could do anything in the world I wanted to do? I've asked myself this question a great deal this year. Our company has downsized considerably and many of my friends are out of jobs.
Last week several of us sat around a table at lunch, everyone lost in their thoughts. The company had started another round of layoffs and the mood was dark. I asked to no one in particular: What are you going to do when you grow up? Several people looked at me as if I was crazy because most of us are in our fifties. One guy spoke up to say that he wanted to figure out how to make money fishing. He was not sure how, but it's what he loves and he felt there had to be a way. A few others said that they were Peter Pan and they would never grow up.
One guy looked slowly around the table and gazed at each of us for a moment before saying "I have no idea what I would do...this his job is my life. I have worked for this company all of my adult's the only life I know," he said. We all fell back into silence as we thought about his words.
I'm not exactly sure what I would do, but I know it would have something to do with writing, taking pictures, doing web work, playing music and traveling. I love all these things. I have a great job, but I would never say it's my life. It's what I do to earn a living.
By weeks' end a lot of people were "let go" and one of the guys sitting at the table was among them. I was saddened. I know for a fact that a lot of folks breathed a sigh of relief for getting a reprieve until the next round.
Here's the deal, everybody's good at something and truth be told there's a good chance that if you focus on your strengths, you can find the work you love. I think the Good Lord meant for us to do this.
What would you do, if you could do anything in the world you wanted to do?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Sky

I was late heading into work this morning and that in itself was a gift. It was cooler with lower humidity and the clouds hung low on a clear blue sky...It looked like one of those killer photographs you see from time to time.
I came across three photo ops and I was by them before I could apply the breaks. I know this breaks one of my rules and I could kick myself, but without the aid of time travel, I cannot go back and fix it.
By this evening the temps and the humidity had climbed and the sky turned hazy...kind of like your view of the world when your glasses get really smugged.

Running out of steam tonight.....I'll do better tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jasmine Frenzy

The Jasmine on our deck has got the birds and the bees in a feeding frenzy. I've never seen so many honey bees and bumble bees vying for the nectar. Come to think of it, it makes me a little crazy too. Each morning while I wait for the coffee water to boil at the crack of dawn, I walk out on the deck to take stock of the day. I check the sky for tale tale signs of rain clouds or some kind of indication of what the day holds in store. You can tell a lot just by standing there listening as the world wakes up. Now when I go out, I'm greeted by the sweet scent of Jasmine. I never tire of the smell. Jilda is worse than I because she breaks off little branches and puts them along with our sky blue hydrangea in small vases and places them in our bathrooms.
I walked this evening for my daily exercise. In the summer heat, I usually walk at work in our air conditioned building but I was busy all day to day and didn't get to walk. I promised myself that I would walk each day so rather than break a promise to myself, I walked this evening. You can see hints of change in the trees. I know hot weather takes its toll on vegetation, but you can also begin to see the effects of the changing season in the leaves of the ironwood, hickory and the lower brush like the blackberry and buckeye. Before you know it, we'll be talking about autumn leaves.
Some people say that time moves too fast, and to be honest I've been guilty myself, but the truth is, the ebb and flow of time is nothing less than remarkable.
The rhythm of life is evident not only in nature, but all around us. The daily paper has births, deaths, birthdays and weddings.
Soon the Jasmine will shed its blooms and start hunkering down for the fall and winter. We'll be left to look forward to the next gift that life has to offer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's a Matter of Time

I've come to understand that the quality of any thing you do is directly proportional to the time you invest into it. This blog is a prime example. When I have time to collect my thoughts and mull over all the interesting things around me, the quality of the entries are much better.
When you're pressed for time you have a tendency to "settle". So it comes down to figuring out what's important in your life and scheduling the less important things around the important things. That's not always easy to do because a lot of unimportant things are noisy....they DEMAND your attention. The car that has a slow leak in a radiator hose is much quieter. It will start with a warning light that comes on to tell you the fluid is low. You fill it up but you don't fix the leak. No problem.....until one day when you're in a hurry and 50 miles from home, the hose bursts and the leak is a torrent and the car has to be towed.
It's kind of like your health. You get out of the habit of're too busy to walk. The weight starts to creep up on you and before you know it, you huff and puff like the big bad wolf when you walk up a flight of stairs.
I consider exercise one of the most important things in my life. I try to exercise daily. Writing is also important. I've written each day without fail for over seven months. Some days the entries were thin...sometimes they were off the mark, but sometimes...especially when I invest the time, I feel like what I write means something.
I advise you to find out what's important in your life and make sure you invest the time to do it and do it right. I think you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I'd Feel Cheated

School starts back earlier than it used to. I remember the years when I was in grammar school, the last few weeks of summer were frantic. I spent as much time outside as possible drinking in the last warm days of summer before those school bells began to ring.
My mom would get the fall Sears and Roebuck and J. C. Penny catalogs down and start shopping for school clothes. The weekend before classes started, she'd go downtown Dora and pick up fat pencils, theme paper, a new binder and if I was lucky, I'd get a new lunch kit. I can remember the smell of paste and the scent given off by a freshly sharpened pencil.
The first few days of school were exciting because we always had some new people and maybe a new teacher or two. It was also fun to find out the color Mr. Evan's new Rambler automobile. It seems like he bought one every year.
He was a stern man that took principal-ing seriously. He ran a tight ship. We always met in the auditorium each morning and we could talk and kid around until he took the stage and at that point, you could hear a pin drop. He'd announce what we'd be having in the lunchroom, and any kind of activities planned for the week. When he was finished, he would ask one of the students to play the piano while everyone filed out of the auditorium quietly and headed off to class.
I can tell you that the last thing you wanted to do was to see Mr. Evans anytime else during the day because that usually meant that you'd misbehaved and going down to get an attitude adjustment. I never got one of those from him.
We rode the bus in the mornings, but our bus was the last one in the evenings so rather than sit around waiting, we usually headed home on foot. It was fun walking with all my friends. Pestering the girls and putting charlie horses on the arms of the guys. You haven't lived until you've had a charlie horse on your arm.
I know the school system has reasons for starting back to school in August, but it doesn't seem right to go back to class with so much summer left. If I were a kid, I think I'd feel cheated.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Taylor the Blunder Dog

The thunder chased our dog Taylor in just before lunch today. You could hear it rumbling in from the northwest. She came rumbling in from the east (Jilda's brother Ricky's house). Our house shook when she hit the porch. In fact, I'm convinced that the U.S. earthquake tracking system can actually measure her movements on the equipment in New Mexico.
She wasn't always "large". She was a scrawny dog when I found her starving at a roadside dump a few years ago. We nursed her to health and she was fine. However last summer she came up missing one day. This, by itself was not that unusual, because she had wandered off in the past chasing deer or the less popular skunk.
After two days, we became concerned. We looked every where for her but she was not to be found. We had to go out of town for a few days so we asked our niece Samantha to feed her when she came up. We expected to see her when we returned, but she was not there. It was almost dark but we got out and called for hours.
The next day the temperature was close to a hundred degrees and I began thinking that she was gone forever but I decided to walk one more time down the road towards the barn. About halfway down I heard a muffled sound coming from somewhere down in the hollow. It was a pitiful sound and I had no idea what it was. I walked toward the sound and came up on her. She was barely alive. She was stuck in a rabbit hole with the only her hind legs and her tail sticking out. I tried to pull her free, but the hole had partially collapsed and she was stuck big time. I ran back home and got a shovel to help free her from the hole.
When I dug her out, she was so weak that she could not walk by herself. I picked her up and carried her home. She was so badly dehydrated that she couldn't eat or drink. Jilda gave her gatoraid with a medicine syringe. We called the vet and she told us to try to get water down her.
Slowly, over the next several days, she recovered andbegan to eat. Slowly at first bu then she began eating everything in sight. She hasn't slowed down since then. She went from about 45 pounds to 90 pounds.
She's not the smartest tool in the shed, but I love Taylor the Blunder Dog just the same.

Friday, July 21, 2006


"In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true either is true or becomes true." ~~ John Lilly. The mind is one of the most powerful tools on earth. A single thought can manifest remarkable things. Have you ever thought "I sure would like to have a new car." That little voice in the back of your head says "you can't afford a new car stop being foolish." But you keep thinking about it. You have some time to kill one Saturday so you swing by the car lot just to smell the leather. And before you can say test drive, you're on the way home with a car payment for the next five years.
I think the trick is to aim a little higher. Try to imagine something that's a little more involved. When you think of it, everything in your house, including your house began as a thought. This computer, the scissors on my desk, the printers, the songs on the CD's, the billions of websites you have access to with a few clicks of the mouse.
I'm thinking about a library in Dora/Sumiton. I'm not talking about a renovated gas station, but a library that is the center of the community.
I work in Hoover and I run by that library a few times each week and no matter what time of day you go by, there is always a swarm of people going in or coming out. They have books, movies, books on tape, art, newspaper clippings printed from microfiche, and other things. The library in Hoover shows movies in their theatre and the also have concerts and plays.
If they can have that there, why can't we have a great library here? What would it take?
I'm not sure, but I'm going to think about it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


This whole Life 101 thing is a work in progress. I read a quote today that said "The Purpose of Life, is a Life of Purpose." Wow! That's profound....but what is a life of purpose. Every time I encounter someone that has found their purpose, I take a step back and look more closely at my own life. Most of the time I feel like I'm on the right path but it's hard to be sure.
I'm actually good at a lot of things. I learned to play music quite young and melodies come to me like manna. Writing feels natural and I love the people who read and respond to what I do. I can take pictures, I'm good with computers, I can teach and I'm a student of life.....but it's hard to say if one of these is my life purpose.
Jilda has found her niche. She's teaching Yoga and she is so good at teaching us regular folks how to do Yoga that she's got a following. I'm not saying they'd drink Koolaid and try to catch a comet, but her students are a-lovin' her style. People stop me in Foodworld to say "hey, does your wife do private lessons?" She loves her work and she's making a difference.
Not sure I can say the same thing. I do know this: I'm doing what I know and love. If I get to the end of my life and the Good Lord says "Rick, what the heck were you thinking?" All I can say is that I was searching.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Let it Go

I have a condition that I rarely discuss with others yet here I am about to tell the world. I'm fairly sure it's not terminal but I think it's serious enough to seek the help of a professional. You see, I'm a junk-a-holic. I have my closet so crammed with stuff that it often spills out into the bedroom. I don't have dust under my bed because there's no room. I don't really have an attic, just a little space where the air conditioning man can crawl up there and service the vents. The last time he came to service the vents, he couldn't start for 30 minutes because I had to remove stuff that I had stuck up there and forgotten about.
We have magazines that are older than my niece who got her driver's license last month. Someone might advise what you need is one of those out one. It should be condemned along with the old house on the back of the property and the barn.
It wouldn't be so bad, but I think I infected my wife too because she has lipstick with mold growing on it in the back of her make-up drawer. I'm actually afraid to look in the bottom of our refrigerator.
I really believe we need a junk-dectimy. I'm thinking about hiring someone to come into our home the next time we go on vacation and tell them to be brutal. Truth be told someone could discard half the stuff in our house and we'd never know.
How do you find yourself in this condition? It develops slowly. "I think I'm going to keep this Good Housekeeping because it has some great recipe's." Or maybe, "honey, I'm going keep this used inkjet cartridge because I'm going to buy one of those refill kits and save us a bunch of money." The next thing you know you have to turn sideways just to squeeze by the stacks of old newspapers that are waiting to get hauled off to the recycle bin.
We have a friend that abides by the philosophy that if you aren't currently using it and can replace it with little effort then trash it and buy a new one if the need arises. Her house looks like it came right out of Southern Living. But I know for a fact that she has never experienced the satisfaction of losing a bolt off the lawn mower and walking down to the barn and looking through an old bucket of nuts, bolts and screws and finding exactly the bolt you need. I know, I know...that doesn't justify sacrificing ALL the space on your property.
This weekend, I plan to clean out the shed.....I'm going to be brutal....I am......I mean it. Does anyone need a pair of used post-hole digger handles?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


It's so easy to lose focus. I've been on edge all day. I've got a lot on my plate right now and everyone I met wanted to give me more.
Once I got home, I have a lot to do here as well. I have websites that need updates and of course the blog entry that WILL BE DONE. As I was about to leap in the tasks at hand, Jilda pointed out that the container garden and the plants we got from Ruby's house were wilting under the heat and needed water.
I decided that the watering should come first. I quickly dragged the hose pipe out and started watering but my mind was elsewhere. I found myself clenching my teeth. Just then I thought "I need to be here now." I started breathing deeply and paying attention to the job at hand. Stress drained away like static electricity. I started to notice things that I had overlooked. Our pear trees are loaded with pears. I picked one and ate it while I watered. It was kind of crunchy, but it had a sweet taste that only homegrown fruit has. The dogs are always interested in what I do so they had to come up and inspect my work. Each time one came within range, I sprayed him with the hosepipe. They would take off like a shot, but they kept coming back for more.
I finished up in the back yard and moved the hosepipe to the front and as I reached to hook it to the faucet, I saw a large frog on the bottom of the watering pan I use for the dogs. He had swam to the bottom and was sitting very still so as not to be discovered.
It's easy to lose focus and not be in "the now". Usually when you're not in "the now", you're worrying about things that will probably never don't honor the present with your attention. If you make a habit of this, huge chunks of your life will slip between your fingers.
Life's too precious to shortchange today for a jump on tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2006


"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." ~~ Oscar Wilde.
I was struggling for inspiration for tonight's entry so I picked up a a book off my bookshelf and closed my eyes and opened it to a page at random. The quote above was on that page.
I've heard many quotes about wisdom and learning things the hard way, but I can't recall one more eloquent than this.
Even if given the chance, I would not go back and relive my life. Now granted I've had a lot of great times but I can relive them in my memory. I was reading back over some old journals just recently and came across an entry about a visit to Virginia many years ago just after Jilda and I married. We went to see an Army friend that lived in the area.
He suggested a drive through the Shenandoah Valley so we loaded up the old Plymouth Valiant and headed out. We stopped at a small community near Blacksburg, Virginia and bought fresh apples, peaches, and picnic stuff. We stopped at a roadside park and sat beside the roadside and drank fresh squeezed apple cider and ate baloney sandwiches. We ate fruit for desert.
When we were finishing up, a car that had apparently been speeding in the state park got stopped by a park ranger about a hundred feet ahead of where we were parked. As we were cleaning up, an apple fell from the bag and rolled to the side. My friend Doug picked up the apple saying I have to dispose of this because it will draw yellow jackets and a hiker will get he picked up the apple and tossed it off into the woods. We heard a car door slam and here came a park ranger. He raked us over the coals for a bit but we understood that we had made a mistake. We told him as much. Doug did point out that it was an apple...that we would never have thrown trash into the park. The ranger considered this for a long moment and said yes, I saw it was an apple. "Had it been something that doesn't grow here, you would all be on your way to jail." I think it was the fact that we took responsibility and we remained respectful. We had a choice, we could have become defensive and argued with they ranger, but it has been my experience that when you err, take responsibility and what ever consequences that accompany them.
Do you have a favorite quote? I'd live to hear about it and why it's special to you.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Every Day is a School Day

For some reason I reminisced today about when I was in high school. Some of the folks at work were discussing the question of corporal punishment and mind stepped back through the years. I didn't get many paddlings in school…one big reason was that my mother had given all my teachers explicit instructions to contact her if I caused ANY trouble. I have no doubt she would have whipped me with a rose bush had I been caught stepping out of line. My mother was serious about behaving properly. She would not bend in that area.
I did get a paddling in the 6th grade. Ms. Odom was a great teacher and she loved all us kids and told us as much. It was early May and the days were warm. I had a bad case of spring fever and was feeling somewhat rowdy. Ms. Odom was called to the office for a few minutes and left Terry Wilson in charge. Now Terry was one of my buddies but as he stood up there in front of the class, I got a wild hair to sling a blackboard eraser at him….so I did. SWATTTT! Only inches from his head. He protested and told me that I was going to get him in trouble, which I though was hilarious…so I slung another one….and another. Ms. Odom's visit to the office was a short one and she walked in just as I let an eraser fly. Ricky Watson I need for you to join me in the hall for a moment. I didn't like the sound of that one bit. Rarely did good things happen in the hall. I knew this trip would be no different. Apparently, she didn't find my eraser flinging nearly as amusing as I did. While Ms. Odom was getting on up in years, apparently old age hadn't set in yet because I got the distinct whiff of burning cotton about the third time she hit the seat of my jeans with that paddle. I never misbehaved in her class again.
I rocked along without incident until the 9th grade at Dora High. We were in the gym and again it was springtime (can you see a pattern here?). I was minding my own business when all of a sudden splat, I caught a piece of window putty the size of a golf ball right up side the head. It put a red mark on my face the size of a silver dollar. It was my duty to get revenge so I raced up the bleachers and gouged out a handful of putty from those big gym windows and I quickly found my target. I had a good arm so I let that putty fly….but just after I threw it….and I could see this developing in ultra slow motion….Coach Reid walked into the gym and that ball of putty smacked the wall not 18 inches from his head. There must have been 40 kids in that gym, but he ID'd me so fast, that I had no time to flee. The military would be lucky to build a device that could find and isolate the bad guys so quickly. In the blink of an eye, I was sitting outside Mr. Gants' office. My life flashed before my eyes. Coach Reid had ID'd the other guys as well and we all faced the same situation. The others were called in first one by one and when Mr. Gant asked them what happened, without fail, they all placed the blame squarely on someone else…and without fail; they all got three licks from a paddle that looked like it was the size of Rhode Island. It sounded like gunshots when the wood found its target.
When I went in, Mr. Gant "you've never been sent to my office before, have you?" I told him I had not. He asked me what I was thinking that caused me to become involved in the putty incident. I told him that I think we both knew that I was NOT thinking. He asked me who was to blame. I looked at him straight and said the words that I was sure was going to bring out the "board" of education….I guess that would be me. He stood up and I prepared myself for more burning cotton but he put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, "Ricky, I'm going to give you another chance." "It's not easy to take responsibility for what you do." He said sometimes you make mistakes, but when you make a mistake, do your best to make it right. I've never forgotten those words.
It would have been easy (and justified) for him to have worn out my behind and send me on my way, but what he did was to have me spend my free time replacing the putty in the gym windows. He also left me with words that I could take with me….he never missed a chance to teach.
When you're young, you think you'll live forever and you don't give a thought to saying thanks to those who helped make you who you are. Now that I'm older, I wish that I could tell him how much he meant to me.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Night A Country Star Was Born

We wrote "Country Star" about five years ago with our friend Marty Rainone from Nashville. We started writing one Sunday morning while drinking our coffee, and the song seems to write itself. A short time later we were recording it on our little cheesy little handheld cassette player. Except for how easy this one came, it was really no different than the hundreds of other songs we have written....though this one did seem to strike a chord (pun intended).
A few days later we went to the beach to visit our friend and her late husband Ron Norris. Ron was cooking up a batch of his Mighty Rad Gumbo and they had invited some other friends to play music and eat gumbo. Wes Laird, whom I had met several years earlier through a mutual friend Skip Tucker, was there.
It just so happens that Wes owns a small record company and he was recording a project with Lamar Morris who is a great songwriter. He had written number 1 songs for Hank Williams Jr. and was Hank's band leader for about twenty years. We played them "Country Star" and they both liked the song.
A few days after we returned home, Wes called and asked us to send a copy of the tape down for them to consider for the project. The next weekend, Wes called to say they were indeed going to record the song and asked if we wanted to come to Nashville for the recording....which we did.
Wes had hired the "A" team for the session. The musicians were a literal who's who in Nashville studio circles.
They started out recording a few songs that Wes and Lamar had written. The pickers were like machines. They would listen to the song one time through; make some notations on a notepad and they would play it flawlessly. I was amazed.
Then it was time for "Country Star." The pickers asked for a tape and to my dismay, Lamar plugged in the cheesy tape we had made a few weeks before in our living room. I was embarrassed at the quality of the tape, but the pickers never batted an eye. When it was complete, they kicked it off and we all witnessed the birth of "Country Star".
The song was released in Europe and other parts of the world and we watched over the following months as the song inched its way up the European Indie Label Charts.
It hit number 1 in March of 2001 and stayed there two weeks.
We hoped the song would catch on here, but it is very difficult getting songs on the radio here in America.
We thought the song had run its course but our last ASCAP royalty check had a distribution for "Country Star". Wow!!! I thought. Then today, we get an email from our buddy Wes and the song is now being played in Australia on the "Cowboys and Outlaw" webcast program.
I would love for that song to come back around and get released here in the U.S.
It could very easily hasten my four-year retirement plan.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hot Day

I went for a walk around 9 a.m. the wind was blowing but it felt like the breath of satan blowing across my sweating face. All the dogs got under the porch and scratched for cooler earth. It occurred to me that had my porch fallen at that moment, I would have been called a redneck because it would have killed a bunch of dogs.
I worked from home today and the nature of my work kept me focused as a laser beam. When I finally knocked off a while ago, I was as tight as a banjo string. The last few days have been intense. As reported in the last few blogs, I had a hard drive to crash which contain a great deal of data. The restoral did not go as smoothly as advertised on the software website, but I did get all my data back and for that I am extremely thankful.
The Overalls are playing for a private party tomorrow night and we are excited. We have not performed in a long time so we are cranked....well, as cranked as you can get with an acoustic guitar. I've missed playing a great deal. The feeling you get when the crowd is into the music is incredible.
I was hoping it would rain today but it apparently fizzled out before it got to my house so I'll be up early in the morning watering my garden.
Y'all stay cool.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I tried something new

I mentioned last night that I was having computer problems. Good news is, the data was not lost. The bad news is, the computer is slower than Christmas. It took all day for the data to restore but it's there. I enter a command and it takes 30 to 40 seconds to do anything. This was a fast computer in "the day". Normally I would sit here at the keyboard and huff and snort and peck on the edge of the desk waiting for something to happen. My blood pressure would be so high that if a mosquito bit me in the temple the pressure would slam it against the wall like it was shot from a 357 magnum. But tonight, I tried something new. I would enter a command and then I picked up my guitar and practiced while waiting for the response. I learned a new song while checking my email. How cool is that?
I think there's a lesson here. No matter how frustrated I get, the computer will not display a picture one millisecond faster.
I've come to understand that I will either work out the bug or I will buy a new computer and put the old data on it. Either way the problem is solved.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Y'all Say a Prayer For My Computer

I got up this morning to update my website and I got a "directory unavailable" message. Uh oh.....this doesn't sound good I thought to myself. When I looked at "My Computer" panel, the drive was gone. This can only mean one thing. That whining sound I heard last night was not a dusty fan motor but a hard drive singing it's last electromagnetic song.
I actually have two hard drives on my computer, one for the operating system (where Windows lives) and another where I store ALL my pictures, my five thousand songs, my Dora High School website which contains upwards of 50,000 pictures, stories, and about four years of my life.
Like all good computer geeks, I backup my data. I have an external drive that stores backups for my two internal drives. So today I went to BestBuy and bought a new replacement drive for the one that died. I hit the old restore button and it started complaining.....a few clicks of the IGNORE button and a CONTINUE or two and it's in there doing something. I can't bring myself to watch it. I'm writing this on my laptop. I should know something in a few hours.
I know with all the crazy things going on in this world today it sounds awfully simple minded to say a prayer for my computer, but I find myself doing it just the same.
More later.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Buddy says It's Too Hot To Walk

I should have gotten up earlier to walk this morning but I had a routine doctor's appointment so I decided to defer until this evening. When I finished working for the day around 6 p.m. I decided to get my exercise. Ol' Buddy was coolin' his heels under the table but he never misses a chance to get out and chase squirrels so he hit to door at warp speed. I grabbed my camera and my walking stick and set off back towards the barn. Buddy ran as fast as his short legs would take him but after a few minutes he sat down in the shade and waited for me to catch up. As I walked by I said come on boy let's go. He looked at me as if I had a horn growing out of my ear or perhaps a mental defect that required immediate attention.
If he could talk, he would have said something like "hey Bubba, it's July in Alabama. You might want to get yer head looked at." He sat there in the shade as I made several laps around the barn and back up to the road. I honestly believe a squirrel could have come up and bit him on the foot and he would not have chased it.
When we went back to the house, he ran in and didn't stop before he slid on his belly in front of the fan in the bedroom.
On days like today I get an irresistible urge to knock off a liquor store and have a swimming pool installed in the back yard.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My Back Pages

I have iTunes on my PC now and I have downloaded a small fortune in music 99 cents a whack. My old vinyl records didn't survive the years in an un-airconditioned trailer in Alabama so I now cherry pick my favorite songs from the albums I had then. Bob Dylan, Mountain, Jimi Hendrix, Foghat, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
That was such a volatile period in our history. Things were changing fast and no matter how hard we struggled to hold on to the old familiar ways, they were slipping through our hands like a greased pig on MayDay.
As a teenager I felt like life was passing me by and at times I wanted to be anywhere but here.
The songs were angry and soulful and hopeful and sad. "The Times They Are A Changin'" absolutely blows me away. The lyrics in Turn, Turn, Turn - the song by the Byrds, were taken from Bible - the book of Ecclesiastes. It's just as powerful today as ever.
In the movie Forrest Gump, there is a scene when he is in Vietnam and they are on patrol....the song "All Along the Watch Tower" played by Jimi Hendrix comes on and it literally makes the hair on my arm stand up.
The CD in my truck plays MP3's. You might say - so what! Well here's the thing.... MP3's are much smaller than the songs on regular CD's. So I can load up a CD with upwards of a hundred of my favorite songs and hit random play and it will play for hours without repeating the same song. It's like the old jukebox at Randy's creame Cone in Dora......except of course, you can't get one of the best cheeseburgers on the planet in my truck.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Rust is Beginning to Shine

The Overalls have started rehearsing again. We are much more focused this time. I think we all had gotten burned out so we took a sabbatical. When we practiced a few weeks ago, it felt good, but we were really rusty. Today, there was still some rough spots, but the rust is beginning to shine.
We've added a lot of new material to our act...stuff that's fun to play. We are also adding some more instrumentation. Jilda is working in the mandolin and I'm playing harmonica.
We play a private party next weekend and we have other gigs lined up for the fall. The City of Sumiton is planning a festival in October and the Arts Council of Covington County has asked us to consider playing at their event. We'll play at the festival and we will also go into the schools and do songwriter workshops for kids who are interested in music.
Currently, we are pitching a Christmas song we wrote with our friend Tracy a few years ago. It's called "Christmas of my Dreams." I know it sounds funny to be pitching Christmas songs in the summer, but now is when they are being recorded so they will be ready in December.
There's an amusing story about the guys that wrote "Let it Snow." They were in New York City in August and if you think it's hot in Alabama in August, you need to spend a few August days in New York City. Anyhow these guys were working in an apartment in the city which had no air conditioning. One of them started Singing "Let it snow, let is snow let it snow." They laughed and wrote. Bing Crosby sang it in White Christmas and the rest is history.
A good Christmas song is like an annuity. Each year it gets played between Halloween and New Years all over the country, and in March ASCAP sends you a big honkin' check. I love America.
Well, I've got to get back to practice because there is some rust that needs a little polish.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The World is Changing

The world is changing every day. No matter how much we long for the good ol' days they are nothing but fond memories. They won't be coming back....except in chain emails.
I think it is the velocity of change that is unsettling to people. They long for a time when the hands on the clock moved more slowly. Today you can have a good job, and tomorrow the company decides it would be much more efficient if someone in Bangalore, India was doing your work.
There is no reason to be bitter, but you should be forewarned. There is a very good chance that the work that you are doing today will be done much differently three years from now.
One way to cope is to get smarter about your life....not just work, but all phases of your life. How you eat, how you shop, you handle healthcare issues, and how you save for the future.
A few years ago, who would have ever thought that vinyl records would be practically obsolete. That they would be replaced by CD's. But even CD's are not safe because of computers and iPods. The way people listen to music/radio is changing. The market is chasing consumer choice. For example, I enjoy listening to Dave Ramsey who is a financial guy that helps people of all walks of life with their money problems. I don't think we have a station that carries Dave in Birmingham, but I can download his podcast and put it on my mp3 player and listen to his show anytime day or night. How cool is that? The radio station that depends on ad sales to survive, is not making a penny off of me because these podcasts are free and don't have commercials. Podcasting is fairly new, but I can promise you it will be BIG. When the technology gets just a little easier for the every day computer user, people will flock to it because it gives you options....choices. Once people have a choice, they rarely go back to the old way of doing things.
TV is undergoing changes as well. There movies on demand, Pay Per View and DVD Rentals. There are TIVO devices that allows you to record your favorite shows almost like a VCR, but it's simpler to use and much more powerful. You once had to go to the video store to get movies, now you can rent them over the internet and the US mail brings them right to your door. I have a feeling that it's just a matter of time that the community video store will go the way of the vinyl records.
Our company is launching a new addition to their healthcare offerings. It's called WebMD and it is a source of excellent health related information. It may not happen in the next few months, but rest assured, there will be a lot of focus in delivering quality healthcare solutions is creative and effective ways.
Yes the world is changing in many ways so it's no time to stick your head in the sand. Fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Waiting for Inspiration

I'm sitting on my back deck waiting for inspiration. I humming bird just buzzed my ear on its way to the blazing star and bleeding heart flowers that are now in bloom. It had a crimson throat and electric green feathers across its back and wings. The Air Force would do well to study their manuverability. They zip here and there then chase off a bumble bee that's trying to horn in on their nectar.....then an instant later they are back feeding on the flower. I saw a humming bird nest a few years ago while visiting our friends Tom and Judy. The little grey nest is made from lichen, moss, and the silk from spiderwebs, was not much bigger than my thumb. The eggs were as tiny as english peas. I read that their wings beat up to 90 times a second. That's rapid.
We've had humming bird feeders for years. One morning in the spring, one will show up and look at us sternly through the front glass as we sit and drink our coffee. It's almost as if he's saying...Are Ya gonna feed us this year or let us starve to death right here in your front yard! I hustle out and put some sugar water in the feeders and before we know it, we need an air traffic controller to handle the aviary activity.
There is also a small bird that is electric blue that swings through our yard every year and hangs out a day or two to feed and as quickly as it appears, it is off to who knows where.
Life is an interesting dance. There's so much going on that we can't begin to understand but I feel blessed just to be a witness to the small part in my personal space.
Have a great weekend and be sure to feed the birds.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Life Lessons

I ran out of steam after lunch today. That happens every now and then. I had to go down to the break area and fix a cup of hot chocolate to get a little caffeine in the old system to stop yawning. I watched the clock for the last hour and I felt like the hour glass had gotten clogged up.
On the way home I saw an old friend at the filling station. Carman Belcher worked with me as a trainer and she got ax in one of the "workforce readjustments" that happened a few years ago. She was early sixties at the time, but she was one of the best trainers I have ever known.
Being cut by the company for which she had worked most of her life....and that she loved, hurt her deeply. Most people in her position would have been bitter and said harsh things about the company, but I never heard her utter one unkind word about the people who made the decisions or the company. She simply packed her stuff and drove off.
We talked a few times after that and I expected her to be depressed but she was always upbeat. When I saw her today, she told me she is a trainer for Compass Bank. She looked great. Carman hit the ground running and never looked back.
It occurred to me that Carman had something to teach me today. Feeling sorry for yourself is a waste of time. Running down those who have wronged you does absolutely no only makes you someone who needs to blame others for your misfortune.
I hope that I can show the kind of class, dignity, and determination that Carman showed if what happened to her ever happens to me.
Thanks Carman for another life lesson.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thank You for the Music

I have a hand-made flute on my desk that was a gift of a native American friend of mine. We met Mark Barefoot at City Stages several years ago. He was a big guy with long black hair and obsidian eyes. He talked as if he considered the weight of every word before speaking. When you asked him a personal question he would look off into the distance as if he was seeking approval from the spirits before he responded.
I passed several slow hours asking about his family, where he lived, and how he made his living. He told me that he and his wife traveled around to festivals all over the south where she sells her handmade jewelry, mobiles, picture frames and other beautiful things. Mark sold hand carved sculptures and beautifully hand crafted flutes. He made some flutes made from bamboo and others from cedar. Both kind of flutes were beautiful. He did not use modern equipment such as electric saws, lathes, or drills. Each flute was hollowed out by pressing hot stones down the end of the bamboo or cedar.
I admired his work which was really a piece of art. I pointed out that he could make them more easily buy using modern tools. Again he looked off into the distance as if to get instructions from the wind on how to fashion a reply. He simply looked back at me and smiled kindly and said "I use hot stones." He held the end of a cedar flute up for me to smell. You could smell the earthy smell of charred cedar. I had to admit that you couldn't get that same aroma by using a Black and Decker.
As luck would have it, I had my guitar with me that weekend and I asked Mark if he'd like to play some music. He smiled and picked up a flute. I played the pretties chords I knew and some of the most haunting sounds I have ever heard came from that flute.
Some customers came up to listen and when the song finished they asked about the price of the flute. Mark gave them a price which was apparently too steep for these particular customers. "These flutes are hand carved," I explained. "He uses hot stones to burn the hole so that the sounds that come out of it will be like no other flute." Mark turned and smiled at me. The customers still walked off so we sat back and played more music.
He did sell several flutes that weekend to people that actually recognize art when they see it. Before he left on Sunday afternoon, he came by our stage and handed me a beautiful bamboo flute. I looked at him in amazement..... at his gesture of kindness. Thank you, I said. He said "thank you for the music."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July

I never knew until a few years ago that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day...July 4th 1826. They actually died within a few hours of each other. Adams and Jefferson had an odd relationship. In today's politics, one would probably be a republican and the other a democrat. They became friends when they were in France but here in the young America, they were both passionate about their beliefs and it strained their relationship.
It's interesting that Thomas Jefferson accounted for every cent he ever spent and according to the biography of John Adams, he spent a lot of money. John Adams on the other hand lived very modestly.
There are many stories about the roles these two remarkable men played in the formative years of our country. Both men were brilliant, but it strikingly different ways. Adams was more pragmatic and down to earth. He was considered by some to be the glue that held the loose confederation together. Jefferson thought outside the box. Jefferson had a way with words. Just read the Declaration of Independence if you need proof. After the draft was written, there were very few changes. Benjamin Franklin requested a wording change "we hold these truths to be self evident." Originally there was other language that expressed this sentiment, but Franklin nailed it with his suggestion.
You don't normally think of these men as brave but the truth is, it took a great deal of courage to do what they did. After all they were traitors to England because up until July 4th 1776, we were a colony of the British Crown. What our forefathers did was to say: we aren't going to take it any more. If a few events had turned out differently, we may have been British today and all those men would most certainly have been hanged.
Didn't mean to turn this into a history lesson because what I really wanted to say is Happy 4th of July America.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Sign

I could smell the rain long before I felt the cooling mist on my face. Off in the distance to the south I could hear a thunderstorm stomping its way towards Empire. I didn't get my hopes up because a shower came within a half mile of us yesterday but dissipated and left us dry as corn starch.
I had a good feeling this morning because as I was making coffee early I looked out the kitchen window at the deck and our Blazing Star flower had bloomed out overnight. It had two blooms that looked as if they were trying to out-do each other....twin stars in the Watson galaxy.
As daylight spread to chase the shadows off the deck, we took our coffee outside to enjoy the morning. I also picked up my camera to chronicle the arrival of the "Stars" and as I focused on the flowers, I heard Jilda exclaim "Wow!". I looked just to the left of the flowers toward the apple tree in our field and there was a deer just on the other side of our fence. I grabbed a quick picture of it before it scampered away.
That's how I knew it would rain. Jilda's grandmother Mamie would call the twin Blazing Stars and the deer a "sign". She planned her life by signs. Like most people raised in the 20's and 30's she had a garden and she eagerly awaited the farmer's almanac each year so she'd know when to plant her peas and tomatoes. When Jilda and I first married we'd go to see them now and then and she often offered advice to us because she knew we were interested in growing things. "Don't plant the corn until after May 5th cause the almanac says there will be a late frost this year. " The first time we didn't listen and planted the corn and as you might have guessed, it came a late frost and nipped the corn. Every day's a school day.
Anyhow, I've been in a great mood all day and I had a feeling it would rain today...after all, we saw a sign.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Overalls

After about a year's hiatus, The Overalls are rehearsing again. We're really rusty, but I thought we sounded good. The last few years have been really difficult here at the Watson household, but things are getting better each day.
We're adding more instrumentation to the act. I've been working on harmonica and Jilda is working on the mandolin. The songlist has been updated and it's fun playing again. As I've said before, music is therapeutic. You can feel down and out, but when you pick up a guitar and begin to play, it lifts your spirits.
Yesterday there was a couple at the river that had obvious health problems. We played a few songs inside, but our hosts wanted us to play out in the yard under the shade of the oak and hickory where the bulk of people were. So when we went outside, the couple I mentioned came out too. I could tell it took an effort for them to be out there, but when we started to play they joined in and sang along. I like to think it was worth their effort. They thanked us repeatedly for playing the songs they requested.
Slaves back in the 1800's underwent a unspeakable conditions but the music that came out of that period had a profound impact on our lives. Music is special. It's been a gift in our lives. We've had the opportunity to do things we would never have been able to do had we not been musicians.
Anyhow, The Overalls are back, we're rested and soon we'll be playing at a venue near your.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Dora High School Website

It's hard for me to believe, but the alumni website is four years old this week. It started out as an idea in the back of my head that wouldn't go away. So I decided to check to see if the domain name was available and it was. I really didn't know how to do websites then and some might say I still don't, but I get by.
I've had a lot of people contact me from other alumni associations about how to do the site and I'm always forthcoming about the things that seem to make a website popular: lots of pictures, stories about people who gradated from Dora High through the years; pictures of kids and grandkids, news about reunions, and sports pictures....especially football. The people always say "that's great!!!" who does all that? I them, for the most part it's me. I have checked back later with some of these inquisitive folks and they still don't have a website.
I can tell you it's a lot of work, but there are rewards. I get notes and emails from people who say they love the website. There is currently a guy in Iraq (Tate Shanneyfelt) who is considering writing a journal to share. I really hope it works out because that would be really neat.
One of my online friends reconnected with a high school sweetheart through the website. They started dating and got married this past year. It was a great story that got picked up by the local newspaper.
Another thing that has been a lot of fun is scanning the yearbooks. Every yearbook has a story.
I'm in the process of scanning two books from the 80's after which I'll have all the annuals from 1939 through 1991. I should have them all before the end of summer.
For those who have never visited the site, it's
Also, here is a link to a slideshow you might enjoy:

Happy Birthday

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