Monday, April 30, 2007

Sweet Tea

I like my tea sweet. I'm not sure if it's a southern thang or not but sweet tea is not an option at most places I've been outside the south - "all we have is unsweetened, there is sweet & low there on the table." I rarely say this, but I'd rather have sharp burning bamboo shoots jammed underneath my fingernails than drink any kind of artificial sweetener. What I usually say is - just water please.
My mama would have a fit if she heard me say this, but the sweet tea that she used to make was not my favorite. I think she used Lousiane tea but our neighbor Lois, who was distant relative, made sweet tea right.
It was in the early 60's and she had a coal fired stove on which she cooked meals winter, spring, summer and fall. The winter and fall was not bad, but it was cooler in Hades than inside that kitchen in the summer.
She had a house full of kids so she started cooking about mid-morning. I would often find myself sitting on her back porch gazing in through the screen door as she moved about the kitchen. She had a metal pot that was almost black from years of use which was used to heat the water for the gallon of tea. She'd boil the water then let the Lipton tea steep for about five minutes before mixing it with just the right amount of sugar. When she stirred the tea, you could watch the sugar swirl like the tiny snowflakes in a snow globe until it disappeared completely.
At about 11:30 she'd call in all the kids to eat things like butter beans, hominy, cream corn, and fried okra. She had a big ol' skillet and cooked a pone of cornbread as big a round as a large Pizza Hut Pizza. The smell of baking cornbread has to be how heaven smells at dinner time.
My mother threatened me and my older brother and sister with dismemberment if we ate with them. "They didn't take y'all to raise," she warned. Lois would always ask us in to eat, but we rarely did. However we always accepted the big old glass of sweet tea that she offered. In the summertime, the ice cubes would pop as they warmed. Thirst didn't stand a chance against that tea.
Today, I used Jilda's recipe to make a jug of sweet tea and I sat out on the screened in side porch to watch the birds in the waining light. My tea tasted good, but was it as good as the tea that Lois made? Maybe a close second, cause the fond memory of Lois' sweet tea is hard to beat.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Garden Mission

I feel like I've been wrung out this evening. We went back for more plants today. Once you get locked in a gardening frenzy, it's hard to let go. I imagine it's like those folks who are strung out on heroin, gambling, or perhaps Twinkies and Tang. To the garden center guy - "yes, yes, just give me the jasmine and the patty pan squash, cherry tomatoes, yes throw in the gourd seed and some catnip....I know we don't have you have one you could sell us?....yes here is my American Express can keep it." It was all I could do to keep from saying "we'll take one of each."
I re-tilled our garden spot again and we planted all our stuff. It felt great to have our hands back in the earth. After we cleaned and stored out tools, we made our way back to deck where both Jilda and I sat cooling off drinking ice water and admiring our handiwork.
We planned a little better this time. In years past, we planted the stuff too close together and we spent a great deal of time hoeing. This year I made sure we had enough room to keep the space free of weeds with the Troybilt. We will still have to hoe some, but not as much as in years past.
In a few weeks we'll have fresh salads, and in about forty days we'll start harvesting the okra and peas, and maybe some early squash. I can't wait.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nice Spring Day

The rhododendrons are blooming. There's a bush about fourteen feet tall outside my office windows and the pink blooms are as big a saucers. They don't drop seeds and the only way we've found to reproduce them is to take a lower limb, scratch off a little bark and place a rock on the top of the limb. We did that last year and when I looked recently, the limb had roots so this fall, I plan to dig them up and plant a few more bushes.
We went to the garden store today and bought several flats of flowers for the planter and rock garden near the road. It's shady there so we chose to use pink impatiens. There were enough left over that we filled several planters around our water feature by the side porch.
I've also tilled up the world today so we'll plant squash, tomatoes, peppers, okra, and beans tomorrow.
It's been a beautiful day here today - warm sun but a nice cool breeze. Very nice spring weather.

Friday, April 27, 2007

G is for Garden

I finally found a source for parts to repair our Troybilt tiller. Attempts earlier in the year to get it repaired went south when I couldn't find parts. It was not the motor or anything serious, just several little things.
I Googled for Troybilt parts again a few weeks ago and wham! There they were. I ordered up new tires, springs, a drive belt and a roller wheel which is necessary to engage the tines. All together, the parts were around a hundred dollars including new tires.
I put everything together this afternoon and when I pulled the crank cord, it sprung to life on the third pull. I'm back in the garden business.
I have a big old 1949 Ford tractor with a 19 inch turning plow that will turn a furrow as big as a Saturn. I also have large turning disks that will break up the huge clods of dirt, but my old Troybilt tiller takes it from there. A few times over the field and the soil is the consistency of face power.
The weather has been screwy so not having the tiller repaired did not delay planting, but we'll get started this week. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spring Rain

We haven't had any significant rainfall in weeks and things were beginning to look a little thirsty. But last night and early this morning the storms that tortured Texas swept through here but fortunately they had already vented their fury and all that remained was a good hard spring rain.
Here in the south when it's dry for a spell, exhaust, antifreeze and oil byproducts collect on the road forming a hard tacky ooze. No problem...until it rains. That first precipitation turns the viscosity of the ooze into a surface that is not unlike ice hosed off with olive oil.
What's interesting here in Alabama is that people tend to drive faster in this situation to offset the lack of traction and control. NASCAR is big here and driving is considered a sport by many and it can turn even the most timid people into drivers from Hades.
On the way to work this morning I passed a Mustang that had slammed against a retaining wall. Traffic was moving at a snail's pace because of the accident and I got a good look at the driver. I could tell that he was dumbfounded that his Ford faltered simply because he was driving 80 across three inches of water on the interstate. He walked away, but they picked his Mustang up in sections. I doubt anyone will ever have to tell him again to slow down when it rains.
The rain moved off to the east by midday and this evening the world looks fresher...greener. Lettuice we planted a few days ago in planters on the back porch sprouted up in the last ten hours and well be having fresh greens for dinner in a matter of weeks.
I love this time of year.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fun Ain't Cheap

A friend sent me a movie clip from YouTube I guess. It showed two guys about twenty five years old out in a field. Upon closer examination they both had bicycle helmets on. What was even more strange is they both had harnesses around their chests and the two harnesses were connected by a rope. The guy facing the camera said this is human tug of war...and they both took off running in opposite directions. When all the slack was out of the rope they both had a full head of steam. The smaller of the two was snatched off his feet and slammed to the earth on his back. The crowd of onlookers hooted and laughed. You could tell there was beer involved. Then they got up and did it again. I couldn't believe my eyes. - what idiots I thought!
But as I shook my head, I noticed a photograph on my desk. It's been there for years and I had all but forgotten about it until just now. It is a photograph of our crew of friends taken about twenty years ago. Jilda and I are the two on the far left. It occurred to me that we were as foolish as the human tug-of-war guys.
If you look closely at this photo, you can tell there are about twenty two people standing on what looks like a piece of carpet....well that's because it IS a piece of carpet. The carpet is nailed to a wooden beam. You see those two ropes leading off towards the photographer...they are attached to a four wheel drive pickup. You see all those people standing on that piece of carpet? Well all of them except the kids were about to go for the ride of their lives.
We all stood on the carpet as the pickup lurched off slowly--everyone scrambled for balance and we lost a few then but most everyone crouched down much like a surfer and hung on to each other to stay on our feet. The pickup which drove around a forty acre hay field gradually picked up speed. When the rug hit a stump, or a rabbit hole a few people would fall off. He picked up more speed and when he'd make a turn we'd lose a few more.
Only the young and agile...and stupid, managed to hang on until the pickup made a complete orbit around the field. As the truck approached the starting point it looked like a NASCAR racer heading for the finish line. The poor kid that was left on the carpet was lying on his stomach holding on to the beam for dear life. He looked like he had see a ghost but he had the smile of victory on his face. The fallen limped back towards the beer coolers -- with bleeding knees and elbow's.
We did this for years on Sunday afternoons. People would come from all around to experience the rug ride. We'd probably still be rug riding if it weren't for the chance of nasty lawsuit. I can hear the judge right now "YOUR WERE DOING WHAT!!!!!!"
But it was great fun while it lasted and we had very few casualties though a slight concussion persuaded my lovely wife that she'd had about as much fun as she could stand.
So I guess I really don't have a right to call the human tug-of-war guys foolish but I'm sure they would agree that fun ain't cheap.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Secret Life of Bees

I've been reading some troubling news lately most of which is not in the mainstream media. It seems that honey bees are dying off at alarming rates. The American Beekeeping Federation reports that researchers are scrambling to assess the damage and understand what's happening with our bees.
When I mentioned this at work, several people at the table looked at me questioningly. "And this affects me how?" Well folks, it's like this - bees are responsible for a great deal of the pollination that occurs in the world today. In other words, world food supplies could be threatened if bees were to disappear. In truth, no one knows the impact of what would happen to the world food supply if bees disappeared but few people would argue that it would be a good thing.
One theory that was reported on SlashDot tech news is that some scientists are studying the theory that the phenomenon could be related to the radiation created by the use of cell phones and other electronic equipment.
What if that turned out to be true?
I don't know about you, but I think I'd like mainstream news media to pay a little closer attention to this stuff and leave the plight of Brittany Spears and other celebrity gossip stuff to the National Enquirer.
Speaking of Enquirer, my grand mother was an avid reader of the rag. I actually saw a headline in one of her Enquirer papers that screamed "PIT BULL EATS MOBILE HOME." Now that's something you don't read about every day.
As most folks can tell, I'm fond of eating so I'd like to get the skinny on what's going on with the bees before it's too late. The link below will take you to an article that discusses the problem.

Monday, April 23, 2007

All Ears

Today I felt like a hamster cranked up on steroids and Mountain Dew. The faster I went the less I got done and at the end of the day I had very little to show.
I forgot my mantra....Just Breathe. When I remember to breathe I seem to have the ability to slow things down a tick....give my brain an opportunity to process data without it turning into jumbled mess of information that is as useless as match in Hades.
But tonight I went to a Yoga class taught by my lovely wife and when we hit the relaxation portion of the class, I was out like a light. I'm betting I was snoring -- I know I drooled on my Yoga mat. Had she not nudged me with her toe I might still be there on the floor of the senior citizens' center sleeping.
Tonight I printed an index cards and put it in my day planner with the word BREATHE in big bold letters. I plan to tape it on my monitor but I've been thinking about getting the word tattooed on my wrist -- the hand that always reaches for the cell phone.
OK, I know that's a little excessive so if you have a better way to relax at work that does not involve narcotics or alcohol, I'm all ears.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More Peeps

My face got a little sunburned today. I got carried away in the yard. I didn't spend the time last fall to rake up autumn leaves and pine straw. The roadside in front of our house was about a foot deep in straw, broken limbs and pine cones. I could have used a wheel barrow but I decided to use my truck. By the time I finished around eleven I had hauled ten truckloads to the compost pile. I was a tired puppy.
While I was working, I saw another mama hen except this one had twelve chicks. I have a feeling I will be chicken poor soon. They are very cute now, but I have a feeling they won't be nearly as cute when they get bigger and start doing disgusting things on my porch and cars. The upside is that there is a huge market for free range chickens. The downside is that catching a free range chicken would take someone a lot more fleet of foot than either Jilda or me. In fact, someone could win America's Funniest Video if they filmed us trying. I couldn't even catch one of the peeps today. It zig and zagged and darted under shrubs and bushes and left me with a hand full of straw. The big ones can fly which adds an entirely new dimension to the chase.
But right now the little ones are cute and I'll enjoy watching them while I can.
Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Number 33

Our 33rd wedding anniversary is coming up in May. In April of 1974 a tornado hit downtown Jasper and blew part of the courthouse away so we had to get our marriage license in Jefferson County. We had the document for several days but we decided to do the deed. We didn't have money for a church wedding and neither of us wanted to ask our parents to foot the bill so eloping felt like the right decision and that's what we did.
So on Sunday May 5th we headed south early in the day and drove to Brewton, Alabama in my old Plymouth Valiant. We arrived at the home of a preacher friend just after lunch. Coy Phillips and his wife Brenda lived in a house trailer in a mobile home park and he married us on their porch.
I had a great Canon F1 camera but Brenda had never taken a picture with a "real" camera. She shot several frames, but they were so badly exposed and out of focus that you could not tell who we were. As a result, we do not have a photographic record of the ceremony.
We said our goodbye's to Coy and Brenda and aimed the Valiant towards the beach. We stopped at a mom & pop convenience store just south of town and bought a couple of Hostess Twinkies. We parked under the shade of a giant oak, pulled a chilled bottle of Boones' Farm Strawberry Hill wine from the cooler in the back seat, ate our Twinkies, and with red plastic cups we toasted our future together.
We spent a week in Panama City, Florida at Quinn's Cottages. It was a small cinder block cottage with a box fan in the bedroom to pull the cool air through the house on those humid Florida evenings. It was warm that week so at night we made a pallet on the floor of the screened-in front porch and went to sleep each night listening to the sound of the surf from the Gulf. It wasn't fancy but the price was right and we spent a lot of time smiling.
When we returned to Alabama, I helped Jilda move her stuff into the single-wide trailer that we bought from Joe and Becky Potts. We called it home for almost ten years. We had legendary parties in that trailer....I'm not kidding, people still talk about the fun they had there.
The trailer had burnt orange shag carpet --- very chic. The counters and kitchen appliances were avocado as I recall.
I worked at The Community News as a writer and photographer and Jilda worked in a clothing shop. Together we almost made enough to eat. We qualified for food stamps, but we never applied....we just kept chipping away and eating a lot of meals with our parent's.
I know for a fact there were people who thought we didn't stand a chance of making it. The odds were against us. Most of the people we knew then are on their second and some on their third marriages. We had difficult times, and I know for a fact that it was only by the grace of God that she did not take me out in my sleep with that big ol' cast iron frying pan her mother gave her.
I think one of the reasons it worked for us is that we had things in common. We both loved gardening, we honored friendship with each other and the friends we met, and we both love making music. We still love these things today....and these things make us who we are.
May 5th, Cinco de Mayo falls on Saturday this year and we have a very good bottle of wine. I plan to get us a couple Hostess Twinkies and we'll toast our future with red plastic cups.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Writer Songs

I have a directory of songs to which I listen as I write. There was a time when I couldn't listen to anything with words and write a coherent sentence - or do any kind of thinking chores but somehow that changed and I don't know why.
I rarely buy music that you hear on the radio. The songs that find their way on my hard drive and into my writer's directory are songs that I've heard at live performances at quaint coffee shops or festivals, or songs that certain friends turn you on to.
Some of my favorite ones are from the movies that I love. Older movies made use of music as well. The first that comes to mind is "Thunder Road." It's a movie about backwoods bootleggers and souped up Fords. It's in black & white and it stereotyped southerners but I liked Robert Mitchum and I liked that 1950 Ford and I loved the song "Thunder Road."
Later came Butch Cassity and the Sundance Kid which had the song "Rain Drops Keep Fallin' on My head" and The Goodbye Girl had "Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever" by Dennis Yost....what a song.
I could name a dozen newer movie that have killer music but one of my favorites is the movie "Elizabethtown". I bought the soundtrack from after watching that movie.
Anyhow, if you've seen a good movie lately with a good sound track, please let me know. I just might add the songs to my writer's directory.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stay Away From My Peeps

Yesterday morning as the sun was coming up, Ol' Buddy started like the UPS man was driving up. I opened the door to have a look and Buddy shot out and headed for the azaleas. I looked out the front windows to try and see what drew his attention. One of our neighbor's chickens which now lives under the cover of our Holley, lilac, and huckleberry bushes, came blazing out squawking with her wings flapping. The hen looked twice her normal size and her beating wings sounded like a hovering helicopter. I stepped to the walk to get a better look and Ol' Buddy who was fierce as a wolverine one moment, almost knocked me down as he made a hasty retreat.
I stepped back up on the porch and let him inside and went back to take a closer look.
I stood very still behind the Rose-a-Sharon bush and a moment later six tiny chicks scratched their way out from a pile pine straw and started scratching and pecking the ground where we had scattered birdseed. They are yellow with brown streaks and they have tiny orange beaks no bigger than a grain of corn. They are about the size of a field mouse.
I hustled back into the house to grab the camera but the mama hen scooted further under the tangle of azaleas and the chicks were right under her feet.
It will be a challenge over the next few weeks making sure we keep the dogs in the fence and away from the little critters. I don't think Ol' Buddy will be bothering them again because he's afraid that hen will beat the crap out of him....I could see it in his eyes. I told him sternly to "stay away from my peeps." Maybe I can get some pictures this weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


My nephew wrote a poignant column in the local paper about becoming an uncle for the first time. He's the father of two (or so his beautiful wife lets him believe :) but until yesterday he was not an uncle. I know he will be a great uncle. In his column today he said some things about me that put a smile on my face and tears in my eyes.
I've always taken the job of uncle very seriously. That's not to say that I have not given my nieces and nephews a hard time. When my nephews next door were young, they always wanted me to play basketball. I never "let" them win. If they played half hearted I trounced them but if they hustled and worked hard, I'd slack up just a little. Of course both of them stand a foot taller than me now and if we played basketball today, they'd spank me like a naughty child.
Part of my job as uncle is to be there - at ballgames, birthdays, holidays, graduations and later at weddings. I also make it a point to be there if they ever need my help. There have been times when scheduling, work or other responsibilities got in the way but I think if you ask any of my nieces or nephews if they can count on me to help if needed, I feel confident they would all say yes without hesitation.
But as my nephew pointed out in his column today, the job of uncle goes a lot deeper. You have to be ears when they need someone to listen, you have to be voice when they need direction or encouragement, you have to be banker, mover, hauler, baby sitter, transporter, cheerleader, and teacher...not a preacher, but a teacher. There is an old saying that goes - "kids will more attention pay, to what you do than what you say." So I've always tried to set an example though I know there have been times when I fell short of the mark.
I think I've influenced their politics, their love of music and books, and their love of college football.
My wife Jilda and I did not have children but my nieces and nephews are like children to us. The great thing about that is we can spoil they young ones rotten, pump 'em full of candy and soft drinks and send 'em home to there parents. Is life great or what?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One the Edge

I'm still struggling with my new PC. I know Vista is highly touted but very few of the applications I use day to day work properly with the new operating system. I'm almost ready to pull what little hair I have out and believe me I can't afford that. I think I'm going to meditate for a while.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sad Day

I was thinking about writing something funny for this evenings' post, but after seeing CNN on a break room TV on my way out, I was saddened beyond words.
Someone dressed in boy scout clothing chained the exits and then walked around classrooms at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia killing 32 students and wounding 29.
When things are sorted out many people will inevitably say "he was quite and kept to himself," I can't believe he did something like this. There will most likely be those who perhaps knew him a little better and say "yes I always knew he was disturbed and could do something like this."
There will be many questions and few answers because there is no reason. Rational people do not have the capacity to understand an atrocious act like this.
Perhaps the shooter left a note, or hints on his My Space account but when all is said and done, the families and friends of these kids will find no answers that will bring comfort.
I can already hear the anti-gun lobbyist howling that guns should be outlawed and the pro-gun lobbyist arguing that guns don't kill people. In the end nothing changes and today will go down as a footnote in history as the bloodiest college shooting spree ever.
I'm not a gun toter but our Constitution makes provisions for "keeping and baring arms." It does not say anything about assault weapons, armor piercing ammo or hand grenades but since they are not explicitly excluded in the Constitution, then there are those who feel they should should be legalized. I'm not sure what the answers are, but with a little common sense it's easy to see that something is very wrong here.
I usually do not venture into hot button political issue and I know I'm opening myself up to debate but that's OK too. Anyone who feels strongly one way or the other is welcome to leave a comment.
I will say a prayer for those who died as well as their families and friends.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Stuff

Early morning thunderstorms stomped through here and left a gentle rain in its wake. The sky was dreary until after noon. It gave the earth a good drink of water and by this afternoon the dark clouds had moved off to the east leaving a clear blue sky and cotton clouds.
I'm sitting on the screen side porch this evening listening to the wind and watching the sun slide slowly towards the horizon. The trees are dancing gently in the wind and it is casting a vivid green light on the table as I type. We have ten sets of wind chimes that catch the wind from almost all directions. If anyone reading this would like to know the perfect gift for my next birthday, you can always get me a wind chime.
I used my recorder last night to record the sound of the rain and tinkling chimes. When we record Jilda's Yoga meditation music CD, we'll use the various sounds I've captured with the recorder. My library of nature sounds is expanding. There is a little creek down in the hollow that flows over smooth rocks and that bubbling sound with wild birds in the background is nice too. It's my intention to capture that sound on my next day off.
Ol' Buddy's picture was in the Birmingham News today. They didn't run the story I wrote, but I got several calls and emails from people who saw him. He'll be signing autographs at Barnes and Noble next Saturday from two until four. Come by and get a photographs and he'll sign it personally: All the best - Love Buddy.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


We met some of our friends at the World Famous Green Top BBQ for supper tonight. I had the usual which is a BBQ sandwich with chopped outside meat and an order of home fries. I know there are BBQ joints all over the south that proclaim to be the "best BBQ around" but I'd be willing to bet they can't hold a candle to Leo's and Suzie's Green Top.
Our friends are very busy people too but we manage to get our calendar's together now and then and whenever we do, it's a always a hoot.
I know I am prejudiced, but I think we have the best friends in the world. We've been through a lot together. Jilda and I have been together the longest. We married in 74, but our other friends have been together a long time too and we've been there through, marriages (we wrote a wedding song for one of the couples there tonight and sang it at the wedding), we've been together through sickness, and death, we've celebrated our successes and we were there to make fun of each other when we took ourselves too seriously.
Many of the great times we've had over the last twenty years were with these friends. If I look back through the photographs, a majority of them will have these friends standing there smiling. As we sat there tonight catching up on everything going on in our lives, I thought to myself "what a gift." There is nothing I treasure more than the love of my family and friends.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Not Bad for a Kid From Dora

I was off today, but I had a lot of web work backed up and it took some time to catch up with that. I wrapped up this afternoon and we met our friend Jan Andrews for an ice cream cone at Jacks. She was married to our friend Tim Robinson. As I've mentioned before in this blog, Tim went to the same high school as Jilda and I and he crammed a lot of living in his life. He wrote for the Daily Mountain Eagle here in Walker County and went on to work for the Birmingham Post Herald. He was in Selma during the volatile Civil Rights marches and went on to work for the Washington Post during the early 70's. He did important work investigative work during the Watergate trials.
He was a good friend and an inspiration to me. He died in 2003 and left an empty place in the hearts of all those who knew and loved him.
His wife Jan is a remarkable woman as well. She is responsible, along with Tim's family, for conceiving the Timothy Sumner Robinson Forum at Samford University (where Tim graduated at the age of 19) and making it a reality. The mission of the forum is to promote excellence in journalism and fund an endowment, in Tim's name, which provides an internship each summer for a student from Samford University to work hands on at the Washington Post.
Leonard Downie Jr. who is the editor of The Washington Post spoke for an hour on Accountability in journalism. I was spellbound. He read a story off of his Blackberry hand held device about the bombing in the green zone in Iraq....a story sent to him on Thursday minutes before the forum. The story appeared in the Washington Post this morning and was told from the perspective of a Post reporter who was the building where the explosion occurred.
Downie spoke about the importance of getting the story right. Some of his reporters were the ones who broke the story about the problems at Walter Reed Hospital there is Washington. I could have listened all night.
Downie knew Tim Robinson personally and spoke highly of his accomplishments....about his dedication to getting the facts right and holding public officials accountable for their actions.
It occurred to me sitting there that my friend Tim was indeed an extraordinary person. Not bad for a kid from Dora, Alabama

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Second Thought

I wrote a really funny entry last night about my boss. He and I have known each other for many years and I consider him a friend. I posted the entry and went to bed last night smiling, but on my way to work I got to thinking about how I would feel if he had something serious happening in his life. It would cast a much different light on the humorous stuff I wrote.
One of my goals on this blog is to write about things happening around me and about things that have happened to me through out my life. Some of the things are serious and some of the stuff is fun, but I would never intentionally write something that caused someone pain so I removed the blog entry from last night and posted a short piece about the Timothy Sumner Robinson Forum at Samford University.
Now this does not mean that I will steer clear of humor because there is enough funny stuff that happens to me daily that will keep me in material for years to come. But I'm adopting the motto of the medicine "do no harm".
I just got back from the forum tonight and it's late and I'm tired so I'm hitting the hay.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tim Sumner Robinson Forum

On Thursday April 12th, I'll be attending the Tim Sumner Robinson Forum at Samford University. Tim graduated from Dora High School in 1961 and distinguished himself in the media field.
He passed away a few years ago and this forum is held in Tim's honor. I'll have more about this later.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not As Young As I Used To Be

I'm not as young as I used to be. I had to teach a class last night at midnight to a bunch of folks in Atlanta and Charlotte. I delivered the class from here at home and I was able to wear casual clothes - my boxer shorts and a pair of fuzzy slippers but I sounded really professional.
When I was younger, I could stay up half the night raising cane and hit the ground the next morning and never skip a beat. This morning I was on a conference call one moment and the next I woke drooling on my day planner with the sound of a screaming off-the-hook message assaulting my ear. Apparently the call had ended and everyone hung up their phones to go about their work leaving me there snoring like Rip Van Winkle. Thank goodness I had the phone on mute.
After my third cup of coffee and gargling with a warm Mountain Dew, I got my second wind and earned my money. But I can tell you this, it will be an early night at the Watson household.

Monday, April 09, 2007


I put out so many fires today that my feet are toasted and my brain is fried. I'll do better tomorrow.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

They're Back!!!

The Hummingbird appeared in our window for the first time this spring. We were sitting there reading the morning paper when Jilda exclaimed "He's Back!!!" He hovered effortlessly and looked at us sternly as if to say WHERE'S MY FOOD!!!!! Jilda scrambled off the couch and to the pantry to fetch the raw sugar and ran some filtered water in the mixing bowl. I hustled out to the side porch where we store the feeders. I always clean them in the fall when the birds fly south because we've been through this drill before. This morning I rinsed out the feeders and Jilda poured it full of the nectar they love. I hung the feeders inches from our window and then went back inside and waited.
We were not disappointed because a few moments later he came back and had a long refreshing drink. He flitted up on a nearby branch and rested his weary wings. We went back to our paper and later he flew back to the center window again and hovered there for a while as if to say "thanks guys, I needed that."
In the coming weeks when blackberry winter is history, the rest of the fam will wander up and make entering and exiting our house a chore because these little critters are serious about eating. If you walk by at an inopportune time, you'll most surely get buzzed. GET OUT OF HERE FREAK, CAN'T YOU SEE I'M TRYING TO EAT!!!! Sorry little guy, we'll apologize and then move quickly in or out of the door.
Hummingbirds are one of summer's gifts for which we are thankful. I borrowed the graphic above from
Please don't rat me out.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Faded Photographs

The breeze has been blowing constantly today and as I sit quietly this afternoon trying to come up with a subject for today's entry, I can hear my wind chimes and those of my neighbors, playing a melodic windsong.
After watching the weather forecast, I have some advice those who plan on attending an Easter sunrise service - you might want to consider long-handle underwear or perhaps a portable kerosene heater under you jacket because it's going to be cold in the morning.
I'm not sure what this cold spell will do to my fruit trees. The apple trees have been in blossom for well over a week and my peach trees already have tiny fruit. I'm not sure which ones will fare the best or if either have a snowball chance of baring fruit. I guess we'll wait and see.
We were supposed to have a family reunion today. My cousin was up from Florida and several of the cousins that we only see at funerals had committed to come, but my mother got sick and was in the hospital until Thursday and since we had planned to have the celebration at my sisters house (where my mother lives) we postponed the reunion until another time. My visiting cousin was disappointed but he understood.
I hope we can work it out for later in the summer or perhaps next year because life is a funny business and can change the complexion of things in the flutter of a butterfly's wings. My mom is the last surviving child of Ed and Velma Ferguson. There were 13 kids and her sister Edith passed away in January. I know things will change when mother is gone. Family reunions will be harder to put together. The older folks have been the glue that's kept our large family together and when we started losing them, the gatherings became smaller and smaller. If we don't hold on tightly, the reunions that we all loved will become a thing of the past - a fond memory and a faded photograph and the only time we'll ever see each other is at funerals.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cutting Grass

It's Blackberry Winter here in Empire, Alabama. The sun was out today but the wind out of the northwest made it feel like late October. I'm thankful I didn't take lemon, orange, avocado and mango trees outside last week when the temps were in the upper 80's. Jilda said we haven't had Blackberry winter yet so if you don't want to lug those trees back inside, you better wait. It was good advice.
I did cut the grass today and it felt good to be out on the tractor. The smell of fresh cut grass always reminds me of the summer when I was 15. We had an old 1946 Chevy pickup that looked like it was on it's last leg but it cranked and ran and I operated a decent grass cutting business that summer.
Mrs. McMichen was my first customer. She was an English teacher at Dora High. Her mother and father lived across the road from me in West Pratt and they recommended me for the job.
She not only paid well, but she knew everyone of consequence in Dora and before I knew it, I had all the work I could handle.
By the time I made the rounds it was time to start all over again.
I didn't have a weed eater so I pulled the grass from the flowers and the sidewalk by hand. My friends thought I was crazy but for some reason I enjoyed being outside and smelling the scent of freshly cut clover. Even today when I'm doing yard work, I get lost. I don't think about the future, I don't think about the past, I'm simply in the moment and that feels good. Some of my best ideas come to me when I'm cutting grass.
Maybe when I retire in a few years I'll get me an old truck and do some commercial yard work and use the idea I get to write the great American novel.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


My mom came home today and not a moment too soon. She was getting cranky. I for one can tell you, being around her when she's cranky is not a lot of fun. I guess she knew that it was getting close to Easter and she wanted to be home.
As a Christian Easter is probably the most significant religious holiday even surpassing Christmas because of what it means to her faith, but she also enjoys the pagan part too. When family and more specifically children come to visit with Easter frocks and hats, new pants and shiny shoes, her face lights up.
For as long as I can remember, before age and illness took her strength and balance, she enjoyed hunting Easter eggs. She would never hide the eggs because she always wanted to get out in the yard with the little ones and help them fill their baskets with eggs. She would always pick the underdog child who arrived a second too late only to have the eggs scarfed up by a bigger, faster kid.
Once she picked out the kid she wanted to help she would shadow them and give them hints. She wouldn't pick up the egg for the kid because that would take the fun out of it for the child but she made sure they found their share. She was not above doing a little blocking and subterfuge to sidetrack the bigger kids long enough to ensure the underdog could bag some eggs.
Nowadays, she usually sits on the porch in the warm sunshine and silently picks the child she would have helped had she been able to walk, and watches intently helping guide them with her thoughts.
Now I try to pick up where she left off. As the hunt begins, I'll watch her and I can tell by the look in her eye which child she wants to help and I make sure the kid gets some eggs. I always know if I've been successful by the smiles on the faces of the child and my mother.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Writers Have to Write

A friend at work saw the article on Buddy and sent me an email today saying how much she liked the story. I have talked to her before about writing and she told me that she too was a writer. When I asked to read some of her work today she said that she really didn't have anything. She had some good ideas but had not committed them to paper.
At the writer's workshop a few weeks ago, I was amazed by the number of people who attended that did not write regularly. How can you do anything well if you don't practice. I guess it's the musician in me but there is no substitute for guitar time.
I told my friend today that there is genius in beginning. I'm not sure who said that but I've found that it is true. Get started, write something, let your friends read it, and get feedback. Read the work of others and consider what you like and dislike about their style and then do the things you like. I also advised her to write about things she knows.
She told me she was in a writer's group and one of the best writers in the group had very low self esteem. Additionally he was a poor speller. I asked her why he didn't use spell check but she said he only wrote on a typewriter........OK, I've read about people who choose to write only on typewriters, but as a young writer who needs every advantage, my advice to him is to "invest in a laptop with word processing software!"
It's easy to fall in love with the idea of being a writer. I know first hand because I do love the idea of being a writer, but I also know that to be a writer you have to write....a lot. Most writers worth their salt also know that some days you are going to hate what you write, some days you will love what you writer but you can never be a writer, if you don't write.
We have company coming over for dinner tonight so I'm cutting this post short.
I'll do better tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Slammed, Jammed, Sprinkled and Tossed

I've felt a little scattered today. Each time I'd start one thing, my priorities would get rearranged. When you bounce from one task to the other you don't get that feeling that your making any headway. It's kind of like how a short order cook must feel - by the time you get the eggs slammed, jammed, sprinkled and tossed, it's time to whip up some pancakes. So now as I sit here trying to think of something meaningful about which to write, my mind is skipping around like a flat stone on a lake.
I came by the hospital to check on mother this evening. She thought she'd get to go home yesterday, but she was retaining fluid so they contacted her heart doctor who decided her medicine should be changed to correct the fluid retention problem. They decided to keep her a few more days to make sure there was no problem with the new meds.
Mother was visibly disappointed, but she understands. She actually stays in bed a lot when she's home but it's her bed. I'm hoping for her sake she can escape tomorrow.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thinking Big

I mentioned earlier that I was writing a weekly column for the Daily Mountain Eagle newspaper. Yesterday's article was the one that originally appeared on this blog last year. I got a lot of really good feedback from that piece.
This morning a lady who had read the piece in the paper sent me a really nice note about how refreshing it was to read something positive in the news paper. I had to agree because it seems that lately all you read about is the horrible things that are happening across the globe. It's gotten so bad that I never watch the evening news or listen to news on the radio. I glance at headlines on a few Internet news sites but even then if it's not blood & gore, it's some inane story about Paris Hilton's dog or Brittany Spears cutting her hair with a weed eater. I think the world could use a little good news.
I'm listening to "The Secret" audio book and it's about creating the world you want through visualization and maintaining focus on those images. I've used this technique to some effect. For example, I find money almost every day. On Sunday I shifted the thinking from money to gifts. I got out of my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot and I immediately found a brand new, unopened tube of lipstick which I took home to Jilda. And today as I got out of my truck at the jewelry store to get new batteries for three of my watches, I asked myself "where is my gift?" I didn't find money but when I went to pay for the battery replacement, the jeweler said "No Charge." My mind immediately began to think "OK, what's the catch," but then I remembered my question..."where's my gift?" and then I said to myself "well of course, this is the gift I asked for."
I found the experience very interesting. The jeweler who works at Kay's Jewelry in the Summit Shopping center in Birmingham simply said if you tell someone you had a good experience here, that will be payment enough. I told a number of people about this gift and I mentioned it here on the blog. If you by chance go by Kay's please tell the manager, that I said thanks for the gift.
So this got me to wondering, what if we all focused on larger gifts, for example what if we imagined an end to war, to global warming, to murder, violence against children and world hunger. What if, we could all get together and visualize a better world and then begin to make it happen with our thoughts?
I know that some people will read this and think, "old Rick's lost his mind," but I know it works on a small scale, I've done it. I believe that we just need to think big and perhaps one day soon the big thing in the news will be about Ol' Buddy and how he's dealing with all the chickens in the yard.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fool

I was at the hospital at 8 a.m. this morning. One of us has to be there at meals because mother needs help eating. She played an April Fool's joke on my younger sister Christie. When Christie came in, mother told her that the doctor had just informed her that "I will have to be in the hospital for another two weeks." Christie's jaw dropped. Mother let her flap in the breeze a few moments before telling her April Fool.
The doctors talk like mother will get to come home on Monday or Tuesday. I know she's ready because she has been stuck, poked, prodded and drained so much she looks as if she's gone 18 rounds with Mike Tyson, except that both of her ears are intact. She looked a lot better today and the infection is pretty much gone but she is still quite weak.
An illness throws a family for a curve. I had all kinds of plans for the weekend, but things change in the blink of an eye. What was important on Wednesday dropped way down on the priority list. The nature of her problem this time was not as serious as in the past but one of us needed to be there during her waking hours so we all rearranged our lives. I'm glad I could help. My mother sacrificed a great deal for us all and none of us have forgotten.
On another note, did I mention that I got a book deal that will generate three million dollars? April Fool.

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