Sunday, September 30, 2007

Living Color

The Overalls played a gig last night at Local Colors in Springville, Alabama. There weren't a lot of people there because as we realized as we drove up that both Alabama and Auburn were playing significant games on TV. But lack of a big crown has never dampened our spirit so we carried on as if the house was full. We had a large time.
The owners - Merle and Gary are delightful people. Merle, Peggy and Sylvia (sorry I didn't get their last names) have an all girl singing group and they performed too. They sang old standard songs and put on one heck of a show I might add.
The food is excellent and they fed us before we went on at 8 p.m. Both Jilda and I opted for the chicken and dumplings. I think they were as good as our mama's dumplings and that's saying a lot.
Next week we play an early gig at the Frog Festival in downtown Sumiton. We play at ten but if you blink your eye, you'll miss us as our set it only 30 minutes long.
Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fall's a Coming

I woke this morning and stepped out on the deck while the coffee was brewing. There was a crisp gentle breeze out of the west and it felt good on my face. It will be sweater weather before long.
I guess it's time because Monday is the first of October. Who can believe that? We'll be hanging mistletoe and roasting chestnuts over an open fire before long.
I won't be able to watch the games this evening because we have a gig. The Overalls are playing tonight at Local Color in Springville. The Frog Festival is next weekend and a few weeks later we'll be playing the Old Time Radio Show in Lynchburg, Tennessee. That's a fun gig with our old friend Paul Jones.
We played there in November a few years ago and our friends Wes & Deidra from south Alabama came up and went with us to the show. Afterwards we took the Jack Daniels tour as tiny snowflakes peppered down. The fall colors were stunning.
I hope the colors are good this fall. It's something I look forward to each year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lessons Learned

Jilda was feeling a little puny tonight so she elected to stay home while I went to shoot some photos of the Bulldogs. I left during the third quarter and it wasn't pretty for the Dawgs. They are struggling this year and I feel badly for them...especially the seniors.
I just finished a Wayne Dyer book called It's Never Crowded on the Extra Mile. I really enjoyed this book. One thing he discussed in depth was a map of conscientiousness by Dr. David Hawkins where he talked about the vibration of emotions and their impact on your life. Dr. Hawkins has spent his life measuring electrical impulses in the brain when presented with various images. One of the lowest vibrations was for the emotion of shame and humiliation.
We ask a great deal of our kids and the looks on many of their faces tonight was humbling. So much of our self worth and self image is tied to that period of our lives when we are young and impressionable. If we are "winners", the stands are full of screaming fans and everybody gets an "at-a-boy" after a big win. The kids walk away believing they can conquer the world. When things go south, the result is much different.
This could be a long season for the Dawgs and my wish for the team is that the coaches have the wisdom to teach the kids that there will be times when the ball does not bounce your way. That does not make you a loser any more than winning games makes you a winner. It's all about what you learn. I think I've learned my most valuable lessons when I've been near the bottom.
I hope this team is as fortunate.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Field Jacket

I kept my field jacket that was entrusted to me by the U.S. Army in 1971 for a few years after I got out of the service. I would had it still except for a mishap back in 1973. I had been camping in late fall on Chandler Mountain near Oneonta, Alabama. It was a warm day in October when I started out on the trip but I took a sleeping bag and the OD green field jacket because I knew the night air would be cool. I was riding a motorcycle and the weather was picturesque. The bluegrass festival was a hoot but by early afternoon the next day, I was ready to head home so I strapped the bag and the field jacket on the back of the bike and headed out like a rocket.
I had gotten within ten miles of home when one of the sleeves of the jacket came lose from the bindings but I figured It would be fine until I got home. That turned out NOT to be the case. I came upon a long stretch of straight road and I let the engine on that bike moan. I was clocking along at about 80 miles an hour when the sleeve of the jacket got too close to the chain and became wrapped around the back sprocket which locked the back tire up tight as a wedge. One moment I was cruising at 80 the next moment I was sliding as if I had stood up on the brakes. It was one of those defining moments when you can't get excited. You must breathe, focus, and hold on for dear life. The bike slide straight and true with me sitting astride.
When I came to a stop, I had to clean out my britches but I never laid the bike down...I simply kicked down the kickstand, walked a few feet away sat down hard.
When I gained enough strength to stand up again, I walked over to survey the damage. The bike looked fine but the field jacket was wrapped up all the way to the zipper on the front.
In my mind I saw images of me having to disassemble the bike to remove the the obstruction. And then a simple idea came to me....this couldn't work could it? I simply started pushing the bike backwards and the jacket slowly unwound itself off the sprocket. When I got it dislodged, I secured it on the back of the back and drove home in first gear. Not because of any problem with the bike, but because I was afraid to get over ten miles an hour.
It was another one of those close calls where I had a guardian angel riding with me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The Dora Bulldogs are having a down year. The Dawgs have been very successful in past years and they have fallen on hard times. The old coach left earlier in the year and took the starting quarterback and the biggest part of the coaching staff. There was a lot of hard feelings in the community but I tried to look at it from the old coaches' point of view. He got an offer for a bigger school with new sports facilities and probably a bigger salary. I have never faulted anyone for trying to better themselves and I won't start now but I can say that it's hard watching the team struggle. To be honest, I think we have a lot of talent at the school and I think they are physically capable of competing but I'm not sure they are where they need to be mentally.
When a team experiences loss or trauma, someone has to step up at take a leadership role and make sure everyone pulls their weight. I've seen a lot of teams that shouldn't have a chance but they worked together as a team and they won.
I'm not faulting the new coaching staff because they had very little time to put a game plan together and to prepare for a difficult season. I hear the new coach is a strict disciplinarian and maybe the guys weren't used to that. I don't have inside information, I'm just speaking from the point of view of an observer.
Anyhow, I've been tied up the last few weeks and could not attend the games on Friday night but I plan to go this week to show my support for the Dawgs.
I keep hoping someone will do something remarkable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wound Up Tight

Discontent in a corporate setting is almost like a virus. Everyone at work feels like they are under the ax which might fall at any time. Decisions are being made on a very high corporate level that could affect the 1500 or so people working where I work. The decision was supposed to come down over a month ago but so far, no word - the waiting is taking its toll on almost everyone.
I'm an eternal optimist but I can feel negativity slipping into my vocabulary and it's driving me crazy. All of a sudden my stomach is bothering me and my jaws are hurting from gritting my teeth.
Truth is, not knowing is a lot worse than knowing. If the company came in tomorrow and said you all have to find new jobs then the focus would change. It would still be stressful until you got settled in your new situation, but I think knowing what you had to do would be less stressful than what we are currently going through.
Right now, I'm wound up tight as a high C piano string so I'm going to go meditate for a while and bring my blood pressure down to a manageable level.
If any of you know of anyone who can help me with the syndication my weekly column that runs in the local paper, please let me know. I'd love to walk away clean with a whole new attitude.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Healthplan Gibberish

We got a packet with the details of our new insurance coverage at work. It might as well have been written in Swahili. It is even harder to decipher than the instructions for recording on a VCR.
Incredible! I know they must hire people that are somehow impaired to write the literature. Obviously if someone could explain the health plan to me they wouldn't be in that position. They would be - like nurses or maybe doctors. I'd just about as soon read the IRS tax code or perhaps the Alabama Constitution...what a mess.
I guess I know now how I'll be spending the month of October. There should be some kind of Rosetta Stone for deciphering this gibberish.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Slow Walk

It was a slow news day here in Empire, Alabama. I thought it was going to rain this morning because the sky was dark with clouds but I don't think it even drizzled.
After we drank our morning coffee we did a slow walk down the walking path. It's beginning to come alive with the first rush of autumn color. The golden rods are blooming along with wild yellow daisies. We saw staghorn sumac which is turning crimson and next to that was a stand of poke berries, the juice of which is the color of blood when you squish them.
The lack of rain may cause the foliage to turn brown prematurely this year, but I hope that's not the case. Only time will tell.
We heard bluejays and and found some jay feathers, but we didn't see any. The jay call sounds almost like a table saw to me. They are beautiful birds. The humming birds are in a feeding frenzy and they will most likely head out in a week or so to warmer climes. I hate to see them go because they are such a joy to watch.
Hope you all have a great week.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Folk Remedies

We had a neighbor when we were growing up that knew everything. She had views on cuisine, child development, horticulture and insect management. I have no doubt that if you started a conversation on quantum physics that she would speak with authority about quarks, neutrinos and inherent problems with the space time continuum as viewed from our vantage point in West Pratt. But her main strength was in folklore. She could whip up a poultice to treat fever blisters, canker sores, boils, and planter’s warts. She had an elixir for shin splints, neck cricks, gardener’s elbow and flatulence. She could treat most of your every day maladies but drew the line at your diphtherias and plagues and left them to professional doctoring. But she did come up with one remedy that stands out in my mind.
I was in the forth of fifth grade at the time and had come down with chicken pox. No big deal you usually let the ailment run its course and it was over in a week or so. My condition was no different except for the fact that I was supposed to be going to a fall festival dance at Dora Elementary school and I didn't want to go with these big honkin' pock marks all over my face and neck. I had seen kids with slight defects who were mocked and jeered unmercifully. I hated to contemplate my fate with the pock marks all over me.
When my mom explained my dilemma, the neighbor immediately came up with a solution. The neighbor started explaining all the particulars of an untested cure that she had heard about through her medicine-man grapevine. I could see doubt seeping in around my mother's eyes as she said "uh-huh, I see." My mom is a pragmatic woman and her “bull malarkey” detector went off frequently when she conversed with the neighbor, but I was in such a state that mother was willing to try anything so she proceeded with the unconventional folk remedy.
The next morning my mother instructed me to take my shirt off and lie down in the doorway between the kitchen and living room. She then - (I'm not pulling your leg here though my mother denies it until this day) got our Rhode Island Red rooster from the pen and set it down in the kitchen and proceeded to shoo it until it flew over me as I reclined in the doorway. So far, so good – but then came the task of removing the chicken. She then had to chase that freaked out rooster all around the inside of the house as it careened off the chiffrobe, the mantel, the TV and the windows as it tried to make its escape. She finally cornered it in the bedroom and returned it to the pen but not before it dropped feathers (and worse) all over the house.
The theory was that when I woke up the next day, the encounter with the rooster would somehow make the chicken pox disappear from my body.
The next morning I got up expectantly but when I looked in the mirror, the red splotches were still there. The next evening when I was supposed to go to the dance, mother went to plan B which was to put some of my sister's make-up on my face and neck to hide the blotches.
As expected, I was the brunt of some very cruel jokes but my “date” at the dance was kind enough not to mention my malady and mean enough to chide most of the most vocal tormentors into silence.
Our neighbor was a kind soul and to her credit she did cure a lot of aches and pains in our community in those days. I should also point out that she also did not guarantee the flying chicken therapy would cure my pocks.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Listen for the Rain

A tropical depression is forming near the mouth of Mobile Bay and dark angry clouds are raking the area. The rain has not reached us but it should only be a matter of time. The sky looks like it did a few years ago when Hurricane Opal made landfall on the gulf coast. All afternoon the sky looked menacing. Even thought the gulf is more than 200 miles away from Empire, the winds began to howl after dark and the power went off by bedtime. When the eye passed over us some time in the wee hours, there were still hurricane force winds and we could feel the drop in pressure in our chests.
The power was off for days and afterwards I went out and bought a generator to keep our fridge going until the power guys get out into the countryside.
This storm doesn't look as if it going to be that bad. I'm signing out for now to go sit on the porch and listen for the rain.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Going with the Flow

I walked to the end of our walking path today and sat for a long while on a huge limestone rock overlooking a small creek. I don't get as much time to think these days. It seems every waking moment is dedicated to one task or another and the simple act of sitting still thinking seems to be a luxury. Today I thought about jobs and what I would like to do next.
When I was a kid I would sit on a creek bank for hours on end thinking about how my life would be when I grew up. I knew then that I'd have a home, a beautiful wife, and a hot rod car but I don't recall thinking about how I would acquire these things.
I tend to go with the flow and I stumbled into most of the jobs I've had throughout my life. When I graduated from high school my sister worked for the State of Alabama and she got me an application for a job on the road crew. I filled it out, dropped it off, and a few days later I had on a colorful vest working on the highway department chain gang which was surveying the an exit ramp off Interstate 65 south of Birmingham. I worked on the chain gang all summer and started to college in the fall.
The plant manager of a local fabricating place was in one of my classes and told me I should consider a job at his plant. I filled out an application and a few days later I was working night shift on metal punch presses. I did this job until Uncle Sam offered me an all expense paid vacation....I actually had no choice with this job. "Greeting - You have been selected by your friends and neighbors to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America." Never did figure out which friend or neighbor put me in for this gig, but I was not happy.
When I got out of the Army, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) had a friend Dale Short who was an editor of a local newspaper. He offered me a job and I took it. I was on that job for three years and got fired on my birthday. That was 1976. I drew unemployment for a year and did a little bootlegging to keep the lights on. Late in 1976, G.M. Young, a guy that worked for the phone company that used to hang out at the paper called me at home and offered me a job. A few weeks later, I was gassing up trucks at 3 a.m. I stayed with the phone company until 1997 when they outsourced my work to EDS. The only thing that changed was the color of my check.
So you see, I've never really had to think about a job but it is my intention to think long and hard before beginning the next phase of my life.
I didn't mean to bore you all with the details of my work history, but when I don't have a better idea, I'll write about anything.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Free Buster

Jilda and I have a friend who is incarcerated. I've never understood exactly what offense he committed but we see him almost every day and we both are saddened. It bothers Ol' Buddy too because each day when we go by to see Buster, Buddy looks at us both as if to say "is there nothing you can do?"
I probably should let you know that Buster is a neighbor's Boxer Bulldog and he once ran as free as the wind but a few months ago when we drove by, Buster was hitched to a long chain in the front yard. I think he's depressed because now when he sees us, he doesn't even bark. I suspect Buster may have roughed up the UPS man, or perhaps treed the Alabama Power meter reader but what ever the infraction, his owners aren't budging.
Jilda, Ol' Buddy and I have started a campaign called "Free Buster". Every time we drive by, we hold up our right fists in solidarity and shout FREE BUSTER! I'm going to have Free Buster T Shirts and maybe some bumper stickers printed up with his picture on them. Maybe we'll hold a candle light vigil one night soon and play protest songs by Odetta, Pete Seger and Woody Guthry. If we get arrested it will be for a good cause. FREE BUSTER!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sense of Direction

I know how to read a compass but I never use one. The stars are just pretty twinkle lights in the heavens to me, I've never used them to find my way. We have friends that have spent a good deal of money on GPS systems but the thought of buying one has never occurred to me because you see, I've never felt like I've been lost. Obviously there have been times when I didn't know where I was, but that's completely different. I mean, we're on globe and it is my belief that if ever I became lost, I could just continue in any direction and sooner or later, I would wind up where I started.
I once did repair work for the phone company and this was long before E911 addresses. When people gave you directions to their house it sometimes went like this: "you know where John Darrow's' barn used to be? Or, you have to turn near the witness tree and go a spell till you get to the the rusty part of the fence and then bare off to the left until you smell goats." The weird thing is, I always found my destination and back.
I have this uncanny sense of direction....well actually, I have a belief that I have an uncanny sense of direction and it has never let me down.
Several years ago when my mother-in-law was in good health, she had never traveled much and we invited her to fly with us to San Francisco. We had been there a number of times and it was fun giving a woman who had never strayed far from Sumiton, Alabama, the grand tour of the San Francisco Bay area.
The day before we headed home we traveled north through Napa Valley drove through some of the most beautiful countryside on the planet. As the sun slowly began to head out into the Pacific Ruby was ready to turn around and head back the way we came. Instead, I took another route that we had never taken before. After some time Ruby turned to my wife Jilda and asked "does he know where he is going?" Jilda looked at me for a moment and then at her mother and said "yes, he's never been lost." Ruby then settled back in her seat and enjoyed the sights as we approached the city from the east.
I'm not sure what brought this story to mind just now, but I've come to learn that I should not question inspiration.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Better Reception

I've been sitting in my chair for quite some time waiting for the an idea to hit me. Some nights it's like a bolt of lightening and sometimes it washes over me like a warm gentle surf from the emerald waters of the gulf. Tonight I find myself twisting and turning like a radio antenna trying to pick up a faint signal from a distant world. I never know what will trigger a train of thought but I know it when it comes and I must get on board and ride that ethereal transport to its destination. Often when I get there I look around like a boy scout who's lost his compass.
I've discussed this topic with a number of people who teach creative writing and apparently it is not uncommon. Most seem to advise that it is more important to trudge on and write every day. I'm not sure they realized that what I write is not in a private notebook that I put in my desk, but posted on the web for the world to see, but I think it's good advice.
One thing I do for inspiration is read the work of others but right now I'm going through a little bit of withdrawals because my blog friend Ms. AB Soup has been traveling abroad and her updates have not been as frequent. She is from the land down under and is traveling up in Canada at the present time and I can't wait to get all the details on her travels. I am somewhat envious because even though I'm much closer, I've never been all the way to Canada. I know it must be a remarkable place.
The next trip that Jilda and I will be taking is LA. We've been to San Francisco a number of times but we've never been to Southern California. We have a music conference out there in November and we are really excited.
Well, I guess this is it for tonight. I'm thinking about wrapping my self in aluminum foil tomorrow to see if I get better reception.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Making a Life and Not Just a Living

I've felt almost like I have been in a fish bowl today. It's almost as if I've been a witness instead of a participant in my life. We had birthday lunch for one of my nieces and there was a house full of people but it seemed as if people were talking at me and not to me. Granted I've been a little distracted this week because of things at work and the early retirement offer. I find myself doing calculations in my head, weighing options, and playing out scenarios.
The idea of being free to pursue my own dreams is so appealing, but I have these little naysayer voices in my head that gives me pause.
I have a lot of really good talents and skills and I know they are assets, but how do you turn them into equity. How do you convert the things in your head into things you can wear, drive, or things you can put on your plate to eat?
I've been looking for resources on how to make ends meet after leaving your day gig, but I've come up short on answers. Maybe that's another idea for a book I can write. Interview people that have walked away after thirty years and started their life over doing the things they love. Making a life instead of just making a living.
I saw a video on uTube yesterday about a kid that looked to be no more than twenty. I think the title of it was "Where in the World is Matt?" It starts off with this really cool song and it proceeds to show Matt doing a little funky dance in exotic locations all over the globe. Africa, Asia, North and South America as well as Anartica. I watched that little video two or three times and it put a smile on my face every time. When I watched the credits, it says the film was made possible by a company that makes chewing gum. I'm guessing Matt had the idea and pitched it to them and they said sure Matt, we'll fly you to some of the most stunning places on the planet and let you do your little dance.
I think Matt had a great idea and actually that's what I'm talking about - take an idea from infancy all the way through to the finished product that puts a smile on someones face.
If you care to watch Matt, click here

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I don't think I could have imagined a nicer day today. So I took my bike out for a spin this evening and rode up to the main road which is a mile away. As I casually meandered I saw an old neighbor out in the yard and I stopped to talk a spell. It had been so long since he'd seen me that he had to walk up close to get a better look. He's in his early eighties and he still gets around quite well. He'd been picking up litter along the roadside. We stood and talk for a long while catching up on our families. He lost his mother, who lived next door, last year and that took the wind out of his sails but he seems to be doing better now.
When I left I made my way on toward my destination and another neighbor's dog came charging out at me. I stopped for a moment and when he realized I wasn't a threat to his family, he was fine. We made friends and he loped along beside me for a while with his tongue hanging out barking for fun.
I felt a little like that dog while I was riding the bike. With the sun warm on my back and a nice breeze in my face, I felt like chasing a rabbit or something. Fortunately none crossed my path so I turned at the main road and started back. Once came to a small hill, I had to change gears on my bike or get off and push so I was slow getting to the top. Once I started down the other side I got up a nice head of speed and I turned loose of the handle bars and coasted for a while. I haven't done that in a long time.
Tonight we are going to my old friend Glenn Allen's wedding. He's been a bachelor for many years but he's finally throwing in the hat and tying the knot. It should be a lot of fun.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Quality Time

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain ticking on the Rose-a-Sharon bushes by our bedroom window. The rain made the plants on the deck look fresh and I I opened up the back door to get a better look as I made the coffee. I got my hand held recorder out and captured that blissful sound. When I get stressed, I can replay the sound of rain and most of the rough edges fall away.
I made my way in to work but I felt lazy all day. It felt like I should be taking a long nap instead of talking computers on the phone.
When I left this evening, the rain had moved off to the east and left an electric blue sky with fluffy clouds in its wake. Everything looked fresh and clean.
This evening we met our friends Tom and Judy for dinner at the Blackrock Grill. I decided on a rib eye steak with fried green tomatoes. We ordered a nice bottle of Merlot. We haven't seen Tom and Judy for a while so we spent a delightful evening catching up.
Judy has had a tough year, but she's come through like a trooper and tonight in the soft glow of candle light, she looked like a rock star.
I know there are probably more exciting things to do in life, but there is nothing I'd rather do than spend quality time with good friends.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Waiting for the rain. The rain-gods have been stingy this summer. Parts of my yard a parched and dusty. But the remnants of hurricane Humberto that hit the coast of Texas seems to be tracking towards Empire and that's a good thang. I've been sitting on the back deck facing south trying to catch the smell of the rain on the breeze while a chorus of tree frogs and cicadas are singing in the key of D.
A few dots ticked on the laptop so I had to grab and flee indoors. They haven't made laptops waterproof yet and I'm fairly certain my boss would take a dim view of dysfunctional laptop dripping with rain water. Off in the distance I can hear thunder stomping it's way toward us like an angry fairytale giant.
I got an early retirement offer from my company today. Actually they are offering it to 12,000 people in the company who have reached the ripe old age of at least 50. The offer is not lavish and I've heard a lot of people at work scoff at it but I'm not sure yet just what I think about it. On one hand I need a few more years to be in a good position to walk away but I find myself wondering just how much longer my position will last there. I've got a lot of irons in the fire, but none of them are hot enough yet.
I plan to spend the next few weeks weighing my options and trying to imagine my life after EDS. It's not something that Jilda or I take lightly. I've been gainfully employed for over 30 years and the last fifteen of those years has been in a high pressure job that demands a great deal of my time and energy. I have to tell you that the idea of walking away is very appealing. Obviously visions of living in a cardboard box and eating cat food tends to dampen the spirit but I've eaten Vienna sausages, potted meat and cream of celery soup before and I find they can be quite tasty.
Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pink Snow

Driving in the Birmingham this morning I was in the center lane. Up a head I saw something about the size of a bale of hay in the road. All of a sudden an eighteen wheeler ran over what I discovered was a huge roll of fiberglass insulation. After the truck passed over, a cloud of pink fiberglass blew up make the scene turn surrealistic. I drove for almost a mile and the fibers whirled around like pink snowflakes.
I was not sure how tight the ventilation was in my truck so I put my sleeve over my nose and mouth until I passed thought the summer snowstorm. Hopefully none of the fibers found their way through to the cab of the truck. I thought to myself, now that's something you don't see every day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guardian Angel

I was running late as I headed down to a high school football game Friday evening so I was driving a little faster than usual. The sun had dipped below the western horizon but there was still some lingering daylight. Suddenly a sensation came over me and I let off the gas as I went into a steep turn. In the middle of the curve was a small pickup truck coming from the opposite direction at a very high rate of speed - entirely in my lane. I swerved off the edge of the road into a yard.
I came to a complete stop and waited until my heart settled out of my throat and my blood pressure dropped below a level in which strokes are common. I looked in front of me a few feet and there was steep drop-off at the edge of the road. Had I not slowed an instant before meeting the reckless driver, my choices would have been to hit him head on or veer off the edge of the road and most likely flip and roll down an embankment into a stand of oak and pine.
I know there are those who may think I was imagining things. I would not waste my breath with an argument but this same sensation has kept me from harm before. I've come to trust my Guardian Angels without question.
Yesterday on my way to work traffic began to slow in a place where it rarely slows. I knew something must be up. One of the interstate traffic warning signs came on to tell traffic that an accident had occurred and instructed drivers to merge into the left lane. I've seen this sign many times so I turned on my signal and moved over. About forty five minutes later, traffic inched by a jumble of steel and glass and rescue workers who moved about with no sense of urgency. I'm not a gawker but one could not miss the Lexus SUV that had somehow run under the side of an eighteen wheeler and top of the SUV was sheared off at the level of the dashboard. All that was sticking out was the back glass. It was a sobering thing to see at 7:30 in the morning.
As I passed by I said a prayer for those involved and I began to reflect back to my near miss just a few days before. I know the pace of life is sometimes harrowing and people are behind in their schedules before they walk out the front door. They have meetings to attend, calls to make, cleaning to pickup, kids to deliver, and meals to prepare. It's often difficult getting everything done. So we rush about like so many ants driven by the pressures of life.
I put some distance between me and the accident but I could not help wondering if everyone has a Guardian Angel - if the people in that accident had an early warning from their Guardian Angel but did not recognize it. There is no way of knowing, but I can tell you this: I am acutely aware of Guardian Angels and I am truly grateful they have chosen to look after me.

Long Day Late Night

I've been working on a problem at work all day and it is now 12:40 a.m. The problem continues. I haven't had time to do a post. I'll do better tomorrow.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Finding the Joy

Practice with the band was like magic tonight. We started together - we ended together, and the parts in the middle sounded good too. It's funny how that works sometimes. Sometimes we practice and practice and everything sounds jumbled and strained. But there are other times when everything connects and it is pure joy.
In the past when I have been to a concert or performance that were exceptional, the common thread was that the performers seemed to be having the time of their life. I think the secret is learning how to make a joyful noise each time you play. So it's not necessarily learning how to play well, but learning how to find the joy in playing the music.
Maybe I'm on to something.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I aired up the tires on my old bicycle today and took her for a spin. It's been quite some time since I've been on that baby. Actually the last time I rode it I got bitten by a dog. That was fun because I had to get a tetanus shot. It was not a good experience but today on the other hand was nice.
There was a light breeze out of the west and it was before the sun got too hot. I rode down to the end of our dead end road and rode back to the house. It was only about a mile but the sun on my back and the wind in my face felt good. By the time I got back to the house my legs were like rubber. I walk several times a week and do yoga, but apparently that activity does not make use of the same muscles as biking. I decided to start of slowly and ride a little more as time goes by.
When I was a kid I must have put a million miles on my old bike. I rode it everywhere until I got old enough to drive and then biking became uncool.
I had forgotten until today how much fun riding a bike can be. The older I get the harder I have to fight inertia. Sitting on the sofa watching the boobtube is much easier but it tends to make my butt expand. So I plan on making biking a regular part of my routine. But I can assure you, I will be keeping an eye out for dogs.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Plan B

Have you ever started a job thinking it would take 45 minutes or an hour tops? Yes, I have too and I should have known better. My intention was to replace a leaking kitchen faucet assembly and then spend the rest of the day working on my book project. Four hours later the job is finally done and I'm too whupped to work on the book. I guess I'll go to plan B which is to get up early in the morning, make coffee and start hammering away.
My conversation with my media/publishing friend last night was enlightening. She basically told me that it was very difficult for a first time author to get picked up by a New York publisher. I can understand that. The sheer volume of people trying to do exactly what I'm trying to do is staggering.
She suggested that I try regional and university presses. I got online and read the information on the University of Alabama Press and I think I'll give it a shot.
I knew up front this part of the process would not be easy, but if it were, everybody would be published.
I'll keep you all updated.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I got up early this morning and drank my coffee at my computer. One of the goals for me this week was to decide on all the pieces for the Life 101 Book. I decided to go with the columns that have been (and will be) published in the Mountain Eagle. I've got all the selections written and I'm in the process of doing the edits and selecting the artwork. I'm not through but I'm close enough to smell the barn. I will have it by Sunday.
I have a call tonight with a friend in the publishing/media business. She lives in New York and I trust her opinion. She asked if the book has local, regional or national appeal. I did not know how to respond. I know local folks enjoy the column because I am approached every time I go out in public. There is no way of knowing if the book would have a wider appeal. There is so much I don't know. As it turns out, it seems that perhaps the writing is the easy part.
Getting this thing into print may be a daunting task, but I'm excited.
I have some other friends in various areas of publishing and more than one of them seems to be trying to dampen my enthusiasm. Perhaps they don't want me to get my hopes up only to be let down. What they don't understand is that I'm not trying to compete with Harry Potter or the DeVinci Code - I'm just trying to take a baby step and learn as much as I can with this first book. The more I learn the easier it will be for the next book I write. Like the old joke goes, "you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Guitar Lesson

Our friend Fred came over for dinner this evening. He is a remarkable sound and recording engineer guy. We have written some songs with him. He has always been behind the console and has not tried his hand at playing. I encouraged him to give it a try. He was hesitant at first but he started picking up chords and changes very quickly. I expect he'll be a picker withing a few months. We started out with basic chords, which is all I know, and I showed him how chords fit together. I think it is important to have people playing songs quickly. A lot of people have told me the reason that they didn't stick with music is because they spent too much time on theory and not enough time playing songs. Fred has that type of personality that enables him to stick to things until he masters them.
I really don't know a lot about music....let me correct that, I know next to nothing about how to read music, but I have a knack for teaching people how to play guitar. I've taught a ton of folks to play. There are some that I got started and they have left me in the dust. I'll probably have to wear a mask around Fred too because I have a feeling he will be good.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Leapin Lenna

Uncle Pete was a wizard with an ax, chisel, hammer and blow torch. He and his family lived next door to us after we moved into our new Jim Walter house in West Pratt. He got out of a job one fall as the weather started cooling off and he decided to haul coal for people to make some money. The problem was, he didn't have a truck. What he did have was an old 47 Chevy sedan. The old sedan was a two-door and the top sort of rounded off toward the back bumper.
Early on a Saturday morning, uncle Pete pulled the car right up in front of the old home place and started collecting his tools. All the kids in the camp gathered around because when uncle Pete started a project, it was almost always interesting.
He started on top of the old Chevy just behind the front seat and began whacking a single edge ax with a sledge hammer. He made a straight cut right across the top and then used the blow torch and the chisel to cut the rest of the top off down to the back windows. There was some tense moments as he cut around the gas tank with the torch but he completed the cutting without fatalities.
He then ripped out the back seat and built a flat bed out of sawmill lumber and fitted it to the assembly. He also built a wall that fitted up against the back seats which boxed in the cab of the homemade truck. He cut a hole in the wall and installed an old window that was intended for a house.
It was a festive event for all the kids because watching the truck take shape was something you didn't see every day.
After he had hammered down all the sharp edges and secured the wooden bed, he got out a can of paint and painted the contraption fire engine red. He painted the boards on the outside of the bed white. On the back fender (what was left of it) he painted the words: "Leapin Lenna." Not sure where he got the name but it seemed to fit somehow.
Uncle Pete hauled coal all winter long in Leapin' Lenna and when spring rolled around the old truck was sagging a little in the middle and began to look quite sad. It wasn't long before he traded Lenna off for some other old car. All us kids were taking bets as to whether the newer car would make it through the next fall with the top intact.

Monday, September 03, 2007


I've decided to take vacation this week. Jilda is still struggling with some kind of lung gunk and the doctor told her to get a few weeks rest so she's taking off work and I decided to take off too.
I've got several projects on which I need to work.
Our walking path has grown up with sage, buckeye bushes, and blackberry briers. I walked down it today and hacked my way through with a machete but the path is a long way from being clear enough for Jilda to walk. She has this thing about snakes and prefers to walk down clear paths where she can see. I called her a scardy-cat and she whacked me with a buckeye. You'd think I would have learned not to harass her by now.
I'm also collecting art for the much discussed book project. What I've decided to do is to use the columns that were published in the Mountain Eagle. I plan to shoot some pictures for some of the pieces, use old photographs when I have them and use some of Jilda's artwork. I still have to write about fifteen columns but I have already started some of them. I'll keep you all posted.
I also plan to practice guitar this week. I've been woefully negligent in my practice habits and it showed the last time The Overalls practiced. We have a gig in a few weeks and I want to be sharp.
So there, you know what I plan to do with my vacation. I hope you all have a great week. Do something remarkable.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Labor Day

Labor Day is a federal designated holiday that began when congress passed an act in 1892 at the urging of the Central Labor Union. It was a day set aside to honor the "working man" and it falls on the first Monday in September.
To most folks today it is simply the last holiday of summer but I came from a family of coal miners all of which were union men and the holiday held more significance for them and for me.
I too was in a labor union in the late 70's and early 80's. In fact the last time the Communication Workers of America went on strike against Ma Bell in 1983, I was in the thick of things. As laborers, we were expected to walk the picket lines which were set up at company locations.
My duty was from midnight until 7 a.m. I showed up early with my cooler full of snacks, soft drinks, coffee, and sandwiches. I also took my guitar which proved to be a hit with the other strikers. I started playing protest songs written by Woody Guthry and other traditional songs. When a car or van would drive on to company property we'd all stand up and say nasty things about the "replacement workers" and their families - both past and present. It was a fun experience. I can tell you that had the strike lasted much longer the exchange between those who chose to cross the picket line would not have been so lighthearted.
I've read stories about strikes involving coal miners in the 1800's in which many people on both sides of the issue lost their lives. It was serious business back then.
Now days most young people talk about unions as if they were something to be despised. Most of them are surprised when I take up for unions. I know they have gotten a bad rap for standing behind worthless workers, but the unions did a great deal more than most people realize. Many of the benefits that people enjoy today came about at great costs to union members who sacrificed to get company concessions. Health care, vacation, and decent pay are just a few of the things they fought for and won. Working conditions were unimaginable before labor unions forced both companies and the federal government to make improvements.
I know there are those who feel that unions have outlived their purpose but I for one don't want to take away from what they did for the workers of America.
So tomorrow, I plan to throw some BBQ ribs on the grill, drink a cold one and say thanks to the "working man".

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The River

I drove down to the river this morning and sat for a while there on the bank. It's a place where the Warrior is deep and it's the color of jade. I saw all kinds of wildlife - a crane, a muskrat, and a bass that looked as if it could swallow my truck.
I sat under the shade of a giant white oak and watched leaves drift slowly by. I could hear the sound of tree frogs singing their autumn songs. I love the sights, sounds and smells of the river. It seems so timeless. Off in the distance I heard the sound of an outboard motor and I watched as two fishermen slowly made their way past me in a small john-boat. One man looked towards the bank and saw me sitting there and he waved a friendly greeting before turning his face forward to watch for logs and other debris that is common to those waters. I broke off a stem from small three that had fallen nearby and chewed on it as I contemplated the mysteries of life.
I find it hard to believe that it is already September 1st. It seems that this year has flown by. When I was younger it seemed that time dragged but that's probably because I was always waiting for something - waiting until I was sixteen so that I could get my drivers license; waiting until I graduated from high school; waiting until I got drafted; and waiting until I got out of the Army. During those years time moved slower than cold molasses but those days are gone now. In the blink of an eye blocks of your life have scooted by and you have to think hard to remember where you spent your time.
But there is one good thing about September- college football season kicks off today and hopefully it will be a good year for The Tide.

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