Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Peeps

We went out early this morning to check the garden to see how much it had grown since yesterday. Wearing our pj's and our coffee was still steaming in our mugs, Jilda veered off to check on the nesting Flossy. All of a sudden I heard a little squeal which could only mean a few things - either stepped on a copperhead snake or the new peeps had arrived. I was hoping for the latter.
I hustled over as quickly as I could without spilling my coffee and sure enough there was the head of a tiny little yellow peep sticking out from the mass of feather.
I sit my coffee down and ran inside to get my camera but before I got back, Flossy stood up in the nest and the peep scooted back to the safety of her mother's underside.
I'll keep my camera handy for the next few days and get a photo.
I hope you all have a great weekend.

Friday, May 30, 2008

When Bad Seeds are Planted

Jilda and I wrote a song a few years ago called "You Can't Fly Like and Eagle on the Wings of a Wren" Like a lot of our songs, it has an inspirational leaning.
One of the verses goes:
When bad seeds are planted
The harvest is thin.
The song was written with a lofty appeal, but it is the truth even on a literal level.
Several weeks ago we bought a batch of black-eyed pea seeds from a local Super Center and headed home to plant them. We took the usual care placing them in the ground and waited for the little guys to pop out....we waited and waited and they never did.
Last Saturday we went to the local farmer's co-op and bought a batch of pea seeds. We planted them Monday and today they were popping out everywhere. It looked as if every seed we planted sprouted.
I'm not sure what the difference is, but we've had similar experiences in the past. When I mentioned this to the guy at the co-op, he could have piled on and slammed the Super Center, but he kept quite as he scooped out our seeds with an old scoop that had probably scooped enough pea seeds to feed a small country.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lighten My Load

I bought a cheap backpack about a year ago and it started self destructing a few weeks ago. Of course the fact that I carry around about sixty pounds of stuff probably contributed to its demise. So I went online and did some shopping. I found a heavy duty leather backpack from an online vendor in New York City. It's made with beautiful brown leather as thick as a shoe.
The new bag arrived today and I spent some time removing stuff that I don't really need. That's hard because somewhere deep inside I hear this little voice saying - you'll need that. Mark my word, you'll need it tomorrow.
Well, I'm going out on a limb here. I've made up my mind to chance it. I'm going to lighten my load. If I find that I need something I left home, I'll buy a new one to keep at work.
I feel taller already.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Math

I've had some wacky jobs in my life. When I was in high school I did the obvious things - cut grass, did errands for folks, cleaned out chicken houses (a lousy job), caught chickens (for a large firm that raised and processed chickens), and worked as a bricklayer's assistant. But before I could drive, I picked cotton.
Johnny Watson (no relations) would come by with his big old truck early in the morning. It was in early September when the cotton boles were bursting open with their white payloads. Getting in the fields early had its advantages because, thanks to the morning due, cotton weighs more in the morning. So the idea was to pick like crazy when it's cool and the cotton is wet. Since you got paid by the pound, you needed to have as much weight marked up on your tally sheet before the cotton got dry and the sun got high.
The last time I ever picked, I worked as hard as I've ever worked and I only picked 101 pounds.
They were paying 3 cents a pounds so I took home a whopping $3.03. After that, I took to collecting empty Coke and Pepsi bottles. The deposit on them was 3 cents but thanks to litterbugs in Sloss Hollow, I could pick up $5 worth of bottles in a few hours.
It didn't take me long to do the math.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ol' Buddy and the Rain

Ol' Buddy loves to meet me in the evenings when I drive into the yard from work. Jilda says he starts whining at the door about 4:30 each evening, wanting to go outside. He comes to the end of the walkway and lies there waiting.
When he hears the crunching of gravel under my tires, he starts barking and wagging his whole bottom end. He is one happy dog. Before I unload my backpack from the truck, he races up to me and runs circles around me. I have to pet him up good before I can head in. He then charges ahead as if to tell the world MY DADDY'S HOME, GET SUPPER ON THE TABLE!!!
Today as I got closer to home, the rain was pouring like Niagara Falls and my driveway was like a pond. Ol' Buddy was not outside, because he hates the rain. He was up on the screen porch, barking me up good. I had to go up on the porch and go into the house from the side door and pet him there. He's a funny little creature.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Veteran's Day

I woke up this morning thinking about our troops. As of today, we have lost 4081 soldiers since the war in Iraq began back on March 20 2003. I don't know how many have been injured in one way or another. I am humbled when I think of their sacrafice.
But you know, this is nothing new. This country was born out of an armed conflict. A ragtag group of soldiers under the command of General George Washington managed to eek out a miraculous victory over England which allow us to become what we are today.
Since then we have had numerous conflicts which required the men and women of our country to respond. They always have and that is what has made our country great. We enjoy the freedoms we have today because of our veterans. I, for one, am grateful to each and every one of them.
Below is a piece that makes its rounds every so often. I get a lot of jokes, chain emails, and other stuff that I've see a hundred times and it gets deleted quicker that you can say bye, bye. But I always read the piece below, now matter how many times it is sent.
I hope you have a great Memeorial Day and if given the opportunity, thank a vet.

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN,
who salutes the Flag,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Work Day

I love days like today. The sun burned off a thin layer of early morning fog and we had our coffee and cereal on the deck.
I've had issues with my tools lately but I've finally gotten everything back in good shape. I bought a new chainsaw, serviced the weed-eater, lawnmower, and power sprayer. I cleaned and tuned up the troybilt tiller and sharpened all the hand tools.
I spent the day working in the yard which is an activity I love. I had let things get a little gnarly, but by this evening it was looking good again.
Jilda has to work tomorrow so we decided to celebrate Memorial Day today. This evening she fired up the old charcoal grill and we threw on some onions, squash, and bratwurst. Yum.
We had a couple stumps in the yard that were just high enough for me to hit with the lawnmower. My friend Steve showed me a trick to try. You get a metal bucket and cut out the bottom. You set the bucket over the stump and pile on several charcoal briquettes. I fired up the briquettes and let them burn all morning. When I went out this evening to check, the stumps were ashes and what was left was the holes where they once had been. I grabbed the wheel barrow and hauled a little dirt to fill in the holes and WA-LA - I can cut the yard without having to raise the blade.
I hope you all have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

40th Reunion

Today is the 40th Reunion of my high school class of 1968. It is actually the exact date. May 24th 1968. Incidentally, on this day in 1968, I had my first date with Jilda. I asked her to be my date for graduation.
I've been working on a slideshow for most of the morning and I'll post a link to it later. The file if fairly large with almost 90 images and five minutes of music, so if you don't have fast access, I would not try to view it.
http://dorahighschool.com/SlideShows/Projects/Classof68SlideShowWithMusic.html

If we are not too late, I'll add to this post.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Graduation

Call me a wus, but I get choked up at graduations. We watched my niece Samantha, who lives next door walk tonight and pick up her diploma. She has been a special part of our lives ever since she was first born. Her mom and dad both worked and at that time, Jilda did not work outside the home so Samantha spent most days with us. I worked from home a good bit so I had the good fortune to watch her grow into a beautiful young woman.
Tonight as I listened to the graduation march and I saw her coming down that isle, I got a lump in my throat. I am really proud of her, and all the graduating class of 2008. I hope they go forth and do remarkable things.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pillars of the Earth

It seems like weeks ago that I mentioned the book, "Pillars of the Earth" that I've been reading. I said then that I felt like it was going to be an exceptional book. Well, the jury is in and I can say without a doubt that it is a REALLY good book.
It's about life in England back in the 1100's and the theme revolves around the building of a Cathedral by a very determined Monk. The story has adventure, sex, violence and the inevitable struggle between good and evil. On top of all that, it ends well.
It's hard to imagine how Ken Follet managed to weave all the stories together into a cohesive storyline, but he did masterfully.
I highly recommend this book - but be forewarned, unless you are a really fast reader, it will take a while to complete.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Off Course

I've drifted a little off course lately. Since going back with the phone company, I have busier than a hummingbird on amphetamines. That's good in one way, but I haven't had time to think. I've also gotten out of the daily routine of walking. I tell myself I don't have time, but as we all know, that's simply not true.
What's happened is that I've been so task oriented, that I've strayed away from the habits that make me productive.
Realizing where you're going wrong is half the battle. So today, I carved out a little time between calls to go for a nice walk. It's warming up here in Alabama and it won't be long before a mid-afternoon walk will be pretty much out of the question so I took advantage of the nice weather.
It is my intention to get back on track tomorrow. Carve out a little time to think, a time to plan, and time to get a little exercise. That should get me back on course.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weather Stuff

I've got to write fast - clouds are moving in from the west and I can hear thunder stomping closer by the minute.
Coming over the mountain on Arkadelphia road this evening, I could see angry clouds to the north but when I looked southward toward the direction of my house, the skies were blue with white puffy clouds. I thought we were home free, but apparently I was not born with the weather forecasting gene switched on in my dna. Jilda is a forecaster extraordinaire. She looks for rings around the moon, the posture of cows, the distant cawing of crows and the latest forecast on The Weather Channel. She's rarely wrong.
Our corn and okra could use a few days of hot dry weather, but ever since the drought last year, I made a personal pledge not to complain about the rain. Our area has had normal rainfall so far this year, but the water tables are still below normal. So I'm going to get life jackets for the tomatoes and hope for the best.
LIGHTENING STRIKE!!! REALLY CLOSE!!!! My goodness, look how late it has gotten. Signing off for now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Backwater

I dreamed about the backwater last night and I woke up smiling. I'm not sure where that came from, but it was as vivid as an I-Max movie. The backwater is a natural lake down below Old Dora, that comes off the Black Warrior River.
It was an ecosystem that had acres of lily pads, and all manner or waterfowl, fish, frogs, lazy turtles and cottonmouth moccasins as big as small gators. When I learned to ride bicycle, my friends and I spent countless hours down there fishing, exploring and swimming.
We used to camp out on the banks of that lake and fight off mosquitoes as big as small choppers. I leaned to play guitar down at the backwater.
I went fishing with my brother down there one time and he had less patience than me. I could fish all day without catching anything and I was fine, but he wanted some fish on his stringer or he got in a fowl mood. We had fished all day and were tired, hungry and we had not had a bite. Discouraged, we decided to head home. We had to climb up about a sixty foot embankment to get back to his car and once we were up there, we decided to walk back over the railroad trestle to have one last look at the water. From up there, we spotted a huge bass frolicking around in the lily pads. Neil was so aggravated, he took his cane pole in his had and threw it like a spear toward the water. The fishing pole sailed straight and true and speared that fish right through the back. He looked at me and howled and we both scrambled back down the embankment. He pulled off his pants and shirt and went in after the fish and the pole.
That story is one reason that whenever I think of the backwater, I always get a smile on my face.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Beacon House Kids

The folks from the Beacon House asked us last week if we could consider playing for the kids this evening. Jilda and I used to volunteer at the Beacon House, which is a temporary home for disadvantaged youths. It was rewarding work, but our schedules became more hectic and we drifted away from that work. It was rewarding and I'm glad we invested the time.
When we started playing tonight, I wasn't sure how we would be received. We don't listen to pop radio so I have no idea what kids are listening to these days, but I was fairly sure it wasn't the kind of music we play. We played a few songs and some of them began to come around. By the time we had finished we coaxed a smile out of everyone.
I feel for these kids. It's easy to put a label on them, but I've learned some of their stories and I can't say with any certainty that if I were their age here and now, that I would behave any differently. Statistic show that some of these kids will survive and thrive, but some of them will crash and burn before they ever reach adulthood.
I wish there were words, or medicine, or some kind of magic wand that you could use to help make their lives better. But those things are the stuff of dreams. But the least I can do is visit them now and again and share a little music, and put a smile on their faces for a little while.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rare and Beautiful Day

This weekend was the Blackwater Bluegrass Festival and the weather could not have been better. It was overcast yesterday but the temps were pleasant and the music was good. One of my all time favorite country/bluegrass voices was there and he was in great form. Marty Rabon, who was once the front man for the wildly popular country group Shenandoah, now has his own bluegrass band. They are a tight group and one of the best kept secrets in Bluegrass. Marty is also a heck of a nice guy. I went back stage before his group went on and shot some photos. I asked if he would be recording any time soon and he said they were about 90% finished on his latest project. I asked if he would consider listening to one of the songs that Jilda and I wrote. He said he would so I gave him a CD. He looked me in the eye and said, "I'll listen to it brother." It might not be right for his project, but I have no doubt that he will do as he said.
Jilda had to work yesterday and couldn't go, but today we pack a small cooler with drinks, loaded up the lawn chairs and headed out around lunch time. The crowd was larger this time than ever before. I could see my friend George smiling when I pulled up. He owns Blackwater Park and he's never made any money. I could tell last year he was getting really discouraged but this festival was good and I think it has given him hope.
Once inside, we set up the lawn chairs and kicked back. It felt good to be alive. I shot about a hundred photos of the crown and the bands. We also bought a couple of BBQ rib sandwiches that reminded my why I love the south. The meat was falling off the bone and the sauce was a mixture of sweet, spicy and tangy. I felt like I needed a shower when I finished.
We howdy'ed up with some old friends, told stories on one another, and blissed out while we listened to the music from the stage and the rushing waters of the Blackwater River which is close enough to spit in if you were so inclined.
Our buddy Fred was supposed to ride up to the festival with us, but he came down with a stomach bug and the last moment and had to cancel. Hope you feel better Fred and we hate you missed the festival because it was a rare and beautiful day.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

River Fun

I plan to spend more time on the river this summer. Last summer things got crazy and we were pulled from pillar to post and did not do some of the things we love most - which is riding on the river with a boatload of friends is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. All you need a boat, a bunch of friends and a designated boat captain and you’re in business.
Both my friends Terry and Tom live on the river and both have boats. In years past, you would find us on the water at least two weekends out of the month. Dale, a writer friend, was visiting a few years ago and I told him we were thinking about heading to the river on Saturday. He didn’t have a lot going on, so he agreed. A short time later, we were on the water having too much fun. We talked Dale into getting on the inner tube. He had never spent much time on the water but he was game, so we strapped a life jacket on him, hitched him to a long rope and took him for the ride of his life. We headed upstream at a slow clip – about twenty knots. We passed blue herons, and cranes. Near the banks we passed logs sticking up out of the water and on the entire length would be river turtles sunning in the warm summer sun. We turned around near the Alabama Power steam plant and headed back down stream. Gently weaving, we lured Dale into a false sense of confidence. Then someone suggested, “Let’s do Moses and the Bulrush.” We all looked at each other and nodded in agreement. Everyone in the boat, at some point in the past, had been on that inner tube when someone suggested Moses in the Bulrush. It was almost like a right of passage. The captain jammed the accelerator to full throttle and all of a sudden, the inner tube was only hitting the high spots on the water. The weaving became more erratic which caused the swings of the inner tube to become greater. Along the river in several places, reeds and cattails grow near the bank. The keen instincts of the boat captain timed the zig and the zag so that Dale wound up in the cattails at warp speed. We were all watching with curiosity and when Dale emerged out of the shallows, he gave a loud WAHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
When we got to the dock, he was still picking reeds and lily pads out of his swimsuit but he had a smile on his face that can only be described as bliss. He could look someone in the eye and say with all honesty, that he had the time of his life.
So if anyone out there wants to get some reeds in their swimsuits, send me a note. I think I can make it happen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Small Birds

I started to writing on the back deck after dinner tonight. Jilda prepared a dish of black beans and rice which is one of my favorite vegetarian meals. After eating I fetched my laptop and a glass of Merlot and set up on the wrought iron table.
I looked around for inspiration but nothing came to mind. I could hear chimney sweeps chirping as they darted about trying to snag some mosquitoes for their supper. I smelled the rain before I felt the first drop tap on my head. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed saw the mama bluebird dart into the house I built and attached to the sweet gum tree by the deck. An instant later she was out and papa bluebird darted in and out. That could only mean one thing - the babies were here.
I tiptoed down and peered into the tiny hole the blue's use for doorway. I made a little whistling sound with my tongue and teeth that must have sounded familiar to the babies because I could see three tiny, featherless creatures opening their mouths ready to receive whatever gifts their parents were bringing.
I did not linger at the nest because bluebirds are quite protective and I really didn't feel like getting my tail kicked two days in a row by small birds.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Attila the Hen

Flossy the chicken is back on the nest. I couldn't bare to see her starving while sitting on unfertilized eggs for three weeks, so when Jilda visited her older sister on Saturday, she got four fertilized eggs. This way she may have a few chicks to show for the time she spent starving. On Saturday afternoon when we tried to shoo her off the nest to put the eggs in, she came off that nest like a chainsaw. She broke two of the new eggs I was holding and then pecked my legs a few times. I had on long pants and she couldn't do any damage, so she set her sights on Jilda and tore after her. Jilda squealed and fled as the angry bird chased her. I managed to place the eggs in the nest and then distracted Flossy so that Jilda could escape. I grinned and told Jilda that there was no way Flossy could hurt her. I can be strong headed, but when I'm wrong, I'm wrong.
Jilda went by her sister's house today to get a couple of replacement eggs and when I tried to shoo Flossy off the nest this evening, she pecked me hard on the wrist. She got in a lucky shot and hit a small vein. I bled like a stuck pig. When I got the bleeding stopped, there was a puncture wound the size of a ten penny nail in my wrist, and it hurt like crazy.
I made a management decision that I'm not going to fool with that chicken even if she sits on that nest until she turns to dust.
"I guess I can now call you hen-pecked," she said with a smile. Turn about is fair play.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Good Look at the Moon

I've had my telescope for a few weeks now and before tonight, I haven't seen anything except the bat house that's on the side of the barn. I struggled with setup the first few evenings and then the rain moved in.
Tonight I looked up in the evening sky and there was a half moon shining brightly. I pulled out the telescope and lined it towards the heavens but nothing. I focused pointed, moved, focused, and pointed...nothing. I squatted down and tried to aim it like a gun. Nothing. I remembered that there were two viewing lenses. One is much stronger than the other. I thought the short lens would be for objects that were closer and the longer one for things farther off. Wrong. When I looked at the book, I had it backwards. I slipped in the long lens and bingo. I saw the moon. At first, it was so bright that it almost hurt to look at it but as my eyes adjusted it became easier. The face of the moon looked like it had a bad case of acne. You could see craters and crevices. I wanted to try and see some stars, but a high altitude haze moved in which made the night sky look as if it were wearing a veil. Oh well, I'll give it another shot tomorrow night.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It wasn't meant for me to sleep

We had another close call with the weather last night. Lightening struck a tree somewhere in the hollow beside our house and all of a sudden all the dogs wanted in bed with us.
I got up and turned on the local weather and there were spinning things all over the screen. The weather guys said "if you live in Empire, now would be a good time to be in your safe place." Our safe place is my bathroom which is in the center of the house. It's small but got even smaller with four dogs crammed in there. Black, the biggest dog in the bunch wanted to sit in my lap. He weighs about 90 pounds and is a big baby.
We stayed in our safe place until the wind and thunder subsided and thought things were all clear, but when I checked the weather before going back to bed, there was another twister heading toward us. So back in the safe place we went for another 30 minutes. We heard the storm high in the sky as it passed overhead. When I checked the weather again, there were reports of damage a few miles away from us. There were massive treed blowing into Interstate 65 and had to be shut down for a time.
When we got the all clear we were headed to bed when the phone rang. I looked at the clock and it was 2 a.m. There was a problem at work so I got on the phone and remained there until 8 a.m. this morning. I guess it wasn't meant for me to sleep last night.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

JohnRoses

Our JohnRoses are in full bloom now. These roses are the small tea roses and they grow on a vine. These are pink, but I've seen them in red too. We call them JohnRoses because we got the vines from our old friend John Elliott. Jilda is a flower freak and she's not afraid to ask for cuttings when we visit friends. In fact she carries an Army entrenching tool in the trunk of her car for just such occasions. We were visiting John and his wife Linda in April of 1988 I think. We had only been in our house for a few years and the yard looked kind of mangy. We were in need of something that would spread and help cover the bare bank down near our mailbox.
It's a good thing I was in my truck because we dug up a passel of roses.
Every time I see these roses I think of John. We lost John during the great Alabama blizzard of 1993. He had been diagnosed with some kind of fast spreading cancer only a few weeks before. We knew his days were limited, but no one had a clue that he would slip away so fast.
John was one of those rare individuals that was bigger than life. He had the deep booming voice of a lawyer but he didn't practice law. His father was a U.S. Senator and his family were friends of John and Jackie Kennedy.
He had an old Martin guitar and he played the old songs. Bluegrass was his favorite music and it was rare for him to miss a bluegrass festival within driving distance.
We met John just after Jilda and I got married. We had been invited to a ranch party up above Jasper. The ranch parties were infamous. Almost every Saturday, sixty or seventy people showed up with truckloads of beer, fried chicken, corn on the cob, platters of hamburgers and hotdogs. And of course, everyone who could play brought guitars, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas and any other instrument they had. It was not uncommon for the music to go until morning.
On our first night at the ranch, John stormed into our lives on the back of a horse. That in itself is not that odd, but we were sitting in the living room of the ranch house. John ducked under the door frame and rode up to the couch and asked for a Budweiser. Jilda and I were freaked, but the crowd parted and someone handed him a beer as if it were a routine request.
I've got a lot of stories about John Elliott because he was a remarkable person and a great friend. I miss him, but on days like today when I step down to get the mail and the JohnRoses are showing out, I feel connected to our old friend.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Listening to the Birds

I did yoga this morning and it felt great. The last week or so I have been distracted and didn't have time to do yoga but I missed it. Yesterday, I seemed to be gritting my teeth and I felt a little off center. So this morning, I got up a little earlier and made it happen. I always seem to feel a little lighter after yoga.
While the coffee was brewing I stepped out on the deck at the first signs of light. Off to the west I could see the moon heading down and I heard what seemed like a thousand birds in concert. Some near and some farther away. Doves, orioles, cardinals, and whip-o-wills all singing their parts. I recorded a few seconds on my mp3 player http://homefolkmedia.com/birds.mp3
Recording nature is like trying to capture a sunset with a camera. It always misses the mark, but I think you'll get the idea. The metallic sound is dew dripping off the gutters on chaise lounger.
My day today went much smoother. I think anytime you can find the time to listen to the birds it puts other things into perspective.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spring in Alabama

Storms raked through the area today like a misbehaving rug-rat. I'm in a huge building and my area is toward the center but I could hear the slamming and rumbling of thunder for most of the afternoon.
Jilda works at a local rehab place and they spent the afternoon in the basement packed in like sardines. She was not a happy camper when I got home.
The upside is we got another good shower and I could see our blueberry bushes rejoicing over the back fence. The corn seems to have grown several inches and the okra will be like kudzu if the rain continues to fall.
I'm going to plant some more stuff this weekend. I've also got to take down a small tree at the edge of our garden plot. It's shading the west end of the garden and things simply won't grow down there. I really don't like cutting trees but sometimes it can't be helped.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mama

I was brainstorming today trying to come up with a good Mother's Day column for the Daily Mountain Eagle. One thought I had was "The Five Things I Most Love About My Mama"
1. Her sense of humor - The other day when I asked her how she feels, she said "with my hands."
2. Her sense of charity - my mother has lived below poverty levels for most of her life, but she has always found $20 to give to a family who lost everything in a fire or suffered some other kind of misfortune.
3. Her sense of what's right - you never had to wonder where she stood when it came to doing what's right. I believe she has always done right, even when no one else was watching.
4. Her work ethic - before she became frail these last few years, she would work rings around most anyone. She taught us all to work hard at what ever was at hand. I must say, I didn't see the wisdom in these words when I was younger, but as I get older, I've come to realize that it's what sets people apart.
5. Her apple pie - she has the recipe for an apple turnover pie that is so good, it's difficult to describe. My mom knows that Jilda and I try to eat as healthy as possible so whenever Jilda would ask her for the recipe for that apple pie, she would say "I'll write that down for you some time." But she never did. One day a few years ago, after we had both eaten two big helpings of that pie, Jilda asked her again for the recipe. My mom started to hedge but then said - if I tell you, you'll never eat it again. Jilda promised that we would. Mom said OK, you start out with some apples, two cups of sugar, lard, two sticks of butter.............we both understood why she didn't want to give up the recipe. But we both agreed, that if a few pieces of that pie killed us, then we'd die happy.
Don't forget Mother's Day this Sunday.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Heading Home

We ambled back home from Mississippi about mid-day and the weather was perfect for driving. We put Zachery Richard in the cd player, slid back the sunroof and headed east.
When we reached the county road that takes us to I-20/59, I instinctively wanted to go straight. Jilda fetched the road atlas from the back seat and tried to find the road on the map but like Alabama, Mississippi has a spider web of narrow paved roads with a canopy of trees reaching over the road like a green tunnel. Since there were no signs pointing us to civilization, we decided to take the road we routinely take. About a mile down that road, we saw something ahead. As we approached, we saw that someone was trying to back a mobile home onto a narrow lot. They were using a farm tractor to move it, but the tractor was trying to get a good angle on the driveway and had somehow pulled too far into a ditch on the roadside which left the trailer totally blocking the road. It didn't take an engineer to understand that this road would be blocked for hours.
We backup up a ways and turned in the driveway of a small church and headed back to the intersection where my intuition had told me to go. We hung a right and a few miles down the road, we saw a sign for Aliceville which was on our map and we could find a path to Tuscaloosa and from there we knew how to get home.
We came around a curve and saw a remarkable old church in the Clinton community. I pulled off the side of the road and grabbed a quick picture. The church was as old as the hills, but still well maintained.
After we shot the photos, we headed on through Aliceville, Alabama which was a delightful little town with some beautiful old houses.
We made it home early afternoon and promptly took a nap. It was refreshing and afterward, I went out and watered the blueberries. We have six blueberry bushes now and I believe we'll have fruit next year if we don't have another drought this summer.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

I love Mississippi. We drove over to Jackson this morning and took the slow way down highway 16 and came into Jackson from the northeast. Like Louisiana, Mississippi has brackish water in some of their lakes and rivers. Wildlife loves this place. We saw great blue herons, majestic white cranes and lots of other water fowl and critters.....we also saw a buzzard ripping the guts out of an armadillo, which was not a highpoint of our day.
We stopped a Borders Book store out on highway 25 browsed the books for awhile. We don't have Borders Book stores in Birmingham and I'm not quite sure why.
We made our way at lunchtime to Juleps restaurant in Jackson. It's our favorite restaurant in Jackson. The interior of the place was buzzing so we chose to sit at one of the tables out in the little hall that connects Juleps with other stores in Highlands Mall. We feared the service would suffer, but found out quickly that there was no need to worry. We had our sweet tea and hot homemade roles in a matter of minutes, our salads soon there after and before we finished those we had our Shrimp and Grits. Yum!!!
We may go home a different way tomorrow to see if we can find any more photo ops. There are so many unique towns and cities off the beaten path in Alabama and Mississippi. There is always a neat old church, an antebellum house or barn that looks like it's been here since the beginning of time. Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Headed South

Tomorrow, May 5th is our anniversary and we headed southwest after lunch. Ol' Buddy was mad as a hornet because he knows when we pack our travel bags we'll be gone overnight and he is not happy. In fact, when we get home, I'm sure the stuff in our bathroom wastebaskets will be shredded into a million pieces. That's what he does when he's upset. We understand that and in fact, we make sure we leave some paper and some other stuff in there that's safe for him to destroy.
We took a side trip to Eutaw, Alabama. It's south and west of Tuscaloosa. It's about five miles off I-20 and in the heart of the Bible belt. Neither of us had ever been but someone had told us about the beautiful houses there that were built before the Civil War.
We came across the Kirkland house on highway 43 that runs through Eutaw. There were several others but the light wasn't right.
We also came across a large hayfield and someone had had a large time with the bales of hay.
I can hear Jilda's stomach growling so I guess it's time to go eat.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Pillars

I'm reading a massive book by Ken Follet call "Pillars of the Earth". I had the book on my wishlist for months because I hated to invest in a book that I wouldn't listen to. I finally bit the bullet last month and I started listening to it this week and it's hard to turn my mp3 player off.
The description was a little "iffy" because it's about a guy many centuries ago that dreamed of building a Cathedral. I read the reviews and they were all great. That's usually a good sign. Sometimes a bad author can put out a book and get all his friends to give it great reviews and it will slide by for a while, but when you get consistently great reviews, that's a decent indicator that it really is a good book.
I'm only about a third of the way through it so I can't give a resounding two thumbs up just yet, but unless the author disappoints me in the remaining pages, I will definitely give it a good review.
What's interesting about Follet is that he was a successful "thriller" author. He had had a lot of success, but he wanted to write a "bigger" novel. Everyone tried to discourage him, but he persisted.
The book got luke warm reviews and didn't chart that well at first, but something remarkable happened. Word of mouth, which in my opinion is the best kind of advertising, kicked in and made the book a classic.
Again, I'm not finished yet, but I feel pretty sure you'll be hearing more good stuff about this book soon.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Universe is Trying to Tell Me Something

I have been with At&T for 29 days and my team has been going wide open. Yesterday, out of the blue, I got an email from the company saying that they are in the beginning stages of force reductions. They want to know if I'm interested in a "buyout". I'm still not quite sure if they sent it to me by accident of if I qualify. If so, I'm thinking about taking the offer.
I've spent the last few years wondering if I'm going to have a job. I'm weary of that stress. Depending on the quality of the buyout, I may leave it with them and write, farm, and play music.
I haven't done the numbers, because I didn't think I'd have to for some time, but I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Advice

If something was going so fast it couldn't be stopped; hit something so hard it couldn't be moved, what would happen? How far is up? How long is a short piece of rope? These are all excellent tools when you get into a really boring conversation with a ATP. For those of you who are unfamiliar with ATP, it is short for Acutely Talkative Person. When you are talking....actually when you are listening to an ATP, you may notice that it appears the other person never takes a breath. They prattle on endlessly about their illnesses, their accomplishments, about their problems or about their views on religion or perhaps cottage cheese; but after about fifteen minutes of being held captive you want to jab a railroad spike through your ear to get a little relief.
I've found that if you can interrupt them just long enough to make a non-sense statement, it tends to derail their train of thought and it gives you a chance to flee.
Another effective line I've used more times than one is: I caught a trout on a crawfish once. The jabber-meister usually reels uncertainly trying to get their arms around what you just said. They wonder if the lack of oxygen has finally done permanent irreparable damage to their motor systems and while they are trying to recover, you say "hey, look at the time, I've got to run!"
Now this is important, if they call after you, NEVER respond. You must act as if you never heard what they said. If you respond, it gives them time to reload and might as well go searching for a spike.

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