Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hot and Dry

I had to get out at the crack of dawn and water our plants this morning. The temps are brutal right now with no relief in sight. I know a lot of the country is faced with the same kind of weather, so whining is not a viable option.
The garden is barely surviving. We have really good water right out of the tap, but it has chlorine added  which I'm guessing plants don't like.
We have an under the counter filter that makes the water we drink better than most bottled water, but that's not helping the plants.
Jilda's mom Ruby, who was a gardener extraordinaire, always said that "all city water can do is keep a garden alive. It will not thrive." 
I've found her words to be true. We do have a well down at the barn that has never gone dry no matter how hot the summer. We don't have a pump in the well, but we have an old fashion well bucket (bail) that you can lower down to the water with a rope and pull up water that's clean, tastes great, and is as cold as a Popsicle. 
I've considered putting a pump in the well and using that water hydrate our garden. I have a feeling that it would be as good as for the plants as a spring rain.
I'm not sure when the thermometer will recede. Some years it takes a hurricane in the gulf to move the high pressure off to the east and bring some relief to this part of the country.
I don't wish a hurricane on our folks who are already battered by the oil spill, but I sure would like for the days to cool off a bit.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Jilda and I don't have children, but her brother Ricky lives next door and he with his wife Debbie have three kids that "we claim". All three of these kids now have children of their own.
Samantha, the youngest, just got accepted into an exclusive program in the field of physical therapy at a local college.
She maintained a very high GPA in school, while raising a child on her own. Entry into the PT program was not  a sure thing. There were only a limited number of slots.
The notification was to go out for those accepted into the program by mail, and the last several weeks has been pure torture for Samantha. Each day she watched for the mail to run only to walk back to the house with junk mail or phone bills. Then finally the letter came this week, and she was IN.
Tonight, we had the entire family over for a celebration. We bought a couple bottles of champaign, Jilda baked some chocolate cupcakes, I grilled some hotdogs, and we sat around and enjoyed each other's company.
Jilda and I both are into celebrations. Milestones should be acknowledged and celebrated.
We're proud of our youngun's and we know one day, they will make a difference in this world.
(The photo above is of our great niece Daisy. Did I mention we had chocolate cupcakes?)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day in Heaven

I'm not sure how the day could have been any better. I met my friend Dan up at Riverside Fly Shop at just after 8 a.m. this morning.
We browsed in the shop looking for bargains on flies and equipment before heading up the Sipsey Fork access road to meet our guide, Mike Key.
The mist rising off the river looked almost mystical in the morning light.
Even though the forecast called for a hot day, the water that flows in the Sipsey is around 52 degrees.  This natural air conditioning made the temperature perfect for fishing.
We met up at the pumping station and walked through the woods to a well worn path down to the water.
The path was as slippery as a playground slide sprayed with WD40. I held on to roots and twigs and inched my way down.
Mike hooked Dan and I up with some handmade files and we waded off into the icy water. I was in rented waders and I'm glad because otherwise it would have been a very short fishing trip.
At first my casting was stiff and clumsy. I got my line tangled around the tip of my rod a number of times. I began to get frustrated but then a gentle breeze came down the river and I could hear turtle doves off in the distance and I began to relax and settle down.
I found my rhythm and I managed to start placing the fly near rocks and crevices where the rainbow hide.
Both Dan and Mike were catching trout, but I think the fish instinctively understood that I was frustrated and steered clear of my line.
Once I settled down, the fish started hitting my flies.
Eventually I caught a small rainbow before we had to call it a day.
Some folks would consider catching only one fish a wasted day, but to me it was a great day! I got to spend quality time with friends on the Sipsey.
A song that my friend Steve plays sums it up well when he sings: "The important part of fishing ain't the fish, but he fishing."
I couldn't agree more.
(The photo at the top is Mike Key and Dan Starnes. The bottom photo is me and Mike.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Heart of the Day

It seems that days are like a watermelons. There is a part of a good ripe watermelon called the heart. It's in the center of the melon and it is the sweetest, most juicy part. It's the part that's easiest to get to, and has the fewest seeds. 
I know this may seem like a stretch, but days are like that. For me, the morning is the heart of the day.
The phone hasn't started ringing, most chores don't have to be done until later in the day. The air is usually fresh and cool.  And, my mind is clear of debris. 
I have to be very protective of the heart of my day because it can easily slip away. Poor planning, lack of focus, or you allow someone to lay claim on it.
Fortunately, the heart of Jilda's day, is a few hours after mine. She is NOT a morning person. 
I was a little slow on the uptake on this and it almost cost me my life.
"I'm not sure what happened officer," she would explain. "But he was all chipper and bubbly before I got the first pot of coffee down, and I just snapped. I cut his head off with a paring knife."
"He tried to talk to you before you had your coffee?" the policeman would clarify. 
"Well this is a clear case of justifiable homicide boys, lets wrap this up and go have some doughnuts." 
Anyhow, now that we've been together for thirty six years, I know to keep my distance and keep quite until the fog lifts from her eyes.
I use the heart of my day to think, meditate, write, edit, and other tasks that require energy and creativity.  I'm more productive then. 
So, how do you use the heart of your day? I'm curious.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Summer of Learning

This has been an educational summer for the Rickster. First the wheelbarrow lesson I mentioned a few weeks ago, and then this week I got “first hand’ lesson in basic electricity when I accidentally touched our electric fence.
The on/off switch is WAY too close to the hot lead of the charger so I’m writing this one off to a design flaw, and not mental defect on my part.
After all, I’m a fairly smart guy. I did very well in school. I graduated from Dora High School a year early, without getting a single paddling from our principal Mr. Gant. I must admit that Mr. Woodley, our social studies teacher, did wale on my backside like Chipper Jones in batting practice, for an unwise behavioral decision on my part.
But otherwise, I would have been considered fairly smart….but I digress.
As you may recall from an earlier story, I put up a solar powered electric fence around our chicken pen to keep Rocky Raccoon from munching on our chickens. Ever since the fence went up, we’ve lost no chickens.
Apparently Rocky learned about Ohms Law the first night I installed the fence because he climbed the pole on which the charger was mounted and when he tried to scoot over, he got into the business end of the electric fence. How do I know this?  There were raccoon droppings all over the charger where the fence literally shocked the crap out of him.
I first learned about electric fences when I was about twelve years old. We were playing football at Donald Robin’s house. It was late summer and during one of the breaks, my mouth was as dry as powder and when I managed to spit (to this day I’m not sure why we are compelled to spit) the saliva strung from my mouth.
This was unfortunate for me because we had been playing next to the pigpen which had a strand of electric fencing to keep the pigs inside, and when the string of saliva touched the live wire, I thought it had knocked every tooth in my head out. I tasted copper for days afterwards and that lesson has remained with me through the years.
Jilda had a brush with electric fences too. Once when we were covering football for The Community News, we went to shoot pictures at West Jefferson.
We had to park on a side road about a hundred yards from the field. I parked next to a pasture, got out and was unloading the cameras when I heard a ruckus from the other side of the car.
It was just after dark and the grass was wet with heavy dew. Jilda opened the car door and stepped straight into an electric cattle fence.  I think the songwriter must have come out at that particular moment, because she assembled creative combinations of cuss words that would have made sailor blush. It sounded odd coming from her dainty little mouth, but I didn’t point that out until much later.
Needless to say, no one ever had to tell her to be mindful of electric fences from that day on.
So, that brings us to this week. I went out early to feed our chickens and give them fresh water. When I reached for the fence on/off switch, I inadvertently touched the hot connector of the charger and it’s a miracle that I didn’t do MY business right there.
I fired off a letter to the manufacturer of the solar charger pointing out the obvious design flaw.
I can almost hear the engineer chuckle when he reads my letter and thinks to himself: “I bet he’ll be more careful the next time he turns the fence off.” 
He would be right. I learned about electric fences when I was young, but sometimes it takes a refresher course to bring that lesson home.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A New Project

I decided record my book Remembering Big, so that people who don't enjoy reading that much, can listen. I actually love to read, but when I was working every day, and driving and hour each way, I had very little time left for reading. As a result, I listened to literally hundreds of books on tape/cd. 
If anyone looked at my audio library, they'd probably be amused. 
A sampling of what I've listened to over the past several years is:
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria

The Civil War
Atlas Shrugged
Water For Elephants
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (and the other two)
A Farewell to Arms
Robinson Caruso
Anna Karenina
War and Peace
Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Jefferson
John Adams
Undaunted Courage (Biography of Teddy Roosevelt)
Everything that James Lee Burke, Carl Hiaasen, and Wayne Dyer has written
And a bunch more......OK, perhaps as the old gospel song goes, I've Drifted Too Far From the Shore, but the bottom line is, I've decided to record my book and pitch it to audio publishers to "see if that dog will hunt", as my daddy, rest his soul, would have said.
So I sat down today and did some recording. It will take a while, but I have a goal to be totally finished by August 31.
If I don't make that target, I need some of you to lean on me.
Have a great week.

Be The One

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rain Dance

I heard thunder in the distance this evening, but the clouds move off to the east without leaving any trace of rain in its wake. The combination of heat and no rain is brutal on a garden. The squash plants are so dry, we could probably smoke them. The poor tomatoes are not far behind.
It seems the only three things that are thriving are the watermelons, the pepper, and the okra. I think hot weather just makes pepper mad because I ate a pod of cowhorn pepper that was so hot it gave me the hiccups and peeled the hide off my tongue at supper tonight. I really don't look forward to going to the bathroom in the morning. Also I should have worn latex gloves when I handled the pepper, because I wear contacts and it seems no matter how hard you wash your hands, when you remove contacts, after handling pepper, it burns your eyes like teargas.
I think it's supposed to be a full moon tonight. I think Jilda and I are going to go outside after while and do a rain dance to see if we can steer some rain clouds in our direction.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Something in Common

I learned to play guitar when I was in junior high school. I wasn't too good at first....actually, I'm thankful that no recordings of my early performances survived.
Just thinking about those early songs make me cringe. I'm really surprised that my folks didn't chop up the guitar and use if for kindling.
But those songs were part of a much longer journey. The tired old saying nails it, you have to learn to crawl before you walk. Getting good at anything takes time and practice. I invested the time, and it eventually paid off.
I've heard non musicians say "this guys is gifted. He just picked up the guitar and started to play."  I've been playing for nearly fifty years and I can say without hesitation, that I've never seen anyone simply pick up a guitar for the first time and play. What normally happens is that someone picks up a guitar and makes some sounds, then becomes consumed with music. They spend countless hours in their bedroom mastering the nuances of playing a stringed instrument. I can promise that there is a direct relationship between guitar mastery and number of hours spent practicing. People may not see it, but I assure you it happens....but I digress.
I learned to play quite young and I learned right away that it set me apart from the crowd. It made me feel special.
Music is one of the things that my lovely wife Jilda and I have in common. I played guitar for her when she sang "Gentle on my mind" in the Dora High School talent and beauty contest. She didn't win, but I thought she loPublish Postoked and sounded great!
Through the years, I've had friends that concentrated on fishing, golf, hunting, and other interests that did not include their wives. In some cases, it caused problems. You must have something in common, because after the initial lust, passion, and romance of a relationship has worn off, it's difficult to continue if you don't share a common interest.
Music was the ticket for us. We have been writing songs and performing ever since we've been married over 36 years ago. We often get invited by friends to their parties. Inevitably, the "invitors" will say "be sure and bring your guitars."
Sing-a-longs at parties are always fun. When you play songs that everybody knows, even folks who are not very good at singing will  go home with a smile on their face.
Tonight, Jilda and I played a songwriter in the round gig at Berkeley Bob's Coffee House in Cullman. It was a delightful experience. We did two encores and we left 'em smiling. And I smiled to myself, all the way home

Friday, July 23, 2010

Warm Day in Alabama

It was hotter than Satan's horny breath today. Jilda and I did our morning walk before the chickens came down from the roost. My outside work was finished by 10 a.m.
I had a meeting with my financial planner at 1 p.m. in Birmingham. I couldn't find a shade so my black truck took about ninety minutes of direct Alabama sunlight. It wasn't quite as hot as a laser, but so close you could smell the barn.
If I'd been mindful, I would have kneaded some dough before I left. It could have baked in the truck as I crunched numbers with my money guy.
At least aroma of baking bread would have made the interior smell good as I cooked the skin off my hands when I touched the steering wheel when I finished my meeting.
It takes a special breed of folks to call Alabama their home. We constantly compete with Mississippi to be dead last in almost every bad category that is tracked. Income, education, etc. Or first in all the bad categories, obesity, infant mortality, etc.
And then there is the heat in July and August.  People visiting from other locales during times of extreme heat often ask us why we live here. It's hard to explain.
Maybe it's something  hard coded into our DNA. After a summer of grueling heat and humidity, maybe we think of ourselves as survivors. Hey, if we can live in Alabama in July and August, we could live in Hades without an ice machine.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hard Decision

I've got an old dog that is having health issues. She was a throw away dog that I found by the side of the road about seven years ago. 
I'd seen her on my way to work a few times but didn't give her much thought because it was not uncommon to see dogs by the side of the road, but I noticed this one for several days in a row and I could tell she was getting thinner. 
She'd was not much more than a puppy when she was dumped and she never strayed far from that spot. Apparently she was waiting for her "friend" to come back and collect her. 
Dogs are some of the most loyal friends on the planet and it broke my heart to see her run up to the edge of the road each time I drove by. She'd check out the passing car and when she saw that it wasn't her car, she'd go back to her place by a pile of trash.
One evening I made a snap decision to stop and pick her up. She has been a true and loyal friend ever since. 
She's blind now and the summer heat had caused her red mange to flair up. She also has a difficult time breathing. 
We're getting to the point that we are going to have to make a very hard decision and I don't look forward to it.
Jilda and I have no children of our own. Our dogs are almost like children and are treated better than a lot of children I've known.
We let her come inside on hot days and lie on a rug in my office. Right now she is sound asleep here by my feet.  
I despise people that throw animals out on the side of the road like trash, but I'm glad I made the decision, to let her live with us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We have a water melon in our garden that is small on one end and big on the other. It looks almost like someone set it up on one end and all the juice drained from the top to the bottom.
My brain feels a little like that this evening. I've used the backspace key more than the other keys tonight. 
An idea would flash into my brain and I'd start typing furiously.  But, a few sentences into the entry, my internal critic would groan and say "Wow! that's lame." 
I'd think, hey, I could write about my computer trauma that's made me crazy for the last few days, and I'd be off. 
A few lines later, my internal critic would say, "Hey, why don't you do some really good illegal drugs, maybe that would help you discover a clue! I've always heard that people are more creative when they're drooling." 
I started writing about the really cool photograph on my wall of Jilda and me, back when I had hair. The critic yawned and said, "If you could grow hair on your head, like you do on your back, you'd be set. And by the way, you look fat in that picture! 
I give up.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lucky Door

I remember the first time I saw this lucky door. It was in May of 1976 and I worked at The Community News. I didn't make a lot of money then, but I enjoyed the work.
We lived in a mobile home on a lot without shade. I'd dreamed of owning a place of our own for as long as I could remember.
A friend of a friend mentioned that the old Hamrick home place was for sale in Phillipstown.
I drove up in early May when the dogwoods were in bloom and the greening leaves of the oak and hickory trees formed a lush tunnel over the road to the barn.
The old house and barn weren't much to look at, but the hundred year old trees made the place seem old and familiar at the same time.
I thought to myself as I stood beneath this horseshoe, some how, some way, I will own this place one day.
At the time, we could barely afford groceries, so buying property was out of the question.
But when we mentioned the place to Jilda's parents, her dad drove up the next day and he too fell in love with the place and bought it that afternoon.
They lived here for a few years, but when his health started failing, they moved in closer to town and we got the property from them.
Today, I was struggling trying to come up with something to write about. Jilda suggested I go for a walk. I walked down to the barn and sat on the edge of a plow to think.  I looked up at the barn, and the lucky door caught my eye and I knew at once I had a topic for tonight.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm Lovin' the Harvest

If it weren't for tomatoes, I think I'd blow off July and August in Alabama and just move off up north and live in Maine or New Hamp-shire - somewhere where the fish of the day is scrod instead of catfish. 

It would be somewhere that a bag of popcorn wouldn't start popping if you accidentally dropped it on the asphalt. 

The weather here in Alabama reminds me of Panama. In Panama, where you can almost throw a rock and hit the equator, it gets hot and steamy. Most of the natives in Central and Latin America have learned to take a nap during the hottest part of the day. Stores, restaurants and offices close.

I was thinking that maybe we could adopt that practice here in Alabama too. Instead of a two-hour nap, maybe we could nap until, say, September. 

We could all wake up from our summer hibernation just in time for the kickoffs of the Alabama and Auburn football seasons. Can I get an amen sisters and brothers?

That does sound appealing, but it's the harvesting of fresh tomatoes, squash, okra, sweet corn and other fruits and vegetables we plant in the spring that keeps me here.

Sure you can buy fresh produce up north, but you can never be sure that some misguided farmer hasn't treated the crops with organophosphates or some other gosh-awful chemical that would make a new eyeball appear in the center of your forehead. 

It's the harvest that keeps me here in Alabama. 

We had a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for breakfast yesterday. If there is a more perfect summer meal, I'd like to hear about it. 

A close second is fried squash and/or okra. 

Even as I write this, Jilda is in the kitchen working on a vegetable soup mix that will be worth its weight in gold this coming winter. 

She learned how to make vegetable soup from her mom, Ruby. Basically, you take fresh peas, corn, okra, squash, tomatoes and any other veggies that happen to be "coming in" at the time, put them all together, add some magic ingredients and then put it in a big old pot to cook on the stove until it begins to blend together. 

When the concoction cools down, she divvies it into quart containers and stores it in the freezer.

Once the frost is on the pumpkins, it's time to start pulling out cartons of vegetable soup.

It's good to heat and eat just like it is, but she often tosses in some ground chuck or beef tips, which makes this soup mix out of this world. 

When you eat it with a pone of hot buttered cornbread, you remember why you stay in Alabama when it's hotter than the devil's skillet.

It started raining just now. My heart rejoices. I thought our new metal roof had created some kind of arid microclimate that was keeping the rain out of Empire, because we hadn't had a decent rain since we installed it. 

When it stops rattling the roof, I think I'll step down and check on the tomatoes to see if they've grown any since this morning. I'm craving a BLT!

Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - Loving the harvest 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It just feels like home

We got a nice slow rain this evening. There was a thunderstorm to the south, but it passed through without making our rural lights flicker. Jilda and I sat in silence on the screen porch and listened for a long while to the rain on the roof.
When the clouds moved off to the east, I stepped down to the garden fence and watched the sun make its final decent. The sky to the west looked as if I were viewing it through a bottle of peach Nehi. They don't make paint that color and a photograph always comes up short when trying to capture the subtle coloration of a setting sun.
I stood there for a long while, soaking it all in.
I'm guessing the rain brought out the mosquito's because bats were in a feeding frenzy, swooping and darting across the evening sky.
Through the years, we've had several opportunities to sell our little farm and move into the city. When my career was higher on my priority list, I must say, I considered moving in closer. But I could never bring myself to sell this place.
There are those who would say - what on earth do you see in THIS place - it's eleven miles to the closest grocery store and the closest thing to nightlife is the bats I mentioned above!  So what could I say? My only explanation is, it feels like home.
I believe if those same people could have stood with me tonight at the garden fence and witnessed the light-show the setting sun put on for me, I think they would understand what I see in this place.

BBC Bird Video - Remarkable

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Real Pain

If I were a masochist, I would have been in heaven this afternoon. I was cutting grass in the garden and I got stung in the temple by a big honkin' red wasp.
The pain was/is exquisite - a cross between a toothache, an earache, a headache, and a good solid slap on the side of the face.

I would have taken a Benadryl, but it's my Saturday evening to sit with my mom, and I didn't want to drool on her couch. 
I did take an Advil and my head stopped pounding like a bass drum, though I do still see aliens and huge squirrels out of the corner of my eye from time to time. Thankfully when I turn my head to get a better look, they usually disappear.
My mom has trouble seeing and hearing, so about the only thing she likes to do is watch TV.
The problem is, she only watches the Braves when they're on TV, or the Game Show Network. Watching the Braves is right down my alley, but the GSN is brutal. 
Most of the advertisements on the Game Show Network are for drugs.  I guess they've figured out that older folks is their viewing demographic. The small print that they read at the end of these commercials scare the crap out of me.
I'm not sure I would want to "ask my doctor" about drugs that have documented side effects that include, heart palpitations, kidney failure, sudden drops in blood pressure and in some rare cases DEATH!!!! 
No thanks. In most cases the original ailment is minor, especially when compared to the possible side effects.
Tomorrow is a practice day for Jilda and I. We have a gig at Berkeley Bobs Coffee House next Saturday evening. It's a songwriter in the round with two other songwriters.  It should be fun, so mark your calendars.
Take care and have a great weekend.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hazards of Walking

It's been hotter than the devil's toaster here today.  Jilda and I walked before the sun rose above the hickory and pine, but the humidity was already brutal.
I carry a stick when we walk because we come upon all kinds of critters while we are getting our daily exercise. 
It's not uncommon when we walk, to get a spider web in the face that's woven finer than an oriental carpet. 
Jilda preached one of the most profound sermons I've ever heard once when she walked face first into a huge web and got a spider as big as a chihuahua on her cheek. 
I distinctly remember her saying  90q235u'ng alkgnfa zlkfbn zfgua 09rtuq ]ojgz; kfnbzi fujgapor gja/gna gjfa'gnf49u5 !!!!###$D))C) 834erf!!!!!!!! 
She was quite passionate and convincing. Those words stuck with me, and my goal is to never hear them again, so, I've adopted the practice of waking in front, swinging my stick like a drum major's baton. This knocks down most of the webs and sends the spider's scurrying before they scoot down your ear canal. To my way of thinking, looking like a complete doofus is a small price to pay for staying out of divorce court.
Changing the subject, our deer came back again today. I looked out just after lunch and she was drinking from the fountain again.
Just before dark this evening, I saw her down under the apple tree surveying the crop. These apples don't get fully ripe until late September. 
I guess we'll need to buy a little corn to tied her over until fall.
Y'll have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jilda and I met George Harrison's older sister today. We helped our friend Edie Hand with a book promotion event in Nashville and Louise Harrison, George's older sister, attended. She was one of the women that Edie and Tina Savas wrote about in their book "Women of True Grit".
Louise was a delightful person. She has lived in the United States for a long while and she currently manages a groups called "The Living Legends of Liverpool". 
The groups is a Beatles tribute band. and they play several shows a week in Branson, Missouri. 
Louise and her assistant drove down from Missouri in a VW Beatle (what else) called the Yellow Submarine.
I snapped this photo with a group around the car just before we left this afternoon.
It was a long grueling day and I'm about to put my feet up and rest a spell.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fishin' Store

I went into Bass Pro Shop for the first time ever today. As I walked into the fly fishing section, I wanted to wave my hand expansively and tell the salesperson, "yes, I'll have one of each item in this entire area."
Thanks goodness, I came to my senses and only purchased a carrying case for my rod and reel, and a fish net.
I'm leaving my debit card home the next time I go just in case my resolve weakens.
They have an aquarium as big as my living room in that store. It was stocked with bass, bream, and a lot of other big fish I couldn't ID.
I'm going to try and upload a video that I shot with my iPhone. Lighting wasn't that good but maybe you can get the picture.
We're heading up to Nashville tomorrow to help a friend with a book promotion gig, so it will be Friday before I get to hit the water and try to catch a rainbow trout.
It's a good day to get out of Alabama as the temperature will be 97 degrees in the shade and that's not "feels like". It will feel a LOT hotter.

Also, I wanted to give a shout out to my lovely wife Jilda's blog. She dishes out nightly inspiration. She's actually a professional. She is a yoga therapist and she is doing incredible work.
If you like what you see, please follow her.

Check here out at:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fly Fishing

I rode up to the Smith Dam yesterday. Smith Dam is the largest
earthen dam east of the Mississippi River. Smith Lake, which is a huge body of water near Jasper, Alabama was built on the Sipsey River.  Several miles below the dam, the Mulberry River and further down stream, the Locus Fork combine with the Sipsey to form the Black Warrior River.
Smith Lake is very deep at the dam and the water that flows through the dam is about 52 degrees year around which makes it perfect for rainbow trout.
This is fortunate for the Rickster, because this little fishing spot is about fifteen miles away. I don't have to fly half way across the country to do my fly fishing. I can put my gear in the truck and be on the water before my coffee gets cool. I love America.
Even with the proximity, I've only fished there one time. I didn't have waders, so I just stepped out into the thigh deep water in shorts and tennis shoes.
I promptly slipped on a mossy rock and busted my rear end.
I realized, a little too late, that I'd left my small camera, my pager, and  cell phone in my pocket. Oh well, every day's a school day.
I laid them out on a rock in the sun to dry while I continued to fish. It was a beautiful day, with birds, turtles and other critters going about their business as if I were one of them.
I have a lot of friends that fish for bass. Most of them have fast boats with motors bigger than the one in my truck. They have fish finders, all kinds of high tech electronic gear, and tackle boxes as big as a VW.
With fly fishing, I have a simple reel and rod given to my by my dad before he passed away. I have a small box of flies, and a fishing vest which carries a few small hand tools for tying flies on your line.
When you are in the groove, casting the line is almost in slow motion. Success is not necessarily when you catch a fish, but when you learn to put the fly where you intended, instead of hanging it on a bush behind you.
It's a peaceful sport, and during this time of high stress and anxiety, it's exactly what I need.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Early Morning Visitor

Jilda and I were sitting on the couch drinking morning coffee when she walked into view. She stepped tentatively at first, then walked right up the the birdbath for a long drink of cool water.
She munched on birdseed and cracked corn that we'd put out for the doves. 
I shot this photo with my phone, through the glass so the quality is not that good, but it was a great start to the day.
Of course, I wasn't nearly as happy when I walked down to pick the purple hull peas and I discovered that they'd all be eaten in the night. I'm guessing our little friend had some help during the evening hours.
It''s been so hot and dry, that most of their water sources have dried up. The little spring down in the hollow by our house flows year around unless we have a really hot dry spell. It's been dry for a week now.
We haven't had a decent rain since we put the metal roof on our house. I guess I'll have to go out tomorrow and wash both our cars. That's a rainmaker if there ever was one.
Y'all be cool.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Goodbye and Hello

We had a short memorial service this morning for our petunias. Earlier in the spring, we bought two hanging baskets, each as big as a Toyota sedan. We hung them out by the bird feeders and each had hundreds of blooms that added a very nice touch to the front of out house.
Apparently there was a communication issue when we went on vacation because our niece came over daily and fed the dogs, got our mail, fed the birds and stacked our newspapers on our couch. But, she didn't water our plants. We thought we had that base covered, but alas, that chore went undone.
If we'd had rolling papers when we returned, we could have smoked the petunias.
I hated to see them go but our niece was doing us a huge favor and there's no way we could be upset with her so we took them down this morning and put them in the compost. In their place, we bought two mandavillas the color of red lipstick.
I think I like the mandavillas better. I hope we can store them inside this winter so we can enjoy them again next year.
Tonight we had a few of our songwriter buddies over for dinner. Fred Miller, Skip Cochran and our old pickin' buddy Steve Norris came by.  Jilda whipped up a batch of her world famous spaghetti and we ate till we almost spewed.  
We have a gig on the 24th and it will be a songwriter in the round at Berkeley Bob's Coffee House in Cullman. We love that place because the clientèle is great!
These folks support local singer/songwriters. Bob himself (owner of Berkeley Bob's) , is a gifted folk musician.
So all in all, it's been a great day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Picking on myself

I could kick myself. we've worked hard getting our garden planted and weeded, but I've done a poor job of planning and documenting things.
I have a ballpark figure of how much we spent on seeds, plants, tools and other necessities,  but I didn't capture the true costs, nor the true yields that we've had so far.
We love to eat, preserve, and share pepper with our friends and family so we planted a ton. But I didn't bother to document which plants were which. When someone asks for sweet pepper, or hot banana pepper, I have to go through our garden munching on pepper until I find the right ones.
I also haven't documented things like my fertilizing schedule. I've fertilized, but I'm not sure when I should fertilize again. 
I could lay blame for this on the fact that I've worked a really demanding day job for many years, and I could probably convince myself that I didn't have time to plant the garden properly. And to some extent, I WAS really pressed for time. 
But the thing is, proper planning actually saves time not to mention increasing the yield. I'm certain of that.
As I stood outside watering the garden which is beginning to parch after weeks of no rain, I made a commitment to myself that I would start a garden journal - today.
I plan to apply the skills I learned in business school to the task at hand. Plan, implement, measure, adjust as necessary. So there! I fessed up. I hope you are happy now!  :)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Week of Butterflies

This must have been the week for butterflies. First came the encounter yesterday with the black swallowtail, and then today when I went out to the truck to run some errands, I saw this tiger swallowtail butterfly. The coloring on this butterfly was stunning.
She was resting on my driveway. I walked right up, leaned over and shot this photo and it was as if she posed for the photograph.
After the errands, I didn't have a great deal on my calendar, so I rode up to the fly fishing shop and had new line put on my old reel.
My dad gave me this rod and reel before he passed away in 1986. I've been so busy making a living, that I didn't have time to fish, so the reel has been resting on my screen porch.
I wasn't sure if the old rig would even be usable, but when the guy at the fishing shop looked at it, he got a nostalgic gleam in his eye.
He told me that the rod and reel came from a Western Auto hardware store, and that it was identical to his first fly fishing rig that he bought years ago.
When I bought the new line, he asked if I wanted him to install it for me. I'd never actually installed line, and I had some time to kill,  so is said sure.
As he worked, he talked about fishing - the best times to fish, the best flies to use, and the various knots used to attach flies to the line.

I'm sure I could have found the fishing line cheaper online or at one of the local super stores, but they would not have had a clue how to install the line, and I doubt very much they would have taken the time to give me some good advice.
I was fascinated. I'm guessing I'll be spending more time at the shop, and hopefully, I'll catch a few trout as well.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Thanks Little Butterfly

I put Mozart on my stereo this morning and fired up the speakers on the screen porch. It was warm, but the ceiling fan made it feel quite nice.
When the weather permits, I like to write on the porch. I'm doing a rewrite on one of the chapters of my latest project, and as I sat there trying to work things out in my head, a warm breeze out of the west tinkled the chimes.
When I looked up, I saw that a black swallowtail butterfly had become trapped inside the screen.
She probably would have been fine, but I was afraid she'd fly into the spinning fan, or worse, not find her way off the porch before the evening sun warmed up the west side of the house and baked her like a blackberry pie.
So I decided to try and shoo her off the porch. She FREAKED and flew all around the porch with me in hot pursuit. I turned off the fan and let it stop before I proceeded.
Each time I tried to get her to fly out the open door, she flew up and away from the escape route. Finally I closed in and gently cupped my hands and trapped her.
Her wings tickled my palms. When I stepped outside and opened my hands to release her, she didn't fly. She sat there flexing her wings.
I knew I hadn't harmed her wings because I was extra careful. Apparently she realized I wasn't a threat and decided to hang out for a while.
After a few minutes, she fluttered off towards the purple Rose-a-Sharon bush.
I took this as a good omen. When I set back down to my story, the pieces fell into place like an easy puzzle.
Thanks little butterfly.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Back Home

We got up at 3 a.m. this morning to make the trek back home. The temperature was about 42 degrees with no humidity (to speak of) when we left Mountain Village at 4 a.m. The thermometer was pushing 100 when we touched down in Birmingham just after three this afternoon, the humidity was slightly less than a glass of warm water.
I was drenched with sweat before I reached the car. Of course I was wagging a guitar and about sixty pounds of luggage.
Jilda and I haven't had a good vacation in quite some times. The week in Telluride was perfect. We ate well, we shopped, I fished, we hiked, and we took afternoon naps.
We soaked in hot tubs, and then got into eucalyptus steam rooms which made you feel good inside and out.
One evening, we played and sang John Denver songs late into the night. It seems that people young and old know the words to Country Roads and will join in on a sing-a-long.
Even as hot as I was today when we returned, I felt a little taller.
I was afraid that I'd put on some weight, because we ate a lot of rich foods and I indulged in other ways too, but when I weighed this evening, I had actually lost three pounds.
When you're not accustomed to thin, dry air, it plays havoc with your sinuses and skin. It's also very hard to breathe when you exert yourself. But your body adjusts to the thin air, by raising your metabolism.
Come to think of it, I saw very few overweight people who lived in Telluride. Most of the extra pounds came from the folks visiting the Mountain Village resort.
There's nothing like a nice vacation to recharge your batteries and give you a chance to see life through a new lens.
I came home with a notebook full of ideas for projects, new song ideas, column and blog ideas and ideas for living largely.
There are some places we have visited in the past that we enjoyed, but we don't plan on making a return visit.
Colorado is a different story. The people we met there were remarkable. The area is full of creative people, with creative ideas. Just walking through gave me a chance to soak it in.
I will say this: it is our intention to go back to Colorado when we have more time and a better mode of transportation. I shot a lot of photos that I love, but I know there are a million more just waiting for the taking.
Jilda shot the picture above in a little alcove in town. A hand carved eagle bench. You don't see that everywhere.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Last Day in Colorado

Jilda and I went with our friends Wes, and Deidra and their two girls Leah and Laken on a nature walk this afternoon in Telluride.
We were all "whupped" so we weren't up for a grueling hike, but this little trail meanders by the San Miguel river which runs through the town.
This photo is of a huge beaver dam in an adjacent lake. The mountains to the east are in the background. Jilda and I fly out at 6 a.m. in the morning which means we'll be leaving the resort by 4 a.m.
The good news is, we'll be back home tomorrow by early evening. The time we've spent here has been a gift. We are grateful that Wes and Deidra invited us to join them here. But Jilda and I both have struggled with the thin dry air. It will be good to be home. We miss our critters.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Colorado Day Three

My friend Wes and I did a half day fly fishing outing today. We spent the first few hours on a small lake near Telluride.
First off, we practiced casting, tying knots, and fly selection. Our guide JD was great! We didn't catch anything at the first place but we several nice rainbow trout checked out our flies. I had one bump my fly, but he didn't take the bait.
We then went to another mountain lake and fished for a while. I caught my first rainbow and Wes caught two. We released the fish back into the lake and watched them swim away.
I've done a little fly fishing in the past, but I still have so much to learn.
Being a good fly fisherman takes practice. Keeping the flies out of bushes, tree limbs and nearby rocks is a challenge to say the least. I lost four flies in four hours.
Toward the end of our outing, we donned our waiders and fished the San Miguel river. I started getting into the rhythm of casting just before we called it a day.
The river, the sky, and the mountains made this a magical morning.  This evening, I am whupped. The thin air has taken its toll on me and I'm drained.
Jilda and I plan to do some hiking tomorrow.
Have a great week.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Birthday America

We took the tram across a mountain over to Telluride this morning. They had a fireman's parade and BBQ. The parade was an eclectic event and the main street of Telluride was pack shoulder to shoulder with people who'd come out to see the affair. It was a hoot.
I bought a new hat to keep the sun from burning my head to a crisp. It's one of those squashibles that I can pack in my carry on. I'll also wear it when I go fly fishing tomorrow but I think it screams of TOURISTA! to all the locals.
After the parade we made our way to the park and mingled in with about ten thousand other folks in search of BBQ.
I have to give it to the firemen because they moved people through without much delay. The food was good and we ate while admiring the scenery.
It must be tough living here with all the beauty in every direction.
As my old friend Joe said, "this place will give you scenic sclerosis."
I could not agree more.
The people here are different. Most of the restaurants serve organic foods, and recycling is a way of life here.
When you go to the store, the checkout folks always ask, "do you really need a bag?"
After we finished eating, we made our way back to the gondola for our short ride over the mountain back to the resort.
I shot this photo as we were standing in line.

I hope you all have a magnificent 4th of July.
Happy Birthday America.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Dusk in Telluride

The trip to Telluride, Colorado was a grueling ordeal. We had to get up at 3 a.m. to be at the airport by 5 a.m. We had layovers in Houston and Denver. We got to Montross airport at 5 p.m. and it was another 90 minutes to Telluride by auto.
The drive over was stunning. The altitude whipped both Jilda and I so we had some oxygen here at the resort and we both perked up considerably.
I stepped out on the deck and shot this photo before heading in. I call it Dusk in Telluride.
Tomorrow were are going to the parade in town and then tomorrow we'll watch the fireworks show which is supposed to be incredible.
More photos tomorrow.

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