Sunday, October 31, 2010

Getting Older

When I was younger, the last place I wanted to be was home. Back then I had this feeling in my gut that something was happening out there and I wanted to be part of it...I wanted to feel like I was connected to something bigger, something exciting....something important! 
I used to wish that I lived in Atlanta, Nashville, New York, Chicago,  or LA...some place close to the action.
Some place where I could feel the pulse of the nation pounding through my chest like rock drummer on speed.
One of my good friends in the Army went to Woodstock for what has been described as the best music festival of all time. In August of 1969, he walked to the highway near his home, stuck out his thumb, and  hitch-hiked to upstate New York.  He spent several days wandering around Max Yasgur's 600 acre  farm in a drug stupor. He said he kept asking people, "Where's the music?" They would point toward the setting sun and say it's over there and it's so beautiful. He never found the stage, but when he told me the story, he still smiled.
I've often wondered what I would have done had I gone to Woodstock. I'd like to think that I would not have been so messed up that I couldn't find the music. But who knows? Young people do some goofy things.
Something happens when you get older. Time and experience begins to shape your notion of what's important.
That's not to say that you should not view life through the eyes of a child at every opportunity, but if you're lucky, you find your pace. You begin to understand that happiness is not "out there" but "in here".
Tonight, Jilda and I went to our great nephew Stone's birthday party in Adamsville, which is about twenty miles away. He was seven today and he had a crew of kids at his party. Our other great nephew Jordan, who lives next door and spends every Tuesday and Thursday with us, went to the party too, but he felt out of place.
When he saw me, he came over and reached up for me to pick him up. The night was chilly and he snuggled up close to me. When I asked if he was OK, he whispered, "I don't know anybody. I want to go home."
We left a while later, and Jordan wanted to come with us. He had come with his Nanna, but if we'd had a car seat, he would have left with us.  
Even at the tender age of two, he intuitively understands that the world is a big place and things move fast, but there is no place like home.  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Late Tomatoes

We stayed up way past our bedtime last night. Since it's still football season here, we were fairly sure we wouldn't have a packed house so we decided to use the restaurant's sound system instead of lugging Steve's. 
As it turns out, Louie Blue, a local singer/songwriter was there and he's had some experience with sound so he helped us tweak the knobs to get a decent sound. It wasn't as good as when our sound guru buddy Fred is behind the console, but I thought we did well.
We slept late this morning....which was 7 a.m. for me and I threw on the coffee. Jilda got up a short time later and did her kitchen magic.  She whipped up one of her world famous breakfast casseroles. It has grits, eggs, sausage, cheese and some other secret ingredients, baked to perfection.
I stepped down the fence and snagged some late tomatoes that have withstood the heat and drought.
I can tell you this: To my way of thinking, one would have to look far and wide to come up with a better complement to a scrumptious breakfast.
Life is good.


We just rolled in from Local Color Restaurant in Springville. We've got guts to play a gig in Alabama on Friday night or Saturday during football season. It's hard enough to get a crowd out when there's nothing going on, but it's difficult to compete with football here.
The thing about playing music, is that we don't do it for the money. If we were, we would have found something more lucrative. We play because we love playing.
We always strive to do our best whether we're playing for ten people or two thousand. So thanks to those who blew off high school football tonight, joined us at Local Color, had a great meal, and listened to The Overalls.
After all, you are the reason we play.
Everybody have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Internet is such a strange place. I happened to click on my blogger stats tab today, and I've had 12 page views this week, of a blog entry I wrote over four years ago in June of 2006. The title of the blog was "Looking Without Seeing".
What could have triggered that? The views came from Asia, Europe, and the U.S. I just find it fascinating.
When I Googled the phrase Looking without seeing, my blog entry came up number four, but when I went to Yahoo and searched the same term, it didn't appear until the fourth page (about the 40th entry). I didn't rate at all with Dogpile which I actually consider a blessing.
So, what's it all about Alfie? I haven't a clue. I think it's all magic.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Who knows the mystery of inspiration? It often strikes out of nowhere, and when you least expect it.  I believe that inspiration is like a signal that's ever present. In the world of electronics, I think they call it potential, but the point is, it's there like a ripe apple just ready for the picking, but you have to know where, how, and you have to be looking. 
Your mind is like a radio receiver that's scanning the ether for that signal. Sometimes it comes in loud and clear and sometimes there are sun spots that hide the signal behind a curtain of fog or waves of static.
I recently watched a new documentary about Bruce Springsteen, and the film provided insight on how Bruce approaches songwriting. He keeps a notebook with lyrics and his songs kind of evolve. It's the Frankenstein approach because he'll use a verse from one song, a bridge from another, and a chorus from yet another. It sounds strange, but it works.
He focuses on every element of the song and hones it like the edge of an expensive knife...until it's right. That takes vision and persistence.
Jilda and I have been writing for as long as we've been married and we have scores of notebooks in our closet, filled with songs and song fragments. I pulled some of the notebooks out today and started flipping through.
There was a lot of crap in there, but then I found some gems too. After watching the Springsteen documentary, I looked at the notebooks with renewed interest.
One song I found was one we wrote almost seven years ago. I had forgotten about the tune, but as I read over it, I really like it. It's called - I Think of You. 
It's about friendship - the lyrics follow:

      I Think of You

Last night in the middle
Of a most delicious dream
I woke and dialed your number
To hear the voice on your machine
I think of you, I think of you

Sometimes in the shower
Or driving in my car
I’ll think of something funny
And wonder where you are
I think of you, I think of you


People come and people go
Most never cross your mind
But now and then, you find a friend
That’s with you for all time
I think of you, I think of you

The road may sometimes take us
A million miles apart
But you will always be
Right here in my heart
I think of you, I think of you

Someday in the future
When the two of us grow old
Money will not matter
We’ll have memories of gold
I think of you, I think of you

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Refreshing Drink

It was 86 degrees at sundown today. The sky looked angry, and the wind out of the west bent the pine and poplar over almost to the ground, but not one drop of rain came.
When I walked down to leave corn for the deer, a pine limb as big as a Louisville Slugger baseball bat fell not three feet away. I was happy that it didn't smack me on the head, as I would probably have spent the evening in the ER and missed the rain that eventually came.
The weatherman was on the TV pointing to big red and yellow globs on the weather radar and jabbering about wind sheer, wall clouds and other stuff to the south of us.
I could hear thunder pounding closer by the second. The lightening was flashing so fast it looked as if Lady Gaga had just driven into our driveway and a thousand paparazzi photographers were waiting.
After the worst had passed, the weatherman said that a tornado had just passed over our house and was headed for a community just north and east of us. Well THANKS A LOT  BUBBA!!! I thought. That would have been good information about ten minutes ago.
As it turns out, we haven't had any damage yet and the rain is rattling the roof even as I type.
Tonight, I am grateful. I'm grateful that, for the most part, there hasn't been a lot of physical damage from the storms, and I'm grateful our thirsty land got a refreshing drink.  

Just in case

I normally write when the day is done, when I've done all the chores, and running around. But in looking at the radar, the weather to the west doesn't look good.
Often when we get straight line winds, our power can be off for an extended length of time so I'm doing a short update this afternoon.
If the weather gods smile upon us, I'll do a regular update tonight.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I went to the hospital early this morning to make arrangement to move my mom to rehab. I sat there for eight hours waiting on the doctor to come by and release her.
By 1 p.m. I wanted to jab a sharp stick in my 3 p.m. I wanted to jab a sharp stick in someone else's eye.
I got snippy (VERY out of character for me) with the nurse supervisor. Look, I told her, your nurses have been great, but I've been her for almost eight hours and I need to speak to the doctor so that we can get my mom out before dark!
She was very apologetic and said that she would contact the doctor. I came close to pulling out the "journalist card".
Yes, I'm a syndicated columnist and if we don't hear from a doctor soon, the administration will not like my story in Sunday's paper!
As it turns out, the doctor did come by shortly after three and so we managed to get mama moved before it got too late.
It's interesting that the nursing, cleaning, and maintenance staff built up a great deal of equity with us by responding when we asked, being very attentive, and following up. But then today, all that good will and equity evaporated by the hour when it took forever to get mama released.
I think a lot of businesses is like that. They focus on superior customer service in one area, but then have lapses in other areas which leaves a bad taste in the customer's mouth.
OK, I'm off my soapbox, please return to your normal blogging activities.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Taking Pictures

We have a plastic box, as big as a footlocker, full of photographs. I'm slowly scanning them so that I can have a backup copy.
When people lose houses to fire, storms or other disasters, one of the first things they say they miss are the photographs.
The reason is obvious. Photographs tell the story of your life. That's why we love photographs. They capture an instant. Sometimes video shows too much. A good photograph can say so much more.
I got interested in photography when I was in the Army. My friend Kirk Trachy from New Hampshire knew how to develop black and white pictures and he taught me the basics.
You have to be in a room that is totally dark, except for a a safe-light (a type of light that doesn't expose the paper).
You put a tiny strip of negatives in an enlarger, which is a device that slides up and down. The enlarger has an exposing light that shines a concentrated beam through the negative projecting the reverse image on the base of the enlarger. The higher you raise the head, the bigger the image appears and visa-versa.
Once you focus the negative image on the base, you turn the exposing light off, put in a piece of printing paper, and turn the exposing light on for a few seconds. When the light turns off, you take the paper out and dip into an 8x10 inch tray of developing solution.
It's there that you see the image appear. Once the image is fully developed, you take it out of the developer and put it into another 8x10 tray of fixer which stops the development process and makes the image permanent. After the photograph sits in the fixer for a while, it goes through a wash which removes all the chemicals off the photograph. Then you hang the picture up to dry.
I can tell you this: when you spend hours in a darkroom, you learn what NOT to do when taking pictures.
Those hours in the darkroom taught me how to become a better photographer.
Digital technology is almost like cheating. There is nothing like the lag time - the time between when you THINK you have a good photograph, and when you actually have a good photograph in hand.
Today, you shoot a photo, look at it, and if it's not good, you delete it and shoot another.
I'm obviously not advocating going back to the old way of shooting photos, but I can tell you that if people spent time in a darkroom, they would take better pictures.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Life is a circle. Sometimes you're up and sometimes your down. Yesterday was a difficult day for the Rickster but today was a blessing.
The Overalls had a gig on the Old Time Radio Show in Lynchburg, Tennessee this morning. Jilda's sister Pat and her niece Jayna rode up with us and you could not ask for a more beautiful day.
Tennessee is a few weeks ahead on fall foliage so the drive was breathtaking. Lynchburg is such a neat town. It's a dry county where Jack Daniels whiskey is made and it has all the charm of the old south.
Today was the Jack Daniels BBQ competition and there were about 20,000 people wandering through the small town square munching on corn on the cob, BBQ ribs, funnel cake, cotton candy, peanuts, chocolate Jack Daniels Truffles, and of course, homemade ice cream.
By the time we took the stage, the morning chill had burned off and the sun felt warm on our faces.
When we play festivals like this, we usually do cover songs. Today was no different. We closed our set with This Land is Your Land.
The sound was not that good so I couldn't tell how we sounded, but as I looked out over the sea of faces, I saw people singing along - This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land, From California, to the New York Island.
It did my heart good, and it made me put yesterday in perspective. It doesn't matter how bad things gets, the sun will always rise tomorrow.
Have a great Sunday.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tough Day

I think clocks run slower in hospitals. I had the early shift this morning at St. Vincents because we needed to make sure we talked to the doctor, so I was there by 7 a.m.
There's no way of knowing when the doctors make their rounds so you have to "be there".  I'm not dissing doctors because they have a lot on their shoulders. But I'm just saying.......
At any rate, I had to be the mean son today. Mama thought she'd be going home this morning, but as it turns out, she'll be doing three weeks of therapy at the local nursing home/rehab center.
To say she was unhappy would be an understatement. She cried, which broke my heart. I've faced a lot of situations in my life that were unpleasant. I've had to do things I didn't want to do, but I sucked it up and did what had to be done.
All that being said, there is nothing that cuts deeper than a mother's tears.
There were five of us kids. I had a brother and sister older and a brother and sister younger. I was stuck in the middle. Both my brothers, and my father died too young. I'm the only surviving male in our immediate family.
My mother lives with my older sister who sacrifices a great deal so that my mom can have a good home. But whenever there is something difficult that must be done, she looks to me to help. In the scheme of things I think it's the least I can do to help.
At any rate, it's been a tough day, but I know tomorrow will be better. Jilda and I are heading up to Lynchburg early in the morning to play a few songs on The Old Time Radio Show. We've played there several times with our friend Steve and it's always a lot of fun.
I hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Column from Sunday

I’m now known as Aunt Rick, at least according to our 2-year-old great nephew Jordan. 

Jilda and I keep him on Tuesdays and Thursdays while his mom is finishing up her college coursework in physical therapy.

My beard kept him at bay when he was younger, but once he got used to the hairy chin, he warmed right up, and now we’re thick as thieves.

He’s an outside kid. There are electronic games and portable DVD players in his toy box, but if given the choice, he’d rather play around the barn. 

We use every excursion as a learning experience. This past week he learned about dirt dauber’s nests, deer poop, and how acorns turn into oak trees.

He looked a little skeptical as he held the tiny acorn in his hand and looked at the towering 100-year-old oak tree there in the barnyard. I assured him the tree came from an acorn just like that.

As he assimilated the idea of plant propagation, he climbed on the tractor and figured out in a matter of seconds how to turn on the flashers. 

It took me almost a year to figure out how the stuff on that tractor worked. I have no doubt that if I’d given him the keys, he could have plowed all the tillable land on the farm in a matter of minutes.

I shook my head in amazement and told him to turn the flashers off because it would run down the battery. 

He asked the required, why, why, why, to the fifth power, then he said OK Aunt Rick, and turned the flashers off.

I said with a mock stern tone, “I'm not Aunt Rick, I'm Uncle Rick!” He giggled. I wish I had recorded it, because there is nothing more delightful than the sound of a child laughing.

He then said, “you're not Uncle Rick, you're Aunt Rick!” And then laughed some more. We must have gone back and forth for twenty minutes.

I found a sunny spot in the barnyard, lay down on a utility trailer, and spent some quality time looking at the sky while Jordan explored. It felt good to be alive.

Every now and then I would call to him – “what do you hear.” He would stop, stand as still as a post and listen. He said, “I hear de wind,” or “I hear a bird,” and then he was off again examining everything.

I take my babysitting responsibilities seriously. When Jordan, or any of our nieces or nephews stay with us, they get my full attention. When they ask a question, I do my best to give them a good answer. Not a blow-off answer, but as good an answer as I can give.

When I don’t know the answer, we look it up in a book, Wikipedia, or some other place.

I’m trying to get him (them) to understand, nobody knows all the answers, but anyone can look them up. 

Since he’s only 2, I wasn’t sure how much he retained of what I was teaching him. About a month ago we had a lengthy conversation about the types of trees we saw around the barn. Some time after that when his mom and grandma walked with us to the barn, I pointed to a tree and said, what kind of tree is that?

“It’s a PINE TREE!” he said proudly. His mom’s mouth fell open, and I just had to smile.

Who knows what he’ll remember when he gets older. If he holds on to a little of what I’ve taught him he will be ahead of a lot of kids.

And if he remembers with love how much fun we had together, I will consider my time well spent — as long as he stops calling me Aunt Rick.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Work Day

I feel taller tonight. I had two stories due today and I've spent the day writing. I finished up just before supper this evening.
It is my intention to schedule my work where this does not happen often.
But, it's been a good day. I got out on the screen porch early. There was a chill in the air so I wore my sweat suit. A couple cups of steaming coffee set me right. Ol Buddy's a trooper because he sat by my side all day long.
At one point I opened the screen door and let him lie in the sun. He was sound asleep when a chipmunk scurried up. He apparently though Buddy was a patch of moss because he came right up to the little mutt. 
I guess Buddy sensed the movement and when he opened his eyes, it must have startled him because he jumped knee high. 
When he recovered enough he mounted a charge, but the critter was long gone by then. Buddy looked up to see if I was looking. It almost looked like he was embarrassed that he'd gotten snookered.
I called him up on the porch and gave him a bite of cheese which seemed to lift his spirits.
Y'all have a great Thursday.....I just might go fishing. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Promise of Rain

Jilda and I have been almost giddy for most of the day. We saw on radar where we had a slight chance for a little rain tonight and it has almost been like we're awaiting the arrival of an old dear friend.
Tonight after dark, I went out on the deck, sat in a chair and looked up pleadingly at an overcast sky. All of a sudden, a raindrop fell and hit me in my right eye. I laughed out loud and called inside for Jilda to come join me.
She came out and sat with me for a long while and not a single drop fell. She had fun at my expense and accused me of hitting the hard cider. As soon as she stepped inside, another drop fell on my arm.
A while later, I could smell the rain off in the distance and then it came a little faster. It wasn't enough to wash the dust off the cars, but still it felt good on my face.
The weatherman says the rain will move in here Sunday night and it could rain a few days. Even the promise of rain makes me fell better.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Sky

The sky this evening turned a shade of blue that Mother Nature reserves for autumn. I'm not sure if it was the angle of light or some atmospheric anomaly, but the contrast of sunset painted clouds against an indigo sky was breathtaking....the stuff of Impressionist art.
If you took a pallet of watercolor paint, I'm not sure what colors you would mix to match the richness of the autumn sky.
I feel like I drifted through much of my life in a coma. I know there has been so much that I missed worrying about bills, deadlines, and other mundane stuff that in the long run did not matter.
I wish there were a class that you could take, or a book you could read when you are younger that could somehow teach you to take things in focus on the important things.
But I guess when I was younger, I would have scoffed at any such advice, because as everyone understands, when you're young, you know everything.
It took me years to understand just how smart my parents and grandparents were. They never had much schooling, but they were wise just the same.
Didn't mean to wax philosophical on you, but an autumn sky will do that for you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Company's a coming

We invited friends over this afternoon so we spent the morning sprucing up the house. We'd planned to run to the store to buy a few things, but we both stayed up past our bedtime last night to watch Alabama play Old Miss, so we decided to take a nap at mid-day instead of going to the store.
This caused a brief period of panic, but Jilda's a whiz at menu changes on the fly. She looked through the fridge and found a carton of veggie soup mix we'd put up this summer. She made a pone of cornbread and a jug of sweet tea. 
I picked a few apples off our tree and she made an apple/cranberry tart.  
The flowers in our garden have kept us furnished with color for the table, living room and bathrooms, but most of them have stopped blooming due to the heat and lack of rain.
I jumped in the truck and drove a few miles to an area where wild daisies grow on both sides of the road. I cut enough in a matter of moments to decorate the house. The place was a hit!
We love to entertain. I sometimes think we need to do a bed and breakfast, but then I think - who would do all those dishes? and the thought passes.
Y'all have a great week. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Long Day

We were up before daylight this morning and by 7:30 we were setting up our booth close to the music stage.
It's been a fun day. We sold a few books, howdy'd up with old friends and met some new ones.
My knees were squeaking when we got in late this evening.
Tonight, I'm watching the Tide play Old Miss and I just hope I can stay awake long enough to finish the game because I'm running on empty.
To borrow a phrase from my lovely spouse's blog, Transformation Information ( - Good Night, Sweet Dreams.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I love a parade

I started alumni website in 2001. It was the first website I'd ever done and I had no idea if people would actually visit the site.
That was back before a lot of people around here had fast access and I had low expectations. I put a counter on the website and to my amazement, people started visiting in droves.
I started shooting high school football and homecoming parades. For weeks after homecoming, the hit counter was off the charts.
I gradually started scanning yearbooks and writing stories about people who graduated from Dora High. I posted pictures of grandkids, pets, kids, cars, motor cycles, and reunions.
The website was actually a precursor to my blog. If you look at the url for my blog it's and in the early years, only people who graduated from Dora read my blog with any frequency. Nowadays, most of my visitors are not from here.
At any rate, today was homecoming at Dora High. I spent the afternoon shooting parade pictures and I shot pictures of the game and the homecoming queen tonight.
It's been a work of love. If I billed for the amount of time spent designing, writing, updating and scanning yearbooks I could buy a small island in the Caribbean.
One of my favorite things about the website is the yearbooks. I scanned (with a little help from my friends) all the yearbooks from 1938 to 2009. I will scan 2010 after the first of the year.
But I love a parade. Today, the weather was picture perfect, and the kids were all excited. It's a lot of fun taking pictures.
Jilda have a booth at the Walker County Heritage Festival tomorrow. Hopefully we'll sell a few books and we'll play a few songs at 1 p.m.
If you're out and about, we'd love to see you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing Music

Whenever I get stuck, I have several things I do to wake the muse. 
I read my book of quotations, I read poetry, or maybe look back through a dusty box of old photographs. Normally, one of these provides a spark that leads to something interesting.
When all else fails, I have an iTunes playlist of songs entitled "Writer Songs".  This is a group of about twenty songs that for some reason speak to me. 
Music is a powerful thang. Most people have favorite songs that make them sad, make them smile, or that make them drive faster than the law allows whenever the music comes crashing through the car speakers.
My list of songs is eclectic to say the least. It transcends subject,  time, and genre. But whenever I click play, my brain knocks itself out of gear and coasts for a while. Imagery begins to course through my mind like a thousand movies chopped up into pieces, thrown into a pile, and then spliced back together by a movie critic who's had too much Merlot.
One of the main functions your brain provides is to normalize input. This is a valuable service because we live in a remarkable place and time. The volume and velocity of information today is more and faster than at any time in history.
If your brain had to analyze, sort, prioritize, and act upon everything coming at you, it would simply blow a fuse and you'd be somewhere in a corner drooling and picking gnats off the wall.
But if you don't throw your brain a curve every now and then, a lot of really neat stuff gets filed under "miscellaneous". 
That's what my tricks do. They provide input that can't easily be sorted into a pile. So far, they have served me well.
If some of you have other tricks you use to help you be more creative, I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I worried that we wouldn't have any color this autumn, but today when I drove to town, I saw bursts of red, orange, rust and yellow.  I rolled the window down as I meandered through the maple, oak and hickory to get an unobstructed view of the leaves. Even with no rain, it looks like Mother Nature will not be denied her show.
I did another interview for the Village Living paper in Mountain Brook. The community, which has the highest per capita income in the state of Alabama, has beautiful old homes nestled into the environment. 
Early city planners took great pains to retain the natural charm of the city and so all roads snake through old growth trees that look as if they took root before time was measured by clocks and calendars.
A lot of the newer communities south of Birmingham have more modern homes, but if given the choice between one of those and a quaint home in Mountain Brook, I would choose the latter.
The gentleman I interview today has lived in Mountain Brook since the late forties. He's 91 years old and his mind is sharper than most folks half his age. 
He was married to the same woman for over sixty years before he lost her in 2006. He lives alone now and his eyes teared up a little when he talked about their life together.
His work took him all over the world and he had the resources to live anywhere, but he chose Mountain Brook.
"There's really no place like it" he said. The more time I spend there, I tend to agree.
On the way home I passed a patch of wild yellow daisies basking in the evening sun. I drove by, but they were so striking, I made a U-turn and went back to shoot a few pictures.
I'm really glad I did.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fun with Podcasts

I've been working on recordings of my book Remembering Big. The idea is to have an audio version that I can get local radio stations to play to help promote my work. 
Getting the right combination of equipment and software together has been a challenge but I started recording this week.
I worked on the one for Halloween today and I have a draft for you to hear. I know I still have a ways to go, but I had fun today.
Here is a link to the podcast.

Monday, October 11, 2010


One of my all time favorite movies is For the Love of the Game. It's a movie about baseball, staring Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston. Costner plays the role of an aging pitcher in major league baseball. He plays for the Detroit Tigers and the team has not had a good year.

It's a love story where the plot winds around one game in career of fictional pitcher Billy Chapel. It's a game in which Chapel pitches a perfect game against the New York Yankees.

A perfect game is one in which there are no hits, walks, runs, or anyone gets on base. It's rare, and has only happened twenty times in the history of Major League Baseball.

Watching the movie brings back some of my fondest childhood memories, many of which involve baseball. I played both little league, and pony league baseball. I was a pretty good catcher behind the plate and swung a mean bat. 

In fact, the last time I batted in pony league, I knocked a two-run homer!

Our uniforms that year were grey with red stripes and a red hat. I felt taller in that uniform and I can still hear the clicking sound our cleats made when we walked on pavement.

I guess that's when my mama got into baseball. My folks rarely missed a game that I played.

My dad was quiet, but you could hear my mama cheering over the noise of the crowd. Those were fun times.

When I went by to see my mom last Sunday, she was sitting in her recliner in my sister's living room watching the final inning of the Atlanta Braves game against the Phillies. 

It was the last regular season game of the year and a must-win to keep Atlanta's playoff hopes alive. 

To add to the drama, it was the last regular season game for Coach Bobby Cox who is retiring.

Mama will be eighty six this coming December and she doesn't get out anymore except on rare occasions when she goes to the doctor.

She's practically blind and deaf, so my sister bought a TV as big as the screen at a drive-inn theater. The only volume setting my mama uses is wide open. 

My sister is used to the din, but every time I head home after visiting, my ears ring like I'd just left a Rolling Stones concert.

She was in a little bit of a huff when I arrived because the Braves were blowing an 8-2 lead late in the game. A loss meant the season was over and no more baseball until spring.

I was pulling hard for the Braves because watching them still gives her a great deal of pleasure and seeing her happy makes me happy.

As it turns out, the Braves won and secured a wildcard slot in the playoffs. That means she'll get to watch a few more games. 

I wish she was strong enough for me to take her to a Braves game in Atlanta. Jilda and I have gone a few times and there's nothing like it.

Turner Field is beautiful with the manicured field and pennant flags popping in the wind. The smell of the popcorn, peanuts, and freshly cut grass when combined with all the color and pageantry is quite an experience. You don't get that when you watch a game on TV. 

My mama was healthy for most of her life and she spent those years raising a family and helping at schools, and in the community.

She probably would have gone to a Braves game with us back then, but I guess I thought I was too busy because I never got around to taking her. I wish I had a do-over on that one. I know it's a long shot, but I hope the Braves rise to the occasion and win the World Series this year. 

I know a lot of folks would be pleased, but none would be more happy than my mama.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We Could Stand A Little Rain

One of the things I love about fall is the smell of woods smoke. When I was in the military, I lived in a tropical paradise with exotic birds and other creatures.
The barracks were on a finger of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Colon, Panama. I was there for 18 months and every day after work, we were snorkeling, biking, hiking, swimming or doing other beach stuff.
The downside to my "military vacation" was there were no seasons. The country was lush and green all year around. For sun worshipers, this was a great thing, but for me, I missed the fall. I missed the colors, the sounds, the tastes, and the smells. Especially the smell of burning leaves.
Autumn this year has been different here in Empire. The woods around here are dry as tender and today when I caught the scent of burning leaves, I got very uneasy because the last thing we need is a forest fire. As it turns out, a neighbor was burning some debris, but he kept it under control.
I have a mountain of limbs, pine straw, pine cones, and leaves that I plan to burn as soon as we get some rain.
Our great nephew Stone's birthday is on Halloween and we usually have his party here at our house because we have wide open spaces, an old barn which is perfect for scaring the crap out of little kids, and we have a great place to have a bonfire.
We talked to Stone's parents this weekend and told them that we can host the party but if we don't have rain, we can't have a bonfire. I know Stone will be disappointed because the fire is the hub of the activity at his parties.
So, I may have to take my blog-buddy Charlene's advice and do a nakid raindance out in the back yard. At this point, I'd do just about anything to get a little rain.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Squirrel Trouble

We were drinking coffee this morning when I the unmistakable grunting sound of high voltage and then a loud POP! The wind was still, in fact there was not a cloud in the sky but our power went off as it often does.
I put my sneakers on and walked out to the pole in front of our house and the little gray critter was still smoking.
I'm not sure how the squirrels do it, but they some how touch both the hot and the neutral wires simultaneously. It makes me sad when it happens but death is instant. It hits them so hard  I don't think they don't feel any pain....but I don't know that for sure.
Anyhow I called the power company and about an hour later, they sent a repairman to reset the fuse on the pole a few houses away and the lights came back on.
In the past, I've asked them to put some kind of insulators  to prevent this, but it hasn't happened yet.
RIP little squirrel.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Help

I just finished listening to the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. As a writer and a reader, I am humbled by Kathryn's first novel. In my mind, she knocked the ball out of the park on her first time at bat.
It's set in Jackson, Mississippi during the mid-sixties when the south was not a pleasant place for most black folks to live and work. 
Stockett does a masterful job, in my opinion, of telling a compelling story about the women who did domestic work for white families during that time. 
She's quick to say that she does not presume to know what it was like for the maids who worked for white families in the south, but from where I stand, her voice sounded right.
I think the hardest thing for a writer is to find their voice. When I look back over the things I've written in the past, I realize that I've only just begun to understand how to write.  And there is still so much to learn.
I do know this: when you manage to put together a string of words that work, there is very little that feels better.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Election Season

I don't know about you, but I'm getting daily election survey's calls. Some are valid polling research, but many are thinly disguised efforts by one camp or the other, trying to sway my vote. 
I'm not sure if they think I can't read, or don't read,  but must believe they can use a  survey that's really propaganda to convince me to pull the lever for their candidate. 
As the old saying goes, I was born at night, but not last night. 
So as a public service, I'm offering these helpful suggestions on how to respond to these lame efforts persuade you to vote stupid.

When asked about your opinion of Joe Blow, a good response might be
"I would never vote for him, I read on Facebook that he was an alien from Uranus.” 
Another good response here might be:
 He’s bi-sack-sual. When the caller says Excuse me! You say Yes, bi-sack-sual, I have it on good authority that whenever he buys groceries at the A&P, and they ask him whether he wants paper or plastic, he says EITHER! I rest my case! 

When asked about race: 
I'm half Jewish, half Native American, and half EurAsian.

When they ask about religion:
I'm Lesbaterian. If they try to clarify - did you mean Presbyterian or did you mean to say your political leanings are Libertarian. You should say, I caught a trout on a crawdad once. That should clear it up for them.

When asked about your sex: Yes on Tuesdays and Saturdays if I'm lucky.

When asked - What do you feel are the most important issues facing America today?
I suggest you say Pork rinds.  When they try to clarify and say -  Do you mean pork barrel politics?
No pork rinds, have you ever read the list of ingredients in pork rinds? You would not believe...... chances are, they will have hung up by now.

Here is my wish for America. I wish we would drag our butts back toward the middle of the spectrum, learn to compromise, go back to living within our means, and stop letting big business  set the agenda.

I hope you find value in my survey suggestions.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Call me a dreamer

I've put out corn under our apple tree three times today. More and more deer are finding their way to our house.
The weather has been phenomenal these last few days and I sat out on the deck writing this evening before dark, as I waited for Jilda to get home from work.
At one point, I was deep in thought and when I looked up from the screen, I saw four deer feeding. There is one young deer that travels alone and a female that has two fawns. We've watched the two young ones grow because we see them almost every day now. They were all together chowing down.
I know the lack of rain has made their food supply even more scarce than usual. I sat there and watched for a long while before they wandered off down behind the barn.
I know it will be deer season soon and I dread hearing the sound of gunshots. With each report I'll wonder if one of our friends has died.
If I were to hit the lottery or one of my upcoming books makes its way onto the best seller list, I would buy all the land around me and the only shooting that would be done would be with a camera.
Call me a dreamer, but that's what I'd do.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Dry Spell

Why is it that some days ideas stream so fast that you can't capture them fast enough and some days you can tap the keys of your keyboard until the letters are rubbed clean and not come up with a decent thought?
Today is one of the latter days....not one of the latter days when the world will end before the American Express bill comes due,  but one of the days when my mind feels like a chilly marshmallow.
It is my intention to write daily whether I feel like it or not, but on days like today, it's hard. Many of the great writers say that everyone goes through these times but you have to trudge on.
I guess the idea is that if you don't make yourself write daily, you'll hit a dry spell, get discouraged and stop writing all together. I don't know.
Thank goodness the dry spells don't usually last long.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Every Tattoo Has a Story

The first tattoo I ever saw was of a naked woman on my grandpa Charlie Watson’s forearm. I’m sure the figure was racy when he got it, but the years had erased most of the tattoo. What remained looked as if it had been sketched with a blue ballpoint pen. 

The figure went from his wrist to his elbow and I always wondered about the story behind that tattoo. I’d be willing to bet Mama Watson hit the roof when he came home with it, but I never asked. 

Back in the day, tattoos were mostly found on the arms of sailors, bikers and people who’d spent time in jail, but to my knowledge my grandpa was never in the Navy, rode a Harley or did any time “bustin’ rocks” on a chain-gang. 

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal — have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment.” 

These days tattoos are common on both men and women. 

I was standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart this past week people watching. I’m fascinated by what people wear to Wal-Mart, and what they have in their buggies. 

Anyhow, I noticed a woman in front of me who was wearing a fairly short skirt. A splash of color on her leg drew my eyes down just below her hemline. Turns out she had a beautiful rose tattoo on the back of her thigh just above the knee

She must have sensed me staring and looked back. I snapped my head away so quickly that I almost got whiplash and my face turned the color of a ripe tomato.

I busied myself surveying the contents of my buggy and eventually the blood returned to the rest of my body. I’m sure her tattoo had a story but I was too embarrassed to ask. 

I have a tattoo that I got in 1972 when I was stationed in Panama during my stint in the Army.

It was a holiday weekend and a bunch of us guys were all sitting around the barracks knocking back a few brews when someone said, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea — let’s all go get tattoos!”

That sounded like a splendid idea so we caught a bus and headed off in search of a tattoo parlor. 

We ventured into an area that was the underbelly of the city and always smelled like fish and diesel fuel.

We found a place that was a little ratty, but the lights were on and the tattoo pictures in the window were colorful, so we went inside to get the scoop.

The female tattoo artist was about 30 and couldn’t speak a word of English. That was unfortunate because none of us could speak Spanish. We quickly figured out that talking louder didn’t get the message across, so the deal went down using sign language. 

Looking through the tattoo book, I saw tons of designs, but they cost more than I could afford so I pointed to a small butterfly. 

No one was keen on going first, so I volunteered. 

I’ve heard people say that getting tattoos doesn’t hurt, but they lied! 

Mine felt like she was using a handheld singer sewing machine with a dull needle. The liquid courage had worn off before she completed the first wing. I actually think my skin smoked as she laid down the design.

All the guys gathered around and watched and my friend Doug took pictures. I’m not sure if it was the smoke, or the guttural moans I was making, but everyone else decided that tattoos weren’t for them. 

I was the only one that went home with permanent artwork on my shoulder. And that’s the story behind my tattoo. 

Like my grandpa, time has taken all but the faintest outline of the butterfly on my right shoulder blade, but I bet his story was a lot more interesting than mine.

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