Thursday, February 17, 2011

Acres of Diamonds - Column from Sunday

I read a parable entitled Acres of Diamonds. It's a story about an African farmer who sold his farm and went off in search of diamonds. He searched for treasure most of his life but died penniless.

Meanwhile, the man who bought the farm, found a glittering stone in the creek. The farm turned out to be the largest diamond mine in Africa. The first farmer had lived on acres of diamonds and never realized it.

I feel a little like the first farmer because I've looked far and wide for interesting stories, but unlike the first farmer, I wised up and discovered fascinating stories right here in Walker County - literally acres of diamonds.

I wrote about visiting the Bankhead House and Heritage Center last week and it seemed as if my mind started to buzz. I saw old photographs of the cities and towns of Walker County and some of the people who've lived here. I got ideas for a half dozen stories as I strolled through those rooms.

Then recently Jilda and I were invited to perform, along with our friend Skip Cochran, at the Old York Opry show at the Bull Pen in Oakman. WJLX Oldies 101.5 FM will broadcast the program live from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on February 19, and we are excited!

Station owner Brett Elmore and the owner of the Bull Pen Restaurant, Richard "Bull" Corry, invited us down this week to check out the stage. Afterward, Bull gave us a tour of the Bull Pen, which is a restaurant and what I'd call a museum. I was amazed by this place, and they have great food to boot!

He has family pictures on the walls going back many generations. Bull fell into a rhythm as he described the people in the photographs and told stories about each of them. Bull has acres of diamonds, right there in Oakman, and I think it's a story worth telling.

It's almost like I've been sleeping all the years I've lived here, and as a result, I've taken my home town for granted.

While all of this was stewing in my head, I made a decision to do something about it. It's my intention to go out into the community and take a fresh look at this place we call home, through the eyes of someone seeing it for the first time. I want to talk to folks, take pictures, shoot video, and ask questions.

What I'm beginning to understand, is that everyone has a story, if only we take the time to listen. I was standing in line at McDonald's waiting for my friend Pat to whip up a hot mocha, and I noticed a gentleman in front of me wearing a U.S. Army Calvary baseball cap.

I struck up a conversation and he told me he was a Vietnam vet. We only had a moment together -- just enough time for a piece of his story, but I was fascinated by what I heard.

So here is what I plan to do -- in the future, instead of feeling sorry for myself when I can't think of anything to write about, I'm going to go out and do a little prospecting in the acres of diamonds here in Walker County.

If you have a friend or family member with an interesting story to tell, send me an email at and we'll see if we can find a diamond.


  1. Your excitement sounds like your birthday and Christmas all rolled up in one. Can't wait to hear some of these stories.

  2. What a great idea! Many times when I suggest starting a blog to someone they always say they just wouldn't have anything to write silly! As you say, everyone has a story. Good luck with your project, I'll look forward to the posts!

  3. Anonymous10:42 PM

    "I feel a little like the first farmer because I've looked far and wide for interesting stories, but unlike the first farmer, I wised up and discovered fascinating stories right here in Walker County - literally acres of diamonds."

    This is the most profound thing I've heard in a long time! Sorry! I don't know you but I had to post a comment. Your words are poetic. Wow, you're a good writer. I can't wait to hear the stories too!

  4. Great parable!!! Kind of the same when I live in London for a good long while and it's only now that I've moved away that I'm frantically catching up with all the fab museums and events that London had always offered but I've never taken advantage of!! Sometimes the most priceless things are closer to home than you think! Good luck with this venture, take care

  5. Shirley and I research our family histories and too many times we've said if only we had asked our parents or grandparents about so-and-so it might have cleared up some mystery for us. Now we try to encourage people to ask more questions. I'm happy to see you take the initiative to record the memories of others. Sounds like a local history book in the making.

  6. Hi, Rick
    Your hometown sounds like a great place to be. I am one of those folks who was raised "from pillar to post" and thus have a hard time calling anyplace "home".

    You are blessed. ...Marsha

  7. What a great story to share. It really resonates with me. I actually a rather improbable life growing up that in recent years I started mining for its diamonds, so to speak. Even more interesting to me, was to learn that everyone else really has improbable stories of their own. There are no "ordinary" people or "ordinary" lives. It's a rich world we live in!

  8. Just as "charity begins at home", discovering good stories also begins at home. Go ahead!

  9. Thanks y'all. I talked to a guy today that was in the Navy and one of the things he did was to retrieve NASA space modules.
    If I heard him correctly, he was the first one to speak to Neal Armstrong in person when he returned from the moon.
    How cool is that!?
    I'll interview him next week and I'll share the story.


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