Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No More Whining About the Cold

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I was whining about the cold weather? Well, I take it back.
This evening at 4 p.m. when we headed over to Sipsey to post flyers for Jilda's stress management (post traumatic stress) classes that's she's doing for the survivors of the tornadoes.  On the way over, she looked up the weather on her phone and it was 97 degrees in Empire. That's not "feels like" temps but actual mercury bumping the top of the glass.
I had the carpenter and another guy here today helping me paint the house. We got started at 7 a.m. buy by noon, we all looked like we'd taken a swim with our clothes on. We finally quit at two and I felt like I'd been run through an old Maytag wringer.
One of the guys is coming back tomorrow for a few hours to finish up and I'll post some photos of the house once the scaffolding is down and the construction debris is removed from the yard.
By this weekend, I'll be totally finished up with the house and I should also have the barn painted. I'm afraid if the heat holds out, we won't be able to complete the renovation of the creative space until fall.
It's fairly early, but I hear the bed calling me.
Y'all have a great week.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day ~ My column from the local paper

   Memorial Day is a holiday that began just after the Civil War when women walked through battlefields strowing flowers, where soldiers had died.  

I'm sure I read this in school, but it wasn't until I read Shelby Foote's book, The Civil War, that I realized just how many died. At the Battle of Gettysburg alone, 51,000 soldiers died – a number that's almost equal to the population of Walker County now. Twenty eight thousand of those who died were from the hills and hollows of the southEven 150 years later when I contemplate the loss of life, it makes me sad beyond words.                   

Memorial Day was already a federal holiday, but after World War I the government extended the holiday to include all U.S. soldiers who died defending our country. The late 1960's and early 70's during the Vietnam War was a dark period in American history. When soldiers came home, they didn't receive the same welcome as soldiers from earlier wars, who came home as heroes. 

One of the first memorials built specifically for Vietnam Veterans was "The Wall" which was completed in 1982. The monument is in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall in Washington D.C. The monument contains the names of the 158,175 men and women who died in that conflict. It seems the healing began on some level when that monument was built. 

I've never seen it, but Jilda was there on business in the late 80's and she told me she wept as she touched the names on that The Wall. 

War is never glamorous, and it comes with a huge price tag. Not only in terms of dollars, but the loss of life. When you factor in the the impact of soldiers who come home with scars both physical and mental, the costs are staggering. 

The Bible says there will always be wars and rumors of wars. Those words have been true for all of my life. And every time there was a call to duty, our soldiers, both men and women, have stepped up and done what we asked them to do. They leave the debate about whether or not the war is just, to others. 

As I thought about what to say in this story, I was driving by the Sumiton Community Center. I remembered the Sumiton Area Veteran's Memorial so I pulled in. The sun was dipping below the horizon to the west and the light was stunning. 

I sat for a long time and soon the drone of traffic and other noise faded. On the front of the memorial are the words Duty, Honor, Country, and as those words seeped in, it occurred to me that through the ages, men and women believed in these words enough to lay their lives down. 

It's because of their sacrifice, that we in this country are free to kick off the summer at the beach, and stuff ourselves with hotdogs and hamburgers on Memorial Day. Free to go to the Memorial Day Sales and max out our credit cards. 

We owe them a great debt. Jilda and I plan to celebrate on Memorial Day too, but I can promise you this -- the sun will not set, before I say a prayer of gratitude to all our fallen soldiers.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The last leg

Tomorrow kicks off the last leg of our five month construction project. We have a small front porch that we're rebuilding and we're going to put up an entry arbor. Jilda's always wanted our guests to walk through a jasmine tunnel when they come to call. 
I have the lumber and the carpenter will be here in the morning before the roosters stretch their legs.
After the porch is replaced, we'll paint the house and remove all the scaffolding. That will be the end of construction/remodeling on the house, though we still have stuff to do at the barn and the creative space.
The last several months have been harder on Jilda than on me. The last week, it seems all the chaos began to haunt me too.
So I started focusing on one thing at a time. I got the yard in order, I hauled off a ton of junk, and yesterday, I painted the screen porch with the paint we plan to use on the exterior of the house. It's the color of weathered cyprus. 
Now we can drink our coffee each morning on the veranda like we've done for years. 
It's coming together, but in retrospect, it would have been much smarter to do one project at a time instead of tackling them all at once.
Oh well, every day's a school day. 
Happy Memorial Day Eve.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Versatile Blogger

My Blog Buddy Claudia Moser sent me a Versatile Blogger award today.
Since I've been blogging for almost six years, there's very little I haven't revealed about myself.
But the challenge is to tell 10 things about myself, so here goes:
1. I've snorkeled in the Bay of Colon - Panama
2. I was bitten by an Ocelot - Panama
3. I dove off Duncan Bridge into Smith Lake (40 feet from bridge to water)
4. I have an hourglass on my desk
5. In high school, I was selected class favorite in the 7th and 8th grades (don't laugh when you see the hair)
6. I've helped dig graves at the old cemetery near my childhood home
7. I played at the Napa Valley Wine Festival two years in a row with my lovely spouse Jilda
8. I've ridden in the engine of a freight train
9. I've dangled my feet off the end of a train
10. I swam in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans on the same day (again, in Panama)

So now, who do I select to get the versatile blogger?
You are Loved
Aine Tierney
Vittles and Committals 
Starkley Hollow
Grandpappy's Thoughts

Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Just Another Day on the Water

I kicked off the Memorial Day weekend in style today. I decided to go fishing again.
It's been a long time since I've gone fishing twice in a week, but I finished up my writing early and I felt the urge.
The morning was cool, but when the sun came out, the day warmed up nicely. 
I figured that since it was a holiday weekend, there would be a crowd on the water, but when I pulled in, there were only two other cars, one of them with a three young kids. I knew they'd be fishing with worms off the bank.
I picked up my gear and walked a distance to my favorite fishing spot and made my way to the water.
I shot this self portait with my phone but then I left it on the bank. It can be cumbersome taking pictures with the iPhone, and I didn't want to drop it in the river.
I put on my waders and stepped into the icy waters of the Sipsey. I tied on a stone fly (I'm still learning about the names of the flies and other beginner stuff) and started casting away.
The stress of the last few weeks melted away like butter on a hot biscuit.
Soon I found my rhythm and I was lost in the moment. It's like the feeling I have when I do yoga or meditate. I've read that when you do tai chi, you sometimes experience the same sensation.
After a while, I felt a rainbow trout hit my stone fly (I'm learning the names of the flies), and soon I was wrestling with the largest rainbow that I've ever caught in the Sipsey. 
When the battle was over, I pulled him in close, wet my hand and then carefully removed the fly from his upper lip. 
I then held him under the water facing up stream to let him catch his breath. They fight with every once of energy they have and if you are careless, they can die before you release them. 
After about 30 seconds, this guy got his second wind and he shot out of my hand and off to freedom.  I could almost hear him cursing me as he sped off.
A wind came up out of the west and made casting a challenge.  About noon, I'd decided to head home and have lunch with Jilda. 
As I was reeling in my line, I heard a splash on the far bank. I thought at first it was a trout, but I soon saw a wake which told me it was a snake.
He was headed directly toward me. I splashed the water to give him notice, but he didn't turn. I'm not certain it was a cottonmouth moccasin or not, but he behaved like one. They are agressive and very poisonous.  
I kept slashing the water with my rod, but he never turned. When he got within a few feet of me, I hit him with the rod. 
I'm a live and let live kind of guy, but we came to a point in the confrontation where we both fell into some kind primal role. I couldn't be in his space, and he could not be in mine.
I wish there had been another choice, but for me in that moment, I did not see one.
Even though it was a great day on the water, I was sad that it ended that way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's a Sundial in the Shade

   I re-read Ben Franklin's Wit and Wisdom again today. There are so many remarkable truths in that little tome (kind of an oxymoron, since the book is not really big and heavy, but it has some big and heavy ideas in it so I think Franklin would have approved). 

One of the things he says that jumped out at me is:
Hide not your talents,

They for use were made:
What good is a sundial in the shade?

   I'm constantly amazed by the economy of words. Someone who can say so much with so few words. Some people have a knack for distilling ideas down to their essence so that when you read the words, they whack you upside the head.
   I doubt that Ol' Ben came up with all these sayings. I'm guessing that since he published farmer's almanacs back in the day, that a lot of people sent these quotes in to him and he simply collected and published them.
   But the saying about hiding your talents, spoke to me this evening as I read it. I seem to spend a great deal of time doing "stuff". The question that nags me is this -- Am I spending too much time on unimportant stuff?  I think it's a valid question you must ask yourself from time to time.
   We all have gifts, and I think it's wrong, not to share those gifts. I get melodies out of nowhere. I can be driving down the road and it's almost like my mind is tuned into some cosmic radio station. I've recorded hundreds of melodies in recent years.
   But here's the thing -- I have the melodies on my iPhone, but unless I take the next step and turn the melodies into complete songs that I can share, I'm hiding my talents. I've got to do a better job and utilizing my talents.
   After all, what's a sundial in the shade?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Deer Lesson

I was a little later putting out corn for the deer this evening. I alway rattle the corn in the plastic container I use to carry feed to their spot. I dump most of the corn out and then rattled the remainder in the bottom of the  large cup.
Someone once told me that deer can hear like bats, but I was never sure if it was true. Tonight when I rattled the corn and stepped the hundred steps back to our fence, Jilda called to me from the deck. Look!
I turned to see two young deer scrambling up to feed.
I leaned in, draped my arms over fence, and watched our four legged friends for a while. When I went inside to wash up for dinner, I glanced through the window and the small deer was checking out our peas.
I'm guessing the ones we planted outside the fence won't make it.
Note to self: If you feed the deer close enough to watch them, they will not only eat the corn, but the garden too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I'd give $10 for an original thought right now. I'm talkin' cash in your pocket. Money that you could spend to buy.....well, you couldn't be a lot, but you could put a down payment on a Starbuck coffee drink.  
My head's as empty as a whistle, without that little ball that dances around when you blow. And speaking of that, what is that little ball for? Can somebody riddle me that?  
If I had a dollar for all the things I DON'T know, I could pay off the national debt and provide healthcare coverage for every citizen of the U.S. for the next 100 years.
How is it that someone can live to be as old as I am and be so ill-informed? It's a mystery! Where does a fire go when it goes out?  And, how long is a short piece of rope?
Anyhow, since I'm running on empty, this will be a short post tonight. I need to go somewhere quite and ponder.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Column from Sunday's Paper

 A month or so ago I wrote a column about “Acres of Diamonds” in Walker County. I got a ton of positive feedback on that piece. At the end of the article I asked if anyone had “a gem” of a story to let me know.

A few days later I got a call from Tommy Cagle of Curry and in a voice as low as a bullfrog, he told me that he got a chance to do something while he was in the Navy that was “kind of interesting.”

He and his twin brother, Donnie, joined the Navy in 1966, a few years after they graduated from Walker High School. Recruiters told the twins that they could serve together, but after bootcamp Tommy was assigned to the USS Yorktown and Donnie’s assignment put him on the USS Hornet.

Normally that’s where they would both have spent their time, but the twins happened to have an uncle, Edgar Allan Poe, who worked for the New Orleans Picayune, but was assigned as a White House Correspondent covering the Nixon administration.

When the twins told Uncle Edgar about the assignments, he called in a favor and soon Tommy got a handwritten note from the Chief of Naval Personnel asking where he wanted to serve. Tommy told him he wanted on the USS Hornet. Soon the twins were on their way to the western Pacific and more specifically the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam.

During the Apollo moon missions, the twins were still serving on the Hornet and one of the assignments was to retrieve the lunar modules.

They were on duty on July 24, 1969 when Apollo 11, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Once the module was recovered from the Pacific and the astronauts were placed in a quarantine module, Tommy Cagle hooked up the telephone. This made him the first person on earth to congratulate Neil Armstrong (and Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) on a successful mission. Tommy then handed the phone to President Richard Nixon who was on board, so that he could welcome the astronauts home.

Tommy and Donnie remained in the Navy until 1970. But when Tommy left the Navy, he didn’t get too far from the water. He spent 30 years as a marine policeman. “I spent my career floating around in a boat on Smith Lake,” he said with a smile.

Donnie also stayed close to water and is still working with Alabama Power doing shoreline surveillance. Tommy has two other brothers; Paul who is a truck driver and Patrick who worked for security with the power company and, after retirement, took a security job in Afghanistan.

Tommy and his wife, Ronita, have a daughter, Rachel. His father died several years ago and his mother lives at the Terrace in Jasper.

As the interview was winding down, Tommy told me about another time he spoke with Richard Nixon.

Uncle Edgar Allan Poe was visiting Tommy’s family in Jasper. They were all eating breakfast when the phone rang. Tommy answered the phone and the man on the other end said, “May I speak to Mr. Poe.”

Tommy asked who was calling.

“The president,” came the reply.

Tommy said, “The president of what?”

The caller said, “This is Richard Nixon, the president of the United State!”

Tommy said, “Oh,” and handed the phone to Edgar.

I enjoyed Tommy Cagle’s story and I think he was being very modest when he said he did something that was “kind of interesting.” 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zen and the Art of Barn Painting

My barn is like an old friend. It's kept my tractor, my antique car, and my tools in the dry for years.
Whenever life gets too crazy and I need to put some distance between me and the wolves, I go to the barn. It's like a sanctuary.
It's sits under ancient oak and hickory trees, and like most barns, it has housed, cows, chickens, goats, and other critters through the years.
When you sit inside, and close your eyes, you can smell the heart pine that was used to build it, you can smell old hay, and you can smell long decayed cow manure.
There's an old rusty chain that hangs from a rafter in the bay that I'm sure was used in years past to hoist motors out of cars and tractors so they could be rebuilt and reinstalled.
It has a history, and that's why rebuilding the barn was important to me.
This spring has been crazy with all the other projects we've been working on, but this week I took a piece of the old barn wood with me to Home Depot and had them match the color as closely as possible.
I while I was there, I picked up a paint sprayer.
Today, we didn't have a lot planned so this afternoon, I collected all the tools, paint, and ladder and headed to the barn.
I sat in the shade and mixed the paint. Off in the distance I could hear a woodhen pecking on hardwood. Though I hadn't seen many butterflies since the tornados, a big eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly came lilting by as if it had been sipping wine instead of nectar.
I fired up the compressor and began to swipe the sprayer back and forth over the barn. It's not good to get in a hurry when you're painting, so I fell into a rhythm and moved slow and steady.
In what seemed like only a few minutes, I had put the first coat of paint on the newly replaced wood siding.
In the next day or so, when the paint has time to dry, I'll lay down another coat and blend it in with the old wood. I can tell you, it already looks so much better than it did just a few months ago.
I hope to get the carpenter up to replace our little front deck on the house and build the small arbor that Jilda designed. And then, I can paint the house.
It's been a good day here in Empire. I hope you all had a blessed weekend, and do something remarkable this coming week.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Armed Forces Day

We played at an Armed Forces celebration today. It was a fun gig, but I was thankful we played in the morning, because here in Alabama we pretty much skipped spring. We went straight from very chilly weather, to it being hot as a Waffle Housse grill.
As we sat in the audience after we played, my mind wandered a bit, and it occurred to me that 40 years ago this week, I too was in the Armed Forces. 
I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in basic training. It was warm during the daytime, and at nights I swatted mosquitoes as big a bats.
It seems like I ran the length of Kentucky a dozen times while I was there. I also learned some snappy marching tunes.
A yellow bird
A yellow bill
Landed on, my window sill
I lured him in, 
With crumbs of bread
And then I stomped his little head (except we used a dirty word instead of little). I still smile at the memory.
Basic was an interesting place. At night when we got to sleep in the baracks, you'd often hear guys talking after the lights went out. They'd talk about their families, their girlfriends, and what they wanted to do when they got out of the Army.
I listened, but I didn't talk a lot.  Some of the guys were apprehensive about where they'd go after basic. Some wanted to go to Vietnam, some wanted to go anywhere but there.
What most of the guys didn't know was that what came after basic depended upon how well you did on the battery of tests they gave us. 
If you scored high in one area, you might be a cook, if you scored high in another area, you might be in artillery.  As it turns out, I scored high in communications, so in stead of heading off to gunnery school or infantry, I went to school to learn electronics.
When I got out of advanced training, they sent me to Panama. It was a tough gig being in what amounts to a tropical paradise.  
Exotic birds, coconuts, bananas, and mangos growing all around the baracks -- I wouldn't wish that on anyone. You would NOT believe the sunburn I had to endure on the beaches there.
Anyway, that's what I thought about today.

Pay it Forward

My friend "D" over at You Are Loved 
Gave me a Pay It Forward badge.  I really enjoy reading her posts. Y'all stop by and check her out.

Here are the rules:

1) Tell you who gave it to mHere are the rules:

1) Tell you who gave it to me.
2) Put up a link to their blog.
3)Pay it Forward to five more bloggers.

I'm forwarding it to five of my blog buddies.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When Things Go Wrong

I've felt overwhelmed a great deal this week, but things began to fall into place today. I turned in my article that was due this week, and then Jilda and I ran down to the high school from which we graduated.
We fund a scholarship each year to a deserving student. We never give the money to the kids with the highest grades, or the best athlete. Instead, we try to look for kids with a good heart. The ones that are often overlooked and under celebrated. Our scholarship this year went to Tyesha Meadows. She was a beautiful girl with a promising future. I believe she will do remarkable things.
After awards day, I ran by to see my mom at the nursing home for awhile, and when I left there, I went fishing.
I shot a few pictures with my iPhone and I'd planned to use a nice photo of the river and the mossy rocks in the foreground, but something went terribly wrong when I tried to edit the picture with some software I'd downloaded but hadn't really learned how to use.
The original picture looked a little washed out because of the angle of the sun, so my thought was to adjust the contrast to make it look more natural.
I guess I zigged when I should have zagged, because instead of getting a serene photo of a gently flowing river with stones in the foreground, I got blue rocks and trees, yellow underbrush, and maroon water.
For a moment, I thought I was having one of those drug flashbacks they said I'd have back in the 60's. But I couldn't hear "All Along the Watchtower" or anything by Grateful Dead, so I didn't get too excited.
After looking at the picture for a while I can't say I was disappointed. In fact, I like the photo. I think I'll get a large print and hang it in my office to remind me that it's not always bad, when things go wrong.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've been feeling puny today. Not sure why, but the energy is low, creativity is in the negative zone, and my elbow itches. 
And here's the kicker. Everywhere I went today, people were talking about all kinds of injuries, illnesses, and other maladies. That itself is not that strange, but every time someone started talking about what was going on with them, I'd immediately become symptomatic. 
When an old guy at Wal-Mart mentioned that his wife had shingles, my nerve endings (another borrowed graphic) around my neck started burning. 
Another guy mentioned that his knees were giving him problems, and I swear, mine squeaked when turned to walk away. Thank goodness no one mentioned tuberculosis, or diarrhea.  
Why does our brains do this at times? 
A few moments ago, Jilda mentioned that she felt like she was coming down with strep throat. You guessed it! I'm signing off now and I'm going to gargle, drink some hot tea, and go to bed because my throat hurts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Not much happening on the homefront

I needed a change of scene, so I grabbed my laptop and went to the kitchen table to work on some stories this morning.
I was tapping away on the keyboard like a woodpecker with a mission when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. Down under the apple tree where we feed the deer, I saw a wild turkey who was apparently looking to find some corn for breakfast. 
Unfortunately, he was out of luck, because the deer came the evening before and scarfed down all the corn I'd put out and I hadn't gone out to replenish it.
He actually looked like this guy, but by the time I grabbed my camera he was long gone, so I borrowed this one from the Internet. (Hope that's ok guys).
Wild turkeys are very skittish and they notice the slightest movement, even from a distance.  Maybe I should keep the Canon camera on the table for the next few days.
Also, I think Mr. Chicken Snake is getting my eggs. I usually get two eggs a day but the last few days, I got zilch. What's even stranger, the golf balls I had in the nests (a little trick I learned to entice the hens to lay), were missing too. I mean, they weren't knocked out of the nest by a raccoon, or possum, they were gone.
So I'm guessing Mr. Chicken Snake has a major case of indigestion. I can hear him now, "WHY WON'T THESE DANG EGGS CRACK LIKE ALL THE OTHERS!"
Anyhow, I've kept a closer eye on the nests today. If I catch him in the act, I plan to trap him and take him to live with the raccoons I tapped last spring.
It's bedtime blog buddies. Y'all sleep tight.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Better Day

When I slipped out of bed this morning to get the coffee started, I had a feeling it would be a pretty good day. The first inkling was when I stepped out on the deck to dump the old coffee grounds, and looked off to the eastern horizon. It was chilly outside, but it wasn't gray, which was a good thing.
After we sipped for a while, the sun peeped through the front windows and highlighted the crystals we have hanging there. Tiny rainbows danced on our walls and in or mirrors. I had to smile.
My first interview today was with James Spann. He's the local meteorologist that I really admire. I was scheduled to interview him on April 28th. But disaster struck the day before so the interview was rescheduled.
As we talked about the events of April 27th, a sadness crept into his voice as he looked off into the distance. He said that after more than 230 people died in Alabama in the tornado's on April 27th, that he felt like he'd failed. 
I literally got a lump in my throat. I wanted to tell him that he and his team did everything but drive house to house and drag people to safety.
He went on to say that a specialist from the National Weather Bureau told him a few days after the disaster, that most authorities expected thousands to die in the storms. 
I know I'm not an authority and I haven't been to all the affected areas, but I've been to the five areas nearest to me and I can tell you, it is a miracle that more people didn't die.
On the way home from the interview today, I shot the picture to the right of Smithfield Estates which is in the Birmingham city limits. 
I'm not sure what the population is in this area, but I can tell you thousands of people lived there.
I know I've dwelled on these storms a great deal, but it's like a wound that's slow to heal. 
I can say that it felt good today. After what seemed like an eternity of cold grey skies, the sun was out in force, and it felt good on my face. Yes, today was a better day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Photo Ops

The sun is still shy here. It peeped out for a few seconds...long enough to get our hopes up, and our tennis shoes tied, but then slipped behind the clouds.
We decided to walk anyhow. I think today set some kind of record low for this date, so we had to put on sweatshirts, and long pants. 
When we circled the barn, I spotted a chameleon on the back of the barn so I snapped this photo. 
I bought paint and a sprayer this past weekend and I'll be replacing the last few boards and slapping on a fresh coat of paint soon. As I was surveying what all needed to be replaced, this little guy scooted down to offer his opinion.
Also as we walked, Jilda noticed the hydrangeas have begun to bloom. In years past, they've bloomed much earlier, but it's been an odd spring here.
There are literally hundreds of wild hydrangeas down in the hollow. 
I have a couple interviews tomorrow, so it will be an early night tonight.
It is my wish that you all have a remarkable week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Like a Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone magazines started coming in our mailbox last month and I'm not sure why. We've subscribed in the past, but we didn't this time. We're checking with some of our friends to see if the subscription was a gift.
The theme of the one that arrived yesterday was the 70 greatest Bob Dylan songs. The magazine featured articles by famous artists, writers, and others who talked about the impact Dylan's music had on them.
As a songwriter, it's difficult to articulate the impact Dylan had on me. I've been listening to his music for as long as I can remember.
If someone asked me to name my favorite Dylan song, I'm not sure if I could do it. Where does one start? 
Obviously Like a Rolling Stone would be up there, and Blowin' in the Wind, but there are so many others. 
Dylan is a master of reinventing himself. His lyrics are written on a different level than lyrics written by most other songwriters.  He has the ability to paint stories with words. Stories that stir emotion, and bring back a rush of memory you'd long forgotten. But the thing is, if you ask ten other people what the song is about, to them, it would mean something totally different. It's a mystery. 
So, here are ten of my favorite Dylan songs:
Like a Rolling Stone
Tangled up in Blue
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
Mr. Tambourine Man
Blowin' in the Wind
With God on Our Side
I Shall Be Released
You're a Big Girl Now
To Make You Feel My Love
Stuck Inside of Mobile (with those Memphis blues again)
All Along the Watch Tower (I know that's eleven, but I can't help it)

OK, I've put mine down. If any of you have different songs, feel free to give me your list.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Helping Hand

Today the sky was grey as an old stovepipe. It looked more like a winter sky of late November or December, than May.
I tried to do yoga on the deck, but rain began to pepper the tin roof, so I moved inside.  After I stretched, twisted and breathed, I sat for a while listening to music; not on the stereo, but on the roof.
Tonight we played a benefit in Cullman and earned a few dollars for the Red Cross. It felt good to make a contribution.
I posted a video last week of a woman who lost everything, including her wedding dress. She'd planned to get married the week after the stormes but the wedding was postponed.
I got an email yesterday from another woman who'd seen the video, and asked if I knew how to reach the storm victim.
It seems the woman has  friends in the wedding industry and they want to help make the wedding a reality.
She said "I can't physically come and help with the restoration, but I can help make this wedding a reality."
I hooked the two women up and I'm not sure if it will happen or not, but wouldn't that make a neat story.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday in Empire

I planted corn and peas this morning. Both should have been planted a few weeks ago, but there were distractions.
This morning I got out early before the sun heated up the day and got at it. I cranked up the ancient Troybilt tiller. I'm constantly amazed by the design and functionality of this simple garden tool. 
I check the oil every now and then, I clean the fuel filter, and put in a little gas. When I need to break up a garden spot, I pull the crank and the old tiller springs to life. It coughs and sputters a little, but it never fails to crank. 
When I put her in gear, she chugs and tills down a row. What's left behind is soil as fine as face powder. I could almost hear the corn and peas rejoice when I dropped the seeds in the rows this morning.
The sun came up and warmed the earth for a few hours before the clouds moved in from the west. Soon a gentle rain began to fall.  I could hear thunder from a distance, but the storms shunted off to the north.
This evening I walked down to the garden and sat down on the grass for a while. It felt good to be connected to the earth and I could smell the freshly tilled soil.  It felt good in ways that I can't explain.
Everything we've planted so far looks great. I'm guessing we'll have squash in three weeks, and maybe tomatoes in a month or less.
Jilda ran by the produce stand and picked up fresh corn on the cob, tomatoes, and new potato's today. She then whipped up a batch of her world famous cornbread and that's what we had for lunch. 
We had classical music on our stereo and as we ate, two deer strolled up under our apple tree and munched on the corn we'd left there. 
I thought to myself, "is it possible to have a better meal anywhere on the planet?" I guess it's possible, but I'd really like to experience it first hand.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Yeah! Blogger's Back

We didn't post last night because of the Blogger outage. I think it was system wide so everyone probably got a night off.
I must say I had a bit of withdrawal. It drove the point home that I really should back up my posts.  I did backups for the first year or so, but I stopped. I'd hate to think about losing the stuff I've posted through the years.
We'll make our regularly scheduled updates tonight.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Our office has three computers. The old Window's computer that I used to use, my iMac that I now use, and Jilda's laptop. She sits behind me facing the other wall, so essentially, we're sitting back to back.
We usually write our blog updates at the same time. Normally that's not an issue, but on nights when I'm blocked, and she's typing away like a woodpecker that just snorted a line of expresso, it bugs me.
Every now and then I'll look over my right shoulder and I can see her swaying as she types. She's in a groove and the words are flowing. It's those times I'm tempted to lean over and unplug her laptop.
Tonight is one of those nights. I've started twenty entries, but by the time I reach the third sentence, I realize it's lame as a shoeless horse in a gravel pit. I've almost worn DELETE off my delete key.
I can almost hear her giggling behind me as she types away and I've got Diddley. So, I'm calling it quits...throwing in the towel. But the race is long. Tomorrow is a new day.
Watch your back missy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lack of technology leads to reflection -- column from Sunday's paper

I used to have a phone-finder. One of those clunky square boxes that sat next to the black rotary dial telephone. The phone-finder had a column of letters from A-Z on the outside of the device, and a lever that you slid down to find the letter that correlated to the last name of the person you wanted to call.

Then you’d poke your finger in a hole in the dial and whirl it clockwise until it stopped on the finger rest. The dial sounded like you were using a tiny handsaw to cut a 2x4 each time you dialed a number. When you released the dial, it would make a clicking sound on its way back to the original position.

When my folks got our first phone, we were on a party-line which meant we shared the same telephone line with a neighbor. Each family on the party-line had a distinctive ring – one long ring for one family, and maybe two short rings for the other. There were also four party-lines, and eight party-lines which called for creative ring combinations – RING RING RRRIIIINNNNGGGGG.

Other than having a busybody neighbor that liked to listen in on conversations, we got by just fine. If you were on the phone and a neighbor needed to use the phone, they might interrupt your call to say, “I have an important call to make, can I please have the line for a few minutes?” For the most part it was always civil.

But through the years, the party-line phones faded away like rabbit ear TV antennas, and eight-track tapes. In their place came slimline, trimline, princess and designer phones made overseas. The dials were replaced by numeric keypads, and speed-dialers. Technology marched on.

Then in the late 1980’s the personal computer hit the market. The first ones cost more than a used car. IBM gave away the rights to the PC operating system software (DOS), because they didn’t think anyone would want a personal computer in their home. The only future they saw was with huge mainframe computers.

Bill Gates, on the other hand had an idea, and soon Microsoft was born. Gates’ vision made him one of the richest people on the planet.

The first PC’s were stand alone, meaning they weren’t connected to anything, but then in the early 1990’s the Internet gained in popularity and for the first time, computers could connect to the world wide web. People started emailing, sharing pictures, video, documents, music, bad jokes and urban legends. Technology marched on.

Today, my phone-finder is my iPhone. I can touch a button (or simply say the name) to bring up my contacts and not only find the name and phone number in an instant, but I see their picture, their mailing address, their email address, their birthday and shoe size if I happen to need that information.

The problem with all this technology is that when disaster strikes like it did here in Alabama, a lot of the technology that you depend on is practically worthless. I went into tech withdrawals on day two. The tornado blew down cell towers and damaged the Charter Communications cables which provide my Internet connection to the world.

A few days into the Internet outage I started twitching and seeing things out of the corner of my eyes, but after a week, I figured out how to function. I now grab my laptop and drive to the nearest McDonald’s where they have free wireless that allows me to get my email, update my blog and check Facebook for birthdays.

Now that I’ve had time to slow down and reflect, I miss the days of my old phone-finder and the whirl and click of my clunky old telephone.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Smart Kids

   I spoke tonight at the academic banquet for my old high school alma mater. I guess I pictured thirty or forty people, but the number was closer to two hundred. The kids, their parents, grand parents, and others.
   The principal who is a friend of mine, told me that these were some of the brightest kids in the county and that he'd passed out scorecards.  He said I'd be graded at the end of my talk on a olympic-like scale. 
   So many points for contents, so many points for style, so many points for use of facts and humor. I pictured in my mind, kids holding up cards 4.5 --  5.1 -- 3.8 -- 6.2 and so on. That pep talk from the principal really helped a great deal :)
   As it turns out, I was a bit nervous, but I made it through without any major calamities or turret's outbursts.
  I'm not sure if my message on the importance of education hit home, or not but I don't think you can hear that message too much when you're young. I really wish I'd heard it more.

  The reality is, most folks find their way. Everybody makes mistakes, misqueues, and blunders. The trick is, not to repeat them too often.
 When I looked into the faces of the kids tonight, I felt hope. Even thought they have a long and circuitous, road ahead, I got the feeling that some of them will go on to do something remarkable -- at least, that is what I choose to believe.

Sunday, May 08, 2011


I went out early to see my mom this morning at the nursing home. She was all spiffed up and had a corsage that the nurses had given her. I gave her the card and gown that Jilda and I had gotten her and she was in a pretty good mood.
When I left, I stopped by the Sipsey Community Center where they were getting ready to feed the hundreds of volunteers who'd descended on the community.  The idea was to pop in to see if they needed anything that I could fetch for them and then head home.
The lady in charge looked a little stressed. Since this was Mother's Day, they were a little short on help. Before I could say Crisco, they had me in the kitchen frying up corn fritters and fish sticks.
Until today, the only things I've cooked was cornbread, chili, and waffles. 
When I looked at the lady doubtfully, she blazed me with a look that said -- Hey Bubba, a trained monkey cranked up on Xanax could fry fish sticks and corn fritters. So my on-the-job training period was rather short, and soon I get in the groove.
After a few minutes I was shouting -- ORDER UP!!!, as if I'd worked at a Waffle House for years.
I know that both Jilda and I have written a great deal about this disaster.  For days afterward I think we both had post traumatic stress, even though we weren't directly in the path. When people see this type destruction it's disturbing on a primal level. Seeing it on TV is one thing, but driving through these areas each day, and experiencing it first hand brings it home.
I shot a video on Friday after the tornado (on Wednesday) of a lady who'd lost a great deal. I asked her a few days later if I could share it and she said OK.  It's a about four minutes long.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I went to Art in the Park today. It's an event sponsored by the Walker County Art Alliance. Jilda and I are members and this is a big event for them. I took a box of my books to sell and I gave the proceeds to the alliance.
It was good to get my mind off the disaster, but a theme that I heard over and over was gratitude. People were heartsick that so many people had lost their homes and their lives, but they were grateful that they had somehow survived.
I took a few minutes to walk around the park and see the work of artists from around the county. I met a photographer that has a catalog of museum quality photographs. We talked for a while and I learned that he lives less the three miles from me.
I sold several books for the alliance but by 1 p.m. I was ready to head for home, because it was time for a nap.
As I drove through Sipsey, I saw hundreds of volunteers in green shirts.   They had chainsaws and were dragging debris into huge piles. They worked with the efficiency of a colony of bees. For some reason, seeing all the people who had descend  on this little community put a lump in my throat. I shot a little video....but then I turned around and drove back to one of the places where the people in green shirts were working. I found out they were Mormons, and this particular group was from Tennessee. I am in awe of the kindness of the people of this country. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Oh Happy Day

   I worked in town today and on my way home, my niece sent me a text. INTERNET IS BACK ON. 
   I wept. Well, not really, but I can tell you I was quite happy. It's been a week and three days since we've been online here.
   We didn't feel right using McDonalds' WiFi without buying something, so not only did it cost us a small fortune, but I also gained three pounds. If we hadn't gotten online soon, I would have had to buy a new set of clothes. It's good to be back among the connected.
   Tomorrow Jilda has yoga training. She's two days away from having her 200 hours so that she is recognized by the Yoga Alliance. I told her she should call in drunk on Monday but since she's working at a drug and alcohol rehab center, she didn't think that was such a good idea.
   I, on the other hand, will be signing books at the Walker County Art Alliance "Art in the Park" festival tomorrow with all the proceeds from the sale of my books going to support the alliance. It's supposed to be a beautiful day. 
   Afterwards, I'm going to stop in Sipsey (the community next to ours that was hit by the tornado) and give away books to those affected by the storm.
   Thanks to all who kept visiting our blogs and leaving supportive comments. I cannot tell you what it means to us.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Happy Chickens

I replaced the roof of my chicken pen today. The old roof was actually fiberglass panels used for greenhouses.
The panels were worn and torn from years of  howling  wind and fowl weather (pun intended). 
It leaked and my poor chickens had to huddle in one corner when it rained.
I'd promised the birds time and again that I'd fix the roof but last weeks storms blew the panels to north Georgia or some other destination.
So today I ran by Home Depot and bought tin and used long screws to secure it to the rafters. I stood there a long while and watched as the chickens came in. They inched in  looking around tentatively. They were unsure at first, but then began to cluck approvingly. 
Chickens might do #2 in their feeders but they are quite picky about their roosting area. I was happy they were happy. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Old Cold Rain

The rain moved in today and the sky is as gray as chimney smoke.  The temps dropped and it feels more like fall of the year rather than spring.
I bundled up and ran out early to feed the critters.  A drop of rain fell from one of the pines and the water raced the the valley of my back formed by my spine. I shivered involuntarily.
We had to run into town this morning to see my mom and pick up some building supplies (and to do our blog entries). When we came through Sipsey, there were many utility trucks idling in staging areas with windshield wipers clicking like the hand of a metronome. 
The ones who were hanging wire were bundled up in yellow rain gear. I can tell you from years of experience as a repairman with MaBell, they were NOT having fun. I loved that work, but it was brutal when there was an old cold rain falling.
I plan to try and get caught up with all my writing work this weekend. Jilda has her last three-day class before she has her master level yoga certification.  I know she will be happy to get that little piece of paper.
Also, we celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary on Thursday, May 5th. Woo Hoo. Who said I wouldn't get through the first year without having my head cut off with a butcher knife.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Still No Internet

Hey All,
 We still don't have Internet access at home so we have to drive to a town about 15 miles away to a McDonalds that has Internet access.
 Neither of us has had much time anyhow. We've been helping our neighbors in Sipsey clear debris and look through the woods for pictures, car titles and other small pieces of their lives.
 Yesterday morning a truckload of men from a black church in a nearby town converged on the neighborhood and fanned out. They started helping anyone who needed a hand.
 Church ladies with hotdogs, buckets of fried chicken, and cold tea came through feeding workers and families affected by the disaster.
  As we worked, more people from all over converged with trucks, chainsaws, generators, cases of water, ice and anything else you could think of.
 I was proud, and humbled by the outpouring for this small community. I know it will be  a very long time before things are back to normal here in Alabama. I have pictures and video, but it will take some time to put it together. And of course, I will need Internet access.
 Charter says they will be out in the morning and hopefully I can get back to my daily blogging. I can only hope. Thanks for understanding.

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