Thursday, June 30, 2011

And another thing

My blog-buddy Claudia is trying to attain the 100 follower milestone. She's so close that she can smell the barn (as the say out here in the sticks).
If you haven't visited her site, please do and consider following her. She is a lover of quotations and has some of the best ones I've seen anywhere.
Here is the link to her blog:

Fresh Flowers

The spring was cold and strange this year and then the days got hotter that Satan with a fever. As a result, we were late getting some of plants in the ground.
The sunflowers were among the last things we planted and we worried they wouldn't make it in the heat, but whenI walked out yesterday, one had started to bloom.
This evening when I went down to put out corn for the deer, I snapped this photo of our first sunflower of 2011. Soon we'll have a row of them dancing in the wind and sun. 
What is it about fresh flowers that make you smile? Each summer our table, mantle, and bathrooms all have vases of fresh flowers. 
I told one of my buddies once how much I liked fresh flowers and he promptly told me that I sounded a little girly. He asked if I had lace on my jockey shorts. 
Well if enjoying fresh flowers makes me seem girly to some folks, then so be it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


My good friend Ken sent me an email commenting on my post a few nights ago about picking blackberries. He said when I mentioned lard buckets, it sent him strolling down memory lane, thinking about containers from his childhood.
After only a few seconds running through an inventory of the containers from my childhood, I thought -- this is a great idea. So thanks for the tip Ken, the check is in the mail.

My great grandmother who lived next door to us when I was a child, had a porch and yard full of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and bird feeders.  None of them were planted in store-bought pots or containers. She used old coffee cans, snuff cans, lard buckets, worn out foot-tubs, used car tires, and slop jars. Some people called them thunder mugs .  (Click here for a description of thunder mug).
My dad had an old Army footlocker that he kept his "special things" in. I used to love to open it up when no one was around and look through the things that meant something to him.
My mother has a handkerchief with four pennies tied into the corner. They were given to her by her mother. The handkerchief with the pennies were in her father's pocket when he died.
The old Maytag wringer washing machines were hard on buttons. My mom would save the buttons that came off during the wash, and she kept them in an old metal lunchbox that was shaped like a football. 
We had a 55 gallon oil drum out behind our pig pen that we used to boil the hair off the hogs we killed.
When I was in the Army, I kept my life in a duffelbag. 
Jilda's dad kept screws, bolts, nuts and washers in an old blue-speckled enamelware roasting pan. I inherited it when he passed away and I rarely have to buy any nuts or bolts because I can shake old blue and find just the right one.
I think the Great Depression, which hit the south particularly hard, affected our parents and grandparents on some fundamental level. 
They got by, by making do. It seems they got really creative when it came to containers.
Thanks Ken, for the container idea.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Favorite Things

My favorite color of car is red
My favorite color of shirt is black
My favorite color of pants is blue
My favorite smell is baking bread
My favorite flower is flowering moss
My favorite time is daybreak
My favorite small city is Telluride, or maybe Sedona
My favorite big city is New York, or maybe San Francisco, or Seattle, or Miami
My favorite sport is football
My favorite hobby is fly fishing
My favorite thing to do is write -- songs and stories
My favorite thing to do with Jilda is sing (this is a G rated blog)
My favorite month is October, or maybe May
My favorite past time is dining with friends

When I was trying to think of something to write about, I drew a blank. I was simply putting something down on the screen while I was thinking. It turned into a list of my favorite things.
What are some of your favorite things?

Monday, June 27, 2011


I mentioned last week that I was feeling a bit puny. I finally got around to going to a doctor today. I'd been putting it off because my regular doctor I've seen for the last 10 years moved his practice to south Alabama and I had to find a new primary care doctor. I really liked this doctor and hated to see him go.
As it turns out, there's a doctor that's much closer to where we live that takes our insurance. When I called this morning to schedule an appointment, the receptionists asked if I could be there at 10:30.
I was taken aback because it often took much longer to see the old doc unless I was hacking up a lung, or spewing blood from an apendage. (To be fair, they always asked if I needed to see the doc sooner).
When I got there today, I was given a ream of new patient forms to fill out and by the time I was finished, they called me back. At 10:30 the doctor walked in.
This is the first time I've used a female doctor but I felt comfortable from the first. She wasn't in a hurry, and asked all the right questions.
She felt that I needed steroids and antibiotics. I was out the door with my scripts in less that 45 minutes.
I'm not sure if steroids affects everyone this way, but I routinely see things out of the corner of my eye. Monkey's, dogs, aliens, and chipmunks, to name just a few things.
I also have bursts of energy that must be burned away.
So this afternoon while Jilda went to work, I rewrote three stories, cleaned up the kitchen, fed the critters, and weeded the flowerbed at the back of the house. All the time I kept swatting at mosquitos as big as bats, that flitted around in my peripheral vision. But each time I snatched my head around to get a better view, they'd go into stealth mode, so I never saw them.
Thank goodness the phone rang, because I started to change the oil and rotate the tires on my truck.
I could probably write a novel tonight, but I'll keep it short. I think I see a tiny goat hiding behind my speakers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blackberries - My column in today's paper

Sometimes coming up with a decent idea to write about is like finding a close parking space at Walmart when it's raining. 
I tapped on the keys for a while this morning and when it became apparent that no ideas were coming my way, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of — I went blackberry picking. 
I was afraid with the recent hot spell, that all the berries would dry up and shrivel on the vine, but we had a good shower yesterday. 
When we walked this morning, I saw bushes that were hanging full of berries as big as June bugs. So I left the cursor blinking impatiently on my laptop, and started looking for a good blackberry picking bucket. 
The best buckets for picking berries are gallon lard buckets. When I asked Jilda if we had an empty gallon lard bucket, she spewed coffee out her nose. "Yes, they are over there by the eight-track tapes, " she quipped. 
A lot of pigs gave their lives so that we could enjoy lard at every meal, when we were kids. I think mama put lard in our tea. You couldn't walk around our yard without tripping over a lard bucket. But today, since we didn't have a lard bucket, I found a small basket and skulked off down toward the barn. Soon I was stomping my way through the bushes and picking berries. Picking blackberries is not for wimps. 
Getting enough berries for a good blackberry pie is costly. The first thing is the thorns. You are not going to pick blackberries without bloodshed. 
No matter how careful you are, a limb from a bush will drape over your arm and it is impossible to remove it without sinking a razor sharp thorn into your arm or hand. You can wear long sleeves, long pants, sox, long underwear, and full body armor, but you will still get scratched. 
Next, there's a very good chance you're going to get chiggers. Some people call them red bugs, but they live in and around blackberry bushes and they love getting in your pants. 
It's also quite common to feel a tick crawling up your arm or you neck. OK, I know several of you just shivered and involuntarily scratched your neck, but I'm just saying…. 
You may be asking at this point – why on earth would you go through all of that to get a few berries. Well, it's the blackberry pie. 
To me, there is no better summertime treat than a hot blackberry pie. The berries have a sweet-tart flavor with tiny seeds that get stuck between your teeth. This is best when you top it off with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. 
Some would argue that apple, strawberry, or blueberry pies are better, but they don't hold a candle to a blackberry pie in my book. 
The reason is because most fruits are easy to come by. You stop by Jolly Chollie's produce stand, pick out some fruit, and make a pie. But with blackberries, you have some skin in the game, so to speak. 
You have scratches on your arms and legs, and chiggers down your britches. So this afternoon, I'll be working in my office when the intoxicating aroma of blackberry pie wafts through the air. 
My mouth will water because I know that soon I'll be enjoying the fruits of my labor. As a bonus, I now have a topic for my column. I love America.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nothing Better

I kicked off the coffee early this morning and then stepped down to the garden to see if anything had grown overnight. 
As it turns out, I noticed that something had grown several inches after the rain yesterday -- the weeds.
The morning was still cool and a little mist hung in the air like a vail.  I pulled weeds from around the okra, squash, tomatoes, and peppers. I then stepped over to the blueberries and snagged a few that had ripened overnight. 
I've remained on top of my weeding duties this summer and so it didn't take long to get things in order.
I pulled my pocket knife out and cut enough okra and squash for a mess. Our tomatoes aren't ripe yet, but Jilda picked up some fresh ones today when she went to the produce market.
Tonight we had fried squash/okra, new potatoes, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and hot buttered cornbread.
Not sure it's possible to have anything better.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Taking a Break

I have a writing deadline approaching but for the life of me I couldn't wrap my mind around it so I did the only sensible thing -- I went fly fishing.
I broke the news to Jilda over coffee. She's a little under the weather but I could almost hear her say, don't let the door hit you in the butt.
I got to the water before sunrise and the mist on the water looked mystical. I tied on a stonefly and started casting.
I think trout must sleep in, during the summer. Tonight I did a Google search and found nothing to substantiate this, but I chose to believe they do because they weren't biting. 
I could hear a great blue heron upstream, though I couldn't see him.
Rivers have an earthy smell. Moss, fallen trees, wild flowers and decaying leaves are all components, but there are other things that are familiar, yet unnamable. 
As I tried to put labels on the smells, a young rainbow had its way with my fly. By the time I realized it, he figured out he'd been duped and spit the fly out. On his way downstream he flipped out of the water as if to say, kiss my a** mister fisherman.
In the past I would have beaten myself up for the lack of focus, but I've come to understand that it's not about catching fish.  So I smiled at the rainbow because if I were a fish, I would have done the same thing.
When the morning sun burned the mist off the water, I started catching trout. I  caught 10 in all, but of course I let them all go.
This afternoon when I got home, Jilda was heading out to work. I took the laptop out to the screen porch and knocked out the first draft of the story that's due.
I doubt the story would have been any better if I'd stayed home and tapped keys all day. Some times you get more done when you take a break.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Berry Kick

I must be on a berry kick. I talked about blackberries in my blog last night, today I wrote about picking blackberries in my column that runs in next Sunday's paper, and this evening, Jilda's sister called to say she has blueberries that must be harvested.
So this evening after the sun slid below the horizon, we picked blueberries. The bush was about six feet tall and eight feed in diameter. It was hanging full of berries.
We picked over a gallon and it still had berries-o-plenty. We were both whupped so we packed up and left before the skeeters started biting.
I snapped a shot and then made it into an art photo....Yes, I guess I'm on an art photo kick right now, what can I say.
Tomorrow morning, I'm going fly fishing. It's been over a week since I wet a hook and I feel the need to be close to the water.
I hope you all have a great Friday, and even better weekend. Do something remarkable.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yard Art

  We have some unassuming trees in our yard. They're Rose-a-Sharon bushes. We have purple one, and white ones. 
  This morning when we walked, I shot this photo of twin blossoms. I couldn't resist running it through one of the photo applications on my iPhone.  I was happy with the way it turned out. I call it Yard Art.
  When we walked I saw that not only the garden was revived, but the blackberry bushes seem to be thriving too. We stopped along the path and picked several berries that were as big as a penny jawbreaker. 
  I popped a few in my mouth and the flavor hit my taste buds like a good Cabernet Sauvignon. 
  After our walk I grabbed a basket and headed back down behind the barn and picked enough for at least two pies. I'm hoping Jilda does one over the weekend.
  I've run out of steam this evening so I'm turning in early. I will share video (about 3 seconds long) of something I saw today on my way home from the dentist. A thunderstorm swept through just ahead of me and blew down some trees. One big limb fell on a power line. I was stuck behind another vehicle but this actually came too close for comfort.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thirsty Earth

It's been some time since we've had a decent rain. After the brutal tornadoes on April 27th, the clouds moved on, replaced by a spring sun that's been as hot as a torch. 
We've been watering the garden every few days. I mulched, which helped, but the containers demand more. 
This morning when we walked, it reminded me of Panama which is just a few degrees above the equator. Down there, there was always a breeze, but it's as warm a heat vent in December. 
At 7 a.m. the humidity was as high as the temperature, but off in the distance I could see clouds. By the last leg of our stroll, a few drops of rain fell on the leaves, and some found their way to my face and I found myself smiling. 
Jilda had a routine checkup this morning, so while she was gone, I went to the porch, turned on the music, and wrote for a few hours.
By the time she returned I'd knocked out one piece and most of the second one. 
As we lunch, we could hear thunder off to the west. At least there was a promise of rain.
Afterwards I drove to the nursing home to see my mom and while I was gone, Jilda called to say we were having a monsoon. That was the best news I'd heard in days.
This evening when I walked down to check the garden, the squash and okra were rejoicing.
And for the first time in weeks, the earth didn't look thirsty.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day Column

  I woke up after midnight last week and I couldn't go back to sleep. I'd been in the middle of a good dream, but once my eyes opened, it vanished like a wisp of breath on a cold morning. 

  I tossed and turned for a while, but my mind kept searching for the dream. I finally got up and headed for the kitchen. Jilda had cooked black-eyed peas, corn on the cob, and cornbread for dinner that evening. 

  I reached for one of our vintage drinking glasses from the cupboard. It's one that Jilda inherited from her mother, and it's heavy enough to use as a weapon. In fact, her mother told her that if I ever got out of line, she could clobber me with one of those glasses, and I'd be drinking through a straw for months. That thought still lingers in the back of my mind. 

  Anyhow, I crumbled up a wedge of cornbread into the glass, and finished filling it with cold buttermilk. I stood there in my PJ's and ate my midnight snack by refrigerator light. I know with the cost of energy I should be more mindful about wasting cold air, but it's a habit I picked up from my dad. He was a "midnight snacker" too. 

  As I've mentioned before, my mama cooked beans for supper every night. Most of the time they were butterbeans, but she did cook pintos, and navy beans too. Dad's favorite midnight snack was cold butterbeans with a thick slice of onion, on two slices of light bread. He'd chase it with buttermilk. He too would snack by the light of the old Frigidaire. 

  As I ate, I tried to think of the earliest memory of my dad. The one that came to mind was when we lived in the old house in Sloss. That must have been before underpinning because the front porch of that old house was about four feet off the ground, but at the back it sat so low that only dogs and small kids could get under there. 

  Dad was looking for the rubber pull-handle that attached to the end of the crank cord on his old Wizard outboard motor. It was springtime and he was getting his boat ready for fishing. The crank cord had broken back in the winter and he decided to wait until spring to fix it. He looked high and low for the handle but it had vanished. 

  I was about 4 years old at the time. I was shoeless, shirtless, and skinny as a kid from a third-world country. When dad described what he was looking for, I knew immediately where it was. I scooted underneath the low part of the house like a chipmunk with an acorn. About midway under the house, the pull handle was lying right next to the clothespin Army men, and the brick road scraper. 

  Apparently one of our hounds had snatched the handle and used it for a chew toy. When I scurried out from under the house with the pull-handle, my dad smiled broadly at me. He reached down, picked me up, and tossed me into the air. I squealed with delight. He patted me on the head and told my Uncle Elmer, "That's my buddy."  I don't know that I've ever felt more proud. I smiled at the memory. 

  I then rinsed my glass out in the sink, closed the fridge, and went back to bed. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. Sometimes a memory is better than a good dream. Happy Father's Day.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I've gotten back into my routine this past week. We've walked every day, I've gotten down the the basics, and marked a ton of stuff off my todo list. It feels good!
I got up just before 6 a.m., started the coffee, and then stepped out on the deck to howdy up with the new day.
I decided to do some yoga while the coffee brewed. Even at 6, it was already warm and muggy, but I rolled out my mat, lit some lavender incense, found some yoga music on my iPhone and started deep breathing.
A nice breeze out of the west, felt good on my face and I got lost in the movement. I held  my poses for extended breaths. I did a plank, which is like a fully extended pushup. Your arms are straight and your back slopes down to your feet with no humpy-butt. I held the pose for 25 breaths. After breath 15 my arms began to shake a little, but I focused on my breath. 
Then all of a sudden, a horsefly as bag as a bat landed on the inside of my left arm, just above the elbow. He seemed to look up at me as if to say, "you're making it too simple dude." 
I thought a first he was just hanging out, but then that unmistakable sting shot up to my brain. I never quickened my pace, but simply picked up my right arm and swatted him flat as three-day old roadkill. He's now in horsefly heaven, or where ever they go. I placed my right arm on the mat and finished my 25 breaths.  
I'm not sure what it is about yoga that helps you to feel more centered, but it does. After breakfast when Jilda and I walked, the air seemed more fragrant, and the colors more vivid. 
I picked a blackberry from the side of our path and smelled it before popping it into my mouth to savor the flavor.
I'm not sure how or why I get out of my routines, but I feel so much better when I stick to them. 
This will be a week of writing for me because I did three interviews Friday and one on Thursday. I plan to jump into them in the morning, right after yoga.
Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tale of Two Roosters

For the last year or so, we've only had four chickens -- two hens, and two roosters. It wasn't a problem for a long time but when the roosters reached puberty, it got gnarly. They started fighting, they got into crowing contests in the middle of the night, and at times they challenge me...the hand that feeds them. 
More than once I've had to give them a little bit of the boot to keep them from attacking me. 
We've been talking about giving one of them away for some time, so today, we saw an old friend that has chickens, we offered one to him. He showed up this afternoon and took one home with him.
One of the hens is setting, and the chicks should start hatching by Tuesday or Wednesday. Hopefully we won't have more roosters.   
I like tending chickens. They provide an endless source of compost/fertilizer, they peck up tons of bugs, and they lay enough eggs for most of our family.
I hope our rooster likes his new home, maybe he will be the cock of the walk there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Power Problems

We woke to a brownout this morning. About 4 a.m. the power took a hit and then kept pulsing on and off. Appliances love that. Air conditioners, freezers, and computers, all love being flipped on and off. It clears out the circuits and tests capacitors. 
I ran to the utility room and hit the main breaker to let the grid stabilize. I laid back down but the adrenalin kept the blood pounding in my ears like a bass drum.
I cracked the blinds so that I could see the outside streetlight. When It stopped strobing, like a disco, I flipped the main breaker back on.
Thankfully everything seems to have survived. When I bought the Mac computer, I bought an uninterruptible power supply. That's a device that takes over when the power goes off and gives you time to shut down the computer gracefully so that it doesn't harm the hardware (or software).
After I left to do an interview marathon this morning, the rain moved in and gave the yard a much needed drink. 
When I went down to check the garden this evening, it looked like the tomatoes had grown six inches since yesterday.
I've run out of steam this evening so I'm about to call it a day. 
Y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Early Morning

I woke at dawn today. It was that time of morning where it seems too early to get up, but too late to fall back to sleep. 
I stared at the ceiling for awhile before I rolled out of bed. I made coffee and then stepped out on the deck for my first look at the day.
It was cooler than I expected. Not cool enough to wrap up, or cool enough to shiver, but since the days have been hotter than a poker, the coolness was a welcome change.
I looked off to the southwest and I could see the full moon through the trees. It looked like a searchlight off in the distance. 
I sat in one of our adirondack chairs and listened to the morning come alive. I heard crows, cardinals, and a barn owl. 
When our chickens hear any kind of movement in our house, they start crowing. I guess they don't want us to think they're sleeping on the job. 
I stepped down to the pen and threw out some cracked corn and filled their water jars before heading back inside.
Sometimes waking up too early is a pain and gets your day off to a bad start. But sometimes waking up early is a gift.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I've been putting off moving my computer since I bought it on Christmas eve last year. I had a Windows PC and it takes some time to migrate data from one computer to another so I left them both running. 
I simply set up a small desk...well, more like a desk-lette, on the opposite wall where I set up my new Mac. The idea was that once I got everything transferred over, I'd move the new computer to the old desk.
I dreaded it, in fact I'd rather have a root canal performed by a dentist snorting ether and using a masonry bit, than move a computer.
I have a rolltop desk. It's a beautiful piece of furniture, but getting under there and rerouting wires, is painful. 
Tonight as I was tracing wires, I found a power supply from a printer I haven't owned since Bush Sr. was in the Oval Office. It was still plugged in!
Also there were dust bunnies as big as a full-grown collie under the desk and behind the filing cabinet. 
I found things I'd lost years ago. 
Anyhow, I got it moved. The rest of the office is a mess, but I'll deal with that tomorrow. It feels good to be facing in the right direction...the world is back in phase now. 
I've lined up several interviews for Friday so the next several days will be intense. 
I think I can deal with it now that I'm facing the right direction.
Y'all have a great Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Leaving Home

Jilda just got a note from our good friends Tommy and Jill. They are headed to Ireland this coming Saturday. I know it's wrong, but I felt a little twinge of envy. 
Jilda and I went to Ireland about ten years ago and we both left a piece of our hearts there.
When we decided to go there, we didn't really have a plan to speak of. We had a friend, Dan Crary, who was performing in Kilkenny and he'd asked us to join him to play one of his venues,  and we had the names of two other people that a friend here had given to us.   
Most people wouldn't go to Ireland, rent a car and head out on their own, but that's exactly what we did. 
We drove around that island on the wrong side of narrow roads and we met some of the most incredible people on the planet.
The there were shades of green, that have no name....and a million miles of stone walls, and fences. 
We were invited into the homes of people we didn't really know. We talked about music, current events, and politics.  We drank good beer and played music late into the night.
As we sat on the runway on the morning we left, we both felt a great sadness. Jilda said it best when she said, it feels like we're leaving home. I felt the same way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

  The last few days of school each year were pure torture for me. While my teachers were droning on till the very end trying to stuff the last little bit of knowledge for the school year into my head, I was preparing a mental checklist of all the stuff I wanted to do when school was out. 

  One of the first chores was to lose the shoes. Walking was a little painful at first when I walked on gravel or stepped on one of those tiny tar bubbles that seeped up through the roadbed under the blazing summer sun. But after a few days, it felt like I was walking on clouds. 

  The beauty of going shoeless is that you never had to waste time untying shoes strings when you came to a creek. My pace never slowed. By July the bottoms of my feet were tougher than leather. The next thing I did was to head to the creek to survey my fishing spots and to cut cane for fishing poles. Finding just the right fishing pole was an art. You needed one that was long, or else the other guys would call it a girlie pole. But you didn't need it too long because some of those strip pit bluegill, bream or crappy would snap off the end. 

  Next I'd make a minnow basket (trap) out of old screen. A minnow basket is usually about two feet long and as big around as your thigh. It has a cone shaped muzzle with a small opening that fits into the basket. When you put some crackers or bread crumbs in the basket and drop it into a fast flowing creek, the minnows enter the basket through the cone muzzle and they can't get back through the tiny opening. Wallah! You had bait for cane poles and trot lines. 

  My brother Neil learned the hard way that you can catch other things in minnow baskets too. Once when he went to check his minnow basket, I heard a commotion — cussing, thrashing and splashing. When I ran down to the creek to see what was going on, Neil had a basket full of cottonmouth moccasins. There were two big ones as big around as my arm and four smaller ones. Each time he'd lift the basket out of the water they'd coil and strike at anything that moved. Just seeing all those snakes gave me cold chills. 

  These days I rarely kill a snake unless it's poisonous and comes into my yard. I'll dodge a snake on the road if I can, but cottonmouths are evil creatures. It was not a happy ending for the ones Neil caught that summer. Even with the threat of snakes, I spent most of the summer with my friends on the river and creeks around Sloss. 

  When it got too hot to fish, we'd hit the water in our cutoff jeans, and swim until our fingers wrinkled like prunes. After a refreshing dip, we'd find a clearing and let the warm sun dry our skin. By September, we'd be brown as hickory nuts. 

  It seems that kids today spend a lot of time indoors. There are more distractions, more things to keep them entertained. But personally, I can't think of anything more fun than spending the summer near the water with your friends. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Old Guitar

Things have been so crazy lately, I've neglected my old guitar. It sits on a stand in the corner of the room and waits for that moment when fingers dance on steel.
I'm not sure why I think taking out garbage, or hoeing gardens, or buying groceries is more important that strumming strings. But for some reason, some time, the old guitar takes a back seat. Ignored like a faded sweatshirt.
This evening as I was tapping on keys and trying to come up with an original idea, I glanced over to the corner and it called to me.
I picked it up, closed my eyes and strummed a few chords. For the life of me, I don't know why I treat it so badly.
I must do a better job.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Long Day

Jilda and I've been at the hospital with my younger sister. She began having problems just before midnight last night and was rushed to the emergency room. She had an emergency hysterectomy, tonight.
She came through surgery fine. As they rolled her from the OR to ICU, about 15 of us in the waiting room started singing happy birthday to her.
One of the nurses pushing the gurney said, "Is it her birthday?" We said no, we just felt like singing happy birthday. Everybody, including Christie who was doped up and higher than a kite, had a good laugh. Of course she was so high, she would have laughed at a puppy being thrown into a wood chipper. But it was good to see her smiling face.
The bed is calling me. As my lovely spouse often says:
Good night, sweet dreams.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pushing a Chain

Sometimes writing is like pushing a chain! No matter what topic you start off with, your mind juts and jigs in every direction except where you want it to go.
I've worn the letters off my delete key tonight. Why is that? I'm not sure.
One thing I am sure of, you can't bake bread without dough.
When I've whined to some of my friends, they suggested that I cut back on the number of posts to one or two a week. 
For some that might work, but for me, that would switch my train to the Procrastination Express. 
So, what this means is that some of the posts will be lame, but some will be OK. The intention is for more to be OK than lame. Just saying.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

This Old House

One of the stories I just finished writing was about the oldest house in Mountain Brook, Alabama. It started out as a two-room log cabin with a dog-trot and a lean-to kitchen  just after the Civil War (1871).
Through the years it's been remodeled inside and out a number of times to the point that the only visible evidence of its pedigree is two log beams in the hall.
There is a historical record of the house and it was fascinating to learn about the old structure.
The current owners are delightful folks too and I've talked to them a number of times.
When I started thinking about how I wanted to approach the story, I remembered an old song by a country music trio -- Schuyler, Knoblock, and Brickhardt (written by Schuyler and Brickhardt) called This Old House. The song is written from the point of view of the house.
It's country music at its best in my opinion.
But in thinking about the log cabin and this song, I got to thinking about what our house would say about us when we're gone.
I'd like to think it would be happy that we did our best to care for it through the years.
But more importantly, I would hope it remembers how much we cherished our family, friends, and pets. 
I would hope it enjoyed the laughter, the tears, silence, and the music.
I would'nt be bothered if it forgot the times we were sick, troubled, snippy, or when we came up short in our efforts to do the right thing.
What follows are the lyrics to This Old House by SKB, If you've never heard it, listen to it on Youtube by clicking here. It's sad and beautiful.

This Old House

There are fifty liquor boxes in my hall
And a hundred  empty nails on my wall
There's a sign out in my yard reads for sale
And if this old house could cry the tears would fall

There are bargain  hungry  vultures everywhere
Buying broken toys and old clothes and tupperware
The phones has been taken out they've stopped the mail
And if this old house could talk I'd say a prayer
I've been strong and I've been sturdy
And I've weathered every storm
I've always kept your family safe and warm
Now your packing up the laughter
And your sweeping out  the tears
If this old house were build on memories
I would stand a 1000 years
This old house  this old house
If this old house was built on memories I would stand a 1000 years

Take another look before you lock the door
Where your shoes  have worn the finish from my floor 
Listen to my banging pipers my creaking stairs
Let your boys slide down my banister once more
I'll remember where you hid the extra key
Where the hammer and  the bandaids use to be
I will smell your morning coffee in the air         
And I'll see you hanging tinsel on the tree

I've been strong and I've been sturdy
And I've weathered every storm
I've always kept your family safe and warm
Now your packing up the laughter
And your sweeping out  the tears
If this old house were build on memories
I would stand a 1000 years
This old house  this old house
If this old house was built on memories I would stand a 1000 years

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Speculation is a game that Jilda and I've been playing forever. She's a lot better at it than me most of the time, because her imagination is infinite, but I have my moments.
Tonight we drove into town to have dinner with our friend Fred and his mom who is visiting from Tennessee. On the way in we saw blue lights flashing up ahead in the oncoming lane.
We didn't see hair, teeth, and eyeballs on the highway so we assumed it was some kind of finder-bender or perhaps someone spotted a UFO, which is not that uncommon here in Alabama. 
But what was interesting is that there were two State Troopers parked side-by-side on the shoulder of the road.
Drug bust, I said as we passed. Jilda rolled her eyes, which is code for -- if you can't do any better than that, I don't want to play. That was at 5:45 p.m.
We had a great meal at Niki's, our favorite restaurant in Birmingham. Fred's mom is probably 80 and has a quicker wit than most people half her age. 
We lingered at talked for a while before heading home. When we got to the UFO site, the State Trooper cars had not lights still flashing. I looked over at Jilda and saw that the game was on. 
OK, when they stopped for doughnuts, someone spiked their coffee with LSD and they're getting off on the flashing blue lights. Where did THAT come from? I thought to myself. 
My speculation was a lot tamer -- maybe they're old friends that haven't seen each other in a long time and they're catching up? 
Jilda got that look on her face that says, "this is like shooting fish in a barrel."
She then said, what if the troopers are male and female and they're checking each other for tics?
I can't win at this game, I'm in over my head.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


I've been feeling a bit puny for over a week now. I'm not sure if it's some kind of allergy, summer cold, tumor, sickness, malaise, polyps, crup, or dropsy.  Perhaps it's "iron poor blood," and all I need is to snort some Geritol. 
I know when I was a child and complained of anything, my mama would pour paregoric down my throat and make me chase it with caster oil. 
It got to the point to where I wouldn't complain even if I was spewing blood from an appendage. "No, no, it's just a scratch. I'll put some superglue on my finger and it will grow back fine."
We had a next door neighbor when I was growing up that was like a shaman-witch doctor- and therapeutic spanker. Whenever one of the neighborhood kids developed some kind of affliction, she'd offer up some kind of foul smelling/tasting concoction that would remedy everything from and ear ache to an ingrown toenails.
She was a big woman. I'm guessing she'd dress-out at 320 (a hog killing term) or better but she was surprisingly agile.  She could snatch up an ailing youngun and have them medicated before you could say Dr. Welby.
Anyhow, I'm not sure what started me down that path, but I actually feel a little better just writing about it.
Y'all have a happy Wednesday. It will be a workday for me. I have stories to write, and people to interview.
If you have a moment, take a look at a short video I shot at my great niece's birthday party that we attended this evening.

Monday, June 06, 2011

My Column from Sunday

  I got a chance to interview James Spann a few weeks ago. Jilda was peeved because she's an amateur weather woman and to her, meeting James would be like meeting Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. 

  His status rose even more as a result of the deadly tornadoes that raked Alabama on April 27. I'm guessing more eyes were on him that day than were on the Super Bowl earlier this year. 

  My cousin's Casie Bridges and Regina Hicks can testify that listening to James's on-air reports, on April 27, saved their lives. They live near Argo in the path of the tornado and took shelter when James said the storm was near. Regina's home was heavily damaged, but they came out OK. 

  After the outbreak, when Spann learned that over 230 people died, he and his team felt like they'd done a horrible job. But representatives from the National Weather Service in Washington D.C. said that some predicted thousands of people could have been killed in those storms. 

  Randy Palmer of Tuscaloosa (formerly of Cordova) said, "James Spann probably saved more lives in central Alabama than penicillin." I tend to agree with Randy's assessment. 

  One factor that set these storms, and their warnings, apart is that James used not only traditional TV and radio, but also social media — Facebook, Twitter and other tools — to warn people of the impending disaster. "Many kids today don't watch my newscast, and they don't read the paper," he said. "Some people make fun of me for using social media, but if we hadn't, I believe a lot more college kids might have died." 

  ABC 33/40 was one of the first stations to install video tower cams, giving the weather team a way to see approaching storms in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Anniston. In December of 2000, when violent weather struck just days before Christmas, it was 33/40's tower cam that showed the tornado live on the ground. James said he's always believed that if you can show viewers a tornado on the ground and heading in their direction, they'll take action. 

  But the early tower cams were cumbersome and hard to manipulate by remote control. After the tornadoes in 2000, James went on a quest to improve that technology. He found other types of cameras that were better suited for the weather team, and ABC 33/40 now has some two dozen of them throughout central Alabama. Their goal is to eventually have 500. 
  Another factor that was huge during the April tornado outbreak was Sky-Watchers who used cameras on the dashboards of their vehicles to capture even more compelling video from the field. "John Oldshue is one of the unsung heroes of April 27," said James. "He captured that big wedge tornado on the ground when it was still 30 miles south of Tuscaloosa. That dramatic video convinced a lot of people to take cover." 

  You can also thank James Spann for ABC 33/40's policy of preempting regular programming whenever there is a tornado warning in the direct market area (DMA). James made the policy a condition of his employment. The station agreed. These days, all the local TV stations follow the practice and it's saving lives. 

  Another skill that makes James effective at his job is his encyclopedic knowledge of central Alabama's geography: "You can tell people a tornado is south of Clanton and they may not act, but if you tell them it's approaching Jim's BBQ, they know exactly where that is," he said. He learned about these small towns by taking what he calls "the road less traveled," but that's a story for another time. 

  Even with this hectic schedule, Spann spends time in the morning with his wife Karen. The family gets together most evenings--sometimes for a meal, and sometimes at the baseball field to watch Ryan, their 13-year-old son play. 

  James and Karen also have an older son (26-year-old James Spann, Jr.) who is heading to Mississippi State to become... Surprise: a meteorologist. 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Money Pit

I shot some pictures of the house today but the angle of the light was all wrong. So I did the only thing a guy can do, I Photoshopped that baby and made it more arty.
The only thing, it looks a little purple. The door is purple. It's been purple for years. When our niece Samantha, who lives next door was 10, she said to Jilda, "You know all the neighbors think you're weird."
Well, I certainly hope so. If they don't, it's been a tremendous waste of energy.
A few days ago I found Crimson Mandeville and hung two baskets from our new arbor.
Today we found Confederate Jasmine and we promptly scooped it up and planted it by one of the arbor posts. It will take a while for it to take hold and grow to the top, but once it does, it will be a feast for the nose and eyes.
My blog friend Ellen suggested that we get different varieties that bloom at different times. That makes a lot of sense to us so we are on a quest.
The potted trees in this picture go inside the great-room in late fall and winter. We'll bring them out again next spring after the last frost.
Since most of our front yard is so shady most of time, no grass grows there. Over the next few months, we'll be doing some landscaping to complement what we've done with the house.
We saw a really funny movie several years ago with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long called Money Pit. That movie doesn't seem so funny now :)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Fun Day

We invited our friends Charlie, Yvonne, and Randall Watts over for dinner this evening. We got out earlier today to gather flowers for the house, before the heat began to bear down like a microwave.  We picked wild hydrangeas, lilies, and a few daisies from our garden for the table, bathroom,  and living room.
Charlie and Yvonne have never been here before, so I made sure the directions were good. At 20 after 5:00 I called to see if they were lost -- they were.
So I drove to the forks of the river which is an intersection where most people get sidetracked when they come to our house.
I led them here and as we made our way inside, I could smell the double chocolate brownies baking as we stepped on the front porch.
I met Charlie years ago when I worked for a local newspaper, and he was the press secretary for Congressman Tom Bevill. Charlie was always kind to me and I never forgot it.
Then a few years, our friend Edie reintroduced us to Charlie, and this time we met his wife Yvonne and their son Randall. These folks are what I love about the south. They're smart, kind hearted, and fun to be with.
It's the first time we've had company since we finished with our construction and it felt good. 
After we ate, we sat around talking about books, music, and good food.  He's led an interesting life and has that unique ability to "put you there" when he tells you an anecdote. He's one of the best story tellers I've ever met.
I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening.
I hope you all have as much fun as we've had today.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Touching Up

The work on the house is finally finished. I walked around and around the house with a brush and paint looking for spots we'd missed. There were a few places here and there, and some touchup work around our front windows, but I can now say, remodeling on the house is officially complete. 
I took down the scaffolding, stowed the ladders and tossed the empty paint cans. I went to the garden center and bought hanging baskets of Crimson Mandevilla to hang from the arbor. We've looked high and low for Jasmine, but we can't find the variety with the intoxicating fragrance. Jilda has talked about having an arbor and Jasmine for years, and we won't settle for anything less. 
I almost have the place in good enough shape to shoot a few photos.
It's my intention to do that tomorrow.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


I wrote a few months back that I'd applied for a slot in the Oxford American Magazine's Summit for Ambitions Writers workshop. I saved the money and blocked out the week in June on my calendar, but I got a form email this evening saying that I didn't make the cut.
It's a prestigious magazine and I knew that competition for the seats would be stiff, but I felt deep down that I'd be spending a week in the mountains of Arkansas learning from some of the best writers in the south. Apparently that will not happen this year.
But there's something I've learned through the years. Rejection is not the end of the world. The only way it defeats you is if you let it.
As songwriters, Jilda and I have received enough rejections to wallpaper a room. But we continue to write songs because we love writing songs. The same holds true for creative writing.

I love the process. I love tapping keys. I love it when the words flow like a deep slow moving river, and when the words don't come, I love dog-cussing the muse. Writing is not what I do, it's who I am. 
So, I have a free week in June now. If any of you have any good ideas for how I should spend it, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What Can You Do

My head is as empty as Texas watering trough in August. I've tapped and tapped my keyboard, but the muse, the flighty tart, will not offer even a hint of an idea.
So I did the the only thing a clueless self respecting writer could do -- I started  Photoshopping a picture I took today. It was one of Jilda's beautiful lilies. It stood like a buttery beacon down near our mailbox. I stopped and shot a photo. But posting a simple photo didn't appeal to the muse, that little slut, so I Photoshopped the picture.
So here it is. Not my idea, but I had to do it or else I would not have a decent idea in the foreseeable future.  

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