Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feng Shui

I'm concerned about the feng shui in my office. I think it's the main reason I often have issues writing. Is mental constipation possible? 
I get lost when I try to organize and as a result, my ideas and inspiration careen off of dusty souvenirs, stacks of business cards, a printer that hasn't worked in a year, and magazines from when Clinton was in the White House.
The muse takes one look at the office and says, "HEY, HIRE A MAID!" I think what I really need is three dudes and a dumpster. 
I'm at a point in my life where I think I need to let some things go. I can get by with less stuff. 
Sure that was once a great monitor, but it hasn't been turned on in months. I'm sure someone somewhere needs a monitor. Why not give it a good home and free up some space where my ideas can breathe.
And these 3D glasses. I kept them because I thought they'd come in handy for ......... well, I can't remember what I was thinking. I've got to be brutal.
......You may not believe this, but I stopped typing long enough to shred the paper-framed 3D glasses. The gig is up. I'm serious. Nothing is sacred in this room. Well, maybe the Mac and Jilda's laptop, but everything else better justify itself or it gets the hook!
I'll have better feng shui very soon. Anybody need some calendars from 2003?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Doctor's Orders

My knees have been giving me fits for the last few months but I think I now have a doctor that understands the problem and has prescribed therapy that's just right for my condition.
My internist prescribed medication which seemed to help for a few days, but then the pain returned -- with a vengeance. 
I went to a chiropractor/acupuncture specialist today and she worked on my knee. She did acupuncture and electric stimulation therapy. 
I wasn't sure if it was working or not, but the pain began to subside. She also instructed me to apply cold compresses to my knees.
Just then, a light bulb flashed in my brain. The water in the river where I fish is 52 degrees which is a perfect temperature for my knees. Turns out, my doctor prescribed fly fishing for my condition. Well, not really, but even a simpleton could make this connection. I could have hugged her neck.
Yes dear, I'd love to cut the grass, and weed the garden, but it's time for my cold therapy. It was almost like hitting the lottery!
So before daylight tomorrow, I'm going for therapy on my knees. It's tough, but I'm willing to go the extra mile to get my health back.
I figure by the end of the year, I'll have knees like a 20 years old.  Is this a great country or what.
Honey, I'm going fishing today -- doctor's orders.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Copy Cat

I guess my truck got jealous with Jilda's car Ingrid getting all the attention from our friends on Blogger. Not to be outdone, it started having transmission problems as well. Grind, bump, shudder, roll...........
So, I took him down to the shop and the guys started drooling. "Oh, it's you again, and soooooo soon." I asked the owner if I'd need to knock of a liquor store, or hit a bank instead.
He told me not to panic, let them have a look. "Once we isolate the problem, a good panic attack might be in order," the mechanic said cheerfully.
I'm whining a little, but Ingrid and my truck are still in good shape. Spending a few thousand dollars on auto repairs is never much fun, but when you measure that against $20,000 to $30,000, it's much easier to swallow.
Jilda and I are not frequent car buyers. We get a car (or truck) we like and we drive them until the wheels fall off.
So, I'm going to wait until payday to hit the liquor, when the registers are full -- If you happen to be in law enforcement, and you happen across this blog, I'M KIDDING!

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I'm sitting here tonight tapping keys and Jilda is typing so fast you'd think she snorted fresh expresso coffee straight out of the grinder.
She kind of wiggles when she's on a roll. Tap, tap, tap, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.
I want to reach over and smack her off that high horse,  or at the very least distract her enough to derail her train of thought, and get that smile off her face.
I have to remind myself the obvious, IT'S NOT A COMPETITION. Actually, our blogs are very different. She writes about how to be a better person, her love of music, friendship, and food, while my blog is kind of like a daily journal.
It really is not a competition. I am very proud of what's she's doing.  But on days like today when the words seem to flow out of her like honey and mine are flowing like snuff, I get a little snippy.
"I'm through, have you posted?" she chirps.
I silently recite the Serenity Prayer
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to NOT do something stupid, when I'm miffed.

Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO for Apple has been all over the news this week. When you start looking over his accomplishments, it's hard to fathom. 
His vision of how personal computers should work changed the way personal computers work. Microsoft has dominated the PC software market for years, but they started emulating Apple decades ago.  
Apple wasn't the first to utilize point and click, but they embraced the technology and took it to the next level. 
When Apple went public in the stock market the board of directors forced Jobs out and put a John Scully, "a corporate CEO" in his place.
Apple was near bankruptcy in 1997 when Jobs came back on board and the rest is history. Last month when the government was struggling to raise the debt ceiling, Apple had more cash in the bank than the Uncle Sam. Some value the Apple brand at a Trillion dollars. That is unimaginable.
Jobs and Apple changed the way we listen to music, buy software, interface with computers, watch movies, and use mobile phones.
I've been reading one of the books written about Jobs and it says he has been a fanatic about designing products that deliver the best possible user experience.
So I've been doing a lot of thinking about Jobs and his philosophy -- delivering the best possible user experience at every thing I do.
Jilda and I are redesigning our shows, and designing new products to sell when we play. Some places can't pay a great deal for musicians, but if we can engage the audience, and provide them with a good experience, perhaps we can sell CD's, posters, T-shirts, hats, and artwork.
It's got us thinking about redesigning the websites we do, and my upcoming book.
So Steve, I hope you've decided to take a much deserved rest, and they you live long an prosper. You've been an inspiration to me. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

After the Storm

Hurricane Irene has lost some of her fury over the past 24 hours, but I can tell you the northeast will still be a mess over the coming days.
My blog buddy Marsha over at Spots and Wrinkles wrote an entry that was close to home for me. It was about those guys that work for the power company and the phone company that come in after the storm and put things back together.
These guys often leave their families for months and even longer to help bring order and service back to where there was none after the storm.
Back in 1979, Hurricane Fredrick slammed into Mobile Bay and had its way with the infrastructure in Mobile, and miles inward.
At the time I worked as an installer/repairman in Jasper, Alabama and my boss came through asking for volunteers to go down and help put Mobile back together.
I was young then having been with South Central Bell for only a few years, and I thought I should go. I called Jilda and she agreed that it was the right thing to do.
The next morning, there was a convoy of almost a hundred phone company trucks heading south on I-65. We got rooms in the Howard Johnson Hotel and I stayed there for just less than a year. After a month or so, I got a rare day off and I came home, fetched Jilda and our German Shepherd and they came back with me.
It was grueling work, month after month. I spent days hanging on poles 30 feet off the ground reworking terminals and running new wire.
Today we all take  a great deal for granted. When we flip a light switch, we expect it to come on. And when we pick up the phone, we expect to have service.
That doesn't happen magically. There are people who plan, install, and maintain the stuff which makes our lives easier.
So for the folks on the eastern seaboard, after the storm, try to give those guys who are out in the weather a break. It is their job, but it's hard dangerous work.  A little consideration goes a long way. I know from experience.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fun Day

We've had a fun day today. We headed down to Tuscaloosa this morning to have lunch with our old friend Jerry Henry.
I'd call him a musicologist. He's been writing about music for most of his life. He knows, and has written about famous musicians, and ones that should be famous.
We talked to him today to pick his brain about how to better package our act (Rick and Jilda Singer Songwriters).
He gave us down and dirty tips about mailing lists, sound, marketing, promotional kits, video, and how to improve our website.
We got all this for the price of a Dreamland BBQ lunch. It was a steal on our part. (But you REALLY have to read Jilda's posts on Transformation Information.) It's a hoot.
You should do yourself a favor and visit Jerry's website Alabama Music Office 
Tonight, I went to the first football game of the season for my high school. I do the alumni website for the school but I do pictures at the homegames each year.
The last few years were just sad for our little school. This year started out with a bang with a 45-8 win over an arch rival.
So yes, today was a fun day.

Storm Readiness

I'm giving my wife Jilda a shoutout here because of the hurricane rumbling up the east coast. She gives some good ideas for our blog buddies who are in the path of Irene.
If anyone else has storm readiness ideas, please feel free to comment on her blog.
Everyone take care.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


NOTE: This is my column this week that was inspired by a short blog post last week.

I think it’s time to come clean — I have an addiction.

I’m sliding down a slippery slope.

For some people it’s drugs or alcohol. For others, it’s cigarettes, food or sex. But my addiction has burrowed deep into my DNA and wrapped its iniquitous tendrils around my very being. Its name is fly fishing.

Yes, today I took the first fly I ever tied to the cold waters of the Sipsey River. The fuzzy fly looked like a mangy caterpillar.

I was standing on the edge, and about to fall into the abyss. I said a silent prayer that trout would shun my fly like the pox. But nay, a foot-long rainbow partook of that mangy fly and headed to deeper water.

And in that moment I realized, as the old song goes, I was “One toke over the line sweet Jesus.”

I now think about fishing constantly. When I’m at home I’m reading books, watching instructional videos, and drooling over outfitter catalogs. I have a framed map of the Montana rivers on my wall. Yes, I have it bad.

How did I get to this sorry state of affairs? It started out so innocently — I had an old fly fishing rig that my dad left me when he passed away. I’ve fished a few times, but I didn’t catch anything.

Then last July things changed when we vacationed with our friends Wes and Deidra Laird in Colorado. A guide taught me a few basic casting techniques, and about fly selection. I could feel that warm buzz as intoxicating as moonshine whiskey. Then the moment I landed my first rainbow trout, I knew I was hooked ... so to speak.

When we returned home, I went fishing several times on the Sipsey River just below the dam, and I caught a few fish, but I wanted more.

The hook sank deeper when I went to Helen, Georgia with my friend Dan Starnes earlier this year. We had a female guide that was really good and she helped me improve dramatically. I started catching trout every time I went fishing — I fell a little further down the well of addiction.

It soon became apparent that if I wanted to catch more and bigger fish, I needed new equipment. My old rod and reel were manufactured when Jimmy Carter was in the White House, and no longer cut the bait, so to speak.

Recently on the way home from a Sipsey River fix, I stopped by my supplier — Riverside Fly Shop, which is located on Highway 69 just below Smith Dam.

When I walked into that shop, I saw long willowy high tech graphite fly rods that help you to cast farther, and fly reels, no bigger than a biscuit, that click and whirr when you cast. They were marvels of modern fishing technology — they were in fact, works of art. I whipped out the American Express card and the new toys were mine.

I weighed the pros and cons of selling a kidney on eBay, then using the money to buy one of everything in the fly shop.

My lovely spouse who works at a local drug and rehab place spotted the symptoms of my addiction and promptly confiscated my checkbook and credit cards. She’s also talked to management where she works and they say I can enter the program under the employee discount plan.

She’s now looking for a Fly Fishing Anonymous meeting I can start attending. I’m not sure where my life will go from here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Award Day

Bethe77 Gave me an Irresistibly Sweet Blog award today and the only things I can cook are cornbread and chili. Well actually, I'm a very good coffee brewer. I appreciate the award.
I'm suppost to link back to the awarder Bethe77, and tell 7 things about me, and give this award to seven other people.
I don't follow directions well (and that's not one of the 7 things), so I'm only going to give an award to one blogger.
But here are the 7 things about me:
1. I've first started dating my wife when Nixon was in the White House
2. I owned my first car when I was 15. It was a 1946 Plymouth coupe
(If my dad hadn't sold it while I was away in the Army, it would probably be worth more than my house today)
3. I've spent more than a year of my life listening to books on tape. (I've actually added it up)
4. I attended college in North and Central America
5. I carry semiprecious stones in my pocket for luck
6. I use patchouli oil as cologne
7. I've snorkeled with barracuda in the Bay of Colon, Panama  
I'm giving my award to my blog friend JJ

My Blog Buddy Ruth sent me this challenge --

An Underwear Meme
1. What do you call your undergarments?  Do you have any commonly used nicknames for them? Drawers. Not sure why, but when I was a kid, my mama would say "you're about to lose your drawers." That was usually when I was about to do something stupid.

2. Have you ever had that supposedly common dream of being in a crowded place in only your underwear? No but I did catch a trout on a crawfish once, if that helps.

3. What is the worst thing you can think of to make panties out of? A parachute.

4. If you were a pair of underwear, what color would you be, and WHY? 
Crimson as in the Crimson Tide. I actually have a pair. I could model them for you if....perhaps I've said too much.

5. Have you ever thrown your underwear at a rock star or other celebrity? That would be a NO. If not, which one(s) WOULD you throw your underwear at, given the opportunity? 
If I was a boxer tosser, I'd hurl some at Grandma Moses. I always thought she was kind of hot.

6. You’re out of clean underwear.  What do you do? 
Wash 'em.

7. Are you old enough to remember Underoos?  If so, did you have any?  Which ones?


8. If you could have any message printed on your underwear, what would it be? Fish fear me.

9. How many bloggers does it take to put underwear on a goat? I've actually only seen a few goats cute enough to look good in underwear, but I'm guessing one blogger with a pair of handcuffs and some good merlot......... again, perhaps I've said too much.

I'm suppost to tag other bloggers, but I think I'll see if I have any volunteers who would like to give this a shot.

Y'all have a great Wednesday.

Monday, August 22, 2011


We walked this morning at 8:30 and already the humidity was like a warm wet blanket wrapped around our faces.
All of our dogs except Collie made one lap and it was back to the AC via the doggie door.
Even Collie who is only about a year old, was panting by the time we finished.
Collie belongs to a neighbor, but he came for a visit in the spring, and apparently he liked the jib or our sails, because he's been here ever since.
The neighbor has come for him a time or two, but before she gets him into her pen, he off to the races and back at our house.
We've become attached to him so I sent word via her brother that we'd like to discuss terms of transfer.
He's a full blooded dog and I'm betting he has papers, but since he's been with us, he hasn't been to the vet nor is he taking heart worm preventative meds.
I'm hoping she will simply give us the dog, but the jury is out on that. Meanwhile he's sitting here with his nose resting on my feet.
If she gives us Collie, or sells him to us, we plan to give him a  more appropriate name. So, this story will be updated in a day or two.
Have a good week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Old Friend

I lost an old friend today. It was hard to say goodbye. OK, before things get out of hand I probably should tell you that my old friend was the first apple tree we planted when we move here in 1980.
At that time, we still lived in a 12x60 foot house trailer. It was gray and ivory on the outside and unfortunately had burnt orange shag carpet in the living room. I still shudder a little, but it was what we called home after we got married. 
In our defense, orange carpet was all the rage in the early 70's. No, I'm not sure what the trailer buying population was thinking at that time, but be that as it may, we were newly weds, and we were happy to have a place of our own.
In 1974 the trailer was parked in a small mobile home park but in 1980, when we got a chance, we moved it to the property where we now live.
I'd just started with the phone company and I was making $3.17 an hour. We didn't have a lot of extras in those days, but we managed.
The first spring after we moved here, we ordered a dwarf golden delicious apple tree from the Stark Brothers catalog. It wasn't expensive, but when we factored it into our budget, we had to cut expenses in order to afford it.
When the tree arrived, I dug a hole deep into the clay and filled it with compost. The tiny tree was as thin as a New York runway model. 
But we fed and coddled the little tree as if it were a baby with colic. As the years passed it grew to a height of about 15 feet, and it bore softball sized golden delicious apples that tasted like they'd been sprinkled with pure cane sugar.
In late summer each year we ate  apples, Jilda made apple pies, we gave apples to our friends, and there were apples left for the deer to enjoy.
Then last year, our little tree began to decline in health. I tended the tree, but it looked tired.
This year, its health declined steadily. A few days ago, one half of the tree broke off from the trunk.
When I went out today it was obvious that the remaining trunk was terminal. I took the chain saw and cut what was left down. 
I know there are some folks that would chide me for becoming sentimental over an apple tree. I understand that, and it's OK with me, but that little tree meant a lot to me. 
We used our money, when we didn't have much to spare, to buy that tree.  It was almost as if it understood that it had to earn its keep.  And for 30 years, it did. 
So today as I was taking down the tree, it was not with out reflection.  I thank my old friend for all the gifts it gave us through the years.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I think of You

Jilda and I are playing at Berkeley Bob's Coffee House next Saturday so we spent the afternoon practicing.
I worried after yesterday's close encounter of the Swiss Army Knife kind, that the finger might be stiff or playing might be painful, but neither was the case. The bandaid made things a little cumbersome but the finger should be fine in a day or two. Thanks for all the concern and comments last night.
We try to do new material each time we play so that people hear things they've never heard before even if they just saw us last week.
This evening I went back through some songs we wrote last year but had never polished them enough to perform. I came across a friendship song that I think we'll start doing. It's still a little rough, but I think it has potential.
Here are the lyric -- Jilda sings it

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

In the blink of an eye

I've had pocket knives for as long as I can remember. As a kid, if I had on pants, I had an Old Timer knife in my pocket. Most of them were cheap and dull as a butter knife. They were only good for scraping stuff from beneath your finger nails.
Some years ago when I worked with the phone company,  I managed a group of craftsmen.  They were a talented group, and one of the skills they taught me was how to sharpen a knife.
It took some practice, but I eventually got the tools and the technique down and my pocket knifes since then have been as sharp as razors.
I'm very careful with my knife, and if ever I loan it to someone to cut a piece of string or wood, I caution them that the knife is very sharp.
Today, I was cutting okra. My mind wandered for a moment, and suddenly I cut my finger badly. I put pressure on the cut and came inside. Jilda snatched the first aid kid and got the bleeding stopped and dressed the wound.
It's fine tonight, but I've thought about my careless act all day. The finger I cut is on the hand I use to chord the guitar. I'm very lucky that it was not worse.
This morning was one more reminder that life can change in the blink of an eye.
Be careful, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Both Jilda and I have been trying to watch our sugar intake. Gone are the days of snorting lines of pure cane sugar, and swigging gallons of tea so sweet that your body doesn't know whether to hurl, pass out, or send you straight into some kind of coma.
Jilda recalls eating a two six packs of Hershey Bars when she was in kindergarden. I can remember eating a dollars worth of Mary Janes....when they cost a penny each. I almost lost a tooth in that episode......but I digress.
These days I drink honey in my coffee, and while we do still drink sweet tea, it's in moderation.
But, we do eat one square of Godiva dark chocolate each night after supper. Depending upon her mood, Jilda has voices that she uses to request that I fetch us our treats. Some nights is a whisper like a secret shared between lovers -- chocolate. It almost tickles my ears. Some nights it's like the good witch of west -- why don't we have a chocolate.
Some nights it's matter of fact -- you want to grab us some chocolate?  But then there's other nights when she's had a bad day, she has this voice that sounds like Linda Blair in The Exorcists when the boogie man is in possession of her vocal cords -- C H O C O L A T E growl, growl, growl.
I bolt from the table, fetch the chocolate, and shove it toward her with a long stick. The chocolate seems to sooth the savage beast (I know it's really breast but beast seemed to fit better in this circumstance).
Tonight is was the good witch of the west voice and we both savored our dark chocolate, though I do sometime miss the buzz we got from snorting Godchaux Pure Cane sugar.
(I know Jilda's going to smack me when she reads this.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I'm officially addicted. I've slid even further down the slippery slope. For some people it's drugs or alcohol. For others, it's smoking, food or sex. But my affliction burrows deep into my DNA and wraps its iniquitous tendrils around my very being. Its name is fly fishing.
Yes, today I took the first fly I ever tied to the water. I said a silent prayer that trout would shun it like it had herpes, but nay, one partook of that mangy fly and headed to deeper water.
I kept hoping it would spit the fly out, but alas that did not happen. My fishing buddy Howard Smith snapped this photo as I landed the rainbow.
Now my life is in ruins. I stopped by Riverside Fly Shop on the way home and came very close to giving the proprietor my American Express Card and hauling everything in his store home with me.
The sad thing is there are no support groups -- nowhere is there a Fly Fisherman Anonymous. I'm not sure where my life will go from here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Column from Sunday's Paper

NOTE: This post may look familier but that's because my column in Sunday's paper evolved from a blog post. I hope you don't mind.
Whining about the weather
I stood at the garden door tonight and watched lightening gouge jagged troughs through the night sky. Soon the rain came and I opened the back door so I could hear the storm pound the roof like a drum. 

Our chimes probably drive our neighbors crazy when the wind blows, but I love the music they make.

We don’t have gutters, so when the rain comes rushing off the eves it splatters on the deck. Standing there tonight, the rain drenched my bare legs and it felt good.

Every season has its pros and cons. I have to come clean here and “fess up” that I’ve complained about the heat this summer. 

Jilda and I played at an arts festival in Fultondale last week and our set started at 2:30 p.m. The ambient temperature was 96 at show time, but combined with drinkable humidity, it felt like it was 110 degrees.

I could have baked a cake in my guitar case, and by the time we stepped off stage an hour later there was not a dry thread on either of us. I reached for the door handle of my black truck (what was I thinking?) and the handle burned a small Ford emblem across my palm.

It’s easy to whine about the heat, but the angle of the evening light is changing and each day is a little shorter than the one before. Soon we’ll start seeing color in the leaves and before we know it, we’ll be cursing the north wind, and ice on our windshields.

We’ll be thinking about things we could do if only the sun would shine and warm the day.

A lesson that would serve us all well is to be content with now. No matter what’s happening on the outside, if we could learn to find contentment on the inside, I think we’d all lead healthier, happier lives.

I read a quote by the Dalai Lama that seems fitting here “….man is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.” I could have written for days and not said it as well.

Being content with now is not easy. For the most part, we are where we are right now because of the decisions we’ve made at some point in the past. That can be a bitter pill to swallow. It’s much easier to blame the weather, the spouse, the parents, the boss, the government, or something else for our unhappiness.

Viktor K. Frankl who lived through Nazi concentration camps and withstood unspeakable horror, said one of the most profound things I’ve ever read in my life — “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitudes.”

I think we all need to remember these words the next time we feel compelled to whine about the weather.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Finding Your Way

I'm writing a story about a small lake nestled in the hills and hollows just south of Birmingham. The city fathers had vision, because back in 1909 they realized the city would need sources of water in order to grow, so they dammed the Little Cahaba River to form Lake Purdy. 
In the 1920's they raised the dam and the water level to its current size. Lake Purdy is now a little over 1500 acres, but what's interesting is there is no development on the banks of the lake.
The city realized that if they allowed development, the water wouldn't  be fit to drink, so Lake Purdy is a little oasis in the middle of one of the most populated areas in Alabama.
There is no swimming or skiing in the lake, but there is one small marina that rents boats for local fishermen. I learned all this today as I talked to the folks at the marina. 
When I asked about getting pictures out on the water, he asked one of his dockhands to take me out. The young man had been in some kind of accident in the past and sustained head injuries, but he was a good boat captain.
He wouldn't leave the dock until I was in my lifejacket and he took it slow on the water, which was fine with me.
Today was about 15 degrees cooler than last week and the sky was as blue as a swimming pool. The huge clouds that were scattered across the sky looked as fluffy as the insides of my mama's biscuits.
I shot pictures of the water, low hanging trees, and great blue herons taking flight from the shoals. 
At one point I looked to the east and saw a young buck standing knee deep in the lake drinking. There are a pair of nesting eagles on Lake Purdy and we rode around for a while trying to see them, but that didn't happen.
As we headed back toward the landing, I looked back at the captain, and he had the biggest smile on his face. With the breeze blowing his hair he looked up into the sky for a long time and then said -- I love my job. 
I can't imagine all that he's gone through in his young life. It's sometimes hard for special need's folks to make their way in a fast moving world. 
But today I found myself smiling -- not only because I got to spend some blissful time on the water, but because I met someone who beat the odds, and found their way.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thirteen Moons

I'm listening to a book on my iPhone now that I downloaded from Audible. The title is Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier.
Rarely do I read something so good that it makes me feel my attempts at writing are feeble. I know, it's not a competition, but when I read something like Thirteen Moons, I find it a little intimidating.
Jackson Browne had a line in his Song for Adam that goes:
Though Adam was a friend of mine
I did not know him long
And when I stood myself beside him
I never thought I was as strong

I had to remind myself that life is a journey and the road is long. It really serves no purpose to compare myself to others because every path is different.
But reading the works of writers like Charles Frazier, Tim Gautreaux, Willa Cather, Truman Capote, and ......the list goes on, makes me want to do what it takes to become a better writer.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Owls and Meteors

I got up twice during the wee hours of morning to get a peek at the Perseid meteor shower but the night sky had a thin layer of clouds that hovered like a gauze blanket. I could see a few of the brightest stars but the clouds along with the moon made seeing any shooting stars difficult.
I stood on the deck for a long while looking at the sky. Off in the distance I could hear an owl hooting. 
Back in the spring when I was renovating the barn, I discovered an owl's nest up in the loft. I was removing some junk from a back room and pulling some honeysuckle vines that had crept up the back side of the barn. The vines had wrapped around some of the loose boards about twelve feet up, and when I tried to pull them free, it spooked the owl. She swooped out of the barn and flew close enough to my face that a rustle of air tickled my ear as she flapped by.
I wanted to climb up there to see if I could see the babies, but owls can be pretty ornery so I decided to let sleeping owls lie.
Now where was I? Oh yes, the meteor shower. I know it happened, but this year, it didn't happen for me. Maybe next year.
Y'all have a great Sunday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shooting Stars

I stood on the deck for a long time last night looking for meteors, but the moon was as bright as a lantern in the night sky. 
Every now and then I'd see something on the edge of my peripheral vision, but I couldn't turn my head quickly enough to actually see a shooting star. I was a little disappointed because we're far enough in the country that city lights are not a factor when looking at the sky. But the moon was another story.
Several years ago when our nephews were in their early teens, we set lawn chairs out in the garden facing north. Jilda popped up a bucket of popcorn, and packed a cooler full of ice and soft drinks.
When the sun went down and all traces of red, orange, and purple faded from the horizon, the night sky turned the color of ink.
Just after 8 p.m. the light show started. When we'd see a meteor streaking across the sky, we'd ooooo and aaaahhhhh like we were watching fireworks. The kids had a great time and so did Jilda and I.  It was an experience that stands out in the noise of time.
That was memorable, but the best meteor shower I ever saw was in Panama in 1973. Panama is situated just a few degrees above the equator and in those days, most of the population was located in a few large cities.
I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Sherman. Sherman was an installation situated on a tiny tongue of land separating the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Colon.
In the jungle adjacent to Fort Sherman was an ancient fort built by the Spanish in the late 1500's. 
The walls of Fort San Lorenzo were still standing in 1973. If you weren't afraid of heights, you could lean over the eastern-most edge of the wall and see the Atlantic crashing on shore a few hundred feet below. Had it not been for the curvature of the earth, I think we could have seen Havana, Cuba.
I don't recall knowing in advance that it was a good night for meteors, but it was. 
It was a Saturday night and we all felt like were were million miles from home. We'd had a few beers and so we laid down on the wall near the precipice. 
Below you could hear the whisper of the surf, and the stars in the sky were as bright as penlights. 
All of a sudden I heard someone gasp. I wasn't sure if a snake had crawled up their pants leg or what, but then we all saw a meteor with a tail that streaked across the sky in slow motion.
I lost count of how many stars we saw that night, but some streaked from horizon to horizon. 
I was awed and humbled in those few hours.  I don't know that I've ever felt so small. 
So tonight, I'm going to set the clock and try once again to see some shooting stars, in the moonlight. I can tell you it will be tough to top that hot August night in Panama.

Garden Excess

Our friends are beginning to avoid us and no one in our family is taking our calls.  None of our neighbors come to chat with us over the fence. 

It's not because we haven't showered, or because we've been ugly to anyone, but the folks we know are sick of okra, tomatoes, and pepper.

Oh, everyone was thankful at first for that first batch or two in early summer, but hot weather with rain makes okra and peppers mad so they throw off bushels of produce and it's hard to find someone to give it to.

Jilda has put up enough stuff to put a dent in world hunger. Our freezer is full and I'm not sure what we'll do with what I'll pick tomorrow.

Actually, I just gave myself an idea -- I could take the garden excess to the soup kitchen in town that feeds the hungry.
Problem solved.

I'm posting late tonight because we played a songwriter gig at Daniel Day Gallery tonight. I've very tired, but Jilda is cranked up on steroids trying to whip a nasty respiratory infection so I doubt she'll get much sleep tonight. The house will be spotless until she gets off that stuff.

Y'all have a great Friday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The 300 Milestone Reached - Thanks to my Friends

When I started this blog in December of 2005, I really had no idea where it would lead me. The initial idea was to provide a vehicle to communicate with the alumni from Dora High School.
I do the alumni website and blogging seemed like a good way to write stories and updates and give the alumni a chance to comment.
I wasn't sure at first if the updates would be daily, weekly, monthly, or what. But on Friday December 2nd,  I did my first update. Then on Saturday, I was so pleased with myself, that I did another one.
As days marched on, so did I. At first the only viewers on the blog were people who attended Dora High School.
It was blogging that gave me confidence to approach the local newspaper about the possibility of writing a weekly column.
The editor at the time was skeptical and told me that a lot of people wanted to write columns but very few stuck with it. After a few weeks, when they tired of writing, he'd be stuck with a hole in his paper.
When I told him I had a year's worth of columns already written, he sat back in his chair and scratched his chin. I left a packet of 10 of my best blog entries with him.
He called me the next day and said he'd be pleased to run my column in the Lifestyle section of the Sunday paper. I was ecstatic. 
Then after a few years of writing columns, I decided to publish a compilation of my best columns.
I couldn't find a publisher, so I self-published Remembering Big. There were local authors who advised against self publishing. You won't have the marketing and support --- you'll lose your shirt. 
Well, I didn't lose my shirt. In fact I quickly recouped my investment and I continue to sell books. And it all started with this blog.
It's interesting that most of the people who read my blog now have never heard of Dora High School. 
But that's the beauty of blogging. It gives writers a venue -- a way to connect with people around the world.
A few days ago I posted a note about nearing the 300 milestone. And with a little help from my friends, I reached that milestone today.
I am flattered and humbled.  I appreciate each and every one of you.
The books I promised as a prize are in the mail.
Thanks all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

All Things Human

I was a little late feeding the deer this evening. I always feed at 5 p.m. and usually before I walk back to the gate, there are stealthy deer inching toward the corn under the apple tree like a desert mirage. 
Today I had to run by the co-op to pick up feed, so this evening I was late. There were twin bucks standing under the tree looking impatiently toward the house. I think they are about a year old, but both look like they have six points on their antlers.
I hustled down to the shed and got a large scoop of corn and walked to the gate. I had my hat on and I looked down as I walked.
I got within 30 feet of them before they gave me a warning snort and dashed a short distance to the edge of the field.
I dumped most of the corn out of the plastic container. I always keep about a cupful in the bottom of the container and then rattle it loudly before pouring it on the ground. It serves as a dinner bell. 
I stood and looked at the young bucks for a long while before turning to head back to the house. 
I looked back over my shoulder and both were trotting towards the food before I reached the gate.
I stopped and raised my camera to get a photo, but they both stopped instantly and scurried to the safety of the woods. 
Once I went into the house and looked out the kitchen window, they came out of hiding and tentatively walked toward supper.
I'm glad they are mindful of me because in a few months it will be deer season and their lives depend upon them being skittish of all things human.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Being In the Moment on an Old Tractor -- Column from Sunday's Paper

   Inspiration is a strange and elusive thing. People often ask me how I come up with ideas for my columns. When I have an interesting encounter, or experience some personal calamity (which often happens), it’s an instant topic. Sometimes I hear or read something that sparks an idea and I’m off and running, but at other times, ideas are as scarce as cheap gas.

   I have a number of things I do when I’m uninspired — I’ll look at old photographs, riffle through my old souvenir drawer, or read a book of quotations.

   Normally one of these provide a sparkle of inspiration and I’m good to go. None of these techniques helped this week. So, I went to Plan B — I walked down to the barn, fired up the tractor, and set out to bushhog the better part of Walker County.

   The weatherman had predicted evening thunder showers and there were clouds inching down from the north. I could smell rain on the wind, but I heard no thunder, so I bushhogged on.

   As the sun dipped below the horizon, it cast an erie tint to the approaching storm clouds. The sky began to color. The only words that came to mind to describe that shade of yellow, orange, and grey, were angry butterscotch.

   I could feel inspiration seeping in around the corners of my mind. I knew immediately that Plan B was the right choice.

   When I get on my tractor, something interesting happens. Stress and worry dissipate like cash at a casino. I’m not sure if it’s the wind on my face, the drone of the engine, the smell of freshly cut grass, or if it’s something primal and unknowable. But when I’ve been fretting over a decision or situation, just sitting in that tractor seat for a while, brings me into the moment. It’s almost like kicking my mind out of gear.

   Being in the moment is rare. I’ve spent too much of my life either replaying some event from the past over and over, or worrying about some future event. Why is that? I’m not sure if this is a recent phenomenon brought on by life that always seems to move too fast, or if it’s as old as mankind.

   In order to get everything done we have to multi-task, which means you do several things but you rarely do them as well as you could if you focused on one thing at a time.

   But being in the moment, slows life down. When life slows down, you can often work out complex problems in your sub conscience, so that you make better decisions when you do get back to the work at hand.

   I’m sure people have various ways of getting into the moment. Meditation does it, and I’ve heard people say that jogging provides a similar mental get-away.

   I’m not sure if bushhogging would work for everyone, but it works for me. As I bushhogged, I not only came up with the idea for this column, but I wrote a chorus to a new song, and made a personal decision that’s been bugging me for months.

   The beauty of this approach is that not only do I get inspired and solve problems, buy my property looks great.

Three Hundred Follower Milestone

Hey All,
  The 300 follower milestone -- I'm so close I can smell the barn. If you know of anyone who might enjoy my blog, please feel free to recommend it to them.
  Did I mention that I'll give the 300th follower a new Mercedes? OK, I'm lying about the car but I will mail them a free copy of my book Remembering Big.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

If First You Don't Succeed

If First You Don't Succeed, try, try again was traced back to a teacher -- Thomas Palmer, but the phrase is as true as it was back in the 1700's when he wrote it (or stole it from someone else). It seemed to resonate with me as I tied my first fly fishing fly.
I bought an inexpensive fly tying kit this week. It came with the tools, the supplies and a DVD. Watching the old guy demonstrate how you tie "simple flies" looked like a no brainer.
Hey, I could do this blindfolded I thought as I previewed the instructions. But when I got out the hook, feathers, thread, and other stuff my confidence waned.
I took it step by step, pausing the DVD so that I could tie the fly as he tied his. When he finished, his fly looked like the ones you buy for two bucks at the fly fishing shop, but my fly looked like it had the mange.
Jilda was kind when she said  -- It looks like a mutant.
The thing is, I'm not sure DDT or Agent Orange could make an insect look this ugly.
All the books, magazine articles, and videos I've watched have all said that tying flies is zen-like. It's almost as relaxing as fly fishing.
I'm going back to re-read and re-watch because I didn't get that vibe with my first fly.
In fact it took an incredible amount of self restraint to keep me from ripping the vice from the table and flinging it through the iMac.
But, then I remembered Thomas Palmer's words -- If first you don't succeed, try, try again.
I am going to give the fly a try on Wednesday morning when I go fishing. I know that if I caught a trout on the gnarly fly, I would be officially hooked (pun intended).

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Losing Weight

I lost five pounds today. We played an arts festival and we went on at 2:30 p.m. The ambient temperature was 96 but combined with drinkable humidity, it felt like 110. 
This was the first year for the festival so they didn't have a chance to work out all the bugs. Our friend Kara had a great lineup of artists and there were activities for the kids, but the music stage was in an open area and not covered. I could have baked bread in my guitar case.
By the time we walked off stage, there was not a dry thread on me. 
Even Jilda, who does not sweat (she perspires), was so drenched, it looked like she'd been swimming with her cloths on.
I stepped on the scales when we got home and I'd dropped five pounds, but I don't recommend it as a quick weight loss routine, because tonight I feel like I've been wrung out.
I can promise you it will be an early night tonight.
We are thankful that our friend Fred Miller went with us. He has a sound case that he carries along with him.
The sound system for the festival was minimal to say the least, but Fred pulled out his case and worked his magic. I thought we sounded great.
It was a good cause, but both Jilda and I made ourselves a promise --- no more outside festivals in July or August.

Friday, August 05, 2011


 A bolt of lightening as wide as a freeway struck somewhere too close to our house while we ate dinner. Before our eyes adjusted after the strike, the lights flickered out. A moment later we had 5 five dogs in our laps. 
I should have the lot of them rendered into candle wax at the hide and tallow plant.
Just thinking of the hide and tallow plant causes my stomach to lurch a little. Many years ago when I first started working with MaBell, dispatch called in a trouble report on Powder Plant Road. All the other guys who only moments earlier were idle, were suddenly very busy. 
I took the call. The report said "CAN RECEIVE CALLS, BUT CAN'T BE HEARD".  The phone was at the hide and tallow plant out on Powder Plant Road. I'd never taken a call there, but I copied down the address and headed out there.
I started smelling the H&T plant a mile or more before I pulled into the parking lot. When I arrived, the stench was almost unbearable. 
I didn't know it at the time, but the hide and tallow plant took dead horses, cows, possums, skunks, or any other roadkill animals and rendered them down to tallow. You can Wikipedia tallow and read for yourself what it's all about.
Anyhow, I located the defective phone on the loading dock. I took one look at the oozing handset and immediately know what was causing the problem. I held my breath as much as possible and replaced the defective phone.
As I rushed toward my truck, a worker was sitting on the edge of the loading dock eating a potted meat sandwich. 
He smiled when he saw that I was green around the gills. "See you in a few weeks," he said in a chipper voice. Apparently the phones there have a very short life expectancy.
I took the cord of the old phone, wrapped it around the trailer hitch on my truck, and drug it back to the work center. There was NO WAY I was hauling that disgusting phone in my truck.
The next time a call came in from Powder Plant Road, I got busy in a hurry.
I know it's a long stretch from a bolt of lightening to a disgusting tallow memory, but there you have it.
By the way, I love my dogs and I would never make candles out of them.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Whine about the weather

I stood at the garden door tonight and watched lightening gouge narrow troughs through the night sky. Soon the rain came and I opened the back door so I could hear the storm music on the roof a little better.
We don't have gutters, so when the rain comes rushing off the eves it splatters on the deck. Standing there tonight, rain splattered on my legs and it felt good. 
I know many of us have been whining about the heat, but the days are growing steadily shorter and soon we'll be cursing the north wind and ice on our windshields.
We'll be thinking about things we could do if only the sun would shine and warm the day.
A lesson that would serve us all well is to be content with now. No matter what's happening on the outside, if we could learn to find contentment on the inside, I think we'd all lead happier lives.
Being content with now is not easy. For the most part, we are where we are right now because of the decisions we've made. That can be a bitter pill to swallow. It's much easier to blame the weather, the spouse, the parents, the boss, the government, or something else outside for our unhappiness. 
Viktor K. Frankl who lived through Nazi concentration camps and withstood unspeakable horror, said one of the most profound things I've ever read in my life -- "The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitudes." 
I think we all need to remember these words the next time we feel compelled to whine about the weather.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tale of Two Pictures

 OK, I shot the top picture yesterday while we were walking. I'm not really sure what kind of plant it is, but I think it's sumac.  The color of the berry pods are a cross between clay and crimson.
When I looked at the photo tonight, it looked a little drab. So, I ran it through an app called Photogene. It allows you to mash up the original in strange and interesting ways.
I'm not saying one is better than the other.....just different. Sometimes looking at something in a different way changes your perspective.
Your brain is trained to categorize things into groups. It's a safety valve because if your brain had to analyze and evaluate everything it sees, it would blow a fuse.
So, the brain  can get a little lazy. "Oh, that's a sumac seed pod, or that's an okra blossom, or that's a redneck, or that's an illegal alien, or that's a rich person, or that's a poor person, or that's a stupid person, or that's a smart person.......and on and on.
So my Photogene app helps guard against that. In a small way, it's help the world become a better place.
I bet you had no idea this post would take you from a sumac seed pod to world peace and true happiness, but there you have it.
Tune in tomorrow where I'll be focusing on world hunger, and climate change.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Broke Down

I went fishing this morning but I really didn't enjoy it like I usually do. Jilda reminded me that her car has been acting up lately. I've been putting it off because I was afraid it would be VERY expensive to ignoring it would postpone the inevitable.
Anyhow, when I got home around lunch time, I took her car to the shop. The mechanic looked concerned when I described the symptoms.
He poured an additive into the transmission and told me that it was possible that it could help. But I could almost hear him say "you'll come closer to winning the Powerball lottery".
I drove the car around for awhile and perhaps it was the placebo effect, but I thought that the transmission was shifting better.
That didn't last long. When I went to see my mom this afternoon, I drove by one of those flashing signs that shows the time and temperature. The sign read 1:04 p.m.  and the temp was 104 degrees.
A few minutes later I stopped at a red light and when I got the green, the car was slow to move. I turned onto a secondary road to make my way to the nursing home, but before I arrived, the transmission behaved as if I'd shifted into neutral.
I called the towing service and stood around on the side of the road waiting.  In the scheme of things, 40 minutes is not that long, but when the it's hotter than a sunburned satan, it seems like days.
So now here's the dilemma -- Jilda LOVES this car, but the car is old (1996 Volvo). It looks almost new,  and it's been a great car, but a transmission could be expensive--I could possible balance the U.S. budget for what it will cost to get it repaired.
I'll know more by the end of the week. Meantime, I probably need to look for a job. Is anybody hiring?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Kids say the strangest things

My sister has been teaching 4 year olds in Vacation Bible School this week and she said there was on little red headed guy that was a scream.
When they taught that Jesus died on the cross, they asked the kids if they knew how he died. "Did he die from drinking too much beer?" the red-headed kid asked.
One of the teachers asked the kid where he got his pretty red hair and without blinking an eye he said, "from the UPS man." My sister said she spewed coffee on the table.
Our nephew Jordan was visiting today and he kept putting his hand down into his shorts. Jilda asked him if he had to go to the bathroom, and he said without hesitation -- "No, I'm just fixing my penis." I can tell you when I was 3 years old, it would not have occurred to me to say that.
One of the funniest shows on television that I remember is Art Linkletter's "Kids Say The Darndest Things".
Here are some kid quotes:
*If mom's not happy, nobody's happy.
*You should never pick on your sister when she has a baseball bat in her hands.
*You should never ask your three-year-old brother to hold a tomato.
*Every time I complain to my mom that I'm bored, she tells me to go clean my room.
*When your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair.
*When teachers get old, like over fifty-five, they're always in a bad mood.
*It's not a very good idea to drink a two-liter Coke before going to bed.
* No matter how hard you try, you cannot baptize a cat.

I bet you've all heard kids say funny stuff. I'm listening.

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