Monday, April 30, 2012

Bird Watching

Birds are interesting creatures. I've had a life-long fascination with our feathered friends. 

I remember as a child, sitting on my great-grandmother's porch in spring and watching hummingbirds have their way with her petunias, geraniums and other flowers.

When we built our house, one of the first things we did was put up hummingbird feeders. They hang just outside the windows of our great room, and we anxiously await their arrival from South America each year. 

They fly thousands of miles, and then one morning they hover just outside the window looking in chidingly as if to say: ‘Hey our throats are like a desert out here. Can you get on the stick and put nectar in the feeders?’

I built blue bird houses many years ago and put them up in the back yard. Each year we spend a lot of sunny afternoons on the back deck watching them build nests and feed their young once they hatch out.

Today I went out to the screened porch to write. Often when I can't come up with a decent idea, I'll head to the porch. There's something about wind in the chimes, and the earthy smell of spring that inspires me. Even when it seems my creative well has run dry, the porch always provides a spark.

As I sat patiently awaiting the arrival of the muse, I realized it was a little warm so I stepped inside and flipped on the porch ceiling fan. When I looked up, the light globe was so dirty, you could barely see the bulb.

I flipped the fan and light off, and loosened the thumb screws holding the globe in place. When I pulled it down, I found a tiny sparrow's nest. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was from last year. 

That's fortunate because had it been a fresh nest, I couldn't have used the light until after the babies hatched and left the nest.

It occurred to me that placing that nest in that light globe was a stroke of genius. The location was in the dry and out of the reach of the wind. It was about 10 feet from a fountain that runs day and night. And not 30 feet from the bird feeders we replenish daily.

A few years ago, sparrows built a nest in the dome of our propane tank. One morning when I went out to check the gas level, I got a surprise when I opened the dome.

A tiny mama sparrow flew out straight for my face. I jumped back reflexively, got my feet tangled up, and fell right there in the driveway. 

I looked around, as I always do when I make a fool of myself, to see if anyone had seen me get my tail kicked by a critter that weighed just slightly more than a well-fed butterfly. 

The only thing looking, was that mama sparrow who'd flown a few feet away, and was perched on a lower limb of our rose-a-sharon. I'm not sure if birds can laugh, but it sounded like it to me.

We had enough fuel to last another month or two, so I waited about calling the gas man until the babies had hatched.

When Jilda got home today and asked if I had thought of an idea for my column this week. I told her I did, thanks to the birds.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Place I'd Call Home

Our niece Samantha brought her boyfriend to our house today for the first time. She'd asked a photographer to come and shoot pictures of her and her boyfriend here on the farm.
Jilda cooked up some new potatoes, corn on the cob, and baked chicken breast wrapped with lean strips of bacon.
Samantha hadn't planned on eating here, but once her boyfriend got a whiff if the stuff roasting in the oven, he was hooked. I doubt that crack cocaine has a stronger appeal than the aroma her cooking.
After we ate, the photographer showed up, and we headed back to meditation rock. The photographer took a ton of photos and afterwards, we all walked slowly back up toward the barn.
Our great nephew Jordan, Samantha's son, raced ahead of us to check the blueberry bushes for ripe berries. He found handfuls.
Samantha's boyfriend picked some of the sun-warmed berries, and popped them into his mouth. He closed his eyes and savored the taste of one of the best gifts Mother Nature has to offer.
We stopped for a while at the garden gate as he surveyed our property.  I love this place, he said.
I smiled, because I fell in love with this place the first time I ever set foot on it. I knew in my heart, that it was the place that I'd call home.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Matt's Safe Room
We played for a celebration today that was a special event. It was for one of our fans, Matt Crumbley, who's been every time we've played in North Alabama.
He lives in a small community just north of Cullman, and one year ago yesterday, they heard sirens. They knew the drill, Matt, his mom, his grandparents, and their three cats headed for their safe room.
He remembers hearing a deafening roar, and pressure that was so intense it was hard to describe. Then as quickly as it came, it was gone.
When they stepped out of their safe room, their house and all their belongings were gone. When he looked around, he realized that his community was gone too. The man who lived next door was killed.
Several weeks later, our group played at Berkeley Bob's Coffee House in Cullman, and Matt was there.
He was still visibly shaken. I video taped an interview with him about his experience.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Matt sent us a note and asked if we'd consider playing for a dedication of their new house. We said yes.
Today we arrived in his community, and next to the beautiful new house, were tents in their yard. The place was buzzing with people putting out food, drinks and desserts.
The sun was warm, but there was a nice breeze out of the north which flapped the sides of the canopies.
We got a grand tour of their new house and it was trees, but the house was beautiful. A door which opened off of Matt's bedroom led to the safe room.
The community welcomed us and we had a great time playing old familiar songs for those gathered.
The occasion was one of celebration. Even though a community got kicked in the teeth by mother nature, they got back up and started putting things back together.
The old cliche -- we're down, but we're not out, came to mind. I can't help feeling this little community is stronger, even after all they've been through.

I love it when a plan comes together

I didn't sleep too well last night. Our friend Mary Grace who is from Birmingham, had asked to spend the night with us because she needed to be in Jasper early this morning.
She'd gotten word that Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, would be riding to raise funds for tornado victims across Alabama. Today was the one-year anniversary of the destructive outbreak.
She asked if I'd consider going with her to shoot a photo when he autographed her book. 
Meeting Lance was on her Bucket list. She's been fighting cancer for the last ten years, and his books and articles written about him resonated with her. She said his LiveStrong organization gave her information, and ultimately hope where little existed in her life.
When we arrived this morning, there was over a hundred bikers, and no telling how many others who turned out to see Bo Jackson, and Ken Griffey Jr. and other celebrities.
Lance's appearance was a surprise because it wasn't announced in the paper, but she'd heard from a good source that he'd be there.
We found out from his assistant that he wouldn't be in Jasper, but he would be in Cordova, which was a town that was stricken by the storms last year.
So we headed the few miles to Cordova. It was a madhouse when we arrived, but his assistant told her to be patient, they'd do their best to work it out so that she could meet him.
To be honest, I had doubts that it would happen, because the crowd was so large. But true to her word, the assistant passed Mary off to one of the cyclists who apparently had clout with Lance, because he led her through the crowd, even brushing aside one of the TV station cameramen from Birmingham. He deposited Mary with Lance.
He smiled graciously as she asked him to autograph a book and an article. During the five minutes she talked to Lance, I must have shot a hundred photos.
to my knowledge, she was the only person who got a one-on-one photograph with him there. 
A few moments, later, they were off headed to Bessemer, and then to Tuscaloosa. Mary was floating on air, and she smiled all the way home.
Jilda and I consider it a gift to have had a chance to help make something happen that was so important to her.
I love it when a plan comes together.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


It's been a while since we've seen deer in our garden. After the tornados last April, they seem to have faded into the woods.
I ran into a game warden back in the winter and he said the reason deer are scarce is because 2011 was a banner year for acorns. Apparently, deer prefer acorns over corn.
We'd become convinced the tornadoes blew our deer to South Carolina. But after hunting season we began putting out corn each day. We didn't see them, but each morning when we walked, we'd see the corn was gone.
This evening we had a guest for dinner and before nightfall. At one point, I looked out toward the barn, and a doe had ventured under the apple tree to munch on corn. I was so happy to see our little visitor.
Tomorrow is a long day, so the post tonight is short. I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Moon and Stars

I was so tired that I forgot about the photo I took as I was leaving the forum last night. The sky was clear as freshly cleaned window and when I looked at the dome of the next building over, I saw the quarter moon with a bright star just above it. This photo does not do the scene justice.
It's been a productive day, but alas, it's time for slumber.
Good night all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Small Town Friend

I went to the Tim Sumner Robinson Forum tonight at Samford University. Tim was a friend who graduated from the same high school from which Jilda and I graduated.
It was obvious, even in high school that he was blindingly brilliant. But he wasn't one of those folks who liked to flaunt his intelligence.
He learned to fit in, by playing music. He was in a high school band, and loved music throughout his life.  But his first love was journalism.
He graduated a few years early, and went to college. He started working for the same newspaper where my weekly column runs.
He went on to work for the Birmingham Post Herald during the mid sixties during the civil rights movement.
He later worked for The Washington Post as a night city editor. This was during the Watergate trials. During the hight of the trials, he often had front-page stories in the Post.
He later worked for AOL/Time Warner when the Internet and online news was in its infancy.
He appeared on theToday Show and Larry King Live.
His contributions weren't the stuff of tabloids, but the nuts and bolts hidden under the hood. Things that helped pave the way for modern journalists.
In 2003 he was diagnosed with cancer, and died suddenly of complications after surgery. His wife asked Jilda and me to sing at his funeral. We were flattered, but it was hard.
He was always kind to us. We visited him once in New York City when he was editor of the National Law Journal. He took us out to eat in Soho, and we talked into the night.
Gene Policinski who is senior vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center was the guest speaker tonight.
He spoke highly of Tim's work. He also urged the journalism students at Samford, to consider focusing on legal journalism.
The public needs to know what's going on in the courts, according to Policinski. Our freedom depends on it.
Tim didn't do too bad for a boy from Dora, Alabama. I felt proud to have called him my friend.

Monday, April 23, 2012


We've been so busy lately that I haven't had a chance to work on my gimpy machines. After a good night's sleep, I felt like I had a new lease on life. 
I did some writing this morning, and this afternoon I went to the parts place to pick up a new carburator I'd ordered last week for the riding lawnmower. 
The wind out of the north made the temps unseasonably cool, but the sun was bright and warm, so I let Ol' Buddy ride shotgun. He had to bark up a few hounds that ventured too close to the truck as we drove down the highway.
When I went inside, the parts lady said, hmmmm. The price is more than I would have thought. I'm not sure how many of you work on your own stuff, but I can tell you, that is a sentence you really don't like to hear.
I found myself toying with the notion of trying to finance the carb for say -- two years, but I bit the bullet and paid cash.
When I got home, I put the new carburator on, and said a silent prayer to the god of nuts and bolts that the old mower would crank.
I turned the switch and it sputtered for a moment and went dead. 
My heart sank. I almost cried like a little girl that just had her kitten scarfed up by an ill-tempered doberman pincher with bad breath.
I felt defeated, as I sat on the ground beside the old beast. Just then I looked at the motor once again and noticed a wire dangling beneath the carburator. I'd forgotten to reattach it when I installed the new part.
I felt hope flitter up my spine, as I snapped the wire into place. When I turned the ignition, it sprang to life. 
It seem to run better than the day I bought it in 2005. I cut every blade of grass on the farm and I smiled so much, I had grass-stains on my teeth. 
Sometimes little successes can mean so much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Flat Tire

Tonight I feel like a tire with a slow leak. I have a destination (finishing this entry) and I'm hoping I make it before my tire goes totally flat.
OK, I know this is a sad analogy, but I drove for many hours on the road from South Alabama. We stayed up late last night playing music, and we had to get up early this morning.
Once on the road, I quickly realized the temperature had dropped. As often happens, changes in weather are accompanied by wind.
So as we made our way home, the wind out of the north rocked the truck like a cradle.
When we made it home, I tried to take a nap, but the dogs were so happy to see us, they wouldn't let us rest.
I can hear my pillow calling. Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fun Times.

We had dinner with our friends Wes and Deidra tonight. Their daughter Laken, did much of the cooking.
She's just out of graduate school and in between jobs. Her Masters is in International Business, but she could be a chef.  The food was remarkable.
Several of Wes' friends came over to join us and then afterwards we played music for a few hours.
We played original songs, contemporary songs, and old favorites.
It's one of my most favorite ways to pass an evening.
It's late now so this post is short.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Singing for Kids

Jilda and I played for about 1000 kids today at Hoover Middle School, south of Birmingham. There were four groups of about 250 kids.
It was arts & culture day, and one of the teachers asked if we'd consider talking to the kids about songwriting and then playing a few songs.
We had to be there around 8:00 this morning, an it's an hours drive, so we left before the chickens crowed.
Playing for young folks you don't know is kind of hit and miss. Some kids seem to really enjoy our songs, and others seem on the verge, of slitting their wrists, with their orthodontic braces sharpen on the sidewalk as we strummed our hearts out.
One kid from the last group came up and was very complementary. He liked Jilda's voice and likened her to Stevie Nix on the song Landslide.
What struck me as interesting is that song, Landslide, was written and released around 1975. It's one of my favorite songs.  This kid's mother probably wasn't born in 1975, so I'm not sure how he became familiar with the tune.
Jilda signed a few autographs after the show, and we were headed home by noon. She had to work this evening. I was caught up, but I worked around the house.
I can tell you this, we're both whupped, so it will be an early night tonight.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


We planted a climbing honeysuckle bush at one corner of the arbor at our front porch. We bought it last fall, and even then it was blooming.
Evening Honeysuckle
We took that as a good sign. I dug the hole deep and wide and filled it with the compost I'd been brewing for months. It was one of the first things that bloomed this year.
Yesterday evening I looked out the front windows, and the setting sun fell on the bush turning not only the blossoms, but the foliage into stunning pinks, greens, yellows, and orange.
I shot a few pictures with the iPhone but they were disappointing. When that happens, I go to plan B, which is to pull up one of the wacky photo manipulation apps and see what I can come up with.
This picture was edited in PhotoStudio.
It's not as beautiful as the one painted by the setting sun, but it will do in a pinch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I think the speed of life has changed in the last 20 years.  I used to think that this phenomenon only affected modern man, but I'd be willing to bet this sentiment has probably been expressed every few years since cavemen chiseled out pictures on the walls of their dank living quarters.
Tools are supposed to make your live easier, right? Good tools ideally free you up from manual labor to do more productive things with your mind and hands.
But it seems with each new invention, brings new challenges. I think that's truer today than ever before in history.
For example, in the past, especially in the rural south, news traveled slow. Of course that doesn't include gossip, which according to Douglas Adams, the famous British author, travels faster than the speed of light. But I digress.
Most of the news my great grandfather got was when he occasionally went in to town to get a haircut, and  to buy 50 pounds of sugar along with some yeast which he used to make moonshine whiskey.
These days, I get the latest news with video from around the world on the phone in my pocket in real time. Is my life any better than my grandfather's? It's hard to say.
What seems to happen, and I think I've written about this before, is that access to information tends to overload memory circuits and other wiring of the brain.
I can remember stories I read in the 5th grade in my Weekly Reader, but I couldn't tell you three things that came across the iPhone news this morning.
Maybe with all this information, our brains will evolve. I can almost picture big bald gnarly heads heads twice as big as they are when makes the evolved humanoids able to process terabytes of information at the speed of light.
However my question remains -- Is/will my life be better if I develop the skills to assimilate all the information coming at me? I seriously think it's doubtful.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Expresso Buzz

It was an old rainy day here in Empire today. I had an appointment this morning and drove in to town, only to find that it had to be rescheduled. 
So I ran by McDonalds and got a hot mocha to go, and headed back home. I did a little research on some stories, and made appointments for tomorrow. 
Jilda whipped up some rice and black beans for lunch and afterwards I decided to take a long nap. 
I could hear thunder in the distance, and the rain rattling our tin roof sounded almost like bacon frying. The thunder put all the dogs under foot.
I kicked back, and before I knew it I was sleeping hard. My phone chirped at 2 p.m. to remind me to finish up another project I'd started.
I sat up on the couch and my head felt like a warm marshmallow. I stepped to the kitchen and pulled out the big guns.
I put two helping teaspoons of expresso in the coffee press, and set the kettle on to boil. While the water heated, I moved the laptop, and my notes to the screened porch.
The whistle of the kettle sent me back inside and I poured the hot water over the coffee and gently pushed the plunger of the press. The aroma was out of this world.
I took the steaming cup to the porch, and sat down to write. About halfway through the cup, the hair on the back of my neck seemed to stand at attention. Before I was finished, I started seeing stuff out of the corner of my eye.
Not normal stuff, but things like a giraffe eating a popsicle. I typed faster. 
Fortunately, I finished the story before I started hearing the low frequency buzz. 
NOTE TO SELF: Go easy on the expresso.

Monday, April 16, 2012

First Catch of the Season

NOTE: The seed for my column this week started with a post from last week. 
I went fly fishing on the Sipsey this morning for the first time this year. It was a little cool when I left home, but I put on some warm clothes to wear under my waders. It wasn’t too bad when I stepped into the chilly water.

A mist hovered near the surface, making the trees look like a faded black and white photograph.

Soon, the sun rose above the trees and burned the mist away. It felt good on my back as I waded up river to my favorite fishing spot. 

I’d forgotten my wading stick, which helps me maintain balance as I walk across rocks slicker than teflon sprayed with WD-40, so the journey up river took about twice as long as normal.
I’m not a master fisherman by any stretch of the imagination, but I know the difference between a rainbow trout and a catfish, and that’s because through the years I’ve fished a lot. 

But this morning, an impartial witness would have sworn that I’m a rookie who couldn’t catch a trout in an aquarium with a fishing net.
The first cast and my line turned into a rat’s nest. I couldn’t have tied better knots with an instruction manual. 

I was trying to untangle the mess, while all around me trout flopped out of the water like trained dolphins. If the wind had been blowing, I could easily have blamed the snafu on that, but it was still as a crypt. 

I had to cut the leader off with my pocket knife and start from scratch.
There was a Great Blue Heron on the far bank getting ready to catch his breakfast, and I thought I heard him chuckle at my misfortune. It was a good thing for him that I’m not that good a hunter either. 

Last year, I usually caught trout soon after I started fishing but not this time. Experience has taught me that if I don’t get any action on one fly, I try another one until I figure out what they have an appetite for. 

I tried wet flies, dry flies, streamers and nymphs. At one point, I got so desperate I would have used a stick of dynamite if I’d had one.
In the past I’ve said, “It’s not the fish, but the fishing that’s important,” but I was lying. I wanted to catch a fish.

I lost five flies in the three hours I spent on the water. Last year, I didn’t lose five flies total. 
The morning was getting away from me, and I had afternoon appointments, so I headed toward the truck. I kept casting as I slowly made my way down stream. 
All of a sudden, wham! A rainbow struck, and I landed it. I removed the barbless hook and released it in the swift current. It was all I could do to keep from kissing that fish before I let it go.

My luck has changed, I thought triumphantly as I smiled to myself. The next cast hung on a rock in the middle of the river and I lost another fly.
I reeled my line in and headed for the truck before I fell in the river. Sometimes you just have to know when to quit.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It seems the last week or so, my creative writing muse has been on vacation. I've spent more time tapping keys, than I've spent writing words. But I've come to understand that life is eb and flow.
Maybe the muse helps many people, and she's helping one of my friends, who's been ebbing, more than they've been flowing.
Last night when I tried to write, I got so frustrated I pushed away from my desk, and almost ran over one of Ol' Buddy's toes. He scrambled to get out of the way and looked at me as if to say, "Hey man, it's not my fault you can't buy a decent idea with a Gold Card.
I picked up my guitar and started plucking at it randomly. All of a sudden, I came up with a cool intro to one of our new songs. I found myself smiling.
If the writing muse has abandoned you, that doesn't mean that the music muse is not near by patiently waiting for you to call on her.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Swearing Saint

I've spent a lot of time today cussing machines. My lawnmower is having issues, the tiller's on the blink, Jilda's car needs work, and my truck grinds like it's eaten a bad burrito every time I shift gears.
All these machines have served me well through the years, but it's almost as if Ingrid, Jilda's Volvo, started a nuts & bolts revolution. I can see the picture in my head -- while sitting around a campfire drinking wine, smoking pot, and telling human jokes, she said -- Hey! I've got a great idea. Let's all quit working at the same time.
I've replaced all the parts in the fuel system of my lawnmower, except the carburator, and it still coughs and sputters, like it has a lung infection.
To fix the tiller, I have to completely disassemble it, to replace a pin not much bigger than a swollen thumbnail.
I don't want to even discuss Ingrid. The tax refund that we thought we might use to take a trip, will go to our mechanic, who will now be able to travel at our expense.
It's enough to make a saint swear.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Tonight I had a post practically finished, but I ended up trashing it. No, it wasn't Jilda's computer gremlins that jumped on the MacBook and hurled my work into the ether. The post simply didn't feel right.
So I went back to the drawing board.
I learned a few weeks ago that my Apple computers have a function I didn't realize they had. I can highlight text, punch a few buttons, and the computer will read what I've highlighted back to me.
You can select voices you like, so I chose the voice of an Australian woman to read to me.
What's interesting is that she reads exactly what's written, so mistakes that often slip by me when I'm writing, jump out at me when she reads it back to me.
That's not to say that mistakes don't slip by, but it does seem to me that fewer mistakes make it through.
I've learned that editing is the hardest part of writing for me. Details, typos, and other snafu's are invisible to me, but they often jump out at readers.
It's aggravating to me to discover a mistake in one of my columns, stories, or blog posts that I've missed.  So I'm interested in anything I can do to help limit that frustration.
If you struggle with this, I suggest you get you and Australian woman to read your work to you. I think you'll see what I mean. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Gift

I was getting pretty productive in my writing so I knew I needed a new distraction. I decided to join Pinterest, which is an online pin board. 

The idea is when you come across something on the web worth sharing, you can "pin" it to Pinterest, and share it with anyone following you. 

I linked mine to Facebook so that whenever I pin something, it not only shows up on Pinterest, but it shows up on Facebook too.

I took a break from writing this afternoon and I was perusing Pinterest when I came across this quote from Albert Einstein.

It's one of the most interesting things I've read in some time. I must confess that I'm as guilty as any when it comes to relying on the "faithful servant."

But some of the best things I've written have been snagged from thin air.  I make a connection between two unexpected things which results in something unique, and special.
When it happens to me, it always makes me smile. I never want to forget the "gift".

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Jilda would never be called a computer whiz. In fact, I'd been working with computers for 15 years before she typed her first email on one.

As a result, computers realize she's not an early adopter, and that taunt her mercilessly. She can be typing away and nearing the end of her update, and the display jumps to Facebook. 
All the words she'd been typing for 30 minutes are not lost in the ether -- somewhere just out of reach. My computer saves every word I type. I can shut down my computer and drive to Panama City, Florida; log on, and my updates would be there blinking as if I'd stepped down the hall the the bathroom.

When her updates disappear, she goes through four stages of confusion:

Hope (as she calls me over to try and retrieve the lost document)
Frustration, when I tell her -- alas, the words are gone and must be retyped
Anger -- which involves a lot of ugly words, that don't often pass her lips.

She had an "episode" tonight, but thankfully she'd only typed two sentences. When I heard her exclaim -- I can't believe this, I walked over to see if I could find what she'd written before she started cussing. 
When I clicked on the back button, a screen came up and asked if she wanted to print the current document.....but there was nothing on her screen.

I'm beginning to think her laptop is possessed.

Does anyone know a good exorcist?

Monday, April 09, 2012


I went fly fishing on the Sipsey this morning. It was a little cool when I left home, but when the sun came out it warmed up nicely.
I fished a lot last year, and I've gone a few times this year, but an impartial witness who watched me fish this morning would have sworn that I'm a rookie.
The first cast and my line turned into a rat's nest. If the wind had been blowing, I could easily have blamed the snafu on that, but it was still as a crypt. 
There was a Great Blue Heron on the far bank getting ready to catch his breakfast, and I thought I heard him chuckle at my misfortune.
I lost five files in the three hours I spent on the water. I didn't lost five flies last year. 
Not only that, I wasn't catching anything. I know I drivel on about "It's not the fish but the fishing," but I was lying. I wanted to catch a fish.
I started making my way back to the truck walking through the water and casting. All of a sudden, wham! 
A rainbow struck and I landed him. I removed the barbless hook and released him in the swift current.
My luck has changed, I smiled to myself. The next cast hung on a rock in the middle of the river and I lost another fly.
I wound my line in and headed for the truck before I fell in the river. 

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mama's Love of Easter ~ Today's Column

This Easter is our family’s first holiday without my mom. We’ll do most of the things we normally do, but it won’t be the same.

She loved all the holidays because it was a chance for her family to gather and celebrate, but she was partial to Easter.

It wasn’t the clothes, although we normally got new outfits on Easter; it was getting ready for the annual Easter Egg hunt at Aunt Edra Mae’s house.

We raised chickens behind our house in Sloss, and she’d start saving eggs a week or so before the big day. 

The Saturday night before Easter, she’d boil several dozen eggs on the stove. As the eggs rattled in the pot, she’d clear off a space on the kitchen table and set out about a half dozen coffee cups. In each cup, she’d put about 20 drops of food coloring along with a little vinegar and water. 

She’d set out spoons to dip out the eggs once they were colored, but more times than I can count, I’d dive in the cup with my fingers. They’re a lot easier to get out that way, but you wind up with fingers and thumbs the color of a summer rainbow.

I remember one year when my old sister Mary (she loves it when I call her that) stuck her thumb in a cup of green coloring and touched my forehead. When I looked in the mirror, I had a green thumb print right between my eyes. I tried to give her a print too, but she was a lot faster than me in those days.

We both laughed, but it wasn’t nearly as funny that night when I had to scrub the hide off my forehead trying to remove the print.

Each year after church, the family would load the car with food, cakes and eggs before heading out to Aunt Edra Mae’s house. 

Mama’s sisters were great cooks, and they always tried to out do each other. At lunch, everyone would eat until we almost spewed.

When the eating was done, the menfolk would take a wheelbarrow of eggs out to the front yard to hide. Most of the women would sit on the porch in the shade and watch the kids hunt eggs, but Mama enjoyed getting in on the action. She normally teamed up with one of the younger kids to help even out the odds.

My cousin Jimmy was a lot older than most of the cousins, and he was a master at hiding eggs. He’d hide about half of the eggs in plain sight where the little kids could find them, and he’d hide another 25 percent to make it interesting for the bigger kids. The last 25 percent, you couldn’t find with a bloodhound and a backhoe.

He’d put them in the corn crib, in the tailpipes of old tractors, in the knotholes of fence posts and old trees. One year he hid the prize egg in an ant bed. My cousin who found it had so many ant bites that it looked like he had the measles. 

Mama never carried an Easter basket because she chose to help the little kids who were too little to find a lot of eggs. She was also pretty good at blocking the older kids too, which gave the younger ones an extra second to grab the eggs.

I remember the last Easter she was at home. She didn’t feel well, but we rolled her out on the deck in the sun and wrapped her in a fuzzy blanket so she could watch the egg hunt. 

Her eyes weren’t as good as they once were, but she managed to pick out the smallest child in the hunt and watched them closely. That’s the kid I chose to help. It made her smile.

We’ll get together this Easter at my sister’s house, and after lunch we’ll hunt eggs. I’ll do my best to figure out which kid my mama would have helped.

Saturday, April 07, 2012


Jilda and I have a tradition. We have movies that we watch on holidays. For Christmas, we always watch A Bishop's Wife, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and Miracle on 34th Street. 
On Groundhog Day, we watch Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray and Andy McDowell. During the World Series (I know this is not really a holiday, but I'm taking literary license here) we watch For the Love of the Game.
And on Easter, we watch Chocolat. If you've never seen Chocolat, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. In my opinion, it's one of the best scripts ever. 
Tonight, Jilda whipped up a pasta dish with broccoli, carrots, and wild salmon. We popped the cork on some Barefoot Pinot Grigio. I know it's champagne, but the label said it was good with fish, and it was. We watched Chocolat while we ate. We also munched on a few pieces of  Ghiradelli dark chocolate.
Here's the thing -- holidays can make you crazy. You can get bogged down in so many things, that in the scheme of things, don't really matter. 
What matters to me is this -- I have a roof over my head, and enough food to eat. I'm fairly healthy, and my lovely spouse is getting there. 
We're both doing work that we love, and we have the best friends on the planet, even though there are so many of you, that I've never actually met.
I hope you have a remarkable Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2012


We played at a street festival in Jasper this evening. It's the first one of spring, and not many people turned out, but we had fun all the same. 
We got in a good practice, and the people who came seemed to enjoy it.
I'd worked up a sweat setting up the equipment, because the streets run east and west, and the evening sun was warm.
Once the sun dipped below the horizon, there was a chill in the air, and it felt like San Francisco in the spring.
We got to watch our friends, The Spookhouse Saints, perform which is always fun.
After our performance, we started to find an open restaurant downtown, but Jilda is still recovering from her treatment earlier in the week, so we headed home.
As we left the city lights behind, I heard her gasp. I first thought a deer was about to scamper in front of us, but just then I saw what she was looking at.
A full moon, the color of butterscotch came into view and it looked as big as a basketball. I tried to shoot a photo with my iPhone, but with no telescope, the moon looked unimpressive. I'm usually happy with my iPhoneography, but tonight I wished I'd had my big camera with me.
So I took a few snaps with my mental camera. I can't share the image with you, but in my mind, the picture is very good.
Y'all have a great Easter Eve, and a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Two Paths

I have vocal exercises on my iPhone, and today I was was doing them in my truck. I was sitting at a red light,  headphones on, and stretching for the high notes. 
I'm sure I was making a weird face, which normally isn't a problem, but when I glanced to the left, I saw two women in a Lexus who were stopped at the light next to me. They were staring at me,  and laughing hysterically.
I had two choices: I could try to somehow recover and assume my suave and debonair Sean Connery persona, or I could carry on like they weren't there. I chose the latter path.
I think when I was younger, I would probably have been embarrassed, but a funny thing happened on the way to getting older --  what people think no longer bothers me as much as it once did.
I see people doing goofy things in their cars all the time. I guess people think they're invisible when their cars. It's not uncommon to see people reading, texting, checking email, or looking for a cigarette they've dropped in the floorboard. 
I saw a woman changing clothes as she drove down the Interstate a while back and she was down to her underwear. 
I am thankful that today, I was only doing vocal exercises :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

1940 Census

The government released 1940 census data this week. I've spent a few hours looking up my parents and grandparents embedded deep within the scanned documents. 
The search is not easy because there were no electronic databases then. All the data was collected by enumerators and handwritten on census forms. 
These forms were subsequently scanned into jpeg images. To find what you're looking for, you must know the state, county, and city. Then you start paging through the scanned images.
Fortunately, our enumerator wrote clearly so it's easy to spot family, friends, and acquaintances as you flip through.
I read where the census website has been getting 100 of thousands requests per minute during the first few hours the data were available.
So what is the fascination with all this data? Well, it helps us to tell the story of our past and puts limbs on our family trees.
I have a lot more searching to do, but it felt strangely comforting to see my parents and grandparents listed there on the page.
Genealogists love census data, because it fills in missing pieces of the historical record. They don't have to take someone's word, that a family lived in Dora, Alabama in 1940. The census enumerator wrote it down right there on his sheet, 72 years ago.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Little Things

Several years ago I was tooling down highway 78 after work, heading for home. It was August, and even at 5 p.m. the asphalt was hotter than a pizza oven.
I drove by a stalled car on the side of the road, and realized the driver was a guy who'd graduated from high school with me in 1968.
I turned around and went back to offer assistance. I had changed since high school. I'd lost some hair, and gained some weight, but he was in a bind and I knew he needed help.
At first, he didn't know who I was, but then recognized me by my voice.  We talked while  fixing his flat, and then said our goodbyes. 
I saw him again today. I'd read in the paper yesterday that his father had died, so Jilda and I drove down to the funeral home to visit with his family for a while.
As we stood there talking, he recounted the story of that hot August day so long ago. He said how much it meant to him that I had stopped that day to help.
I barely remembered it, but apparently it meant a lot to him.
Sometimes we don't realize the little things we do, can mean more to someone, that we can imagine. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

We're #1 -- At Something

I have a theory. If you look at statistics for Alabama, we are usually compete with Mississippi for last place.
This is not an accident. We, as a people, have brought much of the hardship upon ourselves. This is a long sordid story, which is probably more information than you'd like to read about on a Monday night.
But suffice it to say, that we as a region, don't have a lot to celebrate.
Here's the theory -- I think the reason college football is so huge in the south, is because it's one thing that we are good at.
If you look at the college football National Championships since 1992 (the last 20 years) 9 of those championships went to Southeastern teams. We've won the last six.
I know it might seem trivial, but when you're rated at the bottom of family income, obesity, life expectancy, education level, any practically any other meaningful statistic; it feels good to be number one at something.
Today, Jilda was asked to speak on yoga and recovery (drug/alcohol), to students in one of the graduate programs at the University of Alabama.
Afterwards, the professor took us by Denny Stadium for a quick tour. I shot this photo out front.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


Jilda used to tint black and white photographs. We bought coloring pencils, special paint, and the black and white photographs had to be printed on a special type of paper that would accept the paint.
A single photograph could take 10 hours to product.
Technology changes everything. I shot this photo a few days ago.  I ran it through an app on my iPhone and did the photo in less that a minute.
Is this better? Well, if you only look at the photograph and time savings, perhaps this is better.
But when you consider all the things I/we learned doing it the old way it makes the decision a little more cloudy.
I had to learn that not just any black and white paper would hold paint.
I studied texture, and darkroom printing techniques.
Jilda researched paint, color, and contrast to make those old photographs.
I'm not sure someone who has never done a tinted photo the old way could fully appreciate this new technology.

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