Saturday, June 30, 2012

Old Friends

We visited with our friends Tom and Judy, Brenda and Danny, and Deborah, for the first time in way too long.
We actually friended up with Tom and Judy back in the early 1980's. They had what I call a ranch house then, and when they threw a party, hundreds of people showed up. You almost needed the police for traffic control.
I remember the first time we visited them there. They owned the first bug zapper I'd ever seen. 
A crowd of people gathered out in their yard, and perhaps we'd all imbibed a little too ambitiously, because every time a big old honkin' moth was attracted to the light and flitted into the zapper, you'd hear a ZAAAAPPPPPPPP.   The crowd would erupt like the home team had just knocked a grandslam. 
Jilda and I were broker than the 10 Commandments in 1980, so it didn't take a great deal to amuse us.
These days we've evolved into a live and let live (for the most part) philosophy with all living things. So perhaps in  retrospect, when viewing this event through the lens of compassion and reason, our behavior could be considered a little low-brow and harsh, but I can say it was a hoot then. 
They Tom and Judy live on the Warrior River, and tonight we gathered around their table and had an incredible time catching up.
The food was Southern Living worthy, and when it came time to say goodbye, we all lingered. But that's what good friends do when they part.
I'm putting an ad in the local paper to hire an ex-con. His only job is to monitor our calendars, and if we go more that 60 days without seeing our dear friends, he's to beat the living crap out of us all. 
"Y'all get together soon, or I'll be back. Y'all understand." 
Y'all have a great Sunday.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I was curious about something today so I whipped out my iPhone, touched the Wikipedia icon and had the answer within a matter of seconds.
That experience sent my mind ambling down a path it had not visited in years -- my family's first set of encyclopedias.
I learned to spell encyclopedia at a fairly early age. I didn't watch a lot of TV but I did watch Jiminy Cricket on Disney. I can still recall the little tune he sang ENCY---CLO--PEDIA. (Video below).
In the early 1960's a salesman knocked on our door in West Pratt. He was selling World Book Encyclopedias.
Not a lot of salesmen got to the front porch, much less got a chance to sit in our living room and drink a glass of sweet tea, but this one did. He gave his speil and the words he used must have resonated with my mom, because he got a chance to get to second base -- actually showing us the books.
The salesman handled the books as if it were fine crystal.  He laid a cloth on our kitchen table, and placed the book on it with care so we could get a better look. They were bound in red leather, and the edges of the pages were trimmed in gold.
My mother was frugal, to the point of squeezing her dollars so tightly that George Washington thought he had asthma.
We left the kitchen so that mama could talk to the salesman about the price. I don't remember how much they were, but even then they were very expensive. I was nine and my older brother and sister were in high school. I know my mom thought long and hard about what it would take to pay for the books, but all three of us were in school at the time, and education was VERY important to her.
Apparently the salesman knocked the ball out of the park, because she agreed to buy the books.
She paid them off in installments with money she made washing and ironing clothes for people in Dora.
My dad had a job, but it took all the money he made to keep us fed so mama paid for most of the extras by doing laundry.
A few days later the salesman delivered the books. I can remember sitting on the kitchen table flipping through the pages; traveling to places I had never imagined. London, Prague, and Minnesota.
I also learned about other things too. Aardvarks. Who knew there was an animal with such a strange name.
The pages were thin as a whisper and they smelled.......of knowledge.
In a way, those books were like the World Wide Web.
A few years ago when we had to sell my mom's house, and I went through looking for the World Book Encyclopedias, but I couldn't find them.
I'm guessing she gave them to someone who had kids that might need them. I'd like to think that whoever wound up with the books got a chance to travel to places they'd never imagined.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Current Top Ten Quotes

My current top ten quotes
(subject to change without notice):

10. No matter how hard you try, you cannot baptize a cat ~unknown
9. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”~ George Bernard Shaw
8. “No one is so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
7. “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”~ Benjamin Franklin
6. “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.”~ Confucius
5. “Pretty much all the honest truth telling in the world is done by children.”~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
4. “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” ~ E.E. Cummings
3. “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” ~ John Wooden
2. “As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
1. “The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.” ~ Socrates

Which quotes resonate with you? Feel free to add to the list.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Jilda makes friends more easily than me. When she walks into the waiting room for treatments, it's like a reunion.
The last visit she asked me to bring a copy of my book for one of the patients. I wasn't sure which one got the book, until today.
Two young women rolled a beautiful woman about 80 into the waiting room in a wheelchair. She had dark circles under her eyes, but her face brightened when she saw Jilda.
She chatted with Jilda (and me) like they'd known each other all their lives. It seems she learned during her last visit that her cancer had spread to her lungs. She has good days and bad days she explained. She said that sometimes when she feels down, she will reach for my book and read a few stories.
This caught me a little off guard because I hadn't realized she was the one who Jilda gave the book to.
She said I really enjoyed the story about Ol' Buddy
A while later she said the one about you having to wait for Jilda to get ready makes me smile every time. She was talking about the story entitled shoes. 
It was obvious to me the lady was very ill and as they wheeled her back toward the treatment room, she called over her shoulder, I'll save a place for you.
When nurses called Jilda back, true to her word, she'd asked the treatment nurses to save a place by her for Jilda.
Sometimes at night when I'm sitting here cluelessly tapping keys, I find myself wondering why I bother to write.
Today, Rosemary answered that question for me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

7 Million

Tech news is reporting that Apple quietly removed the statement on their website that said something to the effect that Apple users shouldn't fret about viruses. Apparently some of the recent viruses can and do infect Apple Computers.
I'm fairly computer savvy, but I also don't want a nasty but on my system so I did some research. I found a product for the right price (free) that specializes in Apple's and was highly rated. I promptly installed the software and asked it to do a scan of all drives.
It looked around, counted the files, and started scanning. What I found interesting is that I have over 7 million files on my desktop. That is very hard for me to comprehend. I know I have a lot of pictures, a lot of music, and I maintain about 30 websites, but I would never have guessed I have almost 8 million files. 
The program has been crunching, scanning, and looking for viruses all day. When I went to write this update, the computer was moving at a crawl because most of the CPU power is focused on the scan, so I grabbed my trusty laptop.
I'll scan it tomorrow. I think I should also consider taking a hard look at all the stuff I have on these things to see what can be trashed.
Jilda goes in for a treatment and blood work to see if the infusions are working. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they are.
Y'all have a great Wednesday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby Chicks Are Growing Up ~ Column from Sunday

We got five new baby chicks a few weeks ago at the local seed and feed store. Most of the chickens we’ve had in the past have been game and they could be as hateful as Hitler with a hangover.

It’s been my experience that they’d just as soon peck your eyes out like grapes out of a picnic basket. I’ve been pecked, flogged and menaced for years by these foul fowls.

I’m one of those live and let live kind of guys, so instead of wringing their necks and having them for Sunday dinner, I just gave them a wide berth as I kept them fed and watered.

Chickens don’t live forever and we’ve lost them to raccoons, hawks and two were eaten by a neighbor’s dog once when they escaped the pen.

A few weeks ago, I think a hawk swooped down and killed one of the two remaining game hens. That’s when I decided to go chicken shopping. 

When I asked Glenn at the Jasper Feed store if he had any baby chicks, he directed me over to a huge box near the side door. As I walked over, I could hear peeps and chirps coming from inside, and when I lifted the lid to have a look, the first thing that came to my mind was “snow sparrows.”

It’s a good thing that they are so cute when they are small, because as they get a little older, they get as ugly as sin, as the preacher used to say.

I brought them home and put them in a small wire cage to protect them from critters until they got big enough to fend for themselves.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any creatures grow as fast as these little hens. They are eating me out of a house and home.

Now that they’ve almost tripled in size, I’m not keeping them in the smaller cage but letting them run free in the big yard (as the older chickens call it).

I feed them three times a day and in the evening when I go out to put them in the coop to secure them overnight, they peck at my shoes and the stone on my college class ring.

Last night as I was winding down for the evening, I realized I hadn’t put them up for the night. I went out to fasten the coop and did a quick count. I saw only four — Holy Moly!

I hustled back inside for a flashlight, but when I got back, they were all in the coop. I guess one of them had been in stealth mode.

When they were settled in, I walked to the edge of the yard and leaned on the fence to take in the evening. 

I could hear thunder in the distance and see low-hanging dark clouds to the south, but above those, I could see cotton white clouds catching light from a sun that was dazzling people on the west coast. And further above, I saw stars twinkling like distant lightening bugs.

The one thing that’s come home to roost (pun intended) is that my life has changed since retirement. When I was jobbed, I was so consumed with statistics, process, innovation, root cause analysis and problem mitigation, that I rarely took the time to treasure the simple gifts offered each day, like baby chicks and evening stars.

This is, in fact, a wonderful life.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Time to Rest

Oftentimes in music, songwriters forget one of the most important components of a song, which is rest. You have to give the music and lyrics room to breathe.  The rest, makes the  melody and lyrics more powerful.
I sometimes forget that. Jilda and I both have been programmed from birth that we can rest when we're dead. I've heard both our mothers say those words when they were alive. (They're both resting now.) our mothers were healthy, they never had idle hands. There was always something to be done.
Since I retired, I've tried to reprogram my self. Straighten out those gnarly kinks in my DNA.
(I borrowed this image from here)
We walked early this morning, and afterwards I made my world famous blueberry waffles. It's a treat we don't enjoy enough.
After breakfast I fed the critters and did a few quick chores, and we spent the rest of the day resting.
It's something we rarely do. But like with music, I think the rest made us both stronger, more powerful.
Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Promise of Rain

I'm not whining. Let me just say that up front. The folks on the east coast have been hammered the last few days by brutal heat.
It's rare for someone, let's say in Washington D.C., to complain that "It's hotter here than it is in
Ala-Freakin-Bama. But it was.
Now today was toasty here. We walked this morning while the chickens were still yawning, but by the end of our trek, it looked as if we'd both been in an outdoor shower with our clothes on.
The weatherman has been saying that there's no rain in sight, but tonight when we clicked over to the weather channel, some of the computer models show that we could get a shower by mid-day tomorrow.
I would do a happy dance if that were to come to pass.
I shot this photo a few days ago. I am fascinated by clouds. Sometimes when you least expect it, they take on a shape that takes your breath away.
This particular formation looks like an angry dove in flight. I know, I've never seen an angry dove, but in my mind, this is how one would look if he were miffed.
Y'all have a remarkable Sunday.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sun Flower

It's not hard to guess why these flowers are called sunflowers. They look like a tiny petaled sun here on earth.
Vincent Van Gogh captured sunflowers and one of them is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
But I've also seen them in arrangements at exclusive restaurants, and in weddings. Jilda often uses them in arrangements here at the farm. 
 I wish I could paint, but that's a medium I've never explored. But I can snap a photo with my trusty phone.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

While I was Fishing

I haven't had a chance to go fishing in weeks and I was having withdrawals. I finished up my deadline work late yesterday afternoon so I made a management decision -- I hung a sign on my door this morning that said "Gone Fishing". 
I stayed a few hours and had no luck. I'm afraid I'm losing my fishing MoJo, because the only hit I got was on my strike indicator. That's just wrong. It was like the trout was taunting me. Bang, get that crap out of here, he seemed to be saying.
I got the message just before noon and  headed home dejectedly. Jilda had lunch on the table: roasted chicken, new potato's, fresh squash, and English peas.
That made me feel much better about the day. Then Jilda said "Oh yes, a guy from a magazine called and wants you to write a story." She said this matter-of-factishly. (I know, I just coined a word).
When I called the guy, he wants a 1000 words and maybe a picture. I was so excited. He has two ideas in mind and will let me know next week the topic, and the deadline. 
I must say I was excited to get this gig. My day improved dramatically after that.
Y'all have a great Friday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Morning Deer

Yesterday when we walked around 9 a.m. it was brutal. Humidity made the air as thick as a malt. It wasn't that hot, but by the second lap, our breathing was labored.
Last night we vowed to walk early. I woke up at my usual time at 5:30 a.m. and I slipped out of bed to put on the coffee.
When Jilda smelled the javaroma, she got up and laced up her shoes. I learned long ago not to speak until she's had at least one cup of coffee, so we walked in silence.
As we walked by the barn, I heard a peculiar sound. My mind danced to and fro trying to pick up a thread of memory that provided a clue as to what was making the sound.
Then I heard the flapping of wings, and the caw of an adult crow. I realized what I was hearing was a nest of baby crows. I smiled at the realization.
Once we finished our walk, I poured us a cup of coffee and we sat on the deck and watched the morning come alive.
Just then a doe scampered out of the woods onto the field and headed for the apple tree. The corn I put out the night before was long gone, but I guess this little girls wanted to see if the corn fairy had come early.
I snapped a photo with my phone. You can barely see her in the field beneath the apple tree. I guess I'll have to adjust the summer feeding schedule to include an early morning cup for the early risers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Caillou the Wonder Dog

Most of our dogs are old. Ol' Buddy was the youngest at eight, but then Caillou wandered into our lives. He's a two-year old collie.
All the old dogs love to walk in the mornings when the grass is still damp with dew, and the air is fresh with a crispness left over from the night. But when the summer sun gets high in the sky, the old dogs prefer to lie in the comfort of our bedroom.
Each evening I go out to the field and spread corn under the apple tree for the deer. I try to get the dogs to walk with me, but they won't have any part of that. Caillou is the only one who goes with me. 
Tonight as I ambled back toward the house, Caillou ran up behind me and grabbed the plastic corn cup out of my hand.
I chased him down and wrestled it away from him. He wanted to play. Here is a short video of Caillou the Wonder Dog doing his little fetch trick.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Marathon of Strange Dreams ~ My column from yesterday

I slept fitfully last night. 

My dreams were filled with clogged toilets, snarling dogs and curiously large rabbits that could leap like kangaroos cranked up on steroids.

Most nights when I have weird dreams, I head to the kitchen to drink a glass of milk and eat some gingersnaps. That usually does the trick, and when I go back to bed I practically hibernate.

That didn’t happen last night. 

When I dozed off after my gingersnap fix, I immediately began to have visions of plumbing problems dancing in my head. 

At one point in my dream, I pulled a telephone out of the commode. Not a tiny cell phone, but one of those old timey black wall phones with a rotary dial. 

What made it worse was that it was ringing. Even in the depths of the weird-dream marathon, I didn’t dare answer it.

I have a feeling that some of my dreams would have left a competent psychiatrist scratching his head. 

“You say the phone was ringing? I’ll have to look that one up in the manual.”

Around 4 a.m. I awoke again. This time I dreamed that my truck was being repossessed by the finance company. 

I kept trying to convince the tow truck driver that both my cars had been paid off several years ago and in fact I was debt free. But he kept popping his chewing gum as he said, “Tell it to the judge.”

This time I didn’t bother trying to sleep any more. I got up, put on some coffee to brew, and sat out on the back deck for a while looking at the sky.

The waning moon left plenty of room to see the stars in the southern sky. I found myself wishing I knew more about astronomy and the names of the constellations.

Until recently, my old rooster would begin crowing about this time of morning, but last month I was carrying gallon jugs of water to the pen and he flogged my leg with his sharp spurs. 

I bled like a stuck hog, as the old saying goes. I called an old friend that has chickens and asked if he’d like a new rooster. Now Speckles the rooster lives in a different zipcode. 

The lesson he never learned was, “Never spur the hand (or leg) that feeds you.” 

When the coffee finished, I poured a mug and added some honey. Quietly I worked in the office filing papers and sorting magazines. 

We are fairly good house keepers, but when I flipped on the lamp on the top of my desk, I realized there was a layer of dust thick enough to grow carrots.

Since I wasn’t sleeping, I might as well be dusting. All in all, it was a productive way to spend a few sleepless hours. 

I really don’t want to make it a habit. So tonight, if I dream of big bunnies or hear a ringing phone in my commode, I’m gonna look for a shrink.

Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - Marathon of strange dreams 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I've spent some time on Facebook today. I tend to shy away from Facebook, especially in election years when people get a little crazy. But on certain days, I have a look.
Today was good because so many of the people posted photos of themselves with their dads. The photos mad me smile.
I lost my dad in 1986 which seems like a lifetime ago. Ronald Reagan was president then for those who can remember back that far.
My dad had cancer and the last few years of his life were unkind to him. I was out of town on business when he got really bad but my mom managed to reach me in Atlanta. I flew home and Jilda met me at the airport in Birmingham. She whisked me through Birmingham traffic and to the hospital in Jasper which was 40 miles away. We did not have to stop for a single red light. It was like the Universe saw us approaching and flipped a switch and waved us through.
I went in where he was and sat for a while. About 20 minutes after I arrived, he took his last breath. 
In those last moments, there was so much I wanted to say, but I couldn't find the words because sadness got in the way.
But I'm happy for all of you who still have your dads. Do yourself a favor and tell him before it's too late just what he means to you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mix Tapes

I'm a master at mix tapes. Well, I actually make mix CD's now. Both our cars have CD players that play MP3s.  You many be asking what's the significance of that; well what makes this special is that only about 20 or so songs will fit on a regular CD. But, if you burn MP3s on a CD, you can put over a hundred songs on it.
We headed in to Birmingham this afternoon to have dinner with friends and we were looking for music to put us in the mood.
She reached in the bag and pulled out a CD. It just happened to be one of the mix CDs I made a few years ago. The thing about mix CDs is I don't put song lists on there so when you listen to them, it's like listening to a really cool radio station that plays your favorite songs and doesn't bore you with yapping DJ's.
When she popped this one in it started out with Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower, which is one of my all time favorite songs. The CD had songs that spanned decades and genres.
Every now and then a song would pop up and we'd both laugh out loud.
Yes, there's an art to making good mix tapes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

We've got plans

Jilda and I have finally come up with a rough idea for our back yard "patio feature". The first stage is to add another set of stairs that extend off the side of the deck facing the garden.
At the bottom of the stairs will be a patio made of stepping stones. In the past I've bought the stones for other projects and it got expensive.
But I found the moulds in a garden shop that makes the exact stones were were buying.  The design of one stone looks a little odd, but when you place four stones together in a square, they form a singular design. They will be perfect for the space we're planning. I started pouring the stones today.
I waited until after the sun was low into the western sky before I started mixing the mortar, but the humidity was typical for this time of year. When I tell people I put a lot of sweat equity in this patio, it's a true (literal) statement.
As with all our improvement projects, I'll try not to bore you with too many photos and too much detail, but we're both excited about the end result which will be a patio with our fire pit, and to one side we'll have another arbor with maybe a swing.
Today has been a long and productive day. I plan to rest tomorrow and visit with some of our dear friends.
Y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Wonderful Life

We got five new baby chicks a few weeks ago at the local seed and feed store. They housed about a 100 baby chics in a 4 x 4 box. When I lifted the lid and looked inside, the only description that came to mind was -- snow sparrows.
I brought them home and put them in a small wire cage for protection against hawks, possums, and raccoons.
I don't know that I've ever seen any creatures grow as fast as these little hens. They are eating me out of house & home.
Now that they've almost tripled in size, I'm not keeping them in the smaller cage, but letting them run free in the big yard (as the older chickens call it).
I feed them three times a day and in the evening when I go out to put them in the coop to secure them overnight, they peck at my shoes.
I had just sit down to do my blog when I realize I hadn't put them up for the night. I went out to fasten the coop and did a quick count. I saw only four. Oh CRAP!
I came back inside for a flashlight and went back outside, but when I got back, there were all in the coop. I guess one of them was in stealth mode.
I walked to the edge of the yard and leaned on the fence to take in the evening. I could hear thunder in the distance, and see low hanging dark clouds to the south, but beyond those, I could see cotton white clouds catching light from a sun that was dazzling people on the west coast. And beyond the clouds, I saw stars twinkling like distant lightening bugs.
The one thing that's come home to roost (pun intended) is that my life has changed since retirement. When I was jobbed, I was so consumed with statistics, process, innovation, root cause analysis, and problem mitigation that I never had (or say it more correctly; took) the time to treasure the simple gifts offered each day.
This is in fact, A Wonderful Life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blackberry Kids

Jilda invited our great nieces and nephews over this evening to pick blackberries. They love coming to our house because they run wild back behind the house and barn.
The blackberries are doing well this year because we've had enough rain to keep them baring.
I got a bucket and they ran ahead. You could hear laughter and squeals echoing down the hollow. I got out earlier today and cut grass. I also took hedge clippers and clipped out places where they could reach the berries.
I was surprised at how many they picked in about 45 minutes. They had enough for at least two blackberry pies.
Jilda stayed behind and cooked hotdogs, baked beans, and deviled eggs. Those kids can eat their weight in deviled eggs.
As we herded the kids back toward the house, the blackberry bushes looked as if a swarm of locusts had picked them bare. It's a good thing I'd already picked a couple gallons and put them up in the freezer so we can have pies throughout the summer.
By the time they left, both Jilda and I both looked like we'd been rode hard, spurred deep, and put up wet.
We're about to call it a night. Y'all have a happy Thursday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Quote Kind of Night

I spent the day writing on the screened porch. It was a bit muggy after the storms moved off to the east, but the ceiling fan kept the air moving which made it pleasant. 
Jilda called to me for dinner at 6 p.m. and I was amazed how quickly the day had passed. I closed the MacBook and headed inside. 
I had to wake Ol' Buddy up, who'd been sleeping at my feet to get him to waddle inside. After dinner, we read for a while to give our food time to digest.
When I sat down to do an update on my blog, my mind went blank. I've had more thoughts and ideas when I'm in deep meditation than I could manage sitting here.

Sometimes when I'm at a loss for words, I reach for the book of quotations on my desk. It never fails to inspire me.

So, the old book of quotations came to my rescue again. This one seem to resonate with me tonight.

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 
― George Bernard Shaw

I hope you all have a remarkable Wednesday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Storms Again

I didn't look at the weather map this evening which is rare for me. I have the Weather Channel on my iPhone so as long as I have a signal, I can get weather updates.
I'd run by the after hours clinic because something has my sinus' raging. Afterwards I went straight to Jilda's yoga class.
When the we were finishing up with savasana (relaxation), I could see Jilda peering through the windows at gathering clouds.
I rolled my mat and reached for phone for a weather update. It was then we realized a nasty line of thunder storms were sweeping through.
Jilda tried to get everyone to sit tight for a few minutes until it blew past, but several of the women bolted for their cars.
Less than five minutes later a 70 miles per hour wind began to howl. Since winds of 74 miles per hour are considered hurricane force, we almost had a mini hurricane.
After the winds died down, those who chose to remain in the safety of the community center, headed home.
Mother Nature decided the show wasn't over because vines of lightening lashed out across the sky. If driving hadn't been so treacherous, I would have pulled to the side and snapped a picture.
When we got home, the power was off and we collected the battery-powered lantern and candles for enough light to eat a snack before bed.
Then as we were munching pita chips and hummus the lights flickered back on. Thank goodness for small favors.
Y'all have a great Tuesday. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Give me the simple farm life ~ Column from Today

I love this time of year when the cold weather is behind us and the flowers begin to show out. 

From late September until early March, you can barely walk through our house because it's filled with pots of citrus trees, ferns and flowers wintering in our great room. It feels kind of like we are living in a terrarium. 

One year we brought a chameleon in with the plants and we saw him from time to time lounging on the leaves of our avocado plant enjoying the morning sun. And once when our niece Samantha was young, we brought in a chipmunk. That resulted in a frenzied call to me at work from Jilda, who was standing on the kitchen table. Whenever plants that live outside most of the time are brought inside, there's what I call a critter-risk.

When the last chance of frost comes and goes, we start setting things out on the deck and patio for fresh air and sunshine. Once the days get warm and longer, everything comes alive, and they get ready for their summer work.

We began getting fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries this week. The squash are blooming, and it won't be long before we have a patch of yellow gold.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my tiller has issues and would be of more service as a boat anchor than a garden implement. 

So this year we got creative. I broke up the small garden plot behind the house by hand with a garden fork and then did raised beds. I wasn't sure how that would work, but the garden looks happy.

We tend to invite more company over in the spring and summer. If you want to win someone's heart, feed them fresh vegetables from the garden, along with a pone of hot buttered cornbread with a glass of ice-cold sweet tea, and soon they want to move into your spare bedroom. 

Last year, we had our friends Charlie, Yvonne and Randy Watts come over for dinner. Jilda had picked bouquets of fresh flowers for the table and the living room. I put Mozart on the stereo, which in my opinion helps with digestion.

The conversation was lively, and almost as if on cue, two young deer scampered into the field under the apple tree. As we ate, we saw them through the garden doors, frolicking. Yes, I said frolicking. 

Later when we told the Watts family we'd love to have them come back, Charlie said, “We'd love to, because y'all live in Shangri-La.”

When I worked for MaBell in Birmingham, my commute time was an hour each way. Many times I thought, “Why not sell the farm and move south of town?”

I know it would have made my life simpler. I did the math once, and I spent well over a year and a half in my car driving back and forth to work. But I listened to books on tape (and CDs) on the commute, so I would not have had the chance to enjoy hundreds of books.

This much I know, sitting here writing today on my screen porch with the breeze out of the west tinkling my wind chimes and delivering the sweet scent of gardenia blossoms, I know in my heart I made the right decision to stay here.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


The old town of my childhood is pretty much a ghost town now. Cracks in the streets grow Johnson grass, bitter weed, and honey suckle.
All but a few buildings have fallen into mounds of brick, mortar, and rotted timbers. The old Dora Movie theatre, Harry Shaw's Drug Store, and Lehman's Furniture are long gone. It looks like the pictures of Dresden after the bombing. But at one time, it was the center of commerce in eastern Walker County.
The town sprang up next to the railroad tracks in the late 1800's. Half-mile long trains once chugged mountains of coal from the mines around where I was raised, to U.S. Steel in Birmingham, and on to points east and north.
The town became a hub for miners, and their families. It thrived for years.
But then in the 1960's, state workers scratched out a new highway through the heart of the county, and soon all the businesses that had been the heartbeat of Dora, began to move toward the new highway and the promise of progress. The town slowly died, and with it, a part of my past died too.
I drove through there earlier this week. This abutment separates the one-sided town from the railroad tracks.
When I was a kid, it was painted solid gray and I cannot recall a single mark on it, unless it was accidentally scrapped by a car that was paying more attention to what was happening on the "store side" of the street.
These days it's like a concrete canvas. Every few years it changes with new names and new colors. For some reason, as I drove by, it made me a little sad.

Friday, June 08, 2012


I bought a freestanding fire pit today. The ones we looked at a few days ago were $150 up. They were nice, but something inside said hold on bubba; look around. So we did.
Today I finished up with my interviews early and headed home. Jilda was working so I sent her a text asking if I should pick up dinner. She told me to go for it.
The timeframe was a little tricky. It was too early to get the food and head home because it would be cold when she got home.
We live about 12 miles from the nearest food place, so it didn't make sense to go home and then go back for the food to coincide with her arrival. So, I decided to kill some time.
I ran into Walmart and looked through the garden shop. That's an easy way to kill about 30 minutes.
On the way out, I happened to look at a stack of boxes on a shelf and noticed they were fire pits.
They weren't priced so I called one of the associates out and had them  scan it. It rang up for $89.
It was exactly like the one we'd seen a few days before for $150. Box it up, I barked.
The timing - no, I think I can actually call this synchronicity, was perfect because I'd just written about this a few days ago.
We can use it as-is, but I want to use the stepping stones I'm making and design a 16x16 patio with the fire pit in the center. The final "feature" will have stonework around the fire pit.
When it's finished, I'll send out an open invitation to all my blog buddies. Smores, brats, weenies, and sweet serenades for everyone who shows up.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The List

I've had some touchup work on my barn that was left from last summer.  The tasks should have been completed long before now, but they were put on the back burner where they've been stewing since then.
I once read about the "Law of Diminishing Intent." That's where you're super excited about a project or plan but when you put distance (in time) between you and the project, your resolve fizzles like a match in a monsoon.
I recently created a list that I call SH** I Really Need To Do. I was a little aggravated at myself so I made the title a little more graphic to get my juices flowing.
I took a few hours and wrote down all the things that I want and need to do, but for one reason (excuse works here too) or another, I didn't follow through.
The barn work was on that list.
My carpenter stays busy so when he got a rare opening, I jumped on it.
The goal was to build two doors and a workbench inside. He showed up before the sun had dried the dew off the grass.
It felt good working with hand tools again. The sound of angry saws, and the echo of hammer on nail sounds like progress to me.
We finished the front door and the work bench in a few hours but some of the lumber I bought wasn't right for the job so we'll finish up the other door early next week.
It felt good marking some things off my list. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Fire Pits

I've been kicking around the idea of building a fire pit. I've had a picture of one on my vision board for a few years now, but I'm almost ready to take it from a thought, to reality.
It's almost like having a campfire in your back yard. In my mind, I can envision us having picking parties where we sit around the fire pit, swap songs and sip red wine.
I began sketching ideas for designs and pricing the stonework it won't be cheap, even if I do the work, but it will be affordable.
My carpenter is coming tomorrow to do a little finishing work on the barn that we left incomplete last year, so I'll get his thoughts on the fire pit too.
I'm excited. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Change of Plans

I'd planned to write, work on formatting my new book, do some software training, and plant a few things in the garden today.
But that didn't happen. My brother-in-law called me early this morning to say his helper couldn't work today and he needed my help. He's a plumber and his dance card is always punched.
I've learned to say no in many situations, but he rarely asks me for help unless he's up to his  buttocks in mississippiensis  (scientific name for alligators). 
So I put my stuff on hold, pulled out my coveralls and my monkey wrench, and we headed out before the sun peeked above the horizon to the east.
The first job was smooth sailing and we left a happy camper smiling and waving as we pulled out of the driveway. They could flush their toilets, take showers, and have a cool refreshing drink of water right out of the tap. (We have really good drinking water here.)
The second job was straight out of Hell-sinki. I was the gopher handing tools under the house, and turning the water on and off, but my brother-in-law was under the house fighting antique plumbing. 
He looked like he'd been mud-wrestling, and had been on the losing end.
I heard him cuss for the first time in my life today. After several hours of frustrating leaks, we decided to break for lunch.
Jilda had cooked for us -- she whipped up baked chicken, new potatoes (out of our garden), tomatoes (out of our garden),  English peas (out of a plastic bag from Walmart), and some mac and cheese, because our great nephew Jordan was visiting us today and no meal is complete without mac and cheese.
After lunch, my brother-in-law put on a fresh change of clothes, and we headed to the plumbing supply place and we loaded up with connectors, fittings, and tools. Neither of us wanted a little leak to whip us.
When got back to the job site, we had a few more snafu's, but we were refreshed, and we had new attitudes.
Soon the job was finished, and we called it a day. I can't say I was disappointed to be headed homeward. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Driving Down Memory Lane ~ Column from Sunday's Paper

Jilda worked yesterday and I was supposed to be writing this column. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, the words won’t come. I decided to go for a drive. 

Sometimes driving with no set destination opens pathways in my mind and allows me to think.

Yesterday, I drove down through Sloss Hollow and by the place where I spent most of my childhood. There’s not much there anymore. 

When the new road came through in 1969 (I’m not sure why I still call it the new road), it changed the landscape of my community forever. The state bought all the houses on the west side of the road and demolished most of them. My friends scattered like startled quail.

When I glanced in my rearview mirror, there were several cars behind me, and I realized I was driving 15 mph below the speed limit. I hit my blinker and I pulled off to let them pass.

I got some nasty looks as they wheeled around me, but I’d like to think they would have cut me some slack had they known I was driving down memory lane.

It was 93 degrees, so I left my truck idling so I wouldn’t roast like a Walmart chicken. As I looked around me, I realized that a great deal of my young life was spent within 100 yards of where I was sitting.

Sitting on my daddy’s lap, I learned to steer a car right here on the old tar and gravel road that ran in front of our house. I also learned to ride a bicycle here with my sister Mary Lois running beside me to keep me stable until I found my balance.

Traffic was so infrequent, we also played baseball on that road; it’s where I learned to throw a curveball.

This place is also where I learned to tend chickens and grow tomatoes, where I learned to shoot a gun and fish. 

It’s where I experienced the first true fear of my life when I walked up on a cottonmouth moccasin on the creek bank that ran through the community.

The Parkers lived across the road from us, and they had kinfolk from up north that visited each year. 

One summer cousins Joe and Alan came to visit the Parker kids, Edward, Tommy and Susie. Joe brought his guitar. It was there, sitting on their front-porch swing, that I strummed my first awkward chord on a guitar. 

It sounded almost as bad as fingernails on a chalkboard, but my love of playing music began on that sweltering August evening and it’s remained with me all my life.

Once when an old freight train rattled down the track that dissected West Pratt, I discovered that you could make a penny as big around as a quarter and thin as a postage stamp by placing it on a rail.

As I sat there yesterday replaying the old tapes in my head, I took out a notebook and smiled as I jotted down notes. There’s nothing like strolling down memory lane to get the creative juices flowing.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


The Birmingham News announced this week that it would start printing papers only three days a week beginning this fall. The News is the largest daily newspaper in Alabama and I was saddened to read thos words.
They will offer online content daily, but it will not be the same. The news release said they were "excited about the new direction." I'm sorry, but I don't share in their enthusiasm.
I've spoken with some of my friends that work at the News, and their futures are in limbo. 
Maybe I'm wrong, but I think a lot of businesses, including newspapers, have lost focus.
People today, still want news, but they get a great deal of their world and national news in real time on their iPads and phones. 
I think what local newspapers should provide, is "local" news that I can't find anywhere else. I want well-told stories about local people. I want local sports, and entertainment. I want to know what's going on around me.
I work for a small firm that does monthly news for select communities. The paper is full of news, sports, and entertainment for "that" community. The pictures are big, and the stories are about what's important to the community. The paper is thriving.
Warren Buffett who hasn't become one of the richest men on the planet by throwing money away, is buying newspapers left and right.
He is preaching exactly what I'm saying. Provide hyper-local content that is engaging and compelling. 
I hope Warren buys the Birmingham News and tosses out the bunch that made the bone-headed decision to go digital, because there is still a lot of us who still love the smell and feel of paper.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


So many people fall in love with the idea of success. They love the idea of being a great musician, a great writer, a doctor, or ___________ fill in the blank. 
But the idea loses its luster when the same people consider what they will have to give in exchange for being successful.
There's a quote by Thomas Edison that nails this more eloquently than I ever could:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Today has been a long one, and I'm bone tired so I'm turning in now, and I might sleep in tomorrow (7:00 a.m.) 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Just another Friday

Lightening danced on the southern horizon into the night, but it never got nasty here which is a blessing. Sometime after midnight, I heard the should of rain drumming on the tin roof.  When I stepped outside this morning, all living things looked refreshed. 
We walked early this morning and we began to see pools of blue sky between the gray clouds. The temperature had dropped 20 degrees and it felt like a morning in San Francisco.
The blackberry bushes were hanging full, so I cut my walk short, grabbed a basket and picked a half gallon. That's enough for two or three blackberry pies. That's like money in the bank.
Tomorrow, we're singing at a memorial service of a good friend who passed away last week. He was a writer, and a remarkable person.
I hope you all have  a remarkable weekend.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required