Friday, May 31, 2013

Hot on the Left

Over the next several days I'll be doing my favorite quotes. Ordinarily I don't use bad language, so please excuse the one bad word I'm about to use, because there's no other way to say it without it losing its power.
The quote was told to me by my father-in-law Sharky who was a plumber by trade, but he was also a philosopher. He was a Christian and didn't use bad language either, but one time we were talking about a situation in my life that was totally unrelated to plumbing, and he said this:

Hot on the left,
Cold on the right,
And shit rolls downhill

It took me a second to grasp that what he was saying pertained to life in general. There are certain rules in life that you can argue with until you turn blue, but the rules will remain the same.
There's an order to things. 
If you've ever worked in a large corporation, or part of a large organization, and something went south, you probably learned that the mess ALWAYS rolls downhill.

I've used this wisdom all throughout my life and tried to keep things in order. I try to keep my cars maintained, the roof fixed, and my tools sharp. 
I've also tried to be mindful of where I stand at all times, especially when the "stuff starts rolling" because if I find myself downhill, I know for a fact, that my shoes will get messed up.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Every magazine and self-help book I've seen lately seems to be touting the Five Best, or the Seven Coolest, or the 10 Most Profitable Ways......
So I got to thinking that maybe I'm missing the boat by not doing lists on my blog. So here are my Five best tips for staying married a really long time:
1. Make sure you have something in common with your mate
2. When one of you wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, put some distance between you.
3. Celebrate the victories both big and small
4. Learn to say I'm sorry even if you don't think you are to blame
5. Know that life is a journey and sometimes you get lost, but if you keep on driving, there will be days you'll have the wind at your back and warm sun on your face.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Slowly Coming Together

The storm that stomped through here in March almost took the roof off our Creative Space. That's the old house at the back of the property near the barn.
It needs a lot of work before it's suitable for habitation, and progress has been slow. I walked back there after the storm and saw the wind had peeled the metal on the west side of the house, like a can of tuna.
I put a tarp on it to keep most of the rain out and it stayed that way while I waited for someone to fix the damage.
Since no one lives in the house, the work was low priority for the roofers, but they finally worked their way up here a few weeks ago and replaced the old tin that is now somewhere in South Carolina I think.
I spent several hours yesterday cleaning up debris and working in the yard.
The windows were made when Calvin Coolidge was in the White House, and they've weathered many storms, but two of them got knocked out this time.
I found a glass cutter that's cutting me some new panes and I'll get those installed soon. We still have a lot of junk stored in the house. Jilda wants to rent a dumpster and go through the house ruthlessly tossing everything. I'm to the point to where that's sounding better and better.
My writing desk is just beyond the windows in this picture. Just out of the camera's view is a 100 year old oak tree, and a pack of dogwoods.
I often go down there and sit on the porch to think. I know it will be a perfect place for Jilda and I to create.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Zen and the Art of Weed Eater Maintenance

The weather today was another one for the picture books. A gentle breeze out of the west kept the wind
chimes on the screened porch playing their random wind songs. White feathery clouds rippled the sky like rows of heavenly cotton.
I usually do yoga on the deck before coffee, but this morning, I decided to commune with nature. Zeus the rooster was broadcasting to the community, and if he could talk, I think he'd be screaming at the top of his lungs:  It's time to get up! The morning is getting away! You're sleeping your life away!
I feel bad for Zeus because we've lost both hens since he came. A raccoon got one and the other died of natural causes this week. He seems lonesome in the pen. I plan to get him some mates soon when we get back from our cruise.
I got an idea for my column for Sunday and I knocked it out in about an hour this morning. This afternoon I worked around the creative space and the barn.
Theres so much I want to do, but there's so little time. I know this sounds strange from someone who is supposedly retired, but it's true.
But I digress. Today I had time, and I fell into a rhythm doing work with my hands. I cleared privets, felled dead trees, and cleared the space around our creative space. It felt good to work, to sweat, and at the end of the day, to see progress.
I sat on the porch of the creative space, sipped cold water, and admired my handiwork. I still have a long way to get to where I want to be, but I won't have as far to go tomorrow, as I did yesterday.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A child’s case of spring fever ~ My Column from Sunday

Our great nephew Jordan came over this morning before heading out to his pre-school class at Dilworth.

The sun was warm with a light breeze out of the west and I could tell he had a bad case of spring fever. I had that same look on my face many times when I was in school.

He and his mom stopped by on the pretense that he needed a few blueberries for breakfast, and the best place in Empire, Alabama to get a blueberry fix is at our house.

Our bushes started bearing, and he got to pick the very first one last week.

He helped plant them a few years ago, so he has some sweat equity invested. I’m thrilled he loves to work in the garden with his hands. 

Earlier in the spring, he helped us plant tomatoes and peppers. It was then I taught him one of the main lessons that I learned in my Master Gardening Class and that’s, take care of the roots and the plant will grow.

While his mom talked to Jilda, Jordan stepped over to the garden doors and pressed his face against the glass to wait for us to finish talking so that one of us could walk with him down to the garden.

“Do I have to go to school today,” he asked his mom tentatively. She told him he did, but she followed with, “You graduate this week and you’ll be going to the big school.” 

He smiled broadly at that bit of information. His grandma Debbie Phillips works at Sumiton School, where he’ll be enrolling in kindergarten in the fall.

He’s down there a lot hanging out while his Nana works. He’s gotten to know most of the teachers and I’m guessing he’s charmed one or two.

So today while the women talked, Jordan and I headed down to the blueberries. He picked several warm berries still wet with morning dew and popped them into his mouth. He closed his eyes while he chewed as if to savor the flavor of Mother Nature’s gift. He picked another cup full to take with him to school.

As he walked blue-tongued out the door, he remembered to ask if we were coming to his graduation ceremony. His Nana was taking off from work long enough to see him graduate.

When I asked who else was coming, he scrunched up one side of his face in deep thought for a moment before saying, “I guess only people who don’t have a job will be there.” 

I spewed coffee on the couch, and snorted a little up my nose. Jilda assured him that we would come to his graduation. 

I thought about what he said after he left and I realized that being able to see my nieces and nephews reach milestones of their lives is one of the major benefits of retirement. Since I don’t have a job, I have time to enjoy the little things that I could never find time for when I worked. 

Those things have always been important, but when you’re working a job, there always seems to be something more urgent that must be done.

But in the scheme of things, what could be more important than watching a little one receive his first diploma. I’m sorry that all those with a job had to miss it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My first love

Last weekend we played a community festival. One of the attractions for the event was an antique car
Photo from Zuoda Images
Clouds gray as gun barrels hung low in the sky, but the weatherman swore there would be no rain. Both Jilda and I were skeptical, but not a drop fell while we played.
After our set, we walked around to look at the booths of handmade art and crafts. I picked up a bag of fried peanuts, before we collected our guitars and made our way home.
In the lot next to the stage were a row of antique cars on display. My mind was elsewhere until I glanced at a jet-black 1946 Plymouth Coupe.
I stopped dead in my tracks and stepped over to the old ride. A flood of memory came rushing through my mind.
The very first car I ever owned was a 1946 Plymouth Coupe. My brother bought the car and spent an incredible amount of time an money on the old beast. He'd bought new tires, moon spinner hubcaps, and he painted the old car metallic maroon.
He got laid off and was strapped for cash so he asked my mom for a loan. He wanted to head out to California to try his luck on the left coast.
He negotiated terms and promised to send her the money he owed and come back for the car. But that didn't happen.
So for my fifteenth birthday, my mom gave the car to me. Insurance and lawsuits were practically non-existant in those days, so when I could get the car cranked, I drove it to school.
I LOVED that car. It had mohair seat covers and a steering wheel as big as a hula hoop. Hanging from the rearview mirror were a pair of fuzzy dice.
The inside smelled like an old sweater with a hint of motor oil, ancient tobacco, and sweat.
The car was parked in my parents' back yard when I was drafted in 1971 and when I returned in 73, it was not there.
Apparently, my dad had grown tired of cutting around it when he mowed the lawn, and he gave it away. I can see why he did it, but it broke my heart to lose my first love.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Early Night

The weather this week has been remarkable. After months of cold, storms, and torrential rains, the clouds decided to move off to the east and menace Georgia.
We finally got grass planted in the back yard after the storms and field line replacement, and the Alabama clay is growing a green beard. It will be a while before it needs a shave, but seeing those patches of green is a welcome sight.
Jilda and I spent most of yesterday in the yard. We worked the garden, the flower beds, and I repaired the riding lawnmower that had developed a steering issue. You could only turn to the right. That's OK if you're cutting in circles, but iffy when you need to cut specific areas of the yard.
Yesterday afternoon I probably smelled like a goat so I came inside to shower. Afterwards I stepped out onto the deck to watch the sunset. Jilda had taken her straw basket and stepped down to the garden to pick blueberries.
The setting sun painted the trees remarkable shades of orange, yellow, and other colors I can't describe. I snapped this picture with my iPhone. She was too far away to get much detail, but when I ran the photograph through my Photoshop filters, I thought the result turned out nicely.
We're having company tomorrow, so we've spent most of the day cleaning the house and yard. Jilda looked at me a few minutes ago when she finished her blog for tonight and said, I'm ready to go to bed. I was too tired to argue. It will be an early night tonight.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Tonight is graduation night at my alma mater. We don't know many kids there now, so we didn't go to the ceremony, but this night has always been a special one.
My girlfriend dumped me the week of my graduation in May of 1968. At the last minute, I called a girl I'd met, who happened to be a friend of my ex-girlfriend. Awkward? I know, I was dancing with the devil.
I was surprised that she said yes, but she did. We started dating, and I found that we had a great deal in common. She loved to cook, and I loved to eat. She had a great voice and I played guitar. She was hot in that pale orange micro dress. I still  can't believe her parents, who were up standing church-going folk, let her walk out of the house with her hands hanging below the hem of her dress, but they did.
So that's how it began. There were times it got rocky, like when I got drafted into the Army and we decided to "take a break."
Her older sister Nell, nailed it when she said, "You're going to marry that boys someday."
When I got out of the Army, I knocked around a bit, but I still had her phone number tattoo'd on my brain. MI8-9963, which later evolved into 648-9963.
She was living in an apartment in Birmingham at the time, but Jilda's dad Sharky, who always saw my worth, gave me her number.
That was late in 1973. We started dating again, and it felt right. In May of 1974, we were married. This year on Cinco de Mayo, we celebrated our 39th anniversary.
I can't thank my ex-girlfriend (who is still a good friend to both of us) dumped me the week of graduation.
Note: When Jilda's mom died several years ago, we were able to keep her old telephone number. So now my business number is MI8-9963.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Janie Reviews Life Happens

My blog-buddy Janie Junebug over at Women: We Shall Overcome, sent me a note last week asking if I'd consider doing an interview about my book Life Happens.
I was flattered, and jumped at the opportunity. She ran the interview in two parts (I guess I got a little wordy) and then she did a review of Life Happens. I've had several reviews, but her review was exceptional.
My friends in the blogosphere have been so supportive, and I can't tell you how much that means to me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It felt like August

It's finally decided to heat up here in Empire, Alabama. It was over 90 yesterday and dancing in the 80s today.
I'd been out feeding the critters and as I stood at the sink washing my hands, Jilda said: "Does it feel warm in here to you?" 
I hadn't thought about it, but as I stood, I felt air coming from one of the vents in the kitchen, but it wasn't cool air....just air.
I stepped to the thermostat and it read 76 degrees. We don't keep our house super cool in the summer, but 76 was a little warm.
I tapped on the digital device with my index finger as if one of the electrons was stuck. It worked sometimes with old mercury thermostats, but I could almost hear this one snicker at me. "Are you kidding me old timer?" it seemed to be saying.
The AC fan was whirling merrily away, but it was blowing warm air. When I stepped to the deck where I normally hear the outside unit doing its thang, it was silent as a wake.
I went out and checked all the obvious stuff but nothing looked out of order.
I called my nephew Haven and he gave me a few suggestions to try, none of which helped. Normally he would say I'll run up there in a little while and check it for you, but he was up to his axle in alligators, so he gave me the number of an AC man.
When I called the AC guy, he too was tied up, but he asked me a few questions, one of which was, did you check the contactor. 
Since I didn't know what a contactor was, I told him I had not. He said he'd try to come up late this evening and check it our for me.
It bothered me that I didn't know what a contactor was, so I did a YouTube search for what was going on with my AC. One of the things a guy said was check the contactor. I did another search to see how to check the device, and it showed a video of how to do it.
I walked outside, turned off the power to the AC and checked the contactor. When I opened up the electronics compartment, it was full of ants.
To make a long story short, I serviced my unit, sprayed for ants, fired up my AC, and air as cold as a popcycle began to blow from the vents. 
I called and cancelled the AC service call.
Life can be crunchy. Sometimes fortune munches on your bottom like a honey biscuit, and sometimes it shines like the Alabama sun in August. 
Today, it felt like August.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

June 1971

I took a book from my shelf today and this picture fell out on the floor. I thought at first it was some kind of receipt until I picked it up and flipped it over.
On the right margin it says June 71, but I knew the instant I picked it up when and where it
June 1971
was taken.

I was drafted by Uncle Sam in April of that year. One moment I was studying psychology, history, and badminton, at Jeff State Community College, and it seems like the next moment, I was standing in a warehouse full of guys my age getting our heads shaved.
The next day we were on a bus headed for Fort Campbell Kentucky. It was April 3, and the weather was nice. 
I weighed about 150 pounds when I stepped off the bus at basic training. One of the drill sergeants in the welcoming committee called me chubby. 
By the time June rolled around, we were running all over the state of Kentucky, and it was hotter than Satan wearing long-handles. 
By the end of basic training toward the end of June, I weighed 135 pounds, and I was in the best shape I'd ever been in.
A lot of people complained about the Army, but I didn't find it that bad....well, other than running for hours on pavement hot enough to panfry flapjacks. 
Growing up in the rural south, I already did a lot of the things we did in basic, so I found it hard to whine.
I think that many of the good things that's happened to me in my life were the result of the Army. I consider it an honor to have served. 
I was fortunate in that my tour took me to Central America. As it turned out, it was not a bad duty station. But many of those who served, had it much harder, and some gave their lives. 
This coming weekend it Memorial Weekend. I pulled out my American Flag and I plan to let it dance in the breeze. I hope you'll join me in taking a moment to thank those who gave it all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Picture Perfect Day ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

I cannot remember when blackberry winter lasted this long, but a welcome change came
this week. 
The sky was blue as a first-place ribbon with no clouds in sight. The sun was warm but a breeze out of the west made it feel like San Francisco.
Today I had to drive to Curry Ace Hardware to get parts for my chainsaw, and I decided to take the road less traveled. 
For me that meant driving through Sipsey, turning north on to Highway 69, and turning west onto the road that meanders by Smith Dam westward to Curry.
It looked as if everyone had recently mowed their grass. 
It seemed a shame to ride cooped up inside the cab of my truck, so I rolled down the glass and stuck my head out the window like a dog.  
After a cold wet winter, it felt good to let the wind blow through my hair….well, that’s not quite true, because I don’t have a lot of hair, but the wind felt great in my beard. 
Driving by the dam, I looked toward the water and there was a group of kids basking like turtles on the bank of the lake. 
Beyond the dam, there were lush fields with yellow flowers that reminded me of Ireland. I got a whiff of freshly mown grass and as I drove, I thought to myself, Walker County is a beautiful place on earth.
The hardware store had a crew of young guys working, and they scurried around and fetched the parts I needed. 
My chainsaw is fairly old, and I feared I’d have to donate a kidney to pay for the parts, but when I got the tab, I was pleasantly surprised, and I walked out of the store smiling.
When I got back home I quickly checked my email before settling in to write my column. When I scanned the subject lines I saw a note from one of my writing clients.
It said: Read This! No Seriously, Read This Now! 
Oh crap, I thought I’d been fired.
But when I looked further, I saw the organization had won 13 awards in the Alabama Press Association’s Newspaper contest, and I’d written three of the winning entries. I almost fell out of my swivel chair.
It’s great when my sister or my good friends tell me they enjoy my work, but to win recognition from my peers is something else all together. I’ve never had this kind of validation for my writing.
We keep a bottle of champagne in our fridge for special occasions and when I told Jilda the news, she suggested we celebrate this weekend.
Life is funny. This year has been a rough one here in Watsonville. I kept looking for locusts and pestilence to add to my trials, but then the sun came out, and good things started happening.
I’ve learned there’s a rhythm to life. Just when you think it will rain forever, a ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds and it’s like a harbinger signaling that good things are on the way. The trick is to weather the storms.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I had my high school reunion last night. I graduated in May of 1968 from the old school. I actually graduated a year early. 
I wasn't double promoted, but I took the maximum class load in the 10 grade, went to summer school, then took extra classes my senior year.

I'm not sure why I was in such a hurry to get out of school, but I was on a mission and I made it happen. I did manage to get into college and flunk freshman English a year before most of the kids I grew up with. 
I've always felt a little out of place at the reunions of the Class of 68. It's not the people, they took me in. I had the lead in the senior play. But many of them were together from the first grade through their senior year. They had stories about things that happened back in the day. I laughed along with them, but most of my stories were with the Class of 69, because they are the folks I went through school with.
In looking back, I'm not sure I'd do anything differently, because I feel things work out as they should. 
So last night, I was the photographer. I gathered people in groups and shot pictures of smiling faces. 
Next year, I'll probably crash the 45 reunion of the Class of 69. I wasn't in the annual that year, but I know most of their stories.

Here's a link to the photos.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Day

I had to laugh. Jilda and I got up and got at it fairly early. I'd bought some more tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and five pounds of bermuda grass seed.
We finally got the tractor fixed, and the sun gods had smiled on us. Our nephew Haven finally managed to level our back yard enough so that I could plant grass.
After the storms and field line work, the back yard has been a muddy mess, but things were looking up.
Jilda and I planted the plants, she sowed two rows of flowers, I reseeded the back yard, and we kicked back on the deck mid afternoon to enjoy a glass of lemonade.
As we sat there, we heard something off in the distance. Mid swallow, Jilda said, "Is that thunder?" We hadn't checked the weather radar.
When we did, green globs were headed in our direction. As it turns out we got five inches of rain within about eight hours. We should have put lifejackets on the plants we planted.
I'm sure the grass seed is close to Mobile, Alabama by now. Maybe one day our yard will be back to normal.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I guess it take all kinds

An Alabama Power inspector came by yesterday afternoon to check behind the work crews that repaired all the storm damage from March.
I heard him drive up and met him at the door. It's rare that we have unannounced visitors that aren't passing out religious tracts or selling vinyl siding.
He asked me about the work the crews had completed after the storm. I gave him a glowing report. 
I always do this. I've worked on storm damage cleanup crews back in the day when I worked with the phone company. It's grueling work and I feel a kinship to these guys.
They work their butts off to get the lights and phones on, and pencil pushers come by weeks later when the suns out to critique their work. Don't get me started.
But, I digress.
The guy walked up to verify that he was at the right place, and asked if the work had been completed to my satisfaction.
I assured him it was, and I told him that some of his guys actually walked on water.
He scrunched up his nose as if he'd just realized he'd stepped in excrement. He asked, "What's that I smell?"
I did a quick check of my armpits, but remembered I'd taken a shower after a hard afternoon seeding the back yard.  I was confident it wasn't me.
I told him I had spread lime in the back yard earlier in the day to adjust the pH of my soil. He said, "No, it morning glories." 
I put my nose to the sky and got a whiff of jasmine hanging from the arbor at our front door. I started to tell him what he was smelling, but he'd already lost interest.
He asked a few more terse questions and then headed back to the truck. I thought to myself, this guys should retire. He's out in the country, no traffic, no random gunfire, the aroma of jasmine so thick you could spread it on a sandwich, and this guy's acting like he'd rather be in hades shoveling coal for the horny guy.
I guess it takes all kinds.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The blueberries are coming in

Back in my past life when I had a day gig, I had to eek out garden time after work and before bed, or on weekends.
That first year when our young blueberries began producing, I shot a picture and showed off the bounty at work.
A guy from south of town that lived in a 5000 square foot house and drove a Beamer chuckled and said, these would probably cost you less if you bought them at Publics. He went on to say, why one earth would you bother growing things you can buy at the store?
I didn't know how to respond.
There's no way to tell someone who has never grown their own food, the joys of eating things you've grown yourself.
I elected not to debate the gentleman about the joys of gardening because it would probably been a waste of breath. 
Now where was I? Oh yes, we were late getting tomatoes in the ground, but a few of them are blooming so before you can say pass the mayo, we'll be having BLT's.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Enjoying the beautiful spring day

I know I've whined about the weather a good bit this year, but that's because I'm used to
planting our garden in early March.  And usually by this time of spring, I'm walking around outside half naked. Perhaps that's a little more information than you bargained for, but I'm just putting it out there so to speak.
This year, it occasionally hinted a warm weather, but then the rain comes and it turns off cold as December.
But today was my kind of day. Jilda and I had appointments in Birmingham and we headed out early. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.
After our appointments, Jilda wanted to run by the mall to pick up an Urban Nomad skirt (you'll have to ask her about it) and we decided to have lunch at a Mexican place we'd never tried. 
The restaurant was too cold inside for Jilda so we opted to sit at a sidewalk table. By that time, the sun was high in the sky and the air was crisp. 
She ordered fish tacos and I ordered shrimp tacos -- a first for both of us. The waiter scurried off to fetch our chips and tea.
Tiny birds scampered at our feet looking for pieces of food from the tables, and off in the distance I could hear Reggae music playing on expensive speakers. I found myself swaying to the gentle beat.
The food was excellent, and we ate in silence, lost in the moment, enjoying the beautiful spring day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why is the Rickster Smiling

I've been unusually productive today. This morning before breakfast, I did yoga on the deck. It was a little cool, but still nice.
When I stepped out to feed the chickens, I realized that I still hadn't raked up the small debris from the pen left by the storms back in March. The chickens didn't seem to mind because red worms often lurk beneath the straw, but it had been bugging me.
I put it on the infamous ToDo list several weeks ago and would have done it sooner, but the rain over the past month made it messy in there. Today, I cleaned out the pen and smiled to myself as I mentally marked it off my list.
I wrote my column for Sunday as the coffee perked. All in all, I completed, every priority item on my list.
I was feeling a little smug. I checked my email before Jilda called me to lunch and I saw something interesting from one of my co-workers at the paper. The subject line read -- Read This ---- No, Seriously, Read it Now. 
I thought, Oh Crap, I've been fired. But when I opened the email, I realized the editor had forwarded me a copy of the results from the Alabama Press Association's Newspaper Awards.
Our papers had won a total of 13 awards, three of which had my name by them. I had a first-place award, and two third-place awards for work that the editor had submitted in the contest. I was blown away. 
I have a conflict so I won't get to attend the ceremony, but I plan to do a photo op with my awards after the event. WooHoo.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dealing with procrastination

As we drank coffee yesterday morning, Jilda was scanning one of her women's magazines. I was looking at my vision board when I heard her say hmmmm.  She doesn't do that often, and when she does, it usually means that something interesting is coming.
She was reading a piece in Real Simple about the books that renowned authors said changed their lives.
The books were all over the board. I'd read some of them but many of them I'd never heard of.
The book that elicited the hmmmm, was a book entitled The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, and it's about why creative people resist doing what they should be doing.
I immediately picked up my iPhone from the coffee table and searched Audible to see if they had it.
They did, and I ordered it on the spot. It just sounded like something I needed to read.
I know I'm creative, but I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing unproductive things. I felt like it was time to get a grip.
I started to listen to it today so it's too early to do a book report, but it feels like it contains a message that I need to hear.
I hope you all have a remarkable week.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Having lost my mom last year in February, Mother's Day 2012 was a blur to me. I'd spent some part of Mother's Day with my mom since I was born in 1951. Well, the two years I was in the Army and out of the country were an exception, but every other year I was there.
Then in the blink of an eye she was gone, and I had no where to go on Mother's Day.
Jilda, who lost her mom in 2005 warned me that it would be strange, but I didn't fully understand until after my mom was gone.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss her.
Jilda's sister Pat invited us down to her house today. All her kids and grandkids were there to help celebrate the occasion.
She has three grandkids younger than five and they were in rare form today.
I looked around at one point and all three of them were wearing sunglasses. I'm not sure if they were new, or what prompted them to be wearing shades indoors, but they all looked like celebrities incognito.
Obviously I realize a photo op when I see one, so I put my shades on, got all the kids together and shot a picture with my iPhone.
I must have moved when I snapped the photo because it was blurry. All I could do was make photo art out of it. It's not what I had in mind, but you play the cards that are dealt to you.
Happy Mother's Day all.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Four-Leaf Clover

Jilda and I played at Art in the Park today. Organizers were fretting because the local weathermen were betting their toupees that we'd have rain.
They decided to hold the event in the college gym instead of in the park. A few food vendors decided to chance it, and parked outside hoping for the best. Most of them got over like bandits.
We set up shop near the entrance and played without amps or sound system. 
Even though the sky was cloudy at times, the rain held off and we had a great time. I set up a small table with my books near the entrance. I'd printed a sign that said:


 I Know it was a low blow, but I sold several books between songs. I love America.
After our set, our friends The Spook House Saints played a set and during their show, Jilda looked down and saw a tuft of clover growing through a small crack in the curb. When she looked more closely, there was a four-leaf clover standing proud there for the art and music lovers to see.
Jilda plucked it and poked it through the collar buttonhole of my shirt. I felt lucky for the rest of the day.
I hope you all have a remarkable Saturday and for you mothers out there, I hope your children are as fond of you as I was of my mother.

Y'all check out one of my new blog-buddies who writes for the love of writing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Berry Good Day

We kept our great nephew Jordan for the first time in several weeks. He was so excited he could barely sleep last night.
He was cranked when he knocked on the door at 7:30 this morning. Our coffee mugs still steaming and half full.
I'll let Jilda tell what all they did today, but at one point, Jordan and I were charged with gathering berries.
We have crimson strawberries that we saw yesterday. We decided not to pick them to let Jordan do it. The berries were still wet with dew.
The blueberries are hanging full, but they are still a few days away from being ripe. I scanned all the bushes but saw none. 
Jordan squatted down for a different viewpoint. He spied a lone berry. "Here's one Aunt Rick," he said excitedly (for some reason he calls me Aunt Rick). 
I was doubtful, but when I stepped over and lifted the upper branches. There, as lonesome as a country song, was our first ripe blueberry of the season. 
Jordan picked it, but wouldn't eat it until he showed it to Jilda. Next week when the berries begin to bear, I can promise you he will be over here every day.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


I guess living in the sticks has spoiled me. Some mornings when the weather turns off warm, I drink coffee on the back deck and it's quiet enough to hear yourself think.
Yesterday while sitting out there, a woodhen pounded on a dead pine like a jackhammer and broke the tranquility. I almost shouted, hey girlfren, take it to the barn, but I doubt she would have listened.
Today I had an Alabama Media Professionals meeting in Birmingham. The sky was blue
with lazy cotton clouds drifting off to the east.
After the meeting, the sun had heated the cab of my truck hot enough to back biscuits, so I rolled down the windows as I drove towards home.
I had forgotten how loud the city can be. Eighteen wheelers chugging inches away from your ears, shifting gears, and braking for streetlights. 
When I drove by a construction site, the tailgate of a giant dump truck slammed shut and it sounded like a cannon.  Horns, drive-through speakers, and cars without mufflers added to the cacophony. 
What's interesting is that I worked in the city for over 33 years and I somehow filtered out the noise.
This afternoon when I got home, I clinked some ice in a tall glass, poured it full of sweet tea, and stepped out to the back deck to unwind.
As I sipped, I heard a squirrel fussing at Caillou, and off in the distance I heard a cawing crow. 
Don't get me wrong. I love the city, but for me, it can be a challenge finding peace there. If given the choice between hearing a woodhen or a leaf blower, I'll take the woodhen any day.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Close we can smell the barn

It seems like it's taken forever to recover from the March storm that blew through here, but things began coming together this week.
The rain moved off to the east and I got help putting the power mast back up at the barn.
The roofing man came a few days later and replaced the tin that was blown from the barn and the creative space.
Yesterday I called the power company to tell them we were ready to have the power hooked back to the barn, and today they showed up in force. An hour later I was shaking hands and saying thank you.
Soon it will be dry enough to level the yard with the tractor and plant some grass. We're so close we can smell the barn, metaphorically speaking.

On another note, our friend Jamie sent a link to a remarkable video of a moonrise. If you have about three minutes, I highly recommend that you watch it. It's time well spent.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

RIP Ol' Buddy

Today has been a sad one. Jilda and I kept hoping the vet was wrong about Ol' Buddy's condition, and that he'd pull through and somehow regain his strength. But it wasn't in the stars.
This morning when we got up, he was too weak to stand, and although he never whimpered, whined, or complained, we both knew it was time to say goodbye.
When we arrived at the vet's office, thankfully there was no one in the waiting room, no one to hear our voice cracking as we talked, no one to see the tears in our eyes when we left, with the little guy wrapped in his favorite blanket.
We laid him to rest in a place of honor among the other beloved pets that have added a richness to our lives as only close friends can do.
Even though he only weight about 25 pounds, the house seemed empty without him today.
The only dog we have left is Caillou, our collie, and he's walked in every room of the house today looking for his little friend. He's here at my feet as I type, where Buddy always laid.
Thanks for all the kind words from my blog-buddies over the last several days.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Pony Picture ~ My Column from Sunday

This is NOT the Pony Picture

There was a sepia-toned photograph of me that sat on the corner of my mother’s mantle for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t take anything for that picture.

It was taken in the spring of 1956 when my family lived in Hammond, Ind.

When the bottom fell out of the job market here in Alabama in the mid 1950s, we moved up north so my dad could find a job in one of the factories or foundries near Chicago.

There’s a lot of my childhood that’s as fuzzy as an angora sweater, but I remember the day the pony picture was taken.

The weather was unseasonably warm and as always, I was playing in the side yard that was not much bigger than our dinner table.

I heard a strange sound off in the distance, and when I walked to the edge of the yard to peer down the sidewalk, I saw a man clomping down the street with a pony.

It was all I could do to keep from bolting down the street to greet them, but that would have been unwise, as my mama took a dim view of me leaving the yard without grownup supervision.

But I kept my eye on them as they inched toward our house.

When they finally arrived, I saw that the pony was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.

It was brown as a Hershey bar, with a golden mane that flowed down its long neck. It had sad eyes, but he seemed to cheer up noticeably when I walked over to pet his muzzle. The leather and the hair of that pony had an earthy smell that seemed as old as time.

The saddle was a work of art, with braided leather and silver fastenings that sparkled in the sunlight.

The man was carrying an old camera as big as a microwave that was attached to a tripod.

He placed the camera on the ground and reached into his hip pocket, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe sweat from his brow.

He asked if I’d like to have my picture taken on the pony. I was about to try and climb on when he said, “Whoa cowboy, you’ll need to make sure it’s alright with your mama.”

I hustled in the house and dragged my mom outside to see that beautiful creature. I was jabbering so fast that I’m sure she had no idea what to expect when she walked outside.

My mom was not an animal lover, but I could tell by the look on her face she thought the pony was pretty too.

The man stepped over and explained that he was taking pony pictures with local kids, and that for a few dollars, I could have my photo taken too.

It seems that money was always tight when we were growing up, but Mama must have felt that a picture of me on that pony was worth it.

The man reached in his bag and pulled out a cowboy hat and some leather leggings for me to put on, then helped boost me up in the saddle.

I felt like the TV cowboy Roy Rogers sitting on that pony. The man leveled the tripod and then ducked under a black blanket attached to the camera where he loaded the film and clicked a photograph. He repeated the loading and shooting a few times before packing everything up.

A few weeks later he came back without the pony to deliver the photograph. It’s funny how memories are made. I’m not sure how much he charged for that picture, but I’m so thankful he didn’t charge what it was really worth.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A promise made

I looked at the radar map today on my iPhone and animated the map. There was a mass of cloud and rain that covered most of central Alabama.
When I looked more closely, the vortex of the mass was swirling around Empire, Alabama. I kid you not.
Today was our 39th anniversary and we always try to do something special, but today we decided to stay close to home, and spend time with Ol' Buddy. As I wrote a few days ago he is very ill.
I gave Jilda my word that next year we will be in Ireland, Paris, or some other distant land of her choice celebrating our landmark.
It was said most eloquently in the poem, The Ballad of Sam McGee:
A promise made is a debt unpaid.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

And Just Like That

Jilda and I met one of our friends for lunch today. She's going through a hard time right now. I wish there was something we could do to help, but it seemed today was a day for listening.
Afterwards, we picked up Jilda's sister and went to buy flowers for Decoration Day which is next weekend at the cemetery where Jilda's folks are buried.
While at the store a woman who worked there knew my name. I realized that she recognized me from my newspaper column. We spoke briefly.
Once home, I called my nephew Haven to ask him to help reattach the power mast on the barn. Last month when the storm swept through, a pine tree fell on the power line and subsequently snatched to mast off.
The mast is a 40-pound pipe about 10 feet long, and it had to be hoisted back up through a hole in the roof. I couldn't manage it by myself so Haven came over to help.
He was on the ladder and I was pushing from the ground. Dirt daubers had built nests of dried clay around the roof and as we hoisted the mast up, stuff started falling down on us. I told Haven to be careful not to get something in his eyes. I was looking down so as not to get something in my eyes.
And just like that, a short piece of wood from the roof fell and whacked me on the nose. I bled like a stuck hog as my daddy used to say.
I got the bleeding stopped and we secured the mast. When I got to the house, it looked as if I'd gone eight rounds with a prizefighter.
Tonight, not only is my nose still sore, but my head is aching. I think it's going to be an early night.
Y'all have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Almost like cheating

Life before digital cameras was a sad time in our lives. When we shot pictures, we had to wait for
DAYS to get them back.
By the time we picked them up from the developer place, the excitement had subsided. When we flipped through the double prints and tossed all the pictures where we had our eyes closed, the ones where we looked fat, drunk, pissed, stupid, or obtuse, we tossed. We were left with only a few precious pictures that documented a significant event of our lives.  It was such an unfortunate time.
Except for those of us who had access to darkrooms where the light was a weird shade of orange (so that undeveloped photographic paper didn't do funny), and smells wafted up from dirty trays of chemicals capable of altering your DNA, and causing offsprings to be born with three eyes, and limbs like a centipede. If you could brave a darkroom, you could produce remarkable photographs.
I never really learned to take pictures until I processed my own crap. "Hmmm. I will never take a photograph of someone in front of an open door or window with lots of light."
Before I learned to print my own photos, I spent a miner's pension on bad photographs.
I bought my first good film camera, a Canon FTb, when I was in the Army in 1971. When I got out in 1973 and started to work for The Community News, I bought a Canon F1 on the installment plan. I still have it, though I rarely take a picture with it.
It was there that my friend Dale Short introduced me to the darkroom. I rocked trays and watched the magic of a photograph materialize through a miracle dance of light and chemicals. It's where I learned my photographic chops.
Nowadays, shooting incredible pictures is as simple as pulling your iPhone out of your pocket, almost as an afterthought, and snapping a few frames. If your eyes are closed DELETE, and you shoot another one. It's almost like cheating.
So, I cheated today and shot this photo. I doctored it up with Photoshop. An effect that would have taken hours in a darkroom, at the expense of ones offsprings :)
Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Bright Spot

I did yoga on the back deck at 6 a.m. this morning. The wind was out of the east, which is unusual for here. The weatherman said to expect rain today, and when I looked at the sky during my postures, thick grey clouds littered the sky like laundry in a teenager's room.
When I finished up, I sat on my mat and breathed. I saw snatches of morning sunlight the color of honey highlighting the pines down in the hollow. I'd left the garden door open and the aroma of coffee called like Homer's sirens.
Jilda was on the couch petting Ol' Buddy. He's not doing well. I fear we'll have to make the hard decision on him over the next few days. Not a happy time at the Watson house.
The bright spot of the day for us was when we walked, we realized that our rhododendron was in full bloom.
The shrub had gone through some trauma during our home renovation a few years back and getting it to live has been touch and go.
I took the sheers and did some major pruning during the winter. It had gotten to the point where were were about to cut it down and plant a new one.
But it began putting on buds and today when we walked, there was a blossom almost as big as a basketball.
The light wasn't good so I photoshopped the picture but hopefully the sun will make another appearance while the shrub is in bloom giving me enough light to make a decent picture.
I hope you all have a remarkable Friday. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pony Pictures

Jilda had a treatment today, so we headed in to Birmingham just after 8 a.m. I got her settled in the treatment room and I stepped across the drive to the cafeteria.
The cafe ladies know me by sight, because I always cut up with them. I picked up a cup of coffee and a bagel and headed to the back, pulling one of the tables a little closer to the only power outlet in the dining area.
I snapped open my MacBook and wrote my column for Sunday in less than an hour. The trick was that I had a topic when I sat down, thanks to my blog buddy Michael Estey.
A few posts ago he commented on one of my old photos about a photo of kids on a pony. That thought resonated with me because I too had a photograph of me sitting astride a pony in the summer of 1956. We lived in Indiana for almost a year. My dad had lost his job here in Alabama and went up north in search of work.
While we were there, a guy came around with a pony and took photos of neighborhood kids.
That sepia-tone picture sat on my mom's mantel for as long as I remember. I can't seem to find the photograph now, or I'd post it, but I felt like Roy Rogers on that little shetland pony.
So, writing the column today was a breeze. I hope to find the photo before I post the column next Monday.
Thanks Michael for the great idea.

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