Sunday, June 30, 2013


I'm on a quest. I've toyed with the idea of becoming a syndicated columnist for several years. I did some initial research, but naysayers think that newspapers are becoming a thing of the past. 
While newspapers are going through some hard times, I think there will be a need for newspapers for the foreseeable future. 
Maybe I'm fooling myself, but it's something I want to, do and it's my intention to move in that direction.
My nephew who works at the daily paper where my column began in January of 2007 is moving to a paper in Mississippi as the Publisher. It's a huge promotion and he'll be in a position to make decisions about content. He's asked me to consider writing for that publication. The parent company that owns the new paper has almost 30 other publications in Mississippi. 
Getting in 30 new publications would be very encouraging. 
While doing research, I found that several of the syndication portals list the things they require in order for a columnist to be considered.
~ Obviously the columns must be something people want to read
~ They want references, to make sure you have staying power
~ They want to see your bio, and another thing that figures in is your social media links so they can see what people are saying about you.

Having an eight-year history on this blog is a plus, and having over nine thousand comments is another asset. 
But my Facebook presence is spotty. So today I launched a new Facebook page entitled
Rick Watson Columnist. 

I would love to have some of my followers here consider LIKING my FB page. I've picked up 162 likes since lunch time. I promise not to spam you.
Onward and upward.

P.S. If any of you are in an area with a newspaper where you think my columns would be a fit, I'd appreciate you sharing the name of the publication.

Y'all have a great week.

Small-town cafe

I signed books at Sage Coffe and Books in DeKalb, Mississippi last night and afterward we played about an hour on the front walk of the store.
Our new friend Lara apologized that more people didn't come to the event, but we told her not to fret. The people who were supposed to be there showed up.
We always play as if we're playing for a sold-out audience. 
As we played, clouds gathered off to the north, and soon lightening danced in the distance.
This storm came directly down Main Street. Thunderstorms frighten Lara and she flinched with each strike and roll. 
The rain followed. We scooted our chairs back from the eves to keep from getting wet, but then the winds picked up and everyone had to go inside. 
It was a fun gig. We got a chance to grab a quick bite at Ashley's Restaurant there in DeKalb.
I got a bowl of gumbo and Jilda ordered shrimp étouffée. I love trying out small-town cafes. We often have remarkable food, and last night was no different.
It's been a late night for me. I hope you all have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Early Morning Rain

I heard thunder in the distance this morning so I slipped out of bed and poked the brew button on our coffee machine to get the java going in case the storm took out the lights when it rumbled past. Experience taught me that this is the best course of action.
We haven't had a good rain in a few weeks and when I surveyed the garden yesterday I could tell it was thirsty.
This morning, I made my way to our screen porch to watch the approaching storm. It was 77 degrees at 5:30 a.m. but I knew that wouldn't last. 
The thunder marched closer and the wind started playing a song on the chimes. We've collected chimes for years. We have some tiny chimes, some made of stainless steel, and some of glass. We have one set made of bamboo and they provide the percussion for the windsong.
And then we have some tuned chimes that are over four feet long. They sound like cathedral bells.
To add to the ambience, we have a strand of clear Christmas lights around the top edge of the porch, and we leave them up year around. It's the perfect light from dusk till dawn.
Jilda often sleeps through morning storms, but this one got her moving when thunder rattled the windows.
She came searching sleepy-eyed, and joined me. We sat in silence for a long while.  Soon the rain came and the sound on the metal roof was like a low-flying jet.
The storm stomped southward, and soon our rooster began giving the all clear to everyone in the area. That's a service he provides.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A welcome detour.

Yesterday as I sat in the treatment room and the last of the drugs dripped through Jilda's IV tube, one of her chair-buddies glanced up and noticed a character on the TV set above the nursing station.
"Hey, there's Luke, of Luke and Laura." It took a moment to understand what he was talking about.
Apparently Luke and Laura were characters who starred in a soap opera years ago.
Hearing that sent my mind wandering down memory lane. I can almost see you all rolling your eyes when I mention memory lane, but I'm not sure how to say it better.
Anyhow, not long after Jilda and I married in 1974, we vacationed in Panama City, Florida. We stayed at the same cottages where we spent our honeymoon.
An elderly couple, who were friends of Jilda's parents owned the cottages and they were delightful people.
On the second day of our vacation, Mr. Quinn asked if I'd like to go fishing early the next morning. It had been a while since I'd wet a hook, so I conferred with Jilda and she was happy spending some alone time on the beach while I fished.
I heard a knock on the cottage door early the next morning before we'd had our coffee. It was Gene and he wanted to get on the water.
We headed out to a local bait shop where he picked up some live shrimp for bait. We were rocking on the water as the sun rose over the murky water of West Bay.
Mr. Quinn caught several nice trout and I spent a lot of time being net-boy. He then patiently told me how to bait the hook, how deep to fish, and how to set the hook once I got a bite.
A few minutes later, I hauled in the largest fish I'd ever caught. I caught several more that we put in the freezer for dinner. That night we ate like royalty.
The Quinn's offered to buy us lunch later in the week and we accepted. We ate at Duffs which was their favorite place.
Jilda and I always eat a a leisurely pace and we noticed that Odie kept looking at her watch. Before we finished, Gene said, "We have to go, or Odie will miss her stories."
Jilda and I were puzzled, but finished up and hustled out of the restaurant behind the octogenarians.
We were about 45 minutes from their house when he wheeled into a Kmart parking lot and both bailed out of the car as if they had to pee.
Again we hustled after them. They headed straight back to the appliances. One of the clerks seemed to know them because he fetched a chair for Odie, and set it close to one of the floor-model color TVs.  Gene stepped over to the sporting goods section of the store to look at fishing gear. We followed him hoping for an explanation.
When we were out of earshot, he told Jilda and me that Odie was addicted to General Hospital and wouldn't miss it for ANY reason.
We both howled. He told us that once when they were traveling to see kinfolks in Birmingham, Alabama that he had to rent a hotel room for one hour so that she could watch the soap.
Conjuring up that memory yesterday was a welcome detour.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

As the elephant danced among the chickens

I went to war today. I tried to avoid it by being Mr. Nice Guy, but my happy-go-lucky attitude got me nowhere.
Our house has been invaded by gnats. I'm not sure where they came from, how they got inside our house, or why they are here, but you can't set a glass of tea (much less a glass of wine) down without a half dozen diving in and taking a swim in your drink.
Jilda has set out bowls of vinegar (a remedy her mom used), we made sure the counters were clear of fruit, veggies, or other things enticing to the critters, but their numbers seem to be expanding exponentially.
So I resorted to the old analog method of pest removal -- a fly swatter. I've smacked down hundreds of the little buzzing critters. It's like playing badminton with a really small evasive birdie.
There's something disturbingly satisfying about hearing the little ticking sound of a flyswatter moving at
warp speed smacking a gnat.
I found myself singing the words to an old Freddy Mercury tune (Queen) Another one Bites the Dust.
I'm a live and let live kind of guy until you get in my face and then it's like the old saying:  "It's every man for himself and God help the rest,"  said the elephant as he danced among the chickens.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shooting Buttons

I had a Daisy pump-action BB gun when I was a kid. It had a slight defect that would make today's corporate lawyers at the Daisy Corporation all have massive stress-related strokes and twitch uncontrollable in their offices.
The air rifle had a weak trigger spring. Normally in lever-action BB guns this defect would actually keep the gun from cocking and firing. But with the pump-action you could cock the gun and when you pushed the pump back to the starting position, the gun would fire without your finger being anywhere near the trigger.
I discovered this defect accidentally when I was trying to diagnose the reason it wasn't cocking properly and almost shot off an earlobe.
Hmmm, I thought. That's interesting. When I turned the gun away from my head and repeated the pump action, it fired again. In fact, this was as close to an automatic BB gun that had been seen until then. I could sling copper as fast as I could pump the rifle, and at that time it was pretty darn fast.
If you wanted the gun to shoot properly, you'd have to put your index finger behind the trigger, pushing it forward as you pumped the action. The finger took the place of the defective trigger spring.
The story gets a little convoluted here, so stay with me:
My mom had a Maytag Wringer washing machine that sat on our back porch where she did the laundry
every few days.
With two hair-brained boys, and a girl that was as mean as a snake (at times) she washed a LOT of clothes.
She filled the machine up with a hosepipe that she left out there for that purpose. The drain on the antique washing machine was a hose that looked like a crooked-necked black snake. It clamped to the side during the washing process and when it came time to drain it, Mama would drop the hose down by the edge of the porch where the water drained down toward the garden.
The wringer was hard on buttons and on wash day, the little muddy spot where the washer drained would be dotted with buttons.
Those buttons provided hours of target practice for me and my trusty automatic BB gun.
When I went into the Army, I aced the firing range and I think that was due to my defective Daisy and my mom's Maytag washer.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gardenias ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

Our gardenias began blooming this week. We smelled the first blossom before we saw it. It was pale as a princess hanging there on the lush green bush. 

I've come to understand that gardenias are one of life's little pleasures.

This morning our walk started earlier than normal because the weatherman said the temps would be hotter than the devil with a branding iron.

As we walked by the Mother Gardenia bush, as we call her, Jilda snapped off a few blossoms and sniffed them from time to time as we walked.

I had chores outside, so I didn't go straight inside after our walk. Later when I went into my bathroom to wash my hands for breakfast, Jilda had placed a gardenia blossom in a thin-necked vase on my vanity. 

The blossom looked as if it had been carved from a piece of bone by a razor-sharp chisel. The scent was as thick as lust.

Fresh flowers in the house are nice, but they’re even nicer when they come from your own yard.

We can be as broke as the Ten Commandments with barely enough money to pay attention, but fresh flowers on the table make me feel wealthy.

Jilda has always had a green thumb. She got it from her grandmother Mamie and her mother Ruby. Both of these women had Southern Living yards. 

I’ve gotten much better since taking the Master Gardener’s Class this past winter. But the storms and field line replacement that I’ve mentioned before put us behind this year.

We turned a corner in mid May, and this past week made significant progress in our landscape.

This past weekend we shopped for flowers and some other plants for the back yard. The plan was to buy two flats of impatiens, a couple flats of snapdragons, and a butterfly bush.

The cash register almost melted tallying up all the items we bought.

Once home I fetched the wheelbarrow and unloaded the truck while Jilda went to the shed to get the tools.

I was working on the flowerbed on one end of the deck and Jilda was working the other.

She gets into this Zen frame of mind while she’s working and if you try to talk to her, she gets all snippy and whatnot. So I let her work in silence.

All of a sudden I heard her squeal which is a sound she rarely makes. When I looked over there, you could see her pulse pounding in her temples.

It took a second to see what had happened. She was working on her knees and had reached over to pick up the garden hose to water the Shasta daisies, when she almost picked up a four-foot long chicken snake that had crawled over to have a look at her progress.

I picked up the sharpshooter shovel, scooped up the curious reptile and dropped him on the other side of our fence. 

When he hit the ground he wasn’t happy and began writhing like he’d been dropped on a hotplate. Jilda pointed out that he was gyrating around like Joe Cocker singing “A Little Help From My Friends.” As I watched him for a moment, I realized she was right.

Later that evening, we had dinner on the deck and of course we had fresh flowers as a centerpiece.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Jilda and I are both bone tired, so a few hours ago I sat down to write my update so we could retire early. The power flickered once, but came back on.
My fingers froze on the keys and I leaned my head back to look up at the light on the ceiling. It went dark again, and then came back on.
I could hear my UPS chirping which means I have about three minutes to shut all the open applications down.
Then the lights went out and didn't come back on. I managed to save all my work, and get the Mac shut down before the UPS died.
I fished my small flashlight from my backpack and poked in the numbers for the power company on the keypad of my desk phone. A chirpy automated voice answered and it was all I could do to keep from weaving a tapestry of less than Christian dialog with the computer voice. Even the most creative tirade would have earned a response like, "I didn't get that, do you want to pay your bill, change your service, or......."
Instead I said "Representative." The voice cheerfully said, "I can help you with most problems."
I needed to speak with a representative to tell them the power had gone off and on several times today, but that's not something an automated system would understand.
Finally Sara answered the phone and within a few moments I had the problem reported and help was on the way.
I have a history with large corporations and I know that automation is a way of life.  But that doesn't mean you have to like it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Old Guitar

It was the summer of 1976 when I worked at the Sportsman Package store. I was between jobs and my cousin hired me to pump gas, and check oil.
Walker County was a dry county and the Sportsman was less than a half mile across the county line in Jefferson County.
So we pumped a lot of gas and we sold a lot of beer cold enough to crack your teeth.
Late one Friday night an ancient Oldsmobile as big as a barge rolled into the parking lot, gravel popped under the wheels as it coasted up to the pumps.
A guy rolled out from behind the wheel wearing jeans and a cowboy shirt with sweat stains half way down his rib cage.
He walked over to talk to me about a problem he had. The veins in his eyes looked like roadmaps and he smelled of whisky, cigarettes, and I've smelled roadkill that was less offensive than his breath. He'd been drunk a long time.
"I'm outta gas," he said matter-of-factly. "And what's worse, I'm out of beer. I ain't got no money either," he said with his hands shoveled deep into his back pockets.
"I do have something to trade," he explained.
The Olds was a two-door hardtop and he had all the windows rolled down. He leaned into the back seat and pulled out an ancient guitar.
"I've got this," he said. "It ain't much to look at, but it plays sweet." He handed the guitar to me and I gently took it, and held it up to the florescent lights to see what kind it was. It was an old Gibson. It had a small wood screw in the headstock where it looked as if it had been dropped but it was steady.
There was what looked like a bullet hole from a small caliber pistol near where his heart would have been if he'd been playing it when the shot was fired.
I stepped my foot up on his bumper and put the guitar across my knee and strummed a few chords. I had to agree, it wasn't much to look at but it played sweet.
I didn't have a lot of money either, but I filled his tank up and laid a cold case of Budweiser in his back seat.
"I thank you" he said as he cranked the Olds. "I wish I had time to tell you the story of that guitar, but I'm late."
He drove out of the parking lot and I never saw him again. I still have that old guitar.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Worth the wait

We walked later today than usual. A scheduling snafu sent Jilda off to work early only to learn the class had been cancelled.
She wasn't too disappointed because her heart wasn't set on a refresher course in CPR and First Aid.
I headed out to the screened porch to write when she left, and it was a surprise when she returned much earlier than expected.
She slipped on her walking shorts and shoes and we headed out. As mentioned before, we've had a great deal of rain this spring. As a result, we've had a lot of things that enjoy warm damp weather. 
I saw a chalk-white mushroom in the undergrowth that looked as if it were wearing a sombrero bleached by the desert sun.
There were also fairy rings which have been called nature's graffiti. There are also a downside to having an environment conducive to fungus, mold, and mildew, but I don't want to talk about that tonight.
When we got back close to the house, Jilda noticed that our purple Rose-a-Sharon bush was blooming. Normally it starts showing out in May, but not this year.
When I saw the first blossom today, highlighted by the morning sun, I thought to myself that it was worth the wait.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

We have our porch back

We have our screened porch back now. Late last summer when we built shelves for our laundry/TV room, we moved our old TV cabinet out to the screened porch. It was a temporary arrangement....or so we thought.
It's a nice piece of furniture so we felt certain one of our nieces or nephews would love to have it. But after asking for the measurements all of them said, "Our TV won't fit in it." 
We don't spend a great deal of time watching TV and I knew we were late adopters when it came to upgrading our TV, but no one we talked to had a TV that would fit in our cabinet.
So, on the screened porch it sat. 
What's interesting is that it changed the entire feng shui of the porch, and I no longer enjoyed sitting out there writing.
Last week we finally hooked up with a lady that refinishes furniture and she said she'd love to have the cabinet. She showed up today with her husband and picked up the piece. 
They hadn't made it out of the driveway before I'd put classical music on the stereo and poked the B speakers switch with my index finger, which put music on the porch.
Soon I was hosing off pollen, cleaning the tables, chairs and glider. 
When Jilda rolled into the driveway and walked toward the house, she could see the old feng shui was back.
This evening I sat out there for a while with the ceiling fan flapping a gentle breeze that tinkled the chimes hanging from alcoves created by the supports. The fountain on the outside walk gurgled like a lonesome brook. 
I watched the waning moments of the sun setting in the west, and for the first time in almost a year, all felt right with the world. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Before his time

My dad worked as a welder for most of his adult life and commuted to Birmingham 30 miles away.
That hour commute was a fact of life for many men and women living in rural Walker
County, because unless you were a coal miner or owned your own business, you had to find work in town.
Even back then, commuting to Birmingham was an expensive proposition that ate away at meager pay checks. 
My dad tackled the problem pragmatically. He asked folks around our community if they wanted to pitch in and ride to work with him. 
Six people signed on the first week. He went in search of a car that could comfortably carry six or more adults.
He settled on a 1961 Pontiac Station Wagon that was the color of an autumn sunset and long as a hurst. 
It had two seats that faced forward and one that faced the rear.  It didn't have air conditioning but it did have spinner hubcaps that whistled. 
That was a feature on the vehicle that never made any of the brochures. 
He left out at 5:30 every morning and rounded up his riders before turning onto Highway 78 for the treck into Birmingham.
You could sit out on the porch in the evenings after he'd dropped off all his riders, and hear him whistling long before you saw the old Pontiac.
He was always a pathfinder, carpooling long before it was in vogue. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Better with age

My childhood friend Joe called me out of the blue this morning. We haven't talked in over 20 years. 
What's interesting is that I wrote a story about his dad a few weeks ago for 78 Magazine. The editor asked me if I had a picture, but I didn't.
I used all my people finding skills to locate Joe but to no avail. We had to run the story without a photo.
 Then at 9:45 this morning while working on newsletter training, my phone rang, and it was him.
We talked and laughed for over an hour, which seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. 
He spent time in Vietnam and saw things no one should ever see, but I never once heard him complain. 
Today as we caught up with each other's lives, he mentioned that he'd lost his right leg below the knee in a freak accident a few years ago while helping an elderly neighbor cut down a tree. 
Some people would have used this as an excuse to feel sorry for themselves and give up. If he feels sorry for himself, I didn't hear it in his voice.  He preferred to talk about going hunting, and fishing.  Hearing his voice made my day.
We have a tentative fishing date next week to go have our way with some trout on the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River. 
Friendship is like fine wine, it gets better with age.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I usually post my column from Sunday's paper on Monday evening, but this column started out as a blog entry about our cruise so many of you have already read it. If not, you can click here and read it in the paper.
I'm approaching another milestone in followers. I'm at 475 and I'd love to reach 500. Five hundred seems to roll off the tongue a little better, so I'm on a quest.
If you have followers that you feel might enjoy my work, please consider referring them to me. If one of your followers or friends decides to follow me, please ask them to leave me a comment saying who referred them. The person who makes the most referrals will get a free autographed copy of my book
Life Happens.
Everyone will get a big thank you and a neck hug if we ever meet in person :)
Y'all have a remarkable week.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Porch Sitting

My dad liked the outdoors, and each evening after supper (we called it supper), he would walk to our front porch to sit in our swing and smoke. 
Even now when I close my eyes and drift back in time, I can smell the tobacco from his self-rolled cigarettes, and hear the low-pitched groaning sound that our swing made as we swung to and fro.
I learned early on that this was his time. I could join him out on the porch, but if I tried to talk, he'd shoo me inside. But if I remained silent as a monk, I could stay. He seemed to notice every sound. Tree frogs when they changed gears in their love songs, cicadas, and the distant moan of a lonesome train whistle as it moved through the southernmost hills and hollows of the Appalachians. I think that must have been where I learned the skill of listening. 
I knew even then that there was no other place I'd rather be than sitting on that pine-plank porch with my dad.
It seems that time soon began to move more quickly. One day I was in grammar school, then when the weekend arrived I was graduating from high school, then college, then the Army, then marriage, and with each step there was less and less time for my dad.
I never once heard him complain. And then he was gone. 
As I look back over my life, there are very few things I would do differently. But tonight as I sit here typing these words, I do wish I had found more time to sit on the porch with my dad.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Father's Day

My dad was not an excitable man. I remember once when I was about six years old and my older brother was showing his new 20 gauge shotgun to my Uncle Pete in our living room.
The gun was supposed to be empty, but it wasn't.
Time seemed to slow down. I was in one corner of the living room standing behind my brother and uncle. My dad was standing in front of them by the door when an explosion rattled the windows.
The room filled with smoke, and it  smelled of gunpowder.
Everyone's ears were ringing. When the smoke settled down, I saw a hole in the wall the size of a baseball just inches from my dad's right ear.
If he flinched, I didn't see it. He reached for the gun and said in a calm voice, "We need to figure out how to use the safety on this gun."
That's the way he was. If he got mad or excited, he somehow pushed it deep inside and never let it show.
My dad died of complications from cancer 27 years ago this May. It's an eternity and a blink of an eye. Rarely does a day go by that I don't think of him.
Happy Father's Day

Friday, June 14, 2013

Something to Show

The weather's been so wacky this spring that our planting schedule has been much later than normal. We had a rare Friday without appointments, commitments, or promises to keep.
So we woke up with no agenda, but both of us wanted to put some time in the yard. As it turns out, we spent a lot of time working in the flower beds, the garden, and on the back deck. I cut a few acres of grass.
After lunch and a short nap, we sprang back into action and headed to town for a few flats of flowers. We spent the evening digging in the earth. There was a blazing star on the back deck that we've had for as long as I can remember and we transplanted it into the flower bed by the deck.
I dumped it out of a pot where it's lived for too long, the roots were woven together like a ball of twine. I pulled the roots free and when I seated it in its new home in the earth, I could almost hear it sigh.
We repotted ferns, planted petunias, and Irish moss in the front-yard planters. Afterwards I swept and hosed down the front walk (picture).
Tonight after dinner, we stepped out to the back deck and sat for a while admiring our handiwork as the setting sun gave way to the evening sky. Off in the distance a whip-o-will sang a hypnotic song.
We were both bone tired, but it was a good feeling. It was one of those days when you work hard, but in looking back, you have something to show.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why I Blog

I attended an Alabama Media Professionals Meeting today and the speaker was Javacia Harris Bowser. She had a very inspirational program and one of the topics was blogging.

Several of the people said they have blogs but most of them only post occasionally. When I mentioned that I'd been blogging every day since December of 2005, it took some folks by surprise.
One woman asked me what my blog was about. I had a hard time answering that question because it really depends on what's going on in my life at the moment. 
My blog-buddy Fishducky articulated it nicely a few days ago when she commented: "You always make me feel like it's just the two of us sitting together & having a cup of coffee...I love it!!"
I was flattered by her kind words, and today when trying to explain what my blog is about, I said, "It's a conversation between my friends and me."
After all, very few of us are doing this for money. If that were the case, I'd weigh a lot less because there would be little food on the table. 
I think we're doing this because it gives us an opportunity to have a richer conversation than you would normally have on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms.
Blogging is also a great way to develop ideas for longer pieces. Most of my newspaper columns come from the seeds planted here. 
I've talked to many successful writers and one of the first things most of them told me was if I wanted to get better at the craft, I had to write. I took them at their word.
So that's why I blog.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gardenias ~ One of Life's Little Pleasures

The gardenias started blooming this week. We smelled the scent of our first blossom before we saw it. I've come to understand that gardenias are one of life's little pleasures.
This morning our walk started earlier than normal because the weatherman said the temps would be much hotter today.
As we walked by the Mother Gardenia, Jilda snapped off a few fragrant blossoms and sniffed them as we walked.
I had some chores outside so I didn't go straight inside after our walk. Later when I went into my bathroom to wash my hands for breakfast, Jilda had put a gardenia blossom in a thin-necked vase on my vanity. The blossom looked as if it had been carved from a piece of bone by a razor-sharp chisel. The aroma was as thick as lust.
Some might think I have lace on my boxers, but I love fresh flowers in the house. We can be as broke as the Ten Commandments with not enough money to pay attention, but put a vase of fresh flowers on the table and I feel wealthy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Green Green Grass of Home

It seems that a few weeks ago I was whining about our back yard being so muddy. There was no grass and the yard looked as if we'd recently had a tractor pull.
I planted five pounds of seeds and they seemed to be sitting there rotting. As it turns out, the seeds weren't rotting, they were waiting for the temps to heat up slightly hotter than a flat iron.
It did that while we were away on our cruise. When we returned, it looked as if we'd have to buy a goat to get the grass back down to a manageable level.
I had a lot of correspondance this morning and I wrote a few pieces before I had to leave for the monthly Chamber of Commerce meeting.
When I returned, I put on my work clothes and spent the afternoon mowing and hoeing. The yard is looking much better now and the garden is thriving. We'll be eating cherry tomatoes soon. We're getting almost a pint of blueberries a day now, and the majority of our bushes are loaded with green berries that will begin to ripen over the next several weeks.
Tomorrow we'll start planting our late crops.
The real fun will commence when the heirloom tomatoes begin to ripen on the vine.
Y'all have a great Wednesday.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I love summer ~ My Column from the Newspaper

I love summer flowers too
I love summer and all it implies, but summer’s been shy this year. Each time I thought my old friend sol would make his debut, rain came.

I read that we’ve already gotten a year’s worth of rain in the first five months. At one point when I guessed that the time was right, I went to the farmer’s co-op and spent a pirate’s pension on grass seed and fertilizer. 

I worked for hours preparing my back yard for a much-needed facelift and then sowed the seeds. That night we got four inches of rain. Now our garden, which is just on the other side of the back yard fence, looks like a putting green at Augusta the week of the Masters Golf Tournament.

I reseeded it again and now all the young grass is coming up where it’s supposed to.

Working in the yard can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s one of the things I love most about summer. 

But sitting here on the back porch tapping away on my laptop, I got to thinking about all the other things I love about summer. I think my favorite destination this time of year is the beach. So what follows is a list of the top-five reasons I love the beach.

The sights – A liquid emerald ocean that’s as warm as bathwater, is a visual feast. I know I’ll catch some flack about this, but I’d have to include the sight of women walking around in bathing suits that have less fabric than it would take to make a small hat.

The sounds - There is something about the constant rumbling of the surf massaging the beach, and the sound of seabirds fussing at each other over a crab or sea snail from a conch shell.

Beach treasure - I’ve found incredible things walking down the beach. I’ve found a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull that looked as thought it had never been read. I once found a puka-shell necklace. I also found a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that looked as if the owners had left in a hurry.

Sandcastles - I’ve never been very good at sculpting sand, but being good is not a prerequisite for building sand art. One morning just after daybreak, Jilda and I were walking on the beach and found what appeared to be the face of an angel on the beach staring up at the stars. The tide was coming in, and we stood there for a long while watching the waves gently erase the face. We walked away in silence for a long time before Jilda said, “That must have been the face of someone who was truly loved.” I had to agree.

The smells - I know this is a holdover from my teenage years, but I can’t smell Coppertone Suntan Lotion and not think of the beach. In those day no one had ever heard of the sun causing skin cancer. In fact, most people would have scoffed at the idea. 

The smell of freshly cooked seafood is like a promise, of something good to come. One of my all-time favorite meals is fresh gulf shrimp, fried, baked, broiled, battered, buttered, or spanked (I just made that up.) But I do love my fresh seafood. And I love the beach in summer. 

What do you love about summer?

Sunday, June 09, 2013


I cringed when I read my column in the paper today. I had a grammatical error. I knew better. I must have read that column a dozen times. I listened to it, and Jilda skimmed it, but when I read it today, it jumped off the page and stung me like a red wasp.

I overheard a young writer a few weeks ago talking to someone about their manuscript. He said, "I don't need an editor, I know how to write." I almost snorted when I heard him say this. My first instinct was to tell him to stop smoking crack, but I let it slide. I thought to myself, he'll learn soon enough how goofy that statement was.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe he is one of those rare individuals who is a master of the language and writes flawless prose, but I'd bet my truck that his first manuscript will contain errors.

On another subject, today was Decoration at the cemetery where my people are buried. I volunteer for cleanup duties, and I always work the donation tent on the morning shift. We try to collect enough money this weekend to pay for keeping the grass cut during the summer, but we usually fall short.

Today a family walked up the hill. They donated a significant amount of money and I stood talking with them for a while. I knew right away they didn't live in Alabama, but I learned the parents were born here but moved up north to Illinois in the 40s to find work. 

I mentioned that I maintained the website and asked if they had pictures of their loved ones buried at the cemetery that they'd like posted.
As we talked, one of the daughters said, "Hey, are you the guy that writes for the paper?" Apparently she reads my columns online from Illinois. 

This writing thing is interesting. When I started writing my column, I thought a few people in my community would read my work. As it turns out, the audience is much wider than I ever imagined.

I hope you all have a blessed week. Let's all do something remarkable.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


At times, weeks that go by with little to scribble in my journal except notes on the weather and garden updates.
Then this week, we returned from our first cruise, we performed at an arts festival today, tomorrow we have a family reunion, and our monthly singer/songwriter meeting.
Life comes at you fast sometimes. The upside is that I'll have something to report on my blog and in my journal.
I hope you all have a remarkable Sunday.

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Jury is Still Out

I'd mentioned several weeks ago that Jilda and I were taking our first cruise. Normally we don't broadcast when we'll be away from home for obvious reasons, but we just returned.
We drove to Jacksonville, Florida last Friday and spent the night in a hotel. I learned too late that our blog buddy Janie Junebug lives in Jacksonville. I feel almost like I know her personally, but we've never met. It would have been the perfect opportunity to put a face with a name, but alas that didn't happen.
Jilda's sister Pat has been on several cruises and she tried to coach us on what to expect, but telling, and experiencing are two different things.
As the ship cast off and headed down the river toward the ocean, several dolphins escorted us. I snapped a few pictures, but they must have been camera shy because all I got was ripples in the green water.
That first night after dinner, Jilda and I headed to the stern to watch the sunset. We passed people frolicking in the pool, swilling buckets of beer in aluminum cans, and dancing to the reggae music blaring from speakers.
When we got to the stern, there were only a few people there to watch the setting sun. I leaned over the side rail to get a better look at the ink-black water slipping past us. 
Clouds on the horizon threatened to make sunset a non-event, but I knew in my heart that Mother Nature would not be so cruel as to deny a couple of hicks from Empire, Alabama a show on the first night of their first cruise.
I was right.
It's easy to see why people love cruises. The sights are spectacular, the food is remarkable and unending. The people you meet are interesting, and there's always something going on....but still, I found myself feeling displaced, and looking longingly toward home.
Being disconnected took some getting used to. Normally I check my email a zillion times a day. I understand that it's not healthy, but it's a habit I've fallen in to and I found myself fondling my iPhone which I wound up using for a camera instead of my communications hub.
But after a few days, I missed the connections less, and I found myself reading more. I'd taken my Nexus tablet, and I finished two books that I'd started but had never finished.
I also re-read Walden. I'd forgotten how remarkable it was/is.
Our second stop was Nassau, and we headed out to the Straw Market and other areas to get a feel for the island.
We talked to several people to ask for directions and to buy a few souvenirs. 
We found the people delightful. They spoke English, but the tone and rhythm of their voices was melodic. 
We took a taxi and the driver gave us a crash course on Bahaman history. He drove us by some points of interest, and talked a little about the politics of the islands.
I could have spent a lot more time there, but I wasn't fond of the thought of swimming home, so we made our way back to the ship.
One couple we met had been married 47 years and they'd been on more than 30 cruises. We enjoyed the experience, but if asked today if we will take others, I'd have to say the jury is still out.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

We're Home

Jilda and I rolled in this evening from our cruise. We left last Friday and we disembarked this morning at 8:45 in Jacksonville, Florida. We were on the road all day.
I'll write more and share pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A Game We Play

Jilda and I often play a game when we travel. It’s called what do they do for a living? We take a random couple and without asking them any questions, we have to guess what they do for a living.
It’s a fun game that often ends up deep in right field in the tall grass, but that’s what we do.
We did that today. We saw a couple on the beach. He was rotund and she had big hair. I guessed that he was a coach and she was a healthcare. 
Jilda guessed that he was a plumber and that she was a teacher. Normally, she’s very good at this game, but not today.
As it turns out, they were trying to take a photograph of themselves and I asked if they’d like me to shoot the picture of them.
They were grateful. Just for kicks, I asked where they were from. As it turns out, they were from Georgia. He was a police officer in a small community and she was a nurse.
Chalk 1/2 point up for the home team. 
Tomorrow, we’ll be back to our regular posting schedule.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Thoughts on Creativity

Here are some quotes on creativity.

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” 
― Sylvia Plath

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” 
― Erich Fromm

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” 
― Sophia Loren

Monday, June 03, 2013

Travel Continued

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain

I've found this quote from Mark Twain to be very true. You can't get a sense of how people live in different places unless you go there and see for yourself.
Jilda and I have traveled some, but there are still so many places we want to see. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013


“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

Old Lao would consider Jilda and I good travelers. We often shun planned tours, schedules, and clocks when we travel. When we went to Ireland several years ago, we rented a car at the Shannon Airport. We loaded our bags in our "mid-sized" Opel, pointed the hood toward the east and began to drive. 
People ask me if it was difficult learning to drive on the wrong side of the road. I pointed out that we live in the sticks in a county where driving on the wrong side of the road is common.
We used our map to drive to places that we'd read about in books. We stopped frequently to take pictures, looked closely at thatched roofs, light houses, stone castles, old cemeteries, and ocean vistas. We ate at pubs, and we played music with the locals.
We got a feel for the country and its people. I think Lao Tzu would have been proud of us.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Key to Success

Here is a quote from Aristotle. It is one of the most powerful keys to success ever. I've heard self-help gurus say this for years but it wasn't until much later that I realized who wrote it.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle 

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