Thursday, April 30, 2015

Night time sky

Birmingham has grown these last few years. The metropolitan area is now over a million people and city lights pervade the skies of surrounding communities for miles, but we live far enough to the north and west and the miles consume the illumination, so it's dark here at night.

On cloudless nights when the moon is new, the sky looks like blue velvet with a field of diamonds scattered as far as the eye can see. 

But tonight when I stepped out on the deck to get a feel for the weather, the 3/4 moon was as bright as a halogen lamp. The moon will be full on our anniversary early next week.

I hope you have a great Friday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Stop and take the picture

I've driven past this pasture daily. I've watched it move snail-steps from the color of sage in the fall, to a vibrant color that's hard to describe.

It's a treacherous stretch of road. People have died on the narrow road that runs along this fence. That's mainly because the curve is steep with tricky elevation. Even on dry roads when driving the speed limit, the centrifugal force of an automobile swaying through the curve is difficult for drivers to navigate. On wet roads, all bets are off.

The owner of this horse farm stopped replacing the fence a few years ago because it was knocked down each time it rained. The danger is why I haven't photographed this place before.

Today after my work at school, I parked nearby and walked down the edge of the road. I could not have planned a better time because the setting sun highlighted the flowering grass, and the clouds....well, how do you describe clouds like these? I'm glad I found the time to stop and take the picture.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tiresome Tuesday

I went out several times today to try and shoot a picture for the blog, but the intermittent rain seemed to be in rhythm with my breaks so I came away empty camera'd.

So tonight I sifted through some older pictures to come up with one that would work. We'll be heading to the beach soon to celebrate our anniversary.

There are years we only get to go one time, but this is the second time this year we'll be southward bound.

Today was a long day and tomorrow will be even longer as I'll be doing an Information Session at the college.

I've practiced the presentation until I'm sick of it. Tomorrow, I'm going to do my best to relax and breathe. No matter how many times I do these, I still find myself getting anxious.

Y'all have a great Wednesday.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Things your grandparents said to you ~ my column from Sunday's paper

A lot of who I am as a person came from the words and deeds of my parents and grandparents, who were as much a part of my young life as eating and breathing.

In most situations, I often do and say what I learned from them during those formative years. Whenever leaving the house, I pause at the door, think about where I’m going, what I’ll be doing and what I’ll need when I get there.

Pap, who was my grandpa on my daddy’s side of the family, did that. He was handy and good at many things. He built flat-bottom fishing boats under the wild black cherry tree in his front yard. Before leaving his shed, he’d pause and stand, scratching his whiskers as he contemplated his task. He’d fill his overall pockets with hammers, nails, screws, tape measures and other tools.

Most times he wouldn’t need everything he took, but he rarely had to walk back to the shed once he left. I asked him why he took all those tools with him and he said, “I’d rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” These are wise words, and I embraced them.

He also taught me a lesson about Mother Nature’s creatures. I’d gotten my first BB gun for Christmas, and I was blasting at everything that moved, flew or hopped. He saw me take aim at a robin and asked if I planned to eat it. When I told him no, I saw the disappointment in his eyes that hurt me worse than a whipping. From that day on, I never shot a creature that I didn’t plan to eat.

I asked my Facebook friends if they had favorite sayings from their grandparents. The topic struck a nerve, and I received many comments. Below is a sample of the things their grandparents told them.

Susan Hoffman said her Grams advised her to never date (or marry) a man that treats his mother poorly.

Trisha Gardner said her grandmother told her to NEVER pray for patience, “because God would teach you patience.”

“My grandmother taught me to choose to be happy and to make the best of any situation,” said Karen Norman, who lives in California. “She also taught me how to throw together a great little meal from whatever ingredients are on hand and how to make sweet pickles.”

Local plumber Haven Phillips remembers the advice from his grandpa Sharky Phillips, who was also a plumber: “The grass might be greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s probably because there is more crap on it.”

More great advice came from Asa Faith Randolph’s grandma who advised her, “Asa Faith, put your panties on!”

Dr. Tom Camp’s grandmother told him to “respect your fellow man.”

One of the most profound came from Rachel Davis, whose grandmother told her, “Before you take someone’s advice, you should see how much corn is in their crib.”

My grandparents, like many of yours, grew up in the rural South during a time when surviving left little time for formal schooling, but the things life taught them were valuable lessons they don’t teach in school.

I know I am a better person because of their wisdom.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

RIP Charlie

Our friend Charlie Watts died this weekend. I've talked about him before. He's had many close calls, but he always managed to cheat death and come back strong.

He was a radio announcer in the 1950s and he interviewed Elvis, along with his mother, Gladys and father Vernon Presley.

Later he landed the job on Congressman Tom Bevill's staff and in that position, ran in the elite circles of power in Washington D.C.

I met him when I was a staff photographer for the local newspaper in 1973. He was kind to me, but our friendship did not take root until about five years ago.

Since that time, we've spent hours visiting. He, his wife Yvonne, and their son Randall dined with us one summer evening. As we sat in the great room and chatted, the birds outside the front windows put on a show, with hummingbirds hovering as if posing for a snapshot.

Just after we sat down at the table to eat, I heart Charlie exclaim, Look!  When I followed his pointing finger, there were deer just beyond the fence in the garden playing tag.

The conversation paused while we watched the deer play for a long while. When they scampered off into the woods, Charlie said, "We're in Shangri-La."

We swore upon parting that we'd have them back over, but his health steadily declined, and unfortunately it never happened.

When I saw him last week, I knew he would not be here much longer.

Yvonne asked us to play a few songs at his funeral tomorrow. I know it will be hard, but Jilda and I were both humbled and honored to be asked.

Rest in peace my friend.

Charlie Watts, second from the left wearing the hat.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Festival season begins

We rolled into Kosciusko, Mississippi this morning just before 10 under soot-grey skies. Rain had swept through last night taking the bad weather along.

We've played at unsheltered festivals under a brutal sun, and this could have been one of those, but the clouds kept it at bay.

The sound was very good and we had a decent crowd. We didn't sell any CDs or books, but so it goes. We don't judge gig by commerce. I thought we sounded good, so I consider it a success.

After the gig, we drove north on the Natchez Trace toward Tupelo. The Natchez Trace is a historic stretch of road stretching from Nashville down to southern Mississippi.  It's a National Park, and the stretch of road is beautiful, except for the few miles where the violent tornados of April 27, 2011 stripped leaves and bark off the trees.

About mid-way between Kosciusko and Tupelo, there is a place called Frenches Camp. We pulled into a log cabin restaurant for lunch. They serve soup and sandwiches. I ordered potato soup and a
sandwich called the Big Willie. The Big Willie is a BLT with 10 pieces of bacon. Obviously I couldn't eat a sandwich with a hog on it by myself, so I had the cook quarter the bovine banquet so that Jilda and her sister Pat's arteries could help carry the load. Everything was scrumptious.

There was a faster, more direct route home, but experience has taught me that Interstates are like smartphones. They're really convenient, but if you don't leave them behind now and then, you tend to miss a great deal.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This time of year

Yesterday when I walked to the barn, I noticed the cottonwood trees were beginning to bloom. They, along with the persimmon trees, are the last to join the spring fashion show but when the cottonwood begins it does it right.  A swarm of sticky purple blooms that have a fragrance like grape bubblegum.

It’s warm enough now to write on the screen porch. Sometimes when I get stuck, one look at the chimes hula swaying and singing in the breeze gets me my creativity flowing.

Another benefit of beautiful weather is that people who’ve been cooped up all winter will take any opportunity to be outside. For example, today while working at Bevill State, I heard a commotion out in the courtyard. Stepping out to investigate, I saw a courtyard full of teachers and students. A moment later I realized it was the Bevill State Players doing the Macbeth. I stood for a long time in the noonday sun watching the actors perform for the lunchtime crowd. I was blown away by the level of commitment and talent these young folks displayed. I thought to myself, what a gift, to have the opportunity to lunch, enjoy the warm sun, and some culture.

This week kicks of the festival season, which is good news for singer/songwriters like Jilda and me. We’re playing every weekend in May.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A little piece of land

We bought a little piece of land that adjoins our property down by the garden. I think it will be a great place to plant blueberries, apple and peach trees. It gets more sun than most of our space, so plants will enjoy that.  The lady has kept it well maintained, and it looks like a lawn.

Of course, this means that I'll have to spend more time cutting grass, but that's OK with me. Some people get creative bursts when they're in the shower or other places, but my mind wanders when I cut grass.  It's not a chore.

We signed papers this afternoon and this evening I walked around getting a feel for the lay of the land. It was blissful.

On another note, I spoke during lunch for the Walker County Genealogy Society. The original speaker had a conflict and couldn't make it, so they asked me to fill in. I talked about the story I did a while back about the Piano Memorial at the college.

It's a fascinating story that almost didn't get written, but the cards fell into place and it turned out well. It's the one the American Legion Online Magazine posted late last year.

Pansies on the porch

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Trouble with the muse

My muse was on holiday today as the deadline for this week's column zipped toward me at the speed of failure. I started, stopped, cussed, started, stopped, cussed, and so on.

I'm frequently approached by writers who aspire to write columns for a publication, asking what it's like. I tell them I love the work, but the deadlines are like weekly cutoff notices from the power company. Mr. Watson, we hate to inform you, but unless you pay us a zillion dollars worth of your blood sweat and tears by 5 p.m. on Wednesday we'll not only turn off your power, and rip out your meter but we'll also send Guido to your house to grind your brain up and sell if for Vienna sausage. Guido will also kick your dog just for good measure.

Sooooooo, after I'd tapped the letters off my keyboard, I rounded up Jilda and the dog to go for a long walk.  A gentle breeze out of the west made the oak and hickory leaves do a little hula dance, and the sun warmed my face. It felt good to be alive, and I wondered why I'd been so stressed....I had plenty of time before my deadline.

Once back in the house, I grabbed the laptop and headed to the screen porch. After watching the silhouette of a moth inch up the screen, an idea came to me as suddenly as a sneeze. Within 30 minutes, I'd printed the column for Jilda to proof.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blue sky

If I were to tell you that today the sky was blue, you could close your eyes and conjure up a sky blue thought, but it was bluer than that.

Sitting at my computer tapping keys, I tried to think of a metaphor that wasn't moldy, or a simile that wasn't weary but none came to mind.

Sometimes I tweak pictures, but this one was a straight selfie taken with my iPhone when I stepped outside this morning to sip green tea and get a firsthand weather report. 

I sat at the picnic table for a long time with closed eyes letting the day wash over me like a warm shower after a tiresome day.....and it felt good to be alive.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mama loved baseball ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Baseball season got underway earlier this month, and the Atlanta Braves are on fire. I have high hopes for the good guys.

My mom loved the Braves and spent every waking hour watching them on TV. She hated West Coast games because they started after her self-imposed 8:30 bedtime, but otherwise if they were on TV, she was watching.
Anyone who chose to visit her during game time might as well pull up a seat, munch some popcorn and watch the TV that was louder than rap music blaring from a teenager’s jumbo car stereo speakers.
I never called or visited while the Braves were on unless I had my game face on. Whenever I called after game time to check on her, I’d ask how the Braves did. “Aw, I don’t want to talk about it,” meant they’d lost, so I quickly changed the subject.
But her love of baseball went back much further, to when I was a kid playing little league. She never missed one of my games. Her cheers were the loudest when we won and when we lost, her face was the longest.
Once when we played in Hull in a Saturday afternoon game, an opposing pitcher hit me with a late-hooking curveball. While grimacing from the shooting pain, I noticed her out of the corner of my eye. She was about to stripe the legs of every opposing player with a keen hickory. She took baseball and the health of her son seriously.
I struggled with math in school but when I reflect back, I realize I understood a great deal more about geometry, trigonometry, angle, trajectory, telemetry and velocity than my school test scores indicated.
On the occasions when the coach put me in the infield at shortstop, I demonstrated an amazing grasp of those concepts in real time. In less than a millisecond after the crack of a white ash bat, my eye and brain calculated all the factors to make an instantaneous decision on where to place my glove to catch a ball traveling at what seemed like the speed light.
I especially loved early spring when the trees were greening, and the sun felt warm on the back of my freshly starched uniform.
The things etched into my mind are the chalk lines and red-clay infields that were as dry as snuff. The fat white bases at the corners looked like unbaked biscuits. I can still remember the smell of my new cowhide glove with lanolin oil rubbed into the palm to keep it soft as a cotton diaper.
By the end of the season, my arms and neck would be tan as teakwood.
Someone once said that baseball is 20 minutes of action packed into three hours. I thought that was funny, but there’s a lot of truth to it.
When I played I remember spending a lot of time standing around scratching and spitting. It’s a good thing cell phones with video cameras hadn’t been invented then because there would probably be some unfortunate footage of me floating around on YouTube.
The Braves are on TV tonight, so in honor of my mom, I plan to pop some popcorn, eat a hotdog and watch some baseball.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A day for splashing

We've had almost seven inches of rain this past week and the lower part of our garden is now a shallow pond.

Today when the clouds moved off to the east leaving an expanse of blue skies and warm sunshine, the little pond warmed up nicely.

My great nephew Jordan saw the pond earlier when he came over to walk with us, but it was still overcast and too cool to wade. As the day warmed, he came over to check out the "swimming pool."

He started off running through it with his galoshes, but it quickly turned into a splashing event as he tried to soak Jilda, his mom and me.

I snapped a few other pictures of him before he reluctantly headed home for a bath.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Some Days

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. Today was more like a diamond. We had a yard full of family and friends.

My nephew Haven and Niece Jayna showed up a few hours before the crowd began to arrive to prepare the cookers, and fry the fries and hushpuppies.

Then at 4 pm everyone else began to arrive bringing in cakes, brownies, and other goodies. At one point we needed traffic control in our small community.

We had over 30 people  in our house and backyard. At one point I had to walk I had to walk next door and when I headed back, I could hear music, the sound of laughter. I took a lot of pictures, but I still didn't get everyone.

Today was a gift.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Good luck

Have you ever dreamed you were awake but when you woke up, you were asleep? Neither have I but it's an interesting question.

Sometimes the combination of lenses and films on the Hipstamatic app on my phone takes some pictures that are hard to duplicate in any other way. How does it do that? Again, an interesting question and I'm sure there are tech geeks somewhere that would snicker and say, "Simple Dude, you just invert  the algorithm, negate the alpha streams and then saturate the flux capacitor with vector-based noise."

So where am I going with this post? You guessed it. That's an interesting question and if any of you have the slightest clue please private message me with the gamma channel via the onboard carbon induction tube.

This update will automatically self-destruct when you finish reading it.

Good luck and godspeed.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Folk Art

I love yard art. You see some incredible things in people's yards. Last year when we traveled to South Alabama, we dropped off Interstate 59/20 below Tuscaloosa and traveled southward toward Eutaw and Demopolis. The Black Warrior River is deep and wide there. It's mostly farms and fields with little in between. Every now and then we passed old plantations style homes with white columns as big around as redwoods.

On one stretch of highway, we saw fields of yard art constructed of wood and scraps of metal. Some of it was art puns, but some it was stunning.

For years, people traveled through the south bearing witness to roadside folk art. Some thought it was only interesting junk, but fortunately others realized its significance.  Thornton Dial and Mose Tolliver, as well as other artists, had pieces shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

I'm not suggesting that our bottle tree is of that caliber, but I do know that in spring and summer when the sun sits low in the west, the bottle tree in our back yard that Jilda made is beautiful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day

I'd dreaded today for weeks. Tax prep took longer than normal and I was a few weeks later getting the information to my accountant. Last year we had to pay a chunk to Uncle Sam. 

We had a number of unexpected expenses so far this year and I feared the taxman would heap it on. (If you want to read a fun take on the taxman, visit my blog buddy Fran's blog here.)

Our accountant called a number of times to clarify information and to make sure he had the numbers right. He sounded pensive.  I should have realized it was April 14, and very few accountants are light-hearted on April 14, but I took his tone as a sign that I'd have to knock off a liquor store today in order to pay my IRS tab.

His secretary called early this morning, and my stomach clenched as if it were preparing for a gut punch.  "You can pick up your returns around 10," she said cheerfully. Guardedly, I asked, "What's the damage?"  I breathed a sigh of relief when she told me we'd be getting a refund this year.

It felt as if a weight had been lifted. A while later Jilda and I took a long walk. The first lap when we walked up the road, I saw the street view of our front yard. A gasp escaped through Jildas lips when we walked by the azaleas. They barely bloomed last year, but this year, they are showing out. I quickly snapped a picture.

The rest of the day was remarkable. I hope the tax man was kind to you this year.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wagon Wheel

My phone is full. I don't have that many songs, or books so they're not what's taking up space. When I looked for the culprit I discovered that I have almost eight gigabytes of photographs.

It took a few minutes for that to sink in. Eight billion bytes of photographic data stored on my little phone.

When I began flipping through the photographs, I came across this picture I shot in November of 2013 at the Johnson City Folk Festival. 

It's a wagon wheel. It started out as a photo gag. Any of you that has ever heard the iconic song Wagon Wheel that was written by Bob Dylan and later updated and recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show would know what I'm talking about.  

In the song Wagon Wheel, it mentions Johnson City, Tennessee which is where I shot this picture of a wagon wheel. I imagined all my songwriting buddies would say, "Ah,  you're so clever." Well, that didn't happen. In fact, no one made the connection.

So I have this visual joke that never got off the ground that's been hanging around on my phone for almost two years.

I've made a mental note to make sure I have the pictures backed up and then go on a deleting spree to clean up some space on the phone.

I know you must be thinking, Ol' Rick is down to seeds and stems tonight to write about space on his phone......and you'd be right.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have a better idea.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Feels like heaven ~ my column from Sunday's paper

NOTE: The column grew from an entry I made last week.

I first saw the property where we now live in the spring of 1974. I worked for The Community News at the time, and Jilda worked for Keynote Fashions selling dresses.

We lived in a trailer parked on a rented lot where Sumiton Elementary School now sits. Even with both our salaries, we probably qualified for food stamps, but our financial situation didn’t stop us from dreaming about a place of our own.

She bought me a copy of The Whole Earth Catalog for Christmas that first year and I spent hours reading about people who were going “back to the land.” Reading about the tools and information in the catalog became an addiction.

In my work at the paper, I heard that a woman in Empire wanted to sell an old farm along with some property.

One Wednesday, I got off work early and headed into the country to have a look.

The day was warm and when I stepped from my old Plymouth Valiant, I got a whiff of wild honeysuckle on the wind. Parking close to the old mailbox, I ambled down the road toward the old home place and barn.

The hollow was painted with dogwood, wild hydrangeas, and redbud trees. The sound of water gurgling from a spring somewhere in the shadows was almost hypnotic. Overhead a wood hen knocked on dead pine looking for beetles.

The oak, hickory, and poplar trees with low-hanging limbs transformed the red-rock drive into a lush green tunnel that seemed cooler than the air around the car.

Time stood still as I walked down that path absorbing every detail. I knew that moment that I wanted to spend my life in this place. I had no idea how, or when, but those things didn’t matter. I just knew.

Jilda’s eyes bloomed with amazement when I took her back later to see the place. When we took her folks up there her dad fell in love too. We didn’t have the money, but he did. We hoped he would loan us enough to buy the land, but instead he bought the property. In hindsight, I realized he wanted to make sure Jilda and I stayed married.

The old place had been a rental for years and the folks who rented it treated the land badly. There were junk dealers who lived there at one point, and when they moved away, they left pieces of old cars scattered.

After Jilda and I had been married 10 years, her parents deeded the land to us. They’d also bought the adjoining property, which they gave to Jilda’s brother.

Through the years, we made many improvements to the old barn and the foundation of the house. We planted fruit trees, shrubs, vines and flowers. I lost count of the recycling trips we made, hauling off rusty car parts and other junk left by the tenants.

But there were a few things I left intentionally. Leaning against a hickory tree down at the barn is a moss-covered window from a car with an old headlight nearby. I left it there to remind me how far we’ve come. My blog-friend Jack Darnell called the artifacts memory markers. I thought that was a perfect name.

I know this old farm isn’t the promise land, but in early spring when the dogwoods and wild honeysuckles bloom, it sure feels like Heaven to me.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Slow news day

This week will be a rainy one here so we got out early and walked just after breakfast. The sun spent much of the day hiding behind thick clouds. 

Jilda bundled up for our walk, but I walked in short sleeves and short pants. The dogs prefer cooler weather because both have thick coats.

Down at the bottom of the hill, we turned to start our journey back up when I saw two bright yellow daisies in a field of green. The contrast made an interesting shot.

Later this summer when the sun turns mean, this field will be as brown as autumn sage, but it's beautiful now.

I hope your week is a special one.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fun with family and friends

We planned a birthday dinner this evening for our friend Fred. Our mutual friends, Jon and Diane came over to join us.

As everyone gathered, our nieces and great nephews crashed the celebration. Jordan had gotten wind that spaghetti was on the menu so wild rabid dogs could not have kept him at bay.

Jilda and I'd spent much of the day whipping the house and grounds into shape. The backyard looked like a golf green...with chickens.  

On days when we're at home, I leave the door to the pen open to let them roam around the yard. They are fun to watch scratching, pecking and chasing bugs.

The kids love watching them too. When our company arrived, we were all out back, so they joined us to enjoy the last afternoon sun and sky.

The kids tossed the tennis ball for Caillou to fetch. Jordan's dog Lady adds another dimension to the fetch game. She doesn't like to fetch that much, but she loves to wrestle for the tennis ball once Caillou has fetched it.

The kids stopped for a moment to post for a photo op, but shooting a picture of them is as difficult as herding the chickens.  I shot about 30 pictures to get a couple good ones.
When the food was done, we sat with our company and had a great time.. 

I hope your Saturday was enjoyable too.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Happy Siblings Day

Today is siblings day. I didn't realize it until I checked Facebook to see if there were any birthdays today.

A few minutes on my timeline and I began to smile. All the pictures of my family and friends posting pictures of their brothers and sisters.

My family was like two families. I had a brother that was seven years older, and a sister that is six years older. I was the baby for 10 years before my younger sister came along and then four years later, a baby brother.

While our lives took different paths as we grew into adulthood, we never had cross words with each other. We gave each other space when needed but we were only a phone call away.

I lost both of my brothers young. Neil died at 50 and my baby brother Darrin died at 34.  I think of them often.

Below is a portrait made when I was a senior in high school.

Happy siblings day.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The real world

Shields UP! Captain, there are aliens to the starboard! Should I engage????????

This was how the conversation started this afternoon when I picked up my great nephew Jordan. He's six and LOVES Star Wars, and Minecraft. His imagination is on warp drive whenever he's around me.

The instant we were out of the parking lot, I went into character. Alien cows at 90 degrees to port. "Missiles fired, they have been neutralized."

Should I engage hyper drive????

It went on like this until we were home.  When he looked out the window of my truck and said, "The chickens are out."

I breathed a sigh of relief to be back in the real world.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Fun Wednesday

Jilda and I had a good day off today. When I went back to work part-time, it changed my writing routine which caused Wednesdays to be more stressful. But today was different.

The Remnants posts from a few days ago seemed to resonate so I used it as the seed for my column Sunday. I did a rewrite and was finished in less than an hour. That's one of the benefits of blogging. It gives me a place to try out new ideas, and brainstorm. I know when one resonates here, it's worth sharing with my larger readership.

So today, instead of fretting about developing an idea for my column and spending a huge chunk of the day writing and editing, I knocked it out before I finished my first cup of coffee.

We jumped on the morning chores and decided to go into Birmingham, which is about 35 miles away to pick up our contact lenses.

On the way out of the house, Jilda stopped to deadhead the Jasmine vines on the arbor. I decided to snap a quick photo.

It's hard to believe that in a few weeks, we will have been married 41 years. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that.

I hope your Wednesday was as fun as ours.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Parting shot

I stepped from my desk at work today to stretch my legs and get an analog weather report. Out on the front steps overlooking the college courtyard, I had an unobstructed view of the sky.

Dark clouds out of the south had swept through earlier peppering the cobblestone with rain, but the shower was a short one, and soon dappled sunlight glided across the bricks.

I stood out there long enough to eat an apple and think about life and what not.

On the grass, I could see yellow patches of pollen that had washed from the metal roof.  Thankfully it wasn't blowing in the wind. A few days ago, almost everyone I met was sneezing because of the powdery stuff.

I had a meeting this evening, but I headed home before eight. The sun was history, but the light was lingering in the west. When I passed a pond the view was good. Fortunately, no one was tailgating, so I slowed to a stop and snapped a couple pictures. It was almost too dark for the iPhone, but I did get a couple images.

Tomorrow, Jilda and I are off so we have a day to ourselves. Not sure what she is planning tomorrow, hopefully, it won't involve a lot of heavy lifting.

I hope you all have a great Wednesday.


Monday, April 06, 2015

Good neighbors

There’s nothing better than having good neighbors. We have neighbors we’ve known for over 30 years, some we’ve known a few months, and others we do not know at all.

I’ve been blessed with good neighbors all my life, but I think part of the neighborly contract is being a good neighbor. It helps if you know the fences and the pathways. Every community has a line of demarcation between neighborly concern and being a busybody. I strive to stay on my side of the line.

Our small rural community is much like others that sprouted up across the south like dandelions in spring. There are beautiful houses near ours with manicured lawns, and further down the dead-end road, there are rental houses where the neighbors there change frequently.

I have neighbors that I can call at any time, day or night if I need help, and I stand ready if they call me.

When I was a child growing up in Sloss, I knew all of our neighbors, their siblings, their kids and most of their kinfolks who drove down from up north for a visit each summer. I usually knew what they were having for supper. During summer, no one had air conditioning so the windows were always opened.

Around 4:30 each afternoon, you could smell the aroma of cornbread baking, black-eyed peas cooking on the stove and the clanking of a metal spoon as it stirred sugar in a gallon Mason jar of warm tea. The menu changed each day, but with closed eyes and nose to the breeze, you usually knew what would be on the table later that evening.

I knew what kind of hard candy and other goodies the coffee man brought the neighbors each week. That’s because they often shared it with me and the other kids in the neighborhood.

The coffee man was a peddler of sorts that brought tasty candy and other things busy housewives needed from day to day. Although in hindsight, I have no idea why we called him the coffee man because I’m not certain he sold coffee.The neighbors I had growing up played a role in the person I became. Their concern helped protect me, and their advice helped me make better decisions through the years.

I got the idea for this column after a call from our closest neighbor, who happens to be my brother-in-law of 40 years.

He called a few minutes ago and needed my help. He’d climbed onto the roof to put sealant around his chimney but as he stepped onto the roof, the ladder shifted a little. He was concerned about climbing down without someone holding the ladder steady.

I hustled over there and he was safely on the ground within a few minutes. I was glad to help because he does so much for us. I never have to worry about my dogs or chickens when we travel. He’s an ideal neighbor.

Happy Easter.

Wild Honeysuckle ~ kin to the azalea

Sunday, April 05, 2015


I first saw the property we now live on, in early May 1974. I worked at a weekly newspaper and lived in the trailer. The wages I earned then along with what Jilda earned as a clerk in the dress shop put us just over the poverty level, but we dreamed of a place of our own.

I'd heard about a woman in Empire that wanted to sell an old farm along with a small amount of property.

The day was warm and when I stepped out of my old Plymouth Valiant, I got a whiff of wild honeysuckle. I parked up close to the mailbox and set out down the road toward the old home place and barn.

The hollow was painted with dogwood, wild hydrangeas, and redbud trees. I could hear water gurgling as it flowed over rocks. The oak, hickory, and poplar trees with low-hanging limbs transformed the red-rock drive into a lush green tunnel that seemed cooler than the air outside.

Time seemed to stand still as I walked down that path, absorbing every detail. I knew that moment that I wanted to spend my life in this place. I had no idea how, or when, but those things seemed irrelevant. I just knew.

As it turns out, Jilda loved the place as much as I did. So did her dad. We didn't have the money, but he did. I'd hoped he would lend us the money, but that didn't happen.....for several years.

The old place had been a rental for years and the folks who rented it treated the land badly. They were junk dealers and at one point, there were pieces of old cars everywhere.

Most of the big pieces had been hauled away before my father-in-law took ownership, but there were still hoods, doors, hubcaps and smaller pieces scattered around the property.

After Jilda and I had been married many years, her parents deeded the land to Jilda and me. He'd also bought the adjoining property and he gave that to Jilda's brother.

Through the years, we made many improvements, planting trees, shrubs, and flowers. We made improvements to the old house and barn. We also hauled off tons of junk left by the tenants.

But there were a few things I left intentionally. Leaning against a hickory tree is a side window from a car with an old headlight nearby. I left it there to remind me how far we've come.

Jilda's brother, two of his kids, his grandkids, and our friend Fred lunched with us today. Jilda outdid herself again. Afterward, we hid eggs for the grandkids. It was a fun day. I hope yours was as blessed.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

A day to remember

Today was picturesque. The morning breeze was nippy, but once Ol' Sol cleared the eastern horizon, and the shadows shortened, the weather was stunning.

We were fortunate last night as the bad weather system split apart and straddled us. There were warnings to the north and to the south, but we didn't get a drop of rain.

Today, I worked around outside the house, and Jilda worked inside. We did things we'd be putting off for months. Maybe it was the weather that gave us energy, but our spirits soared.

At the end of the day, several of the things on our todo list were checked off. Jilda's brother came over and brought one of his grandsons to play in our backyard.

While he threw a ball and the dogs fetched, we all sat there and chatted. Mostly we sat there enjoying the moment...being alive.

After they left, I started inside and realized I hadn't dumped the compost bucket in a while so I decided to do that chore too.

The bin is under the pear tree, and I tapped the bucket empty which sounded like a kettle drum. Afterward, I stood there a long time absorbing the moment.

Through the pear blossoms, I could see the blooming blueberries and one end of the garden. I snapped a photo to document the moment, but the picture doesn't do it justice.

I hope you all have a blessed Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Blooming Scale

If you were to construct a blooming scale of the trees here, golden bells and buttercups would be at one end of the graph and persimmon would be at the other end along with the
Cottonwood growing out of the barn foundation
cottonwood. The rest of the trees and flowers fall somewhere in between.

Almost everything in our yard has been in bloom for over a week and the cottonwood looks as dead as a stump.

Late in April, the cottonwood leaves will begin to pop out  tentatively and afterward, sticky purple blossoms pop out filling the air with an aroma that's sweet as grape Kool-Aid.

The weather today was remarkable, with blue skies and white clouds whisking across the sky like a feather duster.

But time has taught me that it was a little too warm for this time of year.

Tonight a cold front is dipping down causing tornado warnings to the north of us. I'm hoping the wind stays aloft.

Did I mention that the dogwoods are also blooming now? This one is the massive tree in our front yard.


Thursday, April 02, 2015


My creative tank is pointing to "E" tonight. I'm off tomorrow and I plan to meditate, do yoga, and take a long walk to see if the wild honeysuckle is blooming yet.

This picture is from my walk yesterday. It's a buckeye bush in full bloom. I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.
~ Anne Lamott

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The show continues

We started moving the citrus and tropical plants outside to the deck today. The forecast for the next few weeks is showing a warming trend with no frost in sight.

The plants haven't wintered well, so we decided today was a good day to give them some fresh air.

The pear tree began blooming earlier in the week, but this morning when the fog burned off and the sun rose above the trees, the remaining buds couldn't take the pressure.

On the last lap, I stopped by the back gate and snapped this picture of the pear blossom.

I spent several hours on the screen porch writing my column for Sunday's paper. It felt good being back in my "open air" office.   I'll be writing out there until August turns the air hotter than satan's burned biscuits.

I hope you all have a remarkable Thursday.

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