Sunday, May 31, 2015

I found the pony picutre

A while back I wrote a blog entry that evolved into a column about the pony picture from before I started to school. The one things that bothered me when I posted that entry was that I couldn't put my hands on the picture.  I tore the house upside down, looking in the photo box, through every folder on my computer, in drawers, file cabinets and under my bathroom sink (don't ask) but I couldn't find the photo.

Then today, I was looking for something else, and as I scanned through the drawer of the dresser in the living room, I picked up a framed picture of Jilda's grandparents, and the pony picture fell onto the floor. Apparently it had somehow attached to the back of that photograph.

I was so happy.  Below is the picture.  Click here to read the pony column.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Back among the living

I'm back among the living tonight. Feeling much better. We had a gig tonight and I'd contemplated in cancelling but that's something we've rarely done, and I'm glad we didn't.

We had friends that drove in from all over the state to be there for us. I was a humbling experience.

We're having Internet connectivity issues tonight, so I can't upload the photos from tonight, but I'll use one taken of us at Art in the Park earlier in the month.

Y'all have a great weekend.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A time to rest

Last fall we collected baskets of apples off our trees. In November with warm days and cool nights the apples celebrated. They got fatter and sweeter. I love picking the fruit from low-hanging limbs, shining the smudge off, and biting a chunk out of the sweet red ball of fruit. My beard would get sticky from the juice that squirted out as I crunched bites.

But that was last year. Today when the rain moved off to the north and the sun ventured our for a short stay, I walked down to the garden. I walked around the apple tree twice and only saw a few apples.

Jilda called her sister Nell who is a garden guru, and Nell said that it was not uncommon for a fruit tree to take a rest. Thinking back to years past, it occurred to me that it deserved a rest.

The strep knocked the wind out of me. I felt a little better today, but it may still be a while before I go dancing. So I spent the day resting. I didn't write, do any work other than practice for our upcoming gig, but that's not really work in my book.

I think a days rest is just what I needed because I'm feeling stronger.

May is winding down. I hope the month has been kind to. June is the halfway mark for this year.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Strep, you are no friend of mine

I haven't been ill in a very long time. I've had a few ailment, aches, pains, and routine procedures as befits someone of my maturity, but I haven't been ill.

Our great nephew Jordan spent a few days with us this week, and on the day before yesterday he was in rare form and in a great mood.

Shortly after his Nana picked around 3 PM, he told her he felt as if he had a popsicle stuck in his throat. He went to the After Hours clinic and tested positive for Strep. This was no good news.

I started monitoring how I felt and things seemed to be fine, until this morning around 1 AM. I experienced the same sensation as Jordan. I panicked a little at first because it felt as had swallowed razor blade, and even worse, it felt as if I were choking.

I fought back the panic and simply breathed. When I fetched the thermometer from the bathroom, my temp was 100.4.

So this morning, I was supposed to work, but I sent my boss a text and blew that off. I went to the early morning urgent care and after swabbing my throat, they told me I had Strep. Shocker.

The nurse came in with a needle as big as a kindergarten pencil and shot my rear-end up with and antibiotic. I've spent most of the day on the sofa.

I plan to hit the bed as soon as I punch the PUBLISH button.

Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Egg bandit apprehended

Our hens stopped laying a few weeks ago...or so I thought. Earlier this week as I went about my morning feeding chores, I noticed an egg in the nest and breathed a sigh of relief. "They must have been taking some time off," I thought to myself. They do that time and again.

But that evening when I went back to check on them, not only were there no additional eggs, but the one I'd seen earlier was gone. Hmmm. I knew at that moment that either a gopher was getting the eggs or another chicken snake. After inspecting the nest for tale-tale shells which would be left if a gopher were the culprit, there were none.

Yesterday I called my nephew Haven and asked to borrow his minnow baskets. That's a device that
lets you catch fishing minnows from a small creek. The minnows go into the basket to get the bread, and then can't find their way out. It works the same way with snakes.

I went back around lunch to fetch some tools from the shed and I almost stepped on a chicken snake by the door of the shed. I acted as if I hadn't seen him and stepped into the shed and got my gloves. I then went out and stepped to the back deck where I hang my walking stick. It has a fork on the very end which I knew would work perfectly for snake duty.

I eased back to the shed and with one swift motion, I trapped the snakes head with the forked stick. After picking that baby up, I called for Jilda to come outside and snap a photo.

Holding it up head-high, it's tail reached near the ground and as you can see it was still writhing. I'm 5' 10" so this baby was over six-feet long.

I called my buddy Fred who had told me he wanted the snake as a mouse slayer at his house, so I stuffed the snake into a big pretzel jar and relocated that baby to another zip code. Good riddance. This morning I had four eggs in the nest.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Most of the early bloomers are gone now leaving only yellow daisies and oakleaf hydrangeas to carry the load. 

The hydrangeas thrive along the shady road to our barn. Every few feet another plant with long limbs laden with what looks like bouquets of popcorn, if you can imagine that.

On Sunday, we gathered bundles and Jilda arranged them in antique vases on the dresser by the entryway and on the kitchen table.

They have a smell that would not be called aromatic, but still I like how their earthy pungent scent. 

The Oakleaf arrangements were nice, but I'll be glad when the Old Maids start blooming.

Monday, May 25, 2015


We didn't do anything special today. We spent time resting, reading and reflecting. Jilda's been fighting an infection this past week so we decided some R&R was in order.

This evening we went to her community yoga class at the community center. Out on the lawn is our local War Memorial. Even though we are a small rural county, a lot of our young men died wars. I knew most of the families of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen that died. Some of the soldiers I knew personally. 

Each time I visit the memorial, it seems as though times slows down. Even though there are major roads and a Walmart close by, it seems quieter standing there. 

This evening, the clouds had moved off to the north, giving a short respite from the rain. A gentle breeze out of the south rippled the flags. It was a good way to end this special day.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day

I used to think Memorial Day was a holiday recognizing the contributions of veterans, but I
later learned it is a special day that pays tribute to those who gave their lives in service to our country.

In the beginning, it was called Decoration Day. I read where people who lived near Civil War battlefields would scatter flowers across the land where both Union and Confederate troops had died.

The bloodiest battle of that war was at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where over the course of three days, there were an estimated 50,000 casualties. That’s close to the population here in Walker County.

Try for a moment to wrap your mind around that one number. In less than 72 hours, 50,000 men died or were gravely wounded. Communities across the North and South lost sons, fathers, and brothers. Hopes and dreams were dashed forever.

Not long after the end of the war, those who survived began the unofficial holiday, which came to be known as Decoration Day.

As you know, the bloodshed didn’t end with the Civil War. Our country has been engaged in conflict many times over the course of history. WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan all of which came with a hefty price tag that was paid with the blood of men and women who signed up to serve our country.

Decoration Day evolved into Memorial Day and in the 20th century grew to honor all men and women who died in service to our country. The federal holiday is observed on the last Monday of May.

It’s hard to find a family that has not been touched by war. There were pictures in my mother’s family album of her brother Marvin Lee Ferguson. He was a carefree kid seeing the world from the deck of the USS California, which was a Navy battleship.

He was in the Pacific in 1941 about to celebrate Christmas in Hawaii, but on December 7 of that year, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In less than two hours, 2500 people had died, one of which was Uncle Marvin Lee who died before WWII officially began. Now his picture is in family albums, and the local VFW hall is named in his honor.

Every Memorial Day I think of my Uncle Marvin Lee and I wonder what kind of man he would have become had he not died on that sunny Sunday in Hawaii.

These days, Memorial Day is recognized as the first holiday of summer and people spend the day eating barbecue, drinking sweet tea, and preparing for upcoming summer vacations.

Jilda and I plan to fire up the grill and blaze some ribs for a group of family and friends. And when we say the blessing, you can be sure we will remember those who picked up the tab.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Frogs, birds, and dust bunnies.

We have family and friends coming over tomorrow evening to eat BBQ to celebrate Memorial Day. Some of them have to work Monday, so Sunday seemed like the best day.

The house needed touching up, so we cleaned bathrooms and dusted the cobwebs off the ceiling fan. There were opossum sized dust bunnies under the couch. Our collie Caillou is a joy, but there is a price tag attached to ownership.

When we finished the initial "sweep" we headed to town to pick up a few items,  and we made a stop
at the produce stand.

I sweeten my coffee with honey, and this little stand has local honey, F-R-O-G Jam and produce fresh off the vines, plants, trees, and what not.

I mentioned F-R-O-G jam to a friend recently and the recoiled. It's not really made of frogs, I added, it's made of figs, raspberries, orange, and ginger. All I can say is ... it's tasty.

This afternoon as I sat on the couch making a todo list of chores I needed to complete before our company arrived, I heard a WHUMP against our front glass.

We live in a modified A Frame, and the front of our great-room has windows reaching from the floor to the apex of our roof which is 14 feet. Sometimes in spring and autumn when the angle of light changes, birds think they can fly inside our house and perch on our coat rack.

When I heard the impact, I stepped to the glass to look outside. I can tell by the sound if the bird killed instantly. The sound a bird makes when it collides with the glass is different depending on whether it hits breast first or beak first. When it's beak first, they die instantly and fall to the ground just outside the glass. When it hits breast first, it knocks the wind out of them and they usually sit dazed on the ground.

We always look for survivors because they are easy prey for dogs and cats.

The bird today was a breast first impact. He glanced off the glass and landed on a limb in the potted citrus tree we put out there a few weeks ago.

It was dazed and I stepped within inches to do a visual inspection to make sure it was OK. After about 20 minutes, it came to its senses and flew off.

I wish it could tell its friends to be mindful of the windoes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Saying goodbye

We went to a singer-songwriter event to hear some friends perform at Berkeley Bob's Coffee House. It was a bittersweet event because we gathered not only to listen to music, but to say goodbye to Bob's mother who passed away earlier in the week. She was in her 90s and had moved from California three years ago to live with Bob and his wife Geri.

Bob's mom came to almost every show at the coffee house until she fell ill a few weeks ago. She was a delightful person who loved music and she added to the ambiance of the place. She will be missed.

After the performance and before they turned the house lights on, I took a low-light selfie of Jilda and me.

After the show, we said our goodbyes and hit the Interstate heading south. We realized that traffic was heavy. Headlights on the highway looked like golden threads reaching into the distance. It's been a while since I've seen this much traffic on the stretch of Interstate that runs northward between our house and north Alabama.

It made more sense when we remembered that  Memorial Weekend and the holiday that kicks off summer.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Point of reference

Point of reference is an important concept. I've always been good with directions though Jilda would probably argue that point, but working as a service tech with the phone company, I often had to get directions, especially when the customer lived in a rural area.

Most of the roads were unmarked and GPS was still a technology that had not matured. Often they would tell me to go down by the road until you see an old pickup sitting up on blocks and just past there, take a left by the witness tree, then drive until you smell chicken houses and hang a right.

Strangely enough, those were pretty good directions if I knew where to start. So, I would keep asking questions until they mentioned a landmark I was familiar with, then the directions usually made sense. All it took was a point of reference.

The same holds true for a lot of situations. I actually say, "I don't have a point of reference," a lot. We have friends who have lost children tragically. There is no way I could tell them I know how you must feel because we don't have children. I know first hand what it's like losing someone close to me, but a child? I don't have a point of reference.

I thought about that concept when I took this picture a few weeks ago. I could have told you the sky was blue and had I simply shot a picture of the sky, it would be hard to gauge what I was talking about. But a few colors in the foreground, and Wah La. You have a point of reference.

I hope you all have fun over the coming long weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing troubles

There's an old saying when you're trying to go against the flow that goes like this: You might as well be pushing a chain.

Well the last few evenings, I've been pushing a chain. I wanted to write a Memorial Day column for this coming Sunday and it was due today, but everything seemed soulless and as thin as a liars promise. So I quit trying and started thinking about another topic.

I told myself to get a good night's sleep and fix it in the morning. That was sound advice except I kept waking up during the night. When I woke up a 3:50 a.m. I never went back to sleep.  I simply closed my eyes and breathed deeply trying to force all thought from my mind.

Then about 5 AM I rolled out of bed and headed to my office. When I fired p the Macbook, the opening paragraph flowed as if it had been there all along and was waiting until I was ready to write it down.

Within 30 minutes, I'd finished the column. I should have laid back down and slept for an hour or so, but instead I hit the brew button on the coffeemaker.

When I was younger, losing a little sleep would not have been noticed, but I yawned all day today. Even now, I keep looking at my watch and thinking, "Is it too early to turn in?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Picnic planning

Our niece Samantha is a planner. It wasn't by accident. We were babysitting with her when she was 10 and she saw both Jilda and me updating our planners as we drank our morning coffee.

She was enthralled by the todo list, the calendars, and plugging dates and times for future appointments in a book. She was so taken that when we ordered our refills, we ordered her a planner too.

She embraced the planning process. If you asked her at 12 what she was doing next week, she'd pull the planner from her backpack and flip to the calendar and tell you in detail what was on her schedule.

She's an early adopter, so as soon as iPads and smartphones came onto the scene, she embraced them. Now her life is on her phone.

Fast forward to the first week of April of this year. She called to see if we could be chaperones at the first-grade picnic. She knew then that she would not be able to be off work for the picnic and wanted someone to be there for Jordan. Both Jilda and I plugged it into our phones and planners.

Today was a workday for me, but at 8:45, I forwarded my calls and headed to the park. At nine sharp, a herd of kids walked across the road to the park.

For a few hours, we helped the teachers and other chaperones keep an eye on about a hundred rowdy first graders. It was a joyful day.

I tried not to hamper the fun by taking a lot of pictures, but I had to take a few. The first picture is of Jordan and two of his friends. The second picture is him with his teacher Mr. Key.

I think he was sad when the picnic was over because he understood that he wouldn't see most of his friends until the fall.

I hope your day was as joyful as mine.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fish tales ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My 7-year-old great nephew Jordan is a sponge … not a money sponge, although he accepts all donations toward the future purchase of a new game he wants, but he’s a knowledge, skills and experience sponge.

I picked him up from school this week, and he skipped out the door saying, “Guess what?”

“What?” I replied with enthusiasm, and the conversation began. He talked at length about volcanoes, lava, and molten rock.

When the conversation slumped, I asked if he wanted to stop by the forks of the river to see what was going on down there. “Sure.” And we were off.

The parking lot reaches close to the water’s edge and when we pulled in, we saw our old friend Leo Smith helping someone work on fishing gear. When he saw us, he bounded over to greet Jordan. Leo taught Jordan’s mom to fish when she was his age. After getting the fishing news update, we headed home.

Jordan and I had never talked about fishing, but when I asked if he would like to go sometime, excitement crept into his eyes.

When weather permits, he prefers to spend his time outside, so once I parked the truck and unloaded his backpack, we headed out to the deck.

While he flitted after butterflies, I stepped to the shed for something I’d put there 30 years ago. It was a rod and reel that my mom had given me after my dad died.

It took a while to remove the dust and cobwebs, but a clean work cloth and a touch of machine oil cleaned the old rig up nicely. Sorting through my ancient tackle box, I found a crappie lure. It had a lead head with tiny spooky eyes painted on it. Taking wire-cutters from my tool tray, I clipped the hook from the lure and tied it onto the fishing line.

Tying the lure on the line brought a memory rushing back from my childhood. It was of my dad showing me how to tie a lure on my line. For a moment, I smelled the Old Spice on his face and saw the stump of his middle finger that he’d lost in a work accident.

After attaching the lure, I stepped into the yard and called Jordan over. His face lit up when he saw the rod and reel.

The rod was designed for bigger hands, but he quickly adapted. The first few casts were wonky. One time he released the button too soon and the lure went straight into the air and dropped a foot from his head.

Placing an old aluminum dishpan about 20 feet away, I told him to cast toward that. Biting his lower lip in concentration, he quickly honed in on the target. Within a few minutes, he was pinging the pan with the lead weight.

When his mom came to fetch him after work, he demonstrated his new angling skills.

I told his mom to buy him a life jacket and we’d take his antique fishing gear for a test run. I’m sure the badgering for the life jacket began the instant they walked out the door.

Jet headed in the evening sky

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lost in space

We spent Friday and Saturday nights at Desoto State Park in northern Alabama. It's beautiful up there this time of year. The park has chalets with kitchens, and beds for about six people. The only drawback is there is no internet connectivity. 

The website says there is wireless in the lodge, but the signal must be carried by pigeons because it was very slow. It took forever to post our blogs from my iPhone on Friday night via spotty cellular service.

Then last night storms moved in and there was no cellular service. So for the first time in over two years, I missed posting an update. Actually, I wrote one and sent it, but it got lost in space.

We finished some new songs and laid the groundwork for several more. It's interesting watching the various members of our group approach the craft of writing a song.

Jilda and I've been co-writing for over 30 years, but some members of our group only write alone.  

Yesterday evening after a long day of writing, we threw steaks on the grill. The wife of one of the members had baked potatoes, and Jilda threw together a salad. The meal was delightful.

Jilda and I invested in a mattress, pillows and high thread-count sheets so we're a little spoiled when it comes to sleepwear so neither of us slept well. Even though it's only 7:15, I don't believe sleepytime is that far off tonight.

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

Flowers by the grill

Friday, May 15, 2015

Blue sky day

It's been another blue sky day here. I sat out on the lounge chair in the back yard while our nephew Jordan played. 
Clouds were gathering to the south and at times a little rain fell, but it left just as quickly as it came.
Some members of our songwriter group will be gathering to write songs this weekend. I'm excited.
Have a great Friday.

I shot this picture in Fairhope last week.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Old Photographs

Writing something tonight's been a struggle. I've been sitting here tapping keys for a while but that wasn't putting words on the page so I went to plan "B" which was to browse through old photographs and hopefully find something that sparked a thought.

That didn't help either, but I did come across a picture of my dad when he was about 20. He's standing (left) with my great uncle Elmer in what looks like a gangster suit. I have no idea where this was taken or what he was doing in a suit. 

I did notice his arm is in a sling. It looked like there were up to something or about to be. On a muse-friendly day, I would have made a story up...but that won't happen tonight. 

I hope you all have a great Friday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Be present

My blog buddy Birgit commented a few days ago that "I seem to have beautiful times every day." I smiled when I read her words. Like everyone else I face challenges, and life beats me up every now and then, but I strive to find time each day to be present. I think being present is the key. When you're present, life seems to slow down in a sense. Life moving at that pace allows you to observe, to smell, taste, hear and feel. The senses are incredible, and we often take them for granted until we lose them.

My blog buddy Jack no longer hears, and some of the comments he leaves me makes me realize how fortunate I am.

One thing that's helped me is being around my great nephew most days. Children are present. They're not worried about work, school, bills, or taxes. If a butterfly flits by, Jordan is watching, chasing, and wishing he could fly too.

He walked with us on Sunday and the wild honeysuckles were in full bloom. Jilda showed him how to suck hints of honey from their fragile petals. He was fascinated and gathered armfuls of honeysuckles to take home so that his nana and pawpaw could enjoy the honey too.

At the risk of being preachy...if there's one thing I'd recommend that each of you do, it would be to take a few moments to be present.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Slump City

Slump City. That's where I'm living now so for the next day or two direct all cards and letters to: 
Slump City, USA 

I used to beat myself up when I visited here for a day or two, but I now know that I shouldn't unpack my bags because the stay will be a short one. I'll hang around long enough to clean the gunk from between the keys on my keyboard, organize my pictures, music, computer wires, and what not.

The upside to these layovers is that my desk looks amazing. The downside is that most of what I write is drivel (though some call it twaddle or perhaps piffle.) I would call it tripe, but that brings to mind an unfortunate eating dare which involved me sampling what some southerners call a delicacy – tripe. For those unlearned in southern culinary leanings, tripe is made from the belly of a cow and tastes what I imagine rubbery sewage would taste like. It took weeks to scrape that taste out of my mouth...but I digress.

What I write is not very good except it serves as a type of life jacket that keeps my head bobbing on the surface just long enough for me to knock off a liquor store and buy a clue about where I'm going, and how to get there.

Until then, I think I'll dust behind my desk.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fun in Fairhope ~ my column from Sunday's paper

It’s been years since we’ve been to Mobile, but on Sunday evening as we drove toward the city on our way to Fairhope, I realized that it has grown and is more beautiful than I remembered.

We crossed under the giant steel arches of the bridge over the Mobile River just after sunset. The water off to the west looked like an expensive rose-colored carpet.

Just after the bridge, we took Interstate 165 eastward toward Prichard and then connected with I-10 toward the exit to Fairhope.

The moon, which was one day away from being full, had just vaulted over the horizon in the east, and its reflection on the ink-black water of Mobile Bay looked like a highway paved with diamonds. I wanted to pull to the edge of Interstate 10 and snap a picture, but Jilda has major heartburn issues…especially when I try to do something stupid, so I took a mental picture and drove on.

This week was our 41st wedding anniversary, and we chose to celebrate it in Fairhope because we spent a lot of time there in the early years of our marriage.

We decided to stay at the Hampton Inn in Fairhope. It’s an older hotel nestled in the community across the street from the Fairhope Museum of Natural History. The hotel is like the ones on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Our room had a balcony with blooming amber and yellow pansies in the window box.

The front of the Hampton was lined with angled poles with flags that danced and popped in the breeze. Early the next morning, we drank coffee on the balcony and watched Fairhope come alive.

Later, we arranged to meet a friend we hadn’t seen in 30 years. He suggested we have lunch at the Windmill Market, which was within walking distance of our hotel. It felt homey, and you could tell the locals lunched there.

It had a selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches. We chose a table outside. The sun was warm, but a gentle breeze flapped the canvas awning making the air perfect for conversation.

On the way back to the hotel, we stepped into the Fairhope Fly Shop. At the back near the tying supplies, the owner Spencer Johnson sat on a stool. He looked like the Buddha in suspendered shorts with a lime green pastel shirt.

We talked about fishing in the Fairhope area, and then he asked Jilda if she went fly-fishing with me. When she said no, he looked surprised. He promptly gave her a casting lesson right there in the fly shop. It was a delightful afternoon.

Being that far south and not going to the beach would be sinful, so we drove to Gulf Shores and spent some time at the ocean. Before leaving, we ran over to the Florida line and bought a lottery ticket.

When it came time to head home, we both felt a tinge of sadness, but as we crossed over I-10 heading north toward I-65, Jilda smiled and said, “If we hit the Powerball, we’re buying a cottage in Fairhope.” That sounded like a plan to me.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

 I rarely spend much time on Facebook, but today was an exception. People started yesterday posting pictures of their moms for Mother's Day.

I took a lot of pictures of my mom, but the one below was taken not long after she married my dad. Her smile was a little wonky in most of the pictures taken of her, but she looked happy in this photograph. That's how I like to remember her.

Her health waned the last few years of her life, but she never lost her twisted sense of humor. That gene passed intact from her to me and I'm thankful for that.

A lot who I became was because of my mother. She taught me so many things. She had a soft spot in her heart for underdogs and children. She instilled the habit of hard work and I learned, from her example, to do the best job I could do with what I had at hand.  I strive to do that though I often fall short.

If I could tell the Facebook friends one thing it would be this: Don't miss an opportunity to tell your mom you love her, and how much she means to you.

Happy Mother's Day

Saturday, May 09, 2015


Tomorrow is decoration where Jilda's folks are buried. We headed out this afternoon by today to clean the markers and put new flowers on their graves.

The sun was getting lower in the sky, but when we drove past the blinking bank sign at 4 p.m. it read 94 degrees.

The cemetery is not that old and the dogwood trees scattered throughout the grounds are still small, but we managed to get most of the car in one of the few shades available.

Jilda did two arrangements earlier in the day, but she always makes last-minute adjustments once they're in the vases on the stones.

The cemetery was alive with people bringing flowers. Most of them were our age or older. As Jilda fussed over the flowers, I thought about decoration day and I wondered how long the tradition would last once we're gone. You rarely see younger folks tending the graves of their ancestors.

Once I'm gone, I doubt I'll fret over weeds and faded flowers on my plot, but who knows.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I hope all the mothers reading this update have a blessed day.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Fishing fever

My niece called me last night to ask what she called, "A huge favor." As always, I said sure before she ever told me what she needed.

She asked if I could pick up the walker today. That's code, for picking up her son, my great nephew Jordan, from school. The term walker comes from the fact that he doesn't ride the bus, but someone picks him up at the front door each day.

As always, he's in rare form when he walked out the door. Today, Jilda went with me to pick him up, but she waited in the car while I fetched the walker. 

When we started home, I asked them if they wanted to swing by the forks of the river. YES, both Jilda and Jordan sang.  

When we eased down to the water's edge, there were several cars parked there. My old friend Leo was there helping a guy work on his rod and reel. When he saw us, he bounded up to the car to greet us. He moves well for someone over 80. 

On the way home, Jordan said he'd like to go fishing. This is the first time he's ever expressed an interest in fishing.

When we got home, I stepped down to the shed and rumbled around the back where I found an old rod and reel that my dad gave me before he died in 1986. I cleaned them up and put a tiny bit of gear oil in the mechanism.

When I called Jordan outside to give it a test drive, he beamed.  After a few minutes instruction, he was casting halfway across the yard. This coming payday, his mom is buying him a lifejacket so we can test the water. 

After dinner, Jordan and his mom went home and I sat outside to watch the remainder of the day. 

All in all, it was another spectacular day in Empireville.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Poop eggs

After work, I stepped outside to watch the ending of the day. The chickens had aerated the flowerbeds and checked under all the pine straw for worms. Stepping over to the coop to do a bed check, they were all present and accounted for. 

They fussed as I eased in to check the nests. All four hens laid today. As I plucked the eggs from the nest, I realized they needed washing before taking them inside. 

Usually when people buy eggs at the supermarket, they are moon white and uniform in size. Our eggs, on the other hand, are not pretty to look at. Some of them are brown, some are the color of bone, some have tiny speckles, some have poop and feathers on them.  

When I was a kid, my great grandmother kept chickens too. She walked with a homemade cane that doubled as a chicken snake-slayer. One day I helped her feed the chickens and gather eggs. I shied away from the poop eggs. 

She studied my reaction, before plucking the egg from the nest. She wiped it on her work apron before placing it in the basket. She was very old at the time and her head wobbled slightly as she talked. She used the only curse word I ever heard her say.  "From time to time, you'll likely get a little shit on your hands no matter what kind of work you do. " 

I've always remembered those words and I believe they are as true today as they were 50 years ago.
Zeus the god of sky and thunder in the barnyard

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Rest in peace Charlie ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I were on stage in Kosciusko, Miss., performing at the Natchez Trace Festival this past weekend when I felt the phone buzz in my pocket.

The day was warm, but the sun lay hidden behind a thin layer of cloud the color of wood smoke. The humid air was thick with the aroma of bar-b-que, funnel cake, roasted peanuts and cotton candy, which made my mouth water.

While we played, people in the audience munched on corn dogs and other mystery meat on a stick. I love just about anything on a stick.

After the set, we packed up our guitars and headed out. At one intersection, we had a choice of turning right and heading back to the Interstate, or turning left to drive up the two-lane Natchez Trace to Tupelo, before getting on the interstate there. We chose the road less traveled.

A few miles down the road, I remembered the call I’d received earlier and fished the phone from my pocket. Glancing at the display, I saw it was from Charlie Watts. My stomach clenched.

When we last saw Charlie, he was not doing well, and I knew we’d get “the call” sooner than later. There was a voicemail, and sadness crept into my heart before I ever listened to the message.

It was his wife, Yvonne. Her voice not much more than a whisper, “Charlie died this morning.” My heart broke. I will never travel that stretch of highway again without thinking of my friend.

I met him when I was a staff photographer for The Community News in 1973. He was on Congressman Tom Bevill’s staff. Congressman Bevill spoke at a local event and I was dispatched to take pictures.

I remember that Charlie’s voice had the power and timbre of a tenor. His accent was deep, but he had an honesty that made me like him immediately.

Our friend Edie Hand reintroduced Jilda and me to Charlie about five years ago when she was promoting the book she co-wrote about Elvis Presley.

Charlie was a radio announcer in the 1950s and he interviewed Elvis, along with his mother Gladys and father Vernon Presley. Edie wanted to use the taped interviews as a part of her book promotion.

Charlie captivated me with the stories he told. Each line was filled with details that painted a picture and put you there with him.

Since that time, we’ve spent hours visiting with Charlie and Yvonne. We were guests a number of times on their weekly show on cable television. He always requested we play our song, “Do What You Love.”

Charlie, Yvonne, and their son, Randall, dined with us one summer evening a while back. As we sat in the great room and chatted, the birds outside the front windows put on a show. The hummingbirds hovered just outside the glass as if posing for a snapshot.

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

The conversation paused while we watched the deer play. 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.

Yvonne asked us to play “Do What You Love” at his funeral. It was hard, but Jilda and I were both humbled and honored to play Charlie’s favorite song one last time.

Rest in peace, Charlie.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Fountains, Flags, and Blue Sky

We arrived home today after a few days in Fairhope. We're skittish about writing about our travels while we travel, so we wait until we get home.

Fairhope, Alabama was beautiful. The weather was perfect. We spent a lot of time walking around the village.

The people there were delightful. Yesterday, when our legs grew tired, we drove down to the public pier and sat in the shade near the bay. A line of pelicans glided through the air against the breeze.

On the way back to the car, I snapped a picture of the spewing fountain and the flag popping in the wind.

It was a beautiful few days, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate an anniversary.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Talkin' Fly Fishin'

Jilda and I lunched today with a friend we hadn't seen in over 30 years. He found her on Facebook and sent a message. We had a little time and he suggested a place not far from his house to have lunch.

We left a few minutes early as we often do and arrived a little early. I'm glad we did because it is a village market that sells fresh produce, sauces, jellies,  and an eclectic array of art, toys and other interesting things.

As we headed back to the car, we saw a small fly fishing shop. As asked Jilda if she minded stepping in to look around for a moment. She didn't, and within a few moments, we'd made a new friend.

It didn't take Spencer long before he was giving Jilda casting lessons and extolling the virtues fly fishing. I think he actually talked her into going with me.

Spencer looked like the Buddha sitting on his chair near the fly-tying supplies. I pulled up a stool nearby to rest my knees and we talked for a long time.

It was a beautiful day, and she snapped this picture out front before we headed for home.

Happy Monday Y'all.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Almost full

The sky is remarkable tonight. As we headed home this evening, we crossed a bridge with a wide expanse of water. Off to the east, the moon, one day shy of being full, sent a contrail of light across the ink-black surface making it looks as if it were paved with silver. It was beautiful to behold.

We stepped out onto the deck and snapped a selfie. The quality is poor, but captures a moment. 

I hope you all have a remarkable Cinco de Mayo week.

Saturday, May 02, 2015


We played at the Horse Creek Jubilee Festival just after noon today. The morning had been cool, but at lunchtime, it was bearing down on the canvas cover of the stage. After our 45 minute set, I felt like I should wring out my shirt.

Jilda is still having lingering issues with the side effects from the treatments she took for three years, and the sun began to give her some problems.  We stayed around behind the stage for a while and sold some CDs and books before packing up and heading home.

Once inside, we collapsed on the sofas and took a LONG nap which was refreshing.

Afterward, I cut the grass on the new property. When I finished, Jilda made a glass of ice tea and we sat in the lounge chairs in the shade of the backyard. 

We let the chickens out of the pen when we're home and the race around the fence pecking worms, ants, and other critters. It felt good to relax for a few moments.

The setting sun highlighted a patch of grass with purple flowers. I wish I knew the name of the plant. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

We borrowed our sky today from San Francisco.

Jilda's car needed routine maintenance so I ran it to the dealership while she stayed with our great nephew Jordan.

On the way home, I pulled into the boat launch at the forks of the river. There's always people there in the spring. Hybrid bass that look as big as dolphins swim upstream to the head of the river to spawn.

Smith Dam is situated about seven miles upstream on the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River, and the churning turbines send a rush of water downstream whenever they are engaged.  When the turbines are idle, the surface of the river looks like a sheet of jade drifting downstream.

The Mulberry River is smaller and shallow most of the time, but the recent torrential rains caused the river to rise, leaving muddy watermarks up the bank and onto low-hanging tree limbs that line the river.

Today, the water surface above the forks had a layer of pollen that made it look crusty. The Mulberry was still dumping a lot of water into the larger river, and the volume seemed to be forcing the stiller water of the larger river to wait. I've seen it do this many times.

I took my nephew Haven fishing down there once when he was about 10. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when we felt a rush of cool air at the water's edge and saw the river inching up on the bank.

A bass fisherman had anchored his expensive boat near the shore and was about to walk to the bait shop for gas. My nephew told him, "They turned the turbines on, you might want to put a little slack in that anchor rope." The experienced fisherman was from out of town and blew off my young nephew's sage advice.

By the time the fisherman returned with his gas, the bow of his boat was out of the water. Another five minutes and the rising water coupled with the taunt anchor rope would have sunk his $20,000 boat.

Today I stood for a long time listening to the birds, gurgling water and the whip of casting fishing lines. I leaned back with my face to the sun and looked at the sky, which looked as if we'd borrowed it from San Francisco.

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