Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's not in the manual

I love the work I now do. It's a job that's easy to love because I'm working with people who have been down, but get a chance to turn things around. They learn new things and some are finding meaningful jobs. It's been a slow process, but the last few months, I'm beginning to see results.

The downside is that some of the stories I hear are heartbreaking. I would never compromise the privacy of any of the folks I'm working with, but suffice it to say, some of their lives have been brutal. For some, their plight was the result of ill timing or bad luck. For some, it was the result of bad choices. I wish there was a tab in the manual that advised how to navigate sad situations, but they left that tab out.

I met one person for coffee this morning at a local restaurant. The sky was overcast with a nice breeze from the west so I asked if he'd like to sit on the patio. He said if given the choice, he'd always prefer to be outside. I grabbed our drinks and headed outside to join him.

After the coaching session, he seemed to want to talk. I had time, so I listened. He ticked through a string of events that did not turn out well for him.

We sat in silence for a while watching the traffic pass by. He did not minimize his responsibility for where he is today. I asked what he'd learned from it all. Looking off into the distance, he said, "All through my life, I've been good at making bad decisions."   He went on to say that he strives each day to make better decisions. I told him that was all any of us can do.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summers without air conditioning ~ My column from Sunday's paper

This week, it’s been hotter than Satan spreading asphalt. Early this spring, I heard people whining about the rain, so I hope they’re happy now. When the rain did move off to the east in April, it left a sweltering sun and humidity as thick as honey.

Heat never seemed to bother me when I was a kid. I don’t remember anyone having air conditioners in those days.

Thinking back, air conditioners would have been a waste in those old camp houses because there were cracks in places wide enough to toss a puppy through. The only insulation people used was tarpaper siding and old newspapers stuffed into the cracks to keep the winter wind out.

We had an old belt-driven window fan with steel blades that we ran in the evenings. The fan was installed in an open window. The whirring blades sucked cool evening air through our open bedroom windows, making summer sleep possible.

When we built our new Jim Walter house in 1966, Daddy bought a new window unit from Sears, and the house seemed like a refrigerator compared to the old place.

When Jilda and I married, we spent the first 10 years in a trailer without air conditioning. We spent a lot of time outside in the shade, swatting mosquitos that seemed as big as pigeons. It’s always been hot here in the South, but we survived. Thankfully, we can afford to keep the air conditioning humming in our house these days.

I noticed an issue with my truck this week that I feared would get into my back pocket. When the bank thermometer blinked 106, it seemed to take the air conditioner in my truck longer to cool the cab than it took last summer. I ran down to see my buddies at Sayre Auto Parts to have them check the coolant.

Jerry, who is one of the owners, raised the hood and checked the metal pipes connected to the unit. He then stepped back and bent over to look underneath. Water puddled on the shop floor from the engine’s innards. I thought there was a leak, but he said it was condensation, which is a sign the unit was functional.

“I’d be willing to bet the coolant is not low,” he said.

He turned to me as he started back across the street to his office and said, “I actually know what’s causing the problem.” I listened as he pointed out that it was 103 degrees outside, I was driving a black truck and I was a year older.

A few moments later, the mechanic appeared and hooked hoses with gauges to the air conditioner. He watched intently for a few minutes and tapped the dial with his finger for good measure. “It was full of coolant.”

I walked across the street to settle up the bill. I sheepishly told Jerry he was right about the coolant.

He and a gentleman standing there got a good chuckle at my expense. I had to chuckle a little too but had he not been a friend of mine, I would have been tempted to lean over and smack that smug smile off his face.

I told him all I needed was a smart aleck mechanic, which only made him howl a little louder.

When I asked how much I owed him, he smiled and said, “No charge.”

They were still laughing when I drove out of the parking lot.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beautiful weekend

It's been dry here and hotter than habaneros. We'd been praying for rain. Apparently the Good Lord had written down the wrong zip code because it rained all around us, but not on us.

Then on Thursday night around a slap of nearby thunder jolted both Jilda and I from a deep sleep just after 3:30 a.m. A few moments later, the rain was playing our metal roof like a kettle drum.

Without a word, both of us got out of bed and walked onto our back deck. Looking into the darkness, we let the rain fall onto our faces. I know that sounds a little wacky, but we were both grateful for the rain. What made it even better is that the front that brought the rain dropped the temperature by 20 degrees. 

We didn't have plans for this weekend. In fact, we'd decided to lay low and rest up. But it turns out that both of us felt great and we did things that had been on our task list for some time. 

This evening, Jilda baked a chicken, did new potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, and green lima beans for supper. Samantha and Jordan walked over and had dinner with us.

After they went home, we did our gratitude ceremony, and then sat on the newly cleaned screen porch. The sun painted the sky burnt orange and amber before sliding below the horizon.

It was a perfect ending for a beautiful weekend.

Deck Flowers

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adams Guitar

Jilda and I were doing the last couple of songs in our set Saturday night when two guys rumbled up outside on motorcycles and dismounted. I thought they’d head to a bar down the street, but they walked in to Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House. What’s even more odd is that one of the riders was holding a guitar. That’s something you don’t see every day, I thought.

He gently placed the guitar by a table and stepped up to the barista to order a coffee for himself and his friend. After ordering, he leaned against the counter and listened. Jilda launched into our closing song and I followed along, but I kept looking at the biker…then a flicker of recognition slid across my mind and the story began falling into place.

The biker was my old friend Carl. We worked together at MaBell for several years before I became un-jobbed. He had put on a little weight, let his hair grow to his shoulders and he now sported a beard, but there was no mistake. He smiled when he saw I recognized him.

Carl and I were close back then. We had breakfast together every morning and solved most of the world’s problems by 7:20 before hitting the data center floor running.

I thought of those good times as we hit the chorus of our final song, which gave it a lift.

When we finished, we thanked the crowd for coming out to hear us. I turned and secured my guitar in the stand, and stepped to the edge of the stage to hug my friend.

A lot of fond memories came to mind as we stood there taking stock of each other. But all those good memories were overshadowed by the memory of the last time I’d seen him three years ago.

It was at a funeral home, and he’d just lost his only child Adam, who died tragically in an automobile accident at the age of 24. Carl had been divorced for years, and Adam was his world.

It’s in my nature to try and find words of comfort, but standing in a sea of flowers with my hands in the pockets of my suit, the words would not come. I had no point of reference so Jilda and I just stood silently with him. When he did manage a few words, his naturally booming voice was not much more than a whisper. There are few times in my life I’ve seen that much pain.

I’d known Adam since he was in grade school. He became interested in guitar at age 12 and
wanted to learn to play. Carl bought him a guitar, and would bring him to the data center after work. He was small for his age, and the first time I saw him wagging the guitar, which was almost as big as he was, it made me smile. I stayed over several evenings and taught Adam the basic chords and how the changes fit together.

He was a sponge soaking up everything I taught him and soon he was playing the songs of his generation. Hearing him play made both Carl and me happy.

On Saturday night, Carl stuck around and we talked. He pitched in and helped us load all the sound equipment. When we finished, he stepped to the table, picked up Adam’s guitar and brought it to me.

“I want you to have this. You can keep it, or give it to another kid who wants to learn to play,” he said.  It was painful for him to see the guitar standing in the corner unplayed, and he felt that giving it to me would somehow completed the circle. He’d written a haunting poem entitled “Back Then” and tucked it under the strings inside the case.

We hugged again as we said our goodbyes and promised to not let time slip away before getting together again. 

I’m not sure what I will do with the guitar, but you can bet it will be something that honors Adam’s memory.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Write daily, listen, and read well

Someone stopped me in the grocery store this week that I had not seen in over 20 years. They began talking as if we'd spoken yesterday. This happens to me frequently and I've learned to roll with it. Sometimes they'll drop a clue that I latch on to... a thread of memory that I can pull it from a dark corner of my memory to a place where I can put a name with the face. But often this does not happen.

I try to gauge whether or not the person would be offended if I ask, "Who in the heck are you?" If I think it will hurt their feelings, I simply play along as if I remember. But if they look as if they can take it, I say, "I'm sorry, but how do we know each other?"

I've written for the local paper every Sunday since January of 2007 and as you know, the subject I normally write about is me.  So even people I've never met feel as if they know me personally. They know Jilda's name. They know we are singer-songwriters. They know Jilda drives a Volvo that we call Ingrid. They know my family and friends.

In participating in writer's conferences and workshops through the years, many writers tell me it freaks them out when someone approaches them. But aside from the embarrassment of not always recognizing people from my past, I'm actually flattered.

The guy that stopped me this week asked before we parted how one becomes a writer.  I told him I'm not sure, I'm still learning. The only advice I had to share is nothing new, but it's something I bought in to.  I told him to listen, write daily, and to read well.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fortuitous sidetrip

A few years ago Jilda and I were roaming down an Alabama backroads on our way to Mississippi when we took a wrong turn.

A few miles later we realized we were seeing none of the landmarks her sister had scribbled on the back of a brown paper sack and decided to make a U-turn. Looking for a wide place in the road to pull off, we came upon an old Methodist Church in Giger, Alabama.

I soon realized that the sidetrack was advantageous and pulled off the road to snap a picture. The structure wasn't fancy, but beautiful in a simple way and it looked like it had painted windows.

I love it when the Universe wants to show you something.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I had an Information Session at work today. Normally I have three or four people who show up, but today there were 11. 

After hours of preparation, and two hours of an intense presentation, I am spent.

A more creative writer would have topic ideas o'plenty and pull one out on days like today. But alas, all I have is a picture of the lantana growing at the edge of our flowerbed by the back deck that I snapped as the sun edged behind the horizon.

I'll do better tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The price we pay

There are a lot of drawbacks living in an area as rural as where we live. We don't just pop out to grab something at the store since the nearest that carries more than chainsaw oil, DooDads, and Littly Debbie's Cakes is about 11 miles away.  

When the power goes off our lights are often the last to come back on. In the beginning whenever we lost power during a storm, we'd huff around the house whining about being powerless, but theses days, we sit close to the windows and read a book from our shelf.

You may be asking, "Well why in the heck do you choose to live where you live?" There is no simple answer, but one morning if you found yourself sipping coffee on our back deck and the only sound you heard was that of birds, or a squirrel searching for breakfast you may get a sense of why we were attracted to the place. It's quiet. 

Sometimes you may hear the whisper of a jetliner five miles overhead dragging a cotton colored contrail behind, but I don't consider that an intrusion.

Another bonus in spring and early summer is wild blackberries. Jilda makes the most amazing blackberry pie I've ever eaten.  

This past week, I picked another quart of berries the size of my thumb. Many of them came at a price because I had to step into the thicket and reach high, but worthwhile things sometimes come with a price tag.

Tonight, after one bite of that pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream I thought to myself – scratched arms, a briar in my butt, and living miles away from civilization is a small price to pay.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Interest in photography

I don't remember ever taking a picture before 1971. The cameras I'd seen were point and shoot and you had to wait until the entire roll was taken before developing the film. Had I paused to consider the magic of photography it might have occurred to me that being able to take decent pictures would have been handy, but it wasn't my time.

Then when I was at Fort Monmouth in July of 1971, my friend Kirk Trachy was learning about photography. He had a Pentax as I recall and after taking pictures one afternoon, I went with him to the photographic darkroom on the base and watched in fascination under the amber safelight as the images began fading to life from a blank white sheet of paper.

The Army paid slave wages for the first several month but then things changed and I got a decent raise. I still couldn't afford an expensive camera, but owning a nice camera made it onto my wishlist.

As it turns out, most of the people in my communications training class all went to Central America together.

Soon after arriving in Panama, a group of us made our way to Panama City, Panama. I walked into a duty-free camera store and fell in love. On payday the following month, I took most of my money and bought a Canon FTb camera with a 1.2 lens. The camera in the U.S would have cost three times what it cost there.  I shot thousands of photographs while in the tropics, most of which were Ektachrome slides.

Yesterday I saw several emails from my old friend Kirk. When I looked at them, he apparently had discovered a cache of pictures that he'd taken during those days in Panama.

The picture here was taken on the breaker wall which separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Bay of Colón. I'm guessing I was about to snap a photograph of a seabird, or one of the exotic fish that lived in the bay.

It's been a while since my waist was thin and my hair was thick.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day ~ My column from today's paper

My dad died in May of 1986 when I was 35 and rarely does a day go by that I don’t think of him. Today when I put on my coveralls before working in the yard, I looked into the mirror and saw him looking back at me. He wore a pair of coveralls exactly like ones I was wearing. 

One of my favorite pictures of my dad was taken one summer evening several years before he died. He'd been cutting grass and was sitting under a water oak on a cinder block border of a flowerbed. 

He was wearing his gray coveralls. On his face was an enigmatic half-smile. With that smile, it seemed he knew a secret and wasn’t about to tell me what it was. That smile would have been handy had he played poker.

I snapped the unposed picture and it turned out to be one of the best I have of him.

He worked as a welder and was strong from years of manhandling steel. The shop where he worked was brutally hot during summer and smelled of ash, flux, and ozone. Looking closely, you could tell that he was a welder because, through the years, white-hot bits of welding splatter branded his wrists and forearms.

Before being drafted, I worked as a welder long enough to realize it wasn’t for me. When I completed my Army duty I looked for other employment. 

During my two years in uniform, I grew weary of “The Man” telling me I needed a haircut. After my release date, I decided to rebel against barbers. My hair grew to my shoulders as thick as thatch. It turns out the “hippy look” didn't resonate with my dad and he didn't hide his displeasure. 

I had a job at the time and was living on my own so I wasn't about to cut my hair because my dad didn't approve of it. That goofy little rift drove a wedge between us for more years than either of us could afford to lose. Looking back I could kick myself for being so stubborn, but I got that stubborn streak from him, so some of the responsibility rested on his shoulders.

I don't remember what changed. Perhaps it was when I married Jilda. My dad adored her. The last several years of his life we were much closer.

I read a book a few years ago entitled The Time Travelers Wife. It was about a guy that flitted back and forth in time. The downside of his time travel was that he had no control over when he traveled or how long he would stay. Also, he arrived at his destination buck naked.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have the ability to travel in time. It’s an ability that would come in handy...well, except for the arriving naked part. 

This much I know for sure. If I could go back in time to the summer of 1974, I would shave my head with a straight razor to get back those years I lost with my dad. But that is the stuff of fiction. My dad is gone and those years are forever lost.  I hope none of you ever lose a moment with your dad over something as insignificant as a haircut.

Happy Father’s Day.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@homefolkmedia.com.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The kids are back in town

Tonight I am weary. We had a birthday party for "the kids" this afternoon. My nephew James, his wife, and four kids now live in Mississippi and whenever "the kids" come home, we try to do something to celebrate.

Our great-nephew Jordan who lives next door to us has been on high alert all week. Today as the minutes ticked away, he stood beside the windows peering out.

The moment "the kids" drove into the driveway, he launched out the door to greet them. They immediately went to the back yard carrying a bucket of water toys.

Once in the backyard, they filled the water cannons and water guns.  Within minutes they were all soaked to the bone. For over 90 minutes, they ran around our back yard hosing each other down.

It was all we could do to towel them off for everyone to eat the hotdogs off the grill.

All-in-all it was a fun day for the kids...and the adults too. There's nothing more enjoyable that watching a pack of kids laugh and play for hours on end.

Right now, I have the water on for a nice cup of honey lavender tea. After that, it's pillow time.

Friday, June 19, 2015


I got a special offer from the cruise line today. It's been well over a year since our first and last cruise, but they are a persistent lot.

Upon return, I was adamant that I would not be cruising again. But I find myself flipping  back through the pictures from time to time. The music, laughter, the scenery, and the sea are anestled in a part of my brain that remembers.

I forget that I felt a little caged during the days onboard...the constant rock of the sea against the stern and bow. I forget that I had no Internet connection for almost a week which meant that I had to write all my blog entries before I left and schedule them to post each day until I returned.

But upon reflection, I feel that a few more sunsets at sea where the only obstruction is low-lying clouds near the horizon might do me good. The more I read about relaxing this day and time talk of disconnecting from the tether in my pocket.

Who knows what the future might bring.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday morning gift

I got around early this morning to do a few chores before heading out to work. The ceiling fan on the screen porch was whirring gently, but the temps last night didn't fall that far so the air stirred by the fan felt warm on my face.

In the yard, I stepped to the spigot, cranked the water on, and dragged the hosepipe over to fill the birdbath and the fountain. The morning sun had just cleared the horizon and angled through the white pine to spotlight the moss that's thriving on the stones around the fountain. 

Pulling the phone from my pocket I snapped a few pictures, unsure what they would look like. Sunlight on the morning moss made the stones look as if they were upholstered in green velvet.

That image put a smile on my face. It was a Thursday morning gift.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Stay Cool

We have company coming this weekend and we've been doing some sprucing up. Our front flower beds had pansies and they were beautiful this spring, but they don't do summer...and since summer decided to crash the last few days of spring the days have been warm. A few days ago when I came back into the driveway, I paused long enough to look the pansies over. They looked dry enough to smoke.

So today one of the chores was to pick up some impatiens which love hot weather. The only thing that like hotter weather is okra. I think okra would thrive in the oven while the cornbread was baking. 

After we got home just before lunch, we realized we didn't get potting soil. So after lunch and a nap, I jumped in the truck to head back to town to get some potting soil and a fan for the chicken pen. 

After picking up what I needed at WallyWorld, I pulled out of the lot and glanced over at the blinking bank sign. I snapped a picture so you would know I wasn't pulling your leg.

Y'all stay cool.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I had a doctor's appointment just after lunch today so heading in to work early this morning to get some work done at school seemed like a good move.  The ride down just after 7 AM wasn't bad. I rolled down the windows and jacked up the stereo.  If I'd had hair, it would have been blowin' in the wind. 

When I left out just before noon, the mercury had darted northward in the thermometer and the cab of my truck was hot enough to bake scones. When I flipped on the AC, it seemed to be blowing only hot air.

With older vehicles, I have the local repair shop on speed dial so I dialed them up asked if they could check the coolant in my AC.  They are a great bunch and told me to stop by. 

About halfway down, the AC began blowing cold air and by the time I arrived, it was comfortable in the cab. I decided to let them check it out anyhow.

When one of the owners pulled it into one of the bays, he bent over and looked under the truck and saw condensation dripping from the unit.

"I might be wrong," he said. "But I'd be willing to bet it's not low of coolant." He pointed out that I was driving a black truck. He went on to say that it was 96 degrees outside, and then he had the audacity to remind me that I was a year older.

When they put the gauges on the unit, it was fully charged.  I was happy, but I still winced slightly, recalling the words of the owner.

When I stepped over to the front counter to settle up, the owner smiled and asked "Was it low?"

"How does it feel to be a smart ass?" I asked.  He howled with laughter, as he said, "No charge."

They were still laughing when I walked out the door.

Ornamental ginger in our back yard

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fishing for my shoe ~ My Column from Sunday's paper

I finished up work on Thursday and got home just as Jilda was leaving to go teach. There were things around the house that needed doing, but when I stepped out on the back deck, the sky was denim blue with doughy clouds drifting listlessly toward the east, and I heard a different calling.

I’d been reading “The Sun Also Rises” by Earnest Hemingway and just finished the part about him fly fishing in Spain with friends. Standing on my deck, I thought to myself, “Fly fishing would be a better use of my afternoon.” I loaded my gear and headed to the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior.

Pulling into the parking lot of Riverside Fly Shop, I stepped inside to get the fishing news. Randy, who works with his son at the shop, gave me the scoop on the types of flies the trout were hitting.

He also mentioned in passing that the power company would turn the turbines on at 4 p.m. When I looked at my watch, it was 3:45 p.m. “Well shoot!” I thought. When the turbines are running, the water level rises three or four feet. Wading would not be an option.

I thought my trip was a wash until Randy gave me the skinny on a lesser-known spot where I
could fish even with the turbines running. With the words of Hemingway humming in my mind, I was ready to give it a try. One drawback was that I’d have to walk an extra half-mile to the fishing spot.

Finding the place he described, I clench-knotted a dry fly onto my tippet. After a dozen casts with no action, I tried a nymph, and then a salmon egg, but I didn’t get the first strike.

As the sun edged toward the horizon, the shadows grew longer and a blue heron drifted down the river on the evening breeze searching for supper. I thought to myself, “Who cares if the fish aren’t biting? There is still no place I’d rather be than on the water.”

The evening was warm, and I’d worked up a sweat, so I kicked off my shoes at the water’s edge and waded ankle deep into the frigid water to cool off. My fly line whispered overhead as my weightless fly teased the brush on the other bank.

Everything seems to be in slow motion when I fly fish, so I guess that’s why I didn’t know the water was slowly rising. I wouldn’t have realized it at all had I not noticed out of the corner of my eye, one of my shoes floating away on the water like an untethered canoe.

“Oh no! I’m going to need that for the trek back,” I thought. I stepped into the stream to grab it but quickly found myself in waist-deep water. The shoe drifted further away. It seemed to be taunting me.

I began casting my fly at the shoe in the hopes of snagging it and bringing it back to me, but I saw how badly my casting skills were. My flies kept getting tangled in the brush on the other bank. I tried rolling casts, side-arm casts and straight overhead casts.

After getting $12 worth of flies tangled in the brush without coming close to snagging the shoe, I decided to call it a day.

I hobbled back to the truck like the peg-legged pirate Long John Silver. Driving home I wondered if Hemingway ever had to fish for his shoe.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


We have solar lights around our yard that twinkle on at dusk. The other day when I wrote about the incredible sky, this is one of the pictures I took to try and capture the magic of the color.  When I looked at the picture on the small screen of my phone, it looked promising, but once I put in on the computer, I could tell the color wasn't even close. So I did this black and white version.

The thing about photography, blogging, and creativity is that you don't always know what will work until you try. Some things resonate, and some things fall as flat as a Junebug on a windshield.
This picture did not resonate with me, but still it was worth going through the motions because the only way you can ever create anything of value is the make a lot of crap along the way.

So there.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


I stepped out early this morning to feed the birds. Deer came in the night and licked the feeders clean. They do that from time to time. I put out corn, but the must munch the bird seed for a snack.

The squirrels get their share of seed. It would be easy to think they waste more than they eat, but what hits the ground, gets eaten by morning doves, and other ground feeders.

After pouring the feeders full, I uncoiled the hosepipe to fill the birdbath and the fountain at the edge of the screen porch.

As I stood there filling the fountain, I looked up to see a patch of sunlight highlighting a lavender Rose-a-Sharon blossoms. Jilda had told me they were blooming, but I had forgotten to look for them.

I love these bushes. They are low maintenance, and they will have thousands of blooms until later summer. We have the lavender bushes and a white ones.

Most of the other flowers are giving away to the heat, but the Rose-a-Sharon blossoms thrive.

I'm glad Jilda's mom insisted we plant some when we moved here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thirsty soil

June has been hot here with no rain. We planted a garden earlier this week, but this morning when we stepped out to pick blueberries, the earth was dry as snuff.

The weatherman promised, as they often do, that this would be a rainy week here, and to be fair, clouds have teased every afternoon. Yesterday, thunder rolled across the hills and hollows, but when I looked at the radar, the clouds were off to the east or west. The rain did not come. It was almost like our community had an umbrella.

Jilda cooks daily, but this evening she had a hankering for a BBQ salad. I grabbed my shoes and keys for the 20-minute ride to the Green Top Cafe. It was a beer joint at the edge of a Walker County which was dry (it didn't sell alcohol) for many years. The Green Top had the coldest beer, and some say, the best BBQ in North Alabama.

When the laws changed and Walker County began selling alcohol, the Green Top's monopoly on brewskies was lost, but the tasty BBQ kept the business viable through the years.

I rolled the windows down in the truck on the ride down. It's hard to feel the day in the frigid isolation of a vehicle.  The drive felt good with the wind in my beard.  I called ahead so they'd have the food ready.

Pulling out of the parking lot, I looked back to the west toward our house, and the sky was dark with clouds. I called Jilda to let her know I was headed home. I knew by the sound of her voice before she ever said a word that it had rained. I smiled, but the thirsty soil rojoiced.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Blackberry cobbler coming up

Have you ever had fresh blackberry cobbler? I mean one that's fresh out of the oven. It's so hot that you know you'll burn your mouth. So you get a spoonful of piping hot pie and blow to cool it just enough so it would be too painful.

We'll have one of those pies this weekend. When we walked yesterday, I saw berries as big as my thumb by the walking path. When I stepped to the edge to get a better look, I could see the vines are hanging full.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For a good time, visit the Watson's

Jilda and I were drinking coffee on the back deck a few mornings ago. She had the cup to her lips but then dropped it down to the table abruptly. "Is one of our chickens out?" she asked. 

I'd stepped out earlier while the coffee was brewing to let our chickens out of the pen to roam around in the back yard for the day and when I did a quick count, and all if our chickens were present and accounted for. But when I followed her finger I saw there was another chicken just outside the fence pacing back and forth as if it were trying to figure out how to get in.

When I looked at it, I could see right away that it is a game hen. Those are small lean and mean chickens built for speed...and for fighting.

After coffee, I stepped down and opened the back gate slightly and then stepped back to the deck.  A few minutes later the hen was in the back yard with the others.

I'm not sure where I came from because no one in our community has chickens and I'm not sure how to get it back to its rightful owners. I mean, I could put up chicken posters, maybe put a notice at the vet's office, but that seems a little lame.

Maybe the word's out in the animal kingdom -- For a good time, visit the Watsons.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Mental pictures

After work today I came home to write. I had a magazine story and my column to polish so I smoked the keys on my laptop.

I have a chime on my computer that sounds every 30 minutes. I set the chime to remind me of the passing of time. It's easy for me to get lost in the words, and where they sometimes lead me. I don't always know when I start, where I'll end. I'm often surprised by the twists and turns in my stories.

I ignored the chime twice, but the third time it seemed to be louder and buzzed slightly in my ears so I took that as a sign I need to stretch.

When I stood, my knees squeaked and "sitting cramp" in my lower back took a moment to stretch out. I shuffled into the bedroom to put on my shoes so that I could step outside and close the chickens in for the evening.

Once on the deck, I was struck by the color of light. Off to the south, I could hear thunder in the distance and dark clouds boiling in slow motion.  But the sun to the west would not be denied. The result was a butter-colored sky.

I tried to take pictures, but no camera can capture light that subtle...that beautiful. So I snapped a mental photograph. I think a remarkable invention would a processor that could develop mental pictures.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Wussing out

I feel like a three-week-old party balloon...you know the ones I'm talking about. The day you buy them the helium is strong enough to carry off dogs or small children. The first few days they stay on the top of the receiver's room as if they were attached to the ceiling  with a safety pin.

After about a week, they aren't as firm and begin to sag. By week three, they languish in the corner as if they'd had too much tequila. That's how I feel this evening.

I used to hear a lot about biorhythms and whey your biorhythms were low, you'd experience low-energy days. I'm not sure what causes it, but it seems to happen to me about once a month. I'll feel lower than a snail belly one day and the next day I'll be fine.  

I said all that to say this, I'm wussing out tonight. I'll do better tomorrow.
Bird in my window

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Untold stories

This Sunday was Decoration Day at Dilworth where Jilda's infant brother is buried. He died at a very young age, almost 20 years before Jilda was born. But each year we put a small arrangement on his grave.

It's an old cemetery with soldiers who fought in the Civil War, the War of 1812, and later conflicts. Many of the graves are no longer decorated because the families have either died off or moved away.

I took the flowers down there this morning for Jilda and after placing them on the grave, I wandered around the cemetery reading the stones.

Standing in cemeteries, I can't help but wonder about the stories of those lying in the graves. They lived during a time before the Internet, blogs, Facebook, and other social media. There were cameras in the early part of the last century, but they were expensive and, as a result, there were not many pictures.

The only stories that lived were the ones passed down through oral history. Stories were retold by mothers, fathers, family, or friends.

Some of the people in this small cemetery could have had remarkable stories. As I stood there this morning looking across a field of stones, a warm breeze out of the south fluttering the flags on the graves.

I was saddened to think their stories will never be told.

Saturday, June 06, 2015


Today was hot here. The weatherman said 96, but that doesn't take into account the humidity. When the air is humid, sweat doesn't evaporate from your skin but sits like sorghum syrup on a buttermilk biscuit and instead of cooling, acts as an efficient insulator.

One minute you feel like you're getting a little warm and then next minute your spouse is dialing 911. So through the years we've learned to respect the humidity.

The one thing that isn't bothered by humidity is gardenias. They don't start blooming and thrive when the air is thick.

Some people say the smell is too sweet, but when the air is thick as a wool blanket, our yard is almost intoxicating. You can smell gardenias blossoms when you drive into our yard.

Jilda picks the blossoms and puts them in our bathroom all summer long. When the blossoms die, she leaves stems in the vases to root.

We have 30 or more blooming in our yard and through the years, we've given hundreds of plants away to friends and neighbors.

So, if you're one of the people who don't like the aroma of blooming gardenias, you might want to visit some time other than summer.

Friday, June 05, 2015

The zone

Do you remember the Twilight Zone? The first one appeared in October of 1959 and was in black and white...or at least it was at our house because we didn't have a color TV.

I remember how disquieting that show left me at times. I remember one episode in particular that was sad. It was about a guy that loved to read more than anything else in the world. He wore glasses as thick as magnifying glasses. He caught a lot of flack from his wife because she wanted him doing things other than reading.

I don't remember a great deal about this episode except there was some kind of cataclysm that killed all the people but left the buildings intact. The only person left on the planet was the reader. 

He found himself in front of a library and he seemed happy. I should have known something weird would happen because it was the Twilight Zone, but I never saw the ending coming.

The guy was about to go into the library to read until his heart was content, but just then he dropped his glasses and then stepped on them...and that's where the show ended.

I'm not sure where that came from, but I write 'em as the come to me.

Happy weekend.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

You lose some, you win some

I finished up work today and got home just as Jilda was leaving. I had some things around the house that needed doing but when I stepped out on the back deck, the sky was aqua with doughy clouds drifting listlessly across the sky.

I've been reading The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway and I'd just finished the part about them fly fishing in Spain. I thought to myself, fly fishing would be a better use of my afternoon.

I quickly loaded my stuff and headed to the water. Pulling into the fly shop to get any fishing news, the owner told me that the power company planned to turn on the turbines at 4 p.m. When I looked at my watch it was 3:45.

The owner told me of a place about a hundred feet below the dam where there is a small spillway and when the water begins to rise, it will force the river to back up into the spillway. At the mouth of the spillway, the food that trout love churns and some of it drifts toward the spillway, making that one small area ideal for catching fish even with the turbines running full blast.

I tried my luck for a while, but they didn't seem to be biting. However, something interesting happened. I lost one of my shoes. I won't tell the story tonight because as I limped back to the truck, I wrote most of this next week's column. It's pretty funny. So even though I lost a shoe, something good did come out of it.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A gift that keeps on giving

I love it when the bleeding hearts bloom. They seem shy in spring. At least they aren't teased into bloom by early warm days, only to hang shivering until warm days decide arrive to stay.

Once they venture out, they look like tiny petals carved painstakingly from porcelain, with blood-red tongues.  They bloom until the killing frosts of October or early November.

We always cart this pot of flower inside to let them winter by the window inside our utility room.

This plant was a gift from Jilda's grandmother.  We often sit on the deck on summer afternoons when long shadows cast by the setting sun creep across our deck. One of us thank Mamie for the gift that keeps on giving that she gave us so long ago.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Playing catch-up

I've played catch-up this week. Being sick with strep knocked me for a loop and I had to "let the rough end drag," as my daddy used to say.  But today I made progress.

I'd been kicking around an idea for this week's column so when I got home, I poured a tall glass of sweet tea and took the laptop to the screened porch. As the sun drifted toward the western horizon, the story unfolded. I think it will be a decent piece after polishing it up tomorrow.

The recent rain has turbocharged the grass, so I'll need to mow tomorrow, or go buy a free-roaming goat.

The picture below was another one from Fairhope in early May. We really need to get out of town more. Even if it's for just long enough to get some pictures.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Advice for graduates

Jilda and I joined my sister on Memorial Day to eat. When we arrived, the dining room was packed with a crew of family and friends. The sound of ice clattering in plastic cups and spoons clanking on serving platters added to the drone of the conversation.

Her grandson Zack, who graduated from high school a few days ago, was sitting alone at the
My sister Mary Lois, Zack, and my niece Danielle
edge of the buzz and looked as if he was lost in thought.

When I asked what he planned to study in college, he looked at me as if I’d somehow read his mind and knew what he was thinking. I could tell he’d been spending a great deal of time wrestling with this very question.

A few years ago he seemed intent on coaching, but standing at this intersection of his life, I could tell he was unsure of which way to go.

I started to use the famous Lewis Carroll quote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” But I didn’t want to get all existential and what not, so I decided to let the conversation lag.

Often when you give young people advice, their eyes glaze over and their train of thought pulls out of the station. I know mine did when I was his age.

I tried to organize my thoughts and come up with something profound that would help light the way on the journey that lies ahead of him, but I decided no advice is better than bad advice. We sat in silence for a while.

I did tell him that his parents want the best for him, but the decision would ultimately be on his shoulders. What I didn’t say was that chasing someone else’s dream is often a waste of time.

Jilda works at an addiction center, and the stories she hears each day are laden with regret for wasting so much of their lives doing work they hated.

It’s hard to leave your mark on the world in a career you hate.

I decided to recommend that Zack read a book I’m currently reading entitled, “Innovation Secrets of Steven Jobs.” It’s an interesting read because it examines Jobs’ early life and the decisions that made him one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation. What interests me is not his wealth but his underlying motivation.

Could his approach be learned and shared? I like to think that it can be imitated.

Whether you’re a fan of Steven Jobs or not, it’s hard to dispute that he was passionate about his work and he changed the world. I think passion was the key.

Sometimes when young people think about their careers, they limit their vision to jobs listed online or in the newspaper. They may be gifted artists but can’t picture themselves earning a living doing art. In reality, people all over the world make a comfortable living in the field.

I told Zack that now is the time to explore the things he enjoys doing even if he doesn’t think there’s a career opportunity there. I told him to find something he was passionate about.

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “When you do the work you love, you vocation becomes your vacation.”

It’s hard to gauge if what I said helped, but he’s a smart kid with a bright future and I feel certain he’ll find his way.

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