Monday, August 31, 2015

National Dog Day ~ Column from Sunday's paper

I smiled this morning while looking at my calendar when I realized that it was National Dog Day. It seems every few days is some kind of holiday. Many of them do not resonate with me, but National Dog Day is one I can embrace.

Through the years, we’ve had great dogs. All of them were either given to us or wandered into our lives. There must be some kind of canine sign that says, “For a good meal and a warm bed, go to Rick and Jilda’s house.” Most of the mutts had dubious pedigrees, but that didn’t stop them from nuzzling they way into our hearts.

A longhaired German Shepherd named Duke was the first dog that owned us. I have hundreds of photographs we took of him through the years. He loved to ride.

During the summer, I would leave the back window of my old Plymouth Valiant open. The instant Duke heard the rattle of keys he was off like a shot, diving into the backseat like a stunt dog.

Later when I bought my first pickup, he rode in the back to Grand Rapids, Michigan with us. When it began to rain and sleet, he shared the bucket seat with Jilda through most of Indiana.

He lived with us for 13 years and when he died, we both wept as if we’d lost a child.

There was a story in my first book Remembering Big that detailed how another mutt named Ol’ Buddy came to live with us.

He was a snarky little critter that belonged to Jilda’s mom. I despised that little beast but when Ruby broke her hip and was hospitalized for weeks, it fell to me to feed Ol’ Buddy.

Each day when I went to feed him, he would race out of her house, run to the spot where she’d fallen, and look in the direction the ambulance had taken her.  I did the same routine for weeks. He ate very little, and I was afraid he would grieve himself to death before Ruby made it home.

One Saturday when I went to feed him, I just sat down on the ground beside him. I had a couple of Slim Jim sausages and I broke off and fed him little pieces while sitting with him staring down the road.

Slowly he crawled up into my lap and we sat there for a long time. After a while, we stood and he followed me to the truck.

He lived with Jilda and me for many years.

Some dogs bonded with me, and others, not so much. We had one dog we named Gibson. She adored Jilda and would not have cared if aliens had abducted me. That little short-legged lab (mix) lived to be almost 17.

Our friends share pictures of their kids and grandkids, but I always reach for my phone to show pictures of our pups.

As I type these words, Caillou the wonder Collie is at my feet.

He and our little Yorkie look like thoroughbred dogs, but we don’t hold that against them.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you hug your mutt in honor of National Dog Day.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Exploring the underbrush

Walking down the path behind the barn these last few days brings the changing color into sharper focus. The muted oranges and ambers of the canopy become more pronounced with each passing day. 

We took a misty walk this afternoon. The rain over the last few days was easing off to the east, but the lingering moisture made the trees weep.  

The earth smelled damp, and rich with rotting leaves and limbs.  Off the beaten path, the ground was spongy and I could see hundreds of mushrooms in the undergrowth. I decided to do a challenge offered a few times by one of my blog buddies which was to take a normal picture and one of the same subject with the Hipstamatic app I use so often.  

You should be able to tell which one is which below. Your thoughts?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hay is for chickens

We started planting our winter garden this morning. Beets, kale, turnips, and lettuce. We also planted a few hills of pumpkins. I'm thinking it might be a little late for pumpkins, but we'll see.

I weeded the blueberry bushes and spread pine-bark mulch around the roots.

The tropical storm Erika is headed into the Gulf of Mexico. The sun warmed the morning up nicely, but the radar showed these waves heading toward us. I wasn't sure how long the rain would last so I decided to cut the grass.

I bought a few bales of hay to spread in our chicken pen to freshen up their space. I unloaded one bale in the ergonomic wheelbarrow to haul down to the pen. The sun seemed to be spotlighting the hay so I snapped a quick picture.

By lunchtime most of my work was done. So I spent the afternoon reading. I hope your day has been as enjoyable as mine.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Productive morning

I hadn't planned to work in the garden this morning. I only went out to dump a scoop of corn under the apple tree for the deer. But when I glanced over at the garden (I use this term loosely), it looked pitiful.

With weeks of rain, we couldn't do our weeding work and several tomato plants sprawled on the ground. One morning I went out in the rain to feed the chickens and noticed the fallen plants. When I stepped into the garden, I sank up to my calfs in garden muck. So the weeds grew unimpeeded.

But today, the garden had drained and the soil was tillable so cranked the old Troybilt and dug mountains of weeds.

I righted all the plants and trimmed all the dead and dying leaves and branches off. When I left, I upgraded how the garden looked from pitiful to sad.

Mud caked my work shoes so I stopped by the hosepipe and washed my feet, shoes, ankles and calfs.
When I walked toward the porch, a butterfly perched on a lantana blossom. She gently waved her wings as if the nectar gave her a buzz. I pulled the camera from my pocket and snapped a few pictures, before she wised up.

All in all, it was a productive morning.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five-mile creek

A few nights ago I'd just posted my blog and was searching Netflix for documentaries to watch this coming weekend. Jilda had just posted her blog and pulled mine up to read before we headed to the living room to wind down before bed.

She looked at me OVER her glasses and said, "I love the forks of the river too, but you REALLY need to find another place to shoot pictures." The next morning my blog buddy Julia commented that she liked my photos but would like to see ones shot without the filters.

I was thinking about those things today when I finished up at work. Instead of my normal stop at the forks, I decided to run by a park on Five-Mile Creek. It's owned by the City of Graysville but is only a few miles from where I work.

The weather was remarkable and I had not pressing appointments or chores, so I rolled the windows down in my truck and drove to the park.

There's a two-lane concrete bridge that spanning Five-Mile Creek. The bridge is part of the old highway 78 which was the main thoroughfare from Memphis to Birmingham.  I vaguely remember traveling over this bridge when I was in grammar school before the new (old) highway 78 was finished.

My family was headed to Birmingham one morning after breakfast and we got behind an eighteen wheeler that grinded gears to slow down before crossing the bridge, and then groaned as it slowly crawled up the hill on the other side of the bridge with its load of steel.

The city cut a path down to water's edge to make it easy for people to get down there and fish or put a canoe in the water.

The rocks blocking entry to both ends of the bridge are perfect for high-school graffiti.

I decided I liked the place. The next time I go, I'll throw my fishing equipment in the truck and see if the small-mouth bass are biting.

So Jilda and Julia, am I on the right track?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day

I think my muse went out west to help fight forest fires last week because I've been in a slump. Normally I stockpile ideas for my columns the weekend before they are due. But today I spent more time tapping that typing.

Not giving up easy, I took a steaming cup of java in one hand and my laptop over the other shoulder, I made my way out to the screen porch. Sometimes a slight change in venue gives me better reception. But that didn't happen today. More tapping.

I noticed the morning light filtering through a Mason Jar that was filled with gardenia stems. The stems are from blossoms Jilda broke off in the spring and put in jars. They not only smell amazing, but they also dress up the house considerable.  But when the blossoms dry up, she doesn't toss the stems. She puts them in jars of water and sets them on the screen porch. By summer's end, all the stems have roots sprouting from the ends like gray hair.

Today when the light came through, I realized the water hadn't been refreshed in a few weeks and was now the color of amber. I noticed something wiggling among the tiny roots.

Upon closer inspection, I could see the jar was full of mosquito larvae swimming around like tiny seahorses.

I watched them for a while and briefly considered writing a column about how we all undergo many changes in our lives...but I finally tossed the larvae, put fresh water in the jar and wrote my column about it being National Dog Day.

As your friend, I advise you to hug your puppy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The best camera

I pulled into the parking lot at the forks today. Normally there would have been people sitting in lawn chairs, with kids and dogs running about, but today there was no one.

I coasted up to the edge of the pavement and rolled the window down before turning the key off. Looking down river I could see a tinge of gold edging into the leaves of the oak and hickory trees. It's a subtle shift but it will become more pronounced in the coming days.

The sky was blue as a pool, and sitting up there about 30 degrees above the surface was a 3/4 moon the color of bone.

I tried to snap a picture, but without my "good camera" it's hard to tell just how magnificent it was. But I've come to realize the best camera is the one you have with you...maybe I read that somewhere but it's true.

The beauty of camera phones is not the quality of the picture, but the fact that you usually have one with you at all times allowing you to capture incredible moments because you had a camera in your pocket.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Work ~ My column from Sunday's paper

For the first time in many years, I’m doing work that I love which makes it fun going to work.

This past week it got even better when I moved into a new office at Bevill State. My old office wasn’t much bigger than a broom closet, but I work part time, so I guess that a spacious office with its own bathroom wasn’t practical.

The new office is a little bigger. It has two large bookshelves and floor to ceiling windows. My heart soared when the planner took me around there and asked if I liked it. I would have hugged her on the spot, but I didn’t want to freak her out and blow the deal before I got the key.

Last week I moved my books, binders and phone to the new space. The view outside the window is of the courtyard, full of crepe myrtles the color of watermelon. Though I don’t spend much time looking out the windows, I have to say that having them makes going into the office even more enjoyable.

My last few years with MaBell were grueling. My team, which consisted of me and three other guys, were responsible for hardware maintenance on all the mid-range computers in the continental U.S. If a computer failed, one of us was on the phone, coordinating technicians, parts shipments and manning the outage line.

You would not believe how snippy upper-level management gets when they are losing thousands of dollars every hour a computer is broken. If the outage was extended, the responsible manager forfeited bonus money. There were days I went home wound tighter than a tenor banjo. It was a thankless job. I think working as a credit collector would have been more enjoyable.

At Bevill State, I work helping people over 50 years old find work by getting them training and helping them get their ducks in a row so they can find work.

This much I know for sure. The people who come through our program, improve their skills, and get aggressive in their job search are finding jobs. Almost half the people I’ve worked with are now gainfully employed.

We helped a woman recently who had not worked in years. She’d gone through a nasty divorce and was having a hard time making ends meet. She was told during that ordeal that a woman her age and with her skillset was unemployable. Those words were tough to swallow.

She attended a BTW 50+ session, and we were able to offer her a training scholarship to attend truck driver training. She aced the course. A few days after she got her Commercial Drivers License, she landed a job delivering produce to military bases around the south.

She called me the day she landed the job. I got a lump in my throat as I listened to the pure joy in her voice. My heart soared along with hers.

Don’t tell my boss, but I would do this work even if I didn’t get paid. The new office with windows is just an added benefit.

Courtyard drama club last spring

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fitful sleep

My eyelids are drooping today. We had company for dinner last night and stayed up a little past our normal bedtime. But no biggie. We'd sleep in.

At 3:30 AM I heard a car driving down the dead-end road in front of our house. We rarely get traffic, especially at that hour, so I woke up. It drove by and then cruised slowly by on its way back toward the main road. A short time later, I heard it again. 

Stepping out of bed, I moved to the window and peered out in stealth mode. Again the car drove to the end of the road and back.

Off to the north, lightning forked across the sky from one cloud to another. It took almost a minute to feel the rumble of thunder.

I'd hoped the storm would stay to the north, but the longer I stood by the window, the shorter the interval between light and rumble became.

Both Caillou and Taz stood at my feet trembling slightly. Jilda called out from the bedroom asking about storm warnings.

I herded the dogs back into the bedroom and clicked the knob on the box fan to high, hoping it would calm their fears. I would have had better luck sedating them with Benadryl because the storm stomped over our house. 

Two of the strikes were so close, they struck the phone equipment putting enough current in the lines to ring our house phones.

The lights flickered, but thankfully the power never went off. 

We both slept fitfully for the rest of the night. 

Today, we've walked around in a daze. My brain was so fried. This is the kind of flower pictures I take when I get too little sleep. 

The bed is calling. Have a great week.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Looking forward to September

Today was toasty. It was only 94 degrees which was not as hot as in the past several weeks, but when you factor in the humidity at 88%, it made breathing difficult.

Clouds moved in late this evening and the temps dropped somewhat. Jilda poured me a tall glass of ice tea and I stepped out onto the deck to watch the butterflies dance on the lantana.

During a pause in the fluttering action, I pulled out my phone to flip through photographs in preparation for this entry tonight.

I came across the picture below that I'd taken last February. It was shot from the same chair where I was sitting.

Just looking at the snow clinging to the bare branches of the pear tree felt refreshing. Remembering that one day soon, the heat will move off to focus on some other place on the planet, and the autumn breeze will once again blow, gave me strength.

I will not wish a moment of my life away, but I think it's OK to say I look forward to September.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The early years

I've tapped the letters off my keyboard tonight and I came up empty. The weather has made the landscape unphotogenic so using a great picture wasn't an option.

So I had to dig deeply tonight. Going through some old photographs I found a picture taken of Jilda and me along with our friend Dale Short.  It was the Friday after Thanksgiving 1969. We talked Jilda's parents into letting us go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. An overnight stay wasn't in the cards, but we could leave early, make the five-hour drive (one way) and be back before bedtime.

It was a fun trip. I remember just after this photograph was taken, it began to snow. That night when we got back home, we were bone tired, but smiling.

We haven't been to Gatlinburg in years, but I've been wanting to go. Maybe I can talk Jilda going the Friday after Thanksgiving. That day will be here in the blink of an eye.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rainy day

Today was my third and last round of knee injections. I almost hugged the doctors when they finished up. The appointment was early but by the time I got back to the office, it was after 11 A.M. which meant I would be working late.

Once back in my office, I got busy and the hours flew by. The skies here turned dark one moment and the next moment splattering rain danced on the courtyard outside my window.  A few moments after the clouds moved north, the August sun would beat down make it feel like a steam room outside.

I lost track of the time and barely made it to the bank to cash a check before they closed at 5 P.M.

On the way home, rain ticked off my windshield and I snapped a picture between windshield wiper swipes. Behind me, the  low-hanging clouds were dark as woodsmoke.

I'd plan to shoot pictures of my high school's first football game of the season, but I wasn't sure it was smart going to an open field when the weatherman was predicting lightning. There will be other games this year.

It's a long weekend for me and I hope to get in a little fly fishing. Y'all have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday stuff

Jilda and I had eye exams today. I knew my vision had changed this past year because everything my eyes fell on looked as if it were wearing a sweater.

The eye doc confirmed my suspicions so my glasses will get a little thicker...I'm excited.

On a sad note, one of our chickens was slaughtered in the pen a few nights ago. When I examined the carcuss, I knew immediately it was a raccoon.

I baited our humain trap with sardines the next evening and the following morning I had a fat raccoon in the cage.

His zipcode changed. I released him in the cemetery where my mom and dad are buried. It's a remote rural place with a creek nearby.

I'll leave the trap set for a few more days to catch any siblings that come looking for their big brother.

It's been raining here for over a week. I wish there was some way we could share with our friends in California.

I hope you all have a  great Thursday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Last night after yoga I stepped outside while Jilda talked with one of the new folks who attended.

Off in one direction you could see clouds gathering on the horizon and moving toward us from the south. But to the west, the sun settled below the horizon.

A quarter moon looked almost as if someone had pinned it there as an afterthought.

Cameras can never do the sky justice when the light is tricky, but I'm compelled to try. The picture I shot with the normal camera setting was unremarkable, but this one looked a little more interesting.

This week was fall registration at the school. Each day I've seen kids with confused looks on their faces looking for the computer lab or the bookstore.

This summer I've had the courtyard to myself. I could sit at the tables or on short brick walls in the shade to enjoy the sun, breeze and a quiet that is rare on a college campus. But those days are gone for another year.

It's exciting to see kids begin the next phase of their lives. Seeing the look in their eyes, gives me hope.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A ‘Siri’-ous relationship ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There’s something going on in my life that I find hard to discuss even with my closest friends. I’ve found myself in a relationship. It started out with a little kidding and light-hearted flirting, but now I’ve found it’s flowered into something more serious. Jilda is aware of the relationship, and while she’s not happy, she’s decided to stand by my side while I work through it.

It’s with Siri, the voice on my iPhone that answers every question I put to her. When I’m lost, she helps me find my way. I’ve found that I not only ask her for directions but also advice on practically everything.

The other morning while drinking coffee on the back deck, we noticed a plane the size of a mosquito overhead with a thread of yarn trailing behind as it jetted toward the west. Jilda asked absently, “I wonder where that plane’s headed?”

I promptly pulled my iPhone from my pocket and asked, “What planes are overhead?”

“Let me check,” Siri chirped. A few seconds later she came back with a spreadsheet of all the flights, their altitude, positions in the sky, the types of airplanes and the direction they were headed. Jilda rolled her eyes as she sipped at her steaming mug.

A friend who also has a thing for Siri asked her to talk dirty to him. She responded, “I can’t, I’m pure as fallen snow.”

That answer made him a little snarky, so he asked Siri, “When will pigs fly?” She promptly responded, “When they grow wings.”

The other day I asked Siri what time it was in Beijing, and moments later she cheerfully said, “It’s 4 a.m. Rick.” I’m not sure why, but knowing what time it is on the other side of the planet makes me happy.

Jilda’s experience with Siri is much different than mine.

When Jilda asks for directions, to say 19th Street in Jasper, Siri will eventually lead her there, but it might take her through Dothan, or maybe Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

On the other hand, when I ask for directions, I usually get the fastest along with the most scenic route.

Last summer when I went to Memphis with Jilda, her sister Pat and niece Jayna, we were lost on the outskirts of town. I asked, “Where is Graceland from right here?”

I guess Siri heard Jilda and Pat snort with laughter, because Siri said with a little smirk, “I can not find “Right Here” on the map, Rick.” I clarified the question as the girls howled with laughter. Siri responded, “Let me check my tea leaves.” Jayna laughed so hard she almost had a hygiene issue. I no longer talk to Siri when Jilda is in the car with me.

Aside from being a little snippy with my wife, Siri is a very handy personal assistant.

I spend a lot of time driving and Siri comes in very handy when I have requests. Typing while driving is not only dangerous, but it’s also illegal.

Even with my southern drawl, she keeps me informed, keeps my calendar updated, sends text messages and dials phone numbers.

Before I started this “Siri’ous” relationship, I’m not sure how I found my way.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


We took a long nap after lunch today. I wasn't sure if I was dreaming, but I heard a rattle on the roof. When I opened my eyes and looked out the front windows, the falling rain looked like fog. 

I raised up on one shoulder to get a better look. Even through the rain, the rose of Sharon bushes were full of cardinals. I tried to snap a picture, but the images looked ghostly and distant. So I laid my head back on the pillow and watched them through the rain.

We needed the rain. It hasn't been dry here, but the rain has been sporadic. The garden is surviving, but not thriving. My mother-in-law Ruby said, "You can keep a garden alive on city water, but it won't be happy."

When I walked down this afternoon and leaned on the fence for my daily progress report, I realized that it did in fact look happy.

I had to pick up some milk and dog food this morning while Jilda straightened up in the house. On  the way home, I drove by the forks. There wasn't a soul there. I sat for a few minutes before heading home. I snapped the picture below.

I hope you all have a remarkable week. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Playing our first fair

You could hear children laughing before we ever made it to the fairway. The aroma of cotton candy and popcorn drifted on the evening breeze.

Thankfully we had reserved parking close to the stage, which made the chore of lugging guitars and equipment much easier.

 I snapped the selfie below to document the occasion.

We were supposed to play at 8:30 p.m. but we were delayed. While we waited, our nephew James with his girls, Breeze, Daisy and Joy took us to the exhibition hall to show off the ribbons they'd won in the competition. Those youngun's are amazing.

After our performance, we were road-weary and headed back to the hotel.

Tonight the cotton sheets are calling. I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shooting stars

I switched off the living room lights and stepped onto the back deck last night. Jilda and I had gone out each evening this week trying to catch a glimpse of a Perseid meteor without seeing one. But last night when I stepped out, I ignored the swarm of mosquitos as big as ducks and sat there silently observing the moonless sky.

After a few minutes, a meteor came from the north and streaked southward to the southern horizon. 

Sometimes when you witness their short-lived existence is more like a skinny thread of light. And after they're gone, you wonder if you really saw one or if it was your brain playing tricks on you.

But the one last night was much bigger and seem to sizzle across the night sky close enough that I could have caught it with a trout net.

Even though we don't see a shooting star every time we look into the night sky, we still go out...because the times when you do see them makes you forget all the times you didn't.
Shooting Star - I cheated and photoshopped a NASA
meteor onto one of my photographs.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Elusive lesson

I spent most of the day on the road. The college has a campus at the edge of Alabama not far from the Mississippi state line.

The session had been planned for months, but only one person signed up. As it turns out, that person didn't show up so I had a 200-mile tour. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies, green pastures, and lazy cattle grazing in the shade.

Was it the best use of my time? It's hard to say. I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere, but sometimes the lessons are elusive.

I'll leave you with another picture of the courtyard outside my office window.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Finding the words

The column for Sunday was due today and I spent what seemed like hours struggled to find the words. I started writing the weekly column in January of 2007 which means I've written 397 columns. But I started writing my daily blog in December of 2005, and according to Blogger stats, I've published 3581 posts.

I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned there is an ebb and flow to creativity. Some days I'm bubbling with creative thoughts and ideas. Other days, I'm bereft of even hope of a decent topic.

Today, after many hours, I deleted the crap I'd written and drank some ice tea as I flipped back through a folder I set up years ago entitled Works In Progress. I came across a column that didn't seem to resonate when I wrote it.

Today, when I read back over the words I'd written months ago, I found the amusing and with a few edits, it was column-ready. Jilda read through it and agreed.

Hitting the send button on an email to my editors was a relief.  The next time I have a creative bounty, I plan to write extra columns to hold for days like today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Evening storm

I knew before yoga class ending last evening that we were in for a big blow. I felt the rumble of thunder before hearing it. 

Even with the shades drawn, you could see light pulsing around the edges of the window like a strobe.  

Jilda sensed the weather was getting worse, so she let class out a little early so that people could scurry to their car and hopefully make it home before the deluge.

We could have left too, but there was a group of high school kids in the basement in a first-aid class. When we gathered our stuff up and headed for the door. The kids were clustered around the front windows expectantly looking for the headlights of their parents coming to collect them. 

The trainer was a young woman who didn't look much older than the kids and she wasn't about to leave until all the kids were collected.

Jilda and I could tell she was a little freaked by the weather, so we, along with a few others from yoga buddies, chose to stay until the storm passed.

I stepped out and shot this picture from under the portico. I tried to catch threads of lightning as it forked across the sky like a window slowly breaking.  Soon the wind began to howl, causing a horizontal rain. 

The instructor had a weather app on her phone that allowed her to get snapshots of lightning strikes, wind speed, and any reported damage. The wind outside our window was blowing at 66 mph, which is just 8 mph below hurricane force on the Fujitsu scale.

All through the torrent, parents pulled in, collected their kids and disappeared into the storm. 

We waited until they all left and the worst of the storm had moved off to the east before darting to our cars. 

Even though the lights flickered a few times, the power was on when we pulled into our driveway. I was grateful.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Aunt Rick’s wrong turn ~ My column from Sunday's paper

I broke down and went shoe shopping recently. The old tennis shoes were in sad shape, so it was time for new ones. Most of my shopping trips are uneventful, but this one ended with a twist.

Shopping for me involves driving to the store, finding what I came for, swiping my card and driving home. But Jilda’s shopping trips don’t roll that way. They involve a lot of looking, ooing, aahing, touching, trying on, pondering, looking some more, ooing some more and so on.

Our niece Samantha and her son Jordan went with us on this particular trip. I was all for including him because like me, shopping is like visiting the dentist –– you have to do it from time to time, but we’d rather not make a habit of it.

The first part of the trip went fine. The Merrell store was in the first section of shops. I walked in with a laser focus, found two pairs of shoes, I tried them on, clomped around the store to make sure they felt right, paid the tab and we were out the door.

The original plans were to come home after buying my shoes, but unfortunately, there is also a Coach outlet in the mall as well.

There is an unwritten girl-rule that states:

Thou shalt not pass by a Coach store without browsing.

Jilda swears there were actually 11 Commandments, but the one about passing by the Coach store was left off by the men who transcribed them to the Bible.

When we walked out of the store it was 103 degrees in the shade and I could see the car, but the girls double-teamed us. Samantha played dirty by offering to buy Jordan a Sponge Bob Square Pants popsicle to eat while they browsed.

He’s an impressionable child and easily swayed by the promise of high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring. We found a bench in the shade to let him enjoy his treat and the girls walked away smiling.

I soon realized eating the popsicle would become a race against time. The heat was melting the treat faster than he could lick it. Before long, most of Sponge Bob’s pants were running down Jordan’s chin, neck and the front of his shirt.

When he finished, the girls had not returned, so I started looking for the nearest restroom to clean him up.

We twisted and turned down the halls behind the food court on our way to the men’s room.

He was lagging a few steps behind when I found the facilities and stepped inside. I keep a close watch on the seven-year-old while he’s in my care, so I called out for him to come inside.

It took only a moment to realize that something was different about this bathroom. I didn’t see any urinals on the walls, and just as I turned to find Jordan, I noticed the feet under a closed stall were wearing sandals with rhinestones.

The realization hit me like a pie in the face. Jordan opened the door tentatively and said, “Uh, Aunt Rick, I think you’re in the wrong bathroom.” (He still calls me Aunt Rick out of habit.)

I almost ran over two women who were about to enter their bathroom.

By the time we crossed the hall to the men’s room, Jordan was laughing hysterically. “YOU BETTER NOT TELL ANYONE I DID THAT,” I said with a bit of menace in my voice.

When we got outside the girls were waiting at our designated meeting place. He was still howling.

Yes, he told them, and when we got home, he told his grandpa and grandma. In fact, he’s told every living relative about me going into the ladies room. I’m surprised he didn’t rent a billboard.

I sometimes wonder how he will remember me when I’m gone. Will he remember me teaching him how to cast a fly rod, will he remember the games we played or the songs we wrote together?

While he loves learning and doing new things, I fear what he will remember is the time I went into the ladies restroom.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Song Titles

If I were a song title tonight, some of the choices might be:

Heat Wave ~ Linda Ronstadt

Heat of the night ~ Brian Adams

Too Hot ~ Kool and the Gang

Hot Fun in the Summertime ~ Sly & The Family Stone

Or maybe The Heat is On ~ Glenn Frey

Any of these would work tonight. We're under a heat advisory. At 6:30 this evening, the heat index was 106.

I'm taking a shower and hitting the sheets.

I used a similar picture recently.  You're welcome to send me a picture
to use if you don't like this one :)
Stay cool.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Getting the news at the forks

It was brutally hot here again today. There wasn't a lot on my agenda, but I cleaned out my closet earlier this week and I staged boxes to the living room in preparation for a run to the thrift store.

I knew if I left them out of sight, they would remain there until I tired of stumbling over them, so I put them on the bench where Jilda and I would see them daily.

So today I loaded my truck and hauled the stuff off. Even with just a small amount of decluttering, I can already breathe better.

The next step is the mountains of magazines. We have them under tables, in baskets, stacked in the bedroom, my office, and the laundry room. They're history. They don't know it yet, but color them gone.

This evening I stopped by the forks of the river to get "the news." All my old buddies that live around there bring their lawn chairs and gather in the shade near the water's edge. Even when the mercury is in the stratosphere, the water there is in the 50s. With water that cool, the breeze turns the forks into a silent air conditioner. Well, it's not totally silent. You can hear the great blue herons and other waterbirds fussing over supper. Also, there is a family of otters that make an appearance each evening.

Today the forks was a beehive of activity with people stopping by just to spend a little time by the water. But even with people around, the forks is still peaceful.

Even though most of the guys who gather there are my age and older, most of them still work hard during the day. Leo is over 70, but he still cuts the grass for "older" widow women who attend his church.

After a hard day's work, there is no better place to unwind than spending a little time at the forks because it feeds your soul...I know it feeds mine.

Friday, August 07, 2015


Milestones. We all have them. That picture of the first steps or the first time we ride a bicycle. The certificates we receive when we graduate from kindergarten...high school, college are all milestones documented with pictures, celebrations, and plaques we hang on our walls. 

Our great nephew Jordan had a milestone today. He finished his swim team lessons. He's been going daily for two weeks and working hard every day. His teacher Mary Francis looks angelic to me and she has been great with Jordan. 

I  texted the shot to his mom, and his nana and pawpaw. He was proud of it. I know because he held it on the way home. We didn't talk a lot, but I could hear him in the back seat reading the words. 

While he did his final lesson, I swam. I was much stronger today and there was a lot less flailing. 

I almost dozed while having lunch. When I said, I am whupped. Jordan said swimming will do that to you. Apparently he did learn some things in his swim lessons.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The times

It seems the leaves started changing. Some unseen signal from Mother Nature and the trees and shrubs began a slow transition into autumn. I know autumn is more than a month away, but tell that to the sumac, poison ivy, and hickory.

At first glance, they looked like thirsty leaves longing for a taste of rain, but then it rained most of the day today and the color this evening is even more pronounced.

Before long, the heat of summer will be a memory and the aroma of woodsmoke along, that tastes of the harvest, along with the kaleidoscope of fall color will dominate the conversation.

As the Dylan song goes, The Times They Are A Changin.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Watery workout

To continue my storyline from yesterday and since I'm devoid of any creative ideas, let's talk further about fitness.

I was bummed to interrupt my aerobic momentum, so when Jilda made an excellent suggestion I jumped on it. We take our great nephew Jordan to swim lessons twice a week. She said, "Why don't you take your swim trunks and swim while he does his lesson?"  I can't believe I hadn't thought of that.

So this morning, I donned my festive swimsuit that I'd bought for our cruise to the Carribean last year and we headed out to the natatorium. After a frosty shower, I hit the water with purpose. It was warm as bath water. Eying the far end of the pool with confidence, I quickly fell into an overhand stroke. It's an Olympic-sized pool and my seven-year-old nephew made swimming it look like child's play.

By the time I reached the deep water, I was huffing, puffing, and making non-aquatic sounds. In fact, I sounded like a buffalo floundering in the water. I made it to the end and turned. I forced a smile on my face to reassure Jilda that the effort was a piece of cake though my heart was pounding inside my chest like an angry monkey.

I managed to dog-paddle to the shallow end, where I spent the remainder of the time. I walked, swam, and hopped the entire time. By the time I finished the session, I felt as if I'd just completed the triathlon.

It was a warning shot across my brow (a little play on words.) I really should be doing more to stay in shape.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

If every day were a picnic

I've been walkin' wonky lately. I'm not sure why they sometimes flare up and cause so much grief. I decided to go in for the shots, which in the past have given me relief.

Today was the day, so I headed out from work to my appointment. The doc was late and that always makes me huffy and what not, but when he came in, I realized what he'd been doing. He had three young doctors in tow and he was teaching/demonstrating how to do the various procedures.

A short time later they were shooting medicine in my knees with needles that felt as fat as sausages. I'll get a shot in each knee for the next two weeks. I'm excited.

The exercise routine I've been following must be altered until after the shots, so it looks like I'll be doing more creative things that have less impact on my aching joints.

It's been a long day so I'm about to ice these babies down for a while before crashing for the evening.

I was beginning to feel a little sorry for myself until I remembered that if every day were a picnic, you'd grow tired of hot dogs and ice cream.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Memories of Indiana

The idea for this column took root during my search for the spare key to our Volvo. I decided the carved cedar box sitting on the bedroom dresser would be a good place to start because it’s where I store old knives, broken watches, and other keepsakes. Facedown on the bottom of the box was an old picture of my dad standing behind our old 1947 Chevy.

The picture was taken in 1956 as he stood in the driveway of our apartment in Whiting, Indiana where we lived for just over a year. Holding the picture, I stepped closer to the window to get a better look.

For some reason, the drive to Indiana stands out in my mind. Mom and Dad packed our belongings along with my brother Neil, my sister Mary Lois, and me into the old Chevy. We headed north on the Friday night before Memorial Day. Dad thought the traffic would be better at night.

We stopped at a rest stop somewhere near Paducah, Kentucky. Rest stops in those days were wide places in the road with two concrete picnic tables and a garbage barrel. We pulled baloney sandwiches from a brown paper bag that mom had packed for us. We lingered long enough for my dad to take a short nap so that he wouldn’t fall asleep while driving.

I was wide-awake and I remember hearing vehicles gearing down, and then accelerating to climb a nearby hill. In my mind, I thought it was all the racecars headed to Indiana to race in the Indianapolis 500. When I mentioned this to my older brother Neil, he made fun of me for being so goofy.

The racecars were actually tractor-trailer trucks using gears to maneuver up and down nearby hills and hollows.

When we loaded up for the last leg of our trip, I camped out in the hat rack. That was the place under the back window. Seatbelts had not been invented then, and the family was unaware that one sudden stomp on the brakes would have turned their sleeping child into a human missile.

There weren’t many lights then in rural Kentucky or Indiana so the stars in the sky were as bright as diamonds on a blue velvet blanket.The picture of my dad triggered another thread of memory about our short time in Indiana. Had the photographer taken a few steps backward, you would have seen massive petroleum tanks that looked like shiny fat ticks. The storage facility was just beyond the fence at the back of our apartment. There was a troubling odor of petroleum in the air when the wind blew from the wrong direction.

Early one morning our family was jolted from deep sleep by rumbling explosions. A short time later we heard sirens. Every now and then there would be another explosion.

Across the fence, the predawn sky glowed orange and yellow. Soon rescue people came down our streets and told us we would have to

My grandparents lived in Hammond, Indiana which was a few miles away and that’s where we went that morning before the sun rose.

Soon after that experience, we moved from that strange land back to the comfort of the drafty old camp house in Sloss Hollow.

I had not thought of these things in years until I saw the picture of my dad.

Obviously this is not my dad. That picture ran with the first segment
of this story which I posted on July 16. The story tonight is the
story I promised then.

Sunday, August 02, 2015


Why is it that old pictures often look better. The cameras were, for the most part, inferior unless you had the good fortune to own a Leica or one of the other high-end cameras.

With today's equipment, the pictures practically take themselves...or they chide you if you try to take an inferior photograph. But even with the advanced technology, I still manage to take some crappy pictures.

I walked out onto the back deck this evening the enjoy the last of the light. Two deer were under the apple tree eating the corn we'd spread there before sundown. They were too far off to get a decent shot with my iPhone so I shot the picture below instead. I used a Tintype app which resembles photographs taken when photography was in its infancy.

I have some actual photographs taken during that time period and they are remarkable.

This one's not bad though I have to wonder what pictures those early photographers would have taken had they had access to the technology today.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Good Saturday

I threw steaks on the grill, poured a glass of red wine,  pulled up a lawn chair and watched the final moments of the setting sun.

The dappled light highlighted the crepe myrtles blooming in the canopy. We planted the crepes many years ago and I've never pruned them. As a result, they are more crepe myrtle trees than bushes.

I captured this shot leaning back in my chair and shooting straight up. The contrasting color watermelon (that's the actual name of the color) blooms against the green of the water oak foliage is stunning.

After the steaks, Jilda grilled some romaine lettuce to go with the Irish potatoes that had been languishing in the oven.

I popped in a movie we love entitled Salmon Fishing in Yemen. After we ate, both of us faded midway through the movie. We'd worked hard around the house doing chores that had been long left undone.

I have a feeling it will be an early evening here. I hope your Saturday has been a good one too.

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