Thursday, March 31, 2016

Which way the wind blows

I know we talk about the weather a great deal, but this evening looks like it could be a long one because of the clouds. A tornado is showing on radar in Fayette which is about an hour west of us. One of the Bevill State Campuses is located there and a lot of my friends live in that area. 

I'm not sure if they're headed our way or not but the air outside is unstable with the wind whipping in one direction and then the other.

Early spring in the south is beautiful but it comes with a price tag. Sometimes we have violent weather. 

Earlier today, these storms stomped their way across the midwest and after work radar images looked as though our friends up around Chicago and Ohio were in the crosshairs but I'm not sure if they got any  damage or not.

Hopefully, it will play out soon and the tornados indicated on the radar are aloft which is sometimes the case.

This much I know, we'll be in front of the TV for a while watching which way the wind blows.

On an up note, I did manage to snap a photo of my niece Samantha and great nephew Jordan with a new app I downloaded on my phone today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Morning sky

Are you familiar with the old saying, Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight? I've heard it all my life.

But I wonder what the sailor should do when the morning sky is cobalt blue (according to color charts) and low clouds highlighted by the rising sun is the color of orange sherbet. And that is topped off by a half moon? 

That's what crossed my mind this morning when stepping onto the back deck. Not being a sailor, I'm  not sure if I have a say in the matter, but I was amazed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wild honeysuckle

The woods this time of year come alive. When the days get longer and the sap begins to rise, a transformation takes place in the shadows.

Spindly dogwood trees try to reach into the canopy for a little slice of sunshine. The blossoms as big as your hand unfold and look like tiny lanterns in the undergrowth of the hollow.

An outcropping of rocks as big as Edsels lies at the edge of a  bluff overlooking a small rocky creek a few hundred yards behind the barn. 

Those rocks warm earlier in late winter which seems to be a perfect environment for wild honeysuckles. Some call the shrubs wild azaleas, but my people have always called them wild honeysuckles. They bloom white and many shades of red and pink.

Through the years, we've tried to transplant them from the wild into our yard without success. But then the last time we tried, it survived. Tiny, at first, we kept the soil around it aerated and nurtured with compost.

Last year when our azaleas bloomed, the little wild honeysuckle bloomed too.  Over last summer, it took a growth spurt. It bloomed late last week, but the last few days were beautiful and it decided to put on a show. Mother Nature got this little plant right.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Buckeye ammo ~ My column from Sunday's paper

It’s a thousand wonders I didn’t grow up to become a terrorist or at the very least a lifer in the military. That’s because when I was a kid I was into tanks, guns, and Armies of clothespin soldiers slaughtering each other. Most of the carnage took place under the front porch of our old house in Sloss. The battlefields were in inch-thick dirt which was as fine as snuff.  There was no better place to be on rainy days.

As I got older, the warfare evolved. The enemies depended on which neighborhood kids were in my army and which ones were the scum-sucking enemy that drew the short straws when selecting sides. 

The best weapons in those summer battles were buckeyes.  Not padded monsters that wore red and played linebacker for the University of Ohio, but a golf ball sized nut that was in the horse chestnut family. Jabbing one of these babies onto the end of a sharp pointed stick gave me real firepower.

The buckeye grows wild and is among the first wave of blooming things here in Alabama. In early spring, the buckeye bush produces beautiful red flowers. Then in summer when Alabama gets hotter than Satan in a snit, the buckeye plant produces nuts in a soft-brown shell that hang on the branches like tiny apples. The woods are full of them.

I've never tried to eat one, but they made excellent artillery ammunition. They loaded easy and had better knock-down power than a slingshot at long distances.

I don't remember who showed me the flinging-buckeye trick, but it came in handy during the many battles we fought over land rights, world domination, and what not.

When broken open, the buckeyes contained three or four nuts inside. They were hard when green, but the sharpened end of a long limber stick slid easily into the flesh of the nut.

When one of these smacked into the side of the head, it didn’t kill you, but experience taught me that they hurt like the dickens.

Distance was a factor when selecting the correct length of stick. For closer combat, shorter sticks were best because the aim was truer and they were easier to reload. 

But if the battlefield was wide and I needed to hurl the buckeye a hundred yards or so catching the enemy napping, a longer stick was essential.

Accuracy was problematic with this technology, so it took a great deal of practice. Experience showed me that the wind was a factor and moving targets were a challenge, but a direct hit with one of these babies was a game changer. 

I thought of those battles this week when I walked through the woods down at the back of the property. A buckeye bush was in full bloom. I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped several pictures. One looked good enough to share on Instagram (rickwatson.) 

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Handful of dust

There was a sweetgum tree in our backyard that was small when we built our house in 1983. Through the years, it provided shade, from the brutal summer sun and speckled autumn leaves that were beautiful. 

It had its downside too. The sweetgum tree was a species that took procreation to heart. Its seed pods looked like tiny spiked balls. They reminded me of the spike balls used as medieval torture devices. 

This tree dropped MILLIONS of them each year. When I ran over them with the lawnmower, it sounded like popcorn popping underneath.

Then about ten years ago, a storm swept through as they do from time to time and hurricane-force straight-line winds did Mother Natures dirty work. When the sun came back out, all the weak trees in our yard had blown down or been topped.  Part of the sweetgum tree fell on the roof of our house. 

We contacted a tree service and they came, taking down several trees that were damaged or leaning toward the house. The sweetgum was one of them.

Most of the trees were cut off at ground level leaving no stump, but I thought I might build a tabletop and use the trunk as the "legs" for the backyard table, so they left it waist high.

Well, the tabletop never happened, but we spent a lot of time in the backyard and used the tree trunk through the years for a variety of things. It seemed as though it would be here forever.

But then last year the bark began to peel off, and the wood that had seemed so solid was as soft as pulp.

Today after our walk, I sat for a while on the benches around the fire pit to cool off. I realized the sweetgum stump was returning to the earth. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few pictures because I liked the contrast of color. Soon I'll bring the tractor up and move what's left of the old sweetgum tree to the pile of things to burn.

I know this is weird, but as I looked at this old stump, I thought about life. We are here for a while, and do some good work, but we can also be a pain in the butt at times. Then life hits you like a train. After you leave this old earth, all that's left are photographs, a few memories in the minds of those who love you, and a handful of dust.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Stuff

A neighbor called early this morning. Today was Food Pantry day at their church. I'd told her a few days ago that we had some eggs we'd like to give. All five hens are laying so our fridge fills quickly. The chickens or eggs aren't shot up with antibiotics, or hormones. They eat scratch feed and what ever bugs, ants, and other crawling critters they come across in our yard. We gave her four dozen for the give away this morning.

We're finishing up the decluttering gig here. We went through over a thousand books and tossed the ones that did not resonate with us. The discarded books will go to the thrift store to find a new home.

The last chore this evening was to burn a pile of papers Jilda had discarded from her office desk. I'm guessing there was 25 pounds of old check stubs, and other papers that she no longer needed.

I fired them up and then pulled a folding lawn chair nearby to tend the fire. Stacks of paper are harder to burn than you might think because of air-flow issues.

The evening sun was dipping ever closer to the horizon and I let the flames hypnotize me. 

On a sad note, Jilda's brother who lives next door stepped over to tell us our neighbor who lives acrossed the road from him passed away this evening.  I'd written about them a month or so ago. She'd gone down fast and we knew it wouldn't be long before she left us.

Tomorrow is Easter. I hope you all have a blessed day.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Road Songs

My taste in music is eclectic to say the least. I like music from every decade that I've been alive and some that predate my arrival.

Through the years, we've spent a chunk of our disposable income on vinyl, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CDs and digital music.

A lot of my friends took advantage of the Napster music theft orgy, but as a songwriter, I couldn't bring myself to steal from another songwriter. The arguments – Everybody's doing it...And It's not hurting anyone, didn't ring true. 

So, most the space on my hard drive is taken up with pictures and music. 

Several years ago, I started doing mixtapes. I call them mixtapes even though we haven't used an actual tape in years but you get the idea.

Whenever we were about to go on a roadtrip, I would do a mix of songs that I thought would add to the experience of driving to our destination. 

Mixtapes are hit and miss. It's easy to figure out the songs I want to hear on the road, but selecting songs that we both would enjoy is more of a challenge.

After the journey, we file the roadtrip cds in our case and forget about them. Every now and then we'll pull one out at random. We did that today when we ran to Birmingham to Costco. It's an hour drive both ways, so we dusted off a RoadTrip CD and popped that baby in. As it turns out, it was one of those CDs that I got right. Every song a classic time machine.

Evening pond

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A thousand miles

Yesterday was a page out of a picture book. Most of the trees between here and Memphis were sheathed in spring green and flowers of every color were in bloom. 

Dogwood and Wild Crabapple were in competition. The dogwood blossoms looked as if they were carved from bone, but the Crabapple were tinged with pink and a color I could not name. 

I tried to take pictures, but they were simply sad and I couldn't even use artsy-fartsy filters to cute the up.

Someone on Facebook asked, why on earth I would drive over 400 miles (round trip) to eat BBQ?

My only answer was because that's what my lovely spouse wanted to do on her birthday. I would have driven a thousand miles. 

We had an incredible meal, saw some beautiful scenery, and we got a story out of the deal. My sister-in-law Pat rode over with us and we had a large time. 

Today, on the other hand, has been an ol' rainy day.  I'm still on a decluttering mission and hit my office bookshelves today. When the rain slacked, I took a load of books to the Hannah Home collection center. It's a thrift store benefitting battered women. I hope they can sell the books and make a few bucks and help a woman in need.

Tommorrow the rain should be well to the east and we plant to put in some solid practice time for upcoming shows.

It's been a fun week so far. I hope you've had fun too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


I love BBQ. I'm not sure I've ever said that on this blog, but I do. I like BBQ pig, cow, chicken, and
shrimp. I'd probably like BBQ possum, but I'm not anxious to try a marsupial, but I'm trying to make a point.

In fact, we wrote a song with our friend Steve Norris called BBQ.  I'll post the words at the end of this entry, but what started me down this path was that when I asked Jilda what she wanted for her birthday she said, I want some BBQ.  But not just any old BBQ, but BBQ from Corkies in Memphis. I know that as I type this entry, my birthday girl is writing about this excursion so I won't do that here. You'll need to visit her blog here.


I got a cravin' for something fine
Don't want burgers, and I don't want fries
I don’t want chicken, I don't want fish
Nothin' fat free, I want a REAL man's dish
Not just any ol' thang will do
I want Bar-B-Que

A slab of port with lots of sauce
You can get it like that down at Arcihbalds
One half pound pig on wonder bread
I'm in heaven and I ain't dead
Nothin' else in the world will do
I want Bar-B-Que

I feel sorry for the folks up North
They know nothin' bout cookin' pork
They grill steaks and they cook hot dogs
But when it comes to smokin' hogs
Them ol' yankee's ain't got a clue
'Bout Bar-B-Que

I got a cravin' for something fine
Don't want burgers, and I don't want fries
I don’t want chicken, I don't want fish
Nothin' fat free, I want a REAL man's dish
Not just any ol' thang will do
I want Bar-B-Que

Sometimes a man’s gotta do something to keep that cholesterol from getting too low – You know what I mean?

cprt 1998 steve norris, rick and jilda watson

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring Sage

Tomorrow is Jilda's birthday and I didn't want to get her a Wal-Mart card so I drove to the nearest bookstore.  This is a little sad, and I'm a little embarrassed to say it but the county I live in does not have a bookstore. Well that's not entirely true, there is a Christian book store, but if you're looking for a non-religious read, you're out of luck here.

But the day was beautiful and after work I rolled down the windows of my truck and headed out after work.  On the way there, I passed a field of sage grass. The sun dipping toward the west backlighted the field and I pulled to the edge of the rural road and snapped a couple pictures.

The bookstore is a national chain that has a coffeeshop inside and I thought it unwise to drive 25 (50 round trip) miles for a birthday card and not enjoy an expensive coffee drink. I browsed while sipping my mocha. I came across a book I'd been reading about. Five People You Want to Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albon. I'd read Tuesdays with Morrie and loved that book so I picked up a copy of this one as a birthday happy for Jilda.

All in all it was a nice day here. Tonight when I went out on the deck to dump the scraps from dinner into the compost bucket, the sky was glass clear with a moon that almost full. I stood there for a long time taking in the sky.

I hope your Tuesday was a good one. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fishing in Horse Creek

My work took me to Fayette this past week. The schedule was loose and the day was the warmest yet of 2016, so naturally I chose to take the back roads where there’s always something interesting to see.

The route I chose ran through by the old house where I was born. At one point, I came to a piece of property that once belonged to my Aunt Willodean. These days, all that’s there is a grove of privets as thick as thatch.

My aunt bought the house and property from the Warren family who lived there when I was in grade school. The land was on the edge of Horse Creek, and often turned into a swamp when it rained.

A clip of memory played through my mind like an old movie, and it helped melt away the miles of my trip.

Cane pole fishing was a big part of my young life. I spent hours catching crickets, digging red worms, and looking for the perfect fishing spot on the banks of Horse Creek.

My brother Neil loved to fish too, but he took bait collection to the next level when he fashioned an old window screen into a minnow basket trap. It was cylinder shaped with a cone mouth, and he used pieces of loaf bread to tempt them inside. The minnows would swim in through the cone to get to the bread.  Once inside, they couldn’t find the small opening to escape. It was an ingenious design for catching minnows and crawfish.

One day when I went with him to “run the baskets” we discovered he’d trapped something unexpected. We’d tethered the baskets to the bank with a length of wire and when he started pulling in to check the contents, he realized there was something in it much heavier than minnows. When we got it to the top of the water, we saw something writhing and thrashing inside.

Once on the bank, we discovered it was thick with snakes. There were six Cottonmouth Moccasins in there, and they were not happy.  We couldn’t figure out how to free them without getting bit, so the next few minutes did not go well for these poisonous pit vipers.

That was the summer I refined my fishing techniques. I didn’t have the money for fancy rod and reels or store-bought rigging, but I did OK.
I must have looked like Opie from the Andy Griffith Show walking to the creek bank, a bamboo pole with the line wrapped around it like stripes on a candy cane. About 18 inches from the hook was a small section of dried corncob that served as a fishing cork.

The rig was perfect for the brush-gnarled banks of that little creek and through the years of my youth, I pulled my share of bream and bluegill out of those waters.

I hadn’t thought of these stories in years, but you can always find interesting things when you take the back roads.

Still fishing.

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