Sunday, October 30, 2016

Coffee Connections ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The allure of a new coffee bar in Jasper was too robust to pass up, so I decided to give it a try. I love frou-frou coffee, and the ones they sell at Mickey D’s wasn’t cutting it. After a meeting at the college in
Jasper, I wheeled in front of Lavish Coffee Bar just down from the courthouse and walked inside.
It has a hip decor, and the baristas look like they could pick up work on the side as models for Gap ads.
As I stood there watching the young woman assemble my mocha, I overheard one young customer who was leaning on the coffee bar sipping his spice tea talking about his first phone. “It was a chunk,” he said. Another customer who was just a little older explained that her first cell phone came in a bag.
I have shoes older than most of these kids, but I wanted to be hip and fit in. “I still remember my first telephone number.” They all paused for a moment and looked at me. “It was Milton 8-5029.” They waited for the rest of the number.
Explaining that our first phone was before area codes and before the phone company added 64 in front of the phone number, it became apparent they didn’t have a point of reference. Nodding in unison, they turned their attention back to their phones.
I went on to mention that the first phone line in our house was a party line we shared with a neighbor across the street. That phone service was kind of a precursor to Facebook except you couldn’t show the neighbor a picture of your dog unless you walked over to her house. But she pretty much knew our business and what we were having for supper.
It appeared the kids in the coffee bar were trying to imagine life before iPhones.
When the barista slid my finished mocha across the counter, I picked it up and headed outside. The ride home was a contemplative one. I hadn’t thought of the old phone number in years, and the memory made me reflect on life before smartphones.
It seems that my head wasn’t as jammed back then. With smartphones, I get the latest news notifications throughout the day as well as reminders of the next appointment on my calendar. If I’m in the car, I’m usually listening to books on tape (they haven’t been on tape in years), or talking to someone on the phone.
The times when I get in a slow-moving checkout line at Walmart, I usually look around at other line-waiters. It’s normal to see many of them peering at their phones. When I see them, it reminds me that my email hasn’t been checked in 90 seconds so I pull the phone from my pocket to scan the latest offers from Groupon, ads for motorized carts or some other vital information.
I’m not cracking on kids for spending time looking at the tiny screens on their phones because I’m as guilty as they are at times. But I can’t help but think we are missing something.
If we’re looking at a phone, we don’t notice the small child in the buggy just in front of us in the grocery line smiling at us angelically. The friend or neighbor we haven’t seen in years may be standing in the next line over. If so, he might as well be on another planet. We’re so busy with technology that we neglect the human connections.
In retrospect, maybe those party lines weren’t all that bad.

Going to the well

I've decided to stop talking about the lack of rain and the parched earth. I remember thinking last spring after weeks of rain – I'm getting tired of this rain. I would not articulate that thought, but I was tired of dashing from porch to the truck and feeling throughout the day that my skivvies feel as if they were starting to mildew.

Mother Earth must have read my mind and decided to grant me my unspoke wish. It hasn't rained more than a few drops in two months. I know people in California can sympathize, but I know they are happy it's raining and snowing there now.

This drought pushed me to complete a todo item that has lingered on my list too long – Put a Pump in the well down at the barn.

I spoke with my nephew Haven who is a plumber, and he told me what to do to get the ball rolling. I had to measure the distance down to the water table. Deeper wells require submersible pumps, but wells as shallow as mine take a less expensive type.

Today after lunch, I went down there with a length of rope. After removing the protective covering from the top of the well, I dropped the tubular bucket in its mouth and lowered it until I heard the echo reverberating up through the metal shaft.

A moment later came the slurping sound which told me the bucket was full. My nephew instructed me to lowered it another 10 feet just to make sure I didn't hit bottom. The well dropped like a stone, and I think I could have lowered it to China if I'd had enough rope.

Lifting the bucket out, I could hear it bumping the metal well wall on its journey upward. Resting the bucket on the top, I submerged my hand in the cool well water. It felt great on my hand.

I poured the water on a thirsty tree and laid the bucket down. Stretching the rope out on the flat ground, I pulled the tape measure from my pocket and measured how far I had lowered the bucket.
Forty feet. That meant I'd need the less expensive pump.

After coiling up my rope and storing the bailer in the barn, I sent my nephew a text and told him to order the pump. I hope to have well water by next weekend so that I can keep my fruit trees and blueberries alive without using the water that comes through my water meter. I know that restrictions are on the way and I don't want to be one of those people who take advantage of the drinking water that we all must share.

I can promise you this: It will be a long time before I whine about it raining too much.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Panhead Pete

Our great nephew Jordan came over today with his mom for our morning walk. He brought his new friend Panhead Pete. It's an antique Harley Bear. His grandmother saw it at the antique store and bought it for him.

He's more into computer games, swimming, and other sports, but he's loving this bear and brought it over to show Jilda and me.

After our walk, he said, "I think Pete wants to climb a tree."  Obviously, I had to shoot a quick pic.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Happenstance is a circumstance especially that is due to chance according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It's something that happens all the time, but people are sometimes so busy, they don't recognize it.

Today, Jilda put a package in the mailbox. It was a sweater that she'd ordered from one of the shopping networks. The sweater didn't fit, so she decided to return it.

As we made the final lap of our walk this morning, I saw that the flag was down on the mailbox which meant the mail lady ran will we were behind the barn. There were bills in there, and magazine in there, but I noticed she hadn't picked up the package. "Wonder  how she missed that?" Jilda pondered.

I pulled the package out so that we could mail it when we drove into town to buy steaks for dinner tonight.  I went into the post office drive-through to poke the package in, but it wouldn't fit into the slot. Backing the car into a parking space, I took the package inside so the post office folks could mail it.

When the postal lady looked at the package, she said,  "This doesn't have postage on it." She turned it toward me and all that was on there was a return label. Had I been able to squeeze the package into the outside receptacle, it would have gone to Birmingham and I'm not sure if it would have been discarded, returned, or what. At any rate, I took it back outside so that Jilda can locate the label and mail the sweater back. It not fitting into the outside receptacle was happenstance.

On another note, sometimes I take pictures that are quirks. Most of them I trash, but sometimes I see one and think what a beautiful happenstance.

Do you experience happenstance? I'd be curious to hear bout yours.

Also, my blog buddy Stephen is trying to expand his blog followers. He is a remarkable artist and he's giving away a beautiful painting as part of his promotion.  If you do not follow the Cubby Chatterbox, please consider giving his blog a read. You'll be glad you did.
Click here

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Piece of heaven

The governor visited the college today and you would not believe the stir it caused. The place was crawling with bigwigs, littlewigs, and more clicking cameras than you could shake a stick at. On top of all that, I was slammed trying to help my new boss navigate some reports that are due Monday. 

By the time I pulled into the driveway this evening, I almost rolled out of my truck. After taking my laptop inside, I poured a glassful of cold water and went outside to watch the ending of the day. My blood pressure and stress level dropped like a stone.

When Jilda got home, she told me the tax assessors came by to have a look at our property to ensure we haven't build swimming pools, greenhouses or other high-dollar improvements that would raise the value enough to add to our tax bill. 

Jilda said she walked around the place and said, "Y'all have a little piece of heaven right here." She went on to say that she had not expected to find such a place out in the middle of nowhere. I smiled when I heard this. 

I'm hoping they can't levy a higher tax on a little piece of heaven:)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sleepless in Empire

It's rare that I have to set the alarm but Jilda teaches an early-morning yoga class on Wednesdays, so we set the alarm on Tuesday nights. 

I'm not sure why, but sleep is fretful whenever we set the alarm. I woke up a half dozen times looking at the clock to make sure I hadn't overslept.

Tonight, I can barely hold my eyes open, so this will be a picture post. I shot this picture a few years ago, but I came across it when I was looking for something to post.

I hope you all slept better than us. Have a great Thursday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Happy Birthday Daddy

My dad came into this world 93 years ago today. He was the oldest of four children that arrived just in time for The Great Depression. He was not yet ten years old when the stock market crashed, but since few people around here owned stocks or bonds back then it took a while for folks to realize that hard times were getting even more difficult.

My dad must have evolved from the hunter-gatherers DNA because he always had his eye on the horizon - watching and listening . Each evening after he came home from work, he'd sit on the front porch of our old tarpaper camp house and listen for passing trains.

The sound of trains as they traveled through hills and hollows was deceiving. That lonesome whistle that blew for train crossings sounded as if you could throw a rock from the porch and ping the engineer.  But an experienced porch listener knew better. "That whistle was for the Praco Crossing," he would say. If you could fight off the mosquitos and sit on the porch swing for a while, you'd hear it blow for the Burnwell and Bergin Crossings. Understanding local geography, I could close my eyes and follow the chugging train as is snaked its way westward hauling mountains of coal and coke.

My dad romanticized about trains and riding them west to places he'd never seen. But aside from a few trips to Panama City, Florida on family vacations and a couple of trips to New Orleans, Louisiana to do welding repair work on fans his company had built, he rarely traveled further than Birmingham.

I wish I had advanced faster at MaBell so that I could have afforded to fly him to Montana, or Alaska trout fishing in a mountain stream. But that wasn't the way it played out. He died in 1986 at the age of 63. Rarely does a day go by that I don't think of him.  

Happy Birthday, Daddy.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Cotton Pickin Summer ~ My column from Sunday's paper

A meeting in Fayette had me headed to West Alabama again today. The route there took me through long stretches of rural farm country. 

I drove through clouds of cotton on both sides of the road. On one section of lonesome highway were cotton fields with rows that stretched as far as the eye could see. Parked on the roadside was what looked like a cotton train with boxcars of white gold if the prices of today’s cotton t-shirts are any indication.

One of the first jobs I had was in grammar school picking cotton during the fall break. Mrs. Plunkett who lived next door had picked cotton all her life, and she convinced me there was money in cotton for young people with nimble hands.

I had no money and Christmas was around the corner. Fantasizing about picking up some cash in the cotton field, I decided to give it a try.

Mrs. Plunkett told me to be ready and out front by 6 a.m. My mom was an early riser, and she rolled me out at 5:30 so I could have some oatmeal, coffee (yes I was drinking coffee in grammar school) and brush my teeth.  I was sitting on the retaining wall in front of our house at 6 a.m. 

Looking down the tar and gravel road that ran past our house, I heard the old cotton truck before it appeared out of the morning mist. The Chevy truck was the color of an old gun barrel, and the breaks complained a little as it came to a stop to pick up the last of the pickers.

Gripping my lunch sack, I hoisted myself into the back along with the Plunkett boys. Mrs. Plunket had seniority and rode in front with the driver. She wasn’t keen on hopping.

She would not be considered petite these days and she moved slowly around her house, but she picked cotton faster than an International Harvester tractor. She taught me a few things about that work while waiting to get our sacks.

“It’s best to pick fast in the early morning when the cotton is damp with dew. It don’t weigh much when it dries.” With those words, she was off dragging an 11-foot cotton bag behind her like a land whale. My bag was only a seven-foot bag and I felt a little envious of her long bag until mine was full. I was thankful the cotton boss understood that the smaller bag was right for me.

When my first bag was full, I dragged it up to the cotton truck for weighing. The helper reached down and pulled it up by the strap hanging it on one end of an old metal balancing scale. The scale was a smooth metal bar with numbers etched on it. The bag hung on one end of the scale bar which was curved making it look almost like a scythe. The counterweight moved up and down the other end of the scale and where it ended up indicated how much cotton was in the bag.

The work was slow and got even slower as the morning sun rose. Soon I had my sleeves of my flannel shirt tied around my waist. From behind me it must have looked like a cape over my rear end.

At the end of the day when the scale master tallied up our work, Mrs. Plunkett had picked just over 500 pounds. My list of weigh-ins was much shorter — I’d picked 101 pounds. At that time, the going rates for picking cotton was three cents a pound. After sweating blood for eight hours, my take-home pay was $3.03.

That was an eye-opening experience for me. I had time to contemplate my life, career, and whatnot as the wind whipped my hair on the ride home in the back of that old truck. I knew without a doubt that I would not make a career in the cotton pickin’ business.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Autumn pleasure

I looked longingly at this picture I took in October of 2013. It was the first cool snap of the year and I'd built a fire in our new firepit.

Jilda invited our great nephew Jordan and his mom over to do some S'Mores over the open flame. We toasted marshmallows and slapped them between slabs of chocolate and graham crackers.

It took me a while to pick the sticky remains off my beard, but as I've often said, "Fun ain't cheap."

We haven't had a fire this year. 90 percent of the state is under a burn ban. The governor was on the news detailing the dangers of the situation. So we have our firepit loaded with dry hickory and applewood, and we're patiently awaiting a soaking rain that will quench the thirsty earth and allow us this simple autumn pleasure.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Autumn fun

We planned a small family gathering a few months ago. Selecting a free date for everyone is a challenge, but this date was good for most of the players so we wrote it in ink and put it in our iPhones.

The one thing for which we failed to account was college football. Alabama and Texas A&M who are both undefeated were scheduled to play. Not to worry.

My niece Samantha is a whiz where her phone and her brother James brought his smart TV and within a few minutes, the game was on the big screen on the back porch.

The backyard was a madhouse with kids chasing chickens, and dogs chasing kids. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries or mishaps. The kids ran till their legs were rubbery, and the adults got to watch Alabama spank A&M.

We ate till we almost spewed. I'm glad the kids went with their parents because they were cranked up on homemade lemonade, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, and Halloween candy. I'm sure they'll be ricocheting off the walls until well into the morning hours.

Both Jilda and I look like street people tonight, but we had a great time.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Blue Sky Day

I was hopeful yesterday evening that we'd get rain. The clouds were there and the wind out of the west was promising.

As I turned onto the road to the house, it rained enough for me to use my wipers, but then the line that was headed toward us split with half going northward and the rest dashing off to the south. It's as if there is a giant umbrella over us.

We had early morning errands and as we left out, the clouds were still thick but a steady wind moved them off to the east and left us with what I call a blue sky day. It's hard to complain about that.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thursday things

Today was a productive one. Many things on my work to-do list fell into place, and I took care of some budget business that had been keeping me awake at night. It seems I hadn't spent ENOUGH money. But my new boss at work jumped on it, and we found a solution that will make everyone happy.

Before I left work, I got a text from the publisher at the paper who asked if I'd do a feature story on an old friend of mine. I was thrilled. Calling my old friend, I set up an interview just after work.
Like me, she lives in the sticks and before she lost her husband and her health began failing, she had outdoor gardens, trellises, shrubs, and trees that are still beautiful.  But time reclaims even the most beautiful gardens.

We talked a long time, and I would probably still have been there, but Jilda sent me a text from where she was working that said it looked like storms were headed our way.

After saying our goodbyes, I headed home. The road to my friend's house took me across the crest of a ridge and from that vantage point I could see almost to Mississippi.

Storms can be beautiful from a distance, and I pulled to the side of the road and snapped a few frames before heading home.

I didn't notice it until I pulled the photo up to post it here that I saw a face in the clouds in the upper right-hand corner of the frame. Can you see it?

The first wave of rain didn't settle the dust at our house, but the cold front is still off to the west. We're saying a prayer that it brings us some much-needed rain.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breaking ground

The town in which I was born is a small community across the river from the county seat. We've struggled with an image problem for years because it seems most of the news that comes from here is bad news – drug overdoses, suspicious fires, arrests, and other things that do not help the image of what is a good place to live.

Many years ago, the city had some unused and undeveloped property close to the city. The council got together and built a golf course. I know what you're thinking. A small rural town builds a golf course. It can't be that good. But planners managed to get a golf course designer involved who did an amazing job with the creeks, ponds, hills, and hollows. 

The city spent all the money on the golf course, leaving almost nothing for a clubhouse. They did the only thing they could think of, and that was to put doublewide trailers. They would have to do until they could do better.

The main complaint of golfers who visit the incredible golf course but the trailer clubhouse and snack bar took away from the experience.

The city elected a new mayor four years ago, and one of his campaign promises was building a beautiful clubhouse for the golf course. That sounds easy enough, but apparently, not everyone was as enthused as the new mayor about spending money on a new clubhouse.

The new mayor was tenacious, putting bids, making plans and following through on his promise. 

He decided to run for re-election in August and took the high road. He ran on his record. Apparently, voters rallied behind him because he won the seat without a runoff for four more years.

Last night I got a text from him asking if I could come to the golf course at 12:30 p.m. He wanted me to take a picture of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new clubhouse. I was all too happy to oblige.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Sunday morning as Jilda and I made our first lap around the barn on our daily walk, she pulled up short. 

She automatically thrust her arm out as if to restrain a child standing beside her in her in the seat of her car.

It's unlikely she would do that in real life because her car doesn't crank unless everyone is buckled in...but bear with me.

I stopped in my tracks and instinctively looked on the ground for  rusty nails, saw briers, or a pit viper. When I saw nothing I looked up and followed her gaze. It was a spider that looked as big as a bat dangling in the center of an intricate web.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped several pictures trying to capture the image. But the light was wrong and backlighting from the morning sun was non-existent. I shot several pictures anyhow before giving the spider a wide berth.

Had I been walking alone, I would have gotten a face full of a dreadful Arachnid, and I would have spent the remainder of the day slapping imaginary creatures crawling up the back of my neck and onto my head.

Normally, the weather is cooler when they start building in paths trying to trap moths, wasps, and other small flying insects but apparently they build when the angle of light alerts them that it's autumn.

NOTE TO SELF: Be very mindful over the coming weeks so that a spider as big as Rhode Island doesn't jump on my head and suck out what little remaining brains I have left.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October has a lot to offer ~ My column from Sunday's paper

The national elections are in a few weeks, and some people seem ready for Facebook fistfights. The atmosphere seems negatively charged, but I think October still has a lot of good things to offer. What follows are a few.

This past week when we pulled into Little Giant in Sumiton to score some produce, there was what looked like a truckload of sweet potatoes. Through the years we’ve learned that the ones from Mississippi seem to be the sweetest in October. My lovely spouse Jilda baked some on Sunday, and we had them for supper. I always save my sweet potato until the last
and eat it for dessert.

Fried pies were one of my mother’s specialties. Most people clamored for the peach and apple, but my favorite was her sweet potato pies.

Jilda’s sister Pat makes a sweet potato casserole with roasted pecans chopped and sprinkled on the top. She makes this dish on most holidays, and while most of the family dives head first into the dressing, I go for the sweet potato casserole first just to ensure I don’t have to scrape the bottom of the Corningware.

Another good thing about October is the World Series. Even though I don’t follow major league baseball throughout the year, I love watching the World Series.

This month is also chocked full of college football. Alabama plays Tennessee in October, and hopefully Auburn will spank the Razorbacks this year.

One of the things on my “Why I Love October” list looks like it won’t happen this year.

I’ve enjoyed the aroma of burning leaves as long as I can remember. I liked it so much that I didn’t mind the chore of raking.

We had a sycamore tree in our yard in Sloss Hollow that I couldn’t reach around. In the fall, a mountain of leaves fell from that tree. On autumn afternoons I’d rake leaves for hours.

Later in the evening when the wind died down, I’d set them ablaze and feed the flames until dusk. Spraying the dying embers with a hosepipe before heading inside was one of mama’s rules.

The smell of smoke would get infused in my hair and clothes. My mom wasn’t as fond of that smell as I was. She’d make me leave my jeans and shirt on the back porch so she could run them through the washing machine. She would probably have tossed me in as well but I was too big to go through the wringer.

This October has been dryer than stale snuff here in Empire. We’ve had no rain in over a month. Most of the streams and ponds are as low as I’ve ever seen them. The last time my sinuses were this dry, I was in the mountains of Colorado. We could use a little rain.

Stepping outside this past week, the smell of smoke sent alarm bells off in my head. It looked like something burning down behind our barn. I hustled down there, but the fire was further away than I first thought. Before heading inside to call the Empire Volunteer Fire Department, I heard their sirens out on the main road.

Grabbing the keys, I jumped in the truck and drove out to the main road. The fire was raging between the main road and our barn, but the wind out of the north kept our property safe. The firemen were guarding the homes that were in harm’s way.

I know our small volunteer fire department is underfunded, but they do an incredible job and I feel fortunate to have them watching our backs.

We called 911 a few years ago when we thought a family member had a heart attack. The Empire Volunteer Fire Department was there in a matter of minutes. They had the situation stabilized before the ambulance arrived.

Even with the anxiety of the November elections on the horizon, let’s not lose sight of the good things October has to offer.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reminiscing about Wyoming

Three years ago our friend Wes invited us to join them in Jackson, Wyoming. We flew out of Birmingham just after breakfast that morning changing planes in Salt Lake City. That leg of the flight is beautiful from the sky.

When we arrived early afternoon in Jackson, the sky was topaz blue with downy clouds. The air was crisp, but the temps were mild, and I feared I'd overpacked by taking my cold-weather coat.

After a short nap, we accompanied our host on a tour of the area. We must have driven a hundred miles round trip. We snapped pictures of mountains, lakes, and aspen trees. Every direction when viewed through the camera lens looked like a postcard.

We thought we'd be wading through snow, but the weather was Alabama-like. The next day we did
more sightseeing and I almost filled the storage on my phone with pictures.

The next morning when I rolled out of bed to fetch coffee, I glanced out the north facing window and snow was blowing sideways. Before we went outside, there was almost a foot on the ground.

It was then that I was thankful for the LL Bean jacket that Jilda had bought me for winter. It's rarely cold enough in Alabama to wear it, but I can tell you it felt good in Jackson Hole. 

While we were there, we went to Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The last day while driving through Yellowstone the roads were treacherous which stressed us all. 

We spent Halloween there and flew home the next day. Jilda had a raging sinus infection and didn't feel well, but as always she is a trooper.

This evening here in Empire, the temps were in the upper 80s. There was a hint of rain this morning. I stepped out on the deck, looked up at the sky, and opened my mouth to allow a few precious drops to fall on my tongue. The clouds dissipated, but the weatherman says we have an excellent chance on Thursday. We've got all our appendages crossed.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Quirk Dog

When we first took Hook to the vet to get him evaluated before we decided to adopt him, I told the vet tech that I thought he was deaf. She said that was common in white bulldogs. I asked about the chances of getting someone to adopt him.

She smiled and said she would give it a try, but that an older dog with heartworms and deaf would be
a very hard sell. When I looked down at Hook, he was looking first at me, and then the vet tech. He seemed to understand the weight of the conversation, so he sat down and seemed to look deeply into my eyes. I stood there for a long while before telling her to treat him for the infections, mites, and red mange. The vet tech smiled, and said, "Quirk dogs are often the best ones."

People ask how we manage a deaf dog. The truth is, it's not that hard. He can't hear, but he's got great eyesight and sense of smell. He responds to hand signals. When he sees me motion for him, he comes running. Caillou the show dog can hear perfectly but I can call him until I'm hoarse and he only comes when he's good and ready. Taz the other show dog ignores me totally but she does come when Jilda calls her. So in the scheme of things Ol' Hook's hearing issue is not that big of a deal.

We've spent most of the day on the road going to the gig in South Alabama and then driving  back afterward. A neighbor passed away so we drove to the funeral home for visitation. Darkness had set in before we returned home.

Realizing that I hadn't closed the gate to the chicken pen and turned on the electric fence (to keep critters out),  I grabbed the flashlight to do that final chore.

Ol' Hook makes every step I make so when I headed off the deck, he was right there beside me. I flipped on the flashlight and waved the beam around to get my bearings.  Hook started running around the backyard and barking. It took me a moment to realize that he was chasing the flashlight beam.

I swished the beam close by and he lunged at it barking. I waved it around the backyard and he chased it from one end to the other. I tried to video it but I was laughing too hard. I thought, that Vet Tech knew what she was talking about when she said that Quirk Dogs are sometimes the best.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Kids love parades

Today is Homecoming at our local high school. Our great-nephew Jordan called last night to see if we'd check him out of school and take him to see the parade.

I do the alumni website for the school, but thousands of people line the parade route and watching the parade and taking pictures takes a lot of effort. Jilda had just as soon stay home. But Jordan would not get to see the parade if we didn't take him because all of his folks work.

Last night when he called to ask, Jilda told him she'd love to take him. This year, they took a different approach. She called her sister Pat who lives near City Hall where the parade starts and all her grandkids watch the parade there. When Jilda called to see if it would be ok for Jordan to join them she said, "Of course."

That made the ordeal a lot better because they would play in the yard, eat pizza, drink juice and blow bubbles until the parade went by and then they could go inside a cool off.

The kids had a blast and it wasn't nearly as grueling for Jilda.

I, on the other hand, walked about two miles down the parade route taking pictures of the crowd and when the parade went by I got pictures of that too.

Tonight, I'll run down to the game and take pictures of the Homecoming Queen, but I won't be watching the entire game tonight. I'm not sure my knees could take it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cotton pickin' time in Alabama

A meeting in Fayette had me headed to West Alabama again today. To get to Fayette, I drive through rural farm country.

Today, I drove through clouds of cotton on both sides of the road. One stretch there were rows of cotton as far as the eye could see. Close to the road was what looked like boxcars of cotton lined up into a cotton train. One glance in the rearview mirror told me it was OK to pull over and snap a picture or two.

When I started writing this post, I realized it was column material so you'll have to wait until Monday week to get the full story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Surviving humpday

I spent several hours on the screen porch today tapping keys. My column for Sunday is due today and when I have a decent idea, the session is fairly painless. That was not the case today.
Everything I wrote seemed trite. I wrote, re-wrote, tossed and repeated a half dozen times, before I shut the laptop and went for a walk. Most time, a walk frees up my mind and gets the juices flowing. Again, that was not the case today. 

When Jilda got home we headed to town for feed and seed. I also shopped a Columbus Day sale and scored a few dress shirts for this fall and winter.

Once home, I took a nice nap and took the laptop back to the porch with the attitude that I'd sit there till morning if I had to. 

I started writing about the things I enjoy about October and it flowed. I won't win a Pulitzer, but I'm happy to call it complete.

We have a gig this weekend for an arts alliance south of here and we're excited. It's a chance to play for a new group of folks. We're cranked. 

Humpday is behind us, and this week is downhill from here. Y'all hold on.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Listening to trains

This evening when I left work, I ran by the cemetery where my people are buried. The massive oak and hickory trees keep the grounds in shade for much of the day.

I parked near the top of the hill and walked over to the graves of my mom, dad, and brothers. The wind had blown the fall flowers over so I put everything in place and stepped back to survey my work.

Flipping down the tailgate of the truck, I sat on the edge and finished a bottle of water.  It's peaceful in that old cemetery. There's a lot of history there. The Davis family donated the land for the cemetery well over 150 years ago. I didn't learn until about 10 years ago that my grandmother on my dad's side was a Davis. A little research and I learned that it was her ancestors who donated the land.

Off in the distance, I could hear a train and soon it would pass over the trestle snaking westward. The train horn is a lonely sound as echoes through the hollows making it difficult to tell how far away it is. The horn sounds strong at first but then the volume fades like it's running out of breath.  

I sat there for a long time listening and thinking about my folks. My dad was  born in October of 1923. He would have been 93 years old later this month. 

Looking at my watched, I realized the evening was slipping away so I slammed the tailgate and started to get into the truck when color at the edge of the cemetery caught my eye. Stepping over, I snapped a few pictures because I knew they'd come in handy. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis ~ My column from Sunday's paper

October is a month of reflection and contemplation for me. In 1962 when I was 11 years old, a world event left an indelible brand on my young brain that I always remember this time of year.

John F. Kennedy was in the White House then and after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of
Me in grammar school
 Cuba in 1961, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to honor Cuba’s request to deploy nuclear missiles on the island which is just 90 miles from the beaches of South Florida. High-flying American U-2 spy planes photographed the installation of facilities that could launch short and intermediate range missiles with nuclear warheads and hit targets anywhere in the continental U.S. This evidence triggered a cold war chess game that could have changed the fate of the world.

The Internet was the stuff of science fiction in those days, so our family watched the drama unfold on the CBS Nightly News with Walter Cronkite.

I was in the fifth grade that year. We rode the school bus each morning, but since our community was only a few miles from the grammar school, my friends and I usually walked home on afternoons when the weather was agreeable.

Mostly we prattled about football, girls, and squirrel hunting, but during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, our conversations were more somber, if we talked at all. The fear was palatable. You could see it in the eyes of grownups and the kids.

At first, the prevailing attitude was we should go over there and spank those “Ruskies” like a disobedient beagle, but as the story unfolded, and the implications became clearer we began to understand this situation was much bigger and scarier than we first thought. There was even talk about the end of time.

One evening as we walked in silence, I could hear the sound of drums echoing in the distance. The high school band practiced as if the world would not end at least until after the Friday night game with arch rival Cordova. That rata-tap-tapping sound echoing over the hills and through the hollows made me feel hopeful.

Families began putting back canned goods, water, and other necessities. One of the wealthier families in Dora started constructing a bomb shelter so their family could survive a Soviet attack.

Each evening when the news came on, our eyes latched onto the black and white TV screen as if it were a magnet. Even though things were tense, I don’t remember my folks having much to say about the crisis around the kids. I’m not sure if they feared they would spook us, or they couldn’t find the words. I wondered if they spoke in hushed tones after we went to bed about how we would survive if worse came to worse.

That was the longest two weeks I can ever remember. The news of an impending agreement between the U.S. and the Soviets lifted our spirits.

That October was an unforgettable time in my life.

It’s the time I understood how dangerous the world could be.

It was humbling to realize that a misplayed pawn in the high-stakes chess match could have ended much differently.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Second blooming

Much of the yard and garden are parched. But we've watered the citrus trees and plants we bring inside in winter so the deck looks like an oasis.

Back in the spring, we bought a new pink and white bougainvillea and it was stunning. I took pictures then and they got a lot of traction on Facebook and Instagram.

They were in color for a few months, but like many spring flowers the blooms faded but the flower flourished and got bigger.

I went out last week and I could see blooms forming on the foliage. This morning when I went out to do yoga on the deck, the morning sun peeked through some branches on the east side of the house and spotlighted the bougainvillea blossom so I snapped a picture.

This has been a fun weekend for us. I hope yours was enjoyable too.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Remarkable day

Jilda posted in this topic too, but today was a fun day. We played a charity event in Birmingham. We've played many charity events, but this one was remarkable. When we read the website for the Grace Klein Community Center and saw all the work they were doing, we
were sold.

We went on at 2:15 p.m. the sun was hot, but a cool breeze made it almost pleasant. The sound guy was excellent, and we clicked through our set in good form. 

After we had finished, we stepped inside the facility to check out what was going on inside. The room was almost as big as a gymnasium. Around the edges were vendors selling handmade jewelry and crafts. And in the middle of the room was a circle of about 30 drums, shakers, rattles, bells, and percussion devices that I could not name. 

The speaker introduced Rainman who was the drum-meister.  He walked around and coached the small children with shakers, rattles, and bells. Then he set the beat for the older kids and adults. Then he sat in the center of the circle and began drumming. 

The amazing thing about this is the children and adults all fell into the rhythm, and the result was almost hypnotic. 

The looks on the faces of those drumming were blissful.  The beat changed slightly every few minutes to keep it interesting. The people watching were mesmerized. This music was basic – seminal. 
It was a remarkable day and the people there were incredible. I hope they ask us again next year.


Friday, October 07, 2016

Smoke gets in our eyes

Mother Nature can be a cruel heifer.  It's the east coast is practically under water, and we haven't had rain here in over a month with none in the forecast for at least the next ten days. 

On Wednesday, a brush fire fanned by a westerly wind quickly escalated into a full-blown forest fire. Soon the volunteer fire department had two tanker trucks and a crew of firefighters on the scene to ensure the fire didn't destroy any houses.

Soon the sound of a whining engine overhead and when I looked up through the cloud of smoke, I saw the state forestry department plane buzzing high overhead. A few minutes later I heard that the forestry firefighting team was in route. One team from nearby and another from Tuscaloosa.

These guys know their stuff because not long after they arrived, you could tell they were making progress. They cut swaths of firebreaks through the hills and hollows. If the wind is kind, they can contain a good sized fire here in a few hours which was the case with the fire on the property behind our barn. 

Yesterday, the wind from the hurricane whipped a small fire into large tracks of brush and timber located about five miles north of us across the river. I'm sure the firefighters worked all night, but this morning the smoke as thick as gauze hung low in the valleys making it hard for Jilda to breathe.
Usually, I don't work on Fridays, but my boss has been out of town for three weeks, and he had an hour on his calendar this morning, so I took it.

On the way in, I saw a photo op before I crossed the river, so I pulled to the side and snapped a few frames. 

When I went out this evening and looked to the north, it looks as if the firefighters have made some progress today. There's no telling how many hours straight they have worked. I can say this, I'm betting we don't pay these guys enough.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

New assignment ~ The Fishing News

I had a meeting with the local newspaper publisher earlier this week. The publisher has only been on the job a few months, but I can already see improvement in the publication.  

One of his missions is to fill the paper with local content. This objective is not easy because the old publisher didn't backfill when reporters moved on. This decision left the news staff thin and overworked. But as I said, things are changing. There are more pictures, more local stories, and features.

With technology today, many readers see the headlines on Facebook and their smartphones long before they see it in newsprint. By the time the paper hits their porch, the news is stale to many readers. 

The obvious answer is to do local content because you rarely see that on your phone. When hometown papers do national stories, they should involve local politicians, community leaders, and citizens to get the local slant on how the national news affects them. It's an old concept that has worked through the years for smaller publications and weekly papers.

My friend Dale Short was a master at this. When we worked together early in the 1970s – but I digress.

In my meeting with the publisher, I mentioned an idea for a story about all the old guys that gather at the forks of the river each afternoon and discuss the fishing news with anglers who return from sloughs and shallows in the river.

The paper has a young woman who writes news from this area, and I told the publisher I would work with her to do introductions. The young newsman said I have a better idea, "Why don't you do it? And let's do it for the magazine." 

As I walked out, I realized I was glad he asked me to do it. The place is close to where I live and the guys there are friends of mine. Who else could do a better job at reporting the fishing news? 

Fishing News

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Grooming day

There's a new pet grooming service in town so I took Caillou down there this morning. She's fairly new at it and when I asked about how long it would take she said it would take about an hour.

I glanced down at the beast on my floor who is now pushing 90 pounds and smiled knowingly. I dropped him off and then went to McDonalds for a hot mocha. Picking up my order, I settled into a back booth, shoved my wireless headphones knuckle deep into my ear canals, punched on some soothing music and worked on my column for Sunday that's due today.

After that, I ran a couple more errands to kill some time. After about an hour and twenty minutes, I drove back to the grooming shop. She was sitting on the floor with a blow dryer, trying to dry about him. He wasn't happy and I could tell she'd punted way past her coverage, to use and old coaching metaphor.

I sat on the floor and held Caillou still while she worked for another 30 minutes.  When she clicked off the dryer, Caillou almost dragged me to the front of the store heading for the door. When I settled up she said the charge would be what she quoted over the phone. I gave her a $10 tip and I thought she was going to hug my neck.

When I opened the door to the cab, Caillou almost knocked me down getting in the front seat. He's been my friend all day long.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Yoga sunset

We always get to yoga early to set up the room, and as we waited for the clock to tick 7 p.m. one of the yoga people came in, they said, "You have to look at the sunset."

I walked out and I could see what they were talking about. But off to the south, the moon looked like a shiny end of a clipped fingernail.

Just below the bottom tip was a gleaming Venus.  I tried to photograph it, but the picture was unusable.

The weather is finally cooling down, but still no rain. Something in the atmosphere over this part of Alabama has camped out and is steering the rain around us. The Matthew is heading toward Florida, but it looks as though it won't come into the gulf. That's a good thing for people who live near the coast of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, but the system sitting over us will steer the rain off to the east. It might be November before we get rain.

Even though I didn't capture Venus, I did get a fairly good picture of the sunset.

Hope your humpday is a good one.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Music brings us together

I know the instant my taste in music changed. It was the summer of 1971. I’d just turned 20 and had begun serving two years in the US Army. At one moment my favorite music included Neil Diamond, the Four Seasons and Tom Jones. The next moment I heard Neil Young singing “Southern Man” and something inside of me changed forever.

Growing up, I could have thrown a rock and hit most of the people I knew because they all grew up within a few miles of where I was born. We had similar backgrounds. But the Army tossed me into a cultural salad bowl. People talked funny, ate different foods and wore clothes unlike any I’d ever seen. They also had different tastes in music.

I saved money and bought pizza-sized vinyl records. I invested in a good stereo system and headphones. I stuffed my footlocker with music and gave away everything else that took up precious space in my cube.

On days when I felt lonesome, and home seemed like a million miles away, I’d put on a record, lie on my bunk, and slip headphones on my ears. The music took me away.

In basic training, our squad was only together for about six weeks, but communications school was much longer, which gave us plenty of time to sort out personalities and form friendships.

This is me playing guitar in Panama
Once in Panama, our duties were more like jobs. We went to work early and got off around three p.m. This left a lot of free time on our hands, and I don’t recall a time that music was not playing on one of our stereos.

It was there I first heard John Prine, who is a singer-songwriter. His pure music had a profound impact on me. His songs made me want to be a songwriter.

Bob Dylan, Moody Blues, America, and of course Jimi Hendrix all spent time going round and round on our turntable.

My friend Jock Crawford, who was the only person I know that was at Woodstock, was a cubemate in Panama. He was from an affluent family in Atlanta and had attended Sewanee College. He introduced me to music that I would never have heard.

I remember having lengthy discussions about melody and the choice of lyrics. Music often means different things to different people, so we didn’t always agree, but those conversations gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of music.

Years ago, Jock and I exchanged letters for a time but we’d lost touch. This past week I heard a Led Zeppelin song that caused me to flashback to those days in Panama. On a hunch, I searched Facebook and bam there he was. I sent him a private message and a few moments later he sent his email address.

It only took a few lines before the subject turned to music. We talked about the music we listened to forty years ago, and Jock gave me the name of a new artist that he just recently discovered.

My email exchange prompted me to dust off my turntable and pull my old albums out of the closet.

Even through the clicks and scratches the music still resonated with me.

In a sense, music was part of the fiber that wove our friendship together. It gave us common ground a point of reference.

Music does that.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Apple Picking Time

The apple on our tree  ripens at a glacial pace. Every few days we walk down into the field, stand under the apple and coax. Apparently, there is standard time, daylight savings time, and apple
ripening time.

This past week I knew they would be ready soon. Every few days I'll pick a few apples and toss them on the ground for deer, but I left the fat juicy ones for us to enjoy.

Our great nephew Jordan was here a few days ago and walked with us. I wanted an apple so I picked one for him and polished it on the leg of my pants. He has three loose teeth so he had to eat the apple with care but he put his blessing on them. "These taste good!"

Today, our great nephew Anthony spent the afternoon with Jordan and they came over to our yard to play.

When Jordan remembered the apples, they were off like a shot. I could see both kids jumping with all their might to pluck a low-hanging apple, but neither of the boys is tall enough.

I was watching from the deck, so I stepped down a pulled a limb low enough for them to pick an apple.

Anthony has to have his peeled, so I pulled the pocket knife from my pocket and skinned the apple for him and he ate it to the core.

This is one of the reasons I love October.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Busy day

It's been a busy few days. I shot pictures last night at my high school's home football game, this
morning I took pictures at the local chamber of commerce 10k run and after that I did pictures for The Frog Festival.

Tonight my knees are screaming. Alabama is playing Kentucky on TV, but I doubt I'll stay up long enough to see the fourth quarter.

Tomorrow is a rest day.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required