Friday, June 30, 2017


I'm attending a writer's conference this weekend. It's in Birmingham so rather than stay onsite, I'm commuting. This conference leans toward fiction, but the ideas shared at these events are always useful. There are always things I discover that's worth the price of admission.

The more I learn about writing, the more I realize I don't know squat about the craft. Some people are born story tellers. Others must learn the craft. Telling a good story is almost like telling a good joke. It can't be too long, and it can't be too short. And, timing is everything.

I also learn when attending conferences is that there are always people much further down the path and people who haven't taken the first step. This much I know –  Everyone has an idea for a great novel, but these ideas don't write themselves. It takes hours staring at a blinking cursor before any story comes to life.

I'll end with a picture. It has nothing to do with writing fiction...unless you imagine a bride in her wedding dress with a champaign glass gripped in her hand, leaps into a raging river :)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Exploring the backroads

Several years ago, Jilda and I had time on our hands which is a rare thing for us. We decided to drive down to Tuscaloosa and have lunch at the City Grill. It's a local restaurant that opens at lunch in Northport. I don't think they advertise. People who eat there for the first time usually heard about it from a trusted friend who instructed, "Do yourself a favor and eat lunch at the City Grill."

We heard it from a food friend of ours and we weren't disappointed. It's a meat and three, but they are one of the few places that don't serve food from cans. Everything on their menu is fresh. We read a piece in the paper recently that one of the icons of food writing said that City Grill was the best restaurants in the state. Usually, when this happens, it's hard to get a table for a long time afterward. We'll see. But I digress.

After we ate, we decided to drive around South Alabama and let our lunch digest. Heading toward Demopolis, we came upon a stretch of road that displayed some fascinating yard art. This one of the Tin Man was as tall as a nearby telephone pole. I wish I knew the artist, but I don't

I pulled over long enough to snap a few pictures. The light was at the wrong angle, but you get the idea of how big this piece is. The legs are made from 55-gallon drums. The trunk looks like a culvert pipe. I have no idea how the artist managed to stand this baby up when it was finished.

We saw other things that were interesting as well. But that's what happens when you explore the backroads.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lobbying for Apex

Jilda has to do a retrain this year to maintain her yoga certification. Through the years she's done
them in Georgia, Missippi, and Tennessee. In 2011, she did one in Apex, North Carolina.

It was a beautiful drive up and we found restaurants along the way that served up great food.

We often judge the quality of trips by the food we find. Mediocre food figures poorly into the bottom line score of any destination.

One added benefit of Apex was that it had an Orvis store. If you're not familiar with Orvis, it's a store that caters to outdoors activities.

Hunting, fishing, and other stuff. I don't hunt, but I love fly fishing. My flyrod has an Orvis reel on it. Several of the flies in my pouch I purchased at Orvis.

So, while I love my friends in Georgia, Tennessee, and Missippi, I really want to spend a few days in Apex.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the old Masonic Lodge in the old town. There's nothing left but potholes, kudzu, and brambles as thick as a broom.  We'll, there are the old pictures taken through the years and the memories.

When I was a kid, the wall on the west side of the main street had a fresh coat of austere gray paint stroked on it every few years. I'm guessing the railroad did that. The wall was the only thing between main street and the trains that rocked and rumbled through the old town as regular as clocks back then. The only paint on that wall these days is sprayed on by teenage lovers and seniors from the high school a few miles away. WE ARE AWESOME, WE ARE GREAT, WE ARE SENIORS 98. And so on.

Sometimes graffiti on that old wall is ugly and often vulgar. But sometimes when the angle of light falls in a flattering way, it can be beautiful.

Monday, June 26, 2017


Father’s Day got me to thinking about the mentors in my life. My father taught me things that have been vital throughout my life. My grandfather and an uncle were iconic in my life, but there were also mentors who were unrelated by blood. The contributions of my mentors often seemed insignificant at the time. But when looking back over my life, I’m humbled by the things they chose to share with me.

One mentor in my early life was Cecil Kitchens. He was an old mechanic that worked on our cars and lawnmowers. Mr. Kitchens who lived on Red Star Hill near Old Dora was the best mechanic around according to my dad. After a few visits to his shop, he became number one in my book too. Cecil’s shop was orderly. His hand tools were as clean as spoons.

When people brought machines to him for repair, the first thing he did was listen to the customer. He’d nod as they described knocks, sputters, and squeaks. He always did a visual inspection of the mechanism. His approach to his work was methodical. I credit Mr. Kitchens for my problem-solving skills.

Throughout my life whenever I’m working on a device, I think of how Mr. Kitchens looked and listened before putting wrench to metal. Thanks to Cecil, I’m able to fix things.

Several of my teachers in school taught me things that my report card did not reflect. Not the least of which was “Always Do Your Homework.”  Even today when I have a meeting at work or at one of my volunteer efforts, I always do my homework. I realized the importance of this lesson after years of meetings. When someone comes unprepared, it is a waste of everyone’s time. Not doing homework is rude and expensive.

Another mentor that stands out in my mind is Dale Short. I’m sure he’ll blush when he reads this, but
Writer Dale Short
it’s true. He taught me to take photographs. He also taught me the love of writing and the importance of working on the craft daily.  We worked together at The Community News in Sumiton just after my tour in the Army. The job didn’t pay a lot, but what I learned during my time there was priceless.

G. M. Young was a general manager for the phone company back in the 70s. I met Mr. Young at a city council meeting. He started hanging out the paper office. We’d all drink coffee now and then. We talked about business, politics, and the meaning of life.

When I left my job at the paper, I lost touch with Mr. Young. My cousin Tommy Lowery hired me at his package store to pump gas and load beer. I worked there almost a year while I looked for a job. One day Mr. Young stopped by the station for gas. He stepped out of his company car and leaned against the door as I filled his tank and cleaned his windshield. He asked if I’d ever thought about working for the phone company. I told him I was looking for a job and would do most any kind of work. He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and wrote down a name and phone number.

At break time, I called the number and asked for Mildred Clayton. She was a hiring manager for MaBell. She told me to come in and take a battery of tests. Before leaving that day, she asked me to report to work on January 3, 1977. I was thrilled.

Working for the phone company allowed me to buy a new home, attend college, travel, and meet amazing people through the years. I often wonder if Mr. Young realized the impact he had on my life.

It doesn’t cost money to be a mentor, but they often share something much more valuable –knowledge, empathy, and time.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on You can contact him via email at

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Soggy bottom

The sun returned this afternoon. The remnants of tropical storm Cindy moved off to the east leaving Alabama as soggy as a baby's bottom.

I took my second cup off coffee outside and walked down to the garden. All but one tomato plants are prone on the ground. They are OK, but when it drys enough, I'll sink posts on each end and string wire across the garden and then secure the tomato baskets to the wires. This should keep them erect for the rest of the summer barring a hurricane.

Most of the sunflowers were also blown over. They were lying on the ground with blooms the size of softballs. We'll try to get those up as well, but it might be easier to cut the blossoms off and have a beautiful bouquet for a few days. We'll see.

I shot the picture below of our sunflowers on this day in 2010. It was a little gnarly so I art'ed it up for tonight's post.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Butterfly Screen

Jilda and I played tonight at a coffee house north of here. We are late getting home. I didn't have a picture from today, but I found one I shot on this day seven years ago. It suits me tonight.
The bed is calling.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wet day

It was a rainful day today. (Is that a word?) The outer bands of the tropical depression keep sweeping over us every few hours. Once the rain stops, the sun comes out and makes it steamy. One thing is for sure, we are no longer in a drought. In fact, our rivers are fat.

After the last line blew through, I decided to run to the hardware store to get a new flap for Jilda's commode. The device had been in since Clinton was in the Whitehouse.

Halfway to the nearest town, a member of the local fire and rescue flagged me down. A tree and power lines had fallen on the road. I had to find an alternate route.

Backtracking, I went around the problem. Picking up the new part, I headed toward the crib. After a few minutes, the problem was resolved.

Ol' Hook and Caillou had cabin fever so I took them out for a quick walk before the rain returned. On the way back, I snapped a picture of our lavender Rose-of-Sharon that's blooming at the corner of the house. Jilda will call me a copy cat since she took a similar picture this past week. But pickings were slim when you're dodging bolts of lightning.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This is not a drill

I had an appointment with my knee doc today after lunch. Taking the backroads gets me there faster, but I go through no man's land when it comes to cell coverage. My phone read NO SERVICE most of the way. When I reached the crest of one of the hollows, my phone began screeching. This can't be good, I thought to myself.

When I got to a wide spot in the road, I pulled over to see the message. The National Weather Service had just issued a Tornado Warning. This is not a drill campers – duck and run for cover.

I wasn't sure if the alert was directed at my home zip code or where I was currently idling beside the road.

I had a strong enough signal to call Jilda. I knew she was taking a short nap before heading to her job but this was important. She grabbed the phone and in an instant was in the TV room watching the weather.  She said the storm is headed for you. CRAP. I had no place to seek shelter where I sat so I jammed the truck in gear and scrambled toward the doctor's office where I knew they had a safe room. Less than five minutes later, I parked and was heading inside. The county tornado sirens began to wail before I got inside the building.

At the front desk, all the nurses and admins were glued to the TV set in the lobby. The tornado was on the ground but it was a few miles east and south of us. They showed me where the safe room was and we all watched the electronic progress of the storm on a wide-screen TV.

As often happens, this storm lifted. A few minutes later, the warning moved to other parts of the county. All I saw were angry clouds and torrential rain.

Nothing like a little excitement to test the blood pressure medicine.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rainy day

It's been an old rainy day. The outer bands from Tropical Storm Cindy swept north from the southeast drenching everything in its path. It could rain for days.

Jilda and I were both off today. We took her to the dentist early this morning for a temp tooth. I'll let her tell about that here.

Neither of us has slept well for the last several days so tonight we plan to get an early start.  If you live in the path of Cindy, keep an umbrella handy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

If I were an ocean

If I were an ocean, I'd be at low tide. Some people say that Bio Rhythms are a bunch of new-age hooey. I'm not a scientist, but I do know this – I seem to go through cycles. Most of the time I feel "on top of the world" but at other times I feel lower than snail poo.

I had a bucket full at work today and it seemed like I spent most of the day spinning my wheels. I figure it's only a matter of time before I get traction and get back on the "high" way.

How about you? Do you go through this stuff or was swimming too close to the nuclear barge back when I was in Panama a bad idea?

I didn't take a photo today, but I looked back in my photographs and found one that I took on this day back in 2013. It has nothing to do with this post but that's how it goes sometimes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Yoga Sunset

Normally I post my column on Monday nights, but it was too much like the one I posted after returning from Cleveland so I decided to post the picture I shot on the way home from Yoga class tonight.

The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but the cloud portrait it painted was stunning.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

It's been a low-key Father's Day here. Jilda's dad and my dad died years ago. The day has
changed for us when they were gone. It's sadder now. Both of us looked at Facebook a good bit today. I wanted to tell the ones who still had living fathers to appreciate them while they are here. They will be gone too soon.

This evening we went to our great nephew's birthday party. He celebrated his seventh birthday. His mom and dad were wise. They rented a  snow cone machine for the front porch and water slide for the front yard. The kids were in heaven.

It wore me out just watching them rip and romp up and down that bouncing slide.

The temps were in the 90s with humidity that was actually more dense than the water sprinkling down the slide. I wish I'd taken my swimsuit with me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bush league

Several years ago we planted a lantana bush in the small flower bed beside the back deck. It's a beautiful bush and hummingbirds adore it, but it was never pleased to be there. Each time it tried to spread its wings, we had to trim it back because it cast shadows on the other flower vying for sunlight.

Jilda's sister Pat has a lantana bush as well, and it's in a perfect location. It gets sun-o-plenty and subsequently has grown to roughly the size of Rhode Island.  I snapped the picture below the last time we were there.

When Jilda got home, I saw her heading for the shed. "What's up?" I asked. I'm relocating the bush. She's one of the least competitive people I know except when it comes to her flowers. She gets all foldy-army when she's horticulturally bested by one of her siblings. That doesn't happen too often, but when it does, she's ready to take action.

We found a place at the back of the fence that is perfect for the bush. It gets plenty of sunlight and has room to grow. We cut it back before transplanting it, and I fretted for a while that it might not make it. However this week the blooms began appearing. I'm hoping that by summer's end, it will be as glorious as her sister Pats. If not, I may have to move it again next spring.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dumpster Diving

Hello. My name is Rick and I'm a dumpster-diver. HEY RICK! That was easier to admit in front of my blog buddies than I thought. But it's true. Having storage space in the old house and barn is a good thing. Whenever I find myself running by a dumpster to toss in REAL garbage, I always have a look to see if there's anything interesting that someone has tossed.

A few weeks ago, I drove up to the dumpster at the college to toss in some old boxes and stuff left over from a shipment of books. As always, just before I tossed the stuff in from the back of my truck, I had a look inside the dumpster. This one is not for household garbage so it wasn't stinkyfied (is that a word?)

Inside the dumpster was an old rusted stool. It looked old. Seeing that old stool sent me down memory lane. There was a stool just like this one at Harry Shaw's Drug Store in Dora when I was a kid. In the late 1950s, I spent hours sipping chocolate malts on a stool at the soda fountain at Harry's. My legs dangled off of that one. My new treasure was a little shorter, but the resemblance is striking. I leaned over inside the dumpster and snagged a leg from the stool and when I sat it down on the pavement. The stool was solid. The vinyl cover over the seat had faded and cracked. It was once bright yellow at one time, but now it was the color of butter.

When I brought it home I wasn't sure how I'd use it. The instant Jilda saw it she smiled and said this is a perfect stand for one of the ferns on the screen porch.

When I sat it down out there and placed the fern on it, the stool looked as if it had always been there.

What about you. Do you ever go dumpster diving?


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Vantage point

At the gate last night, people were getting testy. A blaring alarm was busy alerting security that unauthorized terrorists were invading Concourse A. It sounded like the buzzer at a basketball game except I thought it would never end.

I'd been at gate A9 for twenty minutes and I hadn't seen any sign of danger. With years of data center experience, I diagnosed the problem as a faulty door alarm switch. After an eternity of buzzing, it shut off. Applause from frazzled commuters erupted. It doesn't take much to make them happy when they've been through a late-night airport beat-down.

Thunderstorms to the north delayed flights. That would not have been an issue for us except for the fact that our stewardesses were circling the airport waiting to land instead of preparing our cabin. Again, when they pushed through the crowd at the gate, they were applauded.

These weary passengers boarded in record time. Male passengers helped smaller females heft their bags into overhead bins and people stepped out of the way to remove jackets, instead of holding up the line of boarding passengers.

Once the plane began taxiing to the runway, everyone fell silent. The only sound was the rise and fall of the thrusting engines as it maneuvered the maze of runways to the main strip.

It was closing in on midnight Eastern Time when we finally lifted off for the final leg of my journey home.

We rose through the clouds quickly and left them behind. Soon we were 30,000 feet above West Georgia and East Alabama. The only sound was the rushing whisper of the engines. From that vantage point, the sleepy towns looked as if they were a part of a larger Christmas tree.

Watching the lights slide beneath me made my stress join the vapor trail following the plane.

I snapped a picture to capture the moment.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

High in the clouds

I fretted as we boarded the plane for the trip home. I always book an aisle seat, but somehow my ticket showed a window seat. Hmmm. I sidestepped down toward the back of the plane and my seat 30A, I got uneasy as my seat come into view. Two guys that looked as if they could play linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons were sitting in 30 B and C. When I got to my row, I pointed to the window seat and the two guys chuckled. They realized at the same time as I did that the seating assignment gods have a sense of humor.

They stood and I slide into a space that would not accommodate Ol’ Hook. I scrunched as much as I could and shoved my laptop under the seat in front of me.

The shades on the windows had been lowered. As we sat idling on the tarmac, I flipped the shades up to get a look at the weather. Someone had told me at the hotel before we left that there were thunderstorms approaching. As I looked to the north, I saw a bolt of lightning jab the Earth off in the distance. 

Thankfully the pilot announced that we were first in line for takeoff and we taxied to the north end of the runway and took off to the south.  A few minutes later, we left the clouds behind us.
Somewhere over Kentucky, more angry clouds loomed off to starboard. Pulling the phone from my shirt pocket, I snapped a picture.

I was happy when we touched down in Atlanta. I’m writing this during a 3-hour layover. It will be midnight before I make it home tonight.

It’s a safe bet that I’ll sleep late tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Missing my bed

Today was jammed with sessions starting at 9 a.m. after breakfast. By the time the last speaker finished at 5 p.m. my head was full.

Even thought these conferences can be grueling, I always learn something new. Today was not different.

This evening, the organization hosting the conference did a dinner cruise on the Nautilus Queen. It looked like a big tug boat. There were about 150 of us that it took out the canals and into Lake Erie. Clouds obscured the sun as it slipped down toward the horizon, but it was still stunning.

As we headed back to dock, I stood on the stern and shot a few pictures of Cleveland.

I'll be happy to head home tomorrow. I miss sleeping in my own bed.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Long Live Rock and Roll

My niece Samantha once said something when she was 12 years old that is a Universal truth. It could have been said by Mother Teressa, the Dalai Lama, or Confucius.

We had some extra SkyMiles and invited her to visit San Francisco with us. She was cranked and hounded her parents until they allowed her to go.

On the morning of departure, she "dolled up." She worked her cutest clothes, shoes, and she musth have spent hours doing her hair.

When we rolled into BHAM airport, she looked like a rock star. By the time we arrived several hours later in San Francisco, she looked as if she'd ridden a motorcycle out there instead of flying. As she leaned on her luggage while we waited for ours to inch around the turnstile, she said, "You know, flying sucks the beauty right out of you." Unfortunately, I'd just taken a sip of coconut water and I was laughing so hard I snorted most of it out my nose.

Those words came back to me today. I arose at an ungodly hour this morning to make it to the airport to fly to Cleveland, Ohio for a conference. Jilda was supposed to come with me, but something came up and she couldn't come.

The other coach at the college came with me and the only free time we had was today after we arrived in Cleveland. The Rock Hall of Fame is within walking distance. We didn't have a lot of time but saw enough to realize that we'd like to come back when we have more time.

Bad lighting, great background.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pleasing dad

The roosters were yawning when I headed out to the cemetery this morning. We have to be there early to catch the early decorators.

Maintaining the historic grounds is not cheap. The old headstones, markers, and family plots are not lawnmower friendly. Some of them must be mowed with a push mower or with a weedeater. In the past, the cost was negligible, but the cost of gas and groceries skyrocketed. To keep it presentable, we must pay a service to maintain it. The guy that does the work is a Vietnam vet and he does a great job. I'd like to double his salary, but we need funds to support it. Soooo, that's why I was there early this morning.

My dad took this shift. We let the others attend church on Sunday morning and we hang out under the funeral home tent taking donations.

We raised enough money to pay three-fourths of what it costs each year. We'll have to do fundraisers to raise the rest. 

It's not easy work, but it's something my dad helped with while he was alive. Whenever I think I"ve had enough, I close my eyes and think of him. Then I stop whining and get to work. 

This plant with blossoms that resembles Queen Ann's Lace grows around the cemetery. It also grows in our backyard which is where I shot this picture.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Happy birthday Daisy

Today's been busy. After morning chores, we headed to the local Country Club where my nephew James has a membership. They'd planned a Hawaiian luau under the gazebo by the pool. 

By 10 a.m. when we arrived the pool was buzzing with swimsuited kids with silk leis fluttering around their necks.

The older folks sat under gazebo where ceiling fans were whirling. We watched the kids splash and longed for the days when we had that much energy.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Linely Lilly

The flowerbed down near the mailbox is sad. It needs a little love and kindness, but all it has gotten so far this spring is neglect. Even so, the lonely Lilly hold's it blossom up high and gives all that it can. It does its job whether I do mine or not.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Back Roads

Normally I'm off on Wednesdays and work Thursdays, but the workforce team scheduled a Career Expo yesterday, so I swapped off days. Since this coming Sunday is Decoration Day where my people are buried, I loaded up the weedeater and some hand tools in the bed of my truck. 

Jilda worked today, so I took the long way to the cemetery. I stopped at my "old sister's" house (she loves it when I call her my old sister.) I took her a gallon of blueberries and a dozen fresh eggs. She was happy. We sat on her front porch and watched the traffic pass for a while. When we said our goodbyes, I continued down beyond her house to take a road I haven't traveled in a long time.

At one point, I noticed an old barn in a pasture. The sun was not at a high angle, but I decided to chance a shot anyhow. It turned out OK.

The drive through the old town was a little depressing. When I was a kid, the entryway to the Masonic Lodge looked impressive. I always wondered what they did in there behind closed doors.
The lodge moved out when the businesses moved to the new highway. The old town began to wither like corn in a drought.

I pulled up to a stop and snapped a picture of the archway. Nothing but weeds and poison ivy clinging to the once beautiful entryway.

When I got to the cemetery, it looked as if it had a manicure. I didn't even unload any tools. 

It wasn't a waste of time. I got a couple pictures out of the deal.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Remembering Big

The old high school from which I graduated burned over 20 years ago from mysterious causes. But the floors in the structure were made of heart pine. Every month or so, the maintenance man would mop them with linseed oil to keep them from rotting.

All that's left standing is the old gym that was built in the 30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. And the entryway to the Watkins Field where the Bulldogs played home-games on Friday nights during the fall.

I first started going to football games when I was in grammar school. A herd of us kids from the community walked the two miles to the September games, but once the temps dropped, we'd hound our parents until they took us.

The entryway to Watkins Field seemed as vast as the Coliseums I'd read about in ancient Greece. I hadn't seen the archway in over 30 years but when I drove by a few years back, I was amazed by how small it was.

Did you remember things as being much bigger than there were when you were a child? Or is that just me?

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