Monday, July 31, 2017


My lovely spouse had oral surgery today. The earliest appointment she could get was at 1:30 p.m. She could have a light breakfast, but nothing past 7 a.m. She was actually a much better sport about it than I was when I had work done back in December. I know for a fact that I go cranky.

It was on a front tooth. A crown with a post broke off clean about a month ago. Today they cut what remained of that baby and did a bone graft. You would not believe how much fun this procedure brings to the recipient.  

She was biting down on a wad of gauze. When she tried to talk, all I heard was mwa mwa mwa mwa. When I asked her to repeat, she said the same thing, only louder. I started shaking my head as if I understood her message and drove on toward the house. 

I'd cleared it with my boss to work from home today and tomorrow. I'll keep a close eye on her progress. She's in pain, but she already feeling a little better.

I normally post my column from Sunday's paper, but his week's column was about our friend Louis. It was totally different from the blog entry I wrote last Sunday but I thought I'd leave that subject alone.

A flower from our backyard bed

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Power problems

We run our bedroom box fan year round. The whirring sound of the blades creates a soothing noise that muffles the world outside our window. Before we learned the fan trick, we could hear barn owls, night birds, stray dogs, and the noise of late-night cars screaming past our house fast enough to break the sound barrier. You'd think a narrow dead end road would elicit more caution here in the sticks, but you'd be wrong.

Last night just after midnight, I sensed that the power had failed. The fan fell silent. I was thankful the weather had cooled down. Pulling the flashlight from the nightstand drawer, I eased out of bed and made my way into the office to call the power company. 

The power goes off fairly often out here. The reps write it off to antique wires and switches out here and future plans to upgrade the infrastructure. Typically, they wake a technician up and send him to a fuse located about 200 feet from my house. He resets the fuse and the fan springs to life along with the air conditioner.

Last night was no different. Less than an hour after my report, our power came back on. Then about five minutes later it went back off. This time it stayed off until daybreak.

Apparently, there was a live wire on the ground about a mile from our house, and when the technician engaged the fuses the first time, the live wire started a small fireworks show. This threw the fuses again. This time the tech call in some linemen to hang a new segment of wire.

The humidity was much lower today, and even though it was still warm, it felt good outside. 

On our morning walk, I snapped another picture of a butterfly. This one is a swallowtail. It seemed to be posing for me.

I hope you all have a great week.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Take time to notice

One of the self-assignments from the book I'm currently reading is to notice things. Our minds are constantly bombarded throughout the day. If you own a smartphone, the problem is amplified tenfold.

An average brain just cannot process all the information coming at us. As a result, we filter. If new data is not something we're looking for (like a bathroom when we have to pee) then we often see it, but it doesn't interest one of the brain cells assigned to make us notice.  We simply let it drift by like a leaf on a fast-moving stream. If on the other hand, it says an oncoming car is on the wrong side of the road, this immediately engages the old "FIGHT OR FLIGHT"  reflex and you become quite interested in the new information. In fact, it may trigger a hygiene issue while you're trying to figure out how to deal with the new info.

This not noticing is your brain's way of dealing with excess input. There's a flower on the side of the road. I've seen a million of them. No eminent threat there, move on. Over in that field, is a 100-year-old barn. Your brain says, if you've seen one cow palace, you've seen them all.

On long drives, this brain processing is quite helpful. It keeps information from squirting out your ear when your head fills up.

But, this can also do you a disservice – especially if you're a writer. 

Today, on the way home from Mississippi, I saw a field with bales of hay.  I've seen a lot of hay, especially during the heyday of my travels (I couldn't resist.) But when I actually noticed the field and the way the light fell on the field, it was a photographic moment. The only reason it's not the picture for tonight's blog is that there was a log truck close enough to my rear bumper that I could read the serial number on his radiator. But I noticed it.

Further along was a fencerow. Barbed wire kept cattle from wandering into the country road. Many of the fences seen these days are held up by store-bought fence post all straight as Army cadets.  The barbed wire held as taut as a guitar string. But this morning we passed a fence strung during the last century. Many of the posts were ones cut from nearby saplings. About every fifth post was a railroad crosstie. This was the fence from my childhood. Buying a fence post would not have occurred to a farmer in those days. Noticing the fence today, triggered a stream of thought that would normally have drifted past me. I'm thankful I took the time to notice it.

Closer to home, I noticed a field I'd passed in early
August last year. I shot a picture of
a field of sunflowers and posted it.
But today as we passed, the field lay fallow, and I noticed it. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

World on fire

This summer remind me of the year I spent in the tropics while serving in the Army. It's hot at breakfast and once the sun rises above the trees, it squeezes the mercury toward the roof of the thermometer. Then after lunch, the dogs start acting squirrelly. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to know that thunderstorms are a'comin'.  

Then when the rain moves off to the south, the sun comes back out turning the world into a sauna. 

One day this week, the storms didn't move in until later in the day. As I walked out of yoga class at 8 p.m. the setting sun through storm clouds on the western horizon looked as if the world were on fire. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

All I have to give

I've been a road warrior this week. My work this week took me to the edge of Mississippi both yesterday and today.

After the meeting in Fayette, I had an appointment with my boss to upload quarterly reports. After lunch, when I parked and lugged my laptop inside, he told me the phone system and the Internet was down. Oh well. There would be no more productive work today, so I headed home.

Thankfully, I shot several pictures of our flowers yesterday.

Today, this is all I have to give.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tired fingers

I've spent most of the day today writing and my fingers are tired. My blog buddy Fran at  Fishducky
asked me to post the picture of Jordan and the gigantic watermelon I shot last Sunday. So below is the picture.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Zen ferns

Do you believe in Zen ferns?  I KNOW. It's a stretch but stay with me. Yesterday as Jilda and I were heading to yoga class, the setting sun lite up our fern and fountain. We were running late for the free class she teaches at the local community center. 

I took a second to take it all in. There are not many things more beautiful than scenes painted by evening light. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thoughts from the garden ~ my column from Sunday's paper

During the last few weeks after planting our garden, it looked manicured. The tomatoes had grown from small seedlings into bushy plants that required cages to keep them upright. Watching our garden grow is a favorite summer past time. It’s a simple joy that’s hard to describe to someone who’s never grown a garden. Most of the time there is no better stress reliever. But gardens are bounty or bust.

Several mornings toward the end of May, I’d walk down to the garden. Leaning against the fence with a steaming cup of coffee hooked to my finger, I’d sip while surveying our work. Closing my eyes, I could taste the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on toasted bread with mayo. A BLT in summer is like heaven on wheat bread.

One morning I noticed some of the top leaves of my heirloom tomato plant missing. Beneath the plant were tiny green balls of poop. After a few minutes, I found a hornworm as big as my index finger munching on my prized plant. The worm was enjoying an early morning meal of tender tomato leaves. His day went south. With my free hand, I plucked his squirming body from the vine. Squashing his head between my thumb and forefinger, I tossed the remains over the fence into the backyard. The chickens raced toward the tender green prize. The fastest pecked the worm up and was off to enjoy its special breakfast.

The peppers, squash, and tomatoes were doing great until the rain came. After weeks of showers, the plot was a mess. One day when stepping into the tilled soil, the mud sucked the shoes from my feet. I tried for a while to keep the garden maintained, but plants like people can’t survive with too much water. Weeds, on the other hand, seem to thrive in soggy soil. Soon the blossoms fell off the squash before forming fruit, and all our beautiful tomatoes started splitting open on the plant.

The dry days these past few weeks gave us hope that the garden would survive, but that looks doubtful. I’m thinking about plowing it under and planting another crop with bush beans, cucumbers, a few more tomatoes, and squash. The Farmer’s Almanac says that now is the time for late gardens.

Gardens for us is more of a hobby. The same was not true for our parents and grandparents who grew up during harder times. Gardens were essential. A bad year in their gardens meant bare pantries and less food on the table during the fall and winter.

I used to help my great-grandmother tend her garden when I was still in grammar school. She’d put on her sun bonnet in the mornings and wander through her garden picking what it offered up that day. By the time we finished gathering each morning, her straw baskets were brimming with vegetables. She’d be huffing and puffing from exertion by the time we carried it all into her kitchen. I asked her once why she worked so hard in her garden. Her answer was simple – “I like to eat.” That pretty well sums up why Jilda and I have a garden each year.

Ol' Hook supervising the new garden plot

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sad Sunday

We drove into Birmingham yesterday to visit our old friend Louis. He was one of Jilda's chair-buddies for the three years she underwent infusion treatments for her immune system condition. Our friendship with him is the best thing that came from the time she spent in those chairs.

I've written about him before. He attended our Thanksgiving dinner the last few years and our summer fish fries. 

The last six months his health has gone south. We went to see him yesterday in the nursing home, and he was unresponsive. He'd lost lots of weight. It broke our hearts seeing him that way. We sat for a while and held a one sided conversation. Then we said our goodbyes.

We decided to stop by the produce stand on the way home. We picked up several items including a watermelon that would have required its own zip code had it been a piece of land. The helper grunted when he picked the melon up and again when he hefted it into the car for us. 

My grunts were louder and accompanied by some foul language when I hauled it inside the house after arriving home. The things we do to enjoy fresh fruit – I thought to myself.

I awoke a few minutes later than usual this morning. Even if we stay up late, the dappled morning light seeping in around the shades forces my eyes open. I laid there a few minutes breathing deeply, taking an inventory of the morning aches and pains. Not bad I thought, so I slid out of bed and started the coffee maker gurgling.

We read two Sunday papers, as we sipped coffee and listened to cello music on the stereo. It was a good start to a Sunday.

After our walk, Jilda decided to cut the watermelon. We called our nephew Jordan over for a photo op. He loves watermelon, and this one almost outweighed him. We thought he'd make a good benchmark for gauging how big the melon was. The picture was a hoot.

As Jilda cut the melon, I sat at the table and observed. I felt the phone buzz in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw that I had a new email.

Touching the screen, I saw the new missive was from Louis' friend James. His note said that Louis had died this morning. 

I waited until the kids had their watermelon and went back home before telling Jilda the news. Tears filled her eyes, and she said "I knew it would be today. I'm not sure how I knew, but I did." 

A while back before his health got so bad, Jilda talked to Louis every day. Before hanging up, she always said, "I love you, Louis." He responded, "I love you more." We will miss our friend.

RIP Louis.

Our niece Alesha, Jilda, Bert, and Louis during better times.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Remembering July in Telluride

I've been thinking about Telluride, Colorado this week. This afternoon while grilling veggies and Conecuh Sausages, the heat index was 100+.  Standing there as the aroma of eggplant, squash, and zucchini wafted over me, I realized the heat from the grill made it a little hotter.

I didn't have a picture for my blog tonight, so I was flipping back through photos of July's past. I stopped on pictures from July of 2010. Jilda and I spent the week of the Fourth of July in the mountains of Colorado.

My friend Wes and I went fly fishing. That was back when I was getting back into the sport, and I'd never had an opportunity to fish anywhere other than the river here at home. I loved that experience.

On the night of the 4th, we walked together to the city park to watch the fireworks show. As we stood there, it was chilly. I'd never been cold in July, except for the summer that I worked in the package store before starting the job with MaBell. I always volunteered to stock the coolers when the weather was hot outside...but I digress.

While standing there in Telluride waiting for the fireworks to start, snow began to fall. It only snowed briefly time, but it left a lasting impression on me. These days whenever the temps begin to rise in July, I remember the time Telluride when snowflakes fell on my face while watching fireworks on Fourth of July.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Monarch Morning

I know that it is theoretically possible for there to be a more beautiful creature than a butterfly, but I can't name one at the moment.

This morning after our early walk, I stopped at the garden (if you still call it that.) The rain and heat have made it almost impossible to keep it maintained. The heatwave over the last few days has dried out the soil and the tomatoes seem to be making a comeback, but weeds have taken over. It will take a great deal of early-morning work to get it back in shape. But I digress...

Before going through the backyard gate, I stopped for a moment to look at the Old Maid flowers. They are the old heirlooms that know how to survive wacky summers in Alabama. When it's hot and dry they thrive. When it's cooler and wet they thrive. They keep our house colorful till autumn.

Just as I turned to head inside for water, I noticed a monarch butterfly flitting between blossoms. I took this photo with my phone.

Even after sliding the camera back into my pocket I watched the butterfly dancing on the flower. The movement of their wings is almost hypnotic. It's almost a pulsing motion.

Turning to walk back inside, I thought to myself, there's not much better than a Monarch Morning.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I know a few weeks ago when I posted a picture of my great nephew Jordan with this plant that volunteered to come up in our backyard that I said it was a watermelon.

That post may have left you with the impression that it was, in fact, a watermelon growing in our backyard. But you would have been mistaken.  The bigger the plant got, the more it looked like the squash plants in our garden plot.

After Googling pictures of watermelon plants, this one looks nothing like them. I should have known that as I've grown watermelons in the past. I assumed that the plant was the result of Jordan and me eating watermelon on the backyard bench. Apparently, that was not the case.

I put a tomato cage around this plant when it was small to keep the chickens from scratching it up. With all the recent rain, the squash had a growth spurt and it's now grown through the top hoops of the tomato cage.

As you can see, the plant is blooming so it will not be long before I'll confirm that it is, in fact, a squash plant. If not, I will tell you that you were again mistaken :)

More to follow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Red wasp saga

A few weeks ago I filled the tank of the tractor before bush hogging chores. My nephew came by later to help me work on one of the implements. He noticed that the gas cap was missing. Well crap, I thought. I hadn't tightened the cap, and it fell off while I was working. Stuffing a rag in the opening to keep out dust and critters, I made a note to pick up a new cap at the tractor place.

Today was an errand day. The tractor place is a good 30 miles from here, but my calendar was free, and it was a lovely day, so I drove. 

Stopping by the co op, I picked up some wild bird seed and egg cartons. We supply our family and friends with fresh eggs, and egg cartons are the last things that are returned.  

At the tractor place, I lusted after a new lawnmower. I'm pretty sure I drooled on the model I
looked at. 

When I got back home, I headed to the barn to put the new cap on the tractor tank.  Once I heard the satisfying click when I put the new one on, I turned to walk back to the house. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bird's nest on the workbench. Gingerly stepping over to have a look. I saw that the eggs had already hatched and the nest was empty. 

I made a mental note to show the nest to Jordan, who loves this kind of thing. My mind was elsewhere as I turned to head on when all of a sudden, I felt a stabbing pain on the back of my head. "DAMN RED WASPS,"  is what I said as I hurtled out of the barn. A second red wasp was in pursuit.  Snatching the ball cap from my head, I smacked that flying devil down and stomped him into the red clay of the barnyard. Other's were buzzing about looking for something to torment.

My head throbbed in the afternoon heat. After cooling off, I headed to the store for wasp spray. I was on a mission. At Walmart, I found a two for one sale on the spray, so I bought them both.

Once home, I headed down to the barn for a showdown. A stream of petrochemical based poison and the nest was history along with the offsprings that were throbbing inside the little nest cells.

I don't kill critters for the fun of it, but if one hurts my family or me, things will end badly for it. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On the road again

Today was all about asphalt. Sessions in Northwest Alabama had me on the road early. I stopped by the coffee house and got a mocha for the road. The drive was uneventful. It's not uncommon to see deer or wild turkey on stretches where there are no people in sight. But today it was just me, blue skies, pillow clouds, and the miles that lay ahead.

The last time I had a workshop up there, it rained so hard in places that visibility was not much further than the front bumper. But today I think I could have seen a gnat in the next county if I'd cleaned my glasses.

On the way home, I made sure there was no traffic behind me before snapping a few random pictures of the road ahead.  I'll let the picture describe conditions at that time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

AC or not AC

Electronic guts of my AC
On Mondays, Jilda leaves for work before I get home in the afternoon. When I arrived around 5 p.m. the house seemed warm. Our collie Caillou wears a coat thicker than a mink. He doesn't summer well.  He met me at the door panting. 
Placing my laptop and backpack on the bench by the door, I stepped into the hall to have a look at the thermometer. Had Jilda left the setting too high, I was going to fire off a
chiding text. She mindful of our critters, and rarely makes a mistake, but I checked.  The thermostat was set to 74 where we keep it during the day, but the temperature said 77.  Hmmmmmmmm?
I could feel the fan blowing away, but the house was too warm. When I stepped to the deck, my heart sank. The outside unit would normally be whirling away doing its magic. It wasn't. 

I went out and tried to jumpstart the fan by turning it with my screwdriver, but no go. Last summer, ants got into the unit which prevented the compactor from working properly. There were no ants. 

I noticed an electronic box next to the unit. It contained fuses as big around as my thumb. My thinking was that something might have caused one of these fuses to blow. 

I pulled one out and headed to the hardware store. In the mean time, I called my nephew who knows every craftsman worth knowing within 30 miles of where we live. The temps will be close to 100 tomorrow and I knew every AC tech in Alabama had packed schedules, but I sent my nephew a text. Less than 5 minutes later, my cell phone chirped. It was a local AC guy. He said he was slammed but he could come tomorrow and check our unit. When I told him I was on my way to get some replacement fuses, he said it was doubtful this could be the problem but was a good thing to check.

Once I arrived home, an evening thundershower was over the house. Sheets of rain poured off the metal roof. Unfortunately, the AC and the fuse box were in the drip line. 

In a moment, the new fuses were installed, and I was shaking rain off my head and hands. Stepping into the hall, I turned the unit back on and said a prayer to the AC gods. 

Nothing happened for over a minute. But then the unit kicked on. When I stepped to the back deck, the outside unit was purring like a Nordic kitten.  If there has ever been a happier human on this earth, I'd like to shake his/her hand.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mother Nature and the sweet gum tree

When we first built our house, the sweet gum tree in the backyard was more like a sapling. It leafed out early in spring and was one of the few shades in the yard. Jilda's folks had scraped the land flat when they moved their double wide trailer here in the late 70s. But the sweet gum somehow managed to survive.

The young sweet gum thrived and by the time we realized it, the tree was massive. The trunk measured better than two feet at the roots. 

One of the many storms that blow through here took the top of the sweet gum out and it fell on the back of the house. Luckily, it did no damage, but it became clear the tree had to come down.

We called a tree cutter. He and his team worked for most of the day. The last chore before they left was to rake up a few leaves and chainsaw chips.  

We asked him to leave the root up high enough to use as a table. We sat our BBQ grill close by and we used to stump to hang the grill brush and as a place to set our wine glasses while we cooked.

For years it looked as though it would last forever. Then I began to see signs of decay. The bark peeled off in sheets and underneath were tiny worms, ants, and bugs I couldn't name gnawing away.

This past year the pace of decay increased and now I think I could push it over with the tractor. 

Today as I cut grass and did some weed eating, I saw mushrooms attached around the bottom. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture or two. These weren't colorful mushrooms like the ones I photographed last week, but they are still beautiful in an earthy way.

Mother Nature is methodical in her approach to reclaiming all things back to their basic form. Humans have only walked the face of this planet a short time. If the scientists are right, our days here are limited. Some people scoff and it's not my intention to start a political debate about science, but if they are right, I wonder how long it would take Mother Nature to make mushrooms of us all.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Something new to read

I started a new book this morning. The author is Verlyn Klinkenborg. I'd just finished his book A Rural Life and it blew me away. He's a columnist for the New York Times and he writes about rural life on his farm.

Each day when I sit down at the keyboard, I try to find fresh ways of describing unexceptional things. It's not easy and I often miss the mark. But sometimes when the word gods smile upon me, I get close.

Often, I try to say too much in my sentences. This sometimes makes the meaning unclear. The book I just started is entitled A Few Short Sentences About Writing "puts the hay down where the goats can get at it" to use a tired old saying.

Jilda recently finished the book and she said it changed her approach to writing. It's too early for me to make that claim. I will give a report once I finish.

I hope this Saturday has been kind to you.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another face

We walked early this morning. Heat builds quickly up as the sun gets higher. If a walk is in the cards, it's best to do it early. 

The dogs were exhilarated.  They always are. Barking, nipping, and running in circles with a kind of joy I knew as a kid. A morning walk to them is like free tickets to the county fair was for me when I was 12. 

Once we started, Jilda told me that a dead tree had broken apart and fallen onto the barn road. I hadn't walked yesterday, but she discovered it on her morning walk.

We rounded the barn and headed up our barn road toward our mailbox which is on the main road. In summer, the barn road is like a tunnel through low-hanging oak and hickory trees. Midway on the road, I came across pieces of a dead tree lying like pick-up sticks. 

After tossing all the large pieces to the edge, I found one piece of rotted wood with a knot hole. Some kind of lichen grew around the edges. I know I do this constantly, but I found a face in this rotted limb. Tell me you do see the face of a dog here.


Thursday, July 13, 2017


It's been an ebb and flow week, but it seems I've done more ebbing that flowing. My energy level is lower than normal. That happens from time to time.

My niece took my older sister to the emergency room Sunday evening, and it took the medical staff a while to isolate the problem. She had surgery this morning and she's recovering now. That is a weight lifted.

I did upgrade my phone today. The picture below is the first one I shot with the new one.

We plan to sleep in tomorrow. That means we won't get up until 6 a.m. instead of five-ish.  So expect some major Friday flowing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Old maids

Early in the spring, we had high hopes for our garden. The tomatoes launched out and the plants were full of flowers. Soon tiny green tomatoes came out almost overnight. The squash plants were not far behind. Our garden held promise.

The rain came. And it kept coming. Soon the roots were soggy. No plants can survive if the roots can't breathe.

After one storm swept through, all the tomato cages and sunflowers went down. The soil was too muddy to stand them back up. That was a turning point.

The last few days, the rain moved off to the east and the sun came back. The days were hot, less humid, and dry.

This morning, the plants looked as if they may recover somewhat. I have my fingers crossed that we get rain in moderation for the rest of the year.

The Old Maids, on the other hand, don't care if it rains or not. They thrive. But these plants are not hybrid. They were probably in the Garden of Eden.

I snapped a few pictures so I'd have something to write about.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Happy Bottle Tree Tuesday

Today is Bottle Tree Tuesday. It's a new holiday I'm starting. I haven't gotten any traction yet, but some trends take time to take root.

When I was a kid, my dad made flower planters from tires. He'd cut spiky petals one one side of an old tired tire, and turn it inside out. The effect was that of a squatty tulip. Fill that baby with dirt, plant blooming moss, and you had what came to be known as hillbilly yard art. Call me backwoods, but I always thought it was an ingenious way to recycle something that would have been tossed into a garbage dump.

Jilda's grandmother had a bottle tree. That was back when milk of magnesia came in fat glass bottles that were a shade of blue that was beautiful when backlighted by the evening sun. We searched for a bottle tree for years, and then we found one at a local festival. Jilda fell in love with it, and I bought it for her.

We "planted" it in the flowerbed in the back yard next to the blazing star bush. I've shot pictures of it in the past, but I don't think I've ever used this one.

How about it – have you ever made up your own holiday? If not, I recommend that you do. It's liberating.

Happy Bottle Tree Tuesday.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The value of a good toy box ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Under the ancient glider on our screen porch is a plastic tub of toys. We never had children, but we’ve served as babysitters for working family members through the years. Any experienced babysitter knows the value of a good toy box. I measure the quality of a toy box by the hours of peace I get when the kids are at play with the things inside it.
Our toy box doesn’t have any electronic gadgets or expensive pieces. The things in the box are sale items we’ve picked up at Fred’s, Dollar General, or other discount stores. Jilda found a set of wooden blocks. These aren’t the familiar ABC blocks,
but simple colored cubes, rectangles, triangles, and cylinders. There are also tiny action figures, small metal cars, trucks, tractors, and trains. Rounding off the bunch are cans of Play-Doh, bottles of bubbles, crayons, and watercolors.
We celebrated the Fourth of July on Sunday. A few of our friends and some of Jilda’s family came. We did this to avoid conflicting with other celebrations later in the week.
We had eleven adults and six kids. Most of the kids brought their electronic toys, and they sat in the living room playing until the batteries died. After that, they started getting fidgety.
Our house would be considered a “tiny house” by today’s standards. When filled with family, friends, and pets, it gets cozy. Especially with restless young’uns.
Jilda has babysitting radar, so once she realized a potential kid meltdown, she herded them to the screen porch, pulled out the toy box and let imagination do the rest.
Now and then an adult would step out of the conversation long enough to check on the kids. When it was my turn, I moved to the entryway, leaned on the door jamb, and watched the action from a distance. Even though the kids ranged in age from five to 15, they were immersed in playing with the old toys.
The day was warm and humid, but the ceiling fan whispered overhead making the porch a pleasant place to play for the kids.
As dusk drew near, the company said their goodbyes and headed off in different directions. Jilda and I tag-teamed to do the after-party cleanup. We knocked out the kitchen and set the dishwasher to humming before tackling the screen porch.
Once on the porch, there was an impossibly tall tower of wooden blocks. Each block was stacked precariously on the one below. How it was still standing, I do not know, but when I tried to disassemble the stack, it fell. I could hear wooden blocks rattling to all corners of the porch. I’m not sure if this was planned by the kids or not, but locating the blocks was like an Easter Egg hunt. I looked under ferns, statues, and behind wooden screens.
It also took a while to scrape the Play-Doh from between the cracks of our tiled table.   Once the porch was back in order and the toys placed inside the box, I sat on the glider and looked at the toys for a while. The kid in me said, “I think I could build a fort with these pieces.”

Sunday, July 09, 2017

This is more like it

The rain moved out after dark yesterday evening.  We went to bed with droplets of water dripping from the leaves of the oak tree in our front yard ticking on the metal roof.

Today is the first day since the start of summer that I could breathe without laboring. I kept checking in the mirror to make sure nothing changed about my face. I worry that the next step in the evolutionary ladder for people who live in Alabama is to grow gills to better cope with humidity.

The lawn loves all the rain. So do mushrooms. They seem to grow while blinking my eyes. I snapped the picture below while cutting grass around the barn.

The next few days should be like summers past. I plan to enjoy each sunny day.

Saturday, July 08, 2017


On the 4th of July, my niece bought fireworks for the kids to enjoy. Their yard is not suitable for Pyrotechnics so she called earlier in the day to ask if it would be OK to shoot them between the house and the barn. She assured me there were no LOUD ones that would send the dogs over the edge.  We agreed. My niece holds a place in my heart and I fear that if she asked me to knock off a liquor store, I'd do it rather than disappoint her. Thankfully, she's never asked me to commit any felonies.

Fast forward to 9ish on the 4th. She came over with Jordan and her brother's four kids. I dragged a lawn chair down there and held our shaking Yorkie as the show began. Right at dark, Joy who is the youngest saw a firefly and shot off after it. Soon, all the kids were chasing fireflies instead of watching the colorful fireworks. I smiled as I watched Joy walk stealthily with cupped hands. The Firefly would spark, and she'd slip a little closer. Soon, she gently cupped her hands around the critter and ran back toward us smiling. "I caught one!" she said.

She held her cupped hands to her eye and watched it blink for a few minutes before setting it free.

Soon all the kids were in a race to see which one could catch the most fireflies. Every now and then they glanced over at the fireworks, but not that often.

As I sat there, I realized those kids were a lot like we were when we were kids. It didn't take a lot to amuse the kids of my childhood. June bugs and fireflies were as good as it got in summer.

The picture below is not a jar of fireflies but a tiny string of led lights on a brass wire not much bigger than a thread. I found them for $2 on the sale rack at TJ Maxx. The moment I saw them I knew exactly what I'd do with them.

Friday, July 07, 2017


Jilda and I had our annual eye exams today. Our eye doc is in Birmingham so we made ours back-to-back to save a trip.

Our doc is in one of the largest malls in the state and when we pulled into the parking lot, some of the space toward the front were barricaded off. We found a space and headed inside. There was a fleet of construction vehicles lined up ready to begin work.

It was already toasty at 9:30 a.m. But when we came out a few hours later, it was brutal. Construction workers were laying a new layer of asphalt over the old one. Looking through the heat vapor, our car danced in the distance and looked like a mirage. 

I felt sorry for the guys responsible for walking across the hot stuff and making sure the area close to the curbs were covered. I'd like to know how hot the soles of their shoes got. The thing is, I've done that work. 

The summer of 1968 after graduating from Dora High School I worked for the Alabama Highway Department. My job function was on the survey team but my youthful enthusiasm and twisted sense of humor got under my supervisor's skin...especially when he had a hangover. That happened in late August that year when the temps here in Alabama were actually hotter than the surface of the sun. I got on the super's bad side and he put me on "special assignment." The special assignment was inspecting the depth of new asphalt. By the end of the day, I  would have polished my super's shoes to get off that assignment.

It didn't take long to understand that when the boss man was cross, I needed to sit in the BACK of the crew truck and keep my mouth SHUT. Every day is a school day.

It's interesting how the smell of a fresh bituminous petroproduct brought back a VIVID memory from almost 50 years ago.

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