Thursday, August 31, 2017

Listening to the rain

Each time it rains it reminds me of my childhood. The old house I grew up in had a tin roof too. The only difference is that the old house in Sloss had little insulation. When a hard rain fell, the quality of sound was more like tearing paper, if that makes sense. 

In our house now, the rain is audible, but the quality of the sound is muffled as the waves travel through layers of thick fiberglass. It still brings a seminal peace over me when I hear that drone. When thunderstorms are involved, there's not so much peace. 

Thankfully, we've dodged all the severe stuff so far. 

The sun took the day off here today which made the light uninteresting. I saw a few possible pictures, but none spoke to me. Instead, I looked back at a year ago this week and found a butterfly picture. I think it will do tonight. Now excuse me, I'm going to the screen porch and listen to the rain.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Slim pickins

I had physical therapy for my knees this morning. I headed out after coffee. Low-hanging clouds the color of ash kept the sun hidden. As I pulled into the parking lot and clicked my gearshift into Park, flecks of rain dotted my windshield.

On the way into the facility, a shrub with a gnarly purple flower caught my eye. Knowing I'd need a picture for the blog tonight, I snapped a few before stepping inside. Shortly after signing, a downpour made the metal roof roar.

The tropical wave had moved on toward the north by the time I'd finished my session. I stopped by a Starbucks on the way home for a mocha and a copy of the New York Times. I love that newspaper. The writers know how to tell a story.

Not much else to report today. I hope hump day has been kind to you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Thinking of autumn

August is almost behind us. College Football goes into full swing this weekend.  Soon all my whining about the steamy weather will be a distant memory. 

Heat didn't alway bother me. Hurricane Fredrick swept into Mobile Bay in the fall of 1979. The wind and water smacked the city down hard,  Few phones rang and that was before cell phones were the norm. I worked with MaBell hanging miles of wire. I often ate my lunch hanging on a pole waiting for wiring assignments to get a customer back in service. It was hot work 

I often worked shirtless during the spring and summer months. Hanging 30 feet off the ground, no one noticed. When we finally when home that autumn, I was as brown as an old brogan. There was not one ounce of fat on my bones.

As I got older and my job moved inside, I became acclimated to air conditioning. These days I have to limit my time in the heat. 

I said all that to get to this: I will not miss the hot weather. Autumn here is the festival season. 

Jilda and I played a music festival a few years ago in Tennessee. One of the stages was under the portico of an old barn. Portico is a fancy word for the place where the farmer once parked their tractor.

Outside leaning against the barn was a wagon wheel that I'm sure was older than me. I thought it made an interesting picture. As I looked through my older photographs, I came across the wagon wheel and it reminded me of autumn.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Another mountain to burn

I burned limb mountain Sunday. We have a lot of trees in our yard and nature is an ardent pruner. The strong limbs thrive, and the weak ones grow frail and fall. 

It usually takes me several months to build a debris pile of dead limbs and pruned shrubs. When it's time, I pour on some diesel fuel and spend time in hypnotic bliss as I watch the flames reduce the refuse to embers. Yesterday was no different.

Stepping outside yesterday evening at dusk, all that was left of the pile was ash and a thin wisp of smoke not much bigger than a burning cigarette. With a smile on my face, I fell asleep thinking about a job well done.

This morning when I walked outside heading to work, I looked over and saw something I didn't expect.

There was a dead pine that was well over 40 feet tall. Loggers call these trees widow makers. A dead tree is notorious for breaking off at the parts of the tree when chainsaws are busy cutting the trunk. A man I'd know all my life died cutting a tree much like this one.

But this morning when I walked outside, the tree was on the ground. I'm not sure if the wind out of the west pushed it over, or it just got tired of standing. 

At any rate, when I clean this one up, I'll have another mountain to burn.

The picture below has nothing to do with this column, but when looking for a decent picture, I noticed that I'd taken this one a year ago. It will have to do.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


We didn't have waffles when I was a kid. Waffle irons were expensive. Instead, we had buttermilk pancakes. My mom whipped them up on special occasions. The only syrup we used in those days was Golden Eagle. The company that made the syrup ran ads on the radio. The morning DJ on WVOK used to say, "Golden Eagle sopin' syrup on my biscuits. Ain't nothing better."

Last fall our waffle maker died. It broke my heart. We didn't have waffles that often, but I knew I'd miss them. We swore we'd get a new waffle maker, but we never did...until last week.

We were whupped last night after clean-up duty. This morning we slept until almost 7:30. It had been a while since we'd slept in.

After coffee, I went out to do some yard work I'd been putting off because of the sweltering heat.

When I came in for water and to cool off, I smelled bacon in the oven. Yes, Jilda does our bacon in the oven.

The next thing I heard was the beeping of the new waffle maker. A few minutes later, we sat down with a jug of LL Bean Maple Syrup. It wasn't Golden Eagle, but it was good.

If there's anything better than blueberry waffles on the planet, then I want to taste it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A day I will remember.

I learned how to play guitar when I was barely a teenager. My mother walked around for weeks with cotton in her ears. She heard Hang on Snoopy, and Green Green Grass of Home so much during the first months when I was struggling that I'm convinced she broke out into hives whenever she heard one of those songs on the radio.

The thing about any skill is this – practice makes you better.

Throughout my life, my progress has been ebb and flow. I played a great deal in high school, but afterward not so much.

When Uncle Sam drafted me and sent me to Panama, several people in my barracks were very good on guitar. My friend Jocko taught me a great deal about playing. He also taught me how to listen. It was a time of growth.

Jilda and I have played music together since she sang in Miss Dora High talent/beauty contest in 1969.

Soon after we married, we began writing songs together. Someone asked me once how many songs we've written. The only answer I could come up with was, "a lot."

Music has been one of the core values we've shared with our circle of friends. We have friends who don't play music, but we have a lot of friends who do.

We invited a group of those friends over tonight.  We sat around and played songs we've written and a few songs that were written by others that we loved.

It was a day I will remember.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Company's a comin'

We're having a picking party tomorrow. Several of our music buddies will converge on the homefront with guitars, banjos, harmonicas, and a tuba. OK, I'm lying about the tuba but if we had someone who played one they would have been invited.

As always, when we have company we go into a cleaning frenzy during the days leading up to the event. I finished up this evening by cleaning our great room windows.  That's no easy feat. The windows go from floor to ceiling. The height inside is 14 feet outside it's closer to 18 feet because the house sits on a foundation. 

I'm leery of ladders, but I'm very careful to ensure it's level. I also never lean while standing higher than two rungs. 

While I had the ladder inside, I also cleaned the ceiling fan which is about 10 feet off the floor. I could have planted potatoes with the dust that came from the fan. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it.

We haven't had one of these in a long time and everyone we invited seems as excited as we are.

On another topic, the Birmingham paper for which I write asked me to do a new profile picture that runs with the columns in that publication. The one they currently use is over 10 years old. Jilda shot one of me writing early this morning. Let me know if I don't look "writerly."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Time before clocks

I had to board the way-back machine tonight. I've been indoors most of the day and didn't have an opportunity to take a decent picture. So I went back in time.

In 2007, Jilda and I spent my birthday at Wheeler State Park not far from Tennessee. Winter on the water can be picturesque. Sunsets are often more vivid because there aren't trees to obscure the light.

I almost waited too late on this picture, but I you can see a hint of color. Pink on gray is one of my favorite combinations. The colors make me think of time before it was measured with clocks and calendars.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Harbinger of autumn

It was brutally hot here last year. There was no rainfall. When the water tables dropped, streams dried and trees died. It didn't rain until late fall. 

This summer has been hot too, with humidity as thick as sorghum syrup. The difference is that we've had a lot of rain. The fruit trees bounced back, but most of them didn't have much fruit. The exception was the blueberry bushes. We soaked their roots with city water from a hosepipe. They prefer rainwater, but nature is not choosy when it comes to survival.

This morning when we walked, I saw a crimson leaf from a poison ivy vine on our path. The wind from a thundershower must have swept the leaf from a nearby plant. My knees creaked as I squatted to shoot a picture. 

I smiled as I stood because I understood that the leaf is a harbinger of autumn.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Blue fungus

The water oak in our yard was small when we moved here in 1980. Jilda's parents had moved a double wide trailer here on the property in the mid-1970s. The company moved the dwelling in pieces. They scraped the lot down to the red clay. The trees and shrubs that lived here prior to their move were shoved into a pile and burned.

They planted a few Rose-of-Sharon bushes, some azaleas, and they dug a dogwood up from the hollow and planted it by the drive.

A squirrel must have decided the land was still too barren, so it planted an acorn. The water oak took root. We built our house in the fall of 1983 and moved a few days before Christmas. The tree flourished.

The tree is a lesson in yen and yang. Through the years the tree has shaded our house, saving us a bundle in summertime power bills. It's also a beautiful tree. Humid summers paint a coat of moss on its trunk and roots that resembles a green scarf.  A yang is that limbs dump mountains of leaves in autumn. And when the wind blows, acorns ping the roof like a Jamaican kettle drum.

Another yang'ish thing is limbs die and fall. Today when I drove into the driveway after work, I noticed something. When I stepped closer I saw it was a limb that had fallen off the tree. Unlike most limbs that fall from that tree, this one was covered with a fungus called terana caerulea. I think the common name is cobalt crust. I've never seen a fungus this color.

While the fallen limb is a hard yang, I'm leaning toward a yin for this beautiful fungus.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Report

I worked a wonky shift today at the college. The early part of my shift began at 7 a.m., but I left at 11 to check my great nephew, Jordan out of school. It was a ghost town at the elementary school.

When I buckled him into the seat of my truck, he was CRANKED. He'd done his research and watched several YouTube videos on what to expect. Even though he's only starting the 4th grade this year, he's reading above the 9th-grade level. When his reading scores returned he ranked in the 99 percentile in the U.S. He was eclipse savvy.

The glasses I ordered from Amazon the first of August were unusable. After they shipped, Amazon sent me an email and said they could be defective and not to use them. They refunded my money. But by the time the glasses shipped, all the local places were out of glasses. A friend I went to high school with read me post on Facebook and offered to send me two pairs of her glasses. They arrived in time. I was thrilled and thankful.

Jilda doesn't go into work until after 2 p.m. on Mondays, so she whipped up lunch. Baked organic chicken, baked potatoes, and fresh tomatoes. Yum.

The moon started munching on the sun before we ate. Jordan and I sat on the back deck and provided play by play updates on the event. 

Not only did we have glasses, but I helped him build a crude pin-hole viewing device. We'd also heard on the Weather Channel that you could use a colander to view the event.

So as the moon had its way with Ol' Sol, we tried each of the viewing devices. Jilda and her brother Ricky (Jordan's pawpaw) stepped out and viewed the celestial performance. 

The daylight began to dim about midway through. Birds began scurrying from bush to bramble like the do at dusk. The rooster crowed, and the chickens began making their way toward the roost.

The eclipse was not total here, but it was around 94%. We couldn't see the stars like they could a few hours north of here, but the light was eerie. 

When the sun began reclaiming its light, Jordan and his pawpaw headed home. They called me a few minutes after they left. "You have to come down and see the pinhole effect of the light through the trees on the road that runs by our houses.

When I walked toward Jordan's house, I saw thousands of crescent quarter moon lights on the asphalt. I'd never seen anything like it. 

Jordan knew they would be there before he headed back home. Apparently, that was one of the YouTube videos he watched. 

 So that's my eclipse day. How about you?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Uncool day

Jilda and I were sitting on the sofa reading the Sunday papers. The temp outside was 96ish. Just then, the lights went off and the ceiling gently whirred to a stop. Crap. The power went off.

I called the power company and the recording said the power should be on. I'm glad they don't actually record the conversations because at this point I said some unkind things to that machine.

A little over an hour later, I heard the power truck driving up and down the road. They do this every time looking for the source of the problem. Sometimes it's a limb on the lines down beyond us in the bottoms. And, sometimes I think a squirrel poots on the transformer and it goes off.

At any rate, he drove by the house a couple times and the power still didn't come back on.

I got in my truck and drove up the road slowly. I know which pole the fuse is on. When it blows, our power is off until it's reset. He was standing at the pole when I got there and tried to reset the fuse, but it blew again. The problem still existed.

A while later, our power came on and I thought the problem had been resolved. But a while later I saw the power guy walking behind my house and toward the neighbor's house. I walked out back to speak with him.

Apparently, our elderly neighbor's power was still off. He said the transformer behind the neighbor's house had blown and since they couldn't get a boom truck back there, they would have to do it by hand.

I said, "Why don't you drive the boom truck down our barn road and drive it over there. This is my property and whatever it takes to get her power back on, it's OK with me." He said, "Barn road?"

I walked back and showed him how to drive the massive truck down our little road, and through the fields so that they could drive into her yard.

I could see relief spread across his face.

A few minute ago, I looked out the garden door and a truck the size of Rhode Island was driving through our field.

Hopefully, they'll have her power on soon.

I hope your day has been cool.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


We did the wedding tonight. We did cover songs we'd never done before. We practiced till our fingers were raw trying to get the songs right. We play a lot of coffee houses and festivals.  When you play a great deal, it's not uncommon to make a mistake every now and then. But a wedding...A wedding is a life event.

All of my frettings were wasted energy because we played the songs flawlessly. It was a beautiful thing...The wedding I mean.

We are honored that our friend Laken asked us to play on her special day. I've never seen her happier.

We talked to the father of the bride at the reception and he asked if we'd paid attention to the sunset the last night at the rehearsal dinner. I told him I had. He asked if I saw the sunset that was brighter on one side than it was on the other. I told him that I did see it and actually took a picture.

He said one of his friends told him the reason that the horizon was darker on the western side. He said it was the shadow of the earth. I'd never seen the phenomena but I knew there had to be some explanation. Maybe his friend was pulling our chain. Have any of you ever seen this phenomenon?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Birmingham Sunset

A young friend of ours is getting married tomorrow. She asked us to play a few songs just before the ceremony. She's the daughter of two very old friends and we've known the bride to be for most of her life.

Tonight was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. We were invited. The dinner was at one of the oldest country clubs in Birmingham. It's perched on the edge of Red Mountain and has one of the most beautiful views of the city at night.  The one during the days not bad, but the view at night is breathtaking.

As servers scurried around with lofted trays, the sun outside the windows put on a show.

I love weddings. They seem to lift the vibration level of everyone around.

The scenery was just a bonus tonight.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ghost town

Here's a Throw Back Thursday photo. I shot this photo 12 years ago in 2005. It's of one of the buildings still standing in my old home town. Harry Shaws Drug store was a few steps further down the street.

The entryway door had a small bell on a hook that jingled when customers walked in. The high ceilings were dark. Years of using a coal-fired stove for heat and cigarette smoke made the wooden walls look as old as time.

At one time, there was a soft drink maker in the old town. Dora Colas were made there but that was before I was born. I never tasted one, but I saw one of the bottles. The glass was opaque. When you held the bottle to the light, you could see tiny air bubbles in the glass.

Most of the town burned to the ground in 1957, but that was when the mines were in full swing and the railroad rumble through the town.

When the 78 Highway connecting Memphis and Birmingham was completed in the late 50 businesses started moving toward the highway. The old town slowly died. It's a ghost town now that lives only in pictures and in the memories of those who once loved that old town.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A beautiful place

I started therapy on my knees a few weeks ago. Each year, doctors inject the joints with my knees with a substance designed to add cushion. For a five or six months my knees are not bone on bone. The needle used for these injections feels like it's as big as a Dixie straw, but that's probably just me being a wimp.

The injections are followed by therapy. My niece Samantha is a physical therapy assistant. She cuts me no slack. When I start to complain, she gives me that "suck it up whiny baby" look and I buckle down.

This morning's session was at 9 a.m. and by 10:30 I was on my way home. My windshield view was a perfect late-summer sky. Blue sky and clouds that looked like the innards of a home-cooked biscuit.

At one point, there was a field of corn on the crest of a mountain. I've pulled into the entryway to this field during fall and winter. When I walk to the edge of the garden and look toward the west, it looks as if I could see Mississippi. It's a beautiful view. 

Pulling in today, walked to the edge of the field, the corn was as thick as thatch. I didn't want an observant farmer mistaking me for a critter, so I stepped back and settled for a picture of the sky.

I'll shoot another picture from this vantage point in late Autumn when the corn is plowed under, and the leaves have fallen. I think you'll agree that it's a beautiful place.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Passing of time

I have a program on my laptop. It has only one function. It reminds of passing time. The program on my laptop is set to sound a Tibetan gong every 30 minutes.  When I hear this soothing sound, I stand. If I'm extremely busy, I remain at my desk a stretch. If I'm between task, I walk a lap around the hallways. But strangely, the gong helps keep me focused on the important tasks.

Most of us think nothing about the passing of time. I know people who watch TV for hours and only stand up when they need to go pee.

The sound of this gong makes me aware that time is passing. Two gongs and an hour has passed.

I read a feature on two Irish businessmen who started Square. Square is a small credit card reader that clips into the earphone jack of a smartphone. The software behind the little reader makes it possible for small businesses across the world to accept credit cards for their wares. When I started accepting credit cards at my book signings, my sales tripled.

These amazing brothers are two of the youngest billionaires today.

One of the brothers has a clock on his wall. It's not a regular clock, but one that shows how much life he has left. He did research on his expected lifespan and programmed his clock to count down. At any given moment he can tell theoretically how much time he has left. Obviously, this does not take into account, disease, accidents, or disasters. But it for this young man, it serves to remind him that there are only a finite number of days, hours, and minutes left.

This kudzu flower has nothing to do with passing time, but I shot it two years ago today. That in itself was a wakeup call because I didn't realize it had been that long.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back Roads

Back roads are the best route. For years I've looked for the fastest route between point A and point B.
Cutting off ten minutes here, and three minutes there made my day. Then I realized when I arrived early, I often wasted the saved time looking at unimportant things on my phone or some other trivial activity.

After I retired, I slowed down. It's hard seeing things when you're in a rush. I rarely stopped in those days to take a picture no matter how remarkable the light was on the subject. The last few years have been different. I slowed down and took the scenic route even if it took five minutes longer. And if I saw a photo op – well I'd have to arrive a little later.

After work today, I headed home. One road that I don't often take has a pond that is almost hidden. Cars pass within 20 feet of the pond and most drivers don't slow down enough to look through the mimosa trees lining the soggy banks.

In the past, I've seen ducks sitting on the railing by the road. The must have tired of swimming and climbed on the rails to watch the passing cars. Today, I pulled in and parked at a wide spot next to the road.

Gravel crunched under my boot heels as I stepped out of the truck. I heard a squawking sound coming from toward the water. Three Muscovy Ducks were coming up to greet me. I'm guessing they thought I was someone bringing them a treat. I squatted down and tried to coax them closer but they wanted no part of that.  So, I apologized for not bringing food and stood up. They continued to look at me expectantly. Pulling the phone from my pocket I snapped a few frames. It almost seemed as if they were posing for me.

As I shoved the phone back into my pocket, I thought to myself as I climbed back into the cab of my truck, "You don't often see this stuff on the Interstate."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday stuff

I know Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but Jilda and I haven't stopped today. We had had lunch with Jilda's sister Pat. Jilda cooked a meal for our nephew James's family. They have a newborn and the mommy is having issues. Plus we had invited company for dinner this evening.

I worked inside and out to get the house in shape and Jilda has cooked for most of the day. When our company left this evening, we looked at each other and without a prompt, we went to put on our pajamas.

The kitchen was a mess as you might imagine. We don't go to bed with a dirty kitchen, so that was the next flurry of activity. After a time, the kitchen was as tidy as an Army barracks.

I almost played a get out of a blog, free card.

Below is a picture from the archives. I wish I knew the name of this plant but tonight I'm too tired to look it up.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From out in left field

I'm here brushing the dust from between the G and H on my keyboard and Jilda's sitting not three feet away writing her blog. Her keyboard sounds is if it has a woodpecker on it. She makes me mad sometimes.  I want to lean over and smack her upside the head.

Of course, I'd never really do that because I'd have to go to sleep some time and there's really no telling what misfortune she's heap upon me. Also, I'm very fond of her cooking and I'm certain I'd never get a chance to eat any more of her food unless it got REALLY cold in hell.

So, I got a grip and stopped blaming my lack of ideas on her. Soon this squirrelly idea came to mind and I went with it.

I'm stuck on butterfly pictures. I know they must be tanking up right now. They are swarming the zinnias like mosquitos around a fat baby right now.

When I stepped down this evening to dump the scraps into the compost bin, I saw a swarm of butterflies and walked over to snap a few frames. Tonight, that's all I have to give.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Eclipse is a coming

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm a  celestial-esk kind of guy. I love the sun, stars, and most anything up there beyond my reach. The upcoming solar eclipse has me psyched. 

The last eclipse I saw was on May 30, 1984. It wasn't a total eclipse, but it was close. It was only a few months after we moved into our new house. We hadn't built the back deck yet. Jilda and I sat on the back steps for a long time. The warm May temperature seemed to drop while the sun hid behind the moon. It was just after we moved into our house. Jilda and I sat on the back steps and experienced it. I had my dad's old welding goggles so we got to see it while it happened. It was just before noon, but it looked like that twilight time just between dusk and dark. The roosters crowed. The birds and other critters didn't know what to make of it.

I didn't blog back then, but I wrote about it in my daily journal. The upcoming total eclipse happens here on August 21, 2017. The timeline looks like it will be total around 2ish.

Looking on Amazon, I found 10 pairs of eclipse glasses for just over $8. I was pretty sure neither Jordan or his mom would think to get glasses and I didn't want them to miss it. There won't be another total eclipse in my lifetime or theirs. I'm just hoping it's not cloudy.

Our glasses arrived today. Jilda snapped this pic of me on our deck looking skyward.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fishing report

The college was a ghost town today. The kids and teachers won't be back until next week. This left the staff to keep the ship tethered to the educational dock. My work involves people over 50 who aren't really students. 

My calendar was clear today which gave me time to catch up on all the things that kept getting pushed to the next day, next day, next day, next day. It was refreshing just checking things off.

Once I left for the day, I stopped by the forks of the river to get the fishing news. It seems that the fish weren't biting. That's common during the Dog Days of summer. I could have told them that no self-respecting fish would bite because the cows are laying down. I verified that in the picture I posted yesterday. I should probably explain that there's an old saying that proclaims: If the cows are laying down, the fish won't bite. I wonder if that means the fish don't bite when the cows are sleeping either? I'll have to ask an old geezer about that to verify. No wait, I'm an old geezer. 

So, the news from the forks today has been independently verified. 

In my broadcast voice – Don't bother fishing today because the cows are laying down. No self-respecting fish would dare bite.

Enough of that drivel. I shot another picture of a butterfly. I can't help it if I love these little critters.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Cows and bitterweed

The sun's been hiding for the last several days. I won't wish away the rain. After going through a drought last year, I promised myself I'd never curse the rain...but still, I miss the sun when it's on vacay. 

This morning was no different. When Jilda left for her early morning class, the fog was thick as meringue. 

I'm doing physical therapy for my knees, and my appointment was at 9 a.m. in a town twenty miles to the east. The fog had lifted, but the sun was still MIA.  I saw some possible pictures, but the muted light made the subjects look as flat as onion skin. 

Just after lunch, Jilda, our great nephew Jordan, and I drove to Aldi's for produce, chocolate, and chips. We somehow walked out without the chips. We don't eat a lot of chips, but we love those carried by Aldi's.

On the way home, the sun peeped through the clouds. Jordan who was buckled in the back seat rolled down the window and looked out. I think he missed the sun too. 

Passing a pasture, I noticed cows lying around enjoying the afternoon sun. I slowed as I passed. Pulling into the driveway of a nearby barn, I turned around and parked on the roadside. 

The cows were interested, but not enough to stand. The just laid there munching and mooing. The name of the yellow plants in the foreground is bitterweed. 

Since I hadn't shot a fresh photo in a few days, I thought it was time.


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Wus report

I put in highway miles today. An early-morning community access TV show had me yawning while I drove. 

The day didn't slow down until about 10 minutes ago. I passed a number of photo ops, but the clouds hung low keeping the scenes unphotogenic. So I opted to go the way-back machine and snag a picture from ten years ago this week. I think it's the last time we grew chili peppers.

Although it's only 6:30 p.m., I've removed my contact lenses and put on my pajamas. As I've aged, I've adopted a new mantra – It's never too early to "jama-up." Sure, in my younger years I was a naysayer. I'd fight bedtime like a rabid beast, but I'm no longer among those ranks. 

Call me a wuss if you want but I'll be vegging out soon. I dare y'all to join me.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Happy Birthday Ol' Hook ~ my column from Sunday's paper

One year ago this week, a bulldog appeared in our yard. He was thirsty and starved. I could see his ribs. He had mange, and the white hair left on him was full of fleas. My conscience would not let me drive him from our yard hungry. I checked with a few neighbors, but I knew the answer before I asked. A heartless person had abandoned the animal, hoping that he would starve, or that someone would put him down. It broke my heart. But the story doesn’t end there.
I took the dog to the vet with the intention of putting him down. The dog, not the vet. The vet looked him over and read out a long list of maladies. The worst things on the list were heartworms and the fact that he was deaf. Even without the benefit of hearing, the dog followed the conversation between the vet and me. The critter somehow knew his life depended upon the outcome. When I looked down into his sad eyes, I could not do it. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I called Jilda to let her weigh in on the decision. She said we didn’t need to go to the beach right now anyhow. I handed the vet my Visa card.
This pic is a rerun. Please forgive.
The vet tech stood nearby and stepped closer when the doc left the room. “You know, quirk dogs are the best ones,” she said. It turns out, she was right. He is a quirk dog, and he’s one of the best critters we’ve ever owned.
The treatment included a round of meds and surgery to neuter the mutt. When I picked him up afterward, he hopped up into the cab as if he’d been doing it forever. He then looked over at me as if to say, “Let’s go home, Daddy.”
It took a while for him to figure out where he fit in with the other two dogs, but it was much easier than I thought. It wasn’t long before his quirks began surfacing.
He went out with me one night to close the chicken pen gate. When I flipped on the flashlight, he ran around the yard barking and chasing the light beam. He will do it ‘till he drops. He also chases the shadows of butterflies.
He can’t hear me calling him, but when we’re walking, he responds to hand signals. The collie Calliou and the Yorkie Taz rarely come when I call unless I’m holding food.
His bed is in front of our great room windows. This position gives him an unobstructed view of the front of the house. When squirrels scamper down the trees to raid the bird feeders, he watches and quivers with rage. I can almost hear him thinking, “Daddy, those fuzzy critters have the gall to eat our bird seed! If you will open the door, I’ll put a stop to that.” Sometimes I do open the door for fun. He’s on top of those squirrels in a millisecond, but they are much too fast for him to catch one.
The other two dogs are terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. Ol’ Hook sleeps through all of that.
A while back, a bounty hunter knocked on our door. We don’t get many visitors here, so I opened the door with caution. The guy stood well over 6 feet tall and had tattoos all over his arms and neck.
He was looking for someone I didn’t know. The bail jumper had left a nearby address. Ol’ Hook walked to the door and leaned against my leg as he evaluated the visitor. When the bounty hunter’s eyes fell on the dog, he involuntarily took a step back. “Is he mean?” he asked. I told him he could be if someone bothered my wife or me. “I can see that,” he said. He thanked me for my help and backed away toward his truck.
Since we have no idea how old Ol’ Hook is, we celebrate his birthday the first week of August. While I can’t comprehend why someone would abandon such a beautiful, loving creature, I am grateful he found his way to our yard.
Happy Birthday, Ol’ Hook.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

New figs

The lawnmower I bought four years ago is having major problems. It's underpowered for the amount of grass on our property. It will go see the lawnmower doc this week. I think I will need its appendix removed along with some steering bushings.

The grass on the adjoining property is almost knee deep. I may have to invest in a goat.

When we walked today, we waded through the grass and rounded the fig tree. It got a head start on spring, but a late frost bit it back. I was afraid it wouldn't have any figs this year, but I was wrong. As we walked by, I saw several figs the color of a bruise. I plucked one off an popped it into my mouth.
I LOVE fresh figs.

We picked about a quart and there will be more to pick later in the week. Jilda will toss some in our morning shake.

There are two more young fig bushes we planted beside the old one that's been there for years. Soon, we'll have figs-o-plenty.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Welding goggles

Last night I mentioned my trouble in coming up with a topic for the blog. When that situation arises, I do goofy things. This process sometimes kicks dormant synapsis into creative action. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Last night I put on my dad's old welding goggles. It didn't work. My blog buddy Joe asked to see a picture of me wearing the goggles. This awakened one of my sleeping synapsis. The result follows.

My dad wore a hood when he did arc welding.  When he used an acetylene torch, he wore these goggles. For decades they've dangled on a hook in my home office. Every now and then, I'll pick them up and slip them over my head. The world is a much darker place when looking through them. The only things visible are surfaces that reflect the ambient light in the room. It's like one of those horror movies. 

The goggles give a different perspective on the familiar things around me.  I tried wearing them while I typed, that was an unproductive experiment. 

So, I usually just put them on for a few minutes and see if anything happens. The company where my dad worked, issued these goggles to him in the 1950s. He took care of his stuff. When he retired in the early 80s, his supervisor gave him his work gloves and these goggles.

Last night, I closed my eyes and held the elastic bands close to my nose. I wanted to see if a trace of him remained.  Either time had taken his scent away, or taken my ability to smell it.

Usually, the only thing that happens when I wear the goggles is that it makes me a little sad. My dad was not a yapper. When he said something, it carried weight. I didn't always listen, but I should have. 

When you're in your 30s, you can't imagine that you're parents won't always be with you. I wish I had been wiser then.  I had no idea cancer would take him so soon.  Now, all that's left are memories, old pictures,  and an old pair of welding goggles.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Inspiration on vacay

Some days it's a struggle coming up with a topic. I rifled through a box of souvenirs, read a book of quotes, and flipped back through old pictures. Nada. 

I sat gazing out my office window. I put on my dad's old welding goggles, and twisted the key on a tiny music box on my desk. I hadn't heard those tinkling tones in a long time. It didn't help, but I enjoyed those few moments of music.

So, I went back in my Google Photo archives to August of 2009 and picked a picture at random to post. And tonight, that's all I have. Maybe tomorrow inspiration will come back from vacay.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Telling stories

I heard something today that made a great deal of sense to me. Stick with me on this one.

One of the folks in my program expressed an interest in grant writing. In a serendipitous fashion, shortly after my conversation with him,  I received an email from a local community foundation announcing an upcoming grant-writing-training session. I forwarded the email to the candidate that wanted to learn more about the skill.

He's an educated person, and he asked the training facilitator during the session, "What makes some grants successful and other grants fail? He said he got a very technical answer from the facilitator, which is what he expected. But an attendee at the training who actually approves grants for community projects or denies them gave him a more interesting answer. Fast forward to today.

Today we had a coaching session and I asked how the training went. He said it was a very good session and he learned a great deal about how to write grants.  He said he learned the nuts and bolts of the process, but the community rep gave him the most valuable advice.

The grant reviewer told him that any grant that expects to be approved have to answer the basic questions, but the grants that get approved not only answer the questions, but they must also tell a better story with their words.

I smiled when he told me that. I've known it for years, but it's always good to have validation. We as a species love stories. Some people can tell stories and some people give you the facts. 

The most valuable thing I've learned from blogging for over 10 years (every day) is how to tell a story. Sometimes my stories are lame. Sometimes they resonate. But it's doing it daily that helps develop the writer's voice. It's that voice that has the ability to tell stories. And that's what it's all about.

I know you are wondering when I'll get a fresh topic for my photos. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday on the homefront

Ol' Hook jumped a rabbit on our afternoon walk and he was off. My first impulse was to call him back, but since he's deaf that would have been wasted wind.

We finished out walk and came back inside to cool down and hydrate. Normally, Ol' Hook comes back after he realizes he outrun his backup and hustles back to the gate. This evening, that didn't happen.

After about an hour, I was concerned. Jilda and I both slid on our shoes and headed back out. Our old bulldog Taylor went missing several years ago in August. The weather was brutal.  We called for hours and she did not return. After several days, I walked through the wood in the hollow beside the barn. I expected to find her body. I found her half buried. She'd chased a rabbit in a hole and tried to dig him out. She was still alive. I had to run home and get a shovel to dig her out. I took her to the vet, but they weren't sure she'd make it. Thankfully she did. But that's what I envisioned for Hook.

Thankfully, when we rounded the barn and started back up the road, we heard him running as fast as his legs would carry him. I guess he smelled our presence on the wind and decided it was time to head home. I scolded him, but it's hard to stay mad at this goofy dog.

On the way back, I saw some tall grass at the edge of our garden. The setting sun was highlighting the tips of the grass. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames.  I'm not sure what I did before I got a phone with a camera.

I hope you've had a good Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

What my eyes saw

It's been beautiful here again today. The morning was cool for summer here. I had another early-morning appointment so I was off before sunrise. Passing a mountain top cattle farm, I slowed and rolled my windows down. The road is not much more than a pig trail so there was no traffic in either direction.

Pulling to the side, I watched for a moment. I switched off the engine and looked at the cattle pond in the distance. The only sound was the wind and the lazy sound of a mooing cow. It sounds as if they don't have the energy to make a substantial sound.  They were making their way to the water for a morning drink.

I was afraid it was too dark to get a decent picture, but with a little adjustment it came out OK. The iPhone camera is good, but I don't know it well enough to adjust for exposure. With a DSLR camera, I can evaluate the light and make choices with exposure. By selecting the right aperture and shutter speed one can take perfect pictures without Photoshopping. But then I can't pocket my DSLR camera which weighs about 7 pounds when it has the telephoto lens attached. So you'll have to forgive my tweaking. This picture is close to what my eye saw.

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required