Monday, December 31, 2018

I say goodbye and hello

A year is gone. Looking back is a blur. If it weren't for some pictures on my phone, some scribbles in my journal, and a thread-thin scar on my left knee I'm not sure I would know where it went.

Maybe that's as it should be. I'm not sure it pays to look back or forward. Maybe the important thing is to be here now – and make the best of that.

This much I know for sure:
Jilda and I played more performances in 2018 than we've ever played
We wrote songs
I read 30 books
I spent my first night in a hospital bed 
We've made new friends
And we lost one of our dearest friends this year

As this year dwindles down, I will say goodbye. And I welcome the New Year. May it bring us all peace and joy.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Someplace new

My birthday is in less than two weeks. We usually spend the weekend at the beach. For years it was deserted on the second weekend in January.

A few years ago when we arrived at our hotel, we couldn't find a parking place. That night it was hard to sleep because the hall outside our door was filled with kids from about 13 to 18. Apparently, there was some kind of religious retreat for kids in the southeast. I know their young minds should be contemplating on how to spread the Word and make the world a better place, but they were in heat.

The following year it was the same thing.

Even though I'm on Medicare, I'm not an old fogie. I was that age once and I remember what it's like to lust so hard my ears hurt...but when I go to the beach in January for my birthday, I expect it to be a peaceful stay. 

So, this year I think we'll do something new. That's not a bad thing. In fact, one of the goals that will go in my book tomorrow night is: Travel to someplace new.

After Jilda and I blog tonight, we will sit down and decided on a destination. I will miss the sunsets, the sand, the shells, the whisper of the surf, and the smell of salty air. But, I will not miss all the panting from kids with raging hormones.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Pure joy

Jilda and I went to the last Christmas gathering this afternoon. My sisters, our nieces and nephews, and friends gathered at my sister's house.

I was on call at the paper today so I didn't have as much time with them as I would have liked, but I enjoyed what time we had.

There were two children there. One was my great-great niece and the other was a child of one of our friends. 

My sister has all the mechanical Christmas toy. These dancing, singing, and mocking toys captivated the kids. 

I snapped a picture of one of the kids telling his mom about a dancing Santa. 

I saw pure joy on his face.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Higher ground

Rain rattled the roof all night. Waves of turbulence moved through and rumbled glasses in our china cabinet. Taz, our tiny Yorkie sleeps on a blanket at Jilda's feet.

After the first boom, she scrunched up between us. I reached down to offer comfort. Her little heart was pounding. 

This morning, when I looked out the window there was a small lake where our tomatoes were in early autumn.

The editor at the paper said that if I saw any flooding here to snap a picture for a story for tomorrow's paper.

Jilda and I had to take my truck to the shop to have some front-end work done so we drove by the forks of the river.

The river was up. The historic marker that sits at the edge of the parking lot was almost submerged.

When I looked up the river, I noticed the resident ducks. They were swimming on high ground.

It will take a few days for the water to crest but the weatherman is forecasting more rain. 

I wanted to tell the duck to head for higher ground, but the message was lost in translation.

Thursday, December 27, 2018


Today's been an "ol' rainy day" as my grandma used to say. Before New Years we could have a half foot of rain.

We put on our raincoats to walk this morning, but the dogs weren't onboard with the whole "Let's take a walk" idea.

They went out, did their business, and were standing at the door when we got back to the house.

Taking pictures was out of the question so I knew I'd be digging through the archives for a photo tonight.

I came across a picture I'd taken on this date last year. I'd saved the wood I pruned from the old apple tree during the summer last year. I built a fire in the pit and invited the kids over to make s'mores.

Something good ALWAYS results when you mix a warm fire, Hershey's Chocolate, marshmallows, and gram crackers. The treats were delightful but the real fun of making S'mores is the experience.

I can still close my eyes and smell the aroma of burning applewood. It was heaven'ish. Is that a word? I hope you are having a great holiday week.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


This year has been a blur. I feel sorry for people who don't blog or keep a journal because life is quick. One moment you're sipping bubbly and toasting the New Year and before the graffiti settles, deer are dancing on your roof and the fat elf is headed down the chimney.

I'm looking at a new method for tracking the past, organizing the present, and planning for the future.  The method is called the Bullet Journal. 

I ordered a book today from Amazon and I'm watching some videos to learn how it works. One of the things it stresses is mindfulness. That resonates with me. 

The book will be here by Friday so I'll let you know what I think. 

Jilda and I will be working on our vision boards and focusing on our list of goals for 2019. We catch flack from some who think that trying to find a way to make the best use of our time is a bunch of hooey. Maybe that's true. But if there is a way to add value to the time I have left I want to learn about it.

More to follow.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Spirit ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I noticed a change in the light that crept in our bedroom around the window blinds this morning. The sound of early morning traffic passing in front of our house was different too. It seemed muted and distant. As the sleep faded from my brain, I remembered the changing seasons. The winter solstice was this weekend and Christmas was only a few days away. Silently I made a list of the things I still needed to do before the big day. 

Slipping out of bed, I started the coffeemaker. As the pot dripped and gurgled, I leaned over the sink and looked out the window. A thick fog had settled in overnight in the field between our house and barn. A squirrel that scampered along the fence looked almost like an apparition in the muted light. Standing there, the scene beyond my window looked like a Christmas card. 

Last night, I stepped down to the road and put cards in the newspaper boxes. We put a little money in the cards each year. It’s not much, but we want the people around us to know that we appreciate them.

This morning, when I pulled the paper from the box, there was a handwritten note from one of the carriers. She’s working two jobs to make ends meet and this week had not been kind to her. The note said that Jilda’s card had made her day. Jilda got tears in her eyes as she read the note. Reading the carrier’s note, made our day. 

Our lives haven’t always been flowers and fudge, but for the most part, we’ve led blessed lives. That is not true for everyone.

One of the things I’ve done the past few weeks at the paper is take pictures and write stories about Christmas events. Honda of Jasper gave 50 bicycles to kids at Sumiton Elementary school. Seeing the faces of these small children light up when they realized they were getting a new bicycle for Christmas put a lump in my throat. It seemed that some of the parents were breathing a sigh of relief knowing their child would have something nice for Christmas.

Earlier this week, I interviewed Ashleigh Lockhart who is a counselor at Sumiton Middle School. She helped start a holiday give-a-way program. This program helps kids who are a little too old for the Toys for Tots give-a-ways. She said the program started out small and they were only able to help a few kids. As word spread, more and more people wanted to help. This year, they raised enough to provide Christmas for 53 kids. 

She teared up as she told me stories. “We had one parent who cried this morning when she picked up the gifts for her child,” Lockhart said.  Help these families was a blessing in itself, according to Lockhart. "That’s all I need for Christmas,” she said.

I smiled as I walked back to the truck after the interview. Some people speculate that the change in the sounds and light this time of year are due to the winter solstice. I think the movements of the planets do affect us. But I also believe that the change in people is due to the Christmas spirit that opens our eyes and hearts. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas Eve

We had Christmas breakfast with Jilda's brother next door. We were walking out the door with dishtowels on our hands carrying a pan of hot biscuits. Just as I leaned over to turn the light off with my elbow, the lights went out. All the lights. 

When I leaned my head out the door, there was not a cloud in the sky. There was no wind. Nothing that could have knocked out our power, but yet there were no lights.

We hauled food and Christmas presents over for all our nieces and nephews and their kids. 

Thankfully their house was warm, and there was enough morning light filtering through the east-facing windows to light up the festivities. About an hour later, the lights came back on.

After breakfast and the gift swapping, we headed home. 

Jilda always does Christmas cookies with the kids. I will let her tell about that on her blog when she posts.

Tonight, Jilda is making Christmas fettuccine. We have white wine on ice, and we'll toast to Santa and safe travels.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Low-key Christmas Eve Eve

Jilda wrapped more presents today and I worked some in the yard. I bought pine bark mulch for the blueberry bushes a few months ago but it's been stacked under the pear tree. 

Apparently, the mulch doesn't work unless you put it on the roots of the blueberry bushes. Who knew.

When I got to the last plant, I saw an offshoot that was just hitting its color stride. The sun was low in the sky and seemed to be highlighting the tiny bush. 

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a pic.

This evening, Jilda baked a small turkey and made dressing.  That's what we had for supper this evening. It was an incredible meal for Christmas Eve Eve.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Day off...sort of

The sky has been soot-gray for days. Last night we wanted to see the full moon on the winter solstice but that didn't happen. I walked out several times before we went to bed but I had no luck.

Then, sometime overnight, the clouds moved off to the east leaving a few wispy clouds just before sunrise.

I shot this same picture a few days ago. It's take off my back deck. Had it been a little lighter, you could have seen the old house and the barn. But as it turns out, the main attractions in this photograph are orange cotton-candy-clouds. 

Jilda and I both had nothing on our calendars today. That is sooooo rare. We could have laid sorry, as my grandma used to say, but we chose to do things that needed doing.

I won't bore you with a list, but tonight I'm as tired as Santa on the morning after.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Down to the wire

We did the last bit of Christmas shopping today. We bought gifts for our great-great-nieces and nephews. We give kids gifts like books, educational toys, microscopes, and kits that teach them about earth and sky. We like spending our money on gifts they will enjoy after the tree is down and the Christmas cookies are gone.

Another Christmas item checked off our list is Christmas cards. We slipped the last Christmas card into the jaws of a drive-by mailbox this afternoon.

Tonight we watched an old Christmas movie. The Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart. It's one of our favorites.

Tomorrow is wrapping day. We're so close to being ready for Christmas we can smell the reindeer droppings.

I took this picture a few years back when we got our Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Answering the call

Tuesday was a workday for me. After work, I headed out and I was almost home on when I noticed a tower of smoke.

I saw the strobing lights of an ambulance as well as the local volunteer fire department down a narrow lane. I have a press pass now, so I pulled down toward the smoke.

Firemen/women were pouring water on a mobile home at the end of the street. Thankfully it was not inhabited, but there were other structures nearby.

Smoke was billowing out of all the windows and doors of the structure.

I stepped out of the truck with my camera and snapped off some frames. Even though the home was empty, these volunteers fought the blaze as if someone's child depended on it.

They were onsight within minutes of the call, but one of the firemen told me that the home was too far gone before anyone made the call.

These folks deserve a great deal of credit for being there for the community when they are needed. I know that I am grateful for all of them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas cows

There's a pasture that I drive by almost daily. Gnarled trees that grow just over the fence, look as if they've been there since time began.

Today, the cows were close to the fence munching hay and it looked as though they were thinking about Christmas.
"What is Santa bringing you?"
"A back-scratcher in summer when the flies are bad would be great."
"Antler polish is what I put on my list," another bovine "uddered.""

I pulled into the driveway next to the fence. It's where the cattle owner pulls in to unload the hay.
The cows looked at me curiously for a moment.

Pulling the camera from my bag, I snapped a few photos. 

As I pulled onto the road, I called out my window and wished the cows a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


The light that crept in around the blinds was muted this morning. Even the sound early morning traffic was different. More distant.

I slipped out of bed and started the coffeemaker. Peering out the window over the sink, I could see birds and squirrels getting a head start on the day.

I fetched my camera and snapped a few frames. 

It looked magical.

Monday, December 17, 2018

ChristmasTrees ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Sunday was Christmas-tree day here at the Watsons. We were hoping for sunshine. Instead, it was misting rain. There were low places on the way to Pine Hill Farms where the mist was as thick as gauze. The soles of my shoes squished in parking-lot mud, but our spirits lifted when we saw a stand of ice-blue cedars among the Christmas trees. We knew our tree was there. 
For years, we bought our trees from Mr. Frye who owned a Christmas Tree farm near Burrows Crossing. When he decided to retire, it broke our hearts.  We did some research and found Pine Hill Farms near Fultondale. Since then, it’s been our go-to place for trees. That’s where we bought our first ice-blue cedar last year.
We have a forest of Leyland Cyprus trees in our yard that are now taller than the power lines. Last year we wanted something different. We saw a lonely blue ice cedar. Jilda walked around it several times examining the color and smelling branches. 
It was a little smaller than the trees we had chosen in the past, but this little tree resonated with both of us, so we bought it. 
This year there were several ice-blues, and they were larger than last year’s trees. We squished over acres of trees before going back to the first tree we saw when we pulled up. Jilda stood guard by the tree while I went inside to settle up with the cashier.
An older gentleman at the tree farm that could have doubled as Santa helped us. He sent two young guys hustling down to dig up the tree. 
Santa guy started giving me instructions on setting up and caring for a live tree. Jilda and I both listened politely. When he paused, we told him we'd planted our last 35 Christmas trees. It took a moment for that to sink in with him. He smiled and said, "I'll get the kids to load it for you." 
It's a beautiful little tree. After Christmas, we'll find the right place on the farm where it fits and adds to the Feng shui and what not. 
On Friday, I fetched the tree decorations that we store in the barn. Again, it was rainy, but Jilda perked up a pot of her world-famous hot-apple cider, and we listened to Christmas music while decorating the tree. 
Jilda fell into a Zen’ish place (Is that a word?). While she works on the tree. I’ve learned not to talk during this delicate phase of decoration. Each bulb, icicles, and crystal angel have a place on the tree. Only my lovely spouse knows that location. My job is to fetch ornaments. This requires that I interpret grunts and other guttural sounds. It’s a process that works for us.
After decorating the tree, we went for a walk to stretch our legs. During the walk, I saw a small bush in the underbrush that provided a Christmas Deja vu experience.
Just off our walking path, was a small thorny bush. It was the same kind of bush that I cut for my mama each Christmas when I was in grammar school. That was over 50 years ago.  
Mama filled lard can with dirt for a makeshift gumdrop-tree stand. On each of the thorns, she stuck a sugary gumdrop on each thorn. The candy turned the gnarly little bush into a thing of beauty each Christmas. 
When I showed Jilda the small thorn bush and told her about our gumdrop trees at Christmas, she said that her Maw-Maw Mamie made those each year too. 
Today, after I pick up some gumdrops, we’ll start having one too. 
Below is a tree from Christmas Past.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Eggnog Santa

We ran to the grocery store this morning for some things we'll need this week. On the way home, we passed the local fire station. 

Each year they decorate for Christmas. As I drove by, I saw something that made me snort coffee out my nose.

Turning around, I went back to the parking lot and snapped a picture. 

I put it on Facebook and Instagram and said Santa is hitting the eggnog hard. There were others who found it funny too.

I hope you pre-Christmas week is a good one.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ephemeral Blue

It's rained for days. Thursday night after the Christmas parade, it began and it's only stopped to catch it's breath a time or two.

Jilda's started painting Christmas cards right after coffee this morning. She stopped long enough for us to walk the dogs. 

She slipped on her raincoat, but the skies had lightened, and by the second lap, the rain had stopped. The gray clouds moved off to the east. I smiled.

She was letting Taz the Wonder Yorkie find a place to do her business so I sat on the thinking bench and waited. 

I leaned back and snapped a picture of the sky. 

When Jilda and Taz walked up to me she said, "Don't get your hopes up. The rain is not finished."

I doubted it. But this evening as we left to go to the office Christmas party, it was pouring rain.

Ephemeral Blue

Friday, December 14, 2018

It's a rainy night in Alabama

We did a little Christmas shopping today. Well, to be truthful, Jilda shopped while I pushed a cart and nodded a lot. 

We bought gifts for our grand-nieces and nephews. Jilda has a degree from the Atlant Fashion Institute. She worked retail for years, before working at the next level at merchandise marts in Dallas and Atlanta. She knows clothes. 

I picked out a color that I thought would be perfect for our niece Breeze. Jilda shook her head. She said the feel of the fabric would drive Breeze crazy and we'd bought her a blouse the same color last year. Apparently, both were show-stoppers. 

She dug through racks of clothes that had started looking the same to me and found beautiful items for the kids. I know they will love the gifts.

It started raining last night shortly after the parade ended and it hasn't stopped. We drove home today with our windshield wipers swishing. 

Even now, I can hear rain on the roof.  

I hope you have had a good Friday. Be safe this weekend. There are crazy people out there.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Parade duty

I had to shoot pictures of the Christmas Parade tonight. My bones are weary. I'll do a better post tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Winter scene

Summertime here is oppressive. We walk daily because we have to just to stay fit. But walking in winter is a joy. This morning I felt like the Michelin man. I cacoon'd up in several layers of clothes and headed out.

We had freezing fog which is something we rarely have here. It coated leaves and limbs. I snapped a picture of the blueberry bushes which had frosty leaves. It felt good to be alive.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Looking like Christmas ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Christmas time starts off slowly. We don’t even acknowledge the holiday until the Thanksgiving turkey has digested and we’ve eaten the leftover dressing in creative ways. You haven’t had dressing until you’ve had it pressed and toasted in a waffle iron. But this past weekend, I fetched a half dozen plastic storage containers from the storage shed and each day something new appears on the mantle or in my bathroom. It’s beginning to look like Christmas here.

Christmas lights around here are blooming like flowers. Each time we drive home after dark, we see another home with lights strung around the eves and in the yard. For years my mom was the queen of Christmas yard-art. The family always spent Thanksgiving afternoon propping up plywood snowmen, sleighs with a fat Santa and his reindeer. She kept her Christmas lights in garbage bags. I know that the Good Book said that Job had patience but untangling mama’s Christmas lights would have made him cuss like a sailor.

Jilda always helped her mom Ruby decorate at her home. Ruby didn’t scrimp on Christmas decorations in her house. She had two Santa figures that stood about 18 inches tall. Those Santa figurines looked so real I half expected to hear their reindeer snort as the fat guy dragged his sack down the chimney. They were the first things you saw at Christmas when you walked into her living room.

Before Ruby died, she gave Jilda those Santas. Now they spend the Christmas holidays on our mantle.

Through the years, our friends have given us other Christmas items. Our friends Wes and Deidra gave me a fly-fishing Santa complete with a fly rod and a trout basket. Keith and Roberta Watson (no relation) gave us a small Christmas country church scene.  When Jilda worked at Wallace State College in the 1980s, her friend Beverly gave her Christmas bears.

On our coffee table is a tiny Nativity scene that Sharkey and Ruby bought us shortly after Jilda and I married. It looks as if it were carved from ivory. Once we did babysit duty for my nephew James and his wife Andrea while they attended a Christmas party. While the kids were there, Stone was fascinated with the Nativity scene. There was a small accident with the coffee table. Sheep, camels, and donkeys were scattered all around the great room. “Baby Jesus, come back," Stone pleaded as he peered under the couch. Jilda fetched a wooden pasta spoon with which we were able to reach the sleeping infant and pull it back to the safety of the Nativity scene. I laughed hard that I almost had a hygiene issue.

This weekend we’ll go to the Christmas Tree Farm where we go each year and pick out a tree that we can plant after the new year.

While she decorates (I’m not allowed to handle some of the “special ornaments”) I’ll put up the exterior decorates which include a Christmas Pig, Christmas Chicken, three small trees, and a bicycle.

Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.


Sunday, December 09, 2018

A good day

The schedule was sparse today. The only thing we wanted to do for sure was to pick up a Christmas tree. We chose the same kind of tree we had last year. A blue ice cedar. It's a beautiful tree.

An older gentleman at the tree farm that could have doubled as Santa, helped us. After picking out the tree and settling up with the cashier, I headed out to bring the truck up to load the tree.

Santa guy started giving me instructions on setting up and caring for a live tree. Jilda and I both listened politely. When he paused, we told him we'd planted our last 35 Christmas trees. It took a moment for that to sink in with him. He smiled and said, "I'll get the kids to load it for you." 

It's a beautiful little tree. After Christmas, we'll find the right place on the farm where it fits and adds to the feng shui and what not. 

After the tree thang, we ate left-over dumplings which are always better on the second day. Then we took a long rainy nap.

I woke up with Ol' Hook and Caillou both sitting by the couch and watching me sleep. They didn't get to walk this morning and they weren't about to let that slide. 

Even though it was late, Jilda and I took them out. Most of the heavy rain had moved off to the northeast, but there was a mist in the air thick enough to lick. 

It's been a good day. I hope yours has been too.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

It rained today

It rained today.


I had to shoot pictures in the rain.

Did I mention that it rained today?


Tonight, it's raining.


I know because it's making random rhythms on the roof.

My coat and hat hang dripping on the shower stall rack.

Jilda had chicken and dumplings cooked when I walked in the door.

Did I mention that I LOVE chicken and dumplings?

There is no better food when it's raining.

Friday, December 07, 2018

A little color on a rainy day

It felt like winter today even though the solstice is still two weeks away. I wasn't as frigid as it's been the last few days, but with a heavy mist, it felt much colder. The sky lightened once but the sun never broke through.

Today was laid back. We ran to the craft store to buy Jilda some paint to start on her Christmas cards. Afterward, we went by the produce stand. The family that ran the business since I was in high school, closed it a few months ago.

When we heard that another family was reopening, we were giddy.  We buy a LOT of fresh produce and raw honey.

We spent a good bit of time in the car and didn't have many steps so when we got back home we decided to walk.

While waiting for Jilda to get Taz the wonder Yorkie's sweater and halter on, I took the big dogs to the field and jogged in place to get some steps. The only color visible was the blueberry bushes. They are showing out right now.

I'm on call at the paper tomorrow. I'll have to shoot parade pictures, a Jingle Bell Run, and a toy distribution event at one of the local charities.

It's supposed to rain all day so it won't feel so bad having to work...or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Mushroom Village

I covered the launch of a partnership between Bevill State Community College and Mercedes-Benz this morning. It was a big deal for this community. Students who go through the co-op program have an opportunity to train with the Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama and get jobs that pay more than most Liberal Arts graduates.  It's a big deal for our community. 

After the event, I came home to work at my office here. I had several stories that were on the cusp of being print-worthy so I tapped keys.

Jilda stuck her head in the door and asked if she could interest me in a brisk walk. It was still chilly outside, but the sun was out and a walk sounded good.

On the first lap, Jilda pointed out a photo op that I had missed. It was a mushroom village that appeared overnight. I thought mushroom liked warm wet weather, but apparently, there are some that wear sweaters.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Fun in the sun

Jilda was being interviewed this morning for a local documentary. The videographer talks to people about their experience growing up in small towns around the county.

Rather than have the dogs interrupt the session, I took them outside for a long walk. Our niece Samantha's dog decided to join us.

The day was beautiful again today. There was not a cloud in the sky.

Jilda said she would text me when the interview was over so when I got through walking, I found a sunny place in the garden. The wind out of the north was frigid. The temp was 41 degrees but with the windchill, it felt much colder. The sun was warm on my face.

As I sat there, I noticed pine needles falling from a nearby tree. They sailed to the ground like skinny paper airplanes. Some of them circled slowly and some came toward earth as if they were swan-diving.

Caillou and Ol' Hook were down in the woods, but Sam's dog Lady came and sat with me to enjoy the sun. Lady is a rescue dog that Samantha has had for years. She's a part of their family but when they all go to work, she ambles over to our house to spend time with her "daytime family."

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Evening clouds

Yesterday it was almost warm enough to swim, but the temps started dropping last night. This morning it was chilly.

The cool weather must create deeper shades of blue because the sky was amazing today. Driving to work this morning my windshield was a picture frame. 

I covered a city council meeting and I did three interviews.  It was a fun day. When I got home the sun was sinking lower in the sky. When I looked at my Fitbit, I realized I needed more steps. 

Putting on a toboggan, and a vest I headed out for a late walk. The dogs were thrilled at this unexpected treat. 

When I got down toward the barn, I noticed the sky to the west. It was the color of orange sherbet. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few frames with a blueberry bush in the foreground. It was almost too dark, but I think you can get an idea.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Man vs Limb ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I’ve learned a lot of things in my life, but something happened this past week that reminded me that – The more learn, the more I realize I don’t know squat. Let me explain.
A couple of weeks ago, Jilda and I took advantage of the cooler weather to go for a brisk morning walk. We decided to take the long walking path. It’s a path that I cut through a swath of our property that runs through trees that are older than me.  The limbs of oak and hickory form an awning of autumn leaves. With peak color, each step was like a Kodak Moment. The dogs were ecstatic. They chased squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. 
A thin layer of wood smoke hung in the air from a neighbor’s fireplace. This is our favorite time of year.
Winding down one side of the hollow near the barn, we came upon a small tree that had blown down a few nights before when a cold front moved through. We tried to find a way around it, but the under bush was thick and tangled with saw briers. Neither of us wanted to walk through vines with thorns as big as tiger’s teeth, so we turned and headed back the way we came.
Last Saturday, I decided to clear the downed tree from our path. Gassing up the chainsaw, I headed down to do the deed. The wind had blown several limbs and other debris in the path which I cleared. 
The top of the tree had gotten tangled in muscadine vines and was suspended about head high. In my head, I calculated the trajectory of the tree once I cut the thick vines holding it up. Apparently, my math was all wrong because when I cut the last vine the top of the tree didn’t fall in the intended direction. In fact, a limb the size of my forearm whipped back toward me at blinding speed. 
I didn’t have time to flinch before the limb whacked me across my nose and eyes. It raked the glasses from my face taking gouges of hide with it. I dropped the chainsaw and hit the ground with an uuummmpppphhhh! 
It took a second for me to get my breath back and then my nose started “bleeding like a stuck hog.” 
Picking up the chainsaw with one hand and holding my nose with the other, I headed home. I had enough foresight to stop at the backyard hosepipe and wash the blood from my hands and nose before walking inside. Jilda still almost had a coronary.
After cleaning the cuts on my nose, we were able to survey the damage. My nose was not broken, and the cuts were not as deep as I feared. With our first aid kit, I was able to fix my face. It did look as though I’d gone ten rounds with Joe Frasier, but I was thankful it wasn’t worse. I’d dodged a bullet – too bad I couldn’t have dodged that limb.
Part of our walking path

Sunday, December 02, 2018

13th Blogiversary

I wrote my first blog entry on this day, December 2, 2005. So today is my 13th Blogiversary. I just looked at my Blogger numbers and I have a few posts shy of 5,000.

When I first started, coming up with entries was easy. I was writing for the high school alumni website and my audience was for people who grew up here. I was full of stories.

As the days turned into weeks, months, and years I found that the ideas were more scarce. I had to look within for inspiration. Sometimes the words flowed like cold water from a well dipper. Sometimes the words came slower. But they came.

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to write daily. The professional bloggers didn't advocate daily blogging but they said it was important to be consistent.

After a few years, I convinced my wife Jilda to blog too. I wasn't sure she'd take to it, but she did. She's been at it a long time too.

The thing I tell people who ask why I blog is this: Blogging regularly helps you find your voice. And I think that is important. Being able to express oneself is a skill that can help throughout life.

We spent time with Jilda's siblings today. Now it's time to put on some Christmas music, pour a glass of red wine, and toast bloggers across the world.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Happy Birthday Mama

Today would have been my mama's 94th birthday had she lived.  I've written a great deal about her in the past.

She was the middle child in a family with 13 kids. She knew the value of work and she could stretch a dollar enough to make it cover a football field.

My dad got a job as a welder. Craftsmen didn't earn much in those days. We ate a lot of butterbeans and cornbread. That was fortunate for me because I loved butterbeans and cornbread. 

When I was a kid, women didn't work outside the home. They cooked, cleaned, washed, starched, and ironed. She did that for not only us also but also for people in the community that were more affluent. She used this money to buy things...mostly for us kids.

Christmas was a big deal for her. She cooked for weeks before the holiday. She baked pies, cookies, and other goodies.

She loved putting up the tree each year. Ours had tinsel, old ornaments, and bubble lights that fizzed when they warmed up.

My mama taught all of us kids the value of work. Slothfulness was an ugly word to her. A few of our kinfolks "wouldn't hit a lick at a snake," as she used to say. She always warned us – "Be like them and you'll never have anything."

Being lazy was close to being a sin to her.  Even now, when I get caught up with the things on my todo list, I feel a little guilty for taking time off. 

Happy birthday, mama, I miss you.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Old buddy, new blog

Jilda and I have a friend in Tennessee. Tommy grew up in South Alabama and spent most of his career in the newspaper business. Like me, he's retired now and picks the jobs he enjoys doing.

We share a love of music. He got us a gig playing in Helena, Arkansas when he worked for a paper there. We also got VIP passes to the King Biscuit Blues Festival. We heard the roots of rock and roll that weekend. Neither Jilda and I are fond of whiskey, but we sipped hooch from pint hidden a paper bag with some of the old artists there.

On Saturday night, we were invited to a shot-house in the middle of a cotton field in the Mississippi Delta. We went to hear "the real stuff." We were the only white folks there. We felt welcome.

We have a lot of fond memories from the times we've spent together.

Tommy started writing a blog recently. You can read it hereHe lives in Tennessee now but he grew up in South Alabama.

I think you'll enjoy his writing.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ring Thing

I had the 10 a.m. shift this morning at the front entrance to Walmart. It wasn't as cold this morning, but I still wore my long underwear shirt, my red sweater, and my new Santa hat. Halfway there, it started raining. I wasn't looking forward to getting wet, but before I arrived the rain stopped.

Two ladies from the paper had the 9 a.m. till 10 a.m. shift and they were glad to see me walking up a few minutes early. Apparently, they'd done this in the past and the relief ringers were always on time.

They passed the ringing torch to me and they were off. I know from past experience that some ringers simply stand there and ring the bell. Others wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I took the have fun with early morning Walmart shoppers approach.

"Does this bell make me look fat?"

"Hey, where did you get your license to drive that shopping cart?"

"Hey, don't start with me, I haven't had my coffee yet!!!"

To the Lumis Money Truck driver that was bringing money to Walmart for the day's business, I said, "Hey man, I appreciate you donating, but I don't think all of that money will fit into the kettle.

And so on.

I wasn't sure if it would work or not but after a while, I got in a groove and could tell which people to harass.

It was fun and the hour zipped by. I'm not sure how much the kettle took in, but I think I did OK for the first time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


I took Jilda to work this evening and then headed to buy me a Christmas hat. The newspaper volunteers each year to ring the Salvation Army bell. I took the 10 a.m. shift and I realized this afternoon that I was hatless. My great nephew Jordan absconded with my old hat a few years back.

I could call and ask for it back but that would have been a waste of time. 

So after dropping Jilda off at work, I headed to a nearby town. I found a hat at Dollar Tree. It fit, but it had reindeer antlers on it. There was a Hobby Lobby next door and they had one that was just right.
There's a Starbucks across the parking lot and I had about an hour to kill, so I bought a coffee and did some pre-Christmas people watching. Watching people is fun. I like making up life stories of the people I see. 

I'll do a selfie tomorrow of me doing my ringing thang. Until then, I'll post a picture of some foliage that I took today down by the barn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A gift

Today was a postcard that Mother Nature mailed to me. A kaleidoscope of autumn color at every turn.

The temps were in the twenties last night with a stiff wind out of the north. Soon those beautiful leaves will be gone...except for the pictures I took with my camera and my mind's eye.

It was nice yesterday too. On the way home from an errand, I ran by the small lake a few miles from here. I snapped several pictures and then stood for a long while in the silence of the afternoon. It was a gift.

I hope the weather has been beautiful where ever you are.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cars ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Last Saturday I was on call for the paper, and one of my assignments was taking pictures at a car show. I take pictures of old cars for fun, so this was not really work. I think I may have drooled on the hood of Johnny Capps’ 1957 Ford Fairlane convertible. I think America forgot how to make beautiful cars after the 1960s. My mind wandered as I strolled through the vintage metal. I’ve had a few cars in my lifetime.

I’ve written about my first car. It was a 1946 Plymouth Coupe with moon hubcaps and paint the color of a plum. The radio in the dash hummed when you turned it on, but once the tubes warmed up, WSGN came through a tiny speaker loud and clear. Even though the Plymouth was 20-years-old the mohair seats smelled like an expensive sweater.

My mom loaned my brother the money to buy the car, but he moved to California for a few years and defaulted on his payments. When I turned 15, my mom gave me the car for my birthday. Have I mentioned before that I LOVE my mama?

License and insurance might as well have been optional when I was 15 because I had neither. That didn’t stop me from driving the car to school each day. The battery was a little weak, so I had to back into a parking place at the end of the lot. This made it easy to open the door, step out, and give the car a little push to crank the engine.  That was a small price to pay for the level of “cool” the car afforded a 15-year-old.

Later when I started to work, I bought a 1965 Chevy Impala SS. It had a motor bigger than Rhode Island. I loved that beast, but apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Someone stole it one evening while I was shopping for tools at Sears in downtown Birmingham.

After the beast, I owned a 1952 Chevy two-door hardtop, a 1953 two-door hardtop, and a 1957 Bel Air two-door hardtop. All three cars are rare today.

When I received my draft notice, I sold all the old cars I had except the Plymouth. I parked it in the backyard.  It was my intention to restore that baby when I returned from the Army. While I was in Panama, my dad sold my car. That hurt.

Since then, most of the cars I’ve owned were uninteresting pieces of rolling metal that took me from point A to point B. When they wore out, I looked for another one. At one point several years ago I found a 1966 Chevy Impala SS that looked great. I drove it back and forth to work in Hoover for a few years, but when gas prices soared, I parked it in the barn and bought a vehicle that was easier on gas.

The old Chevy looked sad sitting in the barn. I didn’t have the time or the money to invest in restoring the car, so I sold it for three times what I paid. I realized after the transaction that I could have gotten more, but I was happy it found a good home. I later learned that the couple restored the car.

Last Saturday, as I browsed through the entries, I was hoping I would see one of my old cars in the car show, but that didn’t happen. But I pull them up in my memory when I’m feeling nostalgic.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Turkeys and foliage

I promised earlier in the week that I would share the pictures of the wild turkeys after it ran in the paper. Below is the picture. The picture ran on Thanksgiving. The cutline I wrote was:
These wild turkeys showed up near Sipsey at the top of Pump Hill. With Thanksgiving on Thursday, their timing could not have been worse.

Today was cloudy and cool here. The leaves are incredible now. Driving by the river, you can see the oak and hickory leaning over the water like a colorful canopy.

We have a small maple tree in a large pot in our backyard. I don't remember who gave it to us, but it is showing out right now.

I snapped a picture when we returned from our walk this morning. I hope you aren't tired of autumn pictures.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Game day with injuries

Today was gameday here in Alabama. The University of Alabama played Auburn University. The state has been in a tizzy all week. The state of Alabama ranks at the bottom or near the bottom in practically all the bad statistics that come across the wire.

The one thing that we're not last at is college football. One of these two teams that played today has been the national champion six times in the last 10 years. The team that wins has bragging rights for the coming year. The other team is ridiculed like a college freshman wearing stripped bellbottom pants and a polo shirt.

I got up before sunrise today and hung my Alabama gameday flag and snapped a picture to post on social media.

After breakfast, I headed down to the walking path to cut a small tree that had fallen on the trail. I cut one of the limbs from the tree and it was tangled in vines. When I cut it free, it launched toward me and hit me in the nose. It knocked my glasses off and the scraps on my nose started bleeding like I'd lost a limb.

When I got to the house, I stopped outside and washed my face and hand with the hosepipe before going inside. I didn't what to give Jilda a heart attack.

She doctored it and this evening when we changed the bandaids, it was two small scratches.

Oh yes, tonight, my team put a butt whuppin' on the Auburn Tigers.

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The day after

I felt like a toad when I went to bed last night. I didn't think I'd eaten that much but apparently, I had. The dogs were stuffed too. We don't feed them a lot of table scraps, but it seemed only fitting to share the bounty of Thanksgiving with our critters.

After cleaning the kitchen, we blogged and turned in early.

This morning when the early morning light filtered through the shades, I rolled out and started the coffee. My Fitbit said I got eight hours of sleep which is rare for me.

After coffee, we had a few chores. Jilda did some things in the kitchen and I wrote a story for the paper. When we finished, we took the dogs for a walk. They were still lethargic.

Down by the barn, I heard Jilda exclaim LOOK. In the hollow, three deer that had been eating acorns scampered deeper into the woods. The dogs never saw them.

This evening, I had to cover a Main Street Christmas Jubilee for the paper. We saw a bunch of old friends, and I took a ton of pictures. The paper will only use one or two, but I figured while I was there, I might as well document the moment.

The rain will move in later this evening. The weatherman said we could get an inch or so. What's was even better, it looked like California might be getting rain today too.

I hope you all survived Black Friday. We didn't go near a shopping place today.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Jilda started cooking last night. She baked a sweet potato casserole and a pumpkin maple cheese pie. Had you asked me before today what my favorite Thanksgiving dessert was, I would have told you sweet potato casserole. But not now. The pumpkin maple cheese pie was incredible.

The crowd today wasn't as big as in years past. It was Jilda's brother's family and our friend Fred. 

We had Windham Hill playing on Spotify. It's beautiful piano music that is a perfect background music. 

The kids ate a little, but at their age, freeze tag, and mother may I are more appetizing the turkey and dressing. They ate a little and then it was out to the backyard.

After we ate, my nephew James asked if I'd do a family portrait for him. We all walked to the old house and snapped a few frames. I'm guessing one of them will end up on their Christmas cards.

The autumn air was invigorating.

Tonight, both Jild and I are whupped. So we cleaned the kitchen, and we're ready to veg out before bed.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Road time

Even with a part-time job, I find that I'm on the road a great deal. That's OK because I love driving. The scene through my windshield is ever changing.

Today, I was headed to do the interview about the local family that found a half-sister in England. When I called for directions, they said they'd changed their minds and decided not to make their story public. I was disappointed, but I understand when people get protective of their privacy. I thanked them for their consideration.

Instead of going home, I decided to drive up to the place where I go fly fishing. It was cool this evening, but there were two men there with their young sons fishing. They weren't catching any fish, but from a distance, I could tell the boys were having quality time with their dads.

Rather than disturb, I observed from a distance for a few minutes. Before leaving, I saw some autumn leaves near the water. Since I had my camera with me, I snapped a few frames.

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