Friday, May 24, 2019


I had to cover graduation tonight. Thankfully I just had to get pictures before the ceremony. The school has a gym but no auditorium. They had the service on the football field.

The kids gathered in the guy to get ready. Even though the temp in the gym was sweltering, some of them were giddy while others were introspective. I shot over 80 pictures.

I walked outside as they walked down to the field and shot a few more pictures before heading home.

If I'm not mistaken, It was 51 years ago tonight that I graduated.

When I stepped into my truck, I jacked the AC as high as it would go. My shirt looked as though I wore it in the shower.

I was glad to get home.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Telling stories

I interviewed an older gentleman this morning for the paper. He was delightful. During the conversation, I learned that he was good friends with my dad and my grandparents. 

The morning slipped away before I realized it. 

I have a deadline for this story, so I said my goodbyes and headed home to write.  A few hours later, I was editing copy and choosing pictures to run with the story.

Stories like the one today is why I love the work I"m doing. Telling stories that would otherwise go untold.

This is another one I will share once it runs.

When I was looking for a photo tonight, I came across some beach flowers that I shot a few weeks ago at Tybee Island.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The way I roll

My phone chirped yesterday evening as I was headed home. I glanced at the screen and saw that the ISS was coming overhead in five minutes.

I pulled to the curb to get the direction from which it was coming and the angle. Fortunately, there was a place nearby with a large dimly lighted parking lot with an unobstructed view of the horizon.

A few minutes later I pulled into the lot and clicked the gearshift into park. My shoe crunched on the gravel as I stepped out to lean against the truck. Even though the sun had set 30 minutes earlier, the black truck was still warm. 

It only took a moment to see the ISS come into view. I stood there looking into the sky. A motorcycle pulled into the lot a moment later and I noticed the rider had taken his helmet off and was also looking up. I'm not sure if his phone beeped or he saw me and wondered what I was looking at.

He was across the lot so I pointed to the space station silently skimming across the sky. I'm not sure if he knew or he thought I was "teched in the head", as my grandma used to say.

A few minutes later it slipped past the horizon.

I'm not sure why I love watching the space station, but I do. Even though I've seen it dozens of times, if I know it's coming over I step outside to see it.

If anyone asked me why I would simply say, "That's the way I roll."

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Getting hotter

Today was a hot one and it gets hotter as we move into the weekend. They're saying it could near 100 degrees F.  I'm excited.

I feel kind of like this carving on the fireplace mantle in the B&B where we stayed in Savannah.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Planting seeds for the future ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Time has made some of the things in my past a little fuzzy, but there are other moments in my life that are as clear as a Windexed window. High School graduation day is a good example. 
It was my first date with Jilda Phillips. She was a 10th grader then. She told me I looked good in my graduation gown. I’d never worn a dress before, so it was a new experience for me. I appreciated her feedback. I remember the swishing sound the gown made as I walked down the aisle. The flat hat tilted to port, and it made me wonder if my head was tilted to port, and it made me wonder if my head was slanted to one side. 
Mr. Gant was the principal at that time. He planted a lot of seeds with his wisdom. When he handed me my diploma, he looked me in the eyes and said in a low voice that only I could hear, “Make us proud, Ricky.” 
Flipping the gold tassel from the right side of my face to the left was an iconic moment in my life. It felt as if I were stepping through a gateway into the future. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me, but getting on with my life was top priority. The experience was exhilarating. 
My work at the Daily Mountain Eagle takes me to local high schools, and I’ve had the opportunity to interview several seniors. The thing that strikes me is they all seem a little restless. I remember that feeling. Most of them enjoyed high school, but they are ready to turn the next page in their lives. I’m excited for them.
I don’t remember many opportunities for scholarships when I graduated. They were there I’m sure, but my grades probably put me on the bottom of the list for potential award offers.
Both Jilda and I attended college. Through the years, we’ve learned the value of an education. Back around 2006, we became active in the Dora High School Alumni Association. During our work there, we both decided it would be a good idea to fund a small scholarship each year for a senior that might otherwise be overlooked for an award. We started in 2008.
Awarding scholarships is our way of planting seeds. Some of them fall on fallow ground, but our hope is that a few of them take root and grow strong. 
Our first recipient was William Justice. Will has done well. He not only graduated from Birmingham-Southern College, but he went on to earn a master’s degree. Since he graduated, he’s done well.

 We put a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt on each certificate we award these days. It says: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
We are both excited for the young folks making their transition from high school to the next phase of their lives.
The scholarship this year is going to a young woman who wants to go into forensics. Together Jilda and I will wish her well. Maybe when she becomes successful, she’ll come back to Dora High and plant some seeds of her own.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Eventful day

Today was kind of eventful in a down-home kind of way. First of all, we picked another basket of blueberries. This is from the first four bushes. They get morning sun earlier than the other bushes on the terrace row. We picked some berries today that were as big around as a nickel. We put an old newspaper down on the table and spread the berries on the paper. This allows them to get fully ripe.  I love picking them and popping the sun-warmed berries into my mouth. Yum.

Then, I went down to check the beehives. I was disappointed that the first three hadn't started making honey in the top super which is where they make the honey for me. When I opened the fourth hive, it was full. I selected the first two frames and took them to the deck to try my hand at extracting the honey.

I have all the equipment, but using it the for the first time was wonky. I learned a great deal. I need a few more pieces of hardware to make this task easier.

When I finished, I had two pint jars of sweet amber heaven. I'd promised one of the first jars to my nephew who helped me get the hives on day one. The second one is next to the coffeemaker. I'll use a spoonful in the hot tea we have this evening.

The last event was I finally completed the chicken pen. My great nephew Jordan and his mom helped in the process. After lunch today, they brought the plastic tub of chicks over and turned them loose in the pen.

It took them a while to venture out of the tub, but when I looked down there at dusk, the were jumping at moths that had been drawn to their warming light.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Blue moon

Jilda and I had dinner with friends tonight. They live in Fayette and we live in Empire, so we met in Jasper which is in the middle.

We don't get to spend enough time with our friends. The last time we saw them was at Christmas. 

We had a delightful time catching up.  

We paid the tab and headed to the cars. I heard Jo Frances say, "Oh look! The moon."  Between two buildings, I could see the moon rising over the city.

I had the camera in my car so I strapped on a telephoto and shot a few frames.

After we said our goodbyes and headed home, the full moon was like a hood ornament for a while before ascending into the sky.

Jilda told me it's the last blue moon of this decade. I'm thrilled that the skies were clear.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lick the sky

I know I've been into skies these last few days, but this morning when I got up and stepped into the kitchen, I could see color on the window seal. After starting the coffee, I stepped over to the garden door and looked at the sky to the south.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture but the camera thought the color should be something other than what the irises in my eyes saw – which was clouds the color of butterscotch.

Standing there, my mouth watered involuntarily. I love the taste of butterscotch. I wanted to step outside and lick the sky.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A view of the west

I had an interview south of Birmingham this evening. It was in a gated community on a hill with a view of toward the west. 

It's a story of a couple in their late forties who were friends for most of their lives. They'd grown apart after college but ran into each other last year. Romance slipped into the mix so they decided to get married this summer.

We'd planned to do the interview on their patio, but a storm moved in from the west and forced us to go inside.

I'm not sure when the story will run, but I'll post it here once it does. I think you'll enjoy it.

Until then, here is a picture I shot before the rain moved in.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Weary bones

I worked hard today. There are many days I work long hours writing, editing pictures, and doing think work, but today was physical labor.

I built the chicken pen over 20 years ago. It served well even though it was damaged several times when storms scraped through the area. Patching and rigging kept it in service, but these last few years it put predatory critters on the honor system.

Jordan is in 4-H and his project is chickens. He and his mom currently have 19 baby chicks in their extra bedroom.  He asked if he could put his chicks here when they get a little better.

I agreed to house them for him but I knew the old pen wasn't going to keep them safe.

Earlier this week, I called a neighbor who is a good carpenter and he said he'd be here at 9 a.m. Before he arrived, I tore most of the old pen down and got the area ready for when the carpenter got there.

By this afternoon, we had it framed and the roof installed. All I need to do now is put the wire up and hang the doors.

I hope our chickens will be happy. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bed Time

Today has been wide open. I had a short break between interviews this morning and I stopped by a local fast-food restaurant and had a cup of coffee and a fried apple pie. I haven't had one of those in years....the pie, I mean.

The restaurant was packed, so I took my coffee to the deck and sat outside. When the rain moved out a few days ago, it dragged a cool front in behind it. So while I sat on the deck sipping java, the sun was warm on my face but a breeze out of the northwest made it feel a little heaven'ish. '

Tomorrow, I have a carpenter coming to help me get a few things done around the farm.

I'm ready for a cup of hot tea and the pillow. Y'all be sweet.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Newest member of the family

The newest member of our family arrived while we were in Savannah. I'm sure Jilda has mentioned it, but we hadn't seen him. 

They were in baby ICU for a long time and when they finally brought him home, I caught the crud and wouldn't go around him until I knew I wasn't contagious.

Yesterday, the time was right. He was happy in Jilda's arms, but I don't usually hold kids until they are old enough to drink beer. Just kidding. My beard freaks young children out until they get used to me.

He was born a month early so he is tiny but seems to be growing a little each day. I can't wait to teach him about chickens, beekeeping, and fly fishing. I have a feeling he will be another great nephew.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day

The old quote says that time heals all wounds, but I don’t think this includes losing our mothers. It’s been seven years, and at times my heart still feels bruised.
Each year on Mother’s Day, I flip through the Facebook timelines of my friends. I love seeing the pictures and reading the stories about each of their mothers. Some of the posts are funny, but some
are poignant. For those of us who’ve lost our moms, it can be an emotional time.
Losing my dad knocked the wind out of my sail, but losing my mother, took away my rudder leaving me adrift. 
My mom was not always an angel. She didn’t have a verbal filter. When she saw things that she didn’t agree with, her words could cut to the bone. She didn’t intentionally hurt feelings, but she sometimes did.
I’ve joked that my mama used to whip me with a rosebush if I messed up. She never did. But if I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to cut a keen hickory, I could settle the national debt with enough left over for a world cruise.
Dr. Benjamin Spock would not have approved of her methods, but I can honestly say that all of her kids knew how to behave at home and in public. We still do.
My mama had a soft spot for the underdogs. She pulled for the Braves when fans in the stands wore bags over their heads. 
If there was a kid in the neighborhood that needed a meal or a place to stay, there was always a welcome mat at our house. 
When I was in grammar school, we took in two sisters whose family was going through hard times. They lived with us for months in the old two-bedroom house in Sloss. When things turned around in their home, they moved out.  
We took in a young boy when I was in the fifth grade. He was a year younger than me, and his dad lost his job in the coal mines and couldn’t find work. At first, I wasn’t thrilled to share my bedroom with Billy, but he stayed with us for a year while his dad went to Montana and found work in the copper mines. By the time he left, we were like brothers and I teared up when he walked away. Mama cried, too.
She did laundry for people in Dora who were more affluent. My dad earned enough money to keep the lights on and food on the table, but mama used the money she earned on the side to buy the extras. She started shopping for Christmas each year at New Years and by the time Santa’s sleigh was airborne later that year, there were gifts for all of her kids and a few for the less fortunate kids we knew.
Later in her life, she was among the first in the community to help out at the Mission of Hope. She took the clothes that people donated to the mission and washed them at her house. When someone’s home burned, or they were in need, they could pick up clothes that were as good as new at the mission. I could go on about my mom, but I won’t. 
I will say this: If you still have your mom, never take her for granted. One day you may find yourself flipping through Facebook on Mother’s Day and wishing you could tell her one more time that you appreciate all she did for you. And that you love and miss her every day.
Happy Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Art Gig

Jilda and I played an acoustic performance for the Art Association's Art in the Park festival today. The threat of stormy weather all week caused the planners to have heart palpitations so they made an executive decision on Wednesday to make it Art in the community center.

I can't say I was disappointed because the mercury was climbing by the time we took the stage, and the AC unit in the community purred like a cat on quaaludes. We were comfy though you would not have guessed that by looking at the expression on my face as we play a new song entitled "Coffee."

It's a blues riff about a guy that is addicted to caffeine. We wrote it with our friend Joe Gregg Winsett.

It was a fun gig. After we finished and packed up, we went to lunch with a couple friends. It's been stormy, but it's been a delightful day.

Having a great time in spite of the expression on my face.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Purple stuff

I went to urgent care today. I haven't been sick in three years. I have had a knee replacement and several dental bone graphs but these were elective, so to speak.

The last time I got sick was three years ago when Jilda and I were heading south to do a show in south Alabama. 

It was a nice day and we had our windows rolled down. We passed a place south of Birmingham and someone was burning something in their yard. As we drove by the smoke wafted through our car window and my lungs spasmed. 

By the next day, I had a full-fledged upper respiratory and lung infection. It took three visits to the doctor and almost three months to get over that episode.

On Wednesday of this week, I started sneezing. I sneeze occasionally when I mow grass, but the wasn't like those sneezes. Immediately after the sneezes, my nose fauceted (Is that a word?) 

Yesterday, I hoped it would pass but when I got up this morning I had a slight fever. DocTime (is that a word?)

After two shots south of the belt with needles that looked like pencils, I was off. I can't believe I had a co-pay of $25 to get tortured.

After I got home and the steroids took control, I ricocheted off the walls. I wanted to plant a bigger garden, mow the neighborhood grass, and take up rock climbing. Thankfully it rained.

When the rain slacked up, we went for a walk. Once, back in the yard, I noticed some purple stuff growing near the edge. The thing about getting plants from our grandmothers back when Lyndon Johnson was in the Whitehouse is that we can't always remember the names of the plants. 

The one below became known as Purple Stuff.

Thursday, May 09, 2019


Jilda nor I came close to getting our steps in today. It was raining when we got up to drink coffee. By the time we got our morning chores done, the rain stopped long enough for us to take the dogs out for a short hygiene walk.

Before we got to the barn, I heard thunder in the distance and the color of the sky changed. We quickened our step and headed for the back gate.

Off to the side of the trail hidden among the blackberry bushes, I noticed a color I hadn't seen before. When I stepped closer, it was the daylilies that Jilda's mom gave her.

I called dibs on the picture and stepped over to take the shot. The rain started peppering down before I got under shelter, but it the picture was worth getting a little wet.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Garden inspector

We had a garden inspector that showed up unannounced this morning. I'd gone down to check on the bees and on the way back I met him.

He was shy at first, but he seemed to enjoy the layout of the place. I'm sure I'll get a full report later in the summer but I think we'll do OK.

I hope he comes back when the squash are bearing.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Storm gods

One last picture and story about Savanna. 

Jilda and I walked a great deal while in Savannah. On Saturday after our afternoon nap, we decided to walk over to River Street. It sits on the banks of the Savannah River. 

The sun was shining when we left. The temps were warm and the sun was baking tourists from around the glove. We heard languages we couldn't associate with a country.

Midway into the stroll, a raindrop fell on Jilda's face. Not long after that, we took shelter under a store awning.

The rain slacked up and we walked further. When we got to the small park where the steps descended down to River Street, we heard thunder. It wasn't leisurely - Oh look we'll get to see lightning in the distance - kind of thunder, but a menacing stomping sound. 

Living in Walker County, Alabama, we both recognized the sound. We opted to skip holding hands on the boardwalk, and subscribed to the get the hell back to the B&B option.

About halfway back, we heard drunk guys coming up from behind. I heard one of them say breathlessly to us - we should all take cover....there's a tornado coming.

Both Jilda and I have weather apps on our phone and we are attuned to weather alerts. When I turned to see if the guy was pulling our leg, I could tell he was serious. 

Just then, both Jilda's and my phones chirped in stereo. TORNADO WARNING FOR YOUR LOCATION. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY.

We both stepped inside a stairwell with our new tipsy friends and waited for a few minutes.  When the radar refreshed, we could tell the storm was off to the north of us about a mile.

We thanked our buddies for thinking of us and we quick-stepped it back to the B&B and darted to our basement room in case the storm changed its mind.

I later read that some parts of the city sustained some damage and everyone was saying how rare it was to have a tornado in Savanna. 

We didn't bother telling people that we get our mail on tornado street in Alabama. They would have christened us the Storm-gods.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Neighbors ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I’d just finished weed eating the backyard fence and was sitting in the shade sipping ice tea when I heard a rumble at the house across the road. The place has been empty for a few months, so I stepped over and peered between the gardenia bushes to get the snoop-scoop. A young man was taking down the “For Rent” sign by the driveway. I mumbled to myself – we have new neighbors.
The next day was Saturday, and I heard a push mower spring to life behind the place. Soon, the tall weeds that were as thick as a wooden fence were history.
A while later another car pulled into the drive. The two of them worked hard cleaning around the place for most of the day. I like that in neighbors. Someone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty and knows the meaning of hard work. As they pulled out from their new driveway that evening, the streetlights had just blinked on.
On Sunday, I spent the morning converting our winter greenhouse back into a screen porch. By the time I’d finished, my shirt was wet. Flipping on the ceiling fan, I sat down to let the cool breeze from the fan dry my shirt.
Our new neighbors must have started working inside their new place. With open doors and windows, I could hear the muffled sound of music playing as they worked, and I thought I heard a small dog barking from somewhere deep inside. 
Jilda and I debated on whether to step across the road and welcome them to the neighborhood. We did that with some neighbors in the past, and the two of them looked at us as if we had leprosy. That chilly encounter cost them one of Jilda’s world famous “slap yo’ mama” pound cakes as a welcome to the neighborhood gift. 
In all honesty, I can see why people are standoffish when they move into a new neighborhood. This day and time, who knows what kind of psycho lives next door. Act friendly one moment, and the next moment, they are breaking into your house while you’re at Wal-Mart, rumbling through your medicine cabinet, and stealing your stereo.
When our new neighbors get settled in, we will step over and introduce ourselves and try not to act too weird, though that is sometimes challenging for me. 
What I’d like them to know is that we’ve lived here since Jimmy Carter was in the Whitehouse. We don’t play our stereo too loud on work nights, we don’t drive like Dale Earnhardt on these narrow, bumpy roads, and we pick up litter from the roadside each day when we walk. 
We’re mindful of boundaries, and we can be trusted to feed the dogs and pick up their mail when they occasionally go out of town on a weekend. 
We’ll do our best to be the kind of neighbors we’d like to have if we moved to a new community.

This picture has nothing to do with the column, but I took it yesterday at Tybee Island near Savannah where we spent the weekend for our anniversary.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Keeping on

We ate out this evening. I wore my turquoise linen shirt. Jilda wore a long black dress. The restaurant was upscale and the food was remarkable. 

A young couple sat beside us with a rambunctious baby boy. He fell in love with Jilda. We talked for a moment while we waited for our food. We learned where they were from, what they did for a living. They said they'd been married for almost five years. I smiled and them and then a Jilda. She told them we were celebrating our 45 anniversary. They were speechless. We shared a little longevity advice and we all had a good laugh.

We talked for a few minutes long and then our food arrived. We settled in and enjoyed the atmosphere. 

The young couple left before we did, but when the stood, they both shook our hands and thanked us for sharing with them. These two looked like they were in it for the long haul. 

I hope they have an opportunity on their 45 anniversary to share with a young couple and to encourage them to keep on keeping on.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Steeples and Mockingbirds

Life comes at you fast. Maybe it's because I'm older and can't take in the volume of information that I could when I was 20. Or maybe when I was 20, I let the information shower over me, only taking in a wisp of all that I saw or experienced.

Recently, Jilda and I visited a place we'd never been. The brochures gave directions to all the local attractions. They all sounded amazing. 

When we walked out of our B&B to get a morning coffee, we saw the steeple of a Presbyterian church. It was humbling and beautiful. 

These days, I try my best to "be here now." It's become important to me to look at the artwork on the walls of the look at the faces of children walking by, to smell the gardenias blooming in the courtyard,  to see the steeples against a cloudless sky, and to hear the mockingbird sing to anyone who cares to listen.

Friday, May 03, 2019

John Rose

Today has been a long one. I won't bore you with the details. The weatherman said it would be in the upper 80s so we walked early.

Jilda's John Rose was blooming. We're not sure what kind of rose it is but our dear friend John Elliott gave it to us. The day we planted it, we christened it the John Rose. Sadly, he died of a type of virulent cancer less than a year afterward. That was in 1993. He died during the deepest snow we've ever had here.

The funeral home rolled the coffin out for his wife and sister to view before the wake started. When he opened the lid, it was an 80-year-old woman in his coffin. His wife and sister looked at each other and howled with laughter.  The funeral director was beside himself. He was thinking they would be angry instead both of them almost had hygiene issues. You see, John was a character. He sucked the nectar from each day. His wife and sister saw it for what it was. John played one last prank on them.

We both miss Ol' John, but we're thankful he gave us a rose bush. You'll have to visit Jilda's blog to see the rose because I wouldn't dare steal her photo. Click here.

I do have a photo of the first blueberry of the season.

Thursday, May 02, 2019


Jilda was scheduled for a long day at work today so we decided to walk early. After coffee, we shoe'd up and headed out. 

Once outside, we both stopped on the front stoop and inhaled the aroma of the Jasmine hanging from the front arbor. It should be against the law.

Each day when we walk we take inventory of what's happening. The fruit trees are no longer bloom, but the blackberry bushes are in full bloom. The privets are also blooming. If it weren't for the fact that bees love privets, I would smite them.

Within the next few weeks, we'll be picking gallons of fresh blueberries.  

The weatherman says we could have bad weather over the weekend. 

If I were making a list of things I'd want to happen, bad weather would not be on the list.

I hope you all have a bluechip Friday. 


Wednesday, May 01, 2019


I know I lean toward autumn as my favorite time of year. The foliage, the sounds, and the smells. But still, there are many excellent reasons to choose spring.

The weather this spring has been perfect. Cool enough to keep some things dormant until the time is right...but warm enough to coax out the adventurous spirit of other things.

We planted tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and a wide range of herbs.  But we've also planted zinnias, sunflowers, and other flowers. All of the above have launched into action the last few days.

This afternoon when we returned from Birmingham, we walked down to check on the bees. I heard Jilda gasp. When I looked, the amaryllis in the flower bed had bloomed. She didn't have her phone so she told me to shoot the picture. I was happy to oblige.

I hope spring visits to you soon where ever you live.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Yard art

I love yard art. Many times, the handmade stuff can be more enchanting than the storebought stuff. In fact, I can't recall a single thing I bought at a store for my yard that was enchanting.

My daddy took a sharp pocket knife to four tires that were bald as Ben Franklin and turned them into planters that looked like tulip blossoms. I've never seen one of those at a store. 

My great grandmother made a scarecrow with a windchime from old car tags, spoons, and the lids of tin cans. It kept the crows out of her garden. 

Jilda bought a bottletree for her old bottles at the Frog Festival several years ago. It was handmade and ready for bottle foliage. 

It's beautiful all the time, but the evening sun transforms it into beautiful yard art.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Looking back on 45 years of marriage ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I celebrate our 45-wedding anniversary this week. Our first date was a warm night in May of 1968. It was the night I graduated from Dora High School. I picked her up in our family car. It was a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere the color of an old penny. This was the beginning of our courtship.

After a few months, we started going steady. Neither of us was in a hurry, so we took it slow. Jilda's mom and dad were church folk and frowned on ballgames, movies, and anything that involved dancing. That reduced our options, but we were creative. 

We could go to Birmingham, but we had to be back in her yard by 9:30 p.m. At first, her dad watched me like I was an ax murderer out on bail. He seemed to spend a lot of time sharpening his pocket knife when I was around. Jilda thought it was nothing, but I heard his message loud and clear.

A few years later when I was old enough for the military draft, Uncle Sam pulled my lottery number. In April of that year, my head was shaved shorter than the fuzz on a peach, and I wore green everywhere. 

Jilda and I drifted apart. She was in college, and I was in Central America. We exchanged letters, but neither of us knew if we’d get back together when I returned. The only one in her family who had a crystal ball was her sister Nell, who said, “You will marry that boy one day.”

Not long after I returned home in 1973, I called her up and asked if she’d like to go out sometime. Her social calendar was busy, but she found the time.

It didn’t take long before we were an item again. The following spring, we started talking about getting married.  The week after Jilda's birthday on March 23, we decided to make it happen. We were going to the courthouse in Jasper, but on Wednesday, April 3, 1974, tornados ripped through Walker County and damaged the courthouse. We wound up going a few weeks later to Jefferson County to get the license. 

Then we both scheduled vacations for the first week of May. We were married on the front porch of Coy and Brenda Phillip’s trailer in Brewton. He’d once been the preacher where Jilda’s family attended church. 

We spent our honeymoon in a concrete cottage at Laguna Beach, Florida. The cottage had no air conditioning, so we made pallets on the screened porch and went to sleep each night listening to the sound of the whispering surf.

After the honeymoon, we headed back to our jobs in Alabama. I worked for The Community News in Sumiton, and Jilda worked at Keynote Fashions. Even with pooling both our paychecks, we barely cleared enough to make the payments on the trailer and keep the lights on. It wasn’t always easy, but we found our way.

People sometimes ask how we stayed married all these years. It’s not rocket surgery but here is my humble advice:

Marry someone who has similar interests and values. Listen. There are times you have to say I’m sorry, even if you don’t think you’re at fault. I do that sometimes, and Jilda does, too. Learn to celebrate small victories. Live within your means. Find someone that you would consider a friend even if they weren’t your spouse. Don’t hold a grudge because that baggage is too heavy for a life journey.

Finally, a piece of advice for any men reading this – An umbrella is practical, but don’t make the mistake of giving one to your spouse as an anniversary gift.
This picture was taken just after we started dating around 1969. We didn't marry until I came back from the Army.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Jimmy shucked corn

Jimmy shuck corn, but I don't care.....

Or was it

Jimmy Cracked corn...

I don't care either way.

But, we had corn on the cob today as one of the sides for our belated Easter dinner with Jilda's family.

As I was shucking the corn before our guests got here, I remembered the old folk ditty that my great grandmother sang to me before I started to school. I smiled and thought of the gag above.

When everyone arrived, the kids scattered like BBs on a marble floor.

The yard was full of bubble-blowing kids playing games I'd never hear of.

I was so busy entertaining that I shot very few pictures which is unlike me.

I'm glad I shot a picture of the corn and thought of the corny folk song.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Ready for bed

We have family and friends coming over tomorrow. We'll do a little sprucing up we told ourselves. A little spit and polish. This evening we both look as if we've been whipped with a rose bush.

Both our todo lists are thinner now and the place is company ready....and I'm ready for bed.

Friday, April 26, 2019


We attended a high school reunion tonight. It was the 50th anniversary of the class of 69. The thing is, I graduated in 68, but I went to school from the first grade with most of the people in the room tonight.

Back in high school, I took extra courses during the ninth and tenth grades. I also attended summer school. I don't remember why I was in such a hurry, but I skipped the eleventh grade.

Instead of graduating the following year with the class of 69, I walked down the aisle in May of 68.

I'm glad the planners for this reunion invited Jilda and me to come tonight. I saw people I haven't seen in years.

The reunion lasted past our bedtime so right now I'm brain-drained. I'll leave you with a picture of a flower I took today. It's beautiful, but it seems to spread faster than kudzu.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bee food

I've been reading about the kinds of flowers that bees like. The one that kept popping up was asters. They bloom until late autumn.

This week I decided to order some online so the search was on. This morning before the rain set in, I walked down to check on the hives.  

Scattered around the hives were plants with tiny white flowers the size of a dime. Their centers look like the rising sun. 

Snapping a picture, I posted it on Facebook and tagged a friend who is an authority on flora and fauna. He responded saying he thought they were asters but he wanted to do some research to verify. 

Within a few minutes, another person chimed in. What she posted is below:
Common name: Fleabane Scientific: Erigeron annuus family: Asteraceae. 

So aster is correct, just thought you’d be interested in what kind of daisy you found. I know because I am terribly allergic to them and they are definitely in bloom right now.

The situation is looking up for our bees, but for our friend, not so much.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Enjoy the view

The woods around here have gotten lush. It seems that one day the persimmon, poplar, and cotton were holding out until the sun dealt them a better hand and then the next day everything rushes to join the party.

Walking down the barn road today, the canopy was as lush as a velvet curtain. Last week there were stretches of sunlight along the road, but this morning it was in total shade.

Soon, the wild hydrangeas will bloom and this road will have puffs of white hydrangea clouds on both sides of the road.

In a few months, it will be hot enough by 9 a.m. to bake biscuits in the dash pocket of my truck. When "warm" weather gets here, Jilda and I will have to walk while the coffee is making. But until then, we plan to enjoy the view.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


We were scheduled for a content meeting at work today but it fell through. One reporter was off, another was afflicted with some kind of sinus crud. My sick buddy needed to be home resting and on serious medication but he had a photograph he needed to take at an elementary school about 20 miles away.

I had stories to write, but my friend needed rest so I told him I'd take the picture for him. I'm glad I did.

The elementary students were practicing for a musical performance for The Wizard of Oz. It only took a few minutes to see these kids were into this project. The costumes were great. They sang and danced. I was impressed, and I shot several pictures before heading to my next assignment.

I'm always encouraged when I'm around kids. They seem much more focused than I was at their age. Seeing their enthusiasm gives me hope.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A good hat ~ my column from Sunday's paper

One of my favorite pictures of my grandfather was taken one afternoon in the yard of their house in Sloss Hollow. He and my grandmother were sitting in aluminum folding chairs watching their grandkids swarming around like gnats. You can see the evening sun highlighting the whiskers on his face. He wore a felt hat that suited him. Even wearing overalls, the hat made him look classy. A good hat can do that.
Through the years, I’ve looked for the perfect hat that suited my face. I wound up settling for baseball caps. The low-rider ones are my favorites, and they kept my head from getting blazed by the summer sun. But I never gave up my search for the perfect hat.
Each time Jilda and I went into a clothing store, I would try on hats while she browsed for purses and shoes. All the hats I tried on made me look goofy. Cowboy hats, Stetsons, derbies, porkpies, and Fedoras all look good on some men, but none resonated with me. I tried on a Panama straw hat once that made me look as if I were wearing a beach umbrella. One look in the mirror and I knew it wasn’t right for me. I heard Jilda chuckle as I hung it back on the rack and continued my search.
A few years ago, we both went to the mall to get our annual eye exam. When they dilated her eyes, I stepped into the mall to browse. 
There was an Old Navy store downstairs. A faceless mannequin stood in the window display wearing a straw hat. It was the shape of my grandpa’s hat. Stepping inside, I took it from the mannequin, eased it onto my head, and went in search of a mirror. When I looked into the mirror, I knew I’d found THE hat. In the reflection, a young guy stepped up to get a closer look at the hat. “I’m going to see if they have any more of those,” he said as he hustled off to find one for himself.  I smiled and walked to the register with my hat. A few weeks later I was on the back porch strumming my ukulele, and Jilda snapped a picture of me. The image reminded me of the photograph of my grandpa.
The only problem with the hat was that I wore it often. Actually, it would be more accurate to say, the only times I took it off were when I showered and when I slept. Toward the end of the summer, you could see a ring of sweat that looked like a hatband. Getting caught in the rain a few times took its toll. Soon strands of straw started making the hat look gnarly. 
I didn’t have the heart to toss it in the trash, so I kept it for a work hat, but I renewed my search.
This past weekend, Jilda and I attended a wedding in Gainesville, Florida. We went into a mall so that Jilda could look for purses and shoes. While there, I stepped over to an H&M clothing store. There in the men’s area was a hat that was a twin to my old favorite. My debit card hit the counter so fast it clicked. 
I walked out of that store with a smile on my face. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019


The sky was remarkable today. Last night was chilly, but once the sun cleared the trees things warmed up fast. 

When I walked down first thing this morning to check on the bees, they were moving slow. A few hours later when the temps rose, I went back for another look. All four hives were in a frenzy. Bees flying off in every direction. 

In years past, I kept all the property mowed. This year, I'm creating meadows by leaving swaths of clover and yarrow. After things stop blooming, I'll probably have to mow the grass with the big tractor, but the bees will appreciate the nectar. 

When we walked today, Jilda suggested we go and look at her brother's roses. His place is perfect because several years ago, he cut most of the trees on his property and his yard gets full sun for most of the day. Apparently, roses like that. 

We could smell the aroma before we got to the bushes. I'm a bit envious but I wouldn't give up our trees to have better roses so I'll have to be content to envy his.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bee stuff

I ordered a book from a second-hand book store earlier this week, and it arrived today. You may have guessed that it's a book about bees. I checked the ebook out of the library a few weeks ago and read the first part, but I wanted to highlight and make notes in the margin. Library ebooks are not jiggy with that. 

My friend Danny came across the book at the thrift store and sent me the link. I ordered it immediately. The title is A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell. It's a beautifully written book about a woman who is a beekeeper. 

This week I added boxes on the two new hives. This box is where the bees make honey for me. Anything below the top box is to feed the little buzzers. 

When I took the top off the first hive there were bees there and they were working, but the number of bees looked fairly small.  When I took the top off the last hive that swarmed, they were busting at the seems. They'd filled the bottom two boxes with brood eggs, larvae, and honey. 

I haven't looked inside the original two boxes yet but I plan to do that tomorrow. I've been taking an online course from the Ohio State Beekeepers Association. It's teaching me what to look for and how to keep my hives healthy. 

So far, I've enjoyed this endeavor. I can't wait till the honey starts flowing.

This picture was taken before the last swarm.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Stormy weather

It's rained all day. Earlier in the week, it was warm enough to swim. Tonight the weatherman is saying the county to the north of us could experience snow flurries.

Last night the radar looked ugly. Jagged lines of red and orange raced toward us with each sweep of the radar.  We saw some lightning and Caillou heard thunder and wanted to get in Jilda's lap. She hated not to oblige, but he's a beast. Our lights blinked a few times but they held strong. 

When I looked out this morning, there were limbs everywhere. Also, the old hemlock tree that I'd planned chainsaw down today was on the ground. When we walked, we found several other trees that had blown down overnight. 

I'm thankful we didn't have any real damage.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Blustery day

Today was blustery. WeatherFolk have been jabbering for days about the potential for bad weather. While Jilda was finishing lunch, I stepped onto the deck with a small bag of roasted peanuts and a glass of ice tea.

The sun was warm, but I could hear the winds aloft pushing clouds across the sky. The wind chimes on the back deck were playing the tune of an angry minstrel.

After lunch and a short nap, I headed to the middle school to snap a few pictures of a snake show. Each year, a guy brings a variety of snakes to the school to give the children nightmares (just kidding.) Most of them love seeing the snakes, but only the brave ones agree to handle them.

When I arrived, there were kids everywhere. The school board had decided to send the kids home early to beat the line of storms that were pressing down on the area. I'll have to shoot the snake show another day.

When I started to exit the parking lot, I noticed a bank of red clover with scattered yellow flowers mixed in. With the sky as a backdrop, I knew it would be a good opportunity for pictures. I snapped a few.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Color this time of year

Jilda and I both had doctors appointments this morning. Mine was a semi-annual checkup. The one in the spring is a fasting event. No food after midnight. When I don't have coffee in the mornings I get a little "snip'afied." Is that a word?

The lab got me through quickly and sent me to the doc for some therapeutic spanking (just kidding.) His physician's assistant came in and grilled me. She also did a memory test. Have you had one of these? They gave me five words to think about and then gave you some simple math problems. 

She then told me a short story. After the story, she asked me questions. Then, she asked for the five words she'd given me when she started the test. I answered everything correctly except on question. The trick is to actually listen. 

When the doctor came in he said all the lab work was great and that he would see me in the fall.

It was a beautiful day. On the drive home, I saw horses grazing in a field so I stopped and snapped the picture below. The color this time of year is remarkable.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bee knowledge

The bees haven't found these yet. They are all over the blueberries bushes and the tulip poplar blossoms, but not this baby. It's hidden on the east side of the house in the shade of a sweet gum tree.

Bees are not easily fooled. They are nectar sleuths. Just the fact mam. Where do you keep the rhododendrons? 

I fretted when I added the newly swarmed hives. I thought going from two hives to four within a few weeks might put pressure on the things blooming here in early spring.

Apparently, that fret was ill-founded. They need a bee traffic controller when the sun comes up.

Bees are tidy creatures. The abhor slothful ways and they are not fond of things unclean. Even when it's too cold to forage they will leave the hive long enough to use the bathroom instead of doing their business in the hive.

I still have so much to learn about these critters.

Maybe I'll put up a sign tomorrow with an arrow pointing to the rhododendrons.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Barns ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The recent rains have felt tropical.  One moment the sun was blazing with white clouds drifting across an azure sky and the next it was raining so hard I had to drive with my emergency flashers blinking.

The humidity felt like a steam room. It reminded me of Panama in 1971. The light was incredible. I shot several pictures for the paper but also some for myself. One of the last scenes that caught my attention was an old barn just off of Bryan Road in Sumiton. Did I mention that I love barns?

I had a few minutes to kill, so I pulled over to the edge of the road and off switched the engine. My boots crunched on the gravel as I walked around trying to get the right angle. 

Over to the right, I saw the landowner about to walk out to make sure I wasn't up to no good. I held the camera up and pointed to the barn. He got the message and went on about his work. In the past, I’d passed the barn a gazillion times, but the light never seemed to be right. Today, it was. 

The pasture was full of grass with yellow flowers. Later, when I did a Google search, I found the grass was called buttercup flowers. I’ve always called daffodils buttercups, but these weren’t daffodils.

When I was a kid, we had a tool shed, but we never had a barn. I’d seen hundreds of barns on the roadside with “See Rock City” painted on the tin roof, but I’d never been inside one until the first time I visited my cousin Marvin. His family lived on a farm, and they had a barn out in their pasture. 

I think the structure had been red at one time, but time had stripped it down to the color of ash. Inside were stacks of hay for the horses and cattle. Their barns were their own bouquet of earthy smells - fresh hay, dried corn, cow manure, and other smells that I could not name. 

My cousin and I spent time in that barn working. Some would consider the chores we did backbreaking, but I enjoyed the labor. After work, we found time to jump from the hayloft onto piles of hay. Those summers working on the farm were fond childhood memories.

Fast forward to the first time I ever set foot on the property where Jilda and I now live. It was in the spring of 1974 (I think.) I parked by the mailbox, and we walked down the long drive to the old house on the property. The hollow was filled with dogwoods in full bloom. They looked like clouds beneath the canopy.

At the end of the road were ancient oak and hickory trees. Behind the old house stood a red barn that looked older than father time. There was a cottonwood tree next to the barn, and the sticky lavender blooms smelled like grapes. 

Jilda and I both fell in love with the property that day, but I think it was the barn that spoke to me on a seminal level. It's like the faded wood was saying: Hey, this is important – take a moment to consider my role in the fabric of your life. 

We both knew at that moment that this is where we wanted to be. We were broker than the 10 Commandments then, but I felt somewhere in my core that someday this place would belong to us. It was a twisted road, but it happened.

Did I mention that I love barns?

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