Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Sunday we booked a room in Savannah for our 45 Anniversary in May. It's a beautiful B&B. Jilda has a knack for finding hidden jewels. It looks remarkable. It's less than 20 miles from Tybee Island. There's a lighthouse there.

Today was a work day for both of us. I had an early morning city council meeting. I called the high school principal to get information about an exchange student from Italy. I hope to interview her later this week and get the scoop on how she sees America. 

It's rained hard all day. When I walked outside this morning to feed the chickens, the wind aloft sounded like a train in the clouds.

Usually, when you hear thunder and see lightening here, it's warm enough to swim. Today it was in the low 40s with a cold wind out of the north. The weather felt spooky. 

We didn't get a chance to walk today, but I shot a picture yesterday of a limb that had fallen in the barnyard. I would describe it but that would be complicated. Instead, you can look at the picture.

If you live in the south, Y'all stay dry. If you live further north, Y'all stay warm.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Snow moon

The rain moved out overnight. Even though it was still overcast this morning, the light was different and it didn't feel as cold.

I spent most of the morning in my home office writing a story about the American Legion outreach program. It's where members visit old soldiers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

After Jilda left for work this evening, I began transcribing an interview with a woman who will turn 94 in a few weeks. During the interview last week, she was delightful. This evening I had to get away from computers so I ran to the store to get gas for the generator. 

Our county is under a flood watch. Some are forecasting 10 inches of rain before Saturday. I live on a hill and far enough away from the river that there should be no danger of water getting up this high. In years past when there is a lot of rain, the root system of trees is compromised and a strong wind could bring them down. That's why I bought gas for the generator.

On the way home, I looked off to the east. Even though it was still cloudy, there were breaks in places. Through those breaks I saw the snow moon. 

I was a few miles away from the pond where I take pictures all the time. Getting a picture of the full moon with the pond in the foreground was a long shot, but drove there quickly.

When I stepped out of the truck, I looked off to the east and all I could see was clouds. I kept walking down the bank of the pond. About a hundred yard away from where I parked, I saw the clouds part. I had my real camera with me and I snapped a dozen or so pictures. 

I think it turned out good.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mossy trunk

We did rainy-day things today. The rain slacked off just before noon and we got a few steps in before the deluge restarted.

The sky was overcast making the light unremarkable. I did manage to take a picture of moss of a tree trunk.

I wish we could share some of the rain with our friend across the globe who are experiencing a

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tax work

I worked on taxes today. With a small business, it's complicated. After about six hours of compiling receipts, verifying numbers, and figuring I was ready to slash both my wrists.

That seemed like a good time to take the dogs for a walk. The afternoon was supposed to be sunny and the temps were supposed to be in the low 60s. I think the weatherman must have been hitting the sauce because it was cold and damp all day.

Behind the barn, I noticed a color I hadn't seen before. I'm not sure if it was the angle of light, the amount of rain we've had the last several days or what but the dead limb from a nearby oak turned orange. Actually, it was fungi on the limb that had turned that color.

I found it striking. It turns out, it was the picture of the day. I didn't think you'd enjoy seeing stacks of receipts and spreadsheets.

Friday, February 15, 2019


Jilda was scheduled to do a yoga instructor certification class today. I'd planned on fishing, but it was deceptively cold with rain in the forecast. Call me a wimp, but I postponed my time on the water.

There is always work when you freelance. Today seemed like a good day to catch up on the things had been stewing on the back burner.

At lunch, I had a few errands to run, so I grabbed my camera and headed out.

When I passed by the pond that's not far from where I live, these two old ducks were sitting on a guardrail passing the time of day. I think they are called Muscovy Ducks.

There were no cars behind me, so I clunked the gearshift into reverse and backed up for a few pictures.

The ducks looked as if to say, "Don't be rude dude, can't you see we're talking here?"

I snapped a photo and left them to their gossip.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Old Stuff

Jilda and I played a festival several years ago. The venue used an old farm in Tennessee. It wasn't far from Virginia. Or North Carolina. It was a beautiful place.

The music was good, and several friends had also agreed to play. It was like a vacay.

One of the reasons I loved this festival was that the farm was a working farm. There were tractors, implements, and other tools everywhere. Some of the equipment was still in use, but there were other things that had done its work long ago. Instead of tossing the old stuff, the owners left it on the farm. It added ambiance to the festival.

I have a ton of pictures from that weekend, but the one below reminds me of something from my childhood. The well behind my great-grandmother's house had a pump exactly like the one below. Through the years I pumped that old handle until my arms hurt. The water came from deep within the earth. It was cold and tasted like no water I had before, Or since.

There are old things down at our barn. A friend who owns an antique booth asked if we'd like to part with the old stuff. Jilda and I smiled and shook our heads no in stereo.

We both like old stuff.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

For what they're worth

I drove into the driveway this evening. Sitting there collecting my things to take into the house, I glanced through the windshield. Ol' Hook was watching for me through the laundry room window.  I'm guessing he'd been there waiting ever since I left a few hours earlier.

He was sitting on a storage trunk next to the window. When I stepped out of the truck, he was off the trunk in a flash. He dashed through the doggie door. Before I closed the door of my truck, he was standing at the backyard fence wagging his tail. He was thrilled to see me.

I stepped over to let him out into the front yard so that he would walk the few steps with me back into the house.

That's the thing about dogs. They are a bundle of pure joy with wagging tails.

Ol' Hook has a unique personality, but as I reflect on the dogs we've had through the years, they have all had unique personalities.

I think their sole purpose is to love. Unconditionally.

Caring for animals can be expensive, but I'm thankful it doesn't cost what they are really worth because no one could afford them.

Ol’ Hook on the writing porch last summer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


I had an interview this morning with a woman who was 94 years old. Her name was Lola, and she called me because she has some news clippings she thought I'd enjoy reading.

We chatted for a long while. Lola was born less from a mile from where I now live but moved away in her teens. There was a picture of her father in his Army uniform. He served in WWI.  There was another picture of her husband. He was drafted early in WWII and was supposed to be gone for a year. He asked her to wait. She waited five years before they were reunited and married.

After shooting some pictures, I said my goodbyes and headed out to my truck. It was raining. Hard. From beneath my truck, I heard a pitiful squeaking sound. When I kneeled down to look, there were three little black puppies under there.

Stepping back to the door I told the woman that her pups must have gotten out. She said they weren't hers. Someone had dropped them in her yard. They were throwaways.

I shooed them from beneath my truck, and they ran up next to her house under a shrub. I snapped a few pictures. 

Getting back into the truck, I slipped the gearshift into reverse and kept my eyes on the pubs as I back out slowly. 

There is a rescue organization that helped me with my neighbor's dog, Lucy. I wrote her story back in the summer. I donate money to that organization.  

I texted a picture to the woman I know there and gave her a call. She said that puppies were easy to place. "I will handle it," she said. Soon they will be in a forever home where they won't have to worry about having to sleep in the rain.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Time to look ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The sky this winter has been remarkable. Yes, there have been days when the clouds were ash grey, but on other days the color at sunset took my breath away. Maybe it has always been this way, and I didn’t take the time to look.

A few weeks ago, my truck was in the shop for front-end repairs, and I had to drop Jilda off at work. Bradford Health Services sits about a half mile off of Arkadelphia Road in Warrior.  When I went back later that evening to fetch her, the sinking sun was like a half-open eye on the horizon. I pulled to the edge of their drive and watched the colors change. For those few minutes, the sky was a kaleidoscope.

I pulled my camera from the bag and snapped several pictures. Later that evening I posted the shots on my social media pages and my blog. My timeline lit up with comments and shares.

Earlier this week when the weather warmed, I had a chance to haul a load of plastic to the recycle place.  I’d been collecting empty milk jugs, yogurt cups, and straws for months. There are no recycling places here in Walker County, so I headed to Birmingham Recycling and Recovery on 41 Street South. 

Ten garbage bags of plastic as full as ticks filled the bed of my truck. While driving, I kept my eyes on the bags in my rearview mirror. That last thing I needed was for one of the bags to take flight and scatter plastic all across the Interstate.  Dodging traffic to collect plastic was not my idea of a fun afternoon. On the drive, I stopped several times to check the bags to make sure none took flight.

At one stop, I leaned against my truck for a moment waiting for traffic to clear. Some of the vehicles were going so fast the slipstream of air rocked my truck. 

While standing there, I looked at the median. There was a bouquet of yellow dandelion flowers stretching as far as I could see. Some of them had already gone to seed and were waiting to ride the wind. That scene was a gift, and it would have been easy to miss had I not stopped to look.

Thankfully I made it to the recycle yard with all the bags.

The recycling place is enormous now. They do metal, plastic, cardboard and other recyclables. Pulling to the curb, I tossed the bags in the bin and headed for home.

 The recycling lot is located in the industrial section of the city near the train tracks. After pulling out, I turned on 1st Ave and headed toward the city center.

 A stoplight ahead turned from green to yellow, so I slowed to a stop. Glancing out my window, I noticed a wall looking back at me. Cranking down my window, I snapped a few pics while I waited for the light to change. A street artist had painted a pair of eyes that watched traffic.

I love that art can make even a dismal place more hopeful. I’m thankful that I “saw” it.

And this morning when I walked, I saw this.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

It's been too long

It's been too long since we've been to the beach. Today was as dark bad news. Jilda worked on training classes for new instructors that she'll be teaching this.

I walked the dogs, but they kept looking back for her. I thought they loved me but it's one of those things where they know who puts food in their bowls each day.

The wind out of the northwest was frosty this morning. I had my gloves on but it was one of those times I wished they were heated.

I've vegged out this afternoon. I had things I needed to do but I slothed instead.

Tonight when I looked for photos, I realized I took none today. When I scanned through my Feburary archives, I saw this one from a few years ago and I realized – it's been too long since we've been to the beach.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Yard art

Today was my day to be on call at the paper. On my sheet when I arrived was a Freedom Foundation gathering. Politicians O'Plenty were there. I shot a lot of pictures.

The Lt. Gov. finished his talk just before lunch. I walked out with him as if I were part of his staff. Then I ditched him and his security detail and headed for the truck. I had grub on my mind.

There's a place downtown that serves good food. A hot steak and cheese sandwich spoke to me from the menu. It was all I could do to keep from ordering a beer the size of Rhode Island. The sandwich was good and the waitress was sweet. (Can I say that and not be accused of being a misogynist?) Maybe I should say she was kind.

Back at the office, I sent the pictures to the editor with cutlines and then started transcribing interviews I'd done on Thursday.

When 4 p.m. rolled around, I didn't let the door hit me on the butt.

I took a ton of pictures today but no blog photos. Looking back through my archives, I found one I shot earlier in the week. I call it yard art.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Jordan made it better

Yesterday the temps hit 80 degrees. After the front moved through last night, the temps dropped like a stone. I think it was in the 20s when we got up this morning. Jordan's grandpa was having issues and had to go to the hospital this morning so Jordan stayed with us.

We were drinking coffee when we heard a knock at the front door. It was Jordan and his mom.

He had the flu earlier in the week and doctors told him not to return to school until Monday. He was over the flu by Wednesday. Today was our day with him.

He was delightful. When the sun came out this afternoon, he wanted to go outside. We bundled him up and I went out in the back yard with him. He's into demolition. There was a hammer on the back porch from some work I did yesterday afternoon. He allocated the hammer for the work at hand.

He beat the top of the old stump in the back yard to a pulp. There is also a dead apple tree over by the fence. He made that tree say, uncle.

After a while, the sun began to drop and the temps followed. I asked if he would like some hot chocolate. He smiled and said, "That would be good."

I made us both a cup and put extra marshmallows in his. He gave me the scoop on all his games while we sipped our hot chocolate. I shook my head as if I understood what he was saying. He might as well have been speaking in Sanskrit.

It was a stressful day but Jordan made it better.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Saving movies

Our antique VCR stopped working when we replaced our TV last year. The device works, but we can't make it work with the new TV.  We have almost a hundred old movies on VHS tapes. Some of these were so-so movies, but would probably never watch them again. But there were about 50 that are movies we LOVE.

Many are holiday films. Holiday Inn, A Christmas Carol, and other Christmas films. But we also have tapes that we watched on other holidays. Groundhog Day was one that we watched on February 2, every year. The Match Maker and Darby O'Gill and the Little People are two that we watch on St. Patty's day. We have movies that we watched on Valentines Day, Easter, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving.

Back in January, Jilda asked if we should toss the movies in the Goodwill bag. I was perplexed.

After a little research, I found a device and software that would let me copy the VHS tapes onto my computer and then burn them onto DVD.  It wasn't cheap, but I also have a ton of old home movies and I can use the software to archive these movies too.

It's a slow process, but I have everything in the office and I copy movies while I'm writing.

Last week on February 2, I popped Groundhog's Day into the DVD. I was thrilled that I was able to save those old movies.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Street Art

The skies were dusty gray yesterday as I drove into Birmingham. I kept thinking that it would rain but it never did.

The bed of my truck was full of garbage bags stuffed with plastic. I'd been storing it for months waiting for the weather to break so that I could load it up and take it to the recycle place.

I kept an eye on the bags in my rearview mirror. That last thing I needed was to be dashing across the Interstate collecting plastic that had blown out of my truck. Each time I stopped, I cinched the bags tightly and secured them the best I could. Thankfully I made it to the recycle yard with all the bags.

The recycling place is huge now. They do metal, plastic, cardboard, and other recyclables. Pulling to the curb, I tossed the bags in the bin and headed for home.

The center is located in the industrial section of the city near the train tracks. After pulling out, I turned on 1st Ave and headed toward the city center.

A stoplight caught me and as I sat there waiting for the green, I noticed a wall looking at me. I snapped a few pics. I love that art can make even a dismal place more hopeful.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Sipsey veteran recalls horrors of WWII

The year after bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor, Hansel Pendley turned 18 years old. World War II was raging, and his draft notice came in the mail. 

He spent most of the next four years of his life in North Africa, Italy, and France. Pendley came home
Mr. Pendley and his brother just before
 the soldier shipped out to North Africa.
with a bad ankle and a few scars that have faded with time. He considers himself lucky in that regard. 

But there were other scars you can’t see with your eyes, and he’s dealt with those for most of his 94 years.

After receiving his draft notice, Pendley left for weeks of training at Fort McClellan in Anniston. After finishing his infantry training, he boarded the USS Anniston and headed for North Africa.

There were 10,000 infantrymen on that carrier, according to Pendley. The ship’s course zig-zagged to make it harder for German submarines to zero in on them. He was part of the Third Division and would serve as replacements for the First Division which was already fighting in North Africa.

Pendley caught malaria while fighting in North Africa. When the campaign was over there, the Army sent his regiment to Anzio, Italy. They dug in on Anzio beach, which is south of Rome. The Germans were dug in near the Mussolini Canal, according to Pendley.

“We weren’t strong enough to push them out of the Horseshoe Mountains, and they weren’t strong enough to push us back into the water,” Pendley said. They spent months in this standoff waiting for reinforcements.

“We were in storm cellar type foxholes because the aerial artillery bursts would rain down on us,” he said. “An open foxhole wouldn’t save you.”

The U.S. forces had some artillery but no armor to provide support for the forces on the beachhead. The decorated war hero Audie Murphy was in Pendley’s regiment, though the two never met. 

“Most of the old country boys were tough as rawhide. We weren’t interested in no battle stars, medals, or glory,” Pendley said. “All we had on our minds was survival and getting back home.”   

They were stranded on that beach for five months. Eventually, the troops were reinforced with ammunition and replacements. Their forces attacked the Germans. It took 14 days to move from the beachhead into Rome.

After eating cold C-Rations in trenches on the beach for months, the bread he found at a little bakery in Rome was the best smelling sourdough bread he’d ever smelled, according to Pendley.

“When we liberated Rome, we thought we’d get a break. Instead, they sent us to Naples, Italy for more training. It was some kind of a hushy-hush invasion,” Pendley said.

Their next stop was Southern France. “That was a bloody battle,” he remembered. They fought their way through France all the way to the Rhine River.

His official records show that he left the Army as a private first class, although he served as a platoon leader. Platoon leaders hold the rank of sergeant. “They didn’t keep too good records back then so even though I was a platoon leader, my records showed I was a Pfc.,” he said.

Pendley spent 15 months in combat. “I’ve only got a bad ankle and a few scars,” he said. There were mental scars. “Some of us held our cool when we came home, but there were others who had nervous breakdowns,” he said. “Back then they called it battle fatigue, and shell shock,” he remembered. Now the condition is called post-traumatic stress disorder. “I come from a highly religious family, and I did a lot of prayin’,” he said. “I felt like my mother’s prayers is what brought me through it."

Another factor that Pendley believes helped him survive was that he didn’t leave a wife at home to worry about when he went to war. “I was single,” he said.

He didn’t get married until 1948, a few years after he left the Army. His wife’s name was Mildred Drummonds. “Somehow when we got married, it seemed like her and me just hit it off some way, and that helped me put it (the PTSD) on the back burner,” he said.

He was working in Jasper after the war when a book salesman approached Pendley and offered to sell him a book about his infantry outfit during WWII. “I almost hit him,” Pendley remembered. “I was still nervous from the shell shock,” he said. He thought, “You want to sell me something to remind me of it, and I’m doing the best I can to forget it,” he said.

After the war, he got into carpentry and was a cabinet builder for a while, but he enjoyed auto paint and bodywork. 

He worked with General Motors vehicles for 36 years. The Corvette came out in 1953, and he learned how to work on fiberglass sports cars. He became a Corvette specialist and did that for 14 years at Edwards Chevrolet in Birmingham.

He struggled after his wife died in 1995. He started attending group therapy at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Birmingham each Thursday with other veterans. Many of the veterans in his group are Vietnam veterans. The group talks, swaps jokes and tries to lift each other up, according to Pendley.

“In a sense, I’m proud that I did what I did, but then I just thank God I survived it,” he said.

There were rough parts, and some of the things they saw were sad, according to Pendley.  “Way later they returned some of the bodies of soldiers back home. But some of the ones we saw were blown to hamburger meat,” he remembered.  “I doubt they even found their dog tags.” That’s the part you don’t even want to think about, according to Pendley.

His two sons were married and had families of their own before they learned what Pendley went through overseas. “I worked hard to put it behind me,” he said.

These days, the quick-witted Pendley looks as though he could still fit into his WWII Army uniform. Getting on his schedule is a challenge. Even at 94, he still drives, plays his guitar and does autobody work for his friends. 

He is a member of Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church and the American Legion. He is one of the oldest living WWII veterans in Walker County.

Monday, February 04, 2019

No-show Snomageddon ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Last Sunday, the weather app on my phone chirped while I sipped my coffee. When I read the alert aloud, it said we were under a winter-storm advisory for Tuesday. Jilda was giddy. She loves snow. I enjoy it more now that I don’t have a job that requires me to drive into work. Soon, we were making snow-day plans. 

Stepping out to the shed, I checked the generator. We don’t normally lose power when it snows, but if the weatherman is wrong, we could have ice or freezing rain. That’s a different story. The generator was good to go, but I put a reminder on my phone to fill the gas can and get a few extra quarts of oil.

After morning chores, we headed out to Walmart. We don’t eat much loaf bread, and we had plenty of milk in the fridge, so we avoided those aisles as if someone over there had the swine flu. We did make sure we had what we needed to make snow ice cream. We paid the tab and headed for home.

That evening, I scanned Facebook to catch up on the news. Since I’ve blocked, deleted, or hid most of the people that post political crap, my timeline causes me much less stress these days. One of my friends shared a weather map. It used loaves of bread to show how bad the snow would be in various areas of the state. It looked like the snowfall predicted for Empire would require two loaves of bread. I howled when I saw that graphic.

My great nephew Jordan would be celebrating his birthday on Tuesday. He loves snow more than we do and he was cranked that the governor had declared a snow day on his birthday.

Sometime after midnight, I heard rain begin to rattle our metal roof gently. That sound is better than a sleeping tonic for me.

The next day, my eyes popped open at first light. Scrambling out of bed, I hustled to the garden door to get the scoop. There was no scoop. 

Stepping onto the deck, I walked over to the banister. There was a trace of snow. It looked more like someone with bad dandruff stood out there and scratched their head.

I dreaded breaking the news to Jilda, but when I turned to go inside, she was standing behind me. She said, “Well SHOOT!” (Except what she said, could not be printed in a family paper.)

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture of the pitiful snowfall. 

After pouring our coffee, we sat on the couch in front of the fireplace and stewed.

Logging onto Facebook, I posted the snow picture and MARKED US SAFE from the snow-mageddon 2019.

I saw where the local weather folk were taking a beating on social media over the miscall. Here’s the thing – I’d much rather have them err on the side of caution in this situation. If they predict snow and they’re wrong, the kids and parents get a snow day. If they say it’s not going to snow and it does, people could end up getting hurt.

The Weather-folk must have taken the criticism in stride, I saw where someone posted, “If you still want a Blizzard, Dairy Queen opens at 10 a.m.”

Sunday, February 03, 2019

More chores

It felt warm enough to swim here today. I didn't work as hard as yesterday, but I handled a lot of things that I'd been putting off until the weather warmed.

The rural county where we live does not offer any kind of recycling. Several years ago I called about it but they said it was too expensive. My thought at the time was, it's more expensive in the long run to ignore it, but I didn't pursue.

There is a non-profit place in Birmingham that recycles plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and other things. I'd been storing up plastic in garbage bags and storing them behind the gardenia bushes. The bags weren't visible from the driveway but inside the fence, they were an eyesore. This evening I loaded those bags into the back of the truck and I will take them to the recycle place in the morning.

I plan to push the politicians a little harder about recycling. I plan to do a feature about it in the paper and maybe that will bring the issue into a little sharper focus.

I hope you all have had a remarkable day.

The picture below was taken the second week in February 2011.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Bone tired

I fixed the broken oven handle I mentioned in my last post. I was born at night but I wasn't born last night. Fixing that handle was high on my list.

I also burned a mountain of debris that we've been collecting for over a year. This evening, I went out to check the pile to ensure it was safe for the evening.

There are some large pieces that I will have to move with the frontend loader on the tractor, but the rest burned. All that's left this evening are some winking embers.

My bones were weary when I came in this evening. Jilda drew a bath with all of her magic bath ingredients. As I toweled off, I felt taller.

Tonight I opened up my planner and checked a couple of biggies off my git r done list.

I can promise you, it will be an early to bed evening.

Last night, I mentioned I took a few pictures. I posted one, but here's one I held back for tonight. It's about a mile from the picture I posted last night.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Turn around

The handle on our oven broke this morning. To some people, this wouldn't be a big deal. I'd rather have a broken steering wheel on my truck than a broken handle on the oven.

A broken handle means no baked sweet potatoes. No baked squash. No cornbread or biscuits. It was a tragic turn of events.

Seeing the handle dangling, I swung into action and headed to the hardware store which is 20 miles away.

While wandering through the aisles looking for screws, JB Weld, and other fixer-upper stuff, my phone vibrated in my pocket.

Jilda said that since she couldn't cook, I should stop and get Chinese food for supper tonight. So, that's what I did.

It was almost dark when I left the restaurant with our bag of food. As I got into my truck, I looked into the rearview mirror and the horizon to the west was the color or orange sherbet.

Heading home, I glanced at a pond I pass daily. It's always beautiful, but this evening, the silhouettes of trees against a sunset sky with a pond in the foreground almost made me ditch my truck.

I was hungry and almost blew the photo op off, but after a few hundred yards there was a wide place in the road. I did a U-turn and headed back.

I stopped in the middle of the road and shot several pictures. The one below is the one that resonated.

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