Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day

I have a picture on my desk of my dad and me. It was taken around 1955. He’s squatting in front of our old 1947 Chevrolet, and I’m standing between his legs wearing a cowboy hat and a smile as big as Texas. I love that photograph. It makes me smile, and sometimes, it makes me sad.

My dad always loved the sound of trains chugging from one destination to another. When I was still in grammar school, I remember the two of us sitting on our porch after supper in the summertime. He would pull a pouch of tobacco from his pocket and roll a lumpy cigarette. He’d smoke while we sat in our front-porch swing and waited for the train.

Off in the distance, we’d hear the train coming from the west through Cordova. As it neared Frenchtown, the engineer would sound the whistle to warn drivers who might be crossing the tracks in Dora. The train whistle echoed through the hollows for miles. The sound was haunting. I think he’d dreamed of riding that train one day.

On the second Sunday in June each year, my dad would go to Davis Cemetery in Dora. He’d and at daylight and collect donations when people brought flowers for Decoration Day. The money was used to keep the grass cut. His people were buried there, and he felt it was the right thing to do. 

Last Sunday, I spent the morning collecting donations at the cemetery like my dad once did. He is now buried at the top of the hill next to my mom. I was the first one at the cemetery. Standing there, I ate a breakfast biscuit and sipped on a steaming cup of coffee. Off in the distance, I heard the sound of a train rattling and screeching on the rails. Closing my eyes, I listened for the sound of the whistle that I knew would come soon.  

Hearing the whistle brought a smile to my face. I know somewhere, my dad was smiling too. 

Happy Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Sea of old maids

Our great nephew Anthony asked Jilda and me several weeks ago if he could have his birthday party out our house.

They have a beautiful home but the yard was not designed for a herd of kids.

Here, we have a fenced in yard for the little ones and about 12 acres of land with hills, hollows, creeks, and rocks as big Voltswagons. 

They can play croquet or dodgeball inside the fence, but if they decided on games that need more space it's in the field between the house and barn.

I said all that to say this: We've spent most of the day preparing the place for company next weekend. 

It felt good to submerge myself in work that doesn't require brainpower.  We planted a patch of old maids and they are coming up on force. Jilda planted them in neat rows, but it was where we had them last year and hundreds of seeds "volunteered' to come up. 

I snapped a picture of a section this morning.

Friday, June 14, 2019


The meeting I attended last night was even further in the country than where we live. It was a community meeting. A company owned by Tyson Inc. dumped thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into the Mulberry Fork. That's the river where I visit almost every day.

The pollution killed thousands of fish. People have also taken pictures of turtles, and other aquatic life that lived in the river.

This is not the first incident for Tyson. They are repeat polluters. I fear they are killing our little piece of paradise.

I got a notice today that the annual Kayak Race schedule for next weekend has been canceled. 

This is breaking my heart.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Swallowtail ..... I think

I had a late meeting to cover this evening. Usually, when I have a late meeting the story doesn't run until the following day. This one had a short fuse so I had to write it tonight.

I'm thankful I snapped a picture of a Swallowtail Butterfly...I think.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Blogging is sometimes painful

It's been a slow day in Empire. I did take Jilda early this morning to be jabbed by a bunch of needles by Dr. Zhao. It seems that acupuncture is helping with many of the inner ear issues she has. 

I dropped her off at the office and then headed to a nearby Starbucks to sip coffee and work on my column. When I got back an hour later to collect her, she looked like she'd knocked back a few stiff drinks while I was gone. She also looks a little taller.  A good acupuncturist can do that for you.

Yesterday while we walked, I saw a new lily in the woods by the walking path. I was wearing shorts and blackberry thorns racked my legs and I navigated over close enough to snap a picture.

Blogging is sometimes painful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Squirrel bomb

After the rain moved off to the east, a cool front blew in from out of the northwest and dropped the temperature by 20 degrees or so.

Walking this morning was blissful. The first lap we always let the dogs amble. As we walked up the road in front of the house, something fell within inches of my head and hit the asphalt with a WHACK! 

I stopped in my tracks and looked down. It was a squirrel bomb. When I look up toward the top of the pine I saw a squirrel wagging its tail at me and gibbering. If I could translate the gibberish, I'm pretty sure the little fuzzy critter would be saying some unkind things about me and my heritage. 

I shook my finger at the squirrel as he munched on a cone preparing his next bomb.

Monday, June 10, 2019

How does your garden grow

We're growing our tomatoes, eggplant, and onions in raised beds this year. Jilda prefers planting in the ground, but keeping the weeds out of raised beds is much easier.

Each morning we step down there and talk to them. I'm also keeping a close eye out for cutworms. Those evil critters can butcher healthy plants in no time.

This morning after a brief rain shower, the sun came out. We headed out to walk the dogs before the rain started again. When I swung by the tomatoes, I decided to snap a picture to show you their progress.

About another week or so and we'll be munching on BLTs with the T's coming from our garden.


Sunday, June 09, 2019

Decoration Day

Today was Decoration Day at Davis Cemetery. My people are buried there. I have brothers, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on under those markers.

I was there with breakfast biscuit and a steaming cup of coffee before the sun rose. It was my shift to man the booth that takes up donations from people who have people buried in the cemetery.  We use the donated money to keep the grass cut throughout the year.

Some people reach in the ashtrays of their cars and scratch out a few coins to drop in the bucket. Some write checks for hundreds of dollars.

The old cemetery is a historic place. One of my ancestors who fought in the Spanish American War is buried there. There are also soldiers buried there who fought in the Civil War.

I take the early Sunday morning duty. It's the same shift my father did. He started in the 1960s and was there on the second Sunday in June for as long as he was able.

There aren't many young people that come to the cemetery these days. I'm not sure who will be sitting at the booth on the second Sunday in June when I am no longer able.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Pull the plug

I'm kind of like the old hippie saying, "I'm down to seeds and stems." Tonight my creative vessel is low.

I have a friend who is a veteran that is writing a book. He's 92 and doesn't have the technical skills to prepare it for publication.

I thought it would be a short simple process, but his book is like a history book and it's taking more time than I thought.

I've worked on it several hours today and I'm on the downhill side of the project, but tonight if I were a brain trauma patient, they'd pull the plug.

I did manage to snap a picture of our Bleeding Heart between rain showers this afternoon. It's a beautiful plant that Jilda's grandmother Mamie gave us over 40 years ago.

Each year as winter approaches, we trim it back and bring it inside. It's paid off. Each year it helps beautify our back deck.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Unhappy face

The plants in the raised beds look as if they've grown several inches since the rain began late last night. I keep them watered from the outside spigot and it helps them live, but they seem to prefer to bathe in Mother Nature's showers.

During our walk this morning, I discovered another root that I'd scalped sometime last year.

This one looks like it has an unhappy face in the image.

Can you see it?

Hope you've had a great Friday. We have.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Thursday report

This morning I had an early interview. It's Alzheimer's Awareness Month and the woman I interviewed lost her father, mother, and husband to the disease within the span of a few years. 

I'm not sure I've ever met anyone as strong. 

She smiles, but there is a hurt inside her as deep as a bruise.  I'm guessing the story will run on Sunday.

On the lighter side, we woke up to rain this morning. It's the first time in a month. As the coffee dripped, I walked down to feed the chicks and check on the garden. The tomatoes seemed to be dancing. 

I noticed a root that I'd clipped with the lawnmower last year. I know I photograph weird things, but I thought it looked interesting.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019


I tapped keys today. Some days I write stories. Some days I write columns. But some days I tap keys.

It's on these days that I notice things in my office. EVERYTHING in the room is covered in dust and obviously MUST be dusted before I write anything meaningful.

I can't believe I actually talk on a phone with that much dust. I mean, how can I pick up the receiver?  And, don't get me started about the screen of my computer. I'm appalled. If company came into our house and saw a screen that begrimed, they might not eat the pound cake with blueberries and whipped cream that Jilda made.

Cleaning them before writing a word was the only prudent course of action.

And THEN I remembered...............

You get the picture. I tapped keys.

I'll have to get up early in the morning and have another go at it. I have blinders that I made from aluminum foil and duct tape. I'll wear that tomorrow while I whip out a deeply insightful column for Sunday's paper.

Thank the Good Lord I accepted Jilda's invitation to take a walk or the morning would have been a total waste.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Interviewing veterans

The paper now refers most of the military and veteran feature stories to me. Since I'm the only one working there that has been to boot camp, they figure I have a point of reference. Veterans tend to open up a little when they realize I've worn the uniform. That's OK with me.

Today, I interviewed a Vietnam veteran who served in 67 and 68. He was wounded three times before leaving South East Asia.

His story put chills on both my arms.

His sons kept encouraging him to write his story down. After more than 50 years, he did. I got an autographed copy of his book but I have not yet read it. The title is Jimmy, The Marine.

This is another story I'll post once it publishes toward the end of June.

In other news, the Zinnias are blooming. This evening when Jilda stepped down to get a jalapeno for the pasta, I went down and leaned on the fence to make sure she picked a good one.

I realized that the Old Maids have been blooming for several days and I haven't snapped the first picture. I fixed that tonight.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Example of true love ~ I mentioned this story a few weeks ago

OAKMAN –Chad Hagwood of Birmingham believes it was divine intervention that brought his high
school sweetheart, Patti Armstrong, back into his life last year.

The two dated in high school, but after college, they drifted apart. Childhood friends of both Armstrong and Hagwood always believed the two would end up together, but they had no idea it would take over 30 years, a helicopter, and the Indian Creek Youth Camp in Oakman.

“We met at church in 1984,” Hagwood said. The two attended Center Point Church of Christ. He saw her getting out of her car one Sunday. She was the new girl at church. As he watched her walking across the parking lot, he remembered telling his mom, “That’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.  Even today, he still agrees with that first assessment.

In 1988, Hagwood decided to take the relationship up a notch. “After I got my driver’s license, Patti was the first person I asked out,” he remembered.

Their first date was a disaster, according to Hagwood. He was all thumbs and tongue-tied. Turning the wrong way down a one-way street was not helpful - as well as being pulled over by the police for having an expired tag.

“I was more anxious about asking her out than getting to the tag office,” Hagwood said.

“I had been going to Indian Creek Youth Camp (in Oakman) every summer religiously since I was 10 years old,” he said. Hagwood hatched a plan when he was a senior in high school, and Armstrong was in college. He lobbied with the staff of Indian Creek for Armstrong to be asked to be a counselor with him that summer at the camp.

This was in 1989.  They were there together the entire week.

“There were no phones, radios, or computers to distract you, according to Hagwood. “You actually had to talk to people,” he said. “You get to visit with people one on one.”

June 22, 1989, was the last night of youth camp. That’s when Hagwood and Armstrong kissed for the first time. “It was a beautiful starry sky that night,” he remembered. “It was a pivotal moment in a young man’s life.”

After college, their paths diverged. Armstrong enrolled at Faulkner University in Montgomery. Later she got married, started a family, and became a teacher. Hagwood went to work with Hunt Real Estate Capital, where he financed commercial real estate across the country. He was married to his career.

Then last year, the two ran into each other at Highlands in Birmingham. She was single again, and her younger brother had taken her out for her birthday. Hagwood came over, and they sat and chatted for a while, according to Armstrong.

Timing is everything. “I’m not sure what you call it, but it had to be divine intervention,” Hagwood said.  “It was the right time, the right place when you’re ready.”  He’s a big believer in that type of stuff.

 “I’d been raising children, so I had not been out and about,” she said.  Hagwood invited her to spend some time with mutual friends. “It was fun and light,” she said. “No pressure, just to get reacquainted.”

They weren’t in a hurry at first. “People change over a period of time, and you wonder how they’ve changed,” he said. He doesn’t think people’s core personalities really change.  “When you get older, hopefully, you are a better version of who you were,” he said.

“I’ve always loved and enjoyed Patti’s company and friendship,” Hagwood said. “I’m 47, and I know who I am, and who I’m not, but there was no doubt she was always the one.” Rekindling the friendship felt very natural, they both agreed.

You do things subconsciously whether you realize it or not, according to Hagwood. They learned at their bridal party through stories of their friends that both Hagwood and Armstrong continued to talk about each other even though they had not been together in years.

Hagwood still has the car he had when they first dated. Around five years ago, he started restoring the car, and he wasn’t sure why at first.

"Why did I keep that car? It’s a 1990 LeBaron, and it’s not exactly a collector’s item,” he said, noting replacement parts for the car are difficult to find.

Later he realized that the car was an inanimate connection to Armstrong. The prom mixtapes they listened to when they were in high school are still in the glovebox, according to Hagwood.

Somebody asked Hagwood how long it took him to plan the proposal, and he answered, “About 30 years.”

Once he had a pretty good idea that Armstrong would say yes, he began putting a plan together. When considering places to pop the question, he first thought of the beach, or maybe New York. But he wanted a place that was unique to their story. Then it occurred to him that the ideal place was Indian Creek where they had their first kiss 30 years before.

Once he decided on the perfect place, the planning began. Had the couple driven to Oakman, it would have taken over an hour. “That might give a little too much time to think about it,” Hagwood said with a smile.

He decided on the quickest most efficient way to get there that has a little zing to it and adds a little mystery. They flew to the camp in a helicopter on Oct. 6, 2018. 

At liftoff, Armstrong had no idea where they were going. “It was a tightly kept secret,” he said. “She thought we were going to dinner."

Armstrong’s dad and children knew because Hagwood had asked for their blessing first, but they were sworn to secrecy, according to Hagwood.

When they left Hagwood’s house to go have “dinner with friends,” he told her he had to turn left instead of right to keep from scraping the bumper of his new car. But they continued going in the wrong direction.

“You’re going to have to turn around because there’s a helicopter down there,” Armstrong remembered telling him.

Hagwood told her they were going for a little ride. She said, “OK, but we’re going to be late for dinner.” Once airborne, she thought they were going to look at some projects that he was looking at. When they started descending, she had no idea where they were until she saw a softball field and the back of the church sign at Indian Creek Youth Camp.

When she saw the LeBaron, she was even more confused about what was going on. He told her they were going to take a little drive.  He’d had his co-conspirators set up a tent near where he planned to propose.

Once they arrived at the tent and saw people there, she figured out what was coming next. When they got to the tent area, Hagwood asked her to marry him.

“Luckily she said yes because Plan B would have been a very long drive home,” he said.

The couple will get married June 15, and they will honeymoon on a little off-the-grid island near Belize. They will honeymoon on the 30th anniversary of their first kiss.

Even though they drifted apart, all their friends kept telling them that they were meant for each other.

“One of my childhood friends told me that it was just a matter of time,” Armstrong said.

When asked about their hopes for the future, she said she wanted to be an example for what true love is. Hagwood agreed and added that he feels their story is extremely unique and speaks to true love, hope, and happiness.

“It’s a big beautiful road ahead of us now,” he ended.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Miracle bath

This is been a busy weekend. We only had a few things on our calendar, but tonight we are both bone tired. 

My friend Julia owned a cattle farm with her husband and before she retired, I felt drained just reading the work she did each day. 

Even though we don't have cattle, we have fruit trees, bushes, flowers, chickens, bees, dogs, nieces, and nephews, and promises that we've made.  All of these things required time. 

Fortunately, Jilda and I took time to have a slow leisurely lunch yesterday at a local restaurant that we love.

Tonight I'm taking a hot bath with some kind of miracle joo-joo potion that Jilda mixes up with Epsom salts, and other ingredients. I think she does a chant and a little dance before turning off the water. It makes me feel taller when I step out of the tub.

Saturday, June 01, 2019


Our great nephew Jordan is involved with 4-H. He chose chickens as his summer project. We talked about him housing the chicks here this summer before he told his teachers. 

Around the first of May, he came home with a tub full of chirping chicks that were as soft as a whisper.

He comes over two or three times every day to check on his chicks. If I took a time-lapse photograph over the course of a day, I think I could see them growing.

Jilda saw something about how to drill a hole through a head of cabbage and hang it on a rope to make a food toy for the tiny birds.

We did that today. He came over with his mom and nana to help install the new idea before the chick had a chance to try it out. I snapped a picture.

It took the little birds a while to figure out how to munch/play with their new toy, but as we all sat around enjoying the evening, they started playing/eating their new toy.

It doesn't take a great deal to amuse us these days.

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