Notes from the Southwest Corner (archives): Good Things Happen to Those Who Wait

i began writing a weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat in October 2007. Except for a few hiccups when i missed a deadline, it has appeared in the paper, initially on Thursday and now on Tuesdays.

With my superb sense and lousy execution of organization abetted by an unhealthy dose of procrastination and some degree of adult attention deficit disorder as well as a significant problem with CRS, i am struggling with archiving all of my columns, primarily for my grandson, and have decided to use this site as an excuse to actually get some organization accomplished. So in addition to linking you to my column on the newspaper’s website and archiving the current columns, i will be posting old ones here. In my first search, the earliest column i found was this one, the sixth “Notes…” column that was published in November 2007.

Fittingly, this one was about my mother and Lebanon High School, two forces that have had a powerful impact on my life and remain such even though i did not attend the latter.

Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.
Estelle Prichard Jewell, 1944, a photo she sent to her husband at war in the South Pacific. It was nine years after her basketball career at LHS.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Last Monday, Ms Denise Joyner, the Lebanon High School Athletic Director called and announced Estelle Prichard Jewell had been selected as an inaugural member of the Blue Devil Athletic Hall of Fame.

Estelle Jewell is my mother.

About a year ago, J.B. Leftwich, a weekly columnist for this paper, a close family friend, and my mentor in journalism (which I have noted frequently), wrote a tribute to Estelle and suggested she might have been the best women’s basketball player in the history of Blue Devil Sports. For her size, his suggestion just might be a slam dunk.

In a 1935 district tournament semi-final, Estelle scored 33 points for the Blue Devilettes girls basketball team and was named to the all-tournament team. For the 1934-35 season, she scored 283 points in 19-games. This was during an era when most games were low-scoring affairs, rarely exceeding 30 points total. Her single game and season scoring records stood for a quarter of a century.

She will be inducted during a half time ceremony during LHS basketball games, December 14

I am elated. LHS’ Hall of Fame is honoring her just after she turned 90 in July.

I am anxious to learn of other inductees. Clifton Tribble, Don Franklin, David Robinson, Ann Lucas. Louis Thompson, David Grandstaff, Hal Greer, and many others immediately come to mind as probable selections. It bemuses me to think of my mother standing next to these heroes of mine and receiving her plaque.

Estelle Jewell today does not come across as a hall of fame athlete. Being 90 certainly belies her earlier skills. She also tops out at five feet tall. I saw her take a shot once. It was a two-handed push. She jumped and spread her legs when she shot. From fifteen feet, it hit nothing but net. I don’t think she could do that now.

In reflection, she laughs about her play. “I got 33 in the semi-finals,” she says, “but I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn the next night, and we lost.” I have never heard her brag about her accomplishments.

In her recollection of a game at Mount Juliet, she recalled how she would try not to drive for a lay-up on one end of the court because she might run into the Ben Franklin stove underneath the basket. The stove heated the entire gym.

Not considering the stove, it was a different game then with three zones with two guards on the defensive end, two forwards on the offensive end, and two centers in the middle who passed the ball from defense to offense. One dribble was all that was allowed.

Still, Estelle’s accomplishments remain exceptional.

Her shooting skills were probably enhanced by chores. Her grandfather, Joseph Webster, the retired Methodist circuit rider, would give her a penny for each fly she swatted and killed inside the farmhouse on Hunter’s Point Pike.

Her endurance and strength were likely abetted by other chores she and her two sisters and brother undertook while her mother was a care-giver, working day and night (Her father, Joe Blythe Prichard, died young and the family lived with their grandfather).

When her hall of fame career in sports was concluded, Estelle quickly put it aside and went to work. She learned secretarial skills at the County Court Clerk’s office in the old courthouse on the square. She worked for the Commerce Union Bank on the north side of the corner of the square and East Main Street. She married my father, Jimmy Jewell, in 1938, three years after she had graduated from LHS.

She is a reflection of all of the women of that generation whom I have known: practically feminine with a firm grasp of reality; frugal but willing to lavish gifts and love on her family and friends. She is a product of hard times (the depression), frightening times of sacrifice and victory (World War II), security produced by hard and loyal work, and change without end. They are strong, balanced, and loving women.

But every once in a while, basketball will come up in a conversation, and you can still see the sparkle in Estelle’s eyes.

When I called my mother for congratulations, her and my father’s excitement made it an unforgettable phone call. She was thrilled. The news was something to feel good about.

Thank you, Blue Devils for proving in a good place like Lebanon, good things do happen, especially for those who wait.

A Pocket of Resistance: All Is Calm

 i wrote this in 1962, i believe it was during my freshman autumn semester at Vanderbilt. It was a lonely day after i learned someone i had a crush on had found someone else…in Cleveland. i’m glad it didn’t work out, not that i have anything against Cleveland. This remains one of my favorites. “All Is Calm” is included in my book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, which is still available through me, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Author House.

All Is Calm

the sun is shining outside, but it is cold;
the sky is blue outside, but the trees are bare;
the wind whispers softly, but its coldness bites into the skin;
the windows reflect the sparkling sunshine, but the glare hurts the eyes.

i walked to the top of the hill and looked down on the lights of the city,
hoping to remember something beautiful and warm,
but the memories brought sadness
because they were of the past instead of the present;

a tear came to my eye, and the wind made the tear cold.
i was alone; the fact burned my heart as it chilled my soul;
i watched with sad amusement as two squirrels
in the lone tree on the hill chattered to one another;

i walked down the hill back to my lonely room,
four walls, bare lights, blaring radio, books, un-emptied ashtrays.

the sun is shining outside but it is cold;
the sky is blue outside, but the trees are bare;
the wind whispers softly but its coldness bites into the skin;
the windows reflect the sparkling sunshine;

but the glare hurts the eyes,
and all is calm
but yet…


A Pocket of Resistance: A Rather Wonderful Weekend

Maureen and i are home.

We flew into San Francisco last Thursday for our annual visit with Alan, Maren, and Eleanor Hicks in conjunction with the incredible experience of “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass,” the free three-day concert in  a bulging Golden Gate Park.

Alan had already picked up Cy Fraser (his wonderful Julie was attending a relative’s pre-nuptial event in Los Angeles, and regrettably, we missed her) when they gathered us up for the trip to their home.

Alan, Maren, and daughter Eleanor, an attorney for Google, have this wonderful home in Forest Hills, our headquarters for the weekend. On Friday, the guys arrived at the park around 8:00 am to stake out a close-up spot at the Banjo Stage, the main performance stage out of seven throughout the park. On Saturday and Sunday, Eleanor joined the early birds. Our usual routine is to claim our territory, walk about half of Hellman Hollow to grab some the first breakfast burritos from a concession stand and get coffee or latte’s on the way back. Then, we read or take naps until showtime, noon on Friday, and 11:00 am on the other two days. This year, Jim Hicks, Alan’s brother and long time fraternity brother of the trio, made the old guys a quartet. Friends of Alan, Maren, and Eleanor joined us throughout the days.

i left early with a several others on Saturday around 4:00 pm, but we had someone there every day until closing around 7:00 pm. The three-day total attendance apparently did not reach the 800,000 i predicted. Official attendance will be published in the next few days. But Saturday had to have set a record. Hellman Hollow was so full, it took at least 45 minutes to walk to and from the port-a-potties about 100 yards from our spot, an important statistic for an old man to know as the day wore on and the beer consumption increased.

The attendees cut the swath of race, country of origin, religion, persuasions, age, and every other possible categorization in every way possible. Booze flows freely. The aroma of marijuana hangs over the hollow like a haze. Yet in the six times we have attended (i think Alan and Maren have been there for 9 or ten years out of the fifteen), we have never witnessed a fight. It is people getting along with people.

i have discussed the music before, but it is rather incredible: eighty-six groups or solo performers sang and played. They all were of the highest quality.

The festival is fantastic, but time with our friends and their friends is even better.

We cannot thank Alan, Maren, and Eleanor enough for letting us share the experience. We cannot thank Cy, Jim, and the others for sharing the time together. And we are especially grateful to Ralph Lavage, our neighbor, who insisted in taking us to and picking us up at Lindbergh Field.

i have run out of superlatives for the experience.

But it was long, and honestly, we both were glad to get home.


Thanks, everyone…and see you next year.

Willie Nod: Silver Bird

This is one of a couple of books i’ve been working on for a long, long time. i have decided to publish them, even though they are working drafts, as serials on this website, much like Charles Dickens and many others did with magazines and newspapers a couple of centuries ago.

i know me well enough to admit the likelihood of me actually publishing these books  is highly unlikely. As for mainstream publishing, i have no desire, after gathering information on the process, to submit to the publisher’s requirements, the political maneuvering, the required marketing efforts, or the effort required from this procrastinator to meet deadlines – just ask Jared Felkins, the editor of The Lebanon Democrat.

i have also proven to myself that self-publishing as my daughter Blythe did so amazingly with her wonderfully funny poetry in Something Smells Like Pee, is a challenge because me learning to use publishing software programs looks more like a scientific research project involving mice and mazes.

Finally, my experience with print-on-demand and co-op publishing was not pleasant. I have eliminated that route from my options

Thus, it finally dawned on me i can publish them on this website.

This particular book began as a poem to my daughter Blythe when i reluctantly was  going through a separation and divorce while stationed at Texas A&M’s NROTC unit. In the summer of 1978, the Navy decided i would be an excellent choice for running the second-class midshipmen surface indoctrination at Little Creek, Virginia for the summer. Flying a puddle jumper over North Carolina, i mused over the fact that the close day-to-day relationship with Blythe was changing forever, and there was nothing i could do responsibly to change that. Looking out the window at the clouds, the beginning thoughts of this poem came into my head, and i had written the poem, intact, by the time i had landed.

Over the years, i wrote a number of poems to Blythe. Then when Sarah was born (seventeen years later than Blythe), i began a new batch of such poems. Since grandson Sam was born, i have written a couple of more and gave him a pamphlet of all of the poems a couple of Christmases ago. 

Sarah is working on illustrations for the “book,” and her drafts will be included with the poems. Obviously, i need to work on the graphics and layout.

You might say this is a work of love.

Sarah's opening drawings
Sarah’s opening drawings

willie_nod-silver bird01Willie Nod and the Silver Birdwillie_nod-silver_bird02

Willie Nod rode the wings of the silver bird
high in the clouds;
he laughed at the night wind
when it threw the rain.
Willie Nod smiled and rubbed the neck of his bird.
He laughed because he loved people and
the silver bird.


A Pocket of Resistance: Cedar Grove, a poem

i chose this to be the second poem to post on my new/revised website because it means a great deal to me and one of my favorites.

These poems will be appearing quite frequently as i restock the archives after the web-hosting crash took them all away.

For those who do not know, i worked at the Cedar Grove Cemetery for the City of Lebanon Public Works Department (Thank you, Jessie Coe). i dug graves, mowed, trimmed around gravestones, and performed other tasks in the summers during my high school years.

Many years later when visiting my parents in Deer Park, i frequently would go on a morning run down Leeville Pike to South Maple. At the crossroads, i would decide whether to turn south or north. If south was the decision i would go on a three to six mile run down Old Murfreesboro Road and Barton’s Creek Road and back.

On those runs, i often thought of Bobby Bradley, a good friend and Eagle Scout or some high level, taking this Boy Scout Tenderfoot on a five-mile hike through the woods off of Franklin Road. It resulted in what was probably the only merit badge i earned before they shut down our troop, i suspect due to rowdiness about town after our weekly evening meetings, no fault of Bobby Bradley or Major Lindsey Donnell, our troop leader.

If i chose to turn north, i ran between the two cemeteries and often stopped at one or both to visit grave sites of family and friends with fond memories. 

On one of those runs/graveside visits one morning, a funeral entourage, led by a Lebanon Police motorcycle came into view and passed me before turning left into Wilson County Memorial Gardens.

Afterwards, i resumed my run back to Deer Park thinking about my cemetery visit and the funeral procession. As i passed a small farmhouse with a garden in the side yard, the beginning of the poem popped into my head. Bu the time i reached my parents’ home, the poem was pretty complete in my head.

I still don’t know if it’s any good as poetry. It’s been rejected by periodicals several times, and i quit submitting it and others because i don’t do rejection very well.

But i do know it has a lot of me in it, and i like it.

Cedar Grove

Dawn passed the old Leeville pike
where further west in Leeville proper,
the faded yellow, wood-slatted depot the size of a three holer
stood forlornly on the old railroad bed turned pike
until sold to be a cleaned-up trinket in Fiddler’s Grove,
the historical,
version of the past
at the county fairgrounds,
(also moved to bigger accommodations
across town from when i grew up and out).

Thunderheads rolled around the heavens to the east;
cool for June;
turning left on South Maple with
Old Murfreesboro Road running the other way
where the route to Chattanooga had been “thank-you-ma’ams,”
back toward town was Cedar Grove,
the cemetery
across the road from the county Memorial Park,
a bunch of acres dedicated to history and death
where both cemetery and park
brought any north-bound, cow-counting, road game
to a tie.

People get ready, there’s a train to Jordan
Pickin’ up passengers coast to coast.

Long before Memorial Park,
the good citizens,
fully aware of growth and potential,
moved Cedar Grove too,
or rather,
moved the cemetery, bodies, caskets, monuments
to Cedar Grove with intendment
for the former graveyard
to become a church of christ
until it was intendment again
for the congregation to move
College Street Church of Christ
west to Hickory Ridge,
changing the name to College Hills
as if that made it
right with the lord.

Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.

In the mid-June early morning
ancestors lay in repose:
ordered rows of marble and concrete above, grave below,
adorned with plastic flowers, long term reverence,
but no less heartfelt
than in the Coolidge years when they rolled
the monolith of granite on logs,
pulled by mules and horses
from the railway for six days;

General Hatton eulogized with
the marble stele at the head of his grave
near the other marble tower honoring
Confederate dead
to complement Hatton’s statue in square center,
built over a creek and a spring.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is stamping out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were stored.

I knew these ancestors
from pushing mowers over the graves,
trimming around the edges,
even digging their graves
in the summer heat.

Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.

My ancestors are here too:
kith and kin,
generations of father’s folks
are up in Statesville
behind a church
in a family plot
where Father triangulated the hills
from a photograph of his father and uncles
to find
his grandparents’ graves
to place
the headstone he had ordered;

In Cedar Grove, up gate three
lie Mother’s folks, grandfolks, and assorted kin
in a rectangular plot curbed off from the rest;
across the road:
later maternal and paternal kin
lie near;

friends lie amongst the kin:
parents of a close friend
are honored with a big monument
at the front of the memorial park;
does he, dying foolishly in a car crash,
lie close to his mother and father?
lord help us.

I heard the wreck on the highway,
But i didn’t hear nobody pray, dear brother;
I didn’t hear nobody pray.

It is a quiet place with scarce visitors,
a place to contemplate old relationships
and what was
and what will be
and what won’t be,
and where,
in the middle of the day in the summer heat,
cheating men and women found
a haven for illicit affairs,
from which we quickly learned to steer
our mowers, clippers, and lively lads
far away if no one emerged from the car
to visit a grave:
there was another kind of visiting going on.

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world;
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in his sight;
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I cannot stay long as i have duties to tend;
leaving, i notice they have torn down
the small clapboard-sided house
north of Cedar Grove on South Maple
where the old man,
mostly toothless, tobacco chewing,
slobbering the dark brown juice
down his jowl,
would sit on the porch
in the rocking chair
next to the RCA Victrola
listening to the White Sox
before he would cajole me
into taking him to town;
he knew the people and the plots
when the records burned
in the attic of the courthouse fire
so the city kept him on the dole
well into his nineties,
letting him stay in the house
so he could tell us gravediggers
where to dig,
not missing more than once or twice
when we would strike the side of a casket,
having to refill and start over
a couple of feet away
for Christ’s sake.

he is probably now somewhere
in Cedar Grove himself
with the records straight from computer technology
where no one will strike his casket
digging in the wrong place.

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.

Though i have placed
the planks to set their graves.
cut the sod,
dug through the clay with pick and shovel,
filled their graves with clods,
i am a wanderer among them;
i worship them, feel them,
but do not feel belonging;
on the east side there is a plot
where my buddy came home:
a sailor gone west to adventure, like me;
i arrived first to find nickels on his eyes in
Rosarita Beach, Baja California, Mexico,
helping his widow get the body
across the border and back home
to lay beside his father:
he came home,
but i do not quite feel i belong.

 And when my task on earth is done,
When, by Thy grace, the vic-try’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave i will not flee,
Since God thro’ Jordan leadeth me.

On South Maple heading south
before the Leeville Pike
is a stone house set back
from the road with outbuildings,
a truck with a crane
beside the sizable vegetable garden
with corn, tomatoes, beans, onions
in not quite straight rows,
much like the obelisks and headstones
in Cedar Grove,
but growing in the brown soil,
green shoots of life
while the rabbit and the cardinal
nibble at the opposite ends of the garden:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
and the voice i hear falling on my ear
the son of god discloses;
and he walks with me and he talks with me
and he tells me i am his own.

Cumulus clouds hover around the horizon;
morning remains cool for June;
the funeral procession turns off Leeville Pike
headed north down Maple Street
to turn left into the memorial park
while the residents lie silently on
both sides of the road.
The tent is set;\
i know the ritual well,
i will not be a part of this burial
to stand, cap in hand, on the road side
as the hearse with headlights on
rolls on by.

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

A Pocket of Resistance: A 101st Birthday

i decided to publish this a couple of hours early. That way i can celebrate all day tomorrow.

Today is my father’s 101st birthday.

I wrote very little on his century mark last September. I had lost him just over a year before and lost our mother nine months later. I was still in the stage of realizing what i really had lost. Now it’s time to reflect.

My brother Joe and our father, 2009...i think.
My brother Joe and our father, 2009…i think.

Included here is an article i wrote for The Lebanon Democrat in 2000 as a salute to him on his 86th birthday. In 2004, they moved from their home of 62 years a whopping four blocks away to a “condo” in Deer Park where they lived until fragility, infirmities, and old age required them to stay at Elmcroft, an assisted living facility on what used to be the southwest end of Castle Heights Military Academy.

In 2009, i honored his 95th birthday with a poem, the only one thus far published in my Democrat column “Notes from the Southwest Corner.” i still think it is one of the best poems i have ever written. He was surprised i knew so much about him.

He and my mother were born, raised, lived, and died in Lebanon, Tennessee, a place that seems to have kept most of the folks who were born there, a tribute to a small town.

allyson_odom_collingsworthIn what i think is an irony, my father and Allyson Odom Collingsworth share the same birthday, just a grunch of years apart. I fell in love with Allyson’s mother, the late Sharry Baird Hager, in our fourth grade class taught by Mrs. Major at McClain Elementary School. I never quite got over her.

That is appropriate because Lebanon seems to me to be a city of love. Oh yes, it has its problems. After all, politicians are a necessity, and politicians mean there are problems. There are criminals, some pretty rough criminals. The place keeps growing and that is not always a good thing, at least in my mind. It may sound a little squirrelly for an old salt to write of a city of love, and there probably is a more appropriate description, but all of my friends there seem to exude that quality.

My father was proud of Lebanon. He loved driving people, including me, around the town to show off the latest business, the latest industry that had settled there. Although he complained about the lack of common sense in new road planning, he was proud of those new roads.

He was part and parcel of Lebanon. I miss him and his Lebanon. I will think of both quite a lot today. i am a very lucky man to have had him with me for so long.

The Democrat column:

An Incredible Man

There is an incredible man in Lebanon. He was born September 28, 1914.

The first record of his family in America dates to 1677. His great, great, great grandfather came over the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky with Daniel Boone and apparently was Daniel’s brother-in-law. His great, great grandfather moved to Statesville in southeastern Wilson County in the early 1800’s.

He had three brothers and three sisters. He is the only one left.

Jimmy Jewell, machinist mate (automobile) 1st class with his buddy in the 75th CB Battalion, Luzon, Philippines 1945.
Jimmy Jewell, machinist mate (automobile) 1st class with his buddy in the 75th CB Battalion, Luzon, Philippines 1945.

He has lived through two world wars, fighting as a Seabee in the southern Philippines in the last one. He has lived through the depression, the cold war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.

He had to quit his senior year at Lebanon High School to go to work when his father contracted tuberculosis. He started as a mechanic, shared a business with his brother-in-law in the 1950’s, and then became a partner in an automobile dealership and a gas and oil distributorship. He retired in 1972.

He and his wife have been married for 62 years. They remain infatuated with each other. The first home they owned was a one-room house, adjacent to his wife’s family farm on Hunter’s Point Pike. They bought their next home on Castle Heights Avenue in 1941 with the help of a $500.00 loan from a friend. They have lived there ever since.

Jimmy and Estelle Jewell, 2014
Jimmy and Estelle Jewell, 2014

He and his wife put three children through college. They have five grandchildren. They have visited every state in the Union, except Alaska, where they were headed in 1984 when his wife’s illness forced them to turn around in British Columbia. Nearly all of their travel has been by RV’s, most in a twenty-eight foot fifth-wheel. When he was 84 and his wife was 80, they made their last cross-country trip to San Diego where they spent winters since 1985 with their eldest son and his family. They have made several trips up and down the east coast since then, and the fifth-wheel is still ready to go in their backyard.

They live comfortably in their retirement. Most people guess his age as early 70’s. Last month, he painted their master bedroom and sanded and painted the roof of his two-car carport. When he can’t find anyone to go fishing with him, he hooks up the boat trailer and goes by himself. Now he usually throws his catch back in. When he used to bring the catch home, he would clean the fish and give them away. He doesn’t like to eat fish, just catch them.

For years, he had the reputation as the best mechanic in Wilson County. He can still fix anything except computers and new cars because he has shunned learning the electronic advances.

All of this isn’t why this man is incredible.

He is incredible because he is such a good man.

He is a willow. He bends with the winds of change and the changes of “progress.” Yet he never breaks. His principles remain as solid as a rock. He is extremely intelligent but humble.

He seems to always be around when someone needs help. Everyone considers him a friend and he reciprocates.

He is not rich, financially. But he is one of the richest men around.

My generation’s fathers were family men. They lived through hard times and hard work without a whimper. They believed in giving a day’s work for a day’s pay. They kept their sense of humor. Their sons wish they could emulate them.

Jimmy Jewell, or James Rye Jewell, Sr., this remarkable man, remains my best friend. I am his oldest son. I have worshipped him since the first recallable thoughts came into my head fifty-three or so years ago. I still find myself wishing I could have his strength, his kindness, his work ethic, his love, his faith.

My father and I have had enough talks for him to know how I feel. But I’ve seen too many people wait until someone was gone before singing their praises publicly. I figure he’s got a good chance to outlive us all, but I wanted to acknowledge how much he means to me and how great a man I think he is.

Happy 86th birthday, Dad.


The poem:


When most folks meet him
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
those folks should look at his hands:
those hands could make Durer cry
with their history and the tales they tell.

His strength always was supple
beyond what was suggested from his slight build.
His hands are the delivery point of that strength.
His hands are not slight,
His hands are firm and thick and solid,
a handshake of destruction if he so desired
he has used those hands to repair the cars and our hearts;

His hands are marked by years of labor with
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors
(long before mechanics hooked up computers
deciphering the monitor to replace “units”
for more money in an hour he made in a month
when he started in ’35 before computers and units).

His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bouganville, New Guinea, the Philippines.

His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.

Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands
and beyond;
the tales of grease and oil and grime
cleaned by gasoline and goop and lava soap
are etched in his hands;

they are hands of labor,
hands of  hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring, and love:
oh love, love, love, crazy love.

His hands speak of him with pride.
His hands belong
to the smartest man i know
who has lived life to the maximum,
but in balance, in control, in understanding,
gaining respect and love
far beyond those who claim smartness
for the money they earned
while he and his hands own smartness
like a well-kept plot of land
because he always has understood
what was really important
in the long run:
smarter than any man i know
with hands that tell the story
so well.

I couldn’t think of a better way to honor him than in this manner. He was an incredible man, and those hands…oh those hands.


A Pocket of Resistance: Here we go again

Welcome back.

Thanks to Walker Hicks’ incredible talent and effort, the “Jewell in the Rough” website is back.

A website hosting service shut me down about two months ago. Just turned me off in the middle of an afternoon.

This version will be a little different than the old one.

To start, my columns for The Lebanon Democrat, will no longer be posted here first. I will provide the link here, on my Facebook page, and if i am persistent enough on LinkedIn to the column in the on-line edition of The Democrat. For archive purposes, i will publish them here about a week after they run in the newspaper.

The bulk of the posts here now will be my rambling thoughts, some of my poetry, and finally serialized segments of several books i continue to attempt to create:

Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings
This is a narrative taken from documents and my personal logs as Executive Officer (second-in-command for those of you unfamiliar with Navy ship terminology) of the USS Yosemite (AD 19). The destroyer tender was the first Navy ship with women as part of the crew to spend extended periods out of port. The experience of a seven-and-a-half months deployment to the Indian Ocean provides insights into a unique period in the history of the Navy and women’s equality.

Willie Nod and Other Tales
This is a book of poetry and very short stories for children. It is a collaborative effort with Sarah, our younger daughter. She is creating the illustrations for poems (some converted to narratives) which i wrote first for our older daughter, Blythe; then for Sarah, and lastly for Sam, our grandson.

New Palestine
This is either a novel or a collection of short stories i have been writing since i left Lebanon, Tennessee for the Navy in 1967. Lebanon has been the inspiration and although many of the settings are familiar and there are attributes of characters similar to those of people i have known in Lebanon, this collection, whatever it eventually turns out to be is definitely not about Lebanon, Tennessee.

The Pretty Good Management Book
Many of the chapters of this book were included in my last website and were run in The Democrat and other newspapers. The idea of the book was jointly created with my old running mate, JD Waits. The idea is to provide some basic principles for running a pretty good business. Most business improvement writing claims to provide a perfect solution for running an organization. That is not going to happen. These posts will be designed to help in running a “pretty good” business.

mbj-jj-brennekesOur tentative plans are to transition to a subscription website. Originally, we were going to restart in that manner. But we need to get our feet on the ground and make sure what we have is a pretty good website you will want to read and enjoy reading.
Obviously, i hope you like it.

…Oh yes, my photo will be updated to include the woman who puts up with my idiosyncrasies and childish behavior and supports my writing efforts without question: the indefatigable, beautiful, and caring Maureen Boggs Jewell.

We’re back

Walker Hicks has gone beyond the pale to bring my website back up.In addition to being great in any multi-media work, he has a full time job, is Bryton’s Cub Scout leader, and coaches Bryton’s soccer team. Thanks, Walker.

This is the beginning. There will be more changes/updates and more frequent posts than ever before because i will be catching up. i am as excited as i can remember and this event dulls the recent memories of some pretty bad golf.

Stand by to let go all lines.


An early Christmas on the left coast

Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, December 16, 2014. Only the photo of the puppet theater was included with the column. The others were added for this post, although my editing skills with the Mac are still being tested and two photos are small. The one of Kinsley hardly captures what a beautiful, fun, and behaved young girl she really is: a true delight, and i am looking forward to spending more time with her and her wondeful mother, Renee, in the coming year. Cousin Nancy, i wish you were here.

SAN DIEGO — Our weekend included packing for our Christmas trip, but Sunday, we had a Christmas treat of our own in the Southwest corner.

Late Sunday morning, we drove to Balboa Park. While most people associate Balboa Park with the San Diego Zoo, there are many other facets to the park, which was established in 1892 and blossomed in 1915 when the Panama-California Exposition was held in the city. The park has a working theater, a replica of Shakespeare’s Old Globe along with too many museums to count, hiking trails, gardens, and restaurants.

The view from our table at El Prado
The view from our table at El Prado

We ran some Christmas errands before lunch at El Prado, a wonderful restaurant housed in one of the exposition buildings with a courtyard in front and outdoor dining in back, which overlooks a pool, fountain, and garden. We had lunch outside and could have spent several hours there, but we were on a Christmas mission.

There was a Lebanon connection, or at least, a Cumberland connection.

We were on our way to meet Kinsley, the great, great granddaughter of my Aunt Evelyn Orr, who was mentioned in an earlier column about Thanksgiving and the road to Chattanooga. Evelyn’s daughter, Nancy moved to Florida where she still resides in Cape Canaveral. Nancy’s daughter, Kathy, moved to Michigan. Her daughter, Renee Hoskins became a Marine, got out and had Kinsley. They live in Oceanside. Just before Kinsley turned two this summer, we connected at, where else, the San Diego Zoo.

This lineage dissection proves there are many ways to land in the Southwest corner.

Our mission was to meet Renee and Kinsley at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park. The puppeteers were putting on a Christmas program. We thought that would be something Kinsley would enjoy.

puppets3We drove to Balboa Park early, stopping at the zoo to pick up a few Christmas presents for our trip east, and then to lunch. I had the rock shrimp chile relleno while thinking it was not likely a menu item anywhere else except the Southwest corner. We sauntered past the Mingei International Museum where Maureen found a couple of gifts for friends, and I took note of some articles she liked but wouldn’t purchase for herself.

kinsley-puppets-2Finally we made it to the Palisades area of the park where Kinsley and Renee were waiting for us. The theater is a full-blown auditorium in the Spanish Mission style architecture which dominates the park structures. The staff/cast/puppeteers put on five shows a week, changing programs weekly. This is year round.kinsley-puppets – 2I wish every child under five could attend such a show. Kinsley was enthralled. She rocked and clapped with enthusiasm with every new Christmas song as mice, cats, jacks-in-the-box, and a snowman pranced around the puppet stage. I felt about five years old myself (Of course, Maureen often accuses me of acting like a five-year old).

As I tried simultaneously to watch Kinsley and the puppets, my mind wandered to the upcoming Christmas. We will be going straight, or as straight as we can on plane connections and tree-top airlines to Chattanooga tomorrow. Since 1992, Signal Mountain and Lebanon have been Christmas for Sarah, our twenty-five year old daughter. We wish to capture at least part of that this year. The special part of that is our grand niece, Allie Duff, another two-year old, will be the focus of attention. Allie is my sister’s granddaughter.

From there, we head to Austin for our first Christmas with our grandson Sam. We have wanted to be with him for this special time since he was born seven plus years ago, but we had to make choices.

You should note there is no Lebanon on that itinerary. Lebanon has been part of my Christmas holidays for about 50 of my nearly 71 years. I will miss James Cason making me a martini, a dinner with Mike and Gloria Dixon, spending time with Eddie and Brenda Callis and sitting next to them at the Sunday church service. I will miss Bill and Kathy Denny who took special care of my parents, and Charlotte and Kristy Johnson whom my parents considered family. And of course, I will miss Henry and Brenda Harding.

Obviously, the biggest missing will be my mother and father. However, our Christmas this year is focused on children. I am sure my parents think this is the way it should be.