Chicken Eggs

i come from a small town called Lebanon, Tennessee that had a significant farming populace. i spent a great deal of time on my Uncle Wynn “Papa” Prichard’s farm where he and my Aunt Corrine had chickens. Chickens were everywhere. So was chicken clucking, crowing, and squawking. It was fun to chase them. The important chickens were in the chicken coop. That’s where Aunt Corrine gathered the eggs before sunrise every morning.

Chicken eggs were…well, they were eggs. We didn’t do a whole of distinguishing them as i recall.

i acknowledge that when i became single again, i became aware eggs in the grocery store were labeled “Large” and…hmm, i can’t think of the other label. Perhaps it was just “eggs.” i’m pretty sure there were just two different labels, the other wasn’t “other.” i always bought the large because i like to eat chicken eggs.

i have since noticed these chicken egg folks have gotten pretty inventive and poetic when labeling their egg boxes. i generally ignore them and just get the large ones. i mean an egg is an egg.

This past week, Maureen brought home a dozen eggs. When i saw the carton, i was puzzled. i was truly puzzled.

i mean these are some well treated chickens dropping these grade AA large brown eggs into cartons with this labeling. That little brown box in the upper right hand corner reads, “From hens raised without antibiotics or growth hormones in a humane, pasture raised environment.”

Now, i got to thinking. i guess Papa and Aunt Corrine were ahead of their time. In fact, just about all of the farmers i knew were ahead of their time except for that huge chicken coop with a tin roof out there in the triangle of Maple Hill Road, Coles Ferry Pike, and Trice Road where the chickens were truly cooped up. That coop held hundreds, if not a thousand chickens, clucking, crowing, and definitely squawking. It also smelled to high heaven.

The other farmers, and Papa and Aunt Corrine were ahead of their time when it came to chicken eggs. Those chickens were in the pasture, in the yard, in the barn, in the falling down garage, in the coop naturally, just about everywhere except in the house. That is, the ones in the house, were about to be fried. And i won’t tell you how they got to that stage of prepping cause i’m pretty damn sure all of these PETA folks wouldn’t call it “humane.”

i’m also pretty sure those chickens on those farms back in Lebanon weren’t subjected to antibiotics, even if they had a cold, and i’m not even sure “growth hormones” were known to exist back then, at least not for chickens. As a matter of fact, i don’t think there was much ado about a “pasture raised environment,” or counting the time those chickens stayed outside, which was pretty much the entire time because i wouldn’t exactly consider those chicken coops “inside.” I also don’t recall any real efforts to ensure those chickens had “ample space to forage and safe shelter from the elements.”

But i can tell you folks, those eggs, fried over easy, with grits, bacon, and biscuits for breakfast after coming in from milking the cows were the best i’ve ever had.

It appears we have come a long way.

But maybe not.

Curmudgeon Weekend Ramblings…again…NOT

This post originally was into about eight paragraphs with a couple of photos this weekend when i was overcome by events. So i put it off and what i had written seemed…well, done. With a whole bunch of stuff around me begging my time, not to mention a couple of rounds of golf, i think i’m headed for more less (my intentional poor use of grammar or something) posts here for a while so, this is a short cut with some photos i wanted to share.

First, i feel like my Padres are a major league team. After all, they are the last team to not have a no-hitter on their record (for them, not against them). With a bit of fairy tales, this guy who pitched it, Joe Musgrove, came over from my other favorite team, the Pirates this spring, and is a San Diego native whose parents own a coffee shop in Alpine. Good feelings.

Then, i went for coffee on Saturday, saw the car below and talked to the owner. It’s a ’49 Chevy owned by his father, and the guy fixed it up:

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was these photos of my great grandparents, mother’s side, circa 1920 (Thanks, cousin Nancy):

 

Then there was this photo of my mother and her older sister Evelyn, circa 1918.

And in keeping with my curmudgeon status, i think we have a country of folks who seem committed to mass schadenfreude.

i continue to apologize for not directly responding to folks who have commented on my posts here. i will. i will. Thanks.

Good night.

Watermelon Revolution, BAH!

Occasionally, Maureen will find some packaged watermelon at Ralph’s, which is what folks out in the Southwest corner call Kroger’s.

She likes to serve it with prosciutto and some fancy garnishes to guests for an appetizer before dinner. Ain’t bad. She also has been known to chop it up into cubes and serve it other fruits, even at breakfast. Ain’t bad.

There are a couple of other things she does with it, and…it ain’t bad.

Ain’t watermelon to me. i don’t quite know what to call it.

Watermelon has a history in my family. i have a photo to prove it:

Those two folks chowing down are my grandmother, Katherine Webster Prichard and my grandfather Joe Blythe Prichard in their yard off of Hunter’s Point Pike. Judging my Aunt Evelyn’s age looking upon this feasting, i’m guessing this was about 1920 (the photo comes from a bunch my cousin Nancy Schwarze sent me several years ago; Nancy is Aunt Evelyn’s daughter).

My father got involved in watermelons. When he was in high school, he and a bunch of his buddies, and knowing those guys, albeit much later, i wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Horn Hankins was in on it, although Mister Hankins was a year or two ahead of these two. i’m betting the ring leader of the escapade was H.M. Byars. Only H.M. was mentioned by name when my father told this tale to me. He did not divulged the names of the others. It was watermelon season, probably September when they drove out to the Bostick Farm at the corner of Hickory Ridge Road and Blair Lane, coincidentally across Blair Lane from the farm of my great uncle and aunt, Wynn (“Papa” to me, siblings, and a bunch of cousins) and Corrine Prichard.

The gang parked their vehicles far enough away they would not be detected by the Bostick’s in their farm house. They made their way to garden and plucked a bunch of watermelons. They carried their stash into the woods, sat down, cut the melons with their pocket knives and dug in. Bad idea. They misjudged the state of the watermelons in the dark and the meat was still green. They had ruined a substantial bunch of ripening but not ripe watermelons.

The only good part of this story is they didn’t get caught.

When i was growing up, i don’t think packaged watermelon slices existed, and i’m sure they weren’t wrapped in plastic if they did exist. And they certainly weren’t available all year round, nor to my knowledge was there a seedless watermelon on earth.

When we ate watermelon, the whole melon was all that was available. So someone would slice the melons into wedges like the ones in the photo of my grandparents. The diners would head outside because you didn’t eat a watermelon in the house. Why? These babies had seeds up the gumpstump. Lots of seeds. And my mother was not going to have a bunch of kids spitting watermelon seeds all over of her house.

Therefore, we would grab our slices and head outside. We sat on chairs or blankets or the ground like my grandparents. We passed the salt shaker cause we ate our wonderful juicy watermelons with salt to taste. My taste of salt was always plentiful, and i would beg for another slice, with salt of course.

So when Maureen prepares some of those fancy watermelon things, i hope she doesn’t notice my raised eyebrow like my father would raise his when he was exposed to something questionable in his opinion. My mother’s raised eyebrow is the stuff of legend, and i would try to shrink into the wallpaper if her raised eyebrow was directed at something i did or said.

But after my clandestine eyebrow raising goes unnoticed (hopefully), i dig into Maureen’s watermelon extravaganzas. They really are good, tasty. But i long for those that came as whole melons and i want to go out in the backyard with a slice and chomp down.

It still wouldn’t be as much fun: no seeds to spit.

Ruminations on an Easter Afternoon

Easter has changed for us.

No more egg hunts. We didn’t go to church.

The three of us went to our wonderful French restaurant, Et Voilà, for a late brunch. They have done a great job taking a small parking lot in the back to give off the mood of an outdoor French café. COVID you understand. Bloody Mary for me, fu fu drinks for Maureen and Sarah, coffee. Short rib hash for Sarah, Lamb hash for Maureen. Being less capable in French than the two of them, i ordered quiche lorraine because there is no way i would properly pronounce “croque madame.”

Wonderful. Just flat wonderful.

En route, we passed several churches holding services outside. You know, that COVID thing. It engendered my recall of past Easters back home.

For Sarah, i recalled the community joint churches Sunrise Service, created by the Kiwanis Club as George Harding admonished me to get right when i omitted that detail from a Lebanon Democrat column. 7:00 a.m. Sarah wondered why it wasn’t at sunrise. i opined they probably couldn’t get all the church goers up for sunrise. Castle Heights. McFadden Auditorium. The Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Church of Christ ministers were arrayed on the steps behind the speaker’s platform. That’s the way i remember it, but hey, it was 1950. i was six years old.

And this six-year old was dressed to the nines. He had on a white suit with shorts and a white shirt with an open-neck collar. His hair was slicked and parted perfectly. His four-year old sister Martha was in his father’s lap. His year-old brother Joe was in his mother’s arms. The metal folding chairs were white.

He remembers that all of the preachers participated in the service. Ergo, it was a long service. He remembers they sang those high falutin’ hymns like “Holy, Holy, Holy,” not the gospels he already had come to love. But most of all, he remembers how cold those seats were on his legs not covered by the shorts. It was almost painful. But it was a beautiful service in the cold sun of Easter morning.

After we returned home this morning, i thought about that incredible man, the Son of God, and how we have manipulated his messages of peace and good will toward men into many other things that ignore our relationships with other humans.

i said a prayer. Just me. Just mine. No holier than thou stuff. No claim to being right. Just praying for what i think Easter is all about. Really.

But then, i went back to work. Editing. A pain. Sometimes scary. Sometimes too revealing of me since it’s a memoir. Over six hours all told today.

But i stopped, worked on some menial tasks. i like menial tasks. Sometimes when i do one well, like cleaning the outdoor furniture or washing the dishes or tightening some screws on some new electronic marvel that abjures the essence of quality for a quick sale at a price determined for lining the pockets of the manufacturers or their angels, now called entrepreneurs or middle men, i feel as i have reached Maslow’s highest level of self-actualization.

Silly me: it’s what makes our world go round.

But i am an old curmudgeon. And somewhere in the middle of this, i realized i was cultivated for rebelling against planned obsolesce even while i am a living example of it.

You see, i remember that time back on Castle Heights Avenue about the time i went to that community Easter Sunrise Service. It was before the folks built on with a breakfast room, a den, an upstairs master bedroom, and a grand carport. Back then, it was a back porch, small i grant you, screened in. Now, if you haven’t heard, it rains back home. Did then too. So on rainy days when we couldn’t go out in shorts, shirtless, and barefoot, we played on the porch.

And on that porch was my little wooden red wagon, not filled with windup or battery powered plastic toys. Not even the teddy bear whose head was sawed off with my toy carpenter tools. No, that little wagon was filled with…blocks of wood, waste from Uncle Snooks construction business with his brother, Ben Hall who lived on a magic farm out on Trousdale Ferry Pike.

The blocks were just small chunks, pieces cut off from studs and assorted cuts from house building. But they were a world of imagination for us.

We built the Tower of Babel. Must have been: we never finished it; it would always fall down. We built forts, ranch houses with fences for the corrals, we built railroad stations. And of course, with Martha there, we built doll houses.

Of course, i don’t remember how many times we played with those blocks of wood, or how long we played on that little porch in that little piece of innocence it that little town. But it was, no, is magic. Uncle Snooks, a farmer in the war, stayed at home and treated me (and others) like the son or daughter he never had. He gave me my first football. He gave me the gift of his laughter and allowed us to make fun of him.

But the greatest gift he ever gave me were those blocks of wood, which we turned into fairy tales on that back porch in the rain.

Sitting under the shade umbrella in the late afternoon of the Southwest corner, my ruminations made Easter seem just right.

have you happened to see

have you happened to see
my dreams wandering by
recently?
i lost them somewhere
sometime ago
although
i really don’t know why or when
they went on their own way
perhaps
people took them away
from me
showing me
my dreams did not exist
because
those folks would not allow
goodness
humanity
to overcome
fear greed hate
perhaps even the do gooders
took them with their own kind of hate
victorians in disguise in the new times
wanting to make all is well
when it will never be all is well
or
perhaps
my dreams just got tired
of an old man
knowing too much
learning through the years
his dreams could not exist
knowledge would not allow them in
so
they went away
somewhere
someway
somehow
sometime ago
but
if you happen across my dreams
please send them back to me
i need them for my sanity.

Memories

Today (begun last night, Sunday, March 21, 2021) on the “If You Grew Up in Lebanon (TN)…” Facebook group, Elizabeth Spears asked about that wonderful mansion on the corner of Castle Heights Avenue (now with “North” added) and West Main. Responses explained it was the “Mitchell House” and one included a photo of the majestic place.

i could not help but respond. Now when i should be finishing some editing on my book or closing up shop, i am compelled to meet the obligation i created in that response.

My response:

A number of years ago when Danny Evins had bought the Mitchell House and made it the titular headquarters for Cracker Barrel, my mother, Estelle Jewell, wrote a brief essay and i took it to one of the PR folks with an office there. i just ran across her essay. i intended to give it to the City of Lebanon and the Wilson County archives but was not looking for it when i found it, just ran across it while shuffling papers. She played with David Mitchell when they were around five or six years old in that house in the early 1920’s. She also points out that her mother, my grandmother, Katherine Prichard, was a Heights housemother who had up to 20 goobers under her charge from 1958 until around 1971. i will post the link to my comments and her essay on my website soon.

And with no further ado, here is Mother’s essay:

Memories of the Mitchell House
by Estelle Jewell

As I go down West Main Street and see the restoring of the Mitchell House, it brings some vivid memories of my attachment to that house.

I was about four or five years old and David Mitchell was about a year older. After his mother died, his father brought his grandparents here to live and look after his children. They were Rev. and Mrs. Arthur Smith and had lived in Florida. Mr. Mitchell travelled a lot on business and the Smith’s live in the Mitchell house. I don’t remember much about the sister.

The Smith’s came to our church, and in those days people did visiting. My Grandfather was a retired Methodist minister and so was Rev. Smith. My grandparents lived about a mile from town on Hunter’s Point Pike (their farm was on the southwest corner of where Castle Heights Avenue now intersects with US 231 and is where Al’s Foodmart is now located). He decided one  day to go visit the Smith’s and asked me to go with them as they had this grandson about my age. My grandfather, grandmother, and I went in the horse and buggy to visit. David and I had a good time playing. Then, the Smith’s asked me to come back and spend the day after that. David had a “Nanny” (I think her name was Mrs. Lawson). I went back to spend the day and the “Nanny” took us up to the play room on the third floor. I had never seen that many play things (even in a store). Most any thing you ever heard of he had. I can’t remember much about lunch but I did have to go to the bathroom. I think they had one for every bedroom and it amazed me because they all had standup bathroom scales. The “Nanny” took us to the library to read to us. Then she let us bring a car (the kind you pedaled with your feet) and a tricycle and a scooter down to the front porch to ride. Of course, I had never ridden any of them before but David let me try and I had a good time.

Later on the Smith’s wanted to move back to Florida and I guess they took the children with them. I wish I could have met him when he came back to Lebanon, but in 1954, I was working and had three children and a husband so was too busy to get there. When he returned in 1994, I was either out of town or was sick and didn’t get there then. But that house and all it’s grandeur and those play things I have thought about many a time.

And then, in 1958, Col. Armstrong hired my Mother as a house mother for some grade school boys, and she lived on the second floor of the Mitchell house with about 20 – 6th, 7th, and 8th grade boys. So I was in and out of there two or three times a week. She worked for Castle Heights for about 13 years.

This may not interest people, but for a small girl it was a wonderful experience.

Also part of the Castle Heights history, both of my boys attended their high school days there.

//Estelle Prichard Jewell//

My thoughts:

That wonderful place, Castle Heights Military Academy, on the Hilltop is gone, quietly faded away in 1987.

Only a few of the buildings remain: Main is now the city’s administrative office. Colonel Ingram’s home as Commandant is owned by the Castle Heights Alumni Association, i think. The superintendent’s home is now Sammy B’s Restaurant.

The Rutherford Parks Library (where i spent an incredible amount of time in the stacks on the second level reading everything that wasn’t a homework assignment and still remember how moved I was by James H. Street’s The Biscuit Eater and Mika Waltari’s The Estruscan) is now the Castle Heights Military Academy Museum and Archives.

And of course, there is the round guard house  near the Mitchell House. Danny Evins had a circle nearby with the name of graduates and their graduation year on the bricks of the circle.

A goal post and a scoreboard in the back of the lot where Wilson County Bank and Trust’s Operations Center now stands is all that remains of the football, soccer,  and track field which was also the parade grounds where the cadet battalion would march down from Main on Sunday afternoons (along with other big events), march onto the field. The band would perform and then the drill team would put on a show with the parade concluding with the battalion “passing in review” before the gathered guests on the commander, his staff, the honored guests on the large podium, and friends, family, and town folks in the stands.

(i must admit i am in the Southwest corner and haven’t been home in more than two years. So my recounting of what remains of Heights is somewhat spotty. i hope i have gotten most of it correct.

i should add my only regret my sister Martha was not able to attend because it was a boy’s prep school when we were in school. i, like my brother, and so many others profited from the learning, the discipline, and the camaraderie of the corps available there. i wish Martha had the same opportunity.

As we have said many times: “Hail, Castle Heights!”

The Mitchell House (borrowed from The Wilson Post article of May 15, 2019)

Hey, i Still Have Sports (at least the writing part) in My Blood

A good idea but ain’t gonna happen

i’m not going to watch college football in the Spring, even if it is being played because of COVID.

i am pretty much done with March Madness after my Aztecs were completely embarrassed by Syracuse.

After all, i can watch Vandy baseball, and they are, as Coach Creekmore said, impressive.

Even though my ole basketball buddy from one-on-one for hours after everyone else had gone home from school, Mike Dixon, has sent me an article declaring the Vandy Boys are the equivalent of the Yankee dynasty — the text of that article as it appeared on the PL+ website is included below, i’m not going to announce their CWS appearance yet, as there is this nasty thing called the “super regional,” which has knocked out many good teams before the CWS. No, i’m not yet ready to crown the boys on West End the champs.

But boy, am i glad i can watch almost every game courtesy of the sports web, especially the SEC network.

i just wanted to share something i wish were true at many other institutions of higher (sic) learning.

Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune sports section had an article on the back page written by Don Norcross about University of San Diego’s “Toreros” football team.

The Toreros play their football in the Pioneer Football League in the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS. The PFL is playing this spring because of COVID. USD is 2-0 in this six-game spring season. More impressive and the headline subject of the article is the team has won 39 straight league games. And the reason i started this post is that USD the only team in the conference that does not give football scholarships — Norcross states the Toreros are the only FCS non-scholarship program, but i need to check on that more thoroughly before agreeing.

Still, i was struck by that. Imagine a college football team winning for that long without giving out football scholarships against teams that have as many as 63 scholarships.

i won’t get on my Quixote rant here about college athletics. i recognize such rages will have no effect. But for me, it is encouraging to know that some colleges can have real, no kidding, student/athlete programs that succeed.

On that note, i still think Vandy is trying to do it the right way with their entire athletic program. It is succeeding in nearly all programs except it remains a very tough road for football and is likely to continue that way, and i think the jury remains out on basketball.

But baseball? Just wow. Just flat wow. Here’s that article:

(PL+ Web Site)

Vanderbilt Dynasty: There’s a baseball factory in Nashville churning out big leaguers
by Mitch Bannnon

As Quincy Hamilton walked back to the dugout his Wright State teammate, Tyler Black, stopped him for some guidance — any advice that would save Black from the same walk moments later.

The 6’5” pitcher who had just struck Hamilton out stalked the mound in wait of his next victim. Hamilton’s advice may have been good, but it didn’t help. Black worked the count full, treading water for seven pitches, but on the eighth he was done in by the high heater.

It was the third batter Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker sent right back to the dugout in the opening inning, and he’d add five more Ks in the 14-1 Commodores win. A few hours later, in the second half of the season-opening double header, his teammate Jack Leiter bested him — 6.0 IP, 1 H, 8 K, 0 BB.

Rocker and Leiter head the best rotation, on the best team, from the best program in college baseball. The 2021 Vanderbilt squad is filled with not just college stars, but future big league aces (yes, plural), all star outfielders, and MLB starting catchers. Simply put, the current iteration of Vandy baseball is an absolute wagon.

There is a very real chance over 25 percent of the MLB Draft’s top five picks in the next three years will be Commodores. They have FanGraphs’ No. 6 player in the 2023 class, No. 4 in the 2022, and Rocker and Leiter are projected first and second overall picks in the 2021 class.

Through 14 games, Rocker has a 0.00 ERA, .696 WHIP, and a 13.3 K/ 9. Leiter lags behind with a .45 ERA, .850 WHIP, and 14.9 K/9 in 20 IP. Rocker has allowed one run all season and they are both undefeated, but that is essentially a given for the 12-2 Commodores.

In his third start of the season, Leiter twisted on the mound and stared downward after his 26th pitch against University of Illinois-Chicago. The 20-year-old reached for the brim of his cap and walked towards the dugout, upset with himself. His catcher, Maxwell Romero Jr., met Leiter at the third base line and slapped him on the backside. Leiter was frustrated he had walked two batters in the inning (no runners scored and he struck out the side).

Leiter is the lightning to Rocker’s thunder. He is listed at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, features a four pitch mix, and has drawn comparisons to Sonny Gray. At 21-years-old, Rocker is 6’5″ and 250 pounds. He touches 98 mph with his fastball and has earned 65+ grades on his late-breaking slider. Vanderbilt’s coach Tim Corbin likened Rocker to David Price.

Freshman swingman Christian Little has started only two games this season, but is currently FanGraphs’ 6th-ranked player in the 2023 draft class and Vandy’s SP3. The Commodores rely on Rocker/Leiter to anchor the country’s seventh ranked pitching staff, but on days they don’t pitch it falls on the offense.

Of program’s with at least 400 AB this year, Vanderbilt has the highest SLG%, fourth-highest OBP, and seventh AVG. They also lead the country in stolen base percentage (minimum 20 SB) with a 95% success-rate.

On March 13, Oklahoma State brought in Elliot Tucker to pitch the 8th inning against Vandy. The Commodores had scored 12 runs in the games’ first seven innings and led by 10, but with bases loaded freshman Jack O’Dowd dug in for more. OSU’s Tucker stepped into a pitch, cocking his wrist at the back of his delivery before driving toward the plate. O’Dowd was all over it, turning on the hanging off speed pitch and sending it over the right field wall. Tucker skipped off the mound as two runs scored — 14-2 Vandy. Three pitches later and Troy LaNeve’s oppo shot put the Commodores up 15, and ended Tucker’s day before he could record an out. Vanderbilt ultimately beat the No. 13 team in the country 18-4, the only game Oklahoma State has allowed over six runs this year.
The Commodore offense features future big league catcher Jack Bulger and outfielder Enrique Bradfield, but, somehow, it could’ve been even better. Robert Hassell III and Pete Crow-Armstrong, outfielders taken eighth and 19th in the 2020 MLB draft, were committed to play for Vanderbilt this year.

High signing bonuses lured the top prospects away from the newly expanded (for $13 million) Vanderbilt athletic facility. It is a Major League-caliber complex with 30,000 square feet of cardio studios, workout rooms, fueling stations, and walls of jerseys from former Commodores who have played in the big leagues.

Walker Buehler and Sonny Gray are front-and-center, but there is room for more. Maybe Austin Martin, one of the two Vandy grads currently in MLB.com’s top 25 prospects, will be next. In a few years it could be Leiter or Rocker. Or maybe it will be one of the seven top 100 recruits already committed to join the program in 2022.

It’s not a question of if but who, because the Vanderbilt baseball factory shows no signs of stopping.

Thoughts of a Curmudgeon

The world keeps changing…and i don’t.

i think and therefore i put those thoughts i can down here. It is a privilege of old curmudgeons. If nothing else, being able to record what i want to say gives me tolerance. i don’t damn those folks who record things that don’t agree with my point of view.

But while i’ve been working on my book in the closing stages, i have continued to think. A couple of those thoughts have been rambling around in this old head for a week or so. Here they are:

Free. Man, it felt like we were free. Maureen and i had our second covid vaccinations over two weeks ago. In celebration of that and also as her birthday gift to me, we spent a day vacation (nah, i ain’t shortening to the new faddish “daycation”) at the Rancho Bernardo Inn with our close friends, Pete and Nancy Toennies. We had a nice dinner, a good night’s sleep away from home, a great breakfast on the veranda, a fun round of golf (where Pete pointed out one of my 468,324 faults, which helped my game a bit…now, i just have to figure out how to correct the other 468,323 faults. We concluded the escape with a lovely late lunch on the veranda again in Southwest corner weather made to order.

You know what? It was like they let us out of our cage. Now, being the age i am i don’t think this sequestering in place has had the nasty impact on me as others. To start, after the first couple of months, we could play golf. Then, there is the book thing, and that kept me busy. and Maureen and i watched the Padres play baseball, which is our nightly event during the baseball season, and, of course, i have somewhere in the vicinity of two gazillion honey-dos to accomplish around the house. The doldrums were further ameliorated by supporting our local dining favorites with pickup, take-out meals, or whatever you call them. So i was really okay.

But that one night outing early this week made me feel like Clint Eastwood escaping from Alcatraz (without that swimming thing).

It gave me hope.

i also, because of my advanced age, have two other advantages: 1) i don’t have to go to work, and 2) i can sit for hours just remembering things that have happened over the first seventy-seven years. If i can’t just sit there and call them up, i can go to photos, old notes, and a bunch of things around this house that relate back to many things that give me pleasure. A few are tender moments.

i had one of those recalls this weekends. i would like to share it.

It happened about eleven and half years ago (if i added and subtracted correctly, which is often called into question: i lost that skill a number of years ago). i have taken two columns i wrote for The Lebanon Democrat, condensed them, and added what was to me one of the most tender moments i have experienced.

My father, Jimmy Jewell, was the Grand Marshall of Lebanon’s Veteran’s Day parade. “Coach” JB Leftwich, and Jim Henderson, LCOL,  USAF, retired, had a lot to do with Daddy being so honored. His children were there, and the one grandchild, Tommy Duff and his mother, rode in the back seat of Jay White’s 1921 Ford “Hack” at the head of the parade with Daddy in the shotgun seat (i thank the oaters for it being called that) beside Jay.

Brother Joe and i went with them to the parade assembly point on South Greenwood next to the First Presbyterian Church on West Main. Joe and i saw them embark on the hack and then went back home to pick up my mother. Estelle was experiencing some significant medical problems. So we loaded up the car with her wheelchair and put her in the back seat. Because of the parade, we drove a circuitous route to the gravel parking lot behind Henderson’s Flower Shop.

An aside (old farts have the privilege of wandering off the original story): The front parking brought memories of my driving Wilson Denny’s claimed utility motor cart owned by the city’s Public Works. On my first day of summer work for Public works, Jim “Beetle” Harding and i took the cart, barely accommodating for two folks,  and answered a help call, pulling a sizable dead dog out from under a house and taking it to the city dump. Jim, who began working the week before i did,  had driven to the house and the dump. He offered the driving to me back to the public works yard. i readily agreed. i was driving down main street and crossed. the railroad tracks just over a block from the square. The motor cart jumped up when it hit the rails and i lost control. We crashed into the fire hydrant in front of the flower shop. Beetle hit the frame for the roof and plastic windshield. i took a somersault through the windshield and landed on the other side of the hydrant. When i woke up, a blond nurse who was in the shop buying flowers had come out to help and she held my head in her lap. i thought she was an angel and i had gone to heaven. We rode to McFarland Hospital in the ambulance. Beetle got the worst of it, with stitches on his eye and forehead. They picked stuff out of my face and  put a clamp on my eyebrow. Lucky.

But on this day, Joe and i pushed Mother in her wheelchair to the sidewalk. The Hendersons brought out a couple of blankets to keep her warm.

Joe and i stood behind Mother as the parade approached, the hack in the lead. My father was waving and smiling and spending a great deal of his time standing on the running board, holding on to the roof with his left hand and waving with his right.

As the hack approached the tracks with the high school band right behind playing its marching songs, my father directed Jay to stop the Hack, the band, and the entire parade. He hopped off the running board, came across the street, reached down, held my mother’s hand, and kissed her.

He went back to the Hack and the parade resumed. It ran through the square up to the new  county court house where a very nice ceremony was held. As my father went back to his role as Grand Marshall, i teared up as i am tearing up now as i write.

It was the best tender moment.

And there are special moments i can remember, like the night before the parade.

When supper rolled around on Castlewood Lane, the original family of five sat at the same round oak table where we sat over fifty years ago. We could not remember when just the five of us had been together since those meals in the breakfast room on Castle Heights Avenue. We have gathered many times since, but a spouse, another relative, a friend or a next-generation member was with us.

The fare: meatloaf, fried squash, string beans with fresh onions, coleslaw, and biscuits with ice tea and chocolate pie for dessert (Grandma Specials, I call them). 

Our family has been particularly blessed. There are not many families with three children born in the 1940s who can sit down and have a meal together just as they did over a half-century ago.

Our parents are gone now. The five us did not have another meal together without other loved ones in attendance. That meal is a special memory.

i hope everyone reading this returns to a more normal life and get out to some place special. And i hope you too have special moments to remember during the hard times.

Another Rant About Sports Commentators

Okay, sports commentators, i know you think you are cool and impressive and wish to wow the watchers of listeners with your expansive vocabularies (not!). But dammit, here are the definitions of two words you use excessively and inappropriately (out of lord knows how many). Dammit, look it up. The guys you stole it from aren’t the linguistic wizards you think they are, and it ain’t cool to show you can be stupid.

verticality – position at right angles to the horizon. verticalness, erectness, uprightness. spatial relation, position – the spatial property of a place where or way in which something is situated; “the position of the hands on the clock”; “he specified the spatial relations of every piece of furniture on the stage

physicality: 
 1) fact of relating to the body as opposed to the mind; physical presence.
“there’s an emphasis on the physicality of the actors”
2) involvement of a lot of bodily contact or activity.
“the intense physicality of a dancer’s life”

Old Horizons Revisited

In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t a big deal. And the more i think about it, it should not have been such a big deal to me either,.

But it was. Meant the world to me. Still won’t be able to express my feelings adequately here.

Last week, Steve and Maria Frailey invited Maureen and me to join them on their sailboat Saturday. With both of us having our second round of COVID vaccinations, we quickly accepted.

We arrived at the Southwestern Yacht Club in Point Loma almost exactly (now that’s oxymoronic but makes sense to me) at noon. We found the new berth, boarded their new boat, the Piccolina, and shortly afterward maneuvered out of the yacht basin. Steve offered me the chance to take the helm. i readily accepted.

Now, i have sailed a bit and know some basics. i crewed quite a bit with my buddy J.D. Waits in the early 80’s, but JD knew how to sail, and i learned from him. i was an apprentice. i have also sailed a few times with Alan Hicks and, of course, Steve.

On all of those occasions where i had the helm, i found myself, hesitant, a bit unsure. It was like my first several years conning Navy ships. Not confident enough to feel comfortable. This was a good thing during my time as a junior officer in that i was extremely conservative and would consult the captain when i was unsure of the situation. It served me well. Then, when i reported aboard the USS Luce (DLG-7) in 1972, somewhere in the middle of that Mediterranean deployment, i became a. good ship handler, not just a safe one.

We sailed out of San Diego Bay past Point Loma: the open sea. The winds had been predicted to be about ten knots. But past the point, they ranged from 15 to 20 and gusted to about 22. As a result, the seas were a bit rough and confused.

We passed the sea buoy and sailed about three miles before turning around. It was really a bit too rough to be enjoyable for everyone. Maureen was a bit queasy, but being a trouper, she sat in the catbird seat, looked at the horizon, and fared well.

Steve took the helm for the sail back in, but when we entered the channel, he gave me the helm once again. i sailed down into the bay, around North Island and to the the port’s marina adjacent to the Coast Guard station where Steve took over to maneuver through the marina and along the San Diego city shoreline to the Navy museum USS Midway.

Considering the time, Steve announced we should go to power to get back to the yacht club at a decent time. Once again, i had the helm. i kept it until we arrived back at the basin where Steve took us into the berth.

It was an incredibly beautiful sail. In decent weather, sailing around in the Southwest corner, it alway is. It was exhilarating to be with old friends once again.

But somewhere in the beginning of my taking the helm, i got that confidence back. Of course, i had one of the best mariners i’ve ever met to rely on. But i knew i could do it and even instinctively realized what he was doing with the sails and why.

There was this feeling of connecting with the sea, that beautiful, awesome, and sometimes frightening lady that i have loved for a great portion of my life.

Oh, i’m far from being a good sailor of a sailboat. Perhaps the feelings i had were just a connection to a memory of my days at sea.

Doesn’t matter. i felt like i haven’t felt in a long time. i was a mariner, a sea dog, and Saturday, i felt like i was again.

Thank you, Steve and Maria. It was a good feeling this old man got to revisit. Worth more than i can ever adequately express.