A Road Trip Well Worth Taken

851 miles. 70 hours, 30 minutes. A road trip. An old man.

One of the better road trips in the last half dozen years or so, especially for an old man.

Friday, an hour before daybreak. The rain was abating, creating a sense of eerie beauty in the lights of the freeways early morning traffic, which was slowly beginning to build headed west as i headed east out of town.

i settled in for the drive. It would be five-and-a half hours with one stop, a bit shy of 400 miles. i have taken this road many, many times. Sometimes when on the way to see someone east of San Diego proper, i have felt the urge to just keep on going east, heading home on the long, lonesome highway. But i have reigned it in. On this trip, the reigning will have to occur in the middle of southern Arizona.

It would be a while before i got out of the county. One of the biggest differences to me between back home, back East actually, and the Southwest corner is the size of the counties. Back home, Wilson County is 580 square miles and roughly 44 miles across. San Diego County is  4,526 square miles and approximately 90 miles across.  To get to Arizona, i cross two counties, San Diego and Imperial, slightly over 100 miles.

Interstate 8 rises slowly from the Pacific out of the Southwest Corner. The mist on the mountains is eerie. Triple blades of one wine vane for creating electricity looms above me on the mountain to the left, a white silhouette in the gray smoky mist. Symbolic? i don’t know but beautiful, unique somehow making a statement to the old man in the car. The rain had cleared and dawn was singing as i hit Pine Valley at the peak of the drive through the Laguna Mountains, now mostly tribal lands of the Kumeyaay, and the vista of Imperial Valley shone through pink hue of the clouds of morning. “Red at night, sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning” was not applicable in this desert. The sun had hit its full chariot ride swinging low over Mexico as i descended the S-curves into the wind vane farms. Alabaster tri-wings of vanes rotate in the beams of sunrise. Later, the next source of power, solar panels, possibly a thousand acres of them in their geometric solidarity, gleaming in their collection of power. Then the valley gave way to its old habits, fields and fields and fields of agriculture people with those who make a living with their backs and hands and amongst them cattle upon cattle pens and i wondering what will jump to next to save our planets and how those cows don’t have a good future either way for as my friend Marty Linville explained to one tree-hugger who was begging to save the cows by not eating beef or buying dairy products or leather goods that they will be killing all the cows for there are not any farmers or ranchers around who are going to keep those cows as pets.

And past El Centro into the sand dunes, lovely folds of the shifting whispering sand as Johnny Cash intoned, and they are mysterious as they loom with shadows from their shifting but sullied by more RV’s and sand dunes one can count, motorized adventure (?). Hmm. Not for me, no, not for me but obviously a big deal and a big investment for some folks who come out here in unbearable heat and rock and roll around in the buggies to collect sand on their skin to only be washed off with a trickle shower of an RV. Not knocking it if you like it, just don’t understand why you don’t just admire the beauty of a true sand desert or find your adventure trekking across the dunes.

And then Yuma, another destination i don’t quite understand.  A metropolis in the desert. Where oh where is the water i beg. And then there is Arizona, the southern part, a different kind of desert. Agriculture, the big kind, so far as the eye can see. Hamlets, small homes in the desert, damn near self sufficient except for the water, i think. Shacks, out buildings. No shade. Fields and fields and then there’s Gila Bend (a collection of stories for me later). And i wonder again why those folks in those wagons pulled by mules had the thought of stopping here and settling. On and on through cacti and mesa, and rising rocks, all magnificent in their strange, lonesome way.

i pull in the expansive, winding, sign confusing maze of the Phoenix airport. Trip out over. i see Jim Hicks outside in Terminal Four.

The adventure begins. We find a place for lunch, which is pretty close to just right. Small table outside and Jim and i catch up. Alan is picked up at the maze later and we do about six loops trying to get out of the maze. Make it. And then on to our purpose for being in this megalopolis in such a strange place for one. Snowbirds they call the folks who thrive here in the winter to escape the meat of winter back home up north. We are going to a ballgame, not one but three.

Vanderbilt is here to play baseball. Our glue…or least a reason to be glued. Alan and i started this tradition a decade ago. The ‘Dores baseball team swings out west each February or March to play in a more hospitable clime than Nashville this time of year. We have had as many as eight join the tradition, Jim and Cy Fraser being the most frequent additions to the weekend. This year the Commodores, rated the tops, win two of three against some of the best programs in the country, losing to TCU on Sunday to avoid the streak.

These gatherings are all special to me. This one was one of the best. Three old men go back a half-century and go on just as they used to except the jokes are about old men now. We laugh, we enjoy the games. We are us.

Then it’s over. Jim heads out early, headed back east. Alan and i close it out and i drop him off in the maze. Head home, the strange beauty of the strange land traversed once more. i arrive home early afternoon Monday and nap for a half hour. i sleep that night for nine, an almost never event. i nap for two today. i think i’m back to normal except rejuvenated. Old.

This post was going to be an in-depth spiel about the trio and our antics. In writing, it took another turn. Then, i decided i would keep most of the experience to the three of us among us. Old men, young boys together having fun like it ain’t ever going to stop. In the middle of the last game Sunday, the other guy who was supposed to join us but couldn’t due to family matters called me. i told Cy we were at the game and i was critiquing Alan’s score keeping. Cy laughed and said, “You guys sound like you are old men.” He’s right, of course. He is too.

But i don’t think there are a bunch of old men who keep doing crazy things quite the way we do. Perhaps i’m wrong. Don’t care. This is us.

i have mixed emotions about fraternities in college. As with damn near every organization, there are good things and there are bad things. But at this advanced stage of my life, Kappa Sigma fraternity brought me together with a bunch of guys who i know almost as well as myself, and no life-changing events, no political or religious beliefs keep us from being brothers. My Vanderbilt time cannot be considered successful. The end was one of the most devastating moments in my life, almost as bad as losing my daughter through a divorce. But Vanderbilt gave me these friends for life, these brothers.

Thanks, Alan and Jim for the weekend. Thanks, Vanderbilt Commodores for the impetus to make it happen. And thanks to all my other brothers for being you. AEKDB.

Go ‘Dores.


A Story About Loss i Hope Helps Someone

My father-in-law, Homer Ray Boggs (he hated “Homer”) was more than a father-in-law. He was one of my best friends. We had a lot of great times together with and without Maureen and Sarah.

Ray died September 12, 1992 after a year-long bout with cancer of the esophagus. Being Mister Mom, i had the time to walk with him through most of that year including his treatment. i spent his last coherent night and day with him before the morphine gave him a painless end.

He and i were about as close as two men connected by one’s daughter and one’s wife could get. i also was the executor of his estate and with the help of Maureen and his son Danny, made all of the arrangements for his cremation and life celebration.

Because of my duties immediately after his death, i held it together: too many things to get done and too many people to tend to.

Danny and i went to Singing Hills golf course to arrange for spreading Ray’s ashes on the hole where Ray had gotten his first of six hole-in-ones, Oak Glen #6. Danny was walking ahead to the pro shop when we passed the 18th on the executive Pine Glen course where Ray played his last round with our friend Jim Hileman and me two weeks before he passed

i felt a lump in my throat, could feel the tears welling up with the emotion coming over me. i stopped, looked at the fairway, and it was like a voice talking inside my head. The voice told me to deal with Ray’s passing as Ray would want me to act. i knew how Ray would have wanted me to act. Crying and becoming emotional were not what he would have wanted me to do. He would have wanted me to rejoice at the time we had together, to laugh and share fun and warm memories.

The tears never got outside. i regained my composure and made it through the immediate events and the longer estate closing minutiae calmly and always feeling good about Ray’s and my times together.

i am sure Ray was glad i did. i think he’s still smiling.

i’ve had to deal with that a number of times since and it worked pretty well. i also have related this story to friends and family when they suffered such a loss. I hope it helped them.

i’m posting this here because i’m hoping it might offer others some solace in considering how to deal with a loss of a friend, relative, or loved one.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

A Story from the Jewell’s of Yesteryear

i posted two photos on Facebook Monday. i had them scanned by a lady who works hard at her profession. The photos were of my great grandparents, Hiram (Buddy) Carpenter Jewell and his wife, Sarah. i believe they were taken in the 1870’s.

i posted them on Facebook so relatives in the Jewell line could have access as these photos were not included in The Jewell Book, a large volume collected by Dr. Harold Jewell and his wife Mary Lee Snider Jewell. Published in 1994, Dr. Jewell and Mary sought information from all family members they could find and traced the lineage of our Jewell family from the earliest settlers in this country for creating this rather unique book.

When i entered the Facebook post, Teresa Steward Deathridge responded with “Share the stories!” This is my first attempt to do that for Teresa and family members.

i have been told by one of my parents or learned from some source i don’t remember, we come from a sheriff in England around the 1400’s, i think. It was from this family where a “Jewell” crest originated. i hope to research this and find out what each part represents. i am perplexed about the upside down white bird might mean. But this is only a preamble to the first of my “Jewell” stories here.

Hiram Carpenter “Buddy” Jewell was born on Knight’s Creek near Statesville, Tennessee in 1844. In 1861, he enlisted in Smith’s 2nd Tennessee Calvary for a year of service. The next year, he re-enlisted with Company D in the 8th (Smith again) Calvary of Tennessee in Bardstown, Kentucky and served until he was “paroled” at the end of the war.

While in Kentucky, he met a woman who became pregnant by him. Here the story gets a little hazy. i’m not sure if Buddy knew she was pregnant. Regardless when he was mustered out, he returned to Statesville and became a farmer. The Jewell Book has a curious paragraph, which would be a puzzle except my parents told me their version of the story. As usual, i got it a little confused, but with the help of their recounting and The Jewell Book, i think i’ve got it about right.

The curious paragraph read:

His (Hiram’s) oldest son, John Jay Jewell, was born to William Carpenter and Mary Jane Sutton (a strange wording and even stranger considering William’s last name and Hiram’s middle name were the same) in Kentucky Aug. 10, 1862 (This would indicate Buddy met Mary Jane during his first enlistment and makes me wonder if he stayed another three years why they didn’t marry). John Jay returned to Tenn. at an early age and became a merchant, lawyer, and outstanding citizen in the Statesville community.

My parents expanded on this curious paragraph with an explanation. After Hiram and Sarah were married, they received word about Mary Jane being extremely ill and help was needed. Sarah directed Buddy to go to Kentucky and bring back the ill Mary Jane and the son, John Jay.

Questions abound:

Who alerted Buddy and Sarah to the crisis? Where was William Carpenter, the father, at least the one listed in the curious paragraph? Did Buddy tell Sarah beforehand of the tryst (?) he had with Mary and the son born out of wedlock?

The answers to my questions matters little compared to what my parents told me. Buddy brought the two back from Kentucky to Statesville. Sarah tended to the ill Mary until Mary’s death — i could not find any date there and have considered returning to the Jennings Cemetery to see if there is a plot for Mary Jane Sutton near where Buddy and Sarah are buried. Then according to my parents, Sarah raised John Jay as one of her own.

i keep trying to imagine those times in that hamlet at the conclusion of the great war. i think of Faulkner’s trilogy and the Snope’s and the Sartoris’s and again imagining how they lived in a world of conflicted alliances, beliefs, life itself turned upside down. And i think of the dignity and the goodness that survived, that put humans, flawed yes, but humanity rising above even the boundaries we put upon ourselves today. And i beam with pride that Sarah Jones Jewell arose above the pettiness of the times and the cultivated beliefs to care for a woman she only knew as someone who had a son with her husband but nonetheless took care of her in illness and took the son not hers under her wing.

Sometimes, in our history and even in our lives today, goodness prevails.

That is a comforting thought.


“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Weinberg’s Second Law: If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, then the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization.

Goofy guy’s codicil on Weinberg’s Second Law: And the way i have struggled with my printer, Google, passwords, etc. in the last couple of days, i just might be the woodpecker of programs. 

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Cochrane’s Aphorism: Before ordering a test, decide what you will do if it is 1) positive, or 2) negative. If both answers are the same, don’t do the tests.

Goofy guy’s observation of Cochrane’s Aphorism: There are many in the medical field, and nearly every dealer franchise auto service department that have never heard of Cochrane’s Aphorism…nor congress when they consider another investigation.

“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

Law of the Individual: Nobody really cares or understands what anyone else is doing.

Goofy guy’s correlation of  the Law of the Individual to real life: If often feels that way, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care or we should stop trying to understand.

Andrew Maraniss on Departed Greatness, the Right Kind

Andrew Maraniss has captured the greatness and the humanity of David Williams. It is also very personal and moving. i wrote of David’s passing as soon as i learned of it Friday. i think Andrew’s story here in ESPN’s “Undefeated” website gives one a fuller idea of how wonderful this man was and how great his achievements were. He leaves a legacy, which i hope others will acknowledge and build on. i remain devastated at his family’s loss, Vanderbilt’s loss, college sports loss, the country’s loss, and my loss.

Thanks, Andrew.

David Williams, SEC’s first black athletic director, wanted athletes to see the world outside the arena




“Murphy’s Law”

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

First Principle for Patients: Just because your doctor has a name for your condition doesn’t mean he knows what it is.

Goofy guy’s comment on the First Principal for Patients: And that’s okay because i don’t have a clue as to what all those things with fancy names i have really are doing to me: i call them aches and pains…but i’m old and that’s okay. 

A Good Man…Not Just a Good Man, One of the Best

Yesterday, i wrote down the points i wished to cover with plans to complete and email it to him this afternoon.

i had also written about two-thirds of a post about his successor.

At noon yesterday, i read the news and knew i would not have to email one and the post, this one, would have to be radically changed.

David Williams died yesterday morning.

If you do not follow Vanderbilt athletics or are not a serious fan of the Southeastern Conference, you probably don’t know who David Williams is. Nor is it likely you have a clue about what he has accomplished.

If you are not one of those folks listed above or a dedicated follower of pro basketball, you are unlikely to know about Malcolm Turner either.

The email i was attempting to make as effective as i could was to be sent to David Williams. The post i had almost completed was about Malcolm Turner and my assessment of him being an admirable choice to replace Williams.

i am more than sad there is no need for the email and that post, now this post, is radically different from the original intent.

i heard David Williams speak when he was Vanderbilt’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs during a Homecoming weekend, 2011 i believe. In a Q&A response to a bozo question about doing something to isolate the athletes as Florida had done, Williams responded, “We don’t do things the Gator way; we do things the right way, the Vandy way.” That was the first time i heard that comment, and it has become a guiding light for Vanderbilt athletics, even used by Turner, the new Vice Chancellor of Athletics.

i have seen David Williams on numerous occasions, heard him speak on videos, and read his thoughts on the Vanderbilt Athletic website. i met him only once, this past Christmas for just a few minutes in the foyer of the McGugin Center when i was being given a tour by Andrew Maraniss, the author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South. In just those short few minutes, David validated every thought i had about him. He was a gracious man with a personal interest in anyone he met. He fostered confidence in me. He exuded the aura of equality.

The email i did not finish was to suggest an idea for a book i had suggested to Andrew after the three of us and Candice Lee, Vanderbilt’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Athletics had met. i thought a study of Ralph Boston and Rafer Johnson would be an interesting and worthwhile subject. Both were incredible athletes, Boston the Olympic champion and world record holder in the long jump and Johnson the incredible Olympic decathlon champion, who were black heroes in that crucible of time of moving toward equality for people of color. From the little i knew having met both of these great men briefly, they appeared to have different opinions about their roles and possibly different stances in politics.

I suggested to Andrew, who has written on similar subjects, he might find this an interesting and worthwhile project and mentioned David Williams might be interested. Andrew wrote back and liked the idea but thought David and i should co-write such a book, that David and i being roughly the same age (David was 71; i just turned 75) growing up when Boston and Johnson were sports heroes and David black and me white would add depth and different perspectives to the book.

i was charged up at the idea. The email points i was formulating excited me even more. To work with Williams, who had retired and returned to teaching at Vanderbilt’s Law School, especially a program entitled “Sports, Law & Society.” It seemed to me the program dovetailed nicely with the book subjects i had in mind.

i am not chagrin the book now has little possibility of becoming a reality. I’m working on another book. Andrew is at work on two more books and his other writing projects. No, i am not chagrin, but i am heartbroken with the thought of losing David Williams, either in a possible close working relationship or following his next pursuit in his love of law.

i have put aside my comments about and praise of the new Vice Chancellor and his strategic vision. i believe he will be a worthy successor to Williams. i just wish Turner could have continued to have Williams for counsel and advice.

Regardless, it is a very sad time for me.

Rest In Peace, David Williams, you were remarkable, your achievements incredible, and what i considered the highest praise for my father, you were a good man.