Monthly Archives: August 2016

Notes from the Southwest Corner: an addendum to “A Pleasant Walk Through History”

lebanon-bookThis photo of the book cover accompanied the column in the paper addition of the paper (hmm…i have to think about that statement).

As per my usual modus operendi, i didn’t go back and check and therefore didn’t include the other books on that shelf: No Longer Hangs the Fluted Shade: Random Observations in Verse, Paul Wooten’s poetry book; Castle Heights Military Academy 100th Anniversary  Alumni Directory;  Grand Ole Saturday Nights, Margaret Britton Vaughn; Discovering Tennessee, Mary U. Rothrock; Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History, John Allison; Tennessee: The Volunteer State, Mary French Caldwell; Landmarks  of Tennessee History, edited by William T. Alderson and Robert M. McBride; Remembering Wilson County, published by Wilson County Bank & Trust; and Haunting Memories: Echoes and Images of Tennessee’s Past, photos by Christine P. Patterson and text by Wilma Dykeman.

And although William Faulkner was as Mississippi as Mississippi can be, his works bring me back to home. Faulkner’s County: Yoknapatawpha, a photographic essay of Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding area accompanied by quotes from Faulkner’s novels evoke feelings, real powerful feelings, and i include the book in my list.

i have found the information about the books and their authors, editors, and publishers are almost as interesting as the books themselves.

i keep trying to imagine Major Wooten bending over his desk, writing his poetry by hand in his classroom (wasn’t it in the McFadden basement, Heightsmen of my time?) after the cadets had gone to short order drill on the drill field; the track team had rendezvoused on what is now known as Stroud Gwynn Field and will soon become history so Wilson County Bank and Trust can build a headquarters building (sometimes progress isn’t) and played Jimmy Reed’s album of blues over the press box speaker system, the baseball team had ambled down to the diamond on hill street east of the drill field to smack out hits and field grounders and lazy fly balls. And then i try to picture the erstwhile major taking them home and clacking out the poems on his typewriter into the late evening.

Lillian, his wife, compiled and edited them. i have a copy signed by Lillian, dated the year the book was published, 1994. i ‘m sure my mother and father bought the book for me. Lillian wrote, “Jim, Enjoy a chat with Mr. Wooten through this book of verse.”

i have had chats with the Major on numerous occasions.

His poetry is more poetic than mine. His is classic poetry. And it rhymes. It is thoughtful, deep, light, meaningful, humorous, and most of all, it touches my soul. Yet it seems we both have had this passion for writing, not necessarily for others to read, but something that drives us from within to put things down on paper, except now it’s on this infernal computer screen. Of course, it is pleasing to know people read what i write and like it. i’m sure Major Wooten felt the same when his works were published.

There are times when i chastise myself for missing him. He was always there on the hilltop in his Army greens, but i never had him for class. i think we would have connected. i remember him as being a nice man who seemed professional, a teacher. i had already started to write poems, mostly as an outlet and all pretty bad. i have never rhymed very much and keep trying to categorize what i write because “poetry” seems like an exaggerated compliment. But Paul Wooten’s verses are poetry, pure poetry.

In the introduction, Lillian writes when April rolls in, she will honor his request to “Look out the window once, for me.”

And in April, i will look out the window, pull No Longer Hangs the Fluted Shade down from the bookshelf and have another chat with the major.


A Pocket of Resistance: JD, a Very, Very Funny Fellow

For those who might have missed my time with JD, we met for the first time on board USS Okinawa in transit from Perth to Sydney, Australia in 1981. After returning from deployment, JD moved into my apartment on Coronado for several months. Then he moved to what was then the Oakwood apartments about eight blocks from me. We sailed on his sailboat and ended up, with the help of Blythe selecting, in a condo in the Coronado Cays. Maureen and i were maid of honor and best man at his and Mary Lou’s wedding in April 1983 before we married that summer.

The four of us have remained fast friends through about ten moves and living about 1200 miles from each other.

JD is the funniest, most inventive guy, i have ever known. i don’t watch comedians live or on television because JD is funnier.

For example, as i was going through stuff to organize or toss this afternoon, i ran across an invitation to his and Mary Lou’s home in 1992. As JD said, “It’s a double-wide in Lakeside.” The home was so well done, i occasionally think about doing it myself. Of course, Maureen would leave, but kill me before she went. After all, Mary Lou had to ward off a mother o’possum in her bathroom with a hair dryer.

Still i think you might enjoy JD’s humor.

First page:


Second page:


The man is a genius. The party was great.

A Pocket of Resistance: On a Sea Far Away

Late yesterday afternoon, i found something that brought back memories, and i can get caught up with my memories. i was in the middle of about a dozen projects of various ilk and running close to the edge. i needed a break.

In my continuing quest to leave no mess behind, i again turned to my photographs. i ran across an event at sea i had experienced on a regular basis.  It was an evolution that faded from frequent practice but is now a regular event again. Reduced liberty ports is the reason in this new age of the Navy.

The photos didn’t quite capture the breathtaking awe of such an evolution, but i could visualize the event in my mind. i was not the conning officer and being the the “supplying ship,” it was not as challenging, but the photos do capture the spirit of such a maneuver.

The year was 1983. The place was the Indian Ocean in between Diego Garcia and Masirah, Oman. i was executive officer on the U.S.S. Yosemite (AD 19).  We held our pre-underway hi-line brief and readied for the evolution. After gaining communication and radar contact with the U.S.S. Gallery (FFG 26), a lookout spied her on the horizon, and we maneuvered for the rendezvous. Captain Frank Boyle, Yosemite’s commanding officer and a man who had Navy blue running in his veins, contemplated the upcoming event in the captain’s chair on the port bridge wing.


The bridge team gathered and this goofy guy in the sweater checking his watch, the XO, discussed the situation with the captain.


The Gallery, an Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigate began it’s approach.

uss_gallery 1

We raised the day shapes for “restricted maneuverability,” a ball, a triangle, and another ball (the second ball is not visible in the photograph and the triangle’s shape is not evident).


Gallery moved forward into position on our starboard side.


Once alongside in position, we could see her bridge.


We began passing lines to linehandlers on the Gallery’s forecastle next to her missile launcher.


The lines were passed.


Our linehandling detail was prepared.

yosemite_linehandlers 1

We performed the required hi-line safety check of passing a test “dummy” in the boatswain’s chair. Personnel transfers by a boatswain’s chair required linehandlers rather than power winches.


Later on the sail north to Masirah, we hi-lined two of our female officers, LT Sharon Carrasco and LTJG Emily Baker to the U.S.S. Lynde McCormick (DDG 8), a temporary “cross deck” so the women could experience life aboard a combatant. This was in the initial stages of the “Women at Sea” program. Most senior male Navy officers were not in favor of putting women on ships, and we were reprimanded for this transfer. Navy brass did not want good press on the program. They wanted to kill it.

In “UNREP” evolutions, it is much more fun (or scary) to be the ship coming alongside. It requires skill and experience, as well as a feel for the ship, the winds, and the sea, to maintain the proper distance and alignment from the ship on a steady course and speed, the latter nearly always twelve knots.

During previous UNREPS on maneuvering ship when i had the conn (driving the ship with instructions to the helmsman {rudder control} and lee helmsman {shaft revolution orders to the engineroom}), i quickly learned main control (the engineroom) would only laugh at a one revolution (a turn) change in speed. So when the ship was moving very slowly ahead in our relative position and i knew we needed just a slight reduction, i would order “drop three turns,” then “add two” turns” to get the one turn.

Staying alongside was made tougher, especially in rougher seas by the “Bernoulli Effect.” When the ships were alongside, only 120 feet apart ideally, the pressure created caused a drop of water level between the two ships of several feet. This drop created a force pulling the ships together. Conning was doubly difficult during UNREPs. i have included a photo from the web to give a good representation of the seas during an UNREP.

030908-N-0x¤030908-N-0119G-001 Atlantic Ocean (Sept. 8, 2003) -- The Military Sealift Command ship, USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) steams alongside USS Enterprise (CVN 65) while conducting an early morning replenishment at sea (RAS). Enterprise is underway in the Atlantic Ocean for her Comprehensive Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and upcoming scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Ro

(The Navy’s UNREP photo was taken by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rob Gaston, USN  and can be found at

My first hi-line experience was when they used “double boatswain’s chairs” capable of carrying two personnel at once. i was in the last lift of 21 midshipmen returning to the U.S.S. Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) after spending a day aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVS 11) in 1963. The linehandlers aboard the Thomas were exhausted after pulling the other transfers across. They wore out when i was about thirty feet from reaching the ship. i dangled there above the roaring sea for what felt like hours but probably was not more than a minute or two. i was relieved when the linehandlers regained some strength and pulled me aboard.

The Navy banned the use of the double chair reportedly when two admirals were dunked in the Mediterranean during a hi-line transfer shortly after my experience.

My funniest hi-line experience came in the late 1970’s. Amphibious squadron staff officers were cross-decked from the helicopter carrier flagship to an LPD for a day of inspections. The senior officer, not very well liked by many on the helicopter carrier, made sure he was the first to hi-line back. When his chair was midway through the transfer, ships rolled toward each other and the hi-line suddenly went slack. The commander was dunked into the water. As the ships rolled back away from each other, the boatswain chair shot back up and bounced up and down. Line handler tiredness was given as the reason for the dunking.

i loved hi-line evolutions.


A Pocket of Resistance: The Turnip Green Legend


This tale of turnip greens started out with one intention, but it somehow morphed into a legend, much too long to put in one post. It reminded me of my father’s talent of telling wonderful stories of Lebanon  and our family past. But more so, it produced a picture in my head of his sister, Aunt Naomi (pronounced “Aunt Noni” by the Jewell children) standing regally in the middle of the room, tall and lithe with elegant white hair, regaling me with stories on end, one leading to an idea about another, and wonderfully on, and delightfully on.

So when i realized after writing all that is enclosed here didn’t even mention the original idea this should be a serial, two posts, unless another thought takes me in a yet another different direction.

i just couldn’t stand it.

i had gone to the Navy Commissary for one item. ONE.

Maureen is not big on sausage, at least the breakfast kind. She prefers bacon, burnt to  a crisp. After all, she is a native of Southern California. But i like my sausage. In fact, i’m damn particular about it. i have been in  culinary heaven for over thirty years since i found the commissary at the San Diego Naval Station, adoringly called “Thirty-Second Street” by the old guys, carried Tennessee Country Pride sausage, mild and hot varieties.

i don’t go there very much anymore. Since Maureen retired, our groceries come from her shopping at Trader Joe’s; Valley Farms Market, a family owned store in Casa de Oro with great meats and sea food; a few particular items at Henry’s ( a place that has gone corporate and has been rebranded as Sprouts, but i don’t care and still call it Henry’s) and Costco (That used to be Price Club, but Sol Price sold out to Costco and made a gazillion dollars); but she shuns the commissary.

Perhaps her shunning was produced by her first visit to the commissary in 1983. We had married in July. i left  my bride in San Diego after a ten-day honeymoon for about six-weeks in Mayport (Jacksonville), Florida, the homeport of my last ship, the U.S.S. Yosemite, which then deployed to the Indian Ocean for eight months.

Maureen had become a military dependent and decided one day at lunch, she would check out the commissary for a couple of items. Now Maureen worked for Parron Hall Office Interiors and was polished and always dressed to the nines at work.

So she took off for the Thirty-Second Street commissary, which was a great deal different then than it is now. To begin, it has upgraded buildings twice in the last thirty-three years. Back then, it was a very large quonset hut tucked back into a corner on the “dry side” of the base. It was also in the age when credit cards were not fully entrenched and Navy personnel, especially the lower ratings, lived from paycheck to paycheck. This meant the commissaries and the Navy Exchanges were packed on paydays (the 15th and the 30th each month).

Unwittingly, Maureen went on a payday. She picked up her two small items and went to the checkout line. That is when she discovered the line wound around three aisles and every dependent wife (even though i was with some of the first women Navy personnel on ships, women in the Navy were still sparse) had shopping carts piled to the top — no, there were no “express lines” back then. She reluctantly got in the back of the line. Then she noticed the very large woman in front of her was pushing one cart and pulling another. They were both piled up to the absolute limit (i’m guessing one of the carts was all Twinkies). Maureen calculated it would take her at least an hour to get to the cashier.

She put her two small items on the shelf and left. Since then, she only goes back under duress.

Before Maureen retired, i did  a great deal, if not most of the grocery shopping. i nearly always came home with Tennessee Pride Country Sausage and a couple of items for Southern fare, which the commissary did well in stocking.

But Maureen retired and loves to cook really good and really healthy food.

Occasionally, she admits she would like me to cook some of my limited dishes: mostly my mother’s meat loaf, black-eyed peas, and biscuits as well as my own concoction of okra, tomatoes, and onions, grilling steaks, and my smoked turkey  for special occasions.


But for the most part, my quick runs into the commissary are snuck into my being on base for other reasons, and nearly always just for Tennessee Pride. But Monday as i walked by the produce department, i spotted turnip greens. i couldn’t pass them up. i just couldn’t stand to pass them up.

So late this afternoon, while sipping on a blueberry and rosemary modification of a gin and tonic, the instructions courtesy of John Moriarty, the whisky expert and bartender supreme at the Park Hotel in Kenmare, Ireland, i tried to remember Mother’s way of cooking turnip greens. And that leads to the second part of this legend.

But i must end this part by saying the blueberry and rosemary gin and tonic was beautiful.

A Pocket of Resistance: An Old Saying

i vowed not only to refrain from  making any comments about politics but to ignore all posts with political comments.

So this is not really political. It is more of a reflection. When i was growing up and in elementary school, the cold war was raging between the United States and the U.S.S.R. One thing i remember most clearly was something told to me by everyone, especially teachers at McClain Elementary School, and always after we had climbed out from under our desks when the atomic bomb drill had concluded.

“The communists believe the end justify the means,” they told me over and over. “We don’t.” they emphasized.

It seems to me now we do. In almost every endeavor, a large number of Americans justify using chicanery, lying, knifing someone in the back, cheating, and defaming whom they believe is their competition to get what they want.

Even in sports, which i always thought was to be played on a level playing field and honorably with no cheating, the end is more important than how you or your team gets there.  And then some coach (and i’m pretty sure it was a football coach) said, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” It’s gotten worse.

Business is run by folks who cut corners, violate laws, abuse their employees, and make false claims about their service or products because someone taught them that was the way to do business.

And politics…well, i think we all know about that, and still good folks pass around lies about the opposition because “they do it.”

My school teachers and my parents would be aghast. i am too and very, very sad.

A Pocket of Resistance: Obituary and Stuff

i don’t think about dying a lot: got too many other things to think about. But i suspect anyone within a couple of years of my age has thought about dying. So yesterday, i decided to write something about how i think about it in the hope folks i know might think a little bit more constructive about what they would want when it happens.

obituary and stuff

getting ‘bout that time
to contemplate what
my obituary should read,

written them before :
some technique for setting goals,
getting in tune with myself,
something like that

maybe i just have faced the fact
i’m gonna die
sooner than later
compared to the rest of my living time
quite frankly, i don’t know what to say
it doesn’t matter
someone is gonna take my ashes in an urn
back to Lebanon, Tennessee,
back to Wilson County Memorial Gardens
put me in the ground
in the plot next to my mother and daddy
where they only allow headstones to read
name, birthdate, death,
which i guess is just fine,
someone is gonna go newsworthy on me
the funeral home will want an obit
the newspapers will want one
quite frankly, i don’t want one
it is part of the world in which we live
then die nobly, or at least that’s what the obit will say
i have written before about what my father said at eighty-seven,
it’s now true for me:

 son, i’ve had a good life;
(i would add “with a few hiccups, of course”)
i’ve got a good wife;
all my children are good children;
my grandkids are great;
now, all i really want
is to go quick.

he was a wise man
now i know what he meant
even if it’s about fifteen years earlier
than when he spoke this wisdom
another ten before he went quick.

so what should this obituary say:

James Rye (jim) Jewell, Jr. died the other day, (age tbd) at (someplace) where he wanted to be with his wife, daughters, and grandson by his side. He went quick. He had a full life, loved a lot, hated very little, had a good time, and always tried to do the right thing, sometimes failing in that, and was proud to have all of the family and friends he had. He did a lot of things and never got to the top of any of them because he went off and started doing something else before he got to the top. He loved to write and he loved being at sea. He was too trusting with a belief in the good nature of folks to really ever fit in this world of distrust. Still he loved to watch people live and never held a grudge although some people made him sad. Now, he is coming back home. And this time, he will stay.

Yeh, that’s what i would like the obit to say;
it won’t, of course;
it will be too late for me to care:
the grave marker next to my mother and daddy’s
will be enough,
quite enough.