Monthly Archives: April 2018

Billie Holiday and the Goofy Guy Redux

i was giddy, like a tee-ball player whose team had just won a game (if they allow for such dastardly concepts as winning anymore) and he had found an earthworm in his digging around third base while the game was going on.

i was depressed like having eaten my last Tennessee Pride country sausage and discovering San Diego Navy commissaries weren’t stocking anymore — Fortunately, this has not occurred but it remains one of my worst fears.

i was…well, there were all sorts of emotions i experienced today.

You see, i thought all of the drama i wrote about in my earlier post about alligator hunting dogs, lizards, gardens, bushes, and flagstones was all over except for a recap i would post with photos of  tomato plants bearing fruit, strawberries right before i picked them, and a beautiful step-stone path to the backyard sitting area to prove my point i could succeed against some odds.

Today started out well. i wrote on my book a bit, enjoyed the sunshine, found one of my strawberry plants already has blooms. “Ho, boy,” i thought, “Today is going to be a great day.

i took up my tools. i hacked and hacked with shovel, hand axe, pickaxe and pulled with my hands at the stubborn roots but i was winning. Made progress. About a quarter way through the flagstone installation. Oh, of course, it’s me and will require a bit of finish work when done. Oh, okay, not a bit of finish work, but a hell of a lot of rework, but not exactly starting over. Never-the-less as i put the tools up for the day, i felt pretty good. A project going well. A real garden, not gigantic, but a good start. The old man can still wield a pickaxe and a shovel. Bending down is a bit tougher than it used to be, but man, i’m back at it.

i  picked up my tools, put them in the wheel barrow. Uh oh,  the tire on the wheel barrow was going flat. No problem. i’ll pump it up with my air compressor (you know, the one i got even though i didn’t really need it, but it’s loud and sounds impressive, like i knew what the hell i was doing). But i should have known it was an omen. A bad omen. As i approached the area i once kiddingly referred to as the dog prison (another story), i found my effort to ward off Billie, the alligator hunting dog, from attacking the lizard, obviously a small, very small, substitute for alligators, had not been successful as i thought.

i noticed the smoker cover, long since past its usefulness as a smoker cover, was still on the hardscape. i picked it up to throw it away and found  a very dead lizard. i said the appropriate words and buried him rather unceremoniously in the trash bin. i wrote of this experience to my brother and sister and told them my posting it was unlikely because of the sensitivity of my wife and two daughters (a plus attribute i’m thinking) but then thought the lizard should have his last moment of glory, like a viewing at a funeral. Of course, now i will have hell to pay. But that’s okay. The lizard and i are at peace.

And all was well…except i had let Billie out to play while i worked. She was running everywhere, seemingly all tuckered out, but still moving swiftly chasing whatever. i’m guessing it was tree rats because when i looked up and spotted her, she was destructing another bush where we know tree rats like to hang out. Besides that (and really being tuckered out), she looked deliriously happy). i’m pretty sure our tree rat problem has been moved off somewhere else. Now, i just have to figure out what to use to replace that bush. i don’t think one flagstone would look all that good, and i’m damn sure Maureen wouldn’t put up with such foolishness.

So i wrapped up on the outside and came in to work on my book and this post. But i forgot to take the photo of the flagstone work in progress. Hence another Billie moment.

We capture a lot of water in a bucket while we are waiting for hot water. We habitually set the bucket on the kitchen floor until Maureen uses it to water her roses. But Billie thought it was her water bucket…and that is what it became…until one morning about a week ago, i opened the door to go out. Sarah and Maureen make Billie sit and wait until given the go-ahead to go outside. i have done that also but frequently forget, like that particular moment.

When the door was ajar, Billie bolted for open borders driving through the bucket of water and spilling it all on the kitchen floor. We cleaned up and vowed i would not do that again. Unfortunately, it was Sarah and Maureen doing the vowing.

This morning, i noticed the water bucket was almost dry. i filled up just past halfway. That was a bit before i realized i needed another photo for this post. i looked; i swear i looked, and i didn’t see Billie. i opened the door and then boom! Billie dashed out. The kitchen floor look very much like it did a week ago except there was more water. i went into damage control, soaking up the water on the floor. i finished the recovery job, admonished Billie (to some degree). i started back to my home office for numerous reasons and very glad i was the only one here…except for Billie and the cats, of course. And there, blocking my route to the office was Billie.

And you know what i did? i laughed. i love this dog. She has a lot of me in her, just like ole Cass had a lot of me in him. She is becoming my pal, just like Cass did. She is a dog, a real, uninhibited, but better trained Cass. That, for me, is a good thing.

Oh yes, i haven’t seen hide nor hair of the bobcat since planting onions in the garden box.

Stand by.



Cedar Grove

And with the grave digging column and Billie and flagstones and bobcats and gardens, i decided to repost this, one of my favorites, which has some connections to all of that other stuff today:

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;
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 Grave Situation

This is my Democrat column i mentioned in my previous post from 2008.

SAN DIEGO – A story by J.R. Lind about vandalism in a Cedar Forest cemetery ran last week in The Democrat. The vandal’s motive for digging into a grave was unclear.

I thought of the Mel Brook’s movie, “Young Frankenstein,” as Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman dug in the graveyard for the body to become “Frankenstein.” I e-mailed J.R., “They were looking for a brain.”

The story also brought memories.

In 1958, I started summer work with the City of Lebanon. After several early assignments, I worked at the water works on Hunter’s Point Pike with Truman Garrett and Elmer Elkins.

The following summer I hoped to drive a bush hog tractor but was told I was too small. My big friends, Henry Harding, Charles “Fox” Dedman, and others were assigned the bush hogs. With a twist of logic I did not grasp, I went to work at Cedar Grove Cemetery digging graves. A small guy’s work?

In that era, digging graves was accomplished by hand. When not digging graves, mowing and trimming the 35 acres was the bulk of our work. The two permanent workers, “Mister Bill” and “Dub” (I apologize for not knowing their last names. I’m not sure I ever did) took me under wing. They were pleasant, interesting, and fun.

Mr. Mitchell “Bush” Babb, the manager, lived adjacent to the cemetery. He reputedly was the only one who knew the grave locations after a fire destroyed some cemetery records. I was impressed Mr. Babb. had played against Ty Cobb in the Tennessee-Alabama League before the Georgia Peach went on to fame in the majors.

Once I got over my queasiness, I found the cemetery interesting. I studied grave markers, especially the older ones.

The Mitchell-Smith monument was impressive. My father had told me about the huge granite slab’s (roughly four by six by eight feet) trip to its final resting spot. He was “seven or eight” when the monument arrived at the train depot where Shenandoah Mills now stands. He snuck away to watch part of the two-week process. After offloading from the flatbed, the monument was set on four wooden logs, roughly a foot square. The logs were slicked with “octagon” soap. The four horses or mules pulled the monument forward while the workers rotated the logs from back to front.

There were many other interesting stories I gathered from the markers.

Sonny Smithson, a seminary student at David Lipscomb joined me the next summer. His father was the preacher at the College Street Church of Christ when it was actually located on the corner of College Street and Gay Street. Ironically, the original city cemetery was located there and until the interred were relocated to Cedar Grove when it opened in 1846.

In 1962, our last summer, Sonny and I became efficient in cemetery work and learned about graves “sinking.” Some sunk immediately after the burial due to the dirt compacting. Others sunk later when the natural decay set in, especially in the older graves, some suddenly when an air pocket collapsed. We tread over the grounds without temerity.

One June day, Mr. Bill sent us to clear out an area in the northwest corner. As normal, we had gathered for the day’s work at the small stone building in the opposite corner..

With “lively lads” on our shoulders, we trekked across the cemetery on the shortest route: pretty much a straight line, walking over graves with no concern. I was in the lead. Just after I walked over a grave (we later determined the grave was created in 1923), I turned to say something to Sonny. As he stepped on the middle of the grave, one of those air pockets took the opportune moment to collapse. Sonny went down into the depression about two feet and turned ashen through a Tennessee summer tan. He cleared what seemed to be about six feet straight up. Before he hit the ground, we realized what had happened. But for a split second, graveyard ghost stories came rushing back to both of us.

Sonny left work early that summer to go back to the seminary. I am sure it had nothing to do with the sinking grave incident. I worked through the rest of the summer.

Now when I have to submit a resume or biographical summary, I include “gravedigger” as part of my experience. It has proven to separate me from the pack, and I always know when someone has read my input in its entirety.

Billie Holiday and the Goofy Guy

i have said numerous times i would not have another dog until i was absolutely sure he (and i do want that last one to be just like my labrador Cass) was going to live longer than me because i never want to have to put another one down.

i’m not sure i will ever get another one, even after that probability of him outliving me hits town (which could be now, by the way). Too much trouble. Too crazy costs for caring for them. Too restrictive in my travel. Yada, yada, yada.

i have also said we need to quit worrying about prettying up our yard. We’re too old to worry about it, and it’s expensive, and requires a lot of hard work, and takes time to maintain. Yada, yada, yada.

So what do i do the last two weeks? i order a four by eight foot garden box. i dislike the destroyed bushes bordering our back yard lawn, and i spend a whole lot of time with Billie Holiday.

Billie Holliday is my daughter Sarah’s dog, not mine. But Billie, along with Sarah, is living with us until they can get their move to San Diego complete when they find their own place. So Billie and i have become friends. She is part German Shepard and looks it, but she is more Catahoula and acts it. You see Catahoula’s were bred in Louisiana to hunt alligators. Billie could do that. Below is the fence over which she goes to visit our neighbor’s dog Shadow, but mostly to steal Shadow’s toys and bring them back over the fence. We have been constantly apologizing to our neighbors. They understand and say it’s okay, but it still makes us a little uncomfortable.

Now, a Catahoula is also known as a swamp dog. i think that means she can leap tall buildings at a single bound. i’m not really sure about the tall buildings, but i know from observing she can leap a five-foot fence, like the one pictured here. In fact. that is the one she clears. It’s the fence bordering our yard with our neighbors.

But fence jumping and dog toy stealing is not the only attributes Billie displays. In case you weren’t aware of this, we don’t have many alligators in the Southwest corner. Not really any insects worth mentioning unlike back in Middle Tennessee, unless, of course, we include those ground crawling nasties like tarantulas and scorpions. And yes, we do have spiders, like black widows and brown recluses. But what the heck.

Where the destroyed bushes were.

Sometimes Billie reminds me of Cass. Both are irrepressible, sort of like Judy Gray’s “Brother.” Cass loved to do his thing, retrieve, hunt, body surf, and always give me a run for my money. Billie is a bit better trained. Sarah’s done a good job of that, but there is still some of that irrepressible in her. And since there are no alligators around these parts, she has found substitutes, like tree rats and lizards. We figured this out when she attacked the bushes bordering our back lawn and the path to our sitting area. i mean those bushes looked like the ents after the orcs attacked. So i took them out.

As for the lizards, they used to live under the things shown spread out from their usual places. i later put everything back in its place but then foolishly began to move the yard waste bin to the back yard where i was working. Foolishly because Billie was watching my every move. The lizard who had taken refuge under the bin scooted across the concrete and hid. He thought. i pulled Billie off, primarily because i didn’t want to have to clean up what was about to happen to the lizard. But the result was i had to put all of this stuff back in place again.

i think the lizard got away. However, i’m not too sure about the one who lived out by our chimney. We put a storage box (an old Navy cruise box from a deployment long ago) to hold yard things. i put it on some scrap lumber to keep it off the concrete. Lizards used to like to hide and rest there. No more.

And we still had the stolen toy problem. Now Billie’s favorite toy to steal is a yellow chicken toy with a squeaker — who the hell ever thought of putting squeakers in dog toys? Were they nuts? So Mister Brilliant decided we should get Billie a yellow chicken so she could have her own and not be prone to steal Shadow’s. Great idea gone south.

We bought the chicken, pretty close to a replica of Shadow’s prized possession. Billie was excited. We threw it. Billie retrieved it. Then, we learned a new Billie talent. This is all that Billie had left to chew on after about five minutes. The replica yellow chicken is gone to chicken heaven.

All of this was happening as spring was…well, springing. Southwest corner springs began in January with the blooming Asian pear trees and acacia. Next up will be the coral trees and then the jackaranda. But that’s a while from now. For now, i must deal with the bushes blooming.

Maureen and our gardener, Paul Shipley, chose wisely for the bushes  along our border fence. And then there are the others, which Billie believes harbors alligators.

These are near where i decided to put my garden. Good idea. So i planted my precious tomatoes and strawberries. For the folks back home, strawberries bloom pretty close to all year long out here in the Southwest corner. So i planted in my box, and all was well…except i had another job to do. Remember the destroyed and now gone bushes? So i set out to dig out somewhere in the neighborhood of a gazillion roots, turn the dirt, and add to the flagstone path to the sitting area. i can now tell you this is not an old man’s pursuit. i was axing, throwing that pickaxe and shoveling. i’m just glad it wasn’t four-feet deep like it was a long, long time ago when i dug graves in Cedar Grove Cemetery (my Democrat column about that will follow). i will post at least one photo of the finished product when it’s finished. i’m estimating that will be in about a century.

But let us not forget the garden. It was beautiful with great promise of a bountiful yield…until this morning. Maureen noticed something not quite right. She walked out and checked. It looked familiar. The pile (not shown here). Like in a cat litter box. Except it was a big pile. i mean a big pile. Equipped with a trowel and a very large litter box rake, i advanced. Carefully. You see as i have noted earlier, we have at least one bobcat in our neighborhood. One must not piss off a bobcat, even if you can’t see him.

So we read the bobcat litter box avoidance information. We talked to neighbors. And this afternoon after golf and in between checking the grill’s heat for our lamb chop supper, i planted onions.

It has been a hard two weeks, probably harder work for me in the last twenty years. Felt good. i am exhausted. Muscles are talking to me. Billie is smiling but i think she’s laughing. We have some considerable more work to do on the flagstone path.

And as for the garden and the bobcat…to be continued.





Times of Change

i wrote this column below for The Lebanon Democrat as the year was about to roll over into 2010, eight years ago. Change has continued both in Lebanon, Tennessee, and the Southwest corner. The column seems as applicable to today, if not more so in both places.

i remember Lebanon as a small country town where from the time i was in the first grade, i could walk to pretty much anywhere i wanted to go, by myself or with a friend, when West Main was a two-lane road that became Nashville Pike somewhere around West End Heights. Big houses lined that street where strip malls, car dealerships, franchise stores, and fast food places now reign. When the Snow White Drive-In had a gravel parking lot, when folks i knew would go parking on Maple Hill Road and Billy Goat Hill. Where Castle Heights cadets would march to churches on Sunday morning in formation and in uniform. Where on that same Sunday afternoon, those same cadets would march on the parade field, which was really the football and track field with the glorious old trees lining the two-lane (barely) entry road to those magnificent buildings at the crest of the hill of which only about three or four are left and now are the city’s headquarters, a restaurant, and two that hold memories of those cadets gone.

The world was simpler then, perhaps because i was not an adult.

i remember San Diego when i could leave for my ships in the morning around seven and get to the Naval Station through the heart of downtown. There would be several cars out by then, but i could get to work, get organized, read the message board full of radio messages, and even have a bite to eat in the wardroom before quarters at 7:55 long before the freeways (if in “free” you don’t count frustration and the cost of the time it now takes) now requiring leaving around 5:30 when the traffic is still bumper to bumper but not nearly as bad as it will get in ten or fifteen minutes and where a twenty-minute commute turns into an hour. On the downtown waterfront, the Navy had a gym, a track, a swimming pool and at least four playing fields where now stands, climbing Babel-like to the sky, an uncountable number of high rises where millennials and more rich people than i can imagine buy million dollar condos and pay association fees double our mortgage and then those condo owners bitch about the train whistling in the middle of the night when it roars through downtown and by requirement blows it whistles at the road crossings right next to where the complainers bought the condos in the high rise with absolutely no clue trains do that sort of thing.

Politics has gone from divisive to insanity. There are enough regulations for me to wonder if i spit on the grass will i be ticketed. A 100,000 acre ranch near our home is now occupied by four or five massive developments and four huge malls with massive stores and high prices. So sometime in this next year, i want to head back home and have another dinner with  the friends of my youth. Maybe, just maybe, we won’t talk about change, but about how we are doing, what we are planning, recalling wonderful moments from our past, and where all our children and grandchildren are…wait, that’s change also.

Oh hell, maybe that’s all right. After all, not all change is bad.

Times of Change

Tennessee in general and Lebanon in particular is not only a Christmas escape for me; it is a place to reflect on change. This year, the change, past, present, and future, seems more palpable.

Often, we refuse to accept change as inevitable. We spend post-Christmas creating New Year Resolutions, which we usually blow off in a week or so.

Just before Christmas, my wife and I shared a dinner at the Chop House with special folks. Change joined us for the evening.

Growing up, I spent almost as much time at the home of Henry Harding; his maternal grandparents, J. J. and Maude Arnold; and his parents, George and Virginia Harding, as I did at my own home. Henry remains my “best” friend. He and his wife Brenda joined us.

The couples troika was completed by Eddie and Brenda Callis. Eddie has been a close friend since we met in high school as sports competitors from Castle Heights and Lebanon High School. Brenda’s father, Jim Horn Hankins, recruited my father to work for at Hankins and Smith Motor Company in 1939, and they became partners in the late 1950’s. So Brenda and I have known each other pretty much all of our lives.

We spoke of families, children, grandchildren, and parents. We spoke of friends. We spoke of adventures growing up and shared stories of places we have been.

Essentially we talked about change.

We talked amidst change itself. My sister, Martha Duff, had played in this structure, now the Chop House, with her friend Kay Lucas, when it was the Castle Heights superintendent’s home, and Ralph Lucas served in that position.

Down the road, my mother played with the son of the original occupants of the Mitchell House, which Danny Evans so graciously renovated for Cracker Barrel’s headquarters. Further down on the original Castle Heights Avenue is the house my parents bought in 1942 when it was one of only two or three houses on the street and where they lived for sixty-one years.

On the dining area wall hung a picture of my brother, Joe, attired in a Heights jersey. A photo of me at the 1962 graduation dance hung in the opposite quarter. The placement was appropriate. Joe and I always seem to end up in opposite corners even in choice of homes: Joe in Vermont, me in the Southwest corner. We often reflect on how we have managed change differently.

At my age, change seems more important. I long for what use to be, overlooking the negative aspects of the past. The past seems more poignant. The need to share memories with my family, especially the new grandson, is strong.

Change is never what we expect it to be. The 1950’s predictions for the next century are comical looking at them from this end. Sometimes change is better than expected. Sometimes change is worse.

Growth, i.e. change, in Middle Tennessee is small compared to San Diego. A community of 100,000 has grown up about three miles south of our home since a large ranch estate was settled in 1995. The expansion of developments may soon extend to the Cleveland National Forest to the east.

The increase in population has produced traffic congestion. Water supply is more tenuous than ever. Utility rates have risen dramatically. Housing costs are astronomical. Politics has become more profitable and more divisive.

The plus side is convenience in shopping and dining. The developments are rife with parks, walking trails, nearby modern schools, and an increase in services.

When I see change in Lebanon, I winch with concern it may drive away many of the things in Lebanon I hold dear. However, it seems to me Lebanon has managed change pretty well since I left for the Navy in 1967. Good change without destruction of the past appears to have been the rule.

Dining with my life-long friends, it occurred to me they (and you folks who live here) have permanent connection to the past, which might explain the change management of the community. The sense of community is not strong in the Southwest corner. Change seems more precocious, more uncontrollable there.

Before this article is published, I will be back in the Southwest corner, attempting to manage change positively. If all goes well, I will return to Middle Tennessee several times in the next twelve months and find change continues to be positive here.

It’s a nice place to come home to. I hope that never changes.

A Big Hit or Two

The NFL’s continuing futile attempt to fix something that can’t be fixed, the problem of constant whacking a competitor or oneself in the head with a plastic helmet, has produced yet another silly and unenforceable regulation as well as bringing my recollections of playing the game i loved to play.

If the gamut of NFL’s referees, umpires, field judges, timers, timeout signalers, replay officials, coach advisors call every infraction of the new rule penalizing dropping of the head in making contact, then there will not be one single play after the opening kickoff played in any professional football game this next season. An absolutely stupid and completely unenforceable rule.

As i have noted on numerous occasions, the game is losing its attraction as we learn more and more about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy or “CTE.” i am glad my grandson is not inclined to take up the sport, even if his mother and father would ever let him. Yet playing the sport of football, whether it was the real thing for six years of my life, intramural touch football in college (which was actually worse than the real thing in terms of injury potential), touch football on some field somewhere and even the touch version on the sand of Daytona Beach with players from the Auburn football team, has been one of my greatest pleasures.

Now mind you, i wasn’t a big star. In fact, i was only a first stringer in high school for one game. But i played the game with a passion. My dream of being an incredible broken field runner never materialized. i became a tiny wonder on defense, amazingly playing linebacker well enough to have one good game, the opener in Castle Heights’ 1961 season before injuring my knee in the following week’s practice, thus ending, for all practical purposes, the short, happy football life of “Mighty Mouse,” the moniker my good friend Mike Dixon and Coach Jimmy Allen tagged on me.

Before that career that never would be ending injury, i even enjoyed practicing and suffering my share of blows.

For those who might not know, Castle Heights Military Academy had a post-graduate year of high school. There were several reasons for this. One was to provide athletes an opportunity to mature and be more attractive for football colleges. It was before such a thing as “redshirts,” freshman playing on the varsities in either high school or college, or “one and done.” You started college, you finished college, and then, if you were good enough, signed with a professional team. In any sport. Southern universities often paid for high school athletes to attend the prep schools with post graduate programs.

Georgia Tech’s feeder school was Baylor School in Chattanooga. Castle Heights often got football players with hopes of going to North Carolina, sometimes Tennessee, and a few others as i recall. Because of this, these prep schools had their own conferences. Ours was the Mid-South Conference. Heights, Columbia Military Academy, Tennessee Military Institute, Baylor School and McCallie School of Chattanooga, and Darlington in Georgia were teams in the conference. We also played college freshman teams and junior colleges. It was highly competitive and the post-grads were usually a bit better than the normal high school player, and nearly always bigger.

i played freshman football at Heights. Our record was not that good. i alternated at tailback (Heights ran the single wing for almost as long as Stroud Gwynn was head coach) with Wayne Pelham. One event i remember well was in practice, one of us was on offense and one on defense (well, maybe i don’t recall all that well as i can’t remember who was which). On an off tackle play the runner, whether it was Wayne or me, and the linebacker, whether it was Wayne or me, found themselves facing each other both at full speed. We duck our helmeted heads and tried to emulate rams fighting for a mate. No mate. We both lost. In fact, we were both laid low, stunned, knocked out. We came to in short order, shook our heads and lined up for the next play.

Wayne, having more sense than me, chose to wrestle rather than go on to varsity or junior-varsity football. i went for my dream: football. Now to point out how little sense i had, i was five-feet, six-inches tall and weighed 128 pounds soaking wet when i went to pre-season practice my sophomore year. Our starting lineman topped out at about 250, huge for a high school player in those days. Middle Tennessee. August. 95 degrees, 95 per cent humidity. Dumb me. Lost ten pounds that first practice, drank a half-gallon of Johnson’s Dairy orange drink during the mid-day break, lost another ten pounds in the afternoon. Gained it all back at the evening training meal and breakfast. This routine lasted for ten days of preseason practice.

i did grow. A little bit. My playing weight for my junior year was 135, senior year 145. Height at graduation was the same: five-feet, six-inches. Genes. Mother’s.

i have several stories about those three seasons of football. But this story with all of that palavering above leading up to the hit. THE HIT. It wasn’t in a game. It was in a weekday practice in my junior year. Garland Gudger was one of the nicest guys i knew in my four years at Castle Heights. He was in his post-graduate year from Salisbury, North Carolina. He weighed around 245 pounds. He was a tackle. i know.

It was toward the end of a usually grueling practice on the field on Hill Street, just east of the drill field. We practiced while the other cadets did close order drill up the hill. Good reason to play football. Most of the time.

The first team had moved into formation for a punt return. The perennial second-string punter, aka me, gave way to the first string punter. i lined up at flanker to go downfield and tackle the returner. The offense was to form a wall down to my right and produce an alley for the punt returner.

Kick. i was off. Somehow, perhaps because i wasn’t big enough to be noticed, slipped behind the blocking wall. i was furiously pursuing the punt returner, on his heels, ready to dive forward for a shoe-string tackle, and be lauded for my outstanding hustle.

However, Garland, standing stodgily in the wall, looked around and spotted my pursuit. So he takes off full bore going in the opposite direction of the punter and the pursuer. Me. He hit me with his shoulder somewhere around my chest. They later told me it was a gymnastic wonder. They said i went up in the air and performed a perfect 270 degree rotation before hitting the ground. Flat. i don’t remember. They sort of moved me around to ensure i was alive, no bones were broken, and all body parts were still intact.

i stirred, shook my head, and went back to the huddle.

i never have claimed to have much sense. But i loved to play football.

Thanks, Gudger for a great memory…even though i don’t remember it all.

A Mother Still Honored

This Democrat column was written in 2009 after i learned my mother was one of the first inductees into the Lebanon High School Athletic Hall of Fame. i remain amazed at how this pint sized woman could so dominate a basketball court, albeit only one third of a basketball court. Back in 1935, when colleges didn’t have women’s basketball, let alone scholarships, the Nashville Business College sponsored an AAU women’s team. They recruited Estelle. She was tempted but then decided she didn’t want to spend her young life away from Lebanon for other girls had their eye on Jimmy Jewell. She was afraid she might lose him. Obviously, i am glad because had she decided to hit the basketball road, i might not have ever been.  A few recent events brought back my memories of her accomplishments on the hardwood (Jack Case, “hardwood” is for you).

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 here, 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.

From 1935 “Souvenir,” the Lebanon (TN) High School Annual. It was enlarged and framed by my father when Mother was selected to be in the initial inductees in the Blue Devil Hall of Fame.

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.

An Appropriate Confluence

It is Easter.

A holy day. Regardless of your beliefs, you and i should reflect today, if only for a few moments between egg hunts.

i believe i’m not smart enough to really know about religious beliefs, which are true, which are right. i also believe there are some inherent things we all know are good, but we cast them aside for the more primitive ideas of self-protection, whether that be a group, family, or self-protection. i believe those who work to achieve the behavior we know inherently to be good will be rewarded and those who don’t will be tormented because they know inherently, deep inside, what is right and what is wrong. i believe this is an individual choice and how we deal with each other individually, not as a member of any particular group. i believe those inherent ideas of right and wrong have been most accurately ascribed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament of the Bible.

So in my way, i believe in Jesus Christ. i do not condone or condemn what others believe unless it hurts other people as a group, a family, or an individual. i am saddened when any religion (even if they claim they are “Christians) veers from the internal goodness, the teachings of Jesus Christ as i believe them, to spew hatred and fear of any other group, any family, any individual. i don’t think they are smart enough to know who is guilty and who is pure. i am absolutely, totally convinced they (or i) don’t “know” anything concerning belief.

i think that is what Jesus intended those many years ago. i hope my thinking is close to what is right.

Today is a day of a fulfilled promise according to the Christian religion. It is a day for me to somberly rejoice. Somber because our humanity chose to slay a man who believed in goodness. Somber because a political system put itself and its self-interest above justice for all, above freedom of men. Rejoicing because Jesus overcame such cruel insanity and rose from the dead, giving hope to all for peace and goodwill.

i reflected on that this morning when i went outside just past first light and heard the birds rejoicing. It is spring. It is time for renewal of hope. It is time to try again to work for peace and goodwill. It matters not what we believe, nor whether we accept the literal accounts of what happened this day two thousand and eighteen years ago.

Easter is a funny day. Non-practicing practicing Christians turn out in droves after not practicing for nearly all church services in the previous twelve months. Like that makes it all right. Funny. Most businesses normally open on Sundays remain open, unlike Christmas when the country shuts down. Business as usual for the fulfillment of a promise. Shut down for hope. Funny.

This Easter is a confluence: Easter Sunday, April Fool’s Day, my brother Joe’s birthday.

Joe, circa 1953

i will ignore the April Fool’s day part in this. i’ve never been real good at that sort of thing since we would “fool” Uncle Snooks Hall at dinner on April Fool’s Day with a sugar spoon with only a rim and the cup of the spoon being a hole. The three children would howl in delight when Uncle Snooks would look surprised when he tried to put sugar in his coffee. i’m over that now…except for the wonderful memory.

However, the other two events involved in this confluence are appropriate. You see, Joe Blythe Jewell, is the kind of practicing Christian i want to be. He believes. He doesn’t judge. He tells things they way they are. He loves. His ideas and mine are similar, but his beliefs are based on solid and never-ending

Joe, Castle Heights, 1967.

reading and contemplation. His knowledge is astounding, but he is not a “know-it-all.” He cares.

One of my greatest regrets is he and i chose opposite corners of this country to settle down (if what i have done can really be called settling down) — of course, this goes for my sister who is in yet another corner. i would like to spend time with both of them and their families on a much more frequent basis like our parents did with their families in Lebanon, Chattanooga, and even Florida.

Today, this Easter Sunday. Today, Joe Blythe Jewell turns 69. i write his full name because i searched for

Joe with our family, 1956

“Joe Jewell” on the internet yesterday. One is an Phd in “aeronautics.” Now, Joe is smart enough to have been this guy, but i don’t think he is prone to work at the US Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.

Then, there is this Joe Jewell who is the lead guitarist of the Irish band Aslan. Although my Joe loves Ireland and visits frequently, i don’t think i’ll be watching him doing guitar riffs.

But maybe, just maybe. For you see, a third “Joe Jewell” is in San Diego.  The Joe Jewell Pscyhedelic Trio will perform at San Diego State April 13. We plan to be there

Joe and Carla

although we are pretty sure he’s not our Joe Jewell. Good guitar player though. i’ll think of our Joe a lot while i listen. You see, my Joe shared a room with me, upstairs for more than a dozen years. We got to know each other. He got the short end of that stick. i was into football, baseball, basketball, girls. That was about it. He was into everything and finding out about everything. Smart. Lots of common sense. Hard worker.  Oh, i could go on. Then i went to Vanderbilt. That story had been told. He went to Vanderbilt. Made it. He went to the Northeast, Boston specifically. Two masters. Wife, lifelong partner. Preacher, pastor really. Children. Grandchildren. And perhaps that is my Joe at his finest. Grandfather.

And that, appropriately, is where this birthday tribute ends. You see, i believe my 69-year old brother shows the beauty of him as this grandfather guy. Love, hope, caring. All in keeping with my beliefs of what Easter, today means, which just happens to be Joe’s birthday this year. A confluence of hope, resurrection, peace on earth, good will toward men.

Happy Birthday, Joe.

Happy Easter with reflections of what it really means.