Monthly Archives: May 2018


i am not particularly fond of most mandated days or weeks or months. i don’t like someone or some organization telling me i should be giving something to someone, honoring a group of people by sending them a gift or even a card and then celebrating by going somewhere to have a good time (providing income for a bunch of folks selling stuff with the theme for the day of celebration.

Except for one.

Mother’s Day.

i am surprised some group hasn’t protested honoring mothers is an insult to their way of thinking. i guess mothers are considered pretty necessary for this whole thing called living for just about every group, although several groups nowadays are likely to disparage fathers for being a part of it.

Mother’s Day. Here’s some of mine:

Katherine Ferrell Webster. One of the matriarchs of my family. The maternal, Prichard side. My great grandmother.

Estelle Prichard Jewell, my mother. She was multi-tasking, working full-time for most of her life while running the Jewell household and dealing with three children for seventy years, one of whom had to have been one terrible something to deal with. But she never flinched, never complained about all she had to do. Her love for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren was palpable.


And there were these others. Granny, Katherine Prichard Jewell, my maternal grandmother who was always there for anyone who needed her. The grit in her craw (i’ll repost my poem about that) keeping her darting to and fro Lebanon, Chattanooga, and Florida for her children and her grandchildren, not to mention the Heights’ goobers under her watch as “barracks mom.” Aunt Bettye Kate Hall, who was my second mother along with every child of any of her or Uncle Snook’s kin. and Aunt Evelyn. Kindness, grit, and love pound in all of their veins.

Above on the left, Granny Prichard with her flock: goofy kid, Johnny Orr, Martha Jewell, Bill (Butch) Prichard, Nancy Orr, 1947.

Then there was Kathie. She wanted to be a mother, and she has always been the best there could be for Blythe.  i grudgingly gave up being a live-in father for Blythe for numerous reasons no one, certainly not i,  could understand, but the clear overriding decision i made was because i knew in all my heart, Kathie would love her daughter without limitations, just as i had, and she needed her more than me. i also knew Blythe’s mother was the best mother for her daughter and mothers are critical to a child being brought up in the best way possible.

i was on spot. Kathie continues to be the best mother ever for Blythe.

Mama, Carrie Myrtle Orrand, Jewell, my paternal grandmother. She passed away in 1951. What i remember is sweetness coupled with Southern practicality of a mom. When i walked home from school in the first grade, Ronnie Collingsworth started a fight with me in our front yard. i apparently won rather handily — as i recall with a right jab to the jaw. Mama Jewell was watching through the living room window of my Aunt Naomi’s house across the street. She called Granny, my maternal grandmother who was keeping me and my brother and sister that day and told her i should not be punished because Ronnie started the fight. My father told me his snack after school was when he got home, Mama Jewell would have a sweet potato boiling in the kitchen’s wood-fired stove. He would pick the potato out and cover it with butter. That was his snack.

And of course, Maureen. Her love for Blythe, Sarah, Jason, and Sam never ceases to amaze me. Even when she had the intense high-pressure job (which she did so well), she never slighted any of them. Her ability to discuss and understand them is an amazing thing. She brings joy to me in many ways, but being a mother to my children and grandson is a blessing for me.

The last in this post holds my heart in her hands. It is with a satisfied joy i follow Blythe (and Jason) in the way they are raising my grandson Sam. She is really remarkable in her role.

Of course, there are others. Many others. Martha, my sister; Carla, my sister-in-law; Kate, my niece. I could go on and on.

Mothers are special, no critical. They should be honored. There should be a day set aside to honor them. And those included here were essential in my becoming who i am. i honor all of them for what they have done for my family.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.

May Gray

i am not sure folks not from the Southwest corner can grasp the severity of “May Gray,” made even worse by extending into “June Gloom.” Perhaps Aussies around Perth have the same period of similar weather. Let’s see, that would be “November Gray” and “December Gloom” (Just doesn’t have quite the same impact without the alliteration, does it?).

Regardless, it ain’t fun. In fact, it’s my least favorite time of the year out here. To make matters worse, it came about a week too early this year.

Sometime in April until the middle of May is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s spring. The cool of winter gives way to sunshine, not too hot, not too cool, but just right. The colors change and alternate throughout the period: Japanese pear trees, then the coral trees, then the jackaranda. Bougainvillea takes off, gardens stretch their wings, and spring green abounds before turning to desert summer brown. Joyous comes to mind as the way it affects me.

It’s gone. Left too soon. Thursday, i played golf with Maureen at the Coronado Golf Club, a terrific public course and still affordable. We teed off just afternoon. Gray. May Gray. Ugh. Worse, it was cool enough i wore my wind shirt the entire round.

Approaching the second green, my eye caught some aerodynamics in full action. An osprey had caught a large fish and apparently was carrying it back to his nest for the ospreyettes (my word). A seagull was not pleased with the osprey out performing him in the bay fishing competition. The gull was pissed and swooping to and fro at the osprey before veering high or low or left or right, climbing up to swoop once again at the course diverting, annoyed osprey. The two continued on with their air show until they were out of sight.

It was beautiful. It was nature framed by what used to be my work home, Naval Amphibious Base, Glorietta Bay (over which the show was on display), and the gray, gray sky. The only good thing about May Gray that afternoon.

As usual, my golfing friends and i teed off early at Sea ‘n Air on Friday. In case, you don’t remember, the Naval Air Station, North Island course borders on the south facing beaches of the Pacific.

It was not hot. It was not cool. My friends back home in Lebanon, Tennessee would scoff (in fact, nearly all of my friends not in the Southwest corner would scoff) when i describe it as cold. Don’t care. It was cold.

Sure it was in the high fifties and low sixties throughout the three-hour, twenty-minute round (we play fast when there’s no one in front of us). But the Japanese current was whacking us in the face. It may not have been cold by most standards, but we were cold. i wore a heavier wind shirt than i had the day before, but i was wishing i had worn a parka.

You see, about this time of year, the deserts east of here start heating up. The Japanese current runs counter-clockwise from the Western Pacific up to the Arctic Circle and swooshes down upon us, carrying all of that north pole cold with it. When the two, the desert heat and the current cold collide, the marine layer hangs over the coast (aka us) and the wind blows the fog, the haze, the cloud cover, and the cold into our bones.

And this lasts for about six to seven weeks.

It should be spring turning into summer. i’m ready for Tennessee spring. i’m ready to feel the sun against my skin. i remember how i could not wait for mid-May sometime when i was back home because it was like the signal to go swimming at Hazelwood or Horn Springs. i remember it was when the bat didn’t sting your hands because of the cold. The baseball uniforms were sweaty by the second inning. You could wear tee shirts out at night to catch the fireflies, “lightning bugs” to some of us. It was warm.

Not here. i have learned not to go swimming in the ocean until two days in August when the water temperature is around seventy degrees. Summer won’t hit us until July, or at least something like Tennessee summer except the humidity here hovers around forty to fifty percent.

Of course, it ain’t bad for playing golf, pretty much like the rest of the year. So i guess i will just have to endure May Gray and June Gloom. And the middle of the day is usually pretty nice.

Commatoast Ramblings

The title of this includes my word. It refers to my overabundant use of commas. i mean, it ain’t just the “Oxford Comma,” which i believe in because i grew up having that comma before the last item in a list and preceding “and” pounded into my head by damn near every adult i ever knew.

i put commas at every juncture of everything and sometimes just out of my inclination when there is no juncture, just no need.

Why oh why do i like commas?

Don’t know. Don’t care…well, i do care because i do not wish my overabundance of commas to confuse. After all, isn’t the purpose of all of these rules: to make writing understandable?

It is the bane of my writing: these commas. More than that, there are a lot of words, and i mean A LOT of words i should eliminate to avoid confusion. Some of them i keep in because it is my intent to write something that way, even if it is incorrect (hmm, another comma there). Some of those words are just poor editing on my part, the real culprit of my commatoast, used to reflect “comatose,” out of it, asleep, lazy. You know. So i apologize for making you guess which is which.

But that’s not the reason i have not been writing lately (“but” and “that” are also words i include a lot even when they are superfluous; fortunately most of you don’t have to listen to me talk — but that may change soon). i haven’t been writing much here lately because i am finally intently diligently (Look, ma: not commas…well except for the one inside the parentheses) working on my book about Yosemite  and our deployment to the IO with women as part of ship’s complement — an aside: i love my working title: Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.

i’ve also resumed activity in getting things done around the house. i’m old, hopefully just like my daddy was old, and even though i’m retired (sic), i want to do things besides sitting and staring at this addictive screen with all of its magic. Like painting the exterior door to the master bath; doing another flagstone project before tackling the giant one, the courtyard (i’m pretty bad about overuse of semicolons also); replanting root bound stuff all over the yard; remounting my flagpole at the top of the hill; cleaning out the garage (again: and parentheses and dashes are another overabundance of mine); repainting and reorganizing my home office; and on and on and on. Those things make me happy, although i cuss a lot (old Navy kind of high level cussing) when i’m in the midst of them.

Which brings me to my Facebook dilemma. i am glad Facebook is around. Facebook has allowed me to connect and reconnect with folks i like. i can keep up with them, make my writing available to them if they choose to read it with all of those commas and stuff but mostly just exchanging pleasantries with old friends in a much more effective way.

Still there are problems.

Now i don’t worry too much about those FB folks making my data available to bad people. Yeh, it may be a big deal but i’ll guarantee you no Ruski or Republican or Democrat is going to change my choice in political votes by sending me shit or subtly suggesting stuff. Even good friends will not impact my philosophy or voting choices with their rather incessant one-sided blasts at the other side, usually copied from some media source that reflects their position.

As for finance fraud, scams, taking my money under false pretenses, i think i’ve got enough safeguards to handle most of them, don’t do anything stupid like responding to suspicious stuff on the internet, so i don’t worry about this kind of stuff very much. Maybe i should. i don’t and believe i am happier that way. i also have some confidence in myself to be able to handle any problems if they do arrive on my doorstep.

There are other problems. i don’t like people hitting me up to spend money on their particular charities, causes, research for cures, even helping out the less fortunate. i’m tight. i give what money i feel i can afford to things important to me. Don’t need others telling me where i need to get poorer.

You see, Facebook has a massive glut of stuff i just don’t even consider, but they still show up on my timeline. i also have a rather large amount of friends. Everyone of my “friends” are people i actually consider friends. i feel guilty when i don’t go through all of my timeline because it’s enormous and would take up all of my time to do so. And a lot of friends use Facebook apparently in the belief they can influence my decision making. Perhaps on extremely rare occasions. But not really. Those kind of posts are just noise to me. When i know i’ve missed posts by my friends, i feel badly. i want to see all those posts when they are dealing with relationships, especially ours.

My only solution right now is to do the best i can. I will not stop Facebooking (i think i made that up) simply because i enjoy my relationships with my friends. i apologize to not responding to your posts.

So Mister Zuckerburg, if you can stand my commas, thank you for creating this thing that has made you disturbingly rich. You have allowed me to reach out and maintain new and old relationships, and it has made my life richer, not in money wealth, but in happiness, and that is worth a whole lot more.

Kin of the Past

For all of my Prichard/Webster relatives:

When i find myself flailing over which of the two gazillion things i need to do, i often decide to rumble through old stuff. This is a result of today’s rumbling.

i found myself staring at the photo, wondering what she was like. Knowing Granny, her daughter and my grandmother, i think i have a pretty good idea. Still, i didn’t know her.

She married a minister, a Methodist circuit rider who rose to bishop in the church. So she must have been rather devout in her religion. She was beautiful. i never really thought of her daughter as beautiful until i saw a photo of Granny (Katherine Webster Prichard) at eighteen. It took my breath away, and i see evidence of that beauty in this one.

The back has handwritten notes.

The first one is in her hand. The photo was a gift sent to her brother, Ammon Ferrell, who was in Platter, Oklahoma at the time. The story as i remember it is he went west to…well, i guess what any young man who sought adventure did in those days: to be a cowboy, perhaps. Again as i remember it, it didn’t turn out quite that way; he apparently was a cook, ran the chuck wagon for some outfit. It didn’t do him well. He came or was brought back home in not too good of shape. His brother-in-law and sister put him up in a cabin on their property off of Hunter’s Point Pike until he passed in the summer of 1930. Ammon was seventy-six when he passed. His grave is off of Webster’s Lane on what was the bishop’s rather large farm just northeast of where Walter J. Baird Middle School now educates children who probably not aware of Ammon, his sister, or the bishop. The second note is in all probability in the hand of my aunt. My cousin sent some memorabilia to me from my Aunt Evelyn Prichard Orr, this photo lady’s granddaughter. The photo was included. So it seems to reason, Aunt Evelyn wrote: “Grandmother of Evelyn P. Orr, Estelle P. Jewell, Bettye Kate P. Hall, Billy Prichard.”

After the photo lady passed in 1933 at eighty-five,  Aunt Evelyn, Mother (Estelle), Aunt Bettye, and Uncle Bill helped the bishop through his final years. The Prichard family had returned from Gotha, Florida where they lived for about three years in hopes of the climate positively impacting their father’s failing health (my grandfather, Joe Blythe Prichard). The climate did no good, and Grandfather wished to come home to die. When he passed, Granny, his wife, took up 24/7 care giving to support the family.

My mother told me of Aunt Evelyn, fresh from graduating from Gotha High School, would arise in the morning, cook, with the help of her siblings, a fried chicken and biscuit breakfast for the bishop. Then she would walk from the farm (still on the outskirts of Lebanon proper just south of where Castle Heights Avenue North now connects with North Cumberland, which before the spread of city development was once Hunter’s Point Pike) across the square on up West Spring Street to Cumberland, where she excelled in academics and basketball. But she walked home in the midday, prepared lunch for the bishop, and return uto campus for the afternoon. When classes and practice were completed, she would make her walking trip again back to the farm to perform supper chores. Aunt Evelyn is a heroine in my mind.

Part of that obviously came from the lady in the photograph.

Katherine Ferrell Webster, my great grandmother, is our link to the Ferrell family. Joe Ferrell and i knew of the connection and were going to investigate the links more thoroughly, but Joe, my good Lebanon friend, passed away last year.

So i sit and look at Katherine. Times long ago, different, gone. Sometimes i wish they knew quite a bit of what we know now but hadn’t been invented or discovered yet. Sometimes i wish i didn’t know what they didn’t know. Simpler days.

But i always wish i could have known her. i’m pretty sure i would have loved her.

Rambling Thoughts of a Septuagenarian

Been quite a while for me to be away from writing here.

Been working. Home projects, cleaning, organizing, those kind of things. Been thinking. Been goofing off. Been wrestling…with myself. i’ve also been working on my book; not enough, mind you, but working on it. And yes, i’ve been playing (sort of) golf.

You see, i am a septuagenarian. In fact, i’m smack dab in the middle of septuagenarianism (and yes, Blythe Jewell Gander, Judy Gray, and several other grammarians of note, i made that up). In spite of my parents living just shy of ninety-seven and ninety-nine, i am surprised to still be here. When i was in my late teens, early twenties, i figured i would flame out before i reached fifty. i had given up my dream of being a  super three-sport star excelling in football, basketball, and baseball, and making it to the college and professional hall of fame in each sport. Oh yes, i also expected to be the next Roy Rogers on the silver screen.

Yeh, i dreamed big.

When the realization my dreams were not to be smacked me in my unrealistic head, i decided somewhat vaguely i would be a jazz guitar player playing solo in a small night club and die of some strange digestive disorder in a single flat in an old apartment building in downtown San Francisco .

Now this kind of plan or whatever one might call such a strange ambition is really remarkable considering who i was and where i was. i have no idea of how a Tennessee small country town boy could come up with such an idea. i was a decent athlete but by no means the best in Lebanon or Castle Heights. i was also about a foot short and a hundred pounds light of even being considered as a star athlete. i had no concept of what San Francisco was like. i could barely play the piano and couldn’t hit a lick on a guitar. i really had no interest in playing jazz. Hell, i wasn’t even sure what jazz really was at the time. It just seemed like a cool thing to me…and i didn’t see any neat thing about living past fifty.

These thoughts were even more remarkable because at the same time in my life i decided the happiest people in the world were farmers. They got up at four, milked the cows, fed the chickens, gathered the eggs, had a big breakfast, worked hard all morning, had a dinner (noon meal, you non-Southerners) of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, and another vegetable all from the farm, drank buttermilk, went back out into the fields to work until the cows were called in around four, called it a day, got a cane pole, and some bait and walked down to the river and fished for a while, had a light supper, and went to bed around eight. i thought they got a lot of satisfaction out of their work and their land and didn’t have to fool with all of the other fools in this world, at least as little as possible.

Yup, i had crazy thoughts then. Still do. But i am no longer amazed i’m still here.

My mind about this obviously changed somewhat.

Then this morning, i went early to get a blood test. It seems now that i’m older, blood tests are a way of life. i’ve learned some tricks about blood testing. Like going early so if i have to fast i won’t have too long after waking up to eat. Also if you wait until later even with an appointment you could be in the waiting room like forever. As i sat in the lobby as second in line this morning, i wondered why waiting in the lobby was such a big deal to me. After all, i’m retired. i’ve got all day.

But it went quickly and i headed home as school was beginning. It so happens the route home, if one avoids the busiest four-lane surface streets, goes right by our old house, the original one for Maureen and i, and an elementary school.

i was struck by the traffic. Not just traffic, but crazy people trying to beat others to the drop off point to the point of cutting other people off, speeding in the school zone, and acting like the world belonged to them alone. Never have understood that. Marveled at it when i would pick up Sarah from Burton Tiffany Elementary years ago. Crazy people.

Then i thought about home. A long time ago. Home. Walking to school. Really pretty much on my own from six years on. Had to let ’em know where i was going. Had to get home for dinner and supper (yes, it was Southern) even though i was not really good about that and Mother didn’t have a cell phone back then. i saw the school children being ushered in, protected, more parents and supervisors than children almost. No cops. Hmm…We had a policeman in the morning and afternoon, and school patrol. Period. i can’t remember any teachers being anywhere near Main Street. Am i just fondly inaccurately remembering?

Freedom. That’s what i thought when i ran into that school traffic this morning. i don’t know if it’s better, worse, or the same only different for those children. But there certainly isn’t a lot of freedom for them. Yeh, this goes along with not going out to play, watching television, playing computer games, all that. And then when they are older, playing music that can blow your brains out of your ears and offensive to anyone older than fifty. Don’t get it. Where’s the tune? Where’s the love song? Where’s the slow dance? Where’s the music to make you wanna dance, not jump and down as in some ancient ritual?

Our parents knew we were going to hell (Hmm, maybe they had something there), listening to that music, swinging our hips like that, combing our hair back, not doing the waltz or foxtrot. Hell, i tell you. So, i will not berate those kids next door who had a poolside birthday this afternoon and blew open the kitchen door with the decibels, although they probably didn’t. i probably didn’t shut it all the way and the dog got out. But that’s my excuse. Man, there was enough testosterone over the fence this afternoon to eradicate the need for viagra if it could be captured and transferred to old men.

i remembered Hazelwood and Horn Springs. Swimming. Sun. Girls in bathing suits, diving and laughing. Bobby Darin singing “Splish Splash,” Bill Doggett playing “Honky Tonk.” Oh, i pined for those girls. Never had a steady after Elaine Davis in the eighth grade until i fell in love about a dozen times in less than six years. Those boys next door seemed so sure of themselves, laughing and yelling. i wonder if any of them felt lonely like i did. Ahh, but they didn’t have Roy Orbison singing “Only the Lonely.”

Different? Yes. i can’t judge. Too old. Not too old, but too distant, too removed to really have a clue what they are going through.

Yet i can’t help thinking our world lost something when children quit walking to school, when all of the sports were invented by the children, not organized, where television was something kids watched in the late afternoon and the Saturday morning shows on television. When the Saturday movies had cartoons and good guys and bad guys and the good guys always won by playing fair.

And the world was smaller, much smaller, like maybe five, ten miles from the square at best because the big city, Nashville was thirty miles away, a day trip.

An oh i could go on and on, and probably have too much, and probably will take up this theme again and again.

You understand? i miss my growing up in Lebanon, Tennessee in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It’s a lost world. That makes me sad.