All posts by Jim

78 RPM

78 RPM.

Yes. Seventy-Eight Revolutions Per Minute.

I wonder as i write this how many folks who read it will have a clue about my choice of titles.

The title seems so appropriate for many reasons, some obvious, some not.

I still have a few 78 RPM records on a shelf that my father made and hung in our guest bedroom. The individual records are brittle, being made of shellac resin long before record makers went with vinyl. Many are broken, but it is difficult for me to throw them away.

Nearly all of those records are from the albums my Aunt Bettye Kate and Uncle Snooks Hall gave to the Jewell siblings when the Hall’s got a household music and sound system in their new digs (Lord, it must have been in the late 50’s when they moved from their neat and lovely home on the corner of Castle Heights Avenue and Wildwood Avenue to their new rambling home on Waggoner). They passed along their console stereo to my brother Joe and i, which i dominated. It was in our shared bedroom upstairs. It was old and the records, both their 78 RPM’s and my 45’s skipped a lot. We fixed that by appropriating one of Daddy’s weights for his fishing lines and taping it across the top of the needle.

My favorites of those 78 RPM records are Vaughn Monroe singing “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and a Phil Harris’ totally politically incorrect but funny album “That’s What I Like About the South.” Even though it would be broken en masse or burned today, Phil sang “There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” with lines like “We chickens trying to sleep and you bust in and gobble, gobble, gobble with your chin.”

The only album that originally was in my own family was the one my parents got for me and my sister in 1948. Dennis Day sings Walt Disney’s production of “Johnny Appleseed” long before it became a movie. Martha, later Joe, and i listened to it for hours. i dreamed of being Johnny wandering our county and planting apple trees everywhere i went while wearing a skillet on my head and singing: 

The Lord’s been good to me;
For that, I thank the Lord
for giving me
The things I need:
The sun, the rain, and the apple seed.
Oh, the Lord’s been good to me.

It’s pretty scratched up now, but it produced an iconic moment when JD Waits and i hosted a party for the wives of the officers aboard the USS Okinawa (LPH 3). Being a single Commander and Chief Warrant Officer, we were known in the wardroom as the “Booze Brothers.” For wardroom parties, we donned Belushi and Ackroyd black complete with fedoras, white socks, and even put sharpie letters on our fingers that spelled Elwood” (JD) and “Jake” (me).

We had noticed we were left out when the wives had a social gathering. So, we threw a party to be included in that group.

Unfortunately, the wives brought their husbands.

This unexpected circumstance did not deter us from having a great time.

JD and i became roommates during the Christmas season in 1982.

He was going to spend Christmas aboard the ship, and i felt that was cruel and inhumane, inviting him to stay in my Coronado two-bedroom apartment. He stayed for about two months when he moved into the Oakwood Apartments across the island. He also bought a 22-foot Cal sailboat and rented a slip in a Harbor Island marina. We were rolling along quite well. I was paying $400 a month for my 2-bedroom, 2½ bath apartment. JD was paying $500 for his apartment and $125 for his boat slip – he had upgraded from a 22-foot Cal to a 25-foot version. The good ship Okinawa was getting ready to go into an eight-month overhaul, and her operations were minimal. Life was easy and good.

Then, the prices went up. My rent gradually increased to $600 per month and another $100 hike was on the way. JD’s rent went to $600, and another increase was looming. We started looking for something a bit better. JD found it.

The second floor, two-bedroom condo was in the Coronado Cays on the strand between Coronado and Imperial Beach. It had a huge patio looking down on our boat slip. The great room had a corner fireplace. We rented for $900 per month, not only moving to high cotton, but saving $350 each month. It was a perfect bachelor pad. We were proud of ourselves.

That’s when we invited the wardroom wives over for a party.

As was our way, JD and i often would pull out one of my records, a 45 RPM or a 33⅓ album, most often blues, and spend the morning listening. One morning, i asked JD if he remembered the “Johnny Appleseed” album. When he said yes, i told him i had a copy. At the back of my oak wardrobe that i had converted into a stereo cabinet with record storage, i found the 78 RPM album and put it on for our listening pleasure. That’s when we got our idea for the party.

At the ensuing festivities when we deemed everyone was sufficiently plowed, we formally welcomed the wives and declared they would have to reciprocate by inviting us to all of their social events.

Then, we had a conspirator put “Johnny Appleseed” on the record player. We pulled out two cast iron skillets and placed them on our heads and began dancing (carefully balanced dancing to keep the skillets on our heads) as we had practiced. At an apex of the song, we did a 180° spin move and repeated it to face the crowd again. They were wowed. Some even claim, and i believe them, the skillets never moved, remaining in the same place as we rotated underneath. But remember, the audience was plowed.

Booze Brothers, crazy wardroom parties, and 78 RPM’s are pretty well out of style now.

And 78 corresponds to my birth day, January 19, 1944. i too, i recently have discovered, also am out of style.

i’m an old man.

Of late, i’ve noticed i’m being treated differently, deferential even. i can wear anything i want, and folks just think i’m a funny, little old man. People seem to think i’m fragile, a danger to myself. My existence seems to be dominated by people telling me what i should do and what i shouldn’t do…because i am OLD.

Well, it is time for me to put aside childish things and act…well, act like an old man, almost forgotten, like 78 RPM records.

I have spent the last two years intermittently writing how i feel about a lot of things i have sworn (futilely) not to address in writing or my word or mouth. It occurred to me that on the auspicious occasion where i have attained the same number as old records, i might want to set the record straight on how i think about things, about how i feel about things. i was going to set the world straight.

I reasoned if i let the world know how if feel about things, lay it all out, i then could just sit back, play bad golf, take hikes in the open space hills around our home, work around the house, and pretty much do what i wanted except for what my bride won’t allow.

i wrote about twenty or so pages of stuff on religion, equality, politics, and lord, knows what other contentious stuff.

That stuff has been archived in case somebody wants to know how i thought about such things, they can access them after i’m gone. I will make them available for my grandson.

After all, i am like a 78 RPM record. Nobody listens to them anymore, and at least on those particular subjects, no one listens to me either.

Both of my parents and most of my aunts and uncles were storytellers. They told great stories that made you chuckle or feel good.

Hopefully, i’ll stick to that.

But if you get the chance, you should listen to Dennis Day sing about Johnny Appleseed. I’m just sorry you can’t see JD and i do our spin with the cast iron skillets on our heads.

Black Oil

Long before Navy ships became sophisticated power chains of today, most Navy ships were fueled by black oil. Black oil was just a step above crude oil. Environmentalists would probably have heart attacks just looking at it.

It was the fuel for ship’s boilers after coal and before “Navy distillate,” a cleaner burning oil. i have a number of sea stories about black oil and Navy distillate. This story is about black oil before that other stuff became the Navy’s fuel of choice. It was a thick, viscous, and clinging substance: think of B’rer Rabbit, B’rer Fox, B’rer Bear, and the “Tar Baby.”

In the summer of 1963, the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) was on exercises in the Atlantic OP areas (operational areas). i was a third class midshipman. We were en route from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Bermuda and were refueling from an old Navy oiler. It was the time of black oil.

During the refueling operation, i was assigned to the “DASH” deck aft. i don’t think the sailors topside who weren’t on the refueling teams were wearing service dress whites as in the Goodrich photo, but they could have been. We were in our dungarees (far and away the most impressive, most effective, and most appreciated working uniforms for sailors ever) and in kapok life jackets. We didn’t wear hard hats but we did have on battle helmets.

Ray Bean, a member of the Facebook group, “US Navy Gearing Class Destroyers” posted some rather amazing photos of the USS Goodrich (DD 831) refueling that same year. Ray’s photo here shows the after refueling station on the DASH deck, just forward of the after gun mount:

The refueling hoses were secured to the post in the middle of this photo and the end was placed in a fitting which was a fuel line to the ship’s tanks. The hose was tied off with what we called a “pigtail” to keep the hose in the fitting.

On this particular evolution, the deck seaman in charge of securing the “Pigtail’ did not do a good job. When the refueling began, the force of the black oil through the refueling lines broke the pigtail. Black oil hit that sailor dead on, carrying him back into the lifelines in the upper left hand corner of the DASH deck as shown in the photo. He collapsed in the corner completely covered with the oily goo.

The disaster was reported to the captain on the bridge. He sent his executive officer back to the station to take handle the catastrophe. By the time the XO got to the station, the pigtail had been secured and fuel was being pumped into the tanks. But this old exec was proud of his self-importance. Seeing the fuel was pumping, he raged about cleaning up the mess. He pointed to the gunky mess in the corner and demanded to the officer in charge to get rags, clean the mess up, and to throw that oily mess overboard.

The officer in charge then said, “But sir, that’s Seaman Jones.”

The XO, startled, mumbled something about cleaning everything up and meekly went back to the bridge.

After we cleaned up the seaman, we all laughed.

Happy and Snookie

i first saw Snookie Hughes when i played against him in the spring of 1959. i was a freshman on the Castle Heights baseball team. The game was played on the old Smith County High School baseball field in Carthage, Tennessee.

At least, they called it a baseball field. It was in the middle of a farm. Think “Field of Dreams” with cows instead of corn in the outfield. Apparently, this farmer had allowed the Owls to construct a field on one of his lots. But the farmer didn’t allow them to move any fences.

This was not a problem in right field as after about 340 feet, there was a slope down to the Cumberland River. i’m guessing it was near McClure’s Bend in the river.

In left field, the fence was about 280 feet down the base line running out to about 400 in deep center. Since they couldn’t move the fence, there was a ground rule that any ball hit over the fence inside of the first three fence poles from the foul line was a double, no matter how hard you hit it. We considered this a bit of a problem in that several of our power hitters pulled their best hits, homers in every park we played, except in Carthage.

i don’t recall anything there but a small gravel area lot nearby where our team bus parked , wooden benches down the first and third base lines, a screen behind home plate, a few rudimentary bleachers behind the screen, and i think there was a small, breeko block building that served as an outhouse.

The mound also brought about some concern for the Heights Tigers. It seemed closer to the plate than it should be. One of our players claimed it was about 58 feet from home, not 60 feet and six inches. Carthage had some power house pitchers and this made their fast balls even quicker to the plate. One of those pitchers was drafted into the major leagues and never made it past D league. That made us swear the mound really was closer to the plate.

As mentioned, right field did not have a fence. i’m guessing the farmer didn’t bother to put one up because it sloped through a copse of trees down to the Cumberland. We knew that because and an Owl hitter smacked a long high fly in that direction. Our right fielder kept backing up and backing up. His back leg hit the downslope as the ball touched his glove. The fielder tumbled backward. The ball came out of his glove. And the fielder kept tumbling into the river.

Home run.

Snookie was the first baseman. He was also fearsome looking. He was stout, 5-11, 195 pounds with a red-headed flat top. He had a small red scar running along in forehead in an arch about three inches long. Another longer, wider scare ran from his upper nose and across his cheek about four or five inches long. Another player told me when Snookie was about ten, he was running through a hole in a barbed wire fence, and didn’t see the top strand was still in place until it was too late. The barbed wire caught Snookie at his nose and cut a path down his cheek. It was before fine stitching and plastic surgery, at least in Middle Tennessee. The stitching job produced the jagged scar. The scar on his forehead was created, i was told, during a batting practice when a batter lost his bat in a swing. Snookie was standing just behind the end of the  backstop vee waiting to hit . The bat hit the corner, flipped around and caught Snookie in the forehead. The scar was smaller, the stitches were finer, but the scar was still evident.

Snookie was red-headed with a pale complexion and freckles. The scars were red against his complexion.

Carthage tromped us that day, 12-4, and Snookie had several hits.

The next time i saw Snookie, he was with Gordon Max Harper, known as Gordy, but soon called “Happy” by his fellow Heightsmen. The two post-graduates had checked in for pre-season football and were already in the barracks on the second floor of Armstrong Hall, better known to the cadets as Chapel, when the other “day cadets” or “town-boys” arrived (we were called town-boys by other cadets and “goobers” by our contemporaries who went to Lebanon School: it was not a compliment).

The two Carthaginians had received football scholarships to play at Heights.

The Mid-South Conference was comprised of prep schools in Tennessee and one in Dalton, Georgia. They had an additional year of high school designated as “post-graduate.” The extra year allowed students to add to their academic status for pursuing college AND it allowed athletes to extend their playing and hopefully give them an opportunity for an athletic scholarship. A number of Southern universities like Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and North Carolina, would pay for the post-graduates year at one of these prep schools, essentially “red-shirting” before red-shirting was allowed at the college level.

Snookie and Happy were post-graduates. They would be boarding students, but their barracks had not been assigned yet. The commute to and from Carthage would have been at least two hours a day, enough to eliminate their being a “town-boy” like us.

The pre-season two-a-day practices were brutal. Heavy gear and thick cotton uniforms in Tennessee August weather, 95 degrees and 95% humidity most of the time made it those two-a-days tough. For the three years i had pre-season practice, it was that way every day except for one rain-storm. That  morning, we returned to the gym basement locker room soaked and caked with mud in the morning, and we were rejoicing. But not so much when we had to don the dried, mud-caked uniforms for the afternoon practice.

In our first real practice that year, the first afternoon practice, it was established that Harper was a very good and aggressive offensive and defensive guard. Snookie’s reputation had preceded him. He validated it. i was amazed to watch him play. As he got hotter and sweatier, his face seemed even paler and those scars almost glowed red. He not only played with fierceness; he looked even more fearsome.

Gordon Harper gained his name “Happy” because he was. He was smart but looked a bit goofy to us.

They weren’t exactly the model for prep school students.

The second morning practice proved how two-a-days could be brutal, no quarter, practices ending with ten 40-yard sprints. The dressing room scale said i lost just over ten pounds. John Sweatt gathered four of the “town boys,” Jimmy Hatcher, Earl Major, Jimmy Gamble, Mike Gannaway, and me and drove out to Johnson’s Dairy where we bough the first of many half-gallon orange drinks (a predecessor to Gatorade?) each and drank them for our lunch. i can still remember sitting in the back seat, listening Brenda Lee singing “Sweet Nothin’s” as we returned to campus.

We parked, climbed the stairs, and entered en masse Snookie and Gordon’s barracks room. Snookie was in the bottom bunk and Gordon was in the top. They were passing a brown jug up and down, taking a sip, and passing it back to the other. White lightning.

It didn’t seem to affect their performance at practice.

The sophomore boys were fodder, the “T” Team, offensively and defensively against the upper class men and PG’s. I was a second team blocking back in the single wing offense, fullback in the “T” formation, and a linebacker in the 6-2/5-3/7-1 defenses we ran. Standing tall at 5-6 and weighing in at 128 pounds, i’ve never quite figured out how the coaching staff decided those should be my positions. i was also the second string but never used punter.

And it all shaped up as a football team’s preseason practice should be. And the season began. The starting lineup was established. And the little guy was not in the starting lineup. Surprise.

It worked out pretty well for the little goofy guy. The “T” team gig cemented a friendship with Larry Bucy, a post-graduate guard from Lebanon. It seemed every time i hit the line, Larry and i would try to run over each other. Being significantly larger, Larry nearly always got the best of it. Once, he became upset with me. As i was plunging through the hole off the right guard with Larry crouched awaiting for our rendezvous, i cut to the left for about a ten-yard gain. Larry came up to me as i was getting up from the tackle and laughed, “What do you mean making a cut like that; we always smack heads on that play.”

On defense, the second stringers mostly went with a “6-2” formation: six lineman, two linebackers, two defensive corners and a safety. i was the left side linebacker. i think my size helped. i was too small to be noticed or considered a threat. i’m not sure which but it seemed i didn’t get blocked much and was in on a lot of tackles.

Rather quickly,  it was acknowledged Snookie was a steam roller. If someone tried to tackle him, they would either be knocked down as Snookie ran over them or they would finally bring him down with a gang tackle five to ten yards beyond the initial contact, if he hadn’t scared them to death with that visage behind the helmet…except for one second string linebacker. Me.

You see, Snookie ran bent over from the waist, moving forward at full speed. No one could get below his helmet to hit his torso or legs. He was a human tank. i was an exception. When Snookie came smoking through the line, i would meet him head on but lower than him. i would dive and hit his legs. He would roll over, hop up, help me up, and laugh.

i became a marvel with coaches and was the only sophomore to make a road trip, a 300-mile overnight bus ride with a stop in Birmingham to Marion Institute in Alabama. As we left the Birmingham hotel after breakfast, Snookie, Happy, John Sweatt, and Jimmy Byrd attempted to convince the cashier that i was used as the football.

There are numerous other memories of that season, perhaps to be told another time. It was an awakening for me.

i had always imagined i would be the next Clifton Tribble of Lebanon High School fame, Doak Walker of SMU, Johny “The Drum” Major of the Vols, or Phil “The Chief” King of Vanderbilt. It was that pre-season where i accepted that was not to be . Simultaneously, i discovered i loved being a linebacker. Playing that position at Castle Heights remains one of the most satisfying times of my life. i was a bit player in about four or five games. Didn’t matter. Practices were a joy for me. It was one of those few times in my life, i could just go for it, let it all hang out.

One more note about Snookie and Happy. They were assigned to Company C in the Heights Battalion. Even though practice got football players out of the daily afternoon drill period due to scheduling, we did have some short order drill lessons.

Snookie and Happy’s squad checked their M-1’s out of the armory and were learning commands to the squad. One of the rules of short order drill is if the squad is at right shoulder arms, no one is supposed to obey a facing movement. In short order drill, this is often tested by the squad leader. This squad was facing the squad leader in a respectable line at right shoulder arms. The only real glitch was Happy, rather than having his weapon at the prescribed angle of roughly 45 degrees, was holding his M-1 parallel to the ground. When the test order for “left face” was given, everyone remained as they should according the rules. Everybody except one. Happy, eager to please and show his expertise, whipped around to the left. Snookie, standing steadfast as he should, received the barrel of the M-1 to the back of his head.

i was told it knocked him out.

i wish i could verify this story, but it is second hand. They were a great pair, and great friends. Wish i could see them again.

But i don’t think i would try to tackle Snookie.

 

Hallelujah!

For all of you sports fanatics who live on the talking heads frenetic and nearly always inane analysis to feed on your frenzy, you may not wish to read further.

For those of you who like to watch a sports event for the thrill of watching an athletic contest, i have a recommendation:

It was just after the  beginning of the second half of the National Championship…oh, okay, it  was the media and a silly subjective idea of the two best college teams in the country playing with a lot of hype.

But it was fun.

It became even more fun when i made a fantastic discovery. i was almost throwing up listening to idiocy of Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler over analyzing and over hyping every bit of minutia they could milk in their own frenzy.

My moment of revelation long after Herbstreit had spoke of “physicality” incorrectly for 3,678,543 times in this game alone. Then when he complimented (i think it was a compliment) Bryce Young, Alabama’s  quarterback, for having “quick patience” (yes, yes, he actually said that and was serious), i gave up.

That’s when i entered a pretty nice world.

For the rest of the game, i hit mute on the remote after a tackle and just before the next snap or kickoff. i only had to listen to their frenzy while they described the play.

Pretty nice.

i think i’m gonna try it for the NFL interminable playoffs.

Having a Good Man in Your Corner

This is the edited version. Coleman Walker, one of the several fact checkers i have in Lebanon, pointed out the trooper was James Dodson, not Sam.

i had the best fact checker on Lebanon and my family right up until Estelle Jewell passed in May 2014. Whenever i had a question about either, i would call my mother, and she would straighten me out, which she tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to do for most of my life. Since i lost her, a number of folks who read my stuff point out my errors. i am forever grateful to those folks, especially my old deejay partner, Coleman.

i knew both James and Sam Dodson and got confused. They were both good men. i do occasionally have a brain fart. Coleman also figured out the judge was Ted Sexton. When he pointed that out, “Judge Sexton,” i immediately went back all those years and knew that man in cahoots with my father to scare the living…out of me was Judge Sexton.

In what seems a never-ending task of cleaning out stuff, organizing what i keep for future generations or toss, can bring back some pretty good memories to revisit.

i will admit to keeping a great deal more than i should. Even with that admission, i stumbled across something that even blew my mind. i don’t have any idea how it made it through 20 moves, the majority of which were from coast to coast, over 77 years, this small item stayed in my possession:My first speeding ticket.

When i discovered it sixty-one years later, it brought back a flood of memories.

I turned 16, January 19, 1960, it was a Tuesday. There was about four inches of  day old snow on the ground. It was melting. The roads were wet and the less traveled still had a skiff of snow on them. My father drove me to the old armory on South Cumberland to get my driver’s license in our two-year old Pontiac Star Chief — he bought it for the family car and my mother to use primarily; it had the big engine with two three-barrel carburetors, for him.

He sat down in the lobby of the armory as i checked in and took the written test. After i passed the written exam, a state trooper escorted me out to take the driving test. This was part of the troopers ‘s duties in those days. I do not recall this trooper’s name, but he knew my father. All of the troopers in the area knew my father.  He was well known as a superb mechanic, and he often would drive the Hankins, Byars, and Jewell wrecker when there were accidents and he was on call.

This trooper asked Daddy if he would like to ride along. My anxiety kicked up pretty high when my father agreed. Following the trooper’s guidance, i took the wheel, while he took the shotgun seat, and Daddy sat in the back seat behind the trooper.

As directed, i backed out of the parking space and turned away from South Cumberland to South College, which still had a bit of snow on the road. i headed south. As we approached Knoxville Avenue, i think, he told me to turn left. Again, i think he meant onto Knoxville Avenue, but i was very nervous and intent on doing exactly what he said.

i took an immediate turn into someone’s front yard. i think he said, “Whoa!” but i’m not sure. i also suspect my father was trying to muffle a laugh in the back seat, but i’m not sure of that either. Then the trooper said, “Well, i did tell you to turn left, and you certainly did.”

i backed out of the yard and finished the test. When we got back to the armory and i turned off the car, he said, “Congratulations, you passed.” i got my temporary license while they processed and sent the official copy to me about a week later.

Daddy let me drive home. i’m pretty sure he was still laughing inside.

♦    ♦    ♦

Fast forward to September 1961. My father was a safe and sober driver. But he also drove fast. i experienced his fast driving skills when i got my first and only “birds and bees” lecture. The rest of our family had left in the morning along with Aunt Bettye Kate and Uncle Snooks Hall to visit our Prichard family in Red Bank, outside of Chattanooga. i must have had a baseball game Friday afternoon. Daddy worked until five or later.

The two of us left Lebanon as  the dark of night settled in. As we got to somewhere near where the outlet mall is today, he floored the accelerator. Those two three-barrel carburetors kicked in. We hit 95 and stayed there except when we were traveling through Murfreesboro, Manchester, Monteagle, and Jasper: US 231 south to US 41 southeast around Lookout Mountain, around the bend to the  big city and back north on US 27, through a short tunnel where we kids used to hold our breath, thinking it was cool, to Red Bank. And US 41 just past the “Wonder Cave” turnoff ascended to Monteagle on what seemed to be unending switchbacks. We weren’t doing 95 up that mountain, but it felt faster around those bends. 130 miles or so.

It was one eye-opening ride for this lad. And for those of you who weren’t around then, there were only a piddling of interstate highways in Tennessee. Those roads weren’t interstate but were two-lane highways.

After we had resumed our floor-stomping speed out of Manchester, Daddy glanced at me, turned his head back to the task at hand and asked, “Son, do you know what a condom is?”

“Yes, sir,” i answered meekly, wondering if this was the big father to son talk.

“Well, he said, “Always be sure you are safe.”

That was it. My lecture on sex. At 95 miles an hour nearing Wonder Cave.

♦    ♦    ♦

It was the second week of my junior year at Castle Heights. i and two buddies, Mike Gannaway and Jimmy Gamble, had to attend  a “Key Club” meeting on a weeknight, scheduled after the evening mess and before CQ (Call to Quarters, or CQ, was from seven to ten every weeknight for the boarding cadets, which was supposedly study time).

i picked up Gamble and Gannaway at their homes and we attended the meeting. i had received strict orders from my mother to come “straight home.” When the meeting was over and since Jimmy’s home was a bit west, we decided to go to the Snow White and get some ice cream. Against my mother’s admonishment, we went, got our ice cream and were headed back toward town on West Main Street. i think the speed limit was 40 MPH.

James Dodson was a nice guy, a good man. He was also a sergeant in the Highway Patrol. i don’t think he gave me my driving test, but it could have been him. That September night, he pulled me over. He treated me like a good young man gone bad for a moment, wrote out the ticket for speeding at 61 miles an hour and handed it to me.

i dropped off my two friends at their homes and headed home, contriving a plan to at least lessen the blow i knew would surely come. i should have contrived better. About two weeks before, my father had received a ticket outside of Nashville when he was picking up some auto parts in the big city. i foolishly thought that would be a good comparison, maybe soften my landing.

i parked in the driveway and walked through the side door into the den. Mother was sitting in her corner, catty-cornered from the door. Daddy was sitting in his recliner in the middle of the den with the television at the other end. i stood at the door and proclaimed, “I pulled a Daddy.”

When Mother inquired and i told her the meaning of my announcement, all hell broke loose if you could have used that term in our house at the time. It wasn’t pretty. i shall not explain further here except to note my landing wasn’t softer.

♦    ♦    ♦

The next evening, my father told me that i was to see a judge about the ticket. i believe it was the general sessions judge. i thought it would be in a courtroom, but the morning of my day in court, my father went with me. Instead of the courtroom, he ushered me up the stairs into an office where the secretary directed us to the judge’s office. i’m pretty sure from Coleman Walker’s feedback, it was Ted Sexton.

i just remember it was a dark office with bookshelves stacked with legal books and the biggest desk i could imagine. i sat at the side of the desk with my father beside me. The judge looked at me, studied the ticket, and then told me he was considering throwing me in jail for doing something so foolish. i was quite simply scared to death.

The judge turned to my father and said, “Jimmy, you and your wife are good, law abiding citizens, an asset to the city. But this boy of yours seems a little lost.

Then he turns back to me and says, “Son, i really should put you in jail for a week or two, but i’m going to let you go if you promise not to do it again because your parents are such good people.”

“i promise,” i meekly replied.

“Jimmy, you can take him home. I will excuse the ticket this time. But son, don’t you ever speed in this city again.”

“Yes, sir,” i said.

“Thank you,” Jimmy Jewell said.

We went home.

i think i might have had an inkling then. Years later, i realized my father and the judge had arranged the whole thing.

i did speed a number of times in Lebanon and Wilson County.

But i never got caught again…at least, not in Tennessee.

Mistress of the Sea

Colette once wrote: “Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

i am mostly a writer, a storyteller by Colette’s definition. Hopefully, my book, which should enter the penultimate stage of production within a week, will acknowledge i can be an author as well. The below struck me in the middle of the night. i believe  after i did some morning edits, it puts me somewhere between a writer and an author:

i steamed upon the lonely sea;
i was alone and free
among 300 or more of the sea
who were just as alone as me.

the mistress of the sea
whispered to me:
with her dark blue sea
lapping white along the hull;
the huff and roar of steam
blowing aft of the open bridge;
bringing quiet when facing the wind,
the bow gently pitching and yawing
with the wolf moon blazing its path
along the rippling sea to me,
the mistress spoke to me:
an inner calm claimed me
for the mistress of the sea;

i steamed on a lonely sea.
i was alone and free
with the mistress of the sea.

 

 

 

Jimmy Nokes

He made it to the New Year.

Jimmy Nokes died Saturday, January 1, 2022. This is fitting because this year nor the world will never be quite be the same without Jimmy Nokes.

i didn’t really know him until high school. i knew who he was. i played Little League baseball on his father’s Noke’s Sporting Goods team. He was on the team. But it was a long time ago.

i have a dim recollection of my father making a comment that flew over my head about Nokes, out way too late for a grade schooler, running away from some trouble through the hole in our backyard fence, not realizing the top strand of the wire fence was still intact and taking a knockdown whack. Nokes later told me how he was amazed my father laughed, sent him on his way, and didn’t report his foray to Mister Nokes.

i saw Nokes a lot at his father’s store up at the top of East Main where i bought everything related to sports: my Rawlings infield glove i wore from Little League until it was so worn (and comfortable) it fell off my hand in one of my last high school games, my Nellie Fox 32″ inch bat with the thick handle.

Then, in high school, Nokes and my best friend Henry Harding began to hang around together. The three of us began to spend some time together. It grew.

After high school, Nokes (heck, i don’t remember every calling him “Jim” or “Jimmy”), Fox (nee Charles) Dedman, Henry, and i began to play golf, redneck style, at Hunter’s Point Golf Course when it opened as the first public course in Lebanon.

The par 5 fifth hole (i think) ran across the back of the course, bounded by a barbed wire fence separating the course from a cow pasture. There was a small pond, a water hazard in front of the tee box that required the drive to travel about 75 yards to clear. Every time we played from the beginning until one day several months down the road, Nokes would top his drive into the hazard.

Then one day, he got to the tee, took a mighty swing and sliced the ball over the pond. Nokes was jubilant at getting over the pond. But his drive was a hard, low slice. As his immediate celebration subsided, he watched his drive hit a fence post and recoil into the damnable pond.

The four of us and a couple of others (Eddie Callis i remember as joining us) would go out to Nokes’ house on Old Hickory Lake, mostly on Saturday nights. We played penny ante pokers for hours. Crazy stuff, like Mexican Sweat and those games that had about forty wild cards. i will have to ask Henry about the names of the games. i forgot. Nokes always claimed i was the big winner because one night i won the last silly game for probably five dollars.

And then i left. We didn’t really keep in touch, even though we met at a couple of Lebanon High School Class of ’62 reunions, notably the 50th. Then, we really got back together through email, my columns, and my posts.

Nokes read of my wife falling in love with Vidalia onions during my last operational tour on USS Yosemite homeported in Mayport (Jacksonville), Florida. Living south of Atlanta, Nokes sent a crate of Vidalia onions to us in the Southwest corner.

In another post or column, i mentioned how proud i was to be an adopted member of the LHS ’62 class but wished i had an annual in order to associate photos and names of class members. Nokes sent me his annual.

Gregarious. Full of life. Laughing. Boisterous. Caring. Nokes.

They don’t make many like Jimmy Nokes.

i will miss him.

Much of this is contained in an earlier post: http://jimjewell.com/a-pocket-of-resistance/dark-side-of-three/#comments

Rest in Peace, my friend.

 

Remembering “Invictus” for the Coming Year

Christmas is over. Daughter and wife have retired for the evening. The fire is mostly embers with a few last flickers of flame. Underneath the tree, the floor is bare. The dog is asleep on the floor. The cat is asleep in her “bed” on the loveseat.

Satiated with Maureen’s sumptuous feasts, two of them, and Christmas concoctions, i am thinking of hitting the rack early. My planned evening entertainment was cancelled. My Commodores were not allowed to  beat Stanford in the Hawaiian basketball tournament because of COVID among the Cardinals: “No contest.”

The rain outside is intermittent. The house is quiet.

The next week is packed with getting ready for the New Year.

For some reason, i am struck with William Ernest Henley’s poem Dave Carey used to quote in his motivational speech about his years as a POW. Although the poem is oft faulted by critics, it was one of my favorites before i had heard Dave recite.

It’s time to get ready for the next year:

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.   

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.

Bring it on.

 

On the Eve of Christmas Eve

This was written last night. It is now Christmas Eve. Although we tried, we did not play Friday Morning Golf this morning. It was only spitting when we arrived, but the rain was sporadic, frequently torrential.

As Bob Shults; Rod Stark, his son Matt, and grandson Cole, and i ate breakfast in the club house, one single golfer teed off. When he finished his swing, another torrent of wind and rain pelted him. There was too much wind for an umbrella. He stopped under a tree just forward of the first tee. We didn’t see it, but we were pretty sure he quit then.

Just over thirty years ago, Rod, Marty Linville and i were at the Miramar Naval Air Station course with similar conditions. We had coffee in the clubhouse while waiting for our tee time. Rod, the premier golfer in our group, noted that if it started raining in a round, he would finish the round, but he wouldn’t start a round if it was raining at tee time. Marty and i, following the lead of the premier golfer, both affirmed, nodding our heads vigorously, “Yeh, finish if it starts during the round, but don’t start if it’s raining.

We walked outside as our tee time neared. It was raining in sheets. Marty looked up at the sky, assessed what was happening, and said, “Heavy mist.” We played.

However, we were thirty years younger. Perhaps we are either wiser or less hearty. Our choosing not to play today was a good choice.

May your Christmas and New Year be wonderful. The below is from my thoughts on Christmas last night:

The fire in the hearth was really not needed. It was in the low 50’s outside, high 60’s inside. A rain storm was moving in for the weekend. The rain, the fire, the decorated and lighted tree in the corner evinced the feeling of Christmas.

Handel’s “Messiah” was playing. We read. No television. No movies. The heat was off and the interior temperature was moving lower. The fire was good.

i felt still. Quiet. The beautiful and amazing work of Handel filled the sir. The fire’s heat warmed me. i looked at the tree and thought about how this holiday thing has morphed over the years. With all the lights, commercials, decorations to the hilt, Hallmark tear jerker movies, movies upon movies, this idea of Christmas seems to be hidden behind the decorations on the tree.

Lots of folks don’t believe, don’t care about the meaning. Some question the veracity of Jesus’ birth. Some, especially the older ones, don’t believe in Santa in spite of what Francis Church wrote to Virginia.

You know what. i don’t care.

Not true.

i don’t care if people spend too much, emphasize the giving , the meals, the church services, or the decorations too much, or even the plethora of sports around and even on Christmas Day.

Sitting in my chair, that quiet, still feeling gave me hope, hope that even with all that distracting stuff, all of us would stop for just a second and hope along with me that there would be:

“…on earth peace, good will toward men.”

That is what i care about. i think that covers it.

Merry Christmas.