All posts by James Jewell

Murphy’s Law

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

Note: The goofy guy disagrees with this one. However, if we change the word “teach” to “train” and apply this to the military, it is right on. i was always amazed when the Navy would never assign the most promotable officers to training positions but would take officers who had not screened for a position to then assign them to train others for that position. But teachers should be the highest paid careers in our country. They are that important and we should encourage pursuit of teaching for a career.

Mencken’s Law: Those who can, do. Those who cannot teach.

Goofy guy’s denial and addition to Mencken’s Law:  Teachers are better, and those who can’t also do.

A New Tradition

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. i am making it my tradition to post two previous things i have written about my father. And i am most fortunate to have a great father for my  grandson. Thank you, Jason Gander.

Written in 2000 for Jimmy Jewell’s 86th Birthday:

An Incredible Man

There is an incredible man in Lebanon.

He was born September 28, 1914. The first record of his family in America dates to 1677. His great, great, great grandfather came over the Cumberland Gap with Daniel Boone and was Daniel’s brother-in-law, marrying the Bryant sisters (this is from family oral history and not documented). His great, great grandfather moved to Statesville, Tennessee (about 20 miles from Lebanon) in the early 1800’s.

He had three brothers and three sisters. He is the only one left.

He has lived through two world wars, fighting as a Seabee in the Southern Philippines, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands in the last one. He has lived through the depression, the cold war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.

He had to quit his senior year at Lebanon High School to go to work when he father contracted tuberculosis. He started as a mechanic, shared a business with his brother-in-law in the 1950’s, and then became a partner in a combination of an automobile dealership and a gas and oil distributorship. He retired in 1979.

He and his wife have been married 62 years (he passed away shortly after their 75th anniversary). Their romance continues. the first home they owned was a one-room house adjacent to his wife’s family farm on Hunter’s Point Pike. They bought their next home on Castle Heights Avenue in 1941 with the help of a $500 loan from a friend. They have lived there ever since (they moved to Deer Park, a whopping three blocks down the street in 2004).

He and his wife put three children through college. They have five grandchildren (when he passed away, they also had three great grandchildren). They have visited every state in the union except Alaska where they were headed in 1984 when his wife’s illness forced them to turn around in British Columbia. Nearly all of their travels have been by RV’s, most in a 28-foot fifth wheel. When he was 72 and his wife 69, they made their first cross-country trip to San Diego where they had spent winters since 1986 with their eldest son and his family. They have made several trips up and down the east coast since then. The fifth wheel is still ready to go in their backyard.

They live comfortably in their retirement. Most people guess his age as the early 70’s. Last month, he painted their master bedroom and sanded and painted the roof of their two-car carport. When he can’t find anyone to go fishing with him, he hooks up the boat trailer and goes by himself. Now he usually throws his catch back. When he used to bring the catch home, he would clean the fish and give them away. He doesn’t like to eat fish, just catch them.

For years, he had the reputation as the best mechanic in Wilson County. He can still fix anything except computers and new cars because he has shunned learning the electronic advances.

All of this isn’t why this man is incredible.

He is incredible because he is such a good man.

He is a willow. He bends with the winds of change and changes of “progress.” Yet he never breaks. His principles remain solid as a rock. He is extremely intelligent but humble.

He seems to always be around when someone needs help. Everyone considers him a good friend, and he reciprocates.

He is not rich financially, but he is one of the richest men around.

My generation’s fathers were family men. They lived through hard times and hard work without a whimper. They believed in giving a day’s work for a day’s pay. They kept their sense of humor. Their sons wish they could emulate them.

Jimmy Jewell, this remarkable man, remains my best friend. i am his older son. i have wanted to be like him since my first recordable thoughts came into my head over fifty years ago. One close friend said of him, “I have never had a better, more caring, more fun-loving, thoughtful friend.” It seems to be a common theme among the people who know him. That’s whom i want to be like.

My father and i have enough talks for him to know how i feel, but i’ve seen too many people wait until someone is gone before singing their praises publicly. i figure he’s got a good chance to outlive us all, but i wanted to acknowledge how much he means to me and how remarkable a man i think he is.

And this is a poem i wrote about him, and i remember him remarking after he read it that he didn’t realize i knew so much about him:


When most folks meet him,
they notice steel blue eyes and agility;
his gaze, gait and movements
belie the ninety-five years;
those folks should look at his hands:
Durer, if he saw them,
would want to paint them.

His hands are marked from
tire irons, jacks, wrenches, sledges, micrometers on
carburetors, axles, brake drums, distributors,
starting in ’34 at twelve dollars a week.

He has used those hands to
repair the cars and
our hearts;

His hands pitched tents,
made the bulldozers run
in war
in the steaming, screaming sweat of
Bougainville, New Guinea, the Philippines.

His hands have nicks and scratches
turned into scars with
the passage of time:
a map of history, the human kind.

Veins and arteries stand out
on the back of his hands,
pumping life;
tales are etched from
grease and oil and grime,
cleansed with gasoline and goop and lava soap;

They are hands of labor,
hands of hard times,
hands of hope,
hands of kindness, caring.

His hands own wisdom,
passing it to those who know him
with a pat, a caress, a handshake.
His hands tell the story
so well.

If you would rather listen to me recite this poem:

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy.



A Rant Gone South

i was ready to go on a rant. No, not about the things i promised myself and likely many others to not discuss here or elsewhere. No, there were several incidents where i have been getting ripped off and discovered such in the last couple of days. And it wasn’t by scammers or phishers or whatever other kind of little people with small mean minds keep on trying to con you and me out of our money. No. It was big business and developers and marketing buffoons trying to fool me to get as much money as they could rather than trying to make money by providing a product or service at a fair price, a concept long gone down the swirling water in the toilet bowl.

In fact, i wrote about six long paragraphs on the rant before remembering someone once wrote or said money was the root of all evil. Gave it up.

i gave it up because i moved out of my home office to under the umbrella in the corner of our backyard. Late afternoon. A glass of viognier, sun moving toward our false horizon of the slope at the back of the yard. Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album i first heard in Bill Parsons apartment in Nashville when he was still a teacher at Montgomery Bell Acadamy is playing on the bluetooth.

And again, i’m thinking i a lucky man.

And i remember:

Like Junes growing up flat in the middle of Tennessee when the thirty mile trip to Nashville Pike named the Lebanon Pike on the other end making it pretty much a day trip. Remembering when nothing much was entering my mind besides sports, playing it, that is, although i caught every baseball, football, and basketball radio broadcasts and  couple of college games on Saturday and one NFL game on Sunday.

Then there came the girls and i was smitten, oh about two dozens times: the fair, movies at the Capitol and the Princess, dances where you got dressed up and danced to that scandalous rock ‘n roll music. “The Stroll.” Every once in a while getting a good night kiss at the door and eventually figuring out that parking stuff.

i could go on through college as even at that advanced age all was still relatively innocent, even though we didn’t think so at the time.

But why go further? i was in the glory of not knowing all the real problems. i was being taught the right way to act and how to treat other people and ethical behavior and i didn’t, did not  even know it. i thought the world was full of folks like us, thought that good was at the core of everyone’s heart. i was working toward figuring out i would get along in the world under those rules.

Then it was gone. Adulthood sucks. i had to learn how to deal with all those folks who didn’t fit the image i had they would be.

But this afternoon, i’m listening to “Golden Slumbers”

Once there was a way
To get back homeward
Once there was a way
To get back home
Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby
Golden slumbers
Fill your eyes
Smiles await you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby
Once there was a way
To get back homeward
Once there was a way
To get back home
Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby


Ahh, the lullaby. Will it come tonight? i know i will awake to smiles in the morning. And i will not cry.

Fittingly the next track on the “Abbey Road” album is “The End,” and i think about carrying that weight a long time. But i gotta tell you folks, i ain’t carrying that weight. i have a whole bunch of family and friends of every variety — and it just struck me i can’t be more specific without someone interpreting i’m on one side or the other — and they are not a weight.

Sitting here in the Southwest corner, i am back home. George, Paul, Ringo, and John and i have gone on that journey back home.

And it is time to leave my reverie. Maureen is serving up carnitas tacos with all the fixings.


Murphy’s Law

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

Python’s Principle of TV Morality: There is nothing wrong with sex on television…as long as you don’t fall off.

Goofy guy’s admission concerning Python’s Principle of TV Morality: i cannot think of anything to add to this one.

Learning Tree

One of my all time favorite books is a children’s book, written by an off-the-wall cartoonist (among other things) named Shel Silverstein.

Maureen and i have endeavored to give this book to children or their parents as soon as possible after that child comes into the world. The book is The Giving Tree.

i believe it encompasses some of the most important lessons in life.

In the early 1990’s, i contemplated writing a children’s story about a jacaranda tree and the support it needed with a stake before becoming strong. It wasn’t really a good concept. My attempt to follow Shel Silverstein fell well short. The story lay fallow (lord, i hope that’s right: i seem to never get lay or lie correctly entered) and is in one of my “to work on” folders of which i have many. i am trying to winnow them down.

But as we moved through our landscaping improvements — and will keep continuing, because if you have land, earth around your home that is yours, not some landscape management outfit, this is a continuing, ongoing, mostly enjoyable, and never ending task — we had an interesting side effect. i have presented our two coral trees in previous posts.

One coral tree has grown naturally with no impediments and looks similar to all of the other Mexican coral trees i have encountered in the Southwest corner.

Earlier this spring, the coral blooms were magnificent even in the dark skies of a cloudy day:

On the other side of the backyard was a similar tree. But it was next to a carrotwood tree, which was beautiful but began to take over the backyard and became a problem. It also overshadowed the coral tree.

Finally, we had the carrotwood  tree taken down. And there stood the coral tree. Unlike the other, it had been deprived of a lot of sun. The carrotwood tree had dwarfed the coral tree. But undaunted, the coral tree began to grow its branches where it needed them to get to sunlight.

The tree looked scrawny even with the blooms. They are deciduous and lose all of their leaves before the beautiful coral buds dominate the branches. Maureen wanted a tree specialist (what does my little old brain not remember their official name) to cut it back. i refused. i was enchanted.

You see, this little old coral tree had been denied access to what it needed to thrive. It did not ask for assistance, but it strived to work out a way to make it on its own. Somewhere i have a photo of it with the coral blooms. Can’t find it.

But here it is now. A magnificent tree that didn’t deny the other tree its rights, that sought its life on its own, and grew to this:

My story is over. i was going to explain further, but i trust you will reach your own conclusions.


the darkness came
enfolding us in unknowing
all were sore afraid
folks, good folks, sought shelter
for they did not know this darkness
in the darkness
they built their barriers to caring
for their own protection
eventually making no sense
creating war amongst good folks
with no definition of
what is was all about
except they knew
they all knew
even though
what they knew was different
in the darkness
saw a light
saw the goodness of the folks
who had drawn
their lines in the sand
could not see the lines
because of the darkness
enveloping the land
they did not hear the someone
screaming about the light he saw
they did not see the light
because they were ready to war
over the lines they had drawn
in the darkness.

Bird Songs

It was after dinner, lunch as they call it out here in the Southwest corner, a misnomer this ole Tennessee boy can accept because it’s 72 degrees with a 5 knot ocean breeze, 60% humidity, and there are no clouds.

i’m sitting in my home office after a Monday morning of medical checkups and other appointments trying to decide if i should plug ahead on several writing projects, take care of some adminstrivia (thank you, Dave Carey, for giving me such a great term for necessary busy work), or…taking a nap. Undoubtedly, i will end up taking a nap.

However, during my contemplating, i realize the air outside my air conditioned less window ( yep, don’t have air conditioning; don’t use the heaters except to knock off the chill for about two hours in the winter months, and…oh, i’ve bragged about that before), there is a cacophony of symphonies going on. It is not the neighbor young daughters in the pool with their music blaring. They don’t play a lot of Bach.

But this isn’t Bach. It’s goldfinches, mostly i think, a few mourning doves, a couple of which are nesting in our eaves; there seems to be black phoebes joining in along with a California Towhee, and a song sparrow or two. i really don’t know. i am in no way an ornithologist. i stole these from a Google search. But i do know the finches call, and i do know and love the doves cooing. And for some reason, the multiple crows and ravens (someday i will figure out the difference; we have them both) seem to be silenced during this allegro.

As i sit here listening, i am taken back home. Summers. Robins, bluebirds, sparrows, mockingbirds (oh, i long for the mockingbird trill). Mornings. Filled with the sounds of birds. Songs of the heart.

The world as it should be. Back home then or in the Southwest corner now.


Before Turning In

Written (and revised today) while the USS Hawkins (DD-873) was in the Portsmouth (Virginia) Naval Shipyard in October 1969 to have her fantail deck strengthened and a crane installed on the port quarter for lifting the Apollo 12 Spacecraft Module out of the water. Hawkins had been assigned as the Atlantic recovery ship in case problems arose with a Pacific recovery where the USS Hornet (CVS 12) was the primary recovery ship and did recover the capsule with astronauts Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Al Bean aboard, November 7. There are a couple of more stories with our involvement, but this was what i was thinking one night in the shipyard.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, October 1969,
walk around the ship, late,
the command duty officer
checking if all’s well,
night rounds;
on the weather deck,
he turns the collar of
his drab green foul weather jacket
up to ward off the night wind;
cigarettes taste best on the forecastle
when there are lots of stars;
the squalid clutter of a shipyard
disappears after sunset,
sometimes he sees better after dark;
he breathes easier
before turning aft
to check the mooring lines once more;
before going below
with his red filtered flashlight
to check the holes and the voids
for watertight integrity
before turning in.

Old Men

once upon a time in a land far, far away,
there were some old men who grew up together:
played in the fields together;
played cowboys and indians together
where being one or the other
did not make them good or bad;
played mumblety-peg together;
played red rover and simon says together;
threw and caught balls together;
got into trouble together;
even had fights together;
as they grew up, they
played sports together;
were boy scouts together;
hunted together;
began to smoke together;
began to drink together;
began to go out with girls,
not together but
they talked of those exploits together;
and then,
some went away;
some stayed in the land far, far away;
some made some tidy sums:
some went broke;
some moved to the big cities;
some moved to farms;
some stayed right where they were;
and then,
nearly all of them married;
had different experiences
in the places they chose,
in the lives they chose;
years later, they would get together
to talk of when they grew up together
once upon a time in a land far, far away;
ask about their wives, their kids,
how things were going for them.

and then,
they locked themselves into their new grownup roles,
taking sides of politics,
world problems,
country problems,
local problems,
forgetting they grew up together;
some suffered maladies,
some lost loved ones;
some died;
those who locked themselves into roles
became spiteful and full of hate for those
who did not believe as they did;
and then,
there were two groups of the old men
who rejected each other;
there were a few others who did not forget,
did not judge;
but they were few
still remembering growing up together.

and then once upon a time in a land, far, far away,
they were gone.