Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

My Harding Place (republished after it was actually completed in spite of fat fingers)

Last night, my fat fingers hit the wrong button and this was published. Sara Yahola queried me about whether this was to be continued. The answer is yes, sort of. i will leave it here as is until i finish it and republish. Thanks, Sara.

i have finished for now. You see, Maureen has called and supper is ready. Henry would understand. i will put the link on Facebook and rename it for a second, completed run in my emails.

No, no, not Nashville’s Harding Place that wanders a dozen miles south of Murfreesboro Park to Belle Meade. if i remember correctly, that Harding Place was named after the kin of the folks i’m writing about here. i’m talking about MY Harding place.

It’s still there. Perhaps i should call it My Arnold place. That’s the way it got started. Moved off a farm, Grandpap Arnold’s farm, once again if i remembered correctly, the move including Grandpap and Maude.

When i got to know Harding place, Grandpap and Maude lived in the back room on the southside of Harding Place.

218 South Tarver.

Memories. Good people. Really good people.

i spent a great deal of my Lebanon life at my Harding place. It was my second home.

The primary reason was this black haired kid named Henry. George Henry Harding, V. to be more precise. “Henry” seemed to fit. Still does. But more about him later.

Because he was only a year younger, Beetle was nearly always involved in our shenanigans as well. James (Jim) A. Harding. i’m pretty sure the “A.” is for Arnold. More about him later as well.

When i visited, Grandpap and Maude seemed like visitors from an another planet of long ago. Lebanon history. Country folk, caring, with the scent of history. They were old then, but they were nice.

The grounds of my Harding place were about a half-acre i would guess. Across from Cumberland University, the yard ran from South Tarver back to the Tarver Branch of Barton’s Creek, which further to the southwest, i shared some more adventures with the Harding boys of my Harding place.

The Harding Place was freedom. There were about four outbuildings in the back. The furthest from the road was a comfortable one-room living space. An older relative lived there, an uncle as i recall. If Henry or Beetle were to say his name, i would remember. The relative whittled, but back then, there were a whole bunch of older Lebanon men who whittled. i don’t know if this relative chewed tobacco but most of the men who whittled also chewed tobacco. i’m convinced all of the old men who whittled on the court house steps in the square whittled, chewed, and spit on the sidewalk with some thought of perhaps getting someone walking by to slip and fall on his backside, preferably someone all duded up in a suit and tie.

This relative had a Ben Franklin stove in the back of his living space (the front of his living space faced the branch at the back of the lot).

The other buildings had equipment, all kinds of equipment, really interesting stuff to Lebanon boys. But the building on the north side, the other end of the living space was magic, pure magic. There were all sorts of enchanted, broken of course or at least in need of significant repair, pieces of stuff. Like the old pinball machine. This stuff could hold a young boy’s attention for a couple of hours. Easy.

And we would walk by the side of Tarver Branch north until we ran into the back of my relative’s backyard on West Spring. Burton Wilson was the son of my great aunt Ida Webster Wilson, the sister of my grandmother Katherine “Granny” Webster Prichard. Burton worked at the Woolen Mill, just like most folks it seems. He also was the choir director at the First Methodist Church. Mignon, his wife, doted on their children. Betty Burke Wilson was a beautiful blonde. i think i might have been in love with her but she was older and always out and about, i think perhaps in school, and boys my age then had illusory infatuations that left as quickly as they struck.

Dan was younger, but he liked to play with us and the Wilson large, screened in porch on  the east side had a ping pong table and the back yard was large enough for football and baseball games.

George, the patriarch of Harding place was well known throughout town. A staunch and active Democrat and Kiwanian, he was dapper, especially for a town like Lebanon and outspoken. Yeh, outspoken. He remained that way for all of his life. The boys, including George, would tape barbershop songs in the front room of Harding Place, singing with all of our might. He also had a sizable collection of LP albums, party albums, and comedy routines, even Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley. Of course, they were not something we were supposed to be listening to, but many a Sunday night, i would spend with Henry in the front room. There was a big radio and record player in the corner, and when we thought we wouldn’t get caught, Henry would go into George’s stash, and we would listen. If we thought we would get caught, there were late Sunday night gospel songfests we would find on the radio.

George and i, often with Virginia, became closer when high school football rolled around.  i rode with them in the black Mercury to every game not conflicting with my Castle Heights game schedule. George would give me his philosophy on all things great and small. i admired him.

Beetle and i had our own ventures together. We did many things with Henry, the three amigos, or perhaps the three stooges, but we had fun. Beetle and i started working for the Lebanon’s Public Works the same day. We collected a dead dog and took it to the dump. Then we had the wreck when i bounced Wilson Denny’s gas golf cart on the railroad tracks and into the fire hydrant outside Henderson’s Florist shop. We rode in the hospital in the same ambulance, laughing until it hurt…and beyond. We found each other in Vietnam, a fairly difficult thing to do when i was on a ship carrying Korean troops to and from Quinhon and Nha Trang and he was an army medivac officer on helos. And how, Mr. James Harding did you get the garbage truck duty while went to the waterworks and on to grave digging?

And then there was Virginia. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was caring, she was tolerant of our antics, and she made the only tacos and chile rellenos this side of the Mississippi. She and my aunt were my other two mothers and both let me get away with a lot more than mother would. i loved Virginia.

When she passed away way too early, i was in my spring semester at Vanderbilt. i remember running, the first time i just ran with no real place to go. Not a jog but a full out run in my regular clothes in the street. In a driving spring rain. Running until my lungs and my legs would carry me no further. I stopped somewhere on West Spring on my route to my Harding place i had walked so many, many times before. i cried all the way. And when i stopped, i bent over gasping and cried until i cried no more and walked back home. i will always miss her.

And then there is Henry. We took up running together sometime around first grade. i’m sure we got hooked up at the First Methodist Church Sunday School. But in fact, we met long before. We were Christened together along with Sharry Baird Hager  on VE Day in 1945 in the church’s sanctuary. i could tell you about 787,602 stories about Henry and me. Henry went to Lebanon High School.  i went to Castle Heights. Henry went to UT. i went to Vanderbilt. Henry went into the army. i went into the Navy. Henry stayed in Lebanon. i wandered around a whole bunch of this earth. We see each other rarely. We talk to each other once, maybe twice a year. We may exchange three or four emails a year.

He remains my brother. Our conversation is continuous. i admire his life, sometimes i am even envious he is the one who stayed and i am the one who left.

He and Brenda have made a lot of improvements to my Harding place, all good. It is a comfortable home with a comfortable couple living there.

They make me smile.

Sure would like to go back to my Harding place and spend a little time talking. Just talking.

My Harding Place

Last night, my fat fingers hit the wrong button and this was published. Sara Yahola queried me about whether this was to be continued. The answer is yes, sort of. i will leave it here as is until i finish it and republish. Thanks, Sara.

i have finished for now. You see, Maureen has called and supper is ready. Henry would understand. i will put the link on Facebook and rename it for a second, completed run in my emails.

No, no, not Nashville’s Harding Place that wanders a dozen miles south of Murfreesboro Park to Belle Meade. if i remember correctly, that Harding Place was named after the kin of the folks i’m writing about here. i’m talking about MY Harding place.

It’s still there. Perhaps i should call it My Arnold place. That’s the way it got started. Moved off a farm, Grandpap Arnold’s farm, once again if i remembered correctly, the move including Grandpap and Maude.

When i got to know Harding place, Grandpap and Maude lived in the back room on the southside of Harding Place.

218 South Tarver.

Memories. Good people. Really good people.

i spent a great deal of my Lebanon life at my Harding place. It was my second home.

The primary reason was this black haired kid named Henry. George Henry Harding, V. to be more precise. “Henry” seemed to fit. Still does. But more about him later.

Because he was only a year younger, Beetle was nearly always involved in our shenanigans as well. James (Jim) A. Harding. i’m pretty sure the “A.” is for Arnold. More about him later as well.

When i visited, Grandpap and Maude seemed like visitors from an another planet of long ago. Lebanon history. Country folk, caring, with the scent of history. They were old then, but they were nice.

The grounds of my Harding place were about a half-acre i would guess. Across from Cumberland University, the yard ran from South Tarver back to the Tarver Branch of Barton’s Creek, which further to the southwest, i shared some more adventures with the Harding boys of my Harding place.

The Harding Place was freedom. There were about four outbuildings in the back. The furthest from the road was a comfortable one-room living space. An older relative lived there, an uncle as i recall. If Henry or Beetle were to say his name, i would remember. The relative whittled, but back then, there were a whole bunch of older Lebanon men who whittled. i don’t know if this relative chewed tobacco but most of the men who whittled also chewed tobacco. i’m convinced all of the old men who whittled on the court house steps in the square whittled, chewed, and spit on the sidewalk with some thought of perhaps getting someone walking by to slip and fall on his backside, preferably someone all duded up in a suit and tie.

This relative had a Ben Franklin stove in the back of his living space (the front of his living space faced the branch at the back of the lot).

The other buildings had equipment, all kinds of equipment, really interesting stuff to Lebanon boys. But the building on the north side, the other end of the living space was magic, pure magic. There were all sorts of enchanted, broken of course or at least in need of significant repair, pieces of stuff. Like the old pinball machine. This stuff could hold a young boy’s attention for a couple of hours. Easy.

And we would walk by the side of Tarver Branch north until we ran into the back of my relative’s backyard on West Spring. Burton Wilson was the son of my great aunt Ida Webster Wilson, Katherine “Granny” Webster Prichard. Burton worked at the Woolen Mill, just like most folks it seems. He also was the choir director at the First Methodist Church. Mignon, his wife, doted on their children. Betty Burke Wilson was a beautiful blonde. i think i might have been in love with her but she was older and always out and about, i think perhaps in school, and boys my age then had illusory infatuations that left as quickly as they struck.

Dan was younger, but he liked to play with us and the Wilson large, screened in porch on  the east side had a ping pong table and the back yard was large enough for football and baseball games.

George, the patriarch of Harding place was well known throughout town. A staunch and active Democrat and Kiwanian, he was dapper, especially for a town like Lebanon and outspoken. Yeh, outspoken. He remained that way for all of his life. The boys, including George, would tape barbershop songs in the front room of Harding Place, singing with all of our might. He also had a sizable collection of LP albums, party albums, and comedy routines, even Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley. Of course, they were not something we were supposed to be listening to, but many a Sunday night, i would spend with Henry in the front room. There was a big radio and record player in the corner, and when we thought we wouldn’t get caught, Henry would go into George’s stash, and we would listen. If we thought we would get caught, there were late Sunday night gospel songfests we would find on the radio.

George and i, often with Virginia, became closer when high school football rolled around.  i rode with them in the black Mercury to every game not conflicting with my Castle Heights game schedule. George would give me his philosophy on all things great and small. i admired him.

Beetle and i had our own ventures together. We did many things with Henry, the three amigos, or perhaps the three stooges, but we had fun. Beetle and i started working for the Lebanon’s Public Works the same day. We collected a dead dog and took it to the dump. Then we had the wreck when i bounced Wilson Denny’s gas golf cart on the railroad tracks and into the fire hydrant outside Henderson’s Florist shop. We rode in the hospital in the same ambulance, laughing until it hurt…and beyond. We found each other in Vietnam, a fairly difficult thing to do when i was on a ship carrying Korean troops to and from Quinhon and Nha Trang and he was an army medivac officer on helos. And how, Mr. James Harding did you get the garbage truck duty while went to the waterworks and on to grave digging?

And then there was Virginia. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was caring, she was tolerant of our antics, and she made the only tacos and chile rellenos this side of the Mississippi. She and my aunt were my other two mothers and both let me get away with a lot more than mother would. i loved Virginia.

When she passed away way too early, i was in my spring semester at Vanderbilt. i remember running, the first time i just ran with no real place to go. Not a jog but a full out run in my regular clothes in the street. In a driving spring rain. Running until my lungs and my legs would carry me no further. I stopped somewhere on West Spring on my route to my Harding place i had walked so many, many times before. i cried all the way. And when i stopped, i bent over gasping and cried until i cried no more and walked back home. i will always miss her.

And then there is Henry. We took up running together sometime around first grade. i’m sure we got hooked up at the First Methodist Church Sunday School. But in fact, we met long before. We were Christened together along with Sharry Baird Hager  on VE Day in 1945 in the church’s sanctuary. i could tell you about 787,602 stories about Henry and me. Henry went to Lebanon High School.  i went to Castle Heights. Henry went to UT. i went to Vanderbilt. Henry went into the army. i went into the Navy. Henry stayed in Lebanon. i wandered around a whole bunch of this earth. We see each other rarely. We talk to each other once, maybe twice a year. We may exchange three or four emails a year.

He remains my brother. Our conversation is continuous. i admire his life, sometimes i am even envious he is the one who stayed and i am the one who left.

He and Brenda have made a lot of improvements to my Harding place, all good. It is a comfortable home with a comfortable couple living there.

They make me smile.

Sure would like to go back to my Harding place and spend a little time talking. Just talking.

Dark Side of Three

It is 2:56 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the dark side of three o’clock.

i am awake.

i woke up because it’s a tad warm for the Southwest corner. i tend to wake up once or twice a night because of old man things, but i’ve always been a great sleeper and nearly always go right back to sleep. i don’t consider myself “great” at hardly anything, but i am a great sleeper, always have been, got it from my father…but he was better. i mean anyone who in ’34 and ’35 could go eat lunch at Homer’s in the northeast corner of the square and then walk back to Philpot Motors a block off the square at North Maple and West Main before Philpot sold the business to the McDowell’s which became McDowell Oldsmobile and Cadillac or vice versa because i can’t always remember things exactly as they were, which is another old man thing, but anyway as my mother used to say when she wanted to let you know she had finished her aside and was returning to her original thought, my father would go to the lot behind Philpot’s where there was a big flatbed trailer parked just across the corner from the mule barn where West Market Street tees into North Cumberland and he would climb up on that flatbed trailer and go to sleep for whatever time was remaining and he slept hard but knew the mule barn, which was where Taylor’s cleaners and the feed store, which is Edwards Feed now and i think it was then, i mean before it was the mule barn, when i was growing up if i remember correctly but there goes that old man thing again and i don’t wish to sound like i’m really old because i’ve been blessed with good genes and am in better shape or at least have less body parts replaced than just about every man i know in my generation so i’m not complaining but i am old and that’s just the way it is, but anyway, mother again, my father would take his nap lying on the top of that flatbed trailer knowing the mule barn’s whistle would go off just before one to let the mule workers know they needed to get back to work and my father would wake up, climb off that flatbed and go back to the garage part of Philpot’s long before they called them service areas and certainly not service departments and he would work like a dog for twelve dollars a week.

Anyway, i woke up. Unlike most of the time, i couldn’t go back to sleep. Thinking about things. All sorts of things. Like most of the stuff i just wrote down above. But many more like why i haven’t finished that book or for that matter the five or six i keep thinking i’m going to write but never finish, at least not to my satisfaction, and i think about all of the things i’ve done wrong in my life, and on the short side of seventy-four, there are one hell of a lot of things i’ve done wrong in my life and i wonder why in the deep of night when i wake up i think about the wrong things and not the right things i’ve done because i think i’ve done a number of those as well, but it’s always the wrong things i think about in the middle of the night, and another thing that makes me wonder is how come i keep thinking about those wrong things i have done when there is not one damn thing i can do about them now, especially not at this time of night.

And then i wonder why i write even though i know i don’t have a clue why i write. It’s just there, this writing thing, and quite truthfully, even though i can’t seem to get this book finished, i can’t stop writing even though i would probably be happier if i just did the chores, the tasks around the house you know, and played golf. And i could, you know: i’m old, retired, can do anything i want so i get up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep because i’m thinking about all sorts of things and yes, i write.

Maybe it’s because i’m stoked. Crazy. You see, i cooked dinner last night. That’s a rarity. It’s also crazy. i used to cook dinner quite a bit when Maureen was working and i was mister mom and even beyond because i wanted her to rest after a long day at the office until i discovered it was her way to relax, to take work off her mind, and she loved to cook and since she saved her earnings at the movie theater and Kentucky Fried Chicken long before they changed it to KFC because they had real chicken back then, her earnings over and above the amount she needed to take her summer trips to Europe so she could buy those stainless steel pots and pans, a set that we still use today. Then she retired and cooking became a passion for her and she has turned into a gourmet chef and i get high end restaurant dining every meal. Yes, every meal. Even breakfast.

So why the hell am i cooking? Since she retired, my cooking has been restricted to grilling steaks, hamburgers, smoking the Thanksgiving turkey and a couple of favorites my mother used to make like meatloaf and a squash casserole and biscuits and cornbread with something i made up on my own with okra but turns out to be a lot like jambalaya, which hacks me off because i didn’t know it was jambalaya and it really isn’t because whoever heard of jambalaya having Tennessee Pride Country Sausage (HOT) included.

But anyway, i’ve got this friend. Great guy. We reconnected and probably never would have had not somebody other than Al Gore invented the internet. He, my friend not Al Gore, lives in south Georgia. His name is Jimmy Nokes. We grew up together. We learned to play golf, such as we played it when Hunter’s Point Golf Course opened. We played with Henry Harding and Fox Dedman and they were a bit better than the two of us and Nokes would get to the fifth hole (i think: old man stuff again) where a small pond was in front of the tee box and the hole ran along the barbed wire fence on the west border of the course and he would hit his ball into the pond although that pond shouldn’t have come into play at all, but it did for Nokes and he hit his ball off the fifth tee into the water about a dozen times until one day, he hit a line drive, a slice to the right, but it cleared the pond and Nokes was beginning to jump up and down with elation when the sliced ball smacked one of the barbed wire fence posts and bounced back…yep, right into the water.

And on weekend nights, usually Saturdays we would go to his house on the lake, somewhere out on Mann Road or just off of it near Brunley’s Branch of the river if i remember correctly, and we (Nokes, Fox, Henry, and me and Marty would take care of all of us like little boys which we were even though we were into our twenties by then) would play penny ante poker into the middle of the night and eat pizza and drink coke.

And…

So Jimmy Nokes sent me some Navy stuff he had. Mementoes. And when i complained about not having a Souvenir, the 1962 version of the Lebanon High School’s annual, he sent me his, and then maybe he read about my recollection of Vidalia onions and so last week we get this box of Vidalia onions and Maureen made one of her gourmet dinners and asked me to send Jimmy a photo of her gourmet dish with his Vidalia onions because she loves, absolutely loves Vidalia onions, which she discovered during our first year of marriage in Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville back several eons ago and so i did her one better by including the photo here.

But i didn’t take a photo of my dinner last night. Too busy. i got this idea and told Maureen i wanted to cook. She acquiesced, to my surprise, and so i looked up this recipe. Actually, i just typed in “Vidalia onions and tomatoes” because i wanted to use the tomatoes from our garden. It was something called “Grilled Walleye with Vidalia onions and tomatoes.” Perfect. Except there isn’t any walleye anywhere around here. So i go shopping and find some Pacific rockfish, which i would guess looks  a lot like walleye except i don’t remember what walleye looks like but hey, it’s a fish, and i come home and get out the recipe and ignore it except for the hushpuppies. As with all things cooking, or at least my cooking, i just started and grabbed stuff i thought sounded good with fish, Vidalia onions, and tomatoes. i stress “sounds good” because i usually don’t have a clue what all those spices actually do to the taste of food.

But it worked. Very well, thank you. And the hush puppies? It was my first time with hush puppies. i’m good with biscuits and cornbread, learned from my mother. But they were really, really good, not of course, good like Whitey’s Fish Camp on Doctor’s Lake off of the St. John’s River southwest of Jacksonville, but in fairness, my grease was corn oil, not some concoction Whitey has in big vats and changes once a year whether it needs it or not (Thank you, Bill Prichard).

And that’s my story. It worked. i am tired now and will go back to bed and go to sleep. i’ve stopped thinking about things.

And thank you, Jimmy Nokes…for the Vidalia onions and being a friend even after about a gazillion years.

Revisit

i put a bunch photos here to celebrate our anniversary Monday. But i had already posted about our anniversary, so i began deleting the photos this morning to write on a different subject.

Then i stopped.

After all, she is magic. Unconditional love. That’s Maureen. It’s payback with me. We are different in many ways, but as i told my brother and sister, the two of us are so locked in we give each other crap for our differences and then we laugh together. Yep. Magic.

So here’s what i didn’t delete:

Carmel, 1982
Hong Kong, 1983.
Tiburon, 20…sometime, maybe forever.

Magic.

Put a Kõln in the Slot

As you might have noticed, i have not been in a particularly good mood today. Without taking any pot shots at anyone else, i was grumbling as i moved about the house this morning and early afternoon.

Of course, i took on a task to worsen my mood. i don’t know if you might have tried this, but if not, avoid at all costs re-gripping a putter with a wood shaft with a leather grip that has been in place for oh, about thirty years. About that long ago, Maureen and i went to a golf store to buy her father a left-handed wood mallet putter with the Saint Andrews logos. In the course of the purchase, Maureen picked up a wood shafted putter and walked over to the indoor putting green and sunk about thirty putts or so with no misses. Done. We walked away with two hundred smackers worth of putters. Ray loved his and Maureen’s putting has become legendary, so it was worth it, but i was gulping at the time.

Needless to say, today it didn’t feel like the two hours plus i spent on a task it takes me about ten minutes with newer metal and graphite shafts. i will find out if it was worth it when we play on Tuesday. i’m betting if she misses some putts it will be my fault for putting on the new grip.

So i come into the house for more chores.

And then, came peace and calm.

As i do all too rarely, i pulled out a two record LP, which was Maureen’s before we got married. i now claim it. i had never heard of Keith Jarrett, much less had a clue Kõln was a city in Germany. That’s where Jarrett sat down at a grand piano before about a gazillion Germans in 1975. The Americanization of Kõln is Cologne and the performance was in the Kõln Opera House, and the gazillion was really about 1400  people jammed into the venue late, late at night.

There are a huge number of piano players in  this world. Good ones. i think favorites are a personal choice. My favorites do not keep me from listening and enjoying other pianists (there is a great joke about this only eclipsed by the story of Maureen trying to tell the joke, which i undoubtedly will post here later). Bill Evans immediately comes to my mind. Then there is Ray Bryant, still the one i could listen to all the time. George Winston’s new age stuff is relaxing, and Granny Prichard and Aunt Gussie (she and her children preferred her to be called Barbara) who could play…what should i call it? honky tonk gospel piano, which i loved.

But Jarrett and the Kõln concert is something else. i put it on and i am entranced. Chores, television watching, book and blog writing, reading stop. Stop. i listen. i am calm. i am at peace. i am entranced.

i am not providing a link here. You can find it easy enough and there is a free copy to listen to on youtube. That is for you to decide.

But it the midst of all that is going on in this world, i find Keith Jarrett and the Kõln concert something to take me away with artistry.

And make me smile in peace.

Vehicleligion

Now i am no longer in a position to address this as a general topic since i don’t go to church unless i’m back home in Lebanon, but i suspect what is going on down the hill and back up from our house at Corpus Christi Catholic Church will be pretty much true at most churches regardless of denomination.

Passing the church on Saturday afternoons and Sundays from about dawn until mid-afternoon, either on a walk/run or in my car, i am convinced there is an adjunct to church going. i think it’s vehicleligion (my word). From the way the attendees fight for parking spaces on the public roads closest to the church and even illegally put their vehicles in danger at all of the corners where they extend into the turn lanes, they must believe their vehicles get religion by osmosis and being closer to the sanctuary makes them better vehicleligionists (my word, again). i’ve seen them fight for parking spaces right in front of the church on Corral Canyon Road when there are numerous parking spaces in the church parking lot but would require them walking…oh about thirty more feet to the cathedral.

i’m guessing some come way early to get the prime spots and park in a way to keep anyone from parking close to their vehicle, thereby eliminating numerous spaces on the road from the excess space they take up. These folks, i’m guessing again, probably are the ones who emote grandly in the singing of hymns, who sit in the first couple of rows and nod their heads wisely, and put on this act of being pious. After all, their cars need religion too on Sundays.

But you know, people need religion. It might keep ’em straight, and i am glad they are going in droves to hear about Jesus. In many ways, i envy them their faith. Jesus was a good man with the right idea.

i’m just not sure all of the teachings  coming out of the sermon and the sacraments apply to cars, SUV’s, and trucks.

Apparently, i once again have missed something.

It Ain’t Easy

i was thinking about growing up in Lebanon, Tennessee, a small town back then to be sure. i had it easy or at least i thought i had it easy.

i was washing, rinsing and drying dishes somewhere around six or seven and did so with my brother and sister until i left Lebanon for good (but never in my heart), likely for the good of the town folk and me) in 1967. i started mowing and trimming (badly) our yard around eight and began mowing and raking — oh the raking — of the large maxi-leaf bearing trees (elms?) totaling somewhere over an acre of land between the yards of the two adjacent neighbors across the street. JB and Bessie Lee Frame and Fred and Ruby Cowan were the neighbors who contracted me at nine and then my brother after me for the yard work. My father allowed the use of his mower, which required us to care for our yard as well.

i was paid ten dollars for the job and did it almost every week between sometime in April until sometime in October. This would have been good money for a boy back then, but i spent most of it on 45 RPM records from the bins at Simm’s Magnavox on South College, baseball cards, sugar water in wax bottles looking like cokes, candy cigarettes, and Three Musketeers candy bars from Mr. Jackson, who ran “little” Eskews on the corner of West Main and South Tarver, stopping on my way home from school.

i never got an allowance. i did vacuum the tiled and carpeted floors in our house, strip the wood floors and then wax, and once cleared all the cinder or clinkers out of the crawl space in between the basement and the floor of the house. My father had thrown the cinders there rather than take them outside when clearing the coal furnace. This was after he had used the cinders as the surface of our driveway. i also washed all of the windows of our home, inside and out.

During high school summers thanks to Jesse Coe, i worked at the waterworks shoveling the shifting sands in the filter for purifying city water and then dug graves and did the mowing and trimming in Cedar Grove Cemetery. i also did the inventory of the parts in my father’s service area of Hankins, Byars, and Jewell Pontiac, nee Hankins and Smith. i pumped gas and serviced vehicles at the adjoining “full service” station when all the stations did it and didn’t call it “full service.” Later, i worked full time as a cub reporter and office boy for the Nashville Banner’s Fred Russell, the sports editor while i was in between colleges. After a rather pitiful scholarship performance at Vanderbilt, i paid for my college completion at Middle Tennessee while living at home and working as a the county and sports correspondent for the Banner, the weeknight FM and weekend AM deejay for WCOR AM and FM, as well as selling clothes during the holidays for Jimmy Hankin’s Men’s Clothing Store.

i’m sure there are several tasks i left out. In high school, i also played football, baseball, and basketball. While digging graves during summer “vacation,” i also played fast pitch softball Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights; American Legion baseball Wednesday and Saturday nights; and for a brief period baseball in a county summer league on Sunday afternoons.

i went to Sunday school, church, youth fellowship, and the evening service every week and often went to other church events during the week.

i hand wrote all of my homework until i learned to type (oh okay, my mother typed nearly all of my papers when i was under the gun because i had procrastinated until the last minute). i figured all of my math problems on paper until i got a slide rule my senior year in high school. i got all of my books from the library and did my research in the card catalogues of the Dewey Decimal system. i had to make calls from home or use a pay telephone. i used maps to drive places previously unknown to me.

We didn’t have air conditioning in our home until the mid-1950’s and didn’t have it in our cars until the 1956 Oldsmobile. i stole my sister’s Vauxhall from her when i went to work in Nashville . That’s when she was given her Volkswagen bug my father had made from two totaled VW’s. My brother’s clunker (okay, Joe, my old brain just farted and i can’t remember the make or the nickname, but i do remember it was a worn green). Those three cars did not have air conditioning.

i walked to school and back. No, it wasn’t five miles, more like a half mile to McClain Elementary and about one quarter mile, if that, to Castle Heights Military Academy

i never thought of growing up as hard. i goofed off a lot.

Although i wanted lots of things and had impossible goals for my dreams, none of which actually occurred, i did not consider myself disenfranchised. i wasn’t expecting anyone, including my parents to help me financially or otherwise once  i graduated from college, and not a lot after i graduated from high school. i thought i had to do it on my own.

This is not some diatribe about how tough i had it compared to the youth of today. I cannot judge that. i come from a different place and a different time. There are moments i actually think they have it a lot tougher than i did. They have to grow up faster. Their paths are not as clear. There are more people and cultural movements and internet information, both true and false affecting their decisions. What they have to achieve to obtain independence is a far greater leap than mine.

It just seems to me everyone, those my age as well, keep trying to make things easier, trying harder to “keep up with the Jones’, wanting to be more engaged with everyone else.

i keep remembering another line from Dave Carey. i don’t think it’s in his book. i remember him saying it to the senior Navy officers attending one of our seminars on leadership.

“Easy?” he questioned.

“Life ain’t supposed to be easy,” Dave explained, “There is always something happening to make it hard.” Dave, the former POW, should know.

“Life is dealing with the hard things confronting us as well as we can,” he said: i’m paraphrasing here as i don’t recall Dave’s exact words.

That’s my point. i don’t believe we reach the satisfaction of living a good life by obtaining wealth and a lot of things to be admired (we think). i don’t think we gain satisfaction by going on an eternal vacation, sleeping in, lounging around, playing at things we like to play.

i think there is a much greater satisfaction coming from dealing with the harder things popping up in our life and working well. Work is not something to escape. Work is a place we can excel. Working hard.

Another thing: your or my solution, your or my political philosophy, your or my religion, are not going to make this a perfect world. If you try and fix it your way, or they try to fix it their way, someone is going to be left out, someone is going to get hurt. Laws, policies, programs are imperfect. That doesn’t mean we should quit trying to make things right for everybody. That just means to me we need to fix things in our own relationships first. To quit looking for the guilty, quit accusing those of different opinions of being evil.

i can’t fix all of the things wrong in this world. i would like to be a part of improving them, but i can deal with all of the people i come across in this world as individuals, good people with good intentions.

Yes, there are some bad people out there. A few are actually evil, insanely evil. The vast majority are basically good people. Yet we focus on finding something wrong with people who don’t meet our expectations, our perceptions, and then disparaging them, beating them up with accusations not knowing the real intent or actually what happened.

In yesterday’s (Tuesday, July 24) San Diego Union-Tribune sports feature “Off the Wall,” there was an item with the subhead of “Rush to Judgement.” It was about a video that went viral on the web. The video shows Will Venable, the first base coach of the Chicago Cubs catching a foul ball, walking over to the stands, and making a soft toss to a boy in the front row. The boy doesn’t catch the toss; the ball rolls under the seats behind the boy and the man in that row picks up the ball and hands it to his wife.

End of video. Beginning of vilification and damnation of the man. i too was pissed at this callous fellow and in extension all Cub fans — if you are a suffering fan of the bumbling Padres, you don’t like Cub fans, especially when they show up more than your fans when the two clubs play in San Diego — for being so wrapped up in their Cubbies and themselves (oh okay, my brother-in-law and nephew are huge Cub fans and at least they aren’t that bad). Regardless, it looked bad. So bad.

What really happened? Earlier in the game, the man had caught a foul ball and given it to the boy. The boy’s mother told the man if he caught another to give it to another child; her son had the one the man had given him. The video cut off before the man’s wife did give that second ball to another child.

Shame on us. So how many times do we jump to conclusion and excoriate someone before we know all the facts and that person’s intent? Pretty much all the time, and damn near all the time when it comes to politics and religion. There are enough villains out there who need castigating and banning and deleting from our lives. We don’t need to be calling out the wrong folks.

So that’s today’s rant of the old man: Life ain’t easy. Deal with it. Don’t go around blaming folks when you don’t have all the facts. Live your life doing the right thing and treating people the right way.

Back off the insanity.

For My Mother

Ode to Three Sisters and Their Mother

The old lady came busting out of the old century;
where she had been
an exquisite china doll of immeasurable beauty;
young men chased her
to allowable limits in the Victorian South
after we turned from reconstruction
while Teddy was roustabouting with Spain
in that little skirmish we often forget.
Remember the Maine.

But Granny came busting out;
fire in her belly, grit in her craw, pluck in her spirit, gleam in her eye;
with the handsome man who won the chase,
taking her and his bloodhounds
to the retired circuit rider’s farm out on the pike
where Granny’s circuit rider father would
preach occasionally without the horse or mule
in the hamlet of Lebanon,
smack dab in the middle of Tennessee,
Where some bright folks built the square
over a cold water spring
they discovered in “Town Creek”
in yet an earlier century.

…and the children would come around wartime,
dropping among the years of the first big one
we resisted until the Luisitania
took its hit and sank like a rock;
…and the children came,
five in all until one died
as young family members often did
in those pre-antibiotic days.
The handsome blood hound man who chased
criminals through the woods
took his own hit,
a decade after the war.
So the little maelstrom with grit in her craw
packed up the chillun’s and the belongings
making the trek to the groves
of central Florida
for a couple of years to
escape the sinking of the hound man
and the attendant feelings thereof.

In thirty-two, they came back home,
each with some grit in their craw.
Granny, the queen of grit,
went to work,
taking care of those who needed care
outside the family in order
to take care of her own.

…and the children grew up early,
cooking the meals, washing the clothes, cleaning the house,
gathering eggs, milking the cows,  pulling the weeds;
before playing ball,
earning money until
they went to college in the little town,
or went to work,
or both.

The second big war came, again
in a wave of terror,
This time in an atoll’s pristine harbor,
taking hits, sinking to the shallow harbor depths.
Remember the Arizona.
The brother went off to war after marrying
a woman of another religion from down the road,
west a bit, in the big city.
He flew a plane named after his lady Colleen,
returning to the Tennessee hamlet, still
with fire in his belly, grit in his craw, pluck in spirit, gleam in his eye
before leaving for the orange groved paradise
he found on the southern trek several years before.

The preacher man was gone;
The hound man was gone;
The brother was gone;
The three sisters and their mother,
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes,
with their three new men
stared at the world,
staring it down straight in the eye,
wearing it down with their labor
until the world cried “uncle,”
admiring their fire and grit and pluck.

There were circles entwined with circles of family;
the circles orbited around the threes sisters and their mother:
all was well.
…and the world rolled on;
Granny finally gave up her pluckish ghost with grit in her craw;
no longer would she braid the waist long hair,
tying the braids atop her head
as she had done for so many years;
the three sisters rallied with
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes.

The grandchildren of the matriarch
spread with the four winds, remembering.
When the circles got together,
the three sisters remained the constant,
demanding the world stay in their orbit,
and the world was warm with laughter and love and
a sense the world was safe
as long as they all inherited
fire in their bellies, grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit; gleam in their eyes.
The world is older;
Granny is gone;
the youngest sister recently joining her,
the oldest failing fast:
The three sisters leaving us slowly with
the fire waning to embers, but still there is
grit in their craw, pluck in their spirit, gleam in their eyes;
staring down the world.

Such a lovely world they have shown us.

101

No, not the California scenic highway, or the highway that used to be scenic in more places.

101. That would have been her birthday today. Estelle Prichard Jewell.

She was spunk. She was matter of fact. She was an encyclopedia of family and Lebanon history. She was athletic. She was strict. She was love.

She was part of a remarkable lineage of grit (i’ll post my poem about her mother and her siblings yet again in a post later today).

She was remarkable.

i’ve written quite a bit about her here. i am hoping to have some surprise news about her in the near future. i will finish this with just photos.

She is my mother.

i miss her.

Estelle and her older sister, Evelyn Prichard, circa 1919.
The Prichard family, 1926. There is a great story about that pony.
The Hall of Fame basketball wonder, 1935.
The Prichard family, 1937.
1933 before one of her first dates with Jimmy Jewell.
The newly married couple, late 1930’s.
For 75 years, 1 month, and 12 days, they were inseparable. But nine months later, she fixed that and joined him. i’m betting they are celebrating her birthday together today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estelle Prichard Jewell