Letters a While Ago

Today, in case you missed my tribute, is my grandson’s birthday.

We sent him stuff. We called and sang to him. i wrote a poem about him and posted it.

Then i received a letter. The connections rang true.

Nancy Orr Winkler Schwarze sent the letter. Nancy is a cousin, but she is really like a long distance sister. On random weekends for about fourteen years, we would meet on weekends, sometimes in White Oak, then Red Bank, suburbs of Chattanooga; and sometimes in Lebanon, not a suburb of anything but near Nashville. Sometimes we would meet in Monteagle for lunch. Sometimes, especially Easters and Thanksgivings at Mama Orr’s Victorian home on the hill overlooking Rockwood. And in the summers, we often met in the cabin in the Smokies, hanging out on the hill above the creek’s waterfall and played and played and played. Nancy served me the first meal she ever made for a guest in her home in Cocoa Beach, i think. i do remember it was about five courses because she hadn’t quite figured out the timing. But it was good, very good.

She was stunningly beautiful. Still is. And boy, could she dance, especially with her brother Jon.

Long distant sister.

And the letter today was from long distance. Cocoa Beach, Florida to the Southwest corner. It was a nice note. Then i took the enclosures, a good IPA, the Bluetooth speaker, and my iPod out to the backyard sitting area, put on Narada guitars, set down with a pen and tablet to read the letters.

Didn’t write anything on the pad. Didn’t really even here the music.

i did cry.

You see, Nancy, like me, is going through stuff, not necessarily collected but just acquired through years of living, family stuff. When she saw some of my stuff in these posts and on Facebook of my acquirements, she decided to send hers to me. i’ve got a whole bunch she sent earlier of photos and stuff i’ve been slowly scanning and posting. But this was a bit different.

And i guess, thinking of my distance from my grandson Sam and his great grandfather from whence Sam’s name originates and all of that, i got just a tad emotional. i’m that way you know. i used to be embarrassed when i cried about things close to me. Like daughters. Like siblings. Like Mother and Daddy. Sorry. It’s just the way i am.

But these things Nancy sent are rather incredible.

World War II. Letters. “V-Mail,” they called it, abbreviated from “Victory Mail” long before victory was even close to fruition. From Wikipedia, it was explained as “a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.” The copies Nancy sent me look like what us old folks recall as thermofax, but smaller.

More remarkable, these were six letters, five of them V-Mail, the other marked “Passed by Naval Censor.”  The censors work is evident with words blotted out by some super sensitive desk sitter making sure my father would not put our country in jeopardy by telling my aunt and uncle something terribly classified. i was struck how real it was to them back then and also what an annoyance to the recipients. i was also struck about how important for him to communicate.

We were at war. Real war. Not some political foray to squelch evil in a land far away. Even though my father and uncles were far away from that little town in the heart of Tennessee, they were fighting to keep evil from conquering our world, not perceived potential. Real.

Yet he doesn’t write of war, even if the censor with those editing blots thought my father was revealing a terrible secret. He was writing of love. From far away to far away. My father, from whom i received maybe five total letters and notes in our life times together, was writing to his sister and brother in-laws with love. Showing concern. Talking about his niece and nephew. Missing all of them.

And expressing how much he wanted to be with his wife and child. Me. “James” he called me. Bragging about pictures of me.  Received somewhere in the limits of a Tennessee country boy could grasp in 1944-45: Bouganville, Solomon Island;  New Guinea, the Philippines. He still bragged…from long distance.

i read the all, six one-page letters. Perhaps one day, i shall scan them for all to see. Remarkable specimens of days long gone, a time we really can’t imagine.

i cried. Not because i miss him. i do. Not because of the trials and tribulations he, my uncles and our families had to endure. Not even because how much he loved me.

No. i cried because he was a fine man, a good man. And because he loved his first great grandson, as he did all of his brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and…oh could i go on about that. But as i read, i kept coming back to James Rye Jewell, Sr. and Samuel James Jewell Gander.

Oh how i wish i could adequately confer with my grandson just what his namesake was really, like really like.

But tonight, Sam too, like Nancy, is distant. Too far to convey such things.

But i really cried because i know Sam is blessed. He’s kin to his namesake.

 

Thoughts on a Birthday Weekend

It was not really her birthday. That event happened last month. It wasn’t even really her present. It was my present to her, but also very much to me.

When i came back from my Vanderbilt-Los Angeles baseball excursion in early March. i told her of my idea. i had been overwhelmed with the Harald Szeeman exhibit “Museum of Passions” on one of Alan Hicks, Cy Fraser, and my side trips on the baseball exhibit. It was my fourth trip to Getty Center. i also had recognized i could never get enough of the Getty. And neither of us had been to the Getty Villa, reputed to have an rather amazing collection of art from the antiquities.

So i said, “Let’s go to Los Angeles for a few days and just see museums.” Now if you know Maureen, you already know this was a done deal. See planned it to perfection (as usual) and even added an evening dinner and stay-over with our cousin Tim and Melinda Cook.

Well, the whole thing turned out splendidly. We hit the Huntington Library, the Getty Center, and the Getty Villa.

The evening with Tim and Melinda was reconnection on the high side with promises for more.

Maureen was moved by the Szeeman exhibit.

The Huntington is such a vast array of architecture, gardens, history and art, we walked for seemingly days in wonder.

The Getty Center continues to say some back, appreciate, and learn more.

The Getty Villa takes me back to the emotions i feel when trying to channel the days of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans.

Our stay in Santa Monica was in a wonderful rework of a craftsman home as VRBO guests of Paul and Amanda, superb hosts and members of the jazz rock soul group, The Strands (Paul and Amanda, please excuse me if i mislabeled the genre a little bit: we have enjoyed your CD’s.

Maureen planned our dinner outing at Tar and Roses. It was so good, we went back the second night.

The experience was everything we hoped. It was so good, i did not wish to record it via photos because i did not wish to detract from the enjoyment: i wanted to enjoy it, not record it, and we did.

Of course, there was Los Angeles traffic. We got home midday, and as Sister Lila (Kim Novak) told Zero Mostel’s character in “The Great Bank Robbery,” my ass was dragging. Hence, the late post on the trip.

There is more, but i think Maureen had a great birthday and that was what this was all about.

 

Joy and Hope

My grandson, Sam Gander, turns eleven today. ‘Nuff said.

i stole this from his mother’s FB page.

joy and hope
came upon me
eleven years ago
right after a flight
to austin, texas
and
a quick ride
to the hospital
where i ran head first
into joy and hope;

he was a tiny thing then,
holding more joy and hope
than pretty much the world combined:
Samuel James Jewell Gander,
named perfectly after my father in the middle,
giving all of us
joy and hope;
unification really
of a family, nuclear as it was,
but
then with joy and hope;

through the years,
he continues to bring
joy and hope
growing into manhood
as we gasp and wonder
as he teaches us anew
joy and hope;

Eleven. Sam.
there will be rocks in the road ahead;
you are headed into the adult world
where
joy and hope takes on self-interest,
where
joy and hope will sometimes fade
but now at eleven,
you continue to hold
joy and hope for me
forever.

you, at eleven, moving onward
shall experience glorious things,
yes, and precious things,
and some not so
glorious and precious,
but
you will succeed
if you retain
the joy and hope
you continue to give
to us.

 

Random Musings on a Thursday Night Before FMG

Another sunset on the Pacific tonight. The world is all right. The world is about as hosed up as Hogan’s goat.

And i…well, i am okay.

No, not okay. Good. Damn good. Thank you, people for making me feel good, all of you. For those of you who may have wished or even tried to make me feel bad, thank you, too. i would not have reached this place in my life without all of you. And i am in a good place.

My little garden, though in its infancy, is doing well. Oh, it’s not The Getty Center Garden, and it is just a start, but i find comfort in my new garden. i water and i think of my father watering his gardens in different aspects of his life. i recognize the feel-good he must have felt during the daily process.

The onions apparently has succeeded in keeping off the bobcat. The composter arrived this afternoon. That phase will begin in earnest next week. If all goes well, we may add more boxes. Thus far, it makes me feel good.

And the other yard project is finished, although Maureen or i will find flaws and correct them as we go along. The flagstone path to the sitting area has been set. It was more difficult than i anticipated. Roots were everywhere. It took about a week longer than i expected, but it felt good to wield a pick, shovel, rake, and hatchet again. Feel better. Even our gardener complemented the effort.

i have avoided home projects of any significant scope for quite a while, but i’m back at it, and it feels good. i think i will work on the seven hundred, twenty gazillion others i have on my list. i mean, this half-acre property has been ours for nearly twenty-eight years. It’s time to reassert to the earth, to nature, to all of those wild things out there it is really ours.

There are good things going on. Billie Holiday is here. i love to watch the alligator-hunting hound run with the joy she has, reminds me of my old lab Cass. She is a sweetheart. Sarah has trained her well. Billie’s eyes are eyes of trust. She makes me feel good. But she also has convinced me i will not have one of my own until old age restricts me in my capacity to wander.

i find myself enamored, maybe even entranced with nature’s creatures. My Friday Morning Golf buddies and i have watched and will continue to watch the various fowl along the coast, i.e. the North Island Naval Air Station golf course, Sea ‘n Air, as they live through the seasons. Canadian geese, ospreys, and pelicans are frequently spotted. This time of year, we watch the ducks pair off with the drake and the hen becoming a duo. Then, the ducklings appear. Maureen and i played Sunday with Nancy Toennies while Pete is on the mend. On the 17th tee box, we were greeted by this contingent.

Life is good even if my golf game sucks. But i will be at it again tomorrow just as i have been on most Fridays since 1991.

It is late. More ramblings to come.

Way up in the Wastach Mountains

Andrew Nemethy’s recent hiking trip and whatever else to Utah produced a message exchange between us. (Andrew, Rob Dewitt, and i shared forward officer’s quarters on our first ship, the USS Hawkins (DD 873) a long time ago). Our exchange made me decide to post this poem  again about my Utah experience.

Way up in the Mountains

way up in the Wasatch mountains,
where snow covered the Mormon pretense
one hundred, fifty years or so ago;
passages to the west were few
except in the warm months;
only the hardy would climb so high
with mules, packs, jerky, coffee
to mine the silver,
hunt the plentiful game
in the cold deep white of the mountain.

now the heights are a playground,
cleared groomed slopes skied down after
rides up the mechanized chair
where hunters and miners
persevered in the hard months,
now playtime in the rockies
for the masses.
the old town street running up and down
the hill called Main
was general store, haberdashery,
gin mill, assayer,
probably a red light house or two,
amidst the good, lord abiding citizens;
now
pizza joints butted against
boutiques, fashion salons,
restaurants with high cost haute cuisine;
only the Empress Theater and saloons
bear some resemblance to their former selves:
instead of grimy miners
swigging down the swill,
home brew out of pails,
rot gut whiskey.
now movie stars,
dressed to the nines
sipping wine
at the festival of cinema
named after an outlaw;
town and tourist drunks
drinking the trendy micro brews.

Still, in the quiet after a late winter storm,
there are tracks
of rabbit, mountain goat, even elk,
if one dares to climb so high.

A Major Leaguer and an Old Ballplayer

The above newspaper article brings back a memory, a good moment for me.

Dan Boone is from San Diego. His achievement noted in this article is nothing short of amazing. He had pitched for the Padres and in another major league team’s Triple A club in Louisville before falling out of professional baseball. He resumed playing in San Diego’s ADABA league (see the first bullet in the second column) before making it to the bigs again as recounted in this 1991 article.

ADABA is where we crossed paths. Bill Hammond, a Navy lieutenant, and a good friend who worked for me in leadership training, talked me into joining his team, the Rangers, in 1986. The minimum age to play in the league was 33. All of the other team members were just barely over the minimum age and a couple were younger, slipping under the radar. At 40, i was six years older than any other player on the Ranger roster.

Since i hadn’t played baseball since American Legion ball in Lebanon, i was a bit concerned about being able to play well enough to contribute. The first game i played was against the “Dodgers,” at the high school field in Ramona, about 40 miles northeast of our home. The Dodgers came out in LA Dodgers replica uniforms. But when they came out on the field, i laughed and knew i could play in the league. These guys, all in their Dodger uniforms all looked like Tommy Lasorda clones.

Then, the Rangers started their infield warmups. I was not starting, and although i was anxious to play, i was not unhappy i would slowly be back into the game i loved. Practice had proven to my teammates and me my old shoulder injury would keep me from making strong throws to first from my old third base position. i was fine with being the second base backup and third string catcher.

The starting second baseman was a doctor at UCSD. About my height, maybe just a bit shorter. He was called “Little Bob” to distinguish him from our big first baseman who was dubbed “Big Bob.” Little Bob was a baseball nut and had an early computer program where he could keep all of our statistics, individual and team. Our catcher had played what was then the “D” league for the Montreal Expos organization before becoming an insurance salesman. He was good. Period. He fired rockets to second base. When the pitcher completed his warm-up throws, our catcher shot his throw, a speeding bullet to second. It was a bit high. Little Bob, standing on the bag, realized the throw was high, extended both arms up, and leaped as high as he could (about six inches) to catch the high throw.

It hit him in the forehead.

i immediately became comfortable with the idea of contributing to the team.

i played for three years (it was year round league with a winter and a summer season). My last year was in 1989, quitting before the summer season about six months before i retired (sic) from the Navy. As usual, there are a number of stories about that experience to be told later.

But Dan Boone contributed to one of my finer moments. Dan was playing with one of the top-notch teams in the league. The one that went to the national tournament in Arizona almost every year. In my last season, we played Dan’s team at the San Diego “Cavers” high school field. Dan pitched a one-hit, 8-1 win against us. i did not get a hit, but i did get the only RBI in the games Dan pitched that season. One of our better players walked, he stole second. A fly ball moved him to third. I hit a hard grounder to deep second. It was good enough the second baseman could not stop the run from scoring and threw me out at first. It was the best non-hit i could remember in my storied (oh, okay, it was only storied in my mind) baseball career.

 

 

Southwestern Chili

We had our nephew, Bill Boase, over last Saturday for supper and watched the Padres beat the Giants on television.

Maureen asked me to make my chili, award-winning i might add, and cornbread, also praised by many. My secrets? Well, my cornbread secret is i try, failing miserably, to make cornbread like my mother did. My chili secret is i cheat.

It’s not really big award winning chili. When Maureen was working at Parron-Hall Office Interiors, they decided to have a party featuring a chili contest among employees and their families. Maureen liked my chili, but i think she didn’t really want to lower herself to make chili. i mean she makes this wonderful white bean chili, but i think she realizes it’s delicate, and ain’t nobody gonna vote for a delicate tasting chili. So she asked me. i did but didn’t go to the party. She came home and told me i had won. i laughed. i cheated. But i now can claim it’s “award winning.”

i learned how to cheat from JD Waits…or maybe he learned how to cheat from me. JD is a very, very good cook. His parents ran a diner in Houston for years. i don’t know if it was award winning, but it should have been. Their patrons were many and quite a few gave JD’s father and Wanda Pearl, JD’s mother, lots of bennies, like tickets to see Spike Jones (but that is another story, one of JD’s best and makes me think of Christmas Story).

The origination of our cheating chili came in what could be the greatest hail and farewell party in Naval history (at least for JD and me) — a hail and farewell party is a wardroom celebration on ships when a new officer reports aboard to relieve an officer who is rotating to a new assignment. JD and i offered to serve as hosts when a number of officers were rotating within several weeks of each other. At the time, i had an apartment on Coronado and JD moved in with me for several months before moving to his own place (there are many sea stories involving JD and i from 1981 to 1983 and beyond, only a few told here so far).

This was a big affair. At least fifty officers and wives attended, maybe more, and a whole lot more of the 80 officers assigned were anticipated. JD suggested it would be easiest to prepare a huge pot of chili. Not having a clue what would be involved in chili making, i readily agreed. i had a couple of pots, but nothing that would provide chili for the number of expected guests. So we went to a large discount house in National City, sort of a gigantic Pic ‘n Save (yep, there’s a story about Pic ‘n Save for later…if Maureen will let me post it). We found a six-gallon pot of questionable metal quality for five bucks. Perfect.

Then we went to the commissary and got all the fixings. The most secret of our secret ingredients were in one box. Some Texan named Shelby Carroll put the stuff in the box. The day before the Saturday shindig, we stir-fried the stew meat, about a half a cow’s worth, and put it in the big pot as well as a couple of the biggest pots i had and put the pots on the stove. Then we added the stuff Carroll told us to add and several things like a gazillion red beans, in the pot Carroll did not advise.

JD, a master at getting me in trouble, oversaw the mixing and set the temperature on the range. i was in charge of stirring. JD took a nap. i had a beer. i went back after the beer and stirred. There was something on the bottom of the pots. i had not stirred enough and the elixir on the bottom along with the meat had burned. Not realizing what it was, i scraped it off the bottom with my big spoon. When i picked the spoon up, i realized what the charred goop on the spoon was.

i called JD. “i think i ruined the whole batch,” i lamented.

“No problem,” JD cooly calmed me, “Just stir it into the rest. We’ll tell ’em it’s Southwest chili. They will never know the difference.”

The next morning, we sat a can of Hormel chili alongside bottles of Thunderbird and Night Train (“Serve Very Cold” for obvious reasons), a total outlay of six bucks. When folks expressed dismay, we assured them the Hormel can was just a joke. King Deutch, JD’s boss on Okinawa, showed up with his model wife, Jeannie. She insisted on having a glass of the Night Train. After tasting her wine, she assessed, “Quite elegant with a nice finish.” She laughed.

Most of the farewells were for officers transferring overseas or to the East Coast. Navy moving does not allow ammunition or alcohol to be included in a move. So all of the departing officers brought their entire collections of booze and donated them to the hosts of the party. JD and i were deliriously happy. After about six months, we became apartment mates again in the Coronado Cays condominium with the boat slip below our patio holding JD’s  25-foot Cal sailboat. When someone came to our double door entrance, they opened the door and became face-to-face with the best stocked private wet bar in the Southwest corner crammed with every kind of alcoholic beverages from all over the world.

Everyone loved the chili.

Now, i don’t burn the bottom of the pan. The pan itself is cast iron and is nowhere near as gargantuan. Some people even think it’s award-winning, which it is…to my way of thinking. And yes, it is cheating, but i don’t care. It’s good.

 

An Infant Protest

This morning, i donned my jeans for working in the yard. Levis. 501s, metal buttons for the fly, NOT a zipper. Been wearing those since 1956, maybe earlier. i recognized i must give in to this aging thing. Already have in some things. Like wearing a belt with jeans. Didn’t do that until a couple of years ago when the midsection began to bulge. Insurance, you know. But now i was considering getting a new pair with a zipper of all things. Old fingers, fatter than they used to be and certainly not as flexible demanded i change. Felt sad i had to put aside another something i had done most of my life.

i began to put the belt through the loops. Every time i put a belt in my jeans, i think about the protest.

It didn’t make the news. i’m not even sure anyone outside of the eighth grade class ever knew about it. i’m not even sure my mother heard about it, and as the secretary to the superintendent, she knew everything that went on in those three buildings, especially when i was involved. It wasn’t the first protest. Brown versus Board of Education (Kansas) was ruled upon in 1954. The ruling began school integration leading to violent resistance. The protest i’m recalling was certainly the first and perhaps only protest in which i participated.

It was in a small, country town almost smack dab in the middle of Tennessee, the county seat. It was the third year after the small country town had separated the seventh and eighth grade from elementary school.

Perhaps we were feeling our oats, being noted as older, more mature than those “children” in elementary school. Perhaps because the building had formerly housed the high school, we believed we were of that ilk, not junior high students. Perhaps because we weren’t in our school building proper, we felt we had more power, more independence. Who knows. Perhaps it had something to do with puberty.

It was in the basement cafeteria in Highland Heights Elementary School. Lebanon Junior High where the protest was fomented was across the parking lot in front of the gym.

It all began innocently enough. i don’t remember if the guy involved in the initial incident even knew he was doing something outside of the regulations. But the principle knew the regulation. And enforced it.

The guy was R Townley Johnson (the R was just there, no name associated with it, just “R”). He was a bit different than most of us. A really good athlete who didn’t have a lot of interest in athletics. He was into music. Big time. i played with him a lot, stick ball in the parking lot behind his apartment building on West Main, between Pennsylvania and Castle Heights avenues, if i recall correctly. We played on the Nokes Sports Little League team together. Townley hit home runs. i hit doubles.

Along with Bill Cowan, the three of us practiced being a band trio together. Great plans. But the piano player, me, really wasn’t good enough to play in a band.

Townley and Bill scoffed me when i suggested we play Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” “Too old fashion,” they said. The next year, The Platters made the song into a Top 40 hit.

Townley went on to be the drum major of the University of Tennessee marching band. He played or led a number of bands. i lost track of him until Henry Harding told me Townley had showed up and scared the beejeezus out of Henry’s wife Brenda due to Townley’s attire, appearance, and behavior. There are lots of stories about how and why he went downhill. i don’t know because i had taken off to roam the seas, unaware of the bands and Townley during those days.

Sadly, Townley died a number of years ago.

But he did cause this infant protest. Noble cause? Well, not really. All of us guys wore blue jeans, preferably Levis except when we dressed up. Townley went to lunch that fateful day without a belt in his jeans. That was the regulation Mrs. Burton was adamant about enforcing. She did. Mrs. Burton was a sweetheart, one of the best teachers and administrators i experienced through all of my schooling. A wonderful woman.

i don’t remember exactly what the punishment was. Probably Townley had to stay after school or something.

But we didn’t think it was fair. i don’t think we were old enough to really understand “Freedom of Speech.” You know, that Constitution First Amendment thing, which is the cornerstone of the idea of freedom, equality, and all of that stuff. Nah. We just thought it wasn’t fair.

So all of the boys got together and discussed it. i suspect Henry Harding, as he was likely to do, especially with me, quietly was the instigator of the protest although it could have been Bill Cowan, Mike Gannaway, Jimmy Gamble, Buddy Phillips, Bobby Byrd, or several others who came up with the protest event. i’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.

But the next day at lunch, we all went to lunch in the cafeteria in our jeans sans belts.

My story must end there because i don’t remember what resulted in that protest. i’m guessing retribution was swift and made us recognize the errors in our ways, but that is just a guess.

Yet somehow i remember it every time i put my jeans on (with the belt). It makes me feel proud.

First row (left to right): Buddy Phillips, Clinton Matthews, Jimmy Gamble, Townley Johnson, Henry Harding, Jim Jewell, Milton Lowery; Second row: Phil Turner, LeRoy Dowdy, Malcolm Metcalf, Coach Miles McMillan, John Walker, George Summers.

Spankings and a Cat

My adventure with bobcats in the garden has entered a new chapter with another pile this morning. Although the latest pile suggests it just might not be a bobcat and could be a very exuberant tomcat, like the two our neighbor’s have roam the neighborhood. But from the size of the pile the first time, i’m still favoring bobcat. The onions didn’t seem to deter whatever it is. The strangest part is there are no droppings, just a pile. But i don’t think tomcats or bobcats are into cultivation.

So i am searching the internet, seeking friend’s advice, and thinking of all sorts of answers on how to keep any kind of cat out of my garden. Solution is TBD.

But the problem brought me recall of another cat of a long time ago in a far off place called Houston.

Before Facebook, a lot of connecting was done on email. i found this exchange, updated and revised here that addressed that cat and four spankings.

…I am relaying this story from one of my all-time favorite shipmates and adventure sharers, JD Waits.

About ten years ago (now about twenty years ago), JD and i were reminiscing (and bragging a bit) about our youth and our experiences in spanking. JD topped me when he said, “I’ll bet you’ve never been whipped four times for one thing.”

“No, I replied, “How did you manage that?”

“Well when I was growing up in Houston, we had this old widow lady as a neighbor, and she had a cat,” he began.

“I was in the eighth grade and my science project was growing tomatoes in our back yard, and that cat kept getting into my tomato plants. So I asked my daddy how I could keep that cat away from my tomatoes. My daddy told me to get a water pistol and wait for the cat. He said if I shot the cat with the water pistol when he got in the tomatoes, then after five or so times, the cat wouldn’t bother the tomatoes.

“I was a pretty bright boy, and i figured that if it took five or so times with a water pistol, it would only take once with a BB gun.

“So I got out my trusty Red Ryder BB rifle and lay in wait. When that cat got in the tomatoes, i plugged him once right in the ribs. He went back to the old widow’s house like a laser, screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Unfortunately, I had made a tactical error, and the old widow saw me shoot the cat. She came out of her house, yelled for me to get over there, and wore my britches out. Before I could get home, she had run in her house, called my mama, and told her what I had done.

“When I got home and before I could explain, my mama spanked me too, all the time yelling at me about how I could have given the old lady a heart attack.

“An hour or so later, my daddy gets home from work; my mama tells him about it, and he whips me.”

“But that’s only three times, JD,” I observed, “What about the fourth?”

“I’m getting to that,” he said. “Later that night, one of my friends came over and we were sitting on the front porch steps.

“After I told my buddy about my bad day with the cat, he asks me, ‘’Would you do it again?’

“I replied, ‘I’d do it again if I didn’t think I would get caught.’”

“Without me knowing it, my daddy had come out on the porch and was standing behind me when i answered, and…he whipped me again.”

Billie Holiday and the Goofy Guy Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand by.