The Last One

She was a trooper, like all of them. In some ways, it was appropriate for her to be the last to leave us and join the others.

Hiram Culley and Carrie Myrtle Orrand Jewell moved to Lebanon, Tennessee, all the way from Statesville, twenty miles away in 1900, and considering it was the time it was and the place it was, twenty miles was a long move.

They brought with them their son Jessie, who was born in 1898, a year after they were married. He was the first of that Jewell generation. Virda was born in 1904, followed by Naomi in 1907, Wesley in 1909, Jimmy in 1914, Huffman in 1917, and Carrie Myrtle, who was born in 1918 but only lived a month.

Virda died at 28. She had married Mathew Graham Williamson and they had a son named after his father. As soon as she graduated from high school, she went to work as a telephone operator.

The others lived lengthy lives. And worked. Lord, how they worked.

Culley bought a steam powered tractor in 1918, and with Jessie, drove it back from Union Station in Nashville to Lebanon. They converted it into a portable saw mill. Jessie and Wesley worked with their father, clearing trees and turning the wood into lumber in a large swath of Wilson County. Even Jimmy, at six-years old contributed by keeping the steam engine running by feeding the slag lumber from the lumber cutting into the fire chamber.

Jessie became a plumber and was one of the best in Lebanon. He married Alice Guild Kelley and they had four daughters, the oldest dying at birth.

Naomi, as soon as she graduated from Lebanon High School, went to work for Ma Bell as her a switchboard operator as her older sister, Virda, had done. She retired as a senior manager. She married George Maxwell Martin. They had one son. They also raised Graham Williamson after Virda, Naomi’s younger sister died when she was 28.

Wesley became a mechanic, married Gussie Barbara Compton. He got the itch to travel and moved to California in 1941. The couple had two sons and a daughter.

Jimmy Jewell went to work as a mechanic when his brother Wesley got him a job where he was working before heading west. Jimmy became known as the best mechanic in the county. Jimmy married Estelle Prichard Jewell. They had two sons and a daughter, the oldest of which was me.

Huffman Jewell was the youngest. He was a postman and a farmer. He married this wonderful woman, Ruby Louise McDonald, the last of their generation of Jewell’s. She was the last one.

Aunt Louise passed away Wednesday, March 30. i earlier wrote it was fitting she was the last of those brothers, sisters, and their spouses because i remember her as the one who always visited her in-laws when they had physical problems, going out of her way to give them comfort.

She was a comfort: a hard-working, Southern Christian woman from a small town. The kind that made you feel at home. The kind that made you smile. And that farm. It made me feel as if i should have been a farmer. And it was hers. Yes, Huffman worked it, but Louise was part and partial of that farm.

Tomorrow, Aunt Louise will be buried beside Huffman in Wilson County Memorial Gardens.

i wish i could be there. i wish i could have spent more time with her, talked with her more. Times and my living kept me from that.

She was the last of a family of brothers and sisters with strong bonds and caring for each other. They worked with each other, they played with each other, and they loved each other. i am pretty sure that most folks who were reared by that generation, especially in small towns like Lebanon have similar feelings about what Tom Brokaw labeled “The Great Generation.”

i’m also sure Jessie and Alice, Virda and Mathew, Naomi and George, Wesley and Barbara, Jimmy and Estelle, and of course, Huffman, will be glad to have her join them in the sky, Lord, in the sky.

On Track, Part I

Friday afternoon, i drove over to Mesa College for the Arnie Robinson Annual Track Event at Mesa College. Mesa College is a two-year community college about 20 miles from our home. The meet was for high school and junior college athletes from schools in San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.

i parked and walked around the track and football stadium to the upper area where many of the field events were being held. There were ten or so pop-up tents around the edge of the field. The last one was next to what looked like a batting cage to me. But then, my last track meet was attending the Florida A&M-Tennessee State meet in the spring of 1963, nearly sixty years ago. The cage, larger than a batting cage was where they contested the shot putt, hammer throw, and discus events.

That last tent was for the athletes competing for Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. And there, lying on her stomach talking to her fellow athletes was Danielle Lister. To accurately describe our relationship would take several pages. So i will just use the standard i use for kin: she’s a cousin; i’m her “crazy uncle jim” (CUJ).

Her real uncle, Eric Leo Johnson, had let Maureen and i know Danielle would be competing nearby. Maureen had gone to one of her events that morning, the hammer throw. i was there for the discus.

Before i get into my roiling in my thoughts on track and field, i just want to let you know i have a rather incredible young lady for a cousin. Danielle is pretty, a red-head, smart, engaging, witty, and one heck of an athlete. She is in the top level of JC athletes in California. And we had fun. Oh yes, she finished second in the discus with a personal best of 133′ 9.” There is yet another impressive thing she did at the end of the competition. i cannot divulge what it was for to do so would take away from what she did. Only a few other athletes and her coach know what she did, but i can tell you her ethics, morale, and doing what was right was more impressive to me than what she did in her events.

i am proud to say i am crazy uncle jim for Danielle.

One More

When i created my last post concerning Maureen’s birthday, i could not find one photo i wished to include. i found it today. It is her senior high school photo:

And there is no way i can capture her laugh, which has brought down many houses in laughter. No way.

As i have said and written on numerous occasions, i am a lucky man.

Birthday, Low-Key Style

i was going to attempt elegant again in honoring her on her birthday.

71. Doesn’t seem like it.

She admonished me. “Refrain from posting something about me,” she said.

i have written a lot about her. So here is a pictorial of sorts:

And the best part is she is even more beautiful in her heart.

Happy Birthday, dear lady of mine.

Night and Day

i am looking for posts i’ve written in the past to celebrate the birthday of my mate, my wife. Undoubtedly, i will post at least one on her birthday Monday.

i often wonder just how we ended up together and how she not only has put up with a really strange guy, but how she still loves me in spite of my shenanigans (a perfect word for me and my history: the second definition of the noun states, “silly or high-spirited behavior; mischief.”)

Then in today’s early, early hours of the morning, even earlier than usual, i awoke, and this thought came into my head: “as different as day and night.” That was it. Nothing more.

i tried to sleep. i wanted to get a couple of more hours before rising my Friday morning early for my Friday Morning Golf, more of a ritual now than when it first began with Marty Linville in 1991. i could not. i had gone to bed early. i cannot sleep much more than six hours with an old man party break…huh, that’s “potty break,” not “party break.” i moved out of our bedroom and lay down on the guest bedroom bed. Didn’t work. i arose, dressed for golf, and fed the cats. As i placed the cats’ dishes in their feeding places, the newspaper boy…er, no longer accurate: man in a car, pulled into our driveway since there are very few people who get the printed newspaper anymore, if at all, and tossed our paper on the driveway before backing out and continuing on his rounds. i walked out to get the paper. Standing there in the dark, well before first light, i realized the fog was setting in, the Santa Ana had broken. The half moon was hazy. The morning star hanging over Mexico could not be seen, nor Mount Miguel to the east.

i thought, “Night and day are about to mingle. First light will be more of a melding than a division.

“Like us.”

Monday, Maureen will be the youngest 71 i’ve ever known. i mean she ain’t no spring chicken, but she handles it well. She is beautiful and more, oh so much more importantly, she cares about every one, even the rapscallion she married.

Standing there in the seacoast town pre-dawn fog, i thought again, “Night and Day.”

i made the coffee, performed the now required stretches for the morning round and sat down and wrote the first cut of this:

Night and Day

the two of them
are as different as
night and day,
but
if you’ve noticed,
night and day go together very well
and
even if these two are different,
they match perfectly:
she is forever beautiful;
he’s a jolly old elf;
she is careful, planning, specific;
he is bumbling, taking off on whims;
yet,
they understand each other
and
anticipate each other’s needs and wants;

it’s beautiful,
like when
the morning star shines down
on first light
and
night meets day;
the question remains
who is night
and who is day?

Southwest Corner Winter

This was going to be a long post with numerous photos of the Southwest corner in the “winter.”

For us, it has been a pretty tough winter (he wrote with tongue in cheek). i went through nearly a whole cord of firewood. Usually, i fall a bit short with a half cord. It was cooler but i have friends in Vermont and Maine who might shoot me if i called it cold. We actually had frost once or twice and there were a handful of days it only reached 60 degrees. Wet too. For us. We got about four inches thus far this year. But it was cloudy a lot.

This of course is a problem. Dry country. Fire danger. ’nuff said.

i really shouldn’t be doing this as  i have tasks to do and golf to play.

So here is a photo that captures what amazed my father about our winters:

It is a view of Mount Miguel on my morning walks/hikes. Daddy was always tickled that it is green here in the winter and brown in the summer.

Although this was at the very end of winter, it is a representative view of the slope in our back yard. Maureen and our gardener did this after i had implored to redo the slope in the manner of the much smaller slope at our previous home:

To paraphrase Phil Harris: That’s what i like about the Southwest…corner.

 

Morning Thoughts

When i retrieved the newspaper from out front this Sunday morning and read the front page headlines, i recalled Dave Carey, my friend, business associate, and former POW, telling a group of seminar attendees of one Sunday morning, years ago, when his incredible late wife Karen asked him if he would like to read the paper.

Dave asked Karen if she found some good news in the paper to read it to him. She couldn’t find any good news.

i think that is one reason i am weaning myself off news entirely. “News” today is almost always biased. There appears to be no effort to write good news except for fuzzy stuff that makes us feel good at the end of a newscast or is buried in the middle pages of a newspaper, but of little consequence.

It occurred to me people, no matter how we categorize them or lump them together that category or lump contains the same kind of people that are in the other group.

Each grouping has good folks and bad folks. All the groups pretty much cover the waterfront on the degree of good and bad they have in them. There have folks who follow and support the good. They have folks who support the bad. They have a whole bunch of folks in the middle who can sway either way depending  on the time and the situation.

That kind of group composition has existed throughout the history of man.

We are no different today except technology has allowed stupid to expand exponentially.

Late Friday Night Ramblings

The title term is from an entirely different perspective now as compared to, say, thirty years ago, and an even greater difference forty-plus years ago.

i am not likely to finish this tonight. After all, i’m slowing down a bit, and today began with leaving the house around 5:30, or actually 6:30, plus seven from Greenwich, not some political maneuvering in an attempt to fool us as to what time it really is.

Suffice it to say i rose early, even for me. The curmudgeons played our usual Friday Morning Golf and had our usual tradition of beer afterwards. Then i took my daily tradition of a nap, lasting a bit longer, and then Maureen and i went to see Lang Lang. No, that’s is not a panda at the zoo. That is one incredible classical pianist who played Schumann and Bach. i was captivated but i was also tired and declared to Maureen he was named Lang Lang because his performance needed to be about half in length, like his name.

We got home after eleven, a record for staying up of sorts for the past decade or so, and i, having to communicate with several friends and family, made it to bed after midnight.

It is now Saturday morning. i continue to ramble.

As i mentioned last night, Lang Lang was an incredible virtuoso. And i was tired, which increased my fidgeting. The concert was in the incredible Spanish style Balboa Theater built in 1924 with renovations that did not destroy its charm.

An aside: when Maureen was  a teenager, a date took her to the theater in downtown San Diego, not for a concert of classical music but to the movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Glad i was more sophisticated in taste, but not really since she was the engineer for acquiring the tickets for this excursion.

While Lang Lang played, i thought of artists like Hoagy Carmichael, Bill Evans, Ray Bryant, and Keith Jarrett. Different ways of beating on the ivories. All amazing.

i envied Lang Lang’s hands: long, gracious, elegant. If my stubby fingers had the length of his, i might have played more and better, even now in my bumbling practice. However, i knew that is my special illusion. Those digits are not going to grow, and i will always have trouble reaching much farther than an octave.

i thought of my grandmother, Katherine “Granny” Prichard, who could play gospels that would make you dance and sing at the top of your lungs.

i thought of my sister, who taught the piano for years and wondered why i didn’t learn more.

And i thought of my mother, not because of the wonderful music.

Almost every Sunday at the 11:00 service, Estelle and Jimmy Jewell sat in the first few rows with their children (but not the first two) in the right hand section of the sanctuary in the old United Methodist Church in Lebanon.

Their eldest child was a bit capricious. Fidgety, not because he was tired as i was last night. i have long maintained one trait i got from my father was the one my mother described as “He’s like a worm in hot ashes.” The worm was in the full running mode in those church services, especially during long prayers and the sermon.

Telling me to stop or even whispering  her demands for decorum was viewed as impolite to the rest of the congregation or the pastor, i guess. But she had another method of halting my fidgeting: she would pinch my thigh or my bottom. This was painful, especially in the summer when my attire was usually a dressy outfit of white shirt, coat, and shorts. Then, the pinch, or plural, was applied to my bare legs.

Perhaps that is why, last night, in the middle of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations, BMW 988,” i flinched when Maureen shifted and moved her hands.

Ghost Riders

The book, Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings: An Executive Officer’s Memoir, is getting closer to printing. The heavy work of editing, except for a look at the finished product before it goes to press is done. For an old man, it was quite an effort over the last several days to get it back to the editor and designer.

Now, i have a little time to breathe and, of course, tell stories. And when i awake in the middle of the night, some other things than the book come into my mind. This one visited me last night. i couldn’t get it out of my head.

Tonight, maybe i can get some sleep.

Ghost Riders

 the radar blipped across the screen;
seen many times,
but
that was on a machine-gray obelisk
in a cramped compartment of red lights
called CIC
or
under a rubber hood
in the pilot house,
both on haze-gray greyhounds
of the fleet:
Xenas in the steel armor of a knight
called tin cans
or,
better yet, their nomenclature of
destroyers.

this radar circular sweep was from the sky,
a ball with projections circling our orb
sending its dot dash to the earth
to viewers of flat screens
across the world
showing not the enemy’s fleet,
nor the tankers, cruise ships, fishing boats,
but
revealing the terror of the weather
by famous and scientific weather guessers
abetted by blips in the sky.

on the big screen occupying one house wall,
the green, yellow, and orange clouds on the screen
roll down with the Japanese Current from the Artic
while Japan lolls in the Kuroshio Current
coming up from the equator,
clockwise, you see,
as the Gulf Current allows lolling
on the American east coast
and
the blips on the radar are…

ghost riders in the sky
like Vaughn Monroe sang about
years and years ago
driving me to fault those who
futilely tried to cover
Vaughn’s one of a kind voice
and
his ghost riders in the sky

ghost riders in the sky
painted in a mural on a wall,
driving their steeds from the stampede
behind them
in the clouds
in a hamburger joint
incongruously named Boll Weevil
in the Southwest corner
where the folks weren’t likely
to have a clue
the boll weevil destroyed cotton crops.

ghost riders in the sky
In the sky, lord, in the sky:
radar blips
forecasting the storm a’coming,
riding like Samurai on the Japanese current
but
less frightening than a blip on a tin can,
a contact on radar repeater
to be designated “skunk alfa”
with constant bearing, decreasing range,
which was termed “CBDR,”
which meant collision course,
something to be avoided
at all costs
so not to become
ghost riders in the sky.

There Is No Joy In Mudville

To paraphrase Andy Griffith on my revered 45 RPM, “What It Was Was Football,” modified to “What it is wasn’t baseball.”

i remain amazed that 30 of the richest men in our country, even if some aren’t citizens, and 900-plus men, some of whom are also not citizens of this country, who work for those other 30 guys and make a minimum of $600,000 and a maximum of over $43 Million per year are arguing over which of the two parties can get more.

i’m sorry, folks, but i would be absolutely jubilant if someone paid me to play a game i love for over a half-mil for nine months out of the year…except it is no longer the game i love.

All of these guys are guilty in continually making changes to the game to make more money, which has morphed baseball into true “money ball,” and not the kind Billy Beane employs. It just ain’t baseball anymore. It’s specialists. It’s designated hitters. It’s pitchers that can only go six innings max and that’s after elbow surgery. It’s statistics ruling rather than bunts, stolen bases, stealing home. It’s super athletes who have worked since their first tooth all day, every day except when someone was treating them like royalty. It’s entertainment. It’s business. It’s nearly impossible for two people to go see a game in the stadium for less than $100. We, the citizens, act like it’s a sport and our team gets our love and admiration…and our money.

Baseball?

Baseball was two young boys tossing a bat, catching it and swapping grips up to the top to have the first choice of a player for his team. Then after the teams were set, they repeated the process to determine who would be home team. The bases were real bags or paper sacks filled with something, or hats or even gloves, placed by stepping off the 90 feet. The field rarely had outfield fences, just a big lot somewhere. Dirt or grass were irrelevant. It was what was there. There were one or two scuffed up and dirty balls and about three or four bats, at least one with a nail and glue patching up a crack. Some players had to share gloves. The game played by the rules. Nine innings…unless it ran past supper time. Everybody played but the least skilled played right field.

Baseball was in the backyard, played with a whiffle ball but a real bat. As few as two could play. Hitting the ball past objects like trees and trash cans were designated for singles, doubles, triples.  A home run was over the garage, the hedge, onto the driveway, or off the house.

Baseball was played, not watched, except for rare trips to Sulphur Dell to watch the Double-A Nashville Vols with the short right field fence climbing to around 50 feet and slopes up to all the outfield fences, and wooden stands, and once a week, there was television, one game on Saturday with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese and Falstaff beer.

Baseball players were heroes who worked real jobs during the offseason to make ends meet. Black and white television. Playing the game with a finesse and expertise that alluded the young men watching even though they tried hard to emulate the stances and the throws and the swagger of their heroes. It was a sport.

Baseball was nine and ten-year olds on a playground field, mostly dirt played with matching team tee shirts and jeans, learning the game. Baseball was Little League in its infancy with snot-nosed kids playing without parents getting into fights with umpires.

Baseball was hot summer nights and nine-inning games played under the lights of the Babe Ruth field, hoping some of the girls were in the bleachers when you made a great stop of a grounder or a diving catch in the outfield or hit a rope down the left field foul line for a triple, sliding into third and acquiring a magnificent strawberry on your left hip from the slide on the hard clay ground.

Baseball was sitting on the slope running down the first base line on a sunny spring day watching the college boys chatter on the infield.

Baseball was keeping score while drinking a beer, eating a hot dog and later peanuts with the spent shells crunching under one’s feet, all for five bucks.

It’s gone. Even the youngsters are dedicated, working at the game, learning how to throw, how to set up for a ground ball, hours and hours working, not playing, to get to the next level.

There is no joy in Mudville. Not because Casey struck out, but because it once was baseball. It ain’t no more.