A World of Beauty

The sun’s fixing to set on another day. I sit here and listen to the sounds of life all around me in this little community. The dogs are barking. The little kids are outside riding their bikes and running around and playing. It’s a Sunday afternoon in the South. I know that there was a country group that had a song about that one time…think it was “Shenandoah” At any rate, I thought at first these things were irritating me. But then, I figured out…I love them because they are indicative of the fact that I am still alive.

I walked the streets twice today, once with two of my children and two of my grandchildren and once with my wife. The sun was shining the second time, when Paula and I were walking but it was windy. I saw a big “dust devil” form right before my eyes, like a mini tornado…tearing up the back alley at my house. It was remarkable and beautiful.

This world that God has put us in, in whatever manner you want to believe it was done…I don’t really care, but this world is a beauty. Most of us, like me, who have lived a good and relatively tragedy free life don’t always appreciate it enough…but on this Sunday afternoon I really do.

Irene Goodnight…

Irene, goodnight

Irene, goodnight

Goodnight irene, goodnight irene

I’ll see you in my dreams

These lyrics and Hank William’s “Jambalaya” were the first songs I ever learned. My Dad said I sang them when I was just over two years old. I remember my Dad singing “Irene goodnight” pretty much all my life. For some reason, he would just break into the chorus from time to time…especially when I was a child. I loved the song, and have ever since.

I heard yesterday where Pete Seeger died and in looking at his biography, I saw where his cover of this “Huddy” song ran at number 1 for 13 weeks back in late 1950 which was the year I was born. I never knew that. I know Pete Seeger for all of his other musical achievements during the late 50’s and 60’s. From him and Peter, Paul and Mary…Dylan, and the other early folk groups came my most deep musical influence. I still can do “Puff the Magic Dragon” pretty well on the guitar, and “Turn, Turn, Turn” will always be in my top five songs of all time. I never knew about “Irene” though. I imagine my Dad probably listened to the that song in 1950 and liked the imagery of the lyrics…being in the Navy and away from home.

Thanks Pete Seeger for all you did for music in America and for all you did for the people of America. Thanks Dad for memorizing “Goodnight Irene”

Time Traveling Back to 1963

Time Traveling

I was just sitting here after watching the news tonight wondering what I wanted to do. With everything that’s going on around the country and the world, sometimes one just wants to get away from it all.

What I would really like is to take a trip. Maybe one of these days I will get brave and buy me a motorcycle!! I doubt it though. I kind of like time traveling…it doesn’t cost anything and I can do it while I am sitting here at the computer. Today I think I am going to go back to…….1963!! Yea, that’s it!

First off, Elvis was still alive and well and making songs and movies. In 1963 he made that classic “It Happened At a World’s Fair” (Based at the Seattle World’s Fair, which incidentally was going on that year, and was a good spot for a ready made movie set…go Elvis!!) Yea, Elvis was big that year, but there was a group from England that came over and blasted us away with TWO number ones, “She Loves YOU” and “I Want to Hold YOUR Hand” were blaring away on all the jukeboxes, especially the one over at Chamlee’s Skating Rink where the skates were slick, and the girls were….well…I was 13, so I WAS interested! (Elvis did “Devil in Disguise” so that WAS a good one for him)

And talk about MOVIES my Lord…there was “The Pink Panther” and “Charade” with lovely Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant (hey they have revived Audrey Hepburn and those skinny black pants they are using for a TV commercial now!) Alfred Hitchcock gave us “The Birds” (was that the only movie that Tippy Hedren ever did…but she DID give us a good daughter didn’t she?) There was “Cleopatra” (c’mon Liz?) and Yul Brynner did some weird “Sun” movie or something.

TV Shows…now there was some really “BAD” shows back then wasn’t there? Leave it to Beaver? The Fugitive? Andy Griffith, Patty Duke, The Beverly Hillbillies? Ahh yes, now Jed Clampett has always been a really bad influence on my life, and of course I have patterned my criminal career after Andy and Barney…sheesh…what happened to THOSE kinds of shows.

Richard Scarry started writing kid’s books around 1963, and John LeCarre was big into spy novels.

1963 was big in some other ways too. Martin Luther King led 100,000 plus people in a rally in Washington D.C. that year, and gave a little speech you may have heard about…something about having a Dream…..yes I DO have a dream about all the little black and white kids Martin….I still do.

I was, as I have said 13 years old that year. What a great age. It was baseball, and comic books for me. Spiderman, and Superman and all the heroes they are making movies about nowadays. I could sit around on a Summer day…and yes we had those LONG Summers back then…those that seemed like they would go on forever…I could sit around and read half the day, and go play a ballgame, and get back in time to watch the Twilight Zone!! Mike Myers wasn’t making any Movies back in 1963, cause that’s the year he was BORN…Ha…you little squirt….!!!

In November of 1963, the year was coming to a close. I was already looking forward to Christmas!! I think that was the year I got a telescope! (always looking to the heavens you know!) On November 22, 1963 I went out of school for lunch and went over by the river. There was some rocks over there on the river bank, and we guys always tried to jump from one to another. I didn’t make it, and I jabbed a sharp edge of rock into my shinbone and made a hole in it. I still have that little scar, and a “bump” there. I had to go home from school. Later on that afternoon Walter Kronkite came on the TV and said that President Kennedy had been shot…and shortly thereafter, they said he had died.

I was a big fan of JFK’s. We didn’t know anything about his escapades with Marilyn, or any of his other sins back then. We just knew he was a young vital President, and we admired him greatly. I think when he died that day in 1963, that may have been the beginning of the loss of innocence for a lot of us. 1964 soon came along, and things just didn’t seem the same anymore. The war started getting worse, people started coming up against each other politically and philosophically, and I don’t think they have come back together since.

Yes, it was a good year…and a bad year. But I lived it, and I loved it.

As Dave Garroway would have said: Peace!!

Our “Web” of Memories

I think our lives are memories, and the memories as we make them are like the most delicate gossamer strands of spider silk, from the magical web of existence.

They start out tiny and in a small radius, but they still intersect and intermingle with others we first come in contact with, and they stick together with the personal strands of those people; our parents and family, first friends, teachers, spouses, and on and on.

Though it starts out tiny and monochromatic, as years pass it becomes ever more complex, ever more colorful, and for the most part beautiful.

I know that we will often come in contact with the black strands of evil and no good, but we cannot let those be a large part of our time if at all possible. Most can break free from them, but sadly not always all. It’s just the nature of life. Yet even then there is hope.

I know I have built my meticulous cocoon of memories with those I love, my friend and acquaintances, and some others I have let in, and some who have left. It’s a wonder to behold, and still in process.

How marvelous is this chance we have to live, and to experience the full gambit of emotions which make us human. Build your memories. Build your web with love, respect, and devotion. Build your wondrous, fantastic cocoon of life on earth, so that one day you can emerge from the metamorphosis of this place to what surely lies beyond.

The steps at the old house

We had some new flooring put in this week at the house. It was sorely needed. In order to make some room for the guys to work, I moved some things onto the carpeted steps which lead downstairs to our basement. The steps run down to a big window which looks outside.

I spent a lot of time on these steps over the past four years. For some reason those steps are kind of cozy and protected and Eli and Rue liked them. They have been our secure place…our play place.

We have sat there many times and read books, and drawn pictures and taped them up on the wall like works of art. And they were, as are the kids who drew them.. Rue and I have played school a million times. Eli and I have looked out the window and watched the birds so many times.

Since they have started to school there are fewer times on the steps with them. The watch on my arm runs on and on.

I was gathering some items up off the steps tonight and I was thinking about those two, and thinking about baby Evie. She’s been sick this week and hasn’t been able to come down. I’ve been here at the house with the guys working and haven’t seen her. I have missed her.

But I was thinking as I was looking at that blank wall going down the steps and I was hoping that I can get her to draw some pictures with me one day to tape up on the wall….to go with those that Rue and Eli did which I have tucked away in a drawer…..

Honeysuckle and Kudzu


by Larry Bowers

If honeysuckle and kudzu mixed,

It’d be a dream come true.

For hummingbirds and honeybees,

But not for me and you.

The damn stuff grows so fast,

It makes the mind unhinge,

A foot a day or sometimes more,

It’s the Japanese revenge!

If honeysuckle and kudzu mixed,

Think of the smell each spring!

But for folks with allergies,

It wouldn’t help a thing.

Might as well get used to it,

Kudzu’s the king of grow,

Just wish some scientist could cross,

Kudzu with toma-toe!

A Seventies Memory- The Death of a Stranger

A Seventies Memory- The Death of a Stranger

Paula and I went to Canton, Georgia today to take the two Cocker Spaniels to the lady from the Cocker Spaniel of Georgia Rescue group. Instead of going down I-75 and cutting across on Hwy 20 we went the “old” way on Hwy 140.

This is kind a trip down memory lane for us, as we used to come this way quite often between 1970 and 1974 when we lived in Athens. We didn’t really care for the ride on the Interstate back then so we sought out several more “scenic” routes to travel from Athens back “home” to Trion. This drive takes you through Waleska, Georgia where beautiful little Reinhardt College is located. What a pristine and pretty little campus, plunked down right in the center of rural outback Georgia. Even now, Waleska is much as it was back in the 70’s. Can’t say the same for Canton though.

At one time, the entire ride from Athens to Trion or back using these old “back road” routes was pretty much like an extended ride in the county. Canton use to be a tiny little mill town like Trion, before Atlanta crept up on it from the South like a tortoise who comes on slowly but surely and in the end wins the race. Canton is much more like a bedroom community for Atlanta now, with even the old Canton Cotton mill building turned into apartments. Wow….things really have changed.

We used to sometimes come this way in the evenings after work when we were coming home. It was beautiful back then….so starkly dark you could spot “shooting stars” from inside the car at night. The roads are mountainous and curvy and I always was careful and took my time, even as a “young an’” back then. One night as we were going up the first big hill outside of Canton a little red sports car came flying around us on a double yellow line. “Dang,” I said “If that guy don’t know these roads he’s liable to get killed” Prophetic…and quickly so.

As we drove on, just another couple of miles we saw a huge flash of light up ahead lighting up the night sky. “What the hell…” I muttered. As we rounded a steep curb we saw the reason. The little red sports car hadn’t mad the curb and had overturned and slammed into the harsh mountain rocks sticking out from the curb. The car was fully in flames…so hot that we could barely stand the heat even from the other side of the road. We could see the guy in the upside down car, immobile and burned in the driver’s seat. “Oh my God” my wife said.

It was a lonely and desolate Friday night and there was not much traffic on highway 140 back then. No other cars passing to flag down. No cell phones back then. I didn’t have anything resembling a fire extinguisher…and even if I had I could never have gotten close. We decided to go as quickly as possible to the next house, which was a new trailer on the right hand side of the road about a mile away. We frantically knocked and told them what had happened and they called the sheriff’s department. We decided not to stay. It wasn’t that we didn’t care, but there was nothing that we could have done. We didn’t know the driver, we were not actual witnesses of the accident, and we did not want to go back to that horrific scene. My wife especially, did not. I gave the people at the trailer my name and my folk’s phone number and told them to tell the police if they needed us to call. They never did. I’m guessing my explanation to the owner of the trailer was sufficient to what they found.

We went back that exact same route today, and relived that day. We talked about it again, and how so much time had passed, yet that memory was fresh. The same trailer was still there…had been built onto several times over the years and looks well lived in, now 40 years later. Forty years. Yet I still have that image in my head of that man or boy’s body in that burning car. I can still feel the heat at that curve and feel a little uneasy looking at the rocks there, which bore the blackened marks of fire for many years. My wife remembers jumping up in the bed at my folk’s house several times that night when the gas heater would light up.

I’ve never witnessed that happening again during my entire driving career from that day til now, and I hope I never will. Somebody’s son died that night. Maybe somebody’s brother. I believe it was a young man, so he could have been a student or someone just starting out in a working career in life. Wasted, because he had a red sport’s car that he couldn’t control going around a curve. I never tried to find out who it was. I didn’t want to know. I still don’t. I feel some sense of guilt because of what I said as the driver passed us going up the hill…..

Just a Rock on the River

As the sun goes down tonight and they are predicting snow, I can’t help but think how beautiful the morning was on this day. It was coolish…around 30 degrees, but that’s nothing to a guy who braves 25 degrees or lower to prowl flea markets hunting for junk. So I walked and had a go at some photos of familiar things. I know all of you my Facebook friends have seen these views many times, but for every day that passes there is a subtle difference. There is a tiny erosion of time in both me and the scenery. I feel different. I feel much differently about things than I did as a young boy. Things just don’t appear as bright and new as they did then.

I played and fished around this river all of my childhood. I put a hole in my shinbone on one of the limestone rocks in the river on the day Kennedy was shot, and happened to be home on that day to hear Walter Cronkite announce his death. I was trying to jump from one rock to another and didn’t quite make it with my left leg, and jammed it into one of the sharp limestone “knobs” on the rock.

It had been our lunchtime at school, I think about 11:15 a.m.,when I did it and Mr. Couey, one of my teachers had sent me home for medical attention. My Aunt Shelia Stuart was visiting us that week and I remember she and my Mom gasping at the news when it came on T.V. a little after 12:30 on that Friday afternoon. I don’t know whether my Aunt remembers it or not, but I do. So, I got this dime sized scar in my shin that I call my “Kennedy” scar.

It’s surprising that so much has changed in the years since then. I do however, look with a surprising amount of respect at that damn rock every time I go over the bridge which leads to the mill. I was allowed a glimpse of history and a long term memory because of it.

You Must Choose a Side

As first graders one of the first things the teachers taught us to do at recess was to “pick sides” to play games. Red rover, Tug of war, later on other team sports. We chose sides for tasks inside the classrooms. From the very beginning of our education, a hierchy was established. The same children were chosen by the “leaders” for the same sides every time. The same kids were picked last every time. We were taught to be devisive from the very start and it continued through our entire school career. After a while, it was something from which you could not break free.

Practically everything we do requires us to choose a side. Take a moment and think about it. I don’t have to name them all, you know of what I speak. Sides. Choose a side. Right or left. Red or Blue. Pro this, or pro that. “Red rover, red rover send Susie right over”

I was usually one of the last people picked for any team. I know why now. It was because I didn’t want to be on a side. I think maybe I just wanted to be an observer or maybe a referee. I never fit well on either side. I still don’t.

I think it was wrong of them to make us choose sides. Choosing teams would have been better. There is quite a difference you know.

The experience we obtain as we grow through childhood shapes our opinions for life. I have never changed my basic philosophy about things since I was a young man. I have pretended, and acted. I have conformed to rules with which I did not agree. I have assauged the feelings of many. I am none the worse for it because I know the real person who I am and I’m satisfied with my actions. On occasions I have had to choose sides. But I did not like it.

I live for the day when society does not demand we must hate one another for the side on which we have been picked, or with which we choose to affiliate. I’m afraid my frustrations or lack of patience may occasionally spill over into expression of opinions which may not be popular. For this I apologize in advance and beg you remember it’s just the way I was taught.

“Bum, bum, bum here we come blowing our bugles and beating our drums”