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.

History of the River

I start off walking towards the river. It has always been there. I don’t know how many centuries it has flowed its current course, but likely it has been many. The center of the little town grew up around it’s flood plain, copying the footprints of the Cherokee who lived here and the mound builders who preceded them.

More than likely, even older Paleolithic people inhabited this area over 10,000 years ago as exhibited by Russell Cave in Alabama and the artifacts found there. I think there may have even been some Clovis points found in this area.

I like the spirituality of the land and its lay. This area is one of the most Geologically stable and least changed in this country. Things are much as they were in terms of the land for these past many centuries now. I feel this as I walk.

I imagine a time when the rivers were filled with gar and sturgeon, and even occasionally a bison would wander this far south. When bear, puma and wolf roamed here. When huge trees grew uncut and blocked off the sunlight to the forest floors. I wonder at how the progress of mankind has shaped those bygone days into what I now see on my walks.

Oh I can imagine that life was extremely harsh for humanity in those years. A day was filled with the immediate needs for survival. Food and shelter…clothing. But by and by things got better. There was agriculture, There were the beginnings of government amongst the red man. Especially advanced with the Iroquois nation. What might have developed from these beginnings I often wonder?

I have read in history where the natives of this country were of much more robust and good health than the first Europeans who came here. They were just not resistant to the diseases which came with the white man and between measles, smallpox, and other contagious sicknesses 8 out of 10 of them perished within the first 100 years of contact. The rest were swept aside like dust on a clapboard floor.

Sometimes now as I walk along the bank of the Chattooga river I hear faint voices on the wind whispering “Why, why?” For that question I have no answer.

Grandma said it

Melancholy creeps in on me all too quietly and quickly lately. Nostalgia claims me at the strangest times and places. Tears flow as easily as does laughter.

I think of my Grandmother sitting on her front porch so many years ago, late in the evening, looking out at Johnny mountain and gently rocking. She would stare out in the distance for a long time, never speaking but gently humming an old tune.

“What are you thinking about Grandma”? I asked

“Nothing much honey, ” she said. “Just some things I wanted to do today I didn’t get done.”

I understand now. But I have done what I have done, with only a few regrets. I have treasured my time in the sun thus far. And I’m not near ready for that rocking chair yet.

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”

Cotton Town


The first thing I remember about Trion, Georgia is the smells of the cotton mill. I was somewhere between two and three years old when Daddy got out of the Navy, and we all moved into a little old house on sixth street, and Mom and Daddy “set up housekeeping”. I’d been living in Blue Ridge with my Mom and Grandparents, and Mom’s little sister who was 11 years old when I was born. Daddy finally got out of the Navy in ‘52, went to Riegel Textile and got a job, rented a house, and moved us in. We were officially Trionites.

But, back to the smell of the mill. I had no complaints as a three year old. I’d been used to smelling the smoke from a wood burning stove, the scents of bacon frying, cornbread baking, biscuits in the oven. I don’t know if I ate any of it, but I was used to olfactory stimulation. The smells of a cotton mill became familiar quickly. There was the slightly musty, but pleasant smell of bales of cotton. They had an earthy odor, accentuated by the pungency of the burlap they were wrapped in. I found out later how huge they were, passing by them sitting out on the open cotton docks like huge marshmallows that had been half way toasted in a fire on the end of a wire coat hanger.

There was that smell which was sort of like the one that occurred when Momma would iron blue jeans with a hot clothes iron. Kind of on the edge of burny, extremely hot cotton having the wrinkles pressed out. Found out later on, it was cloth being sanforized. I never really realized what that process entailed until many years later when I worked in the mill as a supervisor in the denim finishing department where denim was being sanforized. I learned that the cloth was run through this huge machine, wet down first then partially dried, and run under a gigantic rubber belt that was tightly pushed up against a steel roller. This process pre shrunk the denim, which kept it from shrinking once it was made into blue jeans and sold. It ran over a gigantic steam wheel to totally dry it out, and the exhaust fans above it carried that smell that I’d smelled so many years earlier out into the night air.

There was also the briny, and very stinky sulfuric smell of the bright dye runoff coming from the printing department. At the time I was a child, they just dumped that excess dye after they were finished into a little creek that ran under the mill and out into the Chattooga River. I used to stand at the little bridge above where the stream ran when I was little and marvel at how beautiful and colorful that water was. I had no idea it was polluting the river something awful, and killing the fish. Back in the fifties, it wasn’t that big an issue.

So, I played out on the front steps and in the yard on sixth street. In the bright summer sunshine and during the cold of winter with my heavy coat on, making roads in the dirt for my tootsie toy cars, and pretending to drive all over town. All the while smelling the smells of a Southern cotton mill town wafting through the air.

Time Traveling- 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!!

Cocoon 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.

Tucking away memories

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…..

Giving the little red wagon a push- from 2019

Twice this past week I’ve woke up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations, PVC’s, and panic attacks. I have been having vivid dreams that seem to trigger them. Paula talked me through one of them, and I managed the second one by myself.

Having not changed anything, I have to wonder at the cause. Could it be like Ebenezer Scrooge said “a blob of mustard, or undigested potato…..more gravy than grave about this”.

I don’t know. I know that when you age you wonder about these out of the norm things as they happen. One of the reasons I got out and walked the trail today was to see if I had any problem doing it. I didn’t. More than likely it’s always the mind in my case.

Perseverance is one of my best/worse qualities. You can also sometimes shorten that word down to “pestering”. Just ask Paula. I’ll persevere then.

As I start to close in on 69, and then perhaps 70 I want to start tidying things up a bit though. Write some things down, get rid of some stuff, sell some stuff, give some stuff away. (You’d think I own too much stuff? You’d be right!). Tie up some loose ends and get in my little red Radio Flyer at the top of the hill, and wait for God to give it a push. I hope he waits quite a number of years!

Have a nice day tomorrow, and get ready for the cold weather.

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…..