Summers in the Sixties

I was reminded by a friend that the summers in the sixties seemed so much better. They were longer, and the pace of life was much more leisurely. I spent those glorious days playing baseball, golf, and guitar. There was time to get a little band together…play some songs.

There were books to be read that I wanted to read, not some boring book assigned for a class. There was iced tea that Momma made to cool us down. There were walks to take, and rides in the cool cars of the “older” guys.

There were trips to the cool solace of Grandma’s house up in the mountains, and the resulting explorations. There was great music, the best ever, to be listened to. There were friendships to be cultivated that would last forever…many who are still surviving today.

But then, there was that inevitable day when down inside you a longing for the fall and the “new year” to start would come creeping into your brain. School was always a love/hate relationship but looking back now through the rearview mirror it wasn’t so bad. No, actually it was more than not bad, it was good. Even with some of the crisis we thought were so earth shattering at the time.

We moved on and became adults, and took on all the responsibilities that go with it. We raised our kids, worked our jobs. We lived our lives.

Things were as they should be. Things are as they are going to be. It’s inevitable. Change is inevitable, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to wander back every now and then in our minds to the days when we worried more about what notebook to buy for school than we do about how we’re gonna pay our bills. It’s actually soothing to the soul.

What’s a Legacy?

I find as the years pile up that perspective changes. What most people think of me personally means very little. Worldly items pass like windblown leaves in the storm of days. They rust or grown moldy. They get lost, and unless there is a memory attached to them….they mean very little.

At some point, even we ordinary people start to consider our “legacy”…what will it be?
It’s been 70 days now since I have held any of my children, or my grandchildren. I have seen them, and have talked with them in person…and they know that I love them dearly. Having never been a very “social” man, my family have also become my best friends over the years also. I have always loved them, but having them as friends is now so important.

If I ever have a legacy it will not be anything I have every written or said, anything I have possessed or will possess, anything which I bequeath, anything concrete thing I have ever created. it won’t be any worldly thing I leave behind. It will be the memories that we have reached out and grabbed together. I think that life is just a continuous stream of memories, and we have to consciously reach in and grab and hold onto the ones we want to keep. I didn’t think as much about grabbing as many as I wanted when I was younger. Sometimes now I lay awake and try to go back in time and find some of the great ones. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Whatever little legacy I create, It will be composed of the memories our family have grabbed together, the images I leave… in the minds of those I love. The special times, maybe even the mundane times, perhaps even some times of anguish or grieving which we shared. Even those “bad” memories make up the completeness of what we are as human beings. No life is ever comprised of complete happiness, even in a Disney movie!

Maybe It will be a kind word that people who I call my friends might say about me. I have a few left who will perhaps remember a few times we had together.

That’s all which is going to matter really. That’s all we can ask for. My Grandma Stewart always said that we only die when we pass out of memory….so, perhaps I’ll still be “around” for some time to come.


Throughout my life I have been like rough sandpaper. Anyone who has ever built anything knows that sandpaper is a required item. You cannot smooth down things which you are building without sandpaper. I know I have been abrasive. I feel like at times it was necessary. When building anything, a table, a house or even a life, all tools have their place. The hammer, the nail, the wood, the sandpaper. Shape and reshape. Learn from mistakes. Start over if needed. Tear it down and build it up again.

I hope I am finally to the point where I am going to be more like a polishing cloth in the future. Brightening things. Removing tarnish and making items beautiful. Most days I have more patience than I used to..but I still struggle as evidenced by some writings where I am still angry when I let my thoughts spill out. But, I continue to try. In those instances I need to try and remember all the times other people have had patience and compassion for me during my life. There have been some nonredeemable characters who have breezed in and out of my life, but only a very,very few. I have been lucky. I have been blessed. Through all the years I sometimes have failed to realize just how much, and to be thankful for what I have been given.

I’m probably still going to rant and rave sometimes. I’m still gonna get mad sometimes, and be unreasonable. But changing from rough sandpaper to a polishing cloth is not an overnight thing, no matter when you decide to start.

From 2016- Measuring Success

Ages ago, on a cool September morning my Dad took me to Carrollton, Georgia to start school at West Georgia College.

I was excited, nervous and uncertain. I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a profession. I had no grand master plan for my future. There was no manual in my suitcase with the title “What to do in Life”. I never figured it out either.

My original thought was to get a degree in History and become a teacher. I veered from that path.

Paula and I met and became friends, and then a couple. Then we fell in love. Her Mom and Dad moved off to California and we decided we’d get married…little more than kids though we were, we did it…in June of 1968. We are still best friends, and still love each other.

I went on to UGA, and took three more years of classes. I worked full time on the third shift at Westinghouse electric, making transformers for power poles. It wasn’t easy trying to do a full time job at night and school during the day. I fell asleep in C parking lot early one morning trying to study for a test that day. I woke up sitting in my car that afternoon with my notebook in my lap. I got a zero on the test.

I never finished college. After four years and over 200 quarter hours, I left in 1974 with my wife and two year old daughter to start my work in a “career”. Only I never had a career. Just a succession of jobs that I worked, in order to raise my kids and keep food on the table.

I did everything from building mattresses to selling medical supplies. I finally got an interview with the VP of manufacturing at a fairly large Textile operation in 1988 for Quality Manager. I talked my way into the job, and stayed there and was successful for 12 years…until they sold out to a larger company, who of course had their own people…so it was bye bye.

It was during this twelve year period that I tried to break into the Nashville songwriting scene. I was good enough, but not dedicated enough to move to Nashville. No career in songwriting for me….but that’s a story for another time.

I went through stints at several more places as QA manager before my heart took me out in 2010-11, after the stress of losing both parents within 6 months, and being constantly under pressure to stay at work…when I really needed to be caring for them. It was a lousy couple of years.

And yet…I have found more peace and gratification in the last five years in my career as a Papa care person then I ever did at any of my “career” jobs. I have finally figured out out that my career was my obligation to raise my children and grandchildren to the best of my ability, to love them as much as I can, and to ensure that they had and have the best beginning to the most rewarding life that I could give them. I dunno how well I have succeeded, but with my wife’s constant help, and assistance as my conscience, I guess we’ve done ok.

I’ve said all of that to get to this: success is measured in many different ways, by many different people but I could care less for any labels anybody puts on me. I finally know the true measure of myself, and while I’m far from being perfect, I at least…and at last, feel like I have accomplished something of what I meant to do on that cool September morning back in 1968.

Well Auttie is graduating tomorrow…so I’ve got five more to go…at least that’s the number right now. And I’ll keep walking and exercising, and plugging away as long as God gives me breath….

Memories of Veterans from Home- from 2012

This writing is from Memorial Day 2012. A lot more of these people have passed on since I wrote this 5 short years ago. I was at Jim’s restaurant a few weeks ago, and they were getting a special breakfast ready for Mr. Brimp Warren’s birthday. The lady who owns Jim’s named all of the WWII veterans who were left in the county on two hands. If you see one of these “handful” of men, make sure and give them a hug.

If you see any veteran today, make sure and tell them you appreciate them:

I was at the Trion track field yesterday for the Memorial Day celebration. I saw a lot fewer of the men from my Dad’s generation there than ever before. The men and women from “the greatest generation” are very quickly and for the most part quietly leaving us.

Ten years ago, I still used to see them down at Trade Day, walking around and still buying tools and things to work with. That was their signature, their iconic symbol. Work. They came back home from World War II and Korea and worked. They worked in the Cotton Mills, in the Car factories. They worked as farmers and carpenters. They built this country back up from a depression much greater and more cutting than this current one. They were men of few words, and ever fewer gripes. They didn’t piss and moan about how hard they had things, about not having the luxuries of life. They ate beans and ‘taters, and did without. They did without a lot of times so that they could give us, the “baby boomers” more than what they had…giving us things that they themselves had always wanted as children but could not have; toys, clothes….a childhood.

They mostly gave us love. Many of them gave us more love because of all the death and destruction they had seen in the Wars. So, I was happy to shake the hands of some of these men yesterday. More than that….I was honored. I have been honored to know so many of them who are now gone and have been so instrumental in shaping my life, that being what it is, not perfection but at least respectful in most instances. I wish I could name them all….I hesitate to even name a few for fear I would leave some out from my bad memory who really need to be included.

My Daddy of course, Gaines Bowers. Men at the First Baptist Church when I was a child, Mr. Watson and Tip McCollum and Leo Lanier, J.W. Greenwood, Mr. Bailey Gilbreath, Billy Locklear, Paul Arden, Mr. Styles, Jake Woods, (still miss his birthday phone calls) Hugh Henderson, Joe Woods, Logan Parker, Mr. King, (still see him at Trade Day..bless him) Norman McClellan, Victor Pettett, King Anthony, and so many more. The men at Riegel Textile many of who were also members of the Church but some not, Henry Rider, and Dee Wilson, Thurman Day, Julius Sprayberry, Namon Dennis, Joe Collette, Mr. Brown (Roy and Marty’s Daddy) Porter Durham, Mr. Shamblin, and again, so many more. The people of the town…Mr. Sprayberry at the Post Office, and Jules Stephen, who always cut my hair, Joe the Postman always walking his beat, Mr. Chief Starkey, Hoyt Williams, Alfred Mount, Mr. Hurley’s, (Sr. and Jr.) Mr. Horton the pharmacist, Deck Brewster, Sloppy Floyd who was our neighbor at one time, Tommy Brown, Mr. Clyde Bethune, Mr. Grubbs, and so many more. All of our teachers, Mr. Sam McCain, Mr. Miller, Mr. Strickland. So many of them, and of course ALL of their wives who had as much, if not MORE influence on us.

Just look at the name of the men, and think…you will know their names. Yes, they are leaving us, and for those who are already gone let’s take a moment to remember them this weekend. For those who are still here and getting around, shake their hands, hug them, tell them you love them while you have a chance….because they ARE passing away, and soon will be gone.

Pop’s Wisdom

I’d love to be one of those people who know with exact certainty that “their side” is always in the right. I know with exact certainty that I’m not right in my opinions and in my way of thinking many times. I think I’ve made that pretty clear in the past.

My Daddy used to say “It takes all kinds to make a world”. That World War II and Korea Navy veteran didn’t know how right he was. It does take “all kinds”. It takes the good and the bad. The compassionate and the uncaring.

So many comparisons can be made of direct opposites, that’s the easy ones to make. The harder decisions about the true nature of the people in this world is more fuzzy. Good people don’t always act good….sometimes they just don’t think through the things they say or write first. I’m guilty of that, and I’m sure I’ve hurt some feelings and ruffled some feathers. I probably will again.

I will try not to “kick a man while he’s down”, which was another one of Daddy’s sayings. Because, and I’ll quote Daddy one more time:

“What goes around comes around”.

I miss that old man, more on some days than others.

Golfing Memories from 2015

I took a ride with Ted Bowers this morning at the newly reopened Trion Golf Course. He was driving a golf cart out of which we frequently exited to swing at the little white dimpled ball. Some would call it playing golf, but what I did today more closely resembled gardening than any sport.

I could not remember the last time I partook in this activity. There was a golf card in the bag which read “Calhoun Elks Lodge golf course” It was dated 2002, and had the names “Larry”(me) and “Joe”, who was Mr. Joe Sultan…my boss at the time. Since the rubber grips had dry rotted off all the irons in the bag from sitting in my utility room, I figured 14 years was about right. There were 14th generation spiders and cobwebs who were inhabiting that bag and protested loudly when I removed their home, and forcefully ejected them last night. A lot of water, a flood and a torrent has gone under the trestle bridge since these clubs were last used.

My Dad’s playing days had passed when I put those clubs away. I had suffered one heart attack and one stent at that time, and thought I was in good shape. I wasn’t though. I lost my job with Mr. Sultan’s company. A good company and a good job. I still don’t know quite why til this day…but it was a hard blow to me. I went on from there to 12 hour night shifts, constant uncertainty and anxiety, deaths of my parents, major surgery with permanent damage, and overall health decline. It is only since last June, that I began walking my way back to some mobility. I must tell you though my friends, that if I see you out and don’t recognize you, or if I sound uncertain about some past event which I should remember, or some part of our friendship which I should remember and I don’t…please forgive me. My memory is very spotty. Much more so than I let on at times.

However, I did still remember how to swing AT a golf ball. And so we did this morning. It was fun. Some great memories returned to me as we trekked the course. I could picture J.W. Greenwood, my old coach driving the green on number one hole. As I sat there waiting I saw many more men who played there return to life. Jack Shamblin, with his huge all or nothing swing. Harold Florence, who had a low flat swing. Roy Williams Sr., up on his toes at the height of his swing. There was Otis Tanner, with his huge backswing and follow through. Skinny old Faye Brown, who could hit the ball a mile. Tommy Brown, and Jimmy Brown, and Michael Brown…with who me and Daddy played so many rounds. I saw Lamar Chandler on his tractor mowing the fairway. I heard the “Loving Spoonful” in the background playing “Hottown Summer in the city, back of my neck getting very too gritty” My theme song during the two Summers I worked there, mowing ditches and working in the downstairs clubhouse. I’d peep out the doors on Monday mornings during the summer and “Muley” Camp would be out there hunting golf balls. Only on Mondays..Only day it was allowed.

I passed over the creek at number two hole and remembered the dozens upon dozens of yellowjacket stings I had gotten waiting off to the side on one of those Mondays for some guys to play through. I had gotten them all stirred up by poking a stick absentmindedly in the ground. I had to run and jump in the creek to get them off me. Old Doc Clemens had to give me a couple of shots to keep me breathing. Cousin Rick had been standing right next to me and hadn’t gotten one sting. Same cousin Rick who was the only person to see me hang back at my Daddy’s funeral and sob like a baby. Some people always seem to be there at the strangest times.

My Dad, the old lefthander…Same as me, or me the same as him. That’s the way he taught me to swing. He couldn’t hit them long like Jack Shamblin, but always straight and deadly around the greens. I imagined him there today too. J.W. in the background teasing, saying “You lefties need to turn around and hit that ball right” If he had seen me today he would have laughed his head off, and rightfully so.

I’m glad they opened the place up…think I may go back for another round of memories sometimes.”

Think Before you Speak

Before you call somebody Ugly:

If I could stay spiritually at any age, I’d stay spiritually like a baby. Innocent and pure, with almost everything that happens being a new experience.

How and when do we pass beyond the barrier of that purity? Can we ever get it back?

When Jesus said “you must be born again” I believe that’s what he was referring to….rebirth into innocence. Rebirth into purity. The body can never again be as it was when we are born. It ages and eventually dies. I believe we are then born into a new phase of spirituality. There are many beliefs as to the how and what, and I’ll have to admit I don’t know the real answer. I won’t even discuss that right now.

I just think it’s a shame that in between our birth and our death, so many lives are so filled with hatred, bigotry, misogyny, and violence.

Conversely, it’s a relief that so many others, mayhap the majority, are filled with love, compassion, empathy, and understanding.

I guess that it’s the hard wiring of the human mind that causes a tendency for some to be more one way then the other. It’s a fact though, that sometimes people choose cruelty and meanness when they could choose kindness and humility, no matter which way they are wired.

It’s a tragedy that just a tiny bit of thought, and a minute or two of consideration before speaking or acting, can make such a huge difference in our lives, and how we are regarded by others.

I’ve Never Been to Scotland

From 2014- I’ve Never Been to Scotland.

I’ve never been to Scotland, although I would like to go there. It’s the home of golf and many of the world’s great courses are there…including Royal St. Andrews, the home of golf. Although it’s been almost 10 years since I have played, I still occasionally go down to the local track field and hit a few.

My Dad taught me how to play golf. We were both left handers and I used his clubs the first time I ever swung at a golf ball. I totally missed it. Daddy laughed that big laugh of his and told me the first one didn’t count. I hit the ball the second time, and the rest of my time at home kinda revolved around that sport. Dad and I formed a bond of camaraderie with our common love of golfing, along with my brother Mike, and it was one that endured until he was physically unable to play anymore.
I visited the cemetery this evening on the fourth anniversary of his death, and left a golf ball on his stone. It would have been more appropriate to have thrown it out in the woods, since we both spent a heck of a lot of time in the rough! That same reality hit me again for the umpteenth time that he is somewhere I have not been yet.

Well, as I said at the start, I’ve never been to Scotland. I believe it exists though, as there is ample evidence that it is there, and there are golf courses there aplenty, with a lot of Scots on them whacking away with vigor at that little white ball.

I also believe in life after death, although I’ve never been there I believe there is ample evidence it exists. And I believe someday in the future at some point the old left handers will be out in the rough looking for that ball and laughing that big laugh! Until then, there’s life to be lived and love to be loved.

Eli and Rue and the Rain- 2016

When I took them out this afternoon behind the church, Rue and Eli, it was raining. I wanted to teach them something, so I gave them both a quarter to entice them to listen about evaporation, and how the rain got up into the sky.

Rue played in the water coming down out of the drain, and Eli followed it down the dry cement under the carport.

Rue lost her quarter in the grass and cried, so I gave her another one. When we went home Eli lost his in the chair, and I had to give him another as he was leaving to go home.

So, I’m out a dollar, and I know they knew it was raining. I’m not sure they learned as much about evaporation as they did about how many quarters Papa has in his pockets.