My Favorite Month

From 2019- My Favorite Month

Another October is fixing to come around. My favorite month of the year. My birth month. The “season changing” month, as we usually have our first frost here in the South during October. It’s a month of beautiful colors, courtesy of Mother Nature and her leaf filled trees. All the russet reds, and every shade of gold imaginable. I can’t count the times I’ve simple just stood at the foot of some large hill, or short mountain and gazed up in awe at the beauty.

I love the smell of burning leaves, and of the sweet wood firing up in people’s fireplaces and wood stoves. It’s a lot of work to do it on a regular basis as your only source of heating though. I tried it for a couple of cold winters back in the eighties, and gained a very healthy respect for our ancestors who used to have to roll out of bed early on those frosty mornings, and stoke up a warming fire! I went back to gas!

I love the bright orange pumpkins laying out in the fields, and the fresh rolled and bailed hay all stacked up neatly. The corn stalks gathered up in big circles, looking like giant teepees.

I thrill at the flights of birds overhead. The Canadian geese, and the blackbirds which still fill the tall trees. I remember as a child, laying in the brown October grass and watching millions of those blackbirds headed South overhead. I couldn’t believe there were so many. Now, there aren’t that many.

There’s Halloween at the end of the month, the day we always used to look forward to most as children. I mean, what kid wouldn’t? Free candy! Tricky tricks! All in good fun for the most part. No store bought costumes for me though. Usually it was some variation of one of Mom’s old bed sheets a’la’ Charlie Brown. (Who by the way, shares the same birthday as me) I suppose I’m more than a little bit like that boy!

October is the gateway to Thanksgiving and then to the Christmas season, which makes me love it even more. My family used to visit my Grandparents more during this time of the year, and I will always remember those days of fun and enjoyment of my youth. Those long ago days, which started in October. My favorite month. My favorite times…

OPENING AND CLOSING DOORS

Opening doors and closing them, both physically and metaphorically is all we do in life.

Before there was this medium in which to wax nostalgic, I was simply concerned only with what was going on with myself, my immediate family and those with whom I worked closely. For many years, that’s all it was. That’s all it had to be. Oh, I knew there was a world full of other human beings out there, but I wasn’t mindful of what was going on with them. Their joys, their sorrows, their inner thoughts, their rantings, their wisdom.  They would shout their opinions into the wind, but it was just undecipherable whispering to me.  I cared not because I knew not.

Upon entering into this unknown means of communication, I first sought out family, then old school friends, whom I had lost contact with. It was fun catching up with them, finding out what had happened in the last forty years. Drawing close to them again through common experiences and causes…sometimes agreeing on things, sometimes not. Thus is the way of human beings. We all have things in common, we all have differences. 

In the last several years the differences have sometimes gotten so extreme that they cannot be solved “online”.  A different “wild card” was introduced into the system which polarized America.  I have been “unfriended” even as recently as this past month by kinfolk with who political differences couldn’t be reconciled.  I have unfriended some people who I grew up with, because of some of the things they “post”  I probably should have just ignored it all.  I know I should have.  I’m just not as good a person as I should be though, and sometimes I am too quick to hit the “goodbye” button and regret it later on. 

I still see a lot of these people out in the “real” world and we speak and get along, and nobody ever mentions Facebook.  Others take it quite personally however, and will turn and walk away if they see me coming.  I have sent out friend requests to all of the people I have unfriended over the years and some come back and we are “friends” again.  Some patently ignore my request and I know they are sitting there saying: “burn me once shame on you, burn me twice…shame on me”  I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be from now on.  The world of electronic friendships and relationships has fundamentally changed the way humanity interacts. You can’t cross back over some of the bridges you burn.  A lot of them can be repaired with enough work, but some of them you just don’t feel like putting that work into the repairs.  It’s just not worth it, because I know I will never change, and a lot of the people who I have known in my life never will change either.  There’s no use in doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.  After all, that’s the definition of insanity, isn’t it?

Strangely, during these years, I began to become friends with people who I never knew before but who were friends with one of my friends. My relationship with people began to branch out beyond my little circle. I have become friends with people who have and hold the same beliefs and philosophies which I hold, and some who do not. I have met some people because of this medium and hold them in high regard and really, genuinely care about them, and through them, their loved ones.  I have an artist friend with his beautiful Foxhound, my flea market friend with the same last name, and his wonderfully talented family. The former English professor of one of my lawyer friends.  Another professor of biology who is a genius and writes complex biology textbooks.  A wonderful, giving friend from New York who shares my love of photography.  A cousin I never knew of before, who is my political consultant, and a wonderful family man.  A friend who is a former librarian who lives just up on the mountain, who has a beautifully located home, and has many of the same interests.  My scientist friend who is the son in law of one of my best FB friends.  Several LGBTQ friends.  On and on I could go…Many, many more. 

I have branched out through these friends of friends, to their friends and relatives and have come to care for many of them.  I have lost several.  A wonderful teacher friend who fought cancer tooth and nail with singular focus, who finally and tragically succumbed to it.  An Alabama friend, cousin of one of my other Alabama friends who was super close to me in philosophy of life, although he was about 10 years older than me.  Whenever I would post a photo of Lookout mountain, he would remark about how he had spent 50 years on the “western” side of the mountain looking at it with a different view.  He too, succumbed to cancer after a long fight.  

I have many old friends who have reintroduced themselves back into my life…who I knew closely in my teenage years. Others who I knew marginally as I was growing up, but who have become close friends in the past few years.  My librarian friend up near Nashville, a son of one of my friends who I went to school with…who grew up with MY oldest son.  So on and so forth.

Growing closer in friendship again with many old friends through empathy and sympathy with their familial situations. Common likes…My old college buddy caving, photographer friend and his wife, who was my wife’s roommate and best friend in college. My UGA fan buddies, my Vegan and vegetarian friends. I could go on. I guess I’d better stop though.

I guess the most important thing is that for the most part, I love people. I really do.  Even though differences can sometimes be extreme, I still love those people.  

I love good discussions where if everyone doesn’t agree, we at least can have our opinions and be civil with each other (though I have NO tolerance for those who cannot be civil, and resort to name calling or vulgarity)

I love seeing the love that others have for their family and friends, and the photos of them they post showing their love. Their expressions of love for their family, and their thoughtful and loving posts many times touch me deeply.

There are many who would use this medium to spread their lies and their hate. Let’s not allow them to take over what could be, and had been up until then last several years, a positive thing.  Don’t share one sided hate “memes” just to have something to post. Think before you do it “will this cause harmony or discord?” If you want to post a page at least put a little preamble of your own words on it to let others know your purpose in sharing. If you have an opinion on something, use your own words. Don’t let others who are extremists use you as a tool. I’ve been guilty but I’m honestly trying to do better!

Love not hate. Empathy and sympathy, not empty feelings. We can use all things for the good of others if we only pause to think, to consider, to put ourselves in the shoes of others for a few miles before we judge.

We now have a pandemic to try and continue to negotiate, and many, many challenges which go along with that.  It will be harder to solve these things if we continue to hate and not help.

Peace to you all.

Grandparent’s Day

As far as grandparents go, I never knew my Grandfather Bowers. He died when I was two years old in 1952, and my Dad was in the Navy then so I’d been at my Mom’s parents house during my babyhood. As far as I know, from talking with people around town who knew him, he was a hard worker, a good gardener, and a stern disciplinarian. My Dad had already told me that all of his life. He loved his Daddy dearly, and kept his memory alive. I look back at the photos of him, and see that he was very diminutive in size, but steely eyed. Dad said he had a pretty strong temper. The strangest thing though, is that through my research on Ancestry, and through DNA results, I have a deep suspicion that he was legally “Mr Bowers” but perhaps not genetically. But, that’s a conversation for another day. My Grandpa Stewart lived to be 98, so I knew him well. As I once said in a lyric to one of my songs, which I wrote about: “I knew that old man well, he never gave a dime to me”. That was really a total fabrication though. Grandpa did open up his purse, which he kept in the upper pocket of his bib overalls occasionally, and give me money. He was a tight old Scot…but he did give me money for ice cream every day for the half year that I attended the fourth grade in Blue Ridge. He was a very musical man. He played Banjo and sang in a deep baritone voice. I emulated him so much that I once got up and led the church choir with him when I was four or five years old. I spent a lot of time there on weekends and in the summer. Grandpa taught me how to shoot a gun, and how to chop wood. He was a moonshine maker and a church deacon at the same time. He didn’t sell any, he just made it for himself….much to my Grandma’s displeasure. It would take a book to tell all I learned about him. I don’t have time here. I believe he loved me, although he never said it while he was in his right mind. Only one time at the nursing home, when he was in the deep grip of dementia did I hear him say it. I’m not sure he knew what he was saying. My Granny Bowers lived until she was 92. She had a rough life, but never really complained about it. She was quick to tell you her ailments…which were many, and to discuss them at length. At every visit, that would be a litany which had to be recited. She had born 19 children, but only 6 had lived to adulthood. Granny had O negative blood, which was not compatible with Grandpa’s. Most of her children died from premature birth. One set of triplets, two sets of twins, and several others…who never got names. The only one I remember Granny lamenting personally, was baby Pearl. “Pearl was the most beautiful baby” she would say. She lived past a year, but died of some childhood disease. None of them have stones. My grandparents were too poor to buy them. All of those kids were just buried in the old Trion cemetery in unmarked graves. Granny knew exactly where they were, and showed me several times. I know where Aunt Pearl the baby is buried, but I may be the only one who does. The depression was hard, hard on my Granny. She went on after Grandpa died and married Arthur Knox, a retired soldier from Kansas…who was a pretty decent guy. I learned how to play solitaire from him, and liked the scrapple he cooked up. My Grandma Stewart was the most influential grandparent I had. I always remember her gentle hand, and her loving heart for her family. She had eight children…all of who lived to adulthood. My Uncle Albert died tragically when I was four. It was one of the first things I remember vividly, because they had the viewing at my Grandparents house. It broke my Grandma’s heart, and my Mom’s…because she and Uncle Al were the closest in age. My Grandma Stewart was the best cook I ever knew. Her biscuits were legendary. Her fried chicken, and fried apples were divine. She was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known. She’d be up before dawn, and would be on the go all day long doing something. In the summer it was picking vegetables and berries, canning, drying and preserving them. Best blackberry jam ever imaginable. Cleaning the house. Plucking and cooking the chickens after Grandpa chopped their heads off neatly. Cutting up the old hog in the wintertime. She always would tell me stories before bedtime every night I was there as a child. Jack in the Beanstalk, The Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She was never to busy to tell us stories. She always told us how much she loved us. At Christmastime she would go out in the woods with me, and chop down some little old pine or fir tree to decorate. She’d make sure there were oranges, apples and nuts around. We spent every Christmas there during my Childhood. Only remember one time that we didn’t go there. My Stewart grandparents lost their old house to a tornado in 1973. They bought a pretty nice mobile home to replace it. I think Grandma liked it better because it was more “modern”. Grandpa died in 1991, and Grandma lived there by herself, with one of my Uncle’s close by. She went into that “damned old nursing home” as she called it, about 1996..or 97, can’t remember exactly when. She hated it though. Mom and Dad came up most weekends to take her out to eat. I didn’t visit nearly enough…She always said she’d live to be 100 years old, and she did in August of 1999. She died in December that year, just a few weeks from being one of those rare people to have lived in three different centuries. I couldn’t help carry her coffin from the little old white church house to the cemetery like I had my Grandpa because I was still recovering from my first heart attack that year, so I walked slowly along next to her. She wasn’t a perfect person, but I loved her dearly. So, on this “grandparents day” I write this in honor of those beloved human beings who were my grandparents, and am thankful for all that we had together.

A philosophy

A Philosophy to Live By…

You tell your children “I will always love you, there is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.” You tell them this before they know what you are saying, and you keep telling them this for as long as you can, so that no matter how old they get they cannot remember a time you have not told them.

If you do this the world will become a better place.

You then tell your family. “You are my family, and nothing you can ever do will keep me from loving you.” You tell them this because they are your family, and because it is true.

If you do this, the world will become a brighter place.

You tell your friends: “You are my friend and I love you, and nothing you could ever do will be so bad I cannot forgive it”

If you do this, the world will become more serene.

You tell your enemies that you care greatly for your children and your family. You tell them there is nothing you would not do to protect them,….nothing. You tell them that it is in their best interest to become friends.

If you do this the world is given a chance to draw breath and think.

I hope if we do this the world has a slim chance to heal wounds that have been open and bleeding for as long as there have been people.

Those Old Timey Doctors

Doctor, doctor give me the news
I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you….

I understand that the practice of medicine has changed. Its changed greatly especially over the past 25 years. There is SO much specialization now. If you have a problem with your fingers…you can’t see a Dr. who specializes in shoulders. If you have a hip problem, like my wife has…you can’t see a Doctor who only sees people for knees. (we found that out this past week) There are so very few physicians who have “private practices” anymore. Most of them are “captives” of huge medical groups. They work for these groups just like a regular person works for a “boss” in the mill. The difference is the pay I suppose. Things change.

Back when I was a kid there were three Doctor’s practicing medicine in Trion. They all had offices at the old hospital. The one I went to was “Ol’ Doc Clemens” I remember him as a larger than life figure. A “big” man in the sense of size…more large in the middle than he was tall and big boned. He was a chain smoker and more than likely had a cigarette in his mouth when you walked in his office. The Doctor that was portrayed in the movie Forrest Gump was almost an exact double for Dr. Clemens as I remember him. A little gruff and grumpy at times, but he knew your name and was true to the title “General Practitioner” He treated anybody for anything. It would have to have been an extreme problem that would have sent you to a “specialist” in those days. They were few and far between, and if the Doctor sent you to one of them, your relatives might have been wise to start consulting the funeral home. Ol’ Doc Clemens didn’t believe too much in “specialists”
I went to him for everything from the mumps, to stitches, to infections, to severe colds, to severe knee problems.

I ruptured a ligament in my right knee when I was 14, swinging too hard at a baseball. Doc Clemens treated me for that. I ended up in the hospital for close to a week with my knee in traction. After that, it was a huge and heavy cast for 6 weeks. Doc Clemens recommended after I got my cast off, that I start walking to exercise it and that was when I started playing golf.

I remember we always loved to go by his house for Halloween every year. He didn’t give us kids that he knew a piece of candy. We got ice cream cones one year, candied apples another year. He lived there on the end of Sunset Lane by himself. I think his wife had passed away some years earlier…but I’m not sure. My memory is a little fuzzy in that area. All I know is that he was an unusual man. A very compassionate man.

The other two Doctors who were there in the 50’s were Dr. Little, and Dr. Hyden. They were both good men also. Dr. Hyden was the doctor who “birthed” me, and also the doctor who saved my brother’s life with an unusual blood transfusion treatment for a blood infection back when he was a little kid. Those Doctors were icons of the community. When the little hospital closed and these three Doctors stopped practicing, the old hospital sat there for quite a few years empty until Dr. Gary Smith had the front part renovated and he had his private practice there for many years. Dr. Smith was another Dr. who worked hard, for many long hours to benefit this community.

Now, I’m not commenting on what should be done about the state of medicine in this country today. I really am not writing this in order to get any political opinions about what should or should not happen to improve things. I just think back, and kind of long for the days when your Doctor knew your name, your family, and actually cared about getting you well more than he or she cared about how much money they were going to get for seeing you. They cared about all the parts of your body, and they knew what I know about the human body:

The foot bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the head bone,
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!

My dear and darling lost.

September 2nd……..September 4th

I remember sitting down in the edge of the grass, with my feet out on the chert rock lined road at the old Trion cemetery. I think somewhere there’s a picture….but I don’t know where it is right now.

Looking back now fifty one years later, I don’t see anything different that could have been done. I believe things happen as they happen, and even if human technology were to develop a time machine so that a person could go back in time, one has to wonder if tampering with what has already come and gone would even be remotely a good idea.

If you change one heartbeat, if you save one heartbeat….would it be in exchange for another?

When you come back from your time travel, all of your photo albums would have different scenes….different people would be in them. Strangers.

Familiar love might be gone and be replaced by a different set of love.

So even with the sorrow which runs through this coming week every year now…the sorrow which leaks out my eyes and runs down my cheeks now…

knowing what I know, and having what I have, I could not and would not go back and take a chance on rearranging history. Things happen as they happen and there is a reason for everything. Randomness, or planned to the infinitesimal, it doesn’t make any difference, it’s in the books.

Somewhere, out there in the Universe, or here in the Universe her spirit waits for me. That’s enough to know, and to hold onto. We will meet again.

The Covid Problem

When I had surgery back on July 29th at one of the hospitals at Rome, Georgia…I was concerned about the new variant of Covid which had already been circulating in the U.S. for a few weeks, so I asked the nurse who admitted me if there was anyone in the hospital at that point with Covid.

They told me there was no one in the hospital at that time with Covid. I had to pass the ER to get to the outpatient surgical area at that hospital that morning and there was barely anyone there.

Now, just a little over a month later on August 31st, both the hospital I was in and the other large hospital in Rome are at, or past capacity with Covid patients. Schools in the area started back the next week after I had surgery. Did that have anything to do with the rapid increase in cases? Most schools in this area started back without any mitigations against spreading the disease. Many are now having to go to virtual and part-time attendance plans after only a few weeks. Just today I read where a student died from Covid at a High School in Rome. I read that a Middle School coach died in Dalton….although it seems he was sick even before school started.

It’s incredible what a difference a few weeks can make with this current Delta variant. It’s incredible that this came from one person …one person…in India sometime near the end of 2020 and has subsequently spread throughout the entire world. It has wreaked havoc on the idea that I and many other people had back at the beginning of 2021, that the vaccinations we were taking would virtually put an end to Covid in this country. The vaccines were formulated to specifically combat the original Alpha variant of the Covid virus. Once the virus mutated to a faster version, which was significantly different in form from the Alpha variant, then the effectiveness of the vaccine was reduced. It wasn’t totally rendered useless against the Delta variant, but has proven to be much less effective. People who took the vaccine have had much milder cases of Covid, up until this point. A third shot has been recommended, and I believe is warranted. The vaccines are not perfect and will not keep everyone from getting sick. I do believe they are safe and they are as effective in fighting Covid as anything we have at our disposal at this time.

At this point, I don’t believe as I did back in March and April of this year, that we will be able to go back to living any kind of “normal” pre-pandemic life anytime soon. I believe that the SARS-COV-2 virus is here to stay in human beings. I have no idea what it’s “end game” will be, and neither does anybody else at this point, including scientist and medical experts. The best they can do right now is to guess where it’s going, based on where it’s been and where it’s at now. As the facts and figures change regarding Covid, then the scientific and medical community will probably change some of it’s views and recommendations. That’s the was science works.

It’s my personal belief that the best way to combat this virus is to continue to take the safe and effective Covid vaccines and to reduce the chances of exposure by using the highly safe N-95 masks. I don’t believe we are being “misled” by the government about the effectiveness of these methods of fighting this disease. Other people have other opinions, but I don’t believe those opinions are based in facts.

The above named things are what I intend to do, but I can’t force anybody else to do them. I just hope that people will realize that these things are probably our best course for right now and go ahead and do the right thing.

I hope that science and medicine can come up with new advances and that one day we can say that the worst of this pandemic is over. For now, it’s not. I’m afraid it’s just going to get worse for the foreseeable future. We can fight it though, if we will just do the right thing.

The cleanest squirrel! From 2012

I now have the cleanest squirrel in the State of Georgia living in the tree in my front yard. The bold little feller is a permanent resident of the Ivy encased Elm tree that stands on the West side of the house providing much needed evening shade. I water my plants regularly and refresh the water in the birdbaths every day or so, and I use a hose pipe with a “sweeper” nozzle so I can get out to the farthest reaches of my postage stamp size yard. I was over next to the fence, just fixing to quit when the “dirty” little squirrel climbed down off his limb onto the top of one of my birdhouses. Seeing that he needed a bath, I screwed the nozzle to “high” which produces the strongest stream of water possible. Pointed the hose in his direction and let go of the crimp in the hose pipe I had been holding. Now..I’ve seen squirrels make some amazing moves…they are quite acrobatic creatures, but when that stream of water hit that little bushy tailed rodent he did a double back flip with three and a half turns straight UP onto the limb above his head. It took him two more seconds to get back up to his home base…where he sat chattering and shaking like a wet dog. Well..now he’s clean and I ain’t seen him trying to rob the poor finches today…..

What we are:

We are like a flash of lighting in the night sky. A shooting star on a cloudless night. Our lives are written in damp letters on the back of a foggy door, only to disappear when the sun shines. We are like one tiny fleck of gold in the bottom of the mining pan, sighted by the great prospector and allowed to swirl around and glint in the light before being poured back into the stream of time. All too brief to really be knowledgeable about who or what we really are.

We are nothing but thought. Nothing but a vapor….disappearing even as it forms.

I have no real answers, other than try and be human, try to be humane. Remember everyone else in the world is more like you, than they are different.

The Saga of Tarp

My Dad’s nickname was “Tarp”. His friends and brothers gave him the name because he used to catch a lot of terrapin turtles when he was a little kid. It certainly wasn’t because he was slow. J.W. Greenwood was Dad’s good friend when they were young. He once told me that Daddy was the “quickest” man he ever saw, and also the most accurate rock thrower he ever knew.

My Dad told me himself that he had beaten many a big bully by “rocking them” then running away….then rocking them again. They finally gave up and ran when they had too many knots on the noggin’ to count….and they never caught him. If they came around the house where my Daddy lived, they risked getting their butts kicked by my Uncle “Curly” or by the oldest brother Robert…who everybody called “lightning” because he could hit so hard and so fast. Fighting was a pretty common pastime during the Great Depression.

My Mom had three different versions of my Dad’s name. When she was just commonly addressing him…she would just say: Tarp

If she wanted something, as in getting him go to the store it would be: “Tarpie will you go get us some frozen yogurt?” Mom loved that frozen yogurt.

The most fearsome of the versions was when we….my brother and I, were kids and did something wrong. Then it would be: “Tarrr…up! Come and give this kid a whooping.”

Strangely enough, that happened more often than I needed it to up until I turned 13, after which Daddy said I was too old to whup anymore. I guess he figured I could be talked to, and have some “privileges” taken away….with the same effect.

My Mom, on the other hand, continued to chase me around be the house with the wire handled fly flap!

Ahh..the memories.