My 5th house in Blogville, located at the corner of Humor and Human Interest
"Random Thoughts" started 2005 |
"Pieces of Me " started 2006
"Tor's Place" started 2008
"Almosta Blog" started 2012
Above are links to four other blogs I've done over the years here at WDC.
My reason for being. My one true love. My universe. Me and my bride, Melinda McClain
Welcome to my fifth home here in Blogville. Over the past two years I have gone through some changes. Widowhood, stroke, depression....all life stages of life I experienced. This is my attempt to move on, to get over it, to.....live again.
So now I have a new blog house here in my beloved cyber-city of Blogville and the intersection of Humor and Human Interest. Come by for a visit anytime you like, friends are always welcome. We'll sit a spell and talk.
I want this new Blog home to be light and airy so the topics I write about will reflect what passes for humor for me...most of the time. I will also write about a subject near and dear to me: Animals. All sorts of animals...great and small. That is not to say I won't get serious at times, I will, but one thing I won't do (hopefully) is write about politics. As Val Kilmer said in Tombstone: "My hypocrisy only goes so far."
| I took a walk in the woods. The woods so deep and dark, intimidating to some but a welcome refuge for me.
My entire life, when things got unbearable, when I was down to the last card in the deck and felt helpless, the forest always proved to be my solace, the power source that recharged my batteries.
Whenever I'm at a loss as to what to do next and I just want the merry-go-round of life to simply stop and let me off, I seek the forest and its refuge.
The last walk I took in my private forest was three years ago, in December. There was no bright blanket of snow on the ground nor necklaces and earrings of ice decorating the bare skeletons of the trees. The sky was leaden and overcast and the color brown ruled the landscape. Brown....dead leaves, mud, sodden paths cutting through a damp land. It was as if the land and I shared a common mood.
I ignored the somber surroundings and struck off along my now familiar path, past the small pond which lay like a large silver dollar at the edge of the woods and past the section of old fence, long abandoned, onward I walked, disappearing into the forest.
Down a depression in the forest floor and up the other side to a high point I tramped, until at last, I reached the highest point in the landscape. I found my favorite stump, the place I always rest and consider the insignificance of man when compared to the beauty of nature.
Settling my old bones upon the stump, I did what I always do when I visit the forest, I listened to the song of the wind.
The wind blows fairly constant in this part of the country. Sometimes it comes as a gentle breeze on a hot Summer day and at other times it blows with near gale-force during a Spring storm, but it is always present. Whether it is accompanied by the rustling leaves or merely the bald, shaking, limbs of the forest giants, the wind always sings its song to anyone who will listen.
For a time, I know not how long, I sat quietly and listened to the music of the Wind and, as always, I was at peace and I was strengthened by Nature's instrumental. Finally though it was time to go.
I opened my eyes and arose from my seat, and continued on my way. I walked around the edges of my property line and spotted rabbits and squirrels, and a few skittish deer. I came across tracks from both the coyote and the cougar and I watched a hawk ride the air currents above my head.
It came to me then, as it always does on these walks of mine, that THIS is Life. This is what is important and nothing else. We humans are a part of a great whole, we are merely cogs in the real life that is this planet and when we are done here, strutting and posturing and trying desperately to be something more, we all go back to this Earth and it spins on without us just as it was meant to do.
Somehow I am always comforted by that thought that when I'm gone there will be another to take my place and when, on the day that all humans are gone, the Earth, this beautiful blue marble, will continue to spin along its course and wait to be discovered again by whoever comes next and there will always be a “Next”.
So. I returned from that last walk, refreshed and accepting of whatever comes next. After all, that is the way of life isn't it. We do our best then we move on. I wish everyone had the time and the opportunity to take these walks in the forest and know the same peace and tranquility to be found there.
"Prompt: “Enlightenment arrives like a thief in the middle of the dark night of the soul.” ― Stefan Emunds
Let this quote inspire your blog entry. Write about either enlightenment or the dark night of the soul. If you want, you can write about both."
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no idea who this Stefan Emunds is. I knew a fellow named Emunds back when I lived on my farm. He lived a few miles from me, on his own farm where he raised pigs. He was a nice guy, but he certainly wasn't given to making pronouncements like that one above.
Now about that quote....The man has a point. I speak from experience here when I tell you that yes, indeed, enlightenment does tend to sneak in on you when you are at your lowest..."that whole dark night of the soul" situation.
My own personal dark night of the soul came three years ago. After my sweetheart died in my arms, after the ambulance came and took her body away, and after I returned home, dazed and in shock, from the hospital where a kind doctor made the pronouncement of death official. When I finally sat alone in my dark and silent house that suddenly felt more like a tomb than a home, it came to me...Enlightenment.
I realized that a profound and certain change had just occurred in my life, a seismic shift, if you will. I suddenly knew that the greatest chapter of my life story had just ended and now the last chapter had begun. I knew, in that blinding illumination of knowledge, I was now merely waiting at the station for that cosmic train that would take me to where she had gone.
With that knowledge came a blanket of peace and acceptance. I knew I was detached from this world and its worries and woes. Those things only effect those who are still writing their life story, mine was done. This enlightenment has proved to be a blessing to me. I no longer am moved to anger at what happens in this life. About the best I can muster is bemusement at the follies of my fellow humans. I watch it all pass by from my porch as I wait for my train.
So there you have it my friends; that's what I know about the dark night of the soul and Enlightenment. No words of wisdom here, just the impressions of an ex-dirt farmer and an old country boy while he sits at the train station.
| The title of today's entry is a reference to the 1840 best selling memoir by Richard Henry Dana Jr.: Two Years Before the Mast
I awoke this morning and, like always I turned on the computer and opened up WDC. It was only then that I discovered that today was my anniversary here on Writing.Com. I had completely forgotten the date. So today I'm celebrating fourteen years on my own personal voyage of writing discovery much the same as Dana looked back upon his own sea voyage...with wonder and gratitude.
The term,"Before the mast" is an old sailing term that refers to the living quarters of the common seamen which was located in the forecastle, in the front of the ship. Dana, like myself, always identified with the common seamen or the common people, thus the title of his book. The ship he signed on with was named Pilgrim and mine, WDC.
I have been privileged to share my quarters in the forecastle of WDC with other common seamen/writers over the course of this voyage all of whom have enriched my life while teaching me volumes about the art of writing. Through their own stories I have been able to visit exotic lands and learn many new things, each of which enriched my life and made me a better writer.
Seamen/writers such as Sarah , PlannerDan , Voxxylady , and Scarlett and many more have toiled along side me as we collectively sailed our ship over the seas of Time, toward an unknown destination.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve along side each of you and I look forward to our next port of call, wherever it might be.
| I'm a simple kind of guy, some might say simple minded and I can't argue with that either. The thing is, what you see is what you get when it comes to me. When I'm happy you know it, when I'm sad you will also know it and, when I'm angry, God help you, you will know that with no uncertainty. Most importantly though, when I insult a person I will do it in such a way as to make said insult clear and upfront.
Which brings us to the subject of the phrase: "Merry Christmas." In this Politically Correct world in which we live today, it has been deemed as offensive to wish a "Merry Christmas" to some who might not celebrate that holiday. Indeed, the term has all but disappeared from TV shows and commercials all together in an effort to appease the minority that by chance might be offended by it.
Well folks, that's not me. I believe in the Season. I believe in the Reason for the Season and when I wish someone a "Merry Christmas" I do so in the fervent hope that that person does in fact have a happy experience in the coming days and they encounter nothing but good things (glad tidings as the song goes.)there is no insult intended. Th
I just naturally assume that the majority of folks are adult enough to take that greeting in the spirit in which it was proffered and not jump at the chance to be insulted by it.
Now all this is just my own personal belief and as such you can take it and a buck-fifty and get a cup of coffee....unless you go to Starbucks.
A year before I retired from Walmart those personal convictions were put to the test when, in November, the word came down from Corporate that employees were no longer allowed to wish customers a Merry Christmas, but we had to say: "Happy Holidays."
I just smiled and said: "Yeah, sure." and then I went out and continued to wish all my customers a Merry Christmas until the Season ended.
Nothing was said to me, nothing was done. Case closed.
So now the season is upon us once more and I urge each of you to take the greeting: "Merry Christmas" in the loving spirit in which it was offered, especially by crusty old country boys like myself.
Having said all that, there's nothing left but for me to wish all of you who read this.....MERRY CHRISTMAS, my friends.
Prompt: Does the winter weather put you in a Bah Hum Bug mood this time of year? If so, how do you change your mood?
Being a proud son of Southeast Texas, cold weather and snow were viewed as the rare acts of an angry God, bent on our destruction. In other words anytime the temperature dipped below forty degrees we had a competition to see who could wear the most clothes and still manage to stand upright. And snow? Forget about it. I have personally witnessed a mere one inch of snow on the ground cause a town of six thousand souls to completely shut down....streets empty, stores shuttered. It is a widely held belief in my part of Texas, that any time the outside thermometer dives below zero, a sign should pop up that says: "Numbers are no longer relevant: YOU'RE SCREWED!"
So yeah, Winter's majesty never failed to drop my spirits lower than a snake's belly. My own personal cure for those Winter-Time Blues was to stay inside as much as possible, wrap myself around the heater, and dream of warm beaches and fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them.
A funny thing happened to me though. There came a time when Karma, Fate, and true Love got together and zapped me into the Missouri bootheel, in the foothills of the Ozark mountains and I spent the next eight years experiencing REAL Winter weather...Snow measured in feet, not inches accompanied by temps that stayed at or below zero for days and weeks at a time.
Amazingly though, after the first two years of wishing someone would shoot me, I slowly got use to the extreme weather to the point where, when the temps rose above twenty five I could sit out on the front porch in jeans and a tee-shirt and be comfortable.
Now, I find myself back in Texas, looking at the fast approaching holiday and suffering the same Winter Blues only now it's caused by my missing the cold, not by experiencing it....go figure'
|After thirteen years of blog writing on five different platforms I have come to the conclusion that there are almost as many different types of blogs as there are blog writers.
I guess it is human nature but I find that I am drawn to blogs that closely resemble my own, type of blog who's entries tell a story which, is what I try to do with each of my own entries. The Story Blog (my own designation) can be informative, nostalgic, opinionated, or humorous, depending on the writer's mood that day.
I love the Story Blog because it reminds me of a bygone era when newspapers were our go-to source for news, information, and entertainment. My favorite thing in the world use to be reading the newspaper with my morning coffee and the first part of the paper I always read was not the front page, so full of doom and gloom, but the human interest pieces written on either a daily or weekly basis by a group of talented columnist. People like Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Lynn Ashby, and Leon Hale did as much to shape my writing style as any teacher ever could.
Of course with the advent of FaceBook and Twitter and other social platforms and the "Communicate with 100 keystrokes or less" mentality blogs have begun to follow the same path.
So, enough about what I like. What sort of blog do you like to read? What sort do you support with your likes and comments?
|Today, December 12, 2018 will live in infamy(for at least ten minutes). Today Tor, the "Capt. Obvious" of the blogging world was put down like a horse with a broke leg, by his evil, human alter-ego, David McClain who, when contacted by this reporter, shouted "No comment," as he rushed away. Typical ungrateful human. It was learned later that the scoundrel had just decided to blog under his real name for a change.
Tor was born into the Cyber world eighteen years ago when that same human alter-ego first ventured online and was informed he needed a handle. Being sadly lacking in the imagination department, said human spent two days trying to come up with a name and finally, in desperation, he decided to use the name of the publishing company who published his favorite fantasy series of books: The Wheel of Time. An so it was, a star was born.
When informed of Tor's passing, Mark Zuckerburg said: "It is indeed a sad day. Tor was to writing, what Soupy Sales was to Quantum Physics."
Scarlett Johansson was quoted as saying::"Does that mean I no longer need that restraining order on him"?
As the word spread of his demise a legion of his old writing friends rejoiced at being able to finally leave the Witness Protection Program and get on with their lives.
Yes, the mighty Tor, the master of misspelling, the emperor of the obvious, will be missed by the blogging world (like a snowman misses the sun) but this reporter was assured that Tor's evil human alter ego has vowed to uphold and carry on, Tor's legacy of mediocrity.
|DAY 2214: December 11, 2018
Faith, hope, joy, and love, write something about each of these in you blog entry today.
You can't imagine my surprise when I got the email informing me of today's suggested blog topic: The big four...Faith, hope, joy, and love. They want me to write about that? Hell I've been writing on that subject since 2001, ever since an angel crash landed on Earth and fell in love with me.
When we met, she got me hooked. Those four emotions became my drug of choice and she gave me daily doses of each. My man, Mr. B.J. Thomas expressed my feelings perfectly with his hit song, Hooked on a Feeling.
I use to sing this song to her in my horribly off-key voice that was so bad it made the dogs howl and it never failed, half-way through the song she would start to giggle then she would launch herself at me and smother me with kisses meant to halt the terrible noise....it worked (I'm not as dumb as I look!).
Yes, she got me hooked on The Big Four emotions. I was mainlining Faith, Hope, Joy, and Love daily. Faith made me believe with complete certainty
that I could face anything, overcome any adversity, with her by my side.The Hope filled me with optimism for our future, Love softened my hardened soul and changed the way I viewed the world and my fellow man. and lastly...Joy, that all encompassing sunshine of the soul caused me to greet each new day with a smile on my lips.
Yes, my sweet wife got me hooked on these powerful emotional drugs of choice and it was a golden time in my life. But like everything else, there is a beginning and an end and the end of my addiction came one crisp Fall day when my love died in my arms of a massive heart attack.
It's been hard but after three years I am no longer addicted to these emotions, indeed I can barely remember the euphoria they brought me. So, dear readers, here's my advice to you: If you are not yet hooked on Faith, Hope, Joy, or Love go out and find a "dealer" and let that person happily get you hooked. There is no high in this world to compare to it and no matter how it ends you will be grateful you did it.
Day 2213, Dec.10, 2018
Good morning and welcome to my front porch. Come on up and sit a spell, have a cup of coffee and let's talk.
Did you know that today is the 70th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration made by the United Nations back in 1948? No? Well neither did I until I turned on the computer.
The fact that we didn't even know about it until we saw it on the Internet is something I have a problem with. The Human Rights Declaration is not a law insuring the basic human rights of all men. It was simply presented as a "declaration" and then the member nations were invited to ADOPT the proclamation or not, as they saw fit.
My problem is that the thing was more declarative than legislative, more suggestive than binding. In other words it was not meant to protect human rights, just to draw attention to the subject.
I call "Bull Crap"! What is more important than the basic human rights of all people? If they would have made it a law instead just think of how much better the world would be today...seventy years later. Interpol, the international police agency could have been in charge of investigating the crime and the World Court could have heard the cases. How great would that be!
Yeah, you're right, humans would have found a way to screw it up probably and they would have discovered loop holes in the law and the whole thing would have been one large cluster-f**k.
Or maybe not....who knows what kind of world we would be living in today if instead of celebrating the 70th anniversary of a declaration, we were celebrating seventy years of a law that protected our basic human rights.
What do you think? (hint:this is where you talk)
| There is a, by now, famous, picture of George H.W. Bush's service dog laying next to his master's casket. During the coverage of the funeral I watched on TV, one network had as their guest an Animal Behavioral scientist . He was asked the obvious question: "Do animals such as dogs feel emotions like Humans do"?
Now for those of us who have spent a lifetime in close proximity to animals in general and dogs in particular, this is a no-brainer....of course they do. Unfortunately science has long held that we are wrong and there's no evidence to support this claim. So I was all ready to listen to this so called expert to answer in the negative. Imagine my surprise then when he did just the opposite. He stated that recent studies, using cutting edge scientific methods and tools not available just ten years ago, they now believe that animals, dogs in particular, do in fact feel grief, love, anger and even hate to some extent just like humans.
Well knock me down and call me Sally! What do you know; science has finally figured out what we knew many years ago and that is that animals have emotions but they tend to handle them better than we do in most cases.
Many times over the years I have been asked by readers if the stories I share in my blogs about animals are true or did I just make them up...embellish them for the sake of storytelling. I assure them each time that everything I write about animals really happened. In most cases embellishment is not needed, they do that themselves.
The exception to that rule (there's always an exception) is when I write a fictional short-story or novel and those are clearly labeled as such. An example of this is my novel: Booker: The Barn Dog of Almosta Ranch. There I took a few basic true facts and added my own fictional interpretation.
So, dear reader, when you come upon an entry here dealing with the antics of the various animal citizens of Almosta ranch, whether it be dog, horse, pig, goat, chicken, or rabbit it is, as they say....the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Thanks for stopping by!
I have written many blog entries in various Internet sites dealing with animals and of all the creatures that graced Almosta ranch with their presence, one of my favorites was Jeremiah, my very own "Porch Donkey".
Jeremiah came to Almosta like many of the residents, via the local livestock auction. Mel took one look at the little guy and fell in love. I couldn't blame her, he was quite impressive, standing there in the sale ring, under the harsh lights and surrounded by a room full of loud strangers, Jeremiah stood still, ears erect, eyes straight ahead....defiant and showing no fear, but like Mel, I spotted the tremor that ran along his flanks...a sure sign of nervousness in the breed.
"He's scared," I whispered to Mel, "but he's standing his ground." I've always admired that trait, in man and beasts.
"Oh honey, we HAVE to get him," she whispered back as she clutched my arm fiercely.
"What the hell are we going to do with a little donkey? We raise horses, remember. How is he going to fit in with our herd"?
"He'll do just fine." She said in that tone of voice I knew only too well....no argument was allowed.
"Yes, dear". I smiled. My baby wanted the donkey so we were getting a donkey...end of discussion.
Of course Mel was right. Over the next few days that followed Jeremiah's arrival, he carved out his own unique place within the horse herd. The horses learned very quickly not to try to bully the little guy at feeding time. Their efforts were foiled by the little donkey's sharp teeth and even sharper hooves that sent the much larger horses scurrying to escape his wrath.
For his part, Jeremiah became a staunch defender of the herd. He became as good at killing coyotes who came into our pastures looking for a kill as Billy, our stallion. Together they looked like Mutt and Jeff, one tall and muscular and the other short and stocky but against the duo a pack of coyotes stood no chance at all.
So it was that Jeremiah won the respect of the horse herd, but he truly won a place in my heart when he decided on his on one day to join me on the front porch where I always came to enjoy my first cup of coffee each morning.
Very quickly it became a morning ritual. I would come out to the porch each morning as the sun rose and sit in my chair, with my steaming cup of coffee and Jeremiah would amble slowly up from the barn to join me. We enjoyed each other's company. He was a good listener as I talked about what we needed to do that day and I was a good ear-scratcher which Jeremiah appreciated to no end.
On more than one occasion I had cars slow down and even stop as their drivers gawked at the strange old guy with the donkey on his porch. You would think they'd never seen a porch-donkey before.
That was life on Almosta ranch.
|Today'a offering comes in the form of one of my animal stories. These stories usually take place on Almosta ranch, the place my wife and I lived for many years and where we happily cared for all animals great and small that came our way. This particular story took place three years ago during my last days on the ranch and is a true rendering of the event.
I made a new friend yesterday, his name is Mortimer, I call him Mort. He’s not much of a conversationalist but he’s a dang good listener. We met quite by accident yesterday morning when i got up earlier than usual, around three in the morning, and decided to get a few hours solid writing time behind me before I clicked onto Facebook to find out what I needed to be outraged over for the day.
I had only written a couple of paragraphs when I caught a slight movement out of the corner of my eye…I was not alone. I stopped typing and looked hard at the spot where the movement had come from. At first I could detect nothing then, as if by magic, he appeared from behind a bag of clothes slated to be hauled to Good Will.
I smiled. He was quite a handsome young fellow, about two inches tall as he stood on his hind legs and regarded me with large black eyes. He had soft grey fur and two overly large ears common for his kind. He was a field mouse.
These little fellows share one trait in common with humans, it would seem. When the weather turns cold they tend to migrate to warmer climes so they pack up the family and head to the nearest farmhouse in search of heat, easy foraging, and perhaps a little more security away from hungry predators bent on having them for dinner.
Since Almosta Ranch has very liberal immigration laws, set forth by Mel when we first moved here,I guess Mort decided to take a chance at starting a new life here in the farmhouse.
At first Mort was skittish and ran and hid when I first spotted him but by the end of the day he overcame his fear and decided that I was not there to kill or deport him back to the fields so he had ventured up on my desk to watch me work. Like all good immigrants, Mort has enriched his new home and provides me with good companionship and a willing ear to listen when I need to talk. His presence adds a new level of interest to our home and I look forward to his friendship in the coming dreary Winter months.
And so Life goes on here on Almosta Ranch.
|My group of blogging buddies and I came up with the idea of having a "Throwback Thursday" where we share a memory or memories of our distant childhood. Here then is my own poor offering on that subject.
Dusk. The sun was quickly sinking behind the horizon but its absence did nothing to relieve the stifling heat that blanketed the land where the two opposing armies faced each other.
It was July after all and the heat of the day was expected. The two commanders of the warring armies stood on high ground, glaring across no-man's land at their opponent. Each had positioned his troops in their final positions. One army arrayed at the foot of the hill and the other one dug into defensive positions on the hillside awaiting the inevitable attack.
After a tense moment in which the two commanders glared at each other, the battle began. Both of them stood and began to hurl lit firecrackers at their opponent's plastic army.
The air was filled with explosions, flashes of light, smoke, and tiny fallen bodies of warriors. The two commanders…my seven year old brother and myself who was elder by five years, stood our ground and fought bravely, throwing firecrackers, firing Roman Candles and bottle rockets. Night sky was alive with our pyrotechnics that hot Forth of July night so many years ago.
Two young Texas boys having the time of their life, lost in a make believe world of their own design and loving every minute of it. What makes this memory stand out so vividly over the intervening decades is not the make believe play we enjoyed so much but what happened next.
At this point it might be helpful to know that my brother and I have always delighted in another sort of war…The Practical Joke War and this is what started that war that still rages today.
The make believe battle was almost done, it was too dark to really see properly, when mom stepped out onto the porch and called: "Time to come in boys. Supper is ready."
We might be the make believe commanders of armies, but we both knew who the real Commander-in-Chief of the family was and didn't dare ignore her call. So we quickly began to gather up our toy soldiers and prepare for the walk home…maybe two hundred yards from our "battleground". It was then that I had a flash of inspiration.
Each of us carried two large paper bags. One contained our toy men and tanks while the other contained our loads of munitions…firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and the like. Each of us had our lit punks. The punk as we called it was simply a stick of slow burning material you got with the purchase of the fireworks and that you used to light the various fuses.
I had not put mine out yet and still held it as I watched my brother who was busy gathering his toys. In a flash, without thinking about it, I walked over to where he had placed his bag of fireworks and I calmly dropped my lit punk in his bag.
"Let's go. Hurry up, dufus, you're gonna make us late for supper." I yelled at him. The thought of being late for supper was too much for the boy. He quickly grabbed up his toys and his bag of fireworks and started walking quickly toward the house. He never noticed the faint glow of the burning punk inside his bag of fireworks.
I sat down on the ground and eagerly watched his retreating back with anticipation. It was so dark by then I really couldn't make him out. All I could see was the glow of that punk in that bag, receding in the distance. Then it happened…
BOOM! BAM! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!
With each explosion my brother's body was illuminated by a flash of light and with each flash he was in a different pose of panic. Arms flailing, jumping, falling down. It looked exactly like one of those old Road Runner cartoons where the coyote is caught in one of his own exploding traps.
I laughed and laughed. I laughed so hard I couldn't get up so I lay there, still laughing, with tears running down my cheeks. That is how dad found me. Mom had sent him out to see what was keeping us. Believe me, that's when the laughing stopped, but damn, it was worth it.
After that, over the years there have been many practical jokes by both of us and I'm sure there will be a few more but none of them as sweet as that first time.
Day 2208 Dec. 5, 2018
"Christmas isn't a season, it's a feeling"....Edna Ferber
Ms. Ferber, renowned novelist, playwright, and short-story writer was both right and wrong when she made this statement.
Of course Christmas is a season, a holiday first declared by Constantine in 324 A.D. in an effort to give his new found religion legitimacy over the paganism that was the common practice of the day. However Ms. Ferber was spot-on when she suggested it should be a feeling instead.
Can you imagine how different this world would be if we carried the Christmas feeling, the Christmas Spirit if you will, with us throughout the year.
"Glad Tidings, and good cheer"!
What a different world we would live in if we carried that sentiment in our hearts year around. As it is, we largely ignore the Christmas spirit until the season is upon us then we slip into the Christmas mode like a man who comes inside when the season is done and hangs the coat in the closet where it remains, forgotten, until the next year.
Personally I would like to see Christmas treated as a feeling, one we carry with us the entire year...without the naked commercialism.
|I am what most people refer to as a Christmas Grinch. I'm the guy who doesn't mind saying a hearty, and heartfelt, "Bah, Humbug" to all the hoopla surrounding Christmas in this modern age of ours.
Once a year, spurred on by the commercial outlets of the world assuring us that we will be judged by the size of the gifts we give to loved ones, we rush out and plunge into debt which many will spend the next year trying to recover from. For most this defines the Christmas Spirit, but not for me.
We seem to have forgotten the sole reason for the Holiday in the first place...Celebrating the birth of Christ. Yes, yes, I understand that we don't actually KNOW the exact day He was born and that Dec. 25th was chosen arbitrarily as the day we would celebrate as His birthday...I know all that. But, dammit if He is the reason for the season, why do we work so hard to remove Him from the festivities? Do we celebrate our child's birthday by giving gifts to other kids and ignoring the child who's birthday it is?
Now I'm not saying that giving gifts to loved ones is bad or wrong. After all, who doesn't enjoy receiving gifts given with love at any time. I believe, when possible, sure give a gift...each according to their means without taking out a second mortgage that is.
Those kinds of presents are okay, but should not be the sole aim of celebration. I also believe in giving Presence for the holiday and in fact I believe that presence is more important than presents.
When I speak of "Presence" I mean two different kinds. The first kind is presence with your family and loved ones. Yes, it's great to get together for a Christmas dinner, all under one roof but many times that's not possible with our modern, mobile, far-flung family units. But we can all give those far away a call. Tell them we love them and we're thinking about them. We can be present in their lives if only for a short time. That call is precious to the one receiving it, better than gold or silver.
The second type of presence is my favorite. Back when we had our farm, my wife and I had a ritual which she started. Each Christmas morning we would bundle up and head out, hand in hand, to a secluded spot on the backside of the farm. It was a small rise overlooking a clearing ringed by giant trees. We would sit on a fallen log and take a moment to silently enjoy the beauty of the snow covered landscape and watch the deer and rabbits foraging there then I would say: "Happy Birthday Boss." We're still here. We still love you. We are present for you."
We would stay awhile and enjoy the scenery and wildlife until the cold would finally send us scurrying back home to our warm fire. That was our Christmas.
So maybe this year give presents to loved ones and family but do it with more love involved than money and maybe, just maybe....remember who's birthday it is and give Him the gift of your Presence...if just for awhile. I know He'll love it.
Cold, stark, beauty in repose against a cobalt sky and a sun bereft of heat. This was my introduction to Winter at the tender age of fifty-five.
Being a native Texan, born and raised amidst the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of Southeast Texas, I was one of those who people in the North love to make fun of when it comes to cold weather. Indeed when it came to temperature, anything below forty degrees has us scrambling for heavy Arctic coats and insulated underwear. As a child, growing up in Livingston, Texas I can vaguely remember two times that snow fell and stuck to the ground, neither time saw an accumulation of more than an inch and both times the town shut down; businesses shuttered their doors, and residents were urged to "shelter in place".
At this point you might well ask how a sun-loving son of Texas found himself in snow country late in life. The answer is as simple as it was inevitable.....I married the love of my life, who just happened to be a native Michigan girl.who loved Winter and had given up her Winter wonderland for the harsh heat of Texas for me.
To her credit, even though she longed for her homeland, she knew I would never survive the harsh Michigan Winters so she offered a compromise; she suggested that we buy a small place in Missouri which was roughly halfway between the two extremes. She assured me that the Winters were fairly mild compared to hers and the Summers were nowhere near as harsh as my Texas Summers.
What else could I do? I said what I often said during our marriage: "Sweetie, whatever suits you just tickles me plumb to death!"
And so it was, dear friends, that I found myself in Missouri. We moved there during the Summer and like she said, it was nice and warm but not as bad as Texas...I loved it. I was happy! Then Fall came along and I really did love Fall. I experienced the changing foliage colors for the first time and it quickly became my favorite season.
Alas, Fall finally gave way to Winter. Unfortunately for me, my first Winter in my new home saw the arrival of the most powerful ice storm Missouri had seen in the last one hundred years! Temps dipped down to -20 degrees. Three feet of snow fell and then was covered with another foot or so of ice. Ice clung to the trees causing them to snap and topple with the added weight. We lost power for almost two weeks and I was reduced to cooking meals over an improvised fire pit in the side yard.
I cursed, I cried, I loudly proclaimed the Name of this God forsaken state to be Misery instead of Missouri. But, most importantly, I lived through it and indeed the Winters that followed were much easier and I grew accustomed to the biting wind and the snow until I was finally able to see the beauty of the season. The picture at the top of this entry is an example of the beauty that can be found during Winter...Ice decorating the trees on our farm.
Now I am back in Texas. It is December and I'm wearing a tee shirt outside and I find myself longing to experience one more Missouri Winter before I'm done. Life is funny like that.
|From the Collins Dictionary: A mob is a large, disorganized, and often violent crowd of people.
The Mob and the Mob mentality is a dangerous thing. The kings of the various Greek city states knew this as did the Roman rulers later in history. It was not uncommon for the Roman emperors to bring wagon loads of fresh baked bread to the Coliseum and distribute it to the thousands of lower class people who filled the seats of the great stadium to be entertained by chariot races and gladiator combat. Those Roman emperors knew that if they hoped to retain their power and, not to mention, their heads, they must keep the common people fed and entertained. This practice, in one form or another, has been followed throughout history.
The overriding danger of the Mob lies in the illusion of anonymity felt by the individual members. You've heard the expression: "The faceless crowd." The people involved in a Mob feel a certain safety, hidden away among a group of like minded people and will do and say things they would never dream of doing in a one on one encounter.
Sound familiar? I just described the Internet. The Internet has become, to a large degree this vast faceless engine that drives hate, bigotry, and intolerance to all corners of the globe. In small mini-mobs, on message boards all over the Net people are encouraged to voice the most radical concepts of the Left and the Right and to attack anyone daring to disagree with those concepts.
Fifty years from now, when some historian looks back, I believe they will come to the conclusion that Civil Discourse died with the advent of the Internet.
|This was written three years ago, about two weeks after the death of my wife. I have been urged to put it somewhere safe so as not to lose it if the computer crashed or Something happened to my Face Book account where it was originally written. Since I've been a member here for over 15 years, I figured it was the safest place for it. Many of my friends here have already read this but there are many new faces and I hope you will read and maybe get something good from the reading.
As most of you know by now my wife, Melinda and I met online, through a mutual friend. Mel lived in Michigan and I lived in Texas. Now as interesting (at least to me) as the first time we spoke was, that is not what I was thinking of this morning.
I got up today, greeted by a house that was empty of her presence and I began to think about how this woman had filled my life over the past 15 years. It is hard, sometimes to remember what life was like before she came along but the memories I have of that time are ones of a great emptiness. I existed, I functioned, but I did not really live.
So it is that as I made that first pot of coffee and fed the fur-babies, my mind wandered back to that first day....the day Melinda flew into Texas and directly into my heart.
We had been talking via the Internet and phone for almost six months when, one day out of the blue, Mel simply said: "I have a week of vacation coming up, so why don't I fly down there to Texas."
I could not get the words: "OH HELL YES!" out of my mouth fast enough and we began to make plans for her visit.
We had, of course, exchanged pictures and we knew what the other looked like, but Mel said she was terrible at recognizing live people from remembered photographs and she was worried about spotting me in the crowd at the airport.
You have to remember here that this was before 9/11, when people were allowed to wait for arriving planes right at the gate and there was always a crowd of family and loved ones waiting the arrival of each plane.
I told her not to worry, I would be wearing my cowboy hat, western shirt, and jeans....."You can't miss me", I told her.
It was not until she was in the air and half way between Detroit and Houston that it dawned on her...."Uh, wait a minute, I'm flying in to Houston, TEXAS; three-fourths of the men there are going to be in jeans and a cowboy hat!"
She was right too. There I stood waiting at the gate in a crowd of men wearing jeans and cowboy hats! I too was thinking...."this could be trouble."
So the plane lands and the passengers start to debark....and I stand and look, and look....and look.....
She is the very last person off the dang plane and I am already starting to think that maybe she got cold feet at the last moment and didn't even get on the plane.
Then....across the crowded the crowded concourse, I see her. She seems to simply float toward me instead of walking like a mere mortal. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon. Dressed in a simple, knee-length, lime green dress that accentuated the tan skin of her throat and face, her blond hair cut in a short bob and her beautiful blue eyes locked on me and seeing right into my soul.
I had brought a bouquet of roses for her and I held them in my hands, forgotten. A million thoughts were going through my mind at once. How do I greet her? Do I give her a friendly hug, do I kiss her on the cheek, do I shake her freaking hand......???? GOD, I COULD USE SOME HELP HERE!!
She solved the problem for me. Without ever breaking stride, she walked
right up to me, threw her arms around my neck, and gave me a deep, long kiss that made my toes curl and the flowers drop from my hand forgotten.
"Hello, cowboy." She whispered in my ear.
"Well howdy, my little Yankee girl." I whispered back in a voice that was hoarse with emotion.
Loving her was easier than anything I'll ever do again.
I knew this fundamental fact almost from the moment our eyes first locked at the airport. You see, Melinda was unlike any woman I had ever met in my life and I had known a few; This wasn't my first rodeo, as they say in Texas. But God she was so damn different.
After she kissed me there in the Concourse of the airport, I looked down into her eyes and of course there was passion there, but there was something even more important; there was peace there. In that instant I felt a peaceful flow of "Rightness", for lack of a better word, that covered me from head to toe. I smiled then like I had not smiled since I was a kid..
We quietly locked hands and started toward the baggage claim to retrieve her suitcase. Once down there, we waited with the other passengers as bags circled the carousel. Her bags, like her, were the last ones off the plane it would seem.
While we stood there something happened that would repeat itself many times over the next week; A perfect stranger, a little old lady struck up a conversation with Melinda. I discovered quickly that one of the magical qualities of my love was that people tended to gravitate to her. She seemed to have this aura that drew people to her and made them want to share their life story. As she did this first time, she always listened with complete attention to that person. She would treat each stranger as if they were old friends....that was at the center of her magic; she had a heart so big it accepted anyone who approached. I just stood and listened to them and I smiled....yes, that's my baby.
We finally retrieved her bags and we made it to the car and started off for the seventy mile trip to my home. I have made that trip many times both before and since, but I don't think it ever went so fast as it did that day. We talked constantly, a haze of discovery that covered us and made time cease. Before I even realized it, we had arrived in my little town.
As we took the off ramp for the road into town, it dawned on me that I was about to do something that could be quite uncomfortable. I was about to introduce this woman to my two sons who lived with me. One was 19 and the other one was 14 and I wasn't sure just how it was going to go over with them. I had never before brought a woman home, choosing instead to keep my social life from disrupting the home life I had built with my kids. By the time we pulled up to my driveway I was sweating bullets, as they say.
I shouldn't have worried though, my boys came out to the driveway when we pulled up and when Mel got out of the car, both boys had these big ole grins on their faces that I had not witnessed in quite some time. Mel hugged both of them as if she were greeting her own children and, like their father, both of them fell in love with her on the spot.
Patrick, the 19 year old told me that he and Rick were spending the week end with friends. He said this while giving me this exaggerated wink and nudge in the ribs. I turned about three shades of red and hustled everyone inside.
Soon afterwards the boys had made their gleeful exit and Melinda and I decided to change into more comfortable clothes. It was then that she made a curious request. She asked if we could take a walking tour of the town.
I thought it was a strange request but I would have done whatever she wanted to do.
How can I describe that tour? For me, when we started out, it was just a ho-hum thing, I mean, really it was just a small, mostly deserted downtown section filled with empty buildings and faded storefronts. I had seen it, walked over, driven through it, a thousand times. It was like the speed bump you pass over each day going to work...you know its there, but you rarely even register going over it after awhile. But if it was a walking tour she wanted, I was damn sure going to give it to her.
So we drove downtown to the center of town and parked the car at the courthouse. From there we walked up one side of Main street headed North. I began to point out buildings in a sort of monotone voice, stating the obvious: "It use to be open but it closed down after Walmart came in."
Finally she stopped me: "Honey," she said in a soft voice, "I can see all that. I want you to tell me what it was like when you were a kid. Every town has its stories....tell me those."
I looked down at her, for a moment at a loss....when I was a kid? How do I....YES. Time slowed down, then began to flow backward as my mind cast back to capture the memories. Time stopped. Time. We went back... I took her hand and started walking slowly with her once again and the words seemed to pour out of me.....
"Over where we started...the courthouse...Did you see that plaque? That was where a giant live Oak tree stood. They cut it down a few years ago because it had started to rot, but it use to be the "hanging tree" back a hundred years ago. Oh and when I was a kid, me and my buddies would climb up in its lower limbs to watch parades down main street."
And as I spoke, I could actually see that time once again. Hot July morning. Me and my buddies scampering up in the low branches of that tree and waiting for the parade to begin. Each of us armed with pea-shooters so we could try to spook the horses ridden in the center of the parade.Yes, I could see it so damn clear, as if I were back there again.
" Over there, that use to be the drugstore.” I told her,pointing to a large empty building. We crossed the street and stood in front of the empty edifice
“They had a soda fountain and a bar. Every Saturday we would come to town and Dad would treat us to a chocolate shake or a banana split."
We both stood for a moment and stared through the front glass and into the empty old building. I could almost see us kids twirling around on the stools as we waited for our treat. Ghostly images, trapped in my mind and released by the simple request: "Show me..."
And so it went. We walked all over that town and at each building I had a story to tell. Every step of the way was strewn with forgotten memories, things I had not thought of in decades, ghosts of people long gone and forgotten....all there waiting for this visit.
By the time we had finished the tour, she knew more about me than I had ever told any living soul. I was terrified that I had shown so much of myself to another living human, I had guarded those secrets of my youth all those years, never sharing with anyone....anyone but her.
So I figured, what the hell, I might as well go the full way. I took her back home, we packed a picnic basket. I would not tell her where we were going. "It's a surprise." was all I would say.
We headed West on Hwy 190 and drove about fifteen miles before we came to our destination.....Lake Livingston. The lake was built back in the early seventies and was a massive 84,000 acres of water that stretched for miles and miles.
I turned off onto a little used road and parked the car where the road ended, then we took the basket and walked through a small stand of trees. When we broke out into the open, we were standing on a large hill, bare of anything save one large Oak tree. Beyond the hill was the lake's edge and water stretched away to the horizon. This was my favorite place on Earth. It was where I came when I needed to see a sunset and find peace.
So we sat under that old Oak tree and eat our dinner from the picnic basket and drank a bottle of wine. As the sun began to set over the water in a fiery display of light, I once again slipped into the past as I described to her the land and how it was before the lake was there. The old river bottom, the rich, black land soil, the forests of giant Lob lolly Pine with herds of deer grazing beneath them.
I spoke of the alligators and the bear, the cougar and the coyotes, the beaver and the wild pigs and of how all that land now gone under water was their home.....and mine. How as a boy I fished and hunted the land. Once again, as I spoke, I could see it all come to life as if I was back then.
As the sun finally dipped into the waters of the lake, I finished my stories and I held her close and whispered: "Thank you for this day."
She smiled at me, took my face in her hands and kissed me softly and with that kiss, she became a part of my soul as sure as if some happy God had melded us together with lightning. And so ends our story.....at least this telling.
"What about the rest of the week?" You ask.
Well, my friends that week passed, as weeks are wont to do. It passed in a blur of happiness, discovery, passion and sweet sharing. Then she flew home..........for awhile....then she returned and she has been in my life, she has BEEN my life, ever since and so shall she continue to be until the day I die....still loving her. The difference now is that she is the Angel sitting on my shoulder.
|Small Town Saturday Night…
When we reach a certain age checking the obits in the paper and online becomes second nature. All too often, when we check these lists we are saddened to discover the names of friends and peers displayed there. As we age this happens with more and more frequency until it is no longer a surprise when a familiar name appears there. We all have expiration dates and, as we grow older, we bear sad witness to those whose dates are earlier than our own.
So it was when, yesterday, I found out that a dear, close friend from my high school days had passed away from a sudden and massive stroke. His expiration date reach, he stepped quietly into the next world. I was sad of course, but no longer surprised.
His name was Jimmy Holden and I had the great good fortune to call him “Friend”. He was one of four guys who were my constant companions and accomplices in all the adventures and misdeeds both high and low throughout my checkered high school experience.
News of Jimmy’s death hit me hard. After almost fifty years of not seeing one another, we had recently reconnected via Face Book and it was amazing that, after all those years, we were able to fall right back into that comfortable “friend zone” of laughing, joking, and sharing stories as if it had only been days since we were together and not decades.
After receiving the details of his death from his son, Jay on Face Book I spent some quality time remembering our gang’s time together. Most of all I remember those magical, Summer, Saturday nights, when we thought we were ten feet tall and bullet proof and undisputed masters of our domain. The world had not yet proven us wrong.
On those Saturday nights, after we finished our different jobs…we weren’t hedge-fund babies, when school was out we all had jobs…we would go home and clean up then gather at some prearranged spot,usually the local drive-in, load into one car, and begin our Saturday ritual….cruising the small town we called home.
We were not alone on those nights. Living in a small town, our choices of entertainment was sorely limited. We had one Movie theater and if you were not in the mood for ten year old John Wayne movies, you rode around seeing and being seen all night. Half the kids our age opted for cruising the roads, the other half of course had dates and were at the movie with dates in that cool, dark movie house, ignoring John Wayne and getting some hot, heavy petting on.
I can still remember the various routes we took on these nights. Leaving the drive-in, headed North on 59 through downtown and turning onto a branching street leading up Cemetery Hill. Then at the top of the hill, taking a left onto a dirt road and picking up speed to clear Thrill Hill. In truth, Thrill Hill was little more than a sharp rise in the dirt road but if you drove over it at 40 or 50mph your car would catch air…at least a little. Thus the name. Then onward to 146, turn left, return to downtown and do it again.
While driving this route we filled the time talking and God how we talked about anything and everything. A sleep over of a large group of prepubescent girls had nothing on us.
Each Saturday night this scene was repeated by a dozen or so carloads of kids in our town. In the hot air, under starry skies, we paraded over roads, waved to friends, jeered and hooted at the jerks we didn’t like. Everybody in every car doing the same thing. Warm nights, good friends, star filled skies…I can not remember another time when I felt so carefree and happy.
Rest in peace Jimmy, my dear friend. Maybe, one day, the gang can get together again and cruise the streets of Heaven.
|“MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”! I have heard this catchy slogan repeated time and again since the 2016 election cycle. Starting out life as a simple political slogan, it has now become a mindless mantra repeated with almost religious fever by Conservatives. It denotes a wish by the speaker to return America to a time when, to them, our country could claim the mantel of “Greatness”.
I have always wanted to ask those folks one simple question: “Exactly what period of our history do you have in mind?” I mean you must have some ideal, some shining moment, when the United States of America was great…right? What decade do you use as your example? You see what I mean; If you say you want America to be great again, then you are implying that at some past date it was great and now, somehow it’s not.
The sad fact is that no matter what decade you cite as a period of greatness for this country, I can give you examples of how it was not so great for segments of the population and this is where my confusion begins. How can you say you want to make the country great again when, in my estimation, it has not yet achieved “Greatness” for all its citizens?
While I don’t believe there is a time in the past we can use as an example of greatness, I do believe we can achieve it in the future. After all, that is what America has always been isn’t it, a diverse collection of people and ideas constantly striving to be better. If history teaches us anything it is that you can’t go back to the past and if you try to stand still you will only stagnate. Our only course is to move forward…toward Greatness. Now that is a worthy goal for any nation or any person, for that matter.