Friday, January 26, 2007

Fame [CCR]

One might say Hollywood has stooped to a new low. Can someone really buy their own star on the Walk of Fame? If not, I’m not sure how Donald Trump just received the 2,327th star. I don’t recollect his great movie. In fact, I think his best phrase might be “You’re fired!” Most of us aren’t fond of that phrase unless we like watching someone else in misery. Nor do I count news about two bickering spoiled brats as a reason for distinction. I guess we have taken the “fame” out of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. According to my research the stars are assigned by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. What have they done?

If you examine how fame is obtained you might realize we have our own claims right in Northwest Alabama. According to fame is defined as “widespread reputation, esp. of a favorable character; renown; public eminence: to seek fame as an opera singer.” If you think about it, you probably have several renown people all around you, including many in your very own family. Each of us can build our own fame by the deeds we perform.

Have you taken a trip out to the Coon Dog Cemetary on Labor Day? If you have you already know many famous people. Our very own Uncle Dewey Denton could easily play the banjo and dance a jig. Lunchford “Lunch” Aldridge is another person who gained prominence there and at many other locations around Colbert County. Our memories of these great people only expand through lore and legend because of their talent. How do you think Davy Crockett got to be so famous? It wasn’t because he bought a section of space on a sidewalk.

Many people in our families develop notoriety that begins within the family and can expand. As a small child I remember the stories of my very own Uncle Jimmy McCullough. Uncle Jimmy was Grandmother Daily’s brother. If I told you a tale about Uncle Jimmy as pictured in my mind it might not totally agree with those who witnessed the event, but his prominence to me builds his legend through my perception. If you ask me Uncle Jimmy could shoot a snake directly in the head, saving the skin for a belt. He could easily find his way around the vast woods of Mountain Springs while a whole army of people searched thinking he was in trouble. Uncle Jimmy could wander home the next morning never realizing he was in any sort of imagined danger.

Maybe next Labor Day you should head out to the Coon Dog Cemetary and discover the foundation of legend and lore. If we gathered the information on the famous people in the area where I grew up, the streets of Cherokee would be paved with those stars. I bet we could easily surpass those 2,327 stars people can see in Hollywood. No, I don’t want to belittle those who may deserve the stars you find out there. I’m just afraid the folks at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce dulled the shine that once glittered the streets of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

Friday, January 19, 2007

What If [Exclusive]

It seems people are always asking “What if?” to relive some regrettable incident or unfortunate outcome. Once the question is asked it becomes easy to draw the conclusion you originally desired whether or not it is probable or even possible. What if elephants had wings? Then we might assume elephants could fly and our desire to ride a flying elephant might be a conclusion until we remember ostriches have wings too.

This week many of my friends here in Ohio are asking that infamous question. What if Ted Ginn had not injured his leg? Would history be different? It might be a desirable outcome, but I am not sure if it were truly probable. What if Ohio had not underestimated the capability of Florida and spent some of those 51 days actually preparing for this game? Again the folks up here would have a desirable outcome, but based on my observations this alternate route was not possible. The cement had already hardened on the idea that these boys were unstoppable.

Do you really want to know what happened? From what I am seeing here in Ohio these folks made two seriously incorrect assumptions. First they assumed football was exclusive to Ohio. Deny it if you wish, but I was here for the thunder. According to my comrades the SEC did not have the power or skills to face the Big 10, an obvious miscalculation. Second they took their eye off the gator. Now anybody from the South who has encountered one of those fine creatures will tell you taking the eye off the gator means you get bitten. And so it happened. The boys up here got bitten. Now they come home licking their wounds but with more wisdom for their future encounters.

Life is full of second guesses. Some people say hind sight is 20/20. I must disagree. For you are never really sure what might have happened if you had taken the path not chosen. Many professionals ask, “What if I had taken that other offer?” It is possible the pasture might be greener and the salary higher, but what would be the true outcome? I recently observed a young man leave a major Fortune 100 corporation for a smaller competitor. The week after he left, the competitor announced they were closing the office to which the young man had begun new employment.

There exists one instance where the question holds validity. It is wise to study history and use any analysis to help guide future decisions. But in this case it is not regret or a desired change in the previous outcome, but rather a lesson learned for improving future decisions when facing forks in the road. Maybe, after a few weeks of tending their injured pride, my friends here in Ohio will see the valiant use of the question. My observations say that result is not probable. At least it is possible, and as such, hope remains with humanity.

My allusion to humanity does not come haphazardly. For the analysis of a single sports game can be applied to many aspects of life. I think it is more probable that my friends in Ohio can ascertain the valiant use of the question before the politicians in Washington. The Washington folks find it far easier to ask the question about the actions of others without the intent of learning, but rather the intent of discrediting. What if our politicians learned the correct use of “What if?”

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sacrifice [CCR]

Spending time with your children provides many benefits to both the child and you. At least that is my philosophy. So with my daughter about to head out to college and my oldest son hanging around his girlfriend, I am getting my new perspective on life. Even my youngest son is teaching me every day. My parents rarely commented on my life outside the home, but I am sure they had their opinions that evolved from comparison to their own experiences. And so my mind wanders as I sit in the front seat trying to ignore the youthful chatter in the back. My Grandparents would never imagine carrying a cell phone on a date, verifying the latest movies on the computer, or chatting with their friends on video connections.

My trip last night to the skating rink provided some fodder for this education. My memories of the skating rink back home center around time spent in a very large room skating around the floor to the sounds of the seventies while passing your friends. Conversation took place as we skated together. New rules: Skating is the secondary process at the skating rink. I watched my youngest son pay $6.25 for admission and skates to spend about 15 minutes skating and 105 minutes sitting with his friends. To my surprise he walks out of the skating rink with two new telephone numbers. I don’t even have a local telephone number for Ohio and my phone rings off the hook.

I can only imagine my Granddaddy Daily thought the same thing when I drove the car Mom and Dad bought me. He would hear of my trips to Huntsville or Decatur and surely wonder what I was doing. And so the world evolves. But it is always worth the time to sit back and see how we got from there to here.

Granddaddy Daily often told me how he had to leave school at an early age to earn a living. He was quite intelligent, but his knowledge came through diligence and hard work. I could never imagine walking from Mountain Springs to Barton or even Tuscumbia to buy my groceries. He told of walking miles up and down the hills and hollows to spend all day cutting wood and make the return trip at night.

A few years ago I dropped by my Aunt Bertha Webb’s house for a visit during one of my trips home. She had a diary Granddaddy had kept from his young adult days. It seems the diary was a Christmas present. I glanced through the diary and saw many entries discussing how a hunt went or the sermon from the recent Sunday. Looking closely I noticed most of the entries were made in the winter months. As spring approached the entries got more sporadic until they disappeared through the summer months. In the fall they slowly became more prevalent again. It is obvious Granddaddy often fought the elements and went days without work. I can’t imagine the stress.

It seems the advances of society made my life a little easier. But I must remember those advances fell from the sweat of those who preceded me. We should pass these memories to our children lest they forget the sacrifice. I pray our generation has contributed enough to ease our children’s burden for that is the dream of our society. It is a responsibility we cannot take lightly.

On a lighter note, I wrote a few months ago about our vacation at Ghost Town In The Sky. I discussed the demise of the little park and my hope for a future. I have good news. It was recently bought and the new owners plan to restore the park to its previous grandeur and open this spring. I guess I will get another chance to relive delightful memories and pass them along to my children.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Endangered [CCR]

Not too long ago I took the family to one of those big fancy science centers that included a small zoo. The zoo featured a large exhibit of reptiles with various lizards, crocodiles, and even fancy frogs. But they were very proud of their snakes. Their pride and joy was a huge rattlesnake. The lady with the science center told us that rattlesnakes were becoming endangered and should be left alone. At this point it was quite obvious to me that lady didn’t grow up in Alabama. I explained that their snake was probably fairly safe on the other side of the glass, but if it were to be on this side that snake would be more endangered than they could ever imagine. She looked shocked.

Now some of you conservation folks probably think poorly of me. But I spent too much time in the North Alabama woods to understand what these critters can and will do if given a chance. I would not lie and say my move would be self defense. You might say it would be damage avoidance on my part. And I would argue that it is purely natural because it is in my nature.

Not all snakes are subject to my self preservation nature. In fact many snakes actually make a fairly good partnership with me. While living in North Carolina I believe we had one of the largest black snakes I have ever seen living in my back yard. North Carolina is infested with copperheads, another snake who would not survive my onslaught . Our friendly co resident made sure none of the copperheads entered the yard. What the black snake did with the copperheads was none of my business, but he earned my respect and enjoyed our hospitality. Our partnership went well until the man cutting my yard called me up while I was in Atlanta explaining he took care of the large black snake in my yard. Needless to say his contract ended immediately due to permanently disabling one of my safety devices.

If you have ever had the chance to wander up Malone Creek in a small boat on a summer night you can hear the plop of another critter subject to my attempted elimination. The cottonmouth snakes are sliding off the tree limbs in anticipation of your approach. Let one plop into the boat with you and you too will understand my approach.

One of my more famous snake memories was not supposed to really involve snakes at all. My Dad and Uncle Doug decided to visit Mr. Yarbrough’s pond to gig some frogs so we can snatch off their legs for a Southern delicacy. I remained in the truck while they wandered through the high grass trying to maneuver with stove pipes wrapped around their legs. Each one carried their gig and a plastic fertilizer bag to hold their catch. After a bit of time they returned with their take and a smile on their face. It was not what I expected. Each of their bags were filled with cottonmouth snakes. I assume the frogs were thankful that Dad and Uncle Doug lost interest in them, and also their source of danger had become the subject of the hunt.

If you meander through the Alabama woods you will be assured that these snakes survive in fairly good numbers. I also know that as long as these city folks running the zoos haven’t experienced one of these critters while cutting wood, fishing, or hunting they will have plenty of fine examples living behind a thick glass. Those snakes are lucky, for they are the few of their kind that survived a face-to-face meeting with me.