Friday, March 30, 2007


This fall will be an exciting time around our house. Chrissie will be attending her first semester at the University of North Alabama. I guess one might say UNA has been part of my family since 1968 when it had just transitioned from Florence State College to Florence State University.

It all started with Mom entering college as I entered first grade. She would get us ready for school in the morning and then begin her trek to Florence for classes. By the time I reached fifth grade Mom had received her first degree and was teaching at Barton. She went on to receive several degrees at UNA and finally an Educational Doctorate at The University of Alabama.

Everyone in our family has attended classes at UNA including my wife. I can still remember attending Kilby in the summer while Mother went to her college classes. She was always resourceful and found energy I will never know. After class we would find a shady spot, many times near the amphitheater, and eat our lunch. We had a green jug usually filled with cold sweet Southern tea or Kool-Aid, depending on our flavor of the day. I sat under the large shade trees and ate my red peppered ham sandwich.

As Mom continued her education at UNA I would often find myself around campus in many activities during her classes. I saved my change during the week and got an education that pays off as a stress reliever until today. On the first floor of the Student Union Building was a game room where I learned the fine art of pinball. In those days the machines still banged, pinged, and rang as electromechanical devices that lit wonder in a child’s eye. I can still remember the loud pop that signaled another free game and saved me another dime. I’m not sure if Mom knew where my change went, but I guess she does now.

Later in life UNA would become an important foundation for my future education as an engineer. I took several classes during the summers of my last two years in high school. I was fortunate to take some advanced math and various other offerings that would further my education and prepare me for engineering school at Auburn. I can remember one professor telling me too look out the window. He said the next time I look out that window the semester would be over and we would be taking finals. I am looking out that window forty years later with respect.

We all should be proud of having fine educational facilities like Northwest Shoals Community College and the University of North Alabama as part of our area. From here we have sent forth scholars, lawyers, doctors, teachers, actors, and many other important members of our society. I look forward to attending my own daughter’s walk across that stage upon her completion for the next step towards her professional career. And when I do there will be a refreshing memory of red peppered ham sandwiches, ice cold tea, and a cool breeze through the tall green trees.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Conversing [CCR]

The fine folks down at the local hospital here got another chance to look on the inside and see what was happening. I was fortunate to be getting an x-ray due to my tendency to break ribs. One must assume I enjoy pain based on my history of rib breaking, and here I was again. This time the technician was a young lady who most likely hadn’t performed too many x-rays since she was being closely guided and supervised.

But, as typical in my role as unintended but proud ambassador of home, the staff indulged in enjoyment of my Southern accent. It was almost like sitting for a sound check at a studio recording as they requested my recitation of various phrases. They were assuming we used those phrases. I could already see they didn’t understand the perfect vernacular of Northwest Alabama. My family upbringing caused me to politely submit to their requests and try to ignore their gleeful conversations in the other room. I am not sure if they realized the door wasn’t shut and the sound carried so well. I listened to their attempt at duplicating my drawl and began to wonder. In truth, they actually exaggerated my annunciation which led to defilement of perfection.

When the ladies returned I happily generated my own prose to help them understand we were talking about a well based traditional expression of the English language and my heritage. They, in turn, asked if I recognized their accent. I paused in deep thought for I hadn’t heard an accent. What can I say to not offend my caretakers? I blurted it faster than I could think. I didn’t hear an accent. To my surprise it was an acceptable answer. Folks, I don’t mind vanilla ice cream but double fudge chocolate ripple works well for me. I’ll stick to my accent.

It is somewhat interesting to watch my children grow as we have moved all across this great country. They’ve had many influences of various Southern dialects including Georgia and North Carolina. Then throw in a little bit of Illinois and Ohio. Add a dash of Alabama for spice. What have I done? I shudder to think about the final results for my youngest as my company is sure to relocate me again. For my oldest I must leave the final dressing to the wonderful folks at home. My daughter is headed to the University of North Alabama this fall and a deep dive into all the wonderful family and friends at home. I know she is in good hands.

My first trip to Boston over twenty years ago proved even more interesting. The staff at the hotel desk wouldn’t let me leave. With my knack for telling tales they got the full dose of my heritage. My first trip to England resulted in being called J. R. everywhere I went. Dallas was a hit show at the time. Folks, this is Northwest Alabama talking to you, not Texas.

My travels and my unintentional role of ambassador causes me to continue my obligatory demonstration of a real American dialect. And if the young ladies down at the hospital were entertained, then maybe I have fulfilled my duties. But I always advise to not let it end with the conversation. Drop on down to visit the fine folks back home in Alabama. They’ll offer you a slice of pecan pie and an ice cold glass of sweet tea. Then you’ll really understand the meaning of Southern hospitality. Sit a spell and tell me of your travels.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New Life [CCR]

As I ramble through the crowded aisles of our local big box store I can see they have a fine stock of Easter goodies. It seems Easter is quickly catching up to Christmas in commercialism. I guess it isn’t a big worry, especially if you don’t happen to celebrate Easter. We celebrate a traditional Easter in hopes our children grasp our personal faith. Even if you do not celebrate a traditional Easter maybe you should at least celebrate the new life about to burst forth. I know I will be glad to see the flowers blooming again.

Somehow I don’t think it will be the Easter baskets that most of our children will remember as adults. At least I don’t remember it. Yes, I did get visits from the Easter bunny. But looking back I remember more the thrill of entering another year. It was more like celebrating a new year than New Year’s Day.

Often we gathered at Grandmother’s house after church to meet family. With Uncle Travis living in Memphis it was one of the few times he was able to come home and visit. Sometimes we got a visit from Uncle Fred and Aunt Virginia who lived in New Orleans. All of the grandchildren played in the yard which was decked out in buttercups and other fresh blooms. I don’t recall the food from Easter as much as Christmas. We spent more time outside.

Looking back I guess I didn’t realize it also signaled some new work headed my way. By the time Easter arrived the grass had decided it was time to grow, especially in Alabama. Dad would pull out the lawn mower, sharpen the blade, and crank the engine to make sure it ran. In my younger years we had a Sears riding mower for a short while. But eventually it fell to the wayside and my sister and I took turns pushing a lawn mower to cut the yard. Mom often helped us keep up with when one of our turns pushing ended and the other took over. I hate to say it, but I miss those days.

Today I have two lawn tractors I brought to Ohio from North Carolina. In North Carolina I had four acres that took constant care. Here I have a double city lot. Granted it isn’t exactly small, but it definitely doesn’t require two lawn tractors. You can cut the yard in a matter of minutes. My children still think of it as extremely hard work just like I thought pushing the mower was hard work. Dad and Mom had spent years working in the fields and woods trying to help the whole family. We are blessed to have lost some understanding in each generation, but we will miss the wisdom.

I walked through the back yard yesterday looking at the dead plants in my flower garden. The snow had protected their integrity through the winter. I remember thinking about not having to maintain that garden once the snow arrived. Now I wish the snow would stay away. I promise I will plow it. Mom often said, “Don’t wish your life away.” Yet, I find me still shoving time forward after forty five years. If I sit down and think about it, I would take time back for one more push around that bottom area of our yard in Cherokee. It doesn’t look as bad now.

We should give thanks for new life each year. Not just the life that we see in the spring, but for the new life that joined us over the past year. We should be thankful for the continuance of life and what new adventures it will bring. And we should celebrate those lives that have ventured further. For now we celebrate the time of our world’s renewal and now is the true time to rekindle our own soul for another year together.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Malone Creek [CCR]

My drive to work causes me to pass a babbling brook. The creek winds slowly back and forth across the path of the road which means I cross several bridges. I’m not sure why the road builder did not pick one side of the creek and not invest in these bridges. But it makes a pretty scene for my drive. It reminds me of Malone Creek back home. Except there is one problem. The creek here is actually the Olentangy River which flows into the Scioto River. The dams on the Tennessee River have offset my image of a river compared to the folks up here in Ohio. But they do have Lake Erie so they understand water.

Finally the snow is melting and now the ground is saturated. My yard squishes beneath my feet as if I were wringing a sponge. All that water has caused the Olentangy River to swell from its banks and show what it can be if given the water. But it hasn’t matched the floods back home for high water in Malone Creek. It may only occur once in ten years, but Malone Creek has a way of showing itself when properly fed. At other times Malone Creek is a beautiful small creek traveling a short distance from springs near Mom and Dad’s house. It passes along Granddaddy’s old farm land and mostly through the Harris’s field, winding between wooded areas and pasture. For years it has supplied water to the cows.

Most people would look at Malone Creek and swear there wasn’t much for fish in there. But in years past I would have proven them wrong. Smaller bream and catfish were plentiful in my adventures along the creek. If you were patient you could catch quite a few edible bream and fairly good catfish. On some occasions you might pull out a bass. It was easy to wander through the pasture avoiding the cows and catching grasshoppers. I always stayed away from the cows so as not to spook them. Of course we asked Mr. Harris for permission and Dad taught us to leave the area cleaner than when we arrived.

During the day it was generally easy to traverse along the creek, but at night it was best to carry a good light. Malone Creek played host to a number of water moccasins or cottonmouths as the local folks called them. I can remember Dad and I easing our boat up the creek from the Tennessee River and hearing the cottonmouths slide off the tree limbs into the water. You didn’t wander too close to the bank because you didn’t want any hitchers of that variety. We couldn’t travel too far up the creek until it was not navigable by boat so we didn’t do much fishing by boat in the creek.

Walking along the creek you find areas where it is shallow and easy to cross, especially upstream. There are the deep holes where the prize fish gather trapped until high water may let them swim to the river. It was often under a fallen tree I would plop my bait in hopes of catching the bream. I sat and watched as the fish carried away my bobber. The tiny fish always had incredible strength and I was never able to tell from the bobber’s movement what prize I may find at the end of my line. Often I kept a bucket of water holding the smaller fish and let them back in the creek once I grew tired of the sport.

Moving around has caused me to miss Malone Creek. I did have one place to fish when we lived in the mountains of North Carolina, but today most creeks are often too polluted. We do make it to the town water reservoir in the summer, but it doesn’t have the thrill of a creek. Nobody has told me if the fish were acceptable in the Olentangy River and I really don’t know anybody to ask if I can fish from the banks on their land. But I spend many days driving to work with the little river triggering fond memories of a wonderful creek back home.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Daylight Savings Time [CCR]

The time to change your clock comes early this year. Why? The government thinks we can save some money. I’m sure we can, except the concept of Daylight Savings Time came long before computers. Of course, when I say computers I don’t just mean the box sitting in most homes. It includes all the machines with industrial systems that like to report their own progress. Managers don’t like to see the time off by one hour. So now we have patches, or little programs that make changes to big programs that are supposed to dig us out of the mess. The mess comes because we changed the routine. I actually wonder if they thought about the cost of patching all these devices.

Grandpa Jones had a wonderful song about Daylight Savings Time. If you haven’t heard it, then it is worth your time. Basically he says if you want an extra hour of daylight, then just get up an hour earlier. The world will take care of itself, or it should.

The cuckoo clock at my Granddaddy Daily’s house never seemed to have trouble tracking time. It relentlessly called out the hours day and night under one condition. Granddaddy pulled the weighted chains every morning reenergizing the clock for another day. I assume Granddaddy made the changes for Daylight Savings Time, but it wouldn’t have mattered. At his house you rose early, even in his elder years, as the routine had been set over long years of work. For a man who had to work when the sun was available it didn’t really matter what value the government applied to time.

If the cuckoo clock wasn’t enough, the roosters played their part in making sure you knew the time. They began their persistent crowing in the hours just before dawn making sure you knew daylight was coming. Granddaddy didn’t have the double paned super insulated windows to lock out the sound. In fact, the sound of the coming day was important as some chores had to be done before daylight.

The schedule remained the same. In the winter Granddaddy built up the fire before breakfast. All year long, even in Daylight Savings Time, Grandmother headed to the kitchen to sift the flour and prepare breakfast. I don’t remember any conditions on these events that were beyond the approaching sunrise.

Nightfall brought bedtime. From my knowledge of Granddaddy’s life I know we live a much different life. Granddaddy needed each of his children to complete their chores to keep the house running. Today my children have the luxury of city life. Much to our own demise, without guidance they head home to a television and computers to waste time in front of electronic entertainment. I suspect Granddaddy’s family was much too tired to worry about the official time. Their own bodies highly anticipated time to sleep.

Now our officials have decided they should help us adjust to save energy. An experimental program to move Daylight Savings Time around is the focus of that program. Maybe we should just shift the clocks an hour for the entire year. Yes, you would miss that “extra hour of sleep” in the fall. But I wouldn’t have to worry about the numerous machines at work along with all the other programmers across the country. And maybe the government could find something else to worry about. Wait. Maybe we are better off letting them worry about time. It could be money well spent.