Friday, June 29, 2007

Surplus Profit [CCR]

Yard sales are interesting events. You simply place everything you bought for the last five to twenty years in your yard and watch other people buy it at a bargain. For an engineer, the math is somewhat confusing. I visit the local big box discount store and buy some useless item or toy. I then wait a number of years and sell it at a fraction of the cost. Then you quickly run your hand through the bag of quarters and proudly proclaim the profit you made. You just made about a hundred dollars selling three hundred dollars worth of stuff.

Well I guess it becomes necessary when you know you are about to pack everything and move across the country again. Each time I move I promise myself it is the last move and then I find myself moving again. This time I think it is for real. Murfreesboro, Tennessee may be stuck with me for a long time.

We didn’t have a yard sale growing up out on Moody Lane. I guess the Daily and Smith families were large enough to find a use for everything. Any item ready for disposal always found a home at some cousin’s house. If you needed anything then you checked with the family and usually you found what you needed.

For me the definition of a smokehouse never quite fit the definition you might imagine. In the later years Grandmother Daily no longer needed the smokehouse for the original intended purpose. For me the smokehouse meant the surplus store. You simply went out to the smokehouse and picked out the clothes you needed or whatever surplus items you might find.

Mom and Dad didn’t have the bigger families like my grandparents. It was just my sister and I and now between the two of us we have four children, three boys and one girl. The boys get to swap clothes, but it just isn’t the same as exploring the smokehouse to see what treasure you may find. All the same I do enjoy going home to find some fortune Mom and Dad kept around the house to trigger a pleasant memory.

This year Mom and Dad are celebrating fifty years of marital bliss. Forty five of those years have been at my childhood home on Moody Lane. While they have modernized the house and spiffed up the yard, the old buildings still show signs of children at play. And now the grandchildren have left there marks as well. Writings on the wall of the old shed tell tales of playing store. Toys in the playhouse Dad built speak of a grandchild’s imagination.

These relics make me question what I should keep for my own children’s memories. I guess I don’t really worry because we have enjoyed the pleasures of moving around the country and meeting people from all walks of life. Thus my children have taught me something valuable. It really isn’t the remnants that make the memories pleasant. The memories themselves are the real treasure. Things can be sold. Homes will age. But memories are the foundation for sanity in an insane world. I only hope I can give my children the same “treasures” my parents gave me. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad and thanks for all the memories.

Fifty Years Ago [Exclusive]

Nearly fifty years ago a young girl was chopping cotton in the hot summer fields of Alabama. Each summer she worked in the fields to contribute to the family and spent any “spare” time on house chores. She washed clothes, tended the farm animals, and helped take care of the family. These efforts developed a focus on the importance to prepare for the tasks ahead.

Everything she knew about this wonderful world was confined to the books she read and the stories she heard when her Uncle Fred and Aunt Virginia visited. But those stories were enough to spark an interest. Deep inside she desired to see the world she read about, but alas, it was merely a dream for a young girl growing up in the desolation of the rural South.

Nearly fifty years ago a young man spent his days working at a saw mill. From the money he earned he forfeited a share to the family income. After his expenditures little was left. For this young man the future rested in his father’s lessons of honesty and a hard day’s work.

The young man’s world centered around skills to survive a lifestyle slowly escaping the grips of the post depression Appalachian South. Friends and relationships were key to surviving and he had honed these skills well.

Personally I didn’t witness the events of this time, but looking at the evidence suggests the joining of these two souls as inevitable. Each combined traits to carry them from a world of borrowing gas money for a week to growing a family founded on the principals of truth, hard work, and education.

These two souls are about to commemorate fifty years together as a wedded couple. Today’s worldly challenges to both the spirit and the sanctity of marriage prove the decision made sound. The blessings bestowed upon this commitment mean they can now look at the years past and celebrate the trials and tribulations that brought them to this pinnacle in life.

Cindy and I once participated in our church’s premarital counseling program. We attended a seminar to prepare us for the challenge and that seminar revealed a very important secret to marital bliss. Just as life isn’t stagnant, neither is our relationships. Our marriage is not a single commitment to each other, but a living bond requiring daily renewal and adjustment.

This couple didn’t have that training and weren’t privy to this psychological nugget. Yet they discovered through their own adventures that only through this evolving interdependence would they survive.

Congratulations Mom and Dad on your upcoming fiftieth wedding anniversary. Celebrate your success and delve into the rewards of your efforts. You have proven to the agnostic soul that the American dream is still alive if the dreamer is willing to do their share.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Everyone has their opinion about gambling and casinos. The debate of publicly authorized lotteries has plagued almost every state in our great country. I know it has even touched my great home of Alabama. Personally, I am not ready to ponder that subject even though I do have an opinion. I have noticed that each of us appear to be drawn into gambling even when we have not realized it.

An initial reaction to my introduction of today’s chat can be somewhat shocking for some of the home folks. A lot of people dare not speak of betting or casting lots. Unfortunately each of us are participating in a lottery that is starting to really frustrate me.

As a child in Cherokee I can remember gasoline at the incredibly high price of 25 cents per gallon. Many of our friends can remember even lower prices. We pulled into the gas station and filled up with the clinking and clanking of the electromechanical gas pump slowly adding up the final bill. While prices increased, the change was rare. It involved opening the individual pump and rotating gadgets or gears to match up the correct ratio of cents per gallon. Changing the price wasn’t exactly a trivial task.

Twice a year Mom and Dad took us camping. Those trips were exciting because we actually ventured down to the interstate and saw the expansive concrete highways. On the horizon we could see signs reaching to the sky at cluttered exits marking the location of gas stations. The price on those signs were manually changed by climbing a long ladder. Even billboards proclaimed the price of gas at upcoming exits with placards that required human intervention.

Today we gamble. I went by the gas station and the price was $2.77 per gallon. Never mind the 9/10 added to the price, it isn’t noticeable after $2.00. I decided I could fill the truck when I came back by from taking my son to work. By the time I returned a few hours later the price was $2.95 per gallon. I panicked and stuffed every bit of gasoline I could into the tank. The price is on the rise. The next morning I passed and the price was $2.88 per gallon. The answer was clear. The decision to fill your tank is a gamble and the price of the liquid gold in your tank varies faster than a volatile stock market.

An article on one of the big cable news channels discussed the problem for the gas stations. Those poor station owners left with the plastic numbers for gas prices are constantly out at the sign. Most chain stations now install electronic signs that only require a button push to change the price.

A price change at the pump was simplified when we passed the $1.00 per gallon point. I dropped by one day and filled my car. The instant I turned off the pump the price dropped. I shook my head in disappointment. Now, if you have a special card, some of those smartaleck pumps will lower the price immediately.

Regardless of how you look upon other forms of gambling, I think we have found ourselves trapped in a lottery. Depending on the quantity of fuel needed, a considerable amount of money is on the line when you pull into the gas station. I’m pretty sure most people, including the station owners, are frustrated. I will not be shocked to find myself pulling into my local gas station one day to discover the price just changed from what the sign said during my ten second ride to the pump. I only hope it will be a downward spiral. Let’s place our credit card in the slot, pull the lever, and hope we are a winner.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Passing Time [CCR]

Society has become so dependent on the computer and networks. Just as people see electricity in the home as a given when it was once a luxury, the existence of high speed Internet communications is becoming a given. Most of my bills are paid online. My mother always used the postal service. Yet, my granddaddy paid in person. I attribute those differences to technological advances, but it could be contributing to social decline. It has been said that air conditioning was a major cause for the decline of the “Southern front porch” way of life. Maybe other technology helped.

During my youth Cherokee was always a very social community. You could always find people hanging around town at the various establishments just to pass the time. I guess small town traditions contributed to the “neighborly” reputation of the South. Mom has spoke of days when you couldn’t find a place to park a car in Cherokee.

Granddaddy Smith performed his duty adding to the social atmosphere in town. I will never forget that almost every day he wasn’t working he traveled out to town for one errand or another. Many days he was paying the telephone bill, water bill, or electricity bill. But every trip always meant he went around visiting friends and neighbors. You would often find him passing the time with his cousin, Macon Askew. That close friendship maintained itself through their retirement years as you would find Granddaddy sitting on Macon’s porch discussing the weather and waving at friends traveling down North Pike.

The fine folks up at First Baptist and the many other great churches around town often saw a lot of socializing on Sundays. I can remember people hanging around after church discussing the lessons of the day or the events for the week. It was a perfect time to see many neighbors and interact. Now for a small kid anticipating lunch it might not be the best idea, but it was time well spent for the adults. My memory makes me believe life was just a little slower in those days. Some people attribute that paradigm to the passing of time. I perceive it as reality.

Granddaddy Daily had his share of social life. It seems his house out at Mountain Springs was always frequented by visitors from all around. And when they weren’t visiting Granddaddy he was out catching up on their news. Granddaddy would venture out to the store or for some other errand and stop along the road for discussions at a mailbox. I can remember sitting quietly in the old truck with Grandmother as the stories rambled on. Maybe I was a little impatient then, but now I know these visits were an important part of his life and Southern culture.

Next time you recede to your bedroom or office to type out a fast message on a chat window or open an e-mail message think about the culture left behind. You are missing the joy of seeing another face with the emotional impact of the conversation. You may also be missing out on a good tale since the rat race implies sticking strictly to the business at hand. Take a trip out to town, drive slow, and drop by to see a neighbor. You may both be surprised at how much better you feel afterwards.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Home Projects [CCR]

Most folks don’t realize that I am looking at moving to Tennessee. It looks like a real possibility that I may forfeit my unofficial status as ambassador of Southern Heritage to these fine folks in Ohio. My company is providing an opportunity that I just can’t refuse, placing me closer to home than I have been since 1987. So now the television shakes again, knowing it is going to get banged around in another moving truck.

Looking around the house I see nothing but little things I must get done before I move. I have a to-do list that has survived almost four years with little attention. It seems whenever I begin to whittle down the pile it ironically grows larger.

Dad never seemed to have my problem. He is always very creative and energetic when it comes to fixing little problems around the house. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work. But he always seemed to have the spark and the forethought that I struggle to find.

One day I arrived home from school to find Dad and a sledge hammer hard at work in the living room. I’m not sure Mom knew that we were about to remodel, but evidently the notion had struck Dad. He was knocking down the wall and thus a major expansion begun. Mom and Dad built the house with help of family so I guess they were the best choice to design any modifications. But Dad seemed to have the knack of working designs purely within his head. Eventually the house morphed into a rather interesting large living room, dining room, den, and kitchen combination that has changed a little, but basically kept this expanded design.

Dad started other projects in a similar fashion. He constructed a large shed from the materials leftover from building our house. Later he tore down a log house to build a log barn which housed our farm animals. And finally he built a shop that is housing his most recent projects. Granted I wasn’t old enough to know about the original house plans, but everything built since the original house was genuinely Dad’s idea.

Mom and Dad remain in the house they built with their own labor, yet it looks dramatically different from the original design. Mom called and said they were finishing their application of crown molding in all the rooms. Yet I can look at pictures of the house today and still see the many images of my sister and I in our many adventures around home. I guess Dad’s talent to modify but maintain has given us a token of simpler days which is a comfort.

Now I wander into my laundry room looking at the floor and wishing I had that spark. If it were a robot I would already have tore it down and rebuilt it, providing new programs and animation. But for me it isn’t that simple. If you want me to draw or specify the repair, then you have found the person for the job. But I scratch my head and remember my Dad, who seemed to have a gift for making almost anything without all the formalities.

For Dad I wish a most wonderful Father’s Day. He has definitely gained my admiration. If anything, my Father’s Day wish is to gain a spark of his inspiration so I can get this house ready. Soon we’ll meet in town at the hardware store where I will be puzzling over my next project. It’ll give me an excuse to stop and talk with old friends. Then I’ll be ready to conquer that next big project.

Take a moment over the next few weeks and thank a special inspiration in your life. As I told a friend, anybody can be family. Some of my best friends I now consider my family. And if you get the chance, become family for somebody who needs a little boost. Then take a moment and remember those fathers who have moved on and left their legacy with us. Here’s hoping you have someone special to thank or remember as we celebrate our family heritage.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Checking the Time [CCR]

Yesterday I took the family to that famous amusement park on Lake Erie called Cedar Point. I guess this outing will be our last before Chrissie leaves home for her travels this summer and then college at UNA this fall. It simply amazes me to see people pay good money to be tossed about like salad. But nevertheless, I can remember my high school trips to Opryland and enjoying the rides with all my friends.

When traveling to the big parks we always had to make plans on when and where to meet. I can remember never having a watch with me so I was constantly asking strangers for the time or looking for a clock. Have you ever looked at the cash register receipt you just received to check the time? I became an expert at receipts.

Not today. Nearly everyone carries the new human pestilence we call a cell phone. These noisy contraptions do have benefits. Everyone has their time synchronized so there never is a question. Thanks to the digital age and the constant radio beacon of these devices we are coordinated to the second. Even the question of where to meet is solved. Just call your friends and agree on a meeting place within minutes of your agreed time. Why even have an agreed time? You can call when you want to meet.

So why call them evil? Try sitting in a movie theatre just before a movie starts. The ringing, beeping, and electronic blaring of songs you never knew will drive you crazy. Look around and you see all these people talking into a small box. Fifty years ago we would have sent them all to the hospital to have their head examined. Thankfully the theatre asks people to silence their phone before the movie starts. There is always the one exception. You are on the edge of your seat anticipating the villain’s surprise entrance. An electronic Britney Spears tune from a cell phone just seems to let the air out of the balloon. And then when the credits roll you hear the frilly greeting of a hundred phones firing up to see if an important message is waiting.

Yes, I am guilty of carrying one of those nagging devices. I think it is a condition of my employment, but that doesn’t keep me from being “one of the crowd.” I think human nature tells us this constant connection somehow elevates our status. If we only knew what everyone else was thinking when our phone rings in the middle of dinner at a nice restaurant.

Granddaddy Daily got by for years with a Cuckoo clock. He rose every morning, built a fire, and then pulled the clock chains with care so the bird can announce the hours of the day again. I doubt it was ever synchronized with any sort of “national atomic clock.” I am willing to guess his grandparents probably wondered why he would put up with that bird calling out the hours. It was easy enough just to look outside and see the time of day. I must leave you now. My little phone is ringing and it might be something important.