Monday, June 30, 2008

The Funeral

My mother told me this story and was sure that it really happened. I thought it was a touching but also had a light hearted approach to childhood. I hope that you enjoy it.

In the Tennessee hills during World War II military funerals were more than a common event. In this particular service the flag draped casket, the unseen bugler, and the armed color guard were a sadly beautiful sight.
The fallen soldier’s widowed mother was seated facing the flag draped casket. Her emotions were peaked as her daughter and grandson endured the heart wrenching ceremony. Her five-year-old grandson, not really understanding the ceremony, was standing at her side clasping her hand.
As the first volley of the twenty-one gun salute rang out over the countryside the grief stricken mother fainted dead away.
Her shocked young grandson hearing the rifle volley and seeing his Grandma slump into his mom’s arms jumped up and yelled, “My God, They’ve Shot Grandma!”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Field of Dreams?

Have you ever wondered about a person who came into your life, helped you through a difficult situation, and then was never to be seen again?
As a sixteen-year-old high school baseball player I batted for a respectable average and felt that I had better years ahead of me in this great game. I also had enough ego to back up my ability. A certain amount of ego is necessary in athletics, but it should be kept under your cap as much as possible.
I figured when I signed to play independent baseball in the Mountain-Valley League that my success would be even greater than it had previously been in American Legion ball. I was in for a rude awakening.
One of the first games I played was against a team whose starting pitcher was, in my sixteen-year-old eyes, an old man. He had a weather beaten appearance with graying temples. As I watched him “lob” his warm up pitches I figured I should have an enjoyable game on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
About three hours later I was sitting alone in the dugout with my head and confidence hanging low. I was wondering how I could go 0 for 4 against a 40-year-old pitcher who just threw strikes? All he threw was “junk”.
As I was staring at the dugout floor I heard a pleasant voice ask if he could join me. I looked up to see the pitcher who had humiliated me in my four batting appearances during the game. The field and dugouts were empty except for the two of us. In a voice that showed true interest he inquired to know my age and how much baseball I had played. After detailing my resume I asked about his experience and he modestly told me about his brief Major League career that was cut short by injuries. Evidently he had been a hot prospect when he was younger. Before injuries beset him he had good success in the Major Leagues when he was not much older than my age of sixteen.
At my request he then went into detail as to how he pitched against me. He told me the mistakes that I made that portrayed him to look like a better pitcher than he was. That was an understatement! With four strikeouts and not even a foul tip he had taken me to the cleaners! He also told me in a kind fatherly way that my cocky attitude needed some alteration. He said emotions and feeling should not be allowed to impact one’s play.
For about the next hour or so I was in a sort of Major League mini-camp with considerable emphasis on respecting others and their skills. He gave me tips and suggested changes I could make to greatly improve my game. He also threw full speed batting practice while showing me shortcuts that would make me a better baseball player. He gave me confidence and encouragement to be a much better player than I had ever been before. He also stressed the value of maintaining character to gain respect as a baseball player and more importantly as a human being.
I never saw him again after that day. When we next played his team again he was not there. What was odd was the fact that many of his teammates knew nothing about him. He just came to them and signed to play. None of the players I talked to knew him before he started playing for their team. It seemed that the only game he pitched for them was the shutout against our team. In fact none of his teammates I talked to had seen him since the Sunday they played us. Who was this kind, fatherly and very skilled person? I felt so badly that I never found out his name the day we played them. Regardless of whoever he was I felt that he was my guardian angel. In the many baseball seasons that have passed since that day I have never forgotten that magic afternoon and the life lessons I received.
Now as even more years have passed by and while watching “Field of Dreams” for the umpteenth time I still find myself wondering who, or what might fit better, gave me so many good tips about both baseball and life on that beautiful sunny summer afternoon so many long years ago?
You know what I’m thinking. Is this “Field of Dreams” scenario possible? Who knows? Everyone must pass his own judgment on that idea……

Watermelon Wars

Was I involved in this? I'll never tell!!!

If you grew up in a rural part of the south then you probably knew about – maybe even participated in – a summer night raid on a farmer’s watermelon patch. It was a planned raid that would rival any of Stonewall Jackson’s charges. Distractions, flanking maneuvers, and stealthy attacks were all common. The farmer – on defense – used lights, shotgun blasts, dogs, fences, and just about any other non-lethal means available.
Looking back I really believe that the farmer’s enjoyed the “game” as much as the “raiders” did? One farmer commented years later said that the raiders were not “stealing” his good melons – they were “culling” his bad ones. His theory was that you couldn’t pick good melons in the dark. If he was right then the raiders were doing the farmers a favor. I’m not sure he wasn’t just covering his inability to deter the thievery?
Regardless it was a competition that was normally “friendly.” The “raiders” were careful not to damage the farmer’s livelihood - and the farmers normally were controlled in their defenses.
After saying that – there was one farmer who evidently decided he would up the ante to cease raids on his patch. He decided to change the rules. He knew that after the raid the raiders assembled in a recon area on the riverbank and consumed their spoils in a sort of celebration. Knowing this he decided on a defensive plan that would have been a crime if it had taken place in modern warfare. It was a form of “biological warfare.” During the daylight hours he posted signs all around his patch that said, “WARNING – ONE WATERMELON IN THIS PATCH HAS BEEN INJECTED WITH CATTLE LAXATIVE.” Now, whether or not you understand cattle laxatives - you can imagine if it would “loosen up” a cow it would really loosen up a 160-pound guy! Would it ever!
Now the raiders big question was whether or not the farmer really had injected a melon or was he just bluffing? If the signs were really true then this was a serious escalation that could not be ignored. Who knows, this defense might spread to other farmers and then what recreation would be available for country kids on warm summer nights other than to sit over at the lake with their favorite girl and watch the submarine races.
Since the raiders wanted to err on the side of safety they decided on a maneuver to counteract the farmers escalation. A quick plan was worked out to be implemented that very night.
The raiders did not want to stoop to the farmer’s level and use “biological warfare” so they did the next best thing – they used “psychological warfare.” With a small team and a stealthy approach the plan was carried out over night without ever entering the farmer’s patch.
The next morning the farmer was viewing his field and could tell that no one had entered his melon patch. He was beginning to feel really good about his “biological warfare” method when he glanced at the signs surrounding his patch and noticed that the “one” on each sign had been covered with an “X” and a “2” was written above where the “one” had been x’ed out. His heart sank as he thought about his dilemma. His signs now read :
Without ever entering the melon patch the raiders had won the battle by using “psychological warfare” to overcome “biological warfare.”

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer's Last Rose

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago as summer came to an end. Even if I did write it, I still like it. I thought during this current June heat wave would be a good place to post it.

During the cold chill of winter for warm summer days I do pray
Knowing that God will again give us summer and the beauty of its day

I remember summer from the youth of my life
When all days were golden and unknown to strife

The endless summer days with heat to make the earth like toast
When the sun made the old swimming hole - a place desired most

The nights are alive with nature’s symphony sound
While young lovers embrace under the glowing moon - silver and round

From the fluffy white clouds in which we see various forms
To the power of God seen in glorious evening thunderstorms

God gave us seasons so each a favorite could know
I thank Him especially for summer and the beauty it does show

In September the signs of summer’s end come to be shown
And time is short before another summer soon will be gone

A sadness envelops me as summer’s days come to a close
I see my own life slowly passing like the wilting of
Summer’s Last Rose

The Indian

Have you ever decided how you think a person will act because of a stereotype?
I guess you could say that we misjudge people every day because of stereotypes.
As a young child growing up in the Tennessee Valley I remember hearing of an Indian who lived up near the edge of the mountain. I had him pictured as an angry red man with feathers, war paint, and the whole 1950’s Saturday western movie matinee stereotype. As young children we imagined that he was silently stalking us looking for a trophy scalp.
As I “survived” to my early teen years I finally got to know the “terror” of my childhood. He was a tall dark haired man with handsome Cherokee features who dressed in jeans and flannel shirts much like his neighbors wore. His name was “Tom” and I found him to be a friendly, quiet, and very perceptive man who pretty much minded his own business.
We always wondered why his wife walked about five paces in front of him when they came down from their ridge cabin for supplies? My friends and I reasoned that it must be an ancient Indian tradition showing respect for his woman.
One day in a rare time that Tom would talk, one of the guys asked him why his wife always walked in front of him? We were all set for a detailed narrative of native Cherokee lore that would explain this mystery once and for all.
Tom, sensing a chance to have some fun, looked at each of us and with a wry smile and a wink he simply said, “snakes.”

Friday, June 6, 2008


During the late 50’s and early 60’s with Rock and Roll in its infancy was a time like none other. We were not part of the peace crowd – they came along after us. We were part of the “Happy Day’s” crowd where Do Wop music was the rage and cruising was our past time. After all gasoline was only around 25 cents a gallon. We were patriotic and family proud besides looking for a good time. The music, the emotions, and the feelings of my youth are just as alive now as they were over forty years ago. I guess that life is a lot like a movie in many regards. We can select rewind and our brain will let us view again excerpts from our past that give us pleasure. My youthful teen years are still fresh on my mind. What I thought and felt along with the sensory elements are all still easy to replay. Why so vivid? I’m sure a lot of the remembrance involves happy elements of our lives but everything was not rosy during this time either. Sure, life was less complicated then than now and it was a great and exciting era to be part of but with the constant threat of nuclear extermination over our heads this era also had its problems.
I remember my high school years pretty much like they only happened yesterday. I remember particular football games and exciting plays along with the feelings and aromas associated. I remember when our football team would leave the locker room for the approximately 200-yard trek to the playing field. I remember the lights and the crowd encouraging us as we entered the field – the young kids lined up to give a hand slap as we went past feeling like warriors going to battle. I remember on cool damp evenings a cloud of steam, cigar smoke, and the smells of popcorn, hot dogs, and cigars were in the air hanging just above the playing field. Friday night football games in small southern towns were a community event along with a sometimes-social occasion. Everyone came!
As for my education, I especially remember my high school English class taught by a very proper “old maid” teacher named “Miss Nell Baker.” Miss Nell was a stickler for grammar and took her teaching of English very seriously. I looked at English class as a necessary evil in my high school education but always wondered how knowing how to diagram a sentence properly would help me find a better job? Little did I know! Miss Nell knew that most of her students did not understand her class’s importance but she did not let that deter her in the least. She would not tolerate improper use of the language showed no tolerance for lack of interest. She constantly challenged us both in class and outside class to properly apply the English language. With our small community it was not uncommon to be corrected by Miss Nell at the grocery store or at church. She was able to teach in this manner because all of her students knew that her efforts were sincere and her motives pure. She genuinely cared for her students and was greatly concerned for our futures. She practiced what she preached and her dedication was never questioned. In her classes all was not work and grind – she always allowed time for discussion. Some would tease her about being an old maid and asking her if she ever dated anyone? I remember her sad smile at these comments and she would go on to relate that her youth was a lot like ours except for the differences in the music and transportation methods. We could not imagine that! We did not understand her comments at the time and never thought much about it. Now when I am around younger people and they ask me a similar question – I now understand her feelings. I wish I could thank her for her putting up with me for four years. She has passed on but her influence affected my life more than any other teacher in either high school or college. I remember in my senior year of high school when I made the decision to go to college she told me that I would probably fail because most colleges at that time used English Composition as a tool to weed out unproductive students. I was really upset by her comments and never forgot them. I worked my butt off that first semester with English Comp and made an “A” in the course where many others from large high schools throughout the state failed miserably. At that time I realized that my small town education from a country school was as good as anyone obtained from the more popular larger schools. On my first trip back to my little home community I remember driving by her house and seeing Miss Nell sitting on her patio reading. I walked up to her patio greeted her and immediately showed her my grade report. When she saw the “A” in English Comp she looked up at me and with a smile said, “I knew that you could do it.” I’m sure I appeared confused by her comment so she added with a smile, “I knew that you needed to be challenged.” She was a proper Southern lady who showed class in everything she did. Her approach to teaching could well serve education if it was closely followed today.
I never returned to my high school after that date. I’ m not sure why? I guess I just
wanted to leave these times in my memory bank as they were. Why spoil these “happy days” by reentering them? I suppose I took “you can’t go home again” to extremes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pasteurized Milk

Were you raised on “store bought” milk? Have you ever even tasted milk that came direct from the cow?
As a person raised on a family farm in Tennessee during the 1950’s I had never tasted “store bought” milk until I was eight years old. After that tasting I was convinced that the city folks had the right idea.
We got our milk from our cows that fed primarily from the pasture. Normally the milk was sweet and good but certain plants that grew in the pasture would make the milk bitter once the cows ate the plants. This was especially true with wild onions in the spring of the year. My Mother’s rule was that I still had to drink a glass of milk daily regardless of the taste or smell. For some reason my Mother felt that if I drank a glass of the foul smelling onion milk each day it would keep some kid in China from starving. I really never understood how the process of that theory worked?
Anyway, once I was spending the night with a school friend of mine when we were in about the third grade. He lived in a nice large home in town with his parents who were a good match for Ozzie and Harriet. He had his own room as opposed to my sleeping in a bed with my snoring brother in a corner of the dining room. As we cleaned up and put on fresh clothes for “dinner” which meant “lunch” to me but as he explained it his “dinner” was equal to my “supper.” I figured it didn’t really matter what he called supper as long as the food was good. His Mom served us food similar to today’s fast food that was a far cry from the “beans” and “taters” served almost daily on the farm. Sometimes Mother mixed it up and we had “taters and “beans” on alternate days.
To my amazement she brought a container and started to pour milk for us. Since it was onion season I immediately declined her offer. She urged me to try the milk and it was as sweet as any milk I had ever tasted. His Mom explained that the milk was pasteurized to make it better. It was written right on the carton. What an idea!
On returning home I gave my Dad my sales pitch I had rehearsed regarding pasteurized milk. He listened as I explained that if he sold all our milk to the milk company then we could buy pasteurized milk in cartons from the general store in town. That way he could sell more milk and we could all drink pasteurized milk. What I didn’t say was that I hated the thought of ever tasting, or smelling, onion milk again. For my part it could all be sent over to that starving kid in China who probably wouldn’t drink it either. After my sales delivery he looked at me and asked if I knew what “Pasteurized” meant? I tried to explain but finally gave up and confessed that I had no idea.
He just shook his head and with a tone that I now recognize as tongue-in-cheek stated that all it meant was that the old cow had stuck her foot into the milk bucket. That’s how it became “Pasture-ized.”

The TV Set

Have you ever picked cotton? Do you remember the first TV set you ever saw? Unless you grew up during the 1940’s or 1950’s in the south you probably can’t answer “yes” to both questions. You may wonder how these two totally unrelated questions might mesh together in one short article? During the next few paragraphs I plan to show you how it’s done.
My early teen years were spent during the late 1950’s in southern middle Tennessee. A local joke was that we were so far back in the “sticks” that the Grand ole Opry, a Saturday night radio tradition, did not arrive in our area until Sunday morning.
The high school I attended took two weeks off each October for what today would be called “fall vacation.” At that time in history it was referred to simply as “cotton pickin’ vacation.” Before mechanical cotton pickers were in common use people picked cotton. There was a good-sized labor pool in the local school of both good and bad quality. If your family didn’t raise cotton then you could “hire out” to farmers who did.
Dad gave my brother and me an acre of land down by the creek to use for whatever cash
crop we wanted to grow on it. It was not a prize piece of farm property since it was normally underwater due to the creek flooding during heavy rains. We planted cotton and in the fall as we picked the cotton we stored it in a shed until we got enough for a bale to take to the cotton gin to sell. A bale was a minimum of 450 pounds of ginned cotton. We not only worked during fall vacation but after school and on Saturdays. One good year we made two bales and had money to burn. We bought all our school clothes, saved some, and purchased a TV set for our family. Our family had never had one before. It was great! It was a nice black and white Sylvania with probably at least a 13” screen. We also bought an antenna system. We got two stations from Nashville and one more from Chattanooga by simply moving the antenna. I think that if Lawrence Welk’s show had been on 24 hours a day my folks would have probably watched it.
For younger readers if a station needed to be changed the viewer had to get up and turn the knob to change the channel and sometimes go outside to redirect the antenna. This was an early form of aerobic exercise. I consider myself to have been an early wireless remote. Dad would tell me which channel he wanted to watch and I would get up and turn the knob. I guess you could also say that I was also a voice-activated wireless remote. A very ahead of its time item for 1960. It was probably a guy like me who invented the TV remote?
When color TV first hit the market I remember our family going to the hardware store to see the new color TV set in the store window. This was a major event in our area. Perry Como had a Saturday night variety show that was broadcast in color and that is what we were going to see. The sidewalk crowd was fairly heavy in front of the large display window as show time neared.
Looking through the large window as the show began I was shocked to see that Perry Como was a green person who had strange clothing taste since he was wearing a fuzzy purple suit. For some reason the colors would blend and change as you watched. Sort of a rainbow effect.
My thought on walking away from the hardware store window after the show was that color TV would probably never be a success. It would more than likely never be more than a status symbol.


This is a true account that happened at a church we attended in Winchester, Tn. The gentleman who played the part of God laughingly related the story to me. Hope you enjoy.
As Art Linkletter used to say, “Kids say the darndest’ things!” That saying was probably never more true that on the occasion of a young boy’s trip to church with his Grandmother.
It was fairly obvious that the little fellow had never attended church very often in his young life. He was extremely curious about every detail of what was going on and was constantly quizzing his Grandmother.
Just before the passing of the collection plate his grandmother handed the wide-eyed little guy a crisp, new, one-dollar bill. His eyes widened even more as he immediately took the dollar bill and shoved it deeply into his little pocket. Seeing what he did the Grandmother gently leaned over and told him to get the dollar from his pocket because that dollar was “for God.” She explained that she would give him one for himself after church. As he withdrew the dollar from his pocket the confused child raised his head. He was shocked to see a distinguished looking gray haired man holding a shiny plate covered with money in his hand standing next to his seat. The gentleman smiled as he held out the shiny plate. Not really knowing what to do next the astonished and confused little fellow did not take his eyes off the distinguished man with the snow white hair as he very slowly placed the dollar bill into the plate. After placing the dollar in the plate the distinguished man with the shiny white hair moved up to the next aisle. As the little fellow slowly looked up at his grandmother he said in a very timid quiet voice, “Grandma was that God?”