MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: September 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006


It was eight days on the road, the rail, and the water! And, let me say up front it was wonderful!

Our big red DATTCO bus took us from Boston to Portland, Maine for our second night of the tour. The harbor there is beautiful and the view of it from our room in the Holiday Inn was spectacular. The only problem with the hotel was the bath tubs. The bottom of the tube is six to eight inches higher than the floor and you normally expect to step out of a tub at floor level. I caught myself before falling, thought briefly about all the older people on the tour, and wished them well in my thoughts. However, my wife did fall, pulling the towel rank off the wall, but only hurting her dignity. I regretted forgetting to warn her, but that is how things go.

Our friend Billy Joe was not as lucky, he actually fell in the tub when the shower mat slipped and he probably broke a couple of ribs. He was a trooper and endured the pain for the rest of the trip. I thought of the old joke, “Have a good trip?” when someone trips, but held it back. I knew he was hurting and probably is still hurting today.

We took a very short ride on a “narrow gauge” railroad the afternoon we arrived and got a bayside view of what would come the following day as we traveled by water. The first evening in Portland was topped off by a wonderful meal at DeMillo’s.

The grandest sight of the entire trip was Portland’s Head Light lighthouse. The rocky cost line with waves crashing against them was what I have always wanted to witness. The sky was so blue that day and the white lighthouse against it was spectacular. I do not think there is anything I will ever see again, that will replace this vision as number one for me – WOW! The only thing that would come close would be the lighthouse wrapped in snow and ice! If you click on the embedded link above, you can find a picture of that very thing!

We ended the day with a Casco Bay tour – out past Fort Gorges, around the islands of the bay where people take water taxis to and from the mainland, past the huge oil tanks and tankers, and around the bay past several lighthouses. It was interesting to us that the water on these islands is turned off at the end of October because the soil is so shallow the water lines cannot be buried deep enough to prevent them from freezing in the winter. The glaciers of the ice age scraped it all away leaving just a few inches of topsoil. That is why there is little farming, except cattle farming, in these New England areas.

The DATTCO bus hauled us on to North Conway, New Hampshire and the Green Granite Inn where actually spent two wonderful nights. My wife enjoyed a full evening of outlet shopping at the mall that was just a few steps away from the motel. I enjoyed my one and only cigar that evening on the patio, but the next morning I had a sore throat from something I had inhaled on the airplane. I do not know why, but that always seems to happen to me – don’t they ever change those filters?

Day four was highlighted by the best train ride of the trip through the White Mountains and White Mountain Valley countryside on the Conway Scenic Railroad. Lunch was at the top of the notch pass where we again boarded the bus back to the Green Granite Inn.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


It was eight days on the road, the rail, and the water! And, let me say up front it was wonderful!

I have traveled on Greyhound and Trailways buses back in my Air Force days, and even rode one or two to Florida for cruise connections, but the bus we had for this tour was a hundred times more comfortable. We met the Mayflower tour guide and bus driver in Boston at the Doubletree Hotel. This was my favorite hotel, even over the Mohegan Sun because of the wonderful bed with six pillows and a fluffy comforter! Although, I am pretty sure I hear at least 6 shots being fired somewhere nearby during the night!

We spent the first evening touring Boston on our own. We wanted to hit Cheers (the original), walk some of the “Freedom Trail,” and sample some good local seafood and did pretty well on our own. “Our own” should be interpreted as two to three couples. We met two other couples from the Oak Ridge, Tennessee area and we ran as a Big Orange “clique” the entire trip.

The next morning was the first official day and was made up of a very detailed bus and walking tour of Boston. We were impressed with the city’s history and historic sites, the old and new architecture, and with how clean the entire city was. That is, of course, in areas other than the “Big Dig” and the airport! I would not personally drive in Boston, but our bus driver was fearless and could magically reduce the size of the bus to get down narrow streets, between parked cars, and through parking lots.

One of our best meals, even topping the full lobster our last evening, was at Legal Sea Food, where I indulged in scallops served up three delightful ways – fried, broiled, and bacon wrapped! See more at Mushy's Cookings!

Monday, September 18, 2006


My mom and dad tried hard to keep in touch with their family when dad took up the electrical craft and left the farm. Almost every other weekend was time to “go down home.” It was fine with me for the first ten years or so, but as soon as I became self aware and made friends I resented having to go. I longed to be older so I could stay home and be with my friends or just be by myself. However, I do not remember that happening more than once.

One of my earliest memories of “going down home” was of the old Mashburn home place shrouded in darkness and somehow out of place than the last time I saw it in the sunshine.

My uncle Ersie actually replaced the spot where the old homestead stood with a brand new 1950’s ranch style house and lived there with his parents and sister until he married sometime in the mid-sixties. Pa, Ma, and Lois then moved to another little farm only about a half a mile from Five Points, TN.

This particular night, when I was around 4 or 5, was not the first time I saw the old home place, but was the first time I can remember it. All I knew was that it had been moved from somewhere that I remembered it being before, but I had no previous recollection of where it sat. It was my first real consciousness of the house and I was seeing it in strange circumstances and in the eerie light of “coal oil” (kerosene) lamps.

The new house builders had pulled the old house about 200 or so feet, from its original resting place, out in front of the barn. It was there the family camped until the new house was finished.

As dad got out of the car at the end of our drive “home,” he yelled his familiar “MOUNTAIN FOLK!” greeting toward the house. As the other car door slammed shut, we could see faint yellow light coming from inside the house. Farm folk go to bed early, soon after dark usually (or as they say, “With the chickens”), so it was most likely about 8 or 9 o’clock and our arrival probably aroused them from their first blinks of “REM” dreaming.

As my dad opened the door, the yellow “coal oil” lamp light glowed on the face of my Aunt Lois, lying on her side on a quilt pallet on the floor and putting on her glasses. “We gave up on ya’ll, and turned in about an hour ago.” Lois said, getting up to hunt for more quilts.

That is the only memory I have of the old house, and after that weekend only the “new house” remains in my thoughts of what “home” was. I am quite sure my dad lost a host of memories after that of his days in and around the “old” house. A little bit of him gone and the first embers of my memory beginning to glow. For me, it was just a doorway opening to yellow light and the love and greetings of my grandparents and aunt in a time and place gone forever.

The new house was “down home” to me from the next visit onward. It was a fine house with indoor plumbing, brick sides, lights in the pillars of the porch, and beautiful hardwood floors throughout. I do not remember there being any heat source other than a large fireplace in the living room. All the beds were piled high with colorful handmade quilts on top of plump feather beds, and there was certainly no air conditioning in those days.

The new house still stands today and still looks good for its age. I am sure central heating and air has been added since those days, but I have not been in the house in more than forty years.

When I pass I still imagine family standing around in the kitchen watching Ma and Lois cook, or sitting around the dinning room table, the fireplace, or in the living room laughing and talking conversations they had years earlier. I wonder if the smells of cooking from those days still lingers somewhere in the corners of the dinning room and kitchen, or at least in the attic somewhere protected from time.

I wonder if the old sound of me playing choo-choo train on the old foot peddle powered sewing machine and making it clang into station can be heard late at night, or the sound of my running feet as I rode my “stick horse” around and around the hall, through the living room, into the dinning room, and on into the kitchen and began another dusty trip down the hallway trail again and again.

The “stick horse” was a stick Pa made for Ma so she could smooth out the tops of the feather beds while standing on one side of the beds. One end served as the handle end, being slightly larger than the circumference of the rest of the “smoothing stick,” which was about one inch in diameter and about four feet long. Years of smoothing had honed the stick into a beautiful slick piece of country art. To me, a mighty fine palomino pony that was faster than the wind - what I would not give to ride that ol’ hoss today, and come down that hall announcing that the “Mountain Folk” are here again!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006


"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers, 1897-1935

The time came a few years back when I had to put my dog Lacy down. She had been deteriorating steadily for several months and had become a bag of bones, weighing half her prime weight of eighty-five pounds, could not hear, did not recognize us, and lay, and just shook. She had not eaten in three or four days, had not moved in two, before I decided enough was an enough. She was totally in a different world, and if I could have changed places with her, I would have wanted out.

I could not cap her – always thought I could, since I put a stray down once that had a mangled infected leg, but Lacy was my girl. I loved that dog the moment I saw her, even though I first thought she was a cat, and you know how I hate cats! But I saw her at a flea market and she was black/white/gray stripped like a cat, and had one eye that was half-white. She was a very unique blend of Australian Shepherd and Husky, and there was no way I could take her life. I had to take her to the vet and hold her until she released her final breath. She does not hurt any more, but I do.

She survived numerous stitches, broken bones, and countless dogfights before learning how to protect herself. Lacy protected our home for nearly twelve years from evil UPS drivers, windshield installers, numerous cats and opossums, one groundhog, a few snakes and squirrels, and other sneaky neighborhood yard squatters!

She always made me a part of her kills, particularly the ‘possums! She would begin by barking strangely and cause me to pick up my shotgun and go outside to investigate. When I arrived, she would be circling the intruder waiting on me to be the diversion. Once the prehensile tailed, over grown, rat looked at me it was all over! Lacy lunged in and caught the ‘possum right behind the ears and locked on like a snapping turtle waitin’ on thunder!

From that point on it was shake for 20 seconds, crush the neck bone, shake some more, then crush a rib or two, shake, and finally she ran her powerful mouth up and down the length of the body to ensure everything was broken. The popping sound was at once horrifying and satisfying to me. She would then release her hold and stand panting for several minutes as she nudged it a few times with her nose just to make sure. Believe me, it was dead – dead and not playing “possum”!

Lacy was the ultimate protective but gentle dog and you do not find them often. Usually, they are just mean without showing affection, or a complete puss, but she had it all.

The neighborhood will miss her, because she kept the peace, and I have yet to see another dog step up and assume the alpha role in the area.

Oh, I have another dog now and I love Baylee like my own child, but she is just a loving dog, afraid of her own shadow, but loves to chase and catch a ball, splash in the lake, and sit under you for hours begging to be rubbed. I have to protect her most times, but there is just no aggression in black labs, even eighty pound ones. I often have to warn the UPS man to watch out or he will get licked to death!

Missy was the first dog I can clearly remember, and there is no photograph of her in any of the family shoeboxes of archived pictures. She was an English Shepherd of medium build with a loving manner. She was not aggressive either, but was very protective. Many times when I was around seven or eight years old she got between danger and me, especially if other dogs were around.

Once while I was exploring the woods near my neighborhood, Missy got in front of me just as I was about to step over a log that had fallen across the path I was following. Every time I raised my leg to step over, she pushed between the log and me and barked. One of those moments when you want to say, “What is it Lassie? Is Timmy okay?”

I did not realize the possibility of a snake being on the other side for several years, but looking back on the incident, as soon as I changed directions she allowed me to proceed, but I could not step over the log. There had to have been something – some danger – there. You will never convince me otherwise.

One other incident involving Missy stands out in my memory, and that occurred during a thunderstorm.

You know how parents put their fears into their children (from Pink Floyd’s “Mother”), well; I overheard a conversation between my mom and dad about how metal, trees, and dogs attract lightning. Well founded or not, I heard it and believed it.

One day Missy and I went on a mile walk to a nearby store when a summer thunderstorm came up suddenly. I ran to a neighbor’s porch to get in out of the rain and of course Missy came with me. Just as a loud clap of thunder rattled the immediate area I remembered, “…dogs attract lightning”!

Oh my God - I started shoving at Missy and screaming at her to get away! I regret the incident, even though Missy did not understand, but the more I pushed the closer she wanted to get. After all, she was as afraid as I was!

It was terrifying to me, but summer storms pass on as quickly as the come, so it was not long before the storm calmed and I saw my mom coming in the car. She stopped and opened the back door and Missy and I jumped in. The only other thing I can remember was being a little mad at my mother for not coming sooner.

Missy developed some sort of “running fit” (as it was explained to me) a few months later and ran into a man’s house during a storm. I heard that the man killed her, but we never did get the real story, but I still grieve.

Anyway, I was just missing my girls today and wanted to say a few words about them. I know in my heart-of-hearts, that if there is a heaven, a place where you are supposed to by happy, then I will see all my girls again someday. Without them, I could not be truly happy, and it would truly be a sad place.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


It is known today, especially in middle-school circles, as "the choking game," "the pass-out game," "the tingling game" or "the space monkey." At that age, my friends, and I experimented with a version of this we called “the hyperventilation game” (we should have called It “the stupid game”) and no choking was involved. One person simply would squat down, take 30 or so quick deep breaths stand up quickly and exhale forcefully, and another person would grab them from behind, wrap their arms around their chest, and squeeze until the hyperventilated person fell limp in their arms.

I understand now that the brain maintains no reserves of O2 and, unlike other organs, has an exceedingly low tolerance of O2 deprivation, plus the low levels of carbon monoxide in the blood causes the veins in the brain to constrict. The brain is temporarily deprived of oxygen – you pass out. THIS IS A VERY DANGEROUS GAME THAT CAN (AND HAS) RESULTED IN MANY DEATHS!

Three of us played this dangerous game for a brief time when I lived in Florence, Alabama. I may have continued to play it longer had I had a better experience. The other two had good experiences and their description was much like those people who claim to have had a NDE describes theirs.

Laying there in the grass, still not fully in control of their arms and legs yet, they talked about how peaceful it was, about the white light, about the weight of the world lifting from their extremities, and about how weak they still felt.

For me, it was at first the feeling of numbness coming over me, then bright sparks of light blinking around my head and in front of my eyes, then a while light flashed and changed to red, and then a horrible face (that I perceived as the devil) appeared before me! Kids that do this often laugh at the involuntary movements of the “victims” arms and legs. My legs and arms flailed wildly as I fought what they could not see – I pushed, shoved, and punched with closed fists to their distant amusement.

When it was my turn to describe my experience it was totally different, I lay in a panic gasping for breath. The others could not understand why I did not get a kick out of it, but I knew that I did not want any more experiences like that again.

However, like all stupid kids trying to be accepted, I did try it one more time after being pressured into it. It was also very stupid that I let them talk me into trying it inside and, worst yet, in my mother’s living room.

As soon as the guy released his grip on my chest I lunged into a rage and stormed around the room screaming incoherently and punching at the face of the devil that was poking at me with his pitchfork! At least two lamps fell and broke, pictures were scraped from the walls, and chairs were turned over.

When I regained control and focus, I saw the two guys that had promised to hold me down standing huddled in a corner looking very confused and frightened. I perused the damage and knew immediately that there was not going to be any “talking to me” this time. This warranted a full-fledged butt whipping!

I never again played that stupid game and as far as I know neither did the other guys.

I submit that the “near death experience” is merely the brain's lack of oxygen and low level of carbon monoxide. If you have ever almost passed out, or stood up too fast, you too have come close to a NDE. To me it is just another reason not to fear death. Whether you see the comforting light or the face of the devil, it will not last long; there is no pain, you are receding!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Well alrighty then! I had so much fun doing the belt buckles post that I thought I would try at least one more similar. Who knows what I will find next week.

Monday was house-cleaning day at Mushy’s, a bi-weekly chore I share with my lovely bride of 26 years, known affectionately as “Sweet Angel’s Baby’s Doll Face” only to me. Now the secret is out and I’ll catch hell from the B&Ss-in-law about it!

During my cleaning tour I decided to clean out another drawer and a couple of World’s Fair, Yosemite Sam, and VOLS glasses that are collecting dust on my bedroom display shelves. This shelf holds my prize Mustang and AC Cobra Hot Wheels collection and gives my room the appearance of a little boy’s room. What the heck…I am a 60-year-old little boy and will forever be so! I dare you to try and make me otherwise!

Anyway, back to the intended task –

Appearing in the upper left corner is a tiny little sheriff’s badge from the Smoky Mountains. Who knows how long this has been waiting around to be seen and handled again? It’s kind of cute with a little black bear in the center.

Extending across the top are two crab-eating utensils obviously from Hooter’s! They reminded me of the day I embarrassed my brother-in-laws for cussing out our waitress. It went something like this; she took our beer orders, left, and almost immediately went back to the table she was previously flirting with – young dudes, naturally! We noticed the beer bottles were placed on the bar (We don’t drink the pitchers there because for some reason the beer has a tin or metallic taste, and we’ve even noticed it in the bottles! Must buy in bulk is all we can figure!). We kept waiting for the waitress, whose belly was pooching out over her tight orange short-shorts, and she was obviously too busy making time to notice. Finally, mostly because we are Americans and hate hot beer, my brother-in-law goes to the bar and gets the four beers.

When we are almost finished with the beer, Miss “too stupid to know old men can make car payments in tips if stroked enough,” comes back quickly, still looking over her shoulder at the “young table” and asks if we want another round. We say yes, she turns in the order, and returns to her hand-on-stuck-out-hip stance at the other table.

The beer is placed on the bar; we look in her direction, and give her 10 minutes. No beer…so Ron gets the beer the second time.

We have now had enough and have decided not to eat lunch there and want our tab so we can leave. Eventually, with dry bottles in front of us, we wave at her and finally get her attention. She wobbles over and asks if we want another round. I say NO…we need our ticket.

“Oh,” she said, “So you’re leaving me?”

“Yes, we are going somewhere where we can get waited on!”

“What do you mean? I waited on you and brought you your beers!”

“Bull shit,” I say, “Ron here went and got our beer off the bar twice while you were over there flirting with the young dudes! I sure hope they tip you as well as we would have, ‘cause you AIN’T gittin’ nothing from us!”

She threw the ticket on the table, and instantly I detected she had charged us for an extra beer. The old hand went up and I pointed out her mistake. She was furious and stormed off. We left a dime on the table – which should have inferred her service wasn’t worth a dime!

Anyway…did not mean for that to go on so long, but suffice it to say we don’t go there anymore. “You mean you go to Hooter’s for the beer?” Used too!

Moving on down from the left is: another Marlboro memento for a keychain, two dinning room cards from two Carnival cruises, a pair of 3-D glasses that still come in handy occasionally for TV, a plastic Cracker Jack bookmark, a special trigger housing for an SKS (that’s all I’ll say here about it), the backstage and onstage pass I once got for an Allman Brothers concert (once in a life time event), a tiny deck of World’s Fair playing cards, a P-38 Folding Pocket Can Opener that I’d like to say I had in Vietnam, but I actually lost that one and bought this one at a gun show, a 60 year celebration pin from K-25 where I used to work, a SecurID card I used for access to network equipment at work, and lastly but not least, a 1997 game schedule card from when Peyton Manning played at UT. Old Peyton never could do for us what Tee Martin did the next year, but he was good and did a lot for promoting our university.

You probably did not enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as I did, but I’m glad you came along anyway. See ya soon!

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Going through some old papers I brought home after retiring, I discovered three surprisingly good drawings on scraps of paper and cardboard, that had at one time or the other must have pushed the hands of a slow day or boring marathon staff meeting. I say they are surprising because I think they are good, for elaborate doodles, and for the fact that I obviously drew them. Although, I cannot, for the life of me, remember doing them or the reasons or events in my life that made them what they are. I can only surmise they accomplished their goal since the spawn of their burden lingers not.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did in finding them. I have interpreted them from raw feeling, not memory – you are welcome to make up your own.

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me”

I call this one “High Maintenance” - It is a composite of all those young things that required more than I cared to offer. I do not remember if any were worth more effort, but since I am left wondering I suppose they were not.

Since a tear is prominent, I suppose either she or I cared at the time, whatever minute of time was spent. However, obviously the ornate earrings symbolize both the attention she would have required and the coolness returned.

Finally, the levelheaded lady with no visible mouth must have left no memorable words on either side of passion.

"Transcend, Purify, Glorious"

I call this one “Transcend” - We move through life changing what we are more than who we are – moving constantly toward the seventh level – perfection, if that can truly be obtained. Surely as we move we must change our halo of color – some good, some bad, but all seen by someone. After all, we can only hide from ourselves.

“Pride is the Father of all Sins”

I call this one “Reflection” – The monster of “pride” must be a hideous creature since “envy” is said to be only “green eyed.” So how would we identify him if he came knocking at the door? I can only attest to having met him once and that I lost everything soon afterwards, but I do not recall his face. I think his face is pleasing and quite ordinary, otherwise he would not be welcomed in so easily – so often.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


My wife and I took my mom to Applewood Farms today so she could make Thanksgiving reservations for herself, her brother, and sister-in-law. If you’re not on the books, you don’t get in on Thanksgiving! Most any other time you can walk right in!

The bargaining chip she used to lure me away from the computer was homemade fried apple pies and ice cream – it worked. You can tell just how much the little 90 pound woman loves her pie and ice cream! More on the food there at Mushy's Cookings.

There are members of our family that drive from Florence, AL all the way to Pigeon Forge, TN (home of Dollywood!) just for pie and ice cream. While it was delicious, I’m not sure I’d drive that far just for a taste.

We actually had a wonderful day walking the Applewood grounds and shopping at the Tanger 5 Oaks outlet stores. I picked up the most goodies myself!

It’s good to spend time with your little mum!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


So long Steve – like the animals, I will miss you!

Crickey! Had we known then (2002) we might have had second thoughts about swimming with the Stingrays while we were in the Grand Cayman’s. I remember them feeling like cool firm jell-o in the warm seawater. Our only safety instruction was to shuffle our feet along the sand as we moved about the chest deep water. Dozens of them swarmed around us looking for the handouts the guides offered.

One young woman screamed from the first brush against her legs! She somehow climbed up around her husband’s neck and almost drown him before they could wrestle her back up onto the boat.

Monday, September 04, 2006


The last houseboat my brother and sister-in-law will probably own sold this weekend, so we bid farewell to an era!
Charlotte and Gary,
Thank you for having us along for the ride all these years. Those moments have been some of the most special in all our lives. You have both made our lives so much richer. Sharing our lives on deck of one of your boats has meant so much and we will never forget you or them. The laughter and the memories will not fade as long as one of us lives.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Long before I ever saw one I heard the bobwhite quail and learned to differentiate between the male and the female – while the male simply called and said “bob – white”, the female’s answer was a flirting four-syllable “who-who-bob-white”, with extra emphasis on the WHITE!

While not as rare as the whippoorwill, the bobwhite’s conversations were rare enough to intrigue a young boy’s mind. I wondered where they hid, how the moved about in the fields, and what they were really saying.

I was finally introduced to a whole host of quail when our next-door neighbor, an avid hunter (and Big Dixie’s daddy), began to raise them from eggs given to him by the local game warden. I got to stand up close to the raised white cage; about four feet off the ground, and watch through the wire the different stages of their birth and growth. Finally, in the fall of the year the neighbor released them to fill the surrounding fields for hunting season.

I watched them rise high in the air, circle the owner’s yard, and then head off to a sagebrush field about a quarter mile away. I often played in that field during the summer months alone. I rarely walked, but rather crawled slowly along the network of trails made by the quail and rabbits that lived there.

I remember I became quite accomplished at crawling up to quail nests in the sage grass and looking at the little white eggs, sometimes as many as a dozen in each nest. Later visits were rewarded with the wondrous sight of the chicks starring back at me. The momma would round them up and herd them off down one of the paths for protection. I loved to watch them scurry down the paths just ahead of me and then disappear around a turn.

Often times I would spook a rabbit that would somehow jump straight up and turn in the opposite direction before coming down on his big hind legs and run off.

Sitting down in the grass, I was hidden from the world and perceived myself as part of the field and a member of the local wildlife community. I would crawl for hours around the field until I knew all the interconnecting paths, dead ends, and shady spots under the dogwood trees. If I lay on my back and looked up through the grass at the sky, I felt even more connected to the field and the world. Once while watching white billowy clouds against a deep blue sky, I dosed off and slept until the sun reached across my face – such peace is rare today.

As I said, I often visited that field as a child, a field on which my future in-laws would build a large tri-level house some ten years later. I do not know where the bobwhite went to after the home was built, but while I lived and visited there, I often thought about how free I was during those days. I remembered the smell of it, the beauty of it, and the serenity of it.

This photo is of my son, nearly thirty years ago, swinging on one of the many dogwood trees that dotted the field where the quail and I played, but now they are part of the landscape in the yard where his grandparents now live.

I often wish I could go back to that innocence – a place where I felt as if I was one with the animals, nature, and my own soul. I know I can never go back, at least in that full sense, but it is comforting to know that I did learn what they were saying when they whistled their bob-white tune and they still call me today, from a distant field, saying – "COME PLAY, COME PLAY"!