MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: November 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

THE NORTH BOUNDARY GREENWAY

Ms. Mushy and I took another little 3-mile stroll along a portion of the North Boundary Greenway today as we often do. The weather in East Tennessee was once again beautiful and in the 70’s, a wave of high pressure leading a change coming by the weekend.

This area was once part of the Gallaher-Stone Plantation, way back before the Government took it from the Wheat Community farmers in 1942 to build a bomb to end some little World War. Remnants of stone steps, house corner stones, and flower gardens can be found along the Greenway. Often a buck, following a couple of does will peep out of the pine thickets along the way and watch you as you approach, then dart across the road, white “flagged” tail waving goodbye.

You can also find well-groomed old family cemeteries that the Government still maintains. These cemeteries have very old headstones ornately marked with names and dates, while slave graves are noted only by a single large stone indicating which end the head was laid – no name, no date, just a stone to proclaim the hard work they provided their owners.

Today we walked a bicycle path into an old rock quarry area where limestone was once blasted out to build roads, concrete pads, footers, and compressor stands for the huge K-25 Plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The plant is being torn down today by Bechtel Jacobs Company, a subcontractor to the Department of Energy, and buried nearby. The K-25 site, along with Y-12 and X-10, was once a bustling worksite with over 12,000 men and women (my dad included) working on the world’s greatest secret – so secret they didn’t even know what they were building. Only General Groves and a select few knew the full mission.

At some point, workmen hit an underground stream and the quarry flooded, probably covering equipment that couldn’t be removed in time. The water today is beautiful, reflecting the blue sky above and the green cedar trees that line the quarry’s edge. Only a few scraps of iron and a pile of concrete fence footers remain to bare witness to the work that went on there.

Since most people never get back in this area, I thought you might like to see a couple of pictures. I hope they brighten your day as they did ours.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

THE WORLD REVOLVES AROUND BEER

The six of us, the three sisters and us guys, went to see Irvin Berlin’s “White Christmas” at the Cumberland County Playhouse last weekend in Crossville, Tennessee. The playhouse has professional productions there and we attend two or three events annually. Our tickets for the evening were for 8PM, which is an hour earlier than our time zone.

Anyway, the discussion came up about where we should eat prior to the show. Someone mentioned a place and before I could stop myself I said, “You know they don’t have beer there?” Everyone looked at me and then to Ron.

Since Ron is a man who enjoys a good dark beer and prefers to eat at places that have a good selection on tap, I expected him to present our case. However, no further arguments were presented from either side and other places of interest were suggested.

I should have learned my lesson from the first looks I got from the “dragons,” but went on to say, “You know, next time we go to a play, let’s pick an earlier time so we can eat casually afterwards and have a couple of beers.”

Terri, the fork at the end of the dragon’s tongue, turned toward me like a bird dog on a point, and said, “You know Mushy (not his real name), the world doesn’t revolve around beer!”

“Ah no, contrario” I said. “The world floats on it!

Friday, November 24, 2006

LOOK AT THE ASH ON THAT THING

We did our part for “Black Friday” today by going to the Leaf & Ale and Bailey’s Sports Grille in Knoxville. This allowed the wives plenty of shopping time in a completely different part of town!

The cigar store had a new stock of Macanudo Gold’s to come in and the one pictured was terrific. A slow smooth smoke that left a 2” ash that had to be sharply thumped before falling into the ashtray. A burger, Sierra Nevada draft, a Macanudo Gold, and family – don’t get any better than that!

Going around the table L to R - Nick (niece’s boyfriend), Becky, brother-in-laws Steve and Ron, Mushy and son (Corey)!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A SEASONED BOND

Uncle Tom was my hero, the youngest brother to my mom, and the last to leave home. He was there when I first remember going to grandmother’s house in Alabama, living in the back room where I was not allowed, because it was off limits to a little boy with too much energy.

Tom was almost ten years older than I was; just about the same number of years that now separates my brother and me. To me Tom was there to play with me, and when he did not want to, I would “try self” as I was known to say and do in those days. To “try” myself meant I would through a small fit – just a tiny one. The attractive fit consisted of standing in one place, stomping my feet up and down, and flapping both my ears with my hands as I screamed!

I suddenly stopped “trying myself” one day a few years later when a man, a stranger to me who worked with my dad, got into the backseat where I was engaged in one of my tantrums. I only became aware of him as he said in a loud voice, “Here son, let me clean you off a place,” as he took off his ball cap and made dusting moves back and forth in the floorboard near my feet. “Now, have your self a big ol’ fit!” and laughed.

That one moment shocked me so much that from that day forward I never had another tirade! I was just too ashamed to be caught like that again I suppose.

Meanwhile, back to Uncle Tom who was about to fall victim to my mischievous spirit.

Having turned down my plea to play with me, he went into his sanctuary and lay back across his big feather bed. Once he entered the safety zone I knew it was useless to beg anymore, so I sat down and waited.

Several minutes later I tiptoed into his room and sprinkled black pepper onto his eyelids. To my surprise this did not awaken him. I got between him and the door and bumped his foot, screamed, and ran as hard and as fast as I could.

Uncle Tom woke up, blinked his eyes, and then suddenly jumped up yelling and rubbing his eyes! As soon as he could see his hands he knew exactly what had happened and with his eyes watering and his sight still blurred, he ran after me.

Around and around the house we went with Tom yelling at me and me screaming for my mother. I had “tried myself” one too many times and I figured he would kill me when he caught me, but I was a little faster and quicker than he was. The chase was not the fun I had hoped for, but at least he was playing with me – even if it was a weird kind of “catch me if you can!”

Tom joined the Air Force a few months after that and spent twenty years traveling around the world. He was always someone I looked up to and I actually entered the Air Force years later with a thought in the back of my mind to “be like Tom”, but because of Vietnam, I decided not to make it a career.

Nowadays I look forward to his visits and our trips to Alabama to watch his team play Tennessee. He raps his elephant on the head, it says “Roll Tide,” and I rap ol’ Smokey and he plays “Rocky Top!” We tease each other a lot and we love each other even more, because we have a special bond all seasoned with black pepper and no one can ever take that away.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

BREAKING INTO THE OUTHOUSE

The photograph of the six-holer above is from DaNang South Vietnam. On a day off touring the base, again, because we were restricted to base unless we rode an escorted 6X6 to China Beach, I took this shot from atop an old French bunker for entertainment. If you look closely, you can make out one lonely occupant, taking care of business! The little flaps in the back was where you slid out the “crap” barrels, poured JP4 on the contents and set it ablaze if you were unfortunate enough to draw “shit detail!

This story has nothing to do with this particular “crapper”, but it did remind me of the times the County Fair came to Humphreys County when I lived in Waverly, Tennessee. Three or four of us teenage boys wanted to save the cost of admission for grander things like rides, cotton candy, hotdogs, and games of chance! So, we devised a break-in scheme, and the one we came up with seemed foolproof.

The first day we went down to the main gate in the hopes someone would take pity on us and let us in free, but nobody did, and they actually seemed irritated that we stood there so long and watched them work. In retrospect this was our downfall.

Finally we walked off and started down the side of the poplar board fence kicking at cans and looking through the cracks and smelling the aroma of what we were missing. As we leaned against the boards near one particularly large crack, we noticed that people were walking toward the fence and disappearing just below where we stood. After a few minutes they reappeared and walked off into the crowd again. Upon closer observation, we realized we were near the outhouses that used the fence as a back wall.

I do not remember who first got the bright idea, but soon we were prying at a loose board on the back of the men’s outhouse. When someone came in, we jumped back away from the cracks and waited. Finally, we had a single board, about seven to eight inches wide, free at the bottom so that it would hinge to either the left or right.

I was the first one to slide between the planks and into the outhouse where I quickly locked the door. I looked through a crack in the door afraid to go out. The others whispered encouragement and “chicken” at me from the other side of the fence. It occurred to me that no one would think anything about it if I just acted naturally. I pushed open the door, and walked straight toward the crowd pretending to finish zipping my pants!

It worked like a charm – no one was the wiser or even looked at me. I stood near the corner of a concession looking back at the fence. Sure enough, soon there came one familiar face, then another, until we were all standing there giddy with delight and barely able to contain our pride in our covert accomplishment.

That day and the next were terrific adventures. We roamed the fairgrounds like proud outlaws that had gotten away with robbing the biggest bank in town. Each day our mom’s would give us the price of admission, to keep us out of their hair probably, and a little extra with which to eat and have fun. Each day, we saved the admission and came out of the outhouse one at a time zipping up our pants as if we owned the place.

However, on the third day the youngest member of our “breaking in the outhouse gang” panicked when a fair employee, who had remembered the kid standing at the front gate, looked questioningly in his direction. The terrified kid bolted to the outhouse and back through the fence. Before we knew what was happening, there was a man in the outhouse inspecting the swinging board, and two others were running around from the gate toward us. Like chickens being chased by a dog, we scattered in all directions. Our ruse was up and worse yet, we could not even come back with our parents!

The fair was over for us but we decided that there was always next year. However, when next year came, there were brand new outhouses sitting far away from the fence. From that year on, it was a slow fair year!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A SHOOTFEST

One thing I enjoy best in this world is when my brothers-in-laws and I have a shootfest! We all have several weapons apiece and we swap out taking turns shooting up all our ammunition at targets we’ve placed down in the woods.

Often times we take turns shooting the capped ends of plastic beer bottles full of water with a scoped .17 or .22 caliber rifle – you don’t think we’d waste a beer do ya! Another favorite “tack driving” competition we have is to see who can shoot the primer out of a 12 gauge shot shell! Steve has devised a plywood sheet that allows us to insert shells up to the rim pointing away from us. It takes a direct hit to set them off – it’s not as loud as you would think, but fun nonetheless to see all the smoke fizzle out.

Steve has a great little shop for working on nothing but firearms and reloads most of what he shoots. His favorite thing used to be to load some strange experimental load, hand it to me, and say, “Here, try this in your gun.” I usually obliged him, but I would hold the pistol around the trunk of a tree and squeeze the trigger. If it didn’t blow up the gun, we fired the rest! It’s awfully hard to blow up a Ruger, but that never kept us from trying.

My best Steve story is when we broke a “cardinal rule” of ours and did a little shooting while drinking beer. As he loaded a .22 revolver with some sub-sonic rounds off the tailgate of my '83 Blazer, he let the hammer fall on a full cylinder and shot a round into the back! We never did find that round! Ever since then, I’ll point out boxes of sub-sonics at gun shows and say, “Look! Blazer killers!” He hates that!

Last week, Ron, one of my other brothers-in-law purchased a new Taurus 1911 at a local shop’s “no tax sale” and so we all had to shoot it and compare it to the one’s we have. Steve likes the el-natural Colt 1911s, while I, being more technically advanced in my taste, like the modern improved Springfield “carry” models (see photo).

Anyway, we blasted away and finally succeeded in breaking the extractor out of the brand new Taurus! So, after Ron and Steve decided they couldn’t fix it, Ron took it right back to the store, same day he purchased it, and got another one. This Friday we’re going to see how it holds up!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

THE PAST IS ANOTHER COUNTRY

“The past is another country, they do things differently there.”
From The Go-Between, by L. P. Hartley

My wife sometimes complains about the time I spend composing, posting, and reading blogs. So, I gave up BlogExplosion wagering – that alone cut my computer time in half! I think she does not like the fact that I seem to dwell on the past in what I write the majority of the time, but I think it is fine as long as you do not stay there too long.

We learn a lot about ourselves from history – why and what we fear, like or hate, or even why we need or love others. I am not looking for any of that, because I have already gathered those things from my life. I just hope some of the lessons I have learned rub off on others without them having to do the hard time.

But because I have already been to that other country, I do not have to spend much time in the there myself; just dash in quickly, grab what I need, and dash out and document what I brought back.

The past really is a different place and though it may sound at times like I would rather be there than here, it is not true. Here is the best place to be – right here with you in the good old now!

The “now” is where we can spend time and really see, hear, smell, touch, and sometimes taste each other. While memories can conjure visions from that other country, they are not real. “Now” is real – appreciate it fully before it becomes the past.

Friday, November 10, 2006

FROM ONE VET TO ANOTHER

Thursday, November 09, 2006

TWISTED ROOTS

What does it take, what prize do you desire to keep you going? What is the bottom line, what is it you seek? Does it glitter, or does it just answer you back? Nothing, is it nothing more than that? Does it take so little or so much?

Truthfully, it takes so little to keep us all going. Just a grain of attention, a drop of perceived affection is all it takes to lead us on.

I once had a little white dog whose name nobody remembers, that would jump upon the couch where I stood and allow me to throw it to the floor time and time again - just to be touched, just to be held that moment before release.

Sometimes we are all like that little dog – we just want another moment of someone’s awareness to nourish our desires at any cost, and then we jump back onto the couch. As these trees with twisted roots, we hang on, thriving on just the smallest bit of nourishment.

However, when we have to give so much with so little in return, we grow gnarled and tangled, living in the unhappiness of our lives. Even if the problem is removed we remain changed inside forever, even if our outward appearance is a disguise.

Unlike these trees, we have the ability to foresee our destiny when first we try to grow in certain situations, if we only had the will to make the change. If we find the will, then we must fill in life’s scarring with the fresh dirt of promise, hope, and love so that we do not become an obstacle to others.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

LEARNING LESSONS THE HARD WAY

Back in 1962, Mushy had no idea his decision to take typing classes would serve him well in his career, not to mention BLOGDOM.

All he really wanted was to be where the pretty girls were! I guess chasing the pretty girls profited me some after all!

Did you ever make life-changing decisions over boys or girls in school?

My granddaughter is right in the middle of this time today, and will not listen to my free advice. As my daughter once said, “I guess I have to learn the hard way.” Why do we always do that? Why do we always think we are smarter than those that trod the same roads before us?

Monday, November 06, 2006

STANDING THE TEST OF TIME


Will your character stand the test of time?

Will you leave more than your memory behind?

Will you wear your battle scars proudly?

Will your good character proclaim your teacher loudly?

Will what you’ve done stand the test of time?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

SILENT PROMISE

Excuse me if I write about my Ma once again. It was sometime back that I first mentioned her in a post called Does It Really Take the Entire Village? Ma was my dad’s mother. She was a skinny little snuff-dipping lady with about 4 feet of graying black hair rolled up in a tight bun, and held in place on the back of her head by long brown plastic hairpins. She was tough as they come. Pa did not dare cross her, and neither did her seven kids - six of which were good size boys.

With two boney little fingers pressed tightly against her lips, she could hit a tin “spit” can ten feet away! She ruled the roost with those boney little hands and even “whooped” her son Bob after he was married, and threatened to another.

She and her daughter Lois cooked with lard every meal, and without a doubt the best tasting seasoning a southern woman can use. Never mind that it is total artery clogging grease, you just do not care even knowing full well what it could do to you because it made things taste so darn good!

Together they made the best biscuits and cornbread the world has ever known. All of the children ate lard everyday, and if they had stayed on the farm, most of them would have lived as long as their parents did. Once they left, they got sedentary jobs like electricians, heavy equipment operators, and business owner/operators. These crafts just did not work the lard out off them, as farm work would have.

Ma came to East Tennessee once to visit. She was used to the flat land of lower Middle-Tennessee where you can see to the horizon and watch storm clouds coming your way for hours. The mountains were a new phenomenon to Ma and perplexed her greatly. I remember her running into our house one morning hollering, “Christine, come quick, the mountain is on fire!

Mom went with her outside and quickly explained that it was only the clouds hanging low over them. She studied it a bit, spit out a stream, accepted it, and moved on.

I can only remember Ma telling me one thing, besides that she was going to whip me if I did not behave! She once told me “If you do as good as you look son, you’ll go a long way.” Well, I may have looked good as a kid to her, but if she could see old Mushy today, she might take that statement back!

I remembered those words as I watched them open the lower lid on her casket, adjust the quilted drape that was ran around the edges of the coffin, and close it again. I was shocked that Ma did not have any shoes on – just her usual thick stockings lying loosely against her boney little legs. As a pallbearer, I was standing very close awaiting instructions to assume my position at her feet, and as a fourteen-year-old boy, that struck me as very strange.

As we made our way down the front porch steps, which were only about three feet wide, I had to hang in the air from the coffin handle, momentarily allowing my side to dip to one side. As soon as the taller cousins reached the ground the coffin leveled out and I again attempted to carry my part of Ma.

I wondered if Ma had been rolled around much during the inadvertent tilt, and again about her little stocking feet. I silently made her a promise to do my best at that very moment.

I believe I did pretty good Ma, and it was partly because of what you said. I always wanted you to be proud of me. I sure hope you are.

Friday, November 03, 2006

SOUTHERN BRAIN-FRIED EVENING

I see the yellow leaves of the beech tree to my left, the red-orange dogwood, the orange of the oak, the green of the pines, and finally the mirrored sheen of the lake etched by a fall breeze, and the ripple made by the gentle touch of the Egret’s wing as I pan the view before me. There is a white arrow streak from a northbound jet and Billy Powell runs the keys to “Tuesday’s Gone” in time with the wind rustling the leaves around me. I sip my George and Coke, toke my Ashton, exhale, breathe the cool autumn air, and feel secure in my little world.

In the distance a chest thumping sound takes me back to Southeast Asia and awakens me from my contentment. Life Star is coming from UT Knoxville to pick up someone at the Harriman Hospital - the weekend has started early.

Silently I pray, “God, why am I so blessed? Thank you, but please be with whoever they are going after, and their family.”

For those of you that cannot understand “sipping” and “praying” in the same thought, I pray for you too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

THEY JUST KEEP HANGING ON


Fall just keeps hanging on this year and I, for one, am thrilled! Even through three rains, two frost, and gusts of wind up to twenty-five miles per hour, the leaves have stayed put. However, today I have noticed that they are beginning to brown, so the end is close at hand.

Yesterday, my wife and I drove up to Potter’s Falls, which is near Wartburg, Tennessee (couldn’t they change that name?) to do some more last minute “leaf peeping.” There was plenty of water and color left to enjoy.

Just moments after taking this shot, I slipped and cracked my knee hard against a big rock. I thought hiking boots were good for rock hopping, but quickly learned that tenni-wackers are probably best!

Anyway, it has been a very good year leaf photography.