Tuesday, January 30, 2007


As I said before, Dickerson Road and Shwab Elementary School (which is now PK-4 only) in Nashville, Tennessee hold a lot of memories for me. I was eleven years old, getting kisses under my belt (not literally, that came later), smoking my first cigarettes (more on that later), and working hard in school for the first time. Before the fifth grade, I do not remember working as hard as did for that teacher (cannot remember her name), and probably never worked as hard for another until Ms. Bunch for senior English in Harriman, Tennessee.

Kissing and smoking aside, I have always wanted to stand out as someone who worked hard and could be trusted. One of the few things I remember getting from my dad is his work ethic, “If a man pays you a dollar to work for him then give him a dollar’s worth of work.” I have always tried to uphold that philosophy in the workplace. I did not give the same effort in all my school studies, being able to make decent grades without hard study. I often wonder what else I could have become if I had applied myself, although, my career path turned out well.

The chance to be noticed in the fifth grade came during recruitment by the school for “Safety Patrol” members to assist the “Traffic Guard Officer” with traffic control before and after school.

Wow, those guys got to wear neat looking bright red-orange and reflective vest with white crisscrossed belts that met and fastened in the front with a shinny gold plated buckle! Plus, they carried long poles with a big red and white canvas STOP sign on the end. What color, what power, and who could miss me!

I went to a meeting where the Traffic Guard, a rather large black lady that talked very loud, gave her spiel and psyched several of us into volunteering for duty. She only had to hold up the uniform, as it were, neither my eyes nor ears ever saw or heard anything else.

After going through the routine several times in the gym, we were graduated “Safety Patrol” dudes and ready to protect our fellow classmates as the crossed the dangerous four lane Dickerson Road.

Along with another new recruit, I spent the first morning observing how the older guards performed their duties, before taking our turns when school let out in the evening. All I could think of was how proudly my girlfriend looked at me that morning as I passed her trailer on the way to “work.” The uniform had done its thing!

The Traffic Guard blew her whistle and shocked me back to life. This was going to be a cinch!

That afternoon, I got up in class before the bell sounded, another perk, and donned my “uniform.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could not help but see my girlfriend and others checking me out. My chest swelled as I strode to door and ran into the hall.

Out front, near the crosswalks, the others were gathering. I was handed one of the long poles, maybe ten feet in length, and I walked to my position while an experienced patroller stood nearby. “When she blows her whistle, just look back down the road and put your sign out in front of the next oncoming car,” he directed, “Nothing to it.”

In the distance I heard the bell sound and watched as kids poured out the front doors, headed for buses and waiting cars, and on toward the crosswalks. My stomach tightened a little and I looked back over my shoulder at the cars whizzing by the school. “What would it be like,” I thought.

Suddenly the Traffic Guard Officer raised her white gloves in both directions at the side of the curb and blew loudly twice!

Instead of looking around and stopping the next car with enough time to slow down, I immediately dropped the pole right in front of the next car. The poor drive had no recourse but to lock the brakes and slide in under and bumping my pole!

The sound of screeching tires and the smell of rubber was not easily missed and the Traffic Guard glared at me and pointed at my tutor, who simply shrugged his shoulders to say, “Ain’t my fault!”

I looked over at the driver, and he was yelling something in a foreign language I did not understand until the sixth grade!

I then looked around to see if anyone else important had seen me screw up – all was clear, and eventually I became an accomplished “safety patroller”, that even I was proud of.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Once the Knights & Dragons (-2) unpacked in the Parkway Inn, we hurried off to the Town Square area of Jackson Hole to quench our thirsts. However, we first did the YMCA song moves for the web-cam, which no one was lucky enough to capture – and, there was a prize (oh yeah), but no one has claimed it!

The first watering hole was the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where you can sit a stride a saddle as you soothe a parched throat with Snake River Pale Ale. I loved sittin’ in the saddle, drinking, and shouting out “get along little dogie”, but the bartender did not seem to get the humor. What did he know…he wore a do-rag instead of a Stetson anyway!

There is a cover charge beginning somewhere between 7:30 and 8PM, depending on when the door dude made it to work! When we got there late, we went across the street to The Rancher and drank $5 pitchers of the same medicine. There’s also a might pretty cowgirl on the wall as you go!

As luck would have it, we missed the “wet T-shirt” night, but we did catch “retarded night” ("Lord forgive me, and I apologize to all the starving pygmies in New Guinea.")! It was entertaining, especially watching one of the helmeted fellows that kept sneaking off to the bar, and trying to get a drink, but some pretty girl kept finding him and leading him back to the "Group R" table. He knew what he was doing! They actually danced better than their chaperons did.

I was quite impressed with them and raised a drink in their honor. God bless’em!

Think I should try that shot on 25peeps? My “Doodad” Jarvis hat might work for me!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


It is good to back in East Tennessee, but I loved the Jackson, Wyoming area immensely!

Since snow in our area has declined over the past 20 years, I was needing a snow fix and we got it in Jackson Hole, Teton Village, the Teton National Forest, and Yellowstone National Park - plenty of snow and cold temperatures. However, we missed out on the sub-zero temps of a week ago, when it dipped to -22. We had a couple of nights down to -1 or -2, but the days warmed up to the mid-twenties. That is not too bad if you wear your long-handle bottoms and have plenty of layers on top, and most importantly, a hat or toboggan.

The Dragons had a ball – everything from shopping, sight seeing, snowmobiling, sleigh riding, and good food! We Knights just tagged along and did all that plus some late nights at the local watering holes (Million Dollar Cowboy and The Rancher).

Little did the Dragons (-1) know that they would be visiting the site of their spawn – Dragon’s Mouth Spring in Yellowstone!

They quickly caught on to handling the snowmobiles, governed to 45 MPH, and we were hard pressed to keep up. Even at 22 degrees, the heated seats and handlebars of the “snow machines” (as they are called there) kept everyone toasty. I actually got too warm a few times, turned everything off, and stood up in the cold air. My face paid the price the next day – that, mixed with a few Snake River Pale Ales, made my face a healthy rosy color!

If you ever want to do Yellowstone by “snow machine,” you had better do it fast. The Yellowstone board is fighting hard to outlaw them. Currently, there are only 720 machines allowed in Yellowstone daily, while the Teton Forest only allow 12 daily! President Bush pushed this into existence, but the Demos will kill all traffic soon! What kills me is they do nothing to stem the effects of 3 million yearly visitors in RVs, SUVs, and rattletraps! Government and environmentalists are so smart!

Well, now I got political…so I will end this here.

There are more photos at Flickr. Click here!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


For me, my first real memorable lip-pressing kiss with a girl came in the fifth grade (Remember I had a history of experience, but not yet called "Mushy!"). I had probably just turned eleven years old and was in “puppy love” with the prettiest girl in my class. I cannot say I remember her face, but I do remember her dark hair and eyes and her olive skin. That is all there is except that when I think of her I see a stripped pullover shirt and she is leaned up against the back of her parent’s red and black trailer on a warm and fall evening – mouth pressed against mine and trying to learn to breathe while kissing a boy!

This 1957 photo is of my one-year-old brother and me in front of our trailer, which was parked right next to hers.

I have a lot of memories from this trailer park on Dickerson Road near the Shwab Elementary School (which is now PK-4 only) in Nashville, Tennessee. I remember the trailer park property adjoined the school property. Kids could walk right through a fence onto the school playground, and I often flew my kites there. I once let out a kite on 5 or 6 balls of twine, and fought the heavy tug of the wind for almost an hour before it broke loose and floated out of sight toward the city.

The other thing I remember about the trailer park was that there were wrestlers and musicians (show people) that I often saw on our little black and white television who lived there. It was nothing in those early days, as they fought their way to the top, to see big-bellied golden haired wrestlers, or cowboy booted musicians doing their laundry in the bathhouse!

One of my best buds in the fifth grade was the son of country music notable Uncle Josh Graves. Uncle Josh made the Dobro® famous with many bluegrass groups, but especially with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs when they were on TV in Nashville in those days. A DVD is available about “The King of the Dobro” that you might enjoy.

Anyway, Josh Jr. and I have not talked since*, but he did live in a trailer near my girlfriend and we may have been rivals – too far back to remember. It would be something if he ended up married to her! Maybe they will read this and invite me over.

The kiss? Well, I only remember I liked it and I continue to perform the risky act to this day. I do remember the awkwardness of it, and that only got worse as the high school years came along. I guess what I miss about those first few kisses was the anticipation of it, the sweaty anxiousness of it, and the almost climactic release the warm wetness of it surrounded in young innocent breath brings.

It is memories like this that will sustain me when I am locked inside a body that can no longer communicate with the outside world. It will be that little hint of a satisfied smile at the corners of my drooling mouth.

*UPDATE: Today I got a reply to an email I sent to Josh Jr, or Sonny Graves, as he's known by some. He vaguely remembers some of the events of this post, but neither of us can say for sure. I only remember him because of his dad's fame. However, he does remember there being several girls in the park!

He said in part:

Hey Mushy,
Thanks very much for the memories, I do remember some of the people at the trailer park. Looking at your pictures I think remember you. I do remember all of the wrestlers and musicians there also. I remember several guys there but mostly the girls. I remember Jimmy Cooper,Jimmy Self, and I guy who worked at the store his name was Tommy and I think his last name was Smith.
I do remember several girls there, two Sisters who lived on the row next to the School, Shelia and Robin Norris, and Jimmy's Sister Betty Self, I think I was after Betty one time and Robin and I thought we were going together, heck I think I even liked Robin's sister...........................LOL
I have seen one or two people since those great days, Lynn Rossie the wrestler he has a Nature Food store or something like that, Also his son who used to wrestle, Also years ago the Fargo Brothers.
I like yourself think about those days how things were compared to today. I also remember playing ball one day behind the school and I was pitching and the guy batting hit a foul and went back over the back stop and broke a window out of a trailer. We all ran different directions except the batter. We all did come back and I think we all chipped in and help pay for the
I thank you for remembering me. I also have two web sites if you would like to view them....... and my music web site on Myspace
Your Friend
Josh Graves Jr. AKA Sonny Graves

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Ms. Mushy and I retired about 2 months apart last year (has it been over a year – wow) and have longed for the companionship of her sisters and brother-in-laws. Finally 2 of the sisters and their husbands retired, and another set is not too far behind. We are really enjoying running around with them during the day and thinking of all those hard working people we used to know.

Today we met, had breakfast in Wartburg, Tennessee, drove by Potter’s Falls, and then decided to head to Knoxville and Gander Mountain! It is wonderful to know you have no set times to be places and no set time to be back home. You just think of something you would like to do and you go. It is the most free I have ever felt in my life.

When you work, you are tied to work regardless if you are at work or not…you still have to go to bed at a certain time or be back home on Sunday nights in time to go to sleep so you can work Monday. In a way, part of your time is still their time! Now the time is all ours!

After touching everything in Gander Mountain (we are gathering cold winter gear for Jackson Hole) we decided that hot wings and beer would be a good lunch! We ended up at our favorite watering hole (Bailey’s) where we relaxed the afternoon away.

We are truly blessed and we thank Him every day.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The Grand Ole Opry began as the WSM Barn Dance in 1925 coming from the Life and Casualty Insurance Company building in Nashville. The show was actually rooted in the WLS Barn Dance started by George Hay who brought the idea to Nashville. The program became The Grand Ole Opry about 1927 after a humorous comment made by Hay, and soon became too large for its original location. It was all instrumental until about 1934 and as the crowds grew to watch the performers they moved a couple of times. The program finally ended up in the Ryman Auditorium in 1943. The Ryman was first opened as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892 and had just over 2600 seats.

I first remember hearing the “Opry” as I lay in the backseat of my dad’s ’52 Ford. The only light, as we headed “home” to see my grandparents, was from the dashboard and an occasional car’s headlights that twirled around above me as it passed. The radio was always tuned to “clear channel” 650 AM and there was T. Tommy Cutrer, pumping out commercials and announcing the acts at 50,000 watts. You could almost see the stage and the performers on the back of your eyelids.

These memories come from about the time Kitty Wells released “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” She, along with sounds of Hank Snow, Little Jimmy Dickens, Eddy Arnold, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs (before they parted ways), Bill Monroe, the Carter Family, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Red Foley, and Minnie Pearl and others still echo in a darkening hall of my mind.

I suppose you could say these songs shaped the way I would think about relationships with women. The lyrics about what men and women needed from each other made me think about how easily each could hurt the other. However, I cannot say it help in the long run. I still found plenty of hurt and let pride push me away from a lot, but inside I knew what I was looking for – just took a little time to find it – but thank God I finally did.

Had it not been for those songs I probably would not have recognized the right thing when she came along.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


It felt good to get my ten-pound lighter butt back on the trails today!

Two of my brother-in-laws and I hiked the Bald River Gorge Trail that runs right along next to the river, although at times it was several hundred feet below us. There were icicles and a little bit of snow left over from yesterday’s mini-blizzard! Yeah, it snowed and the wind howled for about fifteen minutes and then in ten more minutes it was gone. It was just another East-Tennessee front passing through.

The Bald River Gorge Wilderness Area is located inside the Cherokee National Forest. We entered the area from the Madisonville, Tennessee side. On the North Carolina side this area becomes the Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala is an Indian name meaning "Land of the Noonday Sun," because of the area’s deep gorges that block the sun light until mid-day.

There was plenty of water rushing down the river and over the big falls just before merging into the Tellico River about another hundred yards further down. There are several nice falls along the length of the trail.

There is a steep grade right at the beginning and I was told that after I made that it would be smooth sailing – yeah right! I have found that you cannot trust Ron’s twenty-year old memory! He was either two tokes or two quarts into a good high when he hiked most of the trails back then. He will say, “It’s just right around the next bend,” or “This is the last hill we’ll have.” Right again!

Anything you find about this area says it is an easy hike, but it was written before the trail washed out about mile into the trip. You now have to climb almost straight up and over this area and then back down into the gorge. Which means, you will have to climb back up and over on the way out! Besides this, the trail is rocky and full of root tops, but overall, it is worth the effort.

Anyway, we found three or four nice campsites (As if I am going to port my fifty-pound backcountry pack that far – up hill!) except that the main trail runs right through them. Finally, we found a nice campsite about 2 miles in that is off the beaten track, but I will have to lose twenty more pounds before I tackle that overnighter!

What did the “caveman” eat?” you are asking yourself. Well, nuts, a banana, and smoked goose jerky! It held me quite well.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Down in the basement are twelve or thirteen years of memories, of projects completed and hanging proudly around the backyard or sitting in the kitchen. I am really not that handy. I could never make a fine piece of furniture with dovetail joints and a fine finish, but I have done my share of birdhouses, step stools, shelves, and racks.

I am quite accomplished at installing complete door assemblies (including one French door to the deck), baseboards, and toilets!

One of my fondest creations is probably the oldest and is currently beginning to deteriorate down by the lake. It is a sixteen room, two-story, Martin house, and is the only thing I’ve ever made from a blueprint. It took several weeks of tedious labor to finish, and raising it high atop of a 4X4X16 almost took my shoulder off (hey, maybe that’s the reason for my problems now…mmmm).

My most accomplished piece is a solid oak step stool I made for my wife. I used biscuit joints, routed the edges, and rubbed it to a shinny finish. The stool is not a masterpiece. However, it was made with love and will out last us both by a hundred years or so.

When I look at these photos, or rummage around the basement I remember the times Katie and I spent there. I would cut out the birdhouse parts on the table-saw and my granddaughter (Katie Bug) would help me assemble and paint them. Once I was stapling an aluminum roof on one and I buried a staple in the palm of my hand. I took a deep breath, pointed to the stairs, Katie ran up the stairs and closed the door so I could finally scream out and cuss myself! She knew her Papaw well!

Believe me; it took some restraint because that hurts like crap!

Each rough little piece means a lot to me and I hope to Katie Bug. It was quality time spent with someone I love with all my heart.

Thanks for the help Katie Bug.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


My brothers-in-law, my son, and I frequent Bailey’s Sports Grille in Knoxville at least once a month. It would be more often if we did not live so far away, but when our wives, who are sisters, meet for a day of girly shopping, we meet for a day of manly man shopping!

About half the time we meet early and have breakfast, either at a little “Handee Burger” in Kingston, or at a Cracker Barrel on the way. This leaves us time to first stop at Gander Mountain, then buzz over to Best Buy, Pep Boys, the Disc Exchange, the Leaf & Ale, and some times Dick’s Sporting Goods. The latter is always the butt of the “Yawl like Dick’s?” joke which no one dares fall for anymore.

Finally, with all your manly man purchases – latest war game, cammo-insulated gloves, box of some type of shells, maybe a new bag of lint-free rags and patches, latest PlayStation Halo game, latest concert DVD or CD by some old rock band, a couple of new fancy looking cigars, and set of new wiper blades – we’re ready for lunch.

As we walk into Bailey’s, everyone raises their “mug club” mugs and shouts, “NORM!”, or Steve, Ron, Mushy, Corey, and the bartender starts sitting our usual drafts on the bar. Well…not really, but we are working on it! Give us time…the way we tip, I mean we make young girl’s car payments; they will soon remember us. They already would if they didn’t have such turnover there! Maybe we need to tip more…hummm?

Another thing we have noticed is that it is a requirement that the girls hired have a tattoo right above the crack of their butts! They remind me of that old SNL skit on tat removal!

Anyway, we know then, as we take our usual table for six in the back near the waitress’ order station, that we can relax, have a round of “bottomless chips & salsa,” (obviously written prior to becoming a caveman) a cold draft or tea (for my son), and pick out which of the 35 or more TVs we are going to watch. Checking the menu comes later, but until the chips are gone we will just quench our thirst – thank you.

It feels like home as we sit back, rub our bellies, and fire up our cigar choice of the month. As the smoke twirls its way up to the electrostatic filters and makes a little popping sound, we think to ourselves that next time we come they will know our names!

Before parting again, we stop in at Frontier Firearms to refresh our memories on what gun oil, leather, black powder, and bluing smells like! If one of us has stashed away enough, we all get to share the thrill of buying a new firearm. “Smells so good!” we say in unison as it gets passed around!

“Where Everybody Knows Your Name”
by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo - Cheers Lyrics

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


My son Corey went duck hunting over the holiday with some old college buddies (Doug & Justin) and had a nice time. Day one, they filled their limit, but on day two things slowed down and there was nothing left to do but eat, doze, pull birds out of mice traps, and dart spiders on the ceiling of the blind. A man will always find something to do or kill when bored - a good thing to remember ladies!

In the fall they had a sweaty ol’ time building their “condo” blind in Crockett County Tennessee. A couple of water moccasins came to welcome them to the area, but met quite a resistance to their presence.

I gave my son my .357 prior to the trip and it came in handy while wading in the waters of West Tennessee. (Doug with snake at right.)

The dog is Whisper – a hard working lab that earns her keep.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


My dad normally had a great sense of humor and was often the life of any party. He was quick witted with a pun or an old joke that fit most situations. He also liked to flirt and show off in front of any lady. However this often caused him great pain. Once he jumped upon a 55-gallon drum and began to circus walk it across the backyard where our family was being entertained at a neighbor’s outdoor cookout. When the drum got away from him and started down a steep incline, he fell back across the barrel and obviously, to everyone, hurt himself. However, like Pee Wee Herman, he hopped up and pretended that he had meant to do that!

Dad was also a strict disciplinarian, especially when he was enjoying himself and did not want to be interrupted. Once he was playing cards with some friends and my brother and I were playing with a cork gun in the kitchen floor near the table where they were playing.

Dad was joking, teasing the other team members, and showing off a paddle he had fashioned at work from a heavy-duty piece of flexible rubber baseboard. He had even cut crisscrossed tire tread like groves in it for “blistering power”! Just to illustrate the point, he slapped it against his palm a time or two and passed it around for the others to see.

Naturally, Wade and I wanted to feel it too, but we told to “go ahead and play or I’ll give you a taste of it right now” and winked at the others.

Wade and I forgot about the paddle and continued to pop the cork around the kitchen at each other when a ricochet got away from us and whizzed across the table nearly hitting one of the visiting players. Dad barked at us to “put that gun down and don’t shoot the thing again!”

We were naturally pissed at that order and sulked up in opposite corners of the kitchen floor with our lower lips hanging out as a sign of our disapproval. We soon began to toss the cork at each other and then the idea hit me. I would through the cork against dad’s leg and Wade would pop the empty gun as if he had actually shot it. Wow, what a brilliant idea – dad could not whip us because we did not actually shoot it, and we got to hit him back free! Right?

I whispered the plan to my brother and crawled back to my corner. Wade cocked the popgun and pointed at dad’s leg and I took careful aim. I mouthed 1, 2, 3, and threw the cork just as Wade popped the gun!

We did not understand why dad did not get the joke! He jumped up and broke in the new paddle with two licks on both our butts, and MAN did that thing hurt. Just the lightest touch actually stung for minutes. We ran sniffling to our room and rubbed our sore spots until the pain was gone.

That was the first time I ever remember thinking the phrase “he just can’t take a joke!” I looked at my brother and we suddenly broke out in laughter. We quickly covered our mouths, in fear dad would think we did not get enough of the paddle or that we were mocking him. We lay there for a long time smothering our laughter and grinning out each other for the joke we just played on dad. Hey, it was not our fault he did not get it!

It was not the first time dad did not get one of our “inside” jokes and it would not be the last.