Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When I was a young boy, my mom used to read to me a lot, and one of the books she used to read to me was called, "The Story of Ferdinand".  While browsing in Borders a few weeks back I spotted the word "Ferdinand" on a book sitting on the floor leaning against a table.  My heart leaped as I recognized the very book mom used to read, except that this one was huge!

I couldn't resist buying the book and thinking of all the fun I'd have reading to my granddaughters Lily and Kinsley.  Proudly I presented the book to the sales lady, and didn't even blink when she did a double take!  "It ain't fer me," I thought behind my smile!

The book made such an impression on me back then that the first time I ever heard Herb Albert's "The Lonely Bull" I choked up.  All I could see was poor lonely Ferdinand sitting there in the field all by himself.

It was a couple of weeks before I got to try it out on Lily, this past Monday,... but sadly, she didn't seem too impressed.  As a matter of fact, it was the end of the day before she would even sit still long enough for me to begin reading.  Finally, she sat listening, but frankly, I think she was more interested in posing for the camera Judy was holding than to the words I was reading.

However, I realize, while the book is basically simple in text, there is a deeper meaning that will take time to awaken in her mind, as I'm sure it did in mine.

Ferdinand is a bull fully focused on being himself, and is even encouraged by his "cow" mom to be just that - himself.  There in lies the moral to the story and one that my mom impressed on me way back then.  Just be have only yourself to blame for whatever you do or do not become...just make sure you are happy with that chosen direction!

My direction will be to try and read the story to them every chance I get and hopefully the point will eventually sink way inside!

Kinsley, you're next!

Maybe it will be a book, and a moral, they too will want to pass on one day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


The extended family took the recent occasion of brother-in-law Tony's all too infrequent visits to once again gather and party!  A party it always is and I doubt age will ever dampen our propensity to imbibe (not as much as we used to), laugh our butts off (as much or more than usual), and eat (somewhat less than usual)!

Tony is my wife's only sibling that doesn't live within a 40-mile radius of the other four.  He moved to Atlanta years ago and began a life in the food industry.  He is currently in the hierarchy of a restaurant the serves patrons of an exclusive Atlanta country club.  He has been in this business for around 30 years.

The sisters love their only brother and make every effort to make his visits memorable.  He always calls his meal orders in ahead of time, so the girls frantically make their menu plans, and take turns in offering their homes as the perfect place for the festivities!

This past Saturday was at sister Charlotte and husband Gary's.  It's always a treat to go to their home.  Not only is there a vista of East Tennessee that most only dream of having, and they raise and train Labs.  So, naturally, there is usually always a new puppy with which to cuddle and have lick your face!  
This time it was Lily, about a 2 month old, black as coal, and soft as a bunny, to play with, watch, and hold.  It always stresses Judy and me because we lost our Baylee a couple of years ago.  We miss her so and have a hard time resisting the urge to take home a new family member.  However, we have traveling to do for now...maybe one day.

The sisters, the Dragons to us Knights, always gather in one corner and begin their cackling, while we get the the furthermost corner so we can hear each other talk.  Judy always goes home with her stomach hurting from laughing...not eating.  They certainly entertain each other and are as thick as thieves! 

Us Knights, on the other hand, are a rather quiet bunch, but never fail to toss over a few cutting remarks just to ruffle their feathers and keep them on their toes.  However, there is no getting one up on's just futile!

The menu for this gathering was cube-steak and gravy...white southern style gravy!  There was slaw, rice, and macaroni salad too, with two desserts, IF you had room!

I had my first cigar in several months and it was provided by Gary.  It was a cheaper "Macanudo" wannabee, and was surprisingly good - very mild!  We toasted each other with our beers and enjoyed the special moments we always share.

I can hardly wait until we're "together...again"!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Nor for semi-professionals for that matter!

There is a great learning curve in photography, especially with today's computer/cameras!  However, the learning curve in moon photography is much greater.  I must have snapped 30 shots tonight experimenting with settings I had guessed at or speculated on, plus those suggested on the Internet.  Finally, I took a few passable shots!

The key to shooting something 10 times brighter than a star is a fast shutter speed, even though it's dark out, and the proper ISO. I think my few successes came in with these settings: Nikon D7000 Exposure 0.006 sec (1/180) Aperture f/5.6 Focal Length 300 mm ISO Speed 100.

If you just point and shoot with your standard pocket camera the shot will more than likely turn our either very dark, or with a bright hot spot where the moon should have been. That's basically how past shots of the moon for me have been. I forgot that the moon is very bright and you have to shoot to that brightness and for the fact that the moon is constantly moving.

This means you must use a tripod, and you should use a remote shutter release, which I didn't tonight, and you must bracket your shots until you hit upon the proper setting.

I used a 300mm lens, and was still not getting the closeups I wanted. Thanks to Photoshop I was able to crop and enlarge my results.

And, thank goodness for digital photography! I hate to think of the film I would have wasted 20 years ago!.
If you just point and shoot with your standard pocket camera the shot will more than likely turn our either very dark, or with a bright hot spot where the moon should have been.  That's basically how past shots of the moon for me have been.  I forgot that the moon is very bright and you have to shoot to that brightness and for the fact that the moon is constantly moving.

This means you must use a tripod, and you should use a remote shutter release, which I didn't tonight, and you must bracket your shots until you hit upon the proper setting.

I used a 300mm lens, and was still not getting the closeups I wanted. Thanks to Photoshop I was able to crop and enlarge my results.

And, thank goodness for digital photography!  I hate to think of the film I would have wasted 20 years ago!

If you are interested, you can find 3 or 4 more shots on my Flickr site

Friday, March 18, 2011


I got a special invitation Thursday night to travel down to Nashville for the evening, and meet some old music business friends of my friend Gary.  It was St. Patty's and it sounded like there was beer involved, so hey, I was in!

Gary also invited mutual friends Bill and Nathan, and the four of us left Harriman about 3:30 PM and arrived at the Douglas Corner Cafe on 8th Street about 5:30.  

The bar/cafe/music venue, is pure Americana; only about 20 some odd feet wide and 100 feet deep. or so  The walls are brick, the ceiling vintage stamped-tin, the HVAC ducks are wrapped tightly and painted shamrock green to match the ceiling.

The bandstand takes up about 15 feet of the width of the place, but the lighting and sound system is more than adequate.  Once the music starts the sound man ensures the sound only drives folks to want to sing or dance to the music; not cover their ears and run for the door, or to the back exit onto the smoking deck!

Steve Jarrell was the first person I saw and was introduced to, while the rest of the "Sons of the Beach" stood up alternately and shook my hand as if they had grown up with me!  Friendly guys, and immediately they took turns telling me what they played and what everyone's nickname was.  One guy was introduced as Cas Walker's (an old Knoxville, TN business man and former mayor) nephew, but, of course, it was all in good fun.

The "Carolina Beach Music" began promptly at 6 PM, Nashville time, and I immediately knew that Steve Jarrell, an unassuming musician, was the real deal, and from an age gone by that could sing all the old standard rock/beach songs, plus a few that he wrote himself.  His primary claim to fame is the song "I've Still Got Sand in my Shoes":

With a cold Fat Tire, I sat back in my vinyl covered straight back chair and reminisced about all the good times I've had over the years; all the "southern belles" I knew "under the boardwalk" way back when.  I was thoroughly entertained and taken back to a younger, more carefree times.

Later, an old back gentlemen I didn't recognize was introduced and called to the stage.  I noticed him lay his medical supply walking stick to one side and one of the band members pulled him up on the stage, both grunting!  As I later learned, it was Clifford Curry, a native son of Knoxville, who years ago gained fame with "She Shot A Hole in my Heart":

Old Clifford, like me, is a slow getting around these days, but he can still belt out his old tunes, and some of his favorites like "Shout" and "Louie Louie".  The place loved him and made sure he was seated at a table with lots of friends in the back, and had everything he needed.  It's obvious, he is a loving and humble man, one who offered his hand to everyone approaching him.  It was a great honor to meet Clifford, and I'll never forget the evening I spent with him and those that love him.

By 8:30, the management was urging Steve and the band to wrap it up.  It wasn't because they weren't doing a great job, after all the house was packed and paid up at $10 a head.  It was because there were younger boys and a younger crowd waiting their turn to make their own memories.

My friend Bill Radice, a famous sound engineer from yesteryear in New York himself, asked me if it was always like this on a Thursday night in Nashville.  I said, "Well, it is St. Patty's day, but the fact is there are hundreds of performers in Nashville trying to make a name for themselves, and they'll take every opportunity to pay their dues.  Bars and clubs in Nashville are never in a pinch to find ones come in on buses and planes every day!"

"What we saw tonight were guys that have paid those dues, and are just wanting to live out their golden years and enjoy the music for as long as they can."

Friday, March 11, 2011


It's been a good couple of weeks, highlighted for me by the White's Creek (see post below) hike, but the week before my friends Gary Baker, Dr. Ahler, and I got out exploring the back roads of East Tennessee down around Spring City, TN.  Dr. Ahler, a great man with many stories and great outdoors knowledge, along with Gary and I, often get out and just see what we can find.  Sometimes our outings are no more than exploring a nice bookstore somewhere, or perusing through a roadside fruit market.

It's hard to find a road Dr. Ahler hasn't been on, but this time we traveled up Walden's Ridge out of Spring City on Hwy. 68.  Just as we reached the top of Grandview Mountain, we happened upon Firetower Road and turned off.  It was a very narrow little asphalt road, the kind that make you dread meeting another car on, but we made it all the way out to the fire outlook tower at the road's end.

Gary and the Doc tempted fate by going up a couple of tier levels while I just hung underneath the lowest level out of the heavy mist.  The tower creaked, enough so that they came down quickly!  Had the mountain not be surrounded in a cloud, which added to the day's misty conditions, we probably could have seen for miles.

Just a short distance back down from the tower we discovered the trailhead to Little Piney Falls, which is inside the PINEY FALLS CLASS II NATURAL-SCIENTIFIC STATE NATURAL AREA.  Piney Falls is a 440-acre natural area located in Rhea County where Little Piney and Soak Creeks have carved deep gorges into the Cumberland Plateau. It is a pristine forestland featuring creeks, deep gorges, waterfalls and old growth forest. Piney Falls is also recognized by the United States Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. It is one of only fourteen National Natural Landmarks in Tennessee. 

Just a week earlier we had seen a write up about this area in the Knoxville News Sentinel.  We wanted badly to hike the trail, but the mist had by then turned into a sprinkle, so we head back to the truck, vowing to return another day and see the falls!

Back on Hwy. 68 we soon turned off onto Alloway Road, and the back left on Dogwood Road where we passed Dogwood Baptist Church with a little message to its flock: "Singing Cancelled (sic) - Singers Sick"!  We found this to be a bit of true Americana; such honesty is found only in the South!

Dogwood took us to Hwy. 70 (the forerunner of I-40) between Ozone and Westel.  We turned east and came down Rockwood Mountain into Rockwood and headed back to our respective homes.

Don't you just love all these little Southern road and town names!?

About a week ago I had taken my riding mower in for its annual checkup, but it had been two years since I had last felt like messing with it.  I thought back over the last year, and all the health problems I had, and remember thinking I would never feel like loading and unloading that mower ever again.  For that matter, doing anything much again!

However, this spring has found me back in better health and feeling pretty good.  So, after waiting a week for Bowman Brothers to call me, the day arrived to go and pick it up.  With the oil and filters changed, blades all sharp, and sporting a new rear tire I got her home again!

I still plan on hiring the yard work done, but I do some extra mulching occasionally, and  pull my yard trailer around, hauling tools and dead limbs, between times.  Besides, it beats walking up and down the backyard or up the drive when there's work to be done and there's need for another tool from the basement!  Why walk when you can ride...right!?

Back in the truck, I headed for the hospital to have an ultrasound done on my right boob!  Yep, that's right!  It had been hurting for several weeks, with a puffy area directly under the ol' nipple.  The guy (darn it) operating the equipment, and rubbing my sensitive booby with slimy gel, didn't seem to think I had anything to be concerned about, but when you've had the "BIG C" you worry about every change in your body!  I won't know for sure until next week, but hopefully all I need is a big shot of testosterone!   

Maybe all I need is a big shot of the Glenlivet Judy brought be back from her cruise, which is the last big thing that's happened recently. 

Judy returned last night after a week's cruise in the Bahamas and Half Moon Cay.  I really missed her, and had it not for having to take my mom to the dentist every day, I may have grieved much more!  Judy went with Tracy (our daughter), Katie, and Eddie and seemed to have a grand old time.  However, I got the sense that they were all finished with Carnival!  I've been finished for several years now!

Yeah, my mom is going to have her upper teeth pulled and be fitted with falses!  She is 84 years old and always brushed her teeth regularly, sometimes 2 and 3 times a day, but time has caught up with her.  The dentist seems to think he can save and enhance her lower teeth, but the uppers have got to come out!

So, my friends, this is my life of late, but at least it isn't dealing with bad medical issues.  I am hopeful and prayerful that life for me, and mine, stays this way for some time.  I need a break!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


There's a stretch of property along White's Creek, which separates Rhea and Roane Counties in East Tennessee, that is site to some of the most beautiful scenery in Tennessee.  That's saying a lot since a large portion of the Great Smoky Mountains is in Tennessee.  However, I was privileged to be invited to walk a very small portion of a 200+ acre tract of land long the Caribbean blue waters of White's Creek.  The scenery there blew me away!

I became acquainted with Steve (I won't embarrass this modest man by identifying him), the blessed man who owns this piece of heaven, through exchanges on RoaneViews, a local blog site for local news and opinion.  We are, at times, at opposite ends of the political spectrum, by we have so much more in common - things like hiking, wildflowers, and a good cold brew!

I arrived at Steve's, having never been there before and following his written directions, and was a little leery about turning off onto a little gravel road and climbing part of Walden's Ridge, almost straight up, to his beautiful blue stained three-level home in paradise.  However, I was soon greeted with a welcoming handshake through my open passenger side window.  Following his every move, and later our every move, was Casper - the friendly dog!

Many canoes and kayaks were stacked neatly along the lower part of the drive, which told me more about this new potential friend.  He later told me that he started Dagger Kayaks, which he later sold, but still occasionally consults on boat designs.  For the most part, he is living the good life working when he wants, and his wife works, which leaves him loads of time to spend in his very own "wilderness pocket"!  

Steve can talk on and on about many subjects, and it's easy to tell he's spend many hours hiking, camping, boating, and researching this favorite outdoor subjects.

There are many trails leading off, up and down, from the house, but, to give me the flavor of the area, he chose one that lead down to the raging waters of White's Creek, which had only recently receded back into it's normal channel after two heavy pre-spring rains.  Some ten feet up in the trees above our heads we could see "flood trash" hanging, so just a few days earlier and this trail would have been impossible to see, let alone travel.

The way down sometimes is over creek rock, making you have to test almost every step you take. Having become "accident prone" over the last few years, this made my progress slower than Steve's, but he fully understood my recent health issues, and the fact that I haven't done three miles in as many years.  He was very patient with me, but was somewhat amazed at my general stamina.  

Once down on the flood plain the going is much easier, and often very sandy.  I was able to keep stride with my guide and yet have time to stop and look at things closer.  Steve's eyes are sharp and pointed out turkey, coyote, hog, and deer tracks.  He was even first in spotting some salamander eggs in a roadbed water hole.  One clump looked like it could hatch out at any time.  Go to my Flickr page to see more photos, and especially the egg clumps!

Out to the water's edge, where we later took a break, is also strewn with head size conglomerate and sandstone rocks - creek rock.  Dead leaves, trees, and branches are stuck in random patterns in the bushes along the creek, with some pieces of wood magically left perfectly balanced on rocks and stumps.

Along the way, we travel partially on what is shown on a map as the "Old Stage Road", which turns into the "Old Gordon Road" on the far side of White's Creek, in Cumberland County.  Steve said that back in the 1800s these roads were toll roads, but newer and smoother surfaced non-toll roads soon put them out of business.  These roads branched off the old Trans-Appalachian Roads and Trails, namely the "Old Nashville", "Emery", and "Avery Trace" roads.

The roads were used locally to haul logs and iron ore, and probably "moonshine", out of the Walden's Ridge area.  There are still remnants of old mill sloughs that parallel the old road, and some old rusty narrow-gauge rail still protrudes from the bank on both sides of the creek.  There are recognizable flat areas along this route that could only have been pioneer homes, and there are some almost hidden rock piles that were either from fields being cleared, or from the building of the mills.

One gorgeous outcrop, Steve refers to as "The Grotto", hangs stubbornly on a ridge to the east of the trail.  There are many overhangs that need exploring, and someone needs to solved the mystery of the perfectly square holes cut into the outcrop's face.  There seems to be four of five of them.  Were these made by local Indians, farmers, or by the iron ore miners from long ago?  We may never know.

In a couple of weeks, this area will be coming to life with abundant spring wildflowers and budding trees.  The maples are already dropping their red tassels along the trail, and new green growth can be seen among the brown leaves.  I'll have to get back there real soon and break the ol' Nikon in on more wildflower shots!

The trails are steep in places, strewn with rocks in some places, and cluttered with heavy rain debris in other spots, but, if I can do it, you could do it.  However, you may want to second guess yourself after looking at the photo Steve took of me after the hike.  This old man was spent - hip joints screaming, but my wind was good and I recovered quickly!

I wasn't going to tell this, but some 50 yards from the house, and some 100 feet higher up, Steve went and got his Polaris four-wheeler.  To save me face, he said he wanted to ride me along a couple of other trails for a short piece, just to give me some ideas of how little we had covered in our three mile hike down to creek level and back.  It was obvious we had only scratched the surface of what there is to explore!

I certainly appreciated the hospitality and the friendship.  I owe Steve much - thanks buddy!

This trail is open to the public, but it's really by invitation only.  Steve has wildlife and scientific experts, and Scout troops on the trail frequently and he prefers they have it to themselves, so don't go looking for it on your own.  

Maybe, like me, you will get lucky and meet this gentle and gracious man having a cup of coffee in Junior's Restaurant, in Rockwood!  Or, you could just frequent his blog, WhitesCreek Journal, and leave nice comments!  

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


A friend of mine posted a Michael Martin Murphey tune on Facebook last evening and it brought back a rush of memories so special that I choked up and cried silently.  The song is "Wildfire".  A slow sentimental song about the ghost of a little girl and her magical horse Wildfire.  It is a tune I fine rather easy to sing, with lyrics that somehow stay in my head...probably forever.

She comes down from Yellow Mountain
On a dark, flat land she rides
On a pony she named Wildfire
With a whirlwind by her side
On a cold Nebraska night

I used to sit in the dark, rocking my son Corey, singing softly to him as he took his bottle.  It seemed to claim him and his eyes would stare up at me, and it at least appeared that he enjoyed my singing.

Today Corey is an accomplished singer who loves singing in church.  If you ride with him, he always has a stash of Christian music, and one special CD in the slot that has the song he will perform the following Sunday.  I even dig some of the Christian Rock disks he has, but mostly I just love sitting there listening to him practice his song. 

Now, I know my singing to him as a baby didn't shape his voice, 'cause he probably got that from his mother, but maybe I did put him on the road to loving music like he does.  I like to think so anyway.

I know, I have run this into the ground time after time, but I did ask God to use him because I knew how lazy I was and am.  However, I say it again just to thank God for answering my prayer for him.  He is truly a blessing to all that hear his voice.  I'm proud to be known as "Corey's Dad".

Good night son...where ever you are tonight.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Back about a month or so ago, I ordered a metal carport from R & B Metals.  The process involves calling a local guy on the phone and giving him your measurements...for the building, not your pant size!  He never comes to the see the location, and takes it for granted that you know what you're talking about and how to use a tape measure.  I tell him what I was thinking about getting...size that is...and he says, "Well, that's real close to the standard size...22X18!"

I say, "That's cool...I'll take that in match the metal roof on my house."
I have always wanted to put my truck under a cover ever since we moved here in '94, but just didn't want to spend the extra cash or take the time.  Besides, Katie Bug used to play a lot of hoops out there and I knew she'd fuss at me for taking up her court.

Well, the time was right this year and she is off at school most of the time.  I think I can turn the goal a little and still make it functional...but we'll wait on her to test it out.

Anyway, the plan was for them to show up today, between 1 and 4, and they made the deadline at 3:30 and have it up about 2 hours later...just ahead of sundown!  

Unfortunately for Ron (the lead guy) and his sidekick, he couldn't get the truck and long trailer down my steep drive, so they had to carry everything down the hill and set up shop in front of the garage.

After providing them power, they were off, and man they had everything down to a science! 

Everything is cut to order and the metal screws they use are a wonder of American ingenuity.  They drill the pilot hole and then sink and seal themselves in one quick move of an electric drill!  Fascinating to watch them drill right into the steel, punch through and then lock tight!

Anyway, Ron (the lead - shown in the photo at right) was telling me how he lived with three guys he worked with, and how they woke up to a house fire this morning!  They were saved when a .38 special stored in the kitchen discharged a round from the heat and woke them all up!  Otherwise, they would have been toast.  Ron got out in his underwear and nothing else!  He did run back in and put on his pants as the bedroom wall was fully involved!  That's it...everything else, including his truck keys burned up.

Ron is from Michigan, where his wife and kids live, and he can't get a key made for his truck until Michigan sends him a new driver's license!

I asked if I could give him some clothes, but he said the neighborhood was over at the house shortly after the fire giving them loads of clothes, and his wife is wiring him money.  He said he was good.

He said, "You know, people in Michigan, frankly, just aren't like that."

I told him that the South takes care of their own, and anyone visiting, and that he should move his family down here and join us.  He said, "The wife and I talked about that very thing!"

The carport got here and brought with it a very touching story of Southern Hospitality!