Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013


If I could have chosen any other man to be my father, it would have been James Keebler.  James was my uncle by marriage, not blood at all, but I loved him as if he were my father.  I lost him Tuesday to, what else, cancer, the curse of seems.
James in 1974, posing for my camera.

Anyway, I won't get into all that, I just wanted to say that I loved this man. 

He taught me more about how to love my wife, my child and my grandchildren than any other influence in my life.  He was there with support, he was there with love, he was there with compassion, and coated it all with a little touch of humor that could make you miss the moment if you didn't pay close attention.  His lessons in life were subtle and strongly rooted in family.
These were the good days; days of sharing food and fellowship.
We loved being with one another and looked forward to the next time.  

He loved the family gatherings, the holidays, the cook-outs, the birthdays, the food, the laughter, the children, the football games, the family slide shows, and especially the fun in the backyard afterward.  He could always be heard laughing, and/or just standing, smiling, and soaking in the fleeting moments. 

James and Wilma Keeber - 1969
As for his own wife and daughters, none were ever loved more.  You could see it in his eyes.  His eyes always locked on yours and you knew that he saw you, understood you, felt for you, and loved you.  You could not turn away, didn't want to turn away, when he spoke to you.

I was never very close to my own father, and we often had words and would spend days not talking.  During one of these times I once told James that I wished he had been my father.  He looked shocked, and for a moment didn't say anything.  He knew what I was going through and what I yearned for in my relationship with my dad.  Then he said, "Don't say that.  Your father loves you...he just don't know how to tell you."

I knew then that I was wrong.  However, it was years before I understood where my dad was coming from, and why.  By then it was too late.

James and I often had deep conversations about life.  We also had great moments of laughter.  We always got each others jokes.  Like me, he wasn't ashamed to let the "little boy" inside him out.  He loved our bottle rocket shot-outs, our games of badminton, horseshoes, and lawnmower-polo!  He even once built a snow sled by screwing a lawn-chair to a pair of water skis, just because I suggested it.

He laughed at Bill Powers, is son-in-law, and me as we wildly zipped down the snow covered slop behind his house.  I don't remember if he tried it or not, but I'm sure he did; he couldn't have resisted!  He could never let us have all the fun.
James was strong, but the kids were his soft spot!
I don't think I've ever known as stronger man either.  Yes, he was gentle with us, but he was a strong man.  One of the toughest things I remember about him was the two times he got his hands, up to the wrist, caught in an offset printing press...the big kind that printed newspapers.

Once at the Harriman RECORD, I walked in from my advertising sales route to see a trail of blood leading out the front door and down the street to the hospital.  I asked what had happened and was told about how James got one hand caught, reached in with the other, and pried up on a bar to release his hands.  He had walked himself the two blocks to the emergency room!

It happened again a few years later at the Roane County NEWS, and again both hands were nearly crushed.  It took weeks for the skin to grow back, but the pain never left his joints, especially in his golden years.  Cold winter days must have been agonizing for him!

However, after both incidents, he never showed any pain.  He kept that locked inside.  His tolerance for pain was remarkable, but it was his love for his family that was the medication he used to hide it.
Family was his thing.  Christmas time was his favorite time.

A happy day for James and Wilma when his daughter married.

He loved the time with all the he feeds Corey.
James loved "photo bombing"!  We were a tight bunch.

James boost Brandon to see the parade, and you can see he enjoyed everything!

Another "photo bomb" moment!
As these few photos I found of him show, he loved us all.  It's in his eyes, in his smile.

I just wish I could remember it all, word for word, but it has been too many years.  I'm just thankful for all the years he was in my life.  He'll never be forgotten, but he'll be sorely missed.

I love you James!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Okay, haven't done this in a while, so give me a little time to get back in the grove!

Yes, I've been down and out for the last four and a half months, recovering from back surgery.  So, blogging hasn't been on the front burner.  Also, my photography has taken off and what little time I've had to get out this rainy summer, I've spent it taking some shots and posting them on my photographic art page, Paul's Art!

Also, last year, before the surgery and rain, I purchased a toy that I have always wanted.  Granted, it isn't the '69 version that began the lust, but it is a GT 500, and a beautiful Grabber Blue 2010, I've dubbed "Thunder Mule".

He, it's too mean to be a she, loves the road, especially those with lots of banked curves and frequent straight stretches.  Last winter, about a week before my L4/L5 fusion surgery, "he" did an admirable job on "The Dragon"!  He ate up the 318 curves in 11 miles.

My wife and I loaded up some snacks, my camera, and headed out for a four hour tour of Morgan/Scott Counties, Tennessee.  The whole circular trip was about 140 miles, from Harriman to Rugby, Jamestown, Pall Mall, and Crossville.

I loved the trip up to Wartburg the best, because the road is winding, and new.  We rolled through Wartburg and on down hill (seems like even though you are traveling north) through Sunbright, and on to Elgin, where we made the turn toward Rugby, Tennessee. 
Rugby Visitor Centre 
Nestled among tall pines and oaks just south of the Big South Fork National Park, lies Historic Rugby, Tennessee; a British-founded village whose Utopian dream of a better life in America has never quite died.
Christ Church Episcopal Rugby
Kingstone Lisle House
Rugby School
Rugby Library
Christ Church Episcopal Rugby
British author and social reformer Thomas Hughes, famous for his classic novel  Tom Brown’s Schooldays, dedicated the Rugby Colony amid great fanfare on October 5, 1880.
It was a beautiful day, rolling along, windows down, and listening to the engine make that beautiful Shelby noise.  No, it ain't noise, it's something else to this "sixties kind of man", it's music to the ear, and the reason I rarely play the radio, or a CD.  The back-off sound alone is worth stopping at a red light or stop sign, and then, another opportunity to go through the six gears!  Even this 67-year old loves working the clutch and effortless movement of the shifter.
So, we roared on to Jamestown, took a hard right and headed north to Pall Mall, Tennessee.
Alvin C. York & Sons General Merchandise
What is in Pall Mall?  Not much, but it is near the home place of  Alvin C. York.  Sgt. York, a hero of mine since I saw the Gary Cooper movie years ago.  It was an inspiration for my "let's play war" days as a kid, and to be where he breathed the East Tennessee air was down right cool!
The York Roller Mill and pond
Roller machines that were belt driven in the York Mill
The Alvin C. York Roller Mill, with intake in foreground
Alvin C. York (roller) Grist Mill
Alvin C. York barn and silo
Alvin C. York Minneapolis-Moline tractor
Trips like this are made much better if you look for the little things, things that you expect to never find, but you have to look up and down, and take in the entire experience.
It's the small things that make a trip, like the slab of sandstone leaning against the general store, on which someone had painted the Ten Commandments! 
Or maybe it's the little Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) growing down my the pond behind the York Grist Mill.  
Or possibly the vines about to overgrow the R. M. Brooks service station residence.  You have to get out of your "Thunder Mule" and walk around a little to see it all, but it's there.  However, it won't be there long.  It will either be over grown or decay and fall, and you will have missed it!
And, you must walk all the way down to the York Grist Mill pond and falls.  The water fall is spectacular, especially on such a summer's day as we found it.  The intake has long since been closed and the pond overflows almost constantly during rainy seasons.

Ignore the Statue of Liberty on display on the York property.  It seems so out of place, but I guess someone was trying to convey Sgt. York's love of country.  However, there is no need for it...if you saw the movie, or read about him, you know he loved his country, even though he saw no sense in leaving East Tennessee to go off to fight.  After all, he barely knew about the world situation.
M247 Sergeant York
Yes, there is even a tank there, but the most important small find there is the 1969 Lincoln Mark III behind the house.  Like I said, you have to get out of your car and walk around.
The world has to look hard to find you in the East Tennessee hills...only a draft can find most young men (like York) like it found me.
Swinging back around through Crossville and down I-40, you again come to Roane County, Tennessee.  There are lots of overlooked items of interest in your own backyard.
1954 Federal Fire Engine
Like the vintage fire engines I found on the way home!
  You can see more photos from my trip here:
and here:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Okay, I'm no Walter, or Hal, (a.k.a. Bryan Cranston), nor do I care to be, but today I had one of those "Ah, shit!" moments!

I normally wear my hair buzzed off, but I usually stop at a 3/8" length.  That was the plan today when I made my first swipe, on autopilot, but as I landed the second one, I saw the blue 3/8" plastic guard fall before my eyes, and then heard it hit the ground below my deck, where I usually cut my hair.

As "auto" arm completed the second and third plow, I saw a huge tuft of white hair also fall slowly to the ground.  It was only then that I could regain control of my arm and stop the unwanted and deep furrowing!

I ran into the house to confirm what I thought I saw in my hand mirror, and Judy only had to say, "Ooooh!"  I knew then that it wasn't a really happened.

There was only one thing to do; make it all match the clear-cut behind my right ear.  So, here is the result...waddle and all!

It seems that I am making mistakes more and more often these days, and I can only blame it on my advancing age.

How in the hell did I get to be 67 years old!  I thought long ago, after receiving my orders for South Vietnam, that my life would be short, and I would die young and pretty!

But NOOOOOooo, here I am looking at a stranger in a mirror with short, super short, grey hair.  Who is he?

I suppose I really know the answer to that question, having documented my "life and times" in this blog (Mushy's Moochings).  However, I just don't feel like I know that fun loving dude anymore.  He's gotten old, and I never really liked old people, so how can I love me now?!

I guess I will though...carry on, that is.  Memories are all I have left now and they are good ones, great ones.  Wait, I think I can make a few more before I suck it in for the last time!

After all, there are grand-kids, and I have a Thunder Mule in my stable.  So, let's ride it into the sunset.  Giddy up, get it, go, gone!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Name a National Park, a Tennessee/Kentucky/Georgia/Florida state park, or a Southern section of the Appalachian Trail, and my brother-in-law Ron has probably sat foot on it!  He was amazing in his ability to recall the places he had been, but committing to memory every last yard of it was impossible.  

The times I would go hiking with him, and they were many, I, being much more out of shape than he, would ask, "How much further to the trail-head?

His reply was always, "Just around that next bend in the trail...I think!"  Naturally, my tired legs were so disappointed when it turned out to the the 3rd or 5th turn!

He knew my capabilities better than I did, so he allowed me to trick him into a stop by saying, "What kind of wildflower is this?  Or, "Look at this flower!"  He would just grin, that wide grin, stop, and come back over trail he had already covered to see my discovery.  He also usually knew the name of the flower!  His memory was sharp and remained so until the very end.

On Wednesday afternoon, when I entered his bedroom, where he lay connected to oxygen and fans running to cool him.  He looked up at me and with a shaky voice asked me, "Why is Corey (my son) selling his house?"  Right out of the blue!  

Why would this be on a man's mind when he had just hours before asked his wife, Neena, "Is this the day?"  

Simple, he cared about people, especially those that had
given him some pleasure and happiness along the way.  Corey had hiked with us several times, camped in the snow with us, and had eaten out with us, after some serious man-shopping, numerous times.  He always got a kick out of Corey's youth, his sense of humor, and enjoyed his company.

"He's just doing a little downsizing, I suppose," I answered Ron.

He closed his eyes and began working hard at breathing once again.  The medication hospice was giving him eased his pain and made breathing easier, but the price paid is conscientiousness.  Before he slipped off again I squeezed his hand, rubbed his forehead, and told him that I loved him.  His eyes struggled to open as he replied, "I love you too."

I told him that "we (the family) were here," and left the man that I had walked a many mile with to get on with the process of leaving this world.  His daughter lay down next to him and they both went to sleep.  His brother Jackson kept watch as others of the family came and went to say something to him, or simply touch him, but sometime around 5AM, Ron slipped away from us to wait for us on the other side.

All the good times flashed back tonight as I scanned my photo files of all the houseboat trips, the hikes, the vacations, the concerts, the holidays, and just regular days we had spent together.  God gave my family a good man to teach us a little about life and what God has made for us all to see and enjoy.

We spent the day comforting each other and remembering, and even raising a glass or two of beer to Ron.  He always loved a good cold pale ale, and traveling around the country trying new local micro-beers was what he enjoyed. 

When we would go on vacations together, he already had a map of where the famous bars and micro-breweries were.  It was great fun...watching the sun go down sipping a "cold beer" with Ron.

There were more laughs today than crying, and that is a testament to him as well; he loved to laugh and to hear us laugh.  He left us with loads of memories full of smiles.

There is a blank space in my heart as I write this, but doing so, and looking at all the happy memories, I am again filled with love and admiration for my brother...Ron.

Ron will be cremated shortly and a little bit of him will be left in some of those places he loved.  I'm so glad I got to visit some of those places side-by-side...or rather dragging slowly up the rear.  However, reaching the summit was always worth the time, and the time was made more special by sharing it with someone who thoroughly appreciated what God has made.

Here are just a few of the good times:

 We love you Ron.  Thanks for the memories!

Ronald Baldwin, 65, of Kingston, passed away Thursday morning, July 25, at his home.
Ron was a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving in the United States Air Force. He was a retired facility manager with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and was an avid outdoorsman. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin and Evelyn Turner Baldwin; and his brother, Dan Baldwin.
Survived by his wife, Neena Poland Baldwin; son, Jason Fine of Michigan; daughter, Jessica Wooldridge of Knoxville; grandchildren, McKenzie and Jaxon Wooldridge, Chandler Fine; brother, Jackson Baldwin and partner, Sandy McFarland, of Lakeside Calif.; sister, Delores Moore and husband, Rhys, of Clearwater, Fla.; many brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.
Ron requested that no formal services be held. A private interment will be in the Colliers Cemetery in Dunlap. 
In lieu of flowers, the family ask that memorial contributions be made to the Mission of Hope, P.O. Box 51824, Knoxville, TN 37950.