A Saturday Drive

It was nothing more than a Southern dirt road that led nowhere, yet everywhere. I guess it depended on what you were looking for, or willing to see. I thought I was the only one looking – noticing – until I heard snaps and clicks behind me and realized that Logan was taking pictures of hills and fields and barns and yes, even goats, with his iPod. That made me smile. He saw it too.

As the countryside streamed by my window I put a house, a barn, a garden, where I thought they should be, would be if it were mine. Every country mile we passed was a new canvas painted pretty with my dreams.

The nomadic life of a soldier keeps things like farms, livestock, and permanent roots just out of realistic grasp, but never out of dreams reach.

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Flea Markets…and memories

We didn’t travel a lot when I was a small boy. All I knew of the Interstate highway system was that it passed over the Red Bud Road just beyond the Golden Gallon, but sometime before I went into middle school, Gary Blalock invited me to go to the flea market in Alabama. I say the flea market because it spread over acres and acres of stalls and tents and tables making it the Holy Grail of all flea markets.

Gary’s cousin played football at Jacksonville State, and they routinely went to see him play. How that connected his family to one of the world’s largest flea markets located in North Alabama, I have no clue, but it did, and I got invited to go one weekend. That’s all that really mattered. Gary and I sprawled out on a blanket in the back of his parent’s station wagon and we hit the interstate doing 55 mph, which amazes me still today. We counted out of state license plates and pumped our arms at truckers until they ached.

We would have probably faded in and out of sleep had it not been for the sugar of a pecan log and divinity candy bought at a Stuckey’s somewhere across the Alabama line. We parked in a pasture and walked a half a mile before we began the scavenger hunt of a lifetime. It was a redneck paradise – a lair of new and used everything, including chickens, guineas, donkeys, goats, cats, dogs, televisions, lamps, plates, window-fans, and lawn mowers. If you could imagine it, it was there, and a lot of things you could simply not imagine; some things you didn’t even want to imagine. Patrons sought a bargain. Merchants demanded a profit and everyone hoped to go home feeling good about a deal.

Depression era men and women threw away nothing and believed, like they believed the Bible, that one man’s trash was another man’s treasure. “Don’t throw that away,” they’d scold. “Might be worth something one day.” So it accumulated in basements, carports, sheds and utility rooms, until the flea market opened and brought opportunity to the hoarder. Trading, or swapping as many of them called it, negated profit, but an unused churn traded for a set of knitted doilies meant a happy wife and that was priceless in any home.

Still today, there’s just something about another man’s junk, but the market has slowly migrated to the Internet. EBay and Craig’s List bring flea markets to your living room, expanding the bazaar to those who would not be caught dead arguing over the price of a vintage six-pack of 1980 Georgia Bulldog National Champion Coca-Cola. You don’t have to feel bad about haggling with an old crippled man over his homemade fly swatters or smell the stench of hogs while trying to settle on a price for practically new silverware. Still, I feel a bit of remorse when I pass a Stuckey’s today and my mind floods with memories. Memories of a mouthful of sugar so thick only the acid of an ice cold Coke would cut it, and giggling boys on a road trip waving to girls on the highway and singing Daydream Believer with Anne Murray. Memories our boys have been cheated out of.

September Morn

I’m flying tonight so I slept in until my biological clock rang at 5:00 a.m. For once I was able to roll over and get another hour of sleep before submitting and going to the back porch to sit while the fog lifted from my head. Our friendly hummingbird was already up and sucking red nectar from our feeder. He seems like a smartly dressed little gentleman, with his red neck and tiny black top hat, which is fitting for the yard he chose, but when another bird attempts to feed he demonstrates redneck anger and dive-bombs him.5755905199_31ef2c8be3

I had hoped for a cool morning but humidity crashed my dreams. I’m ready for fall. I love the sound of a cool breeze through the cedars in my back yard. It won’t be long until the green is transformed into a kaleidoscope of autumn brilliance, until morning grass is crunchy and white with frost, until my little redneck friend rides the wind south.

It is forecast to be a cold winter. At least that is what the old-timers say. Men in bib overalls wearing John Deere hats and spitting streams of black tobacco juice discuss these things with ample seriousness. These southern soothsayers read the signs and rant on about the woes of nature. Don’t get me wrong; I love to hear them pontificate about the seasons, albeit usually a grim prediction at best. If the bees nest up high it will be a mild winter they say, but if they nest in the ground it will be a hard cold one. They gather over coffee to compare notes, determine how many nests have been observed and more importantly where they were located. They are in the ground this year – prepare for a harsh one!

The neighbors stir and kids begin to migrate towards the bus stop. A quite morning grows increasingly louder. I remember deafening silence as a child when the power would flicker then go out. It was eerie quiet on the Red Bud Road in the 1970s, before neighborhoods crawled east and brought people and cars with them. It took the absence of power to recognize how loud a lone freezer and a pendulum clock really was.

Interrupted, I go inside to begin a new day. Hope yours is a dandy.

The Poem

This is the age of speed and connectivity – of wired and wireless, texts and tweets. In a world of constant sending and receiving, of posting and pinning, where is there place for prose or a poem?

Many places!

There are souls who long to unplug; to turn down a lane less frequently travelled. A place where the woods seldom if ever hear the noise of man. A place where light is filtered through a canopy of trees that hold the fragerence of a thousand blossoms; where weathered means character and beauty is abundant.

For the soul who still finds solace in the hidden spaces, the poem still pricks their tender places.

A couple of stanzas from one of my favorites:

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scourner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban –
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road-
It’s here the race of men go by.
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I;
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
–Sam Walter Foss

History

“I hate history. I don’t understand why we have to memorize all this stuff,” she said with a frown.“I remember standing in the courtyard out front of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, amazed at the Byzantine architecture. I’d never seen anything quite like it and couldn’t get enough of it. Inside, I stared at the mosaics on the ceiling until my neck ached so I sat in a pew and leaned my head back against the wall. It was amazing,” I told her.

“That’s pretty cool. Are the streets in Venice really made of water?” she asked.

“Sure they are. The mailman delivers the mail in a boat,” I replied.

She smiled then looked back at her notebook. “I can hardly stay awake when I study this stuff.”

“I remember the first time I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Southern Bavaria too. They call it the fairy tale castle. Walt Disney designed his castle after it. It reminded me of sitting with my dad in his recliner on Sunday nights watching the Wonderful World of Disney. There was snow on the ground when I visited and we rode a horse drawn carriage up the mountain. The alps are breathtaking.”
“Did it look like Sleeping Beauty’s castle?” she asked.

“Yes. It’s been in several movies. King Ludwig II had it built as a personal retreat. He also built an enormous castle on Herren Island in the middle of Lake Chiemsee. I visited it as well. I took a boat to the shore then walked the island before going in. It was to be a replica of Versailles in France. He admired Louis XIV “The Sun King” for some strange reason. Only the center section was built before his death. Ludwig and his doctor were found dead in the lake in waist deep water in 1886. He was only forty-one years old.”

“He had his own island?” she asked.

“Yes, and a bathtub the size of a swimming pool,” I said.

“Have you been to Versailles too?” she asked.

“Yes. It was one of my favorite places in France. The entire property is breathtaking. I spent half a day in the Louvre then traveled to Versailles for a day.”

“Isn’t that were Mona Lisa is? At the Louvre?” she asked with clear interest.

“Yes it is. Well, her picture is there anyway,” I said with a grin.

“You’re soooooo funny,” she remarked.

“And countless other amazing paintings are there as well, but you can only see so many paintings in one day so I never plan a full day at a museum. I think I also climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe that same day and then ate lunch on the Champs de Elysee,” I continued.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I’d like to go to France,” she said.

“See. You don’t hate history. You just hate the way it’s taught to you!”

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