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Friday, July 31, 2009


bullhead 31July09

I saw in action and paid attention to find what it is about opposition that helps good things come to pass. One, it makes you alert and more conscious than without it. Opposition also creates drive, determination, calls the will onto the playing field. It tightens up the slack. You learn to play tennis better with an opponent than hitting the ball at a wall. Seeing life as a game, opposition makes the game. Without opposition there is no game. It's the nature of duality, action-reaction, force-antiforce, a basketball game.

Perfectly obvious, now that I take a look at it. Until now I'd get impatient with opposition and want to get excited and mad and gripe about it. Now I see it as my helper, even my servant. Like when somebody hates you, think of them as a bar of soap giving you a good scrubbing, taking the dirt off you and onto themselves. That explains it good enough for me why hate is best left to others. Also, it feels all tight inside, a feeling some people crave and thrive on, makes them feel alive. I understand that; it's an easy thing to do. Emotion, stormy sea within is rather dramatic. It adds drama to an otherwise boring life. Emotion is the core of all drama. Emotion is a beautiful part of life.

In my musings over the years of getting emotion under control so it doesn't carry me away, I found that for myself, whatever the emotion is, I can entertain it as long as I want to, feel indignant, smug, self-satisfied, look at it, watch it, but don't act on it if it registers in the negative, because negative and positive both come back. Automatically, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you, comes into play and I realize if I don't want any negative vibrations coming at me, don't put any out. Obviously, I've put out something hateful unaware of it, because it sure is coming back in spades. I don't recall ever being this kind of hateful, but that doesn't matter. I think of it like Jr says, God puts every experience before him to get through it, one after the other. What's going on in this life is doing what God gives you to do and solving the riddles as they come along. Deal with it.

I like that, because for one thing, I believe it already, but like it in itself because it recognizes a very personal relationship with God. And total acceptance. In his own life he had the life of Job; it made him wise. Every time a calamity hit his life like a meteorite, he rebuilt and went on. He's had a hard life emotionally and physically, came through with a smile, dealt with each blow as an incomprehensible gift from God. Evidently that's how it was, because, again, it made him wise.

But now with his mind fading, he's losing his mind, though his heart is the same. Who he is remains the same, no matter how foggy his mental landscape becomes. Two of Jr's friends came by today, separately, and he told each one about the relatives with the passion to get him back in the nursing home. He was so traumatized by their betrayal, and continues to be, he talks of little else, afraid they might actually have the power they're pretending to have, and put him in what he calls the insane asylum. I told him they'll have to kill me first. I already know they want to. But it's illegal. I go to Heaven. The one that does it goes to prison. Who wins?

This is what I mean by the servitude of opposition. My will is such on this matter that I will have to be killed to let them torment Jr further. Opposition brought that up. Opposition inspired my firm stance. Opposition brought into play the philosophy, hunt the snakes. Opposition put me on guard, ready for whatever they throw my way. A relative of Supercop told me today, "Watch your back." I took it for the experienced counsel that it was, already knew to keep an eye back there, but good to hear it spoken in words. Sticks in my mind better.

See how fired up I got? Opposition did that. It keeps me on alert and ready to go at any moment, which is where I want to be anyway. And in the martial arts, you're most ready in a relaxed condition. Like don't worry, be happy. Let A Whiter Shade of Pale play in my mind and feel the feeling the song gives me, relaxing emotionally and so good-worded. For the radio show in the morning, I'm thinking about playing songs sung by women; Alice Gerrard, Hazel Dickens, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Emily Spencer. I've been so beset by negative feminine energy, it will be a good thing to spend an hour enclosed in a bubble of positive feminine energy, sending some nurturing feminine energy out over the county in the early part of the day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


It's been a good day all the way around. Jr felt good all day, knee not giving him much pain, and his mind had a bit of clarity about it. His woman friend came by and sat with him an hour or so. I took the time to go to town to pick up prescriptions, and to give them privacy. In town, I decided to stop in at the Teapot Museum to see what they had showing.

Last week in the paper I saw a deadline for pictures of local musicians to show in the museum was the day before I read it. I had some pics of local musicians not shown, but paid it no more mind. Thought I'd go in and see what was in there while I had a moment in town. Instruments made by local instrument makers, Floyd Reeves, Dave Sturgill, Fred Roupe, Audrey Hash, Wayne Henderson and some others whose names I can't think of, though I know some of them. It seemed like a wonderful thing for the Sparta museum to show banjos, fiddles and mandolins made here by hillbillies. I'd recommend to anybody who thinks hillbillies are ignernt, go in and have a look.

Floyd Reeves was in there when I walked in. I'd not seen him since I closed the store, a couple years. With the historical interest bubbling this year, Floyd Reeves is someone who knows a great deal about the music world in the past here and much history. He used to come into the store from time to time and tell me about things like going to the Spartan theater when he was in his teens to hear Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Uncle Dave Macon, and a long list of others from that time. Floyd loves his bluegrass. We walked around talking about the different instruments and the pictures, admiring everything we saw. There was even a cardboard box guitar made by Wayne Henderson as a child. Also his #1, the first guitar he made, and #7, the one I've heard he plays the most. It looks like it.

From there I went to Una's Cornucopia to get some ginko tablets for Jr's memory. He's taking aricept, a prescription medication for memory, which doesn't seem to be doing a great deal. If it is working, he'd be in terrible shape without it, and I suspect that's how it is. Thought I'd supplement some ginko and see if there is anything to that. Loss of memory frustrates Jr so much, I thought I'd check some out to see if it helps. I thought about some for myself too, but I kind of enjoy memory loss. It frees the mind a very great deal. Every once in awhile, Jr will be sitting at his end of the couch and mention that there is nothing in his mind. He's concerned, and I think: Wow, enjoy it while you've got it.

On the way back to the house, a hard rain splashed on the windshield for about half the distance and finished a few minutes after I parked. Jr's woman friend was still there, so I took some clothes out of the dryer, folded them, put clothes from the washer into the dryer I'd put in before going to town. Sliced a couple of Vidalia onions and put the onions into the container I keep sliced cucumber and sliced onion in vinegar. Onion soaked in vinegar with cucumber makes a fine snack. One is never enough at a time.

After Jr's woman friend left, Jr told me some of his concerns, his worries around the relentless, determined and hateful attempts by the Absentee Police to take him from his home against his will and put him in a nursing home. The biggest hurt for him is he had a special affection for one of them, a deep as the center of the earth affection for her. It dried up like a puddle of rainwater when the sun came out. I dislike the situation especially because it killed his affection for her. It was a deep hurt. She meant way more to him than she ever allowed herself to find out, just by never getting to know him, dropping by for 5 minutes on the run every 3 months.

Ross came to the house and the three of us talked at least an hour for the first time together on the subject of the Absentee Police and their lying schemes to get Jr locked up. Much of the conversation was in laughter. It had been a stressful time for Jr wondering why they want to lock him up in the asylum when they pay no attention to him otherwise, and why it's so important to them. If they think they're endearing themselves to him, that's a serious mistake. But, of course, they're not thinking that. They're evidently invested in being right. Like a guy that shoots a doctor with a high powered rifle through his kitchen window at night does it because he's right.

And I'm the dog that stands in the way with bared teeth and a growl in the throat. Like a dog will fight to the death for its human, this old dog will stand up to anything that comes along, and do whatever it takes. I told Ross today they'll have to kill me to get to Jr. And I wasn't attempting to sound big. It was just a measure of how far I'll go. Jr and I have been friends for some years. In this time of the last couple years spending most of my time and sometimes all of my time with Jr, keeping everything around him smooth so he can live his life as comfortably as possible, our friendship has become such that two days ago, Jr said, "You're like a brother to me." I felt the same. That's valuable to me. I don't/can't let down a friend such as that. When something comes along that frightens him, it brings out the dog in me.

He's weak and vulnerable, alone, and in his word, a cripple. This is somebody I look up to like an older brother whose life I know and respect. Every time I hand him his cup of morning pills, get the telephone for him when it rings, find his glasses when he loses them, help him pull his shoes on when he doesn't have the strength anymore, help him when he's helpless, it's done with respect. Every thought I have about Jr is with respect. His mind and body gradually fade, but the respect stays the same. I can't let people who don't know him handle him like lumber.

A couple years ago I told him, "There's only one thing I want for you." He said, "What's that?" I said, "What you want for yourself." He looked at me funny, like he wondered if I was kidding, and said, "Really?" I've been true to that all the way along. That is Ross's guiding principle with Jr too. Ross and I have actually become friends, which neither one of us would have believed or wanted to live for five years ago. We've found a good flow of allowing Jr to live by his own decisions in his own home, which we believe he has a right to.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It had to happen and it did. The captain of the Absentee Police called Social Services. The representatives from Adult Protective Services (APS) dropped by at 10:20 this morning waking both of us up. I was sleeping on the floor just inside the door, which I keep locked at night so nobody will walk in on me. Jr heard the knock on the door, which I did not, and hobbled to the door with his walker to let them in. Suddenly, I'm looking up from ankle level at 2 women standing over me, and Jr. A dog's-eye view. I saw Lisa Tucker and knew what was up. Absentee Supercop had done what she told Ross yesterday she was going to do when she clicked the off switch in his ear.

Instantly, I was in a growling mood, complicated with knowing Lisa, knowing she's following orders according to the law, and knowing she's a dear who started working with SS believing that kind of work helped people. It does. I'm very happy with SS except for their abuses of power. Lisa, a Laurel Springs Tucker, is not one to play power games. I used to know her great grandparents, who lived at Cranberry, just down the hill from Double Springs Regular Baptist Church off 113 between Laurel Springs and Piney Creek. Good people, the best kind of people you could know, and that's not exaggeration. When I see Lisa, I see good people.

The involvement of Absentee Supercop is what had me irritated. It wasn't serious irritation; it was more like a mosquito buzzing in the ear at night. My wariness of "service" people informed me to be cautious with Lisa, which went against my natural inclination to like Lisa and be friendly with her. Sometimes I spoke to her as Lisa and sometimes as APS. As this was, after all, Supercop's setup, I addressed it as such. It's a secret who called and what they said, so I told her who it was and why. Lisa said the complaint was "feces in the bed." I let her examine the bed to find some if she could. I didn't even watch her, wanting her to have the freedom to examine without being watched and conclude as she would freely.

The Absentee Police are relentless. I see a near future with attempt after attempt to get Jr put back in a nursing home. They don't know yet that Taurus the bull does not have a ring in his nose. Jr is already so alienated by both of them, they'll never get back the affection he had for them before. Obviously, they don't want it. Supercop just wants to make trouble, which she is widely known for. From here on, it will go on being as it was from the start: me the target, Jr the collateral damage. They're not very good shots, so it's Jr that gets hit when they're aiming at me.

I have come to a place at this time in my life, much by Jr's influence, where patience is the key to about everything. I don't feel any compulsion to get back at the irritants. Having learned that everything we do comes back in one way or another, and to the same degree, when somebody pulls a mean-spirited stunt on me, I just let it go by. The verse from my early childhood, I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you, turns out to be one of the wisest sayings of my life. A good starting place for one's education. I think I heard that in kindergarten. The original joke. I don't think I believed it back in that time. It was just something final to say, a rebuttal to a wisecrack.

We know this principle all through our lives, but if you were like me, we had a hard time trusting an invisible principle like that. I never got it until about 10 years ago. I did something consciously, testing the principle, 'put it out there.' I saw the return in just a few hours. Since then, I've been paying attention to it and find it 100% reliable. A couple years ago someone I knew somewhat made me so mad I wished I could contemplate murder. Revenge flared up in my mind uncontrollably. I entertained the thought enough to amuse myself, making it clear in a serious way I mean business. My whole mind would not rest until I did something to avenge the disrespect.

Gradually, my mind settled down and one part of mind reminded another part of mind that it will be more fun to sit back and wait. No involvenment on my part. Anything I would do would come back to me and I'd already had my fill. Wait and see what happens. 2 weeks later it did. It made him as insanely mad as he made me. I thought then, this is called divine justice because it's perfect. I couldn't have plotted a more fitting return than something to make him equally angry as he made me. And I had no involvement at all. Nothing to come back to me from it like if I'd have struck out in revenge.

With the Absentee Police, I may never see what comes back to them, and don't care. They've alienated me so much with their lying schemes, and Jr too, that I have no interest in anything about them anymore. I know something will bounce back on them. I don't need to know about it and don't need to see it. It's the same as done whether it's happened yet or not.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


summer rain 28 July 09

Had a message from Ross a few minutes ago telling me one of the absentee police called him on the cell phone dead set on getting Jr away from me, because I'm an unhealthy environment for Jr. She's going to call Social Services! Ross came in here and called the other one of the absentee police on his cell phone, because her landline phone doesn't get answered when a call is made from Jr's number.

After Ross told us what she said, Jr said, "A feller can't even stay at home and have any peace." Now Jr is worried with the threat of nursing home brooding over him such that he won't have anything else on his mind the rest of the day and all night. He'll try to sleep to clear his head, but it won't work. His mind is stuck now. I know how this works and I'll be telling him there's no problem for the same reason I told him at the nursing home he was going home, to settle his nerves and ease his mind. He has a good attorney and I do too. There is not a problem.

Jr said, "I wish I could get a hold of somebody to tell them to leave me alone. All I want is some sensible talk." I had to say that's asking too much; sensible is evidently not in the near future. It's come to the surface that the absentee police are determined to get Jr back in a nursing home, at his expense, of course, where he can die of despair, and they can say they won. Sounding weak and defeated, Jr said, "Everything's turned against me. Now they're gonna get Social Services after me; government people trying to boss me around, put me in the insane asylum. I won't go."

Jr sat in his recliner with his chin on his chest, eyes closed, worrying. He stood up and pushed his walker into the bedroom. He said, "The bed's a-callin me. Maybe I can get a little sleep." He said he aint going to no nursing home. I told him not to worry, he has a good lawyer and I do too. Social Services has already overstepped so many bounds on Jr's behalf that County Commissioner Milly Richardson spoke to the top dog there several months ago, maybe a year, making it clear that nobody from SS will set foot in Jr's house again. But absentee cops won't stop there. Like they used to say on the Tonite Show, more to follow.

A few people have learned that I'm Jr's dog and I bite. It seems to Jr's dog that somebody who wanted Jr well cared for would offer a little assistance instead of neurotic resistance. She's a meddler and a trouble maker. Making trouble is what she does. She's on a righteous mission I'm curious to watch play out now that it's begun. It's one more bit of evidence that when somebody tells you it's for your own good, it's for their good, not yours.

I don't understand why somebody who doesn't even know Jr can presume to know what is best for Jr. At the nursing home the absentee police brought him a portable cd player and a cd by an old-time band. They didn't know he doesn't like old-time. They didn't know he'll never put headphones on of his own accord, nor will he ever be able to figure out how to use the cd player and doesn't intend to try. It's of no interest to him. They don't know that he doesn't listen to music any more. Yet they're the ones that know what's best for Jr and neither one of them even knows him remotely. Neither one has ever sat and had an extended meaningful conversation with him, listened to him talk about his life or anything. One of them did, once. They just know all about it. They bring him oatmeal cookies unaware he doesn't like oatmeal. He's not convinced that jabbering in his face 5 minutes every three months equals love.

It's back to that old saying that nothing good gets done without resistance. I see the absentee police helping me out. They're making what I'm doing all the better by their resistance. They're washing the dirt off me and taking it onto themselves. That's the part they don't get that cracks me up.

Monday, July 27, 2009


the wait

Eight days of feeling terrible, staying in bed most of the time, today Jr was up feeling perky. He was ready to face the world. We'd been talking about a trip to Kermit's this week for shearing. Early after getting up he started talking about going to see Kermit later in the day. Along about 2 he started talking about it like it was time to go. He put aside his walker and took the cane. Way too embarrassing seen pushing a walker. I totally understand and watched his every step ready for anything. He walked good with it, considering it's all he could do to stay on his feet, and the least effort wears him out.

When I opened the door I saw nine men and boys ahead of us. At three heads an hour, that's three hours. I wondered if it might not be better to come back next day. But thought he'll be sitting at the barbershop the same as at the house, and there was one man in there I would have bet knew Jr. I asked Jr if he'd like to come back next day. He said let's go in.
I looked at a magazine about Alaska that was all beautiful photographs of Alaska landscape, etc. Nickelodeon was on the tv with one boy on his knees on the seat nearest the tv, who looked to be 10 or 11, with his face buried in it. Another boy sat nearby watching it. I saw some out of the corner of my eye. It was kids modeling for other kids how to be cool and humorous and delightful. They were fun. They'll be great at cocktail parties when they're older. They can talk a streak and never have to think, I was thinking about how fun it must be for the kids themselves cutting up like they do.

I saw what I've seen for many years, there are too many generation gaps between me and those kids to even think about any more. It's like jumping fromworm consciousness to fish consciousness to bird consciousness. Those are big leaps. Each of the generation gaps is a big leap too, just in very diffferent ways. I see some wonderful qualities in the kids of that age group. One of the more interesting trends I see in the young is their ability to "network" with each other and become acquainted instantly; very social and other-oriented.

The man I believed knew Jr came over and sat beside him and asked if Jr recognized him. He couldn't and the other man told his name, and Jr said, "Oh," like he recognized him. That doesn't always mean he does. As they talked he put clues together and figured out who it was. They went to talking about old age, like they don't recommend it. It turned out the old boy had a big farm and a lot of equipment Jr used to repair. Jr would get a call and they'd tell him what the problem was so he'd know what tools to bring. It seemed good for both of them in their shut-in time of life to see somebody from along the way. They fell into talking.

I told Jr I'd be back, and went next door to the Backwoods Bean coffee shop and bought a big cup of fresh regular coffee. Bob Bamberg came in and we sat and talked for awhile, hearing an LP being played at reasonably lowered volume, Alvin Lee's band Ten Years After. Turns out it was the Woodstock album and I was seeing it in my head from the film all those years ago, somebody putting a watermelon up onto the stage at Alvin Lee's feet for the performance. I told Bob when I saw it in the theater in Charleston, the audience spontaneoulsy applauded them. Saw it again a few nights later and the audience applauded Santana's performance of Soul Sacrifice. I loved hearing Alvin Lee again, and to hear it now is as amazing to my ears as it was then, maybe more, because I've heard so much more and can appreciate it that much more.

Outside the door was Paul Reeves' white Cherokee. He was in the barbershop sitting next to Jr. I was glad, because after the nursing home time when Jr got a close look at who his friends really are, Paul Reeves was there among the few. Paul has been a constant and true friend to Jr. I sat and joined the conversation. The other man talking to Jr was gone, and he was next, which puzzled me, but then everything else does too. As the hours rolled on, the place began to thin out. There was a time all the seats were taken. Paul got into conversation with a guy not long out of high school, seemed to have a good bit on the ball and wore it well, with a kind of experienced humility in his manner.

We got to talking about Halloween pranks after Paul told a good one about a bunch of boys taking a wagon apart and putting it together on top of the Independence courthouse. I told Paul that Jr put a wagon on top of the barn in Whitehead behind the old mill. Then the guy not long out of school told about him and some other's sticking plastic forks in the ground about a foot apart all over the lawn of a particular teacher. I had to tell you that one. It ranks at the top of the list of pranks I've heard about. It's up there with the wagon on the roof. For one thing, it was beautiful. I can see it. He said the teacher mowed them down with the mower instead of pulling them up.

Then it was his turn, and Jr's next. Jr started getting up to go. He said he can't wait any more. He's tired. He really was. Paul and I urged him to stay as he was next. We talked with Paul, which is the same as being at the house, just someplace else. A comfortable someplace else, Kermit's, who has made music with Jr for many a year, who Jr knew when he was 3 feet tall, who used to work for Jr putting up hay, who Jr respects for who he is. Nickelodeon continued. It wasn't objectionable. It was silly and crazy in a kid kind of way. I was curious as this was my first glimpse into pre-teen entertainment of this generation. And I don't know any kids of that generation.

I'd been studying the pictures and posters all over Kermit's walls of musicians both local and Roy Acuff young, Del Reeves young, Bill Monroe when he played in Sparta in 1984, and I missed it. I told Kermit when I'm old and somebody asks me if there's anything I regret, I'll say I missed Bill Monroe when I could have seen him right here in Sparta. Paul got up and went to the back room. I'd brought my camera in with me to get a picture of Jr being shorn and realized Jr would be sitting alone on the row of seats if I get up to take the picture. I went and sat across from him and got him sitting there alone under a wall of posters and pictures, the angular way he was sitting in particular, barely able to sit upright, bull horns and a clock. That was the picture I took the camera in there for. Then it was his turn.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Pat, Nina & Eve

Pat, on the left, has been my friend for 34 years. She lives at Hillsdale, NY, a small town on the border with Massachusetts. We knew each other about a couple years in Charleston before I went to the mountains and she went to NYC. July 4th of 1976 we decorated her yellow Volkswagen in the night, and drove around the old part of the city dragging a bunch of tin cans in the early morning. We were dressed in thrift store dress up clothes from the 50s. The VW had signs all over it about 1976, Freedom and such. Once we scared a horse that was pulling a tourist buggy. The horse got a bit antsy when we went by dragging the cans. Some tourists with movie cameras filmed us going by, waving, shouting, "Happy Birthday America." Pat rang a brass dinner bell.

Sometime in 1976 we drove to Columbia, SC, to see the rock band Kiss. It was just before they filled auditoriums. We wore thrift store clothes that made us look like really cheesy new rich from Miami. A guy sitting in front of us turned his head to look at who sat behind him and double-took. We started talking. He thought we were cool. When he asked where we were from we told him Miami. We came to Charleston on our sailboat and rented a car to drive to Columbia to see Kiss. Initially, she was a friend of a friend of mine, lived 2 doors down the street. She was majoring in Art at the college, and worked at night as a cashier at a Pantry Pride grocery store in North Charleston. She worked her way through college there. By then, she was divorced and starting her life over, on her own terms.

We share taste in music and art, and much else. When we went to parties we dressed like geeks. One night we went with some other people to a place west of the Ashley, a dance place where they did disco. We were all dressed crazy and we'd get on the dance floor and dance non-disco and jerk around looking really stupid. The owner asked us to leave, but we thought we'd stay. Pat got involved in a watermelon eating contest that made me want to take some pictures, but didn't have camera along.

Down and out on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Pat hit rock bottom. Working in a little diner where threw a hamburger in the proprietor's face and walked out the door. Nothing worked for her. At her lowest point she met this guy named John and they took to each other. John is a resourceful guy, who does exquisite work laying rock, remodeling houses and apartments, restoring cars. They married and moved to upstate NY between Stamford and Grand Gorge, about midway. There, they raised two girls, Eve and Nina. John is the kind of dad who sat with Eve and Nina both on his lap watching Wizard of Oz every time they wanted.

Eve has only gotten A+ for a grade all through school. She chose to do undergrad at Columbia, when she was offered scholarships to big name schools. She wanted to go to Columbia so she could be in NY. On weekends she would tend bar at big parties and make a couple hundred dollars a night. By summer she had enough money to take off and go to Europe, Africa and South America with a back pack, staying at hostels. Every summer she took off and went someplace, networking with kids her age from all over. Now she's at a medical school in Maine.

Nina is the beauty. When I see her I'm struck by how much Uma Thurmond favors Nina. She was named for the mother of punk, Nina Hagen. Nina and Eve grew up hearing Patti Smith, Prince and Nina Hagen, mom's music and they still love it. Nina is beautiful and moves with a flowing grace. Her intelligence is equal Eve's, but she was always "Eve's sister," just a couple years behind her in school. She could get the same grades as Eve, but she wanted to be Nina, not Eve's Sister. Nina had a driven, inner need for experience that didn't include studying all the time. She chose her own way, because she didn't want to be a carbon copy of somebody else, anybody else.

Pat was always up front with them growing up. Any question they asked, she gave a real answer, not skirting around some things that would make a mother uncomfortable telling her daughter. She believed it was better to be honest with them in all ways. She has a connection with each of her girls that is open and true. They don't fail to tell her things about themselves that give her pause. Both Nina and Eve have become not just beautiful women, but beautiful human beings. By now they are individuated and well into their own lives as themselves.

I borrowed the picture of the 3 from Pat's facebook photo pages. I suspect Liza Schofield, who took the picture, is Pat's sister or sister-in-law.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Dean Richardson saved the day

An emotionally stirring day today. I don't mean like tears, but sometimes wrenching sorrow over the downhill run Jr seems to have taken in the last 5 days. And sometimes rage, like when the two liars of the nursing home experience noted in LEAVE THAT LIAR ALONE drove up the driveway and walked in the door. I'd been talking with Ross Richardson on the phone about looking into an in-home-care place for a little bit of help to give me a bit of time for my own life, which is backed up behind a dam. That's ok. Dams make energy. Not Social Services or any of that.

Sue at the radio station told me of a place "run by real Christian people who have Christian people working for them." I don't know what that tells me. I'd guess everybody working at the nursing home was Christian. Didn't look like Buddhists or Hindus were in there. I didn't even see a Hindu doctor. I believe she meant people who have a heart for caring and don't treat helpless people like stacks of lumber. To anybody who knows a bit of history, Christian means something quite different from caring. I'll get in touch with the place for word from them what they do. Also will talk with a woman I know who does that freelance.

Like the two women who came in earlier, this was the first time they've been here since he left the nursing home where they were lying about me to keep him in there against his will and him paying. They weren't going to pay for it. Only one of them called since he's been home, once. Before he landed in the nursing home either one of them came to see him 5 minutes every 2 to 3 months. 2.5 months in the nursing home, they visited him maybe 3 times. Again, after 5 minutes, "Love you uncle Junior," and they're gone.

I saw them coming up the driveway and picked up a book I'm reading, Red Sorghum, by Mo Yan. Japanese occupation of China just before WW2. When they walked in the door, the one in front said, "Where's Jr?" I pointed to the bedroom door and said, "In there." I went on reading and they went into the bedroom and woke him up. As I'd been characterized by them incompetent and unable, I thought I'd let them have a gander at what incompetence can be. They found a fairly bad scrape on Jr's arm, which I'd asked him to let me treat and he wouldn't have it. One asked me where some bandages and ointments and iodine are. "I don't know. Bathroom, I guess." How else could somebody incompetent answer such a question? The kitchen was inspected, the house in general inspected.

Last night I brought some dishes and utensils from home to wash them here. My water quit working in such a way I need some daylight time at home to fix it. While I'm not there, it's no problem the water doesn't work. So I brought a bag of things I've used since the water went out and let pile up in the sink. I soaked them overnight and washed all of them this morning, too many for the drying rack. I took the first dry ones and stacked them on the counter to the left of the sink, then filled the drying rack again. The rack was full and a stack of bowls, glasses and mugs greeted the kitchen inspection. In the night Jr went on an unconscious search for a pair of pants that fit right, an ongoing issue. He'd strewn quite a lot of pants and shirts and underwear about on the floor in the bedroom. I hadn't picked them up yet, as he'd stayed in the bed all day and I wanted to let him rest. They were great for the incompetence checklist. Only contents of refrigerator missed inspection, and that probably because she didn't want to be so obvious.

A pile of newspapers lay on the floor waiting for Dean Richardson to pick them up. He brings me USA Todays, Times and New Yorkers, not every one, just now and then. He picks them up because Betty uses them in the duck pen. Another eyesore for the inspection. I was sitting here amusing myself with thoughts of what I could have done with 5 minutes notice. I'd have put the liquor bottle on the coffee table and some in a glass. It might have been fun to have a handgun on the coffee table too. Add a little edge to it. That ought to be enough. Anything said about the liquor, I'd offer them some. "Sit down. Have a drink. Rest your bones." Anything said about the gun, I could say, "I shoot cats."

While they were quizzing Jr about his care, in the pages I was reading one man killed eight others in a revenge slaying, and the Japanese surrounded a village killing everybody and burning it. That was another contributor to my inner mirth, thinking how interesting a coincidence the emotional intensity of what I was reading matched what was going on inside. These are both women I used to like an awful lot, thought of them as my friends, you know, casually, not life depending on it. I see them now as meddlers. It's not that they're going to do anything; they'll just be in charge. One of the questions in Jr's bedtime quiz show was when he last had a bath. He said, "I take a bath every day." It was then I realized he didn't know who they were. This is what the services women do, walk in the door total strangers, ask personal questions, check for this, check for that, fix this, fix that and leave. Take a bath every day was the clue, because we've learned the experiential way that you never volunteer information to any of those people. You only answer a direct question with a word or phrase. Anything you volunteer will be used against you at a later date. It amused me to see he could be as slick unconscious as he can be conscious. He was giving them the answers they wanted to hear.

On the way out the door, one of them said to me in that emphatic deadpan delivery for smart remarks, "Don't work too hard, TJ." I replied in the same tone, "It's not possible. Don't worry about it." She said, like a nine year old princess, "I see that. I won't worry." The other one kept looking at me on her way out the door like she wanted to see me smile. I didn't have one to show. They'd turned on the ceiling fan over his bed. As soon as they were out the door I went in to turn it off. When I was at the bedroom door, he was getting up. The switch was beside the door and I flipped it. He said, "That's what I was going to do. Who was that?" I told him their names. They didn't ring a bell. I was more specific, like relationship with him. He still didn't get it. He said he thought they were from one of them places that want to put him in a nursing home. I said, "Same differ'nce."

Then Dean Richardson drove up and came in to sit and talk. Hearing Dean's voice, Jr got up and came in here to visit. I was thinking this was good timing, because Dean makes good conversation, we laugh and talk about all kinds of things. He was telling us somebody wrecked a motorcycle on Jane Taylor Mountain earlier today. We all knew which curve. He told that earlier today he saw a rider on a motorcycle coming the other way on the yellow line in a curve, leaning into Dean's lane. After awhile, Jr got up and pushed his 2-wheeler to the bedroom. He needed to lie down. Dean and I went and sat on the porch awhile, him telling his experience working on the Parkway with motorcycle casualties and where they happen. I told him about the invasion of the absentee police that left just a few minutes before he arrived.

Friday, July 24, 2009


If you've wondered what my friends look like, here is a picture of some. These are the people of my life who figure prominently in who I am. I have known Lucas and Judy through 2/3 of my life. Lucas and I met within a week or two of the day I think of as the beginning of my life. Released from militarist involuntary servitude on Friday, I started College of Charleston on Monday. That weekend was the transition from all that went before to all that went after. I'd completed all obligations, the checklist of requirements I had no choice about from the day I was born until that day, and could start making my own decisions. My first decision was to get educated. I could read and write and do arithmetic, but I wanted understanding, which was lacking.

I was 5 years older than other freshmen. A guy I met first day or second, Howard Stahl, was a jazz lover. I was too. He decided I needed to meet Lucas Carpenter, the school's other jazz lover. Lucas was entering the second half of his second year. I started the January semester. Lucas and I both were listening to be-bop period jazz; Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Duke Ellington. Both of us had been listening to Dylan, who had 3 or more albums by then, 1965. I think Mr Tambourine Man was current. Dick Clark had finally put an end to rock & roll in America by 1960, which had been his goal the whole time of American Bandstand.

When we had a vacuum in the new music here, the Liverpool sound started crossing the ocean. While rock&roll was going undergound, Lucas and I switched over to jazz and folk independently of knowing each other. A lot of people did. Little Richard went to preaching. Chuck Berry went to prison. Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 yr old cousin. Buddy Holly died. We were left with The Peppermint Twist, which was pretty hot. Bop-a shu-ba, bop-a-bop-a shu-ba. The Beatles and the Stones, Dave Clark 5, Spencer Davis Group, Pink Floyd gave us in America a new energy in rock&roll. It wasn't long before the underground San Francisco sound spread through the country with little to no airplay. When what was called the classic 60s sound was happening, radios were not playing it. Radio sponsors never liked rock&roll. This was the time when we started learning about new music from other people and magazines.

Lucas went to graduate school at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and was drafted out of school. He did time in Vietnam instead of going to Canada. Released from militarist detention, he went to graduate school at Chapel Hill, where he met Judy, who was working on her MA, and from Brooklyn. Both got jobs teaching in Charleston public schools for a year when they finished Chapel Hill. From that time in Charleston, Lucas went to Stoneybrook on Long Island to work on a PhD, where Judy had gone for undergraduate. After the PhD, Lucas worked teaching at a university on Long Island for some years. he wanted back in the South and got on at Oxford College, a part of Emory U of Atlanta, a small school a half hour or so drive East on I-20 from Atlanta. When he arrived, he was given the same office a great uncle of his had when he taught Math there. Lucas has been there ever since.

Judy worked teaching 8th grade for several years until she burned out and switched over to school counselor. Meredith was born while they were on Long Island. When they came South, Meredith was 2. Judy was a conscious mother, protective as a dog over the innocence of her little girl. All the time Meredith lived with them until she moved to the dorm at Emory in Atlanta, she was the first consideration in the front of Judy's mind, day and night. I didn't realize how strong the mother commitment was in Judy until Meredith left the house and Judy relaxed. She relaxed into the Judy I'd missed all those years and didn't know it.

I was visiting them one weekend when Meredith was 3. She was back in her room and we were in the living room watching a video of a Prince concert, Sign of the Times. In a little while Meredith came dancing up the hallway and into the middle of the living room dancing to Prince. In her dance she never made the same move twice, never. It was like watching a flame that never repeats a gesture. She did this for quite a long time, flowing with the music such that she'd become the music. When she'd gone through all physical movements she could make to the music, she started her fingers dancing. She held up her hands and made rhythmic gestures with her fingers, again never repeating a gesture, super conscious of what she was doing. While she was watching her fingers it came to a time like she wasn't controlling it, it was just happening. There was a moment along in that time when I saw in her eyes that this was the first time she'd discovered what her fingers could do. She watched them with fascination, at once controlling them, and not controlling them, seeing the fingers she'd always had could dance for the first time. We were in awe.

Meredith grew up going to public school in Conyers, Georgia. She had the kind of brilliant mind that you might say belongs in a private school where she could get a better education. But she wanted to go to public school. The dads of most of her friends drove pickups. She grew up in a house where her mother and dad both read, dad a professor of English literature, and parents who listened to a wide range of music. And Meredith has a wide range of musical interest. When she was in her early teens we wondered how she would rebel musically. There was no music her parents didn't listen to. So Meredith discovered Enya, who made her parents grind their teeth. We had a great laugh over that.

She is now living in the greater SanFrancisco area, going to U Cal Berkeley, working a PhD in molecular biology. The guy with her in the picture is her feller, Graig. He's at Berkeley working on PhD in something inconceivable in the chemistry department. They were in school together at Emory. I think he's from Chicago. He's another brilliant mind. They are planning to be married in Atlanta October 3, then a honeymoon to Machu Picchu.

Lucas and Judy hired Wayne Andrews to build them a log house a few years ago in the woods across the road from my house. Then they lost all their investments in the "economic downturn," another term for Depression, like landfill is another word for dump. If they hadn't built the house, the money that went into it would have gone away too, so the house is about all that's left of their investments. They still have the house in Conyers and they both work, but both have lost benefits and retirement, which was coming up soon.

Somehow, we've all survived. Last night we were laughing at the ironies that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are still living, while we were hearing some Stones cds Meredith put on to play. One of my delights in life has been watching Meredith grow up. You never know how a kid is going to come out the other end of the teens tunnel. Meredith has totally blown my mind. I'm glad to see in Graig she has a mate who is good to her. They have similar tempraments, smooth and even. They don't need drama all the time. They have what it takes to be able to study all the time. She has a blog:

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Jr sent me to town yesterday to get some burgers and grocery store items. After writing you earlier in the day about efficiency at BK, I gave my order at the speaker/mic and was told it would be $6.18. At the window I gave the girl a ten and a quarter, telling her it's always $7.24. She told me it was $6.18. I said, "Whatever." The woman who usually works the window put the order into the computer/register correctly and it was $7.24. After I'd paid the girl, I handed her a stack of 5 of the cardboard crates they give to carry drinks in the car so they don't spill. I like to return them, because I know they're expensive for BK. I appreciate their function and usually return one each time I go. She said, "What's this?" putting me in a quandary--how do I explain their function in a phrase?

My mind wasn't ready for a pop quiz. I suddenly knew she could not understand anything more complex than a phrase and I didn't know what to say. The other woman took them from her and told her what they're for. I asked the girl in a friendly way, "Is this your first day?" Actually believing it was. She looked at me with hard eyes and said, "No." Then I thought, Lord Have Mercy, I insulted her. Whatever, I told myself, she begged the question. I was laughing within all the way through this event, having just a few hours earlier written about how consistently favorable all exchanges there had been. This one wasn't bad by any means. I don't find fault either way, with her or with me. It was just one of those moments you can only say, "Oh well" to, and go on.

The bottom fell out of the sky on the road to the house. One inch in ten minutes. A gullywasher that required high-speed wipers, which amounted to little more than two black lines flying back and forth across the glass, the road only visible a few inches in their wakes. I drove up the driveway in torrential rain. First thing I saw, Jr's car was missing, a gray 94 Buick. Only one thing to say: Oh shit! As I advanced a little closer to the open space where the car had been, I saw it had backed down the hill, 2 fence posts down, the wire of the fence under the car, the right front wheel spinning in place, the glass fogged so bad inside the car there was no seeing out or in.

A few more feet and he would have been far enough down the bank there'd be no stopping the backward momentum with brakes on wet black eyed Susans and Queen Anne's lace. I knew he had no seatbelt on. That's the first thing I automatically knew. I saw his hand rubbing the glass from the inside, which did nothing to remove the fog, just made streaks in it. I also knew he didn't know where he was except in the car. It's a bumpy bank and a long ways to the bottom. There's no way a car would go straight down the hill bakdwards if it started sliding or he put it in reverse. It would turn sideways somewhere along its way and start rolling, throwing Jr around inside the car, or if the door opened, throw him out. Either way, he's dead by the time the momentum comes to an end.

I knew I could not explain adequately, standing in the rain talking through the door I'd have to open, and there wasn't time for explaining, anyway. If he touches R on the gear shift, he's gone if I don't get him out of there NOW. First thing I told myself, this is the day I get wet. There was no shrinking from the rain, because I knew I'd be in it for quite awhile. The only thing to do was go with it and remember how much fun it was as a kid to be out in the rain getting soaking wet in the summer. I pulled my truck to the front of the car and backed to within 6 or 7 feet of it. Had a rope in back of the truck I connected to the frame under the front of his car, which I had to get down to the ground to do. Playing in the rain and the mud. Tide commercial next. Connected the rope to back bumper of truck, put truck in 4-wheel low range and pulled him up to level ground.

I knew he needed to get to the house as fast (sic) as he could go. I went to pick up his walker, which was bent and on its side near where he'd left it at the car door. Didn't have time to straighten it. It was usable. Met him at car door with it. He already had the door open and was trying to stand up. I put the walker in front of him. He said, "Oh, bless you," adding, "I didn't know how I was gonna make it." I followed him to the house, a 50 foot or so walk in torrential downpour, him in his socks squishing water around his feet. He's been wet so many times in his life, the rain was the same as nothing. I was long past caring, so we hobbled along the same as in sunshine, baby steps. I saw him into the house and to his seat. I said, "Please stay here til I get back," and went back out to unhitch the car, put it in its parking space, and get my truck back to its parking space. The rain had quit by the time we reached the house.

I had to call Jerry Edwards right away to tell him he had 2 fence posts down. Jr was feeling terrible about what he'd done after he realized it had inconvenienced Jerry to come over here to fix fence and everything wet. I'd told him what happened, but he wasn't getting it. I think he didn't believe it. Jerry has cattle the other side of the fence and wanted to get it up right away. I helped him as an assistant, tamping the dirt around the posts while he did other things that needed doing, and I pulled wire tight at the post so he could staple it.
We talked the whole time, both of us seeing that just a few more feet and Jr would be on his way to the funeral home. Jerry's dad, Voscoe, was Jr's closest friend in life until he died. Jr knew Jerry since he was born. Since Voscoe's passing, Jerry would be the one in Jr's life he'd call his closest friend, his hunting partner as Jerry's dad was before him. Again, people who genuinely care about each other, men who can trust each other absolutely. When it comes to an honorable, ethical man, Jerry is right there with Jr, someone I am honored to know for the quality of human being that he is.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This morning I did something I've never done before, or even thought about doing. I called the number at the bottom of the receipt from Burger King under, "for comments contact." At the Burger King yesterday a long line of cars back past the speaker/mic. When it's like that, I go inside. No one was inside, so I went to the counter and ordered the usual, the daily, 2 whopper juniors, a small shake and a med shake. $7.24. That's what it is every time. I've been getting this combination every day since his release from involuntary detainment. It's all Jr wants to eat. it was that way before incarceration too. In the time before, I didn't feel right about him eating fast food burgers for his main meal per day, sometimes his only meal. it seemed to me a negative nutrition meal. He doesn't want to eat anything. But a burger he likes to eat.

Since the nursing home experience, seeing what they put before him for food, I've changed my mind about the nutritional value. I didn't see one entire meal put before him at the nursing home I'd assess to have near equal the nutritional value of a whopper junior. At first, I was astounded by the super-low budget garbage fed those people. It made bland seem spicy. Then, I remembered one of the complaints lodged against me as Jr's care-provider was that I fed him fast food burgers. It was Dean Richardson and Ross that bought them. I had nothing to do with it except when Jr sent me to town to get him one. Complaining to that place about nutritional value of a burger is a joke. Something else for them to lie about. As you can tell, I've really been burnt by the magnitude of lies in that nursing home. Meaning they don't want anybody to know what they're doing. Meaning what they're doing is reprehensible and they know it.

Back to Burger King, from inside, having almost always used the drive thru window, it seemed like I was behind the scenes, seeing everybody working. They had a long line of cars outside to feed, and on the inside they were scurrying about getting whatever was ordered at the speaker/mic ready to be picked up by the time the car gets to the window. Waiting in the line, it seems like a long time,but it's not when you're on the inside working there. It's a fast-paced on the go kind of job that will spit a slacker out, either of his own volition or management's. I saw a small crew of young people hard at it, giving it all they've got until they fall into a rhythm working together where they can get things done.

Mary Evans I'd seen in there through the window with her eyes in constant motion like a bird's, like she was a conductor keeping the rhythm flowing, herself ready for any place in the chain of events that needs a hand. She came to the register to take my order. When we'd finished the money exchange, I asked her if she was manager. She said, "I'm one of them." I said I was impressed by how well they run this operation. It's quick and efficient and well done every time.

She looked at me like she couldn't believe what she was hearing. She asked with sincerity in her eyes and voice, "Really?" Like she was expecting April Fool in July. I said, "Yeah," and her eyes lit up. She asked me to call the number at the bottom of the receipt and tell what I 'd said to her. I told her I would, guessing that number is almost only the complaint line. I thought she's doing such a great job organizing young people into an efficient crew that it's worth crediting. I know this makes it sound like it's a smooth operation behind the scenes, and I'm sure it's not. I've an idea when they're going all out, they feel like they're swirling in chaos, but the job gets done.

Doing emails yesterday I decided to send an email to this guy Tom White, whose name is on the receipt with the phone number and email address. The email came right back claiming no such valid address, whatever that means. That's happened to me other times and it turned out the email went through. So I've no way of guessing whether or not it went through. This morning I called the phone number with a 704 area code, Charlotte.
A young woman answered, saying Tom White was out of the office. I told her what I called for. She too was astonished somebody called to tell them they're doing good. She wanted to write down my name and phone number.

It's not like me to sing praises of a fast food burger place. But the recent experience has been positive all the way around. Strange to say, but the place even seems personal, given that it's local people working there. Jr just got up a little bit ago. Not feeling good today at all. When I asked what he'd like. "I don't want nothin to eat. I might have a burger after awhile." I'll be making a trip to Burger King shortly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Green Mountain Boys

Great big day today. Bluegrass fiddler Johnny Miller dropped by with a birthday card for Jr and a bag of cookies. It's been awhile since Johnny was here last, a year or so. It was around 10:15am; I was up reading and saw Johnny drive up. I told Jr, who was still in the bed, though awake. I shook hands with Johnny at the door and we talked a little bit while Jr came pushing his 2-wheeler through the bedroom doorway.

It was good to see them together as they think a great deal of each other. Jr talks of Johnny in only the highest praise, and I know that's how Johnny talks about Jr. Johnny was fiddler with Jr's band The Green Mountain Boys for some years. He played in Nashville when he was younger with Loretta Lynn's band, and is recorded at Brandywine playing with Ola Belle Reed, who was from Ashe County and lived up in Pennsylvania near where Brandywine happens. The Ola Belle Reed cd from Field Recorder's Collective has Johnny playing fiddle on 6 tracks.

Johnny is 79 now, his hands have arthritis pretty bad, so he's not playing fiddle much these days. For work, he puts up dry wall and house paints. He said he's been putting up the walls in a church. 300 sheets and running through the tape. Now the fingers of his right hand, his bowing hand, are numb, cold as ice. His wife died several years ago. Jr has a picture of Johnny and his wife in a little frame sitting on a shelf, from before Johnny's beard turned white.

For me, it was enjoyment to see two old friends with as much history as Jr and Johnny have and from so many years back, human beings who genuinely care about each other, who made a lot of good music together and never had a cross thought with one another. Around 1990, just before the band fell apart when Bob Caudill, guitar and lead vocals, died of heart attack, Vilas Hamm, who lived here in Whitehead brought a movie camera to the house, set it on one of the steps going to the basement and filmed the band playing in the basement with wives sitting over to the side as audience.

When Jr's last wife arrived in Detroit or wherever it is she went, she found she'd packed the video of that session and didn't want it. She mailed it back to Jean to give it to Jr. I've made at least 30 copies of the tape for his friends and relatives, and eventually had a dvd made of it. I sent a copy to the NC Folklife Center's archive in Chapel Hill, as well as a cd made from a cassette tape they'd made practicing some time around 1990 in Bob Caudill's living room. The cd has Ernest Johnson playing fiddle. It made a good cd. One of the tunes from it I use for the theme song on the radio show, Jr's banjo improvising on Billy In The Lowground, with Ernest filling in behind the banjo with his fiddle. The Green Mountain Boys never wanted to record and never did. It's a shame, because the band was too good to leave no traces. But that is the mountain spirit, indifference to everything but playing the music. Playing was what they were about. At least we have the cd and the video. Much better than nothing.

With digital camera I took a picture off the tv of the band playing to make a painting from it and made a pretty fair picture. Painted it on a chestnut board a couple feet long and a foot or so wide. It was an end cut off a longer board and had a couple of holes in it. Jr had used it on his cement slab porch several years for scooping a trail in the snow. I offered to trade him a snow shovel for it. He told me to take it and forget the shovel. I got him a shovel anyway.

While Johnny was here I remembered something bluegrass banjo and guitar picker Steve Lewis told me about Johnny. I said to Johnny, "I heard something good on you," and proceeded to tell him that Steve told me about a time in Randy Pasley's music store in W Jefferson, Bluemoon, Steve and Randy were talking when Johnny walked in. The three of them were talking when a woman from the Arts Council walked in the door delighted to see Johnny. She wanted to talk to him about playing for something or other for free. On "for free," Johnny said, "Not just no, but Hell No!" He remembered the moment and that got him started. A new set of fiddle strings costs a man thirty dollars, and people want you to play all day for nothing.

Jr and Johnny talked at length about what they've been through since they saw each other last. Johnny is another one of those people like Jr who loves to work and will work to the day he either dies or is unable. These are the kinds of men I'm in awe of for their ability to become a master at a bluegrass instrument while working full time at a hard labor job supporting wife, kids, self, house, car, pickup, insurance and everything else that takes all your money, like gas and grocery stores. Johnny is 79 and working like horse.

A master fiddler and a master banjo picker have both watched the love of their lives, making music, fade away due to fingers that don't work anymore. To hear them talk about making music here and making music there, the time this happened, the time that happened, it was a joy for me to be in the company of two what I consider great musicians, both of them with an integrity in their musicianship that made it art, and they were particular about it. Johnny is an artist. Artists have their ways.

When somebody asked Jr to teach them to play banjo, he tells them if you can't figure it out on your own, you don't want to know it bad enough to play. That's how he did it, figured it out. In the tradition, that's how it was done. These men are artists of the mountain tradition who have fiddlers convention trophies and ribbons galore. I felt honored in their company. One of those what-am-I-doing-here? moments, a mouse among titans who happen to be authentic human beings I can only feel privileged to know.

Monday, July 20, 2009



This is Una of Una's Cornucopia on W Whitehead St / Hwy 18 next to Virginia Setzer's sewing shop. Una sells vitamin pills and aloe lotions and a tremendous variety of things that are good for ya. She is a diminutive elfin woman in her early 90s, I suppose, and makes a good commercial for what she sells. Not that she's lived long, but she's up and about and runs a little business to keep herself going, talking with people, feeling in place, using vitamin pills and this and that to keep her going. She's sprightly as an 11 year old girl, though with much aches and pains of growing old, as well as that many years of experience to slow her down. She still has that kind of spirit, a youthful spirit that you see when you know her that's behind her older woman self.

Una was my next door neighbor for 4 years when I was at my little music store where mountain music was distributed to people's sound systems at home and in their vehicles. I actually dreaded the proximity to Una before moving into the space, but not much. I'd had an experience with her some years before that made me a little apprehensive, actually embarrassed more than anything, when I get right down to honesty. Embarrassed for my own stupid behavior that I thought was so smart at the time. I found Una to be a good neighbor and an interesting woman to know. She has her own ways, she's eccentric and that's why I like her.

I'll fess up and tell how she got the name, in my mind, Chihuahua Woman, or Woman Who Runs With Chihuahuas. For years I've had that association in my mind, and this is how it happened. First step is my mistake that created the incident. I was working at a bookstore at the other end of the shopping center from the Ben Franklin store, where Una rented a corner just inside the door to sell her vitamin pills. I had 5 boxes of books to return to distributor. I walked them down there with one of those things on two wheels for carrying several boxes like UPS uses. I figured it would be just a few minutes. There wasn't any business anyplace that day. So I left the door unlocked, knowing I'd be back in a few minutes.

I walked in at Ben Franklin and Martha was not at the register. In my mental schedule I'd counted on her being at the register. She was the one to take UPS boxes at the time. Una saw me and said Martha was in the back. She'd be back in a minute. I'm standing there thinking about the unlocked door. It would have been the more intelligent approach to walk back up to the store and lock it, then return and be back when Martha's ready. No. Instead of intelligent approach, let's try the dumb approach.

I waited what I figured was about 60 seconds and went walking to the back of the store to find Martha. The door was unlocked was all I could think. I couldn't be wasting my time tracking down employees who should be at the register. Huffing and puffing inside, feeling righteous. I found Martha and told her I had some boxes for UPS and we walked to the front. When we walked by Una, she snarled and growled and looked at me like a chihuahua threatening to bite my ankles. She snapped, "I said she'd be back in a minute! What'd you do, time it?" I said, "Yeah," and went on to help Martha get the boxes ready to go.

Of course, up popped in my imagination a chihuahua darting at my ankles barking. Chihuahua Woman, Woman Who Runs With The Chihuahuas stuck in my mind, and every time I've seen her since, I've seen Chihuahua Woman. It's not an insult. It just fits somehow. And, like a chihuahua, when she's not snapping at your ankles, she's warmly personal and friendly, a whole human being. In her business she is making available vitamins and varieties of healthful, organic remedies and vitamins, lotions, herbal teas, soaps, etc. Her business amounts to a service to the community. She doesn't make much, if anything, but she doesn't care. She doesn't need income from the store, so she provides a service according to what she believes is important, and a real service it is. The store keeps itself going and that's good enough. It's what accountants call a hobby.

Martha worked for Una for several years until she was unable. I got to know her too working next door, and discovered a very interesting woman kept entirely to herself. One thing I have to thank Una for is my friend Debi. She was working for Una after Martha. It turned out she was Tom Pruitt's great niece, Elgin Pruitt's girl. We'd met some when she was in high school and I was putting up hay with her daddy 30 years ago. She'd been away, lived her life, and was back home taking care of her mother, working for Una part time for gas money. Una loves big band music and ballroom dancing. You better hope there's no reincarnation because next lifetime rap will be golden oldies.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Today I saw a crow pick up an apple slice in its beak, walk to a place where a small cluster of mown grass was lying. The crow dropped the apple slice to the ground and, one at a time, picked up three tufts of the grass and dropped them on the apple slice to hide it. Five minutes or so later another crow marching about the lawn found it. In one swipe of the beak, the crow removed the small pile of mown grass, picked up the apple slice and flew away. The funny part is the crow that hid the apple slice will never return to it, will never know it was swiped.

My first dog here in the mountains, Sadie, killed groundhogs buried them. Early on, she killed a groundhog and left it under the house, a safe place. First I was seeing big blue-bottle flies swarming from under the house. Next came the scent of dead groundhog, which is distinctively groundhog. I didn't know that then, but this was one of the early learning experiences to teach me that particular scent. I had to crawl under the house with a rake and pull the nasty corpse out, flies buzzing all around, pick it up in a shovel and take it to a place to bury it. Sadie watched the whole time to see what I was doing with her prize. I dug a hole, put it in the hole and covered it with dirt. From then on, every time she killed a groundhog, she carried it with her teeth to a place she knew the ground to be soft, dug a hole with her front claws, pushed the groundhog into the hole with her nose, and pushed the dirt on top of the groundhog with her nose.

I liked to watch her when she was stalking one. It was sport in the wild. There was a groundhog that had a hole by the fence to the pasture behind the house. She found the groundhog out one day about 30 feet from the hole. She hunkered down close to the ground and crept slow like a cat toward the hole. When she was about the same distance from the hole as the groundhog, she took off running full speed toward the hole. The groundhog, from another direction, ran to the hole as fast as it could go. A couple feet from the hole, dog hit groundhog in the side with her nose, sending the groundhog rolling a few times. Groundhog scrambled back to its feet while dog was slowing down from full speed, turned and was at the groundhog as soon as it could stand up on its back feet.

Dog lunged in at groundhog's face barking once, groundhog clicking its teeth, snapped in the direction of the dog. Their two front teeth are razor sharp like a beaver's. Dog lunged again barking at groundhog's face. Groundhog lunged at dog with teeth clicking. Dog jumped back and lunged forward again. She went around the groundhog, lunging in with a bark at the groundhog and the groundhog snapped at dog's nose, clicking teeth. Every time she jumped back from the lunge forward, it was a few feet to her right and she'd lunge again, circling the groundhog, making it turn to face the dog every lunge. Every time dog attacked, the groundhog attacked too, with clicking teeth. Turning all the time and snapping at dog's nose eventually disoriented the ground and wore it out until the first time groundhog failed to snap at dog, dog moved in, took the groundhog by the neck, shook it one time and groundhog went limp in her teeth. With the charged energy of a warrior's victory, she held her head high carrying the groundhog to where she knew the ground was soft enough to dig. She put the groundhog on the ground, dug a hole, put the groundhog in and covered the hole.

When Tom saw her catch a groundhog one day, he turned proud of her and acted toward her like she was a dog worth her keep. He even bragged to men he knew about her. When somebody asked me what kindof dog she was, I'd say, "Groundhog dog." Everyone knew what that meant, that she was a pet that happened to kill groundhogs, and regarded her respectfully. Once, a couple of fellers leaning on a pickup asked me if that dog hunted. I said, "Yeah, all the time." I added she was a groundhog dog and they looked at her in admiration. She was half fox dog, the half that showed the most, the reason I was frequently asked about the dog. The other half was Airedale, according to vet, Nash Williams.

One time out on the tactor mowing, I saw a short-stripe polecat, or skunk, walking over the meadow in daytime. That didn't seem right, but what do I know about how a polecat thinks? I do know how they stink, but not think. Here came Sadie. She made a pass at the skunk and it jumped up on its back feet, sitting straight up like a groundhog. Skunk showed its ten claws that were more exaggerated than a cat's, and its mouthful of sharp, pointed teeth. It growled like a small bear. I stopped the tractor and watched.

Saide did the same thing as with a groundhog. She danced around the skunk, keeping it turning, attempting to wear it down, but the skunk didn't wear down. He stayed right up, snapping every time the dog jumped in to bark at its face. The skunk showed fierceness that is the difference between a wild animal and a pet. The dance went on for quite awhile until dog got it that the skunk was not going to miss a beat. Dog settled down and walked away. The skunk went back about its business of passing through the meadow. One time I asked John Lee Phipps, a dairy farmer in Piney Creek, if he knew why so many skunks get run over. He thought a moment and said, "I reckon a polecat's kind of independent."

Saturday, July 18, 2009


gettin er done

It's fiddlers convention time in Sparta. I've wanted to go, intended to go, was set on going. Now that the time is here, I can't make myself do it. I've tried to convince myself all day I can go for a few hours and leave Jr unattended and everything will be ok. I can't make myself believe all will be well when I return. Long ago I learned never to walk in the door with expectation of any kind. What I expect is never the case, and no matter what I find, it's a surprise.

I've been listening to the fiddlers convention on WCOK that is playing the fiddlers convention live, both yesterday and today. At the station this morning for the radio show I was happy to see Sue again. It's refreshing to have someone in there with an ear for mountain music. She is, in effect, the station manager. Andy told her to call the shots, and she'd doing it, doing it well. She knows what she wants the station to become and she's working toward that with all her might. She wants the station involved with the community of Alleghany and to play the music the people listening want to hear, the way it used to be in the time of Arnold Clodfelter and Judy Halsey.

Sue is having a fit about a preacher in Surry County raising money to buy WCOK and make it into an all-gospel station with nothing to do with the community. I don't worry about it. I see it as a bit of opposition to what she's doing, that threatens what she has her heart in. Nothing worthwhile gets done without opposition. I figure he's helping her out. He can't buy something that's not for sale. And if he does get the money together that could buy it, he'll disappear and turn up in a trailer park in Florida.

This morning I wanted to play some music to the people here for the fiddlers convention from wherever they came here from, a reward for turning the radio on. I imagine maybe one or two might have heard it. It was a welcome to the mountains show, where we have bluegrass, Stanley Brothers and Big Country Bluegrass, and old-time, Whitetop Mountain Band and Benton Flippen's Smokey Valley Boys. Approximately a quarter hour of each in that order. Started with Ralph and Carter playing Little Birdie in 1952, Bristol Va, Fiddlin Art Wooten on the fiddle, Pee Wee Lambert on mandolin and George Shuffler playing bass.

Steve Lewis is playing Bluegrass Breakdown on banjo. Now Eric Hardin is playing bluegrass banjo. Both these pickers are from Ashe County. Eric was Steve's student who has become his most ardent competitor. I'm glad I'm not a judge. I wouldn't know how a judge could say one of them was better than another. Steve's playing was a little more virtuosic, Hardin's was more straight-ahead doin-it-to-it bluegrass. A band is playing I'm Goin And I Aint Comin Back. I asked Jr if his band The Green Mountain Boys played that song. He said they did and started singing his part, tenor, to himself. Enjoying now the band made on the spot; Dennis Joines, Bill Joines, Marsha Bowman, a fiddler named Bill, the only names I caught. A bunch of good bluegrass bands in a row.

Jr slept much of the day. Around 5:30 he was up and thinking it morning. I couldn't convince him it was evening. He wanted to mow the grass. What a thing that turned into. He got the grass mowed, but in the manner of a big adventure. This is why I was reluctant to go away for a few hours today. He'd been wanting to get at something earlier this morning, and I had a feeling that later in the day when he was rested good he'd want to do something and I'd best be here, to be sure he doesn't decide to go down the basement steps, or turn on the toaster oven, or drive someplace, or anything.

First, he had to get to the mower, which was down a short bank to the area that's the entrance to the basement. We went to the car with the walker. He drove from the parking space to where the mower was. I insisted he put on the seat belt. "No. I'll be all right." I noted that he's looking at a wire fence and a bank that goes a long ways down the hill. He consented just to satisfy me. He made it all right. Harry Taylor has a small orange tractor parked down there. Jr wanted to get on the tractor. I couldn't convince him it was not the mower, which is also orange and about a quarter the tractor's size. He tried to climb on and tried to climb on and couldn't make it. I asked him to "just look" at the lawnmower that was behind him. He wouldn't look, because the one he was struggling to get on, but couldn't, was it. When he finally gave out from trying over and over to step up onto the tractor unsuccessfully, I was able to get him to turn his head and look at the mower. He saw it and said, "Maybe it is. Shit fire."

He managed to get it started and I had to move the car, because he'd parked it so the mower couldn't get out. He putt-putted the mower on its way and mowed the grass. I felt like it was good physical therapy for him, turning the steering wheel for wrists, elbows and shoulders. The struggle on and the struggle off were good therapy for leg contortions. It was good therapy for his mind too. He was doing something worthwhile. Finished, he parked the mower, walked to the car with the walker, and again I insisted he put the seatbelt on. "I aint goin nowhere." "If you go down that bank you'll want the seat belt." "I aint goin down no bank." "I know that, but put the seatbelt on anyway." "All right." The attempt to get the car out of there backwards was something like somebody's first attempt at parallel parking.

Walking with him to the car at the beginning of the day's adventure, I was thinking about how interesting it is I don't find him pitiful at all. He says one person's name when he means another, but I understand who he's talking about. It doesn't do to correct him, because that just causes a detour into a futile attempt to convince him he means Jerry when he said Steve, but it's really hard to get it through, and when it does get across, he goes back to calling Jerry Steve.

When he's looking for something, I find it and hand it to him, he thinks it's like a miracle. Like in the night he will take his glasses off and put them on the bed. In the morning they're on the floor the other side of the bed. He'll tell me he lost his glasses, doesn't know where they are. I go pick them up off the floor and he looks at me wide-eyed, thanks me with another, "I couldn't make it without you." It embarrasses him to be so frail and forgetful. Mountain man that he is, he has a sense of style, and pushing a walker isn't it.

Friday, July 17, 2009


It's feeding time for the crows. I sliced half an apple into however many slices that is, a dozen or so, threw them out the front door into the grass where I can see out the window. Every day it's the same crows, the hen and her five chicks. Our friend, the brown-headed one is hard to tell from the others now except that he continues to be the one that walks a certain path close by the porch when all the slices are gone and he's searching for one that might have been missed. He's the one least wary of the house. I can tell the hen by the way she creeps up on the slice like it's about to get her. She approaches it half sideways, reaches out and picks it up and jumps back, then she hops, two feet at a time, to a place in the driveway gravel away from the others. Our friend continues to heckle her about feeding him. I saw her give him an apple slice a little while ago. He's the only one left that pesters her with open beak and the drone of a call the young ones have.

When I was a kid, the word civilization had a great big meaning for me. I knew how to define it for a test, but couldn't imagine the whole thing. When it's something with a definititon, it seems to be a still object, like coffee-table, but civilization is one of those nouns that has a life of its own, like horse. We think we know what horse means, but I sure don't. When I look at a horse I wonder how something that big allows something as puny as me to control it. I don't ever believe I can control a horse. Like I don't believe I could ever control a motorcycle. Or a chainsaw, for that matter. These things have lives of their own that require understanding and respect. A living being has so much complexity to it, I don't believe there is ever any knowing somebody else, knowing a dog, knowing a child, knowing someone old.

People I know seem as vast as the universe to me. I'll take my friend Lynn Worth, like picking a name from a hat, this time a mental hat. I've known Lynn probably 20 years. I call her my friend because I believe she's in my corner, and I'm in her corner. I know what to say not to make her mad, and I know what to say that will make her mad. That says I know her a little bit, but only about 100 billionth of what there'd be to know about her to say I know her. Lynn is at the fiddler's convention in Sparta this weekend and the latter half of the week. She's one of the original organizers and works with it every year. Lynn is the kind of friend who supports her friends. You might say, in that way she's an active friend as opposed to a passive friend.

Lynn has a small camping trailer and a pickup. She goes around to fiddlers conventions all summer, making music with her friends she's known for many a year and has a ball. Lynn is somebody who will be known in her 70s as one of the great old-time musicians of NC, if she's not already. She doesn't see it, but it will be that way. The world of old-time musicians is the world she was born for. She can pick the fire out of a banjo too. She can make a fiddle do its thing as well. She's banjo picker and vocalist with Appalachian Mountain Girls and plays fiddle with the Phoenix Mountain Band. At the Hillbilly Show, she and her feller Eddie sang a couple of Carter Family songs as Sara and AP. She has sung some June Carter songs at the Hillbilly Show and one other, I think it might have been Kitty Wells. She didn't try to imitate their singing, just sang the songs well.

Lynn told me how her guitar got her through her freshman year in college way off in Chapel Hill alone in the world in the crowd. That year you might say she bonded with her guitar, then started learning other instruments over time such that she can now play everything in an old-time band. And very well. She played bass for a long time with Appalachian Mountain Girls until Amy Michaels, banjo and vocals, left the band. Lynn stepped up to the mic with her banjo and has been singing for the band ever since. "Funniest sight I ever seen / sixteen chickens and a tamborine," is one they have fun with, and Grandpa Jones's Old Rattler.

Lynn is a mountain musician from the inside out. One of her subjects she gets emphatic about is back when the hippies and folklorists came through here in the 70s recording the old boys, Kyle Creed, Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Dan Tate, Wade Ward, Charlie Higgins, and so on and so on. They were in high awe of mountain music tradition and waxed artfully academic about it, but they paid no mind to the younger generation of mountain musicians, the ones coming on who are carrying the music in their generation. The folklorists regarded them almost the same as pretenders, paid them no mind at all. That told her, and me, they weren't real. It was a style thing. And we both agree it's a great thing they did to get the older folks recorded before they died out. The hippie musicians didn't understand mountain people and mountain people didn't understand them, meaning they only co-existed musically. Each one fueled by very different inebriates. One over here, one over there. Both illegal.

I feel satisfied I've given you a brief outline of Lynn, who she is, though it's next to nothing where the whole Lynn is concerned. When I look at the great vastness of Lynn as a human being, feeling like I know her, I realize if Lynn were a cake, about all I'd know would be a fingertip of icing. There's enough in that little bit to tell me what I don't know abut Lynn is as as good as what I know, or believe I know. One thing I know about Lynn that is in every aspect of her life, is that she's true and doesn't have any time for that which is not true. She's a woman who stands on her own feet firmly. New Agers would say she's grounded. And she likes to watch lift-offs of the space shuttle on the NASA website. She befriends homeless lost dogs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Tom's house 16July09

After Jr and I knew each other well enough to risk popping a bubble without consequences, I was telling something about Tom when Jr felt it necessary to let me know in a gentle way, Tom wasn't all that bright, in case I thought he was. I realized I had left out knowing that about Tom in our conversations. When I speak of Tom with anyone it is only in praise. There have been people who thought Tom really had the wool pulled over my eyes, but I didn't care. I knew Tom's weaknesses. I just didn't care to tell them around, out of respect for Tom himself, who he is/was. I was more interested than amused by Jr noting that I had only let on like I knew nothing but the best about Tom.

It's that way with Jr too. I never remark about Jr's weaknesses. The funniest was the time one of my friends said, like he was letting me in on something everybody knows but me, "You know, Junior is a redneck." I laughed inside, some of which spilled outside, thinking, Duh; saying, "I'm aware of that." Of course, then you get into definitions and I didn't care to get technical about a silly word like that. Instead of a Larry the Cable Guy redneck, Jr is a Flatt & Scruggs, Don Reno redneck, a banjo pickin son of a gun.

Jr told me he never let Tom use any of his horses. Tom was unnecessarily rough with animals. Tom was known for taking a two by four and beating a cow with it. Tom, himself, had told me that sometimes you can't get a cow to do somehting without a beating. He told me, when a cow gets out of control and starts acting up to hit her just behind the knot on top of the head with a 2x4 with all you got. Anything less than all you got won't do it. You want to bring her to her knees. A few years later I found myself in such a situation helping Gene Dysart with a cow that refused her calf. He had her tied to a post in the little barn across from my house. He kept trying to force her to accept the calf while I held the rope that went around a post a couple of times so I could tighten and loosen it at will.

The cow got frisky, tired of his shit is more like it, and kicked Gene in the knee, then tried to break loose from the rope, jumping about. I had thought the whole thing a bad idea, but it wasn't the time to discuss that. I had to take a board and hit the cow like Tom said. First time, I hesitated, not wanting to hurt the cow and gave it less than all I got. It just bounced off the cow's neck and made the cow mad. So I had to hit a home run and sure enough, she dropped to her front knees. I hated to do it, but everything got out of control, as I knew in advance it would, and it was up to me to bring events back to order or something like it. She calmed down and gave in to the calf eventually, though not that day. Gene's knee hurt him for a long time. Gene thought Tom funny as a "bigger hammer" man, the bigger hammer the solution to everything. There Gene was too, forcing something that could be handled better more gently.

It was true about Tom, however, as the bigger hammer man. One time we were working on some piece of farm equipment and Tom was fumbling around with whatever it was and called for me to bring him "a bigger hammer." I don't like to admit it out loud, but Tom had perceptions that were truly unique. When I experienced or saw the same thing I heard Tom telling about later, I'd never have recognized it in the telling without him first reminding me of when and where it was. There was the time the remains of a kite string was up high in an oak tree over the road. Over years of wind, weather and chance, a twig a couple feet long and maybe half an inch diameter, was caught on a piece of the string. The stick had a curve to it and it turned in the wind lengthwise making it look alive and wiggling like a snake. We were together when I noticed it first time, I said to Tom, pointing at it, "Look at that stick turning in the tree." He saw it and said, "That aint no stick. It's somethin livin." I didn't know what to do with that, so I let it be. I already knew I could never explain it to him. There was no need to convince him anyway. Just two different ways to see the same thing.

When he was in school, the teacher said the earth was round like a baseball. Little man Tom said, "I aint never seen no mountains on narry baseball." Of course, my impulse I edited out was to note that you take a steel ball the size of a baseball, polished as smooth as steel can be polished, mirror smooth, enlarge it to the size of the earth and you'll have mountains that make the Himalayas look like molehills. The threads on a baseball would make unimaginably high mountains that could never be crossed because even the gaps would be way high up out of the atmosphere.

I had a feeling Tobe thought the least of Tom of all his boys. Tom had a hesitant relationship with his daddy who drank a good bit. Tobias was a rough and hard working man. He was never good to Tom. I think it was because Tom was a little slow, and quiet. I'd venture that he was a boy who had a hard time learning to catch a ball. But maybe not, he liked baseball too much to have a disability with a ball. I never liked to guess Tom, draw conclusions about him, because every time I came to some conclusion about Tom, the next time I saw him he'd bust it without even knowing he was doing it.

Tom was the one who took care of the whole family during the 1918 flu epidemic. Everybody in the house had it but Tom, so he was the one to take care of everybody's chamberpots, the cooking, cleaning, everything, night and day, a kid. Tom took care of them and they all came through. Tom was never interested in appearing to be a tough guy, never cared about being tough. His entire life he had to be rough and tough to take much of it. He'd been screwed from every direction, but he was never one to want to be a macho man. Who needs tough when you have a .32 in a shoulder holster uinder your jacket and aint afraid to use it?

Tom had a rough life full of troubles and trials, another man of constant sorrow. Once, he sang for me his favorite hymn, When Sorrows Encompass Me Round. Tommy Jarrell sang it very much like Tom sang it. When he sang for me, I knew him well enough to know a great many of his sorrows and how immense some of them were. Up in his 80s I took him to the dirver's license office to take the test, knowing he could only fail, and he didn't need to be on the road anymore. A test situation was the same as from outer space for Tom. The examiner started mocking him and ridiculing him about his age and ignorance, only speaking to him in wisecrack smart remarks. My face was getting red. She kept it up and my ears started steaming. She took a look at my face and backed off. I was on the verge of saying something she didn't want to hear when she saw what I had to say in my face. I was that way with Tom the way I am with Jr now. Treat him with respect or the dog starts growling and the hair on his back stands straight up. Tom was not to be judged by the rules of a test-taking society. Neither is Jr. In both cases, experience taught them everything they know, which was considerable. The best of what they know test questions can't be made for.