Sunday, December 28, 2008


I have sat in my sunroom this morning, watching the wind blow the trees to one side. The darkness of night was still wrapped around the landscape. Though it is not the coldest of mornings, the wind makes me glad to be indoors and only watching. Smoke and steam curl up from the homes below. I sit and wonder if anyone is up other than me. All is quiet here and no lights are on in the homes I can see.

Silently, like a surprise party, morning has tiptoed in and shown itself in slow glory. In the east, on the horizon it started; hints of gold and orange, reds that remind me of the fireball just over the hills yonder. In obedience the clouds and sky turn a majestic shade of purple to compliment the brushstrokes morning slowly takes.

I do not know how long I have sat, hypnotized, taken by the beauty unfolding down the hills, just past the hollers and eastward. It is like waiting for eternity to begin, and then, suddenly, it is there.

The sun has yet to appear. The colors sent out are like pages, heralds coming from the east to trumpet the glory of the King of Heaven.

There, can you see, above the horizon, the sun has slipped behind the clouds and is high in the sky already, leaving the lesser reminders, the lovely reds and oranges on the tops of the trees as it flung itself high and above the horizon. Tricky sun, bright glowing thing, you startled me as you appeared.

Now it is gone again, the wind pushes the clouds over the sun for a while. It is waiting in the wings to make another appearance.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Memories of Lone

As Christmas approaches, folks often stop and think of the warm memories of family, food and presents wrapped and waiting under a tree. I often wonder if those who knew my family shudder in their remembering as they think of the two little heathen hillbilly youngin’s my folks raised.

Christmas was a perfect season for little boys to get into trouble. We did our best, though, as we tried to be good and stay on Santa’s “good boys and girls” list. Getting up at 3:00 am on Christmas morning doesn’t count. We made it past Santa’s visit, so we were okay! Smelling the perfumed Avon hand cream, telling Mama how good it smelled and then pushing it up and into her nose AND nostrils as she smelled it is something that could have been an accident.

What hounded me, what haunted me each year of my childhood were four red elves made of ceramic. They each held their bodies in poses worthy of an acrobat as they formed the letters “NOEL” with their arms, legs and bodies. Mama would sit them on the mantle at Christmas where they would call to me, mock me with their little painted on smiles and oh so perfect spelling… “NOEL”.

At some point every year I would sneak in and rearrange the elves to spell “LONE”. Sometimes it took days, other times just hours for Mama to see the rebel elves and rearrange them correctly. I would rearrange them time after time, sometimes dozens of times in one Christmas season. It was a battle to see who eventually won on Christmas Eve. I went to bed more than once giggling because I knew Santa would see “LONE” as soon as he came down the chimney. More than once I rushed into the living room and found the elves rearranged to “NOEL”, apparently by Santa himself.

Even into my high school and college years I fought the battle with the elves and would rush home from college just to change their twisted bodies to my rebellious “LONE”. There was something like poetry in it. I felt like the beatnik poet standing before an unappreciative crowd reading a cerebral piece few understood and fewer respected.

Mama was never sure exactly who did it. It was a silent battle fought on the mantle of our home. For most of those years I didn’t think Daddy even knew. I thought he just didn’t notice. I thought that until 1977, the year after Daddy and Mama moved to Cherokee Lake in Tennessee to enjoy an early retirement.

As we all aged, our family no longer gathered as we did years before. I try to be the one who holds the families of our clan together with calls, visits and planned parties. It became more difficult as children and grandchildren grew up and scattered. Knowing that my folks couldn’t be with the rest of the family for Christmas was always sad and back in ‘77 I decided to spend a few days with them before Christmas day.

As I sat with Daddy and watched a program on TV, Mama hurried out the door to get to the grocery and buy all the fixings for a huge ham dinner. We sat watching the TV for about 30 minutes after she left. Daddy finally looked over with a crooked smile and said, “Well, you better get to work if you are going to do anything with them elves”. He nodded toward the bookcase across the room to four red ceramic elves. Their mocking faces were almost pleading for my touch. I quickly got up, rearranged the elves to spell out “LONE” and sat back down. Within minutes Mama was home and the elves were forgotten.

As I left for home on Christmas Eve, I hugged Daddy and Mama and looked over Mama’s shoulder to see that the elves were still in the positions I left them. I went home victorious that year, with a little help from my Daddy.

He is gone now and Mama isn’t sure what ever happened to the “NOEL” elves. I would love to have them, to place them on my mantle, always spelling “LONE” just because of the silly memories of my childhood. I wonder how many years Daddy knew it was me moving the elves? That disciplinarian Daddy, who made me walk the straight and narrow, turned his head for all those years to allow me that piece of fun.

So, in the spirit of the season, here is wishing you wonderful memories of “LONE”.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Step Out

What's your story
Who are you
Where do you hide?
The real you
The you nobody
Ever sees
Knows or meets.
Why do you hide
What are you hiding?
When will you step out
From behind the facade
And live life?

Meet me in the hills
Wander the woods
Sit and let mice play
Romping over your boots
Sneaking under your soles.
Listen to sunrise
Watch the sunset
Sing quietly in harmony
With the birds
Giggle at the doe
Who startles
When you sneeze.

Remember your place
In all of creation
You are not a product
Of plastic, electronics
Or concrete and brick.
You are called
Your name is whispered
Sung silently day after day
By trees, bushes
Hills, hollers
Rocks, rills and ridges
The very stones thrum
Tum Thrum
Spelling out a love song
To you
In some sort of
Ancient code
Letter by letter
Calling you home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Day

An old man lays quiet in a cold room. The only heat in this ancient log cabin is a coal grate in a connecting room. Visitors and city folks might call the place rustic or perhaps even rambling. The old man and his weary dog call it home. "A place to get in out of the cold" is his usual description.

It is a collection of rooms added on one at a time by several generations. Old man and dog rest in the lower bedroom, cabin actually, as that part was the first cabin built and that stood alone on that spot for many years.
It is small and simple and also has a coal grate that has not often been used. A Great Granddad built the original cabin when he moved his family up the holler to avoid another raid by Yankee soldiers seeking to destroy a local salt mine and keep Confederate soldiers from buying salt.

The parlor is simply another cabin built a few years later. It was laid out and logs were stacked fifteen feet from the first cabin. A dogtrot of plank wood connected the two cabins and became a second bedroom for several generations of kin. Along the full length of these structures is a shotgun kitchen, it is filled with stove, tables, Hoosier cabinets and a hand pump for water. A plastic tablecloth covers the kitchen table, washed off so many times the pattern has disappeared.

The fire has been banked and ashes dumped into a bucket. The careful red flames flicker slowly and occasionally light up a corner where visitors might see peeling wallpaper... and underneath layers of newspapers and Sears & Roebuck catalog pages carefully glued on the walls by womenfolks intent on keeping the winter wind out.

Snow covers the ground all around the cabin. Footprints come and go from the cabin to the barn. Footprints that themselves seem weary and worn. Footprints of an old man and an ancient dog who faithfully follows his master as he has for more than fifteen years. A milk cow and a couple pigs sleep in the barn, their breath collecting as ice crystals on their snouts. Their bodies and the muck around them steam in the cold night.

Though nearly a foot deep, no attempt has been made to shovel the snow. It really isn't necessary in the barnyard or around the cabin. Deep snow is a good insulator for the cabin and safer footing for the old man than patches of ice would be. His 1969 Ford truck sits safely in an outbuilding, untouched by the winter weather.

A single path goes over to the smokehouse that is full of hams, bacon, side meat, ham hocks and cloth-sleeved sausage, all butchered, cut, cured and smoked by the old man who rests fitfully in the cold bedroom yonder. The smell of burnt apple wood and hickory is sweet and ashy in the chilled night air. The snow shows evidence of the door being opened once and shut as a survey was taken of this smoky meat, as if to assure the owner that all was well, supplies were taken in and safe. He could weather any storm.

A similar path leads to the side of a hill, where there is a root celler, full of Irish taters, sweet taters, apples, beets, turnips and cabbages all covered with straw to insulate and keep rot away. Rough shelves are filled with all sorts of canned goods, fruit, kraut, beans, tomaters, pickles and jellies. Here and there are jars of home canned meats like sausages fried, placed into jars and processed.  Chicken, beef and deer meat are clearly marked as to when they were processed and canned.  All are lined up in Mason jars that sparkle in the moonlight.

Not all are products of the old man's hands. Many are from neighbors and well meaning widow women who have had their eye on the man since he lost his wife years ago. Another brief survey is evident and the last trail leads back to the cabin.

Inside an old man lays quiet in a cold room. He listens to the short crackles of embers as they fight to stay alive till morning. His old dog raises its head to listen for strangers who won't come in this snowy weather. Satisfied, he lowers his head to his paws and closes rheumy eyes.

On the bed, the man watches as memories play on his eyelids, memories of youth and vigor, of running free through the hills, chasing rabbits with his dog, now a pup in his mind's eye, up a holler and through miles of brush. He dreams of friends, youthful and smiling, waving at him from a forgotten porch, laughing at a joke he just can't catch in his memories. He tastes hot meals, sips sweet tea and basks in the remembered warmth of summers long past. Secretly, he savors his first taste of moonshine once more.  A gentle smile crosses his lips as his mind lingers over his first kiss.

As he drifts between this world and the promise of sleep.  He dreams of a little ol' dark head mountain gal he teased in a one room school, who he watched grow into a beautiful woman. He smiles gently as he remembers their first kiss, their wedding day, their many days together in this cabin.

A tear slides through a series of wrinkles as he remembers once more her passing on, her promise to wait for him on the other side of the Jordan. In that moment, his spirit decides, his body reluctantly obeys and takes one last breath. The room stills.

As if a signal has been sent out, the embers seem to glow less. In his sleep the old dog hears his master call and lets loose of the old bone of life and lopes along into forever.  He sees someone standing on the far bank of a river and without hesitation he jumps in and begins to swim.

On the other side of the river, a young man waits beside a beautiful woman who is smiling bright as day. The dog pulls himself out of that river and shakes his years away like water collected in his fur. He is young, made new.

The new dog, man and wife turn once more, look over Jordan and smile a sad smile, knowing others will soon follow. They turn and see a city, bright and inviting.  They step forward together and walk toward Heaven and home.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Letters from Winter

An angry woman named
Pushes at my doors
Rattles hard at my gate
Strutting round the
Mumbling and muttering
With chilly breath
Writing Dear John
Letters to
Upon my frosty windows.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Best He Ever Had

First of all, I have to tell you my Grandpa Cecil was actually my step-Grandpa. I didn't know that when I was a little boy, didn't matter when I was a man.

Grandpa Cecil was half German. He married my Grandma when my Mama was an older teen. For that reason there were times when Grandma mixed down home in the hills cookin' with German foods. Most of the time it was a pretty good combination... both were a lot of comfort foods.

Holidays were wonderful times for my Mama's family. She has two brothers and one sister. Add to that some Aunts, Uncles and in laws and we had some pretty big to-dos. Christmas was filled with wonderful food and Grandma's aluminum tree. It was in a revolving stand, covered with different colored ornaments each year. There was a spotlight that had wheel with 4 colors that revolved, making the tree red, then blue, green and yellow. We lived only a block away, so little brother Mike and I got to see it more than any of our cousins.

The tree went up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving so all the family could admire it.

Now, Mama never did drink - don't think she ever took a sip even. Before Daddy settled his account with God he had a beer or two. Grandpa Cecil's family probably grew up on beer, part of their German heritage and all. The could put it away.

Grandpa was small, lean and dark. His brothers were big, meaty but dark like Grandpa. They could outdrink anyone. Holidays were always a party for them. Thanksgiving was filled with drinks, roast turkey and tons of food.

One of Grandpa Cecil's favorite holiday treats was chopped chicken liver spread. Many of my Jewish friends make this also and it is wonderful on rye bread. It is made of cooked chicken livers, mayonaisse, chopped onions and seasoning to taste. Chop well and mix it together and you have a wonderful spread.

One Thanksgiving in particular comes to my mind today. Grandpa's brother Ralph was quite heavy, bigger than all the other brothers. After we ate he sat in the kitchen drinking a Schlitz beer and picking at the leftovers. He picked around till he tasted the chopped chicken liver spread. He loved it after one bite and sat there with crackers and ate that spread off and on through the afternoon and into the evening.

I remember seeing him sitting there, cigarette in hand, beer on the table, his full face and round nose red, I'd say he was probably a little likkered up. He took them round crackers and scraped around the small bowl one last time.

Afterward, he rose, headed for the bathroom, pausing for a moment to tell my Grandma; "Alma, that was some of the best chopped chicken livers I have ever eat. I cleaned the bowl."

Grandma laughed, patted him on the arm and told him there was a good bit more in a Tupperware bowl in the fridge; "help yourself, Ralph".

When he came back to the table, he did just that. He opened the fridge, looked around, grabbed one of the many Tupperware bowls, peeked inside and sat down with a smile on his face.

We snacked through the evening. Ralph never offered anyone even a cracker full of that spread. He laughed about it, covered it with his hand, threatened to beat his brother's tail if he even looked at that fine chopped chicken liver spread.

He again cleaned the bowl. Grandma smiled when he patted her on the back, kissed her cheek and told her that was all he wanted for Christmas.

Friday after Thanksgiving Grandma got up, cleaned up a little more... after a dinner for 30 or more it could get pretty messy. She started breakfast and let her Bobo, a beautiful standard sized black poodle out of the garage.

She filled his water dish and grabbed his food bowl. When she went in, she opened the fridge to get his Alpo. "Cecil, I thought you opened a new can of Alpo yesterday... where is it?"

Grandpa looked up for only a second from the paper. "I did open one, it is in one of them Tupperware bowls in the fridge."

Yep, you know the rest, she found a full Tupperware bowl of chopped chicken liver spread but no Alpo. I was there. As I said, we just lived a block away. They made me promise to never tell anyone. I never did. I think Grandma told Mama. After Ralph died Grandpa Cecil told it to his brothers. They all laughed hard.

You see, Ralph bragged on that chopped chicken liver spread for the rest of his life. Best he ever had.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Etch a Sketch

Frost on my windows
Mama nature doing
Her best Etch a Sketch
Draws fantasies
On the glass.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Concrete Shroud

The sojourner stood
On the hard concrete
Looking up at concrete
Towering over him
Wrapping round him
Overshadowing him.
The cold winds whipped
Beat on his back
As he walked
Pushing him down
Into his coat.
He paused at a street
To wait for traffic
To stop.
He walked,
Almost in a daze
Wondering about home
Dreaming about home
Remembering the hills.
Hungry for the hills
Weary in the city
Cold, dreading another day
Covered in concrete.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Call of the Wild

To think that a squeek,
A simple noise in the woods
Would pull my mind
Away from the stock market
Would alert my mind
Like an old blood hound
As I sat up and listened
For two chipmunks
Chirping, squeeking, calling
Singing love songs
Across an old dirt road.

My mind fell away
From the woes of Wall Street
As my feet wandered
To the edge of the road
I listened and stepped
One slow step at a time
Seeking the source
On my side of the road
Softly, gently, one foot
Then the other
Along the grasses
Stepping over leaves
And twigs that might
Crackle and pop.
Like a mythical hunter
I rose to the occasion
Searched for the source
Till I saw a tail, striped
Slide into a hole
Left by a woodpecker
In a fallen pine.
Then, as I slipped closer
The chipmunk turned
Sat still watching
Me watching him.
For an eternity
We watched,
Still and silent
Each in our own
World paused.
My vision blurred
And saw nothing
But a hole in a log
Filled with the tiny face
Of this chipmunk
That pulled my mind
From losses and bailouts.
The loud chirps
Bigger than this creature
Should be making
Brought me home
To these hills,
To the world
Back to what really matters.
And I wonder
When is the last time
A Wall Street Wonder
A President, Advisor,
Prime Minister, Senator
Big Three mogul
Stopped to listen
To a tiny
Call of the Wild?
Then I wonder
If the world might
Be better
If they did.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Love Song

The hills are calling to me more and more in the last few weeks. Work, a crazy economy, terrible gas prices and Wall Street making folks crazy have kept me away far too long. I have been an indentured servant to the needs of the job and my heart flutters with grieving as I drive past fields or waiting corn, meadows full of deer grazing on dying grasses. When I see birds gathering for their southern journey, I dream of the hills of home, of my little cabin in the woods, of the oranges, reds and yellows of tall oaks, hickory and maple trees.

Soon and very soon I shall escape, without telling anyone, without a word of warning, I will slip out quietly and run home again, to the mountain I love, to my muse, my solice, my quiet place.

I dream of sitting on my porch with a big ol' glass of sweet tea, maybe my harmonica in my pocket and a dulcimer on my lap. Maybe I'll play a tune or two or maybe I'll just sit and listen to the whisper of the woods, calling to me through the evening as twilight sneaks up on me, finding myself in the night before I am ready to give over the day to sleep.

I will dream of the trees, of the rocks and ridges that call to me, that sing a love song in the night, that lull me to sleep.

I will awaken refreshed and glad. Morning with dance with me in the dew laden grass and we shall wrap our arms around the day, morning and I. We will dance and the birds will sing our joy at being home once again.

That is where my heart is. They say that when the last queen of Hawaii died, she had her heart removed and buried secretly while her body went through the dignities of a Western Culture funeral.

Maybe she had it right.

Wherever my body shall rest, my heart shall dance in the wet dew with the morning for eternity.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Memories in the grass

A wedge of geese
Fly with a "ziz, ziz, ziz"
Of wings
In a sky of gold
And purple swirled
Around the full moon.
Little dog pulls
Hard on her leash.
Huntin' for memories
In the grass.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Letter from Cousin Peanut

Dear Crazy Uncle Jess,

This here is your Cousin Peanut.
We have been enjoyin' the fire out of your Inferno Jelly! I just finished a peanut butter an' Inferno Jelly sandwich. Do we ever go through milk when we eat one of them things.

My buddy Junebug Jones an' I was sittin' out on the porch the other day eatin' some of your jelly on biscuits. We was laughin' about how dang hot it can be an' what we could do with it.

Junebug got this funny grin on his face an' asked if I wanted to do some bull-slappin'. You know how it goes; You jump into a paddock where a big ol' bull is, sneak up on him an' slap him in the backside an' run like crazy. He bet me ten dollars he could slap the big ol' Angus bull we have an' I could not. I took that bet 'cause I knew that bull was as gentle as a puppy dog.

I went in the house to get my shoes on. When I came out he had a fly swat in his hand an' said he was gonna swat that bull with that there swat. I thought, "Big deal, that ain't nothin'"

He climbed the fence, snuck up on that bull and whacked him on the backside with that flyswat.

That ol' bull raised his head, looked 'round an' got this funny look on his face. He then commenced to snortin', squallin' an' runnin' round that paddock like he was crazy. He jumped, danced an' scooted his ol' backside like a pupdog. I ain't never seen anything like it. He carried on for nearly an hour!

Then Junebug told me he rubbed some of your Inferno Jelly on that flyswat. No wonder that bull was going on like that. Junebug would be scootin' an' squallin' too if he had been swatted with that wonderful stuff. I cussed him a while for wastin' good jelly.

Finally we noticed that bull lookin' right mean at us. We ran as fast as we could but he came through the fence an' right at the porch. Things flew all over the place an' that wonderful jar of Inferno Jelly fell into my pet hog's bed. You remember Roscoe, my pet hog? He has really grown big. I can't get him in the front seat of the truck anymore. I bet he weighs near a thousand pounds.

Anyway, we got that dang bull into the paddock, rinsed his backside off an' got him cooled down. I told Junebug he didn't win no bet an' he had near killed that big ol' bull. He sat for hours in the creek.

What I didn't know was that my hog Roscoe had done ate every drop of that Crazy Uncle Jester's Inferno Jelly. He had even licked the jar clean. (I can send it back to you an' you can refill it without even washin' it.). We finally saw the jar an' stood waitin' for Roscoe to commence carryin' on like the bull did.

He never moved a muscle. He just stood there. After a while I noticed he was gettin' sort of red... them brown. Finally he started steamin'! I went over an' touched him an' burned my finger. 'Course I put that burned finger in my mouth.

It tasted wonderful, spicy, hot an' like bacon. I realized that Inferno Jelly had cooked that ol' hog from the inside out.

We slid a couple planks under the hog an' carried it up on the porch, called some buddies an' had some of the best barbecue pork, marinated an' cooked from the inside out by Crazy Uncle Jester's Inferno Jelly.

Just thought you would want to know.
Your Cousin,
Peanut Chappell

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Muddy River

I love the muddy green
Of a river
Runnin' deep an' slow.
Wanderin' here
An' yonder
As if it is drunk
Drunk on the joy
Of freedom
That only a river can own.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Summer Respite

Summer heat drives folks indoors
Sittin' in the dusky light
Inside an ancient log cabin
Sheltered from the sun
Thick chestnut logs
Chinked with mud
Cools the body
Rests the mind

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Perfect Sky

Just for a few moments
The sky was perfect.
Like a robin's egg
Is blue
On the horizon
Colored the edge
Of the sky
Above my head
Clouds were rippled
As if they had been
Pressed into
Tin from an old barn
And flung back into
A perfect sky..

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tonight The Moon

Tonight the moon
Is painted
In transparent
Against a sky
Blue enough
To make
Your heart

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Strawberry Eatin' Day

It is a strawberry eatin' day.
A day to wander down to a patch
An' just squat on your haunches
Maybe if the berries
Are real good an' abundant
We'll just sit right down
In the midst of them vines
Reachin' out all sorts of ways
Just a grabbin' handfuls
Stuffin' them in our mouths
Hungry for the sweetness
That runs down our chin
In our passion for summer
An' Strawberries.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day - a Daddy's perspective

Dear Cousins,

First of all, Happy Father's Day to all of you who are Daddy to someone.   It is a wonderful day.  You are an unsung hero, a knight who has rescued your children over and over again from the boogerman under the bed, a dentist who had bravely grabbed a loose tooth that just won't give way to little fingers, a tooth fairy who waits till a little one is asleep and slips coins under a pillow in exchange for the tooth you pulled early in the day.

You are the teary-eyed slob who finds a little jar of those same teeth 15 or 20 years later and stand with a crooked smile as you remember each one and the darling child that lost it.

You are the one who lays in bed at night, listening to the giggles and, with a stern voice tell children to go to sleep.  You are the one who grins and giggles as you lay in bed with your darlin', after they have settled in, knowing that you are more bark than bite.

You are the one that lays in the same bed, waiting till they return late in the night... listening for the sound of a car engine, a car door opening and a front door closing.   You are the one who gets up, puts on a robe and goes to calmly speak, holding your anger when they come home hours late, or drunk, or worse.

You cry when you hold them for the first time, when you dance a wedding dance and hold a daughter, newly married, when you hold a child who has died too young, when you salute a coffin of one who served loyally and died in service to the country you both love.  You are the one who pulls your wife away from a coffin so it can be lowered into a cold grave.

You wipe the tears, thinking no one sees what a softy you are... wanting to preserve the facade you have worked so hard to build over the years, not knowing that they laugh when they are together, with tears in their eyes, reminding each other of what a softy you are in spite of your bluster.

You are the one forgotten for some boy, no longer the hero, no longer the apple of a little girl's eye when a beau comes into her life.  You are the one who seems not as big, not as strong, not as immortal when sons rise up and go to join a wife.

You are the one that tells a prodigal they must leave, who stands behind the closed door, the door that you closed behind them because it was time, because they were a disruption and disaster with the decisions they made.  You are the one who welcomes them home, who kills the fatted calf when they find their way.

You are the one who holds their hair back as they bow before a toilet bowl and loose the contents of a drunken stomach, swearing they'll never drink again, listening as they cry and beg forgiveness.

You are the one who awkwardly holds a grandbaby, remembering when you held your own.  You are the one who magically pulls quarters from behind ears, who watches cartoons for hours with your children's children.

You are the one forgotten, the one who might get a card... or might not, of whom they say,"he doesn't really like that mushy stuff". You are the one who gets the collect call, who is forgotten at Hallmark, who is told in divorce hearings that the mother is more important to the well being of a child.  You are considered the less important parent.

If they only knew... if they only knew.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Daddy's Treasure Chest

When my little brother and I were youngin's,  Daddy had a cedar box he brought home from the Smokies as a souvenir.  He always called it his treasure box and we imagined it was filled with family trophies and riches handed down through the generations.  We would beg to see into it and occasionally Daddy would pull out a sampling of treasures.  They were amazing.

About 15 years ago, just before Christmas, Daddy sat on the floor down in Tennessee where he and Mama had retired, got out his treasure chest and two small boxes - the ones you get checks in when you order them.  My Mama asked him what he was doing and he told her it was time brother Mike and I had treasure chests of our own.

He sat for hours going through his treasures and picking things to put in each box.  As often as possible he would place the same things in each box.  Occasionally he would give each of us a particular treasure all our own and not duplicated in the other's box.  When they were full he put the lids on and wrapped a rubber band around each.

On Christmas morning, Daddy sat down on the floor at my brother's home and called for us to sit with him.  He gave us each a box  We took off the rubber bands with great curiosity.  Daddy did not shop and did not buy presents.

Mike and I giggled and shouted with remembered joy as we saw the wonderful treasures in the boxes.  Our childhood pleasures of seeing Daddy's treasure chest rushed back and we were 8 years old again as we pulled out old Zippo lighters that did not work, matchbooks from restaurants long closed, broken watches, old pennys, Mercury dimes, a bullet from a 22, screws, bolts and nuts he had absentmindedly carried home in his pants pockets over 30 years of working in a factory.  There were brass curtain rings that had found their way to his chest and that looked so much like pirate's earrings that we both clipped them on our ears (bad idea, they clipped hard enough to hold curtains, you know).  We cried and laughed for about half an hour as we looked, showed everyone what was in our treasure boxes and compared booty.

Daddy was passing on a memory to his sons in the form of junk from an old cedar box.  Junk that was amazing treasure to little boys, even greater treasure because my Daddy remembered our delight, those private moments that he shared with us as we looked into his treasure chest with wonderment.

We each later bought a box to put just those treasures in.  Funny thing was, we each already had a "treasure chest" of our own and had showed ours to our children.

When my Daddy died, I bought a beautiful oval Shaker box, made of cedar and our family filled it with "treasures", the top of a Skoal snuff box with "I love you, Pappy" from my nephew, Masonic pins, love notes, favorite crayons, pictures... yes, a broken Zippo lighter. 

Even when Daddy was dying of cancer, when asked, he would say "I'm fine" and for years we joked he would have that on his flowers when he died.  I cut an oval piece of paper to fit inside the lid of the Shaker box and as each family member put their "treasure" in I would show them the inside of the lid that said...

"I'm fine".  Each chuckled softly in their turn.  I placed the box in his hands as I said goodbye to Daddy for the last time.  It lays there today, buried with him, a fit memorial to a good Daddy.

Jimmie's boy

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mountain Thirst

There is a thirst that cannot be satisfied
A hunger that pains the insides
Of mountain folks long separated
From hill,home and holler.
It lingers on our minds like
A daydream never forgotten
Like a teenager's first kiss
Dreamed of and never matched.
It rolls around on the tongue
And in the belly like the sweet
Taste of sourwood honey.

Life in the mountains is hard scrabble
Never forgotten, under-appreciated
A struggle that we love
Filled with remembrances
Of coal mines, tobaccer sheds
Saw mills, truck gardens
Seinin' for ginseng to buy
Shoes for a growin' youngin,
A dress for a worn out mama.
Or flowers to sit on the casket
Of the old man, shrunk down
And shriveled by the cancer
By black lung and bein' on
The government dole.

But it gets folks sort of thirsty
'Specially on a Friday afternoon
Wantin' to get in the car
Drive back home for a few days
To sit on ol' worn out porches
An' listen to the rain fallin'
On ancient tin roofs.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Blizzard of 2008 - Blizzard with a capitol B. is upon me and I am so weary of being indoors. It is the worst in March ever, I am told. The only one I remember being worse is from 1977 when I was in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I walked to the end of our neighborhood, down to a tree line to sit under a big oak and watch the snow falling in a cornfield. Vainly I hoped to see deer, or perhaps a lone coyote wandering through in search of food. As I sat the snow was so very heavy. I couldn't see more than 500 feet.

It was wonderful, mystic and scary at the same time. I walked a path that normally would take me 5 minutes... it took nearly 15 to walk down and 20 to walk back. I couldn't see my path on the return trip. I thought of those brave mountain folk who settled the hills of Appalachia, those ancestors of mine who braved the trip and for some reason loved the rough mountains rather than going to the plains of Ohio or the Bluegrass. I used to wonder why they would have their barns so close to their cabins. Today as I reflected, I realized that it served a good purpose, a barn, shed or outbuilding needed to be close in weather such as this. In the short half mile I walked, I found myself off the street and into a backyard before I knew I had wandered. What if they had to make a trip out to get more firewood, to milk or feed livestock? A hundred yards could mean danger on a day like today.

I would love to be in my cabin in the mountains just now. I would sit and watch out the window at the snow, wondering what the world was doing as I sat warm from my stove. Perhaps I would make some bean soup on the top of the stove, letting it simmer for hours. Perhaps I would walk, as I did today, to see the glory of the woods round that little cabin.

Or perhaps I would dream.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I still am not ready to give up easyjournal for my story blog, but want to get more involved here to strengthen my online presence as a storyteller. To read my stories - several years worth, you can go to I have several years of stories, old ragged verse and musings on easyjournal.

This year is the big double nickles for me - 55 on March 16. I haven't been doing as much storytelling as I would like, sometimes I would love to take the cue from several friends in the storytelling community and go full time. It is just not my time to do that yet... kids in school, mortgage, etc.

I am amazed that my first post on here is 2002.

More later... life calls