Monday, November 30, 2009

All Aboard The Elite Express


"All aboard!" shouts the conductor.

"Wooo, Wooo, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Wooo, Wooo!" says the train.

The conductor says, "The Elite Express is now departing. If you want to climb aboard, come on!"


Smoke bellows from the stack as Elite Express prepares to leave the station. "Wooo, Wooo, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Wooo, Wooo!" says the train. The conductor looks at his watch and exclaims, "She's right on time!" Then, he heads off to see to his guests. As Elite Express slowly pulls away, the sounds of the train moving down the tracks begins to fill the air...

"Drinklifein, drinklifein, drinklifein, drinklifein, chug, chug, chug, Wooo, Wooo, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Wooo, Wooo!"


Suddenly, Elite Express is racing off toward its destination -- to the TOP! There are no scheduled stops for Elite Express, so climb aboard now for this fast-moving train bound for SUCCESS!!

Oh, by the way, have you met the conductor? Well, you should have already because the conductor is YOU! Yes, that's right! You are most qualified to be the conductor of Elite Express because in order to be a conductor, one must be interested in others, and obviously you are or you would not be aboard this train. The conductor works closely with everyone who climbs aboard his or her train, and he or she is in the right place to make a lasting, positive impression. So, are you ready? Well, come on then!

"All aboard!" shouts the conductor.

"Wooo, Wooo, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Wooo, Wooo!" says the train.

And, the conductor says, "The Elite Express is now departing. If you want to climb aboard, come on!"

The Elite Express is bound for success in health and wealth. It's not the little train that could. It's the BIG train that WILL! We are the elite team inside of Zija International. For more information, visit www.teamelite.ws.

Random Photos

Merry Christmas


Welcome To Las Vegas!



Zija Banquet in Vegas
!

Eliah: A Self-Portrait 10_09!


Thanksgiving 2009!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Big THANK YOU!

A couple of days before the Thanksgiving holiday arrived, I received an e-mail from the folks who keep up with the number of blog visits to my page, telling me that this blog has reached the level of 7,800 visits since Valentine's Day. That is an average of 195 visits per week. I am humbled and just wanted to say a big THANK YOU! I love writing short stories. Thank you for stopping by and visiting from time to time.

The Notorious Meddler

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Reason For Giving Thanks

"Before they were soldiers, they were family. Before they were legends, they were heros. Before there was a nation, there was a fight for freedom."

I really have a lot to be thankful for. Consider my ancestor, Jacob Speck. Jacob was my 6th great-grandfather. His family overcame a lot just to get to America, where they could enjoy freedom. He played an ultimate role in why am able to enjoy freedom in America in 2009.

Things had turned to the good for Jacob here in the 'land of opportunity.' He had a beautiful young family, including three young children, and no doubt so many hopes and dreams. No doubt, he was thankful for how God was blessing him here in America. His heart had to be overflowing with joy!

Soon after his birth around 1754, Jacob's family came to America aboard the Friendship vessel and lived in Philadelphia. When he was 21-years-old, Jacob married Christine Keefer. Soon after the birth of their second son, Jacob and Christina moved to North Carolina, where they settled at Stokes County, near present-day Danbury.

During the American Revolutionary War, almost every able-bodied man, who was not a part of the Continental Army, joined their local Militia to help protect the settlement in which they lived. At times, these militia troops were also called upon to fight in battles of the revolution. Thus was the case for Jacob Speck. On July 21, 1780, General Horatio Gates was at Camden, South Carolina commanding a force of 3,200 troops. He was joined by the North Carolina Militia, which included Jacob Speck. The British general, Lord Charles Cornwalis, was also at Camden with an army of 2,100. Even though Gates had Cornwalis outnumbered, most of the Americans lacked experience and training. The North Carlina Militia had never been tried. Plus, Gates' army was running out of supplies and many of the troops were not well-rested or fed. Gates was advised NOT to go into battle under the circumstances. But, he ignored the warning.

Just before dawn on August 16th, Gates and Cornwalis found themselves facing each other across a field. The British troops opened the battle as the right flank fired volley's into the militia regiments, causing a significant number of casualties. When the remaining militia looked up, they saw British troops advancing toward them with their bayonets drawn. This tactic had never been used before. The shock of seeing that, added with the fact that the militia realized they did not have bayonets, caused panic to spread quickly and the militia fled before the British regiments reached them. Within a matter of minutes, the whole rebel left wing had evaporated.

What must have been on Jacob's mind that morning as he stood in that field? No doubt he was thinking about Catherine. She was only 16-years-old when they married just five years earlier. Jacob Jr. was now four. Michael had just turned two, and a third son, George, my 6th great-grandfather, was less than two months old.

What must have been on Catherine's mind as she watched her husband leave home to defend their new settlement? It is even harder to imagine what she must have felt afterward. For you see...Jacob did not have a chance to run as did most of his fellow soldiers. In that predawn hour on that warm August 16, 1780 morning, when the smoke and dust from the cannon volley's had finally cleared, Jacob lay dead on the battlefield.

Jacob Speck's story is a sad one, but it reminds me that God never closes one door but that He doesn't open another one, and He always knows what He is doing. Before his death, God allowed Jacob to plant the seed that eventually brought ME into this world. Then, He blessed Jacob by allowing him to see his new son George, my descendant, before he left this world. Surely, before he left home to do battle, Jacob must have looked at his newborn son and thought about George's future...a future that includes me. God is good and this Thanksgiving Day, I really do have a lot to be thankful for.


I know His promise never faileth
The Word He speaks, it cannot die
Though cruel death my flesh assaileth
Yet I shall see Him by and by



The Battle of Camden, South Carolina was depicted in the 2000 movie, The Patriot. The site of the battle is 1.4 miles from Exit 98/I-20 on U.S. Highway 521 North heading towards Camden.

The Battle of Camden, South Carolina.


You can read more about Jacob Speck by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Day Memory


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17



I stopped today to remember the many things in my life that I am thankful for. God has blessed me abundantly. He caused my life to be open wide and then poured in all these things, and really, I do not deserve anything. Although I have to admit that I do not always take the time to thank God, still I am thankful that He takes time to notice me. I'm surely not worthy of any good gift, much less any perfect gift which I have received. I am thankful.

I remember as a child the wonderful gatherings that took place at the home of my grandparents, when all of my relatives would gather in for a wonderful time of fellowship and feasting. I miss those days a lot and I wish I had them back. The men folk would gather in the living room and the kids would be playing around. The women would all be gathered in the kitchen helping to prepare the meal, and, oh the aroma of the turkey sitting on the table ready to be eaten! The green beans and corn cooking on the stove. The pumpkin pie cooling off on the dessert table. The sweet smell of homemade bread coming from the oven. I remember the great anticipation that would sweep over me as I waited for someone to say, COME AND GET IT! I can vividly recall the joy, the laughter and all of the million other precious moments that was always present inside that home at 601 Hopkins Street. Now, I realize just how precious those times were.

I have always had a really nice, beautiful, loving, everlasting obsession with DUMPLINGS! Legend has it when I was 2-years-old, there was a huge feast at the radio station. While waiting for everyone to arrive, I went AWOL. They found me in Studio B, where a long table sat holding this tremendous feast. I was sitting there, all alone, in front of a big bowl of DUMPLINGS! with a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other. Allegedly, I repeated that same ritual at many other family gatherings, and I am often reminded of those early days as a child when my one and only purpose for showing up at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners was for the DUMPLINGS! Ah, who am I kidding....I'm still that way. I still can be found at the table, before anyone else sits down, with a spoon in one hand and a fork in another. Okay, maybe not really, but what a nice thought! Just typing this makes me crave them. The only difference is now I know how important the fellowship is at those gatherings.

The Thanksgiving Day tradition that I remember growing up ended when my grandparents passed away. Whenever I pass by the old homeplace, it always causes me to reflect back on those family gatherings. I would love to be able to go back there just one more time to see their faces, to laugh with them once again and to hug them all. I come from a Christian family, and someone always gave thanks before every meal, and on Thanksgiving Day, we gave thanks to the good Lord for all that he had given us. We always knew what Thanksgiving was about.

Today, as I look around at everything going on in our nation, I can't help but wonder if the true meaning of Thanksgiving has gotten lost. The first Thanksgiving was the Pilgrims giving thanks to God for the blessing of a successful harvest, and then sharing their blessing with others; a symbol of gratitude, generosity, fellowship and more. Where have we gotten to today? Is Thanksgiving Day just a day off from work, or a time to eat? Is it more about an After Thanksgiving Day Sale rather than spending time with loved ones? All of us have so much to be thankful for, if for nothing but the gift of life. On January 1, 1795, President George Washington proclaimed in his famed National Thanksgiving Proclamation that,
"…our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced…"
I am thankful that I am a Christian and that, only by God's grace, I am an American. I am thankful for my Church and my Pastor and for my beautiful children and unconditional love. I am thankful for parents who made sure I was in Church every time the doors were open, and that I had a roof over my head and food (DUMPLINGS!) to eat. I am thankful for a military that protects me, my rights and my freedom. I suffered heart failure a few years ago and praise God, I beat it. So, I am thankful to God for allowing me to enjoy my children a little longer. I am thankful to God for watching over my children when the are away from me.

And, lastly, I am thankful for you, my readers, for encouragement which allows me to continue to do what I love to do - write stories. Thank YOU!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bless the Lord

"Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.

Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.

Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.

...And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king."


1 Chronicles 29: 11-13; 20



Monday, November 23, 2009

It's A Me, Me World

I wrote a song this morning. It didn't take long at all. The song begins with the chorus...
It's a me, me world
It's a me, me world
And in this me, me world
It's not about you

Okay, then the first verse goes...
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me

And then back to the chorus...
It's a me, me world
It's a me, me world
And in this me, me world
It's not about you

Now, here is the second verse...
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me

Then it goes to the bridge...
Me, me, me, me, me
Me, me, me, me, me

And, then back to the chorus...
It's a me, me world
It's a me, me world
And in this me, me world
It's not about you

And, then you repeat the chorus again...
It's a me, me world
It's a me, me world
And in this me, me world
It's not about you

And then you sing the tag...
And in this me, me world and it's not about you


And, there you have it, my new composition. Hope you liked it!





Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Roots of the Sexiest Man Began Here

People Magazine announced Wednesday that actor Johnny Depp is the sexiest man on the planet. According to the magazine, the 46-year-old Depp headed a list of 15, catching People's attention not so much for his swashbuckling antics in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, or his freakish charm in "Edward Scissorhands," but his softer side as a family man. "The star has had women swooning since his days as a teen detective on 21 Jump Street, yet it's his devotion to his family that really makes the actor so endearing," People gushed. Depp also won the magazine's "Sexiest" honor in 2003. Depp's companion is French singer Vanessa Paradis and he is the father of Lily-Rose,10, and Jack, seven.

Speaking of family, did you know that Johnny Depp's 4th great-grandfather was Isaac Tipton Reneau, the legendary preacher of the 1800's, who is buried at Irwin Cemetery here? And, did you know that Isaac Tipton's great-granddaughter is Betty Reneau, Johnny Depp's 5th cousin?

Holy cow!

And, did you know that Isaac Tipton's daughter-in-law was Eleanor Means, Johnny Depp's great-great-great-aunt, whose nephew, William Ezra Means, was my great-grandfather?

"Say it ain't so," you say?

IT'S SO!

Maribu left here and moved to Eighty Eight to live with her husband, John B. Depp. Their son, Oren, migrated to Owensboro, where John Christopher Depp (Johnny Depp) was born many years later.



Johnny Depp Family Tree

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Constitutes Success

He has achieved success who has lived well
laughed often and loved much
who has enjoyed the trust of pure women
the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children
who has filled his niche
and accomplished his task
who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy
a perfect poem or a rescued soul
who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty
or failed to express it
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had
whose life was an inspiration
whose memory a benediction

The above poem has wrongly been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, however, according to the Nov. 30, 1905 edition of the Lincoln Sentinel, it was written by Bessie A. Stanley at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Stanley in response to a contest on what constitutes success carried on by the George Livingston Richards Company of Boston, Massachusetts. The essay was entered in competition with hundreds of others from all parts of the country. When Mrs. Stanley was notified that she had won the first prize of $250 she did not credit the good news and, laughing, told Mr. Stanley he could have half.


(Thanks Robin!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

War on the Homefront

According to Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer, around September 23, 1861, a Federal force of about 400 men, which had made prisoners of Confederate soldiers and citizens sympathizing with the cause of secession, at or near Albany, was about this time routed by a detachment of Confederate troops under Captain Bledsoe and about 60 muskets were captured.

Less than a week later, the Confederates left Albany and camped about 20 miles away, taking much private and public property, incuding more than 30 home-guard muskets and 3,000 rounds of cartridges. In the presence of a foe outnumbering them ten to one, the Russell home-guards occupied the place, replanting and standing by the colors and defiantly inviting an attack. About 300 Federals, of the 12th Ky. infantry under Col. Haskins, arrived on the 28th and were soon reinforced by 500 to 600 cavalry and home-guards. On the 29th, Haskins ordered Capt. Morrison to attack a new Confederate camp at Travisville, 13 miles distant. About 100 troops were surprised there, 2 were killed, 2 taken prisoners and the others escaped. Maj. Brents, with 45 men, was sent to reinforce Morrison, but arrived too late to participate in the attack.

The "Affair at Travisville," as it has become known, was the first military combat incident of the Civil War in Tennessee. It happened not far from where I live.

From the Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook....

Report of Col. William A. Hoskins, Twelfth Kentucky Infantry.
Camp at Albany, September 29, 1861.



Sir:
This morning I received information that the Confederate forces were forming another encampment at Travisville, distant from us 13 miles. Accordingly I ordered Capt. Morrison to take the effective force under his command and proceed to that point, and after reconnoitering sufficiently to satisfy himself that the number was not too great to justify an attack, to take them by surprise, order a surrender, which, should they refuse, to fire upon them. In obedience to my orders he proceeded to that point as directed. In about two hours after Capt. Morrison left camp Lieut. Adams joined us, as also the Home Guards of Hustonville Cavalry. I ordered a detail of 15 men from the company under command of Lieut. Adams and 30 from the Hustonville Home Guards, which were placed under command of Maj. Brunets, and he ordered to proceed to Travisville, to support Capt. Morrison in the event he was repulsed; but before reaching that point Capt. Morrison had surprised the camp, finding about 100 troops, which, being ordered to surrender, fled, when they were fired upon and 4 killed, the balance effecting their escape by fleeing to the hills. They also took 4prisoners, 2 of whom, as also 2 horses, were captured by Thomas Huddleston, a private in Capt. Morrison's company; after accomplishing which, to use his own expression, "He looked for more, but they had all fled." Among the officers with Capt. Morrison were Lieut. Miller, Sergeants Hay, Carr, Chilton, Smith, and Howard. The prisoners were brought this side the line, when, after taking a solemn obligation to prove faithful to the United States Government, they were released. But for our timely arrival the Confederate troops, I have no doubt, would now have been in possession of this place, as they were to move in this direction on yesterday.
However, the Confederates did not stay dispersed for long as the following letter dated Oct. 1, 1861 from W.A. Hoskins at the camp at Albany to Brig.-Gen. Thomas indicates:



Sir,
I learn that the Confederate troops are rallying again at Travisville, with the intention of attacking us. From the best information, they cannot muster a force exceeding 1,150. Last night at 9 o'clock our picket guards were fired upon by a party of seven persons within 3 miles of the camp; they returned the fire, with what effect I have not ascertained. None of ours were injured that I know of, though one of the picket has not yet come up. I have ordered a detachment of fifty cavalry to scout the whole country in the neighborhood of the beat at which the pickets were stationed, as also that in which the absent picket was stationed.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. A. Hoskins,
Commanding Post.
Brig.-Gen Thomas' reply dated October 29, 1861:



Gen.:
I learn that they have also a body of cavalry stationed at Travisville, numbering 1,200, which of course will join their main force at Albany, making in the aggregate 4,400. I have no fears from an attack should it come from the direction of the main road leading from Monticello, but apprehend that they may attempt to flank us by crossing lower down the river.

Respectfully, &c.,
Geo. H. Thomas, Brig.-Gen., U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.


A sesquicentennial commemoration of the Affair at Travisville is planned for September 2011.

Read more by clicking here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Man I've Never Seen

When I heard of Jesus
And all His marvelous grace
Then I believed He died for me
Gave Himself in my place
When I think of Calvary
And what that old cross really means
Then I rejoice with joy unspeakable
For the Man I've never seen

His love is so remarkable
That no hate can come between
I walk by faith for I have confidence
In the Man I've never seen

I'm thankful for His mercy
And the blood that cleansed me from sin
And now I know I have life eternal
I've been born again
I'll see Him in His glory
When He comes to gather the redeemed
I'll stand umong the saints innumerable
Before the Man i've never seen

His love is so remarkable
That no hate can come between
I walk by faith for I have confidence
In the Man I've never seen

I walk by faith for I have confidence
In the Man I've never seen


Darrell Speck, 1968.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boles' Sister Made The Bomb - Revisited

With Veterans Day still fresh on everyone's mind, I thought I would re-publish one of the very first stories I wrote. It was told me to by my Great aunt Mada Allen, and verified by my grandfather, Elmer Boles. The story is about them. I added a photo, newly revealed to me, at the end. Randy.


As everyone knows, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks during World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States of America under U.S. President Harry S. Truman. After six months of intense firebombing of 67 other Japanese cities, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. As many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki may have died from the bombings by the end of 1945. Over the years, thousands more have died from injuries or illness attributed to exposure to radiation.

The Manhattan Project involved many of the world's great physicists in the scientific and development aspects, spread out over 30 secret sites in the U.S. and Canada. One secret site, a gaseous diffusion plant for the seperation of Uranium, code named K-25 for secrecy, was erected at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A thermal diffusion plant was added at Oak Ridge in 1944.

No one was allowed to know what was being built, including the workers. All they knew was that it had to be done fast. Not even the 45,000 construction workers knew what the facility was for. Companies, such as Chrysler, Union Carbide and Dupont, who risked their own money and reputations to assist the military in ending the war, were not told anything about the building of a bomb. Yet, they still agreed to help. Precautions were taken not to hire anyone who lived in the Oak Ridge area. Secrecy was of the highest priority.

I was sitting beside my Great-Aunt Mada at her kitchen table one day, and we were looking out the window and watching a whipper wheel that was perched upside down on a feeder, which had purposely been placed by there so that she could sit at her table and watch her birds. She loved doing that, and, on each visit, I loved to sit there with her and listen to her talk. I learned a lot from my Aunt Mada. Somehow our conversations always ended up being about friends and family. And, because I have such a passion for family history, I would cling to her every word. Such was the case on this particular day, as we sat watching that upside down whipper wheel, that she told me the story of how she made the bomb.

My grandfather, Elmer Boles was aboard the U.S.S. Samuel D. Champlain during the Normandy Invasion. When the ship returned home, most of the crew was dropped off on the east coast for a brief leave, while the ship continued on through the Panama Canal to the west coast. Elmer boarded a troop train that went from New York to Oakland, California, where he boarded a ship and set sail for the south Pacific and the Phillipines.

President Truman encouraged the country to unite in the war effort, and asked each citizen to do their part. Since my grandmother, Vada, was busy at home raising her children, Aunt Mada decided she would do what she could to assist the troops, and her brother, Elmer. She and her two closest friends, Nola and Opal Talbott, had heard of a new government plant opening outside of Knoxville. Although they did not have a clue what they would be doing, they headed south.....to Oak Ridge.

Again, no one, not even the plant bosses, not even the financial backers, knew what the product that was being made at Oak Ridge was for. But, on August 8, 1945, two days after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Aunt Mada found out. She told me that on this particular day, when it came time for her supper break, she did the usual thing....head for the cafeteria. As she sat down at a table, she said she could not help but notice the headline on the front page of the newspaper a co-worker was reading at the table next to hers: "PARTS OF THE BOMB MADE AT OAK RIDGE!"

Aunt Mada could not believe what she was reading. When it became clear that the headline was true, the first thing she did was go and tell her roomates, the Talbott sisters. Later, after her shift ended and she was back in her dormitory room, she sat down at a table and began writing her brother, Elmer. She could not wait to tell him her news. The post card reached Pa Boles' ship a couple of weeks later. He described what happened this way:

"It was normal for shipmates to read each others mail because they were so far from home and homesick. Mada's letter began making its way around the ship, and it wasn't long until word began to spread, and soon everyone on the ship was saying that BOLES' SISTER MADE THE BOMB!"

Elmer Boles, seated, aboard the U.S.S. Samuel D. Champlain.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heroes

It was the fall of the year when the call for volunteers went out at the outbreak of the War of 1812. There was no question that residents of Stocktons Valley, later known as Albany, would be first in line. They were, after all, veterans, or sons of veterans, who had fought the British in the American Revolution, and would eagerly take up arms to defend their country...once again.

In the latter part of July, Kentucky Governor Isaac Shelby issued a proclamation calling for 2,000 mounted riflemen to meet him at Newport within thirty days. The soldiers would march to Lake Erie to assist General William H. Harrison in a fight with British troops and their Indian allies, including the great Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh. On August 31st, Company 53, led by William Wood of Stocktons Valley, reached Newport, and the company's 47 men, including 36 rank and file, 11 commissioned officers and nine rifles, prepared for battle.

On the appointed day, 4,000 men, double the number Governor Shelby had asked for, assembled at Newport. With the Governor leading the way, the Kentuckians crossed the Ohio River at Cincinnati, and headed for Lake Erie. On October 5, 1813, General Harrison and his forces crossed over into Canada where they fought and won the decisive Battle of the Thames. It is said William Wood was present when Richard M. Johnson killed Tecumseh.

The soldiers of Stockton Valley returned to their settlement on November 13th. They had left their home and families to defend their country, and had returned as heroes.

As we celebrate Veterans Day 2009, remember the many who fought - those who returned, and those who did not.

God Bless America and God Bless our Veterans!



* This story was originally written in July of 2008 by The Notorious Meddler as Soldiers of Stocktons Valley.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lone Pilgrim

I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay
And patiently stood by his tomb
When in a low whisper I heard something say
How sweetly I sleep here alone

The tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar
And gathering storms may arise
But calm is my feeling, at rest is my soul
The tears are all wiped from my eyes

The call of my master compelled me from home
No kindred or relative nigh
I met the contagion and sank to the tomb
My soul flew to mansions on high

Go tell my companion and children most dear
To weep not for me now I'm gone
The same hand that led me through seas most severe
Has kindly assisted me home

Bob Dylan

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Red Clackers Affair

Remember when Clackers was the rage? Maybe you don't, but I sure do. Clackers was the ultimate skill game during the late 1960s and early 1970s. By March 1971, 42 million clackers had been manufactured in the United States, making them the first fad of the 1970s. Well, it didn't last long for a reason.

Clackers was two large marbles attached by a sturdy string with a ring in the center. You would put your finger in the ring allowing the marbles or to hang below. Then the fun would begin. The idea was to get the two balls "clacking" against each other by pulling up on the ring lightly. Once you got the hang of it, you could get them going faster and faster until they were smacking each other above and below your hand in a stunning arc.



Then, the problems began. While kids loved them, teachers and doctors....and parents weren't so impressed. Clackers started finding their way into the schoolyards and it did not take long before they were yanked from shelves because kids were suffering eye injuries, and well...there was also something about the velocity of the balls if the cord broke. In February 1971, the Food and Drug Administration warned against Clackers, and so, following a nationwide outbreak of badly bruised arms and bloodshot eyes, Clackers' popularity hit rock bottom and they were BANNED!

However, before Clackers were pulled from the shelves, guess who bought a set?

That would be me.

The date was February 2, 1971. I was 11-years-old and I bought Clackers at McWhorter's Variety Store. Wow! Clackers was just the most popular fad in America and I had red ones! I was in heaven.

You are probably wondering, how I remember the exact date? I thought you'd never ask. You see, the Bulldogs were playing basketball at Tompkinsville that night, and I rode to the game with my dad and Sid Scott, who were going to be broadcasting the game over the radio.

Now, you have to understand I was really excited. The minute I walked out of the store, I tore open the package and began 'clacking.' Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. I couldn't stop. It was like a kid at Christmastime. Wait, I WAS a kid, only it was February.

But, the fun ended almost as quickly as it began. We had only gone a few short miles, when my dad told me to stop 'clacking.' Sid said I was going to put my eye out. Now, I did not believe him, but I did as I was told, and stuffed my Clackers into my right front pants pocket for the rest of the trip to Tompkinsville. The first thing I did when I walked inside the gymnasium was to get out my Clackers and start 'clacking' again. Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. But, sigh, once again, my dad told me to put them up because I could "hurt someone." Can you believe that? So...back into my right front pants pocket my Clackers went!

Clinton County versus Tompkinsville was and still is a bitter rivalry. Even today, long after Tompkinsville and Gamaliel consolidated to form Monroe County High School, when the two teams play it is war!

That night, back on February 2, 1971, was no different, only that particular evening the war was centered around two players, the Bulldogs' Randy Brown and Tompkinsville's Louis Oglethorp. Randy Brown was one of my idols. He was cool on the court. He walked cool. He shot the ball cool. He looked cool. As a matter of fact, everything he did, I thought, was cool. That is why on that night, when I was 11-years-old, I never took my eye of him and his one-on-one battle with Louis Oglethorp. Brown gave back as much as Oglethorp dished out. It had the making of a classic battle, and for me, memorable.

Then, it happened.

During the game, I overheard some ladies behind me talking about the new fad - Clackers! At halftime, I thought I would impress them by showing them MY clackers. I was so proud! I reached into my right front pants pocket to pull them out, but when I did, the cord came loose from one of the marbles. OH NO! I felt like Ralphie on the Christmas Story movie! I was d-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d! My NEW toy was broken. How could this happen to me? I just knew that people were going to laugh at me. Oh, the shame of having the most latest fad in America and it was broken. It was almost too much for a boy of 11 to bear. I was as heartbroken as one can be heartbroken, but suddenly, somehow, somewhere, I came up with a plan. I was going to fix my Clackers! I was not going to throw the hottest thing in America into a trash can, especially at Tompkinsville!

I attempted to thread the cord into the hole in the marble, but it was difficult, because the cord was limp, and because the hole was really small. With pure grit and determination, I wet the end of the cord with my lips....but no luck. The second half of the game had begun. Randy Brown and Louis Oglethorp continued to wage war with each other. It was very heated. Tompkinsville was beating us badly on the scoreboard, but the score did not matter. The battle between my idol, Randy Brown and his arch nemisis, Louis Oglethorp, far outweighed any score. So, there I sat on the bleacher watching the war and trying to fix my Clackers!

And, that's when a miracle occured.

I put that string through that marble! I FIXED MY CLACKERS! There IS a God I thought! I was so happy, that I forgout about my dad telling me not to play with my Clackers inside the gymnasium. So, as the clock wound down, there I sat, grinning from ear to ear, beaming with all the pride an 11-year-old boy could muster up -- and clacking! Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack.

As the clock wound down the final seconds of the game, Randy Brown was standing at the Tompkinsville free throw line. Oglethorp was behind him. I was clacking. Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. Just as the clock went 3--2--1, I know he wasn't, but it appeared that Randy Brown looked right at me, and suddenly he became a human clacker! Standing with one foot flat on the floor, he lifted his other leg and nailed Louis Oglethorp just under his chin with a very powerful kung-fu kick. BAM! Oglethorp hit the floor and just as he did, Brown and the rest of the Bulldog's players ran for the locker room as fast as they could go. It was total chaos as fans on both sides of the gymnasium ran onto the court, before police, school officials and others were able to restore order.

So, that is how I remember the day I bought my red Clackers. When Clackers were pulled from the shelves, mine went into the trash can and that was the end of that. My clacking days were over. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, I guess.

Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just Another Day (for the 50th time)


Wow! What can I say, my birthday isn't officially here until Thursday, but already flowers, cards, gifts, a nice family meal, a pizza party....AWESOME! Okay enough about me, now lets talk about ME! Just kidding! A big thank you to EVERYONE! Elijah summed it up rather aprapo-ishly when he exclaimed...

"GOSH DAD, YOU'RE OLD!"




Monday, November 2, 2009

Turning 50


The word on the street is that I will be turning 50 this Thursday. I haven't thought much about it. To me it is another day. I have always said, "If you did not know how old you are, how old would you be?" To be honest most days I feel a lot younger than 50, but there are those OTHER days, too.

Last week I flew to Las Vegas. It was the first time I had ever ridden in an airplane. I haven't smoked in going on seven years. I am down 17 pounds in one month, thanks to Zija. I beat heart failure and I have 3 beautiful children, and I am the full-time dad I always wanted to be. If you know me, then you know how that is to me, but that is another story, which I will one day write.

So what is so bad about turning 50? A friend reminded me this morning that I have been blessed to have reached such a milestone. I am still committed to providing my children with the best way of life I can give them. When I have reached that goal, I will have reached the milestone I want to reach. That is my drive, my desire.

I have already been treated to one pre-birthday meal, which included my all-time favorite food, dumplings. Later this week, my friend Kelly is going to treat me to Pizza. At the beginning of this year, when we were planning our 2009 Church calendar, she jovially announced that I would be turning 50 this year. I was just thrilled that someone is keeping up with me. I wrote the Pizza outing down on Post-It note so I wouldn't forget it. It's a turning-50 thing.

That reminds me of a joke. Two elderly women were out driving in a large car, and neither could barely see over the dashboard. As they were cruising along, they came to an intersection. The stoplight was red, but they just went on through. The woman in the passenger seat thought to herself, "I must be losing it, I could have sworn we just went through a red light." After a few more minutes they came to another intersection, the light was red, and again they went right through. This time, the passenger was almost sure that the light had been red, but was also concerned that she might be seeing things. She was getting nervous and decided to pay very close attention. At the next intersection, sure enough, the light was definitely red and they went right through it. She turned to the other woman and said, "Mildred! Did you know that you ran through three red lights in a row? You could have killed us! Mildred turned to her and said, "Oh No! Am I driving?"

My Trials Are God's Mercies

We each have periods in our lives where we wonder, "Where are you God?" But, it is during these times that, if we seek Him, we ...