Friday, January 29, 2010

The Virgin Snow

Earlier this morning, snow Virga was falling in middle Tennessee. Virga is precipitation that evaporates somewhere on the journey from clouds toward earth. If you were outside earlier this morning, you sensed the air had a 'wet' feel to it. Sometimes the air thousands of feet above the ground is moist enough to produce clouds and rain at the same time that the air closer to the ground is as dry as a bone. So when the snow falls in these conditions it evaporates on its freefall to earth.

But, no need to worry about 'virga' snow now, as the real deal is heading for us as I type this.

Stay safe and warm, and enjoy the snow! I just hope we don't get the ice that is being forecast.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Man I Yet May Be

Yesterday I dragged wearily along, passively resigned, the Man-I-Am, between the Man-I-Might-Have-Been and the Man-I-Yet-May-Be. But now, today, I feel that with Christ's help all things are possible to the aspirations, the energy and the courage that are thrilling in me in this beautiful new-born life of today, and the Man-I-Yet-May-Be draws closer to my side.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Case Of The Missing Cell Phone

I hate to admit this but I guess turning 50 has affected me more I thought it would. The other night, while driving home from a basketball game, I dialed up my friend, Don Johnson. We were deep in conversation when I pulled into the driveway. I walked in the house, took off my coat and started putting my stuff where my stuff goes. That's when I came to the awful realization that my cell phone was missing. So, while continuing to chat with Don, I went through my coat pockets twice, went through every room in the house - some twice - and even went outside and looked in the car. Still...no phone. Darn it! So, with Don still chatting in my ear, I went back into the house, back to my coat, checked all the pockets TWICE, went through every room in the house - some twice - and, once again, went back outside and looked in the car. I was fast becoming frustrated. The thought occurred to me that the phone might have fallen between the seats. Sadly, the phone was not there either. Again, I go back in the house, while continuing the chat with Don. I looked around but the phone was no where in sight. I sighed a deep sigh of aggravation and disappointment. I remember thinking, "Someone might try to call me!" That should have been a clue right there. Well, it was right about then that I said goodbye to Don, and that's when I closed my cell phone, looked at it, and said aloud, "THERE IT IS!"

It's a good thing that I didn't tell Don I had lost my cell phone. He would have accused me of losing more than that!

I'm just glad Elijah keeps up with the remote.

That reminds me of the time my mom took us five kids to a school talent show. A neighbor lady and her four kids went with us. Our van was packed. There were kids everywhere. Also packed was the school cafeteria where the talent show took place. On the way back home, mom said something to my youngest brother, Mark. She repeated herself when he didn't reply, and it was then we realized Mark was not in the van! Mom turned the van around and sped back toward the school. Along the way, we met a car flashing its headlights. It was Wendell Burchett, who had found my brother wandering around the parking lot.

Hey wait, that's it! My problem is genetic! There...I feel much better now!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Have I Done My Best?

The date was September 8, 1860. Edward Spencer, a sophomore at Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, thought it would be a normal day. Like himself, several students got up for an early walk along Chicago’s Lake Michigan beach. As they were walking, they saw that some debris had washed up on the shore. Some of that debris was human. What they didn’t know is that around 2:30 in the morning, a storm had brewed on Lake Michigan and the Lady Elgin, carrying soldiers, collided with another ship. Life boats were deployed, but there was not enough. As the ship sank people looked for anything to float on. It was one of the worst marine disasters ever in North American history. Over 400 people lost their lives and that morning still hundreds more were floating on debris, trying to make it to shore.

Without a moment's hesitation, Edward rid himself of any extra clothing that might hinder him and be dived in the rolling, chopping waves. He was able to reach the wreck and, fighting his way back, he brought the first person to safety. He had repeated this heroic effort several more times when those on shore said, "Ed, you've done all you can. You'll surely kill yourself if you try it anymore." Ed's reply was, "I've got to go my best." He plunged again and brought another one to safety, and another and another until he had rescued 17 people. He could go no further and fell unconscious on shore. All through the night, as he lay in the infirmary, he kept repeating, "Have I done my best, fellows? Fellows, have I done my best?" He had done his best but the experience cost him his health, because, you see, from that moment on, Edward had to use a walker or a wheelchair just to get around.

Years later, inspired by the story, Ensign Edwin Young wrote the song, 'Have I Done My Best For Jesus?'

How many are the lost that I have lifted
How many are the chained I've helped to free
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus
When He has done so much for me

And Some Having Compassion

And some have compassion, making a difference. Jude 1:22

Because of the bad economy, a lot of folk are having a hard time right now. Many struggled through Christmas and no doubt will be paying on it for weeks to come. It's a tough time for sure. The first quarter of the year is always difficult for businesses. There are a lot of stressful situations out there right now. Each one of us has our own economy and some differs from others. I am not here to offer some sort of advice on how to overcome your situation, but I do know that each of us has a duty to be kind to one another and, like the bible verse says, have compassion. That is the best way I know to make a difference right now. I'm not saying I have the answer, but I have found hope in a new venture I've been involved in for several months now. Not only is it providing extra income for my family, but it is also going a long way toward some much-needed personal development, and that's an encouragement. For all this, I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Remembering The Day The Music Died

The temperatures across the country have been so cold the past several days and nights. Even areas that normally do not suffer from cold temperatures are or have experienced the coldness. It's January and for me, the cold weather only serves to remind me of the sad ending to one of the beginnings in rock and roll. I read on Facebook where my friend, Greg Martin of the Kentucky Headhunters, reported that the band was experiencing a layover in Rawlins, Wyoming, 1200 miles from home because their tour bus decided it wanted to quit. I shivered at the news, and in the coincidence that I was about to write a story based on the upcoming anniversary of the 1959 Winter Dance Party Tour, which was plagued by bus problems and the harsh winter weather, and changed the course of music history.  I thought about the Kentucky Headhunters predicament in Wyoming and I shivered some more.

The 1959 Winter Dance Party tour through the frigid Midwest was launched on January 23, 1959 at George Devine's Million Dollar Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Buddy Holly and the Crickets - Jerry Allison and J.B. Mauldin - had parted ways. Problems between the Crickets and their manager/producer, Norman Petty, had lead to a split in the group. They had been in New York for several weeks to get bigger exposure and to record there, but Allison and Mauldin were homesick. Buddy, on the other hand, wanted to stay in New York, where he could record. The dispute with Petty had resulted in royalty disputes and Buddy agreed to headline the winter tour to ease resulting cash flow problems. He replaced Allison and Mauldin with Waylon Jennings on bass, Tommy Allsup on guitar and Carl Bunch on drums. They were joined on the tour by Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and Frankie Sardo.

The Winter Dance Party" was an absurd tour orchestrated by General Artists Corporation that was set to cover 24 Midwestern cities in three weeks. In temperatures several degrees below zero, the performers had to endure daily bus travels back and forth across Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. GAC accepted any offer that came along and filled the dates regardless of the distance involved. They gave no consideration to the amount of travel, as the distance between venues was not a priority when scheduling each performance. For instance, the tour was in Wisconsin on the 24th, Minnesota on the 25th, back to Wisconsin on the 26th, back to Minnesota on the 27th and 28th, Iowa on the 29th and 30th, back to Minnesota on the 31st, and back to Wisconsin on Feb. 1st. Adding to the discomfort, the tour bus used to carry the musicians was ill-prepared for the weather; its heating system broke on the 30th. The bus completely broke down on the 31st. It broke down again the next day, Feb. 1st, just outside of Appleton, Wisconsin. A trucker had notified the sheriff's office in Appleton that a group of men, without hats, gloves or winter coats, was seen standing outside a stranded bus ten or fifteen miles south of town. One mile north of Pine Lake, the sheriff found the darkened bus on the roadside. Stepping inside with his flashlight the sheriff was greeted by a group of pale and sick young men, some huddled together under blankets. One person, Carl Bunch, couldn’t stand up. He was admitted to a hospital with frost bite on his feet. “Such lousy old buses,” Tommy Allsup would recall decades years later. “They weren’t really buses. They were jokes.”

The tour was scheduled to play two shows in Appleton, then have a day off to recuperate. But a show at Clear Lake, Iowa was added to the schedule. A different bus was brought in. On Feb. 2nd, on the way to Clear Lake, it broke down too. By the time, the performers arrived at Clear Lake, everyone was in a bad mood. Holly told Allsup and Jennings that after the show he was going to lease a plane from Jerry Dwyer's Flying Service to fly them to the next stop on the tour. The Big Bopper was sick and asked Jennings to let him have his seat, to which Jennings agreed. Valens asked Allsup for his seat. They flipped a coin and Valens won. So, Holly, Richardson and Valens got into the plane with pilot Roger Peterson. A few minutes after take off, Dwyer saw the lights of the Beechcraft Bonanza airplane start to descend from the sky to the ground instead of ascending. When the plane did not land at Fargo, North Dakota, a search was organized. The plane's wreckage was found the next morning in Albert Juhl's cornfield, eight miles from Clear Lake. Everyone on the plane was dead.

At the Jan 31st show, some 36-hours before Buddy Holly's death, 17-year-old Robert Zimmerman attended the Winter Dance Party show at the Armory in Duluth, Minnesota. Today, Robert Zimmerman is known to the world as Buddy Holly. In 1998, while accepting the Album of the Year award for his Time Out Of Mind, Dylan said, "...when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him and he looked at me and I just have some sort of feeling that he was -- I don't know how or why-- but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way."

Greg Martin assured me that all was okay with the Kentucky Headhunters being stuck in Wyoming. I breathed easier when he said they were in an area with a hotel. He said, "God is good, it all works out for a reason. Hey, the sun is shining this morning, the skies are blue, that's good. Lord, thank you Sir!" I am glad he is thinking positive. Of course, this is 2010, not 1959. At last report, another bus was heading toward Wyoming to pick Greg and the boys up.

In the immortal words of Buddy Holly....Rave on!

By the way, Rave On!! is also the name of the third album released in 1993 by the Kentucky Headhunters for Mercury Records. The phrase is mentioned in the chorus of the song, Dixie Fried. Carl Perkins wrote that song, and it was Carl Perkins who said, "Buddy Holly may not have given birth to rock and roll, but he sure rocked the cradle."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Real Good

"What is the real good?"
I ask in a musing mood.
"Order," said the law court;
"Knowledge," said the school;
"Truth," said the wise man;
"Pleasure," said the fool;
"Love," said the maiden;
"Beauty," said the page;
"Freedom," said the dreamer;
"Home," said the sage;
"Fame," said the soldier;
"Equity," said the seer.
Spake my heart fully sad:
"The answer is not here."
Then within my bosom,
Softly this I heard:
"Each heart holds the secret:
'Kindness' is the word."

From Leaves of Gold, an anthology of prayers, verse and prose(1948, Coslett Publishing). My copy is from the twelfth printing in 1963.

About the author:
Born in Ireland, John Boyle O'Reilly was employed as a printer for the "Drogheda Argus," and on the staff of "The Guardian", Preston, England. Believing that Ireland's grievances could only be redressed by physical force, he joined the Fenian movement only to be betrayed to the authorities and duly court-martialed. On account of his extreme youth, his life sentence was commuted to twenty years penal servitude in Australia. In 1869, O'Reilly escaped from Australia and fled to America.  A year later, he became editor of "The Pilot" in Boston. His first volume of poems was published shortly thereafter.

*Photo by Charley Neal

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