Tag Archives: memories

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer


In 1963, the immortal Nat King Cole released an album titled “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer.” Though the album only rose to #14 on the Billboard’s LP chart, I recall that song perfectly well, even though I was just a kid in those days. There was a certain lift to the song…it lifted spirits and captured the innocent days of summer that were such a fond part of my life. The lyrics:

CHORUS: Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

Just fill your basket full of sandwiches and weenies
Then lock the house up, now you’re set
And on the beach you’ll see the girls in their bikinis
As cute as ever but they never get ’em wet

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You’ll wish that summer could always be here

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

Don’t hafta tell a girl and fella about a drive-in
Or some romantic movie scene
Right from the moment that those lovers start arrivin’
You’ll see more kissin’ in the cars than on the screen

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You’ll wish that summer could always be here
You’ll wish that summer could always be here
You’ll wish that summer could always be here!

Well, I was too young to know about drive-in’s and kissin’ girls and such stuff, but the chorus has never left my memory!

It is August 21. We have had a hot summer in the state of Georgia. Right now, our oldest son, who lives in Oregon, has been having triple-digit temperatures while we’ve been cooler than that here. And today, oh wonderful!, it is cooler here. There’s been a breeze blowing about all day and as I type this, the thunder is rolling through the treetops and the rain has begin to fall. The forecast for the next 15 days shows cooler weather than we’ve had nearly all summer…and that begins to hint to me that the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer may soon be starting to fade into the crispness of fall. I certainly hope so.

But there is something to be said for those summer days where children, like my two granddaughters in the photo I took, play away the days without a care in the world. Playing by the lakeside, eating bar-be-cue, laughing and goofing around…these are the kinds of days and things that I hope they will remember all the days of their lives – just as I recall the lyrics to this song!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1863 a ruthless band of guerillas attacked the town of Lawrence, Kansas, killing every man and boy in sight. The town was an abolitionist, pro-Union stronghold, and the guerillas, led by William Quantrill and William “Bloody Bill” Anderson,were said to have carried out the brutal attack on behalf of the Confederacy. Included in their group was Jesse James’ brother Frank and Cole Younger, who would later also play a large role in the James gang.

Bloody Bill Anderson got his name for his love of shooting unarmed and defenseless people. Reportedly, he carried multiple handguns, in addition to a saber and a hatchet. His horse was also outfitted with several rifles and backup pistols. Although he claimed to have political motives for his terrorism, Anderson more likely used the Civil War as an opportunity to kill without repercussion.

Jesse James, only 17 at the time, teamed up with Bloody Bill after he split from Quantrill’s band of killers. On September 27, 1864, their small splinter group terrorized and destroyed most of the town of Centralia, Missouri, and killed 22 Union solders.Later that day,they ambushed and killed 150 more Union men. A month later, Anderson paid for his crimes: He was caught by a full contingent of Union army troops in Missouri and killed in the ensuing battle. Jesse James was never brought to justice by the North for his war crimes and went on to become the 19th century’s most infamous criminal.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: why is it that we seldom seem to learn that the grass is NOT greener on the other side of the fence?  Over 75% of people who marry partners from an affair eventually divorce.

…Swingin’on a Gate

Double click for a larger version of the image
Double click for a larger version of the image

I was just a little fella when we moved from Iowa…and that was part of the reason we moved…I was too little.  I suffered a lot during my first 8 years or so of life due to chronic respiratory problems that were exacerbated every winter by the harsh Iowa weather.  It snowed more back in those times, and it also seems to have been colder, and from the time of the first cold air of the season until spring arrived, I struggled.  My lungs never had time to fully recover before the next winter would roll in with blizzards and snowfall.  It finally reached the point that the doctors told my folks that if I was going to live, we needed to move to warmer climes so my lungs could recuperate.  Because of all those early years, I didn’t grow normally.  I like to think it still affected me…that somehow, if not for the stunted growth those first 9 years, I’d probably be 6’5″ tall today!

But, oh, how I loved the spring and summer in Iowa!  I was as healthy as I would get while we were still living there and I was outside playing from dawn until after the fireflies went to bed for the night.  It was great…and I have such wonderful memories of those spring and summer days!  We had gates on the farm…plenty of gates!  They divided the animal pens from the barnyard and fields and from the area around the house.  I don’t know how many gates there were, but some were large enough that a tractor pulling a combine could be pulled through them, while others were only large enough for a person to pass through.  One gate in particular, the one that was outside the back door of the house and separated the yard from the hillside, was my favorite gate.  I’ve shared a picture of it before…and today’s photo is NOT that gate.  But when I saw this gate this past Saturday afternoon, the memories came flooding in.  I recall standing on the horizontal supports of that gate, side by side with my sister, watching our dad working the fields or tending to animals or taking the trash to the hillside to burn it (in those days, there wasn’t any garbage pickup – especially on farms!) whil the summer breeze ruffled our hair.

So, I just had to shoot this gate.  It is a reminder of a part of my life that though long ago, is as clear as a bell even to this day!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the French government planned an international exposition and announced a design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris (GCD: I suppose since it dealt with the French Revolution, they could have had a contest to design a new guillotine instead!). Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial Committee chose Eiffel’s plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world’s tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor.

Eiffel’s tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued that it would be structurally unsound, and indignation from others who thought it would be an eyesore in the heart of Paris. Unperturbed, Eiffel completed his great tower under budget in just two years. Only one worker lost his life during construction, which at the time was a remarkably low casualty number for a project of that magnitude. The light, airy structure was by all accounts a technological wonder and within a few decades came to be regarded as an architectural masterpiece.

The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall and consists of an iron framework supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns that unite to form a single vertical tower. Platforms, each with an observation deck, are at three levels. Elevators ascend the piers on a curve, and Eiffel contracted the Otis Elevator Company of the United States to design the tower’s famous glass-cage elevators.

The elevators were not completed by March 31, 1889, however, so Gustave Eiffel ascended the tower’s stairs with a few hardy companions and raised an enormous French tricolor on the structure’s flagpole. Fireworks were then set off from the second platform. Eiffel and his party descended, and the architect addressed the guests and about 200 workers. In early May, the Paris International Exposition opened, and the tower served as the entrance gateway to the giant fair.

The Eiffel Tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In 1815, Captain James Riley and his crew of the Commerce drank camel urine to stay alive after they were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and had to cross the Sahara Desert to reach home.  (I much prefer Dr. Pepper myself, I think…but then again, I’ve never tasted camel urine!)

..of Things Gone By

Double-click the picture for a larger version of the image…

Younger people laugh at older folks who sit around and talk about “the good old days” or the days that have gone by.  Why do we who are older talk so much about those good old days?

It’s not that these aren’t good days (though they may be good in far different ways), but I think it is because our  minds are filled with so many images and memories that our brains have filed away over oh-so-many years and the young don’t have that wonderful gift!

I have recently joined a gym and for the first time in my life, I have a trainer who has worked with me for the last four weeks (I have two more to go!).  It has reminded me of things gone by.  Why?  Well, I used to be rather athletic.  I played lots of sports, even up until I was nearly 50  years old.  I used to be able to run, jump, pump iron and all sorts of activity without hurting.  Now?  Well, not so much.  The aches and pains have left me reminiscing of things gone by, like my youth.

I used to be able to eat like a horse and never put on a single pound.  My folks even said that they never had to have a garbage disposal when I was teenager because there never were any leftovers.  I used to look in the mirror and see a young man starting back at me with nary a wrinkle at the corner of the eyes or mouth.  No longer.

Do I begrudge that?  At times, if I am to be honest.  I wish I could do all those things again without hurting…when I could run forever and never even seem to breathe hard.  Now, well, it doesn’t take much.

The photo today is of an old trailer/wagon that also made me think about how all things age…even the universe is getting old at the same rate as I am.  It is the nature of the game, isn’t it?  Hopefully, along the way, we amass a fortune of wonderful memories that we can look back on and think as I do, “What a wonderful life it has been!”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in a bizarre incident in 1982, a truck exploded in the Salang Tunnel in Afghanistan, killing an estimated 3,000 people, mostly Soviet soldiers traveling to Kabul.

The Soviet Union’s military foray into Afghanistan was disastrous by nearly every measure, but perhaps the worst single incident was the Salang Tunnel explosion in 1982. A long army convoy was traveling from Russia to Kabul through the border city of Hairotum. The route took the convoy through the Salang Tunnel, which is 1.7 miles long, 25 feet high and approximately 17 feet wide. The tunnel, one of the world’s highest at an altitude of 11,000 feet, was built by the Soviets in the 1970s.

The Soviet army kept a tight lid on the story, but it is believed that an army vehicle collided with a fuel truck midway through the long tunnel. About 30 buses carrying soldiers were immediately blown up in the resulting explosion. Fire in the tunnel spread quickly as survivors began to panic. Believing the explosion to be part of an attack, the military stationed at both ends of the tunnel stopped traffic from exiting. As cars idled in the tunnel, the levels of carbon monoxide in the air increased drastically and the fire continued to spread. Exacerbating the situation, the tunnel’s ventilation system had broken down a couple of days earlier, resulting in further casualties from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.

It took several days for workers to reach all the bodies in the tunnel. Because the Soviet army limited the information released about the disaster, the full extent of the tragedy may never be known.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Pope Innocent VIII condemned cats as evil and thousands of cats were burned. Unfortunately, the widespread killing of cats led to an explosion of the rat population, which exacerbated the effects of the Black Death.


Memory Lane…


Sometimes we go places and find powerful memories stirred in us.  On our way moving back across country to Georgia (yep, again!), we stopped in New Orleans for a day.  My wife and I had been there shortly after Hurricane Katrina when w traveled there with a medical response team to help out.

The city looks a lot different today than it did then, I’m happy to report.  I am sure that there are areas of the town that still haven’t recovered, but we didn’t travel to those places, nor to the exact place we’d been before.  But, one place we did visit was a museum about the hurricane.

Inside the hurricane there were various artifacts from the hurricane, including this garage door that I’m sharing today.  I don’t recall what all the markings mean (someone had explained them to us when we were there after the hurricane), but I do recall that typically a number would be in one of the quadrants of the X that was spray painted on the door, indicating if any bodies had been found inside the building.  In this case, it looks like a dead dog had been found inside this home.

It was sad…this walk down memory lane, evoking strong recollections and feelings from that time some years back.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1864, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, Georgia, shelling civilians and cutting off supply lines. The Confederates retreated, destroying the city’s munitions as they went. On November 15,  Sherman’s troops burned much of the city before continuing their march through the South. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil War.

William Sherman, born May 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio, and when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Sherman joined the Union Army and eventually commanded large numbers of troops, under General Ulysses S. Grant, at the battles of Shiloh (1862), Vicksburg (1863) and Chattanooga (1863). In the spring of 1864, Sherman became supreme commander of the armies in the West and was ordered by Grant to take the city of Atlanta, a key military supply center and railroad hub.

Sherman’s Atlanta campaign began May 4, 1864, and in the first few months his troops engaged in several fierce battles with Confederate soldiers on the outskirts of the city, including the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which the Union forces lost. However, on September 1, Sherman’s men successfully captured Atlanta and continued to defend it through mid-November against Confederate forces led by John Hood. Before he set off on his famous March to the Sea on November 15, Sherman ordered that Atlanta’s military resources, including munitions factories, clothing mills and railway yards, be burned. The fire got out of control and left Atlanta in ruins.

Sherman and 60,000 of his soldiers then headed toward Savannah, Georgia, destroying everything in their path that could help the Confederates. They captured Savannah and completed their March to the Sea on December 23, 1864. The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when the Confederate commander in chief, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.

After the war, Sherman succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the U.S. Army, serving from 1869 to 1883. Sherman, who is credited with the phrase “war is hell,” died February 14, 1891, in New York City. The city of Atlanta swiftly recovered from the war and became the capital of Georgia in 1868, first on a temporary basis and then permanently by popular vote in 1877.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Historically, sweat has been an active ingredient in perfume and love potions.


Memory Blocks and Cans I Remember

Do you like to go to antique stores?  Nah, me neither.  Well, at least not in terms of shopping.  Antiques are too expensive, if you ask me.  And they’re really OLD, too…and that means that they’re bound to collapse in a pile of wood, glass, metal or whatever because that’s what happens to old things, right?  Why, even the pyramids are crumbling!  And they’re only about 5000 years old!  I rest my case!!!!

But, I must confess that I’ve found a new appreciation for going into antique stores.  I take my camera along and take pictures while my wife wanders around looking at every single thing in the store.  But you know what?  I don’t mind if she does that because it gives me more time to shoot photos!  And that is NEVER a bad thing….!

Today’s photo is from an antique store in Oakdale.  There are two things in this picture that really caught my eye.  The first is the wooden blocks that are contained in the glass jar.  I used to play with blocks like those when I was a kid.  I can even remember how they smelled!  Did you play with blocks like those, too?

The second thing is the milk can on which the blocks rest.  My grandfather was a farmer for 95 of his 102 years.  He had some cows that he’d milk and when we went to visit them, my sister and I liked to “help” with the milking. Next to the barn was a small shed that housed the “separator” machine.  It was a machine that would separate the cream from the milk.  The warm milk right out of the cow would be poured from a bucket into the top of the separator (it had a cone-shaped part at the top that would spin rapidly) and there were two spouts farther down the machine.  The cream would come out of one of the spouts while the remaining milk poured out of the other..and you guessed it, it poured into a large milk can like the one in the picture.  Ah, the memories!!!!  Amazing how well we can remember some things decades later.

_MG_5092ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  With the Anglo-Americans closing in on Germany from the west and the Soviets approaching from the east, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered a massive attack against the western Allies by three German armies.

The German counterattack out of the densely wooded Ardennes region of Belgium took the Allies entirely by surprise, and the experienced German troops wrought havoc on the American line, creating a triangular “bulge” 60 miles deep and 50 miles wide along the Allied front. Conditions of fog and mist prevented the unleashing of Allied air superiority, and for several days Hitler’s desperate gamble seemed to be paying off. However, unlike the French in 1940, the embattled Americans kept up a fierce resistance even after their lines of communication had been broken, buying time for a three-point counteroffensive led by British General Bernard Montgomery and American generals Omar Bradley and George Patton.

Fighting was particularly fierce at the town of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division and part of the 10th Armored Division were encircled by German forces within the bulge. On December 22, the German commander besieging the town demanded that the Americans surrender or face annihilation. U.S. Major General Anthony McAuliffe prepared a typed reply that read simply:

To the German Commander:


From the American Commander

The Americans who delivered the message explained to the perplexed Germans that the one-word reply was translatable as “Go to hell!” Heavy fighting continued at Bastogne, but the 101st held on.

On December 23, the skies finally cleared over the battle areas, and the Allied air forces inflicted heavy damage on German tanks and transport, which were jammed solidly along the main roads. On December 26, Bastogne was relieved by elements of General Patton’s 3rd Army. A major Allied counteroffensive began at the end of December, and by January 21 the Germans had been pushed back to their original line.

Germany’s last major offensive of the war had cost them 120,000 men, 1,600 planes, and 700 tanks. The Allies suffered some 80,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action, with all but 5,000 of these casualties being American. It was the heaviest single battle toll in U.S. history.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Agatha Christie claimed she did most of her plotting for her books while sitting in a bathtub munching on apples.


Waxing Nostalgic

My, my, my.  I don’t know what has prompted my recent musings, but I have been getting very nostalgic lately.  Numerous things have triggered long, lingering fond memories as I look backward at my life.

I was listening to a Fernando Ortega song, Dragonfly, the perhaps started the nostalgia ball rolling.  It is a song, as you may have guessed, about a dragonfly, and there’s a line that goes like this: “…between the skaters and fishing line…”, about how the dragonfly darts between the water bug skaters and the fishing lines that are in the water.  That brought to my mind a summer’s evening long, long ago when I was perhaps six or seven years old  My dad had finished his farm work for the day and he took me out to the Raccoon River not far from our farm and we baited our hooks with worms that we’d dug up on the farm and threw our lines in the water.  Our fishing poles were made of thin, flexible metal of some kind, and my father and I sat on the bank, side by side, waiting for a fish to bite.  Water bug skaters slide across the water in the protected areas and dragonflies were darting all over.  The sounds of turtle doves cooing filled the air as the sun began to sink in the west and the light turned beautiful and golden.  I don’t remember what, if anything, we talked about, but I remember sitting there with my dad that day as if it were this afternoon.  How I wish I could go fishing with my father again!  Years later, when we lived in Antioch, CA, he got a boat and we’d go out fishing on the delta throughout my high school years.  Later still, after I had my own family, I got a boat and would take my dad out fishing.  Oh, how I cherish those moments…and the moments when I would take my kids out fishing with me.

Van Morrison’s song, Brown Eyed Girl, prompted another memory when it came on the radio.  During the school year of 1966-1967 I was preparing for my freshman year in high school.  I was desperately, madly in love with a brown-eyed girl named Mari (short for Marilyn), and I’d been head-over heels about her for a while.  I last saw her about 2-3 years ago and she still has that same twinkle in her eye and smile that I so fondly remember.  I can vividly recall the butterflies of young love…for truly, I was as madly in love with her as a 15 year old boy could be.

Last night, I performed a wedding ceremony for a young lady who I have known since she was about four years old.  I couldn’t help but think back over those years and reflect about my own wedding.  When I asked the groom before the ceremony if he was nervous (I could tell he was!), he bravely admitted it and wondered if it was normal.  I assured him that it was.  I recall those butterflies….and it is good to know that the butterflies are still flying.

Then, today was a car show in Livermore and since my wife had been sick for the better part of a week, she was desperate to get out a bit without risking close contact where she might make someone else sick.  So, we piled into the car and drove over the hill to the car show.  There we saw a yellow ’67 Camaro, much like the one we had when my wife and I were going to school in Florida.  It is the subject of today’s photo, but ours had a black vinyl top with a black racing stripe down the side.  It had a 327 engine and it would flat out get up and go.  We loved that car, and seeing several ’67’s at the show brought it back as if it were just yesterday.

How can so many years have passed and I still recall the sights, smells, sounds, textures, tastes and emotions that happened 40-45 years ago as if they are happening to me all over again?  Perhaps it’s because human emotions never change.  We remember the moments that have defined our lives, and as far as my life is concerned, they are almost all good memories.  For that I am thankful.

Treasure your life’s moments.  Old ones, and new ones…for one day, they will be the moments and memories that you will cherish as long as you live!

_MG_6560ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1547, Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, was born near Madrid.

Cervantes led an adventurous life and achieved much popular success, but he nevertheless struggled financially throughout his life. Little is know about his childhood, except that he was a favorite student of Madrid humanist Juan Lopez, and that his father was an apothecary.

In 1569, Cervantes was living in Rome and working for a future cardinal. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the Spanish fleet to fight against the Turks. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he took three bullets and suffered permanent damage to his left hand. Later, he was stationed at Palermo and Naples. On the way home to Madrid in 1575, he and his brother Roderigo were captured by Barbary pirates and held captive in Algiers. Cervantes was ransomed after five years of captivity and returned to Madrid, where he began writing. Although his records indicate he wrote 20 to 30 plays, only two survive. In 1585, he published a romance. During this time, he married a woman 18 years younger than he was and had an illegitimate daughter, whom he raised in his household. He worked as a tax collector and as a requisitioner of supplies for the navy, but was jailed for irregularities in his accounting. Some historians believe he formulated the idea for Don Quixote while in jail.

In 1604, he received the license to publish Don Quixote. Although the book began as a satire of chivalric epics, it was far more complex than a simple satire. The book blended traditional genres to create a sad portrait of a penniless man striving to live by the ideals of the past. The book was a huge success and brought Cervantes literary respect and position, but did not generate much money. He wrote dramas and short stories until a phony sequel, penned by another writer, prompted him to write Don Quixote, Part II in 1615. He died the following year.  Some consider Don Quixote to be the greatest novel ever written.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The smallest of American owls, the elf owl, often nests in the Gila woodpecker’s cactus hole after the woodpecker leaves. The owl measures barely 6 inches tall. It specializes in catching scorpions, seizing each by the tail and nipping off its stinger. It then swallows the scorpion’s body, pincers and all.


Dusty, but Hangin’ In There

Every house has them.  They may be in the attic, basement, tucked away on a crawl space of the upper reaches of a seldom-used closet, but they’re there.  Waiting.  Silently.  Biding their time until the right moment.

No, I’m not talking about the boogey-man, but about artifacts of a life.  I have many that once belonged to my father, some from my father’s father, and some from even earlier.  To many, they are just clutter, but to me they are treasures.

How can something be a treasure when it sits and collects dust?  How can one say it is precious when you may not have even looked at it for years and may have even forgotten it was there, waiting to present themselves again to us?

I don’t know how, but it is true.  Once they are found again, if the person who finds them knows their story, they take on a value far out of proportion to what they would be worth on eBay or a garage sale or even an antique store.  The reason is simple: my father touched them, or my grandfather or great-grandfather.  They cared for these things, these relics of time gone by.  Just knowing that they valued them for some utility or some pleasure it gave them makes them precious to me.  I’d not sell them for all the money in the world.  I will pass them along, with their stories, to my children and my children’s children.

Today’s photo is of a relic hanging in a shed on a farm in Iowa.  The dust has collected heavily on it and it hasn’t been used for a long time, nor has it seen the bright light of day.  That’s okay.  It is still beautiful if we only take the time to see it clearly…like a person with the wrinkles of age, their bodies no longer sleek and slim, but precious for the wisdom they contain and the beauty of memories that they hold.

rsz__mg_3060ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: July 10, 1943 saw the beginning of the Allied invasion of Sicily.  General George S. Patton and his 7th Army landed on the south coast, while Field Marshall Montgomery came ashore on the southeast side of the island.  Within 3 days, 150,000 troops were ashore.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines  because it doesn’t smoke unless it’s heated above 450F.


A Walk Down Memory Lane

I was born in Iowa.  I spent the first years of my life as a kid on the farm.  The farm was nothing spectacular…only 80 acres in the heartland of America.  The soil was rich and black, watered from the sky and sheltered by the billowing white clouds floating overhead.

I was just a child when we lived there and so life on the farm was more like a dream to me, a Never-Never Land of sorts, where a young boy could ride a horse through the tall prairie grasses in pursuit of imaginary bison or deer.  I recall standing in the barnyard with my father (God rest his soul) looking up at a darkening sky with black clouds twisting and turning in a maelstrom of wind and fury, then glancing off to the west to see a funnel cloud marching across the distant farmlands.

To be able to return to one’s roots as an adult, even for a few hours, is a blessing – at least in my case.  My childhood, though poor, was a very happy one.  The farm house we lived in was small, but I didn’t realize it at the time.  As with most things from our earliest years and memories, they take on a size far out of proportion to their real dimensions.  It is only when we see them later that we realize that either they shrank or we grew…or both.

Outside the back porch of our farmhouse was a fence and small gate that led to a gentle down-slope which culminated in a line of trees and a fence that separated the farmland from the hillside.  My sister and I spent many hours climbing on that fence and countless trips through that gate to play on the hillside, walk to the mulberry tree where we gorged ourselves on mulberries (yes, we stained our clothes with the mulberry juice!) or to take the trash out to the burn-pile (there was no such thing as garbage service on the farms in those days).

Much to my delight, the gate is still there, and when I was there for our family reunion, I took several photos of it, one of which is the featured image today.  As I took this photograph, I intentionally blurred the distant objects in favor of a sharper focus on the nearer ones.  It seemed to me to be appropriate.  As I looked through that open gate, I wondered if the gate was open to beckon me to the past or to the future.  In either event, what was visible in the distance was blurred – one by a fading memory and the other by the unknowns of the future that only God holds in His hands.

But, the open gate beckons, calling me to step through and perhaps to once again ride a horse on an imaginary journey through the tall grasses, or to give full-head to the horse as it carries me headlong into the future.  Either way, I suspect it shall be a great adventure, one worthy of epic tales and historical renown.  Will you join me?

_MG_2819_20_21_tonemappeddeON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: The Battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), one of the Civil War’s most crucial combats, began. In the battle Confederate troops led by Gen. Robert E. Lee fought against Union troops led by Gen. George Meade. The battle ended three days later when Confederate troops were forced to retreat back to Virginia.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Whitcomb L. Judson invented the zipper but you may not know why the letters YKK are on most zippers.  Here’s why: in 1934, Yoshida Kogyo Kabushililaisha (I’m glad I didn’t have to pronounce that!) was founded. Sixty years later they changed their name to YKK Co. The privately owned firm, headquartered in Japan, now is made up of 80 companies at 206 facilities in 52 countries. Wow! you say? but of course, the demand for zippers is great. YKK makes everything from the dyed fabric around the zipper to the brass used to make the actual device.


Old Timey Stuff

Did you see the movie, O Brother, Wherefore Art Thou?  It is a really well done movie, and the music in it is great.  It takes place somewhere in the south (Mississippi, if memory serves me correctly) and there are a couple scenes that are just plain hilarious.

In another scene, there’s talk about “old timey music”.  There are many “old timey” things in life, and we often get caught up in reminiscing about things in the good old days, or “Back when I was a kid…” kind of stuff.

Well, today’s picture is of “old timey stuff”.  I remember the metal cans of Quaker Oats (later followed by the cardboard variety which had to be much cheaper to manufacture).  My grandmother had some at her place when we were kids.

I shot this picture down in a country store in Jonesboro, GA a couple of months ago.  It must reminded me then, and now, of “old timey stuff”…and that ain’t half bad.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1939, the Spanish Civil War came to an end as a white flag was hoisted over Madrid, Spain, and General Franco took control of the city.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Catherine de Medici was the first known European woman to use tobacco…she took it in a mixture of snuff.  Glad I didn’t have to kiss her!!!


Do you remember eating things as a child that you thought tasted like some sort of food of the angels?  But then what happened?  You grew older and grew up and when you tried it again, it wasn’t all that great.

I remember things like these: Fizzies (do you remember them – little flavored discs that looked like colored Alka-Seltzer tablets that you dropped in water and they fizzed and made a fruit-flavored drink)?  Iabsolutely loved Fizzies!!!  But, a few years back, I found an old-time candy store that specialized in carrying the kinds of candy that you could get back in the day when I was a young whippersnapper and I purchased some Fizzies.  I took them home, put it in water…and blech…not nearly as good as I remembered.  That could have been due to the fact that the original Fizzies were not the same as what I could buy at Powell’s Candy Store in the 21st century.  I just don’t know.  But I was disappointed.

The same could be said for animal crackers.  I used to love animal crackers!  And just to show you how suave and debonair that I was in my senior year in high school, I once took a girl that I cared for a lot to a date in San Francisco.  I bought a box of Animal Crackers for us to consume in the car.  And we had a great time eating those Animal Crackers – biting the heads off the lions, crippling the giraffes, de-nosing the elephants.  Ah, the memories!  I’m sure that you recall the little circus wagon, red-boxes that they came in as if the animals were a cage looking out at you!  Can’t you just see them to this day?

Just recently, Laurel bought a bin of animal crackers from Trader Joe’s.  Now I usually like the stuff at Trader Joe’s, but these were not delicious.  They form the subject of today’s photo.  Today’s photo is supposed to be about something delicious.  So why something that was NOT delicious?  Because if you know me at all, you know that I can be a rascal, a bit of a obstreporous rebel and prone to doing things the opposite of what’s suggested.  Hence, the photo in reverse – NOT Delicious!  I even added my own editorial to the label on the animal cracker bin.

I guess I’ll have to go buy a box of brand name Animal Crackers in the little red “cage” box and see if they’re as good as I recall.

But, there are two things that I know taste as good today as they did back then: Snickers and Dr. Pepper!!!  Some things never change…

These are NOT your childhood memory Animal Crackers!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, British bombers destroyed the Gestapo HQ in Copenhagen, killing more than 70 Nazis.  Tragically, the raid also killed civilians, including 86 schoolchildren, in Denmark’s worst civilian disaster of the war.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Texas is the only state in the US that has been under six different flags: Spain, Rance, Mexico, Lone Star Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States flag.  Those Texans just can’t make up their minds!