How I Discovered Travis Tritt

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I’ve had very few brushes with celebrities. One of my closest encounters was with Tonight Show second-banana Ed McMahon, way back in 1991. I’d flown to Los Angeles for a convention and found time to do a few touristy things such as taking a tour of stars’ homes and visiting Disneyland. I also went to a taping of the aforementioned show starring Johnny Carson, who was always funniest when his monologue jokes bombed, as they did that night. His guests were comedian Martin Mull, jazz singer Ruth Brown and somebody not famous enough to remember.

Before the show, I did the NBC tour. When I left the taping, I walked by the staff parking lot and caught a glimpse of Ed getting into his limousine. I yelled at the Publisher’s Clearing House pitchman “Hey Ed! Where’s my check!”

“Ho ho ho!” he bellowed as he waved. “It’s in the mail!” Then he got in the car and was driven away.

Turns out, he lied. He could have at least shaken my hand, or maybe given me a coupon for a can of Alpo. These stars.

I met professional wrestler Mankind/Mick Foley in the parking garage of a hospital. Turned out both of us were there to greet our newborn sons. He was unloading a baby carrier from the back of a minivan. I walked up to him and asked if he was who I thought he was. He smiled at me, sans teeth, and gave me an autograph on a napkin. He was pretty nice, a far cry from his maniac persona. And more hospitable at the hospital, moreso than Ed had been in Burbank.

Perhaps my closest encounter with a celebrity was in the pre-celebrity days of country music star Travis Tritt. Travis and I were both raised in Marietta, Georgia and we attended summer camp together. I remember him as being scrawny, shorter and younger than I was. He wasn’t as athletic as me, which is to say there was really no need to write this sentence, other than to embellish my own ego. Still, he wasn’t that proficient at anything involving a ball, preferring to sit on the sidelines with his guitar.

In the cabin, he would play his guitar constantly along with another guitar-playing friend. At the tender age of 14, he was already heavily invested in his instrument, an investment that would eventually pay dividends, not long after his hair grew a good bit longer than it was during that hot summer week in central Georgia.

Each year at summer camp was a talent show, and seeing how Travis Tritt had not yet become Travis Tritt, if you will, I employed his services as my guitarist while I took to the stage and put on my Elvis imitation concert. Mind you, my act was ground-breaking, in that Mr. Presley was still with us, and there had not yet been an outbreak of faux-Elvi across the world.

Anyway, I leapt to the stage as three or four girls squealed dutifully, happy to cash in on the snack food credits they would be able to enjoy in return for the squeals. I sang “Hound Dog,” accompanied by the un-famous Tritt, who tore into his guitar as I snarled across the stage.

It was the end of my career, and the start of his, for there in an open stage tabernacle, I introduced a celebrity to the, uh, world.

Years later, I was listening to the radio. After the song ended, the deejay said “That was  the new big hit Country Club by Travis Tritt!”

Well now, I figured I was due something. After all, I had been Travis Tritt’s Sam Phillips.

Alas, I never got a call from him or RCA. But we did get re-acquainted, sort of. By the time we met again (sort of), we were living in the same town, and he was grand marshall of the town’s Christmas parade. I stood on the sidewalk with dozens of other parade watchers, holding the aforementioned son while he clutched the napkin with Mick Foley’s autograph.

Travis passed by slowly, seated atop the back seat of a red convertible, waving at the crowd. For the briefest moment, our eyes locked and I bellowed, “Hey Travis! Remember me?!”

He just kept waving, but managed to smile and nod his head. The car rolled past and I yelled at the bumper. “Summer camp! 1975! You played guitar for me!”

Perhaps I was thinking he would order the driver to stop the car as he clambered out and ran backwards toward me. “Oh my Lord, how could I have forgotten! I owe my career to you!”

But that never happened. He made his way back to his stately Georgia mansion, while I dabbed at my eyes with the autographed napkin.

Well, you never know. I may yet meet somebody else who’s famous.

Distracted By A Field Of Knees

detroit-lions-take-a-knee

 

Guy sits on an exam table in front of a doctor.

“Doc, it’s my knee. The thing is killing me.”

“I’m a little more concerned about this four-pound tumor on the back of your head, Bob.”

“Heck with that. It’s the knee, doc, it’s the knee.”

The current rally point for the American Idol-conditioned citizenry is whether or not a gaggle of sporting behemoths should stand while somebody sings a crummy old saloon song. (Really, if there is to be a national anthem, they picked this one? Did anybody check with Kate Smith?)

Naturally, the president seized on the opportunity, taking to his Tweeter account to lambast the un-American NFL squatters, further polarizing the two largest demographics in the land: Group A: the spoiled rotten delinquents who forgot to take their daily ritalins, and Group B: the disenfranchised Pollyannas who still cling to fond memories of days long gone by, desperately hoping Donald J. Trainwreck can somehow lead them back to the days of wine, roses and Camelot.

Group B elicits some measure of sympathy, if only because they’re generally better behaved. They’re also clinging to and pining for what no longer is. The American culture they once knew has been shattered into millions of multicultural pieces, so much so, that there remains no longer a definitive American culture. All we have now is a really big shattered mirror, with millions of narcissists holding their piece, trying to figure why everyone doesn’t see the same picture they do.

Alas, whatever culture we had is long gone. The Cleavers and Cartwrights have exited the scene, being replaced by “Biggie And Tupac: What Really Happened?”

What we have now are pockets of a bygone culture in assorted places across the land, mostly in rural areas. But such values have been swallowed up and replaced by millions of different ideals in a culture that was built on the sandy premise of individual determination. Really, it’s always been every man for himself, and today we see the natural manifestation of that.

But lots of Americans want to feel the swell of the patriot’s pride, and frown on anybody else who takes a knee when old glory is raised. After all, don’t the kneelers have any respect at all for what the flag represents?

Group A is likely un-salvageable. What those in Group B need to realize is they are fine with having the parameters of the patriotism micro-managed by Washington politicians. They puke out policy decisions, declare this war or that war, raise the flag, and Group B falls in line, standing, removing their hats and singing along.

After the unfortunate second world war, the American government sought a new villain which turned out to be the stumbling and staggering Soviet bear, which had seen over 20 million of its citizens lost during the war.

So, we had a new whipping boy and Truman oversaw the birth of the CIA and other top-heavy government agencies. William F. Buckley (of all people) called it a “totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.” The government developed a hideous National Security state, which included what Eisenhower correctly warned us all about: a massive, ever-growing military-industrial complex.

1991 demonstrated what a shell the USSR was, but not to fear. 9/11 would serve well to further ensconce the role of government-as-god for security-starved Americans.

So in desperation, Group B clutches hold of Trump’s Chinese necktie, praying he can somehow bring the Cleavers back. In so doing, they forge an alliance with the devil. It isn’t the knee-benders who are the problem, neither is their lack of patriotism. This is a non-issue. The real issues are crimes by government, with Donald J. Corleone manning the controls as he continues the BushObama policies of perpetual war, and the growth of the State. To this, they plight their troth.

Cultural matters aside, Group B needs to re-evaluate the definition of their patriotism. Is their allegiance actually to liberty, or is it to government? If it is to the former, then why do they cheer every time the government waves a flag in their face and ostensibly demand their affections, all while taking not only their liberties, but those of others on the planet? Is it really patriotic to support a government which drops bombs on Christians who are attending Easter services?

In short, what is patriotism? How is defined? Devotion to liberty or devotion to government? Is anyone actually making the argument the American government is devoted to liberty? Where are the Trump tweets calling for the slicing and dicing of the federal bureaucracy? Instead, we hear praise for the CIA, and calls to further expand the military and police.

This is liberty?

Trump  uses the kneelers to his own advantage, like a conquistador waves a red flag in front of the bull, and most everyone stares dutifully at the red white and blue flag, while Trump gives $200 billion to the Saudis, ramps up a war in Afghanistan, and bashes the one senator trying to deliver us from the nightmare of Obamacare.

“But hey! Those thugs are kneeling while the anthem is being played!”

The cultural problem is solved by changing channels on a TV that sits in a home far, far away from any American city. And as for voting, it’s better to support a candidate who doesn’t know where Aleppo is.

Because if he doesn’t know where it is, he can’t bomb it.

 

 

 

 

The Trumpsters: Clinging To A Mirage

Election presidentielle, victoire de D. Trump, reactions

 

Thousands of Alabamians packed a football field on a warm evening in Mobile, waving American flags and wearing the same MAGA hat as their champion took to the stage and began thundering about the evils of the “swamp,” “crooked Hillary,” and all those pesky Mexicans who were going to pay for a wall right after he shooed them back across the Rio Grande.

It’s the perfect political cocktail for Americans in search of red meat. Raise the flag, praise the military, denounce all things foreign and bellow about saving American jobs while sporting your own company’s Chinese-manufactured necktie.

It was all a ruse, well before the moment the Blonde Bomber lowered his lofty altitude on the escalator at Trump Tower and babbled his incoherent entrance into the GOP primary fiesta. Many laughed, and few took seriously the lifelong New York liberal with enough personal baggage to fill his own jet.

But enough Americans got glossy eyed and punted away sound judgment like a schoolboy who just fell in love with his social studies teacher.  No, really. It’s true love, and stop telling me how it could never work.

Nevermind his wobbling on heretofore hallmark conservative ideals such as limited government, less taxes, a repeal (ha!) of Obamacare and an end to perpetual war. What The Don had said in the past about such things could not be factored onto the scorecard. We’re loving what he’s saying now, and shall not worry about the fact that his declarations and convictions would make a chameleon stop and go, “Whoa, dude, seriously?”

It was true love from the moment he began his America-first mantra, vowing to send Pedro back to wherever that greasy interloper came from. Young men began wearing the Maga hats like boys in the 50’s began combing their hair like Elvis. Speeding along on a full tank of testosterone, nobody bothered checking under the hood to see if there was actually any there, there.

The devil’s always in the details. But the Trumpsters didn’t give a hang about the details. Don’t bother me with the truth while I’m feasting on red meat. MAGA!

Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” but it didn’t take long for him to become a part of it, faster than an anonymous Walt Disney slithered into central Florida sixty years ago.  Difference is, Walt actually drained it, while creating jobs for thousands.

Shortly after his towering inaugural speech, the new president began packing his cabinet with swamp veterans, including the obligatory Treasury secretary straight out of the Goldman Sachs catalog, as has been the case with all presidents of recent memory. And who can forget the charming Neocon Nicki Haley, the spunky former Palmetto State governor who wasted no time with her demonizations of Syria and Russia, all with the nodding approval of the man who months before had vowed to the hat-wearers that the weary days of perpetual warmongering were being deported alongside those God-forsaken illegals.

“Crooked Hillary” soon became “a good person.” The White House chef started cooking waffles around the clock for the stellar neocon cabinet while their man Don bombed the hell out of Syria, then Afghanistan while standing in the well of the United Nations, telling the world the days of American imperialism are over.

Eh?

Meet the new boss….

Presidencies are all about rhetoric, and while Don waves the flag in everyone’s faces, his other hand is behind his back, shaking hands with the very establishment he told his suckers he’d have on the next Amtrak out of town. But the typical Trumpster simply does not care about the details, neither do they care about facts, and when the truth about their golden boy becomes glaringly obvious, we get ourselves a classic case of acute cognitive dissonance.

Of course, we must allow for the possibility that Trump supporters do want perpetual war, do want unrestrained military spending, do want huge government, do want to be told lies about things that will never happen, like walls and repeals. More’s the pity.

Generally, Americans value feelings over facts. No matter the policy ramifications, they want to feel good about themselves and their country without having to invest any skin into such thoughtful notions of the ultimate reaping that comes from the same Bush/Obama, and now Trump foreign policy, for example. All it takes is the plate of meat, the red hat, and the dependable declarations about how great we are, how bad the bad guys are, and how we’re going to export them to wherever the hell they came from.

Meanwhile, dutiful neocon Pence waits in the wings for Hurricane Don to blow over, so he can take his turn at the joystick.

Really. You can bellow all you want about repealing Obamacare, but the fact (facts!) of the matter is, not once did this president present any plan at all to Congress for consideration. He just sat in his golden chair waiting for some legislation – any legislation – to be placed on his Resolute desk to sign, be it however crappy, so that he may declare the festering monstrosity repealed.

“Wait, here’s a video of Citizen Trump advocating for universal health care!”

“Away with the facts, you America-hating commie!”

It’s the never-changing rhetoric we must endure, until the day we get the next four-year dose of it from Pence, or President Pocahontas, or whoever, as the nation continues its barrel roll over the falls of The Great Default.

And that, the single greatest issue confronting every American, whether they wish to hear about it or not, is the one thing no one inside the Beltway, save for a tiny fraction are discussing.

But Trump, like his predecessors, lulls Americans to sleep with soothing stories about bad guys being deported and bombs dropping on some phantoms in a land far far away, as his devotees reverently remove their MAGA hats, place them on the bedside table, and drift away, secure in the belief he is making all their nationalistic dreams come true.

 

© Copyright 2017 Tim Holcombe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GULF TREASURE AVAILABLE NOW!

GULF TREASURE Book Cover

GULF TREASURE is available now for order from Amazon, and for your Kindle device.

In this, the first book in the Panama Parker Adventure series, Panama has a job he hates, an ex-wife who hates him, and now he’s stuck in rush hour traffic on a freeway engulfed in flames.

Seeking escape from this rut, Panama leaves his employer, buys a used RV (Miss Minnie), and moves to Panama City Beach, Florida.

How difficult could starting a new life be? Land a job on a fishing charter, live in an RV park, and save up money to explore the entire country. But he didn’t count on meeting Franky, losing everything, and a trip to prison.

Not only thata round at Augusta National, priceless baseball cards, recording an album and you end up with the trip of a lifetime.

GULF TREASURE is a fun-filled, page-turning romp. 

Order your copy today!

Keeping It Legal. Really Legal.

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The origin of laws begins when Moses delivered The Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. Those ten should have been good enough, one would think, but since that time, humans have been wrangling with one another over finer points of this law or that law.

Laws and lawyers are all around us, and there’s evidently a killing to be made from the profession which produces legal evangelists on billboards and T.V. commercials, inviting us to sue people who served us hot coffee or otherwise hurt our feelings.

Anyone should agree we Americans suffer from way yonder too many laws. But there are laws on the books in all fifty states that you might need to brush up on. After all, we all wish to be good citizens. Thus, here’s a few dandies from all fifty states that will bring the reader up to speed, and keep you out of any legal trouble.

 

ALABAMA:  Be careful the next time you yell “War Eagle!” or Roll Tide!” Don’t get over-zealous with your partying, because in Mobile, it is illegal to have, make, or throw confetti.

ALASKA:  Don’t be too friendly to the wildlife.  In Fairbanks, it’s illegal to serve alcohol to a moose. (Apparently nothing on the books about boozing it up with a bear.)

ARIZONA:  Hope you’re not a dipper or baseball player. In Goodyear, you’ll go to jail and be fined $2500 if you spit publically.

ARKANSAS:  You’ll be in violation of the law if you mispronounce the name of the state.

CALIFORNIA: Hope you’ve got some Nikes. Unless you own at least two cows, it’s illegal to wear cowboy boots in Blythe.

COLORADO:  This law really sucks. If you lend your vacuum to your neighbor in Denver, you’ll be breaking the law.

CONNECTICUT: If your cucumber does not bounce, it cannot legally be called a pickle.

DELAWARE: Your little goblins better take a wristwatch with them when they go trick or treating. If they do it before 6, or after 8, they’ll be wearing their outfits in the back of a squad car.

FLORIDA: It’s illegal to sell your child in Florida. (Apparently there was no debate about whether you can sell your mother.)

GEORGIA: On Sundays, it is illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket. (You may, however, carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket Monday through Saturday. Whew!)

HAWAII: If you don’t own a boat, you face a fine.  Book ’em, Dan-O

IDAHO: You’ll be breaking the law if you fish from the back of a giraffe or camel.

Do you need to read that again? Are you asking the obvious question?

ILLINOIS: Be sure you’ve got cash on you in Illinois, where it is illegal to be in public without at least one dollar on your person. (Otherwise, you’re considered a vagrant.)

INDIANA: It’s illegal for liquor stores in Indiana to sell cold soft drinks. However, if they are not cold, it’s alright.  Uh, huh.

IOWA: Tom Selleck could  live here happily. It’s illegal in Iowa for a man to kiss a woman in public unless he has a mustache.

KANSAS: Hope you like showers.  It’s illegal to have a bathtub installed in your Topeka home.

KENTUCKY: It’s illegal to dye and sell live ducks. And when you sell live chicks or rabbits, you have to sell them in increments of at least six.

LOUSIANA: If you bite someone with your real teeth, you’ll be charged with simple assault. If you bite them with false teeth, you’ll be charged with aggravated assault. (If you feed them to your alligator, however, no one ever need know.)

MAINE: If you wish to go for a walk in Augusta, go for it. But leave your fiddle at home. Playing a violin while walking will have you playing for the other inmates.

MARYLAND: If you want to go to the movies, go ahead. However, if you take a lion with you, you’ll be breaking the law.

MASSACHUSETTS: If you’re a man who goes to Church on Sunday, you’d best be packing heat. It’s illegal to go to church without a rifle. Additionally, if you have a goatee, you have to obtain a special license to keep it.

MICHIGAN: Adultery is a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.  However, refuge for this crime can generally be found in 49 other states.

MINNESOTA: You uh, cannot sleep naked in Minnesota. Neither can you cross the state line with a duck on your head.

MISSISSIPPI: You can walk around with a duck on your head in Mississippi, but it’s illegal to have more than one illegitimate child. It’s a misdemeanor which carries a fine and jail time.  (However, it does not affect your government benefit or tax status.)

MISSOURI: You can’t get your elephant drunk in Natchez, where it’s illegal to give any intoxicant to pachyderms. (Could be a problem should the Crimson Tide ever visit.)

MONTANA:  You can play frisbee golf in Montana, but only on a specific course in Helena. Because you know, there’s just not enough room to play it anywhere else.

NEBRASKA: Might like to have a bowl of soup with your beer. You’re in luck. It’s illegal to serve beer in any Nebraska bar without having soup for sale as well. I’ll have the Michelob Ultra and some Mullagatony.

NEVADA: If someone kills your dog and you’re out for revenge, it’s legal to hang the offender.  (It’s also apparently legal to take your lion with you to the movies.)

NEW HAMPSHIRE: If you’re listening to music in public, it’s uh, against the law to keep time to the music in any manner.

Wanna read that one again?

NEW JERSEY: It’s illegal to commit murder. It’s also illegal to wear a bulletproof vest while commiting murder. Really, who likes a killer who is out of step with the latest fashions?

NEW MEXICO: The state song is “Oh Fair New Mexico” but if you start singing it, you’d better know the words. It’s illegal to sing only a portion of the song.

NEW YORK:  You’ll get a fine of $25 for flirting.  Flirting. Flirting is illegal in New York.

NORTH CAROLINA: Better get your lard the respectable way. Stealing kitchen grease is illegal. And if you steal more than a thousand dollars worth, it’s a felony. Incidentally, this is not some old, archaic statute. This law was passed in 2012. (And be careful. North Carolina is where Deputy Fife resides.)

NORTH DAKOTA: It’s against the law to serve beer and pretzels together at a bar or restaurant. (But you can have all the grease from the kitchen you like.)

OHIO: What’s the deal with getting animals boozed up? In the Buckeye State, you’re breaking the law if you get a fish drunk.

OKLAHOMA: Better buy some wigs, ladies. Sooner gals may wind up behind bars with their Aqua Net. It’s illegal for women to fix their own hair, unless they have a state license.

OREGON: Better order two milkshakes at the drive in. It’s illegal to share a drink in Oregon.

PENNSYLVANIA:  If you want to catch a fish, you’d better hook him in the mouth. You’re breaking the law if you catch a fish using any other method. No noodling, Bubba.

RHODE ISLAND: You’ll face jail time of 1 to 20 years if you bite off anyone’s limbs. However, if you can prove you bit off his arm accidentally, you’ll likely not be prosecuted.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA:  Hope you’re working at Chick-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby. It’s illegal to work on Sundays. It’s also illegal to get a tattoo on any day.

SOUTH DAKOTA: If you visit the Fountain Inn in South Dakota, you can bring your horse with you. However, your horse must be wearing pants. On at least two legs, I assume.

TENNESSEE: Your buddy will have to buy his own Netflix subscription. It’s illegal in Tennesee to share your password.

TEXAS: If you’re running for public office, you’d best not be an atheist. The law declares you must first acknowledge the “existence of a Supreme Being.”

UTAH: Can’t have a beer in a container larger than two litres. You can, however, get your fish drunk or bite off your friend’s arm.  We think.

VERMONT: In the city of Barre, it’s illegal to take a bath on Saturday night.  Maybe it’s okay before 6 p.m., I’m not sure.

VIRGINIA: Trick-or-treating is illegal.  Good. More bite size Butterfingers for me.

WASHINGTON: If you’re riding into town with any criminal intentions, you must first stop at the city limits and call the police.  After this, you’re free to continue with your criminal intentions.

WEST VIRGINIA: West Virginia throws us a curveball. Enough of what you cannot do. This state declares it completely legal to pick up road kill, take it home and cook it for supper.  “Look here Loretta! I done brung us home a possum!”

WISCONSIN: Tattoos are illegal, unless it’s being done for medical reasons. Maybe you could get a tattoo of a thermometer.

WYOMING: You can fish here, but only with a rod or pole. It’s against the law to use a firearm to catch fish. Guess they never saw “Jaws.”

 

My best advice is to move to Montana. Unless you enjoy frisbee golf.

Sears, R.I.P.

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In the late 1800’s, Richard Warren Sears worked as a railroad train agent in Minnesota. After receiving a shipment of unwanted watches he’d purchased from a jeweler, he resold them to other agents, repeated the process, ultimately beginning a mail order business with his wares.

Soon, he moved to Chicago, and met Alvah C. Roebuck, where they expanded their line, and began publishing catalogs in 1888. By 1894, the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog featured everything from sewing machines to automobiles. The product line continued to expand into the early 1900’s, as did sales. By 1908, catalogs included appliances, home furnishings, toys, sporting goods, and even “kit houses.”

Rural America was the underpinning of the Sears and Roebuck mail order business, but in the 1920’s, stores began dotting the American landscape. Sears added Allstate Insurance to its lineup, and developed its own brands such as Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard, eventually adding Coldwell Banker real estate, the Discover credit card, and erecting the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Sears was on top of the retail world, literally and figuratively.

I have very fond memories of the now fallen giant. Sears was the go-to store when I was a child, certainly far swankier than the drug store on the square with the soda fountain. I recall the smells. The Sears in my hometown of Marietta, Georgia featured a large case, filled with nuts which were kept warm. The scents were tantalizing, and my mother would usually purchase a package of cashews, which were almost better than the toys.

And my father would frequent the hardware department to the rear of the store. I’m not sure if he knew they sold the nuts or not. He bought the other kind, as well as assorted lawn mower or tiller parts.

But the king of books for me was the Christmas catalog, the most treasured selection on the bookshelf. I would carefully circle the toys I coveted sometime between Halloween and Christmas, leaving the hallowed, dog-eared book lying around with my conspicuous notations. I remember circling train sets, the “Operation” game, Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots, bicycles, and the glorious electronic football game which consumed ten minutes of time, as I lined up all my players before running a play.

Who cared about the drapes, mattress sets and, uh, ladies wear?

Meanwhile, in rural Arkansas, some man named Sam was toiling away in his small-town Ben Franklin Five and Dime, and no one peering out of the massive tower in Chicago could see what was on the horizon: Goliath was about to fall.

Eventually, the giant began flailing away during its epic descent, with bankruptcies, shuttering of brands, and a bad marriage to the pitiful KMart brand. From a peak of 3500 stores, 2016 ended with fewer than 1500. Sears also killed the beloved catalog, in 1993.

The writing is on the wall, and has been for a long time. An American original is about to bite the dust. Times change, markets change, the way people purchase goods change. Who wants to fight mall traffic, when the same items are a mere click away?

Sears had its WalMart, but if it’s any vindication for them, WalMart has its Amazon.

I recently bought a big jug of cashews during a monthly run to the local Costco, and I can stick them in the (non-Kenmore) microwave if I want to.  I probably could have ordered them online. I probably can order just about anything online. I cannot remember the last time I was in a mall. I think it was to get an eye exam, but I do that now at Costco. Malls are for walking in the winter time, but not shopping.

Like so many fond childhood memories, Sears and Roebuck will be gone with the wind.

I’ll have to order my next electronic football game on Amazon.

 

© Copyright 2017 Tim Holcombe

 

A Genius, Derailed

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American television in the 1950’s was greatly different from our current era. There were sitcoms such as The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy,  westerns such as Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel, and variety shows such as the Colgate Comedy Hour and the Ed Sullivan Show.

But no format was as successful as game shows. Shows such as The $64,000 Answer were wildly popular, and propelled Dr. Joyce Brothers to fame. Other shows included Dotto, and the now infamous 21, scandalized because it was eventually determined winning contestant Charles Van Doren had been given the answers in advance.

Another game show hosted by longtime 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace was The Big Surprise, which produced its own celebrity, he being the ten year-old child prodigy, Leonard Ross.

Ross, the boy genius, won a $100,000 dollars on the show and matched Dr. Brothers’ earnings on The $64,000 Answer.  His grand total would be equal to about 1.5 million today. Impressive for anyone with only a decade under their belt.

Unlike Van Doren, who’d been coached, Ross was the real deal, with more random information in his attic than a fleet of Ph.D’s. Three years after his game show conquest, he astounded young men three and four years older than he while riding on a train in California. The older students, none of them lacking in book knowledge, pitched chemical formulas to the boy genius, who solved them in mere seconds, using only the computer in his skull.

The following year, Lenny Ross enrolled in college, graduating at age 18, whereupon he enrolled in Yale Law School. He graduated from Yale at age 21, and was a professor at the Columbia School of Law by age 24.  The genius was unlimited. He taught at Harvard, then took a position in the administrations of California governor Edmund G. Brown, then President Jimmy Carter.

Then the wheels began to slowly fall off the train.

While at Columbia, Ross began to battle depression and a short attention span. A textbook neurotic, Ross was brilliant enough to diagnose his own condition, but helpless for a cure.  “It’s like standing in front of a great painting that melts in front of your eyes,” said Michael Levine, a teacher at the University of Southern California. ”It was a ‘Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad’ kind of thing,”  added Levine, who attended both Reed College and Yale Law with Ross.

Ross had a bevy of impressive connections in business, academia and government, but his search for a cure for his unique condition proved futile. Ross lived on another level, and found it difficult to complete sentences, as his mind would race to the next idea. He could not complete projects, and failed to finish his doctoral dissertation. He flailed at masking his condition with abstract humor, but his behavior became increasingly erratic and manic. He was a sloppy dresser, and let his apartment fall into disarray, letting his plants wither and die.

A compulsive binge eater and dieter, Ross had no patience when it came to defrosting frozen food, and would eat peas and bagels out of the freezer, unable to deal with the time it took for them to thaw.

His bewildered students could not keep up with their professor, who lectured over their heads, and his writings were completed only with help from collaborators, as Ross could not complete any project he began. As his depression deepened, Ross stood in front of one classroom completely mute for a half hour, until his students began trickling out the door.

Upset over a failed romance, Ross attempted suicide by slitting his throat with a broken bottle. He was hospitalized and medicated, ultimately opting for brain surgery which proved futile.

The man with the mind of a genius finally rationalized there was but one cure for his condition, and at the age of 39, Lenny Ross went to the Capri Motel in Santa Clara, California, removed his shoes, climbed over a fence surrounding the pool, and jumped in the water.

He could not swim.

The story of Lenny Ross is tragic and sad, and I’m unsure of any lesson to be gleaned from it. But if anything, his life reminds me of the old fable of the tortoise and the hare.

I had an aunt who always followed the old rule of “stick to your knitting.” Her knitting, if she was not out working in a field, was quite literally, knitting. Well, perhaps not knitting, but quilting. She did this one thing, and she did it quite well, and she lived to a ripe old age with her sanity intact.

Lenny Ross’ story is one of an incredibly gifted human who ultimately battled what may have been some sort of chemical imbalance. Not many can relate to his condition.

The only lesson I can learn from his pitiful story is that if you’re a mechanic, keep working on cars. If you’re a gardener, keep planting tomatoes.

Stick to your knitting.

© Copyright 2017 Tim Holcombe

 

 

 

 

Paging Hank Williams

hankwilliams-color

The first recordings of music that I can remember hearing was of Hank Williams. I distinctly remember him singing about “Kawliga,” that poor old wooden head, and “Hey Good Lookin'”. Being from a devout home managed by a fervent Pentecostal Christian mama, I was also exposed to her Gospel favorites, including the Inspirations, Happy Goodmans and Rambos.

(I’m unsure of her knowledge of the stack of 45’s which featured The Beatles and assorted Motown favorites which were kept securely in my brothers’ bedrooms. But I digress.)

I’ve always had eclectic musical tastes, which is to say I enjoy pretty much all forms of music. I figure there are two kinds of music: good, and bad. (Rap and hip hop do not make my cut.)

Thus, if I owned an iPad, it would be stocked with songs from all across the spectrum. Pavarotti to Ray Charles, George Jones to Van Halen. (or Van Hagar, preferably.)

Charley Pride to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Muddy Waters to The Police.

But no Village People.

And of course, Van Morrison, the greatest of them all.

Anyway, if the mood ever calls for country music, as it did with my last IRS audit, I can be assured that if I turn the radio dial (remember radio dials, kids?) to the local country music station the last thing I’ll hear is country music.

Instead, I’ll have my senses invaded with what is billed as country, but surely ain’t, and my reaction will be akin to the reaction my mother likely had when she finally heard a few bars of Otis Redding leaking out of the aforementioned bedroom.

Expecting to hear Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings, instead my ears get tortured with some punk who is rapping his way through what I’m told is a country song. When I want crooning and wailing, I get shuckin’ and jivin,’ with some white boy trying to do his imitation of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Grand Ol Opry style.

Seriously, dude. You never heard of a steel guitar?

I’m not sure when country left town, but I suspect it was well before George Strait got his leg broke in Santa Fe. The crap that is billed as country music today is some monstrous invention from a gaggle of man-bun-sporting producers who have taken Nashville hostage. They’ve turned it into a non-musical cesspool of freakish white boy hip hop wanna-bes who Conway Twitty would likely love to come back from the grave and lay a smack-down on, while reassuring us all that it’s only make believe.

The musical lines today are blurred beyond comprehension. In the great musical decade, the 1970’s, rock was rock, country was country, and classical musical was way down on the left of the dial, only played if you were coming home from a dentist heavily medicated after having a tooth extracted.

Nobody plays Johnny Cash anymore, or for that matter, Roy Orbison, or even Elvis, for pete’s sakes. Instead, we get assaulted by some teenage gal warbling some tuneless monologue about the boy she met down at Hormone Beach, or some thug belching his list of beefs about the cops, or his baby mama.

Where have you gone, Marty Robbins?

Luke-Bryan-FP

Every song I hear on what are billed as country music stations is a monotonous montage of distorted guitars, beat-box nonsense and unintelligible lyrics. You don’t feel happy the way you did with Jerry Reed, you don’t have your guts ripped out by George Jones, and you never hear from the Coal Miner’s Daughter. Instead, you pound your dash, and switch the station to talk radio, fully aware that these young punks are filling arenas with millennials who wouldn’t know what to say if Conway stood in their doorway and growled “Hello, Darlin.”

Perhaps it’s a symptom of middle age, as I transition from starry eyed thirty-something to a contrarian pushing 60. Whatever the case, I swear I’m not turning into Lawrence Welk. But for the love of Ferlin Husky, what on earth is going on here?

We’ve replaced wailing sentiments and four-chord samples with a barrage of grunts and something that sounds like a cigar box full of sick frogs. We’ve replaced The Eagles with LL Jammy Juice and The Distortions.

And did you ever see Mel Tillis singing with his shirttail hanging out?

In-c-c-c-c-onceivab-b-b-le.

Whatever it is you wish to hear, you won’t find it on your radio anymore, unless you favor this steaming pile of un-listenable nonsense. And why must every third word rhyme?

If I ever loved it, I stopped loving this today.

Take me home, country roads.

© Copyright 2017 Tim Holcombe

It’s The Most Frustrating Time Of The Year

April 15, Any Year

Sung to the tune of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”

It’s the most frustrating time of the year
There are taxes a’plenty
lt’s almost Great Lent-y
I’m crabby, I fear
It’s the most frustrating time of the year

It’s the crap-crappiest season of all
With the CPA meetings
And government beatings
I’m paging Ron Paul
It’s the crap-crappiest season of all

There’ll be parties deducting
And stories constructing
Of windfalls once hidden below
There’ll be scary additions
And tales of contrition
Of profits from long long ago

It’s the most frustrating time of the year
But for H and R Block
They don’t suffer shell-shock
While they’re acting sincere
It’s the most frustrating time of the year

There’ll be those who sit idle
While we’re suicidal
And giving up half of our pay
But they keep on a-dancing
As we keep financing
And working while they get to play

It’s the most frustrating time of the year
Now with marriage for gays
And the world all ablaze
Someone get me a beer
It’s the most frustrating time
Oh the most frustrating time
It’s the most frustrating time

of the year!

© Copyright 2016 Tim Holcombe

My Man, My Son

I have 54 years of experience at being a son, and 18 years of experience of being the father of one. And today, my son experiences one of those landmark days of life, his graduation from high school, the ol’ Class of 2015. Then, a brief summer respite, followed by college to prepare for the rest of his life.

I doubt he’ll have a spare half hour today, otherwise I’d take him out for dual senior coffees.

Joseph Trenton made his appearance very early one morning, as I struggled to stay awake, and his mother struggled to present him. He was brought home to a house already populated with three sisters, so the dynamic changed somewhat. He was a doll to them, and a bundle of fun for me. Now was the wait for his hand to grow to fit into his first baseball glove.

Along with his siblings and parents, he was baptized into Christ and his Church at age 3. Eventually, “Trent” morphed into “Joe.” Serving as a very young altar boy, he was assigned the name of his Patron, Saint Joseph the Betrothed, and standard operating procedure in the sanctuary was to use your baptismal name. “Joe” stuck in and out of Church, unless he was in trouble, which called for the use of all three of his names.

But that didn’t happen often.

I coached him in little league. He was a pitcher, but after getting plunked by a line drive, decided to try second base. He was a Baron, a Raptor, an Intimidator, and perhaps another member of a team I’ve forgotten. Sometime after we moved from Georgia to Alabama, his sporting allegiance was given to another team, the Crimson Tide.

That I have not forgotten. Or forgiven.

Well, maybe just for today.

We took a long drive once, on a back road somewhere in Tennessee. He was 14. I pulled over, and said, “Here. Take the wheel.” He drove for several miles, and did very well. He would soon get his learner’s permit, followed by his regular license. He drove his Honda Civic to Arby’s, and got his first job. Another company bid for his services, and he went up the ladder. Mr. Free Market, Junior, that one.

He is at home with anyone, hospitable to everyone. Happy to sit and chew the fat with old folks, befriending an outcast at school, or showing some kids how to throw a ball. Liberal with “I love yous,” like, “Dad, I’m going to take a shower now. I love you.”

And singing. My goodness, the singing. Taught himself to play the piano, excelled in his school choir which ultimately won his affections over playing football, and made girls scream like he was Elvis on Ed Sullivan when he sang his solos. But he laughs it off.

And still makes time for the old man.

You have no objectivity at a time like this, I admit. But this is about the finest son any father could have ever possibly have. Never a rebellious phase, never a lick of trouble, never a time when we had any sort of heated exchange. The son any father ever dreams of having. I am that most blessed dad.

He grew into a careful protector of his sisters, and a godfather to a niece and nephew. A bow-tie aficionado, dapper dressed young man, who still asks permission to do the simplest things some kids never asked permission to do in the first place. Always the “sir,” ever the “ma’am,” rudeness simply never a part his fabric, kindness and respect ever present.

Sometimes I would find myself thinking, “Is this kid ever going to do anything to get punished?” You may be thinking, “You’re one naive father.” It’s possible, but it isn’t consistent with his behavior. Anyway, no one can pass a law saying a dad can’t proudly gush over a son.

Actually, I never thought I’d have a son. But not a day has gone by that I wasn’t grateful I do. I couldn’t possibly imagine having a finer man for one.

So today, Joe walks the aisle and collects the old sheepskin. He sings with his choir one last time. He slides the tassle over and says goodbye to one era.

And there I shall sit, the handkerchief already having been deposited in my jacket.

Today I beam and burst. This is one good man, and I am one blessed father.

Congratulations to you, son. I love you. And I am more proud of you than mere words can express.

© Copyright 2014 Tim Holcombe

Eating With The Enemy

For years, I have remained silent, suffering a grievous injustice at the hands of The Man. There I sat, only a few feet away from a fireplace, conspicuously planted to keep my bones warm while I was being victimized.

Well, this isn’t completely true. The fact is, I have only recently begun to get wise to the conspiracy against uh, my people. But one day, it began to dawn on me exactly what was happening. I walked into the establishment in question, where I was instantly greeted with bluegrass music, tee shirts which said things like “Kiss Me, I’m A Redneck,” videos of The Lone Ranger, and CD’s of Conway and Loretta.

I went to put my name on the waiting list. “It will be about a twenty minute wait. And what is that last name? Smith?”

“Uh, well, no.”

“Oh, right. Johnson?”

“Uh, no. Actually it’s Holcombe.”

“Oh. Right. That’s nice.”

She scribbled something, then shooed me away, back into the land of jams, jellies, quilts and cookbooks.

A few minutes later, I was seated. My waiter came, dressed in a brown apron, and took my order.

“I’ll have the country fried steak.”

“Mashed potatoes?”

“Uh, well, yes actually…”

“White or brown gravy?”

“White.”

“Uh huh. White. Right.”

She flittered away, and as I sat there, trying to eliminate all but one of the pegs, it all began to come together for me.

I was being insulted, and discriminated against, right there in broad daylight. Really, how much more brazen can it get? The Cracker Barrel? Hello?

What other names were they considering? Honky Hut? Whitey’s Roadhouse? The KKKitchen?

It all became crystal clear to me only recently, so I am retroactively outraged. For the love of Paula Deen, couldn’t you people come up with an unoffensive name for your restaurant? Isn’t there enough hatred already? You plie me with your meat and threes, only to go back in the kitchen, point at me, snicker and say, “Look at that white boy work on the baby limas. Disgusting.”

“Yeah, and he finished with four pegs in the board, too.”

Ain’t no white privilege at table 14, or whatever. I’m the victim here. How can I possibly go back again and choke down your meat loaf amidst a room full of hatred and intolerance? Do I want a breakfast menu? Seriously? No! I want justice!

(And a glass of raspberry iced tea.)

This madness is everywhere, particularly in the restaurant industry. Think about it.

Isn’t ChickFilA offensive to dames?
I mean, broads?
I mean…..girls?
Isn’t Little Caesar’s offensive to Romans?
Isn’t Ponderosa offensive to cowboys?
Isn’t Shakey’s Pizza offensive to nervous people?
Isn’t Full Moon BBQ offensive to wolfmen, vampires, and lunatics?

And doesn’t the International House Of Pancakes offend people with a wooden leg?

I’ve been living a lie, all these years. All this time, I was happy go lucky, whistling while I worked, enjoying life, and harboring no ill will toward anyone.

Then I became enlightened. Now that I know the truth, I am angry, resentful, and bitter. All this time, The Man has been holding me down, while keeping me pacified with biscuits and gravy. All part of a grander scheme. Maybe I was your huckleberry. But I will never be your cracker!

There seems to be an ocean of alleged racism in America anymore, so I have decided I want in on the action. I’m not sure what walking around with your britches at half mast, lips pooched out, a chip on your shoulder actually accomplishes, other than turning you into a miserable cuss no one wants to be around. Maybe if I can get in touch with Al Sharpton, he can explain what’s in the race hustle business for me.

I just hope no marching is required. I’m not THAT committed to the cause.

I’m just hoping to at least get a permanent discount on meals, and if we win our case, I’ll be using them down there.

At the Caucasian Barrel.

© Copyright 2015 Tim Holcombe

Whipping Mickey Buck

My only frame of reference for childhood, obviously, is being raised in the south.   But I can’t imagine preferring anything else.  Times have changed all over of course, and not for the better.  We live in the brazen age, with every possible perversion flaunted before us on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, most kids are robbed of the gentle innocence which was the hallmark of a southern childhood in days gone by.

Back then, in the 1960’s, summer days were spent outside.  After breakfast, our mothers (who were at home)  would shoo us out of the house, where we would stay all day, only coming back inside when we heard her calling our name for lunch, or supper.   The only other time we would scurry back to her apron was when she was needed to treat a skinned knee.  She would dab our tears, pat our back, and then apply the dreaded mercurochrome.   After the band aid was applied, we would head back out to conquer more Indians (unless a neighbor kid was first to call Cowboy.)  If you weren’t quick enough to call it first, you weren’t quick enough to be a cowboy anyway.

I built many a road with my big yellow Tonka truck.  Sometimes, we would ride our bikes down the street to Mr. Camp’s old country store, buy a Coca-Cola in the green bottle, and insert a pack of peanuts.  Some days, we’d buy the glorious Orange Crush in the dark brown bottle.  Mr. Camp had the chest cooler set just right, and there would be little shards of ice in it.

Mr. Camp had it going on.

I was forbidden to buy the candy cigarettes, although occasionally  I would bum a smoke from Ricky Nixon, the neighborhood bully, whose mother was not the faux-smoking prohibitionist mine was.  Sometimes, I’d buy a pack of baseball cards with a sliver of bubble gum.   We’d stick the cards into the spokes of our bicycle wheels.  Instant hot rods!

(As an aside, when I returned home years later, my dear mother had tossed my two shoe boxes full of baseball cards.  But how could you remain angry?   There were greens and cornbread on the table.)

My brother Sonny helped me build a go cart once.   It had a rope for a steering wheel, and four tires, each of a different size.  It had no safety belt, and I had no helmet.   I was unsure of the wisdom of using it as transportation, when Sonny placed his hands on my back, and shoved me down the hill next to our house, right into the crawfish-infested creek.  I made it in one piece.  The go cart did not.

Discipline was a constant in those days for the wayward child.  We had no ritalin, no skull doctors, no timeouts.  We did have fannies, and the occasional lighting up of same with a switch served its purpose.   But the hugs and kisses always outweighed the spankings.  My older brother Sonny got the lion’s share of the rod of correction.  The standards were not relaxed for me, but the sentencing phase was a tad more merciful.   (Sonny would say, a lot more merciful.)

I recently ran into my good friend and philosopher Mickey Buck Talmadge on an excursion to the woods where he lives, when the subject of child rearing came up.  As we sat at the base of a tall oak tree dining on vienna sausages and saltine crackers, Mickey Buck related how he handled the situation in his childhood.  Mickey Buck’s mother was much like mine, a gracious yet firm disciplinarian.   One day, Mickey Buck took his BB gun over to Old Man Petty’s house, where he proceeded to shoot out one of the taillights on his ’63 Buick Electra.  When it all hit the fan, Mickey Buck’s mother sent him to his room, then went for the hickory switch which rested atop her old Frigidaire.  Poor Mickey Buck was in for the licking of his life.

Mrs. Talmadge  was unaware, however, that there was a saboteur in her home.  A day before the unfortunate incident, as she was taking sheets off the clothesline in the backyard before coming back to the kitchen to tend to the pressure cooker full of tomatoes in her mason jars, Mickey Buck had collected the switch, and proceeded to conspicuously break it slightly in two-inch sections, but not so much as to appear broken.

As Mother Talmadge ordered Mickey Buck to lean over his bed, she rared back to apply the rod of God with fervor.  When she did, the switch collapsed in two inch segments, and the force of impact was scattered across Mickey Buck’s bottom, the energy on impact being harmlessly scattered across the target.  Successive swats confused her before it dawned on her the session was not producing the desired result.

She cast aside the rigged implement, ordered Mickey Buck not to move, and made a bee line toward the kitchen.  Mickey Buck was unaware that his Mama had a backup switch, one hidden behind a can of Crisco in the top cabinet.  When she returned, she was as determined with the second effort, but had apparently damaged her rotator cuff or something, as Mickey Buck swears the impact was not nearly as ferocious as she had intended.   Plus, her exit had given him time to insert three additional pair of underwear into his blue jeans.

She concluded the session none the wiser, the saboteur considering he’d need another plan for future punishments.

I was amazed at the wisdom and cunning of Mickey Buck, wishing I’d been smart enough to devise such schemes.

We finished our meal, and went to hunt squirrels.

I left the woods that day with a renewed outlook on things.   And in this mad age where kids play video games inside all day long, this truth occurred to me:   It would be grand if we could recapture those wonderful days of innocence, filled with sweet tea, funeral home fans and front porches.

Kids today need more time playing outside, mamas at home, queens of the domestic.

And a few of them need more switches, and less underwear.

Underwear which is never seen, always hidden by blue jeans pulled up into their proper position.

© Copyright 2015 Tim Holcombe

Hunting For A Dentist

I’m way overdue, but I have a date with dental destiny. I don’t mind going to the dentist so much, actually. I always leave sore and poor(er), but the sparkly-clean feeling is nice, until later that night when popcorn kernels have found their home again between the molars.

It’s the flossing I hate. The last gal who flossed my teeth was pulling on both ends of the string like it was a ski rope. The blood and tears weren’t enough for her. She felt it her duty to lecture me on my lack of commitment to the procedure.

“You haven’t been flossing, have you?”

“Well, I, uh…”

“Have you?”

Suddenly, I was back in third grade.

“For maximum dental health, we must floss morning, noon and night, yadda, yadda, yadda…”

“Yes, well, I….”

“We must take care of our teeth, lest we lose them, you see. Flossing is essential. Do you know how easy it is to start flossing, hmm?”

“Well, ma’am, I expect it’s about as hard to start flossing as it is to stop smoking.”

She was concerned about teeth management. I was sitting in the chair, wondering about the dentist/hunter who bagged the big cat over in Africa.

Sorry.  I mean, the Minnesota predator who murdered Cecil the lion.

Yes sir, we live in a whole new day, a day when everyone has their toes stuck out for some insensitive brute to step on. You can’t go through a day anymore without offending somebody. You can’t talk, type, eat, sleep, post on Facebook or sing “Spread A Little Sunshine Everyday” without somebody pooching their lips out, because you somehow hit a sore spot.

The only thing the current president hits is golf balls. The above photo shows one of his predecessors bagging an elephant. And that ain’t all Teddy Roosevelt held up as a trophy. According to The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses, ol’ Ted was a rabid big game hunter.  The prez reportedly sent over 1200 beasts to the Sky Zoo, including tigers, lions, hippos, cheetahs, antelopes, giraffes and leopards. The great Nobel Peace Prize laureate went on many a safari. His exploits would make the infamous dentist look like Opie Taylor carrying a slingshot.

I’m not a big hunter, but I understand the importance of game management, aside from the Biblical admonition “Rise, kill and eat.” Most people who get offended by Doctor Denture likely have no problem purchasing a pack of pork chops in a clean, white sanitary package covered with plastic wrap. A few of them probably own a Ted Nugent CD or two, too.

“Kill it and grill it,” says the other Ted, demonstrating his own Biblical prowess.

Hunting doesn’t offend me at all. I’m all for it. I also think guns are nifty, both for hunting, self defense, or collecting. I’m actually more offended by over-zealous flossers.

Besides, dentistry isn’t all that. I recall one funeral I attended years ago. Sister Beulah Higginbotham had collapsed and expired at the Ladies Aid Society meeting at the New Harmony Baptist Church. Her homegoing service was held three days later.

(Evidently, there was a lack of harmony at the original Harmony Baptist Church.   But I digress.)

Anyway, there was Sister Higginbotham, all laid out in her best flowery blue dress.

The preacher finished his sermon, and some nasally cousin stood at the pulpit singing “When They Ring Those Golden Bells For You And Me.” As he sang, everybody shuffled out of their pews and processed in single file to view the dearly departed one last time. I was in line, about three bodies behind her niece, Flora Mae.

Flora Mae was all shook up throughout the whole service.

She got up to the casket, peered over and started sobbing again. She bent over, and all I heard was “Oh Aunt Beulah, Aunt Beul…”

It was at that moment the denture cream failed Flora Mae, and the top shelf of her mouth flew out, a whole row of artificial pearly whites spilling onto Aunt Beulah.

Flora Mae was horrified, and instinctively reached over to try to retrieve her teeth, which had now lodged on the far side of the loved one, a bit out of reach. The funeral director cleared his throat, and the preacher took Flora by the arm, and led her away, still snorting and sobbing.

Good thing he did, too.   I was not only worried about the retrieval, but the potential re-insertion of the apparatus.

After the graveside service, the family and friends all went to Flora Mae’s house for a post-funeral fellowship meal. Her mouth was still out of alignment, so I don’t know what became of the upper chompers. I shudder to think…

But everybody had a good time with the fried chicken and potato salad. Everybody except for Flora Mae, who had gotten her boy LeRoy to fetch her a milk shake from the Tastee-Freeze.

It may be best to just stay away from dentists.

You never know when you may have to go to a funeral.

© Copyright 2015 Tim Holcombe

My Good Father

This story begins in the deep south in the 1920’s, on a family farm where sunrise meant toil, and that often past when the the sun retired for the day. There is a small home on this land with no luxuries attached. The typical day is spent in fields either planting, tending to, or reaping that which sustains this humble life. It is a hard and simple life, but it is well-defined, and free of modern entanglements like psychiatrists, life coaches, grief counselors, and Oprah. Work is the order of the day, and there is no time for such silly novelties.

Into this home is born fourteen children, one who is given the name of his father, Frank. From the time he can stand aright, he joins the family crew and learns a work ethic which is as inbred into him as any cell of DNA. Life is predictable enough until years later, when his nation calls my father, takes him from the farm, and sends him to Europe.

After the war, he comes home, meets his beloved wife Mary, and builds their lives with the tools he has always used: hard work, and industriousness. They build their home, and eventually, my father starts his own business, an auto repair shop which he opens in 1962, the year after my birth. He applies the work ethic (and ethics) he gained from the farm into his business for over 30 years, until he closes the door, but does not retire. He took with him his reputation, ever intact: as honest and hard working a man as ever walked this globe, and left behind a successful legacy, built with buckets of sweat from his brow.

My mother and father gave life to me, and two brothers, Ken and Danny. For that alone, a child should remain ever grateful. As I rapidly approach my 50th year, what I have to give my dear father is little. But the life-long memories linger. Perhaps memories make the best gifts.

My first memory of my father is being draped over his shoulder as he carries me into an emergency room at Kennestone Hospital. I remember the comfort and security I felt that late night or early morning.

Or the funeral we are attending of a deceased loved one. We file in procession at service’s end to pay our last respects, my small hand in my father’s. At the worst possible time, I declare, loudly, “I can’t see him!”

And the nights where at bedtime, he would pause, go to his knees beside his bed, and pray the Lord’s Prayer, ever acknowledging our gracious Creator.

The usual Sunday routine is a visit to Grandmother’s. Some Sundays, Dad would treat us to a drive up Kennesaw Mountain, where we could look across the city of Marietta to the Atlanta skyline, or north to the mountains, which seemed the end of the Earth.

The Saturdays we’d spend on Coldwater Creek, Dad with his reliable Stihl chain saw, taking down trees, loading them in an old flatbed truck to take back home. It was on those old roads of Elbert County that he would let me take the wheel of an old gray Chevy pickup, and teach me how to drive.

I can still hear him in his home office. It is hot summer Wednesday night, and he is at his adding machine, working on the payroll. To one side is a mound of invoices, and a yellow legal pad. To the other is a large jar of ice water, and an old AM radio which is playing a station he found somewhere far away.

He is up before the sun, ready to meet the day. He checks on his large garden in the back of our home, where he labored after leaving his shop the previous evening. He produces the bounty, giving the credit to ‘The Good Master”, and his wife fills our home with the scents, and the goodness, and the canning – Lord, the canning. They are sights, and smells I will never forget, but at the time, didn’t appreciate.

He keeps my mother in a Cadillac, his sons in nice clothes, and none of us are deprived any necessity of life. He does all this having never used a credit card.

My father, now that I consider it…..would have made a great president. His inaugural speech: “Let’s go to work.”

With the loss of his beloved Mary, our mother, many things changed forever. Still, since that sad August day in 1989, there have been some sweet moments scattered amidst a sea of tears.

No one gets to select their parents. I often think about how naive I was, and how fortunate I am to have the parents I did.

And if I could ever be half the man my father was, and is…I will think I did well.

My father was never famous, never an artist, statesman, inventor. What he had is to be valued above all such temporal things, and is captured in the pages of Holy Scripture.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

A good name forged by a good man.

A good son. A good American. A good husband.

My good father.

© Copyright 2015 Tim Holcombe

Fussin’ And Feudin’

hat

 

Some time back, I watched “The Hatfields and McCoys” miniseries. Really well done. Kevin Costner scores again. Of course, it would have been perfect had they found a way to fit Robert Duvall, the greatest actor of all time in it. I’m still not totally sure what set the two clans against one another. But whatever it was, Dr. Phil would have had his hands full. The bad blood resulted in more carnage than you’d find after Rosie O’Donnell exited the buffet line.There have been a few feuds down through history. I can think of a few that may rival, or even surpass the Hats and Macs.

1) Coke and Pepsi. Thisun has been going on for years. Coke had Bill Cosby as a spokesman. Pepsi countered with Michael Jackson. Being a Georgia boy, my allegiance was naturally with Dr. Pemberton’s concoction. Actually, I eventually swore my allegiance to Diet Dr. Pepper, until my urologist ruined my life and gave me a lifetime prescription for bottled water. The Commie.

2) Roman Catholics and Protestants. This feud seemed to be most intense in Ireland, the prots hurling little statues of the pope at the catholics, and the catholics returning fire with something. What, I dunno. Bottled water, I believe. Not sure what the disagreement was all about, but I suspect that it was over whether or not O’Flaherty was going to swear allegiance to the pope, or serve as his own pope. Whatever. Just bring more beer and beef stew.

3) Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Classic feud. The clash of distinct American cultures on display. The trailer park comes to Norway, where Nan gets Lillehammered. William F. Buckley meets Jerry Springer. No triple axles tonight. Where are they now? Last I heard, Kerrigan was working in securities on Wall Street, and Tonya was the assistant night manager at the Taco Bell in Dubuque, Iowa. Why she never took her married name of “Gillooly,” I’ll never know.

4) Georgia and Florida. Universities, that is. You can have your Oklahoma and Texas, Michigan and Ohio State, Alabama and Auburn. This here is the mother of college football feuds. I have use for many things in Florida. Fishing, beaches, key lime pie, seafood, and the Daytona 500. But when it comes to college football, no one has more contempt for the revolting reptiles from Gainesville. Georgia could lose all its games, for all I care, as long as they stomp a red and black mudhole on the 50 yard line of what they used to call the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. Yeah, I’d like to spike Steve Spurrier, or at least his Gatorade. I have no crush on the orange.

5) The Masked Assassin and Mr. Wrestling #2. An all-time classic feud. How Gordon Solie, the legendary wrestling announcer kept these two combatants from tearing down the old tv studio is beyond me. Now these here were the days when rasslin’ was fun to watch. I mean, you were about 65 per cent sure it was fake, but…..well, I dunno. The problem was that everybody loved #2, but as everyone knows, you simply cannot have two masked grapplers in the same territory. Eventually, you have to have a “loser must unmask” match, or “loser leaves town” match, because “this state is not big enough for the both of us.” Sure enough, eventually, they tangled, and thankfully, after #2 walloped the Assassin with his high, high knee lift, the former disrobed his head and revealed himself to be Ralph Cannoli, a part time dispatcher over at Mack Hewlett’s Wrecker Service in Decatur. Whether he was able to keep that job, I don’t know.

6) Syble. A feud all its own. Sally Field, arguing with about 19 people, all residents of the same mortal coil. Roses are red, violets are blue. I’m schizophrenic, and so am I. How do you get a word in edgewise, if you’ve only got one pie hole? And who’s in charge? Do you go alphabetically? Imagine the poor slob who would be the husband. “Honey, I’m home!” “We’re all out on the deck, dear!” Figure thisun out, Dr. Phil.

7) Blue Plate and Hellman’s Mayonnaise. Now, mayonnaise is an essential to the southern palate. We use it in lots of things; sandwiches, potato salad, deviled eggs, or as a substitute for hand lotion. But which to use? My good friend and philosopher, Mickey Buck Talmadge, swears by Blue Plate mayonnaise, and has no tolerance for any other, or anyone who uses any other. If a jar of Hellman’s cost $5, and Blue Plate cost $6, Mickey Buck would buy 4 of the latter. He once caught me making a tomato sandwich with a jar of Duke’s mayonnaise.

“What’s that, son?”

“A tomato sandwich, Mickey Buck.”

“No, what’s on that samwich?

“Uh…”

“That ain’t whut I thank it is, is it?”

“What? You mean the mayo-“”It’s some furrun jug of what ort not to even have the gall to call hitself mayornaze! It’s probably made by some city slickin’ New York communist Bible hatin’ heatherns who drive around in them Japanese puddle jumpers!”

With that, Mickey Buck took the jar of Duke’s, heaved it out the kitchen window, grabbed my sandwich, threw it in the trash, and proceeded to wash his hands in the sink with Clorox bleach, muttering, “a feller ort to know better.”

Just mayonnaise to you. But in the deep south, this condiment is so important, that the correct brand is vital, even sacred. I repented of my unfaithfulness to this tenet that day, and have not had another brand in the ice box since.

Mickey Buck only recently stopped being so sulled up about the episode, allowing me to accompany him on a dove hunting excursion to Old Man Yeargin’s farm.

Now, if you’re feuding with anyone, try and do what the Good Book says, and make things right. There’s no point in going through life all bitter and angry about what somebody else may have done. Forgive, love, and move on.

And for heaven’s sakes, don’t use Hellman’s mayonnaise.

© Copyright 2015 Tim Holcombe

The Preacher And The Partridges

Southerners are generally known as being well-mannered and a little more laid back. Now of course, I am speaking of real southerners, natives who can tell you about being chased by a mama with a switch, and who never needed a recipe for cornbread: not a transplant from New York who has yet to use the phrase “fixin’ to” in a sentence.

But who trusts anybody with a Hillary sticker on their bumper?

We take barbecue seriously. We take stock car racing seriously. And Lord knows we take college football seriously.

And hunting. Hunting is serious business. If it is opening day of deer season, Black Lives Matter protesters had best not be blocking the road to the woods. The hunters are already ramped up and ready to rumble, the prior non-hunting  months being spent reading deer hunting magazines with articles on how to be a better deer hunter, including how to deal with clearing away hostile obstacles in the path of your hunting stand.

Southerners hunt a lot of things: deer, turkey, hogs, ducks, bear, possums, raccoons, snakes, and all sorts of birds.

My brother Sonny came by to take me hunting one Saturday morning. We stopped at Balchin’s country store and got some Coca-Colas, vienna sausages, soda crackers, a hunk of hoop cheese and a can of Skoal for Sonny. We hopped back in the truck and headed to the fields.

It was the first Saturday in September. The field was muddy, but we found a spot on the edge of a field behind some brush, and squatted down, awaiting our feathered bounty.

We fared pretty well that day, and left early enough to hear Larry Munson broadcasting a Bulldogs game on the truck radio. We headed to our Aunt Beulah’s house, her promise of chicken and dumplings for supper being too good to pass up.

We pulled up to her back porch, shed our muddy boots, and went inside to get cleaned up. As we went to the front porch to sit a spell, Preacher Culpepper drove up in his shiny black Crown Victoria.

“Oh lawd, the preacher’s here!” Aunt Beulah got up and started throwing newspapers under the sofa, and putting her People Magazine back under her Bible.

Aunt Beulah was not ready for the pop-in. Especially the preacher pop-in.

Preacher Culpepper walked up to the front porch, and Aunt Beulah introduced Sonny and me.

“Well, it’s good to meet you boys. Just out doing some visitation.”

Aunt Beulah gave the preacher a glass of tea, and complimented him on his last sermon.

“My two nephews are down here doing some hunting, Preacher.”

Sonny was needing to relieve himself of the effects of the Skoal, but he was hemmed in.

“Oh, is that right? Well now, I’m not much of a hunter myself. What have you boys been hunting?”

Finally, Sonny could take it no more. He leaned over the front porch rail as discreetly as possible, and shot the discards into the holly bushes. He stood back up, wiped his mouth, and turned toward the preacher.

“We been dove hunting. Got a truck bed full of em.”

The preacher had a quizzical look on his face.

“Dove hunting?”

“Oh yeah. Got a passel of em.”

The preacher stood up, straightened his necktie and scratched his head.

“No, no. You boys didn’t shoot no doves.”

“Well, yeah, we…”

“No, no, you didn’t shoot no doves!   Doves are the bird of peace!   You boys must’ve been hunting partridges!”

“No,” Sonny answered, as Aunt Beulah shifted nervously.  “It’s opening day of dove season, and we been hunting doves.”

“No, no, no,” the preacher protested. You were hunting partridges. Doves are the bird of peace!”

I could tell he was getting riled. He kept repeating “pottriches, pottriches!”

Preacher Culpepper was convinced Sonny and I were two vile heathens. The notion anyone would kill the bird of peace was an obvious affront to him.

He eventually composed himself, but gave Aunt Beulah a stern look as he headed toward his car, perplexed that she would allow such barbaric infidels on her front porch.

The next day, Aunt Beulah took him a chicken casserole, to assuage his consternation. She made sure to emphasize it was made with chicken meat.

Sonny and I went home with our pottriches, knowing we had likely been inserted into the preacher’s next sermon.

 

© Copyright 2015 Tim Holcombe