WHAT WILL THEY SAY

I just arrived in Hendersonville, TN, to return my grandson Madden to his home. He’s graced us with his presence for the last three days. During that time, we made whirlwind trips to places where the boy could enjoy himself. Madden is a wonderful boy who was stricken with the same problem that my brother Jim and I experienced. In my mother’s words, “[he] talked incessantly.”
Madden spent the prior week with his other grandparents. Now that he’s home, the opportunity to tell Mom and Dad about us exists. I’m curious about what he will say. I’ve talked about my mother since she passed, and I sometimes wonder what my own children will say about me when I’m gone.
One thing for sure is over the years I’ve uttered plenty of things that have stuck in their minds. When they’ve misbehaved, the words “Don’t make me spank you” has been yelled through the house. How ridiculous is it to think that my children would purposely do something to bring about swats to their back sides. Sometimes, I threatened to “wear them out.” Yeah, right! Spanking Dallas or Lacey always left me upset for a long time. It was more like punishment for me.
I wonder how I’ll be remembered as a dad. My intent was to always do the things that would help my children grow up to be good people who knew how to treat others, who obtained a good education, and who built productive lives. Maybe they might comment on my insistence that they played sports on teams and refused to allow them to quit until seasons were over. Of course, during those years, I made plenty of mistakes; perhaps they won’t remember too many of them.
How many of the “lectures” that I subjected them to will be remembered? I’ve delivered hundreds of them over the years. Not using drugs or driving drunk was one such topic. Another was showing respect to their parents, even when they didn’t agree with us. I know that the threat to remove slammed doors from bedrooms is burned into their memory banks. Of course, the one I delivered about the demise of the Egyptian civilization due, in part, to excessive concern with looks and self-adornment will remain long after I’ve gone to my reward, whatever that might be. What others might be recalled is anybody’s guess.
What I hope most of all is that my “young’uns” will recall just how much I loved them. They have been the center of my world, along with Amy. Over the years, they’ve given me so many times to be proud of them, and the hugs and kisses that they gave as little ones and, though less often, as adults, have made my life a good one. I’ve watched them learn to love others and allow them to become parts of their lives, and with luck, they will always find the same kind of love that I’ve experienced with Amy. Lord knows she’s put up with my goofy, too often hateful ways for more than 40 years.
I certainly hope that Madden will have kind things to say about me. He said today that I was like his mom, who also sometimes becomes miffed with his behaviors. If I’m lucky, he’ll remember that I told him I was proud of him. I hope he can say that his grandfather loved him completely and tried to make our time together fun. I further hope he will say that I passed along a couple of good pieces of advice.

I’m not sure the good lord allows us to look down on the ones we leave behind. If that is the case, I only hope that what my family says about me will be mostly good, along with some of my many shortcomings. One things for sure: I won’t be remembered as having been saintly. 

COUNTRY ROADS

Sadie and I took our morning walk before the heat enveloped the area. The circuit takes us through the subdivision, up and down Fitzgerald Road, and down a private driveway on which we have permission to walk.
The ditch line on Fitzgerald Road hasn’t been mowed by the county for a while, and the weeds have grown so tall that they bend over so that cars brush against them as they pass. Poison ivy, honey suckle, and Virginia Creeper vines have crossed the ditch and now encroach on the asphalt. A bit of dew still appears on reedy leaves as the sun dries the countryside.
That ditch line reminded me of the walks that six or seven kids used to take on vacation. My brothers,
the Burns children, and any other kids that were invited spent many hours of that vacation walking. Sometimes we headed to the main store on Highway 321. The route took us up a country road and then along the highway until we reached the store and ran across busy lanes of traffic to buy items that we’d used up or ice creams that were eaten or melted long before we completed our return trip.
At other times, we walked the opposite way. That took us over a wooden bridge where cars poked as the boards creaked and clopped with their weights. I think I correctly remember that some of us jumped from that bridge at least one time and landed into deep areas of the river below. Then we shuffled into the little country store that sat beside the bridge. We’d buy something or just look around for a few minutes.
A few walks took us to a camp ground across the river. Each year, a wagon train that set out from some far away state set up camp there for a couple of nights. We’d mingle with those folks and kids that were resting from their travels. On some occasions, we made the walk at night and traveled the road without flashlights; instead, we relied on our memories of the road and the help of each other to make our ways.
Some of our walking trips took us up the gravel Greenbriar entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Park. Most of the time, we traveled to a point where the rapids spewed over the rocks like a waterfall before calming and flowing down stream. We’d enter the water at that point, slip over the falls and then ride the river and rapids back to our swimming hole downstream. Those trips wore out the bottoms of our cut-off jeans and bruised our backsides, but the fun we had on the ride down that cold water was worth a little pain.
All these memories finished, the things that all the roads back then and this morning hold in common are creeping weeds and vines that ran up to and on the roads. The sounds of scurrying mice or the croaking of frogs were ever-present. A few times, snakes came slithering from the weeds to cross the road. I’ve never liked snakes and jumped or ran in the opposite direction whenever one of the things appeared.
It’s nice to still be able to walk along roads that are similar to those that I traveled as a boy. More cars pass on today’s roads, and just beyond the ditch where a beautiful hay field once existed are dozens of houses that were slapped up in quick order in subdivisions that seem to be spreading like a plague. Even so, Sadie and I will continue our walks as long as our legs allow us or until cold weather runs us inside until spring.


OUTDOOR TOYS

I “had” to buy a lawnmower the other week. Oh, it wasn’t because I didn’t have one already. In fact, two riding mowers are in the basement.
 My older brother and his wife bought the first one a year after my mother died; they did so that I could keep the nearly 2-acre yard mowed. That was 21 years ago. The mowing deck is worn out and
pulleys scream as if they are being tortured.
 The other one is much younger, perhaps 6-7 years old. It is a zero-turn mower, and I loved it…for a while. First, something went wrong with the deck. The John Deere store owner who sold me the machine told me the deck was damaged because I ran water on it when it was still hot. DO WHAT? I asked him how that could be since a built-in nozzle is located on the deck for cleaning. After a tirade laced with profanities, he told me he would take a few bucks off the price to fix this deck that had only gone out of warranty one-month prior. Rest assured that I won’t buy another mower for this business.
A little after that, the motor began smoking. I took it to a couple of mechanics who either couldn’t figure out why it was losing oil or said the motor was faulty. I can’t say that I was too surprised after the debacle with the mowing deck. For the last couple of years, I’ve survived by pouring oil into the motor before every use. The other day, however, it sputtered, coughed, and died. Since then, the mower hasn’t started.
So, I was forced to go buy a new mower. Sure, I have a push mower, but it’s not the machine of choice to mow my 2-acres. The struggle deciding on purchasing another zero-turn mower or a regular lawn tractor was difficult. The determining factor was price. A zero-turn mower with a comparable engine and deck size was $2000 more than the tractor. You can bet that I looked at every possible zero-turn make and model that might have done the job, but in the end, I just couldn’t afford one.
This new lawn tractor has a 25-horsepower engine with a 48-inch cut. It sits me up as if I’m the king of the neighborhood. Still, it has some items that are useless. A cup holder is one. I’ve never put a drink in one of those things without having most of the liquid splash and spill. Another little compartment appears to be for holding sunglasses or small tools. Two lumbar support buttons are on
the sides of the seat. Really?  I’ve discovered over the years that nothing is going to stop the beating that my butt and back take as I mow some parts of my yard. Much of the machine is made of plastic.
I’m pleased that I once again have a mower that will handle the demands of my yard. I hope that the deck holds together since it, too, has a nozzle for connecting a hose for cleaning. I also am keeping my fingers crossed that the motor will hold up as long as the one on my old mower.

I’m keeping the other mowers. At some point, I’ll replace the motor on the zero-turn since the deck is not too old. Then I’ll have two mowers to handle all my mowing chores. When the oldest mower’s deck gives up the ghost, I will use the tractor for pulling a cart, de-thatcher, and aerator. Every man understands this strategy because we all love our outdoor toys. 

RIDICULOUS BEHAVIOR

Well, it appears that July 4th fireworks took on a new meaning in Lonsdale. Officers were attacked when they tried to stop individuals who thought firing the explosives at cars passing by would be more entertaining. According to reports, the fireworks weren’t the traditional firecrackers or sparklers or even cherry bombs. These were the


ones that are used to light up a celebratory sky.
Now, before anyone takes offense that I wrote disparagingly about Lonsdale, read on. My dad worked at Southern Extract from the time he got out of the army until he died some 30 years later. His parents
lived on Louisiana Avenue for years. My grandmother later moved to a house on Minnesota Avenue, and then she even lived in an apartment in College Homes. I spent hours walking the sidewalks in Lonsdale, a treat for a young’un from the country, and about once every month, Daddy loaded us boys into the car for a trip to Cooper and Baldwin’s Barbershop on Tennessee Avenue for a buzz cut. (He always told us he “didn’t like anyone with long hair and dirty shoes.”)
So, I do have fond memories of the community, although I know it has drastically changed over the past few years. Many factors have caused those downturns, but the government hasn’t been the only contributing agent. I don’t pretend to understand the problems of inner-city living and poverty; I’ve been blessed with a good life.
What has my blood boiling is the behaviors of those in the crowd on July 4th who attacked others. Then some of the morons, yes, I mean “morons,” attacked an officer who was attempting to apprehend one of the perpetrators. These folks cry for help in protecting their neighborhoods, but
then turn on the very ones who are trying to do so. What gives?
I’m also blown away at the lack of respect for law enforcement officers who place themselves in life-threatening situations to make communities safer places. Yes, officers do sometimes make mistakes, but overall, police officers do wonderful, heroic jobs that deserve our appreciation and admiration.

Our country suffers right now from a lack of respect. Too many of our countrymen don’t understand what the word means. It is an act of showing acceptance and thanks and admiration to others who have put something bigger than themselves first. Respect also deals with appreciating the sacrifices that individuals make in order to protect the weaker of us.