(I've included photos of some of my recent projects.)

I so much want to be one of those men who can build things. To be a craftsman who takes a piece of wood and creates a beautiful piece of furniture is a dream I’ve long held. The truth of the matter, however, is that I am less than capable when it comes to designing things and then constructing them. In fact, I’ve always found using tools difficult and working in construction situations demanding.
I never learned how to do things with tools. Daddy never had the time to teach us, and even if he had, he wouldn’t do it. He believed that things should be done correctly, and that required calling in a professional. The only successful things I ever built was a teepee from pine branches and a small enclosure made with small pine tree trunks. Jim, Bill Burns, and I spent several afternoons working on those projects. They eventually collapsed as the limbs lost their needles and the logs rotted.
I worked construction one summer with a man who’d been my boss at the Holiday Inn the year before. He tirelessly worked to teach me how to do things, but I wasn’t crazy about the lessons. On one occasion, he sent me up a ladder to nail soffit boards to rafters. I am fearful of heights, so the job was scary from the very beginning. Once up on the ladder, I tried to drive nails into the boards, but they bounced and fell to the ground with every hammer blow. It didn’t help that I was nailing these things above my head.
After finally driving the nails, Frank told me to do the next board. I began coming down when he said, “Stay where you are.” Then he told me pull the ladder back and to set it several inches to the right. I told him I was afraid that the ladder would fall. At that point, Frank begins shaking the ladder until I do as he instructed.
On another occasion, Frank sent me to nail board on a flat roof because I was left handed and could reach it. I carefully maneuvered to the spot and began kneeling on a rafter to get into position. My feet slipped, and just like Clark Griswold, I crashed through the ceiling of a bedroom and found myself stuck. Frank came to my aid, all the while sprinkling his laughter with profanities.
One summer I helped Uncle Wayne roof his house. We worked from daylight until early noon. He was into his 60’s and worked circles around me. My uncle was a quiet man with the patience of Job. He tried to teach me what to do, but it seemed as if he redid most of my work. I suppose my only help was keeping him company and being there to call an ambulance if he fell off the roof or had a heart attack.
In recent years, I’ve built a few things, but they are what I call “primitive.” That best describes things that are just a tad off measurement-wise, even though I’ve measured multiple times and cut once. My cuts with a saw are never straight, something I blame being left-handed and using a right-handed saw. I use twice as many nails and continue to add wood until pieces seem sturdy enough to hold a glass of tea or a hardback book. They weigh tons.
Last month, I took a stab at building a drying rack. As usual, pieces didn’t match exactly. One piece warped so that the thing won’t close completely. It looks okay, and I enjoyed the work. Nailing the side boards, I managed to shoot one into my finger, even after I’d checked to make sure my hand was out of range from the nail gun. I also made a frame from wood from a scrapped pallet. It turned out well.

I plan to continue to work with wood and tools. Say a prayer for me that I don’t shoot more nails into body parts. Also, cross your fingers that I might build quality piece of furniture before I die. 


I’ve listened to plenty of presidential campaign promises. The Republicans and Democrats assure the public that they’ll save us money, provide more benefits for us, and cut spending. The old saying never held more truth: “You know when a politician is lying? When his mouth moves!” I’m just about over some of the things that we are being promised.
We’re not going to build a wall that will keep out illegal immigrants. Oh, the government can spend what is estimated to be $8 billion to erect the thing. Yes, I’ve heard that Mexico will pay for it. Really? How is a president going to force another country to pay for our construction of a wall?
Some want to deport several million illegal immigrants. Yep, according to them, we’ll round them up and drive them to a place where they will be forced to return to their original countries. Logical thinking indicates that such an endeavor is impossible. First, all those folks can’t be found. Second, the cost of such a project is prohibitive. Last, rounding up a group of people who are mostly of one ethnic group sounds too much like what the Nazis, out of hatred and fear, did when they rounded up the Jews. I don’t know what the answer to the illegal immigration problem is, but this isn’t it. 
Candidates told us that they’ll cut taxes for everyone, including businesses.  Doing so will magically fill the coffers and make the country flush with cash and individuals richer than they’ve ever been. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I’ve not seen a great windfall for individuals as the result of recent gains in the profits for businesses. The wealthiest still have most of the money. Why would they cut loose of their money to give the rest of us a boost? I’d bet that most of those tax cuts for businesses would go toward their bottom lines.
Now, the other side has its own strange ideas. One says that the Affordable Care Act will be scrapped, and its place will be “Medicare for all.” First of all, if Obamacare is ended, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that no other program will ever replace it. Too many politicians hate it and aren’t about to let the next thing come around. What we have is rife with problems, but at least we have something that offers coverage for all. Instead of “reinventing the wheel,” those politicians on both sides of the aisle might work together to cut the costs of prescription drugs that are produced by the same companies who would get tax breaks and then would pass on savings to the American public.
Times are tough for folks; I get that. However, providing free college tuition for everyone not reasonable, nor is it fair. My mother had 3 sons whom she struggled to send to college. We boys worked in the summers and served as head residents in dorms to offset as much of the cost as possible. My two children attended state colleges, and we paid for that education; it was what we owed them as their parents.
If college is important to parents, they should begin making plans for that possibility as soon as children are born. At some point, the children themselves must begin working part time jobs to save for a college education. The state of Tennessee now offers free community college to all state students. I’d suggest that those who want to attend school but struggle with money might consider this route, and while they do, they can work to save for the final years toward college for a degree. I’d further suggest that they become smart shoppers to find the state school that offers the desired course of study. Any loans they might take out should be for education ONLY. Buying vehicles or renting apartments or other extraneous things should never be bought with educational loan money. That’s what jobs are for.
Yep, it’s that time when the politicians make promises, but we all know that the vast majority won’t be kept. Let’s settle down a little bit, put on our thinking caps, and figure out what our best courses of action are. None of us needs to be hood-winked by slick-talking folks who have never lived as most of us have. Let’s all be smart voters and demand the best for the entire country.


I opened up the refrigerator door the other day, got a whiff of something foul, and slammed it shut. Sure, I should have completed a search for the offending item, but the truth is, I was afraid of losing my lunch by playing detective. The refrigerator in most homes can often produce some unpleasant and downright scary items.
When my brothers and I were young, we consumed milk by the gallons. My children drank a fair amount of the stuff too. These days, Amy and I drink milk or use it for other things occasionally, but nowhere near as often as we did a few years ago. Yes, we both like a bowl of cereal for breakfast
sometimes. I’ve poured out a heaping bowl of cornflakes and covered them with Splenda. Then I’d reach for the jug of milk to pour on the flakes. That first bite has sometimes ruined a whole day. Soured milk on cereal produces a disgusting taste, not to mention a load of disappointment.
Milk sometimes arrives at home already in a foul state. I’ve learned to remove the lid and give the container the “sniff test” before pouring it out. That nauseating smell hangs in the nose for an eternity and proves to be a good diet aid since I lose my appetite after inhaling. Even worse is pouring out the milk into a glass, only to have it flow with chunks included. Some people can drink buttermilk, but to me, it’s no better than a glass of spoiled milk.
We eat well; my dear wife is a wonderful cook. After many meals, she shovels leftovers into containers with the express purpose of serving them the next evening or taking them to work as lunch. Amy knows that I am not a fan of leftovers unless they come from Christmas dinners and include turkey, ham, and dressing. The rest of the stuff doesn’t pique my hunger.
We often forget that those leftovers are in the fridge. Amy gives most things a week before removing and dumping them. However, sometimes food items hide behind other things and manage to survive for too many days. When they are discovered, the lid is removed. A glob of something that was once
a part of our meals is stuck to the container. A stinky liquid might also cover the bottom of the plastic, and hairy-looking mold covers the top of the stuff. I joke that we’ve grown enough penicillin to cure all sorts of illnesses. 
Most of the time, I finish a drink that I have. Amy or the kids when they are home will place a half-consumed bottles of coke or sports drinks in the refrigerator, and we all know that none of them will ever be finished. A while later, the drinks are removed, and they have lost their fizz. A complete waste of drink and money goes down the drain.
My daddy drank an occasional beer…only when we boys were gone on vacation or out of the house for extended periods of time. Somehow, he managed to hide remaining cans in the back of the
refrigerator. If we discovered them, Mother would swear she bought them to wash her hair, something I never bought nor understood. At any rate, she’d take one of the bottles to the bathroom, hang her head over the side of the tub, and pour the beer over hair that had just been washed. The stuff “glunked” from the can and never showed even a trace of carbonation. It was as flat as a board, proof that it had stayed longer that its shelf life.

We still cram leftovers into our refrigerator with a vow to consume them the next day. All the while, I know it’s a lie because the appeal of a recipe dims over a 24-hour span. I like hot food, not stuff that’s been warmed up in a microwave or re-heated in a sauce pan. That means Amy does a better job of cooking portions that we will finish off the first time. Neither of us wants to take on cleaning the refrigerator and find mushy scraps of foods, and we sure don’t like discovering flat beer and soured milk.

The Music Fades

Glen Fry is dead! Say it isn’t so! Just like too many Baby Boomer musical heroes, Fry leaves us much too early. Music might make the biggest impression in the lives of every person. Losing artists makes us pause as we remember their music and the events that made it so memorable.
Billy Joe Royal passed at the age of 73. The first song of his I remember was “Down in the Boondocks” in 1965. I was an eighth grader and found a girl who would pay attention to me, at least
for a while. That song played on the radio every morning as I got ready for school, and to this day, it makes me remember the girl and the butterflies in my stomach. I also remember listening to it in Uncle Wayne’s car as he took a load of us kids to the bowling alley. “Cherry Hill Park” was another favorite of mine because I once dated a girl who lived in a subdivision with that same name. Her name was Happy Early. What a great name! I hear that song and wonder what happened to her.
Jack Ely, 71, isn’t necessarily the most popular name in the music business. However, when the song title “Louie Louie” is attached to it, automatic “Ahs” come. That is a song whose words most of us have never deciphered. Yet even today, the first 6 notes cause us oldsters to bob our heads and clear our throats to mumble along with Ely.
I had a crush on Lesley Gore when I was a kid. She was a good-looking girl who sang pop hits with catchy lyrics. “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” were my favorites. I loved the line, “Oh what a birthday surprise, Judy’s
wearing his ring.” Gore’s songs and I had something in common: both lamented being dumped by sweethearts. She died too early at the age of 68.
Percy Sledge died at the age of 74. I never knew many of his songs, but the one that made him a star was “When a Man Loves a
Woman.” No sock-hop was complete without that song. It was a way for young couples to slow dance while they were wrapped in each other’s arms. No one can deny that temperatures rose and hearts pounded as that song echoed through the gym.
At the same time, no sock-hop could end until Ben E. King sang “Stand by Me.” King also belted out that song as couples parked in subdivisions like Camelot in Karns and fogged up the windows. It also became the theme song of the movie with the same name. It’s one of my favorites because a bunch of grungy little boys are at the center of the plot. King also gave us plenty of pleasure singing with the Drifters such songs as “There Goes My Baby” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.” He died at the age of 76.
Just today, the announcement that Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed at the age of 67. Space won’t allow me to list all the hits that he and the group sang. “Desperado” and “Hotel California” were two that cross generational lines and musical tastes to become favorites. I still love the song “Come Home for Christmas.” During my freshman year in college, my so-called girlfriend wouldn’t return my
phone calls during the Christmas holiday. That song played on the radio as I pined away for her. As things turned out, she never returned to TTU, and to this day, I have no idea what happened to Jackie Noble. My wife Amy and I have always been partial to “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”

Other wonderful artists have also died recently. B.B. King, Jimmy Greenspoon of Three Dog Night, Natalie Cole, and Paul Rekow, Santana’s drummer, are gone. What surprises me so much is that these folks are all in their 60’s and 70’s. I suppose that is ironically fitting that these legends died at the same age as the decades in which their music was so popular. Still, their passing brings realization of our own mortality. The music fades. I hope we have a little bit longer to put on albums or CD’s or mp3 players to listen to those hits and remember youth and its energy.