Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Tennessee.......

An Old and Enchanted Grist Mill Near Norris, Tennessee.  Cindy Grew Up Near Here and Used to Play Here as a Child
I have lived a whole bunch of places...and they are all beautiful in their own way.  But, I must say that Tennessee's beauty can be mesmerizing and intoxicating...and addictive.

An Ancient Waterfall Gurgles Beneath the Grist Mill
Well, who wouldn't become addicted to the deep, lush green beauty of the mountain flora and their bursting aromas?  Who wouldn't adore the interconnected rivers and mountain streams?  Who would not stare in wonder at the ancient ridges and smoky draws and silent hardwoods and know that God is pleased with His creations?

Come with me my friends, as Cindy and I made a three hour swing through our area yesterday afternoon.......
A Clear, Cold Mountain Stream Feeds the Grist Mill Waterwheel

A Still Mountain Pond Creates Wondrous Reflections

Flora Abound
If You Look Closely, You Can See My Reflection in the Glass Panes of This Old Mountain Cabin

Pastures of Plenty

Mountain Scenery

                              Norris Lake on the Clinch River

Norris Dam on the Clinch River

Trout Fishing on the Clinch River Below Norris Dam

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rivers of Life.......

Have you ever stood on a bridge that crosses a flowing river and just stood there a while and noticed that the water keeps coming right at you, never stopping?  Have you imagined how the water is rushing past you and cleansing you of all your worldly sins and cares?  It is so calming and reassuring to see and hear and smell the river as it constantly approaches us...always approaching and never receding.

I like to think God's love is like that---always coming toward us so that all we have to do to experience His calming hand is to just let Him inside.

And I think God made the rivers and mountains and woodlands and oceans and skies so beautiful and awe-inspiring so that, when we see His magnificent works of nature, we will be reminded of Him and His power and the fact that He is all around us all the time, and all we have to do is just open our hearts to Him and He will enter.

Friday, May 18, 2012


About one hour's drive from our home, nestled into the gorgeous Tennessee Smoky Mountains, lies the fabled entertainment mecca known as Dollywood.  Yesterday, the Cinderoo and I took the plunge and paid a visit.

My Season Pass

We left home at 9:00 on a beautiful, clear morning; blew through downtown Knoxville, drove southward on Chapman Highway; turned toward Pigeon Forge when we reached Sevierville, and finally arrived at Dollywood a little after 10:00, when the gates open for business.

Want a Thrill?  Ride the Wild Eagle, America's First Winged Coaster!
There was excitement in the air!  We had purchased our season passes on-line, but still had to go through the ticket gates, where we had our pictures taken and were given our formal passes for 2012.

This is the Thunderhead Coaster, One of Four Full-Scale High-Performance Coasters in the Park
Then, through the turnstiles we went, and made a beeline for the newest attraction---the mind-blowing Wild Eagle Coaster---America's first winged roller coaster. 

Another View of the Thunderhead Coaster, Taken From the Train
Cindy was pumped.  She was talking 100 miles per hour as we climbed the stairs to the coaster entrance.  The line was short and we were fastened into our seats in about 15 minutes. 

Get Ready to Get Wet!

And then the machine moved slowly forward, our feet dangling into space beneath us.  That alone was a thrill.  But then, the mighty beast angled sharply and slowly upward and adrenalin began to enter our bloodstreams.  Up, up, up...the beauty and grandeur of the Smokies became our view. 
An Incapacitated Eagle That Cannot Exist on Its Own in the Wild.  We Counted Four of these magnificent Raptors in The Park.

Dollywood is a Shelter for Incapacitated Bald Eagles.  These are Three of Their Chicks

And then....the Eagle leveled off and we could see downward---hundreds of feet...straight down...we began to drive groundward, our speed reaching over 60 miles per hour...driving screaming my head off...Cindy petrified and silent, eyes eyes, however, were wide open as the now barreling coaster began its inverting twists and turns at high speed, leaving no time for contemplation, up, down, around and around....

And then, the end came abruptly, decelerating and leveling off at the finish.  WOW!!!

When we got off the ride, I was in a super-adrenalized state.  I looked at Cindy, however, and she was obviously stricken in some manner.  Her stomach was, she said, in knots.  She had a green patina covering her face.  She wasn't moving very smoothly. 

The Gristmill

I got her to a lady's room, where she spent some time trying to compose herself.  But truth be told, she never could get herself back to normal.  Even after we sat for awhile and then had a light repast, she just felt a little sickly.

Cindy Took This Close-Up of These Gorgeous Flowers.  The Park is Full of Such Beauty

I felt sorry for her.  We took it easy from there on out.  We rode the train around the park.  While that may sound boring, it was not!  The train has full sized cars and is powered by a steam, coal-fired locomotive from the 1920s.  It took us all around the park and we saw a lot of the surrounding forest, also.  Very enjoyable.

After the train ride, we stopped in most of the shops and browsed.  We got some of the world-famous cinnamon bread and made love to it as we strolled the huge park.  I noted that the shops all present high quality goods.  There is none of that cheap, touristy stuff one sees so often in other parks.

I didn't dare suggest we try another challenging ride.  Cindy was slowly returning to her old self.

The Blacksmith's Fire dances Magically in The Foundry, Where High-Quality, Custom Made Gifts Are Forged
We stopped in the chapel and rested.  A highlight for us was a visit to the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame, where we viewed the plaques and life stories of our favorite personalities who have contributed so much to that genre of music.

We Stopped in The Chapel.  Very Nice.  Services Are Held Here on Sunday

The ride home was anti-climactic.  We were tired from all the walking.  Even though we only rode a couple of rides, it was a special day.  And, since we have season passes, we will be returning soon to experience more of the park and rides.

This is Me, Browsing Through the Southern Gospel hall of Fame

We stopped at Papa Murphy's Pizza and picked up a large chicken-spinach-artichoke thin-crust pizza for din-din.  Ahhhh.  Life is gooood.

Cindy Took This Shot of Us Through A Decorative Mirror in One Of the Shops

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grandma May.......

As one travels through life, one encounters many personalities.  There are parents, grandparents, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, teachers, business associates, and the list goes on infinitum.  There are thousands and thousands of people who touch our lives---a few very significantly and some just barely.

We can always recall those who touch us in a significant way.  And, now that I really think about it, it is clear that how we are affected by these folks differs from person to person.

Even When Asleep, She Looked Formidable

You take my grandma May for example.  She was unlike anyone I have ever known.  She was unique.  I will not see her kind again. 

Grandma May on Left, Circa 1970.  I am Next to Her.  My First Wife, Catherine, is on Right. You Can See May's Feistiness as She Says "Don't Take My Picture!!!"

May was my dad's mom.  I really got to know her as a teenager, when she came to live with us for a couple of years.  Her husband, my grandfather Jerry, was sick; and May stayed with us during that ordeal.

May is Third Lady From Right, Circa 1950

When May came to live with us, I was excited, because I knew she was what might be referred to as "a character".  This woman had personality and talent to spare.  But, she also was notorious as a "troublemaker"---someone who would purposefully upset the proverbial applecart just to "stir things up" and provide entertainment for herself.

Of course, this trait did not exactly endear her to my mom, who was trying to run an efficient, trouble-free household...but, no matter.  May was May, and if anyone didn't like it, then they could lump it.  Of course I, as a hormone ridden and rebellious young teen, loved her non-conformity.  I also loved the fact that my dad acquiesced to her.  If May had worn a license plate, it would have said "Question Authority".  Yes, May could be a problem, but for me, a most delightful one.

1960 at Jerry's Funeral in Dallas, TX (Restland Cemetery).  L-R Me, My Mom, May, Grandfather Clinton (My Mom's Dad), Grandma Clinton and my Brother David

One of my favorite things was when she would enter a room and say to me in the most professorial tone, "Tell me, doctor (the word "doctor" would roll off her tongue), how was your recent trip to the Congo?"  Or, Tell me about your audience with the Pope..." or some such nonsense.

Early 1970s.  May with Catherine

This was my signal to begin BSing with her on totally made-up phooey about my nonexistent trip to the Congo or audience with the Pope or whatever else she may have presented to me.  Oh, it was grand fun the way we went back and forth---she asking ridiculous questions ("Did you have occasion to eat any cannibals while touring the Dark Continent?"), and me responding accordingly ("Why yes---the best meal I had was stewed Ubange with cabbage").  Our exchanges would continue for hours and it was nearly impossible for anyone hearing this outrageous banter to keep from rolling on the floor in laughter.  When I think back on those times, I can see that it was improvisational comedy at its most inane.

May and My Dad, Circa 1972

Then, of course, there was the time May got me off to the side and told me that if I wanted to learn to smoke cigarettes, she would show me how to do it---and, she counseled, "I won't tell your mom or dad---it'll be our secret."

May had a habit of eating dessert before any other course at dinner.  She said that she did that because she "Didn't want a sweet taste in her mouth after dinner."

Speaking of dinner, May made a point of eating fat that she would carve from meat at the dinner table.  While others would cut off pieces of fat and discard them, May would cut them off and slowly eat them, enjoying the reactions of others at the table.  Her actions at the table emboldened me to the point that I, too, began eating the fat---it was delicious.  Of course, I quickly learned that May did this not so much because she actually liked eating the fat, but more because of the stir it caused among her fellow diners.

Circa 1960.  Brother David, Dad, May, Me
May enjoyed a can of beer each night before bed.  She said it helped her digestion and aided sleep.  It must have worked, because the grand old lady lived to be 92.

In the talent department. May was a sensation on the piano.  She played by ear and let me tell you, the woman could tear up a ragtime number.  Her hands were like magic, tumbling across the keys, her left fingers going one way and her right fingers the other in a blur.  If you named her a song---any song--- she would knock it out if she had heard it before.

But she could also read music, and I loved it when she would buy sheet music of contemporary pop songs and play them for me. 

Looking back, I'm sorry my kids never knew her.  But, I do know that my oldest daughter, Debbie, inherited a lot of her talents.  Her talents were the wild kind---really special but difficult to harness, if you know what I mean.

May did not want her picture taken---ever.  She would make a commotion of the first magnitude if someone tried to take her pic.  That is the reason so few photographs of her exist today.  Thankfully, I did find just a few to share.

Debbie asked me about her today, and it got me to reminiscing.  This old guy got a little teary-eyed thinking about a special grandmother.  I'm so blessed to have known her.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Permanent Records.......

Something that has been on my mind lately....

Do you recall from your school days...high school and teachers and administrators used to threaten us poor students into submission by using the ole phrase, "You don't want this to go on your Permanent Record!!!"

Of course, at the time, I thought that some transgression being inserted into my "Permanent Record" would be the most horrible thing that could possibly befall me.  I mean---it would follow me throughout life, right?  Oh my gosh---couldn't let THAT happen!

One time in college I got on the "wrong side" of an administrator.  The reason for this was my immaturity and youthful exuberance.  I mean, it was my own fault.  He threatened to insert the details of my escapade in my Permanent Record if I did not cease and desist. 

Unfortunately for me, I did not cease and desist and he caught me once again.  My transgression, he informed me, had been placed into my Permanent Record and would therefore follow me throughout my life and presumably beyond and into eternity.  This bothered me for years.

Now, of course, I look back on all that fear and just shake my head.  Why?  Because I have learned that the Permanent Record is a crock.  It means pretty much just about NOTHING.  If someone---a prospective employer, for example---wants proof that I graduated from XYZ University, they will be supplied with a copy of my transcript proving I did, in fact, graduate.   If they take the time to read about the time I instigated a water fight in the dorm which resulted in a considerable amount of water being deposited on the floors of the hallways, I realize now that they are much more likely to laugh than to see anything wrong.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Post From My Cardinal Friend.......

Introduction:  I have asked my cardinal friend, Chirpee, to guest blog for me today.  I met Chirpee several months ago after I had put up a bird feeder on our rear deck.  Since putting the feeder up, it has become a very popular oasis for all manner of feathered fowl.  Since Chirpee was the first bird seen at the feeder, I asked him to make a few comments on this forum.

Mr Clint Took This Shot of Me.  I Think I Look Pretty Handsome.
Hi. My name is Chirpee, ninth son of Rosa and Red.  I was asked by Mr Clint to say a few words for his blog---whatever that is---today.  I don't know why he asked me to share my thoughts, but I figure I should try to cooperate with him because he has been feeding me and many other birds for several months, and it is very much appreciated.

I am married to Jenny.  We do just about everything together.  I found this feeder last December on Mr Clint's deck and Jenny and I have been feeding there every day.

Me Flappin' At The Window
Unfortunately, the Grackles and Jays have also discovered the feeder, and they make dining a chore.  Jenny and I cannot enjoy our meals very much with all the hoppin' around and the screeching goin' on. 

I especially like the mix of seed Mr Clint serves up.  It is a nice blend of everything from sunflower seeds to thistle.  It keeps us comin' back day after day.

Me Still At The Window

The main thing that bothers me at the feeder is the other male Cardinal that seems to show up when I do.  This interloper appears at the window.  Of course, I have to defend my territory, so I spend some time every day flappin' at the window trying to get the bird to leave, but for some reason he is always there and I cannot get him to leave.  I wish Mr Clint would get rid of those windows so the other Cardinal would disappear.

I get along best with the sparrows and wrens and waxwings and doves.  They aren't as aggressive as the 'peckers and grackles and jays.  Why can't we all just get along?

Anyway, thanks, Mr Clint, for the seed.

PS---I do apologize for the huge messes Mr Dove makes on your railing.  Some birds just have no class.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Glorious Morning Walk Redux.......

Oh, the glory of it all....

I had to make myself get out of bed this morning.  I stumbled to the kitchen at 5:45.  Had to make some strong coffee to get my bod ready for the day.  Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  That's better.  

My heart was set on hitting the trail at 6:30.  Slowly the ole system began to grudgingly respond.  Feeling was returning to my feet and fingertips as the hot brew seeped downward.  I could now wiggle my toes.  My tongue now had a sensation of taste. much bettaaa....

Tie those tennis shoes tight.  Rub those eyes again and try to get some focus.  Put on my tank top and shorts.  Act like I'm awake.  Not quite yet, but the trail calls.

Come with me, my friends, as I force myself is a cool 60 degrees.  There is a heavy overcast.  It rained last night, so the trail is wet.  It matters not, because the po'boy is walking now, building speed down the trail...across the beautiful Tennessee countryside, through the meadows of daisies and cat-tails and sawgrass, toward the deep and still dark and mysteriously enchanted forest, where the faeries and trolls reside, full of lore and charm and doubt and hope and exceeding beauty, to the elevated ridge where reside the ball fields and the fishing pond and the pet park. 

Come with me now, and be amazed by the incredible, overpowering smells of honeysuckle and laurel and jasmine and mountain lily.......

Our Journey Begins...

Fancy Homes Tucked Into The Ridges

Crossin' The Highway

Overcast and Dark

The Martins Reside Here

What a Photogenic and Nice Couple I Met on the Trail!

No Tellin' What-All Lives in THAT Briarpatch!

The Smells Of Spring are Overpoweringly Wonderful!

              Hmmm.....Which Road Should I Take?  Where Is Robert     Frost When I Need Him?

An Ancient Hardwood Stands as a Lonely Sentinel Against the Scudding Morning Clouds

I Love Daisies---and These Fields Are Full of 'em...

I Love Open Gates, Especially When They Lead to Enchanted Forests

Yes, I know it is dark.  Creepy?

Light at the end of the tunnel

Don'cha' just love a babblin' brook?

We continue in the forest primieval.......

Past the soccer fields

The pond, with ducks and fish and things

The baseball fields

Bring your dog!

 I wish you all could have enjoyed this excursion as much as I did!