Rabbits

The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle.

Wesley just chased a lethargic rabbit halfway around the garden and up the fence line behind the barn. The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle. He must have doubted Wesley’s accuracy with the bamboo javelin he had poised for throwing. It looked a bit like a Road Runner cartoon in slow motion.

I have seen rabbits run a lot faster. Like the time we were working in the hayfield and had just stopped to get a drink of water to keep from dying from exhaustion in the sweltering heat. Up sprang a little rabbit. My brother jumped up chased him halfway across the hayfield before catching him in dive. He was parallel with the ground, arms stretched out in front of him. The rest of us watched cooly from the shade of the truck and sipped the ice cold water from little dixie cups. Zach panted triumphantly back to the truck and held out a tiny rabbit that was visibly throbbing from adrenaline and fear.

“You boys ain’t tired if you can still catch rabbits.” Pop said as he stirred us back to work, as if I had been out there chasing rabbits along with Zach.

Not surprisingly, the best rabbit story I can offer comes from my Dad. Back during the Reagan administration, my parents and Uncle Tony were setting on the front porch of the house were I was raised. Dad was leaning against the column and drinking a Pepsi from a glass bottle when someone noticed a rabbit out next to the kudzu. That’s about thirty yards away, depending on the last time the grass was cut. Kudzu can grow about a yard a day. Uncle Tony tried to hit the rabbit with a rock, but he missed. Which is not surprising since his glasses are as thick as mine. The rabbit tensed up and sat frozen while Dad took the last swig of his drink. Then he held onto the post with one hand and leaned out into the front yard and casually lobbed the empty glass bottle over a crepe myrtle tree in the general direction of the rabbit. The bottle struck the rabbit square in the head and killed it graveyard dead.

I’ve never intentionally killed a rabbit. Even when I was conned into going hunting in the back yard with Dad and Zach. I don’t remember what exactly we were hunting, but I jumped a rabbit in the sage patch and watched him bounce away while I held my shotgun on my shoulder.

“Hey, there goes a rabbit.” I said proudly.

“Why didn’t you shoot it?” My Dad laughed.

Now that I have a garden, I can relate a lot more to Farmer Brown and Elmer Fudd than Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. I’m almost ready to start intentionally killing rabbits. I’ve taken the first step by giving Wesley a slingshot and a sack of marbles.

Thanks for reading, sharing, and for your continued Support.

Zane Wells

Thoughts on Efficiency

Perhaps I’m lazy, but I like to find the most efficient way to do a thing.

Did you ever listen to Car Talk ? I used to listen every Saturday morning as a teenager. There was one caller that had a question about a car problem and a possible solution. It turned out, that the proposed solution would indeed work but, as Ray said, “It wouldn’t be the cowboy way.” I still laugh about this from time to time, especially when I see someone doing something inefficiently.

Perhaps I’m lazy, but I like to find the most efficient way to do a thing. This, I believe, is a learned trait. I learned it in a roundabout way while working for hire as a second grader. We would do anything from landscaping and construction clean up, to farm work where I learned how to drive. Pop, or his business partner Marion, would give specific instructions about a task-often the grunt work in a larger process-and expect us-Zach and I- to do exactly what they told us, precisely how we were shown, while rarely-if ever-explaining the whole system.

We didn’t complain, after all they hired us to do the simple work, not to understand the whole process. “You get paid from the neck down.” Marion would remind us if we ever “had an idea”. This labor without understanding is the basest type of working. All you need to do is show up and breath. I’m not throwing off on this kind of work, it’s necessary. I also think it is important to learn how to follow instructions. Maybe you know a coworker that has never really learned how to meet the most basic of requirements.

After working at this level for a while you begin to ask yourself questions. Why am I doing this? The first answer is money. I’m working for money. That is usually a good enough answer to keep most people working, until you ask yourself, Why am I doing this this way? This is when you start thinking about efficiency. You’ll start wanting to understand how the whole system works instead of just your task.

From here a stream of questions will begin to flow rapidly, How does this all work? Can it work better? What is important? Are we wasting time doing things that do not matter? How can we streamline this?

I’m not sure what to call it, but I’m pretty sure this is another level of working, understanding the whole process. And making that process or system more efficient is another level I’m sure.

“There is the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way.”

Everyone I ever met who served in the US Navy

If there has been one thing I’ve learned as an adult in the work force it has been, not everyone wants things to be more efficient and there is always resistance to change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’ve often heard this response when someone would rather stick with an inefficient process than take the time to learn a more efficient way. Let me be clear, efficiency is not the same as cutting corners.

I remember my Dad dealing with a situation like this when he managed a machine shop. He met resistance while introducing a more efficient system, particularly from one man who had been working there for quite a while. My Dad had a unique way with people.

“What is the best vehicle ever made?” Dad asked the belligerent man.

Without hesitation the man said ” The 1956 Chevrolet pickup truck.

“What did you drive to work this morning?” Dad asked the man.

“A 96′ Chevrolet pickup truck.”

“Why didn’t you drive the 1956 Chevy truck?”

“Well the 1956 gets real bad gas mileage, and the ’96 can has a much larger towing capacity…” He rattled on like car people do until he realized that Dad was making a point about the new process.

A big part of my current job is helping people use the internet. Occasionally someone will walk into the office and smart off to me about not having a computer.

“I ain’t got one and ain’t ever planning to have one. Don’t need one.” It’s a point of pride to them. Well you needed one today or you wouldn’t be here, I think to myself.

“Yeah, I’m sure there were a lot of people that kept on riding horses after the automobile was invented.” This has become my stock response to the nastiest of these customers.

There is a slight part of me that admires someone who can live free of the internet, but on the other hand, we are twenty years into the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, these people are being left behind. I think the key to not being left behind is to remain a student for life.

I understand that some things are unchangeable and cannot be improved upon. In general though, I’m for making a task easier, simpler, and more efficient.

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Mr. Lee

Every old man needs a younger man in order to carry out their plans.

I was a teenager before Pop started hanging out with Mr. Lee. They were both retired and needed each other. Their idea of playing usually meant work for me and especially Dad. Every old man needs a younger man in order to carry out their plans. And to more or less babysit them.

Mr. Ronnie Lee was a tall man, maybe 6’2″. And about 160 lbs if I’m being generous. He wore glasses and-like so many other old men-a mesh backed hat that sat on top of his head. I have a hard time visualizing Mr. Lee without a hat. He also always had a cigarette.

“I can’t tell you how many times an old man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth has saved my bacon.”

Bo

Mr. Lee had a saw mill and a planer. I remember helping dad plane enough saw-cut lumber to panel the inside walls of the lake house Mr. Lee had built. It was interesting work and typical of the type of stuff that Dad did for Mr. Lee.

“How do you want me to do this Mr. Lee?” Dad would ask as he was about to tackle whatever oddball task Mr. Lee had assigned.

“You do it just any old way you want to Perry.” Mr. Lee would say through his nose, his mouth being occupied by a cigarette. “Just however you think is best.”

Dad would commence work upon the task at hand with purpose. Dad would be knee deep into the work when Mr. Lee would come back around and check on progress.

After looking around for a moment Mr. Lee would remark, “I don’t know if I’d have done it that way Perry.” Much to the frustration of my Dad.

This story has become part of my family’s literary reference library; a readymade punchline to be quoted like ancient Greek mythology.

Gardening

I came home from a bike ride a couple of weeks ago to find Bro. Art unloading his John Deere tractor in my driveway. “Where do you want this garden?”

I came home from a bike ride a couple of weeks ago to find Bro. Art unloading his John Deere tractor in my driveway. “Where do you want this garden?” he asked as he was walking off the porch with my bicycle pump.

I looked around a little surprised to see Sis. Pat and Sarah walking around and pointing in the back yard. “This trailer tire is a little low, I’ll have to check it when I get back home.” Bro. Art said. I huffed and puffed on the pump while he surveyed the property.

“I don’t need a very big plot Bro. Art.” I finally said, thinking I didn’t need a plot at all.

Bro. Art

“Well what all you want to grow?” He asked.

For a split second I thought about the vegetables that I really enjoyed eating. “I guess some squash, green beans, and peppers.” I said. “And tomatoes.” I’m not sure why I said tomatoes. I hate tomatoes. Maybe hate is a strong word, but I don’t eat raw tomatoes. But I said it clear as day. A garden in Alabama isn’t complete without tomatoes.

“Ok. I’ll plow you up this little patch right here. You can put your corn on the North end.” He said, pointing around on the ground. “You can plant your zucchini and cucumbers right here, and okry over there. You like okry?”

“Yes sir.”

Bro. Art proceeded to plow up a piece of ground about four times the size of what I thought we needed.

So that’s how I got back into gardening. Although I’ve been around gardening most of my life, I’ve never been an active gardner. I can’t remember Pop not having a garden. Up until now, my role in the garden has always been purely muscle. I once planted an acre and a half of watermelon seeds by hand. More than once I’ve stuck my finger into a rotten potatoes while digging up the same potatoes I helped plant-a feeling that you won’t soon forget. I’ve staked and strung about fifty miles of tomatoes. I’ve picked countless acres of corn. I’ve shoveled goat manure every kind of way you can imagine in the name of gardening. Now that I’m an adult I wish that I would have paid more attention to the details of gardening. Especially since I can no longer rely on the knowledge and experience of my father. Dad would have been excited to know that I’m planting a garden.

“My grandfather had a farm. My father had a garden. I have a can opener.”

Jimmy Tony

Like Bro. Art, Pop has always planted a much bigger garden than he might have needed. It is probably safe to call Pop a small scale farmer, and not a gardener. “It’s a gamble.” He told me when I asked about when to plant. You never know how much of the crop is going to come up.

Dad started a garden at our house when I was a teenager. I remember a conversation that is a little embarrassing to share with you.

“Dad, I’ll cut the grass, but I really don’t want to work in the garden.”

He chuckled, “That’s alright, I wasn’t expecting you to help. This is my garden.” I was surprised when I realized that he wasn’t upset with me. I think he knew what it was like to have to work in the garden without a choice, and he didn’t want that for his kids.

As silly as it may sound, one of the main reasons I did not want to work in the Dad’s garden was my hands; I wanted to keep my hands clean. And I still do. I don’t like lotion, or long fingernails. I think it’s a guitar player thing.

It did not take long for Sarah and I to get more than a little excited about gardening. We went to Chambers Garden Center and bought some seeds and plants. I got Better Boy tomatoes because that’s what Dad always planted.

A funny thing happened when got back home and started putting the plants into the ground. I was more concerned about the plant than keeping my hands clean. I looked down and my hands were covered in dirt. I had to laugh at myself.

Two days after I planted my garden we had a large storm pass over us, dumping buckets of rain down on my tender plants and seeds. A tornado touched down just a few miles South of our house that night. I sat in the closet with my family and listened to James Spann guide us through the storm. You can laugh if you want, but I was worried about my garden. Will this rain wash away my seeds? Did I plant to early? Can my plants withstand this storm? What if nothing comes up? I think this may be what gardening feels like.

There are somethings that I can tell you about and there is a good chance that you’ll appreciate them, but nothing can compare to experiencing them for yourself. Such is planting a seed and watching it spring up out of the ground. I wish my Dad were here to see my garden. I know he would be happy to offer advice and guidance, but I think he’d be even more proud that I did it on my own. With a generous dose of help from Bro. Art of course.

2020: A Concept Novel

You probably are tired of scrolling through FaceBook anyway. Let’s get started!

Do you get the feeling that 2020 is unraveling like a dystopian science fiction novel? It puts me in the mind of The Day The Earth Stood Still. I’ve been thinking of how I would frame a novel around the readymade plot in which we are all currently living. I’ll share a few of the opening paragraphs of a concept novel-in the style of Charles Dickens-and you can provide feedback in the comment section of what I did wrong, and where my comma splices and run on sentences are, and how there are holes in the plot, and how my idea is a little flat, and the style seems a little stiff and forced. It will be just like a college discussion board! I know you’re going to love it. You probably are tired of scrolling through FaceBook anyway. Let’s get started!

Book the First-Shelter in Place

I. The Period

It depended on who you asked. Some would have said that things couldn’t get any worse, some would have said that they never remembered things being so good. Millionaires were so common place that one might easily overlook the homeless vagrants they dodged each day on the way to work. Each week the restaurant manager threw away almost as much food as the food pantry manager distributed. We were healthier than we had ever been, and we were sicker than we had ever been.

There was a man with straw colored hair and a citrusy complexion in the oval office in Washington, and a man with straw colored hair and a clammy complexion at Number 10 in London. The established conventional press subtly mocked the men who in turn openly mocked the established conventional press. The opposition in America had tried and failed to remove the man with straw colored hair and citrusy complexion from the oval office, and were so set on the next election that little else was done in the way of good or bad on Capitol Hill.

There were debates where everything and nothing was said so loudly that no one heard. There were add campaigns so large that they failed to attract any followers. In United States of America, there was a great clamor for and against a border wall to the South; and in the United Kingdom, there was a great clamor for and against a border with the European mainland; all the while immigrants from everywhere clamored to enter either country at any, and often perilous, cost.

The fact was that we were all so firmly divided on nearly every point upon entering upon the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty that we can only describe the era by use of extremes. The result of the stalemate was that little was done, for better or worse, to alter the situation in the lives of every day people. There existed two worlds that only acknowledged each other through the safety of the internet, and we were all so happy to ignore the present situation that the noisome activities of our contended lives drowned out the sound of a dry cough in China.

March 30, 2014

Six years ago today was a Sunday. It was a dark blustery night. So windy that my hat blew off my head as I was locking up the church for the night. I chased my black fedora down into the retention pond where I sunk my wingtips in ankle deep mud. I walked home. When I say I walked home it gives the story depth, but our house was closer to the church than most of the open parking places at Wal Mart are to the entrance.

It had been a great service that Sunday. One of those blow out services when you need to take your suit to the cleaners. We had been at it all day and it felt good to lay down. I was about to go to sleep when Sarah slapped me in the arm and said,

“We need to go to the hospital, my water just broke.”

We called our friend Sharon who was going to help us in the delivery room. Everyone needs a friend like Sharon.

It was our first baby, so we already had a bag packed with things that the lady teaching the first time parents class at the hospital said we might need.

  • Exercise Ball
  • Pillow
  • Laptop to play soft music
  • Hoodie

Maybe you’re about to have a baby. Maybe you have been to a class at the hospital where they dim the lights and talk in whispers and make you lay down in the floor and breathe together. All you have to do is be able to breathe. Cause she’ll forget. Then she’ll blame you for not reminding her to breathe. Then you’ll tell her how to breathe when the next salvo of contractions come and she’ll jerk on your arm and tell you that your breath stinks cause you went and made yourself a cup of coffee even though you don’t drink coffee but it’s four o’clock in the morning and you feel like a jerk for being tired. So you’ll go brush your teeth, and she’ll forget how to breathe while you’re gone. Anyway, you don’t need no stinking laptop, all you need to do is remember how to breathe.

We were up all night. I thought Sarah was going to pull my arm out of socket a few times. Sarah didn’t want to take any anesthesia.

You can call me a wuss. You can call me a pansy. I don’t really care. Going through labor was one of the most exhausting things I have ever done. By the next afternoon I could have slept on the floor of a truck stop bathroom and been happy to have a place to lay down.

Before the doctor came in to deliver the baby a nurse asked us if it was ok if a class observed him. So in they came with their clipboards and scrubs. Sarah was pulling my arms off and I was telling her to breathe. Then they told her she could start pushing.

I was crying. Sharon was crying. The nurse was crying. I was speaking in tongues. The medical students were so confused. It was the hardest most beautiful thing that I have ever gone through with my wife. Our relationship changed from merely husband and wife, to mother and father.

We had been on the fence about a middle name. I wanted Amos, Sarah wanted Zane. I said lets wait till we see him to decide.

I looked at that little bundle of joy and thought, “There is no way I’m going through all that work and not naming him after me.”

Wesley Zane Wells
March 31st, 2014

On Fatherhood

“God could have chosen to call himself anything, but he chose father.” -Bishop Nathaniel Wilson

A dear friend recently sent me a text message. “Got any advice for a soon to be father?”

I once heard someone say in jest, “One of the wonderful things about having kids of your own is that now you’ll be able to try out all those things you’ve been wanting to try out on other people’s kids.”

I did not give him this reply, but the casual nature of text messaging allowed me to give him a very brief answer. I told him the best advice I could give was to pray a lot. But I misspelled best because I was busy doing something else. Ordinarily, I would have been satisfied with this answer and moved on, but the question kept bugging me for quite a while.

I finally came up with something I liked a little bit better. “Being a father is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Enjoy every minute. Squeeze that baby every chance you get.”

This response made me feel better in a Hallmark Card sort of way, but I am still not satisfied. Perhaps in part because I want to know the answer myself. More likely though,  it is because I feel a very real weight of responsibility as a father. Fatherhood is not a role in which a man should casually enter. There are fewer roles with more grave responsibility, and it is something that I take very seriously.

 “God could have chosen to call himself anything, but he chose father.”

Bishop Nathaniel Wilson

What does it take to be a father? As simple as it sounds, the first requirement is you have to be a man. There is no substitution. Perhaps another day I will write about being a man.

Aside from being a man, there are quite a few other ingredients that come together to make a father: Love, protection, wisdom, provision, wit, discipline, humor, ingenuity, dedication, patience, knowledge, resolve, and fortitude. This is not an exhaustive list, and I have left out amounts because each father is unique, and learning to balance these elements is what fatherhood is all about. One of the key ingredients is faithfulness, which is what keeps the whole thing together.

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:6

Without faithfulness, there is no guarantee that the father, or even the family, will last.

Growing up, I had a healthy fear of my father. A cluttered, messy house never failed to frustrate my dad. Whenever the house was a wreck, he usually started with this speech. “Y’all are killing your momma. Just look at this house.” He would say in exasperation. 

“Let’s go outside so we can see it better.” I smarted off once.

It is only by the grace and mercy of God that I am alive today, because I thought my Dad was going to kill me. He talked to me like a man that day, which was far worse and scarier than the whipping that I received afterward. There are some things that only a father can say to a child. A hardheaded teenage boy may need some verbal encouragement from a father that would send a social worker into lockdown mode.

The role of a father demands hard love, and discipline. The Bible says it much plainer and with greater authority than I can.

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24

Fathers must be willing and able to discipline their children. There are some aspects of fatherhood that frankly are not fun. I must confess that knowing when and how to discipline is a something that I have prayed earnestly for wisdom and understanding. I cannot say that it would be easier to not discipline my children. If I really love my children, I will discipline them.

I Corinthians 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

Fathers are a rare. Fathers are irreplaceable. With a scarcity of fathers in today’s postmodern society, I frequently hear the term Father Figure used by people who did not grow up with a father. Sometimes I hear it from parents who are raising children without a father, many times in reference to a teacher. Webster’s definition for Father Figure is, “A person often of particular power or influence who serves as an emotional substitute for a father.” I’m not certain that there is a substitute for a father. Without discounting the influence of a teacher, there is a role that only a father can fill. Although in context of faith, the scripture indicates that there is a ratio of 10,000 teachers to not many fathers.

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For better or for worse, parents are the greatest influences on a child’s life. Whether a father is actively fulfilling his role in a child’s life, or neglecting his duty, the child feels the influence, whether positive or negative. It is a sad reality that many people grow up without the presence of a father in their home. Perhaps even worse than a father being absent, is an abusive father being present.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

The Bible uses language that grates the nerves and feelings of modern American culture. Fatherless. It is a sad word. There is an implication that there are two categories of children: sons and daughters, and fatherless. Furthermore, the fatherless are afflicted. Fathers are irreplaceable. Fortunately for the fatherless, there is the church.

I would like to revisit the original question: “Got any advice for a soon to be father?” I do not claim to be an authority on fatherhood, but God did bless me with one of the best fathers that ever lived. That may not be your story. You cannot choose your father, but you can decide what kind of father your children will have. Be the best father that you can be.

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