Ready or Not

“If you waited till you could afford to have kids you’d never have them.”

We are about to have another baby any day now.

“Are y’all ready?” I get asked this a lot.

I usually reply, “We think we are ready.”

It is sort of a funny question. Perhaps there are people that are adequately prepared to have another baby-it’s never been us. No one is ever truly prepared for a baby, you just get sufficiently prepared. The baby is coming whether you are prepared or not.

“If you waited till you could afford to have kids you’d never have them.”

If babies waited until parents were truly prepared, they’d never come. That’s part of what is wonderful about a baby. Babies come to disrupt the comfortable and organized lives of sweethearts-ready or not. And how wonderful are they when they get here?

There are many other wonderfully disruptive things in life that we may never truly be prepared for. Unlike babies, these things sometimes may be put off until a more convenient season. As a result, there are some things that will never happen if we wait until we are prepared. More often than is comfortable we are prepared for nothing, but nothing is not the best option.

It is a curious thing that we often have to make some of the most important decisions in our life when we are least prepared to make them. Career paths, spouses, and friends all come to mind.

“Anything worth doing is probably not going to be easy.”

How many times have I pushed back against an opportunity because I could not accurately predict how it would change my organized life? I’m ashamed to say.

No, I’m probably not prepared for this next baby, but I am ready.

On Education

For years I have championed public school. Perhaps in a hardheaded way, because I am a product of public school. Notwithstanding the wonderful memories and relationships that public school afforded me, I would like to take an objective look at the education system.

Wesley started the first grade this year. The pandemic has caused his school to implement some resources that we have known were available, but never thought we’d actually have to use; namely virtual learning from home. Our experience with the first couple of weeks of virtual learning has caused me to do some critical thinking about education. For years I have championed public school. Perhaps in a hardheaded way, because I am a product of public school. Notwithstanding the wonderful memories and relationships that public school afforded me, I would like to take an objective look at the education system.

One of things that I still like about public school is that a child will be exposed to peers in their community. I do think it is good for children to learn how to interact with other children who are being raised with different values, beliefs, and traditions. After all, this is how life will be as adult. The simple principle Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself still takes quite a bit of practice and I think it is best taught to practice as a child.

Exposing a child to the peers in their community is also one of the things I dislike about public school. In my public school experience-especially in Middle School-much of the class time was spent disciplining children who had no desire to learn. I imagine that this is one of the greatest challenges for a teacher. Some of the same troublemakers that I watched purposefully disrupt class are now troublemakers in society. I see them from time to time when they make the news for criminal activity. So the time taken away from my education to discipline an incorrigible student was essentially wasted for everyone. On the other hand, learning how to deal with difficult people has come in handy many times in my adult life.

Perhaps there is an advantage in attending a smaller school. My wife is always surprised when I recall any of my teachers. She attended a much larger school than I did, and remembers her teachers as impersonal if she remembers them at all. There were only about 45 students in my graduating class and I had known most of them since kindergarten. So our teachers-I am related to a few of them-had a better chance of getting to know the students, which I think is a good foundation for a quality education.

It is unfortunate that public education is entangled in politics. Often decisions are made by bureaucrats that probably would be better made by teachers and even parents. You can read Year-Round School for a good example of that.

As a parent I am thankful for the opportunity to enroll my children in our Church’s Christian School. This was not an option for me as a child. In the last couple years of his life, my dad had the chance to work with Cornerstone Christian Academy. He was impressed by the curriculum-Abeka– and the freedom the administration had in organizing the school.

I am currently chipping away at my college education a couple of online classes at a time. It has taken this long because I have never been keen on going into debt for a degree that may or may not land a quality job. Even before the pandemic, online classes were really my only option. After reading some of the posts from my fellow students on the class discussion boards-a common assignment in online courses-I am strongly convinced that online classes are not working for everyone. It is painfully clear to me that many of the concepts being taught are not making sense to some students. More than likely these students will still pass the class with an imperfect understanding of the subject. Which is ultimately a failure.

No doubt we’ve all encountered people like this who may have eventually earned their degree. My dad used to tell a story of a college graduate at work who had made a really boneheaded production decision that cost the company a lot of money and time. Anyone with any kind of sense should have known better. In response to this error, one particularly perplexed blue collar worker shook his head and said, “He been to college though.”

To some degree home schooling is not much different that online college classes. Fortunately, most parents that I know with ambition enough to home school their children care enough to make sure their children are getting sufficient understanding of the subjects. Much can be said about the presence of a teacher who is genuinely interested in the education of a student.

Maybe the highest level of quality of education comes from a private tutor, or someone who is focused on only one student. This would be quite expensive. In many ways I think that this is where a parent is responsible for a child’s education. There are some things that are best learned from a father or a mother.

I grew up in a house where reading and discussion were valued. The arguments we had at the kitchen table were hardly ever about personal matters, but history, science, art, literature, or culture, and often could be solved by referencing the dictionary or the encyclopedia. To hear “Look it up” in a confident tone meant that you were about to lose an argument and be schooled. Even so, we never dwelt on who was wrong, but moved on to the next subject. That, I think, is how to create a culture of learning in the home.

Dear Mom,

Zach just called me and told me that you were unresponsive in the ICU. They are letting four of us come in and see you. I can’t come because I have COVID-19. So I’m writing you a letter.

Zach just called me and told me that you were unresponsive in the ICU. They are letting four of us come in and see you. I can’t come because I have COVID-19. So I’m writing you a letter. My sincere prayer is that you recover miraculously and get on to me for treating you like a dying person. Nevertheless, I think I will not regret this letter.

Since you’ve been sick I’ve missed talking to you on the phone every day after work. You helping me weave together how I’m related to all my relatives. Talking about food and recipes and getting hungry. Talking about Dad and laughing. Talking about church and rejoicing.

I’ll never forget the night that you pulled me aside crying after a couple friends from college, Sarah and Kelly, stopped by the house on their way back to St. Louis.

“Zane, every time I’ve dreamed that you got married, Sarah was the girl in my dreams.” You had never met Sarah before.

Sarah and I weren’t even dating at the time, but you sure got that one right. That hasn’t been then only time over the years that I’ve trusted your intuition, or rather your discernment, and come out the better for it. Thank you.

Some of my earliest memories are of you kneeling down in the chair and praying out loud in the living room while I played. It’s hard to cut up when you hear your mom praying. Thanks for letting me hear you pray when I was a teenager. Thank you for showing me how to pray fervently on my own and how to intercede.

Remember when Zach and I come to you one morning before school when we were little kids?

“Me and Zane been thinking. We want real food for breakfast.” Zach said as I stood there beside him in my big old glasses. He was the spokesman. Apparently pop-tarts or cereal were not cutting it. Both those things have never been able to satisfy me, even when you buttered the pop-tarts. From then on you made us bacon and eggs for breakfast. Or ham and cheese omelettes. Can anyone make a ham and cheese omelette like you? Or those sausage, egg, and cheese “Whop” biscuits. Or when times were tough, a piece of bologna with cheese and eggs on top, or a fried weenie. Thank you for feeding me real food.

You’ve always had a gift at making a place feel like home. And a way of making people feel welcome. And your food was always delicious. I think Lindsay has gotten a lot of that gift from you. I’m really proud of her. I’m sorry that Lindsay and I fought so much as children. She started it though. We really do love each other now. And we love you.

Thank you for loving Dad and showing us what a healthy marriage looks like. What I thought was a normal home-life turned out to be incredibly rare, and I cherish it dearly. It takes a lot character, integrity, and commitment for a marriage to last. You and Dad had what it took. Thank you both for giving us the best home that any parents could offer.

We went to Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Talladega one time and Pastor Jimmy Huggins said, “I feel led in the Holy Ghost to tell somebody that your mom is your ace in the hole. Be nice to your mom, she’s got your back.” Do you remember that? I feel like he was talking directly to me. And he was right. I can’t begin to count all the times you’ve been in my corner. Thank you.

We thought we were going to lose you when Wesley was born.

“I had to fight a bear to keep your Momma at home. She wanted to come up here and see that baby so bad.” Dad said. We were all so worried about you when you were sick in 2015. But God took Dad first and raised you back up to give us five more years with you. I hope it does it again, but I trust it just the same.

Shall not the judge of all the Earth do right?

Gran meets Welsey

When Miriam came you were well enough to leave that morning, Christmas morning, and drive the eleven hours to hold her.

Gran meets Miriam

I think what me hurts me most is thought of Hollynn not getting to meet you. I’ll do my best to tell her how wonderful you and Poppy were, but I know words are going to fail. We’ll just try to love her as much as you would.

I know Zach and Linds used to tease you about me being your favorite child. Boy you sure did make me feel like I was your favorite. I guess thats a mother’s love: making all your kids feel like they are the most important.

I didn’t know that life would so full of death as an adult. I miss being a little kid and you being able to fix everything with a prayer and hug and a kiss. My heart is hurting right now.

I remember when Sarah and I lost our first baby. That’s about how bad I’m feeling right not thinking of losing you. You called me and quoted scripture.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

I found great peace in that scripture. The longer I live the more I find answers for everything in the Word of God. Even so, there are still a lot of things I’m just going to have to understand better by and by.

We were talking about you the other day and the very real possibility that this may be the time when God decides to call you home. Zach, still the best spokesman, said, “Ultimately death doesn’t mean to God what it means to us.” I believe that with all my heart.

I Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin in the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m going to miss you so much. I feel like a child who isn’t done having company, but it is time for the company to leave. I have so many plans for you and the kids. I will always love you.

Love your favorite child,

Zane Wells

P.S. Give Dad a big hug for me.

P.P.S. Give our first baby a hug too.

The First Vehicle I Drove

This truck was huge. Imagine an old dump-truck with a flatbed.

“You remember the old blue truck?” Uncle Jason asked me the other day on the phone.

Do I remember the old blue truck? Do you forget your first kiss? Do you forget your first dog? Do you forget the first time you accidentally used buttermilk in your cereal?

The old blue truck was an old Chevrolet that had been converted to run on propane. I’m not sure if that conversion would be economically sound with today’s fuel prices but in the early nineties it made a lot of sense. This truck was huge. Imagine an old dump-truck with a flatbed. It was built before commercial driver’s licenses were a requirement, but I doubt you could drive a modern equivalent without a CDL. That’s how I remember it anyway. I’m sure some automobile enthusiast could tell you a lot more than you’d care to know about it. For years I thought it was an International.

I was either in the second or third grade when Pop was waiting for me when I got off the school bus. I had enough time to drop my school books off and “get into my work clothes” before being whisked off to the hayfield.

It was Uncle Jason who showed me how to drive Old Blue. Basically I was given a crash course on shifting between neutral and low. The only pedal I was authorized to touch was the clutch. No gas pedal or brake needed. I couldn’t even fiddle with the manual choke. Just clutch, steering wheel. I didn’t worry about anything else.

And go easy on that clutch, we don’t want this hay falling, but push it in as far as it will go.

Just hold the steering wheel steady and don’t run over any hay bales.

Press that clutch in when you hear us holler, but don’t stomp it.

The instructions always came with an addendum.

Dad showed up at the hayfield around the time he normally got home from work. It was before cellphones were common. So I am imagine there was a message waiting for him to come meet us in the hayfield.

After surveying the operation Dad asked, “Who’s driving?”

“I’ll never forget the look on your Dad’s face when he saw you in the driver’s seat.” Uncle Jason tells me over the phone. I hear him pause to make a facial expression that somehow I can still see clearly, although it is on my Dad’s face and not Uncle Jason’s. It’s a look of shock mixed with pride.

I was so proud as little boy to have driven that big old truck, and to have gotten paid for it. There is a feeling that you can only get by having done work. It is one of the best feelings in the world and it gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction. I did something worth doing today.

Zane Wells, age 7, professional hay truck driver.

“How could I forget Old Blue?” I replied to Uncle Jason.

“Well I passed it the other day on 278, not far from your house.”

“You sure that was it?”

“No doubt in my mind.”

I believed him. But I went and checked just to make sure.

Old Blue
I remember the bed of this truck being taller than me.

Rising to the Occasion

Rising to the occasion is doing what needs to be done no matter how hard, uncomfortable, unpopular, or frightening the task at hand may be.

I’m sitting here awake. I just got up from a dream where a few of our kids ( I don’t know who was there, but it felt like church family) were swimming in a river. Somehow, they got on top of a submerged wooden playground that was traveling downstream way too fast. I grabbed a fishing rod and snagged it. It was the most powerful pull that I’ve ever experienced.

I lost the lure when the line snapped. Sarah and some other mothers come to me alarmed about the children. I look down the river and they’re going away fast, almost out of sight.

The unseen playground has picked up speed. I hear the concerned voices raised around me.

Out nowhere, my friend and some other men have grabbed boats to go fetch the kids.

Now my friend jumps into the swift water and rescues Wesley and the other children from the runaway playground.

I catch up with them on the shore about a mile down river past the bridge where my line broke. The hero of the situation walks out of the water straight faced, not expecting any reward. He just did what needed to be done.

Thank God for people like this.

I’m writing this in the middle of the night because I need to remember it. Sometimes you have a dream and you know that you shouldn’t have finished off all of the weekend’s leftovers before you went to sleep, but sometimes you know that there was something more in a dream. I think this was a case of the latter.

I remember being worried about labor when Sarah and I were expecting our first child. It’s like war, no amount of training can prepare you for the real thing. A friend at church laughed at me when I told him I was concerned about not passing out. He said, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll rise to the occasion.”

I suppose that’s what happens a lot in life. We are constantly faced with difficult situations and we either rise to the occasion and win, or we don’t do anything and lose. Even if we don’t lose, inaction rarely brings a desired outcome. Some of us wait for a hero to come and fix everything, and while it is a nice thought, it hardly ever happens.

Rising to the occasion is doing what needs to be done no matter how hard, uncomfortable, unpopular, or frightening the task at hand may be. It doesn’t take much talent to rise to the occasion, just a lot of courage.

I wonder if David felt like this when he showed up at the battlefield with bread and cheese for his brothers only to find a stalemate with men cowering under the taunts of the champion of the Philistines. In spite of the ridicule and belittlement from his own brothers David rose to the occasion and slew Goliath. Not because of any reward-he didn’t receive one-but because he understood that there was a cause.

Most of the things that I am most proud of where the hardest things I’ve ever done. I will not promise you that rising to the occasion will be fun, easy, or even enjoyable, but I firmly believe that you will not regret it.

Gardening Tips: How to Get Rid of Zucchini

“Don’t leave your window down when you go to the Warehouse Discount Grocery. Somebody is liable to put a sack of zucchini in your car.”

As many of you know, I was volunteered to grow a garden this Spring. It’s been doing pretty good. Except my zucchini. They’re out of control. I’d like to share a few of my tips for getting rid of zucchini.

1. Take it to Church.

People at church have a hard time saying no. Even if they don’t like zucchini, they will smile and be nice. This is a good place to get rid of zucchini. Problems can arise though. People will start to notice you bringing in a grocery sack full of zucchini and they may start to avoid you.

2. Covert Charity

Before you start to lose friends at church, I suggest getting rid of zucchini through random acts of kindness. Nothing makes a thing so fun as knowing you’re not supposed to be doing it. Putting a sack of zucchini in someone’s car without getting caught is one of the most thrilling things about gardening.

You can also set a sack of produce on someone’s door step in the middle of the night. The danger in this is they may use a different door and might not discover the zucchini until they have turned bad-the zucchini, not the people. (I could have reworded that sentence to make it more clear, but I’m feeling rebellious today.) That is the paradox of gardening: you grow things you don’t particularly like and you don’t want them to be wasted.

A sack of Zucchini on it’s way to an unsuspecting family’s doorstep.

3. Sell It.

It is possible to sell your vegetables. You can put up a little booth in your front yard with a hand painted sign that may say something like, “Fresh Vegetables For Sale”. The font should be a bit shaky, similar to the “E995” signs you see for people selling cackle-fruits. That way people know you are genuine country folks and are therefore trustworthy. You may get more traffic if you misspell zucchini. The problem with a booth is you have to always be home to make the transaction, and you may end up having a lot more conversations than you are prepared to have. You would probably have to rely on the honor system.

The other option is to sell your vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. You need the right salesman though. No one wants to buy vegetables from a guy in his early thirties. You need an older man in overalls that is prone to falling asleep in his lawn chair as your sales rep. Or a cute little kid.

4. Eat It.

This is a last ditch effort to get rid of zucchini. I’ve listed a few creative ways to serve zucchini because you can only eat so much zucchini bread before needing to go up a pant size. I can provide recipes for the sincerely interested, but I cannot guarantee that the finished product will be edible.

  • Zucchini Au Gratin
  • Zucchini Ice Cream
  • Zucchini Pie
  • Zucchini Pizza Crust
  • Zucchini Ricota turnovers
  • Zucchini Pesto Patato Salad
  • Zucchini Baked Potatoes
  • Zucchini & Sausage Omelettes
  • Zucchini Tacos
  • Zucchini Soup
  • Zucchini Fricassee

Now I made up most of those recipes on the spot. Aside from zucchini ice cream most of those sound pretty appetizing. The key to eating zucchini is using a little creativity. If you have 4o lbs of zucchini you won’t be upset if one or two recipes turn out to be a dud.

Anyway, I hope your garden is growing well. If you don’t have a garden I hope your neighbor’s is doing well. If you don’t have any neighbors…just come to church with me. I’ll bring you some zucchini.

The Art of Ignoring

What’s a slobbering hog to jaybird? What’s a yapping dog to a freight train?

There will always be negative people. They tend to show up to discourage you whenever you’re doing something worthwhile. Like Sanballat and Tobiah did to Nehemiah. The Bible calls these kind of people Sons of Belial (literally sons of a devil). They specialize in running their mouth and not minding their own business.

The paradox of dealing with these people is it seems like you cannot win.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Proverbs 26:4-5

Some of the best advice I was ever given came from Pastor Jeff Dillon. He told me of a time that he had been in a difficult situation and people had started to talk. So he called his father-in-law, W.C. Parkey to find out what to do. I think he was hoping for some clear direction on what to tell the sons of Belial but Bro. Parkey simply said, “Rise above it.”

Back when I used to listen to a lot more public radio than I do now, I caught the tail end of an interview with some nameless, faceless celebrity-I think it was a comedian- who told of the first time he got sued. He was pretty disheartened at the news for a few days before he received a phone call from Dr. Phil of all people. He was surprised that Dr. Phil knew who he was, much less had his number.

“Hey buddy, I heard you got sued. Don’t worry about it. You ain’t nobody until somebody sues you.”

I can’t remember the comedian, and I have never watched Dr. Phil, but I have drawn encouragement from that statement.

Anything worthwhile will probably be difficult and is guaranteed to have critics. There are art critics, music critics, and literary critics, but I’ve never heard of a stand alone critic, because they have nothing to offer. They can only criticize what is.

For anyone reading this that is planning on doing something worthwhile-and I hope it is everyone- I want to let you know that there will be someone who has no plans to do anything constructive and will use all their energy to keep you from doing anything constructive.

Don’t listen to them. What’s a slobbering hog to a jaybird? What’s a yapping dog to a freight train? Rise above it.

I’ll leave you with a passage from Nehemiah 6:1-3

Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breack left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they though to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

Mr. Kelley

The closest I ever came to meeting Mr. Wiltha Kelley in person was delivering hay to his barn a couple of times. By then he had long since retired from teaching agriculture and shop class at Vincent High School. My dad introduced me to Mr. Kelley by recalling his experiences as a student in his class. Even today I feel the influence of Mr. Kelley, a man I only knew by his picture in my parent’s high school yearbook and the power of story telling.

I do not know for sure if Mr. Kelley began his teaching career before or after the integration of the Alabama public school system in the late 60s or early 70s-I think it was around 1970; but I do feel that providence placed Mr. Kelley in the Ag. Shop at Vincent at the right time. He demanded respect from all of his students. The high regard that my dad had for Mr. Kelley is a testament that he not only demanded, but received that respect.

There are only a few accounts that I can recall, but they deserve to remembered. The stories stand for themselves, you can read into them what you may.

Mr. Kelley did not tolerate nonsense.

“My name is W. R. Kelley.” He would introduce himself at the beginning of each school year pronouncing the R as Are-uh. I do hope you know someone that pronounces their R’s in this manner.

There was a student who by description probably had cerebral palsy. His motor skills were undeveloped and he was given to spasms. In the cruelty of humanity, another boy took to poking him with a pin, in Mr. Kelly’s class of all places. The spastic child would react and moan at each offense much to the pleasure of the other kid. Fortunately Mr. Kelly caught the boy in the act.

“Get up here in front of the class.” Mr. Kelley said as he snatched the pin from the hand of the boy. Mr. Kelley poked the bully repeatedly in front of the class.

“Laugh ______! You thought it was funny a minute ago!”

Dad used to tell this story and laugh. I suppose on the surface it is a pretty funny story. But it really happened. I doubt a teacher could get away with such creative disciplinary action today. It seems that Mr. Kelley was not merely interested in imparting the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the requirements of his curriculum, but that they also became good citizens, and more importantly men. I do not merely suppose that a lack of this kind influence in the public school system-and its critical support by the administration and in the home-has been extremely detrimental to society, I am certain of it.

When report cards were issued, Mr. Kelley would require each student to present his report card in front of the class.

“What’s this baby?” Mr. Kelley was well aware that it really messed with some of the boys to be called baby.


“F in English? What language do you speak?” He would ask.

“English.” The failing student would reply.

“Now how you do you plan on communicating if you fail English? You going to learn French?”

“I see you got an A in P.E. Though.” He would reply.

“That’s cause all you know how to do is play. You better start practicing this motion right here.” He would hold out an imaginary spatula and began flipping burgers. “This is what you are training to do.”

Woe to the student caught hugging a girl in the halls between classes. “Have you bought a gallon of milk lately? How much are diapers these days?”

Mr. Wiltha Kelley supervises a student.

My Uncle Jason recalls a time when he was digging a splinter out of his finger with a pocket knife beneath his desk while Mr. Kelley stood at the blackboard teaching.

“Mr. Kelley! Wells has got a knife!” A classmate interrupted the lecture.

Without turning around, Mr. Kelley reached in his pocket and retrieved a pocket knife. “So have I.” He said as he held the knife aloft, a little annoyed at the distraction from the lesson.

When the bell rang Mr. Kelley said to Uncle Jason prvately. “Wells, keep that knife out of sight. Some of these children ain’t used to seeing tools and don’t know understand how to use them.”

My dad was disappointed that Mr. Kelley retired before Zach had a chance to be in his class. “I been looking at the numbers and I’m losing money if I keep on teaching. I’m going to retire. I ain’t putting up with these childrens no more.”

Mr. Gibson ended up replacing Mr. Kelley as the Ag/Shop teacher. Like Mr. Kelley, he was the ad hoc disciplinarian of the school. If you got in trouble you could be sent to Mr. Gibson for punishment. He would make you hold a paint can or a hammer straight out in front of you with your arms parallel with the ground.

Mr. Ted Gibson, a worthy replacement for Mr. Kelley.

It seemed like Mr. Kelley died suddenly. I remember dad being upset. We kept the obituary on the refrigerator for a long time. More than likely it is probably still tucked away in a yearbook somewhere to be discovered by another batch of Wells kids. There are few individuals whose character and integrity cause them to live on from generation to generation in anecdotes and stories. They eventually become legends. Such was, or is, Mr. Wiltha R. Kelley.

Grilled Onions

Nobody ever waded through a crowd of people at the fair because they smelled a snow cone.

You know are an adult when you start ordering grilled onions on your cheeseburger. You may have suffered from alliumphobia as a kid, but sooner or later you’ll grow up. The smell is what gets you. You can trick people into thinking that you’ve been working up a storm in the kitchen by simply putting an onion in the oven. If you’ve ever been at an outdoor festival, it’s the smell of grilled onions at the polish sausage stand that draws you over. Nobody ever waded through a crowd of people at the fair because they smelled a snow cone. It’s the caramelized onions that draw you.

I hated onions as a kid. I am still not the point where I can take a bite out of a raw onion like Ronnie Spates. Perhaps I’ll work up to that someday. Right now I tolerate raw onion and cilantro that they serve at the taco place, and the occasional slice of onion that comes on that turkey sandwich from Costco. I’m still not overly fond of raw onions, but I am talking about it so that is part of the healing process. Onions are ingredients, not stand alone food. People don’t just walk around eating flour or baking soda do you? I do remember people walking around at Smith’s Grocery eating starch out of the package. The kind of starch you iron your clothes with. “It’s great!” They said. “But my doctor tells me not to do it.” I never understood that. Eating raw flour might make more sense. Do you know any starch eaters?

I remember sitting in the buggy and eating raw hamburger meat straight out of the package at Food World. It was before Lindsay was born, so I guess I was under two years old. It seems like I was mesmerized by the shiny shrink wrap around the ground beef. I poked it with my finger. After a while I made a little hole in the shrink wrap and started eating the raw meat one little nibble at a time. It was the cashier who noticed that the package had a hole in it. Mom frowned at this discovery but never suspected me. I told her a couple years ago. And I just told all y’all. If you are wondering I’m fully recovered. Anyway, I was telling you about grilled onions.

It all started in Winchester, VA. There was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called The Snow White Grill. It had been open since the 30s and they were known for tiny little hamburgers. Imagine Krystal burgers, but good. The burgers are-perhaps were, I haven’t been in a while-made from fresh local beef on a flat top grill. They make about forty patties at a time, and they finish them with grilled onions. They take pride in their grilled onions. There is not an option to have a burger without onions and if you ask for no onions they will look at you like you ate the Lord’s supper.

The Grilled onions on the Snow White Grill cheeseburger is what got me. It was a completely new way to experience a burger. Like seeing your childhood neighborhood in a different city. One with a Chick Fil A. It’s like going from arithmetic to quantum mechanics. Or Perhaps just algebra. I’m not entirely sure what all quantum mechanics entails. Grilled onions on your cheeseburger makes it deluxe. Like the familiar standard model, but way better.

Maybe you already know this and have been putting grilled onion on everything from cheeseburgers to ice cream for years. You probably eat raw onions too. But some of y’all have never tried grilled onions on your cheeseburger, and if you’ve read this far so you might as well go do it. Just be sure it’s at a reputable hamburger place. I recommend Hamburger Heaven or Milo’s. And let met know about it.

Bacon Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions from Hamburger Heaven

Thanks for reading, sharing and supporting.

-Zane Wells

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