Parades

My family and I recently moved to Cullman, Alabama. It’s not necessarily important that you know that, but I thought I’d get it out of the way, and use it as an excuse for not blogging in over a month. Anyway, I thought the best thing that I could do as a new member of the community was to attend the Cullman Christmas Parade the weekend after we arrived. Sarah and I got the kids all bundled up and we traipsed downtown in the frigid 50 degree weather to get some hot chocolate and cookies, and to stand on the sidewalk to watch the parade. It was a disjointed affair because the parade route crosses a major highway that can’t be closed, so there were several ten minute gaps as the high school marching bands, politicians, and fire trucks waited at the red light. As if seeing Mickey and Minnie Mouse, a live church band playing on a trailer, Batman riding a motorcycle, a real live member of the state legislature, some real estate agents square-dancing, and cousin Eddie walking behind his Winnebago wasn’t enough, we got the added excitement of getting to walk as a mob on the road as we made our way en masse over to the park to see the Christmas Tree lighting. There is something exhilarating about walking down the middle of the road, It’s a lot wider than it seems when you’re in a vehicle.  When we got to the park, we all sang Silent Night as a community, which was really quite moving. Then we listened to the Christmas Story, the real Christmas story read straight out of the Bible by a City Councilman. Wesley missed the actual tree lighting part of the ceremony because he had to make an emergency bathroom break in the shrubbery.

The most dangerous and entertaining part of the after events at Christmas Parades is the speeches. When I was a kid, back before the internet, the whole town would come out for the Christmas Parade. They’d stand on the street and watch it coming and going. Then we’d walk to the parking lot in front of the City Hall/Police Department and listen to a choir sing on the portable stage that had been hastily brought out of it’s storage place behind the Water Board. The choir was amplified by a single microphone in hopes of combatting the steady flow of traffic that had been waiting for the parade to finish. After this, there were usually speeches by local dignitaries. It was on this stage that one of the most memorable speeches in the history of Vincent, Alabama was given by the drunken Honorable Judge Jimmy Sharrbutt. I’m sorry to play it up so much, because I only remember two lines, but they have become colloquialisms in the language of my family.

“When I saw the lights under the bridge, I cried.”

“Oh. And anotha’ thang. One of them Hassett boys broke my arm.”

When you’re a kid, a lot of times you don’t notice when someone is drunk. As an adult you can recall their behavior, speech, and countenance and clearly see that they were drunk.

After the speech we would light the giant Christmas Tree, the largest live Christmas tree in the State of Alabama, that stood by the Norfolk Southern railroad. This tree, along with the giant red and white plaster Christmas bells from the 70’s, for me are the epitome of municipal Christmas Decorations.

There is a timeless feeling that comes with a parade in a small town. It’s something that’s left over from centuries past, when people were not afraid to come out and see their neighbors. Parades are a lasting ritual from the time before television, the internet, and smartphones made the world a much smaller and less enchanted place. The wonder of technology has nearly stripped us of the wonder of the moment. Parades are one of the last remaining purely community gatherings. I’m glad my kids got to experience a genuine small town Christmas Parade, even if there were no drunk Judges.

Fall

Fall, when you are freezing in the morning so you wear a coat, then leave it at school because it warmed up in the afternoon. When you are roasted by the sun in your car and then shiver as you pump gas. Fall is listening to college football on the radio while your dad grills steaks. Fall is the only time that playing football seems like a pleasant idea. Fall is when I usually start listening to Christmas music whenever the temperature gets below 50 degrees. Fall is my favorite season.

“Whenever it frosts and you can see your breath then we’ll go camping.” I used to love to go camping. Staying out all night around a fire, roasting weenies with a stick that you cut down yourself with your hatchet and sharpened with your pocketknife. Getting melted marshmallow all over your coat sleeve. Playing in the fire with you weenie roasting stick until it’s too short to hold near the fire. Drinking half a case of Mountain Dew. Finally going to sleep in your freezing cold tent. Waking up in your freezing cold tent with camping breath, matted hair and reeking of smoke. I had a lot of fun camping as a little boy and a teenager. However, I don’t recommend taking your wife camping on your one year wedding anniversary.

Camping is the ultimate Fall activity, but it takes a lot of commitment. Frankly, the older I get the more important it is for me to sleep in my own bed. As an adult, I like everything about camping except the sleeping part. Mainly because you need a day to recover when you wake up looking like Ronnie Spates, the resident wild man from my hometown, and smelling like campfire ashes. Ronnie Spates, curtesy of Google Earth.

Another great Fall activity is the weenie roast. It’s like Camping Light, similar experience but shorter recovery. Some people call them bon fires not knowing any better. Weenie roasts are like camping for those who are still in diapers, and women. Weenie roasts are when you have a small fire in the back yard, or front yard it doesn’t matter, and roast weenies for hot dogs. Hot Dogs are the finished product, so you wouldn’t roast hot dogs, unless you wanted to burn your bread. Then again, some people burn their weenie on purpose. I can tolerate a blackened weenie, I mean you’re already eating a hot dog, so your standards are pretty low, but I can’t tolerate a burnt marshmallow. I like to toast my marshmallows until they are a golden brown and form a slightly crunchy shell on the outside. You’ll know your marshmallow is done when this shell will slide ride off and leave the melted gooey part on the weenie roasting stick.

I love the colors in the fall. For just a couple of weeks every year, leaves are allowed to show their true colors before falling to the ground, forced there by the wind and rain leaving the naked trees to wait out the cold damp winter. Fall is a fleeting season and never seems to last quite long enough. Perhaps that’s why the memories of fall activities are that much sweeter.

Wrasslin’

When I was about three years old, I convinced Mom to get me a Deluxe Hulkmania Workout Set, complete with a set of dumbbells, jump rope, hand gripper, a headband, a Hulk Hogan poster, and a cassette tape of Hulk Hogan giving a forty minute inspirational speech and walking you through a workout regimen, not to mention some pretty sweet 80’s hair metal music. I thought Hulk Hogan was the strongest man in the world.

Dad taught us how to wrestle when we were just barely old enough to walk. He’d lay in the floor and we’d climb over him. It was great fun. For the most part, Zach dominated me in the wrestling ring. He was overgrown for his age, I think he might have been born with a full set of teeth. The only time that I got the best of Zach in a wrestling match was when I wiped a booger the size of cornflake on him.

It took a few years for me and my brother to realize that professional wrestling was entertainment and the wrestlers were acting. If you suplex somebody for real, it hurts. Every week my family would have supper at least once at my grandparents, that’s where Zach and I would watch wrestling on their television. To a little boy there are not many things cooler than a man with painted face and baseball bat dropping out of the ceiling by a cable to fight a man who had 24 inch biceps who had just ripped his shirt off.

During the commercial breaks, Zach would try out any new moves that he had learned. On me. We’d usually wrestle until we knocked a whole in the sheetrock, or I got a bloody nose. It’s a wonder that we didn’t tear the house down.

From time to time, Mom would go to the grocery store leaving us at home with strict instructions to behave. We’d give her about five minutes to get down the road before we moved the coffee table out of the way and set up a wrestling ring. The living room had everything you needed for a wrestling match, a couple of comfortable chairs, an ottoman, a couch, and forty-‘leven pillows to help soften the landing as your brother pile drived you. There were always a bunch of decorations that we’d have to move too, like the ducks. Mom had about half a dozen wooden ducks that contributed no practical purpose to the functionality of the room. Over the years, we broke the head off of every single one of those ducks while we were wrestling. We’d spend about five minutes wrestling, and twenty five minutes in veterinary surgery supergluing duck heads back on. She didn’t notice either. We finally told her after we’d gotten married.

My great grandparents went to Boaz, Alabama to a live wrestling event at the National Guard Armory, because that’s what classy people did for entertainment in late 50’s. I think that armory was about the only thing in Boaz, but I might be wrong. Even today, it’s hard to imagine driving to town like Boaz for anything. The main wrestling event involved Tojo Yamamoto, a Hawaiian born American wrestler whose real name was Harold Watanabe. The wrestling company capitalized on the strong anti-Japanese sentiment that was still very much alive in the decades following the war, especially in the South, and Tojo played the bad guy.

Tojo Yamamoto was booed and heckled as he entered the ring. In the microphone, he indicated that he wanted to “Make aporogy.”

“My country, they bomb Pearl Harbor. I so sorry.” The arena went deadly quiet as he continued. “It wrong thing to do. I so sorry.” Now the crowd began to cheer

“I wish instead they bomb BOAZ!”

I grew up hearing this story every so often and it always produced uncontrollable laughter in a few of my kinfolks. Mainly my dad, who often has a hard time finishing a funny story once he gets “Tickled.”

The fact that this story has survived and still produces a strong reaction gives me hope that my ancestors understood that there was a strong element of show business in professional wrestling, and I’d like to believe that they went to the wrestling match for the humor.

Vanity

Mr. Lowe was the sole music teacher at my elementary school. I think he may have been involved with the music at his local church, but as I did not attend his local church this claim cannot be substantiated. I can tell you with certainty that he was bald. He kept what straight brown hair that remained on the sides and back of his hair neatly combed. I often thought that his hair had a distinct rounded puff like quality to it. I’m told he rode a motorcycle, but again, I never saw him on a motorcycle, or any other car for that matter, but I can imagine very easily that he did ride a motorcycle. He had a very resonant baritone voice and always taught setting down, which in later years I learned is not the best way to sing.

Mr. Lowe’s music class was held in a single wide trailer on the western side of the school. You had to walk outside, in a single file line with your mouth closed while you held your thumb behind your back, in order to reach the classroom. By the time all of us had filed into the trailer, the cool air had rushed out of the room, and we sat for the next hour or so listening to the window unit air conditioner work overtime as Mr. Lowe rambled about cows eating grass and good boys finding.

Music was taught in an odd fashion in elementary school. All of us, more or less, showed up on our first day at Kindergarten with at least good conversational English. For the next five years we were taught vocabulary, grammar, and composition. But with music, we were thrust almost immediately into music theory before we had any experience on a musical instrument. If we excelled in theory, we might then be encouraged to take up an instrument.

I enjoyed music time. Mr. Lowe introduced us to all of the least practical instruments for playing the type of music that I was exposed to at home and at church. He showed us maracas, sand blocks, guiros, and my personal favorite, the bells. I vaguely remember a piano, but no guitars. He would sometimes let us “play” these instruments. I don’t think any of us were very proficient at these odd instruments.

Mr. Lowe taught us the Peanut Butter Song.

First you take the peanuts and you dig ’em

You dig’em dig’em dig’em

Pea-nuuut, pea-nut butter, and jelly…

Mr. Lowe introduced us to Jerry Lewis in the movie Cinderfella. Before we started the movie, Mr. Lowe to pains to make it very clear that Jerry Lewis was not a sissy. Being a sissy was about the worst thing that anyone could call you. Mr. Lowe’s preliminary speech didn’t convince me.

Mr. Lowe tried his best to teach us about sharps and flats, rhythm, melody and harmony, but like many of my teachers, he spent far too much of his time trying to get the attention of children who’s only desire was to do anything but learn.

In about the fourth or fifth grade, Mrs. McManus sat our class down for a speech before we were to go to music class. We all prepared for another, “Y’all better learn how to act or we’re putting you on silent lunch” orations. What followed caught us off guard.

“Students.” Mrs. McManus began in a grave manner.

“Today when you go to music class, Mr. Lowe is going to look different. He’ll have hair.”

She paused for a moment to see what our reaction would be. We were so taken off guard that not a word was spoken. She took advantage of the silence and proceeded.

“Mr. Lowe has decided to wear a toupee.” Here she went into detail about what a toupee was, our french not being what it should be. After she was convinced that we had been thoroughly educated on what a toupee was, how it staid on, why you would want to wear one, and what it was made of, she made it very clear that we were not to “Stare, ask questions, or even acknowledge that anything was different about Mr. Lowe.” Now this is a lot to ask a group of rowdy fourth and fifth graders, but aside from one or two well meaning compliments, we acquiesced to this strange demand from our pedagogue.

This absurd experience made a bigger impact on me than all of the musical knowledge that Mr. Lowe tried to impart. We had seen Mr. Lowe every week for five years and now he was going to be radically different and we weren’t allowed to talk about it. That’s the way with vanity: we spend a lot of effort trying be something that we’re not and hope that it comes off as normal.

Icees

Getting an Icee at Watson’s Grocery in Vandiver, AL was one of the only treats that we ever got to experience while working for Pop in the hay business. Partly because Watson’s was the only store in Vandiver, which was where the hay business headquarters were located. There were three flavors of Icee: Red, Blue, and Coke. The proper names were actually, Tropical Punch, Blue Raspberry, and Pepsi, but since I had my first Icee before I had my first reading lesson, I never let these small details bother me.

You have to be careful drinking an Icee while you’re working outside in the blistering Alabama summer, there is a tendency to drink the sugary slush too fast, which results in a painful medical condition called “Brain Freeze.” My little cousins, Kyle & Chase, had a strong affection for Icees. Kyle would put his lips to the straw and would only turn loose when he got brain freeze, at which point he would grimace and grab his head until the episode passed and then he would repeat the process until the cup was gone.

Kyle and Chase were working with us before they were old enough to go to kindergarten when we’d stop and get an Icee after unloading a trailer full of hay in the barn. I remember one particular exchange my Dad had with these little fellows after we were driving back to the field after stopping to get an Icee.

“What flavor did you get Kyle?” Dad asked.

“Trocipal punch Uncle Perry.” Kyle replied, struggling over the polysyllabic adjective.

“Yeah, Red! My fravorite!” Piped up Chase.

Red was the best. As a child, it was extremely disappointing to have your hopes up for an Icee, only to find out that the only flavor available was Coke. Of course, you’d get it anyway, and suck it down until you got brain freeze. As you get older you realize that Coke is actually the better flavor.

I passed by the Icee bear this week and he brought back a flood of memories as he waved his cup full of frozen delight in my face. I almost got one, but they were out of Red.

Pyromaniac Tendencies

Every once in a while I get the urge to set something on fire. It started young, before Lindsay was born and when Zach was still in elementary school. Mom took me to a flea market and I got to pick out a toy shot gun. It was tan and brown with an orange cork that made a noise as you pumped it out of the barrel, POP. I played with it all afternoon, brandishing it at my brother as we picked him up from school. Sometime between getting home from school and the weenie roast that night, I broke the gun. I was disappointed.

My parents had invited “company” over to a have weenie roast, I think. Maybe they just had a fire.  While the adults were sitting outside in a few lawn chairs, I walked over to the fire. I stared into the flames for a few moments before I threw the broken toy into the fire. That’s the first time that I remember understanding what regret felt like. It wasn’t just regret, it was instant regret. I watched the gun begin to bubble as the heat melted the plastic. It was over in about a minute. I came crying to Mom and perhaps my vocabulary could not accurately describe my feelings, because she put me to bed. I don’t think I’ve burned anything that I was attached to since then.

Setting things on fire is part of a boy’s scientific method. It’s often the final step after an object has passed the claw hammer test and the water test. It’s a good idea to perform these scientific experiments outside, because some things burn at a quicker rate than you might be expecting. For instance, toilet paper. Toilet paper burns very fast. Carpet doesn’t so much burn as melt and discolor. You have take the scissors and snip out any burnt carpet and then rearrange your bedroom to cover up the burn sight. Or I’d imagine that’s what you have to do. 

We set fire to a plastic hunting bow case once. The flaming plastic fell of into little drips of fiery napalm giving a distinct whistling sound as they fell into the fire ant beds that populated the ground around our house. I have never been able to duplicate that effect, but every time I get something plastic I give it a try. 

As you may know, WD-40 is highly flammable. We read that on the can, but we just wanted to be sure. If you hold a lighter with one hand and spray the WD-40 into the flame with the other, it gives off the closest thing we could find to a flamethrower. But be careful to do this in small bursts, otherwise the flames will follow the stream back into the can. Actually, don’t do this.

There is nothing more fun to a boy than playing in the camp fire. That’s still my favorite part of camping, poking around in the fire with a stick. But camping was a special occasion and sometimes you need a fire when it’s not a special occasion.

“You boys pick up all the sticks in the backyard and put ’em in a big pile and we’ll have a fire.” Dad would bargain with us, using fire as a reward if we cleaned up the yard. Sometimes we’d burn off the kudzu patch in front of the house and shoot field mice with a .22 as they ran out of the burning, tangled kudzu. It was great fun.

My Uncle James Brasher enjoyed these kind of fires more than anything. He was always setting fire to the brush patch and then leaving it unattended. It adds to the excitement. He once set fire to a brush pile and then headed to the grocery store. While he was there, the volunteer fire department was roused and he decided to help them. He followed the fire truck all the way back to his own house, where his brush pile fire had gotten out of control.

Zach and I decided one day to burn off some of the kudzu patch next to our house without any adult supervison. In a drought. On a windy day. At it’s peak, the flames were at least thirty feet tall. It’s quite an exhilarating feeling to dial 911. After about three hours and two acres of ashes later the volunteer fire department finally showed up in the fire truck and the driver smarted off about missing his sister’s wedding or something. Volunteer work, it just doesn’t pay. By that time, we’d already contained the fire anyway.  Dad was more upset about the fire truck driving over the field lines than the acres of scorched earth next to our house.

Gun Safety

Zach and I used to beg Dad to let us help “Clean the Guns”, a ritual where we all would crowd around Dad’s closet and he would carefully lubricate and clean each firearm with a tin can 3-In-One oil. “Don’t touch the metal. You’ll get fingerprints all over it.” That’s rule number one of gun safety. I still make a conscious effort to not touch the metal on a gun any time I’m handed one to inspect.

Before he started wiping the firearm down, he would set the stock on his knee with the barrel pointed towards the ceiling, and we would all look at it in wonder. Each gun had a story. “I traded a bird dog in 1970 for this 12 gauge Remington 1100. I’ve killed a few deer and ain’t no telling how many birds with this thing.”

He was also prone to shooting dogs. We lived in an old house that was built on blocks. Before Dad installed underpinning, or had me and Zach install, stray dogs used to get under the house and break the water lines. One time Dad got caught up in the moment and shot under the house. Another time he chased a dog out of the yard for waking him up by barking. Dad had been working late nights and when he came to himself, he was standing out in the front yard in his underwear and work boots, holding shotgun yelling at a dog, at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. But he didn’t usually tell those stories while we were cleaning the guns.

He would then pass the 1100 to Zach, who would put to his shoulder and aim across the room as if he was getting a lead on a dove. POW, he would say under his breath, letting it reverberate a little bit as if he had shot a bird on a cool still morning in the Alabama wilderness.

“Watch where you’re aiming that thing!” Dad would say as he reached to take the shotgun away from an eight year old boy who had just nearly hit him in the head with a shotgun. “You have act like every gun is loaded.” That was rule number two of gun safety.

Dad would then hand the shotgun to me, who had been waiting impatiently to hold a shotgun that was taller than my brother. When you’re that small, you are doing good just to be able to hold the gun without dropping it, let alone stressing about proper form and aiming. My Uncle Johnny remedied this by sawing about four inches of stock off of a single shot Harrington & Richardson .410. I still remember him bringing it over to our house.

The most mystically firearm in our modest arsenal was Dad’s lever action Marlin .30-30. A genuine cowboy rifle, replete with a gold trigger. Zach & I would work the action from hip, pretending we were Tell Sackett. Dad had shot a deer with this rifle that didn’t quite die. As he was walking toward it, the deer jumped up and began to run by him, Dad leaped off a stump like Tarzan and cut the deer’s throat with a pocket knife. This story added to the mystique of the cowboy rifle.

It didn’t take long to clean oil all the guns, but the ritual of “Cleaning the Guns” also involved looking at all of the pocket knives. Dad bought us a bunch of cheap, made in Pakistan knives because he knew that we would end up losing them anyway. And he was right. I lost a Frost Cutlery Royal Flush at Mrs. Yvonne Clinkscale’s house as I was climbing a tree while my brother endured his piano lesson. I probably climbed thirty feet up into that tree.

I had a Barlow pocket knife that I threw at a tree across the road after church one day. I remember thinking that no one would see me if I went around to the side of the church. Somehow Dad saw me, maybe through one of the six windows. Anyway, he must have witnessed the knife fall about fifteen yards short of the desired target and land in the middle of the road, square on the tip, bending it at a ninety degree angle. Dad sent for me to come see him on the back pew of the church, and he pocketed my Barlow.

The only two knives that I have left from my childhood are the only two that matter to me anyway. Dad bought me a yellow handled Case Slimline Trapper when I was two years old. 

I carried that knife for about fifteen years, before I decided to get a new one.

Uncle Jimmy gave me a red stag handled Case Trapper the year after my grandfather died. He would have been 55 years old. This knife is 55 of 110. Perhaps my first introduction to gun safety was when Dad took me out by the chicken pen and sat up a milk jug full of water as a target. He raised his shotgun, drew a bead on the milk jug and BOOM! The milk jug exploded. I was just barely out of diapers looking with amazement, first at Dad and then to where the milk jug had been. Ever the teacher, Dad said, “This is not a toy.” Wide eyed and unblinking I nodded back at him. This is the principle rule of gun safety.

My cousin Kent could have benefited from a demonstration like that.  When Kent was about seven, his grandfather took him hunting. Kent sat down beside him and they waited for a deer to walk by. Which is the part of hunting that seems the least exciting to me. Perhaps Kent felt the same way because his eyes began to wonder from the field over to his grandpa who was watching and waiting diligently. Then Kent’s eyes wondered to his grandpa’s shotgun, which he held directly in front of him, the barrel directly under the bill of his cap. Then Kent’s eyes wondered to the trigger, which was closer to him as he sat the on the ground. Eventually curiosity got the better of him and he slowly and quietly, sneakily probably is a better word, reached over and pulled the trigger. Booom! I can only imagine his grandpa’s surprise as the shotgun fired, blowing his hat off.

This brings us to the final rule of gun safety, in general, one gun is as dangerous as the next, but some people are far more dangerous than others.

Chicken Auction

Eclectic, Alabama. That’s a real place. I don’t remember there being anything like a gas station or flea market that would make it look like a town.  I’ve only been there once and that was to go to the Chicken Auction. That’s the only thing I remember about Eclectic. 

After driving from Tallassee, AL a good little ways out in the woods, you came upon a hand painted sign that read Chicken Auction. We went once, Dad, Lindsay and me. It was basically a chicken house with boat carpet covering the dirt floors. But They had really put some thought into decorating. There were automobile bench seats bolted to the ground and a concession stand in the back. The floors were slightlty sloped to give it a theater feel. There were probably close to seventy people there that night. 

The auctioneer sat in a homemade stand that, if you used a bit of imagination, looked like a pulpit, complete with a microphone and Peavey speaker left over from the 70s. In fact the whole operation sort of reminded me of a church. In front of the pulpit people stood in a line to sell their chickens, rabbits, guineas, and exotic birds. They even sold eggs. The line strecthed outside through a door in the side of the building. 

The auctioneer wore overalls and a collared white shirt. He had snow white hair peaking from underneath his baseball cap. He only took the hat off during the opening prayer in which he prayed for the evening’s proceedings and for several sick parishoners who couldn’t be there that night. Then he started in on anouncements.  He had the Old Southern accent, where the letter ‘R’ is only pronounced at the beginning of a word. 

“This Satu’d’y is the Confederate Flag Parade in Wetumpka. Please come out and bring yow’uh Confederate Flag. If you do not have a Confederate Flag, they’uh will be a venduh they’uh way’uh you can pu’chase one.”

After these preliminaries were out of the way, he began to call each person by name and they would step up and present their merchandise. 

“Jerry Dale, you have a nice Banty Trio here. Who’ll give me $15?.” 

From then on, his auctioneering abilities began to come through, and he went from talking slow, even for a Southerner, to a rapid machine gun speed of syllables. I could still understand him though.

Dad and I were having a great time and we almost went to the concession stand and bought some popcorn. You get caught up in the moment when you’re enjoying yourself. I always thought that the chicken auction would have been a great place to take angirknout on a date. It was a cultural experience tonsay the least, and Dad and I were were taking it in. My sister, however, was not really impressed. But you can’t expect everyone to be cultured. 

Sleeping at Church

I usually went to sleep during the evening services.

I used to sprawl out on the front pew at church, use a stack of Sing Unto The Lord hymnals for a pillow and go to sleep. I would try to stay awake by finding faces in the wooden paneling and trim in the sanctuary, but that might have just made it worse. There was a lion, and two bearded old men in the wood grain of the door frame that led to the Sunday School classrooms. If you saw them once, you saw them every time. I’d also try to find characters in the carpet, or look at the map of the Middle East that hung behind the organ. But as a child, these were futile attempts to keep Old Man Nod from riding on my eyelids. I usually went to sleep during the evening services.

It’s one thing for a small child to sleep during the service, but another thing for a grown up to fall asleep at church. I’m sure it’s discouraging for a minister to look out at the congregation and see an adult nodding. My Uncle James was bad about sleeping during church. Or anywhere else for that matter. He fall asleep once at the red light. As dangerous as it may be to fall asleep at a red light, I don’t think anyone noticed. When he woke up he didn’t realize how long he’d been there, or how many green lights had come and gone. It was long enough for someone behind him to blow the horn. I’m sure he was embarrassed, but not too embarrassed to tell on himself so everyone else could have a good laugh. Southerners are considerate that way.

He was sleeping at church one Sunday and the pastor asked him to stand up and pray over the offering. Someone nudged him and said, “James, they need you to pray.” He stood up and dismissed them. Someone else told that on him, some things are too embarrassing to share yourself.

While I’m Vacation

I’m in Jena, Louisiana today for my brother’s pastoral installation service at Christ Temple Pentecostal Church. He’s been the pastor since about February. He’s been downloaded that whole time, but now they’re about to install him. Jena is a small town, but not a dead or dying town, like my hometown. Bro. Crawford Coon, former pastor here in Jena said, “The biggest industry in Jena was a 300 lb Avon lady.”

Pastor Zachary Brant Wells

Anyway, Jena, Louisiana is a long way from Winchester, VA. I first drove to Cullman, AL to see my family. And to eat Blue Bell Ice Cream. I’ve had ice cream everyday since I’m on vacation. I got a chance to go see Pop, Nonna, and Gram. Pop gave Wesley a case pocket knife. Wes loved playing on one of  Pop’s tractors. We stopped in Inverness at Lloyd’s, a restaurant that has been in business since 1937. Get the chicken livers and onion rings.

I’ve noticed over the years of travelling that as you make your way south, the people are just friendlier. It seems to happen between the times that you fill up with gas. You’ll fill up one place and the attendant is cordial, but the next time you stop, you’re suddenly in the South and people, even gas station cashiers, are just glowing with hospitality. And they talk different, turning every vowel into a diphthong. 

We caravanned from Cullman to Jena and my brother in law, Kamron, speeds. I’m not talking about my usual 9 miles over the speed limit on the interstate, but 20 and 25 miles over the speed limit. Even in constuction zones he was driving in a way that would have made Dale Earnhardt sweat. It was all I could do to stay in front of him. 

As I have written, I still don’t know how to take a normal vacation. I packed five church outfits for a seven day trip. 

Here are some pictures from my trip so far. 


Normal Mostly From Memory broadcasting will resume the first week of June. Thanks for reading. 

Zane Wells