Good Morning R.P. & J.M.

(I miss you two.)

“Now you can take some Black Diamond strings
And put ’em on a J45
You hit them chords, you get that thump
You downright sanctified

Or you can take a lipstick pickup
And play it through a Fender tweed
Oh, it’s sweet,”

—–Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Down Home Country Blues”

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HOPE

“I’m no stranger to the rain
But there’ll always be tomorrow
And I’ll beg, steal, or borrow a little sunshine
And I’ll put this cloud behind me
That’s how the ‘man’ designed me
To ride the wind and dance in a hurricane
I’m no stranger to the rain”


———-RON HELLARD, SONNY CURTIS

WHAT PRICE GLORY?

“Columbus died penniless.”

—-Richard E. Byrd, 1927

Some Days I Just Feel Lost

“Forgive me all my anger
Forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me
For thinkin’ what I thought”

—- Guy Clark, “Dublin Blues”

Somewhere Beyond the Border

In the process of straightening up and trying to clean out my life, I came across these thoughts scratched on the back cover of a graduation program. It was the last in a series of 40+ that I attended.

Date: 5/19/18

The line arouses itself and begins to extend toward the future. One soul, twelve steps continuing into the fog of uncounted tomorrows. Hope plundering the shadowlands of uncertainty in the carriage of youth.

One last out and in. Grace in the cloak of repetition. The ease of innocence–some even genuine. Raging talent unprotected by the cloak. What pagans are gathering in the borderlands of the next sunrises? Or are the pagans sires to the Messiah? The chosen ones; but to what journey?

History Lesson: Winter Term, February 8, 2019

Today, two hundred and twelve years ago the French were losing. They had slept in the snow on a freezing night. Irony personified, on the day before they had died in droves in the cemetery at Eylau. With failure a reality Napoleon unleashed the flamboyant Joachim Murat and his 10,000 cavalry against the Russian center.

The following day Marshal Michele Ney rode the field and noted: “Quel massacre! Et, sans resultat.”

The Old Man’s Great Gift: Part 3 (Day of the Gun)

Chapter 1 of The Old Man And The Boy opens with the Old Man teaching the Boy about hunting quail and the many collateral issues that attend to the practice. One of the most important lessons revolves around the Boy’s first shotgun.

The Old Man: “You always got to remember that when a gun is loaded it makes a potential killer out of the man that’s handling it. Don’t you ever forget it.”

The Boy noted, “I said I wouldn’t forget it. I never did forget it.”

I cannot remember the day, month, or year that I first saw it. I was no more than nine years old, and my Dad was working a second job, part-time, at a tackle shop in my home town. In those days in the Panhandle of Florida the term “tackle shop” meant only one thing–a store where hunting and fishing gear was sold. I loved going there with him because I felt like an insider and was going to have an outsized percentage of my curiosities fed. It stood in a rack of guns behind the counter. Most of its neighbors and relatives were dressed in walnut or similar wooden stocks ranging from dark chestnut to light blond in color. However, the apple of my young eye was a Harrington & Richardson .410 gauge single shot breach loading shotgun furnished with a fire engine red stock. Unusual, but with irresistible appeal. Time has destroyed my memory as to the day and occasion that the red H&R became mine. Yet, the purpose, protocols of use, language, and love that came with the gun are indelible. My father refused to allow any of his children to own a BB gun. His intransigence on this point was based on simple logic. He did not want his sons (my sister had no interest in hunting) running around the neighbor hood developing bad habits with guns. Each appeal for a BB gun was met with, “When you are old enough to own and use a real gun properly we’ll see about getting you one.”

So even before the desire for a gun found specific expression, the lessons of patience and listening were seeded. Listening and observing over time were key because hunting and guns were part of who and what my family did in the fall and winter. As the Old Man told the Boy, a gun is dangerous.

Lesson one: Every gun is loaded until you personally physically check that it isn’t. This rule was intended to be followed literally. I could stand next to my father as he removed his 16 gauge from the closet checked the breach and found it empty then closed the breach. If he handed me the gun in the same motion that had closed the breach I was expected to open the breach again and examine the chamber. Even now I do it, as does my brother.

Lesson two: Safety was and is priority one when using a firearm. Bird hunting meant either doves or quail. Each activity had general as well as very specific protocols for handling the shotguns. Quail required a dog as well as a good deal of walking and waiting on the sudden explosion of targets spreading out in an unpredictably wide high speed arc. Most of the old men would not allow a third party on a quail hunt. When the dog flushed the birds one shooter took birds flying right and the other took birds flying left. A third hunter increased the risk that a gun would be fired in the direction of one of the others and increase the risk of a human casualty. My dad and his father would take me along but with strict rules about where I aimed when the covey rose. We never had an accident.

Doves involved different logistics and rules of firing geometry. Since the hunters were stationed around the perimeter of corn or millet fields it was not unusual that one man’s field of fire would be directly across from another’s. In other words, hunters could easily shoot someone on the other side of the field. Thus, the vertical firing angle was as important as the horizontal.

In addition, both quail and dove hunting often required crossing streams, working one’s way through difficult brush, or crossing fences. Fences were particularly important in the realm of gun safety. Guns had to have the chamber unloaded, then placed on the ground pointing away from where the hunters were crossing. The weapons were retrieved after crossing and then reloaded. Early in my career failure to adhere to this procedure cost me the use of my gun and thus meaningful inclusion on the next hunting trip. My father’s word was his bond. Breaking rules had consequences.

Lesson three: You never point a loaded gun at anything unless you intend to fire at it. Guns were/are not forms of play, threats, or intimidation. Loaded guns were always pointed at the ground in front of the hunters or at the sky away from all the hunters. Thus, any unintentional discharge would not result in a casualty. We never had a gun tragedy in my family.

Lesson four: If you shoot it you dress and eat it. My father never countenanced the idea of hunting for trophies. Hunting required killing and killing was to obtain food, NOT to hang something on the wall. Thus, when early in my gun life I wanted shoot a cardinal or jaybird (memory fails me as to the exact species) my father relented. Once the deed was done, he reminded me that I must dress the small victims, have my grandmother cook them, and then I had to consume them. They were small, tough, and about as tasty as the leather from the masts of Magellan’s ship. Lesson learned.

Eventually my Dad gave me a Winchester .22 hammerless lever action rifle and later added a scope. Respecting guns and the attending rules was the path to a more varied set of hunting tools. I shared many days in the woods with my Dad and grandfather. I came to appreciate that well made tools appropriately applied to their intended purpose were to be admired, but never misused. A respect for animals and their habitat was the other integral piece of my education with guns.

Through guns and hunting my Dad and the old men in my family taught me that life is to be respected; that life is finite; and that death is part of living. My Dad is gone now, but he left me his Marlin .22 calibre lever action rifle. I never pull it from its faux alligator leather case without remembering him and the deep respect for life that he taught me.

Valkyries

in the darkness,
            I saw the Valkyries.
they are real.
their faces were my old lovers,
            pale and silent,
arriving on the sun bound side of darkness.
they came not for me.
they came for the Brave from the past.
To what Valhala?






Quick Thoughts On The Return

It has been over 30 years. It took a little time searching and futzing, but now it is revived. “It” being my turntable that plays vinyl albums. The recent trend to “return” to vinyl by “aficionados” who had never touched a real album before the year 2000 is not at the heart of this musing. Here, we consider the return to personal music as it came to my world in the 1960s.

The first album to bring me to the world of rock and roll was The Buckingham’s Portraits which landed in the album bins in 1967. I had to play it on my mom’s crummy self-contained stereo with fidelity somewhat better than the radio and an old “record player”. I went off to college sans stereo, but in tandem with the explosion of FM radio playing great music not available on day time AM radio. College revealed dorm mates who had real stereos. My friend who eventually was the presiding minister at my wedding introduced me to B.J. Thomas and Bob Dylan with the needle noting every imperfection and illuminating musical subtleties blotted out by the radio. Later another friend, who eventually became a nationally decorated poet, helped me find my way to Neil Young via the rotating table and album covers at his family’s home. (Yes, Andrew, I remember that the jeans on the back cover of After The Gold Rush look better in the picture than they do in real life.)

Unfortunately, just as I became initiated into the realm of significant music the 8-track tape proliferated. With a choice to be made, I took the seductive trail, and my early music collection was almost entirely blocks of plastic with no liner notes and ultimately limited shelf-life. Wait a few years and the tape rots. Yet, the music persisted in my life unchallenged by access to vinyl.

Finally, after the poverty of graduate school began to slide into the shade, I got my first real turntable attached to a real amplifier/receiver and great speakers. They came just in time for cassette tapes to sweep into popularity because they could be played in your car. Then came CD’s. My vinyl and turntable became objects moved from dwelling to dwelling with no use for over thirty years.

Now in retirement, finally settled with the albums intact, the turntable refurbished and tuned up, The Flying Burrito Brothers are pouring out of my new Klipsch speakers. Much of the impetus for the return to the table and needle is the gift of a vinyl copy of Neil Young’s Live At Massey Hall 1971 album from my friend Jack. I suppose, gentle reader, that one might scream “old man’s nostalgia”. So be it; but the sound, the feeling, and the ability to read about the construction of the collection is a combination not to be had from a streaming service.

Believe as you choose, listen as you will, but I am about to drop the needle of my Technics SL-BL3 on Side 2 of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. Thanks Bruce.

On Bad Days


Close your eyes and see what matters
Wash away your worry and pain
There’s holy water
In an island rain

           --------Mac McAnally, "Island Rain"