Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Misadventures of Fuzz in Seale

Have you ever tried to list all the pets you have had? Do you have a favorite? For my daughter-in-law's birthday, I just selected a picture to post on Facebook that pushed me into these thought patterns. But I didn’t have to spend any time choosing a favorite.

While Dr. Tedder, our long-time vet, was tending to Psyche, our tiny rat terrier, my husband asked about a friendly, uncaged Airedale with a bad skin condition. His owner had dropped him at the clinic to be put down, but Dr. Tedder kept him as a clinic dog. The outcome of the conversation was a promise that he would treat the dog whenever the skin condition flared up—medicine and board, for free—if we would give this unusual dog a home. So we left with an extra dog. The AKC registration papers said his name was Fuzz Wuzz Doodle. And thus began the Misadventures of Fuzz in Seale.

An inveterate wanderer, Fuzz immediately investigated our small community and became well-known. We worried that he would become a pest and braced ourselves for the complaints. They never arrived.  His base of operations was our farm supply store in “downtown” Seale. He greeted our customers, who enjoyed his friendliness. Sometimes he shared night space with the two store cats, Rover and Spot; sometimes he slept on our back porch with the house cats, Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot (who turned out to be Lancelena). Over the years, a good many dogs with wiry black and red hair appeared in Seale. And we loved Fuzz. Everybody loved Fuzz. He had been trained to be a gentleman. He didn’t jump up on people; he didn’t bark unnecessarily; he was affectionate with people, other dogs, and cats. He was a perfect companion for our two boys as they roamed the woods and creeks.

He caused us trouble only twice. In the mid-70s, several area citizens decided to raise money to restore the abandoned old Russell County Courthouse building. Our biggest project was a large festival each year on the courthouse grounds with unusually good pork barbecue, prepared by a dozen or so men and a few of their wives, who would stay up all night tending to the meat and enjoying the fellowship around the fire. Of course, Fuzz became part of the group. Part of the night’s routine was eating barbecued chicken. During the second or third year of this event, Fuzz had apparently been pushed beyond endurance. He walked over to the grill, quickly helped himself to a chicken, and disappeared into the shadows. We weren’t there, but heard about his treachery the next day when we were informed that Fuzz would not be welcome the following year. From then on, he had to be locked up in the store every year on barbecue night.

The other time was more serious. We were totally unprepared. When we first brought Fuzz home, we were apprehensive about letting him wander in our backyard. Well, our back backyard, where my husband raised exhibition chickens. (I’ll have to explain that in another blog.) These chickens did not run free but were kept in breeding coops. The small pens were sturdy, but Fuzz was big. And strong. On his first trip to the chicken pens with Warren, he was carefully observed and supervised. We were delighted when he just nosed around, inspected everything with his usual curiosity, and then wandered away to check out something else. Over a period of time we stopped worrying about the chickens. But several years later, a good friend drove his pickup into our yard with Fuzz tied in the back. He started yelling as he jumped out of the car. In short, Fuzz had broken into his chicken house and killed over 20 of his chickens. We had to tie him up until a pen could be built. Gradually, we released the chastised dog back into the community. But he seemed different. He moved slower.

Dr. Tedder said Fuzz had developed unusually bad arthritis, all over. He spent most of the time on the back porch. He whimpered a lot. One Friday afternoon we found him under an old storage house out back. We could not get him to come out. He just howled. We didn’t talk about what had to be done. The next morning, Warren dug a hole, told me to get in the house and stay there, and crawled under the storage house. I heard a shot and a short time later saw the truck moving up the road. He did not return home until late that night. He never talked about that day. And I never asked.

Monday, March 6, 2017

My Collection: Plants I Have Loved

A recent article (Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff) explains why kids don’t want their parents’ old furniture and beloved knickknacks. And definitely not their grandparents’. Okay, I got it. That doesn’t mean I like it. I don’t like the idea of my prize “things” being trashed or donated. Sold? Nahh. Very little of monetary value here. Just sentimental. I have an old farm house full of odd things my gkids won’t want when I die or down-size, whichever comes first. My collection is the ultimate barrier to the idea of down-sizing—something that would be economically and logically easier on me. But I couldn’t fit all these things into smaller square-footage! At first I thought I’d write about the objects most likely to be ignored in order to guilt the most sensitive gkids into adopting some of my unlikely treasures. But maybe not.   

Let’s just start outside. Outside? Yep. Plants. I’m sentimental about plants too. My favorite plant died years ago, but I still remember it with affection. I love its history. From Brewton to Jacksonville to Oneonta to Auburn to Seale. My father planted a tea olive in his mother's yard in Brewton (1930s). When my parents moved to Jacksonville (1940s), he took the young plant with him.  Years later, he gave it to his mother-in-law in Oneonta.  When she died (1960), he moved it to his house in Auburn. When my husband and I moved into his old family house in Seale (1969), my father planted it right below the den window, where I enjoyed seeing it for many years. And the smell! That special tea olive smell still transports me down Memory Lane. And then the Big Freeze hit us. My husband wrapped quilts around the tea olive, but it was not enough protection. Who cries over a plant? This person. I now have two large tea olives, but neither has an emotional pull. I enjoy the fragrance but that’s it. No family history.

Okay, that’s the plant that isn’t there. There is also a plant that is still outside my window. My father planted several of his azaleas and two camellias in the row where the tea olive was. One camellia died, but the remaining camellia is beautiful. It is a symbol of my father’s love for me and for plants. (I grew up with the idea that having a greenhouse and a large garden in your backyard was perfectly normal, even if you lived in town.)

My emotional tie with camellias is heightened by a shallow bowl that Mama used to float blooms. This bowl appeared in our house and in the homes of those suffering a loss or just needing a cheerful arrangement. My parents had this thing about camellias and hibiscus. Several years ago I bought another bowl of the same style at an antique mall, and quickly forgot which was Mama’s, the large one or the small one. Much later I finally figured it out: Mama’s name is still on the adhesive tape on the bottom of the large one!

In the last two months, Daddy’s camellia blooms floated in bowls in Panama City Beach and Fayetteville, Georgia, as well as in Seale. Continuity. Memories. Family.

(If I get this mushy about something outside the house, you can imagine the level of emotion about something inside the house. More later.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

NCAA 2015 Football Divisions - Simplified (Ha!)

I am a dedicated Auburn fan and a football fanatic, but for a long time I didn’t understand that the NCAA’s Division I football category has two subdivisions. I kept trying to make FBS and FCS two different divisions. (I am still annoyed that the NCAA didn’t take the time to make things a little clearer for those of us who illogically want things to be logical.) As I read through several websites, almost defeated by the boring history of frequent changes of categories and names, I finally got a little closure on this topic. Here are the results of my “research” for any of you who share my confusion.

The placement into divisions and subdivisions for football depends on the financial ability of a school to support a sports program based on NCAA’s somewhat bewildering requirements, including a maximum number of scholarships, minimum average attendance for home games, a specified number of funded sports by gender, and a commitment to academic achievement and appropriate facilities—all this plus adherence to scheduling criteria with plenty of legalese tossed into the mix. A school can even be in different categories for different sports!

Challenge: Try this crossword puzzle before (or after) reading below.

I.                 Division I – Two different groups of teams!

A.     FBS - Football Bowl Subdivision (128 football teams*)

                        Examples: Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, UCLA

FBS schools are allowed 85** athletic scholarships.

The college football playoff is a contractual system of six bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, and Peach), plus the championship game.

A committee following NCAA protocol selects twelve schools for the six bowl games. These must include the champions of the five major conferences plus wild cards. (It's actually much more complicated than this!)

B.     FCS - Football Championship Subdivision (125 football teams)

                        Examples: Jacksonville State and Samford (Alabama) and
Mercer and Kennesaw State (Georgia)

FCS schools are limited to 63 athletic scholarships.

For national playoffs, the field consists of 10 automatic qualifiers through conference wins and 14 at-large teams selected by the NCAA. The teams participate in a typical playoff format.

An aside: Jacksonville State advanced to the national finals in January, 2016, but lost to North Dakota State, now a five-time national champion.

II.               Division II (170 football teams)

Examples: North Alabama and Tuskegee (Alabama) and
Valdosta State and Fort Valley State (Georgia)

These schools are limited to 36 athletic scholarships.

The NCAA selects 28 teams in four regions to participate in the national finals in typical bracket structure.

III.              Division III (248 football teams)

Examples: Birmingham-Southern and Huntington (Alabama) and
Berry and LaGrange (Georgia)

These schools do not offer athletic scholarships. (But athletes can get other types of scholarships, such as leadership.)

For the playoffs, automatic bids are issued to the winners of 25 conferences and seven at-large teams, resulting in eight teams in four brackets in a typical playoff structure.

An aside: For several years the national championship Stagg Bowl was played in Phenix City, Alabama.

*The number of teams in each category varies with the different sources of information. One of the reasons for the inconsistency is that schools are constantly entering/leaving categories.

**The number of scholarships in each category varies with the different sources of information. Sometimes scholarships can be part- or full-time; this option leads to varying numbers of scholarships. The numbers here are approximations.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Memory of Warren Starke (1939-1992)

The Vine

Spring, 1993

After the service, back at the house, 
someone asked about the vine 
on the front fence.

You remember, the one 
I always nagged you 
to dig up and out and gone 
because the thick dead trails 
of thin gray string made such a mess 
after the blooms stopped
and I was tired of cleaning the fence. 
You always refused, 
saying--approval in your voice-- 
the vine paid its way in blossom time.

Disinterested, I regarded 
the small flowers 
in the mass of crawling vine and 
tried to give it a name. 
I couldn't.
Later, someone exclaimed, 
"Look!  A hummingbird vine!" 
and moved to get a closer look. 
In the afterfuneral smalltalk, two visitors 
recalled childhood memories 
richly flavored with such a vine. 
To a chorus of startmesome, I promised.

Today, for the second year 
I've known the name, 
I pulled the gray tendrils off the fence 
and I thought of you.

And, with pleasure, I thought of 
the perfect, five-pointed blossoms
unpretentious scarlet stars
soon to appear
summer's bright red dots
punctuating the delicate, dark green traceries 
cascading, looping from post to post 
hiding the ugly wire fence. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

National Siblings Day Post – A Day Late

Cousins and grandmother
It’s appropriate that this post is a day late because I don’t have any siblings! But I am lucky to have had ten wonderful cousins: four on my mother’s side in one Alabama family, and six on my father’s, three in Alabama and three in South Carolina.  My maternal grandmother lived in my second home across the street from my four Oneonta cousins so the five of us grew up together, and I thought of them as mine before I ever heard the word siblings and realized I didn't have any. During my growing-up years, I spent nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day with them, plus weeks in the summer.

This picture was taken on Mother’s Day.  Although I don’t know the year because there is no notation on the back (Oh, Mama, why didn’t you? Maybe the same reason I didn’t either?) I know it was Mother’s Day. I look at the flowers and remember our annual ritual of cutting white and red roses in Grandmother’s garden, making a white corsage for her, and pinning red roses on each other.

When I was about ten, the five of us stood in a circle, held hands, and solemnly promised each other that we would never, under any circumstances, become teachers.  Why was such a commitment necessary? We were supersaturated with school things.  Both of my parents and my aunt were teachers.  My grandmother was the principal of the elementary school, and my grandfather was the superintendent of education for Blount County.  Of the five of us, three became teachers!

Although I was greatly influenced by my cousins, we departed ways when it came to college loyalty. As the child of an Auburn staff member, I of course yelled War Eagle, while the others screamed Roll Tide. (The youngest cousin, however, wound up at Georgia Tech with a PhD in something way out there, like nuclear physics.)

I look at this picture with sadness because these four cousins are all gone now but also with happiness because I still enjoy the great memories of our time together.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Checkerboard Table

On my last round of over 300 booths in a Columbus antique mall, I saw a checkerboard table that looked vaguely familiar. It was stripped but not finished. Not pretty. Price: $45. I had already spent my budget for the junking trip, I was exhausted, and my friend was waiting for me, so we loaded our purchases into the car and started down the road.  After a few miles it sunk in: that table had to be THE table!
Nearly 40 years ago, I took an old checkerboard table to a re-finishing store in Columbus to be stripped, repaired, and finished. After a year and many calls, I went to the store to check on the table. The owner said he hadn’t finished the project because the repair on the inlaid blocks was so difficult. A year later, I went back to the store; this time I saw the stripped table and was very disappointed. He assured me that it would look better when he finished the repairs. After another year of not hearing from the re-finisher, I went to the store to see what was going on. He told me that I had not complied with our agreement to pick up the table in a timely manner, and he had to sell it to get his money. I was furious. But the table was gone. I just walked away, sobbing. Occasionally, through the years, that table would haunt me. Several days prior to the visit to the antique mall, I had thought once again about how I lost that family possession and how I could have kept it.

The missing table, a library table, and a set of bookends were given to Aunt Alma by a skilled woodworker who wanted to marry her. But she was destined to be an old maid; her father decided that this man wasn’t good enough for his daughter. These three items were in the old family house when we moved in. Although the other pieces were stained, the checkerboard table was painted white, with the inlaid checker squares painted black and white. My husband remembered using the table to play checkers with Aunt Alma when he was a child, and my sons Tom and Ben used it frequently when they were kids.

So I turned around, drove back to the antique mall, and bought the table.

When Tom took it out of the van, without prompting he immediately exclaimed that it was Aunt Alma's table, pointing out some broken squares that he remembered. Then he recalled a broken part of the leg that had been glued. After he described the break, we examined the leg and saw where it had been glued together. Oh, my goodness. That's the only time I have ever seen him get excited about a piece of furniture!  The next day, as I was cleaning the table, I checked the supporting curves on its leg and compared the design with the curves on the library table. The pattern of the curves is exactly the same. And there are other similarities in the techniques. It's ridiculous how happy this homecoming made me! (One day, I will get around to sanding and staining it.) And Tom pointed out how much money I had saved; surely the re-finishing guy would have charged me much more than $45 for stripping, repairing, and re-finishing the table!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thanksgiving Assignment

While teaching tenth-grade English, I devised a Thanksgiving writing assignment that called for each student to help decorate a large wall with two index cards telling—in no more than two printed sentences—what he was thankful for, both serious and silly. I was amazed by the students’ humorous creativity and touched by their unabashed honesty as they read their two cards to the class and then posted them on the wall in the two categories. About three decades later, the presentation that still sticks in my head was that of the timid girl who softly proclaimed her serious thanksgiving to the class: “I’m thankful that I know who my daddy is.” In the hush that followed, there were no laughs or giggles, only quiet uh huhs from several parts of the room. I loved all my students.

Today I’m still fascinated by the things people announce that they’re thankful for, and this year I’ve been very interested to read the Facebook posts of my friends in the 30 Days of Thanksgiving project--in particular, the wonderful (and serious) writings of Louise Tolbert and Patricia Monterella. They are an inspiration! Since I can’t say what they have said as well as they have said it, I’ve decided to revise my original writing assignment to include a third category: the “sorta serious” category. You know, the things that are not silly, but the things that definitely can’t be included along with family, God, health, country, and the other serious blessings we have.

Today, I’m thankful for the old things in my old house—no cracks about old people, please—particularly the old Christmas decorations, and particularly the old nativity set. (I’m also grateful for the blog format, which apparently does not require that I stay on topic, or keep to the dreaded five-paragraph formula, with specified items like introductions and conclusions; I can cheerfully segue into another topic without losing cohesion points, as long as ideas are tangentially related. Or not. Ah, the joy of an English teacher set free!)

Anyway, about the nativity set, aka manger scene, or crèche. I don’t know what happened to the one I routinely set up in my childhood years but assume that Mama threw it out when it started looking worn. I wish I still had it, no matter the condition. Nearly 50 years ago, when our boys were toddlers, we bought a boxed manger scene at Sears, and now my grandchildren put those figures out first and pack them up last when we decorate. The stable, now in bad shape, well represents the desperate status of the Holy Family. No hotel, no money, no doctor. The devotional today in Daily Guideposts is an account of Pam Kidd’s visit to a museum exhibit of classic, famous paintings of the manager scene, all showing the Holy Family garbed in fancy clothes. She questioned the necessity of a “gold-leaf Jesus” and said she missed “smelling the hay.” What a powerful statement about the significance of the humble origins of Jesus! One of my favorite Christmas songs is 4Him’s “A Strange Way to Save the World,” a song from Joseph’s perspective, emphasizing his belief that he and Mary were just ordinary people.

As my thoughts wander, I wonder. I wonder how did I get lucky enough to have so many blessings in my life. The silly and the serious. And the sorta serious.

Last random comment before posting: I’m watching the very good Alabama-Georgia game as I type and am thinking that it would be really great if they could both lose. (Yep, I’m orange and blue for life.)