November 10, 2009

Many Years, Brother

Today is my brother Terry's birthday. Below is an essay I posted about him in October 2006. Happy birthday, Brother.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt

My younger brother Terry and I sometimes greet each other with the words, “Strength and Honor.” It’s a line lifted directly from the movie “Gladiator.” Not a great movie and perhaps greeting each other this way is a bit hokey, but what appears on the surface to be just light-hearted bravado hides a much deeper significance.

I am the third of five siblings. Terry, the fourth of five, and I have always enjoyed a particularly close relationship and have many interests in common. Nevertheless, we were, and to a large degree still are, polar opposites. Terry was always handsome, strong, brave, impetuous and headstrong, even violent. I was always homely, weak, scared, cautious and compliant. Truly yin and yang. Our strengths and weaknesses complimented each other. Ours is a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration.

We grew up in an alcoholic, abusive household with our other brother and two sisters. My mother had us one right after the other and by the time she was 22 she had five kids. In the days before disposable diapers, in a house with only cold running water, no bathtub, no bathroom facilities. It was a poor existence. We often felt winter’s bitter bite. My father did not try to save us. He did not come to the rescue. He was not true or strong or brave. In fact he did everything he could to abandon us and leave us at the mercy of our alcoholic mother. By the age of 36 he was dead. I’m not sure how much his disease killed him or how much it was him simply trying to escape the pain of existence.

One of the mechanisms I used to cope was to develop a fascination with warrior societies. The Spartans, the Samurai, the Vikings. I even went so far as to join the U.S. Marine Corps at the ripe old age of 17. I realize now that this fascination served at least two vital purposes, it helped me to address the very real fear I felt and it helped me to define what a man should be. Most of my life has been the search for strength and honor. Trying to find internal strength to face the fears and trying to find a way to be a man of honor.

In 1986 Terry gave me a lesson in humility, a lesson in how to be a man of strength and honor. In that year he fell and suffered a spinal cord injury in a construction accident. Terry survived the horrors of rehab and now spends his days in a wheelchair. Only those who have lived with someone recovering from such an injury can understand the magnitude of the physical and emotional struggle involved.

Terry never finished high school. To be more accurate, he never finished junior high school. He was kicked out for being too violent. Later in life, after his accident, Terry got his GED. Then he went to college (we started the same semester when I was 27 and he was 26) and eventually graduated with a B.A. in English from James Madison University. Years later he worked for a while as a teacher at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind teaching deaf students (using sign language). He is now learning to play the bass guitar.

Terry is not handicapped in any real sense. He is completely self-reliant. He simply cannot walk. Terry has done more than most people without any physical impediment. He is a warrior and the bravest man I know. He has survived many trials. Not just survived, thrived. The fire of adversity has refined his spirit, purified his commitment to do whatever he sets his mind to do. One of the foundations of the Japanese martial art of Aikido is blending with the attack. If the attacker pulls, you push, if he pushes, you give way. By blending with the attack, you defeat it. Much the same in life, much the same with Terry. He took what came, blended with it and emerged complete.

I know Terry reads this blog. To him I say, strength and honor, brother.

October 28, 2009

New Planet Discovered

Scientists were flying high when they were able to capture this photo of recently discovered exo-planet DeZKo-54. The atmosphere of the exo-planet is marked by strong pulsations and a fine white powder.

Scientists were also able to capture one photo of this whirling phenomena located in Boelin Alley, an area of the galaxy marked by numerous violent and often ill-aimed collisions. They suspect that bizarre objects of this type are everywhere in our solar system where they exert a tremendous monetary-gravitational pull on other rotund-bipedal objects and strip them of their precious metals.

October 24, 2009

Far On A Dark Wind

A depression settled on me this week the likes of which I have never experienced. Every movement, every endurance of every moment was an agony. At night I alternated between sweating and shivering and driving my wife crazy. No real sleep, no real rest for either of us.

When these depressions come each is more severe than the last. I don’t know how any could be heavier than this. No life. No interest. Having to do something every moment to take my mind off how deep I am in the fugue state. An old friend recently sent me an article about how depression, mental illness and addiction often go hand in hand. Those afflicted resort to a variety of dysfunctional practices to keep the day-to-day, moment-by-moment horror of life at bay.

I have endured addictions of many sorts. I have to be careful of everything to make sure I don’t begin to like it too much. I can/will grasp at any distraction to keep from seeing my life the way it really is, to keep from feeling the pain my decisions cause others, to avoid see the mess (literal and figurative) all around me.

Like many others I also turn to art, the process of creation. Trying to re-create? This urge/drive/need to forge the ugly dysfunction into something at least I recognize as a thing of beauty has been with me for many, many years. It is truly a blessing and a curse because any solace it provides is transient, only the passing over of the eye of the storm.

I struggle to get at the heart of it. Genetic? My family is living proof. My father and my mother’s father died from the long-term horror of alcoholism. Both sides of my family are riddled with cases of addiction and the inherent dysfunction. But for me it is also the weight of November. My father died on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1971. It was bitterly cold and the end of his battle with the bottle. At the age of 36 he died in his own piss and blood. My four siblings and I watched as his dead, emaciated body collapsed, pinning our mother to the couch. I was eleven. Following his death our lives of poverty, disgrace and abuse actually marginally improved.

His death has proven to be the axis mundi of my life in many, many ways. It is the event from which I cannot free myself. To compound the issue (as I was reminded recently) I am pretty much physically identical to my father. I guess in other ways we’re also the same. He was a talented man and an artist in his own right but the weight of it all was just too much.

How long is his reach? Why? Why? Why? Thirty-nine years later and still I sit here in tears trying to put the ghosts to bed. Sleep well Dad. I wish I could.

October 17, 2009

In The Gloom

These photos were taken on a very foggy day on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. All three have been modified to highlight not how the scene through the viewfinder looked but how it felt. All three are darker than the originals and gloomier. Although not faithful to the light and shadow of the moment they are faithful to the somber beauty of the Appalachians.

Or perhaps it is a reflection of the gloom that seems to permeate my existence of late. November is yet weeks away but already I feel its cold grip and cache of memories better left buried. The elasticity of memory. Some seem to remain forever attached like barnacles, hard to break loose only to come back again.

October 13, 2009

King Cotton

While on the way to Statesboro to visit my daughter at GSU I stopped long enough the take these photos of cotton in the field. Much of the wealth of the antebellum south came from cotton sales as the raw cotton fed mills in the United States and in Europe. The process of growing, harvesting and turning the cotton into thread prior to the invention of the cotton gin was very labor intensive and helped make slavery a sad reality in the southern states. This is cotton in its raw state.

October 9, 2009

Fort Clinch

These photos were taken a week or so ago at Fort Clinch on Amelia Island, the northernmost of Florida’s barrier islands. We were there for a field trip/picnic. As with most structures this old it lends itself well to being photographed.

More photos of the fort are available at The Bosom Serpent.

October 7, 2009

Prefab Beauty

I took these photos earlier today a few blocks from the house when Sophie and I were out for our daily walk. Even in prefabricated public spaces there is beauty if we really open our eyes to look. What at first glance appears to be just more plastic and metal is transformed into a hypnotic repetition of form, a face with glaring eyes, a metal backbone. Discovering or "seeing" this art hiding in plain sight is one of the great joys of photography.

September 24, 2009

Down At The River

While down at the water I was speaking with an elder man, a native of the city. We were talking of many things as old men will do and we eventually got around to his new vehicle. I was shocked when he said, “Yeah, I ran into this nigger woman down in C________." I was shocked by how ordinary it was for him to just use the word in daily conversation. The ordinariness of what he said was strikingly matter of fact, commonplace. He apparently felt I shared his views and kept talking.

He kept up about the incident about how more “n_____s” kept arriving. He said he felt threatened until friendly deputies showed up. He believed he got the last laugh as he believed the crowd thought the deputies were taking him to jail when in fact they were only giving him a ride home.

Let me tell you as a white man in the deep south that incidents like this are not uncommon. Despite some claims to the contrary there is a very deep vein of racism running through some of the white population. In most cases the N word doesn’t come up until the speaker is sure everyone present shares his or her views. Others just don’t care. It is their worldview and they see/have no reason to change.

The implication is that white folk are superior and that all African-Americans are slow, stupid, inferior, a segment of their society that just has to be tolerated. Their world is literally black and white. Here there are still black and white funeral parlors, black and white churches, even black and white barber shops. Many whites have no interest in dying, worshipping or spending any time in the company of non-whites. The problem is systemic and endemic.

Personally, I don’t understand it. I have felt the sting of being ignored, demeaned and mocked because of my social status. How much worse to endure centuries of organized and (but no less strident) individual, perpetual racism? Are we not all in the image of our maker? Would our Lord create any of less value in his eyes than the other? We are told to love without reservation, not to pick and chose only among those who we believe look like us. The vestiges of racism are an embarrassment to the South, to America and to humanity.

What does it say about me that the old man thought it was ok to speak this way in my presence? I know what it says about me that I was only silent in protest. Lord have mercy.

September 20, 2009


Here are a few photos from a seminar held Saturday at my home dojo. We trained for five hours then had a wonderful barbeque dinner. My Sensei is third from the left on the front row. I'm the old man with the beard on the back row.

August 13, 2009

A Great Loss

Pictured above is Col. Charlie Easterling and his beloved wife Wanda. Charlie passed away a few days ago after a short battle with cancer. He was only 57. Charlie was one of the two dozen of us fired by the new sheriff when he took office in January. Charlie worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years and served as Chief Deputy for the last two decades. I'll write more about Charlie later but please pray for his family as they try to come to grips with the realization that their patriarch is dead. Pray especially for Wanda, his daughter Renee and his granddaughter Candice.
That's Charlie peeking in the window. He and I were out riding around looking for photo opportunities. Though not a native of Camden County Charlie knew the county and its people very well.

Charlie had long since made his peace with the Lord. May his memory be eternal.

August 4, 2009


Sunset over the Satilla River.

I am still here and alive and well despite my often feeling to the contrary. A few updates are in order.

My father in law is still with us and improving every day from his open heart surgery. Today he walked from here to the river and back. He goes back to see his surgeon in a few days.

I start home schooling my daughter tomorrow. Please pray for all of us especially my wife who is a teacher and would do just about anything to trade places with me. The first day of classes for her are also tomorrow (Wednesday). We'll see how all this works out.

I started back training in aikido after a hiatus. My daughter has attended twice and may continue. It feels very good to be back in the dojo. I had not realized how big a void it fills.

My oldest daughter goes back to college in a week or so. We hope and pray it goes well.

The first two photos on the previous post are my brothers and I along with my daughter and her cousin on The Skyline Drive looking east over my old hometown of Waynesboro, VA. The lights in the distance are fireworks, hundreds and hundreds of fireworks going off all over the Shenandoah Valley. It was beautiful and moving.

The bottom photo is yours truly with three of my siblings and our mother. It was really good to see my oldest brother Robert (beside me wearing the bunny ears) who I had not laid eyes on in more than a decade. Here is proof that I am the better looking one and the smartest. He is also shorter and balder, but he knows we all love him. Sadly our youngest sister could not attend the gathering due to an ongoing personality issue. It's sad but it's really hard to get all of us together in the same place for any length of time without sparks flying.

I will post when I can. I really miss the days when I could post well written reflections on my life and an occasional piece of fiction. This blog has sunk oh so low.

June 30, 2009

On the Road Again

There will be no new Parris Island entries until next week. We leave early tomorrow morning to drive to Virginia and we will drive back on Sunday. My sister's 50th birthday is on Thursday so my oldest brother (Robert) is flying in from California to surprise her. We decided to show up at the same time unannounced and really shock her as she has not seen my wife and daughters in several years. We have not seen Robert in a decade or so so this promises to be a big reunion. On the way home on Sunday we will meet up with my father-in-law in Richmond and bring him to stay with us. While here he will have open heart surgery and recover at our home. Whether or not he will be able to go back to his nomadic ways after his recovery remains to be seen, but I doubt it. I suspect he will be a a permanent resident which will be good for everyone involved and teach our daughters the proper way to treat your parents as the begin to age.

As always we covet your prayers both for our travels and for the future and for all the issues looming large.

Here, for no reason whatsoever is, a video of Townes Van Zandt, one of the best songwriters ever. If you like good country/folk music you can't do much better.

June 25, 2009

Parris Island: Part 3

The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. 
Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!
First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945 

Two of the first hurdles all recruits immediately face is the position of Attention and close order drill (COD). But it is probably fair to say that every Marine begins at the position of Attention. It becomes instinctive, as central to every Marine as the Marine Corps Hymn, his rifle or Iwo Jima. Before all things there is Attention and one of the very first commands every recruit hears is to assume the position. First attempts are always sloppy, sad affairs but eventually every Marine can snap to Attention perfectly at a moment’s notice.

The position of Attention is to stand with heels together and touching and on the same line with feet spread at the all-important 45° angle. Chin up, eyes straight forward, knees not locked, chest out, no slouching, shoulders square, arms hanging straight without stiffness, hands at you sides thumb forward, fingers naturally curled and lightly pinching the seam in your trousers. And you do not move. Do not look to the side, do not move your eyes to the side, do not shift your focus from the point on which you have locked your eyes, do not scratch an itch, do not cough, burp, laugh, cry or pass out, all of which are considered breaking the position of attention. The hard part is when you have drill instructors screaming into both ears giving you conflicting orders and a third glaring straight in your face, punching his finger very deliberately into your chest and wondering at the top of his voice why you are queer for his gear? Try that without flinching or even looking to the side.

Proper Attention is important whether alone or as a platoon. And you are always with your platoon because recruits go everywhere as a platoon. Recruits are rarely alone (except maybe in the dentist’s chair) because recruits do every thing together. Privacy and modesty are impossibilities. Always together, always suffering /learning. It is the beginning of the process of many becoming one. While you may become an individual Marine it is only because of the Corps that you exist. The goal is to learn to count on your fellow Marines and ultimately if necessary to die for them. This shared Hell, this experience few people will even attempt much less complete has a powerful bonding strength. And one of the first place it starts is close order drill.

Close order drill is an ancient military tradition designed to instill discipline and order into the ranks. In the Marine Corps it is honed to a fine art as anyone who has ever seen the Silent Drill Team can attest. Initially drill practice is done on a huge asphalt drill field. Watching the new platoons you always see the practice interrupted periodically by one or all the still learning recruits stopping to do push up or mountain climbers (running in place while in the push up position) to the DIs satisfaction. It becomes a matter of great pride to be able to execute the maneuvers perfectly, partly to make your DIs happy (and eventually even proud) and because it feels very good to work so closely together as a team, to move as one organism, to have each heel hit the pavement together, to turn at the exact same instant, to stop exactly together. After learning basic drill, the rifle is introduced into the mix which is another set of routines done while marching and standing.

A good DI can take a large platoon anywhere and place them exactly where he wants. It gets to the point where your DI can have a seventy man platoon march from a distance away then, without stopping, take the platoon half-stepping through the double doors into a crowded, busy chow hall and have the platoon stop precisely together at precisely the same place right where the chow trays stand stacked. It is minute precision executed expertly. Trust me, it is impressive, especially to the new recruits.

While marching you listen to and follow the DIs cadence. It can be very cool to hear and every DI sings differently. Many times they don’t even really pronounce the words but you know what they mean. It is through his cadence and correct issuing of orders that the platoon moves where he wants it to go. While marching the platoon is walking at 120 steps per minute and every step has to be in sync. This drill training follows every recruit into Marine Corps where it is utilized every day.

But enough about close order drill. One of my frustrations in writing about this experience is having to leave so much out. Pardon me if I drag on. But I would ask you to remember how young these men are when they undergo this trial. I was barely 17 yet I was ready to go fight and die. No matter what you may think of our military remember all these young men today are volunteering to put themselves in harms way for us. Semper Fi.

Watch how the guy with the camera flinches when the platoon comes marching straight at him. Even after all these years I can still understand the DI say, “By the left flank, march” which is the command that sends the platoon to their left and at the cameraman. Later you can also hear him say “By the left oblique, march” which straightens the platoon up before going through the archway. 


I apologize for the delay in the next Parris Island installment. It's in progress and will appear in a day or two. We bought a new computer (see above) and went back to Apple. Nice computer but it has taken a little while to adjust. I also got Photoshop CS4 and it takes a while to adjust. I have been writing on another project, I am setting up a separate photo website and I am preparing to home school our daughter in the fall. My wife's father had a heart attack and may well be coming to stay with us prior to major heart surgery and for part of the healing process. Its summer with all it's distractions. 

June 13, 2009

Parris Island: Part 2

Boot camp doesn’t really start until you meet your Drill Instructors. The sleep deprivation, the shaved head, the new uniforms, the unfamiliarity are just warm ups for the main event. The meeting is a life-changing event where you realize that there is no backing out. This is real. These guys mean business.

The Drill Instructors are the gatekeepers and to pass through you will have to do it their way, the Corps’ way. Only those who meet the standard may pass. Without such strict guardians, such high standards the Marine Corps might as well be the Army. It is these high standards, strict discipline and unwavering obedience that sets the Marine Corps apart and it all starts with the Drill Instructors. The journey is fraught with danger but the reward is membership in the Corps, one of the few, the proud. There is no way to prepare yourself for the onslaught.

The initial introduction to your four Drill Instructors (never, never, ever Drill Sergeant) is when they begin to set out the rules, the behavior they will henceforth expect from you. There will be no leniency. You will be living under a microscope and even the smallest mistakes will matter. Attention to detail is paramount.

The four menacing men in immaculate uniforms and wearing razor sharp campaign hats introduced themselves. The three Drill Instructors wear green web belts but the Senior Drill Instructor wears a black leather belt. It is a small but very important difference. Titles are very important as each thing has a proper name and every Marine has a proper title. To call the Senior Drill Instructor a Drill Instructor is to take from him something he has worked very hard to achieve.  Proper titles and rank promote order and discipline as every Marine knows his place in the chain of command.

Following the introductions the you-know-what hit the proverbial fan. When they say they will be your mother and your father they mean it. They will be the source of almost unbearable physical and psychological pain but on rare (but very important) moments they will be a source of encouragement. It is the start of a complex love/hate relationship. Initially you hate them for being so mean, so insensitive, so exacting. Why are they mad all the time? Who peed in their cornflakes? You try very hard to please them, to prove that you deserve to be part of their Marine Corps. Hate slowly changes to admiration as you see that they can easily do everything they ask you to do. Through their efforts lowly recruits become thoroughly indoctrinated into the way.

The thirteen weeks aboard Parris Island are a deliberate and total break from the life you led before. The DIs begin teaching recruits a new vocabulary, a new way to speak, a new way to dress and to get dressed, a new way to do practically everything. The first and last word out of your mouth has to be “Sir” and you have to refer to yourself in the third person. “Sir Recruit Terrell requests to make a head call Sir.” And woe to the lowly recruit who ever refers to himself as “I.” A hat is now a cover, walls are now bulkheads, the floor is now the deck, left is now port and right is now starboard. The bathroom is now the head.

These traditions and vocabulary are part of the Marine Corps’ naval heritage. In the British Navy the Marine’s served as the ship Captain’s personal force on board ship to prevent mutiny. The Marines would also go up into the yardarms during a conflict and serve as sharpshooters as well as serving as landing parties. This tradition of having Marines aboard Navy vessels continues to this day. In general Marines hate being a Department of the Navy. Right or wrong they are unofficially taught to have a healthy lack of respect/use for any of the other Armed Forces, especially the Navy. We just need them to get us where we were going. But Navy Corpsmen are different. The corpsmen assigned to Marine units are given the same respect given to other Marines because they have earned it in combat time and again.

At 5:00 a.m. sharp one of the DIs threw one of the heavy metal trash cans down the middle of the squad bay and all four came yelling and screaming loud enough to wake the dead. I unwisely decided I would stay in bed, that I needed a few more winks. I quickly realized that what I wanted mattered not at all. The DI pushed me mattress and all off the top bunk onto the hard concrete deck. I never made that mistake again. We stood on line in the position of attention wearing nothing but our new boxers and t-shirts. Day one would not be fun.

June 1, 2009

Parris Island: Part 1

Coming aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island (there is another Recruit Depot in San Diego but they don’t really count) is a descent into a physical and mental maelstrom from which I was sure I would never escape. For every new recruit it is a perilous journey down a dark dangerous road with no streetlights, no road signs. He/she (they also train Women Marines at Parris Island) is left with only their will to endure. As soon as the bus stopped a very angry red-faced staff sergeant rushed aboard insisting we were only fecal matter, making deprecating remarks about our mothers and the uncertainty as to who fathered us. He loudly insisted with great vigor that we get the hell off his bus and step into the yellow footprints (painted with the heels together and the feet splayed at the all important 45 degree angle) on the asphalt. Then it was through the infamous door with the sign above it which reads “Through This Portal Pass Prospects For The World’s Finest Fighting Force UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS.” Personally it was more akin to a descent into Dante’s Inferno.
Upon arrival everything familiar is deliberately either taken away or modified as part of the process of breaking us down so they could mold us their own image. One of the processors wrote what looked like “bEll” on my hand. It was my platoon number. I was to join First Battalion, A Company, Platoon 1139. Following the initial haircut (during which the mad barbers rendered us bald in about the time it takes to sneeze) the real dislocation began to set in. All our clothing and belongings were put into storage until our graduation or pre-graduation discharge. It was a time of transition for the Corps so we were issued four uniforms, two of the old solid green sateens and two of the new standard camouflage.
By this time I had been up for two days with no sleep and was in just the right condition for the indoctrination to begin. The old/young me was ready to be replaced by a physically fit, aggressive, confident young man who bore little resemblance to the drifting, undisciplined, long haired slacker. I eventually discovered much later that while I did change in many ways the demons that were to haunt me for years to come were very much alive and well beneath the spit and polish exterior. In the Corps I found many kindred spirits willing to tag along on the road to addiction and disintegration. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Parris Island.
After being issued all the other gear we would need for the next three months it was time to meet our drill instructors. 

Here is a photo of me some time after graduation. I am flanked by my brother Terry (shirtless) on the left  and an old family friend, Charlie Wolf, on the right.

May 26, 2009


I am writing the next post detailing my journey through Parris Island. It's a lot to cover so please be patient. Here are a few photos you might see.

The third head from the left is mine.

May 18, 2009

From Girlie Man To Manly Man

This photo was taken in the summer of 1977 just prior to starting my senior year in high school. In September 1977 (I had just turned 17 in August) I quit high school and joined the United States Marine Corps. You could actually do that in those days but you had to score higher on the entrance tests than a graduate. I arrived at Parris Island, S.C. on December 6, 1977 for what was the most interesting and difficult experience of my young life. The second photo was taken in February 1978 just prior to graduation from USMC boot camp at Parris Island. Needless to say the barbers had fun with me. In about a minute all the hair was on the floor to be swept up with all the others like the dregs of childhood.

I’m not sure why I took such a radical step. I was skipping school, drinking heavily (we were often in the ABC store parking lot waiting for them to open) and smoking all the marijuana I could inhale. I was very much a social outcast in high school and had very few friends. School was boring. I could do the work without much effort but had no interest in being seen as someone who actually cared about their grades. Life was beginning to spiral out of control.

I wanted a real challenge, wanted to prove myself, wanted to be a man. My decision shocked everyone and almost everyone said I could never do it. Once my mother recovered from her initial shock she was very supportive and kept her fears under control. Most everyone saw me as a very shy, introverted loner (which I was) with no real potential (there they were wrong).

The train and bus journey from Waynesboro, Virginia to Parris Island ended at about 3:00 a.m. A Drill Instructor stormed onto the bus and thus began a journey that in many ways will end only with my death. It was the beginning of my voyage of discovery, the initiation into manhood, the making of a warrior. It is a journey with many twists and turns and a very sad ending. More later.

May 14, 2009

The Blessing Of Friendship

This morning I traveled about five miles up the road to visit a friend (that's him in the photo) I haven’t seen since the first of the year. We worked together at the sheriff’s office and were two of the twenty-eight fired by the new chief law enforcement officer. I was there for a mere ten years; he was there for thirty-five years and served under three different sheriffs.

We sat and talked for several hours about old times and about what’s going on at the office now. We both realized that in many ways being fired was a tremendous blessing. He was the Chief Deputy and I was the Public Information Officer. We were both on call 24/7 and most days the job dominated our lives. Not being tethered to a pager and a cell phone all the time gave us the opportunity to catch our breath, to enjoy life at a much slower pace.

When we moved into this house three years ago he was one of the men who showed up with truck and trailer and made what could have been a hellish day almost pleasant. After we got settled he also came over several weekends and helped me renovate our guest bathroom. Part of his job as Chief Deputy was being the heavy. He meted out the discipline and could be a terror when the situation called for it. He was a very astute, pragmatic, survivor and a little rough around the edges at times. But it was his job and he did it to the best of his ability. Out in the community he had a reputation as a hard nosed, almost Machiavellian character.

He and I never locked horns. We had our disagreements and there were times when we didn’t stay in the same room together for very long, but it was always work, never personal. As I sat there talking to him I realized how much I enjoyed his company. He is a few years older but he’s also a country boy and on many levels we seem to understand each other. I also realized how wrong most people’s perception of him is/was. He was/is no saint by any means but he is a husband, father and grandfather committed to his family. He knows most everyone in the county and has helped a great many of them over the years. When I worked as a newspaper reporter prior to join the sheriff’s office I was aware of his reputation as a ball-buster (pardon the term), as an almost mythic figure with legendary fits of rage. Time and time to reflect have mellowed him. Well maybe not mellowed, but allowed the real Charlie to come out.

We were talking about photography and how I liked photographing old buildings in the county. He knew of an old church close by that I had never seen so we drove out in his truck and took some pictures. We enjoyed it so much we’ll do it again next week. And he didn’t say anything about the beard. What a friend.

May 11, 2009

A Bittersweet Birthday

Saturday was a most bittersweet day. We were celebrating my niece’s seventh birthday at a private pool in one of the local subdivisions when a horrible accident occurred. It was all family except for a classmate of the birthday girl who was there with his mom and his younger brother and sister. My sister-in-law was going to grill hotdogs so she fired up a small grill that sat on the concrete well away from the pool.

The younger brother (probably no more than a year old), of the classmate was wandering (and wondering?), around playing in the sun. Suddenly he started screaming. He found the hot grill. There were six adults present and five children all told. For just a second he slipped below everyone’s radar and went straight for the thing that would hurt him the most.

His mother took him to the local emergency room and we later learned he was carried by air ambulance to the regional burn hospital in Augusta, GA. He suffered second degree burns on both hands. Surgery was performed Sunday morning. The surgeons used artificial skin to cover the wounds and reported that the damage to his hands was not as bad as originally believed. It’s not much consolation but fortunately the boy is so young his body will do miraculous things in healing him. He will most likely never remember the event and additional surgeries will help with the scarring.

My sister-in-law is wracked by guilt believing that the accident is her fault. I’m sure the mother is feeling much the same. The mother called my sister in law and told her not to worry that it was not her fault and there are no hard feelings. It was a most noble gesture on her part to resist the temptation to place blame, to lash out in anger.

Please pray for everyone involved in this terrible situation. My sister-in-law is already facing a number of major life issues. Because of some on-going health issues she is facing the prospect of permanent disability and can no longer work. This is the last thing she needed to worry about. Her name is Carrie and her daughter (the birthday girl) is Catherine. Please raise them up in prayer as you also pray for the boy and his family.

May 8, 2009

Happy Birthday To The Artist

This photo was taken when Sophia was about 5 or 6.

Our youngest daughter Sophie celebrated her tenth birthday yesterday. She is very much an artist and took these photos on the way home from school yesterday. I will post some of her other photos at The Bosom Serpent.

Sophie is a wonderful child who enjoys playing her Nintendo DS, her Wii, dancing, reading Archie comics, her 40+ Webkinz, being goofy and taking her best friend Bunny everywhere. Sophie, is loving, tender hearted and a joy to be around. The Lord has blessed us with such a treasure.

It is very hard to believe that next year she will be a fifth grader. She is growing tall and slender with blue eyes, fair skin, freckles and increasingly thick blonde hair. Sophie is very proud to be into double digits but insists that she is still very much a kid. We agree and hope she stays that way for a very long time.