The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Music: James Hooker's "Hanging Out with the Boys"

I saw this over at Big Hollywood. At BH Lisa Mei Norton has an interview with James Hooker and presents videos of a couple of his great pro military songs. Hooker was one of the original founding members of one of my all time favorite groups--the Amazing Rhythm Aces. He began writing his album of pro military, patriotic songs after 9/11 and says he wrote "Hanging Out with the Boys" (which is the title track of the album) "for all the vets."

Another Memorial Day Post

My high school bud Bob Bell sent me several great Memorial Day cartoons; here's a couple I really like...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reprise: Memorial Day: WWII Hero Audie Murphy Remembered

This entry was posted last Memorial Day, 2010. The reason why more people have viewed it than any of my other posts is simple: the subject, WWII hero, Audie Murphy. I enjoyed researching and writing this post about one of the heroes of my adolescence. 

What do you do if you're a poor farm boy in North Texas in the late 30's and your dad deserts the family? If you're an honorable and responsible young man with a sense of duty like Audie Murphy, you quit school and go to work, plowing and picking cotton for a dollar a day. To help put food on the table, he became very accurate with a hunting rifle (he killed squirrels and rabbits and other small game).

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Murphy, then 16, tried to enlist in the military but was rejected for being under the age of 18. A year later, when he was 17, his sister adjusted his birth date so he appeared to be 18. When he entered the Army, he was 5 foot 5 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. Because of his size he was turned down by the Marines, the paratroopers, and the Navy. The Army accepted him.

Not only did he have a slight build and a baby face, he seemed to be weak physically. He passed out during a closer order drill and generally gave the impression that he might not be able to deal with the rigors of combat. His company commander tried  to get him transferred into cook and baker school. But he insisted on a combat assignment. Finally his superiors relented and he was sent to North Africa to receive training with the 3rd Army for the invasion of Italy. As the invasion progressed and Allied Forces moved into France, Murphy proved that he was right and they were wrong. He became America's most decorated soldier in WWII. 

Wikipedia reports that in August of 1944 in France
Murphy's best friend, Lattie Tipton (referred to as "Brandon" in Murphy's book To Hell and Back), was killed by a German soldier in a machine gun nest who was feigning surrender. Murphy went into a rage, and single-handedly wiped out the German machine gun crew which had just killed his friend. He then used the German machine gun and grenades to destroy several other nearby enemy positions. For this act, Murphy received the Distinguished Service Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor).
Over the last few months of 1944, he received two Silver Stars for his bravery in action and a promotion to Second Lieutenant and Company Commander. In January of 1945, in two feet of snow and 14 degree temperature he took his unit (at an effective strength of 19 out of 128) into battle at Holtzwhir France.  Realizing they were hopeless outmanned by the advancing German tanks and infantry, Murphy sent his men to the rear and proceeded to use the phone to direct artillery fire. 

But that was just the beginning.  What he did in the battle of Holtzwhir was the kind of deed that legends spring from. For his brave and heroic actions that day, he received the nation's highest military honor: The Medal of Honor. To read a very detailed account of Murphy's determined stand that day, read this pdf file of a 1997 Fort Hood newspaper article. Phillip Washburn, author of the article, says,
The one undisputed fact is that Audie L. Murphy performed some of the most heroic acts under fire of any soldier-citizen in American history. On the battlefields of Sicily, Italy and France, Murphy earned every medal for valor his country could give, including medals from the French and Belgium governments. Murphy is credited with killing approximately 240 enemy soldiers and, out of 16 million who served, he is the most decorated combat soldier of World War II.
After the war Murphy became a Hollywood star and appeared in over 40 movies. The 1955 movie based on his autobiography and starring a reluctant Murphy himself, To Hell and Back, was the top grossing picture for MGM until "Jaws" came along. He also starred in "The Red Badge of Courage," "No Name on the Bullet," "Destry," "Drums Across the River," "The Cimmaron Kid," "The Duel at Silver Creek," "The Quiet American," etc. He wrote more than 17 country and western songs and was inducted into the Country Music Association of Texas Hall of Fame. His songs were recorded by artists such as Eddy Arnold,  Dean Martin, Teresa Brewer, Roy Clark, Charlie Pride, and Jerry Wallace.

Though all of his honors, commendations, and his successful career in the movies were enough to make most men vain, Audie Murphy retained his humility. Take a listen to this radio interview from 1963.

Here's a picture of the Audie Murphy and Hunt County Veteran's Memorial in Greeneville, Texas. On our last trip to North Texas to visit our son and his family, we stopped off at the Memorial to pay our respects to one of America's greatest military heroes and to the other fallen soldiers named there.

Murphy was killed in a plane crash in 1971. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery and his gravesite is the second most visited site in the cemetery (JFK's is first).

Audie Murphy's Military Medals

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star (with oak leaf cluster)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star (with oak leaf cluster and Valor device)
Purple Heart (with two oak leaf clusters)
U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (with First Oak Leaf Cluster)
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France)),
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany Clasp)
Armed Forces Reserve Medal

French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de guerre
French Legion of Honor - Grade of Chevalier
French Croix de guerre (with Silver Star),
French Croix de guerre (with Palm)
Medal of Liberated France
Belgian Croix de guerre (with 1940 Palm)
Additionally, Murphy was awarded:
the Combat Infantry Badge,
Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar,
Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar

Update: Thanks to SSG(R) George K. Keck for info regarding the correct way to display the 3rd Army Patch. I couldn't make the change in the photo above, but here is the correct version:
SSG Keck also has a website, The Audie Murphy National Fan Club, with much more info and many pics.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Most Colossal Post Ever!

A Fatback Post

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a Dapper Dan Post

Hey guys. As you probably have guessed by now, I got nothin' today.

P.S. Don't you love going to the movies and sitting through about five minutes of that kind of pre picture ego tripping, profit hiding crapola that they stick up there on the front of the film?

P.P.S. Animals were actually harmed in the making of this blog entry. Approximately 12 treacherous and irritating squirrels (I lost count after the 7th one) met an untimely end during the preparation of this super colossal post.  There was lots of blood.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stormy Night in the Hollow

Last night we watched TV for awhile (an old William Holden movie from 1950 called Union Station) and then, before going to bed, decided we should probably check the weather. Earlier that afternoon, I'd seen an internet weather report for our area that said there was a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms with high winds. When we flipped over to the local channels, it was about 11:30 PM and all the weather guys and gals were going strong about a line of thunderstorms that was moving very fast across Middle Tennessee. They put the radar track on it which indicated that it would be arriving in our area in about 10 minutes.

Joyce and I went quickly into our storm emergency mode. She got candles and some bottle water from the kitchen upstairs and I raced upstairs to our bedroom on the 3rd floor. The wind was rising quickly and I saw lightning flashes through the upstairs back windows as I retrieved my cell phone and billfold. Joyce and I both met at the door to the stairs which led back down to the Family/TV room on the basement level (this is also where our storm shelter is located). As we started down the stairs we heard a terrific roar of wind and then a crash.

After the winds had died down some we went out on the deck with flashlights and although we couldn't see that well, we could make out a big tree limb on our front deck. Next morning, I went outside to check on the damage.

First, let me show you a picture of our front deck in normal times (click on the pics to make them larger)....

Now, here's a pic taken this morning from close to the same position (if you look closely, you can make out one of the chairs under the tangle of limbs)...

I walked out in the front yard and got a pic from another angle. Our house (38 years old now, and counting) is a chalet style with a 12/12 pitch roof. That's the peak you can see sticking up above the limb of the fallen tree.

You can see from the pic above and from the one below that there were two separate sections of the tree involved. One fell on the deck and its upper limbs mashed up against our six front windows. (None were broken.) The other part of the tree fell on the roof. We're pretty sure there's no damage to the roof, but we won't know for sure until the tree guys remove the tree.

So, it was a pretty scary night here in the hollow. There were 5 more trees down in other parts of our yard as well. What hit us wasn't a tornado, but some very fast straight line winds (apparently in the 50-70 mph range). We've already quite a few powerful storms this spring and most seem to come at night. When you can't see very much or are half asleep when the roaring wind wakes you up, the anxiety level can rise pretty high.

It's been a stormy spring all over the midwest and south. I read yesterday that the total number of deaths in the Joplin, Missouri, tornado was more than 120. And on Oklahoma blog friend Staci's website yesterday, she posted some pics of what a tornado did to some of her kin's house in Hinton, Oklahoma. We're lucky so far that we haven't had anything near as bad as the folks in Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama have experienced.

Joyce and I will be happy to welcome those hot muggy days of summer and leave this stormy spring behind.

UPDATE: Staci visited Hinton, Oklahoma, to see her cousin and husband and to help out. She has a new post with pics of the devastation caused by the tornado.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three for a Rainy, Gray Tuesday

When I started putting this post together earlier in the day, it was gray and overcast with sprinkles of rain falling. But after we returned from Joyce's 9th Taxol treatment (1 more to go!), the sun had come out. She's asleep now as I wrap this thing up. Today's post presents what I think are some really fine song lyrics; the first and the last have a late '60s early '70s folksie vibe in and of themselves, but the second, a Hoagy Carmichael song, gets that same vibe from the performer, Dave Van Ronk. 

Tom Russell is a California born singer, painter, novelist, opera composer, and songwriter, who's frequently identified as a Tex-Mex singer. He once was inspired when hearing a recording by Nina Simone on a jukebox to write a song about her. The lyric is beautiful and poetic without being overwrought, the Spanish trumpets and the cello are stunning, and you may disagree, but I think the evocative images on the video make this whole thing one damn fine artistic experience.
Remember Dave Van Ronk? Van Ronk was a friend of Bob Dylan in the early days and a noted folksinger, songwriter himself. I used to really like his version of "Bird on a Wire" but I couldn't find it on Youtube. But I like his version of the old Hoagy Carmichael song, "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out," just as much. This is another interesting video too.

I couldn't find Van Ronk's version of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire," but I did find this excellent take on the song by non other than Johnny Cash. The video here just features the lyrics, but I like they way they are presented.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lady Gaga and the Top 5 Beautiful Cars from the '50s

Today, I'm giving you my picks for the top 5 most beautiful cars of the '50s. I'm not talking about the best made, the best engineered, or the ones with the most powerful engines, etc. I'm just talking here about the beauty of the package.

This is the absolute perfect list because...well, just because. You can disagree with me, but, you'll be wrong. But only because it's my list. If you do disagree, however, and wish to nominate some other car, let me know. I'm interested in your opinion about a car that should be on the list but isn't or why one of my cars shouldn't be on there.

5. Let's start with number 5, the bottom car on my list, the '57 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 door hardtop. It especially looks good in black, but here's a nice one in blue and white.

Many will be upset with me for putting it at the bottom. Actually, I almost didn't put it on the list at all and then when I finally decided to include one of that particular generation of Chevys, I almost went with the '56.

When this car came out in the fall of 56, I went to see it at a Chevrolet dealership in Nashville; they had all the new models in a big tent just outside the main building. I liked the Chevy at the time, but thought it was more of a 3rd year facelift, which it was. The '57 Ford on the other hand had an all new body style that really caught my eye. Over time though, the look of the Chevy grew on me and I came to appreciate the '57 facelift as a subtly and deftly done perfection of an already good design. All the details and features look like they belong there, they're not just added on doodads.

4. My number four car came out in the fall of 1955. The 1956 Chrysler 300B was the second model to bear the 300 designation and the famous Virgil Exner design is practically flawless. From the big, European inspired split grill, to the fully integrated fins housing those tall cathedral taillights, this is a beautiful car. This particular car is part of a collection owned by Richard Carpenter from the top seller 1970's group The Carpenters.

3. From a design standpoint, my number three car, the '57 Plymouth Fury, was arguably the best looking car of all in '57. The fins that looked like they were add ons in '56, were made an integral part of the design in that glorious Chrysler year of 1957 when all of their Exner designed products took the auto world by storm. I read somewhere that the styling heads at GM in particular were really pissed that Chrysler had caught them so flat footed.

2. My number two best looking car from the '50s goes back to the 1953 model year. The '53 Studebaker Starliner hardtop is to me one of the top designs of th '50s. I'm not alone in that view; from Wiki: "The '53 Starliner [is] recognized today as "one of the most beautiful cars ever made." Raymond Loewy claimed credit for the design but several people dispute that; some even attribute the design to Exner who worked with Lowey and at Studebaker before going over to Chrysler. Whoever did it, it's a stunning car. My Grandpa Huggins had one just like this first pic and I was bowled over when I first saw it. This car was truly ahead of its time.

And now the most beautiful '50s car, the top car on my list. The '58 Buick...

Ahhh. I gotcha. I don't really think the '58 Buick is most beautiful car of the '50s, but it's the most something. There's enough chrome on that rear quarter panel and bumper pod to make a Lady Gaga bra. I actually hate to use a pic of a performer who IMHO is all about publicity, but here goes. It just might boost my traffic for today.

Come to think of it, she does look a little like a '58 Buick.

1. Okay, enough of that. Here's my real number one pic, the '55 Lincoln Continetal. A classic design in any era. John Reinhart was the stylist and his design used little chrome in comparison to other cars of the '50s. I won't say anything else about it because the clean simple lines of this beauty say what words can't.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've had some great teachers and mentors over the years. The thoughts they gave me that have stayed with me were always the simple, direct ones.

My Papa Jewell took me on a walk one time when I was about eight or nine. We passed the old stone steps to nowhere which were all that remained of an old Baptist church that had burned many years before. After awhile, we left the road and cut through an abandoned, rocky field. I remember the flat, smooth rocks and the prickly pears growing around them and the sharp blades of the Johnsongrass.

We turned at a fence row and walked along beside it to an old graveyard at the top of the hill. There were just a few grave markers in the shade of a big persimmon tree. I picked a yellowish fruit off one of the branches and told him it looked like it might be sweet, like a plum. "Why don't you give it a try?" he said. I did. Of course my mouth immediately puckered up with the bitter taste. He laughed and said, "Danny boy, sometimes pretty things ain't as good as they look."

A variation on my Papa's theme is in Shakespeare's Hamlet. After the ghost tells him his apparently loving uncle actually killed his father, Hamlet says, "One may smile, and smile, and be a villain." Sometimes people aren't as good as they appear to be. Over my lifetime, I've had to learn that lesson several times. In youth and middle age, I generally had a positive view of human nature and usually expected the best from anyone I met. Now, at this stage of my life, I'm a bit more wary and skeptical of people and their behaviors. I'm not a curmudgeon (at least I don't think I am!), and I don't always expect the worst. I simply hold on to my objectivity a bit longer and maintain a healthy suspicion until I feel comfortable in making a judgment. By the way, this is, I believe, one of the essential tenets of a conservative political philosophy.

Another thing I've learned helped me in my career as a teacher. In 1963, after a year of teaching college freshmen and grading their essays and struggling to come to a final assessment at the end of the semester, I turned to my department head for advice. He was an older man almost ready for retirement, quiet, friendly, approachable. It's funny but I have a vivid memory of the scene forty eight years ago. It was the end of the day and I remember there was a window with a venetian blind behind him and the setting sun's rays gave everything in his office a reddish, golden glow. I asked him how he made decisions about final grades for students who were on the line between two grades, say an "F" and a "D." He leaned back in his chair and said, "This may not be true for you, but I've learned from experience  it's best to decide in favor of the student. I sleep a lot better." Over the years, the times I didn't follow his advice taught me that he was right.

As a teacher I found I also learned a lot from my students. This might be a surprise to those outside the profession, but students were, in a sense, the best teachers and mentors--at least in my case. With me in class, it was always question and answer (sometimes my question, sometimes theirs), give and take, back and forth. I can honestly say that in every class, even the ones that had become somewhat "canned" over time, I was always surprised by a question I hadn't heard before or a way of looking at something I hadn't thought of before.

Try as I may, I could never play the role of "sage on the stage" that some teachers play. There's nothing wrong with this role. Some of the best teachers I had were like this and I loved them. But I had a few others who essentially said, "we're in this together, let's see what we can find out." I naturally fell into this category and was very comfortable with it.

There's another source of learning that I've found indispensable. Writing. I never truly understand what I know or believe about something until I write it down. I'm not just talking about using Wikipedia here for research, although it's certainly a valuable tool. Writing is learning for me in the sense that I have to find the appropriate words, phrases, clauses, sentences to shape my thoughts. At first my belief or knowledge is an amorphous mass. Then I begin the writing process and in that process, discover what I know or believe.

All of this is essentially why I enjoy blogging. When I blog/write about something, I learn about it. And then when I visit other blogs and read their posts and the comments they elicit, I'm learning even more.  I know what you're probably going to say next. There's a lot of misinformation out there on the Web. That's certainly true.

But it's not true of the blogs I read.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lone Star Blues

This Delbert McClinton song is in a category I'd call "Funny Blues." It goes back a few years (single in 2002) but something about the "Jack in the box" story it tells still makes you want to party. The guy in the song is pushed down over and over but just like the old Jack in the box, he always bounces right back up. The video is pretty cool too with cameos by several country stars.

Dontcha like all those triple rhymes?

I drew a bull called Original Sin 
I heard he'd killed a couple of men 
I figured this was somethin' I could win 
Cause the devil was on my side 
Got a friend there turning knobs 
At a place called Billy Bob's
He said he could get me a job there
Workin' as a bouncer

First night on the job was just insane
Some ol' boy got all deranged
Hit me in the head with a Harley chain 

To this day my ears still ring 

The Harley chain reminds me of something from a long time ago that involved such a homemade (but very dangerous) weapon, but I won't go there this early on a Monday morning. As the narrator says, "I got all I know to do, tryin' to lose--these Lone Star Blues."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Ketchup

I stopped blogging for awhile. Just needed a break. Some ketchup things:

Joyce is doing great on the second drug in her regimen, taxol. It's much less debilitating to her than the first one. She only has three more treatments left (three weeks) and is looking forward to regaining her life. We're planning on doing a little celebrating.

Thanks to Bob Bell (proud owner of the beautiful 55 Buick convertible pictured in earlier posts), I've reconnected with my classmates from the 1958 graduating class of Isaac Litton High School. They have a monthly dinner and an annual summer picnic. It's been great to meet and talk to people I haven't seen in fifty years.

The season's finally over for the Preds. They lost to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Their playoff run got me a little more interested in the great sport of hockey and with Buck's and Canadian blogger-friend Deb's help, maybe I'll learn more about the game next season.

Mindless Bureaucratic Wealth Redistribution

There's an article in yesterday morning's online Tennessean which reports that the TN Technology Center in Nashville will no longer offer student loans. The default rate was at 16% and was in danger of jumping to 23%.

After reading the following, I'm not sure why the Nashville Tech Center offered student loans as long as they did:
Under federal guidelines, schools that offer student loans cannot refuse a loan to any student who applies for one, nor can they run background checks to see if someone is going to be a bad credit risk. Yet the institution is held responsible for students who don’t make their payments.
The educational institution can't refuse a loan...can't run background checks on applicants...but is responsible for students who don't make their payments. I'm sure all of these "guidelines" were written  with good intentions to help students, but shouldn't we at least be sensible about it and allow background checks and loan refusals. Without those safeguards we might as well just publicly say: "Come to college, get free money." Geez, I'm an English Teacher, not an economist, but I think I can see where those common  sense safeguards would be a good idea. With them you're still helping students--just not those that will more than likely default.

Who writes these federal regulations and "guidelines" (I just love that word), and how did congress come up with such nonsense anyway? Can you imagine, if financial institutions had to operate that way, what a disaster it would be? Oh. Wait. They did operate that way through the mid '90s right on up to the current recession. And didn't they get in trouble with soaring default rates on mortgages, etc.? I'm thinking here of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and some of the large banks that got in trouble. I'm not sure about McDonalds' Big Mac. Did they get a bailout too?

It's just this kind of BS that's contributed to the fat, bloated, gargantuan government bureaucracy we have today. Congressional staffs spend weeks planning this stuff, more weeks writing it, then our representatives debate it (many times without reading all of it) and modify it and add more BS and a hefty amount of pork to it before they finally pass it on to the president who gets his picture made while signing something he probably hasn't read either.

In a business situation, one asks the basic question: can I pay for this? Is that too hard for our representatives to understand? They look down their morally superior noses and say: "You're a greedy, heartless, corporate shill who is blocking progress. It's not about the money, it's about building a better society and helping the less fortunate."

I say BS. High moral intentions don't pay the bills. Moralizing rhetoric doesn't pay the bills. We pay the bills. Therefore, we have to bring government back down to a much more manageable size. Instead of using a scalpel and removing a few wasted and unnecessary billion, let's use the Paul Ryan chain saw with those trillion dollar cutting teeth and rip this thing up.

Maybe I'm becoming a libertarian in my dotage, but I'm thinking that there are only a few things the federal government needs to be doing: provide a strong defense, operate the FBI, pave the interstates, administer a trimmed down social security program, and perhaps do some minimal regulation of water, food, and medicine. But as I said earlier, I'm suspicious of any kind of regulation. I like the planet I live on as much as any freaking activist in the Earth Liberation Front or even Saint Gore, but look what the EPA has done, for example, and continues to do to prevent us from utilizing our own fossil fuel resources.

It truly makes my blood pressure rise when I think about the kind of country my grandkids are going to inherit. If those Federal agencies keep meddling and if those bland officious bureaucrats keep writing Federal Regs and Guidelines (!), the US will soon turn into California.

Of course we could always appoint a federal commission to study the problem and made recommendations.