The Cumberland Post

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

This year marks the tenth year I've been retired.

In that decade, Joyce and I have counted ten birthdays. We've added a grandchild and two great grandchildren. We've traveled to Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Delaware. I've lost both my parents. We bought a Jaguar XK8. We sold a Jaguar XK8. We've reunited with old friends from college and high school, joked, laughed, suffered, and cried. In short, we have lived.

In short, indeed.

Looking at a coming decade as it approaches, ten years seems a very long time.

But looking back on the same decade, the span of ten years seems breathtakingly short, brief as the light from a wooden match.

Why is that?

Where does the time go?

Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving...

In your youth, time creeps. That hour before school lets out seems interminable. Adolescent time crawls slowly along, tortoise like, in spite of your attempts to lean into it, to push it forward faster and faster toward the world of adult possibility.

But once you grow into that adult world, once you're in your early twenties, it's like jumping on a bullet train as it hurtles through the unknown at near warp speed. You struggle to get your balance and then hang on for dear life as the train flies down the corridor of time. The days blur into weeks and months and years.

You're so caught up in the rush of days and nights you barely notice the seasons turning. Forty years pass. You see four decades in the rear view mirror. But it's one of those weird mirrors where everything is changed, the time that is reflected back at you seems much shorter than it was. The four decades are four hours now. And then one day you reach for a cup of coffee and you see your hand is wrinkled and it shakes a bit. You look in that weird mirror at your own image and you're 60.

You try to keep your balance as things begin to slow. But the momentum you've built up carries you along, rapidly at first, and then slower and slower...64....65.....66. And then finally at 70 you slow down. Way down. Almost to a stop. And you look back.

Everything you've experienced, everything you've done seems to have gone by so quickly it makes you motion sick. Everything is spinning around fast but your head is spinning slower. The significance of an individual moment, the importance of that big meeting, the heat of your anger during that confrontation, all of it has been peeled away by the headlong and furious rush toward entropy.

In these slower days of remembrance and the sometimes futile attempts to make it all make sense, you may doubt if the journey itself had meaning. It's quite possible, you say, that it was a journey full of sound and fury which signified nothing.

But you were there, by God. You were living it. Think back. That one frightening at bat in Little League which turned into a home run trot. And that time on a spring night on Reservoir Hill, when you popped the question. That all day oral and written qualifying exam. That time when the rotten proscenium curtain fell an hour before opening night. That risky speech to the division which changed your life.

Think what you will now, those things and a thousand others just like them meant everything at the time. 

And it was good and bad. Bitter and sweet. And there was love. And children. And though parts might have been rough and you made mistakes, you picked up the slack, you forgave and were forgiven. You dug in and took a stand and fought the battles that needed to be fought.

But damn, it all went fast.

Where did the time go?

Who knows?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know, it's time for them to go...

"Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire."
                                                                                      Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Some Wicked Weather This Way Comes

Right now, the sun is shining and it looks beautiful outside. But it's a cold 34 degrees F with an 8 mph wind out of the North. And there's this:

Winter Weather Advisory

1000 AM CST THU JAN 24 2013



Monday, January 21, 2013

Rocks, Carl Sawatski, and P-47 Jugs

Our family moved from the small town of Watertown to East Nashville in 1947. At first our house was one of only a few on the street, and there were no other kids around. The first couple of years we lived there, the street was unpaved, and since the street went up a steep hill, ruts formed and rocks and gravel would wash down the hill. We lived in the second house on the left at the bottom of the hill, and from '47-'49 there were no houses across the street and down the hill from us. I frequently took an old baseball bat out there and picked up rocks and knocked them down the hill into the vacant lot on the corner.

In my mind, I played out various scenarios with the bat and the rocks. Sometimes I was Joe Dimaggio or Stan "the Man" Musial. Many times I was local Nashville Vols hero, Carl "Swish" Sawatski, a journeyman catcher who later played with the Cubs and Braves and several other major league teams. 1949 was his glory year in the minors; he led the Southern League with 45 homers and hit .360 for the Vols. My aunt Katy had a big crush on him and took me to see him in a game at Sulphur Dell that year.

In my daydreams, the bases were usually loaded in the bottom of the 9th and I would knock the rock out of the park.

Sometimes I would be looking up at the rock in its flight and see some fast fighter airplanes flying over from the National Guard Unit at Nashville's Berry field.

When that happened, my baseball daydream scenario ended, and I immediately sat down in the grass and watched the planes. In those years the Guard mostly flew these babies.

P-47 Thunderbolts

They did sound like their Thunderbolt name -- an interminable cracking rumble of thunder -- and I could imagine what the Japanese or Germans felt when they heard that sound. More on the P-47s in a moment.

In those days, there was another military airfield fairly close by in Smyrna, TN (Sewart AF Base), and frequently I saw all of the following aircraft flying over or circling the area:

C-46 Commando 
C-82 Packet (first of the "flying boxcars")
C-119 Flying Boxcar
 And or course I saw lots of these: C-47s (military version of the DC-3)

Hitting rocks with a baseball bat was great fun, but watching the planes from the nearby airbases was sometimes even better, especially when three or four P-47s flew over in formation. I didn't know much about  the Guard unit at Berry field then or about the planes themselves.

Today, of course, wiki answers all my old questions about stuff like this. For example, here's what wiki says about the Guard unit at what was then called Berry field:

The Air National Guard presence at BNA dates back to 1937, when the 105th Observation Squadron, a U.S. Army Air Corps-gained element of the Tennessee National Guard initially took up residence at the airport. With the advent of World War II, the squadron was called into active Federal service as a U.S. Army Air Forces unit and transitioned to a bombardment mission flying the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber in the Pacific theater. At war's end and into the immediate postwar period, the unit transitioned to a fighter mission flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. With the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service in 1947, the unit was redesignated the 118th Fighter Group. Subsequent redesignations occurred in 1950 as the 118th Composite Wing and in 1953 as the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, during which time the unit operated the F-51 Mustang, RF-80 Shooting Star and RF-84 Thunderflash while operationally gained by the Tactical Air Command (TAC).[1]

As to the Thunderbolts, wiki explains that pilots called them "Jugs" because their profile resembled a popular milk jug at the time. And there's this:

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single piston engine.[3][verification needed] It was heavily armed with eight .50-caliber machine guns, four per wing. When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to eight tons, and in the fighter-bomber ground attack roles could carry five inch rockets or a significant bomb load of 2,500 pounds; over half the weight the B-17 bomber could carry on long-range missions (although the B-17 had a far greater range). The P-47, based on the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine, was to be very effective as a short-to-medium range escort fighter in high-altitude air-to-air combatand, when unleashed as a fighter-bomber, proved especially adept at ground attack in both the World War II European and Pacific Theaters.

I won't get into the debate as to which was better, P-51 Mustang or the heavy and heavily armored Thunderbolt, except to repeat this from wiki:

In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe in the critical period of January–May 1944.[20]

As wing fuel tanks increased the Thunderbolts' range, the AF recognized that the plane could serve as a fighter bomber, escorting larger bombers to their targets and then bombing and strafing targets on their return home.

Here's a video of P-47s in actual World War II combat footage.

I still remember knocking the crap out of those rocks in front of our house back in the late '40s, and I still remember Carl Sawatski and the other Nashville Vol baseball players I admired in those innocent times. And sometimes now, if I'm out in the backyard on a summer evening and hear the sound of a piston engine plane, I think of those old P-47s flying fast across the summer sky.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why Today, January 20th, Is the Most Important Day

No, it's not because of the inauguration.

In 1940, out somewhere in a remote rural section of Giles county, a baby girl entered the world. The snow that had fallen throughout the night was so deep the midwife was almost late, but she got there just in time.

Baby Betty Joyce G was born.

Early on, her family learned she was a sweet little girl but that once she made up her mind she would not be deterred. "We'll see" became her favorite phrase. Somebody would say, "You can't do that," and she would say, "We'll see."

She was something of a Tomboy and played football with the boys and sometimes helped her father change the plugs in the car. She and her older sister Helen rode "Old Bobby" bareback in the pasture, chasing after bad cowboys or renegade Indians.

In her youth and adolescence she touched many, many people with her unbelievable coloratura soprano singing voice. In high school she was recruited into the local college's choir and sang all over the state.
When she sang "O Holy Night," and hit that note on the word "divine," everybody felt it, believed it. And in college when she was asked to sing at the local community clubs (Lions, Rotary, etc.), and sang "Love Is a Many Splendid Thing," or "Indian Love Call," or "Summertime," she frequently did as many as five encores.

In her freshman year in college she met a young green guy from the city who somehow, someway managed to catch her eye. I was that lucky guy.

Throughout her life, she's been tough, a fighter. When she was in her late teens, a doctor told her she might not be able to have children; she said, "We'll see." Our son, Barry, was born in 1961.

When people discouraged her from trying to finish her bachelor's degree while working, she said, "We'll see." After she finished that degree, and was pursuing her M.A.while on leave, they said, "it'll be too much for you since your mother is also very sick." She said, "We'll see." She not only finished the degree but had a 4.00 average in all her graduate work. And, since she lived closer than most of the other siblings, she also took very good care of her mother during her terminal bout with heart disease.

When she designed and implemented a new remedial/developmental program that involved computer instruction for the college where we worked, many faculty members and some administrators said it wouldn't work. She said, "We'll see." You can guess by now how that turned out. Eight years after the program started, it was selected as a Center for Excellence in Tennessee education.

When she fought through cancer and those awful sessions of chemotherapy, some might have said, "She'll lose her hair and her beauty." But by now, most people who know her, know about her drive and spirit. She did lose her hair. But after she did, she put on a nice wig. This pic was taken near the end of her chemo treatments. You can see some fatigue after that ordeal, but the beauty is still there, and if you look close, you'll recognize that "we'll see" attitude and spirit shining through.
Joyce, I'm very glad you were born back there on that cold January day. And I'm very glad you said "yes" and not "we'll see" when I asked you to marry me.

Happy Birthday, Babe.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I'm Ridin' A New Workhorse

This is the first post I've composed on the new computer. So far so good.

The new workhorse, a Gateway DX4860 UR15P with Windows 7, has a 3.0 GHz Intel Core i5 2320 processor, Intel HD graphics, a 1TB hard drive, a 4GB DDR3 memory, and a Mult-in-1 media card reader. Plus, the audio is much, much better than that on the old one.

The DX arrived around 5 PM. By 6:30 I had everything connected and pushed the power button. It worked!

After the first blue screen back in October, I signed on to Carbonite and began regular backups. I'm very glad I did that. Those backups are downloading from the Cloud as I write. All the photos, manuscripts, documents, etc. from the old machine will be restored to this new machine. The backups will take about 30 hours or so, which is fine by me since I can still use the computer as this is happening.  Also, when I downloaded Chrome and signed in, all of my bookmarks, etc. were reinstated as well.

All of this amazes me; it used to be a lot harder to start over with a new horse. This is the first time I've gone from one computer to another and been able to bring all my old stuff along.

Tomorrow morning, if the GLW (if the good Lord's willing), I'll be working on the router/booster problem. Maybe by tomorrow afternoon, our computer lives will be back on track. Maybe now I can post a little more regularly and read all the blogs on my morning list without worrying about a crash or a freeze up, or a blue screen.

The old horse (okay, I know this metaphor is wearing thin) carried me through three manuscripts and lots of pleasurable blog reading. But I won't miss her the way Cowboy singer Don Edwards misses his old horse, Old Stony. But if you pay attention to the lyric; even in his grief he notices that his new ride is doing a pretty dang good job.

Don Edwards, "West of the Round Corral."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Title Post

Our computer situation is still dire here at the Post, but we are beginning to make some progress..

There are two problems.

1. After over a month of blue screens and freeze ups, our main Gateway desk top finally died last Thursday. It was not an easy death. The dang thing started whining like Piers Morgan after his ass whipping by Ben Shapiro and then the whine turned into a screaming, high pitched banshee wail. I quickly turned off the machine. I tried CPR but it was hopeless, "Gatemouth," as he was affectionately called around our offices, had passed. Gatemouth will be buried in our backyard alongside our first computer, that old warhorse, a good for nothing but word processing DECmate named Hiccup.

The next day I drove around to different stores to see if I could find another machine with Windows 7 (I've heard nothing good from anyone so far about Windows 8, even most of the sales people have nothing good to say about it). I couldn't find a machine locally. That meant I had to shop online.

2. The second problem is that our little wireless network here at the Post depends on two components, a router and and extender. The extender boosts the signal so that our blue ray player downstairs can receive it and we can watch Netflix movies. That particular component is malfunctioning which means we can't watch Netflix and, more importantly, Joyce's laptop can't get online either..

To be able to look for a new computer online, I disconnected the old computer from the Comcast cable and hooked it up to the laptop. So we got back online.

Once online, we looked at available computers with Windows 7 and found one we liked. I made the purchase on Sunday when there were 12 of this model available. On Monday, when I checked it again, the price had increased by $120 and there was only 1 remaining. So, by buying in on Sunday I saved some cash. The computer will arrive tomorrow.

When it's in place, I'll deal with the wireless extender, which I think is still under warranty.

If all goes according to plan, we should be back to normal later this week. That'll be just Okey Dokey with us. And Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown too.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

White Freightliner Rememberin' Blues

My dad was an independent truck driver (and very much anti-union/teamster BTW). His name was Mack (a pretty good name for a truck driver, no?) and from the late '40s to 1958 he owned several makes of trucks.

Two I remember were a red International and a green Reo. Both seemed to break down a lot. But in 1953, he bought a used 3000 series White cabover. The White had a small sleeper and was rugged and tough. It was red and looked pretty much like the one in the picture below.

His old trailer, however, was, if I remember correctly, painted a faded silver color and it had a small cooler engine mounted up front on the outside which circulated air in the trailer. The cooler and a substantial amount of dry ice would keep the eggs cool enough for long distance trips.

In the late '40s he had a flatbed trailer and hauled live chickens to market. But in '53 he had the closed trailer and hauled eggs packed in cardboard cases about 24-25" long and about 14-16" high.

On Friday nights or Saturday mornings I frequently helped him unload when he returned from a trip. I can still feel the weight of a case of those eggs and smell the warehouse where we unloaded them. I got a little pocket money every time I helped unload which was a very good thing.

I can also still hear the sound of that big 6 White when he cranked it up and see him shifting and double clutching through the gears.

In the spring of 1954 I was 14 years old and we lived in the Inglewood section of East Nashville, and I was in my last year of elementary school, the eighth grade. (The new junior high in my neighborhood with grades 7, 8, and 9, opened that Fall and I attended it as a 9th grader or freshman.) My 8th grade teacher was my first male instructor, Mr. Whitley, a kind and generous man who had a big influence in my life.

I took two trips that year with my dad, one to Chicago and one to Miami. They were eye opening events to a kid who hadn't been anywhere but Nashville and Watertown, TN. I still remember my excitement when my mom talked to Mr. Whitley on the phone about the trips and whether my being absent would damage my standing at school. He said, "Let him go, by all means, let him go. He'll learn more on those trips than he will in a classroom."

And so I went. I learned at least two things: one, the world was a lot bigger than I imagined, and two, there were cities that made Nashville look like a small town.

But mostly I remember images, things that seem insignificant but for some reason stuck with me.

I remember we got into Chicago sometime after midnight and parked in a vacant lot near the warehouse where we would unload. It was spring and the night was warm. Dad got a couple of blankets and pillows out of the sleeper and spread them out under the trailer. He slept like a rock, but I lay awake most of the night listening to the sounds of the city, the wail of sirens, the roar of traffic, and the rumble of the L trains.

I think Chicago must've been more like the City in Sandburg's poem in those days. Rough, brawling, pulsing with energy. And, relatively speaking, fairly safe. I don't imagine it would be very safe to sleep outside in a vacant lot in Chicago today.

I remember two other things from that trip. First, how easily my Dad backed the truck and trailer into a narrow space at the dock where there were about 50 other trucks lined up. He didn't flinch and put that sucker right in there between two other tractor-trailers. He did it on the first try with no stops. It was a skill that amazed me. Looking back, it still does. I can't back anything with a trailer attached more than two feet without getting in trouble.

The other thing was going into a crowded little cafe near the warehouse and eating a regular sized $1.00 hamburger. I couldn't believe it cost that much and it wasn't any bigger or tastier than the cafe ones at home that cost around 40 or 50 cents.

On the Miami trip I saw the ocean for the first time. I saw orange tree groves. And ate some "authentic" Italian spaghetti. But the thing I remember most about the city was it cleanliness. The streets and sidewalks weren't dirty and dingy like Nashville's or Chicago's. Many were made of white concrete that looked like it was freshly poured. And there were motels everywhere.

Trucks are big, ugly, noisy, and ubiquitous today. But they still symbolize escape to many of us. When the stresses and pressures mount, and the flight option (as opposed to the fight one) seems attractive, the sight of a big truck out on the highway can make you want to hit the road.

I don't remember if Dad's White had the "Freightliner" name. It may have. But when I hear this great Townes Van Zandt song, I always remember those trips in the spring of 1954.

"Well it's bad news from Houston
half my friends are dyin'...
Ah lord, I'm gonna ramble
Till I get back where I came...
I'm goin' out on the highway
Listen to them big trucks whine." 

There are several videos of Lyle doing this song on you tube. My favorite was his "big band" version but it got taken down. What I liked about it, and this one shows a little of it too, was how much pleasure Lyle seems to get from the performances of the other musicians.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Home from the West

It's good to finally be back home. Our visit to TX turned into a longer stay that we earlier thought, and we enjoyed every minute with our grandkids.

But it's good to be back home in TN; sleeping in our own bed tonight will be a real pleasure.

I'm tired now, and after the 660 mile drive (even with all the planned stops) I feel like I'm still in motion, but I wanted to post this old western song we heard tonight on the Sirius Willie's Roadhouse channel. The song is ""There's a Rainbow on the Rio Colorado."

What a great singer -- Wesley Tuttle -- and what a beautiful song and melody. There's a sweet fiddle break, some nice steel guitar, and an almost but not quite cowboy yodel. And the lyric...they just don't write them like this anymore.

Happy Belated New Year everybody!