Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When It Came Time To Sit It Out Or Dance, Aunt Geraldine Danced

  When you live nearly 100 years, you have a lot of opportunity to do just that…to live.
  My Aunt Geraldine certainly took advantage of it. She lived a full life, inspiring others as she went. I went to college with one of the co-writers of award-winning song, “I Hope You Dance.” Geraldine certainly lived out the song’s lyric that reads, “When you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance…”
  I doubt Geraldine ever sat out a dance. Following doctor’s advice she danced, danced, danced…and danced some more. (But somehow, knowing her, I think she would have danced regardless of the doctor’s advice!)
  She figuratively and literally danced through life, through good times and bad, leaving in her wake a wealth of admirers, friends, memories and inspiration.
  Aunt Geraldine once told me she was on the dance floor the night Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Carl Perkins heard a young man say to his dance partner, “Don’t step on my suedes!” This was the inspiration for a rock classic. Later in life, I interviewed Perkins while working for a newspaper, and her story and his story were the same. So in my mind, I always thought it was kind of cool that my Great Aunt Geraldine was witness to rock and roll history.
  Of course, my aunt was kind of a rock star, too. Wherever she went, she had “a look,” a style that was all her own, which I also thought to be cool. Now, she would have stood out anyway, but by having her own image, even added to the magic that was my aunt.
  She really was one of a kind. I always marveled at how such a BIG personality could fit into such a small frame. She defined the word outgoing. People loved her and she loved them. She enjoyed life, and it was so obvious that strangers would want to meet her…and this happened a lot.
  “How do you do it?” they would ask. “I hope I can do that too when I’m your age.”
   When I reflect on it…she really was a big deal! (You know those, "I'm kind of a big deal" T-shirts? She coulda worn one with all honesty.)
  I think they/we were drawn to her energy like a moth to a flame. If only we could all be so lucky, to have a Geraldine Williams in our lives, an inspiration…a figure that claims: Hey, folks, this is how it’s done!
  For 40-plus years, Geraldine worked at the Corner Drug Store and believed in giving customer service with a smile. She cared for people and made them feel better just by being who she was. What a perfect match for her. It’s funny how God tends to put people where they need to be for the greatest impact.
  She successfully lived the term “single mom” before it was something on the radar of our social consciousness. Her love and loyalty to her family will always stand as an example of how it’s done. She told me of her struggles to make ends meet. Sometimes her life played songs that weren’t easy to dance to, but she never lost her step.
  Her house was always a special place for me and all other visitors. It was always wall-papered with photos of family and friends. She made you feel at home. She played baseball with me when I was young. And later in life when she was still young, in her 80’s, she played baseball with my son, Landon. The aged baseball player, Satchel Paige, often pondered, “How old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you were?” I think Geraldine would agree…one is as old as they want to be.
  She never wanted anyone to leave her home without having had something to eat or drink; and friends and family rarely left her home without hearing, “I love you,” called from the porch.
  Rest assured, I will always remember Aunt Geraldine’s dancing, but since, by no stretch of the leotard, am I a dancer. I am much more likely to first remember her laughter. It was infectious. And she told us her face had laugh lines and not wrinkles. And I hope her laughter and love for fun will haunt mine and the hearts of many for years.
  Some have told me the measure of life is how many ripples you make in The Pond. Aunt Geraldine made a lot of ripples. Her life touched so many others.
  Science tells us that all stars burn out…and it’s true. But…but, even in this death, a star’s light continues to travel through space and be seen light years away. Well, our own star Geraldine is no longer here to shine among us…but the light she left, continues to shine here on earth and in heaven. And I really think if we look for it, even in our memories, it will always help show us The Way.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Be A Muse, Inspire!

By Taylor Wilson

   It's a powerful word. In fact, it's up there atop my list of favorites, along with courage and create.
But back to inspire. It's something everyone can do. We can all do things that might inspire others. However, we seldom set that as a daily goal. Can you imagine if we were able to attack the day with the notion that, "Today, I am going to do something inspiring?"
   Can it be done day in, day out? If so, it's no easy task. Sometimes it is as songwriter Guy Clark says, "It's tough out there, a good muse is hard to find." Inspiration doesn't linger everywhere.
   But take heart, even though it isn't always hitting us all in the nose like oxygen. Inspiration can happen, and when it does...well, for lack of a better onomatopoeia, WOW! Maybe we need to be more aware? I'm certain we need to share it more. My guess is an inkling of inspiration--a small spark--in the right place, at the right time, could make all the difference in the world.
   You see, I'm a ponderer, good thing, 'cause I'm not much good at anything else. But as I do what I'm good at (pondering), I often wonder if one of the reasons we spin 'round on the famed 3rd, water-covered rock is not to do just that--inspire. Is it why we are here? (I am one of those that fails to believe we are here by accident. We are here for a reason, and just maybe that reason is to inspire someone else?)
   Stories of inspiration abound among us, and I have always thought they were worth collecting, me being an old journalist and all.
   For example:
   "On July 11th, 1936 at the Olympic Trials in New York City, famed Olympian Jesse Owens

breezed to victory in the 100 meter, the 200 meter and the long jump. The next day he met Babe Ruth at a dinner honoring the Olympic athletes. When Ruth asked Owens if he was going to win at the Olympics, Owens replied, 'I will try.'

  "The Bambino told The Buckeye Bullet, 'Everybody tries, I succeed. Why? Because I know I’m going to hit a home run just about every time I swing the bat. I’m surprised when I don’t. Because I know it, the pitchers, they know it too. KNOW, Jesse, that you will win!'"
Owens went on to Olympic fame...four gold medals in Berlin. Sure, he might have done it with or without The Babe's inspirational words, but who knows? I believe some inspiration was at work.
(Note, Star Wars fans, the similarity between what Ruth told Owens and a scene in one of the sci-fi films, the part where Yoda tells Luke, "Do or do not. There is no try!"


  The clip can make you wonder if the above story did not also inspire writer/producer George Lucas? Again, we are all linked, some philosophers say, and perhaps so are our inspirations, life lessons, and influences?)

   Again, inspiring others doesn't cost us anything. And too, it can be done by deeds as well as words or maybe, simply by a well-placed hint now and then.
   In his biography, Life, Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards tells of his grandfather, Gus's, inspirational influence.
  "...Gus was leading me subtly into getting interested in playing, rather than shoving something into

my hand and saying, 'It goes like this.' The guitar was totally out of reach. It was something you looked at, thought about, but never got your hands on. I'll never forget the guitar on top of his upright piano every time I would go visit, starting maybe from the age of five. I thought that was where the thing lived. I thought it was always there. And I just kept looking at it, and he didn't say anything, and a few years later I was still looking at it. 'Hey, when you get tall enough, you can have a go at it,' he said. I didn't find out until after he was dead that he only brought that out and put it up there when he knew I was coming to visit..." Richards wrote.

    Mortality belongs to all of us. Yet, still so many of us go to the grave having left not one ounce of inspiration behind.
   That's a shame.
   Inspire. It's a powerful word and an excellent goal for this day and all the days that follow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Swing helps dad hold on to memory

By Taylor Wilson

To the north of our house a baby blue swing clings to the limb of a maple tree.
Dang maples! Their roots run along the ground, and eat lawnmower blades for breakfast, lunch and supper. I once set out to topple every maple tree ’round our house. But as I was standing there with chainsaw in hand, my friend and neighbor, Big Joe Wills, cut me short with a few words, “Taylor, you know me and your momma planted those trees.”
Darn it! Spared, the trees grow on “in memory of,” but I sometimes wonder if my mother doesn’t laugh from above as I circle all those roots on the mower, and struggle to keep their helicopter seeds out of the swimming pool.
And, well, this one specifically-spared maple does hold up the swing.
The chains that cleave to it are rusty and the limb’s bark has swallowed the links in most spots. The swing that used to be a brilliant blue and yellow is now faded and covered with collected layers of sap. The baby has grown that I used to push in the swing and laugh at as the south wind tickled his bare feet and put him to sleep. Why, he’s so big in a decade that his foot won’t fit in the swing, much less his whole body.
The swing now looks so weather-worn that I’ve apologized to visiting friends for leaving it in the tree. They understood: “Oh, at our last house we left behind one of those tire swings shaped like a horse. As far as we know it’s still hanging up, too, hopefully still being used,” my friends sympathized.
And so our swing hangs on, to a limb and a memory.
It’s easy enough to forget, as it hangs partially hidden from the sight of our porch by the tree’s trunk. Every once in a while, I see it kind of looming there, out of the corner of my eye, and I think about taking it down. But then I always manage to prune that notion.
To do so would say many things, perhaps, some of them painful. Maybe, my action would say/prove that time marches on, that I am getting old and fat, and that our youngster is growing up, whether I want him to or not?
Or maybe I am trying to shelve time, or at the least, stall it a bit?
Oh, I mow around it, too, dodging maple roots and pushing the swing about as I go under it on the mower; but again, I just can’t bring myself to take it down. What does it say of me, that I have Peter Pan Syndrome...with an aversion for growing up?
I mean, really, it’s all just a piece of plastic, rusty chains, a growing tree, and a memory.
That it kind of hides while hanging there, behind the maple, might even offer salvation of sorts. Otherwise, Beth might make me take it down. Or maybe, just maybe, she feels the same way about the swing?
I do recall once she shared a similar sentiment. It was a time when we were ridding our son's room of “baby stuff,” going up and down the stairs with tiny clothes and toys. That’s when my wife had a similar avoid-taking-down-the-swing fit.
“I have to sit down,” she said, after a trip or two up and down the stairs carrying baby things away.
“What’s wrong, old woman?” I asked, taking a seat on a step beside here. “Are the stairs too much for you?”
“No,” she said, a tear welling and tracing her cheek. “It’s just overwhelming; he’s growing up!”
I chuckled a bit, and mumbled an understanding, but I did not tell her about the swing. (I guess I didn’t want to admit the growing truth.)
Secretly, I have pondered if the reason she has not told me to take it down is because it is kind of hidden from view? Out of sight, out of mind? Then too, it might be that she also wants it to hang around? I am afraid to ask.
You know, it’s silly when you think about it, a grown man trying to stave off time by leaving a plastic toddler swing hanging in a maple tree. But as my friends hinted, when they came over, I may not be alone. Many are the rusty swing sets I have seen in people’s backyards. Likewise, the numbers of tree houses I have seen rot away outnumber those that were torn down at an apropos time.
And what does it hurt, hanging there—my vain attempt to put a pause button on a time warp? Our children really do grow up fast!
Still, it’s a security swing, if not blanket. It gives me comfort just hanging around. And even now, if I close my eyes, I can hear a baby giggle while seemingly soaring beneath the limbs of a maple. And yep, I could take it down tomorrow, if I get orders to do so. But rest assured I wouldn’t want to do that.
In my mind’s eye, this is how I’d prefer it play out: I’d like for a younger, smarter and better-looking (and they will not have to work hard to beat me at that) descendant take it down one day. “Really, who knows why Great-Great Grandpa Taylor left these old chains and swing WAY up here in this tree?” some grown, multi-great grandkid might ponder, while looking up.“They tell me he always was crazy!”
Nope, it probably won’t happen that way. But then, one, like the swing, has to hang on to hope and memories.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baseball Rituals Hit ‘The Spot’

By Taylor Wilson

John Evans points to proof of The Spot.
Not to over-state the obvious, but my wife thinks I am crazy. She especially comes to such conclusions when we go to baseball games. (Note we have attended nearly 100 or so youth league games since March. This does not count minor league visits or games on TV or radio. That said, Beth thinks I am crazy pretty much ’round the clock.)
“Why do you want to park in the same spot all the time?” she asks pondering my parking near the ball field.
Our son looks at me and rolls his eyes...knowing full well, his baseball team has been on a winning streak. “Baseball is full of superstition, Mom! Don’t you know!?! It’s a lucky spot!”
Yep, for good or bad, I have converted the youngster to the superstitions, rituals and taboos that run rampant in baseball, for both players and fans.
“NEVER...EVER step on a foul line, unless you are making a play,” I once warned him.
Now, my wife is no stranger to diamonds, well, at least those made of dirt.  Why she, herself was a wild and likewise kinda-crazy softball player that would not stop when making a turn at third base, even if  battleship anchors were tied to both ankles! Beth’s played more games than most. Still, she is not sold on sports magic, mojo or mumbo jumbo. Maybe it is because she majored in psychology...and knows it all a waste of time, if not mind? She probably suspects such things can make one crazy.
But again, myself? Well, I fall on the side that fate can be swayed on a diamond. It all carries over from my own days as a player. I remember playing one summer season where I knew our team’s string of wins HAD to be connected to drinking orange Sunkist. Because of it, I think I wore a perpetually-orange peach-haired mustache. I was certain the beverages got me and my fellow players all the way to a state play-off, where we got pummeled, yet might have won...had I not substituted Orange Crush (which is irony at best considering the latter drink’s name and result/score).
These days, as a mere fan (and maybe a outlandish fan, note aforementioned game numbers this spring and summer) I still carry with me the concept that there is some sort of magic linked to your team’s baseball success. Fan is short for fanatic, you know?
Of course, my ritualistic choices are made with suspicion that, "Hey, it just might work.” If it doesn’t and the team loses? Well, it’s solely because I made the wrong choice in ritual; it has nothing to do with players or coaches. Rituals carry that kind of weight.
And on that fanatical foundation is where I stood at a recent youth league tournament where my son was playing. Our team was trailing by several runs in the championship game, and in addition to all other game-on rituals, I was walking around looking for a lucky spot to stand. By the way, this is perfectly normal in a cross-your-fingers, don’t-talk-about-a-no-hitter, wear-the-same-color, eat-only-chicken-pre-game, keep-your-fielder’s-glove-in-a-Wonder-Bread-bag, wear-a-rally-cap, carry-a-four-leaf-clover kind of way. Of course, I know well, no matter the charm, ritual or juju, one still has to test the water of fortune, from game to game, especially to change one’s luck after a loss or while in a bad situation. So I experimented with several places to stand and watch the game. My efforts were seemingly to no avail...nothing would go right, no matter where I stood or sat. So, I kept moving and looking and trying to draw a smile from Fortune.
Then I saw it. There on the ground was a perfectly round circle of dead grass about the size of a garbage can lid, not far from where the other sane non-superstitious parents/fans were sitting. I think it was created when someone left a garbage can sitting on the grass in 104-degree heat. Heck, it even looked like a spot! Why overlook the obvious? So there I stood and mumbled the words, “Beam me up, Scotty” like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk. (Catch phrases can also be lucky.)
It worked! We got a base runner followed by two more. Eureka! But just when I thought it was working, one of our players flied out. I promptly did what any other sane baseball fan would do; I recruited a friend to stand in The Spot. Remember, experiment!
Also acknowledge that baseball fans, no matter how crazy you are, there is always somebody out there that is better at it than you are. And there appeared my friend, John Evans. He seemed as nice, likely, gullible and crazy as the next guy. So I put him on The Spot.
“Just try it out,” I coaxed, and muttered another “Beam me up, Scotty!”
Now John, like my wife, knows the cheese fell off my cracker long time ago. Our sons have been longtime teammates. He is also kind of used to me putting him on the spot in more ways than one. One year, when leading a coach-pitch team I was kicked out two times for various indiscretions such as NOT saying a word and NOT getting off the field after the ball went in to play.
At that tourney it got to where, John would simply shake his head, take the ball and say, “What have you done, now?!?” By the way, he was undefeated in coach-pitch relief. We long debated whether the team would win for their fallen/discarded coach (me), or because John finally proved to be someone that could throw them something they could actually hit? I think it is because I was drinking orange Sunkist!
Anyway, familiar with being my backup of sorts, John stood there on The Spot for the remainder of the game...which turned out to be the better part of an hour! The longer he stood there, the better our team seemed to do.
So he couldn’t leave. Fate locked him in. But I stood beside him and muttered the beam-me-up catch phrase, and tried to keep others from coming up and “crowding” The Spot. (You know there is only so much mojo that can go around!)
John’s wife Susan even helped, though I am not quite sure she became a true believer. She did herd little kids away from The Spot or maybe more appropriately: she kept them away from the two crazy guys practicing baseball voodoo.
Somewhere along the line of our good luck, John did mention a restroom break. But Susan and I both agreed he would simply have to sacrifice for the benefit/fortune of the team.
“Just try not to think of waterfalls or lawn sprinklers,” I encouraged.
“Beam me up, Scottie,” John replied.
You know, I am not quite sure, but John might have actually been hopping (maybe it was the excitement?) on The Spot when our team made the final out—for the WIN!
Oh, there was a mixture celebration (and relief, from John)...for the victory as much as for a round, dead patch of grass that had obviously helped a lot. And John, now able to move from The Spot, and I discussed making and marketing a do-it-yourself “Win With The Spot Kit.” We could sell good fortune! It would allow crazy baseball youth league fans everywhere to go to ballparks and create a lucky Spot of their very own . We figured the kit could include a garbage can lid and a bottle of herbicide. RONCO here we come: “Yes, you get ALL this, but wait, there’s MORE! For just $10 (plus shipping and handling) you get NOT ONE, but TWO GARBAGE CAN LIDS!” Sure, the discussion included a vague mention of destruction of property liability...killing grass in Adamsville, etc., but we could iron that out later.
And with our kids’ team set to compete in the state tourney in Adamsville, Tenn., marketing strategies could wait. We also pondered going over in advance and killing a few round patches of grass on the championship fields for luck in the tourney ahead.
            Ah, nonsense you say.
Maybe you’re right. After all, as the song says, “Luck is believing you’re lucky, and having just a little bit of faith.” Others simply say luck is hard work, which is also sound advice. And of course, weeks of hard work and practice by players and coaches might have been a BIG part of the win, too? I have no doubt that’s true...but still, I just can’t shake the superstitious suspicion that having a John(ny) on the spot was a good thing, too.

NOTE: Have any baseball or sports-related superstitions? I’d like to hear ’em. E-mail me at taylor65@bellsouth.net.

Also, to learn more about baseball’s strange way of working mojo among fans and players (and why), you might want to read more via this link http://www.webcitation.org/5OHaQX4IE. It is by George Gmelch and offers a somewhat logical view as to why baseball folks are caught up in superstitions. Another fun read (with audio) about fan rituals is this story from NPR :http://www.npr.org/2011/10/28/141807736/believing-in-the-cardinals.

A Brave, Kind Heart: A Valentine’s Day Column In July

By Taylor Wilson
July 2012
Note: There’s always a story behind the story, and this one is no different. I wrote the notes for this column on a Mead steno pad years ago, around the time it happened...with good intentions. Today, facing the muzzle of a blank laptop screen, I went into my desk and dug them out. It all happened on Valentine’s Day weekend 2010. Intentions were to write it as a Valentine’s Day column but time just kept slipping by. And today, I remembered the story and felt the need to write it for several reasons. Among them were to tell my wife how special I think she is, and to let our son know how fortunate he is to have such a unique person as his mom. Who knows? Maybe they will read it? (She had no idea why I took this photo of her goofing around!)
It was slim pickings around our house come Valentine’s Day. A broken pickup truck and a busted laptop were atop a long list of things that needed repair. The predicament left me cursing and calling out to heaven: “X$%&^%$#@! Why can’t I have just one thing that is not broken or about to be?”
Now God didn’t answer me, not right away, anyway. He just provided the classroom for learning; and He laughed, I am sure, knowing the answer was by my side.
With the budget well digested and dispersed amongst fixing things, we still managed enough for a Valentine’s Day family meal. And to tell the truth, I don’t even remember where we went. I do recall that with the pestering of our son, we stopped at GameStop (a video game store). BIOSHOCK was the “new” game on the horizon according to all the cardboard cut-outs scattered about the storefront window.
And a “bioshock” definitely met us when we went in the store. In short, it smelled like “poopy” (and I am being polite, here). Despite the stench, I laughed and said to my son, “Bioshock!?! I know that’s right! Somebody in here has released several doses of Bioshock!”
“Dad, you’re embarrassing me!” my kid whispered.
“Good,” I thought aloud and mentioned to him that the task goes with the job description of being a dad.
There was this teenager behind the counter dealing reality and dashing dreams. He was the one that told other kids that their old video games were not worth half of what they believed. Now, this particular employee was wearing so much jewelry in his face alone that he couldn’t make it through Memphis International. And me, still doling out wisecracks, pointed out to my son, “That may be what you have to try and look like when you choose video games as a career...”
“Dad! SHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Be quiet!” said my irritated son.
Admittedly, at about this time I did I feel badly when I realized my poor attempts at humor and the store’s aroma was caused by an infant in need of a diaper change. Still, everyone that came in the door was greeted with The Scent. And as it turned out, a whiff of it was so far from fragrant that it could spark more than snide comments.
Next, another dad, a huge, broad-shouldered, linebacker-sized man came in with a tiny child in his shadow. And upon their entrance, the diaper scent wrapped around them, too. It proved no good combination for the younger newcomer, especially post-lunch.
BLEEECCCKKK! Bleck! That was the sound the kid spewed forth, followed by an ensuing splatter of projectile vomit.
“DUDE!” said the bejeweled and studded GameStopper from behind the counter. (I think his nose ring/chain or whatever that was, may have even rattled a little, upon the realization that dirty diapers and vomit could be twice as bioshocking as any video game.
Oh then, then and there was quite the commotion, shuffling, shifting, it was a mass Exodus for the entrance. All the while, the embarrassed, concerned and mountain of a dad scurried to comfort and likewise hustle his sick youngster toward the door.
The register jockey and his buds laughed, and I enjoyed the knowledge that they had yet to realize—one of ’em would have to clean it up.
Now being a dad, I had experienced a similarly sick kid with projectile vomiting before...once even while my then toddler was confined to a car seat in the cab of truck going somewhere close to the speed limit. It was a helpless feeling. Probably the same one this dad had—a mixture of concerned and panic. But then, I saw her, this lady with long and curly hair that I knew once flamed brighter red, before wisdom claimed some of its tint. In purpose-driven fashion, she hurried out of the store. I watched her, somewhat amazed but in a knowing way, and followed as she went to work. Beth went up to the big guy tending the puke-covered kid in the parking lot and spoke to him at a time when obviously no one else would. Then she stormed out to our mini-van and returned with a package of Wet Wipes.
“Here you go,” she said to father and son. “It’s OK, everybody gets sick now and then,” she told the little one.
“Bless you!” said the big man in a Jolly Green Giant voice. Then he dabbed his kid with a handful of Wet Wipes.
“Oh, it is nothing...it will be alright,” my wife confirmed.
And with that, a little compassion came and went in the world. A small, everyday slice of life that's easy to overlook but when noticed, always hints to me that we humans do have potential. Some of us are able to care, even when it is not comfortable to do so.
The father-son team drove away and my wife went back in the store with our son. I stayed outside, breathing fresh air, and thought about how lucky I was that Beth and I went to second grade together.
We were in Mrs. Sybil Williams room in 1970-something. Coincidentally, it’s a time that spawned another famous family Valentine’s Day story. That would be the time a second-grade me stomped up to her and shoved a Valentine’s card at her and said, “Here’s your Valentine’s Day card! My momma MADE me give you one!”
“I was heart-broken,” she later confessed, and even today admits she had quite the crush on me. (Yeah, I know...she should’ve had her vision checked way back then!)
Also, admittedly, many times afloat in those reflections, that small heartbreak is one I wish I could take back. But from it came so much good in my life. Yep, she got her card...via my mother’s orders. She became persistent has females can do, and changed my heart and way of thinking. And after many years of marriage, I have often joked that the outcome has several lessons. Among them:
1.) Never underestimate the willpower of a woman to get what she wants!
2.) Be careful what you wish for! (She is stuck with me, now.)
3.) Moms are always right. I thank God often that my mother had the good sense to make me give that little red-haired girl a card not much bigger than a postage stamp. I would give a $100 for a copy of that little card today, if I could afford it. Things are still breaking or broken ’round here. But life is good, too. Some things are unbreakable.
Yep. Lessons learned. It’s easy to curse the dark, even when we are surrounded by light.
Later, on the same day we survived bioshock, I sat alone with my son as my wife ran an errand.
“I want you to know something about your mom. Did you see anyone else in that store trying to help that sick kid and his dad?” I asked.
“No, Dad, but they smelled it and were about to throw up themselves...” my son said.
“Maybe, but I am just trying to tell you that few people will do that—step forward in a crowd and help a stranger. I want you to remember what your mom did, and I imagine what she nearly always will do. Next time, you are acting up; remember the kind of person you are dealing with...a kind, brave heart. She is quite the Valentine.”
 Now, did this lesson sink in? Does my son even remember it today? Well, probably not. If at all, it is probably just the memory of some kid puking a GameStop. He was just a little older than I was when I met his mom. But maybe the lesson will resurface one day, when his hair has likewise lost some tint to wisdom. Maybe time will allow him realize how lucky we are to have her in our lives?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Move Over Mickelson, Nicklaus, Woods, etc.

(I’ve Got A Green Jacket)

By Taylor Wilson

OK, so there I am, after school and riding in the back of my mom’s 1970-something Buick station wagon. And I can still see my green jacket, the one with the buck and the mallard on the back, going down the street on the shoulders of the kid that stole it.

“Maybe it wasn’t mine?” I thought. But by the time I realized it had to be it was too late.

“Maybe he needed it more?” my mom said, when I pointed out that the jacket had to be mine, farther down the road.

And maybe he did, but I never got it back.

Besides, I knew all the kids that had those jackets. We got them…with the deer and duck…on the back because we all wanted to stand for something, together. There was even this green-yellow color combination (the buck and duck were yellow as well as the writing) on ’em, that would have made the 1970s Oakland A’s green (and yellow) with envy. (What did we know about color schemes? TV Shows were about crime-fighting angels, not designing homes.)

The jackets belonged to members of Explorer Post 70 headed up by then Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge assistant manager Glenn Stanley. Explorers are an affiliate of the Boy Scouts, typically with special interest/causes. And ours was Hatchie NWR. We did various projects on/for the refuge. Things like band ducks, put up and clean out wood duck boxes, pick up trash around the lake boat ramps and count deer (with all the deer we have today, I still have to chuckle at that last one, but we routinely counted them back then).

In short, Stanley took a bunch of small town, country kids and threw them in the famed briar patch—there was no other place we had rather be. What fun it all was and what influence Stanley’s time and effort carved into us!

I had an old picture of the group, one that I kept stowed away in a copy of Gene Hill’s Tears & Laughter or was it Mostly Tailfeathers? I can’t remember which for sure. Ah, I just got up from the keyboard and went and looked but couldn’t find it to scan and show you that once motley crew on a duck-banding day. So you just have to trust me—it was a cast of characters.

Anyway, these kids went on to become an assortment of grown-ups, most with a love for the outdoors still embedded in their hearts and souls, and some with it tied to their occupations. In reflection, it was mission accomplished for Stanley. His influence, time and effort helped mold the lives of some young folks for the better. (We can all do that, you know?)

Well, after my Explorers stint, the years flowed constantly onward like the Hatchie River. But as with most rivers, in life you just never know what might float by.

Then one day Stanley called me.

“Taylor, I was cleaning out my closet and came across my old Explorers jacket. I don’t wear it anymore, of course. But I thought of you, and rather than throw it away, I wondered if you want to have it?” Stanley said.

I smiled really big into the receiver of that phone, and I thanked him—a lot.

And sure enough, as promised, Stanley brought it by. It was green like I remembered, and the yellow mallard and buck were still there on the back. But you know what’s best of all?

It fit.

Thanks Glenn, for everything!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hunting Makes Memories For Mind's Eye

By Taylor Wilson

Flashes before one’s eyes.

People in dire straits claim to see such when they know their time is nigh. They see moments in life that mattered, things they did right, things they did wrong; things they enjoyed, things they didn’t. There’s joy and pain.

I suspect this to be true. I certainly carry around a lot of positive “flashes” of pictures framed by my mind. And several have happened while deer hunting, quite a few with my son.

For example, there was this moment my son and me stumbled about in the pre-dawn darkness one frosty fall morning. This little cub of a kid wrapped in a camo clothes whispered/confessed to his old man: “My stomach is turning, I am so excited!”

Glad I clicked that memory. (A similar memory lingers from when he woke me up in the middle of the night, before we were to fish the Little Red for trout: “I can’t sleep, I can’t wait for morning,” he said.)

Then there was the time we rattled, called and harassed a small buck until it ran at us in what appeared to be a charge. The kid made the shot, and proclaimed the ordeal AWESOME!

Afterward, we examined his trophy and when we were heading to the truck, the sun was falling on him when he and his shadow skipped for a few steps across a cornfield. Yes, skipped. It was simple enough, but a light, care-free jump for joy that typically we only see youngsters do and mean it. Yep, that too is clicked and framed somewhere in a mostly empty cranium.

And my mind saved another hunting clip the other day. The kid was lamenting the entertainment value of deer hunting when there weren’t any deer: “In deer hunting all the excitement comes at once,” he said.

“Yep, in big doses,” I agreed. But I added there are a lot of other interesting things to watch: the sunrise, the steam rising off a warming pond, the birds, and many other critters.

He noted the cold, the time, the need to go home, soccer games and Halloween parties.

So we started what could be labeled The Countdown Bid (it normally starts after my exclamation of, “We need to sit here a little while longer.”

“Thirty more minutes!” he said.

“Two hours,” I replied.

“Thirty minutes it is.”

“An hour,” was my counter offer.



So, there we sat, counting down our 30 remaining minutes in the deer stand, with me looking at the clock and secretly adding minutes, while my counterpart seemed to count way too fast.

The count-down stopped, though, with one word—“Deer!”

After some frantic whispers and the echoes of some well-placed shots, the smoke cleared and venison aplenty lay on the ground.

“CAN YOU BELIEVE ALL THAT HAPPENED IN A MATTER OF MINUTES!?!” said the excited kid who stood wearing my boot size, and who I almost suddenly realized had probably grown way too big to skip—or at least admit it.

My reply came softly while laughing and framing another mind’s moment. “No, I can’t, I really can’t.”

Sure, I believe them. There are flashes before our eyes…before our earth-bound lights go out, just as many claim. Maybe that is why I’ve always tried to collect as many good memory flashes as possible. Maybe I want the previews for The Big Picture to be mostly good, a prelude to what waits on the other side?