Thursday, May 21, 2009

If I Had A Say, I'd Borrow It

All day I have been pondering what I would tell graduates this spring, in the season of graduation.

And the best I could come up with is this, a favorite quote from loose-wire Edward Abbey. Boy, can I see the looks on faces of the moms and dads. LOL!

"One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards." — Edward Abbey

Some Friends Are Extra Special

Special friends.
Who doesn’t need a special friend?
I am fortunate to have one such friend through a program in my home county of Haywood (Tenn.). The program originates through the University of Tennessee Extension Service and it is simply called the Special Friends Program.
A mentoring program, the way it works is we lucky adults are paired with some really special kids that might need some added attention and direction.
We go to lunch with them at school (Haywood County School System) from time to time. We talk about grades. We read books. We work on things they might be having problems with.
We become special friends.
My special friend and I have been meeting since he was in kindergarten. He is about to go in the sixth grade now.
The first time I met him. He told me, “my daddy is in jail.”
I told him I knew that. I had read about it in the paper, and then I went on to stretch the truth a bit, perhaps, about the unknown. “It will be alright,” I said.
What else could I say?
Then I told him a truth that I believed with all my heart to be true: “Life is about choices. We have always got to try and make good ones.”
We have gotten along rather well in the years that have followed. We laugh a lot, but the best times we have had together have been when we have gone fishing.
Such was the case when he and I recently took part in the Special Friends annual group-fishing trip to the home of Nan and Steve Darnaby. About 30 or so folks gathered together, baited hooks, caught fish, ate hot dogs and laughed—a lot.
Some kids caught their first fish and that is a treat in itself.
(I think those that don’t believe in magic have simply never seen a kid catch their first fish, but that is for another column.)
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but my special friend caught the biggest catfish of the day! (So what if it was the only catfish?) We secretly celebrated that, just me and him.
I know I am supposed to be teaching my special friend something, but sometimes I wonder if I have taught him anything other than to be goofy; which he probably has picked up mostly by association with me (bless his heart).
But I do know he has taught me a lot, my special friend.
And I am grateful.
We should all be so lucky as to have a special friend to go fishing with, to read a book or to share a life lesson now and then.

To learn more about the Special Friends in Haywood County contact Peggy Jackson at The Haywood County Family Resource Center (731) 772-2861.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ode To Pickup Trucks

By Taylor Wilson

There have been times in my life when I have been caught without a pickup truck and, looking back on it, I kind of remember feeling naked.
Well, heck, I might have very well been naked, for that matter; after all, that was during a couple of my wild and crazy college years (that everyone should be legally allotted, by the way).
It was when commuting and gas mileage were much more important than hauling boats and dead critters around. Thank goodness, I got my priorities straight.

Sure, there is no doubt the possibly-waning SUV craze changed some folks' way of thinking about vehicles with cargo beds and tailgates … but just maybe they weren't brought up like me.
Man, when I was a kid and an aspiring outdoorsman, a pickup truck could be something like a treasure chest. See a group of men standing around looking in the bed of a pickup truck and who knew what wonders were likely to held within?
Depending on the season, there could be all kinds of outdoor objects of desire in the back of trucks — things like big bucks, coolers of fish or perhaps even a timber rattler that had the misfortune of receiving death by skid marks.
Why, I couldn't wait till I got old enough to haul fish and game around in a pickup truck of my very own.
And then there was the social aspect.
Back in the good, old days, you could carry a lot more people in a pickup (and that was even before crew cabs became the rage). Why after the Dixie Youth ballgame, the coach would let everybody pile in for a trip to the Dairy Queen — whether we won or not.
I never worried about a pickup not having an air conditioner back then. I always rode in the back. And I am talking about in the cargo area, not some fancy seat, like pickups have today.
And if I had a dollar for every time my parents said, "You kids can ride in the back, but you have to sit down," I'd probably be driving a much more expensive truck than the one I have today.
(All that riding in the back. Shame. Shame. Shame. By today's safety standards, it's a wonder any of us survived long enough to get driver's licenses of our own. And by the time we did, we figured out that letting kids ride in the back might not be such a good idea.)
But as kids, we didn't know any better. Even while facing dire and unknown risks, we'd all fight over the seats.
Yep, seats. I am not going to admit to you how old I was before I realized the raised wheel wells/fenders in the bed of a pickup truck were designed for anything other than seats, but I will say this realization did come later in life. (I never made it to engineering school, by the way. Good thing, I wouldn't have been there long.)
Another unique and incredible design feature of pickups is the space left between the cab and the bed. How many hours did those designers spend trying to figure out just how wide that space needed to be to hold a pair of rubber boots?
Surely, you've seen such boots stored upside down between the cab and bed? A truck and a boot holder. Can there be a better example of US of A ingenuity? I think not.
Regardless, a pickup is a good thing — for outdoorsmen and everyone else involved.
But I will tell you this: Beware the outdoorsman who drives a clean one. It's like the person at work who has the really clean desk; sooner or later you've got to wonder if they actually use it.
No problem with my desk or my pickup, and particularly with the latter in the middle of hunting season.
Covered with mud, dust or both, strange drawings or words are apt to appear on my truck. Say during turkey season, for example, there is likely to be semblances of all kinds of things drawn with a finger in the dust — things like turkey tracks; a rough map of the whereabouts of a roosted tom; or even simply the words, "Gobble! Gobble!"
And if artistic fun on the outside isn't enough reason to own a pickup truck, you ought to look inside. Who knows the wonders (and organisms) that are likely held within?
To go through an outdoorsman's pickup, late in whatever season he happens to be taking part, has to be akin to an archeological dig. All kinds of wild and wondrous (and a few not-so wondrous things) abound.
We have to store a lot of stuff in there, right? This is simply because we never know when we are likely to need it.
Pickups, they haul it all … outdoor fun and then some.
Don't have one? Ride in the truck of a hunting or fishing buddy. Heck, rekindle some memories and ride in the back. But if you do, do so off-road and for goodness sake, "You kids sit down!"