Category: Southern Culture

How Mary Nell’s Handbell Got Saved

Jesus said to “Love they neighbor” and “thy enemy.” But what do you do when the person who lives next door to you is both?

I guess there aren’t any special dispensations for that scenario. You’re just supposed to suck it up and go. When it came to Mary Nell, our neighbor from 1995-2011, we tried–and failed–over and over and over.

We first met Mary Nell in August 1995 when we stopped by Corley Drive to check out the 10-year-old brick rancher with the huge backyard that had just gone on the market.

Well, “met” only if you count a dried-up prune of a little old lady glaring at you through window blinds as a “meeting.”… Read the rest

Robert Rex Meyers: Student, Soldier, Professor, Preacher, “Heretic”–My Friend

Robert Rex Meyers was born in 1923 and raised by loving and devout parents on a three hundred acre farm in the eastern hills of Oklahoma near Henrietta. From an early age, he would rise early in the morning and plow the land, sowing seeds in the rich, moist earth in much the same way he would later plant ideas in the fertile minds of eager students. He studied the Bible and was baptized by a traveling black evangelist named R.N. Hogan in a small, fundamentalist Church of Christ, but it was his full-bodied immersion in the deep waters of natural revelation, the whisper of God in the rustling of wind-kissed leaves and the fragrant incense of meadow grass, that would eventually set his heart aflame.… Read the rest

21-0; That’s Mighty Fine Opium

For those of you still smarting and aggrieved over the fact that an “undeserving” team like the Alabama Crimson Tide was allowed into the BCS Championship Game and then, wonder of wonders, actually won the thing, making this two titles in three years (Can you say, “Cam sandwich”?), then perhaps you can take some consolation in this: It really wasn’t that much fun for me.

What with the extra hours I’ve been working lately (and the resultant fatigue), having two good friends die in the past week, and all the moaning and yakety-yak coming out of Stillwater and practically every other corner of the country over the past six weeks, I hardly took any pleasure or interest in the game up until the time that I turned on the TV Monday night.… Read the rest

Exorcising Demons

“It’s only a game!” she pleaded.

Mmmhmm. And Herman Cain was merely a harmless flirt. Eyegal was responding to the sight of me, head in hands, my team up 24-7 at halftime in this year’s Iron Bowl. You know, that annual “intrastate scrimmage” between Alabama and Auburn.

In any other universe, 24-7 at the break is reason enough for a trip to the fridge to fetch the wings and that gourmet beer you’ve been saving for a special occasion. But my stomach was churning too violently to enjoy food and drink. I wasn’t quite “Tebowing,” but almost. If 2010 had taught Crimson Tide fans anything it was that a 17 point halftime lead was never enough.… Read the rest

Pork-tentious Signs

Asheville, North Carolina and Seattle are on opposite sides of the country, but they share an unusual passion worthy of mention, even praise–pig statuary.

It was about this time last year that I spotted a memorial to an Unknown Pig in downtown Asheville on my way to the Duke v. Alabama game. That encounter launched a bacony reverie that stirred up enough favorable ju-ju for a stunning, 4th quarter come-from-behind victory for the Tide over the the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville the next week.

This year, same song, different sow. Her name is Rachel, and she’s a 550 lbs bronzed beauty of a piggy bank who serves as a mascot for the iconic Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.Read the rest

Walking the Line

We had assembled at Coleman Coliseum on the campus of the University of Alabama to watch our children “walk the line” at summer graduation. The killer tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa on April 27th, 2011 had also rudely interrupted the academic careers of many of the May graduates, leaving them all dressed up in cap and gown with no place to go.

Now, even though they had received their hard-earned diplomas in the mail a few weeks prior, many of them had returned, along with their fellow summer graduates, to don their regalia and finish in style. Also in attendance: a mess of mamas and papas and memaws and papaws, all of them thirsty for some much-needed closure and a little pomp and circumstance.… Read the rest

Three Lessons I Learned At Central High

Last week, I returned to high school.

Fortunately, nobody had rescinded my diploma. Neither had I landed in one of those fish-out-of-water, “impotence” dreams where the hapless, middle-age man, who has long since forgotten the difference between a sine and cosine, is thrown into an advanced geometry class full of National Merit Scholars.

Instead, I visited Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, where nine black students, aka the “Little Rock Nine,” dared to enter her shiny portals of learning in September, 1957, thereby ending ending racial segregation in Little Rock public schools. They were blocked on the first attempt by Arkansas National Guardsmen acting under orders of Governor Orval Faubus who had sworn not to allow the black students to enroll.… Read the rest

“Huntsville International”–A Rap Song I Actually Like, Yo!

I’ve never been afraid to embarrass my sons with my bungled attempts at humor and middle age antics–I consider it part of the job description of being a “Dad.” But truth be told, whenever I do something they think is cool, it thrills me to no end. But please don’t tell them that, because that would ruin everything.

For instance, my recent acquisition of a taste for (and reputation for listening to) rap music. Well, not all rap music, but one song in particular–“Huntsville International” by the local rap group, G-Side.

Here’s how a mortuary-white, hopelessly off-beat, middle age, pointy-headed pseudo-intellectual got turned on to a piece of hip-hop:

I’ve a long-time fan of the magazine Oxford American, which is sort of a distinctly Southern version of The New Yorker or The Atlantic.… Read the rest

Getting On Board Bus #18

I was an immaculately-groomed half-pint in September 1968 as I stood by the road in front of our brick rural rancher waiting for Bus #18 to usher me into the next 12 years of mandatory public school education. A book bag in one hand, a G.I. Joe lunchbox in the other, I was escorted by my older sister, a worldly-wise 5th grader who was under orders to watch my back.

I heard the bus before I could see it. It had another stop about a quarter mile down the road, at the foot of a low-grade hill. I listened as its diesel engine geared down, brakes squealing, and then there was a pause that seemed to last forever as my neighbors boarded.… Read the rest

I May Have “Pink Eye,” But I’m No Commie

In the aftermath of the tornadoes in Alabama, armies of Good Samaritans have rushed to our aid with a million good deeds. Taking up their various instruments of mercy, they have come to attention as the Master Conductor has waved his wand, and the resultant symphony of compassion has been sweet, soothing music to our ears.

But they say “no good deed goes unpunished.” “They” are right.

When cell phone service returned to near normal two days after the storm struck, I downloaded my email and saw that a local church was offering an 8:00 AM communion service followed by an opportunity to go into the tornado-stricken areas around Harvest north of town and help out.… Read the rest

I Am Dr. Michael Brown, Optometrist; I Am Not @plutokiller

My name is Dr. Michael Brown, aka “Mike the Eyeguy,” and I’m an optometrist who has always loved Disney characters and small, remote planets.

I would never kill Pluto. I may be more of a Goofy Man myself, but I have no interest in dissingĀ  Mickey Mouse’s lesser-known pet pooch. Nor have I supported demoting poor little Pluto from the status of noble, outermost outpost planet, guarding the far boundaries of our Solar System from alien invasion, to a mere member among many in the Kuiper belt, a rather shady band of steroid-enhanced asteroids and dwarf planets.

And I think I can speak for the other three Dr.… Read the rest

It’s Not Easy Being Green and Gold

The State of Alabama is not exactly known for being “libruhl.” I truly hope you were sitting down for that one.

John McCain got over 60% of the vote in the 2008 presidential election. There’s a Baptist church on three corners of every intersection and a Church of Christ on the other. Not only do we try to make buying wine difficult–especially on Sundays–we even outlaw artfully and tastefully portrayed nudity on our wine labels (There will be no joy on Sundays in this state!).

Environmentalism? Does picking up that Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle that somebody threw out at the end of your driveway and tossing it in the recycling bin count?… Read the rest

Words Fitly Spoken

but no human can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

–James 3:8

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The first time I read that verse was on a the cover of a tract which had been left behind on a shelf inside the pulpit at the Roanoke Church of Christ in the 1960s. We kids weren’t supposed to be playing there, but the adults were too busy talking to notice and the prospect of discovering what mysteries were hidden behind that “holy of holies” was too tempting to pass up.

The tract was fire-engine red and had an animation on the cover depicting a man with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, like a dimply red carpet unfurled.… Read the rest

Like Wool

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

–Isaiah 1:18

I am sending out this dispatch from Ground Zero of The End of Days, Huntsville, Alabama.

Although I have yet to whip out the measuring stick, there appears to be about 8 inches of snow on my patio. To top it all, tonight Auburn plays for the national championship in college football. It appears the Mayans were almost right, just off by a year.

We are warm and toasty.… Read the rest

A Church of Christer’s Guide To Communion At An Episcopal Church

Recently a Church of Christ friend of mine wrote to me and said that he was considering attending an Episcopal Church Christmas Eve service and that he was a little intimidated by the prospect of having to walk forward and take communion. Could I help out?

Oh yes. Yes I can. Glad you asked.

First off, let me say this: Dude’s got guts. Most Church of Christers I know have never even set foot inside another church except for weddings and funerals. Some may have been taught that “they’re it” and if there’s nobody else out there, why bother? Or even if they don’t believe that, they still feel as if they might be betraying their parents or now deceased relatives by even associating with other “religious people” Christians in an actual spiritual context, as opposed to something more secular and therefore safer like, say, a NASCAR race at Talledega or a football game in Tuscaloosa.… Read the rest