May Day, 1971

Another May Day has come and gone without dancing around a Maypole. But there was a day. Oh yes, there was a day. . . .

It was May 1st, 1971, and I was in 3rd grade at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia, site of many an early childhood nightmare memory. We were all gussied up in our spring best for the school’s annual May Day celebration. My teacher Mrs. English, a dour schoolmarm with wrinkled skin who believed that Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was an elaborate NASA hoax, paced and frowned from the sideline.

All our parents were there, too, not just the stay-at-home moms, but also the dads who somehow got the day off from their jobs even though it was the middle of the week and were now standing there with their space-age Bell & Howell 8mm home movie cameras ready to capture the moment.… Read the rest

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

alabama brown and the raiders of lost youth

i’ve been in guatemala. i saw around 100 patients and my partner did about 50 eye surgeries. our ortho guy who went with us did a lot of great stuff too. “the lame walked and the blind saw.”  it was a great week, until. . . .

we finished up and went for an expedition in the rainforest. it was very primeval, just like avatar, only the people were coffee-brown, not blue, and they didn’t have those long, braid thingies hanging down.

the little children wore loincloths and performed perfect-10 swan dives into the river off a large rock of ages.… Read the rest

A Major Breach in the Britches, Leap Year 1972

Today is February 29, Leap Year 2012. This is also the week that pro football wannabes are showing off their physical skills in the NFL Combine. Put the two together, and you come up with a traumatic, cringe-inducing, early childhood memory.

It was the spring of 1972, another Leap Year, and I was in Ms. Traylor’s 4th grade class at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia. We were on the playground finishing up the last event of our biannual physical fitness tests–the broad jump. I was on the line, waiting my turn.

“Go ahead, jump!” Ms. Traylor called out. I swung my arms in rhythm–one, two, three–and then crouched low, like a panther set to pounce…

The previous fall, I had failed every one of my physical fitness tests.… Read the rest

Coefficient of Friction

A former college professor of mine at Harding, Dr. Joe Pryor, was famous for his bow ties and his nerdy (and charming) way of saying things.

Whenever it snowed or iced in Searcy, Arkansas and the sidewalks around campus grew slick, he would stand behind the podium during chapel and declare, in his best Ben Stein “Ferris Beuller” economics teacher monotone, “Be careful walking around campus today; the coefficient of friction is extremely low.”

I thought of him last Sunday when the coefficient of friction on the roads near my birthplace in southwest Virginia suddenly dropped to near zero. It started snowing that morning, not hard, but enough to capture the attention of my sister’s two curious cats, Twinky and Zinger, who sat on their haunches and stared out the patio window watching the flakes fall.… Read the rest

Ten Thousand Words

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about

“Ten Thousand Words” –The Avett Brothers

In a perfect world, each of us would have both a personal trainer and a personal editor; the former for our obesity, the latter for our verbosity.

I’ve seen America fatten right before my very eyes. As a grunt on the front lines of primary health care over the past 25 years, I know first hand the effects of increased sedentary lifestyles and the “cornucopia” of processed and fast foods available at nearly every turn with just the swipe of a credit card.… Read the rest

Ocular Prophylatics–A Salute to “BCGs”

I first heard the term “Birth Control Glasses” or “BCGs” in the early 1990s when I started practicing optometry with the US Government. I was around 30 years old, married, with two sons and one on the way. Fortunately, I had already “spread my seed.”

Because if I hadn’t, I feel sure that merely touching those brown, butt-ugly, godawful, googly-eyed monsters would have struck me impotent. When I first laid eyes on them, I understood immediately why a whole generation of young men had dodged the draft and sought refuge in Canada.

For decades, military-issue eye wear has been as much a rite of passage for new recruits as screaming drill sergeants, 5:00 AM PT and MREs.… 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

Homeless Hank’s Christmas Miracle Turkey

I smelled it long before I saw it. You’ve seen those cartoons where the character catches a whiff of a powerful, pleasant odor and suddenly rises off the ground, borne along by the fumes like a slave in chains. That was me, right before lunchtime a couple of days ago in my clinic.

I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. I’m used to the pungent odor of burned popcorn coming from the break room microwave, but this was different; more like Sunday brunch at the Ritz. It was deep brown, slightly crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, seasoned with just the right amount of rosemary, garlic and basil.… Read the rest

The Family Holiday Newsletter (1996[?]-2011)

The Family Holiday Newsletter died yesterday. It was born in December, 1996 when the Family Sons were ages seven, five and three. It may have been before then, but there were no files older than 1996 on the 500GB external hard drive.

It had been on life support for some time, but since this is the third year running that it has failed to make an appearance, the Family finally said their tearful goodbyes and pulled the plug. The newsy, bulleted, Family Holiday Newsletter was one of those “brag sheets” that were de rigueur for “parents of a certain age,” thirty and forty-somethings whose prodigy kids composed symphonies at age five, set age records in the marathon at age seven and cured cancer at age nine.… 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

Senior Coffee

I bought my first bottle of cheap wine in the fall of 1984 at a small convenience store near my apartment in Blacksburg, Virginia. By then I had graduated from Harding and moved on to Virginia Tech, so I didn’t run the risk of having two bullet-less Barney Fifes in a golf cart accosting me and frog-marching me to the Dean’s office for immediate expulsion.

I knew they often nabbed Harding students out celebrating their 21st birthdays at restaurants in Little Rock, but alumni in Blacksburg? Surely, purity had its mileage limits. The peace of mind and freedom were more intoxicating than the wine would ever be.… Read the rest

A Moral Paper Bag

My wife often substitutes at a local private school, one of the area’s finest.  It is where many of Huntsville’s professional elite send their children to be prepped and to gain that special leg-up that only money can buy.

Sometimes, she comes home and tells me stories.

Yesterday, she read her 5th graders the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am” by the noted 20th-century African-American writer Langston Hughes. In it a young boy with a hankering for a pair of  “blue suede shoes” decides to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, a hairdresser who is walking home one evening after leaving her shift at a local hotel.… Read the rest

The Cardinal Catechism

“It doesn’t matter what happens tonight, the Cardinals are the best team in baseball and Cardinal fans are the best in baseball. Period. End of story. That’s just the way I was raised.”

Eyegal went on: “I actually feel sorry for the Rangers because they’re not us.”

She said all that even as Chris Carpenter struggled to locate his fastball and breaking pitch, giving up two quick 1st-inning runs in the process. She would not be deterred.

It wasn’t because she was still high on the fumes of the previous night’s wild and zany late-inning heroics in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.… Read the rest