Recent Entries to this Blog THE BATTLE OF OLUSTEE
Posted: 07 Dec 2020
Thanksgiving Memories
Posted: 23 Nov 2020
A True Story
Posted: 16 Nov 2020
One Angry Bull
Posted: 12 Oct 2020
Monday Musing 9/7/20
Posted: 07 Sep 2020

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The Eclectic Garden

Making a little bit of everything look just right.


Category: Short Stories | Posted: Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:36 am

A few years ago I took a stab at writing historical fiction. I got the idea from a short autobiography that was written by my great, great grandfather Henry Shaw. In the autobiography he briefly mentions that he was in The Battle of Olustee. I researched the battle and found out that it was the largest Civil War battle fought on Florida soil and that it was also one of the first battles that colored troops from the Union fought in. It is a long story, but I hope you can make it to the end.

The Battle of Olustee

Henry Shaw scraped a small layer of frost from a fallen pine tree and sat down. His gray, woolen trousers quickly soaked up the left-over ice particles. He took a deep breath of morning air and surveyed his surroundings. The terrain was like that of his home along the banks of the Withlacoochee River. The forest was mostly filled with tall, gangly pine trees but occasionally a great oak could be seen spreading out its majestic branches. Palmetto bushes littered the forest floor and their large, green fronds added a splash of much needed color to the carpet of brown pine needles. The distinct smell of swamp water filled his nostrils, stirring pleasant memories of hunting trips with his father. For just a moment he was back home, listening to the dogs as they tracked down a white-tailed deer.
The woods around him were filled with thousands of Confederate soldiers and all along the tree line men were preparing for the battle that was soon to come. The Union troops were only a few miles away, slowly making their way along the Florida Atlantic Gulf Railroad. The Union’s objective was to capture Lake City and then continue to Columbus Bridge. They had no idea that the Southern troops were setting up a defensive position in the trees near Olustee Station, thirteen miles east of Lake City, Florida.

Henry was six-foot-tall and skinny, weighing all of one hundred fifty pounds. Despite his size, years of hard work had left his muscles hard and strong. With dark brown hair, deep set, piercing blue eyes and farm tanned skin he looked much older than his eighteen years. Born and raised in Florida, he joined the Confederate Army two years earlier, ready and willing to die in defense of his homeland, but the last year had been rough and the war was starting to take its toll. He worried about his mother at home by herself and wondered if his father and brother were still alive. He was deeply concerned about his family, but he was also troubled about the upcoming battle. He had been in a few skirmishes, but this was shaping up to be the largest one so far. Things looked somewhat better three days earlier when General Colquitt and his brigade of Georgia regulars arrived. This brought the Confederate numbers up from fifteen hundred to well over four thousand. At least the numbers were even now, but as the Yankees drew closer Henry was scared for is life.
Like most of the other men in his company James Lyons had never been in a battle. A former slave, he had joined the 8th United States Colored Troops in Philadelphia only four months earlier. He was proud to call himself free, but claiming freedom didn’t come without problems. There weren't a lot of jobs available and he learned rather quickly that any work that could be found was never given to a black man. The army proved to be the best place to go because it offered food, clothing and something he had never seen in his life - a paycheck.

Army life was rigorous, but James enjoyed it. He was a quick learner and fit well into the military, becoming one of the top new recruits. However, he wasn’t the only one who noticed that most of their time was spent learning how to march instead of learning how to fight. In fact, most of the men hardly even knew how to carry their rifles much less shoot them. James worried that they were missing out on some valuable training and it made him feel very uneasy.
The 8th was near the front of the line as they slowly marched beside the railroad tracks toward Olustee Station. It was a good indicator that they would be among the first to see action. Spirits were high and the others were confident they could win, but as joyful cries of certain victory were sounded James looked around wearily, sensing that something bad was about to happen.
Just then he looked ahead and saw two Confederate soldiers turn their horses and start running in the opposite direction. Caught off guard, the troop movement stopped and the soldiers stood silently, dumbly watching the horsemen as they disappeared down the railroad tracks. Without warning, a shot rang out and James ducked instinctively just as a bullet whizzed past his head. After the first shot was fired there were a few moments of chaos, but the Union officers finally got it together and called out defensive maneuvers. With bullets flying all around them the 8th was ordered to advance toward the heaviest gunfire. The men were stunned and bewildered. Having never been in battle before some of them fell to the ground in fear and curled up like babies. Unfortunately, the lack of training proved to be their downfall and man after man succumbed to death or injury.

Standing six foot four and weighing over two hundred forty pounds James made a big target, but he managed to scramble into position behind a large pine tree less than three hundred yards from where the enemy was set up. As musket balls crashed into the tree above his head he stayed close to the ground and frantically tried to remember how to use his rifle. Finally, praying that he had it loaded correctly, he pointed it toward the Rebel line and pulled the trigger.
A February chill rushed through the air as Henry watched two regiments of men mount their horses and ride off. If the plan worked they would make contact with the Union army and draw them back to the fortified battle line where the remaining Confederate soldiers waited. With Ocean Pond to the north, heavy swampland to the south and thousands of troops scattered throughout the tree line victory was almost certain. The plan made perfect sense, but after contact was made the enemy failed to advance toward the trap that had been so carefully set. When word came that heavy fighting was taking place less than two miles away more troops were sent as reinforcements. Henry stood firm at his post in the trees but grew more anxious as he watched the other men leave. Finally, the order was given to move forward and the Sixth Florida Battalion moved out to join the others. Henry’s heart pounded heavily as Company G marched double time toward the front lines.
Cannon fire rumbled in the distance as the Sixth Florida Battalion made their way to the battlefield. It wasn’t long before shouting and heavy gunfire could be heard all around. They came up on a place where the doctor was busy treating some of the wounded men. The moans of the suffering soldiers only added to Henry’s anxiety. He closed his eyes as they rushed by and the bloody image of a badly injured soldier etched itself in his memory.
By the time Henry got to the battlefield the fighting had been going on for over two hours. They were quickly moved up to the front lines and told to scatter along a large embankment. Henry crawled to the top of the large hill on his belly, passing two or three dead soldiers on the way. He pushed himself along numbly, trying hard not to look into their faces. The smell of gunpowder filled the air while gun fire, cannon blasts and the shouts of fighting and dying men rang out everywhere.  There was no escaping the horrific sights and sounds of war.

When Henry reached the top of the hill and looked out on the battlefield he couldn’t believe what he saw. Bodies were scattered everywhere and the Union troops seemed to be in disarray. His mind was still trying to take it in when the desperate troops tried to rally around a cannon. It was clear they wanted to make a final stand, but man after man was shot down. At last, when it was clear they didn’t have a chance, someone grabbed the colors and they all made a hasty retreat. Shots rang out after them and more men fell to the ground as they tried to get away from the relentless Confederate gunfire.
A sound to charge was given and the Rebels took chase. Hundreds of men rushed after the retreating Union troops and Henry jumped to his feet. With adrenaline fueling every step he took off down the hill, but when he was almost to the bottom he stepped on a large pine branch and it rolled out from underneath his foot. In the split second that he was falling he saw a large pile of rocks and knew instinctively that he was going to hit them head on. He closed his eyes to brace for the impact and then felt something slam into his side. He missed the rocks by two feet, but his head crashed onto the hard ground causing him to pass out. 

Henry woke up to the smell of dirt and pine needles, his face partially buried in a mixture of both. Slowly, consciousness crept back and he became aware of a sharp, throbbing pain in his head. He suddenly remembered the battle and jumped to his feet. His brain revolted at the sudden movement by releasing a swarm of small, angry lights that attacked his eyeballs and left him both dizzy and nauseated. He tried to take a step but was unable to find his footing and fell backwards onto the carpet of pine needles. This time he stayed there.
"Are you alright?"
The deep, unfamiliar voice seemed to be traveling down a long tunnel. Henry stirred on the ground, still feeling the effects of the dizziness. Then it came again, "Hey! Are you alright?”

When Henry opened his eyes he was startled to find a large, black man leaning over him. He noticed a blue, Union Jacket and he could see the man’s left shoulder was covered in blood from a gunshot wound. Everything about him was big, even his face, which was beaded in sweat; large drops of it forming across his forehead and dripping down his cheeks onto his chin. Henry couldn’t move or speak so he sat there motionless, expecting the worst. The stranger spoke again, his voice softer this time, “I ain’t going to hurt you.”
Ignoring the statement, Henry looked around for his rifle and spotted it lying on the ground a few feet away. Following his eyes the man said, “You don’t need the gun.”

Though trembling with fear, Henry spoke bravely, “Why don’t you go ahead and kill me?”

The man pulled his big face closer to Henry’s and said, “If I wanted to kill you then I would have let you crash into those rocks.”

Then, the man waved his arm at the battlefield and said, “Besides, I seen enough killin’ today.”

After that, with much difficulty, he sat down on the ground across from Henry. Henry propped himself up on one arm and watched him sit down. His head was still spinning slightly, but he was slowly regaining his senses. Surprised by what he had just heard, he asked, “So… you pushed me away the rocks?”

The man answered quietly, “Yes.”


"Because you could have been killed!"

"But we're at war. That’s the whole point!"
“I told you, I seen enough killin’ today.”

The answer wasn’t what Henry expected, but in a peculiar way he understood. Why were they trying to kill one another anyway? He thought about the war and tried to remember why it even began. When it first started everything seemed so clear, but now the reasons seemed blurred and unimportant. A big part of him wanted it to be over, to be back home with his family.

From where he was sitting Henry looked out onto the battlefield. There were hundreds of dead soldiers, many so badly shot up that they were seriously disfigured. Cannon balls had ripped through the trees and large branches were scattered about, some still giving off small wisps of gray smoke. A heavy thump caught his attention and he looked toward the other man. He was lying on his back and there was another large, blood-soaked stain on his trousers just above his left knee. It was clear that he was badly injured and Henry thought about the gun. He could easily reach it and finish the man off, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he called out, "Hey! What's your name?"

The man sat up slowly and glanced over at Henry. After painfully readjusting he answered, "James."
A movement caught Henry's eye. Their position in the woods wasn't too far from the railroad tracks and through the trees he saw three men walking down the tracks toward them. From the jubilant sounds of their voices he knew it was the first of the Confederate troops on their way back from the chase. A decision had to be made quickly. James was badly wounded and it would be easy to jump and run to the other men, but he couldn't escape the fact that James had tried to save his life. James heard the voices and an uneasy look came over his face. Both men knew that if he was found on the battlefield alive that he would be killed. Henry could think of only one thing to do. He whispered, "You got to hide."
There was a large patch of palmetto bushes nearby and Henry motioned toward them. He went in first and helped James crawl across the rough trunks and through the noisy fronds to the center of the largest bush. It didn't offer a lot of cover, but at least it was on the outer edge of the battlefield. He looked at James; his huge body twisted to fit in the tight area and said, "Stay here. I'll be back soon."

Then, he turned and exited the makeshift hideout. By now, the men were drawing closer and one of them heard the commotion in the bushes. He pulled his rifle up to his shoulder and yelled, "Who goes there?"

Henry called out, "Don't shoot! I'm on your side."

Then, in order to keep them away from James he rubbed his stomach and said, “I wouldn’t go that way if I were you. Breakfast didn’t set well.”

The three soldiers laughed, the one lowering the gun, and they walked on.

It didn’t take long before more men filtered back in, filling the woods with Confederate soldiers. Henry tried not to draw attention to himself or run into anyone from his company. He listened closely to the conversations around him trying to find out where the Union troops were headed.
Dusk finally started to settle in and Henry breathed a sigh of relief as the troops lined up to head back to Olustee Station. He managed to gather some supplies and creep back into the woods without being noticed. The air was turning cold when he got to the palmetto bushes. He called out quietly as he drew near, "James, are you still here?"

A deep voice answered back, "Yes."

Henry made his way through palmetto bushes as quietly as possible. It was almost eight o’clock and the crescent moon barely gave off enough light to see by. He crouched in front of James and handed him a canteen and a few pieces of salt pork. James took the food and water greedily and ate as Henry laid out the plan. “After you finish eating we’re going to crawl out of these bushes. When I’m sure it’s clear, I’m going to help you down to the railroad tracks. From there, we’re going to walk along the tracks at the edge of the trees until we find your camp. From what I've heard it's quite a few miles away.”
James responded with a painful look on his face, “I don’t know if I can make it. I’m hurt bad.”

Henry assured him, “Yes, you can. I’ll help you.”

After a few seconds of silence, James asked solemnly, “Why are you doing this?”

Henry’s answer was hesitant, but sure, “I owe you for saving my life.
James reacted defensively, "You don't owe me anything."

Henry tried to explain, "Listen, I know soldiers on opposite sides ain't supposed to help one another, but also I know that this is the right thing to do. Now, will you just let me help you?"

The pain in James' leg and shoulder was starting to get worse and he knew he could never make it back to the camp alone. After a moment he answered with a humble, "Yes".

They sat quietly as James finished his meal and when he was done they crawled out of the palmetto bushes. Henry instructed James, “Now, put your weight on my shoulder as we walk.”

Then, with the battlefield to their backs, the two men slipped out into the darkness together.

Last edited: Mon Dec 07, 2020 11:36 am

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Thanksgiving Memories

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Nov 23, 2020 10:16 am


The air was cold and crisp on that December morning. The teenager stood on the old dirt road at the edge of the woods and strained to listen for the dogs. They should have been released by now, but why couldn't he hear them? He lifted up his Marlin 30-30 rifle, placed the cold stock next to his cheek and aimed at a pine tree. As he touched the trigger he whispered, "Pow," and jerked back on the rifle as if it had kicked. He continued whispering to himself, "You got him! You got him! That's the biggest deer I've ever seen. I'll bet it's the biggest deer in Florida."

He ran through the kill in his mind. He could almost see his grandfather's smile and hear his prideful voice, "Nice shot boy. I always knew you'd get a big one."

He was grinning widely, lost in his daydream when he heard the sound of something walking in the woods. The hair on the back of his neck stood up and his senses became acutely aware of everything around him. He felt the adrenaline kick in and his heart began to beat wildly. For a moment he stood there frozen, just listening. The sound stopped. Then, it started again. It was definitely coming from behind him. He turned around slowly. On one side of the road were open woods, but on the other side was a fence that marked some posted property. The sound was coming from the posted property.

He made his way up to the fence quietly, hoping to sneak up on whatever was making the noise. It seemed to be coming from behind a large palmetto bush and it was getting louder. Maybe it was a big buck, marking his territory. With his gun up to his shoulder and his heart beating out of his chest he crept along the road to the right of the palmetto bush. The 30-30 felt heavy and his hands were cold, but he pushed on silently, stalking the big game. Seconds seemed like hours as he moved at a painstakingly slow pace. Finally, he caught some movement and pulled the rifle close to his shoulder, bracing for the shot... but it wasn't a deer. It was an armadillo!

He was disappointed and embarrassed at the same time. How could he have mistaken an armadillo for a deer? He thanked God that his grandfather hadn't been there to witness everything. He watched with amusement as the creature moved along, stopping every once in a while to dig something up out of the ground. It was interesting for a while, but it soon became downright aggravating. He picked up a stick and threw it at him, but the armadillo wouldn't move. Then, he found a rock and threw it, but once again it ignored him.

Then, a warm smile came across his cold face. He hadn't heard the dogs in a while. They must have run the deer the other way. That meant everyone else was in a different part of the woods by now. He was sure he could squeeze off a shot without anyone ever knowing about it. His smile broadened as he once again brought the rifle up to his shoulder and pointed it at the armadillo. He placed the sights on the armored, gray back of the pesky animal and moved the safety. Gently, just like his grandfather had taught him, he squeezed the trigger.

The roar of the shot echoed through the woods. The boy looked and saw the armadillo bounding off. He was scared to death, but totally untouched by the bullet. Then, he heard something that completely erased the smile from his face. A truck started up and he recognized it right away. It was his grandfather. He would be coming to see what he had shot at. How was he ever going to explain this?

That boy was me over forty years ago. I could never lie to my grandfather so when he got there I did the only thing that I could do, I told him the truth. I'll never forget the look on his face when I told him that I shot at an armadillo. He chewed me up one side and down the other and then, after a moment of silence, he said, "Well, I hope you at least killed it."

When he found out that I missed he chewed me out again.

Thanksgiving always reminds me of going hunting with my grandfather. As a kid I can’t think of anything that I looked forward to more than spending the night with him the night before a big hunt. I'd wake up to the sound of the hot water pot whistling and then he'd make me a cup of Folgers instant coffee. That's the only time that I ever got coffee and it always made me feel so grown up to sit there and drink a cup with him. Then, we'd get into the truck, turn on the CB radio to find out what the other hunters were up to and head out to start looking for deer tracks. I can still hear him humming as we go down the road and I can see him rolling down the window a little to let the cigarette smoke out. He had told my grandmother that he stopped smoking, but she never believed him. So, he would sneak cigarettes whenever she wasn’t around. It was a silly little game they played, but it makes for great memories.

Yes, Thanksgiving holds many fond memories for me. Now, I hear that some states are trying to cancel Thanksgiving altogether because of Covid-19. How is that good for anyone? How do you cancel Thanksgiving?

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A True Story

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:37 am

Over the years I've heard many amusing stories at my work place. The following is one such story that was told to me by an older man named Mac. It's short, but it always brings me a chuckle. I hope it brightens your day.

Mac pulled up to the stop sign intending to turn left onto the two lane highway. The traffic was extremely heavy and he sat there waiting for the opportunity to make his move, but every time he thought there might be enough room to turn an oncoming car would prevent him from pulling out. Finally, after five frustrating minutes he saw a small opening and decided go for it. He shot onto the road and into the traffic, forcing a large pickup truck to slow down behind him. He watched in the rearview mirror as the driver of the truck, a woman who seemed to be in her late fifties, threw her hands in the air and started yelling, clearly upset that he had pulled out in front of her.

Her ranting and raving grew even more intense as he once again turned on his left blinker. He didn't like pulling out in front of someone only to immediately turn again, but the heavy flow of traffic made it almost necessary.

Mac stopped in the road to turn, holding up a long line of cars behind him. As he waited for the ever elusive opening the woman in the truck continued to yell, scream and pound on the steering wheel. Finally, he was able to turn and as he did he noticed the woman furiously rolling down her window so she could yell at him when she went by. She stuck the upper portion of her body out the window. With her face hot with fury she opened her mouth to say something… but when she did her false teeth flew out of her mouth and landed right in the middle of the highway.

Mac almost passed out from laughing and drove home with a huge smile on his face.

Last edited: Mon Nov 16, 2020 10:46 am

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One Angry Bull

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2020 9:37 am

Shortly after my oldest son got married his wife began to tell us about a young bull that lived in the field right behind their rented house. We heard stories about how he would charge them when they were outside and how he always tried to go after their dog through the fence. To hear her tell it he was one big, mean bull.

On one particularly hot day my wife and I were visiting with her and the three of us went into the back yard to see this infamous, raging bull. To our surprise, we found him behind the gate that leads into an adjoining field. Somehow, the gate had opened inward and pushed him into the corner, trapping him so that he could barely move. If he would have simply backed up the gate would have pushed away, but he didn’t know that and was rocking back and forth, obviously irritated at his predicament. Always oblivious to the plight of animals I viewed the spectacle with slight amusement. The ladies, however, both extreme, bleeding heart animal lovers, immediately started lamenting how the poor thing was going to die from dehydration because he was trapped and could not get any water.

Little by little it started to sink in that someone was expected to go out in the field and swing the gate away from the rear end of this ticked off bull. It didn’t take a lot of insight to surmise that I was to be that someone. Remember, this wasn’t just any bull, but a bull that I had been told on multiple occasions was blessed with an exceedingly bad disposition.

After failing to make my case as to why we should leave the thousand pound hunk of raw muscle to fend for himself (I honestly don’t know if he was a thousand pounds or not, but for the sake of my ego just go with it) I mustered up all of the manly bravado that I could find, swallowed my fears and pushed into the field with the courage of a prisoner being led to the guillotine.

I crept up behind him slowly, thankful that he had been facing the opposite direction when the gate mysteriously decided to spring its trap. He was still irritated and I could sense it in his body movements. With a shaky, outstretched hand I reached out, heaved the gate open and took off running. In a moment of fear I heard a loud snort, which was immediately followed by the unmistakable sound of thundering hoof beats. I knew he was directly behind me. My thoughts raced to the videos I have seen of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain and how, on multiple occasions, hapless individuals were trampled or heedlessly thrown aside as they tried to get out of the way of the angry bovines. Fueled by an unforeseen shot of adrenaline my legs began to move like I was the bionic man. I could feel his hot breath on my neck. I knew there was no way that I could make it back to the gate that led into the yard so, in a desperate attempt to save my life, I made a beeline for the fence and dove over the top of it head first. I landed on the ground with a thud, fully expecting to hear the sound of chain link being ripped to shreds as my angry adversary crashed through the fence in a fit of fury.

When nothing happened I looked from my balled up, fetal position on the ground and found my wife and daughter-in-law staring at me in awestruck wonder, obviously impressed by my valiant, heroic efforts to outrun the bull.

I managed to stand up with far less bionic assistance than I had been blessed with just moments earlier and looked back to the fence where I made my harrowing escape from death. The bull wasn’t there! My eyes moved out into the field and locked onto a sight that just couldn’t seem to register with my brain. There, standing exactly where he was before I swung the gate open was my Pamplonian foe. He didn’t even realize that the gate had been moved and that he was free to move around. No doubt, he didn’t even know that I had ventured my very life to release him from his bondage.

I looked back at my two, adoring fans and quickly realized that I had been mistaken by their reactions. They weren’t staring at me in awestruck wonder; rather, they had been shaking their heads in disbelief, wondering exactly what kind of ludicrous spectacle had just transpired in front of them.

My son and his wife moved out of that house a few years ago. I don’t know if the bull still resides in the field or not. One thing is certain though; if you walk into that back yard and stand where I “valiantly and heroically” dove over the fence you can still hear my wife and daughter-in-law’s laughter resounding in the heavens.

Last edited: Wed Oct 14, 2020 8:50 pm

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Monday Musing 9/7/20

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:36 pm


My grandfather passed away on this day twenty-eight years ago. We all called him Papa. When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was spend the night with him. My grandmother worked as a telephone operator on the graveyard shift, so I would get to sleep in their bed with him. Even though he snored terribly, I still looked forward to spending the night with him. They had a tiny little television that sat on top of the dresser and most of the time it was a Friday night so we would watch “The Love Boat" and then “Fantasy Island” together. Early the next morning, I would be awakened by the whistling of the water pot. For some reason, he loved instant coffee and he always let me have a cup. Drinking coffee with my grandfather always made me feel like I was someone special.

When I spent the night during hunting season we would leave the house on Saturday morning while it was still dark. Everyone had a CB radio at that time and I can still remember the excitement in the air as all of the hunters told what area of the woods they would be scouting, searching for a fresh set of deer tracks. I spent many cold mornings waiting for a deer to come out of the woods after the dogs had been put out. I never once killed a deer or even so much as saw one, but that was fine with me. I didn’t really want to kill a deer. My reason for going wasn’t to bag a trophy, but so that I could spend time with my grandfather.

He was a vegetable farmer, mostly growing tomatoes, watermelons and cantaloupes. I spent many hot days working out in a field for him with my brothers and cousins earning $2 an hour, or less. He always tried to pay us. He had a strong work ethic and did his best to pass that along to his seven grandkids.

One time he took me and my three brothers fishing on his fourteen foot bass boat. I remember a lot of arguing and someone getting their line all tangled up in the anchor rope. I also remember that it ended up being a very short trip. After that, he would only take two of us at the time. However, he still took us. It would have been much easier and certainly less stressful to go without grandkids, but he took us anyway.

When I was around twelve years old he told me that if I got all A’s on my report card he would take me with him on his annual hunting trip to Gunnison, Colorado. I still remember the surprised look on his face when I excitedly showed him my report card. He kept his word, though, and not too long after that we were pulling out of his driveway headed for Colorado. That was one of the best trips of my life, not because of the hunting, but because I got to spend quality time with him.

There are many more things I could write, but some memories are just worth treasuring.

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Another Garden Lesson

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Sun Dec 15, 2019 12:07 pm

I planted two rows of onioins in my garden yesterday. This is a big deal to me for two reasons:
1) It's the first garden that I've started since the hurricane forced us off of our property in 2017.
2) It's the first time that I've actually felt excited about starting a garden since probably 2015.

I always used to love working in the garden, but somewhere along the line it lost its lustre and I simply started going through the motions. It became more of a chore than a leisure activity and I got to where I was doing it because that was what I had always done, not because I really wanted to. It wasn't until I lost the opportunity to garden that I actually started to appreciate it again.

Hmm... I feel a life lesson coming on here.

We do the very same thing throughout our time on this earth. We fail to appreciate something that is right in front of us because we allow our senses to be dulled by the routines of life. Ask yourself these questions, "Is there something, or someone, that you are taking for granted? How would you feel if that something, or someone, were taken away? Has your daily routine become so mundane that you are failing to recognize the beauty around you?"

Those are piercing questions, but ones that I think we should contemplate. It's funny to me that sometimes, no most times, my deepest life lessons have come from gardening. There's just something about digging around in the dirt that brings about an appreciation of life and all that it has to offer.

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Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:23 pm

A few months ago one of my co-workers came across a stray dog on the side of the road. She has a heart for dogs and couldn’t just leave him there, so she brought him home with the intention of finding his owners. Unfortunately, no one came forward so she set out to find him a good home. Marion County was absolutely no help at all because the dog wasn’t chipped. Her problems were compounded by the fact that she had found the dog and couldn’t claim ownership. Needless to say, three months later, despite not being the owner, she still has him.

Her ordeal was still fresh in my mind when my wife showed up the other day with a little Jack Russell that she had found on the roadside. Now, I don’t want any dog to go without a home, but we already have two of our own and we are currently living in an RV. It’s not like we have a lot of extra room. The dog was dirty, seemed to be injured and was definitely old. Where my wife saw a poor, helpless animal that was hurt and needed attention, my mind immediately went to the worst case scenario. Dollar signs flashed in front of my eyes like mini strobe lights and, I hate to admit it, but I got angry that she had picked this hapless creature up. To make matters worse, she had a class that she was running late for so she said, “Can you take care of her for a couple of hours until I get back?”

Suddenly, I was at home by myself, taking care of a dog that I didn’t want, wondering how it all happened.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my stories that I am more of an animal tolerater than I am an animal lover. The last thing I wanted to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was take care of a dirty, stray dog. For all of you animal lovers out there let me reassure you that I could never hurt an animal so she wasn’t mistreated in any way. In fact, inside the RV I did my best to make her comfortable. She drank some water and looked up at me with big dog eyes as if to say, “Thanks.” She was a gentle, loveable dog, but the dollar signs were still strobing in my peripherals in anticipation of the vet bills that were sure come and I still wasn’t sure what to do about putting her with our other two dogs.

I looked on Facebook and found the LOST AND FOUND PETS OF OCALA/MARION COUNTY FLORIDA page. Once I was granted privileges I posted a picture, a description of the dog and where we found her.

The very first response I got was an introduction to a world that is waaay outside of my comfort zone. It read:
“SWP and HOPE for this precious little furbaby so heartbreaking”.

First, I’m not even sure what SWP means. Second, I had no idea that adults, or anyone for that matter, referred to dogs as furbabies. My mind was still trying to comprehend this when my phone rang. It was my wife and she was having a bad case of vertigo. It was so bad that she couldn’t drive back home, so I had to put the little dog in our spare kennel and go pick her up. She went into the kennel without a fuss and once again pierced my soul with those big, thankful eyes.

When I finally got the chance to look at Facebook again the excited owner of the dog had reached out to me. The dog’s name was Pixie and the owner’s husband had been riding up and down the highway trying to find her. So, shortly thereafter a grateful husband and his son came to our home to pick her up. We didn’t have a chance to be with her for long, but little Pixie made a lasting impression on me.

A funny result of all this is the response that has been given on the Facebook post. For a person who simply tolerates animals for the sake of his family I was suddenly made to look like a hero. Since I posted that Pixie found her way home over 90 people have either responded with comments or likes. One person wrote:
“…thank you to the finder for getting her to safety, posting and reuniting!”

My wife rolled her eyes at that one because she knows the truth of the situation. Honestly, she is the one who was the hero in all of this, not me. She saved her from the dangers of the highway while I reluctantly took little Pixie inside and then posted for purely selfish reasons because I didn’t want to be stuck with another animal and the costs associated with it.

Looking back, I’m finding that I was wrong about that. There’s something to be said about a heart that beats for animals. Perhaps I have kept my heart a little too shielded from the love and joy that can come from loving a dog. Maybe I should lighten up and start really accepting the unconditional love that our pets give us every single day. Who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll start referring to our dogs as “furbabies”.

Somehow though, I’m drawn back to the words of that great philosopher and theologian Mr. Grinch, “Too much, too fast.”

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For The Love of Cows

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:55 am

I can't believe some of the things that I have done for my children. This is not a complaint, or an expression of regret; it is more a statement of wonder than anything else. Let me give you an example:

When my daughter was probably ten or so, we had an incident where my cousin's pregnant cow became sick. The vet was called out and they did what they could, but the next morning when we looked out in the field the poor thing was dead. My daughter, who has a heart for animals, ran out to check on the cow and came back excitedly, " I saw the baby kick Daddy, you gotta do something to help it!"

Now, I seriously doubted that the baby had actually kicked, but she kept pleading and begging with me until I made my way out into the field with her.

When we got there it was obvious that rigormortis had set in. The legs were stiff and the eyes were nothing but glassy orbs staring blankly off into space. I tried to explain to her that she could not have seen the baby move, that the cow had died in the night and the baby with it, but she could not bring herself to believe it and insisted that she saw movement in the dead cow's stomach area. There was no consoling her. In her mind the baby was in danger and we were in a race against time to save it. She pleaded through teary eyes, "You gotta do something Daddy!"

A decision had to me made. Should I walk away, knowing that I was right? Or should I do something to prove it to my daughter? It was an easy decision.

I ran back to the house and came back with the sharpest knife that I could find. Then, I knelt down by the stiff and lifeless cow, placed the knife against it's hide and proceeded to do my first, and last, cow Cesarean section.

I wish that I could say that it was an easy operation, but you have to know that I am not a cow expert. In fact, if there were a cow hater's club then I would belong to it. In addition, to be perfectly honest, I had no clue what I was doing and, to make matters worse, the knife was not as sharp as I had hoped.

The hot morning sun started to bear down and a bead of salty sweat found its way over my eyebrows and into my eyes. I wiped it away and began to cut at the place I thought the baby should be. After a few minutes it was clear that I had managed to locate the stomach.

I tried again in a different area, cutting the tough hide away, all the while listening to my daughters pleas of, "Please hurry Daddy, please hurry."

After about fifteen minutes, I finally found what I thought was the right place, but then the blade of the knife hit the bladder, and a flow of urine flooded over my knife and hand. My stomach heaved and I had to stand up to get away from from the disgusting smell. Let me add that this was not the first smell that had sent my stomach into convulsions.

I was ready to give up, but I somehow managed to press on. I got back to work, and eventually found the right place. I peeled the hide back to the point where I could see the calf inside through the sheer wall of the birth sack. I actually found myself hoping beyond hopes that it was alive, but it was not to be.

I cut the sack open and pulled out the baby, a stream of fluids and smells coming along with it. My daughter saw the lifeless calf and was finally convinced that it was dead. She cried even harder.

I look back on that situation and, even though it was gross and disgusting, I believe that I did the right thing. A father needs to be a hero in his children's eyes, and that day, despite the queasy stomach and the fact that I couldn't eat for the rest of the week, I felt like a hero to my daughter.

But, if the situation arises again... she's going to have to do it herself.

Last edited: Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:11 pm

This blog entry has been viewed 316 times

A Family Adventure

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:22 am

Despite the fact that I am not an animal lover, it seems my life is forever intertwined with them. Here is something I wrote a number of years ago about one colorful animal adventure:

It was a nice day and we decided to take a family walk down our dirt lane. The lane runs beside a 30 acre tract of land where a local farmer keeps his cows. We were walking beside the cattle field when we noticed a cow on the verge of giving birth. She was standing up and we watched as the delivery took place. Like a sack of potatoes, the calf came out and plopped to the ground. After that, the mother walked away as if nothing had happened and just left it there. Normally, the mother cow cleans the calf off and then gently urges it to stand up, but this one didn't. Left where it was, on the ground and still in the birth sac, the calf would soon die.

My wife, knowledgeable in animal birth from our own experiences with goats, saw the calf was in danger right away. On the other hand, I was standing there dumb and happy, totally oblivious when she startled me with, "We've got to get it out of the sac!"

From the panic in her voice I knew something was wrong and I listened as she quickly explained the danger. She wanted to go out into the field, but there were a few obstacles in our path and, as often seems to be the case in times of animal emergencies, the job fell on me.

I climbed the cattle fence, crawled through the barbed wire fence and gently stepped through the underbrush and briars until finally making it to the fallen calf. The fact that I was wearing shorts and was barefooted made it just a tad difficult (and painful). After finally getting there, she yelled instructions to me from the fence line.

First, I had to break the sac open and clean around its mouth and nose. I swept my fingers inside of the mouth to clean out anything that might be blocking the airway. I won't go into detail other than to say it was slimy and disgusting. After that, the calf still was not breathing.

Next, I picked it up by the legs and swung it back and forth, trying to clear out its lungs and force it to start breathing. That didn't work either.

Finally, my wife yelled out, "You have to give it mouth to mouth!"

To which I responded, "What??!!"

"You have to get some air into its lungs!"

It was at this point that I regretted suggesting a walk down the lane. I really had no desire to put my mouth on the mouth of a calf that still had fresh afterbirth all over it.

I yelled back, "And how am I supposed to do that?"

"Cup your hands together, put them over its nose and blow."

That didn't sound quite so disgusting, but it still wasn't something that I wanted to do. Hesitantly, and with increasing anxiety, I got on my knees and took the calf's wet head into my lap. Then, I cupped my hands, placed them into position and started blowing. To my great
surprise, it worked and it wasn't long before the calf was breathing and moving around. About this time the mother strolled over as if to say, "Thanks for doing the dirty work, but I'll take it from here." I backed away and she started taking care of her baby.

I tip-toed back through the briars, crawled through the barbed wire fence and over the cattle fence to my excited family where I received a hero's welcome (just call me Mouth to Mouth Calf Resuscitation Man).

After basking in my fifteen minutes of fame, however, I went home, brushed my teeth for about ten minutes and took a long, hot shower.

Last edited: Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:46 pm

This blog entry has been viewed 273 times

RV Living

Category: Life As I Know It | Posted: Fri May 17, 2019 9:55 am

I mentioned in the previous post that we are currently living in an 36 foot fifth-wheel RV. This is totally by choice for two reasons:

1) My parents purchased a manufactured home and moved back onto the property and since we help take care of them we wanted to be close.

2) It's paid for. No rent!

Number 2 definitely helps us try a little harder. It certainly isn't a utopia and we are having to adjust in many ways, but it's just the two of us and we are trying to make it work.

My daughter came to visit for Mother's Day this past weekend and brought her two oldest boys, ages 4 & 5. The boys could hardly contain their excitement about "camping" at Mia and Opa's house. Actually, they didn't call it a house. They called it a "camping car". It's funny how their little minds think. They had a good time and the youngest cried when it was time to leave. Hopefully they can come back soon.

This blog entry has been viewed 254 times

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