Feed Shark When I Grow Up

19 June 2012

(mis) informed

All it takes is a phone call.

Or catch me out in the yard - I'll stop whatever I'm doing.

So will most of my neighbors.

A few minutes to stop into someone's office or home or favorite hangout to catch up with them and find out what's really going on in their lives - that's one of the things I enjoy.

People are important in my life.

I can leave the fishing, photography, hiking, woodturning, and online stuff alone for as long as I need - or want to, if there are people with whom I can converse.

Especially face-to-face.

It's one of the things I do not like about blogging, social media,  e-mail, texting and such.

It takes the personal out of it.  Of course it's obvious that as I sit here and type these very words it's a bit inane.

OK!  So it's probably completely pointless, senseless, and ridiculously foolish to think that my phone is going to ring off the hook or that my yard will be swarmed with visitors - we do live waaaaaay out there for even the folks closest to where I grew up was reared.

But it's one of the reasons this little place stays so barren.

You'll find me on the mower or the pond bank or in the hammock or the swing hanging from the maple in the front yard.  Maybe wandering down along the creek bank with a kid or my camera.  Maybe pulling weeds or roofing a shed or riding my bike around the country side (again, probably with a kid).

Maybe relaxing on the couch with a book or editing photographs - lots of that going on these days, for certain.

But this place will likely be barren for a while, along with all the other online & electronic haunts.

Call me.  We'll go fishing.  Or photographing.  Or hiking.  Or to lunch or dinner.

Or just sit and talk.

08 November 2011

Incredibly quotable

Frederick Buechner is probably the most quotable author I've ever read.

Yet he remains the one I quote the least.

Not to say I actually quote him the least of any other author, rather to say that I quote the least amount of his writings with which I can get away and still attempt to convey his meaning.

One would have to quote lengthy passages of his writings for most people to get the gist of what it is he's really saying.  So many of his writings are context-dependent.  One would have to mangle the actual verbiage so very badly in order to make the quote fit the average person, that the essence of what Buechner means would be lost in the process.

He does, however, have some great little snippets:

"The Gospel in sycamore"

"The unflagging lunacy of God."

"It is the rain, and it tastes of silver; it is the rain, and it smells of christening."

"Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. . . . As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one."

". . . the Christian position is that there's no such thing as your own business."

". . . sometimes the pious lean so far over backward that they fall flat on their face."

"The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather” 
“It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle.” 

“To be wise is to be eternally curious.” 

Buechner challenges me.  His perspective and mine don't line up, which is to say we have certain glaring theological differences; however his perspective is unique and the creativity of his communication challenges me to think more deeply about matters theological, matters divine, matters human - in short, matters that matter.

I keep a couple of his writings on the shelf in my office, next to Augustine, a couple of biographies, a wordsmithing book, and the stack of Fine Homebuilding magazines.

He's one worth checking out, even if taken with a grain of salt and read with the above caveats.

24 October 2011

It's that time of year again . . .

It comes earlier and earlier each year, so it seems.

And it lasts nigh about until wintertime -just about forever and takes over our household in ways that defy logic or explanation.

I walked in last evening to hear the sights and sounds that have become UNMISTAKEABLE around my home.

It's amazing how something so simple can change everything about one's life.  It interrupts schedules - sometimes it goes so far as to define the schedule. 

Yes, it's baseball.

And it's coming to a close.


Within days.

Of course, it doesn't hurt my feelings that my favorite team is playing in the final series of the year, which makes it, and me, easier to deal with.

02 September 2011

Butterflies, and a surprise

We (my daughter and I) recently had the pleasure and privilege of attending the annual Carolina Butterfly Society's Butterfly Symposium, an event that alternates between North and South Carolina on a yearly basis.  The host site was the South Carolina Botanical Garden and Education Center at Clemson University.

The program for the day showcased local resources - Clemson professors, Botanical Garden staff & volunteers, and local native plant nursery Carolina Wild.

After an introduction and welcome we were treated to a presentation by Patrick McMillan, Clemson professor and host of Expeditions on SC-ETV.  Patrick currently functions as the Interim Director of the SCBG.  His topic was "Nature on the Move", focusing on areas of resilience, how nature changes over time, and how species suffer or thrive depending on environmental conditions.

Joe Culin, former chair of the Entomology Department at Clemson, presented on the spiritual and religious significance of butterflies throughout the history of various cultures around the world.  Learning the superstition involved in calling Lepidoptera "butterflies" seems comical in many regards, but the etiology is truly fascinating. 

Christi Bruner from Carolina Wild presented the group with examples of larval host plants native to the area.  Her hard work in developing a catalog of indigenous plant for gardeners interested in attracting butterflies throughout their life cycle will prove invaluable to gardeners in Upstate SC.

Of course, any trip to a garden necessarily includes a garden tour and since this one involved butterflies and butterfliers . . . lots of cameras showed up with numerous comments about the number of species, identification of them, and gracious tours by John & Carolyn Turner and Lisa Wagner.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtails seldom sit still to nectar.  Thus the fluttering wings.

Female Monarch

Male monarch butterflies have a spot (it's really a scent gland) on the hindwing.

Monarchs seem to be the most recognizable butterfly species by the general public due to many years of research and more than a few educational films about them.

Butterflies, of course, don't start off as butterflies.  They start off as eggs, which become caterpillars.  The orange ones below are Gulf Fritillary cats feeding on passionflower, or maypop - that's what I grew up calling it, anyway. 

If you ever pick up one of these from your fennel bush, it's gonna make your hands stink.  It's a Black Swallowtail caterpillar devouring the sacrificial fennel bush planted just for that purpose.

And then there's the surprise.

How you get up there?

This little toad was in the opening on an ashcan at the entrance to the Education Center, spotted by another attendee at the symposium.

During the brief tour there were numerous butterfly species identified - I don't have a complete list, but upwards of 20 species and well over 100 individual specimens.

Certainly a wonderful day of learning and lectures and the discovery of a new treasure in Upstate South Carolina is always a good thing!  If you ever get towards Clemson (for anything other than some overcrowded sports event) make certain to check out the Botanical Garden and specifically the Butterfly Garden. 

12 July 2011

The river flowed the color of honey - sourwood and unfiltered.  Dark enough to barely see the rough outline of a few rocks under the surface, yet fast enough to easily make out the few slabs sparsely covered by the current.  It was slightly little higher than normal, but with July thunderstorms rolling through the area for the last few days it made perfect sense.  The river should be up.

A path meandered alongside recently mowed fields with trees covering the old gravel lane.  The quiet walk grew to a relaxing traipse pocked with sightings of Gemmed Satyrs, Petaltails, Darners & Cruisers,  keeping the time occupied nicely enough while the humid breeze more than reminded one that July seldom falters in telling the story of Summertime.  The sounds of cicadas, warblers, and flowing water filled my ears as I dodged leftover mud puddles for some inane reason.  Totally out of character not to trod through mud puddles.

Arrival at the riverside always stretches the thought process out in a futile effort to know where to begin.  An effort because of the abiding nature of the river; futile since the transmogrification constantly progresses.  The presence of a gorgeous Ardea herodias (Great Blue Heron) loitering aimlessly on a crag upstream eased the decision.  Where reside birds of prey, there reside fish.  Time to get wet.

Inundation cools the woolen sock-clad feet shod by felt-soled boots.  The refreshing feeling admonished me for the long dereliction of neglecting this part of life.  Too far away and too long apart live the times where my feet walk upon the bottom of any river.  Part of me always longs to dive right in leaving the rod and vest on the bank while the demoralizing smudges of everyday life heave away with the current.  And then a fish jumps, reminding me of my purpose for this afternoon.

I am, once again, smitten by a childhood love - or at least something akin to the lust of a teenager.  Modern reality shows and flashy advertising videos place this part of life in complete juxtaposition with practice.  No fancy glasses, clothes, or gleaming method of transportation to trek to some remote exotic locale.  No high-dollar fly boxes or fishing gear.  Just me, a rod, a line, and a little friend-tied fly at the end of a leader - attempting to fool the most wonderfully elusive and wily little Salvelinus fontinalus.  Few things quiet the heart, cajole the mind, or discipline the body like fishing.

The initial span of time passed observing a cavorting specimen cavorting up and across the current.  The acrobatics mesmerized while a minutiae of my own intellect formed a strategy, observed and mimicked the entomological processes transpiring below the sourwood-tinged facade, while I ambled into casting position.

Elusive really doesn't do the species justice.  Illusory more aptly characterizes them most days.  The little magician appeared in various contortions in the same general region every twenty or so seconds, only to fade into the murk and reprise the show at odd intervals.  Disheartened after what seemed an interminable duration, numerous patterns, drifts, and exasperating attempts it proved time to move upstream, leaving the aerialist to continue the show awaiting the audience of the next heron to flutter into that section of the river.

His brethren farther upstream would prove less baffling, more willing to be attentive to the offerings presented, and as boisterous in their acrobatics as they were entertaining to me.

Time in the river brings melodies to my heart.  As I gallivanted back toward civilization words came to my mind of a song dear enough and, as the fishing, not often visited:

'Cause I know the river is deep
I found out that the currents are tricky
And I know that the river is wide
And oh, the currents are strong
And I could lose every dream
I dreamt that I could carry with me
Oh, but I will reach the other side
Please don't let me have to wait too long 
 - "The River" by Rich Mullins

If time apart makes the heart grow fonder, my love for rivers has and will continue to deepen immeasurably for some time to come.

Now, if only I could find some boiled peanuts on the ride home . . .


18 April 2011


I know we've all grown accustomed to national TAX day being April 15th, but this year it's today - April 18th.

In that vein national BAG day has been held over through today.

As always, celebrate responsibly, but definitely celebrate!

28 March 2011

About How I Feel About Life in General

Shamelessly lifted from McNally - here 

Always been a generalist. Give me an assignment, I’ll go get a picture for you. Curious about lots of stuff, so my photo portfolio, should such a thing exist, is a bit like a cluttered general store out in the country somewhere. You know, one of those places you can go into and score milk, butter, eggs, fishing line, bait, DVDs, romance novels, firearms of various caliber and types, and certain lawn tools. To complete the analogy, it’s tended by an aging, somewhat curmudgeonly proprietor who is increasingly forgetful as to where things are. Uh, that would be me.
 Except I don't get to fly in such fun machines.


08 February 2011

Evergreen . . . No More

The joke's on the Christmas tree, New Year's is here
The king of the living room's out on his ear
You take back the gifts that you laid at his feet
And you drag the old tannebaum out to the street

We took back the star that he thought was his crown

We packed up in papers his bright-colored gown
The lights and the ornaments back on the shelf
His majesty now can take of himself

And it's nay, nay, nay never

Nay nay never no more
Shall he stay green forever
He's evergreen no more

In a ditch by the roadside he dies like a dog

What once was the Christmas tree now is a log
Broken brown branches half-buried in snow
Are bones of a hero one Christmas ago

And it's nay, nay, nay never

Nay nay never no more
Shall he stay green forever
He's evergreen no more

But if you look closely, it's easy to see

A tangle of tinsel is caught in the tree
That one badge of honor is all that remains
Of those glorious Christmas tree evergreen days

And it's nay, nay, nay never

Nay nay never no more
Shall he stay green forever
He's evergreen no more

Copyright - David Wilcox

We didn't even get a tree put up this year (long story that essentially comes down to Sunday afternoon laziness restfulness on the part of yours truly and two of the three children), but this time of year they are seen in quite different places than in December.  I see them on the side of the road, in the back of pickup trucks headed to the lake, and in roadside trash dumps nearly everyday.

Christmas trees are done.



Fish habitats.



They are last year's news and last year's trouble. 

Maybe a few of the trees will make it to a recycling station to be re-purposed.

Tinsel finds itself in robin's nests and mangled into grassy tangles in a roadside ditch for the Adopt-a-Highway crews to clean up when the gullies dry and the sun warms the days.

Ornaments are packed away in attics, under beds, in storage buildings, and basements to enjoy their long winter's nap all the way through Spring, Summer, and Fall.  

They remind me that we take Christmas too lightly and too seasonally.  Christmas long ago became an exercise in commercialism run more by the marketing gurus than by the Church.

I'd just as soon not put up a Christmas tree, but I would rather we sang "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night" at least once a month as part of worship - ALL YEAR LONG!

The world stills itself  for a few hours in the midst of the mad rush to the mall or some office party or family gathering to listen to the first few chapters of Luke for a few minutes.  Maybe someone throws in Matthew's version and very seldom John's "And the Word became flesh . . ." but that all happens in December.  We need to celebrate in January, February and July the Truth of those words.

Thankfully, the story endures regardless of the season and regardless of our daily rituals of practical atheism.

And it grows into something more than an evergreen tree to be discarded along a roadside.

More than a tree, lights, ornaments, songs, and the kindling of a fire by a discarded piece of resin-soaked fat wood; the story starts a fire in the hearts of His people that cares not the season because there always remains a need for the burning into our hearts and understanding of the love, the tenderness, the sacrifice and the holiness that makes the Christmas season possible.

As Frederick Buechner says, "In the darkness of that Judean night, in the midst of nowhere, to parents who were nobody, the child was born, and whoever it was that delivered him slapped his bare backside to start the breath going, and he cried out, as each one of us cried out, at the shock and strangeness of being born into the darkness of the world.  Then, as the Gospels picture it, all heaven broke loose." - Come and See

30 December 2010

It's All About . . .

Each of us have things in our lives that chew up our time, our thoughts, our interests.

Few of us have things in our lives that chew up time with much that will be remembered in 10, 20, 50, 100, or 1000 years.

We cut the grass, paint the hallway, go on a hike, go to church, drudge away our days at a desk or behind a wheel or other mundane tasks that eat away at our time without leaving much of a mark on our souls.

Or . . .

or our souls are eaten away, eaten up, devoured by those things.

How (or) do we live lives worth living?

Does it matter if we are remembered 10 or 20 or 1000 years after our bodies have turned into dustbunnies?

 What are those things that constitute "What It's All About"?

Comments welcomed and appreciated.



Stevie Ray Vaughan
recording of 1989

by Tommy Shannon/Chris Layton/Reese Wynans/B. Carter/Ruth Ellsworth

Day by day night after night,
blinded by the neon lights
Hurry here hustlin' there,
no one's got the time to spare
Money's tight nothin' free,
won't somebody come and rescue me
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stranded, caught in the crossfire

Tooth for tooth eye for an eye,
sell your soul just to buy buy buy
Beggin' a dollar stealin' a dime,
come on can't you see that I
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire

I need some kind of kindness,
some kind of sympathy oh no
We're stranded, caught in the crossfire

Save the strong lose the weak,
never turning the other cheek
Trust nobody don't be no fool,
whatever happened to the golden rule
We got stranded, caught in the crossfire
We got stranded, caught in the crossfire
We got stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stranded, caught in the crossfire
Help me

 That's how I usually feel during the "holiday season" - stranded; stuck in the sights of people strafing through life with their eyes wide shut and their trigger finger frozen in full-auto; in need of a lot more than the world around me has to offer.

That has not been the case this year, for whatever reason.

And I am grateful.

Very, very grateful.

The year comes to a close on a restful, relaxing note for a change.

Maybe it's the Christmas Day snow and the lack of running about due to road conditions.  Maybe it's because the "holidays" fall on weekends which provides an extra day or so to enjoy them.  Maybe it's because we treated it like a holy day in our home and enjoyed the day and the company of one another.

Or maybe it's because in spite of all our own frozen trigger fingers yanked tight against the guard, we have found Peace in a time where there is little of It to be found.

03 November 2010

The Real Fall Fishing trip

I don't mind solitude.

I used to crave it and seek it out far too often.

These days, I find it where I least expect it and least enjoy it.

At least, most days.

My fall fishing weekend is not normally a time reserved for solitude.  Instead, it's reserved for enjoyment with at least another fishing buddy, if not a couple of guys.

This year, however, three of them bailed on me.

Which was fine since this was the year I planned to go back to the stream where it all began for me.

Fly fishing is not how I was brought up.  Trout fishing wasn't even on my radar until late high school.

But once I discovered this little valley where little more than a century ago Carolina parakeets were still present, things changed dramatically.

There are pools up there big enough to hide a truck in.  And where there are pools that big, there are fish.

Lots of them and some big enough to warrant the arduous hike in.

I packed my gear for the trip, realizing it was later in the year than I'd ever been up there, which meant shelter, waders, wading boots, uggghhh!  55lbs is just too much for a weekend trip!

But the sky was beautiful, the colors were gorgeous, and I wasn't going to be slowed down by decrepit old knees that threatened to buckle under the extra strain.

Late in October is the perfect time for me to getaway.  It's the 1st part of the 4th quarter at the office, which means the industry in which I'm employed is overwhelmed with work.  All the more reason to get out and down the road as often as possible.  I knew I was going to have a rough day come Monday, but some things are worth it.

So, down the road I went:

Now, this place is not exactly along the beaten path.  I mean, there is a path to it (which is more than I can say about a lot of the places I've fished!), but you have to go through a lot to get there.

including past some places you would just about swear were in the hills of West Virginia . . .

However, there are more than a few really cool parts to being this far away . . .

Proof that I could not be reached!!!!!!!!!!!!

With scenery like this, who wants to be found anyways!

And so off I went into the great outdoors, where halfway down the trail to my campsite I realized that the compact, waterproof camera I brought along to document the hiking, camping, fishing part needed to capture the view along the trail.

There was just one problem . . . the battery was sitting in the charger at the house.

So, no fishin' pics

And no serene, remote valley pics.

And no big pool or big fish pics (there were big fish, btw).

But I will go back in the Spring in search of some wildflowers and exotic plant life.

Here are a few from exploring later in the weekend . . .

I did make one more stop "on the way home" at another section of the same creek, and this time, I at least took a few minutes for some non-fishing pictures.

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I had a video but I couldn't get it to upload.


It's one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon . . .

Shoes spread out on the ground . . .

A good book in my lap and my legs stretched out as the hammock gently sways to & fro . . .

Because, you see, my wonderful wife indeed came through with another garage sale hammock that should last at least as long as the last one.

Just need to keep the kids out of it long enough for me to enjoy it . . .

The cooler weather always dissuades them from lounging in the hammock.

Which is why I have a wool blanket.

12 October 2010

Death and all his friends

MAN IS UNWILLING to consider the subject of death. The shroud, the mattock and the grave, he labors to keep continually out of sight. He would live here always if he could; and since he cannot, he at least will put away every emblem of death as far as possible from his sight. Perhaps there is no subject so important, which is so little thought of. Our common proverb that we use is just the expression of our thoughts, "We must live." But if we were wiser we should alter it and say, "We must die." Necessity for life there is not; life is a prolonged miracle. Necessity for death there certainly is, it is the end of all things. Oh that the living would lay it to heart!  Charles Spurgeon

I missed a memorial service today.
I didn't find out about it until it was too late to plan to attend.

He was roughly my age.

He had a wife, kids, friends.

All the things a man hopes for in life.

We worked together a few years ago.  He even took my position when I left, only to leave a short while later because he was so very unused to being bound by an employer's hours.  We commiserated about the struggles of work, family - life in general; but I remember him as looking at life in the term Spurgeon used above - "a prolonged miracle" - he just didn't use those exact words.

It sounds sad to say someone died.  

It sounds hopeless and vapid and despairing.

But it's not. 

It's just the beginning.

Every time I hear of a funeral or memorial service or of someone's death, I start thinking about planning my own post-life-on-this-earth party.  

The songs I enjoy now that will hopefully sing of who I have been and what I have enjoyed and treasured and whom I have loved.

The words I hope to leave with those I love so dearly.

The words of Hope that are far beyond any words I could ever speak and that continue to live with those whose Love and Life endures.

That was is his Love.  One of the other things we shared besides friendship and industry and a love for life.  

The only one that really matters.

04 October 2010

Fall Fishing

Saturday was one of our many, fabled, family trips to the mountains.

We go there often and wish we could figure out how to live there without giving up family, friends, jobs, etc. where we currently reside.

We've been trying for nearly 17 years without success.

When we do head to the mountains, we bring back treasured memories, many captured photographically . . .

This trip was at the request of our youngest son who recently received a Pentax Optio W90 for his 14th birthday.  He wanted to get in the water and play with the waterproof feature. I need to get both boys to post here, because I don't seem to have time much anymore.  Angry

I caught him putting on a set of waders and boots . . .

We made a quick stop by the hatchery to remind the kids what different trout look like.

Here's a shot of some of the breeding stock at the hatchery . . .

And here's a shot of some of the hardest fish to catch in all of Western North Carolina - the most prominent fish silhouette in this picture is probably 20+ inches long and it's not, by any means, the biggest in the stream.

 Of course, the day was not really about fishing.  It was much more about family time and relaxing together.

Which is why we do things like browse store shelves . . .

and take pics of goofy kids skipping stones . . .

You can almost tell it's starting to be Autumn around here based on the fleece and the cap . . .

but not based on the rolled up pants and bare feet.

And then there are the riverbanks and the rocks . . .

and the worn out flies on the end of worn out leaders on the end of fairly new lines wrapped around new reels and new rods . . .

All the while, my thoughts are haunted by monsters

That dark, ominously silhouetted one's probably 24" or bigger.

and it's a small monster for these parts.

28 September 2010

Don't wait

Pets have become part of mainstream American families in a huge way.  We love them, cuddle them, buy them fancy food, treats, beds, and even clothing.  I even have a friend making pet caskets in multiples sizes and marketing them through local veterinarians.

If you have pets, take pictures of them, preferably with your family.  You'll treasure those pictures much more in years to come and will have some great memories.

Some of our favorite pet memories simply wouldn't be possible without the details those pictures bring back to our minds.  The pictures of the animals themselves remind us about them, but it's the pictures of the family interacting with them that makes us treasure them.

A friend of mine asked me one Thursday if I could do family pics for him, his wife, and their two dogs.

And he wanted it done soon.

As in Sunday.  Yes, 3 days notice.

You see, they never had wedding pics done many years ago since they eloped (having tired of all the fuss over planning a wedding) and had never done any pictures of the two of them the entire time they've been married.  Sure, they have snapshots, which are fun; but he lost nearly 160lbs in the last two years and doesn't really look like the person in all those snapshots anymore.

Then there's the dogs.  Ace & Tori - Welsh Corgis who are 13 & 15 yrs old, respectively.

He told me he waited too late to get fun pictures of the dogs, since Tori had a stroke and is no longer able to walk a straight line or stay awake longer than about 15 minutes.

No pressure here, right?

I would have about 15 minutes with the dogs before Tori needed to rest.

Within 2 weeks, Tori was no longer with them.

Get those pics.

03 September 2010


I was a lazy kid when it came time to do physical labor.

I loved to ride my bike, run, play, swim, sleep, or just about anything else that didn't involve real manual effort for anything other than my personal enjoyment.

I thought I liked to cut the grass, but that only lasted a very short while.  As in, about two weeks, when the weather turned hot.

And the riding lawn mower broke.

I never did take to weed eating like by brother, who once decided it was the way to cut the grass in the dog pen until he took the guard off and covered himself in grass & dog poo.  He changed his mind about how to cut the dog pen, but still loves weed eating.

I still prefer Roundup.

These days, I enjoy manual labor.  We bought a little house on 5 acres out in the country that quietly yelled "This place means WORK!" from the get-go.

We just weren't listening.

Mind you, I didn't realize just how much work, but it endures, for certain.

Our first home purchase was a 1920's era 2-story mill house with one bathroom.  That one bathroom was a shambles - exposed beam from encapsulating the "hallway" into the bathroom to re-route traffic and enlarge said bathroom to nearly double the original size.

We moved in the first week of November.  By the weekend after Thanksgiving, the tub was on the front porch - it was cast iron and that was as far as it needed to go in order to be out of the way.  Three of the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and all the associated mess went out the window.  Then the window went out on top of all of that.  It was bad.

Very bad.

And a lot of work.

A lot.

So much so that my appendix decided to give out on me after shoring up the floor joists and a few other unexpected repairs that lasted until early January.

Remember - ONE BATHROOM.

No tub, no shower.  We were 2nd shifters and would drive over to my parents' house in the mornings to bathe ourselves and our, then, only son.

I bought a case of wax rings so when I had to yank to toilet out, I could reset it and never fear I wouldn't have what was needed.  I can remember setting it 3 times one day and many days it moved back into its spot more than once.

I distinctly remember setting the tub on Valentine's Day and working on the tile surround before and after my normal job as well as days off until we could shower (somewhere around the beginning of March).  That's probably the only Valentine's Day "gift" my wife will ever get from me.

We painted, re-did the heart-pine floors, re-roofed, landscaped, insulated, and a host of other things that a 70-year old house requires.

A highway expansion (and my burgeoning need desire to re-connect to my rural roots) drove us to search for some  place away from town.  We looked up in Pickens but the bobcat skin hung on the stretcher frame in the backyard was enough to convince my wife we were not living in that particular neck of the woods.

So, we started searching closer to her folks - the totally opposite direction for this mountain stream-loving country boy, for certain.  It made sense, though.  Her parents were caring for two elderly family members and had expressed an intent to stay in their 5-bedroom home as long as they could keep up with the 5 acres, so we decided being nearby would be great for us, them, our kids, etc.

When we found this little place in the country we both thought, "It doesn't need anything."

That lasted less than 6 months.

We ripped out the gray shag carpeting from the master bath and tiled the floor, the tub surround, and the shower surround.

Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER overlook the need to replace the shower pan when you have everything else in the bathroom torn apart.  Acrylic and fiberglass fail a lot sooner than one thinks.

Which led to remodeling the same bathroom again.  This time with a larger shower, smaller tub (think not 6' oval and pink, like the original), new double vanity, lighting, mirror, ad infinitum.

Of course, we've re-roofed the house, tiled the kitchen, rebuilt the kitchen deck, replaced doors, lights, landscaping, painted (every room at least 3x in the almost 10 years since we moved in), repaired plumbing (especially the well!!!!!), and a myriad of other activities that my mind has blocked from my memory.

We recently completed remodeling the kids' bathroom - built a shower, installed a new vanity, tile for the floor, new vinyl window for the shower - and the best part . . .

I got to project manage!!!!

The boys did the majority of the work, including the tile.

Of course, they couldn't reach to the ceiling, so I got to be hands-on for parts of it (plumbing notwithstanding - I HATE PLUMBING!).

Then there's the stable roof, the garage roof, the driveway that's being chewed up by tree roots, the need for pond aeration, weed eating, and (I'm certain) plenty of mentally repressed and yet-to-be-discovered projects just waiting for me to undertake.

I learned to enjoy cutting grass.  Maybe it's the 2-3 hrs of white noise murmuring through the sound attenuators with no interruptions, so long as the mower doesn't break.  Maybe it's the accomplishment.  Maybe it's knowing that nobody else wants to do it.  But I do enjoy it.  When we do move away from this place, I will miss cutting grass.

All-in-all, I'll never not have work to do, based on the way things keep multiplying.

And that's a good thing.

I think.

27 August 2010


Yesterday I found myself headed to see Charlie.

Only I wasn't headed to his place by way of my normal path - down the highway, through town, almost directly to his little shop.

Instead, I remembered when I was almost to TR and took one of the lesser traveled meanderings through the mill communities - almost from one end to the other of the mill villages in Greenville.  Basically, I started in San Souci and wound up in Dunean.  Charlie's shop is at the very edge of Dunean.

The mill communities are what brought my family to Greenville in the early part of the 20th century.  More aptly, my grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides.

They came from the mountains of Western NC and the farming communities in Northern GA to work in the cotton mills.  It was hard to make a living in the remote areas, but the cotton mills had plenty of work.  Greer, Anderson, Laurens, and Greenville are all places various members of my family ended up, but mostly in Greenville.

My great-grandfather played mill league baseball with the infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson and worked in a barber shop after he left the mill.  My grandmother worked in the mills until the late '70's/early 80's.  My Dad worked in several mills across the Upstate until the mid-70's.  Another great-grandfather was still working in a mill in Laurens on an "as needed" basis into the early '80's.  Those mills pretty much supported my immediate and extended family for four generations.

It's a good thing knowing your own history.

Names like Judson, Dunean, Monaghan, San Souci, Brandon, City View and a few others ring deep within me due to my family's association with them over the last 100 years or so.  I spent a lot of time as a kid riding down streets like 3rd Avenue in Judson, bouncing high enough to hit my head on the roof of my uncle's pickup truck at every intersection; walking to People's Pharmacy with my grandfather, which meant crossing Pendleton from their little asbestos-sided mill house; visiting my other grandparents and their nice vegetable garden and a fisherman's haven, of sorts - my Grandpa's shed where he kept lures and rods and reels and even a worm & cricket farm; and generally exploring the poorest areas of Greenville (where many members my family lived) not knowing or caring about poverty.
So yesterday I meandered through several of those places again - down Old Buncombe through San Souci.  Cut across to Monaghan then through City View to Woodside.  Past what used to be Tucker's to Brandon jaunt over to Judson and then finally into, and almost out of, Dunean until I ended up @ Charlie's @ the end of Smythe Avenue (not Smythe St - that's in Monaghan).  I went by the first house I owned in Monaghan; past the house where my favorite great-great aunt lived, and where I developed my love of figs, in City View; by the old Parker High School which is being turned into a Charter School (and here I thought I was going to somehow manage an incursion into it when it was vacant for a resplendent photographic adventure); down Woodside Avenue where my uncle used to get ticketed for going 2mph over the speed limit (about once a month for nearly a year); past where the pharmacy used to be and by my grandparents' old house on Kitson; by the old Boy Scouts log cabin; across Easley Bridge Rd and down 3rd Avenue (this time in my truck, but I was buckled up and my head wouldn't have hit the roof at the speed I was traveling); by the house on Goodrich where my Mom was born (literally, born in the house itself, not in a hospital); across Anderson Rd and into Dunean - which gives any of the mill communities a good run for their money when it comes to being the nicest mill community in Greenville, at least in terms of aesthetics - to Smythe Avenue, the avenue where the old mill supervisor's homes have been lovingly remodeled and restored to a splendor probably far beyond their heydays.

Old textile mills across the area are vacant and decrepit now.  Paint is peeling from walls.  Ceilings are falling in.  The parking lots are overgrown, some beyond recognition; but several of the mills have been "re-purposed" over the years since they ceased production.  Mills Mill was once a shopping mall and has now become condominiums; Monaghan Mill has become apartments;  Brandon Mill and many of the others were turned into warehousing locations with a smattering of other small businesses thrown into the dark recesses; Poe Mill and U.S. Finishing (Old Buncombe, on the edge of San Souci) burned while Victor Mill in Greer was dismantled and beams and bricks were sold for salvage for a while.  Who knows what will happen to the rest of them over the years? 

Me, after I left Charlie's, I actually backtracked just to see those familiar places again.  But I slowed down on my trip back through Dunean and Judson and Brandon and Woodside and Monaghan and City View and San Souci.  I looked closely at the houses, the streets, and the people.  I went far out of my way just to remember where it is I've been.  To truly see the places that birthed me, sustained me, and motivated me on to other things in life.

I know I'll continue to travel through those communities so I can see the continued change, for better or for worse, as long as I'm able.

One thing's for certain, I'd love to gain access to some of those old mills and other structures so I could document that continued change.

06 August 2010

Hanging over my head

I have way too much going on to ever get done with them all.

Just the fun stuff alone would take me 3 or 4 lifetimes.

However, I have a couple of photo-shoot edits hanging over my head that I *need* to get done.

And I just have little to no motivation to finish them.

OK, so "No" isn't the right term.

Just very little compared with everything else I need to get accomplished as well as all the stuff I want to do.

I need a graphic designer.

So I'm trying to train my 14 yr old - somewhat, sorta, kinda, maybe.

He says he's "interested", but who knows.

Just means I have a weekend of late night computer time glued to Lightroom and Photoshop.

02 July 2010

Fun stuff - pictures!

Doesn't this just look like a ton o' fun?

It's from a recent photo shoot in Downtown Greenville with a family - the kids just simply had to get near the water.

 Of course, that's because we kept them away for a while . . .

You can see the joy in his face, can't you?

We traversed the better part of Falls Park with them literally following along:

that is, when they weren't traveling piggyback . . .

Of course, the kids had to have a little playtime . . .

Ending up at the "really fun place" they walked right past on the way to the park in the first place . . 

28 June 2010

Congaree Butterfly Count (and a bonus)

Saturday, June 26th was the annual NABA.org butterfly count @ Congaree National Park - http://www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm

This is the 3rd count in which we've (my daughter Emily & I) participated and the 4th year we've attended a butterfly event @ Congaree.

The park has experienced a great deal of stormy weather over the last couple of weeks, culminating in a gully-washer on Friday, June 25th.  This always bodes poorly for a butterfly count as the little critters take a while to dry out and recover.  It's especially noticeable in the mornings when we normally explore and this year we experienced the fewest species ( 8 ) as well as the fewest number of actual specimens (32).  I haven't heard the final count #'s from the other two groups as they were out until well into the afternoon and we had to head back toward home just after lunch.

I did capture a couple of pics of species I had yet to photograph, although I really need to upgrade some lenses to get better shots in certain situations.  I found myself with the 20D and the 70-200 in my hands almost the entire time.  All the pics have fill-flash (ETTL w/ minus 1/3 or minus 2/3's FEV) except the bonus find.

The one I really hoped to get a good picture of is a Roadside Lacewing Skipper and we did find a couple of specimens in a clearing.  Here's the best shot I got:

We saw quite a few Appalachian Browns but the overcast skies and the forest canopy made it extremely difficult to get great pics of them. 

I tried anyways:

The stars of our count were the Pearly Eye butterflies - Creole's & Southerns (very slight differences) - I did not get a good picture at all of a Southern Pearly Eye, but I managed a couple of halfway decent shots of the Creole's.  Here's one (heavily cropped):

We saw a couple Horace's Duskywings, a single Hackberry Emperor, a single Zarruco's Duskywing, and a couple of Pearl Crescent's (the only non-brown butterfly of the count for our group).

One of the treats @ Congaree is the rich biodiversity present in an old-growth swamp.  They have some national and state record trees in the park including the largest known Loblolly Pine in the U.S. @ 137 ft tall and nearly 15 ft in circumference!  We had the pleasure of hearing and then seeing a fledgling Barred Owl about 45-50 feet off the trail:

Overall, it was a great time and we look forward to the count in September!

22 June 2010

A Father's Day Weekend to Remember

I had one of the most enjoyable and memorable Father's Day Weekends in a long time.  I have the greatest kids who tolerate my idiosyncrasies, wild-hare ideas, and all around off-the-wall plans with grace and aplomb.

They know how much I love the mountains.  They know how much I love the mornings.  They know how much I love to make their Mom smile and how much I treasure the time I have with them.

So, they got up slightly after 0500 Saturday morning for a road trip.  Breakfast in the minivan, the hum of the wheels, and the waking of the dawn across highways & foothills have become family traditions for them.

This was not their first trip to the berry farm, just the first one in a couple of years.  They listened attentively to stories of their Mom picking red raspberries at her grandparents' houses in Indiana - lying on her back under the bushes, gorging herself with a treat that would prove itself a true rarity later in life.  They hear all about the scratches on their arms from reaching through the brambles and just how much she treasures those times.

We arrive at the farm to find no one there, which is very odd for a morning and even more so for a Saturday morning.

The scenery was like this:

So, we wandered around for a few minutes looking at flowers and scouting out the best berry-picking place, all the while my daughter is combing the cabbage patch looking for Cabbage White caterpillars (she collected seven, most of which are becoming chrysalii on our kitchen counter) and then lit out in earnest search of these:

During most activities such as these, there are little distractions along the way . . .

But in the end we had a little more than a gallon of ripe black raspberries for the enjoyment of the family, including my wife's 96 yr old grandmother (the one under who's bushes the instigator of this endeavor used to gorge and gouge herself with reckless abandon).

We also taught the boys how to harvest rhubarb . . .

Which is another of those non-Southern delicacies to which I was introduced upon meeting my wife's extended family.

I have no idea how my daughter missed this or where she went, but she came back with an elderly couple in tow and searching for the rhubarb.  The wife was on an Oxygen cannula and puffing to beat the band, but she was determined to pick herself some rhubarb!

We weighed our produce, found an envelope and left our money by the phone (I certainly hope the owners found it because there was still nobody around!) and climbed into the van.

We proceeded from there up the mountain to the Pisgah National Forest and the fish hatchery (again, no fly rod because I would have no more pictures to share, only fish tales!) and re-introduced the kids to the nature walk and a few other fun things . .

Quite the surprise for all of us to discover the cultivated red raspberries and we each managed a handful from the bushes spread about the gardens.

From there it was further up to Sliding Rock, because the kids had never been.

They had no idea what they were in for . . .

Forty-six degree water in the plunge pool at the bottom.  Enough to take your breath away and make you run for sunshine!

This would be my oldest son trying to find his way to the surface to inhale WARM air!

and this would be my daughter & I just after impact - still in shock!

After 3 or 4 trips down the falls, the crowds got stupidly long (45 minute wait) so we decided an early picnic lunch would be just the ticket.

Back down the mountain we lolled until we found one parking space left at a roadside spot and indulged in Peach Punch, Pastrami, Smoked Cheddar, grapes, carrots, and a few other goodies before finding a lifetime find at our feet!

This is a Diana Fritillary, which is a native, albeit seldom seen, in the Western NC & SC woodlands.

The pic is a little out of focus due to the fact that I had a very few seconds to capture it and the wrong lens for the task.

From there it was over to the river again to skip rocks . . .

and get a certain camera-shy son's attention by "gently setting" a rather large stone right next to him . . . from about 25 feet away!

It worked!

What can I say?  He's impossible to photograph head-on!

And he didn't get nearly as wet as when his sister dropped an even bigger splash bomb right in his face as he was bending over searching for "the perfect skipping stone".

I'm still upset that I missed that shot.  He had water dripping off his glasses and she had the biggest grin on her face I've seen in a very long while!

We wound down with a brief conversation riverside about sibling relationships and a photo of one of the hundreds of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails we'd seen throughout the day:

When we pulled out of the parking lot it was 77 degrees and it was already 2 o'clock!  

By the time we got home, it was 94!

Sunday afternoon held the promise of a nap and then a jaunt through our neighbors' woods down to "The Big Creek" as the kids call it.  

I'm not much for hiking through the woods in flip-flops, but this trip was worth it.

We explored about 1/2 mile (easily) upstream and down, climbing over downfalls and generally having a blast.

We saw hundreds of Ebony Jewelwing damselflies along both the feeder creek (that runs behind our pond) and "The Big Creek". 

I made the kids promise to take me "creek exploring" as often as possible for the rest of my life, with a once/year minimum until the point that they needed a wheel chair to get me to the creek.

They thought I was a little nuts at first (which I probably am), but readily agreed and went on playing.

Me, I had the best Father's Day I can remember!

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