March 23, 2010

A stroll down memory lane and a walking stick

I went over my mother's place this evening to go through some old photographs. I was looking for pictures from barbecues. I just finished a couple of pieces based on these events. When I was very young my grandfather put on a huge barbecue every 4th of July. They were a week long event culminating in a huge meal for lunch on the fourth. The best part of these gatherings was always the night of the third. That's when all the meat was on and everyone would sit around the fire that my grandfather built to burn the hickory to use as coals to smoke the meat that was cooking. We would sit there all night and listen to my dad and his brothers tell stories from their childhood. The adventures they had around here were quite a story indeed. Over the years my grandfather became ill with diabetes and as he got older he decided in 1985 or 1986 that he wanted to have one last barbecue. It was the fall of the year and the only people that were there were family. I happened across some of those pictures. I happened across many pictures... So I decided to share them so that the people who read this blog could see the folks I always talk about... Along with some embarrassing shots of myself as a child...

I snapped these pictures with my camera as I sat on the floor of my mothers house going through a couple of big boxes of old photographs.. So in some you may see my finger or they may be blurry.. but nonetheless.. enjoy... I know I had one hell of a time growing up on Doc Perry Rd. I hope that these shots let you understand a bit of why I love this place so much...

This is my brother Michael stirring a huge pot of brunswick stew...

From right to left here are my grandfather Doc Perry, David my cousin, Donald my uncle and Peggy my cousin. My grandfather, David, and Donald have all passed on now, but I can still here them as plain as day...

My grandfather was full of wisdom, I miss him every day.

This is my grandmother, Zeddie. She was the best cook ever. She passed away a few years after Julie and I got married. Not one person went away from her house hungry. Her laughter still rings in my ears.

This is my father, grandfather & cousin getting the barbecue pit ready to use...

A picture of my father from the '50s cooking

My brother Michael, Skeeter Martin & my grandfather working on the stew

My uncle Donald and my grandfather checking the meat just before it was ready to come off the pit. His barbecue simply could not be beat.

My mother in the kitchen in the house working on what was brought up from the barbecue shed.

My grandfather was very particular about his stew.

My brother David by the barbecue pit.

My father with my nephew Danny... both napping on the swing on the front porch.

This is the fire that my grandfather would start long before the barbecue. In ealier years he would begin several days before the fourth and drag hickory up from the woods. He would burn the hickory on this rack that he built, as the coals fell through the grate we would use those long handled shovels he made to carry the hickory coals in from the fire to the pit in the shed. He would then instruct us on where to place the coals on the pit to get the best smoke on the meat. Here my father is digging out coals. The shovels had handles of hickory that Daddy Doc would make himself. Note the shovel leaning against the fire on the right...

My grandfather waits until the meat is ready before the preparation would begin. They would take the meat off the pit, chop it up, mix some with sauce he would make and leave some plain. His barbecue was astounding. The entire place around here would be filled with the smell of the smoke and meat. Again.. note the shovel in the background. My brother David had that shovel my grandfather made. I stopped by there to show him the walking stick I had worked on for my cousin, featured a couple of posts ago... He said, "You know... I have that shovel with the really long handle that we used to use down at the barbecue shed... You think you could make a couple of these walking sticks out of it?" I told him I would be honored to do it, as long as I could have one... So he dug it out of his garage and I took it home...

This is James in our front yard holding the shovel.

I was touched to see ash still embedded on the handle near the shovel head.

Here are the two finished pieces. Mine is the one on the right, David's the left... He took the top.

This the nail hole where my grandfather attached the shovel head.

This is the end of my walking stick that was inside the shovel... I didn't carve this at all.. I ever so lightly sanded it to clean it up.. But the carve marks are from my grandfather.. all his work.. I am so moved to own this...

What follows are a random collection of things and pictures I photographed while sitting on moms floor.. I had a great time. Julie had taken her to a party so James and I sat and looked through the box.. He kept asking me why I was crying..

This is my grandmothers pay stub from 1963.. 39 hours in at the mill for a net pay of $47 bucks...

My brother Stuart & myself..

Me at Daddy Doc & granny's for Christmas..

My father in his parents front yard

an old picture of me.. when I had hair..

My grandmother

My grandfather skinning a deer..

My father on a pony when he was little kid.. My mom told me that a guy would come around every so often with a pony for kids to get their picture taken on..

My mothers father. My other grandfather.. "Pa" West..

My father dancing at a birthday party for him & my cousin Colin.. Always the ham..

My parents on their wedding day

This picture seems to sum up my dad for me...

My dad & cousin Colin.. The two men I respect and admire most in life.

My dad holding James..

These were valentine cards my dad got in elementary school.. I got a real laugh reading these... They were all from the 40's

My dad deer hunting.. long johns, a camo hat, coffee and side arm...

My grandfather sitting on his front porch...

My Dad and his brother Thomas hanging out.. notice the prices on the stuff at the stand...

My grandfather in his front yard

my dad & his brothers staging a funeral for some reason.. they were always in trouble for doing things like this.. There was never a quiet moment..

Me at Christmas.. I wish I still had that GI Joe training center...

me sitting on the floor at my grandparents on Christmas eve

i'm about to dive into the pool in the back yard

me & my cousin Patrick on his birthday

Patrick with his steak birthday cake...

My dad & cousin Ken hard at it with the rock em sock em robots...

This was the year that I got this bad ass castle for Christmas... It was the greatest thing ever.. it was years before I found out it was once my brother Michaels... Notice the green licoln log pieces that I put around it.. I still have that lincoln log set... Michael is trying to tell about the castle and dad is getting on to me for mot listening...

It was a good evening to look through all these old pictures and remember where I came from.. It makes me realize how much this land and these people mean to me.

The health care reform bill

Throughout human existence there have been political methodologies used over and over. They have been used repeatedly because they, well.. work. The most popular of these appears to be smear the opposition.

But you must look deeper.

When it became apparent that the alphabet organizations (nsa, fbi, cia) dropped the ball in the lead up to the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 by not "connecting the dots" when non citizen middle eastern men wanted to learn just how to fly the plane and not land it, people went a little sideways. Justifiably so...

And here we are again. The conservative end of the spectrum here in this country is convinced that the world and the Republic are crashing down around us. The Liberal end of the same group of people in this country are appalled at the behavior of the conservatives, while going sideways because the health care reform bill doesn't go far enough in providing us with a single payer system, meaning free health care. I love how its harsh to hurl insults to politicians now... Bush certainly never got any of that did he? Its also cute to laugh at how people are reacting with such paranoia over a bill... anyone remember the patriot act? You know the one the democrats assured you would strip you of all your freedoms, the same democrats that voted to keep it in place a little while ago?

The problem with free health care is that it isn't free. The money must come from somewhere. When you need money, where do you go? To the people that have it.. And that certainly isn't the federal government, because they are broke. So they must go to the people that they work for and get the money.

Do you go to your employer at the end of the month when it becomes apparent that you went out to eat way too many times and can't pay your utility bills and say, "We had a budget shortfall this past month so we are going to have to increase the amount of funds we get from you by charging you a user fee for the commute we make every day in our vehicle, then there is going to be a vote in my house next week to decide how much we are going to charge you in clothing fees since we buy them ourselves and wear them here at work... we will get back to you on this.." No, you don't do that. But government does. All levels of it, local, state and federal.

There are endless examples of skulduggery perpetrated by government as a whole, just google government waste and read. With the passage of this bill people are screaming all over the place that this is a new level of 'insert soapbox comment here'

But hold on just a wee moment...

Racial slurs tossed out to government representatives? Homophobic cat calls made to others? Lunatic talking heads stirring up paranoia?

You're kidding right?

"The level of vitriol taking place in this country right now is at epic proportions"

Really? Read a little history, IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY.

It's business as usual, everywhere. You know what is going to happen when one party gets in office. You know... They are going to bitch and complain about the other party. They use media to get people excited and drive them to desire to hop up on a soap box and blather and froth at the mouth about how stupid everybody is that doesn't think like you do, dress like you do, act like you do, live like you do, have the same educational background that you do.... so forth and so on...

They use people and twist them into xenophobes...

Hate mail will come, death threats be damned. But just try stopping for a second to connect a few of the dots bouncing around in front of you. Regardless of what is in a bill that passes through congress, regardless of how many schools are needed in your district, or roads, or stop signs, or jobs, blah blah blah..

The end result is exactly the same at every turn.. The amount of money taken from the citizens of this country to fund government as a whole goes up every year.

Do you really think that there is one politician in Washington DC that gives a rats ass whether you have insurance or not? They are for sale... And they no longer even try to hide it. They cut deals with each other for what?


And why?


If most of us dumb masses were in a position to do this we would. We tell ourselves we wouldn't, but we would. A guy walks up to you and says, "Hey.. you know if you vote this way I will pay off your mortgage..." We would say simply... "umm ok... But make it look legal and ethical..."

In this bill taxes will be raised on people who earn 200k or more a year. Now, again, connect a few dots. The bulk of these people are small business owners. Single owner incorporated businesses. If the business grosses more than 200 to 250k a year their taxes will go up. If you work in a small business or own one you know what this means. Even though you may be on salary for 35- 60k per year with your company... The company is in your name, so YOU are responsible for said income. So before you pay a vendor for something you need to do a job, before you pay your rent, utilities, insurance premium, employee salaries, etc etc.. you have to pay more to the government... But hey thats ok... you will get a tax credit down the road.. Good luck with that...

Before you bitch about these evil rich bastards, take a few minutes to learn who they are. In most cases, they are the people you work for. The same people that sign your paycheck. They run the hardware stores and convenience stores and restaurants and book stores etc etc that you like to go check out on the weekends... Most employers in this country are not huge corporate entities that suck the will to live out of you.. They are just regular folks that had an idea they wanted to give a shot.

People complain about a government that is locked down due to partisanship. I'm all for it. When they can't pass anything that means our wallets are safe.

Term limits. No more career politicians, on any level.

So those on the left continue to spout hatred about those on the right. Those on the right continue to spout hatred about those on the left. Keep playing the game the government asshats want you to play, enjoy being a xenophobic flea, make fun of pelosi & glenn beck, jump up and down because obama is a socialist that wasn't born in this country, point out hannity's coke problem, be sure to continue to group everyone who disagrees with you into the uneducated rube category.... March along with the script prepared for you by your leaders, they are loving it... because they all learned one thing pretty well from hitler... "keep the masses confused and keep the power"... Come on people, democrats and republicans are the same. Stop fighting and look to who the real criminals are, they are smiling at us on television all the time. VOTE THEM ALL OUT OF OFFICE.

Me? I'm going to step back down off my soap box and go carve some more wood, because either damn way this goes its going to cost us all more money.

March 14, 2010

My Grandfather's walking stick

My cousin and her family stopped by the other night to see about getting a couple of wands. We discussed the particulars and visited for a while. They left with me promising to drop the wands off in a couple of days.

Once the wands were completed James and I stopped by to deliver them. She has been remodeling her house and showed me the work in progress. During the visit she disappeared through the front door saying, "I want to show you something..." When she returned she was holding an old stick, a piece of hickory. It looked vaguely familiar, yet I couldn't place it. She said, "You recognize it?" to which I told her no. She informed me that it belonged to Daddy Doc..

Daddy Doc was my grandfather.

H.C. 'Doc" Perry lived here on Doc Perry road for years. He and my grandmother created a haven for family and friends at the end of this mile long dead end road. He always had a walking stick of some kind on his front porch, and my cousin told me that my grandmother gave them this one after he passed away. Daddy Doc was always carving wood. Whenever you went to visit him he was sitting in his chair with his pocket knife in one hand and a piece of wood in the other. I never actually saw anything that he had made, yet he was constantly working on something.

She asked me if I could take the piece of hickory and do something with it. The walking stick was worn and frayed on the ends and had a few stains on it, but was in good over all shape. I brought it home and immediately went to work on it. Without thinking I tore into it and shaped the ends, drilled a hole for a wrist strap, and then set to work on putting a face on it. I didn't put any stain on the stick, wanting it to retain its original look, yet I did varnish it to bring out the color of the wood and bark, and protect it from any damage.

Once the hickory stick was completed and dried I ran the leather strap through it and then took a good long look at it. As I sat there turning it over in my hands staring at its shape and feeling the weight of it in my hands my mind ran back in time to all the memories of the man.

The day after I picked the walking stick up from my cousin and delivered her wands, we all went over to another cousin's house for haircuts. While there, a couple more relatives came in... I sat and listened as they talked about relatives from long ago, and I learned a few things...

As a child we would often come out here during the summer to spend the weekend at the "cabin". The cabin was a small four room cottage with a fireplace and no running water set way out in the woods. I never thought anything about it, it was just a place where we cooked out and shot guns and played games. As my cousin was getting her hair done she asked if it was still there. "Pieces of it are... " I told her.. I haven't walked over there for quite some time. She began to tell me that Uncle Walt and his wife lived there years ago for a few months at a time and that they were traveling folk that worked for the circus. I sat and listened as she began to spin tales of the oddities that formulated the lives of my distant relatives in and around Newnan ( back then there just weren't that many ladies that had tattoos..).

Last night we went over to my nieces place for a cook out. During the cookout I began asking my older brother about all this. "Circus workers? They were carnies man... Uncle Walt was covered up with tattoos.. well, they both were.. He always had boxes of trinkets like little plastic footballs and junk that he would get from the fair and travel around during football season, when he wasn't running the carousel at the fair, selling to all the people in the crowds at college games..." There was a guy there that had gone to school with my brother and was unfamiliar with the family, so my brother fell into many old tales.

He told the guy about how my grandfather and his father would work all week making liquor down at their place on the river. Then on Fridays they would load up their wagon and make the day long drive up to Newnan. Just south of the court square, there was an entire block that was known as the stables.. Where all the people that came to town would tie up their horses and leave their wagons while they did their business in town. Currently Shapiro's photography sits there along with a few other businesses...

He talked about how my grandfather would tell him about camping at the stables over night on Fridays with a wagon load of corn liquor covered up with hickory knots they would sell to the folks in town. "He said the people would drink all night and play poker and there was always a few fights..." Everyone had a wood box out back of their places of business and when Saturday morning rolled around my Grandfather and great Grandfather would go around and deliver the 'wood'. They would remove the empty moonshine bottles from the wood boxes and replace them with full bottles and promptly cover them with hickory, placing the empty bottles in burlap bags they carried.

This made me think of a talk I had with my grandfather once.. It was right after the movie Murder in Coweta County aired on television... The movie was about the "angelic" sheriff of the county we live in going after the ruthless bootlegger from the next county that dared to kill a man just over the county line... I asked Daddy Doc about it and he said, "Lamar Potts just saw an opening to take out his liquor competition... and he took advantage of it... Don't ever trust a sheriff.." I always wondered about the look in his eyes when he said that.. Now I wonder what stories about my family's checkered past I have really missed out on.. I'm sure there are a few good ones that I would love to have heard... A family of moonshiners, carnies, mediums, artists, preachers.... at least I come by it honestly...

Tomorrow I will drop off the walking stick. I hope they like what I have done to it and treasure it for its history... lord knows I will...

March 08, 2010

Dogwood walking stick

A couple of years ago I took off one afternoon with my brother on the kawasaki mule. We drove around the property out here looking for good pieces I could make walking sticks out of. I came across a beautiful dogwood tree with a strange limb poking out at an odd angle. I liked the shape of it, so I backed the kawasaki up to the tree, climbed on back and began to saw the limb off.

We continued our drive around the woods and began talking about everything that has taken place here over the years. We moved out here in 1974 or '75. My grandfather gave my father property here and he built our home. I was seven years old.

Now I'm 42 years old...

One by one my siblings got married and moved away, across the road and up the road, and next door... My grandparents have both passed away, my father has passed away, and all but one of us lives right here at the end of Doc Perry Rd.

The same type of thing is going on now, with the next generation. My niece has moved with her husband and their six year old, and another on the way, to Missouri. My nephew has moved down to Macon with his wife and two young kids.

I cut this dogwood piece right after my father passed away. Periodically I would look at it sitting in the corner behind my chair, just waiting on me. Always I would tell myself, "Not just yet." The dogwood faithfully waited, patient, knowing that everything would come around.

Change is the only thing that can be counted on in life and when it comes, it comes with a vengeance. Where just a few weeks ago there were plenty of screaming kids running to and fro about the place, now there's just James and Silas.

This is the last piece I carved before my father passed away...

I was working on it when he died. I had taken it over for him to see it when I had the face completed, yet he never got to see the finished piece. It is for sale, though reluctantly... but as I said, the only thing that can be counted on in life is change, and it is time...

When I carve something, as with anyone that creates anything, a bit of myself goes with it. I can only hope that the patient dogwood finds a good home with a family that loves as deeply as my own.