A Mighty Fine Dog

In late December of 2017 my brother, Jimmy, and I were dining at the Cordele Recreation Parlor, a place more commonly called The Pool Room.  We each were having a chili dog all the way, a bowl of Irish Stew with oyster crackers, and a small bottle of Coke.  We witnessed something that day that I had never seen before and still don’t understand.

Sitting two barstools south of Jimmy was a fellow who was probably in his twenties.  He was dressed nicely and engaged in friendly banter with two other young men.  He ordered a scrambled dog, a magnificent feast that will satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

The lady tending the counter put a milky white mug in front of him.  I assumed it must be frosted in some special way for the holiday season.  The young man quickly downed his drink and quietly motioned for a refill.  The lady reached into the refrigerator, pulled out a gallon of milk, and poured him another glass.

Apparently, there’s no house rule against mixing milk with a scrambled dog, but something about it just seems wrong.  I love milk with hot pound cake, chocolate chip cookies, and dozens of other desserts.  I enjoy milk with sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly, pineapple, and banana.  But I can’t wrap my mind around a milk and chili combination.  Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on hotdogs.  My appreciation for exceptional presentations began during the early 1970’s when a Mr. Twist franchise opened near Valdosta State College.  It was a fine place for gourmet hotdogs, plus ice cream cones filled with twisted swirls of chocolate and vanilla.  They had perfectly steamed dogs with a dozen or so toppings.  My favorite was their foot-long with slaw and cheese.  That same topping has been a staple in our home for decades, although the dogs are noticeably shorter now.

I began dating my future wife, Jane, in the spring of my sophomore year in 1972.  Not long afterward, I was introduced to The Billiard Academy in her hometown of Thomasville.  It was famous then, as it is now, for their chili dogs.  Their chili is dryer than the norm, something I found odd when I first attended their classes.  I guess they drain the grease off or maybe they cook it using a different method.  Although I am strongly committed to the fight against low cholesterol, I quickly adapted to the Academy’s unique dry-style chili.  I continue to take short courses at The Billiard Academy on the infrequent occasions when I am in Thomasville.

Jane and I moved to Vienna in December of 1975 when I began working at Rooney Bowen Chevrolet.  Johnny Thompson managed the parts department during part of our overlapping careers.  He introduced me to The Pool Room in Cordele.  The two of us frequently took radiators to Cordele for Mr. Tyson to repair.  We coordinated those trips around our lunch hour.

We’d run by Tyson Radiator, then stop at The Pool Room long enough to each down two chili dogs, a bowl of Irish Stew, and an Almond Joy for dessert.  By one p.m. we’d be back at the shop in Vienna.  I’ve been addicted to those chili dogs ever since.

What makes a good dog great is the right topping, a good friend to enjoy it with, and a small bottle of Coke.  I’m hoping to get Johnny to buy my lunch at The Pool Room one day soon.  Maybe that fellow who ordered the milk will be around.  That way Johnny won’t think I’m making this up.

It is with some reluctance that I hereby admit to having a lingering curiosity about pairing a chili dog with milk.  But a small voice somewhere deep inside keeps saying, “Don’t do it!”  I’ve slowly learned over several decades that it’s best to listen to that voice.  One mug of milk with a chili dog probably wouldn’t cause a problem, but it could lead to having milk with fried fish or other unholy combinations.

I missed a good opportunity to help steer that milk-drinking fellow in a better direction.  Maybe someone will give him a copy of this column, or perhaps his friends will schedule an intervention.  The Pool Room serves a mighty fine dog, but it takes a small bottle of Coke to make it perfect.  Coke is how you milk that dog for all it’s worth.

Posted in 2018 | 2 Comments

The Green Broadman Hymnal

There were some wonderful hymns written long before the 1940 edition of The Broadman Hymnal.  Many more have been written since.  But that old green hymnal that I grew up with remains my favorite.

William Cross and I began attending Harmony Baptist Church before we were born in 1952.  A few years later we were both enthusiastically singing along with the congregation.  What we may have lacked in tone we made up for in volume.  There were a few gifted singers among the members, but what I remember most is the joyful noise of people singing familiar hymns with vigor like they meant it.

I have one of those hymnals at home.  Most of the time it’s relegated to a silent role of filling a space on a bookshelf.  It got a brief reprieve recently when Megan, one of our grandchildren, came to visit Jane and me.  She’s 12 and enjoys playing the piano.  In addition to reading music she has learned a few chords and can play some by ear.  I was searching for something that we could play together when I turned to ”Bringing In the Sheaves.”

My singing is nothing exceptional, but it was good enough for the two of us.  I gave it my best shot while playing on the lower keys.  Megan added some chords and accent notes on the upper part of the piano.  It had been a long time since I had played or sung that hymn.  It was like finding an old friend that you haven’t kept in touch with.

I flipped a few pages back to “Praise Him! Praise Him!”  That Fanny J. Crosby sure had a gift for lyrics.  She could say in a few lines enough to make a good sermon.  She never accumulated much wealth, but I believe her royalties are coming in bountifully every day now.

“Love Lifted Me” is where we stopped next.  It’s nice when you sing all three verses and you wish there was a fourth.  It’s one of those songs that’s so much fun to sing you wouldn’t mind running through it again at the end.  I expect the chorus has been repeated a few times after the congregation thought they were about to sit down.

“Sweet By and By” gives both the ladies and the men a chance to shine with a delightful blending of all four parts.  When we were singing that hymn back at Harmony, I had no doubt that one day we would all “meet on that beautiful shore.”  Good music can help keep us on course toward that best of all destinations.

We then skipped over to “Sweeter Than the Day Before.”  I had forgotten there is only one verse to that hymn, but what a powerful verse it is.  It was good to be reminded that the message of the gospel is simple.  There’s nothing wrong with delving into theology, but sometimes I think we’ve drifted too far from the basics.  If our theology is on the right track, then “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.”

“Jesus Loves the Little Children” was a childhood staple.  I think the words were changed at some point so that no one would be offended by describing children as, “Red and yellow, black and white.”  That’s fine with me.  We sure don’t want to offend someone while trying to let them know that Jesus’ love is colorblind.  It’s a simple message that’s easy to sing but much harder to live.

Our final duet for the evening was “Praise Him, All Ye Little Children.”  In just a half page an unknown author encourages us to praise, love, and thank God, and reminds us that “God is love.”  I haven’t heard that song in ages, and I’m not sure why.

We ran out of time before we scratched the surface of the countless standards that are almost forgotten.  There are excellent choices in music today, but I hope we don’t lose track of those many great songs of the past.

When Megan comes again we’ll probably get that hymnal out for another session.  The only thing about taking that old green Broadman off the shelf is that it’s so hard to put it back.  There are a lot of good hymns lingering in unplanned silence that are begging to be sung.

Posted in 2018 | 13 Comments

What America Is

 

A youngster of five in his father’s lap,

laughs aloud escaping his nap.

He poses a question that sombers the tone.

Dad knows the answer must be his alone.

For a fellow just five he appears concerned,

anxious, he seems, the response to learn.

It’s a query quite worthy of such a young lad:

“Just what is America, Dad?”

In his father’s heart the reply is plain

yet putting in words is hard to explain.

Dad ponders the asking from this child of his,

says, “This my son is what America is.

She’s a statue in a harbor with a torch in her hand,

a beacon to the homeless she offers her land.

She’s the unknown soldier resting in the dust,

the silent mother who knew why he must.

She’s the lump in your throat when the flag passes by.

When you’re singing her songs, she’s the tear in your eye.

She’s a mother’s embrace, a father that’s just,

a coin inscribed, ‘In God We Trust’.

She’s the great bald eagle awatch from her perch.

She’s a family praying in a country church.

She’s the laughter of children, the smile of a babe,

proof unaware of the price she’s paid.

America, my son, is just what we make her.

She’ll stay where we leave her, go where we take her.

She’s more than a country, a people, a place.

She’s liberty, freedom, justice, and faith.

I hope that I’ve answered your question my son.

She’s special and different to every one.

A final remembrance, then it’s time for your nap.

By the grace of the Lord, She’s the child in my lap.”

Posted in 2018 | 10 Comments

Tin Shingles

David and Dale Clemons live just outside of Unadilla on Third District Road.  The roof on their historic family home is covered with silver tin shingles that glisten when the sun is shining.  The house was built in 1910 and originally covered with wooden shingles.  The tin shingles were added in the 1930’s by David’s grandparents, Ernest and Effie Clemons.  I’ve made countless trips by that house for over six decades.

David and I are almost related.  His aunt, Frances Clemons, married my uncle, Murray Joiner.  It took me a few years to understand that we could share an aunt and uncle yet not be kin to each other.

I mostly remember David’s grandparents from long passed days at Harmony Baptist Church.  The clearest memory that I have of Mr. Ernest is of him standing on the small veranda at church one Sunday morning when I was probably five or six years old.  We were outside where boys played and men visited before the assembly for Sunday School.  There was a large oak tree that offered an inviting summer shade.

In those days the church had a lapboard exterior, painted white of course.  The main entrance and its covered porch was only a few steps from the unpaved county road.  I don’t know if a bumblebee found me that morning or if I found him, but he popped me solidly on the arm.

If I had been at home I probably would have cried, but that didn’t seem like a good option with other folks looking on.  Mr. Ernest cut a plug of chewing tobacco then pressed it on the sting.  He briefly held it in place then told me to take over.  I don’t know if that tobacco juice had any medicinal effect or if he just figured it would take my mind off the pain, but either way it helped.  Sometimes it’s best to accept things without analyzing them too much.

When I drive by the Clemons’ farm I occasionally think about that small kindness that Mr. Ernest showed me years ago.  But the thing that comes to mind most often is how durable those tin shingles are.  They’ve been there since way before I was traveling the road to Unadilla.  They must have been made from quality metal and then properly nailed to some good decking.  That roof also has a steep pitch so that rain runs off quickly.  Water doesn’t have time to linger in pools.

Those tin shingles on the Clemons’ home are likely to be around longer than I will.  I haven’t looked in their attic, but I have no doubt that it’s completely dry, which reminds me that I need to check the bucket over our garage.  I put it there several years ago as a temporary fix.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I sprayed some sealant around a vent pipe on the roof, but I haven’t looked in the attic to see if that solved the problem.

Jesus didn’t talk much about roofs that I know of.  I think their choices back then were mud and straw or mud and sticks, so it didn’t matter a whole lot.   He was, however, real clear on the need for building on a good foundation.  He said to build our houses on rock not sand. (Matthew 7:24-27)

If he were elaborating on that construction theme today, I think he might suggest tin shingles for the roof.  And I feel certain that he would tell us to give our roofs a pitch that is clearly pointing upward, a pitch that is steep enough that water won’t accumulate.  Rain never stops looking for cracks, even the tiny cracks that are too small to see.  Over time those droplets of water can slowly rot boards that are hidden from view.

A good roof can last a long time if we use good material, install it properly, and repair it the right way when needed.  Or we can put a bucket in the attic and get by for a while.  It looks about the same from a distance, but eventually the rotting boards will begin to sag.  Sometimes they will collapse and leave a gaping hole.  It can still be repaired, but it’s costly and may leave an unsightly patch.

I need to check that bucket in my attic.  It’s not convenient today, but one day soon I’ll take care of it.  I’m reminded of it each time I see those silver tin shingles on the Clemons’ home, but I keep putting it off.  I don’t have a good excuse.  It’s just easier to leave the bucket where it is.

 

Posted in 2018 | 2 Comments

Fatboy Mangum

A lot of folks in the Crisp County area remember Fatboy Mangum.  I was a young man of 23 when I met him.  He was in his mid-fifties.  He grinned and introduced himself, told me that everybody called him Fatboy.  He appeared comfortable with his massive rotund stature, but I called him Mr. Wayne.  That seemed more appropriate coming from a lanky kid three decades his junior.

I met Mr. Wayne through the funeral home where I worked part time.  From December of 1975 to December of 1980, I worked in Vienna with my cousin Rooney Bowen.  Most of my time was spent at his Chevrolet dealership, but I also helped at his funeral home when we had a call.

Mr. Wayne had a vault business based in Crisp County.  He had some helpers, but he ran the little backhoe that was used to dig the graves.  In order not to damage existing markers the backhoe had to be tiny.  Mr. Wayne overlapped both sides of the operator’s seat.  Sometimes he’d ask me if I thought he better give that backhoe a short rest.  I’d pat the hood and tell him that it looked fine to me.

We usually had 50 to 60 funerals a year.  Most folks died on the weekend or either had their service then.  If Jane and I were heading out of town on Friday after work, I’d caution her not to answer the phone, that it might be the funeral home.  That was before caller ID and cell phones.  It was kind of nice when you could leave your phone at home, when you could go for hours or even days without making a call.

Mr. Wayne put in the vaults for almost all the funerals we handled.  I saw him a lot during those five years, and I always enjoyed our graveside chats.  But the place I enjoyed visiting with him most was at the Chevrolet dealership.

Several times a year Rooney would have a supper back in the shop area.  It would be for employees and a few close friends, maybe 15 or 20 men.  We’d sometimes feast on barbequed goat that Mr. Parks Herrington had prepared.  Most of the time, however, we had fried mullet, often cooked by Herschel Davis or sometimes by Barney Crozier.  They both knew their way around a fish cooker.

Mr. Wayne came to those suppers.  He would bring his flattop guitar and I would bring mine.  He’d wait until everyone had finished eating and the conversation had waned a bit, then tell me it was probably time for us to play.  Mr. Wayne was a good guitar picker and a better than average singer.  He had a clear strong voice and knew a lot of songs. Three of them were his go-to numbers.

The lyrics of one were, “T for Texas, T for Tennessee, T for Thelma, who made a wreck out of me.”  I’d never heard that song before, and I don’t think I’ve heard it since.  Mr. Wayne sang it with passion.  It made me wonder if he had known a Thelma somewhere a long time ago.

“Waltz Across Texas” was another of his standards.  I thought that he and Thelma might have had a special connection to Texas, a connection that he still fondly remembered.

The last of his favorites was an old Jimmie Rodgers song titled “Waiting for the Train.”  Mr. Wayne would sing about being flat broke and trying to hitch a free ride from Frisco to Dixie in a boxcar.  “He put me off in Texas, a state I dearly love, the wide-open spaces all around me, the moon and stars up above.”  Between the verses he yodeled in Jimmie Rodgers style and enjoyed the highly predictable grins of our small audience.

Mr. Wayne was happily married to a sweet lady named Madge, a woman he loved dearly.  I don’t know if he had an earlier history with a Thelma down in Texas or not.  All I know is that he enjoyed singing those three songs.  Those mullet suppers were a long time ago, but I can easily picture Mr. Wayne smiling and strumming his guitar.  His voice is still clear and strong as I remember him singing about two lovers waltzing, or about a lonesome man who couldn’t afford a ticket for a train ride home.

I never thought to ask him if there was a story behind that trilogy of Texas tunes, and I’m sort of glad that I didn’t.  Sometimes there’s more pleasure in wondering than there is in knowing.  He sang like a man who had lived the lyrics, but that’s what the best singers do.  His waltzing days were long over, but sometimes a memory is almost as good.

Posted in 2018 | 2 Comments

GRIER’S ALMANAC

I was standing at the counter in Forbes Drug Store a while back and noticed a small stack of Grier’s Almanacs.  Steve Morgan, who owns the pharmacy with his brother Frank, told me I was welcome to take one.  I was glad that he offered it for free, greatly relieved that I wouldn’t have to make the stressful decision of whether to part with a dollar.  Even if I hadn’t wanted an Almanac, I would probably have taken it anyway.

The late Miller Lawson was a beloved friend to our family and a fountain of common sense.  He told me that when somebody offers you something for free, it’s usually best to take it.  Miller said that he had hauled off some things that weren’t even good enough to throw in the trash.  But he had smiled and said thank you, and kept the door open for better possibilities.

Grier’s Almanac was a staple in farm households during the days of my youth.  I don’t remember where ours came from.  Maybe it was from nearby Joiner’s Store, or maybe from somewhere in Unadilla.  We kept it on the kitchen counter, right next to the phone book.

Farmers and other folks with vegetable gardens faithfully consulted the Almanac to decide when to plant.  Daddy didn’t use it for that.  Our Almanac seemed more for entertainment than agriculture.  Before smart phones, 24-hour television, and social media, people read things from printed pages and then had what we called conversations.  It might be good for someone to do a documentary on that sort of thing.

I was kind of excited that day in Forbes to be taking the 2018 Almanac home.  It had been a long time since I had seen one.  It brought back childhood memories of flipping through the pages, wondering what life changing information that year’s edition might offer.

According to the cover this is the 212th annual issue, having been published every year since its debut in 1807.  With that kind of track record, I figured it must be loaded with valuable information.

It didn’t surprise me to find a deal on hearing aids.  Those ads seem to be everywhere.  Sometimes my wife turns down the corner of a page, so that I’ll take notice.  Not long ago, Jane suggested I should get my hearing checked.  But the thing is, if I get hearing aids I won’t have an excuse that now allows me to slyly ignore some of what she says.  Clear hearing is convenient, but it comes with a cost.

There were ads for fatigue remedies, walk-in bathtubs, Zoysia lawn plugs, and poultry products, plus some canine antiseptic powder that’s been relieving itchy pups for 1,022 dog years.  I don’t know if it’s safe for humans, but I’m thinking about ordering a bottle for a friend of mine.  My buddy Chris Kauffman taught me that referencing, “a friend of mine,” is how to buy something when you don’t want people thinking it’s for you.

What I found most exciting were the numerous ways to improve health, wealth, and luck for a nominal price.  There’s a Fast Money Candle for eight dollars or Love Draw Oil for only five.  Lucky Mojo Bags are priced to sell at fifteen bucks, or for ten more dollars you can get the extra strength version.  Shipping and handling is only another $7.50.

If you don’t want to wait by the mailbox, you can call one of the reverends, psychics, or spiritual advisors.  One lady is available to help change your bad luck to good, plus provide you with some lucky numbers.  The ad shows a picture of Jesus, but it’s possible that picture was used without His approval.

There’s Snake Oil to destroy all sorts of evil and Holy Water for money blessings.  Some of the products are guaranteed to be the most powerful available.

For those of you who prefer to shop locally, here’s something I’m sharing but asking that you keep in strict confidence.  I have access to a limited supply of lucky chinaberries.  It’s a pick your own orchard that is available only by invitation.

I can point you right to it during berry season or give you directions by phone.  If I’m not home just put ten dollars in our mailbox and help yourself to the berries.  If you’ll leave that ten dollars with me, I can just about guarantee that someone is going to get a blessing.

Posted in 2018 | 4 Comments

Name Games

I met a man named Mingenback at a midday meeting in the month of May.  If you can say that tongue twister three times in ten seconds you’ll be eligible for a drawing.  I haven’t yet decided what I plan to draw, probably a stick figure or a rabbit.

My wife, Jane, and I attended a lunch program at Vinings Bank on May 1st.  We were there to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia.  Dan Oliver, president of Vinings Bank, was hosting the event in their spacious community room.

As we took our place in the food line, we spoke to a young man that we had not met before.  We shook hands and exchanged introductions.  I read his name tag to make sure that I had understood him correctly.

“Matt Mingenback,” I said aloud.  “Are you related to the Mingenbacks in Dooly County?”

“Dooly County?” he asked, inquiring as to its location.

I told him that we were about two hours south of Atlanta on I-75, and that we had a lot of Mingenbacks in our rural part of middle Georgia.  He was immensely pleased to learn of a southern connection.  Matt grew up in Kansas and now lives in Texas.  Stumbling upon the Georgia Mingenbacks was a complete surprise.

Matt is Director of Sales for a company called Fitech Payments.  I suppose it was his sales experience in reading expressions that gave away my ploy.  We all had a good laugh as I confessed that he was the only Mingenback I had ever met.  Matt said that he planned to pull that name prank himself one day.

I told him to be careful, that there was once an occasion when I felt a tinge of regret for playing that game.  I don’t recall the young man’s name.   We’ll just say Robonoski, because I think it was something along those lines.  All I remember is that it was an R word with four or maybe five syllables.

He was only a few years out of college and was working in the correspondent department for a large bank in Alabama.  He was traveling the southeastern circuit calling on small banks in search of potential business opportunities.  He stopped by Bank of Dooly in Vienna, Georgia, where I was the bank president.

I had never played that particular name game before, or even thought about it that I recall.  But when that young fellow came into my office and introduced himself, it just came to me on the spur of the moment to ask if he was related to the Robonoskis in our area.

He was a nice young man, very polite and personable.  He was excited beyond my expectations to find a pocket of Georgia folks that shared his uncommon name.  He said rather wistfully, “I’ve traveled all over several states with my job, but this is the first place I’ve found any family.”

The thing about a prank is that once you pull the plug there’s no putting it back in the drain.  The only thing I could do was tell him the sad truth.  I don’t think he suffered any long term emotional damage, but I sure did hate to disappoint him.

Speaking of disappointment, I realize that not everyone will be able to say that tongue twister in the first sentence in ten seconds or less.   I’ve decided to offer some consolation prizes for those who don’t qualify for the drawing.

If you can say that sentence clearly in 12 seconds, then you are entitled to a free blog subscription at joinerscorner.com.  If you can say it in 15 seconds, you will be awarded 200 points.

It may require more than 15 seconds for some folks to say it three times.  Regretfully, there is no formal recognition planned for that group.  I had to draw the line somewhere. Drawing the line is probably the thing that I draw best, so I think I’ll also let that serve as first prize.  I hope that the winners will enjoy it.  Good lines are hard to come by _______________________.

Posted in 2018 | 3 Comments