Chick Days

It hasn’t been acceptable to refer to a lady as a chick in decades, or maybe it never was.  Frank Sinatra was probably the last man who could have used that term without generating any complaints.  That’s why I was astounded when I received a February email from a large reputable company that said, “Chick Days are coming soon!”  What surprised me even more than the caption was that it came from Tractor Supply.

I enjoy going to Tractor Supply, sometimes to buy something and other times just to add to my bucket list.  Their aisles are filled with tempting items, but I was shocked to learn they now offer chicks.  How that works I have no idea.  I assume the chicks are there voluntarily, and that there is an interview process where each chick has a right of refusal.  If not, they need to be reported.

I don’t know if they offer young chicks, old chicks, or everything in between.  It seems that an age appropriate chick would be the best route to follow, but not everyone sees it that way.

The warranty period and return policy would be something that a customer would need to investigate thoroughly.  What if a fellow changed his mind but the chick didn’t want to be returned?  And what all is covered under the warranty?  Is it just parts or is labor included?  Is an extended warranty offered?  There’s a lot that we don’t know from that brief ad.

In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I want to be clear that I have no interest in a chick for myself.  I’ve been happily married since 1974.  But even if I were in the market for a new bride, it could be a little embarrassing down the road.  Someone would inevitably ask how we met.  I’d have a hard time admitting that I got my wife during Chick Days at Tractor Supply.

The email asked, “What kind of coop or run do you need?”  I guess that ad must have gone out to everyone regardless of marital status.  If I brought a chick home from Tractor Supply I wouldn’t need a coop.  I’d need a casket.

I know exactly what kind of run I would need, a very fast run, a run that is faster that Olympic champion Usain Bolt when he was in his prime.  But as the great boxer Joe Louis said of an evasive opponent before they met in the ring, “He can run but he can’t hide.”  Even the best runner has to eventually take a break.

That same ad offered 36 months of financing on purchases of $1,299 and up.  I haven’t priced any of their chicks, but I’m sure they would all be well above the minimum.  If you find a chick for less than $1,299 you better check the expiration date.

At the bottom of that email it said that I had received it as a valued member of Tractor Supply’s Neighbor’s Club.  I’m wondering which of my neighbors are in the club, and if they know that I’m in it too.  I don’t know whether to talk to some of them about this or simply ignore it.  There’s just something about linking a Neighbor’s Club with Chick Days that doesn’t sound quite right.

My wife, Jane, who is Vice President of the Proof Department, read this proposed column and said that I was badly mistaken.  She said that what Tractor Supply is selling are chickens for people who want to have their own laying hens.  After looking at the ad again I did notice a couple of Rhode Island Reds in the background, so she’s probably right.

The chicks I was thinking about would seem more likely to be found in Bed, Bath and Beyond or maybe Home Depot.  Amazon might be another possibility.  I remember some Amazon women in an old Tarzan movie, but those ladies were sort of ornery and dangerous to deal with.  I’d recommend caution about online ordering for a situation like this.  It’s probably best to go to the store.

It’s too close to my deadline to write a new column.  I hope this one doesn’t cause any confusion.  I think I made a terrible blunder in my interpretation of that ad, but just to be certain I may call Tractor Supply.  Or maybe I’ll go to the chick aisle at the local store.  I’m still curious about which of my neighbors may be in the club.

Posted in 2018 | 2 Comments

Lost and Found

I found four tires in a muddy ditch in February.  They weren’t new, but one of them had better treads than the set on my farm truck.  They were on the dirt road that separates Dooly from Pulaski County.  It’s not usually a bumpy road, but sometimes the rain washes across and leaves little gullies.  I’m thinking that someone hit a crevice and the tires bounced out of their vehicle.

I guess their household garbage was riding on top of the tires, because a white plastic bag landed in the same area.  The trash was widely scattered.  I don’t imagine they want any of it back, unless they’re collecting aluminum cans.  They apparently have a strong preference for Coke.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to return the tires.  There are probably some fingerprints on the sidewalls or the Coke cans, but I don’t have a kit to lift them and I doubt the G.B.I. would give me access to their data base.

With all the trail cameras in use today, it’s possible someone caught an image of a slow-moving vehicle on that lightly traveled road. The pictures might help identify the driver or the tag number.  But I’d hate for someone to be embarrassed over not properly securing what they were hauling.

In trying to figure out how to get the tires back to their rightful owner, I remembered what a young man did back in 1973.  I had finished my third year at Valdosta State College that spring, then went to Washington, D.C. as a summer intern for Senator Herman Talmadge.  I wasn’t there to give him any advice.  My job was helping direct people to their seats in the Senate gallery.  My only claim to fame was a short walk in front of the cameras during the Watergate hearings.  Every Talmadge intern got to do that once to add a little flair to our normal routines.

The first part of the summer I lived with two interns of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.  Toy Nettles and Norman Rodgers were their names.  I have their home addresses in an old shoe box, but I have no idea whatever happened to either one of them.  We were packed into a hotel room that was so small we had to take turns laughing.  It was an old hotel but was within walking distance of the Capital and fit perfectly into a shoestring budget.

Toy and Norman returned to South Carolina before my internship was finished.  Senator Talmadge’s staff referred me to a boarding house where a lady rented out one big room with three beds.  I didn’t know either of the two guys who were already staying there.  I think they were out of college or maybe in graduate school.  One of them was a writer and said he wanted to do investigative journalism like syndicated columnist Jack Anderson.  I don’t recall much about the other one, except for one night when we walked a few blocks to grab a bite to eat.

On our way back to the house he spotted a nice camera perched on a window ledge.  We waited ten minutes or so, but no one returned to claim it.  He took the camera and we walked away.  I figured he had gotten lucky that day.

That’s when he said something that I didn’t expect.  He said that he was going to take out an ad in the lost and found, that the camera was probably left by a tourist who might be staying in town for a few days.  That seemed like a long shot to me, an almost certain waste of time and money, but I kept that to myself.  I was surprised when the ad got a quick response from a person who could describe the camera.  I don’t remember my roommate’s name or even what he looked like, but I’ve never forgotten the character lesson he demonstrated so well.

Instead of taking out an ad, I’m hoping that whoever lost those tires will read this column and know where they can find them.  I realize there’s a slight possibility those tires didn’t bounce out, that someone may have intentionally thrown them in the ditch.  If that’s the case, then maybe they’ll consider the example of that young man I knew briefly a long time ago.

He went the second mile to do the right thing.  Going the second mile takes a little more effort, but it should be easy when you’re riding on a new set of tires.

Posted in 2018 | Leave a comment

Things I Don’t Understand – Part I

A column that’s labeled “Part I” implies there is more that will follow.  I haven’t yet written a “Part II” and I don’t know that I ever will.  I realize, however, that even with a framed diploma from Unadilla High School, I may not be able to cover everything I don’t understand with a single effort.

Kenny Calhoun is one of the few people I know who could cover this subject in a brief manner.  He is reported to have intensely studied the World Book Encyclopedias from letters A through S and to have a general knowledge of letters T through Z.

Man buns are something I don’t understand.  I can appreciate that a pony tail keeps long hair out of your face, and pigtails don’t seem odd on Willie Nelson.  But man buns are beyond me.  I think it’s because they remind me of my paternal grandmother, Mama Joiner, who always wore her hair in a bun.

I may have seen her a few times with her hair down, but I only have one vivid recollection.  I was young, maybe five or six, and I think I was spending the night with her.  She was brushing her hair before going to bed.  It had never occurred to me that her hair was long.  I was intrigued and gave it a few tentative strokes.  It was hard to believe all that flowing gray hair fit into such a neat little bun on the back of her head, a look that seemed perfectly suited for a saintly matron.

The first time I saw a man bun I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I wanted to clasp the fellow’s hand and tell him how much he reminded me of my dear grandmother.  Jane, however, said he might not take it as a compliment.  I’ve learned to listen to her on things like that over the years.

I figured the man had probably answered the challenge of a double-dog dare.  In the late 1950’s at Pinehurst Elementary it was acceptable to ignore a dare or even a double dare.  But no respectable third grade boy walked away from a double-dog dare.  That may not be why the fellow was wearing his hair in a bun, but it’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

Lately I’ve been seeing professional athletes on television with man buns.  I discounted a European soccer player but had to take note of a born-in-America wrestler wearing a championship belt.  I discreetly smothered a snicker.  We had just bought a new TV and I don’t know if it’s interactive or not.  It wasn’t worth taking a chance.

Sumo wrestling is another thing I don’t understand.  My theory is that somebody lost a bet.  Why else would two big guys dress in diapers and run into one another on purpose?  I believe someone lost a wager but was then surprised to find that people would pay to see them.  I guess it’s an honest way to make a living, but it seems like they should at least wear suspenders.  One of these days the tabs on somebody’s diaper are going to come loose.  I’m predicting there will be people who will repeatedly grimace about how awful it was as they keep hitting the replay button.

Silent letters are something else I don’t understand.  A man named Herb is pronounced like it’s spelled, but an herb in the garden is pronounced erb, which is further complicated grammatically as it’s preceded by “an” instead of “a.”  That doesn’t make sense to me, but I’ll admit that I’ve always thought “Herb’s Herbs” would be a good name for a plant store.

And it’s time we dropped the “o” in opossum or either started using it.  Why was it ever put there?  My guess is that years ago a man came in from the field for supper.  He recognized the smell from the iron pot simmering on the wood stove and said without enthusiasm, “Oh. Possum.”

I should have talked to Kenny before I wrote this column.  He probably understands silent letters and Sumo wrestling.  I don’t think man buns were in the encyclopedia back when he read them.  Somehow the women of my grandmother’s generation unwittingly became trendsetters for the men’s hairstyles of today.

I’m sure that Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies had no expectation of the granny to man bun transition.  If Jethro had come home with one, she would have “laid a whuppin’ on him.”  She’s probably shaking her head now and saying, “Jed, I just don’t understand it.”  That goes for me too, Granny.  I don’t think even Kenny Calhoun can explain this one.

Posted in 2018 | 5 Comments

Mayberry Moments

I was driving from Center Hill Lake in Tennessee, headed back home to Georgia, late in the summer of 2017.  Our oldest grandchild, Abby, was riding with me.  My wife, Jane, daughter Carrie, and Abby’s siblings, Melanie and Walt, were in another vehicle behind us.

I don’t know exactly where we were when I noticed a sheriff’s car parked on the side of the road.  There was a fleeting moment of trepidation as I checked my speedometer.  But that tinge of fear quickly turned to joy as I read the caption on the trunk.  Printed In bold letters was “In God We Trust.”

It reminded me of The Andy Griffith Show from the 1960’s.  They only had one patrol car in Mayberry.  It didn’t have that caption on it, but that message was conveyed in many episodes.

I miss Sheriff Andy Taylor.  He did an exceptional job in Mayberry of keeping the peace.  Their county had the lowest crime rate in North Carolina.  Andy did that mostly on his own, without much help from his close friend Deputy Barney Fife.  Barney’s enthusiasm for following the letter of the law was an ongoing problem.  He rarely let common sense interfere with enforcing the many codes he knew so well.

There were numerous episodes where Barney’s good intentions became recipes for disaster.  Andy would usually solve the problems in such a way that Barney seemed more like a hero than a goat.  Andy had a knack for that sort of thing.  He didn’t worry about getting credit for what he did.  He was happy letting Barney bask in the glory of unmerited praise.  Barney would straighten his tie and puff out his chest as Andy returned the single bullet his deputy was allowed to keep in his shirt pocket.

Andy was a wonderful father as well.  Opie was a good kid but was occasionally distracted by his peers.  Andy would have a chat with him and always knew the right thing to say.  Opie would quickly embrace a deeper appreciation for good character.  Andy taught him honesty and kindness.  He also taught him responsibility by giving Opie some light chores to earn his own spending money.

All the main characters and most of their friends were in church on Sundays.   Andy, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bee were among the faithful congregants.  In a practically crime-free county Andy could close the sheriff’s office almost every Sunday.

Otis had a bad drinking problem, but he faithfully booked himself into the county jail to sober up.  He didn’t drive or cause any noticeable trouble except some heartache for his wife.  She looked tired when they showed her, and I expect she was.  Andy seemed to have Otis on the road to sobriety a few times, but it didn’t last long.  Otis’ drinking was somewhat like a fellow told me years ago about his smoking habit.  He said, “It’s easy for me to quit smoking.  I’ve probably quit 50 times.”

When The Andy Griffith Show started its eight-year run in 1960 I was eight years old.  I knew that Mayberry wasn’t real, but it didn’t seem completely impossible that it could be.  Jane and I have been watching reruns of that show lately.  So, when I say that I miss Sheriff Andy Taylor, it’s not that I miss seeing him on television.  What I miss is the feeling that it might still be possible to have a Mayberry kind of town.

I know that’s unlikely to happen, but the caption on that sheriff’s car in Tennessee gave me a small ray of hope.  It was a Mayberry moment, a reminder of a time when there were places you didn’t need to lock your doors at night, places where kindness was common and even disagreements were respectfully civil.

It troubles me that Mayberry moments don’t come along very often anymore.  Maybe instead of wistfully longing for a mythical panacea, I need to focus more on that caption “In God We Trust.”  Those four words point toward a place that’s much better than Mayberry.  It’s a perfect place that’s open to all who follow the path of grace that leads to the gates of pearl.

We can’t go back to Mayberry, but we can go forward to a home where Mayberry moments happen all the time.  It’s a matter of where we put our trust.  John 3:16.


Posted in 2018 | 7 Comments

The Occasional Report

I’ve read the work of a variety of columnists over the years.  Some of them give an occasional update of selected topics they’ve previously covered.  I used to think those were columns of last resort, a result of having nothing else to write about.  So, if you’re suspicious of this week’s offering then I won’t blame you.

March 4, 2019, marks the second anniversary of Joiner’s Corner.  It seems appropriate to comment on a few of the people who have been mentioned.  Here are four of them in the order the stories were published.

“Sweet Martha Brown” (March 25, 2017) – Miss Martha was only 103 when I posted that story.  On Saturday, February 23, 2019, she turned 105.  She celebrated in grand fashion at Lilly Baptist Church, laughing with family and friends and singing along on some hymns and old songs.  Instead of taking a nap after the party she was going to a rodeo in Perry.  You can find her on Fridays at Janis’ Salon getting her hair done and delightfully enjoying her weekly visit.  She’s still living at home thanks to her son Marcus.  I’ve seen a lot of good examples of children assisting their aging parents, but Marcus Brown has set a standard for long-term loving care that’s second to none.

“The Avon Lady” (February 10, 2018) – Mrs. Ernestine Furlow died January 16, 2019, exactly one week shy of her 101st birthday.  Her hospital stay was brief, and she had lived independently at home until then.  When I visited her in 2018 to work on a column, she asked me about playing the piano at her funeral.  It wasn’t a somber moment like one might expect.  She made it clear that she was prepared for one final move.  She didn’t know when she was leaving, but she knew where she was going.

“A Greatly Blessed Life” (March 23, 2018) – World War II fighter pilot Charles Speight is still teaching Sunday School at Unadilla First Baptist as he approaches his 97th birthday.  In April of 2018 he and his family made a trip to Charleston, South Carolina for the 75th anniversary of the commissioning of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.  Later in the year Witness to War came to Unadilla to interview him.  His compelling first-hand account of wartime experiences can be viewed on the website.  Mr. Charles continues to be a blessing and inspiration to others as he remains actively engaged in his community.  I don’t know if he’s much of a cook, but he sure has an exceptional recipe for living.

“Keep Pedaling” (September 28, 2018) – Alyssa Wehunt’s courageous battle against brain tumors didn’t turn out as we had hoped.  She passed away January 20, 2019, after three years of severe health issues.

Reverend Graylen Hall made some comments that will long be remembered by those gathered inside an overflowing church.  He spoke of how Alyssa’s challenges had united our community through countless prayers, numerous acts of kindness, and loving expressions of compassion.  She touched more hearts in six years than most of us can ever hope for.

I don’t understand the suffering of innocent children, but I know that God used Alyssa to help me be more appreciative of every day that I’ve been given.  She helped remind me to be more thankful for blessings that I sometimes take for granted.  Her family asked me to play “Jesus Loves Me” on the piano at her funeral.  Despite her ongoing trials that became too routine, Alyssa knew that Jesus loved her.  It seems like that ought to be easy for the rest of us to accept.

I appreciate the encouragement that many of you have given me over the past two years.  Writing has been a rewarding hobby, plus has provided a side benefit of helping me avoid more yard work than I believe my body was designed for.  Jane, however, has become suspicious of my oft repeated line, “I can’t help right now Honey.  I’m working on a story.”  I’ve recently promoted her to Vice-President of Joiner’s Corner, hoping such a prestigious title will buy me a little more time.

That’s all I’m going to write today.  I can see Jane through the window by my desk.  The wheel barrow I gave her for Christmas is way too full.  I can’t just close the shutters and ignore what I know needs to be done.  I’m going to take her a glass of water.

Posted in 2018 | 4 Comments

The Beach Boys

I went several decades without attending a concert of any well-known singer or group.  I broke that streak in November of 2018 to go see Willie Nelson in Macon.  In January of 2019 I added another name to the list when Jane and I saw The Beach Boys in Tifton.  At this rate I’ll soon run out of bands I’m interested in hearing.  Neil Diamond quit touring and there haven’t been any authenticated sightings of Elvis lately.

We were in Tifton with two other couples, Mike and Kris Chason, and Don and Ramona Giles.  Mike and I have been friends since the fall of 1970 when we began college at Valdosta State.  Don and I go all the way back to fourth grade in Unadilla.

I was seated on one end of our delegation.  Next to me was a nice lady from Turner County who was there with her jovial husband.  It’s easy getting to know folks at a Beach Boys concert.  Everybody I saw that night was friendly.  The people in the audience were laughing and having a good time as they visited with those seated around them.

I have a theory that grouchy people don’t attend Beach Boys concerts.  Grouchy people don’t like songs with lines like, “Fun, fun, fun, ‘til her daddy takes the T-bird away.”  They don’t like to sing along or clap in time with the music, nor be surrounded with people that seem suspiciously happy.

The Conference Center has 2000 cushioned seats and somebody was in every one of them.  Most of the crowd had Medicare cards.  Before the show began I thought about asking everyone who had a stent to raise their hand.  The microphone, however, was just out of reach on the elevated stage.  Jane shook her head with a non-negotiable look I have seen before.

There was a giddy-in-love young couple seated just ahead of us.  I turned to the lady from Turner County and said, “It’s great to see these kids here, isn’t it?”  She and her husband smiled and nodded as the duo turned around.  “I’m 53,” he said with a big grin, “and she’s 52.”

“Wow!” I said.  “It’s amazing what clean living will do for you.”

The Beach Boys are all grown up now.  Mike Love, their lead singer, is 78 and wears a cap.  It may be his way of hiding a tangled mass of unruly hair, but I don’t think so.  I began wishing I had worn a cap myself, wondering if those bright lights were bouncing off the shiny streak on the top of my head.  Sometimes when I get out of the shower it looks like Moses parted my hair.

Mike Love did a 360-degree spin while balancing on one foot.  It wasn’t fast but I was impressed he made it all the way around with a single push.  I tried it later at home without success.  He must have a trick shoe with a secret spinner in the sole.  I said to the lady from Turner County, “If he keeps showing off, he’s going to break something.”  I guess Mike overheard me because he didn’t spin again.

The Beach Boys paused briefly after a rapid-fire high-energy song set.  The quality of their music was good but was more than a tad too loud for me.  I’m a proponent of ample volume.  Our neighbors always know what we’re watching on TV.  But I turned again to the lady from Turner County.  “Somebody must have told them I’m hard of hearing.” I said, speaking more loudly than I intended.

“I’m sorry you can’t hear them,” she shouted back.  She pointed to her husband.  “He doesn’t hear very well either.  Maybe we can motion for them to turn it up a notch.”

The concert was excellent and I’m glad that we went.  But it was the pre-concert activities that I enjoyed the most.  Six friends and a chihuahua named Posey sat around a kitchen table having key lime cake and coffee.  We told ancient tales where humor has largely displaced the facts.  Even Posey, though skeptical of some details, laughed a few times.

I don’t know if I’ll go to any more concerts or not.  I wouldn’t mind hearing Alan Jackson sing those hymns that he recorded for his mother a few years back.  But the thing I would want to make sure of is that we allow for plenty of table time.  There are few things in life that are as pleasant as sharing old stories with good friends.  The walks down memory lane grow sweeter by the day.

I hope I don’t throw my back out but there’s something I feel I must do.  I’m going to try that 360 full circle spin move again.  This time I think it will happen.  I’m feeling some good vibrations.

Posted in 2018 | 5 Comments

A Caved In Church

In the Oakfield Community on Highway 300 there’s an old church building that’s almost completely caved in.  Mt. Zion Baptist Church has been vacant for a long time but had stayed mostly intact until recently.  It was probably Hurricane Michael in October of 2018 that speeded up its slow demise.

I’ve ridden by the place numerous times over multiple decades.  It’s been somewhat of a landmark on those trips, not the kind of place you stop to visit, but somewhere you wish you knew a little more about.  I don’t know when the doors first opened, when they last closed, or anything that may have happened in between.  It’s possible the congregation was so vibrant they moved to a bigger place.  It’s more likely that shrinking numbers led to its closure.

Jane and I passed by the church on January 3, 2019, heading to her hometown of Thomasville.  We were surprised to see it had collapsed in the middle, caved in beyond any semblance of a place with a purpose.  There was a time when it could have been restored, but the demand for old church buildings is rather weak.

In our quick views from the road the church didn’t seem to change much over the years.  It was obviously abandoned, but the flaking white paint kept stubbornly clinging to the old wooden boards.  We didn’t see the leaks in the roof, or the decaying rafters hidden beneath.  It’s apparent now that the long-neglected building has no structural integrity.  That’s been the case for a while, but it happened so slowly it was almost undetectable.

I expect there are plenty of places to worship in the Oakfield area.  I doubt the collapse of an old church building will impact the spiritual welfare of anyone.  But as I looked at those crumbling walls it reminded me of a bigger problem that affects every community.  It’s the issue of the church that is caving in spiritually, the church that has lost much of its spiritual integrity.

I’m not talking about any one congregation or denomination.  We can all point fingers in almost any direction including toward ourselves.  I’m talking about the church as a whole, the church as the body of Christ, the church as a group of born-again believers, the church that seems to have caved in to the pressures and alluring temptations of society.

Today’s church often seems more intent on offering a smooth ride rather than following the straight and narrow path.  Our mantra could be “Ruffle No Feathers.”  We avoid those issues where taking a stand is awkward or costly.  We’ve almost quit talking about sin because that can easily become offensive.  We’ve grown accustomed to the murders of unborn babies under the guise of women’s rights.  We accept the glamorization of immorality through our remote controls.  We let our children spend their allowances to elevate indecent behavior to rock star status.  We choose to get along rather than stand alone.  The Apostle Paul would not be welcome in many of our pulpits.

I’m not saying we’re all guilty of all those things.  I’m saying too many of us are guilty of some of those things.  I don’t have the answers to a myriad of problems, but I know what God told Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV).  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  God gave Solomon a four-tiered plan that can still work today.  The prayer part is easy to embrace, but the rest of that scripture is problematic.  It requires an inconvenient level of commitment.

The collapse of an old building in Oakfield is not very important, but it reminded me of something that is.  A caved in church is just an accumulation of caved in individuals.  God won’t hold me solely responsible for a caved in church, but He won’t excuse me for a half-hearted effort to shore up some sagging rafters.  I’m going to try to do better on that.  If you feel there’s a need, then maybe we can be partners in the effort.

Posted in 2018 | 6 Comments