Tuesday, August 23, 2011

25th Anniversary Myrtle Beach Vacation! (published 8-23-2011)

Ah! Beach! Twenty-five years ago, newly married Mr. and Mrs. Appalachian Irishman spent their honeymoon at Myrtle Beach. Many things, in that resort city and in life, have changed. They beauty of the ocean, the reassuring repetition of the waves and tides, and Mr. and Mrs. Appalachian Irishman's love for each other have not.

Despite all the changes, of the last ten years or so in particular, Mrs. Appalachian Irishman's unconditional love suns Mr. Appalachian Irishman's heart and reassures him in waves.

Enjoy the photos!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

August Dacha Time (published 8-4-2011)

Ah, August dacha time in Russia! When Mrs. Appalachian Irishman and I lived in Russia, August was the month, when it seemed as if half the population of Moscow fled the city to enjoy a month at their summer dachas. The time was spent relaxing, socializing, enjoying the countryside, and tending the potatoes, cabbage, beets, and other crops that would sustain the family during the winter. The electric train rides between Moscow and Klin were often standing room only, as travelers came and went with gardening supplies or harvested crops. The aroma of fresh soil, harvested crops, and, yes, human sweat filled the wagons. We had opportunities to “go to dacha” with friends or to vacation, going to St. Petersburg, Turkey, and Ireland.

Americans need to slow down, stop, and take “dacha time” more often. We rush from task to task, work too many hours, endure too much stress, and lose our life balance in the process. A year, five years, a decade go by, and, looking back, we wonder how we came to the point in life where we are now. We bury ourselves in the darkness of our lives, failing to realize that the light is all around us.

The Appalachian Irishman has wandered through a decade of darkness – searching for understanding, purpose, motivation, and meaning, having faced a faith and career challenge – since his godly mother suffered a yearlong illness and passed, so traumatically and so early in her life, immediately after he and his devoted wife returned from Russia. A recent series of events has enlightened the Appalachian Irishman, causing him to renew, refresh, and refocus his life. It is his “dacha time.”

My dear, precious, and lovely Mrs. Appalachian Irishman has patiently endured and stood by her man’s side, even when he did not want her to do so. Her unconditional love brought her husband back from the brink. Words cannot express the depth of love, respect, and appreciation that I have for her. Thank you, my dear, for your patient long-suffering. Our renewal enlightens my renewal. The clouds have parted, and the future is filled with sunshine.

The Appalachian Irishman will take his “dacha time” now. He will find his center and pursue it, in meaningful focus and direction. God’s grace is there, as it has always been. He has just been waiting on me to find it again. Hum, where do we go from here? I drop the reins and look forward to His guidance.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tribute to Papaw Wood (published 3-14-2011)

Papaw Wood, my maternal grandfather, passed away on this day, March 14, in 1983. I'll never forget leaving the Morristown-Hamblen Hospital, after having sat the night shift, with him, thinking that Papaw was going to get better. Mom called me later, to say that her father had passed.

Papaw was a farmer, in his earlier years, in Indiana, where Mom was born. Later, he worked for Prater's Furniture, as a furniture mover, in Morristown, Tennessee. In his retirement, he worked part time, at a gas station, in Bean Station, Tennessee.

Granny and he had one of those all too rare marriages. Papaw courted Granny, all his life. They always had that spark! Even in their later years together, Papaw would sneak up behind Granny, reach behind her ear, and say, "I stole some sugar!" Granny would pretend to be annoyed, but then she'd smile and say, "Oh, Aby!"

Papaw was married once, before he met Granny. The first marriage didn’t work out. Some time after the divorce, as he enjoyed telling it, Papaw saw Granny, walking down Main Street, in Morristown, and said, "There's the girl I'm going to marry!"

I used to spend a week, during the summer, with Granny and Papaw. I saw how they loved each other genuinely. Papaw taught me how to whittle, carve wood, tie rope, work in the garden, and so forth. He loved to tickle me, until I couldn't breath! His mother's maiden name was Bair, which sounds like bear. Papaw would give me "a big ol' bear (or Bair) hug," as he'd call it. Papaw loved to pull little pranks, on Granny and other folks. I got from him much of my sense of humor.

For birthdays and holidays, we would either go to Granny and Papaw's, in Bean Station, or they would come to Rogersville. Well, they always came to Rogersville, for Christmas Eve and spent the night. I used to love to listen to Papaw "tell his stories," about when he was younger. I just wish that I could remember them all! I guess that I received my appreciation for good conversation from him.

At the viewing, before the receiving of friends, Granny looked at Papaw’s body, lying in the coffin, and said, “He loved me so good.”

Papaw, thank you for being so good to me! You were the best Papaw I could have ever had!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Tribute to Bart: 80th House Mountain Hike (published 3-13-2011)

My Cousin Bart, at age 63, died last night, unexpectedly, too early in life, after a sudden illness. My youngest brother called, to tell me, this morning.

Bart was the only son of my Uncle Roy and Aunt Maxie. Uncle Roy was one of Dad’s brothers. Uncle Roy and Aunt Maxie passed away years ago. Bart lived with Dad's oldest brother, my Uncle Bill and his wife, Aunt Bobbie, until they both passed. Retha, a cousin, took care of Bart, for several years. For about the last three years, Cousin Bart lived in a nursing home in Morristown, Tennessee.

Bart was physically and mentally disabled, due to early childhood spinal meningitis. His right leg and arm were drawn, but he could walk fairly well, with a shuffle. He didn’t seem to mind his limitations. Bart didn’t really think that he had limitations, for he loved life, family, and friends. He was sharp-minded, in his own way. Bart knew every state capital, and he loved to quiz you on it. If I didn’t get one right, Bart would smack his hands, laugh, and correct me. He could remember things, from the past, that many folks might forget.

Bart loved to cut up and joke. He was the life of many a family gathering. He loved to watch the old TV shows, Andy Griffith, Bonanza, and the like. He enjoyed calling people Barney, Goober, Floyd, Hoss, and such. I’d say to him, for instance, “Bart, you ol’ Gomer-lookin’ thing, you!” He would just shake his good fist, call me “you ol' Barney” or something, and laugh. We had a lot of fun with Bart. He was a rich soul.

After Mom died, Dad kept Bart at times, often for a few days, when my cousin, who plays in an Irish band, had to travel or do something else. Dad often took Bart down to the Burger Bar, a local restaurant, where the “old folks,” and sometimes the young ones too, hang out. Bart always livened up the place. Bart was good therapy for Dad, and Dad was good therapy for Bart. I drove up most every Sunday, to see Dad. My wife went with me often. I was, or we were, glad to see Bart, when he was there. The only problem was that Bart liked to sneak cookies! “Bart, did you get those cookies?” He would walk down the hall, look around, and just grin.

I took my 80th hike, up House Mountain, this afternoon, in honor and memory of my “ol’ cuz” Bart. He is in a far better place, and I could imagine him looking down, from much higher above, and seeing the view that I saw from the ridge.

While Mom went through her year-long illness, which led to her passing, over ten years ago now, she dreamed that she saw Cousin Bart in heaven, not disabled, whole in body and mind. Well, Bart, you ol’ cuz, you, I would like to see you, where you are now! Tell Mom and Dad hello for me, and tell them that I’ll be seeing them again one day!

Bart, these photos are for you, you ol' cuz! I will miss you!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Norris Dam Park 2/26/2011 (published 2-27-2011)

The Appalachian Irishman enjoyed another solo hike in Norris Dam Park yesterday, when the weather was sunny and crisp – unlike today’s rain, which left him bored, as a “women’s basketball widower,” unable to get into the woods.

The first two photos show the solitary trail that I selected. I didn’t meet a soul. My reliable ’95 Nissan pickup, with almost 160 thousand miles on him, was the only vehicle in sight. (As a side note, I met a most interesting Bulgarian gentleman on a House Mountain hike in early January. He and I hike together occasionally now. Of course, I enjoy hiking alone, at times, to clear my mind, but I am always eager to meet interesting people to join my little Appalachian Irishman hiking club!)

The next eight photos show the beauty of the upper reservoir. The water was clean and blue, and the sky was a clear blue. In one photo, you can see the dam to the south.

The next two photos are of the dam itself. Norris Dam Park and the nearby Norris Watershed offer an abundance of trails for backwoods camping, hiking, horseback riding, and biking. A couple of campgrounds and a cabin area are available. Of course, fishing and boating opportunities abound. Yes, I know, I sound like a commercial!

Ah, now, let’s get to the last photo, and the point that the trail emphasized in my mind – a point that I already knew. The Marine Railway Loop trail started out well, with the great views of the lake above. After trekking a while, however, the trail became boring. So, in typical free spirit, adventurer style, the Appalachian Irishman set out to make his own trail! Exploring around, I crossed over two trails and decided to follow one. That trail led me to within about 100 yards north of my truck.

Life lesson: When you are bored or frustrated with one path, get off that trail and blaze a new one! You will come out about where you thought you would! Nature is a good teacher, or reminder, if you listen.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Eve Shooting! (published 1-1-2011)

The Appalachian Irishman was involved in a shooting on New Year’s Eve, up in his native Hawkins County! Wait! Don’t start gathering that bail money!

His youngest brother and he finally got together to release a little stress, by killing a few hanging targets. Here are the “taking down the bad guy” poses of my brother and me.

We started by firing a few rounds with Dad’s old 32-caliber pistol. We need to do a little work on the weapon, to restore it to proper condition, but it still shoots! Next, we shot my brother’s 9mm handgun. This photo shows my hits, from about 15 yards away. The black tape marks where I fired Dad’s pistol. The holes mark the 9mm impacts. Not too bad for my first time firing a 9mm, huh?

The fun started when we switched to the 12-gauge shotgun! I hadn’t fired a shotgun in many years, but it came back to me instantly. Here’s the results!

I needed some stress and frustration relief! Thanks, brother! We’ll do this again soon!