LIGHTNING ROCKS

Lightning is my granddaughter Emma’s dog, but he truly loves me.  Every time I go to Sarah and Keith’s house, I sit on the leather sofa because it is central, comfortable and I can protect myself as Lightning sprints through the door and takes a giant leap into my lap.  He proceeds to give me sloppy, wet kisses all over my face. And his tail is wagging so fast that it is a blur. He barks incessantly with his shrill tenor voice.  Sometimes he greets me with a little urine drip if he hasn’t been outside lately.  I don’t mind because I love this dog.

Lightning is a dachshund with a very large personality.  He is the larger dog in the picture above. The little fellow looking on is Mr. Jingles, Lightning’s running mate.  He is not as exuberant as Lightning and often seeks a safe haven in Sarah’s lap.  He’s not very fond of men in general.

If you notice in the picture, Lightning has what appears to be a rock in his mouth. It is a rock.  Every time Hattie goes to the trampoline, Lightning tags along.  The very first thing he does on arrival is to look for a mouth size rock.  He digs vigorously around the edges of the rock and uses his paws to dig it out of its resting place.  He then makes sure it is the correct size.  His rock is never just any rock–it has to be just right.

When satisfied, he throws the rock into the air and pounces on it.  He hits the rock with his nose, it rolls a few feet and he pounces on it again.  He then hits the rock with his right paw, then his left and dribbles the rock for 6 feet or so like a soccer player.  As Sarah and I sat watching Hattie do gymnastics on the trampoline, Lightning continued with his rock antics in the same order (mouth, nose, paws) for forty minutes.  AMAZING.  I have had lots of dogs, but never one that plays with rocks.  By the way, he brings his favorites into the house and keeps them in the playroom.

Dogs are wonderful participants in this life.

PERDUE HOLLOW REVISITED!

I have this cousin named Mary.  She came into my life when I was four or five and she remained there for eleven years or so.  Then my favorite Aunt Edith married Walt and Mary disappeared into Walt’s family.  She was no longer a part of my life and I missed her.  She was the sibling I never had and she got a brother and sister in the new arrangement. When there were opportunities to see her at my grandmother’s house, I stayed away because I didn’t want the pain of missing her all over again. I was seventeen and didn’t know what I was losing.

The year 2017 has brought a massive change and Mary has come back into my life with a bang. She is on a mission of reuniting those of us that have been lost and I am grateful to her.  She has been to my place in Roanoke, I have been to visit her and her husband Steve in Louisville, and recently we had lunch with our cousin John and his wife Kay at the Valley Country Restaurant in Green Valley, West Virginia.  After lunch, we drove to Brush Fork, West Virginia to our grandparents’ homestead in Perdue Hollow.  Our cousin Don owns the place today and he has done a terrific job refurbishing the house.

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As a youngster,  my bedroom was in the left back corner on the second floor of the house.  Mary slept in the front room across the hall from Weaver and Dora, our grandparents.  For the longest time, this house was about a mile off the Perdue Hollow Road.  It was also the home of our great-grandparents Will and Mary Perdue.  We were all part of the long line of Perdue’s that inhabited this large Valley or “Holler” as we preferred.  Then they built the airport road right through the middle of the farm.  It’s still a two-lane road–the airport is not very busy. I never liked that road.

Donnie, Mike(me) and Johnny new every inch of the mountains and plateaus around the place. Plus we knew a lot about the Whitt Hollow which was on the other side of our mountains.  This “Holler” was mysterious and a little scary, but we were brave lads looking for adventure.  Soon enough we had Mary tagging after us to the Whitt Hollow.  The memories of this wondrous place are much grander than the actual events in the fifties. But, I cherish every moment I was there.

Mary, John and I were waiting for Don in the drive where the old gate used to stand,  looking up the valley.  It all looked closer together–the big hill with the road to the plateau was somehow closer than it seemed in 1950 or even 1957.  I haven’t seen the place for 39 years and haven’t seen my cousin Don or his new wife, Connie, in that time.  I was upset by the way Don had manipulated my Grandmother to let him have the property.  She was a difficult person to deal with most of the time (actually she had a mean streak), so he probably deserved it for his efforts to help her.  I am not upset anymore.

Don finally arrived.  Connie was in the house and he took me in to meet her.  She was not feeling well but was very lovely and nice.  The house was beautiful on the inside and Don showed me a picture of Will, Mary and their ten children, including Dora Belle.  My grandmom hated the name Belle.  I knew all the children in that picture–my aunts, and uncles.

The fourValley Country of us stood in the yard and talked about old times.  It hit me like a punch in the stomach.  I love Mary.  I love Don. I love John.  I love Steve, Connie, and Kay.  Standing in that place we were one and always will be.

Shopping at The Mall OR The Delights of Having Granddaughters

I took my 14-year-old granddaughter, my 8-year-old granddaughter, and their 12-year-old cousin shopping.  We went to the mall—the big one.  The one with all the hip stores.

As we were nearing the parking area, I asked a question, “Where are we going first?”

The 12-year-old said, “Park near Macy’s. It’ll be more convenient to start from there.”

“Yeah, we have a list of the stores we want to go to.  They are in order, by location,” the 14-year-old added. “We looked at the mall map online.”

The first store was the “PINK” store or at least that’s what I thought it was called. It was very interesting—virtually every item had “PINK” written somewhere irrespective of the color of the clothing.  The sales clerks seemed more like waitresses. They were all dressed in black and were wearing a large belt with a holster holding an order pad.  A 45-year-old dad walked in and announced that it was his daughter’s birthday the next day.  This smallish girl-in-black pounced on him like a dog on a bone. She had dollar signs in her eyes.  It was expensive. My granddaughters got several items, all with “PINK” emblazoned somewhere. It was expensive.

The young girl at the cash register looked to be about 12.  She handed me the receipt and I was stunned.

“Girls are expensive,” she said. It wasn’t the amount of the bill, it was VICTORIA’S SECRET. I had taken my granddaughters and their cousin to Victoria’s Secret.  This is the store men go shopping for their thin wives or…well you know.  I should hide this receipt from my daughter, but everything has PINK emblazoned on it.

With extra care, we were on to the American Eagle Store. I announced that torn and ripped jeans were not allowed at Brandon Oaks and I was adhering to that policy.  Luckily, skinny jeans without holes were on sale.  Also, Tees were on sale—buy one get 2 free. This selection took 30 minutes and two trips to the dressing room.

A young female sales clerk was lurking nearby because she wanted her name on this sale. She was wearing black ripped jeans. I asked her what was so cool about ripped jeans.  “You noticed them’ didn’t you? I like to be noticed.” I am still thinking about that comment.

With three tees and some blue jeans plus a cute little charm bracelet for my 8-year-old, we set off for the Hollister store.  This store has everything that is current in California.  It used to take several years for fashion trends to move in from the coast, but now it is instantaneous thanks to globalization or something. Interestingly, this store had young guys as sales reps and were they polite. “Hello, sir.” “May I help you, sir.” The 14-year-old found a great pair of skinny jeans, but they had one hole in the knee.  The pleading began, but she had an ally—the guy was telling me how amazing it was that the jeans only had one hole.  I was outplayed and overwhelmed. My 8-year-old was mostly disinterested, but she sighted a shirt that she liked.  She felt like a big girl heading off to the dressing room.

With three stores under our belt, it was time for a break. Universally, it was a vote for Chick-fil-A. It was the smallest check of the day.

Next ONE! Aeropostale! I felt a small surge of energy after some chicken and a restroom break. Basically, it was the same drill. Look at the tees and shirts. Grab two or three and head for the dressing room. It’s two for one so why not get four. While I was waiting one of the clerks gave me a lesson in the proper pronunciation of the store name.  “It is not the postal which means losing it in front of everyone—it’s more like pasta but not quite. You know.” “AEROPASTA!”  “That’s right, now put the L on it.”  She left with a sense of real accomplishment and left me as confused as ever.

My 8-year-old bought fake fingernails in Christy’s. What a store—how do they make it.

WE left the mall to find our car and head to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I had no idea why, but we headed in that direction.  At Dick’s, we ran into Kelli, my son-in-law’s sister. She has this wonderful habit of rescuing me on these adventures with my granddaughters and their cousin, who happens to be Kelli’s daughter.  The first time was at the trampoline park which was very dangerous for an old guy. This time it was exhaustion—we had been shopping for 4 hours. They all disappeared, including Kelli. I sat on a counter for 45 minutes

Kelli looks at me and says, “When are you going to learn?”

With my granddaughters, probably never, but I plan to enjoy it all.  It is so wonderful to love them without condition.

A BUTTERFLY

Yellow Butterfly

A few weeks ago, I encountered a caterpillar crossing a busy intersection at Brandon Oaks.  I remained with him until he made the trip and I talked to some of my neighbors about it.  It was a good experience in being interrelated to another creature in nature.

In mid-August, I went to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. This is the monastery that Thomas Merton entered in 1941.  I wanted to immerse myself in his work.

As I was sitting on a bench in the larger garden, a black and yellow butterfly flew toward me and perched on my hand.  Words can’t come close to describing its beautiful wing span and color. I tried not to breathe or move.

“Hello there, traveler, I AM a butterfly.”

The two days of silence had finally broken me.  “Shhhhhh, this area is to be silent.”

“Not for me, I am a butterfly and a messenger. We talk when there is something to say. You probably didn’t know that.”

“No, I didn’t.  Who is the message for?”

“You, my dear friend.  You see Merton wants you to find your True Self and diminish that False Self.  That unkempt, ugly long hair is part of the mask. Get it cut no later than August 19.  This will keep you on the path. HE will teach you many truths.”

“So, you want me to believe that this message is from Merton or maybe God?”

“It’s from those that love you.”  He flew away.

 

DOUBLEWIDE ON A HILL

DOUBLE-WIDE ON A HILL

My grandparents had a farm in Mercer County, West Virginia.  They had a nice little valley surrounded by very tall hills, some would even say mountains.  From about five on, I climbed those hills with regularity in the summertime.  I spent at least two months each year on that farm until I was 16.  The discovery of girls changed my attitude about quiet country living.

When I was 15 or so, I was standing on one of the hills on the western side of the valley.  The day was clear, it was hot on the mountain top, and the sky was high and blue.  You could see all the way to the Virginia line on the east side and at least to Welch on the west.

After sliding down the hillside, I met my grandfather on his way to the barn.

“Hey, granddaddy!”
“Hey, Boy. You been up on the ridge?”

“Yep, you can see forever up there.  Man, I would love to have a double-wide up on that hill with a nice big front porch and some rockers.”

“Listen, you got bigger fish to fry than a double wide on a hill.  You need to get on with that book learning your momma says you’re so good at.  You are going to work with your mind, not your hands and your back.”

“But Bud’s got a really nice double-wide and that pretty wife of his.  Looks pretty good.  Mine would be even better cause of the view.”

“Boy, you are just 15; what do you know about a view. Besides, Bud is an idiot—dumb as they come.  His momma didn’t have very good taste in men. That whole Maddox clan over by Bluewell is dumb as posts and she married the dumbest of the lot.  I know you think Bud is cool because he is your cousin and been in the Navy and he can’t help being dumb—it’s just part of who he is–just dumb.”

“But, granddaddy!”

“Listen, Boy, no more talk of a double-wide. Make yourself useful and milk Betsy.”

I listened to my grandfather.  But on particularly rough days in my calling as a financial advisor, I day dreamed about a simpler life on that hill.  I could have married my third cousin, Bobbi, a really pretty blonde girl I was chasing after that summer.  We could have had three or six kids and I could have worked on the railroad.  What a view.

As things turned out, when she was in an alcoholic haze, Bobbi killed her husband with a long-barrel .357 magnum.  My life is truly wonderful after all, market cycles included.

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