Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Great Season

The season is over. Our high school football team, of which Younger Son is a proud member, fell in the semi-finals of our state playoffs last night in a heart-wrenching down-to-the-last-minute thriller. Final score: 31-27.

A win would have put us in the state title game next weekend, but it was not to be.

Losses such as this are hard for young guys and Younger Son was somber last night. Even though we all knew it could happen, it is still an abrupt ending. Throughout the spring and summer, Younger Son’s life is consumed with conditioning and workouts. Two-a-days start in early August, then there are scrimmages. When school starts there are afternoon practices, then games on Friday nights. He still played JV this year too, so he would often have a game on Monday night as well.

Younger Son comes from a gene pool that is not inclined toward athletics. Of my three children, he is probably the most like me, but there is one significant difference: when I was young, I had a tendency to give up on things that I thought were too difficult. I stopped playing any kind of organized sports early in my life when I noticed the superiority of my peers, even though I had a strong desire to play.

Younger Son, in contrast to his father, has worked hard to overcome obstacles. He has given his whole heart which at times has gotten stomped on, but which is so big that sometimes I don’t think his football jersey can adequately contain it.

When he comes off the field after a successful extra-point attempt where he has been on the line, his enthusiasm is no less than if he were a running back who had run 90 yards for a touchdown. I can see him grinning through his helmet as he pumps his fist in the air and slaps his teammates on their backs. And every time it makes me catch my breath.

And my enthusiasm, I assure you, is no less than if he were a running back who had run 90 yards for a touchdown.

In short, he is my hero.

And so, in recognition of his winning season but, more importantly, as a tribute to his own internal victories, I present to you my favorite football player -- with his biggest fan:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Come Ye Thankful People

I wrote last year at this time about my love for the Thanksgiving holiday and my disdain for merging it with Christmas, so I won’t drag up all of that again.

I know many of you already have your Christmas tree standing or you will put it up this weekend and, of course, that’s your prerogative and I wish you the best. With all the work Wife does preparing for Thanksgiving, if I started dragging out anything having to do with Christmas tomorrow or this weekend, she would not be pleased. Everything in due time.

Tomorrow morning Daughter, Older Son, Older Son’s girlfriend and I will participate in the annual Habitrot, a Thanksgiving Day 5K which benefits our local Habitat for Humanity chapter. I use the word “participate” because I make no promises that I will run. I will finish, though, and we will have so much fun.

At our house tomorrow we will be hosting Wife’s family and will have a total of 13. We will have our Thanksgiving meal about mid-afternoon. Daughter and Older Son will head out early Friday morning for the Iron Bowl, Auburn’s annual clash with intra-state rival Alabama.

Friday night will be another football game as Younger Son’s team heads into the semi-finals of the state playoffs. (He even has practice tomorrow morning but believe me, he is not complaining). I will write more about that at a later time.

Given that there was no observation or mention of Thanksgiving at my church last Sunday, I will print the words of a wonderful old hymn that I would hope is still sung in many churches around the country at this time of year. If you are so inclined, you can go to this link and hear a piano playing the lovely tune, and you can sing along:

Have a blessed (and thankful) day.

Come, ye thankful people, come. Raise the song of harvest home! All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin. God, our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied. Come to God's own temple, come. Raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God's own field, fruit unto his praise to yield. Wheat and tares together sown, unto joy or sorrow grown. First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear. Grant, O harvest Lord, that we, wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home. From His field shall in that day all offences purge away. Giving angels charge at last, in the fire the tares to cast. But the fruitful ears to store in the garner evermore.

Then, thou Church triumphant come. Raise the song of harvest home! All be safely gathered in, free from sorrow, free from sin. There, forever purified, in God's garner to abide. Come, ten thousand angels, come. Raise the glorious harvest home!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting to Know Some Neighbors

I moved to Tennessee twelve years ago after having spent my entire life (except for when I went to college in Louisiana) in Arkansas.

My family and I quickly adapted to our new home and have enjoyed so many things about the State of Tennessee and Nashville in particular. Nashville is a great central location. There are three Major League ballparks (St. Louis, Atlanta and Cincinnati) just a few hours away; we can be at the beach (Gulf Coast) in about seven hours; and we can be in Chicago in about eight. We have had tons of friends over the years stop in on their ways to points east and west, north and south.

It's also really pretty around here. Lots of rolling hills, rivers and creeks that are breathtaking this time of year. The beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway begins in Nashville, going south. The Smokey Mountains, home of the most-visited national park in the U.S., is about three and a half hours to our east.

Right here in Nashville we have the NFL and the NHL. And of course the music here is legendary. People are friendly and, in the suburban area where we live, there are lots of transplants like us. We know very few natives.

So it's not hard to see why we came to love our adopted home.

What I really like to do when I have time is find those hidden gems, the ones that most of the tourists don't know about, a bit off the beaten path. With a day off last Wednesday, I found one of these jewels in Ethridge, Tennessee, about 65 miles south of my house.

Ethridge is the home of an "old order" Amish settlement. They settled in the area in the 1940s and, according to a brochure I picked up, "arrived in a railroad car loaded with their horses, farm equipment and household goods." About 250 Amish families make their homes there today.

Arriving in Ethridge, I came upon the Amish Welcome Center right on the main highway, where one can board a horse-drawn wagon and tour the Amish community. When I arrived I was told that the wagon had just left and wouldn't be back for the next tour for an hour and a half. I piddled around the "touristy" Welcome Center, then decided to get a map and strike out on my own. (I saw the wagon a little later and decided it was pretty lame and was glad I had missed it).

What I found was nothing short of fascinating. About one mile behind the Welcome Center, off the main highway, are country roads where the Amish live. There might be "modern" people living on some of the land around them, but most of this particular area is occupied by the Amish.

They have no modern conveniences -- no cars, no tractors, no electricity and no running water. They dress in black and, while they are pleasant and friendly, they essentially keep to themselves.

In this area they make their livings by working the land. They sell fresh vegetables, milk, molasses, quilts, rugs, hats, furniture and other hand made goods from their homes. Most of the houses have hand-made signs out front that advertise what is for sale.

In the town of Ethridge, and in the nearby much larger town of Lawrenceburg, it is not uncommon to see the Amish horses and buggies trotting along with the traffic. I followed one into the parking lot of a farm supply store and shot a couple of photos.

Speaking of photos, you have to be discreet. They do not like to have their pictures made and they certainly won't pose. I managed to get a few and hope I did not offend them.

It was a delightful way to spend a day off. Here are a few shots of my day:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some Thoughts

A few thoughts on the national news:

-- The tragic shooting in Fort Hood, Texas defies explanation or reason. Every time another of these unspeakable events happens, we as a nation wince. Unfortunately, such happenings in my lifetime have become, if not commonplace, at least all too frequent.

-- The assailant in this massacre appears to have been Muslim. A day after the event, there were reports that he had been harassed because of his religion. While this is indefensible, there should be absolutely no suggestion or inference that this harassment drove him to do what he did. It simply does not matter. Bullying and harassment are, unfortunately, a fact of life. When each of my children has encountered it, their mother and I have not gone down to the sporting goods store and decked them out with the latest guns and explosive devices.

-- Why all the debate about whether this was a “terrorist act” or not? It was horrible. Maybe it doesn't meet the most current politically correct definition of "terror" but if it was not an act of terror, I don't know what is then. It is obvious this guy had bought in to a radical, twisted agenda. President Obama stated it very well when he said that, “no faith justifies this action; no God looks on with favor.”

-- By the same token, just because the shooter was a Muslim, this should not in any way implicate the Muslim religion as a whole. I am pleased that a number of Army officials were quick to point out that many Muslims serve in our Armed Forces with dignity. Likewise, peaceful Muslim leaders have condemned the action taken by one who claimed to be of the same faith.


-- As she so often does, Nancy Pelosi is basking in the glory and taking credit for the health care bill that recently passed the House. Has anyone but me noticed that when Speaker Pelosi makes an announcement she always seems to be walking down some long hallway, corridor or sidewalk and the cameras follow her until she reaches her perch, minions beside her, and she sanctimoniously speaks to her subjects?

-- Who knows what we will end up with once this thing goes through the Senate?


One of my biggest criticisms of the Obama administration is its intolerance (yes, I said intolerance) of opposing views. I might add that this was an unattractive characteristic of the Bush presidency as well. With Obama, if you aren’t fully buying in to the health care plan, well, you just don’t get it and obviously you don’t care about the millions that are going without health care. Doesn’t seem to matter that there are a lot of us out there that think PAYING FOR IT might be something we just might want to consider. And if you are a member of a media organization that this administration considers “just another wing of the Republican party?” You just might find yourself ostracized at the White House Press Room.

As I said, George W. Bush was no better. Once he sent troops into Iraq, his point people were all over anyone who questioned or criticized the war effort there. It was ridiculous.

Can you say PARANOID?

If you are going to run for and take on the office of President of the United States, well guess what? THERE WILL BE JUST SCORES OF PEOPLE WHO WILL DISAGREE WITH YOU. Remember the old proverb about not being able to stand the heat . . . .?

Not to mention that we are guaranteed through the First Amendment the right to speak our minds.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Blind Side

Kelly recently wrote about reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. I commented back to her that it is one of my top five all-time favorite books and one of the few to which a movie actually did justice. Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch -- well, there's just no comparison.

Anyway, this got me to thinking about a movie that will be coming out in just a couple of weeks, The Blind Side. I am greatly anticipating the movie because I absolutely loved the book by Michael Lewis, which I read last year. The movie will include such notables as Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw (bless his heart, someone told him he could act and he believed it) and Kathy Bates.

The book has two different agendas. It relates the development of the left tackle position in football and, as a parallel, tells the amazing story of Michael Oher who, as an African-American teenager, was picked up off the streets of Memphis, Tennessee by an affluent middle aged white woman who took him home. She and her husband sent him to a private Christian high school where he enrolled in football, became a left tackle and was almost immediately sought after by Division I football coaches across the country.

The Memphis couple eventually adopted him. He ended up going to their alma mater, Ole Miss, and he was a top NFL draft pick last spring, going to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round.

As I said, I am greatly anticipating the movie, but also dreading it a bit. I dread it because so many times movies are nowhere near as good as the books on which they are based. This was such a good story and it will not make me happy if the movie messes it up.

There is a lot of technical stuff in the book that, if one is not a football fan, might become tedious. I passed it on to a guy friend of mine who loved it. He passed it on to his wife who just couldn't get past the football technicalities and put it down.

I assume the movie will focus solely on the Oher story. The name The Blind Side is a really cool play on words based on the left tackle protecting the quarterback's blind side. The parallels with both his football team's and family's blind sides are unmistakable.

I believe one of the fun things about the movie will be the various (mostly SEC) coaches who will be playing themselves. Only almost all of them are no longer at the schools they represent in the movie.

Tommy Tuberville, formerly at Auburn, is not coaching right now. Neither are Philip Fulmer, who left Tennessee last year, or Lou Holtz, whose last gig was at South Carolina before he became a fixture on ESPN.

Houston Nutt, formerly at Arkansas, is now at Ole Miss (and coached Oher in his final year). Nick Saban portrays himself in the movie as the LSU coach before he left and went to Alabama by way of the Miami Dolphins.

There are other coaches in the movie; these are the ones I can recall.

I highly recommend the movie, even though I haven't seen it yet, but more than that, would urge you, if at all possible, to read the book before seeing the movie. If you like football, it's almost a sure thing you'll like the book. If you don't, I still think there's a good chance you'll be entranced by the Oher story enough to get through the other parts.

And who knows, it might just make a football fan out of you.