Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Afternoon Thoughts...

*Authors Note:  This particular story is best understood if read after the story "What Price, Freedom" that I posted Friday, May 13, 2011. 

It is late afternoon in October of 2011…  I am sitting on the patio of my home listening to Pandora Internet Radio play continuous Secret Garden music.  As I sit here on my vinyl picnic table, those worthless poodles lay in the late-cut fall grass of my fading lawn wondering what I am up to…  Every time I look up over my laptop, Tux wags his tail and Sasha acts like she wants to pee…  Worthless.  But how in the world can you not care for and love something so helpless?  I’ll try to avoid letting my mind run too long on that subject.  Leaning against the back of my house I am perfectly calm and rested and the perfect temperature encourages my stay here except for the ever present Aedes Albopictus mosquitos that are a constant companion of any warm blooded mammal in central Louisiana.  So as I gather my thoughts of where I want to move with this play of words the threat of West Nile is being introduced into my body as the annoying puncture pricks of these gifted pests on different parts of my exposed flesh seems to be under constant attack!  However, I am still here.

As the daylight fades away, my Mockingbirds are enjoying the last of a beautiful day as their constant companionship has comforted me for years.  Soon they too will find the security of sheltered branches to protect them from heavy dew, wind or rain only to awaken at the ‘Gates of Dawn’ to welcome me into another day or gift of continuing life.  Speaking of life, if you read my last short story posted back in May entitled “What Price, Freedom,”  you will recall my son Stewart was on his 5th tour in what I believed was Afghanistan.  I was correct and he made it safely home.  I was told by one of my daughters that he was expected back in late august or early September, as I can’t remember the exact date sitting here.  A few weeks later I was warmed by a text from him that said, “In the woods this morning.  Nice cool day, started to wonder how you were doing?”  Such a pleasant surprise, so I answered him back.  “I am in the winter of my life.  So far my health is still good and I can still throw my leg over my motorcycle and ride.  When one of those conditions becomes a reality, I will surely have to re-evaluate my tenure called life.  Glad you are back home and safe.” I was even more pleased when he answered back and told me, “Good to know.  I’m back home for a short time.  Will go back in March.  Rough trip for me, but the military seems to think a medal will make everything better, but they don’t.  I will most likely wrap this enlistment up and move on.”

Oh dear God, a 6th trip is promised in just a few short months, and how fast those months will fly for a dad that has nothing but a memory of his son’s strong hugs?  I sit back and re-read his words and put together what he was telling me before I responded.  There were so many things I wanted to share with him but I felt I must choose my words carefully as to make him understand I did in fact, understand.  So let me share with you my thoughts and you decide if my perception and intended remarks were correct.  This is what I heard him tell me. “I am in the woods this morning.  Nice cool day, started to wonder how you were doing?”  We spent some time in the woods when he was very young.  I taught him how to squirrel hunt, but mostly he taught himself.  I wasn’t there as the Army and eventually my on nursery and landscape business kept me occupied.  To think of me in the woods was good for me though as I often think of my dad on cool, crisp mornings.  Then he wondered how I was doing?  This is a question I’m sure if there were another verse to “Cats in the Cradle” the son would ask the absent father in his life eventually how he was, I’m sure in the late winter of his life?  So it was a fitting question and I answered him as honestly as I could.   I wonder how many things I would share with him if he truly wanted to know.  If we could sit down and talk.  Man to man.  Would he be my friend?  My buddy?  My companion?  Does not matter I guess, but enough about me.  Let me tell you what else I heard him say to me.

He is home for a short time and will go back in March.   So much was said here.  He will have peace.  Knowing until March he will train to do what he does best.  In the meantime he will contentedly exist in the peace of his wife, two daughters and soon to be third little girl not to mention the close fellowship of his friends.  His wife is due on the 13th of October which is just a couple of days from this writing.  I have not been told her name, but I know she will be as beautiful as the other two.  The second child of his was born the day after Christmas four years ago, this coming Christmas.  But he is home… It is a time of peace for him.  He will take this time to grow stronger, both physically and mentally.  Then he continues…  “Rough trip for me, but the military seems to think a medal will make everything better, but they don’t.”  If you’re reading this with me, you might remember that during this tour we lost a lot of American Navy Seals and three Air Force Controllers along with others in the shoot down of a CH-47 helicopter.   I have no idea if my son  was there or if he might have even been  the JTAC (Joint Tactical Air Controller) that called in the air strikes that destroyed the Taliban responsible for this act or not.  Regardless, he knew these people.  How many, I don’t know.  We don’t talk, but in my mind, I can’t help but wonder what his eyes have seen and just how these ‘acts of war’ that has played out before him will take its permanent seat in his mind.  He did imply that he received some sort of medal from this tour.  Looks good in his records.  Proves what he has accomplished, but he very clearly told me, that regardless what they give him, it is not enough to calm his heart and mind and make things better.  The scars are there and nothing the military can do will replace his friends, heal the horrors of what his young eyes have seen and settle his mind to that of my little boy when he gazed into my eyes.  Innocent, young, trusting and loving.  If he does survive with life and limb, there will still be evidence of the price he paid for our freedom.  I am already seeing that.

Finishing with that statement he said, “I will most likely wrap this enlistment up and move on.”  He has served now eleven years and counting and whenever this enlistment is up, it could be twelve or fourteen years, I’m not sure.  I know he will make the decision to do the right thing for him and his family.  I took the opening to offer him advice.  Even though it was not asked for, I considered it as an implied request and I walked in.

“Well, I have no idea where you are or what you think you may or may not do.  I just know you’re one of the best your generation has to offer and I know you will make the right decision when the time comes.  Just remember the civilian world does not have a lot to offer out here right now, so look carefully before you decide.  Regardless, I am sure you will do well.  Thanks for thinking about me.  I love you little buddy.”  That is what I always called him and what he always will be to me, ‘my little buddy.’  His last response to me in the early hours of 19 September was brief and to the point.  “Thanks for the advice.  I can only put so many things in my head.  I need a change.  Love u too dad.”  And that was it.

I sat in my office for a while going over what was said and my mind was filled with emotions.  I have read these short text 15 times or more and shared them with my closest friends.  I see so many subliminal messages flashing in them that I can only resort to the only strength I have found on every tour he has made into harms way and that, of course, is the Lord Jesus…  As I sit here now, I look to the East and see an almost perfect full moon smiling at me through the boughs of a Long Leaf Pine that taints my swimming pool every fall and winter with her needles.   I have cut many pine trees in my yard, but this one is different.  It is one of the oldest and largest in the neighborhood and has survived a couple of major storm events, one of which knocked its top out twelve years ago, so it has earned its keep.  Through its strength, I draw strength when I think of my son and his family.  I wonder if this very evening as he sits probably barbequing on his patio in Savannah, GA., if he knows that I draw comfort in knowing the same moon that baths my face this evening is reflecting off of face as well.  I pray that for him and many other things for his entire family and know there is hope.

As for me?  I have grown content when I think of his absence in my life and have come to understand this was a necessary choice that needed to be made. I draw comfort in knowing I gave the very best I had to this country and he responded well.  I have stories to tell that only a dad can tell his son.  Maybe someday.  In the mean time, I sit here waiting for my daughter to make her phone call.  Yes, for those of you who know me, my youngest daughter, Ashley Paige, is also due any day now.  Gabrielle Kai will be her name.  I haven’t decided yet if her name will be Gabby Gazelle or Kai Fish…  I know it will come to me…  Her first child is Ashton Aardvark Poppy’s little Badger Butt Boy and her second is Katy Gator Crocadilla Puss…  Good names I think and I told Paige that Gabby was a great name even thought I favored Meggie…  Meggie Marie was my choice, but I’m just the grandfather.   Besides, I don’t think that child would have enjoyed me calling her “Meggie Maggot!”  Do you???  I mean, what else goes with Meggie?  Yes, oh yes, there is Kennard Junior I call J-Bird.  He is the one you might recall that my cat Scrunch destroyed in “The Swimming Pool” story?  And of course the youngest of my oldest daughters kids. Kairah Kat Platypus Girl…  I won’t mention who Scar and Shinzi are, but you can imagine can’t you?

It is dark here now.  I am blinded by the light of my laptop’s screen and totally oblivious to outside sound as Spring Garden comforts my mind through the ear buds.  It is during one of these ‘focused moments’ that Linda stepped outside to tell me she had to go and pick up another one of my granddaughters, Kinzi Bear…  I was a million miles away reading and re-reading what I had printed, thinking of what else I might say that would hold the attention of a potential reader.  I was not deliberately ignoring the soft call of my name as she called my name three or four times only to be ignored, so in the pale glow of the laptops reflection off my face she seized the moment.  Yes.  She most certainly did. She started beating on the end of the picnic table with her hands to get my attention like some wild animal!  I knew life as I knew it was ending and knew death had arrived in some unknown form of ungodly racket so my fight and flight gland kicked in…  Sitting with my back against a brick wall and too old and fat to fight or run I just screamed out, “FECES!” or something like that, “DON’T YOU HAVE BETTER SENSE THAN TO SCARE ME LIKE THAT!!”  Oh, she thought that was just the funniest thing!  I yank out my ear buds as she tells me where she is going and sit there steaming at her for this childlike behavior on her part.  Has she lost her ever loving mind??  I was just beside myself.  Surely she must have realized she could have caused my heart to stop at this age in my life?  Or even worse that I could have hurt myself trying to save myself from pending doom by crashing head first through the glass French doors of my bedroom?  The more I thought about it, the angrier I became!  Just where in heaven’s name did this kind of warped behavior come from?

No, I don’t think so.  Seriously?  YOU THINK???

Rod Ferguson
11 October 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Facebook Quotes of 2011

Posted below are a series of facebook post made over a period of time in the early morning hours of any beginning day.  Many times the postings took special meanings to some of the readers and they commented how much they enjoyed reading them either in person or in accompanying comments.  I thought I would collect most of them over a period of time and see if you might enjoy them too.  I still enjoyed this season of time in my life when my mind was free and encouraged to engage my early morning friends.  Enjoy!

k facebook friends, Here is your song challenge this morning... This one is not as easy. No googling...

"she was gonna be an actress
And I was gonna learn to fly.
She took off to find the footlights,
And I took off for the sky."

March 23 at 7:27am

I have been awake since 4:45 am, when our stupid cat broke into the house via a left open back door and awakened us playing with a dang cup on the kitchen floor. What the Heck is this racket!!! The thought of getting my 9mm browning hi-power with 13 rounds of protection NEVER crossed my mind!! I simply '
"followed" my wife to the noises!! It dawned on me when I tried to go back to sleep just how brave I really am. *deep sigh* So, I continued. Good Morning my facebook friends… Face your unknown world with bravery like I do! From behind your wife’s night gown… Worked for me… Stupid cat…

March 25 at 5:57am

Standing outside of church service listening to the beautiful song of a mockingbird as I post this. How clear and precise each note sounds from the woods he is hiding in. Accented by one lone dogwood tree it is enough to flood back memories.

March 27 at 11:55am via iPhone

Getting back in step with the real world this morning. Doesn't matter if your gone 6 days or 6 weeks, still need to adjust and catch up. I am so thankful I am able to adjust and catch back up... Hope all of my facebook friends make necessary adjustments to the minor aches and pains of life and reflect your positive aura on those around you if you need to catch up with something!

April 5 at 6:53am

Good morning facebook friends. In just a week, I have noticed the daylight is catching up to my schedule. It was dark when I would leave for work, but now the Gates of Dawn again greets me with the sounds of the waking world. Do you ever stop and take the time to listen? Identify as many sounds as you can, close your eyes and smile, and feel what else is in your heart!?!

April 6 at 7:11am

Quiet Sunday morning... Everyone sleeping in from late night parties or getting ready for Church... I would rather go back to sleep and wake up sometimes into next week but my Grandson is watching Phineas and Ferb and wants me to take him to Sunday School... Good morning to those of you that like me and love me!!! Have a good day whatever you chose to engage.

April 10 at 8:53am

Walked quietly out of my home through the carport and stepped into the beginning of the rest of the day. No mockingbird was close to greet me and even my sparrow glee club seemed far away? As I looked into the evolving light of the eastern sky, I could see dark black patchy clouds that made me pause and wonder. Why did I feel so humbly alone? My how our mind(s) can race...

April 11 at 7:19am

Let me go see how many of my friends actually dropped me from their friend list. Strange how people are inspired to be your friend, but NEVER speak to you?? Am I the only one that thinks these kinds of things? Had a couple that have been on my friend list since I've been on facebook. Not one word from them.. not a peep... With friends like that, who needs enemies???

April 12 at 3:29pm

As I stepped from the quiet solitude of my home into the carport, the first thing I felt was the temperature. At 6am this morning it was actually warmer outside than inside? Then I heard the residual sounds the wind was stirring up for me... The whisper the wind brings to life as it pushes through the needles of the Long Leaf Pines as it sings harmony with the silenced rustle of the tender new Red Oak leaves, both saying good morning in their own language.

April 15 at 6:42am

The people are quiet, but my Mockingbird is happy now. He yielded to the winds of the morning and is encouraging me to come on out, it is very nice. I desire to respond to his call... Hope my friends and family are having a good day.

April 15 at 10:43am

Lazy Saturday... I'm torn between vegging out or engaging my blog... Pandora is in my head this morning and I think I am content... My mind is simply drifting peacefully as I listen for a direction. Through my ear buds I hear my mockingbird call from the Ligustrum bushes around my pool... "yes, I respond. I know it is still green. Leave me alone."

April 16 at 9:24am

               At 10:00pm of the same day, I find out I have lost a life friend...

DIANE V. FLETCHER (Diane Young) Or Diane Free as we knew her at Ouachita Parish High School surrendered her life to Eternal Rest today in Houston, TX. It was just three short weeks ago she posted me and said this, "let this new journey begin!" I see dignity, pride, and grace in a fine woman and will miss her. I pray I will have the courage to face my final days with the courage and faith she had...

April 16 at 10:30pm

I leaned against the fender of my code enforcement vehicle this morning under the gray overcast Sky as light began filtering through the pine boughs in my yard. Lots of mockingbirds this morning. Three maybe four?? I think of my friends Diane and go back three weeks or so and collect my thoughts of Connie... Hold those you care for tight! We just never know...

April 18 at 7:34am

Moon cycle must be right and the low pressure front is dominating... For those of us that have noticed, we feared or at least I feared Sandi was going to speak to all 304 of her friends this morning with her wonderful optimistic love for everyone... You know, that carry over hippy stuff that is part of her DNA from the 60's? Still works though, doesn't it? Even our Becky is waiving a flag across the River!

April 19 at 7:39am

And which of the people(s) we encounter and interact with this day is by mere coincidence or divine intervention? How will they read our book? Will they see who we really are, then it will be a coincidence... Will they see something in us they really desire? Divine intervention... Aren't all of the 'encounters' we have during our waking hours Divine interventions?

April 20 at 8:34am

Quiet on the facebook front! Everyone must be riding motorcycles, planting flowers, or watching kids hunt Easter Eggs... I have a house full of grand kids coloring Easter Eggs for tomorrow! Yup, almost stroked out last year when I walked in my kitchen and found real dye in 5 different bowls with grand kids 4 to 9 arguing over it. We use crayons now... Why are they NOT at their house doing this?

Welcome to the Thursday morning before the Friday we acknowledge and embrace as Good Friday... Why the word Good?? We know scripturally what this Friday was the beginning of and that was not good for our Christ. But what about mankind? I listened to the soft coo of a mourning dove this morning. Maybe she is still in mourning for that chain of events set in motion so long ago that we today call Good.

April 21 at 7:28am

To what is it we awaken to this morning? Did not we just celebrate the reason of our rise and the continuance of our song? Monday should be the day we place the flag of our faith for all to see and move through the remainder of our week as an example for others to emulate. And don't worry if you stumble... There is someone to catch you.

April 25 at 7:47am

Crisp garden shower accented with lightning and close by thunder awakened me from my all to familiar slumber... I briefly watched the light show play through my covered doors and fell silently back into the place I was pulled from... This morning as I walked out side everything felt clean... Kinda like your soul when you lay everything on the line in prayer..

April 26 at 7:04am

Hope all my friends along that I-20 corridor are OK this morning starting with Eugene in Shreveport across to Sandi and many others in Monroe. I know you got hit pretty hard last night... Move on over to Vicksburg to Mariglen and Becky in Clinton?? Hope you ladies are OK... Martha Durham in Alabama! If It ain't there its coming and Steve you and Kay get ready!! Keep in touch!!!

April 27 at 8:33am

Central Louisiana was spared from the storms that raked the I-20 corridor yesterday morning. The fingerprints of mother nature's wrath are obvious across the south land as we dig ourselves and those we love and loved out of the destruction. But yet a new day dawns and our resolve is not yet met! My bullfrog croaks as if he is under a blanket! Breath deep and step out!

April 28 at 7:19am

They re-enter your world as a familiar name from the last century or even the last Millennium. With some, your friendship never wavered, you just laugh at the caresses of time on your faces, the color of your hair or lack there of and embrace the undefined time remaining. They touch your very soul with happiness and they are gone again. By choice? Or Divine intervention? They are still gone.

April 29 at 7:42pm

Some days will live in your heart forever where other will kiss you gently on the cheek when you open the door and step into her! This morning follows that pattern as I stepped into her cool welcome embrace... Something not heard in years that was common in my youth... The distinct call of the "Bob White" Quail... Never expected that sound. Every thing else was actually mute? I am still processing that...

May 4 at 7:17am·

As I stepped into the coolness of morning a shiver went through me and I smiled... My heart is heavy for some lonesome reason as I lifted my eyes to the soft vacuum sound of a passenger jet passing high overhead as it pushed eastbound into the rising sun. I leaned against my car and gave thanks to my Creator as my feathered glee club preformed a beautiful concerto as if to encourage my resolve.

May 6 at 8:12am

When I examine Mother's Day as defined by social norms, I find it acceptable to set aside a day for countless numbers of women that have given birth to a child. Looking at the infinite definition God himself placed on woman, to come along side and be a "helper?" Every woman loved by our creator is designed for that compassion and should be embraced as a heavenly gift with or without child. Just thinking ....

Posted: May 8 at 13:20pm

As the clouds clear away in the morning's sky, we gaze upward and fix onto finite things we can claim as real, like fading stars, planets, and maybe even the moon itself. What we can't understand is what is beyond our comprehension, the infinite... We can define that in our educated minds, but simply stated, I think that is God's alone to possess... And will only be revealed to us in time.

Posted: Date Unknown

The cool crisp feel of an unusual spring morning. The mockingbird is at distance from the nearness of my back yard yet still audible, however, as other sounds stirred my memory. The distinct guttural sound of a siren brought me to consciousness as the rising sunlight bathed my back yard in her morning colors. Concerns for those I love are on my mind as I watched a full moon slip below the western horizon.

Posted: May 18 at 07:28am

As the moonlight appears to instruct the dew to fall upon the tender growth of spring, so our minds slow to a crawl as sleep beckons us to prepare for another promised day. Every feeling and memory we have of this fading day will slip into unconsciousness only to awaken with us tomorrow. They will join us where they left us. How will we accept those feelings into our morning? How will they affect our day?

May 18 at 10:09pm

Yes. Feelings and memories of yesterday are with me this morning as I process the beginning of Dawn. I hear the sounds of morning that make me smile and I look and see my mockingbird looking back at me. A deep breath of morning air as the temperature caresses my entire existence. This morning for some reason "Intelligent Design" crossed my mind. He was there all of the time.

Posting sometime in May

This morning I found myself outside beating the morning by 15 minutes or so. Quietly listening, the only sounds I could identify was the singing of automobile tires on the asphalt of Highway 28. The honest people were stirring before daylight dawned. The soft hum mm of an air pump on my neighbors sewer system?? Really?!? And on the other side of the world, what does my son hear?  My heart misses him desperately.

Posting toward the end of May when my son Stewart was in Afghanistan

Because the Summer Equinox looms close, I find my mornings more alive and bright as my schedule remains the same. I arose an hour early to again witness the gates of dawn... The sounds of my bird ensemble introduced a new soloist across the field in the tree line. The Whip-poor-will has a beautifully distinct sound. Peaceful when you allow it.

June 2 at 6:58am

Good Morning fb friends and family! As the summer solstice gets closer I find the morning well progressed as I entered her presence this morning. My mockingbird sat perched high on a wire above my car and looked at me... I stood in silence watching and listening... He spread his wings and flew displaying the distinct white spots under the wings. All is well in my world...

Posted: sometimes in mid to late June

As I walked out side this morning it was dark except for what the remaining moon had painted with her fading light. I was consumed with the humidity as it quickly sat upon my senses. I thought of my senses and wondered about each. I have always known there were six, but could only identify five in my mind? What is the sixth sense? Help me here friends...

Posted: sometimes in mid to late June

Walked outside this morning to a gray sky. As I entered the prism of limited visibility the second thing recorded by my senses was the kiss of drizzle on my shaved head. A shiver went through me... Thoughts seemed to scattered into a million directions... I had a choice that I could make. Then the Third sense registered. The sound(s) of morning. The mockingbird reminded me again of the smaller sounds of the moment... Other birds were also lifting their praises to the Triad of our Faith! Oh yes, they too, were celebrating LIFE despite the prism of gray that greeted me this morning... And so too, should we. Let us who love, share life today! My heart is content... It is a very good morning!

Posted: sometimes in late June or early July

Yesterday morning as I greeted the Gates of Dawn, I stopped short of walking out of the carport because of light rain. I heard my mockingbird greeting me and the bark of a dog. Beside me in the darkness of the flower bed the soft chirp of a cricket. I listened and wondered if that is how God listens to our prayers? Of all the sounds of the morning from the dropping rain to the vacuum of a passing jet high above, my mind was filled with a lot of first thoughts. Still, as if God allowed me into his world, he magnified the voice of this tiny insect. I momentarily had the desire to stoop down into this damp, dark flower bed and search for the source of this “chirp” or was it possibly a prayer? Something comforted me inside and I felt my mockingbird had prepared me for something special as he paused me in the very spot I stood. God simply spoke to me and said, "I too, hear the smallest prayer of those that call upon My Name and I will bow down and find you and comfort you."

Posted: July 15 at 07:20am

Six weeks past summer's solstice, I noticed the Gates of Dawn are catching up with my morning habits and routine. I paused and listened this morning as I often do and heard two distinct sounds from my Mockingbirds. The pleasant greeting of song that so moves my heart in the early dawn and in the low area where the trees surround a small pond...

The fussing of another "momma bird," as her clack and drawn out squawk tells me another group of fledglings are on the ground. My heart is with a man I have deep respect for this morning. I pray he can hear the beauty of Your song, so I ask that his critics draw ignorance to themselves only as You heal and comfort his heart as well as all involved...

Those of you who know, lift up your voices for him as well. I know the burden is great.

Posted: Aug 2, 2011 at 09:42am

So very quiet as I walked into the humid embrace of dawn. I wondered if it was my hearing or if everything was distant to my home? Took my time getting to my car so I could listen but yet there was nothing except one bird. Seems she rushed to invite me into a day full of promise. I must open my mind to see.

Many times my friends are often far too kind and generous with their words. Like sitting under a large shade tree on a hot day as a breeze rustles the leaves and cools you at the same time. Not only do you hear them but you feel them as well and desire their company.

Posted Aug 8 at 07:56am

As the solstice gives way to the fall equinox I find the sun hidden below the horizon as I join the morning. My birds were relatively quiet this morning but a contrail appeared highlighted across the eastern sky by the rays of the sun. I just stared. As if God had made this mark on the dark blue heavens with a magic marker. Would He write on my heart today?

Posted: Aug 22 at 08:48

As if the overcast dawn 'allowed' my presence into her, the only sound audible was the singing of 18 wheels on Hwy 28E just a mile of so from my home. I caught the rustle of pine needles and noticed several sparrows moving as to investigate my intrusion into their world.  I did not hear the sound of happy rapport from any of my birds? The distant bark of a dog.  Everything around me should be at peace with my presence for a predators heart is no longer part of my existence. Or is it???

Posted: Aug 25 at 06:51am

Morning in Arlington has broken with the promise of triple digit temperatures. The sound of the urban landscape located in the heart of this metroplex silences the voice of my favorite bird. I sit and enjoy memories of my past with my oldest friend and smile too of those memories promised but yet defined.

Posted: Sep 3 at 10:04am

Got in trouble this morning! Kissed Linda on the cheek and said good bye to her as I started to leave for work and she opened her eyes just long enough causing her to sit straight up in bed and scream! "Put your clothes on and DO NOT walk out of this house NAKED!!" She just has no idea how long I have waited for a cool morning like this! Ruined everything... Oh well. At least I didn't go to jail... There is this one neighbor.

Posted: Sep 6 at 06:39am

There are two places I desire to visit before my time on earth expires.  Actually there are three places.  The first one is the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. The memories of those entombed there identifies the greatest gift their generation offered to our world. The second, of course, is the footprints of the World Trade Centers. There again, my generation experienced the resolve of our great nation despite the politics that seek to destroy us from within... I so desire to spend time with the memories of those souls that died there.  How could I be remiss and not desire to sit in silent respect as I watch America's finest pace 21 steps in honor of the Unknown Soldiers laying at rest within the granite memorial at Arlington?  No, I did not forget this day.  It was on my mind all day long.

Posted: September 11 at 3:35pm

The baying of hounds? Goodness what a racket to disturb your inner sanctum in the early mornings. Here I sit over an hour later still disturbed and searching for equilibrium as real time and insecurities join hands against me? Sometimes the old fox trembles from the sound of the dogs when he should just put his nose into the wind and do what has made him survive all of these years.

Posted: Sep 13 at 06:56am

Darkness as clouds and heavy mist tainted the arrival of sunlight. The bite of summer's humidity was absent as was the voice of my mockingbirds. Only the compressor of a distance sewer treatment plant was audible. My drive into work was symmetrically highlighted as the reflectors on the highway glowing brightly from the dark wet asphalt as my pre morning headlights played against their reflection of white and amber! As I exited the occasional street lights and entered into the urban lights of the city, their brightness highlighted the low lying clouds of the heavy overcast in puffs of white. It was a beautiful beginning as the gates of dawn had yet awakened our day, yet the promise of its beauty was still revealed as is a beautifully wrapped gift sitting undisturbed on a table with your name on it...

Posted: Sep 19 at 07:19am

It is getting close to the time my daughter, Ashley Paige Renbarger is to give birth to her daughter, Gabriella Kai... We are well into the 3rd trimester and every gas pain to her is a labor pain.  I mean, hell, I go into labor every time I look at her so I do understand.  Anyway, bear with me on these next few posts as we prepare to welcome this child.

The following seven (7) posts is a continuation of notes I posted when my very pregnant Daughter Paige called and woke us at 1:30 in the morning “thinking” her water had broken and the series of events I found worthy of posting on facebook that morning. It concludes with me giving her specific instructions about the “next time!”

Water broke. On the way to get kids. I think. I'm in the van going somewhere at 1:25 in the morning. Yes! I feel 60!

September 21 at 1:26am

OK, now at 2 am and I'm sitting in the Pediatric ER with Ashton and Katie promising them a tattoo if they both go back to sleep. I'm not personally "smelling" a baby for some reason. I'll keep yaw posted.

September 21 at 2:04am

2:22 and I'm going back home with the kids where I'm being dropped off too. Paige is hooked up to the monitor to see what is going on.

September 21 at 2:24am

Michael, Paige's husband gets off work at 3:30. Think I may have talked Linda into sleeping in her clothes until the monitoring might "indicate" yielding child or false alarm???

September 21 at 2:30am

What am I doing up anyway? Oh yeah, I'm the coach. I've told her what to do and how to do it with the other two she gave birth to, so Paige doesn't think she can do this without me. •grin•. Should I show her what 'natural' really means? Lol. Nah. I'll just go on to sleep and see what happens. Still don't think this is the day.

September 21 at 2:35am

2:51 and I'm back in bed but this Time I have two grand kids piled in with me. Wonder if the alarm will wake me at 6am or the telephone? Betting on the alarm. Talk soon.

September 21 at 2:54am

Alarm won and body slammed me into the shower where I discovered bruised ribs from nightmare kicking grandkids. Loss of sleep made it difficult to get dressed and leave but the matriarch assured me Paige was resting fine and my coaching duties may remain on hold. Somebody just kill me!

September 21 at 6:51am

OK. Gonna have to rewind and play this scene over again as the doctor is sending her home undelivered! Go figure. I knew this all along so I gave my daughter these specific instructions before she calls me again at 1 am in the morning.

1) Blood in urine. Don't call me. The cervix is thinning. After two kids you should know and expect that!

2) Water breaking. Don't call me. If it is not a boiler full of obvious “OMG, what just happened to me,” it ain’t the water breaking.

3) Baby grabbing your upper thigh with her hands. TIME TO CALL. You and I need to start breathing right and start heading to the hospital. Good chance it will be worth me getting out of bed and under that condition, I will not mind!

September 21 at 10:22am

The Fall Equinox greeted me this morning with a brisk wind and over cast morning. As I paused in my predawn drive way the wind chilled my shaved head and sharpened my awareness of surrounding sounds I sought to define. Quiet except for the rustling of the mature Red Oak leaves. As their abscission joints prepare each leaf for its release the sound of the wind through the mature leaves is much different than what I heard in the spring when they were tender. Same melody, but played by a different instrument.

Posted September 23 at 7:36am

Absolutely beautiful morning! The chill of early dawn was bathed in the bright morning light of a magnificent full moon! For some reason the combination of feel and sight surpassed the audio which only reminded me I was not alone. The sound of a Harley Davidson running through it's gears to merge with morning traffic on Hwy 28 E Taunted me that maybe I was not far enough from urban life? But then again, no. An inner warmth embraced me which made me smile so I slide into my city vehicle and became part of the sounds of another soul's early morning senses.

Posted: October 12, at 06:35am

Welcome Gabrielle Kai Renbarger also know to her Poppy as Gabby Gazielle Gazoo!

Posted:  October 27, 2011

I was between 5 and 7 years of age and I was walking on Florida Street going back to my house on Georgia Street after a great haul in the hood on this Halloween evening. I remember three really big guys ran past me and grabbed my candy bag and lit out running even faster away from me down the street. I remember screaming "hey you" or something like that because little kids didn't know ugly words in the 50's. Couldn't chase 'em cause what would a little poodle like me do with three full grown Dobermans had I caught 'em?  Anyway at the height of this "strong armed robbery," one of them tripped in the middle of the road and busted his tail really good! I remember him getting up, hobbling back to me, offering back my bag of loot and saying "I'm sorry". I said "that's OK" and went home. Crime in the 50's. Not the same now is it?
Posted: November 1, 2011

I sit in the shadow of my old barn as I think of those days past. The greenhouses are gone now and the constant chatter of water sprinklers are silent. Fall leaves are steadily falling on the tin roof that badly needs repair and I recall the seasons past when I labored in this place. A fox squirrel barks at me as I intrude on her privacy as I struggle for peace in my mind. Gone are the days but permanent the memories. As with the peace that death offers, I pray time will bless my mind with the contentment of pleasant times.

Posted: November 2, 2011

Acts of kindness always seems to attract my attention. Sitting here at my river spot and a John boat operated by a lone commercial fisherman stops his northern journey and pulls to the eastern bank of the river where an elderly couple are pole fishing. He throws two very large fish up on the bank for them and they wave warmly as they gather their bounty. The fisherman acknowledges their appreciation and continues around the bend of the river as the elderly couple gathers their belongings and move to their car to leave. My mockingbird seems to have lost the desire for song as I listen but do not hear. She was fussing at a fox squirrel this morning, about what I have no idea. I am OK.

Published November 8, 2011 in Pineville, LA

In a maze of people at Tangier's Outlet Mall in Branson, Mo., I sit and gather my thoughts. It is veterans day and all around me are reminders of those who served this country. Just last night at a restaurant I made my way across a crowded room to shake the hand of a veteran of WWII. I slowly extended my hand and as his tired eyes found my smile I pulled him into a warm embrace and said to him "thank you for the gift of freedom you gave me!". I also thanked his wife as a tear formed in her eye. When I pass a license tag that I recognize as a Purple Heart medal recipient, I will salute the driver of that automobile. I well know what the red and white stripes mean as well as the stars in the blue field of honor of our nations flag! I am honored to be one of my nations veterans and proudly take a back seat to those who have experienced far more on foreign fields than I. Never doubt that at my age I am still willing to stand and defend this country today as would any veteran of any branch who has served. And to the spouses of all veterans, we know that you have supported us and understand that in your heart the pledge of allegiance is emblazoned in your heart as well as ours.  I personally salute you as you make us stronger and we know our sacrifice was not in vain.

Posted: November 11 at 11:31am near Branson, MO

Strange awakening this morning as I walked into a clouded high pressure Tuesday! The sunlight seemed to be filtered in a yellowish tint similar to shooting glasses and the remaining Fall leaves of the Gum tree, Bradford pear, Red Oaks and other colors danced vibrantly into my collection of thoughts! Absolutely stunningly beautiful every where I looked! I know the early season cold frost froze the pigments in the leaves before they detach themselves and this years colors simply reflect a somewhat cooler seasonal change, but how beautiful our Creator simply prepares for us the beauty of his creation. All He wants for us is to take the time and notice.

Being a horticulturist, I felt it necessary to explain why I felt these colors were more vibrant this fall/winter season than that of other years by posting what I called a brief lesson in horticulture when I added this to the original post:

Rod Ferguson: Here is a question we always ask down here in the South. What causes the trees to be more colorful this year as opposed to others? The best place in the world for viewing Fall colors is probably the Eastern United States. This is because of the climate there, and the wide variety of deciduous trees. The brightest colors are seen when late summer is dry, and Autumn has bright sunny days and cool nights. This allows trees to make a lot of anthocyanin pigments which causes the different colors. This is the kind of Fall we have had here in the south this particular season. We actually had a dry summer, sunny days and below normal cool nights as our 2011 Fall season progressed! Usually here in our zones of the South we encounter Fall seasons with cloudy days and warm nights which generally brings on rather drab and not so bright colors. A quick horticultural lesson for those who might wonder why???

And hours later as one of my friends read this post, this is her response:

Mariglen Baxter Ledger: Rod, this is just amazing. I kid you not, but just this morning, as I was passing a lake in my neighborhood, I took special notice of the gorgeous tree colors surrounding the lake and reflecting in the still water. I was wondering to myself if it's more beautiful than usual for this time of year or am I just noticing it more for some reason. Now I know... it really IS more beautiful.

Posted: December 20, 2011

Welcome winter solstice. The northern hemisphere's shortest day and longest night! Occurs tonight at 11:30pm. Actually 05:30am UTC (universal time) which is 22 December. Remember in our hemisphere it is the light. Each day will become increasingly longer as we move toward the spring equinox and our world starts coming alive with life. Those things that occur in numbers of threes. Our ancestors without the aid of medical advancements discovered the completion of the first of three trimesters was really not wives tale as the longest night actually revealed the secrets of those long winter nights! And of course just how many days was He actually entombed? Not to mention the Triad of our Christian faith. Enough of this babble. Let me just say this day, short as it is, finds comfort in my soul. May our Almighty Creator comfort us all with His peace.

Posted: December 21, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Price, Freedom?

     This Blog is dedicated to my son, Stewart Ruel Ferguson.  Let me tell you, if you find the time to read this, that there is no man in this world as proud of his son as I am you.  Even though we are miles apart, please know I will continue to pray for your safety and the well-being of your family.  I love you, Stewart, more than words can say.  Always hold that deep in your heart!!   I am so very proud of the husband, father and man you have become.  You take care of yourself and those men with you.  We will see each other again.


So let us begin...

On 12 May 2011 around 2015 hours I was visiting with friends on facebook when my daughter Lindsay called me on my cell phone.   She said, “Dad, Stewart just told me he was leaving for another “assignment” in the morning for another four month rotation.”  I asked her if he was going with a “Special Forces Team” or a “Ranger” team, of which she could not answer.  I thanked her for the call and told her I loved her.  She could sense my hurt as she said “I love you, too” and hung up.    Oh Dear God.  Here we go again…

This time last year this same ‘rotation’ was Afghanistan.  Because of security reasons, he cannot divulge his destination to anyone, which any person who has had this experience understands…  He actually told me on the phone when we were on speaking terms that his area of operations included Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and South America, so he could be anywhere our government desires to place him.   Doesn’t matter where he is, I know what he is trained to do and I know he does it well.   He goes and looks for trouble.  He takes the fight to the ones that raised their sword against us, and he and his fellow warriors do it very well.   
These ‘rotations’ are coming too fast now for a 60 year old man.  In just a few paragraphs I am going to share with you the heart felt thoughts of this writer when I was just 50.  It was not long after his first tour in Afghanistan that the Liberation of Kuwait took place… He was involved in that operation as he was one of the first to enter Baghdad from the West.  By 2005 he was again on his second tour in Afghanistan

The last five years were relatively peaceful as he was assigned as an Instructor at Hurlburt Field in Ft Walton Beach, FL…  There, I’m sure if he truly packs my DNA he became a legend among those being trained, as it was his job to provide the very best he could to those that depended upon this skill.  While an instructor there he attended U.S. Army Sniper school and graduated as honor grad and went on to finish the distinguished U.S. Army Ranger School at Ft. Benning, GA in 2007.  Now he is one of a handful of selected Air Force Special Operations personnel assigned to support tactical air operations for the Army’s best.  And in fulfilling this obligation, the rotations seem faster and more intense for those that are involved in his world and care about his coming and goings.  Like fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers not to mention wives and precious children.  So what price, freedom? 

As I stated earlier, in May of 2010, he made his 4th trip to Afghanistan.  So when Lindsay sent me a text a few minutes later answering my question, posting, “It’s a Ranger Team.”  I was unprepared for another trip into harms way.  Regardless of my state of equilibrium,  just know that when he is in “the grid”, I retreat into a place in my mind where I can find peace, pray for him despite my sins, and protect him any way I can from anything that could disturb his thoughts while he is ‘there’ doing his job.  

So almost a decade later after his first deployment, my son slips for the 5th time into the borders of some unknown country to apply his trade with the unlimited resources of the United States Government against suspecting and unsuspecting  enemies of our way of life and religious beliefs.  I told him as a young boy when he would follow his Drill Sergeant Dad around telling me he was going to be a soldier some day, never to forget that somewhere in this world there was a young boy about his age telling his dad the same thing.   My heart aches thinking of the possible meeting of these two boys, now men, whose very life was shaped and defined in their youth by their Dads?  When this meeting occurs will the dad whose son is lost be able to forgive himself?  I struggle to rest in the peace that my God understands my resolve.
So let me slip back in time to June of 2002 and sorta ‘set the stage’ for where we are.   My son Stewart had graduated from high school and joined the United States Air Force.  He was at the time of this posting a Tactical Airborne Control Party (TACP) with Airborne Wings assigned to Pope Air Force Base which is next door to Ft. Bragg, NC.  The sole purpose of his job description is to deploy into the field with U.S. Army units and provide Air Support for what ever mission they encountered.  You have heard of the JDAM’s or smart bombs?  Guess who on the ground gives that information to the Aircraft at 35,000 feet so it can be programmed into the bomb before it is dropped?   Or who paints that laser on a target and calls “target hot” for a fighter pilot to release that laser guided missile to its target?   As you will read, his war came and he was ready. 

In the mean time I had gone to work with the City of Pineville as Foreman of the City’s Recreational Department and was the Education and Safety Officer for the Gold Wing Road Riders Association’s Chapter “E” in Alexandria, LA.  Every month I would write a safety article for our monthly news letter and as I sat down on this June day to share with our members, the following is what came from my heart.  This was posted in our July 2002 newsletter.  If you have ever had someone deployed, maybe your thoughts might connect.

Chapter “E” Newsletter July 2002

The leaders are back from their week long jaunt into the Smokies and Honda Hoot.  The wrestle with the Dragon at Deals Gap must have been successful as I received an e-mail from Carrie saying they all thought about me in the mountains!   Like most of you,  if you’re reading this, you already know the details of their trip.  I’m glad they are back and can tell you, I just wish I could have been with them. 

Anyway, now that I know they are safe and back home, I want to talk about me and mine.   A different twist, so to speak, of safety.  What is it really and why?  Well, let’s try to “indulge” and participate for just a few minutes… What price, freedom?

I leaned against the chain link fence looking out at the Prince Street ballparks at 0800 hours on the morning of the 25th of June, 2002.  That was a Tuesday morning here in Pineville, LA…  753 miles east of me, a C-5A Galaxy labored to lift off the runway at Pope Air Force Base, as the slow climb to altitude turned eastward.   The Atlantic Ocean eventually monopolized what little view could be seen from the inside of this mammoth bird as the United States of America quietly slipped away behind her.   Onboard  this massive aircraft were the young men and women of the armed forces of this country.  Army, Air Force, maybe Marines and possibly Navy, not sure… Destinations for many, unknown, but for a handful of these warriors of Air Force Special Operations, I knew, was Afghanistan.   In this small group of Air Force Special Operations men, was one of special concern.  It was the very best I could offer this country.  My Son, Stewart.   My heart was heavy that morning, as it is with the typing of this article.  I knew where he was going, and exactly what he was going to be doing.  He was trained for “harms way.” Oh I thought, what price, freedom?

Oh my Precious God…  The falling of the Towers and the scorching of our nation’s landmark in Washington.   And the heroic plunge of the commercial flight into the countryside.  He was home on leave that day on September 11, 2001.   I had told him years and months before, that his generation as did mine,  would have “their war.”   And here it was unfolding before my very eyes as he sat next to me on the end of our bed watching the television set as his future was being laid out before us.  A father’s prophecy coming true.  I had no doubt my President’s resolve and the will of this great country.   I looked at my son and told him, “You need to call your squadron at Pope AFB and see if you need to cut short your leave.”  He did as I asked and was able to finish his leave without being called back immediately.   He continued to train and to prepare for the task at hand until he got “his orders.”   And as if we didn’t know, those orders did eventually come, and I thought again, what price, freedom?? 

We went out to see him in North Carolina the end of last month for four days… We knew he would be leaving, so we went to see him..  14 hours of driving alternating with Linda… Memorial Day Weekend. Wow! Has that holiday taken on a new meaning in my heart…  But what a wonderful time I had.  I fought the feelings of negative thoughts..  I’m stronger than that.   Aren’t I?   Well, I met other warriors of his kind and listened to their banter!  Their jobs were well defined and to the last one, they were ready for the call at hand!  Who wouldn’t be!  I was, 30 years ago, as was many of us reading this right now.  I was proud of them all.  Especially that boy of mine..  Oh my, what price, freedom??

He was to leave on the 10th of June, but like so many times with the military, things happen.  So he surprises me the day before father’s day with a phone call!  “Hey dad, I’ve got three days off.  Come and pick me up in New Orleans tomorrow at 11:15!   I’m coming home to see you on father’s day and to get engaged!”  Well, he was true to his word.  I picked him up, brought him home, saw him a couple of times and yes, he is engaged to a beautiful young woman I am proud to take on my name.  Wow!  My name?  And just like that, at 2 am the following Wednesday morning, this young warrior stands over my bed and we are saying  goodbye.  “Son, this is no game,” I tell him, “I’ve given them my very best and I want you back the same way you left!”  That confident smile, and I love you dad, and he’s gone.  What price, freedom?  

I have mixed emotions, as I sit here typing.  I look out the window at the falling rain and fight back the emotions I feel.  The “what if’s,” and “I can’t wait,” and the “I don’t knows.”  I just cannot help but think of my friends three decades before.  Lonnie, Chuck and Randy all memorialized on that black granite wall… What price, freedom??  I’m beginning to understand a little better that there is nothing free about it…There is a price that many of us have paid, and continue to pay…

So as we slip across the asphalt and concrete ribbons of this country on our gold wings, let’s remember that safety is a choice. One of the many choices that was given to us with the price that was, and continues to be paid for freedom.

Please remember my son and the many others of our armed forces that are giving their all for our choices.  We call it Freedom..  It isn’t free at all..

Rodney “Skunk” Ferguson

So I find myself almost ten years later doing it again.  I sit here typing with that same heavy heart sharing my thoughts with my friends, family, people I love and people whose names  I may never know, or who might not ever cross my conscious thoughts.  I have also lived long enough to know there is a Memorial Wall yet to be built someday.  This wall, like my generations black granite wall will include the names of my son’s closest friends. And oh Dear God, the names of those yet to be defined as I ache deeply with tears in my eyes and think once again, “What Price, Freedom?"

Rodney S. Ferguson

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Swimming Pool

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Swimming Pool

It is just 8:00 am as I settle myself back into a sitting position in the bed where I peacefully slept the night before, pull my laptop onto my lap and engage the day.  As my Firefox browser comes to life, I put to use the benefits as I start Pandora Radio to accompany my surf habits as Facebook comes into focus.   Nothing from last night was added to my news feed and no one left me any messages so I turned my head and looked outside through my doors as a song on Pandora captured my attention. “ Fields of Gold” by Sting...  This was the morning of 16 April 2011 as I sat being lazy on a beautiful cool crisp Saturday spring morning... Could not help but think, what could possibly happen or just what could I encounter that would hamper anything on this beautiful day?  The stimulating song of my favorite bird competes with Pandora through my ear buds just outside of my French doors and seems to be beckoning my presence in his world...  Yet this morning I stop my restraint and post my first thoughts to my Facebook friends:
Lazy Saturday... I'm torn between vegging out or engaging my blog... Pandora is in my head this morning and I think I am content... My mind is simply drifting peacefully as I listen for a direction. Through my ear buds I hear my mockingbird call from the Ligustrum bushes around my pool... "Yes," I respond, "I know it is still green. Leave me alone."

Cannot help but smile at what I just posted knowing that if my friends and family only knew how lazy I chose to be… My poor swimming pool.   It won’t be long before my green frog buddies take over and add to the nighttime chorus of sounds I love to listen to as darkness pauses most life into a peaceful rest.   I have even been known to grow a few tadpoles before I “nuke” the thing with chlorine and fight with it for a week to bring it under control so we as a family can take advantage of its cooling spirit!  I will eventually choose a day to eradicate the life forms of amphibians and algae and remove from her depths the winter layer of leaves from the surrounding Red Oaks, Long Leaf Pines, Ligustrum and Water Oaks that are decomposing there, but until then, let me tell you about this pool.

It is a 30 x 15 Doughboy Pool encased in a concrete ring with an 8’ deep end.  This pool was well maintained when we purchased the home in 1988 and I have no idea just how old it really is.  I do know that it is on its fourth liner since we moved in.  Replaced it the first year when my Doberman fell in while we were out of town and in his attempts to free himself, simply ripped that liner to shreds with his back feet claws…  Only thing he had to do was go to the ladder, but no, he had to tear stuff up only to get saved by an attentive neighbor who later tried to poison him.    It was just a couple of years later that my oldest daughter was “helping me” vacuum the pool when the vacuum head came off!  You know what she was holding if you have a swimming pool.  Yes… a long hollow aluminum pole with sharp rounded edges so designed as to slip assorted snap and lock swimming pool tools into.   She was so sweet as she started jabbing at the detached vacuum head so as to miraculously reattach it to this sharp rounded hollow pole. Into the soft vinyl liner held firmly in place with my sand based bottom did this pole continue to follow her directions as I peacefully stood beside her scooping leaves off the top of the tempting water...  Know how long it takes for that small hole to get really big when 20,000 gallons of water competes for those small holes?  I survived that, as did my daughter.  Actually I survived, and my wife simply saved our daughter’s life!

I have no idea what happened to the liner that third time.  I just came home one day and found the swimming pool empty with another hole in the liner and that was it.  I left it that way for two, maybe three years until I found the resolve to repair it.
Torn liners were not the only problem we encountered with our pool.  When my kids first assaulted the depths of this rather sturdy structure, it only had two decks that rose to its heights.  The largest deck was located on the side closest to our house and was large enough for a few “little” people to gather on and ease in and out of the water via a ladder designed for that very purpose.  However, to get to the diving board you had to get out of the pool, scurry down steps from the large deck, walk across the grass and then climb up the other ladder to the diving board deck.  Just a reminder here that kids do not care what collects on their feet while walking through the grassy yard.  They climb up, bounce on the spring board and splash in…   Needless to say there is always work to do every time they swim.   Vacuum, vacuum and chlorine.  And that’s just from my six kids!  Add to that the mix of neighborhood kids and you can imagine the fun there!  I am not an ignorant person.  I also know kids lie.  So when the swimming pool started smelling like uric acid, I figured chlorine in bulk form was needed.  Not one ever admitted to peeing in my pool, but it is on its second generation of Ferguson’s and none have died from swimming in this tainted water yet!  So instead of trying to correct the problem of weak bladdered kids, I just set my mind to enlarging the deck so no one would have to walk in the grass to get to the diving board and non-swimming adults could sit and watch kids swim. 

I had a friend that had a friend that could get me anything I wanted!  In this case it was a friend that had a mill that could cut up pine trees in real 2x4 sizes and 2x6 or 8” boards!  Just what I needed!  All the wood I could imagine at a fraction of the cost of treated wood you get at a lumber shop!  The frenzy began…  I built one of the most perfect decks you could imagine complete with stairs and a fence to keep people from falling off.   So proud.  Let me tell you about rough cut pine folks.   It doesn’t last.  My master piece started rotting in less than two years…  It had to go!  My wife said she wanted a three level deck.  I told her she was crazy, that I was NOT going to build a three level deck around that pool because I didn’t know how and she said “Oh yes you do,” so the building began after a short period or pouting and griping about the task at hand!  We now have a three level deck with treated lumber and it’s going on its 12th year…  If I recall correctly it was about 12 years ago I started listening to her suggestions and advice a little more…  Sometimes she makes very good sense…  And no one has fallen through so I guess we did something right.
Now, for anyone who has ever had a swimming pool and very young children, we need to take a short trip into a subject no one ever really wants to talk about and hardly dares to mention.  It is tough to talk about but for a brief moment, let’s just call it the tough part.   My youngest daughter was 2 years old when we moved to Pineville from Monroe, LA.   Many times I would come home and wonder where this child was when I could not immediately locate her.  As I walked through my house calling her, I would move outdoors to see if she might be with the older kids.  There were times I would literally hold my breath as I walked to the pool to look into its depths praying I would not find my worst nightmare there.   With a lot of help from her daddy and a good pair of “floaties”, she finally turned into a fair navigator of the depths, but for three long years or longer, I actually worried myself sick about what if…  Then the grandkids started coming at a faster rate than I remembered my kids growing up!   I needed a plan of action or something to help eliminate my stress, so my strange personality improvised a strategy that might not cause my stress level to push me to levels of unsuspected cardiac infarctions!  I just don't think any of us would be surprised at how quick a kid can pick up on just how dangerous a swimming pool can be when they are “knocked into” a cold pool of water…  Especially when they can’t swim and are caught totally by surprise at their situation!  You save them just in time from “meeting the wizard” and trust me here; from that moment on you can’t get them to go near that pool for the rest of that swimming season and halfway through the next season without you or some other responsible adult holding their hand!  I know this may seem cruel to some, but considering the alternative, it is also plausible and very effective…  I still worry about my grandkids and so hate to teach them the hard way, but you know?  If they straight-up lie about peeing in my swimming pool, they will lie about going around the pool by themselves and I just don’t trust the older grandkids to be responsible for their safety.  That would be mine.  So be upset if you might about my prehistoric methods of training, but I think I’m onto a pretty good teaching method.
Our oldest grandson, Kennard, Jr., was about six at the time...  Linda and I were sitting on the deck of the pool when he walks up there to visit with us… As I watched him trudge up the steps with that coy smile, I knew it was a matter of time before one of us took the opportunity to nudge this boy into the waiting waters.   He was even dressed for it.  Barefooted with shorts on and of course, no shirt he was a poster child screaming, "Push me into the pool, I dare you!"  Poor child must have been brain-damaged to walk up on this deck that edged our perfectly clean swimming pool to see his favorite Poppy and Mawmaw.   And he was so sweet and I still remember that precious smile on his face.  I was so taken back at this “gift horse” I didn't even notice he had Scrunch, our family cat, held firmly in his arms as he walked up to us to see what we were doing!  What Linda and I did notice was this child’s peaceful demeanor and loving attitude toward us as he approached and what we did not notice was the terror in the eyes of this normally docile feline!  You see, he had packed poor Scrunch up on that deck to ask us if he could toss her into the swimming pool.  Oh, this cat understood perfect English when it was spoken and from the shear act of past conditioning, she knew exactly what was up.  Not that I had ever tossed poor ‘ole Scrunch in this swimming pool or anything, but it would have been obvious had either of us had looked into her eyes we would have seen a spring ready to unload!  I just did not comprehend fast enough that this “dunking” would happen as quickly as it did as I noticed out of the corner of my eye my normally sweet wife pick up her right foot and put it on this innocent child’s hip.  With one smooth push, Junior found himself off balance and tumbling toward the waiting waters of the pool.  Instinctively as his balance was lost, instead of tossing poor Scrunch away, she became an instrument of survival for him as he grasped her tightly against his chest as his tumble toward the pool began!  Now ‘ole Scrunch on the other hand had experience of this unexpected sort around this particular body of water and instinctively knew that she was at some point going to be introduced against her will into the cold depths!   Scrunch was expecting the unexpected where Junior was not, and the instinctive pull of Scrunch into his chest made Scrunch instinctively use his chest and shoulders and part of his back as a launching pad to free herself from the watery depths he thought he was going to take her!   There was this splash and the cat surfaced first and appeared to walk across the water as she climbed over the rail and disappeared before Junior even surfaced!  And when he did, he looked like he had lost a sword fight with Zorro! 

I know many of you that know me are not surprised at what just happened, but I must plead the 5th here as I was not the one that pushed that child into the water while he was holding the cat.  Linda did that!  I helped him, crying bloody murder, out of the water while Linda went inside to get some cotton balls and the hydrogen peroxide to help began the healing process… Neither of us laughed at this point because the poor boy looked, well, messed up… That cat did a number on him and we were actually feeling bad and wondering just what we were going to tell his mom and dad when they came to get him.  All of this was running, I’m sure, through both of our minds as his crying ceased and he began to settle down… Thinking I would use this as a learning experience, I asked him “Junior, what did you learn from this experience?”  I thought maybe he would say something like, “always pay attention to where I am,” or something like that, but the words that came out of his mouth caused us both to lose our stoic composure.  His answer was simple and from the very depths of his heart when he said, “Never swims with cats!”  We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes… He couldn’t help it either… His tears went from painful to joyful with ours as we hugged him and apologized for pushing him into the pool.  Not one of us will ever forget that incident and appreciate his mom and dad for overlooking our early stages of Alzheimer’s we surely displayed! 

As surely as the memories of my swimming pool are pressed firmly into the pages of my mind, I reconnected with that crisp spring day of April 16th, and decided to take a spin on my Goldwing GL 1800.  As I stated earlier, I will some day soon engage the Irish green colors of my pool and eradicate that color from her seasonal grip so grandkids can frolic another year in her oval presence surrounded by my three-level deck!  We have discussed putting a top over the second level along with a fan or even adding a four-person whirlpool spa to the lower deck.  Ideas never stop rolling around in our heads but what tasks we reluctantly undertook 12 years ago are now just dreams.  It is time for another generation to improve on Poppy's house if any improvements are to be made. because on any given summer day just as darkness pauses most life into a peaceful rest you will find what appears to be a lifeless male form, clad only in boxer brief underwear, floating on his back in the calm waters of this pool. If you approach the sides and look closely, you will find the only sign of life is the slow rise and fall in buoyancy as I breathe in and out while the filter pump slowly moves me around in slow circles!

So here I am again, after an absolutely wonderful day of living, catching up with my Facebook friends and their ups and downs of this April day.  Pleasant exchanges as my body began to slow down from self inflicted adrenal rushes of my 300 mile plus motorcycle trip via back roads to Baton Rouge just to see Tiger Stadium and maybe get caught up in an Alex Box baseball game.  Pushing up Hwy 61 toward Natchez, MS., my wife calls wondering where I am, and crossing over into Vidalia, I turn to take in their Riverwalk. Easter is underway there and I stop at Burger King to get me a coke as I have transpired like a plant in a hurricane on the back of that Motorcycle.   I stand in line in amazement as I see friends of mine on several motorcycles slide off the Natchez bridge headed back to Pineville. I tried, in vain, to catch them but ended the solo trip alone as they ducked into some station and fueled up.

Showered, shaved and sitting in the same spot in my bed at 10:35 pm with my laptop engaged, I was just about ready to give it a rest by saying goodnight to everyone when a chat message appeared on the lower right hand of my Facebook page.  It was from Sandy Alexander.  She simply said, "Diane passed away at 5:00 am this morning.  She just let go of my hand."  My mind raced back that morning when I thought, "what could possibly happen or just what could I possibly encounter that would hamper anything on this beautiful day?"  My heart grew heavy as I posted a final message that April 16th, 2011:

           DIANE V. FLETCHER (Diane Young) Or Diane Free as we knew her at Ouachita Parish High School surrendered her life to Eternal Rest today in Houston, TX.  It was just three short weeks ago she posted me and said as she entered Hospice care, "let this new journey began!"  I could clearly see dignity, pride and grace in a fine woman and will miss her.  I pray I will have the courage to face my final days with the same courage and faith she had...

As old friends began to respond to the news, I tuned my computer off and sat it aside.  I would find out more the next day as I again embraced what we have talked about in this story.  Life! 

Rod Ferguson
27 April 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Storm Junkies

          I am  sitting here behind the glare of my laptop in the early am hours of 30 March 2011 as my wife softly snores under the cover next to me.  Beside the soft hum of my ceiling fan, I can hear the distant rumble of thunder and the dripping of rain water from my roof splashing on my patio just outside the french doors of my bedroom... Other than those sounds, eerily quiet...  I have already posted my facebook friends around 5:15am or so inquiring of their safety  with only a couple responding thus far.  Is this my 'post storm thoughts' or am I looking for a rainbow during a pause in the middle of the storm?   My laptop tells me that according to Channel 31's Sky Tracker Radar, I am at a pause in the middle of a strong line of a low pressure cold front that is pushing in from the northwest.  There is a moisture tap from the Gulf of Mexico  that feeds the cold front throwing things into a North Eastern movement.  All of this causes excitement deep inside of me as I watch in awe the different colors on the radar screen...  The green color I see mostly is ok.  It is just drizzle or light rain we basically accept and recognize also as cloud cover.   Then the yellow smiles at you with those crimson red centers indicating serious rain fall accompanied by winds... Inter laced with all of these vibrant colors, the radar screen depicts the dark purple cells inside of the red cells surrounded by the yellow color that is still bracketed by the green that something serious is brewing in the atmosphere!  I am compelled to investigate closer... typing frantically on my laptop, I locate my precise location on the map by zooming in and finding my house!  Marked!  I then zoom out, activate the video and watch as the cold fronts slide to the Southeast intersects with and Gulf moisture tap moving North and I hold my breath as the vibrant colors dance toward my house.  Inside of the dark purple cells lurks extreme danger...  Hail storms, wind shears, winds in excess of 60 + mph, and of course the dreaded tornado!   I watch and wait in anticipation...

          So let me set the excitement scale for you here.  We have heard of low pressure and high pressure.  Yes?  Ok. It is the barometer reading... let me see if I might simplify this from my perspective.  Hunters and fishermen understand this concept well as do those of us that have aches and pains...  We  simple feel it.  As High pressure dominates us, we are somewhat slow and sluggish.  Winds from the east, fishing is least?  Heard that?  Well, in lesser life forms like fish to livestock the high pressure embraces them kinda like a bear hug.  Consistent pressure over every square inch of their body pushes in making them somewhat inactive, or dormant.  Fish do not bite, cows and other livestock start laying down in the pastures.   Even our pets become lethargic just as we do as we fall victim to this unseen pressure wondering why our joints hurt.   As the low front pushes through becoming dominant,  the old wives tale about winds from the west is best  kicks in  as we observe and even feel a distinct change.  Fish bite like crazy, live stock begins to move, hardly anything is dormant, and storm junkies like me looks like Garfield with their faces glued to some window panel gazing outside.  Simply stated, we feel excited about the unknown! 

          With me so far?  Let me share with you my feelings on serious weather and that dark purple cell that is dancing precociously toward my home.

          I start pacing.  My ever calm wife is watching TV in the media room at the other end of our four bedroom home.  I'm watching TV too!  The one in my bedroom is on the local news station and is constantly being switched back and forth between that station and the Weather Channel.  Guess where my laptop is??  You got it... On some website hosting local weather.  Now, understand my actions are being orchestrated by this rapid transition from high pressure to low pressure, the fact that I'm being bombarded by weather information from at least three sources as well as a touch of mental imbalance on my part from some unknown weather mishap in my distant past!  Now I'm pacing back and forth from the master bedroom to the media room wondering just why my wife is not the least bit frantic!  "Why should I be," she calmly ask me.  "I have you to take up my slack," as she never misses a word of her television program while playing some game on her laptop. I grumble something about "I would rather be in my car running from a stupid tornado, than let it eat me up in this house," kinda nonsense.  Back to the bedroom I pace to further dissect weather information.  Just in time for a weather bulletin!  Oh great.   Now I'm told this Super Cell is packing winds in excess of 70mph and should be knocking on my door in 15 minutes!  I am NOT limited to the inside of the house now.  I wonder as I wander into the carport to gaze realtime at the constant lightning as the outside darkness ceases to exist because of the weather activity!  I am amazed... Gazing through pine trees three times the size of telephone poles looking for what?  That dark funnel cloud, hail stones, side ways rain?   I suddenly find it as lightning hits directly across the street, dampens my underwear and I bravely scurry my chunky self  back to the safety of the indoors. 

           I'm safe again, but my mind still entertains my weakness...  "Be nice if you had a storm shelter built in this house, huh Rod!"  I felt compelled to tell my wife, "I sure wish we had a storm shelter, honey!"  Doesn't even glance or acknowledge me.  Just plays on her laptop and listens to her TV program...  Again that voice in my head tells me, "those are large pine trees that could fall across this end of the house and that big oak tree could smush you at the other end of the house, you do know that huh buddy?"  Ok.  I was told by some elementary teacher that those people that talk to themselves were either listening to the devil or were crazy.  I plead the 5th here.  I'm almost frantic now.

          It goes on.  This cell passes... I have survived!  We didn't even lose electricity or cable service.  Why was I so frantic?  Well, I've told you..  The low pressure front was driving my actions.  Fish are now biting, wildlife is now moving and I am back on the laptop anticipating the next move this system is going to throw at me.  surrounded by yellow radar, I began to anticipate bed time... I can deal with that...  My wife comes into my situation room also known as the master bedroom shaking her head as it seems I never cease to amaze her, but also to prepare herself for a nights sleep.   I give into her calm manner and respond like wise.  I calculate without accuracy that the next cell that could threaten me was far enough Southwest of us so I began to prepare for bed.  Maybe I could 'go to sleep it' before it gets here and starts consuming my thoughts.  I take my medicine, brush my teeth, potty and dress for bed but not in my typical boxer/brief drawers.  No, not with storms coming and just in case that yet spawned tornado comes to my house while I'm asleep, opens my french doors from the patio to my bedroom, snatches me from under the covers and sends me through its powerful funnel to deposit my body in some field a mile away??  I will NOT be naked!  I put on socks, along with my boxer/briefs, long pants of the jogging sort and of course a heavy tee shirt.  Simply will not be captured, executed and left to be found naked by anyone...  I just simply refuse to accept the fact or think about the results that if a tornado did actually seize me and hurl me through the fury of her tortured self that even if I was dressed in body armor wrapped in 100 mph duct tape, I would be discovered.  They would still find a fat bald guy about a mile away from where i should have been in some field;  Naked!

          Rest at peace Storm Junkies..  I survived another round of mother natures cleansing...  All of the facebook friends I love are still with me.  As thunderstorms push through my area of Louisiana, I am told it is snowing in St Louis...  And yes, I know there are no Rainbows at night.  Except the rainbow colors of weather radar as it dances across my laptop computer.