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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Cat Burglar

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Cat Burglar

This is how it began in that ever so early pre-dawn morning hour of 25 March 2011…  I was peacefully sleeping, in one of those deep “Rem Sleep Cycles,” when a distant muffled racket suddenly started pulling me away from my Mississippi dream… As if I were still dreaming, I hear my wife ask, “What is that NOISE,” as my senses stirred to life or was it me asking that question?!?  I hit the carpeted floor on my side of the bed, barefooted, clad only in a brand new pair of Hanes boxer/briefs, appropriately named, because I had absolutely no idea of where I was going or just what I was going to encounter when I got there!   What I did know was, if I had to box somebody, it would be brief.   Conditioning, not cognizant thought propelled me around the end of the bed drawing me closer to my wife as she prepared to challenge the unknown disturbance in our kitchen area without me.  She was standing in the doorway of our bedroom when she flipped the light switch as to discover the reason of our alarmed state of mind!  In rapid succession, and before my mind totally comprehended something serious could actually be going on, I heard her exclaim, “It's the CAT!  How in the world did she get into this house?”  As her voice started to register in my cluttered mind, I stooped down, grabbed her hips, and peered around the left side of her body just in time to see our outside cat scurry down the hallway pursuing the protection of a darkened den.  Imprinted in my head were those stupid cartoon characters we remember exiting a scene while slipping and sliding on the slick linoleum floor!   I began to feel rage and “It's the CAT,” was NOT what went through my head.  It was thoughts of squeezing guts out both ends ---  Well, you get the picture?  This was SO NOT going to be a good morning for me.

With the switch of that light, our investigation and repair as to why this occurred was defined for each of us.  She patiently went down into the den to coax that stupid cat out from under the dining table or wherever, while I sought to find out how the cat got into our house in the first place!  I immediately saw where the French doors from our kitchen area onto our patio was slightly ajar.  Yes, the nose of a curious cat, opossum, skunk, coyote, wolf, hyena, grizzly bear, ok, are you with me here?  Anything could have easily slipped in through the unsecured doors.  As my wife finally acknowledges her successful capture of the stupid cat, putting her ever so gently back outside through the carport door, I close and lock the French doors and wonder why the dang thing was open in the first place!  I began what old men do best and started griping about the door being left open (not even worried about locked) and before I can get started good, she reminds me, “Honey, you’re the one that let the dogs in last night, remember?”  Gosh, I hate to be slapped in the face and body slammed to the ground by the truth!!!   I was the one rattled out of a beautiful sleep and on top of that I’m getting more aggravated that she still calls those stupid poodles, dogs!  Both of them put together, with long hair soaked in bubbles complete with an Alpo enema wouldn’t weigh 7 pounds!  That’s not a dog!!!   Ok, let me admit defeat here. Yes ,I opened the door last night and let them scurry in past my feet as if it was my obligation to do this.  They ran real fast in tandem unison to the wash room where they sleep in their snuggly little beds all worthless as they can be.  As they get to the closed door of their "sleeping spot," where they start bouncing up and down on their little hind legs and turn these sweet little pirouettes on their tiny paws as my wife “oohs and aahs” at them being so cute!  I would just prefer to put both of them out of their misery!  Shaking my head back to the reality of the moment, it dawns on me that almost as quickly as this 4:45 am distraction started it has resolved itself back into a manageable inconvenience and we slowly make our way back to the bedroom with everything once again secure in our world.  

We somehow end up together in the bath room and being the gentleman I am, surrender the ceramic portal to her.   As she completes her nature stop, she turns on the light so she can  find something to take for her “headache."  Was this a subtle warning, I wondered as I patiently go about my business in the appropriate room.   Lights off, we head to our king size bed and pull the covers up to our necks to protect our chilled bodies from the ceiling fan that runs 24/7 at our house.

And this is when my problem actually begins… I am laying there trying to get comfortable.  You know.  When the chill starts to fade and the warmth of the covers begins to soothe you into the first stages of slumber?  While this transition consumes you, comfortable in that perfect spot with your head comfortably placed on the pillow, your legs wrapped over a long body pillow while postured in that perfect side fetal position with your feet in just the right place??  You know, right before you pass into semi-consciousness??   But instead of drifting off, I find myself THINKING!  About what has just occurred in the last 5 minutes or so.  And it started running  through my mind in living colors the different scenarios that we could have encountered... Oh Dear God, please let me just go to sleep.   First thing crossing my mind is, “what if it had actually been an intruder?”  I just rushed away from my 9mm Browning Hi-power with 13 rounds of ammunition plus one in the chamber securely placed right next to where I sleep along with two other magazines of ammunition giving me a total of 40 usable rounds of Personal Protection In The Home if ever I might need it!   What was banging in my head was, it never crossed my mind to arm myself with anything until I was laying in bed trying to go back to sleep!   I was once a trained law enforcement officer!  I feared nothing.  Not even fear itself!   But was not this just me standing behind my nightgown clad wife with her between me and potential danger in nothing but my boxer/briefs?   And then it only gets worse when I look over at the master clock that controls my comings and goings and realize its just beginning to push 5 am.  I get up at 6 am so why in the world do I want to go back to sleep just to get angry as the master alarm would chirp to life as soon as I closed my eyes???
I know without a doubt what I would have done  to pass this time just a scant 10 years ago, ok 5 maybe, as the thought of intimacy was soundly overridden.  Substantiated by reasons of rational, common sense thought, influenced primarily by age, the work involved to initiate the very act that lit for a brief moment in my mind not to forget the sleep time required by my wife, I just let that dog sleep.  Besides, didn’t she just take something for a headache!   On to a secondary plan a little safer.  Why not just get dressed and go to McDonald's for a deluxe breakfast?  I expressed my thoughts to my fading wife and she reminds me that I was having blood work that morning and I was fasting, so there goes McDonald's right down the toilet drain!  Now what!!   My blood pressure begins to build and then I hear her ever calming voice.  “Just get on the computer, Honey and see if any of your friends are there.”  She could not have told me in a more civil and non threatening tone for me to, “Just shut up and let me go back to sleep!”   

My computer!!  Yeah…  I could listen to my music and see if any of my facebook friends on the east coast or closer were yet stirring.   I went to my facebook page, opened her up and posted away:

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!!! NEVER crossed my mind of getting my 9mm browning hi-power with 14 rounds of protection!! 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…

And then the fun began…  Below is just the beginning of the fun my friends had with my early morning experience!  It started just east of here right across the river in Mississippi  Oh yeah… My facebook buddies were up and waiting for me to lay my vulnerabilities out into their world! 

Mariglen:   LMAO!!!!!

Becky:   Oh Peppy how brave you are!!!!LMAO!!!!!!

               Then Louisiana piles on!

Doyle:   Never let an opportunity to walk through your house with a 44 mag ,, slip by ..... But remember to put your pants on first. Naked man with a big gun is not a pretty sight.

                North Alabama thinks it funny too!!!  HaHa
Martha:   I bet you were close behind hanging onto the back of her

                Oh, and if Mississippi can’t get enough jabs in, they pile back on…

Mariglen:   The visuals are killing me! Lol!!!!

Becky:    I'm still laughing!!

                Oh, why not my Church family as well?  Why not agree with everyone and start encouraging the Mississippi crowd again!

Sherry:   Behind every WONDERFUL woman is a good scared man... I agree with Mariglen, the vision that is making me laugh so hard.. Can't wait for Robert to read this... ha ha ha

               Here Florida!!  You may as well join the chorus, too.  Politely tells me I’m losing my edge.  (like I haven’t already thought that?)

Tanya:   Well....I've always thought, Once a cop, always a cop. Maybe that's not true. Maybe you start trusting people again. You didn't even think it could have been a break in. Wow. After I retire from the PD I might like people

                Enter yet another Louisiana reveler…

Martha:  You can always say that you were guarding her backside so no one could sneak up on her!

                I'm begin to think. (Again? OMG)   Maybe if I make it cute, they will understand a little more…

Rod Ferguson   If something had touched my backside, while I was guarding her backside, I just might have killed us both, Martha... And none of this dawned on me until I got back into bed...

Rod Ferguson   I was grumbling something about killing that stupid cat and she reaches over, pats me on the head     and tells me "its going to be ok?" "Just go back to sleep, Honey.
                Maybe its working!  One of my Mississippi buddies likes this!

21 minutes ago · Like Unlike · 1 person Becky likes this.
                And then she tells me, God is laughing at me too. (stab me in the neck)

Becky:    Im sorry but Im still laughing, I'm just glad it was just the cat!This just goes to show you that God takes care of us and also has a sense of humor!!!lol

Damage done, I admit defeat and I resign the rest of the day to maybe escaping without facebook back to Alaska of which I should have never left!

Rod Ferguson  ‎**what's left of my ego is rapidly deteriorating with the rest of my life**

I look down in the margin of my computer screen and see 6 messages or post or something that awaits my inquiry on facebook.  I can't help but wonder if another chapter of fun is coming my way…  Oh my… Should I continue???  I think not!

Rodney S. Ferguson
                March 26, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Mockingbird... Why it is so real in my life.

The Mockingbird… Why it is so real in my life.

I have many Facebook friends that mean a lot to me.  Many mornings I will post a greeting to them and let the message reflect my inner heart or feelings on a given morning.  Below are a couple of posts made in early March of 2011.  Realizing I was sharing with a world of friends, early morning, yet intimate thoughts, I kept mentioning a Mockingbird in the text.  It dawned on me that not one person had the slightest clue as to what that particular bird did or exactly why I would place him in such visible parts of my thoughts… If you decide to take this walk with me, I hope the reflection of my memory makes you smile and opens your heart in understanding that this bird was not just randomly selected to fill space in a Facebook post.  He has, and remains today, part of my very existence and here is the story of why.  Encouraged by many of you, my Facebook friends, that have told me my posts made them think or lifted their spirits, I began to entertain the possibility of a short story to share this phenomena, so I asked myself, “why not?” 

              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 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!

              Has anyone heard the voice of the Mockingbird this morning? Guess I need to write that story... Just why the Mockingbird sings to me... Especially in the spring time. Love you guys and gals out there in fb land... Embrace your present. Open it with the anticipation that God will share with you intimate secrets as you move through the gift of life He has given us today!

So here is the story:

The Mockingbird… Why it is so real in my life.

Often my friends and family have heard me refer to the Mockingbird in some form or fashion as I plod endlessly through the days of my remaining life.  There is a story behind the Mockingbird and even though it is easily tossed into conversation, I want to tell the those who read this story, and remind those who know, the reason the Mockingbird is so real in my life.   It is not an anomaly that just appeared or was heard in my vocabulary, but started with a single bird in my youth.  Probably around 11 years of age or so…  I know not the season, but through the small process of extrapolation, I can take the known facts from memory and reasonably conclude, that since the beautiful sound of this particular bird’s song is usually heard in spring, I was drawn to him, most probably, in the spring or early summer months of that particular year. 

I was sitting on the patio in the backyard of our home on Beasley Street in Northeast, Louisiana.  I do not know what I was doing, or what I was going to do on this given morning.  Just can’t remember.  I do recall the distinct singing of a bird, and as I felt the need to see and know where this sound was coming from, my senses turned from just curious into that of a predator.  I was too young to know, or even care, if it was a beautiful sound or not.  It just stimulated my senses.  So many things we take for granted.  I just remember he was singing and I could hear so clearly, the song, as it filtered through the limbs of the small water oaks growing in the backyard of our home.  Beside me, the instrument that helped mold a major part of the rest of my life, my Daisy pump BB gun fully loaded and prepared for any mischief in which a pre-adolescent might choose to engage.  Picking it up, I moved to investigate the source of this pleasant racket… Stalking prey as predators do, I used the trees and tree limbs as cover as I looked through them to visually locate what I could hear.  There, sitting high in a maze of power and telephone lines that furnished our community with the luxuries of urban life, was a Mockingbird.

My heart rate increased when I realized he was close, but yet for some reason, uncomfortably distant for the taking.  A challenge I guess, but yet so large sitting there alone, just singing.  As I watched him, I absorbed the blending grays and white of the bird’s colors and could still hear him singing as his head moved methodically, surveying the surroundings as lesser life forms often do in the role of self-preservation.  Did he see me?  Did he know I was there?  Did he know my intent?  Had he known, surely he would fly away!  But, apparently, he did not see me as the threat I knew me to be. A sidewards glance of my form at the base of this water oak was apparently dismissed in his mind as a non-threat by this beautiful creature created for our pleasure.  The singing continued, and his disregard of my presence only encouraged my resolve.

I stepped sideways from the base of the tree ever so slowly, doing what predators do, hiding my aggressive nature from the weak.  He remained unmoved except for the endless song that was ever present in my head.  I pulled my cocked Daisy BB gun to a raised position that only the wisest of prey would perceive as a threat.  The morning sun painted the light grey breast of this bird just for me.  Everything I had ever been taught about hunting came back to me… Steady aim, as I framed my sights against the bird’s fragile frame, even adjusting slightly higher for the distance between us to compensate for the drop of the projectile soon to be released.  I told myself to keep “sight picture” and squeeze the trigger slowly.  Don’t jerk it!  Lessons taught by dads to their sons over many lifetimes so as not to waste ammunition and the chance of missing a meal.  There was a dull thump as the Daisy spring accelerated this copper projectile out of the barrel.  I did not hear an impact.  I just saw the bird fall, without sound, straight to the ground with no attempt to struggle or any attempt to flap away.  Instantly dead, as the BB expired inside of my intended target, his impact with the ground was never felt.  Motionless, the lifeless form lay there.  What was missing was the music, ominously absent.  Yet, I was filled with pride at my accomplishment.

I moved toward the bird with the same moves that stalked him.  Knowing I was safe, I still cautiously approached my fallen prey as if instinct had prepared me for some sort of aggressive retaliation from my fallen victim.  There, of course, was not any, so I reached down and picked him up.  I turned him and inspected him closely.  Beautiful, still warm and not one drop of blood!  The pellet that pierced him must have instantly stopped his wild heart.  I wondered why there was no blood, but only came to understand with time that when the heart stops, there is no more blood that flows.  So, with my prize firmly in hand, I stored my trophy so I could show it to my Dad!  I wanted to tell him the feat of my stealth and marksmanship!  Only then would I receive the praise I deserved.  My Dad… he would be so proud of me.  I just simply had to wait for him to return home for dinner.  Yeah, we called it dinner then, not lunch as we do today, but dinner.  Because supper time to our family was the evening meal.   My, how time changes things!

The noon hour approached.   I remained close to the security of our home, not wandering far, because I didn’t want to miss Dad when he came in.   Even remember his car, a late model tan Buick. I watched as it pulled into the driveway and eased to a stop in the carport.  As Dad got out of the vehicle, I approached him with the bird in my hand.  “Dad, look....” as I presented the trophy to him.  Quickly rattling out the story you all know if you have read this far, my Dad looked at the bird and at me two or three different times while easing the car door shut.  No particular expression or emotions could be read in his face, but he did tell me something.  He spoke to me a sentence that remains as emblazoned in my mind in 2011 as it did when he spoke it in 1962.  It did not hurt my feelings or make me happy or sad when he spoke it, but burned into my mind to live forever and redirect my mind and thoughts the rest of my existing life.  “Good shot, son, but now I won’t be able to hear him sing to me in the mornings anymore.”   Not another word was spoken about the Mockingbird.  Dad went inside and ate dinner. I disposed of my trophy and went on with the rest of my day.  Oh yeah…you should know, my dad was deaf.  There was limited sound available to him through the use of a hearing aid in his left ear.

This story actually began halfway through the Spring of my life as I stated earlier, around 11 years of age or so.  If you choose to read further, I must take you through the Summer of my life as I share with you some of the experiences that remain in my thoughts from that time.  Please understand by self-definition that the Summer of our life is generally between the ages of 20 something to 40 years of age.  With that in mind, you might recognize the Fall of my (our) life, is critically acclaimed to be even more exciting than that of Summer. So, as these next few paragraphs pass through three seasons of my life, let me briefly touch on each one.

The first season or the Spring of my life, found me passing from a boy into a budding teenager and decent athlete in high school.  I also had a passion for singing that began in grade school and stayed with me through high school, as well as the rest of my life.  Junior high school found me singing in school choir and avoiding the football players until a PE coach discovered I could jump a long way in the 8th grade. Torn between, I guess, a sissy and a jock, I found out during that PE class that I jumped 2 whole feet further in something called the “broad jump” than anybody else in the whole school.  That coach also discovered something else about me.  I could run.  Fast.  So my athletic career began on the junior high track team and found a solid footing with my introduction to football as I entered my freshman year of high school.  The combination of being able to run fast, along with a slight fear of getting killed, helped lay the foundation for a decent running back.

During my sophomore year in 1966, my Dad “fell out” with an apparent heart attack at his work.  While at St. Francis Hospital, they discovered something wrong with his heart.  Didn’t really have a heart attack, just something was wrong with it.  I’m sure a lot of tests were conducted and consults with other medical professionals were quite intense.  There were, I’m sure, many things that were not discussed with us kids, but eventually it was decided that my dad would go to Ochsner’s Foundation in New Orleans for an operation.  Open-heart surgery was something that became part of my vocabulary at this time in my life.  Didn’t know really what open-heart surgery was, but that it was going to fix my dad.  The day of his surgery I was practicing football and my coaches were to keep me informed of the progress through occasional phone calls.  Surreal…as I remember us practicing on the game field under the lights, when my coach came over and said my dad would be fine.  I didn’t cry.  Couldn’t cry.  Too many football players watching me. But a tremendous relief came over me.  Dad eventually came home a different man.  He was weak, of course, but somewhat more full of life, and that became more obvious as he gained strength over the next few weeks.  I remember putting my head on Dad’s scarred chest and listening to the metallic click of the mechanical, stainless steel valve that was put into his heart to save and give him life.  What I didn’t know, and what was paid little attention to, was that during all of the blood transfusions my Dad received during this experimental surgery he contracted hepatitis from tainted blood simply because screening procedures in 1966 were not what they are today.  Funny, as I look back, but the very institution that gave my dad another 30 years of life, also introduced into him the very thing that took it.

From there to a season of college football in Southern Arkansas before my grades failed me and I realized that success in athletics would never get me a college degree or a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys.  So I took my college varsity letter with me back to my home of record and tripped right into my first encounter with marriage.   I was as prepared for that social institution as I was for college classes, so it didn’t take long for that to fail as well, but I pushed on.  Embracing the late Spring of my life and for sure as the early Summer of life slowly unfolded before me, I knew that Walter Cronkite’s Evening News banter and headlines would become a serious focus for my near future. There was my generation’s war, Vietnam, and I knew that somehow the act of participation would honor my country and give me a financial foundation to continue my education, so I joined the Army.  Actually volunteered for the draft and a tour in Vietnam where many of my friends gave some and a few of them sadly, gave all… Uncle Sam saw fit to spare me, despite myself, as he placed me safely in USARAL.  That is United States Army Alaska.  After 17 months, 3 weeks, and a few days, Uncle Sam allowed me to return home to my beloved Louisiana.  While I was in that beautiful land of the Aurora Borealis, I don’t recall the Mockingbird talking to me at all.  As beautiful and night-less as the long summer months are, you would think there would be Mockingbirds in Alaska!   But I sang there.  Sang a lot in church and taught myself how to play a guitar from a “Reader’s Digest” chord book.  Go figure!

Oh, my goodness did the Summer season of my life blossom as I entered Northeast Louisiana University in the fall of 1973 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement.  My GI bill was the Godsend I expected it to be as I pursued my education with a little more maturity the second time.  It allowed me to maintain my life-style and pursue the life of a single, college male with an apartment, nice car and motorcycle!  Even had plenty of spending money! I continued singing on the weekends for extra cash, and had the perfect full time job to compensate my energies.  My first degree was an associate’s degree in Law Enforcement, so now police departments like Houston and Dallas, TX, would really be interested in me.  I visited both of them, between semesters, only to find out that for some reason, after a psychological and initial interview, they just simply weren’t interested in me.  Oh, well... Back to college.  And that single life.  Still need that bachelor’s degree and plenty of GI bill money left.  So every morning I rushed off to classes.  In the early mornings and sometimes late afternoons, I could hear the Mockingbirds sing and I remembered my dad’s words, but I rushed on with my life never stopping long enough to decipher what their songs were saying to me.  I never missed a semester of college.  Fall, spring, and both summer sessions.   And yes, that break between the last summer session and that long fall semester found me on some kind of  “road trip” on the motorcycle.  I was disgustingly cool, with lots of hair then…  And as we never notice the majority of times we breathe in and out or even when we blink our eyes, time still moves on.  I graduated in May of 1976 from this fine institution that today is as different in name and mascot as the person that types these words was then, compared to today.  But, because of an alleged “streaking incident” on a borrowed motorcycle in 1974 on this same campus while Elvis was visiting our city, I had to pursue my law enforcement career away from my home of record.  That’s another story.  My sister, Nona, can tell that one better than me.

Enter Yazoo City Mississippi  Yup.  My first Police Job for real…  My Captain had a 3rd grade education and he called me “college boy”.  The Chief of Police that hired me made me the police department’s training officer, alongside himself, but since police training was not mandatory by law in Mississippi in 1976, you can just imagine how those ‘ole boys just loved me!  It was a strange fit for me.  City officials were proud I was there and had openly expressed their plans for me.  As you can imagine, my appearance in the Yazoo City social circles conflicted with the plans of the catfish-fed “home boys” and, add to that, the fact that most eligible single ladies knew I was there and you can just imagine how popular I was!  Good thing I never needed back up, because with the bachelors that had grown up in this fine city perceiving me as a potential threat,  I pretty much could have been found in a ditch somewhere to no one’s knowledge as to what could have possibly happened to me, whatsoever.   There were positives.  I did meet my best friend in Yazoo City and yes, I met and got to know Jerry Clower.   His children were in my Sunday school class… I did teach Sunday school… is this going downhill for you?  Don’t forget I was raised Baptist.  And somewhere in my youth, God did start a good work in me, and I still think He is faithful to complete it, if I will just get out of the way.  And the song(s) of the Mockingbird became more real to me, but somehow I just would not listen with my heart.

A pretty young teacher was my first date in this Gateway to the Delta and she suggested we go to Jackson and have a good time.  Who was I to argue?  She even drove, because I had no idea which way Jackson was.  As we entered this metropolis city on Delta Drive, which is now Medgar Evers Blvd, another defining moment in my life arrested me, as six police cars going "Code 3” to some unknown place raced past.  I knew then, my life and Jackson, Mississippi were going to intersect.   The next Monday, I was there at their police department asking for an application.  Some nine months later, I was one of 50 selected out of more than 2000 applicants that started a 16 week police basic’s class in Mississippi’s capitol.  So, as this chapter began to unfold, I did not have the time to even contemplate the sound of Music from anything, much less a stupid bird. But he was there.  In my mind, the music was there.  Do you, reader, understand what I am saying here?

Spent a lot of time in Jackson.  Passed into my 30’s there actually.   Great career going for me but nothing to show for my social life to this point, even though I had a few, okay a lot, of lady friend prospects hanging around.   I chose to marry a little Mississippi girl that was the voice on the other end of my squad car’s radio.  My safety net of sorts.  I wanted a family.  I guess because she put up with me the longest and I didn’t want to deal with another long-term relationship to get to the same point we already were,  I married her, nine years after my first failed marriage ended.  As you can imagine, with an attitude like that, what do you expect eventually happened?  But she did give me a healthy son! Of course, the Mockingbirds sang, but I paid no attention to them.  I couldn’t.  I was a foot soldier in all the cracks of that city’s underground… plundering through and persecuting those who broke the law with a vengeance.  I was destined to die there had I stayed, but when the money ran short, I had to find a way to support a wife and coming child.  As with anything, you pass on to the ones you love, that with jobs especially, one needs to stay with it long enough to reap the rewards of financial stability.  I did not do this.  Maybe for selfish reasons or some spiritual pull to protect me from harm’s way?  I still wonder to this very day if I would have survived my role as a law enforcement officer in that dangerous city.

Into the “big money” oil fields and deep-drilling wells of western Oklahoma.  My EMT skills were needed to protect the workers from poisonous gases formed and preserved since the Mesozoic Time in the depths of our earth’s core.  Deadly gas called hydrogen sulfide.  I monitored for this and protected the workers from encounters… The problem was, I had no home other than an oil rig or travel trailer.  And do you know, maybe because of the noise of the drilling rigs or the vast openness of western Oklahoma, I never heard the sound of a mockingbird.  Why?  Was I deaf, or was the race to provide a financial living so intense during the Summer of my life, that I just could not hear lessons being taught?  My heart was discontented.  I missed law enforcement, the danger, the unknown, so since my heart was still in Jackson, Mississippi, I just needed to take my body back there.   Called my old Chief and he told me I could pick up where I left off, minus 9 months of seniority.

Stay with me reader.  Some of you that have known me all of my life might be interested in the turns and bends of my life that will eventually get to my present, and some of you that are getting to know me may find my past somewhat intriguing, so let me continue with the late season of the Summer of my life so I can put the pieces together for you as the Fall stages began. 

On the way back to Jackson, MS from Western Oklahoma, I stopped in my hometown to visit with my ageing parents.  While there, I arguably made either the wisest or the most foolish mistake of my life.  A friend of mine convinced me that Ouachita Parish was where I needed to settle.  Knowing I was going back to Jackson Police Department, he asked if I would be interested in working with the Sheriff’s office there.  Scoffed at the idea at first, but when I realized I could live free in a nice apartment complex as a deputy sheriff security asset, I said, “why not?”  Next day I went down and ran into some of the same people that strongly encouraged my law enforcement career in another city, parish or state as a result of the streaking incident at my Alma Mater back in ‘74.  During the interview, I was asked if I still rode motorcycles… thought that strange, so I looked at him and said “yes, but mostly with my clothes on.”  I was hired, regardless of his half- hearted attempt at humor and my intended remark of sarcasm.  The Jackson Police Department faded in my heart, so within two years my passion for law enforcement and my second wife’s passion for me faded as well.  Clearly as divorce number two evolved and my post-law enforcement career unfolded, I found myself making descent money selling cable vision.  I was also moving through the ranks of the U.S. Army Reserves from Specialist to Staff Sergeant earning the title of Drill Sergeant while raising a 16 month old son, alone.

Who woulda thunk, that when I was at the bottom of the most bottomless pits, alone with my son, would the reality of the song “Take it Easy” performed by The Eagles in 1972, sting so true.  There were literally women everywhere.  Four that wanted to own me, two that wanted to stone me (one literally) and one that said she was a friend of mine.  Too much, and when I thought I couldn’t stand it any longer, I found myself face-to-face with the woman that is still my wife today.  What we started January 1, 1985 is still intact today.  She brought four kids to the table, along with my one, and as if we didn’t have enough, we “dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s” with one of our own, completing the definition of “blended family”. I did eventually adopt all four of her children.   I spent the next three summers as a Drill Sergeant in Ft. Benning, Leonard Wood and Ft. Polk, training civilians to become soldiers in Basic and Advanced Combat Tactics, as a new career path revealed itself to me.  As my success in the Army Reserves became obvious to others, I applied to go back to “active duty” Army with my reserve rank which was now Sergeant First Class.  Good move, decent money and Uncle Sam moves me lock, stock and barrel to Alexandria, Louisiana as a Battalion Operations NCO.   We found a home across the Red River in Pineville and there we sat up house.

Hang on now, I’m almost through with the end of the Summer of my life and we can start putting this little puzzle together.  I was to be stationed in Alexandria for seven years.  One year into my tour, I woke Linda, my wife, up from a sleepy afternoon nap and said, “Come on, let me show you what you’re going to do the rest of your life!”  Several weeks later we owned 3 acres of land and started cutting down pine trees for what was the beginning of Ferguson Nursery and Landscape… a retail nursery, landscape design and installation business.  I pursued and was licensed as a landscape contractor and horticulturist.  Grew the business into a vinyl fence sales/installation and lawn maintenance business, adding a license as a pesticide applicator and arborist or tree surgeon.   Linda obtained a florist license along the way and the government was happy with our contributions!  However, as sure as we breathe, time passes by, and our labor force began to dwindle.  One by one the Ferguson boys drifted away to pursue their own dreams, and the Fall season of my life began to knock on the door.

Uncle Sam has a policy for all soldiers that hit the age of 40 that physical exams become more stringent. Hell, I didn’t even know what a prostate was until that first over 40 physical, and then with the shame and indignity of that procedure behind me (no pun intended), the Army wanted to award me with another pleasant surprise!  I was told I was doing such a fine job that the Reserve Component that managed my career had selected me for a brand new reserve command position!   This new job in Atlanta, Georgia was gift wrapped for me three years before I was to actually be eligible for a PCS.  I was told seven years in Alexandria, LA, but no, they bend me over again like that “over 40” physical and make me believe I’m happy!   It is called a PCS or Permanent Change of Station.   So, with over 100k of our own money stuck in a prospering business and Bill Clinton as the new Commander in Chief, we made the decision to pursue the American Dream and forgo the ways of the American Warrior.  Goodness, what a change…

And how that change magnified as the Fall of my life, your life, our life exploded into the different colors this season exemplifies to our senses!  Yes… Spring is the newest… The beginning… We are young and growing without a care in the world and too young, busy, excited and full of energy to sit back and watch as life reveals her treasures with every door we open.  We are protected most of us, by loving parents or people that provide our every need, want and, so many times, desires.  We take for granted, life.  Running full speed, we enter the Summer of our life at warp speed.  Noticing the first loosing of hair or wrinkles, but not caring, we also began to notice other lives that are running parallel to ours, yet in a different season, like those of our parents.  Never wanting to be like them, we realize we are being drawn however, just like them, to the Winter of our life.  But still we gather our treasures and pick with glee from the tree in the center of the garden that was forbidden, as our “culture” redefined the ten rules that binds civilization.  So, as warp speed blends to a crawl in the expansive depth of the universe, God is still creating for us to spend eternity in, we began to notice things more clearly.  In our self, mates, children, friends and peers… A harmony…  A song…  And just as we began to enjoy this harmony, the colors consume us that with the realization of Fall, also comes a changing of the guard.  We now understand with harsh reality, that those who provided for us in the Spring of our life, were actually in the Fall and Winter of their life.  Exactly where I find myself here. 

The first of our four parents to leave us, was Linda’s dad in October of 1994.  That entire year, leading to his death from cancer, found Linda balancing her time with our business, our family and the obligations with her dying father.  Back and forth to West Monroe… sometimes two or even three times a week.   I carried the responsibility of “protecting the home front”.  Just a couple of weeks after his death, the word “Angina” entered my vocabulary.  I knew there was “something wrong!” While I was blowing leaves with my backpack blower at the nursery, I suddenly broke out into a cold sweat and my chest started hurting really bad.  Not me.  I’m only 43 years of age!  As I went inside and sat on a stool, Linda turns to see the ashen color of my face and knew things were not going too well with me.  Another word enters the vocabulary.  Angioplasty!  I was lucky!  No zipper yet!  And according to my cardiologist, probably wouldn’t have had the chance for a zipper as the left anterior descending was 95% blocked.  What is that artery in the heart called?  Oh yeah, the widow maker.  What other surprises could we encounter?  Oh, there were many, trust me.  I could write an entire book on our kids alone, especially our oldest daughter, and someday, I just might, but it is time to move into the spring of 1996 and tell you the rest of my Mockingbird story.

It was a beautiful spring this particular year in the month of March. I remember there had been no rain on the 12, 13 and 14th day of this month.  I was indoors mostly at this time because my dad was on the third floor at North Monroe Hospital.  The family had been pulled together, not for happy fellowship and dining, but a more somber reason, maybe to say goodbye to our family’s patriarch.  Dad had asked my mother while they watched TV just four nights earlier if it would “be OK,” for him to go to the hospital.  He knew, as did she, that the back door to the winter of his life was beginning to open.  Mother called my youngest sister, Nona, and they moved him to where he could feel more comfortable.  He was alert those first couple of days and kept asking my sisters and me, “what was wrong” or “what did he need to do.”  His remaining siblings, my aunts, would come in and visit along with the continuous line of older grand kids.  We answered all of their questions while remaining happy and cordial with all of them.  But still my Mom, along with myself and three sisters, remained close to his room.  We knew the Winter of my dad’s life was to soon close and we were determined to not be far from his side.   I was standing beside him one night and he turned his tired face to me and asked a different question.  “Rodney, what is wrong with me?”  I knew the hepatitis had destroyed his liver and that his kidneys were having a difficult time filtering his septic system… He wouldn’t understand that.  I didn’t want to tell him he was dying either!  So I simply responded, “Dad, you’re sick. They are trying to get you well!”  He looked at me, squinted his eyes and said, “I know that dammit, I want to know what’s wrong!”  Well, I couldn’t help but laugh at him.  I did, in fact, lay my hand gently on his faintly scarred chest and told him about the hepatitis, the liver and the kidneys... What they were trying to do for him.  It was probably the last cognizant thing he understood from me as he slowly turned his head away to stare at the ceiling, letting what I said sink in before he sorta “zoned out”. I wonder now if I told him I loved him.  I may have, but just can’t remember.  I do have that peace in my heart knowing that he knew I did.  It wasn’t long, maybe the next day, before he slipped into a coma.

So there I sat.   At the foot of my dad’s deathbed, watching unfold before me one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, but looking back, strangely, just as beautiful.  My dad’s bed was tilted up.  I could see him plainly as I sat there watching.  My mother was standing beside dad’s head, leaning against the frame, to help support herself from a stroke that paralyzed her right side 16 years before.  Her head was close to his and she had placed her left hand into his hair.  My oldest sister Diane was embracing Mom and Sandy was standing ever so close with her hand on his right arm.  My youngest sister, Nona, was on the other side looking at his face with her hand on his shoulder.  I can still to this very day see it all so clearly. Watching!  Feeling!  Emotions screaming at me as every second of time slipped by! A nurse came quietly into the room, looked at my mother and she nodded her head in approval.  I knew that last shot of morphine was to relax him, to ease his pain. Oh, yeah.  I knew… It was not long before he quit breathing.  Tears clouded my eyes as I watched the nurse move the stethoscope around on his chest while glancing at her watch.   As she moved away, I asked her if his heart had failed him and she told me no.  I knew that.  I just felt obligated to ask.  I fought the temptation of getting up and laying my head on his chest as I did as a teenager so many years ago to listen for that metallic click of his heart’s mechanical valve.  It did eventually stop, that distinct clicking noise the stainless steel valve made that kept him alive.  When the oxygen starved system that God created 77 years ago said it was OK to stop, that is exactly what it did. 

We were not alone in that room.   There was a Presence.  Something I could physically and spiritually feel with my heart as emotion overwhelmed me.  I cannot describe this Presence, only tell you that when death embraced my dad, I knew in the core depths of my very soul that my dad reached out and touched the face of his Lord and Savior.  I didn’t see it; I felt it in my soul as did my mother and all three of my sisters.  We were in the Holy of Holies that moment because of Christ Jesus.  I just sat there in the presence of the Spirit that promised to give us “a peace that passes all understanding.”  Those of you that read this, who have been there when someone you love is leaving, know exactly what I am saying and how I, (we) felt. 

Hospital protocol was efficient and professional etiquette was warm...  hardly minutes passed before vital statistics were recorded and personnel escorted us from the room where only the shell of my dad remained.  I had been around death too much in my law enforcement past and knew the formalities of body prep had begun, removal of all vital lines and tubes inserted to give him assistance in his final hours.  LEDs taken loose as they too no longer were needed to monitor biological life.  My sisters were in harmony with my mother’s needs and, as the last to leave the room, I glanced over my shoulder at what was to me, still Dad.   My sisters were determined to make our mother as comfortable as they could for the next few days, so I moved closer to her and my sisters, hugged them, and said, "I need to go home.”  They didn’t need me to go to the funeral home or help make arrangements.  All of that was already taken care of.  Formality was all that remained and they could furnish that time and information to me over the phone.

I walked out of the hospital into one of the most beautiful spring days I could remember. I did notice that day,and it crossed my mind, at how many days just like this I had taken for granted.  I climbed into my Ford 1 ton dually, called Linda from the truck phone to tell her where we were, and started the slow trip back to Pineville.   Don’t recall my thoughts on that trip back, so obviously it passed without incident.

I pulled into the nursery in the early afternoon hours maybe around 2:30 or 3:00 pm.  Linda met me at the gate and hugged me, knowing what I was feeling.  We didn’t talk about much, she knew I needed to be alone, to myself, so I could think, perhaps?  Sensitive to my needs would be more accurate.  I engaged in small activities around the nursery and piddled with some minor maintenance on lawn equipment.  The school bus dropped my son and daughter off.  I knew Linda was telling them about Dad, and it wasn’t long before my son walked back to where I was.  He just walked up and let me hug him as I said “Papaw is gone now, little buddy, it is just you and I left!”  He knew what I meant and felt my hurt even though he never shed a tear. 

Sometime around 5:00 pm, Linda told me she was going to take the kids home and get ready for supper.  I said that I would watch the front and close up.  Usually we had several customers come after official hours which didn’t matter to me.  As long as I’m there, I’m open!  But, strangely, that beautiful day, there was hardly a person showing up! I had opened the front and back doors to the office so the cross breeze could fill the room and I sent a few emails to friends telling them about my dad.  Couple of phone calls, maybe a customer or two, but mostly nothing.   I just sat there on the stool overlooking the nursery and noticing the dogwoods blooming in the adjacent tree lines… sitting there… in my own thoughts.  And then it was as if God himself turned the volume off to the urban world surrounding me.  I could not hear a sound in my mind.  No vehicles could be heard running past the nursery on our very busy street, nor could I hear the bark of a dog or children playing.  The sound of impact sprinklers chattering to furnish cool water to my nursery stock was also gone.  As the realization of this began to dawn on me, it became clear.  As I sat alone in that office as I did on my patio so many years ago, I do recall the distinct singing of a bird.  I did not have to investigate.  I knew it was a Mockingbird.  I sat frozen as if the singing was directed to me.  It was for me!  It was the most beautiful sound I have ever experienced in my life, as from some celestial source this bird was assigned to help heal me from my pain.  I didn’t move a muscle, except to close my eyes, as I thought back through the years to that day I took the life of that particular bird I encountered.  And here again in my life, at this very moment in time, was the Mockingbird telling me that what I took from my dad so many years ago, he was giving it back to me at that moment. Only this time it was an afternoon song entitled “Life!”  This was his song that he wanted me to have...  I listened as he sang to me.  Just me.  I felt it was my dad telling me, through him, that he was fine and I would be too.   “Just enjoy life as I did, my son, and know that I still love you” was what I heard through that bird, along with promises made and promises to come!  I became overwhelmed!  Again, after suppressing my dad’s passing all day until this very moment, memories flooded back and my eyes released the first tears.  I was being encouraged by the song of a Mockingbird to let it go…  and I did.  I folded my arms on that maple counter, lay my head on them for support and wept.  I wept so hard the tears that fell washed through me and cleansed my very Soul. 

As I lifted my head, strangely again, the world was still running full tilt ahead.  Collecting my thoughts, I knew the mockingbird would forever be to me what it was to my dad in 1962.  I listen for him everyday.  Sometimes wondering why I don’t hear one.  Even share with my kids this passion I have for this bird, as my oldest daughter has heard me say “hello Dad” when I hear one sing.  I know as she knew, I wasn’t talking to my father, just remembering the lesson he put in my heart so many years ago.  

This was March 14 in the year 1996, when I lost my dad and had that second encounter with a mockingbird.  Nine days being a year of losing Dad, on March 5, 1997, my mother passed away in St. Francis Hospital.  I got the call at 4am.  That dreaded call we all fear when we have someone in the Winter of their life.   Mom had “coded” and my sister called.  Said if I wanted to see her I had better hurry.  I was 20 minutes out of Pineville headed north on U.S. 165 when my truck phone rang.  My wife told me my mom was gone, and if I wanted to come home I could.  Left up to me…  What did I want to do?  I pulled over on the shoulder of the highway in the Kisatchie National Forest in the total dark and said goodbye to my mother.  It wasn't long that another spring day would dawn.  Yet another beautiful spring day.  And argue if you may, still another beautiful time for a funeral.   All because I find in this season God’s reminder of the resurrection.  From the death of winter, springs life everlasting as the daffodils push up from their sleep, the Eastern Redbud kisses the landscape with her colors and the circle of life begins anew.   Stand, and look in awe at the secrets of the Dogwood tree as you gaze upon the petals of her blooms and observe the layers of her branches as they appear to ascend into the heavens. 

As for me, the Mockingbird is always there to enforce the passion I have for this season.  I take the time in the early Winter of my life to listen to His songs and gaze upon the beauty of this season.  So many times as I listen to him herald the good news of the Triad of our faith, I can hear yet, a second bird as well.   And my heart is content.  

Rod Ferguson
15 March 2011