A Pocket of Resistance: Thanksgiving, 2014

i am into Thanksgiving this year.

The last two years, Maureen and i went to Bo Beau’s in Ocean Beach for Thanksgiving by ourselves. It was special, it was quiet, it was easy.

This year, we are back into this Thanksgiving thing. It is early evening and Maureen is chopping away at some ingredients for one of her special items for the big meal. i spent the last two days cleaning up the outside and marinating the turkey for my big smoking event. i got up at 4:00, put my gear out next to the kitchen patio, lit the coals, added the soaked hickory chips, and loaded the bird. This tradition began when the good Colonel Lynch, the old alligator and Blythe’s grandfather, smoked a turkey in Paris, Texas many moons ago.

i haven’t done this routine in four years. It feels good to be back at it.

It is a special day. Pete, Nancy, and Dan Toennies are joining us and bringing Ben Reiges, Nancy’s father.

But moreso, it is special because i pick up Sarah at the airport in a few hours. i can’t express how wonderful her being here is to me.

Grandson Sam has hauled his mother and father off to Clearwater, Florida to have Thanksgiving with his Grandma Carol and Grandpa Bob (i think the boy has about six grandmas and grandpas…god bless nuclear families).

Sister Martha is cooking (at the request of her son) a big meal for the Signal Mountain Duffs.

Brother Joe and his family are safely ensconced in the snow in Queechee, Vermont.

Across from Sam on the other Florida Coast are the Prichards and the Schwarzes celebrating. The annual Prichard get together is uncountable. The remaining four of the original six brothers and sisters, my cousins rendezvous with as many of the family as possible in Jacksonville, a great tradition. i wish we could figure out how to do that in the Jewell group, but somehow, it’s just too hard. The second best thing would be to sneak into the Prichard gathering.

So we’ve pretty much got everywhere except the Northwest and middle of the country covered.

But it is of little consequence. i’ve experienced Thanksgiving in many places around the world in many settings with family, with just Maureen, and completely alone. The spirit of giving thanks is what is most important, and i will remember that all day long.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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Notes from the Southwest Corner: Professional football from days of yore

Published in The Lebanon Democrat, Tuesday, November 25, 2014. There are many stories related to these two men, their son and son-in-law, and my memories of football as it was for me way back then. i am considering publishing many stories like this on this website at the beginning of next year, including stories which could not be published in a local newspaper.

SAN DIEGO – On Sunday, I recorded and watched the San Diego Chargers squeak past the Rams.

I recorded the game and fast forwarded through the gob of repeating commercials, and the self-congratulatory half-time analyses (sic) by ex-players, ex-coaches, and some talking heads.

After my fourth NFL game attended about 20 years ago, I vowed to never attend another professional game. It was just too boring. I guess if you were into pretty cheerleaders, and nuts dressed like they were auditioning for a Looney Tunes role screaming incoherently while holding up a ridiculous sign, it might be okay. I’m too old to watch young women through binoculars and “fans” trying to have to five seconds on the stadium big screen  or national television.

I have been devoted to football since my Uncle Snooks Hall gave me one for my first Christmas. I followed Lebanon High School, Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. I wanted to be like SMU’s Doak Walker, the Vols’ Johnny, “The Drum” Majors, Bobby Lane  at Detroit and Pittsburgh, and the Blue Devil’s Clifton Tribble.

In short, I have loved the game for most of my life…until now.

There is little I like about today’s professional game except the playing: the hype, focus on money, over-analysis, fans out of whack priorities, the worst in human nature exhibited on every play, the commercials ad nauseam, and the silliness of playing political football with football is the opposite of enjoyable.

*   *   *

My first recollection of pro football was watching games on black and white television while Red Grange, the Hall of Famer “Galloping Ghost” described the action. Soon after we got our first television, my father and I watched as Red called the play of Chicago Cardinals’ Charley Trippi breaking through for an apparent touchdown. A defender dove for a shoestring tackle. Charley did a summersault without losing stride and went on to score.

They had different rules back then. In the pro game, a runner wasn’t considered down until he had stopped moving forward. His knee touching the ground was irrelevant. It was a bit more violent.

*     *     *

I have been very fortunate to have known two players from that era, and their stories have verified it was very different. One difference was unlimited substitution. It was allowed in the NCAA 1941-1952 initially because the war had limited the number and quality of players. Michigan’s Fritz Crisler initiated mass substitutions from offense to defense. Army’s Red Blaik adopted it, and UT’s Neyland called it “chicken…football” when limited substitution was reinstated for the 1955 season . Until unlimited substitution was reinstated in 1964, most college and pro players played both offense and defense. I still prefer it that way.

*     *     *

Don Linville and his family, circa 1954

Don Linville and his family, circa 1954

I met Don Linville at a golf course. His son and my golfing buddy, Marty, introduced us. Don was a big man. After serving on a submarine in the war — I always wondered how he fit into those racks to sleep — he was a Little All- American at Kansas State Teachers College (now Pittsburg State). He joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1947 after graduating his junior year. He played offensive center and middle linebacker.

Don played for four years but gave it up because of the low pay (imagine that now). He became a school teacher, increasing his pay substantially. Don passed away in 1994.

*     *     *

Ben Reiges, UCLA, 1946-48

Ben Reiges, UCLA, 1946-48

I also met Ben Reiges at a golf course. Ben is the father-in-law of another golfing partner, Pete Toennies. From Boston, Ben played for a year at Georgetown, went to war and came back for his last three years as the quarterback/tailback for the Bruins. He had six interceptions in 1946 (remember, they played both ways). After being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, he turned them down, tried out for the Chicago Bears, and was on the preseason team of the New York Yankees in 1947. Ben decided playing wasn’t worth the low salary and returned to UCLA to get his masters in education.

Ben, at 95, still occasionally playing nine holes, lives down the street from Pete and Nancy in Coronado. His beloved wife, Dot,  passed away this month.

*     *     *

These two men played when football was a sport, not entertainment. They didn’t change the rules because players got hurt. It was what it was. There were no known problems with abuse and other crimes: the world wasn’t as transparent back then. Football players were heroes. The press didn’t follow every player and report his faults. As with almost everything, there were some things that were better and some that were worse than now.

But there are two things I wish were still true today. It would be wonderful if sportsmanship were most important for players, coaches, and fans. And wouldn’t it be incredible if teachers still got more pay than professional athletes?

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Notes from the Southwest Corner: Paradise Valley and memories

Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, November 18, 2014.

SAN DIEGO – You are probably tired of reading about my golf outings as they seem to have dominated many of these columns recently.

So I will not write of my latest one in Palm Springs. This is a good thing as our foursome was awful. But we had a lot of fun. And getting there brought back memories of Lebanon. On Thursday, we drove out to the desert for two days of the sport.

The trip is between 120 miles to 150 miles depending on where you are headed and what route you take. There are several ways to get to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, etc. from the Southwest corner. The most traveled route is Interstate 15 to Interstate 10. The shortest route is over the mountain, but it also can be tortuous if one gets behind a slow and inconsiderate driver, and is somewhat hair raising…if you have hair.

The route I’ve chosen since the late 1980s, is the shorter one, which sometimes resembles Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. After about 75 miles of I-15 eight-lane insanity, there is five miles of traffic in Temecula, once a village surrounded by horse ranches and sod farms. In the early 1990s, developers added water and shopping malls, turning it into a bedroom suburb and boutique wineries.

After that, the route goes through land harboring a few hardy farmers and susceptible to monster flash floods, wildfires, and over six months of unacceptably hot weather. Then, we turn for a grinding climb into Anza, a farming town of 8,000 souls on a mesa 4,000 feet up the hill.

At the intersection of  state roads 371 and 74, there is a quaint restaurant. I’m not usually inclined to stop. But Thursday, we reached the Paradise Valley Cafe about lunchtime and decided to try it.

I felt like I had walked into an oater (Grade B western movie for you young readers). The old piano player had been replaced by an old guitar player on the patio singing the blues. A few locals were enjoying the fare, which was surprisingly good. I had the ortega chile tuna melt.  Most surprising was the beer selection. In this isolated area, the cafe had a beer list rivaling the most beer snobbish restaurants anywhere. They even had two “breakfast beers.”

It was definitely not like being back home. The lone waitress was curt, but tolerable. The denizens kept to themselves. There was no “How you doing?” “Where you from?” conversation. The Paradise Valley Cafe was established in 1939 by “Pistol Annie,” who earned her name by carrying six shooters on each hip. The establishment has changed owners and its name several times but returned to the original name in the latest ownership change this century. Apparently, Pistol Annie’s attitude has also returned. But the food and music were good.

I left thinking about eateries in Lebanon when I grew up. I recall Maple Hill Court on what was then the Nashville Pike, east of Maple Hill Road. On the “If you grew up in Lebanon” Facebook page, Faye Woodall recalls it was owned by Robert and Ruby Hobbs.

I loved the hamburgers and fries, but the malted milk was my big attraction. I’m pretty sure they didn’t serve anything with ortega chiles involved. Another vivid memory of Maple Hill Court involves pinball machines. On a family outing when I was about ten, my father refused to give me a dime to play the one in the diner. He told me it was a waste of money. He was right. I have a similar idea about video games.

While working at WCOR and attending MTSU, Winfree’s became my favorite. The brick restaurant also was located on the Nashville Pike, now West Main, at the corner of Winwood Drive (I believe). It was originally a hot spot for after church dinners. However, my time at Winfree’s was when it was owned by Clayton and Cathy Birdwell. Several us fondly called them Cat and Birdie. I would go there after closing down the FM station around 10:30. The food was simple. I remember Stuart sandwiches and pizza.

But the beer was cold and there was a shuffle board game against the west wall. I played incessantly., not remembering the warnings of my father.


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