Tag Archives: Tennessee

Life Gives Us Brief Moments with Others…by Beverly Hicks Burch

Life gives us brief moments with another…but, sometimes in those brief moments, we get memories that last a life time…” ~ Unknown ~

Daddy & Uncle Lee 5-28-2014

Say what you will about technology and Facebook, there is one advantage to both – reconnecting with friends and family. So, a few years ago I was delighted when I received a friend “invite” from my cousin Mel.

We hadn’t seen each other in years, and through Mel I was able to catch up on family members and enjoy pictures and postings of the latest “goings on”. I also learned my cousin had grown up into a warm-hearted woman who took very good care of her parents.

Mel’s father is my daddy’s last living sibling. Daddy and Uncle Lee have kept in touch over the years through calls and seen each other a few times, but during the last several years time had begun to intervene. They’re both in their 80s and have had to deal with respective health issues.

So, when Mel sent word to me within the last couple of weeks that Uncle Lee’s health was declining, I was crushed – especially for my Daddy’s sake. Uncle Lee is terminal and failing fast.

As a result, this Southern Daddy’s girl was on a quest – my Daddy had to see his brother one last time.

You see, when my beloved Aunt LaRue passed away in June of 2012 we had talked almost every day for years, but it had been sometime since I had seen her. I have regretted that every day, every minute, every second for the past two years. I didn’t want that for my Daddy when his brother passed away.

So, this past Wednesday we set off for back where I came from, and where Daddy came from – East Tennessee. As Daddy says, we were just a couple of ridge runners heading home.

Mel was going to wait and surprise Uncle Lee with Daddy’s visit as an early birthday present, because Uncle Lee’s 84th birthday was the next day, but they decide to go ahead and tell him Daddy was coming in case the shock might be a tad too much. When he heard Daddy was coming, Uncle Lee broke down and cried.

It didn’t make a whole lot of difference because once Daddy got there I don’t think there was a dry eye for a few minutes. At least for me there wasn’t.

That day my Aunt Van, cousin Jan, cousin Rick and of course cousin Mel came to the hospital. Aunt Bobbi, Uncle Lee’s wife was there, also.

Aunt Van and Aunt Bobbi are sisters and had married my Daddy’s two brothers. They both have had health struggles of their own, and on that day looked wonderfully strong and resilient. My lifetime memories of them will be their strength to survive.

I remember Aunt Van’s cooking when we visited them when they lived in Ohio where Uncle Jay was working at the time. I’ll remember Aunt Bobbi’s soft spoken inner strength and love for her family.

My memories of Jan are of us as young cousins who swapped letters as kids, shared a love of history – and one of my favorites – one summer when it was so darn hot, Jan and family visited us in Birmingham when we were kids. After we had been outside playing, we ran to the back bathroom, filled the sink full of ice cold water and took turns plunging our faces into that cold, icy water.

My memories of cousin Rick is of kindness he showed me as a young fellow when we visited his home.

And, of Mel, a soft spoken blue-eyed blond who grew up to be that hard working woman who takes such good care of her parents and honors them like the Good Book admonishes us.

But, my lasting life time memories was seeing two brothers visiting, probably for the last time on this side of eternity, knowing this and swapping stories of their youth. They each knew they were the last link to the first people they had loved the most of this earth – their mom and dad – my grandparents. The memories of Mawmaw are usually humorous, and the ones of Papaw so bittersweet they break your heart with longing, just wanting to see him one more time.

As Aunt Bobbi said, “He was a good man.” Everyone I know has always said the same thing about Papaw.

After we left the hospital that evening we drove up to the hotel, checked in, went to eat and then drove around a bit. Daddy was showing me his old “stomping grounds”. Places he and his brothers had grown up at and places some of the most infamous stories of his childhood had taken place.

They were memories that had lasted Daddy a lifetime…

Then, the next morning before we left we stopped by the Little River Railroad Museum in Townsend. My grandfather and great-grandfather both had worked at the Little River Lumber company. Papaw had been a clerk in the company store and my great-grandfather, Hughes had worked in the sawmill. The cousins had told us there were some pictures of Papaw in the museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed. But, we did get a chance to look around outside at the train engine and log loader.

Daddy at the Little River Railroad Musuem

We head toward the hospital for our final visit with Uncle Lee. I watched as Daddy and Uncle Lee sang an old hymn they had sang together as boys – old Southern gospel harmony- and once again talked about their mom and dad.

Before we left we gathered around Uncle Lee and Daddy said a prayer and in that brief moment I was left with a memory that will last a lifetime – of two brothers just this side of eternity…

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Brothers, East Tennessee, Family, Grief, Little River Railroad Museum, Photogrpahy, Picture of the Day, Quote of the Day, Tennessee, Townsend, Trains

Just Around the Corner, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Blakewood Dr. #3B

When we woke up this morning it was like we had fast forwarded to that glorious time of the year called autumn. Storms had swept through the area last Thursday and Friday and in their wake were temps this morning that erased the miserable, humid days of summer. In a little spot just NE of Gadsden, Alabama it was 51 degrees this morning and my brother-in-law said it was 59 at their place about 15 miles down the road.

My favorite time of the year is just around the corner (any time is my favorite except summer!). I’m already thinking about making the first big pot of Posole for Tall & Handsome and myself. Posole is a wonderful Southwestern pork, hominy and green chile stew.

I also started thinking about the colors of fall…Nature’s wonderful paint box opened up and splashed liberally for our pure delight. Today’s picture is the perfect example. I took this picture a few years ago standing on my front porch when we were living in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Yeah, I know…it was a really tough thing to have to deal with…but, someone had to do it Winking smile

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

 

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Filed under Autumn, Fall, Fall Color, Knoxville, Photography, Picture of the Day, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, Travel

Fall…Back Where I Come From, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Blakewood Dr #2

It looks like it as finally happened! Summer is behind us…have I mentioned I hate summer?

Fall is definitely in the air today. So to commemorate one of my favorite times of the year I thought I’d share some pictures I took a few years ago when I was living in one of my favorite places…East Tennessee…which just happens to be back where I come from… How would you like to see this in your front yard all season?

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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Filed under East Tennessee, Fall, Fall Color, Knoxville, Photography, Picture of the Day, South, Tennessee

God’s Green Earth, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Between Townsend and the Cove

In the foothills of the Smoky Mountains there is a little hamlet called Townsend, TN. It is part of my ancestral roots. My Daddy was born there and his daddy before him and so on and so on. The Hicks Family and the Walker family and the Dunn family were Blount County residents for generations. There were many Scot-Irish in the area and I strongly resemble that remark and that probably accounts for my love for all thing Scottish…well, except for haggis…

Even though I grew up and spent most of my life in my beloved Alabama when I think of “home” I also think back to the mountains of East Tennessee. Any chance I get to go back and meander through the cool, quiet, tranquil  places I visited as I child, I jump on it! Nothing is as exhilarating as driving up to the top of those smoky mountains and seeing that unique haze grazing the tops of the mountain summits for as far as the eye can see…and standing and breathing in vista after vista of rolling mountain top in the middle of August and feeling a cool breeze gently embrace your body, knowing in the back of you mind that miles away, in cities, mankind is broiling in August heat and gridlock.

My heart sings in those moments…

There’s another place nearby called Cade’s Cove. This cove is nestled in a valley between mountain bases and was also home to family from long ago. If you drive the loop around the cove you can see old barns, churches and homes, deer, wild turkey and a place that seems untouched by time. My daddy remembers my Papaw filling in as the mailman as the postal carrier in the Cove when the full time carrier had need for time off.

Three or four years ago Tall & Handsome and I spent some time one Memorial Day weekend up in that area. I was doing a little genealogy research and just enjoying God’s green Earth. It was a great time for us…

The picture above was taken between Townsend and Cades Cove. While so many in the US are suffering through wildfires, floods, storms and other travails, I thought it would be nice just to remind everyone how wonderful God’s green Earth can really be…especially in East Tennessee…back where I come from…

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Blount County Tennessee, Cades Cove, Dunn, East Tennessee, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, Hicks, Home, Mountains, My Tennesse Heritage, Nature, Photography, Picture of the Day, South, Tennessee, TN, Townsend, Walker

Laundry Day, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Laundry Day

By Beverly Hicks Burch

What would we do without our little helpers?! This was just too cute to pass up the opportunity for a “photo session” with my littlest “Momma’s helper”. Yeeaahh… Does this qualify him as a service animal?

Music is provided by Blake Shelton’s Home. Why? Well, T & H is on the road a lot these days and he gets very homesick…even for the littlest member of the family who greats him at the door with adoration and bounding enthusiasm. So…a country song for my homesick New Mexican cowboy 😉

Once T & H is home, Watson turns into a bonafide Walton. He MUST have his whole family together…at least on the same floor, but preferably in the same room. If not, he herds us in the right direction…and then settles in contently. (He’s a true Southern Boy…my little East Tennessee Volunteer…shout out for Tennessee here).

From us to you…

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under dogs, Family, Miniature Schnauzer, Pets, Photography, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, Watson

Shake, Rattle and Roll, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Shake, Rattle and Roll

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Yes, Virginia it can happen here too…East of the Rockies and the Continental Divide. No, I’m not talking about snow or smog or urban crawl or Tex-Mex food or even finding a good can of green chilies to add to you favorite dish. I’m talking about earthquakes. It happened early this morning in of all places…southern Illinois!

I have been fascinated with earthquakes every since I was a young girl…I even considered entering the field of geology and Earth science…but, instead enter the field of stupefying my brain when I married the ex, Gomez…that’s another whole different story altogether. As I’ve told Tall & Handsome…I’ve been a closet geek most of my life. Now it just exhibits itself in blogging, computer gaming and other forms of geekdom…

I don’t remember if it was the story of the Big One in San Francisco or the article I read about the earthquake along the New Madrid (MO) fault in the early 1800’s, but after that, the fascination was set.

The New Madrid quake really was an epiphany…I saved the Reader’s Digest article for years. I guess because the quake happened so close to home…at least for a Southern gal. Not many people realize this, but between 1974 – 2003, Arkansas was #12 and Tennessee was #15 on the USGS list of Top 20 Earthquake States. That, I’m sure is in part to the New Madrid Fault which runs through the central United Stated and includes the states of Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.

The New Madrid “Event” was a series of catastrophic earthquakes and aftershocks that hit the region of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky during the late months of 1811 and the early months of 1812. These series of quakes were actually the largest quakes to ever hit the United States since European white man set foot on North America. They were two to three times greater than the 1964 Alaskan earthquake and 10 times stronger than the Great San Francisco Quake of 1906. To many of us that is unimaginable.

The magnitudes of these quakes were between 7.2 and 8.1 on the old scale, 9 or higher on the new scale. So, why wasn’t there more damage. Well, there was considerable damage…for the time and era. You have to take into consideration that the area was sparsely populated at the time. Nonetheless, there was great damage…natural and otherwise.

There were reports of church bells ringing in Boston and sidewalks cracking in Washington D.C. as a result of some of these quakes. Needless to say the shocks could be felt in surrounding states. Parts of St. Louis were damaged as were parts of the little town of New Madrid in Missouri.

The Mississippi River appeared to change course and flow upstream. The banks and configuration of the river changed because of the quake as the riverbanks caved in and the earth lifted up in places. New bends appeared in the river that had not been there prior to the quakes. It’s said that some lakes, most notably Reelfoot Lake was either created or enlarged by the quake.

The area was rocked by strong aftershocks for years afterwards. People from that time reported the earth would open up and they would cut trees down over the chasms that appeared just to be able to walk across the giant gashes in the ground.

This area remains active today and unlike California doesn’t get much publicity concerning earthquakes. What is known is that the area is over due for another major quake. This time large urban population areas could be involved…areas like Memphis, TN and St. Louis, MO and others.

The quake that happened this morning (2008 April 18th) in Illinois/Indiana has already been followed by an aftershock. Reports say it was felt in Kansas and as far south as Georgia. Now, I can’t say I felt the darn thing…but, I can tell you this…very early this morning Scooter AKA Watson was very unsettled. He spent a lot of time growling in a very low subdued voice for no apparent reason. Very out of character. It leaves me to wonder…just how much can animals sense…and DANG…how good is that dog’s hearing?!

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Right Reserved.

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Filed under "American History", Arkansas, California, Current events, Earthquakes, Georgia, History, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Watson

Bev’s New Year’s Beans, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Bev’s New Year’s Beans

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Every year after Christmas I usually have a ham bone leftover. I like to leave a little meat on the bone so I can make a big ol’ pot of bean soup shortly after New Year’s. My favorite ham to use is one of the spiral-cut hams because they have that great seasoning that adds additional wonderful flavors to your dish. I’ve used the ones from big named brand chain stores and the one’s you can get from Sam’s. Both provide excellent results.

Since I’m not really superstitious I don’t have what most people consider a “traditional” New Year’s Day meal…that would be greens and black eye peas in some form or fashion. Nope, since marrying Tall and Handsome I’ve adopted a new tradition of having Posole and warm tortillas for New Year’s. That is in recognition of his Southwestern heritage where Posole is considered a dish worthy of the holiday. This year we topped our New Year’s meal off with flan…than wonderful custard dessert from Spanish speaking countries.

Also, since my dad had his bypass surgery in 2005 and has been on Coumadin, greens are a big no-no in his diet. He hates that, too because being a good East Tennessee mountain boy, the man loves his greens. So, bye-bye greens, just another reason to adapt a traditional menu…

We had a scare with Daddy the week after Thanksgiving when his Coumadin level reached dangerously high levels. The plus side was he got to eat salads and greens. Momma had thrown out all the cans of Glory Be greens she had in the pantry because she was concerned Daddy might eat them “accidentally”. When this happened I told her she needed to keep a can or two behind a glass case they could break open “In Case of Emergency”.

Daddy was confined to the house for a week or so…to the torture of eating greens and salads. He did have to be careful. If he even cut himself shaving he could have bled to death. Coumadin can do scary things. In about a week, he went back to the doctor, got his levels checked and they were back down where they should be. Good news/bad news…no more greens…

Anyway after New Years, I got out the ham bone from Christmas and made that pot of beans…or really a bean soup…or as T & H says, it’s more like a stew. Rachael Ray calls those types of dishes “stoups”. Maybe this is what I fix…who knows, but it’s a Bev original. T & H says he’s never had beans fixed this way and he finds them “right tasty”. I think his bowls of seconds vouch for that.

You’ll notice I use a can of stewed tomatoes in the recipe. That’s a different ingredient from a lot of bean recipes. The reason is twofold in using tomatoes. First, I just find it downright tasty and good. Second, several years ago a medical study was released showing that tomato based foods were a good source to maintain prostate health and help prevent prostate cancer. My dad had a bout with prostate cancer about two years after my last bout of lung cancer. So, ladies…and guys…there you are, an easy and tasty and healthy way to fight what could be a deadly disease…so eat those tomatoes and tomato products! Yes, you now have an excuse to eat pizza…in moderation of course and with “healthy” toppings…am I a party pooper are what?

I usually serve with cornbread with this, but hot French bread/garlic bread would be just as good. And, this is a very good dish for cold days.

Enjoy!

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Bev’s New Year’s Beans

By Beverly Hicks Burch

1 1 – pound bag beans of your liking (I like to use a 15 bean mix but have used pintos and other types)

1 ham bone with meat, trimmed of excess fat

8 – 10 cups water

Chicken broth

4 cubes chicken bouillon

1 onion, chopped

2 – 4 cloves minced garlic, to your taste (I use about 4)

½ teaspoon pepper

1 small bag baby carrots

2 – 4 potatoes

1 14 – 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes, any flavor to your taste (I used DelMonte basil, oregano and garlic this last time)

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Wash and pick over beans.

Put beans in a large stock pot and cover with 8 – 10 cups of water. Beans should be covered with 1 – 2 inches of water. Place on stove eye and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 1 – 2 minutes then remove from heat and soak for at least 1 hour.

Next, to prepare to cook the beans, drain beans and pour off the water the beans soaked in. (Yes, this will cut down on the unpleasant side effects of beans!) Add beans back to stock pot and add the ham bone. Next, add enough liquid to equal 8 – 10 cups. I use all chicken broth or a combination of water and chicken broth.

Add the 4 cubes of chicken bouillon and begin to cook the beans over medium high heat until it almost comes to a full boil. In the meantime chop onion and mince garlic and add them to the beans and ham. Add ½ teaspoon pepper. Turn heat down to low or medium low and allow to simmer.

Allow your beans and these ingredients to cook until the beans begin to get soft. Depending on the type of bean you use, the time will vary. It will be anywhere from 1 – 2 hours, but may be more. Test the beans to see if they are beginning to soften.

Next add carrots and let them begin to cook. They will take a little longer to cook than the potatoes. Be sure they are washed before adding them to the beans. Peel potatoes, cut into chunks, about 1 ½ in. cubes and add to beans. Add the can of stewed tomatoes and cook until vegetables are tender. Add salt.

*Note: I use a brand of beans that has a seasoning pack included with the beans. I add this pack after everything else is done. It gives a little extra flavor. If you can’t find this brand beans you can adjust you seasoning by adding some garlic powder and onion powder or any other seasoning of you choice…that’s the beauty of this recipe!

Enjoy!

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Beans, cancer, Cooking, Coumadin, Family, Fathers, food, Health, Holidays, New Year, Prostate Cancer, recipes, Seasonal, Soup, Southerners, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, The Story Behind..., Vegetables

To Everything There Is A Season, by Beverly Hicks Burch

These were taken last year, but since it’s been a little dry and colors are a little late and seem a tad dull this year, I thought everyone might like to be reminded of just how brilliant an East Tennessee autumn can really be. Enjoy! Bev

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Photography, Seasonal, Tennessee

Encounters, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Encounters

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I am a suburbanite. I am a child of the burbs. So, what the heck is it with me and critters lately?! Mind you, I’m not talking about your run of the mill, mediocre, pedestrian house pets. Oh, no…

Don’t get me wrong. I dig animals…most of them at least. I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for a snake. Nope, no way, no how. Never met one I liked. Nor a mouse or a rat either. Over the years as a child of the burbs, I’ve managed to avoid some ugly encounters with some undesirable critters.

This doesn’t make Bev a neophyte or a total animal innocent…no sir-ee… My paternal grandparents had a farm and as a result, I was familiar with the standard farm animals…cows, pigs, horses, chickens, etc. As a matter of fact, one year Papaw let my sister Pam and I help him tend one of his prized pigs. We helped feed him and would visit said porker with glee. We even named that pig, although his name escapes me now…probably from trauma.

Cowgirl Bev circa 1970You see, our favorite little piglet ended up on the Christmas dinner table that year. Pam and I boo hoo-ed our way all through dinner and refused to partake in the cannibalizing of our former buddy. Papaw vowed never to raise a pig again or name the livestock that would feed his family. He was a man of his word…my Papaw was a good man…and he loved us girls. I did develop a special fondness for horses from those years. I guess after dogs…or along with dogs, horses are my next favorite animal…they are noble animals.

I’ve done the zoo thing…many times over. When my son was young, I would take him every year on his birthday to the Birmingham Zoo…just Mom (me) and him…and then lunch and ice cream. Then one year we had the opportunity to go to the National Zoo in Washington D. C. and saw the famous pandas. It was literally a zoo around the panda exhibit…there was barely elbow room for a grasshopper. I hate crowds, especially when they ruin the view…

When my son was about three, I took him to the Bronx Zoo in New York. Boy, there was an experience. After the admission, you kept paying…and paying…and paying…and well, you get the idea.

Then, there were the moose, and the lobster in Maine. I’m probably one of the ten people on Planet Earth that dislikes lobster. The fact that I was unable to crack the shell and Gomez said he would do it and in the process that sucker went flying out of his hands, landed on the floor, rolled over to the next table and landed at the feet of the next dinners probably doesn’t help.

Bev in North Dakota circa 1987South Dakota brought the bison…also known as the American Buffalo. Let me tell you something…those ma-moos are gi-normous, and there are no chicken wings on those puppies. Back in 1987 on the way home from a field assignment in Duluth, MN I took a sight seeing diversion west through North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming before turning south to Alabama. We were winding our way through a state or national park in South Dakota where buffalo are allowed to roam free…on a really big range.

Well, wouldn’t you know it…it was just my luck…we came upon one big ol’ bull and I mean it was obvious it was a bull. This big ol’ galoot was as big as my minivan. Faster than Bat Masterson on the draw, Gomez pulled up right next to that big ol’ bull…on my side, mind you…and told me to “take a picture”. What?!

I turned and looked and him and then turned and looked at the bison grazing and chewing his cud. Chewing Bull was about 18 inches away. I was wedged between a beast and an idiot. My seven year old son was sitting in the back seat of the van. What’s a mom to do?

I turned to (real name redacted to protect the stupid) Gomez and said, “Did you not read the sign back there that said ‘Do not approach bison or attempt to feed because they are dangerous and may CHARGE’? Don’t you think we’re a little close? I could literally reach out and touch this thing…we’re so close I can smell him! It’s revolting!” (Gagging sounds accompanied.)

He said, “Yeah, I saw it, but that doesn’t mean us…we’re in a van. That’s probably for people walking. Just take the pictures. Hurry up. We’ll be ok.”

“Gomez, this is disgusting. I can smell this thing. There are thousands of flies all over it. I can hear it chewing its cud. It has mats all over it…full of heaven knows what…and he keeps eyeballing me…”

Gomez had this unique ability…he could laugh like that cartoon dog on Deputy Dawg…you know the one with the sneaky laugh….our son pointed that out when he was very young. Anyway, the whole time I was sitting there, trying to take pictures, trying to keep from barfing and praying we didn’t get charged and rammed…Gomez is sitting in the driver’s seat laughing like the Deputy Dawg cartoon dog. Nice…

Then there were the iguanas. Back in 1998, Gomez was on another field assignment. This time in the US Virgin Islands. My Aunt LaRue and I went down for an extended stay. We were based out of St. Croix, but, we wanted to go one weekend over to St. Thomas.

Down in the Virgin Islands iguanas run free and are as common as our innocuous, sweet bunny rabbits. I’m sorry iguana lovers, but the two are not in the same league in my ball park. And the iguanas down there are not a few inches long…they are a few feet long.

Well, the year we went down it was extremely hot. You know that kind of hot…the kind of hot that makes you want to rip your clothes off and stand in front of the freezer…push the kids and dog out of the kiddie pool…inject crushed ice into your veins…anything to cool off. The pain of it is that down there central A/C isn’t that common and there isn’t a lot of abundant natural fresh water. They were also in the middle of a drought because tropical systems had not been coming through as they had in past seasons.

After a very busy, hot day sightseeing on St. Thomas and of course shopping, at one of the scenic pull-overs Aunt LaRue and I decided to sit in the car while Gomez got out and took some pictures. The area surrounding the pull-over was really grown up with tropical growth…things that just made me want to start itching all over. As we were sitting there enjoying the view from our air conditioned comfort I suddenly saw the tropical growth eerily start to move. I knew that just wasn’t right…there wasn’t a breeze to beg anywhere.

I kept an eye on the moving greenery when suddenly there emerged a Godzilla-sized iguana. That thing must have been feasting on a Lilliputian sized village in the undergrowth because he had not missed a meal! He was eyeballing Gomez’ naked shorts clad legs and headed right for him. I started pounding on the windshield and calling his name, but he couldn’t hear me. As a last resort, I sat down on the horn.

Gomez spun around kind of irritated. He saw me and my Aunt frantically gesturing at Godzilla. He glanced over and their eyes met. I’ve never seen anyone get chicken flesh so fast. The man was already pasty skinned, but he became an additional 15 shades of white. I thought he was going to plunge over the cliff and into the Atlantic at first, but he made a fast retreat into the car. That ended his picture taking venture that afternoon…poetic justice for the little bison incident don’t ya think?

Given all of that, I would have never guessed I would have experienced what I have the last couple of years since I moved back to the place I was born…East Tennessee.

Now mind you, I’m not living up on top of Mount LeConte or Clingmans Dome. Nope, I’m “citified”…not too far from downtown Knoxville itself. Closer in town than even I have lived anywhere. So, what I’m about to tell you absolutely blows my mind…

I was pleasantly surprised to discover shortly after arriving that I had a couple of bunnies living in my back yard. It reminded me of my house on the mountain in Alabama and the bunnies there. I usually could catch sight of one in the flash of my headlights hopping away from the upper driveway when I came home from work in the evenings.

Mama Dove Nesting in Alabama - Circa 2001An avid birdfeeder, Tall & Handsome and I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of feathered friends at our feeders. I’ve even had dove take up residence in a potted plant on a porch or my deck, nest and then raise babies. They would usually come back every year to the same spot. But, what I wasn’t prepared for was living next door to a dang crowing chicken in the middle of the city!

Little Miss Undead ChickenYes, Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey invaded my space one time too many…one crow too many…one dead chicken hanging on the fence impersonation too many. But, was that enough? NO!

I guess the neighbors gave up on the twine on the foot thing for the chickens. I discovered that early one morning when I got up to let Watson out. It was just at daybreak and I looked outside to make sure there wasn’t any birds or squirrels or bunnies for him to go chasing after before I opened the door. I promise…I really did. The coast was clear. I unlocked the door, uttered the magic Watson words “Go do you business” and he was off in a blur.

Of course, I was still half asleep…I am not a morning person…but, what happened next was surreal. Watson had taken off in a blur for a purpose. All of a sudden I saw this snowy white object, with wings rise about three or four feet off the ground…with Watson in hot pursuit.

Now, given the dawn’s early light, the stupor of my stunned sleepy mind, my first thought was less than coherent. It was something like, “Watson, you are so in trouble if you don’t leave that angel alone!!” Then, I heard “cluck, cluck, cluck”. I realized it was that dang chicken from next door. So, for the next five minutes I watched Watson and Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey go back and forth…and back and forth…and back and forth in the back yard. It was like watching a shooting gallery. That’s how I found out the neighbors weren’t using twine to keep the chicken at home anymore…that and the fact he kept inviting himself to my garage sale

Of course I’ll never forget the squirrel encounter and it’s a given Tall and Handsome won’t either. As a matter of fact, he probably revisits that squirrel in his nightmares…

It all started late last spring (2006). I noticed a distinctive odor wafting up from downstairs. I mentioned it to Tall & Handsome and he thought maybe the cat box was in need of a quick change. That done T & H felt sure the problem would be resolved. I wasn’t so sure. The scent had not seemed like “odor de cat” as much as I would have like to have pointed a finger at the resident feline. Nope, to me the scent ominously carried the scent of death.

I shared my hunch with T & H, but I could tell he thought I’d been farming funny mushrooms. It didn’t take too many days before he had to strongly agree with me. You just can’t mistake that smell. Well, he went off on a mission…to discover the origin of the offending order.

What he found would rival any CSI crime scene…it was a rotting corpse…with its own infestation of maggots! Once again thanks to our slum lord…um, landlady who is too cheap to put a cover over the dryer vent we had a bonafide mess on our hands.

A squirrel had crawled into the dryer vent…all the way from the outside wall of the house and had just about made into the basement and to the dryer via the vent and duct. Unfortunately he got stuck and couldn’t turn around and get back outside. As a result, he was entombed in the dryer vent. No telling how many loads of clothes helped the process along before we knew what we had in the vent!

Poor T & H, it was a disgusting mess to clean up…a real hazmat zone. It left us both mumbling and grumbling, “How can so much go wrong and be wrong with this place? And where in the name of heaven are these critters coming from?” We were beginning to wonder if we had the animal version of the Amityville horror house.

The best was yet to come…

The most baffling encounter has also turn into a costly encounter…one I’m a little familiar with from working claims in insurance.

Shortly after Tall and Handsome started working at his new job, I happened to look out the French doors one day. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. There was some critter making itself at home around MY stuff. He acted right at home on my deck…the only thing he needed was one of those drinks with the little umbrellas in them to look more at home. I expected him to get a broom and sweep up.

Am I Cute or What?What stumped me though, I didn’t know what “he” was and that made me feel just downright…creepy. I was alone and my big He-man was out of state. All I had for protection was a cranky cat and a 15 pound wonderkin I sometimes call Sugar-cube…AKA Watson. I can see it now, “Sic him, Sugar-cube.” How scared would you be?

At first I thought my squatter was a cat that fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but, the fur and the ears didn’t match to be a cat…unless he needed a serious conditioning job. Then I speculated on the possibility it might be a beaver with a bad case of tail envy. Why? Well, it had a nub of a tail instead of one of those nice big, wide flat, flappy tails. I decided he wasn’t big enough to be a beaver, but he was as big as the cat, Winfield, and would probably snap Watson’s neck. What the heck was he?

Well, I told T & H and we postulated and when he got to come in for a weekend he got to meet our squatter. Our postulating had been right. Guess what? It was Punxsutawney Phil or a relative thereof…yep, a groundhog. Come to find out, evidently that’s pretty common around these parts…now they tell me…what’s next a mongoose?

The proverbial icing on this cake was finding out that ye olde groundhog encounter had a price tag. Seems the industrious critter had been hanging out underneath my car…and stayed very busy. He had totally chewed and gnawed away the wiring harness of the electrical system of my car.

Cost of a wiring harness: $400

Cost of a disappearing ground hog: priceless

Cost of a dead squirrel in your dryer vent: stench and maggots

Cost of cleaning up a CSI squirrel scene: priceless

Cost of a sleepless early morning because of crowing chicken: agony

Cost of a fried chicken: priceless

Folks, I am way tired of these encounters…I think I’ll get a pet rock…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Burch.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Chickens, dogs, Hicks, Humor, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee

Ouch, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Ouch

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Tag sale…yard sale…car boot sale…garage sale…rummage sale…what ever you may want to call it, Tall & Handsome and I have just survived our first one together. We held it at the end of a rather hectic week of getting ready for this move. Yes, “the” move.

It seems like this move has been going on forever…since August. It reminds me of the story I heard one time of a man who had a monkey with an unusually long tail. He decided to help the monkey out by cutting the tail off. Every day this guy’s neighbors heard the monkey screaming. One day a neighbor couldn’t stand it any longer…his curiosity just got the better of him. He went over and knocked on the monkey owner’s door and asked him what all the screaming was about. The owner explained the situation and said, “So, I decided to cut his tail off to help him out.”

The neighbor asked, “Well, ok, but, why has the monkey been screaming every day?”

The monkey’s benevolent, but clueless owner responded, “I didn’t want him to hurt as much, so instead of cutting the WHOLE tail off at once, I decided to cut it off an inch at a time so it wouldn’t hurt as bad!” Ouch!

Duh! The poor monkey was in the hands of Forrest Gump gone wild…

That’s kinda how I feel like this move has been going…and going…and going…an inch at a time. But, we are making progress! The company has finally approved a moving van and we can start moving forward…hopefully faster than an inch at a time!

The week T & H was home was strictly a work week. We threw out bags full of stuff to lighten our load some, and packed several boxes. And, we put a garage sale together pretty fast to further lighten the load. We did punch some holes in our plunder…that’s what my Daddy calls my years of accumulated treasures.

One man’s trash is truly another’s treasure…or in this case…one gal’s plunder is another’s treasure. I still have a lot to rid myself of. T & H and I have jokingly said we’ll have a “Just Moved” sale once we get settled. It’s funny, but in a way I found it cleansing and cathartic. I’m tired of carting around those ammo boxes and autographed baseball cards…that small table…those toys…that 1955 Nancy Drew book…and why do I need a butter cutter?

The chicken next door thought he’d make an appearance, which I thought was rather bold on his part. My little wonderkin, Watson, saw to it that Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey didn’t crash the party very long. He was brazen though, and his bobbin’ head crossed the line several times…much to Watson’s delight, who corralled him back into his own yard.

(By the way, I made the Shiner Bock Beans and the New Mexico Spoon Bread ahead of time so we would have something to nosh on after the sale. Yum! We couldn’t decide which we liked the best. They’re both easy to make and are great payoff for the effort. The beans are even better the next day.)

I was totally unaware when we set the date that last Saturday was the big weekend for the TennesseeAlabama football blood match. Had I known that, I might have had HUGE reservations for even attempting a garage sale on such a day. I would have doubted there would have been anyone that would even poke their head outside the four walls of their homes.

I also might have been a little concerned about the results of my sale. You see…T & H and I still have Alabama tags on our vehicles because we own property in Alabama.

The day of that game is a hard one for me every year. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I am an East Tennessee gal, born pure and simple. I was born at Blount Memorial Hospital as was one of my sisters. The other one was born in Greene County. I even lived in Hamilton County for a few years while Daddy worked in engineering there. But, then, the unimaginable happened…at least for most East Tennesseans. My Daddy moved us to Birmingham, Alabama when I was 12 years old and folks, I grew up in the Heart of Dixie.

I’ve seen many Alabama football games, both at Tuscaloosa and at Legion Field in Birmingham when Bear Bryant was the coach; and I’ve seen many a battle between Bama and the Vols. It was a mighty uncomfortable feeling to sit in the bleachers in Legion Field and have such divided loyalties. Daddy went to UT. I went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Daddy will pull for Bama…except when they play the Vols.

And this weekend Bama thoroughly spanked the Vols…Ouch! Divided again, darn it!

We were so glad to get the garage sale over with. We met some nice people. I discovered my T & H is a dynamo under fire…well, of course he is…I married him didn’t I? By the time it was all said and done…two days, we were both in pretty bad shape. The last time I had a garage sale…years ago…my health wasn’t in such bad shape. I had egg-size knots on my joints and could hardly move from the pain. I told T & H the pain felt like I had given birth to a 15 pound baby through my nostril! Ouch!

In the middle of all this serene activity (note sarcasm) the plumbing in the poopy house (yep, pun intended) backed up, not once but, twice…once on Thursday and again on Saturday in the middle of the sale! Double Ouch!!

Whoever rents this house after us has a mess on their hands…no pun intended there. I’ve kept a little diary and it just may show up where our slum lord…em, landlady least expects…like the health department. Every plumber that comes out here tells us she’s had this problem for a long time and they’ve been out here many times before we moved in. They’ve told her she needs to replace her plumbing, but she doesn’t want to do it. I could give you a litany about this house, but, that just may be for another time…

The really good news? Well, next week the packers will be here two days, then, they will load up. By the 5th of November they will deliver our “plunder” to the new place. Folks, there is no “ouch” there! That is absolutely fantastic news! T & H and I will be able to live normally (for us) in the same state and we can start settling into the new place. I have one thing to say…Woohoo!!

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Bear Bryant, Birmingham, Chickens, Fathers, food, football, Garage Sales, Health, Moving, Pets, Southerners, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee, University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Tennessee, Watson