Tuesdays in the Nursing Home- Raising the Bar


He’s 91 and has an eye for the ladies…as well as a lightning-fast set of hands, according to the aides.

His brother says “Yeah, he’s an all-right fella- as long as you keep your legs crossed, that is!”

So I approach Chuck with care and still manage to box myself into a tight corner of the dining room.

He is a perfect gentleman.

When he tells me he wasn’t sent to the nursing home by his doctor but rather, just walked in on his own and decided to live here, I decide to check out his awareness and memory in greater detail.

“So, are you retired?”

Chuck looks startled.  “Well, I certainly hope so,” he says.  “I’m 91 years old- I’d better be!”

Chuck can’t remember how many children he has or what he did for a living.  When I ask him what his father did for work, Chuck rests his forehead on the heel of his hand and sighs.  “Well, now…I never did know the man all that good.”  He struggles for another moment and then I see a slight smile play across his lips.  “Oh, yeah, now I remember.  My father was associated with the bench.”

“Ah, I” I nod, thinking for a second that I get it. Chuck’s dad was an attorney.

But an unconscious flicker of instinct stops me, alerting me that all might not be as I assume.

“Your father was associated with the bench?” I echo.

Chuck grins.  “Yeah, you know, the bench out front you sit on?  That’s the one he was most associated with!”

We laugh our asses off.


Life in the Country- Transforming the Big Ugly

  Back when I moved to the little log cabin up the holler there was no Big Ugly.  Instead, there was a beautiful and very old Black Walnut tree and beside it, the log cabin remains of a blacksmith’s shop.

But then we found the huge, rotted hole in the very center of the Walnut tree and upon further consultation with tree doctors and such, realized it was dying.  It would have to be removed if we wanted to ensure that the cabin would not be crushed when the tree eventually fell.

Virginia 007The day we lost the Black Walnut was a very sad day indeed.  I stroked its trunk and thought of all the sites it had witnessed.  I thanked the tree silently for its years of service to the inhabitants of the holler.

The tree cutters had no such respect…

Virginia 046

Hence, the resulting Big Ugly…a plot of land so filled with clay and rock that nothing grew where the tree once stood.  In fact, last year, it was all I could do to coax two small gourds into existence on this large, barren spot.


When I had 5 days off this past Easter weekend, I immediately generated a list of to-dos.  None of them included addressing the Big Ugly.  Painting the back fence and cabin exterior held the top two spots but when the weather forecast said rain was going to be my constant companion, I took a good, long look at the abandoned Ugly.

It was time for something to be done.

Wood needed to be moved, broken glass, rusty metal and true treasures sorted and carted off to their respective places.

big ugly step 1a

  Then load after load after load of rich soil from the cleared creek beds had to be hand-shoveled and carried to their new garden home.

big ugly step 2b

Little bits and pieces began to fall into place as a picture formed slowly in my head.

The stump became a planter.

big ugly stump planter

  And then, the grand idea…The Big Ugly should have a trellis, an entrance into what will one day become my secret garden, a beautiful welcome covered in blue and white morning glories and moonflower vines.

big ugly step 3 

The only requirement- the Big Ugly’s make-over should cost virtually nothing and come from objects found on the land. 

And so began the search…stepping stones from the base of trees or the edge of creeks, lichen-covered branches hauled down off the ridgeline and across the soil road, bits of moss carefully transported from nearby trails and gently smushed in-between rock steps.

big ugly step 5a


big ugly step 5

It took 3 days and all in all, it still looks rough but the bones are there now.  A bird bath and feeder are in the works.  A white lilac looking for a home will take up residence in the back left corner and a white Iceberg rose will nestle down beside the stump. Perhaps by mid-summer the flowers will be in bloom and the Big Ugly will become the Big Beautiful.

big ugly trellis finale


Dead Soldiers

  It was growing dark and raining last weekend when I finally found the Confederate soldier’s grave. 


  For generations, one family owned the land where my little log cabin stands and two of the former owners came for tea and story-telling last Saturday afternoon.

“You know you got a Confederate soldier buried on your property don’t you?” Tim asked almost immediately.

I’d heard the rumor but until he confirmed it I’d had no way to know if it was yet another tall tale or truth.

“Yep,” Tim nodded. 

“Do you know where he is?” I asked

He exchanged a glance with my neighbor.  A last moment, double-check, confirmation to deliver news I’d been waiting over a year to hear.

Tim nodded.  “He’s buried just a bit to this side and right of where y’all drilled your new well.”



When I gasped, he grinned.

“Tell her about the hay, Tim,” his wife urged.

We sat balancing tiny, mismatched china plates and fresh slabs of lemon cream-cheese pound cake on our knees, waiting for Tim to take a slow sip of coffee and begin the tale.

His wife, impatient with her husband’s build-up, started.  “Well, it was summer and Tim was baling up the hay growing in the field across the way.  He worked all afternoon, piling the bales up into a big pyramid as he worked.  And when he’d finished, he was tired.  That’s when Tim’s uncle, Posey, finally came down off the porch and started yelling and swinging this big old machete around.”

Tim took over.  “Well, he’d had a dram or two and I was about afraid he’d cut his own head off the way he was slingin’ that thing.  He kept sayin’, ‘You got to move that hay!  I mean it!  You got to move it right now!”

Tim shook his head and gave one of the neighbor brother’s a wry grin.  “He watched me work all afternoon and waited until I’d finished to come tell me I had to move all those bales.  I said, ‘Posey, I’m not gonna do that.  What’s wrong with it where it is?’”

Posey pointed a crooked finger toward the bales.  “You set ‘em right on top of that soldier’s grave! If the Rapture comes, how’s he gonna get out?”

Everybody laughed but Mertis.  Her eyes widened.  “Oh, Lord, what if we drilled through him?”

I thought about the look Tim and James had exchanged and wondered, were they just being nice when they said the soldier was buried in the hillock just to the right of the grave or were we drinking calcified water?

I looked at Mertis and knew she was truly worried.  Mertis, the retired cop,  is famous for saying “I don’t do ghosts!” 

This is when the devil crept in and possessed my soul…


“Hey, Mert, you  remember the other night when we were out by the well and all of a sudden the temperature dropped like 20 degrees?”

Mert’s face blanched.  “Oh, God, I’d forgotten that,” she breathed.  “It did!”

I nodded, biting my lower lip to keep a straight face.  “And the time we were sitting out on the back porch and the same thing happened?” 

I waited to see the pure terror of a possible haunting hit rock bottom in her eyes.

“Then remember when Skeeter dowsed the well site ?  He said there was electromagnetic energy and three caverns beneath the spot where he said we should dig.”


Mert was sitting ramrod stiff on the stool by the woodstove, her body on red alert as if waiting for signs of an angry Afterlife.

“Yep,” I continued.  “I bet that old Confederate soldier’s right unsettled with a well pipe running straight through him, especially with that pantyhose filter Skeeter put over the end to keep out the sediment.  If Posey was worried about the hay bales, imagine how mad he’d be if he knew that! Nothing gets through pantyhose, now that’s a fact!”

Old Mert ain’t been right since.

And the afternoon’s stories were only just beginning….