Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall Beauty at Morrow Mountain

When Fall arrives you can count on finding me and Judy at Morrow Mountain. This October's visit was even more special because Amanda and Brianna were able to join us for a day of picnicking, hiking, and leaf viewing.

Every fall color was on display, though the day began with drizzle and overcast, muting the brilliance somewhat.

The maples, sassafrass, dogwoods, hickories, and poplars were the most colorful.

This is the always favorite view of Sugarloaf Mountain with a glimpse of Lake Tillery in the background.
It was nearing noon when we arrived, so we headed directly to the mountaintop for our picnic lunch. In contrast to summer visits, when this area is overflowing with families, we strolled right into the pavilion with its deck overlooking the lake. Amanda starts the ball rolling with a photo of Brianna's first visit to Morrow Mountain. And I captured that Kodak moment.

Grandma Judy would rather hold Brianna than eat lunch.

Brianna's rather fond of this carrying position: bottom down, feet up.

Following lunch, Amanda fed Brianna in the car while Judy and I took the 0.8 mile hike that follows the curve of the mountain's peak. There were several open spots that afforded nice views of the valley below.

Near the end of that trail two bridges help you to cross a deep ravine. Bridge #1.

Bridge #2.

Just before the trail ended at the parking area, we paused to examine some black walnuts on the ground. A moment later I heard Judy and a couple of other familiar voices exclaiming greetings. It was our dear Moore County friends David and Trish! What a bit of serendipity (we get more than our allotted share, you may have noticed).

This is their first time seeing Brianna. She likes them and they like her.

Grownups, please smile. Brianna, do as you please.

We don't get together nearly often enough, but at least we got to do a little catching up today!

It's no surprise that Brianna instantly takes to David. Young children can feel the love.
Bidding farewell to our friends, we next headed down the mountain for a drive-through of the campgrounds, and then on to the lakeside boatdocks (where else would they be). Once Brianna goes into her backpack carrier she knows an adventure awaits. Her face shows her anticipation.

Or was she just waiting to stick her tongue out at me behind my back?

We chose the Three Rivers Trail, which follows the lake shore for a way, then turns sharply uphill. From both high and low vantage points you can gaze at the spot where the Yadkin, Uwharrie, and Pee Dee Rivers converge to form Lake Tillery.
Beautiful water, beautiful trees.

There were a few boaters out, but no swimmers. I can imagine how cold the water already is in late October.

Brianna feels the thrill of hiking. She's made it through the whole trail and then some, talking a bit, playing with Grandpa's hair, playing with whatever she can get her hands OR mouth on. And she's proud to add,"They never did get me off to sleep!"
Yup, Brianna wins. And us three tired hikers don't dispute it. We're all ready to call it a day and head for home.

Of course North Carolina's state parks are made for her people to enjoy. But at the end of the day, when serenity finally returns to the lake, to the hills, to the trees, I suspect all nature breathes a sign of relief, "At last-- they've gone home!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

History Flashback: 1961

I just finished a good book: Our America. Funny thing is, I'd read this book before-- 48 years before. It was published in 1961 and was the newly adopted history book (before the term "Social Studies" came in vogue) for DeKalb County Schools in Atlanta.

I came upon this book at a thrift shop during our summer travels. Re-reading it was truly a trip back in time. It covered American history from Columbus up to the election of John Kennedy. I loved history then, and I love it now. But my second time through the book I got a real kick out of the way several things were described.

Here are some of my favorite examples. I hope you enjoy them.
  • On DeSoto discovering the Mississippi River: "The Spaniards thought it very muddy and did not explore it."
  • On the settlement of Jamestown: "Now, King James had a river and a town named after him. History doesn't say whether he was pleased or not."
  • On buying Manhattan from the Indians: "Minuit gave the Indians trinkets and beads worth about twenty-four dollars. Manhattan Island is not for sale at that price now."
  • On English-Spanish conflicts: "The Spaniards in Florida were not good neighbors of the Georgians. . . . After a few fights, the Spaniards decided to stay in their own yard."

Below: The inside cover of Our America featured stars indicating the year each state joined the union. This was the first new textbook our school had had since Alaska and Hawaii attained statehood.

  • On the thirteen colonies: "In time, we shall see that "thirteen" was to be England's unlucky number."
  • On relations with King George--the "olive branch" offered: "Dear King,-- Kindly be a little easier on us. Because, if you mean to take away our liberty, we will fight."
  • On American defeat at the battle of Monmouth: "However, one of Washington's generals ordered his men to retreat for no good reason whatever. There was a great to-do about this, and Congress told this man that he was no longer needed in the army."
  • On children reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: "Before you pick up the 'funnies,' or begin that new adventure story, why not read these two famous papers? Don't be afraid of the big words in them. Any older person will be glad to tell you what they mean."

  • On effectiveness of "bucket brigades:" "At the cry of 'Fire!' men grabbed pails or buckets and formed two lines from the fire to the nearest water. The buckets were filled and passed along one line from man to man. Then the water was poured on the fire, and the buckets went down the other line to be refilled. Usually the fire won."
  • On a new political party: "To take sides against the Democrats, a new party was formed in 1832. This party took the name of Whigs. Please don't ask why. The name 'Whig' died in 1860. And 'Republican' took its place. That is a much nicer name.

I'll be posting on this subject again soon, but here's a timely parting shot.

In the years of prosperity and good times, the people do not make ready for the hard times that sometimes lie ahead. Nothing is put aside for a rainy day. countries and nations are like people. They do not get ready, either. And people and countries never seem to learn this lesson.

Guess what? The paragraph above was not written about the Great Depression which began with the stock market crash of 1929. It was about the "hard times" America endured from 1837 until 1841, during the term of President Martin Van Buren. Anyone think history doesn't repeat itself?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Legendary Doc Watson

Saturday night, Judy and I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the legendary Doc Watson at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, NC. Our tickets were a gift from Jessie, Emma, Tim, and Renee. THANKS, you guys! It was an unforgettable night.

Doc Watson created the flat-picking guitar style more than six decades ago. He initially did it to play the leads for his band which didn't have a fiddle player. Any guitarist will tell you there's nothing more challenging than playing fiddle tunes on the guitar. And Doc set a standard that no one has ever matched.

At age 86, his fingers haven't lost a beat. He can do what no one else can. His fingers fly over the strings so fast it would take a slow-motion camera to see what he really does. But another thing that made this night so special was that he was in the mood to talk. A lot! He said he would try to be the same person on stage that he would be in his own living room, and believe me, he succeeded. Besides his music, he shared from his own soul--things that were important to him. He kept coming back to "the pretty little gal who put her hand in mine 63 years ago and said she'd walk with me."

Doc shared stories of how he had been taken to a faith healer as a child, but for reasons known best to the Lord, he had not been healed of his blindness. Doc felt that God had given him his talent to make music for a reason. Throughout his life music has allowed him to provide for his family. And his blindness prevented him from serving in World War II, which he said could have saved his life. At that point, Doc paid tribute to his brother David, who it turned out was the gentleman that had asked me and Judy to swap seats with him on our arrival. David, a mere 84, had survived both D-Day in the Atlantic and the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific. Judy and I were very impressed with the soft-spoken man, who was obviously very proud of his big brother. He also told us his son lives in Carthage. Small world!

Here's a vintage picture of Doc's family. He's standing in the light shirt.

For many years Doc performed with his son Merle. But Merle was killed in a tragic tractor accident in the mid 1980's. Doc continued to perform all over, but the loss was certainly hard to take. But in recent years, David Holt has been a godsend, joining Doc in performances everywhere, almost becoming a son to him. David is known internationally as a folk musician and storyteller. He, too, should be regarded as a North Carolina treasure. He shows people that it's valuing the "ordinary" things around them--music, stories, the old-time crafts and ways of life--that shows us what's truly extraordinary.

Saturday, David's banjo picking and guitar strumming were the perfect complement to Doc's art. David is a gifted singer and performer in his own right. As a matter of fact, this was not my first encounter with David Holt. About 10 years ago he came to Farm Life School to give a performance. I helped him unload and set up. As we talked about our musical experiences and he learned about my classroom singalongs, he invited me to help him lead the students in "The Titanic." That has always been one of our class favorites.

It was sad, oh so sad,

It was sad when that great ship went down, (hit the bottom)

There were husbands and wives, little children lost their lives,

It was sad when that great ship went down.

My first acquaintance with Doc Watson's music was more than 30 years ago when I was in college. I bought the now-classic album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and listened to it over and over. My favorite songs on it were always the Doc Watson instrumentals--plus his vocal classic, "The Tennessee Stud."

This was my first chance to see Doc Watson in person. Some might call it the twilight of his career. But I'm not so sure. Besides his music, he is living out a great testimony of faith. He has some rock solid words of wisdom to share with those who gather around. The personal anecdotes and off-hand comments he made this night were as memorable to me as his inimitable ballads and folk songs.

There is no shortage of Doc Watson's music available on the internet if you'd like a sample. Just go to and search Doc Watson. All of his favorites are there. But if you ever get a chance to hear him live, I recommend you go. It will be an experience to treasure always.
If you don't have time to check out Youtube for videos, here are a couple of brief samplers. The first is an all-instrumental version of Deep River Blues. The second features David Holt with a demonstration of traditional "hamboning." And Doc Watson gets some laughs for throwing in a bit of his own.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fifties Fiction Anyone?

A few weeks ago, Judy and I visited the resale shops of the Sandhills Coalition for Human Care. This is a fine charity and their shops have great prices. On this day hardback books were a quarter, paperbacks a dime. On a whim, I selected this Frank Yerby book, The Treasure of Pleasant Valley. I have a strong interest in historical fiction, though I had a pre-conceived notion of 1950's fiction, and it wasn't very flattering. But for a quarter, I took a chance on this one because its setting was the California goldrush of 1849.

I read the book in just a few days, and although I wouldn't call it great literature, Yerby was a skillful storyteller, and obviously researched his topics meticulously. I was interested enough to check out this website where I learned some fascinating things. For one, Frank Yerby is recognized as America's greatest African-American author. He wrote 33 novels, selling tens of millions of copies, on subjects spanning from early Greece, the French revolution, and the American Civil War to the World War II underground resistance and 1970's Central American conflict.

Yerby preferred the term "costume novel" to "historical novel," and thought the latter term was like the "kiss of death" as far as marketing a book was concerned. He said the purpose of fiction must be to entertain, not to educate or instruct. And yet he masterfully found a way to do both. His readers can't help but come away with a broader understanding of the period in which immerses them. No surprise that he's called "a brilliant storyteller and intellectual giant."

A few days after I had finished The Treasure of Pleasant Valley, Judy and I dropped by a book sale at the Lutheran church. Prices had already been cut in half, and lo and behold-- Judy called out, "Here's a Frank Yerby book... and another... and another." In short, she pulled out nine paperbacks, and for a quarter each "we"couldn't resist. Judy permitted me to photograph the books, but she has now tucked them safely away for one of my Christmas presents. She did allow me to keep one out to read before Christmas.
Finding a new author to enjoy is always satisfying, and it also made me wonder about some of the old "non-classic" books I've never taken a second glance at. Might I have been overlooking some worthwhile reading material?

This quote by Anthony Trollope was on the back jacket of my first Yerby book. It expresses my feelings precisely.
Book love, my friends, is your pass to the greatest, the purest, and the most perfect pleasure that God has prepared for His creatures. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will support you when all other recreations are gone. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.

The Rainbow

Saturday morning was going to be a good day for yard sales even though it began with a bit of drizzle and the sun and clouds battling for supremacy of the skies. As I picked up our morning paper from the roadside and turned back toward the house I beheld a beautiful rainbow in the west. The sun had won. I've seen few enough rainbows in my life to remember many of them distinctly. I recall on two different Sunday evenings viewing a full rainbow from the front steps of Beulah Hill, my church. Those spanned the entire sky.

But two things made this rainbow different. I could never recall sighting one in the early morning. What a glorious way to start the day! Second, I don't believe I had ever had my camera close at hand. Fifteen minutes later, the clouds had thickened and the rainbow had faded. Is it too much to think that God put it there just for me that morning? All I know is, if God knew no one else would see it, He still would have placed it there, not just for me to admire, but to inspire me and encourage me.

I was reminded for the umpteenth time, God doesn't care just about the big things--world events and important people-- He cares about every little detail in the lives of His children. And I'm His child.

I'm reminded of His first covenant, with Noah:

"I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life."

I know that's a very specific covenant, but it's also a reminder of the multitude of other promises in God's word, the Bible. And of the fact that each of these promises can be trusted to the utmost. God is consistent, unchanging, and totally trustworthy. Let's all try to remember that when the road is rocky. . . or at least until you see your next rainbow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Loyd-Taylor "Reunion"-- with Babies of course!

Tuesday turned out to be one of the grandest days the old Loyd house has ever witnessed. We were already excited about Amanda and Brianna coming for lunch a day earlier than usual. Then, about mid-morning, Jennifer informed us that she and Claire were also coming over. Terrific. And on top of that, Grace and Sally (their BFF's) would be joining us! Though we would be missing Rachel and Jane, the remaining Taylor girls, this would be the closest thing to a Loyd-Taylor reunion in a long time.

When Jennifer and Amanda arrived first, Judy and I took advantage of the photo-op to get snapped-- that's Judy with Brianna, me with Claire (if you're still learning).

Just a slight rearrangement-- not trying to confuse you!

Amanda (left) and Jennifer (right) love to hold each other's babies. We all eagerly await the arrival of our other special guests.

"Brianna and Claire, let us tell you just how special the Taylor girls are. We bet their daughters will someday be your best friends forever-- not counting yourselves, of course!"
THEY'RE HERE! That's Sally with her one-and-a-half year old Evelyn. To her right is Grace's two-and-a-half year old Elizabeth. Let the games begin!

Elizabeth, the eldest of the "younger set," thinks vintage Fisher-Price pull toys are great. She also likes to go barefoot!
Grace's newest acquisition, eight week old Amelia, soaked in a lot of sights and sounds this day. In no time, she'll be romping with the rest!
Part of my "harem." (That's a joke) But I was the only guy in a houseful of females. Nothing new there. Here's the breakdown of the womenfolk:
  • 1 Grandma (Judy-- also a mom and daughter)
  • 4 other Moms (Grace, Sally, Jennifer, Amanda--who are also daughters, of course)
  • 5 other daughters (Elizabeth, Evelyn, Amelia, Brianna, and Claire)

(The third grade teacher in me would make this into the following Brainteaser: In a room are one grandmother, five mothers, and 10 daughters. How many females in all? You should now be able to solve this.)

Here, Elizabeth shows Brianna how much fun these toys can be. Soon she'll be helping her own sis Amelia. She already is a great help to her mom.
"Now Brianna, you have to use hand signals when you're going to turn. That helps the grown-ups know which way you're going."
All eleven of us gathered around Judy's table of bounty to share from two huge pots of soup. As you can see, Elizabeth and Evelyn are big enough for their own chairs and for solid food.

Claire and Amelia may want to try the soups, but they'll have to wait. . . a few months! But don't worry, they had lunch, too.

Evelyn says, "Y'all stand back, I'm just learning the stick shift."
In Jennifer and Amanda's old room, I set up their old tepee (note their names embroidered over the tent flap). Elizabeth makes herself right at home and drags a few toys inside. Evelyn contemplates going in, but would like to know if there's a fire exit.
All these babies were continually showered with love and attention. Occasionally, even from their own mothers!
Some of these young ones began to think it was time for an afternoon nap. So did one grandpa-- but not today! There were better things to do.
Evelyn sees that the front porch is a child's paradise of toys. And we hardly scratched the surface! Great days of play ahead for Loyd grandchildren and all guests.
The old swing set is just as serviceable as ever, as these young ladies will attest.
And this yard sale "horsie" is always available to give free rides to willing children.
Words can't even describe all the fun sharing both the moms and children during this wonderful afternoon. But as all good things must come to an end, when even Brianna, with her stamina, succumbed to sleep, it was time for all to part.
Hopefully there will be many more reunions of this nature in the days and years ahead. Such gatherings are times of pure joy, whether reminiscing about happy days long past, enjoying present moments, or anticipating the delights of the future.
This day was certainly an affirmation of the veracity of the sign below. We are as happy for Charlie and Liz (my and Judy's BFF's), in their growing family circle, as we are for ourselves.