Friday, June 25, 2010

Almost Forgot the Peach State

My apologizes to anyone who may be a fan of Georgia, but in my last blog I wrote about Cynthia and I taking a trip this summer which will take us through six states. I forgot the fine state of Georgia, otherwise known as the Peach state.

From Oklahoma, where we will attend the HHS Reunion, I said we would go through Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. After South Carolina, I guess I didn't follow the map very carefully. We go through Georgia, along the Atlantic coast for a short distance. Apparently, nobody seems to care, anyway, because at last glance, the blog didn't have any comments.

Oh well. It may be like admitting a mistake, but it's not the first one I've made. Nor the last one, either. It also shows how excited we are to get going!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trip to Tennessee on Tap

Lord willing and the weather cooperating, Cynthia and I will add in six states - making 12 stops --over almost a 14-week tour on our I-Bus (RV) map, starting next month. Last summer we trekked through Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas, before coming back to Oklahoma City for a quick mini-Heavener reunion and continuing on to Texas. We liked it so well, we're going to give it another shot. Going from here in Tyler to Heavener for the bi-annual HHS Reunion is our starting point. First stop on the tour is Eureka Springs in Arkansas. Cynthia has always wanted to go to the Passion Play, and it's close enough to Missouri that Jackie Alsup -- Jackie Garrett back when I knew her as a classmate--and husband, Ken, can come down. Eureka is only a few miles from their home, and we enjoyed our time with them last year, so we'll return the favor this year. Instead of Silver Dollar City and Branson with Jackie showing us around, it'll be our turn this time around.

From Eureka, we'll s
pend a night in a Little Rock RV Park, get up the next morning and head to Memphis, where we are scheduled to stay at the Graceland RV Park. Just in case you've been under a rock the last 25 years, Graceland is Elvis Presley's home. There we will get to visit with Larry Pennington and his wife, Sharon, who live in Olive Branch, MS, just south of Memphis. The next stop on our tour will be Nashville, which is the place Cynthia wanted to go when we began the planning back in January or February. Seems ETHE (East Teas Hand-bell Ensemble) has been invited to play in Pinnacle 2010, the tops in hand-bell festivals, for an afternoon concert, despite the recent flooding in Nashville. Cynthia loves hand-bells, and ETHE is the semi-professional group with which she used to play. Also in Nashville are more old friends to visit. Lalia Tate Click, a close chum of Cynthia from the old HHS days, as well as Olin Buchanan, who used to work on my staff back in the newspaper days. Olin works for Rivals/ After Nashville, we make the next stop in Pigeon Forge, where there should be loads of touristy stuff, such as Dollywood, and it is close enough to Louden, where my uncle and aunt Chet and Claire live. Cynthia has never met them and I haven't seen them in years.

After leaving Pigeon
Forge, it's on to Ashboro or Greensboro, whichever is a nice place to stop en route to Fayetteville, NC where my uncle and aunt Bob and Mary Lou live. Cynthia will meet them for the first time and it's been years since I last saw them, too. From Fayetteville, the next stop is Yemassee, SC, not far from the Atlantic coast and plenty of lighthouse seeing. Cynthia is a big fan of lighthouses, too. Then, we get into Florida, along I-10, Jacksonville being the first stop. After Jacksonville, the next stop is Pensacola, Mobile, Gulfport, and New Orleans. From "Nuolans," we're going to Lake Charles, as we inch closer to Texas, Lake Conroe, and San Antonio, if we survive the heat. It'll be a long drive, but most of it is virgin territory to us. It'll be an awfully long trip and plenty hot, but we don't have to be back until Sept. 10 to see the Yankees-Rangers play in Arlington. We'll also try to take you along with an occasional blog.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

To be a Yankee blogger

Let’s see, what should I call my Yankee blog? If I were a Yankee blogger, I don’t really know what I would call it. If I were a Yankee blogger … aw heck, it’s only a dream. It must have been something to watch Jorge Posada hit a grand slam two days in a row. I didn’t even get to see it on MLB.TV, because the game was blacked out, since it was showing on television, somewhere. It sure wasn’t here. Instead, I listened to it via MLB.TV, since it was broadcast on WCBS, the Yankees radio network. But a friend of mine, Bryan Hoch (pictured at the right), got to see it first-hand. Bryan is a Yankee blogger for MLB, and he gets to see all the Yankee games. Yep, he blogs on his “Bombers Beat” for How do I know this? Well, I have been emailing him for the better part of the last year. He in fact told me near the end of last season, he thought I would get to see the Yankees win the World Series. That’s what his crystal ball indicated, and a crystal ball never lies.

It never hurts to dream, though. A decrepit old Yankee lover such as myself would never fit it in at Yankee Stadium press box. It would be embarrassing to yell in the Yankee Stadium press box. I’m such a Yankees fan, you know, that I would probably be so excited to just be in the pinstripe surroundings. I would forget about my upbringing as a sportswriter, when I remained cool, calm and collected through everything I covered. The few times I took Cynthia in the press box, I gave her specific instructions to be quiet as a mouse and not to show any emotions. She was to follow my lead.

I might be different in the Yankee Stadium press box, however. Seems Bryan (you, know, my friend who is on hand for every Yankee home game), got his start via the internet and just getting word out that he was available, and the fact he went to a few MLB meetings. He first covered the Mets games in Shea Stadium, and before long the Yankees needed a blogger, too. Well, I’ll let him explain is his own words:
“I would have to say that generationally I was very lucky to come along when I did, because without the Internet, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be covering the Yankees right now. I knew in my early teen years that I wanted to be involved with baseball. I can remember racing to the mailbox to flip through each week's issue of Sports Illustrated, skipping right to the baseball pages, and I also had subscriptions to Baseball Weekly and Baseball Digest littering the floor of my bedroom. Having the Internet available at that age allowed me to try my hand at not just reading, but also writing about the game I loved. All of that writing helped me get my name out there to some extent in the late 1990s, and the Mets offered me an unpaid internship to help them out with for the second half of the 2000 season. Quite literally, I went from my high school graduation to sitting in the press box at Shea Stadium in the matter of a week, so I actually wound up being in the press box for both of the Yankees' World Series wins in the 2000s,” he said.

“While I was covering the 2006 Winter Meetings for, there were rumblings that the Yankees beat might be opening up for 2007, and I made sure to tell the right people that I would definitely be interested in being considered. Needless to say, something went right. The last three years with the Yankees have been an absolutely wonderful experience, and truly life-changing for me. I honestly can't envision doing anything else.”
So maybe I will start a Yankee blog. How about “The Blog that Ruth Built”, or “Pinstripe Alley,” or “Blogging the Bombers.” Nope, already taken. I can’t think of a catchy enough phrase. Of course, I would have to move to New York, anyway. I don’t see Cynthia going for that. Like I said, it’s only a dream.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Summer Days

I remember when my dad bought my first motorcycle. He had done some electrical work and got the bike as part of his payment. I was about twelve years old and thought having a motorcycle made me neater than peanut butter. The bike was called a Simplex. It had one cylinder with two spark plugs. It had no gears but would still get up to about fifty miles an hour and could run for days on a gallon of gas. I'm telling this story because my wife bought some black berries from the store last night and it reminded me of riding that bike on the back roads around the Heavener area picking black berries. My sidekick, Leland (Butch) Harrell, would ride on the back of the bike and hold the bucket for the berries. Of course the berries would never be right off the road but would be mixed in with the thorn bushes and barbwire fences. We would have to fight off snakes, hornets, bees, and everything else that wanted to do us damage. On this one day, a water moccasin tried to bite me on my foot. I was wearing tennis shoes and the snake got its fangs caught in the canvas material. I look down and noticed the snake attached to my shoe. It scared the crap out of me and I started kicking in every direction, trying to kick the snake off my shoe. I lost my balance on the slope and rolled down into the thorn bushes. The snake got loose from the shoe and went on with it's business. I got out of the thorn bushes looking very battered when I noticed Butch laughing his head off. To make matters worst, Butch had eaten all of the berries that we had picked. Still, I wish my grandchildren could experience the pleasures of growning up in Heavener. But it's a different time and different world.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Stewart family

Every now and then, you just have to feel badly for a family. Take, for instance, the Jack Stewart family from Heavener. Jack was married to Margie and they had four children, Jerry Jack, Regina, Bobby and Willie. They were all hard workers, as far as I remember. Jack owned a drilling mud company in Heavener. I know because Jerry Jack and I used to play inside the building, which sat caddy-cornered from Henry Ryburn’s grocery store and just next to the railroad tracks.

Jack died of a heart attack, I think. Margie was in California one year taking care of her parents and died. Jerry Jack, my age, died from complications of diabetes. He and I used to play football and baseball, and various other games, on West 2nd Street. Jerry was a mountain-sized kid, who could throw a football as far as anyone I had ever seen. I remember, in particular, and this has nothing to do with sports, one time we were in the country south of town and we were scared by something, and just took off running. Several of us guys were out there. Ed Stinson, Jim Patterson and I don’t recall who else. Jerry Jack was so scared, he ran right through a barbed-wire fence. He was so big he ran slap dab through the thing and busted it, barbed-wire and all! Ed laughed so hard, I thought he was never going to stop. I went in the Air Force in the late ’60s and the first time I came home (fromCalifornia), Jerry and I went camping. Can’t remember where, but it’s not important. He was just a friend and was willing to go with me. I always went back to see Jerry whenever I went back home for a high school reunion. Jerry later had a foot amputated. He died a couple years ago.

Regina moved to Mesquite, TX and married a wonderful man, I understand. Willie, the next oldest brother, died just last week. Cancer, I heard. Now, Bob (as he was called once he got older) is the only one in Heavener. No mother, father, or brothers.

I always remember times being tough for the Stewart family. As young boys, they used to walk along the side of the road picking up (coke) cans to sell, and they usually mowed most of the lawns around town. When my dad passed away, I called on the Stewart boys to mow his yard for me. They did, even though Jerry had an amputated leg. They still mowed. When Cynthia’s Aunt Mable was moving from her house on the west side of town, the Stewart boys helped. Like I said, they always worked hard at whatever they did. Their heart was in the right place.