Monday, May 29, 2006

SHAZAM! (well, that didn't work)

I shamelessly swiped this link from Sheryl at Paper Napkin. If you like fine art and superheros what that guy did with Photoshop is amazing. If you like a good read, drop by Sheryl's (look right, click on Paper Napkin)place. She does some really great banners (like mine) and is always a joy to read.

If you don't notice any new posts from Villa MacBean for the next couple of days blogger isn't acting up again. I'm off to Roanoke at the bidding of the insurance cartel for training until Friday. The goofy thing is they plan on having me work in Willis, just down the mountain, twenty five miles from home. After which, in the evening, I will return forty miles to the hotel in Roanoke for AM meetings then back forty miles to Willis and repeat until Friday or insanity whichever occurs first. It's just close enough to tantalize me about home and far enough to make it too far to drive. It's a catch 22 created by, I suspect, the petroleum companies in league with Jerry Springer.

Our Other Home

Church is fun! It's the way it should be. The one constant message in the Bible is the God loves us and wants us to be happy. It's funny when one talks about "God" and "happiness" together the happiness part seems to take on a tinge of unhappiness. But, ya know, happiness? Singing and dancing and laughing and smiling and joy and all is well with the world and sitting back, feet up, with that contented look.... Happiness, it's what we all want. It's only when we don't follow His instructions that things go haywire.

With this in mind Wanda and I headed to the "jam" at the little church we attend in Willis, Va. It's not one of these mega-churchs with hundreds of members but rather a small country church with a small, but a totally blessed, congregation who may turn up in blue jeans and work shirts. Outward appearance is not a priority. And within that group is an amazing number of musically talented members.

So Sunday night it was guitars, mandolins, banjos, fiddles, drums and the piano. Several groups sang and played the country gospel standards with a quality only found in these mountains where making music for the Lord has been a tradition handed down for generations. After attending more formal church's in Baltimore it was a surreal experience which made for true worship. All this accompanied by much hand clapping and foot tapping; we were alive and more important enjoying feeling alive.

People sang solos as they felt moved and my wife did a splendid job on "Amazing Grace". I must say her shyness to do so was only overcome when I threatened to get up and add my voice to the proceedings. Those of you who have not heard me sing are among the truly blessed. My voice has been described as a "joyful noise".

We are so thankful to have found this place to worship and for the way we have been embraced by the church family. So far we have been called numerous times by members to inquire about our well being. In the large church I attended for years in Baltimore serving on the church council that never happened...not even once. We have heard first person accounts of miraculous healing and other wonders worked by our God who led us here and has drawn us closer to Him. As Wanda said last night, this is the first church where I've felt at home, and I agree, we're home.

Memorial Day

Those brave men who stood at that rude bridge in '75 and fired the shot heard 'round the world had no idea of the implications of their actions. What started as an action to protect their right to bear arms gave birth to a movement which produced one the greatest and certainly the most unique nation the world has known. Their legacy and the price they paid has continued over the several centuries since.

As with all great endeavors the building of the United States of America has come through enormous sacrifice. Over the years, from the citizen soldier of the American Revolution to the latest young man to die in Iraq, patriots have given their lives to maintain what was instituted in 1789.

They have fought and died in all parts of the world not only to ensure our freedom but also the freedom of others far from our shores. No matter how the rest of the world views this country they cannot deny we have been very generous with the blood of our children.

Have our actions always been correct? I don't know. What I do know is that those who fought and died felt the cause they were dying for was worth the price. And in remembering them, so should we.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Super Saturday

What does one do on a beautiful Saturday on Groundhog Mountain? The sun was dappled through the tree canopy and the temperature was in the 70's. There was morning coffee on the deck watching the chickadees and titmice at the feeder and then a romp with the playful dogs.

Several months ago the owners of the Orchard Gap Deli and Market approached Wanda and I and asked if we would consider leasing and running the business. Hmmmm, it's close to home...does a good business...right on the Blue Ridge Parkway...the only store for at least ten miles...has music every Saturday afternoon during the located next to Randy's art gallery... yeah, we want to do this! Last week love of my life started working there to see if it is something she would really enjoy... and she does. So next week she starts full time (she is so happy to end the insurance saga) and we hope to completely take over come October.

Yesterday she was joyfully making pizza when I stopped by on the way to Mt Airy for a long overdue haircut at
Floyds Barber Shop. Sitting in a chair at Floyds one becomes an instant tourist attraction. Made famous by The Andy Griffith Show , Floyds is subject to a steady parade of assorted tourists. Polaroid pictures are taken and added to the collection papering every inch of the walls, joining those of Andy, Opie, Barney, Floyd, Aunt Bea and the rest of the cast. In the meantime local characters (such as myself) enjoy the $7.00 haircut and watching the line for pork chop sandwiches at Snappy Lunch creeping by the window. And then there's watching the tourists walk in and, with the reverence reserved for a holy shrine, gaze in awe at this icon of American TV.

Haircut and looking clean I headed up Orchard Gap Road (do you see a theme here?) toward the mountain and a two o'clock community board of directors meeting concerning a problem with our community water. Damn, a meeting, but since I was hoodwinked into serving on the board (vice-president, they obviously didn't know what they were doing) I will honor my position. One of the things about living here, the homeowners are responsible for maintaining the community. It's kind of like things were before the triumph of the bureaucrats. Anyway after a hour discussion concerning water I joined Stella and Isabel for a beer on the deck. None for them, all for me.

Back down the road to the Orchard Gap Deli and a dose of bluegrass while sitting on Randy's Gallery porch with a glass of wine and good conversation with Al, a retired airline pilot who lives at Doe Run.

The highlight of the day? Only getting a warning from Ranger Craig for speeding on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mary

The first time I saw my eldest daughter, Mary, moments after her birth, my only thought was how wrinkled this little person appeared. That was thirty nine short years ago today. The wrinkles went away and a wonderfully special person appeared.

She is one of those people who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Now that's not just a proud papa talking. Before settling down with her marvelous husband, Steve, she modeled professionally. Now she is the mother of Steve Jr. and the big headed kid in the pic, James David.

And what a fine mother she is. Mary volunteers at their schools, providing the necessary cupcakes and moral support for parties and PTA. Able to stay at home she gives the boys the necessary love and guidance they need.

She weekly picks up my mother who has given up the car keys and takes mom to her nail appointment after which it's off to lunch. Many times they spend the whole day together. She is the care giver for her family when problems arise, always ready with help and support.

Mary has never met a dog she didn't love...and the smaller the better. If the pup could fit in her purse it had a home. At last count there were five of these critters romping around the house. Well, like her father, several are older and don't romp much any more. How many people do you know who wipe their pets butts after the latter go pottey?

When she was little and her father would come in after working late to lay on the couch and watch TV, unwinding, often would come on small steps this wonderful child. We would snuggle up together and all would be well with the world. And now seeing what she has become and remembering those times, I know if for no other reason, I have contributed at least once to making the world a better place.

Happy Birthday, sweet Mary.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Da Bears

My darling wife has a fear of bears. I mean the kind of fear that causes nightmares or as the case may be, nightbears. It comes from a close encounter with a bear she had in North Carolina as a child. She's never actually seen a bear in the wild but once when she and her sister walked down to the river where she was told not to go, but of course did, she, her sister, and the accompanying dogs heard the bear. Ever since, bears, or even the mention of bears cause quivers and a wide eyed "deer in the headlights" expression.

So when we decided to move to these mountains one of the first questions was, are there bears? "Well, maybe", was my rather nonchalant reply.

On one of the trips here before we moved we were visiting the birthplace of Booker T. Washington. As we walked the trail on the farm she suddenly gave the shout I've heard often. "BEAR!" She ran, I didn't since I saw the cattle calmly grazing away on the hill and realizing that if there were indeed a "BEAR" the bovines would be rapidly moving on. Now fear was replaced by anger at my seeming calm over a potentially disastrous encounter. It was only when I pointed out the black bull now staring at us that the fear and anger turned to a sheepish grin.

OK, so we moved here and guess what? That's right, exactly one week after the U-Haul was returned the neighbor came over and and asked, "Did you see the BEAR last night?". Well, no, but we did hear the dogs go crazy. It seems Mr. Black Bear had walked up the road and into the woods behind our house. It may have even waved as it went by.

Now lets fast forward to several days ago when on coming back from taking the dogs for a walk Wanda said to me, "there were some very large tracks on the trail down to the creek and then on the gravel road". Then came the obvious question, "do you think it was a BEAR?" Now I do everything to discourage the notion there is a BEAR in the neighborhood so I tried to play it off with a "probably not".

So the other night we're talking to the new neighbors from Florida when we hear what sounds like a barking dog. Then the other neighbor pulls up in her SUV and says those dreaded words, "Did you see the BEAR?"
She said she looked out her window and saw what appeared to be a large man in a black coat crawling up the road and the she realized that doesn't happen around here but BEARS do. My wife instantly assumed the "deer in the headlight" appearance and suggested we move our conversation from the road to the deck. We did that with haste. The barking sound we heard was our other neighbor attempting to move the BEAR along which it did, again through the woods behind our house.

That night everyone concerned had every outside light on...all night. Further BEAR sightings will be reported.

We'uns Is Gettin' Famous

I don't know how this came about. It's kinda like that salsa from New York city. But in Chicago, CHICAGO (!, ?)there's Leslies Omnibus and she's talkin' 'bout us rednecks. But since we're kinda starved for attention, we'll take anything we can get. So thanks Leslie. George Bush is workin' that angle pretty well.
And I don't understand what Leslie means "From the Rowdies in the Back of the Bus". We ain't rowdy, it's just Jim Bob and that mason jar.

Yeah, we know we're a redneck if:

1. You take your dog for a walk and you both use the same tree.

2. You can entertain yourself for more than 15 minutes with a fly swatter.

3. Your boat has not left the driveway in 15 years.

4. You burn your yard rather than mow it.

5. You think "The Nutcracker" is something you do off the high dive.

6. The Salvation Army declines your furniture.

7. You offer to give someone the shirt off your back and they don't want it.

8. You have the local taxidermist on speed dial.

9. You come back from the dump with more than you took.

10. You keep a can of Raid on the kitchen table.

11. Your wife can climb a tree faster than your cat.

12. Your grandmother has "ammo" on her Christmas list.

13. You keep flea and tick soap in the shower.

14. You've been involved in a custody fight over a hunting dog.

15. You go to the stock car races and don't need a program.

16. You know how many bales of hay your car will hold.

17. You have a rag for a gas cap.

18. Your house doesn't have curtains, but your truck does.

19. You wonder how service stations keep their restrooms so clean.

20. You can spit without opening your mouth.

21. You consider your license plate personalized because your father made it.

22. Your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand.

23. You have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say "Cool Whip" on the side.

24. The biggest city you've ever been to is Wal-Mart.

25. Your working TV sits on top of your non-working TV.

26. You've used your ironing board as a buffet table.

27. A tornado hits your neighborhood and does $100,000 worth of improvements.

28. You've used a toilet brush to scratch your back.

29. You missed your 5th grade graduation because you were on jury duty.

30. You think fast food is hitting a deer at 65.


Monday, May 22, 2006

"What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch?"

W. Clement Stone

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mountain Community

Where we live is a very special place in the world. These Appalachian Mountains are millions of years old. They have been making their way across the face of the planet, inching their way east, and weathering for eons. Unlike the younger, bold Rockies in the West these mountains have mellowed with age. The New River which flows nearby is the second oldest river in the world, only predated by the Nile. There is a mystical and spiritual quality to these hills and "hollars".

My ancestors came here along with other Ulster Scot and German pioneers several centuries ago. The MacBeane's moved on further west but many families stayed and have been here ever since. In an area there may be many with the same surname, Delp, Holdaway, Phipps, Roberts, Edwards and I must mention Shelor, just to name a few.

Cemeteries are named for the clan buried there. In the days when travel was difficult the remains of departed loved ones were interred close to home. It's not unusual to find graves next to a home or along side of a back mountain road. Cemeteries aren't large but rather there are many scattered through out the countryside. But for whatever reason people remain youthful and barring accidents live a long time. I think it's the clean air and water along with a healthy natural diet. Also strong immune systems are developed from living so close to the land.

One of the good things about selling insurance is meeting many of the people in the area. Working in a incredably beautiful area called Elk Creek for the past month or so we have become almost a part of the community. One thing about it people in these parts do talk to each other and strangers are a topic of conversation. But I have in return come to know many wonderful people who have lived in Elk Creek, if not all, then most of their lives. The social center of Elk Creek is the "diner". Sooner or later (and it's mostly sooner) you will meet everyone in the area at this general store, gas station, barber and beauty shop, source for hunting and fishing gear, pool hall, and card room. Oh yes, there is the "diner", really a restaurant and general hang out.

Ninety year old Gilbert Roberts has a farm on Serenity Road. Everyone for miles around knows Gilbert. After several attempts at finding him home we were about to leave when after Wanda tooted the car horn and I heard in the distance the whirr of an engine getting closer. Then from over the hill appeared an all terrain vehicle or as they're called up here a "4 wheeler". The man astride who appeared about three score years and who I assumed (wrongly) was Gilbert's son was, in fact, himself. Seems some cattle had gotten loose and had to be rounded up. We spent the better part of an hour with this delightful man as he moved about with the agility of one half his age. He had built his house originally "up yonder" in the 1930's and later moved it to it's present location adding on as space was needed. He told us of the "dry pond" up the mountain. A depression in the rock which seeped water and of "Roberts Cove". Proudly he brought out the family genealogy detailing births, deaths, wills, and purchases since his family moved into the area back in the 1700's. And he showed us the pictures of himself and "Big Jim" of "Survivor " fame when the later visited his farm. Of course, we were invited back and certainly will take him up on that invite.

Often people are quick to invite us in at the first knock on their door. Whether they are interested in the insurance or not we are many times offered dinner or lunch and shown a hospitality unheard of in other more urban places. There remains a strong sense of community in this mountain country. People wave as their cars or pickups or tractors pass. And those of us who were a short time ago strangers become friends.

That mystical and spiritual quality forms a bond among us mountain dwellers. I said in one of my earlier posts, we don't choose these mountains, they choose us. This life isn't for everyone but those of us fortunate enough to be among the chosen find a wealth that overcomes the economic disadvantages.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mucho Gusto, Amigo!

Sometimes Karma takes a while to come around but sure as tent poles to tepees, it does. Whether it's a part of the grand design or just the way things happen, as they say, what goes around comes around. And so now all us Anglos are beginning to understand how the former inhabitants of this continent felt as the watched the guys from across the seas invading their borders. And we didn't speak their language and we dressed funny and we did the work, plowing and such that most of the men didn't want to do. And on top of all that we ate funny food, escargot and quiche and asparagus. Well, maybe not, but it wasn't maize, squirrel and wild turkey. And criminals, what a fantastic place, these colonies, to dump the sixteenth and seventeenth century miscredants. So now it seems Montizuma is having his revenge in a very disturbing way and we, in the good old U. S of A. , are getting smacked up side the head with our own device.

For whatever reason my ancestors arrived on these shores before the Rebellion or Revolution (depending on how revolutionary ones thought process may be). So I don't have tales of Ellis Island or striving to attain citizenship in this great nation. Our family does have stories of indenture, hardship to survive the harsh pioneer life, work from sunrise to sunset and then into the night, and developing this country into what it is. My wife's family, of the middle passage, slavery, finally freedom and then the reality of Jim Crow. But the point is, for the most part, we all came from somewhere else and it was tough getting here and surviving here. And the vast majority of us were in one form or another illegals.

We now raise a stink about the security of our borders. But really, how secure have those frontiers ever been? There's a history of undocumented immigration from the Chinese in California to the Cubans in Florida. What amazes me about this present invasion is the lengths gone to to arrive at the American dream. Stuffed in trucks and vans the come. Running and swimming and risking life in a harsh desert environment they come. And somehow they and this vast melting pot has survived and thanks to many of these same immigrants, prospered.

I must admit I feel somewhat intimidated at seeing signs in Spanish I don't understand. But that's my problem for not paying more attention in high school Spanish class. No thanks to all the cute girls who had a yen to learn the language and were probably dreaming of acquiring a Latin lover at some point in their adolescent lives. What's more, I see an increasing number of Latin faces replacing black faces on the crime reports. And some of the banks up here in the mountains now have large banners (in Spanish, of course) advertising their willingness to transfer funds to Mexico. But lets face it folks, a whole lot of capitalist business people have been enjoying the fruits of migrant crop workers for years. And about that lettuce, grape, orange, strawberry or some other yummy we savored picked by some guy who shouldn't be in this country?

I really don't need to catalog the argument for or against our present predicament. Are many of these people here illegally and should they be held responsible for their illegal act? Yes, but how? How do we even identify the millions of individuals? How do we prevent more of the same? It would seem much easier to sneak across the border and fade into the scenery than to go through the bureaucrat mumbo jumbo. What started as a trickle has become a deluge and it's to late to put the finger in the dam.

And the crazy thing is as more and more U.S. citizens and jobs move to Latin America, more and more citizens of Latin America move here. One of the reasons; many nations no longer have a national identity but have become political systems. But that's another post.

Guys' Rules

The Guys' Rules

At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down. The guys' side of the story, Finally!

(I must admit, it's pretty good.) We always hear "the rules" from the female side.
Now here are the rules from the male side.
These are our rules!

Please note.. these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

Take a deep breath and read on!

1. Men ARE not mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat.
You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down.
We need it up, you need it down.
You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't Expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both.
If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings.
Peach, for example, is a fruit; Not a color!! Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong.
We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine...Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or golf.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

1. Thank you for reading this.
Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight;

But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

Monday, May 15, 2006


This is one of the two Ladyslippers which grow wild in our backyard. It's a type of orchid which matures slowly and take years to bloom.

Just one more springtime joy which makes Groundhog Mountain such a wonderful and special place.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


My Mom refers to our family as "pleasantly disfunctional". She's right but then Moms are always right. It took my a long time to figure that out. Well, they may not always be right but they will always be Mom and for the most part want only the best for their kids.

Now most everyone says their Mom is special but mine really is. I mean people who aren't even related call her "mom". But she's mine and it wasn't easy for her.

I was born one Friday (that's right "full of woe") afternoon at precisely 2 PM to this unmarried, nineteen year old daughter of the local minister... and it was 1940, a time when people looked at things like that a little differently then they do now. I wasn't aborted or farmed out but taken into the family and loved. Mom worked when very few women did. After several stepfathers, the last of whom was the love of my Mothers life and whose surname I bear, she entered widowhood and, with her unconquerable spirit, continues to have her hair and nails done each week.

She lives comfortably in a beautiful neighborhood close by St. Petersburg Beach, Florida where she regularly entertains houseguests from as far away a Scotland. Each summer she makes a trip to visit friends in Nova Scotia where she is the past Grand Representative for the Order of Eastern Star from Florida (a honor now held by my brother in law, Al). She has been active in the Order for years and is still requested to play the organ (she also Past Grand Organist in Florida) at many meetings drawing from the repertory of marches she's written.

At 85 (she doesn't mind me telling) her balance, due to a childhood inner ear accident, is not so good and she has to watch it so she doesn't fall. She voluntarily handed over the keys to her car a year or so ago and her family and many friends provide transportation and a steadying hand when needed. She has other ailments but when I ask her how she is the answer is always a cheerful "just fine". The one catastrophe that was worse than the time she fell and injured her shoulder was the time on a trip she was caught in the rain with no hairdresser available. She always says she has nothing to do and in the next breath accounts her hair, nail, meeting, doctors, and family and friend appointments she's scheduled for the next week and oh, yes she just got back from the Caribbean cruise and then there was the recent week in Jacksonville.

She hands out advice and assistance, solicited or not, with nothing but love as the motive. She has been, and I hope will be for many years, (her side of the family are notoriously long of life) the best of Moms to myself and Wanda and to my two sisters, Mary Ellen and Joni and their families.

So to you with love , Mom and all the wonderful Mothers and adopted Mothers, a very happy and blessed Mother Day.

The Girls

Our life and that of Fisal, the attack cat, have radically altered! And I am now the lone male in a home with four females.

On our many excusions down Falls Road in Grayson County we interpreted the several conversations held between a farmer and his son. Faraway Farms straddles the road and the lack of traffic made for a stop and chat environment. On one of the stop and chats I sold them some insurance. Little did I know the retribution of that act. While I was working, love of my life was becoming attached to the remaining two six week old beagle puppies romping around and generally irritating their mother.

"If ya take one, ya gotta take 'em both" said farmer Al.

We handed over the policies and Mrs. Farmer Al gleefully handed over who have become Isabel and Isabella or "Izzy" and "Bella" to save confusion. Bella (pictured above) appears to be the "runt" of the litter and it's suggested she has some Blue Tick Hound markings. Izzy has the more typical beagle markings.

Whatever the markings they are beagles with a capitol "B". Playful, oh yeah! Active, oh yeah! Hungry, OH YEAH! They have settled into a routine; eat, play, sleep, poop. One good thing, since they have been outside dogs they stare at the door and whine when the latter occasion calls.

Since we don't feel comfortable leaving them in the house or running loose when we go on the road they have been traveling with us. And they, like Wanda, sleep most of the drive time.

Izzy (at left) is seen in a somewhat uncharacteristic pose. She is the instigator and always getting into things (like the cat food), whining at the least provocation. On the other hand she is the sensitive one. A harsh word will send her hiding under some leaves or behind the bed whichever is available. However Bella, the quiet one, at a harsh word will only look with innocent eyes as if to say "Why me, I didn't do anything".

So there it is, another dimension has been added to the ever changing adventures at Villa MacBean. Who knows how many shoes, speaker cords, and other loose objects will fall prey to the sharp little puppy teeth. Who knows how many times love of my life will (again) throw up her hands and exclaim "those dogs have to go". And how many times will her loving husband reply "no way, you're the one who wanted them and now you're stuck with them". And please don't tell her, I wanted them too.

These pictures aren't too good. Anyone who has tried to photograph beagle pups with a substandard camera will understand.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Quick Post

Leaving the mountain early, getting home late with the good type of tired. Trying to catch up on the bills. Are we having fun? Oh, yes.
Miss all my blogging friends but anything I would write after a long day would be more incomprehensible than usual.
Five policies and two beagle puppies from Faraway Farm yesterday. Details and pics (of the puppies)will follow.
Thanks for the words of concern.