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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in elloree's LiveJournal:

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Monday, November 17th, 2014
7:20 pm
A TREASURE IN NATURE PART II
It’s 11:00 AM now. I’ve been praying for the folks at the church I attend. I am the Children’s Pastor and Children’s Church is about to start. The person who will one day take my place will be bringing the message to the Children today. Alena is young and coming into her prime. I am old and my prime has about worn off now. The clock is such a doggone enemy. I know my time is going to run out before I get done telling them everything I think they need to know. And speaking of scientists! Children are natural born two dimensional scientists. They are amazed by everything and they know it is from the Hand of God. Somewhere along the way we tend to lose something. I don’t know why. As some folks grow, they grow smaller. One day they finally become boxed in to the point that they only experience what they receive through their senses. A child’s life is so free, so full. That’s how I want to be and how I want to stay. There’s nothing I would rather do than be the pastor of children.

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the way I turned into a wimp. Somebody told me I needed to wear shoes and I believed them. I wish I could feel the leaves under my feet. I did that when I was boy. My tender, lily-white feet won’t stand for it now. From what I understand, St. Francis of Asissi finished out his days on this earth going barefoot. He said he wanted to feel the firm ground beneath his feet. Maybe I’ll put that on my list of things to do before I leave this world.

I’m trying not to move too much. A bluebird just lit in a pine tree by me. He is so bright blue. Since a pine is an evergreen, it still has green needles on it. The bark is brown. Blue, green, and brown all right there together. And there is a muscadine vine growing up the side of that pine. I know I don’t deserve to see this much that’s good, but I sure am thankful. And yes! I see my Master’s hand in it all. And this is the wintertime. Come spring, there’s going to be more beauty here than mortal man deserves to see and hear. Still, He’s going to make it all happen just in case somebody comes along and takes the time to stand still and look and listen. And somebody might be like me and get so amazed that they ease on up there and hug a tree. It could happen! I was praying for Shane while he was teaching the kids in my Sunday School Class. Children’s Church is going on right now, so I am praying for Alena and whoever is working with her. Probably Mr. Willman is one of the people helping. Now that’s a good man who makes it happen. And I could not get it done without him. Mostly I am praying for grace. Grace is the good the Almighty gives us that we don’t deserve. We have about 25 kids and every week we handle Children’s Church like it’s the last time we’ll ever get to do it. May we never lose that approach.

While I’m out here I’m reading the book of Micah. It’s one of those short books in the Bible that hardly anybody can find. But it says some pretty great stuff. Micah talks about preachers and prophets who are in it for the money. I find such great liberty in not taking money for being the Children’s Pastor. I was offered money, but I turned it down. I think I’m a regular guy. If I took the money I think I would make sure to kiss whoever’s butt I had to in order to keep the check coming. I like the Apostle Paul’s idea. I’d rather talk about Jesus for free and make my money somewhere else. Also, in Micah 4:3 is the verse I love and everybody has heard it. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

I’m all packed up now, but I’m not ready to go. I do love hearing this voice and seeing His hand. But I am missing my girl and I’m ready to see her again. I’m thankful she keeps me. It was so cold Friday and Saturday night that I’m a bit amazed at how warm it is right now. The sun feels good. I won’t get fooled though. We still got some winter left. Maybe something I’ve written will be helpful to you, but mostly it’s for me. I forget things. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. He has shown me things I need to always remember. And I am already looking forward to next February.

Rick
7:18 pm
A TREASURE IN NATURE – PART I
Well let’s see, it’s 9:45 AM on Sunday, February 16, 2014. I am off on my annual Jesus & me camping trip. There are 4 big things I do on these trips: eat, sleep, read, and talk with Jesus. In about 4 hours I will be packing it up and heading back home to see my bride of almost 39 years. She’s the one person I could not do without. And she is good about letting me go on my annual campout. Nobody gets to go with me. I need to be alone. And I don’t take any distractions. I don’t have a T.V., or computer, or smart phone. My girl did let me borrow her cell phone just in case of emergency. It stays off unless I need it. And there’s nothing smart about it – it makes a phone call.

Sometimes when I get here I spend the whole weekend trying to get the knots out of my rope. I get so bogged down and sidetracked all year long that by February I’m off in a dark corner somewhere and I’m needing Jesus to call my name so I can follow His voice and find my way out of the darkness. A school teacher told me Friday that she feels like she has committed some unpardonable sin and is going to hell because of it. She couldn’t put her finger on what that sin might be, but she has a feeling. I get like that sometimes. Maybe there’s something bad I did, or something good I failed to do, or some of both, or maybe none of that. But I often spend the whole weekend begging to hear His voice.

This has not been that kind of weekend. Just a few months ago I read “The Shack”. It is the best book I have ever read outside of the Bible. And I have read a lot of books. It may not be the best for anybody else. I’m just talking about myself. Since I read that book, I have been hearing His voice with such great clarity. On the way to my camping spot I was already hearing His voice.

Along with reading my Bible, I have read a little from Oswald Chambers book, “My Utmost for His Highest”. In the devotional for February 10, he says something profound. “If we are children of God, we have a Tremendous Treasure in Nature”. Just before I started writing all of this, I was walking through the woods. I was talking to Him a little, but mostly listening. I came to a sweet gum tree and felt the bark. I recognize that old boy. Just like a person who loves Van Goth can recognize one of his paintings, I can see the hand of my Maker in that tree. Then I went over to a pine and broke off a piece of bark. I know that bark; I know that tree. And there’s a shag bark hickory. I rubbed the bark and took a good look. Yes! I see the hand of the same Maker in all of them. I gave all those trees a hug. I have been doing that long before I knew there was a name for people like me. When folks call us “tree huggers”, it is never said in a charitable way. That’s okay. For me, it feels like the right thing to do.

I am never mad at the scientist. They see it, they study it, they want to understand it all. I am just like that. There is only one difference between the scientist and me. We both see and agree. The only difference is that the scientist sees with one dimension and thinks there is no more. Of course, by its very nature, science is what can be seen and felt, weighed and measured. If they could understand that there is another dimension! If they could see what the children of God see, their wide eyes of amazement would be wider still. I have all of Bob Dylan’s gospel albums. His third one is called “Shot of Love”. The last song on the record is “Every Grain of Sand”, and in that song he says, “I can see the Master’s hand in every leaf that trembles; in every grain of sand”.

That’s how this weekend has been for me. Every step I take! Rich Mullins said, “everywhere I go I see You”. Since it’s February, I’m walking on last years leaves. I know those leaves. They came from the same hand that made me. We are of the earth. He made us out of dirt and it feels good to be here. As much as I love to be in my shop building a guitar, I don’t hear the voice God the way I do out here in the woods. And feeling His presence out amongst these trees is not some nice warm spot somewhere in my heart. I feel His presence all over me and even out to the tips of my dried and cracked fingers.

Rick
Thursday, February 27th, 2014
8:54 am
NOTES FROM THE PRODIGAL
Well, let’s see. It’s been several years since I stopped by here with something to say. Since life is like a big rushing river, a lot of things keep changing. I don’t know when I’ll have opportunity to do this again, so I might just bounce around from one personal interest to another.

I think my last entry had to do with the prospect of hiring a communist president. He’s into his second term and making good on his communist leanings. As people in the past have always learned, we will also learn that communism doesn’t work. This world is fallen and the hearts of sinful men won’t allow for some supposed charitable system of government to work. And the big 4 letter word here is WORK. So many people tend towards laziness, but work is required if we are to have anything. If a person gets something without working for it, then that means something was provided for him by someone who is working. Hard working folks always allow for a certain number of freeloaders for a while. But, we finally get to the point that we have had enough. Communism does not work.

I never say that anybody has to agree with me. Now give me enough time and I will sometimes change my mind on things I used to believe. So here’s my opinion on something. When we came to this last presidential election I concluded that if we re-elected Barak Hussein, then it was a sign. Since he was re-elected. I am satisfied in my own mind that we are under the judgment of God. Just like people in the Old Testament I think we have ignored warnings, insisted on having our own way, rebelled against the laws of God, and have now brought judgment on ourselves. I think we have absolutely gone over a cliff and there is no possibility of getting out of judgment now. We have a free will, but free will carries responsibility with it. We can’t plead ignorant, and we can’t blame somebody else. We have done our own thing and now we are going to pay the high price. Some will want to blame God for not bailing us out of our own sinful choices, but there have always been those who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.

Alright, enough of that! Let’s see. What else is new? I’m turning 59 and have decided that I am too old to be a lumberjack anymore. Hauling 6 foot logs out of the swamp was OK when I was younger, but it’s not OK anymore. The last two trees I harvested were a white oak and a sycamore. I intend to use up the wood I have in my shop and then call it a day as far as building goes. I hope to keep doing instrument repairs as long as I am alive. I expect to have a sycamore mandolin and guitar completed soon, and put pictures on my site so folks can see how beautiful that wood is, and so they will know I have added it to my lineup of woods.

I am a deacon in my church, have 4 grandchildren and 2 great children who married well, a girl who has kept me for 40 years, and I’m also the children’s pastor. For a guy who is old, gray long haired, smelly and cranky; that’s not too bad. My girl and I still have our fruit trees and herbs, and we love our quiet little life.

Please forgive me for going so long without updating my website. I tend to think I should be slowing down a little the older I get. But, I still get up early and work hard till the day is done. I will try to do better with my site though.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to check in again soon.

Makin’ sawdust & diggin’ the music.
Rick
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
3:01 pm
TRADE OFFS
I don’t mean to confuse people, but I do. There’s a difference between a production guitar and one that’s handmade. With a production model, you try out what is offered and see if it’s right for you. If you like it, then you’re in business. If you don’t like it, you move on and try something else. When it comes to handmade, there are so many choices to be had. There’s a choice on nearly everything; and you ought to see my work order form once the details have been worked out for whomever I’m building for. There’s the wood choice, body shape, string length, wired or not, headstock shape, fret board radius, neck radius, neck width, and bridge type. A person can have a thin body or deep; a full body or a cutaway; a rounded cutaway or a pointed. The instrument can be clear coated or painted; gloss or semi gloss. The folks I build for make a long list of choices – and there are other choices I’m not bothering to enumerate.

As a person makes the choices, I sort of act like a traffic director. Part of my job is to make sure people don’t make choices that would create an ugly, unstable, or unplayable instrument. Another part of my job is to let people know what their choices will cost them. And I’m not necessarily speaking about a monetary cost. With stringed instruments, you can’t have anything for free. Everything is a tradeoff. For everything you get, there’s something you have to give in exchange. So folks have to decide what they want and what they are willing to give up in exchange.

And here’s how it works. People love the idea of a thin body guitar. It lays real close to us and it’s not so hard to reach around. But the Almighty set up some laws of physics, and try as we may, we can’t get around them. The more cubic inches of airspace in the body of an instrument, the bigger and better the tone and volume. So, which good thing would you rather have? The same goes for a cutaway. On a full body guitar, we can only get about fourteen frets of us. The frets across the top and up to the sound hole may look nice, but they never see any action. But if you have a cutaway, you can get to all those frets. When you have a cutaway, you take away cubic inches of airspace and you end up with the same downside as you would on a thin body. So which do you need more? Do you need a bigger sound? You can’t have both. You have to trade one for the other.

When it comes to strings, we keep wishing for a miracle. We’d love to have strings the size of thread so they wouldn’t hurt our fingers, and we want them to boom like thunder. Well, the bigger the string, the better sound. That’s just the way it is. The smaller the string, the easier it is to play, but those small strings have less tension, and just won’t shake the wood as much. So what kind of trade would you like to make? You only get to have it one way and it’s going to cost you something.

This little give and take thing is not strange or unique to guitars. This is the way of life. There is nothing for free, and we can’t have it all. There’s always one more person trying to prove they can have it all, but nobody ever does. Reba had this song back in the 80’s called “Little Rock”. She told about how she married a rich man and got all the good things money could buy. But, then she went on to say she was going to find some poor boy and cheat on her husband because her husband was always chasing business deals. Even as a guy who was young and not too smart, I could still see what a dumb ass song that was. She married him because he was rich. She knew he wasn’t sitting around waiting on a welfare check. He got rich by working hard. To think we can work an angle and get it all is just mythical. Sooner or later it all comes crashing down and we end up with nothing. We have to choose. And after we’ve made our choices, we have to live with what our choices cost us. Some of us make bad choices and see they cost too much, and some of us don’t mind what we missed out on because we’re glad for what we got.

I guess the biggest trade off of all time is the one Jesus speaks about in Matthew 16:26. He asks what a person would give in exchange for his soul. That’s a good question to ask. We all have to ask ourselves that question. If I’m to lose my soul and go to hell, how much would I have to get for it to be a good trade? And Jesus sets the trade real high. He wants to know if getting to rule the world would be a good enough trade. If I could own the world, if I could get anything I want, and as much as I want, would I lose my soul to hell and count it as a fair deal?

I don’t think anybody will ever get to lay claim to the whole world and swap their soul for it. I have seen people who traded it all away for much less. I know a man who wanted alcohol more than anything else in this world. He traded everything for that one thing. I knew a man who wanted sex more than anything and he gave himself completely to that one pursuit. He’s not in this world anymore. If I could talk to him now and ask if it was a good trade, I know what his answer would be.

I am always making choices and giving up one thing to get another. And I’m trying to keep in mind that Jesus said I need to count the cost of what I choose. I hope not to be a fool and lose those things that are eternal for those things that are passing.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, May 31st, 2010
11:42 am
M.I.A.
Please excuse Rick for being absent – for the last 2 months.
Mrs. Rick

Well, you see, what had happened was! I have started my fourth complete reading of the Bible. The further I got in to my reading, the less I felt like saying. Imagine that! Me, not having anything to say! I’ve been remembering the words of an old Randy Stonehill song where he said, “I’m speaking less and learning how to hear.” I’m a little over the halfway point right now. I just figured out for the first time that if you start at the beginning and read through Psalms, then you are right at halfway through. I have just finished Ecclesiastes, and hot diggity dog! I get to start into Song of Solomon. I might need to read this book a couple of times – if you can dig where I’m coming from. Even though I’m not putting a deadline on this fourth reading, I expect to be done before the end of this calendar year.

And let’s see what else is going on. Oh Hey! It’s almost June and I am still swearing off of the news. And I gotta tell ya, it’s harder than hell to avoid the news. I never really paid attention to how saturated we are with it until I tried to get away from it. I feel like a dog that has just figured out that he’s on a leash. I thought if I avoided the news on the radio, TV, and Internet, then I would have it covered. But I say unto thee brother “Nay!” I was greatly in error. The magazine racks at the checkout in WalMart want to let me know what’s going on. Folks talk about it at church, and Jay Lenno makes jokes about it on his show. People come to my shop and talk it: my email inbox is bombarded with it: and I even heard it coming from another guy’s radio while I was in traffic.

I saw Andrew Osenga recently. It’s been several years since I last saw him. He was in town for a concert at First Baptist. He told me he’s no longer with Caedmon’s Call. You know, when he joined that band, I wondered how long that would last. He was previously with a band called The Normals. He’s a really big gun and I didn’t think he would stay forever with somebody else’s band. If you look at the section called “Andrew Sightings” you’ll see a couple of new pictures of him. Also, take a look at the section “The Goings On Of A Wood Whittler.” There was a guy at Andrew’s concert I had met years ago, and managed to inspire him to build his own guitar. You can read all about it there.

During the first week of June, Sherry & I will be on the east coast visiting with my folks. They are getting old now and I’m not sure how much longer they will be with us, so I better see them again while I have opportunity. They live outside of Elloree, SC. You’ve always been wondering at how I arrived at the name of my guitar business. Well, there’s how simple the answer is. Elloree has always had a population of less than one thousand. When I fist started this business I wasn’t sure what to call it, but I was sure it would not be “Felkel Guitars.” Even in the small town of Elloree, where there are a lot of us Felkel’s, you would not believe all the different ways our name gets pronounced. Rarely do I ever here anybody mispronounce Elloree. And I always miss that small town, so I’m glad I chose that name for my business.

There’s nothing I can think of that’s worth complaining about. My family members are all doing well. I know four men who are better men than I ever expect to be and they have all lost their wives to death. I don’t know how a guy like me has been allowed to keep a good woman for as long as I have, but I sure am thankful. Our son just got a better teaching job, and our daughter and her husband are raising their four children – our four grandchildren. Our garden and fruit trees are doing good, and so is my daughter’s garden and fruit trees. It rains on regular occasions and every thing is green is growing. Our Rhode Island Red hens are grown and laying eggs of the highest quality. I got it way better than I ought to have it, and I am a thankful boy.

A few months ago I became a bonafide member of a small independent church. You know, I really had intentions of spending the rest of my life in that black church I was a member of. If there’s one thing I think looks real goofy, it’s for a black person to try to be white or a white person to try to be black. I’m happy being what the Almighty made me. If He had made me black: then I would have liked being black. If He had made me a red man, then being a red man would have been my favorite thing to be. But, I’m white, and white is just right. But there’s no getting around the fact that the black church suited my nature. I didn’t have to say “Amen” if I agreed with the preacher. I don’t use the word “Amen”. I say, “Right on,” or “I can dig it”. Nobody looked at me funny and nobody laughed at me or thought me to be some kind of comedy relief. Nobody got irritated when I played my guitar and rocked the flock. A person could dance or clap or cry or just bust out into a song and it was OK. I enjoyed that liberty.

This white church I belong to now is a lot more reserved than what I’m used to, but it’s a good place to be. My preacher has one of those reverse Mohawk haircuts. When he preaches he doesn’t do cartwheels and he doesn’t have snot and spit flying everywhere. But, he sure shoots it straight. He absolutely knows what he’s talking about when he preaches and he doesn’t bend, twist, or in general mistreat the Bible. One thing I noticed about the black preachers I heard was that being accurate was optional. The important thing was for them to get real excited when they preached. It wasn’t even a requirement that you be able to understand what they were saying. Sometimes in all the screaming and jumping, you couldn’t tell if they were speaking in English or French, or whatever. But, that didn’t matter so long as you could tell the man was excited about what he was saying – whatever it was. Give me my quiet, clear, truthful preacher any day. After all, I don’t just go so I can get a feel good fix. I need to learn how to walk right.

OK! Now we’re caught up – Kinda. I’ll try to write more and keep up my Bible reading at the same time. And so always, I am

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, March 22nd, 2010
7:25 pm
All Things To All People
In my youth and ignorance, I told too many people that I was going to build the sweetest sounding guitar to ever inhabit the earth. And for years, that really was my intention. The older I got, the more the truth started to come ‘round to me! There’s no such thing as the sweetest guitar. There are too many variables that come into play.

For one thing, the guitar family is big. There are acoustic guitars of different sizes and shapes and string lengths. Different woods have different sounds and the type or size of strings have a definite effect. Then you got the solid body electric models, and the ocean full of different possibilities on pickups and controls. There are tenors, classical, acoustic and electric basses, lap steels, and the list go on. I didn’t know enough on the subject to realize what a stupid statement I was making.

I have finally figured out that one size doesn’t fit everybody. Sherry & I just got back from a bluegrass meeting. These guys prefer a big dreadnought guitar (preferably a Martin) with medium gauge strings. As I got around showing my instruments and handing out business cards, I noticed there were absolutely no solid body electric Fender guitars there. And I made sure not to bring any solid body electric Elloree guitar with me. They got no use for something like that. I didn’t take a uke or a baritone either. When Sherry and I went to a blues festival in Clarksdale, MS, I did take some solid body instruments. There are so many different instruments and they all come in different sizes and with different options, because music is so diverse. The trick is to match the instrument to the player and the style of music. I didn’t understand that when I was a young man.

You’ve heard people advertising their business and telling you about “one stop shopping”. That goes in the same category as “the sweetest sounding guitar in the world.” There’s a reason I have a half dozen suppliers in my guitar building business. No one place has everything I need. One of my suppliers told me he was not going to sell binding because there wasn’t enough money in it. Another supplier is very limited on the kinds of pickups they handle. It’s hard, if not impossible, for one business to be all things to all people.

And in my own shop, I have had to come to terms with my limitations. There are some things I don’t know how to do. There are some things I understand, but don’t have the necessary tools to get the job done. There are some things I don’t like to do, some things I don’t have room for, and some things I refuse to do. When I was young, I used to also say I was going to do everything possible on a stringed instrument in my shop.

Recently a man called me and wanted to tell me how I ought to be building guitars. I hate it when people tell me how to build, especially when they don’t know how. He sent me a picture of a guitar with something called “compensated frets”. The fret wire was not straight. It almost had a “Z” formation to it. He said the person on the Internet said that your notes would be more exact with these frets. I was trying my best to be nice and tell him “no” all the same time. Well, he wouldn’t give it up. He kept insisting that this is how I needed to be building my fret boards. I got real honest and told him I didn’t think my tools or I was capable of that. So he told me about a computer driven laser saw I needed to buy to get the job done. Sure! Great! Then I had to tell him I didn’t have space or money for such a piece of equipment. The short story is that I can’t be what he wants me to be, and he wouldn’t stop, so I quit talking with him. I’m getting old now and I’ve figured out that I can’t be all things to all people.

So I have this long list of things that are not going to be done in my shop. I don’t have it written in its entirety anywhere, but I do have it well fixed in my mind. I don’t build forgeries. I’m not saying forgeries don’t get built; I just don’t do it. I don’t build instruments that look like they need to have an exorcism performed over them. I don’t spray a three-color sunburst, and I don’t do much inlay. I don’t use endangered woods. Seems for every one thing I do in my shop, there are at least a half dozen things I don’t do. I talked about the computerized frets I’m not going to use. There are so many different ideas about how a fret board should be made. There’s also “fan fret spacing”. There are scalloped fret boards. Fret boards can be had with a radius, a half radius, or flat. And then the frets themselves come in different sizes and made from different minerals. And if that’s not enough, there are fretless fingerboards and several possibilities on the radius.

I’m like every other hand builder. We have all figured out how we are going to go about it in our shop. Lots of other things can be done – by somebody else. Being a small timer, I always hate to turn down work. But to always do a good job, sometimes I have to know when to say “when”.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, March 8th, 2010
12:13 pm
Good Read – Part II
A wise man once told me that we all carry within us the seeds for our own destruction. There’s nobody who can come along and mess up my plans to read the Bible through again, but I can sho’ nuf screw it up for myself. And I can think of several ways I could short circuit this good plan I presently have. I could let that original sin of pride get the better of me. And if I ever tell you that I don’t have a problem with pride, I give you permission to go on and call me a liar. There have been lots of good things I’ve done just so I would be able to brag and let you know I got one up on you. I could get bored; switch off my mind and just sorta coast through this reading. I might get tired of it and just quit. If I quit praying, or read with selective hearing, then I’m shot in the butt. But, I sure am hoping to follow on through to the end. It’s not how well we start. A lot of people get something started. The important thing is to see it to completion.

Here’s one good reason why I’m needing to read the Bible through again. Hebrews 4:12 and 13 says, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

And that “two-edged word” thing stays in my mind. It’s a good thing for me to read the Bible and put it to practice. But for me to read it and be no better as a result; well now, that’s something altogether different. Jesus said it’s better for a servant not to know his Masters will, than to know it and not do it. So by reading the Bible, I’m either calling down a blessing or a cursing on myself. And the choice is entirely up to me.

And I don’t want to be hardheaded. I am hardheaded, but I am trying to mend the error of my shiftless ways. I just got through reading about Elijah in I Kings. He was hiding in a cave and the Almighty let him know He was about to speak to him. Elijah came out to the mouth of the cave and waited. He saw a strong wind coming and it was tearing the mountains apart and shattering rocks. Then scripture says, “But the Lord was not in the wind”. Then an earthquake shook the place, “But the Lord was not in the earthquake”. After that a fire came raging toward him, “But the Lord was not in the fire”. Finally, the Lord spoke to him in “a gentle whisper”. Just between you and me, I really like an earth shattering experience. I’d like Him to make it so abundantly clear to me that there wouldn’t be any possibility of me missing the point He’s trying to make.

I like the Apostle Peter. He reminds me a lot of myself. He wasn’t a big thinker, but he sure had a big mouth. He was always up for a good fistfight, and he had a habit of getting in over his head. In Acts 10, God was about to include the Gentiles in His plan of salvation. Peter was His man, only he didn’t know it yet. Peter was a hardheaded, patriotic, upright Jew, so he never would have gone to the Gentiles on his own. You ought to read about the big song and dance act the Lord had to go through in advance just to get Peter ready for the idea. That’s the way I am. I want a vision. I want a loud voice that I can’t miss. But all that is, is a sign that I’m too slow and stubborn. I need to be listening for the quiet voice.

One thing I had to do to get quiet is turn off the news. I turned it off before Christmas and I haven’t gone back to it – yet. Not only is it quieter in my house and shop, but it is quieter in my head. For the first time in a really long time, I’m not bombarded and overrun by all the gossip, nonsense, and stuff that I absolutely can’t do anything about. And see, here’s something else I learned in the Bible. Reading for understanding is like planting a garden. Before I could get my garden going, there was a lot of preparation I had to do. You can’t just go out there and throw out a bunch of seeds. I had to chop down trees and dig out roots. I had to put up a fence and till up that hard ground. I made rows and spread fertilizer. Finally, I planted me some seeds. There is absolutely no need to try to read the Bible in the middle of chaos, or while I’m multitasking. Stuff gets in the way and seeds from His Word just won’t grow in me.

Here’s a key to succeeding at anything we try to do: 30 minutes a day! I teach folks to play the guitar, mandolin, and bass, and the assignment for the week always requires 30 minutes of practice each day. There’s always somebody who thinks if they don’t practice for long enough, then I’ll give them that smart pill that turns them into a guitar player without any effort. But there’s no getting around the fact that if we’re ever going to be good at something, then it requires consistent effort. That’s the way it is with reading the Bible and getting physically fit. There is a book called “Thirty Days To A Better Vocabulary”. If a person were to stay on track with the assignment, then in 30 days they would have a better vocabulary. I’d never expect to get anywhere in my Bible reading if I just did a little bit here and there. I have time every day now, because I’m not spending time watching the news.

I’d like to sign off by quoting Psalm 119. OK, I’m just foolin’. I ain’t quoting Psalm 119. That’s the longest chapter in the Bible. Within the Bible, it attests to the merits of reading the Bible. This chapter is all about the goodness of reading the Bible. I won’t try to summarize it. But read the chapter one day.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, March 1st, 2010
1:09 pm
Good Read – Part I
One thing my family & I have in common is that we all like to read. A person can’t go wrong by giving us a book for Christmas or our birthday. In fact, for Christmas I got 2 books: “Going Rogue,” by Sarah Palin, and “Good Day! The Paul Harvey Story” by Paul J. Batura. And I’m like Jed Clampit. I got a powerful hankerin’ to get into those books. But, I’m already into a book, and my mind is not good enough to read 2 at a time like some people can. I’m reading the Bible.

Now this is not my first time to read the Bible cover to cover. This is in fact my fourth complete reading. The first time I read it was as part of a college course. The professor told me she would flunk me if I didn’t read it. I didn’t put too much effort into that first reading, but I did get a passing grade. And along the way I did learn a few things. The second time I read it was because of peer pressure. I was in a church where it seems everybody else was doing it, and they were all staring at me wondering why I wouldn’t get with the program. So I did. And I picked up a few more things. The third time I read it was because of my own choosing, and it’s amazing how much more I learned. This time through is the best reading so far.

People who say they don’t believe the Bible really bother me. The main reason is because they nearly always say they have never read it. I would hate to show my absolute stupidity by getting out there and making authoritative statements about things I know absolutely nothing about. A while back I talked at length about the Masons. There’s a reason I don’t trust those boys. I know too much about them. I think every self-respecting atheist ought to read the Bible at least once before coming out with their declaration.

Some say they don’t believe the Bible, but I have a greater problem – I do believe it. The ignorant can just avoid it all, call it rubbish, and they don’t have to deal with any of it. I believe it all and have to deal with all the problems found in it. And here’s a bit of truth: the Bible doesn’t pull any punches. We like to paint our heroes in a good light. The Bible brings out the great flaws in the lives of the most beloved people. And it gets even worse than thatn. It gets into the motives of men’s hearts. As of February 13, 2010, I am in I Kings, and this is the hardest reading I’ve done so far. I think the reason is because I am awake and paying more attention than before.

And I don’t want to give the idea that it’s only the heathens who don’t want to read to the Bible. Last year I was visiting a church and after the Sunday morning service I told the preacher I was reading the Bible through for the fourth time. During his message the next Sunday he made sure to say that reading the Bible for yourself was way overrated. And I know he is not alone in his thinking. Back when I was a boy, Catholics were encouraged not to try to read and understand the Bible on their own. That sort of thing needed to be left to the highly educated professionals. They would in turn explain it to us lesser mortals. And indeed, there have been times in our history when it was against the law to own a Bible. Violators and translators were imprisoned, and sometimes put to death. And I’m not talking about in Communist China; I’m talking about laws and persecutions extracted by the church on its own people.

And here’s the grain of truth behind the thinking that average Christians should not try to study and understand the Bible on their own – the Bible is hard to understand. Before I start reading each day, I make sure to ask the Almighty to help me understand. The things in the Bible are not figured out with the natural mind. If He doesn’t give me understanding, then I will remain ignorant. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person in the Trinity, and one of His jobs is to help us understand the Bible. Thomas Jefferson tried to understand the Bible without relying on the Holy Spirit, and you ought to see a copy of the Jefferson Bible. It is so incredibly thin. He read the Bible and accepted only what he could understand and prove. The Bible says the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that made sense to him, so he accepted it as truth. The rivers run to the seas and clouds bring rain – well sure! But he rejected those parts of the Bible that required faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

And at some point, I can actually see why some get disturbed when folks get to studying the Bible. There’s no getting around the fact the pages of history are dripping with blood that has been shed in the name of Jesus. The Name of Jesus is the most powerful Name and if you want justification for killing, then there’s no better way to do it than to do it in the Name of Jesus. Charles Manson, Jim Jones, early Catholic leaders, the KKK, Nazis: they all pled a Divine calling for their actions. They all pointed to scripture for their reason. They mishandled the Word of God, but it sure worked. They gave people conviction to fight and kill. If Jesus weren’t the real deal, He would have long ago been rejected by sane thinking men.

I am not approaching the Bible as some casual read. I don’t think of it as studying Shakespeare. The Bible is from the Almighty and it has changed the course of history – sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. I want Him to use it to make a good change in me.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, February 15th, 2010
9:56 am
Art
People bring stringed instruments to my shop that are in need of repairs. And I don’t mean needing new strings and bridge pins. Lots of instruments have come into my shop in a trashcan liner. The owner gathered up the pieces and parts, stuffed them in a plastic bag and brought them to me. I got an old Martin that a man found laying on a boat dock. The owner told the man that the guitar had been there for about a year and he was welcome to it if the wanted it. More than a few have been found in barns, and brought in for repairs. I’ve lost count of the guitars and mandolins I’ve opened up and found full of wasp and dirt dobber nests. Often there are pieces either missing or beyond repair. And most recently I completed a common restoration. A man brought in his guitar that was in complete dilapidation. Even new, it didn’t cost much, but it was his first guitar.

I did with this man what I do with everybody who comes in with a guitar that is in need of a total restoration. We look at it and talk about it. We talk about how long, how much, what will have to be done, and what a person can expect once I’m done. Nearly always the owner will ask if I think his instrument is worth it. That’s a question I don’t answer. I let the owner tell me if he thinks the guitar, or mandolin, or violin, or whatever, is worth it. And I always tell a person the same thing. I tell them that Jesus resurrects the dead body, and I resurrect the dead stringed instrument. And then they usually laugh when I tell them, “You just need to decide how much resurrection you can afford.” And a guitar is like an automobile. You can spend any amount of money on it that you want. You can always get that thing washed, and it always seems to need new wiper blades.

So this most recent man and I talked about it and worked out a plan. His guitar was not even playable in its present shape. The top and back were coming off, and there was a broken place in the sides. The neck was loose, the bridge was coming off, the bracing was split up, and the head and tail block were cracked. It actually could have used a refinish job, but the repairs were going to cost so much that he decided not to get it refinished. In the words of 007, “Later perhaps!” And we didn’t spend money on new machine heads. There were some gears and buttons missing, but I keep a lot of old pieces and parts and I was able to repair them, and for the most part, the machine heads are original. He probably spent 5 times as much on the restoration as what the guitar actually cost new, but it was worth it to him to have his first guitar fully functional again.

I think that most people never do their best. I know I don’t. I could always do better. What I tell people is that I do the best I can with the tools I have to work with. I could do better work with better tools, but alas! I cannot afford better tools. I do the best I can with these eyes that are growing dim and these hands that hurt worse all the time. I do the best I can with the time and money I’m allowed to get the job done. When a person gives me one day, and doesn’t want to spend more than $30.00, there’s just so much I can do.

I think most of us have and desire to do better, and we would if we could. If we had the time and place, and weren’t being pushed by a deadline, we would do better. When I was young I worked as a mechanic at a GM dealership. This German guy, who was a great mechanic, told me I took too long on automobiles. He said I was trying to hard to drive at perfection, when what I needed to do was make the repair, get that car out of the way, and get on to the next one. I hated what he told me; but I know he’s right. Those folks could not have afforded to pay me to spend all day on one automobile that might not even bring in much money.

I’m on my fourth complete reading of the Bible and I am starting into the book of II Samuel. Even if I had never read the book of Genesis, I can still look around myself and see that when the Almighty created everything, He didn’t hold anything back. And I am always amazed at how great His creation still is despite the fact that our first parents screwed up something that was perfect. You know, if He had made just one kind of bird, I would be in awe of something that can fly. Just one kind of fish would make me stand in amazement and try to figure out how that fish keeps from drowning. As long as we have lived on this earth, we keep finding more birds and fish that we didn’t know existed. And they come in so many colors and shapes and sizes. He is one artist who knew what He wanted to do, and did it. We hear His voice in the thunder and as water runs over rocks. We can feel his breath on us when the wind blows, and we can see His hand when the clouds cast a shadow. I think the only thing we actually lack is seeing His face.

Since we are made in His image, we have in us the desire to create. We’ll never do as good as the master Artist, but I know that given the right circumstance, we can do better than we do. If we could just find that day when we don’t have to hold anything back.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, February 8th, 2010
12:11 pm
Looking For The Balance
It’s a job to work on a Fender Strat with a floating bridge. I don’t use a floating bridge on the ones I build, but I will work on them. People just love that whammy bar. Personally, I think it’s hard on the wood, and you always gotta be tuning that thing. It’s just too much of a bother for me. I’d rather have a tremolo pedal. But you ought to see how that bridge actually works. It has strings pulling on it on the top and springs pulling on it on the back. The trick is to get a balance on the spring and string tension so the bridge sits level. Too much string tension and that old bridge rides high. Too much spring tension and the bridge is flat down welded to the top and it doesn’t want to move.

And the balance has to be set on each guitar. You know there are different size strings for acoustic guitars. Well, the same is true for electrics. You got extra lights, lights, mediums, and truth be told, the ones on my personal electrics are bigger than mediums. So one size doesn’t fit all when you start making adjustments. The string tension determines how much spring tension you need. The bridge and spring claw are both made to accommodate up to 5 springs. Sometimes it’s easy. I might put on 3 springs and gosh dog! It’s just right. But sometimes it takes 4. I had one just recently that kept kicking my butt. Three wasn’t enough, but 4 were too many. I ended up taking the fourth spring and stretching it out some so it would give less tension, and that gave us what we needed.

The older I get, the more I wish everything were black & white. There are some easy things I don’t have a problem with. We’ve all figured out by now that there’s nothing healthy about a cigarette. So smoking is something I never need to do. I’ll never get anything good out of snorting cocaine, so I’ll never start. Some things are just easy. I always need to keep up with the maintenance on my truck, always need to be reading the Bible and praying, and being faithful to my wife, and working an honest job, and treating folks kindly. If everything were this easy, my life would be simple.

While I work in my shop I listen to the radio. That’s what I do. Back before Christmas, I started thinking that my life has too much clutter in it – especially my mind. I was starting to see the need to think and pray more, and having the radio going was getting in the way. So I turned it off. To either have it on and let it keep my mind occupied, or to turn it off and clear my mind, are both easy things to do. The hard part, for me, is trying to figure out the balance. Can I listen to it some, and know when to turn it off? Can I get some good out of it without being spiritually sidetracked by it?

I’m about to turn 55. Last year I decided to do something. I thought I might like to see what beer is like. I’ve had too many friends who have either ruined their lives, or lost their lives because of alcohol. So it has been my practice to avoid beer. That was easy to do. Paul Harvey used to tell about the good that was in beer, or wine, if used in the right amount. You’d never know it by looking at me, but I have never been drunk or high. My entire life has been stone cold sober. But I get offered a lot of alcohol and weed, because I look like a guy who often partakes thereof. Since I’ve never been drunk and I’m about to turn 55, I tend to think I’m too old to be picking up what I see to be a bad habit.

But I’m curious enough about the subject of beer that I have started checking it out. There’s more I don’t know than there is that I do know, but I have figured this much out. I like beer the way I like coffee. I like it strong. I always felt like there was no point in weak coffee. Either take it like a man or go home. Some beer just tastes wimpy. And I don’t see the point in the fruity beer. But here’s where I draw the line. I can see that one bottle of beer doesn’t get me impaired. Two might not, but I’m not going to find out. One bottle in a day’s time is all I will drink. That seems like a good balance. If I ever think I can’t hold to that balance then it’s time to go back to leaving it off all together.

Do or don’t! That’s easy. But using liberty and looking for the balance - well, that’s where it gets difficult. When it comes to work, the balance is hard to find. The short story about me is that I feel guilty when I relax. So I work. The biblical command is to work 6 days and rest 1. I don’t have a problem with working 6 days. Then there’s some folks I know who sit on their dead ass and the most work they do is walking to the mailbox at the first of the month to get the check. We are both out there in need of finding the balance. And it seems like most of life is like a tight rope. It’s easy to go off to the left or right. Walking the rope is hard, but it’s where we need to be.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, February 1st, 2010
3:09 pm
I Changed My Mind - Again
Recently, you read about how I had changed my mind on something. After some thieving animal came and ate three of our Rhode Island Reds, I made the fence taller and put an electric fence outside of it. I still wasn’t happy. I wanted to kill whatever had gotten in the pen. So I got me some of these cage type traps. You put food in it and when an animal walks in to get the food, he steps on a pressure plate, the door slams shut, and he is caught. I had said I was going to kill whatever I caught, but changed my mind after I caught a skunk.

Well, I talked this story around to a lot of people. Folks thought my close encounter with a skunk was funny, so I kept telling it. There’s a feed store in town where I do most of my business. That’s where I got my water jugs, feed troughs, and I’m always buying fifty- pound bags of corn. There’s one guy there I usually deal with. He has some hens, so when he tells me what I need, I know that he knows what he is talking about. So one day I told him my story about the skunk; only he didn’t laugh. He told me I should have killed that skunk. He said that right here in our area skunks were caught for the purpose of testing them for rabies, and 90% of them tested positive. Well, good gosh and monkey! I didn’t know that! Right then I changed my mind again.

It wasn’t long before I caught another skunk. For the sake of the weak of heart, I’m not going to tell you now I killed him. I figured it was going to be a problem getting a dead skunk out of that cage, and the stink would be unbearable. Guess what? It was way worse than anything I had imagined. By the time I was done dealing with that big mess, I had changed my mind – yet again. I have a dust mask I wear on a regular basis in my shop, but I knew it was no good for this job. I got out the gas mask I wear when I’m down at the paint house spraying a finish. That mask has two big charcoal canisters to filter everything out of the air, and I could still smell that critter. The ground around the cage stunk and by the time I was done I stunk. You know how you can walk into a place where people are smoking, and come out smelling like cigarette smoke? That’s the way it was with Pepe’ Le’ Pue’. I was so sorry I had created such a mess. I reset the trap and went back to my shop.

A day or two later I caught another skunk. Well shit! I didn’t know I’d end up with another. I guess I should have known that Adam & Even thing would be going on. If there’s a boy skunk, there’s going to be a girl skunk somewhere. Since I don’t want to be overrun by a bunch of rabid skunks, I changed my mind one more time. I killed that creature in like manner as I had the first. And it was every bit as big of a mess as the first one. It has been more than a week now, and I haven’t caught any more skunks. I hope that’s the end of this problem.

I am always fascinated with the idea that the Almighty gave us the ability to change our minds. It’s what we call “free will.” I don’t guess animals have a free will as people do. My hens are so predictable. You remember how Rosco P Coletrain used to say he would jump on something like a “chicken on a Junebug?” They really do that. I ain’t never seen them pass up a Junebug, or worm, or grasshopper. For some reason every year at Thanksgiving the president is supposed to keep the tradition of pardoning the turkey. Even though we know it is food we can choose not to eat it. My hens don’t think like that. I don’t think any animals do.

And here’s a bit of truth. I always feel sorry for God. When it comes to this matter of free will, there’s always somebody mad at Him. We have this group of people commonly referred to as Calvinists. They say we only think we have the ability to choose. According to them, God already has everything planned out and everybody is predestined to go to either heaven or hell. The thought of that brings out the worst in some people. They say they want to be able to make their own decisions and make a choice about eternity. The idea of God having absolute control just irritates the hell out of people who want to row their own boat.

And then you got some people who are pissed at the Almighty because of all the evil in the world. They say He either doesn’t care, or He’s to blame, or maybe He’s dead. They love free will but never stop to see that the bad comes from bad choices we make. Somebody gets murdered, or raped, or robbed and we want to blame God. I think the only thing the Lord could do that would please everybody is to let us make our own choices, and then come behind us and rescue us from the consequences of our bad choices. A man gets drunk and drives – no problem. The Maker of us all just steps in and causes him to fall asleep, gently veer off the road into some safe place, and there he sleeps it off. Later, he wakes up sober, drives home and treats his family kindly. No worries. Everybody got to make their own choices, nobody got hurt, no need to cuss and shake our fist at God, and life is good.

Only problem is that life just doesn’t work like that. Everything we do has an impact both now and for eternity. Since I get to choose, I have to accept the consequences. And I’m not changing my mind about the skunks anymore. He gets in my trap and he’s a dead skunk. Only way he gets to live is to make the choice to stay out of my trap.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, January 18th, 2010
5:06 pm
CLEAN LIVING
I think James Dobson is the first person I ever heard speak about hydrogenated oil, and that was probably fifteen years ago. Dr. Dobson is head of Focus On The Family, and he is a family psychologist. Often, he speaks about the connection between the physical and the mental. What we eat quite literally goes into the making of our brains, as well as the rest of the body. And our mindset affects the body. Happy people have fewer problems with high blood pressure, heart trouble and the like.

Nowadays everybody is warning us away from hydrogenated oil. But, even way back then, I started paying attention to the subject, because I trust and respect James Dobson. We quite buying margarine and started using Smart Balance. Also, we quit with shortening and started using extra virgin olive oil. I was genuinely starting to feel good about the way we were headed until one day I did a scary thing – I started reading the ingredient labels on food items. We had gone to buying saltine crackers that were alleged to be more healthy than the regular. I read the label, and found they had hydrogenated oil in them. It’s in most cereals, non-dairy coffee creamer, and nearly everything else. I found out that aluminum is one thing that contributes to Alzheimer’s and discovered that it is in self-rising flour, some aspirins, non-dairy coffee creamers, antiperspirants, and the list could just go on and on.

So, I got this idea about eating more healthy; but, it’s easier said than done. When I was a young man I was ten-feet tall and bullet proof. I could work like an Egyptian slave all day, eat anything I wanted to, and I was alright. The body could take the stress, I healed fast from injuries and life was good. The older I get the more I’m figuring out just how fast flesh and blood breaks down. I got a back problem I can’t seem to get past, a torn rotator cuff, and skin that is slower to heal from the cuts, stabs, burns, and abrasions. My idea is to take as good of care of the body as I can, so I can get as much use out of it as I can before I’m dead. I don’t want to spend my last years all broke down and unable to do anything. I really want to go out like my chainsaw. Just before that thing runs out of gas and dies, it runs up to a high R.P.M.

I didn’t actually make a New Year’s Resolution. But, I am wanting to see if I can go all year without any news. In an earlier entry I mentioned how the news affects me badly. Yet, at the same time I got this powerful hankering to hear all that bad stuff. I think it’s sometime in the middle of January that most people flunk out on their resolutions. I haven’t flunked out. But today ain’t over yet! I actually turned the radio and TV off about a week before Christmas, and I haven’t listened or watched since.

And here’s where my plan about the news meets with my plan for clean living. I had no idea it would be so hard to get away from all the bad news. Looks like the news peddlers will stop at nothing to make sure they either worry or irritate the hell out of me. The news is where it always has been: I just never noticed until I started trying to get away from it. WalMart sells some glues, finishes, and sanding supplies I need for guitar building. The newspapers and gossip magazines are at the check-out so I can see how many of our young men got dismembered or killed in this war, and who in Hollywood is banging somebody new this week. I check my email and there’s news everywhere. People call me up or come into my shop and want to talk it. Now that I’m trying to avoid it, it’s like that damn hydrogenated oil.

You know, I’ve heard that a dog on a leash is not disturbed until he gets to the end of that leash. My friend Allen told me I should make good use of that time I used to spend watching and listening to the news. He suggested I read the Bible. Well, truth is that was already my plan. If I didn’t keep busy while the news was on, I was going to be steady wondering what was on the news. So I’m reading the Bible through again. I started in Genesis and I’m presently in Judges. When I came up with the “No news and read the Bible” plan, it seemed like a simple way to clean up my spiritual life. But, I’m starting to feel like that dog on a leash.

A couple of weeks ago Sherry and I decided it was time to clean the bathrooms. I don’t mean the sinks, commodes and bathtub. We knew there was medicine in there that was 20 years out of date and boxes of stuff that hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years, and probably needed to be thrown away. We knew it would be bad, but we didn’t know it would be that bad. We got knee deep in junk, filled a big trash can bag, and ate up about half the day.

Seems the more I read the Bible, avoid the news, and in general try to include more good in my life and leave out more of the bad, the worse it gets. Like the news and the hydrogenated oil that’s everywhere; everywhere I look I find trash that’s filling my eyes and ears, and ultimately my mind and spirit. Good gosh! What a mess! And the cleanup plan looks easier than the reality of it.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, January 11th, 2010
11:23 am
Museums
To some, going to a museum is a sure sign of boredom, old age, or under the gun with a school assignment. But now, Sherry & I saw the movie “Night At The Museum” and my daughter and I saw part 2 of “Night At The Museum”. So, not all museums are created equal. There are some right good ones out there. Sherry loves a graveyard and a museum. I tell her she has more friends among the dead than she does among the living. The girl just loves history! I like what used to be. What’s happening now just seems to occupy most of my time. So when she gets ready for us to go somewhere, top of her list is to find what museums are near where she wants to go. And that girl knows how to bait me. She’ll look for something I can’t say “No” to.

Sherry & I are not big landowners. We have one and one-quarter acres. And you should see where we live. We have this place loaded up with all the things we like. We have a rose garden, fruit trees, and flowerbeds. Our Rhode Island Red hens are happy in their big fenced-in area. There are a lot of things for the grandbabies to play with when they come. That oak tree out front sports 2 tire swings, and that’s generally where they head first. My girl and I can get us a cup of coffee and sit on the park bench out in the front yard. If we want, we can sit on the swing in the rose garden, or the bench under the grape vines. Or we might just stroll around the property.

But alas, my shop is on the same property as our home. I was talking with a kindly old gentleman who was a Volkswagen mechanic. His house and shop were on the same property. I told him I had the same sort of arrangement. He told me I would live to see the day when I would be sorry my shop and house were so close to each other. He told me that even when he closes, people come knocking on his door. Day and night and even on Sundays, he never gets a break. At the time, my business was so embryonic I couldn’t wait to experience what he was talking about. Well, I have lived to see that day. February will make 17 years that I have been building and repairing. It is an absolute struggle to ever get any alone time with my girl. We like being here, but the phone doesn’t stop ringing, and I can’t bring myself to ignore it. There is always something in the shop needing to be done, and I can’t get it out of my mind. Folks are coming by and there are email responses to be made. So the only thing to do is get out of town.

One day, she asked if I wanted to go to Ferriday. Right away I started into my big whining act. I didn’t want to go there. I had heard of the town, but never heard of anything real eventful. Well, being the kind of person she is, she had already guessed that I would resist. As soon as I started making excuses, she told me, “They have a Music Museum.” “Really?” And I was hooked. I won’t get into the details. You can go see it yourself. All I’ll tell you is that it is about the great singers and musicians from Louisiana. And we have a lot of them to our credit. I was unhappy that they didn’t mention Tony Joe White, and very happy that they didn’t mention Brittany Spears.

When Sherry got ready for us to go to Clarksdale, MS, I was in the truck blowing the horn and telling her to hurry up. Man, oh man! That place has it all. I don’t exactly know how this fits together, but I love the Mennonites and Blues Music. Well gosh dog! They got a Mennonite bakery, and more blues music than you can take in. And you guessed it! They have the Delta Blues Museum. That thing was fun and educational. It was so completely stuffed full of old guitars of different descriptions. I had heard of John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters. But it’s amazing how little I actually knew about them before I went through that museum. And Sherry and I don’t rush through a museum. We stand there and read everything that can be read.

Then a guy from the Netherlands had a place down town in Clarksdale. It was a Rock & Roll and Blues Museum. I guess we spent about 4 hours there. When we left, we knew we had only scratched the surface. I guess it would take going everyday for at least a month to get a good grasp on all that he had. The owner stayed out of the way, but would answer any questions we had. And that old boy knew some stuff.

The years have kind of snuck up on me. I’m amazed that I have been able to build stringed instruments for a living. In the back of my mind there were lots of doubts. I thought I might not actually be able to understand the laws of physics that make an acoustic guitar work. Maybe nobody would like the way I built. The hard times might make me abandon the dream. Now that I’m closing in on 2 decades of building, it has occurred to me that I need to organize something to leave behind. C.F. Martin IV said in the early years they didn’t know they would endure and be so well liked. Finally one day, they saw the need for a museum. He said they never held any instruments back, so they had to go out into the public and buy back some of their instruments.

Knowing what the folks at Martin Guitars did has caused me to remember to hold something back. I have made sure to build as many instruments for my family as they want. I know they won’t ever sell them off, so they will remain as a body of work. Also, I have built myself a lot of instruments. Contrary to common belief, I don’t sit around all day sipping coffee and picking a guitar. I’m so busy building and repairing for others that there is not much time left for me. My personal instruments are going to be in almost mint condition.

I really would like to be remembered after I’m gone. And I want to be remembered in a way that is as complete and honest as possible. I think I should not leave it to others to do, so I have been making preparations myself. Now, my life is not defined by the way I make a living. I am defined by my walk with Jesus, and the way I love my family. Still, my job is a part of me, and I want it to be known after I’m gone. I hope my grandchildren and great grandchildren, and so on will like enough of what they heard about me to say that they are proud to be related to me.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, January 4th, 2010
3:07 pm
I Changed My Mind
Sherry & I have some Rhode Island Red hens, and we raised them from bitties. A few months ago something started coming across the fence and eating my hens. Three were taken before I noticed what was happening. I made the fence taller, ran an electric fence outside of the existing fence, started closing the hen house at night and put out some traps. Those traps are wire cages. When something goes in, it steps on a pressure plate and the door falls shut. I told Sherry I was going to kill whatever I caught in it. If it were a coyote, or a fox I would kill it. If it was somebody’s pet dog – too bad – I was going to kill it. We have trouble with armadillos here. They root around and destroy our flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. So I told her I was going to kill any armadillos I caught. If it gets in my trap, it’s dead.

I went out and checked the traps recently and decided to change my mind. I caught a skunk. Well, even thought I don’t want to get on the bad side of a skunk, they really don’t cause me any problems. Besides, how would I get a skunk out of the trap and kill it without getting sprayed. I couldn’t even figure out how to get him out of the trap and let him go. I called Sherry and she took me out of my mystery. She told me to take a long pole and open the door. So that’s what I did. In fact I took a long pole and a piece of plywood with me. I hid behind the plywood, tripped the door latch with the long pole, and ran. Old Pepe’le’Pew just sort of mosied on out and left.

I was a child in the fourth grade when somebody came to our room and told us that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed. All I knew was what the news was reporting at the time. As I’ve lived and grown though, I’ve come to believe that his death really was a conspiracy. He hadn’t been in office anytime before some of his advisors convinced him that we needed to send troops to Vietnam. Our soldiers had not been there very long before that old boy figured out that he had been hoodwinked. He started making plans to pull our men back out, and was killed soon thereafter. Make no mistake about it – John F. was no saint. Scandals always plagued his family. He was born into wealth and I don’t think he ever knew how to relate to the common man. And that was one guy who absolutely would not be faithful to his wife. But I have always been most impressed with the fact that he had no problem with saying “I changed my mind.”

Changing our minds is often looked at as a bad thing. We’re afraid that if we change our minds, then people will think we’re indecisive, or maybe that we don’t think things through before making a decision. But my hat is off to someone who doesn’t let pride get in the way. And generally speaking, most of our problems come back to pride. We’d rather go on and hold to a wrong decision rather than change our minds and risk looking bad in public. There’s even a biblical backing for changing our minds. See Matthew 21:28-31.

Our president is sending more of our young men and women to fight a war that cannot be won. Even with two thirds of Americans saying they are opposed to sending more troops, he wouldn’t change his mind. I think if you could ever catch him on an honest day, he would admit that he has made a bad decision. But once it has been said, then it has to be done. Otherwise, folks might think him to be weak, or short sighted. He’s going ahead and committing money we don’t have to fight global warming while other scientists are saying we are headed for another ice age. I think he knows he jumped the gun on that one, but he’s not turning around.

In my shop I’m always having to change my mind. Sometimes it looks good in my mind, but it just doesn’t work in real life. If I didn’t change my mind, alter plans, scrap ideas, and rethink things, I would have been out of business long ago. Only thing I want to know is this – if changing one’s mind works for an average white boy like me, then how come better men can’t see that they could be helped by doing the same thing? I tend to think that if we could get past the stigma and let everybody know it’s OK to be wrong even after our best efforts, then we’d all feel more free to change our minds and do better.

You know, years ago I said I wasn’t going to build any more banjos. I know some think I’m wishy-washy when I change my mind. But over the years I’ve thought of some things I’d like to do on a banjo. So don’t hold me to what I said way back when. So, if you hear me talking about something I’ll always do, or I’ll never do, you might not want to take that as the final word. I’m liable to come along and change my mind.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, December 28th, 2009
9:25 pm
Resolutions
Looks like that big name golfer guy sure stepped in a turd this time. Last count I think we were up to at least a dozen women he had on the side. And how ‘bout that war? Everyday I hear about somebody else who strapped on a bomb, killed himself and others and went to claim his 72 virgins. Man! The things people will do to get laid.

That gay American Idol boy sure knows how to get on TV and express his sexual desires. We got us some local celebrities. Several Mayors right here in our area are getting recalled and maybe going to jail for stealing taxpayer money. Every day I listen to hear what the latest development is on their cases. The president’s kids got a dog and saved a turkey. And some spotlight seeking couple found a way to sneak into the White House party.

You know, I’ve been trying to remember if I have ever made a New Year’s Resolution. I don’t think I ever have. I tend to agree with U2 when they said, “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” Word is that most New Year’s Resolutions are broken after 6 weeks to 2 months. I always figure that if something is worth committing to, there’s no need to wait till the new year begins. I can make a commitment anytime of the year. And that’s what I do. I committed my life to Jesus in July of ’72, and to Ms Sherry in June of ’75.

I’ve been thinking about a resolution. And here’s where I gotta do some repenting. I either laugh at or bad mouth those who make a New Year’s Resolution and then so easily break it. And I have always sighed and rolled my eyes at those who say they are going to break a bad habit, and in 2 days they are back to whatever that bad habit is. I’ve never had much understanding or compassion concerning the struggle involved in changing something about our life. Well, up until now? Now that it’s coming home to me, I got all kinds of compassion and mercy. I already know that the odds of my success are very slim. I know what I need to do, but the problem is that I DO NOT want to do it.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about committing to. I know it would be good for me not to read or listen to any news reports. I grew up with a teaching that I think is not right. I was always taught that I need to stay informed, and I never questioned that thought because it came from so many adults that I respected. There’s only one thing I can think of coming out of the news that I always need to know and that is the weather forecast. In the building of stringed instruments, the weather affects everything I do. But I absolutely cannot think of one more thing I need to know. If you end up wanting to tell me my mind is bad; well, I already know that.

I can hear about a child who has been mistreated, or neglected, or maybe even killed; and I lay blame at my feet. I always try to work it out in my mind to see if I could have kept that harm from happening. I can hear about a child living on the west coast, and I still feel responsibility. I can’t resolve it, and I can’t get it out of my mind, and the conflict eats me up from now on. And every other child I hear about only adds to the weight.

I know we have lost fewer young men and women in this war than we did in Vietnam, but, one is too many for me. Everyday I hear about how many died and honest to God, I feel like I lost a family member. I can’t bring them back: I can’t stop the war: I don’t know them or their families, and I can’t move past their death. It infuriates me when our leaders want to honor those who have fallen. They want to call them brave heroes. But, I agree with Andy Rooney. He said he would rather have his friends back and celebrate peace and life. But, our leaders are not the ones going and fighting, and dying. And they won’t shut the hell up. I don’t personally know our leaders, and I’m not going to crash a White House party to try to meet them. And they are sending more young people to this war. I can’t stop it from happening, and I can’t live with it happening.

Oh, my gosh! Everyday there are a steady stream of Hollywood bed-hoppers. And seems most of them go into rehab at least 2-3 times. Mel putout the “Passion of the Christ”, and then left his wife for another woman. And we just can’t get enough of hearing about how a good man fell. There are TV shows and newspapers devoted to the excessive, abusive adulterous lives of those in entertainment. There is nothing I can do to stop them, and there’s nothing about them I need to imitate.

Here’s my big problem. I’m a man in a world full of men just like me. I don’t belong to this world, but sadly, the world is what it is because I have helped make it this way. The news does me no good, but I am just like my first parents. I want to know good and evil. And apparently I have spent a lot of my life wanting to know evil. I keep turning on the TV and the radio to find out what new shameful thing has taken place.

I am trying to approach this resolution with seriousness. What I am thinking to do is go without the news for a year. My love and hate for the news is such that I genuinely don’t know if I am man enough for the job. Can I leave the radio off, and avoid the TV news for a year? I don’t know. Seems almost impossible to do. I sure do enjoy the Amish. They concern themselves with what pertains to them, and they let the rest go by. And I bet they sleep better at night.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, December 21st, 2009
3:52 pm
Warning
The “check engine” light came on in Sherry’s truck. Even without that light though, I knew something was wrong. When I cranked it, that thing popped and farted, and ran real rough. For better or worse, I’m the mechanic on our vehicles. I wouldn’t want to do that sort of work for a living, but I’ll take care of ours. So I started checking around to see who had the best price on one of those little hand held testers. I have an old one for our ’93 Escort, but it won’t work on her 2003 Ranger. But, then my son-in-law took me out of my misery. He told me about one of the auto supply houses in town that would diagnose your vehicle without charge. Of course they figure that if you come by and they tell you what is wrong, you’ll buy the parts from them. And that’s what I did. They diagnosed and told me what was wrong: I bought the parts and made the repair, and life was good.

I always think it’s a good idea to pay attention to warning signs. Sherry had a cousin who was the kindest redneck I ever met. He loaned somebody a car and told him to keep a check on the oil level. Well, as is often the case, the folks borrowing the car didn’t have much appreciation for it because they didn’t have to buy it. So they drove it for 3 days with the “check engine” light on, and the engine finally seized up. A warning sign gives us prior notice about a danger that could be avoided. All we have to do is heed the signs.

I have a torn rotator cuff. I helped my son build his house and one thing we had to do was dig and form up so we could have the concrete foundation poured. I could tell something was wrong, but I didn’t want to stop, so I ignored the warning sign – pain. By the time we were done I was in bad shape. The doctor tells me it won’t ever get better without surgery. In my line of work, there’s no such thing as health insurance, so this is a permanent injury. If I had only heeded the warning!

I’m a follower of Jesus. Here’s one that only the followers of Jesus can understand. We have someone who lives inside of us. We are possessed – in a good way. The One we refer to as the third person in the trinity is the Holy Spirit. Billy Graham speaks of Him as being like the wind. He says we can’t see the wind, but we see the effects of the wind. I can’t see the Holy Spirit, and I don’t know how to describe what He sounds like when He speaks; but when He speaks, His voice is unmistakable. He has helped me to avoid trouble when I listened to His voice, and I have gotten into trouble when I refused to listen to His warning.

But, here is something else I know. Even thought everybody is not following Jesus, He is still the Maker of us all. We are all made in His image and even though we are fallen, we still bear a resemblance to the One who made us. His likeness is still stamped in our hearts. Without the Ten Commandments, we still know that stealing, killing, lying, and adultery are wrong.

It is Christmas time and there is a reason this holiday is so controversial. To those who don’t want to follow Jesus, that baby in the manger is the biggest threat they ever face. They know who He is, but they don’t like to think about it. When we get past this season, we remember the truth. He was born that night for the express purpose of dying to save us from hell - And not just some of us, but all of us. Not just the serial killers, child molesters, and drug pushers – regular sinners like me were going to hell. That’s why some get equally pissed about Easter. At Christmas He came making a claim, and Easter proved that He was who He said He was. Everybody who is rejecting Jesus knows they are going to hell, but they hate to be reminded of it. It just sort of spoils the day.

Have you ever noticed that Jesus is the real problem? People want to hear “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” If you say “Christmas” then you’ve mentioned Christ. “Christ” is the word that means “Chosen or anointed one.” He, God Himself, chose to die in our place. There’s this Christian comedian I like. I like him because he’s funny and attitudel. He said nobody says “Happy Holiday!” concerning the 4th of July, Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, or any other holiday except Christmas & Easter. If we could just keep it about Santa and the Easter bunny, then the Jesus haters could live undisturbed.

But the warning signs! We’re all in trouble if we ignore the warning signs. There’s warning signs all along the road. They tell us about curves, and deer crossing, and we’re told to slow down. And we all know stories of tragedy because people ignored the warnings. Do you think if we took the signs down that the dangers would go away? No! We can stop saying “Christmas”, and we can stop mentioning the resurrection in April. We can shut down the churches and burn all the Bibles. But there’s no getting around the fact that we are still in danger. We tell children that Santa is real if we believe he is real. Some make the mistake of thinking the same thing about Jesus. They think if they don’t believe in Him, then He will just vanish. It doesn’t work like that. Reject Him, turn a deaf ear, do your own thing, say He’s not real – nothing changes the fact. That baby grew up and died for you and me. And since he died for us, then it presupposes that he was right when He said we were sinners. And make no mistake about it – ready or not – we will all face Him one day.

We have all been warned. All that remains is the question – Will we heed the warning and live?

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, December 14th, 2009
10:11 am
Be
Some things are. Not everything, but some things. Some things never need to become anything else. There are times when we need to let it be. Dogs bark, fish swim, birds fly. They don’t go to a training school; it’s just what they do because of what they are. Todd & Copper were playing together. The dog barked and the fox asked, “Why did you do that?” The dog answered, “I don’t know.”

Our nature is to have dominion. The Almighty put it in our first parents when He put them in the Garden of Eden. We still have that nature, and that’s a good thing. Without it there would be no such thing as an explorer. The Wright Brothers never would have tried to do what birds do. Those who could hear the music never would have built the instruments to give birth to what they heard. Our nature caused us to build and seek and dive and send men to the moon.

But alas, we are fallen. Our parents rebelled and Eden is no more. And we are distorted from the fall. That nature to dominate often comes out as a desire to manipulate, to exploit, to enslave and capitalize, and even to destroy. Sometimes that nature drives people to terrorize. Before the lie tricked us into rebellion, our nature could be trusted. Now, the thing we need to dominate over most of all is our own selves. Bob Dylan sang, “Man thinks cause he rules the earth, he can do with it as he pleases. And if things don’t change soon, he will.” He goes on to say that our evil desire to dominate has invented our doom.

Sherry keeps reminding me that every tree doesn’t need to become a guitar. Perhaps it doesn’t need to become anything. Maybe it is what it should be. The squirrels can climb it, the birds can nest in it, and the wind can make the leaves sing. We can see it and sit under its shade, and otherwise leave it alone. Everybody loves that pond. But the developers don’t necessarily need to subdivide and fence it off and build houses around it. It can just be a fishing hole, and a place where the boys learn to swim.

Rich Mullins said, “The world can’t stand what it can’t own”. Our dominant nature causes us to lay a hold of and claim for our own anything we like. And it causes so much trouble among us. One man wants another man’s wife. He knows she’s married, but he wants her still. Bobby D said, “Man is opposed to fair play. He wants it all and he wants it his way.” We dam up rivers for our own use and withhold it from those further down the line.

The word “Amen” means “Let it be.” I always liked that old Beatle song and wonder if they knew that was the definition of “Amen.” The intent behind ending our prayers with “Amen” is that we are saying, “Let it be the will of God.” One problem we have in our selfish desire to dominate is that we will even fight against the One who made us. In our smallness, in our mortality, in that little bit of time and space we occupy on this earth, we still think we know better than the Eternal One. Who was that country singer? Somebody had a song where he talked about God’s greatest gifts being answered prayers. Many men have fought against their Maker until they got what they wanted; only to find that it was not what they needed. On an honest day, I think most would agree that God knows best. But since we are flawed, and since we get to choose, we assert our dominance.

I have a hard time trying to let it be. With my limited vision, the lines are always a bit blurred. When should I put my hands to the plow and when should I let go? What is my responsibility, and what should I let the next person do? Most of all, where does my job end and the Lord’s begin? I don’t want to hold on tight when He wants me to let it be. And I don’t want to give it up too soon if He wants me to press on.

There are always things that need to become something more. The seed wants to become a tree. The child wants to become an adult. The beginner guitar player wants to become a good guitar player. I want to become more patient and understanding. But then some things need to be. They don’t need to be exploited or dressed up or made useful in any way. We show ourselves wise when we can tell the difference between the two.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, December 7th, 2009
10:59 am
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
There are some things all people have in common. We might be rich and important, poor, pretty, or plain, a terrorist, a prisoner, a Democrat, a young one, or a senior citizen. We all sleep. Sherry & I sometimes see a mattress advertisement on TV. They always show some beautiful woman sleeping. She wakes up and sits up and her hair falls into place. The sun shines in just right on her face, and she’s alert, happy, all smiley, and ready to face the day. I always look over at Sherry and tell her “that ain’t real.” And it’s not real. No matter our station in life, we’re liable to snore. At my age, I have to get up at least once or twice during the night to take a pee. When we wake up we all got a doodoo smell in our mouth, and it looks like a rat has been spinning out in our hair. There’s nothing pretty or dignified about sleep; unless it’s a baby that we’re watching. But we all need to do it, and nobody has to be taught to fall asleep.

I do know that I am a rich man. Some say our house is too small, but it’s just right for my girl and me. In the last 30 days we’ve gotten about 30” of rain. Our roof doesn’t leak and we get to stay dry inside. If it gets too hot, we have an air conditioner to cool us off. If we get too cold, we got us a heater. Our house is about 1200 square feet. Sara came by and showed Sherry and me some pictures she took while visiting her sponsored child in the Philippines. Our dining room is bigger than most of those people’s houses.

We cook our food on a good stove, or maybe in the microwave, or that big toaster oven. And we have a refrigerator to keep our food in. We own a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a bathtub and a water heater. We have a bath and a half, and when we flip the switch, the lights come on. How could I ever complain or ask for more? And, oh my goodness! They are all getting kind of old, but they are paid for and they run well.

And the same thing is true when it comes to the bed we sleep in. Now, we don’t have one of those adjustable, memory foam, water type mattresses. I don’t even remember what brand it is. All I know is that we sleep well in it and we don’t wake up with aches and pains from it. We have a headboard, but not a footboard.

I hear about what folks sometimes have to contend with at night, so I gotta tell you, our sleep is good. We never go to sleep with the fear that somebody will break in to steal, kill, or destroy. We have never laid our head on the pillow with the sound of gunfire in our ears. We’ve never been awakened in the night, nor at dawn by gunfire. We have some neighbors who worry us, but I know that our little complaints are nothing compared to what some folks face everyday. My girl and I have never been drunk or high, and we’re too old to start now. I’ve heard about the terrors of living in the house with someone who is a drunk or an addict. But we lay down to sleep without even having to give a thought to such worries. Solomon said it’s better to live on the corner of a rooftop in peace, than to live with a cranky woman in a mansion. I think the same thing applies to a cranky man. When Sherry & I were younger we thought there were things to argue about, but the older we’ve gotten, the less we can think of to argue about. It sure feels good to be saying kind words to each other as we drift off to sleep.

I hear that sin is a sleep stealer. When a person has some shady business going, he is always having to look over his shoulder. When we’re asleep, we’re defenseless. If a man has enough money, he can pay someone to stand guard over him while he sleeps. Even the toughest of guys are scared to go to sleep if they know they are doing things that are liable to get them hurt or killed. And if a bad man can’t afford a bodyguard, then he’s doomed to fitful, broken sleep. And it definitely can’t be called rest. I have neglected some people and have been mean to others. It stole my sleep until I repented.

There’s something about sleeping in a tent that I love. Maybe it is something in my nature that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. I don’t want to sleep on the ground and get bitten by mosquitoes all night, but I want to be close to the ground. We are of the earth. We were made from it. I don’t want to get rained on, but I like to hear it on my tent and know that I’m just inches from it. I like to sleep among the animals and wake up every now and then to hear the nocturnal ones moving around. And then to have a mocking bird let me know when it’s time to wake up – that feels good.

For those of us who are following Jesus, when we get up out of this world, He doesn’t say we died, He says we have fallen asleep. You know, I’ve seen some people who were asleep, and as God is my witness, they looked like they were dead. They weren’t snoring or tossing around, and I had to listen close to see if I could hear them breathing. That’s the way it is when Jesus’ people leave here. From all appearances, it looks like the end for us. It looks like we’re dead. We are still alive: we just moved on to the next life. At that point we’re no longer following after Jesus; we have arrived at home. And waking up in heaven makes this life look like just a dream.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
11:49 am
Money Matters
Sherry & I grew up about 1200 miles apart. But, for all that distance it’s amazing how much our lives were alike. Our parents lived within the same income bracket. There were 4 siblings in her family: 2 boys & 2 girls, and the same is true in mine. She’s the next to the oldest and so am I. Both our dads were newly married when they went into the armed forces. Her dad served in Hawaii and mine was in the Korean Conflict. And both of our dads learned a trade while working for Uncle Sam that directed the occupation they chose for life. For all the things our parents taught us while we were growing up, one thing that was noticeably missing from our education was the matter of how to handle money.

Our folks grew up in a different time. I remember once when the bank in Elloree contacted mom & dad to let them know they overdrew on their checking account. It was a point of severe embarrassment to them and they went to town and put some more money in their account. There was no overdraft fee. I’m sure my folks apologized and promised to do their math better in the future. I bet back then there were people who intentionally wrote bad checks, but I never heard of them. They were definitely in the minority. Our parents didn’t own a credit card. They paid cash, or worked out payments with the store, or did without.

Buying a house is the biggest debt I’ve ever taken on. My dad never had that burden on his shoulders. I have clear memories of my life as far back as 2 years old. And since I never got into drugs or drunkenness I have no missing years. We lived in a rented house until I was 3. My dad bid on the old school house that had been condemned and he won the bid. He dismantled it and used the lumber to build the house we grew up in. He sold the hard wood floor out of the auditorium for more than he paid for the whole school building. So he built his house without incurring debt. And this ain’t no humble house. Sherry & I like our quaint little house, but there is nothing quaint about what my dad built. He and mom are retired now, and they still live in that house.

Money matters have changed a lot since I was a boy. Rarely do you ever hear about somebody getting into a house without a sizeable debt. As a boy, I often saw people pay for their house as they built it. When we moved into this house, we were looking at a 30-year note. Sherry took the grocery bill, light bill, all kinds of bills, and I concentrated on paying for the house. I was thankful and relieved to be able to pay it off in 17 years.

And a credit card is something neither one of us was prepared for. Since our parents didn’t have credit cards, there wasn’t much they knew to tell us on the subject. The big thing I remember hearing is that the credit card people would check you out thoroughly and would only give you a line of credit that they knew you could pay. Sherry & I definitely saw a shift in that thinking over the years. We started getting the calls and mail like everybody else. We were amazed at all the people who wanted us to know we had been approved for the Gold Card. It didn’t take long to figure out that these people would let us run up a debt that we’d never be able to dig out from under. Right now I have 2 credit cards with a total credit line of $27,000. Now for some folks, that’s not much money. But Sherry & I are out of debt and we’re sure not looking to incur more. A sizeable amount of the debt we have now paid off was credit card debt. Buying was made easy: interest charges snuck up on us, and before we knew what was happening, we were in over our heads.

I don’t think many people my age were taught any more about handling money than I was. But with all the financial pit falls out there these days, and the generally poor condition of the economy, I think everybody needs as much education on the subject as they can get. I needed to go to my daughter’s house this morning, and while I was there I saw one of my granddaughters studying a book on finances. She’s 9 years old. Of course that girl is an entrepreneur and at her young age she has several different paying gigs. I was telling her how proud I was of her for wanting to know how to handle money when she asked me if I knew that there are 2,350 verses in the Bible that talk about money. Well, the truth is, I did not know the Bible had that much to say about money. I don’t doubt it; I just didn’t know it.

I genuinely do feel sorry for folks who are deeply indebted at this time. While I was paying for our house, that debt stayed on my mind all day, everyday. Our economic future is not real bright and I’m sure that folks who have debt are at least as burdened as I was – or maybe more. I don’t want to be a fool with money, but I don’t want to put my trust in it either. Even though I didn’t know about the 2,350 references to money in the Bible, I do remember a verse I read somewhere in Proverbs. The writer said money could sprout wings like a bird and fly away. I sure understand what that means. We’ve all heard the stories of riches to rags. Life has so many twists, and turns, and surprises, and our money can vanish from right in front of us. I think I tend to agree with the Pope. He said the worse the world economy gets, the more people will see they need to trust in God and not riches. Smart man. Maybe that’s why they gave him the job.

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
Monday, November 23rd, 2009
11:50 am
My Grand Adventure
I grew up in South Carolina. We lived about 3 miles from Elloree and about 6 miles from Santee. When I was a boy, going to town was a big thing. We didn’t just head that direction every day. And when we did go, we already had in mind what we planned to do. The 5 & 10 was the only place in town with an ICEE machine, and that was always on the list. There was no movie theater, no computers or video games, and we had never even dreamed of the idea of a cell phone. So, a simple pleasure like an ICEE was a big thing. And since we only appeared in town every now and then, we had to be clean and dressed nice. If we looked bad and didn’t come back to town for another two weeks, folks might think we were white trash; just based on that one time they saw us.

I had to go to town this week. It’s hard to get away from your raising, and I just can’t bring myself to got to town any more than necessary. And when I do go, I got me a long list of things to take care of so that when I get back home and to my shop, I don’t have to leave again for another week or two. I took care of everything on my list, like I always do, but this turned out to be a most unusual trip. My reclusive nature makes me avoid people as much as possible, and just stick to the business at hand. And especially during this H1N1 flu season, I want people to stay away from me. In my work, there’s no medical insurance, no sick days, no nothing. If I don’t stay on the job and work, there will be absolutely no money coming in. But sometimes, for reasons beyond my understanding, I feel like being friendly. I don’t know why. It just happens like that sometimes. And this was one of those days.

In this life, there is one prescription pill I have to take. My thyroid has been on the skids for years. The law says I have to have my blood checked once a year to make sure my dosage stays right. Since that blood-taking place opens at 7:30 a.m., it was first on my list. Even though I was genuinely feeling friendly that day, I always start chattering when somebody pulls out a needle and looks at me. I guess I’m trying to occupy my mind with something other than the inevitable. So I told the nurse about how my dad, my brother, brother-in-law, and I, we’re all wood workers. And then I asked her what got her into the medical profession. She had an interesting story and I could tell she was glad to share it.

Everybody down at the post office knows me. I’ve been taking my instruments to those folks for 7-8 years now. So we always get talking about something. And these postal workers at the windows have done it all so many thousands of times that they can talk and work at the same time. For some reason, the people standing in line think it’s like the library. They think you’re supposed to be quiet – until I get there! When I come bustin’ up in there and talking to the employees, everybody figures out it’s an open conversation, and they get in it too. I don’t know how long it keeps going after I leave, but I like to think I get something started. I met a banker lady in line that morning and she told me stuff about a debit card. Since I’ve never had a debit card, everything she told me was something I did not know.

Now those folks who take my blood don’t want me to eat breakfast before I come. They say the reading is more accurate if I don’t eat anything 12 hours before they draw blood. It’s not the going without food that’s so bad, but it’s the coffee. When the Almighty made the coffee bean, He had me in mind. Sherry, being the motherly type that she is, gave me $5.00 so I could go to McDonald’s for breakfast. I tried to assure her I had money for breakfast, but she insisted. She felt bad because I cooked her breakfast, even thought I couldn’t have any of it. So I went by McDonald’s and paid with the $5.00 she gave me. Since I don’t eat out much, I couldn’t remember when was the last time I had gone by McDonald’s for breakfast. I sat facing a window as I ate my breakfast. I saw an Oriental man coming across the parking lot. After he was in the building, I looked and there was his wife coming across the parking lot. He had just walked off and left her. Oh Hell No! My girl and I hold hands when we’re up town, and I open the door for her. I didn’t have much time to think. I wanted to get up and hold the door open for this lady, but I gotta tell you, I don’t know how Orientals think. I didn’t want to offend the man. I went to a black church for about 7 years, so I have a little bit of an idea about how black folks think. Well, before I could figure out what to do, she was in the building. I went back to eating.

I looked up again and there were 3 little old senior citizen ladies coming across the parking lot: one black lady and two white. I could see that they were together. When they got close I got up and held the door for them. The idea of holding a door open for a lady was already on my mind. I spoke to them: they thanked me, and they figured out that chivalry was not dead. And I went back to eating. Angie came in and we talked a little bit. I don’t know many people, so I can’t afford to pass up speaking to somebody I do know.

As I was finishing up, the Oriental man passed me on his way out. I looked back and saw that when he got finished eating, he got up and walked off and left his wife to clean off the table. I was about to throw away my trash, so I kinda’ lingered a little bit so I would get done just ahead of her. I didn’t want to look obvious, so as I was walking out, I gave the impression that I just happened to look back and see her. So I held the door for her. She got a big smile on her face and thanked me, and patted me on my arm, and then my back, and then my little hiney butt. I was able to keep it together until I got back to my truck, and then I sat there and laughed. It struck me as funny. And then I thought about her husband. That little ass rub could have been his if he would have been a gentleman.

Well, I’m not going to expect my twice a month trips to town to be that eventful. Before you know it, my friendliness will wear off and I’ll get back to normal. But, here’s a bit of truth. I don’t get cleaned up and dressed up to go to town the way I did when I was a boy. People up town who know me might see me and think I’m domestic. And how would that look?

Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music
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