Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thinkin' on a Sunday

So I'm sittin' here in my robe feelin' like a kid. Eatin' cereal and everything. All I need is the Bugs Bunny cartoons on the TV.

Not feelin' too good today, but that's OK. It's not too bad this morning.

Been thinking about life. How funny it is. The twists and turns, the people you find, the few you lose, and those you sometimes find again.

Finally figured out something about myself. As much as I've tried to play the cowboy loner over the years (even have the hat and duster to prove it!), turns out I'm happiest when surrounded by those I care about.

Take last night. A whole host of them were there --- even a couple I haven't seen in a long time. It felt good. Who was it said you can't go home again?

If I could go back there again, I'd do some things differently. But, then again, the decisions you do make help mold you into who you are. So it's best left alone, I guess.

Let's see, what else this morning? Oh, yeah. Hey, Vols --- you suck. Seventeen points is all you can manage against the worst defense in the SEC? They say you're going bowling in Florida this year, by way of Outback Steakhouse. Take that and relish it if you get it. I'm glad it's over for another year.

The stadium was lathargic yesterday. Felt like a morgue. You know you're just going through the motions when "The 12 Days of Christmas" is the best part of the afternoon.

OK, let's wander over to the couch and see what's going on in the NFL. My hope for you today is that every dream you've ever dreamed will come true a thousand times.

As for me? Well, I'm just takin' it easy, glad for the moment, thankful for a lot of things, especially old friends and new ones, good times and plenty of laughs.

Say what you will, but life's been good.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What I'm thankful for

On this Thanksgiving Day, I thought it might be appropriate to pause a moment and think on the things for which I am thankful. Have a seat and I'll share them with ya.

For Mom and Dad, of course. My sister and brother. My grandparents. All my family.

My friends, too. I've got so many wonderful pals. They all brighten up my day and picked me up when I was down. Love them all very much. Life wouldn't be near the fun ride it's turned out to be without them.

I'm thankful for my job, and for the great time we all have. Call me crazy, but there's nowhere I'd rather be than right here in Halls.

I'm thankful for the way the sky looks, at night, just before it sets. For the promise of the morning. For the pale light of a full moon.

I'm thankful for music, of course. George and Barry, Phil and Boz, The King and the Godfather, the Big "O" and the Fifth Demension, sweet soul music and Kentucky bluegrass and so much more.

For Hawkeye Pierce and Thomas Magnum, more real to me than a lot of people I know.

For Homer Simpson --- cause, well, he's Homer. Doh!

For the prose of Larry McMurtry, Hemingway's one true sentence and Scott Fitzgerald's blinking green lights.

For the light in a child's eyes and the innocence you find there.

For old flames and new ones and those that should have been. And for those who weren't.

For Skip and Pete and Don and Joe, who've kept me company each baseball season for 28 years. Too bad we'll not be together much longer, guys.

For Dale Murphy, the childhood hero, and Greg Maddux, who knew how to throw a slider, low and away.

For the 2006 Detroit Tigers, who made me feel like a kid again.

For Halls High School, the place where a skinny kid came into his own.

For Senor and Coach Duff --- two fine educators who helped me become whatever I am today.

For Russell Kocur --- we'll never forget ya, pal.

For reunion girl, of course --- and for all those who took the time to guess.

For our Thursday night mini-reunions, the best part of my 2006.

For fishin' in the dark, long trips to the lake, for sunny days I thought would never end.

For all those reading this blog, who took time out of the day to spend a few minutes with me.

For all this, and heaven, too,

I say thanks.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Crowdin' 30 and still wearin' jeans

Pull up a chair and let's think on getting older. No reason to fight it. There's still a lot of livin' to do, a lot of fun to stir up.

Went to the doctor this morning for a routine check-up. Had it scheduled for a couple of months.

Seem to be doing OK, except my blood pressure's up. I'll take that. So many have more serious problems.

Only thing is I gotta watch myself, the doc says. No more hot dogs with chili drippin' off it. No more grease. No more salt. Sigh.

My BP's been up for about a year now. I've always put it off to the usual suspects: work-related stress and heredity. Doc says if it gets worse, it will damage the ticker.

But no worries. I just gotta change my eating habits a little bit, keep exercising regularly, start eating breakfast, all that jazz.

That's the first time, though, I've ever visited the doc and gotten any kind of "you gotta watch what you're doing" advice regarding physical health. Kind of makes ya sad, you know? Just another sign you really are an adult.

Thing is, I feel like a kid. I still laugh too loud at John Candy movies. Still crank the radio up when a good song comes on. I like playin' cards with the boys, checkin' out the girls, having as much fun as possible and gettin' away to the lake whenever I can.

And I think that's good. You're only as old as you feel. Life's pretty good as I creep toward that dreaded 3-0. You all probably think I'm a broken record I know, but every opportunity I get, I'm going to tell you how much I care about my family and all my good friends. I've got a whole host of them. This ride would be a heck of a lot less fun without each and every one of 'em.

Tonight I'm reading the final installment in Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" series, "Comanche Moon." It's all about a great friendship -- between Texas Rangers Augustus McCrea and Woodrow Call. They're off fighting Indians, courtin' women, raisin' hell and settlin' the land. As you can imagine, I'm having a blast with it.

So, yeah, life's pretty good tonight. You just can't get to takin' things too seriously is all. Make time to spend with those you love. Make fun of yourself. Laugh a lot. Listen to music. Have a good time.

How would Don Williams put it in that ode to his woman Amanda?

Well, a measure of people don't understand, the pleasures of life in a hillbilly band.

I got my first guitar when I was 14, now I'm crowdin' 30, and still wearin' jeans...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Asking why

I never saw Russell Kocur without a smile on his face.

He was one of those guys you liked immediately, the type you felt like you'd known forever.

He was from Texas and he liked the Astros. Remembered fondly watching the great Nolan Ryan sling that baseball. Got a big grin when he talked about those big Texas-sized crowds that used to come watch his high school's football games.

But he liked Halls, too. He liked the kids, liked Halls High, liked his job as a school security guard. He liked it so much, in fact, when his mother tried to convince him to come back home to the Lone Star State, he put her off.

"I like it here. I'll just stay."

He stopped me last week to make sure I'd signed in at the office and gotten my visitor's pass, even though everybody in that school knows my face. I kidded him about it, but he was dead serious.

"We're really having to watch that. Just trying to protect the kids."

The pouring rain had become a drizzle when Officer Kocur went to inspect the suspicious looking van with Virginia plates that had pulled into the school parking lot last night around 10:30.

Kocur had no idea he was about to come face to face with a man who had killed once that week. When he radioed that he was checking "a suspect who may be intoxicated, driving a van with Virginia tags," he surely had no idea that in four minutes he would be fatally wounded.

This man, you see, had killed an elderly gentleman in Golax, Virginia, either late Sunday night or early Monday morning, and escaped in a stolen car. He most likely came into Tennessee through Harrogate and Maynardville, and on this night he had pulled into the Halls High parking lot to change a flat tire. He saw Kocur, aimed a .22 revolver and fired.

The man, later identified as Carroll Lineberry of Golax, fatally wounded Kocur in the lung, kidney and liver. He took off in the Chevrolet Impala that Kocur had purchased that day from Halls guy David Wilson.

Kocur radioed in that he'd been shot. When police officers arrived two minutes later, Kocur was unconscious. He died on the way to the hospital.

Lineberry fled to I-275 and was pulled over near the Oldham Ave. exit near downtown. He's in jail tonight on a $750,000 bond.

Things like this aren't supposed to happen in Halls. But, then again, they weren't supposed to happen in Campbell County, either. Or Columbine, Colorado. We live, my friends, in a different world.

Kocur's death is a reminder that tomorrow isn't a guarantee. Take time tonight and tell those you care about most that you love them. You may never get another chance.

Tennyson once wrote that "their's isn't to question why."

But, dammit, it's hard to understand how something like this can happen to such a good man.