Do You Have a “Loser’s Limp?”

I reckon I need to begin with an apology. Things have been a bit busy of late and my posts have suffered. I find myself answering E-mails inquiring if I am still among the living. Well believe it or not, I’m still kicking. But I fear there may be one or two out there that may view such news as depressing to say the least.

Of late we have been talking about the word “normal’ and how it applies to each of the boy’s families. Personally I don’t care for the word, boiled down to it’s simplest meaning it’s little more than a unit of measure, and a poor one at that. Relative in it’s definition and subject to the opinions of the person holding the measuring tape.

This week we visit Mikey and his family. Remember when I talked about how Chucky’s family circled the wagons when hard times hit? Well…Mikey wasn’t so fortunate.

Excerpt : Chapter (1)

It was cold in the house, not freezing cold, just cold enough to make a person miserable. The kind of cold that seeps into your bones like wet mold, making every joint painful and slow to move.

The kerosene furnace had once again died during the night. Seems like the only time the ol’ girl decides to give up the ghost is when she can cause the most discomfort. Mom had the oven door open in a desperate effort to get some manner of heat into the kitchen. It didn’t do a lot of good really, the trailer had so many air leaks we might as well be camping in the great outdoors.

But as usual, there we stood; holding our hands out in front of the open oven door, pretending the glowing coils were a campfire. The two of us rubbed our hands together and slapped our arms shaking off the chill. If it was really cold, she would pull a chair to the front of the oven, there she would sit, waving heat into the room with a piece of cardboard. Once her arms began to ache, we would take turns.

I’ll work on the ol’ girl when I get outta school I said.

Though young, she looked worn and battle weary. A hard life had carved deep furrows into her worried face, and the elegant brown hair of youth was now polluted with streaks of weathered grey.

“Do we have any kerosene left” she asked.

Yea. I think there’s another five gallons or so out back I replied.

I was used to working on the ol’ girl. Heck, I’ve had her apart about a million times. I knew every nut, every bolt, and every mood swing. Yep, we kinda got a love hate relationship that stove and me. I hate to work on her, but I swear she loves the attention.

 But enough of that, we had a schedule to keep. Missing the bus weren’t an option, not that we couldn’t walk to school naw sir. Missing that bus meant I’d end up missing out on school breakfast, and that was something I just couldn’t allow.

You see…Mikey’s normal is him and his mother, the wagons didn’t circle for them. When times got tough, his dad left. I don’t discuss the matter much in the books, he’s gone simple as that. This was a time before government checks, before safety nets and federal programs. School “free lunch” program meant taking your turn working in the lunch room washing dishes. Oft times, needed groceries were bought with a signature in the store ledger. and more than once, the electric bill was mysteriously paid by persons unknown. That’s Mikey’s “normal.”

I’m not Mikey, but he and I are a lot more alike than we are different. I remember those times, I remember mom coming home late at night so tired she couldn’t eat. I remember no heat in the winter, and my sisters sleeping in the living room floor while we waved heat from an open oven. And I remember Christmas baskets, and the smell of apples, oranges, candy and spices as I held the box tightly to my chest. This was our normal.

I once read about something called a “loser’s limp.” I don’t remember where, but I believe it fits today more than ever. Whenever a ballplayer loses the ball, flubs a play, or strikes out, watch him as he walks off the field. Most of the time you will notice a limp, slight yes but a limp just the same.(Go ahead, look for it next time). I’ve heard folks call it a physical manifestation of failure, others call it a plea for sympathy. I’m just gonna let you ponder it and make up your own mind.

You see…we have choices in life. We can walk around with a “loser’s limp,” blaming our childhood, our circumstances, our whatever. It’s not my fault, they made me this way. Or…we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and walk off the field with our head held high, damn the limp. We can choose to show our scars, they tell a story. We can choose to remember the time the electric bill was paid by that unknown someone. Then, if we are blessed with the means, pay it forward. Then sit back and remember the smell of that Christmas basket.

So dear reader…I reckon Mikey’s “normal” is my “normal” after all. My mother was both parents and I think she did a fine job. She’s a proud Appalachian lady and she taught us to work with what the good Lord blessed us with. She taught us the value of hard work and humility (a trait in short supply today). From time to time I find myself limping, sometimes it just happens. Sometimes I have to remember sitting in front of that stove to snap out of it. I am proud of my “normal,” what’s yours…think about that for a while, after all, there is no right or wrong one.

I’m not sure what the next post will be about, I think I’m in the mood for a story, a funny one. I got one about pink socks, yea…maybe pink socks.

As usual dear reader, I’m gonna close with a heart felt Thank You from the Tin Cup Clan. I know you have more important things to do and we’re honored you chose to spend some of your time with us. Please remember to hit a few buttons and share or like…maybe even tell us your thoughts. There is also a Tin Cup Clan FB page stop by for a visit and be sure and like that as well. God Bless.

“Stumbling Blocks” or “Stepping Stones”

As I write these stories my fervent hope would be; they become as real to you as they are to me. I want you to know the boys,see they’re home town when you close your eyes, even feel what they feel. That statement may seem a bit “campy” but please dear reader, do me the honor of hearing me out. So far we have visited the home of “big” David, a warm quintessential mountain home. Complete with a loving Christian ma’ and pa’, brothers and sisters. The kind of family that may come to mind when you dream of the perfect family. David’s reflects his home, slow and deliberate in his actions and thoughts, and mindful of his reputation.

Then we looked at Stick’s family, hard working ma’ and pa’. His pa’ works a dangerous job seven days a week, making sure the ends meet. His ma’ running the home as efficiently as a major corporation, all the while keeping those ends tied. Each has a place and each has a responsibility. Little time is left for worship, work has replaced the church as the center pin and character is measured by the strength of one’s back. Stick is the product of this “normal,” strong in his opinion, always quick with a joke and lives by the motto “if you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”

But now we look at Chucky. Life (as it often does) has not been so kind to them. His father worked at the local Mill since he was a boy, just as his father and his father before him. But times in mid-century Appalachia are hard and it’s left it’s mark on them, perhaps harder than any other family in the area. Without warning the Mill cut back, Chucky’s pa’ prayed that seniority would spare him from the chopping block but that wasn’t the case. Before he knew it, he was out of work and the family home was lost. I think many of us can relate to this.

Soon they found themselves dependent on friends, and blessed beyond measure with a small town. You see…folks around here help each other, lift each other up so to speak. When help is offered, declining it was seen as “insult,” and when you recovered, not returning the favor and helping another family was beyond consideration.

During such a crisis families have two choices. Circle the wagons and fight, (or as often is the case), split and go separate ways, leaving yet another family shattered and lost in time.

Fortunately, (I prefer to think by God’s grace), they circled the wagons and trusted that help was on the way. I’m not saying it was easy mind you, far from it. Some times the best you can do is dig your heels in and weather the storm…and the storm came for them dear reader, it came in the worst way.

Excerpt : Chapter : (1) The Unlikeliest of Hero’s

Chucky’s dad works the belt and washer, just as dirty, if not more, but maybe just a little safer.

The pay’s not near what the hole pays, but he’s lucky to get it. He used to work at the mill, but when they cut back, he was one of the first to get the axe. Big David’s dad pulled some strings and got him on at the Blue Diamond mine. He ain’t been there to long so he’s still playing catch up as far as money goes.

Excerpt : Chapter (6) “It ain’t Much but It’s Home”

“Chucky’s place is about a mile down the road. He don’t like us coming by his place much. We all figure it’s because he’s kinda embarrassed by it. It’s been tough for him, his place ain’t much really. His Pa lost their house to the bank when he lost his job at the plant. No warning or nothing, just went in one day and found a piece of paper with his time-card. Right now they’re rebuilding, they all live in a Shasta camper with a room built onto the side.

The room’s not very fancy, just boards and tar-paper topped off with a rusted metal roof. Just stuff his dad could scavenge up I spose. He ain’t never let any of us inside yet, we don’t say nothing about it. Out of proper respect I reckon.”

So…this is Chucky’s “normal.” His family was (blessed) in a strange way. Often you got to lose everything, before you discover you’ve had everything all along. Family, friends, community, and all the gooey stuff that comes along with it. Now…dear reader you know Chucky. Is this “your” normal? If so, look around you, you may find things aren’t so bad after all.

Next time, we visit Mikey’s family. I’m afraid the wagons didn’t circle this time. How does a single parent raise a young boy in times such as these? Well…we’ll talk about that on our next post.

Once again The Tin Cup Clan would like to thank you for stopping by, and we are honored that your choose to spend just a bit of your time with us. As always God Bless and please hit a few buttons or share with someone that may need to stop for a while and read.

Sincerely : The Tin Cup Clan

The Troublesome Red Head and his Family

David Byrge; Better known as “Stick” by most. We’re gonna look at his family next, what forces came together too forge such a personality. As parents, I believe we often forget that our kids are (for lack of a better comparison), tape recorders of a sort. They spend their young lives constantly recording anything and everything around them. Parents and family are the main characters though friends and daily acquaintances play a major role. But the family, that’s where you find the biggest influence. At some point (no one truly knows when), life switches them from “record” to “play.” When the switch happens, that’s it, very little can be done.

“It’s impossible to straighten the bend in the Oak, the crook that grew in the sapling”

The person of “Stick” and his family are in most respects, the complete polar opposite of David and his family. His proclivity for dirty jokes, loud outgoing personality, and comic behavior seem to simply be, well…(the recorder switched to play). But there’s a good heart there, a loyal heart, and a friends heart. He’s for good or bad, the product of his environment, the life of the party, “normal” just like the rest of us.

“Stick’s” Pa drives a coal truck, it’s a dangerous job, as kids we saw those guys as fighter pilots. The loud sound of “Jake brakes” echoing through the hills and hollers, sending animals running for shelter and leaves falling from the trees. Everyone in town knew, a truck was coming off the mountain.

Excerpt : Chapter 1 The unlikeliest of hero’s

Stick’s ol’ man drives a coal truck.
Takes a special kind of stupid to climb on top of sixty thousand pounds,
then try to control the beast as it barrels down steep mountain roads and sharp as a razor switchbacks. It takes years to learn how to operate and control one of those things, sorta like hillbilly bull ridin’ but twice as dangerous. They’s been quite a few lose their lives on those mountain roads. Once the truck leaves the top of that mountain she takes on a life of her own.

If she gets loose on the way down you got two choices, step out on the tanks and look for some soft dirt before jumping off. Or try to save your rig by holdin’ on and ridin’ it out, prayin’ you’ll find a soft shallow ditch before she gets too fast. Either way they’s a good chance of dyin’, simple as that.

The secret is pickin’ the right gear at the top and leaving it there. Once you try to knock her outta gear and shift down, the brakes are gonna get hot and she’s gone for sure. If she goes over the edge, the ground’s to steep to get her back up out of the holler. A man’s entire life’s work, doomed to lay where she fell, dead to the world. The mountain side is littered with dead trucks, overgrown with weeds and rusting away. The woods are quick to claim the wrecks, Kudzu vine covers them with a green quilt, right where they landed.

We go up there a lot, scrappin’ for parts, playin’ on em, and gatherin’ spilled coal. We’d all get a beatin’ if we got caught, we’ve been told a bunch of times how dangerous it was, but nobody’s been hurt yet.

Death is always hanging about in coal country. A constant companion for most. For the most part we’ve come to accept it, learned to live with it. Most folk deal with it by pretending it ain’t there. “The Lord calls and it’s my time,” they’ll say. Resigned to a “preordained time clock” a life with the finish line known only by the Lord himself.

Others allow it to follow them around through their entire life. “Ol scratch”hangs over em like a spirit that lives in the hills and hollers. They’re easy to spot, those folk. They carry a heavy appearance, like they’re never really happy. Just kinda going through life, waiting for him, looking for him, almost dead already.

“Stick” inherited his family’s “Devil may care” attitude, and it keeps him in quiet a bit of trouble. The next excerpt is a prime example.

Excerpt: Chapter 3 “Stick’s big mouth and Mark’s big plan.”

This morning I reckon ol’ Stick was in an unusually good mood. When his
name was called, a sharp “Yo” rattles through the room. A look back reveals
Stick standing at attention, eyes focused straight ahead. A sharp military
salute causes a quite snicker to pass through the room, and a smile to come
across every-body’s face…including Burton’s. Stick, not being one to turn
down attention, reclines back in his seat with an obvious look of satisfaction.
The three of us had a hunch ol’ Stick was gonna pay for that one.

Before we start, I need all you cats to pass last night’s homework to the front of the room. A loud groan followed by the sound of shuffling paper fills the class. Suddenly a loud “Daing-it” pierces the shuffle.

Stick didn’t do his homework again.

Burton looked up. Again? He barked.
We go through this at least once a week. What do I need to do Byrge; call your ol’ man or what?
“Good luck with that shit” came the reply.
The room is suddenly filled with a collective gasp.
The three of us sat there, mouths open in dis-belief. Holy crap! He didn’t?
Stick gave a look about the room, pleased with himself for the comment.
Dave leaned over towards me and whispered.
“He’s gonna git it now fer sure. Burton cain’t let a challenge like that go
without answer.”

You see? This is Stick’s “normal.”

Bold and brassy, living by the mantra,”If you ain’t living on the edge, you’re taking up to much room.” It’s a far cry from David’s family, and that’s OK.

Do you see yourself in the skinny red-head and his family? Well…congratulations, that your “normal.” If not…stick around till next time when we visit Chucky and his family. Times are a little tougher for them as his Pa tries to rebuild after the plant cut back.

When something like that happens to a family, only two things can happen. They’re either gonna close ranks and support each other, or they’re gonna split and go separate ways. The next post will be an important one. I think all of us will find a bit of ourselves in Chucky’s home life.

Well…that’s about it for now. Thank you friends, for spending a little time with the Tin Cup Clan. Like I always say, I’m sure you got better things to do, and we’re humbled that you’re here. Go ahead…leave a comment or hit a button or two, we could sure use the support.

Till next time…God Bless

Is there really a “Normal” family?

As promised, here is the first in our visits with the boy’s families. I thought big David would be a good place to start since his family serves as “home base” for our boys. As a child I knew a big David, and his family was very similar to the David in the books, and yes, I envied him quiet a bit. They didn’t have money, didn’t live in a fine home, didn’t drive new cars, or go on vacations, but they had each other and that was enough.

Those things don’t make a family, and most certainly don’t make a happy family. My granny would say, “blessed be nothing, no trouble at all” and “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” I think you’re gonna find this true with all the boys, but by the end of the book, one of them will have to learn this the hard way.

Do you see your family in big David’s? Great, then that’s your normal, soak it up, enjoy it as you would sunshine on a summer day. If not… well hang around for Stick’s family, maybe you just might see yourself in them. They’re a bit different than David’s, after all…there is no universal “normal,” each one is custom made. What matters is what we do with it.

Excerpt; Chapter 6 “It ain’t much but it’s home”

The next stop the bus makes is big David’s. He lives at the end of a long steep dirt road in a small timber house built by his Pa.

Locals know the hill as Owen’s ridge. His family has lived up there for generations. He shares that little house with a whole passel of brothers and sisters. I think there may be as many as ten of ’em but I cain’t swear to it. I reckon the whole bunch get along just fine.

No matter the weather, the yard is always full of bare footed kids of all ages. I don’t think a man could sling a dead cat without knocking over at least a couple of ’em. All of ’em laughing and yelling, running and fighting, screaming and crying. There’s an odd sense of joy in that house. Joy that’s seldom found in other households. Joy that with a bit of embarrassment I have to admit; I’m a great deal jealous of.

David’s ma sells some of the finest butter, buttermilk and bacon on the planet. That’s where ma gets most of our eggs. The ol’ boy’s dad’s pretty cool too. When he’s not in the hole chasing coal, he’s out there playing right along with his kids. Laughing and running, playing and screaming. It pains me a great deal to watch them, I cain’t help but wonder what my life would be like if my pa were still around. As I watch ’em I think about that a lot.

Excerpt: Chapter 28 “The worst lie I ever told.”

I was the first there. When David opened the door; puppies came rushing out; yappin’ and  jumping all over me.

They ain’t gonna bite friend; they’s just gittin’ to know ye is all. Come on in and make ye self at home. I walked through the door and into utter bedlam.

It was a big living room by any standard. A long well-worn couch sat in front of a large picture window. Clear plastic was stretched over the windows; sealing out the cold. Home-made curtains with pretty flowers hung gracefully; framing the glass like a picture frame.

Next to the couch sat a small simple table. The only thing on it was a large family bible. It was clear that it had been passed down through countless generations. The cover was tattered around the corners from use; while loose leaves of dog-eared paper covered with all manner of dates and notes poked from the sides. A faded and  frayed crimson ribbon was laced through the pages and served as a book-mark.

Standing with great prominence was the woodstove. A huge “Warm-Morning” sat on the brick hearth. A tall pile of split wood stacked neatly to each side. The entire house smelled of burnt hickory and oak; no wonder big David smelled the way he did. The smell of the wood combined with the intense heat of the stove soaked into my bones; making me sleepy and comfortable.

They was kids from floor to ceiling, all of em running and jumping, laughing and playing. It didn’t seem to faze his ma, not one bit. She came over, drying her hands on her floral apron before wrapping me in her arms with a big hug.

How ye doin’ young man? We’ve just finished supper, but I’ll heat ye up somethin’ if yer hungry.

No thanks ma’am, I eat before I left the house. Ma says it’s nobody else’s job to feed this bottomless pit but her. But if you don’t mind, I sure would like to call her and let her know I’m OK.

Phones right over there. Make ye self at home. David said his friends was comin’ by fer a visit. He’s sure been excited about it. Her comment made my conscience bother me a bit; causing the pangs in my belly to start up again.

I called ma to let her know I was there and found myself a seat on the couch (between two puppies). It was soft as a feather bed and I sank down into it as I sat. I just…sat there for a spell; enjoying the heat, the serenity, and the aroma of the wood while letting the worries just melt away.

I understood why David acted so. Even with all the noise and commotion I felt at ease; at home even. His ma had the same easy grin as he did, and the same easy nature. His brothers and sisters climbed on him like he was a set of monkey bars; and he seemed to love it as much as they did.

It seemed all too soon, but a knock came at the door; dragging me back to reality.

David stood up, looks like that’ll be the fellers. The dogs exploded though the door the second he opened it.

I heard a ruckus on the front porch. Good God we’re bein’ attacked by a pack of rabid lassies. Git down dogs I ain’t got no hot-dogs in my pockets.

Chuckie’s panicked voice was unmistakable. The two of em, Chucky and Stick tumbled into the living room in a pile; puppies nipping at their britches, and licking the boy’s faces.

Big David was grinning from ear to ear, even showing some teeth. Aw… They’s just gittin’ to know ye is all, ain’t no use in gittin’ ye drawers in a bunch.

I gotta have em in a bunch cried Stick, if I didn’t those hounds would pull em right off me.

Chucky was already standing in front of the stove, his backside turned to it while he rubbed his tail.

Ain’t nothin’ like a hot fire, my tail is soaked to the bone. Stick kept runnin’ me through mud holes the whole way here.

What? I didn’t do no such thing. Just cause you cain’t ride don’t mean you can blame everybody else.

I interrupted they’re little quarrel. That’s enough guys, yun’z gotta call yer folks so’s we can be on our way. We’re burnin’ daylight.

David looked worried. You sure you wanna do this friend? I mean, they ain’t no shame in not goin’. Heck, I’d wager ol’ Mark ain’t even gonna show up.

I’ve gone too far to back out now. Side’s, if he does show and we ain’t there, I’d get a poundin’ fer sure.

What ’che gonna tell my ma? He asked.

Oh… I ain’t thought of that. I got up and went to the kitchen.

David’s ma was sitting at the table; checking a pile of soup beans before she put em in water.

Excuse me Ma’am.

Stick forgot a couple things at his house; we’re gonna run down and git em if that’s OK with you. We’ll be back shortly.

OK she replied (with out looking up from those beans), but you boys be careful. Ya hear?

I could tell she weren’t used to being lied to. She never batted an eye at my excuse. As I turned and walked back to the guys; I felt all kinds of dirty and those pangs were back in my stomach.

Light was beginning to fade as we walked out on the front porch.

As always Thank You for choosing to spend just a little of your time with The Tin Cup Clan. I know there are a lot of other things you could be doing. A like or a share would be greatly appreciated, so go a head and make my day. Until next time…

It’s said; “There comes’ a point”

As a rule I do my best to keep my “self” outta the posts and excerpts. Instead, I focus on the boys, the book, life growing up in the mountains, and every now and then throw a bit of a “lesson” in the pot. But…a few things have happened since we last met forcing me to accept the unpleasant fact that…I may very well have been wrong about a couple of things. Namely my old trusted and true motto; ” We all reach a point in our lives when life stops giving stuff, and begins taking stuff away.” This will eventually make sense if you bare with me, I promise.

About three years ago I really took that little phrase to heart and for lack of a better term it kinda became my “montra.” I reckon you might say I found comfort in it, it provided me with a reason “albeit a feeble one” behind this blasted cancer. I hadn’t given up…far from it, but I accepted it. I hadn’t stopped fighting the battles, but I knew who was gonna win the war, yep…life had begun taking a lot more than it provided.

BUT I WAS WRONG

Just last week I met my new grandson for the first time, he’s my daughter’s third son. Only a couple days ago, my son welcomed a set of triplets, giving him a total of four sons, I haven’t been introduced to them yet, but I plan on our first meeting this weekend. That gives me a total of seven grandsons, Kaden, Taylon, Saylor, Landry, Lennox, Maddox, and Amaris. (I’m sure I misspelled at least one of ’em)

Once Landry had fallen asleep, my daughter laid him on my chest, his head tucked under my chin and I held him tight, (but not too tight). I have a rather long grey beard ( yea yea I know, Hillbilly, long beard, I get the joke),and he snuggled his head into it as one would a pillow. I closed my eyes and relaxed, he smelled good. Warm and pure, soothing and innocent, if life and Love has a scent this has to be it.

By the time you read this I hope to have met the triplets, I want to hold them to my chest, close my eyes, feel them, smell them as well, and relax. I’m sure there’s plenty of room for three on this ol’ grey beard and plenty of room under my chin.

My disease has forced me to build a world and I began to put that world on paper. The Tin Cup Clan. Those boys are very real to me, they’re adventures have afforded me an escape from the never ending Chemotherapy and radiation. When I feel life takes away a little to much, I escape there, I find myself riding along beside them down a country road. In that world they will forever chase witches and legends, search for the unknown, gain and lose friendships, fail and learn from they’re mistakes. and they will love. They’re problems are my problems, but cancer will never be one of them.

In some ways I had all but given up on life in the “real” world. But just a few days ago I realized; Life was still giving. Yes Yes, it was taking a great deal, but it was still giving as well, in the form of family, and the smell of newborn grandsons.

The good Lord has richly blessed me with a wonderful son, three fabulous daughters, and seven incredible grandsons. Chances are; I won’t be around to see them all grow up, I’m not saying I’m OK with that, but I do plan on enjoying the time I have with them and count it an honor and time well spent.

The next few posts are gonna revolve around family, it’s time you met big David’s, Stick’s, Chucky’s, and Mark’s. I might even be so bold as to say you’re gonna feel right at home, maybe even sit down a spell, maybe…shake loose some old memories. The boys will prove that family comes in all shapes and sizes, there is no true “normal,” and each has it’s own unique hurdles. I hope you find your self in one of ’em.

With these new births, The Tin Cup Clan is growing. Family is growing, and if you’re reading this, you’re family and we’re happy you’re here. Thank You for choosing to spend just a bit of you’re time with us. Until next time; God bless and I hope life keeps givin’ for ya.

“Class Separation” In the Lunchroom

The school lunchroom…never at any time of the day was social status, athletic ability, or academic achievement more glaringly on display. I think we all remember the rules, we all remember our little “click,” and we remember there was a social line that “we just didn’t cross.” In this excerpt, we get the chance to look back and see things through the eyes’ of a fifth grader, if you look hard enough, you just might find yourself in this room. Where did you fit in? How many Milks were on your tray? Did you have pocket money for the ice-cream?

When I was a boy, I was (like our boys’) a “free luncher.” As with most families, money was tight, things such as ice-cream and juice was something we only stared at and dreamed about. No matter where you sat, or who you sat with…grab your coffee and stop for a minute just to remember.

Chapter 11: Excerpt- The Lunchroom

“As soon as we opened the lunchroom door we were met by a deafening clatter. The large room was as usual, crammed wall to wall with people. Countless voices stacked one on top of the other resulted in an aggravating hum, a room full of kids clamoring for food and attention. All this noise was accompanied by the clinking and clacking of pots and pans, competing with utensils banging against fiberglass trays.

The line was huge as usual, wrapping along the wall before ending at the door. From the back we heard “make a hole, make a hole.” as Mark and his crew came shoving their way through the line. Those what didn’t move outta the way were unceremoniously shoved to the side. As he walks past me, he makes certain to plant a sharp slap to the back of my head, making my ears ring.

Gotta be quick Miller.

I didn’t give him the courtesy of a sideways glance.

Cool! Chicken over cornbread! yelled Stick. That’s it no trades, he was quick to point the “no trades” clause out.

Chicken over cornbread is good, the chicken part is a thick flavorful soup that’s ladled over a large piece of pone. The broth has green-beans, carrots, and peas’, it’s warm and feels good when it hits your belly, making your whole body kind’a relax.

That’s fine with me I muttered, while rubbing the new knot growing on the back of my head. I don’t feel much like tradin’ anyway’s.

I like it good enough said David, but the white beans are the best in my book.

Oh dude, peaches again, whined a wincing Chucky, I hate those things, their all slimy and crap. Cain’t even cut ’em without ’em jumpin’ off the…

Big David interrupted the ol’ boy’s speech, staking his claim before Chucky finished his sentence

I’d be glad to take ’em off yer hands friend.

Making certain Chucky didn’t have a chance to rethink his comment.

At the end of the line sat Mrs. Tuttle, her neck bent at an unnatural angle, glaring at her ledger like Scrooge over numbers. She looked up, but just for a second as each kid filed by, making certain to give each tray a thorough examination. All this and never speaking a word. She didn’t have too, she knew each kid by name, including address and phone number.

You can always spot the ones with money, they usually parade around the lunchroom, extra milks proudly on display. Some have as many as three or four stacked on their trays. When the meal is finished and all that milk guzzled down, they prance about the room once again, ice-cream proudly stuffed in their mouths.

Ice-cream is expensive, a luxury reserved exclusively for the absolute elite. Fifty cents apiece they are, well outta the reach of normal kids. Most are content with simply watching this spectacle, all the while hoping that daing ice-cream hits the floor.

Without a word, Dave bows his big ol’ head and ask’s the Blessing. I’ve never seen him put a bite of food in his mouth without blessing it first. The rest of us follow suit, just in case the ol’ boy knows something that we don’t. As soon as he raised his head, he leaned over to grab Chuckie’s peaches.

Chucky raised his hand stopping those big sausage fingers. “Slow down Tonto; you’re gonna get em.”

Dave looks at him and mumbles. “Well; I don’t want you gittin any of your slobbers on em, might ruin the flavor.”

Stick stopped eating for a second and looked up from his tray. I’ve tried to get mom to fix this at home. She said it sounds nasty, the only thing that should go on cornbread is butter.

Not at my house I pointed out. Papaw eats his with milk and molasses, says it’s the only way to go.

Chucky looked up with a wonder in his eye. He flipped his spoon around, using it as a pointer. Have you ever wondered what they do with the rest of the mole?

David looked up confused.

What’re you talkin’ bout friend?

You know, the rest of the mole, the mole. When they make a jar of mole-asses what do they do with the rest of the mole?

OH… I git it, that’s a good one friend!

There it is; this time I was sure I saw teeth in that smile. Stick and I both shook our heads; some stuff was simply too stupid to waste a good comment on.”

I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt about the Lunchroom. It’s gonna be a bit before I post again, I got four grand-babies on the way so the little woman and myself are gonna go welcome them. That’ll give us a total of seven grand-sons’. As always please hit one of the buttons to let me know what you think and comments are greatly appreciated.

The Tin Cup Clan….

Let Me Introduce You to “The Copper Lady”

Around here we got a habit of classifying any and all manner of machinery as “female.” I don’t know why, that’s just the way it’s always been. Truck, car, tractor, still, makes no difference, “The ol’ girl,” or “Fire her up,” are common phrases. If she refuses to start or breaks down, then things get a might personal, “That ol’ heifer up and quit on me” we might say. But we can be equally as forgiving, if you make it back home on a dark night you might give her a pat on the fender as you utter a loving, “atta girl.” My little girl named my truck “Big Blue,” Bi-weekly trips to Chemotherapy take about four hours driving each way. But when I finally get back home I never fail to proclaim to the wife that, ” the ol’ girl got there and back one more time.”

Mikey’s family is no different, he views his papaw’s still with a fearful reverence, she scares him. In the story, the still has a menacing personality, he compares the noises she makes to breathing, when shes’ cold, shes’ sleeping, waiting for the old man to wake her up.

Below is a few paragraphs from Chapter : 11 titled “Karma is a fickle mistress”

To most folk, it’s just an old shed full of hog feed and tools. An old weather-worn building that looks like it might collapse at any moment. But don’t let appearances fool ya. Its true purpose lies hidden just inside. On the left just behind a weather weary 6-panel door. The ol’ man keeps it pretty well hidden with sacks of feed and rolls of barbed wire to block the entrance.

I had to make sure and study how every sack and spool was stacked or placed. If even a single one was out of place, the ol’ buzzard would know some-one had messed with them for sure.

I poked my head out one last time, making sure I wasn’t seen, then quickly went to work. I was on a strict timeline cause the old man was sure to notice if I took too long. Once I had enough sacks moved to the side, I opened the door.

 There she was, the dim light gave the still a menacing appearance. The bottom was covered in black soot, scars from years of coal fires. Her copper skin had turned an ugly shade of olive brown from age, it’s no telling how old she was. A large coil of copper tubing spiraled down-ward from the top of her large belly and into the top of the smaller “thump keg.” (so named because of the thumping sound it makes when steam enters from the coil.) Another coil of smaller diameter called the “worm,” came from the top of that tank and curled its way into a barrel. It’s empty now but gets filled with cool spring water when the ol’ man is a cooking.

The spaces between the boards allowed streaks of dusty sunlight to play strange tricks on the eyes. In this setting, it was easy to believe she was alive. Sleeping for now but waiting for the ol’ man to come and wake her up again. On the back wall sat jar after jar of clear liquid. Realizing I had lost some time staring at the still, I picked up my pace a bit. My heart was beating out of my chest and I could feel each beat in my head. I stuck a shaky hand into my pocket and pulled out the first bottle.

As always we Thank You for your time. I know there are plenty of other things you could be doing. Likes, shares’ , and comments are looked upon like Christmas morning around here, so go ahead and make our day. Until next time…The Tin Cup Clan

D.W.B.s and Why Everyone Should Know What They Are.

I brag about my stepdad a lot, that’s not news for those what know me. I was a tad worried when that crusty ol’ yankee came into our lives. We were from two different worlds’; he didn’t understand much of what I said, and I sure didn’t understand that New York accent of his. But Ma seemed to be happy with the arrangement, and as the “man of the house” I went along with it. After all, back in those days; finding a feller to take on a divorced lady and her band of four heathens was no easy task, even if we were all just “perfect angels.”

I don’t know when it happened, but sooner or later that ol’ coot started to grow on us. Possible because he looked the part, I rarely seen him in anything other than his bib overalls and long sleeve shirt. A gnawed toothpick eternally hung from one corner of his mouth, while a lit cigarette hung from the other. He kept a large ashtray by his recliner, but it was only a general target, evidenced by the ring of ashes circling it.

His nature was loud to say the least, and anything he had to say was generally heard by everyone in the room, (whether they wanted to be a participant in the conversation or not). He had the “particular” habit of calling me by my formal name, never “Mike” but “Michael,” and he began every conversation with it.

I can’t begin to list all the advice he passed down to my teen-aged self. Most of them are just…automatic now, I don’t think about them, they just seem to be there and happen, like blinking, you don’t think about it, you just blink. But one piece of advice sticks out above all else, it’s a list, and I’ve tried to pass at least one item from that list to each member of The Tin Cup boys.

That list, titled by my stepdad was known as your D.W.B.s’. More formally known as your “Damn. Well. Betters’.” (Right now, my kids are reading this and shaking their heads, yea…they’ve heard em before.

D.W.B.# 1

“Michael” (see there, he did it again). You damn well better pay your taxes, “Render unto Caesar” he would say. It’s your responsibility to pay your fair share, after all, it’s a small price to pay so’s you and your family can lay down and sleep at night, free from the fear of some cracker head breaking in and taking it from ya. This country ain’t perfect…but it’s a damn sight better than most. “ Now I don’t know about you” he would say, “but I got no desire to be standing in line to buy cheap government issued toilet paper.” Besides…you don’t want em getting their hooks in you if you don’t pay em. He called em “hooks” not “claws,” claws you can just pull out, but hooks, they’re a different story, you can’t pull em out, they got barbs. Once the government gets those hooks in you for non-payment, they ain’t letting go. So…good Lord willing, I’ve paid em what I owe em, ain’t got no hooks in me to speak of yet.

D.W.B.# 2

“Michael” (there it is again). You damn well better realize there is a “Higher Power.” Now you can call this “Higher Power” what you want, “but believe you me brother,” (he said that a lot as well) there’s a divine force pulling the strings. “You may be the center of “your” universe, but you’re not the center of “the” universe,” I guarantee it. We as children of God have the responsibility of looking out for the one on our right. Think about that for a second, it makes sense. As children, we answer to our parents, we have rules and like it or not, we have limits. A five-year-old may want ice-cream for breakfast, but as a parent, it’s our responsibility to say no. Adults and parents aren’t any different, we (adults) also have rules and limits. We can’t have everything we want, or do anything we want, oft times those things aren’t good for us in the long run, so sometimes God says “no.” Kids need to feel comfortable asking their parents for advice, just as adults need to feel comfortable asking God for advice. Often we may not like the answer, just like the ice-cream.

D.W.B.# 3

“Michael” (you knew that was coming). You damn well better fix that toy. This is a big one for parents, so pay attention. A child will never bring you a broken heart if they can’t bring you a broken toy. (I’m gonna let that sink in for a minute while you read it again). Don’t get so caught up with life and all its troubles, that you don’t have time to fix that broken toy and wipe that tear from your little ones cheek. When your child brings you a headless doll, or a crashed toy car, all things gotta stop. Period. To them, that bobble is their heart and their world, and they’re asking you (trusting you) to fix it, and they die a little inside, each time you don’t have time for them. When they get older, the toy is replaced with more grown-up issues, they need to know they can bring that to you in safety as well, they gotta know they matter, and you will do your absolute best.

D.W.B.# 4

“Michael” (aww come on, you didn’t expect to stop now). You damn well better open the door and take off the hat. This one can get a little sticky so bear with me. This revolves entirely around respect. Never forget to open the door for the person behind you, especially if that person is a lady. It’s simple manners that many have forgotten. The practice serves two purposes. Doing so humbles you in the company of others, that’s an honorable thing no matter how important you think you are. (Refer to #2), not the center of “the“ universe thing, remember? This little habit reminds us of our place in this world and our responsibility daily. The next and most important, is respect. This small act of humility honors the other, especially should that person be older. They have done their time, gained a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom, and are worthy of our (your) respect. I’m gonna inject a little of my own here and ask something of you. The next time you are waiting in the drive through, getting your morning coffee and sausage biscuit, pay the tab for the person in the car behind you. Don’t wait around for recognition just do it, that’s between you and God, (he notices stuff like that), trust me on this one. You’d be surprised how much it brightens their day, remember, take care of the person to your right, (also from #2). Finally, never sit at the table with your hat on. To some this may seem rather trivial, but in removing your hat you demonstrate reverence to your Heavenly father for providing you the means to afford and enjoy the meal you have been blessed with, as well as respect for the one who prepared it for you.

D.W.B.# 5 “Michael” (you knew it was coming). Family is everything, especially when you don’t like em. Relationships are like the tide; they ebb and flow. Some days they’re so sweet you could eat em up, and other days you wish you had. (feel free to use that quote). Nobody gets along all the time, if that’s what you expect, you’re destined for heartache. We age we change, we hurt we heal, we forgive… and we love. In a perfect world love is unconditional, unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. So…God gave us families, a group of imperfect individuals to help bare the burden when life gets to heavy for one. We may (and will) fight and argue, we may say and do things we shouldn’t, we forget birthdays and anniversaries. We may even take each other for granted. But in the end, we are all we have, and quiet possibly all we need, ain’t it wonderful! You see…he “that Higher Power” designed us that way, and the last time I checked, he don’t make no mistakes.

D.W.B.# 6 “Michael” (Last one I promise). Never break a covenant. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. When you give a man your word, or shake a man’s hand, that’s the end of it. You can’t break a covenant, not even the good Lord will break that. To this day, If I pump a man’s paw, I know it’s serious business, I still conduct a lot of my affairs that way, and I warn folks about the importance before they grab my hand. I get the short end a good many times, but as long as you keep your end of the bargain, you can sleep well at night.

So there’s the D.W.B.s, you might even want to put em on your refrigerator, right next to the crayon drawing of the family dog. I’ve tried to instill at least one of these D.W.B.s into each of my boys in the books. My hope is, when you read it, you will see it in their personalities. The release date is still up in the air, times as they are and all, publisher says they are doing their best. Until then I request and Thank You for your patience. As always, a “like” or “share” is greatly appreciated, and I enjoy the comments. There is also a “Tin Cup Clan” FB page, you are welcomed to join us.   Till next time…. sincerely, The Tin Cup Clan.

“Hope” Boiled down

In Chapter 31 Our boys find themselves on a mission, alone on a dark road, in the middle of the night, in a cold heavy rain, and scared outta their minds. Tempers were starting to run high and as most of us do, they were starting to doubt themselves. There’s a lesson here.

If you want to know who a person “really” is, put em under pressure. Pressure has a way of cutting through all the fat, and hardship has a habit of exposing character and bone. I’ve found strength and character are oft times found in the most unlikely of individuals. Not the loud, proud, in your face types that we have come to look up to.

If you want to see character, if you want to find hope, look for the humble, the quiet, the resolute. Look for those in the midst of the flames, not those fanning the fire. Chances are, you might be surprised by who you find.

In our book, an eleven year old boy puts a little of this into perspective. He’s having a conversation with a kid who has made his life miserable. We could learn a few things by the way he handles it.

Excerpt : from Chapter 31 “The Mystery of the Leech Cemetery Witch”

You know… the witch. Whatcha gonna ask her?

I ain’t askin’ for nothin,” he [Mark] sneered…I’m just here to show you up is all. Nothin’ more.

I’ve been thinkin’ about it awful hard, I replied. I know what I’m askin.’ Just ain’t tellin’ nobody. No sir, our little secret, just in case it’s all real.

He looked at me for a second; a puzzled look covered his face. Wait…do you mean you really believe this stuff. All these ol’ tales and junk. I mean…I always knew you was kinda stupid; but I didn’t think you was this bad.

I was getting fed up with his attitude. You know Mark… sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference twixed stupid and hopeful. Heck, I don’t really know if there is a difference. But I do know this.

They’s a lot of stupid people out there hopin’ fer stupid stuff. But there don’t appear to be a lot of hopeful people out there that are any kinda stupid. The tough part I ‘spose, is tellin’ the difference. That’s what keeps me goin’ I reckon.

Yep that’s me…I’m just “stupid” enough to keep “hopin’.”

I hope this make some kind of sense. Once again I thank you for taking time from your day to read these words, and once again, pass it on. The Tin Cup Clan

Alway Choose The Wing

  (A reflection of Character)

By Michael Miller

Southern folk are a peculiar folk, raised a bit different we were, but southern “mountain” folk…well, that’s another subject entirely. I’m afraid I cain’t speak for everyone else, all I can do is relate insight on how I was taught, unfortunately, that’s a time long gone. This new-found writing career of mine has taught me to find stories in the most unusual of circumstances. One of these circumstances presented itself just the other evening whilst I sat staring at (of all things), a platter of fried chicken. You, my dear friends are about to discover one of life’s most important lessons, you’re about to find out why… “you should always choose the wing.” So, fasten your seat belts folks, here we go.

Back in the day… long before they were slathered in Buffalo sauce; or attained center stage in trendy eateries. Long before they found themselves delivered by barely covered young ladies, only to be gnawed on by beer soaked middle-aged men. (I’m referring to the wings not the ladies). These humble and understated parts of the chicken were known by one and all as “poor people” food. Yep, that’s right… it wasn’t very long-ago, wings were most often bought by the gallon bucket at your local Piggly Wiggly. Wings, livers, and gizzards gave the most bang for the buck, and let me tell you something…I ate more than my fair share of those things. Where’s this going you ask? Well…hold on a minute, we’re just about there.

You see…there’s a lesson to be learned in the humble wing, you could say a quiet, solemn, sense of purpose, free from vanity (unlike those prima-donnas of the poultry world known as chicken breasts), and the thighs, and we’ve all heard stories about those guys. Nope…the wings have a job to do and they know it, and part of that job is teaching us just a little about “humility.”

I was told as a child, “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” As a boy I could never make sense of that, but now…well…I get it. Our world is full to the brim, packed tight with folk after the best, the fastest, biggest, most expensive, me, me, me, my time, my life, my this or that. And at what cost?

In my not so humble opinion, life needs to be a bit more like the supper table, and that platter of fried chicken, (told ya we’d get there). My mother never, and I mean never grabbed the first, or the last of anything. Grabbing the first piece was frowned on, and viewed as arrogant and self serving, while grabbing the last was seen as selfish and uncaring. In our house, this resulted in a dozen or so hands grasping at the same plate at the same time. For more of this, refer to the great Jerry Clower and his story “The last piece of chicken.” The nuts and bolts of this little tale boils down to watching out for the one behind you. As crazy as this may sound…the type of piece you choose, reflects the personality you possess.

Let’s get preachy: Romans 12: 10 NIV

“Honor one another above yourselves”

Get it now? Watch out for the one behind, or beside you. Don’t go around grabbing the best parts, don’t go around leaving nothing for the next to arrive. Stop thinking so much of yourself and focus on your neighbor. All of this from a chicken wing; never saw that coming did ya? But wait, there’s more.

Remember the sacrifice made by our parents? In a large family with extremely limited resources, it was common to hear ma say, “well, I didn’t really like pie anyway, or, I’m not in the mood for chicken tonight.” She was always the first to make the sacrifice when there wasn’t enough to go around. We need more of that; we need more folks to take the high road.

Preachy again…   Luke 14:10 NIV

“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.”

My stepdad told me, “never be the first to enter a room.” That stuck with me, when I open the door now, I let the person behind me enter first, out of instinct, not strength of character on my part, or a conscious decision, it just happens, like blinking. “It’s impossible to straighten the bend in the oak, the crook that grew in the sapling.” Ever heard that one? Ever had the door shut in your face at the grocers? Yea…that dude grabs the breast off the platter every time, I guarantee it. Next time you’re at the Piggly Wiggly, Stop, open the door for a stranger, Please.

All this, and we’re still talking about a chicken wing, what about that. Once again, that little wing teaches us humility, and in an odd sort of way, makes a better person. So…as you go through life remember, don’t be the first to enter the room, it has a Ta,da, aura about it, nobody likes it I promise. Make sure and take the lowest seat at the table, both literally and figuratively, trust me, it’s embarrassing if someone asks you to move a few seats back. You may be the center of “your” universe, but you ain’t the center of “the” universe. Never take the last piece, or slice of anything unless asked, once again, literally and figuratively, doing so makes you come off as selfish and inconsiderate. And finally, always grab the humble wing, leave that breast for momma. For once, let someone else have the best piece, you’ll get yours, I promise. Trust me, folks will notice and tell others, just like I have now. “We need a lot more folks chewin’ on a wing, and far fewer chokin’ on their words.” That’s just my opinion, feel free to make it your own.

If you like this little tale I would appreciate it if you would share it, at least once. You gotta know somebody who needs to read it, we all do. Leave a comment if you can, I sure do love reading them. Till next time… Thank You, from The Tin Cup Clan. Better still, press the follow button, I’m trying to build a platform here.

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