“CHRISTMAS” in a CARDBOARD BOX

“Christmas gifts in short supply,” “Shop early to avoid empty shelves,” The black Christmas of 2021.” The headlines go on and on. If a body allowed themselves, all this bad news can really drag a person down, make ’em believe Christmas and all it stands for can be contained, held captive on some random cargo ship floating just off the coast somewhere.

But don’t you think on it, no sir, don’t you think on it one bit. I got some good news for us all. They may be tellin’ us the holidays are being held captive, but they’re wrong! Let me tell you why.

The Owens family are the stars of our little story, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Owen’s and big David from the book snippets. We join them on a very special day, up early, cleaned and pressed, David’s hair combed and oiled, his four sister’s hair carefully brushed and garnished with pretty bows of left over fabric. His Ma had the entire clan ready to go before sun up. The girls, bubbling over with excitement, picked, poked, and giggled at each other, all the while David looked to the Heavens and rolled his eyes. He couldn’t let ’em see his excitement, after all, while his Pa was at work he was the man of the house. This meant someone had to be the voice of reason.

You see friend: before cellular phones and tablets, before designer purses and Nike shoes, before those robot vacuum cleaners and that creepy Alexa lady who talks to you at home even in the most private of situations, before Atari, PlayStation and X-box. There was something more… a simple dog-eared cardboard box, but contained within that humble box, well… contained there was everything Christmas was about, everything Christmas promised and everything Christmas was, and as kids they looked forward to it’s yearly return with as much excitement as Santa Claus, maybe more.

Since it was Christmas basket season, that meant anything was possible, maybe even probable. Most folk have been fortunate enough to have never seen one, and that particular memory, like so many things from our past, seems to be slowly fading into obscurity. But to David and his sisters, all the magic and wonder of the holiday season was waiting for them inside that box.

Oh it’s all there…you just gotta know what to look for, the Christmas story in it’s entirety. From the simple to the sublime, the mundane to the magical, the humble to the most high. And like all good things (I mean really good things), very little, if any, money is required.

David and his sisters didn’t know “poor”, to them it was simply”life” and life needed no special words to quantify it, it simply was, and that was that. But… it was a different time and folks defined “poor” differently than we do now.

There they were, like a momma duck and her babies, all waddlin’ up the narrow road into town. If they were lucky, a neighbor would stop and offer a ride, if not there was plenty to talk about on the five mile hike. All the children could talk about were those boxes and what wonders waited inside. Each shared tales about what they hoped to find within, minds raced and imaginations soared as tales of last years treats and which ones were favorites flew though the cold air.

Before they knew it, the lodge came into to view and they could see the line of folks wrapping around the building like a black snake, all patiently waiting their turn. Now before we go any further we need to get one thing straight friend…this weren’t charity. Around here folk look out for each other, we share the gift as well as the burden. We didn’t need the government, we didn’t need a handout, and we didn’t need some politician deciding what our folk deserved. We had neighbors and friends who cared, and felt the pain of hardship like we all did.

The sights,sounds, and smells in that building were in a kids eyes, beyond words. Boxes packed full of holiday greatness were stacked floor to ceiling. The aroma of chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, and other treats unknown floated about the room before simmering into an aroma that brought goose-bumps to the skin. The roomful of voices and excited clamber mixed just as easily, composing a soothing hymn. This must truly be what Christmas was all about, those children were in Heaven and never wanted to leave.

A booming HO, HO, HO, snapped them to reality. The three girls pulled and tugged at David’s shirt, begging to go see Santa. David shot his ma a pleading glance.

Oh fine, she replied. Take your sister and go see Santa, I got some things to drop of at the tables anyway.

Without waiting on their brother, the girls ran to the short line of children, all waiting to tell the Jolly ol’ elf their most private of wishes. David knew it as soon as he laid eyes on the ol’ boy. The yards of red velvet and white fur trim couldn’t hide the tin toys and whistles dangling just below Santa’s coat. The ivory pipe he held clutched in his teeth could belong to no other, it was ol’ Shag Branch in the flesh. The wonderful ol’ man sat there, his lap full of children. From time to time his head fell back as a thunderous laugh filled the room. Shag was in his element, he loved those children and they loved him in return. Christmas seemed to fit Shag, his well worn stories of travel to far off and exotic lands were replaced with reindeer tales, and elf updates, the intricacies of toy manufacturing, and flight zones. The children (young and old) gathered round him as usual, mouths wide open and eyes star struck as they absorbed the tales like raindrops on dry clay.

Mrs. Owens used the opportunity to finish some business. She placed a large basket on the table under the watchful eyes of the chief and mayor. A loud gasp was heard from both as she laid six fresh baked “cornmeal” pies in a neat line. Quit that she scolded as she swatted away the mayor’s hand. Those are for the raffle, you want a taste then go buy ye’selves a ticket.

Grumbles were heard as the two men turned to go in search of the ticket table.

We’ll be back Mrs. Owens replied Mayor Weaver, yea said the chief, with winning tickets too.

I hope so boys, she answered, I hope so.

To be perfectly honest; each family was to get just one box, but the men behind the tables, well… they knew things, the kinda things only a small town knows. With a wink, a finger to their lips and a quick shush, a box appeared before each of the children. The girls could scarce wrap their arms around the treasure. Once the boxes were held tight against they’re chests, they were quietly scatted outside.

Ma led her little band of ducks to a large sweet-gum tree, there beneath the gnarled branches they examined they’re spoils.

One large frozen roasting hen

Cans of pumpkin, green beans, corn and untold other vegetables

A bag of flour, cornmeal, and sugar

A large bag of tree nuts

A bag of pretty ribbon candy, creme drops, horehound candy, gum drops, and a box of Cracker Jacks

A large poke of oranges and a few grapefruit

But the best lay hidden at the bottom. All four filled their mouths with gum drops and began to dig. I found it yelled the youngest, soon followed by the other three. Four pairs of hands lifted the prize into the air. A brand new pocket New Testament. Still cold from the frozen chicken, leather bound with gold letters on the outside and red letters on the inside. (The red letters are the important ones).

Mrs. Owens let her little ones enjoy their newfound prizes for a few minutes before giving word that it was time to make the way back home. David secured each girl with a their own box before picking up his own. The little band began the journey back home.

The journey home was dominated by tales of Santa and the things he might bring. A thankful grin lay across the face of both David, and his ma. The hope and dreams of the three girls lifted they’re hearts and made the steps lighter.

As the four marched, the wind brought the scent of cinnamon and Liquorice to the nose. The aroma mixed and mingled with the scent of citrus and apples, until finally joining with the smell of cardboard and the cold of the chicken. The end result was nothing short of magical.

We all have special “triggers” in our lives, simple little things such as a TV. show, a special taste, a smell, or familiar tune. Something so small and innocuous that it means nothing to others, but to us, those “little” things have the power to instantly transport us back to simpler times and our childhood, or treasured memory. The smell of a Christmas basket is one of mine, and I’m sure, for David and his three sisters as well.

Remember when I said those boxes contained Christmas? Well…let’s talk about that a-bit shall we?

You may be, (and I pray that you are), unfamiliar with the concept of a “Christmas Basket” and what it meant to so many mountain families, not to mention children. Every year when the leaves began to change, local churches, businesses, friends, neighbors, heck, most of the whole town came together in the spirit of Love and Sacrifice. A humble yet grand effort to gift another with the simple respite from worry.

Food drives would be held, bake sales and raffles. Collection plates circulate in churches ,meeting halls, and even local beer joints. Most everyone gratefully shared what little they had, no avenue was left unchecked in the effort to fill as many boxes as possible.

Do such labors work? Do these humble actions of neighbors have lasting effect. Well…here sits an old man, typing away at his keyboard. As I write this story I smell that box,I feel the cold from the frozen bird against my face as I walk home. I feel the weight as I carry it close to my chest. The smell of citrus, chocolate and cinnamon fill my head and I’m transported back, way back.

Strip away the tinsel, the twinkling lights and greenery. Remove the silver, gold and blown glass. Forget about spending money you don’t have, to buy people you don’t like, things they don’t need.

Whats left?

Just an old cardboard box, much like an old wooden manger, both filled with hope, joy, and promise. The return of which was looked forward to every year at this special time. Remember that pocket New Testament those little ones were so desperate to find too? Oh it was there in that manger as well. Oh not a little book mind you, but nothing less than the word manifest in flesh, the Christ child. A promise made, a promise fulfilled.

Oh I nearly forgot; Remember those pies Mrs. Owens baked? There’s a lesson there as well. In my simple mind I believe God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost is best described as a cornmeal pie cut into three slices. Each separate at the surface,but the middle, the ooey gooey sweet part, is still as one.

Mary had a little Lamb, so very long ago.

Though our sins be as crimson..

The Lamb can wash them white as snow.

My sin debt was paid by that Little Lamb, in that manger long ago.

And now where that Lamb has gone, I shall surely go.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Tin Cup Clan. It’s been a wonderful year, God has allowed me to continue sharing these tales with you even though the doctors tell me other wise. We thank each of you for your prayers and support and continue to pray that the Lord bless you and your Loved ones without measure.

So…next time you hear or read of all the evil afoot in this ol’ world. Stop a second and think of Big David and his sisters, a corn meal pie, and a humble little “cardboard box.” Then with a deep breath, smile a bit and smell the citrus. God’s got this, I promise.

Please like an share this story. I’m certain we all know others who need to read it. I don’t get out much anymore so leave a comment or two as well, we certainly enjoy reading them. THE TIN CUP CLAN

Turkey Delivery

          By Michael Miller

Autumn in the hills of East TN is a very special time. The smell of fresh-cut hay hangs heavy in the cool crisp air. Hills and hollers are dressed in their Sunday best; sporting vivid hues of orange, red and gold. An elegant mist hovers at tree-top level, just as a bride wears her veil on her wedding day. Ridges and hill tops randomly pierce the fog; a high vantage point reveals an illusion of scattered islands in a distant sea.

I love walking through this wood in Autumn, it’s a delight to the senses, the fallen leaves give way under foot with a pleasing crunch. Squirrels are heard chattering in the tree-tops as they go about their day; collecting hickory nuts and other winter staples. A nip hangs in the air; just enough to tingle the nose and cool the lips.

          A few years ago, I was enjoying such a bucolic setting as this, as I recall, it was in the month of November and Thanksgiving was closing fast A cool Friday afternoon found me on my way home from work; via one of the many mountain back-roads. Life was about to change suddenly for three complete strangers, and, if I may be so bold as to speculate; I don’t believe any one of us would ever be the same.

This little story involves myself, a stranger driving an old pick-up truck, and one shall I say, soon to be mortally wounded wild Tom turkey.

          You see, Autumn in the hills of East Tennessee usually requires accommodating the seasonal influx of tourists, hundreds of thousands of millions of em, [leaf peakers,] as the locals know em.

Driving about in mass; wearing funny outfits while snapping countless pictures of our little slice of paradise. All the while managing to assault what-ever species of local wildlife, unfortunate enough to have been caught out in the open.

          The main roads are soon congested with vehicles sporting tags from all the lower forty-eight, and a few regions of Canada as well. Traffic jams ten miles in length are not uncommon; forcing tempers to run high and patience to run low. It’s an annual ritual local folk have come to expect and subsequently prepare for.

          The best defense is a firm familiarity with the countless backroads and trails known only to the fortunate folk who call this place home. Failure to provide one’s self with a proper means of ingress and egress will generally result in countless hours sitting grid-locked within a sea of vehicles.

          This particular year found me to be the fortunate owner of one nineteen and eighty-five Chevy Celebrity. A fine chariot to say the least, lime green in color both inside and out. The color was further highlighted with a rich earthy patina, providing this chariot with an aura of maturity and glamour unmatched by the likes of newer vehicles. The look was further accentuated by no less than four, that’s right, four doors.

          The interior was no less awe-inspiring, cool lime green velour seats complete with the highly sought after, spilled coffee stain option. The head-liner was covered with delaminating fabric. Sagging down and rubbing the top of my head, it clung tenaciously to the ceiling, held in place by countless strategically placed thumb-tacks in a rainbow of colors.

          Of course, at least two of the power windows were non-functional. This combined with the broken air-conditioner and coolant leak blessed the lucky driver (me) with a free sauna on the way home. “Hey, you know people pay real money for that stuff, right?

          The ol’ girl ran pretty well; even considering the fact she burnt nearly as much oil as gasoline. She even had a built-in mosquito repellent. A simple stop for traffic or red lights brought puffs of smoke from around the hood. Thereby causing the occasional panic among fellow motorists, while eliminating those pesky insects so bothersome during the summer months.

          This busy fall afternoon found me on my way home via one of the many back-roads. There I was, driving along, admiring the fall colors, and enjoying the cool fall air, with hints of oil smoke. Behind me a fellow motorist in an old truck followed at a distance.

           November meant Thanksgiving was just around the corner, so thoughts of the coming celebration filled my mind. Filled it to such an extent as to leave me oblivious to the sharp curve slowly approaching. I came to my senses just in time to set the car into a comfortable path around the bend, when there he was, out of nowhere. Smack in the middle of the road, smack in the middle of the curve.

          The biggest dog gone turkey I had ever laid eyes upon, and friend I’ve seen a few. There was no time to react, no time to swerve, the situation looked calamitous for sure. I’m certain this predicament looked even more depressing from that poor ol’ turkey’s point of view.

There he was, minding his own, having a joyful little turkey sort of day, hens were all happy, little turkey babies were all happy, by all account’s turkey life was good.

Just then out of the blue, a big ol’ green piece of what-ever it was comes careening around the curve, barreling down on this poor feller at a breakneck speed. At this point you gotta wonder, did his life pass before his eyes, were there things left undone, things left unsaid.

These are questions best left to poets, philosophers, and truth seekers alike, sadly we may never know. For a split second, I believe we made eye contact, a connection of sorts. Two hapless souls for whom on this particular day fate firmly placed them in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then it happened… A sickening thud.

I felt the poor fellers body bounce between the undercarriage and the road for what seemed an eternity, finally and gruesomely exiting the rear of the vehicle. I looked to my mirror to witness this poor lifeless bird flailing about as he tumbled down the road. Finally, coming to rest in the left-hand ditch row. There he lay, lifeless by the roadside.

Now here my dear friend is where that hardwired hillbilly instinct of mine kicks in. Like I said, it was almost Thanksgiving; and that was one hell of a bird lying there in yon ditch. Hunters dream about a bird such as this, most never come across one of this magnitude in a lifetime. The only ones that could possibly compare sit mounted on walls at the local sporting goods store. Yet there it lay, in a ditch, on a lonely country back road.

I threw the green hornet in park and ran to the ditch where the body lay. By this time, the ol’ boy in the truck had caught up and had stopped dead in the middle of the road to watch the goings on.

He shoved his head out the door window and yelled; “That’s one hell of a bird boy.”

I looked down at the lifeless body; then gave the head a sharp kick, all the while ready to sprint to the car with the first sign of life.

“Is he dead?” He yelled.

Yea, looks like it I said, knocked his left eye clean out of his head.

“If you don’t want im, I’ll take im off yer hands fer ye,”

Naw, I got im, I hollered back; trying my best to appear calm in light of the prize laying at my feet. Here lay some heavy bragging rights. I imagined the accolades, the atta boys, the pats on the back. Did you hear about the turkey ol’ Mike got?

Sure did, they would reply. I heard about it, big-un too I reckon.

Yep, I was gonna be a bonafide rock star.

I had been given, no blessed, with the means to supply my merry band of cracker-snatchers, with a bird the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Ebenezer Scrooge delivered the prize goose to the humble Cratchit family.

I grabbed the beast by both legs, his wings fell open as I hoisted him in the air. A five-foot wingspan if it was an inch, what a prize. With two thumbs up from my new-found friend in the truck, I made my way to the green hornet, prize in hand. Opened the rear door and chucked him into the back seat. After a quick wipe of my hands, I jumped in and resumed my way home.

As I drove down the road my heart was full of pride, my head full of, well, myself really. I practiced the story over and over in my head, honing each word until they were razor sharp. Surely, this story was destined to be repeated at all the Miller holidays for years to come. And then it happened!

Suddenly an explosion of noise and activity. I wasn’t sure where it started; it seemed to be coming from everywhere. All hell had broken loose in the back seat; and I didn’t know what to make of it.

Massive wings tore at the dangling headliner; thumbtacks flew about the interior like shrapnel. I was getting the hell beat out of me, those massive wings landed punches a prize fighter would have been proud of. The back of my neck was getting torn to pieces by the claws and what felt like twelve inch long daggers. It soon became apparent that there was only gonna be one winner in this fight, and my chances of victory looked mighty slim.

I fought to maintain control of the ol’ green car, swerving back and forth on the twisting mountain road. All the while I was being showered with turkey blood and feathers. I was afraid I was gonna run off the side of a ridge whilst I was trying to protect my face. It was complete and absolute bedlam in the purest sense.

In the midst of the confusion it dawned on me, the damn thing wasn’t dead. He had simply been knocked unconscious or playing possum. I didn’t really know or care which, but boy howdy was he ever upset. I just knew one of us had to have some relief, and it had to be quick.

He seemed to be everywhere at the same time, flapping, flailing, screaming (that’s right I said screaming.) I’m talking some God-awful screams. Well… looking back, the screams might have been mine, I’m not entirely sure.

In a split second of reasonable thought, I did the only possible thing. I slammed both feet on the brake petal and pushed with all I had.

The car came to a sliding halt; smack in the center of the road. It was all I could do to find the door handle. I fumbled about blindly, desperately, and with a final desperate lunge, jerked the handle with all my strength. As soon as I sensed an exit, I kicked open the door, and fell with a thud to the center of the road in a heap of blood, feathers, and turkey crap.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, it took a few seconds to regain any manner of composure. There I stood; alone in the middle of the road; staring at my car crammed tighter than corn on a cob with a whole bunch of raging turkey.

It was at this time my ringing ears detected a blaring car horn and the awfullest laughter I have ever heard. I turned around to see the ol’ boy in the pick-up; slapping his dash and laughing uncontrollably.

Boy he sure as hell showed you; that’s the funniest thing I ever saw.

Time after time he threw his head back laughing and gasping for air; sounding a lot like an old donkey.

He began to slowly pull around my car. Enjoy that bird boy; you might want to ask him for a ride home. I could hear the laughter as the old truck disappeared around the curve.

I stood there for a second, pondering the damage to my reputation once the driver got into town, what to do next.

Well, of course I needed to get him outta my car. I knew what to do, simply open both doors on one side and the bird would escape right? It’s common sense.

I ran over to the right side and grabbed the handle, locked, I grabbed the handle on the other door, locked, well that figures I said out loud. I ran back to the driver’s side; I knew those doors were unlocked.

When I opened that rear door that ol’ Tom shot outta that car like he had been fired from a cannon. He stopped about thirty feet away and stretched his wings, mocking me. He stood there, but just briefly, enjoying his victory, left eye dangling at the side of his head. Then turned and ran down through yon field.

I could only imagine the stories he was about to share with his turkey friends. He was about to be the bonafide hero not me. His story was about to be told to his turkey family not mine.

I grudgingly got in my ol’ car, the headliner now scattered about in pieces. Thumbtacks were scattered about like miniature landmines. Blood, feathers, and turkey crap was everywhere. I got stuck by at least three or four em. How the heck did crap get on the front windshield.

I wasn’t sure if the blood on my neck and face were mine or his. This was gonna be one heck of a story all right. And by the time the ol’ boy in the truck got home, I was gonna be famous that’s for sure. Lord, I could hear the tales now.

I put the car in drive and once again started home. Yes, we still tell stories about the turkey every Thanksgiving. My kids sit around with bated breath; tell us about the turkey daddy, tell us about the turkey. I do; and they laugh and laugh.

I’m grateful to that ol’ bird, and you should be too. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to laugh so hard every time we see a group of turkeys by the side of the road.

So… this holiday, after you and yours enjoy that fabulous meal. Tell em about the turkey, and how he…well, you finish that last line

As always the Tin Cup Clan sincerely thanks you for spending a bit of time with us. We realize you have far more important things to do and we are honored you choose to stop in for a spell. If you like this little tale we sure would appreciate you hitting a few buttons. Please like, share, tell a friend or maybe even leave a comment. We sure do enjoy the comments. Thank You and God bless. The Tin Cup Clan.

Ahab’s real name was Wendall

Ahab…the name carry’s with it a ponderous weight. Scenes of massive wooden ships under full canvas fill our noggins, if we allow ourselves the privilege, we can almost hear the overbearing Captain as he berates the lowly shipmates. With little effort we may go so far as to catch a glimpse of the massive white back as it breaches the ocean’s surface. ” If his chest had been a cannon he would have shot his heart upon it,” the quote rings in our head as a church bell…but.

Yes we’ve all read the book, (you have haven’t you ?)

Pundits and scholars have debated the various morals, lessons or inner guidance one might glean from Captain Ahab for the better part of a hundred and seventy years. But I got one on ’em, that’s right, this Ol’ hillbilly has been blessed with the opportunity to have known Ol’ Ahab in the Christian flesh, (that’s right, in the flesh) but…his real name was a bit on the humbler side…Wendall, (with two L’s), and the whale…well in this story at least, that denizen of the deep, that Leviathan of maritime nightmares will be played by “of all things,” a lowly little possum with the inner stones of a mountain lion.

“What’s that you say? Such a thing cain’t be true, he’s lost his mind. Well… bear with me for a brief while as I introduce you to a fella (and his whale) I don’t think you’re gonna forget either one of ’em anytime soon. Who knows, maybe we can even laugh a bit together.

As I recall, Wendall was an odd duck, as far as ducks go. His pasty white skin clung to his bones like an old wet overcoat. The sight was worsened by a large hooked nose and pitiful excuse for a hairpiece that weren’t foolin’ a soul. He rode an ol’ motorbike where-ever he went, he would cruise main-street, face in the wind, grinnin’ from ear to ear, and that hair piece flopping up and down in the breeze, slappin’ against the front of his helmet. Sittin’ there square betwixed his legs was the scruffiest lookin’ little mutt you ever saw. That animal went everywhere with him and possessed the same ill nature as it’s owner. The whole sight was to much to witness with a straight face.

His physical appearance hid a rather odd defect of character, an explosive temper. Lookin’ back, I’m sure his short fuse was the result of a lifetime filled with constant ribbing and practical jokes, or maybe his hairpiece made his head itch somethin’ terrible. Whatever the reason, he was heels dug in and ready to fight at the drop of a hat,(dog and all). Unfortunately, he usually managed to came out on the short end of most brawls, but I reckon the few he did win kept his spirits up, there’s a lesson there, but this ain’t the story for it. No matter his flaws I counted him as a friend and was glad for it, and a truer friend I never had.

He came by my house one day, excited beyond measure. He jabbered on, hands flailin’ wild in the air, mouth goin’ a mile a minute, dog barkin’ and yappin’, he had bought his first house.

*You just gotta come see it” he bragged. On and on he went until I finally saw things his way and agreed to go see his newly acquired mansion. We jumped into my truck (there was no way I was gonna ride that scooter with him and the dog), and off we went. We rattled down an ol’ gravel road until at last he began slappin’ the dash and pointin’ to an ol’ rusty mailbox. At the end of the mud and gravel sat an ancient dilapidated shotgun house. Poison vines and ivy snaked they’re way up the wood siding, very nearly covering the entire structure, as a matter of fact the sight led me to believe the vines were the sole means of support for the ol’ house. Rusty tin covered the roof, well most of it anyways, the wind had blown a few pieces off leaving weathered grey boards open to the rain.

But it was his and he was proud of it. He hooked his thumbs around the galluses of his liberty’s and drew in a deep breath, “ain’t no kinda man if you don’t own some land” he bragged. I was proud for him too.

We set to work right away, the foundation had fallen away at one corner, the sole source of lighting was a single bulb hanging from the ceiling in each room. There were only five or six functioning electrical outlets in the entire house, and to be honest, I was rather concerned about ’em. The well pump worked depending on it’s mood, which considering it’s foul disposition wasn’t often. None of that phased him, no sir, not one bit. The two of ’em moved in that very first night, it was then and there he discovered someone else called that house a home, and he wasn’t welcome. He wasn’t welcome at all.

Enter stage right…the whale.

I arrived the next mornin’ bright and early, coffee in hand and ready to start the day. But no sign of Wendall. I walked around the porch only to find an ol’ Confederate battle flag nailed over the living room window and bath towels over the rest. I began poundin’ on each of ’em until finally rousin’ him and his dog from the bed. They looked horrible, the both of ’em. He didn’t have his wig on and the dog just looked…well…aggravated.

What in the world happened to you? I asked. The both of you look pitiful.

Both hands covered his face as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and scratched his stubble. He opened his mouth in a wide yawn, I think we got a haint he replied.

I chuckled a bit. You’ve lost your mind. I replied. Let’s git to work.

We got a lot done that day, black and white tiles on the kitchen floor, new counter tops from the local salvage yard. Heck…even that ugly dog caught a couple of rats. (the rats looked better than the dog). Pretty good day, even if I had to listen to him go on and on about the foot-steps on the porch last night, or the strange scratchin’ on the walls. Yep…we got our selves a haint alright he said, a sneaky one at that, and I’m gonna git ‘im. Gonna be him or me said, gonna be him or me.

Well…days went by, we worked on the ol’ house most week ends, Wendall came of the mind that his haint was gettin’ bolder by the night. He was obsessed with this private battle of his. He had convinced himself there could only be one winner, and it was ordained by God almighty that winner was gonna be him (and his dog). Night after night he waited for his ghost, hearing the scratching and foot steps, but never seeing hide nor hair.

I figured some neighborhood kids were messin’ with him or somethin’ of that nature. He didn’t have a workin’ firearm to speak off and I was grateful for that. He did however own a piece of an ol’ shotgun, from a distance it looked deadly enough, but in fact it was absent most of the pieces-parts needed to allow it to fire. I eventually considered the entire situation a joke, but the strain on Wendall and his ugly little dog was becomin’ more evident by the day.

Until finally, it all came to the most comical and extreme of climaxes a body could think of.

I arrived one cold and frosty Fall mornin’, usual coffee in hand, only to be greeted by a horrific and bloody (yes I said bloody) sight. The porch lay covered with broken bits and pieces of sheet-rock. Lumber and plumbing scattered throughout the yard. I panicked, dropped the coffee and burst through the kitchen door expecting to find ol’ Wendall, a victim of some horrendous crime, mangled and bloody on the floor with that ugly ol’ dog.

As I burst through the door I was met by a terrible sight. The new tile floor was charred and black, a strange circle in the center. The cabinet doors were torn from their hinges and partialy burned. It was obvious, someone had attempted to burn the place to the ground. But that wasn’t the worst of it (OH NO), areas of the floor and wall were splattered with blood. I was shook to my marrow bones when I noticed a blood soaked sledge hammer layin’ next to the sink. I just knew my friend was well and truly dead.

Wendall, I yelled. You dead? In a panic, I ran to his bedroom searchin’ for him. WENDALL.

I stuck my head in the dark bedroom to find him, blood stained and sprawled out across the bed. Next to him, watchin’ over his master was the dog, his right eye swollen shut and fur matted with God knows what. My heart fell, and I felt sick to my stomach.

What in hell are you goin’ on about? Wendall growned as he sat his self right.

Man I thought you was dead.

Naw…but he is. Wendall crawled outta bed, picked up his dog and walked past me to the kitchen.

What in the Hell happened in here I asked.

Well…let me tell ye.

He was here again last night, but this time I was ready for ‘im. I heard im’ scurrying across the porch, I figured that ol’ shotgun might be enough to scare im’ off if he weren’t already dead. Me and the dog waited for im’ at the kitchen door, then just at the right moment we jumped out, shotgun ready. It was dark and I couldn’t see nothin’, but the dog did. he came a chargin’ out, growlin’ and snarlin’ and bittin’. I felt somethin’ run ‘tween my legs but I couldn’t see im’. The dog did though, had im’ cornered behind the stack of sheet rock, you should have heard the commotion. I couldn’t let im’ hurt my dog, so I used the gun as a club and started frailin’.

It was blacker than the inside of a cow, but I kept slingin’ in the dark like a wild man. A bit of light came from the open door so I could see a bit. When i looked down I saw him a layin’ there, shakin’ somethin’ pitiful. When I looked closer I saw I was beatin’ the snot outta my own dog. Lord I figured I killed im’, but that ol’ dog is tougher than I am. Bout that time something hissed and ran past me and through the door.

I ran in behind im’, just in time to see im’ run under the sink. I looked and there he was, the biggest possum I ever seen. Sulled up in the corner, he was mad as hell. I broke the stock off the gun when I was out on the porch, so I looked around for somethin’ else, the sledge hammer. I poked and poked at ‘im, but all he did was hiss and bite at the handle, after a few minutes I figured I might try and smoke im’ out. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

So…I fetched the trashcan threw some papers in it and lit a handful of ’em. But the more I poked at that possum the tighter he got. he weren’t even afraid of fire. I looked at the trash can and saw the fire was gettin’ to big, I forgot about them varnish rags we put in it.

While my back was turned a puttin’ out the fire, my dog figured he’d give the possum one more go, it sounded like he was losin’, so I ran over to help him, this time I was swingin’ as hard as I could. It ran through the cabinets to the other corner and that’s where I got my first good lick in. It was hard to see on account of the smoke so I just kept swinging and swingin’ till they was nothin’ to swing at.

I got ‘im bygod, I got ‘im.

I fanned the door back and forth for quite awhile till I got most of the smoke out. That’s when I saw all the blood and possum pieces. Me and the dog was plum tuckered out, so we laid across the bed to rest for awhile. Next thing I knew…you was yellin’ at me.

I stopped him. Man you nearly burned the house down. Tore the cabinets all to pieces, ruined the kitchen floor, almost beat your dog to death, and what for? Nothin’ but a stupid ol’ possum. How’s that make you feel?

He sat there a moment wipin’ on his bloody shirt sleeves. Then he stopped, hunched his shoulders above his head, gave his crippled ol’ dog a scratch and sighed.

Come to think of it…makes me feel a bit like that Ahab feller we read about when we was in school.

I couldn’t argue with that.

So…that’s the end of our story. I told ya when we started, Ahab’s real name was Wendall didn’t I? I don’t reckon you need a big ol’ whale to obsess about. Nope…somethin’ as small as a possum can completely take control, if you let it. Leading’ you to destroy most everything you’ve worked so hard for. Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

Granny always said,”life’s about moderation,” that goes for everything. To much work, to much play, to much stuff, to much worry. Just give it a think for awhile. How many things have you ever worried about, have actually been as bad as you imagined when they came to pass? Not many I’d wager. All that from a possum, who’da thought it.

Once again, The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for your time, and wish Gods blessings to you and your family. Life is so busy now a days and time so precious we are humbled that you chose to spend some of with us. Do us a kindness, share this with at least one friend, like, comment, we’d love to hear from ya. Till next time…….The Tin Cup Clan

Riding the Ribbon

Riding the Ribbon 

Have you ever sat in your car watching as the train rolled by, wondering what it must be like to run alongside, grabbing a hold of the iron and stealing a free ride to God knows where? To simply sit on your perch and feel the rhythm of the rails in your bones and listen to the roar of the wind as it glides past your ears. Freedom, that’s the word, freedom in its purest. 

     I’m gonna do something a little different with this story. Today we’re gonna join the boys as they are off in a new adventure. Today for the first time…you’re gonna read just a little bit of the Tin Cup Clan’s next mystery. “The legend of Blue Hole” 

Some time has passed since the cold, wet Witch adventure and there are still a number of unanswered questions. Our boys continue to probe, investigate rumors, and at last, get to the bottom of those fateful days. 

Now, it’s the dog days of Summer, and like any would do in heat such as this, we ride along as our boys find yet another method of finding cool comfort. In this little town that quest usually results in a visit to the Blue Hole.       Enjoy.   

Hot…six-thirty in the morning and it was already hotter than blue blazes. Apparently, a few Jar-Flies were up as early as me and had begun their customary brain numbing calls, Weee-ooo-weee-oo, the noise travels up and down the hollers, invading the senses of every living soul. But I reckon that’s the price you pay for summer, and days like these.  

I looked down the driveway and see the guys waiting under the tree, fighting for a spot in the early morning shade. They’re waiting on me, so I begin a trot down to meet ‘em. 

We were beginnin’ ta worry ‘bout che friend. Figured ye might be up there in front of the TV a watchin’ cartoons ‘er somethin’. laughed big David. 

He ain’t gonna miss this, replied Stick. He too scared he might miss catchin’ a peek of Teresa in her bathin’ suit. 

Chucky thought the whole thing was hilarious, being the smart aleck he was, he started making kissy faces at Stick and pretending to be me. Stick fluttered his eyes loving at Chucky, “My hero” he swooned in a girly voice. I was getting madder by the second. 

A long slow distant horn blast immediately shut everybody up, demanding their attention. 

Here she comes, said big David. Sounds like she’s a crossin’ McKamey bridge, right on time. 

That’s right folks…We were train huntin’ 

They’s two kinds of trains around here. The silver L&N, she’s fast, loud, and the caboose is usually full of yard dogs. The only contact we have with this train is when we hide behind bushes and throw walnuts at the passing engineer. Other than that, it’s best stay out of her way when she’s a coming through. 

The other is the slow and steady black Southern. She’s a gentle southern lady, and when this ol’ girl rumbles through town she’s usually taking her time. Slowly sliding along the rails at an easy pace, you seldom see any yard dogs barking at her heels, and that friend, is the one we’ve been waiting for. 

We’ve done this a few times before so each of us knows our place. We spread out along the track about fifty feet apart and hide in the bushes. Big David’s the first, followed by me, then Chucky, and finally Stick. 

It’s important to wait until the middle of the train, that way you’re outta sight from the engine and the caboose. As she gets closer the vibrations increase, they build until you can feel ‘em in your marrow bones and your heart speeds up to match the rhythm. Big David is the first to make his move. 

It’s his job to pick the car, suddenly he darts from his hiding place and begins to run alongside his target. When he finds a good hold, he grabs the rail and pulls his self onto the ladder, then with a quick jump, plants his feet. He leans out from the side, outstretching his big hand, it’s my turn. 

I jump from the bushes, run alongside till David gets to me then grabbing ahold of my arm pulls me up the ladder. He does the same for Chucky, and finally Stick, who he nearly throws off the other side since he weighs next to nothing. With a sigh of relief, we find a seat and make ourselves comfortable for the ride. 

The world looks different when you’re riding the Ribbon, scenes pass by like a movie script, making your forget you live here. As the train reaches the crossings, we wave at the waiting cars and laugh as the occupants stare in confusion. It’s not long until the train runs through the center of town, here the whole world plays out before our eyes, but from our seats we’re not part of the madness, only spectators, watching the goings on like we would ants or bees. 

The town falls beneath us as we begin to cross the trestle. The trains rumbles over the top of the Piggly-Wiggly and hardware store. We feel special somehow, just for the simple knowing of what the roofs of those buildings look like. A lot like an old friend that knows your worst secrets but keeps ‘em to his self. Soon we begin to leave the town behind and the change in the drone of the engines can be felt in our behinds. We are beginning the slow grade to the mines. 

The rhythm changes…slows a great deal, with it so does our heart beats. A comfortable calm takes control and the smells and scenery change. 

I take in a deep breath, letting the smell of honeysuckle and pine fill my head. As I look around, I see the others in the same pose, noses lifted to the air and eyes closed. Only after we’ve filled our heads do our eyes open. 

Green has replaced the grey of the town, green as green can be, everywhere. Green has a smell, (yes it does), not cut grass or saw dust, but a clean smell, it cleans out the head and clears the mind, putting life in its place and numbing worries. The branches flip and flutter as the cars pass, and they wave to us as we glide along the ribbon. The creek runs to the left of the tracks, tumbling in folds of white as it cascades from boulder to boulder. I stare as thin beams of sunlight sparkle in the nooks and craneys. Yep…life is good

Blue Holes comin’ up fellers, better wake up. Big David wakes us from our trance as our destination approaches. 

Reluctantly we stand and take our places, ready for the drop. 

At this point the train is slow but dangerous just the same, Generations of riders have worn a soft-landing spot, cushioned by honey suckle and wild Heather, all that is needed is a slow pace, a mild tuck and roll, and you’re here. Sounds simple right? There have been times when things didn’t go as planned and a few unfortunate souls bear the scars from it. But once you get the hang of it it’s as easy as falling off your bed. 

We line up like paratroopers, hearts in our throats, waiting for a sign, once big David gives the signal, we all move. One by one jumping from the ladder into the honeysuckle and straw followed with a quick roll. Once we stand and get our bearings, a wonderous world greets us, straight out of the movies. This little bit of Heaven known to all as…The Blue Hole.

We hope you enjoyed this little peek into our next adventure. Oh Yes…there’s more to come, a lot more. In the mean time we would appreciate a like, especially a follow. Heck share it…tell some friends. Until next time…Thank You from the bottom of our hearts.

THE TIN CUP CLAN  

Be “Still” my beating heart

Just finished another edit on Chapter eleven. So I thought I would share another excerpt. Here we find our character as he first enters the shed. He knows what will happen to him if he gets caught. But he has no other choice. As you read remember, he’s only eleven, put yourself in his place. How would you react.

Except: Chapter 11…”Karma is a fickle mistress”

To most folk, it’s just an old shed full of hog feed and tools. An ancient weather-worn building that looks like it might collapse at any moment if not for the briars and poison vines holding it up. Don’t let appearances fool ya, it’s 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, rolls of barbed wire, and piles of rusted tools. 

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

I poked my head out one last time, making sure I wasn’t being watched, 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 slid through a narrow opening. 

 There she was…the dim light gave “her” a menacing appearance. The bottom was covered in black soot, scars from years of green wood and coal fires. Age and use had turned her copper skin an ugly shade of olive brown, it’s no telling how old she was. A large copper pipe came from the top of her big belly, then into the top of a smaller barrel called a “thumper” (So, named because of the thumping sound it makes when filled with steam). A small copper coil called the “worm” came from the top of that tank and curled its way into another barrel. It’s empty now but gets filled with cool spring water when the Ol’ man is a cooking. A small outlet sticks out of the bottom, the Ol’ man usually has the bone from a coon’s pecker stuck in the end, (it’s a mountain thing), and liquor drips from the end of it into the jar. 

Sunlight entered the shed through gaps between the weathered boards. Eerie streaks of dusty sunlight tend to play strange tricks on the eyes. In this setting, it was easy to believe she was almost alive. Sleeping for now but waiting for the Ol’ man to come and wake her. I couldn’t help but to touch her, when I laid my hand on her I half expected to feel a heartbeat. But she was cold and dead. I lost myself for a few seconds I don’t know why, it was almost like she was trying to talk to me, but the cold made me shiver and snapped me from my trance. 

The back wall was stacked with shelves. On them sat jar after jar of liquid, some of them clear as spring water, others, golden amber like fresh honey. 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. 

I grabbed the closest jar and gave the lid a twist, nothing, my hands were so sweaty I couldn’t get a grip on the lid. What if they were on to tight? What would I do then? I put the jar back and choose another. Twisting as hard as I could, still nothing, to tight. In desperation I put it back, wiped my palm on my pants leg before grabbing another and twisting so hard that I bit my tongue. It turned, whew… now, how was I gonna get the whiskey poured into the little hole. I hadn’t thought of that. I thought of every-thing but that, how stupid could a person be? 

I looked around the dark room, there had to be something I could use, but what? Then out of the corner of my eye, in a beam of dusty light I saw a tattered notebook. Papaw’s recipes and inventory. I carefully tore a page from the rear and twisted it into a funnel. Taking great care, I poured the liquor into the small bottle, I was running out of time. If I tried to take a little out of several it would take too long, I was sure to get busted. 

I made the risky decision of pouring all three out of the one jar and then swapping places with another at the far corner of one of the shelves, maybe he wouldn’t notice. Poking the last of the bottles into my pocket, I left the room but not before making certain to replace the feed sacks and coils just right. By the time I was finished I was dripping with sweat even though it was thirty-five degrees. 

WOPERDINGERS and ALLSTARS (Life brings us both)

I’ve been promising to write this story for some time now, just been waiting for the right time. But today is a special day, well..in our little corner of the Universe anyways. You see, today is my birthday, a small feat for most adults but given my situation I rather make every one count.

The morning greeted me with grey skies and wet weather. I peered out the window and let out a long low sigh, “hope this wasn’t how the rest of the day was gonna be” I thought to myself. There was work to be done, the house wasn’t finished and I dreaded the thought of working on it.

Sandra (bless her heart) began her morning by getting an early start on the Birthday dinner. All my favorites, beef roast, green beans mashed taters, yeast rolls, caramel cake and all.

By eleven o-clock I had all but forgotten about the glum weather. Actually feelin’ a bit content…then the phone rang.

A pleasant lady greeted me before introducing herself. She was calling from my doctor’s office. It seems my last scans had revealed some worry-some spots on my right lung. They wanted to get me in for additional scans and formulate a plan of action. Just like that, the proverbial carpet was jerked from under my proverbial feet. I’ve been playin’ this morbid game of whack-a-mole for nearly four years. A couple of moths ago the latest cancer was found on my pancreas, and the resulting radiation burned me up. Now the lungs? Well…I didn’t get much work done the remainder of the day. The big “C” was chewin’ on my brain. And speakin’ of which brings me to the little matter of the afore-mentioned “Woperdinger.”

What’s a “Woperdinger” you might ask. Well my friends, sit back and permit me to enlighten you with a little mountain folk-lore. Here a little snippet from the book.

“Just what is a Wolpendinger anyway?”  

         Chapter 33

The five of us walked to the downed fence. There it was, a footpath in the mud. The big light shining down the path made it look like a tunnel through the woods. Briars and brambles were thick as lumber along both sides.

Branches protruded into the path, looking like gnarled fingers, ready to grab who-ever might walk by. We could hear the creek roaring louder as we walked further. Big David’s light our only means of sight lit the path like a train in a tunnel.

Suddenly we beheld a sight that made our blood run cold.

Just beyond the cover of the trees. Just forty or fifty feet from holy ground we saw it. Thinking about, dreaming about it, hearing about it was one thing. But seeing it was different. Seeing it in the dark on a stormy night was entirely something else.

Our eyes strained in the dark, desperate for a clearer view. Just then a distant bolt of lightning lit up the sky. We all fell silent as the grave, fearful of what might hear us. I felt a morbid sensation of accomplishment tinted with large amounts of pure mind numbing fear. There was no color, no grass grew around the grave. Instead weeds and gnarled thickets spread around the stone. At some point, some-one or some-thing had placed stones around the grave. Clearly marking the boundary for others to see.

We all stood there, frozen in the wind and rain until one of us broke the silence. Who’s goin’ first? asked Chucky.

Not me shouted Stick, that place is chocked fulla’ Wolpendingers just waiting fer us. Waitin’ fer every last one of us, I can almost see their eyes lookin’ at us now.

WHAT?! Screamed Chucky, and you thought now, in the middle of the night, in a graveyard, at a grave owned by a witch of all places was a good place to bring somethin’ like that up?

Surely to God you don’t believe in those bedtime stories do you.

Stick was instantly defiant. And you don’t? he screamed back over the thunder. Everybody knows they’re real, everybody. They’s just a waitin’ fer the first one of use to get close enough to that brush then “whack” gone forever.

Big David had finally reached the end of his tether. With a jerk he turned to face the shaking redhead, his big hands were noticeably shaking as he aimed his light at Stick’s face.

Now look here friend: I’ve had jest about of this nonsense. Keep it up and yur about to find ye selves without a light to walk by. Besides. they’s no way I’m a gonna set my foot on unholy ground.

Ya see…a Woperdinger is a mythical creature of German decent, (or as best I can figure). And seeing as a great many Appalachian folk are of said German blood, the ol’ Woperdinger legend invariably followed. Legend has it this varmint is an ungodly mishmash of any manner of creatures, a good example might be the famous “Jack-a-lope.” But to us kids…well we just knew there was always one in the woods in the deep dark of night just waiting for one of us, dragging us away kicking and screaming to an untimely death. Our folks did little to dispel such rumors, using it instead as a means to keep us home at night. A gnawing fear of the unknown planted firmly in our brains.

Now lets get to those All-stars.

Some fifty-odd years ago the coolest (can I still use the word cool) of the cool kids strutted around in a pair of high top Converse All-stars. Of course I was never able to have a pair but that didn’t stop me from dreaming about those shoes. They were the very essence of cool, every thing from the laces and badge to the squeak they made on the varnished gym floor. Yep I wanted, no needed a pair…but I never got any. Until today!!!

Yep after fifty seven years, four children, seven grandchildren, four mortgages, countless cross country moves, and a nose weary and sore from being held against the ol’ grindstone. My daughter placed a birthday box on my lap, not just any box mind you, oh no. But a box emblazoned with that all to familiar star. Yep sure enough, I lifted the lid to find a brand new pair of high top All stars.

In a split second there I stood in all my glory, grey beard, plaid shirt, worn Liberty overalls, and a sparkling pair of navy blue sneakers. Yea…not the teenage picture I had in my head either. Que that phone call I mentioned earlier.

See where I’m going with this yet? Yep, you guessed it, on the other end of the line that ol’ Woperdinger got me. I mean reached right through the line and took hold of me. That gnawing fear of the unknown. Now I’m not saying it ruined the rest of my day, naw sir. The day was great, after all I got a lot to be grateful for. But it was there, chewing at the back of my mind, as I sat there eating caramel cake, it was there. As I enjoyed the beef stew, it was there. As I wiggled my toes inside my new All-stars it was there. Even when I talked to my grandbabies, it was there.

Friends… be careful of those Woperdingers. No they may not steal “all” your joy in life, but somehow they seem to have a knack for taking the edge off of it, dull the blade so speak. That gnawing fear of the unknown. Yes, Yes, I’m still a bit scared of ’em, but I’m learning (however slowly) to put them in their place. Our boy Stick was scared to death of ’em, but David, (being the voice of reason) snapped him back. Please…if you do anything, find yourself a “David.” Find that one person or group of persons to ground you, keep that “gnawing fear” at bay. Life’s too short as it is, no point worrying about what Woperdinger may or may not be hid just beyond sight, or in the shadows.

Me? Well I reckon I’m ready for what may just be out of sight. I spose I got little choice at this point, but I’m ready. I don’t expect to get shed of the unknown or times when the fear seeps in and you shouldn’t either. The secret is kicking it back into those shadows where it belongs, oft times that means we gotta have some help. For now I’ll just keep kicking, after all… I got me one heck of a pair of shoes to kick it with. And…quiet a few “Davids” to keep me grounded. Bring it on

Once again “The Tin Cup Clan” thanks you for your time. Lord knows there so many other things you could be doing and we are honored that you chose to spend some of it with us. If I may ask a favor; please share these stories with family and friends, leave a comment (we like those) and talk with us a bit. A like and follow would be great as well. GOD BLESS and see you next time. The Tin Cup Clan.

CHANGES WITH “THE TIN CUP CLAN”

Hi friends…Many things are changing here at “The tin cup Clan” and I desperately need your help. I’ve had a lot going on lately and feel I have far to many irons in the fire. The books are coming out very soon and I’ve decided to narrow social media to just a couple of platforms. I love and respect all our followers, I don’t want to lose any of you. We are going to focus most of our energy on the Face Book page for the time being. If you like the T.C.C. and want to continue reading these simple yet oft times corny stories PLEASE LIKE THE FB PAGE. We’ve found we can reach far more people here and Instagram than anywhere else. Not to mention we can be far more interactive. For the time being The Tin Cup Clan .com will be under renovation, I think you’re gonna love it when it’s rolled out soon. Remember…The Tin Cup Clan FB page!!! Go there and hit the like button. You’ll be glad you did. Instagram is coming in the next couple of days…my daughter is working on getting it up and running. SEE YOU THERE…LOVE ALWAYS!!! The Tin Cup Clan

The Tin Cup Clan, (the journey begins)

Well friends as promised, The clan is back and current. There is still plenty of work yet to be done but I find myself with the time to sit and write (finally). Since we are starting off in new surroundings I thought it might be nice to bring the boys’ to you in a new light as well. But there’s a catch, I need your help.

Let’s start this new era off with the prolog from the book. I would be ever so grateful if you might take a bit of your time and critic it a bit. Yea…I know, that’s a dangerous word “critic,” and I’ve never put the work out there for such a purpose, but I really need the feed back.

I’m blessed to have some VERY accomplished writers that follow our blog and I would be honored to have the feedback.

With that in mind I present to you the Prolog to “The Tin Cup Clan” Mystery of the Leech cemetery witch.

Autumn is always a welcome time in the mountains of East Tennessee. Months of oppressive heat and humidity are at long last replaced by frosty cold mornings and cool comfortable days. This time of year calls upon this old man to relive the fondest of memories.

The chilly mornings finds the local wildlife at their busiest. After all there is no time to waste, larders must be filled, nests built and insulated. Preparations are in order for the long winter to come.

During the night miniature miracles dot the ground. Small patches of wet earth rise on delicate pillars of early morning frost, forming delicate magical cathedrals.

Lightly frozen ground gives way to the foot with a pleasing “crunch,” while the crisp air bestows a good natured nip to the lips. A natural perfume floats in the mist, resting easy on the nose. The scent of burning Oak rises into the air from countless chimneys, the aroma reminiscent of sandal wood, ground pepper, and ginger.

Such a magical environment is inevitably bound to give birth to endless fairy tales. Stories as ancient as the mountains themselves. Passed down through generations by elders sitting by glowing hearths before wide-eyed children. Who in amazement, absorb long epic tales of hardship and sacrifice, yarns of ghosts and wraiths, life and death, bravery, and honor. Stories of a fairy tale past which with the passage of time inevitably take on a life of their own.

How I enjoyed those stories as a young boy, sitting in front of the fire, absorbing them like raindrops on dry clay. As I close my eyes a faint hint of smoke from a those fires tease me, calling me back to a time long ago.

Now accepted as fact not simple folklore, time renders these tales carved in stone and just as certain as God’s creation. Ignoring, or heaven forbid denying such tales, was tantamount to blasphemy. After all, granny, with her lips lined with dried snuff was never wrong and never to be doubted.

It was during one such particular fall as this, that one such particular fable as this, would capture and inspire the imaginations of one such particular, (and possibly brazen) group of boys as this. And just like all good stories, present itself completely and undeniably irresistible.

The resulting adventure would prove to be the first of many to come. And in many ways shape the lives of four young friends and one other, whom as I look back through the eyes of an old man, realize had just as much to learn, perhaps even more so than ourselves. Our adventure starts as many do, in a rather boring, not to mention pitifully small hometown.

A coal-mining town nestled deep in the Tennessee mountains. Small by any standard, and like most towns in coal country; time was slowly but surely passing us by. The town stores and buildings seemed well aware that death was slowly but surely reclaiming them. Returning them back to the earth from where they came. We all felt it in one way or the other, the entire settlement was well and truly fading into history.

Our players include my quite young self, a rather handsome young’un if I may be so bold as to say so. Three somewhat meddlesome friends, but tried and true all of em, and of all people the class bully.

Add an ill-conceived exchange of homemade liquor, an old cemetery complete with a rumored witch. Stir in a hollow grave-marker guarded by a ghost dog, and the promise of answers to the most personal of questions, and you got yourself one heck of a story.

Oh! And I can’t forget; one thin, somewhat scruffy old man whom asit would turn out, had a far greater role to play in our story, and our lives than any of us could ever have imagined possible.

So dear reader, if I may have a bit of your time, find yourself a warm hearth, a comfortable chair, maybe a warm cup of cocoa, and let’s get started.

Always Choose The Wing (a revisit)

  (A reflection of Character)

WELL HOWDY FRIENDS. Good news, good news. The Tin Cup Clan’s new digs is almost done. But let me tell you…these ol’ bones feel every nail and hammer blow. Since I’ve been rather short on time of late I’ve been repostin’ some of the older stuff. I figured this might give our newer members a chance to catch up a bit. But that’s about to come to an end!!! This should be the last of the reposts’. But don’t let that keep ya from reading on.

Ya see…many a lesson can be learned from the humblest of items. In the past we’ve discussed pink socks, button jars, DWB’s, and so on. But for now, let’s talk about the lowly chicken wing. So just for a minute or two why don’t you sit down, clear yer head of all the nonsense goin’ on around you. Then let this simple little chicken appendage bounce around in that ol’ noggin’ of your’s.

Never can tell…you might just learn somethin’ before we’re done.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE WING.

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. Well… not the gizzards, I don’t like ’em, the longer you chew ’em, the bigger they get. 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 those thighs… well 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…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 posses.

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 anyhow, 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 willin’ 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. Yea… that one’s not original either. 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. That little wing is sorta like an outward manifestation of inner humility. (hey, that little comment’s an original, with a big word thrown in for extra measure). 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 passed it on to you. “We need a lot more folks chewin’ on a wing, and far fewer chokin’ on their words.” (That was another original). So, this Saturday go out and grab ye’self a big ol’ bucket of wings, Come Sunday you’ll be sittin’ about that table just drippin’ with humility. But 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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