By: Jerry R. Barksdale
I became aware of my unusual interest in having a beautiful lawn shortly after my marriage ended and I moved from Huntsville back to Athens in 1999. At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms. Little did I suspect that I would soon become afflicted with “Lawn Warrior Syndrome/Compulsive Disorder Overlay.” It’s a malady that targets mostly middle-age men, but can affect women.

Mama died in 1998 and I inherited a small house on Market Street. The front yard was mostly crab grass and weeds.

Miss Mable Romine, a spinster, lived across the street in a fine brick house surrounded by the most beautiful Zoysia grass lawn in Athens. It looked like a green carpet. Miss Mabel took great pride in her lawn. She was always inspecting it, sweeping it with a house broom, and picking up debris. If a leaf floated down, she would run over and remove it. I would wave at Miss Mabel, but she ignored me. She didn’t approve of my lawn. I wanted to have a pretty lawn, too, and be accepted by Miss Mabel and my neighbors. I didn’t have a wife ordering me to vacuum, carry out garbage, wash windows, and scrub the bathrooms. I was free to work in the yard. That was the beginning of my psychology problem. I sprayed my yard with Round Up and killed existing grass, tilled up the soil, and raked up a ton of rocks. Miss Mable kept a watchful eye on my activity but didn’t say anything. I hadn’t considered how to dispose of the rocks. The City furnished a large, green plastic garbage can. Just what I needed. I filled it with a ton of rocks.

I was still in bed one morning when I heard the strangest sound—“Er-Er-Er-Er,” like an elephant trying to have a bowel movement. Then a crashing noise like a rock slide colliding with a tin building. I peeked out just as a cloud of dust rose above the rocking garbage truck. The rocks were gone, but I did receive a visit from a representative of the Department of Sanitation. He asked if I put rocks in my garbage can. “I allegedly did,” I said.

Next, I laid Zoysia sod, the same variety that Miss Mable had. A couple of weeks later, the sod turned green and beautiful. Miss Mabel was out in her front yard picking up debris when she yelled across the road, “Your lawn sure is pretty.” Finally she approved of me.

We all have a need to be accepted. I get a warm feeling when I insert my credit card and the screen flashes “approved.”

Later, I sold my little house on Market Street and moved to 407 Washington Street. I hired my cousin’s husband, Chuck Farmer, to landscape and sod my front yard with fescue. It took a while. Chuck was a popular landscaper, and there was crappie fishing and then deer hunting, but when Chuck showed up, he did a magnificent job. My front lawn was beautiful. I hired Pure Green to spray monthly, pulled stray grass and mowed it in one direction, then crossways and caught the clippings. People would stop and compliment me on my yard. I was happy and loved my lawn, never realizing that it was my sickness at work. I just thought I was having fun.

After retirement, I moved to a 9-acre farm on Elk River with about 6 acres of grass. I also purchased the seller’s riding mower. My plan was to mow a strip on the inside of the pasture fence and keep it weed free, then bush hog the remainder.
I mowed one round along the fence and it looked so neat that I mowed another one. It looked even prettier. I kept mowing. At the end of the day I had mowed the entire pasture – and busted most of the rocks and whacked up fallen walnuts and limbs. My neighbors called my mower the “rock crusher.” I tore up the mower – many times – so many, in fact, that I had to buy a trailer to haul it to a repair shop weekly. It finally died. Then I purchased a Craftsman from Sears. Same story.
My neighbors Buddy Stokes and Ken Hill have zero turn mowers. While I was bumping along at snail speed, they were flying by at warp speed. Show offs! The Craftsman began smoking, a little at first, then really bad.

My good friend (and sometimes red head) Pat urged me to buy a zero turn. I think she was embarrassed by my unmanly smoking mower. Which do you think a woman will fall for — a guy bumping along in a jalopy or in a fast, sleek T-bird? You get the picture.

We went to H & R Agri-Power on Highway 31 South andlooked at mowers. Daniel Bates showed me an Exmark zero turn with a 52” cut. He insisted that I drive it. I’d never seen a lawnmower that looked like a pre- historic beast. I cautiously climbed aboard and headed out. Wow! I felt like King Tut at the controls of a D-6 Caterpillar. It was fast — two-barrel carburetor, seat belt, and roll bar. I would be the Cale Yarbrough of lawnmowers on Dement Road and the envy of my neighbors. I bought it.

An employee drove the new mower forward on my 56” wide trailer. I thought nothing of it until I arrived home and tried to back it off. The wheels wedged on the side. The mower was stuck. I read the owner manual. “Back up ramp and drive forward down.” Now they tell me. I powered up and threw it in reverse. I almost took the tires off, but I unloaded – fast! I was going backward and headed toward the woods. I shoved the control bar forward, slammed into a metal fence post, backed up, then hit two dogwood trees in succession, went beneath another tree, and the mower reared straight up. “Whoa! Down Trigger! Down you fool!” The roll bar had caught on a limb. The mower was dangerous, with a mind of its own. I started talking to myself. “I’d better get in the middle of the pasture before it kills me.” There is no steering wheel, only two control bars, sort of like flying a B-17 on a bombing mission – and just as dangerous. It took off at warp speed. That’s when I knew why there are roll bars and seat belt. I was going in every direction at the same time, cutting a 52” swatch and slinging grass clipping and fire ants. The pasture looked like a UFO landing zone. Oh, I forgot to mention, the mower went rogue again and crashed through a patch of poke sallet.

My symptoms are worse, I know they are. Recently, someone stopped and asked a neighbor directions to my house, “You mean that nut that mows his cow pasture with a riding mower?”

That’s me folks – lawn warrior.
By: Jerry R Barksdale
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By: Jerry R. Barksdale
The morning broke cool and clear in the high desert country of Taos, New Mexico. The day held promise.

“Dad, let’s take a trip to Valle Vidal,” said my daughter Shannon. My good friend (and sometimes red-head) Pat and grandson, Joshua were all in. I was eager to return there.

Valle Vidal (Spanish for “valley of life”) is 102,000 acres of pristine wilderness 69 miles north of Taos and inhabited with elk, bear, bison, and bisected by a wild river teaming with cutthroat trout. If God ever vacations, He surely goes there. It’s where I had planned to live in a tepee part time following retirement. I had purchased “Little Red” my devoted Toyota pick-up specifically for that purpose. Shannon helped me select a tepee and I planned to acquire a dog for company and to keep me warm on cold nights.

Then I met Pat. She’s a “Tanner-tested” lady (similar to Good Housekeeping seal) who can cook like a gourmet chef, paint a house, mow grass, and operate a Farm-all tractor. What else does a lazy man need? For several years she has waged an unrelenting battle against ugliness in Athens at her modest beauty shop, The Total Look. If a customer is short of money, Pat will give them a “half look.” She doesn’t cuss much, smoke, drink or use drugs (except Sundrop); is slow to anger; and never throws cups and plates. A fine lady who looks and smells a sight better than a dog. I forgot about the tepee and dog. I’m glad I did.

We drove down a narrow, winding gravel road and across Valle Vidal. In four hours we met fewer than six vehicles. Turquoise sky, blooming mountain flowers and rushing streams took our breath. Such peace and tranquility. Then a loud scream! “EEooow!” Joshua slammed the car door on his hand. Tranquility ended. “There goes his good job at Anasazi Hotel,” I thought.

We emerged back in civilization at tiny Cimarron, a speck of a town on the old Santa Fe Trail. We stopped at the St. James Hotel. Back in the day it was frequented by Jessie James, Bat Masterson and Clay Allison, just to name a few.

Numerous bullet holes dot the tin ceiling. Twenty-six killings occurred there. Clay Allison, from Waynesboro, Tennessee, killed several men in the bar. He was discharged from the Confederate Army for psychological problems – “part manical” – but later served in the 9th Tennessee Cavalry and rode with Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Allison always said he never killed a man that didn’t need killing. How many of us can boast of such sterling civic accomplishments?

That evening Pat made pasta, garlic bread and salad, which we washed down with a good red wine. Afterwards, we sat outside where an ancient acequia the Spaniards constructed to irrigate the valley, gurgled past us. We talked as a night breeze rattled leaves on ancient cottonwoods. There was so much love among our little tribe. Since the death of Carol, my children have grown very close to Pat. And it’s good.

Later, we built a fire in the kiva fireplace and temporarily adjourned to the hot tub on the patio. Our fun was interrupted by a woman who appeared out in the night decrying that her husband was allergic to smoke and was choking to death. Not wanting to be responsible for his death, we put out the fire.

Joshua woke at 2 a.m. whimpering with pain in his hand. I gave him two Advils and worried that he wouldn’t be able to return to work that afternoon at the Anasazi Hotel in Santa Fe. He had worked one day before asking for four days off. Not good.

After Joshua returned to Santa Fe, Shannon, Pat and I drove 20 miles north of Taos to San Cristobal, location of the 160-acre D.H. Lawrence Ranch (elev. 8600). Lawrence, a famous English writer, who wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and his wife Frieda came to New Mexico in 1922. They lived in a small, rustic cabin on the ranch where Lawrence wrote. Lady Dorothy Brett, a Lawrence admirer of English nobility, came to the ranch in 1924. The cabin grew too small for the two women and Frieda banned Lady Brett to a tiny closet-size cabin in the back yard. Cat fight? Lawrence died in Venice, France, 1930; and his ashes eventually ended up at the ranch.

One evening we had dinner at the Kyote Club where Shannon and her band performed. Shannon introduced me to Roe, a beautiful woman with long black hair, who is a sixth-grade school teacher. Her father fought with the Philippine Guard when the Japanese overran Manilla during WWII. He, along with others were lined up by an open trench and gunned down. He survived, escaped to the jungle, and fought with the guerilla against the Japanese until Gen. McArthur returned. Roe moved to Taos after her son was killed in a car accident “to find peace,” she told me.

On another evening we went to the Alley Cantina to hear Shannon sing. They play rock’n roll, blues and funk. Shannon is lead vocalist and Dave Kinney plays guitar and harmonica. Rick, keyboard player, is a Taos lawyer who moved there from Beverly Hills. Brendan Devlin, a lederhosen-clad waiter at the Bavarian restaurant during the day, plays lead guitar and sings. He slings his long black hair like he has water in his ears. It drives women crazy. Long hair is stupid. I’m bald and don’t have to go around slinging my head. “Ohhh, he’s so cute,” Pat cooed. “I’m going to take him home.” The little punk.

We headed back to Alabama. I yearned for humidity, ripe tomatoes, and fried okra from our garden on Elk River. I watched as the mountains faded in my rearview mirror and knew I would return to Taos. I always do.
By: Jerry Barksdale
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By: Jerry R. Barksdale
My good friend (and sometimes red-head) Pat and I spent the night with my grandson, Joshua at his adobe house outside Santa Fe. There was no air conditioner and none was needed. Open windows let in cool air from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains along with the lonesome call of coyotes. Joshua, age 19, had worked at the upscale Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi for only one day and immediately asked four days off to visit with us. I appreciated his desire to be with us, but it brought on grandfatherly advice. “The secret of job security,” I said, “is arriving early, sober and clean; leave late, don’t complain and always be available. Others won’t do that. Pretty soon you’ll be on top.” Of course, that’s old fogey thinking. Nowadays, it’s popular to whine, become a victim and sue someone – anyone.

Next morning, I departed Santa Fe, leaving Pat and Joshua to shop and, drove the high road through the mountains to Taos.

The ancient village of Chimayo, settled by Spanish colonists around 1680, clings to the brown foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I stopped at Ortega’s weaving shop and looked at several hand-woven, wool rugs, but resisted the temptation to purchase yet another one. Later, I visited Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic sanctuary built in 1810. It’s claimed that the soil beneath the floor has healing power. Scores of crutches hanging on the wall attest to its miraculous power. Who am I to say otherwise? When I was a kid many older folks drank Hadacol, an over the counter potion high in alcohol content, that worked miracles on some folks. Many women swore by it. It was rumored that an old fellow at Piney Chapel with a wooden leg drank it daily. It was so potent he had to carry a hatchet to keep the sprouting limbs trimmed off his leg. Not only that, when I was 11 years old, Uncle James Burch purchased all 16 warts on my hands for a penny each. They disappeared within days. Was it a miracle? For me it was.

In Taos, I took a room at Kachina Inn, next door to the Indian Pueblo, and read the Taos News while waiting for Pat and Joshua to arrive. Citizens were in an uproar, as usual. They opposed Walmart, the Dollar Store, burning porch lights at night (it pollutes darkness) and the expansion of their tiny air strip. Tempers flared at a public meeting and one official was properly dog cussed. One lady was fearful, that “the military could possibly use it.” Gasp! According to a recent survey residents described Taos citizens as “a little crazy,” “wacky and weird,” and “unable to show up to anything on time – preferably two hours late.” Here’s my definition: Imagine a powerful magnet located in the center of America strong enough to attract every nut and loose screw from both the East and West Coast. That’s Taos. I love it! But I don’t want them running our country. Later, I sauntered into the Broadsky Book Shop on Paseo del Pueblo Street North and mentioned that I was from Athens, Alabama. “What street?” asked the long-haired clerk. It was Chipper Thompson, son of the well-known Athens artist, Bob Thompson. Chipper and my son, Mark were childhood playmates when we lived on Aston Street. Chipper married Huntsville artist, Langford Monroe and they moved to Taos several years ago. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by death. Chipper is a well-known Taos singer and musician and recently published The Substance of Things Hoped for, his first novel (www.chipperthompson.com). Being a high brow reader, I purchased a used copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence who is buried north of Taos. Lawrence was hounded out of England in 1922 and the book banned. Nowadays its probably required reading in the third grade.

The sky was turquoise blue and the air cool and thin when Pat, Joshua and I joined Shannon and her best friend, Jamie for lunch on the deck of the Bavarian Restaurant high in the Taos Ski Valley. Jamie is Northern Cheyenne, born and reared on the Lame Deer Reservation in Montana. Her Indian name is “One Who Kills In The Morning.” I know a woman like that – my ex. Contrary to her name, Jamie is sweet, kind and beautiful. The name was given her by her people for standing up to the U.S. Government. She and her German-born husband operate the excellent restaurant. Shannon loves Jamie and considers her the sister she never had. “Jamie and I are blood sisters,” Shannon announced over a platter of bratwurst and fried potatoes. Several months earlier, while enjoying wine, Shannon proposed that they become blood sisters; went to the kitchen, returned with a butcher knife; slit open their palms and mixed their blood. Jamie had never heard of such, but went along with it. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “It’s how they do it in the movies,” Shannon replied. Jamie just shook her head and laughed.
By: Jerry Barksdale

To Be Continued

Saturday, August 12, 2017 from 10am to 2pm:

Jerry will be leading a 4 hour Civil War tour of the Athens area. This will be a very informative tour and Jerry will make you laugh while you’re learning.

LOCATION:

CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS

 

Jerry Barksdale

Jerry Barksdale

 

 

Saturday, August 19, 2017 from 4pm to 8pm:

Jerry will portray his great-great grandfather, Daniel Barksdale at the Huntsville Bicentennial Celebration.  Later that evening Jerry will switch roles and costumes and tell a humorous story set at Madison Cross Roads in 1954 when he was age 13.

STORY:  “Saving Mama’s Religion”. Too many dogs will drive the best Christian women over the edge.

LOCATION: Huntsville Roundhouse

CLICK HERE FOR DIRECTIONS

 

Make sure to check out Jerry’s AUDIO BOOK version of “Cornbread Chronicles”.  He will have you laughing before you know it!

 

July, 2015. The morning was hot and muggy when my good friend (and sometimes red-head) Pat and I departed Elk River headed to Taos, New Mexico in a Hertz rental car, leaving “Little Red,” my faithful Toyota pick-up parked. Pat had an aching back and couldn’t ride 1,200 miles on a bench seat. The rental had adjustable bucket seats that reclined like a bed. A Sundrop, two Advils, and a pillow and she was soon happy and snoozing. The long road to Taos beckoned me as it has done since I first went there 32 years earlier. It was there while sleeping in the Sangre de Cristo mountains overlooking the Rio Grande River that I found a measure of peace to calm my troubled soul. Like the churning waters of the Rio Grande, my life has rushed onward: divorce, remarriage, followed by another divorce, death of my parents and first born, and finally retiring after 43 years of law practice. I didn’t miss the law. After all, working in a pie factory would soon grow old.

Many months earlier while returning home from an Auburn football game, a texting woman slammed into the back of a car occupied by Pat. She was darn near killed. Her scalp was sliced open; right eye dangling from the socket, face crushed, teeth pushed back, three broken ribs, lacerated liver and both pelvis fractured. I keep her pumped up. “Sweetheart, as soon as they straighten your nose and level your eyes you’ll look just fine.” And she does – maybe even better than before. “Tanner-tested girls” (similar to the Good Housekeeping seal) don’t complain. Pat grew up driving a Farmall, chopping and picking cotton, and milking cows. After raising a daughter as a single parent while working full time, there isn’t much that daunts her. “Make do” is her motto. She has one weakness: she can’t pass a shoe store without going inside.

Our plan was to stop over in Santa Fe and visit my 19-year-old grandson who had recently moved there to find that “something else” as I had done in 1985. It was raining soup, and his bowl was upright. He had just landed a good job at the Anasazi Inn. “Joshua,” I said earlier, “we can get a room at Budget Inn for about $70 bucks a night. Can you beat that?” He’d replied, “Papa, a weekend at the Anasazi is $1,200.” Ridiculous! My first house payment was $72 dollars a month, and had two bedrooms and a carport. Later, we planned to drive up to Taos and visit my daughter, Shannon who had moved there 16 years earlier with a psychotic dog and no job. She has done well. Now, she has two dogs, a cat, a job, and a growing music career.

It was 101 degrees when we stopped at Ft. Smith, Arkansas for a late lunch at Cracker Barrel. Down south, heat gives folks something to talk about. I remember chopping “Johnson grass” out of a corn patch in scorching July heat when I was a kid and the water jug was so hot that the opening burned my lips. Late afternoon we were chasing a setting sun across the wind-blown plains of western Oklahoma. Route 66 runs along I-40. During the Great Depression, it carried thousands of poor and hungry “Okies” from the Dust Bowl to California to pick fruit and vegetables. The 1960’s TV program “Route 66” had been one of my favorites. Two young drifters in a Corvette drove from place to place on the highway searching for adventure. “Wanna play Route 66 and stop at a house and see if there is any adventure going on?” I asked Pat. “Wanna get shot?” she deadpanned.

We exited at Shamrock, Texas and ate supper at Big Vern’s Steakhouse. Route 66 runs down Main Street where the famous art-deco style Conoco station featured in the movie Cars is located. Shamrock boasts the “tallest water tower of its class in the State of Texas.” Imagine that! And it cost $6,560 dollars to build in 1915.

“What’s Shamrock known for?” I asked our young, tattooed waitress. She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.” Black clouds, filled with heat lightning lay low on the western horizon as we headed to Amarillo. The day had been long. Near midnight, we looked for a motel room. I arrogantly declined a smoking room. After four more stops, my arrogance had dissipated to desperation. Finally, a Microtel.

Sunday afternoon, we reached Santa Fe and drove to Joshua’s small adobe house at the end of a dusty road set among sage brush and juniper bushes. It was located inside “Creativity for Peace Camps,” whatever that is. Very Santa Fe-ish. Santa Feans spend a lot of time searching for “energy centers” and identifying “walk-ins” (aliens who inhabit humans). They don’t have time for real southern fun like tractor pulls and coon hunting. After a fine meal of burritos smothered in red at Maria’s, we visited the historic downtown plaza where the Santa Fe Trail ended its 800-mile journey from Missouri.

Pat and Joshua went to TJ Maxx – “just because” (read shoe shopping). Pat believes that a woman’s happiness and health resides in her shoes. I moseyed around the plaza and checked out a tall monument erected in 1868. Engraved on one side was: “to the heroes who have fallen in various battles with __________ Indians in the territory of New Mexico.”

“What was the missing word?” I wondered. No doubt, someone had been offended.

Yep! The word “savages” had been chiseled out. If the Indians had erected the monument, I wonder what it would have said about the New Mexicans…

TO BE CONTINUED…

It began when I received a letter from Alabama School of Law. I flashed back fifty years. Oh, Lordy! “Bad Sam” Beaty has flunked me in judicial remedies! Just thinking of Professor Samuel Beaty made me nearly wet my pants.

The letter announced that the graduating class of 1967 was having its 50th reunion. By virtue of being Student Government President, I was asked to drum up support. Apparently, they didn’t know that I beat John DeBuys by only one vote, which hardly gave me a mandate.

My winning campaign was time tested – I employed whiskey and women. My beautiful wife, Carol, turned on her charm, and I offered cocktails from a pint hidden inside a hollowed-out law book. “Would you like a sip of Jack Daniels Gold?” I asked fellow students. I called it Gold. Actually, it was from a gallon jug of rot gut purchased for $2.75 in Juarez.

My campaign team compiled a list of students who pledged to vote for me and marked off their name when they voted. Foster Musgrove, Tuscumbia, hadn’t showed up to vote. Volunteers went to his rat-nest apartment and found Foster sound asleep on top of his fallen front door. Apparently, he had had returned home from an “animal house” party, pushed open the unhinged door and fell on the floor where he remained. They fetched him and I won by one vote. I credit my first political victory to Foster. Next would come the Legislature, then Governor and finally prison and a lucrative book deal. I was on my way to success.

I persuaded the Executive Counsel to pass a resolution requiring all law students to wear white shirt and tie to class. The following morning a petition was circulated to impeach me. I back pedaled. Fast!

“Bad Sam” scared the ignorance out of me and made my life miserable. After going to bed and saying my nightly prayer, I thought of ways I could make him miserable. My favorite was to throttle him with a rusty piano wire. Ah, yes! Serenity, then peaceful sleep.

One Monday morning, “Bad Sam” announced to our class that we were lucky since he was in a jolly mood. His daughter had married over the weekend. “Who held the shotgun?” asked a voice. “Bad Sam” went wacko. He paced the aisles, asking, “Did you say that?” Everyone denied it. I heard that it was Ed Gosa, who later became a learned judge in Lamar County. My hero for 50 years.

I also thought about my constitutional law professor, Jay Murphy, a kind old, gentleman, who leaned left in his politics. He paid me the ultimate compliment in class. After giving my interpretation of a Supreme Court decision, Professor Murphy said, “Well we all know that if Mr. Barksdale had his way we’d still be getting around on stone wheels.” My finest moment.

There was Professor Philip Mahan, often absent-minded, who hauled a bale of hay around in his MG Convertible that he parked in front of Farah Hall. Was he powering the MG on hay? Strange. He taught contracts and real estate. One day he began lecturing on real estate. Several minutes later, a student interrupted him. “This ain’t real estate, this is contracts class.”

My good friend (and sometimes red head) Pat and I drove to Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon, checked in the Jack Warner and hooked up with former classmate, John Baker and wife, Regina, Collinsville, Alabama. Norman Cummins of Clermont, Florida also joined us. John was my best friend and study buddy in law school. Following graduation, both of us began practice in DeKalb County. I was earning $250.00 a month working for Bob French. Carol was pregnant and we didn’t have furniture, not even a kitchen table. John found one in his mother’s barn and brought it over. Carol antiqued it and we used it for years. I think she got it in our divorce. John is a Democrat and I’m a Republican. That never came between us. He served in the Alabama House and Senate for 8 years, ran for the U.S. Senate and later was Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Norman Cummins served in the Army before law school. One night, Carol and I were called. “Come over to Norm’s house, he’s getting married.” Classmates, Billy Church married them and O’Neal Browder gave the bride away. I may have been flower boy, don’t remember. It was a crazy night. I hope it was legal.
Dean of the Law School, Mark Brandon, a former Vanderbilt Professor, threw a picnic for our class on Saturday. He is a tall fellow with stylish glasses and close-cropped graying whiskers and handsome as a Hanes underwear model. He doesn’t fit the image of a sourpuss dean. I offered advice to improve his image. “Dean, I suggest you part your hair down the middle and wear wire-rimmed glasses like Dean Harrison did fifty years ago.” “They didn’t have wire,” he replied.
Huh, I won’t offer to help him again. He’s on his own.

Afterwards, we piled into Baker’s Chevy pick-up and, while running over every curb, toured campus. Cummins kept score. “Back up John, you missed one.” Bouncing off curbs doesn’t make for happy hemorrhoids. We tried to locate where we lived 50 years ago. Everything had changed. The old two-story house on Caplewood Drive where Carol and I had once lived, and where she walked to work in heels, was unrecognizable. Her job was our salvation. One evening she came home crying. Her male supervisor had hit on her. I handled it the old- fashioned way. I called him. “If Carol comes home crying again, I’m gonna kill your ass.” Problem solved. Coeds were sashaying to the coliseum for the A-Day game wearing summer’s newest fashion. “Would you just look at her!” exclaimed Pat. We did. “Look out John!” Regina yelled. Baker slammed on the brakes, nearly pitching us out. Advice to Mamas: Don’t send your boys to Bama the first year. Too many beautiful women to distract them. Send them to Auburn.

That evening we attended a reception at the law school where we nibbled cheese and sipped wine. That’s when Ronald Strawbridge, Vernon, Alabama, informed me that it wasn’t Ed Gosa who asked “Bad Sam,” “Who held the shotgun?” It was like being told that my Mama ran a “cat house.” Talk about disappointment. “Who was it?” I asked.

“John DeBuys.” No way! I figured DeBuys for a milquetoast frat dude, with a Vanderbilt degree, who couldn’t parallel park an MG. Wrong. Never judge a man by his brown penny loafers, Khaki pants and buttoned down collar. DeBuys had bumped Gosa off my hero list. I looked up and there he stood, bald as myself. We shook hands and talked. Before retiring, in Birmingham, he was selected one of the “Best Lawyers in America.”

I looked around for Mac Dunaway, hoping he would be present with his beautiful actress sister, Faye. Several former Judges were present. Two of the only four women in our class of ninety-nine were there – Susan William Reeves, Birmingham and Jane Smelley Grubbs, SugarLand, Texas. Also present was George Barnett, former mayor of Guntersville and Ted Little who served 32 years in the Alabama Senate.

Years later “Bad Sam” became one of my heroes. I learned that immediately following Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. While I was sucking my pacifier, he was saving democracy, flying a B-25 bomber on 62 missions against the Japanese. In 1976, he was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court and served for 13 years. I ended up seated next to him at a Trial Lawyers Conference in Birmingham several years ago. “Barksdale,” he said, “I saw your potential and squeezed you hard.” I nodded. “You darn sure did.” He was a great patriot, a great professor, and a great man. I’m honored that he taught me at a great law school – Alabama, ranked one of the “best in the Nation.”

I can’t wait for our next 50th reunion.
By: Jerry Barksdale
www.jerrybarksdale.com fb.com/jerry.barksdale.7

Motorists speeding down I-65 and seeing the “Welcome to Athens” sign pay it no attention. Just another wide place in the road. If they knew what happened here they would slam on their brakes, tour the town, and take selfies where world history was made.

I’m not talking about visiting Founders Hall where the first all-female college in America – maybe the world – was established in 1821; nor the Courthouse Square where General John Turchin’s Yankee soldiers sacked and pillaged the town in 1862; nor the former site of an opera house, law school and Niphonia Fairground, the latter said to be the “most costly and commodious in the South” before the Yankees burned it; nor Fort Henderson where 900 Yankee troops were tricked into surrendering to the “Wizard of the Saddle,” General Nathan Bedford Forrest. And I’m not referring to touring the historical homes of two former Alabama Governors and two U.S. Senators. Nor, the gravesite of former Alabama Chief Justice Thomas N. McClellan, whose successor, after a long train trip from Montgomery to attend his funeral, allegedly became slightly inebriated and, while delivering the eulogy, fell into the grave. Certainly I’m not suggesting they drive and photograph a portion of North Marion, the shortest one way street in America.

And no, I’m not talking about taking selfies in front of 407 E. Washington Street where a local author, while under the influence of pork ‘n beans, floating in Louisiana hot sauce and cheap wine penned Cornbread Chronicles. None of that.

There is a French term that describes Athens – Savoir faire. It means polished, cultured, refined. We are, to paraphrase former Gov. George Wallace, just as cultured as any four-eyed, briefcase toting, Harvard professor who can’t park his bicycle straight. More so, I’d say.

Our greatest cultural achievement occurred in 1987 when Julia, a pig, was crowned Christmas Queen of Athens. And for two years in a row! Why? Well, Julia was a beautiful pig. Like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, she had magnolia white skin – “that skin so prized by Southern women,” beady black eyes, perky ears, a lovely snout and a good looking tail, a curly one that resembled an Arby’s French fry. Only cultured and refined Southerners elect a hog Christmas Queen. While others talked about diversity and inclusion Athenians were bringing it about.

And how did a lowly porker who spent her youth rooting for acorns and wallowing in mud holes rise from obscurity to become Athens Christmas Queen? In America anything can happen. In Athens it probably will. She was homeless, wandering the streets near Pilgrims Poultry plant, rooting for acorns, when Athens Vet, Dr. Bruce Young gave her a luxurious home in the servant quarters behind his grandparent’s stately old mansion at 310 North Jefferson Street. He named her Julia, after a pretty young lady he knew.

In 1987, I was honored to meet Julia after Dr. Young placed his grandparent’s mansion on the market. I was interested in purchasing it for use as a combination residence and law office. While inspecting the outside, I opened the door of the servant quarters. “OINK – OINK!” A large Chestershire hog lunged at me. I slammed the door and ran. It was Julia. I was so rattled I forgot to ask for her autograph. Her fame spread across the globe. Athens resident Kay McFarlen was living in Madrid, Spain the winter of 1988 and well remembers the Christmas parade. She was entertaining Spanish friends in her home, playing cards and watching tv when CNN International flashed the news that Julia was Christmas Queen. Julia was riding in the Grand Marshall’s convertible as it slowly made its way through throngs of cheering Athenians, Dr. Young seated at her side. Julia oinked her approval.

Kaye’s Spanish friends were impressed. “Say, isn’t that your home town?” Kaye puffed out her chest, burning with Southern pride. “Why, yes, it is.”

When Julia became pregnant, it was announced to Athenians on a large billboard. Associated Press and CNN International flashed the happy news around the world. And for a moment the world forgot about war and was happy. Athens was famous. Our Citizens were proud.

But no-good lurked in the shadows. City Officials grew jealous and fearful she might run for office – even Mayor. And be elected! They conspired against her. They said it was a violation of ordinance for a pig to live in the city, even though pet dogs, rabbits, cats, ducks, birds, turtles, snakes, guinea pigs and lizards lived in town. Blatant discrimination! Where was the ACLU? The people rose up and wore t-shirts proclaiming “LET JULIA STAY.” Democracy in action. Our Founding Fathers would have been proud.

News of Julia’s success and Dr. Young’s good works reached Supreme Headquarters in hell. Ol’ Satan connived to destroy them. Some folks believe that Ol’ Satan always tempts men with booze, wacky-backy, dancing, rock ‘n roll and good looking women wearing tight skirts and high heels. Send a man good whiskey and a good-looking woman and he’ll snare ‘im every time, it’s said. That use to be true. But Ol’ Satan has grown more subtle. His weapon against Dr. Young was a color copier. How subtle is that? “Hmmm, I wonder if it will copy a twenty-dollar bill?” Dr. Young asked himself. It did. Ol’ Satan egged him on. Dr. Young copied more – a whole stack, in fact. Some folks said if he hadn’t started putting Julia’s face on twenties he wouldn’t have been caught. Dr. Young went to prison – all because he wanted to honor Julia. A real Southern Gentleman.

Julia was our most famous and beloved personality for a time. Her five minutes of fame extended over two years and brought smiles to many faces and worldwide attention to our town.

Athens motto is “Classic, Southern, Character.” Julia embodied all three. The fate of Julia and her piglets is unknown. I’m sure she is wallowing in a celestial mud hole in hog heaven. Julia’s portrait, shot by Athens Ace Photographer, Roger Bedingfield, wearing her Christmas Queen Crown and enjoying “Swine dining” and eating her favorite food – corn on the cob – in her favorite restaurant, can be seen at Luvici’s Restaurant on Jefferson Street. Go by, eat a delicious meal, and take a selfie with Julia.
By: Jerry Barksdale
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