Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Women's Softball Season Well Underway; So Is Tornado Season

With the coming of the women’s college softball season, we are once again eating meals at times downstairs in Gerald’s office while we follow games on Game Tracker on his computer.

We were excited about Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann, who were flying out for the Cathedral Classic in California. Of course, their daughter Tara Archibald, who is an assistant coach, was there also, so Gerald enjoyed imagining all the fun and excitement that Tara’s husband Bryan was having back home in Watkinsville taking care of three sons under six years old. Bryan is a family hero.

University of Georgia went to the Cathedral Classic ranked thirteen in the national polls; and after a 4-1 record there, the Bulldogs were declared number seven this week. They defeated Arizona, Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, and Oklahoma but lost to Washington. Winning over those kinds of teams will take away the worries that UGA’s losing eight great seniors were going to be known as a rebuilding team this year. Last year’s seniors—Jennie Auger, Brianna Hesson, Alisa Goler, Sarah McCloud, Katie Murphy, Taylor Schlopy, Laura Trout, and Megan Wiggins—were certainly a great loss, but this year’s young team is also obviously capable of great ball playing. It is going to be a good season.

Erin with Southern Illinois University Carbondale was down in Disney Land in Florida at the Citrus Classic last weekend, and we understood they were to have one game televised on ESPS 3 online. I had to be in town at that time, and we assumed we would not be able to get the streaming on our slow-speed reception. In Central Illinois, however, Mary Ellen watched both Erin’s game and also the University of Georgia’s game and was delighted with both wins. Sheri Beasley, who lives in our community but yet several miles from us, told me at Center’s pot luck on Sunday that their reception was great. SIUC had lost their first game that morning to undefeated Florida State (13-0) by 2-0, but then they run-ruled Marshall 10-2. On Sunday they beat St. John’s 4-3.

So our SIUC team is opening their first home games this weekend feeling good. The Coach B Classic (in honor of former Coach Kay Brechtelsbauer) will start games at 10 Saturday morning at Charlotte West Stadium. SIUC plays Western Illinois at 12 noon and then Wright State at 4 pm. They play Northern Illinois at 1 p.m. Sunday and SIU Edwardsville at 5.

Because of Sam’s participation in the pit orchestra for West Side Story at the Marion Civic Center on Friday and Saturday, cousins are coming downstate and will be at Woodsong on Saturday night. So I am not sure how much of the Coach B Classic we can attend.

I started this blog yesterday, but so much has happened since that I was not sure if I should finish it or not. I have just added to the title.

In late afternoon we learned that Gerald’s brother Garry had passed out and was being taken by ambulance to Southeastern Missouri Hospital at Cape Girardeau. This is doubly traumatic because his wife Ginger has suffered short term memory loss since December 2001 because of a stroke and Garry supervises her care. Last evening was filled with communication about all this with the final phone call being from our niece Vicki after l0. She had brought her mother back to their farm and given her the night’s meds and gave me the latest report on Garry although they still knew very little.

The next phone call we received was from Vicki this morning at twenty till five. We were sleeping soundly despite the raging storm outside. She was watching a tornado on television moving through and it looked like we were in its path. Almost immediately after her all call, our REA electricity went off. With a flashlight, Gerald went to his truck in the garage and learned the tornado had touched down near Creal Springs, a village just barely south of us and was headed to Harrisburg east of us. By then it was 5, which is when Gerald usually gets up, so he made arrangements to meet his brother Keith for breakfast since there would be no coffee at our house. They had already planned last night to head to Cape to see Garry.

Without television or radio, it was not until I went to town later that I found out that Marion was also without electricity. We learned three people had been killed in Harrisburg. Marion schools were called off. Electricity was soon back in Marion, however, and Sam and I had a good breakfast together at Cracker Barrel where we saw our niece Marla and husband with their grandson Michael. Mary Ellen had read on Facebook about a neighbor just south of us who heard the tornado go over their house, so she called to see if we were all right. By the time I got back to the farm, our lights were burning also.

Going down to the computer to check on Facebook what all had happened, I learned the death toll in Harrisburg had risen to l0. Writer friends were worrying about novelist Lois Barrett, who lives there.

Then I learned that our very special friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy, who live in a lovely house they built on a scenic spot on his home place high in the Alto Pass hills in Union County, had been hit by the tornado. Bill’s daughter Glenna down in Georgia reported this and asked for prayers. They had to run from their bedroom as it collapsed around them. They also lost two barns. This too was doubly bad because Bill has just had surgery on his back since the two surgeries he had a couple years ago were not successful. Although this doctor was not ready to order physical therapy yet, he already had Bill walking two miles a day and we were so happy for this success. I hope and pray that the running did not hurt his back in any way.

I phoned Gerald at the hospital to report yet another traumatic event.
I received calls from my brother Jim up in Mattoon after Vivian’s sister in Vienna had phoned them with the tornado news. Next my sister Rosemary down in Amarillo and my cousin Ken in California phoned after they heard about Harrisburg on the national news. I was grateful to be able to tell them we were just fine, but I felt bad knowing so many families right now are not.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Summer Weather in February

The warm days we are enjoying here in Southern Illinois are creating lots of photos on Facebook of daffodils in bloom. Jake and I walked down to the mailbox with a birthday card for our grandson Trent, who will be 19 on Friday. I’d made a deal with myself that if the mail carrier had not yet delivered the mail (so I could leave the card rather than carry it back to the house) I would walk around the lake. Gerald had told me at lunch that a friend of ours was told to walk two miles a day following his second back surgery after an unsuccessful one by an earlier doctor. He was doing it. I was inspired to think he could walk two miles so soon after surgery. I left the card.

It has been a long long time since I’ve walked around the lake. Usually at this time of year, it is too cold. Last summer it was much too hot most of the time. More than the heat, however, I am afraid of the ticks that one picks up walking around the lake despite the nice path that Gerald tries to make with the lawn mower. Although I hate the idea of ticks feeding on my blood, what I am afraid of are the two diseases that one might catch from the creatures—Rocky Mountain tick fever and now in recent years Lyme disease. I know the odds are against our ticks carrying the diseases, but there is no guarantee, and I get freaked out when I find them on me after a walk.

I was assuming these little pests were not out yet this season, and as for as I know, I came home alone. Except for Jake who stuck with me the entire walk although he would run ahead and chase some birds or dig in the ground before he came back to be patted on the head. He again would walk beside me until my slow speed bored him. Then he’d be off, but he never forgot or deserted me.

There was only one small white duck swimming on the lake although last week we had a small flock of geese stop by going north. We were hoping one pair that were by themselves and swimming together obviously in love would stay. I guess they didb't. I watched a turtle on the bank warming in the sun until I got too close and he hopped in the lake. All I could see was the widening concentric circles of water until finally his head appeared in the middle of the narrow end of the lake where we were.

My sweater was a little too warm when the sun hit me, but then a breeze would come and make me a mite chilly for a few minutes. On the final climb up the hill to the house, however, I had to take the sweater off as I puffed up the slope.

Jake and I stopped by Gerald’s shop to admire the new attic-type storage area he had been building with a beautiful set of steps going up. After a snack and quick check of the news, I went to read for awhile on the living room couch, where I very quickly took a nap until Gerald came in for supper. Before I fell asleep, I kept hearing cracking on the deck door in the living room. I wondered if the storm door there was not closed tight and perhaps being moved by the wind. I got up and went over to check it, and everything seemed secure, but as I stood there with the sun beating down, I heard a few more crackles. I reached up and touched the inside of the inner door, and it was extremely hot to my touch. We are all somewhat puzzled by this unseasonable weather and are wondering if March is going to bring blizzards or if we will go all winter with mild and even hot weather.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jake (Half Mountain Cur) Meets Fifi (Who Thinks She's a Queen)

Thanks to President’s Day weekend, all the beds at Woodsong were full over the weekend. We didn’t have to use any couches though, so it was not a full house. Jake got to meet his first of our granddogs. Brian and Brianna arrived Saturday evening with Miss Fifi, a beautiful white fluffy Shih Tzu, who has always been able to keep her humans totally in her control. Jake was quite timid in the face of such royalty, but they soon were acquainted, and she was democratic enough to accept his friendship. By Sunday afternoon, they were obviously enjoying each other’s company.

Our daughter Jeannie and Cecelie had driven down from Freeport as soon as they got out of school on Friday and arrived just after midnight. I left the porch light on and lay down Friday evening to sleep on the living room couch hoping to greet them. But evidently I was sleeping so hard that I did not hear them when they came in, and Jeannie said I looked too peaceful to wake me. I woke up from this early evening “nap” at 3 am and went on to my own bed when I saw her bedroom door closed and her van with the bike attached in our driveway.

Jeannie and I had a good breakfast visit Saturday morning before she took off for her morning bike ride before heading for Nashville to meet up with Leslie for wedding planning. When Cecelie came upstairs later, we missed each other as she hurried outside to ride the Gator around the lake. When I looked out, Jake was joyfully running behind her to keep her company as he had learned to do with grandson Sam earlier in the week.

Afterward she returned to the kitchen, and she found out that her cousins Sam and Brianna planned on getting together here at the farm Saturday night after each finished their all-day activities. (Sam had gone to St. Louis on a special recreation trip with some Third Baptist friends and then he must play with the high school band at the Red Rose Gala at the Civic Center; Brianna was at a Scholastic Bowl with her school.) Knowing they were coming, Cecelie elected to pass up the trip to Nashville and stay at the farm.

Jeannie and I visited again after her bike ride although I forgot to give her the little Valentine gift for Leslie that I had planned to send with her to save postage. After waving goodbye to Jeannie, I planned to go to Katherine’s right before lunch since she had no Saturday aide. Although invited to go along, Cecelie said she’d just stay at Woodsong.

At Thanksgiving time, Jeannie had brought all kinds of homemade goodies for the long weekend including a large gallon container of homemade chili. Somehow we didn’t need the chili until Sunday lunch, and then no one stayed for lunch. I stuck the container in the freezer and have enjoyed knowing it was there for just such an occasion as this weekend. I started thawing it on Friday (which I found out was not easy to accomplish) and knew anyone who showed up hungry had something to eat. (I had thought maybe Brian and Brianna might come earlier than they did.) Anyhow I dipped up chili for Gerald and Cecelie before I left.

Cecelie had her violin unpacked, and I assumed she got in some practice and possibly some homework. Yet I still felt bad leaving her. But I was relieved when I found out Gerald had taken her to town with him during the afternoon before I arrived back at the farm with our drive-through grilled chicken supper. Cecelie seemed totally satisfied with the afternoon.

Around 8 or so, David brought Sam out still sharply dressed from his band appearance, and Brian and Brianna arrived from Waggoner in central Illinois at about the same time. I told them there was chili in the fridge for anyone who was hungry and wanted to heat it in the microwave. Cecelie, Brianna, and Sam had already communicated by email or cell phone, and they quickly filled the house with their talk and giggles catching up since they had not seen each for quite awhile. I guess it was since Thanksgiving for those three. Soon they were busy with games and snacks at the dining room table.

Gerald, Brian, and I were tired enough to go to bed early and leave them to their own devices. They were already downstairs watching a movie when I walked through after checking Facebook on my office computer and said goodnight. I warned them not to stay up too late since Sunday School would start at 9:30 before they knew it. I felt conscience bound to give them the warning although I expected they would stay up quite late anyhow. Next morning I woke them at 8:30 and they were soon showering and were ready to go right on time.

I had put a roast in the oven and a small meatloaf out to thaw since David had hoped to bring Katherine out for lunch. I knew when we got home from church, I’d quickly make instant potatoes, some buttered carrots for a little color and, of course, make fried okra to please the grandkids. There were still some nice rolls left in the freezer that David and Katherine had brought for Christmas dinner.

All three sets of china that I bought long ago at thrift stores are usually too small for family gatherings. (The white with gold rims has 12 plates, the blue rimmed set has eight, and the pink roses has nine but with three now chipped.) So when most of us are here, I use the white dinnerware I bought for everyday use. (I’d bought two matching sets for twelve, I think, so despite some breakage, I still have plenty.) Since they’d only be eight at the table Sunday, I’d be able use the china with pink flowers.

That inspired me to search for the pink cloth napkins in the bottom of the hutch that I had not placed on the table in years since I am addicted to paper napkins for convenience. These were the napkins I bought at an after-Christmas sale at Marshall Fields in Chicago during Gerald’s and my engagement. I set some pretty tables with them in our early marriage years. Unfortunately, Sunday I did not have any blooms to place on the table as I did the first summer we were married when I used pink smart weed picked by our gravel road. But water in green goblets and slices of chocolate nut cheese cake from the freezer placed on desert dishes made an appealing table. Katherine and David had not been able to make it after all, so they had the meal taken to them for supper plates.

After they finished eating, the kids were soon back outside enjoying the cold but beautiful sunny weather. With Jake and Fifi either riding the Gator or running behind it, they were happily busy. They soon encountered and had fun with some neighbor kids from next door on a couple of four-wheelers. Later during a a brief re-entry to the house, Brianna brethlessly laughing told me they had a murder mystery game going in the nearby woods. All too soon Brian and Brianna had to head back to central Illinois, but Sam chose to stay at the farm with Cecelie, whose mother was coming up from Nashville. I was to spend the night at Katherine’s, so I took their supper in.

When her aide arrived at six the next morning, I quickly dressed and headed back to the farm although I had to stop for gas when that warning alarm went off. Even so, I arrived home before Jeannie was up, and we again visited over breakfast together before her bike ride. And I was able to visit more with Cecelie when she and Sam came up nearer noon as they enjoyed sleeping in.

I had lunch cooking in the oven, but Jeannie knew they needed to start on the long ride north since they were planning on meeting up with Elijah for supper in Bloomington where he has started his second semester at Illinois State. I sent his belated Valentine—a bag of chocolate kisses which I got for all three grandsons since I did not think they would like the little pink heart-shaped dispensers for note paper that Gerald had purchased for the granddaughters. It had been a good weekend and I hated to see it end. Jake did too, I imagine, since there were more meat scraps than usual with extra folk eating here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Midwinter Mish Mash

The loin roast coated with herbs in the meat rub is in the oven upstairs. The aroma is drifting downstairs to the office. I will be halving it to take part to Katherine’s tonight. She is busy conducting interviews for a night aide. I have been busy telephoning and setting up appointments for her.

I wish everyone had read Zig Zigler’s advice to answer the telephone pleasantly. It is disconcerting how many people yell “Hello” in a loud ugly voice and then change to a much better sounding voice when you explain why you are phoning. (I am telling myself to learn from this. Do I always answer pleasantly after I have rushed to stop what I am doing in the kitchen and get over to the phone knowing it may be a telemarketer?)

This experience reminds me of a dear friend of mine, who died just a few years ago in a mental hospital. I had been warned she could be dangerous, and I visited her alone in a room with the door locked, and for the first time realized she was a big woman. Fortunately even then she was as always kind to me.

Although she was 20 years or more younger, I appreciated much she taught me. This was before she became mentally ill. I had confided once how I hated having the phone interrupt when I was stressed with time pressures trying to get a task done. She advised me to pray as I ran to the phone.

One day I was on my hands and knees mopping the tile entry hall when the phone rang. I put my wet cleaning cloth back in the hot water, wiped my wet hands on my jeans, stood up and started to the nearest phone two rooms away. I remembered to pray, as Barbara had taught me. I picked up the phone as I finished my prayer and loudly said, “Amen.” I can’t remember who was calling or how I explained my strange answer.

Oh. I had to stop yesterday and did not finish what I started above. Now at the end of the week, let me complete this blog.

Half way through winter, we really have not had a very full schedule in many ways nor many guests coming to Woodsong. I do expect a grandson this afternoon. Jeannie and Cecelie will be stopping by tonight on their way to Nashville for Leslie’s wedding gown fitting tomorrow. Yet our new dog Jake and other mundane responsibilities have kept us busy. That is the explanation for the title to this blog. Nothing big to write about, but everyday life and ordinary day-to-day routine goes on.

One constant this winter has been enjoying the many birds at the feeder on the deck: chickadees, juncos, sparrows, a new woodpecker, and best of all for the first time since moving here, a large number of red birds. A small slender black bird with a brown head showed up for the first time this winter yesterday. I remember finding out what kind of bird that was last winter, but I can’t recall it.

We have had a usually mild winter, but I suspect we will still have some snow and ice before spring. Tuesday night I was planning on going to Katherine’s when we had icy roads that made me change my mind. I went to bed thinking the kids in the community would finally get their first snow day the next morning. Gerald surprised me next morning by explaining it had turned warm over night and ice had melted away. It has been warm ever since although the fog was extreme this morning.

Because of busyness, I have not always been able to attend functions I usually attend, but I have made it to Southern Illinois Writers Guild so for this year. SIWG was created by staff at John A. Logan College in 1981 and has always met there at night—eventually as a hybrid student and community organization. Perhaps because of insurance or other reasons, the college has recently had to insist on enforcing the rule that a faculty adviser must be present at meetings.

After losing a couple of long-time advisers, we had breathed a sigh of relief when we found an advisor who would come back to campus at night. We also worked at recruiting students. We have had many student members and several student officers in the past—but they move on as they finish college and we need to regularly recruit new student members. Then suddenly our newest advisor could not meet with us, so we have been scrambling to find a new spot to meet.

Last month we were invited to meet at the new Morthland College in West Frankfort, and I enjoyed that since I had been curious about the new school. But even though located on Main Street, the sign was small and the store-front building deceptive. One member, who had driven a long way to attend, never found the meeting place.

This month Bruce Cline arranged for us to meet in the very nice fellowship hall at the First Methodist Church in Carterville, which is more central for more members. Some landmarks were giving in the directions as well as the street address. We plan to meet there until June, but we anticipate a new arrangement with John A. Logan to be an adult education class starting summer semester. We all prefer the simplicity and comfort of meeting at the college with lots of lighted parking and familiar surroundings.

Although attendance so far has been small at these two off-campus locales, we really had a good time last night. Charlotte Hartley came all the way from Centralia and was the only one who brought readings for critique. After we accomplished that, we were stimulated by her writing. Consequently, we were able to get acquainted better in the small group than is usual. We shared much about our lives, Karen Weinert’s work with the Women’s Center in Carbondale, and, oh yes, some stories about encounters with ghosts—by people who did not believe in ghosts.

Nothing much going on and much too much going on. That is the story of our winter’s mish mash so far this season.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A New Puppy Named Jake

After his bird dog King feasted on the almost ready-to-be hatched duck eggs beside our front porch, Gerald had declared no more dogs for him. Back then we still had hopes of being able to regularly hatch baby ducks at Woodsong. King went back to our son Gerry. The duck dreams vanished, however, because the wild critters won that battle, but the dog pen was gone and so was Gerald’s enthusiasm for dog ownership.

Yet at Thanksgiving this year, Gerry’s friend Steve Smith loaned Gerry a squirrel dog. Gerald and Gerry had a good time hunting with it here before Gerry took it back to Georgia. Gerry had wanted something special to do with his grandson Aidan, age 5 1/2, who is as active a little boy as Gerry was. Together with Steve’s squirrel dog, they explored Georgia forests and met all kinds of interesting people and thoroughly enjoyed their outdoor grandfather-grandson times.

Gerry brought the dog back during Christmas vacation to pass it on loan to yet another friend, but again Gerald and Gerry had a good time in the woods with Steve’s talented dog.

Gerry decided his dad needed another dog. Actually Gerald said it first, but Gerry is the only one to make such things happen. (In fact, very recently another dog trainer friend has given Gerry an $800 dog which will be waiting for Gerry and Aidan when softball season is over. The pricing of dogs is always a mystery to me, but that was the quoted price of this free dog.)

Soon Gerry called to tell his dad that there was a squirrel dog up at Mulkeytown from good stock at a reasonable price, and Gerry thought Gerald would be interested. After two or three days of bouncing back and forth as to whether he really did or did not want a dog, Gerald decided he should at least go look at the man’s dog. But, he said, he did not think he would take the dog because he was not positive he wanted another dog. I smiled knowing we would soon have a dog on the farm.

As expected, Gerald came back with a little black and white dog named Jake in his truck after he stopped in town to buy a collar, dog food, and other paraphernalia that might be needed. Jake is half mountain cur and half border collie. I did not know there was a breed called mountain cur, but you can google it. I am a believer in hybrid vigor, so I do not doubt how smart Jake is when Gerald says so.

Jake is very friendly and I like his running out to meet the car when I return from someplace. I have been sneaking a few meat scraps out to make him like me, but that might be a mistake because now he is expecting me to treat him. He may be a mite more friendly than I would like. His size and colors remind me of my childhood dog Lucky although Lucky had more white markings. Actually Lucky was my brother Jim’s dog, but Jimmy was kind to share his dog with me. I spent a lot of time sitting on the porch steps petting and talking to Lucky.

I have enjoyed looking out the kitchen window and seeing Jake following Gerald on the little yard tractor. Gerald likes it that Jake is snorting and tearing up the soft winter soil in our yard as he sniffs for the moles there. So far, Jake has not found a mole as far as we know, but Gerald is in perpetual battle with them as they invade our lawn, so now he will have an ally. I have had to learn to spell “squirrel” thanks to Jake. And like Gerry’s wife Vickie, I will undoubtedly have to learn to cook squirrels.

One of the grandkids was excited to think all the granddogs who visit here have a new cousin, but our friend Kim on Facebook explained that Jake would surely have to be an uncle, not a cousin. Dog relationships are complicated and easy to get out of hand, but so far we aren’t yet talking baby talk to Jake. That may come later.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Delightful Evening with the Dallas Brass and Young Musicians

Thursdays are usually busy days for me, so I was looking forward to an at-home evening and maybe even getting to bed early (anything earlier than midnight counts for that goal).

Then at Katherine’s house, I heard from our grandson Sam: “Grandma, are you coming to my concert tonight?’ Oh oh.

I already knew Sam had a school-day clinic yesterday with the Dallas Brass at the Civic Center because I was not to pick him up as usual from his after-school jazz band practice. But I actually had thought the flashing marquee there on the square said the Brass’ concert was the night before. I had no idea that the clinic was to prepare the kids to join these professional musicians on stage during the second half of the concert.

From Sam’s demeanor, I knew the clinic had been good, and instantly I wanted to hear this concert. I did not want to drive home, change clothes, and drive the nine miles back to town, look for a difficult-to-find parking space, and then drive home afterwards hoping I would not hit a deer. Besides which, since I ran out of time, I had not shampooed my hair as I had planned to do that day. I was already embarrassed just to show up at Sam’s house looking like I looked; I sure did not want to go out in public that way.

Katherine was busy on the computer with an aide in the house. Sam probably had plenty of homework after being at the clinic during the school day, so I said a quick goodbye. I ran to Great Clips to see if anyone there could give me a shampoo. Just like last week I dashed in even though I knew my usual stylist would not be there that late in the day. But Shannon did a great job last week, so that would not be a problem. (A weekly appointment disappeared with the curls after Great Clips stopped giving permanents. Now I often don’t go in until the length of my bangs start making me miserable.)

I had called Gerald to tell him about the concert, which he would have enjoyed, except he was way off in a different rural neighborhood going squirrel hunting in a friend’s woods. I knew he would not want to stay up late (anything later than 9 or shortly after counts as late).

I reached home just as Gerald also arrived. I fixed him a quick supper plate in the microwave with left-overs, and then I went to change clothes. Not always, but usually I fix our main meal (“dinner’) at noon—a farm tradition. Then I serve soup and a sandwich or something equally simple for supper. I was glad I had prepared a nice meal at noon because I figured the woods outing produced more hunger than usual for Gerald.

Actually with just the two of us in the house and various dietary restrictions, all my meal preparations are very simple these days. (What I cannot figure out is why clean-up still takes so much time even though I don’t cook that much and even though I do not have very high standards for clean-up.)

I hurried out of my daily work clothes and into something warm and presentable. Although I try to put on make-up early in the day, yesterday I had not done so yet. I quickly put on a little make-up to go with my new hair style. And I felt quite ready for the treat of attending a concert in the beautiful civic center.

I grabbed the promised book I had already autographed and laid out for Jari Jackson for the next civic center fund raiser and I put her name on the envelope. I knew she’d be there; and when I arrived, someone at the center’s table said they’d take it to her. So that errand was accomplished too! I saw Jari’s beautiful white hair at a distance, but our seats were in different sections and we did not bump into each other in the crowd afterwards.

Even though I thought I was arriving early, I knew I might not be if I had to spend too much time looking for a parking space. As I expected, the square was full. So were both sides of the streets leaving the square. I was hoping I might find a spot at the library; but if I didn’t, I would have to go back to the square and go in a different direction in the hope of finding a spot in the bank’s parking lot—also more than a block away. I pulled into the library lot, which looked full, but I had to get turned around. Yay rah! There were still a few spots on the far end, and I was all set.

Although I usually don’t go walking town streets after dark, I was completely comfortable knowing that after civic center events, I could walk in any direction and would be with fellow patrons. In fact, I always enjoy the excited talk and happy laughs coming from the strangers who become your walking companions.

I sent the book for Jari on its way, obtained my ticket and settled into a good seat with time to read program notes about the five brass players and the delightful drummer/percussionist, who provided not only rhythm extraordinaire but also humor with his deliberate antics to make us laugh.

I could tell from those notes that trombone player and director Michael Levine and the other five men had enormous talent. I hope all those junior and senior high students read the list of colleges, awards, and experiences that these performers had before showing up in Marion to spend the day with our school musicians and include them in an evening concert. Their accomplishments were quite inspiring, but the evening’s performance was even more so.

Taking us on an “American Musical Journey,” they started with across- the- ocean influences and went on to George Washington’s time which brought their rendition of “Yankee Doodle,” the only song known to every generation since, Levine explained. The choice of composers and Levine’s interesting commentary was educational but the music was phenomenal, which I think was the comment Sam used as the youth gathered around the players for autographs after the concert.

Successfully arranging compositions usually played by entire orchestras, those six players delighted our ears with gorgeous sounds making it a night to remember. In addition to classical pieces, we heard patriotic songs, swing, Dixieland, Broadway, Hollywood, and even “Home on the Range.” Those musicians could play different instruments and different versions of brass with seemingly equal aplomb. We heard D.J. Barraclough and Chad Willis on trumpets, an Illinois native Paul Carlson on tuba, and Juan Berrios on horn and alto horn and even presenting one vocal solo. Not to be outdone, Sergio Carreno, the drummer/percussionist claimed his brass cowbell as a brass instrument and even came forward and played a solo on his xylophone. The stage was fairly bare, and I loved the way talent filled it up.

After the intermission, the large stage was filled with a mass of junior and senior high band members seated behind the Dallas Brass before they re-entered. As an example of how fluid and smoothly everything transpired, I did not even see those chairs, risers, music stands, and extra percussion instruments carried on stage even though I did not leave during intermission and only visited with Katherine and David briefly.

Levine invited the audience to take photos and just pause for a moment and see the beautiful sight of those dressed-up kids sitting on stage with their instruments poised to play with these professionals. He had rehearsed them well during the day and directed them with gusto and high praise for the kids’ ability. The six men in front of us were not just great musicians but great educators of kids, their parents, and the host community. Before they left the stage, Levine also called out the three local school band directors for well-deserved recognition.

Everything was well thought out, carefully timed with considerable humor and variety, and provided a fascinating evening that left the audience clapping and cheering for more, which Dallas Brass did with a final 36 songs rolled into one. I drove home without even seeing a deer—not even in the field by our lane. My heart was singing with the pleasure of an evening well spent. Gerald was sleeping soundly, which made me happy since I knew he had an extra hard schedule today before Sam got off school and the two of them headed off to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee basketball game tomorrow night. I was so refreshed that I chose not to go to bed until midnight.