From the East Wing

Greeting to all and welcome to new friends to the East Wing.

It’s the Monday before Christmas and along with one of my two  sons, Johnny and me, we’re on the road again. A few weeks ago I told ya ‘bout we’re going to do a clothing drive for the folks in eastern Kentucky, well today we’re delivering some of that drive.

The response to our proposal that we collect clothes has  been  absolutely amazing. When we started out, I thought if we were lucky, we’d collect maybe enough to fill the trunk of Mr. Lincoln, and I’d take it down to Prestonsburg.

Father Mark Dreves came to the Catholic Church in North Judson a few weeks ago and told of the need for assistance. He didn’t over tell or under tell the story of human need within our reach. He just told the story the way it was, the way it is.

Life in eastern Kentucky is hard, too hard for some, unimaginable for many, yet it’s home to those who’re born there. Now it’s so easy for some people to look down their nose and think why don’t those kinda  people just move somewhere else and they’ll get along fine and not be  burden on society.  It ‘s thinking stuff like that, that makes me some times come close to losing my religion. Hell is gona be full of a lot of people who harbor such thoughts in their hearts.

Remember that part in the bible talking ‘ bout the least of my brothers? I just thank God that I’ve not  yet been “the least of the brothers” in my lifetime, so far, but I’ve been close. Unless you’ve been close, you’ll never know.  When we harbor such bad thoughts of others, consider the fact that we still don’t know how our lives will play out in its entirety, so if an error in judgment has to  be made, it may be wise to error against the dark side, it may save your soul. Now don’t get all bent out of shape and think I’m preaching the gospel according to BobbyRay. But Hell Fire and Brimstone does call attention to ones point of view  and may serve to allow one to rethink appoint of view, from time to time.

That reminds me of a story my dad used to tell ‘bout an ole hillbilly boy, setting on the curb In Weeksbury KY, one hot summer day, half drunk and all happy, with an almost empty bottle of 4 Roses Whisky in his hand,  praying out loud  saying “Oh my Lord, a forgiving God and a pretty good devil too” when asked why he included the devil in his prayer, the ole boy said “ I’ve done some really good stuff in my time and I’ve done some really bad stuff in my time, an can’t figure out which one I’ve done the most of, so I don’t wanta make either one of ‘em too mad at me”.  And so it is with BobbyRay, I’m still trying to decide, so just in case..……And a pretty good devil too.

Remember years ago if ya were going on a trip how companies would provide ya with custom maps showing your route.  AAA was the one I used, back in the day. Trip Planners they called ‘em, maps on paper. Now it’s all in the laptop. Right now I’m traveling southeast from Louisville toward Lexington in the dark of night with Johnny driving and me telling stories on this magic little flat machine setting on my lap, plugged into an AC converter, plugged into a DC power source in the mountain goat part of this Envoy. It not only allows me to tell stories as I travel down the road in the darkness, it also tells me where I’m located on the planet . GPS was not yet science fiction when I lived in downtown Toto.

The best laid plans of mice and men…… And so it was this Monday morning. The day before I had laid out the trip planner in the magic box. We had a lot of stuff to move the Kentucky, a lot more than Mr. Lincoln could handle, so we changed plans and chose to take Johnny’s  Envoy.  Now for anybody who don’t know ‘bout an Envoy, it’s half car, half truck, and half mountain goat. The plan was to load the Envoy Sunday night, and print UPS Labels for everything we couldn’t load. We’d ship ‘em the same day and then we’d leave North Judson ‘bout 8 O’clock  Monday morning.

It was just two minutes past 8 AM I was one block south of my office when I saw Johnny stop the Envoy in front of my office. As Johnny got out I realized he still had his pajamas on. I pulled up behind Johnny, got out of Mr. Lincoln as Johnny said “There’s a little change in the plan, I didn’t do anything last night, I’s just too tired” “No problem we’ll do it now”, I said as we started to load the Envoy.

The older I get the more I  believe all things happen for a reason, should Johnny have loaded the car/truck/mountain goat Sunday evening and I got to my office the same time he did Monday morning, and we just started out for Kentucky, well I would have left the She in a terrible mess, ‘cause this morning the She had gotten a large amount of unexpected funeral work to do in a short time.

Our new business in Demotte, Bubs BBQ, is keeping us all hopping to process the volume needed to sustain the sales demand. It’s fun but it’s lots of work.  Should I’ve left on time this morning I would’ve left the She to slice 50 lbs of potatoes , 25 lbs into chips then deep fry ‘em up. With that job finished, then make potato salad with the other 25 lbs. Due to our change in schedule, I sliced all the taters and fried the chips, and cooked the potatoes for potato salad before I left the cold country at 11:30 with the thermometer only at 5° . Did ya ever see 25 lbs of potato chips at one time? I didn’t either till we opened Bubs BBQ at Demotte IN, now I see ‘em or a regular basis. It’s a pile.

As we loaded the boxes it became apparent that this was the vehicle of choice for the mission at hand. That half truck part, we loaded to the hilt, that half car part, we even put some stuff in there with us, and that mountain goat part, well, I’m telling ya, we loaded that mountain goat part of this Envoy down like a pack mule and the mountain goat held it with the pride of a true champion. Those mountain goats can carry a lot more than most folks give ‘em credit.

For our part, Johnny and me, we’re traveling light ‘cause we’ll be home on Wednesday, could be home Tuesday, but we’ll goof off a little on the way back home.  The most amazing thing, we don’t get out of Indiana and guess what? We stop to eat a late lunch at one of those little brown and yellow signs along the way, that Cracker Barrel sign.

As some of you know, I’ve got lots of chickens, a few dozen or so. Most of my chickens are ceramic, and  have over the years been purchased from Cracker Barrels.  A couple years ago I was in a Cracker Barrel and didn’t see a single chicken for sale. When asked I was told that “we don’t carry those ceramic chickens anymore”. I was crushed. My single source of chicken stock had done me dirty. Slowly but surely I continued to collect chickens here and there. Finding chickens helter skelter is about as much fun as herding  cats, and after that deal a few days ago with the little black and white in the East Wing, we all know what I think ‘bout herding cats.

Much to my surprise, upon entering a Cracker Barrel ‘bout 50 miles north of Louisville,  the very first thing I saw was a most beautiful 18” ceramic chicken. To say I was happy is an understatement, to say I was sad is an understatement. The most beautiful of chickens, a boy chicken, a rooster man, standing tall and proud, and not a single  place to stand in the Envoy. Another good thing ‘bout those GPS things, it’s kinda like that set it and forget it deal on TV. Our GPS will take me back to the 18” ceramic chicken, that boy chicken, the rooster with the bright colors, standing proud, just looking for the ladies. I’m gona go back and buy that chicken, and take him to the East Wing.

We drove the Mountain Parkway by night, entered Floyd County ‘bout 9 o’clock and in a few sort 15 minutes or so I stood in the lobby of the motel next to the Wal-Mart of the Mountain, that one there at Prestonsburg, where they cut the mountain in two just to make the parking lot, that Wal-Mart of the Mountain.

After 10 minutes of standing in an unattended lobby, I simply picked up the house phone on the  counter and dialed “operator”.  The little girl said “front desk, may I help you” I said “no, you’re not at the front desk little darling, I’m  at the front desk and I’ve been here 10 minutes waiting for ya, ya got a room tonight? Yes or no.” Poor little thing didn’t know what to say, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’ll be right there she said. And as I hung up the phone she popped thru the door to the office. A scared child, a little girl who had messed up on her job, had messed up big, and was worried she was going to get into lots of trouble.  She couldn’t  say I’m sorry enough so I finally told her to shut up and just get me and Johnny a room. When I smiled, she smiled, and her fear of me went away.

And that’s what’s so neat ‘bout smiles, everybody understands that language.  It’s like one time I saw the most beautiful little Spanish Baby in our church one Sunday Morning, and later during the mass, when that pretty little Spanish Angel got hungry, she cried in Spanish. Yah,  I’m telling ya, she cried in Spanish. I was so surprised that I could understand crying in Spanish. Right there in church I got to thinking ‘bout how neat it was that I could speak three languages, English, Crying in Spanish, and Italians talking with their hands. I had to learn Italian hand language before I got up the nerve to ask the She to marry me. An old Italian saying  is if ya can’t say it with your hands ya better not say it at all, ‘cause you’re talking dirty.

It snowed sometime between midnight and morning, sometime after I went out to make sure the cloud cover was too thick to see the eclipse of the moon at Prestonsburg KY. It was. I woke up well before daylight, pulled the window shades back to discover new fallen snow as I sat looking into the street light circles of light as I waited for the world to wake up and come to life in the Mountains of Eastern Kentucky this first day of winter, this first snow on the mountains, this December 21st  2010.

The first news story on the local TV was the listings of school closings. They closed ‘em all. Almost two inches of snow. This snow created a  major problem for an area with limited equipment to handle such weather abnormality.  Being accustom to much larger snow falls we almost forgot how disruptive snow can be to our lives. Seeing such disruption in a community with such, what we, Johnny and me, perceive to be a very minor amount of snow reminded me all over again.

By the time it was fully daylight, the magic of the snow on the mountains blossomed into the full beauty  of God decorating for Christmas. Ya  just can’t paint a better picture than when God decorates his mountains for Christmas.  As a fellow tried to snowplow the Wal-Mart parking lot with a small backhoe, we walked out from our breakfast at McDonalds.  It was against the backdrop of those beautiful snow covered mountains that Johnny and I set out to make our delivery, to complete the purpose for which we came to this winter wonderland.

Stay safe in Afghanistan.

From the Mobile East Wing, On The Road Again, The Gospel According to BobbyRay, New Chickens,

Mountain Magic  Snow, The Delivery

I wish you well,