The Yard

Looks pretty spectacular

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drunks and me

I rarely drink. I have the occasional cocktail at my daughter’s house on the odd evening we eat over there. We’re invited over there all the time and it’s a great place to be. The grandsons are 14 and 13, delightful company all the time. They’re not at the surly teenage time yet (I doubt they ever will be, they’re genuinely outgoing and easy to be around). So when I found out my mother in law planned to come see us soon, I knew my alcoholic mettle would be put to the test. Not my drinking … hers. She’s a drunk.

Yesterday my mother in law came for an afternoon visit. We were scared to death that she planned on spending the night but we got lucky and she only stayed a few hours. It’s a 3 hour drive from her house to ours.

She drank an entire bottle of wine while she was here. In less than 2 hours. Then she got in her car to drive home and we let her. Can you believe that? I can’t. You wonder how we could be so irresponsible but she’s something else. I’m in shock today. I can’t believe we let her do that. She usually gets shitfaced and spends the night, leaving early the next morning.

She told us her doctor told her she needed to go into rehab. What do you say to a comment like that? I asked her, point blank, “Well, do you need to?” She laughed and said “No” when it’s obvious she does need to go. The last time she tried to go in for a check-up, she was so drunk, the doctor called a cab and sent her home in it. Seriously.

And I am so ashamed because I thought only of myself and my husband — how we wanted her gone from our house. I didn’t think about the danger she was to others, I only thought about the danger she was to my husband. She’s 72. She’s moving from Wilmington NC to Vero Beach FL in two weeks. We couldn’t be more happy for her and for us. No more afternoon visits where she gets drunk and then drives for 3 hours.

I can’t believe I let her drive home. It won’t ever happen again. I’m so relieved she made it back without killing someone. Stupid drunk.

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My New Neighbor Is Rude

Had the need, the occasion to visit a new neighbor yesterday. I wanted to introduce myself and talk about the house next door to both of us.

It gets to the core of the safety of the street, this need I have to talk to the new people. A nearby house, abandoned since Hurricane Florence, has started to attract squatters and druggies. The squatters have set fire to the floors, stolen all the remaining, albeit nasty, furniture, and spray painted the windows. So we thought it a good idea to introduce ourselves to the people catty-cornered to said squatter house and ask them to call the police if they saw anyone in the squatter house.

I knock gently on front door. A guy leans out the door and shouts (really, he shouted) “What do YOU want?”

I figure I’d best state my business really quickly — before I even have time to assess with whom I’m speaking. “I’m your neighbor…”

“Yeah?!! Where do you live?!”

I point to our house. It’s 100 feet away. “Right there, on the corner.”

“WHICH ONE?”

“The wooden fence, right there. Across the street.”

“Ok,” he says, “what do you want?”

“The brick house…”

“Yeah?”

By then my husband has joined me and he hasn’t heard Mr. Pleasant speak yet so he’s not prepared for any negative dialog. I, by this time, have shriveled up into a little insecure ball on the front porch, unsure where to go with my conversation.

He says, “I called the police on it. I AM the ONE who called the police.”

“Good,” I say. “The house is attracting squatters. We wanted to warn you … tell you to call the police but I see you already have. Thank you.” I begin to back off the porch, to leave.

Then he comes out onto the front porch. “Sorry, I’m defensive. I’m always defensive.” He laughs to himself, “I cut hair for a living.”

Ok, I think. Good for you. He says, “Hang on, let me get my wife.” She comes out. She’s Beaufort County nice. A real foil to Mr. Pleasant. We talk, the four of us, about the squatter situation and the deplorable state of the house across the street from us. Now I realize, as I write this, that someone being rude when you knock on their door? His reaction was probably what people expect when they knock on a stranger’s door. I realize, as I write this, that I’m the weirdo. I expect people to greet my smile with a like countenance. I’m the weirdo.

It’s not the way we act in our neighborhood. But … it is the norm. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by this morning, we answered the door, took a Watchtower, and thanked them. No more conversation than that. I don’t invite strangers into my house, heck, some of my neighbors have never been inside our house. We talk yard-to-yard almost daily. We wave when we drive up to the house. It’s a small street, only five houses plus the squatter/crack house.

We’re polite. Mr. Pleasant, who told me he would never buy a house in our neighborhood, he RENTS because of the flooding. He ridiculed us for living here. He said he was “going to the sailboat the rest of the day” because he couldn’t handle being harassed. As if I were harassing him. Gosh, his wife was nice.

I really do hope they call the police the next time they see anyone at the crack house. Mr. Pleasant told me the house was condemned. That he knew someone who was in city government (turns out it was my son-in-law) who told him condemnation was coming soon. Backtracked a bit.

Gosh his wife was nice.

Mom from 1992

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The top of the page notation: “Put your heart on the page”.

It’s a journal entry from a journaling class she took when she was … 75 when she wrote this:

(about 1922)

What I remember best about that day was my excitement in watching the little barn owl perching on a branch of an elm tree on the “other hill”. It was late in the day, almost time for dinner. The western sun now was directed at the big stained glass hall window of the Marlow’s house on the hill beyond.

Although I was about five years old, I could estimate the time of day by the sparkling lights off that window. But there in my own yard, trees were shading everything and I knew it would be night very soon.

The owl turned his head from side to side and I came closer, almost expecting him to speak to me. Instead, I noticed he had a long tail of something hanging out of his bill and he was trying to swallow, and the faint murmur I heard was his attempt to choke the tail down. I felt very comfortable being so close to him and asked him if it was a field mouse stuck in his throat. The tail disappeared and the owl made a hiccuping sound. He coughed delicately and spit out something the fell in the grass. I crept up to look and saw it was a little ball of fur. Then another plopped on the ground. The light was very dim now and I had no idea how long I had been there watching him. The soft circle of feathers around his eyes gave him a look of some ancient wisdom.

I heard Mother calling me to dinner and I ran to the house, really excited.

They were all at the dining room table and Daddy was beginning to serve the chicken. Everyone was talking. Floyd was home with a friend, Mr. Farmer, Alice, Helen, and Mother were all talking. I just couldn’t stand being little and ignored. I blurted out “You all have to listen to me!”

I told them about the owl and how he “regurgitated” (I knew that word) the fur. Everyone stopped talking and stared at me. “Ruth, you may leave the table and go to your room,” Mother said. As I flounced out of the dining room, I could hear my brother’s roar of laughter.

John James Westbrook Jr.

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My neighbor Fred speaks so kindly, his reminisces so complete and wonderful, about his time spent with John James Westbrook, Jr. in Danville, VA that I dug up the old page about said Johnny and am reproducing the text and hopefully some of the photos here for Fred. I think the one above, and the headstone, are all I can retrieve, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up.

From: https://oldwestendva.com/blog/johnny-westbrook/

Natural history expert and hobby archeologist, John James Westbrook, Jr., was a well-loved and respected resident of the Old West End. He was born in Danville on November 4, 1901, to Maria and John James Westbrook.

“Johnny,” as he liked to be called, loved music. His interest, even from an early age, inspired him to learn to play just about every instrument imaginable. He traveled throughout the area playing in bands and orchestras for social events. One of his earliest ensembles, with Johnny at the piano, was called The Racketeers.  He and his “all-star serenaders,” as the paper called them, were regularly hired for dances at the Masonic Temple. In 1945 he had the opportunity of playing for casualties of the war who were convalescing at Fort Picket.

Johnny was also a passionate naturalist. He spent a great deal of time in nature, collecting rocks and shells, as well as butterflies and birds. These he preserved and had mounted. Hobbyists and professionals alike respected his archeological knowledge. In 1963 Howard MacCord, president of the Virginia Archeological Society, came to Danville to see “what remnants of prehistoric inhabitants and early settlers have been left in the area.” His interest was well founded. Just six years earlier, while leveling the ground for the new raceway, bulldozers unearthed a burial mound. Johnny was called to the scene where he observed skulls, bones, pottery, and other artifacts, which he identified as belonging to the Saponi Indians, a tribe of the eastern Sioux.

Johnny’s expanding collection travelled with him as he moved to different residences in the neighborhood, including the Judkins House at 161 Holbrook Avenue, where he lived in 1956. It was his wish, however, to make his collection available to the public. For a time, a formal exhibit was located at 902 Paxton Avenue. In 1950 another location was established in the basement of 944 Main Street.

In April of 1973 a former student and protégé, William Hathaway, opened a Museum of natural Science and History at the Chatham Education and Cultural Center. Johnny gladly donated his collections of shells and Indian artifacts. Later, he and Hathaway approached DCC with the intention of finding a more permanent place for the collections. The college agreed to accept them, but it took a few years of planning before a space could be dedicated for their display. In 1975, a year after Johnny’s death, the college opened a classroom for the exhibit.

In 1974 Johnny was living at 163 Sutherlin Avenue. On the 17th of March he had made plans to go butterfly hunting. When friends arrived at his home that morning, he was discovered to have died peacefully in his sleep.

The Bee remembered Johnny as “one of the more effective educators in the history of Danville, however informal and unorthodox his methods. A modest appraisal would place at thousands those Danvillians—past and present—who freely and happily acknowledge that their own lives were enriched by the contact they had in their youth with a quiet, smiling, squat man full of enthusiasm for people and all forms of life.”

and from a defunct website hosted back in the 2000s. Hopefully my publishing this will give those who remember or who need to know him will find a landing spot. maybe it will be Google-able. I’ve cobbled together the text from the Internet Archives, the WayBack Machine and I hope they’re readable. The font, the text, seems to want to stay in the OLD Windows Internet Explorer format and for that I am sorry… but as dedicated as I am to this project, I don’t have it in me to re-type the entire thing.

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John James Westbrook was an original–a genius: he was a musician, a philosopher, a naturalist, an archaeologist and, above all, a gifted teacher. In point of fact, John was a true Renaissance man.To say that “Johnny”–that’s what we all called him–had an impact on thousands of people, is not an over-statement. He was a self-taught musician; he played and taught the piano and the guitar; he wrote and arranged hundreds of songs over his lifetime. He loved Nature, he was the original environmentalist–with all the good connotations. He could not tolerate thoughtless people: people that trashed the landscape were his bane. His knowledge of nature was only exceeded by his ability to infect you with some of that knowledge and a respect for nature. He had patience beyond belief: no question was ever a “dumb” question; and if he didn’t know the answer–which was rare–he would say so and find the answer, and make sure you knew the answer. He liked all people, but he especially liked kids. He always had time for kids, in fact, he seemed to instinctively know which kids most needed his attention. If I look for a common thread to the kids that received his greatest attention, it was that they all–myself included–had a troubled home-life. I guess that it may have helped him handle the fact that he could not be with his own son, from his failed marriage: how very sad. 
We lie to our kids when they are young, we tell them that the world is a fair place, that it is soft and fuzzy, we protect them from the, sometimes, harsh truth; in other words, we patronize them. Johnny didn’t do that, he neither lied to them nor did he beat them up with the truth; he was honest without being brutal, and kids could sense that about him, and they/we responded. I first met Johnny when I was six years old, before I had started school. It was spring and he had come to the neighborhood, and several of the older kids were going with him to the woods to collect –um, well something, I don’t remember exactly what. But I do remember I wanted to go with him. I told him that I wanted to go, and he said that we would have to get permission from my mother. Mom was a bit apprehensive, to say the least: she asked the questions that any parent who doesn’t want her child to get hurt would ask. John was use to apprehensive parents and knew the right words to use to calm their fears: I went with him. I had great fun; and I was “Hooked!”
Over the years I collected butterflies at Green Hill Cemetery, first using formaldehyde to kill the insects, and later cyanide. John gave us butterfly nets of his design and manufacture: it turns out that John made nets that worked better than a national manufacturer–Ward Scientific of New York City. He claimed that “Store bought” nets were made of a bright white netting with short handles. John had a local cabinet maker–Mr. Allen–make the handle and hoop, and he would sew, or have sewn, the nets out of bright white netting material. Then he would darken the gaudy white netting in hot boiling tea. When he finished he had the perfect net–one where the insect never knew what hit him…Johnny had a great sense of humor, or more correctly; a great sense of what was funny. His jokes were, for the most part, originals; things that were funny to kids as well as adults, but never at someone else’s expense

John’s Wisdom

He had the ability to put things into prospective for an eight-year-old: “If a farmer, who possesses great faith, just sits by his fallow fields and asks God for a miracle, i.e., to grow corn for he and his family; that farmer will sit there forever, no matter how much faith he has. On the other hand, if that same farmer first tills the soil and plants the seed, then God performs the real miracle–the germination and the growing of the seed: “God truly helps those that help themselves.” 

He would tell the story of the devout believers, who, during a great drought, would gather daily at the local country church, and pray for rain. Finally, the rains came, and the people were ecstatic. And there was the church–Empty–no one had thought to return to give thanks.

Johnny used to take the kids in the neighborhood hiking in the nearby woods where we would collect butterflies, plants, snakes and any other collectibles. We not only collected butterflies but johnny would teach each of us to mount them using special insect pins and blotters, used by professionals, that he would give us. Imagine that: an eight year old kid given the tools professionals use and taught how the pros use them. Later, as I got older he trusted me and some of the other kids with cyanide killing bottles (sold by Wards Scientific), used for killing insects, and no one ever had a bad accident. In fact, over the many years that Johnny did his thing, there were no serious accidents–ever.
After the war Johnny was given a 39 Ford station wagon (A.K.A. the “Woody”), and we went everywhere. One day we would be at the worlds largest tungsten mine in Townsville, North Carolina, collecting mineral specimens; the next day we might be on Occoneehee Island at Clarksville, Virginia, excavating Indian burial sights along side the archeologist from the Smithsonian (this was as Kerr Lake was filling, A.K.A., Buggs Island); or walking cornfields in the Stanton River flood plane, in search of Indian arrowheads; in the mountains picking blueberries and looking for snakes; walking the dark Country Club woods collecting Catocala moths; or night time on a friend’s farm with a portable gasoline generator and lights (that I had “borrowed” from the National Cemetery’s tool house) to catch moths; going to an abandoned gold mine collecting minerals… And this went on nonstop every day in the summer and every weekend the rest of the year. 
Johnny smoked cigars and preached against cigarettes. He would ask if anyone wanted a cigar, and would pass them around to the kids who wanted them. I do not smoke today, I believe, because of that “freedom.” His ideas on being addicted to anything–be it tobacco, alcohol or drugs – was the thought of being: “A slave to a big green leafy vegetable!”  He thought, as we all did, that allowing such a thing to happen to yourself was pretty Damn Dumb. 
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Good ver Evil
John used to talk about the human soul, and how many people didn’t believe that they even had a soul. He would say how the two greatest principalities in the universe–Heaven and Hell–were fighting over our immortal soul. And that if you didn’t recognize that you even had one: “You would surely lose it.” The Music School
Back in the twenties, John had a band that used to tour the southern United States–he even played guitar with Jimmy Rodgers in the late twenties. Later he established a music school in Washington, DC. He hired lots of music teachers, and had a thriving business. He tells the story of when he first moved into his new offices. It seems that the school, which was on the second floor, was over a bank, and John deduced that his private office–and more precisely his desk and chair were directly over the bank’s vault. So he had the sign on the front door changed to read: “Westbrook Music School, Ass sets over a Million Dollars.” Up until the depression, John was prospering in his music school. He had over a dozen instructors working for him and had accumulated a tidy sum. Business dropped off as the depression got worse. Instead of letting his people go, he paid their salaries until all his savings were gone.  It would have never occurred to him to do otherwise.
Westbrook used to say that smoking could be dangerous, especially if you were absent minded. “Why is that?” I asked. “You might throw the wrong butt out the window.” Then there was the time when he was dating a young lady and was getting ready to light up: he asked her, “…do you mind if I smoke?” To which she replied, “Frankly John, I don’t care if you Burn!”
Watch where you Step
I was about seven years old when I first started going with Westbrook on day hikes. Once, our first or second grade class was hiking to Pumpkin Creek, and I had to “Do #2.” I knew that John carried toilet paper for just such situations, so I told him I need to “do number two.” He gave me the toilet paper and told me to go up the trail to do my business, and that they would wait there until I finished. I did my business, and came back to where everybody was waiting, and we all proceeded up the trail in the direction that I had done my business. To my horror there in the middle of the trail was my business–I had done it right in the middle of the trail: there for all the world to see. I felt about one inch high, and on top of that I got a rather pointed lecture from Mr. Westbrook about not “crapping” where everybody else has to walk! Forty seven years later I can remember every horrifying detail, and the comments from the other kids–especially the girls…

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Wish Upon a Star
John was a great musician, and would play while Bill Hathaway drove. Once on a trip he was playing his bass ukulele and taking requests–I said I’d like to hear: “Wish Upon a Star,” from Disney’s Pinocchio. So he set about slowly picking each chord through the song. Then he played it through flawlessly–it was beautiful, I was brought to tears. I was really impressed because I had recently seen, on TV, Arthur Godfrey take 6 weeks to learn a much simpler song under the tutelage of the show’s lead guitarist. So I asked John when was the last time he had played that particular song: he said that this was the first time, that he had heard it before and was familiar with the song, but that was the first time he had ever really played it. Duke and Snoopy
Westbrook was loved by both my dogs, Duke and Snoopy, and he loved them. John liked to tell of all the times that he would get off the bus at the corner of Jefferson and Lee streets, where he would meet up with Duke and they would head off for the woods near Almegro and A & D cliff or the Pumpkin creek woods. And at the end of the day, how they would part company at the same corner: John going his way and Duke going his–“Not a word spoken.” Westbrook at 100 Yards
When I was about 10 years old, Bobby Plott and I rode our bikes to the Schoolfield woods. We had our nets and killing bottles with us and were looking for Catocalas (moths that hide on trees). After about an hour of pushing our bicycles through the woods, I stopped dead in my tracks, sniffed the air, and said,” I smell Westbrook,” to which a voice replied: “Right you are.” There standing about 75 yards down the path was John, net in one hand, knapsack in the other, a big Blue Ribbon cigar clinched in his teeth, and a big grin on his face. John had a certain odor, unlike anybody else: a combination of cigar, cyanide from the killing bottles and a musty smell–tannin or leafy smell from the woods.
Juu get uurn bud? 
One twilight eve we were going moth collecting at a special sap tree that John knew about: “The moths swarmed like mad at this tree.” We were unloading the nets and a couple of cardboard boxes filled with killing bottles out of the back of John’s beat-up old 1939 Ford station wagon. About that time we saw a shadowy figure, carrying a large cardboard box, come out of the woods and get into his car. As he drove by us he slowed down and leaned out the window and hollered: “Juu get uurn bud?” We figured out a little later that the local bootleggers kept their “stash” of whisky in those woods until it was time to “run it.”The Grave Digger
One cold winter’s day we were digging Indian burials on Occoneehee Island where it was so cold the ground was frozen. Each of us was digging in our own 3 foot deep pit, using trawl and brush, and sometimes a shovel. Because the island was being used as a cow pasture there were cow chips (dried or nearly dry cow pie) everywhere. Well, after a half hour of digging, somebody–Johnny we think–tossed a cow chip at one of the nearby pits, and of course, there was retaliation: the shit was flying. Bobby Plott, whose pit opened onto Johnny’s pit, ran out of cow droppings and in frustration picked up the largest frozen clod of dirt and heaved it at John. The big clod dropped into John’s lap and broke open–exposing the best preserved skull ever unearthed on the island.Look down that lonesome Row
Arrow head hunting was a great example of how you cannot see an object (arrow head or spear point) if your mind’s eye isn’t use to seeing it… Many a newcomer would walk right over a perfect arrowhead or spear point and never see it. John would always walk where the novice had walked and find as much as if it were a virgin row. He would make a point of showing the newcomer the find, in a way that didn’t hurt their feelings. In fact, it made them a more vigilant collector. After some experience you could spot an artifact with only the minutest part showing above the dirt. Belly Wash 
We lived on junk food and “belly wash.” We rarely took any food or drink with us, we would stop at every country store we could find and stock up on every weird sweet goodie we could find. My specialty was finding exotic drinks: I discovered the original mountain dew in the Roanoke valley, it was in a light green bottle shaped like a little wine bottle – it was great tasting

John’s Wit 

–John would say: “Why, he’s so dumb he was twelve before he realized the Chamber of Commerce didn’t have handles on it.” –He was into recycling very early on, he always talked about starting a business recycling toilet paper.

–Or if you answered his question on some subject or other correctly: “You have just won a chocolate covered wristwatch.”

–John would tell the story of how his grandfather use to make home brew back during prohibition. The relatives thought it was so good that they were constantly nagging him to get a patent on the formula, to send it to the government and have it analyzed. So he sent a sample to the Department of Agriculture. After about three months he received an official looking letter from the U.S.D.A. He opened it and read it to his excited family: ” Dear sir, we are sorry to inform you that your mule has diabetes.”

–He would tell how his father had gone hunting and had killed a Moose, an Elk, and wounded a Mason.” 

–He might ask someone “Just how much would you charge to haunt a house?”

–He might play some piece of music no one had ever heard before, and title it: “When Lightning Struck the Outhouse–second movement.”

–Referring to his 39 ford station wagon, “The Crate,” and driving up mountain sides so often, he claimed he was going to write a book: “Round the World in Second Gear.” 

–If somebody passed us on the road in a hurry and somewhat recklessly, he would say “Hurry bud, you gotta get home before your beer gets warm.

Before John got wheels, we went everywhere on the bus… Then Came the “Crate.”
39 Ford station wagon
(1).. John’s beat-up 39 Ford (“Woody”) station wagon, the “Crate,” ended it’s over 400 thousand mile life …
After the Crate retired, John was given a 46 Ford station wagon which he dubbed the “Gad Wagon.”Back in 1953 we were out in the middle of hurricane Hazel, when a severe hail storm hit us denting the Crate and putting holes in its cloth covered wooden slat roof, resulting in many a wet ride after that. When it would rain Westbrook use to say it was dryer outside of the car. 
An image of John:
Westbrook, chomping down on an long-since-extinguished stub of a cigar, pontificating on some subject or other, while meticulously scrubbing a rock or pottery shard with a toothbrush under running water in the sink of his work area located in one corner of his tiny museum
Our overnight trip to Little Switzerland:Bill Hathaway, Johnny, Durwood, Billy Norman, Bobby Plott, myself and several more–who’s names escape me–went on an overnight trip to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. 

We all piled into Bill’s brand new Suburban; going from quarry to quarry and an occasional gem shop looking for mineral specimens for Bill’s Nature Specimens Unlimited enterprise. We ended up in Little Switzerland, North Carolina–just off the Sky Line Drive. 

It was the height of the tourest season, and we were mingling with some pretty well-to-do folks, some of whom were in evening cloths and headed for a jewelry auction. We did feel a little out of place…

After eating supper we all went to the local Hotel where we occupied several rooms that Bill had reserved for us. 

Here we were: young kids, away from home, in a hotel room “unsupervised”–you get the idea. 

The most vivid memory of that trip: one group of kids–Billy Norman, Bobby Plott, myself and one or two others were negotiating the extra bunk beds with little room to move around; when there came a knock on the door. I climbed over several beds and people, and opened the door–expecting the manager with eviction orders. 

There stood Johnny. He was waring only his flowered boxer shorts, a sleeveless undershirt, his white legs–briefly exposed but for the garters holding up his dark socks, his hiking brogans, a stump of a cigar in his mouth, and on his head he was holding a large painted wooden fruit bowl–upside down like a coolie hat–asking some silly question. 

Our reaction was enormous and uncontrolled!!

Up until that point in my life I don’t think I had ever experienced anything as Funny! Ever!

It broke the tension, to say the least; and with out saying so–we felt less out of place. We kind-a owned the place from there on out

M i s c

Candy and Bubble GumDuring the war when sugar was rationed and candy was very scarce, Johnny was somehow able to get his hands on candy and bubble gum and would distribute it among the kids at the various schools. Apparently he had talked the local candy distributor, K.L. Baruddy, into donating the goodies to the kids of Danville.
Snoopy’s Close Encounter of the Skunk Kind: 
Snoopy–my globe trotting dog–encountered a skunk at a feldspar quarry near Bedford, Virginia. He smelled so bad that I seriously thought of leaving him there. During the trip home he kept nuzzling me for comfort–ugg! 
.Johnny James Westbrook, Jr. 
William Taylor Hathaway 
Frank Bliss
Richard Bliss
Mclin Choate
Jimmy Graverly
Freddy Hawkins
Nathan Isenhour
Rodney Lemons 
Billy Norman
Durwood Orrell 
Bobby Plott
Glen Williamson
Plu Wiseman
 –et al.Bill Hathaway Recalls:
…Once on an outting with Westbrook, I planted a fake flower near the car while “babe brother” was taking a leak. This flower was one of those plastic, red monstrosities that are placed on grave sites. When Johnny got into the front seat and lit his cigar (for the third time) I drovc off—only to have him rave: STOP, STOP!  I glanced in the mirror and pulled over on the shoulder. Johnny returned to the car and said, “Ain’t this for the birds” and handed me the flower.  I was laughing so hard that it took me several minutes to get started back on the road. Johnny soon figured it out and appreciated the joke.

Old formatting, cannot be removed, skip to below the black rectangles for more information.
keep on scrolling down
scroll some more. Now you’ve got it!
For years I–along with everyone else who knew Johnny–hoped that a real professional writer would take pen in hand and chronicle the life of this Magnificent Soul. I make no secret that I’m disappointed that one of the most gifted writers that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, over the years, has turned it down. Without mentioning his name–if Henry had known Johnny it would be a different story! Five or six years ago–with no thought to Political Correctness–I sat down and started putting down my recollections of John and the Crud Crew. I thought that I would not remember enough to make the effort worthwhile; but to my amazement, no sooner did I get one thought down, three others would come “flooding in,” out running my ability to get it all down. To that point: I never finished fleshing-out all of the stories who’s titles appear at the end.

About a year ago I discovered the perfect home for my recollections of John–the WWW. I had it in the back of my mind that this would be ideal for a Collection of Remembrances of Johnny.

Recently a good friend–Mike King of Apex, NC–died at an early age. At the wake, I promised his father that I would write to him about my recollections of his son. I wanted his parents to view their son through the eyes of his contemporaries. I wanted them to know how well respected and loved their son was by his friends and co-workers. 

As I started writing, I realized since it had been several years since I had seen Mike, that I was at a disadvantage, and needed help. So I created a Web Page and solicited contributions in the form of stories and photographs from all of his friends. –Johnny would have really liked this guy!

Anyway, all of this is by way of saying:

I need Your help with Johnny’s Web Page.

If anyone has stories (long or short), photos, articles–anything they want to contribute to Johnny’s Page, please send them:
e-mail: glen@williamson-labs.com
U.S. Mail: Glen A. Williamson
372 Norwood Drive
Danville, VA 24540NOTE: All contributions will be Returned!

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Trivia Question of the day: What is 2290-J ?

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Coming Topics

Johnny’s “Gad Rocks”
Johnny believed that the TOOLS used by the American Indians for making arrow heads, spear points, arrow shafts, etc., consisted of a finite number of Basic Tool Shapes. He spent many years amassing evidence that indicated these basic shapes had been passed down and improved over the generations of Tool Makers, that is, the tools which were crude in the beginning–had, over ensuing generations– steadily improved in quality and utility. To make his point, he would lay out “sets” of similar shaped tools which clearly illustrated their evolution.In the area around Milton, NC, there were many great locations for collecting artifacts. Most were tobacco fields which afforded the best collecting; ones that had been freshly plowed and recently rained on. –The plow would inevitably “turn-up” hidden artifacts while the rain would wash off the top layer of dirt exposing the latest “treasures.”At one such field we were drawn there by the beautiful dark blue Amethyst quartz crystals. Some times we would find good specimens of the crystals, but many promising specimens would have a flaw–a gouge or badly abraded spot. Though collected by many of us as mineral specimens, Johnny believed these were tools–pure and simple; that the Indians only saw “our pretty blue crystals” as highly prized tough material for making their badly needed TOOLS.

John’s Book on the GuitarTo “fulfill a life long dream,” John set about writing a Book on the Guitar. Over a span of three years, he spent all his spare time–and more– writing this treatise.

In the end, a publisher thought it good enough to publish if John would “pare it down” to a single volume. At the time it would have required 3 volumes. To my knowledge, John never finished the revised single volume. It’s my guess, that his dream had been fulfilled, and he was less interested in its final publication. I don’t think he saw it as a revenue source. I know that’s not why he wrote it!

The value in this particular work–according to Johnny: it was a catalog of–as well as, a method for discovering –“Guitar Cords.” Apparently, up until that time, there were a limited number of known ways of making popular chords– fingering frets, strumming, etc. The larger the repertoire of ways of making certain chords a musician has, the better their performance. That is, it is how smoothly and how fast a Guitarist can TRANSITION from one chord to the next that affects the quality of their performance. In fact, Johnny pointed out that one of the reasons for the success of many renown Guitarists was their secret collection of ways of making Chords, and that it is was not unusual for them to take their chords to their graves.

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For Freddy from Valerie

New Year’s Eve Day and all is quiet

 

I made an unfortunate culinary choice last night. Kale salad, a bit bowl of it, as a snack around 9 pm. Never, ever, do that to yourself. Tonight, for New Year’s, it’s a festival of meat at J’s so I’ve got to get this stomach calmed down in preparation for deliciousness. Now, if you’re not from the southern US, I postulate you don’t understand MEAT for a holiday. Brisket, pork roast, ribs, name a dead animal and they’re probably smoking it or they have it already sliced, left over from the night before…

I bought a whole pound of Virginia ham at the Pig a couple days ago. I’m still reeling from the input. I made good biscuits and it’s been a joy hambisket celebration. We have eaten far too much of it. Took some over to Neighbor Fredly and he and brother Bob will be enjoying it for days to come.

Went out to the marina to take photos this week. Also went to Goose Creek State Park, does every state have a Goose Creek? A thought worth someday pursuing… anyway we saw a flock of at least two dozen turkeys out there in a field. Awesome sight. Didn’t know what the hell they were, in the beginning, one flew over the road and I thought it was a really REALLY big vulture. I’ll post photos if I can dig them out.

turkeys

Lots of them! They are quite large. I’m heard they’re tasty but I’m not much on wild game, not much of a meat eater at all, come to think of it.

That’s my New Year’s Treat for everyone.

that’s enough for now.

Holiday Cheers

My holiday went amazingly well. Probably helped by really Good Uncle Val’s Gin and some Provigil. My mind was alert, my family was loving, and the food was incredible. Daughter roasted oysters and a GIANT ASS prime rib, cost them $150 for the MEAT. It was an incredible beast. We roasted oysters outside on the smoker. The big ass smoker. Everyone stood/sat on porch, talking and laughing. Sharing food is the best way to share love.

It wasn’t about gifts. It was about fellowship.

now here’s your funny, right now its #1 trending topic on Facebook, over 300K shares and money being raised in $5 increments. Wonder how much $$ he’ll raise.

https://www.gofundme.com/support-tunnels-under-trumps-wall

yup, GoFundMe to support tunnels under Trump’s wall. Very clever. Fund’s owner says to give to ACLU, it’s a better use of your money.

It’ll be time to go to daughter’s house to help with creation of “den” out of old bedroom. Furniture to be moved means lots of dust bunnies to conquer and probably loads of dog/cat hair. Not looking forward to it but they asked for our help, so we go. We’re going to need #1 grandson in a few days to remake our bed, so they’ll be some task sharing going on.

Got Christmas email from friend on Christmas Eve and it made my melancholy go away. I was feeling kinda’ alone around 10 pm, when I really should have been getting ready for bed but instead watched the Dr. Who Christmas episode marathon on BBC television. Such great episodes, classics. I miss my parents during the holidays. They always made them so special. We’d leave on the 26th to drive from Arkansas to Ohio and stay until New Year’s Day. We’d always drive back in the middle of all that traffic, but Daddy handled it like a pro.

It’s funny, I never felt reduced by that abrupt departure for the land of cousins, I felt joyous. Always nervous, always anxious, each year my cousins (aunt/uncle) greeted us with such joy. We would have such fun, usually going downtown Cincinnati at least one time, just to see the fountain and to go out to eat somewhere with white tablecloths and fancy food. I remember ordering spaghetti almost every time but my brother would grouse because he couldn’t get a cheeseburger and my dad would cajole him into something else. These weren’t the years of kid menus, this was before all that, the 1960s. No fast food in my childhood. We always went to real restaurants.

Daddy loved his food. If they went on a trip, say to Berlin or somewhere exotic like Maui, he would always come back and tell us what he ate. Mom, charged with telling us all they did, all they saw, would just smile as he told of ice cream or some weird food dish … she was not impressed, nor was Daddy come to think of it, by the food in Berlin. This was the year before the Wall came down.

Now there’s a thought… how well did that Wall work out for the populations on either side of it. Why do we celebrate the destruction of the Berlin Wall while arguing we need to build one on  our southern border. Makes no sense to me. Walls are oppression, giant signs of oppression. Tear down that wall… and all that.

Mom and Dad said the Berlin Wall was quiet imposing. Daddy got stopped by security, going through the metal detectors (in 1985, I think) because he had steel-toed shoes. I don’t know what he was thinking … but it scared the hell out of them both. Apparently he was held at gun point until they figured out where the signal came from. They also visited CheckPoint Charlie, not even sure if that still exists. When traveling into East Berlin, they were only able to go to a restaurant, Daddy said you didn’t tip there and the service was awful because of it. No incentive to take care of the customer.

Now Hawaii was another story! Daddy didn’t like poi and he talked about the Spam, they went to the University of Hawaii for some classes in native arts. Most everywhere they traveled, it was a learning experience, a trip done by ElderHostel. The service is still available, only now it’s called RoadScholar and it’s quite expansive. I looked at trips you can take with grandchildren, age appropriate journeys that seem quite wonderful. I’ll probably never go on one with the boys, but it would be something to do if we ever got VA money. R seems convinced we will, he won’t give up on it. I, on the other hand, have stopped believing in good things and am concentrating on living in the now, with what we have now.

We’ll have limited funds to take care of house so we must choose our repairs wisely. We need new outside siding replaced and obviously the house needs painting but we won’t be able to afford that. We’ll get Aaron to help replace the bathroom floor, once we have Jerry replace, or simultaneously replace, the toilet in there. The floor is squishy and the toilet is definitely leaking. We have no idea when the one will get here, the Social Security statement we received said they were “holding it” with no mention of dispersal. Apparently there’s a 120 limit, which puts us in late spring for it. The monthly payments of social security disability were changed to the 3rd of the month and now coincide with the usual social security disability payments we are accustomed to… so far it looks as if we’ll get to keep our EBT going but I doubt that will exist into 2019. Just a feeling, I don’t take anything for granted any more.

We’re going to give C4 $100 month, in cash, by the 5th of the month, so she can budget for it. I think her dad’s giving her a bit each month too, so maybe she can hang on. She’s filed for disability, but we all know that takes years. She’s so sick right now, I’m really worried. She will wear a heart monitor for 2 weeks to try to figure out why she gets so dizzy upon standing. Her B/P is normal so there’s concern for vascular (?) problems associated with the EDS. The doctor thinks it POTS, which is not uncommon  in someone with EDS. Bless her, I wish I could do more for her. Her failing business isn’t helping any and I fear she’ll walk away from it soon.

We received $150 gift card from Amazon from JA for Christmas. Bought a metal bed frame for us, now we can get the mattress/box springs off the floor. They’ve been on the floor, we got rid of the bed because the slats were bad on it — but mostly we got rid of the bed because Thompson was too old and ill to jump up on it. He’s been dead for a couple years now, so it’s time to go back to grown up bed construction. The frame cost around $80 and I ordered a set of sheets to go with it, they were another $70. Good sheets are really hard to find on Amazon. So many of the ones for sale are cheap microfiber and not 100% cotton. Hence the expense. You can buy $35 sheets all day long but if you read the comments, you know they’re shit. I found some manufactured in India with GOT certification which means some kind of organic, nature friendly, real cotton signifier. I just hope they’re decent because returning them will be a hassle, it is always a hassle to return stuff.

I really thought for a long time on what to spend the money on … clothes, shoes, an Instant Pot, then I realized what we needed, just by surfing around and spending time knowing I don’t need any new clothes and my shoes are sufficient. I bought a new pair of Skechers’s boots a while back and while they’re a bit uncomfortable, they look really nice and I can handle wearing them.

Neighbor Peggy had a giant Christmas gathering of many family members. I went over there to deliver her present, trash removal for another year, and she showed off the card, telling everyone how thrilled she was to receive it. She had carpal tunnel surgery on the 4th and I need to remember to coordinate some meals or whatever with her daughter. She’s 80, don’t expect her to bounce back but I keep telling her, lying of course, that my surgery went well and I was able to use my hand in the cast. The truth is my basal thumb surgery turned bad, went awful, kept me in bed for 6 weeks because I couldn’t move my hand, not a bit, because the pin they placed in it kept moving and the surgeon/PA didn’t believe me. They’d take X-rays and tell me it was in place. God almighty it hurt. I took a lot of pain pills back then and nothing helped. I finally begged them to take the pin out and they did but not until weeks of pain had gone by.

Peggy’s carpal tunnel is a different kind of surgery. She’s having it here in town. I wonder if she wants me to take her? Nah, her daughter will do it.

D is back on the active list for liver transplant surgery. Don’t know how they are affording all that’s going on with him but he has Medicare and that should be covering lots of it. I know C had to raise $5K just to get him on the list. I continue to pray for his recovery and his going back on the active list is such a great sign of maybe maybe maybe his recovery. His kidneys have shut down in reaction to the liver failure, but it is supposed they will be ok once he gets his transplant. He’s on dialysis now. He’s also in Duke, not local, can’t imagine what a toll that is taking on C. He must be very lonely. He had a tablet, last time I visited him in local hospital, but said it was too heavy to hold. I hope he can hold it now because I know he enjoys silly games like those bubble smash things, the candy whatever games.

On our way to J/A’s to help with the den. It’s a labor of love, we certainly don’t get anything out of it except the satisfaction of helping someone do something they can’t do without us.

I guess that’s what life’s really about, isn’t it?

onward and upward, will write more soon. If you’re reading this, know it is my journal, my stream of consciousness fun time.