A Summer Surge 2019

Life at 60,  plus…

Ten years ago at 57 and 31 years on the job I was fortunate to walk away from the City of Asheville Fire Department – there were places that I wanted to see and things on the list.  I have accomplished a good number of them.  Retired life is good for sure, doing more ancestry study (familysearch.org) continues to remind me that this time of life can’t be stretched into forever, with that said – I wish you happiness when your Plateau arrives.

I’ve noticed that our cat Otis favors peace and things that move slow; it seems noise and motion mess up his naps.  Well I’ve come to the spot in life that I don’t totally disagree with the concept even though the nap thing is yet to arrive – I call it a 30 minute ‘sit-down’ (sometime between 12 and 2pm).  I enjoy sound; noise is something different. Retirement is an area that the cat concept could easily creep into ones lifestyle – anyway, the general summer atmosphere around the lake is cat-like.


Home base is within the foothills of SC aside a small mountain lake where we have pretty much shunned metro motion and unnecessary noise – the place where most folks make their living, been there..  Entertainment at the lake is cheap – like noticing the southern air creating gentle waves that roll northward through the day. As the evening sets in, air cools and reverses course down the mountain slopes and back across the lake – the waves shift south like the changing of the gulf tide. Then somewhere in the night, life levels out.

In the summer neighbors come to their cabins for the weekend and make noise, mostly the laughter kind.  In the winter – it’s what kind of duck is migrating through. Loons, wood-ducks, herons, coots, buffle-heads, and hooded merangers. Eagles and Ospreys have made their appearances too – once even a brown pelican showed up after a storm and hung around for a couple weeks (Kim’s “Penguin” story).

Each February we head for creek-week in Florida but in 2019 we remained stationary ($Health insurance, $taxes, Hawaii) – I didn’t regret hanging around one little bit. But the challenge we have identified while living at the lake is – Where else do you go for vacation? – we seem to have all we need right here!

And then came spring and the ‘skunk fest,’ the ‘back to abnormal’ weekend….

No different in April 2019, our 12th (6 years spring and fall), it’s cool..

Sure it’s a little ‘off-the-wall’ if you’re from the city, but it’s also neat, and very real. “Live humans making music,” along with folks of all mindset (kid friendly event) being entertained a very cool setting while simply being their-selves.

There’s a tone of gentle conversation and casual festivities floating in the air, easy to breathe stuff like that. The privately organized venue began as bluegrass but has grown into a mixture of local and touring musicians gaining their foothold in something that means a lot to them; making and sharing their music.



We use the RV; camping is available and many come for each day. It runs Thursday through Saturday in April and October. The Albino Skunk Music Festival.

‘like I said, enjoy; and at least twice a year – ‘set it free…


A few days later it was off to Delaware where we find a second tiny oasis on this planet.

Believe me, I’d really love to be out there running the highways, I miss it – but this is pretty good stuff too.


I found plenty to do there in my ‘cave.’  Doors open early with coffee, upright and working on something, thinking cap a little later.  There’s plenty to do surrounding the place, in between there are other pending tasks before getting back to those projects I haven’t finished yet (or I could be hunting my coffee cup, or the last tool that I was using).

In my garage I have a tractor, refrigerator, a shower, a table, a ‘crib,’ and a loft with a soft horizontal spot (for that ’20-minute sit-down’) –


but most of all, I still have the ability to enjoy this stuff; and I am grateful for that.

Here’s a thought too, when you reach your Plateau – with a spouse – have more than one roof. At the lake I have 4 other roofs to go to during the daylight hours (shed, boathouse, garage, dock); in Delaware I have a great garage – she can do whatever she wants to do in the house.  What I’m implying; is that a single roof for two retired folks can be unnerving for some souls.  Maybe later, but for now “shoot for more space to piddle” and spend your time ‘upright.’

In 2019 I built yet another roof – a corn-crib, well really a wood-crib as Kim took three weeks to babysit in Hawaii (yes).  Scott/Patti (in-laws) moved back from Kansas and cleared some of the trees near their home; a sorely needed one of ours too (thanks).

Scott had a badass wood splitter and I had the time; so that was on the ‘whenever’ agenda for me.  After heating with and spitting many loads of wood by hand in the late 70’s – I actually enjoyed (yes I enjoyed) lugging the chunks into the clutch of the splitter and watching the wedge sink without remorse into the solid stumps of wood – shredding them to stove-size pieces.  URRRR..  Life is good.


New batteries in golf-cart, positioned a wood-stove for the fall, and thinned out some underbrush in the woods nearby.

Had a few fires too; “let’s burn one.”  In early June our piles held wood too wet to burn, the flame dimmed, so we rounded up Otis and returned to the lake.

There we found two months of cobwebs; the shop-vac ran late into the night and the cat took care of the lower ones…

Long-time friends from FM Al and Ava came through; the draw-down before the surge was on.


Like-minded friends from yesterday just headed for today; always special to have them stop and put their feet in the air.

The stove broke down the first day and me being too cheap to go down and buy a heating element for 50 bucks ordered one online for 16; delivery in 4 days.


The delay was no bother – these folks adapt pretty well, the grill in the crab-shack worked just fine – more dock time…..

We had some boathouse moments and a ride to Clemson……


Oconee fish hatchery,  and an ice stop at family Dollar – ‘peeps’

There were some crusty sailors down at the shack  (myself, Dewey, and Al).


Feet-up Al…. you’ll find your plateau, and you can call it “Al’s world.”


Then came July 4th, an unexpected but very welcomed family Surge for the forth of July, 2019

1907-Haynies 2019-_60A5085.


Jessica came from Colorado with the Carr family, Melissa from Charlotte with the Coates, and Gray came from Hawaii with the Haynie’s…  with them like the gulf tide came the’ little-fingerprints, little-footprints, wet towels, and that laughter – my favorite universal noise of all…. the surge was on.   GK’s flying into the water, and under – it was the best!


Having a few gold painted rocks with $ signs on them gave them plenty of swimming objectives – Rylie came out the biggest $ winner this year, but with hours and days of water world – they each increased their basic aquatic skills… daylight to dark without a single meltdown….. Joy.


Many simple moments that continue to grow as the memories touch our hearts.



1907-Haynies 2019-_60A4931

The kids played unabated in the water and out. Like a lifeguard, I’ve learned that a grandparent is there for their safety; not to give parenting directives – and I’m ok with this role.  “Go ahead and jump if you want”…..  My cousin James always gave me that area of support – and he was there if needed…

Gray had some Coast Guard friends (Andrew, Danielle) come by with their family, nice day, and visit.

Janis, Mom and Kristi came by for brood review. We had a large taco salad and Mom had her steak; she still likes her mmmmeat! (well done).


Janis and Richard remained all afternoon challenging the kids with games – in Yahtzee; James and Rylie prevailed.


a mat moment without the kids ….

James found some BB time and took aim….


Hunter bounced from activity to activity – settling in with the cousins and continuously singing something like “I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road, and riiiddee”…


Checker mates..


Garage review….

One morning Melissa mentioned that something had drug 40# of dog food across our porch (we live next to a National Forest) – it did not get into the container so I turned on my driveway cam the next day expecting to find a small bear or something wandering around; this is the activity I found…








Human critter activity…..








– If they weren’t in the water – they were tossing the ball, or playing hoops .. Wyatt made plenty of ‘buckets!’






– Neat to see the fun we might otherwise have missed… kids organizing their own games…..







And the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner is?








We had plenty of family time, hoop time, paddle time, golf and dock time – with smores – before two families had to go…


and then the critters parted…


We really are so proud of our children and their families – awesome folks….





Two really short days later…





The population in Hawaii went up by 4;  while at the lake the summer surge settled – flat-water returned


– and it all became a memory, a very good memory




Lake dreams

I’m Not Getting On No Airplane!…


    (well I didn’t say ‘never’) but if you want to get to Hawaii……..

Not that I hate airplanes – I just love seeing all the stuff on the ground much better.  Also, being raised in Florida – Hawaii’s tropical climate never really held a ‘draw’ for me, not on ‘my list.’

It took having a son living there, and going for a month – for me to get on one of them ‘alumium’ creatures. I figured it was like climbing one of those 100′ ladders at the Fire-Department; others have done it – so can you.

Our first move from SC was with leaving our cat at home (alone), yes we left Otis on his own for a month.  Now he did have a cat-door and run of the whole garage when needed, also someone would check on him every few days…  This cat wandered in to us a couple years back – he knows the life.

With an early flight from Atlanta our lake neighbors put us up for the night – really nice home with lots of people in that city. The next morning we left our car with them and rode MARTA (mass transport) through Atlanta to the airport; dressed for Hawaii, this was a mini adventure in itself.  Thank you so much Mark and Freda.

Atlanta to Honolulu was aboard a triple-seven for 9.5 hours – zone-loading, a few (hope this thing holds together) bumps over the mountain ranges, a ‘crowded’ feel to the seats.. I think the phrase came to mind of a “cattle-car” feel to the setting.  There were indeed nice folks serving sporadic snacks and drinks all while telling dumb jokes and smiling the whole trip – as for the passengers in my immediate vicinity – they were all civil….

The flight across the Pacific took as much time as crossing the US, 4 and a half hours (x2). The little movies on the back of the seats were helpful, even though I was more tuned into the flight-tracker..  Interesting, but I sure was happy to hear that all-clear for landing 200 miles out; Oahu, a little speck of land in the big ocean calling us in.

The change of weather was immediate; it was humid and strikingly warm on arrival – and where I felt a little out of place in my flowerdy shirt and shorts in Atlanta, it all came together on Oahu.  Gray and Hunter gave us a wonderful island welcome to Hawaii

Then drove us past five or six waterfalls on the way to his home in Kaneohe …

Gray had the penthouse room in the basement all ready for us, clean and freshly painted; it worked really perfect in keeping us out of Licia’s hair (we were there a month!) and providing us plenty of time in the mornings to sit back with a cup of coffee “feet-up” while peering into the volcanic ridges – before heading upstairs for the day…

I was looking at a place fifty million years old – young in comparison to the continental US.  Closer at hand (and just over his fence) was a much younger yet loaded avocado tree (right) that had me yearning for a salt-shaker, a spoon, and one of those large avocados the whole time we were there….. The neighbor finally gave us six of them a couple days before we left, taking several days to ripen when off the vine – I never got to eat one.. drat

The first week Gray took some time off work to drive us on as many different roads and byways as he could, maybe to confuse us but then maybe he just really had alot to show us.  We took it all in, and it was good to notice the ‘way of life’ for modern Hawaiians..

In driving through the large cemetery on Veterans day; I was truly moved to see the families spending hours sitting, even picnicking graveside with their belated loved ones. It was special to see.

And maneuvering through and around the city of Honolulu where I figured any continental driver could easily present a middle finger while driving; I saw only gestures of kindness and understanding.  The ‘shaka‘ sign of ‘hello’ and welcome was always ‘right there,’ nice.  We felt only warmth and caring from many we would never know – it was special to be a part of that culture.

As Hunter returned to school, his little sister Monroe accompanied us on our daily ventures. This day was through the Honolulu Home Depot, a couple thrift stores, the Coast Guard Base and a quick stop at a marina restaurant nearby….

One day we rode out to nearby Lanikai to walk the beach and view those two iconic islands offshore; ‘the mokes.’

One daughter Melissa had lived a block away from here for three years – I was feeling pretty guilty about this time for not making the trip when she was out here.

I guess that second or third bathing suit (or lack of) that walked by woke me from that family guilt…  The beach was beautiful, just I had seen in all of Melissa (and Jessica’s) pictures – I finally made it.  As for the bathing suits – before the end of the visit it was simply commonplace; just another ‘butt.’

There was lots of culture, tourists – from all countries but predominately Asian, and lots of stickers too, – cool.

Another day we drove the south-side of Oahu  – beautiful water, beaches, turtle lagoons and views.

What a joy this little girl was, Monroe. She had just turned one-year old and we were able to keep an eye on her our entire visit. Not once did she complain, whine, cry, or show any sign of being embarrassed being while out with her grandparents; she was awesome… Love.

I learned that there are no snakes on the islands, I liked that, not that they really bother me – but yet one less concern.  But what there is – are cats!.  I’m ok with a cat, but I love my birds and lizards too – here I saw too many feral cats roaming around eyeing the local doves and crested cardinals.  There is such a thing as too many….

Football on TV – in the mornings! Yes, the other thing I liked about Hawaii is that with the time difference (5 or 6 hours behind) College or NFL football began at seven o’clock in the mornings! I was even able to complete the entire evening game (they came on at three)…  I liked.

One Saturday we meet up with several of Gray’s co workers to tailgate and attend a UH college game, vs UNLV.  The guys were awesome with their cooking and hospitality.  Once the game began we all sat up back behind the large replay screen – and Hawaii made a heck of a comeback. UH won in the last quarter (and I never got to see any replays). It was different, but I was able to watch the complete game (with replays) the next morning on TV….

We visited the museum and cultural center in downtown Honolulu, very interesting.  It was two or three hours of some interesting artifacts from the eastern island cultures – once again Monroe just absorbed it all with us.

We attended and watched several practices as Hunter showed an interest in learning the necessary discipline of karate.

They trusted us with preparing their child for school too, one morning Hunter comes out of his room with his backpack on so we take him to school.  Later in the afternoon when picking him up he says “hey grampa, Why did you take me to school with my pajamas on?#!”  We didn’t have a clue (but I’m sure he was the most comfortable boy in the class).

Hunter otherwise had all the energy of a five-year old ‘jumping-bean’ of a boy… Walking him a mile home from school was my way of getting some of that bounce out (I really enjoyed the walks too). Another day we returned to Lanikai, as we walked the beach Hunter ran along waist deep in water – before leaving we were all in the water with him.

The ‘Pillbox’ with WW2 history as next.  Gray knew where to park and we took off up the Kaiwa ridge trail, a well used trail that is sometimes knee deep in weeds (remember, no snakes).

It was a beautiful walk and view over the Pacific.  Many use it for exercise but the trail is well worn from a multitude of tourists too..

At home I noticed a Dad’s time-out, very proud of Gray and the father he has become.

On yet another day we found the Hawaiian Railway society.

With roots from the early 1900’s, the little train’s open cars were a very entertaining (and inexpensive) way to spend a few weekend hours. We figured it would relax the kids, but the little trip up the coast and back ended up providing an entertaining afternoon for the adults too..

“Petticoat Junction”…

So do they have Walmart in Hawaii? yes! – this gal apparently ‘shopped till she dropped.’ As for prices, I found the prices (of all but housing) to be more reasonable than I was led to believe..

Walmart kinda fit, after all – we went to Hawaii the mindset (and the ability) to see life like locals rather than tourists – and we did. A couple things that come to mind; ‘Abandoned cars; sometimes its cheaper/easier to just leave one on the island than to ship it back. Seems like a good recycling business for someone, but then some make good homes for #2 – the ‘homeless‘ – not only in Honolulu but dotting the islands shores. I suppose the weather is perfect for pushing your collected belongings around on a loaded shopping-cart. Its not something that I would know how to fix, but it is something that reminds me of how very fortunate I am to live within my own simple means.

We did manage a wonderful month on the island at reasonable expense; thanks big-time to Licia’s cooking….

Hooray! its Monday.. Mom and Dad’s gone to work, brother’s in school, and I’m ready to play!!

So we did; we also walked some local streets, visited some local stores.  Monroe was my ‘babe-magnet,’ when walking through a store these tropically dressed ladies always seemed to be drawn over to admire the babe Monroe…

There was a Christmas caroling evening with the marine band on the base and we were able to catch part of it – but walking through the commissary of the base was interesting too. Our service personnel have some much deserved perks on their bases…

Kim and I took a day to drive along the shoreline up to the ‘North shore’ of Oahu where the largest waves and all the main surfing takes place.

There were busy beaches and several others where we simply stopped and parked our butts in the sand to absorb the surroundings – for hours.

Kim enjoying her surroundings (I found shade) – then off to Ted’s Bakery, this is a must stop to eat if in the area..

We also some time at Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial, this was definitely on our ‘list.’

The memorial itself was under repair – some disappointment with that part, but the boat-ride and information provided at shipside was worth the visit.

Stopping later to watch a Clemson game at Hooters; there were folks receiving an Hawaiian hula welcome as they boarded the dinner cruise immediately beside us..

On our last day Gray found time to take us on another short hike which Kim could enjoy

– before visiting the Bydo-In Temple nearby. This was a beautiful temple modeled after an eleventh-century temple in Japan.  The setting was reverent and tranquil.

Hunter fed the birds by hand,

and they both fed the huge goldfish (carp) that were in the moat..

The plane ride back was pretty cool too, stopping at LAX before returning to Atlanta.

There sure is alot of light-bulbs on in LA at night; looking out the planes window I also saw those burning in Albuquerque and Memphis too as we passed over. Earlier in the month I had noticed on social media a few clips of pilots working through some pretty hairy crosswinds on landing; and those before Atlanta received my real-time attention

Woooo coming in, touch-down.

With just a little effort, we found our car and drove 2.5 hours back to the lakehouse where Otis welcomed us home.

Monroe at One year old

Hunter about the same age.


We really loved and appreciated our visit with family in Hawaii, thanks for making it a very special time. Proud of you each Gray and Licia – proud of your family and your accomplishments.  You done good, and thank-you. 


Almost A ‘Snowbird’

‘Snowbird’ (snou-burd); An old person who migrates to Florida for the cold winter months – (being a native Floridian; this is the kindest definition).


Florida in February…

Milson Inc.

“Back in the day”….I drove a semi hauling produce to the Northeast and Midwest – spent most of the seventies pretty much living in the truck; it was easy.  I had my bed, my picture window (windshield), and stuff going on all around me. I had all that I needed.  As the crops moved northward – so did I. Florida Tomatoes; South Georgia watermelons;  Carolina cucumbers; Ohio radishes; Wisconsin cucumbers – then back again the following year..  Following, loading, hauling, and returning.


I suppose what I’m getting at is that I’m pretty comfortable sleeping on a river bank or somewhere down a highway – it’s not a big deal…


Fargo, Ga – after dropping out of the Carolina mountains, we stopped in a pretty much abandoned park along highway 441, at the top of the Suwannee river.  I love to hear the trains too, they are a part of my family and seemingly a part of everywhere I want to sleep – trains and/or owls…..

As a boy I was privy to a ‘railroad conversation; a story between two Uncles on how the rails could ‘sing’ long before a train would actually arrive.  Over the years and many railroads later; I had never experienced it. In Fargo this night, sleeping practically beside the railroad tracks and through the long silence stretches of that southern Georgia night, I slept.  Better yet, I learned exactly what my Uncles were talking about..  zzzzz….

Many miles away the faded horn of a train rippled through the silence of the night – it was nearing; closer and closer..  The nearby rails hummed then hit a higher octave as the train got really near – then they whined, almost to a ring as the train thundered pass.  A railroad man could easily describe the vibrations as ‘singing.’  The rails sang before the train arrived and faded as the train distanced into the night, anyway – I’ve heard the rails ‘sing.’

There were at least six trains that night, two were freight – the rest because of their speed I felt were passenger; a busy North to South night – all pretty neat in its own subconscious way.

Such is the mental compost of this nomadic ‘snowbird.’

I laugh too when I tell folks that since having an RV I can now make the same 12-hour trip that I once made in a car – in two or three days…. “Life at 60.

Top of the Suwannee to you….


A ‘why-not’ stop at the local cemetery in Newberry, Fl – to visit a few of those from my Mom’s past – the Hilliard clan, mostly railroad folks.  I guess it was a migration of folks that in some way we can all associate with; the one we know.  In the 1800’s her folks were part of settling Waycross, Ga and Hilliard, Fla laying track southward and migrating even further into to the untamed territory of Florida..


Lakeland, Fl

Those of the railroad within the Hilliard family were track-laying crew ‘Captains,’ conductors and firemen of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad – it was a family thing of that era.

66 fm train

In 1966 (that’s Kristi my sister) I rode free with my Uncles from SW Florida to Atlanta, 24-hours on the train, neat stuff.  In the 1970’s my Uncles retired..


but onward down the road to Hub-cap hill..


A stop in the wide open mid-Florida pines to visit a schoolmate of years past and walk his place.  FMHS70, Danny’s doing well and was mighty proud of his fresh new shop.

I would be too – Awesome, I know what its like to not have a garage – I didn’t have one for thirty years, now I have a couple.  It does a man good to go piddle in his own garage…. a fine place to be..

Dan’s done well; his old-friend Jim had stopped by too – a three down chopper survivor and POW of the Vietnam era; great guy and Sa-lute!  Thank’s Jim, job well done..  We had a great burger and a beer nearby at Willards – before moving on down the road…  good stuff, thanks Dan, and Jim

Dunnellon, Fl – and a coffee-stop with Cousin Butch and Ollie – I kidded Butch that I had seen enough Hilliard tombstones and wanted to see a live ‘one,’ visits with cousins are always special – and Butch, (Uncles Lester’s son) was always a character.

Moving south towards our goal of Arcadia, Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs came as a surprise. Running early, I had hoped to just pull in and ‘waste a day’ and night near the boat ramp of the Peace river – simply looking for some of that ‘ramp’ entertainment.

The park had turned more commercial than on my last visit.. There was a large flock of snowbirds (northern RV’ers) on the hill out in the open and well, that just just doesn’t fit my migration pattern yet.  As I pulled away to leave the park I found a ranger and learned that I could park anywhere along the water that I wanted.

Not needing hookups for a night we found a neat place by the water and ‘spread out.’…

It was a relaxing evening by the water; really close bird and gator watching from a chair with a beverage… and I never thought that Zolfo Springs had anything to offer.

Super bowl Sunday, Beef O Brady’s Arcadia, Fl.  Because of the anthem protests I hadn’t watched the NFL all 2017 season, so I was ready to watch A game.  Had a fine time too – and for me, because Kim didn’t feel up to watching it (stayed in the RV) – everything was ‘half-price!’

It was fun falling off my bar-stool with the chicken-wing and beer crowd of Arcadia (I sprang to my feet“dilly-dilly!”)  Can’t lean too far back or forward on one of those things…. but I fit in…. didn’t really matter which way the game went and on this night – The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots…

Fisheating Creek – Palmdale, Fla

A week tucked into one little corner of the world; just close enough to my hometown of Ft Myers to feel the same weather – far enough away not to hear the sounds of my memories drowned in today’s reality (but a train’s ok, go figure).

As Al, Ava, Kim and I sat in our quiet corner of the park another couple began backing their camper into the site beside us – “Why?” do they have to stop here?, “Why can’t they go to the other quiet area of the park?” leave us in peace… these were all quiet little tones creeping through each of our minds and thoughts – a natural inclination I hope.

We maintained ‘polite’ and watched the ‘circus’ of another parking (much like the activity at the boat-ramp).  In reality there is little choice to who parks near or beside you in a campground.. it’s just a part of it.

Well doggone if it didn’t turn out to be a couple more friends from “back in the day” – we hadn’t seen Bill and Betty in 37 years!

Kim took the picture which by chance neared an older image of 1981….

So it was “all good” and we spent the day watching the local Owl while laughing about all the snarly tidbits that we had shared as these ‘strangers’ pulled in beside us.  Fun, plus it sure was good to catch up on some lost years while visiting with folks that make up the fabric of many memories from years past.  Maybe it’s a test of sorts…

On the second day Bill and Betty moved on to Disney-world with their Grand-kids. Then with a little coffee Ava  got into the breakfast groove.  We had several mornings to refine a ‘camp-mix’ breakfast thing; I think we came up with something….

While Ava ran some errands Kim and Otis watched the shade move.


and Al and I went up the creek….

with a paddle.  The area was hit hard during the 2017 Hurricane IRMA, but the campground has returned and seems to be in great working order.  The creek itself is unchanged and remains a fine place for a short canoe or kayak trip. This year the water was a little low, the water was condensed and there were some healthy gators lining its shores…

When I was young the lack of gators became a concern – so hunting was very limited if any.  With that protection the gators have made a comeback and in some places you might try some real ‘gator tail,’ if properly cooked its some good eating….

another fine week had passed. Great to visit with Al and Ava and other friends from the past – great to be able to share such amicable visits with long time friends

Somewhere in the morning I trimmed my whiskers; then ‘Locke’ and Patsy came through, really special effort – it all made our trip almost complete. There’s a few more yet I’d like to see yet….

It brings to mind a story that a neighbor told me of my late Dad.  On a trip back to his hometown in Georgia, Dad went to visit a boyhood friend that he hadn’t seen in many, many, years – unannounced. He found his friend, I’m sure Dad called him by name and could imagine them coming face to face.  Two men in their eighties looked long and hard into each other faces when my Dad’s friend finally asked “should I know you?” Dad mentioned who he was; and through those same eyes their friendship from long past returned – once boys, now old men – and they cried. (true story)

Now I don’t look to hug and cry, but I know probably like my father had learned – that we only have a few cherished opportunities to visit people and places of our past…do it. (a.k.a. ‘little circles’)

Mulberry Fl


a few hours with Kim’s sister Barb – and Duane

Wekiwa Springs State Park –

Three days and two nights at Wekiwa Springs, near Apopka and an old family favorite Kelly Park.  This Park being so close to civilization has scared me away, but it was the path of our next destination and we had the time.

It was also a good opportunity to size-up things for a return trip to paddle that stretch of rock springs run.


Lake Harney – 151 acres of wetland.

This is something that my father left on his passing, my sisters and I share interest in it and we needed to make a yearly visit to clear some paths.

It actually has some perks; its a great place to stop and put your ‘feet-up’ while enjoying some of the finest inland marsh along Lake Harney and the St Johns river.  Native wildlife is abundant, it is eagle habitat, and there are many other critters moving about – it’s native, like real Floridians remember!

Our critter Otis came with us, he did awesome. It was questionable whether he would make the trip – as he did two years ago.  I told Kim before we left that if he ‘took off,’ I was only going to go look for him a limited time; Otis must’ve overheard us because he did excellent and stayed close…

We almost left here a day early, but after a trip down to the Jolly Gator bar and restaurant we decided to stay another night – best decision yet!


A change of beverage, a peaceful scene


– and a small fire.

Thus began one of the better nights of sky-watching that Kim and I could remember enjoying together –

It was the best way to end this fledgling ‘snowbird’ lap of Florida.



Just another part of the journey; Life at 60 (mph)



Woodrow ‘Lee’ Coleman 1953 – 2017



 “Lee” Coleman;  1953 – 2017

50 Hilliards

This has to start with the Hiram/Ruby Hilliard clan from the Winston/Kathleen area of Florida, near Lakeland.  A railroad family, Lee’s mom (Elsie) and my own (Marie) were two of the eight children (Irene, Eva, Ester, “Buddy,” Jack, Bob, Marie, and Elsie).  This cast was full of characters; good southern food, hard love, and heartfelt laughs; kinda like M&M’s, hard on the outside but really soft and good on the inside.

The families gathered almost every year for at least one holiday – ‘packs’ of kids would scamper through the grandparents home ‘slamming‘ the screen door on each pass; driving poor old “HP” nuts.  On those visits we shattered every semblance of peace and stillness that they had worked so hard to enjoy..  As too we are now learning as grand-parents ourselves; ‘LOVE’ to see them come; love to see them go.”

For us; they are the most wonderful memories in the best of this families cycle.

Being an air-force brat Lee’s family (The Coleman’s) traveled more than a lot – we envied them for their travels, so when they did make the reunions – we ran as wildly through the orange groves as we did our grandparents home.  With a new electric fence in the neighborhood we lured unsuspecting cousins into range – was more than a lot of excitement for our simple bunch.

Being close in age, Lee and I lost close contact through the years, yet having many things in common and parents to keep us informed; we were separate but acutely aware of each others whereabouts.

Through the years; funerals of those wonderful Aunts and Uncles added up; Lee made more than I and was always there when I did show

In the year 2000 Lee and his family visited our home in NC, wife Sandy, Westley, AAron and Lauren.  We had so much in common.  We spent a few days catching up on the years, extended family, and then out of kindness he left me a really nice leather jacket – he cared.

After that and from time to time, Lee would surprise me with a call out of nowhere “happy birthday Tom!” – I loved, and very much appreciated it.


Facebook arrived providing an easier avenue for us to reconnect even visiting with Lee several times over the past ten years; he shared his life with me.  While visiting,  we walked a mile or so to the beach at Jupiter stopping at the local thrift-stores along the way.  Lee shared stories of that extended family – increasing the admiration that I hold for Sandy. We joked about the past while skipping through the many interests and traits that we shared.

His occupation was aircraft interiors, and he was good at it – I suppose some of that hard shell of the Hilliard’s and Coleman’s had made him really good at what he did; quality control.  On one visit I rode along to Miami to inspect some aircraft seats for a customer – he was really tough on those guys finding things that I would have never spotted.  Lee was direct and “picky” for others to meet the expectations – great for his employer.

We were tough on our kids too.  Our fathers were are part of the ‘tough-love’ generation; instilling within us not to be “cry baby’s,” observe before speaking, and to do as told – without question. We were diligent employees and workers – for we expected to work our entire life – we were expected to exceed..

Well, we did the best we could with those; as grandparents we learned that ‘tough-love’ was easier to receive than to give; grandchildren easily became the soft-spot in our lives.

Lee came home early from his 6-month “project” in Texas, with throat cancer.  There’s no easier way to say it – no way around it.  Over the past year he and I communicated through text and private messages; his battle was real.  Lee; a “dreadful disease that I wouldn’t wish on anyone” (5/10/2017)

Lee lost that battle a month after turning 64, – in looking at a few of his last photos – I could see that Lee took his circumstance like a man. In my cousins eyes, I could sense a certain bitterness (comes from our family); who wouldn’t hate the burden this ‘dreaded disease’ puts on any family?

He wanted so much more time with his family.

One day I’m going to cry me a river, and its going to flow like the Mississippi.  My lifelong buddy and cousin, Lee Coleman; will be a large part of that current of tears.

Tough-love sucks.

The gathering was simple, where Lee and I had once sat discussing family and extended family – this family mingled; they were each remarkable.


Above are some of the original Hilliard links, Lees immediate family had multiple links – and it was really great to meet those that we hadn’t before – family from afar.


I understand why Lee was so proud of each…..

I didn’t take alot of pictures; I think I was somewhat in a daze with how fast the past year had come – and left this void.

If your wondering where Lee went afterward; well, I think that he rode home with each of us.



He, my wife Kim and I took a lackadaisical ride up A1A, stopping along the way to watch some guy put-in for a day of fishing with his spaniel

stopped to loot a thrift store or two


and even returned to the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St Augustine…….

60 St Augistine

I think Lee’s presence reminded me that it’s not only years that pass along the way – so make time for those of your past. In Savannah we stopped and visited with a friend I hadn’t seen in 42 years, great visit – seeing ole buddies helps…

Lees presence made it home with me too, where I took him straight to the garage to see Dad’s old pickup


and even though it was a Ford I think there was common ground to be found;

Last May Lee also told me “I’m going to fix up a van to travel… would love to see the lake house.



Yep, losing those ‘links’ to our past – is the worst part of growing up.