The Best Cry I Ever Had….

– was with the loss of a pet.

81 A7 - 1981- Margo

In the late seventies we rented a home and inherited the pets that were present; ‘Margo’ and ‘Blackie.’  Two outside dogs that were left by the previous tenants, thus becoming part of our young family.  To shorten the story, in the eighties I had to make the decision to take Margo and have her ‘put-down.’  The drive to Asheville took about twenty minutes, I said my goodbyes and petted Margo as the vets gave her a shot – she went to sleep peacefully.

I opted to bury Margo on familiar land and returned with her remains to our rural home. The ‘ride’ and loss through this pet brought a surplus of stored emotions to the surface. Being alone in my van I was free to express my sorrow, and I certainly did. I cried, no I wailed like a bee-stung baby.

Folks that know me could say that I seem harsh and show little emotions; probably true – but through the emotions of that single ride, forever remembered – was one world of good. Margo had reminded me of something.

There have been other reminders through the years too; beginning with my little cocker spaniel ‘Tippy,’ but Bailey, Jaxx, Shack; each touched and reminded us in their own special very loyal way.

1003 - Jackson

On this date we have unexpectedly lost another fine companion; my heart is heavy and I feel that reminder once again.


Jackson, a ‘grand-dog’ and awesome Irish Setter belonged to our daughter, but has been in our care for the past two years as they experience life in Hawaii. Jackson was their family pet, their loyal family companion.  He became our best friend too.


Melissa and James came to visit several times and on each visit it was clear that Jackson remembered and loved his family. I would be lying if I said that I was always for the arraignment but the caring wife of mine welcomed Jackson in and the dog found his place in our home and earned his way into our hearts.

May add more later – but feeling the emotions right now; while reflecting on the ride; the ride that pets seem to unwittingly direct and remind us to feel; that of deep appreciation, sincerity, how simple it is to love and care, and just how special unequivocal forgiveness really is.

Thank you Jackson.


Generation Next

. Hunter Gray Haynie .

Who will be at the helm?

At this age I am blessed to have 4 sets of little feet, each finding comfort in grabbing ‘the wheel’ and learning to set ‘their course.’  If they are anything like their parents, that direction will be a positive one.


Shipmates 2011

I believe to the greatest degree that each generation improves upon the previous one – the technology of today continues to structure new concepts to daily life as compared to the parents archaic experiences.

Gray, Hunter, and Mom

Gray, Hunter, and Mom

A career in the fire service provided me an insight to accepting this very normal progression of improvement.  The methods of those fire-officers that I worked under thirty-five years ago was harsh; non diplomatic, and with little to no tact.  It was accepted then.  I smile when I think of those early days when the fire-officer packed up his men and equipment and promptly left a fire scene leaving much of a persons ravaged (from fire) possessions wet and strewn about in the front yard – along with the resident! – And those folks thanked us as we drove off!!!!

It was apparent there was room for improvement, compassion, and change.

Tom, Gray; @ 6

Tom, Gray; @ 1988

When it was ‘our’ turn to take ‘the seat,’ that progression brought about a much greater sensitivity (and responsibility) to the communities needs – it evolves still. The fire-service has indeed improved through generational change.  As a parent, I have found this analogy to be so similar – each generation takes basic information from their parents then improves upon that standard of care.  In looking back its easy to feel as one of those officers to my family; an example – one of which they could choose to improve upon.



Of course with this all said; a long overdue family visit from Gray to the lake wasn’t going to be all play – I always like to save some special time for those very special people;



My Dad was never one for ‘just sitting around,’ so special time means there was time put aside to – mow, to paint


 and maybe a few other things along the way!



but still plenty of time to feed the ducklings



and still time to play hide-n-seek on the evening boat ride



more time to watch Mom’s do goofy girl stuff,



– time to play in the dog’s water,



– and even time for some paddles with Dad.



We even found enough time (mowed there also) to visit great-great-grandparents in Georgia





and then a quick trip to Delaware to visit even more relatives

don't stop yet son

(with yet more).

Licia, Gray, Hunter Haynie

Licia, Gray, Hunter Haynie


The two plus weeks held plenty, it was a fine visit.  Thanks Licia and Gray – plus, BIG congratulations son after graduating USD with a Bachelors degree in Engineering, we are really proud of your efforts, decision-making, and achievements along the way – you are indeed setting the bar a little higher, as generations go.

Measuring up

They are – measuring up

Diouscie Mae Long 1918-2014


For all of my 60 years “life’s highway” has always taken me past my fathers sister’s home,

Macklin, Mary-Ann, Diouscie Mae, and WT (Dad)my Aunt Diouscie Mae’s (top right).

(The Youlis Calhoun and Nellie Gray Haynie family; Macklin Driggers, Mary Ann Keen, Willie T Haynie, Diouscie Mae Long) 


It is an understatement to say that this lady has been a pillar of integrity throughout my life – solid as a rock.  Always a welcoming sight; always consistently warm whether sitting on her porch or just inside her little kitchen.


You see, my Aunt has lived in the same home along Ga highway-29 (between Dainelsville and Royston) for more than 75 years.  Topping that is the fact that she was born and raised a just few hundred yards across the road.



James, Sue, Diouscie Mae, Alvin Long

The same home and porch where she remained as her father/mother/brother and sisters moved to the ‘greener pastures’ of Florida in the early 40’s.  Single-handedly she raised three outstanding children, Alvin, James and Sue.


Those children have been role-models to many others than I, and have lived spreading the support and values that Diouscie Mae influenced upon each.

Along that highway is where Diouscie Mae always welcomed her brother‘s family on summer and fall visits; and where she continued to welcome any family as they passed throughout her ninety-five years.


I recall the home of the fifties, the dwelling with no plumbing; water was ‘fetched’ from a hand-dug well just outside.  One Mothers day gift back then; her children provided that home with plumbing – her first.

On the trip above I hid in the rafters above her well as the adults visited inside (we were always told NOT to play around the hand-dug well) – joking, my sister Janis ran inside and exclaimed to everyone that “Tommy fell into the well!”  When they all scampered out of the house and peered down into the well; I laughed from above.  No I didn’t get ‘blistered,’ maybe they were just too relieved that rescue wasn’t necessary.

As I drove tractor trailer out of Florida in the early 70’s, I continued to drop-in on Diouscie Mae.  No matter how unannounced there was always a warm smile and family conversation awaiting.  On departure however long or short the visit – there was always a warm hug and a gift of gesture (water/food/or something simple but truly wrapped with love) when parting ways. This woman genuinely cared.


at 95

Diouscie Mae at 94

Diouscie Mae (Haynie) Long

Over the years my-highway continued to pass this home; in the last number of years since being retired – I have visited Diouscie Mae every other Wednesday.  She and I would first sit as we always had, and chat about family and events.  We would then take a ride over to Jeb’s BBQ  (a family favorite) for a simple lunch or large bowl of Brunswick stew – Diouscie Mae insisted on paying every other visit – and when she insisted on something – that’s the way it went.


After lunch we would take an hour to ride some of Madison County’s old dirt-roads – ‘ramblin’ she would call it.  While many of those red-clay roads are now paved in asphalt. As we rode Diouscie Mae would discuss our family’s heritage – and the changes along the way.  Diouscie Mae was always positive; her mind was always clear.

Youlis Haynie barn of 1920

Youlis Haynie barn of 1920

I’m not simply being nice when I say that Diouscie Mae never spoke ill of people, she just didn’t.  She had an opinion but was not opinionated..  and she never felt comfortable with folks wanting to help her


Never wanting to ‘put-any-body out,’ she wanted to be the one that helped..  It was that 95 year old spirit that propelled her golf-cart and lawn mower around the yard  – she understood that with failing vision the job wasn’t as pretty as it once was.  Diouscie Mae would just laugh about it remaining fiercely independent until her last days.

On my last visit, with her mind and body rapidly failing her we chatted – as we always had. Diouscie Mae clearly understood her condition yet held greater concern with those around. When she sensed that it was time for me to leave that day, Diouscie Mae mustered all of her remaining strength to stand in respect; just as she had done for so many years and visits before.  One last farewell hug – I was speechless.

This woman earned genuine respect and absolute regard throughout her entire life-span.


As I drove away, words and clear thoughts slowly returned; It’s folks like Diouscie Mae Long that make a person want to do a little bit better in life simply for the opportunity to be within their company once again – life thereafter.


“We’ll be lookin for you Diouscie Mae” – love you.


Little Chuck-Wagon


kinda like family

I suppose that a ‘vehicle’ could become as much a part of a family as anything else.  What I know for sure is that for more than two decades this little trailer (our ‘Chuck-wagon’) has certainly supported my families growth and directions.

Our little 'Chuck-wagon'

The ‘Chuck-wagon’

Years back I wanted a small enclosed trailer to haul my son’s motorcycle around with, so a good friend (Larry Riddle) and I took a ride in search of such a thing.

An early lesson from my father was that when seeking for a vehicle from a dealer; always start in the rear of the used section and ‘work’ to the front of the lot.  Whether it be a lesson of common sense or humility the practice was his proven method of finding the best bargain around.  Dad had a much better record at it than I, but on that particular day and as sure as it could happen; pushed aside in the far rear of the first sales lot – we spotted a neglected and mildewed little relic of years past; a ‘trade-in.’

1974 Nationwide Rental trailer

1974 vintage Nationwide Rental trailer 1994

As we ‘worked’ to the newer stock towards the front of the lot a salesman approached – I inquired about a few of those shiny models, and then asked about the little relic in the rear of the lot.  He checked; and at $250 bucks the price was right.

It was a discarded Nationwide Rental Trailer (U-haul was once a competitor to Nationwide) and as bad as the trailer appeared – it was exactly what I needed.  The frame was solid and well-built ; from there whether anyone else saw the beauty or not, I saw ‘life’ under that thick coat of neglect. 0208trailer00.

As a teenager another lesson from Dad was how to ‘soap down’ the old equipment that he had traded for so that he could ‘shoot a coat of paint’ on it – to sell.  Dad did good with that kind of stuff too.  For me, picking up this ugly duckling was a ‘no-brainier.’ We aired the tires and pulled it home; followed by a drenching and soaking with a ‘box of tide;’ – a quick coat of the only paint around (deck gray) sealed the deal.


Dad called it a ‘suitcase-trailer,’ he pretty much had a name for everything (‘zip-stick’ little sports car, ‘whizzer’ weed-eater, and many others) but it’s small @4′ x 7′ size left little room for anything larger.  When pulled, you hardly knew the little trailer was behind – the plus was that when having it; it removed the ‘clutter’ from the kids stuff within the family vehicle. You packed stuff in before you went, and threw stuff in for the return.

Over the years the little trailer supported my directions through numerous trips to Delaware, Florida, Colorado, and further.  It moved kids to college, went to races (Sebring, Daytona, Charlotte), hauled stuff to flea markets, and moved smelly ‘man-stuff’ to/from coastal fishing and paddlin trips.  Unused, it waited diligently through time and weather in a dry corner of our barn.


After a trip down the Mississippi river, I used wood from my scuttled vessel ‘Freebird‘ (our raft) to build a rack (and to protect the aging fiberglass roof from damage).

Having a ‘sharpie’ pen was another ‘habit’ which began on the Mississippi trip and carried over to the little Chuck-wagon. – gray is a great color to scribble on.




Anyone was welcome to write, or scribble their names on the chuck-wagon (even sharpie pens fade with time).  This simple freedom has been a fun thing for all; especially the grandkids – the images and notes are a good ‘memory-jog’ for now grandparents.


Inside the back door held more names of family and places long past.

After retirement, the little trailer was the perfect paddle companion.  The extra space continued to reduce clutter in my truck – an added plus; if I found ‘stuff’ along the way; I could haul it home……. IMG_8268

I added taller tires to match my truck (in case a spare was needed out west), other than that the only maintenance required was in keeping the axle bearings greased every couple of years.

Chuck-wagon at Gettysburg

Chuck-wagon at Gettysburg Bluegrass fest 2013

It never let me down.


Now for the reason of this post…..


Earlier in the year out of boredom I ‘googled’ something about Nationwide trailers and came upon a contest by the original manufacturer – Croft family trailers in Kansas City.  I forwarded some basic information about the trailer and then I forgot about it.

Months later, I receive this email..

Hello Tom,

Congratulations!!! You have the won the oldest enclosed trailer category in Croft’s Nationwide Oldest Croft Rental Trailer Contest…….part of the contest is that we would take possession of the winning trailer and deliver a new trailer to the winner…….If you would like to keep your trailer we would still like to ask you a few questions about the trailer and see more pictures you might have of the trailer before, during and after refurbishing…..If you do decide to trade the trailer then we would make arrangements to pick up the winning trailer……………



WOW!, I was completely surprised after totally forgetting about the event!  On top of that, the manufacturer offered a brand-new Croft trailer (they are awesome) for my beloved little ‘Chuck-wagon.’

– could I, would I, trade my little buddy????


Its a “Pearl”

– with a tad of reluctance, heck yes….

Thank-you Larry and Sandy Allen, plus Tim Oligmueller from Croft Trailers, you guys are great!….


The croft trailer continues to provide the best of support in my personal directions (link)

the trip link

trailers by Croft

trailers by Croft

 thank you Croft family