Payton’s and Honey’s First Halloween Thursday, Oct 30 2008 

Granddaughter Payton came trick or treating at Honey’s and Papa’s house for Halloween.   Papa was in the press  box at Bengal FIeld working  one of the  fall intrasquad tourney games, so Payton made a visit to the press box, too.  The pix of Payton and Papa didn’t come out nearly as cute as Payton and Honey, so I’ll just post Payton and Honey.  Mind you, the press box pix were not Payton’s lack of cuteness–Papa’s visage just wasn’t that cute.  This pic of Payton and Honey is more appealing to the eye–trust me.

Iconic Baton Rouge: Zach and Mom at Tiger Stadium Monday, Oct 27 2008 

What a pity the Tigers lost last Saturday at home. But we were there, nonetheless. Zach took his Mom on a “date” to the game. How many young fellows would be so chivalrous?

From this view high in Tiger Stadium, behold the Baton Rouge skyline. The Pete Maravich Center below to Zach’s left, and just beyond his left shoulder, the I-10 bridge across the Mississippi River.

It was Sarah’s first Tigers home game with her son. What a pity the Tigers lost, but what a fine mother/son way to spend a day!

Geaux, Tigers, anyway!

Do country folks need an apologetic for “place?” Friday, Oct 24 2008 

(The following is an adapted post I just entered on the National Writing Project Rural Sites Network’s listserv as an effort to prompt professional dialogue among rural educators on an issue many of us take for granted.  I thought it came out well enough to have a second life here at the blog.)

I grew up next to a pasture with the family milk cow mooing right outside my bedroom window, and while I’ve lived mainly in towns most of the rest of my life, they’re small towns, those Main Street slices of rural Americana that are vanishing from the national landscape.

A lot of us are sentimental at the loss of this part of our culture, because we grew up with this incredible sense of place connected to those small farms, towns, and communities. In fact, I consider service within the Rural Sites Network of NWP partly as a mission to preserve and even perpetuate the nobler aspects of these rural values and traditions. (I admit some of our values and traditions are less noble than others, and vice versa! lol?)

Anyway, several months ago I, along with several other rural colleagues, engaged one of our urban colleagues in an earnest conversation on this topic after he more or less challenged our assumptions about our “rural selves” by asking, “Why is place more of a big deal for you rural people than it is for urban people?”

I am rarely at a loss of words, but at the moment he posed that shocking question, I was temporarily dumbfounded. I began to blurt out all of our traditional assertions: “Rural people are place bound,” “Rural people are culturally isolated and thus deprived,” “Rural people are this and that and so on and so forth,” the same as we always suppose about ourselves.

But at every point, my earnest urban colleague confronted me with an example from the urban setting that showed comparable issues for the city folks, only their issues about place were dressed in different garb or came from a different direction. But they were similar issues and often grave issues.

That fascinating exchange caused me to realize that this is a conversation we apparently need to have among ourselves. We easily grow so accustomed to our assumptions and even stereotypes about ourselves as rural people that we run the danger of growing mindless, which is the precursor of growing meaningless. saucisse

Yikes! Do we need an apologetic?

I believe the answer is “yes.” Not that we need to apologize, mind you, but we do need to be able to articulate our raison d’etre so that urban folks understand us the same as we understand ourselves. This discussion forum is a good place to tackle that apologetic.

So here’s the question: Why is rural “place” so important to rural people, and how do we relate that importance to urban friends . . .

who have never trod barefoot through a dairy barnyard?

or sat in church on a summer Sunday morning with the windows flung open to that penned-up donkey across the gravel road braying along with the hynn singing?

or pulled a well-shaped tumble-weed from the fence row and into the living room to be flocked and decorated for Christmas?

or smelled the fragrace of freshly-turned earth at planting time?

In our hearts, we know the answer to those questions. But how do we explain ourselves?  How do we celebrate the values?  How do we hold on to the good of those Romantic notions and preserve them when the rest of our national culture is hell-bent in another direction?

Spirit Fruit Haiku Tuesday, Oct 21 2008 

When I taught eighth graders years ago, I liked to teach haiku. When I taught haiku, you see, I got to write haiku! I wish I would have saved some of those pieces from that time before I started preserving my pieces in a portfolio.

Anyway, I got to playing around, trying to make a Found Poem out of a few lines from one of St. Paul’s famous passages on the fruit of the Spirit. When I saw that what I was doing with the words and lines resembled haiku, I decided to jump on the idea. So this is what happened in five or ten minutes of playtime:

Gentle spirit fruit . . .
Kindly patient self-control
Peace of lovenjoy

Ta-dah! How easy!

Modern medical marvels . . . powdered examination gloves Saturday, Oct 18 2008 

The nursing clinicals students at LSUE had left some of their paraphernalia out in one of the classrooms we used for a non-credit class this morning, so in an idle moment of curiosity, I walked over to the table to inspect the goods. The picture shows what really caught my attention: powdered, latex examination gloves.

Powdered? Yes, powdered.

Will that knowledge give me comfort the next time in the examination room I see the doctor ripping out a couple of those gloves from the slit in the box and then coming at me as he wriggles his fingers to get the best fit in the sticky cellophane? I know I’m fixing to get one of the P treatments: prodded, poked, or probed. I guess the powdered glove could make the procedure more comfortable, since powder is a lubricant, and perhaps leave to linger a pleasing fragrance, since powder typically provides an appealing aroma.

Yes, I think I’ll make sure to insist: “Doc, if those aren’t powdered latext examination gloves, keep your paws to yourself.”

War blooms, or baseball blossoms? Wednesday, Oct 15 2008 

The following is one of the strongest little pieces I’ve ever written. That’s my own opinion, of course. I can’t remember the exact context of the exercise that produced this piece, except I was in a poetry writing workshop at LSUE during baseball season of my son’s junior high school year. I can’t remember which international crisis was going on at the time, but in the exercise the workshop leader presented, something having to do with a flower or something like that, this is what I came up with.

War Blooms
By David Pulling
April 1999

To the east
War blooms.
Which father’s son will go
To gather bloody blossoms?

Not mine.
He likes baseball
More than flowers

The picture here shows the grown-up son and now father coaching first base for Crowley High School seven years after the poem, where he teaches and coaches.

Teaching Position Needed: Will teach for food (or $$$) Monday, Oct 13 2008 

I am a full-time administrator with more-than-full-time responsibilities, or so it seems. Each year, the administrative chores pile higher and deeper around me. It seems I’d want to let go of the extra class I teach each term, either after-hours or online, to make life a little less complicated. No one forces me to  teach, after all.

But I can’t bear the thought of giving up teaching. I remember when I first started teaching night classes at LSUE in the early nineties. Even after teaching all day in the junior high or high school where I earned my day check, I always had more energy when I left the night class at 8:30 p.m. than I had when I went in to start at 6:00. Now how does that make sense? I occasionally explain it to friends like this: “I administrate to make a living, but I live to teach.”

The last few days provide a case in point. My colleague in Liberal Arts was in a staffing crisis after one of her English faculty dragged up a week or so ago and left three classes dangling without a teacher. Ordinarily, I do not teach during the day because that activity interferes with the demands of the administrative job, but the University was in a bind, so I got the call: “Are you interested in taking the class?”

My first thought was, “No, that’s insanity, because I’m besieged and beset. Only a fool would say ‘Yes.'”

That was my first thought.

But my first words were, “Sure, I’ll take it.”

So I stuffed another preparation under my belt to give me something to do this weekend between LSU and Saints games and working outside in the yard. I sweated out the prep quite a bit, especially as I realized that I would have to make a business trip out of town Monday morning that would keep me from having time to psych myself up and focus on the task of meeting this new class at the high noon meeting time.

Yeah, “High Noon.” Like the classic western, there was some serious drama built up around this meeting–a week before mid-term, a strange teacher taking over a class that had done nothing since the beginning of the semester and convincing the learners now that everything’s going to be OK because we can cram 15 weeks of work into the next eight weeks, and we’ll have sooooo much fun reading and writing and learning together!

So this really was a stressful undertaking, and along with several other sources of stress already built in to the beginning of this week from other projects, I found myself considerably wound up and tense all morning.

So how did the first class meeting turn out? Predictably, I left after fifty minutes of teaching with a lighter gait than I had going in to the classroom. The burden of the wound up tension that weighted me down all morning was lifted, and my mood and disposition were bright for the rest of the day. I felt free, if that makes any sense. And the world just seemed like a nicer, friendlier place after spending fifty minutes with students in a class.

Yes, Lord, it must be a calling. Thanks!

In woeful economic times, what a dog’s life! Friday, Oct 10 2008 

I got a letter in the mail today from the guy who took my $1400 deposit to repair the patio cover Gustav blew away last month. We put the deposit down a month ago. The guy that gave the estimate told us then they’d be on the job in three to four weeks. This was week four, so we have been kind of pumped about getting the patio fixed with all this nice fall weather going on.

Until we opened the letter. Seems the guy’s run upon hard times, had to close the business, and is now writing to tell us he intends to refund our deposit but doesn’t have the resources at the present time. And he didn’t suggest when he might have the resources.

Hmmph. Whatcha gonna do? This was a reputable local business with an established track record in the area for quality work and good service. It’s not like we wrote a check to some out-of-town, hurricane-chasing profiteer.

I’m wondering now, “Why should I care about Main Street or Wall Street? This has moved in on Hill Street (where I live)!

I ask Sadie the Dog and Marley the Dog, “What’s the secret for stress-free living?” They seem to have it figured out. If only they could talk!

Bienvenu a Prairie Ronde: Icons of Acadiana Wednesday, Oct 8 2008 

Prairie Ronde, Louisiana, is not a town.  It’s a rural Cajun “place” centered around the confluence of three or four winding roads and secondary state highways in the general proximity of the middle of nowhere, or at least it must seem so to outsiders, especially city folks.  The community sprawls along those roadsides for several miles in at least three different directions.  I passed through Prairie Ronde today and decided this view was too rich to ignore.

Consider these remarkable icons of life in Acadiana that come together in this photo:

  • the water tower, a source of sustenance, presiding over the landscape, proclaiming “Prairie Ronde.”
  • the solitary Oak rising from the prairie, spreading branches perhaps symbolic of the branches of families interred in the cemetery below, perhaps also evoking images of the Live Oak Walt Whitman “saw in Louisiana growing, uttering joyous leaves of friendship” during the days of the Civil War.
  • the venerated Saint Mary, her statue fixed squarely in the approach to the church entrance, strikes an unavoidable presence as she solemnly greets parishioners on their way to mass.
  • the very Catholic church, another source of life in these people’s world view . . . hardly a Cathedral, but nonetheless a substantial building where generations of Prairie Rondians were christened, catechized, wed, and groomed for eternity.
  • and finally, the cemitiere in the yard alongside the church, where the mortal remains of those same generations are laid to rest, their whitewashed tombs monuments to the sturdy people that tilled the prairie soil to eek out their subsistence.

Yep, it’s a picture that invites poetry–symbolic objects commingling themes of life, death, faith, and eternity.   Maybe I’ll write a poem one day about Prairie Ronde.  Meanwhile, I’ll just blog it.

Here’s to Prairie Ronde and other off-the-beaten-path places like it.

Happy Birthday: a fresh perspective on a stale tune Sunday, Oct 5 2008 

I have never considered “Happy Birthday” to be such a wonderful musical piece.  It’s OK to sing it around the birthday cake for friends’ and families’ celebrations, especially kids, but the older I get, the less enamored I am to hear it, especially when it’s sung in my honor, since I’ve attained that mid-life station that dulls our enthusiasm for those annual milestones.

So, we come to this morning at church.   Our eldest matron was recognized on achieving her 102nd birthday.  Mrs. Ward rarely gets out of the house any more, so it was a special moment and, no doubt a treat, for her and her family to make it to the morning service.  Of course, congregational singing of “Happy Birthday” was part of the ceremony.

But singing the song this morning registered an impression and had an effect that has never struck me in all my years.  The keyboard instruments in the worship band framed the melody in the kind of eloquence we just don’t associate with the trite child-like melody that we typically warble a capella and half off-key in our household celebrations.   At the same time, the hearty chorus of 250 or so congregants lifting the air in swelling tones to the pinnacle of the sanctuary was sufficient to inspire goosebumps.

In the aftermath, I have a newfound respect and admiration for the piece.  I confess I’ve often regarded the song as part of an annoying little ritual that we go through right before the honoree blows out the candles on the cake.   But I heard the song this morning as a high anthem of joy.  The joy of celebration.  An act of celebrating life, especially abundant life.  The joy of life as opposed to the sorrow of life’s grim alternative.

Yep, “Happy Birthday” really is a happy song.  I will respect it more in the future, even when they sing it for me the next time my odometer turns a new mile.

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