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CHANGES WITH “THE TIN CUP CLAN”

Hi friends…Many things are changing here at “The tin cup Clan” and I desperately need your help. I’ve had a lot going on lately and feel I have far to many irons in the fire. The books are coming out very soon and I’ve decided to narrow social media to just a couple of platforms. I love and respect all our followers, I don’t want to lose any of you. We are going to focus most of our energy on the Face Book page for the time being. If you like the T.C.C. and want to continue reading these simple yet oft times corny stories PLEASE LIKE THE FB PAGE. We’ve found we can reach far more people here and Instagram than anywhere else. Not to mention we can be far more interactive. For the time being The Tin Cup Clan .com will be under renovation, I think you’re gonna love it when it’s rolled out soon. Remember…The Tin Cup Clan FB page!!! Go there and hit the like button. You’ll be glad you did. Instagram is coming in the next couple of days…my daughter is working on getting it up and running. SEE YOU THERE…LOVE ALWAYS!!! The Tin Cup Clan

Riding the Ribbon

Riding the Ribbon 

Have you ever sat in your car watching as the train rolled by, wondering what it must be like to run alongside, grabbing a hold of the iron and stealing a free ride to God knows where? To simply sit on your perch and feel the rhythm of the rails in your bones and listen to the roar of the wind as it glides past your ears. Freedom, that’s the word, freedom in its purest. 

     I’m gonna do something a little different with this story. Today we’re gonna join the boys as they are off in a new adventure. Today for the first time…you’re gonna read just a little bit of the Tin Cup Clan’s next mystery. “The legend of Blue Hole” 

Some time has passed since the cold, wet Witch adventure and there are still a number of unanswered questions. Our boys continue to probe, investigate rumors, and at last, get to the bottom of those fateful days. 

Now, it’s the dog days of Summer, and like any would do in heat such as this, we ride along as our boys find yet another method of finding cool comfort. In this little town that quest usually results in a visit to the Blue Hole.       Enjoy.   

Hot…six-thirty in the morning and it was already hotter than blue blazes. Apparently, a few Jar-Flies were up as early as me and had begun their customary brain numbing calls, Weee-ooo-weee-oo, the noise travels up and down the hollers, invading the senses of every living soul. But I reckon that’s the price you pay for summer, and days like these.  

I looked down the driveway and see the guys waiting under the tree, fighting for a spot in the early morning shade. They’re waiting on me, so I begin a trot down to meet ‘em. 

We were beginnin’ ta worry ‘bout che friend. Figured ye might be up there in front of the TV a watchin’ cartoons ‘er somethin’. laughed big David. 

He ain’t gonna miss this, replied Stick. He too scared he might miss catchin’ a peek of Teresa in her bathin’ suit. 

Chucky thought the whole thing was hilarious, being the smart aleck he was, he started making kissy faces at Stick and pretending to be me. Stick fluttered his eyes loving at Chucky, “My hero” he swooned in a girly voice. I was getting madder by the second. 

A long slow distant horn blast immediately shut everybody up, demanding their attention. 

Here she comes, said big David. Sounds like she’s a crossin’ McKamey bridge, right on time. 

That’s right folks…We were train huntin’ 

They’s two kinds of trains around here. The silver L&N, she’s fast, loud, and the caboose is usually full of yard dogs. The only contact we have with this train is when we hide behind bushes and throw walnuts at the passing engineer. Other than that, it’s best stay out of her way when she’s a coming through. 

The other is the slow and steady black Southern. She’s a gentle southern lady, and when this ol’ girl rumbles through town she’s usually taking her time. Slowly sliding along the rails at an easy pace, you seldom see any yard dogs barking at her heels, and that friend, is the one we’ve been waiting for. 

We’ve done this a few times before so each of us knows our place. We spread out along the track about fifty feet apart and hide in the bushes. Big David’s the first, followed by me, then Chucky, and finally Stick. 

It’s important to wait until the middle of the train, that way you’re outta sight from the engine and the caboose. As she gets closer the vibrations increase, they build until you can feel ‘em in your marrow bones and your heart speeds up to match the rhythm. Big David is the first to make his move. 

It’s his job to pick the car, suddenly he darts from his hiding place and begins to run alongside his target. When he finds a good hold, he grabs the rail and pulls his self onto the ladder, then with a quick jump, plants his feet. He leans out from the side, outstretching his big hand, it’s my turn. 

I jump from the bushes, run alongside till David gets to me then grabbing ahold of my arm pulls me up the ladder. He does the same for Chucky, and finally Stick, who he nearly throws off the other side since he weighs next to nothing. With a sigh of relief, we find a seat and make ourselves comfortable for the ride. 

The world looks different when you’re riding the Ribbon, scenes pass by like a movie script, making your forget you live here. As the train reaches the crossings, we wave at the waiting cars and laugh as the occupants stare in confusion. It’s not long until the train runs through the center of town, here the whole world plays out before our eyes, but from our seats we’re not part of the madness, only spectators, watching the goings on like we would ants or bees. 

The town falls beneath us as we begin to cross the trestle. The trains rumbles over the top of the Piggly-Wiggly and hardware store. We feel special somehow, just for the simple knowing of what the roofs of those buildings look like. A lot like an old friend that knows your worst secrets but keeps ‘em to his self. Soon we begin to leave the town behind and the change in the drone of the engines can be felt in our behinds. We are beginning the slow grade to the mines. 

The rhythm changes…slows a great deal, with it so does our heart beats. A comfortable calm takes control and the smells and scenery change. 

I take in a deep breath, letting the smell of honeysuckle and pine fill my head. As I look around, I see the others in the same pose, noses lifted to the air and eyes closed. Only after we’ve filled our heads do our eyes open. 

Green has replaced the grey of the town, green as green can be, everywhere. Green has a smell, (yes it does), not cut grass or saw dust, but a clean smell, it cleans out the head and clears the mind, putting life in its place and numbing worries. The branches flip and flutter as the cars pass, and they wave to us as we glide along the ribbon. The creek runs to the left of the tracks, tumbling in folds of white as it cascades from boulder to boulder. I stare as thin beams of sunlight sparkle in the nooks and craneys. Yep…life is good

Blue Holes comin’ up fellers, better wake up. Big David wakes us from our trance as our destination approaches. 

Reluctantly we stand and take our places, ready for the drop. 

At this point the train is slow but dangerous just the same, Generations of riders have worn a soft-landing spot, cushioned by honey suckle and wild Heather, all that is needed is a slow pace, a mild tuck and roll, and you’re here. Sounds simple right? There have been times when things didn’t go as planned and a few unfortunate souls bear the scars from it. But once you get the hang of it it’s as easy as falling off your bed. 

We line up like paratroopers, hearts in our throats, waiting for a sign, once big David gives the signal, we all move. One by one jumping from the ladder into the honeysuckle and straw followed with a quick roll. Once we stand and get our bearings, a wonderous world greets us, straight out of the movies. This little bit of Heaven known to all as…The Blue Hole.

We hope you enjoyed this little peek into our next adventure. Oh Yes…there’s more to come, a lot more. In the mean time we would appreciate a like, especially a follow. Heck share it…tell some friends. Until next time…Thank You from the bottom of our hearts.

THE TIN CUP CLAN  

Be “Still” my beating heart

Just finished another edit on Chapter eleven. So I thought I would share another excerpt. Here we find our character as he first enters the shed. He knows what will happen to him if he gets caught. But he has no other choice. As you read remember, he’s only eleven, put yourself in his place. How would you react.

Except: Chapter 11…”Karma is a fickle mistress”

To most folk, it’s just an old shed full of hog feed and tools. An ancient weather-worn building that looks like it might collapse at any moment if not for the briars and poison vines holding it up. Don’t let appearances fool ya, it’s true purpose lies hidden just inside, on the left just behind a weather weary 6-panel door. The ol’ man keeps it pretty well hidden with sacks of feed, rolls of barbed wire, and piles of rusted tools. 

I had to make sure and study how every sack and spool was stacked or placed. If even a single one was out of moved, the ol’ buzzard would know someone had messed with them for sure. 

I poked my head out one last time, making sure I wasn’t being watched, then quickly went to work. I was on a strict timeline cause the old man was sure to notice if I took too long. Once I had enough sacks moved to the side, I slid through a narrow opening. 

 There she was…the dim light gave “her” a menacing appearance. The bottom was covered in black soot, scars from years of green wood and coal fires. Age and use had turned her copper skin an ugly shade of olive brown, it’s no telling how old she was. A large copper pipe came from the top of her big belly, then into the top of a smaller barrel called a “thumper” (So, named because of the thumping sound it makes when filled with steam). A small copper coil called the “worm” came from the top of that tank and curled its way into another barrel. It’s empty now but gets filled with cool spring water when the Ol’ man is a cooking. A small outlet sticks out of the bottom, the Ol’ man usually has the bone from a coon’s pecker stuck in the end, (it’s a mountain thing), and liquor drips from the end of it into the jar. 

Sunlight entered the shed through gaps between the weathered boards. Eerie streaks of dusty sunlight tend to play strange tricks on the eyes. In this setting, it was easy to believe she was almost alive. Sleeping for now but waiting for the Ol’ man to come and wake her. I couldn’t help but to touch her, when I laid my hand on her I half expected to feel a heartbeat. But she was cold and dead. I lost myself for a few seconds I don’t know why, it was almost like she was trying to talk to me, but the cold made me shiver and snapped me from my trance. 

The back wall was stacked with shelves. On them sat jar after jar of liquid, some of them clear as spring water, others, golden amber like fresh honey. Realizing I had lost some time staring at the still, I picked up my pace a bit. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I could feel each beat in my head. I stuck a shaky hand into my pocket and pulled out the first bottle. 

I grabbed the closest jar and gave the lid a twist, nothing, my hands were so sweaty I couldn’t get a grip on the lid. What if they were on to tight? What would I do then? I put the jar back and choose another. Twisting as hard as I could, still nothing, to tight. In desperation I put it back, wiped my palm on my pants leg before grabbing another and twisting so hard that I bit my tongue. It turned, whew… now, how was I gonna get the whiskey poured into the little hole. I hadn’t thought of that. I thought of every-thing but that, how stupid could a person be? 

I looked around the dark room, there had to be something I could use, but what? Then out of the corner of my eye, in a beam of dusty light I saw a tattered notebook. Papaw’s recipes and inventory. I carefully tore a page from the rear and twisted it into a funnel. Taking great care, I poured the liquor into the small bottle, I was running out of time. If I tried to take a little out of several it would take too long, I was sure to get busted. 

I made the risky decision of pouring all three out of the one jar and then swapping places with another at the far corner of one of the shelves, maybe he wouldn’t notice. Poking the last of the bottles into my pocket, I left the room but not before making certain to replace the feed sacks and coils just right. By the time I was finished I was dripping with sweat even though it was thirty-five degrees. 

The Most Important Meal of the Day

How many remember fifth grade? More importantly; how many remember the lunch room? Most don’t understand the politics, social exchange and class warfare that transpired there. So…for just a bit, experience the “lunch-room” through the eyes of the Tin Cup Clan. This is just a small excerpt from Chapter Eight, I hope you can get a little “feel” for the boys and maybe even catch a faint hint of frying sausage and burnt toast.

Excerpt from Chapter 8 “Was She Flirtin’ and Best Laid Plans”

Whatever conversations or business transactions that were taking place were put on hold for the time being. A far more important matter was at hand. Breakfast. 

The opening of the lunch-room door was held with nearly as much high spirited anticipation as, well… Christmas morning. This morning the planets were obviously in perfect alignment and Madam Karma was apparently in an extraordinary mood. 

Because when we opened that door… the air hung heavy with the wonderful soothing aroma of sausage, eggs, and toast. It had to be a sign straight from the all-mighty himself. Maybe, just maybe, things were finally going my way. 

We stood just inside the doorway, frozen in our tracks. Each of us staring at the other three. I didn’t want to take any chances, blurting out “that’s it no trades” as quickly as possible. 

Big David’s eyes narrowed into thin slits. He turned his head looking down at Stick with a look that could kill. 

That’s fine by me friend. How about you Stick? 

Stick looked up, swallowing the lump growing in his throat. What are you lookin’ at me for? I ain’t done nothin.’ 

Big Dave never broke his stare, “Just am friend that’s all, just am.” 

Before us lay a veritable smorgasbord, the sight of steaming pans full of scrambled eggs, stacks of sausage, and hot biscuits made our mouths water. The four of us gazed at the food like kids in a candy store window as hair-netted lunch ladies filled our trays. 

Sure does look good, don’t it friend? 

Chucky looked up at David, you do realize, those are just powdered eggs don’t ya? They ain’t real, they just add water to ‘em and fry ‘em up, that’s all. 

Well, they’s’ allot of stuff that’s good when you add water to it, argued big Dave. You ain’t forgot ‘bout Tang, have ye? And don’t fergit ‘bout Ovaltine.  

Mark and his cronies were ahead of us in line. We watched in disgust as he and his buddies flirted with the lunch ladies. Grinning under their hairnets as they piled the boy’s trays high with double portions. Our blood boiled as we watched them buy extra milks and juice when they reached Mrs. Tuttle. I thought about it for a second. 

Ya-know… I’m gonna do that one of these days. 

Do what? Asked Stick. 

I’m gonna git it all, milks, orange juice, extra food, all of it. For the four of us, just like the jocks. 

Oh… that… sure said Stick, I cain’t wait. He looked over at Chucky while rolling his eyes. 

Hey! I snapped; I saw that. 

Chucky snickered. What-cha gonna do, start boot-leggin’ at school or somethin’? Some rich uncle about to get out of the poorhouse. 

I just might do that… yep, never can tell, I just might. 

Now it’s your turn, if you like the story, tell a friend, tell your Ma, Pa, tell an enemy, just tell somebody. Don’t forget to Like, Follow, and Comment. Until next week…Thank You for your time. The Tin Cup Clan. God Bless.

WOPERDINGERS and ALLSTARS (Life brings us both)

I’ve been promising to write this story for some time now, just been waiting for the right time. But today is a special day, well..in our little corner of the Universe anyways. You see, today is my birthday, a small feat for most adults but given my situation I rather make every one count.

The morning greeted me with grey skies and wet weather. I peered out the window and let out a long low sigh, “hope this wasn’t how the rest of the day was gonna be” I thought to myself. There was work to be done, the house wasn’t finished and I dreaded the thought of working on it.

Sandra (bless her heart) began her morning by getting an early start on the Birthday dinner. All my favorites, beef roast, green beans mashed taters, yeast rolls, caramel cake and all.

By eleven o-clock I had all but forgotten about the glum weather. Actually feelin’ a bit content…then the phone rang.

A pleasant lady greeted me before introducing herself. She was calling from my doctor’s office. It seems my last scans had revealed some worry-some spots on my right lung. They wanted to get me in for additional scans and formulate a plan of action. Just like that, the proverbial carpet was jerked from under my proverbial feet. I’ve been playin’ this morbid game of whack-a-mole for nearly four years. A couple of moths ago the latest cancer was found on my pancreas, and the resulting radiation burned me up. Now the lungs? Well…I didn’t get much work done the remainder of the day. The big “C” was chewin’ on my brain. And speakin’ of which brings me to the little matter of the afore-mentioned “Woperdinger.”

What’s a “Woperdinger” you might ask. Well my friends, sit back and permit me to enlighten you with a little mountain folk-lore. Here a little snippet from the book.

“Just what is a Wolpendinger anyway?”  

         Chapter 33

The five of us walked to the downed fence. There it was, a footpath in the mud. The big light shining down the path made it look like a tunnel through the woods. Briars and brambles were thick as lumber along both sides.

Branches protruded into the path, looking like gnarled fingers, ready to grab who-ever might walk by. We could hear the creek roaring louder as we walked further. Big David’s light our only means of sight lit the path like a train in a tunnel.

Suddenly we beheld a sight that made our blood run cold.

Just beyond the cover of the trees. Just forty or fifty feet from holy ground we saw it. Thinking about, dreaming about it, hearing about it was one thing. But seeing it was different. Seeing it in the dark on a stormy night was entirely something else.

Our eyes strained in the dark, desperate for a clearer view. Just then a distant bolt of lightning lit up the sky. We all fell silent as the grave, fearful of what might hear us. I felt a morbid sensation of accomplishment tinted with large amounts of pure mind numbing fear. There was no color, no grass grew around the grave. Instead weeds and gnarled thickets spread around the stone. At some point, some-one or some-thing had placed stones around the grave. Clearly marking the boundary for others to see.

We all stood there, frozen in the wind and rain until one of us broke the silence. Who’s goin’ first? asked Chucky.

Not me shouted Stick, that place is chocked fulla’ Wolpendingers just waiting fer us. Waitin’ fer every last one of us, I can almost see their eyes lookin’ at us now.

WHAT?! Screamed Chucky, and you thought now, in the middle of the night, in a graveyard, at a grave owned by a witch of all places was a good place to bring somethin’ like that up?

Surely to God you don’t believe in those bedtime stories do you.

Stick was instantly defiant. And you don’t? he screamed back over the thunder. Everybody knows they’re real, everybody. They’s just a waitin’ fer the first one of use to get close enough to that brush then “whack” gone forever.

Big David had finally reached the end of his tether. With a jerk he turned to face the shaking redhead, his big hands were noticeably shaking as he aimed his light at Stick’s face.

Now look here friend: I’ve had jest about of this nonsense. Keep it up and yur about to find ye selves without a light to walk by. Besides. they’s no way I’m a gonna set my foot on unholy ground.

Ya see…a Woperdinger is a mythical creature of German decent, (or as best I can figure). And seeing as a great many Appalachian folk are of said German blood, the ol’ Woperdinger legend invariably followed. Legend has it this varmint is an ungodly mishmash of any manner of creatures, a good example might be the famous “Jack-a-lope.” But to us kids…well we just knew there was always one in the woods in the deep dark of night just waiting for one of us, dragging us away kicking and screaming to an untimely death. Our folks did little to dispel such rumors, using it instead as a means to keep us home at night. A gnawing fear of the unknown planted firmly in our brains.

Now lets get to those All-stars.

Some fifty-odd years ago the coolest (can I still use the word cool) of the cool kids strutted around in a pair of high top Converse All-stars. Of course I was never able to have a pair but that didn’t stop me from dreaming about those shoes. They were the very essence of cool, every thing from the laces and badge to the squeak they made on the varnished gym floor. Yep I wanted, no needed a pair…but I never got any. Until today!!!

Yep after fifty seven years, four children, seven grandchildren, four mortgages, countless cross country moves, and a nose weary and sore from being held against the ol’ grindstone. My daughter placed a birthday box on my lap, not just any box mind you, oh no. But a box emblazoned with that all to familiar star. Yep sure enough, I lifted the lid to find a brand new pair of high top All stars.

In a split second there I stood in all my glory, grey beard, plaid shirt, worn Liberty overalls, and a sparkling pair of navy blue sneakers. Yea…not the teenage picture I had in my head either. Que that phone call I mentioned earlier.

See where I’m going with this yet? Yep, you guessed it, on the other end of the line that ol’ Woperdinger got me. I mean reached right through the line and took hold of me. That gnawing fear of the unknown. Now I’m not saying it ruined the rest of my day, naw sir. The day was great, after all I got a lot to be grateful for. But it was there, chewing at the back of my mind, as I sat there eating caramel cake, it was there. As I enjoyed the beef stew, it was there. As I wiggled my toes inside my new All-stars it was there. Even when I talked to my grandbabies, it was there.

Friends… be careful of those Woperdingers. No they may not steal “all” your joy in life, but somehow they seem to have a knack for taking the edge off of it, dull the blade so speak. That gnawing fear of the unknown. Yes, Yes, I’m still a bit scared of ’em, but I’m learning (however slowly) to put them in their place. Our boy Stick was scared to death of ’em, but David, (being the voice of reason) snapped him back. Please…if you do anything, find yourself a “David.” Find that one person or group of persons to ground you, keep that “gnawing fear” at bay. Life’s too short as it is, no point worrying about what Woperdinger may or may not be hid just beyond sight, or in the shadows.

Me? Well I reckon I’m ready for what may just be out of sight. I spose I got little choice at this point, but I’m ready. I don’t expect to get shed of the unknown or times when the fear seeps in and you shouldn’t either. The secret is kicking it back into those shadows where it belongs, oft times that means we gotta have some help. For now I’ll just keep kicking, after all… I got me one heck of a pair of shoes to kick it with. And…quiet a few “Davids” to keep me grounded. Bring it on

Once again “The Tin Cup Clan” thanks you for your time. Lord knows there so many other things you could be doing and we are honored that you chose to spend some of it with us. If I may ask a favor; please share these stories with family and friends, leave a comment (we like those) and talk with us a bit. A like and follow would be great as well. GOD BLESS and see you next time. The Tin Cup Clan.

The Tin Cup Clan, (the journey begins)

Well friends as promised, The clan is back and current. There is still plenty of work yet to be done but I find myself with the time to sit and write (finally). Since we are starting off in new surroundings I thought it might be nice to bring the boys’ to you in a new light as well. But there’s a catch, I need your help.

Let’s start this new era off with the prolog from the book. I would be ever so grateful if you might take a bit of your time and critic it a bit. Yea…I know, that’s a dangerous word “critic,” and I’ve never put the work out there for such a purpose, but I really need the feed back.

I’m blessed to have some VERY accomplished writers that follow our blog and I would be honored to have the feedback.

With that in mind I present to you the Prolog to “The Tin Cup Clan” Mystery of the Leech cemetery witch.

Autumn is always a welcome time in the mountains of East Tennessee. Months of oppressive heat and humidity are at long last replaced by frosty cold mornings and cool comfortable days. This time of year calls upon this old man to relive the fondest of memories.

The chilly mornings finds the local wildlife at their busiest. After all there is no time to waste, larders must be filled, nests built and insulated. Preparations are in order for the long winter to come.

During the night miniature miracles dot the ground. Small patches of wet earth rise on delicate pillars of early morning frost, forming delicate magical cathedrals.

Lightly frozen ground gives way to the foot with a pleasing “crunch,” while the crisp air bestows a good natured nip to the lips. A natural perfume floats in the mist, resting easy on the nose. The scent of burning Oak rises into the air from countless chimneys, the aroma reminiscent of sandal wood, ground pepper, and ginger.

Such a magical environment is inevitably bound to give birth to endless fairy tales. Stories as ancient as the mountains themselves. Passed down through generations by elders sitting by glowing hearths before wide-eyed children. Who in amazement, absorb long epic tales of hardship and sacrifice, yarns of ghosts and wraiths, life and death, bravery, and honor. Stories of a fairy tale past which with the passage of time inevitably take on a life of their own.

How I enjoyed those stories as a young boy, sitting in front of the fire, absorbing them like raindrops on dry clay. As I close my eyes a faint hint of smoke from a those fires tease me, calling me back to a time long ago.

Now accepted as fact not simple folklore, time renders these tales carved in stone and just as certain as God’s creation. Ignoring, or heaven forbid denying such tales, was tantamount to blasphemy. After all, granny, with her lips lined with dried snuff was never wrong and never to be doubted.

It was during one such particular fall as this, that one such particular fable as this, would capture and inspire the imaginations of one such particular, (and possibly brazen) group of boys as this. And just like all good stories, present itself completely and undeniably irresistible.

The resulting adventure would prove to be the first of many to come. And in many ways shape the lives of four young friends and one other, whom as I look back through the eyes of an old man, realize had just as much to learn, perhaps even more so than ourselves. Our adventure starts as many do, in a rather boring, not to mention pitifully small hometown.

A coal-mining town nestled deep in the Tennessee mountains. Small by any standard, and like most towns in coal country; time was slowly but surely passing us by. The town stores and buildings seemed well aware that death was slowly but surely reclaiming them. Returning them back to the earth from where they came. We all felt it in one way or the other, the entire settlement was well and truly fading into history.

Our players include my quite young self, a rather handsome young’un if I may be so bold as to say so. Three somewhat meddlesome friends, but tried and true all of em, and of all people the class bully.

Add an ill-conceived exchange of homemade liquor, an old cemetery complete with a rumored witch. Stir in a hollow grave-marker guarded by a ghost dog, and the promise of answers to the most personal of questions, and you got yourself one heck of a story.

Oh! And I can’t forget; one thin, somewhat scruffy old man whom asit would turn out, had a far greater role to play in our story, and our lives than any of us could ever have imagined possible.

So dear reader, if I may have a bit of your time, find yourself a warm hearth, a comfortable chair, maybe a warm cup of cocoa, and let’s get started.

Always Choose The Wing (a revisit)

  (A reflection of Character)

WELL HOWDY FRIENDS. Good news, good news. The Tin Cup Clan’s new digs is almost done. But let me tell you…these ol’ bones feel every nail and hammer blow. Since I’ve been rather short on time of late I’ve been repostin’ some of the older stuff. I figured this might give our newer members a chance to catch up a bit. But that’s about to come to an end!!! This should be the last of the reposts’. But don’t let that keep ya from reading on.

Ya see…many a lesson can be learned from the humblest of items. In the past we’ve discussed pink socks, button jars, DWB’s, and so on. But for now, let’s talk about the lowly chicken wing. So just for a minute or two why don’t you sit down, clear yer head of all the nonsense goin’ on around you. Then let this simple little chicken appendage bounce around in that ol’ noggin’ of your’s.

Never can tell…you might just learn somethin’ before we’re done.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE WING.

Southern folk are a peculiar folk, raised a bit different we were, but southern “mountain” folk…well, that’s another subject entirely. I’m afraid I cain’t speak for everyone else, all I can do is relate insight on how I was taught, unfortunately, that’s a time long gone. This new-found writing career of mine has taught me to find stories in the most unusual of circumstances. One of these circumstances presented itself just the other evening whilst I sat staring at (of all things), a platter of fried chicken. You, my dear friends are about to discover one of life’s most important lessons, you’re about to find out why… “you should always choose the wing.” So, fasten your seat belts folks, here we go.

Back in the day… long before they were slathered in Buffalo sauce; or attained center stage in trendy eateries. Long before they found themselves delivered by barely covered young ladies, only to be gnawed on by beer soaked middle-aged men. (I’m referring to the wings not the ladies). These humble and understated parts of the chicken were known by one and all as “poor people” food. Yep, that’s right… it wasn’t very long-ago, wings were most often bought by the gallon bucket at your local Piggly Wiggly. Wings, livers, and gizzards gave the most bang for the buck, and let me tell you something…I ate more than my fair share of those things. Well… not the gizzards, I don’t like ’em, the longer you chew ’em, the bigger they get. Where’s this going you ask? Well…hold on a minute, we’re just about there.

You see…there’s a lesson to be learned in the humble wing, you could say a quiet, solemn, sense of purpose, free from vanity (unlike those prima-donnas of the poultry world known as chicken breasts), and those thighs… well we’ve all heard stories about those guys. Nope…the wings have a job to do and they know it, and part of that job is teaching us just a little about “humility.”

I was told as a child, “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” As a boy I could never make sense of that, but now…I get it. Our world is full to the brim, packed tight with folk after the best, the fastest, biggest, most expensive, me, me, me, my time, my life, my this or that. And at what cost?

In my not so humble opinion, life needs to be a bit more like the supper table, and that platter of fried chicken, (told ya we’d get there). My mother never, and I mean never grabbed the first, or the last of anything. Grabbing the first piece was frowned on, and viewed as arrogant and self serving, while grabbing the last was seen as selfish and uncaring. In our house, this resulted in a dozen or so hands grasping at the same plate at the same time. For more of this, refer to the great Jerry Clower and his story “The last piece of chicken.” The nuts and bolts of this little tale boils down to watching out for the one behind you. As crazy as this may sound…the type of piece you choose, reflects the personality you posses.

Let’s get preachy: Romans 12: 10 NIV

“Honor one another above yourselves”

Get it now? Watch out for the one behind, or beside you. Don’t go around grabbing the best parts, don’t go around leaving nothing for the next to arrive. Stop thinking so much of yourself and focus on your neighbor. All of this from a chicken wing; never saw that coming did ya? But wait, there’s more.

Remember the sacrifice made by our parents? In a large family with extremely limited resources, it was common to hear Ma’ say, “well, I didn’t really like pie anyhow, or, I’m not in the mood for chicken tonight.” She was always the first to make the sacrifice when there wasn’t enough to go around. We need more of that; we need more folks willin’ to take the high road.

Preachy again…   Luke 14:10 NIV

“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.”

My stepdad told me, “never be the first to enter a room.” That stuck with me, when I open the door now, I let the person behind me enter first, out of instinct, not strength of character on my part, or a conscious decision, it just happens, like blinking. “It’s impossible to straighten the bend in the oak, the crook that grew in the sapling.” Ever heard that one? Ever had the door shut in your face at the grocers? Yea…that dude grabs the breast off the platter every time, I guarantee it. Next time you’re at the Piggly Wiggly, Stop, open the door for a stranger, Please.

All this, and we’re still talking about a chicken wing, what about that. Once again, that little wing teaches us humility, and in an odd sort of way, makes a better person. So…as you go through life remember, don’t be the first to enter the room, it has a Ta,da, aura about it, nobody likes it I promise. Make sure and take the lowest seat at the table, both literally and figuratively, trust me, it’s embarrassing if someone asks you to move a few seats back. You may be the center of “your” universe, but you ain’t the center of “the” universe. Yea… that one’s not original either. Never take the last piece, or slice of anything unless asked, once again, literally and figuratively, doing so makes you come off as selfish and inconsiderate. And finally, always grab the humble wing, leave that breast for momma. That little wing is sorta like an outward manifestation of inner humility. (hey, that little comment’s an original, with a big word thrown in for extra measure). For once, let someone else have the best piece, you’ll get yours, I promise. Trust me, folks will notice and tell others, just like I have passed it on to you. “We need a lot more folks chewin’ on a wing, and far fewer chokin’ on their words.” (That was another original). So, this Saturday go out and grab ye’self a big ol’ bucket of wings, Come Sunday you’ll be sittin’ about that table just drippin’ with humility. But that’s just my opinion, feel free to make it your own.

If you like this little tale I would appreciate it if you would share it, at least once. You gotta know somebody who needs to read it, we all do. Leave a comment if you can, I sure do love reading them. Till next time… Thank You, from The Tin Cup Clan. Better still, press the follow button, I’m trying to build a platform here.

The Rolling Store

I posted this some time ago, but thought I might share it again for those who missed it.

During my childhood in the hills of East Tennessee, the most popular, though somewhat less dependable method of social interaction, came in the form of an old truck known by all as the “rolling store.” As kids, we looked forward to the weekly visit nearly as much as Santa Claus. Many a childhood memory centers around this wonder of modern technology, and I remember the truck like it was just yesterday.

 It was an old Chevy truck covered in a rich patina of faded blue paint and rust, complete with areas’ worn to rusted metal by years of winter salt and summer mud. I believe every window was cracked, yellowed, or frosted white around the edges by age and the glaring sun.

The front of the truck was dominated by a large white(ish) grill, which from a distance blessed the ol’ truck with a goofy sort of smile. That grill bore the scars of countless chips, dents, and dings from countless miles of gravel and dusty country roads. The grill hung tenaciously to the rusting metal by various odd nuts and bolts, along with bits of twisted wire and bailing twine.

Countless insects: frozen in the midst of their death throws hung suspended in time behind the metal teeth. All manner of moth and butterfly hung there, frozen in time and appearance. A Lepidopterist could hardly have done a finer job.

Every now and then we would find a small unlucky bird, dried by the summer air rushing through the radiator. Of course, in the minds of two young boys this was irresistible, providing countless specimens to play with at a later date. But this could be tricky, the hot air dried the little bodies out in the extreme, and great care had to be taken as not to crumble the body of a lunar moth, cicada, or small finch.

Behind the worn cab was an extremely large white box, corners smashed in from low hanging branches. A heavy roll up door was at the rear of the box and below the door a large deck. This served as a porch for the driver and counter-space or leaning post for the countless patrons. The proprietor walked on a wooden floor worn smooth by time and traffic.

The ancient wood was periodically “cleaned” with motor-oil, then kerosene was used as a preservative. Well-worn pathways were a lighter color and stained from countless spills.

Coat upon coat of white paint covered the wooden shelves that lined the walls. These shelves were well stocked with any number of goods that a rural family might require. Next to the roll-up door sat an antique brass cash register, whenever the drawer would open a bell would ring a crisp clean “ding” that echoed in the old box.

Every Friday we would hear it rattling down the road. Calling women of the household to gather at the end of their drives or, should they live on a dirt road, down to where the chip and tar began. There they would wait patiently, kids in tow, an adult version of waiting on the school bus.

Many women carried all manner of handmade wares or different sorts of homemade foods. All neatly wrapped in brown paper or scraps of cloth, then carefully tied with sisal twine. These items were considered more valuable than paper currency, and were bartered for needed staples such as flour, sugar, lard, and coffee.

Bartering was an all-important and expected method of exchanging goods’; the value of these staples was dependent on quality and the reputation of their creator. Therefore, the makers of truly exceptional commodities soon became well known and respected along the route. One such lady was known to everyone as “Granny Smith.”

“Granny” lived next to us in a large run-down farmhouse. The backyard was full of chickens and outbuildings, all of them in various states of disrepair. The collection included the usual lot a person might expect to find on such a homestead.

Chicken coop, root cellar, spring house, the list goes on. Climbing Rose, Clematis, Wisteria and other climbing flowers covered the sides of these structures so thick that some appear to be the only thing saving the buildings from certain collapse. Thousands of colorful insects filled the air around her house, buzzing and fluttering from flower to flower, blessing the entire yard with an almost surreal and fairytale appearance.

I would escape and pay her a visit any time I had a chance. The rather portly old woman could usually be found in the same apron and bonnet. The fabric with it’s pretty Lilac print no doubt sewn by her own hand. There she sat, on the large front porch in her favorite rocking chair, humming to herself as she broke beans or shelled peas.

If I were extremely lucky, she would be sitting there singing to herself quietly as she churned butter. She pumped the handle in perfect cadence while singing the same old song. “Poor little possum in a pawpaw patch pickin’ up pawpaws puttin’ ’em in his pocket”, over and over. She didn’t have a single tooth in her head, nary a one, this gave the words a warm and comforting dialect.

She usually held a dip of snuff tight in her lip. I swear that woman could pick a gnat off a dog’s butt at ten yards when she spit. Come to think of it, most “granny” women of the day were pretty accurate, years of practice had made them expert marksmen.

I looked forward to taking my turn at the handle and never missed any opportunity to do so. There in the summer heat we would sit, churning butter and singing about possums and paw-paws.  The resulting sweet butter was cool and savory on my tongue, I can almost taste it now as I think back and write these words.

The butter was pressed into antique hand carved wooden molds then chilled in the spring house. Each pound of butter was then wrapped in waxed paper and sat on a shelf in the same spring house to mature and cool, waiting for the rolling store to make its weekly rounds.

Her goods were of particular value and fetched a relatively high price. Folks were certain to ask for them by name, as a result these didn’t last long on the truck.

At each stop, the ladies would step up to the counter, proudly spread out their goods for inspection and the bartering would begin. If cash exchanged hands; the bell on the old register would ring loud and clear.

Credit was routinely extended with a simple handshake and a promise; followed by a note stuck on the wall by a nail. Few even considered breaking they’re word for risk of a bad name. Times were different then.

If a holiday or special event was approaching, items such as buttons, thread, zippers, and fabric were in high demand.

If it had been a particularly good week, meaning my brother and I had found a few soda bottles, we were allowed to trade them in for a couple of “Peanut Butter Cups.” We rarely received any candy, so such an event was not to be taken lightly. To this very day I swear the peanut butter cups were twice the size and far tastier than these “so called” modern versions. (But that’s a story for another time).

With the bartering now finished and the bills paid or charged, usually the latter. It was time for the important stuff to begin, time to gossip, spread the news or catch up. This waited until the very last of course; because everybody knows you don’t mix business with pleasure.

Gossip flew in the summer like fireflies; the news was passed down the line becoming more exaggerated with each telling. Open mouths, “aww shucks,” “you don’t say,” and “oh my Gods” were exclaimed in hushed tones. Finally, after all was said and done, the doors closed, hands were shook and the truck slowly began rattling its way down the old road once again.

Time for the ladies with kids in tow to make their way back to their homes and restock their cupboards. A new list of needs was started, and the wait began anew for the next visit by this long-gone icon of my childhood.

While I wrote this story; I thought I would do a quick search. On the interweb I clicked in rolling store. (Go ahead, try it!) There I found several old rusting hulks, covered over with weeds and vines, their travelling days over. Letters that once proudly proclaimed the proprietor’s name were now faded and barely readable. It’s a sad reminder of our time and I wonder how long it will be until no one is left who remembers the “Rolling store.” But now dear reader; I believe you will, at least for a while.

I would appreciate it if you would take the time to share these stories, maybe even go so far as to follow this page. Oh…and don’t forget to Google “Rolling Stores,” and get a look at these long gone staples of rural life.

The Trouble with Pink Socks

Once again I find myself apologizing; I’ve really let you folks down with the posts (or lack of) lately. Things have been a little hectic around the Tin Cup Clan’s new domicile. So busy in fact, I’ve found myself thinking of little else. That was until today…when for some unbeknownst to me reason, I found myself thinking of “pink socks.”

Wow…I heard the collective sigh loud and clear. But bare with me for a while and let me preach on, it’ll all make perfect sense, I promise.

Now back to this pink socks epiphany. The whole thing began innocently enough on a cool spring morning, on picture perfect New England beach.

The good Lord has blessed me with the honor of calling a great many places in this great country home at one time or another, and I loved calling the new England coast line home for a while.

One of my favorite things to do was get up early in the morning so my wife and I could stop by the beach on the way to work. There we would sit on the rocky coast, enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the lobster boats go out as the sun peeked his head above the horizon.

So…there I was, sitting on my special rock, sipping my insanely over priced coffee, while watching a lone fishing boat as it slowly disappeared into an early morning mist. (Yea, got ya hearin’ that sappy background music right about now don’t I?)

Then suddenly, harshly, and without warning, (cue the needle scratching across that background record.) “Why are you wearing pink socks”?

In that instant I forgot about the sunrise, the fishing boat, the ocean, I forgot it all as I looked down in horror. She was right, some how in the early morning dark I had picked up a pair of her socks and there wasn’t enough time to go back and change. To some guys this wouldn’t be a problem, but to a strapping young buck like my self this was an utter and complete catastrophe.

All I could think about throughout the entire day were those damn girly socks which I was certain were eating away my ankles.

Here comes the lesson. My point is simple, that morning and everything that led up to it is a treasured memory, but everything after the sock statement is gone, but more likely it was never there to begin with. I was focused on those socks. How many firsts did I miss that day? How many once in a life time moments. Was there a special cloud I missed? Perhaps some one needed help and I didn’t notice? I could go on and on.

My point is…sometimes we all have “pink sock” days. Oh they may seem harmless at first, the guy that cut us off on the freeway, that snob that cut the line at the store, but what they steal from us, well…that’s something we’ll never know. We may spend the entire day stewing over ’em, and never take time to notice the fishing boat, or the sun set on the way home. We can never measure what those little burrs cost us, but we know the loss is there. We feel it some how, not the weight but the absence of weight, the “muchness” of it all. Deep down we may feel a little… less some how. Life gives us gifts daily, but even gifts come at a price. That price is our attention, and our gratitude for the small things. After all…those are the things we remember. All this from a pair of pink socks.

Friends… most times it’s not the big things that derail us. Oft times it’s the smallest, and that small size makes them truly deadly. Don’t let ’em do that. Forget about that guy on the freeway, stop thinking about the line cutter at the store. After all, they certainly ain’t thinking about you. So quit letting people or things live rent free in your head, and remember…watch the boats, soak in the sun rise, enjoy the coffee, and always, and I do mean always check those socks before you put ’em on.

As always The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for your valuable time. We’re honored that you chose to spend a bit of with us. If you liked it, make our day. Like and share (especially share.) Leave a comment, we sure do love the comments.

God Bless…..Thank You…The Tin Cup Clan

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