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. 

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

D.W.B.s and Why Everyone Should Know What They Are.

I brag about my stepdad a lot, that’s not news for those what know me. I was a tad worried when that crusty ol’ yankee came into our lives. We were from two different worlds’; he didn’t understand much of what I said, and I sure didn’t understand that New York accent of his. But Ma seemed to be happy with the arrangement, and as the “man of the house” I went along with it. After all, back in those days; finding a feller to take on a divorced lady and her band of four heathens was no easy task, even if we were all just “perfect angels.”

I don’t know when it happened, but sooner or later that ol’ coot started to grow on us. Possible because he looked the part, I rarely seen him in anything other than his bib overalls and long sleeve shirt. A gnawed toothpick eternally hung from one corner of his mouth, while a lit cigarette hung from the other. He kept a large ashtray by his recliner, but it was only a general target, evidenced by the ring of ashes circling it.

His nature was loud to say the least, and anything he had to say was generally heard by everyone in the room, (whether they wanted to be a participant in the conversation or not). He had the “particular” habit of calling me by my formal name, never “Mike” but “Michael,” and he began every conversation with it.

I can’t begin to list all the advice he passed down to my teen-aged self. Most of them are just…automatic now, I don’t think about them, they just seem to be there and happen, like blinking, you don’t think about it, you just blink. But one piece of advice sticks out above all else, it’s a list, and I’ve tried to pass at least one item from that list to each member of The Tin Cup boys.

That list, titled by my stepdad was known as your D.W.B.s’. More formally known as your “Damn. Well. Betters’.” (Right now, my kids are reading this and shaking their heads, yea…they’ve heard em before.

D.W.B.# 1

“Michael” (see there, he did it again). You damn well better pay your taxes, “Render unto Caesar” he would say. It’s your responsibility to pay your fair share, after all, it’s a small price to pay so’s you and your family can lay down and sleep at night, free from the fear of some cracker head breaking in and taking it from ya. This country ain’t perfect…but it’s a damn sight better than most. “ Now I don’t know about you” he would say, “but I got no desire to be standing in line to buy cheap government issued toilet paper.” Besides…you don’t want em getting their hooks in you if you don’t pay em. He called em “hooks” not “claws,” claws you can just pull out, but hooks, they’re a different story, you can’t pull em out, they got barbs. Once the government gets those hooks in you for non-payment, they ain’t letting go. So…good Lord willing, I’ve paid em what I owe em, ain’t got no hooks in me to speak of yet.

D.W.B.# 2

“Michael” (there it is again). You damn well better realize there is a “Higher Power.” Now you can call this “Higher Power” what you want, “but believe you me brother,” (he said that a lot as well) there’s a divine force pulling the strings. “You may be the center of “your” universe, but you’re not the center of “the” universe,” I guarantee it. We as children of God have the responsibility of looking out for the one on our right. Think about that for a second, it makes sense. As children, we answer to our parents, we have rules and like it or not, we have limits. A five-year-old may want ice-cream for breakfast, but as a parent, it’s our responsibility to say no. Adults and parents aren’t any different, we (adults) also have rules and limits. We can’t have everything we want, or do anything we want, oft times those things aren’t good for us in the long run, so sometimes God says “no.” Kids need to feel comfortable asking their parents for advice, just as adults need to feel comfortable asking God for advice. Often we may not like the answer, just like the ice-cream.

D.W.B.# 3

“Michael” (you knew that was coming). You damn well better fix that toy. This is a big one for parents, so pay attention. A child will never bring you a broken heart if they can’t bring you a broken toy. (I’m gonna let that sink in for a minute while you read it again). Don’t get so caught up with life and all its troubles, that you don’t have time to fix that broken toy and wipe that tear from your little ones cheek. When your child brings you a headless doll, or a crashed toy car, all things gotta stop. Period. To them, that bobble is their heart and their world, and they’re asking you (trusting you) to fix it, and they die a little inside, each time you don’t have time for them. When they get older, the toy is replaced with more grown-up issues, they need to know they can bring that to you in safety as well, they gotta know they matter, and you will do your absolute best.

D.W.B.# 4

“Michael” (aww come on, you didn’t expect to stop now). You damn well better open the door and take off the hat. This one can get a little sticky so bear with me. This revolves entirely around respect. Never forget to open the door for the person behind you, especially if that person is a lady. It’s simple manners that many have forgotten. The practice serves two purposes. Doing so humbles you in the company of others, that’s an honorable thing no matter how important you think you are. (Refer to #2), not the center of “the“ universe thing, remember? This little habit reminds us of our place in this world and our responsibility daily. The next and most important, is respect. This small act of humility honors the other, especially should that person be older. They have done their time, gained a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom, and are worthy of our (your) respect. I’m gonna inject a little of my own here and ask something of you. The next time you are waiting in the drive through, getting your morning coffee and sausage biscuit, pay the tab for the person in the car behind you. Don’t wait around for recognition just do it, that’s between you and God, (he notices stuff like that), trust me on this one. You’d be surprised how much it brightens their day, remember, take care of the person to your right, (also from #2). Finally, never sit at the table with your hat on. To some this may seem rather trivial, but in removing your hat you demonstrate reverence to your Heavenly father for providing you the means to afford and enjoy the meal you have been blessed with, as well as respect for the one who prepared it for you.

D.W.B.# 5 “Michael” (you knew it was coming). Family is everything, especially when you don’t like em. Relationships are like the tide; they ebb and flow. Some days they’re so sweet you could eat em up, and other days you wish you had. (feel free to use that quote). Nobody gets along all the time, if that’s what you expect, you’re destined for heartache. We age we change, we hurt we heal, we forgive… and we love. In a perfect world love is unconditional, unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. So…God gave us families, a group of imperfect individuals to help bare the burden when life gets to heavy for one. We may (and will) fight and argue, we may say and do things we shouldn’t, we forget birthdays and anniversaries. We may even take each other for granted. But in the end, we are all we have, and quiet possibly all we need, ain’t it wonderful! You see…he “that Higher Power” designed us that way, and the last time I checked, he don’t make no mistakes.

D.W.B.# 6 “Michael” (Last one I promise). Never break a covenant. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. When you give a man your word, or shake a man’s hand, that’s the end of it. You can’t break a covenant, not even the good Lord will break that. To this day, If I pump a man’s paw, I know it’s serious business, I still conduct a lot of my affairs that way, and I warn folks about the importance before they grab my hand. I get the short end a good many times, but as long as you keep your end of the bargain, you can sleep well at night.

So there’s the D.W.B.s, you might even want to put em on your refrigerator, right next to the crayon drawing of the family dog. I’ve tried to instill at least one of these D.W.B.s into each of my boys in the books. My hope is, when you read it, you will see it in their personalities. The release date is still up in the air, times as they are and all, publisher says they are doing their best. Until then I request and Thank You for your patience. As always, a “like” or “share” is greatly appreciated, and I enjoy the comments. There is also a “Tin Cup Clan” FB page, you are welcomed to join us.   Till next time…. sincerely, The Tin Cup Clan.

Where does the T.C.C. call home?

Where do the boys in The Tin Cup Clan live?

I get asked that a lot. I reckon the answer’s not what you may think. The town is actually an aggregate of all the places I’ve been fortunate enough to call home, (and there’s been a few). I felt it was very important that everyone who reads the books recognize at least a little part of it. This way anyone and everyone can feel part of the T.C.C. The train tracks for example, the pair run smack down the center of main street, much like a town I lived in on the East coast. The creepy cemetery, well every town has one, just ask the local youth. Even the local witch legend, it seems every town has their own version, and every middle school in America once had a Mr. Bill.

Even though the town could be any where, it’s role as a mid-century Appalachian coal town is vital to the story. The boys must navigate childhood as their parents cope with the economic hardships felt by all during the slow death of the coal industry and textile mill closings.

The somber nature of the area should not be the primary focus. Hardship breeds strength, I believe that strength shines in the people. “Big” David’s family for example, his Christian upbringing, strength of character, and wisdom beyond his years, eventually saves the lives of two of our boys.

In closing.

As to your question. “Is it my town?” The answer is both no and yes, I hope everyone, everywhere, recognizes a little bit. That’s what makes it “our” town, and that’s what makes the “Tin Cup Clan” our boys.

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