Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby
If you ain't first you're last

Monday, March 30, 2009

It ain't all paradise

It's 11:30 p.m. amd I've just crept in after another long day. The boys are in bed and I hear Tilena's soft breathing a few feet away. But Bowden, faithful Bowden, lay right next to the garage door where he knew I would come in sooner or later. I sure wish I felt the confidence in myself he always shows in me. I feel like I'm missing so much the last couple of weeks. It's not going to be easy to accomplish this....but I have the confidence in my God to see me through. Spending most of my time learning things I'd long ago forgotten (Calculus and Statistics) is chore enough. Believe me when I say this kids.....you will need this stuff again one day.

I really thought I was gonna get an earlier than normal exit from work today. My lessons were complete at City Hall by 4:30 and I ran briefly by to check on a couple of ongoing issues at the PD. Kristine of course had things well in hand and I slipped on out the door. I came home after making a quick stop at the Animal Shelter project we've just finished building. By 6:30 I was dirty, content, and pulling weeds in my back yard...just really enjoying life. Then the reality of todays world invaded my peace.

Three young men had been shot in a drive by shooting within a city park crowded with kids, parents, toddlers and teens. I honestly don't know where this will all end. But I am fairly confident it will not end well. All of South Florida is at a crossroads. The culture of our people has changed and I am struggling to understand. I have begun to experience a feeling I never expected to know......what day will I get a call to the hospital for my wife or child caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I sit here now, dozens and dozens of interviews and interrogations continue at the police department. We're not even sure at the moment if these kids were intended targets or simply standing in a park being kids. Two of them have very serious injury a third has a bullet wedged into a bone in his leg. No one can tell me why this is happening......"Oh, I know what they say...."he's a member of that group, or he's a member of that group" but why....that just don't tell me why. Three young men damaged physically tonight to a degree none will ever fully recover from. And then the other side a group of kids who WILL be caught. Their lives and very freedom gone for nothing more than vanity and status. Satan's Dominion shows stronger by the day,

I have no fear for myself, but I bear full responsibility ordained by Jehovah God to protect my family. There are days now I fear I'm not fulfilling my obligation.....I love Clewiston, but the culture is changing at a pace I find myself, my experience, my training, my limited knowledge struggling to cope with. I honestly have great doubt if we're going to be able to salvage South Forida. I know that every minute detail is within our Creator's ability to control.....I just don't know what he has in mind. I recall well how he allowed his own chosen people to experience decimation and disaster a number of times. There's no reason he wouldn't choose to allow it again.

Pray for me please. Pray for my ear to hear, heart to feel, and a mind sharply attuned to Christ our Lord. There will be no peace in this town without his direct influence. I need to recognize his voice when he speaks. I need the courage to follow his word.....whatever he speaks to me. Pray I'm wise enough to follow. Pray with grinding conviction, our community will be willing to fight with me.

The phone rings again, I must go tend the store. The night is dark...and so far tonight, Satan is on the prowl.

Don and Company

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In the blink of an eye

Belly full, family here, rain on the ground, Jr. on the track, a precious afternoon of peace....good time for a nap. The week is in the books, and I've learned a lot about myself and other people I didn't know.

Some of you guys don't know, but my life is going through a dramatic adjustment these days. About ten days ago, we were in a City Commission Meeting and I was in the back of the room sitting on my stool in the corner which is my customary position where I can see everyone in the room and get to the door or the commission podium quickly if need be. Things had gone fairly normal and we were just about to adjourn when a quick exchange between the Mayor and City Manager suddenly went South. Five minutes later, literally in the blink of an eye, the City Manager had resigned and I found myself as the Acting City Manager. But nothing was said about relief from the sworn duty of Police Chief. The current Manager's contract calls for him to vacate the office on April 17th. Now being the Acting City Manager is nothing new, I've held that place for several months now, but never with the knowledge that there was a possibility of the word "interim" slipping in. A 2-3 day Acting Manager role is infinitely different from the possibility of a 9-10 month interim duty.

I don't know what the days ahead hold, but I will have a better idea on April 16th. We will have a budget workshop that evening and hopefully the Commission will act to officially appoint an Interim Manager. While there has been some indication the Commission intends for that to be me, no one has officially said that.....and for that matter it could be anyone they want it to be. So, just to be prepared for whatever the future holds, I've been going into the office (PD) very early every morning. One morning I was there at 2:15 a.m. Once City Hall opens up, I go over and try to learn from my current City Manager as much as possible about all the issues facing our community. Now these are some fairly interesting issues (SFWMD and State of Florida's purchase of US Sugar for 1.5 Billion dollars, a wastewater treatment expansion project and the related financing package, completion and occupation of a new industrial park which is pending millions of dollars of USDA Grant Funds) Now these issues are aside from the normal day to day employee and administrative functions of the job. So, then later in the afternoon, I'm back to the Police Department to try and catch up on my normal duties. Most days are now ending between 6 and 6:30 p.m., with a return trip to the police department after dinner each night.

Weighing heavily upon my mind through all this are the difficulties a couple of my officers are facing. One officer lost his wife unexpectedly this week to a tragic accident. Another officer and his wife who also happens to be one of our dispatchers have a child (infant) who is critically ill and has been in ICU at a hospital on the coast all week. My Assistant Chief had an unexpected trip come up late in the week, and her absence has magnified my awareness of how much I depend upon her day to day.

The toughest thing in all this is the things I've had to let go of. I'm going to have to turn Sunday School, Missions and my lawn over to some other people for a while. I'll just claim every free moment for a while for Tilena and the boys. T's been so patient with me so far. She even came to the PD with me after church today while I took care of a couple of things I didn't get done during the week. Who knows, maybe the Commission will appoint someone unexpected next month and all my extra studies will be for naught. We won't know for sure till the gavel falls that night. But till then...a fella has to be prepared. And I do intend to be prepared.

The greatest comfort is knowing we don't have a single Department Head who is incapable of handling their business indefinitely. Having a current City Manager who is willing to answer the phone and help me through any scrape is golden. Serving a professional, honorable, knowledgeable, and most of all Godly City Commission is priceless. There is enormous knowledge and support available to me or whoever the Commission appoints. We will be alright.

Through it all God has increased my energy and given great strength to my confidence through ernest prayer. I ask you all to join in prayer for our community these days.

Be patient with me in the days to come. I will update as I can. Love you all.

Don and Company

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What did YOU do today?

I'm fairly certain we were not meant to live as we do. Not in a spiritual sense mind you , though in that fallen nature we certainly lack God's intended purpose, but judging simply in physical existence, there's an absolute conviction in my soul that challenges our place in this creation.

The last couple of weeks I've spent nearly all of my free waking time laboring in the yard on a new project. Measured by soul and spirit the effort has been strong...by physical standard though, quite weak. What has taken two weeks to accomplish I once could have completed in three days. At a time in my life now when I have more physicians than friends, I have been cautioned against strenuous labor. As I lie in bed nightly of late, I recognize the wisdom of their collective reason. The exercise so necessary for a healthy heart, severely challenges the rest of my body. Joints, lungs and muscle fiber scream in rebellion against the days requirement of physical toil. By comparison though, as I look over the results of a fortnight labor, my spirit and soul rest in great calm.

Stopping often (as I must these days) in the midst of labor, ample opportunity is given to reflect on things. The feel of rough bark in my hands and soft grass underfoot reminds me of my roots. Not just the fact that I spring on both sides from a family of hardworking farmers. But a deeper root...an awareness that back into the mists of dawning days when man's fall drove us from the garden; there was a command of God unto us to labor and toil upon the soil. No feeling compares to the warmth of a sore back and a rich mind full of the confidences of an honest day's labor. As I sit here before this trendy flat computer screen, I wonder about what God thinks of our electronic advances, artifical intelligence, stock portfolios, and just where what I'm currently doing fits into "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Growing up on a farm gave me a great appreciation for the miracle of all things green. There's a satisfaction to be gained by "harnessing the ground". It's a good thing. Any directive of our Creator is a good thing. See though, there just simply doesn't seem to be a lot of "sweat of the brow" type of sustinence going on anymore. Actually there's more "software" than "hardware" people today. Again I'll refrain: "I don't know what God thinks of all of this", I just question it all in my mind. We can't all claim root to the Tribe of Levi now can we?

My hands quickly remembered how to callouse over these last few days. A feeling I appreciate in a man. The countless days of harvesting corn by hand, picking peas, staking tomatoes and cutting hay washed over my mind like an old friend as I worked. The smell of those steer stalls I shoveled out weekly still wafts around in my nose. Growing up knowing how to work pays a lifetime of dividends. Stopping because you're sore or tired is just sometimes not an option. It has felt good to sweat and labor in spite of the price I've paid in pain of late. It just seems to me that far too few of us truly experience physical labor anymore. Even in my condition of health I recognize the value of the toil and sweat. I'm not what I once was physically, not even close really. Neither hand nor foot will respond to the direction of my mind very well anymore. Sometimes there's not enough air to breathe. There was a day when I could swing an axe and run a chain saw from sun up until after dark. I've pulled crab traps, and dug post holes by hand day after day for weeks on end. As a 12 year old, I ran all day for what was supposed to be a "Walk-a-thon". Remember those? I was just so darned competetive that I ran 20 miles that day just to be first at the finish line. I didn't win anything, but I DID run 20 miles. I read somewhere....I don't recall where, but it was a truly insightful phrase....Accomplishment is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. We have a lot on inspiration going on these days and precious little perspiration. I struggle some days just to get out of bed in the mornings. It seems to be getting worse of late and that burdens my heart. But I just can't find it in me to sit down and "do as the doctor ordered". The peace of a contented spirit soothes me more than a comfy body. It just seems to me, we would all be better off wearing our bodies out...spending them up, using them up. Hands and feet were created by God for work. What part of this physical body are we saving up for Heaven anyway? When I trade this model in for a new one, it will be without shame. I intend to have squeezed every ounce of usefulness out of the one I have now. The soil will not rest as long as I am able to command this body to rise.

I have decided that I'll do all I can do as long as I can do it. I don't know if my heart will quit first or if my joints will cease to move. But my spirit will never rest. God said to toil, sweat and work his earth. He didn't say, "unless you're a doctor, lawyer, or police chief", He said work and sweat. I take that literally and intend to obey. Many of us satisfy that challenge with a labor of physical exertion of our jobs. Other's "like me for instance" rarely break a sweat at our profession. There are many ways to sweat of course...worry will do it and so will a pick up game of basketball. But somehow, I don't believe that's what God had in mind. Looking over a green manicured lawn, sweet smelling blossoms and harnessed "for the moment" vegetation convince me every day that God intends us to literally "tend his garden". I'll be back in that soil one day. Until then...I'll tend it with bone weary hands and water it with the sweat of my brow.

Hope you're tired tonight from an honest day of labor. Hope you sweated. Hope you did enough today to dignify your existence. I'm still trying to earn that feeling myself.

Palm Trees and Sand................................

Sunday, March 15, 2009

To the Moon Alice....To the Moon

1943 hours 15 March 2009....the last Shuttle Mission ever. Space Shuttle Discovery just roared out of our atmosphere enroute to a final rendevouz with the International Space Station. I was blessed to be able to watch it with the family. I just remembered it was going up about five minutes before launch. It just gave me time to grab the camera, Tilena and Ryan and get outside to watch. Nick was off watching basketball with his friends. Hope he remembered. I'm glad to have lived in a time and place where I could just walk out the front door of my home and "watch her ride". This evening we got an unexpected treat, we were actually able to see the main rocket booster separate and fall to the ocean. We had never seen that live before. Before you look, no, I did not get a picture of it....well I did, but you can't tell what it is just looking at it.

A lot has changed over the lifetime of the space program. I'm not convinced it has all been for the better either. Maybe I just don't remember as well given my age, but I just don't remember as many disasters happening during the Apollo Missions. It certainly doesn't seem to be any safer today considering all the technological advances. You know, the idea of a man on the moon is a concept our kids see as completely foreign if not totally irrelevant. They don't even know the relevance of the title of this post either. I am thankful my Creator saw fit for me to experience life during the days I grew up. What a rich, wonderful time. I can imagine the draw for a man to ride a rocket into the cosmos....I would go given the opportunity. There just has to be such a quiet, glorious reverence in the deep vacuum of space.

The nighttime launches were always the best. What a light show they were. People up and down the street would pull out lawn chairs while the kids ran around playing. It's kind of sad in a way. The final chapter of another era. I don't know what the next space craft will be or where it will call home, but I do know this...a lot of history goes into the books tonight. I will remember it well.

Many times the shuttle would glide directly overhead on her final approach coming home after a mission. The sonic boom would rattle your bones. It was really a shock if you weren't expecting it. Gliding is not really a good word for such an ungainly awkward bird. A controlled crash is more like it. I don't know what the re-entry plans are for this mission, but I sure would like one final "boom".

All that's left now is the trail of dust. She left here like a winner; blazing off in a cloud of glory. This is the aftermath of the liftoff standing in the front doorway of our house. She's on her way friends. Adeiu and farewell lady. May God smile upon your "discovery" and all you "endeavor".

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wish you were fine, the weather is here...

Its been awfully dry around here. The weather lady said this morning we've had only 3 inches since the 1st of November. That is typical for us, we get 3 inches per week for 26 weeks, then only 3 inches total the other 26 weeks. That's a tough environment for plant or animal. You'll see a lot of brown in the vegetation around the lake and lagoons in these photos, but it's not cold weather that does it....it's drought.

In this first shot, the Army Corps of Engineers is doing some type of construction work. I'm not sure exactly what...I think it may have to do with the restoration of the dike. They're probably trying to get it done while the lake is low.

The next photo shows some skullers enjoying the day. As much as I've complained about it being so dry...I don't know of any place have any more glorious weather. I actually took time today to check out the weather around the country and world where some of our friends are and here's what I found for the past 24 hour high temperatures in each of those locations:

Monterey, Va. 29 degrees
London, England 51 degrees
Congo 95 degrees
Perry, Fl 66 degrees
Savannah, Ga 57 degrees
Los Angeles, CA 63 degrees
Edinburgh, Scotland 50 degrees
Clewiston, Fl 82 degrees and tonight"s forecast low is 63

I think I'll shut up about the rain.....

Down below "for our out of town readers" is a shot of the lock from
the inside of the dike. The locks stay closed because the lake is
normally higher than the level of water in the lagoon and canals connected to it which meander through the town. There's not a great deal of difference right now, but by the end of the rainy season, the lake will be four or five feet higher which could cause some serious problems in town.

The bottom left photo is a picture of the actual levee. It averages
30 feet in height, 150 feet thick at the base, and runs all the way around the lake...143 miles. There's a paved road on top of it all the way around. It's a comforting sight when hurricane season rolls in.

Over to the right here is another group of scullers coming through today. You never know what you'll get off that old lake. One day 150 ft mega yachts, the next day freighters, and then rowboats and scullers.....But always, always screaming 250 hp bass boats and
v-8 powered air boars. When these barges come through, they're drawing so much depth, the water runs up the bank 3-4 feet in advance of the craft.

This guy had just come in off the open lake and was making the turn to head on West toward the Caloosahatchee River. Clewiston sits halfway along the cross state inland water way. These barges can come in at St Lucie...cross the Lake and then get through the locks into the Caloosahatchee River. Then they come out in Ft. Myers Harbor. A shortcut that saves hundreds of miles versus going all the way south through the Florida Straits at key West.

These last couple of shots are from the January FLW Bass Fishing Tournament. These guys are the last flight to leave that morning and they're just coming through the lock. 130 boats went out with two fishermen in each one. Just by way of information for Terry and Vickie....notice how these folks are dressed at 6:30 a.m. in late January. By the way,

there was no snow in the forecast that day. Right below is the Folgers Coffee Sponsored boat. Every boat has a major corporation sponsor. Everybody from Crown Royal, to Kellogs, to Castrol has a couple of boats out there. They've got some spanking paint jobs on them. Just like the NASCAR hot rods. And if you've never seen it, you just gotta be there when a 16 ft boat with a 250 hp outboard pulls a hole shot.

Well, you guys all have a good night. I'm about to punch the clock. My ole body is pooped.
I've been out in the yard digging holes since I got off work.....I

know, I know, one thing I don't need is another flower bed. But,
hey....that's my thing. I'll be crippled tomorrow, but I sure enjoyed today. Tilena's in Ft. Lauderdale having her hair done then staying with Del tonight so it's just me and the dogs...the boys are off being teenaged boys.

Till the next time, may God richly bless you all. Live righteously, pray ernestly, and go to church Sunday....and Sunday Night....and Wednesday for that matter. It will do you good.

And where ever you may be....enjoy the weather.

Don and Company

Palm Trees and Sand...............................

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In the books

I just happend to catch this sunset tonight. Nick and I were playing basketball in the driveway when I chased an errant ball before it rolled into the canal. When I picked it up and turned around, I looked straight into this. I ran into the house to grab the camera and just made it back outside as it slid into the cane field. The last moment of the day hangs in the balance on the Western edge...another one in the books. By the time it rises again to the East, T-Bug will be another year of this earth. We've had another blessed year and seen our world change. Not always for the better mind you...but change it did. Goodbyes were said to Darlie and a big hello for Parker.
Doing anything for Tilena's birthday is always hard for me. Every time I wake to another day with her is like a birthday all over again for me. She's the rudder for my life. I would just drift with any wind without her. I sure pray the Lord sees fit for us to enjoy many birthdays together to come. We've got a beautiful strawberry cake in the kitchen. T's friend Vickie makes them and they just look divine. Tilena and the boys say it tastes as good as it looks...I don't eat much in the way of sweet stuff, so I've never tasted one of them. We went ahead and had cake today cause tomorrow is a church night.
Well, speak of the birthday girl, I hear her pulling into the driveway. She went to Praise Team Practice tonight. I'm gonna go visit. You all have a great night.
Happy Birthday T.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tilena and I left home Saturday Afternoon at 3 pm. It was 81 degrees and sunny. We made it to Savannah at 1030 p.m. and spent the night with Christy, Carlton Emma Grace and Parker. Grudgingly, we left there about 10:30 on Sunday Morning. A hard days drive brought us into Monterey at 1000pm Sunday Night. The last three hours were in the snow...not an everyday experience for a salty ole cracker like me. Particularly in the most mountainous terrain East of the Mississippi. We took the first photo here from atop Monterey Mountain Monday Morning.
The second photo shows the time of the morning (9:21) and the temperature (13). Getting up that winding road in the ice and snow was a trick. God is Glorious when we listen to him. I really had no intention of buying an all wheel drive Saab the previous month when I started car shopping. But I did prayerfully consider all options and was awfully glad to have it on this day.
The third photo is a shot looking South at the bottom end of the "holler" where my Dad and all his siblings were born and raised. That is the historic Jackson River flowing through there. We had just driven over an icy one lane rickety old ancient bridge to get to this point.
The fourth shot is mid way up the holler (about a quarter of a mile above the Jackson River) headed East from the highway. The shot is looking "down holler" to the West. We were steadily climbing a slippery icy snowy lane headed up to the top of the holler. Believe it or not, we made it up to the old two story farm house about a quarter mile on above this shot. The new owners have restored the place and it is absolutely gorgeous. The house itself sits next to a small creek at the edge of a steep shale cliff which runs on up to the top of the mountain.....and I forgot to take a photo.
As we left Monterey following Darlies funeral, we stopped about halfway upthe mountain and took this photo of the Town of Monterey. I think you can see what draws me to the place. If you can imagine these places in the Springtime with wild flowers covering the slopes, Summertime with the multi colored greens, or most impressively the Autumn reds, yellows and oranges blazing away. It really is one of God's great works. Cold cold cold cold cold cold....but stunningly beautiful.
I'll tell more about the details of the trip later, right now I must tend to the grill. We're having steak, baked potatos, pork sausage, green beans, and Cuban bread....yeah Terry, I'm grilling outside barefoot and in shorts....hear there's some weather up your way.....
Don & Co.