Tag Archives: Smyrna

The End of War

4862549088_a1d1cf9bdd_bHarper’s bloodshot eyes locked on the city.

It sat on a low ridge, giving those within a view of the plains beyond that stretched for hundreds of miles. And now, as black smoke rose in as many pillars as towers that once stood within its thick walls, there was likely not a soul for hundreds of miles who couldn’t see it, too.

Pushing the filthy cap back on his shaggy head of black matte, he turned and spat through his graying beard, before straightening to focus on the foreground interest; fourteen men stood side by side on a platform facing the city as it went up in flame, the tall tower at the height of the hillborne metropolis collapsing as they watched, erupting in a bout of flame and smoke that connected all the others in one massive pillar rising miles into the sky.

Harper didn’t have to listen to what the man with the scroll was yelling. The man stood upon the platform facing the condemned, surrounded by thousands of soldiers in filthy brown coats and caps, a hodgepodge of men from all over the country. None had had much sleep in months, and none needed to hear what the crier was announcing.

The fourteen were evil men, had used their power to abuse others, and when the call went out, tens of thousands of ordinary men left their homes to fight them back into the holes they’d crawled out of. And now they stood facing the grand fortress they’d constructed in which to engage and hold their power.

When the men dropped, the crowd erupted in cheers and hollering. Men whooped.

Harper’s eyes began to well with tears, but he did not smile. He hefted his rifle over his shoulder, turned, and pushed his way through the crowd. Getting free of the main group, he trudged across the field where hundreds continued cleaning up the bodies of men, both from his side and the other.

He looked across them as tears continued running into his beard.

Lefty spotted him from the back of the crowd as he plodded  through the battlefield, and turned to catch up to him, jogging and walking from exhaustion.

Stopping only to cut boots from a dead man, Harper moved without pause back into the crop of trees, which he and his fellows had used last night before this morning’s battle, and gathered his pack. Pushing the top of his rifle through the straps looping over the top of the leather pack, he hefted it and pulled it on over his gray coat and turned, without looking, to continue on his way.

“Harper!”

Harper slowed as Lefty caught up and walked up beside him.

“Where you going? We just beat the bastards! We get to eat tonight and sleep in! I wanna celebrate!”

“Then you stay and celebrate,” Harper patted Lefty’s shoulder and took a few steps.

“Wait, but why are you leaving? Aren’t you happy we won?”

Harper paused and turned back. “I didn’t come here to kill men, Lefty.”

“What?” Lefty took a few steps closer.

“I came here to prevent my family from getting hurt,” Harper’s eyes glassed again. “And I have seen many men die to accomplish that.”

“And now we can celebrate!”

Harper shook his head. “This was never about victory, Lefty. This was about doing a dirty, filthy task no man should ever have to do, but can never walk away from. I came here to end the threat. It’s ended. And I’m going home.”

“But, but you can’t even wait a night?” Lefty was incredulous.

Harper just hefted his bag and started walking.

“I don’t get it!” Lefty yelled.

Harper didn’t respond, just trudging with his thin-soled shoes with a hole in the left toe that kept letting pebbles in.

Across the flat lands and into the forests, stopping long enough to kill dinner, cook it and sleep, Harper walked. He waited until his shoes were falling apart before he pulled on his new pair, still covered in dried blood.

Through rain and wind, sun and heat, he pressed on. A month passed, his beard now down to his chest.

On a cloudy day in fall, Harper finally turned at the oak tree onto the small wagon trail that led into the valley. He continued his trudge, exhausted but eager. The road turned into thicker trees before descending into the shallow the stretched for several miles around the four sweetwater creeks — Thule, Smyrna, Cobblestone and Souptop. He crossed the first without taking off his boots, a pour of sunlight glittering across the creek nearby as he pushed up the other side.

Turning onto the walk trail that shortcutted the wagon route, he climbed down into a small gulley and pulled his way back up the other side. It was overgrown now, and he had to push through it.

0EDC173E0In a quiet moment he saw it, his small house in the clearing.

Harper stopped for a moment as tears welled for the first time since he left the battlefield. Swallowing more, he trudged again, across the grass and between a few more trees. By the side of the house stood a tall boy chopping wood. He paused to see the figure approaching and turned, walking toward the grungy man when he tripped.

“Pa?” he walked forward. “PA!!” He ran up to his father and stopped, staring up at the hairy, unkempt figure who stared back at him with teary eyes. The man unshouldered his pack and grabbed the boy, pulling him in a tight brace, the boy beginning to cry.

“What is it, Ian?” his mom walked up to the edge of the screen porch rubbing her hands with a towel when she coughed, dropping the handtowel and pushing the door open, lifting her skirts to run faster.

Harper squeezed his boy and then let him go as she got to him, leaping against him, gripping him, both crying.

Then came running a young girl of nine. “PA!” She crowded to one side as he grabbed her and pulled her close to him and his wife, then his boy, getting them  close. He kissed his wife for the first time in a year, then dropped down to get a better hug out of his little girl. Picking her up in one arm, he grabbed his wife’s hand and the family went inside.

He spent the next two hours talking with his children and listening to their stories about what had happened since he had left. Then when dinner was prepared, they all sat down around the small table and ate a small meal. As it neared, his wife placed her hand on his. “Go outside and get out of those clothes. I will draw hot water for you to clean yourself. You two get to your chores.”

Harper nodded and did as he was told, walking outside around to the small shed where they kept the small copper tub. Stripping slowly, he peeled everything off. One piece of his shirt had sealed to him and he had to hiss as it stretched at his skin. He then stood there in the cool evening air seeping under the shed door holding his soiled clothes over his parts.

He wanted to feel absolute joy at being home. Instead, he felt the first threads of a long cord beginning to unravel in his head. When the door opened, he froze, unused to being nude to anyone. When his wife walked in with a heavy pot of steaming water, they both took a moment before she set it down and shut the door. Pouring the water into the tub, she turned, not looking. “I’ll get some more water.”

He waited patiently, feeling the cool packed earth beneath his feet and, despite his thick calluses and blisters, felt grateful he was standing here. A few minutes later, she returned and poured the rest. It was just enough to sit in. He waited, watching her.

Harper had spent months away from his wife. He wasn’t quite sure how to react to her being here in the flesh. He had forgotten how to speak to her or touch her. He’d spent the past few hours doing as he’d been told. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do, now. As she poured it out, she stood, watching him.

Neither spoke before she turned and left, closing the door behind herself.

Setting his clothes down next to him, with a habit of never letting his possessions far from his sight, he carefully toed the water and hissed. He hadn’t had a hot bath since he left. Taking the rags and brushes in a box next to the tub, and the rough-hewn cube of fat, he began soaping himself and scrubbing everything he could get to. Using the little bucket, he doused himself and kept washing until the water was cold and black. At a knock, he froze.

“Yes?”

“I brought you more water.”

Blinking, he climbed out and stood to the side so only those who entered would see him. “Come.”

She unlatched the door and stepped in, shutting the door before turning to see him, visibly surprised at his nudity. She looked at him, then stepped up to the edge of the tub. They both lifted it and tipped it near the side of the shed where the dog had dug under the wall and left a gulley out. Setting it right, she poured the fresh water in and he stepped back into it with care and sat.

“I will help you,” she whispered and took the brush, scrubbing at things he couldn’t see. When she was finished, he crawled out onto the ground and turned around, dunking his head into the water as she rubbed some of her oils into it, washing it through. The water was almost clear before he dunked his head into it. When they were finished, the water was black, and Harper’s hair was gray.

tumblr_m2bmq8Pims1qa3rc4o1_500She retrieved his old clothes and with her help, he put on his underclothes, his white shirt and a pair of trousers with suspenders. She looked at him and his big beard and slid her arms under his and around his back, laying her head against his chest. He hugged her tightly.

“I love you,” she whispered.

He tightened his embrace, both standing in the dim candlelight for a few moments, before they left the washing material there and went back inside. There by the fire his son had built, he took his old chair and watched his two children finish up their chores. They stared at his gray hair. He had only started to gray when he left. Now he was fully peppered.

He relished the clean, dry clothes, warm fire and comfortable chair. When his wife came and sat next to him, she touched his hand. “I have something for you.”

She handed over a rolled kit. He took it from her and untied the binding, unrolling to reveal his trim kit. He smiled and took her hand, squeezing it. Sitting forward, he took out the handkerchief in his pocket and laid it on the floor and began to cut at his beard. He trimmed it, the small hairs drifting down to the fabric. When he felt satisfied with its length, he wiped them clean and rolled it away, then took the chaff and shook it out in the fire. Sitting down, his children joined them. His daughter climbed into his lap as his son took the other side in his own chair.

“Pa, what was it like? War?”

Harper took a deep breath, looking at his daughter, and at his son, both of whom had grown so much. He took a long, hard minute in thought before taking his wife’s hand.

“I left to protect you both from it,” his gravelly voice filled the room. “War is not glory. It’s a chore, just like the ones you do around here every day. It’s the longest, nastiest of chores. I did it alone to spare you from it. Maybe one day you’ll have to go,” he looked at his son, “but I stayed not a minute longer than was necessary to complete my task. When it was done, I came back. I love you both more than I could ever love war or glory.” He squeezed his daughter around her waist.

“Pray you never have to face it, but if you do, go and complete it. To live in a society sometimes means doing things you don’t want to do, but what I did, I did for you.” He turned toward his wife’s teary eyes shining in the firelight. “And for her.”

She bent down to kiss his hand, holding it to her face.

Tears fell from his eyes as he squeezed her hand.

“I’m home,” he smiled. “I’m home now.”

40th Annual Stone Mountain Highland Games

Saturday was quite a day, rising early from my most warm-weathered bed to brave the early morning chill to carpool with some friends down to the 40th Annual Stone Mountain Highland Games on the other side of Atlanta. After loading up with some tasty coffee and a bacon cheddar muffin from Rev Coffee in Smyrna, we hit the road.

Twenty five minutes later, we joined the throng of celtic-loving Southernors and sojourners as we walked from our parking spot down the road and through the gates into a world of kilt-wearing enthusiasts of history and heritage.

Upon the two main fields throughout the day were scheduled bagpipe parades, marching, stone throwing and caper tossing. For those of you unfamiliar with caper tossing, think about a legion of Roman soldiers going to battle against an army of men who train by throwing tree trunks.

Me in a kilt, Dragon Con 2011.

There was food and swag and clothes and heritage items and clan tents and kilts and period outfits and beer and sports and celtic bands and Scottish dancing and other fun-type stuff that warms the hearts of long-born celts such as myself and the group with which I traveled.

After making our first circuit round through the vendor tents, we went and bought some meat pies and I bought some haggis for those of us to try who had yet to taste its … *cough* sweet odor. It pretty much tastes like a slightly sour liver, which I like liver, but not haggis. At least I can say I tried it, though.

I ate a meat pie and some totally Scottish traditional crinkle-cut french fries *snicker* and ketchup and we started our next round of vendor and clan tents. The weather was nice and cool that warmed slowly. We watched large men throw trees and heavy stone weights, bagpipe groups marching and playing. We visited the band road where more than twenty bagpipe groups ranging from small Georgia counties to The Citadel’s official Bagpipe band in their high-collar whites and kilts.

Sunday, which we didn’t attend, was scheduled for sheepdogging and falconry and more historizing. Yes, it’s a make-up-your-own-kind-of-words night.

After awhile, some friends arrived from down south and we hung out a bit while we snacked on coffee and some wicked tasty baked goods. Tired from a day of standing and walking around, my group hopped in the car and headed back to Marietta to enjoy a leisurely dinner at Johnny McCracken’s on the Square in Marietta, where they had a $10 all-you-can-eat Irish buffet, after which we sat out back and had cigars and conversation.

After circuiting the square, we paired off and two went home and the remainder went to coffee at Starbucks.

It really was a great day overall. I maintained my Scottish brogue for nearly the entire time at the games and was even stopped by a family, asked to speak to their children so they could know what Scots sounded like! She never asked where I was from and I never lied, but I spoke to her kids in a brogue and they didn’t seem very interested, but still funny all the same.

My own family — the Cross family — is from Galloway in southwestern Scotland. We were some form of aristocrats, according to elder members of my family, though we belonged to no clan. That was probably a two-edged sword, and also likely meant we were sellouts.

I’d like to visit one day and track down some of my family history. Time, however, is all that will tell.

I had a good weekend and I hope you did, too. For now, I’m already late for Sunday evening chores! Good night!

Shameless Self Aggrandizement – Cuz I'm Tired

So, I’m tired and somewhat burnt out right now. I thought I’d post some fun stuff for you to enjoy. Already late tonight. I’m having trouble tracking things right now. So, as a completely shameless plug, I’m posting some videos also available elsewhere on my site that show me singing. And maybe some other cool stuff. Enjoy!

Some music from yours truly

And some Youtube music I really enjoy

Losing my "Tavern VI"rginity

An artist’s rendition of Tavern VI, by a photographer taking a photo of something completely different.

Last night a good friend of mine indoctrinated me into one of her self-proclaimed heavens on earth: Tavern VI, a two-story, invitation-only bar on private property where what is consumed is brought by those who come and shared among everyone — be it alcohol, food, guns or explosives, and all are consumed often at some point. It’s not an every-night kind of place, either. The man who owns it only invites folks out every month or so, though that might happen more or less frequently depending on season and the economy.

Tavern VI is placed on a large property outside Columbus, GA., where there is a house, a large barn garage, a microcrop and three cultivated bee hives. It sits next to a large man-made pond made into the side of a wooded decline with the endearing welcoming yellow signs warning trespassers of snipers, placed just below three bright red stop signs adorning the entry drive.

Its privacy is paramount, so the details I may speak of here will remain largely circumspect, suffice to say it’s a nice place, with nice people who love sharing each other’s company. It’s a place of exchange, be it camaraderie or a cold one, and there is plenty of both. Sometimes it’s homemade brew, sometimes it’s a hybrid concoction of fruit and alcohol, or just the local stuff bought a few miles away at the local liquor store.

When I arrived, they already had a high powered rifle with large scope set upon a table for shooting. My friend brought zombie-themed targets that changed color based on where the round struck the cardboard. The crack reverberated through the tavern.

This is not the pond you are looking for.

The tavern, built with a small kitchen and large bathroom in a three-tiered structure on a shallow hill. the short bar divided the kitchen from open half of the three-tiered room, making all within the tavern visible to those sitting at the bar. Upon the walls are fastened many colorful signs, hats and other adornments. There are neon signs and flags, old shirts and a long line of hats rimming the underside of the third-tier. A pool table is the center piece of the lower floor, but does not take up it all, with a few tables and a number of stools. The third tier, with a balcony overlooking the other two, has two futons and a long serving bar along the balcony, itself.

Out back is a two-tiered deck deck with a diving board I was advised against messing with.

I spent my evening traveling about the grounds, conversing with the owner, my two friends and numerous other “tavernauts,” as they lovingly call themselves, about life, politics and everything between. We learned about the owner’s hobbies and focuses, discussed homeopathy, local education, race relations, and the finer points of eating moonshine-soaked strawberries out the jar.

I was the sober mascot for the evening and the well-identified Tavern Virgin, as it was my first time at the Tavern.

“Daphne” my 1991 Fleetwood Southwind. Now for sale. Again.

The day had already started out both interesting and productive, as I had to drive from Montgomery to Atlanta to reclaim my RV and put it into storage. I hung out with a friend for awhile, visited Rev Coffee in Smyrna, and then headed south to Columbus.

The evening was a good one. I made new friends, had interesting conversations, danced a little, and had to deal with some drunks, but it was all in good fun. No more standing close to Eric Parsons when he’s feeling like a smartass and is toasted.

I hope to return soon, though I will not say next when I am scheduled to go, because “What happens at the Tavern better damn well stay at the Tavern or you’re not longer invited to the Tavern.” That’s the extended version. Or they shoot you. There’s always that.

My time was good. I had lots of fun, great convo, and it’s always good to see old friends while making new ones. My my friend who invited me was correct — I did have a good time.

And that’s how I lost my “Tavern VI”rgnity.

Seven Years from Now, Anaheim, California

I had a good, interesting weekend, hopefully my last travel weekend for a month or so. After my rather long trip out West, I’ve grown rather tired of driving long distance. I love traveling, but for the moment, I’d like to land for a bit.

However, knowing this weekend was going to be a travel weekend, I prepared for the three hour drive to Smyrna and the subsequent three hour drive back to Fairburn and final two hour stretch back to Montgomery.

I was scheduled for Rev Spring Fest 2012, the first half-hour slot for the live music, so I opened the show. This is the second time, I believe, I’ve opened the fest, and I hope to play in the Fall with lots of new songs I have yet to write and must write in order to sing those lots of new songs. So here’s for goaling.

So I drove out Friday night, crashed with a friend, and on Saturday helped setup and pulled the first gig. Usually the first gig is quiet and empty. I guess my friends at Rev Coffee and the couple who runs the music side of the festival have done a wonderful job in increasing numbers each RevFest. There’s an area of shops and inside and the music sitting area, and when I began, there was only one guy sitting there. By the end, we had maybe about half full seating. I was able to remain humorous and kept them laughing between songs, even though I had to stop halfway through one of them. I hadn’t practiced as much as I’d needed.

So I went on to another song and finished out strong.

Then I went to the Renaissance Festival in Fairburn and hung out with my good friend from Warner Robins and other friends of hers. Followed her around when she wasn’t disappearing toasted and flirting with people she’d just met. But great afternoon overall. Glad to see her. Glad to hang out with a new friend I met through her. We had good conversation about a variety of topics.

I’ve been invited to our mutual friend’s birthday party in Columbus in a month or two and that should prove interesting. I’ll get my shots first.

And then I returned home to dinner with another friend and his workmates, and then home here in Montgomery.

Anyway, I don’t have much more to say to night. I think I’m a bit burnt out on various things. I’m ready for some rest, but here’s to another week ahead, working through and maybe getting a comp day.

I don’t know how I’ll make it through a deployment. Sometimes I feel like my brain burns hot. I can be so very creative, and then suddenly have nothing. Brain stops, mind blanks. When I’m tired, I actually only start using one eye. The other relaxes and slows its feed to the brain so it’s not such a distraction. I think I started doing that as a teenager.

In any event, my brain is done. Night all.

The Road to Georgia

O’dark thirty Saturday morning, I hit the road.

The road out of Hampton began sometime mid-week last week as I ramped up to leave Virginia. I got to say goodbye to everyone I wanted to say goodbye to, have some great goings-away for myself and my friends.

After I left Joint Task Force Civil Support two weeks ago, I’ve been doing homework during the day and trying to relax afterward. It’s been an interesting two weeks, getting up during the day to do homework and then doing what I want at night. I haven’t had free nights since before I started school again, and it’s a delicious feeling. I love learning, but I don’t much care for school. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate.

I’ve found myself questioning whether my online degree is as valid as a regular degree, but the school is accredited by the same folks who accredit the Univ of Michigan, and no one would question that school’s validity. I guess I should just trust my decision. Besides, I’m on this path; best to live it out and see where it takes me.

I had dinner with Beau on Tuesday night, stayed in Wednesday night, picked up me mum Thursday and spent time with her that evening, attended a going-away luncheon Friday for someone in my office and then had my own going away at Chili’s Friday night, where I received a red Star Trek T-shirt and a gaming gift from my roommate.

Afterward, some of us retired to the homestead to chill, pack the Jeep and play some video games. Saw Shaye, and after she left, Renee stopped by and I’m very glad to see her; she’s someone I really connected with and I’ll miss her very much.

I’ve really enjoyed by time in Hampton, and the friends I’ve made or had before. Saturday prior Renee and I went to Norfolk and spent the day wandering about, had breakfast at Charlie’s Breakfast & Lunch (the best omelets EVAR), toured the USS Wisconsin and the Nauticus Maritime Museum, and then had dinner and played pool with my good friends Nate and Stephanie.

My time in Virginia was truly a blessed time, and I praise God for offering me more than I deserve, for I don’t deserve what I had received; not there, here or anywhere else.

Renee gave me a special gift before leaving Friday night — Season 2 of Animaniacs. For those of you who don’t know, Animaniacs is the greatest cartoon series ever made (in league with Rocko’s Modern Life, Futurama, etc.) and I love the show. I’m not much of a gift person, but I’m touched she got me two cards and the whole season.

Living life according to principles is a clean way of living, but it comes with sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to pay, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish I didn’t have to.

In any event, I hit the road Saturday morning and was blessed with no stops by police. Traffic was mostly light, and I hit the weather raping the country head-on, but the rain itself lasted only about 5-10 minutes in its heaviest deluge, all else was rather cute and fluffy.

My ragtop acted like a sail to my four-cylinder lightfoot, so anytime I got on the uphill and hit the wind, I dropped 10-15 mph and didn’t gain speed very well. It was infuriating, and I look forward to when I can get myself a 6-cyl automatic Wrangler again, like my first.

The most violent moment of the trip came only minutes from Smyrna when I saw a pick-up truck somehow turn sideways and drive across all eight lanes of traffic at a high rate of speed and ram hard into the incline at the bottom of an off-ramp. I don’t know if he hit someone else or perhaps the HOV divider, as he left pieces of himself on the road, but he hit no-one during the rather alarming turn and was able to turn the truck so when it came back down the incline, it remained out of traffic. In any event, I made it safe and sound to Smyrna.

I can’t tell you how great it felt to be back in 8-lane traffic. I shared this with a friend of mine yesterday and she agreed that when coming back from school in North Carolina, she felt the same. There’s something about driving in heavy traffic (so long as its moving at a nice clip, mind you), that’s invigorating. I love reading traffic, always have, and often relate life to traffic or vehicles. If you’re not moving, you’re not living; which for me means more than that.

Next week I’m going to do the most vain thing possible and write a five-art expose on myself. A friend recently poked me (metaphorically) about how I speak about what I do, but not always why I do it. So, for those of my regular readers (all 15 of you) who might be interested in understanding this nugget, I’ll write more specifically about my motivations for things then.

In the meantime, I’ll try to write lots of humiliating stuff about myself this week so my vanity seems a bit more normalizing. 😉 Night all.