Who Is This Guy, And Why Should I Follow His Blog?

Hi, Y’all,

I started my blog in September of 2017. A lot of stuff has happened since then, and I have added a lot of posts. I have recently purchased a domain – jimgblack.blog – through WordPress.com, who has been posting my blogs from the beginning, and so I am editing this post to bring it up to date.

So…the title, Broken Anvil…what does it mean? I hear you asking. When I was younger my daddy used to say I could tear up an anvil, if I could ever get my hands on one. It wasn’t that I was a destructive little brat (depending on whom you ask), just very inquisitive as to how things worked. So, I would tear things apart to get to the insides. I just never could put them back together – hence the reason I’m not a surgeon.

Anyway, I have often thought that Broken Anvil would be a good name for a lot of things, none of which I could ever get around to creating. So I figured, what the heck? Use it as the title for my blog. If you look at my profile, you will see that I started this venture to practice my writing and just have fun with it.

I am starting my first book, and welcome any and all help, advice, tips, tricks and criticisms I can get. I hope you will read and follow my posts, and recommend me to others. My two biggest wishes are that I will become a better writer, and that you will just enjoy what you read. I have a lot of interests, and will write on a variety of things. Some serious. Some humorous. But always from the heart and my warped perspective on things. You can also follow me on Twitter and my writing page on Facebook, which I see needs a lot of serious work, by clicking on the social media icons found on each page. I hope you like what you see. If you do, please leave a like and/or a comment. And feel free to recommend my blog to others who might enjoy it.

ROAD TRIP

Wow! What a day I had Thursday, the 16th. To start off, I had a message on my Facebook writing page from a woman who started the Laurens County Writers Guild in our county back in 2016. Up until Thursday morning I wasn’t even aware that we had a guild in Laurens county. Anyway, she asked if I would come to their meeting sometime and speak about my blog and my writing journey. I was very humbled at the invitation, and will try and get to their meeting soon. Also, I thought it was a great way to start the day that I, along with two other members of the Newberry chapter of the South Carolina Writers Association were to be on the local AM radio station in Newberry, to talk about our work and the Association.

I started my day early, getting up and showering for the radio interview. After a quick breakfast I drove the thirty minutes over to Newberry and WKDK Radio AM 1240. WKDK is an institution in Newberry and has been in the same building since it first went on the air in 1946. For decades it has been the voice of the (Newberry College) Wolves and the (Newberry High School) Bulldogs. It is your typical, small town, brick exterior radio station, decorated inside with album covers, autographs and posters of shows through the years. Our interview ran live for thirty minutes with a couple breaks and it was a lot of fun. You can find them online at wkdk.com, or download their app from the App Store.

After the interview I had to drive all the way to the middle of Laurens County to the tax office to pay property taxes. Now…I could have taken the quick and easy route, jumping over to the interstate, heading north to Laurens. However, those of you that know me, know that, given a nice warm day and an opportunity, I’m going to take the back highways and make a journey of it. And I did! Knowing my way around this area like I do, I got on the nearest highway, Highway 121 in Newberry, and headed toward Highway 34 which would take me past farms and fields, through the small town of Silverstreet, and over to Highway 39, which would take me over to Laurens.

Silverstreet is a small, unincorporated town in Newberry County. According to Wikipedia, it is three and a half square miles with a population of two hundred-sixteen people, as of the 2000 census. Driving through I saw a small park that looked as if it had not been used for a while and Smitty’s Country Store that seemed to be pretty popular. I drove across Little River, however, the trees are grown over so thick on either side of the bridge, I wasn’t able to stop and take a good picture. Oh, well, on with the trip.

From Highway 34, I got onto Highway 39 in Chappells, on the southern tip of Newberry County. I had been driving through some pretty parts of the county, noticing the old wood and cement block buildings, long since abandoned and slowly being taken back by nature, but, at the intersection where the two highways meet, there was a new chain discount store. I won’t mention the name, and I’m sure the locals are glad to have it there, but it just took away from the old country charm though which I had been driving and enjoying so much.

Highway 39 took me into Cross Hill in Laurens County. In a past life I worked all of the county and Cross Hill was one of my favorite towns to work. It is a small, old town with great little restaurants and some nice places on the lake. I could have taken Highway 39 all the way to Highway 221 and gone into Laurens, but again, knowing the area like I do, I had to make a couple side trips. From Cross Hill over to Waterloo and down Old Laurens Road to Harris Landing on Lake Greenwood for lunch. I had been by Harris Landing Restaurant and Tiki Bar many times, but had never stopped to eat. I have some good friends who are regulars and I have heard that the food is excellent. What better time to try it out for myself?

The restaurant itself is a brick building which sits lakeside, just off the Old Laurens Road. The inside is decorated with pine siding, plastered with decorated one dollar bills, and a nice bar where patrons can sit and eat lunch. I looked over the menu and it had a lot of great looking choices. I opted for the catfish special. I would have taken a picture, but I was too taken with how delicious it looked and the food didn’t last too long. It wasn’t Keto friendly, so, Dee, if you’re reading this, forgive me lol. I had a great seat with an excellent view of the lake while I ate. For more info on Harris Landing Restaurant, their hours, menu and directions, visit their Facebook page.

I said I made a couple side trips. Well, about a month ago, I bought a little, lightweight telescoping rod and reel at a discount store. I own more rods and reels and fishing stuff than I’ll ever need or use, however, it was not only discount priced, but sell priced on top of that, so, I had to buy it! The thing had been sitting in my backseat, still attached to the cardboard backing, since I bought it (I told you I have more than I’d ever need or use), so I said to myself, “Jim” (I always call myself Jim), “you’re at the lake, the tax office doesn’t close for another five hours, and you’ve got that little rod and reel that NEEDS to be tried out!” So, I drove over to the DNR public fishing pier, unpackaged my new rod and reel, telescoped it out and put a little lure on it. I always keep a couple rods and reels and a tackle box in the Expedition, for just such an emergency. When I say it is a lightweight rod; it has four-pound test line on it and the little lure I put on the end bent the tip of it lol! It’s a neat little setup, though. With just the weight of the lure it cast out about thirty yards and the retrieval was smooth. It’ll be a nice thing to have when I have more time to bream fish, or take my next road trip. Like I said, the purpose for stopping was to try out the new rod and reel, plus it was a nice few stolen moments on the water.

After leaving the lake I made my way into Laurens and the judicial and government building; a place I’m all too familiar with after spending nine years of my past life there.

I paid my taxes and visited a few people who were working, then went for a haircut and back home. It was a great day to be on the road and I am looking forward to my next local road trip.

Picture credits:

WKDK – Google Images

Harris Landing Tiki Bar – Jim G Black; used with permission from the owner

Fishing Stuff – Jim G Black

Laurens County Judicial and Services Center – Google Images

Final Farwwell

My wife wanted a live Christmas tree last year. I wasn’t happy with the idea, because we would spend Christmas Eve at my parents’ house and Christmas morning at our daughter’s. No one would be here to see it.

“I will,” she said.

One day, after waking from my after work nap, she happily announced that she had bought a Christmas tree.

“It’s a small tree and won’t take up much room.”

I went out and found the stand, placed the tree in the stand and brought it in the house. She was right, it wasn’t a big tree, standing only about five feet tall and not very big around. In fact, the dress on the angel tree topper that we use was almost as big around as the tree itself! Not wanting to dig through the box for the old lights, I bought some new lights and put them on the tree for her. Her eyes lit up brighter than the tree lights when she saw her tree. The kids brought down the box of ornaments and another box with some other decorations, and soon had a couple dozen ornaments on the tree and the hearth decorated. It wasn’t much, but it looked like Christmas.

Our son took the tree out after Christmas. He lay it across my makeshift table, where I fill up my bird feeders and cut the limbs off, putting them in our little fire ring. Today, when I went to fill up my feeders, I saw the trunk still laying across my table. I thought of how happy my wife was when she announced she has bought a tree, and how it lit up the living room each night during the season.

I picked up the trunk, and stroked the few needles it had left on it as I carried it over to the fire pit. I thanked that little tree for making my wife so happy at Christmas, and gently placed it across the top of the ring.

Reminiscing

The State of Tennessee took the old farm place, up on the side of Rhône Mountain in Kingston, Tennessee for a new highway. They called it eminent domain, which is, “the power of the state to take private property for public use with payment of compensation to the owner” (Dictionary.com). Being too young to understand what was going on, (Why did they need another highway? They already had one that ran right by the farm!) I only knew that my grandparent’s farm wasn’t going to be my grandparent’s farm anymore.

They moved from Tennessee to Georgia back in the early seventies, when I was only six or seven years old, however, I still have a lot of memories of the old place. Thinking back on it, it seems as if I was much older when they moved away. Even though I grew up in Hixson, a suburb of Chattanooga, I spent a lot of time there – during school breaks and vacations – and experienced things that the other kids my age never did.

I can still remember the old house before it burned and the mobile home replaced it. My parents say that I was too young to remember that house, but, although I don’t have complete memories of it, I can still describe certain parts of the layout and the color and pattern of some of the wallpaper. I even remember the single wire hanging from the ceiling with a lone bulb swinging on the end. I remember the outside of it as being black, although I’m sure that wasn’t the case.

There were fields and barns and gardens and woods and a big pond where cows used to drink. As a kid I used to drink water from the pond, too. I didn’t know anything about dirty water and bacteria back then. I never got sick from it though. I remember climbing up into the hay loft and jumping down on the bales and loose hay below. After one of my many daredevil jumps I looked beside me, and into the face of a fat corn snake who had decided that the hay was a nice place for a nap. I could swear that he had a grin on his face and a wink in his eye, approving of the fun I was having. Once, when walking around the dirt road from the pond, I found a small hog-nosed snake. When I picked it up – yes, I played with snakes – it curled up and turned upside down, appearing to die. I was afraid if killed it until it rolled back over and started crawling around my fingers. I put it in the pocket of my overalls and it slept in there most of the day.

During the growing seasons I would spend most days in the garden, weeding up and down the rows, between and around the vegetables. Some days lunch would be a pickled pig’s foot, some saltine crackers and a bottle of hot sauce, washed down with cool water from the spring. Other days I’d pick something from the vine and eat it there in the garden. Speaking of the spring, there was a fresh water spring at the end of the driveway, that fed into a cement block cistern and overflowed into a little pond that ran under the road and to the nearby creek. We kept a dipping gourd hanging by the spring box for drinking. That was the coldest and best tasting water I have ever had, and haven’t had any like it since they left the farm. The little pond was always filled with watercress that was always fresh and tasted so good on a hot day.

There were other amenities that you would find on most farms. Aside from the spring box, hay barn and pond, we also had a chicken house, where I would go get eggs for breakfast. Mama chickens can get mean when you go to get their eggs! There was a smoke house, where I always thought the older men went to smoke cigarettes and tell dirty jokes, because we kids were never allowed to go into the smoke house. And lots of woods. I think this was my favorite part of the farm. When I was a kid my dad was the scout master of our local Boy Scout troop. The troop built a camp in the woods at the old farm and spent three or four summer camps there. I used to go and spend a few nights during the week until mom came and then I would spend the rest of the week with her and my grandparents at the trailer. Even when they weren’t camping, I still loved to go to the campsites and “just be”. It was like I held some kind of ownership in those sites, because I had camped there, too, and that was my realm.

Other memories I have of the old place and of the town of Kingston during that time was the dairy farm across the road that had the creek running through it where my granddaddy and I used to fish. My older brother caught a carp in that creek one day, and granddaddy told him to take it to my grandmother to cook up, wrapped in a cow paddy! He threw the carp back lol! The first time I ever flew was when the owner of the dairy farm, Mt Bacon, took us up in his single engine plane, flying us around the farms so we could see them in their entirety. There was also a little country store close to the farm that had the meat and cheese counter in the back, barrels of pickles and crackers and other goods, jars of pickled pig’s feet, sausages and eggs and lots of baskets filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.

The town has changed a lot since then, but some of the town I remember can still be seen if you know where to look. I’m not sure what prompted this journey down memory lane, but it’s been nice to revisit the old farm and walk though the woods and fields again. Thank you for walking along with me. This truly was a ramble.

If you like my posts, don’t forget to follow me on FB (Jim G Black Writing) and Twitter (@jimgblack1)

Take A Rest

Nope, this isn’t a follow up to my previous blog, “Take Your Time” (see my blog from April 29, 2019). This as a trip down memory lane for my American readers, and anyone who has been to America and driven our interstate highways. Yes, I’m talking about those islands of the interstates

The monarchs of the motorways

Those blue sign bastions of the byways

The park-eat-use the bathroom-spend money in our vending machines-take a break from driving, usually a godsend for long-haul truckers and long distance drivers (this was just too long to italicize).

I’m talking about…the REST AREA!

The trophy wife and I have been doing a good bit of traveling by car over the past month or so. A couple trips to the coasts of North and South Carolinas and a couple trips up to the mountains to escape the stifling heat of the South, and we usually stop at a rest area (or Welcome Center, when we cross state lines) to stretch our legs and use the bathroom. As I’ve been driving and stopping, or just looking over as we drive by one of them, I can’t help but remember the days of traveling before there were rest areas.

I was born in Chattanooga Tennessee, the suburb of Hixson to be exact. We moved to South Carolina when I was fifteen. I remember some trips to middle Tennessee, Alabama and up to Ohio, where we would stop on the way to stretch, use the bathroom and maybe eat lunch, but there were no nice, state-maintained facilities. There were, however, woods! Yep, if you had to go, you stopped on the side of the road, ran behind the nearest tree and did what you had to do – or doo doo, if that was the case.

The trips I remember best, though, are the trips we took to Surfside Beach South Carolina before we moved over here. For three or four summers my mom’s family would rent a two-story house at Surfside for a week-long beach trip. The families would gather at my aunt and uncle’s house in Georgia, then we would have a long convoy to the beach. Each car had a CB radio in it, so the families could communicate from car to car on the way (not only was this before there were rest areas, but it was also before modern society and conveniences; you know, the good old days). When we needed to stop, the drivers would tell one another over the CB and pick a place to stop. I remember dad pulling our green Country Squire station wagon – with the wood grain siding – over to the side of the highway, with all of the family cars behind us, and the women making a beeline for the gap in the barbwire fencing, toilet paper in hand, to find the nearest secluded tree. When they were done the men would then follow suit. If it was lunch time dad would drop the tailgate on the station wagon and pull out the ice chest where the bologna, cheese, kool aid and condiments were stored and the bags with the bread and chips. After everyone washed their hands, lunch was prepared and we ate under the shade of the trees along the highway. One time another car pulled in behind our convoy, and a young couple got out and headed for the woods. When they came out, dad asked, “hey, y’all want a sammich?” And that’s the way it was; pee in the woods and then have a sammich and maybe make a new friend with the others who might pull in behind you.

When I was thinking of this blog I thought, Jim (I always call myself Jim), you’ve got people in other parts of the world who will read this (I hope) and not know what you’re talking about. I also thought, that’s a pretty good thought, so I asked my highly intelligent, well-travelled friend, Jo if they had anything like a rest area in England. She told me they had service stations that were buildings, usually with bathrooms and maybe a restaurant inside, with a hotel attached to some of them. I told her we had convenience stores that were set up like that, but without the attached hotel. She didn’t think there was anything like our rest area in England. Wanting to really see what I could find in the subject, I went to Wikipedia to see if they had anything. Well, folks, if you think this post is long, go look up Rest Area on Wikipedia! You’ll spend a lot more time on there than you will reading this rambling, I promise you.

Anyway, not to give a full history and description of rest areas in other countries (I do invite you to go to Wikipedia and read what it says about the subject though. It’s really interesting), I did learn that the UK and Ireland have what are called Lay-bys, which are the most comparable to our rest areas here. Some are only big enough for a vehicle or two, while others can hold several. Germany and Austria have Rastplatz, which may or may not have bathrooms (and I’m not sure about the “tree” rule). And France has Aire de repos, which is basically a picnic area. The Wikipedia site also talks about rest areas (or whatever they are referred to) in Asia, Australia, and North America – what…they don’t have any in Antarctica? Maybe one of my future trips will be to that continent. Then I can come back and update the Wikipedia site.

So…this is my latest rambling. I hope you liked reading it as much as I liked writing it. I always say that any day you learn something new is a good day. Until next time, I hope you get some time to Take A Rest.

Photo Credits: Jim G Black

Location: I-20 Eastbound, just outside of Columbia SC

WRITE ON!!

I was working on a blog titled, “Baseball Caps and T-Shirts”, however, I read something the other night that really got under my skin. I’ll even go as far as to say it pissed me off. I’ve been thinking about this blog for a few nights now, and decided to hold off on the other. You’ll just have to wait for a southern boy’s guide to male “couture”.

So, anyway, I was reading a post in a social media site for writers. The young lady had received her first rejection and, to paraphrase, said that they told her the heart and soul came through, but the writing just wasn’t there. She was asking for help about writing styles and looking for some instruction. One of the replies started by saying, “I don’t mean this to come across as a personal attack…”. Well, you know I had to see what the rest of it said, so I clicked on it.

As I’m writing this, I feel like it may be a little long, so, if you wanna go to the bathroom or fix a light snack before you continue reading, feel free to go ahead (unless you’re reading this on your phone, then you’re probably already in the bathroom).

The replier went on to say that (again, paraphrasing) with so many programs out there making it able for anyone to write and publish books for the mass market – blah blah blah. They ended the reply with, “Just because you can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, doesn’t mean you can be a chef at a gourmet restaurant.”

?!WT ABSOLUTE F?!

Some of you don’t know this about me, but I have a very short fuse at times and will blow up and say things I shouldn’t say.

What? No, Jim! Not you!

Yes, absolutely me. I explode quickly and then I’m over it, not thinking about the ruin and destruction I’ve left in my wake. I’m sorry. I’m trying to do better. Sometimes. Okay, but I have good intentions of doing better, and we all know what good intentions is a paving material for.

So…my first reaction was to blast the replier right there on the site, but that would be against the site rules and get me kicked out of the group. I lose enough sleep over stupid crap without trying to step into more stupid crap, so I decided to take my anger and use it in a more constructive way. Like blasting them right here on my blog!

Yes, asshat! See? There I go again. You just personally attacked every indie author and self publisher out there, of which I consider myself. The writer was responding to a rejection for a story she had written and submitted to editors. It wasn’t like she had just put something out there and got bad reviews. She is trying to go the traditional route, not self publish, and was asking for constructive feedback from a community of people who are supposed to be there to teach and encourage. For the person replying to come back with, what amounted to, “just because you know your alphabet, doesn’t mean you’re capable of writing a story”, is a slap in the face to anyone who writes, whether professional author or simple blogger – like me.

All I can say is, if this guy has never received a rejection, then, he is either the exception or he’s never written anything worth querying. To all of you who are writing, WRITE ON! Do it for you, if for no other reason. You never know who needs to read your words, or who may be inspired by what you do. If it makes you happy, then continue being happy. Look at me. I’m probably the only one who reads my blog, but that doesn’t stop me. LOL! Actually, people do read it, I think. Thank you all for the encouragement and the support you give me. I love you all.

Twitter and My Grandparent’s Farm

So! It’s been a long time since my last post. Last April to be exact. I hope everyone has had a great – and safe – Summer/Winter, depending on which side of the equator you’re on.

You’re reading the title and thinking to yourselves, (I know you are. I can sense it.) “Wow! You’re grandparents got WiFi on their farm.” Uh…no. My grandparents are long since deceased and the farm is long gone. However, if you follow my Twitter account (jimgblack1), you will see the following in my timeline, #vss365, which is a daily writing prompt exercise. The prompts are given every morning and a different very talented writer is responsible for each different month. VSS stands for Very Short Story and, since Twitter only allows 280 characters, yes, you have to keep it short. When I first discovered it I was writing almost every day. After a break I decided to get back to the daily exercise to keep practicing my writing, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded writers.

The prompt for August 1st was cellar. I decided that a theme was what I needed to stay on task, and cellar got me thinking about the old farmstead that my grandparents bought in Georgia back in the 1970s. The old farm became my theme. I was doing good the first three days. The prompts were cellar, sacrifice and Jupiter. Yes, I even came up with a good one for Jupiter. Today’s word, though, had me stumped. Empress! Oh, my. There aren’t any empresses that I know of in Georgia, and certainly none in the 1970s. Suddenly, as things sometimes do, a whole plethora of words invaded my head and a poem started taking form. It’s way too long for #vss365, however, I thought I’d write the whole thing here as a blog, and put an excerpt on the Twitter prompt. So…here goes:

This word, I think will stump me

This one will make me fall

There are no empresses in Georgia

At least, none that I recall

I started my mind wandering

Over animals, minerals and plants

Were there Empress Roses, Empress Quartz

Maybe Empress Ants

So I sat down to an online search

Just to see what I could see

And staring back from the screen

The Chinese Empress Tree

Then all at once I saw it

Very clearly in my head

That stately Chinese Empress

Growing beside the shed

It’s petals pink and delicate

Sickly sweet was it’s smell

The colors reminded me closely

Of an abalone Shell

Okay, by now you’ve figured it out

So I guess I will confess

“A Chinese Empress Tree in Georgia

Surely, man you jest”

Maybe there wasn’t an Empress Tree

On the acreage where I once romped

But you gotta admit

It’s a hell of a poem

And it helped me with this prompt!

Haha!! Those last two lines crack me up! Thank you for reading and supporting my blog and my writing.

Back to the Anvil!

Take Your Time

What comes to mind when you hear those words, “take your time”? Maybe you think of “slow down” or “pay careful attention”. I had a different meaning in mind when I thought about this blog, however, I think “slow down” and “pay careful attention” fit the bill here, too. I’m talking about taking your vacation time.

I recently took two weeks off from work. This is something I started last year and was fortunate enough to do again this year. I turned 52 on April 18th, and have been in my current career for just over twenty-two years, twelve of those as a state employee. I used to feel guilty about taking time off and leaving my coworkers to cover shifts without me there to help. You know what I realized? They don’t feel bad about taking time off and leaving me there. So, in October of 2017 I told myself, “Self…if you wait to take time off only when you have somewhere to go, you’ll never take any time off.” I got to thinking about my work schedule, the fact that my wife is now retired, we are empty nesters and able to take some short-term trips, and I sat down with the calendar for 2018 and started planning my time off. I sat down in October of last year and did the same thing.

Before I go into my plan, I need to clarify some things. I work twelve-hour shifts, which breaks down to about fifteen or sixteen nights a month (anyone who works twelves knows how this works). One week I work Monday, Tuesdays and Friday-Sunday. The next week I only work Wednesday and Thursday. And the weeks alternate like that, so I have every other Friday-Sunday off. During the short weeks (only work Wednesday and Thursday) I can take those two days off and be off seven days. The way it works out I only work about six months out of the year, so I tell people I’m “semi” retired lol! I crack myself up sometimes.

Call it vacation, staycation, playcation or whatever else you want to call it. To me it’s a mental, as well as physical health getaway. Here’s my time off schedule.

One week in January, February and March

Two weeks in April (birthday month)

One week in May

No time off during the summer months, so my coworkers can have vacation time with their kids and families (we’re no longer at the mercy of school schedules since my wife retired, and can take off whenever we want)

One week in September

Two weeks in October (anniversary month)

No time off in November and December so coworkers can spend the holidays with their families (our families are close so we don’t have to travel anywhere to be with them)

I know my plan is unique to me and not everyone has that much time to take, or may be limited to when you can take your time off, due to kids’ school schedules, or spouse’s work schedule, as examples. My point is, if you’ve got the time, “Take Your Time”. If you’ve got a yard project you have been wanting to get done, take some time off and do it. Or at least get a great start on it. And it’s time off that you are working to accrue, so don’t feel guilty about taking it off. I know guys who never miss the opening day of hunting season. They’re in the woods or on the water before the sun comes up. They’ve been doing it right for a long time. Now it’s my time to take my time, slow down and pay attention – to me.