Tweeting and Posting


My dad told me, “Fools names and fools faces, always appear in public places.”  Advice to consider prior to tweeting or posting.

The Essential Attribute Necessary To Be A Leader


When asked about leadership, one of our nation’s greatest leaders responded:

In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore is integrity and high purpose.-Dwight D Eisenhower

A lesson our current leaders need to learn and practice!

Johnny


Diminutive.  Loving, patient, kind, tough are other words that describe Johnny but diminutive is the word that comes to me.

Johnny

A small woman, no more than 5 feet tall and weighing less than one-hundred pounds, Johnny packed a wallop.  When I would talk back to her, she would grab me by the collar, spin me around and whack my rear end to remind me sassing wasn’t allowed.

From before my first birthday until I left for college, Johnny Davis worked for my parents.  Six days a week, my mother would deliver her to our house; 8 hours later—4 on saturdays—she would take her home.  I don’t know how much pay she received—I’m sure less than $10 a day plus meals—but it wasn’t enough, not for a housekeeper, cook and stand-in mother.

My mom stayed involved in the community.  Bridge Club, Garden Club, Women’s Club, the Ladies Golf Association, every afternoon was occupied.  Her activities involved more than being a social butterfly, in a small community where relationships “mattered” her connections helped to build my father’s business.  In the afternoons Johnny cared for me: snacks served, cuts bandaged and  discipline applied—she could twist an ear until it almost fell off.  She loved me as the child she never had.

Playing with Byron McClellan, who lived close by, I fell hand first on a broken bottle.  Clutching my hand to my stomach I ran home.  Johnny hearing my cries, opened the back door and found me with what appeared to be a pierced stomach.  Dr. Hartley Davis–who delivered me, set bones and sewed me up until I was a young adult—closed the cut with stitches; I was fine.  Johnny wasn’t.  Years later, my father related how the shock of my seeming to be severely injured affected her for months.

I was sixteen, when my parents attended a weekend long meeting and left me  home alone.  Saturday night I hosted an unauthorized and ill-advised party: girls, music, dancing and alcohol—lots of alcohol.  I awoke Sunday morning to a wrecked home and an inability to do anything about it.  I felt as if someone was hammering a nail into my brain and my stomach heaved when I moved.

Staring out the window, contemplating running away, I saw Johnny climbing the back stairs.  I remember her words as she opened the door, “Look at you; you’re a mess.  Your momma and daddy are going to send you to military school, and you deserve to go—you hear me!  I knew you were going to get in trouble.” Then lifting me by my ear she growled,  “Get up and get going, we have a mess to clean up.”  To keep her “baby” out of trouble she sacrificed her day off.

When I left for college, my parents purchased a smaller home and let Johnny go.  After college, I would visit Johnny only infrequently: sometimes by choice but more often because she would need something.  The woman who loved me enough to bandage my wounds, smack my butt and clean up my mess, to my sorrow, became an object of my charity.

I cannot think about Johnny without reflecting on the culture in which I was raised.  The business and professional communities my father belonged to participated in a racism that in ways proved to be more harmful than the hate-filled dark side of the South.   Their’s reflected a patronizing duty to care for what they believed to be inferior people.  They couldn’t abide the race haters—but they treated as children, the people who tilled their fields, labored on their jobs, cooked their food and cared for their infants.

Aspects of the old south are reflected in the attitudes of some of today’s leaders.  The patronizing conviction that “we know what is good for you” leads  the condescending Mayor Bloombergs of this world to try and dictate people’s lives. Elitist thought—whether based on race, education or wealth—is bigoted, anti democratic and limits freedom and opportunity.

Free people are allowed to make their own decisions—even bad ones; they are rewarded for taking risks and allowed to fail.  Free people create prosperity that lifts all and provides the means to help others.

Don’t Patronize Me!


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After a stray dog—who my dad named Brown Dog— adopted our family it became my job to make sure he was fed.  The first evening I fed the dog, I spooned the contents of a can into his dish and watched as he devoured his meal.  He appeared to still be hungry, so I refilled the bowl and again the food rapidly disappeared.  Thirty minutes later an overstuffed Brown Dog loudly deposited the undigested remains of his dinner at my dad’s feet.

My experience with Brown Dog taught me that dogs don’t possess good sense: put food in front of them and they will eat until they are ill.  There are politicians who believe the same is true of us—we are not blessed with the intelligence to recognize what is good for us.  Even worse, is the belief we are not endowed with self control to avoid unhealthy alternatives.  In other words, there are politicians who are convinced, like dogs, we need to be cared for.

During a preteen birthday party at a friend’s home, several of us snuck off into an adjacent orange grove.  When we were out of sight, the birthday boy lit a cigarette and dared us to take a “drag.”  I didn’t want to appear to be a sissy, but I was frightened—I knew “smokes” were addictive and bad for you.  I took a puff, manfully blew the smoke out and spent the rest of the day worried about becoming addicted to cigarettes.

In college I, like almost everyone, smoked—even during classes.  Several years later after completing army basic training I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.  I was aware they were bad for me—heck we called them “coffin nails—it didn’t matter, I liked smoking.  On my son’s six-month birthday, deciding I wanted to be with him as he grew up, I quit smoking.

Even though cigarette packs didn’t carry a warning and public service announcement and obnoxious anti-smoking television ads didn’t exist, we recognized smoking was bad for you.  Why then the necessity to spend millions of dollars telling people what they already know?  Because it enforces the appearance that politicians really care about their constituents and it satisfies a patronizing need to take care of people.

Supposedly, the cost to society of caring for those who persist in continuing bad habits is the reason behind regulating behavior.  Actually, this is the rationalization for busybodies sticking their noses into other people’s business.  Give me a break—unhealthy people die young; society will care for healthy people for many more years.  I haven’t seen the studies but I have read that societal cost even up.

To avoid future generations becoming automatons looked after by a benevolent and elitist dictatorships, people, of every political stripe, should respond to attempts to limit personal freedom with“I’m not and I refuse to be treated like a dog.”

Leaders Are Not Retreaters


Annually, we would gather at a local restaurant for a holiday celebration that resembled a wake.  Over drinks, our boss would recount the terrible year coming to an end and how he believed our company would not survive another.  The current year ended in defeat and we faced the coming one with dread.

As director of marketing, I was challenged to keep our salespeople motivated.  A tough task with the fear we weren’t going to make it.  Our boss’s answer to falling sales was to retreat: lay people off and cut expenses. We were spiraling down the drain our ever-worsening level of service drove customers away.

Overwhelmed, our boss  resigned his position and took a job delivering phone books—not as much pay but a lot less stress. In contrast to our Ivy League educated former boss, his successor had only a high school education and little experience in our business.

His first day, he gathered the staff and announced we were going to upgrade our computer system.  A new computer system!  Why would you make a major investment with the company going out of business? Maybe, things were not as bad as we thought.

He presented a positive view of the future and employee morale soared, as did productivity and sales.

More important than a college diploma, he possessed a can-do attitude.  He provided hope, while setting an example of hard work and resistance to adversity.  He was a leader rather than a retreater and the company prospered under his guidance.

When the confederate army surged through a gap in the union line during the Civil War battle of Chickamauga, the northern troops and their officers panicked and ran.

General George Thomas wasn’t running.  He assembled a defense line that held long enough for the retreating army to make it to safety.  Thomas saved he Army of the Cumberland and became forever known as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

George Thomas was a leader.  In the midst of panic he rallied his troops and held his ground.  In contrast, a retreater is prone to retreat.  At the first sign of trouble he or she gives up the fight, runs for safety. As the leader goes, so go the troops with them all hope of success.

In advance of a Japanese victory, general Douglas McArthur was ordered to flee the Philippine Islands. A pragmatist, he knew the battle was lost but he was determined to win the war.   When he arrived in Australia, he made a simple statement that rallied resistance and offered a vision for the future: “I shall return.”

Like McArthur, a leader is a realist.  He or she understands retreat is sometimes necessary; but when required, it is an organized withdrawal, giving way while maintaining morale and setting forth a vision of an ultimate success.

Even when facing failure, leaders continue to lead: presenting a positive view of the future; standing firm in the face of adversity; and offering hope.

Potatoes On The Ceiling and Other Thanksgiving Memories


When I was ten-years old, my mother invited a local icon, our widowed neighbor Miss Mary, to join us for Thanksgiving. My mother was delighted with and panicked by the accepted invitation.

The preparations began a week before Thanksgiving. My mother, cooking side dishes and desserts, declared the kitchen off limits. When the celebratory day arrived, the house was in perfect condition and, dressed in our best, so were my father, brother and I. After a glass of sherry, my father was dispatched to bring the turkey to the table.  As he stepped through the swinging door that led to the kitchen he tripped and the turkey tumbled to the floor.

This was a major disaster. There was dead silence; then my mother said, “Don’t worry.  Jack, pick up the turkey; we’ll serve the other bird.” My father placed the turkey on the platter and accompanied by my mother, retreated to the kitchen. In a few minutes, they reappeared with a beautifully plated turkey. As I opened my mouth to comment on this amazing occurrence, I caught a look on my mother’s face that persuaded me to keep quiet. Later I learned there had only been one turkey and it had been dusted off, placed on the platter and served.

My wife, Terri’s first Thanksgiving after moving to Florida was her first away from her family. Our family’s traditional menu never changed: turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, rice, dressing and dessert.  We ignored Terri’s request for mashed potatoes until she started to cry. My brother realized how homesick she was, rushed to the store, bought a bag of potatoes and assigned Terri the task of preparing them.

After she washed, peeled and boiled the potatoes, she placed them in a bowl, added a pound of butter, a cup of milk and asked where the electric mixer was stored. I explained that Southerners liked lumpy mashed potatoes, so we used a potato mashers. She responded that it wasn’t her problem that we didn’t know how to properly mash potatoes—she needed a mixer.

After  brother produced the electric mixer, Terri turned it to high speed and plunged the beaters into the potatoes. There was an explosion of potatoes: on the walls, floor, even the ceiling—all over the kitchen. The only sound was Terri’s sobbing. Suddenly my brother started laughing; not just laughing but rolling on the floor, uncontrollable, howling. At that moment, Terri and my brother became close friends and we had something else to be thankful about.

Thanksgiving was my brother’s favorite holiday; one he loved to share.  Before the holiday, he would canvass his friends to identify people who had no place to celebrate the big day. I can remember years when there were  40 or 50 people—a few of whom we never identified.

On Thanksgiving eve he would begin his preparations. He provided the turkey and two kinds of stuffing: cornbread, made from a store mix and an oyster dressing that caused more than one family dispute. His main contribution was the Thanksgiving punch.

After preparing his dressings and seasoning the turkey, joined by friends and family he would begin mixing the punch. The punch was cross between southern sweet tea and kickapoo joy juice.  To insure perfection, it would be tasted, and tasted again. After midnight, those still standing, would declare the punch ready.

Thanksgiving morning the punch would be poured into a ceramic crock, the turkey placed in the oven and the guests would arrive hours before lunch.  My brother loved singing. Before dinner was served, everyone held hands and with Kate Smith’s version blasting from the stereo, join in singing God Bless America followed by an a cappella Thank You For The World So Sweet, a prayer in a song.

In the mid-1980’s, Terri and I invited her sister, brother-in-law and their two children to join us for Thanksgiving. I told them that the temperature would be in the mid 70′s and be sure to bring shorts.

Thanksgiving morning the temperature was in the upper 30’s, with rain and a howling wind.  Forty people had accepted the invitation for lunch; including Terri’s freezing family, who hadn’t packed so much as a sweater. We planned to serve lunch on the front porch and lawn. However, with the wind and rain that was out of the question, so we decided to move to the garage.

My brother, into the Thanksgiving punch, was no help, so it was up to me to find chairs.  With the rental stores closed, I turned to our undertaker friend “Digger” Hiers.  He had plenty of folding chairs and was glad to loan them to us but we had to pick them up. Until you have done it,  you don’t know how many trips it takes in a four-door car to retrieve forty folding chairs.  We celebrated that memorable Thanksgiving sitting on chairs marked “Hiers Funeral Home,” in a garage, with a storm howling outside.

Thanksgiving is set aside for us to reflect upon and give thanks for the blessings we have been freely given. My wish for all: a bountiful feast, a wonderful time with family and friends and time to consider how blessed we are. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank You For The World So Sweet

Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the bird’s that sing
Thank you Lord for everything

Memories Of Wine


The colors of the differing layers of its walls reflect the eons the Colorado River has flowed through the Grand Canyon.  Similarly, the wine corks Terri and I store in a five-gallon water bottle reflect our times together.  Viewing the layers of corks, you realize they reflect the ebb and flow of our prosperity: a layer from bottles of Robert Mondavi and Silver Oak wines on top of one consisting of those from Ernest and Julio.

In the course of one of the Ernest and Julio periods—a time of worry about money and jobs—I was celebrating the New Year with friends in Charleston, South Carolina.  One early morning, I noticed a newspaper headline announcing the CEO of a large corporation had passed away leaving a considerable fortune.  It struck me: I was spending time and energy worrying about money, when this titan of industry would have given everything he had for what I had acquired for no cost…my good health.

I don’t have millions of dollars but I possess wealth of which men of substantial means would be envious: good health, friends and a loving family.  I am blessed with the God given ability to work and surrounded by wonderful people and friends who inspire me by refusing to give in to adversity.  I have learned, I am the most productive, successful and satisfied when I grasp just how fortunate I am.

A long-time friend informed me that he is suffering from a degenerative disease.  Always the picture of health, he never let on to a problem that makes it difficult for him to stand and walk.  When the doctors told him in a relatively short time he would be confined to a wheel chair and eventually bedridden, he informed them they were wrong; he wasn’t going to let that happen and that he no longer needed them.  He never went back to those doctors and he’s still walking.  Listening to his story, I was taken back by the courage it took for him to face each day and shameful of how I let incidents of little importance drive me to distraction.

The market, oil spills, Greece, the economic trials we are facing—there is no profit in fretting about what you cannot control.  I try to cast negative thoughts out by focusing on what I can do.  To brood about “what I can’t do” is negative, debilitating and destructive.  Conversely, concentrating on “what I can do” is positive, invigorating and constructive.

Gazing upon different layers in the bottle of corks, I don’t dwell on the good and bad times.  Instead, I linger over memories of the wine: even the least of which was better than none at all.