Tag Archives: Randolph Tucker

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

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The Passionate Rug Salesman


After receiving a promise that I could spend the rest of the afternoon watching football on television, I agreed to go to a furniture store with Terri. Wandering the store, we found the rug we had been looking for on sale and made the decision to purchase it. As we were talking with the salesman, I thought back about a previous purchase of carpeting for our home.

We were shopping at a large store in which there were numerous carpet samples of different types and prices. We narrowed our selection down to two samples from the same manufacturer; one priced higher than the other. Wanting good quality but also being budget conscious, I asked the apathetic sales person about the difference between the two carpets. Observing the puzzled look on his face, I realized that he didn’t understand; so again I asked “What’s the difference between the two carpets?”  After taking a minute to think about it he responded with, “$10 per yard.”

The prior experience was brought to mind by the attitude and professionalism of the sales person from whom we purchased the rug. He could explain in detail the difference between varying rugs: how one’s fibers were tied and the number of knots per square inch; how another was “tufted” and the dye process on another. He explained how the rugs from one country differed from those from another; how they were designed and how to know good quality products.

When I asked how he had obtained his expertise, he explained that he had by chance stumbled into the business and had developed a passion for rugs.

After college I went to work for my father. Over the years, I became adept at running a medium size commercial subcontracting business, however, my passion lay elsewhere. Without a zeal for what I was doing, I lacked the desire to focus on growing and improving the business. Without a fire for what I was doing, success was illusive and I eventually sold the business.  My brother made the same decision about his profession.

After 30 years as a lawyer my brother gave up his law practice to be an entrepreneur. The projects he invested in never returned the money he earned as an attorney but he was happy. Unlike many people who spend a life of frustration and dissatisfaction, he was willing to make a change and his passion for business brought happiness.  Passion also makes a difference in other activities.

My brother-in-law Don was a union insulator spending 35 years on construction projects. Don didn’t have a background that would lead him to playing golf—his parents and siblings didn’t play and neither did most of his friends and acquaintances. I would lug my clubs and get in a couple of rounds when Terri and I would visit her sister. Curious, Don decided to try the game and fell in love with it. He developed a passion, which led him to practice and now he is an accomplished golfer: his passion led to his success.

As our children began to think about their future, drawing upon my experience, I would advise them to try and find a job where their vocation was the same as their avocation. I explained that the happiest, most successful people I knew were those who did on their jobs what they also loved to do on the weekend. Those people had discovered if your job and your hobby are the same, you are never working.

It is important to be passionate about something: if not your job, your family, a hobby or a sport. If you are in an occupation that you are not excited about, consider changing jobs; if you can’t change, find a part of your job that you can be enthusiastic about. Passion can be rediscovered: it’s never to late to rekindle your ardor for something or someone you love: it takes work—but it is worth it.

Life is too short to not have passion in it.

Quotes

One of the things that may get in the way of people being lifelong learners is that they’re not in touch with their passion. If you’re passionate about what it is you do, then you’re going to be looking for everything you can to get better at it.” – Jack Canfield

The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step.” – Jim Collins

How I Learned To Love The Gators


Growing up, I attended almost every University of Florida football game; I was a Gator fan and I dreamed of attending the university.

In my junior year in high school, one Saturday morning before a Gator football game my mother announced we were going to leave early so we could visit my brother Randolph: who at that time, was going to law school and sharing a house with 3 of his classmates.

At ten o’clock in the morning my mother was knocking on the door and “yoo-hooing” for my brother. When the door opened, she barged into a living room semi-destroyed by the prior evening’s party. There were people sleeping on the floor, empty bottles, dirty plates, full ashtrays and the odor of a cheap bar after closing hour; my mother was chagrined, my father was trying not to laugh and I was amazed. It was then I decided that I didn’t want to attend college so close to home that my mother could “just drop in.”

When I first became a student at Florida State University, I was still a gator fan: to the extent that I recall a Saturday afternoon my freshman year—ignoring my friends gathered around a radio listening to FSU play—sitting in a car listening to Otis Boggs describe Steve Spurrier kicking a field goal to seal a Florida victory over Auburn. However, by my sophomore year, I had become a Seminole and over the succeeding years, a somewhat fanatic fan.

I used to say my two favorite teams were Florida State and whatever team was playing Florida. For me a perfect fall weekend was a Seminole victory and a Gator loss. My friends and I would unmercifully disrespect each others teams; with one “dig” trying to top the other.

I was traveling with a group of friends when their Gators were upset by a “second tier” SEC opponent. At first I found myself gloating and then it dawned on me how unhappy the loss had made them. It struck me that these are people I really care about and whom I want to be happy. It was at that moment that I decided to truly root for the University of Florida—except when they play FSU.

At one time, to draw attention to my cleverness, I was quick with a wisecrack when someone made a mistake; to build myself up at others expense. Building yourself up at someone else’s expense,  tears down relationships. The price of a cheap laugh, a “dig” or a “gotcha” may be a friendship. Family, friends, colleagues, customers, vendors—we should always celebrate the successes and share the happiness of the people we care about.

Friendship

The only way to have a friend is to be one.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m Going To Have You Arrested!


Dog Island

My brother, along with four partners, owned a home on Dog Island, which is located off the coast of Northwest Florida. The house was sited in the narrowest portion of the island; so within a few steps of the front door was the Gulf of Mexico and a short distance out the back was St. George Sound. Without air conditioning, the house was warm during the day but cooled at night by what often felt more like a hurricane than a breeze. Without a bridge from the mainland, the only way to get to the island was by boat and my brother stored one at the Carabelle marina.

My friend Dan Hicks and I were looking forward to spending a long weekend with our wives at my brother’s retreat. I had been to Dog Island the previous month and had to coax my brother’s old boat to make it to the dock behind the house. To say it was in a poor condition would be an understatement; it was a wreck. So I was surprised when the marina delivered up a brand new boat. Remembering the struggle to get the old scow to run, I was delighted that my brother had gotten off of his wallet and purchased a new boat.

When visiting the island, I loved to fish off  the dock and that’s what we were doing, when I spotted a boat headed our way. As I heard its engine sputtering, I wondered if the captain needed help. When he waved at us, I enthusiastically waved back, motioning him towards the dock. Over the sound of the dying engine, I could hear but not make out what he was yelling so I shouted, “You can tie up here and we will get help for you.” As he got closer and I could make out his words, I realized that he was criticizing our ancestry, insulting our mothers and promising to have us jailed.

There was something familiar about his boat: the partially collapsed windshield, the hull that needed painting and a cleat standing straight up. Then I understood that the marina had made a mistake, and the approaching boat was the one that belonged to my brother.

The guy piloting the boat tossed us a rope and when he jumped to the dock, the first thing he said was, “I’ve called the sheriff’s department and I’m going to have you arrested; but I couldn’t wait for them, so I got the marina to loan me this piece of junk and I want my %%$$# boat.”

It took two beers to calm him down to the point where we could explain that it was an honest mistake. When he finally believed us, he laughed and got in his boat to head back to the mainland. His last comment before starting his engine was, “good luck in getting back to land in that old bucket of junk!”

We had a great weekend: the sheriff didn’t put us in jail; we were able to coax the boat back to the marina and we had a great story to tell.

When I think of Dog Island, I long for the warm days, cool nights, and long walks along the beach. Even more so, I crave the solitude of an isolated island. There was no television, only sketchy radio reception and no phones of any kind.  Removed from the everyday world, it was a retreat that forced you to relax.

In this world where we suffer from a continuous cacophony of distractions, it is a rare to just be quiet. The chance to do so, provides a valuable opportunity to listen to the inner voices that guide the decision-making process and to spend time truly communicating with friends and loved ones.  Such quiet time may take place on an isolated island but quiet time can be an hour by yourself at home—wherever it’s important to take time away from the everyday world.

Quote

What do I want to take home from my summer vacation? Time: the wonderful luxury of being at rest. The days when you shut down the mental machinery that keeps life on track and let life simply wander. The days when you stop planning, analyzing, thinking and just are. Summer is my period of grace.” -Ellen Goodman

Some Things Aren’t As They Appear


I’ve never been more surprised than when I opened the box and found a gold-trimmed stainless steel Rolex watch. The watch was a Christmas present from my brother Randolph. I knew his law practice was successful—but a Rolex. Heck, all I had gotten him was a sweater: a nice sweater but not anything to compare with his gift.

The watch fit well and looked good on my wrist. When I shook my wrist so the watch would settle down nearer my hand, I noticed an hour had passed. Puzzled, I again shook my wrist and watched the hour hand rapidly spin around the watch dial; something was bad wrong.

At first, when I showed my brother the problem, he looked puzzled but then began to laugh. He confessed that when in New York, a guy had approached him on the street, and whispered, “Hey bud, do you want to purchase a brand-new Rolex watch?” When my brother said no, he pleaded, “Just take a look at them, they’re legitimate and not hot.” So my brother followed him into an alley to view the watches and ended up purchasing my Christmas present.

Perhaps his gift was an unintentional payback for an intentional act of mine. When I was 17, my brother returned after spending six months studying in Monterrey, Mexico bringing with him a case of Mexican beer that he stored in a cabinet in our breakfast room.

It didn’t take me long to figure out, if I removed cans of beer from its rear, that the case would still appear to be full. Of course, I didn’t consider what would happen when Randolph decided to retrieve his beer.

As I entered the kitchen adjoining the breakfast room I saw my mother and brother studying the depleted case of beer. When they caught up with me as I tried to back out of the room, my brother was mad about my pilfering his beer; but my mother was even madder: with me for drinking beer and my brother for…well just general principles.

Years later Randolph invited Terri and me to be his guests at a German restaurant. When we were seated the hostess told us that we had picked an evening when they were going to present live entertainment: two contortionists who supposedly “put on a fabulous show.”

Later on, the lights dimmed, the owner introduced the entertainment and from the kitchen there appeared two, thin as a pencil, 80 year-old crones. I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t a joke: what could these women possibly do that I would want to see.

As they twisted themselves in impossible positions, it was scary, somewhat revolting but riveting entertainment. When we stood cheering, I was amazed: it was a great show.

Over the years I have discovered the truth of the saying that “You can’t judge a book by looking at its cover.” I have learned—often by hard experience—to be slow to judge; because often things are not as they appear: such as a Rolex that wasn’t; a full case of beer that was nearly empty and elderly ladies who appeared to be on their last legs, performing impossible feats of contortion.

Quote

When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.” – Proverb

Back Roads


My father’s mother lived in a small South-Central Georgia town and with relatives in Atlanta at least four times a year we would pack our bags for a family visit. In those days there were no fast food restaurants, so along with a thermos of coffee and a jar filled with tea, my mother would pack a lunch and we would get on the road. I was a tyke and when I got restless my dad would look for a small-town drugstore with a soda fountain, and there he would buy me an ice cream cone and then we would be back on the road. I remember stops in Homerville, Pearson and Douglas: places now a long way off of Interstate 75.

After visiting his mother, dad would plan the Atlanta stretch of our trip so that he could eat lunch at the New Perry Hotel. Once on the road, he would overcome my mother’s objections with the reminder that, “lunch at the ‘Hotel’ is a Southern tradition.” The meal would include fried chicken, two vegetables, rolls, sweet tea and a “cobbler” with ice cream.  After taking an hour for lunch, with me full and asleep in the backseat, my father would continue the trip to Atlanta.

My brother Randolph, who loved country roads, was part owner of a house on an island, located in the Gulf of Mexico just south of Carabelle, Florida. I recall flying across the panhandle in a brand new Chrsyler, sipping brown whiskey and singing at the top of our lungs. To quench our hunger, we stopped at every filling station—where there was always a supply of pickled eggs and Slim Jims—and at each stop my brother made a new friend. By the time we got to Carabelle, we were three-hours late and it took two people to load us into the boat to the island.

Even when we were in a hurry, Randolph would always insist on exiting the expressway for snacks or lunch. Perhaps it was memories from traveling with my father, but I swear he knew every country diner in the Southeast. When I would complain that we were going to be late, he would respond, “It will only be by a few minutes.” and then order more iced tea and dessert.

I once asked an acquaintance how he had secured a large window order. He replied a salesman made a decision to forego the Interstate and take a back road home. Along the way he saw ground being cleared, stopped met the contractor and they ended up with the order. He told me the decision to take a different route was not something the salesman normally did, but would almost always do in the future.

When I began working for my dad, Bob Wooten was his general manager. Bob drove me crazy because he always took back roads: a 30 minute drive would become a 45 minute journey utilizing an alternative route, and there were a lot of alternative routes. Bob would respond to my complaints about wasting time with, “You miss a lot by always following the same route.”

In today’s world, we are often in too much of a hurry to try a different route: fast cars, fast food, 80 miles per hour we rush down life’s highway. Time roars by, leaving us to wonder where the years and days have gone.

Bob Wooten was right. We miss a lot by always following the same route: we miss a more relaxed lifestyle with an opportunity for our mind to be open for problem solving; we miss opportunities—after all you can’t pull over and meet a contractor while on the interstate; we miss the adventure of new sights and places; we miss fried chicken, two sides and a dish of peach cobbler, we miss out on a large slice of life. Those who know me, understand I don’t like to be late, so I leave early, take back roads and allow time for  iced tea and dessert.

Quote

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken