First Hear, Then Lead

Continuing stories from Forks in the Road, that captured some memories of an exciting career in the United States Air Force, 1951 – 1971.  First Hear, Then Lead  Basic training was moving so fast that minutes, hours, and days seemed relevant only to those engaged in making us airmen. How and where they did it was according to […]

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ANOTHER ADVENTURE ALONG A ROAD WELL TRAVELLED 

ANOTHER ADVENTURE ALONG A ROAD WELL TRAVELLED  Regardless of how the initial military training is designated by service, boot-camp or basic training, the purpose is to extinguish some civilian habits and to indoctrinate new norms that promote the military purpose of cohesion.  This function is generally assigned to a non-commissioned officer, sergeant, or petty officer. When I entered the […]

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Looking for a Place to Become a Man …

ADVENTURES ALONG A ROAD WELL TRAVELLED  For the past two months I shared stories from the start of my exciting career in the United States Air Force. Then, something happened. The responses from readers multiplied, and they wanted to know more about how a 17 year old boy, left Valdosta Georgia to become a man.  For many of the respondents it was […]

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Open Wide — Everything

These two were originally presented in my second book, Forks in the Road, which shared memories of a career in the United States Air Force. They are repeated to show how my military service began, 70 years ago. Open Wide — Everything At precisely 5:00 a.m., June 22, 1951, the lights were turned on in […]

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A Shaky Command

In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln used a score to measure a significant event:   “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  A score equals 20 years.  On June 30, 2021, I will use […]

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The Funeral

In the April 2021 story, Four Letter Words, I shared some guidance offered by Miss Lula Mae when I was age 11. When I left her home to continue delivering the newspapers, I passed St. Timothy A.M.E Church, where I spent most of my Sundays as a child.  At age 16, I had a weekend […]

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Four Letter Words

Four Letter Words In my 11th year I was a paperboy in Valdosta for the Atlanta Daily World Newspaper. On Friday night, a weekend version of that publication was printed in Atlanta, then put aboard the Southern Railway train for delivery to communities along the southbound route through Macon. In the early morning it arrived […]

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The D-E-S-K

On January 21, 2020,I was asked to share some highlights of my life with approximately 250 middle and high school students, teachers, and parents at a prestigious preparatory school at Hilton Head, SC.   As I began the eight-mile drive to the appointment I had not selected a subject or approach. Upon entering the school […]

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The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood Neighborhoods are frequently defined by specific boundaries – streets, railroad tracks, waterways, buildings; things that give the impression of permanence to enhance the place where memories are formed. For six years my neighborhood was the asphalt strip in Los Angeles that stretched from U.S. Highway 101, south on Highway I-405. My neighbors were […]

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The Sounds and the Music / Perfect Is Good Enough

Many of us modified our behavior in 2020 by electronically introducing ourselves to strangers and reaffirming our longer relationships, as we sought new ways for dealing with isolation and restrictive agenda. During one idea sharing conversation, I disclosed that music adds brightness to my days, as I loudly sing rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and C […]

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The Shoe Box

During this period of confinement, I sometimes reflect on some lessons that brought me to this day. As the year 2020 season of heightened travel begins, I’m reminded of two observations – in any season of travel, in another era, and charges from my grandmother: “You can’t change everything you dislike overnight, but keep on […]

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Midnight Requisitioning

In a recent conversation with an ex-GI, he used a phrase that set us laughing and remembering other experiences common to those who served in the armed forces. I informed him that the experience he referenced was presented in my third book, I Wish You Had Been There. I also promised to share it again […]

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The Errant Custodian

During this period of isolation, or careful interaction, I’ve been concentrating on my attributes, those that I’ve been able to measure since childhood, and what I learned from my weaknesses. It is my weaknesses that are giving me such entertainment, for since childhood, I’ve not been able to upgrade some foibles. Some examples:                                                                                                     At about […]

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Listen but Shut Up

For the past two months I have shared some highlight of my life with, or about, my grandmother, Mrs. Mariah Gaines Alexander, (Mama). The following story first appeared in my third book, I Wish You Had Been There, and later appeared as the Story of the Month, January 2017. Listen but Shut Up When the […]

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The Reach of Grandmama’s Hand

Last month I shared the story of the Alexander annual picnic that highlighted my grandmother, titled, “Mama said, Shall We Gather at the River.”  I encourage your responses to this monthly offering, and in July, more readers responded to “Mama” than almost any other story. Therefore, here is another      story about the lady who started […]

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MAMA SAID “SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER”

So many of the routines we performed a year ago will be forever altered or discontinued. Since 1939, members of the Alexander and Gaines families gathered for a family reunion. This year the routine was postponed. Because I attended the first reunion and have recited the history at subsequent gatherings, I simply did not want […]

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HE DIDN’T DO IT

HE DIDN’T DO IT In 1962 I was assigned to the Directorate of Information at Dow Air Force Base, Bangor, Maine. I was the public spokesperson for the commanding officer, and supervised publication of the weekly newspaper. Another special duty was supervising the writing of the monthly operational history of a base of the Strategic […]

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Marking Time

Marking Time(A Tribute to My Mother) For Mother’s Day 2015, I wrote a tribute to my late mother and I shared it as the first Story of the Month. A tribute to mothers everywhere and anytime is appropriate. Mother’s Day 2020 is May 10. This month I repeat the original Story of the Month. To […]

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Honey Do

Before my wife Toian died in 2016, she asked that the grand piano in our home be available, “… to someone who will be thrilled to use the instrument that gave me so much joy.”  I promised to honor that plea. During the week, March 9 -14, 2020, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra presented the […]

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Her Word

Self- isolation is resulting in no trips to the $ store or to thrift shops to donate items from another phase of ‘downsizing.’ And so, I review memories of some people, places and things in a wonderful life. I introduce to you,  Miss Ida Mae. Her Word Someone wrote my name and telephone number on […]

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God and the Library of Congress

Stories of the past two months featured events during a significant period of my life — 20 years of active duty in the U. S. Air Force. Those stories appear in my book titled, Forks in the Road. This month I share the experience that prompted me to take the fork in the road that […]

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Side Story

There is always another story associated with those I have been sharing since May 2015, as Stories of the Month, and in books about a wonderful life. I call related memories Side Stories. This is a side story of an event presented in my second book, Forks in the Road, about some episodes from my […]

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He Went “Bye-Bye”

He Went “Bye-Bye” On a bright day in October 2006, I attended the funeral of Walter Lee Lewis in Columbia, SC.  We had been friends since we both wore diapers. His entire family was like an extension of ours, in those days when all adults acted as surrogate parents.  If I had kept records, they would […]

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Daddy

This story first appeared my first book, Halfway Home from Kinderlou. After reminiscing about my daddy last week, I decided to again share him with you. Daddy The word father describes a man who has begotten a child. Depending on the physical factors between a man and a woman, she can become pregnant between heartbeats. A man’s […]

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A Promise Fulfilled

A Promise Fulfilled On June 23, 2017, I attended the funeral of my friend in Rogersville, Tennessee. Our friendship dated back to 1959.  He was a decorated WW II combat veteran, with a designated grave in Arlington National Cemetery.  In 2002, he changed his mind about his burial site, choosing instead to be buried in […]

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Get Your Reward — “Way Over Yonder”

Last month I promised to share two stories about my grandfather, the most influential man in my life. I introduced him in the story titled, He Knew Everything About Everything. This is the second offering of the man I called Papa.  Both stories were presented in my first book, Halfway Home from Kinderlou. Get Your Reward — […]

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He Knew Everything

For the past few months I have been celebrating the lives and contributions of those elders in Valdosta who guided me to this day.                                                   George Uskin Alexander was my grandfather. It was his influence that I will share over the next two months. Both stories were presented in my first book, Half Way Home From […]

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Five and Who Comes & Sometimes Phonetics are Messy

It is a four-hour drive from my present home in South Carolina, to my hometown of Valdosta, Georgia. My quarterly visit ‘back home’ has become routine. Nobody cooks grits like my sister Odessa. On the last visit, after a breakfast of her signature grits, biscuits and eggs cooked to the right texture, we went roaming […]

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The Inspector

The Inspector In 1957 I was a Senior Air Force Medical and Surgical Technician at Lackland Air Force Base. That is the year the Air Force dedicated Wilford Hall Medical Facility, the newest “crown jewel “military medical hospital. The nine-story building was quickly dubbed, “Big Willie.” A couple of months before the opening there was […]

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The Ethics of the Country Road

The Ethics of the Country Road In the summer of 1996, I was tired of shuttling between law offices in Pasadena and Beverly Hills, California, along asphalt corridors called freeways. I went home to visit my mother in Valdosta, Georgia. One day, I decided to take a drive and retrace some of my tracks from childhood […]

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Some Days are Worth Remembering

Some Days are Worth Remembering On that cold winter day in 1971, I was travelling south along I-25 from Cheyenne, Wyoming. The snowflakes were so prolific that all defrosters and wipers could not adequately clear the windshield. I exited for a shortcut to my new home in Boulder, Colorado. The map directions were clear, but […]

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Santa Wore A Cowboy Hat

This story was first presented as the Story of the Month in December 2015 It is repeated during this season by special requests. Santa Wore A Cowboy Hat After waiting in line for almost a half hour, I was still at least a dozen positions from the airline counter. It was two days before Christmas in […]

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Pair of Aces

This story was originally published in my second book, Forks in the Road. Because of this month salute to veterans, I reflected on one episode at the beginning of my twenty-year career in the United States Air Force. It began on June 22, 1951, three days short of the first anniversary of the Korean War. […]

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Gateway Incidents

Gateway Incidents Sometimes there are happenings in one’s life that can trigger emotional or behavioral changes that direct the remainder of life. I call these episodes, Gateway Incidents. This month, I combine two stories that appeared in earlier published books. In Half Way Home from Kinderlou, I offered the story, “It’s About a Horse.” In […]

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The Long Shot

The Long Shot I came across the bridge on the South Georgia highway—at a speed greater than the sign allowed. Two of us understood that. I attempted to slow down, but the other person wanted to talk. There are a few unwanted sights that we occasionally see; hardly any as unsettling at the blue lights […]

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Ass Chewing

This is another story from my days in the U. S. Air Force. Ass Chewing Violations of military customs and courtesies invite minor or major rebukes, depending on the person or custom ignored. Serious transgressions are examined in courts-martials. Somewhere between these extremes are ‘screw-ups’ that are often addressed and punished by supervisors, generally non-commissioned officers. […]

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Snow Cones and Pot-likker & Mutual Promises

This month I share two more stories that appeared in my third book, I Wish You Had Been There. Snow Cones and Pot-likker (Valdosta, Georgia, circa 1940) Three or four months before we slaughtered the hogs for hams, chops, bacon, and chitterlings, Daddy supplemented their diet with store-bought feeds. Those rations contained minerals and other growth-enhancing […]

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Hello Honey & Wash Day

At a recent book signing I was asked about some stories that appeared in my third book, I Wish You Had Been There, buthad not been presented as a Story of the Month. So, over the next few months I will share some of those stories. Two stories. Hello Honey She comes to me by […]

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Be on Time… For Communion

Every time I return to Valdosta, and especially into the neighborhood of my childhood, so many memories clearly rewind, unfiltered by the opaqueness of time. Last Saturday I visited St. Timothy A.M.E Church. Before the service began I walked into a room near the pulpit. I opened a cabinet and lifted the silver top from […]

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The Pie Maker

The Pie Maker During a Summer vacation in the 1970’s, I visited Katherine, my mother, in Valdosta. For most of the flight home I planned how I would pick blackberries from a cluster of brambles that have flourished since my childhood. Then, I would ask Katherine to make a blackberry pie. In exchange, I would organize […]

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The Alert

The Alert In the 1930’s and 40’s before most of us could afford electricity in my neighborhood, only three families had telephones. So, in addition to the usual channels for gossip, we also developed a community-wide system to alert the neighborhood when a family was in peril or pain.  Regardless of the time of day, […]

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Who Will Tell the Story

This story is released earlier, because it was timely told in this month of January. Who Will Tell the Story? The task fell to me … Since age four I wanted to go to school. On an August day in 1939, at age five years 3 months, I ran away from home and followed my […]

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Another Orientation

Back story to last month’s story. To write the December 2017 Story of the Month, A Fighting Machine Marked Surplus, I was assisted by a very special lady. Mrs. Pamela Murphy just seemed to be omnipresent at the Veteran’s Hospital in Sepulveda, CA. She was mostly seen walking the hallways with a clipboard and an […]

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A Fighting Machine Marked Surplus

Each of us has wondered whatever happened to someone who shared our time, if only for a brief spell before moving on. After wearing the Air Force uniform for two decades I feel a kinship with anyone who proudly wore a military uniform, of any service, for whatever period. And so, I sometimes wonder whatever […]

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He Knew Everything About Everything

[A version of this story appears in my first book, Half Way Home From Kinderlou. I edited it for presentation again now.] He Knew Everything About Everything My grandfather knew everything about everything. I called him Papa. His knowledge seemed to flow so smoothly and with confidence from his experiences and from a vast library […]

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Mister Buster & The Farmer

So much of my “schooling” was presented by people whose formal education often did not exceed grammar school. For instance, when my daddy’s father became disabled, my daddy had to leave school to help take care of his family. He had only completed the second grade. ** This month I celebrate two men whose words […]

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Mister Dye

This delayed offering was caused as I evacuated my home in South Carolina, expecting the wrath of hurricane Irma. Fortunately, she did not come. My prayers for those she visited. In my first book, Half Way Home from Kinderlou, I introduced four men from my childhood in a tetralogy titled: A Little Help from Monday Through […]

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Mr. Holly & Mr. Eli

You might have noticed a pattern in my stories. Every time I visit my hometown, Valdosta, Georgia, some sights and things evoke special memories. During a visit last month I approached the old Shell gas station and stopped for a while. I deliberately walked down a special street, just in case another man might be waiting […]

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An Elder Among Us

I am slowly recovering from an almost two month bout with shingles. Ironically, the person who helped me cope with the misery was the first man I treated with this affliction. I was a 17 year old medic at the Lackland Air Force Base Hospital. He taught me some lessons that have served me to […]

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The Community Compact

The Community Compact During my childhood in Valdosta in the 1930s, there was a community compact that conferred parental surrogacy to every adult to protect the safety and welfare of every child. It also authorized every adult who wore a belt or who could handle a switch to issue corporal punishment to any child to discourage […]

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