The Problem With Shop Towels

So I picked up another pack of a dozen shop towels the other day.

Really, they aren’t shop towels, they’re terry cloth car finishing towels. But I like them for shop use because the little strands clean better.

I am rough on shop towels. My shop towels handle everything from a coffee spill to getting epoxy off my hands and the top of the table saw. I don’t have a true workbench, my shop is so small, so I use the table saw and router table extension as a work bench, and sometimes I get a little drop of epoxy, varnish or glue on the top.

But I had only two badly stained shop towels left. I wash them for as long as possible, but in the case of things like epoxy, they develop hard spots all over them and don’t work well anymore. I put my new shop towels on the shelf where I keep the old ones.

Invariably, when I need to clean up a mess, I grab one of the old ones. The new ones are so clean and white, I don’t want to dirty them. I do this all the time, until finally the old . . . → Read More: The Problem With Shop Towels

Special to Native Waters: Raising Cane

Faithful Reader: The following is taken from my collection of short stories, Chasing Thunderbirds. It is probably one of the favorites in all my writings of short fiction, and I present it here as a little lagniappe to my regular work, in the hopes you will enjoy it!


I fished with Jake often when we were neighbors back in Louisiana, but when the boss transferred me to St. Louis, of course, there was little chance for more between us than telephone calls every few months and regular emails.

In fact, I hadn’t seen Jake in person for five years, until my daughter’s wedding, which brought me back down to the Bayou State. Jake, being Angie’s godfather and all, was of course present at the ceremony and we huddled over several cold beers to catch up during the subsequent reception. Naturally, we also decided we’d go fishing the next day before I had to haul tail back to the city.

It felt good to be back where I knew what I was doing when it comes to . . . → Read More: Special to Native Waters: Raising Cane


I worked my way up the river, carefully, trying to keep myself upright.

Boulders thick with green moss mark a treacherous path upstream of the Little River. Just the day before, I had stepped off one to another and plunged up to my chin in cold water. That was lesson enough.

There in the ancient, smoothed slopes of the Smoky Mountains, I sought a trout to take a diminutive fly no larger than a delicate glass bead. The Little River rushed past my knees, threatening to take me down again, but I forged on to a long run of calm water, its bottom mostly slate. Here at Metcalf Bottoms, I was finally able to wade comfortably and relax a little to concentrate on my fishing. Or so I thought.

There’s not much quiet left in the Smokies. Some eight million people visit Smoky Mountain National Park each year, and that year, 2008, Suze and I were but a miniscule percentage. She was perched on a smooth, gray boulder downstream, soaking in the morning as I worked my way upstream, casting my fly rod, in search of trout.

Not much quiet, but it is there, in the right places. Get . . . → Read More: Ahab

Something Broken

(Originally published July, 2003)

It was six years ago that I idled down that long narrow driveway for the first time in too long.

We were both at our worst, that old house and I. As much as myself, the old place was facing its own trauma, its particular grief. My grandmother’s old Caprice was still in the garage, and the old house leered at me with a face I didn’t recognize, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. We had grown estranged, distant.

I remember sitting in the truck for awhile, locking my gaze with it. I stared into its window glass eyes, wondering if there were anything left here for me, the wayward son, the one who had turned his back on it and all those within. Behind it, overgrown brush and thicket threatened to advance farther, devouring the house, causing it to vanish as the world took over in the absence of loyalty.

“I don’t want it,” I had said to her. “I won’t be around here. Let someone else have it.” Even that day in the drive, I still saw it as only a temporary haven, a stopover on my way to something else, as yet . . . → Read More: Something Broken

Not Going to Happen

I am not in the habit of printing retractions of opinions made in this column, and I do not plan to start now.

As a refresher, I wrote here on June 17: “We don’t need … low income housing in Garden City. We need people with jobs to live in the rentals and buy the for-sales we got.”

Consequently, St. Mary Community Action Agency Executive Director Almetra Franklin, CAA Housing Director Jeff Beverly and Frank Alcarez of Investerra, the developers of a proposed complex in Garden City, spoke at the parish council meeting Wednesday”

“This is a gated upscale community for upper income folks,” Franklin said. “We promised you … that we would not do a low income development, that this was going to be for working people to encourage development … and we’re sticking to our word.

Beverly said that the involvement of the Housing and Urban Development Agency will be limited to a loan guarantee.

Alcaraz said he feels that “a lot of people seem to be against this project.”

He added that he has said from the beginning that the project will be an upscale community not low-income housing…Franklin said they would not want to devalue . . . → Read More: Not Going to Happen

It Keeps Me Going

I picked up the paper this morning

And read all the daily blues

The world is one big tragedy

I wonder what I can do –

(Atlanta Rhythm Section)

Sometimes, things just get entirely too tight. The lines that get pulled taut, the heaps of troubles pile higher, and the suffocation.

Recently, it’s occurred to me that 30 years of this business is more than enough. Heck, lots of people retire after 30 years of a career. Others of us are not so lucky.

Knocking on the nearer side of the big five-oh, I don’t have a lot to show for my life. A half-dozen awards from my journalism peers. A coupla books that at least managed to pay for themselves. Some good memories. I imagine my obituary will be much like Harry Middleton’s, who the Birmingham, Ala., newspaper described as “a writer whose work brought him more fame and friends than fortune.”

I doubt now there’s a bestseller floating around in me somewhere; certainly, I’ve got lots more stories in me, and probably a handful of books. But what I write isn’t commercially appealing, either to the major publishers or the magazine editors. In the end, as Stephen . . . → Read More: It Keeps Me Going


When I was on the creek last weekend, as we were breaking for lunch, a family drove up and walked down to the bluff.

The parents – appearing mid-30ish – had two or three kids with them, ranging in ages from about eight to early teens. They had picnic fixins’ which they spread out to enjoy.

What struck me, though, was that anytime any of the kids wandered more than a dozen yards away, or got to the edge of the bluff where they could see the stream, the parents would urgently – frantically, even – call them back.

Eventually, they took a little walk together in the refined, civilized area at the parking lot, and departed.

I was perplexed and a little saddened. The creek we were at is not easy to get to. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere, and the closest town of any size is a good 40 miles away. That’s what we love about such creeks.

But I wonder: Why would you drive at least that distance with your kids and then forbid them the pure joy of the place you’ve taken them?

A few years ago, I told you about a book . . . → Read More: Trapped