There is a reason we have the metaphor “That is music to my ears.” It represents the joy and even excitement that something stirs inside of you—much the same way that music can invoke a spirit of joy and an excited mood. I, myself, love music! I turn it on when I wake up. I cannot drive anywhere until I have the proper playlist on. And although I have not been blessed with an angelic voice, I cannot help singing in the shower. I know I am not the only one who feels this way. For example, I can hardly pass a person on campus on the way to class who does not have a pair of headphones in their ear.
On a dark day in 1929 when the clouds hung low over our farm on a red clay hill in Tuscaloosa County, my sisters and I huddled around the fireplace with Daddy. In the kitchen Mama clattered pans preparing midday dinner. She didn’t have much to work with as Daddy had lost his job when the mines closed: turnip greens, com pone, and baked sweet potatoes.
Suddenly an ear-shocking sound swooped low overhead, rattling our house, and bringing us to our feet. We ran outside in time to see an airplane drop out of the clouds and land on our muddy field. Few airplanes came our way. Never before had we seen one on the ground. Staying a safe distance from this one, we stared at the two men sitting in the open cockpits.
One of them climbed down and shouted, “Where are we?” in an accent strange to us. He looked rosy-cheeked, young, and well fed. So did the other man when he joined us. They were brothers, Frank and Stanley, from Illinois, with an unpronounceable last name. They were on their way to Florida when their fuel ran low.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to go on a volunteer trip to Tanzania with GIVE (Growth International Volunteer Excursions, a group I learned about from a class presentation at the University of Alabama). It was a two-week-long trip with the additional option to climb Mount Kilimanjaro during a third week. I thought about it a lot, wondering if the extra money for the climb was worth it. In the end I decided to do it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. It also happened to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
Here’s a little information about Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is the world’s tallest free-standing (not connected to a mountain range) mountain at 19,341 feet. It has three volcanic cones: Shibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The latter two cones are extinct, but the first is dormant, with possibility of eruption. The hike up usually takes 7-10 days with the hike up taking up a larger portion of the trip because your body needs time to acclimate to the altitude change. My trip was four days up and three days down, but many of the other hikers in my group still struggled with the change in altitude on the way up.
I was sixteen years old and in the twelfth grade when I saw in the newspaper at school that Nelson Eddy was to appear in Birmingham. I yearned to go with all my heart but I lived in the red clay hills of Tuscaloosa County. What chance did I have? An amazing thing happened. The Frisco Railroad called my father to work third trick at Freight Yard Junction in Birmingham that night. He said he’d take me! I had forty-nine cents from typing for my teacher’s husband. Daddy gave me a penny to make enough for a gallery ticket. In my diary I wrote: “March 3, 1938, I spent most of the few minutes, after I found I could go, collecting my overcoat, our lunch, a scarf, and everything else I thought I’d need. All the way to Birmingham I was haunted by the dread there would be no gallery tickets left. The old Lizzie crawled along so slowly and every car that zoomed past I’d say to myself, They’re sho’ going.
It is 6 p.m. on October 28, 2016. What do you think the temperature outside should be at this time of day, during this time of the year? Pretty chilly, right? You should be able to throw on your favorite sweater, a beanie, and the oh-so-loved Ugg boots (for us women). There should be, perhaps, a crisp breeze in the air that makes your cheeks flushed and makes you check to ensure you have some extra hankies—if you regularly keep handkerchiefs with you—in your pocket or purse. This, however, is not the case. It is 83 degrees outside. I wore shorts and a dri-fit shirt today, and I blasted the A/C in my car on the way home from the mall at 5 p.m. The high for the next three days is 88/89 degrees.
As a child of a “health nut,” retired professional football player and an athletic librarian, my childhood was marked by weekday afternoons spent dozing or reading in the school library and attending sporting events on the weekends.
My dad retired from playing football long before I was born and started coaching the sport, along with track and field, when I was around four years old. With three older brothers who all played football as well, it seemed as if I was always at a sporting event. From a young age, I can remember attending the long, hot Saturday track meets.
As for the weekdays I spent in the library, I remember those a bit more fondly. My mom was a librarian at my elementary school, and I would wait for her after class to finish work. That must be where my love for books began. After all, there’s not much to do in a library besides enjoying books. I can still remember sitting on her lap and listening to her read to my kindergarten class when we had group readings in the library.
On a bright, beautiful Saturday morning, I sat down and interviewed one of the vendors at the Tuscaloosa River Market. Days like that guarantee the market is overflowing with the sites, smells, and sounds of the vendors and the people who come out to support the local community business owners.
In this setting, Soapy Jones is found conversing with potential customers and friendly acquaintances, although the two usually coincide. The weekly occurrence of the River Market allows Jones the opportunity to form a relationship with the people who purchase her natural soap and skincare products.
It’s been a few months since my return from South Dakota. My memory is a bit foggy on the chronology, but the faces of the people I met and the stories they shared have not faded. My adventure began when I signed up for a domestic immersion trip through my college’s (Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama) campus ministry program. This is not a story of my visit to Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Black Hills National Forrest, or any other of those tourist spots. This is a story about the Lakota people who welcomed me and my service group with open arms.
Silently sitting, stone cold, and apprehensive are two lone tombstones by the University of Alabama’s biology building. These are the graves of slaves Jack, who was buried in 1843 at an unknown location, and seven-year-old Bosey, buried in 1844. Both were finally marked at a memorial service held behind the biology building on September 29, 2004.
Tuscaloosa is typically known as “Title Town” for its numerous athletic National Championships. However, from 1826-1846 it held a title of much larger proportion: as our state capitol
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