Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's the final day of 2014. We are thirty years past 1984. We are living in science fiction times.

I have a great part of the knowledge of the ages available to me in my pocket, and redundantly, on my lap at this moment. The majority of the great books, whole encyclopedias, almanacs, star-charts, and more are at my fingertips. I have a magic wand within reach with which to command 47 inch visions on my wall, if I like, of rescuers in the Indian Ocean, performances at Carnegie and Albert halls, up-to-the-minute stock prices on Wall Street, the songs of long-dead singers, the speeches of our president as he speaks them, endless gossip at any hour from mindless talking heads, or even half- (or fully!) nekkid folk cavorting lasciviously at any hour. And any and all of those magical choices I make will be recorded and reported to an esoteric intelligence that will then make, based on my choices, suggestions to me for the rest of the day and, I suppose, the rest of my life.

I wonder how many times today my image will be recorded as I drive or shop.

We are living in science fiction times.

Mike Bock has caught up with me again, as he does annually on the closing day of the year. Happy Birthday, Mike! I hope we see lots of you in 2015. Come south young man.

This day brings to mind Sheila's wonderful grandmother, Annie Belle Brannon Snell, the smart AND wise (not an automatic combination), kind, practical, industrious, and loving woman who was born on this date in 1884 and blessed our marriage with her wisdom and love for its first ten years. She died in 1981.

And forty --- FORTY! --- years ago on this date we got the call that my sister Carol had given us a new niece. We pulled into our little log cabin out in Chubbtown, from our Christmas trip to Tallahassee and turned right around and headed down to Atlanta to meet Larisa Carron Johnston, one of the great bonus tax deductions of all time. What a little bundle of joy she was and is! Happy Birthday, Larisa! We love you and your own additions to our family.


“Good habits make all the difference.” —Aristotle

And today is the traditional day to take stock and renew determination to more fully live, to grab this remarkable, magical, mysterious consciousness and make the most of it.

I am living into extra innings, in a way. My father and his father, my beloved Daddy and Daddy Shaw, never reached their 68th birthdays. I've passed them (chronologically) already and will, I am hopeful, reach that milestone in March. Having outlived both those good men I try to remind myself each morning of the great privilege the current day is. One wonderful aspect of that privilege is this opportunity to voice my beliefs and dreams for the future of my children and (from the internet to God's ears) grandchildren and fellow Americans and Earthlings.

So I'll resolve,


Due to a flurry of New Year's resolutions, the Road to Hell is currently closed for repaving.
Please take an alternate route.

call & see my mother more often,
call/write/see/really-visit Brannon & Lillian more often (Things also work the other direction, I'm told?),
have friends over more often, (How about the Dictionary game or Categories?)
visit Mildred and record her songs,
organize a Hoot,
organize and downsize my stuff,
tell more stories, sing more songs, do some theater, write more often,
record some of my stories,
finish what I start (and what I have started)*,
(and what I have started)*
(and what I have started)*
(and what I have started)*
get the new and improved Big Fibbers™off to a great start,
get ready for the Fourth early,
travel more,
spend more time in the woods,
spend more time on the rivers,
take some good pictures,
more exercise and fewer calories,
engage in some practical politics,
engage in some practical charity,
be a better husband, father, son, brother, and friend.
stay cheerful,
dream big,
do now.

*I'm unwilling to make some of these things public, but Sheila knows them, and I'd love to surprise her a little this year!

Of course I could do pretty well with Woody Guthrie's 1941 resolutions:



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Here is my other Fifth Day post where you will find a link to the Three Tenors singing Silent Night.

At this year's church family Christmas party, I retold the legend of Franz Gruber and Josef Mohr and the creation of their beautiful, simple, Christmas carol, Silent Night. Since most of what we've been told over the years is evidently legend, I felt free to create my own version. I enlisted Cannon Rogers, a teen guitarist in our church to help me. Here it is:

A New Song for Santa’s Church

Do you have a best friend? Someone you can count on to come through for you in a pinch? Well, Josef and Franz were best friends. They worked together and they visited together in each other’s homes and they sang together. I have some friends like that. We like to get together at each other’s houses and, of course, eat good stuff, but also to play our guitars and sing, sing, sing!

Church of St. Nicholas Oberndorf (razed in 1906)

And there are a couple of those guys that, I know, if I had any trouble, would come to help me out.

Like I said, Josef and Franz worked together. Josef was the pastor and Franz was the choirmaster at the same church. And it was Santa’s church! At least I figure it must have been Santa’s church, because there was a beautiful sign right in front of the sanctuary that said “Church of St. Nicholas”. So you can understand that they really wanted the Christmas Eve service to be wonderful. I guess Josef and Franz would get to send Santa off on his big Christmas Eve journey with a beautiful program of glorious Christmas music sung by the big St. Nicholas Church choir and accompanied by that great big pipe organ they had.

I told you Franz was the choirmaster. That means that he not only directed the choir, like Mr. Kam does here at Trinity, but he also played that great big organ, almost as well as Ms. Shelly does here. And he had a wonderful program planned for that Christmas Eve. Then the trouble started!

Franz stopped by the church to practice at the organ for a while on Christmas Adam. Well, you’d expect that wouldn’t you? He wanted to be ready for Christmas Eve the very next night! And just when he was pumping away at the pedals of that organ --- in those days the organs had pedals connected to big bellows like an accordion to blow air through the pipes to make them play --- anyway, just when he was pumping away at the pedals of that organ, playing beautiful, complicated Christmas melodies, that organ made the rudest sound you’ve ever heard! “Pluttttztzzzz!!”

“Oh. no!” Franz muttered. And he frantically pumped the pedals, “Pluttttztzzzz!! Pluttttztzzzz!! Pluttttztzzzz!!”

He got down from the bench and bent to examine the pedals. Oh my. It was no use. The bellows on either pedal would not hold air, they were full of holes. The poor church mice, starving from the lack of crumbs -- their church didn’t have a Wednesday night supper like Trinity does and, except for a few communion crumbs, pickings were mighty slim for rodents at The Church of St Nicholas... the poor starving church mice had been eating at the leather bellows of the organ. They were a mess. There was no hope of repair and replacement was out the question on Christmas Eve. The organ repairman would have to come all the way from Salzberg, and 200 years ago, there was no email or telephone to summon him with.

Franz would have to conduct the Christmas Eve service without an organ. What could he do? This was definitely trouble. He’d better talk to his friend. So he headed out toward the parsonage where his friend Josef lived.

Well, meanwhile Josef had been visiting one of his church members, up on the mountain. Old Wilhelm, was a sheep herder, and had been ill, and Josef had gone to talk with him and hear his stories, and pray with him. He found the old man feeling much better and together they bundled up and walked out onto his back porch where they could look out over the snow covered valley in the moonlight. They could see the steeple of the Church of St. Nicholas in the valley below, pointing upward toward the steeple-like mountains - the Alps - and the star-studded heavens.

Wilhelm broke the almost magical silence of the scene, “I wonder if that winter night in Bethlehem might have been this silent? And felt this holy? It is so calm and bright. Just imagine that young mother and her tender baby, in a stable maybe like my stable there. What a heavenly peaceful scene.”

Josef looked out at the stars streaming their light from heaven. He thought of those shepherds, probably shaking and quaking at the sight of an angel host singing that a Savior is born.

“Wilhelm, he said, may I have some paper and a pencil, I want to write about what I am feeling.”

They walked back into the house, and while Wilhelm poured some warm tea, Josef sat at the table near the window and wrote quickly, scratching through a word here and there to scribble a better one. By the time he finished off a second cup of tea and a couple of Christmas shortbread cookies the ladies of the church had sent out to old Wilhelm, Josef had finished his little poem about that quiet evening when Jesus was born, and had started his way down the mountain thinking he might read it during the Christmas Eve service the next night.

He was thrilled when he saw Franz’s horse tied at his gate. He could see, through a window, a fire blazing in the fireplace. How nice to find his best friend there. They could talk about using his poem in the service. But Franz burst out the door...

“Josef! Josef! We’ve got trouble!” Franz told him about the mice, and bellows, and the rude noises. “What in the world will we do for music. The choir can sing a couple of carols without the organ but that will not do for a whole Christmas Eve service. What will the members think?” I guess he was wondering what Santa would think too.

All of a sudden, Josef’s eyes brightened. “Oh, Franz. What’s a little trouble. We’ll make this a Christmas Eve to remember -- even without an organ. You can lead the choir in a couple of carols. We’ll read the wonderful Christmas story right out of the Bible. We just need a good quiet song to welcome the Christ child and close things out. Grab the guitar over there and come with me to the window.” Josef wanted Franz to feel what he had felt when he’d been on Wilhelm’s porch.

“Look out there, Franz. Think of that wondrous night. Think of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Maybe it was cold and quiet like this. Maybe the stars were clear and bright like tonight. Now read my little poem and see if you can make a tune.”

Franz looked out at the village clothed in a blanket of snow, lit by a bright moon and streaming starlight, and read Josef’s simple little poem. And he began to pluck his guitar strings... [Cannon begins to play] and finally began to sing. [Cannon sings the first verse quietly in the background]

And that Christmas Eve, at the Church of St. Nicholas, with just their voices and a guitar, Josef and Franz led all the village folk, and, I wasn’t there, but I guess even Santa, in welcoming the Christ child. Will you help us sing it again?

[Everyone joins in]

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

This version of the story: © 2014 Terrell Shaw

Terry Saves the Day

Bob Harris, Gary Greene, and I had a great time on Nelle Reagan's Talk of the Town radio show today. We visit Nelle once a month, usually on the last Tuesday of the month at noon or noon-thirty. She calls us "The storytellers" and we always tell two or three tales. Sometimes it's all three of us or one or two of us with another teller such as Delmas Franklin. I wish others would volunteer to join us. We probably need to keep it to two or three tellers each time, but it should not be the same three, in my opinion. I want the public to know that Ridge & Valley Tellers is an open group intended for anyone and everyone who loves storytelling.

Today Bob told a great tale -- with maybe some truth in it somewhere -- about a little Canadian girl's providential encounter with a Teddy Bear, and her long lost English grandfather.

I told my version of a folktale about the preacher's false teeth. There are MANY versions of this story to be found by googling "fried chicken" and "false teeth". I call mine "Terry Saves the Day". It might be an example for tall-tellers/fibbers who want to enter the 2015 Big Fibbers Contest. It is a simple five minute tall tale. It is definitely in the public domain. And I have created my own version of it.

Here 'Tis:

Terry Saves The Day

I am a double Methodist preachers kid. My Daddy was a Methodist preacher and my Mama still is. But it goes deeper than that. I’ve got sisters and cousins married to Methodist preachers. I've got at least three cousins who backslid and became Baptist preachers. My great-great granddaddy, Boggan Mask, was a licensed exhorter in the Methodist Church and actually baptized the baby boy who would end up marrying Boggan's granddaughter and thereby get to be my granddaddy, Wilson Baird. And Wilson Baird did some Methodist lay preaching himself.

So you can see how I grew up to be a storyteller. And I know something about Methodist preachers and I know something about dinners on the grounds. When I was a kid every country Methodist churchyard had, besides a cemetery, and an outhouse, a bunch of tables under a shelter of some sort. Every chance the church got in fine weather there was a dinner on the grounds! Un-unh!

Banana sandwiches or even better something called banana croquets, fried okra, creamed corn, greens, and casseroles, and macaroni and cheese, and desserts of all kinds, but always, always, always, fried chicken. My daddy wasn’t a big man, but his plate at those things was always mounded high. He said it was a duty. He had to try a little of everything to avoid hurt feelings.

Well, one Sunday, out at Bethel Church there next to the creek, Preacher Kelley was waxing eloquent, between bites, telling some fine tale. With his plate in one hand he swapped his sweet tea in the other back and forth with a fork full of casserole or a fistful of chicken. Now he did his talking in a strange way. I don’t know why, some medical problem he had, but he talked... [... breathing in.  Like this . Even preaching. I was always fascinated by that.]*  But I reckon he sneezed like everyone else, cause with his hands occupied like that, and in mid-sentence, the pollen got to him and a big sneeze came on him and he turned his head away from us and toward the creek and sneezed explosively. AND out popped his false teeth. They went flying right into the middle of that muddy little creek and plopped down and out of sight.

Well everybody got busy trying to fish ‘em out. There were a few cane poles leaned against a sycamore there and folks were poking those out in the water. Then somebody came running with some rakes they kept there at the church and tried raking ‘em out of the water. But it was all to no avail.

It was then that my Methodist preacher heritage and experience came in handy. I knew those fellows with the poles would never fish those teeth out with empty hooks. AND I knew the bait to use.

Preacher Bailey had a chicken leg left on his plate that still had some meat on it. I grabbed it and snagged it onto the hook on one of those poles. Why, I want you to know those teeth snapped onto that chicken leg as soon as it hit the water and I jerked ‘em to shore in no time.

It took some doing to pry the chicken leg out of those teeth, but after that Preacher Bailey rinsed ‘em a little in his sweet tea and plopped ‘em back in his mouth, and was ready for another plate full of fine eating.

If you want catfish, use worms. For perch, I recommend minnows. But if you need to catch a Methodist preacher, or his teeth, fried chicken’s the bait to use.

* I demonstrate the way Preacher Kelley talked with the bracketed words.

© 2014 Terrell Shaw

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Living wages for employees should be a part of every business plan.

Raising the minimum wage will make life better for the folks on minimum wage. That is a good thing. And it affects a different group of folks than what is imagined by many. See the chart below.

But that ain't all.

Raising the minimum wage will also put more money into circulation in the economy. Folks making minimum wage WILL spend their increased wages. They have to.

I realize that this will make some difficulties for businesses. It will also make more business for those or other businesses. When we raised the minimum wage in '96 the right predicted job losses. Instead we had years of job growth.

And the gigantic corporations can raise prices a tiny bit if their uber-plutocrat owners are afraid of losing some minute fraction of their wealth as a result.

To me it is a principle:
"Living wages for employees should be a part of every business plan."
If a start-up, or any other business, cannot afford to pay its employees a living wage, it should rework its plan; reduce executive salaries, dividends or profits; or scale down the business to a size that is workable. Yes, some will lose jobs as a result. But many will also gain jobs as spending increases.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Exchanging Gifts

What gifts will you bring your Papa?
Pure  gold, however they’re made—
Wrapped in sunshine smiles;
Tied up with love that won’t fade.

What gift will you bring your Lover?
Its rich, whatever you’ve spent,
You’ve paid thrice in sweat and tears
and my promises, broken or bent.

What gifts can I bring my daughters?
What present is worthy my wife?
Tawdry trinkets diamonds would seem
On these precious true-treasures of life.

- by Terrell Shaw

A tawdry trinket I wrote for Sheila and the girls twenty years ago.

For the last several years we have celebrated Christmas differently. We have de-emphasized shopping, preferring to make donations and give memories. We have more possessions than we need. Gifts have more often been theater tickets, voice or dance lessons, and such rather than sweaters and tool kits. Apologies to the Christmas-Season-dependent businesses.