A Visit to the CoonHoundCemetery

My wife, Dekie received a “thank you reward” from using her visa card and decided to use it for a September birthday trip for me. More specifically, she decided to use it for a room in a fancy hotel in Florence, Alabama. We enjoy adventuresome road trips together, and I am always happy when the lady takes me across a state line. Dekie researched the area and decided that we should visit the Helen Keller birth place and a home that had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. After a little more research she found out that it would only be a hell of a lot more trouble to go to Cherokee, Alabama and visit the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard.  You see, we’ve had a registered coon hound to enhance our relationship since its beginning. Our coon hound, Speck is getting older but still kicking. Here’s a picture from a few years ago:

John and Dekie with Speck the coon hound

John, Dekie, and Speck on the Berry College campus, 2008

Now don’t take this travelogue lightly. One does not just drop in on the coon hound cemetery. It is located just a little past the other side of nowhere after turning off from the main road near Cherokee. The name of the location, though is cut in granite:

Chiseled in stone--The marker for the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Garden

Chiseled in stone–The marker for the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Garden

A sign on a tree lets you know that neither you nor your cocker spaniel are welcome to be buried here.

Sign for Coon Hound Cemetery

I guess your Shih tzu ain’t gonna be buried in this HERE cemetery

And I would be remiss if I didn’t show you the lovely plaque from the Friends of the CoonDogCemetery:

Dedication plaque from the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery

Dedication plaque from the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery

The feeling of love and caring that someone put into this headstone done tore at my heart. I bet Lulu Belle was a wonderful dog.

Here Lies Lulu Bell, Prize champion coon hound. Born 1945

Here Lies Lulu Belle, Prize champion coon hound. Born 1945

Dekie enjoyed walking around and reading the messages that paid tribute to all of the wonderful late coon hounds

Sweet Dekie paid her respects to hundreds of coon dog heroes that day.

Sweet Dekie paid her respects to hundreds of coon dog heroes that day.

Ruff was another special stone, name, and  memory.

Here lies Ruff Redbone, a most special and loving coon hound.

Here lies Ruff Redbone, a most special and loving coon hound.

I enjoyed the feeling of love and caring as I looked over the head stones, and the flowers in the cemetery.

Looking over the well tended graveyard tugs at the strings of one's heart.

Looking over the well tended graveyard tugs at the strings of one’s heart.

I’ve seen a lot of things cast in concrete but this was the first time I ever saw cement coon hounds barking up a tree.

First time I ever saw cement coon dogs barking up a tree.

First time I ever saw cement coon dogs barking up a tree.

To be specific, Speck is a “treeing Walker coon hound” named for Mr. Walker who started the breed. We tried telling Speck about the cemetery but she just said, “that’s interesting, can I have a treat now?”

Speck the coon hound speaks: "It's time for my treat now."

Speck the coon hound speaks: “It’s time for my treat now.”

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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Spray Painting the House

I am feeling better every day. The physical punishment from the cancer treatments and the surgery is getting lighter slowly but surely. After three years—showing numerous battle scars—I feel like I have returned. My landscaping business and my sweet wife keep me busy on several levels. But last week I had a promise to keep. The time had come for a “Happy Wife, Happy Life” moment. The house needed painting.

Summerville Park is celebrating its one hundredth anniversary this year

Summerville Park is celebrating its one hundredth anniversary this year

We live in Summerville Park, which is a nice older subdivision not far from downtown Rome, Georgia. Actually, this week the neighborhood is celebrating its centennial anniversary. I think our house was built in the mid nineteen-twenties, way before lumber sizes were standardized.

When word got out around my friend and contractor circles that I wanted to paint the house, I got lots of prices and advice. Several people told me that I would be wise to install vinyl siding. My answer to that was, “One does not put vinyl on a house that was built in 1928 and then beautified with six inch drop lap siding some time in the mid fifties.” What I didn’t say was that times were hard and I needed to economize.

So I got together with my wise and funny son, Paul, and we made a plan. I would get everything ready and he would come over on a Saturday afternoon and spray it for me.

My wonderful landscape helper, Victor Hugo, is always looking for extra work. I enlisted his help. I rented a pressure washer, bought a few paint scrapers, and put him to work.

Pressure washing the house in preparation for painting.

Pressure washing the house in preparation for painting.

One of the things I needed to do myself was to take tape and painter’s paper and mask the windows. I thought I would take off Friday morning, do the taping, and relax that afternoon.  It turned into quite a job, though, and I didn’t finish until the next day. I enjoyed the way the taped up windows looked from the inside with the afternoon sun shining through.

Even though it is a temporary art form, I love the way the masking looked from the inside.

Even though it is a temporary art form, I love the way the masking looked from the inside.

Paul called late Friday and told me that his plans had changed and he had to work on Saturday. He said that he could be at the house ready to spray by three o’clock. I started having doubts as to whether we would finish the job on Saturday I rented a sprayer for the weekend. Saturday morning, Victor and I decided that we (he) should brush paint the fascia so that we would avoid spraying paint on the roof shingles. He took care of that while I taped up paper and made other preparations.

working on the edges.

working on the edges.

Good old Paul showed up right on time. The weather was magnificent. I was watching the sun roll across the sky as we fiddled with the sprayer and got everything working just right. All three of us went to work. I was amazed at how efficient the spray gun was. Paul had told me that it would take four hours. He finished in three and a half. I had to go get more paint at one point.

It is so wonderful to have a son who will give of his love, time, and talent. Thanks, Paul

It is so wonderful to have a son who will give of his love, time, and talent. Thanks, Paul

We got everything sort of cleaned up. I pulled the masking tape and paper off of the lower windows and opened them a bit so they wouldn’t stick shut. I admired our work in what was left of the evening sun.

The finished paint job shining in the afternoon sun

The finished paint job shining in the afternoon sun

I was tired. Wife was happy. That’s a good situation. There’s still a lot to do, but the main part is over with. I think the most care at this point will be to continue the discussion of exactly what shade of blue the shutters will be painted.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man.  We had a tornado come by Summerville Park a couple of years ago. Here is an article about fixing up for our neighbor Ken Nance

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Tender Mercies

Well, over the last few weeks I have been poked and prodded and scanned. The general consensus of the doctors is that the treatments worked and the cancer is gone. I will have another scan in October to check it again. I don’t know that I have won the war, but I do feel like the battle is mine.

A fourth of July visit with my beautiful mother, Jane Schulz

A fourth of July visit with my beautiful mother, Jane Schulz

And battle scars—I have a few. My shoulder has a gouge taken out of it due to the removal of a tumor that was on my carotid artery. My voice box has been removed along with the throat cancer tumor and my voice.  A tube with a back flow valve has been surgically inserted between my trachea and my esophagus allowing regulated air to flow into my mouth cavity and thereby allowing  me to talk. There is a button on my throat that I can push to direct air through this tube when I want to talk. It is a very simple device but difficult to explain.

So I have a new sense of hope. When I think of cancer I think of a movie (The Shootist, 1976) that I saw with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne in which Stewart looked at Wayne and said, “You have a cancer.”  I knew right then that the character was going to die. Up until recently I guess my mind just accepted cancer as being the kiss of death. Now I know different. I know that in many cases, finding the cancer is the first step in treating and eradicating it.

I have been learning about my “store bought” voice for five or six months and have been slowly gaining confidence in using it. My writing group, The Rome Area Writers (Rome, Georgia) was due to meet last week and the writing prompt was “Tender Mercies.” I decided to write something short to read for the group and just find out how much progress I was making. The reading went rather well considering, and I felt good about it. Here’s the piece:

Tender Mercies.

She is a nice looking forty-five

Year old third generation

Trust fund baby who had

Married a second generation

Trust fund baby.

 

I have just gotten through wit

A three year cancer battle

In which I lost my voice

And sustained several other scars.

“You look good, John.”

She said as she gave me a perfunctory hug.

She stood back and looked at me

“How are you doing,” she asked

And nodded toward the button on my throat,

“Other than that…”

 

“How insensitive,” I thought to myself

“I’m feeling great,” I said with a big smile.

She replied, “I’ve been praying for you, and

We put you on the prayer list at my church.”

I thanked her kindly.

 

On the way home I thought to myself

“Four years ago

Four years ago I would have been devastated

To think I would have a button on my throat

That I had to push any time I wanted to talk.”

And I thought some more.

 

You know

There is nothing like five months

Without being able to talk,

To make one really appreciate such a button

I pulled into the driveway,

Home from a long day.

 

“Welcome home,” my wife said

She smiled and gave me more than a perfunctory hug.

She backed off and looked at me

With a shine in her eye…

“How was your day?” she asked.

**********************

If you still need your plant fix for the week, go see the website for my new hero, Jake Hobson. He has taken Japanese pruning techniques to England. Wow

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Bubba’s Christmas Letter: A Soon to be Traditional Southern Christmas Story

 

December 14, 2018. This post was originally written several years ago and My good friend Bud Sims helped me with it. He was tickled to see his picture on “That there interweb.” Dekie read the letter to the story guild on Tuesday night this year and they loved it so she read it again for the Rome Area Writers and they loved it too.

Bud died earlier this year and I think of him every time I read the letter. Enjoy–or better yet, read it out loud to your Christmas gathering. You’ll be glad you did.

–John Schulz

Here’s the letter:

Have you ever noticed that when your friends and relatives have a very good year, they send you a long letter telling you all about it? My friend Bubba had a good year.  He will be the guest author for this post. You will enjoy a Redneck Christmas— Heeere’s Bubba!!!

Hey, this is Bubba writing.

See, Bev, she’s my wife as you probably know if you know me, and if you don’t know me, you probly wont be getting this letter anyway. We decided we needed to write this letter.  She is helping me telling me stuff to say, but I am working the commuter because I can type better than her.

I done had a good year. I done caught lots of fish

So many of my friends, maybe you and maybe not, have written me letters at christmas to tell me how good they did in the last year and I always wanted to write one but nobody can reaad my handwriting and then Bev, you know, she runs a cleaning service out of her ford van and you might not know she cleans this lawyer’s office and he likes her cause she has such a nice butt and she always wears tight jeans unless it is summer and then she wears tight cutoffs.  Anyway, she was there one day this past summer and he was changing to a bigger computer and he cleaned this one out and give it to her.  Well, she brought it home and we had to get the ten year old kid in the trailer next door to show us how to use it and I decided that I would write a Christmas letter like everybody else cause we done had a real good does year.

The only problem is the idiot that built this typing board didn’t go to the same school I did.  I learned abcdefg and so forth.  He learned qwertyuiop and so forth.  Well, I started this letter in september and I am just now finishing it because none of the letters are in the right order and I have to look real hard for them. I hope after this that a cop don’t pull me over and tell me to say the alphabet.  I will be a gonner.  I would probly look him in the face and say “no problem mr. Officer, qwertyuiop and so forth” I got a callus on my trigger finger. My kids, homer and clete keep laughing at me and started showing me stuff and almost spilled my beer and I had to chase them off.  Bev keeps wanting something called the internet, but it costs as much as the cable tv and you cant get any nascar on them.

 So here is the letter it has been a good year:

Dere Freinds

Well it has been a wonderful year.  Jodie he’s my friend at the carpet mill wanted me to go spotliting with him and I had to work late at the carpet mill and didn’t go and doggone if the game wardens didn’t have a artificial deer in the edge of the woods and jodie saw it and he told me that it had steam coming out from its mouth and antlers and the head moved and he hit it with his spotlight and jumped out of the truck and shot its head off and the game wardens arrested him and put him in jail and took his gun away and all kind of stuff.  While he was doing this, I made 5 hours of overtime.  Just goes to show it pays to be a working man. What a good year I have had.

Talk about luck.  You remember old rufus, the rotweiler?  Some sumbitch shot him and he come home and bev took him to the vet and it costed 50 dollars and rufus died anyway.  While we were being sad—bev and the kids about the dog, me about the fifty bucks, some nice people from town came speeding by and dropped out these two puppies.  We named them rocky and young rufus.  The kids don’t seem to care that young rufus is a girl this time.  Man, these dogs are smart now I know how stupid rufus really was. What a good year.

Bev wanted the ford van painted and I taught the kids, clete and homer how to paint a van and they didn’t hardly leave any brush strokes at all.  What good kids.  They like school, too, and clete liked the third grade so much that he decided to take it again and homer wanted to go to the sixth grade so bad that he went to summer school.  I sure am proud of them.  Clete only got in trouble once last year when it was a rainy day and they were showing Bambi in school to all the kids and when the big stag came on the screen he yelled “bam” and all the little girls started crying.  I guess they thought he was shooting at one of the does but it wasn’t a doe day. And he learned enough from hearing about jodie to shoot one without antlers on the wrong day. Clete is pretty smart about not getting in trouble.

The peppers in the garden did real good and we used them to get the sausage just right.  I learned this thing from this friend of bevs that works in the beauty shop about tying one end of the casing material to a pick up truck bumper and the other end to the barn and blowing them out with a compressor before you do the rest of making the deer sausage. This is better than hand slung chitlins. I thought you would like the part about the pick up and the compressor I am sure you know exactly how to do the rest.  See, I learned something.  What a good year.

This is me and all of my toys. It has been a very good year.

And now I  got to tell you about last Christmas because you won’t believe our good fortune. Clete and Homer wanted to get a expensive Christmas present.  They wanted this thing you hook up to the tv and then you got this here rifle and then when the deers run across the front of the tv, you can shoot them. We told them that it was too expensive and they would have to get it together if they got it, and the new motor on the go cart would be totally out of the question.

I love those boys. It was expensive.  We all had to make sacrifices.  We had to practice self discipline.  Bev started getting her make up at the dollar store instead of ekerds and I started drinking Keystone instead of budweiser.  We missed the rassling matches three times, and we stopped dancing at the amvets club which I can go to cause Merle, he was in the national guard and he spoke for me.  Anyway, we made the money up and went to the magic market and bought a money order and sent it off and this box came to the house on a ups truck and bev, she put it up in the closet where homer and clete wouldn’t find it and left it there till Christmas.

Anyway, Christmas morning came and bev gave me a vibrating alarm clock that wouldn’t make any noise and fit in my shirt pocket and would wake me up in case I fell asleep in my deer stand. I love it.  I think I done missed a bunch of deers by falling asleep in my deer stand. I gave bev a really nice venison hind quarter and a tackle box with a make up mirror in the top inside.  She loved it.  Then it came time for the boys to open up their present.  We all got real excited watching them open up the box.  I don’t know why because we all knew what was in it, but the company we bought it from had made a mistake.  I’ll never forget the looks on clete and homers faces when they looked in the box and found it.  It was the thing to hook up to the tv but the rifle warn’t there.  We hooked it up to the tv and these here deers kept running across the screen but there warn’t no way to shoot them.  Them boys near went crazy.  Clete run in the other room and got his bb gun and was going to shoot the deers with that but I stopped him just in time.

What a good year.  I went to the magic market and bought a calling card and called the people that made the mistake and they said they were sorry and that I could quit calling them names and that they would send me a completely new one and I would have two things to hook up to the tv and the rifle too.  It aint got here yet, but I am sure it will.

What a good year.  I couldn’t think of what to do with  the tv deer hook up thing cause we were going to get another one and we only got one tv so it took it to the projects where Jo Sam this guy that works with me lives and his cable got cut off and he can’t watch nothing on tv. loved it and wanted it for his niece so she could watch the deers run across the tv screen and talk about how perty they were, and he traded me not one, but two genuine ROLODEX watches for it.  Man, I bet there ain’t two other brothers in the whole trailer park that got genuine rolodex watches for Christmas and a tv deer hunting kit on the way.

What a good year.  Here it is almost the end of the year and bev came up to me and kissed me and told me that this was the sixth year in a row that they ain’t reposessed our car or kicked us out of the trailer park.  God has really blessed us.

I will write you next year if next year is anywhere near as good as this one was.  If you don’t hear from me, send donations

With all our love

Bubba, bev, clete and homer

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Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Christmas Tree or Holiday Tree? Ask Bubba

Bubba calls it a Christmas Tree.

I stopped by to visit Bubba the other day and he was hanging lights on the leafless dogwood tree in his front yard.  I looked at it admiringly and asked, “Bubba, just what do you call this creation?”

Bubba backed up and grinned and told me “hit’s a Christmas tree.”

He continued, “during most of the year we call it a dogwood tree, but here about Christmas time we call it our Christmas tree.  And just to make sure it has the true spirit of Christmas, Look right here….”

He pointed to a limb.  “See here, John, here’s a bullet hanging in it.”

I sort of wondered how the bullet made it into a Christmas tree and I could feel my eyebrows rise in a questioning manner.  Bubba laughed,

The tree ain’t got no leaves on it.  Ain’t you ever heard of a Cartridge in a Bare Tree?”

This reminded me of an article I wrote last year about whether to call it a Christmas Tree or a Holiday Tree.  Here’s the article:

Christmas Tree or Holiday Tree?

Every year about this time there is a discussion about whether we should call it a Holiday Tree or a Christmas Tree.  John the Plant Man not only has an opinion but also a defense for that opinion.  Read on…

 

A Frazier fir tree carefully decorated for the Christmas Season

A Frazier fir tree carefully decorated for the Christmas Season

 I guess it doesn’t matter if someone wants to call it a Holiday Tree, but it does make me wonder about their understanding of word meaning and logic. I might even worry about their intelligence, but not to a great extent.. For myself, I choose to refer to it as a “Christmas Tree”.  In this debate, I am however, more concerned about the abuse that we heap on semantics and the English language

For example, you have heard the age old question:  “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”

The answer is different than expected.  It depends on the definition of the word “sound”.  If the definition of the word “sound” requires a sonic disturbance as well as a receiver, then it doesn’t make a sound.  If the definition requires only a sonic disturbance, then it does, indeed, make a sound.

Definitions answer many questions.

 

This is a Frazier Fir tree. If it fell in the forest, would it make a sound?

This is a Frazier Fir tree. If it fell in the forest, would it make a sound?

 It follows, therefore, that the tree decorated for the holiday observed on December 25 every year should be called a “Christmas Tree.”  It’s as simple as that. Of course, it has to be decorated for Christmas to be a Christmas tree.  Otherwise, it would be a fir tree or a pine tree or a plastic tree, etc.

The definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary appears as:

“n  A tree, usually evergreen, decorated at Christmas time”

You have probably heard of a “Yule log”

This is defined as “a large log formerly put on the hearth on Christmas Eve as a foundation for the fire.”

That’s what that particular item is.  It is a yule log.  That is its name by definition. We wouldn’t call it a “holiday log.”   Heck, Mike, a log is a log.

President Lincoln was once talking with a farmer about whether or not to call a territory a state.

Mr. Lincoln asked the farmer:  “Sir, how many legs does the cow have?”

The farmer knew the answer:  “Why, Mr. President, the cow has four legs.”

Mr. Lincoln then asked:  “And if we call the cow’s tail a leg, then how many?”

“Why” answered the farmer:  “Then the cow would have five legs.”

“That, sir is where you’re wrong” replied the president.

“Merely calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

So, taking all religious arguments out of the question (just to level the playing field):

A tree, usually evergreen, decorated for the Christmas season is defined as a “Christmas tree”

You may call it anything else

For instance,

You may call it a “holiday tree”

But that doesn’t make it one.

Here are the choices:

This would be a Christmas Tree--any other name would be incorrect by definition

This would be a Christmas Tree–any other name would be incorrect by definition

 

This is a Frazier Fir tree. It has a botanical name for exactness.

This is a Frazier Fir tree. It has a botanical name for exactness.

 Now what will you call a tree that is decorated for Christmas?     

   A Christmas tree, a holiday tree, or a

fir tree, or a pine tree, or a plastic tree ?

Join the discussion, leave a comment

 

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 To read about Johntheplantman and the rednecks, 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Talking: A not so clinical exploration of a laryngectomy.

As presented to  Rome Area Writers, October 11, 2012. After they got through laughing, the members told me  that I should sell this article to a magazine. I decided it would suit me better to put it right here on Johntheplantman. Enjoy—

John Schulz speaking with the use of an electrolarynx

John Schulz speaking with the use of an electrolarynx

The nicest thing about the operation is that I can breathe again.

Breathing is under-rated and taken for granted until…

Until it becomes difficult or impossible to breathe.

Then we notice…Oh, Yeah, then we notice.

A doctor in an emergency room once told me, “Blood goes round and round, air goes in and out. Any deviation from this is not good.” I found this statement funny and quotable until the day I had to pull the truck over to the curb and get out to do some deep breathing exercises just to keep from passing out. That’s when the doctor’s statement rang true.

I have learned a lot about the Larynx (or voice box) over the last two or three years. I have a feeling that I am going to learn a lot more. In case you have forgotten since your high school science class, I’ll refresh you: there are two pipes going down your throat—the esophagus for food and liquids and the trachea for air and sound. The back of the tongue is designed to cover the trachea when you swallow and dump all the swallowings down the proper pipe. One does not want foreign matter in the air pipe.

The larynx is the organic device that makes sound so that we can talk. Most of us know that. What a lot of us don’t know is that the larynx is also the last gate before the lungs. If even a little bit of foreign matter reaches it to the larynx, we begin to cough until that matter is removed. Larger matter in the trachea causes us to choke and to die of asphyxiation and things like that which are not pleasing.

Sometimes, due to cancer and/or other reasons, it is necessary to remove the voice box. This is called a laryngectomy. What they do is cut that sucker out and re-direct the air to a new hole in the neck. This is called a “stoma.”  I knew about stomas because they are also little things on the underside of a leaf that allows for oxygen transfer. Stomas are important.

I knew what was going to happen to me, but it still took some getting used to. I went to the hospital for an operation, got gassed, and woke up with a hole in my throat and no voice.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m always open for an adventure. You know that I am interested in new knowledge gained from new experiences. And you know that I am a true optimist.

If you don’t know me, then please just take my word for it. At any rate I was ready to learn all about my new adventure.

You see, the laryngectomy re-directs the air and it doesn’t move in or out through the mouth any more. I never knew that air through my mouth did so many things. I’m learning. Did you realize that when you take a sip of water, you actually draw it in with air? I didn’t know that until after the operation when I found that I had to drink in a slightly different manner. What about blowing on a spoon full of soup to cool it off before putting it in your mouth? No more of that, either.  I burned my tongue three times before learning.

You can’t blow your nose or spit. No more whistling, I always wanted to go squirrel hunting with an Indian blow gun—that ain’t going to happen, either. The squirrels are safe—but then, again, they were probably safe before the operation, too. One day I tried to gargle with mouth wash—nope, that didn’t work. I keep learning about new things that I can’t do.

But what I CAN do is breathe. I sure do like being able to breathe again and I feel so much better. Breathing is good.

I haven’t really tried it yet, but I’ll bet I can set a new record for kissing because I can do that and breathe at the same time. I won’t have to come up for air.

As I write this, three weeks after the operation, my throat is still swollen from the stitches that were necessary to keep my esophagus from leaking. A leaking esophagus is not good. I had to be fed through a tube and was told that I was not to swallow for fourteen days after the operation. The not swallowing was a difficult assignment. I was very happy the day the tube came out.

I am now waiting for the swelling in my throat to go away so that I can see about getting a new store bought voice box. In the mean time, if I want to converse with someone, I use either the electrolarynx or my notebook and pen. I find interactions with people to be fun, interesting, and sometimes frustrating. I know that not being able to talk is a short range thing for me, but the people I am trying to converse with don’t realize this.

Reactions to the electrolarynx are varied. Most people are not familiar with the purpose of the device and, therefore, are wary of even trying to understand or relate to what is going on as I use it. The therapist told me it takes practice. I have done that and I feel like I’ve made progress in the use of the device. The therapist also told me that the success of the device also depends on the participation of the person with whom I am communicating. A lot of people don’t understand this part.

Writing as a form of communication is fun, also—especially when I mistakenly assume that the other person can read.

A number of people look at my writing and my smile and assume that I am also hearing impaired. That’s when they start making hand motions and moving their lips in an effort to be helpful. When that happens, I write on my tablet in large letters—I CAN HEAR. They usually don’t pay attention to that, though. They just go on moving their hands around and talking loud

One day soon I will be able to talk and breathe. I am looking forward to that.

Thank you Dr. Amy Chen and all of the wonderful people at Emory Hospital. You are all wonderful.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

John Takes An Enforced Break

Well, I guess I should put up some semblance of a post just to let my friends know what is going on. On Sept. 13, I was operated on to have a tumor removed from my carotid artery and to have a laryngectomy. It has been quite the ordeal.

For a while, now, I won’t be able to talk, but, Praise his Name, I can write.  The problem with that right now is a very sore shoulder that doesn’t like for me to type too much. I must be careful.

At any rate, I am expected to live now –unless a car runs over me or something like that–I’ll try to stay away from runaway cars. I am recuperating well and I have been able to ease back into my work mode.

Plant wise, I am spending time deciding what plants to use for the cut flower gardens that I am planning for Lynn, Diane, and Betty. I ordered 500 tulip bulbs yesterday. That’s a good start.

Keep looking for me–I’ll be back!!!

 

Billy Schulz–A kind, Loving, and Courageous Gentleman

Billy Schulz passed away on Sunday, September 2, 2012. Billy loved everyone he ever met and was standing ready to love those he had yet to meet. He was a pioneer in the field of Special Needs. Billy will be missed by many people all over the world. He touched a lot of people and changed a lot of attitudes and lives.

A memorial service will be held for Billy in Kingsport, Tennessee on Saturday, September 8. I hope the meeting hall will be big enough.

You may read all about Billy if you visit the website GROWN MAN NOW

John, Jane, and Billy Schulz

John, Jane, and Billy Schulz

The following article was published on January 28, 2012

In my family, January 28 has been the most important day of the year for the last fifty five years. Fifty five years ago was when Billy Schulz first realized that there was a special day that was just for him. For fifty five years, according to Billy and lots of others, This date has been bigger than Christmas.

Billy will be 56 years old Saturday. Dekie and I will be in Kingsport to join in the festivities and the celebration. This year, there is an additional celebration in that this past week, Billy received a very special award from his employer, Food City, where he was recognized for ten years of service to the company. Here’s a picture of Billy with his ten year pin. It has diamonds and rubies. Billy looks happy. Congratulations are in order.

Billy Schulz shows his 10-year service pin from Food City, January 23,  © 2012 Mary de Wit
Billy Schulz shows his 10-year service pin from Food City, January 23, © 2012 Mary de Wit

I remember a few years ago when there was a really big birthday party for Billy’s fiftieth. People came from all over the world to be with him on the special day. They came from New York, Iowa, and even from Japan. What a party that was.

I think the best thing about having watched Billy for the past half a century and more has been seeing a man use his given talents to the maximum. His social skills are amazing, and he has never met a stranger. Billy loves everyone he meets and he distributes his gift of joy wherever he goes. He is truly a special person.

At the time Billy was born, people didn’t know much about Down syndrome. Billy and his mother, Jane were pioneers in the field of special education. His mother earned a doctorate in special education and taught at Western Carolina University for many years. Billy has given talks and slide presentations all over the country.

I love the way Billy tells his own story. He wrote his own article for his birthday in which he said,

“I am born,January 28, 1956. And now I BE 56. That is the same number. Hunh. I like that.

Now I not be 55 any more. But I like that, be 55. It is a good year. But I be 56, now that’s bether!

Now I going to be a old, old man. But I like it.

You know what? Alan Alda born on January 28. Plays on M.A.S.H. I like that show, and it is so funny.”

You may read the rest of Billy’s article IF YOU CLICK HERE

And here’s another part of the celebration: Billy and his mother, Jane B. Schulz wrote a book, Grown Man Now that tells all about growing up and dealing with the talents he was given. This most interesting memoir goes into great depth in relating the story of Billy, his family, and especially his parents as they deal with the problems and joys of his life. You may read about the book and purchase an autographed copy from the publisher with free shipping by clicking here. If you know someone who is dealing with Down syndrome or other disabilities, do them a favor and suggest the book.

Grown Man Now, A memoir by Jane B. Schulz
Grown Man Now, A memoir by Jane B. Schulz

I really like the picture on the cover of the book. Dad was a devoted advocate for Billy and helped him whenever he needed help. After Dad had a stroke the tables turned and Billy became the care giver and helper.

You can even be friends with Billy Schulz on face book. He’s the one fromKingsport,Tennessee.

So, one more time: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BILLY. I have a wonderful brother.

I wrote another article about Billy and why the book Redemption for a Redneck was dedicated to him. You may read that article here

My self publishing experience part three-Turning it into a book.

 

Mrs. Garnett Cobb enjoys the book

Mrs. Garnett Cobb enjoys the book

The editing proceeded. Make changes, submit for editing, correct the manuscript, make more changes. I called the process polishing. I realized that when the final draft was completed and printed there would be no going back for changes. The funny thing is that in the final draft of Requiem for a Redneck,- the one that was printed- there is a glaring mistake. I never told anyone about it and only a few people noticed but I knew it was there. Can you find it?

To read part one of this series CLICK HERE

To read part two of this series CLICK HERE

 During the editing process, I was doing a lot of research trying to find out just what a “publishing company” was. I had pictures in my head of big offices that rose over a printing press. I read the offerings of a number of print on demand (POD) publishers that promised me fame and fortune if I just sent them some money and a manuscript. These companies make some mighty fine sounding promises, too, but something about them didn’t seem quite right and so I continued my research, looking for the overall concept. I found it, too.

 I found that I could use my personal computer as my publishing company. I just had to put everything together. I studied it some more. Dekie studied it with me and we realized that we could set up our own publishing company to produce the book. This turned out to be a really good move in the long run.

 My son, J.R.Schulz is a gifted graphic artist and I asked him to do the book cover for me. J.R. is the one who introduced me to the word “formatting.”

I asked, “What does that mean?”

He replied, “That means producing a pdf that is print ready. Everything has to be the right size for the book and laid out just as you want the inside of the book to look. You must select the best fonts to use and take such things into consideration as indents, headers, footers, margins, and more. Everything must be just right.”

I learned that just submitting a word document would never work. The document had to be fine tuned using a program named Indesign that was developed for just this process. J.R. and Dekie worked on the cover, formatting and other considerations needed to get the book print ready. The research continued. Here’s an example of the formatted interior:

spread scan for Requiem for a Redneck from Indesign format

spread scan for Requiem for a Redneck from Indesign format

 We needed an ISBN or International Standards Book Number, a registered copyright and a Library of Congress Book Number. We needed to find a printer. Over a period of time all of the considerations were taken care of.

 J.R. finished the book cover and we were all delighted. The book cover had to be formatted to exact dimensions so that it would fit the book. The part I found most interesting was the manner in which the spine width was determined. The spine width, of course, would change with the number of pages in the book and had to be accurate within thousandths of an inch.  Here’s what the cover looked like when it was formatted.

Requiem cover, formatted to exact specifications

Requiem cover, formatted to exact specifications

 I studied print pricing and found that the price of each copy goes down as the number of copies is raised. My research told me that the best price break came when quantities of 3,000 or more copies were ordered, so I decided to order 3,000 books. I know that sounds like a lot of books-and it is-but I had confidence in my product and in myself. Everything has worked out well in the long run.

 The formatted book was next sent to a printer. A proof copy was sent to me for approval and then the print order was completed. A couple of weeks later, boxes and boxes of books were delivered to my office. I eagerly opened one of the boxes and removed a copy of the book. I will never forget the feeling of wonder and pride that I had as I held that book in my hand for the first time. That feeling was followed later by one of, “What happens next?”

 The book was well received and even though I made many marketing mistakes, I feel that I have done rather well with Requiem for a Redneck. People sometimes asked me about my marketing plan and I thought about it. The marketing plan became:

“Write a good book, learn how to publish it, learn how to market it, and then write another book knowing what you didn’t know from the first one.”

 This would be similar to going back to school-to a school of one-a school based on self reliance. It seems to have worked so far. Now, I have finished writing the second part of what I will call “The Redneck Trilogy.” The book is titled Redemption for a Redneck and it is a love story. I plan to end up with a multi generic trilogy which will consist of a tragedy, a love story, and a mystery.

 Has my writing career started? I don’t know, but the process has become interesting and fun. I have developed a following, even if it is a small one in the grand scheme of things. People ask me every day when they will be able to read the next book. I have had a good time.

 After the production of the Requiem, we found that there are lots of people who want to self publish a book without getting ripped off by the big guys and Dekie has been busy taking care of several of these.  You will find the website for Wheredepony Press if you CLICK HERE

 You may ask, “John, did you make a profit on the book?”

And I will answer, “I sold close to two thousand books which I understand is pretty good. I covered costs and turned a dollar profit, but it turned out that money wasn’t the real profit.”

 The real profit from my book came in most unexpected ways.

I got to meet a lot of nice people.

I got to go to a lot of wonderful and enjoyable events.

I became known as a writer and as a humorist.

There are more ways I profited from the book, but the main profit is related in an article that I posted on this site last April.

In case you missed it, it is titled “A Thank You and a Love Story” You may CLICK HERE to find it.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

My self publishing experience-part one

A story about a story-My self publishing experience part one. August 28, 2011

It seems like every day, at least once but usually several times, someone will ask, “John, when’s your next book coming out?” The question never fails to make me feel good. I know now that I have been able to not only write a book but to get it published, win a prestigious award (Ippy, best fiction, South), and to create a following. I started the John the plant man blog to have a platform for answering frequently asked landscaping questions as well as to tell stories. Yesterday I was helping a client to find a leak in his waterfall and while we worked he kept asking me question after question about the writing, publishing, and marketing of Requiem for a Redneck after which I had to tell him all about my upcoming book Redemption for a Redneck which is due to appear on the scene in November, 2011. I realized that I had started answering these questions enough times to warrant writing about the subject. Here’s the story of the book:

The Storyteller, John Schulz in earlier days. A portrait by Tom Schulz, Artist

The Storyteller, John Schulz in earlier days. A portrait by Tom Schulz, Artist

I can remember being a pretty good writer in high school. My mother was a talented writer. She would take time from her busy schedule of being a housewife/student/career person to type my papers and to comment on them. When corrections were needed she took the time to show me what was wrong and how to correct it. I never much liked the correcting and re writing so I paid attention and learned to write with fewer and fewer mistakes. The most important lesson I learned from this session came from this conversation:

            “John, you need to take out this last paragraph.”

            “But, Mom, I like that paragraph.”

            She replied, “You need to take it out because it just goes too far. You’ve already made your point.”

            She then gathered up the papers, handed them to me with a pen and said,

            “The most important part of being a good writer is to know when to stop.”

Mom reinforced the lesson a number of times when, after hearing a speech or a sermon, she would smile sweetly and say something like

            “That was a good sermon, but he passed up three perfect places to stop.”

 Life went on and the age of fifty sneaked up on me. I could write short stories, essays and good letters but I had never even thought myself capable of writing a book. I was running a landscaping crew made up of people who were proud to call themselves rednecks. On rainy or frigid days when we couldn’t work on yards we would sit around a wood heater, drink beer, and tell stories. I always had some good stories to tell but the rednecks told me stories that, while commonplace to them, opened up a new world to me. I remember Doug Barton saying one time,

            “John, you need to take notes and write this stuff down so that it doesn’t disappear. We cain’t write a book about it, but you can.”

And that was the first time I ever thought about writing a book. I started taking notes and throwing them in a box as the stories piled up. I also became more and more associated with the North Georgia rednecks and their way of life. I met a lot of people and I drank a lot of beer. I met and worked with a talented but problematic saw miller named Ottis. I met and enjoyed talking to a retired bank robber named Jerry. The stories piled up in the box but I didn’t do anything about it.

            One day, while talking to a friend I told him that I wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to start. He replied,

            “John, your life is a book. All you got to do is tell about it.”

            I filed that thought away with my notes.

Throw the notes in a box and maybe, someday...

Throw the notes in a box and maybe, someday…

Somewhere around the year 2000 I traded some irrigation work for a fancy word processor. I discovered the back space button that allowed me to correct my mistakes as I wrote. The back space button is, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful developments of the digital age. I love it and wish sometimes that I had a back space button to use in conversations.

 So I started writing, but I had one more obstacle to overcome. It took a while to get the concept but one day in 2001 I quit drinking. That one action made all the difference in my life as well as in my writing discipline. I recently read an article in Harper’s that said when you quit drinking, it is a fifteen year process, five years to deal with the problem and get used to it, five years to figure out who you want to be, and five more years to become that person. My experience shows that to be right on target, too. Now I am in the third five years and I can look back and see it clearly.

 Living by myself and trying to find a new lifestyle, I began to dig through the box of notes in 2005. I started the book. I started it twenty times. Ottis had died a weird death and I thought I might work the story around him. Every time I told someone about this beautiful but complexly confused man people would listen, enjoy the story, and then get upset when I told them that Ottis was dead. I decided to fictionalize and start the book with the death of Ottis so that there would be no surprises in the end. I gave Ottis’ character the name of Harce in order to avoid any problems. I wrote a totally fictional story about the death of Harce and then proceeded to tell the rest of the story. It took two years.

 Two things that I had admired and thought about influenced the writing of the book. The first was an interview I had seen with John Hartford on the Johnny Carson show. (John Hartford has passed on to his greater rewards and if you don’t know who he was, go to you tube and look him up. You’ll thank me).Hartford was telling Carson that he wanted to write a book and instead of the usual binding, he wanted to write it and paste the pages on a stick so that it would make a circle and so that the reader could start at any place and end up wherever he wanted. I liked that.

 The second influence came from re reading The Great Gatsby and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I decided that I really liked the point of view in which an outsider becomes close enough to the story to tell about it but not close enough to belong in it. Nick Carraway in Gatsby, for instance, basically only told what he could observe and hear about a situation in which he really didn’t belong. I could identify with this because I was on the outside of the redneck community looking in. I invented John the plant man to be the narrator. I still really like that point of view and I am using it again in the second book.

 In February of 2007, still trying to find out who I wanted to be, still trying to come up with a new and sustainable lifestyle, I joined the Rome Area Writers. My book was maybe half way done and I needed some support. I also knew that I needed both some direction and an editor. I found both and another interesting part of the story started.

 I will continue this article next week. I need to do a bit more thinking about it. My plan is to take the story all the way through the self publishing process which will answer a lot of other questions that I am frequently asked. I will also tell you more about the physical production of Requiem for a Redneck and about the progress of the second book in the planned trilogy, Redemption for a Redneck I intend to go into what I learned about self publishing, marketing, and the unexpected profits gained from being a published author so be sure to bookmark this or, better yet, to subscribe to this blogsite.

 While you are waiting for the next article in the series, I invite you to read a beautiful and funny excerpt from the Requiem. Louann is a totally fictional and delightful character who deals with life as it comes at her.. Click on the link to see what happens when Louann wins the lottery

Louann wins the lottery with unexpected results

Louann wins the lottery with unexpected results

 If you are interested in self publishing, here are three of the blogsites that I follow. There are a multitude of good articles on the subject if you wish to browse around within these sites. I highly recommend them.

There’s the lovely, interesting, and well informed Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn

And then there’s the wild man, Dean Wesley Smith

I subscribe to The Book Designer and enjoy an article by Joel Friedlander almost every day.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

 Leave a comment or a question, it’s always appreciated.

j.

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