Sunday, June 6, 2010

Workingman’s Blues: Don’t lag behind

While I am grateful for my new job – and the leisure pursuits that jobs help us enjoy -- I find myself singing a version of the workingman blues.

There is never enough time for have-to’s and the need-to’s, much less the want-to’s. Between learning the ropes as a development director for a land trust and mandatory-for-sanity trips to the Wild Kingdom camphouse and Alabama River, I have not written on this blog in weeks and I have written only once on my novel-in-the-making, Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone, since beginning gainful employment on March 29.

I’m not complainin’. I’m just sayin’.

So, on this Sunday afternoon, on a weekend when I didn’t go to the Wild Kingdom healing ground, I find time to blog about life resumed as a working person, about fishing and the Masters of catfish tournaments and about some milestones.

A lot of things get in the way when you try to do what’s right

During the 16 months between being downsized and getting a new job, I started this blog and a novel, that one that all writers say they are going to write. At 83,000+ words and 286 typed, double-spaced pages completed, I am almost through with the first draft of this story of good and evil, the natural and supernatural set in the Alabama Black Belt.

During my unemployed, job and soul searching time off, I tried to write at least 1,000 words each weekday on the book, but sometimes things like life got in the way. And, these days, life really gets in the way. I know real novelists don’t let distractions stop them. I know many writers have day jobs and still produce that truth inside the story they are trying to tell. But I am still just a novelist in training and trying, but a determined one.

So, I am continuing to try to find a way and the time to “Shut the door, and write….one word at a time,” like it says on the post-it note that still clings to my computer, and to do so within the confines of a full-time job, a full-time family and full-time life. People ask me, and I ask myself. No, it’s not finished, and yes, it will be done.

Then, there is this blog, begun in part as one aspect of my job-searching network and now grown into a task and a pleasure together. I’ve been pleased and touched by friends, old and new, who read the postings, like them, and tell me so. It makes me feel good that folks say they miss my postings, the pictures, the songs. I miss them, too.

There. That is enough time spent writing and whining about not having enough time. I found a slice of time today – amidst overdue home tasks – for jackierwalburnwrites revisited. Next up, more regularly shut doors and words on paper (screen) to bring Mojo back from the brink.

For now, let’s talk about fishing and some milestones.

Crappie derby shutout

One of the things I love best about having our little shack on Pine Barren Creek, off the Alabama River, is the pier and the two-seater bench from which I love to fish for crappie. Each year, the Wilcox County Chamber of Commerce sponsors a big crappie tournament and a four-week Crappie Derby, where more than 200 tagged crappie (or perch as some anglers call them) are released into the our section of the Alabama River. Tagged crappie caught by a ticket-holding, legally-licensed fisherperson can bring $100 to $10,000 or a pick-up truck.

Minnows bubbling and poles baited, I fished most weekends of the Crappie Derby, which started in mid-April and ended in mid-May. It was not for the lack of trying that I didn’t catch a tagged crappie. In fact, I didn’t catch a keeper crappie during this time frame. Instead, I caught a dozen squealers (little catfish), a few big catfish, a gar that bit my line off and some bream. And, I fed countless minnows to turtle(s) who take the bait and float down quickly and cleanly help themselves to their sushi and start all over again.

No worries, though. I still saw some stunning sunrises as I watched the water vapor march across the surface of the creek. In the evenings, even as no desired fish took my bait, I got to see the sun as it sank amid purples and orange clouds, and I lingered to see Sirius the dog star show itself in the southern sky. Great consolation prizes.

Naturally, the weekend before the crappie derby began, I caught two of the prettiest crappie ever, and that’s the picture here.
Tagged crappie caught or not, I still consider this time spent watching the river flow by as well-spent.

Big catfish, tall tales and a one-of-a-kind event

I don’t like catching catfish, mainly because of those side-fins that cut like a knife. But, I love to eat catfish fried crisp and brown and enjoyed many well-prepared filets Memorial Day weekend at the annual Pine Barren Creek Invitational Catfish Tournament.

Think of it as the Masters of catfish tournaments.

Begun in 2010 by Billy Johnson and family, our neighbors at Pine Barren Creek, the Invitational Catfish Tournament -- like the Masters -- features fierce competition, talented and renown experts (just ask them) and an enthusiastic crowd. The Masters has its green blazer; the Pine Barren Invitational has its beer-can-encrusted, duct-tape-decorated championship belts.

But, unlike the Masters, the Pine Barren Invitational Catfish Tournament has required team flags and clever team names and one-of-a-kind lie-detector vetting for the top teams enforced by Billy himself. And for the fans, the invitational offers steaming paper plates of the crispy, tasty results (plus the best hushpuppies) cooked by Camden barber Van Waren and friends, live music and spontaneous dancing and sing-alongs in the aftermath.

Husband Frank and son Will competed as the “Cat Tails”, a.k.a. the Walburnators, and did not come in last. They didn’t catch nearly the 377-pound two-day total of the winning team or come close to the 31.6 pound big catfish award winner. But, they did set a personal record of some sort when checking on one trot line (which they dubbed the Zoo line) revealed one alligator gar, one several-feet-long spoonbill catfish (not kept; these are a protected species) and the most startling catch (also cut free), a giant snapping turtle estimated at four-plus feet across and capable of earning quick respect.

Here is a picture of some of the catfish beauties caught at the Pine Barren Invitational Catfish Tournament, seeming to smile for the camera.

Check out more pictures and details about the Masters of catfish tournaments at:


Bob Dylan, my songwriting hero, turned 69 on May 24th. My son Will, also a hero of mine, turned 28 on May 27th (after graduating with a technical degree in automated manufacturing earlier in the month).

And, last week, my Daddy, Charles Henry Romine of Pleasant Grove, another hero, retired U.S. Steel employee and fisherman extraordinaire, turned 83. On Saturday, we gathered at his house for a small celebration put together by my niece, Elizabeth Dawn Romine McCrory, who baked her Paw-Paw a great fish-themed birthday cake. Those TV cake show cakes have nothing on her creation. Here is Daddy with his cake.

My contribution for the day was to set up a Facebook profile for Daddy, using pictures I had on my computer. His profile picture is a 20-year-old Charles Henry, handsome and smiling.

Daddy, who is computer savvy and checks the news and his investments on his big screen computer, caught on quickly. When I left him Saturday, he was clicking through the finding friends option, about to seek friends among classmates at Fairfield High School and the California high school where he graduated in 1945 before joining the Navy a couple of days later. He was going to look for classmates from Birmingham Southern where he graduated in 1951 and probably searched through other Facebookers retired from U.S. Steel’s Fairfield works.

So, that’s a modern birthday and a milestone, when my 83-year-old Daddy, who doesn’t get out much anymore, can now reach out and stay in touch -- via this social media of his great-grandchildren’s world. Next thing you know, he’ll be challenging grandson Will in Mafia Wars.

Picture of the day: Sunset, from Pine Barren Creek. See what I mean.

Song of the day:
From the 2006 Modern Times album, I think this is a tribute song to Merle Haggard’s Workingman Blues. Merle toured with Dylan a few years ago. (I was there, with family, on 5th row, at the Birmingham show. Excellent!)

Workingman Blues #2, Bob Dylan

“Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the front line
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues”