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The Lost Art Of Making Do

Tom Poland

Posted October 6, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

He was twenty-six when the Great Depression arrived, thirty-six when it ended. A decade of doing without taught him something about survival. “Keep something seven years and you’ll find a new use for it.” Granddad’s generation handed down their philosophy of making do. It made for a kind of inheritance and it made for a kind of art.

Their white paint faded, these old tirepots sit next to an old asbestos-sided house.

We think of art as creative skill and imagination evident in paintings and sculptures. We should expand art to include how the human imagination turns everyday objects into innovations that possess beauty and emotional power. If necessity is the mother of invention, then making do charts a beautiful path to survival in times of paucity. You don’t have to live during a depression to go without. Mom and dad made do.

When mom died twelve years after dad had passed, my sisters and I set about going through our parent’s possessions. What to keep; what not to keep from their fifty-six years together of making do. It took us years to sort through things not thrown away. We kept at it week by week, month by month. Then one day, all their possessions were ours, others, or just gone. My empty boyhood home echoed with memories.

I cannot escape memories of family now gone to the graveyard. I remember how things were, how things changed, and how people made do. So when I see how families made do with things, memories rise like phantoms. Case in point. I was rambling along a back road when I came across old tires. They hadn’t rolled down a southern road in many a decade. But—and this is the lesson—they weren’t buried in a landfill or burned for warmth on a February morning. No, someone had made do with them. Made beauty too.

Back in the old tire’s day there were no Walmarts, Home Depots, or Lowes where people could buy plastic flowerpots imitating clay or foam pots looking like stone pots from ancient Rome or fiberglass pots the colors of the rainbow. In a time when many homes sported white asbestos cement siding, you saw tires converted into large flowerpots. I sure saw them. They were painted white, had scalloped edges, and red geraniums grew in them. The bright red flowers in those whitewashed tire pots brought beauty into my and other modest people’s lives. The tires had been repurposed, though their creators never explained it that way.

Some memories burn brighter than others. I can take you to an old farmhouse and show you exactly where tires painted white held red geraniums. They flanked the path leading to the steps I walked up many a day. I say I can take you there but I won’t. I prefer to remember things as they were.

Making do and remembering more, it was in the 1980s when I wrote a story about tenant homes. In one old home I entered I saw scraps of egg cartons of pink, white, blue, and yellow. An aged woman had cut the cartons into flower-like petals. She’d stitch the petals together with colored yarn and sell her colorful foamflowers to make a few dollars. You see she knew Mr. Get By quite well. He was first cousin to Mr. Make Do. That cold day I noticed the rat pills and roaches in windowsills, and I caught a whiff of kerosene. She had died just days earlier, denying her final Styrofoam flowers a chance to bloom.

“Repurposed.” It’s a word our throwaway society never uses. Buy new tires and you pay a tire disposal fee. That wasn’t the case in the days of making do. Tires turned inside out with scalloped edges cut into them and painted white gave red geraniums a home. All in all, they were quite pretty and quite original.

Worn-out tires turned flowerpots. Call them planters if you like, but to me they were and shall forever be tire pots. Whoever the enterprising soul was that thought them up should have gotten a medal of honor. And the fellow who made swings of old tires? Well, he deserved honorable mention at least.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Living on Purpose: Being resilient when facing life’s challenges

Dr. William Holland

Posted October 6, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, and he was telling me how life is becoming more difficult now that he is in his eighties. When he was young he loved to jog and walk a couple of miles a day, and now he can hardly make it to the kitchen. I’m about twenty years younger, but I can definitely relate to my body and mind going through some changes. I’ve always heard the lack of activity does not do us any favors as it seems the less we do, the less we can do. My mother is 84 and she stays active by going to church, shopping, eating out, and walking around Walmart. It’s good for her to get out of the house and stay moving.

When my father passed away a few years ago, my sisters and I were concerned about how she would handle being on her own. You see, our parents are from the old-school tradition where my mom never worked outside the home. My dad and his dad were in the construction business together and we all had a good life. That is until he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease and the latter half of his life was spent downsizing, being on dialysis, and getting his affairs in order. He showed mom how to pump gas, manage the checkbook, and pay the bills so that when he passed she could survive living alone. There were six children in her family and she is the last living sibling, but my sisters and I are always there for her to make sure she has everything she needs.

Sometimes I will call in the middle of the day to check on her, and she’s just watching reruns of all the old programs I grew up with. For the most part, she’s bored and tries to come up with ways to entertain herself. I’m proud of her as I realize that many people live alone and they do well, but after living with one person for so long I’m sure it can be lonely at times. I want to say that whatever you are struggling with today, God has placed strength and courage within you that you might not realize you have. Discouragement or victory is decided on the battlefield of your mind, and if you see yourself in a dark valley, this is where you believe you are. If you see yourself on the mountain basking in the brilliance of the sun, nothing but your own negativity can hinder your perseverance. 

When it comes to resilience, it’s inspiring to know that we can endure much more than we can imagine. At one time or another, we will experience some form of adversity, hardship, or life-changing crisis and those who embrace an optimistic attitude will make it through to the other side. Growing older can be added to the list of challenges much like serious health issues, financial problems, and relationship failures just to mention a few. The good news is that problems cannot overcome you. You are only defeated when you stop fighting and praying.

So, how do people deal with serious events that threaten their future? It depends on how desperate they are to trust God and this includes being content and joyful. Being positive or negative are learned behaviors, and having faith in who God is and what He has promised is a constant choice. For example, when we read the book of Proverbs, we see that asking and receiving divine wisdom is an important key to understanding the purpose and meaning of our lives.

It’s true that we react to negative circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. However, we generally adapt well over time when we comprehend that resilience is an ongoing process that requires time to seek and comprehend truth. Being resilient does not mean that a person is without concerns, but it involves understanding that we can conquer fears that are trying to bluff us into giving up. Developing resilience is a personal journey where we train our minds to see what we believe instead of only believing what we see. It’s crucial that we know ourselves and even more importantly to know what God is saying. To have an optimistic view of our existence and realize what is going on around us, we can examine our hearts, become aware of God’s presence, and seek different strategies that can provide peace, healing, and a protective state of mind and spirit.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Lincoln Street

Tom Poland

Posted September 28, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

Some 41 towns and cities carry the name “Lincoln.” A state, Lincoln, was even proposed for North Dakota.

One word. That’s all it takes, and the brain’s mystifying chemistry swirls past and present into an amalgam we call life. Phases pass before us in an experience akin to schizophrenia. We’re different people as we navigate life’s phases. Foolishness, dissolution, disappointment, jubilation, and God knows what else lay their hand upon us. We can’t believe what we did, but we did. We forget things, of course, but a catch 22’s at work here. What we forget makes us who we are as much as what we remember.

I remember plenty. At the corner of Gervais and Lincoln Street in Columbia a historical marker ferries me across the river, Time. I see my fifth-grade teacher sitting upon her desk reading a letter from a fifth-grade pen pal class in Illinois. Mrs. Turner wears black-framed glasses, a white blouse, and red skirt. She laughs and crosses and re-crosses lean legs as she reads. “These northern students can’t believe a place in the Deep South took its name from Abraham Lincoln.”

Not so. My home county, Lincoln County, takes its name from Benjamin Lincoln, Honest Abe’s relative. Benjamin Lincoln’s claim to fame is receiving General Cornwallis’s sword of surrender at Yorktown. General Lincoln business aside, Lincoln Street is bricked and feels a bit like Charleston. The Blue Marlin sits where the old Seaboard Air Line Passenger Depot sat—an old diner akin to an Edward Hopper painting. “Please pay when served.”

Years ago, following a major life shift, my habit was to dine alone at the Blue Marlin on my birthday. Just outside was where I boarded the Silver Star at 12:15 years earlier. A few other nightriders—nomads come to mind—joined me. Our ribbon of rolling steel pulled out of Lincoln Street and crept through town. We eased past a building where “ADLUH” glowed red, a place where men milled flour and cornmeal. And then city lights were no more.

We hurdled through the darkened countryside swaying in a rhythmic clacking that would be our accompaniment all night. How mournful the horn in the dead of night, how mystifying to those in blackened countryside beds. To what magical venues are people headed? Why they’re headed to that mythical place, “Somewhere Else.”

All the night clacking conveyed me somewhere else all right. To Steve Goodman’s song of regret, “The City of New Orleans.” Arlo Guthrie transformed Goodman’s lament into a 1972 hit. A train sounds its dirge-like notes with good cause. It’s a goner. Darkness, doleful horns, riding with sad strangers … altogether it’s a requiem. To this day whenever I hear a train in the dead of night the blues take over me.

Throughout the night we swung like pendulums as the train swayed side to side.

In Savannah a drunken rowdy woman boarded. She must have combed her unruly hair with a firecracker. She went from man to man, “My name is Mandy, and I have sweet candy.” She sang at a local bar, said this gypsy chanteuse. The conductor put her off at the next stop, and all grew quiet but for the clacking of wheels.

There was nothing to do but sit in the dark and gaze out the window. I saw a blur of ghostly trees and fields punctuated now and then by yellow lights and occasional pale water as the Silver Star crossed rivers, swamps, and estuaries’ outermost tips. Perhaps alligators watched as we hurtled through, our diesel breath rattling palmetto fronds and streaming Spanish moss back like an old woman drying her hair. Across a field I thought I spied a faraway interstate but a forest closed off my view.

We came to a dead stop. I pressed my face against the window. Swirling phantoms approached. The Silver Meteor roared by, bound for the Big Apple.

My journey ended in the Deland depot at 7:30 in the morning. In a large field sat noble old locomotives and rusting coaches. A station attendant said a fellow was providing a resting place for 1930’s luxury trains. They rested in a graveyard of sorts and I thought of Goodman’s song again.

Lincoln Street. It sounds like a television series, and in a way it is. We all should have Lincoln Streets where stories rise from within, an archaeological dig of sorts.

Many years later on a cobalt-sky October afternoon I was driving I-95 to Jacksonville. I glimpsed a trestle over golden marsh. “My name is Mandy and I have sweet candy.” What happened to the unruly woman from Savannah? Dead I’m sure. The glory days of Zephyrs. Dead. Steve Goodman? Dead. My teacher? Dead.

No, they’re not dead. They live on and all it takes to summon them is one word. Just one word. “Lincoln.”


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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An Effigy Of Rock

Tom Poland

Posted September 27, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

Something like sixty years had passed since I saw it. This time, however, I saw it from above. The WPA built a beautiful tower of stone so you can get a birds-eye view of a bird of stone. That would be Rock Eagle, although some say it’s a buzzard. Some simply refer to it as a bird.

The experts say Woodland Indians who predated the Cherokee and Creek built Rock Eagle 1,000 to 3,000 years ago. No one can say why they built the large rock mound, which measures 102 feet from head to tail and 120 feet wide from wing tip to tip. The mound sits high above sloping woodlands and I wondered just how they carried all the large quartz stones to the site. One at a time? Pulled by a team of men on some primitive sled? Lots of rocks here for sure. The mound rises ten feet off the ground.

You’d have to go west of the Mississippi River to see similar mounds.

My parents sent me off to 4-H Camp in Putnam County, Georgia all those summers ago. Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. That’s what 4-H represented. Is good wholesome stuff like that still allowed today?

Rock Eagle has stayed with me for many years now. I learned crafts there such as working with leather, and I have a small coin punch to this day to prove it. I remember swimming and canoeing too. There was that 4-H business too where elders tried to make us better people.

Most of all, I remember the large bird of stone, what learned folks call an effigy. No, I remember too some prankster short sheeted my bed one night, placing pinecones in it as well. You carry misdeeds and injustice all your life, you know.

As a boy I stood right by the fan of rocks that represents the bird’s tail feathers. I recall them as burning bright white in the Georgia sun. Not so much today. If you make the drive over there be prepared to see rocks that are gray, some darker, and some still bright white. Be prepared too for the fence that encloses it now. Best to keep the meddlers at bay.

This large effigy, this big bird of stone? A burial place? A way to send a message to the gods? A ceremonial site? We don’t know. We do know that the University of Georgia administers the site today and we do know that the bird’s head faces east to greet the rising sun. We know, too, that a 1950’s research project discovered evidence of cremated human remains.

You can visit it for free. It stands in the region of Madison and Eatonton, Georgia. Another effigy, that of a hawk, greets the sky in the vicinity, but it doesn’t catch the attention as Rock Eagle does. On the National Register of Historic Places, it’s there waiting for you. From dawn to dusk, you can see it, and climbing the stone tower is well worth your time.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Block Head

Posted September 26, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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Living on Purpose: Are we dedicating or hesitating?

Dr. William Holland

Posted September 26, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

I attempt to keep my eyes and ears open to learn about the Holy Spirit and human behavior. In my spiritual journey, the situations I’ve encountered through counseling and teaching have graciously allowed me to see the importance of walking in humility through the awareness of God’s presence. I’m not implying that I’ve arrived at a spiritual plateau where God and I float through the clouds together, but I do believe we can be as close to Him as we desire to be. To be honest, the more I discover about His written and specific will, the more I realize I have hardly scratched the surface of pleasing Him. I’ve learned that our rebellious human nature loves being independent while God is constantly trying to reveal to us how the meaning of life is doing His will. He desires that we snap out of our defiant trance and allow Him to transform our thinking so that He can use us to accomplish His desires.

I’m sure that some of you comprehend what I mean when I declare how difficult it is to keep our carnal will under subjection to God’s still small voice. Even though many do not have a clear understanding, there is a huge difference between religiously knowing about God and knowing Him personally. We realize that it’s possible to drift away from God and fall into a backslidden state but it’s also a reality that we can be deceived about what it means to be born-again. Most everyone has a knowledge of Bible stories but many do not have the burden or discipline to pray, have never studied the Bible, nor have they witnessed or shared their testimony with anyone. These individuals appear to have everything under control until they are facing a serious crisis and their world is turned upside down.

When someone contacts me for prayer and counseling, the first question I ask is if they can remember a specific time when they surrendered their life to Jesus. Most responses are related to being baptized or attending church as a child. It seems that some individuals are ashamed and avoid talking about how they have never lived for Him and now feel guilty to call upon Him because they need His help. Yes, there are times when even the strongest follower of Christ are shaken to their core but generally speaking the reason why people do not have spiritual security and discernment in times of tragedy is because they have drifted away from Him. If we communicate with Him in the good times, we will also be more likely to know what He is saying when facing a battle. If we do not have an intimate relationship with Christ in our daily prayers and worship, how can we expect to know what to do when the bottom drops out? When we are constantly talking with Him, praying, and worshiping Him every day, when adversity comes we will not need to search for Him. We are already with Him.

There are levels of advancement with God and He desires that we keep moving closer to Him throughout our earthly existence. Following Jesus includes the responsibility of being a soldier who fights a spiritual war against the kingdom of darkness. If we are not brokenhearted about the world’s blatant disregard for the Bible and the lack of a reverential fear of God, then we have already fallen into a state of lukewarmness.

Yes, it’s hard to be different from the culture and to separate ourselves from sin, but learning how to develop a passion to obey Christ is the only way to be filled with His hope and joy. If we refuse to nurture our holy covenant vow with God while we are living on the mountaintop, we will not have enough time to build an intimate relationship with Him when we find ourselves in a dark valley. This is the danger of not taking advantage of making Him our highest priority today because when we are knocked down to our knees tomorrow it’s too late to start building a foundation of faith. The majority of those who are in shock from a crisis become so overwhelmed with confusion and fear they cannot concentrate on anything except their agony. Today is the day to know God personally so that when troubles come (and they will) we can trust Him and hear His voice within the peace and confidence of the Holy Spirit.

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: Immigrants are pawns

Posted September 20, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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Living on Purpose: A lifestyle of solitude and simplicity

Dr. William Holland

Posted September 20, 2022

By Dr. William Holland

There is much to be desired when it comes to spending time alone. It’s only been in the last few years that the floodgates of voices have been opened to everyone at any time. Yes, we can see there have been written scrolls from thousands of years ago, and books were printed around the year 1200, but this information was not widely circulated. Through the years printing continued to expand and when newspapers became available, the masses were given a new realm that would inspire and influence their thinking. Take for example, in the early nineteenth century when many people lived in remote areas, they had no idea what was happening in the world. This isolation allowed them to concentrate on what they needed to do which was physically difficult but they were not filled with stress or fear about politics or social issues. When the radio was invented, families would sit around and listen to a variety of opinions and ideas. Later came the television that planted visual seeds within the mind and further persuaded the conscience. Was it invented for information or mind control?

We know in the last 100 years, the world has changed dramatically. There have been many wonderful advances in technology and at the same time, we wonder what the plans are of those who control them. Social media and the internet have become such a part of our lives, that I’m not sure what any of us would do without them. These higher forms of communication are accepted as making us more intelligent, but could they also be distracting and hindering us from walking with God? The greatest gift in the history of the planet is Jesus Christ and there is nothing more valuable than the privilege to walk and talk with Him. I have noticed in my life, that I spend much more time watching and listening to others than having an ear to hear what His Spirit is saying. It’s obvious there is a competition going on here for our attention, and like programmed robots, the masses are addicted to the system. If someone were to unplug from the internet and television, they would be considered demented. However, what if someone believed II Corinthians chapter six is God demanding for us to separate from the world and spend our time meditating with Him? Isn’t this what Satan is trying to stop?

From July 1845 to September 1847, Henry David Thoreau withdrew from the noise and chaos of civilization with the desire to meditate and write. He built a cabin and lived alone in a remote area just south of Concord village Massachusetts on the shores of Walden Pond. In the quiet solitude, he found the wonders of God’s nature and the peace of His presence. As we purpose to be aware and listen in the simplicity of honesty we too can hear and know divine truth. Listen to his words:

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it has been five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men, and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity. I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now. I learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live the life which they have imagined, they will put some things behind, and will pass invisible boundaries.”

I realize that most people lead busy lives, but do we not have the choice to decide how ensnared we are with the world? Are we in control or are we being controlled?

Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com

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The Relentless Grind: Football’s Hidden Injuries

Tom Poland

Posted September 14, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer
www.tompoland.net
tompol@earthlink.net

Winter Haven Florida, February 1996—I covered Cypress Gardens’ 60th anniversary for Ski World magazine. It was Florida’s oldest theme park, one where Southern belles wore hoop skirts, skiers leapt from ramps, and women skiers built pyramids upon each other’s shoulders.

After three days with professional water skiers, Robert Clark, photographer, and I had wrapped things up and were driving along Interstate 4 when the radio crackled. It was about a coach at Georgia under Vince Dooley and Ray Goff. Wayne McDuffie lived in Tallahassee, where he had once been a vital cog in the Florida State Seminole machine.

Coaching—There’s the pressure of not winning and there’s the pressure of forever looking for work. In Sporting News, August 1996, Bill Minutaglio wrote “The Coach, The Players, Their Demons,” a heartbreaking piece on how McDuffie’s life spiraled down after the Ray Goff era ended.

1994, McDuffie—“I really thought I wouldn’t survive this year. I’m so exhausted from trying to put pieces together that don’t fit. I’m trying to make something from nothing. I really thought I would die. I thought I would have a heart attack and die because I worked so hard. I worried so much and tried so desperately to hold this thing together.”

The team had a disastrous season. The Bulldogs went 6-4-1.”

The relentless grind takes a toll on many coaches, and when that perfection doesn’t materialize in the won-loss record, it does their family few favors. The ex wife of a former college coach told me she divorced her husband because she could not take the fan abuse.

“I couldn’t go the grocery store or the hair salon without strangers walking up and criticizing my husband. I couldn’t go anywhere without being harassed. It just got to be too much.”

Minutaglio—“Sometimes, assistant coaches at Florida State, where Wayne coached for most of the 1980s, would hear a strange flapping sound from one of the offices. It could be 6 a.m. or even 5 a.m. As they held their cups of coffee and looked inside, there would be Wayne McDuffie asleep on a conference table, his Clint Eastwood face and body oddly illuminated by the flickering light … When someone woke him up, he would simply, wordlessly, move to the football field where he had ordered his offensive lineman to show up before sunrise.”

People love to gripe about coaches’ salaries. The coaches can never do enough. If their team goes undefeated, then it must do so forever. Over the message boards, over sports talk radio, and in the stands, guys play armchair quarterback as if they had coached a few national championships. Many never played a down of football, yet they think they know more than the coaches.

From 1989 to 1995, six wins a season did Goff in and with him went the coaching staff. “McDuffie watched members of the old staff move on to other jobs. Wayne jogged in his golf-course neighborhood, pushing himself hard. He lifted weights. And, with his wife, he wrestled with plans for the future. He hoped a professional team would come calling. Football was all Wayne McDuffie had known. He was out of work and the offers he thought that would come? His phone never rang.

“His birthday, December 1, and the holidays passed, as did the big bowl games, the pro playoffs and the Super Bowl, and Wayne McDuffie still was unemployed. The chart, the map, had led nowhere.”

That crackling radio … At the age of 51, Wayne McDuffie had shot himself.

Letters and praise poured in. A former player said he “couldn’t stop thinking of Coach McDuffie, of the imposing figure he cut between the green grass and blue sky, of the wonderful way he affected my life.”

He left behind three kids and his wife of 26 years.


Tom Poland’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email Tom about most anything at at tompol@earthlink.net 

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Stuart Neiman Cartoon: GOP Retreat

Posted September 14, 2022

By Stuart Neiman

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