Tag Archive: painting

I pulled into the parking space in front of the Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton, Kansas on Thursday, November 5, about 2 p.m. My cousins, Tom and Beth Burns, and Beth’s daughter, Ellie Bradley, have an exhibit of their artwork in a gallery upstairs. Their exhibit is titled Art From the Pandemic.

I set up for my livestream – which was to replace the live show I was supposed to do for the opening that never happened due to you know what – and had time to take pictures of my cousins’ art. The livestream went well, but the video isn’t the best due to bandwidth issues – it was Newton, Kansas, after all. But the sound is pretty good.

I didn’t get to visit with Beth and her family. Aunt Edna lives on the other side of the house. Edna just turned 90, so we erred on the side of caution. We had seen each other on the Zoom call for Edna’s birthday a couple of weeks earlier.  I did get to stop off on the way home on Friday and visit with Tom in Oklahoma.

A sculpture of Ellie’s I bought. I think it’s a cross between Tom and Jeff Dunham’s Walter.

Beth’s paintings.







Some of Tom’s paintings and Ellie’s sculptures





Ellie’s sculptures – on the table are the Three Heads. The one that is now on my desk is on the right.



Beth’s paintings







Tom’s paintings


Keep writing the songs that are in your heart.

Peace be with you.










scan0050 As I meet other creative types on reverbnation.com and other channels of social media, I often wonder at what point they felt they were meant to be or called to do whatever it is they do: write, paint, sing, play, or whatever the case may be.

My own story begins on the Friday before my senior year began on Monday. We had just had a new compressor installed for the air conditioner. I picked up my friend, Brian, and headed to Greenville Ave. to go to Milo Butterfingers. We had heard about Bowley and Wilson’s show and wanted to check it out.

The beer was the coldest I had ever had at the time and few times since. Bowley and Wilson was not my type of show, but they had other people playing in between sets who were more interesting to me. I was just glad that they could not see me from the stage because they made fun of everyone. I don’t remember staying all that long before we headed home, but it could have been a couple of hours. When we turned onto Snow White from Royal Lane, I saw smoke above the trees in the distance.

“That’s my house!”

Brian told me that we couldn’t tell from that distance which house it was. But I was sure it was my house. When we reached the end of my street, the police and firemen had the street blocked off and we had to park on the next street. We ran down the short street between the two in the middle of the block, relatively. When I turned the corner, the top of the house was in flames. My mom, my brother, Dennis, our dog Lady, some neighbors, and assorted onlookers were in the yard of the house across the street.

I asked mom what happened. She said that she and Dennis smelled the smoke, saw flames at the fuse box on the garage wall opposite the compressor, and got out of the house with Lady. I was standing there watching our house burn. I thought I knew which flames were coming from my guitars, but who really knows? I said something about my guitars and Brian tried to go up the firemen’s ladder to “save” my guitars. They had to hose him down and I concluded that he had a few more beers than I had. But I appreciated the effort, albeit misguided.

I heard someone watching the fire ask if anyone had any marshmallows. I did not take it well. I let them know that it was not at all funny and asked if they would think it was so funny if it was their house. Friends came over, calmed me down, and pulled me away.

After the fire.

After the fire.

My father returned from a trip about that time and had to walk up the street with his suitcase and suit bag when the taxi couldn’t get through on the street. After the fire was under control, so to speak, my parents and Dennis stayed with the couple next door. I stayed with a friend up the street.

In the days following the fire, we were going through the house, packing what was left that could go to storage. My mom, aunts, and grandmother were going through the kitchen – which was mostly intact – although the smoke had permeated what it could. Dad and my uncles were packing up the books which the firemen put on the couches they had shoved into the middle of the room and covered – during the fire. (A quick shout out to first responders!)

I was in the back yard looking at the pile of ashes that used to be my personal belongings. You would not believe how long a guitar string will stretch after it’s been through a raging inferno. Parts of items were left because the firemen had shoved everything out of my room into the yard before some of it burned completely. Talk about smoldering memories!

With older people around, I was trying to contain myself, but the tears came anyway. I felt better when I found my Neil Young songbook for the Harvest album, even though it was stiff, brittle, and burned around the edges. Then, when I spotted them, I was completely speechless. Okay, I wasn’t saying anything anyway, but if someone had said anything to me, I would have been speechless. It certainly took my breath away.

Earlier that day I had placed my stuff for school (which included a new notebook) on Monday in the center of this large table my uncle, Jack, made that I used as a desk – there was only one drawer. What I saw that took my breath away was what I had put in that notebook. There before me, burned around the edges but still intact and readable, was every poem and song I had written, except for the first page of the first song I wrote.

20140307_170525 With the exception of one book my grandmother on my mom’s side gave me and a high school annual, the poems and songs were the only thing I had left except the clothes on my back. Well, and my stereo, which I had in the bathroom so I could listen to music while I took a shower. In addition to the songs’ survival, my mother had loaned my first guitar to a friend for their son to learn to play – as you can see I still have it. I took that as a sign that writing and music was what I was meant to do. Granted, I was a teenager and thought that’s what I was meant to do anyway, but the “sign” sealed the deal. And, while it hasn’t been easy, I was right, it was a sign, and I’ve been writing ever since – whatever form life and the writing took.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your story? When did you know what you were meant to do? And I’m not asking just to get comments, clicks, or whatever. I really want to hear your story, because it’s worth hearing. And it might make a good song.

Peace be with you.

Like Tom Sawyer, I had years while growing up when life was an adventure. Some adventures were real, some were imaginary, and some were real with an imaginary plot. Some were innocent, some bordered on the illegal. But one comparison to Tom Sawyer was the year my father had me paint the inside of the backyard fence of our house in Wichita Falls to make money for our vacation that summer.

Our back fence was considerably larger than the fence Tom Sawyer purportedly had to paint. With the fence surrounding the backyard – and not along the street – the chances of talking any friend into helping me were slim. Especially when they learned I was getting paid for it. It was summer in Texas and very little of the fence was in the shade.

The color I was painting the fence was the shade of red that all backyard picnic tables were painted for many years – a little lighter, actually. I do not remember how long it took me to paint the fence – probably about a week. It seemed to take forever. I remember taking fairly frequent breaks for refreshment.

Despite my best efforts, all of the paint did not reach the fence. My jeans and shirt jockeyed for drops of paint falling off of the paintbrush. Numerous blades of grass were painted red. Some due to drops of paint, but others painted simply under the pretext that it was not only fun (who gets to paint grass?), but painted grass can be mowed. Which would have had more  credence – and acceptance by my father – had I not decided one time to mow my name in the backyard.

When I finished painting the fence, I received fifteen dollars for my efforts, to spend on vacation. Dad still feels bad about underpaying me for the job. However, I did not have a frame of reference with which to know that fifteen dollars was not enough for painting the fence. It was not like I had a lot of other things to do, what with friends going on vacations and being involved in summer activities. Fifteen dollars went a lot farther then than it does now. And mom usually   helped my brother, Dennis, and I out if we really wanted a souvenir and did not have enough money.

Tom Sawyer did not go on vacations, unless you count the trip with Huck Finn down the Mississippi. And I did not have any friends to try to persuade to help me. Nor would I have been willing to give up any of my money. I also am not completely certain that Tom was able to pawn the entire task off on other children. Take it from me, painting a fence is nothing to envy. That  was the first, but not the last fence I would paint.

Be that as it may, Tom Sawyer and I both had to paint a fence. Neither of us looked  forward to it. One way or the other, we both got the fence painted. In both instances, paint was dispersed that did not find the intended target. So having to paint the fence is one thing I have in common with Tom Sawyer.

Peace be with you.

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