Family

My grandmother’s gift to her new husband would later become a blessing to her as well.

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

When they got married in 1903, in Alabama, my paternal grandfather (Ollie Manning) could not read.

I am sure this was common in this area of Alabama in the early twentieth century. Probably common to lots of people during this time.

My grandfather was a carpenter, so he could work and earn a living. My grandmother (Mary Jones) decided that she would teach him to read. And she did.

When they married, she was about 15 years old and he was about 26. The picture below shows them on their wedding day. She was a little over 5 feet tall…


Family

Baldwin Square is not just another city park to me

Photo by David Griffiths on Unsplash

Before it was a park in the middle of the now “heavily populated” Satsuma, Alabama, under a canopy of oaks and home to a few billion squirrels, there stood a small wood-framed house with a detached garage, or as I liked to remember it — our horse barn.

We didn’t have horses.

But we did have a few dogs who could pass for horses any day — at least to a four-year-old boy with lots of imagination.

There was no asphalt or cement for the short driveway — only finely granulated Alabama top soil baked in the afternoon sun.

It…


Romance

Not everyone sees the happiness you may be sharing

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

I twirled her around a few times in the moonlight as the soft light filtered and fractured its way through the frozen branches of a nearby birch tree.

It was a magical moment that one simply cannot replicate in the warm and mostly snow-less climate of central Arkansas.

But, it was Russia and for me, everything about that place was educational, motivational, and intoxicating.

This was one of those intoxicating moments.

We had just left an orphanage in a small Russian town and we walking through the snow and ice back…


Life Lessons

What is your facial hair hiding?

Photo by Shivam Singh on Unsplash

I was a grown man before I decided to shave off that awful mustache.

And, I’ve never looked back.

The impetus for change? A girl. A stunning and multi-lingual college-age Russian who was a part of a group of other college girls assigned as translators for a motley crew of Americans in northern Russia.

Here’s how I fell for her: I looked at her.

No, really. I looked at her and said, “hello.”

She returned the gaze.

And in that brief glance of her dark crystal (technically blue) eyes, my soul was pierced. My consciousness emptied of the ability to…


Life Lessons

This biblical character made a stupid vow that he likely didn’t carry out

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

I’m at Vacation Bible School on a Tuesday night in central Arkansas.

I love going to VBS.

When our girls were little, we’d take them to every possible VBS we could find. Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, Church of God, Catholic, Free Range, Wiccan, didn’t matter.

Just kidding about the Wiccan, although I once saw a surrogate mom who was a Wiccan.

Wait, maybe she was fictional.

Most of the VBSs were surprisingly homogenous. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they all bought their VBS material from the same place — maybe Nashville.

But that’s just a guess.


Short Fiction

Greer never gave up on his dream, although his body had reservations

Photo by Brayden George on Unsplash

Greer Davidson took a light and guarded step, planted his foot onto the football field, shifted his weight, and swung his right leg toward an object perched in the grass in front of him.

Eighty-thousand fans stopped screaming and, for the moment, breathing, while Greer readied to kick a football through the yellow uprights at the back of the end zone at Legion Field, sealing the victory for his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide.

A stoic-faced Coach “Bear” Bryant — his face was always stoic — stood frozen on the sidelines with a look of “Boy, you better not miss this”…


Life Lessons

I had never paid much attention to the lilies until they were out of focus

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

We’re at a little church that we’ve visited several times lately. It’s just a big country church with good, friendly people.

Nothing fake here.

There is one problem, however. And I hate to bring it up.

But …

There are pieces of artwork on either side of the front wall, on both sides of the preacher. It’s metal ironwork with curves and circles.

The iron forms a fleur de lis, a flower lily. It’s the symbol that the New Orleans Saints NFL football team uses. It’s also the symbol numerous churches have used for thousands of years.

Sometimes people use…


Life Lessons

For the best experience, always check to see what’s in your water

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

Everyone needs clean water. And we all expect to get clean water, especially if you are a soldier and approach a “water buffalo” that has the word “potable” clearly stamped on the side. (A water buffalo is just a big portable metal tank with clean drinking water.)

Usually.

They give soldiers and Boy Scouts (or anyone really) access to clean water out in the middle of nowhere. But someone has to clean it out occasionally and refill it and transport it back to the middle of nowhere.

So, once upon a time captain and his soldiers were out in the…


Life Changes

Life is full of bookend moments that signify a change is coming

Photo by Max Delsid on Unsplash

At the time, I thought the years (actually only six weeks) that I had spent in basic military training at lovely Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio were the worse. But the next day after graduation (and after having been awarded honor graduate for my “skills” as guidon during honor flight competition) as I stepped onto a chartered Greyhound bus headed north for Wichita Falls, TX (which conveniently was a mere 9,990 miles away) I contemplated the past six weeks.

The past six weeks? They really weren’t that bad, I thought.

I got into great physical shape after having…


Life Lessons

Don’t tell a Communist that it can’t be finished by the end of the month

Photo by George Cerny on Unsplash

Ivan Ivanov (not his real name) was a pretty important person in his little town in Russia and was involved in a lot of building projects. I’m not sure if his work included the statue of Lenin near the airport (or the one at just about every street corner in town).

This project was to be completed by the end of the calendar year.

Which sounds reasonable. Unless there just isn’t enough time to complete said project by the end of the year.

Then, there could be problems.

The government was making an addition to the hospital and it was…

Paul Swann

Satire, humor, Russia, and life lessons. I’m a dad, husband, and writer.

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