Michelle’s Tea Cups
Rick Tallent
©Copyright 2014-ALL RIGHTS RESERVED-Richard S. Tallent, Sr.

 "All I Wanted Was A Fresh Cup of Coffee"

Rick Tallent
(c) Copyright 1998, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: 

These writings are posted on this site for the personal enjoyment of the reader and are not to be copied, electronically re-transmitted, printed, published, or otherwise distributed by anyone without the EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION of the author.  The Author aggressively prosecutes all cases of copyright infringement.

Tuning-in On A Dream

by Rick Tallent
©Copyright 1999-ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In this world of social media, we share events, thoughts, joys, and sorrows in a way that has never been possible in the past.  Sometimes it’s things that mean nothing to anyone else, but has tremendous meaning to us, and other times, it is just an opportunity to vent our frustrations.  And then, there are those little items that will get lost in the thousands of daily posts, yet they ignite something in us that the Lord uses to teach and direct us.

One of my Facebook ‘friends’ is a lady that I have not seen since she was six or seven years of age.  Her dad drove the church bus, providing me a means to attend church;  her mom and dad also taught one of my Sunday School classes;  and, in general, they were a great adult influence on many of the teenagers.  Always close to her daddy’s side was a very young Michelle.  But that was a long time ago and Michelle is now a grown woman, married, and with her own grown children.

A few days ago, she posted the following:

“Well, I could just sit down and cry! I was putting clean dishes away and when I sat one thing on a top shelf, it came crashing down on the next shelf, which has all my treasured antique tea cups I've collected over the years, and crashed to the ground. I don't think I can salvage even one.

“These were my 4 most treasured pieces, given to me by my mom, dear friends and my hubby.

“……These teacups were just little things that were important to me, and only me but the main thing is... they are JUST THINGS!! I cherish them but not anything like I cherish friends and family!! Moving forward.....”

A number of people commented, expressing their sorrow for Michelle’s loss, but more than the comments was the passion behind the words.  Truly, these friends knew how she loved the tea cups and shared in her loss.  Words may comfort, but cannot replace the cherished works of art.

As I read the posts, I was reminded of one of my old coffee mugs, so I shared the following story:

“I had a large coffee mug that I used for over 15 years that was a gift from an old friend who is now deceased......one morning my hand and wrist were hurting and it just slipped out of my hand and broke into a dozen pieces. I cried, and then, as I cleaned up the mess, I felt like the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘That cup was only a symbol of the friendship you shared, and you held it as a token of your memories. It's time to put the past behind you and move on. You still have the memories, so it's OK.’  I just thought I would share that.......maybe it means nothing....or something.”

As we travel down this road called life, we pick up little souvenirs of the journey, sometimes a tea cup or a coffee mug, and sometimes a plaque, a picture, or even a house, a car, or motorcycle.  Whatever it is, it reminds us of the good times, of people, and of special events in our lives.  They are tokens to our past, memorials, and, in some cases, points of contact that take us on trips into our memories, trips that we will never be able to take again.

But sometimes those items are lost;  the box that did not get packed when we moved, the broken item that was discarded, or those things that meant nothing to anyone but us and were given away.  And sometimes it is the loss due to fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods. Regardless, the items are forever lost except in our memories.

These treasured items are not our memories,  but simply tokens to help us recall the love of a friend or family member, of bygone times, and of special events.

I remember driving up to the remains of my house following Hurricane Rita.  The windows were blown out, the roof was gone, the old pecan trees lay in splinters, and some of my possessions were scattered to the four-corners by the horrendous winds.  I was devastated, but could not allow myself to show the hurt that was inside.  That old Victorian house in downtown Orange was all that I had left after twenty-six years of  marriage had ended in a painful divorce half a decade earlier.  In those five years, I had repaired and remodeled it to make it MY home, investing thousands of dollars into the hundred-year old structure.  But now it barely stood,  in ruins, all of the money spent on it “gone with the wind”.  Vandals had even managed to steal the air conditioning units in the two days since the hurricane.

Carol and I had been married for only two years and had yet to decide whether we wanted to finish remodeling the old house for ourselves or to sell it, but now the decision had been made for us.  As we walked across the yard, assessing the damage, it looked hopeless.  Peering through what had been the windows; we saw that the refrigerator was now setting in the living room (the wind having rocked, shaken, and moved it from the kitchen) and the remains of the chandelier was hanging precariously from an exposed wire.

And then I saw something that made me smile, and start laughing.

My home office was on the front of the house overlooking the Sabine River where it had faced the eye of the storm.  The windows and mini-blinds were gone, yet my big old heavy oak desk (that I had bought years earlier for ten dollars) was sitting where I had left it, wet, but otherwise unharmed.  On the desk, not more than a foot from what had been the window was my old Remington manual typewriter, wet, but unmoved.  The top had popped open and the end of the ribbon was now stretched through the house and waving like a flag out one of the rear windows.

The storm had wreaked havoc in a hundred mile swath, destroying houses and splintering hundred year old trees like toothpicks, yet that old typewriter that I had used to write many sermons remained exactly where it was supposed to be, the flag-waving ribbon announcing its presence.

We managed to salvage a few items from the old Victorian house and sell the property, but today, almost a decade later, it still sets in ruins, a symbol of one last storm that it could not escape.

We cannot undo the storms that destroy our possessions, just like Michelle cannot restore the broken teacups to their former unblemished splendor, and I could not rescue that old typewriter from the storm’s fury, but we can take a lesson from that old typewriter that succumbed to saltwater corrosion. 

And that lesson?

Even if a storm leaves us battered and destined for an untimely death, stand firm and proud in the face of the storm and keep waving the flag of victory.  The spiritual battles that we face are written on that “ribbon” that continues to wave through the brokenness following the storm, declaring the permanence of those words.

But I thought this was about memories and a set of priceless tea cups?

It is.

Money can replace the teacups and my laptop replaced that old Remington typewriter.  However, just as Michelle will always fondly remember each and every one of those broken teacups, who gave it to her, and the special place that each one held in her heart, I will always remember that old Remington manual typewriter.  The love and passion in the memories cannot be replaced with new teacups, a new coffee mug, or a new typewriter. 

Memories are our connections to the past that give us hope for the future. 

And that, my friends,  is the real lesson we can learn from broken teacups, coffee mugs, old typewriters, and the storms that will undoubtedly blow through our lives. 
          

Thoughts and Essays  from the

Pen of Rick Tallent








            




          Since childhood, I have been a radio enthusiast, a hobby that has led to an exciting, interesting, and rewarding career in broadcast communications.  Listening to far-away stations into the wee hours of the morning became a way to escape from the secluded poverty of a small Smoky Mountain town and the radio became the window to the exciting world that stretched beyond the horizon.

            Radio stations like WLW-Cincinnati, WLAC-Nashville, WBZ-Boston, WGN-Chicago, WHAS-Louisville, WNBC-New York, WWL-New Orleans, and KTRH-Houston began to sound like old friends in faraway places.  Their radio signals taught me current events, introduced me to musical greats who each played and sang to their own style, and exposed me to cultures as diverse from my own as day is from night. 

            The walls of my bedroom were covered with roadmaps, the free ones with oil company logos and rubber-stamped business names like Pop Craig's Esso, Jim Crumley's Shell, Huffstetler's Sinclair and Galyon's Texaco.  Whenever another radio station mysteriously found its way through the darkness of static, a frantic search of the wall escalated into an euphoric dream-like state as visions of what the town must be like filled my mind with scenes and sounds like a movie fills a theatre.  News reports required locating the "scene of the crime" or other incidents so often that Philadelphia, New York, and Boston street maps became indelible memories known as well as my own small town.

            Along with the news stories came reports of storms----storms with names like Alma, Betsy, Beulah, Gladys, Camille, Celia, and Felice.  Tracing these weather systems across the Gulf , the Carribbean, and the Atlantic became a guessing game with the intensity of a military operation.  The television news showed unbelievable devastation, but it was nothing like the descriptions given on radio of the howling winds, blown away roofs, and destroyed power and telephone lines.  There was something about the live sounds accompanying their exhausted and slightly cracking voices as radio news reporters gave a moment by moment description of the storm that lent an air of immense excitement to the midst of a disaster.

            Then there were the ball games.  Listening to the excited voices of the play-by-play as Mickey Mantle hit another home run or Whitey Ford struck out another batter made the games much more exciting than if I had been at Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field.  The most exciting voice of sports though was that of John Ward as he announced the University of Tennessee football games with his distinctive, "It's football time in Tennessee!"

            I'll never forget the characters created by one of radio's great announcers, Claude Tomlinson.  The exploits of Lester Longmire and the wit and wisdom of Ole' Man Shultz made radio come alive with laughter.  The early morning voice of WIVK in Knoxville, Claude was  one of the inspirations for many comedic ventures.  When he died, it felt like an old friend had passed away.

            The days of a small kid tuning his radio and adding longer wires to a yard that already looked like a drunken man's clothesline--only higher, are long gone, however the excitement of a newscaster discussing a weather emergency still echoes in my mind.  It is joined by the laughter of radio comedians long since gone to their eternal stages, and the voices of  dynamic vocal illustrators that they now call sportscasters. 

            Funny thing, though:  I'm still tuning radios, although now it's the transmitters and I get paid to do it! 

            Still, long after the shadows of evening have turned into the darkness of night, you're liable to discover that same sparkle in my eyes as I turn on my little transistor radio and begin to tune across the shortwave bands.  But be careful if you see me driving down the highway late at night because I'm probably tuning through the AM dial looking for some old friends.

 

Back Home Again

Rick Tallent
© 2002-ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

             The days when we were in school seemed like they would never end, but suddenly one day they did and we were graduates.  The coveted word had been an illusion, something that we knew existed, but never thought we would attain.  Still, here we were graduates, our school days behind us, and our eternal futures ahead. 
            Little did we know what awaited us!
            Years, actually decades, have passed and we have gone our separate ways.  Careers, family, and circumstances have scattered us all over the map.  Some of us have bounced around to so many places that we think life must be a basketball.  Some of us have stayed close to home, enjoying the unity of family and hometown ties.  And some of us have eternally moved to that final resting place.
            I’m one of those who thought that fortune was somewhere else, that success meant having to leave my hometown.  The boxes have been packed and the truck loaded thirteen times since high school:  every time to a new place, a new opportunity;  every time putting more distance between me and my hometown. 
            Oh, I’m not complaining because my life has been good.  There have been good times, and there have been bad times.  There have been times of prosperity, and there have been lean times.  All in all, though, life has been good.
            And I’ve seen a lot of this beautiful country.  I’ve been to those big cities that I heard about as a child, and I’ve walked in the places where the history of our nation was written with the blood of patriots.  I’ve felt the mountain breezes clawing their way across the Appalachians, the Rockies, and the Tetons, and I’ve felt the ocean spray sting my face on a cold Boston morning and refresh me on a hot Key West afternoon.  I’ve walked the scary streets of New York City and Los Angeles, and I’ve paddled a canoe past alligators and snakes in the equally scary swamps and bayous of Louisiana.  All in all, it has been a good life.
            But for some reason I keep getting drawn back to a little home town in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains, a place where the memories of childhood mask the bad memories with the nostalgic warmth of the good times. 
Every time I hear bluegrass music, I remember waking up to grocery man and politician Cas Walker’s “Farm and Home Hour Show” on WBIR-TV’s morning television schedule. 
          Every time I hear a high school band I’m drawn back to those days when the band practiced by marching from the old high school to downtown and back again. 
          And every time I see orange and black, my school colors, I go back in my mind to the pep rallies where we tried to spur the team on to victory. 
            In this high tech world, it is easy to forget the simple things that we enjoyed as children, but occasionally that same high technology will remind us.  That’s what happened one night a few years ago.  As I surfed the web one site took me back to my hometown, to my high school, and to a list of names with e-mail addresses, names with teenage faces staring at me from the open high school annual lying on my desk.
            And then, the next afternoon when I clicked the e-mail icon on my computer, I went back to the hallowed halls of my high school as I read greetings and short notes from some of the old friends who had been missing for so long, some of whom I had not seen since that day in 1973 when we hugged and wished one another good luck.
          Since those earlier days of e-mail news groups, we have advanced to Facebook and other social media web sites where we have been able to retrieve a lot of the times that we have spent apart, renew old acquaintances, share old memories, and make a lot of new ones.  We have even had the opportunity to plan and enjoy several class and neighborhood reunions courtesy of these same sites.  And we have been able to share the joys of grandchildren and the heartbreak of losing friends and family to sickness, accidents, and death.
            They say you can’t go back home, but I have found a way that is almost as good because it has allowed me to make contact with some old friends, acquaintances, and family who have helped me hitchhike down the Information Superhighway and renew something that was missing since Graduation Day 1973.
            Going home, however, has now become a dream that is my heart’s desire, and maybe, just maybe, a reality in the near future, but until then, the information superhighway has become a means of rapid transit back to my home town and the friends and family I left behind so many years ago.


PS:  (9/29/2015 UPDATE)     Guess where I now live..........yep, back in the Southern Appalachians just a few miles from where I grew up and right in the midst of the most lovely place in the world.


Angel the Cat

and the

Flock of Chickens
 by Rick Tallent
(c) Copyright November 25, 2013; edited March 26, 2017

 Had something quite touching happen this morning and I thought I would share it with everyone.

One of our cats, Angel, a long-haired black and white, has acted like our chickens are his personal responsibility, keeping watch over them during the day and chasing away other cats.  He even walks around them like a cowboy does a herd of cattle when he senses they are in some kind of danger, chasing off the neighborhood cats that have tried to stalk them;  most of the time, however, he lies on one of our porches or sits on the porch rail or my stack of concrete blocks, monitoring the flock of chickens.

The chickens are not concerned about Angel the Cat.  He can walk right up to them and they just look at him and cluck, and then return to their scratching and pecking.  He can even enter their chicken coop and they don’t become agitated.

But let them start making noise and here comes Angel, ears bent back and moving at top speed to protect and defend his chickens.  I have watched it happen several times when I walk out on the back deck/porch and toss scraps or bread into the yard. One day, I watched as Angel came running at their cries, and, seeing the neighborhood cat prowling and crouching as if to attack, quickly positioned himself between the chickens and the cat, making it quite evident with both body language and a very loud growl that he was not only very unhappy with the intruder, but willing to fight to protect his chickens.  The cat quickly ran away, obviously not prepared to fight for his dinner.

It is hilarious, yet, very touching to see how protective Angel the Cat is over ten chickens.

This morning was special, and touching.

I was sitting on the bed eating breakfast with Carol and talking about the local news when Angel jumped onto the bed and sat down, looking at me like he wanted something.

“What do you want, Angel,” I asked, reaching out to pet him.

“Meow,” Angel replied, turning and looking at the back door.

“You want to go outside?”

“Meow-meow!”

“Well, wait a minute and I’ll let you out when I feed the chickens,” I replied.

 “Meow-meow-meow-meow!” he replied excitedly, glancing over his shoulder at the back door.

Turning to Carol, I told her that I might leave the chickens in their coop today because of the cold and rain.  She agreed, and so did Angel, who walked right up to me and started meowing and looking between me, Carol, and the back door.

Well, we finished breakfast, got dressed and I escorted Carol to the front door as she left for work.  Angel bounded through the front door and watched Carol leave as he walked around the front yard. And that is where I left him as Carol drove away.

I gathered the food and water for the chickens and went out the back door to feed them.  The first thing I saw was Angel sitting on a concrete block in front of the chicken coop meowing at the chickens as they clucked and crowed back at him.  Seeing me, Angel stood up on the concrete block and meowed at me, glancing back and forth between me and the chicken coop.

I didn’t open the ramp/chicken gate, but instead went inside the small barn and opened the interior door to their coop, Angel at my feet.  While I was filling their water pan and giving them some special food, Angel entered the coop and was walking around talking with the chickens, and the chickens were talking back to him, totally unconcerned that a very large black-and-white cat was in their protective sanctuary.

Then Angel did something totally unexpected:  he looked at me and meowed, and then walked to their gate and started scratching on it from inside the coop, continuing to look back at me and meow.  The chickens were gathered around him as if he was one of them, clucking and crowing, demanding to be released.

So that’s what I did.  I went outside, removed the lock that kept it safely closed, and lowered the ramp/gate so that they could free-range and forage.

The first one out the gate was Angel, followed by his very noisy friends, all ten of them.

Now I have had animals, primarily cats, my entire life.  And several times I have raised chickens while we still had cats.  They were always an inspiration for short stories, even if I didn’t write them.

I have never seen animals that bonded in a relationship like this cat and “his” ten chickens.  Regardless the weather, he will stay outside and watch over them all day, or until they go back to their coop.  And if the door and gate are open, well, Angel will either be sitting just outside the barn guarding their gate or sitting inside on the big yellow trashcan that holds their extra bedding.

I guess Angel the Cat thinks he is a “pastor” and the chickens are his “flock”.


AS THE LATE PAUL HARVEY WOULD HAVE SAID, "AND NOW THE REST OF THE STORY!"

We were moving from Texas and I had to find a new home for our chickens. One of the neighbors had a coop of chickens that his young daughter was raising as a 4-H project, so Heath came to the house with several pet cages and we caught and loaded the chickens into them, and then the back of his pick-up truck.

Angel was as upset as the chickens, walking around the yard meowing and crying.  He simply did not understand what we were doing.

Then Heath drove out of the yard and down the street as Angel watched. Looking back at me, he meowed and took off running across the yard, jumping the fence, and across the neighbor's yard in the same direction as Heath had driven.

Angel was gone for a couple of days, and, according to Heath, hung around at his house most of that time.

When he came home, Angel moped around the house, watching us as we finished packing the house, and then the truck.

I am sure that he did not understand what was happening, especially when the men came and removed the mobile home from the property. Then, I put him into his pet carrier and set him on the front seat of my truck for the fourteen-hour drive from Mauriceville, Texas to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He cried most of the trip, calming down when I would tune-in a gospel radio station.

Three years later, Angel is doing just fine and is the Commander-in-Chief of our large yard, the several acres of woods adjacent to our property, and the creek that flows through our neighborhood. All of the neighborhood cats know him and respect his territory. At night, if he is not on patrol, he's sound asleep in our bedroom with a tummy full of his favorite food: a can of tuna.


           






            All I wanted was a fresh cup of reasonably drinkable coffee.  Is that too much to ask?
            Apparently so, if you have had the same experiences that I have had recently.  In fact, I’m starting to believe that a decent cup of coffee may be becoming as scarce as an ashtray!
            Fast-food restaurants shuttle food and drink through a drive-thru window as if it were the end of an assembly line.  Soft drinks and food normally arrive without too much additional explanation; however it is a far different world for coffee drinkers.  More often than not, we are left sitting at the window staring at some non-coffee drinker as we try to explain that the thick, smelly quasi-liquid in the glass decanter ceased to be drinkable coffee some time within the last eight hours and now resembles a hazardous chemical capable of peeling the paint from an automobile or removing multiple layers of wax from the floor.  As can be expected, our plea for a drinkable liquid is met with blank stares and a request that if we would like, they will make a fresh pot of coffee, but it will take about five minutes.  Agreeing to this very reasonable request usually results in our being asked to please pull forward to a parking spot and they will bring it out to us when it is ready. Translated, I think that this really means:  since you’re causing us this delay in our food delivery system, the least you can do is get out of the way so we can insult someone else that has only waited once for their food.
            So now I am going to get a fresh cup of coffee.  Maybe; maybe not.
            “Sorry you had to wait.  Here’s your coffee,” announces the assistant manager who barely looks old enough to drive a car, much less operate a restaurant.  Before I can even respond, she is gone.
            “Are you sure??  Is it coffee or is it something else?”  I asked myself, still wondering if the wait was worth the prize. 
            The aroma was coffee, and I know it smells like fresh coffee, but who knows until it has been tasted.
            The lid is off and the strong smell of fresh coffee almost chokes the other occupants of the car.  It smells a little strong, actually, a lot strong, but it is fresh. 
            Now, it is time for the taste-test. 
            Sip.  Sip.  Choke!  What is this?!?
            Oh, it’s a fresh cup of coffee alright!  In fact it is so fresh that it is almost coffee grounds!  Someone decided I was in a real hurry and sped up the process.  My cup of fresh coffee was captured directly from the coffeemaker’s basket before it could rest in the decanter, before it could mix the first cup with the last cup of coffee, making it fresh, delicious, and drinkable.  Instead, it was so strong that there was some question about the safety of even trying to drink it.
            So I got my cup of fresh coffee.  I’ll put it the same place I was going to put the paint remover they handed me in the first cup.  So what if it dissolves the asphalt---it’s their driveway, and it’s their coffee.