Father’s Day 2017

June 17, 2017

My Dad was my hero.

He wasn’t perfect. I thought he was, when I was young, as most kids probably do. But, as the years passed I began to see chinks in the armor and feet that were made of clay. He was, after all, human. But he was my human hero.

He had my back. He reveled in my successes, celebrating and magnifying each accomplishment, sometimes to the point of making me feel a bit self-conscious.

He grieved my failures, hurting for me and with me. And, while never making excuses for me or blaming others for foibles that were of my own making, he never made me feel worse than I already did.

He taught me so much. His words, his deeds, and his own successes and failures still teach me today.

He wasn’t perfect, but he was my father, and I knew how important that was to him.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. And thank you.


All the Difference

May 1, 2017

During my run yesterday afternoon, I was reminded of “The Road Not Taken.” Frost wasn’t writing about trail running, but it fits.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

It’s beyond me why anyone would choose to run on asphalt instead of a trail.


Beauty Everywhere

September 7, 2016

Much-needed beauty encountered on my lunchtime walk.

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” ~Vincent Van Gogh


Bubba is Still There

July 28, 2016

Last week, I joined Will’s Boy Scout troop for a few days of summer camp at Raven Knob Scout Reservation near Mount Airy, North Carolina. I always look forward to these outings, primarily because they are an opportunity to spend treasured time with Will, but also because I am committed to giving back to the Scouting organization that has given so much to me over the years.

I was particularly looking forward to visiting Raven Knob with Will because our visit would mark the second and third generation of Wagoners being campers there. Raven Knob had been the camp of my father, his brothers, and cousin (Eagle Scouts all) when they were Boy Scouts in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

That was a long time ago. But, I’m a sentimental guy, and I liked the idea of continuing the legacy. And, despite the passage of time, I hoped against hope that I might be able to find physical confirmation of the fact that Will’s and my visit to Raven Knob would constitute something of a “coming home” – and so, upon arrival, I began my search for Uncle Bubba’s water fountain.

Oh, how I wanted to get a photo of Will and me at that fountain. I steeled myself for it not being there. My uncle Bill had looked for it on Google Earth, and saw that a waterfront shelter now stood in its place. “Time marches on,” he said. Still, I hoped. Sure, it had been over 50 years, and no one there remembered, but would they really have gotten rid of it?

They hadn’t. The fountain, though moved from its original location, was still there, right in the center of things at the waterfront, just as I had always imagined Bubba to be. Though there were few left who still had first-hand memories of the reason for that fountain, they hadn’t forgotten.

Fountain at waterfront

Back story: On an August night in 1957, my 16 year old uncle Carroll “Bubba” Wagoner was the driver of a car carrying four friends down a mountain road. Going too fast, he missed a curve at the bottom, and slammed into a truck. Bubba was killed instantly, and two of his friends died shortly thereafter.

A couple of years later, a granite water fountain was erected in Bubba’s memory at the Raven Knob waterfront. Here’s a photo of my grandparents, their grief still raw, at the dedication:Fountain at dedication

 

I never met Bubba; I was Bubba's plaqueBubba Wagonerborn six years after that hot August night when he and two friends became a tragic example of just how fragile and fleeting life can be. In addition to carrying his name, though, I have always felt that I knew him. Family ties and stories run strong in my clan. I know that he got the nickname “Bubba” because his 3-year old big brother (my Dad) mispronounced “brother” as “bubba”. I know that he was precocious and mischievous, and always in the thick of things. I know that he loved Scouting. I know that, with my middle name of Carroll, I have a lot to live up to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the photo of the 2nd and 3rd generation Wagoners at the fountain:

Fountain with Will 1

My family is deeply grateful to those at Raven Knob Scout Reservation for ensuring that, despite the passage of time, Bubba is still there. I’m especially grateful to Camp Historian Ken Badgett, and Camp Director Keith Bobbitt, for their graciousness and for their interest in knowing more about Bubba’s story.


So how was your evening?

January 28, 2016

After a trying day at work, I stopped by a neighborhood bar/grill that I had been to a few times for a burger and a beer. I had found it to be a mellow place on past visits, but tonight I found that it was full of raucous 20-somethings. Oh well.

With no tables available, I took a stool at one end of the bar, placed my order, and started scanning Facebook on my phone, trying to ignore the noise around me. I quickly realized that the otherwise attractive young woman a few stools down was determined to make her presence known, however, with a foul mouth that rivaled anything I had heard in the locker room or fraternity house. Knowing that she was somebody’s daughter, and resisting the temptation to ask her if she ate with that mouth, I focused on my burger and ordered another beer.

I soon wished that I hadn’t, as she was drowned out by the drunk Trump supporter sitting next to me. After a few random Hillary zingers directed at no one in particular, he asked me who I supported. Realizing that he was not to be denied, as he was on one side of me and the wall was on the other, I knew that I had to engage. What the heck, here goes….

“Well, I like Biden, but since he’s not running, I’ll vote for Hillary.”

Incredulous, he bashed Biden, then Hillary, then Democrats in general. Foolishly, realizing that I couldn’t get rid of him and wanting to finish my meal, I tried to have a rational debate with him. He’d have none of it, but it seemed to tire him a bit. He then changed course and conspiratorially leaned over and asked “do you want to hear something funny?”

“Sure,” I said.

(Insert racist joke here).

Recognizing that I didn’t guffaw along with him and probably noticing my clenching jaw, he went back to politics.

“Seriously, though, what about gay marriage? Where will it end? What if I wanted to marry my sister? Or my German Shepherd?”

Coming up with the only response I could think of that might shut him up, I smiled, looked him in the eye, and said “I hope the two of you will be very happy together.”

His jaw dropped, I paid my tab, and left.

So how was your evening?


Improving Themselves and Their World

October 12, 2015

This past weekend, a group of 15 boys from Charlottesville’s Boy Scout Troop 1028 devoted a day to hiking every inch of the Rivanna Trail loop – a 20 mile jaunt that circles the City of Charlottesville – while picking up trash along the way.  1028 20 miler

The boys ranged in age and experience from fresh-faced 11-year-old Scouts out for their first long hike to seasoned teenagers preparing for an upcoming expedition at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. All were challenged (including their adult leaders!) and went to sleep that night with a feeling of accomplishment that few of their non-Scouting friends could have shared.

Perhaps eager for some good news to deliver to their viewers, two local news outlets covered the hike.  John and Will each did a fine job representing Scouting, the troop, and themselves.

It’s my continuing privilege to be involved with a program that, at its best, takes an otherwise disparate group of boys – some in Troop 1028 are in public school, some are in private school, and some are home-schooled – and focuses on their commonalities, delivering positive experiences that they will carry for a lifetime. All of the boys face the pressures of adolescence, all enjoy meeting – and beating – a challenge, and all want to be the best versions of themselves that they can be. Scouting helps the boys improve themselves while they improve their world. For that, I am grateful.


Retiring the Colors

July 10, 2015

When applied to the Confederate battle flag, the “heritage not hate” slogan all too often seems to be spouted out of only one side of a Southern drawler’s mouth, while the other side, given the proper audience and circumstance, may be saying something altogether different. That said, there is some truth to the notion of a Southern regional pride that, to me at least, is as inescapable as the humidity of a summer south of the Mason-Dixon.

When I was a boy, I had a Confederate battle flag tacked up on the wall of my bedroom. I don’t recall when or where I got it. It was likely a gift shop souvenir from one of the many Civil War battlefield site tours that my Dad took our family on after we moved to Virginia in the late ’60’s. All I remember is that the flag was a constant presence on my wall as I passed through boyhood, into my teen years, and then on to college.*

Some of you who are reading this are likely aghast at my flag revelation. “I thought I knew him! How could he be one of … them? How could he have displayed that symbol of treason, and prejudice, and hate?”

The thing is, I did no such thing. Though they looked the same, the flag that I had tacked on my wall was not the same as the flag of the KKK, George Wallace, and Dylann Roof. It was, indeed, a symbol of heritage – a nod to the place from whence my people came. Just as my grandmother’s United Daughters of the Confederacy membership certificate was prominently displayed in a frame on her wall, my Confederate battle flag held a prized spot on mine. Not unlike my grandmother, I bought into the Lost Cause narrative to a certain extent. I displayed the flag because it conjured up ineffable notions of duty, loyalty, chivalry, tradition, and family – with perhaps a bit of adolescent rebellion thrown in for good measure. Slavery, prejudice, and oppression didn’t enter into my thinking. In later years I did come to wrestle with the knowledge that the awful institution of slavery had existed under that flag. But, I knew as well that the Stars and Stripes had flown over the United States’ mistreatment of Native Americans in the 19th century, and of Japanese Americans during World War II, and nobody was suggesting getting rid of Old Glory.

In fact, few seemed to be suggesting getting rid of the Confederate battle flag, either. It was everywhere when I was growing up – bedroom walls, keychains, t-shirts, beach towels, bumperstickers. It was even on prime time TV, on the roof of the General Lee on “The Dukes of Hazzard” – and nobody ever called Bo and Luke Duke racists!

That has all changed, however. No amount of Southern hospitality and gentility can overcome the fact that the bad guys have won this battle. And no, I’m not talking about Sherman’s army and its scorched-earth campaigns, or opportunistic Yankee carpetbaggers. I’m talking about hate-filled racists like Dylann Roof. I’m talking about white supremacists of all stripes, whether they are driven by mental illness or plain and simple ignorance. Just as Hitler co-opted the sacred religious symbol of the swastika for his Third Reich, Roof and his ilk have co-opted the Confederate battle flag for their own vile purposes. It has no business flying on government property, and I congratulate South Carolina for taking it down.

As for the rest of us, it rightfully comes down to an individual decision. Those who advocate making it illegal to display the Confederate battle flag are off-base and need to read the 1st Amendment. No, we are all free to fly the flag – or not – as our conscience dictates.

And, it’s important to remember that anyone who chooses to fly it, or wear it, or sport it on a car bumper, may not mean any harm by doing so. But, it’s important to recognize as well that the choice to do so is probably causing harm, intended or not.
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*The flag stayed on my wall until one night when some of my fraternity brothers snuck into my room, cut it into 4 pieces, then re-tacked the pieces to the wall, together with a note questioning my patriotism, fraternal allegiance, and probably my manhood as well. My midwestern roommate was probably relieved, though I think he was still a bit unnerved by the Blue Oyster Cult and Jim Morrison posters that remained unscathed.