Sunday, February 27, 2022
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
I remember boarding a Greyhound bus from Monroe, Louisiana on a Sunday afternoon. My Dad took me and waited with me for the bus to arrive. He gave me his old wallet, since I didn't have one, though they would eventually make me send it back to him. You didn't bring in any unnecessary things; the military provides for you. I've only seen my Dad cry a few times in his life and that day was one of them.
I took the bus from Monroe to Shreveport, stayed the night at a hotel, went to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) at 5AM Monday morning and eventually boarded a plane bound for Orlando with a slight layover in Dallas. That bed I woke up in on Monday would be the last bed I would see until I was introduced to a rack in our barracks on late Tuesday night. Yep, about 42 hours before we were allowed to sleep, and then it was wake up at 4:30AM.
Our company commanders, or CCs, were Chief Roland and Chief Livingston. Chief Roland loved to fish and Chief Livingston liked to chase me around the grinder (big parking lot like exercise area) until I puked. Eight weeks of torture, but there was a reason for it. It's better to break in boot camp than out at sea. The first morning of processing, we were waiting in the chow line and we witnessed the first drop. Two chiefs carrying a recruit between them, screaming his lungs out. Kind of scared us, but also made us resolve not to be that guy.
Oh, and they would push you. Like I said, Livingston liked to run behind me (yeah, I was the slow one) yelling for me to give up and go home. I kept my nose clean, but even that didn't get you out of anything. They have a certain event, I can't remember the cutesy name for it, that they would have where all the screw-ups would go for intense physical training. Two hours of push-ups, sit-ups, planks, etc. One night the chiefs came in with smiles on their faces and asked "Okay! Who hasn't been yet?" Yep, I got to experience it and it wasn't fun.
For all of the pain we went through, we learned a lot. We learned what our limits were, we learned how to push ourselves, and we learned above all things, responsibility and accountability. Something I can't say that I would have learned at home. And I would be lying if I said that I took it all in stride with a smile on my face. No, there were nights that I went to sleep crying wondering what I had gotten myself into and then crying when I woke up because I was still there.
We passed in review on December 27, 1986 in eighty degree weather, in dress blues, called crackerjacks after the little boy on a Crackerjack box, that were made out of wool. Great material for cold weather, but not in the heat. We had a few boys pass out.
Even though we had graduated, Chief Livingston stayed in character. Standing in a line outside our barracks with our seabags packed, Chief cracked jokes and smiled with everyone, but told me that I would never make it in his Navy. Six years later when I would get discharged, I thought of him as I walked down the brow (or gangway), and wished he was there so that I could tell him that I had made it in his Navy. That's not to say that I hated him or anything. In the end, I knew that he was probably trying to motivate me to keep going.
I do miss my shipmates and have a Facebook page where we connect and yes, I'd do it again, if I had the chance. But now I'm older and not in the best of shape, though I think that might be from some of the stupid stuff I did when I was in the service. But I am thankful every day for what the Navy made of me. Bravo Zulu to that experience!
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Recently he had to deal with the loss of her Dad and penned this blog post talking about dealing with the death of a loved one and he touches on the effect that it might have on his daughter. The link to the post is here (https://www.roryfeek.com/post/happy-sad) and my comment to him is below.
So sorry to hear this. My situation is similar to yours. In fact, it was after the loss of my wife in 2013 and my little brother in 2014 that I heard about Joey and and started following your stories. I cried along with you, as so many others did, when Joey passed. My daughter was only 3 when we lost Carroll. We lost her Dad the previous year, and then along the way, every year seemed to take so many more in our family. Just in the first month of this year I lost both of my grandmothers and last year two uncles within a month. My daughter has learned to deal with death at such an early age and that will make her a stronger person down the road, as will it make Indie, but you wish that your children didn't have to learn that. Watching you deal with life has given me strength in my daily trials and I thank you for that. Much love and blessings on your household as you deal with this.
Though it is said that the Lord will not give you more trials than you can handle, I've often wished that he didn't have so much faith in me. And much love to all of those that are dealing with their own trials.
Monday, March 22, 2021
It's amazing how much information is hiding in that little dash between the birth and death date. Thankfully books have been preserved and stories have made it to the internet for reading, because truly these are adventures that need to be remembered. And this is why The Kid and I like to ramble, to find these stories and see the evidence that is left behind.
Thursday, March 4, 2021
I found a lot in common with Rory. Our wives had only turned forty when struck with cancer and we were both left to take care of our small daughters. And to this day he feels that he is still a husband to his late wife as I do. I admire him for his faith and his strength and would love to meet him one day just to shake his hand and thank him for giving me someone to take lessons from.
If you get a chance, he's got a show called This Life I Live that you can watch on RFD-TV or on Youtube. It's also a book. He still makes music and the latest one is a beautiful ode to his wife even though it was written long before her passing.
Hug and Kiss your loved ones.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
We recently celebrated our first year of living in Wood County, specifically Winnsboro. It's funny how when we met new people, their first question was always "why?"
Why Winnsboro? I didn't really know how to answer them except to tell them the truth. It looked like a cool little place to live.
I'll back up a little. My name is James Pickering, and I'm a widower with an eleven year old daughter. I've been many things over my lifetime. I've served in the Navy during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I was a disc jockey. I've done everything from repair appliances to selling the parts to fix them. I've even owned my own comic book shop and have plans to open a small book store one day.
But the toughest job I've ever had was being a husband to a wife who would one day not be with us. My wife was diagnosed with a stage IV brain tumor six months after giving birth to our daughter. Nothing prepares you for news like that, but after a few moments of crying, cussing, screaming and then eventually laughing, we chin-upped and faced it together as a family.
For a tumor that by statistics' standards should have taken her in six weeks, she lasted two and a half years. My wife said that if there was ever a silver lining to be found with her diagnosis, it was the fact that she got to be home with her little girl and witness all of her firsts. Though my wife put up one heck of a fight, it eventually took her from us shortly after our daughter's third birthday.
I took about a year to figure out what to do with myself, and though everyone thought I was nuts, I started a business. For five years, I owned a comic book shop and built a community meeting place for readers and gamers and people who just needed a place to belong. And it was good.
We eventually closed it in 2019 with a bad 2018 holiday season, neighborhood changes, changes in the comic publishing industry and new landlords with other ideas for my space. I got out pretty much unscathed, plenty of folks singing our praises and was glad for it when Covid hit.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. During those five years, health issues arose. I almost died due to blood clots in my lungs. These were thanks to a bad diet, sleep apnea and a mostly sedentary lifestyle. Seems that all of that work I did running a shop wasn't considered exercise enough to keep me healthy. When I closed the store, I started reassessing life. I decided I needed to get away to a quieter lifestyle.
My Dad lives in Emory, my mom lives in Perryville and our favorite route to see her was down Hwy 11 to Winnsboro and hang a right on 852. But it was as we drove through Winnsboro that I would slow down and look and imagine living here. There seemed to always be something going on in Winnsboro from the month-long Autumn Trails events to parades and shows at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts and more.
I started to play with the numbers and found that I could save so much money by moving here. I found that the local schools were top notch, my rent was almost half of what I was paying in Garland and the other utilities and bills were equally as low. It was kind of a no-brainer to move here and get away from the constant noise of the metroplex. The trains that roll thru are a perfect testament to how I feel. The first time I got hung up as one came through town, I thought to myself that this was a traffic jam that I didn't mind. And that horn at night might occasionally wake me up, but it just as quickly put me back to sleep.
We signed a lease on an apartment just off of downtown and were moved in the first week of February 2020 and haven't looked back. My daughter has made friends at school. She's quick to throw up a hand and wave at strangers which she never did before. On top of all of that, has already expressed an interest in barrel racing. I'll seriously consider it as soon as I can find a spot in the apartment to put a horse.
We don't load up a truck nowadays, but we go get our cold drinks and find a road that we haven't been down before and see where it takes us. It takes me back to when I was a kid and I know that I'm connecting with her and making memories, and I know that she's loving it especially when she says "Daddy, can we take the back roads home."