Scott Epperson was always just Barn to me. He sometimes made audiences go into spasms of laughter. He worked longer and harder than any other man I knew and his wife Mel worked just as hard sometimes beside him. Barney died recently at the age of just 57. Maybe you knew him as Detective Scott Epperson of the Dunn, North Carolina Police Department. He retired from police work just a few years ago. You might have met him as Lee Michael, who worked in radio around Benson and Dunn and for years earlier around the Winston-Salem area. Barn’s health gave out on him suddenly last week and I lost a guide, a mentor and a friend. He introduced me to my first role as Andy in the play, “Remembering Mayberry” in Benson. We did the show in 2012 and 2013 and were planning to do six shows in January, February 2014 but “Remembering Mayberry” without Barn would not be a show at all. He was the main man, the glue that held the whole thing together. Barn would hit the road when it got warm enough for a State Fair and bring happiness and laughter to thousands of people all over the United States. He must have written out a zillion bogus parking tickets and he nailed every mayor along the route. We’ll miss him a lot.
When would you say is a good time to think about your future? I’d say “Yesterday and if you can’t do it yesterday then do it today at the latest.” Huh? What if you were born with a unique and powerful talent that you have not yet discovered, one that just might have a positive impact on thousands of lives? What if that is what gives you that frustrated, sort of unsatisfied feeling that creeps up on you when you look at what you have accomplished at the end of a day? What are you currently doing to discover and utilize that special undeveloped talent? May I suggest that you just take a different look at the world around you. What unique skills have you discovered that you have? What do you love doing? I’ve heard people tell me “When I retire I’m not going to do anything. Nothing at all.” And I figure they either change their thinking or they won’t be around very long. When locomotive engineers with railroads used to retire at around sixty five or seventy their life expectancy was six months. I just hope I can keep on learning new things until that day I die.
What a thrill the Fayetteville, NC and Ft. Bragg folks gave a hundred or so of us Korean War Veterans on Veterans Day week end, ending with a bus tour of Fort Bragg on Sunday with three members of the TV Classic, MASH. Klinger – Jamie Farr, Hot Lips Houlihan – Loretta Swit, and Father Mulcahy – William Christopher shook hands and posed for hundreds of photos, and toured the 82nd Airborne Museum with us. Lots of war stories shared and new friends made.
I stopped to buy gas in Kinston, NC and the price was $3.129 for regular. I check my Tom Tom and sure enough it said that I was in Kinston, North Carolina and just then my memory kicked in. Kinston…Kinston, yes, Du Pont. How many years ago was it? Ten, twenty, twenty-five and probably more than that. It was for three days of speeches to kick off the New Year. What a way to start out the year and even though I had lost my voice and it was far from right yet I had accepted the job eagerly. I’d always wanted to work for Du Pont because they were reputed to be the #1 American corporation when it came to safety and, as it turned out, this particular Du Pont plant held the bragging rights as the safest plant in America. About ten years before I arrived there they had gone an amazing 66,645,000 consecutive work hours without a single injury. That was a force of 3,000 workers going 12 years and 11 months without a lost time injury. And then it happened. A woman, wearing high heels tripped on the carpet and sprained her ankle. It was a fatal injury. She really just sprained her ankle but when the safety committee discovered that she would be losing time from work they strangled her. Everything in the above is true except the fatality and the strangling. I just threw that in and now you can throw that out. Actually they just bruised here up a bit. So many years have passed now. Last time I checked the work staff was down to about 300 employees now. Just the same, it was a thrill to get gasoline so cheap and even better to recall what wonderful audiences they were there in Kinston.
So many times, over the years, people have asked me, “How did you get started in the speaking and writing business.” Many of the younger folks expect me to say something about taking my graduate studies at some famous college, then moving on to a yet more glorious university for my masters and then possibly studying abroad for a few years and returning home to get my doctorate degree at one of the top universities in the world. (Obviously they haven’t read any of my work or heard me speak.) The fact is that I received my high school diplomat from the University of Detroit High and it was conditional. I claim that they gave me the diplomat on the condition that not tell anyone where I got it. I was 31 years old when I finally got serious about writing. I had just completed a comprehensive fourteen year study on the consumption of alcohol and finally decided that I had had my fill. I needed something to do with my hands instead of opening beer bottles and so I bought a ream of paper and an old Underwood upright typewriter. Ten years later I met a fantastic professional speaker and Notre Dame University professor named Herb True. I had enjoyed a tiny bit of success as a part time author and Herb gave me a part time job writing humor for him. Within two years I started doing paid speeches on my own. So I guess the answer about how did I get started is this. I just began writing and seeing myself as an author. I did what I believed authors did and it worked. Same with speaking. I gave some speeches and I was invited to do some more. So my advice for aspiring authors and professional speakers is this. Just Do It!
How is your memory? I figured that with years, my short time memory is waning and that my long term memory is in pretty good shape. Then I started a project that goes back thirty and forty years. I really worked on it and discovered that I can remember a whole lot more than I thought possible. Then I worked on it some more and things began to fill in even more. What I am learning in this endeavor is that one should not just say, “I can’t remember.” My memory is working a bit like I’m working on a picture puzzle. I get one piece in place and then another. What seemed like an impossible pile of pieces just might begin to develop into something like an outside border and with a lot of patient effort pretty soon you may not have a complete picture but you do have one heck of a lot more than you ever believed possible.
I was walking down a hallway outside the Pier 49 Seafood and Spirits toward the entrance to the Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina and as I approached a doorway into a room with a private party I heard the coolest live jazz music that I have heard in years. I stuck my head into the room and I didn’t see anything and so I figured it must be a DJ with tapes but as I started to leave a young lady approached me and I asked her if it was live music. She said it was and as I entered the room I saw a lone musician playing a fantastic alto saxophone solo with great tracks as accompaniment and the song was Get Your Kicks On Route 66. My heart beat increased about five points and I suddenly felt as if I had travelled by some strange time machine back to the late 1940′s and I was young and this band I had discovered was playing the absolutely coolest music ever. Wow! That alto man turned out to be Clyde Wheatley http://clydesmusic.com/
There is some miraculous power that some music has on me. My legs stopped aching, my back didn’t hurt, I was no longer exhausted from all those many days of bus touring, I felt fifty or sixty years younger and all was right with the world. Thank you Clyde for that magic moment.
I woke up this morning feeling that in my sleep I had discovered a great truth. American’s no longer believe one another.
- Democrats do not believe anything that Republicans say and visa versa.
- The Tea Party Members do not believe anything either party says.
- The American Public does not believe anything that is said in Washington.
- TV Viewers do not believe anything they see or hear today on TV.
- I find myself listening to President Obama when he gives a speech or makes an announcement and I listen and then I holler out “Bull Sh-t!” That is all, just “Bull Sh-t!”
- I holler out the same thing when I listen to the Republicans and I did he same with President Bush.
- In other words I do not believe anyone in politics nor do I believe much of anything I hear today.
So what do I believe? Well, in 1953 Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman wrote a song and it was made introduced by Jane Froman. Frankie Laine also made it a hit song. I believe in those lyrics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rf0l9YnQN4I
Here they are..
I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows
And I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come to show the way
Yes I believe, oh I believe
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believe
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believe
Oh I believe
Oh ye 100 precious words that might go into the readers eyes and mind and heart and touch his soul. I have been working with words, written words and spoken words and once in a while they just seem to jump into line and appear in front of me all organized so neatly. Sometimes they come as paragraphs or whole pages and those whole pages turn into books. My words seem to have become stubborn lately. What might I write to put a smile on the reader’s face or even possibly bring a tear and a remembrance of the wonderful days that are no more. I know. I need stare at the blank page no longer. I will rely on my old friends who have served me so many times and they work wonders when I say or write them from my heart. To all humankind…I Love You.
I’ve got drawers and drawers full of old T-Shirts. Some are golf shirts, some real fancy and most of them have the names of the clients that gave them to me when I went in and did a safety presentation for them. A lot of the T-Shirts have names of places we visited. Today I wore a shirt with the Great Wall of China on it. I bought it in the open market when I walked up a mess of steps and walked along the wall. Yesterday I wore a Duke Basketball shirt and a fellow at Subway said he didn’t like it. I said I didn’t like it much either but somebody gave it to me and, what the hey, waste not, want not .I have a Carolina shirt I like better. I have a shirt from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Sea that a contractor gave me for doing an extra program for his group when BP Amacom hired me. I’ve worked in all fifty United States and all of the Canadian Provinces. For me most of those shirts are wonderful memories. I no longer wear those that are not extra large. Somewhere there are Army and Navy and Marine Corp and Air Force shirts. Those are really fond memories. It is funny a guy brings home from being on the road for so long. Medals and plaques and photos and testimonial letter and I have a framed notice with a seal that proclaims I am a genuine Arkansas Traveler and it was signed by Governor Bill Clinton many years ago. There is a little brass gas pump from the Michigan Petroleum Association as a memoir of the night I substituted for then President Gerald Ford at their conference banquet in 1988. Oh that is some memory. A guy accumulates so much stuff when he’s on the road speaking. And then I look around the room and I ask myself, “But what are you doing today, Art?” And I reply, “I’m getting out a newsletter like I have since 1988. As you all can see, I still haven’t got it right.