Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can you find the child in this picture?

Caden is fond of the "I Spy" books. Here he is the subject of a similar search.

Can you find:

Big Bird?

A frog?

A colorful turkey?

A 5-year old human?

Now you get the idea.   I Spy books by Scholastic

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
A view of our home after 4-5" of snowfall. We're expecting another inch or two.

Our Back Yard

Our Back Yard
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Looks like a good 4 or 5" of snow - so far.

Sanford, NC Snowfall

Sanford, NC Snowfall
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
8:30 AM on Wicker St. (42) near Carthage Street, heading towards the park. Shot with the cell phone.

Friday, December 24, 2010

JR Moore & Sons General Store - Gulf, NC

We finished up our Christmas shopping at J.R. Moore & Sons just a few miles up the road from our house in Gulf, NC. This was the sole store that I shopped in this year as I looked online for all of my shopping needs. Stacie, however, has essentially been Christmas shopping since June in stores throughout the southeast. She's a bargain hunter.

If I could, I would choose to live somewhere so far out that a place like JR Moore would be the closest thing to a Walmart within 100 miles.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Message From Bill Maher

Anti-materialistic/anti-Oprah Christmas Greetings from Bill Maher.

Warning: Some PG-13 language.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Perspective on Size

My nearly 6' tall11-year old son standing next to another 11-year old. They are just 38-days apart.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - 'Lux Aurumque'

There are 14 different countries represented. Each of the singers are coming through on a live feed with their webcam and microphone. Pretty awesome.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What shade of red is your neck?

The boys picked up some awesome hats at their Gigi's house. They pretty much love 'em. These hats belonged to my father, which means the boys will keep them forever.

Check Caden's STP hat. He's sporting' it with the "farmer's tilt."

They look like they are ready to do some hunting. I think I'll start taking Gabe and Ethan next year. If only I can talk Stacie in to eating some venison...

Holographic Maps: The Latest Cartographic Innovation - PSFK

Holographic Maps: The Latest Cartographic Innovation - PSFK

Cartography gets even better. With video.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to Speak Christianese - Tape Series

From A. Piper at 22 Words. Does this video remind you of a whole bunch of people you know like it does for me? ;)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Homeschool Bowling

After two frames our 5-year old is beating Ethan and me by a pin. Sigh.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Deer Foot"

"Deer Foot"
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Ethan called out to me and said, "Dad! A deer foot!"

Amused, I replied back, "You mean deer tracks, buddy?"

"No, a deer foot!"

I walked over and, sure enough, it was a deer hoof, and 4-5" of the leg with it. We were hiking the fields behind our home enjoying a sunny afternoon when he discovered it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homeschool International Night

The boys selected Greece as their country of choice this year. It's a much smaller crowd this time around with the local homeschool group. The last couple of years were pretty packed. A bummer, as I love the wide variety of international flavors. Stacie cooked up some delicious pastitsio for our Greek dish. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Caden!

My little buddy boy turned 5 today. He has been so excited, counting the days down for the last week. Stacie took him to Target yesterday to spend some birthday money he received from his Gigi (grandmother). He selected a Nerf gun (about the 10th we have now - the Nerf gun wars are insane in this house!) as his toy of choice. As he walked to the check out line he proudly displayed it, letting everyone who got close to him know it was his birthday and that the Nerf gun is what he picked for his big day. He is the most outgoing of all of us.

YouTube - Keith Green - Oh Lord, You're Beautiful

YouTube - Keith Green - Oh Lord, You're Beautiful: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Color

Fall Color
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Not the best year for fall colors, with the recent mini-drought we had at the end of summer. Most of the tress are shades of dark red, dark orange, and brown. But a few have shown to be bright and cheery, such as the maple in our front yard. View from the playroom upstairs.

I've been working evening shift hours the last week and plan to on through Thanksgiving week while the PM manager enjoys his newborn daughter.  My day crew is full with veterans, but the second shift is very new for the most part, so I want to be helpful to them without being the overbearing boss.  I think they appreciate the manner in which I approach them and help them.

I actually enjoy the evening hours, too.  When working day hours I get home around five or six o'clock, depending on the needs of the day, and might have two or three good hours with the family as we all grow weary and prepare for bedtime.  Working evenings, though, allows me to rise around 8:00 AM and enjoy the first four or five hours of the day with them before getting ready to leave for work.  It's been a nice change of pace.

Some interesting sites of late:

Reformed Book Shelf  A small collection of mostly Puritan writers for loan.  The service is free minus the cost to return the books (a couple of bucks) and you can keep the book up to 30-days.

The Heidelblog  The weblog of R. Scott Clark, professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary, CA.  Always something interesting popping up.  His book, "Recovering the Reformed Confession" is on my "Top 10 Books I Plan to Buy When I Get Some Extra Cash One Day" list.  Right now food and shelter seem to be the most pressing needs.
Green Baggins  A bit deep for the layperson at times, but a helpful blog from Lane Keister, a Presbyterian Church in America pastor.  There are several contributing writers, as well.

Daily Westminster  A selection from the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger & Shorter Catechisms for use in private devotion or family worship.  The reading schedule was organized by one of my favorite preachers, Dr. Joey Pipa, Jr.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homeschool Spanish Co-Op Lunch Celebration!

It was a great first session in the homeschool Spanish co-op for Gabe and Ethan.  They got a great introduction to the Spanish language and worked on some fun projects and homework.  Today they ordered their lunch in Spanish at San Felipe Mexican Restaurant in Tramway and enjoyed the fellowship of their classmates from the Christian Home Educators of Central Carolina.  They are already looking forward to the next session after the holidays!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Random Pic from the Week

We had a good coupon from for a local Irish pub in Surfside Beach called "O'Keefe's." It was a great lunch. Ethan and I had a game of darts while waiting on our burgers. He almost beat me. Almost.


I love how the rays spring up from the horizon. The ocean was calm and smooth. It's been a nice week. We're heading home shortly.

Ethan Our Early Riser

7:00 AM on the beach right in front of our camper. It was beautiful, as always.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Rainy Last Day at the Beach

We had five rain-free days, so we won't complain too much about this one rainy day.  Most trips to the beach where we have a rainy day or two find us lounging in the library or walking through the mall.  This morning we chose the library, though we may grab some lunch and hit the mall later if the rain keeps up.  The forecast has it raining pretty much through the evening, so we'll have to get creative.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Nice Finish To Supper

He ate his meat, and now he'll have his pudding. With some chocolate milk to boot.  K&W Cafeteria in Surfside Beach.  I wish we had a K&W in sunny Sanford, NC!

Homeschool at the Beach

They work hard early in the morning to have the rest of the day for the beach and play.

Homeschool at the Beach 2

Stacie helps Caden with his preschool.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A little Baskin Robbins on a cold evening is good for everybody. Caden is loving this Rainbow Sherbert.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back at the Beach

A perfect afternoon to lounge in the sun. Upper 70's with a slight breeze.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The first night of the fall beach camping trip had us doing about 30-minutes of trick-or-treating in the campground, running out for some Japanese for supper, grabbing about 20-things from Walmart, and coming back to the camper to organize a bit. The boys are keeping themselves busy with computer games and silly bands (the horror) as we draw close to bedtime. We're hoping for a nice, quiet week of vacation.

Most of the campground will empty by tomorrow at lunch. It sure is packed solid tonight. I have a big day of fishing coming up on Monday with my buddy Heath. Looking forward to it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ethan Shooting the Bow

Ethan Shooting the Bow
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
A natural with the bow and arrow, Ethan looks like he might be lining up a nice buck from 20' up in the air in a deer stand. He loves archery!

Gabe and Ethan attended "Webelos Woods" with Troop 942 and Pack 942 this past weekend.   The Troop helped the Pack with a number of activities Saturday throughout the day and there were a few other Troops/Packs from the local scouting district.  Gabe camped with the Troop on Friday evening and Ethan and the Webelos came up early Saturday morning.

Friday evening I was packing up a few things and bent down to pick up a shirt from the floor when I felt the little pop in my lower back.  Once again I have thrown my back out, which caused me not to be able to take Ethan Saturday morning.  Stacie stepped in at the last minute and took him to the campsite, though they did not stay the night.  They all returned Saturday evening and we enjoyed some time at home together.  Caden was very helpful with his bed-ridden Dad throughout the day while the others were away.

So, I was confined to the bed a good 16-18 hours per day Saturday and Sunday, and somehow managed to go in to work this morning for a couple of hours to do payroll for my team.  That almost beat me down, as walking is extremely painful.  I am going to see a doctor in Cary tomorrow to see about an ESI.  My last one was 3-years ago, and it worked like a charm.  I'm hoping to get the same results this time, as well.

Boy Scout Gabe

Boy Scout Gabe - Camping
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Gabe was happy to be with his friends in Troop 942. He enjoyed camping in the 38 degree weather and stayed quite toasty in his 20 degree bag!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Frisbee Golf Rocks

Frisbee Golf Rocks
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
The local homeschool group does a lot of fun things through the year. Today was Frisbee golf, which we hope will be planned at least monthly. The boys may have enjoyed it more than the monthly bowling trip. Though wearing a sour look on his face, Caden actually had just as much fun as big brothers Gabe and Ethan.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Nuts & Bolts of Chess

chess pieces julia
Originally uploaded by j suits
Literally. Sounds like a fun project for the boys and me... Click the pic to go to the Flickr page with the "how-to."

Hanging Out Back

Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
So life has been stalled the last few days while several of us have been quite sickly. It started earlier last week when Gabe started throwing up one evening. The next day Caden was throwing up through the night. By Friday evening Ethan and I joined the fun, and Stacie, though not vomiting, was worn down and feeling pretty bad all day Saturday.

Since Friday evening I have lost eleven pounds of weight from not eating or drinking for three days. I was able to go in this morning long enough to do payroll for my team, but quickly abandoned any aspirations of putting in a full day by mid-morning, leaving to get some rest at home. I worked a wee bit from my home office, but am only beginning to recover a little energy from gulping down 64 oz. of Gatorade throughout the day. I ate a few corn chips for lunch, as well, and some mesquite chicken at supper was surprisingly gentle on my tummy.

I have a good 12-14 days of vacation to burn before the end of the year. We're definitely planning on escaping to the beach for another week. We may do some regional travel, as well, over a couple of long weekends. But the idea that really appeals to me is using a few days for a "staycation" and just staying at home. Maybe I'll do a little painting or fix up a few things. Or catch up on some reading. Or just plain rest. As hectic as things have been the last 120-days I could use a little time to do "nothing."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sparkler Fun

Caden's Sparkler
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
The boys ran through the night, sparklers in hand, blazing a trail through the darkness. Gabe and Ethan were yelling (screaming) with joy, while Caden would frequently stop, taking in the brightness of the little flares. Never far from a watchful father, he would quickly come for another one, his thirty seconds or so of fun having burned away. He had been begging to light the sparklers once again for several days, but I had been sick the last two nights. Though not 100%, I was happy to oblige him the thrill of another light before beginning another week of distractions and responsibility. The smiles on the boys are one of my greatest joys in this life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

C.S. Lewis on Personal Devotion

I particulalry like the part about the pipe and pencil at the end.  My pipe and personal journal are two of my favorite things.  And I tend to like the meat of a good doctrinal book to a devotional book more often than not. 

"For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."  - CSL

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Evening Update

It’s not from a lack of time that I haven’t written to the blog, but an odd sense of distraction that has kept me from visiting the page. There’s been an enormous amount of “stuff” preoccupying my time the last few weeks, and I have not felt up to the task of creating anything significant or presenting an update of the variety of things going on in the life of the Bryant family. So, with a number of folks asking about it, and wondering what’s been going on, I thought I would offer a brief update, youngest to oldest.

Caden is just 33-days away from turning five. He is settling in to the routine of doing a little bit of homeschool each day pretty well. He is still pretty quiet, overall, somewhat stubborn like most 4-year olds, and has this really neat habit of just coming up to Stacie and me and giving us a big hug. He loves going outside and is anxious to do some tent camping.

Ethan has been playing flag football. This is his first year playing, so he is still trying to learn the game, and looks lost at times. But he had been asking to play with the pads because he wants to “hit” the other guys. I am glad I decided to give him a glimpse of the flag game, as it lets him see how to work as a team, and how several guys can affect the play. Maybe next year I’ll let him suit up. I think he would be one of the bigger kids in his age group.  Most importantly, he is having a great time being out there!

Gabe is 11-years and 5-months old and stands just over 5’10” tall. He is pretty huge. His coordination hasn’t caught up with him, but that will come with time. He still loves books and reads them more than he watches TV or plays on the computer/Wii combined. There’s been talk of bumping him up a grade level, but right now I am happy he is where he is. One of the benefits of homeschool is that we determine where he is placed based on his skill level. He’ll do fine either way.

Stacie has been busy. When the phrase “a woman’s work is never done” came around it was made with women like her in mind. She is still a master of the coupon, and boggles my brain at times with the deals she comes up with. Paying ten bucks for fifty dollars’ worth of groceries is no longer impressive to her. She wants the real bargain. Homeschool has been going well this year, and the boys are working hard. I think she is ready for another quick trip to the beach, though.

I have been busier than ever at work. I had a recent regional audit, somehow escaped a bigger corporate audit (that I really wanted to do), and completed the entire year-end processes of inventory, annual budgeting for next year, capital reconciliation of all fixed assets, vacation liability reports, etc. etc. I also had a big meeting in Charlotte with a number of execs from the company. The bulk of this happened while my mother was undergoing complicated surgery and we were facing a 10-day vacation where everything was paid for, but little would be refunded if we cancelled. Talk about a wee bit of stress.

Somehow God worked it all out and things for the most part have gone well. My mother is recovering, despite having to go through a second surgery to fix a few things, and has a good number of family and friends helping her up in Winston-Salem. The vacation was a good time away despite about half of it being rained out. The meeting in Charlotte went better than expected and the boss (and his boss) seem to be pretty happy with me. And all of the year end business was turned in on time, despite my having to turn it in a good 10-days earlier than my peers due to my choice of vacation time. (Lesson learned.)

So the fall (mid-September through Thanksgiving weekend) is the busiest time of the year for us. This fall is no different. Almost every night has something planned. Monday and Tuesday the boys have Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, respectively. Thursday nights Ethan has football practice. Wednesdays are always a late work day for me, with my typically getting home after 7:00 PM. Saturdays always have either a scouting activity or campout and football games for Ethan. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and we commit all of it to church and fellowship or rest.

The new Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) church plant we have joined in Cary, NC, is Shiloh Presbyterian Church. is the web address. It started in early June and has been a fantastic church home for us thus far. Though we are still searching for a pastor we have been blessed with the likes of Joey Pipa, Jr., Lacy Andrews, Bill Shishko, Phil Proctor, Dr. John Carrick, Dr. Sid Dyer, and Matthew Judd preaching for us. When we reviewed the mission and values of this work we knew it would be a great work to join. So, we transferred our membership from Providence OPC in Greensboro to Shiloh and now enjoy a 30-minute drive as opposed to a 70-minute drive to church. We miss our brothers and sisters at Providence, but are quite anxious to continue growing with our new work.

Shiloh Presbyterian has a good 17-18 families making up a portion of the maybe 80-90 members and regular attendees to start. Almost all of the families homeschool and perhaps half of the group are children under 18. We have quickly come to love the people in this work. Their fervency for their faith is inspiring and contagious.

The mission work is reformed theologically, and covenantal in its approach to Christian living, which is what I am eager for in my own family’s Christian walk. Most importantly there is a strong desire for Christocentric preaching that is applicable to gospel-centered living in the life of the believer. We are very eager to see who God provides to shepherd our congregation, and to see God raise up men to be our elders and deacons.

Recently reading:

The Puritan Library - - A nice collection of works from the Puritans. I have been going there often the last few weeks.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer – This is the same book I read in 1991, but it is a completely different read. Amazing. If you have never read it, I strongly urge you to pick it up.

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by RC Sproul – I have been reading this at bedtime with Stacie. It’s a great intro to many facets of the faith for her.

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade – We have been using this summary of the Westminster Shorter Catechism off and on in our family worship throughout the week.

Recent Web Sites: – Free (limited) tracts, booklets, and books from a Puritan and reformed perspective. Donations appreciated. A very nice collection of works. – The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible online. Create an account, take and keep notes, highlight text, listen to audio of the text, utilize daily reading plans. A great tool. – Prints and posters of key figures and events related to the reformation through the ages. I think I am going to buy a few to decorate a few empty walls in our home! – The bookstore of Westminster Theological Seminary. You can typically count on them for having the lowest prices on most reformed titles, Bibles, and more.

Friday, September 24, 2010

We made it right at dark last night. After a good breakfast the boys are in the sand and surf. Nine days of beach fun are here!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Beautiful Day for the Gun Range

I'm mainly shooting through some older pistol and .223 ammo. I haven't lost my touch.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More on Caden's First Days of School

He's reading his little workbook he created to me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

His First School Project

His First School Project
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Caden has officially started pre-school in the homeschool. The last year or so he has done a few things with colors, numbers, reading, and writing. But this will be his first "official" year of school with a regimented daily schedule of academics, art, etc. We think he'll do fine and be much more prepared to begin Kindergarten next year. This morning he completed an art project. A raccoon! Doesn't he look thrilled to be in school??? OK, it will grow on him.

The homeschool room is ready, curriculum is in place, the students - Gabe, Ethan, and Caden - are excited, and the teacher (Mommy) is all set for a great year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coupon Master

Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Stacie continues her dominance in the world of couponing. I remember when we first got married. She would go to the grocery store with 2-3 coupons she happened to see in the paper. Now she has a huge red binder all sectioned out in some order with pages upon pages of baseball card holders full of coupons.  The detail to organization is amazing!

She gets pretty excited when she scores huge savings. For the year she has been averaging around $32 paid for every $100 worth of food, and she plans to do much better.She tells me she wants to dip below $25 per $100 soon.

Tonight she sent me this picture of a number of items, including milk, orange juice, french bread (yummy french toast!), Pop Tarts, apple sauce, Rice Krispy Treats, cheddar cheese, yogurt, cereal, turkey breast, etc. She brought this nice pile of food home for the grand total of $3.65.

Yes, that is three dollars and some change. One gallon of milk should have cost that.  This trip is certainly going to lower her average!

She is getting good!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Flashback Friday: Ethan Shoots!

Ethan Shoots!
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Back in 2007 I snapped this shot of Ethan dribbling off Gabe, stopping, and popping a jumper with great form for a 6-year old. He dropped several shots in a row from 15' from the dirt court yesterday. He's signing up for flag football this week. He loves his sports.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Delicious "Sugar Baby" Watermelon

Delicious Watermelon
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
The first watermelon (of what appears to be close to a dozen?) picked from the garden was delicious. These little "Sugar Baby" watermelons are not as big as we thought they would be, but it was fun growing them, nonetheless.

The garden was (and still is) a fun idea, and we learned a lot of lessons this spring and summer. We're going to expand on it next year, but have decided to focus on the vegetables we actually enjoy and can get the most bang for the buck on. Corn, watermelon, cucumber, squash, and zucchini come to mind. There may be a couple more. Hopefully we'll see more success.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Ethan sends me pictures from his cell phone from time to time. Usually they have something that has nothing to do with the picture as the title. With this pic he sent "Chuck Norris." Inexplicable? Yes. But do I love getting them? Absolutely. Keep sending them, buddy.


Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Ethan sent this cell phone pic to my cell with just the word "Aliens" attached. Here he is with a friend/neighbor who came to play. That boy is something.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Legendary Jack O'Brien

The Legendary Jack O'Brien
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Jack O’Brien is 83-years old and still going strong. My father told me stories about him for years, and how both bass and trout feared his hook and rod. Always in my own little world, I had never actually met him, though he just lived over the hill from the family mountain getaway my father built some 25-years ago.

He floated by me in the river and spent a few minutes chatting the Saturday of the 4th of July weekend. He was floating down on a large, singular piece of foam that he had crafted into a fishing float. It is a simple creation, but remarkable nonetheless. He had both a fly rod and spinning rod on there with a cooler of drinks and a tackle box with a good mix of lures. A couple of hooks held supplies like his stringer, and a metal bar inserted through the open portion of the U-shaped craft offered a place to rest his feet in shallow water. He gave me two flies to try on top water and offered a few tips on the stretch I was casting in.

I asked him if he had caught anything (dumb question) and he pulled up a whole stringer full of bass. He said he was keeping them to give to a friend of his that was not able to fish anymore. I told him my father was Earl Bryant, and he told me he was sad to hear of his passing a few years ago, and missed seeing him. I thanked him for that and wished him success for the rest of his float. He told me to call him the next time I was up and he would show me some great holes not many people fish. I’m looking forward to it.

I snapped this pic about 30-minutes later as he floated in front of our house.

Another Fishing Legend

Another Fishing Legend
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
I first met Dave Pickett a couple of years ago at the Ashe County Farmer's Market on the back streets of West Jefferson, NC. Dave sets up with his friend Lee Burgess every Saturday morning to sell the most popular flies for the time of year along with a number of creative offerings they have tried and proven over the years. Every time I go there I see a number of folks hovering over their little stand snapping up the latest creations.

Dave is a fountain of wisdom, so I am always sure to ask him what the trout and smallmouth bass are biting. Over the 4th of July weekend he strongly encouraged me to buy a couple of #8 poppers in yellow to try on the top water after I told him I'd like to get in to some bass. He didn't disappoint. I went to a good hole near our family home on the South Fork of the New River just south of town and put the popper a couple of feet off the bank under a big shade tree. There were two teenage girls swimming and splashing no more than 15' feet away, but on the very first cast I watched a 14" smallmouth hammer the popper and drag it down. I landed it in a few moments and reveled in the catch while the two girls exclaimed they couldn't believe I caught a fish so close to all of their noise.

For the next four hours I fished a number of holes in a 200-yard stretch and landed a good twenty smallmouth, ten rock bass, and 3-4 bream. The biggest smallmouth was 15" in length (though a bit thin and maybe about 2 lbs.), which I haven't seen on that particular stretch of the south fork in a good five years. Two others were 13-14 " and there were several in the 10-12" range. I couldn’t believe the success I was having.

At the bridge that leads to our family home I was fishing with my middle son, Ethan, around 5:00 PM when I cast into a still pool of water near a pipe bringing water down from the top of the mountain. I knew fish liked to hang near the pipe looking for treats to float out, so I thought to give it a try. Within a second or two my fly rod, a 7.5 footer, instantly went from about five feet above the water to tapping the water with the tip of it. I pulled the rod up hoping to see a monster on the end of the line, but all I saw was the flash of a large fish and what was left of my tippet come flying back at me. Whatever it was had snapped my line. Ethan stood there in shock, exclaiming, “Did you SEE that, Dad??? It was HUGE!!!” Feeling quite deflated I said, “Yep. And that was my last popper!”

About that time a man came walking across the bridge. I said, “Howdy” to the gentleman and he returned the greeting.

He asked me, “Are you Earl Bryant’s boy?”

Surprised, I responded, “Yes, how did you know that?”

“Your height gave it away. I’m Darrell Phillips. I used to fish with your father before he died.”

Well, I was dumbfounded. I had just met three fishing legends in the West Jefferson area in the span of 24-hours. Like Jack O’Brien, I had heard of stories about Phillips since I was a small boy from both my father and my brothers. I had heard he knew every inch of the New River like the back of his hand, and he proved that as I scrambled out from the river and talked fishing with him for a good 20-minutes. He asked me to come up to the car with him and, as I have had happen many times over, gave me five flies to try from his assortment of what appeared to be about 500 flies in three boxes. I told him I had just lost my last popper (which he saw happen and agreed it must have been a whopper) and asked him if he had ever heard of Dave Pickett.

“Of course I have. I picked up some flies from his house just a couple of nights ago.”

“You know Dave???”

“Of course!”

“He let’s you come to his house to get flies?”

“Heck, he loves it. Give him a call. He would love to see you.”

Phillips wrote the number down on a scratch piece of paper and bid me farewell, letting me know that I need to go fishing with him the next time I’m up that way. It would be an honor, I told him, and I hope to fish with the man who fished quite a bit over the years with my father very soon.

Ethan and I walked back to the little mountain house and I eagerly dialed the number Phillips had given me to see if Dave Pickett was home. Dave answered on the second ring and I quickly introduced myself. He remembered me (6’7” is hard to forget in those parts) and let me know that he would be glad for me to come up and pick up a few poppers from him.

We (Stacie, Ethan, and I) followed Dave’s directions right up the small mountainside where his 1918 farmhouse was located. Set on 54-acres it was a beautiful little white home with a wrap-around porch nestled between a couple of grassy hillsides. As we pulled in to the long gravel driveway Dave and his charming wife Linda greeted us on the front porch. She was busy crafting a couple of baskets while Dave stood grinning widely and seemingly eager to make us welcome in his home.

Dave invited me into the front door while Stacie and Ethan sat on the porch with Linda. The house is very tidy and well kept with minimal decoration, much like it was in the early 1920's, I'm sure.  We walked into a middle parlor type of room where I encountered the most amazing fly-tying setup I had ever witnessed. Having worked in and retired from metal fabrication (in Lillington, NC – just below where we live now, of all places) for nearly 30-years, much of the equipment he worked with he designed and crafted himself. There were cabinets and drawers full of feathers, fur, corks, thread, paint, hooks, and every material imaginable all throughout the room, perfectly organized and neatly stored. Several tubes holding high end fly rods were in the corner and a few fishing vests, landing nets, and other gear adorned the walls, as well. The view from the window offered an amazing look at the beautiful flora Linda has placed all throughout the property. She must have thirty or more different types of plants set throughout their farm.

As we sit down to dig out a few flies Dave begins to spin an array of tales of fly fishing throughout Ashe County, things I would have never known of or discovered in 10-years of fishing and researching on my own. His experience and knowledge of the streams in Ashe County seems unparalleled. I particularly enjoyed the stories of the more remote places such as one area he could only describe as “right out of the film ‘Deliverance’” and dangerously close to life threatening in its nature. He recommended a place to park my truck but cautioned me to leave a 12-pack of Busch Beer on the tailgate to insure “I don’t get blocked in” by the guy who lives by there. Apparently it would be more costly to pay for him to move his own truck. Crossing a long abandoned train trestle you hike a good stretch down a rocky cliff and jump into some of the toughest fishing he has seen, but nonetheless pays handsomely in large, wild water trout. I certainly can’t wait to try it.

I quickly thought I needed a picture of Dave at his work table. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera, so I pulled out my LG EnV2 and snapped this somewhat poor quality picture of Dave moving a few items around as he showed me how he created his poppers.

After talking for a good while I asked Dave if I could see some of the house. They moved there back in 1983 after making an arrangement with the landowner to help care for the property and to fix up the house. And fix-it-up he did. Walls were repaired, attic space was closed off, and new plumbing was added while several coats of new paint covered the old walls. They quickly made it their home.

In 1985 a local crook set fire to the back of the house where the kitchen was located. This was a diversion as all of the neighbors came to help Dave with the fire until the local fire department could arrive. While the neighbors were distracted the thief went to another house over the hill and stole several firearms. He was later apprehended, but the damage had been done. Dave repaired the kitchen himself, adding two sections that weren’t there, building cabinetry that they had been lacking, adding a half-bath, and routing the water from a local brook to use as their water supply (it was cold!)

We went out on the porch with Dave and Linda and heard about the brutal winter they had just experienced, including the loss of several trees. Hummingbirds buzzed with inches of our heads and the coolness of the mountain air reminded us that, even in July, the mountains are the best place to be to escape the heat of summer.

Dave produced several poppers for me and refused to take my money when I reached for my wallet. “You’re a good customer. Any man that is willing to come all the way out here for a few flies deserves to get a few free ones from time to time. I hope you catch a mess of them!” I never tire of meeting fly fishermen. Just like pipe smokers they are always generous, thoughtful, and very giving.  I have a fond appreciation for every one of them I meet.  There's always something new to learn.

With that we offered our good-byes and returned to the mountain house, glad we had been able to have such a treat.  Dave urged us to come back and visit them again.  I can't wait for that opportunity.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crushing It!

Crushing It!
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Here's one last tee ball pic from Caden's last game. He got a hold of this one, sending it to center field. The kids had to run out to the grass to get it.

Check the meanness and determination on his face! Grrr! He is big time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New (to us) Hoops Goal

A New (to us) Hoops Goal
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
A dear friend (and his awesome family) is moving out of state (read: abandoning us), but not before he decided to bequeath to us this basketball goal. The one we had was literally falling apart. The boys were extremely happy to receive it. Our humble dirt court hoops games will never be the same!

See How Happy They Are?

See How Happy They Are?
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Three VERY happy little boys!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

On The Way Home From Church Tonight

Gabe: "Hey, Mom, did you ever see the movie, "Night on Elmer Street?"

Stacie, giggling: "You mean, 'Nightmare on Elm Street,' Gabe?"

Gabe: "Um, yeah. With that creepy guy "Fred McGruger?"

Stacie, laughing a bit harder: "You mean Freddie Krueger?"

Gabe: "Oh, yeah. How about the movie Friday the 13th?"

Ethan: "Tom Cruise played Jason."

Stacie, laughing hysterically at this point while I grab the wheel to keep her from wrecking the car.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Homeschool End-Of-Year Declaration

Stacie and I ambled out to the mailbox this evening as the sun was setting and after soaking our vegetable garden for a good 30-minutes. We had been running around all day completing a number of tasks and had almost forgotten to check the post. We took the mail from the box and discovered that the results had come back from the final test we gave our two oldest, Gabe and Ethan, on the homeschool year.

As the duly appointed administrator of our homeschool I get excited to receive the final report on end-of-grade testing. Each year we test them utilizing the California Achievement Test so that we can get a good measurement of how much they have learned throughout the year. (And so that I can determine if I need to fire their teacher, er, Mommy.) They are measured on things such as Reading Comprehension, Mathematics - Computation, Concepts & Problems, and Language Usage and Structure, among other things.

I always enjoy parents who will tell you how their 6-year old is doing college freshman level algebra, and their 2-year old is on an 11th grade reading level. I wholeheartedly celebrate with them, then always make-up something about how our boys are being held back in their grade for the third year in a row, but their juvenile probation officer is working with them. The reactions I often get are priceless.

With that in mind I will just say that Stacie and I danced a step or two as we headed back up the driveway. And, as the homeschool chief administrator, I hereby declare the 2009 - 2010 homeschool year a success! The boys performed very well and we were excited to see their results. We're looking forward to another year providing them with a superior educational experience, and Mommy gets to keep her job for another year! (Yes, she is pretty amazing at educating our children, once again!) Congratulations, Gabe and Ethan!

A Medal for Caden

Caden had his final Tee Ball game today and was very proud of his first ever sports related award. He hit one about 20-feet out into the outfield today and stopped 5 balls from going under his legs. He might be a natural shortstop/power hitter. He is the man!

Troop 942 Has Returned Entact

Gabe made it back from his first ever week of camp this morning, no worse for wear. (That's him centered on the tree.) He said he had a great time and already looks forward to going back next year. We're just glad to have him back home. He is really looking forward to sleeping in the air conditioning tonight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"What Are They Going to Do to Him Mommy?"

At the doctors office for Gabe's appointment. Caden is worried about his big brother, but it is nothing serious. The BP cuff looked menacing, though.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ethan's Cacti

Ethan's Cactii
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
Ethan has plenty of cacti spread around inside and outside our home.  One of them had a double bloom of beautiful yellow flowers this morning. So he took a picture of it and sent it to me for my Flickr page. He's our resident Botanist.

Photo complete with his toes and his friend's toes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Family Walks

Family Walks
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
We take lots of neighborhood walks as a family. On most of them Caden is whirling around, full of energy. Tonight he chased lightning bugs the whole way home, as a 4-year old should.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Veggie

First Veggie
Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
We planted a garden this spring with corn, zucchini, cantaloupe, squash, watermelon, okra, eggplant, Roma tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. We have seen a few things popping up here and there but were quite surprised to discover this 10" cucumber today. I hate cucumbers, but hopefully Stacie will enjoy it.

This is our very first attempt at a true garden, so we hope to learn a lot from it this year and come back next year armed with a great deal of zeal and knowledge. We also plan to double the size of it.

Veggie Report:

Corn Stalks: One stalk growing well, one iffy, and six failing. (I blame the hail storm from a couple of weeks ago).

Eggplant: Two sprouted so far with several more possible.

Zucchini: Nada so far. Worried.

Okra: Waiting.

Tomatoes: Several budding. Hopeful.

Peppers: A couple growing and thinking they'll be several more. Hopeful.

Cantaloupe: I don't think we were supposed to plant it beside the cucumbers? Nada so far.

Watermelon: Five golf ball sized little melons and potentially 4-5 more so far. Hopeful.

Squash: Three good sized so far with several buds showing.


Originally uploaded by Joe Jon!
The boys are thrilled with the first vegetable picked from the garden.

Good Grub Today

We are eating a nice lunch at Carolina Trace Country Club to celebrate some fine folks doing some great work for a lot of years. They rock!