Southern Gospel music is in my genes

It is October, the month of my birth.  It is a time to remember where you came from and be thankful.  I have so much to be thankful for.  Tonight, I am thankful for my  Mom's Dad.  I called him Grandaddy.  I was the first grandson and grandchild for my Mom's parents.  There is no doubt among my brothers that he loved us all, but clearly, I was the favorite.  I don't know if I really remember this or I have just seen the photos and heard the story so often that I think I remember it.  I was little, like still in diapers little and he would take me out to the gravel driveway and he would back his truck with the tailgate down into the big bushes on the property line and I would die laughing. I would say again and he would do it over and over.  Every time we backed into the bush the dog would jump out of the back of the truck.
He always had cows but when I was little he bought a pony named Polly.  She was white, I famously told my grandmothers best friend that Polly was as blue as snow.  This photo is of my Grandaddy, me and Polly at Uncle Frank and Aunt Evelyn's house.  Frank and Evelyn Drinkard were my grandparents best friends.  I don't know why we were there.  I don't know if we bought Polly from them or if we just went on a long ride. They probably lived about a mile and half from my grandparent's house.

All of this background brings me to the topic of Southern Gospel Music.  My grandad would go to bed early on Saturday nights.  He wouldn't go to sleep he just wanted to lay in bed and listen to the Southern Gospel Radio show that came on the radio.  There were two windows in his bedroom and the windows would be up and a box fan would be in one of the windows pulling the cool evening air into the room making it cool enough that you needed to be under the covers.  We would lay there together and listen to those wonderful gospel quartets.  I don't remember him liking any specific songs or groups.

My granddad died the summer between 5th and 6th grade.  He had chronic leukemia and he was in the hospital getting a blood transfusion and he had an allergic reaction to the blood and they didn't catch it in time and he died.  I missed him terribly.  I listened to a lot of country music in the years following and I stayed with the quartets like The Oak Ridge Boys and the Statler Brothers.  I still loved the bass singers and spent a great deal of time trying to sing as low as Richard Sterban and Harold Reid.
The Statler Brothers- Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord (Live)

When I was in college I found Southern Gospel Music again and it has been a part of my life since.  Sadly, I am the only in my family that cares for that type of music. Julie and her family would go to Saturday night gospel concerts at the convention center as a kid but she still doesn't care for it today.

This memory with my Grandad was triggered when my brothers and I were helping my Dad move.  We spent last spring break cleaning out his house getting it ready to sell.  I found so many old photos that I had never seen before.  I also found some of the old ceramics that my Mom used to make.  It got me thinking about who I am.  I have always known I was my Mom's kid because I am long waisted and have short legs like she did.  But as I thought about it, my Mom was a huge Ray Walker fan.  He would come and lead singing at the annual gathering of all the Churches of Christ in Memphis.  The event was called Training for Service.  Sunday night all the churches in Memphis would meet together in the Mid-South Coliseum. The rest of the nights we would meet for classes at Harding Academy.  All the kids would go to the new gym and it would kind of be like a youth rally.
I think my Mom owned every Ray Walker cassette tape he ever sold.

So really, I come by my love for gospel music honestly.  I am not as weird as my wife and kids think.

My current favorite southern gospel song is The Heavenly Parade by Ernie Hasse and Signature Sound.

Here are the Cathedrals singing The Heavenly Parade

If you have gotten this far reading this blog post, spend an hour on YouTube watching The Cathedrals, Gold City, Ernie Hasse and Signature Sound, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statler Brothers, Ray Walker and the Jordanaires, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, Elvis, The Hoppers, The Happy Goodmans, The Fairfield FourThe Blind Boys of Alabama and the list could go on and on.

Another thing about gospel music is the piano players.  My favorite is Roger Bennett from The Cathedrals.



Busted by a video security system

First thing this morning, I got a text asking if I could take a few photos of the light poles in Legacy Park so one of the graphic designers could proof out some new banners.  I had a camera with me so no worries.  I parked in front of a house at the west end of Legacy Park.  When I got out of the car, I noticed a bed full of beautiful lantana.  I shot the photos I needed and as I got back to the car I stopped and took some lantana photos.  I had no idea who lived in that house. I just hoped if I got busted I could talk my way out of trouble by praising their garden.

I told you that lantana was beautiful.  I left without notice...or so I thought.  

When I got back to the office, I had this photo in my email from my friend who lives in the house.  Thankfully she didn't call the cops or yell at me through her phone app.


Lunch Hour Watercolor

Today, I did a quick sketch of one of my favorite photos of the Bell Tower at Harding.  It took about 30 minutes. It is only 4X6 inches.  A little art therapy never hurt anyone.


Remembering Botham Jean

Leading singing at Dallas West Church of Christ
I saw Botham last fall while in Dallas for a Harding Presidential Reception at the Dallas West Church of Christ.  I reached out to shake his hand and he grabbed me and gave me a hug.  It was a wonderful moment and day as we worshipped with the Dallas West Church and Botham led the singing.   

 I am so thankful that Liz Howell took this photo of Botham and me. 

Hearing of his death yesterday was shocking.  He was killed by a Dallas Police Officer.  The circumstances are very vague at the moment.  Here is a link to the story in the New York Times.  It is crazy to see your photo credit all over the major news media outlets and awful at the same time because of the story the photos are associated with.
Botham leading singing in chapel.               

This terrible tragedy leaves me with strong mixed emotions.

I want answers to why this happened, what was that officer thinking, why did she feel the need for deadly force?  We have no answers to these questions as of yet and that just leads to speculation, rumors, and nonsense.  

 I want someone to blame and I find it hard to blame a law enforcement officer without appropriate evidence.  I work with and know too many law enforcement officers and I have the highest respect for them and the job that they do. 

                    Botham singing with the Good News Singers                   
My favorite memory of Botham involves singing.  I really enjoy singing.  I would love to be a great singer but the truth of the matter is I am barely average.  I was at the Gospel Singing one night after Lectureship sitting in the back row and we were about sing Have a Little Talk With Jesus.  As we started singing Botham came and slid into the seat beside me.  I was singing bass and he was singing tenor.  It made me nervous to be sitting beside such a talented singer.  After we sang the last stanza, Botham leaned over and said "that bass line was sounding really good."  That simple word of encouragement has stuck with me. 
Botham graduated in May of 2016 at the same ceremony as my oldest daughter Jenna.  I shot his graduation photo and I even got this candid shot as we sang the Alma Mater.  As a photographer, you never know when the photos that you take will all of the sudden become so much more meaningful than just a simple candid of a friend at graduation. 

I got to watch the last part of the funeral today after I finished teaching my class.  I told my students of the power of photos in situations like this and I am thankful for the photos that I had and for others that shared photos with me.  The photos are important, but they pale in comparison to the life of this Godly man.  I thank God for Botham being my friend and I pray for peace for all of his family and friends.


Cox's Chapel Church of Christ- Memories and Art

My dad just sold his house and moved and I found this painting as we cleaned out his attic.  It is a painting or Cox's Chapel Church of Christ in Coxville, Tennessee.  The painting hung in my grandmother's apartment at the retirement home in Bells, Tennessee. 

This oil painting was painted by, Olaf Berry, a man we went to church with when I was a kid.  The Berrys were missioners somewhere when they were young.  They moved to Memphis from Independence, MO to be close to their daughter Faye Adkins.  We loved to go to the Berry's house for supper and to play cards.  Mrs. Berry always had chocolate pies for dessert and there was always enough for us to have two pieces of pie.  Dad and I cut the grass at the apartments where they lived and one spring Dad accidentally cut down Brother Berry's tomato plants with the weedeater.  They always laughed about that.

Cox's Chapel was the church that my grandparents attended. It was a small country church with a cemetery in the back.  The preacher was James Bradley and he preached on odd Sundays and on the even Sundays he preached for the Gadsden Church of Christ. On even Sundays at Cox's Chapel, they had Sunday school class and then singing and a communion service and no Sunday night Bible study.  The church had two aisles and three section of seats.  The pulpit was on a one-step tall platform and had a blackboard on the wall for the preacher to put up notes or announcements.  Behind the auditorium, there were two small classrooms. There were several ceiling fans that were used to keep the air from the open windows stirring.  In the winter there were gas heaters. The bathroom was an outhouse out at the edge of the gravel parking lot and not a place you wanted to go unless you were desperate.  

This is my first attempt to copy Brother Berry's painting.
I have so many memories of this church as a child.  My favorite has to be all the times I would walk there with my grandad.  It was exactly a mile to the church from my grandparent's house. After my grandad had a heart attack the doctor told him he needed to start walking and the church became the destination for those walks.  I got to go with Grandaddy because I was the only one who could halfway keep up with him.  My Grandad, Carl Cox, walked like a man on a mission and it was all I could do to keep up with him. 

When we went to church we had assigned seats.  We sat on the fourth pew from the back on the right side.  My grandmother sat by the window and my grandad set on the other end by the aisle.  I would always try to sit by my grandad.  The pews were brown painted wood with a padded bench and not very comfortable.  Uncle Mose sat in the pew in front of us and Uncle Reggie and Aunt Blanche sat behind us.  Uncle Frank and Aunt Evelyn sat behind Uncle Reggie.  Uncle Frank and Aunt Evelyn were my grandparents best friends and their last name was Drinkard.  They had a son named Frankie and two daughters, Mary Jo and Pam.  Mary Jo was my Mom's best friend growing up.

2nd attempt
Other people I remember from Church were King and Dorthy Porter, and the kids Sunday School teacher was Mrs. Matalou McCord.  I need to talk to my brothers and see if we can remember more names. 

This was the church where my parents got married.  I have some photos of that too but that is the topic for a different post.


Encouragement from Eternity

Yesterday, I went to the memorial service for Janice Myers.  I knew Janice in passing.  Her middle daughter, Christy was in my high school class at Harding Academy in Memphis.  Her husband, Edward, and I worked together for years at Harding University.  I took wedding photos for her youngest daughter.  So, since I was a junior in high school I would occasionally be around Janice.  Actually, it feels weird typing her first name as I probably would have called her Mrs. Myers.  I always remember her being a happy and friendly person.  During the memorial service, multiple people mentioned how encouraging she was.

As I arrived at Cone Chapel for the memorial I saw Christy and I went over and gave her my condolences.  We talked for just a minute and she said " Jeff, my mom loved your photography and she got so excited when you started posting watercolor paintings. "  Christy went on to tell me that her mom loved to watercolor and they actually had brought one of her paintings to display.  I had no idea that Janice Myers was a watercolor painter.  I left Christy and went and sat down in the chapel and I had been encouraged.  What a powerful thing to be encouraged by the women whose memorial service you are attending.  Janice Myers had used her God-given gift of encouragement and had passed it on to her children who had passed it on to me.

Andrew Baker talks about making an "Eternal Difference."  Janice Myers made a difference from eternity.  I am motived to be more of an encourager than I ever have been before and I am thankful I got to celebrate the life of Janice Myers.


Jalen's Jr Year as a Wildcat

I really hate for summer to end because the slower pace is so nice. 
The reward of the craziness of the beginning of school is football season. I will seriously miss seeing Jackson playing but I am so looking forward to watching Jalen and all the other Wildcats play this fall.

Detroit Institute of Art and Loving Vincent

Back in the summer, I went to Michigan on a business trip and the last day we had several hours before we needed to be at the airport and we went to the Detroit Institute of Art.  I love going to art museums and for the most part, my family is not so interested in art museums so this was a treat.  I got a map and made a beeline to the photography area and sadly it was between shows and was closed.  That was a bummer.  I really did enjoy all the paintings and I took some photos of my favorites.  

 It was cool to see some of the VanGogh paintings.  If you haven't seen the movie  Loving Vincent you should check it out.  You can watch the movie on HULU.


Magnolia Monday and random thoughts

Today's #MagnoliaMonday photo taken with a Fuji X-100s.

I have a new iMac and I am slowly getting used to it.  I like the big Apple screen but I really miss the solid state hard drive that was in my old MacPro.  That MacPro drive was only 500GB and the iMac is 2TB but I would take the speed back in a heartbeat.  I love the wireless keyboard and I am slowly making friends with the new trackpad.  I am so glad that the keyboard and trackpad both have rechargeable batteries.  I also upgraded from a second generation Drobo to a Drobo 5D3 which uses Thunderbolt 3 instead of Firewire 800.

Another new thing that I am working through at the moment is Google Team Drives.  I have not been a huge fan of Drive but I think it is just lack of use.  I do like having all my photos online but that is still a work in progress as each year of digital photos is about 500GB and that takes a while to upload.  It is funny how I am looking forward to back to the 12 MP era cameras so the uploads will go so much faster.  In the last three hours, 6000 photos have uploaded.  I really love using the file transfer app FromSmash.com.  The only problem is it only keeps the uploads in the cloud for 7 days several times lately I have had to re-pull photos because people didn't download them in time.  I hope Google Drive or Team Drives help with that.

I am really looking forward to Jackson being home this weekend from his summer job in Alaska.


Camp Tahkodah

 Every summer since 1992, I have spent at least one day at Camp Tahkokah shooting photos.  Josie is at camp this session and Jalen was at Camp last session.  Camp Tahkodah has been a blessing to me and especially to my kids.  I am really thankful for all the people that spend their summers out at camp investing in kids.

 I got lucky and caught the bullet.  I had fun taking a couple of turns shooting myself.

Camp tradition- you get thrown off the bridge if it is your birthday.
Josie and her cabin.
I really enjoyed the basketball games.  This time I really enjoyed the basketball.  I sometimes miss shooting sports in the summer.

 Josie and her friends.

This is what happened when you asked Jordan Ashmore for water at the canteen.

Jalen went to Camp with me and he wanted a camera. His photos were not half bad.  "Not half bad" is code for really good.  It comes from Statler and Waldorf, the grumpy old men muppets.  One would say something "was not half bad" and the other one would respond "it was all bad."

This is Jalen with my friend Sam Jeffrey.  

Back over Christmas break while the boys were out of school and Jackson was recovering from ACL surgery Jalen used Sam's name to win an argument.  The boys were fussing over something that really didn't matter and it eventually boiled down to Jalen saying at least my knee works and Jackson accusing Jalen of thinking he is tough because he has an Apple Watch and then said only sissies wear Apple Watches.  I was watercoloring at the time and had had enough of their nonsense and said so you calling Coach Simmons (HU football coach) a sissy?  It was a total bluff on my part as I have no idea what kind of watch Paul Simmons wears.  Jackson looked at me for a moment and then bluffed back at me with " is Coach Simmons the toughest guy you know?"  Jalen said, " I am pretty sure Sam Jeffrey is the toughest guy I know."  Argument over.