Auburn Mourns Pat Dye

Ardent Auburn University supporters, like me. are prone from time to time to refer to someone as “an Auburn man.”  In a way, it’s a rather mystical description, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder.  And while there may be some disagreement as to what it is, there is less disagreement about who it is.

And so it is that this week, thousands of people who bleed orange and blue, came to pause and remember the life of perhaps the ultimate Auburn man, former football coach Pat Dye who passed away at age 80.  Not lost on any of them was the fact that Dye grew up in Georgia and never attended Auburn.

In a sense, it was Auburn who decided Dye should become one of their own.  Dye was hired in early 1981, coached Auburn to four SEC championships in the next 12 years and never left.  Along the way he learned that the things Auburn stood for and the things he stood for were one and the same and the relationship only got stronger for the next 38 years.

Dye was the youngest of three boys born into a prominent farming family in Blythe, GA, about 20 miles from Augusta.  His mother grew up in Athens, GA, the daughter of a dentist  She graduated from the University of Georgia and moved to Blythe to teach school.  His father never finished high school.  Life on the farm toughened him and competing with two older brothers sharpened his will to win.

Sixty years ago southern college football was a far cry from what it is today.  All the players were white, many came from farms and most were not big.  Dye was a 200-pound All-American guard and linebacker coached by Wally Butts.  After two years of playing in the Canadian football league and two years in the military, Dye was hired by University of Alabama football coach “Bear” Bryant and was on his staff for nine years.

The two men were kindred spirits, both greatly influenced by growling up in the country and being accountable for their own actions.  Obviously Bryant was very fond of Dye, no doubt seeing someone who was largely forged by the same forces as he had been growing up in Arkansas..

Dye spent his time well in Tuscaloosa, learning how to manage people, how to motivate players and how to develop a winning culture.  All he needed was the right opportunity to make his own mark.  He found it in Auburn.

It was no surprise that Auburn and Dye fit each other.  At their core. both are country.  Auburn became a land-grant institution in 1872, a place devoted to coaxing life from the earth so that people can prosper.  And this was Dye, never straying from his Richmond County, GA.

Probably nothing makes this statement more than Dye’s final wishes.  He died on Monday, June 1 and late in the afternoon of Tuesday, June 2 he was laid to rest at the base of an oak on his Macon County farm.  He had nurtured the oak from a cutting of one of Auburn’s famous Toomer Corner oaks.  He was wrapped in a shroud and placed in the hole.  He told friends that his body would fertilize the tree and his spirit would live on.

Like many, I have my own memories of the coach.  While living in Opelika 15-20 years ago, I was invited to join a handful of people one morning to have breakfast at Dye’s farm near Notasulga.  The specialty that morning was quail.  To be honest, I am not overly fond of quail.  But being a good guest, I ate one.  When Dye asked if I wanted another one I deferred, but did mention that I sure would like some more of the fig preserves he had with the biscuits.

In just a moment he gave me a pint jar of homemade preserves, saying they came from his brother.  They were delicious.

We probably too often hear someone say, “They don’t make ’em like that any more.”  In Pat Dye’s case, they are correct.

One Of The Most Amazing Stories You Have Ever Heard.

You tube fascinates me.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked for anything on it without finding what I was looking for.  And then there are all the things I just “stumble” across.

Like this story about Doug White, who set off from Marco Island, FL on Easter Sunday 2009 to return home to Louisiana in a chartered plane.  They had scarcely gotten underway when the pilot suddenly had a heart attack and died.  Doug’s wife and two daughters were also with him.

While Doug had a wee bit of pilot experience many years ago, he was totally unfamiliar with the King Air 200 they were in.   What happened next can only be described as a “miracle.”  Through the grace of the Good Lord and support of a group of air traffic controllers, Doug was able to land at the Fort Myers airport.

You can relive the entire adventure by going here.  It will take you about 40 minutes, but you will be on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Then you can follow this with the equally gripping celebration of the team who got Doug and his family down by going here.  You have to marvel at all this folks who knew what to do–and then did it.  They were not looking for awards or accolades, they were just well-trained professionals rising to the occasion.

And in these very troubled times, their example is a wonderful lesson for us all.

What Makes Children Special

We all know children are special.  But from time to time we need to be reminded of just how special.  So I stole this from Facebook.

What Love means to 4-8-year-old kids

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds

‘What does love mean?’
The answers they got were broader, deeper, and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined!

See what you think

‘When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore.. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’
Rebecca- age 8

‘When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.’
Billy – age 4

‘Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.’
Karl – age 5

‘Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.’
Chrissy – age 6

‘Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.’
Terri – age 4

‘Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.’
Danny – age 8

‘Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.’
Bobby – age 7

‘If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate. ‘
Nikka – age 6
(we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)

‘Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.’
Noelle – age 7

‘Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.’
Tommy – age 6

‘During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.
He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.’
Cindy – age 8

‘My mommy loves me more than anybody You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.’
Clare – age 6

‘Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.’
Elaine-age 5

‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsome than Robert Redford.’
Chris – age 7

‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.’
Mary Ann – age 4

‘I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.’
Lauren – age 4

‘When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.’ (what an image)
Karen – age 7

‘Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross..’
Mark – age 6

‘You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.’
Jessica – age 8

And the final one:
The winner was a four-year-old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.
Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry’

From Kansas With Love

We’ve all been heartened recently by stories of fellow citizens and their acts of kindness and charity during the pandemic.  Here is one from the Washington Post that got my attention.  For one, it’s about farmer Dennis Ruhnke of northeast Kansas.  Secondly, it was about a very small–but meaningful–act.

Ruhnke has farmed in Doniphan County, KS for decades.  The county is tucked beside the Missouri River just west of St. Joseph, MO.  As anyone who works the land will tell you, dust is part of the job.  Which is why reporter Derek Hawkins began his story this way:

“Dennis Ruhnke had a mask to spare.

He had found five of them while digging through some old farm equipment — five of the coveted, medical-grade N95 respirators that nobody could seem to get their hands on, not even the federal government. He used to wear them while cleaning out the grain bins. Now people talked about them on the news each night like they were worth their weight in gold.

Ruhnke and his wife, Sharon, needed the protection as the coronavirus pandemic swept through the country and menaced their community in rural Troy, Kan. Both were in their 70s, and Sharon suffered from dire health problems that would make an infection life-threatening.

But four masks would do, Ruhnke decided. The fifth should go to someone else who needed it.

In late March, after watching the death toll skyrocket in New York, he mailed a single respirator to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), along with a handwritten letter imploring him to give it to a healthcare worker.

“Please keep doing what you do so well,” he wrote, “which is to lead.”

It was the humblest of offerings in a desperate time. Cuomo, moved nearly to tears, read the letter aloud during a televised news conference in April, praising Ruhnke’s selflessness and helping the retired farmer achieve a moment of viral acclaim.

And on Tuesday, in honor of his generosity, Ruhnke received an award he’s waited decades for: a college degree.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) presided over an ad hoc commencement ceremony on the third floor of the statehouse, where Ruhnke received a diploma from Kansas State University. The distinction was nearly 50 years in the making: Ruhnke had to leave the university two credits short of a degree in 1971 to take over the family farm after his father’s sudden death.

Lauding Ruhnke’s goodwill as well as his extensive experience in agribusiness, Kelly noted that the degree was official and not just for show.

“He provided a dose of inspirational strength to America just as soon as we felt ourselves beginning to buckle under the crushing, prolonged weight of this crisis,” she said. “He has proved to us that he has mastered all the most important lessons that a university has to offer.”

Ruhnke had long ago written off any chance of getting a diploma. The last time he inquired about it, Kelly said, he was told he would have to start over because too much time had passed.

“Although he never doubted he made the right decision for his family,” Kelly said, “he could not quite shake the disappointment of not finishing what he had started.”

When Kelly learned about his mask donation, she asked university President Richard Myers whether he could award Ruhnke an honorary degree. Myers said his decades of farm work were enough to give him the real thing.

“I guess you call it karma,” said Ruhnke, wearing a purple-and-white Kansas State jersey, overalls and an N95 mask.

Speaking from the lectern, he said he had received many letters from people inspired by his example asking how they could help. “Just pay it forward as much as you can afford to do so to honor all of those who lost their lives to the C-19 virus,” he said. “And also to honor the first responders, who in some cases also lost their own lives in the line of duty — the ultimate sacrifice.”

Ruhnke’s donation came at a time when shortfalls in supplies of masks and other personal protective equipment have prompted widespread hoarding and price gouging. Hospitals and government officials have been forced into bidding wars over the medical gear, which is crucial for protecting front-line workers and patients with underlying conditions from infection.

In his letter to Cuomo, Ruhnke said his wife was diabetic and had only one lung, putting her at extremely high risk of developing a severe or fatal case of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes. “Frankly, I am afraid for her,” he wrote.

He said he didn’t expect Cuomo to receive the note, knowing the governor was “busy beyond belief with the disaster that has befallen our country.” But he offered the N95, an unused relic from his farming days. “If you could,” he wrote, “would you please give it to a nurse or doctor.”

When the letter reached Cuomo weeks later, the governor read it in its entirety. Choking up, he called it a “snapshot of humanity.”

“It’s that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful,” Cuomo said. “And it’s that generosity for me makes up for all the ugliness that you see. Take one mask, I’ll keep four.”

What a great story.  What a great demonstration of the fabric and heartbeat of this land.  And what a contrast to those media types who spend 24/7 trying to drive wedges between us all.

A Tiger Among Us

Recently I did a short piece about Medal of Honor winner Bennie Adkins of Opelika being a victim of the coronavirus.  I largely relied on info that Troy Turner, editor of the Opelika-Auburn News, wrote.  In fact, it was Troy’s article that told me my friend of many years, Katie Lamar Jackson, collaborated with Adkins on a book, A Tiger Among Us.

I have now read the book.  You should to.

It’s largely the story of how 17 members of the Special Forces faced staggering odds against enemy troops in Viet Nam in March 1966 and how some of them made it back home.

To say it was HELL is an understatement.

It is hard to comprehend what dire circumstances Adkins and his mates faced.  Badly outnumbered, they fought for nearly two days and then spent four days hiding in the jungle before being airlifted to safety.  Adkins was wounded a number of times.

This happened on the second of three tours of duty in Viet Nam for Adkins.  The Medal of Honor is the highest recognition a serviceman may receive from the United States.  The first one was awarded in 1863.

I did not know Adkins.  I’m sorry for that.



To Zoom Or Not To Zoom

Once again I have come face to face with new-fangled technology and as is always the case, tech won and I lost.

Due to the pandemic, face-to-face meetings are being replaced by virtual get togethers.  I’m told these may be done with Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime or Zoom.  I “kinda sorta” did my first one this morning.  Actually I was just a fly on the wall as I could see the other participants, but they could not see or hear me.  (Which I doubt anyone complained about.)

I think there were eight folks, scattered from New Jersey to California and in between.  Someone from Mississippi said this was her 16th such meeting this week.

Obviously if someone is able to see you in front of your computer, there must be a camera involved.  I’m told that many computer monitors have a camera in them and you can spot a tiny hole somewhere on your screen.  I don’t think that  is the case with me and my contraption.

I don’t know how old my desk top computer is, but it works just fine and I know how to turn it on and off.  I do not have a lap top, nor do I want one since the keyboard is way too small for these old fingers.  (I mention this because lap tops seem more suited to zoom that what I have.)

Tyler Stuart here in Montgomery has been my computer expert for years.  He is competent, friendly, reasonable and tolerant of my shortcomings.  (He is from Georgiana down in Butler County and since my mother was a Stuart from the same neck of the woods, chances are that he and I are distantly related.  But I digress.)

I told Tyler what I needed and that his mission was to round up whatever equipment I needed, hook it all up, show me what to click and hand me a bill.  He said he would.  And told me I would need whatever a webcam is.

So someone is shipping me a webcam and I may soon be just as high tech as others I know.

However, just this afternoon a friend sent me an article about “zoom fatigue”  Seems that as with many things in this modern world, virtual meetings stress us in ways we are not used to.  Like we can’t pick up on body language of others in a meeting that often tip us off to how someone is actually responding to what they are hearing.  This apparently leads to anxiety, stress, our deodorant not working and in-grown toenails.

Which perhaps means that my resistance to zooming is well-founded.

But not being a kill joy, I’m putting my future in Tyler’s hands.