Where Have You Gone, Slats Ledbetter?


Last week Timberley and I celebrated Labor Day right, by attending the Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads’ season-ending game at L.P. Frans Stadium with friends. Thanks to my month-old low-carb, low-sugar diet, I couldn’t enjoy a dog and a beer like many baseball fans, but the salad and water that I had at the Crawdad Café was just what the doctor ordered, literally.

Timberley and her cousin, Rodney Whisenant, order lunch.

The older I get, the more I love baseball. Now, before you quit reading because you need to go finish painting your “Keep Pounding, Panthers!” banner for our regional NFL team’s first home game, rest assured that I like most sports, played several in my youth on organized squads—football, baseball, basketball—and even coached high school tennis and basketball teams, earning conference tennis coach-of-the-year honors four times.

Admittedly, I myself wasn’t a star athlete—relatively few individuals are—and, in fact, I got cut from more teams than I made in high school. But that’s another essay for another day. As a child who would eventually grow to a towering 5-foot-9, my favorite sport was basketball, and I attended every home game at Salem High School in Morganton, N.C. Back then, my single goal in life was to be a Salem Tiger and play for coach Wilton Daves. As far as I was concerned, he was Dean Smith.

I loved those silky white jerseys with black numbers and gold trim, and the matching mid-thigh length shorts. My heroes were high school cagers Steve Garrison, Dickie Burnette, Al Steiner, Bobby Miller and Kent Poteat, among others. I celebrated when they won—like when Salem beat Oak Hill for the Skyline Conference tournament title—and I cried when they lost. It was a big deal for the nine-year-old me. Continue reading Where Have You Gone, Slats Ledbetter?

Celebrate Labor Day But Don’t Work Too Hard


Back when Timberley and I worked together in the newspaper business, one of our all-time favorite bosses was an affable man who still managed to get under our skins now and then.
In paying us every two weeks, our boss also printed memos on our paystubs, whether it was to wish an employee happy birthday, to encourage us to have fun at some local event that weekend, or, my favorite, to remind us, “The eagle flies today!”

That phrase has stuck with me for a quarter century even though I’m now receiving pension checks at the end of each month.  The eagle still flies, just not quite as high or as far.

But even our old boss would have to admit that some of his tongue-in-cheek paycheck notations could be just a bit irksome to hard-working employees, especially after a long week.  The best one in that category always showed up on the payday before Labor Day, a holiday that our newspaper did not observe, at least as far as we laborers were concerned.

“Celebrate Labor Day!” the memo exclaimed, before ending with the zinger, “Work hard.”

Yeah, we chuckled about it—the first year that our payday fell on the Friday before Labor Day.  It wasn’t quite so amusing the second and third years.

Continue reading Celebrate Labor Day But Don’t Work Too Hard