A Wanna-Be Hell’s Angel

Rolling Thunder 2013

Rolling Thunder 2013

No one in Ansel Head’s household rode motorcycles. Whenever the subject came up, Head’s mother would point to her adopted cousin, Delma, who was walking around on a wooden leg, his real one having been lost in a motorcycle accident in his teenage years. Far from the brightest child, Head failed to relate to Delma’s predicament based only upon his mother’s admonitions. Adding a motor to his hard to pedal bicycle seemed like a good thing.

But then one day at the movies, he saw Captain Ahab riding Moby Dick’s back with his wooden leg tangled in harpoon lines. The great white whale, which had on a previous voyage eaten Ahab’s real leg, now finished him off. Continue reading

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The Way, The Truth, And The Light

When he was six or seven, Ansel Head remembers there being a lull in his church centered education. For some reason, he stopped attending Canterbury Methodist.

Maybe the family was on the losing side of the merger with the bigger church and was taking their business elsewhere. It could have been that they wanted to avoid the substantial assessments for the stately sanctuary required to more properly reflect the high social status of the church’s members. Or most likely, there was a disagreement among the adults as to what church the young Head should attend.

His father’s family were Episcopalians as befitted their ancestral station in the South. His mother was raised Presbyterian. Why Head started his formal religious education in a Methodist Sunday School is a mystery. Continue reading

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2012 In Pictures

The Front Cover, Loon's Lake, Lexington, NC

The Front Cover, Loon’s Lake, Lexington, NC

Ansel Head had heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Hoping to spare his friends and family the embarrassment of pretending to read the thousands of words he would need to tell of his education in 2012, he decided to put his story into pictures. And so he set out in early December of that year to organize his Nikon snapshots into a hard cover photo book. That, he reasoned, would give gravitas to his tale and make even the most recalcitrant stand up and salute.

As with most things Head undertook, he was fortunate that his older brother had worked so diligently to implant in his younger sibling the Male Ego Interuptus Syndrome (MEGOITUS).   Continue reading

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The Angel Of Death

Head’s mother on her 90th birthday.

Ansel Head’s mother died in her bed on her ninety-second birthday. Her daughter, nieces, and the sweetest two ladies on earth were present at the end. Head was on his way, once again driving down I-81 at 80 in his Ford Flex.

His mother’s heart and lungs, worn out from a lifetime of activity, had given way. Her mind was sharp and lucid until the end. Head surmised that she had planned the timing for her passing, relishing in the symmetry of the alpha and omega in her meaningful life. Continue reading

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“Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”

As is the Southern tradition, Ansel Head’s religious education started early. He faintly remembers attending the Mountain Brook Methodist Church in the heart of Crestline Village in the center of the Tiny Kingdom. That building, now sporting a reddish-purple paint, is used for more secular purposes. In order to better symbolize their high station, its members moved the Church early on to a grander structure with a lofty steeple rising ever upwards to the heavens.  

Head remembers nothing of his lessons at the Methodist Sunday school; but he has never forgotten having to abandon his holster filled with silver bullets and two six-shooters and being forced into a collarless tweed jacket, ruffled shirt, hideous short pants, knee socks, and highly polished Buster Brown tie-ups. Continue reading

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Costume Courses

Halloween is for kids unless adults prohibit their joining in on the fall ritual for religious or nutritional purposes. It’s not just the candy, even though that is a great treat for those who participate. It’s the fun of dressing up in costumes and running around with friends. Adults too like costumes and Halloween revelry, especially when alcohol is involved.

As a youngster, Ansel Head was no different. Every year he dressed and mined for sweets. His grandparent’s house, which was just up the street, was always home to the mother load. His grandfather owned grocery stores where vast treasures were stored in unlimited abundance; and his grandmother, who was not one of those hung up on the dietary dangers of Halloween candy, held the keys. No apples, oranges, or raisons were taking up room in her treat bags; she instinctively knew young ghouls and goblins would thrive best on chocolate and hard candy. Continue reading

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Up On The Roof

Ansel Head had been on many roofs when he was running his grandfather’s real estate company in Birmingham. They were flat ones, built up over the wooden decking with coal tar felt, hot pitch, and gravel. Climbing the ladders to the low buildings had been no real challenge to the former Navy fighter pilot. As for the guys actually doing the work, they were more concerned with heat than height.  When it came to spreading hot tar from boiling kettles in the August sun, junior executive Head omitted that course from his quest for an education.  

It takes a special breed to be a roofer, to do this grueling, backbreaking job high above the ground. But without these fearless craftsmen, tent makers and miners would be the only ones providing shelter for the masses. Continue reading

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The Restless Wind

In his ninth or tenth year, Ansel Head wasn’t sent back to the mountains of North Carolina for a third summer at Camp Mondamin. Instead his family toured the West for three weeks in a Mercury station wagon. Trunks covered the left and middle back seat, which had been folded down flat, and the empty compartment in the far back; that’s where Head and his sister resided. Their older brother sat in the remaining, upright rear seat;  by then, the prewar boy was a cadet at McCallie and considered too old to comingle with his siblings in their travelling play pen. Their mother and father rode in the front seat with a newly installed air conditioner under the dashboard between them. Hanging from the hood ornament was a canvas water bag for refilling the radiator when the hot weather, high altitude, and the extra burden from the A/C overheated the engine. Continue reading

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Ansel Larry Is Dead

Watching his friend Ansel Larry die was a hard lesson. But even for the uninterested Head, an education in death was a required course for his education. In a short span, he had been forced to study at close hand his brother’s death, his mother’s deteriorating health, his own knee replacement, and then his friend’s departure. Things were getting too near to Head for him to disregard the subject any longer.

It had taken over a month after Larry’s death Continue reading

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Fly Navy

W&L for all of its tradition and revelry offered no practical education. Professors had taught only theory and mostly uninteresting theory at that. With Vietnam awaiting anyone who quit the dull game, frat boy Ansel Head had focused on perfecting his social graces and maintaining his draft deferment with gentlemen’s C’s. He knew so little, he thought that work important. Despite the fact that in four days any boy could have learned everything practical being offered during the four years, graduation had been unclear for the three Natural Bridge renters until the final grade from the last exam. Two of the three made it. Head was one of them.

Fly Navy

No young man who had wasted four years on a four day course could resist the recruiting poster showing a Navy F-4 Phantom jet armed to the teeth, poised on the catapult, engines at full throttle, steam escaping from behind the shuttle, the catapult officer on one knee, arm extended, pointing straight down the deck. To be a Navy fighter pilot, now there was a practical education. Continue reading

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