Saturday, January 18, 2014

Country Gone Hi-Tech

            Hey y’all!  Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence Country.  Pull a chair up to the table and grab a coffee cup. Been awhile, I know.  Time has a way of movin’ on, and before you know it—pfft!  The whole day’s gone. Or in my case, the whole week. Okay, the whole month. Or the whole last six months.  Oh, things have been going on, you understand. It’s not having nothing to write about that’s the problem.  It’s finding the time to write about it.

            So let me re-introduce myself briefly.  My name’s Gail Roughton Branan, has been for 39 years.  I’m a Legal Assistant by day, specializing in trouble-shooting.  Find me some trouble, I’ll shoot it for you. Been doing that for 39 years, too.  At night and on the week-ends, in what’s laughingly called my “off” time, I write books. As Gail Roughton.  Using that name, well, it’s sort of a love song to my Daddy.  Besides, nobody can spell Roughton but at least they know it.  Branan, on the other hand, has a multitude of spellings, and B-r-a-n-a-n is not the first one that comes to most folks’ minds. 

            Writing books doesn’t work like most folks think it does.  You don’t sit down in front of a computer and start typing and just type and type and type.  Well, you can, but only if you’re typing “See Spot run” or the like over and over again. You have to pause and savor, listen to the voices in your head, follow directions from the characters. Sometimes it does come in fairly long straight-forward streams but mostly it’s a stop and start process.  And even if it’s coming in a straight-forward stream, writers are also doing that thing everybody else does. That thing called living.  Life intrudes. Children and grandchildren and friends and pets have to be tended to, listened to, laughed with, fed, hugged and kissed. And thank heavens for that, because without living life, how the heck would we write about it?

            My family’s particularly tight-knit.  My youngest son Lee’s the only child far from home, he’s a Navy Corpsman, currently stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia, but even so, he checks in regularly—at least with his brother and sister, with whom he skypes regularly.  My oldest son still lives at home. And that’s fine with all of us. He hasn’t found his other half yet. That’ll come and of course when it does, he’ll move out. In the meantime, he has a great job, pays his own bills, comes and goes as he pleases, I don’t wash or fold his clothes, wait on him hand and foot, or cook him anything special. Or cook much, actually.  If I do, and he’s home, he’s welcome to join in.  It’s an arrangement that works well. We’re all happy.   

            My daughter lives right up the road and works afternoon and early evenings. My son-in-law is a deputy sheriff so his hours aren’t what you’d call consistent.  Ergo and therefore, my husband Randy, already retired, is chief cook—well, scratch that, he doesn’t cook—and bottle washer for our seven year old grandson and year old granddaughter. He says it makes him feel like a “useful engine” (ala Thomas the Tank Engine, young grandchildren tend to keep you abreast of all popular cartoons). Hence, my nights are particularly hectic, but full of prized moments.

            Our grandson Austin received a Kindle Fire HD from Santa Claus this year. He loves it. It only leaves his hands when manually pried therefrom, which my daughter does every morning before school. She slips it into the bag holding Austin’s after-bath comfy clothes and brings it with her when she brings Kinsley and her bag to Randy.

            There’s no way Austin doesn’t know where his Kindle is. So I was a bit surprised to receive a call from my husband Thursday around noontime.

            “Did Austin forget his Kindle last night when I took him home?”

            “Nope. It was in his hands when he walked down the steps to the truck.”

            “Then what’s this one on Patrick’s bed?”

            “I guess Patrick got a Kindle and didn’t mention it yet.”

            “Oh. But it’s not Austin’s?”

            “Nope. He was still gamin’ away when he got in the truck.”

            I walked in that afternoon to total disaster. At least, Austin thought it was.

            “Grandmama, Grandmama!!  My Kindle’s broke, you got to fix it!”

            I looked down at the screen.  Then I looked again.  Sure ‘nuff, the screen was full of indecipherable gobbedly-gook. I looked closer.  Spanish?  He’d managed to change the language settings, no big deal if you knew where the settings were in the first place, but I didn’t have a clue as I don’t have a Kindle.  I did have some basic Spanish, but none of these words seemed to fit.

            “How’d you do that?”

            “I don’t know, I picked it up and my games were gone, and I tried to get ‘em back! And I hit some buttons and I got an email from some person I don’t know and I don’t know what it said, and now it looks like this and I can’t play my games, Grandmama, fix it!”

            “Baby, that’s outta Grandmama’s league. Mimi (Austinese for his mother, no one knows why) or Uncle Patrick can fix it, but Grandmama’s not that good.”

            “But Grandmama—”

            “No buts. Grandmama ain’t touching this with a ten foot pole. Where’s your case? We’re just gonna put it up and wait for Mimi or Uncle Patrick.”


            Austin! Case. Now.”

            “Okay, okay, on the piano.”

            I went and looked.  Nope. No case.  Patrick’s room, probably. And then it hit me. Patrick’s. Room. Where a Kindle had been charging on the bed.

            “Austin, it’s not on the piano.  Did you even take your Kindle out of your bag after Granddaddy picked you up from school and you got home?”

            Doubt flitted across his face.  “Yesssssss….I think I did.”

            “Randy, did you call me this morning and tell me Patrick had a Kindle charging on his bed?”

            “Oh. Crap.”

            I raced for Austin’s bag.  Definitely a squarish hard object contained therein.  I pulled out Austin’s Kindle, safely tucked inside its lime green case.

            “Would this be yours?”

            Sunshine glowed from the face. “Thanks, Grandmama!  Look, all my games, and now I can play and—”.  Dark, incoming clouds pushed out the sunshine.  “Oh, no!!  I broke Patrick’s Kindle!  I broke my uncle’s Kindle! Oh, no, he’s gonna be so mad at me!!!”  Austin wailed for all the world like the uncle he had wrapped around his finger from birth (he had both his uncles wrapped around his finger at birth, actually) habitually threatened him with loss of life, limb, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.          

            “No, he’s not. Uncle Patrick can fix this in a heartbeat, Grandmama’s just not techy enough to know how. Don’t worry about it.”

            He subsided and resumed the important business of helping the Digimon somethings convert into something else (I think) and the nightly routine continued.  Every now and then a new shadow slipped across his face. 


            “Patrick is not goin’ to be mad at you.  He can fix it.”

            Randy left to take the troops home before Patrick came in from work. Hmmm.  How best to bring this up? While I was cogitating my approach, Patrick walked in his room.

            “Did Austin find my Kindle?”

            “Wellllllll, yeah, he did.  Sorta. I didn’t know you had one, when’d you get it?”

            Patrick laughed.  “Couple of days ago. Bet it drove him crazy.  It’s got a Password and he don’t know it.”

            “Wellllll, that’s not entirely—accurate.”

            “What the hell?” Patrick looked blankly at his screen At the foreign language thereon none of us spoke.

            “Austin. He thought it was his. And he—kinda changed the language settings. To Spanish, I think.”

            “He couldn’t have, it’s got a password.”

            “The same one you have on your phone?”

            “My phone’s a swipe pattern, this is a password.”
            “You need a better password, son. He felt terrible, he said you were gonna be so mad at him.”
            “He did not think I was gonna be mad at him.”

            “Yeah, he did.”

            “He was scared?

            “Probably not, but he knows how to put on a good show.”

            “Okay, let’s see what’s up.” Patrick sat down and got to work. “But this ain’t Spanish. Don’t know what it is.” Nimble finger flips.  “Oh, good Lord!  It’s Portuguese!  The little pipsqueak! How did he do that? Okay, all fixed.  Wait a minute! This can’t be right.  Where’s all my apps?”  More finger flipping.  “He’s reset it to factory settings! It’s like I just bought it! It’s not even registered.  How the heck did he do that?!”

            “Never underestimate the power of a seven year old in search of his games.”

            “Well, maybe when I re-register it—ah!  There they are.  The Kindle Cloud’s downloading ‘em all back on.”

            Bless you, Kindle Cloud.

            “Okay, all fixed.  So he got by my password, changed the language to Portuguese, and then reset the whole thing to factory condition!”

            “Like I said, never underestimate a seven year old who thinks his game apps are gone.”
            The small dramas in life are the sweetest.  I went back to my laptop and heard Patrick on the phone through the door, on the phone with Austin.

            “Okay, it’s all fixed, everything’s fine, don’t worry about it, okay? You just gotta tell me one thing.  How did you get by the password?”

            I smiled. Just another night in Flowers on the Fence Country. Another story to pass into family folklore.  The night Austin decided we needed to speak Portuguese.  Y’all come back now, hear?

Thursday, September 12, 2013



Another wedding day dawns for the ever-growing Garrett-Forrester Coven as Spike and Stacy get ready to say “I do”! Don’t expect weddings bells and white gowns, though. It’s off to the Drive-Thru Tunnel of Love at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas. Again. It’s sort of a family tradition. But what’s supposed to happen in Vegas just refuses to stay in Vegas. And you’re not going to believe this side-trip!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Stock Up!


Just in time for Fall!  In case there's an extra minute in your day with the kids back in school!  (And of course, all my BWL books are included, too!)

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Hey y’all!  Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence Country.  Been a while since I’ve invited y’all over, busy press of day-to-day life and all that.  And besides, nothing much has happened lately I thought might hold your interest enough to sit in my cyberspace country kitchen and chat with me awhile over coffee.

          But this is the country, I’m a country girl living a country life, and there’s no way life’s goin’ to run smoothly for any extended period of time.  We were due for some country drama, haven’t had any since putting in the new hot water heater put too much pressure on the old pipe connections and rendered me without hot water for a night. Okay, two nights.  Because obviously nobody puts in a new hot water heater unless the old one’s dead, right? But hey, no problem.  I’m an ol’ pro.  Heat some water on the stove, run some cold water in the bathtub, pour in the heated water, instant bath.  Okay, you’re not goin’ to soak in luxurious bubbles or sigh under a stream of steaming shower water but it gets you clean.  Anybody can do without hot water for one night.  Who knew the next night while fixing the problem of no hot water, another pipe connection would break and we’d have to shut off power to the well and thus have no water at all?  A fun three days, but just a minor inconvenience in the course of country living. 

Now our household’s always been non-conventional in lots of respects.  One of our non-conventional features is that hubby, being already retired while I still brave the interstate into the big city every week day, is Grandadddy Day Care.  Resident Caretaker and School Transport in Charge of our two young grandchildren for our daughter and son-in-law. Their jobs have some non-conventional hours sometimes. Certainly not the hours that fit commercial day care’s time schedule. (My daughter says she knows how lucky she is to have him, and I know she thinks she does, but never having not had “in-home on-demand” day care and thus no basis of comparison, I don’t think she truly does.)  Austin’s two months shy of  7 and Kinsley’s just hit six months.

And then came last Friday night. One last downpour with winds and thunder and lightning from the Tropical Storm that moved from the Gulf up the east coast this week.  It was around 7:00 p.m.   Austin and I lounged on my bed in front of my bedroom tv/DVD watching “The Bee Movie” while he ate his supper, seein’ as how  Kinsley was asleep on her blanket on the floor in the living room. Kinsley, according to Granddaddy, been a bit of a prima donna that day and a little hard to please.  In other words, “Do. Not. Wake. Her. Up.” 

Suddenly the lights went out and the television screen went blank. Well, that happens when it rains sometimes.  Power goes out.  In the country or the city.  Usually it doesn’t stay out for very long.  “Grandmama! What’s happened?!” It’s disastrous for the modern American adult when power goes out.  For an almost seven year old, it’s catastrophic. No DVD player, no lights, no computer?! “It won’t be out long, baby. We’re fine.”

So Grandmama and Austin grabbed my “Book” (Austinese for Nook) and retired to the back porch for more light. And more cool.  It’s amazing how quickly a house gets hot when the power goes out.  Even with all windows open.  Especially on a humid Georgia twilight. A six-month-old, on the other hand, doesn’t really care about power per se one way or the other.  What she cares about is – it’s hot!! This is unacceptable and any baby lets you know it. Kinsley is no exception.

After about thirty, forty-five minutes, hubby decides to check out the rest of our fair little crossroads town to see if power’s out all over, or whether we’re the only poor souls so affected.  Which can happen easily because as  I’ve explained before and explain again for any newcomer—we live in the woods.  As in the middle of.  Our house is smack dab in the middle of fifty acres of woods, and our driveway is a half to three-quarter-mile long downward slope of curves. 

It’s rained a lot lately here in middle Georgia. Like I said, that tropical storm in the Gulf.  Saturated ground means tree roots loosen up.  Saturated pine needles mean the trees are top heavy.  One final late evening downpour with wind and thunder and lightning?  Well, that frequently means a tree will just yell, “Enough! I surrender!” And crash over a power line. And when a tree falls on the driveway it sorta has to be moved before anybody’s going anyplace.

This time?  Yep. You know it. There’s a tree down at the top of the driveway.  Sure we can move it.  It’s happened before.  A little elbow grease never hurt anybody.  But a live power wire? Well, that’s a little different. And this tree was rude enough to take the power line with it and then lay on top of it. Except for the parts of the power line draped across the metal farm gate fence at the top of the drive. The one we almost never close, but the one that’s there, nonetheless.  The one that’s metal.  Live power wires and metal are not a good combination. 
Austin, already disrupted by the power outrage, is now in panic mode.

“Grandmama, my heart’s scared! I’m never goin’ home!!”
“Baby, you’re fine. Granddaddy’s calling the power company and they have to come shut off the power before we can get the tree out of the way. They’ll be here as soon as they can.”




“I hope so, but you’re fine. What’s the matter, you’ve never spent the night with Grandmama and Granddaddy before?”

All this to the background of loud protest from Kinsley, who is edging towards getting hungry and is now obviously both hot and bothered. Too hot and bothered to eat, in fact. Certainly not inside, and certainly not in the heat of anybody’s arms.  Granddaddy strapped her in her bouncy seat and sat it on the front porch, leaning over to hold her bottle for her as she ate. (Forget Grandmama here. She won’t eat for me. Or burp for me.  Only thing I’m good for is changing diapers, as far as she’s concerned.) So I made myself useful by reporting the situation to the parents.

“I wanta talk to Mimi!” (Austinese for Mama.  To him, my daughter is Mimi. She’s not Mama or Mommy, she’s Mimi. Don’t know why, she just always has been.)


“Mimi, my love? (My daughter’s called Austin “my love” or “my heart” since birth.  Consequently, it’s a bit unnerving to hear their phone conversations sometimes.  You never expect to hear the phrase “my love” come out of a six year old’s mouth.) The power’s out and my heart’s scared!! And it’s getting’ scareder by the minute!!”

Reassuring hug from Grandmama. Soothing murmers from Mimi over the other end of the phone.

“So can you tell Daddy to get his friends and come move the tree and come and get me?!”

Okay, kid, twist the knife a little more.  This is the child that goes anywhere with us for any length of time without protest. With enthusiasm, in fact.  This is the kid that spent four days with us just last month when we drove to the Great Lakes Naval Base for our youngest son’s graduation from Naval Basic.  The kid who went through Chicago rush hour traffic on a Thursday afternoon as I cringed scared to death in the passenger seat shouting, “This is awesome! I love this city!”  The kid who charmed every stranger he met with “We came to see my Uncle Lee. We’re living in a hotel now.”  The kid who proclaimed said hotel “Awesome!” and wished we could live there “forever”.  The indoor pool might have had something to do with that.

More soothing mutters from Mimi.  At least Kinsley was happy.  Until those pesky mosquitos drove them off the front porch.  Granddaddy and Kinsley retired to the bedroom.  Not quietly. She was tired and it wasn’t as hot as it was but it’s wasn’t as cool as she’d like it to be.  Austin and I played the apps on my “Book” until he tired of them and then sat at the kitchen table with the flashlight building Lincoln Log houses.  Well, he did, anyway.  He’d gotten me hooked on one of those damned apps. And finally, blessed quiet from the bedroom.  Kinsley’s asleep.  This was interspersed with the occasional “Are you sure we’re gonna be all right?”  “Yes, baby.” “I’m never going home again!” “Yes, you are, baby, it’s fine.”

By this point you understand, I didn’t even care if the power came back on during the night. Just get the damn tree out of the way and the kids home and I’d be happy as a clam.  I could do without electricity for the night.  But Austin’s heart was “gettin’ scareder by the minute!” And what was I gonna do when the “Book” lost its battery charge, for heaven’s sake? Desperate, I texted Mimi and asked if the Sheriff’s Office could exert some influence with Georgia Power and move us up on the list of priorities.  (My son-in-law’s a K-9 Deputy Sheriff.) She sent back, “Okay, but what can the Sheriff do?  Georgia Power’s gotta handle the live wire!”  I sent back, “I know but maybe they can give us emergency status—deputy’s children stranded with mean uncaring grandparents and so scared their hearts hurt!” 

I don’t know if she actually complied with that request or not, but at 9:30 p.m., she called.

“We’re at the gate with Georgia Power.  They’ve been here about half an hour. The wire’s draped all over the gate. They’re hooking it up and pulling it back up in the air now. Shouldn’t be but another few minutes.”

“Mimi?  I wanta talk to Mimi!!”

I handed the phone over and sank back in relief.  “Mimi, they’re never coming!!  My heart’s really gettin’ scared! And it’s gettin’ scareder by the minute!”

“Baby, they’re here! It’ll just be a few minutes and we’ll be down to get you!  Got you a surprise!”

“Surprise?” Perked ears.  “What, what, what?”

“It’s at home. You’ll be home in just a little bit. They’re working.”


Loud noise from driveway.  Headlights!!  A giant Georgia Power truck came down the hill, maneuvered and backed up—and started back up the hill!  Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!  Don’t leave meeeee…………

“Grandmama, they left, they left!! And the lights aren’t back on!!”

Then I realized, “They’re checking the rest of the lines on the driveway, stupid.” (NO, that was not directed at Austin, I was talking to myself.)

Five minutes later—surge of light. “Let there be light.”  Truly glorious words.  Whirr of overhead ceiling fans.  Yes, yes, yes.  Sound of incoming vehicle as  parents came to collect children.  Oh, glorious reunion! Or not. It seemed to have lost urgency with Austin.

“Grandmama! Now we can watch t.v.!”

Yes.  Priorities here, please.  It only took the sight of incoming headlights to send him flying out the door, though.  And so ended the night when I was Trapped!!  A prisoner of electricity in my own home.  Our children and grandchildren headed up the driveway.  Hubby flipped on the t.v.  Only three innings into the Braves game seein’ as how they were playing in L. A.

We settled onto the couch, twisted the top of two bottles of beer and pulled open a bag of pork rinds.  We’re country.  Gotta celebrate the same way.

And until drama unfolds again in Flowers on the Fence Country – take care and y’all come back now,  hear?