The Gazebo wasn’t the only change around here.

My wife said I should take up the ancillary pond from the Oak Island Water Feature, and I had to agree. It was a useless part of the whole stupid design. Looked nice in the drawings: the water came out of the main tank and spilled into the secondary pond, which was surrounded by reeds and wheat, I think. It drained into the waterfall through a buried pipe.

This worked . . . never. When we ran the waterfall, the water would indeed tumble into the ancillary pond, but so what? Couldn’t hear it over the water fall. Couldn’t see it unless we were standing right there. And every - damned - time one of the wood chips from the mulch got in the pipe, clogged it up, and the water overflowed. As time went on we used the waterfall less and less, because the leakyness of the entire project meant it gargled and went dry after a few hours.

I would say I regret every penny I paid the idiot who built the thing, but I didn’t pay him every penny. It was such a mess that I didn’t pay the second half, and he didn’t contest it. The electrician put a lien on it, and I don’t know what I said to make that go away, but he did.

Anyway, my wife said I should take up the useless plastic pond, and I said that was a good idea. It bred mosquitos.

She brought it up again, as wives will do, in 2015. It was still a good idea. I think she mentioned it one summer Sunday in 2016, and yes: it should be removed. She brought it up last Sunday and it was all I could to do not to say FOR GOD’S SAKE WOMAN, STOP NAGGING ME

But she had a point, and since the weather was suitable for a while, I set about removing the pond. Got out the pump, which fascinates Scout to no end. When I bring it out from the shed he gets excited and runs to the OIWF, knowing that the mysterious humming water creature will soon be singing its unnerving song.


The problem, as I have always known, is the overflow pipe. It’s bolted to the side of the plastic pond. I got out Actual Tools, which I do possess, and loosened all the bolts - which, after 14 years, was a miracle, but they just spun without coming out. I removed all the rocks around the pond, lifted it up - so I knew that was at least possible - then tried to saw off the portion that connected to the pipe.

That was stupid, but mad props to my old cross-cut, 20 years old at least and still up to some tasks. Note to self: get new saw. Note to self: you won’t, will you? The saw has left your mind completely, until you need it again.

Then I thought: ah hah. The overflow-pipe assembly is part of the pond. If I can’t remove it, I can cut the pipe to which it connects. So I dug down and around to expose the pipe, and got out an old snaggle-toothed hacksaw. Felt the blade: This thing wouldn’t cut through the stream of water from a hose. But I set to it, and after half an hour:


Loathsome, dreadful, stupid thing.

But now I have to fill in the hole. “Do we have some sand in the garage?” Wife asked. “I thought I saw a bag of sand.”

I am up to speed on our sand supplies and thought “no,” but went to check. As I recalled, we had a small bag of paver-lock sand. “No,” I said. “I’ll go to Home Depot and get some.”

And then I just . . . sat there, which was unwise, in retrospect. She was in the middle of three hours of yard work, after all. So I fixed the back gate, and then cleaned the house and vacuumed, because getting 8 cubic feet of sand didn’t look like it would work today, since I had to pick up Daughter and make supper.

But I am not that stupid, so after dinner -

No, let me back up. Got daughter from work, picked up supper raw materials at the store. Phone rings: Mother in law. Back from a cruse. At the airport. Supposed to get a ride from sister-in-law, but she’s not picking up the phone. So. I drop off daughter, go to the airport, get M-i-L AND her sister, take sister to far-flung suburb, drop M-i-L at S-i-L’s house, then go to Home Depot for eight cubic feet of sand.

There I have a brainstorm: pea pebbles would be better. They wouldn’t dissolve or leach away, and the area wouldn’t have a depression. Buy eight bags. By now I’m hungry so I go to Taco Bell, because the way this day has gone there’s just a little bit more room to hate myself. In the parking lot there is a young man dressed in black, wearing a flowing black cape.

When I get inside there’s no one at the counter to take my order. ALONZO CAN YOU TAKE THE COUNTER someone says, and the young man with the cape steps up. Everyone in the crew is giggling.

Yes! I am the Taco Lord, he says. What mayst I get you.

And then he looks embarrassed and sheepish.

Sorry I should just go home and watch Game of Thrones he mumbles.

I have to make a decision here, and I let it go about five excruciating beats before I say:

MY LORD! If you could favor this varlet with two crrrrrunchy beef tacos I would be in your debt. And he lights up. If my liege could see his way to favoring your unworthy servant with a burrito of bean, surely the stories of your mercy would seem too meager!

There’s no one else there, so I just let it rip as ripe and plummy and loud as I can, and he yells to the back ARE YOU HEARING THIS THIS DUDE IS KILLING IT

I bow and hand him my card; he bows and accepts it. We exchange few more pseudo-medieval lines, and I have the delightful knowledge that I may have just made Taco Lord’s shift.

It certainly made my day.

After another stop I get home, and tell Wife I decided against the sand, but bought pea pebbles instead. They’ll hold the space better. She is . . . surprised.

Why didn’t you buy dirt? If someone finds rock - if I was digging and found rocks, I’d be so mad!

But - who’s going to dig? We’ll be dead. Trust me, it’s better than sand.

I didn’t want sand!

You asked if there was sand in the basement!

Just to use it up, I didn’t mean sand for the whole thing. I meant dirt.

Well, I always figured dirt on top, sure -

Dirt. All dirt.

We talked it out and she said I could use some pea pebbles.

So someday someone will curse my memory like I curse the memory of the builder of the OIWF. But not as much, and not for so long.

Maybe if I put a few dollars worth of quarters with the pea pebbles, they’ll recognize it for the apology it is.


More of Robert Pilgrim's consumable-related Ripley knockoff.

Question: how do we know this? Did Mr. Pilgrim factcheck the story of "Mrs. Smith"?


That's correct. It's correct in the sense that some authorities say it.

According to Brewer's Dictionary, "The phrase has never been satisfactorily accounted for, but it has been said that cheese was formerly sold in Cheshire moulded like a cat that looked as though it was grinning". The cheese was cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat.

But I don't believe it. This seems amusing, but equally less likely:

This phrase owes its origin to the unhappy attempts of a sign painter of that country to represent a lion rampant, which was the crest of an influential family, on the sign-boards of many of the inns. The resemblance of these lions to cats caused them to be generally called by the more ignoble name. A similar case is to be found in the village of Charlton, between Pewsey and Devizes, Wiltshire. A public-house by the roadside is commonly known by the name of The Cat at Charlton. The sign of the house was originally a lion or tiger, or some such animal, the crest of the family of Sir Edward Poore.

The other explanations are better:

A possible origin of the phrase is one favoured by the people of Cheshire, a county in England which boasts numerous dairy farms; hence the cats grin because of the abundance of milk and cream.

When it comes to the origins of things like this, go with the most prosaic explanation. If it seems too satisfying, and imaginative, it's probably wrong.







I don’t know how I ended up here. A motel postcard, perhaps. A matchbook. Whatever it was, it's gone now. The remains - or ruins - of Bruceton aren't like the sprawling wrecks of Detroit or deindustrialized East Coast cities; they're not as bare and flat as the ruins of small-town Texas.

It's Tennessee. So it's pretty.



There's a little star logo painted on the faded sign. I don't know if that's meant to refer to the Broadway of America road; doesn't matter.

New concrete sidewalk curb cuts, so that's nice.




One thousand five hundred souls. The city’s Chamber of Commerce says:

The area that is now Bruceton was first known as Hollow Rock Junction and was known as so until 1921 when railroad officials chose Hollow Rock Junction as the central location for terminals in Lexington, Paducah and Martin. The Post Office was established on July 7, 1922 with Sarah M. Boyd as the first Postmaster.

Oh, but there's more!

In order to give the post office a name, it was dubbed New One and operated under than name until January 15, 1923 when the name was changed to Junction City due to Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway's presence. In 1928, a group of citizens that wanted to honor W.P. Bruce, then an official of the railroad and a tremendous contributor to the community's developmental progress, requested and received a charter that incorporated the town as Bruceton.

That's the only history I can find.

And no, that's not the 1922 Post Office. That's your classic small-town post-war piece of modernism. Or maybe they were just cheap.


Hard night, pal? You look like you could use some coffee and an icepack.


The door looks new. Or at least possibly from this century.

The loss of the railroad hit the town hard in the 30s. From the Chamber of Commerce site:

During the time of the depression, many railroad jobs were terminated which was a serious blow to the economic health of Bruceton. The railroad was the town's only source of financial gain at the time which meant that the people needed to develop an alternate source. The citizens raised enough money to build a factory with the hopes of luring industry into town.

The town would not accept just anyone; the new owner would have to agree to use local labor. Henry I. Siegel Company purchased the building in the 1930's and replenished the town's economic stamina by becoming the largest employer in Bruceton and Carroll County and one of the top ten employers in all of west Tennessee.

Doing what, though?

It's a good thing the Google cameras blur out facial features, or we might find this guy and harrass him.


"Templeton Park. 1938."

So this is Mr. Templeton? No.



It's a memorial to Sam Siegel, mayor from 1958 to 1974. No doubt related to the previous Savior Siegel. The motto below says "There is no limit to the good a man can do as long as he doesn't care who gets the credit."



The haste with which the boards were put up, and the obvious age of the work, makes you think that this place gave up on a commercial district a long time ago. Maybe Sam just took the town's spirit with him.


Maybe Sam just took the town's spirit with him.

I find a lot of these towns, and often there's just a few pieces of remnant ruins, hardly enough to justify a full visit in this feature.



The trees look like they're watching and waiting; the interlopers will be gone soon enough, and then the trees can return.


The old blind man was led around by his precious niece:



Even before they bricked up the windows, they didn't match. Didn't that bother anyone?


Ahhhh. Here's why I stopped in Bruceton. The Howard Theater.


Not even Cinema Treasures can tell us much about it. Operated from 1940 to 1964: that's it.

That's all we know?



Good Lord, what's in there?


Finally, there's this beautiful thing:



I'll bet it was a car dealership.

Wouldn't be surprised if a Siegel ran that for a while, until it made no sense to keep it open.

Chamber of Commerce site, again:

 In early 1925, a concrete roundhouse was constructed to replace it. Although it has been abandoned for quite some time, the roundhouse remains a gigantic presence that stands as a reminder of times past.

I think they have reminders enough.





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