1937 Buick Special

Me and Olivia

Me and Olivia
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Me and "The Hell Bitch"

Me and "The Hell Bitch"
My 50th birthday gift to myself a 2004 Harley she is named after Captain Call's horse on Lonesome Dove.

I Want This Bike!

I Want This Bike!
Me On A 1942 Harley

My Favorite TV Show

The Location Of My Visitors!

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chicken Soup For The Music Lovers Soul

This is the story of a friend of mine.

A man I'm proud to call a friend.

His name is Nolen Brown.

Nolen is a modern day philosopher.

The oldest son of a Southern Sharecropper, he has worked hard to enjoy a comfortable retirement
for him and his wife, Omega.

My friend Nolen is a songwriter...a great songwriter.

Nolen and I belong to a local songwriters association and he is the best songwriter in our group. He has
helped many of us hone our skills, even helping to co-write some songs where he saw a 'diamond in the
rough'. In my opinion, he is too good to be at our level, but he always shows up, supporting the good and
the not so good alike. Nolen is an inspiration to us all.

I met Nolen a few years after the loss of his son. Although his son had passed away, you can tell that he is
never more than a thought away from Nolen's heart. Although Nolen isn't wealthy, you could call him
rich. He is well loved and has many friends. He has a gift that he shares with anyone who will listen.
His gift is his song.

Nolen has the ability to write lyrics that can touch your soul. He can write lyrics and create melodies that
can make you laugh out loud or make tears flow like rain. He has spent many years capturing his life's
experiences, putting them to paper and sharing them where they touch everyone around him in a positive
way. He has hundreds of songs, and from where I sit, most could be hits if the right person were to hear

Nolen sings of life and generally writes in the first person. His phrasing is unique, every word necessary
and never too many words. He has written songs about love, loss and loss of love. He writes songs that make
you sit back and realize things don't necessarily need to be the way they are, perhaps they could be better.
I call these songs revolutionary songs. He calls them protest songs, probably because he wrote some of them
during the 60's when he was first honing his story telling skills as a Contract Writer for Acuff-Rose Pub.
(now Opryland Music) in Nashville, Tennessee. Those were times of great change and his songs capture that
social consciousness. Some of his songs can move you to inspiration and wonder, amazed at the experiences
that make up our lives and connects each and every one of us. I wish everyone could hear Nolen's songs. The
world would be a better place.

Nolen is a very humble man. He doesn't search out the spotlight, but he is always accommodating to play
one of his songs that will endear him to you. The first time I ever heard Nolen sing was about two years ago
and he immediately made me sit up and pay attention. I remember it vividly. Like a first kiss or a school
boy’s infatuation, you can close your eyes and the moment is etched upon your soul and time is captured
for eternity. The song he sang that night was, "Lord, Help Me Make It", which was a top 10 finalist-
Gospel Category- in the USA Songwriting Contest 2001 with over 30,000 entries. He told the small audience
there that night that it took three years for him to write the song, because it was inspired by the loss of
his only son, Jeff, who had taken his own life. I sat there in silence thinking of my two children and how
precious they are to me. I don't live in fear of losing them, but that night, and that song, touched me so
deeply that I said a silent prayer thanking God for the blessings I have.







The songwriters group gets together for an open mike night about once a month at a local hotel. Nolen
is the bright spot of the evening. Although he has hundreds of songs, most of which are great, he never
tries to show up the other artists. He plays his song with little or no fanfare, always downplaying his
performances; yet, he still is the bright spot of the evening. Nolen always brings something fresh to the
group each month.

Occasionally, the group is asked to perform for benefits and fund-raisers. Everyone can count on Nolen
to be there. Earlier this year, a local group was looking for Saturday afternoon entertainment to add
ambiance to their event. It was during this early spring afternoon that Nolen and his song touched someone
and they touched him back. This is that story.

I thought I might not go to the event. But, after a great deal of back and forth discussion with myself,
I decided to check it out. Nolen was already there when I arrived. I didn't know what he was going to play,
but I knew the audience would be pleasantly surprised. I believe they let each performer do two songs that
afternoon. Nolen took the stage and his first song was a relatively new song entitled,"The Grass Beneath the
Swing", written by Nolen, Omega and Robert Eaton.











(C) COPYRIGHT 2000/Nolen Brown/Omega Brown/Robert Eaton

It always amazes me how a good song, an emotional song can touch you so deeply in three minutes.
You can feel the authors pain or joy and the feeling becomes your own. You see, every author needs
a reader and every performer need an audience. Each, as important as the other.

One lady, Carolyn Wintjin, was in the audience. I'm not sure why Carolyn was there that day, or why
Nolen had picked out those particular songs that day. After all, like I said, he has hundreds that he
could have chosen to play and I'm sure they all would have been well received. But as it turned out
Carolyn and Nolen had a common life's experience. They both were survivors of children that were now in
God's hands.

It took a number of months, but Carolyn contacted Nolen. She had remembered him and his song that touched
her that day. Perhaps time, now her adversary, motivated her to reach out. Whatever the reason, she
contacted Nolen by e-mail, September 11, 2002. In her letter, she wrote:

Hi Nolen,

Congrats on being in the top 10.

I will not ask you how you lost your son, and there are no words to describe your feelings except in a song.
I lost four sons and a four-month-old daughter in a fire in Colorado in 1971. I now have a daughter
named Courtney, age 15, and she is a gift from God. I used to ask why, but I have learned you just have to
trust and believe in your faith. I have learned that I have cancer and have been given a year to live.
You know God is the only one who really knows, and he doesn't need any more bosses in Heaven and Hell
won't have me. I thank God every day for each and every day he allows me to spend with my family. Now,
I know why your songs went straight to my heart. Always remember friends are hard to come by and
acquaintances come and go. Hope to see you on the 26th of October. In my book, you are already #1.
My family enjoys your music, so keep it coming.


In an earlier e-mail Carolyn had requested a CD of THE GRASS BENEATH THE SWING if he had one and wanted
to get it from him on October 26, when the group would be performing there again. Nolen didn't
wait until the 26th of October. He mailed her a Demo CD with 20 of his songs on it (not of his sing-
ing, but by professional demo-singers and musicians in Nashville). I have heard the CD and if Carolyn
is like me, and I suspect she is, she has found a friend. And friends like Nolen are hard to come by.

By: Johnny Wessler

The above was submitted to CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE MUSIC LOVER'S SOUL which has yet to be published.

Alllll Aaaaboard!! For A Trip on the 745

I must admit to this being my first steam train experience. But my good friends from Dubberly, Louisiana John Mark Parnell, his wife Melinda and their two children Thomas and Sarah love trains. In fact John is a member of The Louisiana Steam Train Association. April 24, 2005 was an amazing look at history come to life in a BIG way! Walking up to this train is awesome. You don’t realize how big these old trains are until you are up close and personal. This was a unique experience for the public to enjoy a bit of history on a beautiful Sunday in Bossier City, Louisiana.
As you entered the train, a conductor dressed in his conductor cap with his pocket watch punched your ticket. The cars were fixed as rolling museum rooms with each car telling a story about the Louisiana Purchase. The exhibit features an overview of the everyday life of the major cultural groups living in Louisiana at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803: Native American, French, African-American, both enslaved and free, and Spanish. Flags representing each of these groups are displayed on the SP 745 smoke box, with the Chitimacha flag as a symbol for all Native Americans and the Haitian flag symbolizing the African-American groups and their struggle for freedom. The final exhibit is devoted to the explorers sent by Thomas Jefferson to learn about the entire Louisiana Territory. The last car of the train features some of the crew on board to tell a little history of the train and how the trip has been so far. These men and women dressed in their overalls with bandanas tied around their necks and striped railroad caps just toped the experience off.
My favorite part was when they rang the locomotive bell and blew the whistle while a huge cloud of smoke poured out of the smoke stack. While in Bossier City the train rain into a bit of trouble. Dealing with old cars I knew that things do break especially if they are built in 1921 as this train was. Parts are not easy to come by for something like this to say the least. Parts were found and as I was leaving the site I had the chance to talk to one of the crew members that told me a crane was on the way to lift the heavy parts off and back into place. I’m sure that this would have made interesting material but they would be working late into the night to get the train back in running order. I was not going to stay but my friend John Parnell would be there helping get the 745 back on track so to speak!
The Southern Pacific #745 is the only remaining Louisiana-built steam locomotive in existence. It is a 2-8-2 Mikado Oil burner and it was assembled in 1921 at the Southern Pacific rail yard in Algiers. It is 25.91 meters (85.5 feet) in length, 5.08 meters (16.8 feet) in height, and 3.25 meters (10.8 feet) wide. It weighs 129.7 metric tons.
The 745 functioned on both passenger and freight lines, primarily between Louisiana and Texas, until 1956 when it was retired and donated to Audubon Park in New Orleans. In 1983 it was moved to its present home (1403 Jefferson Highway, Jefferson, Louisiana) where it has been preserved by the Louisiana Railway Heritage Trust. In 1997 the Louisiana Steam Train Association (LASTA) began making plans for its restoration which was completed in October, 2004.
Here is a brief history of engine 745:
Southern Pacific steam locomotive 745, restored and operated by members of the Louisiana Steam Train Association, has an interesting history. While this is just a brief overview, more local information on this engine’s home, Algiers, Louisiana, can be obtained in the many books on the history of Algiers written by native Richard Remy Dixon.
In 1919 the dough boys came home from the "war to end all wars." They swelled the work force of America. Here in New Orleans, the Southern Pacific (SP) found that its massive Algiers Shops had an over abundant supply of workers. It employed almost 5,000 skilled laborers, who could repair and rebuild freight and passenger cars, and keep the SP steam locomotive fleet in running order; there was just not enough work to go around. Today corporate America might solve the problem by “right-sizing” the company. But this was 1919, and the Algiers Shops were one BIG family. Work would be found.
The Southern Pacific owned and operated numerous class Mk-5 locomotives. These 2-8-2 locos were built to the Harriman standard, so that full, half, and near sisters of these SP Lines locomotives could be found on rival Union Pacific and the Illinois Central railroads (both roads were at onetime part of the Harriman Empire.) Various nicknames have been ascribed to these locomotives, the most widely accepted name being “mikados”, as some of the first locos of this wheel arrangement were sent to Japan. (Note: during WW II, patriotic railroaders renamed these locos “MacArthurs”, for obvious reasons.) Locomotives always needed repairs, so the Southern Pacific worked up a large order of spare parts from the original builder, the famous Baldwin Locomotive Works.
In came the parts...boilers, fireboxes, driving wheels, pony trucks, tubes, flues... all the parts needed to keep the SP fleet of Mk-5's running.....except.... the SP had no intention of repairing locomotives. The SP consigned most of the parts to New Orleans and a smaller order to the SP shop at Houston, Texas, ostensibly for repairs. The two shops put their boiler makers to work. Over the next two years, the two shops turned out move than a dozen "built in Algiers” (or Houston) Mk-5 steam locomotives. For two years, Algiers was in the steam motive power manufacturing business.
The “mikes”, as they were called, were classic standard motive power. Designed primarily for freight service, the engines served as power for extra passenger and military moves. A quick look under the cab’s foot plate reveals an extra steam line connection for providing steam to passenger cars. Mikes were working class engines, able to handle main and branch line freight with equal skill. They did not strike the mystic chords of Big Boys, Challengers, Daylights, Southern Ps Pacifics, NYC Hudsons and Mohawks. Their world was the fifty car manifest freight train, the troop train extra to an Army base, and the cross town transfer.
745 steaming in the "glory days"
Of the mikes built in Algiers, they received road numbers 738-750. One of Dixon’s books has a “builder’s photo” of a long string of newly built mikes at the Algiers Shops. As part of the SP’s Texas and New Orleans subsidiary ( a direct descendant of Morgan’s Texas & Louisiana, and itself a post War Between the States orphan of the original New Orleans, Opelousas & Great Western), the mikes found most of their working lives east of El Paso and west of the Sabine. Because of Texas railroad law requirements, the distinctive Vanderbilt tenders were recipients of a “dog house”, a small metal out-house looking shed built atop the tender, to provide a station for the head end brakeman.

745 in Audubon Park
SP 745 will be a living tribute to those thousands of Louisiana citizens who have toiled in the railroad industry along with those now associated with its rebirth, maintenance, and operation.
On March 5 and 6, 2005, SP 745 and her four Louisiana Bicentennial Train passenger cars successfully completed round trips between Metairie and Reserve, Louisiana, on Kansas City Southern line. Along the right of way, thousands of Louisiana residents and hundreds of rail fans were treated to the sights and sounds of the New Orleans built (Algiers Shops 1921) steam locomotive and her historic consist.
As a result, SP 745 looks forward to her next assignment, touring Louisiana with her train in tow. On March 29, 2005, SP 745 departed from the Louisiana Steam Train (LASTA) yard in Jefferson, Louisiana, for a short trip to New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOUPT), where she and her train were on display to the general public for two days, after which SP 745 and crew later headed west bound over the former SP main line to Morgan City, Louisiana (the first leg of her trans-Louisiana trip). It is more than appropriate that her first stop from the city where she was born will be at the city named for the president of the SPRR predecessor, Morgan's Louisiana & Texas.
The following letter is from the LASTA web site:
The President Speaks
Dear Members and Friends of LASTA:
How appropriate it is to be finishing up all the many details of our Louisiana Bicentennial tour for our departure during Easter Week! Easter / Spring is resurrection time! Our first 745 JOURNAL began in the spring of 2001 and talked of SP 745's eventual rebirth. Our first 745 hats hinted at this new life when it proclaimed "745 COMING ALIVE". Sp 745 IS alive and is now ready to spread America's adventurous spirit to all who witness her.
The exhibits of the Louisiana Bicentennial train feature the everyday life of the various ethnic groups living in the Louisiana territory from 1803-1806 and Thomas Jefferson's call for exploring America's vast new territory acquired from the Louisiana Purchase. There was much diversity, hardship, and excitement as the various peoples merged to make our nation strong.
And the same can be said for LASTA. So many diverse influences came together to make SP 745 a reality. Everyday people, professionals, politicians and religious leaders, all did their part to help. Hardship and disappointment became second nature for us. We have learned to laugh at the absurdity of how things can screw up. But we didn't give up! And that's the excitement of it all. We are blessed to have this "can do" spirit and be part of such an historic project.
I'm writing as if we are finished, but we are just beginning. There are many unknowns in our upcoming Bicentennial tour, just as there was when we planned for our recent railroad jamboree. The jamboree was beyond our dreams! We carry this same hope for the future.
LASTA has tripled its membership since (and because of) the railroad jamboree! We welcome our new members and hope you become part of our future. There is so much to be done . . . .but that's for another newsletter.
We are so grateful to God and so grateful for our volunteers and their families for all the help given. Please continue to support us with your donations and prayers. Thank you!
Bruce Brown President Louisiana Steam Train Association
With so many new LASTA members joining recently, just a few words to give you a short history.
Incorporated in 1997, the Louisiana Steam Train Association (LASTA), under the leadership of New Orleans native Bruce Brown, was founded to restore steam locomotive SP 745. This locomotive is the last surviving New Orleans built steam locomotives in the world. Built in 1921 in the Southern Pacific's Algiers Shops, she spent nearly thirty years as a display in Audubon Park, where thousands of children had their first opportunity to "play trains".
The historic steamer was saved by the efforts of the Old Kenner Railway Association and its Louisiana Railway Heritage Trust in 1983. On June 2, 2000, LASTA entered into a long term lease with the Trust to restore and operate SP 745. Working with state and local governmental bodies to obtain funding, and securing financial and in-kind service donations from many local industries, LASTA has achieved the dream of bringing SP 745 to working condition. The locomotive is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
LASTA has a nine member Board of Directors. LASTA has no paid employees, and LASTA members provide the volunteer labor to support LASTA's goals.
For more information on the restoration of the #745 and her trip across the south check out the web site at: http://www.lasta.org/ They will also tell you how to join and support LASTA .

The Minden Mudcats Go All the Way 2005

"The American boy starts swinging the bat about as soon as he can lift one." Tris Speaker
“Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world.” Babe Ruth
Baseball has always occupied an important place in American life.
Apparently, this American classic has had the ability to link generations of American sons, fathers, and grandfathers from the beginning. It’s a game that connects and crosses culture, class, ideology, and creed to unite us.
A Frenchman once commented that, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America better know and learn baseball, the rules and the realities of the game.” While most cultures have had some sort of stick and ball game, “cricket” being one of them, baseball is wholly an American invention. The game’s history is almost as complicated as the country that claims it. Although the origins of baseball are not known, most historians agree that the game evolved from the English game called rounders. New England colonists played a type of baseball called “town ball” or “base”. There was one version played in the city and one by the farmers in the fields. As the story goes, even Revolutionary soldiers played ball at Valley Forge. Up until about 1839, the game was popularized all across the country; however, it was played with very loose rules.
Throughout the early part of the 19th century, small towns formed teams and baseball clubs were organized in larger cities. Walt Whitman once prophetically commented, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game—the American game.”
Popular legend declares that, "Baseball was invented in 1839 at Cooperstown, NY by Abner Doubleday-afterward General Doubleday, a hero of the battle of Gettysburg-and the foundation of this invention was an American children's game called “one old cat.” 1908 report of the Spalding Commission appointed to research the origin of baseball
In 1845, a formalized list of rules by which the whole team could play was produced by Alexander Cartwright. Much of that original code is still in place today. Cartwright is known as the “true” father of baseball.
In 1871, the National Association became the first professional baseball league.
America’s vision had always been about hope and renewal. After the Civil War, baseball became a place to manifest that vision even though the clubs continued to deny African Americans. As an institution, baseball continues to be in the hearts and souls of Americans. It has mirrored what is right and wrong with us for over 150 years. The sport has truly been embraced as the “nation’s game”. It is a game of our past and our future, reflecting who we are as Americans. I suppose that is why our children continue to take their place alongside and replace those who love the game.
And now we have the rest of the story. Two years ago these players: Logan Clark, Trent Verdin, Walker Williams, Braden Dickson, Ryne Ray, Caden Copeland, Connor Copeland, Hutton Leppert, Craig Gilbert, Matthew Hammock, Carson Bolyer and Turner Francis were still playing pitching machine; Greg Clark approached Dean Francis with the idea of creating a select team to compete in a more competitive level of baseball. This was the beginning of the dream! Greg at the time lived in Haynesville, Louisiana and knew of some players who he wanted on the team from Claiborne Parish. Dean Francis would pick his select players from Webster Parish. They had one or two practices and started playing in area tournaments. Both of these coaches had no idea if they would even be able to compete at this level. To everyone’s amazement, they won every tournament that they entered in the 8 year old division. They played together like they’d been playing together forever. “We realized we had a good thing going.” On August 1, 2004, the boys were considered 9 year olds, so they moved up and started “live arm” no more pitching machines for these promising young athletes. The team had a few tournaments in the fall to prepare for the spring season, one they placed 2nd in, and the other they came in 3rd. In both of these tournaments these young boys were playing against an older ten year old team. This brought the 2004 season to a close. With Head Coach Greg Clark and Assistant Coaches-Dean Francis, Phillip Verdin and Mike Hammock the team was destined for VICTORY in 2005!

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets. Yogi Berra

In January, parents met and came up with the plan for the year. The boys would play “league ball” during the week to keep their skills up and the coaches would find tournaments for them to play in on the weekends. The parents and coaches decided that the boys would be playing all Super Series tournaments with the end goal to qualify for the National Super Series tournament and participate in that ultimate series of games.
Each tournament that the boys entered came with a large price tag. Most entry fees were $350.00! We quickly saw that we were going to have to find ways to raise money to off-set the cost of this very expensive hobby! During the spring months the team competed in three tournaments, placing 1st in all three! These tournaments were held in Mineola, Texas, Magnolia, Arkansas and Shreveport, Louisiana. After these games were over the Mudcats got busy with fund raisers. First they sold raffle tickets, then Mudcats families got together for a huge garage sale, next came the chicken charbroil dinner and carwash! This group of baseball enthusiast was very blessed to have some donations form area businesses to off-set some of the costly expenses.
Once the decision was made to participate and the team had qualified for the Super Series National Championship tournament, the practices began. The boys had to practice 2-3 times a week during the final month before the tournament. They were able to scrimmage the local All-Star teams as a last minute warm-up before the big show-down in Missouri.
While the boys were practicing, parents and coaches were making the final arrangements for the Minden Mudcats journey to Liberty, Missouri. Reservations were made, tickets were purchased, uniforms and team pins were ordered. A banner with the Mudcat logo and the player’s names was purchased so that it could be hung on the dug-out during play.
Finally on Friday, July 8th, 2005 the trip to Liberty began. Twelve hours later on that Saturday morning, a tired but excited group of the areas finest young baseball players checked-in. During check-in, the boys were introduced to other players from different states that were also participating in the tournament. The highlight of the first day for the boys was the exchanging of the team pins. They collected the pins and displayed them on towels. These pins will always be a small memento the boys will treasure for the rest of their lives.
Saturday was also the day for team competitions. The Mudcats participated in the “Golden Spike”, “Around the Horn”, and “Home-Run Derby”. Each member of the team was able to participate in at least one of these events. Connor Copeland was Runner-Up in the Home-Run Derby. Caden Copeland was selected to watch the Kansas City Royals batting practice before the game that night. The entire team participated in the Parade of Teams before the game as part of the opening ceremony. This was such a thrill for everyone involved to finally get to be a part of what all the hard work had led up too.
Sunday was the beginning of play for the Mudcats. They shut-out the East Texas Thunder with a score of 4-0. Later that day, the Mudcats defeated Wichita Hitman from Kansas with a score of 9-8. On Monday, the Mudcats were defeated by the Oklahoma Cardinals with a score of 4-5. On Tuesday, the Mudcats won against the Arkansas Twisters 11-4. Wednesday saw the final game and the Mudcats turned the Twisters into a breeze with a score of 9-2 for the ultimate goal the National Championship! Turner Francis and Trent Verdin were voted tournament Most Valuable Players for the Mudcats! The players were awarded individual medallions and National Champion caps for their hard work at the tournament. They also received National Championship watches and rings. The team’s First Place Team trophy is now on display at Minden Athletic.
After a hard week of playing ball the entire Minden Mudcat organization enjoyed a day at the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun theme park. Great job Mudcats! We are all proud of all of you and we know how hard it was to get there.
"The game's isn't over until it's over." Yogi Berra

“Mom, can you smell it in the air?”

“What are you talking about? Smell what?” I asked curiously.

“Baseball…I can smell it in the air!” he pronounced jubilantly.

“Me, too, chimed the young boy’s brother gleefully. It’s my year to be pitcher, and I just can’t wait!”

It was this moment that I realized baseball had in some way been woven into their genetic profile. These feelings were beyond my awareness and understanding. How could little boys have become so passionate about baseball? How did they become so responsive to a game of swinging a bat and hitting a ball? Even more amazing was that by some means this sport has the ability to connect generations of almost every American family. The mother of young ballplayers

So when you hear the words “Play Ball” just remember that somewhere else in America other parents are sitting on the edge of their seats with that look of hope in their eyes of raising a great ball player!

Ask the Man Who Owns One! Or better yet ask the Car!

One of the things that I like best about the old car hobby is not only the great cars that you meet but also the great people that sit behind the wheel. This summer at Petit Jean I had the chance to meet lots of great folks. The ones that stuck out the most were Bill and Gale Kennerly and the one and only “Lucky Lady.”
If you’ve been to Petit Jean for the Father’s Day Car show you have no doubt seen “Lucky Lady”. She is a living legend when it comes to Packards. She is one of the last of her breed. “Lucky Lady” as she calls herself is number 1,692 out of 7,206 of the 1955 Packard 400 models. She sports a beautiful coat of Packard Zircon (light blue), Packard White Jade, Packard Sapphire Metallic (Dark Blue) paint. But she wasn’t always this way. For many that just walk by her and admire her without getting to really know her she appears to be one of those trailer queens that has never been down a dusty road or ever so much as had a drop of rain touch her body. She thinks to herself if they only knew! The slogan you’ve come along way baby fits her to a tee. She has so much to tell that she wrote a book about herself and the Kennerly family. They are the ones that adopted her and lovingly helped her get back on the road to recovery in 1992.
The name of the book “Revived from the Dead” A Packard’s True Story of Life after Death is a unique and moving story told by “Lucky Lady” the 1955 Packard 400. The following story is taken from my interview with “Lucky Lady” and our meeting this summer. She tells me that she remembers when things were bad and the old car graveyard was where she believed she was headed. Those years in the early 80’s were bad. Her hopes of ever being out on the road again with the breeze blowing around her bumpers was fading like the paint on her rusting out body.
One day a man named Mr. Kippy McGill bought her. Her faith lifted slightly with the thought that maybe Mr. McGill could get her going. This soon faded as she was just shoved under an old shed and used as storage for other old car parts. Rats and snakes soon made her their home and even more damaging was the fact that the shed even collapsed after awhile on top of her. She had lost hope until the year 1992.
She told me that one day she just felt that someone was looking at her. The following is some of the conversation from my interview on the mountain. “You know when you have that feeling and you just have to turn around and see who it is. Well it was Bill Kennerly doing the looking. Bill was persistent he wanted me and he believed he could even fix me! I think then he was the only one that thought so. He could look beyond my rust and rot and see me for what I really was. That is what you call true love! After twelve years of waiting for someone to come along to help me, help had arrived! My journey to my new home started on November 15, 1992. This day will forever stick out in my mind as the day that I was plucked from the grave. If Bill hadn’t come for me I know that I would have surely died and that my breed would have become extinct. For you see I am a rare breed of Packard you don’t see the 400’s like me everyday. I am SPECIAL!”
It took a lot of work just to get the Packard home but home she went and that’s when the real work started. First a shop had to be built this was completed in 1993. Bill was now looking at the cost involved in this restoration. After making a painful decision to give up his dream of restoring the Packard he sold it. But the man that bought it was slow in coming to pick it up. Bill decided in the mean time to figure out a way to keep her. He made some arrangements and the car title was changed back over to him. She was his again and he vowed to get her going come “hell or high water” so to speak. He talked to Gale and they discussed what it would take to fix the car the right way. They agreed that the only way to do it was to take out a mortgage on their house!
A lot of folks don’t understand how strongly you can feel about a car. I am one of those people that can understand totally how Bill felt. When I see an old car sitting out in a field the first thing I think is how terrible it is that first of all it is just sitting rusting away and second that I wish I had lots of money so I could rescue it! Some people get emotional when it comes to their cars. These cars become a part of your family not just a hunk of iron. They are living, breathing extensions of their owners. If you understand these last few statements then you are a true car nut!
“Lucky Lady” said, “On October 15, 1994, at 2:49 p.m., I heard Bill holler out to his friend Fred, “Fred, open the shop doors, I’m going to get the tractor and we’re going to push in the Old Packard.” After 14 years of waiting “Lucky Lady” was about to become lucky. She said, “I was 40 years old when Bill found me. The sad thing about me had happened almost the day that I was assembled. The Studebaker/Packard Corporation that built me was slowly going out of business when I came off the assembly line in 1955. In 1956 Packard’s became a thing of the past.” Another great automotive line closed down to just take their place in automotive history books. In 1955, the Packard 400 was the most advanced car of its day. This car had equipment that most cars only dreamed of such as power windows, power brakes, power steering, power antennae, seek & scan radio, air conditioning- and some equipment that no other cars had at that time- a transmission with lock-up converter, vacuum oil pump and a very unique torsion-leveling system. Bill’s goal of making her look like she had just rolled off the assembly line was tedious with long hard hours. Bill had lots of help but he also needed to find parts that were almost impossible to find. That is when fate stepped in!
One weekend Bill and Gale decided to go to Canton, Texas to the huge Canton First Monday Flea Market. They say, “If you can’t find it in Canton then it doesn’t exist!” Bill happened upon an antique car place. Bill wanted to walk behind the building to see what may be hiding in the back. Lo and behold, but what did he find! A 1955 Packard Four-Hundred, under a tree with the front-end burned off of it and covered with a trap. He knew he needed that car, to get his 400 back on the road. All the parts that he needed were, right in front of his eyes in the old burned out half of a car in front of him. He knew he better get the grin off of his face, before he went inside to face the owner. He didn’t want to seem too excited about what he had just found! I guess he did a good job of not looking like he was about to jump out of his skin with excitement. He made the deal for $800.00 but would have eagerly paid twice that to get that car. The man that sold it to him even agreed to deliver the car to Arkansas for him! Bill knew that only God could have had a hand in him finding that car that day. He has never seen another one like it since.
The day that “Lucky Lady” knew she was accepted as part of the Kennerly family was on February 21, 1996, Bill’s 50th Birthday. She told me how everyone went out for Bill’s birthday supper that night. “Some of Bill and Gale’s friends had a special surprise waiting on Bill when he got home that night. They had pulled me in the shop as the center piece for the surprise. She said, “All of the Kennerly friends and family were all around they loved me so much that they wanted me to be a part of this special day. That is when I knew deep down that I was a Kennerly Packard 400 not just a Packard 400! For Bill’s birthday present they had an easel with a 24”x36” airbrush painting of me parked in front of the shop. It was the prettiest painting I have ever seen. It was airbrushed using an old picture from a 1955 Saturday Evening Post advertisement. It was exactly the same car and same color as me. They even had a huge cake decorated to look like me! A few of the folks even dressed in the 50’s clothes! It was Bill’s 50th over-the-hill and my 1st re-birthday party! They still had some last minute things to complete me but I was well on my way to living again.”
Rick Hall, the man that painted and did the body work on the ‘55 urged Bill to take her to one of the biggest car shows in the area. The Petit Jean, Arkansas annual Father’s Day weekend show is put on every year by the Mid-America Old Time Automobile Association (MOTAA). The car was still so fresh that the paint on the steering wheel needed to dry before it was driven. This would be the longest distance that “Lucky Lady” had made in many, many years. She did just fine for those 75 miles and going up the mountain was a breeze. This was the first show for Bill and Gale as well as the car. The Petit Jean show is a national show with strict judging. If you make it to Senior Status at Petit Jean you can say you have done pretty well for yourself. The crowd was constant, around the Kennerly’s on that first outing with tons of questions and comments. The judges were also impressed with “Lucky Lady” at this show. She was made a Senior Car and given her special Senior Car Badge to be placed with pride under her hood! She was the best overall that year which is a huge accomplishment in the car show world.
April of 1997 was another important event for the car. It made it finally to the Packard Swap meet held in Salado, Texas. After some near misses with the weather and some almost catastrophes with the car they made it to the show and took home another 1st place. The car won 19 trophies in its first four months of showings.
This car is a hit wherever she goes and so are the Kennerlys. Bill was urged to write her story and with the help of his family did just that. The words for the story come from the car herself. Bill just helped her get them out. This is an emotional story of how a car and a family came together and formed a very unique bond. If you would like to read a great story, I urge you to get the book. You can contact Bill and Gale for a copy of “Revived from the Dead a Packard’s true story of Life after Death” at 501-844-4222 or packardbk@aol.com . I would like to thank Bill, Gale and “Lucky Lady” for the chance to get to know them better. They are a true inspiration to the car enthusiast world.

Remembering the Unknown Veterans 144 Years Later

In the old section of the Minden Cemetery, in the back right corner marks the graves of over 20 unknown Civil War Confederate Soldiers. This hallowed ground of 144 years has never been forgotten. Even though the soldiers names may be lost forever to the future, their lives are remembered for their bravery and valor in April of 1864. These men more than likely were from the Walker Texas Division and General Polinac's Division of Louisiana. During the bloody and furious battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill these men were wounded and brought to Minden to be treated for their wounds. Both of these divisions had been in Minden before, a few months earlier, they had wintered in or near Minden in 1864.
These men had family and these men were loved just as the 100’s of soldiers that fought with the Minden Blue’s and other regiments from our area did. Like so many Civil War soldiers many were lost and never heard from again. They are somewhere across these United States buried in unmarked graves or left to scatter to the wind over 144 years ago. Many a loved one would only hope that their dear departed would have been laid to rest with the respect that the long plot in the Minden Cemetery represents.
That is where this story really begins. Over the years the names were lost if they were ever known of the soldiers in what has become known as the “Civil War Trench” it is estimated that somewhere between 20-30 bodies lie buried along this concrete line. May 1, 1933, one of the worst tornados to ever hit Louisiana struck Minden causing a tremendous amount of damage to the cemetery. A large monument belonging to the great inventor Samuel J. Webb was broken off. This piece of stone was saved and later made in to what we have today as the “Trench” monument. This stone was placed at the grave site by the Daughter’s of the Confederacy in May of 1936. It reads “In Memory Of the Confederate Dead 1861-1864”
A few years ago, through genealogy research, one of these unnamed men would be identified by his family. Thomas L. Anderson PVT CO 1, 31 Texas Cavalry 1828-1864 was finally found by his family and given a grave marker to tell the world who he was. Unfortunately the rest are still unknown but not forgotten.
In 2007 the T.M. Scott Camp of Minden’s Son’s of Confederate Veterans wanted to do something to honor these men. The groups of men are direct descendants of Civil War Confederate Veterans. They along with many other Civil War Camps across the country teach living history lessons in the forms of battle reenactments and encampments. They also take on the cemeteries as projects; dedicating markers and helping descendents locate possible burial sites of unknown soldiers. They are seen in parades and also have Civil War galas where you have the opportunity to step back in time and listen to authentic Civil War music, dress in hoop skirts and dance to the Virginia Reel.
Barry Watson contacted Schelley Brown whom is a member of the Minden Cemetery Board several months ago with a request to erect markers for the unknown soldiers. Brown stated, “Having worked with the Son’s of The Confederacy and the Daughter’s of the Confederacy on several occasion during the annual Minden Cemetery Ghost Walk, I was thrilled that they were taking this project under their wing. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together and remember these soldiers in a historic manner.”
With the help of the Veteran’s Administration the forms were completed. The 21 stones were delivered on a large pallet weighing over 5000 lbs., earlier this year. Camp members from Minden, Claiborne Parish and El Dorado, Arkansas came together a few weeks later. Those member included Robert Vance, Bobby White, Jeff Scarlett, Jeff Earl Scarlett, Gator McDade, Ethan Powell, Roger Pittman, Ronnie Sale, Crystal Vance and Barry Watson. In one day of hard back-breaking work all the stones were put in place. After 144 years these men finally have a head stone to show that they are there.
Saturday March 29th, 2008 at 1:00 PM a dedication ceremony will take place at the Minden Cemetery located In Minden, Louisiana on Bayou Avenue off Pine Street. The public is invited to see this unique, living history lesson. Sons of The Confederacy Camp members from El Dorado, Shreveport, Claiborne, Ruston, Farmerville and West Monroe are expected to participate in this long awaited event. Civil War attire if at all possible but is not required to attend. This will be a wonderful time to show children what history a cemetery holds and how important remembering the past is for our future.
For more information you can contact Barry Watson at 371-9757 or watsonautosvc@bellsouth.net
To see more pictures go to my Minden Cemetery Blog www.mindencemetery.blogspot.com
Turn out large in spite of Saturday’s weather for living history lesson.

150-200 visitors paid their respects Saturday March 29th at the Minden Cemetery marker dedication for the 21 unknown War Between the States soldiers. These men have been buried without an individual marker for 144 years. If you didn’t make it to the dedication ceremony Saturday you missed an historical moment in Minden’s history.
The T.M. Scott Camp of Minden’s Son’s of Confederate Veterans along with members of many other camp’s from the Ark-La-Tex came together to honor and pay homage to men that have not been forgotten for nearly 150 years. This living history lesson was officially the start of April as Confederate History Month in Minden, as was stated by a proclamation from Mayor Bill Robertson’s office. This proclamation was read by executive assistant to the Mayor Mrs. Wanda Pittman in the absence of Mayor Robertson, due to his recent illness. Other dignitaries were on hand including; councilmen for the Army of Trans Mississippi, Mr. Chuck McMichael which is a representative for every camp this side of the Mississippi River.
The ceremony was a moving experience for many that have worked long and hard to see this project from beginning to end. The site of the rider-less mule being led down the dirt road, with a pair of soldier’s boots turned backwards in the stirrups was a reminder of what the real meaning of the day was all about. The somber procession of soldiers marching down the dirt road and past the “Trench” carrying the many flags of the era was a moving site to behold. As a cannon fired and a volley of gunfire was sounded the sounds of Taps was heard in the distance from a lone bugler. A rose was then laid at the stone of each of these unforgotten soldiers by some members of the United Daughter’s of the Confederacy the order of Confederate Rose and even a small child dressed in period attire.
A Channel 12 reporter was on hand to capture this important event for Minden’s History and as he interviewed the crowd he learned a little bit about how important history is to our area and how important the upkeep of cemeteries as part of a community’s history is. Schelley Brown, executive director of the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum and member of The Minden Cemetery Association Board was on hand to participate and comment. “I think what Barry Watson and all the others have done here today to remember these men a very commendable act. It took a lot of hard work and dedication to see this project from start to finish and I am so glad that today’s turnout was wonderful in spite of the rains earlier in the morning. This type of event is what members of this group and I want to continue as a teaching tool for our community.” If you missed Saturday’s program a DVD of the event will be available please contact Schelley Brown at 423-0192 for more information.

“Sitting By The Side Of The Road Or That’s Where You Find The Good Stuff”

Some people call it crazy, I have always said why not? I’m talking about what is known commonly as dumpster diving, curb snatching, trash to treasures, or just plain old digging through a pile of junk beside the road! It is just too hard to pass up for some of us, while others are shocked and amazed that anyone would dare do it.
Just call me daring and embarrassing to some of my friends. I have learned that most folks that do this have their own unique technique for approaching an interesting find. I like to pull up slowly by a pile and maybe make the block a few times before I descend. Sort of the buzzard effect I like to call it. Don’t go in fast make sure all is clear. Others just swoop up and jump out without careful consideration of the find. I call this the hawk effect. They see something, grab it and then decide when they get home if it is worth keeping. I guess I am more selective than these folks! I think not!
I have always loved it when some of those friends that wouldn’t be caught dead at a trash pile come in and just go on and on about how much they love the new chair I have! Then I tell them where I got it and the look of shock comes over their faces or is it disgust. Chairs are one of my favorite finds. People tend to get rid of a chair long before all the good is out of it. One of my favorite finds is an old antique rocker that I got out of the trash on the way to Moody’s Restaurant one day. There is nothing like pulling up in your Cadillac and then trying to shove a nasty looking rocker in the back. I took that chair had it recovered and it is so cute. Old treadle sewing machine bases were always a good find. You don’t find those as much as you used too but I have rescued three over the years. For years that sewing machine base with a piece of plywood attached to the top was my dining room table. It was just one of my early furniture pieces along with the cinderblock entertainment center. I know a lot of you have had the old cinderblock and 1x12 bookcase, entertainment center!
My dad walks twice a day and many folks comment that they see him all over town but he is always looking down. Well he is looking for money. He finds a few dollars on most days. One day that stands out for him is the day he found a $100 bill in the street. That will make you look down for sure want it? You just never know what will be beside the road.
Now they even have shows that highlight trash resurrection. Junk Brothers or Curb Snatchers on HGTV is a lot of fun to watch. Two guys jump out and take something from the trash go home make something really cool out of it and take it back to the same house and watch to see the look on the previous owners faces. My favorite one was an old stove made to be a Bar-B-Q pit on wheels with a flame paint job. It just goes to show a little imagination can go a long way. The other popular show is of course Trash to Treasures. This one also is a favorite and gives you that insight on how to furnish your house for very little money and get a designer look. Both of these shows I’m sure have increased the amount of pilfering that goes on now in a good trash pile. So remember when you are throwing away good stuff be careful how you place it beside the road. In other words don’t but the coffee grinds on top of that old picture frame or computer monitor, you’re your trash separately. Be considerate of shoppers! The old saying holds true, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! So until next time, see you beside the road! I just hope I get there first.