Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Heard National Bank Of Jacksonville

No matter how carefully I research the historical pieces I write, someone always pops up who knows much more about the subject than I do.

Over the years this has happened again and again no matter how thoroughly I research or whether I write about cars, boats, trains—or banks.

Case in point:

For a business magazine back in 1987 I wrote a history of banking during Jacksonville’s early years. Later I modified the article to use as a chapter in my book Crackers & Carpetbaggers. (An online copy of the article is at www.cowart.info ; the book is available at www.bluefiswhbooks.info )

Just before Thanksgiving Mr. Reed Dearing, a retired banker from Macclenny, sent me an e-mail about the article; he asked how I could have missed mentioning a famous landmark like the Heard National Bank in my book.

I checked and sure enough I’d missed mentioning the Heard Bank at all. In fact I’d forgotten that I’d ever even heard of the Heard.

I rummaged through my files and discovered that the only thing I had on the Heard National Bank was this photo of the bank building’s columns taken in 1987 after what had once been Jacksonville’s tallest building had been reduced to a parking lot, but the demolition crew allowed the bank’s columns to remain in place for a time:

Since I didn’t know much else, I asked Mr. Dearing to fill me in on that bank; here is his reply:

November 26,2008

I just have memories. When I was a youngster, my father had an insurance office in the Graham Building (Heard). When you entered the building from Forsyth Street, there were monster white columns, and as you entered - a large round vault door where all the money was kept. That, I remember.

Dad told me a story that my grandfather told him: The Barnett's had the First National Bank on one corner of Forsyth & Laura Streets, and Captain Heard had the other national bank. Captain Heard was a sail - or steamship captain from somewhere, and his bank was much more aggressive toward the import export trade, which Jax was a center (still is I guess). Barnett was jealous and started a rumor that the Heard National Bank was in trouble during the Panic of 1917. Barnett even told the national bank authorities. They came in and closed the bank; later, after an audit was completed - the Heard National Bank was not insolvent, just the victim of a spiteful competitor.

In the 1980's Barnett Bank bought the defunct Heard (Graham) Building to make way for their huge Tower of Power as we use to call it. In demolishing the building, the contractor had a hell of a time knocking down the columns. Barnett people said they wanted them intact. They finally dismantled the columns and hauled them off to some unknown location. The ghost of Captain Heard had the last word....

That is an oral history. I have inquired to Jax Historical Society but info on the Heard National Bank building is sketchy. There are some old photos on the Internet that show The Heard as one of Jax's tallest buildings!

Reed Dearing
Retired Banker, Macclenny

Between 1911 and 1913 the Heard National Bank—named after J.J. Heard of Arcadia, said to be the wealthiest man in Florida—gave out postcards promoting travelers checks issued by the bank; here’s a copy of one:

The Heard National Bank opened in 1911. After the bank closed, the building was renamed the Graham Building. It was later named the Florida Title Building. It stood at 110 West Forsyth Street, on the southwest corner of Forsyth and Laura streets. Barnett Bank acquired the property and, in 1982, tore down the Heard Building—saving the columns and façade—to make way for the Barnett Tower (which now belongs to Bank of America).

A history of the Federal Reserve Bank Of Atlanta says, “The Fed moved to straighten out the management of faltering banks in ways that appear informal today. When the Heard National Bank in Florida was found to be in “very deplorable condition” in 1916, J.B. Pike, cashier of the Atlanta Fed, resigned his post temporarily to take over as president of Heard National. He returned to his old job at the Fed 17 months later”.

A 1911 newspaper (uncovered by my friend the late Bill Foley who taught me much about using microfilm for local history research) announced the opening of the Heard Bank Building.The bank occupied the lower floors, while over 300 offices occupied the upper floors of the 15-story building. In those pre-air conditioning days, each office would have “outside light and perfect ventilation,” the newspaper said.

''Designed with the idea of making the building the ideal location for business offices and banking facilities, the new structure will be one of the handsomest in the city… As far as possible, the building will be made fireproof, and wood will be used in the trim and finishing of all offices.''

Not only that, but the newspaper boasted that hot and cold running water would be available in all parts of the building!

''The fact of the building being so high will not interfere in the least with its general appearance… Looking to the rapid transaction of business, it has been arranged to have an up-to-date elevator service. Four passenger cars will front on the main lobby.

''No building erected in the city will have a more magnificent appearance,'' the newspaper said.

For years the building stood as a Jacksonville landmark.

Now, not only does Mr. Dearing know more about the Heard Bank than I did, but so does my wife. I mentioned to Ginny that I wondered what had happened to the magnificent columns that fronted the bank and she said she knows where they stand today.

So the day after Thanksgiving she drove me down town to the Times-Union Center For The Performing Arts and parked on the side. Because of the surrounding trees I did not see the columns till we were right up on them. Here is a photo:

According to the plaque, in 1997, the Visiting Nurses Association acquired two of the columns and erected them in front of the Performing Arts Center as a memorial to Patricia Austin, the wife of our former Mayor Ed Austin. She died in a tragic automobile accident. She is well and fondly remembered for her Christian character, many charitable endeavors, and her support of the arts.

Here is a photo of Ginny beside one of the columns:

And, here’s a photo she snapped of me beside the other one:

I asked Ginny how she happened to know where these columns were, and she said that although it has nothing to do with her employment now, her having a degree in banking and finance does come in handy at times.

Stepping just a few feet away from the columns, we watched falcons circle the Barnett/BOA tower—the hawks hunt downtown pigeons over Jacksonville Landing where patrons of the outdoor restaurants feed tidbits to the pigeons and the hawks feed on those same pigeons—The tower stands right where the Heard Bank Building once stood. I tried for a photo of the falcons but they were too quick for me to catch in silhouette against the Barnett/BOA tower:

As Ginny drove me home from downtown, she cut through from Riverside Avenue to College Street on Roselle. As we drove we discussed whether the columns we’d just seen were Corinthian, Doric or Ionic—neither of us could remember which kind was which.

I spotted something.

“Stop the car,” I shouted. “Back up about a hundred yards. I see an Ionic Column”.

No traffic around so she reversed till she could see a steel carport beside the building I showed her.

“Those are Ionic Columns,” I said.

“John, those are nothing but two steel posts on that car port,” she said.

“But look at the sign,” I said…

It read: Ionic Masonic Lodge…

“If it’s the Ionic Lodge, those must be Ionic columns,” I said.

And Ginny made a noise, one of those groans that say And-I’ve-Been-Married-To-This-Man-For-40-Years!

I though it was funny.

Thanks to Mr. Dearing’s e-mail, we enjoyed a happy day delving into another aspect of Jacksonville’s history.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:36 AM

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Friday, November 28, 2008

A Peaceful Day In A War Zone

With the family dispersed here and there all over the state celebrating Thanksgiving on their own, Ginny and I enjoyed the empty nest syndrome—a reward for parents who’ve successfully raised children to productive, independent adulthood.

We slept late, watched parades on tv (saw Mark’s mom & dad riding their Arabian horses in the Detroit parade) and we ate a simple and simply wonderful feast of Thanksgiving. Then Ginny snuggled in the crook of my arm with her head nestled on my shoulder and we napped with the white noise of an uninteresting tv football game in the background.

To round off a perfect day we watched a biographical profile about Jimmy Stewart’s Wonderful Life.


Such Christmas shopping as we can do has already been done— just as well because repairing the house’s heater/air conditioner system last week wiped out all our discretionary funds. You cain’t give what you ain’t got. We can live with that.

But, while our idyllic day flowed with peace, in Mumbai, India, a city of 18 million people which used to be named Bombay, terrorist strike teams attacked ten hotels, a synagogue, and various other undefended sites. They killed at least 120 people.

Only sketchy news comes from India right now, but when I heard of the atrocity, my first thought was of Amrita, an e-friend who lives in northern India away from the war zone. Her blog is at http://yesugarden.blogspot.com/ ;she reports events closer to the source.

For the world, this has been a day of mayhem, turmoil, blood, and gunfire; for us it has been a day of quiet, happy peace rooted in Christ…

I wish the world had what we have.

Poor world.

Poor, poor world.

Of course there’s no reason for me to feel smug just because I’ve enjoyed a cozy day. The Lord does grant His servants in life’s battles days of R&R, but we remain in combat with evil both internal (as witness my postings last week) and external.

The day before Thanksgiving some workers here in Jacksonville lost their jobs abruptly. The company they worked for lost a contract; but the workers did not know this until Wednesday afternoon when a supervisor came around the job site, collected their tools, announced their firing, and left without giving them their final paychecks.

This tragedy may not rank up there with the attacks in India but it has the same source. The devil, though defeated, his head crushed by Christ’s heel, yet rages in his scorched-earth retreat to the place he belongs.

Thinking about my own spiritual warfare and about the awful news from India and such evil in the local workplace, I also think in terms of evangelism—and how little I do of it. How shall they believe without a messenger to tell them of Christ’s love?

But, I am what I am. At this moment a man at peace, but with a sense of responsibility and a modicum of caring.

Lord, help me to do what I can, where I am, with what I have.

On some level, I do love You.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:09 AM

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

One Thing I Like

On one hand, the Scripture says that the Lord maketh His servants flames of fire.

Blazing flames of fire.

Maybe I’m thinking too much in terms of the book on the history of our Jacksonville Fire Department I wrote recently, but I can’t help noticing that flames of fire often get hosed.

That’s the way of the world.

On the other hand, the Scripture says that Jesus will does not snap off a bruised reed, nor does He snuff out a smoldering wick.

In other words, Jesus does not kick you when you’re already down.

As one of the smoldering wicks in this world, that’s one thing I really like about Jesus.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:41 AM

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Tormented Man’s Declaration Of Faith

Sunday the Cowarts & company gathered for breakfast at Dave’s Diner.

There was Ginny and me and Becky and Rodney and Donald and Helen and Maggie and Sabrina and Lindsey and Eve and Mark and Ginny and me and Becky…

I don’t know who was there.

Lots of hugs and laughter, but they kept moving around the table in a dozen conversations, mostly about whether our family Christmas get-to-gather this year would fall on December 19th, or 20th, or 25th ... It all kept changing, and I can’t keep track.

Mark and Eve are celebrating Thanksgiving with gangster Al Capone. But they are not going to Michigan for Christmas because they have wolves up there and Eve fears being shoved off the sled into the snow so the horses and yankees can get away from the howling pack.

That breakfast was my highpoint for the past couple of days.

But even that early in the day I felt a fit of depression coming on.

I have no idea what triggers these things.

I just know the symptoms.

My mind begins to dredge up all my mistakes from childhood on. All my failures. All my sins. All my faux pas. Every embarrassing things I’ve ever done. All the stupid things I’ve said or thought or imagined.

This gets really rough.

No audible voices. I just hear mental tormentors who tell me what appears to be the whole truth at the time.

“John Cowart,” they say, “You are fat and ugly and toothless and lazy and stupid. You’re not worth the water it’d take to flush you down. You’ve wasted your life and screwed up the good life for your wife and your children and for a lot of other people. You fail again and again and again. You are such a disappointment. You’ve never amounted to anything. Such a loser. And you’re going to die. and leave Ginny with nothing but debts, regrets— and 260 pounds of rotting meat on her hands…”

And the relentless tormentors keep on and on and on.

It feels like being a batter in a baseball stadium where not just the pitcher throws the ball at me, but every one of the 73,000 fans in the stands throw balls at me at the same time!

By Sunday evening, after such a day of my being hagridden, certain physical problems showed up too. Among them was a trembling in my hands which made it impossible for me to keep food on my fork to eat dinner and I dribbled stuff down the front of my shirt.

And the gleeful tormentors said, “And you’re clumsy too. You eat like a slob and drool and…”

The clamor of the tormentors in my head grew unbearable because, according to my lights when in such a state, every word they said, every accusation, every name they called me—it’s all true.

That’s how I felt.

But I am a Christian; that’s not what I believe.

I mentally shouted at the tormentors, “Jesus loves me. Damn it! So fuck you in your left eye!’

My declaration of faith toned their volume down. The tormentors retreated to a dim corner of my mind to mutter among themselves.

You’re unlikely to find my statement of faith in the Shorter Catechism.

The closest biblical parallel I know was penned by the Apostle John in his First Letter. He said, “We… shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved,… then we have confidence toward God”!

I think that, in essence, the Apostle and I say the same thing.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 2:20 AM

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Our Yard Display For Thanksgiving

Saturday morning Ginny and I lingered over breakfast at Dave’s Diner till nearly noon. Two reasons: first, the heat is off at our house in this record-setting cold snap while Dave’s is warm; second, we kept meeting and talking with friendly acquaintances in the crowded restaurant.

We’ve been eating at Dave’s regularly for about 15 years. So have many of the other customers. And essentially the same staff has served there during that time span. Therefore it’s rare for us to go in there without bumping into someone we know.

This morning we talked with Mike who drove the bus Ginny used to catch to work, and Chuck who runs the newsstand. Plus several other people whose faces I know without knowing their names.

Because the place was packed, instead of a booth, Ginny and I ended up sitting at a table in the middle of the floor; so we were exposed to many conversations all around us. At one table several folks discussed a vampire movie. At another table some rough laborers discussed stress in sub-surface construction (whatever that is). Another group discussed a girl’s drug problem and whether or not she was menstruating and whether or not her boyfriend has stopped beating her.

And, of course everybody talked about the Jaguars/Vikings football game and JU’s chances in the playoffs.

After breakfast we visited a used furniture store where we discovered that one single chair now costs more money than we’ve spent on every bit of furniture we have in our whole house!

Sticker Shock, indeed!

By then, the temperature warmed up enough for us to return home and stuff a cloth turkey for our outside Thanksgiving display. Here’s a photo of Ginny making a few final adjustments:

Here’s a close-up of our display:

We are not much for witnessing or evangelism. We’re pretty low key about such things. But we do want our lives and testimony to cause the people whose paths cross ours to give Jesus a serious thought. We’d like folks to know that God is good.

Hence, our little yard display.

Just a reminder as to what Thanksgiving is all about—we are actually thanking Someone for something. We’re not just sending warm fuzzy thoughts out into the ether.

There’s no reason to thank the ether for anything.

That makes no sense.

And usually we are thankful (or resentful) about material things.


Passing stuff.

Perishing stuff.

But one Psalm says, Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good”.

I think it most appropriate to thank the Lord because God is good in Himself.

And towards us.

The first newspaper article I ever wrote was published back in the early 1970s. It was about Thanksgiving.

Odd how that came about:

A lady living a thousand miles away from me, up in Ohio, read a magazine article I’d written. She noticed that the author lived in Jacksonville where her son was a newspaper reporter, so she called him to suggest that he get in touch with me.

We did not have a phone at the time, so he couldn’t call.

He decided to forget it, but his mother’s suggestion dwelt in his mind…

One day while I was in the bath tub getting cleaned up for a job interview because I’d decided to give up writing and get a real job, a paying job, I was feeling enormously down and discouraged.

Ginny knocked on the bathroom door saying, “John, there’s a man at the front door. He says he’s a newspaper reporter.”

I’d never seen a real live reporter before ever in my whole life.

I threw on a robe and went out. We got to talking and he offered to introduce me to the newspaper’s city editor. He wanted me to bring in a sample of my writing… The Little End Of The Horn was the article I gave the editor.

He published it.

And I’ve kept on free lance writing during the 35 years since.

Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:01 AM

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Elevator Hermeneutics—A Rant

Ginny and I spent a weary, weary Friday hanging around various doctors’ offices for routine but, they say, necessary stuff. Were we not healthy to begin with, the ghastly waiting rooms would have done us in for sure.

Part of the time we spent enduring in the waiting rooms, we talked about a tv program we’d watched the other night on PBS about sources of the Bible.

Whoever put the program together cheated.

Either they were misinformed, or they deliberately cheated.

If they had billed their program as “Why we believe the Bible is a crock” I’d have no problem with their right to free speech; but they didn’t. They promoted their program as an impartial examination of how the Bible came to be written, and in that, they cheated.

That was really sad because it was unnecessary. Their program could have been just as effective had they not misconstrued facts, distorted ideas, and founded their ideas on preconceptions.

For instance, they began with the premises that in ancient times the people of Israel came up with the unique idea that there is only one God. The tv producers treated this as a novelty. With beautiful photography they showed a variety of idols proving that ancient people honored many gods, then the announcer said that the Jews came up with the idea that there should be only one God, a purely human fabrication.

The preconception presented is that there is no god at all except in the human mind and that thinking of one god instead of many gods represents some improvement or advancement in human thinking.

How so?

If there is no God to begin with, then how is thinking of one god any improvement over thinking of 436 of them?

The tv producers expressed surprise that archaeologists have uncovered idols in peoples’ homes in Israel; had they read the very first book in the Bible they would have seen that Rachel, Jacob’s wife, stole idols from her father’s house to take home with her.

When her dad came looking for his household idols, she hid them under a camel saddle and sat on it. When he came to search the tent, she claimed to be menstruating so he would not check under the camel saddle.

Rachel, a mother in Israel, knew the one true God, but she hedged her bets.

All through the Old Testament the prophets condemn idolatry as the people mixed it with belief in the one true God.

Why should the tv present this fact as a new startling discovery?

It’s old hat.

Another thing that stuck in my craw—it’s the same thing actually—is that they presented Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis as a startling new discovery!

Hadn’t they done any research?

Wellhausen first published his theory of destructive criticism in 1878!

Not last week.

In 1878!

How is this “new” (to tv) discovery supposed to shake biblical scholarship to its foundation?

Back a 120 years ago, German scholar Julius Wellhausen noticed that sometimes the writer of the first five books of the Bible used a Hebrew word for God beginning with the letter “J” as in Jehovah. Other times the writer used a Hebrew word for God beginning with the letter “E” as in Elohim .

Wellhausen figured that no writer would ever use two different names for the same God, therefore there must have been at least two different writers whose work got combined to make the Bible text.


Using that strategy, I look back over the pages of my own diary and see that in referring to the Godhead, sometimes I say “Jesus”; other times I say “Lord Jesus”; other times, I say, “Christ the Lord”.

Obviously I did not write this diary—three different guys did.

And they published it under my name… They owe me royalties.

Anyhow, back to the tv program, the section on radiocarbon dating was also skewed. And the section about Ashtaroth idols (female fertility symbols) concluded that the one God, who does not really exist, had a wife, who does not really exist either.

Perhaps I do the tv program an injustice because I did fall asleep part way through the program, but I think the program would make great fare for any hospital waiting room.

There is another way to approach Bible hermeneutics, that’s what they call the science of interpretation.

If the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, that is the sense.

For instance if the text says, “Jesus sat down in the boat” that means that there was this boat and Jesus sat down in it.

Big mystery.

But scholars have to make reputations or they don’t get awarded grants.

Of course there are sections of Scripture that we don’t understand.

Skip ‘em.

Go on to something you do understand.

If “Thou shalt not steal” is too hard, then move on to “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. I keep on going down the list of the Ten Commandments till I hit on one that fits. A section of Scripture that rings a bell.

Therefore, I’m proud to announce that never once in my whole life have I ever coveted my neighbor’s ox.

What the hell would I do with an ox?

See why I need a Savior?

Why we all do?

What’s so hard to understand about that?

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand all too well”.

Well, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

And the love of God is shown towards us in that while we sere still sinners, Christ died for us.

When it comes to biblical hermeneutics, a sign from an elevator helps me remember how to interpret what I read in God’s holy word:

One further note about biblical archaeology—remember how two weeks ago (on October 30th in my blog archives) I wrote about all those fascinating King Herods?

Well, last Wednesday (November 19th), Reuters News Service reported that Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer of Jerusalem's Hebrew University has uncovered the palace and the tomb of Herod The Great. You’ll find the Reuters’ report at http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSTRE4AI7S920081119

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:15 AM

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holes In Time

I don’t know what to do with myself.

The space between our Anniversary trip and Thanksgiving presents me with an odd block of time too long to just laze around in and too short to allow any major project.

I’ll face that same sort of odd block of time between Thanksgiving and family birthdays. Other holes in time will appear again between birthdays and Christmas and the next round of birthdays and then New Year’s Day and then Super Bowl.

Each space between each event rings hollow. Any project I start will be interrupted by the next family event so I try to fill these holes in time by catching up on minor chores around house and office.

But I get little done.

Right now I’m building a time/task schedule for when I can return to normal work. I’m trimming the garden to the extent that the cold weather will let me. I’m culling my book shelves and I’m reading (Yesterday’s book was C.S. Forrester’s Age Of Fighting Sail, a history of the War Of 1812).

Monday, my daughter Eve took me to breakfast at Dave’s Diner and we talked about lions and library security and family stuff.

Tuesday my friend Wes took me to breakfast at Dave’s and we talked for hours about the immortality of the soul—or the lack thereof.

We also talked about the amount of waste in the universe, especially wasted human lives and talents. The spoilage is appalling! This world is so fallen and twisted and perverted that multitudes of fine human beings do things they were never designed to do.

The world, the flesh and the devil scatter the talents and gifts God has given mankind till much of life resembles a train wreck. Evils sidetrack humanity so that we find a guy God meant to be a great poet working in a factory, a man God designed to be a fine mechanic teaching remedial shop to dullards. We find a meant-to-be opera singer tends bar, a mother shuffles papers in an office, a should-be-attorney works in a day care center, a nurse fills out insurance forms, a great teacher gets promoted into administration never to teach again.

Alas, King Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God”.

What a joy it is to meet a person who has found the right niche, the round peg who fits into a round hole. It’s a pleasure to see such a person work no matter what job they are doing. They exude joy.

That’s rare.

But more often we see talents and destinies poured out on the ground.

Tragic Wastage.

Such is this fallen world until Jesus returns and sets all things right.

We desperately need the Savior!

All said and done, we can not endure without Him.

We dare not.

Who wants a life of eternal frustration?

Speaking of frustration— when Gin & I returned from our Anniversary trip, I found my computer managed to screw itself up in my absence. Yes, it went askew without my touching a single key.

Usually I have to do something to mess my computer up, but new improved technology now updates automatic features which can screw it up without my help.

So, Tuesday night my youngest son, Donald, a computer network administrator, came over to straighten it out for me. A task I’d worked on all day but which he accomplished in just a few minutes.

Donald tells me that he’s thinking of leaving physics and computer science (the areas where he holds degrees) and becoming a minister.

I don’t know how I feel about that.

He is already active as a volunteer in a soup kitchen, and he’s adept at counseling, and the idea of ministry has often tugged at his heart… But I fear he’s too good a Christian to last long as a professional minister.

I fear church politics and pettiness might destroy him.

I may be reading my own sour experiences with organized religion into my vision of his future, so I have to be cautious in expressing my opinions about this. I’m too bitter, too often hurt by church contact, to be objective.

Back when Donald was in high school, one summer vacation the government sent him out to Los Alamos to work with atomic stuff, nuclear reactors, and Cray computers (the most advanced in the world). When he got back to Jacksonville, he chose to spend the next two weeks of his summer vacation living in a slum rescue mission where he ministered to the demented, the drunk and the debauched. He seemed equally at home and effective in both the worlds of advanced science and advanced degradation.

I’m proud of him and pleased with him… it’s the world of professional Christianity I worry about. I think that few Christians are strong enough to survive in a church environment.

But, I’m probably projecting my own weakness when I say that.

Of course, I also remember that when Donald was earning his physics degree, he and his geek buddies in the lab used an industrial-strength laser beam, one that could burn through steel plates, to give each other hair cuts!

Maybe the world would be a safer place with him behind a pulpit.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 9:12 AM

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Together We Climbed Kolomoki Mound

To celebrate our 40th Anniversary Ginny and I rented a cabin in the woods of southwestern Georgia at Seminole Lake State Park which is near…

Actually, it’s not near anything.

And one day we climbed Kolomoki Mound which is near…

Well, in giving us directions the ranger at Seminole said, “It’s more in the middle of nowhere than this place is”.

When we arrived at our cabin, a flock of Canadian geese greeted us; Ginny counted 64 and new flocks migrated in every day.

The geese waddled out of the lake to graze in the pine straw right in front of our rocking chairs on the cabin porch.

One day a team of rangers raked up wagon loads of pine needles around our cabin. Ginny, wearing her Seminole shirt, posed for a photo beside one wagon load:

I’m smiling because I don’t have to rake leaves till we get back home:

Every day we rocked and talked and hiked and snuggled on cold nights before a blazing fireplace. This was a time of celebration, and getting acquainted again, and catching up on our reading, and recharging our spiritual batteries.

Not sure how effective that last goal was. I carried along a Bible and a prayer book but didn’t even crack the cover of either one. The most spiritual thing I encountered came from my favorite Stephen King novel, Desperation, in which a drunk minister tells an 11-year-old boy, “You’ve had a conversion… The job of the new Christian is to meet God, to know God, to trust God, to love God. That’s not like taking a list to the supermarket either, where you can dump stuff into your basket in any order you like. It’s a progression, like working your way up the math ladder from counting to calculus. You’ve met God, and rather spectacularly, too. Now you’ve got to get to know Him”.

I needed that reminder.

Thanks, Mr. King.

Every day Ginny and I enjoyed long walks in the woods. This area of the wilderness is called “Wiregrass Country”:

That’s a beaver pond in the distance; here’s a closer view:

On our anniversary we drove into the middle of no where to visit the Kolomoki Mound complex, a cluster of Indian burial and temple mounds which radiocarbon tests date to about 1,920 years ago, that’s about A.D. 30. Some of the mounds in the complex were destroyed by agriculture, road building, or development but seven of them remain. The Indians abandoned the site—no one knows why—a bout a thousand years before Europeans arrived in the New World. Therefore, much speculation about the various types of mounds on site exists.

The Georgia Park Service build a museum into the side of one excavated burial mound. Apparently someone important was cremated and the remains raked into a deep stone-lined pit; then two warriors were strangled and buried there as an honor guard, and several trophy skulls and a collection of effigy pottery placed as a mound of clay was raised above the initial grave.

In this photo the burial pit is to the left and a sacrificed guard in the foreground:

Here are some intact pots and effigy figures from the mound:

Mound A, the largest remaining mound in the complex, rises 56 feet above a plaza between it and another burial mound. The base of the truncated pyramid measures 325 feet by 200 feet. Apparently Indians got to the top via an earthen ramp, but in the 1940s the Corps of Engineers build cement stairs into the side of the mound.

Here is a photo of Ginny half-way up those stairs:

I made it to the top too:

In the distance over my left shoulder you can see a burial mound across the plaza. Archaeologists speculate that the plaza was used as a playing field for a ball game called… Sorry, I’ve forgotten the name of the game. It consisted of competing teams from various tribes or villages trying to get a ball through a ring on a pole. Apparently game winners and spectators killed and possibly ate the loosing team.

Super Bowl just ain’t what it used to be.

Anyhow, in spite of what our doctor says about our age and medical conditions, Ginny and I both made it, panting with frequent rest stops, all the way to the top of the mound—where we kissed.

Ginny quipped, “The couple that wheezes together, squeezes together”.

That’s how we celebrated our first 40 years of marriage, happy, climbing together, watching geese, reading, cuddling by the fire, rocking on the porch, listening to the wind in the pine needles.

Were anyone to ever write my biography, it would be a love story.

So we begin year 41.

If God continues to give us love and health and strength and mental stability we’ll climb to higher heights. Or maybe sink to lower depths… Whether our journey is moving into the sunrise or into our sunset, we feel we’re just getting started.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:23 PM

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Beauty Of A Gray Day

Wednesday, a gray day, overcast, drizzling rain, chilly— perfect for hunkering down inside with a good murder mystery.

I’d intended to spruce up the yard in preparation for taking time off for our 40th Anniversary; tomorrow is Ginny’s last day at work and I wanted all ready so we will not have to worry about mundane things for a while.

In recent weeks we’ve graduated from CERT training and disaster drill, coped with major appliance breakdowns (heater/AC, microwave & pool pump), published the fire history book, prepared for Halloween, finished my term as president of our neighborhood watch, studied candidates and voted. Ginny has also been deeply involved in contract bidding at her office—We are ready for a vacation!

Ahead, between now and January we have another disaster drill, Thanksgiving, four family birthdays, Christmas, and the start of another book.

We are ready for a vacation first.

I was to get everything ready… but the gray day proved too tempting.

Instead of doing the yard work in the rain, I read all day.

My mystery of choice is Ruth Rendell’s The Rottweiler. I haven’t quite finished the book, but the story tells about this poor serial killer who is being harassed by these mean, nasty, juvenal delinquent, criminals who blackmail and torment him.

All he does is strangle a handful of girls, but the vile delinquents do not play fair.

I hope he gets them!

Vacation reading at its finest.

Ginny does not get off till tomorrow; I’m already in vacation mode.

I’m unlikely to post another entry again till after November 17th. If you can’t wait that long to read my words of life and wisdom again, then browse in my blog archives on the sidebar and check out previous November Anniversaries from 2005-2007.

I hope this one will be an instant replay.

I wanted to write something spiritually uplifting this morning, but I have nothing to offer. I’m just too depleted.

All I can do is relish the beauty of the gray day spent reading my murder mystery and anticipating time to come alone with my beautiful bride.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:55 AM

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Results

Jacksonville voters turned out in near-record numbers yesterday to elect Katrina Finley to a board seat in Duval County Soil & Water District, Group 4.

On other local, state and national levels, other candidates also won or lost offices.

Viewing this election from the standpoint of an amateur historian, I predict that in a only few years all winners and losers on all levels will be as well-known as Ms Finley.

Fame flees.

Some of today’s high and mighty may even be remembered as well as one of the famous King Herods I wrote about last Thursday— Although, I hope for more noble reasons.

Fame flees.

The burning issues of this day become the ho-hums of tomorrow.

I have studied the candidates and issues, and I’ve voted in every election since I became old enough to vote about 50 years ago. I feel it is a Christian duty to act as a good citizen. However, I do not get excited about leaders or issues—these are candle moth things, mundane things. You do the best you can about them, then move on to the important.

In our society, I stand in about the same position as one of the peasants digging sand for the foundation of an Egyptian pyramid, what happens politically at the top has little effect on my day to day life.

I have sand to load and carry.

I follow the news and activities of my times. I pray for the king. I cheer for my nation and support our troops in foreign wars. I volunteer to help the needy. I pay my taxes, oppose crime and corruption, and I’ve raised my children to be good citizens in their own right with their own political opinions independent of mine.

But I concern myself little with the doings of the powerful. They live in a different world. But I am pessimist enough to suspect that no politician means me any good. They’re all thinking about getting me a bigger basket to carry sand in.

I laugh at the political rhetoric of both Democrats and Republicans as they define the economic “middle class” as being people much richer than I’ll ever be. What world do these candidates live in?

Now, I did not vote for Ms Finley; I voted for one of the other three candidates for that office. However, I wish her well and I pray for her success in her governmental roll.

In the long view, God Himself raises up one and puts down another and the heart of all kings is in His hands.

Incidentally, my own choice for President did not win. This morning I checked the Supervisor Of Elections website at http://www.duvalelections.com/ And, in so far as I can tell, I am the only voter in Jacksonville to write in the name of my presidential choice—Aaron Solkin.

Sorry Mr. Solkin.

Now that you’ve beaten the cocaine addiction, I think you would have made a great President.

That’s all I have to say about politics.

I have another empty basket to fill with sand.

I’m building a pyramid.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 9:39 AM

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Seeking Sage Advice

Monday morning my friend Barbara White treated me to breakfast at Dave’s Diner. Like everyone else in Dave’s, we talked about football (Florida/Georgia game, World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party)… and books. Barbara, a retired newspaper columnist, is the author of the Along The Way series of books.

Monday evening, Donald, my youngest son, called.

He and his wife face a decision of monumental proportions with life-changing implications, a decision which can influence their livelihood, residence, careers, and income. They contemplate a change that may put them on the razor edge of disaster or joy.

Understandably Donald wanted the advice of someone noted for wisdom, discernment, spiritual depth, common sense, wise counsel, and dedication to Christ.

Naturally he called me—to get Barbara White’s phone number.

Anytime you need me, Son.

Dad always stands ready to help…. I have a phone book.


Today is Election Day; in an hour or two, Ginny and I will go to the polls to vote for president, legislature, judges, and many other officers; as well as seven Constitutional Amendments.

Our pre-election sample ballots offers us 58 choices.

Last night we again spent several more hours discussing our sample ballots and looking up on-line references related to the proposed candidates and amendments.

We solidified our choices.

May God give our country better leaders than we deserve.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:07 AM

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Which Switch

When I was a bad little boy my mother punished me with a butcher knife.

She’d hand me this big sharp knife from the kitchen drawer and make me go out into our backyard and cut a switch for her to swack me with.

She never cut the switch herself.

She always made me do it.

I remember standing in the yard looking at various bushes asking myself questions. Would a little switch hurt less than a big one? Long and thin? Or short and thick?

I’d ponder about bamboo: those knotty places where the leaves branch out hurt like crazy. Tea weed grows flexible and tough, but the fibers and rough bark will cut my bear legs when I get switched with it.. Plumb branches sport thorns and they are not as flexible as tea weed or bamboo, but, even if I trim the thorns off, those little knobby places where they grew will snag my skinny legs..

I have to make a choice.

If I go back into the house with a switch too little, the wrong one, Mama will get mad and make me come out again to cut a different one…

That was sixty years ago.

Odd thing is that I never remember what it was I’d done to deserve punishment. And I never remember the actual whippings she gave me… All I remember of those long-ago days is having to chose which switch…

Now why in the world am I dredging up those painful memories this morning?

Oh, yes,. tomorrow is Election Day.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:24 AM

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Sunday, November 02, 2008


Time to change the clocks again.

Set them back one hour.


My mind knows the time changed last night; my body doesn’t. So this morning I woke at 1:30 instead of my usual 2:30. Joy, O Joy.

I’ve spent much of my life preparing for changes that never happened. Before Tropical Storm Fay, I put away or fastened down everything loose in the yard—lawn chairs, flower pots, tools, statues—but Fay came in as a tropical storm instead of as the predicted hurricane.

I need not have taken such through precautions.

I still have not got everything put back where it belongs.

Then last week, anticipating a visit from our Mark & Debbie and two new adopted kids to our home, I began to child-proof the place. Did you know that as a pipe smoker I have eight boxes of strike-anywhere matches scattered all over the house in easy reach of any chair I happen to sit in? And there are sharp things and breakables and prescription bottles all over the house—it’s been years since we’ve had small children in the house, so we just didn’t think of child-proofing until anticipating their visit.

But the kids never actually made it into our house; we met at Eve’s and all went to the park instead. I could have left my matches where they were.

Every year Ginny and I prepare for an elaborate Halloween so we can give our tracts to the people who come to our door. We set up a display and pack generous goodie bags for kids (see October 30, 2005 or 2006 or 2007 in my Blog archives for photos)

Last week we added even more candy than usual to the goodie-bags and Friday night we canceled our date and skipped Eve’s party so we could sit at a table in our driveway to dispense candy and tracts and toys and comics to the kids… and only eight kids showed up the whole evening.

Some years we’ve had as many as 60 trick-or-treaters, but this Halloween, only eight.

We made all these preparations for nothing.

I spend much of my life preparing for things that never happen.

Earlier this year (on October 16) I wrote mentioning the suicide of the manager of Georgie’s BBQ—well, yesterday after shopping for a new vacation wardrobe at a local thrift store, Ginny and I drove to Georgie’s for lunch only to find the restaurant closed.

We’ve been going there regularly for 15 years.

But now, with the manager’s suicide, the owner decided to shut down the place entirely.

As best we can figure, ten or twelve employees worked each of two (maybe three) shifts at the restaurant. At least 24 people lost their livelihoods instantly and unexpectedly because of the manager’s suicide.

Then also, Gin and I are not the only old people who depended on the decrepit discount for a cheap, pleasant lunch or dinner out. Customers always packed the restaurant. Whole shifts of police officers, dozens of seniors, church groups and many families ate there often.

The poor manager attempted to end his own pain by ending his life. Maybe he did not realize the ripple effects his death would generate. Maybe he thought his life didn’t matter. Maybe he felt useless. Maybe he felt he was alone in facing his difficulties.

Poor bastard.

He wasn’t.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 2:22 AM

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