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The Midnight Special

Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, was an American Folk and Blues musician. Born in 1889 and died in 1949 at the age of 60, Lead Belly had a rough life, landing in prison in Sugar Land, Texas back in 1918. It was here that he most likely learned the song that has made him famous – Midnight Special – recorded many times but the version I first heard was by Credence Clearwater Revival. Lead Belly was pardoned by the governor of Texas in 1925 and set free. In 1930, Lead Belly was again sent to prison in Louisiana for stabbing a man but it was here that he was ‘discovered’ by John and Allan Lomax who recorded him for the Library of Congress. Through their actions, Lead Belly was released and this time stayed out of trouble. Lead Belly went on to record and perform his Blues and enjoyed the success of his talents. He gave us many wonderful recordings that have been covered by Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Elvis, Van Morrison and many more.
The abandoned Central Unit prison where Lead Belly was imprisoned adjoins the Sugar Land airport where I work. I am a music lover and a Blues fanatic. Not many people care about Blues history, but I do. Its the foundation for most of the rock and roll that I grew up on – from The Rolling Stones to ZZ Top to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Each day from my airport, I look out at the white prison building and the railroad tracks that run right in front of the prison along Highway 90 and I think of the time Lead Belly spent here. I actually get to hear the train whistle or horn as those same railroad tracks are in use today hauling passengers and cargo. Those prisoners heard that midnight train whistle back then and sang songs about it. Songs that longed for freedom and an easier life.
As awful as that time must have been, I have had a burning desire to see that prison. I have been so concerned that the City would just tear down this landmark and fail to honor the musical heritage of the prison blues and music that came as a comfort from such a horrible part of many men’s lives. Last month, one of the city officials who has access to that old prison, took me over there where I was able to explore and photograph the inside, which, of course was much different back then. But it quenched a 5 year desire that I’ve had since I started working at this airport.
By the way, my airport was originally started by Dr. Hull who piloted his own aircraft and would land in what was then just a sugar cane or cotton field that the prisoners farmed. He was a dentist who had a contract with the Texas prison system and flew to the different prison sites to administer to the prisoners.
Although its a smaller part of this image, the prison bars and Central Unit letters are from that photo shoot. This project allowed me to combine 3 of my lifetime loves into one image: The Blues, Photography and Texas History.
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The One with courage enough to leave the safety of what is known, discovers.

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My Insanity Workout

img007I enter the new year as sore as I’ve ever been. Every muscle in my body aches. My muscles  don’t want to move right – they’re tight and they hurt.  I’m sluggish and I walk like Frankenstein.

To close out the year of 2016 and keep going with my plan to lose the extra weight I’d put on over the holidays, I did the Insanity Workout yesterday, December 31st.  It’s called Insanity for a reason.

Sometime back in December, probably a week or two before Christmas, I drove across town to visit my daughter and her son (my 12 year old grandson) Maddox. It was such a nice Houston, Texas day – 70 degrees, sunny and fresh – and instead of going to the gym to workout, I figured I’d play some basketball with Maddox in the street in front of their house. By the time I got there, Maddox had gone with his cousin to watch a basketball practice, which left me without a workout partner. My daughter took the lead and said, “Lets do the Insanity Workout”.

She found the video on Vimeo and together we did our jumping jacks, squats, kicks and punches until my heart rate hit about 200 beats per minute – and that was just the 3 minute warm-up!

Holy Shit!

We both struggled to complete the frenzied 35 minute workout, taking lots of breaks and wiping the dripping sweat off of our faces but we finally made it.  For the following 3 days, I worked hard to exercise daily. I stretched and did lots of walking to keep my muscles  loose so I wouldn’t lose my flexibility and my muscles would heal.

Feeling the challenge of doing better and not being one to give up easily, I decided yesterday that I’d try the workout again, this time devoting myself to completing the workout with pure dedication to doing it right, not stopping for breaks and not slacking off.  I’m like that. I want to do things better each time.  Way back ‘when’, I used to do Step Aerobics at Bally’s gym 3 times a week, so I knew I could do this kind of thing. But today at age 63, and with tight, sore muscles I realize that that was over 20 years ago.  I haven’t come close to a workout like that in years!  I walk. I golf. I dance. I lift weights once a week. But I really don’t do an aerobic workout anymore.  I want to be trim and fit. I want to lose weight. I want to be healthy. But I certainly don’t want to have to work that hard to have all of that! That’s insanity!

My shoulders, my chest, my calfs, my sides, my thighs – oh  my gosh!!  I am so freekin’ sore!

I ache all over. Happy New Year.

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A Sacred Harbor


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Reflection Boys


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