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an uneventful morning
though somewhat overwhelming
by dirk cotton

My first thought is what a wonderful night’s sleep that was and I smile before I even open my eyes. The room is a slightly chilly 60 degrees because I left the windows open last night, but my face feels warm from the morning sunlight filtered through lace curtains.

I hear birds chirping just outside the window. Lots of birds. A freight train blows its whistle a couple of miles away, but I can also hear its engines. Another good reason to have left the windows open.

The sheets and the bumpy bedspread, the kind that leaves an impression on your face and gives away your afternoon naps, are all I need to stay warm and I feel very little inclination to shed the great white biscuit.

Biscuit. It hits me. Good things await me in the kitchen. Now I’m awake.

We stopped at Burke’s Bakery yesterday and picked up a cinnamon pull-apart for breakfast. The smell of fresh donuts at Burke’s can bring a grown man to his knees. Fast food is blamed for obesity in this country but Burke’s was making people fat and happy long before Ronald McDonald was a gleam in Ray Kroc’s eyes.

Vicki and my father-in-law, Burton, are already sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the paper and the pull-apart just sits there in all its glory in the aluminum foil container. I grab a small plate, fill my mug with coffee and twist off a section of cinnamon-y heaven.

The coffee is special, because Burton made it. He will turn 94 tomorrow and he makes a good cup of coffee with a secret ingredient—tradition.

Burton is special, too. I only knew my Dad until I was 12 but I have been a member of Burton’s family three times that long.

After a second cup of coffee (and, OK, a couple more tugs at that pull-apart) I decide to go for a walk around Hustonville. I like to walk for about an hour, but that requires about three laps of every street in town. I put on my sneakers, my sunglasses, a light jacket and a baseball cap, you know, the one that celebrates our eighth national basketball championship, and head for town just across the bridge that spans Hanging Creek.

I still hear a passing train in the distance, its whistle at crossings, its engines, its steel wheels against steel rails. It carries freight and stirs up memories like the dust chasing a pickup truck down a gravel road.

I grew up in the coalfields of western Kentucky. I learned to count to a hundred by watching endless trains of coal cars cross the highway near Nebo from the back seat of my parents’ car.

I walk up the hill from the middle of town past old houses. A few of them were here when William Quantrill snuck (it’s in the Southern Dictionary) into town in Union uniforms in 1865 to steal horses. The locals retaliated later that night as the gang slept and killed a few of Quantrill’s men, but that’s a whole nother (also in the Southern Dictionary) story.

Hay has been recently cut in pastures at the top of the hill (still in the town limits). The smell of cut grass is so full of memories that I instinctively want to lift my cap by the bill and wipe the sweat of my childhood from my eyes with my sleeve in a single, efficient motion.

As I walk through town, dogs bark at me from nearly every yard because it’s something to do.

I return to my wife’s childhood home to shave and shower. At our own home, I shave in the shower with a fogless mirror, but here I must shave in the bathroom sink. I lather up and pull the razor down my cheek and notice what I have missed while shaving in a noisy shower, the tiny crackling sound of whiskers being severed and the equally rewarding silence of drawing the razor over the same spot a second time.

I shower and get dressed and ask my wife to drop me off in Danville for the afternoon. I feel an urgent need to go to the Hub Coffee Shop to document, for reasons I cannot explain, a completely uneventful morning.

Maybe it’s for my children to read someday in hopes that they will know me better than I knew my own father, which wouldn’t be hard at all.

I imagine them reading it one day and thinking, “The man really needed a hobby.”


Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 Internet company who loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write. Everything else he does is just for fun. A computer programmer-cum-marketing executive-cum-financial planner who now wants to be a writer, he apparently can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He and his family moved to The Southern Part of Heaven in 2005 and couldn't be happier with that decision.

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