Start the sailing story up there ^ with CHAPTER 1, but for the quick reads … scroll down and just click on one you might like!

crowd   Everyone … might like these …

maybe she wasn’t joking?             Beautifully Beheld … food for thought, any thought

How many times?                                           canes, caves, and casseroles

Ebber-dog and the “fisher”            Presidential Elections … what history has to tell us

….. a feathered point of view!            ….. my “in between” moment in time …..

putting my affairs in order……….         On Jockstraps and Driving Directions

Bob Thurbon ….. the Steelers out, the Eagles in, but what’s the difference?

 The Next Level                       1947 – Frances, Little Brother, and the big black pot

may I have a word?…..                               …. eeny, meeny, miny, moe

CHAPTER 1 — Boredom        and then ………… CHAPTER 2 — be advised…

p-j-e xmas 2018

Family members may enjoy all of the postings as well as the sailing saga Chapters but some pieces are decidedly more Family oriented than others. So, if you’ve got a Powell somewhere in the family tree, you’ll have a head start with these …

maybe she wasn’t joking?        … food for thought, any thought

Love ….. and 5 little books                 ….. my “in between” moment in time …..

1947 – Frances, Little Brother, and the big black pot   ………….of like persuasion………

…. our 56th wedding anniversary ….             “just call it coincidence”

This one is only for my family …..        Teeney             Are we all experts on Bar-B-Que?

NICHOLAS WALTER “NICK” COPPOLA           putting my affairs in order……….

may I have a word?…..         SUMMER of 1957       …. eeny, meeny, miny, moe

CHAPTER 1 — Boredom      CHAPTER 2 — be advised…       Ebber-dog and the “fisher”


1958 Palm Beach High School Classmates will be most interested in the stories that relate to happenings “on the hill” and/or the individuals that actually hung out under the arch or at the Campus Shop or Cat Cave. Don’t let these recommendations deter you from reading the other pieces or the light-hearted effort at a novel …. they may surprise you!

canes, caves, and casseroles        maybe she wasn’t joking?

the timeless Christmas tree      Beautifully Beheld

Charlie Becker and the John Galt of Allendale Road     … food for thought, any thought

On Jockstraps and Driving Directions                     so little time

looking back at “courage”             “they might have been lonely”


Bob Thurbon ….. the Steelers out, the Eagles in, but what’s the difference?

may I have a word?…..          SUMMER of 1957      Things I Remember ….

Parasitus: (Latin translation for freeloader, sponger, and guest)

seeking relevance……………..                 ………………the second coin…………..

so little time      putting my affairs in order……….     The morning after ….

Are we all experts on Bar-B-Que?           Did any of you know…………?

Ebber-dog and the “fisher”        CHAPTER 1 — Boredom

 img 2  Friends of Jim Powell, including old acquaintances, current and past business associates, and Palm City neighbors may be more hard pressed than others to find a “good read” but there are a few, so check them out …

canes, caves, and casseroles              maybe she wasn’t joking?

….. a feathered point of view!    The Next Level        Ebber-dog and the “fisher”

I almost had a story to tell……..     …. eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Bob Thurbon ….. the Steelers out, the Eagles in, but what’s the difference?

1947 – Frances, Little Brother, and the big black pot  … food for thought, any thought

putting my affairs in order……….         ….. my “in between” moment in time …..

and especially ….. CHAPTER 1 — Boredom

All the rest of them .…… they’re all good but this is where I bury my more controversial scribblings and marginal efforts. Periodically, I’ll probably weaken and promote them up to one of the “first teams”. In the mean time, … can you reap where I haven’t sown?

I’m told I need a “Profile” …..?        … politics and religion … why not?

I may never get to go this way again.

The End


Remembering too much


As an old man, I’m supposed to suffer from ailments that take away remembrances of the past. Oh, that that were true … I could sleep so much better at night. After an early retirement, in the first hours after midnight, I routinely find myself tossing and turning and digging up bones of melancholy from all of the many years gone by. These flash-backs aren’t universally sad or happy—just unexpected, vivid, and sometimes disturbing. In putting this little piece together, I’ve struggled with trying to tie some of my more recent dreams into an organized narrative of some kind—it can’t be done. As the reader, you’ll just have to be content with a setting, a background, or a personal real life experience that I might interject to explain a possible meaning. I warn you … I’m not sure how this will turn out.

   Reflecting on my own mortality and witnessing, in just the past few months, the death of two more high school classmates I was very close to (Charley Becker and Shirley Reasoner), I’ve noticed that death has always been accepted but reacted to in very different ways. As a Christian, I’m receptive to Lamar McLendon’s recent memorial words … “as we grow older, we miss those who go to heaven before us and were welcomed with open arms”, but I have at least two classmates that profess to believe in no superior being. With this concern, I’ve lain awake and … a strange word keeps coming back from my childhood–“nowalayme”. I remember repeating it, or something that sounded like it, over and over and I believe it had something to do with falling asleep.

1863       Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was an exceptionally religious man. He prayed for the souls of, not just his own, but also those of the Yankee soldiers before he rode out to slaughter them. On his deathbed, after the battle of Chancellorsville and with his left arm amputated, his famous last words made no mention of God. Weakly smiling, he only whispered: “let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”.  Southboro Elementry was heavily damaged by fire years ago and was never rebuilt but the shade of old Banyan trees is still nearby and when the wind blows just right—you can hear Johnny Riggs holler out at Moskowitz.

1958       Before graduation, as we gathered in the old gym in back of Central Jr. High and across the street from Gail Prather’s house to have our Royal Palm yearbook signing party … we had our whole lives ahead of us and we would all live forever—even Bruce Bell and Anne Walker.

I have to get some sleep. That word again … nowalayme … I think my mother taught it to me, but I don’t remember why. Sounds like it might be of American Indian or Pacific Island origination and may even be a proper name? I just can’t get it out of my head. Maybe if I roll over on my left side …

1959       Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner stared in the movie ON THE BEACH. The population of the entire world was being wiped out by a radioactive cloud that, as it progressed south over the globe, had left only a few humans in Australia alive. As a submarine captain, Peck leads his crew on a submerged voyage to the north Pacific and San Francisco. They are trying to track down a mysterious coded radio signal that has continued to be intermittently transmitted, even as no one at that latitude is supposed to be alive. What connection can I draw from any similarity between a few Hollywood dots and dashes and Ruthie Hall’s unpredictable, and sometimes sad, emails?

1991       Another movie, so controversial at the time that it only appeared in obscure neighborhood theaters and for short engagements … BLACK ROBE centered on French Jesuit missionaries along the St. Laurence River in 17th Century Quebec.  The plot revolved around the, usually futile, efforts of the priests to convert the Native American population. In a sequence I will never forget–Daniel, a young Frenchman, relays a conversation about religion and eternal life he has had with Annuka, a young squaw he’s become very fond of, to the Jesuit, Father Laforgue:

Daniel:            They have an afterworld of their own.

Father Laforgue:       They have no concept of one.

Daniel:            Annuka told me they believe that in the forest at night the dead can see. The souls of men hunt the souls of animals.

Father Laforgue:       Is that what she told you? It is childish, Daniel.

Daniel:            Is it harder to believe in than Paradise … where we all sit on clouds and look at God?

nowalayme–down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul …


… a pathetic statement of fact by an old man waiting for whatever comes next.

                Over the past few years my life has flowed, more or less, as nature and the Good Lord have always intended. Overall, I’m a lucky man, in that I still have some reason to get out of bed in the morning … other than to take another pee. This motivation centers, almost entirely, on my late in life fixation with a Microsoft Office Suite enabled desktop computer, a Lazy Boy recliner, and an extremely obstructed view of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. It hasn’t always been this way.

                I used to have friends and business acquaintances to meet with, call on the phone, or even sail off with on one of the boats I’ve owned at various times. I would act on the weakest of excuses to drive or fly off to some meeting or convention. Yes, I used to be a very active and engaging guy but I have morphed into an old man that just sits in one place and has begun to feel sensations of “self-pity”. I have resorted to touting, and then posting, a senseless little piece (like the one your reading now) on my blog site and find myself all too eager to hit the DELETE button on virtually every email I receive in response-“I just don’t want to know.”

                Yes, my world has shrunk to just what I can see as I look up from my desk-top keyboard               …

                The view is framed by one of the extra computers that sits on what used to be our dining room table and a lawn chair that keeps a lonely vigil on an outside patio. The scene never changes. Exactly midway between the two, over the wooden fence and forty or fifty yards away, is the open water. My high points of the day come when “Big Bird”, our resident great blue heron, alights on the white table on the far point or a curios raccoon decides to climb over the fence. Between times, I have to be satisfied with the occasional passing squirrel or scampering lizard. The excitement that accompanies the rare weekday passage of a boat on the river is almost monumental.

                If I were sending this message out to an assembly of convicts that spend most of their day gazing out of a small window between the bars, I would feel certain that my plight would be appreciated. That’s obviously not the case. I guess what I’m asking all of you among the aged un-incarcerated is … am I going crazy or are any of the rest you in the “Class of 58” in, or on the lookout for, the same boat?


Four years ago, a horrific incident at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, VA left one person dead and nineteen injured. In August of 2017, Heather Heyer, an anti-racist protester, was killed by the car driven by James Alex Fields while she was demonstrating against a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of Confederate statues. Mr. Fields was a self-described neo-Nazi and White supremacist.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network sidekicks were promptly on the scene to lead a National movement to call attention to the atrocity that had occurred. Last week another group of marchers and attendees were run down on the street. This time in Waukesha, WI. and, to date, six have died and another sixty have been hospitalized. Four of the five victims who were killed, after a red SUV plowed into a Christmas parade, were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies club and an eight year old boy died in the hospital soon after.

The two tragedies are eerily similar … but I’ve heard no mention of prospective travel plans to Wisconsin by Mr. Sharpton. The slaughter of six innocents in the Nation’s heartland came at the hand of a career criminal with multiple priors. 39-year-old Darrell Brooks, Jr. has a record of resisting arrest, obstruction, assault, battery, statutory sexual enticement, strangulation and suffocation, destruction of property, illegal possession of firearms, bail jumping, domestic violence, drug related charges and is a registered sex offender. As he was crashing his vehicle through the crowd, he was out of jail on a politically motivated, and unrealistically low, $1,000 bail.

Just last week, a federal jury in Virginia awarded more than $25 million in damages to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against James Fields and the organizers and participants in the 2017 Unite the Right white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. The decision from the jury “sent a clear message: violent hate won’t go unanswered,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of the group, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, supporting the plaintiffs in the case.

None of these litigants have shown any interest in holding Derrell Brooks, or his enablers, accountable. One can only assume that the slaughter of four grandmothers, a bystander, and a small child in Wisconsin pales into insignificance, at least in the Reverend Sharpton’s estimation, when compared to the death of a single woman in Virginia when certain criteria come into play. Could it have anything to do with skin color?


James Alex Fields
Reverend Al Sharpton
Derrell Brooks, Jr.

in retrospect … A Traitor to his Country

He had held the rank of Colonel but chose to take up arms against the country of his birth and that that he had sworn allegiance to defend. As war clouds loomed, he left his family estate on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia and was soon the commanding general of an army of rebels. He would gain fame for repeated victories against superior forces. These accolades would only intensify after a crushing defeat in the hills of Pennsylvania when he steadfastly held his army together during months of retreat, hunger, hardship, and desertions.

That was all long ago. Over the years, Virginia and various other States in our Union have memorialized this man with statues and by naming streets, schools, and even cities and counties after him. All of this mind set and the actions taken would be understandable if it weren’t for one overriding and highly disturbing fact … this general was both a traitor to his country and a slave holder. He only chose to take up his sword against the government when the longstanding institution of slavery was threatened by official decree and Virginia made its decision to proclaim its departure.

Yes, after all of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m joining with all of my politically progressive friends to demand that all of the statues come down immediately. I’ve also decided that all of the cities and streets should be renamed and, most important of all, the schools and institutions of higher learning that bear this offending surname should, collectively, be shamed into submission. How can the citizens of Lexington, VA or the cadets at VMI bear to wake up every morning knowing they share their neighborhood with a campus designated as Washington and Lee University? We need to heed the lessons of history and embrace another, more deserving, societal hero.

Why not Crispus Attucks, whom many historians credit as the first man to die for freedom in the American Revolution. He has become a symbol of Black American patriotism and sacrifice. In 1770, as tension mounted between British and colonial sailors in Massachusetts ports, distrust and competition among them grew. These pressures came to a head on March 5th, when an angry confrontation turned into a slaughter known as the Boston Massacre. 

Witnesses say that Attucks, a middle-aged runaway enslaved man of African and native American descent, who worked as a sailor and a rope maker, played an active role in the initial scuffle. Of the five colonists killed, he was said to be the first to fall—making him the first martyr to the American cause. He was taken down by two musket balls to the chest.

Yes, it has a very nice ring … let’s mandate that this venerable institution in the Old Dominion be renamed “Attucks and Lee University”.

Not what you were expecting? Maybe you weren’t aware of George Washington’s notorious and treasonous history or the fact that the American Revolution was fought to its successful conclusion primarily to preserve and perpetuate an institution of human bondage.

To this end—a little historical background is in order: Both George Washington and Robert E. Lee only attained the rank of Colonel before terminating their respective allegiances. Washington as Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all forces raised in the defense of His Majesty’s Colony of Virginia in the French and Indian War and Lee when he resigned from the Union Army to, eventually, command the Army of Northern Virginia.

It was George Washington leaving his estate and tobacco and cotton plantation at Mount Vernon on the banks of the Patomac, not Lee’s departure from his home across the river from the District of Columbia at Arlington. (also on the Patomac and destined to become a National Cemetery).

No it wasn’t Lee’s defeat, and the turning point of the Civil War, at Gettysburg. It was Washington’s debacle at Brandywine, his abandonment of Philadelphia, and the terrible winter encampment at Valley Forge.

Now to the issue of slavery motivation—realize that the American Revolution began as a localized uprising by a small group of Boston ruffians. Virginia at that time was the largest and wealthiest colony and, for the most part, its citizens had no desire to leave the embrace of the Crown of England. That was until the rebellion began in New England and, sensing its spread south, the colonial Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunsmore, issued his fateful edict:


As I have ever entertained hopes that an accommodation might have taken place between Great-Britain and this colony, without being compelled, by my duty, to this most disagreeable, but now absolutely necessary step, rendered so by a body of armed men, unlawfully assembled, firing on his Majesty’s tenders, and the formation of an army, and that army now on their march to attack his Majesty’s troops, and destroy the well disposed subjects of this colony: To defeat such treasonable purposes, and that all such traitors, and their abetters, may be brought to justice, and that the peace and good order of this colony may be again restored, which the ordinary course of the civil law is unable to effect, I have thought fit to issue this my proclamation, hereby declaring, that until the aforesaid good purposes can be obtained, I do, in virtue of the power and authority to me given, by his Majesty, determine to execute martial law, and cause the same to be executed throughout this colony; and to the end that peace and good order may the sooner be restored, I do require every person capable of bearing arms to resort to his Majesty’s STANDARD, or be looked upon as traitors to his Majesty’s crown and government, and thereby become liable to the penalty the law inflicts upon such offences, such as forfeiture of lifeconfiscation of lands, &c. &c. And I do hereby farther declare all indented servantsNegroes, or others (appertaining to rebels) free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s troops, as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper sense of their duty, to his Majesty’s crown and dignity. I do father order, and require all his Majesty’s liege subjects to retain their quitrents, or any other taxes due, or that may become due, in their own custody, till such time as peace may be again restored to this at present most unhappy country, or demanded of them for their former salutary purposes, by officers properly authorized to receive the same. Given on board the ship William, off Norfolk, the 7th of Nov, 1775.

By this time fugitive slaves were routinely being freed in England with the judgment that slavery could not exist under English common law and recent events at sea, off the coast of Africa, had helped launch the movement to abolish slavery throughout the Empire. Lord Dunsmore had only chosen to speed up the process by freeing the slaves in Virginia if they would join in the fight to put down the rebellion. George Washington was among the colony’s largest slave holders.

In 1781, the British Army under Lord Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown in Virginia and two years later the last English soldier sailed home from New York. Slavery was soon to be eliminated in England but George Washington returned to his gentlemanly pursuits as a Southern Planter on the banks of the Patomac. As you know, he went on to become the first President of the United States and lived until 1799, but sixty-six more years were to pass before anyone was actually paid to pick cotton in the fields of Mount Vernon.

Today, elementary school children in Canada aren’t subjected to lectures on Critical Race Theory but they are taught that the primary motivation for the rebellion in our thirteen original colonies was not a tax on tea or a march on Lexington and Concord, but the perpetuation of slavery. Hmmm–could there be something to that idea?

In the meantime, don’t go overboard with political dogma or opinions, either on the Right or Left. Instead, let’s make a toast to the Class of 2022 at Attucks and Lee University and keep compassion in our hearts for the poor souls in the City of Seattle as they deal with having to change the name of their State to Grant or Sherman.

A democracy can only last until …

… the electorate figure out that they control the purse strings.

In 1787, while our first 13 states adopted their new constitution, Alexander Tyler who was a Scottish History Professor at the University of Edinburgh, said this about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2000 years earlier:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

The liberals in congress, typically but not always found in the Democratic Party, are simply following a tradition clearly discussed over 200 years ago.  Our democracy is mature and past the 200 year cycle predicted by history.  Professor Tyler went on to say the following about the eight steps that a democracy goes through:

From bondage to spiritual faith;

From spiritual faith to great courage;

From courage to liberty;

From liberty to abundance

From abundance to complacency;

From complacency to apathy;

From apathy to dependence;

From dependence back into bondage

With tens of millions of Americans already being supported by tax payer subsidized health care benefits, tax payer provided welfare, tax payer provided unemployment extensions … what we’ve created is a country where vast numbers are becoming ever more dependent on gifts from the government paid for from the money collected from the tax payers.

The problem is that the more people that rely on the government, the fewer workers and income earners that pay taxes; the fewer entrepreneurs that generate jobs, and the greater demand for higher taxes from an ever decreasing taxpaying group.  This is the next step that goes back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Social Security (perennially in financial trouble), Medicare and Medicaid (also perennially in financial trouble) and now some want us to add $3,500,000,000,000 to the National debt and untold more millions of people to the doll from the government.

In the 1960’s this country was the country of promise.  The country that told the immigrants who traveled to its shores: you work hard, you are productive and honorable and a good citizen, there are no limits to what you can do for you, your family and your new country.  In the last 50 years we’ve moved from abundance to complacency and today, with an apparent apathy to let Congress pass its current legislative agenda into law, we’ve moved one step closer towards total dependency.

I’m saddened to realize that the once great United States of America that had the power and might to stop tyranny dead in its tracks in Europe and Japan will now join Athens and the other great ancient societies and become only a footnote in future history books while others rise to take our place. While we’re dredging up wisdom from the past—here’s one regarding our “rights” to ponder:

“It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville

It’s a sad day indeed in these United States. To those of you, who celebrate; know you are celebrating your dependency on the government, and the very probable loss of your freedom.

with only a handful of quarters

One Saturday afternoon in 1956, I pulled up in my parent’s green 1950 turtle-backed Pontiac at the Billups gas station on the corner of Dixie Hwy. & Southern Blvd. in West Palm Beach. I had just gotten my driver’s license. Regular gasoline was 24.9 cents a gallon. The only money I had with me was a handful of quarters I had gleaned from my paper route collections that morning. I knew I needed to have enough left over for a movie at the Florida Theater downtown that night and the obligatory stop-off with my date at the Hut. Ten of the 2-bit ducats let me pump over ten gallons into the tank and I was on my way.

That was sixty-four years ago. Flash forward–yesterday I was on my way to the Post Office here in Palm City when I noticed I was virtually out of gas. No problem … just stop off at the 7-Eleven/Citgo on the way, if I could make it?

Only after putting on my Covid-19 mask and unscrewing the gas filler cap, did I realize I had left my wallet back at the house. The only money I had was the collection of coins that routinely accumulate in the console between my car’s front seats. In this case–six quarters, a nickel, and a few pennies. You should have seen the look on the attendants face when, at the register, I put my cash down on the counter and said: “regular at pump number 9.”

In the short time it took me for my abbreviated fueling experience, two revelations came to mind. First: would I even have enough gas to get to the Post Office and back home, and secondly: how expensive gasoline was back in the good-old days. Yes, that’s what I said, “EXPENSIVE” in 1956.

You probably aren’t aware of it but, when you fill up at the pump these days, you are getting two gallons for the price of one. That’s right, you can get more than two gallons of gasoline for that same quarter that only bought you one at Billups in the good-old days. There’s only one catch … it has to be one of the “same quarters”.      check out that 1950’s quarter today  … The silver in it alone is worth $4.67. (12/20/20)




… food for thought, any thought

My life has drastically changed over the last few months. I’ve been forced to sequester myself inside the confines of my home for all but a few, very cautious, sojourns to the post office or super market. The old standby to combat boredom, television, has morphed into an archival Dempster dumpster of Hollywood film castoffs mixed with highlights from ten or twelve-year-old sporting events. The programming is so bad that even the commercials are an embarrassment–last night the evening worship broadcast of a prominent evangelical pastor was sponsored by an AID’s medication called Descovy featuring an elegantly coiffed drag queen along with encouragement to …


To add to these disruptions, like most other people, my life has taken some unexpected day-to-day emotional turns. I’ve recently lost a friend that I had become very attached to. He lived close by and had gotten in the habit of dropping by virtually every day for some refreshment and a short conversation. Sometimes he brought along his buddy but, probably because of this COVID thing, they always stayed some distance apart. Anyway, both of them have stopped coming around. Even though I like to think I don’t live in a high crime neighborhood, word of mouth on the street is that fowl play was definitely involved in their disappearance.

out of my hand 1

Making a short story even shorter and offering a little explanation–I lost that friend when “Gimp” stopped coming around for a few pecans and cashews. His buddy “Little Guy” disappeared at about the same time. That was a month or so ago and corresponded with two big hawks taking up residency in the surrounding pines as well as an increased serenade of WHOOing being heard from the oaks across the creek after the sun goes down.

There is an old axiom that: “Nature abhors a vacuum” and with the void in my life caused by the absence of my friend–things have abruptly begun to change. It could have been subliminally prompted by all of the attention that the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” movement has generated or maybe was just a byproduct of those Sahara Winds the weatherman is always talking about, but last week I had a very unexpected visitor. He was a dark stranger from Africa complete with multi-colored garb and an entourage of female attendants. I hadn’t notice his mode of transportation upon his arrival but he projected elegance and a totally self-assured demeaner as he walked straight up the driveway to my house … then paused momentarily by a puddle of rain water before jumping with a “thump” against an exterior wall and unabashedly peering in through a picture window.


   Now he has found a new home. I’ve given him the name of “Bomber” for his habit of unexpectedly dropping in. He’s a Red Headed Agama and his kind have become quite common in Palm City. Hear tell, that his clan did come from Africa but he clams up every time I ask him about it–probably worried about his immigration status. He’s seldom much of a conversationalist but never fails to give me his undivided attention in our verbal exchanges. Unlike the squirrels, he’ll eat just about anything but prefers fresh Bing cherries or crumbs from a cranberry-walnut pound cake. He keeps his harem of lady friends around for company but doesn’t look kindly on “other guys stopping by for a chat.” As far as the “hanky-panky” goes … it looks like he’s playing it pretty cool–they chase him more that he chases them.

Having freed up most of the slots in my busy calendar, I find myself spending more and more time talking with Bomber. I’ve asked him about his fears and aspirations: he just wants a steady supply of termites to go with the fruit and pastry hand-outs and one look at my old house will allay any concerns in that department. As far as the fear factor is concerned–he doesn’t seem worried about winged predators but is aware that there hasn’t been a long lasting hard freeze at this latitude in years and one is long over-due. He told me that if the temperature does drop, he and his entourage may need to move inside for a night or two. I haven’t broached this subject with my wife yet–maybe wait awhile.

What really grabs my attention in speaking with my new-found African friend is his obvious and genuine concern about, not himself, but what makes me tick? He seems unusually interested in my mental wellbeing and asks repeatedly if I have any active social life other than what I have revealed and demonstrated in my talks with him?

Hmmm … food for thought.

Jim Powell




maybe she wasn’t joking?

Dr. Joseph Dobson Sr. (1720-1791), a University educated physician, was born in England and settled in western North Carolina Colony before 1768.

It is believed Dobson lived on the south side of the Catawba River near present day Glen Alpine where he operated a private school. He served as a physician during the American Revolution and afterwards became the first Clerk of Superior Court for the Morgan District.

In 1785, Dobson became the entry taker for Burke County, which at that time extended to what is now Tennessee. This position enabled him to easily accumulate more than 100,000 acres in western North Carolina and establish a dynasty that lived well beyond his passing.

It was into this prosperous and legendary family that a daughter was born in 1872. Tima Jane Dobson did not grow into a beautiful woman–she was almost six feet tall and lacked in qualities of social demure. She may have waited longer than customary or desired, but on Christmas day, 1898, she married James Elias Powell. Jim Powell had flop ears, was of slight stature, and the son of a sharecropper. Reading between the lines, Miss Dobson had married well below her station in life but things were to turn out well. The Powells moved on to a piece of bottom land (presumably a wedding gift) and started a family.

In 1916 the Duke Power Co. began damn construction and the flooding of what was to become Lake James. The Powell homestead would soon be underwater. By now there were eight children along with Mama and Papa Powell and they all packed up and moved to their new home in Horse Shoe, NC. It was here, on a farm along the French Broad River, that my father was raised.

pic2Mama and Papa Powell with all the children and Uncle Clarence’s new bride. cir. 1925

It was also here that, years later, I along with my parents, my brother and sisters and whatever pet or pets we had, made the automobile trip to every summer. We were only going to visit aunts and uncles because all the old folks had died (that seemed so simple to contemplate when we were young).

How old I was, I don’t remember but somewhere along the line I was told that Mama Powell had been the keeper of knowledge when it came to where we all came from. Genealogy was a word still buried in the dictionary but my grandmother had left multiple copies of, what everyone called, our “family history”. There was no elaborate family placard or bound journal–just a few pages of names, dates and places, all in Mama Powell’s own handwriting on lined note-pad paper. Being too young to care about any of this … the years passed, I grew old, and these written pages were tucked away in one of the usual “never-to-be-found-again” places.

In the overall history of mankind much, if not most, of our knowledge is handed down from one generation to the next. For the first fifty years of my life I never laid eyes on my grandmother’s written names, dates, and places but every member of my extended family–cousins, nephews, nieces, and in-laws included, had heard tell of Mama Powell’s oft repeated description of the Powell Family pedigree: “You all come from a long line of Germans, Scots-Irish, and Portuguese N*****s”. As distasteful as it might seem–this lineage tracking statement, word-for-word including the “N word”, became a standard laugh line at family get-togethers. No thought was given to its hurtful nature … it was just the Powell way of blending in with the salt of the earth.

Until the last few weeks, these words were either forgotten or ignored as being a long ago attempt at humor by a matronly grandmother raised in the 19th century deep south. We all assumed it was just her way of down-playing the fame, wealth, and notoriety of the Dobson name or, more probably, lovingly besmirching the Powell clan she had married into. When, on the rare occasion, a younger member of the family or an outsider ask if the story was “really true”–a laugh, a shake of the head, and a denial was always forthcoming. “No, Mama Powell liked to cut the fool. She was just joking, and besides … Portuguese aren’t black.”

Where I had found the article is not important but what I learned and remembered from it … well you be the judge.

Appalachian people who boasted of Portuguese ancestry to avoid slavery were actually African descendants.

Taken from an ASSOCIATED PRESS article
PUBLISHED:  24 May 2012

Varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies. Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking.

The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.
And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn’t sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry. “There were a whole lot of people upset by this study”, lead researcher Roberta Estes said, noting that many preferred their assumed origins. “They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American”.

Beginning in the early 1800s, or possibly before, the term Melungeon (meh-LUN’-jun) was applied as a slur to a group of about 40 families along the Tennessee-Virginia border. But it has since become a catch-all phrase for a number of groups of mysterious mixed-race ancestry. In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and with the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.

Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who’s spent more than thirty years examining multiracial people in the U.S. said that race-mixing in the U.S. isn’t a new phenomenon. “All of us are multiracial,” he said. “We are only recapturing a more authentic U.S. history.”

Other researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery was well established and widespread. They conclude that as laws were put in place to penalize the mixing of races, the various family groups could only intermarry with each other, even migrating together from Virginia through the Carolinas before settling primarily in the mountains of East Tennessee. Claims of Portuguese ancestry likely were a ruse they used in order to remain free and retain other privileges that came only with being considered white.

Estimates conclude that there must be several thousand descendants of the historical Melungeons alive today. The origin of the word Melungeon is unknown, but there is no doubt it was considered a slur by white residents in Appalachia who suspected the families of being mixed race. ‘It’s sometimes embarrassing to see the lengths our ancestors went through to hide their African heritage, but look at the consequences’ said Wayne Winkler, past president of the Melungeon Heritage Association. Then ask yourself … “what would I have done differently”?

Pic C          Pic B (2)

Melungeon–Ugly connotations: With the name originating in the 1800s, many tried to prove they were not of African descent to escape slavery or, after the Civil War, not fall victim to penalizing laws

After reading this article, I remember smiling to myself and wondering if maybe, just maybe, Mama Powell knew more than she let on… maybe she wasn’t joking? Her handwritten list of the family men and women that had preceded me into this world was somewhere–but where? My sister, Lynn, said she remembered seeing it with some old letters after our mother passed away but nothing could be found and the search was soon forgotten.

That was three or four years ago. Last week, after tracking down the article and reading it again, I started thumbing through a collection of old photos and newspaper clippings for no good reason, except to temporarily escape from COVID-19 purgatory, when there they were. The treasured pages were tucked into a tattered envelope with some old deeds and land surveys. At first glance, it is obvious that Mama Powell made no effort to tie the generations together. She had probably reproduced her manuscript by copying directly from at least two, and likely more, family Bibles. One of the first names I picked up on was Jarrett. Mama Powell’s mother was a Jarrett and I remember getting a phone call back in the 1990’s from some “good-ole-boy” in Goldsboro, NC asking me if it was true “that Dale Jarrett, the NASCAR driver is my (his) second cousin?” (it was)

Carefully laying out the pages in front of me, the names and dates formed a homespun mosaic of times gone by.

Mama Powell wrote

There, mingled together in no discernable generational order, were the Dobsons and the Powells along with the Jarretts and the O’Neils. There were long ago dates of babies being born and of the old ones leaving them behind. There were the names of foreign lands and … and … at the bottom of page 3 and flowing over to the next page:

Isaac Letherwood born in Portugal S/ain 1749. Rebecca Birtchfield born in Germany 1754 were married 1774 To This union 3 children Betsey Daniel & Harriet. … and … there was also a two word notation Mama Powell had added below it.

It’s going to take some soul searching and I’m not sure exactly how other members of my family will accept this new revelation but maybe Mama Powell wasn’t joking? Maybe I am part Portuguese?

Jim Powell

how many times?


Three years ago we were pulling them down …

The email below was sent to the Editor of the Palm Beach Post and many of my high school classmates in June of 2017. I just thought it might be of interest once again–what with recent societal events taking the turn that they have …

to: the Editor of the Palm Beach Post and my High School Classmates (Palm Beach High School, Class of 1958)

In case you missed it–the Confederate Memorial in the Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach honoring Civil War veterans that ended up fighting on the losing side is about to become the next bit of Southern heritage to be expunged from history. I am not a red necked, bigoted, tobacco chewing, rebel flag waving good ole boy. I am a serious student of American History and, although I am descended from numerous slave holders and a Confederate soldier that died at Malvern Hill, I am of the firm opinion that a Southern victory in the War of Northern Aggression would have been unfortunate. Unfortunate not only for a fledgling nation but for the future history of all of mankind.

Acknowledging the pure ugliness of the very concept of slavery and recognizing that its preservation was the primary reason for the secession of the southern states I am still forced to ask a question. When will the politically correct crowd “call off the dogs”?

Assuming the answer to be “never”; I want to give them their next project. This one will be of much greater impact and should keep them occupied for years to come. It will involve voters and politicians from the Everglades to the pan-handle and stir up emotions on a scale we can only imagine!


Baker                                    James McNair Baker      a Confederate Senator

Bradford                              Richard Bradford           the first Florida Confederate officer to die in the Civil War

Calhoun                                John C. Calhoun              leading Southern politician and slave holder

Clay                                        Henry Clay                       Kentucky statesman, founder of the Whig Party and slave holder

Gadsden                                James Gadsden               considered slavery to be “a social blessing” and abolitionists to be “the greatest curse of the Nation”

Hendry                                  Francis A. Hendry          Confederate cavalry officer and slave owner

Jackson                                  Andrew Jackson              7th President of the US, a slave owner and soon to lose his place on the $20 bill to Harriet Tubman

Jefferson                               Thomas Jefferson            3rd President of the US, author of the Declaration of Independence and, you guessed it, a slave owner

Lee                                          Robert E. Lee                    no comment

Levy                                        David Levy Yulee            imprisoned for nine months after the Civil War for “supporting slavery and secession”

Madison                                James Madison                 4th President of the US, hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” and owner of hundreds of slaves during his lifetime

Marion                                   Francis Marion                 the “Swamp Fox” of the American Revolution, from South Carolina and a slave holder

Monroe                                  James Monroe                   5th President of the US, a Virginia Planter and owner of hundreds of slaves

Pasco                                      Samuel Pasco                     Southern “Planter” and, naturally, a slave owner

Polk                                         James K. Polk                     President of the US during the Mexican War and owner of 25 slaves

Putnam                                  Benjamin A. Putnam        Florida Legislator and slave owner

Sumter                                   Thomas Sumter                 Revolutionary War General, cotton plantation owner and slave holder

Taylor                                     Zachary Taylor                  another US President from the South whose family owned 150 slaves

Walton                                   George Walton                   first Secretary of Florida Territory and slave owner

Washington                          George Washington         “Father of our Country”, first President of the US and one of Virginia’s largest slave owners

Dixie                                                   now why would anybody have a problem with this?


Jim Powell


Over forty thousand of North Carolina’s men went off to war and never came home. In retrospect, their cause was both lost and wrong and, as a white Southerner and a proud American, I recognize this fact. How many times do I have to say “I’m sorry” and is it really necessary to hang the memory of so many fallen fathers, sons, and husbands from a light post in Durham?

Hanging Rebel