Roy Exum: My December Garden

Saturday, November 30, 2019 - by Roy Exum

According to my friends at Accu-Weather, the 65 degrees we enjoyed as November said goodbye will be followed by 30 degrees on Monday as December says hello. For the record we were about an inch shy of normal rainfall last month but all signs of the drought that worried my magnolia trees is gone. As I go for a Sunday morning walk in my garden, there are still plenty of orchids and onions I can find because even in the gray of December’s first day, I am an expert.

AN ORCHID for the Iron Bowl, a barn-burner that has never failed once in over 50 years to tickle my thriller. Auburn’s tenacity in a 48-45 slugfest was an SEC-certified testament that every year the winner is the team that plays its best. Great champions do not wait for the opponent to commit a mistake – they win because they earn it. Sure, the Alabama field goal bouncing bad after hitting the upright late in the fourth quarter was huge, and it was magnified by a Nick Saban-coached Tide ending the game with too many players on the field, but just as in every Iron Bowl game I have personally witnessed, the game was won because Auburn played its best on every play regardless of what Alabama did or did not do. And that’s the yardstick that best measures football winners as well as those in life.

AN ONION for tragic news a 21-year-old Purdue engineering student fell over 200 feet while rappelling in a Jackson County, Ala., cave last weekend. Trever Col was an experienced outdoorsman and it is believed the cause for the fall was equipment failure. He and friends had obtained proper permits from the Valhalla Cave Preserve, and Chattanooga rescue teams were among the first responders. Two other caving deaths have occurred in Jackson County this year, which is increasingly recognized as one of the premier caving areas in the United States. Jackson County is located in the uppermost eastern corner of Alabama, and is next to Dade County, Ga.

AN ORCHID for the Southern Cave Conservancy, which is based in Chattanooga, and has now mapped many caves in varying degrees of difficulty. Those interested should contact the group at for permits and more information. An additional website is The earlier deaths this year occurred at the popular Stephens Gap cave system, which is among hundreds of caves located as Lookout Mountain stretches from Georgia into Alabama.

AN ONION for the astute observation that when you are dead, you don’t know you’re dead -- the only pain is felt by others. What is amazing is that exact same thing occurs when you are stupid.

AN ORCHID for every holly bush that is laden with Christmas-colored berries.

AN ONION to Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore who, immediately after he caught a last-minute touchdown pass Thursday to pull the Rebels within one point of arch-rival Mississippi State, thought it would add to the hysteria if he got down on all fours and lifted his leg to imitate a dog peeing. That instantly triggered a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing play for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then, in what would've been an easy point-after kick for Ole Miss kicker Luke Logan (who has been 98 percent successful all year) was pushed back to field goal range and the incensed Logan’s try went wide. State won, 21-20, and now the only question is where Elijah plans to live the rest of his life because it ain’t going to be in Mississippi.

AN ORCHID for the life of Jasper’s Josh Jennings who, despite the fact he lived only 36 years before his untimely death last week, did more to help others in his glorious lifetime than the great majority of those who will live to be 100.

AN ONION for the cold dose of reality that occurs when you find out that growing up in the ‘60s was a lot more fun than living in your ‘60s. (Think about it … 1969 was 50 years ago ... )

AN ORCHID for Denny’s restaurant in Galveston where a customer asked waitress Adrianna Edwards for some extra ice cream. The girl happily obliged but … what is this? A set of car keys was left as a tip? That’s right – word had leaked that she walked four hours to work and back every day. “I’ve got to eat. You gotta’ do what you gotta’ do,” she said, never complaining. A couple from Texas, wanting to remain anonymous, heard of the girl’s plight, went to a nearby Nissan dealer and came back with quite a Thanksgiving gift. The couple’s lone request: “Maybe some day you can ‘pay it forward.’”

AN ONION TO Washington State football coach Mike Leach – one of my favorite people – who went off on some irritating sports writer just after Washington had crushed Leach and his Cougars, 31-13, in Friday’s Apple Bowl Rivalry: “We didn’t win this one. And I don’t care to have a big discussion with you on it because I don’t really care what you think -- you run your little column and stuff like some sanctimonious troll, where you’ve never been fair or even-handed with us, so I really don’t care what you think. OK, go ahead, because you’re going to write some really nasty stuff like you always do. And I don’t know which (Cougar) way back when did something that offended you, but I don’t really care about that either. If you can live your little meager life in your hole and write nasty things and that makes you feel even, you go right ahead.” So there.

AN ORCHID to the Tennessee football fans who can finally smile away that hot August opener when Georgia State upended UT in the season opener, 38-30, and have since watched with joy as quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has steadily improved, going from a bone-headed mistake in the Alabama game to the catalyst in the Kentucky win. For a fun review of this year’s season take a look at this parody that was done before the Vols’ win over Vandy last night. CLICK HERE.

AN ONION to Josh Shaw, a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals who has been on the injured reserve list for most of this season. He mistakenly believed he was invisible when he went to Las Vegas with some high school chums and did some gambling, which is forbidden in the NFL. He just got banned from the league for the entire 2020 season. Lesson learned: Nobody is invisible. Ever.

AN ORCHID to the Polish chef who, when convicted terrorist Usman Khan began to slash and kill people on the London Bridge, grabbed a narwhal tusk off a seafood restaurant wall that he used to helped subdue the terrorist who was killed by police. Two unsuspecting people were killed and three more were injured in the attack. (A narwhal is a type of whale sometimes known as the "unicorn of the sea" because of its distinct "tusk", which is actually a tooth. That tooth can reach lengths of up to 10 feet and you just never can know when a whale tusk can come in handy.)

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by Dr. Heartsill Wilson

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it,
Or use it for good.
What I do today is important,
Because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes,
This day will be gone forever.
Leaving in its place
Something I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain not loss;
good not evil;
Success not failure;
In order that I shall not regret the price 
I paid for it.

(PERSONAL NOTE: About 50 years ago, Alabama coach Bear Bryant gave me a copy of this poem with the advice I obey it. A large piece of artwork containing its every word hangs at a focal point in my house, reminding me to recite it every day. Want to hear “The Old Man” recite it? Here’s a tape that was shot at the Birmingham Quarterback Club in 1981. CLICK HERE

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