From the Publisher’s Desk – There’s a lot ‘app’ening these days

By Keith Whitson

Cell phones allow us to access a vast array of information we need and much we don’t need through the use of apps or applications. Luckily we don’t have to fill out an application to use them but many do require a user name and a password. There are even apps to store and keep track of all of your user names and passwords to the many apps you use. Lots of apps are free and only a download away.

One of the more commonly used apps now is for meeting someone and dating. You can sit anywhere and use your cell phone to scroll through the list of available people who are on the same app with the hopes of finding a dream come true. You can look far and near.

These apps will allow users to check out photos, a profile, interests, age, height, weight and more. You can then start communicating with anyone of interest to ask additional questions and see if there is a mutual attraction.

I am sure this has revolutionized the art of dating from what many of us grew up with. In my day, you talked from the house phone, connected to the wall, to someone you already knew. All plans were made before leaving the house. There was no undetected searching the region and beyond from the safety of your cell phone.

Times have changed. Now even elementary school children have smart phones. They communicate with their friends and girlfriends/boyfriends mostly through texting. I guess it’s easier to text what you are feeling rather than saying it to the person face-to-face or over a phone conversation.

When I was in elementary school we had no cell phones. You got to know each other at school. You could talk on the phone more after you got home or sometimes got together after school. The relationship was declared “going together,” not that you were actually going anywhere. It was an understood phrasing for “couple.”

Now, step back with me to the end of my seventh grade school year. I was at my cousin’s house and had the bright idea of putting my left foot on the step of her tricycle, bending over to the handle bars and pushing myself along with my right foot. Of course it looked silly and was too small for me.

Something went drastically wrong and the three-wheeled monster popped out from  under me and I went down. The only thing that seemed to be hurt was a minor  bruise and scrape on my left leg. It continued to sting a bit the next day.

There was a cute girl that I had my eye on for sometime. We weren’t best friends but I had gone through all grade levels up to that point with her. I felt like she was out of my league. She was popular, which, in my eyes, put her beyond my reach.

I was walking down the hall, and saw her just ahead of me, going the same direction. A quick plan of action came to mind. It wasn’t the brightest, but I didn’t have time to plan.

I thought it would be cute to limp past her, get her attention and see if she would ask why I was limping. I would make her laugh by telling her my tragic story of how this particular seventh grader had a disastrous wreck on a tricycle.

Cursing was not my in my vocabulary but, like any young man, I knew a few words. In my mind she would be impressed if I threw in a mild one with a tough guy attitude.

I put my plan into action, racing painlessly to catch up and then slowing down into a limp. Sure enough, she asked why I was limping and I told her “I wrecked on a d%&# tricycle.” The comment broke the ice and she started laughing. We proceeded to talk and eventually I got up the nerve to ask if she would “go with me.” Unfortunately she had just started “going” with some other boy and wanted to stick with him for the summer, or at least that’s how she put it. Just my luck.

I did have a girl to “go with” in high school. I was shy and wasn’t the most exciting guy. I think I had my cousin ask her for me and she agreed. She was at my house after that and saw a ring and ID bracelet of mine. She wanted to wear them to officially declare our relationship.

Eventually we fizzle out and she gave me back the ring. By then it had turned  her finger green.

Where were apps and smart phones when I needed them?

Hood’s Winks – Drones offer sky view advantage

By Ralph Hood

I have now been droned!

It was at Gail’s Arrington family reunion (her dad’s side), and it didn’t hurt at all! Having once been droned, I now am, of course, an expert on the subject

After a superb lunch of family-favorite recipes, all of us went outside, stood in one huge group, and watched as the drone rose majestically into the air before us. It sounded like a thousand buzzing bees.

We oohed and aahed, the picture was taken, the drone dipped to us, did a little dance in the air, then gently settled, and we oohed and aahed some more.

The droner, Randall Hash, (or should I call him the pilot or photographer?) is a licensed professional drone operator. What with Walmart et al selling drones to the unwashed hobbyist masses, it is still somewhat rare to meet a licensed drone professional.

(Some people suspect that hobbyists buy drones so they can skulk through the air taking pictures of nudes through bedroom windows. Can you imagine how many skyscraper-apartment dwellers—high on the 32nd floor—do not close their window shades? The opportunities for drone drivers must be awesome. I wouldn’t do that, of course, but some might!)

Randall Hash and I met and talked—well, I talked, mostly. Talking about drones was fun after a morning of listening to other people trying to explain how they must be kin to each other (“Now, your uncle Cecil married my third cousin, once removed. They had three children, two of them were normal, the other one married my great aunt, and…..”).

Agriculture is a huge industry that will benefit greatly from drones. Today, a farmer, worried about his huge grain fields, may decide to put fertilizer over all of the fields. The cost would be substantial.

The drone-equipped farmer, however, could send out a drone to photograph all of the fields. He might find the one field that has a problem, and then he could fertilize only that one area, thus saving big bucks.

It would work on insect infestations also. If there are crop-eating insects in one spot, the drone could pinpoint that area and quickly send insecticides to wipe out the infestation before it spread.

There is no doubt that these methods work. Japan, for example, uses drones to a great extent right now. Our guvmint—it seems to me—tried at first to keep tight control on drones. But I doubt that was ever possible. Sometimes things do take over. When GPS navigation first came out, our guvmint tried to control it. Pilots bought a GPS and used it anyway, because it was, frankly, flat-out wonderful for aviation navigation.

The same—I believe—will happen with drones.

Another big market for drones will be—in fact, already is—the military, which is currently using drones. Just think how many lives that could save. Instead of sending a piloted bomber or fighter, we send a drone. If it is shot down, no pilot dies.

Drone war planes would not need space and controls for humans. They would not need windows, for example, and this could save a lot of weight and thus save fuel, carry more equipment, ammunition, and/or more weaponry.

Come to think of it, perhaps I shouldn’t say any more about military drone use. I don’t want to be shot and killed by a military drone in the dark of the night!

BTW, email me at ralph@ralphhood.com for contact info for Randall Hash—but be warned—he doesn’t do pictures through bedroom windows!

Library Happenings – Professor Greybeard to pay visit July 14 at Town Hall

By Angie Georgeff

Our Summer Reading Programs will be winding up this week, but festivities will continue through Saturday, July 15. Our children’s program will culminate in a thrilling visit from Professor Greybeard, one of our favorite Science Guys, on Friday, July 14. Join us at 3 p.m. at Erwin’s Town Hall for a truly Spectacular Science Show.

Our teen program will be capped with a teens-only pool party at Fishery Park Pool on Saturday, July 15.  The fun will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 8:45.

Our Summer Reading Program for adults will end with the prize drawing at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, so be sure to get all of your entries into the tote before then!

Saturday will begin, however, with a “Rise & Shine” event at the library that will start at 10 a.m. The Great Erwin Book Exchange allows children and adults to bring their gently used books and exchange them for books brought by other participants. Each book in good used condition entitles the participant to one ticket. Each ticket may then be exchanged for one other book. This is a wonderful way to pass on a book you already have enjoyed and try a book that you have not yet discovered.

Other family activities include painting rocks, coloring bookmarks and Readers Theater performances with puppets. In addition, representatives from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will be here to let parents know how young children can get free books by mail each month! These books can help parents who read aloud to infants and toddlers stimulate the child’s imagination and get them ready to learn.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 20. The public is welcome to attend. If you should require any special accommodations in order to attend the meeting, please call the library at 743-6533.

Spotlight Book

“Beach House for Rent,” the fourth installment in Mary Alice Monroe’s Beach House series, finds owner Cara Rutledge renting “Primrose” to artist Heather Wyatt for the entire summer. Heather has been commissioned to paint shorebirds for postage stamps, and the cottage’s location on the Isle of Palms is ideal for her work. Heather has an affinity for birds, including her three canaries, but she is much less comfortable around people. Carpenter Bo Stanton, however, might prove to be an exception. Cara is delighted with her tenant, but when she suffers a devastating loss, her only desire is to retreat to Primrose Cottage and try to recover. Heather is unwilling to vacate the beach house, but she is prepared to share the premises with Cara for the remainder of the season.

Movie Night – ‘The House’ is mildly entertaining, but not funny

By Bradley Griffith

Will Ferrell is one of the best comedians in showbiz today.  Amy Poehler is not far behind.  The two worked together on Saturday Night Live.  The pairing of the two in the new comedy “The House” should be comedic gold, right?  Wrong.

Scott (Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Poehler) have a beautiful and smart daughter.  Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is a senior in high school and has a wonderful life in front her.  She has been accepted to Bucknell and has received a full college scholarship from her hometown.  Scott and Kate throw Alex a party for her acceptance to Bucknell and virtually the whole town attends to celebrate with the Johansens.

A wrench is thrown in their plans when the director of the city council, Bob Schaeffer (Nick Kroll), announces at the next city council meeting that the town has no money to fund the scholarship.  Instead, the town is going to build an aquatic center with two swimming pools and water slides.  When Scott and Kate’s protests ring on deaf ears to everyone who wants the aquatic center, they have to find another way to pay for Bucknell.

They have no money in savings, no money in their retirement accounts, and the bank won’t loan them any money.  They give Alex the bad news that they won’t be able to pay for Bucknell.  Alex is disappointed, but understanding. She is a good kid, and that only makes this more difficult for Scott and Kate.  There’s no mention of why Alex can’t get student loans like almost every other student.

Scott’s best friend, Frank Theodorakis (Jason Mantzoukas), has an idea that may get them enough money to send Alex to school and help him win back the affections of his estranged wife.  Frank’s wife left him because he’s a gambler.  But instead of gambling, Frank wants to use his knowledge of the industry to open an undercover casino in his house with the help of Scott and Kate.  Left with no other option, they agree.   Everything starts off great but, as things tend to do, the enterprise goes off the rails in a swift and dramatic fashion.

If you have read these reviews before you know that the cardinal sin for a comedy is not being funny.  I won’t go so far as to say that “The House” is not funny at all, but you should spend most of your time during a comedy laughing, or at least with a smile on your face, rather than watching and waiting for big laughs that never come.  There are several parts of the movie that will make you chuckle, but no scene in the movie will even come close to making you laugh till you cry.

The story was not well thought out.  It seems that the only idea behind the movie was for an undercover casino in someone’s house, and all the hijinks that might create.  Unfortunately, the plot kind of stopped right there.  A casino in a home is an interesting idea, but you need more to make it entertaining and enjoyable.  It seemed like the writers either quit or couldn’t come up with a single good idea after the casino became a reality.

In lieu of actual storytelling they just inserted as much bad language and ridiculously improbable situations as possible to cover up the lack of a storyline.  They didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the story and hope you won’t either.

It seems obvious what the filmmakers were thinking: let’s throw Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler together and hope they can make magic happen.  It didn’t work.  While they are both great actors, it’s too bad that neither of them performed up to their abilities in “The House.”

“The House” is mildly entertaining.  The problem is that it’s just not that funny.  When the funniest parts of the movie are the outtakes during the credits you may have a problem with your movie.

Grade: C

Rated R for language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence, and brief nudity.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Rain doesn’t put damper on event

By Keith Whitson

I arrived to the site just in time. I could hear the engines revving up. Could it be they were checking their motors out before the race or were they just trying to put a fear in the other racers who were also participating in the big event?

Rain had begun but I wasn’t going to let that hinder me and neither did the crowd in attendance. I got out my umbrella and proceeded. I worked my away around, following the roar of engines to locate the track. It was obvious the driver in the purple entry was having some difficulty. His pit crew was in a frantic motion to get him back up and running to make the time trials.

All of a sudden, the first racer peeled out and roared down the track, giving it his best effort. The course was wet and it was hard for his tires to get the traction he was accustomed to.

Each racer took his turn, even the purple machine gave a weak and sputtering effort down the track. The winner of the Flag Pond lawnmower race was determined as the crowd eagerly awaited.

Saturday was the start of many Fourth of July celebrations held in Unicoi County. While Flag Pond ended up with some rainy weather, it did not dampen the spirits of those in attendance. No matter what the occasion, Flag Pond brings a down home, friendly atmosphere with a welcoming serving of good food, good music, fun and fellowship.

While many were watching from the steps of the old school house, or tents and covers set up to stay dry, youngsters were not bothered at all by the rain and mud created. The playground was especially popular with a slide and tire swing. I saw one little boy pushing his toy truck through some mud that would have given regular vehicles a challenge.

Amanda Haynes sat under an umbrella near the slide and watched the fun until she decided to give it a try. She climbed to the top, positioned herself and quickly slid down. There was one problem – she didn’t stop at the bottom of the slide. Her body shot beyond the base of the slide and plopped her down in a mud puddle. I must admit, I was considering going next until I saw her outcome. She laughed it off in good fun. Everyone made the best of what the day brought and the freedom to just gather out.

Over the last few days I have thought much on the many military men and women who put themselves on the line and in harm’s way to bring us the freedom we enjoyed this Fourth and everyday. The price for freedom has not been cheap. Many lives have been sacrificed over the years to make this nation great and respected.

A few years ago, a friend from church, Charlotte Howze handed me a clipping she had saved. It was  a Dear Abby item. I have held onto it over the years and refer back to it now.

The clipping had to do with ringing of the bells that was started by President John F. Kennedy. He proclaimed the ringing of the bells nation-wide on Independence Day, July 4, 1963, with the words, “Let’s ring freedom bells! Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty,” President Kennedy declared.

Dear Abby’s attempt was to get Americans to reinforce this declaration by ringing bells at 2 p.m. on the Fourth. The effort is to help bind us together with U.S. history to honor our anniversary of independence.

The July holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Those brave 56 men who signed the document pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. They put everything on the line, even facing death by hanging for treason. Those courageous men saw the need to declare independence from Great Britain.

It is difficult for us to realize what it would mean to live without the freedoms we are so accustomed to. We take much for granted and are used to doing pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want. All of this we owe to our freedom of being an American. We are so blessed. Let freedom continue to ring!

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Elephants ‘march’ for big cause

By Connie Denney

“Make believe you’re in a jungle movie.  Watch the baby elephants go by.  The beat is groovy. …”

Are you with me so far?  If you are as I was before a little research, you probably never knew the lyrics (by Hal David) to Henry Mancini’s catchy tune, “Baby Elephant Walk.”  I had only heard it as an instrumental piece.

The words go on to talk about the “brand new dance you ought to try,…See the big baboon beat on the bongo as the baby elephants advance. …Down in the Congo, All the swinging monkeys do this dance,…”

As the tune played in my head and I planned this column, I learned that Mancini wrote it for the 1962 movie Hatari!  There’s a scene in which baby elephants are led to a pool to bathe.  Not having seen the film, I enjoyed the trailer, which includes this scene.

The inspiration for all this is, of course, the eight colorful baby elephant statues downtown that have delighted us this summer and will remain until October 21, when a benefit auction is to be held to continue RISE (Rejuvenate, Invest, Support, Energize) Erwin’s efforts to raise money for the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald. Created in 1995, according to its brochure, the refuge provides “lifetime care for elephants retired from public performance or exhibition.”

Regarding a trip RISE members made to the Sanctuary, president Jamie Rice said she thought it made them “even more passionate about what we are doing!  Mary’s (the elephant hanged in Erwin) tragedy was 100 years ago. However, these magnificent animals are still being abused and mistreated now.  So, so sad.”

RISE was able to send more than $7,000 to the Sanctuary after last year’s Erwin Elephant Revival Festival, according to Rice, who said the second annual festival is set for the weekend of September 23.  Plans call for a ticketed charity dinner, street entertainers including a stilt walker who can juggle fire and a children’s art project hoped to line streets with glowing lanterns.

Meanwhile, a brochure, available at the Chamber of Commerce and other downtown locations, pictures the baby elephant statues and tells a bit about the area artists who painted them. Some are quite experienced with impressive credentials, while another is a 14-year-old student at Tennessee High, Bristol.  Students in our local high school’s art department painted one of the statues.  All contributed their work to support the project.

I spoke with John Stewart of Kingsport, who, inspired by Vincent van Gough’s The Starry Night, painted Nammu, the mostly-blue elephant along Main Street.  A self-taught artist, Stewart has won awards for his work, which has sold mostly in southern states, but has also made its way to Los Angeles, New York, Helsinki and Frankfurt.

As did each artist, John named the elephant he painted.  A friend suggested the name of an ancient goddess that gave birth to the sky and sea.  Water, mountains and sky are represented on Nammu.  As a matter of fact, northern hemisphere constellations are present on the elephant!

Do take your own “baby elephant walk” downtown. Can’t you just hear the groovy beat?

Library Happenings – Amazon suggestion leads to great book discovery

By Angie Georgeff

Amazon sends me emails about every other day with suggestions for books that I might like, based primarily on my own orders but also some books I ordered as gifts or for the library. I guess that’s why on occasion I receive recommendations that completely miss the mark. Last month, however, one of their suggestions hit the bullseye. It was recommended for readers who enjoyed A. S. Byatt’s “Possession” and Geraldine Brooks’s “People of the Book.” That piqued my attention.

Rachel Kadish’s “The Weight of Ink” is a weighty tome, but at 567 pages, it is only the weight of the paper that tips the scales. The words themselves flow as effortlessly as a summer breeze. We are first introduced to Helen Watt, an ailing and aloof history professor on the verge of retirement. Even though she is quite thoroughly English, her area of expertise is Jewish history.

A former student contacts her about papers that an electrician found hidden in his late 17th century home in the London suburb of Richmond. He thinks some of the writing is Hebrew. After examining one letter, Helen realizes that they have discovered a genizah, a cache of worn books and old documents that were hidden away until the owners could respectfully dispose of them by burial.

Helen recruits charming American doctoral candidate Aaron Levy to help her with the project. It appears the papers belonged to a rabbi who had been blinded by the Portuguese Inquisition. His sermons and correspondence had been written by a scribe, who initialed them with the Hebrew letter aleph. Contrary to all expectations, they soon discover that “Aleph” was a woman.

Ester Velasquez had been educated by the rabbi alongside her younger brother. After they were orphaned in Amsterdam, they accompanied their teacher to London in 1657. Isaac was to be the scribe while Ester would–of course–devote herself to women’s work. Isaac’s death changed everything, vaulting Ester into the masculine role of amanuensis. Ester flourishes in her new capacity, but the portentous year of 1666 is on the horizon, and it will bring war, plague and fire to London.

Friday Family Fun Day

Make plans now to join us at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 7, at Capitol Cinema on Main Avenue in Erwin for a brand new PG-rated movie your kids are sure to love. The $6 discounted price of admission includes popcorn and a drink. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is no admission charge for children under the age of two. For the latest information, please visit our Unicoi County Public Library Kids and Teens Facebook page. You also may call the library at 743-6533, for more information.

Movie Night – Simple plot still entertains in ’47 Meters Down’

By Bradley Griffith

Do you want to watch a movie that’s supposed to make you scared to get in the water? Much like last summer’s “The Shallows,” “47 Meters Down” is intended to make you stay on the relative safety of the beach rather than braving the shark-infested ocean. While it’s not exactly successful in that regard, it does provide decent entertainment to accompany a summer vacation.

The plot is not complicated.  Lisa (Mandy Moore) and her sister, Kate (Claire Holt), are on vacation at a resort in Mexico. Lisa told Kate that her boyfriend was unable to go on the trip, so she asked Kate to go in his place. Actually, Lisa’s boyfriend had broken up with her because she was boring. Lisa was hoping that this trip with her much more adventurous sister would make her seem a little more exciting to her ex.

Lisa is trying to force herself to take adventurous and exciting things, even though they are outside her comfort zone. For instance, her trip to Mexico, partying all night with two local boys, and cage diving with sharks. Lisa is reluctant, but she still agrees to the dive when Kate tells her that someone who is boring wouldn’t go diving with sharks. The photo opportunity alone was enough to convince Lisa to take the plunge, literally.

The captain of the diving boat, Taylor (Matthew Modine), does not inspire confidence. The girls thought Taylor looked rough until they saw his boat. Nearly every part of the boat is covered in rust, including the winch, the chain, and the diving cage itself. Even more disturbing is that Taylor soon starts chumming the water with dead fish and blood to draw in sharks.

Lisa and Kate gingerly climb into the cage and are lowered five meters below the surface. Initially, both girls love it. They are surprised by the beauty of the world beneath the water’s surface, even after they see the first shark.

The problems begin when the cage unexpectedly drops a few feet. Lisa begins to panic and asks that the cage be brought up. On its way to the surface the winch breaks free from the boat and the cage plummets to the ocean floor, 47 meters underwater. The girls are faced with the choice of staying in the cage until their oxygen runs out or swimming to the surface among the swirling sharks.

Like many summer movies, there are many parts of “47 Meters Down” that simply make no sense. For example, at one point Kate “hides” from a shark underwater even though a steady stream of bubbles is floating to the surface from her oxygen tank. The key to enjoying “47 Meters Down” is to not think too much, which is difficult when the ridiculous scenes are so distracting.

Over three quarters of the movie takes place underwater, with the only characters being Lisa, Kate, and the sharks. The ocean is such a major part of the action that it is effectively another character in the movie. Much like how outer space presents many challenges for human survival, the ocean is as much a villain as the sharks.

While there’s not much to the plot, there is one good plot twist toward the end that does provide a surprise. It’s not a “The Sixth Sense” kind of a shocker, but you won’t see it coming and makes you re-think certain parts of the movie.

Enjoying “47 Meters Down” is once again about expectations. If you expect a great drama or action movie you will be disappointed. However, if you expect some mindless summer entertainment, you might enjoy the movie. It’s not as good as last summer’s “The Shallows,” but it’s worth seeing before (or maybe during) your trip to the beach.

Grade: B-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Give me a large mug of sage tea

By Keith Whitson

Thomas Edison once said “Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge. Remedies from chemicals will never stand in favour compared with the products of nature, the living cell of the plant, the final result of the rays of the sun, the mother of all life.”

I attended a lecture last week at Clinchfield Senior Adult Center on folk medicine of Appalachia. The topic was led by Dr. Anthony Cavender, professor of Antropology at East Tennessee State University and faculty member for HERBalachia, east Tennessee’s new herbal training school.

The lecture reminded me of many home remedies I had heard from my ancestors while growing up. The remedies came from a time when folks relied more on nature and the offerings of the land than running to the corner drugstore. Rubs, teas and ointments were made from leaves, roots and berries of items found in the forests all around us.

It makes me wonder if people were just healthier then. Was the food purer with no additives? Was there less stress? Were they conditioned stronger due to the hard work they did? How did they exist without taking a dozen prescribed pills a day?

Well, I don’t know the answers to those questions but I do know they turned to the land and the common knowledge they had for cures to their ailments. Usually, there was someone in the community who was relied upon.

I had a great-grandfather, R.B. Hensley, who served a multitude of jobs in the Spivey community. He was called upon for veterinarian duties when a cow, horse or other farm animal got sick. He was the skilled hand at butchering hogs and cutting up the meat properly. He was the neighborhood dentist, having tools to pull teeth when needed. He could read a verse in the Bible and stop a nose bleed.

He had a mill and ground corn into meal for everyone who brought theirs to him, keeping a small portion as his pay. He had the only telephone in the community in case of fires. On his front porch was a big wooden chest with fire fighting equipment of the time.

He was deceased before I was born but his daughter, my grandmother, remembered a lot of his traditions, especially the best calendar “signs” for planting and harvesting crops.

It amazes me that my ancestors had folk remedies handed down to them from generations past. I wish I had documented enough of them for use as well as keepsake.

Dr. Cavender said there were approximately 2,500 plants in our area that were named as having some type of use in home remedies.

Somewhere along the line someone had to experiment with the natural resources found around us to determine usefulness. But, not everything in the woods is safe for internal consumption or external uses. There had to be lots of trials, failures and documentation kept.

Dr. Cavender has gone to great lengths to talk to people in numerous areas throughout this region as well as many southern and surrounding states. He has also compiled information from cultures outside of the U.S. Many of these derived from times past when there were no doctors or few doctors around.

A few he mentioned last week were:

• Sassafras – blood cleaner;

• Mayapple – constipation;

• Mullen – cough;

• Poke – rheumatism, arthritis and blood cleaner;

• Dandelion – clean blood and kidneys;

• Catnip – insomnia, nervousness;

• Skullcap – nervousness, insomnia;

• Boneset – cold, fever;

• Peppermint – indigestion, upset stomach;

• Queen Anne’s Lace – kidneys, worms;

• Sage – nervousness, mood enhancer, memory;

• Plantain – insect bites, stings;

• Bloodroot – blood cleaner, cough;

• Ginseng – blood cleaner;

• Ramp – blood cleaner;

• Spice Bush – fever, cold;

• Hickory – earache;

• Birch – fever, indigestion, and toothbrush.

I have always heard God made everything for a purpose. I am still looking for proven studies on the benefits gained from the existence of gnats.

A Refreshing Knapp – Sad to hear of passing of TV’s Batman

By Ray Knapp

Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott and Batman?

It was sad to hear of the passing of Adam West who had the starring role as Batman and saved Gotham City from any number of heinous villains over the years. You know you’re getting old when Batman dies before you – and you saw his first movie and/or TV show.

I thought it was pure genius when I first saw Batman on TV with the words, “Biff, Pow, Ouch, Oww, Crunch, etc.” shown on the screen like words in a comic book. It makes you realize that all things come to an end when your hero dies. Even the timeless Hollywood heroes like John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Adam West (Batman) and Christopher Reeve (Superman,) have all transitioned to the great-beyond. But things happen that way if you live long enough.

Being a senior citizen has it draw backs. For instance, my daughter-in-law, Joan, was (“So excited!”) as they like to say on Facebook. She had tickets to a Bob Seger concert. I said I would like to go except I didn’t know who he was. Her friends thought I must be joking, “Everyone has heard of Bob Seger,” they replied. Yep, I’m getting old; I had no clue if he was a stand-up comic, or a musician. It’s good to have the internet to find out who’s who and what they do. I guess Joan’s friends thought I had just crawled out from under a rock. Actually, people that prefer Beethoven and other classical genres have never heard of him either. – So there, you Bob Seger fans!

Music in general is not my forte as I’m tone deaf and have a hard time carrying any tune. There’s some stuff I like, such as Marty Robbin’s Gunfighter Ballads (1959); Boy from New York City (1964) – don’t know who sang it. But it starts out, “Ooh wah, ooh wah cool, cool kitty tell us about the boy from New York City. It turns out Kitty really liked the guy because he had the finest penthouse in town and kept his pockets full of spending loot. Then there’s Laura’s Song from the movie, Doctor Chivago. I also like a few country singers, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Willy Nelson, also a few local bands that play mainly blue grass and gospel, other than that, you can keep your Rap, Heavy Metal, Goth, Punk, and other unintelligible stuff that is supposed to pass for music.

Of course there’s some gospel music and songs that catches everyone’s attention: Amazing Grace; Handles Messiah, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic to name a few of the most popular, and among my favorite gospel songs. Speaking of gospel songs, a lot of them could be used for a sermon as there is something a lot of people don’t know about them. Or at least I didn’t know during my first half century is a majority of the songs are from, or inspired straight from the Bible. “The Old Rugged Cross,” for example, was inspired from Philippians 2:8, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; Amazing Grace, while written by the former Capitan of a slave ship, John Newton in 1792, was inspired by John 9:25 which reads, ”One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”  Most Hymnals have this information right under the song’s title, or just following the end of the hymn.

Music aside, movie actors and entertainers have always held a certain fascination for some. My mother used to talk about old movie stars that I have never seen on the silver screen, Douglas Fairbanks for instance, who played the first ‘Zorro.’ Then there was the greatest lover of all time, Rudolph Valentino; Clara Bow – the “It” girl, Charles Chaplin, and other silent screen actors with as much enthusiasm as Joan mentioning her ticket to see Bob Seger. I guess actors and entertainers of all genres; even musicians play a role in all our lives. If not our hero, or alter ego, they at least take us into another dimension where we can forget our cares for a while.

Library Happenings – Still time to make effort for Summer Reading prizes

By Angie Georgeff

Our Summer Reading Program for adults will continue through July 15, with the drawing for the grand prize rocking chair and four consolation prize tote bags taking place at close of business. Winners will be notified on Monday, July 17.

The tote by the front door is filling up, but there is still room for more. And if it should be filled, then I will simply get a larger tote!

Keep reading books, watching videos, listening to audiobooks and doing the weekly bonus activities for chances to win! Entry blanks and bonus activity sheets are available at the circulation desk.

Friday Family Fun Day

On Friday, June 30, we’ll close out the month with a party at Fishery Park Pool.  Join us between 6 and 8:45 p.m. for this special event. All ages are welcome, so feel free to bring your entire family. All participants under the age of 18 must be registered by a parent or guardian and children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian the entire time they remain at the pool.

Holiday Closing

The library will be closed on Tuesday, July 4, in celebration of Independence Day, but we will be open our usual hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, July 3. No items will be due on July 4, but you may return books to our drop boxes at any time. They are located at the library in Erwin and at Town Hall in Unicoi.

We wish The United States of America a very happy 241st birthday! With our 250th anniversary now in sight, I guess we’d better get used to the sound of semiquincentennial and start stocking up on bunting!

Spotlight Book

When I was a little girl, going to the beach meant driving down through the Carolinas and Georgia to Daytona Beach, Fla. for the week of the Fourth of July. We always stayed at the Atlantic Waves Motel and would meet up with the same people from Bristol and Madison each year. We ate at the same restaurants and browsed through the same shops, and we loved it! It was delightfully predictable.

In Jamie Brenner’s “The Forever Summer,” Marin Bishop is not enjoying the summer she had expected. She suddenly finds herself without a job and without a fiancé, but with a visitor who claims to be her half-sister. Rachel’s grandmother owns a struggling inn on the beach at Provincetown, Mass., so she persuades Marin to accompany her to Cape Cod to meet part of her family that she never even knew existed. It may not be your typical summer vacation, but it could be just what Marin needs.

Movie Night – ‘The Mummy’ brings more action than horror

By Bradley Griffith

“The Mummy” heralds the beginning of a new Dark Universe. It’s the first of many planned movies to create a new Dark Universe of horror films.  Possible films include Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Invisible Man.  “The Mummy” is a great beginning to the series, even if the bulk of the movie is more action and adventure than horror.

In ancient Egypt Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was the sole heir to Pharaoh Menehptre and destined to take his throne and become a living god.  When her father sired a new child, this time a boy who would steal her throne, Ahmanet sold her soul to Set, the Egyptian god of death.  Ahmanet murdered her father and the new baby boy before she was captured and entombed for all eternity.

Fast-forward to present-day Iraq where a fortune hunting soldier, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), and his partner, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), are searching for buried treasure in a small village in the middle of nowhere.  The U.S. Army saves their lives as they are being overrun by dozens of enemy combatants.  When the dust clears there is a large hole in the ground to be explored.

Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), the archaeologist from whom Nick stole the map that led him to this village, quickly appears and declares the site a tomb and demands that it be protected while she explores the ruins, along with Nick and Chris.  The three explorers are debating how to proceed when Nick abruptly releases the sarcophagus from its lake of mercury.

Given no other choice, they remove the sarcophagus from the tomb and put it on a cargo plane to be taken to London and studied.  On the flight to London strange things start to happen and the plane takes a nosedive into the English countryside.  Ahmanet soon begins her resurrection and needs Nick to regain her full powers.

“The Mummy” is probably one-third horror movie and two-thirds action-adventure flick. It’s not scary at all, but most horror movies these days aren’t frightening.  There are some creepy scenes for sure, but nothing that even makes you jump in your seat.  The best thing about the movie is that it is filled with action and adventure from the beginning until the end.

The action and adventure parts of the movie are right up Tom Cruise’s alley, but being in a horror movie is a rare thing for him.  His only prior movie in the genre was “Interview With the Vampire” in 1994.  While his casting may have been a little unusual, Cruise is an expert at action-adventure movies and he fits in perfectly here.

The best part of the movie may be the Mummy herself.  Sofia Boutella is great as the evil and bewitching Ahmanet.  She is equal parts evil, powerful, and seductive.  She makes the movie work.  Annabelle Wallis and Jake Johnson are also very good in their supporting roles.  Johnson provides virtually all the humor in the movie.

The story of “The Mummy” is different enough to distinguish it from the mummy movies of the past.  While it’s well-known that this is the first in a line of new movies about monsters, the ending was still unexpected, if not exactly fulfilling.  Also, the movie is very well made, with no expense spared.  The special effects are excellent.

“The Mummy” is a rollicking and exciting adventure from ancient Egypt to modern day Iraq and London.  It may not be what you expect from a movie that claims to be in the horror genre, but it’s very entertaining and will leave you with a smile on your face.

Grade: A-

Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Stop avoiding life’s mud puddles

By Keith Whitson

One of my favorite poets wrote “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

E.E. Cummings always fascinated me with his unconventional way of writing poetry. He didn’t use capital letters where they should be, didn’t rhyme the lines as I was taught, yet painted marvelous pictures of life through words.

It reminds me a lot of children and their simplistic way of looking at life and finding joys in the smallest things. One of those things is rain and mud.

I was reminded of this recently when attending the Vacation Bible School picnic for Erwin Presbyterian Church. The event was held last Thursday evening at Fishery Park.

Adults were to arrive at 6 p.m. and contribute a food dish to the main course of hamburgers and hot dogs. With the threat of rain looking greater, I heard the picnic had been moved to the church fellowship hall.

I arrived with my mom and began getting our dishes out to take inside when the storm started. We both had umbrellas up and a dish in hand when the rain and the wind became overpowering. All we could do was stand in place and be battered by wind and rain gusts from the side. We were fighting with the gusts to keep the umbrellas from flipping inside out.

We got word that the picnic had not moved but was still going to be at the park since everything was already set up under a pavilion.

I got the dishes back in the car and mom as well. I proceeded to put down one umbrella and get to the driver’s side to hop in and take the other one down. It was stubborn, of course. By now I was soaked, especially in front, and my tennis shoes and socks were soggy.

Driving was near impossible and visibility very limited. Heavy rain, wind and some hail pounded us on the way. We finally arrived to face another soaking when we got out of the car, dishes in hand, umbrellas up and had to walk through a grassy soaked area to the pavilion.

That grassy area was standing in water and some areas flowing with a small stream. I tried to hop to drier spots but there were none. The floor underneath the pavilion was protected from the downpour but had about a half inch of water standing on it. I analyzed that maybe I had a few stitches of clothing left that were still dry and felt now they would remain so.

It was then that I was feeling water hitting the back of my legs. What could be leaking now?. I looked around to find the youngsters jumping up and down in the puddles, creating the splashes. I quickly dashed to a farther spot and tried to shelter myself in among a group of adults for protection.

Maybe you’ve heard the line, “It doesn’t matter if I can run faster than the bear as long as I can outrun you.” I am ashamed to say that my first instinct is to protect myself.

As the evening went on, I noticed the youngsters were having the best time of all. They were already soaked, so why stop there? They had races in the rain, through water logged grass. They fell down and laughed, slid and got muddy. It would just wash off.

For a brief moment, I was envious and wanted to join in. I thought about how cautious I had been to try and stay dry and yet was still wet.

The rain eventually stopped and, after eating, the youngsters proceeded on to the pool for added water fun. I drove home, trying to defrost my windows most of the way. I got out of my wet clothes and shoes to find shriveled toes. I checked and we had gotten two inches of rain in the rain gauge.

I am very thankful for the rain. The plants appreciated the rain. The children enjoyed the rain, maybe even more so than if it had been dry.

I got to thinking about the night and the fun the youngsters had. I think we give up a lot when we become serious adults We get upset over the rainfalls in life and forget to enjoy the mud puddles. We need to quit trying to hop over them and just jump into the middle and splash around. It will all wash out eventually. Experience every aspect to the fullest that life brings our way.

Next time, I’ll kick off my shoes and run wildly through the mud.

Adam’s Apples – Hollywood’s cowboys miss the target

By James Mack Adams

Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, published a scholarly essay in 1889 in which he questioned whether art imitates life, or does life imitate art. Whichever the case may be, there seems to be times when art and reality butt heads. Cases in point are the old Western movies I watched in my youth, and still do, and still enjoy.

It was most every Saturday that my neighborhood chums and I would spend most of the day in a darkened movie theater watching two feature movies, the next episode of a currently-running serial, and a collection of cartoons, as well as other short subjects.

One of the two feature movies shown on those Saturday afternoons was always a Western, or “cowboy movie” as we called them. The following week the other neighborhood kids and I would strap on our toy six-shooters and play “cowboy.” With the readers’ indulgence, I will brag on myself a little here. I had the reputation of being the fastest gun on 11th Street.

Those old movies were and still are fun to watch, but they often presented a dressed-up and cleaned-up Hollywood impression of what the Western frontier was really like. The real American West of the 1800s was not the white Stetsons, fancy shirts, hand-tooled boots, silver-studded saddles and pearl-handled revolvers favored by a few of my Saturday cowboy matinee idols. Life in the newly-settled western territories could be dirty, rough, dangerous and mean. This was especially true in cow towns such as Dodge and Tombstone. Law and order were slow to arrive on the frontier.

Let’s take a brief look at just a few things about the Old West that Hollywood movie makers got wrong, or with which they at least took some artistic license.

Most every old Western movie had at least one scene where two men settled a dispute by facing each other on a dusty street to see who was the fastest on the draw. That rarely happened. Much of the shooting and killing was done from ambush. The weapon of choice was usually a rifle or shotgun. Can you just picture those two firearms being used in a gun duel in the street? You must admit the luck of the draw is much more dramatic to moviegoers.

The most famous shootout in old West history was the so-called “Gunfight at the OK Corral” in Tombstone, AZ Territory in 1881. The brief but deadly shootout was between the Earps, with the help of Doc Holliday, and a group of law-breaking cowboys. Here again, the movie makers took some liberty with historical fact.  The gunfight did not take place inside the confines of the corral, but in a narrow lot some distance away.

At the time of the OK Corral episode, Tombstone had stricter gun laws than we see in a lot of places today. In accordance with a town ordinance, no one could carry a firearm within the town limits. Guns were to be turned in upon entering the town and retrieved only when leaving. Refusal to abide by this law was one thing that led to the OK Corral confrontation.

The popular notion that all westerners dressed in cowboy attire is not true. Most of them had migrated west with the opening of the new territories and continued to dress pretty much as they did back East, including wearing the popular bowler hat. The real cowboys who worked the ranches and cattle drives did have their own mode of cowboy dress they probably adopted from the original cowboys of the southwest, the Mexican vaqueros. Chaps, bandannas, and broad-brimmed hats were work clothes.

None of the famous Westerners we read about or see portrayed in movies were native to the frontier.  Wyatt Earp was from Iowa, Doc Holliday was a Georgian. Billy the Kid was a New Yorker. Buffalo Bill Cody was also a native of Iowa. The Sundance Kid hailed from Pennsylvania. Wild Bill Hickok grew up in Illinois.

When we see movie scenes of troops of United States Cavalry riding across the prairie, the troopers could historically be all African-American. Some African-American soldiers who served the Union in the Civil War remained in the army and went west to help protect the settlements. The Indians called them buffalo soldiers. There is some disagreement among historians as to the origin of the name. However, it was commonly used to describe African-American soldiers.  The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were entirely African-American units.

Some common sayings we hear today come from the old West frontier. When wagon trains of settlers crossing the prairies were attacked, the order would be given to “Circle the wagons.” That tactic provided some defense against flying bullets and arrows. Hence, the term is used today to warn of impending danger. A primary means of public transportation was the stagecoach. When on a run, each stagecoach had a driver and an armed guard who sat on the driver’s right. Therefore, riding in the front passenger seat of a vehicle is “riding shotgun.”

Well, I reckon I’ve said my piece. So, I’m going to saddle up Old Paint and mosey on down the trail. ADIOS!

Library Happenings – Summer Reading Program also has options for adults

By Angie Georgeff

Occasionally straight to movie video releases are not completely terrible. Also, occasionally when known actors take roles in these movies they can elevate the movie to better quality that the production deserves rather than just signing up for a paycheck.  “Awakening the Zodiac” is unfortunately neither of those rare films. Everything about the movie is subpar.

Mick Branson (Shane West) is down on his luck.  He has a lawn mowing business, but not with the big commercial mowers you might be picturing in your head.  Instead, he has an old, beat-up push mower that he totes around in the back of his old, beat-up truck.  His wife, Zoe (Leslie Bibb), appears to be an out-of-work hairdresser, only having sporadic appointments to ply her trade.

The couple live in a small, dilapidated trailer in rural Virginia that looks like it could collapse at any moment.  They have no money and no prospects for a better life.  Rather than work a regular job to make a living, Mick is interesting in get-rich schemes.  His favorite such scheme is buying the contents of old abandoned storage units before seeing what’s inside.  Over the course of a year he has made about $1,000 in this venture, yet he still believes a big payday is waiting in one of these forgotten units.

When Mick gets a tip about a storage unit that was until recently owned by an elderly widow Mick thinks his time has come.  He partners up with Harvey (Matt Craven), a local pawn shop owner, to buy the contents of this storage unit for $1,200.  Most of the junk found in this storage unit is worth very little, maybe $300 to $400.  But Harvey does find one item that is interesting.

Harvey finds several reels of film that show actual murders taking place.  The film is old and somewhat degraded, but with a little investigation via the internet Harvey comes to believe that these are films made by the Zodiac Killer.  The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco and other parts of Northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Harvey believes that this storage unit belonged to the Zodiac Killer and that they can claim the $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killer.  Harvey, Mick, and Zoe begin an investigation into the killer in the hope that they can stay alive long enough to collect the reward.

“Awakening the Zodiac” can be summed up as follows: an interesting premise that was poorly written and poorly executed.  The mystery of the true Zodiac Killer is captivating and has been the subject of almost endless theories, books, and movies.  He was a real killer who really terrorized Northern California.  He claims to have killed thirty-seven people, though the authorities only officially credit him with five murders.  The identity of the Zodiac Killer has never been discovered.

Given that background story, with endless opportunities to provide a quality movie, the filmmakers instead produced a result that is awful in every conceivable way.  The movie was cheaply produced, and it shows.  The writing was horrific, many things happen in the movie for no discernible reason and make absolutely no sense.  There is no reason given for why the movie takes place in Virginia, across the entire country from the actual Zodiac murders.

The stupidity of the characters is astounding.  Characters in thrillers often make poor decisions, but these characters take actions without any reasoning other than to do stupid things to make the movie less interesting and less believable.  A movie based on real events needs to at least have some small amount of logic behind the story.  Not so here.

Do yourself a favor and avoid “Awakening the Zodiac.”  If the true story of the Zodiac Killer sounds interesting, the movie “Zodiac” directed by David Fincher and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr. is far superior.

Grade: D-

Rated R for violence and language.

Movie Night – ‘Awakening the Zodiac’ subpar on every level

By Bradley Griffith

Occasionally straight to movie video releases are not completely terrible. Also, occasionally when known actors take roles in these movies they can elevate the movie to better quality that the production deserves rather than just signing up for a paycheck.  “Awakening the Zodiac” is unfortunately neither of those rare films. Everything about the movie is subpar.

Mick Branson (Shane West) is down on his luck.  He has a lawn mowing business, but not with the big commercial mowers you might be picturing in your head.  Instead, he has an old, beat-up push mower that he totes around in the back of his old, beat-up truck.  His wife, Zoe (Leslie Bibb), appears to be an out-of-work hairdresser, only having sporadic appointments to ply her trade.

The couple live in a small, dilapidated trailer in rural Virginia that looks like it could collapse at any moment.  They have no money and no prospects for a better life.  Rather than work a regular job to make a living, Mick is interesting in get-rich schemes.  His favorite such scheme is buying the contents of old abandoned storage units before seeing what’s inside.  Over the course of a year he has made about $1,000 in this venture, yet he still believes a big payday is waiting in one of these forgotten units.

When Mick gets a tip about a storage unit that was until recently owned by an elderly widow Mick thinks his time has come.  He partners up with Harvey (Matt Craven), a local pawn shop owner, to buy the contents of this storage unit for $1,200.  Most of the junk found in this storage unit is worth very little, maybe $300 to $400.  But Harvey does find one item that is interesting.

Harvey finds several reels of film that show actual murders taking place.  The film is old and somewhat degraded, but with a little investigation via the internet Harvey comes to believe that these are films made by the Zodiac Killer.  The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco and other parts of Northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Harvey believes that this storage unit belonged to the Zodiac Killer and that they can claim the $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killer.  Harvey, Mick, and Zoe begin an investigation into the killer in the hope that they can stay alive long enough to collect the reward.

“Awakening the Zodiac” can be summed up as follows: an interesting premise that was poorly written and poorly executed.  The mystery of the true Zodiac Killer is captivating and has been the subject of almost endless theories, books, and movies.  He was a real killer who really terrorized Northern California.  He claims to have killed thirty-seven people, though the authorities only officially credit him with five murders.  The identity of the Zodiac Killer has never been discovered.

Given that background story, with endless opportunities to provide a quality movie, the filmmakers instead produced a result that is awful in every conceivable way.  The movie was cheaply produced, and it shows.  The writing was horrific, many things happen in the movie for no discernible reason and make absolutely no sense.  There is no reason given for why the movie takes place in Virginia, across the entire country from the actual Zodiac murders.

The stupidity of the characters is astounding.  Characters in thrillers often make poor decisions, but these characters take actions without any reasoning other than to do stupid things to make the movie less interesting and less believable.  A movie based on real events needs to at least have some small amount of logic behind the story.  Not so here.

Do yourself a favor and avoid “Awakening the Zodiac.”  If the true story of the Zodiac Killer sounds interesting, the movie “Zodiac” directed by David Fincher and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr. is far superior.

Grade: D-

Rated R for violence and language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Stop ‘robin’ me of my backyard

By Keith Whitson

I’m am tired of something “Robin” me of my backyard. Somehow I got elected as the bird sanctuary of Erwin, or at least by the robins. I have decided to give my homestead a name – maybe Robin’s Rest or Robin’s Hood. I can tell folks that I live in duh hood.

I would welcome the hummingbirds. I even searched for an unusual feeder, bought them special red mix and placed it in a prominent spot in my yard weeks ago. So far, absolutely none. Could it be the robins are keeping them away?

I go daily searching for robin nests constructed above my back porch or in my shrubs. The last thing I need is for them to have baby birds, hang around longer and make a bigger mess. So far, I have removed three new dwellings, all of which were completely finished and waiting for the mud adhesive to dry. No eggs were occupying them.

Surely robins would get the hint after awhile that I have not issued any new building permits and that my backyard is not zoned for bird dwellings.

I even read that some robins can live up to 12 years and could build 20 to 30 nests in their lifetime. I must take care of this situation immediately before it gets out of hand.

I do admire their workmanship. The nests are made up of about 350 dried fibers of grass and small twigs, which are about 6 inches long. After a soaking rain, they take beakfuls of mud back and forth to the nest site a few hundred times. They weave the grasses together, cementing them to each other and to the supporting branch with the mud. Next, they use their tummy to shape the nest into a baby cradle. Finally, they line the inside with the softest grasses and hairs they can find.

My discovered nests had not gotten to the “hairy” stage when hurricane Keith came through and desolated the neighborhood.

Why am I all a flutter over the robins? They swoop and they poop. Last year I had Bart Ray design a backyard retreat for me. Little did I know I would have to fight the birds for use of it. I think they must be playing a game of checkers on my patio pavers and the game pieces are white droppings.

Each morning I go out to see what damage has been done and how many air raids I suffered through the night and early morning. It’s not easy to clean off.

They dive bomb pavers on my patio, the bar top, patio furniture and my new patio cushions – I got new ones this year but I forgot to consult with the robins on their color preference. I suppose I should have placed swatches of every color available out on the patio to see which one they didn’t mess up. Obviously, I picked an offensive color. Come to think of it, it is a burgundy/rust color. Isn’t that what angers bulls?

After a few splats here and there on the cushions, I have them stored on the back porch until needed. I have also tried any type of scare tactic I can think of.

Strips of aluminum foil are now swaying in the breeze above my porch.  A fake owl perches on the firepit as his head sways with the motion of the breeze. Unfortunately, I think they have seen him do nothing for several years now, so he has lost his fright factor. Hence, bring out the snakes.

I went on Amazon and ordered a dozen lifelike plastic snakes. After trying a few, I realized it was going to take the entire dozen. My backyard patio now looks like a scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

They bomb a spot and I wash it off and leave a snake. I am out of snakes and still cleaning. This morning I looked out my bedroom window to see how bad the impact had been over night.

I saw a robin, inches away from one of the snakes. It had its back turned to the snake with no fear and was staring at my window doing what looked like a happy dance. Near the bird were three fresh piles of droppings.

I am getting worried. My mind goes to the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” As mom and I were sitting at one of the outside tables the other day, a robin sat on the rooftop near us and angrily thumped at the guttering while giving us the evil eye.

Would scarecrows work? Maybe I need live snakes. There are even plenty of free roaming cats in the neighborhood. These birds have everything under their spell.

Do you remember the scene from “Steel Magnolias” where the father is trying to scare off all of the backyard birds before his daughter’s wedding reception? He uses a gun with blanks and lots of fireworks. Get ready Erwin, Operation Robin Rage is about to take place.

Hood’s Winks – Anniversary packed with adventures

By Ralph Hood

I never woulda believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself!

But it’s true. Gail and I just celebrated our fiftieth anniversary! I, and everybody who knows us, understand that Gail—who is truly an angel—deserves all of the credit for putting up with me for all of those years. Thank you, Gail!

The days of our celebration and the following days were fun, enjoyable, and terrific. They were also among the most frenetic. It was go, go, and go again every day—and night.

We had all three children on hand for this anniversary. We ate, talked, laughed, argued, and had a grand time. Gail and I went to two different and wonderful shows at Barter Theatre.

We’ve lived here in Erwin for ten years, but this was our first trip to the Barter Theatre. We chose this particular time to go because our very first date was to see “The King and I” at Theater Under the Stars in Atlanta over a half century ago. I still remember that Gail absolutely, positively refused to kiss me that night. (But, she surely made up for it on our second date!)

Here’s how the days and nights of our celebration played out…

On Friday, June 2, Gail and I drove to Abingdon, VA, checked into a motel (no, we definitely did not check into the Martha Washington). We chose a moderately-priced motel that was, in at least one way, more romantic than the honeymoon cottage we rented for our honeymoon—that hot water heater blew up the first night!

We ate supper, then went to see the play “Footloose” at the Barter Theater. It had music, dancing and humor, and it was all good. We laughed appreciatively, then went around humming the music for days.

Son Brett, in the meantime, arrived and—with his sister Melanie—stayed at the home of wife Gail’s parents in Blountville. Son Kevin flew in from Boston and moved in with Melanie and Brett.

Saturday night Gail and I saw another play— “The Cottage”—at the Barter Theater. It was a comedy and we’re still laughing about it.

Sunday—the day of our anniversary—all five of us ate lunch at a great Italian restaurant, then visited Heartwood Artisan Center. A good time was had by all. Then son Brett left to drive to his home a bit west of Nashville. Gail and I drove home to Erwin. The next day—Monday—Gail, Melanie, Kevin, and I ate a box lunch and we dined well.

But, that ain’t all, folks. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

Melanie, believe it or not, was scheduled for knee surgery early the next morning! Gail and I drove to the surgery center in Johnson City; Kevin drove Melanie to meet us. Then I drove Kevin to the airport for his return flight to Boston and Gail spent that day and night with Melanie.

Whew! Have any of you noticed that all of this left little time for sleep?

But, it still ain’t over.

On Thursday, Gail and I drove to Black Mountain, NC, for the 90th birthday party of one of our great long-time friends. (Some of you may remember our friend Nancy, the daughter of Louise Deal of Erwin.) Did we have fun? Oh yes. Did we check into a room and sleep late the next morning? Oh, no, we couldn’t. Why couldn’t we?

Because—I swear this is true—I had a medical test scheduled early the next morning. We had to drive straight back home after the party. The next morning I got my test, then rushed like a mad fool back to the Hawg-’N-Dawg, arriving just barely in time for a church luncheon.

Library Happenings – Funds from state going to laptops, technology training

By Angie Georgeff

If you have come to the library lately, you may have noticed a really big check propped up behind our circulation desk. It is really big in size (18 by 42 inches) and in its amount ($8,761.50). It can’t be cashed, but it does represent real funds that we are going to use to purchase updated laptops and pay for additional technology training.

Much of our focus will be on children and seniors, but classes will be offered for all ages. The contract is in the mail, and when it is fully signed, we will be able to start purchasing hardware and software. Barring any unforeseen delays, we should have everything in place and be ready for classes to start by the end of summer.

Tennessee’s Secretary of State Tre Hargett came to the library to make the presentation. The dignitaries who attended were intrigued by our beautiful and historic building and Story, of course, thought it was all about her. We are so thankful to have this opportunity to offer enhanced technology training to our community! I will keep you posted on our progress.

Friday Family Fun Day

Two words:  Pool party!! Be sure to join us at Fishery Park Pool on Friday, June 16 for the wettest fun under the sun. The pool will open at 6 p.m. and we’ll have to be out of there by 8:45, but that will give you plenty of time to soak and swim. All ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and the responsible adult must remain on site with the child. As is the case with all of our Family Fun Days, there is no charge and no need to preregister for this special event.

Spotlight Books

John Grisham is known for his legal thrillers, so I was a bit curious when I saw the dust jacket of his latest novel, “Camino Island.” It shows a boardwalk that ends at a sandy beach. It almost could be the cover of a summer romance novel by Elin Hilderbrand, except for the preponderance of boardwalk over beach and the dark clouds that obscure the sun. I have a feeling this novel is not going to be a romp in the surf.

It begins with the well-planned theft of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original manuscripts and other papers from a vault at Princeton University. Their actual value is incalculable, but the company that insured them stands to lose $25,000,000.

The action then shifts to Camino Island in Florida, where bookstore owner Bruce Cable sells popular novels to sunburned beachgoers but also deals in rare books and manuscripts.

If your heart is set instead on Elin Hilderbrand’s new novel, “The Identicals,” please ask us about it. And yes, it is about twins, Nantucket (of course!) and Martha’s Vineyard.

Movie Night – ‘Wonder Woman’ shows what superhero movie should be

By Bradley Griffith

The long-awaited and much-anticipated arrival of the first movie dedicated to a female superhero has finally arrived, and it was worth the wait. While the character of Wonder Woman made her theatrical debut with a supporting role in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it’s in “Wonder Woman” where we see what a wonder she truly is.

Diana, aka Wonder Woman, (Gal Gadot) was born on the mythical and hidden island of Themyscira. The only inhabitants of the island are a race of female warriors known as Amazons. The Amazons were created by Zeus and exist to protect humankind from Ares, the Greek God of War. Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielson), is the queen of the Amazons.

Diana enlists the help of Antiope (Robin Wright), the greatest warrior in the history of the Amazons, to train her as a warrior.  Antiope pushes Diana harder, makes her work longer, and holds her to a higher standard than any other warrior to come before her.  Antiope knows what Diana does not, that one day Diana will be called upon to save the entire human race.

That day soon approaches when an airplane crashes into the sea near the island’s coast. Diana pulls the pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), from the ocean before he drowns. But he is not alone. The German soldiers chasing him soon make their way to the beach and to a fight that they cannot win against the Amazons.

Steve later tells Diana his story. He is an American on loan to the British and acting as a spy. He had infiltrated the German command to gain intelligence to defeat the Germans in World War I. Diana understands very little of his tale, she has never been off the island and has never seen a man before. What she does understand is that the fate of the entire world rests on the outcome of the war to end all wars. She believes that Ares is on the side of the Germans and she is determined to destroy him.  Diana helps Steve escape the island and accompanies him toward her destiny.

“Wonder Woman” is what a superhero movie should be. There are no conflicted emotions or anti-heroes here, Diana represents all that is good and right with the world.  “Wonder Woman” is a great role model for young girls. She is strong and fierce, yet kind and compassionate. She declares that she must fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, which should be the motto of every superhero. While “Wonder Woman” is an action movie, the film focuses on the integrity of the characters as much as it does on action.

Speaking of superhero action, you won’t find any better action scenes in any superhero movie than those in “Wonder Woman.” The choreography of the fight scenes was expertly plotted and perfectly executed. The final act of the movie is all about action, and the special effects are great.

Any lingering questions about whether Gall Gadot was the right woman for the role of Wonder Woman have been completely put to rest. She was brilliant. She was born to play Wonder Woman and will hopefully do so for many years. She also had great chemistry with Chris Pine as the two made their way through the story. Their banter back and forth provided much needed laughter for a DC comics movie.

While, like all DC comics movies, there are bleak and dark scenes, “Wonder Woman” is more about hope and goodness. “Wonder Woman” is the wildly rare action movie that doesn’t include action for the sake of action. The action is actually necessary to further the plot. It’s a refreshing change for the genre.

“Wonder Woman” has the distinction of having the highest opening weekend at the box office for a movie directed by a woman.  But it’s much more than that.  “Wonder Woman” is a movie the entire family can enjoy.

Grade: A

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action and some suggestive content.