From the Publisher’s Desk – May we never forget September 11, 2001

By Lisa Whaley

It’s hard to imagine that most of the children sitting in school today were not even alive on Sept. 11, 2001.

My youngest daughter, a little more than a year old, was at her grandmother’s while I worked. My oldest was a kindergartener in school at Lamar.

Neither remember much, if anything, of that day.

But I do. And I’m sure you do, as well.

On that morning of Sept. 11, 16 years ago next week, we as a nation stood transfixed as first one plane, and then another flew into the World Trade Center.

We watched the news in horror as more reports surfaced. The attack on the Pentagon. Another plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. Possible ties to terrorists.. And we finally recognized that we as a people were no longer immune to the world’s dangers.

But we also discovered something about ourselves. In the rubble of 9/11, we discovered what it meant to be Americans.

Of the 3,000 people killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., more than 400 were police officers and firefighters, running fearlessly into danger to save others, not away from danger to save themselves.

They included   343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors.

Sept. 11 is still listed as the deadliest day in history for New York City firefighters.

They were our heroes.

But there was more. 

On Flight 93, a California-bound United Airlines plane hijacked less than an hour after leaving its New Jersey Airport, a group of brave passengers began to recognize some grave truths about their situation. They learned of the other attacks. And they chose to run to the danger.

According to news reports, one of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr., told his wife via cell phone that they knew they were going to die, but they had decided to do something about it.

“I love you, hon,” he said. Then another passenger, Todd Beamer, was heard to say, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”

Minutes later, the plane crashed into a  Pennsylvania field, killing all on board but injuring no one on the ground.

Some reports indicate the plane was heading for the White House.

These are the stories that need to be repeated. These are the reports that should never be forgotten.

This Monday, at 7 p.m., at Unicoi County High School, area churches will host a special Patriot Day service to say thank you to our first responders.

It is well deserved and long overdue. But hopefully, it will also remind us of who we are as Americans.

We need more of this – not only the appreciation for those who put themselves in danger for our safety, but also the pride in who we are and who we can be.

Those are the real lessons of 9/11. May we never forget them.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Erwin water springs forth

By Connie Denney

We drink it, cook with it, brush our teeth with it, bathe in it. It is important to know our water is healthy. The very thought of a good, fresh cup of water can send us to the faucet, not really mindful of the source.

I remember my Granny Martin saying she wanted a drink right out of the north corner of the spring. Certainly, she had carried her share of water in buckets before it was available from an indoor faucet at the Washington County home that hosted many family visits.

We Erwin Utilities water customers are fortunate to get our water from a spring and three wells.  It won the People’s Choice Best Tasting Drinking Water award at the Annual Water Professionals Conference for the Kentucky/Tennessee Section of the American Water Works Association in July (news story and photo were published in the Aug. 2, 2017, issue of this newspaper).

Clay Hepburn, water treatment supervisor, says that, yes, there actually was a tasting, which served as the Sunday afternoon kick-off as a public outreach event for the conference. Not only did Erwin’s water win, this was the third consecutive year. That’s also the number of times it has been entered!

This column was in the pipes, so to speak, when the system’s water quality report for 2016 came in the mail. If you are an Erwin Utilities water customer, you got one, too. Clay noted that it reflects “no violations,” not unusual for Erwin Utilities. The report details regulations and data required in such a document. 

Since it is his job to ensure the drinking water Erwin Utilities distributes meets all state and federal requirements, Clay is the guy to call with any questions about the report – or the processes for meeting requirements. In fact, his direct telephone number is on the line: 735-4563.

The report includes information about water sources, a topic I had asked Clay about. He hopes “… customers understand how fortunate they are to have the high quality water that they do.”  Join me in thinking of underground water filtered naturally through limestone rock as it comes into our community.

“Many utilities depend on surface waters like rivers and lakes for their supply. The water quality of these sources is much more variable than the groundwater sources that Erwin Utilities uses,” Clay explains; adding that with the level of treatment “much simpler and more cost-effective” here, it helps keep rates reasonable on this “best tasting water.”

As for his personal opinion, Clay acknowledged possible prejudice, but said he had not tasted any better.

O’Brien Spring, located at the end of Gay Street, where it meets Hulen Avenue, still among our water sources, supplied the Erwin Water Company founded by A. R. Brown, early 1900s civic leader, businessman, inventor, mayor … the list could go on.

Twerpy Brown Stromberg, his granddaughter, told me he put in the first water delivery system (later sold to the city) and wanted it for one thing, to have his own indoor plumbing to replace the outhouse.

We are all grateful!

Library Happenings – Preschool story time to be held during September

By Angie Georgeff

Studies have shown that reading to young children stimulates development in a number of regions in the left hemisphere of the brain. Since these areas are involved in memory and in understanding the meaning of concepts and language, they are critical to early literacy.

My mother read to me from the time I was an infant and I’ve happily passed on the gift to my son and grandchildren. It may be important, but it’s also fun for both the child and adult!

Since we firmly believe in the importance of books and reading, we are offering a preschool story time at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday during September. Bring your little ones for stories and activities that will help them acquire the basic skills they need in order to read. The program will last for about an hour, so you’ll be home for lunch and naptime.

Youth Activities

Mark your calendars now! If you want to build it, then you should come. Lego Club will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11. Children of all ages are welcome.

American Girl Club is based on the American Girl dolls and books. Participants aged seven and up learn about American history and the varied cultures that have made contributions to our nation’s “salad bowl.” This group will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18. For further information about our story times and other youth activities, please call the library at 743-6533.

Spotlight Book

Just imagine where that story time might lead! Danielle Steel’s latest novel begins with a love of reading that eventually progresses to a career in writing. Alexandra Winslow was abandoned by her mother when she was only seven years old. Her father, however, compensated for that lack by lavishing his young daughter with attention. Father and daughter shared a keen interest in crime fiction, and Alex soon manifested a talent for writing. Her father encouraged her pursuits, but he died when she was fourteen. Alex was left with some money but no living relatives, so her father’s attorney persuades his wife’s cousin to take her in.

MaryMeg, aka Mother Mary Margaret, is the mother superior of a Dominican convent in Boston.  Soon the orphaned girl has twenty-six sisters as foster mothers. They nurture Alex’s talents and she completes her first novel while still in college. Her father had always insisted that men only read thrillers written by male authors, so Alex publishes her novel under the nom de plume Alexander Green. The double life she leads proves to be a burden to Alex, in spite of the success it brings her, but it never seems to be quite “The Right Time” to reveal the truth.

Movie Night – New ‘Logan Lucky’ film fails to be funny

By Bradley Griffith

How can you go wrong with a plot that involves a bunch of rednecks from West Virginia who decide to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the longest race of the year, the Coca Cola 600? It’s a great set up for a movie, though it’s too bad that the idea for the plot of “Logan Lucky” was the best thing about the movie.

The Logan family of Boone County, West Virginia, is cursed. Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) is happy to tell anyone and everyone about the curse, especially his brother, Jimmy (Channing Tatum). Clyde and Jimmy are two shining examples of the Logan curse. Clyde lost his left hand and a portion of his left forearm in the military and Jimmy was a star football player before blowing out his knee.

Clyde works at a bar called Duck Tape and Jimmy is a construction worker on project to fill in sinkholes under the Charlotte Motor Speedway. At least, Jimmy did work there until he was fired because he didn’t disclose his knee injury on his employment application. Clyde and Jimmy’s sister, Mellie (Riley Keough), works as a hair stylist. 

These three siblings come together to plan a robbery of Charlotte Motor Speedway using Jimmy’s intimate knowledge of the tunnels underneath the race track and the vault where the money from concessions is transferred during events at the track. Their problem is that they need a safe cracker, someone who knows how to create a controlled explosion. The only person they know that fits that description is in prison.

Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is in prison for six more months. Jimmy and Clyde can’t wait that long because the construction project underneath the track will be completed within the next five weeks. The boys concoct a hare-brained scheme with the help of Mellie and Joe’s idiot brothers to break Joe out of prison, complete the heist, and sneak him back into prison before anyone knows he was gone.

“Logan Lucky” tried to be clever and witty, but was unsuccessful. There were several funny moments, but most of the movie was simply ridiculous. The way they broke Joe out of prison and then returned him on the same day was nothing short of ludicrous, and utterly impossible to have completed with no one the wiser.

When making a comedy about people from a specific region of the country, specifically when you intend to laugh at those people, filmmakers must be very careful. There’s a fine line between laughing with someone and laughing at them. Much of “Logan Lucky” crosses the line between funny and being insulting to the people of West Virginia, including the terrible fake accents of the actors. When regional accents are done right, you don’t even notice them.

The plot of the movie was also too complicated. The group of goofy and oddball characters that attempted to execute such an intricate heist added some humor to the movie, and there were several interesting cameos by actors such as Seth McFarlane and Hilary Swank that made the movie a tad more enjoyable. Watching seasoned criminals or ordinary people trying to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway would not have been funny at all.

But, in the end, the plan was so complex that dozens of separate events had to occur with perfect timing to make the job successful. There’s no way that each and every nuance could have worked to their advantage, especially when the movie goes to great lengths to show that essentially all of the characters are blooming idiots.

“Logan Lucky” is a comedy that’s not that funny. You’ll likely find yourself wanting to laugh because of the crazy plot and the unusual characters, only to find yourself at the end of the movie still waiting for the laughter that never comes.

• • •

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments.

From the Publisher’s Desk – History’s bits reveal community depth

By Lisa Whaley

Sometimes the smallest object can hold within it the most remarkable stories.

At a recent meeting of the Unicoi County Historical Society, members took turns bringing up special family heirlooms and sharing the memories associated with them.

Some went back to Civil War times; others decades earlier.

There was even a treasured gneiss metamorphic rock that predated all the contributions by billions of years.

Whether pre-war, post-war, antique or collectible, each piece told something about our history. And it also revealed a bit about the presenters, their families, their interests and even their playfulness, as illustrated by the period-specific contraband Gorbachev nesting doll from Russia — definitely one of the most colorful and unusual items of the evening.

Perhaps more importantly, however, these items all seemed to tell a story of Unicoi County, its people and the importance of its communities.

As I sat in the audience that Monday night, you can imagine my delight as each page was turned and I learned a little bit more about my new neighbors..

During a sharing of hospital memorabilia, for example, the present disappeared and we were all soon gazing in our minds to the at-that-time, brand-new, state-of-the-art Erwin Memorial Hospital, which first opened its doors in 1953.

True, recent conversation of late has been much more focused on the upcoming newest Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, with its recent groundbreaking and projected date of completion in fall of 2018, but Monday night’s story turned our minds instead to the former facility — a facility that predated its healthcare neighbors with modern in-room intercoms and ground-breaking nasal cannula devices to take the place of the more cumbersome oxygen tents.

As I sat listening, something else stood out even more clearly.

Unicoi County’s strength is its people — a collection of individuals with deep ties who love their community with a passion that refuses to dim.

It was illustrated over and over again as each member of this historical group shared memories — whether of the building of the hospital and the family members who played such crucial parts in its construction or the almost-fond remembrances of when it became a short-term home due to pneumonia, tonsillitis or family illness.

A display of kitchen collectibles conjured stories of old-timey food prep and kitchens circa 1930 and up, wrapped in memories of favorite family recipes and exclamations of “Oh, I haven’t seen one of those in years!”

Family papers of indentured servitude and family portraits of patriarchs were just as likely to be peppered by shared tales of common kin and old home places as specific details about the ancestor.

Perhaps, the meeting could best be summed up by newest member Cheryl White-White and the sharing of her new “Revisiting Our Valley Beautiful” book — a book that features a collection of old Erwin photos and whose proceeds will be used to support the Unicoi County High School band program.

In a way, the book and the evening, are all about snapshots of the past woven with pride in the present and accentuated with a confidence for the future — and it’s just the type of community for which today’s generation continues to long.

It’s the magic of Uncoi County. Thank you, Angela Miller, for your invitation and allowing me to share in it.

Hood’s Winks – Hair Hurts and other weirdos

By Ralph Hood

I was a less-than-perfect college student at Clemson, but we did have fun.

I grew up in a small town where Daddy was the school superintendent. Everybody in town knew me and was prone to ask, “Should I tell your Daddy what you’re doing?” I couldn’t get away with anything.

When I got to Clemson, I discovered an amazing fact. I was anonymous! Nobody knew me! We freshmen were labeled as “Rats.” Our heads were shaved (I expected to look like Yul Bryner, but didn’t.) We wore Rat caps and, hallelujah, we all looked the same.

It was wonderful. I took part in all of the “Rat Riots.” Nobody threatened to call my Daddy! It was like being “born again,” but not at all like being “free from sin.” I reveled in it.

Across the street from my dorm was a laundry with a gigantic steam pipe sticking up through the roof, on top of which sat a huge steam whistle. At specific times, the whistle was blown — long and loud —with a furious h-o-o-t that could be heard into the next county.

I pondered that whistle, and finally took a metal trashcan from the dorm, climbed to the top of the laundry building, climbed to the whistle itself, turned over the trashcan and placed it atop the whistle, then returned to the dorm.

The next day, at the appointed hour, you could see Rats looking out of dorm windows toward the laundry. At the predetermined second, steam hit the whistle, steam filled the trashcan, the whistle spewed out a sad f-w-o-o-t, and trashcan shot into sky. NASA didn’t come up with a better rocket until well into the space race.

It was wonderful!

I moved on to better things. A bunch of us moved into a rental house. I shared the basement with a New England Yankee who was nervous and leery of the entire South. When worried, he pulled on his own hair, so we called him “Hair Hurts.”

One night our group was watching TV upstairs. During a commercial, Hair Hurts ran down to the basement for some reason. A few minutes later he came back upstairs rather quickly, pulling his hair like mad.

He blurted that someone had opened the door that separated the basement from a grubby, spidery place under the house. Hair Hurts, much upset, wondered who did it. Mark, another of our inmates, said, “Aw, Hair Hurts, it’s just one of those Blue Lip Swamp Monsters, huntin’ food and a warm place to sleep.”

Hair Hurts was sore afraid, and I, seeing a golden opportunity, slipped outside, ran down the steps to the basement, put a dummy in the bed, covered it up, and sprinkled bread pieces on the floor. Then I heard Hair Hurts coming back to the basement. I hid in the bathroom. Hair Hurts gasped as he spied the bed; he choked, groaned, and panted like a reborn ghost.

Hair Hurts jumped into the dark bathroom to hide. As he shut the bathroom door, I grabbed him in a bear hug and roared a huge roar right into his ear.

Y’all, I thought for sure that I had killed him dead! He finally recovered, but never got over it.

Library Happenings – Series gets penultimate book

By Angie Georgeff

Now that the Great American Eclipse of 2017 has passed into history, you might want to tuck away your used eclipse glasses in a scrapbook as a keepsake. On the other hand, you can donate them to help kids in Asia and South America watch eclipses in 2019. Since the solar specs you used are most likely good until 2020, donating them to nonprofit Astronomers Without Borders will give them a chance to be useful one more time. The next eclipse visible in the United States will occur in 2024, so there’s no need to hold onto them for our next opportunity.  AWB has not yet announced an address where the glasses may be sent, so you can keep an eye on their website at www.astronomerswithoutborders.org or return them to the library for recycling.

Jane Austen Film Festival

Our “August Is for Austen” Jane Austen Film Festival will end the month with a big Bollywood bang. The appeal of Austen’s novels spans the globe, and India is certainly no exception. Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, for a movie that will have you laughing and itching to sing and dance. I recently watched – and enjoyed – a Tamil-language version of another Jane Austen novel, but this movie is strictly in English, so there will be no language barrier. We will provide the popcorn and you may bring a bottle of water or your favorite soft drink to wash it down, so come on down and bring a friend.

Spotlight Book

Sue Grafton’s alphabet series has reached its penultimate book with “Y Is for Yesterday.” PI Kinsey Millhone is called in to investigate a 10-year-old scandal at a private school. Iris Lehmann, a freshman whose father teaches at the school, steals test answers for the benefit of her popular friend Poppy Earl and Poppy’s boyfriend Troy. The cheating is exposed by an unidentified informer and Sloan Stevens, who is blamed for the disclosure, is shot and killed at a wild party celebrating the end of the school year.

Sloan’s killer Fritz McCabe is released from juvenile detention 10 years later. As far as the state of California is concerned, he is free to resume his life. However, a videotape showing Fritz and Troy assaulting a drunken Iris has surfaced and a blackmailer demands $25,000 from Fritz’s parents to quash the evidence. The McCabes then turn to Kinsey for help.

While theft, cheating, murder and extortion should be a piece of cake for Kinsey, she also has to deal with the threat posed by mass murderer Ned Lowe, who is determined to add her to his long list of victims. So, Z Is for…? Any guesses?

Movie Night – ‘Wind River’ first great drama of year

By Bradley Griffith

It may have taken almost nine months, but the first great drama of the year has finally arrived.  Don’t get me wrong, “Wonder Woman” is a great movie, but it doesn’t have the sizzling drama, palpable tension, and intriguing mystery of “Wind River.”

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent in Wyoming. The focus of his job is primarily acting as a hunter and a tracker. It’s what he does every day. He takes care of troublesome coyotes and dangerous mountain lions. He works in places where no one else dares to go, places that few humans have ever seen in the vast landscape that is Wyoming.

While on a hunt in the backcountry of the Wind River Indian Reservation Cory comes upon the dead body of Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Asbille). The body is found five miles by snowmobile from any civilization in a foot of snow, wearing no shoes or socks, and with a blood stain on her pants. Cory abandons his hunt for the mountain lion and embarks on a different kind of hunt.

The tribal chief of police, Ben (Graham Greene), calls the FBI for assistance. The tribal police investigate assaults and similar crimes on the reservation, but the FBI investigates murder.  Rather that the seasoned and expert investigator that Cory and Ben were expecting, the FBI instead sends Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). Jane is young, inexperienced, and not prepared for the harsh weather and vast wilderness of Wyoming.

To Jane’s credit, she realizes that she is out of her depth and needs help. The FBI won’t send any more agents and she can’t do it all on her own. Ben has only seven officers to patrol an area roughly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. She needs someone who knows the Wind River Indian Reservation and knows all the local people. Cory agrees to help Jane, though it’s more like Jane is assisting Cory.

If you love edge-of-your-seat dramas with real characters and real mystery, this is the movie for you. There are great scenes of intense action woven into the plot, but “Wind River” is a perfect combination of a drama and a thriller. When the action comes, it’s fast and furious.  But what really makes the movie so entertaining are the moments of smoldering tension and introspection between the acts of violence.

“Wind River” is about three things – the fantastic story, the depth of the characters, and the barren and breathtaking scenery. Taylor Sheridan wrote and directed “Wind River.” You may recognize him as an actor on “Sons of Anarchy” or recognize his work as the writer of “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water.” His writing in all three movies is top notch. He writes stories filled with tension, barely contained rage, and tragedy. His writing in “Wind River” is inspiring.

The script is written so that it not only highlights the drama and the action, but also the characters. In the quieter moments of the movie Sheridan reveals parts of the true character of each person in the movie. You feel like you know the characters on a deep level by the end of the movie. Jeremy Renner gives what may be the best performance of his career with great supporting roles by Elizabeth Olsen and Graham Greene.

“Wind River,” though it was actually filmed in Utah rather than Wyoming, is filmed so that the spectacular winter vistas are part of the movie itself. The brutal and raw landscape not only directs many of the actions taken by the characters, but actually lends a hand in solving the crime. You will feel a chill watching this movie on the hottest day of the year.

“Wind River” is the best movie of the year. Though it has been shown mostly in limited release, it is expanding into more theaters each week and is a movie that should be seen on the big screen to be fully enjoyed.

• • •

Grade: A

Rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – New trend reflects age-old tradition

By Lisa Whaley

The world, it seems, is beginning to rediscover the wonder of a homegrown tomato between two slices of bread with a bit of mayo. 

Earlier this month, Mountain Harvest Kitchen celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Unicoi, taking its place as another example of a growing movement among restaurants and food producers to encourage “locally grown” and “from farm to table.”

The new facility will provide local would-be entrepreneurs opportunities to turn kitchen industries into something that can reach larger markets – letting folks beyond the county line taste the finest apple butter, strawberry preserves and other local delicacies that can be found within many homes throughout our county.

The funny thing about this new movement, as any local over 50 can tell you, is that there is really nothing new about it – it is, in fact, a long-held tradition with roots that extend deep into the Southern soil.

Long before fancy restaurants began bragging about their locally sourced ingredients and farm-to-table produce, the rest of us were stepping out our back doors, baskets in hand, to pick a mess of fresh green beans, a few ripe tomatoes and several ears of corn for supper.

Sitting on the front porch, snapping beans, and, in my family’s case, listening to the songs of the mountain, are part of nearly every Southern families’ lore. For these early cooks, their siblings, children and spouses, it was as much part of the food’s flavor as a bit of ham in the green beans or a little salt and pepper on that tomato.

Sadly, as life became more hectic and family gardens became less common, the great tradition of preparing and putting up your own food became something of a declining art.

But it’s an art that is coming back – and so is the appreciation of its value.

At the Mountain Harvest Kitchen this month, would-be canners can learn the old-fashioned way to put up food with the help of a pressure cooker.

They even get to go home with a jar of green beans they canned themselves.

And that is just the beginning.

Food that once may have been thought inferior because it was made at home, has become prized for its superior freshness and taste – and that could mean money in the bank for local small farmers, gardeners and cooks with family recipes to share and dreams of supplying more than their neighbors with some of the best-tasting food around.

A Refreshing Knapp – Train, planes and automobiles

By Ray Knapp

My wife and I went on a train ride down the Nantahala Gorge earlier this month aboard one of the Great Smoky Mountain railroad tours that start in Bryson City, North Carolina. It was pulled by a diesel locomotive. Though they do have restored steam locomotives that run on several different routes, it didn’t on this one.

My wife was getting restless before we got back from our 40-mile ride, though our trip down the Nantahala Gorge was entertaining, with a banjo player picking and singing some old mountain tunes and a bearded guide giving a background on the history of the Appalachians.

He made sure everyone knew the correct pronunciation: “Apple-Latch-Un” mountains. The Cherokee from this region, according to the guide, were the hardest Indians to round up for the Indian Removal Act of 1836 as the Elders had never signed the treaty. He pointed out an area where a large stockade held them until the Trail of Tears march to Oklahoma began.

The train ride brought back memories from long ago. I’ve always liked trains, especially the old steam engines, ever since primary school. Train tracks ran within a few hundred feet of the school. The trains running on those tracks were the old steam engines and a high form of entertainment for me and my classmates when we were lucky enough to see one of those fire-breathing behemoths pull into the nearby depot during our lunch hour or recess.

Smoke billowed from its stack and metal wheels screeched against the steel rails as it came to a stop at just the right place to take on water from a large wooden water tower. The engineer would blow the whistle 3 or 4 times as it left the station.

That train was going to … only God knows where; we didn’t know, but imagined many exotic cities. The sound of its whistle was almost pleading to me: “Get on board!” I took many imaginary trips to distant cities on that train.

The First Class seating was a far cry from the fancy dining cars of half a century ago when people could sit and smoke big cigars (like Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison song) and could also spit tobacco into fancy brass polished spittoons.

I rode coach from Corpus Christi, Texas to Philadelphia in 1959 for $48. A coach seat then was well padded and you could lay down in it with your knees scrunched up a little, which I did on that long trip. Luckily I was the only sailor aboard, and got my meal paid for, by complete strangers, a couple of times in that fancy dining car. They may have known how little we were paid back then, or as a way to thank me for my service – either way I got to Philadelphia without going hungry.

With Erwin being a “Railroad Town” until the recent closing of the CSX yard, I’m sure I wasn’t the only little kid to take those imaginary trips. During our short trip down the scenic Nantahala Gorge, my wife said that was one of her dreams when she was a little girl, to hop aboard one of the frequent trains that ran through Erwin and live the life of a hobo. Getting restless on a 40-mile train ride, I doubt she would have made it long in that profession.

Many of the people from this region worked on the railroad and some made it to the coveted position of engineer. I’ve known three: Tom Garland and “Bobo” Baucom – who have passed on – and Jack Metcalf, a good friend that I see at church every Sunday.

Jack said he told his daddy he wanted to be an engineer of one of those new diesel locomotives, which were taking the place of the old steam engines, when he was just a young boy. One day he finally realized that dream. “There’s not a better feeling than to have a job you like from the first day on the job, to the day of your retirement,” Jack often says.

One of these days when you’re looking for something to do, take that train ride. You’ll enjoy it.

Library Happenings – Senior Services Train delivers books, other items

By Angie Georgeff

If you have read some – but not all – of Jane Austen’s novels, this week’s movie may introduce you to one that is not familiar. And even if you have read the novel, you may not remember some of the details that color this version. While this adaptation is set in Regency England, it definitely has a more modern social conscience. Our heroine, too, is more assertive in this film than she appears on the printed page.

The true Janeite probably knows the title already or at least has the possibilities narrowed down to two. Whether or not you are “clueless” (red herring!), we invite you and your friends to join us for popcorn and a movie on Thursday, Aug. 24. The movie will start about 6 p.m. and last for approximately two hours. And please feel free to bring a bottle of water or your favorite soft drink to enjoy with your popcorn. Regency costume, of course, is optional (but might be fun!).

Senior Services

Did you know that we take books to homebound seniors and nursing home residents? Our Library Senior Services Train (LSST) delivers books, magazines, and audiobooks to senior citizens free of charge. LSST deliveries are made every two to three weeks, so DVDs and other library materials that check out for a period shorter than two weeks are excluded. These outreach accounts do not incur any fines for overdue books or lost materials, so they are a convenient and stress-free way for seniors to keep reading and learning. For information or to register for the program, call the library at 743-6533 and ask for Connie.

Spotlight Book

The latest romantic suspense novel from bestseller Sandra Brown is “Seeing Red.” In 1992, the Pegasus Hotel in Dallas was bombed, killing 197 people. Major Franklin Trapper was proclaimed an American hero when he led the few survivors to safety. He was available to the media for years, but now he has dropped out of sight and television journalist Kerra Bailey is pursuing an exclusive interview. Former ATF agent John Trapper, the Major’s estranged son, wants nothing to do with his father or Kerra, but he is intrigued when Kerra insinuates that she may have information about the unsolved crime.

Kerra secures an interview, but when she arrives at Franklin Trapper’s home she discovers that he has been fatally shot. His killers then set their sights on her and she manages to elude them by the skin of her teeth. Kerra and John Trapper then join law enforcement in the search for the killers. As you might imagine, danger and romance ensue.

Movie Night – ‘Fate’ worst of ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise

By Bradley Griffith

Despite the fact that the Fast and Furious franchise should have ended after the seventh movie with the death of star Paul Walker, Universal Pictures decided they had no choice but to continue capitalizing on the enormous box office success of the movies. Hence, “The Fate of the Furious” was released earlier this year and made over $1.2 billion worldwide. While the box office receipts remain extremely high, the quality of the product decreased sharply from “Furious 7.”

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his new bride Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on an extended honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. Dom is doing his usual thing of winning street races in incredible fashion and being cool while hanging out with his wife when one morning he is confronted by a cyberterrorist known only as Cipher (Charlize Theron), though Dom doesn’t yet have that information. 

Cipher wants Dom to work for her while carrying out heists that used to be Dom’s specialty.  Everyone knows that Dom does not work for anyone, and is bad at taking orders. After he refuses the offer of employment, Cipher goes with her back-up plan: She shows Dom something on her cell phone that forces him to reconsider.

Shortly thereafter, Dom and his team are helping federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) recover an EMP weapon from a military post in Berlin. Dom’s team consists of the usual suspects, Letty, Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Ramsey (Nathatlie Emmanuel). The mission was a success until the getaway. Dom double crosses the team, wrecking Hobbs’ vehicle in the process, and takes the EMP with him. Dom makes a fast escape into the arms of Cipher and her ghost plane.

Dom’s team is in shock. No one knows how to explain Dom’s actions, but none of them actually believe that Dom would betray them. Regardless, it’s their job to find Dom and stop both him and Cipher with the help of newly released criminal mastermind Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

“The Fate of the Furious” has everything that we have come to expect from a Fast and Furious movie – elaborate actions scenes, insane stunts, and a hope that the viewer will suspend belief while watching the movie are all included. Each movie in the series follows this formula, and “Fate” is only different in that it attempts to outdo the films before it.

“The Fate of the Furious” is the craziest, most over-the-top movie in the franchise. After all, pushing the limits of believability with over-the-top scenes is the unofficial mantra of the series. I thought that a prison riot scene with Johnson and Statham was the most unbelievably ridiculous scene that I had ever seen … until the scene near the end where the team is being pursued on ice by a remote-controlled Russian nuclear submarine firing torpedoes at them over the ice.  When watching a Fast and Furious movie you understand that many things will be ludicrous, but “Fate” pushed it too far.

There were a few good aspects of the movie. The stunts and action scenes were expertly made, even if they defied the laws of physics. It’s obvious that that a significant amount of money was put into the action scenes and they are well produced. Tyrese Gibson never fails to make me laugh as the flashy, arrogant, and somewhat harebrained Roman Parker.

Overall, “The Fate of the Furious” was one of the worst movies in the franchise. Unlike many of the other Fast and Furious movies, it lacked heart, mainly because it lacked Paul Walker.

• • •

Grade: C+

Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Record’s dedication as strong as eve

By Lisa Whaley

This past week, I drove into the Valley Beautiful for the first time as a member of The Erwin Record, an award-winning weekly newspaper that has long been adept at capturing the warmth and wonder of the communities of Unicoi County.

I’d been here before, thanks to my husband’s deep ties – to family reunions at Fishery Park and along county backroads as he revisited the sites of old family homesteads and the creeks his father remembered fishing as a boy.

We’ve eaten at Choo Choo’s Café, Clarence’s and the Hawg ‘n’ Dawg. We’ve shopped for antiques and picked up pieces to add to my Blue Ridge Pottery Collection.

But that was always as a visitor. Today, I am a new representative of the Erwin Record and – I have to be honest – more than a little in awe of my task.

Since 1928, this paper has been a beacon for Unicoi County and surrounding regions. It has provided an ongoing record of Erwin’s challenges and its successes. It has captured in detailed snapshots a never-ending collection of individuals who made differences — both small and large —— throughout the county.

At each juncture in this journey, a different set of faces has steered this publication. But though their names may have changed over time, their purpose has never wavered – to provide a clear, fair and accurate account of the comings and goings of Unicoi County, all while giving voice to its people and memorializing the warmth and the wisdom of its people.

Damaris Higgins in advertising, Kathy Carmichael in circulation, Keeli Parkey as managing editor and Brad Hicks as staff writer, have already proven their commitment again and again to Erwin Record readers. Keith Whitson left a legacy of hard work, compassion and graciousness that will be impossible to beat.

I promise to give everything I have to add my name to that list as a faithful representative of this newspaper and this community, and pledge that I — along with our talented, dedicated staff — will continue to be a voice for Erwin and an accurate diary of life here.

In this oh-so challenging era for newspapers everywhere, it is going to take all of us to keep The Erwin Record, a multi-year winner in General Excellence Award with the Tennessee Press Association, as strong as it needs to be.

It will involve more hard work from all of us, but I guarantee you, it will be worth it. More media experts are coming to see weekly community newspapers like The Erwin Record as the future of the newspaper industry.

And for a town like Erwin, a weekly newspaper provides a powerful voice that continues to draw this community together.

Thanks to this community,  the hard work of Erwin Record staff, and the vision and commitment of its publishers, The Erwin Record will continue to be one of the best newspapers in the region.

Adam’s Apples – Why the South won’t let go

By James Mack Adams

The date is June 30, 1999.  I am standing alone on a knoll overlooking a portion of the Chancellorsville Battlefield. It is the final historic Civil War battle site I will visit during my short stay in Virginia. The guns are silent now, but the serenity is broken by traffic sounds from a nearby highway. My sometimes-overactive imagination kicks in.

In my mind, it is December 1862. The imaginary sounds of bugles and shouted commands come from the distant tree line. The ground shakes from the pounding of brogan-shod feet of ghostly Union and Confederate skirmishers. The booming of cannon and the popping of muskets become deafening. The acrid smell of burnt black powder permeates the air.

You might say I am in a Civil War re-enactors heaven. 

Voices from the present then take over my thoughts. “What is it with you Southerners?” “Why do you insist on perpetuating the Civil War?” “You lost!” “Get over it!” I often got those questions and others like them during my many years as a re-enactor, living history interpreter, writer and tour guide in the deep South. 

I could not realize it on that warm spring day at Chancellorsville in 1999, but I began to write this column at that moment.

To me, the first response to the question why the South will not let go of the Civil War is the fact that much of the war was fought on Southern soil.

A lot of the carnage took place within the approximately 100 miles between Washington and Richmond, as well as other places in the South. The blood of thousands of Americans, both Union and Confederate, soaked into that soil.

It was primarily Southern homes and towns that were destroyed by bombardment and the torch. It was Southern crops and farm animals that were confiscated or destroyed. It was Southerners who had to endure the bitter taste of defeat and surrender, followed by the embarrassment and hardships of Reconstruction.

Several years ago, I became friends with nationally-known author and Civil War lecturer, James “Bud” Robertson. Until his retirement, he lectured on the Civil War to packed classrooms at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.  He also wrote several books and served as technical adviser for the Civil War movie “Gods and Generals.”

I recall Bud remarking that the average Southerner living in the middle 1800s rarely traveled out of his county or state and depended on his state and local governments for most of his needs. “About the only thing the average Southerner saw the federal government doing for him was delivering his mail,” Bud used to say. Therefore, the average Southerner felt more allegiance to his state than to the federal government. 

The war had barely ended when Southerners began to take actions to ensure the sacrifices of their soldiers would never be forgotten. They began to form memorial associations and hold veterans’ reunions. Some of the reunions were attended by both Confederate and Union veterans. They erected monuments and other memorials in parks, cemeteries and on courthouse lawns.

Early 20th century Southern writers contributed to keeping “The Cause” alive in readers’ minds by filling national publications with articles and publishing novels romanticizing Southern culture. Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel, “Gone with the Wind,” was published in 1936 and was made into a major movie in 1939. The novel and movie vividly depicted the fiery death of a society and a way of life. 

Writers also produced works extolling the military prowess of Lee, Jackson, Stuart and other Confederate leaders. Writers portrayed these men as gentleman cavaliers who in an earlier century might have qualified for knighthood. 

During my years of re-enacting, writing and giving talks about America’s Civil War, I encountered many visitors from northern states who were fascinated with Southern culture and truly wanted to learn more about the war from the Southern perspective. I was glad to oblige. As television psychologist Dr. Phil likes to say, “No matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides.”

Many northern visitors I encountered were inflicted with what I called the ‘Gone with the Wind’ syndrome. They wanted to see a real Southern plantation.

Some, as expected, were hoping to see Tara. They seemed a little disappointed when I told them the typical plantation home was more like a large farm house than a columned mansion. Also, most plantation homes in Georgia were torched by Sherman’s army. 

I first got into Civil War re-enacting while living in Ohio. I was amazed to learn that, at that time, there were more Confederate than Union re-enactors in central and southern Ohio. I suppose, to some, portraying a soldier fighting for a “lost cause” promised more romance and glamour.         

With the reader’s permission, I will put in a plug here for re-enactors of all historical eras. Most of the ones I have met and worked with over the years are very dedicated to keeping an era of America’s history alive. They are living historians who are knowledgeable about the era they are portraying and dedicated to sharing that knowledge. 

They often do so at their own expense. The cost of clothing and equipment can be several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, or more. Re-enactors normally also pay for their own travel and lodging.

Yes, I suppose many Southerners do seem to be hung up on hanging onto their history and heritage. This is good in that it can lead to local preservation efforts to restore historic structures and protect historic sites. Without such efforts, there would be no reason to visit such historic places as Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. By now, they would both probably look like any other city.

When someone asks me why Southerners hold onto the past, I sometimes give them my short answer by quoting the Pulitzer-Prize winning Southern writer, William Faulkner.

“In the south, the past is not dead.  It’s not even the past.”

Movie Night – ‘Kidnap’ offers simple plot, predictable ending

By Bradley Griffith

There’s currently a lull in the quality of movies at the theater. Each year between the summer blockbusters and the more serious fall movies you get a few weeks of mediocre movies.  “Kidnap,” Halle Berry’s latest thriller, continues this trend.

Karla Dyson (Berry) is in the midst of a divorce.  She works as a waitress in a diner and is doing everything she can to take care of her son, Frankie (Sage Correa). After a long shift at the diner Karla takes Frankie to a carnival in a city park in New Orleans for some fun in the sun. Both mother and son are having a great day.

While watching a band perform on stage Karla gets a call from her attorney. Her husband wants primary custody of Frankie. Karla doesn’t want to have this conversation in front of Frankie so she steps away from their seats and turns her back on Frankie while she talks with her attorney.  When she turns back around Frankie is gone.

Karla begins frantically looking in every place she and Frankie had visited in the carnival that day, but she finds no trace of Frankie until she hears a child screaming from the parking lot.  She turns in time to a woman forcing Frankie into the back seat of a car while he’s screaming for his mom.

Karla chases after the car on foot but can’t stop it before the car exits the parking lot onto a main road. In her mad dash to get to her minivan Karla drops her cell phone. She begins chasing the kidnappers in her minivan but has no way to call the police, or anyone else, for help.

The chase seemingly takes them all over New Orleans, though much of the chase is more like a crawl than a dash. Several times the kidnappers try to threaten Karla to give up the chase, but she continues her relentless pursuit of her son and his abductors.

In some ways “Kidnap” seems like a lower quality version of “Taken” with a female as the lead character. There seems little doubt that the filmmakers intended to capitalize on the success of the “Taken” franchise. In both movies a child is abducted and the parent sees or speaks with the kidnappers. In both movies the parent will stop at nothing to get the child back.

While the story of “Kidnap” sounds similar to “Taken,” the end result could not be more different. Bryan Mills in “Taken” is relentless and brutally efficient in his destruction of the mob who took his daughter, and Liam Neeson is fantastic in the lead role. “Taken” is bolstered by spectacular actions scenes throughout the movie. Much of “Kidnap” is a car chase. Not a high-octane chase, but somewhere between a sprint to make it to work when you’re 10 minutes late already and a leisurely drive in the country.

The only actor who has any screen time of consequence is Halle Berry. The entire story is told through her eyes as she chases the mostly faceless kidnappers. It’s not her best performance, but it’s not her worst either. While many of the things she says and does seem far-fetched and flat-out crazy, it’s hard not to identify with to a woman who will do whatever it takes to get her child back.

There’s not much more to say about the movie because there’s not much more to the movie. A child is kidnapped and his mother won’t stop the meandering chase until she gets him back. It’s a simple plot with a predictable ending.

Overall, “Kidnap” follows the trend of this time of year and is, at its best moments, a mediocre movie. There’s nothing great about it, but it’s not the worst movie of the year either. My recommendation is to wait until you can rent “Kidnap” at home.

• • •

Grade: B-

Rated R for violence and peril.

Hood’s Winks – That monster frog

By Ralph Hood

Late last week I received a package from an old friend. Inside—carefully wrapped—was an eight-inch-long green plastic frog! Gail and I must have laughed about five minutes.

More about the frog later. I want to tell you about the old friend who sent it.

In Huntsville, Ala., we lived immediately next to Polly Morton for about 20 years. She was absolutely, positively the best next-door neighbor we’ve ever had in our 50-year marriage. We moved to Erwin 10 years ago, but have never forgotten Polly.

After Polly’s husband Charles died, we walked, camped, and traveled with Polly; we drove with her and another friend to Monroeville, Ala., to see the annual play “To Kill a Mockingbird,” put on by local folk. We had a ball.

We went to movies with Polly, concerts, and out to eat a lot—specializing in cheap restaurants.

We had another friend—a surgeon—who had a cabin at the beach. He fished a lot in his boat, and even had an airplane to fly back and forth (everybody should have such a friend). He also brought us beautiful fish already cleaned and ready to eat. Gail and I weren’t skilled at cooking fresh fish, so we invited Polly—who grew up on a farm and knew about cooking anything—to join us for a fish dinner. She cooked the fish and Gail watched her every move. Teasingly, I told Polly that since she taught Gail everything about cooking fish, we wouldn’t need to invite her anymore.

Polly grinned her big, infectious grin and informed us that she hadn’t taught Gail everything! She left out the most important secrets of cooking fish. We allowed as how we might better keep inviting Polly for awhile. Then we all laughed. It was always fun laughing with Polly.

I always had trouble picking ripe cantaloupes. Gail, Polly and I were at a produce stand and I asked Polly how to tell if a cantaloupe was ripe. She said, “You hold it up to your ear and shake it.” I had the cantaloupe up to my ear when I noticed that Polly was grinning ear-to-ear. She had caught me again!

Now, let’s get back to that huge green frog Polly sent me last week.

The story started 15 or 20 years ago. Polly was sweeping her driveway when I rushed out my front door, late for an appointment. I hopped from my front step and sailed through the air when I heard an awful sound. It was kind of a loud “G R-U-M-P.” I heard that sound and saw, at the same time, a gigantic green frog as the second “G-R-U-M-P” hit me.

Y’all, as the Bible says, “I was sore afraid.” On the bottom step of my stoop sat that huge green frog. It was the biggest frog I’d ever seen! Then it gave another “G-R-U-M-P”. Polly, of course, was doubled over laughing her wonderful laugh.

I had been a pilot for many years at that time, but I proved, then and there, that one cannot fly over a monster frog without an airplane!

Well, last week Polly was cleaning house when she discovered that monster frog. She sent it to me, and Gail and I are still laughing.

Thanks, Polly, for all of those wonderful memories! We love you!

ralph@ralphhood.com

Movie Night – Latest ‘Planet of the Apes’ falls short of first two

By Bradley Griffith

In what many critics have hailed as the best movie of the year and has been labeled as the final chapter of the series, “War for the Planet of the Apes” concludes the saga of how the earth became a planet of apes.  Despite these generally glowing reviews, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is, disappointingly, the worst film of the series.

An unknown amount of time after the events of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” concluded a war between humans and apes began.  What remained of the United States Military was called in to deal with the scourge of the apes whose intelligence had been enhanced due to a human research project gone awry.  Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee and the leader of the apes, led the apes into hiding in the forest.

The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) was dispatched to dispatch Caesar.  With their unquestioned leader dead, The Colonel reasoned, the apes would lose focus and determination and would easily be slaughtered.  The Colonel infiltrated the headquarters of the apes and mistakenly killed Caesar’s wife and child rather than Caesar.

Caesar orders the apes to relocate to a new, safer place to call home while he rides toward the humans with revenge on his mind.  Against his wishes, Caesar is joined by three of his friends on his quest for vengeance.  Orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary), and gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite).

On their journey to find The Colonel the group comes upon a young girl in the wilderness.  She cannot speak, but she still forges a bond with Maurice.  Caesar declares that they will not take the girl, Nova (Amiah Miller), with them.  But Maurice refuses to leave her to die alone in the forest.  The group races to fine and eliminate the Colonel in the hope that it will end the war.  What they don’t know is that the real war doesn’t involve the apes at all.

The two previous films in this latest series of movies about a planet of apes blended real drama with action, excitement, and adventure.  They were a good platform that could have launched a fantastic series finale.  Instead, “War for the Planet of the Apes” was mostly dreary and boring.  It had none of the edge-your-seat tension present in the earlier movies.  The pace was slow and the action sporadic until the very end.

The ultimate culprit behind the lackluster movie was the idea that “War for the Planet of the Apes” needed to be deep, powerful, and meaningful.  The filmmakers tried so hard to imbue every single scene with purpose that by the time the movie ended you’re tired of meaningful glances, dramatic pauses, and ominous and overbearing music.

The people behind the movie forgot the most important aspect of any movie. Entertainment.  People go to the theater to be entertained.  There’s no doubt that movies can tackle important issues, that they can have meaning that surpasses pure entertainment.  “Hidden Figures” is a perfect example of an entertaining movie with meaning and purpose.  But the element of entertainment is integral in any successful movie.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” tried so hard to have an important message that it forgot to depict what that message might be.  If the movie contained any deeper meaning it was lost in translation.

The first two movies of the series were good, solid movies that could have led to a great conclusion.  Instead, rather than going out on a high note, “War for the Planet of the Apes” concluded the series with nothing more than a soft whimper.

Grade: C-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.

Library Happenings – Eclipse viewing glasses available at event

By Angie Georgeff

Ever since I read Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” as a young girl, l have wanted to experience a total eclipse of the sun. The enterprising Yankee’s knowledge of history, in particular the date and timing of the solar eclipse of June 21, 528, saves him from execution and elevates him to one of Arthur’s most honored advisors. I had wondered for some time why no one but me seemed to be getting excited about the upcoming eclipse, but it seems the rest of America is catching up with me at last.

The drop-in event that we are hosting on Saturday, Aug. 12, will help Unicoi County get ready for the big day. Be sure to join us sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to learn about the solar eclipse and—most importantly–how to view it safely. I ordered my ISO-certified eclipse viewing supplies last month, but if you’ve not yet purchased yours, be advised that we have a fairly large but finite number of eclipse viewing glasses we received from NASA that will be distributed free of charge at this event.

Once you have been informed and supplied, then you’ll just have to cross your fingers and hope for good weather! If this eclipse gets rained out, our next opportunity won’t present itself until April 8, 2024. On that occasion, it appears that only Tennessee’s extreme northwest corner may be touched by totality. If I enjoy this eclipse, I think I may visit relatives in Ohio for that one!

Jane Austen Film

Festival

This week’s film adaptation will explore another of Jane’s most loved novels. The terms of our site license prevent me from naming it in this column, but the titles and scheduled dates of all the movies are available here in the library. Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10 for free popcorn and a movie. You may bring a bottle of water or your favorite soft drink, as well. Just make sure the container has a spill proof cap!

Spotlight Book

When Isa, Kate, Fatima and Thea attended Salten House boarding school on the English Channel, they developed a pastime they called “The Lying Game.” The quartet competed to determine which one could persuade their fellow students and teachers to believe the most outlandish lies. Nearly two decades have passed and Kate, who still lives in her father’s decaying millhouse, sends her former friends a text message that pulls them back to Salten. A dog playing fetch has retrieved a human bone from the estuary. It appears that secrets long hoped to be buried are returning to the surface.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Lifetime can scatter in one brief sale

By Keith Whitson

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 tells us.

I was recently reminded of this by someone very dear to me who has gotten to an age where all that he owns is overwhelming for him to take care of. I also recognize it as one of my faults. I do try and store up heavenly treasures as well, but I still have items that hold great meaning to me here and I keep adding to them.

I save things that should be thrown away. I put back to go through later. I can’t turn it down if it’s on sale. I know I will have a need for it sometime.

I recently attended an estate sale, which I got to witness from the early stages through the end. Sometimes it comes down to a matter of distant relatives being all who are left. Items treasured by one, have no meaning to the next. After all, most relatives or friends have already established their lives, filled their homes and have no room to squeeze someone else’s treasures into the mix.

This was the case with the recent sale. Packed boxes and boxes had to be gone through as well as closets, drawers, cases and shelves. Personal things, which held special memories to the deceased of events and celebrations, were now without a story to tie them into a previous life.

It saddened me to think life comes down to this. Someone goes through your private things, sorts them out and prices them. They are items more valuable than money to the deceased and yet now they are being scattered near and far for merely nothing.

I, too, was fascinated like many. I looked through the huge assortment and brought home many things from the estate sale. Being a sentimental person, I tend to look at the meaning the items held and find them a special place among my treasured items.

From this particular sale I brought away boxes of newspaper clippings, old photographs and handwritten letters. I haven’t had time to go through much yet but am eager to see what stories the items tell. While some might see the items as junk and of no value, I see them as the written life of the couple and their inner most feelings.

Another item I obtained from the estate sale is an ancient Chinese metal container. The piece has worn colors of what was once a bright design. Some type of strange creatures extend outward for handles on the sides. Another type of creature sits atop the lid, which has slits all around the top.

I am not sure what the piece was once used for. I was a bit fearful of it at first. Maybe the Chinese emperor who once owned it was still holding onto it in some sort of ghostly way. I haven’t noticed any strange apparitions at home or any unusual noises.

However, this is just a reminder of how far back one piece can go. No doubt it has been handed down many times over the years and rested at many dwellings since its creation. It will probably go on to many locations after it leaves me.

Death brings a strange mix from families wanting nothing to families fighting over the smallest of items. The safest way is to prepare a final will and testimony and even that is no guarantee for easy division. While many with few treasures cause strife over their estates, wealthy deaths, with no final will, can go on for years.

Musician Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 with no will and the battle over  his estate went on for more than 30 years. Bob Marley’s is the same.

Pablo Picasso died in 1973 at the age of 91, leaving behind a fortune in assets that included artwork, five homes, cash, gold and bonds. Because Picasso died intestate and left no will, it took 6 years to settle his estate at a cost of $30 million. His assets were eventually divided up among six heirs.

Howard Hughes was an eccentric billionaire who died in 1976 at the age of 70. When he died, his will was discovered at the headquarters of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City. The will, however, was proved to be a forgery in a Nevada court and his estate was divided among his 22 cousins.

Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th president, died with no will despite the fact that he was a lawyer.

Everything we have is only ours for a moment in time. We just get to enjoy it for awhile.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Eclipse strikes a note

By Connie Denney

With the turn of the calendar, we dwell in the month of the total solar eclipse, 2017 edition.  It’s very likely you already know to expect it Monday, August 21.

Even the United States Postal Service is in on the act.  The reverse side of a sheet of 16 “Total Eclipse of the Sun” postage stamps tracks the path of the total eclipse across a map of the U.S.  A black protective sleeve for the stamps is available for 25cents.  Why you would want that is “revealed” in a really cool way.

By definition, solar eclipse relates to the moon’s blocking light from the sun as it passes between the earth and the sun.  It is not my purpose to go into scientific explanations here.  There are sources for many, many facts—and, you may want to pursue them.  Certainly, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is one you may want to explore.

Speaking of NASA, that organization is to thank for a grant enabling the Unicoi County Public Library to host a drop-in event Saturday, August 12, for those wanting to learn more about the eclipse and how to view it safely. Special glasses will be available. (See Library Director Angie Georgeff’s column elsewhere in this issue.)  A viewing party for the 21st is in the works, too, with details to be available later.

When I decided to write this column, I knew I wanted to contact Damaris Higgins, advertising director for this newspaper, who used to write a column titled “In the Stars.” As for the importance of the eclipse to someone not “a fanatic like me,” she referred to the “once in a lifetime chance” to view a total eclipse of the sun,” adding that in East Tennessee that’s approximately 97 percent to total eclipse.  The last in Tennessee was August 7, 1869, and the next in the state will be October 17, 2153.

Damaris once wrote in her “stargazing” column that she is “also insanely passionate about music,” noting, “I seem to ‘feel’ more than I ‘hear’” some songs.  She told how she once decided to “combine these two passions” and described the experience as “utterly blessed.”

Having studied piano from the age of six through high school, she is a pianist at Lighthouse Baptist Church, Unicoi, and sings and plays for occasions.  She credits her parents for keeping her in music lessons, “because of them I have this amazing love and blessing of music that I don’t know how I could live without.”

Damaris has not decided for sure where she will be for Eclipse 2017.  A scenario she favors involves family members hiking to High Rocks on the Appalachian Trail near Spivey Gap.  Combining the fellowship, fun and elevation should make for a spectacular show, if the weather cooperates. The other option would be her own back deck south of Erwin. Wherever she is, no doubt the scenario will involve music (through earphones, if disturbing others is an issue) chosen to accompany an event of a lifetime.  She is making the playlist.