From the Publisher’s Desk – Ghouls have changed, but holiday still entertains

By Lisa Whaley

Halloween has certainly changed over the years. When I was a child, happily donning the spooky —  though slightly irregular — wicked witch costume my mother had painstakingly sewn for me, I had one choice and one choice alone for fright night activities.

Trick or treating up and down the streets of my small town.

It was a small farming community, population 300, with a mercantile, volunteer fire department, post office and “watering hole.” Small white houses dotted either side of Main and 2nd Streets. And like Erwin, railroad tracks rolled right through the middle, providing a clear path for the trains that travelled through each day.

On the night of Oct. 31 each year — not the 27th or the 29th to accommodate the weekend — we would gather inside our homes to get ready for the big night, eager to see what kinds of candy we could collect.

Costumes were often homemade or created from scratch — relying on the innovation of the designer and the products easily found in the home. The bag to hold the candy was anything you could find — paper, a basket or even then, an occasional pumpkin-shaped store-bought receptacle.

We would wait until dark. Oh, how the minutes seemed to creep by.

And then, just when we were sure it was dark enough, we would pile out the door, eager to see what the night would bring.

“Trick or treat!” we cried at each doorway we stopped, bags held open wide for our treats, big grins accompanying our spooky attire. Adults would admire our costumes … or pretend to be scared … while dropping small candies into our growing stash.

Then, at the end, we’d rush home, dump out the bags and divide up our goodies. Anything chocolate was always a hit, as were Tootsie Pops and Candy Corn.

The occasional apple seemed woefully out of place, though we would try to treat it with respect. And while homemade popcorn balls were always viewed with delight, I don’t really ever remember eating one.

Then Halloween was over for another year.

But Halloween always comes again, and while I’m no longer a child, there is still something in me that thrills at the words “Trick or treat?”

This weekend marks a plethora of haunting Halloween events in Unicoi County and the region as a whole new generation gets ready to costume up.

Of course, in some ways these celebrations bear little resemblance to my childhood. Choices are seemingly limitless — Trunk or Treat parties at various churches, a Halloween gathering for teens at the local library, a Halloween celebration at the old Flag Pond School, an annual Haunts & Happenings in nearby Jonesborough and more. Costume selection is more detailed and colorful. And candy is no longer considered the rare treat it used to be.

But some things remain the same. In communities like Erwin, Unicoi, Flag Pond and others, it is still a night — or nights — when children gather together for a bit of fun sprinkled with more than a little imagination, and families unite in one night of play that involves parents and children alike.

What is Halloween?

By Ray Knapp

What is Halloween? Well, it’s an event that occurs the 31st of October. It’s not a religious holiday, even though it is sometimes called All Hallow’s Eve as it falls the day before All Saints’ Day on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar. Its origins date back to the ancient Celts some 2000 or more years ago who celebrated the end of summer around this time of year which marked the beginning of the cold dark winter, which in some way they associated with the boundary when the worlds between the living and the dead became blurred and they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

By 43 A.D. the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic lands and in 609 A.D. Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of Christian martyrs and the feast of Martyrs Day was established. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted their older ties. In 1000 A.D. the church would make Nov. 2 All Soul’s Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. This kind of blurred the lines between the old Celtic rites and a Christian holiday which leaves some confused about it to this day.

Just why Halloween has persisted all this time is a mystery to me, of course in recent years; merchants certainly keep it in the spotlight to boost their sales as one quarter of the candy sold annually in the United States is purchased for Halloween. In addition to that, Halloween costumes and masks add a substantial sum to merchants’ sales for the year. About 56 billion is spent annually for Halloween.

Some of the traditions going along with Halloween are pretty ancient and you might say absurd. Take jack-o-lanterns. The original ones were carved with scary faces placed in windows to scare away wandering evil spirits. They, according to an Irish legend got their name from a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.”

One night the Devil was out looking for a soul to steal and ran onto Stingy Jack bumming drinks at a local pub. Jack slapped the Devil on the back and befriended him by offering to buy him a drink, but being true to his name, stated he was financially embarrassed at the moment and convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so he could purchase them a drink. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the coin and placed it in his pocket next to a silver cross which prevented him from returning to his original form. Jack eventually let him out on the condition that he wouldn’t take his soul if he should die. Jack eventually died, but St. Peter wouldn’t let a scoundrel like him into heaven, so he went searching for the Devil. The Devil being true to his word, wouldn’t take his soul, but sent him on his way with a burning coal to light his way. Jack made a lantern with the burning coal. The Irish began to call this ghostly figure Jack O’ Lantern.

Around here, Flag Pond, at one time had quite a reputation for enjoying Halloween more than anyplace in the county. According to Sid Silvers, in the 1990s some boys or maybe evil spirits, took a chainsaw and fell a tree across Devil’s Fork Road. On getting this news, the Highway Patrol sent a trooper up there to check it out. Sure enough the road was blocked. He turned around to get help from the highway department only to find these evil spirits had fell a tree behind him. He was blocked in, and from the woods rocks began pelting his patrol car.

“It was quite a night around here,” Sid stated. “Police came from Erwin and all over the place and finally got the trees off the road. I don’t know who it was did that. I know everybody around here and they’re nice folks. Must have been some of them young’uns from North Carolina, I hear they have a few rogues over there.”

Movie Night – Sci-fi fans will enjoy ‘Blade Runner 2049’

By Bradley Griffith

Attention all hard-core science fiction fans: “Blade Runner 2049” is the movie for you. It provides all the elements a true science fiction fan could ever want or need. To everyone else, stay away from this movie at all costs.

In the year 2049 one company, Wallace Corporation, continues to make bioengineered humans known as replicants. These replicants are made to be servants to humankind and pave the way for future growth on Earth and on other planets.  Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) is the founder and CEO of the company.

K (Ryan Gosling) is an officer for the LAPD. K is what’s known as a blade runner. He tracks down older replicants that are no longer of any use to anyone and “retires” them. In fact, he terminates them.That is his job and his sole calling in life. K is also a replicant.

The problems begin when K finds evidence that a deceased female replicant had a child. No replicant had ever become pregnant or had a child. No one even knew it was possible. The consequences of this could be disastrous. When she learns about this discovery, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), orders K to destroy all evidence of the child, including any person or replicant who knew of its existence. She believes that if humans and replicants knew that replicants could reproduce it would cause a great war between the two groups.

Through some good, old-fashioned police work K locates a man’s name who he thinks might be the baby’s father: Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Deckard is a human and a former Blade Runner. Deckard has made himself intentionally difficult to find. Still, Lieutenant Joshi orders K to find and kill Deckard. At the same time, Wallace orders his minion to find and destroy any evidence of the replicant birth, though for different reasons. K begins to feel conflicted, which is a new sensation for him because, as a replicant, he is only supposed to follow orders.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a hardcore science fiction movie. It’s set in a (surprise, surprise) bleak and dark future that is as brutal and ruthless as it appears. There are flying cars, hologram spouses, and futuristic guns, among other incredible technological advances, even if there’s no way we as a species will be that advanced in only 32 more years. These science fiction themes combine to make the movie very strange.

The plot to the movie is not terrible. Everyone is trying to find the father of the child and maybe even find the child itself, though not everyone has the same motives in seeing any evidence of the replicant birth destroyed or people killed. The problem is that the story is not very well communicated to the viewer and many things make no sense even when you understand what is happening.

Maybe the biggest problem with “2049” is the fact that it is too long by a large margin. With a run time of 2 hours and 44 minutes the movie is about an hour too long. The pace of the action is slow and there are many parts with K simply staring at some object while the viewer is wondering if anything is going to happen anytime soon. In short, the movie is mostly boring. If you’re planning on seeing the movie only to see Harrison Ford, you have a long wait until he actually makes an appearance.

On the good side, the special effects are well done. Where in many movies the special effects are obvious, in “2049” the effects are woven so seamlessly into the movie that you could find yourself believing that the special effects are real.

“Blade Runner 2049” is the kind of movie that needs hardcore fans of the science fiction genre to turn out to the theater in droves to the theater for the movie to be a success. If sci-fi is your thing and you enjoy long, ominous, brooding music you may like the movie. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and skip this one.

• • •

Grade: C-

Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity, and language.

Adam’s Apples – Two ghost stories

By James Mack Adams

October is that time of year we observe All Hallows Eve, or Halloween if you prefer that name. It is a time for pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, scary costumes, trick-or-treating, and perhaps some innocent, or maybe not-so-innocent pranks.

I don’t remember my buddies and I doing anything really bad on Halloween when we were kids. I lived in town, so there were no outhouses to turn over. Both sets of grandparents lived outside of town and had outhouses, but those were off limits needless to say.

As somewhat a fan of the supernatural during my youth, watching scary movies was a big part of my movie-going experience. In those days, there was not the blood and gore prevalent in horror movies today. Oozing blood is just not too impressive on black and white film.

I’m telling my age now but my favorites were “The Wolfman,” “The Mummy,” “Frankenstein’s Monster,” and my all-time favorite vampire, Count Dracula. “Bela Lugosi” is still the only movie Dracula I can accept.

For many years I lived in or near Savannah, Georgia, named as one of America’s most haunted cities. Savannah is the oldest city in the 13th original colony. It was settled in 1733. Savannah has survived invasion by the British, several yellow fever epidemics, Union Army occupation, devastating fires, hurricanes, and the wrecking ball. It has three old historic cemeteries. The city deserves its reputation as fertile ground for the supernatural and as a hangout for a collection of spirits. Local Savannah authors have published books on the subject. One of the earliest was “Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales” by Margaret Wayt Debolt.

Several years ago, a TV film crew from the History Channel came to Savannah to shoot an episode for a series on America’s most haunted cities. At the time, I was a part-time military history interpreter at Old Fort Jackson, the oldest standing brick fort in Georgia. Margaret Debolt, whom I valued as a fellow writer and friend, suggested to the producers that I be included in the filming to tell one of the many ghost stories concerning the old fort.

This is the story I told. A young lady was hired to clean and tidy up things at the fort after it closed to visitors for the day. Her first night on the job, she was cleaning the floor in one of the fort’s rooms when she heard footsteps behind her. When she turned, she saw a figure, dressed in Civil War Confederate uniform, staring at her from the doorway. She didn’t recognize him as one of the staff. She asked him who he was. Without replying, the figure turned and walked out of the room. She followed him but he vanished. The young lady refused to work at the fort another night.

A few years later, other TV filmmakers came to town. They were from the Travel Channel. They also were in process of producing a series on haunted places throughout America. Again, my friend Margaret Debolt recruited me for the project. The story I told on camera at that time again involved Old Fort Jackson.

One night, the site manager, whom I will call Steve, and I were overseeing a social event for a group who had rented the fort for the evening. We started the routine closing procedure after all the visitors had departed. Steve told me to extinguish the torches along the walkway from the parking lot to the fort’s entrance and wait for him in the office.

When Steve came into the office, I noticed a concerned look on his face. I asked if anything was wrong. He asked me if I had come back inside the fort for some reason after I first departed. I replied that I hadn’t. Steve then proceeded to tell what had happened.

After he completed the checkout procedure for closing, he made a final visual survey of the parade ground before he threw the main power switch to turn out the remainder of the lights. He said he saw a soldier, dressed in Confederate gray, slowly walking across the parade ground. He thought perhaps I could have come back inside the fort for some reason and called out, “Jim? Is that you?” There was no reply. The mysterious figure suddenly vanished as it neared the center of the parade ground.

I knew Steve well enough to know that he was a no-nonsense type of fellow. I could tell he was shaken by what he had seen. The experience was so real to him that he noted the instance in the fort’s daily log book. We located the log entry for the filming and the Travel Channel cameraman took a close shot of it while I read aloud the entry from the log.

I am not certain whether I believe real ghosts, spirits and monsters are out and about on Halloween night. But I am not taking any chances. I will hang some garlic on my front door. I guess coming up with a silver bullet is out of the question. Does anyone know where I might find some wolfsbane? I don’t want any vampires, werewolves or other scary creatures as house guests on Halloween.

Movie Night – Despite talented actors, ‘The Mountain Between Us’ dull

By Bradley Griffith

Occasionally when you go into a movie with no real expectations you are presently surprised.  More often, however, the movie somehow manages to be a disappointment despite the fact that you went into the theater not knowing what to expect. “The Mountain Between Us” falls into the latter category.

Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is late for her flight. She absolutely must make this flight out of Idaho.  She’s getting married the very next day. The only problem is that a winter storm is moving in and all flights out have been cancelled.Alex doesn’t want the voucher for a hotel, she wants a flight out to her wedding.

Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is a neurosurgeon in the same airport in the same predicament as Alex. He needs to get to Baltimore to perform surgery on a young boy in the morning. It’s critical to the boy’s survival that he get to Baltimore that very night. He receives the same explanations as Alex, and is offered his own hotel voucher.

Alex overhears Ben’s predicament. She has an idea that she believes will save them both. Alex wants to charter a small plane to take them to Denver where they can catch a commercial flight to their separate destinations. She asks Ben to join her in chartering the small plane, presumably so he can share the cost. Agreeing to get on that plane was either the worst decision of Ben’s life, or the best.

During the flight and over a million acres of snow-capped peaks and wilderness their pilot has a stroke. They quickly crash onto an icy mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. The pilot is dead and Alex injured her leg and is unconscious for several days. The pilot didn’t file a flight plan before leaving the airport, so it’s likely that no one knows where they are. With little food and an injured Alex, they are faced with the choice of staying at the plane and likely dying, or trying to walk out of the wilderness on their own, and still likely dying.

In large part the success of a movie like this revolves around the skill of the two actors and their chemistry together. Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are the only actors with any significant role in the movie. If they had no chemistry together, then you had no movie.

Winslet and Elba are both great actors, which is fortunate for the movie because it would have been a snore fest without their abilities. Still, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t quite save the film. While I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, I certainly wasn’t expecting a love story in a movie about two people stranded in the freezing wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.

If I told you that there was a plane crash, an attacking cougar, trek of many miles through several feet of snow, and near falls off craggy mountain peaks you would probably think that sounds like a good adventure movie. Having said all that, the biggest flaw in the movie was its failure to provide more adventure.

The movie needed more action and more adventure to such a harrowing ordeal. “The Revenant” is an example of a movie that provided more peril and more predicaments in a battle for survival. Instead, “The Mountain Between Us” provided more dialogue between Alex and Ben and more disagreements, rather than more obstacles they had to overcome to survive.

Make no mistake about it, Winslet and Elba were great in their roles. If not for their stellar performances, the movie would have been a total dud. Maybe if I had read the book that the movie is based on I would have known what to expect and enjoyed the movie more, rather than watching a movie at the higher theater prices that would have been better suited for a home rental.


Grade: B-

Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language.

Hood’s Winks – This, that and the other

By Ralph Hood

Some things one just knows are true, even if there is no proof…

The best sandwich in the world is made of home-grown tomato slices and too much – it must be too much – mayonnaise.

The second-best sandwich in the world is a tomato sandwich using store-bought tomatoes and – again – too much mayo.

It seems to me, that means I’m not sure I’m right, that many men – I dunno about the women – who drive Cadillacs sincerely believe that they are extremely important – much more important than the rest of us – and should be given the right of way ASAP. I have not seen this tendency among BMW and/or Mercedes drivers of either gender.

It is my opinion that computers are necessary, but purely evil. I refuse to consider any alternative.

When you look up guvmint info on a computer, it’s Katy bar the door! I spent much of the last two days looking up info on Tennessee State Parks. I will never do that again. Putting guvmint info on a computer is somewhat like turning a chainsaw over to a preteen boy with no supervision.

My beat-up, old pickup truck died dead last week. It was 20 years old, and had a coupla hundred thousand miles on it. I drove it for 18 years. It was ugly as homemade sin and covered with dents. Even the dents had dents. The paint was mostly faded off, and what paint was left was uglier than a punk rocker with terminal leprosy and a “born-to-lose” tattoo.

I kept the truck filled with oil and water. Other than that, I pretty much ignored it. The truck’s total options were air conditioning and radio. I didn’t even reset the clock for Daylight Savings Time.

We replaced the truck with a small car that gets excellent gas mileage. It has so many options that we haven’t yet figured them out.

(BTW, the dead truck has four good tires on it, in case – hint, hint – you want to get a good deal on four pickup-truck tires.)

It seems that the common cold has faded out. I thought it was replaced by flu, but lately it seems that everyone has, has had, or will have the crud. ‘Nuff said.

How many calls do you get daily that say if you want no more such calls, just press 1 on your ‘phone. We eagerly press 1 then giggle with glee, fully convinced that we have avoided a lot of calls. I hate to mention this, but I am convinced that those calls are just to see if anyone answers. Then they sell the list of “…numbers answered on a weekday at 10 a.m. in the morning.” I hope that’s not true, but fear that it is.

Finally, and more importantly, may God help the people devastated by weather or shot in Vegas.

• • •

Movie Night – ‘American Made’ offers excellent storyline, entertainment

By Bradley Griffith

In his two movies released this year, Tom Cruise has stepped a little out of his comfort zone. He was the main character in “The Mummy” earlier this summer, his first horror film since “Interview With the Vampire” in 1994. Currently on the silver screen Cruise is starring in “American Made,” not his usual movie, but still very enjoyable.

Barry Seal (Cruise) is a pilot for TWA in the late 1970s. He’s bored with the endless monotony of his job. Each airport and city seem no different to him. In the midst of this mini mid-life crisis Barry is approached by Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson). 

Schafer is with the CIA and he offers Barry a job flying a small plane over Central America taking low-altitude photos of points of interest to the CIA, mostly communist soldiers. Barry will own his very own plane and company. Barry would be his own boss and live an exciting life. Barry sees this opportunity as his salvation. He can finally escape the drudgery of his everyday life. The only problem is that his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), doesn’t feel the same way. They already have one child and one more is on the way. Lucy tells Barry that they need his job with TWA and all the benefits that come with it, mainly health insurance.

Despite his wife’s good advice, Barry quits working for TWA and starts his own company working for the CIA. He takes great pictures, while at the same time he’s also taking fire from the communist guerillas. As the early 1980s roll varound Schafer asks Barry to begin making exchanges with Colonel Manuel Noriega in Panama. Barry trades cash from the CIA in exchange for information from Noriega on the communists in the region.

But where Barry really gets in trouble is when he is approached/abducted by the Medellin drug cartel. Barry is told by the leaders of the largest drug cartel the world has ever seen that he will smuggle their cocaine to America in exchange for large amounts of cash. What could possibly go wrong?

“American Made” is based on a true story. It’s difficult to know what parts are true and what parts are dramatized, or outright fabricated, to make a better movie. According to the movie, Barry’s downfall was that he leaped into things without asking any questions and never said no. Hopefully the real Barry Seal was smarter, and he didn’t have dozens of suitcases around his house packed so tight with cash that bills were sticking out of the sides.

It’s unusual for Tom Cruise to play someone who isn’t the cool, athletic guy with all the gadgets and all the answers. But Cruise does a very good job with his lopsided smile playing the gregarious Barry Seal. Everybody loves Cruise’s version of Barry, and it’s hard not to. He tells everybody yes, does whatever they ask of him, and accepts his payment. Barry always delivers.

The storyline of the movie is also excellent. I knew nothing about Barry Seal going into the movie and was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns of the story. The filmmakers and writers found a way to present such serious topics in a light-hearted, fun, and funny way. Barry couldn’t stop himself from stumbling into more and more dangerous situations, and somehow the story became more amusing as the movie progressed. That’s good movie making.

“American Made” is a very entertaining and interesting look at recent history from the perspective of a background, but pivotal, character. There are no lulls to the story, no parts where your attention wanes or you think about getting up to use the restroom. The movie moves quickly and nearly every second is engaging. If you’re looking for a good time at the movies,

“American Made” is your best bet.

• • •

Grade: A-

Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Tough Monday morning may carry a message

By Lisa Whaley

Monday morning — long maligned as a sad end to the weekend — was especially dark this week.

For most of us, sipping coffee as we got ready for work, it was the moment we first learned of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night.

The death toll is still rising at press time, but news reports indicate that during a Jason Aldean concert, part of a country music festival that weekend, a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, targeting the concert crowd.

Current estimates are more than 50 dead, and more than 500 injured, making it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

As we sat horrified this morning, watching the TV screen or reading articles in newspapers or online, or listening to reports on the radio, we recognized disturbing similarities to previous tragedies both here and abroad.

The suddenness of the attack. The happiness of the crowd before it all began. The heroism of those involved.

But there were also things that didn’t fit with what we have sadly come to expect. Though the Islamic State militant group was quick to claim responsibility, the shooter was a white 64-year-old man named Stephen Paddock, not a young radical from another culture.

There was also no obvious — or even not-so-obvious — reason for the attack. Police are still investigating, but initial reports showed no criminal history or indications of earlier criminal behavior from the shooter.

And the location of the attack seems so unremarkable. In this case, certainly, no American in his or her home could make themselves feel safer by saying ‘Well, I’m not in that group,” unless you considered country music itself a possible motivator or have vowed to never set foot in Las Vegas.

Right now, in fact, there seem to be so many more questions than there are answers. In the next several days, I am sure details will continue to unfold.

But several things in this tragedy are still standing out sure and true.

The first is the bravery of our fellow Americans and the courage of our first responders. Just last month, Erwin residents gathered together to pay tribute to the sacrifice of local first responders, recognizing their crucial role in keeping all of us safe. Examples of their bravery keep being repeated again and again. Las Vegas is just the most recent one,

That bravery didn’t just come from first responders, but from potential victims as well. Report after report has surfaced of fellow concertgoers risking their own lives to look out for the wounded and to help those in need.

This is the America I am so proud to be a part of.

The second truth is that we here in America have a problem — not one to become immune to as I fear we might, but one that we must solve.

Whether the answer is found in prayer; more kindness and compassion and less hate and anger; better mental health opportunities; or new laws — I don’t know which or in what combination — something needs to be done and done now.

I think I’m going to start with prayer and go from there.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Trail leads to Erwin

By Connie Denney

There’s a new barber in town.  He walked into a business opportunity—literally and figuratively.

Meet Trevor Davis, the 29-year-old behind the chair at the barber shop on Carolina Avenue.  How he came to follow Ricky (Rick to some) Wilson, long-time proprietor of City Barber Shop, is an interesting story.  There’s a lesson in it for the whole community.

The day Davis told me his story he had been in business two days and was pleased with how things were going.  As we sat in the shop, he answered questions willingly and politely.  It was easy, though, to tell where his great interests lie as topics turned to cutting hair, or to the great outdoors.

He finished 2,000 hours at the Flint (Michigan) Institute of Barbering in February, left Springer Mountain, Georgia, in April to hike the Appalachian Trail for the first time.  He made it to Damascus, Virginia, a month or so later. Having cut other hikers’ hair on the trail, he continued as a church there gave away haircuts as a part of the town’s Trail Days celebration.

July 3rd found him in Erwin.  His first impression—other than “civilization, laundry, shower, food”—the “river took my breath.”  Although he started his hike aiming for that lobster dinner in Maine at the end of the Trail, he really wanted to see the Smokies, having fallen in love with the mountains at age 6.  Here he appreciates the mountains surrounding a big valley.  He has also been struck by the friendliness shown him.

Born in Texas, Davis moved at age 2 to the Detroit area with his family. An Eagle Scout, he credits Scouting for inspiring love of the outdoors. His interest in sports includes keeping up with what’s going on with cycling on the professional level. He enjoys riding himself, a bicycle his main form of transportation right now.

“Oh, yeah” is his response to being in a place where a good deal of the county is in public lands.  Trevor values being close to the mountains, a powerful free-flowing river, the wilderness, linear trail and, yet, near his work, the town and an interstate highway.

He met Wilson for the first time when he came into the shop to get a haircut.  As they talked, he learned of Rick’s wanting to retire and things developed from there. He talked with Rick, realized the opportunity, and now, finds himself doing what he has known for a long time he wanted to do.

Trevor learned as a kid that his barber loved his work.  In high school he knew he did not want to enter the corporate world, but did want to have his own business.  Two years before barber school, he cut hair for friends and family and realized he was good at it.  There “is art to it,” he explains, noting that the profession is hundreds of years old. 

Recognition of this community and its setting within such a special place in the universe is a compliment not to be taken lightly.  It is evidence that a small mountain town with easy access to unspoiled outdoor beauty, yet within easy travel to other amenities, has much to promote without changing who we are.

(For a feature story about Rick Wilson, see page 10-A.)

Movie Night – ‘Kingsman’ sequel tries too hard to outdo original

By Bradley Griffith

The general rule for sequels seems to be that they must outdo the original movie in every shape, form, and fashion. The filmmakers have lofty ambitions for the sequels, which usually leads to their downfall. They push the limits too far and try too hard to exceed their predecessor. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is no exception to this rule.

Kingsman is a private, independent intelligence service located in London. They combat evil without the bureaucratic entanglements of government oversight. Approximately one year has passed since the conclusion of the events in the first movie. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a full-blown Kingsman agent living in London with Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hanna Alstrom), who he saved at the end of the original movie. Everything is going great for Eggsy until the night he meets Tilde’s parents, though that turns out to save his life.

The Kingsman headquarters, its training facility, and all but one of its field agents are killed virtually simultaneously by missiles fired by a new criminal organization known as The Golden Circle. The leader of the Golden Circle is an insane woman known as Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore). Poppy has a monopoly on the global drug trade that she runs from a remote island where she created a 1950s themed neighborhood known as Poppy Land.

Poppy doesn’t know that she didn’t kill all the Kingsman agents. Eggsy was spared destruction at the hands of a missile because he was in Sweden meeting Tilde’s parents. Poppy also didn’t feel that Merlin (Mark Strong) was missile worthy. Merlin is an analyst, Poppy made the mistake of believing that he is not a threat to her.

Completely devoid of resources, Eggsy and Merlin initiate the doomsday protocol. They learn of their American cousins, the Statesmen. Assisted by Statesmen Champ (Jeff Bridges), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Tequila (Pedro Pascal), and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), Eggsy and Merlin must destroy the Golden Circle.

It’s a cliché for a reason: the first movie was better. A lot better. Both movies are a type of spoof of your average spy flick, especially James Bond movies. Part of the shtick of the movies is that they are over the top in their depiction of the spy game. They are meant to be funny, and “The Golden Circle” does manage to provide a few laughs along the way.

The main problem with “The Golden Circle” is that it tries so hard to outdo the original movie that every single facet of every single scene is insanely ridiculous. There are so many outrageous parts to the movie that no part of the movie feels novel because it doesn’t stand out from the relentless onslaught of pure absurdity.

Probably the best part about the movie is the fight scenes. While over 90 percent of the action is nothing short of impossible, the choreography and timing of the fighting and gunplay is amazing. The filmmakers obviously spent a lot of time and money making sure these scenes were perfect, and it shows. 

If you saw the first movie, “The Golden Circle” is more of the same. Much more, and for the worse. It’s almost comically violent and dirty. Almost. There’s nothing new to the movie to distinguish it from the original film other than the fact that it takes the level of impossibility of the action and ramps it up a notch.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” far exceeds the bounds of reason and believability. It simply goes too far with basically every aspect of the movie.


Grade: C

Rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout, and some sexual material.

From the Publisher’s Desk – There is always something we can do

By Lisa Whaley

September has not been kind this year.

True, here in Unicoi County things have been somewhat uneventful, despite the normal day-to-day struggles we all face.

The mountains have continued to surround us with their comforting mantle of green. Friends and neighbors have greeted us warmly. Our churches have offered us comfort. Our local teams have brought us excitement.

But in the rest of the world, it seems as if it disaster has reigned.

First there was the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in the United State at the end of August. Massive flooding hit Houston and Texans struggled to stay safe as they reclaimed their homes from a swath of damage.

Next, there was Hurricane Irma, a catastrophic storm that practically leveled islands such as St. Martin and St. John, then struck Florida with a ferocity that had everyone praying for those caught in its midst.

On Sept. 19, a 7.1 earthquake in Mexico left at least 120 dead and more expected as they work through the rubble. Less than 24 hours later, a 6.1 earthquake hit Japan.

And, on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, leaving the island reeling to regain power and protect its citizens.

There are a lot of people hurting out there, a lot of people afraid. And at times, it may seem that there is little we can do here in our safe corner of Tennessee.

But there is always something.

East Tennessee State University has a website providing information on how to support those affected by recent disasters, along with a helpful link to reach aid organizations. These include such agencies as the Center for International Disaster Information, UNICEF and the Mexico Red Cross.

In this day and age of the Internet, information like this can be just a click away. Just remember to be cautious and make sure you are dealing with a reputable agency.

Continue to pray for those who have been affected by these disasters. And keep your eyes open for ways to help, either on your own or through your church.

Time has proven again and again that those living in the mountains of Tennessee are some of the most generous people in the world.

Let’s reach out in any way we can and remind them of this truth.

A Refreshing Knapp – Integrity and words of wisdom

By Ray Knapp

Once upon a time words of what I understood to be wisdom came from an older brother who was so smart the school system, consisting of one teacher who taught children in a one room school house from the first through the sixth grade, promoted him directly from near the end of the second grade directly to the fourth grade.

That giant leap in the educational field left his other six siblings feeling like dummies. Being 10 years older than me, he was grown and working away from home most of the time, but when he came home my homework grades would dramatically improve. His nickname was Jiggs; named after a comic strip character whose sprigs of hair stuck out on both sides – as did his when he was little. The nickname he was stuck with for life.

He always had tidbits of wisdom to pass on. I recall quitting smoking after being addicted to it for about 15 years (a habit he abhorred). Anyway, I visited him during that time, and he took note of it. About a year later I visited again, smoking as heavily as before. “Don’t go back to something you’ve freed yourself from,” he scolded me. I did finally quit, but it took another 15 years.

That was one of the smartest things he ever said. I’ve thought about that a lot when I run in to former alcoholics, or drug addicts who managed to pull themselves out of the mire – then see them a couple of years later doing drugs or drinking as heavily as ever, I would recall his words, “Don’t go back to something you’ve freed yourself from.”

Jiggs was a gentleman and a man of integrity too. He believed it didn’t matter your status in life whether you were rich, or poor, how old or young you were, if you had compassion and respect for others and acted like someone with good sense, you were a fine person in his books. In later years, (he died at 80) he was highly respected on the town council for those very traits … also; he had been a technical writer for many years and could write new ordinances that would pass a lawyer’s scrutiny.

I can think of some … well I can think of many from Unicoi County that are people of integrity, and the ones that come to mind first, are the people who go about it quietly, not asking for approval or a pat on the back. A couple that I recall are Randy Ledford who, with the help of Aunt Polly, count and earmark donations to the church and its several charitable programs like the school backpack program etc. before turning it over to the treasurer, among other self-imposed church duties. Or Jack Metcalf, who is not only there to cook breakfast for “Fed by Grace UMC’s,” third Saturday breakfast, but will call and remind or invite people to come and enjoy it!

Or, J.W. Rice who has passed on, but is still well remembered on the south end of the county.  He liked to stop by the store in Flag Pond just to visit and shoot the breeze with other customers that came in for the same reason. The difference between J. W. and most others, when the conversation turned to someone in the neighborhood and any faults they had, he would not take part in it. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. Not that he was completely serious; J. W. would laugh at tall tales like everyone else, but when he told something about his past, funny, or not, it was true.

Erwin has a real life hero who would pass that muster too. George Hatcher, who most in Erwin know as one of the last two or three of the “Erwin Nine.” He tells his story of captivity in WW2 with the other eight soldiers from Erwin that wound up in the same German prison camp without embellishments of courage or having the “right stuff” to endure the prison’s mistreatment. He is just George; a Deacon in his church and a good neighbor who often mowed his disabled neighbor’s yard.

Movie Night – ‘American Assassin’ brings excitement to big screen

By Bradley Griffith

First things first, when it comes the movie “American Assassin” I am completely biased. The book of the same name is one of my favorites. In fact, the entire series of books featuring Mitch Rapp is one of my favorite series of books. Having said that, the movie version of “American Assassin” is, for lack of a better word, awesome.

As the movie opens Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and his girlfriend, Katrina (Charlotte Vega) are at a resort in the coastal town of Ibiza, Spain. While swimming in the ocean Mitch proposes and Katrina says yes. Mitch is on his way to the bar to get celebratory drinks when the first shots ring out. Muslim terrorists have invaded the resort and are firing machine guns indiscriminately as people run in every direction. By the time Mitch finds Katrina she has been shot and is dying before his eyes.

Fast-forward 18 months and Mitch is spending his days doing two things: working out and trying to track the terrorists who killed Katrina. Mitch establishes contact with the terrorists in a chat room on an extremist website. He has studied the Koran and knows all the answers to the questions he is asked to prove that he is a devout Muslim and devoted to their cause. Mitch doesn’t know that the CIA is tracking him. He travels to Morocco to meet the jihadists face-to-face. Before he can exact his revenge a U.S. Special Forces team takes out the entire terrorist cell and captures Mitch.

Mitch is interrogated by the CIA, primarily by Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), the Deputy Director. She has been watching Mitch and she likes his style and his agenda. She fights for the right to get Mitch included on a black ops team called Orion. The team answers only to Irene and the Director of the CIA.

Before he can join the team, Mitch must pass the training and selection process. Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) makes his appearance as the leader of Orion and the principal trainer of new recruits.  Hurley is an aging veteran of many covert wars and his training is intense and merciless.  He needs the team to be ready when the need arises to capture a nuclear bomb from a terrorist.

“American Assassin” is more akin to the Jason Bourne series than the James Bond films.  Mitch Rapp is more violent than Bond, but less nuanced than Bourne. Picture a Jason Bourne movie with less cloak and dagger and more grit, and you get “American Assassin.”

It’s pretty amazing to watch characters that you have read about for many years come to life on the big screen. While the books were, of course, better, “American Assassin” brings to life the same tone and mission behind the story and the characters. The story is not exactly the same as the book, but it is fairly faithful to the source material.

I didn’t picture Dylan O’Brien at Mitch Rapp, I pictured bigger and stronger. But O’Brien’s performance was great. He brought the same steely-eyed determination (that some may call stubbornness) to get the job done at any cost. Mitch is bent on revenge, refuses to listen to authority, and won’t back down from anyone. Mitch Rapp is an iconic character and O’Brien should be proud of his portrayal of the ruthless assassin.

However, the best acting performance of the movie goes to Michael Keaton. He was spot-on perfect as the grouchy, angry, mean old cuss that is Stan Hurley. While Mitch has all of the physical and mental skills necessary to be a warrior, it’s Stan Hurley’s training that makes him into the deadly weapon that he becomes. Keaton is constantly pushing O’Brien to make him better, stronger, faster, and, most importantly, smarter in the field of combat. The two actors worked very well together.

“American Assassin” has great gun fights, fist fights, and double-crosses. You will enjoy the movie if you have never heard of the books. Most importantly, you will come out the theater with a smile on your face.

• • •

Grade: A

Rated R for strong violence throughout, some torture, language, and brief nudity.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Erwin Nine define patriotism for all

By Lisa Whaley

From the moment I stepped into the town of Erwin, I began hearing references to the “Erwin Nine.” Even with no other information, there was something about that phrase that caught my interest.

Who were the Erwin Nine and why were they so important?

I am a reader who loves any book I can find, so I promptly did a quick Amazon search and placed my order. “The Erwin Nine’ by Hilda Padgett arrived in my mail last week.

And I spent the next five days immersed in the tale.

The story is a familiar one, I’m sure, with most of our readers. During World War II, nine young men from the town of Erwin joined the U.S. Army Air Corps to fight for their country.

None of them served together.

Each was shot down at different times over different locations.

Yet each ended up in the same prison camp — Stalag Luft IV.

And each lived to return to their home in the mountains of Tennessee.

That miracle alone — especially in a town the size of Erwin during that time — was enough for these brave veterans to be remembered.

But like the title they earned — “Erwin Nine” — there was so much more to the story and there was much more than just one story.

“The Erwin Nine,” instead, tells nine stories about nine remarkable individuals and the town that loved and supported them..

Take Clyde Tinker, for example, shot down on his first mission on Feb. 8, 1944, yet remembered more than 70 years later as a strong, husky fellow who was an asset when things got tough, according to his crew members. Tinker apparently didn’t like to talk much about his war experiences, but he purchased and opened Tinker’s Tavern on Carolina Street after he returned home. It became a popular place for veterans to gather together.

George David Swingle was another of the Erwin Nine, who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942. Swingle was forced to bail out after his plane was disabled on his 24th mission. The date was  April 27, 1944. Swingle landed on top of a house, breaking his leg as it went through the roof. He went to Stalag Luft IV in late July or early August, eventually teaming up with fellow Erwin resident Homer Stanley Norris. The two became fast friends, eventually meeting up to attend college together at the University of Tennessee.

By the way, the town of Erwin is named for Swingle’s grandfather, D.J.N. Ervin.

Each story of “The Erwin Nine” tells a tale of heroism, but also deep roots for these boys from Tennessee. And their names — Tinker, Swingle and Norris, as well as James. Hensley Jr., Allen Alford, George Hatcher Jr., J. Fred Miller, Dick Franklin and Richard Edwards Jr. — will forever be remembered as an example of some of the best and the bravest to be found in Unicoi County.

At last week’s 9/11 First Responders Tribute at the Unicoi County High School, George Hatcher — an original Erwin Nine shot down over Germany on May 27, 1944 — received a special tribute and a standing ovation that could not have been more deserved.

May we always remember men and women like the Erwin Nine, whose courage and commitment define patriotism for us all.

Adam’s Apples – In defense of Robert E. Lee

By James Mack Adams

This is not the column I had scheduled for this month. Recent events in the news prompted me to lay that one aside for a time and go in another direction. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” as poet Robert Burns wrote.

Following the recent chaos and tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, the movement to remove all symbols of the Southern Confederacy from public display has gained momentum. Now, some are labeling those thousands of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy as traitors. That would include my great-great grandfather. Even the iconic Robert E. Lee is being called a racist and a traitor who deserved to be hung for treason instead of admired.

What follows are some facts about Robert E. Lee the soldier, educator, and citizen. I will leave it up to the reader to decide if the man deserves the slings and arrows being aimed at him.

The Lees were one of the oldest and most prominent families in old Virginia. Two of Robert E. Lee’s ancestors, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, were signers of the Declaration of Independence. His father, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee was George Washington’s cavalry commander during the American Revolution and also his very close friend. Henry Lee delivered the eulogy at President Washington’s funeral and at that time coined the now-famous words, “First in war. First in peace. First in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington was Robert’s lifelong hero and role model.  His mother encouraged him to be like “the great Washington.”

Young Robert desired to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a soldier. He entered West Point in 1825.  He graduated in 1829 ranked second in his class. He did not receive a single demerit during his entire four years at the Academy.

Not long after his graduation from West Point, Lt. Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. When Martha married George Washington, George legally adopted Martha’s son from a previous marriage. And so, George Washington’s adopted son, Mary Custis’ father, was Lee’s father-in-law.  The Washington and Lee families were thereby united by marriage.

Yes, Robert E. Lee did own slaves. Mary inherited Arlington Plantation and the slave laborers after her father’s death in 1857. So, Robert became the master of Arlington. Mary broke the laws of the day by teaching the slaves how to read so they could read the Bible. Robert and Mary continued to use slave labor at Arlington until Robert freed them in 1862, in accordance with his father-in-law’s will.   

Lee’s first test of his military leadership was the Mexican-American War in 1846. He was Commanding General Winfield Scott’s primary staff officer and chief engineer. General Scott was to remark years later that Lee was the best soldier he had ever seen.

In the early 1850s, Lee got a new assignment that he considered one of the highlights of his military career. He became the superintendent of the United States Military Academy (West Point). This assignment helped prepare him for his future role as educator and college president. 

Lt. Col. Lee of the United States Cavalry was stationed in Texas when some Southern states started talking about secession. He was ordered to return to Washington where he met with Mr. Francis Blair, an unofficial advisor to President Lincoln. At the meeting, Blair told Lee that President Lincoln was offering to him command of all Federal forces being raised to put down the Southern rebellion. Lee was outspoken about being pro-Union and against secession. With much reluctance, however, He declined Lincoln’s offer saying that he could not make war against the Southern people nor would he lead an army that would invade his home, Virginia, and threaten his family. He resigned his commission after nearly 36 years of faithful and distinguished service in the Federal Army and joined the Confederacy. It was a gut-wrenching decision, but one he felt he had to make. 

When General Lee returned to his camp following the surrender meeting with General Grant at Appomattox Court House he told his men to lay down their arms, go home, take care of their families, and be good citizens.

After the war ended, Lee was asked to serve as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He hesitated before accepting because he feared his involvement might bring disfavor upon the institution. He finally agreed and served as president of the college until his death five years later. During those years, he oversaw an extensive building program and updated the curriculum. Lee was a devout Christian. The first new campus building he had constructed was the chapel. After his death, the name of the college was changed to Washington and Lee.

Lee dedicated his final years to doing all he could to heal the wounds of a tragic civil war and bring the country back together. His strongest desire was a re-united America.      

Robert E. Lee was a very private man. He did not enjoy adulation nor did he like to be the center of attention. It made him uncomfortable. I think he would be very uncomfortable and probably would strongly disapprove of statues and other memorials being erected honoring him.  He was just that type of man.

Movie Night – Though not very scary, new ‘It’ still enjoyable

By Bradley Griffith

The long-awaited and much-anticipated premier of “It” finally arrived. The adaptation of the Stephen King novel has been talked about seemingly for years and opened with a bang with $123 million in its opening weekend. That total is the highest opening weekend ever for a horror movie and the highest opening for the month of September for any genre.

Something sinister lives in the small town of Derry, Maine. The year is 1988 and the rate of people going missing in Derry is six times the national average, and that’s just for adults. The rate of children going missing is much higher. Everyone in Derry knows something is wrong, but no one wants to do anything to stop the evil that has taken over their small town. 

Young Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) makes a paper boat for his little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Georgie’s boat is promptly washed down a sewer grate in a downpour.  When Georgie looks into the sewer he sees two yellow eyes. Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard) has his boat. Pennywise tricks Georgie into reaching his arm into the sewer to get his boat.  Georgie is never seen alive again.

Eight months later Bill and his friends Richie (Ben Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) are out of school for the summer. Richie, Eddie, and Stanley want to have fun during the summer, but Bill has other ideas. He hasn’t given up searching for his brother and he wants his friends to help him. 

There’s a curfew of 7 p.m. for children in the summer. Still, all the adults in Derry refuse to even acknowledge that the town has a problem. As more and more children go missing the adults go on with life as if nothing is wrong. Bill refuses to give up on Georgie.  Along with outcast Beverly (Sophia Lillis), new kid Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and home-schooler Mike (Chosen Jacobs), they call themselves the Losers Club and they begin searching the sewers for the evil that lurks waiting for more children.

“It” is definitely a horror movie. The film checks all the boxes. There’s a maniacal demon clown, dead children luring others to their own deaths, spurting blood covering an entire room, a haunted house, and more. But, and this is kind of a big but, the movie is really not that scary.  Many parts of it are creepy and there are a few parts where you may jump in your seat from a surprising moment. But most of the parts that are supposed to be scary simply aren’t.

What is good about the movie is the story it tells about a bunch of outcast kids who, despite everything stacked against them, band together to defeat the demon clown. The movie spends quite a bit of time showing the group coming together, each child with their own story and their own problems at home. The adults in Derry won’t do anything, so the ragtag collection of kids known as Losers Club must be the hero.

One aspect of the plot that “It” nails perfectly is the social groups and interactions of kids that happens only in small towns. The film is not about the popular kids or the best-looking kids, but about the kids who look out for the little guy and protect those being bullied physically or by rumors that spread quickly in small towns. The story is all about these kids and that’s what makes the movie shine.

“It” is also unexpectedly very funny. Even when they are staring evil square in the face the kids still retain their sense of humor. The boys tell jokes that almost all boys say or hear at one time or another growing up. If you grew up in the 1980s you will be transported back in time to your childhood with a smile on your face despite the fact that a murdering clown is running loose on the screen.

“It” may not be scary, but it tells a great story with great characters. And if you like this movie you’re in luck, because “It” only tells half of the story of the Losers Club versus Pennywise.

• • •

Grade: A-

Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and language.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Each day is another delight in Erwin

By Lisa Whaley

I’ve been making a list of favorites.

Each week, as I explore Erwin and Unicoi County,  I find some new delight that thrills and amazes me.

Last week, my favorite discovery was Steel Rails  Coffee House.

I love their coffee, but have you tasted their spicy mustard sauce? It was all I could do not to ask for it in a bowl.

The week before, my favorite surprise was the moment I stepped into the downtown Clinchfield Drug Co. to grab a BLT for lunch.

Sitting there quietly reading the newspaper and chatting with the very sweet woman who waited on me was one of the most relaxing breaks I’ve had in a long time.

And then there was that moment — I replay it in my mind —  as I was driving from Unicoi to Erwin and very nearly couldn’t catch my breath due to the absolute beauty of the countryside.

This week, however, it is all about the elephants. Throughout Erwin’s downtown, small, colorful pachyderms enliven the scene, reminding residents of Unicoi County’s new cause — the Elephant Revival.

A clever way to turn the story of Mary — the elephant brought to Erwin’s railroad cranes in 1916 to be hanged — into something more positive for the town, the  Elephant Revival celebrates Mary and her kind, all the while raising funds for a refuge dedicated to elephant care.

The event runs Sept. 16 through Sept. 23, and promises everything from a scavenger hunt, a party in downtown Erwin, the chance to purchase the elephant statues and — my favorite — a Queen Kamarymary Hawaiian Luau charity dinner. 

Yep, elephants are definitely my new favorite — a bit of brilliance, a bit of whimsy and a whole lot of magic.

For more details on the Revival, call 220-7624.


Hood’s Winks – Ode to the game of aging

By Ralph Hood

I thought I knew everything when I was 18 years old — I was wrong.

Young folks can’t look back to their “old-time” memories because they have lived such a short time. The older I get, the more I remember the “old times.”

Here are some things I wonder about…

The great questions of life as seen by someone nearing the end of life:

Why didn’t I? Danged if I know. Maybe because I didn’t know any better?

Is it too late? Yes, it is.

For example…

As a teen, I showed off by biting caps off of Coca Cola bottles with my teeth! Today, I have a mouthful of junk metal, fake enamel and plastic. I usually can’t even open a bottle of aspirin with my teeth. They are “my” teeth only because I bought and paid for them. It costs a fortune to maintain them, too.

That brings up the questions: Why didn’t I, and is it too late? I dunno, and yes it is.

Soon thereafter, at Clemson, I started to win bets by lifting the front ends of small foreign cars. Today? Today, I can’t bend over without being assaulted violently and painfully by my aging, complaining and pitiful back.

Sometimes I fall to the floor and lie there flopping as a just-caught fish flops on the dock. It’s terrible. I don’t even bend over unless it is absolutely, positively, necessary. After a fall, I just stay down there for awhile to rest up.

When I was 21, I parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes just for the fun of it. When I recovered from being 21, I quit doing that.

Was I finally getting smarter? Not really.

Here’s another of life’s great questions…

Why didn’t I listen?

I dunno, but kids today are the same dang way.

My father bought a new Chevrolet — a “deluxe” model by golly — in 1951. By the time I got my driver’s license, that car was six years old and was, in my opinion, a piece of junk.

I begged and pleaded with Daddy to buy a newer car. I was in the front yard with friends one day and Daddy called from the front door. I went over and he said he wanted to show me something.

Daddy said, “In 1951 I bought that Chevy for about $1,100. Here’s the invoice. See?” “Yessir,” I said.

Then he said, “That same year, 1951, I bought that empty lot right next door. Do you remember that?” “Yessir.” “Now that lot cost a little less than I paid for the car. See?” “Yessir.”

“Now,” sez he, “today, they tell me that car is worth $300, or maybe $350. Would you like to know what I can sell that lot for today?” “Yessir.”

“That lot,” he said, “is worth $4,000.”

Today, I wonder. Why didn’t I Iisten?    I dunno.

Change of Subject:

My last column was about “Hair Hurts and other Weirdos.” Many of you have said that it was mean of us to mistreat Hair Hurts that way. Be ye advised that Hair Hurts flunked out of Clemson, went back up “nawth” to live, got a cute girl friend and — listen up, now — he brought that cute girl all the way back to Clemson to visit his old friends and see where we had lived. He also told her — pay attention — that he had been happier at Clemson than any other place in his life.

So there!

Feathered Friends – Plovers among migration champs of shorebird clan

Habitats of short grass, such as pastures or golf courses, often attract migrating black-bellied plovers. (Photo by Jean Potter)

By Bryan Stevens

I’m always glad to lend a hand at identifying birds. If you’re uncertain of a bird’s identification and have a photo of the bird in question, assistance is an email away. Janice Humble emailed me seeking some help with identifying the bird in a photograph attached with her message. She noted that the bird was accompanied by a companion in the grassy area near the Walmart on Volunteer Parkway in Bristol. She also noted that the two birds uttered loud “peeps” during her observation.

The bird turned out to be a killdeer, a species of plover native to North America. Plovers belong to the family of shorebirds that include various sandpipers, curlews, dowitchers, stilts, avocets and other species. The killdeer is a rather common shorebird that finds itself at home far from the seashore, often present in habitats such as pastures and golf courses, as well as the grassy areas near the concrete and asphalt jungles that surround Walmarts and other such shopping complexes.

The killdeer’s famous for its faking of an injured wing. When its nest or young is threatened, a killdeer will go into an elaborate display, fluttering the “injured” wing and uttering shrill peeps to distract the potential predator. If successful, the bird will lure the predator away from the nest or vulnerable young. Once at a safe distance, the killdeer undergoes a miraculous recovery and takes wing, leaving behind a bewildered and perhaps chagrined predator.

Other North American plovers related to the killdeer include American golden-plover, black-bellied plover, Pacific golden plover, Wilson’s plover, piping plover, snowy plover, mountain plover and semipalmated plover. About 70 different species of plovers exist around the world, including such descriptively named birds as little ringed plover, red-capped plover, three-banded plover and white-fronted plover.

Musick’s Campground on Holston Lake has been one of the best area locations for seeking shorebirds during their migrations. The shore near the campground has been a magnet for persuading unusual shorebirds to pause their journey to rest, refresh and refuel. The location’s privately owned, but individual wishing to bird the shoreline can enter by signing the guest book located a small but well-marked kiosk. Some of the most memorable shorebirds I’ve seen at Musick’s Campground over the years include whimbrel, dunlin, sanderling, greater yellowlegs, short-billed dowitcher, American avocet, black-bellied plover and semipalmated plover. In recent weeks, the location has hosted such unexpected shorebirds as red knot and red-necked phalarope.

While the neighboring states of Virginia and North Carolina offer coastal birding opportunities, my native Tennessee remains quite landlocked. This fact poses a challenge for birders looking to capitalize on the seasonal migrations of shorebirds. Fortunately ponds, mudflats on the shorelines of lakes, riverbanks and even flooded fields offer adequate substitute habitat for many shorebirds. While the Northeast Tennessee region may lack a seashore, migrating shorebirds have learned to make do.

This varied and far-flung family is also known as “wind birds,” a term which is an allusion to the capacity of many species of shorebirds to undertake nothing less than epic migrations. Many of the shorebirds that pass through in the spring are in haste to reach their nesting grounds as far north as the edge of the Arctic tundra. In fall, many of the same birds are eager to return to destinations in Central and South America ahead of cold weather and times of scarcity.

The plovers — the sedentary killdeer excepted — are among the champions of long-distance migration. According to the Audubon website, the black-bellied plover spends the brief summer season nesting in the world’s high Arctic zones but disperses to spend the winter months on the coasts of six of the globe’s seven continents.

The Pacific golden-plover’s twice yearly migrations represent an even more impressive feat. This shorebird often nests in Alaska and winter in Hawaii. The website notes that research on this plover has revealed that the bird is capable of flying almost 3,000 miles in a mere four days. The website also reveals that those plovers wintering in Hawaii cannot lay claim to longest migrations. Some Pacific golden-plovers nest even farther south in the Pacific, reaching the Marshall Islands.

Shorebirds represent only a single family of birds migrating through the region in the fall. Songbirds from warblers and thrushes to vireos and flycatchers, as well as raptors and waterfowl, wing their way through the region every fall. Get outdoors with a pair of binoculars and have a look. It’s almost impossible not to see something, which may turn out to be a delightful and unanticipated surprise.


To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at To ask a question, make a comment or share a sighting, email him at

Library Happenings – American Girl Club teaching participants about history, culture

By Angie Georgeff

The library is offering a preschool story time every Wednesday during September. Join us at 10:30 a.m. for stories and activities designed to build skills that will get little ones ready to read.  The focus for September is seeds. With the last fruits and vegetables coming from the garden, early autumn is the perfect time to consider this subject, which will help children better understand the world around them.

American Girl Club

I am a huge fan of American history. I suppose that explains why I am so captivated by the American Girl dolls and books that inspire our American Girl Club. Whether you consider the United States to be a melting pot or a salad bowl, you have to acknowledge that a rainbow of cultures have made contributions to our society. Participants aged seven and up learn about American history and the cultures that are part of the rainbow. This group will meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18. Please preregister on our UCPL Kids and Teens Facebook page so we’ll have enough supplies and snacks on hand for everyone.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21. 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

The Dakota apartment building in New York City is notorious as the final home of John Lennon and eerily familiar as the setting of the movie Rosemary’s Baby. It also stars in Fiona Davis’s new novel “The Address.” In 1884, Sara Smythe leaves her job as head housekeeper at a prestigious London hotel to become the “lady managerette” at the new Dakota. She had been offered the position by the building’s architect Theo Camden, and when she becomes pregnant it becomes apparent that his interest in her had not been entirely professional. Sara’s life soon takes a tragic turn, culminating in a conviction for Theo’s murder.

One hundred years later, interior designer Bailey Camden reluctantly takes a job remodeling the Dakota apartment of her “cousin” Melinda. Although the women share a surname, Melinda descends from Theo Camden and Bailey from his ward. Melinda has access to the sizeable Camden trust, but Bailey does not. As Bailey struggles to preserve the architectural heritage of Theo’s apartment, she discovers trunks in the basement that might change Sara’s history and her own present.