Honduras mission project moves forward

Jeremy Wainwright, far right, joins other missionaries from East Tennessee in Honduras. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

A local man is looking to make a lasting difference for strangers in a foreign land.

Unicoi County native Jeremy Wainwright recently sat down with The Erwin Record to discuss his mission work in Honduras.

“In October of last year I went to Honduras for the first time and I served in an area outside the capital city that had high levels of poverty,” Wainwright said. “When I returned to the U.S. I started praying and thinking of ways to help those people in poverty. Many people visit developing nations on mission trips and bring many things to help.”

For Wainwright, the problem is this can hurt as much as it can help.

“The resources run out at some point and many people develop dependency issues because they have not been provided with something that is sustainable and ongoing,” Wainwright said. “Earlier this year, I contacted Honduras local, Agustín Garcia, about starting a tilapia farm to provide a sustainable means of help for the people of Honduras. Through some research and lots of prayer, we decided that a shrimp farm would be more productive.”

According to Wainwright, things moved quickly once Agustin joined the cause.

“We found some property with two ponds that would allow us to raise 200,000 shrimp larvae,” Wainwright said. “The property is in a place called Amapala, Honduras. Amapala is about three hours from Tegucigalpa, which is where Agustín lives. However, he has family that lives in Amapala who are helping us oversee things on a regular basis.”

Wainwright acknowledged that due to the generosity of many, the shrimp farm began to take shape.

“We received the funding to start the process and just days before we were to lease the land, we found out about an even better opportunity,” Wainwright said. “We talked to a man named Ismael Cruz; he has been farming shrimp for 20 years and he has so much experience in shrimp farming, as well as many clients that buy from him each harvest. It was an easy decision to make to lease from him instead of starting on our own. He agreed to lease us one pond on his property.”

Wainwright said that one pond is five acres and much larger than the two ponds the group was originally going to lease.

“We have 650,000 larvae in this pond, more than three times what we were going to have at the original property we were going to lease,” Wainwright said. “The larvae were stocked in the pond on Oct. 4. and I went there on Oct. 22.”

According to Wainwright, the process is exciting to watch.

“It is amazing how fast they grow,” Wainwright said. “Agustín’s cousin Dorian will be helping us as well and he knows the science behind the process, just as Ismael (Cruz) knows the business part of the process. We have a very knowledgeable team and we also have hired one man to feed the shrimp and do maintenance on the ponds, and one man to guard the ponds at night.”

Wainwright acknowledged that the harvest will take place soon.

“We plan to harvest in early January; a cycle takes between 90-100 days from stocking in the ponds until harvest,” Wainwright said. “We plan to sell many of the shrimp onsite at the shrimp farm and we also plan to sell many hundreds of pounds in the city of Tegucigalpa.”

According to Wainwright, you can get about one-third more for the shrimp in the city.

“We plan to have around 9,000 pounds from the harvest; this should yield the reinvestment cost of $8,617 for the next four-month cycle, plus $11,500.”

Wainwright and company plan to build sustainable housing with the money acquired from the shrimp sales.

“With the $11,500 we plan to build homes, provide clean water and feed those in poverty,” Wainwright said.

According to Wainwright, providing clean water is a challenge.

“As far as clean water, we were looking to dig wells for water, but they are very expensive in Honduras (as high as $15,000,) and we did find a water filtration system that costs $100,” Wainwright said. “The filter can last up to five years.”

The water filter is a simple process.

“You just pour any water collected from rain in the top bucket, and it will run through the filter and have clean water in the bottom bucket. We plan to purchase many of these with the funds from the shrimp farm,” Wainwright said. “We also plan to build a feeding shelter in the future as well.

“We are funded for the first cycle, but we are still raising funds to help the shrimp farm be even more successful in the future. We are looking at machines that will peel the shrimp. At this point, we will be selling them whole, but if we have a fast way to process them, we could sell for a much higher price per pound.”

For Wainwright and company the current success is the first step of the plan.

“We also have a long-term goal to raise enough funding to buy our own property one day in the future, instead of leasing it,” Wainwright said. “We were able to buy 650,000 larvae with the funds raised for this cycle and if we raise more funds, we will be able to buy even more larvae the next cycle. I have been going to Honduras at least once a year (usually in October), to see the progress and also to serve with a mission team. But I may go even more frequently as this project grows.”

According to Wainwright, any donation helps the long term success of this farm.

“I would like to thank God for providing every resource we needed to get started,” Wainwright said. “Through Him all things are possible. I also want to thank North Ridge Community Church and my local community of Erwin for being so supportive and generous.”

If anyone is interested in donating or want to have a conversation about any further details, they can contact Wainwright at 388-9356 or email him at [email protected]

Along with donations, Wainwright is asking for prayers.

“I ask for prayers that many lives will be changed by this project,” Wainwright said.

Feathered Friends – American robin named for European counterpart

The European robin is a common garden bird in Great Britain and other countries in Europe. The American robin was given its common name when early English colonists were reminded of their own robin back in the Old World. (Photo by Andrew Poynton/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

I received emails recently from Terry Fletcher, who lives on Vance Drive in Bristol, and Ernie Marburg from Abingdon, Virginia. Both emails involved flocks of birds, including American robins and cedar waxwings.

The past two days the robins have been going crazy in my small yard,” Terry wrote. “I live in a woodland area off Vance Drive.”

Terry described a flock of at least 40 robins passing through the relatively small yard. “They were also darting back and forth among the trees,” Terry wrote. “Any thoughts about this flurry of activity? 

Ernie Marburg also sent me an email with a query about robins and waxwings.

“I haven’t had much to report recently, but yesterday and today I had large flocks of migrating birds,” Ernie noted. “Yesterday’s flock of cedar waxwings was extremely large.”

Ernie estimated the flock consisted of 400 to 500 individuals. He added that the flock rested for a time in his neighbor’s large oak trees and then went on its way.

“The flock today was less exciting for me, but somewhat even larger than the waxwings,” Ernie noted. The second flock consisted mostly of European starlings with a few American robins in the mix.

Ernie observed the starlings in some neighboring dogwoods as they consumed red berries. His question involved the migration habits of the starlings, waxwings and robins.

The fact is that, although we don’t think of robins very much in winter, they are still very much present in the region. The same is true of waxwings and is particularly true about starlings.

Terry’s wooded area sounds perfect for robins in winter. In the colder months of the year, robins form large, loosely organized flocks, often taking up residence in wooded lots. Ernie’s neighborhood also sounds like a perfect haven for these flocking birds.

The activity observed by Terry is just the way robins behave at times. The activity could have been an example of the birds sensing the approach of a weather front. The robins, reacting to changing conditions, were simply attempting to feed as much as they could before a change in the weather. arrived.

The American robin is a large bird in the thrush family, which in North America also includes such birds as Eastern bluebird, wood thrush, and Townsend’s solitaire.

In the British Isles, the European robin is simply known as “robin” or “robin redbreast.” When the first English colonists arrived in New England and other parts of colonial-era North America, they took pleasure in finding that some of the birdlife in the New World resembled familiar birds from their homeland. The red-breasted American robin looked like the bird they knew in the Old World as “robin,” which motivated them to name the New World bird “robin,” as well.

Other than the red breast, however, the two robins are not all that similar. The American robin is the larger of the two birds. Farther separating these two birds is the fact that the European robin is not a thrush but rather a member of the family of Old World flycatchers.

In some ways, the two robins are similar. Both are fond of earthworms, spending a great deal of their time on the ground foraging for worms. They will also follow human gardeners at their work, waiting patiently for the followed person to disturb the soil with a spade or hoe and expose earthworms for the waiting bird. They are also rather tolerant of humans and have learned to make their own homes close to human dwellings.

Some of the British transplants to North America must have felt homesick for familiar things because several unsuccessful attempts were made to introduce the European robin to the United States and Canada. European robins introduced in New York and Oregon failed to gain a foothold, unlike the introduction of such alien birds as the house sparrow and European starling.

On a few occasions, our American robins have overflown their destinations and ended up in the United Kingdom. For instance, an American robin became a first for London birdwatchers when one was found in that nation’s capital city in March of 2006. Whether of the European or American persuasion, robins have long been a favorite of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Library Happenings – Latest holiday film festival begins

By Angie Georgeff

The Christmas rush has begun: Thanksgiving has been followed by Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday and I’ll bet you’re ready for a break. I know I am.

Come on down to your library and check out a book, audiobook or DVD.  I recommend something light and bubbly. There will be plenty of time to start digesting War and Peace in January.

I have long thought of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” as a Christmas story, and Virginia Kantra, the author of “Meg and Jo,” appears to agree with me. This contemporary retelling of Alcott’s beloved classic shifts the setting from Massachusetts to the small town of Bunyan, North Carolina. Since John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress plays a minor but memorable role in “Little Women,” I appreciate the nod to Bunyan in the town’s name.

It should come as no surprise that Meg is a stay-at-home mom struggling with 2-year-old twins. Jo has lost her journalism job and is just squeaking by as a prep cook and food blogger in New York City. Shy Beth is aspiring to be a musician and Amy, of course, is working in the fashion industry in Paris.

The men of “Little Women” have not been forgotten, either. “Trey” Lawrence, the boy next door, owns a car dealership and is the employer of Meg’s husband John.

“Eric” Bhaer is a popular New York chef. The girls’ father is still a military chaplain as he was in Alcott’s novel, but their parents are separating and their mother Abby has been hospitalized. This crisis brings all the girls home for a Christmas to remember.

Book Orders

You may have noticed that our large-print collection is constantly expanding. That is happening in direct response to increased demand for books with larger type. With that in mind, Happy Holidays! We recently placed two large orders for large-print books.

They include a number of titles that you have requested and they should start to arrive this week. We also expect to place an order for audiobooks soon. 

There is still time to make a suggestion. Call the library at 743-6533 or let us know the next time you come in.

Holiday Film Festival

You are cordially invited to join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, for a classic Christmas film. We will provide popcorn and a seasonal sweet treat, and you may bring a bottle of water or the soft drink of your choice. We also will be offering movies on Thursday, Dec. 12, and Thursday, Dec. 19. We hope to see you then!

Feathered Friends – Wild turkey’s resurgence leads to foul fowls

A male wild turkey struts his stuff in a woodland clearing. In New England, where turkeys featured on the menu at the First Thanksgiving, restored turkeys are creating some headaches now that the predators capable of keeping them in check have been removed from the ecosystem. (Photo by Avia5/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

Celebrated in William Bradford’s written account of the First Thanksgiving in 1621, the wild turkey had all but vanished from Massachusetts and the rest of New England a mere two centuries later. By the time of Henry David Thoreau, who is arguably America’s first environmentalist, the noted author lamented in 1856 that the turkey and other wildlife were difficult to find in his native Massachusetts.

In a journal entry from the spring of 1856, Thoreau decried the part the descendants of those Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving more than 200 years earlier had played in the decimation.

“When I consider that the nobler animals have been exterminated here — the cougar, the panther, lynx, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, dear, the beaver, the turkey and so forth and so forth, I cannot but feel as if I lived in a tamed and, as it were, emasculated country,” Thoreau wrote in his journal. “Is it not a maimed and imperfect nature I am conversing with?”

Perhaps, but Thoreau would probably be encouraged that many of the animals he mentioned in his journal have now recovered and once again roam throughout New England. The wild turkey has been in the vanguard of that resurgence. In fact, the revival of the wild turkey’s fortunes in New England has had unintended consequences. In short, this venerable fowl has run amok in some parts of its former stronghold.

An article by Brianna Abbott for the Audubon Society’s website estimates that before Europeans first colonized New England in the 1600s, as many as 10 million wild turkeys roamed from Maine to Florida to the Rocky Mountains of the American West.

Today, wild turkeys are back with a vengeance. Turkeys may have grievances, it turns out, for the persecution they suffered at the hands of Americans for the past few centuries. Touted as a major restoration success story, the wild turkey began to be reintroduced to New England about half a century ago.

Now that they’re back, turkeys are part of a dramatically changed landscape. Suburbs now stretch in wide swaths of terrain that once supported forests and associated wildlife. Luckily — for the turkey, anyway — it is a very adaptable bird. Turkeys have taken to life in the suburbs with such enthusiasm that they are now a wildlife management issue for the human residents who must share living space with them. Emboldened problem turkeys chase and intimidate women and small children, as well as pets. Whole flocks have gone rogue.

Gone are the turkey’s natural predators — lynxes, cougars and wolves  — that had kept America’s premier game bird’s population in balance. As Thoreau pointed out, nature is no longer perfect. More than 170,000 wild turkeys now live in New England and they’re not always at peace with their human neighbors.

Thoreau didn’t have the benefit of environmental science to back him up, but he would probably not be surprised that a “maimed” nature is causing some unexpected problems even as some of the animals he so sorely missed are returning to their former haunts.

The Tennessee Watchable Wildlife Website notes that the wild turkey was once nearly eliminated from the Volunteer State. By the early 1900s, over-hunting eliminated this species from most of its range, including much of Tennessee. Modern wildlife management has reestablished this bird throughout its historic range and into 49 of the 50 United States.

According to the website, the natural habitat for the wild turkey consists of mature woodlands with scattered openings or fields. In such areas, turkeys can forage for food such as acorns and other wild nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, buds, fern fronds and even the occasional salamander.

Wild turkeys roam the woods around my home, and I know of other areas that are dependable locations for observing these birds. While their numbers are increasing, the wild turkey has not yet turned the tables. For the foreseeable future, I suspect Americans will continue to dine on turkey every Thanksgiving, and not the other way around.

Who could blame them, however, if turkeys were to feel perfectly justified in biting back at the American public? We’ve not always been the best stewards for our native wildlife. Call me an optimist. I believe turkeys and people can co-exist. As residents in New England have learned, we just have to be prepared for some give and take.

Library Happenings – Library taking requests for new materials

By Angie Georgeff

This is the time of year when we pause to count our blessings so we may give thanks for all of them. In many families, including mine, it is a tradition to go around the Thanksgiving table so each family member may mention one of the blessings for which that person is especially grateful. Each mention is heartfelt, but over the years the younger children have occasionally provided us with comic relief. As Art Linkletter discovered, kids do “say the darnedest things.”

As director of the Unicoi County Public Library, I am grateful for many things. Our wonderful patrons, our talented and dedicated staff and the vital support of our community are among the many blessings that immediately spring to my mind. I currently am in the midst of preparing orders for DVDs, audiobooks, large print books and books aimed at children and teens.  Thinking of the pleasure these materials will bring our patrons, I couldn’t be happier. That’s why I’ve decided to mention Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds when it’s my turn to speak at the Thanksgiving table this year.

New Materials!

These federal funds are the largest disbursement we receive during the fiscal year for us to spend on these specific library materials. This bounty entails a lot of work for me and our staff at an especially busy time of the year.

Nevertheless, I haven’t heard one word of complaint. We are just happy to have the opportunity to cross special requests off our wish lists and get them into the hands of our patient patrons.

How can you help? Simply let us know which books, audiobooks and DVDs you want to read, hear and watch. We are eager for your input and we’ll try to get them for you if they are available.

Either call us at 743-6533 or tell us the next time you visit the library. If you’re first on the list to request a book or DVD, we’ll let you know when we receive it and get it processed. If you are second or third, we will place you in order on the hold list for it.

Holiday Closure

Happy Thanksgiving! The library will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 28 and 29, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Please note that we will be open during our regular hours on Saturday, Nov. 30, which are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

No items will be due on Thursday or Friday, but you may deposit books and audiobooks in either of our book returns whenever it is convenient for you. They are located at the library in Erwin and at Town Hall in Unicoi.

If you indulge in too much turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, a little fresh air may do you good. We wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Christmas play to be staged Dec. 14 at Senior Center

The cast of “Grandma’s Last Christmas” rehearses a scene from the original play. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

A very special presentation coming to Clinchfield Senior Adult Center will help get the community in the holiday spirit.

“Grandma’s Last Christmas,” which will be performed at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, is an original production of music, comedy and surprises written and directed by Barbara Desso.

According to Desso, the idea to perform a Christmas play to raise money for the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center was one she has had for a while now.

“I started writing the show in August,” Desso said. “I wanted to do some kind of a fundraiser for the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center and writing is one of my favorite things to do, so it just came together,” Desso said.

Desso said that the production will provide something for everyone.

“I am very pleased to have several students from Unicoi High School, Temple Hill Elementary, Mars Hill Elementary, homeschooled children, local residents and members of the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center involved,” Desso said. “There will be take-home surprises for the audience courtesy of local businesses and anonymous donations.”

According to Desso, tickets are $10 and can be purchased Monday through Friday at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“There is limited seating so we encourage those wishing to attend to make an early purchase,” Desso said.

Clinchfield 100 gets new life

Former Clinchfield Railroad car 100 brings up the rear of southbound CSX manifest Q693 as it passes by the former Clinchfield offices in Erwin while en route to Jacksonville to be prepped for this year’s Santa Train. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

New life has been breathed into a famed former Clinchfield Railroad relic, and it will soon be on display on the rear of CSX’s premiere public relations train.

According to a press release from the organization, the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum in Johnson City recently announced that the group’s former Clinchfield Railroad car No. 100 will be the “Santa car” on this year’s CSX Santa Train, set to make its 77th run on Saturday, Nov. 23. The newly refurbished Pullman-built coach will be placed on the rear of the train where Santa Claus will throw gifts of food and toys to the massive crowds which turn out each year for the event.

Watauga Valley volunteer Mike Tilley tells Trains News Wire the century-old railcar was a frequent part of past Santa Trains.

“I remember when it was on there years ago, and I actually helped load supplies for the Santa Train onto that car when it used to be on there, so it means a lot to me because I had a key part in seeing it on the train before,” Tilley said.

The 100 replaces CSX business car West Virginia on the rear of the train, but that car is still slated to be in the train’s consist.

The Clinchfield No. 100, commonly known as the railroad’s “Superintendent’s car,” was rebuilt over the past year by nearly 20 Watauga Valley volunteers who worked eight-hour shifts six days per week. The inclusion of the 100 on the Santa Train is the latest effort by CSX to celebrate the Clinchfield heritage of the train. It follows the 2016 train, when the lead SD40-3 had a “Clinchfield” sticker applied to the nose of the locomotive, and the 2017 Santa Train – the train’s 75th running – which featured rebuilt and restored former Clinchfield F7 No. 800 leading the train. The 2017 Santa Train also had EMD SD45 No. 3632, which was re-lettered “Clinchfield,” leading the train along with the 800.

Built in 1911 by Pullman Car Co., the Clinchfield 100 entered service as coach No. 985 for Atlantic Coast Line before being converted to the dining car Orlando in 1921. The car was purchased by Clinchfield in 1951 and was rebuilt to include three bedrooms, a kitchen and a restroom. Tilley said the bedrooms were removed and the interior was completely renovated during its recent restoration. The kitchen and restroom were left intact, he said.

“We had the choice of keeping it as-is and using it as just a museum piece or rebuilding it to be able to be used everywhere,” Tilley added. “We decided to go ahead and redo it all and hopefully have it ready for not only Santa Train, but for other excursions and events later on.”

The Santa Train originates from CSX’s Shelby Yard near Pikeville, Kentucky., and travels south through Southwest Virginia en route to Kingsport. The train distributes gifts at 13 locations along the route. For information on the CSX Santa Train, visit, facebook.com/santatrain.

Feathered Friends – Birds utilize variety of foraging methods

The cover of the 2020 calendar produced by the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society features a photo of a male scarlet tanager, a bird known for foraging for summer fruits such as cherries and mulberries. To order a calendar, email [email protected] (Contributed photo)

By Bryan Stevens

Watching a chickadee or a nuthatch feed on sunflower seeds at your feeders can be entertaining, but it’s a little misleading to think that the “grab-and-go” method utilized at feeders is the way most birds forage for food. In fact, birds employ a wide array of some rather ingenious methods for making sure they don’t go hungry.

I was reminded of this fact on a recent chilly morning when I observed a flock of black vultures gathered on a neighbor’s lawn. The large, gregarious birds looked slightly out of place considering the neatly trimmed grass and other landscaped features. After watching them for a short time, I noticed that the birds’ attention seemed to be focused on something in a roadside ditch. Sure enough, some roadkill — a mammal of some sort — worked as a lure to draw the dozen or so large birds to the lawn.

Vultures are well-known eaters of carrion, and the region’s two species — turkey vulture and black vulture — are part of nature’s sanitation crew. We might think we could do without their services, but I suspect we would miss their contribution if vultures disappeared from the environment.

Every type of bird fills a specific niche. Some warblers glean caterpillars and other small insects from the undersides of leaves. The belted kingfisher takes its meals from the schools of small fish in streams, creeks and ponds. The pileated woodpecker gouges huge holes into the bark of a tree with its chisel-like bill in pursuit of burrowing insect larvae.

The nation’s official bird, the bald eagle, spends a lot of its food-gathering efforts on catching fish and the occasional duck or coot. In common with the vultures, however, the bald eagle is not at all finicky about scavenging for an occasional meal.

The Eastern phoebe spends much of the warm months devoted to favorite perches. From these vantage points, a phoebe can sally forth and snatch flying insects, demonstrating why it belongs in a family of birds known as the flycatchers.

In the winter season, however, the phoebe gives up this foraging behavior and gleans berries and other available food. The phoebe will even eat the berries of poison ivy without suffering any ill effects.

Other birds, but not actual hawks, practice “hawking,” which is simply catching flying insects in their beaks and consuming the prey while still in flight. Birds that hawk for their meals include swifts, nighthawks and swallows.

Most hawks are ambush predators. Some raptors pick an elevated perch to survey a hunting territory while others may soar far overhead. When the perched raptor — or even one that is soaring — spies potential prey, it can swoop onto the victim often before the creature recognizes the danger.

Group’s 2020 Bird Calendar on Sale

The Lee & Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society is selling its 2020 calendar for $15 each. All proceeds are used to support birding opportunities and bird-related causes in Northeast Tennessee.

The calendar’s pages feature more than 80 full-color photographs of area birds taken by club members, including common favorites and some not-so-common visitors.

The front cover features a stunning photograph of a vibrant male scarlet tanager.

The chapter has produced a yearly calendar since 2011. Other birds featured on past covers have included white-breasted nuthatch, rose-breasted grosbeak, prairie warbler, Blackburnian warbler, Canada warbler, Cape May warbler and chestnut-backed chickadee.

If you’re interested in obtaining a calendar, contact [email protected] by email or send a message via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler.

Calendars can be mailed to any destination in the United States for an additional charge of $2 for shipping and postage.

Special events honor those who served

Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch stands with Joshua Tilson and veteran Hazel Berry during an event in the Town of Unicoi. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Locals took time to remember our veterans over the holiday weekend.

The Clinchfield Senior Adult Center teamed up with Caris Healthcare to kick off the Veterans Day festivities on Friday, Nov. 8, with a lunch and presentation for area veterans. According to Clinchfield Senior Adult Center representative Charlene O’Dell, there were roughly 45 visitors for the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center Veteran’s Day Lunch.

“We handed out 19 certificates to veterans that attended,” O’Dell said. “We had a full lunch with a very special dessert.”

According to O’Dell, former Town of Erwin Mayor Russell Brackins was on hand to welcome all of the guests. Dot Gardner, Sam Dalton and Ginger Dalton provided the musical entertainment.

The Town of Unicoi hosted its annual Veterans Day Lunch on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., in the Buffalo Conference Room. According to Town of Unicoi History Committee member Pat Lynch, the Town of Unicoi hosted more than 50 veterans and more than 100 attendees in all on Saturday.

“We are very pleased with our turnout,” Lynch said.

The meal consisted of handmade sandwiches and desserts and plenty of finger foods. According to Lynch, this was a joint venture between the Town of Unicoi History Committee and the Town of Unicoi.

Closing out the Veterans Day events, the Town of Erwin held its annual Veterans Day program. The Unicoi County High School AFJROTC presented the colors and Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman Bill Hensley welcomed the crowd to the Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Park next to Gentry Stadium. Hensley then handed the program over to Reverend Craig Shelton, who led the invocation and Allan Foster sang the National Anthem.

American Legion Post 25 Commander Ray Tipton presented the POW/MIA ceremony for those that have not returned.

“This is a ceremony for those that have not come back yet,” Hensley said.

According to Tipton, the sacrifices of veterans are reminders of the high price of freedom. “Those who have served and continue to serve are ever mindful of the sweetness of enduring peace that has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice,” Tipton said.

The guests then heard from a very special guest speaker, Jim Buchanan, who explained the history of Veterans Day.

“The treaty signed to end World War I, which was signed in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, is often regarded as the day that ended all wars,” Buchanan said. “The original concept was to gather for parades in remembrance and suspension of business to start at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.”

The attendees were treated to treats, refreshment and fellowship following the program.

The Erwin Record joins the municipalities and organizations of Unicoi County in thanking all of our veterans for their service.

Feathered Friends – Fall count celebrates 50 consecutive years

The recent Fall Bird Count conducted by the Elizabethton Bird Club tallied three Ruffed Grouse during a survey that found a total of 118 species of birds. (Photo by LisaTaylorPhoto/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

The 50th consecutive Elizabethton Fall Bird Count was held on Saturday, Oct. 5, with 29 observers in eight parties. Participants tallied 118 species, which is below the recent 30-year average of 125 species. Windy conditions throughout the day and dense fog on the higher mountain tops contributed to the reduced variety.  The all-time high on this count was 137 species in 1993.

The yearly survey is not limited to Carter County and Elizabethton. The long-running count includes parts of the adjacent counties of Unicoi, as well as Johnson, Sullivan and Washington.

The total follows:

Canada Goose, 635; Wood Duck, 97; Mallard,173; Blue-winged Teal, 30; and Green-winged Teal, 3; Ruffed Grouse, 3; Wild Turkey, 56; Common Loon, 1; Pied-billed Grebe, 7; Double-crested Cormorant, 10; and Great Blue Heron, 35.

Black Vulture, 78; Turkey Vulture, 139; Osprey, 7; Northern Harrier, 3; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2; Cooper’s Hawk, 9; Bald Eagle, 12; Red-shouldered Hawk, 5; Broad-winged Hawk, 2; and Red-tailed Hawk, 13.

Killdeer, 35; Spotted Sandpiper, 1; Lesser Yellowlegs, 1; Ring-billed Gull, 1; Rock Pigeon, 402; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 1; Mourning Dove, 153; and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1.

Eastern Screech-Owl, 10; Great Horned Owl, 5; Barred Owl, 2; Chimney Swift, 244; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 7; and Belted Kingfisher, 24.

Red-headed Woodpecker, 2; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 50; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 7; Downy Woodpecker, 36; Hairy Woodpecker, 6; Northern Flicker, 41; and Pileated Woodpecker, 17.

American Kestrel, 16; Merlin, 2; Peregrine Falcon, 1; Eastern Wood-Pewee, 12; Least Flycatcher; 1; and Eastern Phoebe, 82.

Yellow-throated Vireo, 1; Blue-headed Vireo, 18; Philadelphia Vireo, 1; Red-eyed Vireo, 7; Blue Jay, 347; American Crow, 442; and Common Raven, 10.

Tree Swallow, 118; Carolina Chickadee,141; Tufted Titmouse, 82; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 6; White-breasted Nuthatch, 28; Brown Creeper; 1; Winter Wren, 2; Marsh Wren, 1; and Carolina Wren, 114.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, 5; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1; Eastern Bluebird, 114; Veery, 1; Gray-cheeked Thrush, 6; Swainson’s Thrush, 37; Wood Thrush,15; American Robin, 212; Gray Catbird, 23; Brown Thrasher, 9; Northern Mockingbird, 56; Eurasian Starling, 555; and Cedar Waxwing, 70.

Ovenbird, 3; Northern Waterthrush, 3; Black-and-white Warbler, 4; Tennessee Warbler, 51; Kentucky Warbler, 1; Common Yellowthroat, 6; Hooded Warbler, 3; American Redstart, 7; Cape May Warbler, 1; Northern Parula, 4; Magnolia Warbler  6; Bay-breasted Warbler, 36; Blackburnian Warbler, 4; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 4; Blackpoll Warbler, 4; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 8; Palm Warbler, 56; Pine Warbler, 3; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 4; Yellow-throated Warbler, 2; and Black-throated Green Warbler, 7.

Eastern Towhee, 53; Chipping Sparrow, 46; Field Sparrow, 11; Savannah Sparrow,  2; Song Sparrow, 126; Swamp Sparrow, 4; and Dark-eyed Junco, 73.

Scarlet Tanager, 5; Northern Cardinal, 120; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 67; Blue Grosbeak, 1; and Indigo Bunting, 27.

Red-winged Blackbird, 194; Eastern Meadowlark, 14; Common Grackle, 1; Brown-headed Cowbird, 11; House Finch,  36; Pine Siskin, 8; American Goldfinch, 99; House Sparrow, 19.

Long-time count compiler Rick Knight spotlighted some notable misses, including Green Heron, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Prairie Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Red Crossbill.

“The crossbills were missed because Roan Mountain was completely socked in with fog all day,” Knight explained.

He added that only a few shorebirds were found partly due to shortage of habitat as well as the drought in the region at the time of the count.

Library Happenings – Time to offer someone the gift of kindness

By Angie Georgeff

November 13 is World Kindness Day. The observance was begun in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement in order “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” One of the things I like most about my job at the library is the kindness and good humor of the vast majority of our patrons.

We all have days when nothing seems to go right, but a sympathetic word or deed can transform a nightmare of a day into a dream of hope and gratitude. Kindness, it seems, is an incredibly powerful force, when so little of it can make such a big difference in someone’s life. If you happen to see someone struggling today, offer them the gift of kindness. Hold open a door, help carry a burden or make a phone call or visit to someone who is homebound. Nobody wants to catch a cold, of course, but kindness is just as contagious. Feel free to pass it on.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21. The public is welcome to attend. If you should require any special accommodations in order to attend, please call the library at 743-6533 and ask for Angie.

Spotlight Book

Do you remember the old nursery rhyme that starts “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie?” My mother recited those childhood poems to me from the day I was born, and I, in turn, taught them to my own son. My three grandchildren, however, are not as well versed in nursery rhymes.  “Baby Shark” is not much of a substitute, even if it is generally inoffensive.

Mary Higgins Clark evidently remembers those nursery rhymes and the lessons they taught us about bullying and cowardice. Her new thriller “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry” begins with an email that is sent to investigative journalist Gina Kane just before she leaves on a trip to Hong Kong. “CRyan” claims that an executive at television news network REL is guilty of sexual misconduct and that she is not the only female employee who has suffered.

Gina only has enough time to send an email to confirm that she is interested in the story and will follow up when she comes home. When she returns to New York, Gina begins her investigation and is shocked to discover that Cathy Ryan was subsequently killed in a Jet Ski accident that occurred while she was vacationing in Aruba. Recuperating from her jet lag, Gina takes off for Aruba … and danger.

Friends of Unicoi County Animal Shelter group continues support efforts

Linda Mathes, far left, discusses fundraising with other members of the Friends of Unicoi County Animal Shelter group during a recent meeting. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Friends of Unicoi County Animal Shelter and the Unicoi County Animal Shelter have been hard at work getting funds to keep the shelter going.

During the Oct. 22 Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter meeting, Linda Mathes updated the group on the total amount of money raised through numerous fundraising ventures.

The largest amount of funding has come from a booth that the animal shelter had at the recent Apple Festival. Selling various stickers, T-shirts and other items, $1,969.22 was raised for the shelter.

The next largest amount raised was from the annual garage sale that is hosted at Mathes’ house. More than $1,611.04 was raised during this year’s garage sale, which always takes place in the fall.

According to Mathes, The Second Annual Spay-ghetti Dinner, which was held this year at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center in Erwin, raised $1,101.22 for the shelter. The spaghetti, salad and breadsticks were donated by Olive Garden, and the drinks were donated by Food City and Food Lion of Erwin.

“This dinner was again successful,” Mathes said during the meeting. “We sold out of every ticket.”

First Friday events in Downtown Erwin presented by What’s the Scoop, Erwin Outdoor Supply and Union Street Taproom brought in more than $498 for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

The Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter had a booth at the Strawberry Festival, which brought in $586, and a booth at the Great Outdoor Festival, which brought in $302.61 to help the shelter. Masterpiece Mixers hosted a Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter night that raised $120 dollars for the shelter. During this year’s Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival, the Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter raised $39.97.

Mathes also announced that Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter raised $6,228.06 for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

“We have worked hard to raise what we could for the shelter,” Mathes said.

Other fundraising events brought the total number of funds raised for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter this year up to $8,262.06.

Chili’s, located at 3040 Franklin Terrace, in Johnson City, raised more than $1,478 for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter with it’s monthly “Good Eats for a Good Cause” campaign. Chili’s donates 20 percent of each ticket to the Unicoi County Animal Shelter one day out of the month.

The shelter received a donation from Zombie Cats T-Shirt Company for $457 and raised $99 at this years Fun Fest.

According to Mathes, the shelter could always use more donations and supplies such as kitty litter both clumping and non-clumping and food for both dogs and cats, as well as cleaning supplies.

“As the weather gets colder, fleece blankets are always welcome at the shelter,” Mathes said.

If you are interested in donating items, or for more updates on future fundraisers, please follow the Unicoi County Animal Shelter on Facebook.

Feathered Friends – Dark-eyed junco provide inspiration for first column

The dark-eyed junco is a fairly common winter resident in the region. Rather widespread, different races of the dark-eyed junco are found throughout the North American continent. (Photo by Skeeze/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

I wrote my first bird column on Sunday, Nov. 5, 1995, which means this weekly column will mark its 24th anniversary this week. This column has appeared over the last 20 years in a total of six different newspapers, which I regard as a personal achievement as well as an accomplishment for our feathered friends. It’s on their behalf that I pen these weekly efforts to promote conservation and goodwill toward all birds.

I’ve played detective, helping people identify everything from “rain crows,” or cuckoos, to Muscovy ducks and double-crested cormorants. I’ve observed unusual birds, including white pelican, brant and roseate spoonbill, in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and spotlighted them in these columns. I still take delight in the kaleidoscopic parade of colorful warblers that pass through the region each spring and fall as well as the fast-paced duel of ruby-throated hummingbirds. I also offer sunflower seeds and other supplemental food for the resident birds like Carolina chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. My first column focused on a common visitor to yards and feeders during the winter months. In fact, dark-eyed juncos should be returning to the region any day. Here, with some revisions I have made through the years, is that first column.


Of all the birds associated with winter weather, few are as symbolic as the dark-eyed junco, or “snow bird.” The junco occurs in several geographic variations.

John V. Dennis, author of “A Complete Guide to Bird Feeding,” captures the essence of the junco in the following description: “Driving winds and swirling snow do not daunt this plucky bird. The coldest winter days see the junco as lively as ever and with a joie de vivre that bolsters our sagging spirits.” The dark-eyed junco’s scientific name, hyemalis, is New Latin for “wintry,” an apt description of this bird.

Most people look forward to the spring return of some of our brilliant birds — warblers, tanagers and orioles — and I must admit that I also enjoy the arrival of these birds. The junco, in comparison to some of these species, is not in the same league. Nevertheless, the junco is handsome in its slate gray and white plumage, giving rise to the old saying “dark skies above, snow below.”

Just as neotropical migrants make long distance journeys twice a year, the junco is also a migrating species. But in Appalachia, the junco is a special type of migrant. Most people think of birds as “going south for the winter.” In a basic sense this is true. But some juncos do not undertake a long horizontal (the scientific term) migration from north to south.

Instead, these birds merely move from high elevations, such as the spruce fir peaks, to the lower elevations. This type of migration is known as vertical migration. Other juncos, such as those that spend their breeding season in northern locales, do make a southern migration and, at times, even mix with the vertical migrants.

During the summer months, a visit to higher elevations in southwest Virginia such as Whitetop Mountain or Mount Rogers is almost sure to produce sightings of dark-eyed juncos. Juncos may nest as many as three times in a season. A female junco usually lays three to six eggs for each nest, which she constructs without any assistance from her mate.

Juncos are usually in residence around my home by early November. Once they make themselves at home I can expect to play host to them until at least late April or early May of the following year. So, for at least six months, the snow bird is one of the most common and delightful feeder visitors a bird enthusiast could want.

Juncos flock to feeders where they are rather mild-mannered — except among themselves. There are definite pecking orders in a junco flock, and females are usually on the lower tiers of the hierarchy. Females can sometimes be distinguished from males because of their paler gray or even brown upper plumage.

Since juncos are primarily ground feeders they tend to shun hanging feeders. But one winter I observed a junco that had mastered perching on a hanging “pine cone” feeder to enjoy a suet and peanut butter mixture.

Dark-eyed juncos often are content to glean the scraps other birds knock to the ground. Juncos are widespread. They visit feeders across North America. The junco is the most common species of bird to visit feeding stations. They will sample a variety of fare, but prefer such seeds as millet, cracked corn or black oil sunflower.

There’s something about winter that makes a junco’s dark and light garb an appropriate and even striking choice, particularly against a backdrop of newly fallen snow.

Of course, the real entertainment from juncos comes from their frequent visits to our backyard feeders. When these birds flock to a feeder and began a furious period of eating, I don’t even have to glance skyward or tune in the television weather forecast. I know what they know. Bad weather is on the way!

Library Happenings – Military service research assistance available

By Angie Georgeff

It seems to me that November has just gotten started, but the first of its two federal holidays is already peeking around the corner. The theme for November is gratitude, so Veterans Day fits in well with Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the sacrifices made by veterans from the American Revolutionary War to the present day. I also am proud of the part so many of my ancestors played in the struggle for freedom.

It’s one thing to hear the stories about Washington’s men starving and freezing at Valley Forge.  It was quite another to learn that my fifth great-grandfather John Peery sustained 54 sabre cuts to his head, shoulders, arms and hands in a skirmish with “Bloody” Banastre Tarleton’s dragoons during the campaign that culminated in the pivotal Battle of Guilford Courthouse. I imagined his slow, painful return to his wife Sarah in Virginia. John was disfigured and disabled and grieving, for he came home without his eldest son Thomas, who was killed during the skirmish by Tarleton’s brutal horsemen.

John Peery was one of many who served and suffered. If your roots run deep in the hills of Appalachia, you probably have a similar story in your family’s history. This month, take time to ask your relatives, friends and neighbors about their military service and remember to thank them. If you need help finding information about the service records of your ancestors, then come to the library. I’ll be happy to help you get started. We need to remember so we can appreciate the sacrifices they made.

And “Remember the Ladies”

In a letter written to her husband John on March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams urged lawmakers to “Remember the Ladies.” It’s still good advice. Most of my foremothers stayed home while their husbands went to war. It fell to them to take care of the children, the farm and any other business in which the family was engaged. They had little choice and received little recognition.

My grandmother, however, found a way to serve her country during World War II while still taking care of her home and three children. Even though she did not go to war, she made a contribution. Alpha Gray Bradshaw was a WOW, a Woman Ordnance Worker, who worked as a chemist at Holston Ordnance making ammunition. It was dangerous work, but vital to the war effort. So don’t forget to ask about what your female relatives did during the war. You might be surprised.

Holiday Closure

The library will be closed on Monday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day. No items will be due on that date, but books and audiobooks only may be returned to either of our book drops, which are located at the library in Erwin and at Town Hall in Unicoi. Please do not deposit any DVDs in the book returns, since heavy books may damage them. To all veterans, thank you for your service!

Food City donates to Second Harvest Food Bank

Food City presents Unicoi County Church of God with a check to help with Second Harvest Food Bank. From left, Food City representative Kayla Salmons, Food City Manager Jacob Ratliff, Food City representative Austin Hensley, Unicoi County Church of God representative Eddie Blazer, Food City Representative Adam Carter and Food City representative Jeff Lucas. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Food City store, located at 110 N. Industrial Drive in Erwin, recently sent a donation of more than $1,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Store Manager Jacob Ratliff presented a check for $1,241.00 to Eddie Blazer with Unicoi Church of God, which has been raising money and supplies for Second Harvest Food Bank for more than 15 years.

According to Blazer, the funding will help feed roughly 445 families monthly.

“We keep busy and donations like this helps,” Blazer said.

Blazer also acknowledged that this donation goes a long way.

“We are very thankful for this; it really helps,” Blazer said.

The funds were raised during Food City’s Race Against Hunger campaign. Ratliff acknowledged that the funds were received prior to the opening of the Food City Erwin location.

He said he hopes that more funds will be raised with the upcoming Race Against Hunger, which will start at the Erwin Food City on Nov. 13.

“We will actually start our campaign on the 13th, and we hope to have more funds to donate next year,” Ratliff said. “We try to get all the money raised in so they can spend it on food and supplies before the fourth quarter.”

Ratliff also reported that Food City will be looking to help out any way they can.

“We can see there is always work to be done to help out,” Ratliff said. “We are always looking at ways to partner with the community. We encourage our shoppers to pair their Food City card with Unicoi County Schools so they can receive funds from Food City.”

For Ratliff, a chance to help the community is a rewarding venture.

“We have settled in nicely and I’m starting to learn customers’ names,” Ratliff said. “This community welcomed us with open arms; it’s been really exciting.”

If you are interested in helping Unicoi County Church of God, you can visit the office during normal business hours to fill out an application.

If you are interested in keeping up with Food City, please follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Feathered Friends – American crow one of nation’s success stories

American crows — large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices — are familiar over much of the continent. Crows are common sights in treetops, fields and roadsides and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. (Photo by Peter Pearsall/USFWS)

By Bryan Stevens

While seeking birds far afield, I have occasionally spotted some innovative scarecrows standing sentry in gardens and agricultural fields. I’m not sure if anyone still erects these human effigies for their original purpose of warding off crows and other feathered agricultural pests. These days, scarecrows likely serve an ornamental purpose and are often part of a yard’s whimsical Halloween or autumn decorations.

Regardless of the intention behind them, scarecrows have never been effective at driving crows away from human fields and crops. To put it simply, crows are too smart to get spooked by the human invention of the scarecrow. The bird with one of the smartest brains among all birds is more than a match for the brainless friend of Dorothy standing vigil in the proverbial cornfield.

The intelligence of this bird has long been known. Early American naturalist William Bartram wrote about a crow named Tom in a highly entertaining essay titled “Anecdotes of an American Crow.” Bartram, who lived from 1739 to 1823, brought humorous observations and keen insight to his subject as he wrote about the joys — as well as tribulations — of living with Tom, a crow that enjoyed tormenting Bartram’s dog and purloining the writer’s spectacles and trying to hide them.

The essay demonstrates that almost as soon as Europeans arrived in North America, some of those with a bent toward the natural world recognized the intelligence and amazing adaptability of the American crow. As well as writing about the natural world, Bartram earned widespread acclaim for his drawings of botanical and ornithological subjects. Tom, the featured crow in Bartram’s brief essay, certainly exhibited intelligence of an impressive degree. Not only did the crow steal his owner’s eyeglasses, he foiled Bartram’s first attempt to reclaim them. The story makes very humorous reading. To read Bartram’s account, visit www.geocities.ws/jswortham/crow.

What else have crows done down through the ages to gain such a dark and much undeserved reputation? It probably doesn’t help matters that a flock of crows is known as a “murder.” Ancient Greeks considered crows as omens, which often foretold death and other disasters. The warrior goddess known as the Morrighan from Celtic mythology often appears in the form of a crow or raven. She is also often portrayed as being accompanied by a group of these black-plumaged birds. Many Native American tribes revere crows as communicators between worlds. Crows have been documented using tools and solving problems, which shows an uncanny ability to analyze and strategize. The early Celtic people also noted and admired these traits in crows.

Crows are very social birds, often forming family flocks. They may also form much larger flocks for the purpose of roosting. When nesting, this social behavior comes in useful for a mated pair. Offspring from previous successful nesting efforts often serve as helpers. In addition to gaining their own life experience on successful nesting and caring for chicks, these older siblings may protect the nest site from predators or even deliver food to fill hungry beaks and bellies.

While famous for their associations to humans and our agriculture, crows forage far beyond the cornfield for their food. Many crows scavenge road-killed wildlife, such as squirrels, opossums and rabbits. While they certainly don’t turn up their beaks at the notion of eating carrion, crows do so less often than birds such as turkey vultures, black vultures and the crow’s fellow corvid, the common raven.

The kinship to the raven is evident, but even moderately experienced birders rarely confuse these similar species. The raven is a large bird with a heavy beak, a distinctive profile and a wedge-shaped tail. In a direct comparison with a raven, a crow looks downright puny. Both are members of the corvid family, which consists of 120 species including jays, rooks, magpies and jackdaws. Some of the world’s other crows include the descriptively named little crow, hooded crow, carrion crow, collared crow, long-billed crow and violet crow. While most of the world’s crows are thriving, the Hawaiian crow, has been extinct in the wild since 2002, although the species still exists in captive-breeding programs in various zoos.

Thanks to its resourcefulness and intelligence, the crow is deserving of more respect and even admiration. The American crow is a uniquely American success story. Think more of Bartram’s story of Tom the crow and not the dark, misguided myths and legends about crows this Halloween. Long may the crows fly.

Library Happenings – Strout releases sequel to ‘Olive Kitteridge’

By Angie Georgeff

All Hallows’ Eve is nearly upon us and the longest summer that I can recall (outside of the years I lived in Hawaii, of course) is finally beginning to fade into fall. In the stores, Halloween merchandise has already been replaced by Christmas décor, with Thanksgiving barely receiving a nod. The year seems to be rushing to a precipitous close, and 2020 is already looming large. 

Leap year, the 24th decennial census, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, and the 2020 elections will make next year one to remember, but I am in no hurry to get there. This is the time of year when I want to slow down and savor each moment before the rush begins.

If you feel the same way, you will be happy to know that we have recently received a large shipment of DVDs and a few more are on the way. Why not come to the library, borrow a couple of good movies, butter some popcorn and settle in for an evening’s entertainment?

As usual, a list of the new titles will be posted on the wall beside the bookcases where the DVDs are shelved. Take a look at it the next time you visit the library and see what tickles your fancy.

Spotlight Book

In 2008, Elizabeth Strout’s novel “Olive Kitteridge” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  The bestselling book was written as a chain of stories mostly set in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine and filled with a colorful cast of characters. Cantankerous, opinionated and outspoken, retired schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge is the link that holds them all together.

Taking up where the first novel left off, “Olive, Again” follows the same format and it features many of the same endearingly quirky Mainers.

Olive’s husband Henry has died and she is being courted by widower Jack Kennison. Her son Christopher still lives in New York. Olive’s relationship with him is strained. She has a grandson she has never seen and her son’s wife has just given birth to a stillborn baby. Grieving the child’s death, they are hoping for another pregnancy but Olive is not terribly supportive. After all, the couple already has three children between them.

I enjoy novels that are written as stories. With each chapter being a complete and satisfying serving of fiction, they’re perfect for those occasions when you know the time you have available for reading is limited. This may sound gluttonous, but there are times when I would rather enjoy a dozen cupcakes one at a time than devour an entire cake in one sitting. With “Olive, Again”, Elizabeth Strout offers us a baker’s dozen.

Unicoi’s Heritage Day takes visitors back in time

Lesia Willis demonstrates how to grind corn with an old-timey machine. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Unicoi took a trip back in time last week.

Town officials joined the Unicoi History Group to host their annual Heritage Day and on Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Bogart-Bowman Cabin. Local school children attended the event on Friday; the event was open to the general public on Saturday.

According to Town of Unicoi Communications and Programs Director Ashely Shelton, the event was a huge success.

“We had 258 students come through on Friday and more than 100 on Saturday,” Shelton said. “Although our numbers did not set our record, which is 300 in one day, 258 is one of the highest one day of attendance that we have seen since we started doing Heritage Day close to a decade ago.”

Shelton acknowledged that there were 13 vendors on Friday, and 12 vendors on Saturday. “Guests were able to tour exhibits that demonstrated blacksmith forging, beehive oven biscuit making, fireside apple butter cooking, quilting, corn shucking and so much more,” Shelton said. 

Heritage Day is designed to celebrate Southern Appalachian heritage and give visitors a glimpse into the daily life of settlers during the 1700-1800s. The students who attended Friday’s Heritage Day presentation were treated to a very special reading of the story of the Overmountain Men by the Overmountain Victory Trail Association.

Shelton said that the event was a hit among the youth of Unicoi County.

“The children loved it,” Shelton said. “I had one little boy come up and hug me and thank me, he was so excited; that child had a blast.”

According to Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, events like Heritage Day make the town unique.

“We are very proud of our town, and of events like this, that are both fun and educational,” Lynch said.

This was Shelton’s first Heritage Day experience.

“It was so neat. I’ve never been apart of anything like that; it was so much fun,” Shelton said. “There was such a sense of community among the vendors and demonstrators.”

Shelton acknowledged that Heritage Day could not happen if it wasn’t for the vendors and volunteers.

“We are so appreciative of all the volunteers. We had local high school students who volunteered on Friday, and we had community members volunteering on Saturday,” Shelton said. “We really appreciate the demonstrators as well. What makes this all possible is all of our great volunteers.”

The Town of Unicoi and the Town of Unicoi History Group will be focusing on the upcoming annual Veteran’s Day Lunch, which will be held on Nov. 9 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For more information on upcoming events, please follow the Town of Unicoi on Facebook and on Youtube.

Feathered Friends – Mysterious owl retains a low profile

The barn owl’s heart-shaped face helps this bird, which is also known by such names as death owl, ghost owl, and hobgoblin owl, stand out from the other owls that share the domain of night. (Photo by jeanvdmeulen/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

With common names such as cave owl, death owl, ghost owl, night owl and hobgoblin owl, the nocturnal hunter more widely known as the barn owl provides a fitting focus for exploration as the calendar counts down toward Halloween.

Barn owls lurk in the shadows of night, but most people would never know it unless they happen to hear some of the spine-tingling vocalizations produced by this poorly known predatory bird. Shiver-inducing shrieks and screams quite capable of piercing the veil of darkness are often produced by the barn owl. This owl doesn’t utter loud hoots like the great horned owl. Instead, the call of the barn owl is not likely one to be soon forgotten because of its raspy, nails-on-the-chalkboard nature. A hearer could easily be misled into misinterpreting the shrill vocalizations as originating from something far more ghoulish.

According to the website for the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Montana, barn owls are the most widely distributed owl in the world, and they may be one of the most common, as well. In Montana, where ORI is located, barn owl observations are rather sparse. ORI has documented 12 barn owl nests and made numerous observations in the last 12 years, according to its website. Likewise, the barn owl is not too often observed in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The barn owl is often associated with rural, agricultural areas, which is one reason they can often be found in old barns, sheds and farm silos. However, the first barn owl I ever saw in the wild was living beneath the eaves of a building on the campus of Mountain Home Veterans Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee, within walking distance of commercial buildings and the campus of East Tennessee State University.

The barn owl has no close relatives among the other owls found in the region. The barn owl is in its own unique family known as Tytonidae. The family name comes from a Greek word, Tuto, which translates as “night owl.”

Other owls in our region — great horned owl, barred owl, Eastern screech-owl, short-eared owl — belong to a family called Strigidae,  which are often described as “typical owls” by ornithologists and other experts.

The barn owl is one of nature’s most perfect predators. Among animals tested by scientists, the barn owl shows an almost uncanny ability to detect prey animals by sound alone. Prey, which is often small voles or other rodents, often doesn’t know of the danger until it’s too late. The structure of the barn owl’s wings and feathers is such that these predatory birds can fly through the darkness in almost perfect silence.

There’s a heavy cost that the owl must pay for these special adaptations. According to the Barn Owl Trust, an organization founded in 1988 in the United Kingdom to conserve one of the most beautiful birds on Earth, a barn owl’s specially adapted feathers are not particularly waterproof. In addition, barn owls are unable to store a lot of body fat. The Trust’s website notes that barn owls are unable to hunt in heavy rain and are particularly prone to starvation during prolonged periods of severe weather and/or prey shortage.

Much myth and legend have arisen around the world’s owls, including the barn owl. A native tribe in California known as the Newuks believed that warriors who proved courageous and virtuous became great horned owls after death. Men who practiced wicked ways, however, were thought to become barn owls.

This owl with the white heart-shaped face has long spooked humans. The bird’s head and upper body typically vary between pale brown and various shade of gray. Especially in flight, the barn owl can look rather pale.

The barn owl is the most widespread terrestrial bird species in the world, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. In addition to its various spooky common names, barn owls are also known by such descriptive monikers as monkey-faced owl, silver owl and golden owl. Some other common names include church owl and steeple owl. This owl acquired this name for its habit of utilizing steeples or bell towers in churches as roosting locations when barns or caves were lacking.

For a bird so closely associated with people and their dwellings and related structures, the barn owl remains an enigma to many. YouTube offers a variety of videos that showcase the creepy vocalizations of barn owls. Familiarize yourself with their calls, and you’ll be more likely to distinguish a barn owl calling after dark from the more sinister specters on the prowl this Halloween.

To learn more about barn owls or to make a contribution toward their conservation, visit www.barnowltrust.org.uk.

Library Happenings – Film festival, Halloween parties among upcoming events

By Angie Georgeff

Between the picture-perfect beauty of the autumn landscape and the frightfully good fun of Halloween, October is undoubtedly my favorite month. Curling up with a good book, watching a scary movie and enjoying sweet treats – especially those flavored with apple or pumpkin spice – are among the joys of October. And your Unicoi County Public Library can help you get in the spirit of the month.

Spotlight Book

Speaking of good books, “The Guardians,” the latest thriller from John Grisham, arrived early last week. We promptly cataloged it, processed it and sent it out the door with the first patron who had requested it on our wish list.

The demand for new Grisham novels is always very strong, so place a hold on it at https://owl.ent.sirsi.net or call the library at 743-6533 and we’ll help you get in line for it.

Twenty-two years ago, Quincy Miller was convicted of the murder of attorney Keith Russo and sentenced to life in prison. There were no witnesses, no motive and no compelling evidence, but Quincy Miller was young, black and one of Russo’s former clients.

Steadfastly maintaining his innocence, Quincy writes a letter to Cullen Post, a lawyer and Episcopal minister who runs Guardian Ministries. Post and his team take on a limited number of wrongful conviction cases at a time. They may be able to help Quincy, but it will be an uphill battle. The powerful people who are truly responsible for Russo’s murder will fight them every inch of the way.

Film Festival

Speaking of “scary” movies, the third and final film in our annual Halloween Film Festival will be shown tomorrow night. Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, for popcorn, candy and one of my favorite fall movies. It just might be one of your favorites, as well!

If not, there is still hope. We recently placed an order for what is for us a large number of new DVDs. We chose them from a wide range of genres – including horror – so there should be something to appeal to you. We’re hoping they will arrive soon. As usual, we will post a list of the new films when they are ready to be borrowed.

Halloween Parties

Our teen event to celebrate the occasion will take place on Friday, Oct. 25. Join us for scary stories and tasty treats.

The children’s Halloween Party will be held on Tuesday evening, Oct. 29 from 6-8 p.m.

Please visit our Unicoi County Public Library Kids and Teens Facebook page for details.