A Refreshing Knapp – Dec. 26, 2018

By Ray Knapp

Today is the 360th day of the year; five days remaining ‘till the New Year. How about that! This year is almost gone and I accomplished none of my New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I didn’t have any. I gave up on New Year’s resolutions long ago, and have limited resolutions to a much shorter range. I found that giving myself a whole year to break a bad habit, start a new routine, like working out daily and other worthwhile projects seldom happened, and before I knew it, Dec. 26 was here again and it wasn’t worthwhile to start anything with only 5 days left in the year.

Time has gone by so fast that before I knew it, I am fast approaching the century mark. Well, I’m over 4 score and catch myself reading the obituaries often to make sure my name isn’t listed. With the median age for Americans falling to 78.6 years, it appears the Good Lord has seen fit to spare me over to another year.

One month before my birthday we celebrated the observed birthday of Christ, which of course everyone calls Christmas. When I was little I didn’t know the first thing about the true meaning of Christmas until I was in the first grade. There, I learned a little bit about its meaning. Every morning our teacher led us in prayer, and then we recited the pledge to the flag. As Christmas approached she explained that Christmas was about the birth of the Christ Child.

During that time, my sister and I had made new friends at school, and she occasionally stayed the weekend with a new girlfriend and attended Sunday school and Church with her. “I’m learning a lot about God,” she would say, when I asked her what church was like.

As it got closer to Christmas I told my sister I was going to ask Santa for a pedal car when he came to visit the school. My sister informed me that you didn’t ask Santa for anything, you prayed to God for what you wanted. When Santa came to our school we all got to sit on his lap; get our picture taken, and then tell him what we wanted for Christmas. I just sat there on his lap after the picture was taken. Finally he said, “Tell me what you want for Christmas.”

I answered knowingly, “I don’t tell you, I pray to God for what I want.” I could see I had upset Santa a little. He sat me down. “You’re probably right,” he said gruffly.

Finally, the great day arrived. I was one of the first ones up and rushed out, fully expecting to see a shiny red pedal car. It wasn’t there! About that time my sister came out of the bedroom rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “You lied to me!” I cried. “I didn’t get a pedal car.” My sister wasn’t taken aback, “Did you pray “every day?” I had to admit that I hadn’t. “Well, no wonder,” she said. Digging through the presents she found my present and handed me a box that contained a strong metal truck that I could hold in my hands. I drove that truck anywhere and everywhere.

Things and memories don’t end just because you reach those “Golden Years.” Seems like it was just yesterday, I was preaching to a little congregation at Governor’s Bend. Right in the middle of the story of Christ’s birth with angels telling the shepherds not to be afraid, one of the elderly ladies (Jackie) spoke up loudly. “It doesn’t do me a bit of good to go to church,” she stated emphatically, “Ray, you have such a soft and reassuring voice, it puts me to sleep every time!”   

It’s actually been several years ago and Jackie has gone on to her Maker, but moments like that; memories of family and friends; learning what Christmas was about; those things live on over the years. Time slipping away is just part of life, 2019 will be here soon, and I’m happy for that and the past days of my life, and all those sweet memories.

From the Publisher’s Desk – Family traditions make holidays special

By Lisa Whaley

I have been in search of a magic cookie – a magic cookie bar, to be more precise.

Now, we are not talking about any magic cookie bar recipe. The internet is full of those. Trust me, I think I have pulled up each and every one.

No, the cookie recipe I am seeking has very precise components — a graham cracker base, a vanilla layer, nuts and a rich chocolatey layer. It may or may not have coconut. I’m not sure.

But I know it tastes like home. My mother served these up during my childhood Christmases – late ‘60s to early ‘70s. One bite, and I am convinced I will be transported back to Christmas in a little white house, colored lights on the tree and Perry Como, Andy Williams or Bing Crosby playing on the cabinet stereo while my little brother and I squeezed and shook every package piled beneath the tree.

As I get older, I find myself becoming more nostalgic — not just about Christmas cookies or even holiday music (I’ve always favored the classics), but anything that brings me back to past Christmas memories and traditions.

We all have them. Some families, for example, open their presents on Christmas Eve; others on Christmas Day. We have always been a Christmas Day kind of family, though we do open one small gift each on Christmas Eve.

We always had turkey, both for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother was a wonderful cook, and I have tried to duplicate her skill.

But the one thing I seem to be unable to convince anyone of is the need to resurrect her strawberry holiday gelatin mold she served each year. Perhaps it’s the word “gelatin.”

It has Cool Whip, frozen strawberries (thawed, of course), strawberry gelatin and nuts. It went on the table with the main meal and we gobbled it up next to our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. The one time I tried to serve it to my husband’s family, they all looked at it suspiciously, placed it on the dessert table and politely took a spoonful as if they weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Some traditions are like that. It apparently didn’t speak to them like it did to me. I haven’t tried it again. But that’s OK, because the beautiful thing about family traditions is they continue to grow and adapt. Gelatin salad has been replaced as a holiday must-have by my mother-in-law’s oyster dressing that we all fight over each year, trying not to be greedy but quickly throwing a couple of extra spoonfuls in our to-go container as we get ready to head home each year.

I guess the thing that struck me the most in my cookie hunt this year was that the recipe, the musical selection or even the opening of the presents really holds little significance during our holiday season. What matters now, and what has always mattered, is the family with whom we celebrate. That adds just the right spice to create the perfect holiday.

So hold each other tight this holiday season. And if you see someone with no one to hold, reach out and draw them into your circle.

Merry Christmas!

Adam’s Apples – Dealing with holiday stress

By James Mack Adams

Christmas is truly a joyous time. Tis the season to be jolly, etc., etc. However, some psychologists and other professionals who deal with mental health issues are of the opinion the Christmas season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Many of us can attest to that fact.  Who among us has not felt at least a little panicky as the big day looms ever closer and we think about all we still have to do to get ready? We might even be tempted to throw up our hands and shout, “Bah! Humbug!”

Psychologists tell us that as the holiday nears, anxieties can increase, and family relationships can be tested. Certain questions demanding answers keep us awake at night. For whom should we buy gifts? How can we pay for them without going into debt? Do we need to buy new decorations? Who should we invite to Christmas dinner? Should we invite Uncle Charlie? He will no doubt imbibe in too much Christmas cheer and become obnoxious. What groceries and other items do we need to stock for the holidays? We need to start planning Christmas dinner.  Do we have the material we need to make the kids’ Christmas pageant costumes?  You, the reader, may add your own questions and concerns if you wish. I’m sure you have some not mentioned here.    

I will not lay claim to any expertise as to the causes and prevention of holiday stress, even though I have struggled with it at times. Fortunately, the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics have posted some rather good advice about managing holiday stress. Much of what follows is taken directly from those references.

Family relationships are always in play, but they can become more of a problem during holidays.  Even though they may not live up to your expectations, try to accept family members and friends as they are. There will be more appropriate times for airing grievances. Chances are they may be also coping with stress, or even depression.

Make a budget and try to stick to it. Don’t try to impress family and friends by giving expensive gifts if you know you can’t afford them. There is some truth to the saying that it is the thought that counts. Here are some gifting alternatives you might consider. Donate to a charity in someone’s name. Give homemade gifts. Draw names for a family gift exchange. Have a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange. These alternatives have been tried in my family in past years, and they work. You might also consider planning a family holiday get-together at a favorite vacation spot.  My family did that one year. It worked.

Try to efficiently manage your time. Set priorities and don’t set what could become impossible goals. It is OK to ask family members, even the kids, to help you complete necessary holiday chores.

Planning and preparing the family Christmas dinner is possibly one of the most trying and time-consuming holiday tasks. It is certain there is nothing like sitting down to a delicious home-cooked holiday meal. However, you might just give some consideration to buying some prepared foods, instead of making everything from scratch. Cook and freeze foods ahead of time. There is nothing wrong with asking others to bring favorite dishes to share.

For many of us, one of the most difficult words to say is, ‘NO.’ Taking on too much responsibility can be overwhelming and therefore lead to stress. Friends and family will understand that we can do only so much and can’t participate in every holiday activity. Once again, ask for help.

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. That is important. Give yourself a timeout. Take an occasional breather during all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to de-stress. Try to clear your mind by taking a walk, listening to soothing music, or reading a good book. Do something you enjoy. That is good advice for any time of year.

Sure, this is a season for food, fun and family. That is as it should be. It is also a time for another ‘F’ we sometimes overlook….. ‘FAITH.’ If we concentrate more on the true meaning of the Christmas season, we can perhaps look forward to less stress.

From my family to yours … MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

And as Tiny Tim said in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ “God bless us, everyone.”

Officer Norway’s Corner – Norwegian Advent Season

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

Advent in Norway is the preparation period before Dec. 25, which starts four Sundays before Christmas. Every Sunday up until Christmas Day is commemorated by lighting a four-candle candelabra.

On the first Sunday of Advent, a Christmas star is also hung up in the living room window, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem. With the sun being gone behind the mountains in the month leading up to Christmas, the Advent star and other decorations help to light up those dark, arctic days and nights this time of the year.

December is also the month where many in Norway, and indeed, most of my childhood friends hold on to old Norwegian Christmas traditions. I have friends that right now are making homemade “Sylte,” which is the belly side of the pig, rubbed in with various spices and gelatin powder, rolled up skin-side out, then tied with twain, and slow cooked for a few hours, cooled overnight before it’s ready to eat. “Sylte” is usually eaten as a cold cut on a slice of homemade whole wheat bread topped with either strong mustard or pickled beetroots.

Another unique tradition is the baking of seven varieties of Christmas cookies. This is sadly a tradition which slowly over the years has given way to the store-bought versions, but many are still baking, maybe not all seven varieties but indeed a few, like pepper cookies, krumkake, and spritz-cookies.

Christmas parties are also a big thing in Norway. Companies will often rent a whole restaurant or invite their employees to a weekend at a resort hotel where they will be “wined and dined,” as a thank you for the year that has been, the better the year, the bigger the party.

The Advent season is also the kick-off for the release of special Christmas editions of comic books. Most of them are Norwegian in origin, but many are also comics from the United States, like Donald Duck, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, The Katzenjammer Kids and many more. Every store sells them, and people will buy several and lay them out on the living room table where families sometimes in the evening will sit around with lit candles, Christmas music playing and read these comic books together in the days leading up to Christmas.

Until next time, be safe, be happy and be a good caretaker of your very own Christmas traditions.

Hood’s Winks – Moving – for the last time!

By Ralph Hood

Wife Gail and I have lived in Erwin for a bit over 11 years—and enjoyed it.

We moved here to be near Gail’s then-aging parents. After they passed on, we thought we’d stay right here in Erwin for the rest of our lives.

On the other hand, we’re now growing old—I much faster than Gail—and need to downsize muchly, which means a smaller dwelling. Once that was decided, we started wondering—if we are going to go through the packing and moving process, should we consider moving back to our hometown of 31-plus years in Huntsville, Alabama?

Huntsville is a larger town than we wanted—but it is also the place where we lived for decades and thus the place where we have oh, so many old and faithful friends.

Of course, we have friends in Erwin, but, as Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote: “There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.”

I cite the Holmes quote because, as Edgar Allan Poe wrote in the poem, “The Raven”…

“…Ah, distinctly, I remember…”

…and those old friends in Huntsville are calling.

We’ll try to find a small dwelling on the outskirts of Huntsville near the myriad of trails on the smallish mountain just east of the city. The trails aren’t as long as the Appalachian Trail, but they are beautiful.

My columns in The Erwin Record will cease, of course, but I’ll probably take up writing the old column in Alabama.

In the meantime—thanks Erwin!

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Rocky Fork story flows through book

By Connie Denney

It’s a creek. It’s a community. It’s a park. It’s a book. It’s Rocky Fork.

“Rocky Fork: Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild,” the book, is out. If you have followed efforts to preserve the 10,000-acre Rocky Fork Watershed, which straddles the Unicoi-Greene county line, you will not be surprised that the author is David Ramsey. A Unicoi County native, he draws on his own experiences, family stories and traditions to relate the uniqueness of place, history, impact of the past and the present on the future.

In the book’s foreword, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander draws attention to the work of Ramsey and others, noting that most of Rocky Fork has become part of the Cherokee National Forest and 2,036 acres have been designated as Tennessee’s 55th state park,” which he says may one day be the state’s most popular, “thanks to its section of the Appalachian Trail, miles of native brook trout streams with cascades and waterfalls, a historic battle site, a black bear reserve and other wildlife habitat, plus its high elevation, producing magnificent scenic vistas.”  He uses the phrase, “Upper East Tennessee’s ‘Gateway to the Appalachian Trail.’”

The book is chock-full of images by Ramsey and Jerry Greer, both accomplished photographers recognized for works featuring the southern Appalachian region. The photography (mostly unpublished except their website images) alone is catch-your-breath beautiful. But, this is more than a picture book, much more.

Chapter titles hint at the intriguing subjects treated in the book. Ancient Refuge, Blood and Treasure, This Mountain Home, A Legacy Defended, Final Stand are guideposts helping tell the tale. One point of historical interest is the story of the 1789 Battle of Flint Creek, which John Sevier reportedly called “’the bloodiest of all fights in the Cherokee wars.’”

On a personal level, Ramsey tells of visiting the grave of his third great grandfather Job Ramsey, who fought on both sides in the Civil War. He discusses what it must have been like for some in our mountains during that time of divided loyalties. He knows, though, that within a few years of war’s end Job and others moving into newly-established Unicoi County marked the beginning of his own Rocky Fork lineage.

After several years away, David came back to Unicoi County with adjusted priorities. He tells of his homecoming and taking on a different kind of fight in 2005—preservation of the threatened pristine wilderness. The subsequent “win for the wild” led to his being named 2011 National Hero of Conservation, by Field and Stream Magazine and Toyota Motor Company, among other honors.

When I have interviewed him in the past and for this column, he always draws attention to individuals and organizations that came together to win the battle to see that the watershed was protected through public ownership. The book lists “Champions of Rocky Fork.” His personal mission was to bring together folks who use and love the area. They came together to find common ground when their diverse interests–biking, hiking, horseback riding, grouse and other types of hunting, fishing—did not necessarily have the same needs. David sees hope for this kind of recognition of natural assets leading to finding common ground important to communities, such as economies, maybe even political differences.

Well, this hits some of the high points. You will be hearing more about the book, including through the pages of this newspaper. It is available ($19.95) through www.ramseyphotos.com.  Ramsey said orders placed by Dec. 9 should be received before Christmas. Also, watch for announcements of book signings.

Do stay tuned!  He is at work on another book with the working title, “From the Rivers to the Highlands: Amazing Places in the Tennessee Mountains.”

Officer Norway’s Corner – The light side of a dark season

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

In Båtsfjord, my hometown, the sun went down behind the mountains to the south for the final time a few days ago, and it won’t return until Feb. 2nd next year. The dark season, especially in Northern Norway is unique. Yes it’s dark, but not the same darkness you see in the fall. This time of year, there’s usually a few inches of snow on the ground, and it actually helps to “lighten” up the day a little.

Norwegians also love to decorate inside and out with lights during this time. The shops will string up lights across the street, storefront windows will be decorated for the season and on the first Sunday of Advent, all homes will have a shining star hanging in one window, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.

During my years growing up in Båtsfjord, going to school, we never had a snow day. One reason for this was that we did not have school buses. Students would either walk, ski or use a kicksled to get themselves to school. So even during bad weather, cold and drifting snow, we would just dress up and head out the door.

There was one time we had a hurricane force blizzard that came in during a school day, and it was decided for safety reasons to keep all students, elementary, middle and junior high at school overnight. It was like a gigantic sleepover; we had fun, but some teachers might still go to mental counseling after that experience.

Like here in Erwin, Båtsfjord had one movie theatre. One day a week, they had a movie for kids showing and it was always exciting to go to one of the three stores that had the movie posters up to see what film would be shown. Back then, Flash Gordon and Tarzan movies were the big draws. We would line up outside the theatre often a whole hour before they even opened the doors so one could have a chance to get first pick at the best seats. Usually, after the movie, we would walk back to our neighborhoods and play-act what we had seen in the film. My Dad, who had his own carpentry business, was our local weapon merchant. He would cut out wooden pistols and rifles that we would use in our re-enactments.

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving, the one and only genuine American holiday. When I moved to the United States back in 1996, this was a brand new thing for me and a little strange at first; “Turkey, Football and Shopping.” But as years have passed it has turned into being my favorite holiday.

We live in a very divisive time, and sometimes it can be easy to lose track of what truly matters, what we should be thankful for. To embrace our families and close friends, things that we are blessed with, that are bestowed upon us from our creator, the essence of freedom and liberty. God Bless these United States, my adopted homeland, who has given me so much. Until next time, be safe, be happy and be thankful.

A Refreshing Knapp – Let’s turn back time

By Ray Knapp

Having finished off the last of the Thanksgiving Turkey today, I finally took note that merchants had paid it little notice and jumped right into Christmas ads the day after Halloween. Except for something which used to be called Black Friday, little attention was paid to the day of Thanksgiving. Turkeys did go on sale a day or two before then, but that was about it. Now, with the mother of all sales (Christmas—the real reason for Black Friday) looming before us; what is a person to do? Suddenly that 55 inch TV is too small, as a 75 inch becomes a real necessity when the price tag falls below a thousand bucks … that’s a lot less than some smartphones.

Speaking of smartphones, now it isn’t necessary for Dad to take a shave and shower, as his clever wife has already ordered groceries; paid with a tap to the phone, and as her befuddled husband is still babbling something about changing clothes, she drives away from the store with the groceries already placed neatly in the back of the car in reusable grocery bags by a friendly clerk. Men! What do you need them for; the smug look on her face belies what’s on her mind as she waves a good-bye thank you to the clerk.

Once home, and after lugging in the groceries and putting them away, as his wife texts away, with witty shares, snap-chats, posts, and tweets to friends and strangers alike on that expensive smartphone, he turns to a little round device sitting on an end table in a separate room. “Alexa,” he says, “How do you murder a wife and get away with it?” Men are not actually as dumb and unobservant as TV commercials would have you believe.

That question to Alexa, was of course, just a pun. However, the commercials portraying men as intellectually inferior to women is not. The reason being, women spend more money than men on everyday items such as food, clothing and such. No wonder advertisers cater to them. Research shows that shopping is empowering, fulfilling and therapeutic for women.

Men, on the other hand, prefer to stick to the basics and shop for what is necessary. They know what they want and rarely change their minds at the point of purchase. They are not willing to spend much time and effort on shopping. No wonder advertisers put them down; they apparently want to change the shopping habits of men to be more like a woman, where they will spend more.

It hasn’t always been that way; in fact a lot of things have changed during my lifetime. For instance the doors to churches, most any church, were never locked, so parishioners could come to church and pray anytime. … I received an invitation today from Church Mutual Insurance Company inviting me to a live seminar in Knoxville titled, “Preparing for an Armed Intruder,” which shows the warning sign before a violent event occurs and how to keep your people safe if faced with an armed intruder. Mass shootings at any “soft-target” seem to be the order of the day. We hear about it on a near weekly basis, at schools, churches, nightclubs; cars or trucks being purposely driven onto crowded sidewalks for the express purpose of killing people.

Sometimes I think most of us ponder about the uncivility, and apparent lack of care for human life that don’t just happen way over yonder, but threatens our very neighborhoods, schools, churches and shopping malls.

Maybe it’s because greed has pushed the meaning of Thanksgiving Day into nothing less than a shopping frenzy. Maybe it’s because Jesus is no longer the reason for the season; Christmas is just a holiday where kids get presents; are out of school for 2 weeks; parents, at least some of them, have an extra day or two off work.

Maybe it is time we turned back the clock where a man and his wife were portrayed as having equal intelligence and loved one another; where Thanksgiving and Christmas were still days close to our heart and family, and God still mattered.

From the Publisher’s Desk – I am thankful for many things

By Lisa Whaley

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and I have already been building my “blessings” list. In some ways, this has not been an easy year, having lost my mom in early September.

But the lessons she taught me well were all about the grace of God and the beauty of the people around us.

She taught me about blessings. And this year, I’m taking stock.

In my home life, I am so thankful for my family, both near and far. We may occasionally drive each other a little crazy, but we also know family is always there when you need them, tied together with a bond that can’t quite be explained.

I am thankful for a loving, patient husband, and two daughters, now adults, who continually remind me what strong, yet compassionate women they have become. And I admit it; I’m also grateful they still need me every once in a while.

I am thankful for good health, for a roof over our heads and food in our cupboards.

I’m even thankful for our two goofy dogs – Molly and Tanner – who greet us each and every day like we are the best things they could ever imagine.

But I, as the publisher of The Erwin Record, am doubly blessed – for when I leave home, I get to come here to a newspaper that has been an important part of its community since 1928.

That’s when I start my new list.

• I am thankful for small towns with heart.

• I am thankful for the warmth, welcome and understanding that has been shown to me by • everyone here as I learn what it means to be a part of the Valley Beautiful.

• I am thankful for old-fashioned values mixed with new ideas.

• I am thankful for a community that continues to value its newspaper, not merely by reading it,  but by contributing to it and challenging it as well.

• I am thankful for the hardworking staff at the Record – Kathy, Damaris, Keeli and Richard – without whom this paper would never be published.

• I am thankful for the new hospital.

• I am thankful for Erwin’s three Bs – barbecue, brown salt and Blue Ridge pottery.

• I am thankful for one of the prettiest downtowns I have ever seen.

And I’m thankful for mountain views of which I never tire.

The list could go on an on. Life is sometimes hard. But the blessings are all around us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adam’s Apples – Old dogs and new tricks

By James Mack Adams

There’s a familiar saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We will see. I have recently re-embarked on a project that will test the truth of that saying. After several half-hearted and minimally-successful starts, I have resolved to learn to play the guitar. That goal has risen to near the top of my bucket list, just above learning to speak some Spanish.

I hesitate to refer to myself as an old dog. Let’s just say I am a gentleman of advanced years. I know I will never be a rock star or a country artist. Nor do I wish to be. That train left the station long ago. It is just something I want to do for my own pleasure.

I am a fan of most all music genres, from Bebop to Beethoven, from Bluegrass to Bach. I can even listen to Rap, but not for long. My music listening pleasure began with the big dance bands of the 1930s and 1940s and has continued to the present. My music listening media has progressed from scratchy 33 1/3 LPs to the cell phone I carry in my pocket.

Though I have at times been closely associated with bands and musicians, I have never quite demonstrated the dedication and discipline required to master the music art.  It always seemed there was no time.  That was likely due to poor time management on my part.

I can truthfully say that I participated and earned letters in bands in both high school and college, without learning one note of music. “How did you do that?”, you may ask. Well, here’s the rest of the story.

I have always been fascinated with parades and marching bands. As a kid, I would follow the marching band from the staging area to the parade’s end, marching along on the sidewalk to the beat of the drums. I have often said I think my first steps must have been to a march cadence.

When I entered Dobyns-Bennet High School as a sophomore, I set my goal at participating in the marching band in some capacity. I tried out for the color guard and won a position. That was a proud time. I looked forward to forming up with the band after school on game days and marching down Broad Street to our rapid marching cadence. I think we were the only area band at that time to use the rapid cadence. I was awarded a band letter my senior year.

I entered my Freshman year at ETSU with the goal of joining the college band in some position.  I was lucky once more and was accepted as a color guard member. Marching behind me was a young lady from Erwin leading the majorette corps. Jo Mountford and I became close friends and constant companions. We parted at graduation. Fifty years later, we met up again at our ETSU class reunion and decided to spend our remaining years together. It has now been 10 years, and counting.

After a couple years of color guard duty, I decided to become more involved with the ETSU Band and music department. I gave up my color guard position and became the band’s manager and music librarian. I received a college band letter my junior year.

I was given the opportunity to perform with the college concert band at times. The band’s director, Marvin Lindley, knew I was a huge fan of Latin music and rhythms. When a Latin number was part of a concert program, Lindley would allow me to join the percussion section and do my stuff with a cowbell and drumstick. I still could not read music, but I must say I could play a mean cowbell. As a side note, Jo played first-chair clarinet in the concert band.

Back to the guitar. They say it is one of the easiest instruments on which to learn the basics. Learn a few chords and strum patterns, they say, and you can play accompaniment for hundreds of songs. We will see.

Jimmy Dean, of country music and sausage fame, was once asked if the guitar pickers in Nashville could actually read music. Jimmy’s reply was: “Yes, a little, but not enough to hurt their playin’ any.”

At times I have questioned whether I should even attempt such a thing at my age. Then I recently read a quote from a known and gifted guitar player, Nuno Bettencourt.

“If you play music for no other reason than actually just because you love it, the skills kinda creep up on you.”

We will see.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Reflecting on military’s selfless sacrifices

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

Growing up in Norway, especially in the northern part during the 1970s and 1980s was special for many reasons. Norway is one of only two NATO countries that have a border with Russia.

During the Cold War, we often saw military planes buzzing overhead and navy ships from both Norway and other NATO countries visiting our town.

This previous Sunday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, also marked the 100th anniversary for the end of World War I. It was said that it would be the war to end all wars, but sadly and as history has told us too many times, it did not hold true.

On April 9, 1940, Norway was invaded by Nazi-Germany where they stayed as occupiers for five years. When the war ended, Germany still had more than 300,000 troops in Norway. Even in Båtsfjord, the fishing village I was born in, the Germans built fortresses and bunkers to guard the harbor; mostly using Soviet captured soldiers for the job.

Growing up as kids we used to play in those bunkers and we would, still years after the war ended, find ammunition, weapon parts, helmets and what not laying around. As curious, and yes sometimes stupid kids, we would set fire to the ammo and sit and watch as it burned and rounds cooking off. It was a wonder none of us got hurt or killed.

When the German forces withdrew from Northern Norway in early 1945, they used what became known as the Scorched Earth policy. This meant that they set fire to all houses, killed livestock and forced the occupants to come with them on their way south. They did this so nothing would be left behind to the Soviet army who at that time had crossed the border into Norway in their pursuit after the Germans.

Both my grandparents with their eight kids were forced to leave after their home was burned down, and in a journal that my grandfather wrote, one can day-by-day follow them on their struggling and at times dangerous journey south.

As I am writing this, I am reflecting over the selfless sacrifices and the willingness for young men and women to seek a higher calling, a valiant purpose with their lives to voluntarily serve in the Armed Forces defending freedom and liberty.

Although I never served in the U.S. Military, I did nine tours overseas with the Norwegian Army and had on several occasions the privilege to work closely with U.S. service members on missions ranging from Africa, the Middle East and The Balkans.

Some of them I am still staying in touch with. When you serve in a war zone one tends to make lifelong friends.

Until next time, be safe and pray for our nation and those who serve and have served.

Hood’s Winks – Life in review

By Ralph Hood

My mother collected history in the making. She saved important issues of Life magazine over the years, and I stole the collection. She saved big stories like Kennedy’s assassination and moon shots, of course, and she also saved issues that were of particular interest to her. Hemingway’s death is there, as is that of William Faulkner.

In some issues she inserted a newspaper story of the day. The Kennedy assassination issue has the front page of the Washington Post, screaming that Kennedy was “SHOT DEAD.”

The stories are fascinating, particularly those I remember reading when they happened—Sputnik, for example—and Truman firing MacArthur. But evidently it wasn’t until the sixties that I began reading the news in any depth.

The ads tell more about how we lived in the sixties than the stories do. Cigarettes were advertised with pride and no warning of death. One could imagine that we did not yet know about the cancer-smoking link. That’s odd, because I clearly remember cancer/cigarette jokes being told in high school during the fifties.

Cars were huge and described as such with words like “widetrack’. This was before OPEC and before we had ever heard of a fuel shortage. Gas was cheap and you got a free set of glasses if you bought enough. Honda was a motorcycle, not a car.

Some of the advertised products are still around (like Contac) and others I haven’t heard from in years (whatever happened to Benrus watches?).

This was before feminism, and you can sure tell it from reading the ads. A tire company shows an obviously helpless damsel with gloves, heels, puffy hairdo, and flat tire. The headline reads “When there’s no man around, our tire should be.” No company would dare run that ad today.

I was dating in the sixties, I got married in the sixties, and I certainly thought the women of the sixties were gorgeous. Reading the ads today, however, tells me how much I’ve been changed by the feminist movement. Frankly, the girls in those ads look like airheads. I guess that’s the way we wanted them to look, but it sure looks silly now.

Back to tires for a second. There were no steel-belted radials (or any other kind of radials) advertised. Back then they bragged about how many plies the tire had.

Somehow, I feel superior to the people of that era, which is ridiculous, since I was one of ’em. They didn’t yet know about Watergate, the ozone layer, microwaves, cable TV or pocket calculators, much less VCRs and personal computers.

They knew so little, how in the world did “they” ever become “us?”

From the Publisher’s Desk – Role models for upcoming generations

By Lisa Whaley

This past weekend, a friend invited me to attend a matinee show of the “The Wild Women of Winedale,” Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s latest production.

For two hours, we laughed until we cried as Fanny, Willa and Johnny Faye – two sisters and a sister-in-law – navigated their paths through life’s oft-harried second half.

As I walked away from the theatre later that afternoon, a smile still on my face, I thought of the women I had just seen portrayed — lively, kind, funny and strong.

And I thought about the many women I knew who fit that description to a T – nearly all, by the way, women from the South.

I’ve told stories about my Grandma Rosa Morgan, mostly known for her sweetness, but also for being as wily as a fox.

My grandfather was a perfectionist, and she would share tales – when sweetness failed to work in getting him motivated on a particular task — of jumping in to “do it herself.”

Wallpaper would go up upside down. Blacking for the stove would be slapped on first this way and then that. Nails to secure a particular step would be “thwacked” in sideways, “but still secure,” my grandma would claim. Brownlow (grandpa) would finally snort in disgust and take over the task, banishing “Rosie” to another room or duty. She would depart with a smile, knowing she had accomplished all she had set out to do.

My Aunt Judy and my mother were two more strong women from my childhood – sisters who were as different as they were alike. Mom took after Grandma, sweet as pie unless she really felt a need to set you straight. Aunt Judy always told it like she saw it. She never believed in sugar-coating anything, yet she was the one that every one of her siblings turned to when they were in trouble.

When they both got riled up, often with each other, it was a sight to behold. But they were also devoted to each other and to all of us. If you were ever in a fight, you wanted both women in your corner.

When I first came to Erwin to work a little more than a year ago, I felt, in some ways, like I had come home. Strong Southern women, I soon learned, were as much a part of this mountain community as apples and train whistles. Over and over again, I ran into women who I would be proud to call my family.

Women who were unafraid to fight for what they believe in.

Women who did not hesitate to be exactly who they believed God created them to be.

Women with more than a little bit of sass.

Women with a whole lot of love.

Strong. Outspoken. Compassionate. Graceful. Funny. Imperfect and fine with that imperfection. You couldn’t find better role models for upcoming generations.

In recent months and even years, there has been a lot of discussion on the rights of women and what we as women need to focus on, almost as if it’s a new idea as we look to the future. Yet, when I look at the women in my family and the women here in Unicoi County, I really think that we should perhaps begin by looking at our past and present for our inspiration. Strong women are already a part of these mountains. And I’m grateful to share in that legacy.

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Car 2 was rich in memories

By Connie Denney

Editor’s note: The essence of this column was first published Dec. 2, 2008.

Picture this: It is 1923 (or there about). It’s summer. You’re six years old and riding in the general manager’s car on a steam-powered Clinchfield Railroad train.

Now, that’s a powerful memory.

As the memory goes, the return trip from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Erwin could mean fresh peaches onboard. “Everybody who was old enough” was expected to help peel those peaches later for her grandmother to can, the late Hilda Rucker remembered, as she allowed me to listen in on her reflections, during a visit at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital’s Long-Term Care Unit.

I had asked her about “ ‘Bob,’ Chef on Car 2” referred to in the 1920s era cookbook (the subject of an earlier column) I had found at an estate sale. You see, Mrs. Rucker’s grandfather, Louis Henry Phetteplace, was general manager of the railroad at the time. She, indeed, did remember Bob Harrington, saying, “Everything he cooked was good.”

Harrington, a black man who lived here at the time, did the cooking for Car 2, the one in which Phetteplace traveled. In addition to a kitchen, it had bedrooms, a living room and “porch” with a railing she remembers “Granddaddy” looking over to see how the tracks were being kept.

As she tended to get motion sickness, her Grandfather would have her lie down and sleep.  White cherries stand out in her mind as especially good when she woke.

Harrington made “good hot rolls. I remember those,” she said, adding, “Whenever I could eat, the food was always good.”

One of Harrington’s recipes printed in the Erwin Cook Book was for “Eggs a la Trip,” which included hard boiled eggs, pimentos, green peppers and onions. The other called for extra select oysters wrapped in bacon and served on toast with a butter and lemon sauce.

The cookbook also included Mrs. Rucker’s Grandmother Phetteplace’s recipe for “Roast Turkey With Celery Dressing.” She remembers her Grandmother cooked the whole turkey. “I always liked the dark meat,” she added, noting that is something you don’t get when using only the turkey breast.

Her Aunt Mary Phetteplace’s recipe for “Ward Belmont Spice Cake” was also printed. She thinks it was named for Ward-Belmont College, the Nashville school her Aunt Mary attended.

Memories seem to topple out one over the other. After her father, Richard Campbell Parsons, died at age 32, when she was six years old, her mother made the kids sleep in one room so others could be rented to school teachers from out-of-town. Her sister, the late Sue Beard, was nine and her brother, the late Dick Parsons, was one.

All of this has me thinking of the importance of memories and how we do not have control of all the circumstances. By the time you read this, thoughts will have turned to upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Snapshots of gratefulness and good times past are important to the present and future.

We like to think we are capable of giving gifts that are not only beautiful as they are opened but thoughtful enough to merit reflection for a long, long time. Among the most meaningful gifts we can give each other, perhaps, is keeping in mind that we all suffer from the weaknesses of the human condition and doing what we can to ensure the making of good memories.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Preventing school violence in any form

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

A couple of weeks ago I had an extraordinary evening at the high school. For a few weeks, our excellent drama class had worked on an original play created by themselves about an important issue that for many would be hard to tackle let alone perform on a high school stage. The name of the play was,  “More Than a Number,” featuring monologues and short scenes honoring victims and survivors of school shootings from the last twenty years.

Last year during the annual Tennessee SRO conference in Pigeon Forge I met Kristina Anderson, who was shot four times and was the only survivor in her classroom during the Virginia Tech massacre a few years ago. We have kept in touch, and I told her about this play, and she was interested to know more about it. One day I hope to have her at our school to talk about her incredible story of survival, hope, and forgiveness.

Preventing school violence in any form is something that’s on my mind every single day and is, when it comes down to it, my only purpose as an SRO. All the other things I do are useful add-ons to benefit the total picture of school safety, ranging from preventing or stopping a violent act, traffic safety, counseling, working with our SADD club, and other school-related activities. 

I feel incredibly fortunate to work with students, teachers, and administrators who truly have a passion for the security and well-being of our school. As I have written before, school safety is a team effort, and I am one part of a chain of individuals who work together to make our school a safe place to be.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and be happy.

Hood’s Winks – Will it really happen?

By Ralph Hood

Y’all ain’t gonna believe this!

BBC—which used to be British Broadcasting Company—has published a truly fascinating article predicting the end of personally owned automobiles. In fact, it says you might be driving the last car you’ll ever buy!

I’m serious!

Now don’t laugh and jeer yet. You can read it yourself by going to  https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45786690, and it just might change your mind a bit.

The article suggests that instead of driving our own cars, we will call Uber, Lyft, and other competitors. They will pick us up in minutes and transport us to our desired destinations. Such a change might save the average family thousands of dollars per year. Engines will be electric, rather than gasoline fueled. (Did you realize that the typical electric motor has only 19 parts rather than the 100s of parts required by gasoline engines? Gotta admit that I didn’t either.)

If these predictions come true, traffic will be reduced drastically, again saving money by the ton. Can you imagine shopping centers and airports having smaller parking lots? What will happen to our interstate highways?

And—now hear this—pollution will be reduced dramatically.

You already know that scientists are currently pushing like mad for a reduction of temperature increases caused—they say—by climate change. That will be a hard sell, as those same scientists agree that reducing future world climates by only one degree would cost untold fortunes, all to be provided by taxpayers.

Car replacement, on the other hand, would be paid for by investors eagerly hoping to profit greatly by the change. No doubt some of them will succeed and others will fail, but it won’t be any loss to taxpayers. Such a deal!

BTW, the new transporters won’t be cars as we know them today. They will drive themselves (the illustrated drawings don’t even have windshields) and will be much safer than people-driven vehicles. Some believe that the public will eventually be forbidden to drive cars themselves because of the increased risk, but I’d bet that won’t happen anytime soon. There will be great and embittered fighting over the very idea. Older folks will fight to the end, but you younger people will adapt quickly.

Do I think all of this will truly happen? I dunno, but do believe there will be a great trend in that direction. Some think it will happen in big cities, but not in small towns such as Erwin—at least not at first.

And don’t forget that Uber et al are already developing airborne transporters. Will they land in streets or yards? Will we have landing spots on roofs? The transporters will be smallish, I reckon, but will still have to land somewhere!

You younger folks will see that trend happening. Wish I could, but doubt I’ll live that long. Perhaps I can look down—uh, or up—and see how it all works out.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Change of seasons brings memories

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

I love the arrival of more seasonal temperatures, albeit a few weeks late, but better late than never. Fall in Northern Norway during my childhood years was always special. I remember in early fall, which that far north usually arrives in mid to late August, the whole family would go up into the northern marshlands and pick Cloudberries that we would either make into jam or freeze to be used throughout the winter months for Sunday dessert mixed in with whipped cream.

Fall was also the hunting season for many. People would make up teams of around five people, be given a specific area to hunt in, and walk into the woods Moose hunting, usually accompanied by a Norwegian Elkhound, which also is the national dog breed of Norway.

I would join my Dad in the fall during the reindeer slaughter season, and we would drive up into the mountains and purchase reindeer meat directly from the Sami people, who are the native people of northern Scandinavia and western Russia. We would also buy pigs blood, and I remember my Mom would use it to make blood pancakes with pieces of raisins and pigs fat in them.

Touching on food, most days in a fishing village we had some form of seafood for dinner. One day we could have steamed cod, the next day, fried fish cakes or baked fish pudding. Needless to say, we had plenty of fresh seafood, and with fresh I mean right from the fishing boats and to the table.

Often when we had leftovers, one would mix fish, potatoes, and carrots and make it into a fish stew of sort. We usually had a dessert after dinner. Often we had a sweet macaroni soup, which was regular elbow macaroni cooked with milk and sugar. Saturdays was almost always a pancake or rice porridge day, and Sundays was always a meat day.

I remember I was in my early teens when I had my first banana and one Christmas my Dad brought home a coconut; I think most of the kids on our street showed up to have a taste of that. So far north, back then exotic fruits like that were hard to come by. Apples and oranges were usually what the stores had and around Christmas time we could get grapes and mandarins.

I guess some of you by now have started to see a pattern in my column. I figured that I could not just write about issues touching on school safety and the SADD club. It would rather quickly, I thought, be somewhat bland for many. So, alternating between my years in Norway, sharing a little of my upbringing and Norwegian culture and customs, is what I ended up doing.

Until next time, be safe, be warm and be happy.

Adam’s Apples – ‘Lost in the 50s’

By James Mack Adams

While I was navigating through my high school and college years a long time ago, more than one person told me those would be the best years of my life. That is somewhat true. However, I would like to amend that statement a little by saying those were some of the best years. I have been lucky enough to have had many good years during my life.

I do feel fortunate that I was born at a time when I was able to live my high school and college years during the decade of the 1950s. The decade has been referred to by some as “The Fabulous Fifties.” The economy was good after World War II ended. Crime was relatively low.  Children felt safe roaming the neighborhoods and playing outdoors until dark. The only drugs we knew anything about came from the local pharmacy.

It was the era of the poodle skirt, saddle shoes, ducktail haircuts, sideburns, Elvis (Thankyouverymuch), Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe (gulp!), athletic letter sweaters, sock hops, hot cars, drive-ins, soda fountains, the hula hoop, and classic (meaning real) rock and roll.

Automobiles did not have seatbelts. They had powerful motors, manual shift transmissions, tail fins, and lots of chrome. Helmets were not required for bicycle or motorcycle riders. Football helmets did not have face masks. We got our drinking water from the faucet, garden hose, or a well. There were far fewer health and safety regulations as compared to the present. It’s a wonder any of us survived.

Speaking of automobiles. In the 1950s, one could buy a new car for an average price of $2,000.  For those who were more financially successful and wanted a little more luxury and show in the family buggy, the price of a Cadillac convertible was around $5,400. Regardless of the cost of the car you drove in those days, the price for a gallon of gas was 18-25 cents.

A fairly nice house could be had for around $10,000. Sounds like a good deal, but you have to keep in mind that the average yearly family income was $4,000 to $5,000.

It was the early days of television and everyone had their favorite programs. Being a longtime fan of old cowboy movies, my favorites included the TV westerns that became popular in the late 1950s and continued into the 1960s. I seldom missed episodes of “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Rawhide.” If you are old enough, you may recall that one of the characters in “Rawhide” was Rowdy Yates, played by a young Clint Eastwood.

I had a close friend at the time who was also an avid fan of the TV westerns. I knew never to phone him while an episode of “Bonanza” was being aired on television. That made him very angry.

For me and a lot of my fellow 1950s teenagers, one of the crowning technical achievements of the era was the transistor radio. Prior to that, radios were large, bulky and powered by vacuum tubes. When the radio was turned on, the tubes had to warm up before any sound was produced. The development of the transistor made radios smaller and more portable. Also, there was no warm up time.

Those were good years to be young, but all was not rosy with the country or the world. The civil rights movement was heating up with marches and demonstrations. The Cold War between the U.S., our Allies, and the Soviet Union raised the possibility of nuclear confrontation and mutual destruction. The more powerful hydrogen bomb was developed during this time. There was a hot war going on in Korea. The space race between the U.S. and Russia was much in the news and on the minds of the citizens of both countries.

A few years ago, my wife and I attended a musical stage production at the Savannah Theater.  The show was titled “Lost in the 50s.” For a couple of hours that evening, I was able to relive my teenage years. My wife was amazed that I remembered the lyrics of most every song they performed, and that I could still dance “The Twist.” Like I said, it was several years ago.

Hood’s Winks – Clear on top

By Ralph Hood

(Adapted from Ralph’s book, The Tuth & Other Lies)

For a pilot, one of life’s greatest thrills occurs on days when the weather looks terrible, but the weather bureau reports that “It’s Clear On Top.”

On such days, the pilot taxis through puddles, mist, and rain. After takeoff, the airplane immediately rises into dark, bumpy clouds, and the world seems spooky, uncomfortable, and downright frightening. It is a truly terrible day.

Then a miracle occurs. The airplane rises above the weather—above the clouds—On Top. Instantly, it is a beautiful, gorgeous day. The sun is shining, the sky blue, the air clear, and the ride smooth. A good pilot can rise above most of the weather most of the time. There are people who live that way—people who seem to cruise through life On Top of problems. To those people, this poem is dedicated:


When you’re down on the world, and it’s down on you,

When you’re down in the dumps, and life looks blue,

Just remember, it’s probably


Do you work on a tightrope without any net?

Do your bills exceed the national debt?

Hang on, chances are it’s


When money is tight, and the price is steep,

And you can’t get out, ’cause you’re in too deep,

Don’t quit, the odds are it’s


When you’ve run out of luck and nobody cares,

You’re fresh out of friends, and fresh out of prayers,

Pray harder, and pray that it’s


When your troubles are big, and you’ve run out of hope,

And you’re hanging alone at the end of your rope,

Climb higher, to up where it’s


When the going is tough, and you’d like to quit

Just keep on climbing, a little bit.

‘Cause God made it


Officer Norway’s Corner – SADD Club to address bullying

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

The month of October is the National Bullying Prevention Month, and of the many things I work with at Unicoi County High School, bullying is one issue that I am passionate about.

It’s also one of the harder problems to tackle, first and foremost because of social media. Often when school administrators and I are made aware of instances where bullying has or is taking place, we find out that this has been going on for a while, and what often brings it to the surface is falling grades, skipping school altogether or causing “behavioral issues” in school or at home.

Because of the seriousness around bullying, especially cyberbullying, the SADD Club has partnered with the National Stomp Out Bullying campaign, and during the week of Oct. 8 many of our SADD Club members will be wearing their blue Student Strong-Stump Out Bullying Now T-shirts and will have handout materials to raise awareness around this issue.

I am a firm believer that the most active partners I have on this and many other matters relating to high school students and the problems and challenges they often face are the students themselves.

All these issues and campaigns the SADD Club is working and engaged with are not all free. We get some free stuff from the organizations and causes we are promoting, but as every teacher knows, and certainly likewise for my SRO colleagues and others in law enforcement, sometimes one has to pay out of pocket for many things that otherwise are not available from your employer.

To raise money for our club, I decided to create a Facebook page called, “Officer Norway’s Corner.” With the great help of a local business, Reds Vinyl Decals, we designed a logo, got it printed on some T-shirts, hoodies and coffee mugs, and through the Facebook page and on our upcoming stand at the Apple Festival we hope to raise some much-needed money for our club. Check out our SADD Club stand at the Apple Festival this coming weekend (Oct. 5-6) and help support a great cause.

Until next time, be safe, be kind and be positive.