From the Publisher’s Desk – All stages of life filled with promise

By Lisa Whaley

In this week’s edition of The Erwin Record, you will find the Senior Connection, published at the end of each month to provide a list of events and activities for the 50 and older crowd.

As part of my regular duties, I am tasked with reading over each Senior Connection carefully to make sure we present it to you, our readers, in as clean and an accurate condition as we can.

This past weekend as I picked up the pages – red pen in hand to check for errors – I was once again struck by something that has nothing to do with typos and sentence structure.

This community offers a whole lot of opportunities for baby boomers and beyond.

That may not seem like such a big deal, but in a society where youth is seen as the be-all and end-all, I found myself looking with anticipation to my senior, retirement years, in much the same way as I used to dream of graduating from college, buying my own home or having my own family.

A quick look at the Senior Connection calendar quickly illustrates what I mean. Not only are there a seemingly endless list of things to do, most break a lot of “I’m-too-old-to-do-that” stereotypes.

Want to go line dancing? It’s offered through the Clinchfield Senior Center on Feb. 4 at the YMCA. Love to go bowling? Then mark your calendar for Feb. 6 and 20. Feel the need for a little pampering? Sign up for manicures provided by Unicoi County High School’s cosmetology class on Feb. 27.

It’s as if anything that you have ever dreamed of doing has merged with your current favorites to create a list that’s hard to resist.

There are books to read, tips to keep you healthy, games to play and opportunities to give back.

It’s almost like a well-deserved thank-you card – written to the county’s generations of men and women who have already spent much of their lives working, helping and serving. They finally have stepped off the merry-go-round and earned a well-deserved break.

The Senior Center, Family Ministries and other organizations throughout the county are trying to make sure that break is a good one.

When my oldest daughter was about 10 years old, she once shared this observation about the stages of life with me as we were driving to school.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking,” she said. “You know, when you’re a baby, your mom and dad feed you and dress you and do everything you need, and that’s good.

“When you get older, you get to go to school and make friends. You have to listen to your parents, but they still take care of you. And that’s good.

“Then when you become an adult, you get the freedom to decide where you want to live and what you want to do, even though you’ve got to work, and that’s good.

“When you retire, like grandma, you don’t have to work anymore and can do whatever you want. So that’s good.

“And when you die, you go to heaven, and that’s good.”

I think my daughter was on to something.

Thank you, Erwin, Unicoi and Unicoi County, for recognizing that each stage of our lives is filled with promise. I am actually looking forward to the day I have a Senior Connection on the table next to my personal calendar as I make plans for the upcoming week.

Hood’s Winks – Greatest athlete left off list

By Ralph Hood

Well, shoot!

I just read a listing of the greatest athletes of the 20th century in my hometown of Brunswick, Georgia. I was absolutely appalled to learn that I was not included. Somehow my name was omitted. Surely, this was an egregious error.

After all, I did have many astounding athletic accomplishments while growing up in Glynn County and later in my long athletic career.

I distinctly remember …

… losing a foot race at a Cub Scout athletic event in the front yard of Leland Moore (whose sister was voted Most Athletic in my class). That might not sound outstanding to you, but it was a mother/son foot race, and I lost to my mother! It was, as Churchill said of Dunkirk, an “ignominious defeat.”

… coming in second swimming the backstroke at the state DeMolay convention in Atlanta. (I might have won had not a few of us carried out an early scientific experiment on the effects of beer on teenagers the previous night.)

… running into the wrong huddle at a “B” team football game in Savannah. I really did. That was before contact lenses and facemasks, and I was blind as a bat without my glasses. By noon the next day, everyone at Glynn Academy was calling me Wrong-Way Hood.

… competing in the state water skiing tournament in Augusta, GA. There were 15 contenders in the men’s division, and I came in 13th. You should have seen the two guys I beat. Pitiful!

… playing the position of catcher in a Cub Scout baseball game. Daddy had told me never to play catcher. The mask was too small for me—as was everything that fit normal boys—and a tipped ball knocked me out cold. The first thing I remember when I woke up was Daddy’s face—complete with his ever-present, but never lit, King Edward cigar—as he growled, “I told you never to catch.” (Robert Sapp, by the way, was playing baseball in the same league. They put him on the “greatest” list, but not me.)

… being a master squirrel hunter in the swamps and woods of Glynn County. I was hunting squirrels long before I could drive. Daddy took me. I walked for hours and usually returned with one squirrel. Daddy took a nap beside the car. He slept until a squirrel woke him up, then he shot the squirrel and went back to sleep. His squirrel was usually bigger than mine.

… being the only person on a large deep-sea fishing boat who did not—repeat not—catch a single fish in six hours of fishing. This was in the 1960s, and I had long since graduated from high school and college. Unfortunately, one of my high-school classmates was onboard to witness this sad event. I also got seasick.

Given the above facts, it is obvious that my omission from the list was a grave oversight which will no doubt be corrected posthaste.

Officer Norway’s Corner – A focus on traffic safety, substance abuse

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

Working on various causes with our SADD club members is one of the most rewarding things I do as an SRO. Although it can be hard and at times a little frustrating getting even a few students together to plan on various upcoming projects because those who are active in the club also are busy with other school activities, be it academic, sport or other clubs. So when things come together and we are able to accomplish goals and tasks that is something which gives me that extra push to plan on new adventures and projects down the road.

Last week with the great help of Dustin Street at the high school and one hastily scheduled planning meeting, some of our SADD club members were able to come up with a short and to the point video for a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the National Road Safety Foundation – Driving Skills 101 Contest. Last year we entered a similar nationwide contest, and our video was ranked among the top 10 of all entries nationwide.

This week the SADD club has partnered with Christy Smith, the director of the Unicoi County Prevention Coalition, to host the National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week, which is a part of the National Institute of Health efforts to combat drug and alcohol abuse among teens. It supplies students with facts to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music or from friends.

Recently in a new report from the National Safety Council, more people (1 in 96) will die of an Opioid overdose than in a car crash (1 in 103). This is a serious issue, and I feel a strong obligation to address this in any meaningful way I can, hence our effort to push out the facts about the dangers of using and abusing drugs and alcohol. If we can reach out to just a handful of students about the risks and pitfalls around these issues, it would be well worth it. Until next time, be safe, be happy and preach about the dangers of substance abuse.

A Refreshing Knapp – The hero next door

By Ray Knapp

I was raised in Grandin, Missouri – a little town in the Ozark Mountains. It could be compared to Flag Pond except the mountains are a little higher around Flag Pond. It’s only claim to fame was due to its namesake who established the largest sawmill in the world there in 1900.

Through Facebook, I recently got in contact with one of my friends from there. It had been about a half century since we had been in touch; by using the internet’s messenger service, we caught up on things that had taken place in our life since leaving Grandin.

We came from good, but dirt-poor families; with no trees of any size left to cut, there just wasn’t much work around there, so both of us left Grandin in order to make a living. I went into the Navy and she went to Peoria. Yvonne is the woman I’m talking about. As a high school girl she had this knack for cutting hair. A couple of grades behind me, I recall her cutting my hair with just scissors and a comb when we were in high school.

She got a cosmetology license after I left for the Navy, opening a shop in Grandin. After saving enough money she moved to Peoria and lucked out on opening a shop in a prime location which soon became a very successful business. My brother, Wally, worked for Caterpillar in Peoria. During his working days he would go to Yvonne’s shop and get his haircut – so he kept me a little informed about her during my 20 years in the Navy.

I think the Good Lord rewards people with a big heart. She and her husband, Vance, adopted a baby who only had six inches of intestines and had three surgeries before he was a month old. As Yvonne put it, “When I got him the doctors said don’t get too attached; he can’t live to be 3. But in my heart, I knew better. I blocked the tube (feeding tube that went directly to his stomach) and fed him every two hours and had my nanny do the same. He turned 37 in November and is my handsome sweet man. The doctors said that he has over 15 inches of intestines now. His medical records made history.”

One of her own daughters had severe medical issues as well, weighing only two pounds at birth, 93 percent deaf, and having celiac, and Type 1 diabetes. She wound up being a real challenge to care for. With a lot of care, not only did the baby fight through these issues, she has lived to graduate with straight A’s from President Reagan’s alma mater. That daughter, Savannah, did an internship for four months in D.C.; set before Senatorial panels in Washington, and Congressional leaders in Illinois to give her views about our health care system. She is now in the process of getting her master’s degree.

I was counting the children Yvonne and her husband have adopted or in some cases been a foster parent for, I’ve lost count, but it’s around 10. The youngest, Brittany, is in the process of completing cosmetology school. All of the children have been those with disabilities or other issues that kept other people from adopting them. Yvonne took them in because of that; loved and cared for them all. It seems none are aware of their difficult start, and have excelled in life. Yvonne is not just their Mom; she’s my hero as well.

The person I’m telling you about is not your typical hair-dresser, or gray-haired, babysitting granny. She had a Gold Wing motorcycle she occasionally rode to work and made round trips from Peoria to Grandin. 

Her brother from Poplar Bluff passed away in 2009, so she turned the hair salon over to her oldest daughter; moved back to Grandin, and took over his business of selling vaults to funeral homes.

She still has a home in Peoria and makes frequent visits there to see the kids. I don’t know if it’s on that Gold Wing Honda, or not.

Adam’s Apples – A new beginning

By James Mack Adams

By the time this column goes to press, the year 2019 will be well underway.  he ball will have already dropped in Times Square. The celebrations will be over. “Auld Lang Syne” will have been played and sung. Hopefully, any discomforts resulting from overindulgence in food and drink will have subsided. And, I would be willing to bet, at least a few of the New Year resolutions have already been either fractured, broken or discarded. 

It is a new year. It is a new beginning. It is time to reboot, rewind, remake, recharge, repent, retread, recommit, reestablish, retool, reawaken, reset, restart, refocus. We have been given another chance. With any luck, we might get it right this time.

In his recent First Sunday of Advent Homily, my Parish priest, Father Tom Charters, spoke about transition. Transition means change. It is an ending and a new beginning. We all deal with many transitions in our lives … changing jobs, losing family members and friends, relocating to a new town, etc. 

Each new year brings new challenges as well as recurring old ones that just won’t go away. So be it. How many years can we remember when we had no crosses to bear, no demons to overcome, no dragons to slay? Would it not be nice to have an entire year with no worries, no losses, no heartaches, no disappointments. I would bet that’s not going to happen.          

One of the most memorable opening paragraphs in English literature comes from the classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair………”

That seems a fair description of a typical year in one’s life, does it not? It does mine.

Challenges come with the territory. We have to play the cards we are dealt. As the lyrics of the country song, “The Gambler,” advise….. “You have to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em.” 

We all hope for a winning hand, but we must accept the fact we will sometimes have to fold, and hope we get better cards in the next deal.

Just like winning, failing is a part of living. Ask the writer who receives enough rejection letters to paper his or her walls before publishing that best seller. Show me someone who never fails, and I will show you someone who never does anything. 

Our young people need to be taught their lives will be a series of wins and losses. Losing is neither a disgrace nor a blot on one’s self-esteem. They need to learn to accept success with grace and face failure with courage and determination to do better. One of Gen. George S. Patton’s many famous quotes is: “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” 

I am reminded of an instance that happened several years ago when I was publishing a local monthly newspaper. I was invited to cover an event in which children of various ages competed in sport activities. 

When time came to present the awards, I noticed that every contestant received a trophy, regardless of their performance in the competition. When I questioned the practice of awarding “participation trophies,” I was told the organizers didn’t want any child to feel bad. I didn’t respond, even though I admit to questioning the practice at the time. Were they doing the kids a favor? Perhaps I am writing this from the perspective of a member of an older generation. I know some will have different opinions.

I also have some thoughts on the practice of providing “Safe Spaces” on college campuses. But I will save those for later.

Have a very happy, healthy, prosperous and successful 2019. Reach for the stars. You might just grab one.

In the words of the poet: “Ah but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for.” – Robert Browning

Officer Norway’s Corner – New year brings excitement for SRO

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

A new year is here and with that a new calendar that is already, at least for January, filling up fast. The start of a new year is always a little exciting.

Indeed, for many, it is a new beginning, or maybe just the same old beginnings from January last year. Anyhow it’s still a promise of a fresh start, planning on new projects at home, personal goals or things related to work.

As a high school SRO, I certainly have plans to improve in the job I do, be it training or activities related to the SADD Club or any of the other tasks I have or partake in.

We are now three full-time SROs who work for the Sheriff’s Department and who are assigned to Unicoi Elementary, Temple Hill Elementary and the high school. Being a school resource officer is actually one of several specialized fields within law enforcement, like SWAT, investigations, the drug units and others that require specialized training outside of the regular training one receives at the training academy and during our yearly in-service training.

For the last couple of years, we have been fortunate enough to be able to go to the yearly Tennessee SRO conference in Pigeon Forge. These conferences are a great tool for staying up-to-date with current laws as it relates to our jobs as SROs, but it is also an essential part of networking with other law enforcement professionals in the same field. As a small department, it can often be a challenge economically to make sure all our training needs are met. In that regard, I have to commend our Sheriff Mike Hensley and office staff who has made it a priority for all of us to be able to attend this and other training opportunities.

I am currently part of a working group who are in the early stages of planning for a mock-crash scenario for some of our high school students this coming spring. I am excited about this and all the help from both the high school, personnel from neighboring high schools, Wings rescue, Erwin Police Department, the sheriff’s department, fire department and others.

In addition to that, I am also hoping to be able to send at least four of our SADD Club members to the yearly leadership retreat in Nashville this coming March. I was able to do that last year with a few of our students, and we had a great time.

Until next time, be safe, happy and may all your plans for the new year come to fruition.

Hood’s Winks – Disasters of my youth!

By Ralph Hood

I grew up on a dirt road. Well, actually, it was a dirt street, rather than a road. Many of us lived on dirt streets in the ‘50s, and enjoyed it.

A kid could make a fort on the edge of a dirt street, and play marbles or “territory,” a game in which a circle was divided up by kids throwing knives into the ground. I wasn’t, as I remember it, very good at that game.

They finally paved my street when I was about 12 or 13, and we kids resented it. First, they dumped truckloads of dirt every few feet on the street. The dirt made hills, as it came off the trucks, and we immediately invented a recreational activity utilizing those hills. (A hill of any size was, after all, a rare commodity in Glynn County, and not to be wasted.)

If we got a running start and rode our bikes rapidly up the hill, we went airborne as we came off of the top. Boy and bicycle launched into the air, the seat of the boy rose up from the seat of the bicycle, and in midair the only connection between boy and bicycle was the boy’s firm grip on the handlebars. The flight terminated when the bike slammed down onto the ground and the boy slammed down onto the bicycle. It was quite spectacular, particularly if a girl, younger boy or adult was on hand to be impressed.

I had made my last jump of the day when Michael Friedman showed up. He qualified as a younger boy, he had never seen a bicycle jump a hill, and he was eager to be impressed. I rose—pun intended—to the occasion.

I made a mad dash for the hill, rose into the air, and something went terribly wrong. When my seat left that of the bicycle, for some reason the bike seat tilted backward. That meant the front, pointed, narrow, part of the bike seat was pointed straight up at the blunt, well-rounded seat of my pants. When bike hit ground and I hit bike, there was a scream not unlike that of a panther in a territorial dispute with a Tasmanian Devil. I hollered. I ran. I rolled on the ground. I never, ever, left the ground on a bicycle again.

Later, a group of us—including, but not limited to, Raymond West, Richard Lyons and SC (the current Stalwart Citizen who prefers that I not mention his name)—developed a sport called dirt sledding. We made a rough sled of plywood with two-by-four runners, tied it to the back of an early ‘50s Ford belonging to SC’s daddy, put two boys on it and commenced cruising the dirt streets of Brunswick at a rapid pace. The dust was unbelievable, as sled slid sideways around corners. Little children were amazed and we created quite a stir. Entire neighborhoods turned out to watch.

We were, quite literally, cutting a wide swath until the Ford stopped abruptly in the middle of a particularly fast corner. The sled skidded to a stop right beside a city police car, and as the dust settled, the two riders—faces blackened by dust—came face to face with two policemen who had been summoned by the populace and who were, as Queen Victoria once put it, “not amused.”

Thus ended our hopes that dirt sledding would some day be included in the Olympics.

From the Publisher’s Desk – My hopes, dreams for the new year

By Lisa Whaley

It is hard to believe that we have started a new year. When I was a child, the year 2019 could only be imagined as a space age show, complete with flying automobiles and hot-meal dispensers that could shoot out fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans at the push of a button — sort of like grandma with a computer voice and no dirty dishes.

Now, standing firmly in 2019, the world doesn’t really look that much different than 2018 or even, in some ways, 1998 or 1988. People still fall in love and get married, grandparents still spoil their grandchildren and I still believe nothing satisfies like a holiday gathering complete with the warmth of family and good food.

But things have changed — for most of us even faster than we ever imagined.

The microwave didn’t show up on the scene until the 1980s, yet statistics now indicate that more than 90 percent of home kitchens feature one.

Home computers too didn’t really begin to arrive until the ‘80s. I still remember setting up our first one — sometime in the mid-1990s – complete with a dial-up modem.

Today not only do more than 85 percent of homes have some type of computer, the once standard desktop computer is being replaced by laptops, iPads and tablets.

Phones have gone from home phones attached to a cord to cell phones complete with their own antennas, to today’s state-of-the-art devices that can not only make and accept calls, but also search the Internet, take pictures and play games. If it could make fried chicken and bring us a cup of water, we’d never have to leave our seats.

Every day there seems to be some new device to make our lives easier. In all honesty, however, the more these devices multiply, the tougher everyday life seems to become. It certainly isn’t becoming any easier.

But I can’t help but be inspired by all this ingenuity and creativity. The idea that several individuals putting their heads together perfected the microwave, GPS — or even the Keurig — is captivating.

Who knows what might happen in 2019? But while a device that can turn on and off my lights and sing me a song is clever, I have a better wish list for the new year. Here is hoping all those scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors out there are listening.

A cure for cancer. It’s an almost cliché wish, but I don’t know of anyone who has not been affected by this disease either personally or within a circle of family and friends. So many great advances have already been uncovered. If we could just slap this one down, once and for all, the world would be so much brighter

A treatment and cure for dementia. This one, of course, hits close to home for me, as my mother struggled with dementia at the end. Once you have witnessed what it can do, you do not want to see it rob one more memory.

A better health system. Whether you believe Obamacare is the best or worst thing that ever happened to America, the need for some major improvements in our healthcare is becoming more clear every day. Like the cancer statistic, nearly everyone knows someone who has struggled with getting needed care when the insurance and bank account don’t seem to comply. We need to do better than this — without turning it into simply another political football.

A way to slow down. The more gadgets we obtain, the faster we seem to go and the more we seem to lose touch with what is important. I’m not sure how we can do it, but I would love for some creative mind out there to come up with a plan/project that gets us off the hamster wheel so we can better savor the world around us.

Of course, these are just a few ideas. My list could go on and on.

I also like to remember that, while I’m not an inventor, I can still easily have some small impact on the list above. I may not have a cure for cancer, but I can reach out to someone dealing with the disease. I may not know how to rid the world of dementia, but I know the value of holding the hand of someone who is struggling.

I can let my voice be heard in Washington and Nashville to help change laws, not forgetting that human friendship and love can be the greatest healer of all.

And I can remember to occasionally take myself off the hamster wheel and take time to look at the wonder all around.

Yep, I think 2019 is going to be a wonderful year. And I believe a lot of that is up to me — and you.

Happy New Year!

A Denney for Your Thoughts – Message worth more than ‘Peanuts’

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in the Dec. 20, 2005, issue of The Erwin Record. In it, Denney takes us on an interesting holiday trip – her first viewing of the holiday classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

By Connie Denney

Am I the only one over the age of 3 who saw “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the first time this year? Maybe that is how television specials become tradition. Not only are there those who watch the same shows over and over, there are others who – for whatever reason or no reason – are first timers.

A friend’s incredulity at my revelation of never seeing the famous Peanuts special planted the seeds for this writing.

Commercialization of Christmas was the offense the namesake Peanuts character found so disconcerting in the seasonal special. Conservation today (now more than 50 years since “A Charlie Brown Christmas” originally aired) indicates that situation has not been remedied. Some would say it is worse.

But we have choices. The giving of gifts seems an appropriate tradition for the season. Many people enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts. Perhaps it is the spirit in which it is done that makes the difference.

If the hubbub of shopping, figuring out what to buy for whom becomes more of a chore than a blessing, perhaps that is a signal to pause and put it all in perspective. Overly commercialized? We don’t have to buy that line.

Today Charlie Brown might have additional furrows in his brow.

Disconcerting elements include rumblings about whether the greeting should be “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Either greeting from the heart with a smile can be joyous. If it is not from the heart but a matter of political correctness or store policy, maybe – again – we need to examine motives.

Another real interesting rumbling is the talk of closing churches for Christmas. What is there to say about that one?!

Admittedly, I probably have not heard all the points of view about commercialization, greetings and/or church closings, but I have heard enough, because these “rumblings” remind me of a phrase by Dad (a quiet man) used, “unnecessary racket.”

As for what Christmas is all about, Linus (the one with the blanket) reminded Charlie Brown by quoting from Luke 2:8-14: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

“And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Acceptance of the latter can make the former fall into place. Attention to what Christmas is all about puts “unnecessary racket” in the proper perspective.

Seeing Christmas as a time of choice puts the temporary in an eternal context.

Officer Norway’s Corner – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By SRO Kjell Michelsen

God Jul, Merry Christmas.

Christmas in Norway, or “Jul” as it is called, from the old German pagan word “Yule,” brings back many memories this time a year. Like I wrote in my last column, the Advent season is the start of the Christmas season.

Dec. 23, or “Little Christmas Eve,” as we call it is the day in Norway when the Christmas tree is brought inside and decorated. This day is nearly steeped in as many traditions and rituals as Christmas Eve itself. The home has been cleaned, the decorations are up, the traditional pork ribs have been salted in preparation for the Christmas Eve dinner, rice porridge is simmering on the stove, it’s dark and cold outside, and your busy pre-Christmas preparations can finally rest a little.

In the evening of Dec. 23, we would gather around the TV with warm rice porridge, accompanied by a cup of Gløgg, or “Glühwein,” as it is called here. In the evening, a show called “The Evening before the Evening,” a show that still is aired live where the hosts and guests talk about Christmas traditions, how to prepare the perfect pork ribs and of course live Christmas music. One special tradition this evening is this black-and-white British comedy sketch originally called “Dinner for One” that’s been shown every Little Christmas Eve in Norway for decades. (Look it up on YouTube, it’s fun to watch.)

Then the big day, Christmas Eve finally arrives. A few last minute shoppers are hurrying around, others are preparing for the big meal which will be served later in the afternoon. At 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, streets empty, stores and restaurants close and a stillness descends that’s almost surreal. At 5 o’clock the church bells start tolling, ringing in Christmas. Around the same time, families, all dressed up for the occasion sit down around the dining room table, the roasted pork ribs are served accompanied with steamed potatoes, sauerkraut, vegetables, and gravy. The pork ribs or “ribbe” as it called is the most popular dish but others will also eat “Lutefisk,” which is Cod that has been soaked in lye, or smoked mutton ribs.

Christmas indeed brings back many memories from all of our childhoods. The most unique Christmas I recall was when I served with NATO in Bosnia in the mid-90s, and we hosted some American soldiers to a traditional Norwegian Christmas celebration. It brought us altogether far away as we were from friends and family on this special day. That’s one important part of Christmas, being together with family and friends, creating memories, but most importantly, celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Until next time, God Jul og Godt Nytt År. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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.