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Randall Franks
of the Fiddle
American Actor

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   Randall Franks
    Actor, Entertainer, Author and Columnist

     Actor/entertainer Randall Franks is best known as “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s "In the Heat of the Night," a role he performed on NBC and CBS from 1988-1993 and now on WGN America. He was part of cast of three other TV Series including Robert Townsend's "Musical Theater of Hope" which aired on UPtv (Gospel Music Channel). In his latest film "Broken,"  he stars with Soren Fulton, Joe Stevens and a talented ensemble cast.  He recently starred in "Lukewarm"       with John Schneider, Nicole Gale Anderson, Bill Cobbs, Jenna von Oy and Jeremy Jones. He starred with Natalie Grant and Billy Dean in the teen drama "Decision" and in "The Solomon Bunch," a children's adventure, Randall does a comedic cameo. As an actor, he has co-starred or starred in 15 films with stars such as “Doc” Tommy Scott; William Hurt, Dolly Parton, Stella Parton and Christian Slater.
     The International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky. honored him as a Bluegrass Legend in 2011. He was inducted in 2013 into the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. Franks’ musical stylings have been heard in 150 countries and by more than 145 million people. His musical career boasts 21 album releases, 21 singles, and over 200 recordings with various artists from various genres. The award-winning fiddler’s best selling release, "Handshakes and Smiles" was a top twenty Christian music seller. Many of his albums were among the top 30-bluegrass recordings of their release year. 
      The Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame member shared a top country vocal collaboration with Grand Ole Opry stars The Whites. In addition to his solo career, Franks is a former member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, Jim and Jesse's Virginia Boys and has performed with Jeff and Sheri Easter, The Lewis Family, the Marksmen Quartet, Elaine and Shorty, “Doc” Tommy Scott’s Last Real Old Time Medicine Show and Doodle and the Golden River Grass. 
      An award-winning journalist and columnist, Franks has authored eight books including his latest "Encouragers II : Walking with the Masters," and "Whittlin' and Fiddlin' My Own Way : The Violet Hensley Story."
 Franks shares his time with several non-profit organizations serving as the past president of the Catoosa Citizens for Literacy, which assists area residents in learning to read and pursuing a GED at its Catoosa County Learning Center. He is also president of the Share America Foundation, Inc. that provides the Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarship to musicians continuing the traditional music of Appalachia. He hosts a monthly concert series at the historic Ringgold Depot which helps fund the scholarships. (Photo: Copyright 2011, Randall Franks Music by Teryl Jackson)

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Working on a building

In the 1930s, the Great Depression was taking its toll across the United States. There were few if any jobs to be found. In the cities, thousands of people waited in soup lines or looked for other types of relief.

Not even the valley below the Gravelly Spur, nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, was safe from the effects. While life went on much as it had for decades, with the neighbors working their farms growing crops of corn and wheat and beets, there was no one who
could afford to buy their vegetables so farmers had to sell their wares at a loss.

For those who owned their land this was hard, but the difference did not mean the loss of their family home. For many it did.
Grandpa Bill was who some in the valley might consider a philanthropist. At the same time though he was an astute businessman who worked hard and invested what he earned wisely.

When the depression hit, he had managed to put back enough money to ride him through the tough times.
As neighbors were losing their farms because they could no longer pay mortgages, he would step in and offer to buy the farm trying to give the family enough for a brand new start or allow them to stay on if they desired.

If his family got new clothes or new shoes, he made sure all those in need around the valley got the same. He was not a rich man; he was just blessed to have the ability to save for that rainy day. Unfortunately, during the depression, there were a lot of rainy days.

Whenever it looked like a neighbor was in trouble, he would be there to see if there was anything his family could do to help.
After nearly 15 years together, he and Grandma Kitty had six children. Six more would come along before too long.

When Grandpa Bill decided that his growing family needed more room and a bigger house, he took on the project of building a new one. Back then you didn't go out
and buy one; you built it yourself. In his case the whole family pitched in from the youngest to the oldest, sawing boards, nailing down flooring and putting up the walls.

One thing about it, when it came time to raise the house Bill had no need to hire folks to help, even if he could have. After years of helping neighbors across the valley, they came with crosscut saws and hammers in hand. The women folk brought fried chicken, fresh green beans, sliced tomatoes and big old jugs of lemonade.
When it was done the six-room house with a front and back porch, fire place and a basement was a sight to behold in
the valley.

It kept his family housed for many years. I myself slept within its walls as a child and played in its yard. When last I saw it, it stood empty. It had been 20 years since Grandma Kitty had moved to their farm near town. As I walked through the door I could still feel the warmth as if it was coming from the old rock fireplace. I could see where my Grandma stood and cooked day after day on the old wood stove. Near the back door in the pantry was a count on an old piece of wallpaper of what canned goods were in the pantry — tomatoes, corn, beets and turnip greens.

Visiting there for me brought back memories of a time and place I think there will never be again. I couldn’t help picking up a few of the fallen stones from the chimney trying to carry with me the warmth which once emanated from its embers. Perhaps I hoped to hear the sounds of laughter and a family gathering after a hard day’s work on the front porch.

Although abandoned, the old house stands as a testament of what a good family and good neighbors can do when they put love and hard work into helping their fellow man.
Do you come running when you see your neighbor needing a helping hand? Perhaps if we all did there would be a lot less need in the world and a whole lot more helping.
An excerpt from “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes.”

If dust collects, find a broom

I covered the cloth in furniture polish and pushed it across the top of the wardrobe removing each object perched there and giving it a good going over.

When I was a boy, I always wondered what was on top of the wardrobe
because I couldn't see it. Now I wish I didn't.

Dust seems to find its way into every place in our homes. I found it this past weekend settled in places that I was amazed it could find its way into.

Those dust bunnies that seem to playfully dance across the floors ran from my vacuum as if they were in fear for their lives. But after much effort, I managed to once again make my room a haven from the sneezing brought on by these allergens.

I have often wondered where all this dust comes from. I could understand when we kept windows and doors open to let in the cooler air, that it would sneak in from outside on those molecules which
keeps us ticking.

Today though with almost every house closed up tight to keep in the air conditioning and heat, I am amazed at what sneaks through. I have filters on every vent yet it still gets in piling up underneath and
on top of everything that does not move.

Dust is similar to the things that we let into our lives when we pay little attention to the details as we rush through each and every day.

The words uttered by a love one, important to them, but seemingly a nuisance to us, that we appear not to hear or acknowledge - some dust piles up.

The unknown person we cut off in traffic who the goes home and yells at their child or worse yet in anger causes an accident - some dust piles up.

The task we are assigned at work that we half-heartedly complete thinking no one will notice its insufficiencies - some dust piles up.

We don't volunteer for that much needed charity project, though we have the time, and we have the right skills to make it happen - some dust piles up.

We don't spend time with our loved ones because we are simply too tired and need to relax watching the game or going out with our friends - some dust piles up.

We do things, we would prefer others not know about - some dust piles up.

Easily, just like a neglected room in the house, we can allow corners or our lives to become covered in small particles that pile up. Over time much like the whimsical dust bunnies playfully dancing across
the floor, these particles build up higher and higher.

Sometimes in life the piles eventually get so high they impact our relationships with others, create problems we cannot overcome, and leave us lying in the dirt gasping for breath.

It never hurts every now and again to take up a wide angled broom, turn on every light in your house, and sweep away all the dust, making things clean again. Put the problems and struggles in the dust
bin and close the lid. It is amazing how clearing the air will allow you to breathe easier!

I walk behind the mower, therefore I am

When I began my working experience, I always looked forward to the arrival of warm weather.

I could hear my wallet growing exponentially with each inch rise of the green, green grass of home.

Well, maybe more like the neighbors’ grass since I didn’t get paid for mowing our yard.

When I was about 10, I saved enough money from my allowance to buy a second hand push mower and then set out to find willing partners in my desire to become a millionaire before age 11. Well, that is a slight exaggeration, I was mainly hoping for
a few neighbors who would give me $10 every couple of weeks to mow their yards.

I amassed a pretty good list of clients which kept me busy as long as my allergies didn’t get the best of me.  Al Weidenmuller was the first I think agreeing to my business proposal, but I had to learn how to deal with raking magnolia leaves prior to each mowing; next was Ed Mikell – with more Magnolia leaves.

Then as I progressed down the street, I picked up the Neils, occasionally the Reeds, who had Zoysia and I learned to hate that type of grass because it was so hard to push. Also sometimes the Grosses.
The list grew overtime and eventually I had to enlist my father to help get me to and from in his truck as I press on beyond walking distance.

I found the time behind the push mower a time to think, dream, write songs along to the rhythm of the engine in harmony with hits hum.

As I look back, sometimes I wonder where that youthful exuberance went for the activity. I kept up the business until I finished college, even adding other landscaping tasks and working sometimes miles from my home. Eventually though, I slowly weened my customers off my services as I wanted to focus on finding my fit in the professional world after earning my degree.  Leaving me with just the task of mowing my own yard.

Through the years, I have liked the task less and less, giving me the understanding of why so many were willing to accept my eagerness to mow. My late mother use to draw great joy from hopping upon the riding mower and going full speed around the task as I weeded and pushed. She looked forward to it, possibly because it was something she could accomplish with her failing health and see a positive outcome.

Sometimes now I am even blessed by the kindness of a neighbor who will knock mine out with his. I am so happy when I see his kindness and as happy when I return the favor to him.

Sometimes I miss that young boy and young man who looked forward to the inch by inch progress of the green growth, as I sit on my back porch, I look more forward to the end of the growing season and often quip, I should do like Hollywood - just kill it and paint it green so it stays the same.

No matter where you are in your synergy with the mower and the grass, I hope you find your bliss with the endeavor and make joy in the fact that I walk behind (or ride upon) the mower, therefore I am.

The freedom of nothing left to prove

It seems so much of our life is spent working to prove something to someone else.

In ou
r early years we aspire to gain the approval of our parents or key mentors that wish to see us succeed in education, sports, music or whatever dream they hold for us or share with us.
Sometimes, it’s the approval of our peers in these same pursuits, or other less beneficial objectives of youthful exuberance. There are those who succeed here and those who fail.

Often these successes or failures
catapult our emotional make up forward setting some of the undertones for our life. I know in my case, the failures left an underlying “I’m going to show you” settled deep in my craw. I drew upon that hurt for many years pushing me to over achieve in many ways.

No matter the outcome of yo
uth we step forward hoping to once again prove to the world that we can be somebody – a success in work, a success in picking the right person to marry, a success in raising children, a success in whatever is next on the long list that we seek others’ approval to prop up our esteem, our importance, and our life.

Often we find ourselves in a cycle of
seeking others approval for the rest of our life.
In a conversation, I was having with a friend the other day, I said something that I had not even thought about. As I look back upon the path I have travelled, I am blessed to have had so many distinctive mentors to which I have tried to prove my value in some aspect of my professional or personal endeavors.
As I began thinking except in the form of being a creator of art in word, note and other form seeking the approval of those of you who buy my work and help me sustain the existence I enjoy, I thought I had no one left to prove anything to. Many of my key mentors who held those roles in my life have taken their final curtain calls.

As I relayed the story of a recent acting exper
ience, I heard the words come out of my mouth, that I really wanted someone to acknowledge I could do what I was aspiring to do.  I realized that I had not yet left behind that desire of proving something to someone. It was still buried inside me with one more youthful goal that had not been achieved in full but could still be accomplished if I tried hard enough.

There it is driving me forward. After years
of feeling I had nothing left to prove, which sometimes is not a bad place to be, once again, my blood is pumping with a desire, a hope, a goal that energizes my step.
So what is better, being to the point of nothing left to prove to anyone or having someone who inspires you to do more? I guess it depends on your own get up and go. I know one lady around 90 working on her doctorate. She has nothing to prove except to please her own soul.

If you are generally a self-starter, you p
robably move along OK, but every now and again, somebody may need to pour a little gasoline in your carburetor to get a spark and provide that forward momentum. If you need that in your life, I pray you have someone who provides that opportunity in love. Because in reality there are only two of us in this race to the finish line, us and the good Lord, who gives us a new chance every day to prove we are somebody serving, sharing and loving others for Him.

The honeysuckle pull

The sweet smell of honeysuckle lightly drifted over the back porch steps as I sit at the top of a thirty-step descent to the ground below. At three-years-old this was a surmountable achievement to navigate these without tumbling to the bottom. And in reality my mother was always watchfully standing by looking through the porch door as she ironed to make sure I did not rush beyond my abilities and go scampering down the steps.

At this time of year though it was like the smell of the honeysuckle was placed there to tempt me to do it. To go barreling down the stairs and rush towards the back fence where a long run of honeysuckles were draped. They sat there fluttering in the breeze that carried their aroma.

It was like they were calling out to me, hundreds of the them just wanting me to come and pick them, break off the end, and suck out the sweet between the petals of the blossom.

As I sat playing with my match box cars, the pull within me built, I watched cunningly like a convict on an outside work detail anxiously awaiting a distraction to take his guard’s glance away, so he could slip out of site.

The phone rings. There it is I think. Grabbing the chance, I begin the trek down the stairs and across the yard.

I move as swiftly as my little legs would carry me j
umping towards the bottom of the stairs to speed my descent and then carefully moving across the back yard using the trunks of the pecan trees as cover.

When I reached my goal I began pulling at the low hanging fruit and enjoying the rewards of my effort.
In my mind, I was only going to pull a few and then quickly move back into position before my mother returned from the call.

The sweetness took me away though and I kept pulling as the time slipped away until I heard “Randall Lee Franks” in a stern loud voice. I knew that I was in for it now. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, I had succumbed to the lure of the season and the desire within me had led my heart astray. Now it was time to pay the piper.

The trip back across the yard and up the stairs was not as gleeful. As I went I heard, “You have to the count of five. One. Two. Three…..”

I made it just in the knick of time. Who knows what would happen if I got the beyond five. It was bad enough when I made it in time.

“This is going to hurt me more than it does you,” she said as she introduced my backside to the palm of her hand. Before I knew it, I was standing on the back porch again playing with my matchbox cars feeling stupid for the mistake that I had made.

My mother had punished me, forgiven me, kissed me on the forehead and sent me back to play with the full knowledge that in all likelihood the experience would prevent me from straying the next time.
You know what? It worked.

Sure I did things again that would require some discipline, but I never again would succumb to the desire to traipse down the stairs out of mom’s reach doing something I was not suppose to be.

The sweet taste, a pleasing aroma, beautiful flowers, these are things that created a desire within me that pulled upon my better judgment. The experience that followed taught me that one does not need to succumb to these pulls upon our senses. In fact, the ability to choose not to walk down an attractive path can save great pain in life. I know it has for me. Do you smell that? There is nothing quite like the smell of honeysuckle….

The needle is stuck again

I have seen numerous members of my family and friends go through the
ups and downs of chronic illnesses, and watched as they struggled
with tasks which once they had performed with ease.

When I was just a child, volunteering in a local nursing home, I met
a woman who was around eighty at the time. Her name was Georgia
McMahan. Georgia endured many of the ailments of her fellow residents
but you would never know it.

From the moment you saw her, the smile that beamed from her face
uplifted you and gave you a spirit of glee that could carry you
through any task. Added to the smile were words of encouragement,
concern, and hope that poured from her very being.

While many of the folks that my efforts brought me in contact with were mired in what seem to be a ditch of despair, Georgia shined as if standing on a mountain top in a field of wild flowers.

Sometimes as I hear different people share similar issues again and again, I see in my mind the spinning turntable of my youth with a 33 1/3 rpm record going round and round. I remember when a particular
tune had been played too much or accidently scratched, sometimes the needle would find itself stuck repeating the same musical phrase over and over again.

It took me getting up, going to the record player, and bumping the needle's arm ever so gently to help it get out of the record's deep dark vinyl groove and move it musically on down the road.

Like that needle, it is so easy to get stuck in the scratches and wore out spaces of our lives and find it hard to move on. We spin around endlessly in the same spot, repeating the same actions, saying the same things only to find ourselves doing it over again.

Sometimes it takes someone to give us a gentle shove to realize that just a millimeter down our path we may find something better, and even if we don't, we are better for the trying.

As I think back on Georgia now, I sort of see her as that person in that place who God sent to gently nudge all those around her and give them a chance to stop being stuck in a groove that was wearing on them and everyone that could hear their song.

Are you serving as a catalyst to help yourself and others over the hump and find a smoother path?  If not, why not?

I can surely say the path that Georgia showed me as a child sure gives life a better spin than any others I have seen. I hope I can always take the spin that lets me seem as if I am on the mountain in
a field of wildflowers.

Loving beyond worldly measure

Some of the most difficult times to watch are when someone we know is trying to be there for a loved one when he or she is coming to the end of his or her journey. As I think back through the years, I remember watching my mother and father as they reached out to support friends or relatives in such times.

If the loved one was elsewhere, they would close up the business, and off they’d go for an undetermined amount of time to just be present. There to be called upon if needed for and extra pair of hands and legs to: run errands, do day-to-day tasks, cook, just simply sit, talk, laugh, console, remember, and pray.

I saw my mother and father do this time and time again. I know they drew no financial benefit from what they were doing. Their only requite was in knowing they were serving Christ with their actions.

Sometimes their presence reached beyond the caregivers to the patient and I know that brought a peace over each of them when they knew they comforted someone as they prepared to cross over.

As a small boy, I watched this routine many times as they said goodbye to former co-workers and neighbors, friends from throughout their lives, and of course, relatives of every description who impacted their lives.
I vaguely remember one period in my childhood when I felt I was spending more time in hospitals and funeral homes than at school but death comes at God’s appointment not on our timetables.

I am now at a similar point in time of my life as they were when they were saying goodbye to so many. So, I have become readily cognizant that like my folks, many of those I know are being called, some old, some young, but its seems more with every passing year.

As I reflect on what can I do to support their loved ones, I think back on the model that my parents gave me. I try to simply be present whenever possible to offer support and help them walk down the path I have already walked. I know that hope, comfort and strength should be offered along the path and I only pray that I can be an instrument to provide some aspect of these to all concerned along the final journey.

Most of us know someone who is facing this point in life, what are you doing to support he or she, and his or her circle of caregivers?

I encourage you to find some way to make a difference; you may be able to leave a message of love that changes a life forever and passes a legacy of love to your children as they see how you help others in a time in life we all must face.

Some flour, a broom and a lesson on being needed
As I look down at the flour on the floor and the straw of the broom as it meets the floor at the edge of heap, I swiftly move it through the white powder. In the motion, my mind sweeps over my memories and I find myself standing beside the table in my boyhood home.  

My Grandma Kitty is standing at the end of the broom sweeping flour that I had managed to spill as we were preparing biscuits and getting ready to bake a batch of cookies.

“We don’t have to mention this to anyone,” she said. “This will be our little secret.”

She moves the flour into the dustpan and she taps it on the edge of the trashcan.

“Where were we?” she said. “Yes, we need some lard to add to the flour.”

“Will Crisco do?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said.

I grabbed it from the cupboard beneath the phone behind the kitchen door and sat it on the table next to her.

So with her hands she worked up the biscuits dough and patted out the biscuits placing them on the baking sheet.

“Now, that’s done and we can concentrate on the  cookies for this afternoon,” she said.

Mother was hosting the neighborhood ladies and some friends for tea.
Grandma Kitty was making the only visit she ever made to our home. She had been sick dealing with a heart problem and had left the mountains to convalesce at our home.

Despite the fact, she had never lived in the city, she was thriving and enjoying the opportunity to participate in all the activities that kept our home hopping when I was a boy and my parents were in full swing with their work and volunteering in the community.

She found some new friends with our elderly neighbors and in just a short time, she and my Aunt Norma Jean were changing their routines once centered on the farm, the chickens, the cows, and the garden, to having the opportunity to go and do anything they wanted in the city.

After quite a while of rest, she still found comfort in being able to do. I think no matter what afflicts us, how old we are, or what challenges we face, we need the ability to give and feel useful in our talents.

Grandma Kitty had ran a farmhouse from her mid teens to he mid seventies, she could do it in her sleep, and though she had slowed, she still wanted to contribute even though she was in her daughter’s home.

Aunt Norma Jean had an intellectual disability from childhood and never lived outside of home while my grandparents were living. Though she faced many challenges, she was able to learn many functional tasks of working around the farm and numerous games that the children enjoyed playing along with her. During the visit to our home, she joined right in around the house helping to take some of the worries of day-to-day cleaning off mom and helping with anything needed for Grandma. She was excited like  I was in the new activities we chose to fill the days and meeting new people who rotated in and out of our lives on a daily basis.

As Grandma Kitty improved, she took the reins of a few activities in the kitchen, which brought her to this adventure in my memory. Between the mixing and the spilling flour, I found my Grandma in a way I had not before. I found a smile that was seldom seen in the stoic face of the Appalachian woman I knew. The burdens of the farm lifted off her back and her domain rather than endless acres were simply a 12 by 12 kitchen.

I don’t remember how long she stayed with us. Somewhere around a month, as best I recall, but eventually our time together would end and she would return to the farm. Though there were discussions of them coming to live with us permanently, the input of mother’s other siblings prevailed and that would not happen.

The day she left, that was a sad day for me, I loved having she and Norma Jean with us and as I look back, I think they both thrived and seemed so happy. While I learned so much in my times with them on the farm, I will never forget these moments of sharing our lives with them when as we baked my grandmother taught me how important it is to feel you contribute to the world each and every day.

Have you made your contribution today? Have your helped someone in your life feel useful and needed? Don’t miss a chance to uplift the life of someone you love! 

A country church where the world meets to worship
I reached over and turned off the 5:15 a.m. alarm. Rubbing my face with my hands, I wiped the sleep from my eyes as I threw back the covers and headed towards the bathroom to wash myself awake.

The hotel room looked like many others that I stay in week after week when I am on the road to share my music, so I finished getting ready, slipped into my suit and carried down my bags and instruments and loaded the car and made my way to the breakfast room by 6 a.m. to eat a bite before taking the twenty -minute drive to the church from Americus.
The country roads were still dark in rural Georgia as I drove the route. I knew it, I had performed in the town before but this was the first time for this church. The parking lot was filling up and George Williams was ahead of me with a flash light to direct me into a parking spot. George was giving out numbers to the arriving cars which they would use for seating in the church.

When doing a morning worship service at a church, it is not unusual to arrive at least two hours early to unload and set up, but on this day, I needed to be ready to go in the back door of the church around 7:30 a.m., so I got there even a little earlier and set my table up with my books, DVDS and CDs on the porch of the church. As I set up, folks began coming from their cars and lining up at the edge of the porch. I visited with folks who shared they had traveled from Michigan, Minnesota, and countries around the world. Some said they arrived at 5 a.m. to be sure they got a seat. Rather than stowing away all the empty boxes under the table, I left them accessible for a reason I will reveal soon.

So back to the car I went, picked up my instruments and sound equipment and headed for the back door where stood a neatly dressed man in a suit with a
communication device in his ear. He had a wand in his hand searching folks before they entered. My instrument cases and equipment boxes all had to be searched also, but additional suited men and a sniffing dog came to do that while not missing a box, compartment or hidden corner in their review. Once complete, I was ready to be wanded and once passed, bring everything into the sanctuary for set up.

By this time, it was about 7:40 and I was greeted by Jan Williams who gracefully coordinates everyone’s arrival and gets them where they need to go.
I tuned and staged my instruments set my equipment working with another volunteer and awaited the sound tech Bill for final checks closer to time.

Soon the volunteers were seating the guests, who had all be searched before entering, by their assigned numbers. Congregational seats were already designated and the guests were soon filling the remainder of the pews with overflow available in the fellowship hall with a large video monitor.

By 9 a.m. Jan had shifted gears to become the group’s guide through the experience they were about to share. With an arsenal of funny stories, the retired teacher guided them with what is expected of them, the dos and don’ts of what they should do, can’t do, will never do and before you turn around she has entertained us, informed us and allowed us time to study our Sunday School lesson.

Promptly at 9:50 the back doors of the Maranatha Baptist Church sanctuary opened and while she is finishing her presentation in steps Secret Service men in suits and the Sunday School teacher – former President Jimmy Carter. Carter spends a few minutes finding out where guests are from and then delves deeply into this week’s lesson on King Solomon – the Queen of Sheba.

Engaging the class, he probes for the interaction, thoughts and answers as he expertly walks the attendees literally from around the world through the lesson. While I had known Jimmy since childhood when my parents supported his campaign to become Georgia’s governor and later U.S. president, and later performed for he and his family, this was my first time to study God’s word under his tutorage.

It was an amazing experience that I will cherish among my Carter memories. As he drew his message to a close, I got up from the seat he would that he and former First Lady Carter would occupy to begin my final sound checks before beginning to share some of my funny stories and music at 10:52.

I shared comedy and music from my upcoming CD “Keep ‘Em Smilin’” before turning worship over to Pastor Jeremy Shoulta and we spent the next hour in a fast-paced mix of small town worship shifting flawlessly between my features, the pastor with his finely-tuned sermon “Why Sing” based on Colossians 3:12-17, and music leader Danny Ariail and the talents of organist Carol Anderson and pianist Jan Williams, who put on yet another hat with these talents, with four hymns.

The only flaws were in my own offerings but God even allowed me to turn those to His glory through comedy.
As we finished in worship, I was able to once again shake hands with both the Carters, a greater honor since that is now not the norm to protect their health. Reconnecting with an “old friend” as Jimmy said when he first saw me in class made this very special to me. I have been honored to include many of the presidents and first ladies among those who care about some aspect of my entertainment career, but the Carters have always been the closest, perhaps because we are all Georgians.

After I got my gear loaded, I was then invited to join the Carters at a wonderful reception sponsored by the National Park Service at the former Plains School where Jimmy received an award honoring his contributions to our national parks. National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis presented the award making him an honorary Park Ranger – hat and all.
During his presidency, Carter protected and designated acreage equal in area to the size of Minnesota into the National Park system.

I spent a little more time walking the streets of Plains, visiting the Main Street businesses such as the Plains Inn and Bobby Salter’s Plains Peanuts. Once again I stood where I had performed and long ago waved to cheering fans along its streets.

I am glad I got to once again visit Plains (http://www.plainsgeorgia.com/
), I hope you will take the opportunity to do the same. If you want to visit, Maranatha, visit http://www.mbcplains.org/.  While you are in the area, visit Andersonville (http://www.andersonvillegeorgia.com/) as well.

Happy Top

When I was just a little boy my parents instilled in me the importance of faith in God.

It started simple just by taking me to church on Sundays.
You know, it’s like sticking a book under your pillow when you go to bed
eventually through osmosis some of it is going to sink in, or at least that’s what I used to tell my parents about falling to sleep while studying.

However, with the Bible and faith in God, I really think for it to work best you need to open the book up every now and then.

Eventually the practice of going to church became more than a weekly tradition.

I remember when everything closed early on Wednesday and Sunday so folks could spend their time in church and with their families rather then traipsing through Wal-Mart or Hamilton Place Mall to pick up the latest gadgets from China, Korea or Japan.

In the valley of the Gravelly Spur, faith sometimes came with a price.

While the valley had its own church at which most everyone gathered, many looked for other opportunities to worship. Some would keep to themselves and find God in the land and the good book, while others would go out searching for God’s guidance.

Pearl was about nine-years-old when she decided that she had out-grown the teachings at Parham’s Chapel.

In those days there wasn’t a church on every corner like there is now, and the nearest church of a different color was on Happy Top.

Happy Top was a neighboring mountain upon which there had been a gathering of Christians.
Pearl had heard tales of the people shouting, singing, dancing in the spirit and speaking in tongues.

She decided she wanted to see what that was all about and snuck off one Sunday real early and headed down to Miss Lola’s.

Pearl liked to visit Miss Lola because she took time teaching her cooking, sharing tales and listening to the Grand Ole Opry and Jack Benny on the radio.

Miss Lola was a widow nearing 60 who lived down on a hill in the valley below the Gravelly Spur. She was a bit short and a little chunky.

As Pearl arrived that morning, her black hair was already properly combed to hang down on the shoulder of her black print dress. She already had her red coat on and was brushing off
her black hat with the small feather decoration on its side.

Miss Lola was talking to OdieWaddie, one of her pet squirrels that sat on the table near the hall mirror. OdieWaddie was chewing on some pecans Miss Lola had put out for him and his three brothers.
This morning the pair had it planned to walk to Happy Top. The trip across the mountain and up to the grace of Happy Top would take them four hours by foot through a heavily wooded mountain path.

The pair made the long trip, and as they arrived the services were already in progress. An older lady was standing in the aisle speaking in tongues while the preacher translated what she was saying from the pulpit.

Pearl and Miss Lola quietly found a seat in the back row. As the lady finished, the preacher fell into a sermon which would make even the toughest non-believers rise to their feet and move to the altar.

Following the service, the pair stayed overnight with some of the congregation and headed back again on foot the next morning.

Of course, all this time Pearl’s mother had been fuming because she had slipped off without telling them where she was doing.

When the pair arrived back in the valley, Miss Lola took Pearl home straight away and told Kitty where they had been and what Pearl had done.

Even though she had been out searching for God and had found another way of worship, she had a bit more searching to do.

This time her search was to find a switch upon which her faith was tried.

From the book "A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes"

The miracle of a migraine

With each passing year all of us have dates that we mark in our minds or hearts as important.

As I reach the end of August each year my thoughts reflect on the last days of my late father, Floyd, who passed on Aug. 30, 1987.

In his last days, Dad faced a fierce but short battle with lung cancer. Years of smoking had led him into a skirmish I know he did not want to face at the young age of 54.

On Aug. 29, I arose early to take a school exam. Upon returning from school my father asked me to drive him about 30 miles away to look at a used riding lawnmower.
It had been just six weeks since he had been diagnosed. They told him if treatments were successful he could have five years more to share with us. As with most people who undergo chemotherapy, he experienced a rough six weeks.
His once perfect hair, which as a child I had so many times seen him carefully take his black comb from his pocket and straighten the ridge at the front of his head, now was gone and his body was almost a shell of the strong man I had grown to love and depend on in so many ways.

Dad used the trip for the lawnmower to tell me how proud he was of me and shared some hopes for my future. We drove and I listened.

He said that he enjoyed the years of helping me as road manager as I traveled on the road playing music. He and Mom took care of the countless details which were needed out there that we never even knew about.
I wish I could remember every word, but I can’t.

Perhaps in many ways I was trying to block what he said because in my heart I knew this was his way of telling me goodbye.
I do not know how he knew his time was nearing. I later found out he had spent much of the previous day doing the same with my Mom. He was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my brother, who lived out of town, so he could also speak with him.

We checked out the mower and of course we did not buy it. We went on our way back to the house.
Upon returning, I prepared to leave for a show. I was performing at the annual Gospel Gold Festival with the Marksmen quartet in Dahlonega.
We did our show around 7 p.m., then I visited with folks around the record table signing a few autographs. The Florida Boys, one of my early TV heroes, were scheduled to perform at 10 p.m., so I was going to wait to see them for the first time.

As I sat at the table, I began to develop a tremendous migraine. As nausea set in, I knew I had to leave and make the two hour drive back home.
I turned to the Marksmen leader, Earle Wheeler, and said “I’ve got to go now, if I don’t I will not be able to make it.”

symptoms progressively got worse on the trip home but I pressed on through the darkness.
As I pulled onto our street, all the lights in my house were on. I rushed in to find nobody home. There was a note on the kitchen table from my mom, which said “Gone to Hospital.” On the phone were two urgent messages from her. I jumped in my truck and rushed to the hospital.

As I entered the hospital I was ushered quickly to the seventh floor. I saw a lady in the distance near the pay phone. I did not even recognize her as my mother. The weight of the circumstances were heavy on her shoulders.

My father insisted on spending his time not in a hospital room but in the patient’s day room.
I arrived just in time to share my father’s last hour before God called him home. Mom and I held his hands as he literally walked into that good night. And he did walk straight into God’s arms.
When I reached the door t
o our house earlier that evening, that headache and all the symptoms which had beckoned me home were gone.

I was sent a message to come home through God’s
If God had not placed upon me that affliction, I would have stayed and enjoyed the show and would have missed being with my Dad in those final moments.
That migraine was a miracle to me that helped me to experience what life and death is really about; it’s about the people we love and how we share our time together.

Uncle Dud Doolittle and the rickety

My great Uncle Dud Doolittle was an entrepreneur extraordinaire who operated the little general store at Flintville Crossroads.

Now Uncle Dud was as swift as could be. He stood about five-foot-five and was wiry as a well-strung bed frame.
His circular Ben Franklin spectacles offset his gray hair, and he was seldom seen outside his wool, dark green-striped suit and favorite gray beaver hat.

When working in the store, he also wore a black visor on his head that looked odd because it made his bald spot shine as he worked below the store’s light bulb.
With the variety of folks who made his store a regular place to be, he was always finding himself in unique and unusual situations.
Folks were always eager to give a hand, especially Cousin Clara who made a drop by the store a daily ritual.

It was a quiet Friday afternoon in July of 1948. Uncle Dud stood on a rickety wooden ladder putting a shipment of canned peaches in his favorite pyramid display. As he drew his task to close Cousin Clara came in saying, “Sure is hot out there.”
She noticed a can lying below the ladder so she walked over and stepped under the ladder to pick it up. As she raised up, she knocked over the ladder sending Uncle Dud to the floor.
"Doggoned it,” Dud said. “I told you before to stay away from that ladder. Don't you know it is bad luck to walk under a ladder?”

"I didn't know you were superstitious,” Clara said.
“About the only time I am superstitious is when somebody like you walks under a ladder and deliberately sends me to the ground,” he said.
"Do you believe it is seven years bad luck to break a mirror?” Clara asked.
“No sireee! My Uncle Corn Walter broke a mirror, and he did not have a bit of bad luck,” Dud said.
“Why didn't he?” Clara asked.

“He got bit by a rattlesnake and died two days later,” he said.
Throughout the conversation, Dud remained as he had landed on the floor — standing on his head.
“Why are you still like that?” she asked.
"When I stand on my head the blood rushes to my head, but when I stand on my feet the blood don't seem to rush to my feet,” Dud said. “I didn’t know why, so I wanted to just stay here and think about it a minute or two.”

“Why, that’s easy to figure out in your case Uncle Dud,” Clara said. “Blood can't go in to your feets because your feets are full, but it can go into your head cause your head's empty.”
(The characters of Uncle Dud Doolittle and Cousin Clara are the property of Peach Picked Publishing in association with Katona Publishing and are used by permission.)

A little country sound goin’ ‘round

Two of my favorites country performers Gene Watson and John Anderson are back with successes to share.

Gene Watson blends traditional, organic country that purists long for in his new album, Real.Country.Music., available across digital retailers. Watson’s 33rd studio album charted at No. 72 on Billboard Top Country Albums and is No. 1 on Amazon's best-selling classic country albums.

“I’m 72 and here I debuted on the charts at No. 72!” Watson said. “I’m real proud of this project and I’m just humbled fans are still buying my albums. That’s why we do this - it’s for the fans

After five decades in the music business and more than 75 charting singles, Watson delivers an authentic soulful album with Real.Country.Music., which he opens up about in the syndicated series “The Test Drive.”

“It’s exactly what we titled the album. These are songs that still have fiddle, steel guitar and, quite honestly, soul,” Watson said. “I’m not one to bash what those younger artists are doing, but I can tell you a lot of what you hear nowadays isn’t country. This is Real.Country.Music
Be sure to follow Gene Watson on Facebook or visit GeneWatsonMusic.com to order Real.Country.Music and purchase tickets to upcoming shows around the U.S. this year.
Country chart-topper John Anderson's new single "Magic Mama," penned by Merle Haggard just for Anderson, is now impacting radio.
“A couple of years ago I got a call from Merle saying that he had written a song with me in mind. I saw him about six months later and asked if he finished it,” Anderson said. “He pulled out a little piece of paper from his back pocket that had the lyrics on it, and he got a guitar and played it for me. That’s probably one of the greatest moments of my career, sitting there listening to Merle play that song that he had written for me.” He adds, “I was so pleased and I’m so thrilled to have a brand new Merle Haggard song on the latest cd. ‘Magic Mama,’ for me, will always be a treasure.”
The feel-good anthem is the latest single from Anderson’s critically acclaimed album, Goldmine, which was listed as one of Rolling Stone’s “40 Best Country Albums of 2015.”

“It was recorded in an excellent way. Just the way I pictured it,” Haggard said about the song.

The song showcases Anderson’s distinct vocals, which has made him one of the most sought-after artists in country music. Fans can catch Anderson on tour, where he will be performing “Magic Mama.” The country hit-maker will also be playing other tracks off of the Goldmine album, along with his signature hits like “Swingin’” and “Seminole Wind.”
For more information about his upcoming shows and products, visit johnanderson.com.

The one that got away

Grandma Kitty pulled her shiny case knife from the pocket of her blue apron. She reached down far to the bottom of the cane pole and cut it.
“This will make a good one,” she said, as she handed it to a three-year-old me. Then she cut one for herself.

As we walked to her favorite spot along Frogleg Creek, I could not help but take a peak within the small metal pail she had given me to carry. I knew it would have something good for us to eat, like some chocolate pie or a piece of coconut cake.

I almost fell down when as I looked beneath the lid, only to have my hopes dashed by a bucket of dirt filled with red wigglers.

“Granny, what are we going to have to eat,” I said. “I thought this was our food.”
“It is food, but it is for the fishes,” she said.
“You will have to wait till we find some berries or maybe a plum tree,” she said.
“What are we going to do with these poles?” I said.

“I am going to tie some string on them and you and I are going to spend the morning fishing,” she said.
As we walked along the trail, I noticed a stick lying across the trail. I rushed ahead to pick it up.
“Hold your horses, boy,” she said, as she took her cane pole and popped on the back of what I thought was a stick. The stick slithered away like a bolt of lightening.

“That’s your first rule of being in the mountains, son — be careful where you put your hands,” she said. “We share this space with all kinds of critters. Some don’t care much for sharing.”
As we reached the spot along the banks of the creek, she said. “This is it.”
Conveniently, a huge oak log had fallen there. Upon it we sat.

“All you need to do is put one of the wigglers on the safety pin and drop your line in the water like this,” she said.

She handed me the pole. Then she fixed the other one, carefully attaching the string, safety pin and adding the worm.

As we sat there side by side with our poles in the water, I know I probably asked her a million questions about the leaves, the trees and the little green frog which hopped on my shoe.

She patiently answered every one. We sat there for what seemed like hours enjoying the mountain breeze which flowed over the Gravelly Spur and along the Frogleg Creek.

“”Well, we better be getting back,” she said as she pulled her line out of the water.
Just as her pin touched the top of the cold waters, the biggest fish I ever saw jumped by her line.
“Granny, did you see that?” I said. “We can’t leave, we have not got that fish yet.”
“Yes, we did,” she said.

Close your eyes, “Can you see it?”
“Yes,” I said.

“Then you will carry that fish with you everywhere you go,” she said.
“So we did catch a fish,” I said. “Today, we caught the biggest fish of all.”
“We caught something much better,” she said. “We caught each other.”

From Rnndall Franks's book "A Mountain Pearl" from Peach Picked Publishing.

Activity helps strengthen each day

Click, click, click, click, emanates from my sneakers as I walk along the hiking path ever hopeful that with each passing mile I am a little more fit and well on my way to losing the few pounds I am seeking to shed.

After opening boxes, and pulling jeans up only to find they will not close and a crowbar will be needed to get them back off.

I know there are people all over the world who find this same dilemma as they strive to improve their health and possibly not have to pry into clothes that no longer fit.

The sun shines warm on my face and being in it seems to invigorate my sense of hope that there is more to do, more to try, more to achieve. I walk faster taking longer strides.

Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to the days when the pounds just slipped away easily.  Now they just seem to hang in the places I don’t want them to be.

I know that if I can just push ahead, keep walking, they will slowly and surely peel away. Well, maybe not peel away but hopefully the pounds will get less and less.

Click, click, click, click, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 50 minutes and still click, click, click. The perspiration from the sun now has my undershirt soaked, so I press on.

I can feel the pounds being beamed off me by the mythical Star Trek transporter. Well maybe not pounds, more like fractions of ounces, click, click, click, 60 minutes. My, I am getting hungry, let’s see what can I eat? I am almost back to the car. Maybe a salad, no, perhaps protein, after exercise you need protein. A grilled chicken sandwich with a side of fries would be good.

With the bread and the fries, there comes those ounces back as Scotty pulls the switch on the transporter putting them back somewhere else.

My legs feel stronger but I know that I must bring my walk to a close soon, though I want to walk more.

Tomorrow is another day. More ounces to shave. Don’t give up, make a difference in your life, get up and get active.

Spring forward with hope

As the first yellow daffodil lifts the dirt from the formally cold ground. Its green blades protect it as it finds its way rising towards the warmth of the sun. As God paints a splash of colors alongside a variety of beautiful colors against the rolling green hills, I feel a sense of hope. The warmth shines upon my skin warming the depth of my soul as I soak in the blue of the Spring sky.

The depth of the gray of winter begins to fade away from my heart as I seem to be frozen in the moment of time. If only for this moment I revel in the miracles of God’s creation, as hope seems to reach up from the earth through the bottom of my feet reaching throughout my cells.

Amazing how Spring serves as a marker of the renewal of the world each year. With each one, creation gets a fresh coat of colors to enliven all that surrounds us. It also has the ability to enliven our souls if we only seek to share in His gifts.

For myself, I begin with short walks along the creek side, hikes in the mountains, and drives in the country. The rebirth of the greens and the white blooms of the dogwood tree seem to recharge me and allow the grayness to fade away.

Maybe it’s my mountain roots, those pioneer yearnings to head out to new horizons. I remember the stories of my grandfather’s desire even nearing 50 wishing to load up in a Conestoga wagon and head west but my grandmother’s roots could not be pulled from the mountain soil. I could just envision that with them traveling alongside the early automobiles headed westward. Her roots probably saved them from enduring some of the toughest periods of the America’s Great Depression in unchartered territories for them.

With bits of them both in me sometimes I want to stay and other times I want to go. Like my ancestors who stood on the shores of the old world looking toward America, there was hope for the new, hope for the generations to come, hope for the opportunities that could be revealed in the adventure.

That is what Spring represents, an opportunity for new adventures in the expanse of God’s beautiful creation. So, get up, get out, enjoy the world, and find the adventure that God has in store for you. He has painted something special for you, now go and find it

Glistening from the heat

I watched the white sheers wave gently back and forth in the windows of the living room as the breeze eased its way into the house.

It was an extraordinarily hot day. By mid morning the coolness gained in the previous night had given way to the demands of the sun making everyone glisten in anticipation for the afternoon that would change all of us into a cross between a drenched cat and a swimmer climbing out of the deep spot in the
creek. That is except for the woman folk whose glistening would be fought off by the thick application of scented powder on face, arms, and torso.

When the heat was so extreme, I often thought the ladies in my neighborhood carried a powder puff with them everywhere they went.

When there was no breeze and absolutely no chance of finding relief by a stroll by the creek of sitting in the shade of a massive oak, the ladies would gather up the young folks and load us into station wagons and away we would be whisked for an afternoon of looking and feeling at Woolworth’s, JC Penney’s or Richs which all had the tremendous advancement of air conditioning. If we were lucky that might materialize into a visit to an air conditioned theater to watch a movie carrying us through the heat of the day so that by suppertime, we would be able to gather in the breeze on the porch or in the yards.

It is amazing how the heat never really bothered me much as a kid. I knew it was hot but that was just the way it was and we did what we wanted to creating adventures around the neighborhood. We built forts out of down tree limbs, gathered pine cones storing them up for massive battles between each other. 

We ran, rode our bicycles, played baseball, football, kick ball, dodge ball, whatever brought us together and created activities allowing us to engage with one another. I was at a disadvantage in much of these activities due to my health but despite limitations, I tried allowing me to win sometimes, fail sometimes and build the initial experiences upon which my life would be built.

The street lights would come on and after supper, most of the kids would gather in the street for a game of baseball as the parents and neighbors sat in chairs on porches, stoops or under trees cheering us on as we gave it our all.

I can still see myself wearing a pumpkin colored short sleeve shirt half buttoned up with burgundy colored shorts standing in the middle of the street playing outfielder with my older brother’s baseball give. I would try to catch the next pop fly that Bruce, Jennifer, Charlotte, Art or Bubba might hit and then coming up to bat only to be out as I rounded the man hole cover, which was second base, as Kay or Charles tagged me.

Eventually as the darkness enveloped us, we each would hear the calling home of one of our parents and we would give in, relinquishing another day to powers beyond our control. As we reached the doors, we looked like we had a bath and often smelled like we needed one.
For many of us that was shortly our next stop before a few minutes of TV and then off to bed until the sun summoned
our rise again as it sent its rays through the holes in the window sheers making a funny design on our faces and pillow.

The smell of bacon cooking would draw us to wipe the sleep from our eyes, hurriedly throw on some clothes and move us towards the kitchen to begin another odyssey of adventure among our family and friends. The sound of the slamming of the screen door, and the heat of the day often beckons such sweet memories that are seared into my memory when life was not as comfortable but each day held such opportunities.

Birds in the wind

I am walking down a dark lane lined with trees which have shed their leaves. I see in the trees one bird it seems to cower and shiver in the wind. Its feathers seem to be worn with time. It moves closer to the trunk of the tree as the wind blows harder.

As I watched I wondered why the bird didn’t simply spread its wings and soar along with the wind. Then as I looked more closely I noticed the bird had four legs. Beneath its wing was another little bird that it was protecting.

I don’t know the reason for the protection but I found it comforting to see the caring of one of God’s creatures for another.

Any of us can find ourselves out on a limb feeling beaten down by the winds of life.

Our choices sometimes lead us there seemingly placing us in peril. Even when we are in those places, there are those like the larger bird who are brave enough to come out there with us on the limb and inch us back close to the tree helping make our environs safer.

We can allow the help and find a better path or remain out there as the storm weathers against us sometimes to our own detriment.

Stepping closer to the tree, to the strength of its roots, we can hold on, rely on its strength, supported by those who reach out to help, and once the storm is passed, we can stop shivering beneath others wings and stand up on our own.

Each day is a new opportunity to move closer to the path that God has in store for our lives.
We might even be able to spread our wings and fly on our own. Anything is possible when we rely upon God’s mercy, strength and grace.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

There are not many instances that we today have an application for such a question.

 Tunnels are few and far in between in our day-to-day travels unless you live where subways or mountain tunnels are the norm.

I can remember as a boy walking through an abandoned railroad tunnel and becoming so very aware at how dark the tunnel is once you leave the light of the opening. With each step I found my trip even more tenuous stumbling over fallen bricks and rocks. Even as I lay flat on my stomach with my face in the dirt, I remember trying to look forward to see if there was light at the end of the tunnel.

That darkness only becomes deeper the further you walk away from the light but if you walk far enough down the tunnel assuming that it is not a dead end you will ev
entually once again come to the light and find an opportunity to leave the darkness behind.

It’s a safe bet that every human being on earth has metaphorically endured this same experience in some part of their life. Whether by their own choices or by the actions of another, one feels like you are walking down that darkened path that seems to lead only to darker shadows.

You stumble, you fall, you get up and you try harder to make your way through the darkness only to repeat the process again when you once again can’t find the way out on your own. Then eventually in the distance the Light shines through and you race towards it hopeful that you will never find yourself in such a place again.

Once in the Light though, it is easy to forget the darkness and the trials endured and once again stumble away from the Light into the place you never wanted to be again. What is amazing though is the Light is always there to shine on a path to give us the opportunity to come through the trial.

Once through, if we rely totally on the Light, maybe we will never need to seek the light at the end of tunnel again.

Stella is a Mountain Songbird

One of my favorite music and acting friends is my former film co-star Stella Parton.

She enjoyed in recent months the opportunity to be depicted as a youth and to portray another character - "Corla Bass" in the NBC movie “Coat of Many Colors” highlighting the experiences of the Appalachian family highlighted in her sister’s hit song of the same name.

To start off 2016, Stella is honoring her iconic sister with Mountain Songbird: A Sister’s Tribute, an album of re-recorded songs previously made famous by Dolly. Mountain Songbird: A Sister’s Tribute also includes a new duet Dolly and Stella co-wrote together, titled “More Power to Ya.” The new album project coincides with an upcomiing tour of the United Kingdom in February and March.
“I have been asked many times throughout my career to record an entire album of her music, but in my heart and mind, I never felt I could ever do her music or performances justice,” Stella said. “So in the end, while making the decision to record this tribute album of eleven of my favorites, I decided to sing the story songs because they resonated with me the most.”
Among the other songs are “Mountain Songbird,” “In the Good Old Days,” “Jolene,” “Blackie Kentucky,” “Coat of Many Colors,” “Bargain Store,” “Steady as the Rain,” “Down from Dover,” “Just Because I'm a Woman,” “The Flame,” “Seeker,” and “I Will Always Love You.”

It’s no coincidence Stella released Mountain Songbird: A Sister’s Tribute on her sister’s birthday, Jan. 19.

“I wanted this to come out on her special day,” she said. “Dolly has always been my favorite songwriter, although I grew up in a family chocked full of them. It was indeed a daunting task to choose eleven of my favorite songs from a catalog so vast.
“I have chosen to sing them as sincerely and respectfully as possible and I hope you can hear that in my humble and honest approach to my sister's beautiful songs,” she said. “I am pleased and honored to share my sister tribute.”

Her sister Dolly said her sister was there from the beginning of her career.
“She always complimented and encouraged me in my writing,” she said “I admire and respect the way that she chose to do my songs. She stayed true to the original spirit in which I wrote them and yet found a way to make them her own.
“I really love how they turned out and I think you will, too,” she said. “It's been a personal source of joy to be able to hear this loving tribute from one sister to another and just to be able to work that closely with her.
Dolly said she is especially proud of the song we wrote together "More Power To Ya".

Stella is a great singer, entertainer and songwriter. All the more reason I am so proud she decided to do a tribute CD of my songs,” Dolly said. “I hope you will enjoy this CD as much as we've enjoyed working on it for you.”
Visit Stellaparton.com for more information. Both Stella and Dolly are included in my most recent book Encouragers II: Walking with the Masters.

Alone in a crowd

As I scanned the banquet hall filled wall to wall with people, I saw many faces that struck a memory of meeting in the past.

Through the years with some of them, I had even become what might be described as friends. People with whom I had shared common experiences, told stories and found the opportunity to know more about.

Smiles on faces beamed outwardly, hands extended with greetings reached out to others, and laughter filled the room.

I am describing an experience not uncommon, that most folks can relate to, whether the banquet hall hosts a business event or a church gathering.

Most of time in these circumstances, each of us manages to find our place relating with others as our paths cross in the food line or when the activities dictate.

We congregate closest to those with whom we feel safe in most instances passing the light conversations of the day - weather, news topics, or area concerns.

We seldom find it safe enough though to lower whichever mask we are wearing for the event impeding our ability to create stronger relationships.

A missed opportunity to walk closer with others rather than be alone in a sense in a crowd.
I have often left such situations feeling greater loneliness than when I arrived.

My soul feels no fuller by aiding someone to lift a burden they were carrying or no lighter by feeling comfortable enough to share one of my own.

It's sad that we spend so much of our time here on earth fostering opportunities that do not really bring hope and encouragement into our lives.

It is no wonder, that we see so many faces that reflect a sense of sadness when we can catch them off guard.

Next time you find yourself alone in a crowd, look around, I bet you can find someone else there that is in the same situation, so find a way to bridge the void that isolates you and take the steps that could change your life

Warmth of the heart
The cold wind blew hard against the window pane as I pulled the covers up above my head.

I could barely turn over with the heaviness of the quilts which seemed a foot thick above me.

The back room of Grandma Kitty’s house seemed a long way from the warmth of the stove in the living room.

At least the bedroom was off the kitchen, so when the sounds of rolling dough for biscuits and coffee percolating, most likely, would wake me from slumber before the house filled with the smell of bacon and eggs.

I would lift the covers up so the smells would fill in the gap as I watched my breath raise as I breathed in the smell of breakfast.

My grandmother’s cathead biscuits baking in the oven filled my room with enough aroma to evoke a desire to jump out of bed. Usually that effort would take a time or two. I would muster the strength to throw back the covers only to feel my bare feet hitting the cold floor, just to jump back in pulling the hand sewn quilts of patchwork back over my head.

Soon I would garner the courage to jump out of bed again finding my socks and shoes slipping them on after I pulled up my britches, then I would pull back the curtain to see Grandma Kitty making her way around the kitchen. In the corner sat the butter churn that the day before I wore out my arm on making the butter that we would put on the cathead biscuits.

Grandma was pouring the grease off the bacon and sausage getting ready to stir up some sawmill gravy.
I stood quietly watching the artistry of someone who had for 60 plus years raised before dawn to prepare a meal to keep a family working. Though there wasn’t as much to do and fewer to do it, she still went through the ritual with the joy that the eating would bring to the family as they gathered around the table.

Eventually, my quiet vantage point would catch her eye as she turned to place some meats on the table and she would beckon me towards her and I would hug her and then find myself consumed with helping until the others joined us as she called everyone from slumber.

It is amazing how the cold outside seemed to disappear around the warmth of her table and the love that found its way seated around it. I pray you find the warmth of your heart as the cold wind blows on your window pane.

The mirror reflects only what it sees
Many of us find ourselves each morning at least for a few minutes peering into a silver backed piece of glass which reflects back towards us the mirror image of ourselves.
We see the teeth as we brush, the pores of our skin as we wash our face, shave, and/or trim the hairs which grew out since the day before. Finally, we put each hair left on top of our head in place with a comb or a brush.
Then off we go to dress and then we pop back in for one last look before we run off to meet the day and all that entails.
As the day progresses, we will stop by other bathrooms like a racing car making a pit stop, and once again we will have a moment to peer into the silver backed glass to see if all is still in its proper place.

These are rituals that we have been taught passed from parents, siblings, friends and they are common to most every human being who has access to such an opportunity.
As a child, at amusement parks and fairs, I can remember going through a house of mirrors which distorts the mirror image to make us look short or tall, skinny or fat, oddly shaped in all forms and sizes. It was always a laugh to see yourself or your companions going through the metamorphosis of illusions that the fun house mirrors reflected.

The present day mirror was brought to us from the work of German chemist Justus von Liebig about 180 years ago. For nearly 200 years, human beings found the looking glass a means of self-discovery.
I have often heard people say something to the effect of ‘You won’t be able to look at yourself in the morning.’ I really wonder how many of us take that to heart.

Have you ever really looked in a mirror and tried to see beyond the superficial image of yourself staring back? Have you tried to look down into your own heart, soul and mind to see if what is reflected upon that image is something you really want to see or you want others to see of you?
We all have blemishes, scars, warts, sores and sometimes wounds that can be seen when we look close enough that we want to cover over and hid from the outside world. No matter how much concealer that is used, they eventually once again rise to the surface trying to once again draw your or someone else’s attention.

I guess no matter how hard we try, we must learn to live with those and become comfortable in our own skin allowing all those imperfections not to bother us or anyone else. God did not create vessels of perfection in human beings.
He created people who have the opportunity to strive for perfection despite the brokenness within their lives and their souls.

The image in the mirror will never be perfect, to strive for that is an exercise in vanity but to use the mirror to step closer to internal perfection might be an interesting step into the looking glass.

Darkness is overcome by the Light

Inside the depths sometimes there emerges evil from the darkness.

This is often the image seen as we sit watching a film or TV show as we sit on the edge of our seats, sometimes even screaming at the character – don’t go in there!

But inevitably, to push the story along, the character presses on often to his/her own dismay or demise.
I wish that these moments were left to the world of fiction but sadly there is a reality that finds each of us at some point in our lives when the darkness envelopes the circumstances of our lives.

The darkness can be brought on by others or us, or a mixture of both. They can also simply be the reflection of things within you not working the way they were intended. Chemical imbalances, mental illness, addictions are all part of that mix.

These moments can push a person on much like the character in the movie. That can entail them doing things that they would never do otherwise.

I wish I could say in my life that I have not seen such moments, but I have seen my family struggle with the impact of the darkness.

The only thing in science that will chase away the dark is the light.
In my belief, the greatest light emanates from God’s love shared through Jesus Christ.
He is always there waiting to shine upon even when we wish to cover our own lives in the darkness. There is no deep cavern of shame, regret or guilt that any of us can enter that His light cannot find where we are. All we have to do is ask.

The asking isn’t always easy, but one thing for sure, beyond the asking comes the hardest part of the work to push the darkness away each and every time it creeps into our environs. He will walk along with us providing the Light even when we are weak. He will cry with us when we fail, fall short and are flat on the ground begging for him to take us back.

The greatest gift is He never let us go, He was there hoping for us to prevail. While we may not do it each and every time, He is still there.

He is why so many are also still there and did not completely give up to the darkness.

I pray that you always find the Light shining upon your path.

Do you have gremlins in your house?

You know those little critters that move things around when you are not looking.

Mine will leave a drawer open so when I get up in the middle of the night I never seem to miss it. There is nothing like a few vocal exclamation points filling the air as you stumble through the house in the middle of the night.

Their favorite adventure is moving my keys even though I have a regular place where I put them when I come in. I was preparing to leave the other day and sure enough went to the key repository and those little critters had moved them, I looked everywhere and I finally just walked where I was going.

Guess what, when I returned there they were in plain sight.

I have another set of keys I use for another purpose that I have searched endlessly for with no avail. But I am not going to let them get the upper hand. I will find them… You hear me you little critters, I am going to find them!

I hope you will forgive me my little tirade towards those creatures that seem to move folders, little sheets of paper and other items of importance. I know they do not exist.

Ever since I was a child, I just always jokingly blamed them for those little inconveniences.
I have found that through the years following a system of putting things away properly when finishing with them as the best way to overcome those momentary losses.

By in large by doing this I have avoided the majority of such search endeavors except when I have done something in haste leaving a trail of mislaid items in my wake.

Although I will say this, I do believe car keys or house keys are missing when you get ready to leave for a reason beyond just the enjoyment of some snickering gremlin.

I believe that the delay is part of God’s plan and thus simply make it part of the experience anticipating that the delay has made my path safer in that day.

How many times have you experienced something like this to only come upon an accident just ahead of you?
I know I have done that and as I prayed for the victim and emergency workers aiding them, I thanked God for the delay I faced.

So I will endeavor to be more fastidious with my efforts to put things back where they go, close drawers, and cabinet doors, and not to rush through life missing the little things that help to make everyday flow smoothly.

I hope you will do the same, and just in case it helps to keep a large broom and one those butterfly nets with a long handle leaning up in the kitchen just to let those little critters know you mean business if they keep up their mischief.

Brighter days are just ahead

A new year brings the promise of starting over. Many folks see it as a point to make a resolution to complete or change things in their life. Perhaps coming out of the Christmas season gives them hope to make their lives better.

In reality, each new day brings us the chance to improve our lives.
What have you wanted to do? We can start that landscaping project we always wanted to do by researching, formulating a plan and making sure we are going to be adding the new plants at the most optimum time for successful growth.

We can visit with people we care about for whom we never seem to find the time. Perhaps there is an old friend from school, a friend or family member that you feel disconnected with. A short phone call or just visit might help to bring new life to that relationship.
Remember that long list of repairs on the “Honey do” list for quite a while. I am sure there are an abundance of those items that can be found inside the house away from the cold. There’s nothing like a feeling of accomplishment to help improve the way you feel. Maybe you can get them done and if you are afraid you might miss something on television, they make those things in all sizes, I bet you can find one that can be plugged in nearby the place where you are working so you can listen as you work.

We do not need special days like New Year’s to re-create ourselves but they do give us a moment to pause and think about what things we could do everyday to make our lives and surroundings into what we really want them to be.

Life is an experience in constant growth and learning. When we stop such growth we are stuck in a rut. I once heard a wise man say a rut is the closest thing to a grave.

Now I’m not advocating you go out and buy a Ferrari and spend a $1,000 for a luxurious day at a Palm Springs spa. While I am sure all of us might enjoy driving through town in one of those luxurious autos waving to all those we wish to impress or feeling so pampered after we leave the spa, we all have to live within our means and meet our responsibilities, that is what being an adult is all about. There are people depending on us and often times we have to pass on those types of dreams to make sure there is food on the table, heat in the house, and a roof over our heads.

Limits of budget and responsibility do not preclude people from improving themselves and learning throughout life.

Improvements can be little things. We do not have to take huge steps; many baby steps are still going in the right direction.

It may be as simple as getting up off the couch and taking a leisurely walk with your love ones around the block; turning off the television and reading a good book to your children; finding out more about the community you live in and as a family enjoying all the sites, sounds, and activities including entertainment, politics, clubs, volunteer organizations and church activities.

Surprise the people in your life with something they would not expect you do. Do something that you generally depend on another family member or employee to do. Give them a break, a day or an hour or two off to do something they enjoy while you look after their responsibilities.

A New Year’s resolution to lose weight, quit smoking or take better care of yourself through exercise are important worthy goals for anyone who truly wishes to attain them but many times these are such huge tasks we can fall short and slip back into our previous habits becoming discouraged. The point is we keep trying even though we might falter. It is the small victories that eventually lead to winning the war.

Sometimes it is the simple things that really make a difference in life. What will be remembered by those we encounter? Have we really done our very best with every task today?

Life can grow on you if you let it but the funny thing is it helps to be a participant. After you grow up though, you have to be your own coach and cheerleader, otherwise, you won’t know when to get off the sidelines and get in the game.

What’s great is God put us in the driver’s seat; it is up to us to put the car in gear and drive. Just remember the goal is not to see how many folks we can run over rather it’s to see how many we can give a lift along the way.

The new stove

The family had already gathered in the valley below the Gravelly Spur for an unbelievable feast of ham garnished with pineapple, green beans in a dish surrounded by little pearl onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, and dandelion greens seasoned with just the right amount of pepper and fresh churned butter.

The dinner was topped off with one of Grandma Kitty’s pumpkin pies.

She carefully prepared each item in her cast iron pots over the open flames of the hearth. She never complained about all the work that was involved in keeping the fire stoked and having to keep such close tabs on each item to make sure they were just right.

The days following Thanksgiving always meant there would be some leftovers for the family to enjoy in a variety of creations that she would lovingly craft to give the family the illusion that they were not eating the same dishes each meal.

For years, she toiled to make the three meals a day for her ever-growing family. One day when the family went to town that summer, Grandpa Bill noticed her lingering in Ollison’s General Store around a catalog with pictures of some new wood cooking stoves.

Although she never said a word, he saw in her eyes the desire she had for a wrought iron Home Comfort stove.

He decided then and there that she would have one. So he made an arrangement with Mr. Ollison to buy the stove, paying a bit at a time through the rest of the year to have it arrive just before Christmas.

Grandpa Bill had managed to keep the purchase a secret from the entire family. He even arranged for everyone to be gone to visit Cousin Winfrey Small so that when Mr. Ollison arrived in his wagon on Dec. 23, with a tarp covering the contents, no one could see.

Mr. Ollison and Grandpa Bill unloaded the stove and set it in the kitchen. He had worked all morning preparing the stove pipe so he could get it hooked up and have it ready when she returned.

He was making the last adjustment as he heard the wagon pull up in the yard. He quickly pulled a bit of red ribbon into a bow and set it in the middle of the stove. He sat down quietly at the table with his newspaper in his hand as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

As the kids rushed into the house, they did not even notice the large stove in the kitchen until Grandma Kitty dropped the pail she was carrying with her Christmas cookies inside. She stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, her hand over her mouth, holding back a flood of tears as she saw the stove.

The sound of the pail hitting the floor brought all the kids to the kitchen, and they began hovering around the stove.

Pearl said, “Did Santa come early?”

Grandpa Bill said, “Yes, he said he would be back in a couple of days, but he thought your mother might like to have her present early.”

Grandma Kitty had moved quietly to her kitchen chair, sitting down slowly, never taking her eyes off the stove except to wipe away the tears of joy flowing down her cheek.

Pearl said, “Why are you so sad about getting a present?”

“I’m not sad dear, I am just so happy I could not help crying,” she said.

“So you like the new stove?” she asked.

“I have never gotten a better present from Santa in my life,” she said.
She rose and gave Grandpa Bill a big hug.

“Thank you for telling Santa what I wanted,” she said.

“If he could, he would give you so much more,” he said.

“I have everything I need right here,” she said, as she gathered all her children close and hugged them tightly

From the book "A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes" by Randall Franks and used by permission.

Political service, not for the faint of heart
I like so many others have wondered why are there not more good people serving politically.

I come from a family that has always been politically active. As a child, I helped to go door to door as my mother encouraged people to vote for a particular candidate she and my father were supporting. I have helped hand out buttons, stickers and everything in between.

In many communities, it is the voters themselves who are often doing the campaigning for the candidates, because it is simply an improbability for the candidate to reach each and every person’s home.

After years of service to my community being a watchdog reporting upon the actions of government as a journalist, I decided to run for council in my hometown. I was honored to earn the trust and respect of the voters reflected through three elections.

I have worked with some talented, thoughtful people who have an earnest desire to see the community thrive in business development and prosper while fostering a sense of community among the residents and business owners.

Through community comes strength. Strength and success in business and in everyday pursuits and activities help to make the quality of life something to entice people and business to come to your town.

These things are often achieved through a process crafted by our founders called representative government. This process is sometimes referred to as a sausage factory. After seeing it made, you are not as inclined to want to eat the sausage. Local elected officials who take what they are elected to do seriously, study through accredited classes; learn their charter, the laws, the ordinances and the rules under which they govern. They seek to know what other similar cities are doing and often try to apply new ideas and approaches based on what they learn.

The purpose of local representative government is not to create harmony among the elected officials, it is to create a forum for the free exchange of ideas that streamline the operation of government and thus provide better more economical services to its residents and businesses while helping to create economic growth to pay for those services.

In most cases, I have seen local elected officials think through every action they take, the issues have been deliberated, financial aspects have been reviewed down to the penny sometimes for months and even years, and then when approved, it moves forward.

If an elected official is trying to do something, one person does not do it; it is approved by the majority and then becomes the objective of all as the policy of the local government. You can bet your boots in most situations, even if some or a majority of elected officials oppose a motion, there is likely merit to what is trying to be accomplished.

Sadly, in many communities there are those who do not wish to see a community thrive, in fact, they desire to see people, initiatives or actions fail.

Armed with a misconception, an untruth taken out of context, or sometimes simply a lie about an action or an inaction that has been reported inaccurately in media or by another authority of note, people proceed to spread the word about an elected or appointed official’s actions without knowing, asking or understanding the purpose or intent.

We all do this; often our frustration is aimed at people we will likely never meet, and have no way to watch the sausage being made at the national and state level.

In many cases the real problem is with all of us. We do not take the time to know what a wonderful opportunity our forefathers gave us with representative government. We do not take the time to go and watch the sausage being made even when it is produced in our own back yard. We would often rather stand at a distance, shake our heads, and spread a negative thought or deed rather than finding something good to share about what is happening in our community.

That is why more good people do not serve. Elected officials have to put on emotional armor as they hear and see their positive intentions twisted and turned for another’s political benefit or someone’s personal satisfaction. No matter how well intentioned, eventually the battle will grow heavy on those who have the kindest hearts and they will grow weary and go home. They leave behind the politicians whose armor is strong enough to weather the attacks and often their heart is hardened through the process.

I would rather see my community represented by elected officials with a heart to serve, with open minds willing to listen, learn, and share their knowledge and experiences while sitting around the table. But until we as people change our
approach to representative government and realize that government is what we make it, especially at the local level, we will continue to chase away many of the best candidates and all they have to offer.

"Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors" Airs December 10 at 8 p.m. CST / 9 p.m. ET on NBC
Probably one of my favorite Dolly Parton songs of all time is her 1971  “Coat of Many Colors.” It evokes images of my own families’ Appalachian roots and I am pleased to share with you will be able to watch the movie based on the song Dec. 10.

I am sure there won't be a dry eye in many American living rooms when "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors" airs December 10 on NBC.

“My favorite song that I’ve ever written tells a true story from my childhood about a little coat that my mama made for me,” Parton said.
Parton’s mother initially sewed the the jacket as a blanket for her unborn baby, but she reworked the piece for her youngest daughter.

The upcoming primetime special, which showcases Jennifer Nettles in the role of Parton's mother, Avie, was inspired by a series of events Parton endured when she was 9 years old growing up in East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.

The family-oriented, faith-based movie profiles the loss of Parton’s unborn sibling, the family struggles to keep it together while grieving and the bullying the 9-year-old endured when other children criticized the quilted coated.

As one of the executive producers, Parton herself was very hands on in the making of the film – especially when it came to casting her family members.

"She told me, 'I loved your little eyes," says Lind of auditioning in front of Parton.
Jennifer Nettles plays Parton's mom, Avie Lee Parton, and Ricky Schroder plays her dad, Robert Lee Parton.

“Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors” is the first in a series of television movies developed by Parton that are expected to be released through 2016.

I am honored to know and have co-starred with Dolly and I am thankful that she is using her star power to create positive uplifting family entertainment with stories that share a lesson in life for those young and old.
“Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors” airs Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. CST / 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

For more information on Dolly Parton please visit:

Crystal Gayle honored with some Wabash recognitions
Throughout my career in music, one of my favorite singers is Crystal Gayle. Crystal’s legacy continues to have a lasting impact in her childhood hometown with the unveiling of a theater named in her honor and an exhibit profiling her iconic career.

The Wabash County Historical Museum in Wabash, Indiana named its theater the “Crystal Gayle Theater” to honor her influence and connection to the small town in Northern Indiana.

“It’s so humbling to return to Wabash and feel the love from the community. They always welcome me home with open arms. I’m so proud to be here and be part of this incredible museum,” Gayle said.

The youngest of eight children, including Loretta Lynn, Gayle was born Brenda Gail Webb in Paintsville, Kentucky. As the coal mines closed, her family left the area to find work and moved to Wabash, Indiana.
The updated exhibit features a replica of Gayle’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1986 American usic Award for Favorite Female Country Vocalist, “When I Dream” gold album, tour gown and tour book, 2005 Indiana Living Legend Award along with various pictures and memorabilia.

“Our community has a strong affection for Crystal Gayle and her connection to many local families and this will be a great event for them to reconnect with her and enjoy the museum,” said Mitch Figert, Executive Director.

The expanded exhibit will allow the museum to further highlight Crystal Gayle’s accomplishments which will also include memorabilia to be added inside the theater.

Crystal Gayle is an award-winning country music living legend whose reign in the music business includes 20 number one country hits, six albums certified Gold by the RIAA and the first female artist in country music history to reach Platinum sales with her 1977 album, We Must Believe in Magic. Her her 1977 country-pop crossover hit song, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” became an iconic staple and solidified her as one of the top female vocalists during the 1970s and 1980s. Her list of platinum and gold was to be matched only by her awards and accolades. CMA's "Female Vocalist of the Year," for two consecutive years, she became a Grammy Award Winner for "Best Female Vocal Performance," thanks to her beloved "Brown Eyes" - a song that she today admits she has never grown tired of singing. Crystal swept the Academy of Country Music Awards for three of their "Top Female Vocalist" statuettes. She is the recipient of three "American Music Awards," voted by the nation as America's "Favorite Female Artist."

Perhaps nothing sums up Crystal's career achievements as well as being awarded with a star on the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame in October 2009. Also famous for her nearly floor-length hair, she was voted one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world by People Magazine in 1983. She is the younger sister (by 19 years) of singer Loretta Lynn, and a distant cousin of singer Patty Loveless. Gayle also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame near Lynn's star. Crystal is making appearances in December in Minn., Iowa and Mo., check her website for more information, crystalgayle.com.

A leaf of strength
The leaf swayed hanging on to the lonely limb tightly.  As if, to say to the world “I am not done and you are not going to make me fall down no matter what you throw at me.” All of its fellow leaves had given up the ghost blowing in whatever direction the wind desired them to go. Some managed to find a resting place at the foot of the majestic oak tree to spend the winter becoming the woodland blanket upon which the rain would fall before soaking into the ground.

My Grandad sat quietly on the porch staring at the leaf bobbing in the wind.

He had come back from a tremendous stroke that took the wind from his earthly sails. The man who seemed would not bend to nothing could now barely lift himself from the chair in which he sat.

On this fall day though spying that lone leaf seemed to fortify him more than anything that anyone had to bolster his spirits. He stared endlessly watching its fight and as the fight struggled on from one day to two, to a week, his personal strength seemed to grow.

He managed each day no matter how the wind blew or what elements forced themselves past the mountain homestead, he walked himself out to the porch to spend some time sitting, later leaning against the porch post, and then standing as upright as the years would allow. He was always looking off towards the oak tree and its one hold out to the whims of the world saying nothing that revealed the focus of his internal thoughts.

As the winter came on strong, he would rise up and with his cane in hand, he eventually walked off the porch and towards that mighty oak tree going as far as he felt comfortable then returning to the porch. With each trip he got closer to his goal and he soon reached the tree looking straight up towards the hanging leaf.

There were a few times he would take one hand lean against the trunk of the tree and with the other lift his cane as far as he could trying to hit the leaf that centered his focus. He was just shy of reaching it and he would eventually tire and return to the warmth of the fireplace inside.

The light covering of snow did not even dissuade him to making his trek to the oak and returning home and with each passing day he grew stronger.
By the first signs of spring, he no longer limited his walking to just the tree and he was taken on even more of the activities that made his day sing around the farm.

It was on a spring day that the tree had refilled all its limbs and the greenery made it full and majestic. Grandad could no longer see the lone leaf from the porch so he decided to make another trek to see what had become of his now old companion who he fought alongside against the world’s elements.

As he reached the tree, he looked upon the ground to find it to no avail so he turned his gaze upward and amongst the lush green leaves there it was – one brown leaf still holding on to its place amidst the green youngsters around it.

Grandad’s face seemed to change as his face fought back the effects of the stroke moved to show a smile.

He raised his cane, almost in a sense of a salute to the lone leaf, then turned and walked down the trail towards the valley store. Emboldened by the lone leaf, he was figuring to hold on to his place in the world and stand as the man he was inside, no matter what nature threw against him.

We need more people in this world who work to overcome what they face finding the inner strength that God placed within each of His creations.

T.G. Sheppard brings together some duets with friends
It’s been nearly 13 years since country legend T.G. Sheppard released his last commercial album, and now he is back and better than ever with Legendary Friends & Country Duets. The star-studded project features collaborations with icons like George Jones, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, Lorrie Morgan and many more. Legendary Friends & Country Duets, released via Cleopatra Records, is available on iTunes, Amazon, and in music retailers nationwide.

“It was such an honor to have this multitude of iconic artists joining me on this new album. Every singer always looks for validation in their career, and after recording with these legends and friends, I have finally been validated,” said T.G. Sheppard. “Singing with each artist was truly a magical moment in my career.”
The late George Jones collaborates with Sheppard on “It’s a Man Thing,” which happens to be one of The Possum’s final studio sessions.

 “This album has so much sentimental value to me,” said Nancy Jones. George’s widow. “Not only because T.G. was a dear friend to George, but also because 'It's a Man Thing' is one of George's last recordings. It's a beautiful project.”

Recently releasing a single to country radio, the smooth track of “100% Chance of Pain,” features vocal contributions from B.J. Thomas and Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmy Fortune. Each artist brings their own signature style to the song, making it one of the standout tracks from Legendary Friends & Country Duets.

“When T.G. asked me to record on this project, I was honored,” Fortune said. “The song had an Orbison-feel to it, and when I found out that it would feature BJ Thomas, I was even more excited.”

Sheppard, who is credited with 21 number one hits, is featured in the latest online syndicated video series, “The Test Drive,” where T.G. cruises through historic Music Row and talks about his brand new album in the must-see episode.

T.G. Sheppard has always had an unstoppable passion for music. This passion along with 21 number one hits and being ranked as one of the top artists in all of country music, has made him one of the most popular live performers on tour today. It's only natural with a show chock full of chart topping hits like "Last Cheaters Waltz", "I Loved 'Em Everyone"," Do You Wanna Go To Heaven", and "Party Time" that TG has developed a reputation as a solid performer who delivers exactly what audiences want. All this and more combined with a steadfast dedication to entertainment has truly made him one of the great Legends in country music.

T.G. Sheppard's ardor for life and unceasing energy allow him to fulfill his unrelenting passion for music. "Legendary Friends & Country Duets" is the latest means by which he shares that passion with the rest of us. For more information, visit tgsheppard.com.

A mouse in the house

In the valley below the Gravelly Spur sometimes life was lost in the living, but at times circumstances would change that for a while.

Billy Thurston lived in a sharecropper’s house with his mother Alma and father Fred. Although Billy was just eight-years-old, he already had performed almost every task it took to help run the farm and help his parents scrape a meager living on shares.

He plowed and planted, tended to animals, and walked a few paces behind his father as they hunted to add a bit of meat to the table.

Each fall when it came time to cut the corn and tie the stalks together, in the mist the stands of corn stalks looked as if an army had left the field and propped its rifles there.

At this time of year an army of mice which made the field a home would tend to run for the cover of whatever building they could find.

This year Billy’s father told him it would be his job to place the mouse traps around the house and keep them clean of whatever they might catch.

Being mindful of his father, he went about his chore and kept each trap ready and waiting for the next offensive.

One afternoon one of the traps did not hold a dead mouse but one whose leg was caught and broken.

Billy did not have the heart to end the little one’s life. So, he cut some small branches and took a few threads from the ragged area of his overalls and tied upon the mouse’s leg a splint.

Billy carefully carried the gray field mouse to the edge of the cornfield which lay between their house and my Grandma Kitty’s and released it.

After a couple of days, my Grandma Kitty was sweeping off the front porch. As she turned and opened the screen door, in scurried a little mouse which she promptly followed with broom in hand. After quite a chase around the old butcher block table, she finally had the little critter cornered.

As she was about to bring the broom down with all her might, she saw the splint upon its leg. The sight of that little splint reminded her that every life has value no matter in what form it is carried. She could not bring herself to end this one.

She reached down, picked the animal up and carried it to the edge of the corn field to release it.

Twice the little mouse got a reprieve. The yellow barn cat Grover was not so kind-hearted.

A story from the book "A Mountain Pearl" Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes by Randall Franks. Order Yours in time for Christmas on the Store Page.

New music from Jimmy Fortune and ICM Awards
Country Music Hall of Famer and Statler Brothers member, Jimmy Fortune, continues his successful career as a solo artist with the release of his latest project, Hits & Hymns, available for purchase now in Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® locations as well as music retailers nationwide. Hits & Hymns is also available online at iTunes, Amazon.

The star-studded project, released via Gaither Music Group, features collaborations with Vince Gill, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dailey & Vincent, Ricky Skaggs and more.

“Teaming up with Bill Gaither has been one of the best moves that I’ve made since beginning my solo career,” said a humble Jimmy Fortune. He adds, “Ben Isaacs did a wonderful job producing this. I hope everyone has a chance to check this out, and it will inspire people the way that it has inspired me.”

Since his start with the iconic Statler Brothers more than 33 years ago, Fortune has transitioned from group member to a successful solo artist. Fortune, who is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame, looks to build on this momentum with the release of his brand new album Hits & Hymns.

The highly anticipated album is accompanied by a Bill Gaither-hosted TV special and is currently airing on various television networks and channels throughout November (check local listings).

Included in the Jimmy Fortune special are performances off of the new album, including the #1 Billboard self-penned tracks “Elizabeth” and “Too Much on My Heart,” as well as some of Fortune’s favorite gospel songs like “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” with special vocal appearances by Dailey & Vincent and Bill Gaither on select songs.

Fans looking to make this special a part of their DVD collection can purchase it at ChristianBook.com, SpringSide.com and FamilyChristian.com, or pick up the CD + DVD combo at JimmyFortune.com.

The 21st Annual ICM Faith, Family & Country™ Awards were held on Oct. 22nd at Cornerstone Nashville.  Bluegrass duo, The Roys took home “Inspirational Bluegrass” Award for the fifth consecutive year.

“To say it was an honor to capture our 5th ICM Bluegrass Artist award in a row is an understatement, said Lee Roy. “We are truly Blessed and honored to have our peers pat us on the back and say your music matters! God is GREAT!!”

The popular Bluegrassers were previously honored with the following ICM Awards: 2014, 2013,2012 & 2011 Bluegrass Artist of the Year; 2012 #1 Inspirational Country Single ("I Wonder What God's Thinking"), and the 2010 & 2009 Duo of the Year.

Winners also included T. Graham Brown for “Mainstream Country Male Artist,” Joey+Rory for “Mainstream Country Duo or Group” and Carrie Underwood, who received the most awards of the evening for “Mainstream Country Female Artist,” “Mainstream Song” and “Video of the Year” for her inspirational hit “Something in the Water.” Inspirational Country winners included Steve Richard for “Entertainer of the Year,” Chuck Hancock, who claimed both “Songwriter” and “Song of the Year,” Wade Hammond for “Inspirational Male Artist” and Kali Rose “Inspirational Female Artist” of the year. Slated for broadcast on the The Family Channel, Heartland, NRB Network, TCT Networks, The Worship Network, Lifestyle/CTN Network and Total Living Network in the upcoming months. For more information on the annual awards show, please visit: faithfamilycountry.com. 

Karen Peck wins Dove Award, Oaks launch Christmas show

Karen Peck and New River won the Southern Gospel Album of the Year for their newest CD titled Pray Now. The Award was presented at the 46th Annual GMA Dove Awards Ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee on October 13th. Wayne Haun produced the project.

"We are deeply honored and thankful,” Karen said. “Pray Now is a very special album that resonates where we have been spiritually this year. Each song is a statement of faith and encouragement. The Lord sent these songs at the right time in our ministry and we are grateful that they are drawing people to Him. We are blessed beyond measure."

The title cut of the album "Pray Now" hit the number one spot on numerous charts and echoes the feelings of so many people dealing with life's struggles. This is the fourth Dove Award win for the group.

"We know what we do is a calling and it’s about seeing people saved and hearts touched and turned toward the Lord, she said. “That’s the number one goal, but nights like tonight was the Lord encouraging us. Next year will mark the 25th anniversary that Susan and I started this group and we’re so thankful we’re still out here after all these years.”

To learn more about Karen Peck and New River go to http://www.karenpeckandnewriver.com or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Peck-and-New-River.

Grammy Award-winning music legends, The Oak Ridge Boys, will once again celebrate the Christmas season with timeless hits and holiday classics on their 26th Annual Christmas Night Out Tour, coming to a city near you. The almost two-hour holiday show transports concertgoers into Winter Wonderland with fan-favorite hits and Christmas tunes new and old, beautiful sets, falling snow—and even a special visit from Santa Claus himself.

“There is nothing quite like an Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show. This tour has become an Oak Ridge Boys tradition and is a tremendous experience for the entire family. With a revamped stage and a fresh approach, this year’s show will be a dynamic mix of music representing every aspect of Christmas from presents and snow, to romance and Santa Claus, on to the real meaning of the season celebrating the birth of Jesus,” said The Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall.

Each year The Oak Ridge Boys’ Christmas tour plays to packed houses across America. The 2015 Christmas Night Out Tour will take the group to more than two-dozen cities in nineteen states, from the East to West Coast, mid-November through December 23.

The group — Richard Sterban, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Joe Bonsall — have earned prestigious membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame (2015 Inductees) and Grand Ole Opry, among other designations. Known worldwide as one of recording history’s most extraordinary musical successes, they have charted single after single and album after album, celebrating over 41 million records sold, two double-platinum albums, and more than 30 Top 10 hits, including No. 1 chart-toppers “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” “Thank God For Kids,” “American Made,” among dozens more.

The tour begins Nov. 17 in Branson, Mo. For more information on The Oak Ridge Boys, please visit oakridgeboys.com.



Pat Boone and Ray Stevens have a brand some brand new adventures ahead

Pat Boone is expanding his horizons by recording his first ever R&B album. And not one to do things in a small way, he was thrilled to work with some of the genre’s biggest superstars of all time! He has powerful duets with James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind & Fire, The Four Tops, and KC & The Sunshine Band plus members of Kool & the Gang, and Sister Sledge and even Hip Hop legend Kool Moe Dee. By joining with Cleopatra Records, this stunning album now has national distribution is available to his legion of fans worldwide.

"This classic, ultimate party record fulfills a career long desire to record with many of my most favorite artists, bringing me back full circle to my first R&B million sellers,” Boone said.

With a career that has spanned over sixty years, Pat Boone has achieved an amazing number of accomplishments. He has been a successful singer, composer, actor, writer, television personality, motivational speaker, and spokesman. He is one of rock & roll’s best-selling artists and has sold over 45 million albums, had 38 Top 40 hits, and appeared in more than 12 Hollywood films. He still holds the Billboard record for charting consecutive weeks by spending 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with one or more song each week. He has hosted his own TV show and has written a number of books including 2 million - plus sellers that have been translated into many languages. Currently, he continues to perform for an audience of millions on both TV and radio, has just completed 2 films. Find the project on Amazon, iTunes and at cleorecs.com.

Singer, songwriter, entertainer and comedian Ray Stevens will soon add national television talk show host to his career highlights. The Grammy Award-winning comedy and country music legend announced the premiere of Ray Stevens' Nashville, a regular/weekly 30-minute music show debuting on RFD-TV on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 8:30 Eastern.

"I'm so excited about my new show on RFD-TV!" Stevens said. "It's music from some of Nashville's best writers, artists and musicians and it's full of comedy. Hey, music and comedy... it's what I do and I'm having a ball doing it!"

From the heart of Nashville at the legendary funnyman's Music Row television studio, Ray Stevens' Nashville will spotlight some of country music's most well-known singers and songwriters. The first season will feature appearances and performances from many of Stevens' friends including Larry Gatlin, Bobby Bare, Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Aaron Tippin, Darryl Worley, Steve Wariner, John Conlee, T.G. Sheppard and more.

Of course, Ray Stevens' Nashville wouldn't be complete without performances by the show's iconic host. Throughout the show's first season, Stevens, backed by his ace house band, will perform many of his classic hit songs including "Gitarzan," "The Streak," "Everything Is Beautiful," "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" and more.

 “I hope lots of folks tune in and watch,” he said. “This show is fun to do and I know it’s going to be fun to watch.  I get to perform with great musicians and recording artists and get to introduce America to a side of Nashville they may have never seen or known about.”

For more information visit 
www.raystevens.com or his official Facebook Page.

Steve Martin, the Earls, Vincent and Larry's Diner

I was honored to stand just off stage a few feet to the right of American Icon Steve Martin Oct. 1 as he accepted his IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award. Directing such a moment will be one of my greatest memories. He described his career of playing banjo as an "Oh No" each and everytime someone else innovated a style or technique he needed to learn. The honor is more than appropriate considering that his career has shined a light upon bluegrass legends and current talents. Alongside him receiving the same award were banjo stylist Murphy Henry, banjo stylist Alison Brown, the late Grand Ole Opry star Bashful Brother Oswald, and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.

The Earls of Leicester took top IBMA honors with awards for Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, Instrumental Group, Male Vocalist - Shawn Camp, Dobro Player - Jerry Douglas, and Gospel Recorded Performance  of the Year -
“Who Will Sing For Me.”

Rhonda Vincent won her eighth "Female Vocalist of the Year" award.

"Wow...it was a great night, sitting around with family at the lake, listening to the IBMA Awards via the internet, and hearing my name called as Female Vocalist of the Year!" says Rhonda Vincent. "We will be celebrating this weekend in Branson, Missouri at the Starlite Theater," Rhonda continues. "It's been an incredible year, and I am so honored to work with amazing musicians, and travel the world playing the music we love!"  "Special thanks to our friends in the World of Bluegrass who shared their votes for this award!"
Vincent is also gearing up for her brand new holiday album, Christmas Time, set for release on Oct. 30.

RFD-TV welcomes new episodes of "Larry’s Country Diner" this October including country music stars Ronnie Reno, Moe Bandy, Exile, Randy Owen. As the show’s creator and host, Larry Black, progresses in his recovery from a serious ATV accident, additional guests like Bill Anderson, Larry Gatlin, Randy Owen and David Ball will fill in for him in typical Larry’s Country Diner fashion.

Airtimes are Saturday nights at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT, and Sundays at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT on RFD-TV.

Jeannie Seely marks 48 years with the Opry

Grand Ole Opry friend Jeannie Seely celebrated her 48th Anniversary with the show recently.
“The Grand Ole Opry has been a part of my life since I first heard it
at four years old,” she said. “For many years it seemed like an impossible dream to even attend it, let alone be on it. After I started seriously pursuing my career, I made it my goal to, someday, somehow, become a member of the Opry!”

As she arriv
ed at the Grand Ole Opry on her anniversary night, she made her way to her regular dressing room, number 16, the Minnie Pearl room. She changed from her street clothes and comfortable shoes to her sparkly stage clothes and not quite so comfortable high-heeled boots. She touched up her make-up and made sure her hair was just right. She warmed up with the musicians to decide which songs she would perform that night.

While Jeannie considers it a privilege and an honor to perform any night at the Grand Ole Opry, this night was even more special and she wanted to perform a song that is very special to her. “Don’t Touch Me” was her first number one song, and even won her a Grammy award in March 1967 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

“Although I was of course thrilled with a hit record, once “Don’t Touch Me” topped the charts, I started lobbying to be invited as a guest with membership in the back of my mind. Nothing in my career means more than being a part of that wonderful ‘family’,” she said. “To me, next to the Hall of Fame, your name on that membership wall signifies, more than anything else, your place in Country Music History.”

Jeannie took the stage to the roar of an enthusiastic audience. Not only did she give her
distinctive moving performance on her songs, but also she was fervent in her duties as segment host and gave generous, welcoming introductions to the guest artists in her segment.

“Celebrating my 48th Anniversary reminds me how fast time flies when you are having a wonderful time,” she said. “ I feel my role now is to carry on the tradition as best I can with a helpful eye on the new talent I’m privileged to introduce who will carry this marvelous American treasure into the future for many
more generations to enjoy.”

“Actually I am amazed that my career is still going after all this time,“ said Jeannie. “Every year I have thought it would probably be the last time I would be asked to do...whatever! I never take for granted how fortunate I’ve been to see my dreams come true, and to make a living doing what I love most of all. There’s simply no way I can express my gratitude for the acceptance I continue to receive from the industry, my peers, and country music fans.”

Jeannie Seely is in the sixth decade of her entertainment ca
reer that began
hen she was 11 years old singing on a WMGW morning radio show. She has had success as an actress, author, songwriter, and singer, but mostly she is known as being an amazing entertainer. She has always been known as an individualist. She’s been credited with changing the image of female country performers, and her infectious humor has always been one of her trademarks. When not out touring she can be found hosting and performing at the Opry on any given weekend that she is in town. On a personal note, I always enjoyed the opportunities to share the stage in concert with her through the years. We enjoyed some pleasant visits. To learn more about her career, visit jeannieseely.com. 

A fiddler, a singer and a banjo stylist

As part of the country music family I have been blessed to do shows with these country friends. They are all adding to the fall colors with their latest musical sounds and shows.

Fiddle legend Charlie Daniels brings his career spanning over 50 years full circle with Live At Billy Bob's Texas CD and DVD releasing on October 16, 2015.

"When you record LIVE, you need to ignore the recording equipment and play for the people and that big old rowdy crowd,” Daniels said. “At Billy Bob's Texas, that was easy to do."

Having recorded several live albums in his career, including his latest, military-centered 2007 release Live From Iraq, he recorded on February 20, 2015, this 14-track project. The CD, which allows listeners to feel like a part of the boisterous live audience, and DVD, featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes interview footage with Daniels, will be available in stores nationwide and on iTunes, Amazon and everywhere digital music is sold.

Best known for their fiery fiddle-ridden No. 1 country hit, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," which was featured in the 1980 American western drama featuring John Travolta, Urban Cowboy, The Charlie Daniels Band celebrates a decorated career of multiple GRAMMY, CMA, ACM and GMA Awards, and has exceeded 20 million in sales led by his six multi-platinum albums.

On Live At Billy Bob's Texas, Daniels' characteristic Southern attitude and Wild West influences shine through on LIVE, full band versions of country favorites like "Southern Boy," "Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Long Haired Country Boy," "(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks," and 9 others, which make up the highly-anticipated October release.
Visit charliedaniels.com.

Country singer Daryle Singletary has joined forces with Campbell Soups to do a special series of shows around the country at Wal-Marts.

“I have more fun at these shows because I know I am singing for folks that appreciate steel guitars, fiddle and lyrics that paint a picture,” Singletary said. “I’m so happy that Campbell’s recognizes that my music speaks to their customers.”

With influences like Keith Whitley and Randy Travis, the word that bests describes the singing style of Daryle Singletary is authentic. The hard-core traditional stylist will soon entertain loyal country fans in 10 cities on the Campbell’s Soup Country Concert Tour.

Daryle’s new album There’s Still A Little Country Left: “The songs on the collection are as straightforward as the title, with three tunes in particular that lament the dearth of traditional country on the radio: the title tune, “Too Late To Save the World” and the up-front “Get Out Of My Country.” It’s Daryle’s first new record in nearly five years.

The free shows will take place in select Wal-Mart parking lots across the country and is sponsored by Campbell’s, makers of America’s favorite soups.
Visit darylesingletary.net.

Country and Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley plans to mark his 70-year milestone playing a special show in Manassas, Va. on October 9 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. His Grandson, Dove-award winner Nathan Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will join him for this momentous occasion.

"I've been very fortunate to have been performing for so long and still can make a living at it. A lot of artists don't last 10 years let alone 70 years,” Stanley said. "I still love to travel and perform. It's my life, I don't know what else I would do if I couldn't travel. I'm very thankful to the good Lord for his many blessings."

After seven decades, three Grammy awards and an induction into the Grand Ole Opry, Dr. Ralph Stanley has no intention on slowing down. Visit drralphstanleymusic.com. 

Rex Allen, Jr reflects on a lifetime of achievement

Some of my favorite country music memories relate to events on which I appeared with a host of country music entertainers.

One of my favorite people to find myself in the company of is Rex Allen, Jr. He was a favorite singer of mine and I always enjoyed the visits we shared. I always enjoyed seeing him as a regular on The Statler Brothers. Show on The Nashville Network in the and Yesteryear.

Of course, he was part of an established show business
family as the son of Western star Rex Allen.

The son, who in his own right is an inductee into the Western Music Association Hall of Fame, was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement award by the National Traditional Country Music Association. The prestigious ceremony took place at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa where Allen received a standing ovation and was hosted by founder and lover of all traditional music, Robert Everhart.

 “My heart was full as I looked into the crowd and took it all in,” Allen, Jr. said. “ I’m proud of my roots and I’m thankful there are still so many that appreciate wonderful classic Country & Western music.”

Allen is touring this fall and can be found on several shows including an upcoming TV appearance on the new show hosted by my longtime friend Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame DJ and radio host Keith Bilbrey.

Tune in for an intimate, in-depth interview on the all-new series, “Reflections,” on Sept. 28 on Heartland TV,The Family Channel, Angel Two (DISH TV), AMG-TV, Country TV (New Zealand) and DTC Cable. Check your local listings for times in your area.

Country music fans will love this new intimate sit-down series as it reveals unknown details about the artist, their music and their videos.

Fans will also be able to catch Rex at Rex Allen Days in Willcox, Ariz., the event named in honor of his late father.
Allen will make several community appearances throughout the week for residents This fine gentleman and dedicated artist will also be appearing at his annual “Question & Answer” session to be conducted in Windmill Park on Oct. 3rd at 5 PM where he will then sing his rendition of the National Anthem for the Rex Allen Days Rodeo. Rex Allen Jr. will take part in the annual Parade and will perform two shows on Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Willcox Historic Theater. Show times are 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. with all seats reserved. To order tickets to Rex’s shows, call 520-254-2101.

“Rex Allen Days features many of my dad’s favorite events like rodeos, a parade and of course music. We fit in everything we can! So if fans or friends see me out and taking part in the weekend activities, please by all means stop and say hello,” Allen said. “This is my favorite weekend of the year and how lucky am I that I get to celebrate and honor my dad with friends that loved him, too!”

Allen, Jr. was born in Chicago, IL Singing in his signature smooth, rich style he had hits with "Goodbye," "I'm Gettin’ Good At Missing You (Soitare)," "Lonely Street,” "Two Less Lonely People,” "Lonely Street", "With Love", "If I Fell in Love With You", "It's Over,” "Drink it Down, Lady,” "Cup of Tea" (a duet with Margo Smith) and others. He is also the writer and performer of the alternate state anthem of Arizona, titled "I Love You Arizona.”  Following in his father’s footsteps with his speaking voice heard in Disney films, Rex Jr. was the narrator of Jim Carrey movie Me, Myself And Irene; and writer, director and actor in the stage show Gone Country, a Las Vegas hit of the late '90s. 

Don Williams, Dailey and Vincent and more…

Internationally loved country music icon, Don Williams, is set to bring his hits to fans old and new when he kicks off his 2015 Tour in September.

“Mercy, the fans have kept us going for years, and I am glad to share the music with them once again,” Williams said.

Williams’ most recent album was 2014’s Reflections, which earned the singer his highest peak on the Country Album chart in three decades. Known as “The Gentle Giant,” Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Williams first came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the folk group The Pozo-Seco Singers. The trio recorded several hit records, with the biggest being “Time.” By 1971, Williams had gone solo, and had signed a publishing deal with Jack Clement. The Hall of Fame producer was so taken with Don’s style that he offered him a recording contract with his JMI Records in 1972. Early hits included “Atta Way To Go” and “Come Early Morning,” as well as “We Should Be Together,” which became his first Billboard top ten hit from 1974. He then moved to ABC / Dot (Later MCA), where the hits increased. Tracks such as “Rake and Ramblin’ Man,” “Tulsa Time,” and “Nobody But You”
helped to make him one of the most-played artists on Country Radio in
the 1970s and 1980s. He took home the Male Vocalist of the Year trophy from the Country Music Association in 1978, and notched his biggest hit in 1981 with “I Believe In You,” which also crossed over to the top-30 on the Hot 100.

He has placed 52 singles in the top-40 on the Country charts in the United States, with 17 going all the way to the top spot. Williams was a member of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1980s, and appeared in the films W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings and Smokey & The Bandit II with Burt Reynolds.

Check and see if Don is coming your way by visiting www.Don-Williams.com
Bluegrass talents Dailey and Vincent will launch their new variety television show brought to viewers on RFD-TV by Springer Mountain Farms,

"Words cannot describe the joy and humbleness we feel as we officially announce our first national TV Show, "The Dailey & Vincent Show." Sponsored by our friends at Springer Mountain Farms, we have been conceptualizing this show for years and it brings happy tears to our eyes now that our dreams have come true,” were the sentiments shared by hosts Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent.

Among the many guests set to appear Vince Gill, Steve Wariner, Flatt Lonesome, The Cleverlys, Dan Tyminski, Jimmy Fortune, Karen Staley, Bill Anderson, Gus Arrendale, The Oak Ridge Boys, Aaron Tippin, Emily West, and David Phelps.
The show includes music, guest artists, interviews, food, and humor.
The first thirteen episodes began airing Saturday Nights at 9:30 PM ET / 8:30 PM CT on RFD-TV Sept. 5.

My long time friend, one of bluegrass music's most respected bands, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, has a new CD available entitled It's About Tyme, featuring Russell Moore (guitar), Wayne Benson (mandolin), Justen Haynes (fiddle), Keith McKinnon (banjo) and Blake Johnson (bass). The project is a wonderful mix of the sound which has places Russell as a bluegrass favorite male vocalist for fans for year.

It's About Tyme is now available via iTunes, music stores or visit www.iiirdtymeout.com.

The cowboy way

I have found in recent years with the barren desert I find on television I tend to gravitate towards the tried and true westerns that dominated the film screen and the television screens.

As I flip through I know if I come to rest on someone dressed in a cowboy outfit generally with few exceptions, I will find a show I can relax and enjoy. Good will always win and the bad guys will get what they deserve.

This is especially true with anything that the Duke may be riding in. For any of those of you under 20, that might not know that nickname, its John Wayne.

As America ushered in the 1970s this type of film and television show became harder to find as the trend towards urban settings began.

After Clint Eastwood his alternate western hero in “Fistful of Dollars” in 1964 then many of the westerns began to have an uncomfortable edge to them, so I tend to lean towards those shot before these.

I was surfing the internet last week and looking at some of the resources telling about some of the great western stars of the past.

As I looked through, I realized that so many of these great performer’s films that could be airing in the mainstream generally are limited to specialty channels.

It’s not likely you will find Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue, Tim McCoy and Charles Starrett riding across your TV screens much anymore.

There were so many great stars that kept the baby boomers entertained as they went to the theaters matinees growing up and so many others that made television the resting-place for much of the western genre and stars well into the 1970s.

By 1974, the western genre on television except for an occasional film was saying goodbye much like it had in theaters 20 years before.

I’ll never forget Ken Curtis “Festus” from “Gunsmoke” telling me how the CBS network just simply forgot to put them on the schedule one year, after 25 years, they just simply forgot. Stations got up in arms and had them put back on but it wasn’t long until we said goodbye to those characters that had been part of America’s lives on radio and then on television for more than a quarter century.
If you have an interest in the early stars of the western films and have access to the internet, I suggest you look at The Old Corral website at B-westerns.com (www.b-westerns.com/)

It has a vast amount of resources on all the stars from Buster Crabbe to Bob Livingston, Monte Hale to Tex Ritter.
Of course, many of those western stars moved onto the little screen with television shows like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Others had their movies repackaged for television and those ran solidly for years to come in syndication.

Many of the old shows were no longer airing when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. Of course “The Lone Ranger” starring Clayton Moore which ended in 1955 was still in syndication, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Maverick, and some of the other 1960s television sagebrush stories but the old western stars of the matinees were all but gone except in personal appearances at film festivals.

I remember sitting in Gene Autry’s office one-time years ago talking with the late western connoisseur and producer Alex Gordon that worked for Gene. We were discussing many of the old stars about which I had knowledge when he mentioned the name of a well-known western producer Pop Sherman. I found myself in the dark largely because by the time I came along the Hopalong Cassidy films that he created were no longer a television staple. When I told him I had a hole in my knowledge about Sherman, I’ll never forget how Alex reacted “That’s a hole as large as the Grand Canyon itself,” he said in his English accent. That is when I realized there was so much more of the western genre that I needed to know about. If you want to know more about Hopalong Cassidy, visit www.hopalong.com.

Traveling stage shows such as Tommy Scott’s Country Caravan and Wild West Show where you might find Tim McCoy doing his whip act or Sunset Carson doing a shooting act there’s more about this at the Old Corral website.
While some have tried to recreate the western magic in modern day such as the show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” it wasn’t quite the same.

I visited the set of Dr. Quinn during its second season and walked down the old western street, through the indian village and the military camp. I longed to slip into my western garb and step back in time but in this instance that opportunity did not arise and I was simply able to watch Jane Seymour, Chad Allen and the other actors as they created a different time and place for their audience.

Thanks to Roku channels like Victory Westerns and other providers through satellite and cable, we can find quality westerns at  almost any time we wish to sit back in our brown leather easy chair and ride off into the sunset.
As my old friend Roy Rogers said on our final visit, “Tell all the folks back home I said “Howdeeeeeee!!!” 

A sweeping success

Performing on the road has its great moments and even a few that are less great. Needless to say there are often things to laugh at along the way.

One of my devoted readers said that I have been too serious of late and needed to spread some cheer so here is one of my favorite experiences along the way. Maybe it will bring you a smile.

I was introduced to a large hall of about 1,000 folks gathered to see our show. We were in the midst of singing “Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee” when a older feller about six foot tall in tattered blue coveralls and carrying a broom sweeps his way across the stage in front of the band, facing the band, all the time paying no mind to the crowd behind him or the band in front of him.

His slightly slumped appearance, along with his total disregard for his surroundings and his intense concentration on his task, began to draw some scattered giggles from the audience.

I imagined many were wondering what I or he would do next.
As I realized he was not just passing through but had decided to set up housekeeping in front of us, I stopped the tune and said, “Excuse me, were trying to do a show here,” and the feller replied “A show?”

He turned slowly towards the audience and waved as he smiled from ear to ear, saying “Hello, hello,” not hardly missing anyone as he greeted the crowd.

“Do you mind, these people paid a lot of money to see our show,” I said.
He walked over to me at the mike and looked out in the audience.
“These people paid money to see you?” he asked.
“Yes, they did,” I said.
“Miracles never cease,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, before realizing what had passed. “Heyyyy.”
“I use to play in a band, a big band. We worked all over New York, Chicago,” he said.
“Really what did you call your band?” I asked.
“The broom boys,” he replied.
“The broom boys,” I said
“Yeah, we really cleaned up,” he said.

“Did you sing with that group?” I asked. He said, “Yes.”
“Would you like to sing with us?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve got so every time I sing I cry,” he said.
“Then why do you sing?” I asked.
“So I can cry,” he said.
“Why do you cry?” I asked.
“Cause I can’t sing,” he said.
“Do you think I could join your band?” he asked.
“Well I don’t know. All these boys had to go through an interview,” I said.
“I can do that,” he said.
I agreed and started by asking, “What’s your name?”
“I was named after my Ma and Pa,” he said.
“Alright, what was their name?” I said.
“Pa was Ferdinand and Ma was Liza,” he said.
“So, what did they name you?” I asked.
“Ferdiliza,” he said.
“Where were you born?” I asked.
“Kentucky,” he replied.
“What part?” I asked.
“All of me. You didn’t think I came in pieces did you?” he said.
“Why did you leave Kentucky?” I asked.
“Couldn’t bring it with me,” he said.
“Where do you live now?” I asked.
“I live with a friend,” he said.
“Where does you friend live,” I asked.
“He lives with me,” he said.
“Where do you both live?” I asked.
“We live together,” he said.
“Where were your forefathers born?” I asked.
“My what?” he asked.

“Your forefathers. Where were they born?” I asked.
“I ain’t got but one father,” he said.
“Everybody has forefathers,” I said. “Mine came from Scotland, Germany and England.”
“Well if I got four fathers, three of them ain’t never been home,” he said.
“So do I get the job?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know let me think on it,” I told him.
“OK, but don’t hurt yourself,” he replied.
“Hey, that’s no way to talk to someone if you want a job,” I said.
“Your right, I better get back to work,” he said.

I stopped him and asked one more question.
“When you say things like that, doesn’t a still small voice tell you you’re doing something wrong?”
“No, its usually a big loud voice. Have you met my wife?” he said.
“In the future I hope you are more careful about where you try to clean up,” I told him.
“Oh, I will be next time. I’ll bring a bigger broom,” he commented as he glided off stage.

Comedy has always been a key part of performing in live shows: the antics of clowns in circuses; the banter and quips of comics in medicine shows and vaudeville; to the jokes we hear offered in sitcoms today. Country comedians are a special breed; I am honored to in my life played both the comedian and the straight man roles of the comedy team with many funny people. There is nothing funnier than two people working off each other’s comedic timing in front of an audience. I put together this comedy routine originally for the talented comedic actor Sonny Shroyer. I hope that a couple of the lines brought you a smile. © 1992 Peach Picked Publishing. Used by permission.


The creeping doldrums

Do you ever find yourself enjoying a perfectly good day and then before your know what has happened you find yourself in the midst of a spell of listlessness or despondency?

Those energetic goals that were there when you woke up have slipped back down deep under the covers. So you decide to go looking for them only to find yourself shackled to the bedpost and unable to pull yourself back out of the bed.

What about the times you are simply sitting at your desk and there are so many tasks before you, you just seemed baffled at what to do next?

Well my friend, you are suffering from the creeping doldrums. They just come up from out of no where spawned sometimes by a thought; a piece of music; the sound of the rain on the roof; some aspect of your life which seems to pull you down into the mud and keep you stuck.

When I was a boy, we use to go spelunking a lot and I remember one cave we called the peanut butter cave where as you walked through. You were most likely to lose a shoe before getting out. You would fight with all your might to get through it and it would take a lot of your energy. I don’t remember one of my fellow cavers that ever were left there stuck in the mud.

No matter how productive and positive one’s life may seem we all have days where the creeping doldrums invade our well being.

What is the solution?

For me, I find I just have to get up out of bed and trudge forward through the peanut butter cave until I have reached the opening that leads me back into the Light.

Simple tasks will fill the day until our mind and body are ready to once again tackle the big goals.

Now, by my excursion down this road, I am not saying a person does not need some down time to rest and restore, its just when we let the creeping doldrums steal from us even the enjoyment of rest.

Rest in the reading of a good book, rest in watching our favorite TV show or film, rest in talking with friends gathered to watch a sporting event. All of these help us to recharge.

The key to the rest is not to let the creeping doldrums convince us we need even more than we do and before we know it our unoccupied mind is filling itself with negative thoughts.

So, if you find yourself with the creeping doldrums, get out your old shoes and trudge on through the mud until you get to the other side. You will be stronger and next time it will be easier to leave the creeping doldrums behind.


Carolina Cotton’s voice is still bringing smiles

I don’t know whether you enjoy riding across the ranges in the old western films with the stars of yesteryear like I do or not but I have since I was chasing the neighborhood outlaws in my dime store cowboy suit.

Now I must admit probably with the exception of Dale Evans in those early days it was the action on the television screen I wanted to see. Like must youngins, I looked at scenes between the leading cowboy and cowgirl as just something to sit through until the next gun fight, horse chase or fist fight so I seldom paid much mind to the leading ladies.

I must say the exception to that rule was the late Carolina Cotton whose shear presence in a film demanded your attention, whether it was her beauty on the screen, her down-home appeal, or the fact she could ride, sing, and yodel circles around many of her co-stars, she simply charmed her way into your heart.

Her energy on screen was contagious especially when she was singing one of her yodeling songs such as “I Love to Yodel” which she sang in several films including “Apache Country” with Gene Autry or "Yodel, Yodel, Yodel" from Autry’s “Blue Canadian Rockies.”

She also did several films with my friends the late Ken Curtis (“Song of the Prairie,” “Stallion Canyon”), the late Roy Acuff (“Sing Neighbor Sing”). Other films co-starred actors such as Eddy Arnold, Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette and others.

In the span of a just a few years she did 17 films and performed with some of the most influential bands in the Hillbilly and Western Swing genre including Spade Cooley’s Western Dance Gang, Merle Travis, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Sons of the Pioneers, Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours, Ramblin’ Tommy Scott and his Hollywood Hillbilly Jamboree and others.

The Arkansas native relocated with her family as they moved to California. She began her career on stage and then radio in San Francisco at an early age but soon found her way to Hollywood where film producers immediately recognized her talent and she soon rose to level of leading lady.

Sadly like many of their male counterparts by the mid 1950s the days of the old west for female leading ladies also rode off into the sunset in film and for most practical purposes mainstream western music stars were in the wagon train behind them.

Carolina’s daughter Sharon Marie brought together a CD that highlights some of her recordings entitled “Carolina Cotton-Yodeling Blonde Bombshell – Volume II.”
I was blown away by the clarity of sound in the 20 plus recordings from the 1940s-1950s.

The recording opens with Three Miles South Of Cash with Bob Wills and the enthusiasm continues through a fun-filled adventure down Western streets and hillbilly dirt roads as the musical sounds thrill and bring a smile. Among the recordings are Put Your Shoes On Lucy, Boo Hoo Blues, Lovin' Ducky Daddy, Hoosegow Serenade, I’d Love To Be A Cowgirl, Ragtime Cowboy Joe, Be Honest With Me, You Belong To My Heart, I Been Down In Texas, Yodel Mountain, The Old Square Dance Is Back Again, Chime Bells, You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Finger, Glad Rags, I'm All Alone, He's A Tough Hombre, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter), O Dem Golden Slippers, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone and Weary Lonesome Blues. The recording also includes one full episode of her Carolina Cotton Calls radio show.

One footnote to such a wonderful entertainment career is that Carolina left the spotlight, raised her family and decided to become a teacher and spent the rest of her life sharing her love of learning with thousands of young people.

If you are a fan of the great sounds of Western music that made the matinees and radio shows of the 1940s and 50s full of fun and enthusiasm, I encourage you to add this CD to your collection, it will certainly give you a look at one of the greatest yodelers who ever performed and from someone I understand to be one of the nicest individuals to ever grace a stage. You can get the CD or learn much more about her career from carolinacotton.org.


The Dukes “Enos” is hopeful
that good will prevail in TV

I had the opportunity to sit down recently with a long-time friend as he traveled back from a personal appearance where he visited with hundreds of fans that watched him each week on CBS.

"The Dukes of Hazzard" co-star Sonny Shroyer said he is saddened by recent events relating to his show. He said almost everyone came to him expressing frustration over the recent cancellation of the show on TV Land.

Shroyer portrayed deputy “Enos Straite” the good cop stuck between earning a living in a system corrupted by others while steering the outcomes towards good. He also portrayed the character in his own CBS series “Enos” which aired in the U.S., 30 foreign countries and on the Armed Forces Network. He scored two People’s Choice nominations.

Shroyer has also appeared in dozens of classic TV Shows spanning the 1970s through the 1990s including regular roles in “I’ll Fly Away,” “American Gothic,” and recently “Rectify.” He counts among his credits major films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Roots,” “The Rosa Parks Story,” “The Longest Yard,” and “Smokey and the Bandit.”

He said the rural-based comedy “The Dukes of Hazzard” became a legacy of work for many talented performers that continues to uplift viewers in laughter while sharing valuable lessons in life in each storyline.

“I hope that once the spasm of the knee-jerk reaction of some cable TV executives passes that the Dukes will ride again, if not on TV Land, then on some other cable network that appreciates not only the positive storylines of good’s triumph over evil intentions but characters treating others as you would want to be treated – with respect. The series also features a long list of talented stars and guest stars who each week worked their heart out to entertain a worldwide audience.”

Shroyer said if one looks at film and TV show storylines with characters reacting to a tragic situation, there are always those who wish to react swiftly.

“In the westerns, this was often portrayed by the good guy standing off a group of angry townsfolk wishing to forego a trial,” he said. “This is what has happened here I think, unfortunately, there was no man or woman in a white hat standing in the breach of this situation to defend the work of hundreds of show business artisans.

“Generations of youth have watched the show from every nationality, race, creed and religion around the world, sharing in the moral lessons between the laughs,” he said. “For decades my fellow stars from the show and I have made personal appearances meeting these youth and the adults who grew up watching us. They point to our show as one of the beacons of hope in a wasteland of television where people are more interested in self-interests than each other.

“We, the cast members of that show, have raised untold funds for charities to do their works,” he said. “That’s only possible when good is in what you do. That is what ‘The Dukes of Hazzard” was about - doing good and making people happy.”

Shroyer said while he does not know the future of the show on cable, he is hopeful he and the fans will see the General Lee rolling again with him close behind in his Hazzard police car.

“I think a good clean show will in the long run emerge as the victor,” he said. “I am sure cable broadcasters will hear from millions of viewers who agree.”


Doing nothing is an action too

I was out watering the yard the other day when a blonde headed boy rolled up on his blue mountain bike and asked if we needed our yard mowed.

Our yard had just been covered with a brand new batch of fescue sod.

I told the boy it was not ready to cut just yet but he could check back in a few weeks.

He reminded me of myself at his age, trying to find every odd job I could.

Summer should be a time of wonder.

I remember fondly my childhood summers — endless hours of play after completing my chores around the house. Of course, as I got older, I took on odd jobs like mowing neighbors’ yards to earn a little money.

In my neighborhood, we had a great group of children. We all would gather to play and race our bikes down suicide hill.

I’ve had two bikes in my life; my first bike was small and green and well suited me. When I got big enough to earn my own money, I did odd jobs to earn enough money to buy a 3-speed red English racer. Buying that bike meant a lot to me.
On one of our trips down suicide hill, the new racer decided it wanted to go one way and me another. The accident sent me flying through the handlebars and sliding down the pavement for 20 feet or more. That still hurts just thinking about it. I had sores all over me from that adventure.

My friends and I would get in our share of disagreements with each other. Those would lead usually to some hurt feelings and some rolling around on the ground till someone would say “Uncle.” We always seemed to come through it. There really were no children who caused trouble in my age bracket. A few older ones sometimes got into mischief, but we always managed to keep out of trouble.

Do not get me wrong, there were bullies. We were just blessed not to have them on our street, at least for very long. I remember when I was about seven there were two brothers who took great pleasure in picking fights with me. At least, it seemed that way at the time.

A boy my age named Chris Sands moved in. His parents had just divorced, and at that time it was not as usual as it is now. I’ll never forget one meeting with those brothers that had me at the bottom of a wrestling match that I just could not win. Chris was the new guy in the neighborhood, and saw that I was being unfairly targeted for this fight and stepped in to pull the other boys off me. From that moment on, he was my friend — that is until he later moved away, and I lost track of him.

While time has erased many of the memories of the time we spent together hanging out as kids, that one action by the new boy on the block sticks in my mind. He saw something that was not right, and he did something about it. Not knowing the social lay of the land and the dynamics of the neighborhood hierarchy, he stuck his neck out for me. That is bravery.

Now I’m not advocating fighting as a way to resolve issues for children or adults. I was taught that it takes much more courage to walk away than to actually fight. However, when they jump on you, there are just a few hurdles you have to get over before you can walk away.

It is hard to walk away when you are at the bottom of the pile
I learned a valuable lesson from Chris that day.
Folks often do not like to stick their neck out to help other people, but when someone does, it makes our community a better place.


Anybody got a fan?
The heat of the day this time of year sometimes brings me into the summer doldrums.

I know there is so much that needs to be done outside, but I step outside and after a few minutes in the oven, I begin to think “Oh, that will wait,” so I step back inside and let it wait.

What happened to that little boy who could not wait to get out into the summer sun to run and play? I know he is still buried deep inside of me somewhere.

I know that he wants to get out there a run and play, its just adult running an playing is often done largely with a lawnmower, weed eater, hedge trimmer or saw tightly grasp in hand.

In my defense, those activities did not thrill me as a youth either so at least I have not changed that much. However, I do miss that desire to get out, to use every drop of light that can be found and squeezed to steal just a few more minutes from the day before retiring into the house to rest.
I remember leaving home after breakfast, which was served when my father and mother were nearing departure for work in the early morning. I’d play all day and be in by lunchtime to have a bite to eat, and then out again, only to return to be sitting at the dinner table. Once I was old enough, my folks let me go back out to play some more after supper until the streetlights came on. The only deviation from that is if the neighborhood parents were all out enjoying the evening on the porch or in the yard, then the kids might get a game of ball going on the street beneath the lights as the parents cheered their little darling on.

Eventually though the remainder of the day outside would have to be returned to the night air as we stepped inside our homes, windows open, curtains and sheers blowing inward as fans sucked in the evening air to cool the house before sleep.
I remember days so hot you couldn’t sleep; you know those days when folks said you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. I would get up just to go to the kitchen, open the freezer just to breath a few cool breaths. It wasn’t long though; no matter the time before mother would be in the kitchen to remind me I was wasting electricity and letting the food spoil.

Eventually though my folks saved up enough to move into the age of air conditioning. I can’t recall what it cost but they had to run a new breaker and plug to put the big window unit in the dining room.  It worked so well it felt like hog killin’ time in no time in about three rooms of the house. The rest was still hot except for us sitting fans around to move a bit of the cool air down the hallway.
Still though it made a difference, we often found we had guests dropping by to sit a spell.
The increase in power bills soon had us on rationing though, we could only use the air when we had guests or if it was a holiday. Which to me seemed fair, we wouldn’t want those visitors to sweat like we did on days they were not there. Holidays were days we were all home most of the day and folks generally showed up on those as well.
This plan worked pretty good until we saw an increase in visitors and mother realized I was stacking the deck a bit and then guest under a certain age were eliminated from the air conditioning formula.

As I think back on it, it just reinforces for me my original question. I did perfectly well for several years of my life in the heat. All I can figure is that years of air-conditioned living have spoiled me.
Given the choice though, would I rather have better heat stamina and no air conditioning or plenty of air and no desire to spend my day outside? I guess my answer would be neither, I would go back to what I had as a kid if I could enjoy a little of both. I am planning on starting tommorrow that is if I can get this metal rotary fan I pulled out of the attic to work. Now let’s see I think the last time I opened a window was 2003, Where is that hammer? I may need to some help to coax those.

Friends, as temperatures rise, be sure to check in on your elderly neighbors to make sure they are staying cool, if their home is warm, it might be to keep their bills affordable. You might politely invite them over to your house or to go shopping to get them somewhere cooler in the heat of the day. Be sure to enjoy every minute of sunshine you can, but don’t overdo, and drink plenty of water!

Randall Franks, P.O. Box 42, Tunnel Hill, Ga. 30755 rfrankscatoosa@gmail.com
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