Appalachian heartwarming with Dolly and Stella Parton, Crystal Gayle to join Opry

Dolly and Stella Parton are coming back to NBC on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. (E.S.T.) with “Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.”
Both sisters make special appearances in the film, while Dolly introduces the film and serves as narrator.

DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS: CIRCLE OF LOVE -- Season: 1--  Pictured: Dolly Parton as Painted Lady -- (Photo by: Quantrell Colbert/NBC)

DOLLY PARTON’S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS: CIRCLE OF LOVE — Dolly Parton as Painted Lady  (Photo by: Quantrell Colbert/NBC)

The greatly anticipated Georgia-lensed sequel to last year’s “Coat of Many Colors” is a family-oriented, faith-based movie starring Jennifer Nettles (Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and actress), Ricky Schroder (Golden Globe® Award-winner for The Champ, NYPD Blue), Alyvia Alyn Lind (Blended), Kelli Berglund (Lab Rats), Mary Lane Haskell (Coat of Many Colors), Cameron Jones (Shortland Street), Stella Parton (Green Corn), Hannah Nordberg (American Pastoral), Farrah MacKenzie, Parker Sack, Forrest Deal, Dylan Michael Rowen, Blane Crockarell and Gerald McRaney (Major Dad).
The film continues with the story of young Dolly Parton as the Parton Family experiences a true Christmas miracle drawing the Partons closer together than ever – with deepened faith and love for one another. The film delivers Christmas joy and peril as an unexpected blizzard threatens the Parton family while Dolly’s and Stella’s father and his kids make sacrifices to raise enough money to finally buy his loving wife the wedding ring he could never afford. Meanwhile, an important person in little Dolly’s life begins to see that her amazing voice and musical gift might just be made for something bigger than rural Tennessee.
For those who wish to have it as a stocking stuffer, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will make it available on DVD on Dec. 20 with special features for $19.98. To learn more about Dolly, visit or about Stella, visit
Grammy-winning songstress Crystal Gayle was surprised during a recent Grand Ole Opry performance by Opry member Carrie Underwood with an invitation to become an official Opry member. Gayle will be formally inducted into the Opry on Jan. 21, 2017 by her sister, Opry legend Loretta Lynn. Gayle made her Opry debut nearly 50 years ago on the Ryman Auditorium stage, singing the country classic “Ribbon of Darkness” at age 16.
Underwood surprised the sold-out Opry at the Ryman crowd by joining Gayle on the smash hit crystal-gayle“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” Seconds after finishing the duet, Underwood turned to Gayle and said, “You are an inspiration to so many of us. You are important to country music, and you are important to the Opry, which is why I was asked tonight to ask you if you would like to join our Opry family officially.”
Accepting her friend’s invitation with a hug, Gayle said, “I have always felt like I was a member of the family and this is just so special.”
“For more than half of the Opry’s 91 years, Crystal Gayle has been lending her signature vocals to Opry shows and connecting with Opry audiences as well as with everyone backstage,” said Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher. “She is family, and we are very excited that she’ll become an official Opry member early next year.”
For more information, visit


Civility, is it “Gone with the Wind?”

As I have surfed through social media and watched news reports of late highlighting the actions displayed following our elections, it has broken my heart to see that we are at the point when men and women cannot be more effectively self-governing with their words and actions.
Many years ago, I penned the following thoughts which reflected on the changes of civility I was seeing in my native South. It saddens me beyond end to see the impact that mass media, music, education, and upbringing has had on the next generation as exhibited of late, so I thought I would find some hope in these thoughts:
I have been blessed to travel to many parts of the United States. But there is no feeling to me like crossing those imaginary lines created to define the South.
I breathe easier. I worry less. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the portrayals of Southern gentility in Hollywood movies.
In 1939, there was nothing more shocking in film than Rhett Butler’s “Frankly Scarlet, I don’t …” You know the rest.
In the 1960s, television gave us shows like “The Andy Griffith Show,” which were still genteel on and off the screen. I remember George “Goober” Lindsey once relaying a story about him saying a few off-color words while waiting for the next shot on the set. He did this in spite of a warning by actress Frances “Aunt Bee” Bavier, paraphrasing, “That we don’t speak that way on this set.” She pummeled him with her umbrella. He didn’t do it anymore.
“Civility” refers to the politeness we see every day. The things that make the day a little nicer. These are the things that most Southern parents instill in their children. At least I hope they still do. “Yes, sir,” “No, ma’am,” “Please,” “Thank you,” “Respect your elders,” “Ladies, first,” and “Don’t cuss” are just a few of these civilities.
In my travels, I’ve been places where these acts are so alien to them they look at you like you’re from another planet. Where foul language flows like water from a faucet. Where if you stopped to show respect to a funeral procession, you would probably wind up in one yourself, in the lead car.
What is sad to me, in my recent travels around the South, I’m seeing more and more examples of Southern civility fading. The sales clerk or cash register attendant who ignores you or doesn’t respond to your greeting. The person who doesn’t respond to a kindness like holding a door with a “thank you.” Young people not showing respect for their elders. Foul language ringing out in public.
I don’t know whether these examples are due to a lack of parenting, a lack of respect for others, or the saturation of poor-quality TV, films and music in our society during the last few years. Variety of program choices is both a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, language and visual images that wouldn’t make our series “In the Heat of the Night” in 1990 are now commonplace on the networks. I think Southern civility is becoming a victim of us trying to fit into what we are seeing on television and in film.
In recent years, Southerners in series television act more like transplants from Los Angeles or New York with a Southern accent. Considering that’s where they are probably from, it’s not surprising. The late Carroll O’Connor once told me that “we all say things to be polite.” For example, “Can I help you with that?” when someone is carrying a load, expecting, maybe hoping for, “No thanks, I got it.”
I hope we never lose that in the South. Kindness, politeness, Southern civility is not “Gone with the Wind.” It’s hopefully just swaying a bit in the breeze of popular culture. Maybe it’s just gonna take a few more Aunt Bee’s to remind all of us Goobers how things are supposed to be.
I pray that Americans will once again find the civility and respect for each other that is not only expected but required for a democratic republic to endure and thrive. May God bless us and keep us, everyone.

A privy and some plums

The gentle falling of snowflakes takes me back to the days when cold weather would bring a tough decision at the old family homestead.

Being cold in the winter was a common experience, since the only heat came from a fire in the main room. Grandma would always be the one up early to get the fire going before anyone else was out from under their warm down covers.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, the call of nature would come upon me. Unlike our house in town, where the bathroom was only about 15-feet down the hall, I was faced with a decision to make a 20-yard dash to the outhouse or simply utilize the chamber pot.
Most would use the chamber pot. But for some reason as a kid, even when the temperature dipped into the teens, I would push myself to put on my old black leather work boots and my brown quilted coat with the hood and make the trek up to the old white pine outhouse.
It wasn’t a very fancy building, much like those depicted in so many arts and crafts designs. The lumber from which it was made was hewn by hand and weathered by years of use. A simple wood latch kept critters from wandering in there with you. It wasn’t always successful, however.
I remember one time my little cousin, Wilbur, was making use of the facilities. Wilbur wasn’t very tall for his age. With his small frame I wonder how he managed not to fall in, I had trouble myself when I was young. After a few minutes in there, he ran out pulling up his britches, claiming there was a creature attacking him from underneath like the monster from the black lagoon. After investigation, we discovered that it was a two-legged dominicker from the hen house which apparently had decided to peck more than the ground.
In the summer, without air-conditioning, evenings were spent sitting on the front porch to catch a breeze to ease the heat which built in the house throughout the day. A trip to the old privy would find many types of crawly and flying critters, although they seldom bothered me except for an occasional sting. I seem to remember that happening one time. I then spent the rest of the day with a Bruton Snuff poultice attached to whatever part of my body the critter stung.
While I can reminisce fondly about trips to that quaint little building, as someone who was raised in the city, I must say that with the exception of the great solitude of the outhouse amidst God’s great outdoors, I did much prefer modern porcelain versions.
However, when the plums come in, I often wish I could take a trip back to the outhouse. About 20-feet beyond it was a red plum tree that often required my attention. I just loved making a trip out there to eat my fill.
Of course, my mother and grandma would warn me to stay out of the plums. “If you eat too many, you will get sick,” they would say, and they were right.
If I spent an hour up that plum tree, I would spend most of the next day about 20 feet away.
Thankfully, I never got a visit from the dominicker from beneath.

From Randall Franks’s “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes.”

Whose America will it be?

As I place these words to paper, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is yet to be decided.
I would like to join the throngs of those saying the rhetoric has made this one of the worst election seasons in history, but I know as a student of history many before have been as bad or worse, they just were not in our lives.
I will say this, it has been one of the worst that I have seen but the greatest difference is the violence that has been carried out by individuals who chose to attack persons, steal or vandalize property because they expressed a different preference in the race.
Assuming that the votes are in and tallied and a winner of the popular vote declared, after the electoral college meets next month to finalize our process, then there will be a new president elect who will take office in January.
It is time now for our country to come together and heal from the political turmoil of the last 18 months.
Whomever is the victor, whomever is the loser, ultimately what is important is we are Americans. We are all Americans and as that we should rise to a higher standard and treat one another with the respect that our forefathers and mothers would expect.
Generations struggled, fought and died so that we may enjoy the fruits of their labor and sacrifice and build upon their shoulders. We owe them and ourselves the effort of reaching for the stars and walking a path to make our country a place where we see each other through the eyes of understanding.
We should be able no matter where our hometown is, to walk down our streets safely, enjoy the opportunities to pursue our dreams, whether that means, raising a family, working a job, or running a business, possibly providing jobs for others.
We are Americans, in the wake of this election that is what we are first, no political ideology should have precedence over who we are because that one element is what has provided the strength that has allowed our country to prevail throughout our history.
If we spend our time fighting amongst ourselves, we will never notice the threats aimed at our republic from outside or miss those individuals on the inside with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar wishing to do harm at home.
Assuming as I write, that there are no more post-election revelations that upturn the normal order of things, I encourage you to pray for our country, pray for our new leader, but most of all pray for the healing of the wounds that have been inflicted upon our country and its people from many sources in recent years.
We are better than what is seen on television, newspapers and on the internet. So, remember what America is and will be is up to us. Don’t disappoint, start by loving your neighbor as yourself. One person at a time, that will be a legacy, we should build upon.

A mule in charge

In the valley below the Gravelly Spur Mountain there was a partnership of sorts between the humans and the animals that worked the farms to create the crops that helped feed them all.
There was no more needed partner than the mules that helped to cut the furrows straight along the curves of the mountainsides near the old apple, peach, pear and plum orchards that bore the fruit for summer canning of preserves and drying for the special Christmas cakes that helped make each season a little more fun for each family.
Young Pearl had a knack with the animals and especially the mules around the valley. No matter whose they might be, she always seemed to be able to get them to like her too.
On the Wood farm nearby it was old Pete that helped to make each workday that much easier.
All the kids loved old Pete, though he wouldn’t let anyone ride him. It was like he was a kid himself especially in the summer time. As all the kids rushed towards the swimming hole once released from their chores, you would see Pete traipsing behind them headed there too. He would be the first to climb to the leap overlooking it, jumping into the waters below as his black coat shimmered in the summer sun until he plunged deep into the waters below.
This was the only time that anyone had a chance to climb up on old Pete’s back as the kids swam along. While keeping a float himself, Pete had no power to buck them off.
One time the Wood’s hired man Richard decided he was going to teach Pete a lesson and break him. Richard was a big man, so Pete seemed small as he climbed up on him, and wrapped his long legs below Pete’s belly and twisting his toes together so Pete could not buck him off.
Pete finally got tired of trying and instead of being broke; he simply lay down and rolled over with the hired hand still attached. Needless to say, it wasn’t Pete who got broke in that maneuver,
While it was hard to realize, Pete was getting to old and weak to continue his tasks around the farm and Mr. Wood had grown so fond of him, he couldn’t bring himself to take him out and shoot him as many did when their usefulness had faded, so he decided to trade him in on a new mule.
He took him up to Shirley’s Trading Post and with the addition of 15 dollars U.S.; he traded Pete for a light brown mule named Mary. She had all her teeth and appeared as though she had many years of plowing and hauling in her.
As Mr. Wood began at first light hitching the plow to Mary, he could see that she had a reluctant streak that was deep and wide within her. It was a fight to get her moving and keeping her on the straight and narrow pulling each furrow.
As an experienced worker with mule, he did all he knew to get Mary in line but to no avail.
Finally, he went back to the house and called to his five-year-old boy Bryant to come and assist.
He told him to climb up on her back facing backwards; he cut a peach limb and handed to him.
“Boy, you just hit her with that if she starts to balk,” he said.
Mr. Wood hated to hurt any animal; he knew that young Bryant’s coaxing would be more like a nuisance than a whipping to Mary. So it began a long day of getting Mary accustomed to her duties.
By the next day, things were no better except this time after a night of rubbing cornstarch on the inside of his legs, Bryant got a piece of broken machinery belt that came from the valley saw mill to serve as a shield between he and Mary’s back and the process continued.
By the third day, Mr. Wood decided that Mary was just not the mule she should be, and he proceeded to take her back to the trading post to renegotiate.
Somewhere in the discussion with Mr. Shirley the word liar aimed at Mr. Wood brought forth a flow of anger not often seen in a man such as Mr. Wood. Bryant just barely big enough to get away from his brothers in a game of tag, saw the sawdust from the floor begin to fly as the two men exchanged blows. The flying fists stirred the shavings while Mr. Wood gained ground with each swing.
Before long the ice man cometh and before you could say winter freeze, he had pulled the two up. Showing his special deputy badge he brought the match to an end.
He told them both to settle their disagreement peaceably so the sheriff didn’t have to be summoned.
The iceman asked Mr. Shirley if he wanted to give Mr. Wood back his mule and the money or give him a new mule.
Shirley agreed on a new mule; so the threesome headed back home, with yet another helpmate for the farm.
This time, the white mule named Ada was one that actually wanted to participate without Bryant sitting astride whipping him along the way.
While he was no Pete, it was not long until the kids loved him too.
The moral of the story is simple, if you plan to trade a mule, be sure he or she is willing before you have to see the shavings fly.