“A Question of Faith” opens doors for youth performers while changing lives

Karen Valero (fourth from right) stops on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of “A Question of Faith” with fellow cast members, from left, Donna Biscoe, T.C Stallings, Kim Fields, Richard T Jones, Mara Hall, Amber Thompson, Renee O’Connor, Marliss Amiea, and James Hooper. (Photo: Silver Lining Entertainment/Erik Fischer )

Karen Valero (right) and Jaci Velasquez portray daughter and mother in the new film “A Question of Faith.” (Photo: Silver Lining Entertainment)

I recently visited with singer/actress Amber Nelon Thompson at the National Quartet Convention as she enthusiastically described her experience filming her role as “Michelle Danielson”  for the new film “A Question of Faith.”
Thompson received the opportunity after her mother Kelly Nelon Clark of the Gospel artiists the Nelons, who went to an acting audition and noticed the role of a teen singer among the roles being cast. Signed to her own record deal, Amber fit the bill and soon found herself cast.
She was so excited by the experience and attending the premieres. She shared with me the experience of coming to know another young actress Karen Valero who portrayed another one of the main youth roles.
Members of the amazing ensemble cast includes Richard T. Jones, Kim Fields and C. Thomas Howell in the film from Pure Flix and Silver Lining Entertainment opened in theaters around the country Sept. 29 and combined premieres in Atlanta where it was filmed, Los Angeles and a private screening at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
“We had over 3000 people show up at the Atlanta premiere. Wow it was fantastic!” Valero said. “This movie has changed my life, I’ve heard people telling me about their personal life and how inspired they are to become a better person after seeing the film.”
Valero, who lives in Atlanta, was born in Caracas, Venezuela coming to America at 15. She soon found that her loves of theatre, photography, and visual arts complimented her interest in acting. For her modeling jobs led to appearing in commercials, which then turned into film auditions.
In “A Question of Faith” Valero portrays “Maria Hernandez.” She said the film tells the story of three families that find themselves at a crossroads and questioning their faith.
“Each family member deals with their issues, their worlds start to intertwine,” she said. “It was such an honor to work with this talented group of actors.”
Multi-million selling Grammy ® nominee Jaci Velasquez appears in the film as her mother “Kate Hernandez.”
“Karen is a natural, she was a delight to work with,” Velasquez said. “Working with Karen is a true pleasure, she’s super easy going and discovers new things in the character she is playing and brings it to screen in a beautiful way.”
Valero describes her character as a free-spirited teenager who works with her mom at a restaurant.
“She owns delivering restaurant orders, but Maria can’t stop texting and driving and doesn’t want to listen to her Mom, as she strives to be the first one in their family to attend college,” she said. “However, her choices change not only her life, but all those involved within the story.
“Playing Maria made me realize receiving this role for me was a sign from God,” she said. “My life has changed and I’ve been closer to God more than ever.”
She said this was never more evident to her that while playing the jail and court scenes faced by Maria.
“It made me feel like I lost everything and I would never like this to happen to me or anyone else in real life so I’ve learned a lesson to never, never text and drive,” she said. “Which is something I did do before being cast. I hope and pray that those who see this film change their habits as I have.”
For more information about Karen Valero, visit http://www.karenvalero.com/ and Amber Nelon Thompson at www.thenelons.com.
Visit A Question of Faith movie website at http://aquestionoffaith.com and follow A Question of Faith movie on Facebook and Twitter and follow the conversation at #AQuestionOfFaith.

A shave and a haircut

As I sat and squirmed in my chair trying to scratch a place in the middle of my back, I wasn’t very happy that I made a trip to get a haircut. Have you ever noticed when you go to the barber that those little hairs that fall inside your shirt collar can make you itch for the rest of the day?

It kind of makes you understand the “hippie” movement, at least the hair part of it. Although I never understood my middle brother Alan’s desire to have a six-inch afro, it must have been somewhere in the early 70’s, I ran in from playing down the street to find my brother sitting in the living room looking like he had a fight with an electric toaster and lost.

One thing that makes me wonder is why folks go to a salon to get their hair styled. They can do most anything there from your hair to your nails. They even got them places where you can get a full body wrap.

Now when I was growing up, men didn’t go to a salon. A salon was for women. That’s where women folk went to get their hair glued in place before they went to church on Sunday.

Back then, men folk went to barber shops. If a man was caught going in to a beauty salon, it took a month of Sunday’s to live it down.

While memories of my first haircut have faded, I am told that I was really not too much of a squirmer in the barber’s chair. I knew that if I didn’t behave that would be my last time sitting down for a while.

After our family moved from the big city of Little Five Points out to the country in Chamblee, my Dad and I settled on going to a barber named Mr. Saxon. I don’t believe I ever knew his first name, but Mr. Saxon cut my hair from my third birthday all the way through my senior year in high school.

One thing I have learned in my life is that loyalty to a barber is one of the most important choices a man can make. No matter where Mr. Saxon moved his practice through the years, that is where we went to get our hair cut.

Haircuts back then didn’t cost an arm and a leg either. It took me years to not cringe when pulling more than $2 out of my pocket for a haircut.

Initially, the old barber shop had been in business since the days of Civil War reconstruction. As I sat in a red leather swivel barber chair, I would look up above the mirrors on the wall at the shotguns which were mounted above each barber chair in case some restless mountaineer needed to be reminded that he was in town.

Hill folk would ride into town and not only get a haircut, shave and a boot shine, but  take a shower and house their horse out back while they were in town.

Mr. Saxon always managed to keep my Dad and I properly trimmed. After my cut, I would always help out by sweeping up the hair clippings on the gray tile floor. Through the years, it was amazing how I always seemed to sweep up a dime or two to put in the old red carousel Coca-Cola machine when I was done.

Through the years, Mr. Saxon imparted many words of wisdom on this impressionable lad. Probably the one that stuck the most was “Always remember, no matter who you meet in life, your mom and dad will be the best friends you will ever have.”

By the time I had reached my senior year, Mr. Saxon was growing near retirement. While he was once a whiz, time was taking its toll. The loyalty within me insisted that he would be the one to cut my hair before my senior photos were taken. Unfortunately, that haircut left a lasting memory and was not a great testament to his many years of talented barbering.

By the time I reached Georgia State University, trends in the outside world were making franchise style shops the place where people went for a trim. It was difficult for me to take my first steps into such a place, but eventually I did. Unlike the old barber shop, almost every time you went in there would be a different butcher on duty.

As my musical star began to rise, a fellow musician from Chicago, Sue Koskela, had taken up the trade and become an award winning stylist. Thankfully for me she was kind enough to take me on as a client and would always travel in to handle photo shoots and album covers. She settled near Knoxville for many years, and I would regularly make the six-hour round trip from Atlanta to have her work her magic. I am not exaggerating; what she did was magic. I knew when I walked out of there, I would not have to do anything to my hair and I would be sporting whatever latest style suited my look and shape of my face. Every time I went elsewhere, I usually looked like a cross between the Frankenstein monster and “Mo” from the Three Stooges.

When I joined the cast of “In the Heat of the Night” as “Officer Randy Goode,” my head and hair became the responsibility of whichever hair and makeup artists were assigned to oversee my look. They had to make sure that we actors looked consistent throughout scenes that were filmed out of sequence. In one of those happenstance moments, we got a new and short-lived hair artist who decided to give me a different look for an episode entitled “Heart of Gold.” I had one of my largest feature appearances of the early series. It was amazing to me how detrimental that look on camera was for me. I never realized until that point how much a person’s hair style has to do with how they are perceived by other people.

Good grooming is something we can all do to make the world a better place, but finding a good barber these days can be as hard as finding a six-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola for a dime.

The choices we make touch other lives

In life we are constantly faced with choices. We are blessed or cursed with the gift of free will, depending on your perspective.

From the smallest detail of “Do you want fries with that?” to “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” in America, we have endless choices.

People can choose to work hard and by doing so achieve great success and accumulate wealth. Some choose to dedicate their energies to benefiting humanity.

Each choice we make sets us upon a path. Even the simplest thing like having one extra cup of coffee in the morning could change your schedule enough to prevent you from being involved in an auto accident.

As I look back on my choices, there are some I would like to change in spite of the fact I do not know what path changing them would have brought. Nevertheless, I cannot change them; I only have the power over what lies ahead, not behind. I can only try to learn from those past choices.

Using my television exposure as a podium, I have spent much of my life speaking to youth about living a successful drug-free life. My work yielded the attention of the National Drug Abuse Resistance Education Officer’s Association. Consequently, they made me an honorary D.A.R.E. officer. I have encouraged thousands across the country to make the choice not to use drugs. I do not know if any made that choice. I can only hope that at least one did.

No matter how you try to influence others, the ultimate choice lies with them. With that choice also lies consequences. When you make a choice that effects you, your family or even others you do not know, it is up to you to take responsibility for what that choice brings.

Many times people try to shift the blame if things are not going as they planned. I think we pick up this behavior as a child. It is the old “He did it” approach to avoid punishment. I do not know about you but that never worked for me. It only made the punishment worse.

Last week I attended a teen/parent forum at the Colonnade that included a discussion from both parents and teens on the issue of parents making choices for their children that affect other children. Choices such as providing alcohol for teen parties or even adults turning a blind eye to drug use by not being vigilant supervisors, as they should.

Some parents may say “I’d rather have them doing it where I can keep an eye on them,” but when other children are involved I imagine their parents might like to have a say and an eye involved in the situation as well. At least that is what the parents at the forum said.

Each choice we make, in some way, affects someone else — sometimes people we do not even know, such as that driver who might be injured by a teenage drunk driver coming from a supervised party where alcohol was served.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not focusing on these parents exclusively. The teenagers admit that even if parents are not providing, some of them will find a way to get alcohol themselves from older siblings, buying it themselves at establishments which do not card them or by sneaking it from a parent when they are not watching.

Unfortunately, these teenage actions expand to various types of drugs, including prescription pills out of medicine cabinets as well.

No matter what choice you make, they are your choices. You ultimately have to live with what results from them. So if you are making a life-changing choice, become informed about what may happen depending on which path your choice leads you.

Even if it turns out to be the wrong choice, at least you did not go down that path with blinders on.

Naomi Judd describes overcoming depression in her new book

When I began my teenage country music career in Nashville a popular duet from Kentucky was making great waves in country and in mainstream American culture.

Hailing from the Appalachian​ ​foothills​ ​of Ashland, Ky., mother​ ​and​ ​daughter​ duo, The Judds, were first discovered by RCA​ ​label​ ​head​ ​Joe​ ​Galante​ ​in​ ​1983 ​after landing a spot on​ ​WSM-TV’s​ “​The​ ​Ralph​ ​Emery Show.” They​ ​made​ ​their​ ​chart​ ​debut​ ​by​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​year​ ​with​ ​“Had​ ​A​ ​Dream​ ​(For​ ​The​ ​Heart),” and​ ​the​ ​two​ ​were​ ​on​ ​their​ ​way​ ​to​ ​a​ ​history​-making​ ​career.

For​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​1980’s, ​ ​each​ ​single​ ​from​ ​The​ ​Judds​ ​released​ ​by​ ​RCA​ ​went​ ​to​ ​the Billboard​ ​Top 10, ​ ​with​ ​14 hits ​going​ ​all​ ​the​ ​way​ ​to​ ​number​ ​one. ​ ​ The​ ​Judds​ ​embarked​ ​on​ ​their​ ​ “Farewell​ ​Tour” ​ ​in​ ​1991 ​after​ ​Naomi’s​ ​diagnosis​ ​of​ ​Hepatitis C​ ​forced​ ​her​ ​to​ ​retire​ ​from​ ​the​ ​road. ​ ​

Wynonna​ ​launched​ ​a​ ​successful​ ​solo​ ​career​ ​with​ ​her self-titled​ ​5x​ ​multi-platinum ​debut​ ​album while ​Naomi​ ​focused​ ​on​ ​her​ ​health, ​ ​beating​ ​the​ ​disease, writing​ ​several​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Times​ ​best-selling​ ​books​ ​and​ ​becoming​ ​a​ ​popular​ ​motivational speaker. ​

The Grammy-winning country icon Naomi Judd is set to release the paperback version of her new book, “River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope” on Dec. 5.

Judd shares her harrowing personal experience with the severe depression that almost killed her.  That ride to success came to a screeching halt when Naomi was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and given only three years to live. Instead of accepting her fate, the former registered nurse educated herself and pursued healing. Today, Naomi is Hep C-free––a medically documented miracle.

Written with Marcia Wilkie, “River of Time” picks back up with Judd in 2010. From there, she dives into her three-and-a-half years of nightmares, hospitalizations, psychiatric wards, drug poisoning and addiction, electroconvulsive shock treatments, suicidal thoughts, and more. Raw and unflinchingly candid, the book serves beautifully not as a voyeuristic joyride, but as a generous confession and clarion call for others to fight on and reach out.

“I wrote it with the sincere hope of offering encouragement to the 40 million Americans who suffer from depression and anxiety every minute of every day and night,” Judd said. “I want them to know that I understand, and I’m here to help.”

Throughout, readers of “River of Time” will explore the effects of Judd’s traumatic childhood filled with abuse and generations of mental illness. Judd also opens up about the electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments that would ultimately bring her some long-sought relief, the strain that her illness brought her relationships with daughter Wynonna and husband Larry Strickland, the wisdom she received from friends and what others can do when suffering.

Judd’s tale is gripping, and while she offers it with the deft skill of a natural-born storyteller, what matters most is her message. “River of Time” is more than just a compelling read. For many, it could be a life-saving one.

For more information, follow Naomi Judd on Facebook or visit NaomiJudd.com.


Take down the fiddle and bow – Grand Master Fiddler – a great show

Fiddling rang out from the Henry Ford Theater stage at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for two days recently welcoming fiddlers of all ages and styles which represent a cornucopia of American musical experience.

The 46th Annual Grand Master Fiddler Championship continued its great legacy began by the Grand Ole Opry with fiddlers from across the U.S. competing for thousands in cash and prizes and an opportunity to appear on the Grand Ole Opry. The contest which was once just a focus for the top contest style fiddlers now boasts three distinct categories – Traditional, Youth and an Open category.

Mia Orosco competes.

The traditional category allows fiddlers sharing Cajun, Irish, Scottish, Southern Appalachian, bluegrass and Ozark influences among the mix.

Youth category sets aside a special place for youth fiddlers to be rated and grow in their talents, with many often nearing the competition level of the adults.

Finally, the open category is all ages who wish to stand toe to toe with America’s best fiddlers performing the classic Texas style contest fiddling to make their mark as the official Grand Master following in the path of fiddlers such as Mark O’Connor, Jimmy Mattingly, Dan Kelly and last year’s winner Maddie Denton.

I was privileged to mark my tenth-year walking in the footsteps of Roy Acuff and Porter Wagoner as celebrity host of the Grand Master Fiddler Championship, now settled in at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum annually on Labor Day weekend joined by emcees Kevin Mudd and Craig Havighurst.

Randall Franks

My association began with the event when I first competed in the competition as a teen and later served as a Grand Ole Opry guest entertainer at the event.

The late Dr. Perry Harris forged the creation of the contest with the backing of legendary Opry figures including Roy Acuff. Each year an award is given in his honor – this year Grammy © winner and champion fiddler Larry Franklin of the Time Jumpers and formally of Asleep at the Wheel was honored for his work in support of the traditional art of fiddling.

Howard Harris and Ed Carnes continue the tradition of making the event a success with the support of a board of directors.

As part of the event weekend Grand Ole Opry stars the Riders in the Sky and Mike Snider appeared and last year’s winners Maddie Denton and Ivy Phillips made their Grand Ole Opry appearances.

The Grand Master Youth Champion is Benjamin Lin of Lexington, Ky., the Grand Master Traditional Champion is Tyler Andal of Nashville, Tenn. Both won $300, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque, and will appear on the Grand Ole Opry.

The Grand Master Fiddler for 2017 is Mia Orosco of Woodway, Texas who took home $1,200 in cash, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque, and will appear on the Grand Ole Opry.

Congratulations to all the competitors and thanks to Howard and Ed for working so hard to keep the tradition growing!

Grand Master Fiddler Champion Mia Orosco (third from left) of Woodway, Texas receives her trophy, from left, GMFC Host Randall Franks, GMFC Director Ed Carnes, and GMFC Director Howard Harris. GMFC Photo by Susan Harris

Wanda Jackson, rockin’ her story into print

Legendary rockabilly and country music pioneer Wanda Jackson will see her new autobiography Every Night Is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame released by BMG on Nov. 14.

Known as the “Queen of Rockabilly” and the “First Lady of Rock & Roll,” she landed more than thirty singles on the country and pop charts between 1954 and 1974. Featuring over eighty photographs from her personal collection and a foreword by Elvis Costello, Every Night is Saturday Night is the rockin’ great-grandmother’s chance to finally share the story of her fascinating life and career in her own words.

Jackson’s debut single, “You Can’t Have My Love,” reached the Top 10 while she was still a sixteen-year-old high school student. She hit the road after graduation, playing package shows with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, who gave Wanda his ring and asked her to be “his girl.” With Presley’s encouragement, the Oklahoma native began recording rock music, often releasing singles with country on one side and rock on the other during her decade-and-a-half tenure on Capitol Records.

Her energetic stage shows and pioneering presence as a female artist helped Wanda storm the charts with a series of hit singles, including “Let’s Have a Party,” “Right or Wrong,” and “In the Middle of a Heartache.” With over 40 albums to her credit, Wanda has proven to be an enduring and genre-defying legend of American music.

In Every Night is Saturday Night, Wanda tells the story of being discovered by Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Thompson; and why she refused to return to the Grand Ole Opry for more than fifty years,

She also shares the challenges she and her integrated band, The Party Timers, faced when touring in a less racially tolerant era and opens up on her personal memories of her relationship with Elvis; and how she ultimately found the love of her life.

Along the way, Wanda reveals details about her first boyfriend, who went on to become a well-known pioneer of country music’s Bakersfield Sound; how she launched the career of country star Roy Clark; the challenges she faced as a woman who introduced sex appeal to country music and growling femininity to rock & roll; her recent work with rock luminaries such as Jack White and Joan Jett; and how her deep faith has sustained her over more than seven decades of rocking, shocking, and thrilling audiences around the globe.

Wanda will launch the book with several public events and book signings around its release, including Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles and Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

Lee Greenwood, a point of light

When I started my crossover career into country music in the 1980s, one of the shining stars was Lee Greenwood. He is still being recognized as a Point of Light.

The Grammy®-winning artist was honored with the Point of Light Award. created by the administration of President George H. W. Bush, the Daily Point of Light Award honors individuals and groups creating meaningful change in communities across America.

Greenwood, who was recently named one of Billboard’s 100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time, has done over 30 tours with the USO and is an ambassador for non-profit organization, Help A Hero. Despite his great musical success, Greenwood says he is most proud of what he can give back to his country and those who have served.

“I count it a privilege to be in a position to brighten a veteran’s day or help unite the country after a tragedy like 9-11 and I am honored to be named as a Daily Point of Light by our beloved president, George H.W. Bush,” he said. “Knowing that this award is the largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, I consider this to be one of my most prestigious honors.”

Greenwood was presented the Points of Light Award in August by the Chairman of Helping a Hero, Chris Daniel. Points of Light works in partnership with companies, foundations, government agencies and nonprofits to achieve the greatest impact.

“Lee inspires me and I still get goosebumps every time I hear him sing or watch him present the keys to a specially adapted home to one of our wounded warriors,” said Meredith Iler, Chairman Emeritus of Helping a Hero. “It was an honor to nominate Lee for the Daily Point of Light award and to surprise him with the Daily Point of Light Award alongside dozens of wounded warriors who love and respect him.”

Helping a Hero is a non-profit, founded in 2006, that provides support for military personnel severely injured in the war on terror. Their principal activity is to provide specially adapted homes for qualifying service members through partnerships made with the builders, developers, communities, and the veteran. To learn more, or to donate, visit www.helpingahero.org.

Throughout his expansive career, international country music icon Lee has earned multiple CMA and ACM Awards, a Grammy Award for Top Male Vocal Performance on “I.O.U,” in 1985, and a multitude of other prestigious award nominations. His discography includes twenty-two studio albums, seven compilation albums, seven No. 1 hits and thirty-eight singles including songs like “It Turns Me Inside Out,” “Ring on Her Finger Time on Her Hand,” “She’s Lyin,” “I don’t Mind the Thorns if You’re the Rose,” “Dixie Road,” “Somebody’s Gonna Love You,” “Going Going Gone,” “You Got a Good Love Comin,” among others. His stand-out hit “God Bless the U.S.A.” has been in the top five on the country singles charts three times (1991, 2001 and 2003), giving it the distinction of being the only song in any genre of music to achieve that feat.

His latest book release is a children’s book called “Proud To Be An American,” which is currently available in stores, on Amazon and LeeGreenwood.com.

Lee Greenwood continues to spread his patriotism through his current tour across America. For more information on Lee Greenwood, please visit leegreenwood.com and follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram..

Joe Mullins: The Story We Tell is a must have

One of my favorite talented bluegrass friends Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers has an amazing new CD entitled The Story We Tell from Rebel Records. The band’s sixth CD in seven years brings together a vibrant collection of songs that when heard, work together like chapters from a well-worn literary classic.

Filled with new songs from some of today’s top songwriters including Larry Cordle, Jerry Salley, Ronnie Bowman, Steve Bonafel, and Raleigh Satterwhite, alongside forgotten gems the band dusted off from such varied sources as The Delmore Brothers, Merle Haggard, and The Browns, the balance achieved on The Story We Tell flows through the speakers like tuning in to your favorite radio broadcast — a claim only befitting of the reigning IBMA Broadcaster of the Year, Joe Mullins.

“We gathered a very diverse set of songs, heavy on new material from great writers, allowing us to tell several types of stories — tales of fun, family, fiddlers, faith, felons, and one funeral … real bluegrass,” banjo player Joe Mullins.
And if the lead off track and first single, “Long Gone Out West Blues,” debuted on Bluegrass Today’s Top 20 Songs chart, maintaining a strong presence for five consecutive weeks.

Featuring Mullins alongside bluegrass veterans Mike Terry (mandolin), Jason Barie (fiddle), Randy Barnes (bass), and Duane Sparks (guitar), The Story We Tell showcases the band’s most inventive and innovative arrangements to date, both vocally and instrumentally on 12 tracks. With an approach to the music that rings with authenticity, the band secures a rightful place among the traditional guard of bluegrass while standing comfortably shoulder to shoulder with more progressive type artists who find themselves drawn to not only JMRR’s music, but their down-home, likable nature.
In the album’s liner notes, journalist Craig Havighurst brings The Story We Tell and its authors to one solid conclusion: “Joe and his superb band with its diverse strengths and multiple lead vocalists have patiently carved out a special place in the national scene. They’ve won some awards that you can look up, though fewer than they deserve and fewer than they will over time. What matters more is that Joe’s steady contributions and excellent performances are accumulating, year in and out. So is a larger story of an artist who’ll tend to traditional music for decades, something we very much need as the genre widens. Just remember that Joe and his band mates are standing sentinel over something even more profound than the cultural creation we cherish as bluegrass. They’re giving us all tuneful, truthful reasons to have faith in the future of the country.”

The Story We Tell is available for digital download at iTunesGoogle Play, and Amazon. Consumers may also order The Story We Tell direct from Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers at www.radioramblers.com.

Could I borrow a cup of chiggers?

That may sound like a strange question but after you already have a whole hoard move in on you, what’s a few more?

I was filming a movie outside Nashville when I noticed that I had an extreme need to reach down a scratch my leg again and again. I wasn’t even filming outside where you might expect them to pay a call. I just had picked the critter up along the way.

I had forgotten what a hair raising experience it is to find oneself as the battle ground upon which these critters wage war.

They are like an army quietly waiting for a battle front to move into their theater of operations and once they do the chiggers slowly advance surmounting the shoes, the socks making their way as if they were advancing towards the German front leaving behind little command posts as they go.

The memory of childhood scrubbings, dousing the shoes in sulfur powder, and covering those command posts with calamine lotion are all etched in my memory.

Thankfully there was just one lone scout that caught me in Nashville, there was one time when I sat at my newspaper desk a few years ago, I noticed that I seemed to have itches popping up in places I didn’t even know I had. Later that evening, the plain truth became apparent.

In the fulfillment of my patriotic journalistic duties, I had crossed over into the sovereign nation of Chiggerland. They were so put out by my invasion, they sent out their best commandos to repel my attack and wouldn’t you know it, I left before those critters found their way back home.

In any event, by suppertime they had built new outposts from head to toe.

In trying to thwart their assault, one simple remedy came to mind — fight fire with fire. No, that wasn’t it. To scratch or not to scratch, that is the question. It wasn’t that either but I think the affirmative won.

I got up and rushed into the bathroom as the stroke of memory from childhood hit me, the way to handle this was to find a bottle of fingernail polish and paint the white flag of surrender on each fortification so they knew I was giving in.

The only negative thing is the one remaining bottle I found left amongst my late mother’s things was red. I just could not quite bring myself to painting myself all over with red fingernail polish. So, I decided, first thing in the morning, I would get what everyone needs in their fight against dem critters, clear fingernail polish and some benedryl.

What dem critters do not really know is when you paint those little flags of surrender you are really attacking dem with your own little secret weapon and slowly they give up.

So in any event, I am happy to report that on almost all fronts, the chiggers lost the battle, although I made every effort to steer clear of any opportunities for them to bring in reinforcements.

Just remember a scratch in time saves nine, no, that’s not it. One good scratch deserves another, that’s not it either. Well there must be some lesson learned here. If I figure it out, I will let you know for right now I had better run I think that one little critter from Nashville is acting up again. Now where did I put that furniture polish, no that’s not it.


A tool bag full of answers

With my nose pressed against the window, I anxiously watched for the arrival of my father from work. With him he would often carry a large, black leather tool bag which, for a little boy like me, held a world of adventure.

After dinner, Dad would spend time at the kitchen table working on various fix-it projects.

I would walk by the table where he was working on some gismo. It is amazing how many little parts would be meticulously set out where they could be cleaned, re-worked and replaced. Every tool had it’s purpose.

“Can I help you daddy?”

“Yes, son. Get me my pliers out of my tool bag,” he said.

I would search through the bag to find the pliers. With each odd looking tool I would say, “Daddy, what do you do with this?” He would tell me, even though he knew I would ask again the next time. Finally, I would find the tool he asked for and hand them over.

He would say, “Just in time.” He would do some little something with it and then set it neatly with the other tools.

Thinking back, he probably did not need those pliers, but he found a use for them anyway just so I could say I helped him fix whatever it was.

Usually as he was nearing the end of his project, I’d run in and ask, “Dad when will you be done?”

He’d say, “Soon son, soon. When I get these tools cleaned up.”

My father was a man of tools, and with them he accomplished great things. The tool bag to him was like a doctor’s stethoscope or a preacher’s bible — it helped to solve the mysteries in his life.

He had the ability to fix almost anything. I am sad to say the mechanically-minded trait did not pass down in my genes.

Much of what my father did for a living rotated around his ability to fix things.

During his life, he worked for several companies fixing everything from Singer sewing machines to Royal typewriters. The job he retired from spoke highly of his abilities to adapt to new technologies. He was responsible for keeping the computers at the IRS running. I’m not talking about these little personal computers. I’m talking about when super computers ruled the world, and they took up the space of nearly a football field.

When he passed years ago, many of his tools came to me. Some are still packed away as he left them. Many of the tools I have no idea for what they could be used. I keep them simply because they were his.

More and more, I find myself doing various jobs around the house. While I am still not mechanically inclined, with patience I usually manage to figure out how to fix whatever it is. Many times I find myself looking through his tool bag for tools that might be put to use in my objective.

My father Floyd Franks died in August 1987 and one year later in August 1988, God sent another fatherly figure into my life, a television icon to all the world, but to me someone who in many ways picked up sharing fatherly advice in my life. One day, the late Carroll O’Connor and I were standing in a pawn shop set on “In the Heat of the Night” looking into a case of tools and knives. We talked about how you can often judge the character of a man by how he cares for his tools.

If he has respect for them, that will be reflected in his life. My Dad took care of his tools and he shared that respect with me.

Today we often depend upon others to fix things we cannot. Oftentimes this tendency carries over into other aspects of our lives as we look to others to fix things which are broken.

Patience and respect will lead you to solutions that can solve many problems.

The tools to fix them are often just inside your own tool bag; you just need to take the time to look.

These are lessons, we also share with Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholars as they embark on their lives continuing the traditional music of Appalachia. Learn more about how you can help make a difference in the lives of our scholars at www.shareamericafoundation.org.