The Christmas Doll

The winter of ’34 in the valley below the Gravely Spur was an especially hard one. A Christmas snow had blanketed the valley, making travel through the mountain passes treacherous, even if taken by foot.
With one false step, even those who knew the routes by heart could find themselves slipping into a snow drift hiding a potential fall.
However, for most of the children of the valley the snow turned it into a winter wonderland. Pearl, Ruby and the Wood boys were finding whatever they could ride to go sledding down Turner’s gorge. At the bottom of the gorge lay a pond formed from Frog Leg Creek which was covered in a thick coat of ice almost strong enough for skating. No one had any skates so they would simply slide across on the soles of the new shoes they received when the crops were sold.
While the children were unaware, most of the parents of the valley knew that the reality of the year had left them all in dire straits.
Toys at Christmas were largely a luxury in the valley. Even the well-to-do families were having trouble this year. The customary apple, banana or piece of peppermint stick candy that most of the children found in their stocking might be missed this year.
Pearl had sensed the concerns of her parents and with six children and four share-cropping families to help, she knew her father was doing all he could that year.
The unexpected snow however made it difficult for anything not already on hand to be brought into the valley.
Still Pearl hoped that she might find a little something for her Christmas morning that she could call her very own.
As she was sliding on the ice, she listened as the Wood boys laughed about what happened to what they got the year before.
“I can’t believe what George did to our present last year,” Woody said. “We got a whole string of firecrackers to split between us boys and he nearly run us out of the house with them.”
“He got up early Christmas morning and found them. They had this long string running through connecting them, so he took that loose and was counting them and splitting them up so we all had the same amount,” he said. “He threw that long piece of string in the fire. That thing jumped back out right in the middle of his pile. You should have seen George when those firecrackers started going off in every direction. They even jumped up in the bed with the rest of us and got everybody up in the house.”
But in spite of the snow, Santa would be making his usual stops at the Gravelly Spur no matter what. Because of the terrain, this year he would only make one stop in the valley and all the neighbors would go by Christmas morning and pick up what he had brought for the valley children.
Santa’s helper in the valley was Rev. Ben Smathers, who waited patiently Christmas Eve for Santa’s arrival. As the families came to Big Lick Church Christmas morning, he would then, one by one, distribute the gifts and the community would then gather for a celebration of Christ‘s birth.
Christmas morning, Pearl was up early, anxious for the trip to the church. In her stocking she found an orange and a stick of candy. When the family arrived at the church, she joined the other children in line at the tree and stepped up to Rev. Smathers. He placed in her arms a little blonde doll in a woven basket lying upon a blue cotton pillow.
“It is so beautiful,” she said. “Is she really mine?”
“Yes, just for you my dear,” he said. “So you take good care of her.”
As she looked in the eyes of her new friend, Pearl beamed with the joy of Christmas.
It was not stacks of gifts which made her eyes glimmer and her face shine with the light of the season. It was one simple gift of her very own given by the heart of a pastor who knew without his help many children would do without that Christmas.

Artist/Actor Randall Franks inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame

Actor/Artist Randall Franks was inducted recently into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame in November 2019 alongside Jimmy Bowen, Gail Davies, Jeannie C. Riley, and Grand Ole Opry star Jeannie Seely. Franks is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” in the award-winning series “In the Heat of the Night.”  Franks will join the ensemble cast of “A Cricket’s Dance” adding his talents to the upcoming 2020 feature film.

“I am deeply honored to be included in such company,” Franks said. “I never imagined as a Georgia boy who just loved to play my fiddle and sing, that one day my efforts might be heralded alongside those of so many of my musical heroes.”

Ceremonies were held at the 44th Annual Old Time Country Music Festival in Fremont, Nebraska where the native of Georgia also entertained the audience supported by the Kenastons – Vanessa, Sharon and Roger, who often appear on RFD-TV.

Franks joins honorees who have received the distinction since 1977 from the National Traditional Country Music Association including legendary acts such as Loretta Lynn, the Carter Family, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Grandpa and Ramona Jones, the Morris Brothers, Fiddlin’ John Carson and others. Many of the former honorees are included among those Franks highlighted in his “Encouragers” book series as those who helped him along his way.

“What a pleasure it was to induct a man who has so much at stake in ‘real’ rural music, and who does so much to keep America’s very own ‘rural music’ intact,” said Bob Everhart, President, National Traditional Country Music Association & Smithsonian Institution Recording Artist. “Randall not only plays a magnificent traditional country fiddle, his standing ovation proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt, he’s also one of the most keen and strongest musical voices for traditional country music I’ve personally ever heard in today’s music world, and in 44 years of doing a traditional country music festival, I just might have a ‘sense’ of what that is. Our ‘rural-country’ audience was profoundly impressed with Randall Franks, so was I.”


He began his rise in Nashville’s country music scene as a youth when Rock, Country, Bluegrass and Songwriter halls of fame member Bill Monroe recognized his talents and arranged the first of many repeat guest star appearances for the Grand Ole Opry 35 years ago. The Music City News was one of country’s first publications to acknowledge his talents alongside fellow 1980s country stars such as Reba McEntire, Alabama, and Lee Greenwood.

Franks soon expanded to musical appearances in movies and then landed a five-year role as “Officer Randy Goode” in the TV drama “In the Heat of the Night” as one of the police officers supporting the legendary Emmy winning actor Carroll O’Connor, Academy Award nominee Howard Rollins and Alan Autry. After leaving the show in 1993, while starring in movies, he returned to Nashville hosting concerts including at the Ryman, appeared for the Grand Ole Opry, and toured among the 1990s era country music stars.

While acting broadened his worldwide audience, music remained his passion yielding him appearances across the U.S. and Canada at fairs, festivals, concerts, and churches crossing genres from country, bluegrass, folk, Christian and most recently Americana.  He shared his Hollywood Hillbilly Jamboree at fairs and concerts around the U.S. and also made special appearances with his mentors Grand Ole Opry stars Jim and Jesse McReynolds.  

His musical creativity produced chart topping sellers such as the 1990 “Handshakes and Smiles” and the 1991 “Christmas Time’s A Comin’, ” 1992 “Sacred Sounds of Appalachia,” and critically acclaimed releases such as 1989 “Golden River Fiddlin’” and the 1995 “Tunes and Tales from Tunnel Hill,” and 2000 “God’s Children” with David Davis. With popular recordings within in numerous genres, his music was released by record labels including MGM/UA, Atteiram, Benson/Riversong, Sonlite, Zion, Lamp, Share America and Crimson.

Franks scored a number 1 Americana CD in June 2019 with “Americana Youth of Southern Appalachia” and currently holds the #3 spot on the Top 50 APD Americana / Grassicana Albums for October 2019.

His numerous awards and recognitions span from Male Vocalist of the Year to Songwriter of the Year and in 2011 he was honored by the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum as a Legend.

Franks is a mainstay as a celebrity host and entertainer at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship held at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum each Labor Day weekend. He also presents the Randall Franks Fiddle Trophy at the 1890s Days Jamboree Fiddle Contest on Memorial Day Saturday in his hometown of Ringgold, Ga.

Fans may download his music at Radio may find links to music from throughout his career at .

For more information like him on Facebook, follow @RandallFranks on Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to Randall Franks TV on YouTube.

Finding choices for a positive life

If circumstances have set out a path for you in life, sometimes your senses become dulled to the cherished moments that surround you.
You might become busy with meeting the demands of the day – keeping a family fed or meeting the demands of one’s job. You may find yourself in a race to achieve something more. You could be seeking to take yourself away from what you see as a sadness in your world or a darkness in your soul.
The holiday season can be a period when the weight of these circumstances is heavy upon the shoulders. We often cannot see the great blessings that fill our lives, the moments of kindness that folks share with us to brighten our day. The note, the e-mail, the call from out of the blue, the funny dog video someone sends on Facebook.
They are small but meant to share a sense that we are all in this life together and only through each other’s encouragement can we overcome the tough moments created both within our minds and without in our circumstances.
Sometimes we make decisions drawn to a choice because we seek a respite, we desire something different than we have, and we later realize that the diversion or the shiny new thing was not really what was best for us or our love ones. Then we must face the consequences of our choice.
Hopefully, these will be light upon our shoulders. But no matter the weight or the duration of the self-inflicted pain, we have the opportunity to carry the burden to a better place in life.
That can come from within ourselves, the love and encouragement of friends and families, and for me, from my faith that God can carry me through whatever comes and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
So, as we stroll through the lights, see the smiles, hear the laughter, let’s remember that joy is shared for all of us, and while the darkness may creep in momentarily to shadow our circumstances, the greatest gift of the season came to earth for the lonely, for the broken, for the sinners, to give us all the opportunity to realize that we can make a difference and the smallest joys of this world were put here for us all.

Warsh and wear

Today most folks don’t give a second thought if they get their clothes dirty to go and change into another outfit.
In the valley below the Gravelly Spur, an abundance of clothes in the closet was not something that most folks experienced.
The Woods boys, like everyone, were often faced with limited things to wear. Little Woody had only two pairs of overalls and two shirts.
After working in the fields two days in a row, both pairs of his overalls and his two shirts were stained with red dirt and mud. He came to his older sister and said “I haven’t got anything to wear to school tomorrow.”
She took him into the bedroom reached into the closet, pulled out her extra dress, and laid it on the bed.
“Get that on and I’ll wash up your overalls.”
Little Woody didn’t have much choice in the matter it was either put the dress on or run around in his all together. So out of the clod covered overalls and into the gray colored dress he slipped.
So even though it was late in the day, she pulled out the washtub and the warshboard and scrubbed them overalls from rusty brown to a faded blue.
She took them out and hung them to dry on the clothesline, as one would normally do.
As the family went to sleep that night, the temperature dropped way below freezing. When the family slowly made their way out into the kitchen wiping the sleep from their eyes with the rooster’s crow, little Woody’s older sister sent one of the other boys to fetch the overalls while she cooked.
He brought them in frozen solid, straight as a board. He stands them in the corner taking a bit of delight in the feat.
Woody is standing there in her gray dress and says “What are we going to do, I can’t were those to school and I am sure not wearing this dress.”
She took the overalls and shirts and placed them on chairs by the fireplace and within just a short time the overalls and shirts had melted into something looking like the occupants had simply disappeared. She quickly ironed one of the shirts.
Woody could not wait to get out of the dress and as soon as the overalls were warm enough and before the iron had hit them, he was into one of the pairs and out of that dress.
While the experience might not have been so bad for little Woody if his older brothers did not see the whole thing as an opportunity for some good old fashion ribbing once they got to school.
When the Moss brothers asked the Wood boys what they had done the night before each mentioned some adventure they had but one of them had to say, “Woody didn’t do anything. He was afraid to come out of the house cause someone might see him wearing sister’s dress.”
Needless to say this was enough to get Little Woody’s blood to boiling and with a little more agitation its safe to say that clean pair of overalls picked up a little schoolyard dirt as the kidders found themselves on the receiving end of his frustration.
Good thing his sister washed both pairs of overalls or he’d been back in that dress all over again.