Fear itself

“The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself” were some words that the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared with the nation at a time when the people were in need of comfort.
Have you found yourself afraid with the recent pandemic?
Fear manifests itself differently sometimes depending on the circumstances.
In some folks their insides curl up and squirm; the heart beats faster; there is and increased sensitivity to everything in their environment, while others feel trapped within themselves sinking into crying or freezing from dread.
In the recent nationwide experience, it seems to have kicked off a passion for collecting toilet paper. I am sure one day we may understand that response, but I have to admit it eludes me presently.
I have felt fear several times in my life. There is what we may consider good fears – those spurred from watching a scary film or TV show or going through a haunted house. I did that quite a bit as a youth but find myself steering away from that now.
There are also fears that tell us when we are steering from the path we should be on whether physically or spiritually.
I know that I have felt this in both cases, it is sort of a sixth sense that you need to be cautious and aware.
Do we always listen to the fear? No, at times we don’t and sometimes that is to our detriment and other times it is to our benefit.
I personally feel that in this time, it would be to benefit to not give in to the fear. That does not mean however we should not protect ourselves, our family and loved ones during this time by proper planning and prudent actions.
I am sure that many people who serve and protect us experience a sense of fear as they do their various jobs as police, fire fighters, military and medical professionals – doctors, nurses, technicians, but they must overcome those to help others.
As individuals we can sometimes allow our fears to become so pervasive that they dominate our lives.
From childhood I have fought to overcome fears – fears of being bullied by others, fears of failure, fears of not being good enough. I have awakened in the night in a cold sweat, heart beating fast, stomach in knots, simply afraid. I fear the consequences of something I have said; some perceived error in judgment, failure in character, shortcoming that makes me feel inadequate in the goals I have set for myself or in the expectations of others.
These have not all brought on the extreme fear reaction mentioned above but they are all concerns that I think each of us face in our own way at some point in our lives.
Fear can be an all-consuming force that will destroy our lives if allowed but if recognized for the barometer it is meant to be, fear is there to help protect us.
At this time, find ways to redirect the fear towards creating opportunities to accomplish great goals in your home, your yard, with your internal spirit, and within your family. Find ways to helps others without triggering your fears or theirs and support your local businesses in the time of uncertainty. Respect one another and be kind. We are not the first generation to experience widespread disease, just be thankful that we are more prepared and able to respond better than those before us.
For me, when I find myself with a spirit of fear invading my well being when it is especially unwarranted, I stop and pray for God to ease the fear and forgive me for whatever known or unknown action may have brought it about.
While this does not eliminate the ultimate possibility that whatever was feared may come to pass, it does help center my mind, body and spirit back to where it needs to be – on God.
Everyone makes mistakes that can throw our lives into unanticipated turmoil and bring on that sense of fear for the consequences, the measure of each of us, is how we face those fears.

Family ties won’t be broken

The importance of one’s family connections is something that I believe we are losing in America.
With each generation there are fewer individuals who live close to their extended families, unlike the days when grandma and grandpa lived just in the next room or uncles, aunts and cousins were a short walk down the road.
Many Americans today do not really know the members of their extended family. We spend a few awkward moments together at funerals, family reunions, Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings and then off we go back to our own lives.
As families build lives miles away from their home many grasp the anonymity of their new surroundings with fervor, often dreading when a distant family member might drop in, disrupting their lives.
Despite the fact that my parents chose to move away from their homes to build a life for themselves in Atlanta, I grew up in a home where our door was open to members of both my mother’s and father’s families. It was not unusual for there to be cousins stretched out on quilted pallets sleeping on the living room floor; uncles rummaging through the refrigerator for green dill pickles as a late night snack; aunts blanching red tomatoes from the garden in the kitchen; or distant kin moving in for an extended stay while they looked for a job or planned a new start.
Because of the time I spent with these people growing up, I feel a much closer connection to them; the shared experiences make chance meetings and gatherings less of a strain today.
It was not unusual for my Mom to get up and start cooking a batch of turnip greens, cornbread and some fried chicken, while cleaning the house from end to end. When asked why she was doing it, she would say “so and so” will be here directly. Sure enough, after a while they would knock at the door. My Mom has a second sense about that. With no forewarning she knew some relative was on their way.
Sundays were a big visiting day. It was not unusual for Uncle Harvey, Aunt Lois and all their kids to load up in the car and be knocking at our door before dinner. Sometimes Grandma Allie and Grandpa Jesse would come along for the ride.
Us cousins would spend the afternoon playing as the folks caught up on all the family news. We might ride over to the airport to watch the planes land or go downtown to sight see. We would eat dinner, and then whomever was visiting would load up in the car and head back up to the mountains of Georgia or Tennessee.
I remember one trip when Uncle Harvey and family came down to see Joe Don Baker in “Walking Tall.” Of course, us kids were not old enough to go to the drive-in and see it so we had a sleepover instead, while most of the adults took in the hit movie.
Just like their visits there, we also visited regularly. Despite the distance it was like we were one family experiencing life together rather than living separate lives and putting up with one another for a few hours at the holidays.
God has called many of those family members for an extended stay at his house. While they are absent here, the experiences still live within me, giving me a sense of the extended family even if there are fewer of them now on this side than there once was.
The stories they told of relatives I never knew made those people alive to me. Through those stories many of my characters come to life on the page in columns and in scripts.
As each holiday rolls by, take the time to experience more than just the ordinary. Help create an experience that will last for yourself and your children throughout the lifetime. It is the shared moments of life that will make the basis for what we know as family.
If we as a country do not work to strengthen our families individually, what will the future hold for the American family as a whole? I guess we will be a country of individuals seeking a group in which to belong. We can only hope those groups aren’t exclusively on social media.

Feudin’ — it’s all in the family

A few months back I met a new friend at a political rally, when I heard the name, I found myself just having to share with him that unfortunately, we could not be friends because we were feudin’.
The young man, of course, had no clue of what I was talking about, so I went on to share a bit about my family history and one of the many historical feuds within the family tree.
When we hear the words family feud, we think of the game show, but in many areas of the mountains the words had a much more serious and sometimes violent meaning. Folks around the world have heard of the Hatfield and McCoy Feud but what about the Swafford Tollett Feud?
I have written many a column about the idyllic happenings of my mother and grandparents in the valley below the Gravelly Spur Mountain. The now peaceful Sequatchie Valley north of Pikeville, Tennessee was the scene that a feud carried on from the Civil War until the 1890s and by some accounts truly did not completely end until the Great Depression.
Many years ago, I met a distant cousin, the late cousin Thomas V. Swafford who had written a book entitled “The Swafford-Tollett Feud.” I learned so much from he and his book shooting straight about the good and the bad, the positive and the negatives of more than 50 years of ill will, court battles, moonshining, gun fights, beatings, burnings and intimidation.
Swafford said in 2007 that many might not wish the stories told.
“A few people may say this book should have not been written,” he said. “They may say it opens old wounds and even that should be swept under the rug and hidden from future generations.”
Several in the previous generation probably preferred to let the tales die in the dust and be washed away by time. That is understandable, many of us prefer to gloss over the misdeeds of those behind us and polish the tarnished memories away.
At the root of the feud is often what we see in the movies and on television, money, revenge, property rights, and even a difference in beliefs. Swafford’s research points many of the early differences to one family aligning with the Confederacy and the other aligning with the Union. What makes it more difficult is the families were intermarried so cousins were feuding with cousins.
Some tales credit the beginning of the feud to be the 1863 murder of John Tollett, Jr., 72, who was tortured and killed by raiders supporting the North during the Civil War of which Aaron Swafford was believed to be amongst. Tollett was said to have a large amount of gold stored away and the raiders tried to make him give it up.
From this one Civil War period murder came decades of fighting.
I could tell you about the big election shoot out led by the Tolletts against the Swaffords and how many people were killed and injured or the logging incident lead by the Swaffords against the Tolletts.
There were many others featured in the book that show the violence moving from one generation to another and affecting other valley families and the law as it begins to take a more active role in trying to control some of the unruly behavior of its participants or their descendants right up into the Great Depression.
Of course, feuding killing wasn’t like regular murder in those days. Swafford quoted one lawyer’s comment that: we take into account whether the victim deserved killing, when he was asked why so many murders go unpunished.
It apparently was very difficult to yield a guilty verdict when the death occurred between two well-known feuding families.
Swafford wrote back then that “I am happy to report today the Tolletts and Swaffords are not only neighbors they are truly friends,” he said.
Personally, I was glad to hear this from my distant cousin. You see I am neither a Tollett nor a Swafford descendant, but I am cousins with both families with our family leaning towards the Tollett side in the feud as best I can tell. Those old suspicions and distrust flowed so deeply into the family beliefs, even I knew of them as a boy and was cautioned as a man to be cautious of dealings with the other family. I really never understood exactly why until I read his book because the stories were kept quiet. I was glad to bury the old feud in my mind by learning more but it never hurts to remind folks that it happened, so we can learn not to repeat the old mistakes.  I am pleased to say, my new friend and I didn’t restart it either.
Besides, I only have one bullet in my shirt pocket left from “In the Heat of the Night,” no need to waste it a feudin’ — you never know when Bubba might need a hand again.

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.

Could you please stop that cat scratching?

Have you ever watched a child cast one toy aside and reach for something else? A friend of mine once told me he had watched his grandchildren open gifts and cast each one aside looking for the next one while spending no time with the one they just opened.

He shared with me that at that point he knew his grandchildren had come to expect too much, wanting more and more — rather than being satisfied with one gift, they wanted to rip through dozens and then simply cast them aside.

I looked at my watch as mother drove by the old Colonial Grocery Store saying, “Hurry, Mom, we are going to be late.” Of course, we were not going to be late. The piano store was just next door. I picked up my books and rushed inside. I was always amazed at a store filled with pianos — I really wanted to get there early so I could go through and try out several of them while I waited my turn with piano teacher Jean Stiles.

I do not know what made me want to go from instrument to instrument playing. Perhaps it was the same desire that made those children my friend had described ripping through more and more presents. Although the pianos were not mine and would not be.

I was intrigued by the talents of gospel pianist Hovie Lister, Eva Mae LeFevre and classical pianist Victor Borge. Several of my cousins had the knack to play piano along with their singing, so I had hoped the gene passed to me as well.

Of course, as a child of eight, my repertoire was a bit slim. In spite of the best efforts of my teacher, I was not the most proficient student who worked through “The Minuet” and “The Entertainer.”

No matter my deficiencies, I had a true desire and my mother supported that to no end. She worked overtime to afford a walnut Currier Spinet piano and pay for my lessons.

One day while sitting in my elementary school room, the entire course of my life changed. Dr. Donald Grisier, DeKalb County orchestra teacher, came into the room and played Chubby Wise and Ervin Rouse’s “Orange Blossom Special” on the violin. I have not been worth shooting since.

I had heard my great Uncle Tom Franks play the violin like his father had done before him at family gatherings, but now there was someone willing to sit and teach me.

After convincing my parents that I wanted to learn violin, I signed up. My mother once again went out of her way to see that I got the opportunity by renting an instrument. I also continued my piano study, but eventually it did fade away in the shadow of the fiddle. I realized I was not going to be the next Hovie Lister or Victor Borge. The fiddle would stick and lead me to some amazing places. Although, early in the process there was enough sounds like a cat scratching coming out of it to run any sane person out of the house.

While I would never consider myself a pianist, the knowledge I gained while learning about the instrument has served me extremely well in every musical endeavor. The experience prepared me for a lifetime of lessons in almost every pursuit I’ve chosen to follow.

So, while at times children may be spoiled by piles and piles of material gifts that simply get laid aside, if a child shows interest in music, even if the child has absolutely no talent for it, and may someday lay the expensive instrument aside for other pursuits, remember as the child’s practicing causes the paint to peel in the family room, love of music is a gift that will last a lifetime and can span the generations.


A laugh saves us every time

When I find myself frustrated with the things that come my way, there are always two places I go. First, I go to the word of God; secondly, I go to God’s gift to the world — comedy. God must have a sense of humor; just look at all the great things he gives us to laugh at.

When I was little, I always looked forward to “The Red Skelton Show.” When the network finally took it off, I remember being very upset. I remember literally rolling in the floor and laughing, ‘til it hurt, at the routines and characters of this master entertainer.

As a musician, the craftsmanship of musical comedy by Victor Borge still fascinates me.

These skilled conveyors of mirth made me and millions of others laugh without bad language, lewd comments or off-color humor.

So many people have made me feel better in my life with just a few minutes of their artistry.

The situation comedies that I have seen a thousand times still can take me away and lighten my heart, shows like “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The network did not envision the impact those characters would have on America and the world. I am blessed to know Donna Douglas “Elly Mae Clampett.” She and Buddy Ebsen, Max Baer, Jr., and Irene Ryan have brought me endless hours of feeling good.

Irene Ryan’s “Granny” became so much a part of my childhood that her real life passing affected me as if she was a member of my family. I still have the newspaper clipping in my Bible after all these years.

She had worked a lifetime enjoying many successes, but it was not until God opened the door for her to play “Granny” that she lifted millions around the world out of their problems for a few minutes a day. I just have to think about some of the outlandish things that she, the Hillbillies and their support cast did to bring me out of the doldrums.

Saturday nights at seven at our house were the “Hee Haw” hour. It would be impossible to list all the wonderful cast members of that show.

Grandpa Jones, Minnie Pearl, Junior Samples, Archie Campbell, Gordy Tapp, Roni Stoneman and the entire cast could take the corniest routines and bring them life. They made Saturdays at seven something to look forward to.

I would be remiss not to mention the comedy talent of all the cast of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Don Knotts’ unique ability to take the simplest sentence or reaction and make it funny is an amazement. If there were comedic actors like that today, new television comedies might be worth watching.

I enjoyed “Frazier” too; those actors truly are superb with the material the writers give them, but I still would rather see Andy, Opie and all the gang.

I was once told that as an entertainer it is our job to take folks away from their problems, whether with a three-minute song, an hour-long television show or a live appearance.

I hope that my walk down memory lane with some of my favorite comedy people may have helped you think of something that makes you laugh, and thus makes you feel a whole lot better. I know I do.

Your word is your bond

I have been told there was a time when a person was judged upon the words which emanated from his mouth.
A person’s character could be seen in his deeds and by what he would say and sometimes what he would not say.
I have met many people in my life. Some, I would not trust them as far as I could throw them, while others — if they say it, it will be done.
When two people struck a bargain and shook hands there was nothing else to do.
Today, however, we are in a world filled will reams of contracts, agreements and endless disclaimers and visits to a lawyer.
My grandpa Bill was a man of his word. If he said he would help with something, no matter what hardship it placed upon him, he would do it.
In my association with music legend Bill Monroe, I learned quickly that his honor was paramount in his image.
There was never a bargain struck or a promise made between he and I that he did not make come to pass.
I remember visiting with him before his final illness. He walked up to me and with the strength of a 20-year-old he squeezed my hand. He looked at me dead in the eye and said, “I tell you man, there are not that many good men left any more. Men like us need to stick together and help each other out.”
More than his praise of my musical ability or all the things he had done for me in my life, those few words conveyed to me that he thought of me as a man of my word.
Working in the world of television and film, I quickly learned the lesson that many Hollywood movers and shakers tend to be the opposite. Most of these trendsetters simply tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth. This trend relates more to the stars and executives of the last two to three decades.
There are and were what I call “class acts” such as the late stars Gene Autry, John Wayne and Roy Rogers whose word was their bond. I wish there were more people like them today.
I cannot tell you how many times someone has promised me they would use me in a movie project, and then when the project came along that promise was forgotten.
I am afraid I have found the same to be true in the “real” world as well.
Sometimes it just makes you want to lose faith in the entire human race when a person tells you he will do one thing and he does another.
In my own life, I have never broke a promise or not followed through with an agreement. Being a man of your word also carries through to fulfilling the everyday tasks that we all do. Returning phone calls, fulfilling requests, replying to mail are just a few of the little things that some folks might miss.I know that I have probably misstepped by not doing a few things that I have said I would do in my life. For those touched by such an action, I ask for forgiveness.
But I also know when I have told someone I would do something, usually such an assurance has popped up in my memory over and over again until I finish the task. There have been times I have carried one of those little things around in my head for a couple of years until I could do something about it.
But no matter what, I always did it.
Despite trends to the contrary and those who we discover are not honorable by their deeds and words, I believe it is the responsibility of every individual to make every effort to rise above such people to make our community a place of honor. It is what we owe our forefathers who built this land, and what we owe those who fight and die for our continued freedom.

Fear not

Fear is something that hides deep within each of us as we walk through life.

I remember as a child, as many of my fellow youth gleefully looked to getting their first bicycle, within me was a sense of dread. I was comfortable with the tricycle and the insecurity of falling and losing my balance as I moved to the bike was such a hurdle to overcome. My father graciously added training wheels to the bicycle which I use for a brief time until the fear and dread faded and then one day, I asked him to take them off. I through my leg across and soared down the driveway looking back over my shoulder at my smiling father.

The fear was gone. Of course, that did not stop the future mishaps, being thrown over the handlebars head first and sliding down the pavement several yards. Even that did not dissuade my return to the seat of my green speedster.

As we age fear remains but takes different aims. As a teen the fear was of relationships. Not of girls, I liked them plenty but I just did not know how to ask one out for fear of rejection. And boy, did I get rejected. My heart became a revolving door of turndowns. With each and every one that fear of hurt just grew and grew into a monster. One day though, the answer was yes, and off to the races I went.

The fear was gone, until the day that she decided she no longer liked me and wanted to move on.

Then the fear of rejection took on a different form, it wasn’t immediate, it waited a few weeks into the relationship, so I could be vested and feel the rejection with greater amplitude. What a monster that was that I saw grow year by year. Eventually though, I cast even that monster aside with a battle worthy of knighthood.

But fear was not gone, it came forward in the search for success, after failure here and there mounted, the concerns were growing within, “Will I ever find a place in life that I will work and serve and find contentment?”

That fear has been present throughout my life and no matter what successes others may see within my walk in life, I am always that youth out of school trying to find my place in the world that will make me, and others happy. Will I overcome it before I reach check out? I doubt it. But I will keep picking up my sword daily and beating it back as I serve my way through to the Pearly Gates. God has a purpose and reason for what is behind and ahead in my work for Him.

Fear manages to creep into the corners of our life and sit there waiting to pounce. I remember at points in my life, I sat fearful and immobilized by things that were ridiculous, but at the time, they consumed me and my thoughts. I let other influences control my being by their actions, their deeds, their words. Then I realized that I am not their plaything. I am in control of my life and as long as I am able to conduct what I do in an honorable, consistent, lawful, and faithful fashion, I should not be afraid.

I am thankful to my closest friends and relatives who have helped me through the years as I have struggled with various areas where fear has gripped my life, they have been God’s angels walking through my life steering me in the right direction.

Now, though I have seemed to be negative on fear in the words thus far, I am thankful for the spirit of fear that God sends to warn us away from impending disaster, from making the wrong decision, or doing something that might alternatively change the course of our life in a negative way. In those senses, fear is welcomed and in another way comforting.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)



Is today the first day of the rest of your life?

Folks often see the change of a new year as an opportunity for renewal.

“Let’s get rid of the old habits that plaque our existence,” is often what drives this sense of new found opportunity.

We will shed those unwanted pounds, stop smoking, be kinder to those who irritate us, make up with friends or relatives with whom we are estranged, be a better employee, make church every Sunday.

All these seem like valued opportunities and goals and I wholeheartedly support any efforts your desire to make to fill your life with joy, happiness and a daily dose of goal-oriented focus!

Let’s see I will start off with setting my alarm at 6 a.m. and off to the exercise machines I will go.

One. Two, Three, Four, Five…. Well that’s enough of that, boy I feel better, now for a few minutes riding the bike while watching the news and 30 minutes later I hop off the bike, feeling a great sense of accomplish all the while angry over something I heard on the news. Well next time no news watching.

OK, next day… set the alarm… it goes off… I reach to hit snooze as I realize my well exercised arm now hurts… goes off again… I move my legs which now hurt also. Oh, I’ve got to exercise but my legs and arms are revolting.

I pull myself out of bed and make my way to the equipment sit down and give it my best … one, two, two… two… I guess my best is not so good. Well to the bike, OK, remember no news… what am I going to do while peddling? Ow, that hurts… Well maybe I skip the bike today.

Third day… snores fill the room as I forgot to set the alarm. I awake refreshed but later than normal, look at the clock and realize I am late for an appointment. Rush to get ready and out the door not even noticing the pain from the day before in my haste.

Isn’t the splendor of living better such an uplift? Well it really is once you get past the realization that anything you decide to do out of the norm, is generally not easy. It takes dedication, and a willingness to stretch yourself into where you desire to grow towards.

I hope that you find great success in every goal you set aside this month for 2020. I know that is my aim, if I can just get the legs to stop acting like spaghetti when I try to walk after all this amazing joy, I am filling them with.


The differences within 100 years

The other day I realized I am now living 100 years beyond my grandparents’ key time in their lives.

In 1920, my grandparents Bill and Kitty Bruce had been married for four years.

My grandfather had spent his youth in the west, returned to Tennessee and found himself a bride half his age, bought land with the money he earned out west and started farming raising corn, tomatoes, running cattle and hogs.

They watched Bill brothers Tom and James, cousins and friends go off to WWI among the 130,915 men and women from Tennessee who did. Tom died, while James returned a shell of his former self and died within a couple of years.

They survived the Spanish flu epidemic that killed other family and friends as it savaged community after community infecting 500 million in 1918 around the world.

In this year my grandmother would become pregnant beckoning my first aunt Minnie Lee, named for her aunt, who would pass as a toddler in 1923.

My grandmother for the first time in her life was allowed to walk in a polling place and cast a ballot as women gained the vote. Grandpa would vote for Democrat James Cox while my grandmother always proudly said she voting just the opposite just to cancel out Grandpa’s vote meaning she voted for Republican Warren G. Harding. Not sure if she ever told grandpa though, she told me long after he was gone.

They rode horses, buckboards, buggies or walked where they went. There were no automobiles. They chopped down trees to build what they needed and cut wood to cook on and to heat from the cold. Harvest time meant canning vegetables to eat throughout the year. Meat was smoked in the smoke house, salted and cured to sustain meats to eat when hunting was slim.

As I look around at what I experience each day. I make much of my living in mediums that were not even existent – radio and television. Buying musical recordings was still in its infancy in those days with 78s and Victrolas being the source. Not one of those were within miles of them and it would be many years before a battery-operated radio would make its way to the valley.

If I get hungry, I go out, get in my SUV, drive to a restaurant, or to the store and buy something a farmer somewhere put into the food supply chain to fill the need. If I cook it at home, much of the time I pop it into a microwave oven and in a few minutes, I am seated in front of my favorite TV show eating away. That experience would have taken my grandmother hours in addition to the months it took my father to cultivate and/or hours to hunt or raise, slaughter and preserve.

I look up in the sky and I see jet planes, they looked up and saw only the birds for a few more years. Thanks to the advantage of science, and communication, we can anticipate the weather while they reacted daily to what occurred.

I communicate on a phone I carry in my pocket, they had to holler up the holler or send someone walkin’ to spread any news for quite a few more years to come. I can look at a computer and catch up on the news, they had to wait for a newspaper to come through the area at the general store.

It is amazing what 100 years has brought us. Is it better? It is more convenient. I do not know if it’s more healthy for us. It is definitely different and I imagine if my 1920s grandparents were dropped into what I see daily, I imagine they would feel we have a strange and foreign life.

Both lived to see the transition to automobiles, the advent of television and grandmother lived well beyond man reaching the moon and folks thinking of flying as a real form of transportation.

Such amazing things they saw… I don’t know if what we have in store ahead of us will compare but I certainly hope it will be and I realize how amazing it really is!