Reaching and Reevaluating goals

Reaching lifetime goals often means it is time to reformulate your life and create new goals.I reached a career goal in 1993 that I had pursued since I was a little child.

Since the first time I watched Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs sing “Little Girl of Mine In Tennessee” to “Granny” and “Uncle Jed” on “The Beverly Hillbillies;” since the first time I saw Wayne Newton play a down home country boy who could really saw the fiddle; or since the first time I watched Doug Dillard and all the Dillards entertain “Sheriff Andy Taylor” as “The Darlings” on the “Andy Griffith Show” with his up tempo banjo tunes; I dreamed of walking on network television to pick and grin.

I always figured that such national exposure for a young boy from Georgia had to come through music. There were just not that many other avenues at that time. So I worked and studied to improve my music, working to create and market our youth group, The Peachtree Pickers®, by working flea markets, churches and schools. We began competing at fiddler’s conventions and then moved up to entertaining larger and larger audiences at bluegrass festivals and fairs. The support of my late parents Pearl and Floyd Franks and those of the other group members helped to move our joint goals forward. We reached network cable in its infancy with a children’s show called “The Country Kids TV Series,” essentially a children’s “Hee Haw” which aired in the United States and abroad. Our growth would eventually lead us to performances for the Grand Old Opry ® and some acceptance by the more mainstream music industry.

In 1987, members of our youth act decided to go their separate ways, partially due to new college obligations. I was at a new point in my life, trying to decide what is next. I had not yet reached my childhood goal, but without a group, which was still the foundation of bluegrass and southern gospel music at that time, I did not know what my next step would be. I decided to make some solo appearances pulling together musicians when needed and continued appearing with other acts such as The Marksmen Quartet and Doodle and the Golden River Grass.

I began work at the Atlanta-based MBM records in 1987 helping to guide the careers of several artists signed with the label while still performing every opportunity I had. In 1988, the label changed hands and my job was eliminated. So, once again, I found myself searching. While I had enjoyed doing some minor acting in school, I decided in order to reach my television goal, I would have to begin a more intensive study of acting and take any opportunity, which were not many at the time, I could to get to be on screen in Georgia.

But God seemed to immediately open the doors, giving me opportunity after opportunity. The music talents God gave me seemed to put me where I needed to be. It would not be music that landed me my role as “Officer Randy Goode” on “In the Heat of the Night,” but it would be the many friends I developed from years of touring and recording that would share their exuberance about my presence on the show. After countless requests from those who cared about my music asking for me to perform on the show, Carroll O’Connor wrote a uniquely designed scene in an episode entitled “Random’s Child” which would set up a reason and purpose for “Officer Randy” to be pickin’ and grinnin’ just to frustrate the bad guys in that episode. One of those bad guys was Robert O’Reilly, “Gowron,” leader of the Klingons, from “Star Trek, Deep Space Nine.” I bet that is the only time in my life I will get to aggravate a Klingon.

Anyway, Carroll wrote a little piece entitled the “Sparta Blues” for actor Thomas Byrd and I to perform at the Sparta Police impound yard when the bad guys came to claim their car.

I have always jokingly called it my biggest hit since millions saw and heard it on CBS and millions more around the world have heard it since. I’ve often wondered what it sounded like when translated into Chinese or Italian. Recently, one of our Italian fans actually sent me some Italian performances, they were interesting. I didn’t know I spoke Italian so well.

It took years but the childhood dream was reached, and the goal I had chased for years was accomplished.
Then I had to decide what was next. Life is a constant re-evaluation of where you are and where you are going. We can’t just simply drift or what service will that be to God and our fellow man? He has a purpose for everyone’s life. It is up to us to make His vision for us happen. He will open the doors; we must simply study and be prepared to walk through. But at the same time, as we walk with the confidence He gave us we must always be mindful of whether what we are reaching for is His will or one we have created. Only time will tell.

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 they would load up in the car and head back up to Tunnel Hill.

I remember one trip when they 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 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.

The night I will never forget

When I was a little boy I remember my Aunt Sis and Uncle Waymond losing their home as tornadoes ripped through Xenia, Ohio.

Tornadoes for me with that exception were something I saw on television news or in movies but they were not something that I had a first-hand experience with.
As I went to a meeting on the morning of April 27 in Rossville, Ga., it was apparent to me that I was on the heels of a tornado or very high winds that knocked down trees and stole the power source from the traffic signal lights and of course the government building where I was to meet with representatives from around the area relating to transportation planning.

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A superhero extreme makeover

For many years I have been amazed by the enthusiasm and energy of one boy. His name is Patrick Sharrock.
He is now 9 years old and he has lived his life with those qualities and many others including a desire to encourage others and a great sense of humor despite facing the issues of growing up a rare bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta or O.I.
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Finding “The Way Home”

I was recently honored to host a special evening in my hometown featuring showings of the new film “The Way Home.” I had originally attended a star-studded premiere of the Lionsgate and Red 5 Entertainment film at Atlanta’s Fox Theater.
I became familiar with the movie filmed on location in Carroll County, Ga. because one of my closest friends, Sonny Shroyer, “Enos” from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” joined Dean Cain and Lori Beth Edgeman in the project. Cain and Edgeman portray Randy and Christal Simpkins.

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A little funny never hurts

One of my readers said that I needed to share a bit of comedy in my column to raise the spirits of the folks back home. Well I don’t know if I can do that but I’m willing to take aim at it. So wherever you call home, I hope this uplifts your spirits!
One of my favorite places to find funny comments or situations is in church and sometimes the funniest thing you find relates with youngin’s and church thinkin’.

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Tim McCoy, America’s authentic western star

When you think of western films even thirty plus years after his passing the legendary John Wayne is who comes to most people’s minds.

Who can ever forget his greater than life presence on the screen no matter what film was rolling through the projector like “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “ The Sons of Katy Elder,” “True Grit,” “Rooster Cogburn,” and “The Shootist.” Read more

Ugh….computers

Computers truly have changed the world. Whether you like them or not, unfortunately they are part of our lives at least until the lights are turned out permanently.
My first experience with computers came when I was in high school. There was only one computer terminal in the whole school and there was no such thing as the Internet.

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Looking towards the peach state

While I often say I have had one leg in Georgia and the other in Tennessee since my childhood, I will always be drawn to the things that make the peach state great. I have driven its highways and back roads, played in its theaters and music parks and acted in endless hours of television filmed in the Georgia heat and cold.

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Where do we go from here?

I remember it as if it was yesterday. The doctor had told my Mom that she might have breast cancer. I wasn’t much more than eight years old and hardly understood what it meant. All I know is that it worried her and she was extremely sad. I was sitting on the bed next to her. She had been crying and I went in trying to console her and make her smile. I do remember that she did stop long enough to smile at me and tell me that she loved me.

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