Friday, May 30, 2008

An American Hero Not Forgotten

"For three hours,
he lay in a shallow
ditch as wave
after wave of
German infantry
surged toward him,
at times to within
five yards of his position."



Today, all of America should be celebrating Murl Conner Day. But, sadly, the majority of americans do not know who Murl Conner is. He should be the most decorated war hero of all wars, but unfortunately he is yet to receive the honor he is most worthy of.

Conner, who was born on this date, was a sergeant then later a lieutenant with the 7th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. He served on the front lines for over 800 days in eight major campaigns and was wounded a total of seven times. After each wound, Conner would return to combat and continue to fight on the front lines. During his last wound, Conner actually snuck away from the medical facility and went rushing back to the front line, just in time to volunteer for his toughest mission yet.

-o-

The date was January 24,1945 near Houssen, France. Conner left the hospital on his own, and when rushed into his commanding officers tent to report back to duty, he overheard talk of needing someone to run some wire to enhance his unit's communication capabilities. He volunteered. At 0800 hours, Conner grabbed the role of wire and charged 400 yards through the impact area of an intense concentration of enemy artillery fire to direct friendly artillery on a force of six Mark VI tanks and tank destroyers, followed by 600 fanatical German infantrymen, which was assaulting in full fury the spearhead position held by his battalion. As he unreeled the spool of wire, Lt. Conner disregarded shells which exploded 25 yards from him and set up an observation post. Then, for three hours, he lay in a shallow ditch as wave after wave of German infantry surged toward him, at times to within five yards of his position. In a kill or be killed act, the Lieutenant ordered his men along the front lines to fire at his position, and they did. Lt. Conner was individually credited with stopping more than 150 Germans, destroying all the tanks and completely disintegrating the powerful enemy assault force and preventing heavy loss of life in his own outfit.

For his act on that cold January day in 1945, Conner was awarded a citation for the Distinguished Service Cross. His commanding officer notified headquarters that he had a soldier who was due the Medal of Honor, but the process was interrupted due to the heat of the battle they were in, and, because of an oversight, the paperwork was never completed until after Conner's death. Still, Conner has never received the his Medal of Honor.
During his eight major campaigns on active duty, Conner received the Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, Silver Star and three oak leaf clusters, and the nation’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. On June 20, 1945, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the French Medal of Honor, that was also awarded to Sergeant Alvin C. York, America's most decorated World War I soldier.

-o-

Lt. Conner served in the same division as Audie Murphy, America's most decorated hero of all wars. But, Conner was awarded more silver stars for acts of valor, fought in more campaigns, served on the front lines longer, and was wounded more times than Murphy. If Lt. Conner were to receive the Medal Of Honor, it would mean he would have one more medal than Audie Murphy, which would make Conner the most decorated war hero of all wars.

After the war, Audie Murphy went to Hollywood, and Murl Conner went home to his farm.

Sad.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Learning To Live Without You


You are on my mind
Almost all the time
It's hard to live without you
But I'm learning every day
It's the saddest experience
But only time will tell
If I can learn to live as well
Without you
But some things never change
And without you
It might not be the same
What can I do
Learning to live without you


Friday, May 23, 2008

Tinker Dave Beaty "...He did not choose the war so much as the war came to him."


During the civil
war, Tinker Dave
Beaty was a
man of peace
who proved
to be a
worthy adversary
at war. He did not
choose to be
in the war
so much as
the war
eventually
came to him.


He said,
“About ten or twelve days after the Mills Springs fight, several of Scott Bledoe’s men came to my house and told my wife to tell me I must take sides in the war or leave the country. They took some of my property, some saddles and other things belonging to me, when they left and as they were going down to cross the creek I fired on them, wounding one man and a horse. After this they kept running in on us every few weeks. I told my boys that before I would leave home or run away that I would fight them to Doomsday and if they killed me, let them kill me. So I took my sons and raised a company of men to fight them.”
Knowing every road and path in the county, it was almost impossible to catch him, and whenever an opportunity was presented, he pounced upon a party of Rebels or guerillas, cutting them to pieces, capturing arms, ammunition, and provisions for his scouts. Becoming the perfect terror to his enemies, there is no question that he was a guerrilla warfare expert of considerable ability.

Tinker Dave's Independent Scouts supported the union's cause but were never mustered into the regular service. They received no pay, no clothes, no camp equipage, rations, nor military stores if any kind. Major John Brents said they were of no expense to the government, yet rendered as valuable service as the same number of men anywhere.

Tinker Dave's sister, Matilda, married John Boles, Sr., my great-great-great-grandfather. Of course, he was a member of the independent scouts, as was his son, John Jr.

Another son, George Washington Boles, my great-great-grandfather (and my very own G.W.), officially joined the independent scouts on July 1, 1862. "Uncle George, as he was affectionately known in his latter years, was born in 1845, so that would have made him 17-years-old when he entered the service against the rebels. Two of George's fingers on his left hand were shot off during a skirmish with Confederate partisan ranger and guerilla fighter Champ Ferguson's men. George always claimed it was Champ himself that shot his fingers off, but several men, on both sides, were involved in that particular scuffle, so who's to say. George said he "always made the rebels run." He also was quoted as saying he can remember voting for Abraham Lincoln.

Tinker Dave testified against Champ Ferguson, who was captured just after the close of the civil war. He was tried in Nashville and, upon being found guilty, was ordered to be hung by the neck. Apparently because his side won, Tinker Dave was never prosecuted.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hige Boles

Did I ever tell you the story of my great-grandfather, Hige Boles? He was a most amazing man. To me, he could do no wrong.

One day Hige came home with a Chevrolet. My grandfather said he remembers his dad sitting in a chair with the owners manual in his left hand, and with his right hand, together with his right foot, he practiced pushing the clutch in while he shifted gears. My grandfather said he remembers that Hige said, "I think I can do this!"

Hige was deputy sheriff for his second cousin, Willie Winningham, from 1930 to 1933. Willie's dad was George Winningham, who was sheriff of neighboring Pickett County at the same time that his son was sheriff of Clinton County. George's other son, Floyd, was his deputy. On Saturday, April 22, 1933, George and Floyd tried to arrest a drunk man at a lumber camp. Instead, Jerome Boyett opened fire on them, killing Floyd instantly. George died the following day while enroute to a hospital in Nashville. Boyett fled into the woods, but later fearing for his life after a vigilante posse was formed, turned himself in to authorities in nearby Oneida. A few days later, a mob arrived in Oneida, and took Boyett out of his jail cell. On the way back home, Boyett was hung in some woods. Ironically, three months later, George's other son, Willie, was also murdered while attempting to serve a warrant on a drunk man in Clinton County. Willie's wife, served out his term as sheriff, and then, in 1935, deputy Hige Boles became Sheriff Hige Boles. I have a photograph of him sitting in the courthouse window, and outside the window, lined up against the wall are 24 moonshine stills he had confiscated.

My mom pulled into the grocery store one day to get something. She said she would only be gone a second. That was all the time I needed to scare my older brother, which I loved to do. I grabbed the gear shift and pulled it from park to neutral. Suddenly, the car began to roll backwards toward an awaiting busy street. But then...it stopped! I could not understand why, until I looked over my screaming brothers and sister and saw Hige standing behind the car, holding it with all his might while someone else reached inside the car and put it in park. I can still see him standing there with his outstretched arms and using every bit of strength the 80-plus year-old man had to keep our car from rolling out into the street. But, where did he come from? I just didn't understand that. I was rightly punished for doing a really stupid thing, but from then on, I looked at Hige in a totally different way. We could have been hurt or killed if that car had gone out into the street. He had saved our lives.

Hige grew older and slowly his body began to wear down. He lost his hearing and then his eye sight, and I will never forget when the call came that he was dying. We rushed to his bedside. He had not raised his head or spoke a word for several days. When my family walked into his hospital room, suddenly his eyes opened and he sat straight up in his bed. We gathered around him to hug and kiss him and to be hugged and kissed by him. My great aunt could not believe he heard her, much less sat up in the bed to see us. I will always believe that God let him do that, either for him or for us, or both, I'm not quite sure. I remember hugging him and kissing him on his cheek as tears rolled down his face from seeing all of us. He was a kind and gentle man, who loved his family more than anything.

Hige was in the woods the night that Jerome Boyett was hung. Whether or not he actually participated is not known. I know vigilante justice happened a lot back then. Still, it was a horrible thing. The book, Once Upon A Lynching by John Fredericks, tells the story. Most of the men involved died mysteriously over the next 20 years. But, if Hige participated why did he live to be 93? A long time ago I decided to believe that, even though he was there, he did not participate. Besides, it did not fit the character of the Hige Boles that I knew -- kind, gentle, loving and caring.

The day after we went to visit my Papa Boles in the hospital - the day after he had sat up in his hospital bed to hug and kiss us after not showing any signs of life for several days, Hige passed away peacefully in his sleep. I think God let him live long enough to allow me to see him one last time. He was my angel.

Monday, May 19, 2008

His Vineyard

If there is anything in this world that is needed most, it is for the good people to encourage the wayward youth to quit his folly and turn to Him who gives us life, health and strength, and all we have. We all have an influence over someone. Are we yielding that influence for good or evil? We were placed here to work in His vineyard. Parents, much care should be taken with the lovely buds that are just beginning to bloom into woman and manhood. We should set examples before them that will be remembered in after years. How sweet it is where father and mother gather their family around the family altar and offer up prayer in behalf of the loved ones, and as they grow up and leave the parental roof and make a living for themselves, no difference what may come, that impression will ever bear on their minds. How sad it is to know that there are children taught that the Bible is not true. Those parents will one day see their awful mistake and then the cry will be too late. Friends, are we doing all we can in saving some poor soul that is going down to perdition from the want of a little encouragement? We have no excuse. If we cannot go out and preach like Paul, we can help them at our door. If thine enemy hunger feed him. If he thirst, give him drink. For in so doing thou shalt lay up treasures that will stand through all ages to come. Time is fleeting. Moments are passing. We will soon be numbered with the dead, though it may be many years, few days at most. Therefore, we should live right day by day and encourage our friends as we journey along so when we are called at the judgement bar of God, that we may see loved ones there on the right hand that pointed out them the way.

Hettie Frost, 1891
My great-grandmother

S & H Green Stamps

S and H Green Stamps were once known as Americas Most Valuable Stamps, at one time printing three times as many stamps as the U.S. Post Office. Printed by the Sperry and Hutchinson Company, they had been around since 1896, but did not reach their zenith until the 1950s.


The concept was quite simple. When you purchased food by cash from a participating store, the business would dole out one small green stamp for each ten cents spent. I would always try to see how many stamps we would get when we went to the store. Patrons meticulously licked the stamps and placed them into small books, each containing spaces for 1200 serial numbered stamps. I was so happy when my mother let me do that. I didn't even mind the foul taste of the glue. I learned from being around mom that it was worth it the slight annoyance in order to select a prize from the attractive catalog. After accumulating several full books, you could take the books to the S & H Green Stamp Store and exchange them for pre-determined merchandise; Pair of bookends (1 book), Baldwin piano (380 books), Singer sewing machine (35 books), a weeks vacation in Hawaii (190 books). I mean, come on baby, this is real stuff here!!!

One Sunday evening as I was preparing to leave for college, mom came up to me and handed me $12.50 and a book-and-a-half of S and H Green Stamps. I was instructed to stop by the S & H Green Stamp Store and bring home the toaster she had circled in the Ideabook. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. This was my big chance to do something VERY important! "Can I do this?" "I dunno, can I?" I'm ONLY 17 for pete's sake!! I was nervous. I was excited.

It was a defining moment in my life. I remember it well, going to that store, my palms sweaty, my knees shaking as I stood there waiting in line. I could barely speak. My voice cracked as I tried to say something. "HERE, was I could get out," as I forked over the one-and-a-half books of S and H Green Stamps and the $12.50 and pointed....yes I POINTED to the toaster. I WANTED THAT TOASTER!! When the clerk went to retrieve MY toaster, I looked at the woman standing line waiting to be waited on. "What are you getting, I asked, I pointed to my catalog and said, "I'm getting THIS toaster!" She just kinda stared at me for some reason.

Well, I brought that baby, the toaster, back home and handed it to my mom. "Did you have any trouble?" "No ma'am, no trouble at all!" I was SO happy!! I can't explain it, but yanno from that point on, and for many years that followed, my mom served up the 'best-tasting toast' I had ever eaten. After that, why, I just knew that I could almost do anything. If you needed something done, I was the guy. ME! And, I owe it all to S and H Green Stamps.

Sperry and Hutchinson Company is still in business but with a new marketing strategy. Today, the only remnants of this unique rewards program are musty smelling books, stamps and catalogs found at flea markets, auctions and antique stores.

Weights

Cassie, my little 8-year-old niece, came to my house the other day with my mom. Unfortunately, the kids and I were gone somewhere. When she got out of her car, mom noticed J.D.'s ankle weights lying on the ground over by the basketball goal.


That boy is constantly leaving something outside. One day he was kicking a football out in the yard, when he managed to get not one but TWO footballs stuck high in the tree out near the mailbox. Those were the only footballs he had, and he tried for several days to bring them down by throwing rocks and other objects at them. As a matter of fact, Elijah and I also joined in the rescue operation, but none of us had any success. It appeared that J.D.'s footballs were destined to stay up in that tree forever.


And then one day, as J.D. would probably describe it, something miraculous happened -- a power outage. Miraculous because the power outage sent Richie Richardson of South Kentucky RECC to our home. J.D. looked out the door and saw Richie standing beside his ladder truck, which just happened to be parked next to the tree, that coincidently held J.D.'s footballs. Well, you guessed it. In a flash, my oldest son was out the door. A minute later, I went to the door just in time to see Richie using this long-arm apparatus to remove the footballs from the tree. Then, I saw him turn toward J.D. and point up to the sky, in the opposite direction of the tree. I chuckled when I saw him do that. Later, J.D. said Richie told him to kick the football 'THAT WAY' from now on! I can still see Richie smiling as he drove off down the road waving goodbye to a very happy J.D. Speck.


Mom retrieved J.D.'s ankle weights from the yard and carried them into the house. Cassie saw her lay them down and went over to investigate. She wanted to know what they were. Mom explained to her how that J.D. uses the ankle weights to strengthen his leg muscles so that he will jump higher when he is playing basketball. A puzzled Cassie replied, "Isn't that illegal?"


When I recalled these two stories and began writing, I didn't think about how closely related they were. But when I began proofreading, the message was clear. Have you ever been at that spot in the road where you find yourself in a lull because of something that's weighing you down? And, no matter how hard you try, you're just stuck...like J.D.'s footballs? Even though it may be a hard battle, don't give up. GOD LOVES YOU. Reach out to Him. He will be reaching back for you. J.D. could not get those footballs to move until he asked Richie to help him. And, you know, no matter how far out of reach a solution seems, no matter how difficult the situation is, no matter the size of the weight you are carrying around, just trust in the Lord. Ask him to help you. He wants to. All you have to do is simply call on Him and He will make a way for you. His strength is perfect.

Expectations


Christmas is so hustle and bustle. It's hard to find the time to enjoy it, really. We are hectic shoppers, and busy, busy, busy with everything else going on, and sometimes we tend to forget to slow down and reflect on what makes this time of year so very special - like the stories that ground us - the little things that make our lives feel festive year round whenever we pause to reflect on them.




A while back I was looking through the things that had collected inside the cabinet of one of our end tables at home, when I rediscovered my collection of bibles. I have a few. One 1948 Bible belonged to my great-grandmother, Hettie Frost. In it, she wrote down different dates invovling her children. I also found the first Bible I ever owned, a red-letter King James Version Nelson bible given to me by my mom and dad during Christmas of 1972. I was 13. It has a zipper on it. I loved that Bible. As a matter of fact, I have discarded my newer KJV Bible, and am now proudly using that one again. There's something about doing that, and it's kinda hard to pinpoint or explain, but it just feels better. It feels right doing that, somehow.

Another Bible that caught my eye was one that I had used through most of the 90's. Inside the front cover, on one of the blank pages, I found this notation about something that happened to me.

The date was November 24, 2001. It was a Saturday morning. I was in the bathroom shaving, when suddenly Elijah appeared in the doorway. As he stood there watching me with shaving cream on my face, I began playing a game with him by carving out a funny looking beard and then funny mustaches, etc. I would even add more shaving cream to keep it going. He was getting a big kick out of it and I was enjoying watching him laugh at me. We were having fun. And then, right in the middle of our game, he suddenly exclaimed, "I wish I was you, Dad!" I said, "Why's that, bud?" He replied, "Because you're a great Dad!" When he said that, I looked down at him and he was looking right at me. And, the way his big blue eyes were sparkling after what he had just said to me is something I shall never forget.

"Lord, please help me to hold up to his expectations. And, when I can't, please help him to forgive me. Help me to be the kind of father to my children that you would have me to be. I know that if I strive to live up to your expectations, I will live up to theirs." Amen.

Boles' Sister Made The Bomb

As everyone knows, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuclear attacks during World War II against the Empire of Japan by the United States of America under U.S. President Harry S. Truman. After six months of intense firebombing of 67 other Japanese cities, the nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. As many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki may have died from the bombings by the end of 1945. Over the years, thousands more have died from injuries or illness attributed to exposure to radiation.

The Manhattan Project involved many of the world's great physicists in the scientific and development aspects, spread out over 30 secret sites in the U.S. and Canada. One secret site, a gaseous diffusion plant for the seperation of Uranium, code named K-25 for secrecy, was erected at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A thermal diffusion plant was added at Oak Ridge in 1944.

No one was allowed to know what was being built, including the workers. All they knew was that it had to be done fast. Not even the 45,000 construction workers knew what the facility was for. Companies, such as Chrysler, Union Carbide and Dupont, who risked their own money and reputations to assist the military in ending the war, were not told anything about the building of a bomb. Yet, they still agreed to help. Precautions were taken not to hire anyone who lived in the Oak Ridge area. Secrecy was of the highest priority.

I was sitting beside my Great-Aunt Mada at her kitchen table one day, and we were looking out the window and watching a whipper wheel that was perched upside down on a feeder, which had purposely been placed by there so that she could sit at her table and watch her birds. She loved doing that, and, on each visit, I loved to sit there with her and listen to her talk. I learned a lot from my Aunt Mada. Somehow our conversations always ended up being about friends and family. And, because I have such a passion for family history, I would cling to her every word. Such was the case on this particular day, as we sat watching that upside down whipper wheel, that she told me the story of how she made the bomb.

My grandfather, Elmer Boles was aboard the U.S.S. Samuel D. Champlain during the Normandy Invasion. When the ship returned home, most of the crew was dropped off on the east coast for a brief leave, while the ship continued on through the Panama Canal to the west coast. Elmer boarded a troop train that went from New York to Oakland, California, where he boarded a ship and set sail for the south Pacific and the Phillipines.

President Truman encouraged the country to unite in the war effort, and asked each citizen to do their part. Since my grandmother, Vada, was busy at home raising her children, Aunt Mada decided she would do what she could to assist the troops, and her brother, Elmer. She and her two closest friends, Nola and Opal Talbott, had heard of a new government plant opening outside of Knoxville. Although they did not have a clue what they would be doing, they headed south.....to Oak Ridge.

Again, no one, not even the plant bosses, not even the financial backers, knew what the product that was being made at Oak Ridge was for. But, on August 8, 1945, two days after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Aunt Mada found out. She told me that on this particular day, when it came time for her supper break, she did the usual thing....head for the cafeteria. As she sat down at a table, she said she could not help but notice the headline on the front page of the newspaper a co-worker was reading at the table next to hers: "PARTS OF THE BOMB MADE AT OAK RIDGE!"

Aunt Mada could not believe what she was reading. When it became clear that the headline was true, the first thing she did was go and tell her roomates, the Talbott sisters. Later, after her shift ended and she was back in her dormitory room, she sat down at a table and began writing her brother, Elmer. She could not wait to tell him her news. The post card reached Pa Boles' ship a couple of weeks later. He described what happened this way:

"It was normal for shipmates to read each others mail because they were so far from home and homesick. Mada's letter began making its way around the ship, and it wasn't long until word began to spread, and soon everyone on the ship was saying that "BOLES' SISTER MADE THE BOMB!"

Wow! What A Woman!


A good friend once said, "Little moments are what builds the foundation that sustains our lives."

Did you ever wonder why a child is sometimes able to speak with great wisdom?

I think God allows that to happen to us to help us gain truths that we otherwise might overlook as adults with our clouded views. I'm glad God chooses sometimes to use the pure at heart to help us to see things as they really are.

What I am about to tell you is one of those moments. It's a story about baseball, and it's also a tale that helped me see the true value of a woman.

If you are a mother, this story is dedicated to you...

J.D. was having a baseball game and, just as he was about to come to bat, I arose from my seat and walked down to stand behind the backstop. I wanted to be near the on-deck circle so I could "help" him at the place. Well, it worked, or at least I like to think it did, as J.D. stepped up to the plate and, on the first pitch, hit a line drive between first and second base. The ball hit the ground and then rolled all the way to the homerun fence. It was a great hit, and I was grinning from ear to ear.

Little did I know that what was about to happen would be something that I will never forget as long as I live.

You see, when J.D. hit the ball there was a runner on first base. She was 6-years-old, with long blonde hair, which was gathered up in a ponytail. After watching the ball roll to the right field fence, she took off toward second. She completely circled the base, jumped up and down on it a couple of times, and then proceeded to run toward third as fast as she could run.

The crowd roared with delight when they saw the third base coach waving her on toward home.

She wasn't the only one headed toward home plate, so was the ball. The kid in right field had retrieved the ball and ran toward the infield. When he got there, he threw the ball toward home plate.

Simply put, the scene was intense.

I was so caught up in the moment that I had almost forgotten about J.D., stumbling along somewhere near second base. The little girl rounded third and, without much hesitation, and a lot of encouragement from the third base coach, she pressed on My eyes, and the eyes of every single person in the stands, were on her and her every move. What would she do? What was going to happen next?

With pure grit and determination that little girl never flinched! The fans were screaming with excitement and anticipation. My own heart was beating like a drum. I had expected her to turn and run back to third and push J.D. off the bag or something funny like that. Instead, she did what any six-year-old baseball player would do at the beckoning of her coach -- she started sliding into home plate. It wasn't your typical, ordinary every day slide. No, No, it was a long slide that seemed to last forever, or perhaps it was in slow motion. I really can't say because while I was making eye contact with J.D., acknowledging his excitement for such a great hit, at the same time my thoughts were on that little girl, sliding into home with all her might.

I was afraid to watch! I was afraid of her getting hurt in the slide. I realized that the baseball was going to arrive at home plate at the same time as the little girl. I braced for a possible collision.

But, you know, that's the thing about baseball: The sliding-into-home.....the big score.....the excitement of the fans, players and coaches! I had to open my eyes. I just had to watch....I opened my eyes in time to see the ball land inside the catchers glove. Oh no!

What happened next is something I will never forget.

My 5-year-old son, Elijah, had joined me behind the backstop just has J.D. stepped up to the plate. I looked down at him and he was standing there clutching the wire fence with one hand, and holding a hotdog in the other. Although he was aware of what was happening on the field, he spoke not a word as his main focus appeared to be that hot dog -- or at least that's what I thought.

It all happened so fast, but what I remember most is.....

that little girl's 'BIG' slide across the plate, the crowd roaring in approval as the umpire yelled

"S-A-F-E!"

and Elijah, with a mouth full of hot dog, LOUDLY proclaiming.....

"WOW.....WHAT A WOMAN!"

Christmas Memories

I miss the Christmas dinners we had at my grandparents house, where everyone gathered in and there was so much food it was unreal. I suppose I have to admit here that my favorite food is dumplings. Nowadays, I have to endure listening to my aunts and uncles talk about those days when I would be found sitting alone at the table and right before me sat that bowl of delicious, mouth-watering dumplings. I was like Dale Jr. waiting for the green flag to drop. SOMEBODY HURRY UP AND BLESS THE FOOD!!!

I cannot remember a single Christmas where I actually hoped I would get a certain item. Never. And, I suppose that is why. See, originally there were 5 of us kids. I learned early what Christmas is really all about, and I learned to be thankful for what I have that mattered most - family and friends, to love and share, and to just skip all the preliminaries and "PASS ME THE DUMPLINGS PUH-LEASE!!"

I told my older brother and my older cousin there was no such thing as Santa Claus when I was 5-years-old. I got my butt spanked good for doing that. I used to threaten to throw myself over the bank and onto the highway if they didn't do whatever I wanted them to do. Then one day, one of my aunts told them to call my bluff. The gig was over. Well, that was just last year, so yanno...............(just kidding, it was a long, long time ago really.)

My grandfather Boles gave me a pocketwatch when I was 12. I still have it. He was aboard the U.S.S. Hopewell when we dropped the bombs on Japan to end World War Two. I miss my dad. I wish he was here so I could tell him I love him. I miss my brother and wish he was here, too. But, yanno God decided to let me have three beautiful children to take care of for him; to love and cherish, and adore them with everything that is in me. And, that is my task. This holiday season they will probably not see it, but they will be lighting up my eyes and warming my heart as I sit and watch them having fun. It always makes me cry and you know, it never fails to take me back to those days when I sat there staring at that bowl of dumplings. I am proud I have those memories, and the kids, well.....thats all the gift I will ever want and need, except for the greatest gift of all, my salvation.

An RC And A Moon Pie

I couldn't wait to attend the old Clinton County High School. Growing up in radio, I was well aware of Lindle Castle and the mighty, mighty Bulldogs. I had seen them play many times there in the old gym, so I knew the tradition very well. That's just one of the reasons why I couldn't wait to attend school there. The other reason, which was actually the biggest reason, was because I knew high school students were allowed to leave school at lunchtime and walk over to Browns Dairy Treat, or 'Greasy Browns,' as it was informally called, and have lunch. That was THE life, and I wanted it! I wanted it bad. I wanted to be able to walk down the hall and have someone ask me what I had for lunch, and I wanted to be able to say, "Greasy Browns!" I knew that would be the ultimate cool thing. It was all I could do to have to wait for my 7th grade year to roll around when I would be a student there on that beloved ground - CCHS.

And, then one day in the fall of my 6th grade year, we were bussed over to the old gymnasium for an assembly. My heart sank when Superintendent Robert Polston told us the old high school would cease to exist after that current school year. My golden opportunity to be cool was lost! Gone forever! I couldn't believe my ears. I would never be able to go to 'Greasy Browns' for lunch during school. Life for me was over.

When my 7th grade year began at the "New" high school building, one of the first things I sought to learn was whether or not we would be able to leave school at lunchtime. The answer was NO!. I remember thinking communism might be more fun than this. Since it would not be allowed, I gave up all my previous thoughts and just ate lunch at the cafeteria every day. As I moved on into high school, I would hear other kids talk about leaving school and driving out to Smitty's for lunch, but, long abandoning my fantasy of being able to do that, I just never could get in the mood to do it. Besides, Smitty's was on the other side of town. Greasy Browns was right next door to the old high school. What a bummer! And, if I got caught going to Smitty's it would mean trouble from mom and dad, so I just gave up that idea and resigned to eating the cafeteria food.

But, then came that ONE day my senior year, when Mike Beaty asked me if I wanted to do lunch at Smitty's. I asked, "What if we get caught?" To which he replied, "So what?" "SO WHAT?" Well....yeah, SO WHAT! I'M A SENIOR!, I thought to myself. Mike suggested we find find Danny Thrasher and see if he wants to go with us. About that time, we both looked down the hall and there he stood, talking to some girls. About that time, someone came up to speak to Mike, so I walked down the hallway to see if Danny wanted to go with us. He said yes, and soon the three of us were on our way to eat lunch at Smitty's Drive-In Restaurant! Suddenly, my thoughts went back to those days when I thought it would be cool to leave school and each lunch, and even though we weren't going to 'Greasy Browns,' I didn't care. My heart was racing! Finally, my time had arrived.

Arriving at Smitty's, it was busy as usual, but after placing our order, we managed to find a booth. I remember I had a tuna fish on plain bread with lettuce, french fries and a coke, one of my most favorite things to order at Smitty's. We enjoyed our lunch then headed back to school. Cool as cucumbers, we were!

When we turned into the parking lot, there he stood -- Lindle Castle, hands on his hip (which was not a good sign if you knew coach), standing beside the basketball team bus. Oops! We had forgotten about the trip that Danny and I were supposed to take, along with the rest of the basketball team, to McCreary County for a basketball scrimmage. We found out later that we were seen leaving school. We'd been had. Coach Castle saw Mike Beaty's Mustang pull back into the parking lot and when he was sure we'd seen him, he boarded the bus and closed the door! I remember staring at the bus as it departed from the school grounds....leaving Danny and I behind. Boy, were we in trouble! It was nothing for Coach Castle to have you run 150 laps around the top of the gymnasium (or more!).

We sat in Beaty's car and watched the bus go out of sight and then got out of the car to walk back into the school building. As we got out of the car, out of the school walked principal Perry Hay. BUSTED! He told us to go into his office and wait, but he left out the what for part. We just knew we were going to get it good.

Now, you have to realize something. Hanging around Mike Beaty and Danny Thrasher was always a hoot and a half. There was never a dull moment. There was always laughter, and for sure, never a dull moment. Soon, it was no different even as we sat in principal Perry Hay's office waiting for him to come in and deliver our punishment. I think he wanted us to sit in there and squirm before coming in an delivering our punishment, whatever that would be. But, we weren't squirming. It was several minutes before Mr. Hay walked in to his office. In the meantime, Beaty, always the cool one, was reared back in Mr. Hay's chair with his feet propped up on Mr. Hay's desk!! Danny was stretched out on the couch and I was sitting there laughing at their wisecracks and thumbing thru magazines. Even though we knew trouble might lay ahead, there we were being our 'normal' selves.

Suddenly, without notice, Mr. Hay walked into the office. We all scrambled to sit straight up and try to be as serious as we could be. I looked down at the floor, because I knew if I eyed either one of those other two guys, I'd lose it, and so would they, probably. Mr. Hay began speaking in a very serious and straightforward manner as we sat there waiting for the boom to be lowered on us. He wanted to know where we had gone, and that's when it happened. It was Mike Beaty who mumbled that we had gone to get lunch. Mr. Hay said, "Where'd you go...to Harvey's to get a coke and a pack of nabs?" Beaty replied, "No sir, an RC and a moonpie!" It was one of those moments where, no matter how hard you try to be serious, no matter how serious the moment may be, something is said and there is no way you can keep from bursting out. To put it bluntly, we could not contain ourselves. We lost it....right in front of the principal. I laid back in my chair laughing hysterically. I remember Danny Thrasher fell back on the couch cackling out loud, and Beaty, well he had that "I-just-said-something-cool" laugh going on. I'll never forget it. You could tell Mr. Hay wanted to laugh with us, but he just said, "You boys get on out of here!" We took off as fast as we could and we laughed all the way down the hall back to wherever we were going. It's one of those things from my school days that is like frozen in time, and something that I shall never forget.

The next day, Danny and I ran, and ran, and ran - 150 laps up and down the steps, round and round the gym until I thought my legs were going to fall off.

(Danny passed away on Feb. 22, 2008 after a short illness. He was my friend.)

My Trials Are God's Mercies

We each have periods in our lives where we wonder, "Where are you God?" But, it is during these times that, if we seek Him, we ...