Wednesday, February 25, 2009

That Road Less Traveled

I have always loved that Robert Frost poem that starts with: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...." I ran across it the other day while researching another story I am writing, and it took me back to a class the boys and I recently participated in.

It all came about when instructor Frank Butler asked J.D. to help with the entertainment for an after-hours, school-based program called, Guiding Good Choices. The entertainment just happened to be one of J.D.'s most favorite things to do in his spare time, Guitar Hero. J.D. is a master at Guitar Hero and I love to watch, especially when he plays the game that has the 70's music on it - the era I grew up in. J.D. has long fingers, a helpful tool in playing the guitar, and I am hoping that one day he will decide to pick up that instrument and follow in the path of his grandfather and uncles. Right now, he is a drummer. So, anyway, while J.D. did the Guitar Hero thing (and Elijah was forced (ha!) to wait for the snack break, which included his favorite food, pizza), I was fortunate to sit in on great learning sessions with Mr. Butler. He taught those in attendance how to deal with issues facing our children, such as drugs. We also learned how to become better parents - how to talk to our children, and most importantly, how to listen to them. I learned a lot from Guiding Good Choices, and I am grateful that I could be included. Another program dealing with families is coming soon and I can't wait to be in on it!

Sometimes it is hard to make the right choice. Being a parent can be a difficult task. I make mistakes. My children know that about me. Some they recognize, while others are made known to them. I want them to know that I am trying to be the best dad I can be to them. That is really important to me. But I have to say that there are times in my life when I have found myself standing at the corner of Broad and Narrow. Perhaps you are familiar with those roads, too. They are the roads, or paths, that are available to us in life. We can't go down both roads at the same time, and which road we travel is decided by our ability, or inability, to make the right choice. Sometimes, it's not the easiest choice. Every single day, the decisions of life are laid at our feet and we determine which road we will take based on how we choose to deal with individual circumstances. The broad road is often known as “the path of least resistance” - comfortable, yet unfulfilled. The narrow road is usually a more difficult road often filled with challenges, but offering many great rewards. Guiding Good Choices made me realize that, while it may be easier to choose the broad road, the road I need to be on all of the time is the narrow road.....that road less traveled.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*Photo by Charley Neal.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wallens Creek Revenge: The Isaac Crabtree Story

In September of 1773, Daniel Boone led a party of hunters on their very first attempt to settle Kentucky. Running low on supplies, he sent his son, James, and others back home to Washington County, Virginia for more. James gathered all the supplies he needed. He also picked up a passenger, 16-year-old Isaac Crabtree, who hailed from a family of longhunters and who wanted to be a part of the expedition.

On his way back to his father, James decided to camp for the night at Wallens Creek. Little did he know he was only two miles from his father's camp. As dawn approached the following morning, the 10th of October, a party of indians attacked James and his party. Everyone was killed, except for a slave and Isaac, who had been hit in the back by an arrow, but managed to flee into the woods away from the massacre. Wounded, cold and hungry, Isaac wandered aimlessly for days before eventually finding his way back home in Washington County. The incident haunted him for months, and his hatred for indians increased. It also caused Daniel Boone and his party to abandon their first attempt to settle Kentucky.

The following spring, a festival was held in Jonesboro, Tennessee, where a peace treaty with the Cherokee's was to be signed. Isaac attended the event, but while there saw what he thought was one of the assailants from the massacre. Without hesitation, he drew his weapon and shot and killed the indian. As it turned out, the man he shot was the nephew of one of the chiefs. The shooting jeopardized the signing of the peace treaty for a while and almost caused a war with the peaceful indians. To say the least, everyone was upset at Isaac. As a matter of fact, the Governor of Virginia went as far as to offer a $50 reward for his arrest. In July of 1774, Isaac stood trial for the killing, but he was not convicted.

Isaac continued his life as a longhunter in the hills of Virginia and Tennessee. At the age of 41, Isaac Crabtree finally made it to Kentucky, when he migrated west to near the place I often write about...Stockton's Valley. He owned land on Bear Creek and Sulphur Creek in present day Cumberland County. He also owned land in Elk Spring community in present-day Wayne County. He also owned property on Furnace Mountain, located just outside of Monticello, where he lived. Isaac became one of the first Trustee's of Monticello and helped in laying out the town. In 1806, he was elected to the Kentucky State Legislature as a Representative from Wayne County. Later, Isaac moved to Overton County, but in 1839, at the age of 82, Isaac returned to Kentucky, where he lived out the rest of his days near Poplar Mountain near the Clinton-Wayne County line.

Isaac Crabtree is the 5th great-grandfather of my cousin on my daddy's side, Marie Bush.

Isaac Crabtree, by Don Sexton

Also read, The Long Hunter

and, The Beginning Crabtree Family History

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Hear That Train a-Coming

You know how sometimes things happen and you say to yourself, "I should have stayed in bed?" Well, that is how my brother, Mark, must have felt Monday morning as he was on his way to work in Somerset. Here is the rest of the story in his own words:
"I decided to take the new 'southern part' of the by-pass, which is only halfway done. I haven't been taking it cause it is a dangerous road with train tracks. I almost got to the end of the new road, where it changes to anther by-pass that leads to work and I-75. As I approached the train tracks, I noticed [the] flashing lights of police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance. On the other side of the tracks, [there] was a wreck. So, I went over the tracks then had to stop. I had to wait about 30 minutes for the ambulance to leave. In order for it to get out, I had to back up. I ended up right in the middle of the railroad track. Right at that moment, the train warning lights came on and then I heard the whistle. I looked to my right and saw nothing. As I looked to my left, I saw my worst nightmare coming true. Around the bend, came the train barreling toward me. I was stuck with cars behind me and the ambulance in front of me. You can imagine the panic I felt. Seconds seemed like minutes and then, finally, the ambulance driver realized what was about to happen and floored it. Just as I was pulled off the track, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the train going by. As soon as I made it to the by-pass, I pulled over and started throwing up. Needless to say I didn't make it to work. As for the train tracks....I won't be going that way again."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Faith Interrupted

There are times in my life when my faith, which should be prevalant in certain situations that arise, gets interrupted, when out of nowhere fear and doubt begin to creep in and take over where faith once was. Even though it might come later than sooner, it is good to be reminded that, even when fear and doubt are running rampant, God is still with me, and He is still in control. It is when I get that reminder that my faith starts to strengthen once again.

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

Friday, February 13, 2009

In The News...

My mom has always made it a habit of purchasing a copy of the local newspaper each week. She's been doing that ever since I can remember. Even now, as we kids have grown up and gone our seperate ways, she still brings me a copy of the local newspaper each week.

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to read the 'community news' section of the newspaper, where people from the different communities within the county would submit the latest news from their community each week. It was a great way of finding out who was sick, who had died, who had gotten married and who had been visiting whom. I loved reading the January 7, 1892 edition of the Albany Banner online. In it, there was the following submission from the Old Bethel community...
"According to rumor, they had a funny time at Gaunt creek Christmas, especially at Mr. M.B. Kennedy's. A Morehead Jones and Thomas Cross got into a difficulty there and had a hand to hand fight. They were under the influence of liquor at the time. Knives were used and blood flowed freely for a while. They were cut and mangled considerably and have scars that will last them a lifetime. Mr. Kennedy may expect such fun as that occasionally as he is "stilling" at present."

And, then there was this entry in the same edition:

Milton Parson married a daughter of Joseph Phelps on Obey river about 1874. During the spring of 1891, Milton just up and left his wife and their seven children and moved to Texas. There was no divorce, no marriage anullment of any kind. He just left. About the first of December that year, he married a Miss Hunter of Moody, Texas, but it seems that while on his honeymoon, he was taken suddenly ill and died the next morning! Two doctors pronounced his cause of death as congestion, while others said it was poison.

The Albany Banner, January 7, 1892

The New Era, November 25, 1920

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Namesakes

Abraham Lincoln was born 200 years ago today, February 12, 1809. Everyone knows how, as America's sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln successfully led his country through its greatest crisis, the Civil War, only to be assassinated less than a month after the war’s end. But, did you know that George Washington was Abraham Lincoln's uncle? and that I was born in the home where George Washington once lived?

It's true! Of course, the Abraham Lincoln I am referring to was Abraham Lincoln Boles, and the George Washington I am referring to was indeed Abraham's uncle, George Washington Boles.

Nowadays, we have movie stars and sports stars to name our children after, but back in the early days when America was being formed, what proud parent wouldn't have wanted to name their child after a war hero, or someone who had blazed a trail to help get this country started?

Abraham Lincoln Boles, better known as 'Link,' pictured above, attended the Alpine Institute of higher learning in Overton County, Tennessee, floated logs down river from the virgin forests and even worked for a railroad company. Later in life, he sported a long, white beard and mustache, but had very little hair on top of his head. Some kids thought he was Santa Claus!

It is true that George Washington Boles supported President Abraham Lincoln. In the 1935 Clinton Co. Homecoming and Centennial Celebration souvenir program, George was recognized as being a veteran of the Civil War. His uncle was Tinker Dave Beaty, and George and his father, Captain John Boles, were members of Tinker Dave's independent scouts, who protected Fentress County from Confederate guerillas like Champ Ferguson. In the program, George was quoted as saying "I always made the Rebels run!" He also said he 'remembers voting for Abraham Lincoln for President!'

Oh, I almost forgot.......George's home in Albany later became Maple Hill Hospital, the place where I was born!

George Washington Boles, left, and his nephew, Abraham Lincoln Boles, pictured here in their earlier days. George died on February 5, 1941, while Link passed away on December 12, 1954.

*Note: Thanks to my cousin, Jo Ann Shoemaker, for supplying the photos and background information for Link Boles. If I hadn't started this blog, I would have never met her.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rave On!

Last Tuesday, February 3rd, was the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson, who died in an airplane crash about ten miles from Clear Lake, Iowa in a cornfield owned by Albert Juhl. The trio were on a Winter Dance Party tour of the midwest, and in the midst of a crazy winter storm, made even crazier by one broken down tour bus after another, they decided to charter a plane to the next stop. Well, of course, they didn't make it. The event became known as "The Day The Music Died." We all know the music did not die, but I suppose at the time, it seemed like it surely was destined to.

Around four years ago, I started a MySpace page dedicated to Buddy Holly. I have been a huge fan of his ever since I bought The Complete Buddy Holly six cassette package back in 1979. Since then, I have met and photographed Tommy Allsup, who was on the road with Holly during that fateful tour, and who would have been on the plane had it not been for a coin toss he lost to Ritchie Valens. I've corresponded with the real Peggy Sue (Gerron), had a good friend get me the autographs of the Crickets: Jerry Allison, Joe Mauldin and Sonny Curtis, got to know Sonny West, who wrote Rave On and Oh Boy! and found out he knew my dad's friend, George Hudson, talked with Holly historian, Bill Griggs a few times, conversed with Kevin Montgomery, who's dad, Bob Montgomery, was the duet partner of Buddy Holly prior to the Crickets, talked with Billy Walker, who recorded in the same Clovis, New Mexico studio as did Buddy Holly, talked to Buddy's niece a few times, and was affiliated with prior to its demise.

This past weekend, I added my 10,000th friend on that MySpace page. I don't remember the name of the person, or where they were from. I can get up to 30 or more friend requests per day, so it's not at all uncommon for me not to get to know each and every person on there, however, I do try to communicate when I can. When I set out to do the page, I never dreamed I would one day have over 10,000 friends on there. The neat thing is, I have never gone looking for any friends there. Each and every person has come to my page and wanted to be a part of it. When I made the page, it was only so we could have a place on MySpace to enjoy the music of Buddy Holly. It has always been a page for the fans! In another week, my page will have been visited by over 118,000 people from all over the world. I literally have people on my friends list from every corner of the globe. On the 50th anniversary of the plane crash last Tuesday the 3rd, I spoke to a guy who said he watched a program dedicated to Holly, Valens and Richardson on Bulgarian TV. That day, I received messages from such places as Italy and Japan. My favorite part was a guy in Lubbock, Texas who told me he was about to leave to go visit Buddy's gravesite there in Lubbock. Before he left, I requested he do me a favor, which he did. On Tuesday, Feb. 3rd, 2009, this man whom I don't even know, went to Buddy Holly's grave and said "Randy Speck says Thank You Buddy Holly!"

Rave on!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When I Needed Him Most

I was talking to a friend of mine online today and she wanted to know how does one go from being a back row Baptist to being a front row Baptist? I typed, "The Bible says all have sinned, and that means from the front row to the back row." Just then, the phone rang. It was June Spears calling to tell me about a new CD she and her husband, Bro. Larry Spears, had just released. She said Larry was on his way to the station to give me a copy to play on the air. After I hung up the phone, I turned back to my computer and continued to read the words my friend had typed: "No, that's not what I mean." "How do I feel good enough about myself to want to move from the back row to the front row?" That caused me to pause and think of an answer for her. As I thought about it, I typed "Hmmm." As I pressed send, I heard someone come through the front door. "I'll be right back," I typed, and walked into the lobby to see Bro. Larry standing there.

Now, Bro. Larry is a friend of mine. I have much respect and admiration for him and his wife, June. Her grandfather, Azle Edra Means, was the twin brother of my great-grandfather William Ezra Means, so that makes us fourth cousins. June and Larry love to sing for the Lord, and Larry has been a good and faithful pastor for many years. Many years ago, Larry and June recorded an album that contained ten songs, all written by Bro. Larry. There is a copy of it at the station. After greeting Bro. Larry with a handshake, he presented me with a brand new CD version of this album, and I was more than delighted to get it.

After a brief, but very pleasant visit, Bro. Larry went on his way. As soon as he was gone, I put the CD in a player and began to get re-aquainted with the album. As the tracks begin to play, I quickly realized, again, that Bro. Larry is a great songwriter.

On track four, I found a beautiful song entitled, "When I Needed Him Most." As I listened to the words, I knew I had found an answer for my friend.

He saw the broken life that I tried to hide
He opened my wounded heart and looked deep inside
He picked up the pieces that I could never mend
And with beauty He put them back together again

Just when I needed someone to care
While others forsook me, my Saviour was there
In my weakest moment He held me so close
And oh how He loved me when I needed Him most

I had no future, ashamed of the past
A life scarred by failure, so empty and vast
Helpless and so lonely, I searched for a friend
But He filled every longing when I let Him in

Just when I needed someone to care
While others forsook me, my Saviour was there
In my weakest moment He held me so close
And oh how He loved me when I needed Him most

So, I told my friend, "Where God really wants to move you, is toward Him. He just wants you to want Him. It's not so much about where you physically sit in Church. God wants to move you from the back row to the front row, spiritually. Then it hit me. I said, "I bet there have been times in your life when you've found yourself wrestling with God over Him wanting you." She replied, "Yes." So I said, "He can cleanse every stain, ease every pain, mend the pieces of your broken heart, quieten every fear, dry every tear and fill every single longing you have. You just have to let Him!"

There have been times in my own life, even right now, that I have found myself in a place where if it were not for the Lord, I don't know how I could have ever made it. And, just like Bro. Larry wrote, "In my weakest moment He held me so close, and oh how He loved me when I needed Him most."

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Day The Music Died

Just after 1 a.m. February 3, 1959, a three-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza went down about five miles northwest of Mason City Municipal Airport, near Clear Lake, Iowa. The plane crash took the lives of the pilot, Roger Peterson, and three musicians: Charles Hardin Holley, better known as Buddy Holly, 22; Ritchie Valens (originally Valenzuela), 17; and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 28. It has become famous, in Don McLean's "American Pie" formulation, as "the day the music died." The event has echoed through rock 'n' roll history for 50 years, representing, if not the end of rock 'n' roll itself, the close of an era, the end of the first bloom of rock anarchy and innovation.

As they have for decades, visitors have been making the pilgrimage to the resort town of Clear Lake, Iowa, about 110 miles north of Des Moines. Tonight, the 50th anniversary of the trio's deaths, the city's Surf Ballroom and Museum will host a huge concert in conjunction with the Rock Hall. Expected are luminaries including Graham Nash, whose 1960s British band was named for Holly; the Smithereens' Pat DiNizio, who wrote the song "Maria Elena" for Holly's widow; Los Lobos, who followed in the Hispanic-rock tradition begun by Valens; Texans Delbert McClinton and Joe Ely; and Tommy Allsup, who was a Holly sideman at the show 50 years ago.

The Surf, which was refurbished in 1995, includes the original stage, the telephone where Holly and Valens placed their last calls, guitars, photographs and a green room with hundreds of autographs. They all pay tribute to the last show for three men. Holly, Valens and Richardson were part of the Winter Dance Party, a ramshackle tour that had started in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and headed to small cities in Minnesota and Iowa. The tour, which also included Dion and the Belmonts and members of Holly's backing band, had lumbered along in subfreezing temperatures in unheated buses; two days earlier, one bus had stalled out on a lonely Wisconsin road. By the time the group reached Clear Lake, Holly in particular was ready to bolt. He booked the plane to fly to Fargo, North Dakota, where he planned to rest up and do laundry in advance of the group's next concert in Moorhead, Minnesota, across the state line.

Fargo native Bobby Vee, who remembers the tragedy vividly, acknowledges that he owes his career to the event. The then-high school sophomore named Robert Velline had come home for lunch and heard a local DJ talking about the Moorhead show. "I had a ticket for the show. I was a huge Buddy Holly fan and a huge rock 'n' roll fan," he recalled, adding that a major rock 'n' roll concert in the area was a rarity. "As I got closer into the kitchen ... [my mother and brother] were talking about this plane crash that had taken place. I couldn't put it all together."

But the promoter had decided to go on with the show and invited local bands to participate. Vee was in a garage band, and a friend suggested that they participate. The band, so loose it didn't even have a name, got on the bill. At the end of the night, a local booking agent approached them, and the Shadows (a name Vee came up with as they waited offstage) entered the music business. "It changed my life," Vee said. "I was a 15-year-old. I'd never experienced that kind of tragedy. I wasn't there to start a career -- I didn't know what a career was -- I was just there to help out, because that's what people do when there's a problem."

The trio's deaths coincided with a period of dark events in rock 'n' roll history, including Elvis Presley's induction into the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis' blacklisting, the record industry payola scandals and Chuck Berry's Mann Act conviction, not to mention the rise of manufactured teen idols such as Frankie Avalon and Fabian.

Partly thanks to McLean's lingering phrase, the ensuing years have been painted as a rock Dark Ages, rescued only by the Beatles' arrival in 1964 at the vanguard of the British Invasion.

What would have happened to the trio in that era is, of course, impossible to know. Valens, celebrated in the movie "La Bamba," was just starting his career and may have produced more hits; Richardson, a former DJ and radio program director who shot some rudimentary music videos, had shrewd entrepreneurial instincts. And then there's Holly, with his songwriting talent, his arranging abilities (he did the strings on "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," his last single) and sheer knowledge of music.

Maria Elena Holly, who watches over his legacy, says Buddy had big plans: He wanted to do albums with Ray Charles and Mahalia Jackson; he wanted to try film music; he wanted to do music publishing. "He was a multitasker in every way," she said. Monday, he and the others will simply be remembered at the ballroom where it's always February 2, 1959, and they're putting on another great show.

"When I come to these things, I don't think about [that] this is the last time I talked to him was from here. I think, I'm meeting the fans who have kept his memory alive," said Maria Elena Holly, who admits to getting "a little bit teary" when she hears "True Love Ways." "And that's really what Buddy wanted to happen with his music: He wanted people to enjoy the music, to listen to it and make them happy," she said. "And when I think of it that way, I think at least his dream came true."


Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...