Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gap Creek

Golman Buford (G.B.) Hancock was born in 1839 in Wayne County, Kentucky and died in 1914 in Stone County, Missouri. After his death, a collection of his handwritten notes describing his life was passed down to his offspring and published in a booklet entitled, "My Life is an Open Book." It is about the struggles of a boy being left alone in the hills of Gap Creek in Wayne County following the deaths of his parents. As you will see, G.B. loved and greatly adored his father, Benjamin. As a way of introduction, G.B.'s grandfather had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War and for his service, received a grant for land at Gap Creek. He was reportedly the second settler in the region after Thomas Stockton (at Irwin). G.B. was one of ten children.

"At an early date my father erected a water mill on his farm, which did the grinding, or most of it, for the neighborhood. He was a farmer, miller, justice of the peace and a Baptist preacher. He never attained notoriety as a preacher, but was a man of considerable influence. When a difference would arise in the neighborhood all appeared to be willing to leave it to Uncle Ben, as he was known. He had no concern so far as the goods of this world were concerned, beyond a reasonable supply of food and raiment.

He was a friend of the poor, the widow and orphan. He raised four orphans and looked to the extent of his ability after objects of charity. I heard in my childhood how many such objects have died in his house, but do not now remember. We will know after awhile when the books are opened.

The house was a hewed log house, covered with chestnut shingles, when nails were not to be had. The shingles were pinned to the laths. When not quite four years old, my mother died. Our father had to tend his mill, superintend the farm and attend his meetings. Neighbor women were kind, but we were a family of neglected ones. It was a good farmer in those days that could afford biscuits for breakfast on Sunday mornings. For that reason, uncle John Hicks did his part to help us more than any one person. He had a grown daughter, and, looking for a wife, my brother often went to the Hicks' residence. We were always rejoiced when brother went to see her, for she would fill his coat pockets with biscuits for us children.

Before I reached my thirteenth birthday father was called to go. He called me his boy baby. He was old and feeble, and was only sick about two days. In the evening before he died at night he asked for his lips to be moistened. I got some water and a rag and wet his mouth. He then fixed his eyes upon me, and with an effort that called for all his strength, he prayed for the blessing of God to rest upon his boy. Those were his last words.

My father was a very indulgent parent. I had been his constant companion. The Creek Baptist meeting house was built on father's land. Gap Creek was between our residence and the meeting house. Father was old and tottery. In crossing the creek and climbing the hill, upon which the meeting house stood, he would brace himself on his right side with his cane and on the other by resting his left hand on my shoulder. Whenever I was with him, I was a happy boy, whether on the road, the farm or about the little water mill. After his death, I missed his kind counsel, his words of encouragement and above all, his caressing love."

(According to records, Benjamin Hancock deeded land to Otter Creek Church for $2.00 an acre, "which includes the meeting house now occupied by its members, lying on the waters of Otter Creek.")


"Salvation at Gap Creek"

I was saved during a revival at Gap Creek Baptist Church. In the photo, I am sitting on the very pew where it happened. It was the very front pew on the left side. It was a hot August night in 1968. Little was I to know that when the preaching started it was going to get a lot hotter. Bro. Ora C. Jones preached a fiery message on hell that night. He was only standing a few feet from me. It looked like his face was on fire and the longer he preached, the more on fire it looked. My eyes were transfixed on the sight of him. I could not move. It was almost more than a 9-year-old boy could take. I began to think two things were going to happen. Number one, fire was going to spew from his mouth and, number two, his head was surely going to lift up off his neck at any moment. I remember thinking he might explode. Occasionally, his eyes would find mine. I wanted to cry out. I wanted to run, but I could not. How could it be that I, whose only purpose in life was playing basketball or baseball, or riding a bicycle, was doomed to go to the fiery lake the preacher was describing. The longer I sat there, the worse it got. I did not realize at the time that I was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I was sure that I did not want to go to this place called hell and I sure did not want to burn in a lake of fire for ever and ever. At the invitation, the preacher barely got the words to come out of his mouth, when I found myself at the altar.

"When I can read my title clear
to mansions in the skies
I'll bid farewell to every fear
and wipe my weeping eyes
and wipe my weeping eyes
and wipe my weeping eyes
I'll bid farewell to every fear
and wipe my weeping eyes."


"The place of my ancestors"

Gap Creek Baptist Church will always remain dear to my heart. How great it is to me that God would save me inside a building where my ancestors worshipped. My great-grandfather, Ulysses S. "Grant" Frost is buried in the cemetery there. His name obviously means that someone in his family served or supported the Union cause. That someone was his father, and my great-great-grandfather, Corydon "Cord" Frost, who was a Private in Co. H, 13th Kentucky Calvary from Dec. 1, 1863 to June 10, 1865. Cord is also buried at Gap Creek.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Heaven In My Eyes

Learning To Live Without You

God Is Able

On July 13, 2003, I was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy. My father had just passed away from emphysema complications exactly two weeks to the day. My illness was not because of his death. I was not well before he died, and he had known it. When tests revealed my ejection fraction was at a low 13% or worse, I was transferred to another hospital where a well-known cardiologist lived and worked. Mom had followed the ambulance there. After just losing her husband two weeks earlier, I felt bad that she had to hear the doctor's words, which were to 'call my children to my bedside' and to 'get things in order.' As bad as things might have looked, I never felt like I was going to die. It was the intention of my doctor to put my name on the list for a heart transplant, but first she would try medication treatment.

A couple days later, I found myself alone in the hospital room. The longer I laid there in silence, alone, the more doubt began to chip away at my faith. I started feeling sorry for my three young children, who would have to grow up without their daddy. Soon, the tears began to roll down my face.

My vision was slightly blurred when suddenly the door to my room opened and in walked a lady with something in her hand. She came up to my bedside, looked down at me and smiled, handed me an envelope and then turned around and left, without ever speaking a word. I wiped the tears from my eyes as I opened the envelope. Inside was a card from my aunt, Donna. At the bottom, below her writing, was a bible verse, followed by the words - "GOD IS ABLE."

I had been feeling sorry for myself and worried that my children would have to grow up without a dad. In my aloneness, I lost track of who it is that holds tomorrow. I was forgetting about God. Those three words lifted me from my despair. As I was lying there thanking God for reminding me of what He can do when the phone rang. The call was from a very dear friend of mine, who just wanted to call to say he loved me and was praying for me. I wanted to tell him about what had just transpired, about the doubt that had started to creep in and about the woman who walked into my room and handed me a card with the words 'God is able,' but before I could say anything, he said,"You serve a big God who is able to heal you." Hahaha, I shouted for joy. Within ten minutes God had sent me the same message TWICE! WOW! The doubt that had consumed me was gone! My faith in God had been restored.

That was 12 years ago and, even though I continue to suffer from heart disease, one thing remains in my mind, God is able. That is my theme. I constantly see it in print. I constantly hear it spoken. A few years ago, I read an exchange on Facebook between two of my cousins in Tennessee. One was telling the other that she would be to her like Aaron and Hur were to Moses when Amalek fought with Israel in Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-13). Moses stood on top of a hill with the rod of God in his hand. When he held up his hand, Israel prevailed. When he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. Soon, Moses' hands were heavy and he sat down on a rock as Aaron stood on one side of him with Hur on the other side and they held his hands steady until the going down of the sun. Immediately, lyrics began forming in my head.

You are strong when I am weak
You are the answer that I seek
When life is hard and times are bleak
You are my Savior

When times are bleak? I wanted to know more about that phrase, so I began an online study which led me to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Eulogy for the Martyred Children' he delivered on Sept. 18, 1963 at the funeral of three innocent girls who were killed by a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama three days earlier. (A separate service for a fourth victim was held later). Near the end of his eulogy, Dr. King said this...

"Life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace."

There it was again, "God is able." I am thankful that I have faith enough to know that He is able and that whatever comes my way, I know who holds my hand.


He leadeth me beside still waters
Holding to my hand I know
Whatever path I take God is able
And though the journey that I'm on
Might sometimes be too rough and long
No matter come what may
God is able

He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me that I'm his very own
He died for me on Mount Calvary
That by his blood I might be made whole
God is able
Yeah, God is able

Saturday, April 18, 2015

There's More, There's More

We can only see a little of the ocean, a few miles distant from the rocky shore, but out there beyond our eyes' horizon, there's more, there's more.

We can only see a little of God's loving, a few rich treasures from His mighty store, but out there beyond our eyes' horizon, there's more, there's more.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Crossing Obey River

Here is how Major John Allen Brents, Company C, First Kentucky Volunteer Calvary, described Pickett County, Tennessee's Obey River after crossing it on April 24, 1862.

"The most picturesque scene I ever witnessed was at the crossing of Obey river. About half a mile from the river, on the north side, the road makes a precipitate descent into the river bottom.

I stood upon the brink of the hill at this point, and took a view of the surrounding country. There lay the beautiful river at my feet, and a vast plain upon the opposite side, perhaps three miles in width, while a range of hills is presented to the view.

Just beyond this range is another, then a third one, and so on to the farther range, which is of great height. These hills approached the river both to the right and left, thus forming a basin. The timber, which was very heavy upon them, was just getting green. The warm spring days had pushed out the buds and leaves.

The soldiers marched down to the river and, with the waving of hats and banners, rushed into the foaming water, which was nearly over the backs of our horses.

It was necessary to march down the stream one hundred yards, and then make a turn and march upstream two hundred yards before effecting a landing. Thus nearly all our little band was in the stream at the same time.

It was a beautiful scene. I am no poet, nor have I imagination enough to describe the scene as I would wish, yet I have given the outlines, from which a highly wrought fancy can form a beautiful picture.

About John Allen Brents: He was born in Clinton County on September 15, 1833. Before the Civil War, he was an attorney. After the war, he was elected a Kentucky State Representative and later served as a delegate from Clinton and Cumberland (Ky) counties to the Kentucky Constitutional Convention of 1890-91. John Allen Brents died on August 10, 1900 and is buried at Albany Cemetery.

Whose Side Is The Lord On?

During the Civil War, soldiers on both sides prayed for victory before each battle. Both presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, asked their supporters to pray for victories. Each side had believed that God was on their side, and in the end they said the outcome was simply God's will.

We often hear the question asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" But, in war, have you ever wondered which side the Lord is on?

During the civil war, the 1st Kentucky Cavalry was under the command of Colonel Frank Wolford of Liberty. The unit included 85 volunteers from Albany. They were known as The Wildcats after a battle on Wildcat Mountain near London. There were several brave and gallant men in the 1st Kentucky Calvary, but no one was more dedicated to the troops than its Chaplin, W. H. Honnell of Harrodsburg. Col. William Hoskins would later write that "not a soldier could be taken sick without his knowing it. He visited and conversed with all, ascertained their wants, and had them supplied if it was possible. Nor was this conduct occasional, it was continual and unceasing. His name was blessed a thousand times by sick and helpless soldiers. When any died, he was foremost in providing them a decent and Christian burial. He was not only kind and tender to the sick and wounded, but treated every one with gentleness and respect. Further, he was no coward. When marching, he was always in front near his gallant Colonel, and when the conflict raged, he could be seen where the danger was greatest."

During the fight at Lebanon, Tennessee, Chaplain Honnell became separated from his regiment, and rode into the rebel ranks, mistaking them for Union troops...

Colonel Morgan: "You take a position yonder," directing him to the rear.
Honnell: "I desire to go to my own regiment."
Morgan: "I told you where to go."
Honnell: "I don't like to be treated in such a way. I am chaplain of the 1st Kentucky cavalry, and want to go to my regiment."
Morgan: "It is hard for you to understand that I am Colonel Morgan, and you are my prisoner. My men need your prayers as well as Wolford's."

Honnell saw the position he was in, and submitted quietly. When Morgan commenced his retreat, he took Honnell along with him. After traveling at a pretty rapid gait for some distance, the Unionists' were gaining on him. Stopping to speak, Morgan said, "Well, Chaplain, I suppose we will have to separate, but before going you must pray." However, before the chaplain could do that, the Union army showed up and Morgan had to leave.

During his second inaugural address on March 5, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln said "Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Each looked for an easier triumph. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other."

So how could God be on BOTH sides?

According to Lincoln, neither side could claim God's special favor. "The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes."

When we have deeply held beliefs, like most do, it is tempting to believe God is only on our side. But, there is a chance that He may very well be on their side, too!

Like it or not, the fact is God's offer of mercy is for ALL people.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Performance With Percy Sledge

Southern soul and R&B singer, Percy Sledge, died April 14, 2015 at the age of 73. I was his organ player for one night several years ago when I played with the group, Hy-Tyde. We played his monstrous hit, "When A Man Loves A Woman," three times during his set that evening. Each time, he would look over at me and shout, "Play that oh-gan, play that oh-gan" and I would rip off a big solo. It is something I will never forget.

Rehearsing, Organizing The Band

Percy's agent sent us a set list, along an audio copy of it and in two weeks we had his show worked up. I brought in David Johnson, who was Cumberland County High School Band Director at the time, to play trombone. He, in turn, brought in a saxophone player he knew who lived in Champaign, Illinois. I can only recall his first name, which was Bill. He didn't earn enough money that night to pay his gas bill even one way. I gave him my cut and so did David and one of the other band members, which still wasn't enough. I remember him saying that the money was not an issue. He would be traveling back to Illinois and for the rest of his life, his horn-playing friends, his regular band members, would be in awe of their buddy who received a call to play a gig with the legendary Percy Sledge. A trumpet playing friend of David's was also supposed to play with us, but he didn't show up.

Transposing The Set List

When Percy arrived and saw we had horn players, he said most of his songs would have to be transposed to B flat for the horns' sake. It was a very last minute notice. We didn't have time to transpose the entire list. So, to make sure we could pull it off, I asked David to play guitar. He was a master guitar player and, with his experience as a band director, I knew he would be able to get us through the last minute changes. It was easy for me because the master tune settings on my keyboards could be altered to go along with the key changes.

The Show

That evening, Percy gave the standing room only crowd their money's worth and then some. He wore a black tuxedo with a white jacket and, like Elvis, several scarves around his neck. We wore all black. He was amazing. About midway through his set, a lady standing in front of the stage grabbed one of the scarves from around his neck and it quickly disappeared inside the top she was wearing. Without missing a beat, Percy's hand went in and retrieved the scarf. He told us prior to the concert that we would play his signature song, When A Man Loves A Woman, three times because he wanted the crowd to enjoy hearing him sing it. The song is considered an anthem among love songs, probably THE anthem. I was beyond thrilled that he would look over at me each time we played it and say, "Play that oh-gan, play that oh-gan!" It was a night to remember for all of us.

The set List

The songs in the set list that night were:

When a Man Loves a Woman (3x)
Take Time to Know Her
Warm and Tender Love
It Tears Me Up
Cover Me
Out of Left Field
Just Out of Reach
My Special Prayer
Dock of the Bay
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Dark End of the Street
I Still Miss Someone
Help Me Make It Through The Night
You Had to Be There
You're All Around Me
Ave Maria
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Baby, Help me

For the record, the first time I ever played "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" in public was with Percy Sledge singing it.

After The Concert

After the concert was over, I rode home on cloud nine. I had fronted several big-named artists but none as big as the legendary Percy Sledge. I found out later that after the show, Percy had invited several people who were hanging around to come to his motel room. The story told to me was that everyone was sitting in his room listening to Percy's stories, when someone brought out a jug of moonshine and it began circulating around the room, except when it got to Percy, he kept it. I had heard that he had a bit of a drinking problem. Percy, who lived in Memphis, started talking about another legend who lived across town. His name was Elvis Presley. Elvis' apparent abuse of prescription drugs came to light when he died in 1977. Well, the more moonshine Percy drank, the more emotional about Elvis he became. Soon, he was crying. His emotions reached their peak when he proclaimed: "If I had only gone over to Graceland more often, I might have made a difference." Sorry, but If I had been there, I would have not been able to contain myself and would have bursted out laughing.

So anyway, there you have the story of my night with the Southern soulster, the great Percy Sledge.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Civil War: Family On Both Sides

Like most people, I had family members on both sides during the Civil War. Two ancestors on my maternal side were murdered by Champ Ferguson, the confederate guerilla who terrorized citizens along or near the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. This short story highlights two of my ancestors who fought on opposite sides.

The Union

My maternal third great-grandfather, John Boles (left in the photo), was a captain in David Beaty's Independent Scouts. His wife, Matlida, was Tinker Dave's sister. Before the war, John served in the Tennessee state legislature from 1851 to 1857, as both senator and state representative. He enlisted with Tinker Dave in 1862 and served until the war's end in 1865. Afterwards, he was Overton Co. sheriff from 1865 to 1867.

The Confederacy

My paternal third great-grandfather, Pleasant Hillary Ledbetter (right in the photo), was a Corporal with Co. F, 16th TN Infantry. At Camp Trousdale, he took measles, which affected his throat and lungs. That and the freezing of his right foot to the bone during the march to Huttonsville, Virginia in the winter of 1861, wound up permanently disabling him later on. Eventually, he was captured near Loudon, Tennessee and was given a choice of either going to prison or taking the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government. Being in bad health, he chose to take the oath. His pension was denied.

Captain Boles is buried at Bolestown in Pickett County, Tennessee and Corporal Ledbetter is buried at Collins Cove in Overton County, Tennessee.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Randy To The Rescue

I grew up in a radio broadcasting family. I was breastfed by a microphone. My first babysitter was an AM transmitter. My first words were Conway and Loretta. My l first lesson about life was when Roger Miller sang, "You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd." I had a radio license before I had a drivers license. My paint by numbers numbers were 45, 78, 33 1/3rd.

I was very gung go in the early days. I chased fire trucks and ambulances trying to be the ace reporter that I surely I was destined to be. All of that came to an abrupt end one cold dark winters night about 1983. My town was very small. We only had one stoplight and on that particular night, there was only one city police officer on duty and no dispatcher. It was just after midnight. There was a snow on the ground and the temperature was near freezing. I was at the radio station typing some news, when all of a sudden the scanner came alive with the voice of our only on-duty city police officer. He was requesting assistance from someone, anyone...but, there was no one. I sat there listening, waiting for someone to reply, but not an answer came. He made a few attempts.....still no replies. Then, he tried summoning help from the neighboring counties, but again.....nothing.

I know other officers were out there somewhere, but no one was responding. I figured the winter weather must have been the reason that he was not being heard. So.....I leaped to my feet, grabbed my overcoat and into the night I went. Suddenly, I was a superhero, a Dick Tracy. Instead of going to the police station and dispatching, which I probably should have done, even though I wasn't a dispatcher, I drove directly to where the officer had said he was, which was just a couple of miles north of the town square, where the city police station was.

I pulled directly up to the front of the police car, jumped out and asked the officer if he needed help. Our only on-duty officer had pulled over a large two ton flat bed truck that he said was loaded with stolen merchandise. He asked me if I could drive a straight shift. Well, I had never been in such a contraption much less drive one. Plus, up to that night, I had never driven a straight shift. I told him that I could not drive it. The next words out of his mouth solidified the assumption in my mind that I could be a broadcaster by day and a superhero by night, like Superman.

Imagine that. Me, a superhero. I was ready to take an oath or whatever is was that promising superheroes were supposed to do at a time like this.

"You drive the police car and I'll drive their truck," said the officer. Wait....their? I looked in the back of the police car and saw three men. Three prisoners. "You drive the police car," he had said! I couldn't believe my ears! "Okay ," I said nervously, excitedly. Superhero, here I come!

I moved my car out of the way and climbed behind the wheel of the police car as the officer climbed up into the truck carrying the stolen merchandise. He radioed me to proceed to the jail. Without even stopping to think about it, I grabbed the mic and said, "10-4!" Haha, I said, "10-4" on the police radio. Watching all of those Adam 12 episodes was going to pay off!

And then, it happened. As I released the mic and placed it back on its holder, one of the prisoners in the back seat said, "Hey, you're that guy on the radio!" I almost lied and said no, but I couldn't. "Yes," I said. The man went on to say that he listens to me all the time. But, he really got me by saying "Man, you play great music!"

What had I done??? I was so intent on being a superhero by night, a Dick Tracy, and here was this man, a lowly thief, saying he loved my music!! The rest of the two miles to the jail, I spent agonizing my decision on that cold wintry night. Being just a disc jockey was good enough for me. It was more than good enough. When we got to the jail, I said something about the prisoners not really being such bad guys. The officer just looked at me as he marched them inside to be locked up. He told me to catch a ride back to my car.

"A heel!" That's what I kept calling myself as I drove home that morning. I never chased another fire truck or ambulance again. My crime-fighting days were over before they ever began. But, I wasn't complaining.

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...