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The Alexander Zatzepa Story: Open Thou Mine Eyes

"Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." (Psalm 119:18)

One evening in 1944, as Russian soldier Alexander Zatzepa lay in his foxhole awaiting the call to battle, he came to know the Lord. Knowing he might not return to his safe haven, he wrote the following words...
"Hear me, Oh God. Never in my whole lifetime have I spoken to you but just now I feel like sending you my greetings. You know from my childhood on they always told me that you are not. I, like a fool, believed them. I've never contemplated your creation and yet tonight gazing up out of my shell hole, I marvel at the shimmering stars above me and suddenly know the cruelty of the lie.

Will you, my God, reach your hand out to me? I wonder. But I will tell you and you will understand. Is it not strange that the light should come upon me and I see you amid this night of hell and there is nothing else that I have to say. This though, I am glad that I have learned to know you. …

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains
And the smell of the ground
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound

And frogs in the pools, singing at night
And wild plum trees in tremulous white

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone

By Sara Teasdale, from her collection, "Flame and Shadow," published in 1920

My Frost Genealogy

James Frost was born about 1783 at Ann Arundel,  Maryland, probably to James Frost  and Sarah Simpson.  James Frost married Annis "Polly" Hall. He died about 1845 at Frost Hollow, Wayne County, Kentucky.

Annis "Polly" Hall was born about 1789 in North Carolina to John Hall (1758-1835) and Mary Donaldson (born about 1763). Annis shows up on the 1850 Federal Census as living in Wayne County, Kentucky with her son and daughter-in-law, Cordon and Almira (Owens) Frost and their baby son, Joseph. Annis Hall Frost apparently died abt 1851 at Wayne County, Kentucky. James and Annis likely had at least the following children:

1. John Green Frost, born about 1806 at Person, NC, died June 1829 at Wayne Co., KY; on July 1, 1826 married Jane Dabney (1805-1870) and had at least the  following children: 
a. Francis M. Frost, born April 18, 1827 KY; died Jan. 15, 1916 OR; married Martha Jane Horner (1832-1905)
b. John McDonald Frost born May 30, 1829 KY; died March 25, 1880 KS. He…

Philburd Wright Left a Proud Legacy

My 5th great-grandfather, Philburd Wright, was born in Maryland in 1750, the son of Richard and Nancy Wright. Philburd became an Associator for Fredrick Co, Maryland on Dec. 27, 1775 (a member of the Maryland Militia), and was one of 9,000 men who took the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity to Maryland in 1778 during the American Revolution. The Oath of Fidelity, instituted by Laws of Maryland 1777, stated that every free male 18 years and older was required to subscribe to an oath renouncing the King of England and to pledge allegiance to the revolutionary government of Maryland.

According to "Indiana Magazine of History," by Emsley Wright Johnson, among the early settlers of the Territory of Indiana was a large family of Wrights, who emigrated from Randolph County, North Carolina, and settled in Union County in 1813. From Union County a portion of them went to Wayne and some to Washington County. Later, four of the sons went to Marion County. Philburd Wright took up his re…

Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters Pension Application of Dennis Hopkins

Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters Pension Application of Dennis Hopkins, my 5th great-grandfather.

State of Kentucky, Clinton County: County Court, January Term 1843.

"On this the 2nd day of January A.D. 1843 personally appeared in open court, Dennis Hopkins a resident citizen of the County aforesaid aged eighty-two years the 13th day of July last, having a record of the same being born on the 13th day of July 1760, being born in Orange County North Carolina, and raised in Randolph County said State, where he lived in time of the Revolutionary war, and after being duly sworn for that purpose on his oath makes the following Declaration in order to obtain the Benefit of the act of Congress passed 7th of June 1832. That he entered the service of the United States a drafted light horse soldier in Randolph County North Carolina in the fall of 1780, believed to be in October cannot give the day of the month with precise certainty, entered for thr…

Jack Barlow - I Love Country Music

"I Love Country Music" by Jack Barlow (Dial Records/4012), written by Jack Barlow, Darrell Speck (my father) and Charlie Stewart, and produced by Buddy Killen, was on the Cash Box Country Top 50 chart for nine weeks in 1965, beginning the week of Aug. 21st and ending the week of Oct. 16th. It peaked at #21 the week of Sept. 25th.
The song was a take off of the Tareyton cigarette commercials, which featured men and/or women models sporting a black eye and delivering the line "I'd rather fight than switch."


#50 the week of Aug. 21, 1965 #44 the week of Aug. 28, 1965 #34 the week of Sept. 4, 1965 #27 the week of Sept. 11, 1965 #22 the week of Sept. 18, 1965 #21 the week of Sept. 25, 1965 #25 the week of Oct. 2, 1965 #31 the week of Oct. 9, 1965 #36 the week of Oct. 16, 1965
Barlow sang the song on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry on November 8, 1965.

Side B is "Number One In The Nation," written by Barlow and Speck.

Earl Pierce Was An Icon

What is the measure of a man? Kindness? Love? Understanding? Cooperation? Commitment? Integrity? Is it what he has accomplished with the opportunities given? After all, its been said that a man is the captain of his own ship.

Actor Sidney Poitier wrote the measure of a man is in how he provided for his children. This story is about a man that many of us knew and admired. Through my early teenage years and into early adulthood, we all watched Earl Pierce provide for his wife and children; how he held down three jobs through most of those years. His mornings began with his school bus route. Us Speck kids (my niece, Johnna, included) only had one bus driver our entire school life, and that was Earl the Pearl, as we affectionately called him.

After his morning route, he drove a taxi up until it was time to take the school children back home. After a short break at home, he would leave his family and go to work overnight at Harvey Qualls' gas station, where Advance Auto is n…

Miracles and Wonders

"Miracles"

In 2009, my son, J.D., came back from an outing with his nana with a pair of steel-toed boots. I wondered aloud why and he simply said he had always wanted a pair. "Well, I suppose that's a good enough reason," I said. And then, the very next morning, the real reason showed up.

I dropped the boys off at school and after J.D. had exited the car from the backseat, I slowly began to pull away from the curb. I had no sooner began to do that when suddenly the back door opened. I applied the brake and before telling me that he had forgotten his baseball practice gear, J.D. very calmly said, "Pull up!" When I asked why, he said - again very calmly - "Pull up Dad, the tire's on my foot!" I panicked, of course, but he just laughed and said, "It's okay, I wore my steel-toed boots this morning!" 

J.D.'s size 12 foot could have easily been broken or crushed had it not been for those steel-toed boots he just brought …

Alvin C. York Was a Hero

Friday marked the 100th anniversary (April 6, 1917) of the day the United States joined its allies to fight in the war to end all wars.

Alvin York of Pall Mall, one of the biggest heroes of World War I, registered for the draft two months later.

York was a pacifist who asked to become a conscientious objector. The National Archives kept his draft registration form. The 12th line on the form asked: "Do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)" was the question on line 12 of the draft registration form?

The 29-year-old, a devoted churchgoer, responded: "Yes. Don't want to fight."

But, five months later, he was drafted, refusing to sign the documents that would have released him from military service. He wrote in his diary that both his company and battalion commanders persuaded him to fight, citing several Biblical passages about morality in war.

He ended up serving with his unit in the St. Mihiel offensive in northeastern France in September 191…

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. …

Not Guilty!

After WWII, Roy Brummett was justice of the peace in Albany, Kentucky and Granville Smith was County attorney. A defendant came up one day before Squire Brummett on a charge of breach of the peace. After some conflicting testimony, the man finally entered a plea of guilty. The jury retired, deliberated briefly, then came back with a verdict of not guilty. "You can't do that," pleaded the County attorney. "This man pleaded guilty!" "We know it," replied Arthur Staton, the jury foreman, "but he's such a liar, we didn't believe a word he said!"

Love's Swift Kick

President Theodore Roosevelt once said "no man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well-being, to risk his life, in a great cause.'

This is a Valentine's Day story about the time my then six-year-old son, Elijah, went the distance for love. I can't say it was his first love, but as you will come to realize, it will no doubt forever be one of his most memorable. 

President Roosevelt's slogan was "speak softly and carry a big stick." Perhaps Elijah should have carried a big stick during his first grade year at school. I remember well the day he came home and announced that he had a girlfriend and then a few weeks later when he said, "I tried to break up her dad, but she kicked me in the shin, so I decided to stay with her."  He pulled up his pant leg and showed me the bruise.  I guess he thought it is better to be unhappy than to have a bruised shin,' as his first grade "courtship" with th…

Protecting and Preserving The Peace During The Civil War Was A Family Affair

"Tinker Dave Beaty was born 200 years ago this Feb. 19th, in 1817. During the civil war, he formed a company, known as Independent Scouts, to protect the residents of Poplar and Buffalo coves in Fentress County, then Overton County, from Confederate Guerillas and troops, who were raiding the local population. This company, which sometimes consisted of as many as one hundred men, was officially recognized by the federal government and received into the service of the Union army on January 5, 1862.

The Independent Scouts' job was to act as scouts and combat Confederate guerrillas who came through their area. They were not paid, which by definition made them guerillas, but were supplied with arms and ammunition by the Federal authorities. Each man was required to furnish his own horse and equipment.

For me, David Beaty's Independent Scouts was a family affair. Tinker Dave's father, George, was my 4th great-grandfather. His sister, Matilda, married John Boles, a for…

"God is Able" by MLK, Jr.

"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."

(From "Eulogy of the Martyred Children, September 18, 1963)

The Cornfield Princess: Bullet in the Dark

Selah Elizabeth "Bessie" Jones was the daughter of Nesbit Hert and Jane (Upchurch) Jones. Sometime after her death, the family moved to Crowell, Texas. Bessie is buried at Cartwright Cemetery.


Her tombstone reads:

Selah E. Jones
Born May 3, 1886
Assassinated Sep 17, 1900

Her busy hands are folded
Her work on earth is done
Her trials are all ended
Her heavenly crown is won

Battle Hymn of the Republic Recording is 100 Years Old

Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage
where the grapes of wrath are stored
He has loosed the fateful lightening
of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on

Thomas Chalmers' recording of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" is 100-years-old this year. He recorded his version on May 29, 1917 (Edison Records, 82133-R).

According to the Library of Congress, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" went through a number of versions in the years immediately before the Civil War. Its tune and its early lyrics were written by William Steffe about 1856. Its first verse and refrain were:


Say brothers, will you meet us?
Say brothers, will you meet us?
Say brothers, will you meet us?
On Canaan's happy shore?

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
For ever, evermore!
The song first gained popularity around Charleston, South Carolina, where it was sung as a Methodist Camp Meeting song, pa…