Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"My Friend" by Laverne DeFazio

"My Friend"
by Laverne DeFazio

My best friend is Shirley Feeney
The best in all the land
Whenever we're in trouble
We face it hand in hand
We laugh when we are happy
We cry when we are sad
We talk when we are lonely
Just to know her makes me glad
If I had one wish in life
I know what it would be
I'd have Shirl as my best friend
For all eternity

("Laverne & Shirley," season 5, episode 16 - "The Beatnik Show")

R.I.P. Penny Marshall
(Oct. 15, 1943 – Dec. 17, 2018)


For the record, Laverne & Shirley became the most-watched American television program by its third season, and was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award in 1979.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

"Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us"


It was Christmas Eve 1876 and Ira D. Sankey, the famous singer and songwriter, was traveling on a steamboat up the Delaware River. Travelers on such a holiday, seemingly cut adrift in a world where everyone else is celebrating with loved ones, often seem to cling together making a circle of warmth in a waiting room, in a plane or in an almost deserted restaurant.

This was such a journey. On the deck were gathered a number of passengers, looking out at the calm, starlit night. Someone said, "Mr. Sankey is aboard!" and immediately there were cries of "Let him sing for us! Let's ask Mr. Sankey to sing!"

He was leaning against one of the great funnels of the boat. Before he began, he stood for a moment as if in prayer, deciding what to sing. He wanted to sing a Christmas song, but somehow the words of the shepherd song were what came to his heart.

"Saviour, like a shepherd lead us
Much we need Thy tender care
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us
For our use Thy folds prepare"

"Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are"


There was a deep stillness throughout the crowd. The words, telling the sweet story of God's love for wandering men, and the beautiful melody floated out across the deck, across the water and into the night. Every heart was stirred.

At the end of the song, a rough-looking man stepped forward. To Sankey, he asked, "Did you ever serve in the Union Army?" "Yes," answered Sankey. "Can you remember if you were doing picket duty on a bright moonlight night in 1862?" "Yes, I do," answered Sankey, with surprise. "Were you...?"

"I did, too, but I was serving in the Confederate Army. When I saw you standing at your post, I said to myself, 'that fellow will never get away from here alive.' I was in the shadow, completely hidden, while you walked in full moonlight."

"I raised my rifle and took aim. At that instant, you began to sing, just like a moment ago. The song was 'Saviour, like a shepherd lead us...'

"The music touched my heart and I took my finger off the trigger. 'I'll wait until the end of the song,' I said to myself. 'I can't miss him, and I can shoot him afterwards.'

"We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us
Be the Guardian of our way
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us
Seek us when we go astray"

"Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Hear, O hear us when we pray
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Hear, O hear us when we pray"


"As you sang, you reached the place where it says," 'We are thine, do thou befriend us, be the guardian of our way...'

"I could hear every word perfectly, and how the memories came to my heart! I began to think of my childhood and my mother. She loved God and had sung that song to me many times. But she died all too soon, otherwise I think my life might have been different.

"At the end of the song, I found it impossible for me to take aim, though you still stood in the bright moonlight, a perfect target."

"Then I thought of the Lord. I looked at you and thought, 'the Lord who was able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty.' My arm dropped to my side and I cannot tell you all the things I thought at that time. My heart was smitten, but I didn't know what to do.

"Just now, when you were about to sing and stood quietly as if praying, I recognized you. I've wandered far and wide, since that other occasion. I have never found that Shepherd. Please help me now find a cure for my sick soul."

Deeply moved, Sankey threw his arms about the man who had been his enemy. A man who could have ended his life. That Christmas Eve night, a former soldier found the great and tender Shepherd as his Saviour.

"Early let us seek Thy favor
Early let us do Thy will
Blessed Lord and only Saviour
With Thy love our bosoms fill"

"Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast loved us, love us still
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus
Thou hast loved us, love us still"


Saturday, December 1, 2018

George W. Burchette: Guard of Honor

In the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of the Department of Library Special Collections at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky is a letter addressed to George W. Burchette, a civil war soldier born in Clinton County, Kentucky, who was in the service of one our nation's greatest presidents and recognized by another.

George Washington Burchette was born on August 27, 1843 to John Calvin Burchette and Polly Branham. He was the grandson of Icil Burchett. On September 29, 1861, soon after the Civil War began, George enlisted in the Union Army's 12th Kentucky Cavalry, where he became a 1st Sergeant. He served until July 24, 1865. Although he fought in battles at Mill Springs, Fort Henry, Perryville and elsewhere, it is what he did at the war's end that he became known for.


The story begins just after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, which occured on April 14, 1865, less than a week after the Civil War ended. A funeral train, known as The Lincoln Special, was set up to transport the president's remains from Washington D.C. to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, where he was to be buried. There were no television cameras or radio broadcasts in those days, only newspaper and telegraph. The Lincoln Special brought the slain president to the people. It allowed the nation to mourn together in a way that neither telegraph nor newspapers could do.


The train left Washington, D.C. on April 21 and traveled 1,654 miles through Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, never exceeding 20 mph, to the final stop at Springfield, arriving there on May 3. Following his assassination on April 14th, over the course of 20 days, the president's coffin made 14 stops between Washington DC. and Springfield, Illinois, retracing the route Lincoln had traveled to Washington as the president-elect on his way to his first inauguration, more than four years earlier. Millions of Americans came to view the train along the route and to participate in ceremonies and processions that were held at each stop. The normal routine of everyday living stopped; work, stores, businesses, schools...everything came to a standstill. At each train depot,.and along the streets, tens of thousands of people came and stood in silence, waiting patiently for the Great Emancipator. Most wept.


The Lincoln Special sojourned from Washington, D.C. through Baltimore Maryland, Harrisburg and Philadelphia Pennsylvania, New York City, Albany and Buffalo New York, Cleveland and Columbus Ohio, Indianapolis and Michigan City Indiana, and finally to Chicago, where George Washington Burchette had been chosen as one of 24 men who would serve as funeral guards (Guard of Honor) and for Lincoln's body as it was taken from the train depot to Cook County Courthouse to lie in state.

When the funeral train arrived at Chicago's Park Place, a signal gun was fired, and the tolling of the bell on the courthouse announced the news to the citizens, but there were already thousands and thousands of people congregated in the vicinity of the funeral arch. The vast multitude stood in profound silence and reverently uncovered their heads as the coffin was borne to the dais beneath the grand arch, while the great Western Light Guard Band performed the "Lincoln Requiem," composed for the occasion. Thirty-six young lady pupils of the high school, dressed in white and banded with crape, then walked around the bier and each deposited an immortelle on the coffin as she passed. The coffin was then placed in the hearse, prepared expressly for the occasion, and the funeral cortege passed out of the Park Place into Michigan avenue, and fell into procession.”


“He comes back to us, his work finished, the republic vindicated, its enemies overthrown and suing for peace,” editorialized the Chicago Tribune. “He left us, asking that the payers of the people might be offered to Almighty God for wisdom and help to see the right path and pursue it. Those prayers were answered. He accomplished his work, and now the prayers of the people ascend for help, to bear the great affliction which has fallen upon them. Slain as no other man has been slain, cut down while interposing his great charity and mercy between the wrath of the people and guilty traitors, the people of Chicago tenderly receive the sacred ashes, with bowed heads and streaming eyes.”

  John Carroll Power, an historian who served as the first custodian of the tomb of Abraham Lincoln, described the funeral procession: “It was a wilderness of banners and flags, with their mottoes and inscriptions. The estimated number of persons in line was 37,000 and there were three times as many more who witnessed the procession by crowding into the streets bordering on the line of march, making about one hundred and fifty thousand who were on the streets of Chicago that day, to add their tribute of respect to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.”


The viewing itself at the courthouse lasted for 28 hours, ending on May 2 at 8 P.M.. Power wrote: “The coffin was then closed and carried to the hearaw. The Light Guard Band performed a requiem as the remains were being transferred. An immense procession, bearing about three thousand torches, was already in line, to escort the remains to the depot. At a quarter before nine o’clock, it moved to the time of numerous bands of music. While the preparations for starting were in progress, the choir continued to sing funeral dirges, and twenty-five Sergeants of the Veteran Reserve Corps stood around the funeral car with draw swords. At half-past nine o’clock, the funeral cortege moved slowly out of the depot to the strains of a funeral march by the band, while the bells of the city tolled a solemn farewell to all that was mortal of Abraham Lincoln.”

U.S. Sanitary Commission activist Mary A. Livermore recalled: “There was none of the hum of business; none of the rush and whirl and hot haste that characterize Chicago, – but closed stores, silent streets, and sadness resting on all faces. Flags bound with crape floated mournfully at half-mast. Black draperies shrouded the buildings. All talk was low and brief. Many wept as they walked, and on the breast or arm of all were mourning badges. All nationalities, creeds, and sects were ranged along the route to be taken by the funeral cortége, or stood amid the solemn pageantry and funeral splendor of the great procession.”


The train left Chicago to the sound to tolling bells. As it crossed through Illinois towards Lincoln’s home town, it passed large bonfires, large crowds and banners that read, “Come Home" and “Go To Thy Rest.” At Springfield, the coffin was loaded into an elaborate hearse pulled by six black horses in feathers and mourning blankets and bearing a silver plaque engraved with “A. L.” and taken to the state house. There, in the Hall of Representatives, where Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech, approximately 75,000 people filed silently by the coffin as a band played hymns sung by a choir of 30 vocalists. The next morning, Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest at Oak Ridge Cemetery.


George Washington Burchette was 22 years old when President Lincoln was assassinated. Being a member of the funeral guard brought him much notoriety back home in Cumberland and Clinton counties in Kentucky. After the war, he was appointed to oversee a group of 40 men who assisted the sheriff's of both counties in getting rid of bushwackers. He went on to become one of the Burkesville community's outstanding citizens and was elected state senator of Clinton and Cumberland counties.


When he died in 1935, just four months shy of his 92nd birthday, Burchette was Cumberland County's last surviving Union soldier and the last surviving member of the 24 men who had been chosen as guards for President Lincoln's while it as in Chicago and subsequent trip to Springfield. A few weeks before his death, Burchette received a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the letter, dated March 8, 1935, the president wrote "My dear Mr. Burchette, I am informed that you were a member of the funeral guard of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago and I am glad to send you this note to extend to you my personal greetings and my best wishes for your welfare. Very sincerely yours, President Franklin D. Roosevelt."

George Washington Burchette died at noon on April 18, 1935, one month and 10 days after receiving that letter. A funeral was held the following day at his residence and he was buried at Burkesville Cemetery. After his death, the letter was placed in the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU, where it can be seen today.

Burchette's grandfather, Icil Burchett, was killed by civil war guerrillas at his home in Clinton County. His great-grandfather, John Burchett, was a revolutionary war soldier in Virginia.


The photocopy of the letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to George Burchette is courtesy of Library Special Collections, WKU.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Catching Up With a Hero

A member of a retired United States Marine Corps was in Albany, Kentucky today and while here, presented a copy of the book, "Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation Honors War Veterans For More Than 60 Years of Growth," to James E. Morrison, who was a Master Sargeant, a non-commissioned officer with Co. C, 23rd Infantry 2nd Division. Morrison demonstrated exceptional valor when he distinguished himself by leading his troops in an attack on Heartbreak Ridge on Sept. 2, 1951. For weeks, his platoon had been completely surrounded by North Korean troops. Before being rescued by a Calvary Division, his Silver Star citation says he continuously exposed himself to enemy fire to direct his troops. At one point, he did not hesitate to carry one his wounded officers back to the first aid station, even though he himself was wounded by a grenade during the evacuation of that officer. Refusing to be evacuated himself, Master Sargeant Morrison continued leading his platoon during violent enemy fire until they were in consolidated positions on the seized objective. During this action, he was also given the French Croix de Guerre by the United Nations French Ground Forces. The book, presented by the KIA Motor Company, is dedicated to U.S. Veterans of the Korean War and their families, thanking them for their service.



"Roy Clark, Thanks For Coming"


I don't know whose idea it was to form the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet, but boy was it a good one. Formed In the late 1970s, the quartet consisted of Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones and Kenny Price. They would gather around a microphone and sing a gospel hymn at the end of the show's last segment. Several of the quartet's performances were released as recordings. We had two albums at WANY and we played them a lot. When Elmer Goodman died Sid Scott told me he had regretted not taking him into a recording studio with The Singjng DJ's and recording a gospel album in Hee Haw Quartet fashion. That would have been awesome.

Yesterday when I first heard that Roy Clark, a Grammy-winning country music singer-guitarist, had died of pneumonia complications at the age of 85, I immediately thought of the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet.

Clark was born on April 15, 1933 in Meherrin, VA, but his family moved to Washington, D.C. when he was a kid. His father played in a square dance band and took him to free concerts by the National Symphony and by military bands. “I was subjected to different kinds of music before I ever played,” Clark once said. “Dad said, ‘Never turn your ear off to music until your heart hears it — because then you might hear something you like.”

Roy started playing the guitar when he was 14 years old. In the early days of his career, he performed with banjo player David “Stringbean" Akeman. He said, "We would play drive-in theaters, standing on top of the concession stand. If the people liked it, they'd honk their horns."

Roy began making records in 1954. It didn't take long for people to sit up and take notice of his guitar playing. In the mid 1950s, he honed his television chops as a regular on Country Style, the D.C.-based television show hosted by Jimmy Dean, eventually taking over as host after Dean relocated to New York

. His big break came in 1960, when he was invited to Las Vegas to open for Wanda Jackson. After her band broke up, Clark hired her manager, who secured him appearances on The Tonight Show and Beverly Hillbillies. Clark was guest host on “The Tonight Show” several times in the 1960s and 1970s, a rarity for a country performer at that time. Yankee's baseball great Mickey Mantle was moved to tears when he heard Roy sing “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial, a request granted when Mantle died in 1995.

His first hit single came in 1963 with his recording of the Bill Anderson song, "Tips of my Fingers." He scored a huge hit in 1969 with one of his most beloved recordings, "Yesterday When I Was Young." He followed that up in 1970 with, "Thank God and Greyhound She's Gone." His 1973 hit "Come Live With Me," went to #1. His recording of "Alabama Jubilee" won him a Grammy Award in 1982. He was also known for his instrumental versions of “Malaguena,” on 12-string guitar, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

As if his pickin' the banjo or the guitar wasnt enough, Roy's sense of humor captured the hearts of his fans. In a 1966 appearance on the TV show, Swingin’ Country, the host, Rusty Draper, asked him, “About how long have you been performing?“ Without skipping a beat, Clark said, “About three months.”

The music-comedy TV show, Hee Haw, greatly impacted a whole generation of people, thanks largely to one of Kornfield Kounty's most popular residents, the show's co-host, Roy Clark. CBS launched Hee Haw in summer 1969 as country music’s answer to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Each episode was filled with country music stars and down-home comedy skits. It lasted three seasons on the network before moving to syndication, where it aired for 22 more years.

Hee Haw was theme-based on rural culture, although it was not limited to a rural audience. It was successful in all of the major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago.

The show provided a lot of laughs, and plenty of country music. Buck and Roy hosted the show through most of its run for most of its run. Their dialogue at the beginning of each show became one of most popular quotes ever: "I'm a-pickin' (Buck Owens)and I'm a-grinnin' (Roy Clark.

My favorite Roy Clark skit was set in a barber shop with Archie Campbell, a barber, cutting Roy's hair as he told one if his stories, like the one about Rindercella, her mugly other, two sad bisters and a very prandsom hince, or how about the "Oh that's good, no that's bad" gag? There was also the one where Roy would raise up from behind the counter to exclaim "Empty Arms Hotel!" Clark said Hee Haw capped off his career. “This was the icing on the cake," he said. This put my face and name together.” Another favorite of mine was the lamentful song "Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me," featuring Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Gordie Tapp and Archie Campbell.

Roy Clark was member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also won the Acedemy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award. Beginning in 1983, Roy opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and was one of the first country entertainers to open a theater there. Dozens followed him.

Roy was all about spreading love and good cheer. One of my all-time favorite quotes came when he said, "The next chance you get, do somethin' nice for somebody - say 'good day,' hold a door open - and don't wait around for a thank you...you don't need it." If only we would all do that, the world would be a better place. Roy must have known that.

He appreciated his fans and always let them know that he did. At the end of his concerts, he would tell the audience: “We had to come, but you had a choice. Thanks for being here.”

Yes, we had a choice and we chose you, Roy Clark. Thanks for coming. We were not let down. Thank you for the music, and for the laughs.

I close my story with the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet singing a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, featuring Charlie McCoy on harmonica.



Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Cheyenne Social Club


The Cheyenne Social Club is a 1970 western comedy film directed and produced by Gene Kelly and starring James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Shirley Jones and Sue Ane Langdon. Set in 1867, it's about an aging cowboy, John O'Hanlan who inherits a brothel and decides to turn it into a respectable boarding house, against the wishes of both the townspeople and the ladies working there.

O'Hanlan (Stewart) and Harley Sullivan (Fonda) leave their jobs working on open cattle ranges in Texas to make the 1,000 mile trek to Cheyenne. Along the way, they engage in quite an interesting conversation, except it's Sullivan who does most of the talking.

Harley Sullivan: "I remember when I was about twelve years old. My daddy asked me, he says, 'What do you want to be when you grow up, Little Harley?' And like a fool, I said a cowboy. I've been making wrong moves ever since."

Harley Sullivan: "Did I ever tell ya how my Uncle Charlie got stoved up?"
John O'Hanlan: "No, Harley."
Harley Sullivan: "His home set right out in the prarie. One day he went in the outhouse and got caught right in the middle of a stampede. When he went in there wasn't a cow in sight. A few minutes late 365 longhorns ran over him. Broke him up something terrrible. That was nineteen years ago and he's still constipated."

John O'Hanlan: "Harley, did you ever get married?"
Harley Sullivan: "Yes, John, I did."
John O'Hanlan: "Well, I never knew it."
Harley Sullivan: "Well, John, it ain't something I like to talk about, but I was married once. And once is enough for any man. You can't smoke, chew, dip, drink, scratch in the parlor, or cuss. When you leave the house, they ask you where'd you go. And when you come home, they ask you where have you been. And right now with you, it is just like when I was married."
John O'Hanlan: "Why, how is that, Harley?"
Harley Sullivan: "Well, John, when a woman's talking to you, you can be pretty sure that she thinks she's in control. And when she's not talking to you, you can be pretty certain you're in control. Take Helen. She had flame red hair, pitch black eyes, ruby lips and no teeth - but talk about a body! She could straddle two horses at the same time. I went with her until I found out she dipped snuff. There's something awful unfemale about a snuff dipper - don't you think so, John?"

John O'Hanlan: "Harley, I want you to do me a favor. Don't ever tell anyone here in Cheyenne I voted Democratic. You'll do that for me, won't you?"
Harley Sullivan: "If you say so."
John O'Hanlan: "Thank you."
Harley Sullivan: "John, you don't mind if I still vote Democratic, do you?"
John O'Hanlan: "Just so long as you're not seen with me when you do it. Be bad for business."

John O'Hanlan: "What are you lookin' at?"
Harley Sullivan: "You."
John O'Hanlan: "Why?"
Harley Sullivan: "I don't know. You look different some how."
John O'Hanlan: "What do you mean different?"
Harley Sullivan: "John, its kind of hard for me to put my finger on."
John O'Hanlan: "Well, try Harley. Use 'em all."

Harley Sullivan: "Hank Jameson had fourteen brothers and sisters. She only had three toes on her left foot. I remember one day..."
John O'Hanlan: "Harley, who only had three toes on her left foot?
Harley Sullivan: "Hank's sister, Cora B. Cora B. Jameson was her name. Folks used to pay her to take her shoe off."

Harley Sullivan: You just ain't the man you was yesterday. At least ways not from where I stand."
John O'Hanlan: "Well, maybe you're not standin' in the right place Harley! What do you mean I'm not the man today I was yesterday?"
Harley Sullivan: "Just, like you lost yourself when you took a bath!"

Fonda drones on and on as the pair travel across the vast Western landscape, about his family and dogs and heaven knows what all else. Finally...

John O'Hanlan: “You know where we are now, Harley?”
Harley Sullivan: “Not exactly.”
John O'Hanlan: “We’re in the Wyoming Territory and you’ve been talkin’ all the way from Texas.”
Harley Sullivan: “Just been keepin’ you company.”
John O'Hanlan: “I appreciate it, Harley, but if you say another word the rest of the day I’m gonna kill you.”

Friday, October 12, 2018

William Christian Shearer Was Well Respected

My 4th great-grandfather, William Christian Shearer's, roots can be traced back to Northern Ireland. According to the 1938 book, "A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, 1800 -1900," by Augusta Phillips Johnson, sometime around 1740, four brothers: George, John, William, James, and their families came to America from near Ulster, Ireland.

William settled in what became Wilkes County, N.C., where, according to Geni.com, his son, William Christian Shearer, served with the 16th Regiment during the American Revolution. It says after migrating to Wayne County, KY around 1812, he and his son, Jacob, ran a freight line that transported household goods, machinery and merchandise between Monticello and Louisville. It said that he was educated and well liked in the community and that he set up and conducted the first Bible study class in Wayne County.


William was married twice, first to Hannah Hoover, who died in North Carolina, then to Sallie Walters. He reportedly had numerous children with both wives. His son, Daniel, was the father of Margaret Shearer Huffaker. Her daughter, Hettie, married U.S. "Grant" Frost. They were the parents of my grandmother, Vada Boles. Christian and his son, Jacob, and Christian's wife, Sallie, are all buried at Bethesda Cemetery. Christian's granddaughter, Margaret, and her husband, Henry Clay Huffaker, my great, great-grandparents, are also buried at Bethesda Cemetery.

Chapter five of the book, "A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, 1800 -1900," tells that in 1828, Christian Shearer's son, Daniel, my 3rd great-grandfather helped to build a church at Pleasant Bend, now Cooper. In the book, author Augusta Phillips Johnson wrote that Daniel's son, Adam Napolean Shearer, then a lad of nine, remembered going with his father to do this. They called it the Church of Christ. In 1852, they organized and planned to build a church in Shearer Valley. The Civil War came on and this house was not completed until the war was over, but enough was done that the soldiers camped in it during the war. This house stands yet, and members of the Church of Christ meet there for worship. Jenkins Shearer, and later Daniel Shearer, preached in this church. Daniel B. Shearer was born on May 12, 1791 and died on April 21, 1865, at the age of 73. He and his wife, Margaret Vickery Shearer, are buried at Shearer Valley Cemetery.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Be A Winner!


Remember the football gag where Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football while he kicks it?

"KICK THE FOOTBALL, CHARLIE BROWN!"

At first, he refuses because he doesn't trust her. Eventually, she talks him into it and, just as he is about to kick the ball, Lucy picks it up.

"AAUGH!"

...yelled Charlie Brown as he went flying through the air, followed by...

"WHAM!"

...as he hit the ground.

The message was clear...

"DON'T GIVE UP!"

While Charlie Brown may not have ever kicked the football held by Lucy, he never stopped trying.

So it is with life, where the impossible can become possible if we are determined enough to not quit.

Never stop trying...a quitter never wins, but a winner never quits.

Be a winner!

YOU CAN DO IT!

Monday, October 1, 2018


Life is not measured by the amount of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."

Such was the moment that day as I walked across the parking lot of the grocery store when - above the hustle and bustle of the busy street that lay behind me, above the noise of the shoppers walking to and fro from the store in front of me - suddenly, I heard the voice of a child calling out my name over and over again.

I looked toward the store in front of me and saw nothing. I looked toward the street behind me and saw nothing, I looked to my left and still nothing. I thought that perhaps the voice I had heard was only my imagination, that is until I looked to my right.

Across the street in the school yard there had to be at least a hundred kids enjoying recess and, right in the midst of all those children, I saw one solitary outstretched arm reaching up toward the sky and the hand that was attached to it was waving frantically at me!

It was then that I realized the voice calling out my name belonged to my niece, Chrissy. My first thought was, "My, what great eye sight you have!" My second thought was, "My, what a great set of lungs you have!" Better to love me with, I decided, as I held up both my arms and frantically waved back to her. I smiled as I turned to walk toward the store, wiping away a couple of tears as I went inside.

Later, as I recalled that wonderful event, I remembered something I once read by the Italian poet, Cesare Pavese: "We do not remember days, we remember moments." What happened that day with Chrissy was one of those moments.

Unexpected, but pleasurable.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Burt Reynolds Was A Friend To Country Music


He was one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men during the ’70s and early ’80s, yet Burt Reynolds was a friend to country music.


Widely acclaimed as a landmark picture, the 1972 film, Deliverance, which co-starred Reynolds, is noted for the music scene near the beginning, with one of the city men playing "Dueling Banjos" on guitar with a banjo-strumming country boy, that sets the tone for what lies ahead. Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith wrote the original piece, "Feudin' Banjos" in 1955 and recorded it with banjo player Don Reno. Dueling Banjos” soared to #5 on the country charts in 1973 for Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell. The Deliverance soundtrack also includes several well-known country and bluegrass songs, like Old Joe Clark, Eight More Miles To Louisville, Farewell Blues, Earl's Breakdown, Fire On The Mountain, Bugle Call Rag, Mountain Dew and Rawhide.


In 1975, he starred in the picaresque film, W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings. It abounded with country artists, including Jerry Reed, Don Williams, Mel Tillis and Roni Stoneman. Tillis sang "The Losing End," Conny Van Dyke sang "Harbor Lights" and Hank Locklin's "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On," Jerry Reed sang "Blues Stay Away From Me," "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" and the Stonewall Jackson hit "My Bucket's Got A Hole in It."


Jerry Reed became a close friend of Reynolds during the filming of W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings and he tapped him for the 1976 movie, Gator, where he sang “The Ballad Of Gator McKlusky." That movie also featured “For A Little While” by Bobby Goldsboro.


Reynolds dated Tammy Wynette briefly during 1977, the same year that "Smokey & the Bandit" came out. It co-starred Reed and featured him singing the theme song, 'East Bound and Down.' The Smokey & the Bandit II soundtrack in 1980 featured 'Charlotte's Web' and "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine" by The Statler Brothers, 'Pecos Promenade' by Tanya Tucker, 'Tulsa Time' and "To Be Your Man" by Don Williams, 'Pecos Cowboy, Ride' and "Ride Concrete Cowboy, Ride" by Roy Rogers with the Sons of the Pioneers, "Here's Lookin' at You" by Mel Tillis and "Texas Bound and Flyin'" by Jerry Reed.


Reynolds scored two movie releases in 1977. The other one was "Semi Tough," which featured the music of Gene Autry, "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Don't Bite The Hand That's Feeding You," "Back in the Saddle Again," You're The Only Good Thing (That's Happened To Me), among others.


Reynolds co-starred with Dolly Parton in the 1982 musical comedy film hit, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which included two of Dolly's compositions: "Sneakin' Around", which she performed as a duet with Reynolds and a reworking of her 1974 classic "I Will Always Love You," which topped the country chart in September 1982. Unlike the original version, the 1982 release crossed over to the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts as well.


The 1983 film "Stroker Ace" featured the Marshall Tucker Band songs, "Southern Loving" and "Victim Of Life's Circumstances." The Charlie Daniels Band sang the theme song, "Stroker Ace," Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers sang "What Have We Got To Lose" and Terri Gibbs sang "I Feel A Heartache Comin' On."

While Burt Reynolds did lot for country music and he did even more for the people who sang it. It was an ideal arrangement. For example, look what he did for Jerry Reed's career. But, look what Jerry Reed did for Burt.

Validation.


They weren't just co-stars. They didn't just sing in a Burt Reynolds movie. They were close friends. Just as Clint Eastwood had done in "Every Which Way But Loose," Burt made sure Mel Tillis made it into "Smokey and the Bandit II" and "Cannonball Run." He made sure Don Williams songs were on the soundtracks.

And what did Don Williams do for Burt Reynolds?

"Oh, and if you see Burt Reynolds Would you shake his hand for me And tell ol' Burt I've seen all his movies" "If Hollywood Don't Need You (I Still Do) by Don Williams

Validation.

Upon hearing about his death, Reba McEntire, who worked with Reynolds in the 1993 TV movie, "The Man From Left Field," tweeted, "My good friend has started a new journey. Rest in my peace, my friend. I’ll never forget the wonderful times we spent together."



Monday, September 3, 2018

Seeing God Through Joe Elmore


To the so-called believer who said he didn't see anything that said God was behind the finding of Pfc. Joe Elmore's remains:

You weren't there with us to witness seeing the hundreds of people who came to the side of the road to welcome Pfc. Elmore as we made our journey home with him. Some were dressed in their red, white and blue, some carried flags of all sizes, and some stood at attention to salute our hero soldier. Some clapped while others waved. Some even weeped.

Psalm 46:10 says "Be still, and know that I am God." Mary did just that. She prayed for 68 years that God would bring her brother home. All the while, she became resolute and unswerving in her task. Through the decades, she steadfastly persisted and as her faith became stronger, she undoubtedly grew closer to God. Mary learned to endure and, most importantly, she never gave up. A faith unwavering and unshakable, that was God working in Mary's life.

I was there on that day when Mary and her husband, Buford, stood beside the casket that rested on the airplane's conveyer belt. I saw her weeping and I remembered how she had prayed all those years. That was my first glimpse of God in all His Glory that day.

I saw Him again after our motorcade turned onto Highway 111 from Interstate 40 at Cookeville and proceeded northward to U.S. 127 at the Kentucky state line and then on to the destination at Weldon Haddix Funeral Home.

Oh ye of little faith, you weren't there so you wouldn't have noticed, like we did, that the overwhelming majority of those folks standing alongside Highway 111 and U.S. 127 were born 'AFTER' Pfc. Joe Elmore had died in battle. Generations of people who never knew Joe saw God in all His glory that day. His message to the large crowds of people who came to see someone they never even knew was, "Look at what I did for his sister, Mary! If I can do this for her, imagine all the things I can do for you!"

I realize the family wouldn't have had to wait 68 years, and Pfc. Elmore's mom, dad, brothers and sisters would gave gotten to bury him, fully intact had his body been returned that December back in 1950, but then God wouldn't have been able to reveal Himself the way He did on August 15, 2018.

You see, God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. I believe God answered Mary's prayers so that He could be glorified. She was an example of Leviticus 10:3, which says "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified."

Thousands of people saw God in all His glory on both television and in person the day Mary and her family brought Pfc. Elmore's remains home. I was honored to be there to witness it myself.

"For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." - Romans 11:36

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Finding Joe Elmore


Mary Bowlin prayed for 68 years that her brother Joe's remains would be found. She was 15 years old when he was officially declared Missing in Action during the Korean War.

Joe Stanton Elmore, the son of Ambrose and Bertha York Elmore, was born in the Neathery/Cave Springs area of Clinton County, Ky on January 27, 1930. There is a group photo of Cave Springs School from 1939 that shows him at age nine standing on the back row. The school was located on Albany Landing Road. Later, his family would move to the Seminary community near there.

He was 20 years old when he decided to join the Army. According to Mary, he said, "I want to serve my God and my country." Before the war in North Korea, Joe had never been out of the state of Kentucky, except for the occasional trip to Byrdstown to see a picture show. He had been assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, where he eventually became Private First Class Joe Elmore.

In late November 1950, Joe and approximately 2,500 other U.S. and 700 South Korean soldiers, primarily infantry, artillery and tank units, assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team, which was deployed along the eastern shore of North Korea in the South Hamgyong Province. On the 27th, about 120,000 Chinese troops surprised 30,000 U. S. troops and a few troops representing the United Nations. A brutal 17-day battle in freezing weather soon followed. The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, as it came to be called, was fought between Nov. 27th and Dec. 13th. On Dec. 2nd, the 31st Regimental Combat Team, later called Task Force Faith, was destroyed. Pfc. Elmore was declared MIA on Dec. 2, 1950 and was presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953.

Numerous remains of soldiers who died during the Korean War were eventually sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as The Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii where they were interred only to be exhumed and kept in a forensic lab in the mid to late 1990's, following the creation of the Korean War Missing DNA Project. In 1995, Mary and her sister, Lola Smith, who died in 2012, submitted their DNA to that project. The Army found Elmore’s remains five years ago and informed Mary that they were 99.9% sure the remains were that of her brother.

Finally, on July 5th, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency informed Mary that the DNA she and her sister had provided all those years ago was a 100% match to the remains that the Army had located. They had accounted for the remains of her long lost brother. After 68 years, Mary's prayers had been answered.

Joe Elmore's remains will be flown home on August 15th. On August 17th, he will finally be laid to rest near his family at Story Cemetery, on the same Albany Landing Road, where he had received his schooling as a child.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"Sustained by God's Gace"


Mary Bowlin's story surrounding the discovery of her brother Joe Elmore's remains is one of faith, hope and courage, and belief in prayer. It is a testament to how God's grace sustains us.

Just like Pauline Conner, who had prayed for twenty-two years that her late husband, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, would receive the Medal of Honor seventy-three years after his heroic efforts during WWII, Mary prayed for 68 years that her brothers remains would be found. Both women were warriors far superior to any epic hero.

But, how did Mary and Pauline accomplish what they did? Through God's sustaining grace. "The gift of grace is so powerful. It brings endurance in the midst of the most difficult times. When everything is tearing at the seams and hanging by a thread, God is there, holding it tenderly - keeping our faith intact and offering to us everlasting hope." - Danielle Muñoz.("Understanding the Power of God’s Sustaining Grace")

Sustaining grace is described as grace given at special times of need, especially during adversity or suffering. The dictionary definition for grace is unmerited divine assistance. Isn't it awesome that God desires to do that for us? Grace is clearly expressed in the promises of God revealed in Scripture. (from the article "Grace" at faiththeevidence.com. "As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." Psalms 55:16-17, 22. The good news is that God is in the business of giving fresh starts to people. He gives hope to the hopeless. Direction to the directionless. Help to those who need help. God is always good, all the time, and God’s plans will always prevail, even when our plans don’t. (from the article "Grace" at faiththeevidence.com.

Evangelist Billy Graham once said, "The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us." Through it all, Mary and Pauline found God's sustaining grace. They prayed unceasingly, always beseeching God’s help and His mercy, and their prayers were answered. Both women are true testaments to what pertinacity, patience and prayer can do for us. Their stories are proof that we should never give up and we should certainly never stop praying. God works all things together for good for those who love Him. He hears our prayers and will provide all our needs in His time and according to His will.

While researching for this story, I came across a word that perhaps is not used in most folks' everyday vocabulary. That word is Pertinacity. It describes a quality of sticking with something no matter what. It's called persistent determination. People who have pertinacity won't give up. They stick with things doggedly. Pertinacity is a mix of courage and conviction. It requires a strong will and self-confidence. Pertinacity can also be called perseverance and resolution. It requires forbearance and a willingness to endure emotional pain and suffering. Mary and Pauline were delivered by God's sustaining grace.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"The Cause For Which We Stand"


I often write stories about the Civil War. I love the history behind it all, especially the local history from Wayne County down to Overton County and all points in between. There is much to be learned about the Civil War here in our own backyards. Like all of you, several of my ancestors fought in the war, and like many, I had family on both sides, and in the weirdest corners, too.

My 3rd great uncle was the notorious guerrilla Tinker Dave Beaty, who fought strongly for the Union cause. My 2nd and 3rd great-grandfathers, George and John Boles, were part of his Independent Scouts. On the other side, My 4th cousin, Fountain Frost, rode with Beaty's arch nemesis, the notorious Confederate guerrilla, Champ Ferguson, who fought just as strongly for states rights and 'the southern way of life.' My dad's side of the family in Overton County was mostly aligned to the Confederacy. My mom's side of the family in Fentress and Wayne counties were mostly aligned with Abe Lincoln, who felt it was his sacred duty as President to preserve the Union at all costs.

Very ironically, George Boles, although not yet officially my 2nd great-grandfather at the time, is believed to have killed Frost in a skirmish near Gilreath's Mill, not too far from Holbert Creek, and halfway between Chanute in Pickett County and Pall Mall in Fentress County, Tennessee.

It was sort of like that in the American Revolution, family on both sides, except...it was the same guy.

We all know the story of Benedict Arnold, the American soldier who switched sides and fought for the British during the Revolutionary War. But, have you met Ed Wade? He was 8th great-grandfather born on my dad's maternal side. To be exact, he was Edward C. Wade, Sr., born in York County, Virginia on April 21, 1727, and whose father, Colonel Robert Wade had fought in the French and Indian War. Yeah, that guy.

Edward was a Captain in the British Army at the beginning of the American Revolution, but in 1777, he and one of his brothers, so the story goes, decided to switch sides and join the Virginia Militia. It was a strong commitment to freedom for the Wade family, because two of Edward's sons, Richard and James, were killed while serving with the 6th Virginia Continental Line in 1776. After the war, Edward migrated to Georgia. He died on Nov. 4, 1790 and is buried at Little Creek Church Cemetery in Greshamville.

Switching sides was perhaps by conviction, perhaps it was because of personal belief, or perhaps it was to align oneself with their friends and families. Perhaps it was about wanting to please God. Each side believed God was on their side, but both prayed to the same God and read from the same Bible. So, whose side was the Lord on? During the Civil War, President Lincoln suggested neither side could claim God’s special favor. “The Almighty has His own purposes,” he said. It wasn't 'whose side is the Lord on,' but rather, 'who is on the Lord's side.'

An interesting side note locally: Edward Wade's second cousin, Richard Wade, left Virginia in 1777, the year Edward's father died, and moved to Boonesboro, Ky to help Daniel Boone defend the frontier. In 1801, he moved his family to a part of Wayne County that later became Clinton County. Richard is buried at Cartwright Cemetery. Also after the war, Edward's first cousin, Elizabeth and her husband, Samuel Denney, migrated to Wayne County and they lived on Beaver Creek.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hymn: God Leads Us Along





George A. Young was an obscure 19th Century preacher and carpenter who spent a lifetime serving in small rural communities. Often his financial support was small, and it was hard on his family. But through all the ups and downs his faithful wife never wavered in her loyalty to God and to her husband. After a long struggle, the family was able to move into their own small home (which George built himself). But then, on an occasion when George was away preaching, some local thugs—who didn’t like his Gospel preaching—set fire to the house, and it was totally destroyed. It was out of that experience that Young reaffirmed his faith in God by writing God Leads Us Along.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Living In The Land of the Free Because of the Brave


73 years after the fact, one Clinton County, Kentucky soldier receives the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration awarded for gallantry and bravery at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Ten days later, the remains of another Clinton County, Kentucky soldier are identified 68 years after being declared Missing in Action. One soldier was willing to lay down his life for his country, the other one did.

Is it ironic or by grand design that the events involving 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner and PFC Joe Stanton Elmore happened around the 4th of July celebration? Either way, one thing is true, we are a blessed people who have a lot to be thankful for. Has it ever been more apparent than now?

Former CCHS Football Coach George Hatcher used to say, "It's a great day to be a Bulldog." Today, it is a great day to be a Clinton Countian. One drive through town and you see those beautiful patriotic banners hanging atop the light poles. Many more banners will eventually take their place. There are a lot of veterans in our county and each one deserves our respect and gratitude. God bless all of them!

Lt. Conner, PFC Elmore and all of our other great veterans were willing to lay down their lives, to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that we might enjoy freedom in America. Now, perhaps more than ever, we realize that we really are living in the land of the free because of the brave.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

PFC Joe Elmore Is No Longer Missing in Action

PFC Joe Stanton Elmore of Albany was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was listed as Missing in Action during the Korean War, while fighting the enemy during a battle on December 2, 1950 along the Chosin Reservoir on the Eastern Shore of North Korea. His remains were never recovered and he was officially presumed dead on December 31, 1953.

Joe was born in the Neathery community of Clinton County on Jan. 27, 1930, the son of Ambrose and Bertha Lee York Elmore and brother of Edgar, Lester, and David Elmore, Mary Bowlin and Lola Mae Smith. The family later moved to the Seminary community. All of his siblings are deceased, except for Mary, who is now 83. She was 15 when Joe went missing.

In the 1990's, Mary and Lola participated in the Korean War Missing DNA Project. Lola passed away in 2012. Mary went to a meeting in Louisville in May of this year and out of 200 families she was the only one that they talked to. They had 99.9% confirmation that day.

"100% confirmation was made at 4:30 Thursday afternoon, July 5th," said Mary's daughter, Debbie Jo Bowlin of Bowling Green, who was named after her late uncle. She said she got a call to come to her mothers home as soon as possible after work. "I have good news, they found Joe," she said. It turns out that Joe's unknown remains have presumably been held somewhere in Kentucky since 2013, maybe at Ft Knox. More information will be released at a briefing to be held soon.

Debbie Jo and the entire family are praising the confirmation of her uncle's remains. "Our entire family is shocked and surprised by this. My mother finally has closure," she said. According to her, a full military funeral is expected to be held soon. A memorial marker has been in place at Story Cemetery since the 1980's. Now, after all these years, the remains of Joe Stanton Elmore can finally rest in peace there, with his parents and siblings.

More than 7,800 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Around 200 are from Kentucky. The Korean War Project first appeared online in 1995. It boasts the most comprehensive public database of war casualties available to the public. Hopefully, because of supposedly improved relations on North Korea's part with the United States, many of the MIA's now resting in North Korea and the DMZ are expected to be repatriated to the United States. It is with great hope that many of these remains may be identified in the future through DNA analysis.



Wednesday, July 4, 2018


"God bless America, long may our land be bright with Freedom's holy light!

Happy 4th of July from The Notorious Meddler!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Where is the King of America?


"Where, say some, is the king of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above!"

In January of 1776, author Thomas Paine wrote those words in a booklet entitled, “Common Sense,” which publicly advocated that America should seek to be an independent nation, free from tyranny.

"The Word of God is the Divine Law," he wrote, adding that, in America, the Law should be King rather than the King being the Law.

In a day when the population in the 13 colonies was under 3 million, the pamphlet sold 1.5 million copies. His were just the right words to stroke the common man´s heart and inflame his nobler passions to believe in and fight for one thing: Independence.

"HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!"

Friday, June 29, 2018

"Lt. Murl Conner Was A Courageous Warrior"


Garlin Murl Conner's bravery and heroism during World War II did not begin and end on January 24, 1945 near Houssen, France, which earned him the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 and was upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor this past Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

The Albany, Kentucky did much more. In October of 1943, then-Sgt. Conner earned a Silver Star for an act of bravery that occured during a heavy enemy counter attack when he left the safety of a covered position to direct fire and place men in a gap in the line. These men, at the time, were separated from their own platoon and were under the heaviest of fire from the enemy who were attempting to infiltrate through our lines. Even though he was a Communication Sergeant at the time of the action, Sgt. Conner, on his own initiative and with utter disregard for personal safety, took control of the situation, giving orders and first aid to many of our wounded, who were unable to be evacuated at the moment.

On January 30, 1944, near Ponte Rotto, Italy, Tecnical Sergeant Conner earned a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star. At about 0200 hours, he stormed a strongly fortified house, leading an assault group which he had organized, and succeeded in clearing it. Held by enemy soldiers armed with machine guns and machine pistols, the house blocked an attack being made by Company K. Four men previously sent to capture it were wounded. Taking a bazooka team and two rifle grenadiers with him, Technical Sergeant Conner led the way across 50 yards of exposed terrain and openly directed such effective fire on t he enemy at 25 yards range that one machine gun and two machine pistols were silenced and the crew of a fourth automatic weapon was routed. As a result, Company K continued its advance unhindered.

On September 11, 1944, then 2nd. Lt. Garlin Murl Conner earned a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Silver Star. His fearless leadership under devastating enemy shell and small arms fire, resulted in the capture by his company of a road junction i southern France. Despite shells bursting within 10 yards of him, first hitting six men and later wounding three more, 2nd Lt. Conner continued advancing and inspiring his platoon to follow him until he was approximately 300 yards from the enemy. He then crawled forward alone for about 250 yards through mortar, machine gun and rifle fire that barely missed him, and observed the enemy's dispositions. Leading his platoon by a covered route to the rear of the enemy, he launched a surprise attack that knocked out a machine gun and two mortars, killed three of the enemy, captured seven, and forced the remainder to flee.

On February 3 1945, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner earned a Third Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Silver Star for gallantry in action against the enemt. At 1700 hours, in southern France, he assumed command of a badly battered and disorganized rifle company and led it in an assault over 200 yards of fire-swept ground. Despite bullets which barely missed him, 1st Lt. Conner dashed forward with such grim ferocity that the enemy's morale was shattered. Closing in hand-to-hand combat he led his assault elements in killing 12 and capturing 75 of the enemy, totally shattering enemy resistance in the town.

Lt. Conner served with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division. According to U.S. Army's official website, army.mil, he took part in campaigns in Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe.

His awards and decorations include:

*Congressional Medal of Honor
*Distinguished Service Cross
*Silver Star with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
*Bronze Star
*Purple Heart with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
*Army Good Conduct Medal
*American Defense Service Medal
*American Campaign Medal
*European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Arrowhead and two Silver Service Stars
*World War II Victory Medal
*Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
*Combat Infantryman Badge
*Expert Infantryman Badge
*French Croix de Guerre
*French Fourragere
*Honorable Service Lapel Button-WWII

“Today we pay tribute to this Kentucky farm boy who stared down evil with the courage of a warrior and the heart of a true hero. [He] was indeed a giant in his daring, his devotion and his duty. He was larger than life." - President Donald J. Trump, June 26, 2018.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"A Medal of Honor's Long Journey Home"



By the time former Green Beret Richard Chilton of Wisconsin wrote a letter to Murl Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio, Conner, because of illness, could no longer speak or write.

When Chilton visited him on a fall day in 1996, he learned that Conner had not only served with his uncle but had carried him in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep. As Chilton skimmed through pages of old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box that Conner kept stored in a weathered rmilitary green duffel bag, his eyes widened. He saw the decorations and the eight major campaigns Murl had participated in. He saw where he had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.

"My God," a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. "This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor." Feeling sudden inspiration, he asked Murl and his wife if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl's behalf. Pauline turned to her husband who looked straight at her with tears in his eyes and nodded his head yes.

For more than 53 years after WWII, Murl had rarely spoken about the war -- not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow Soldier. He never boasted about his acts of bravery. When locals would ask about his time time overseas, he would hush them quickly. "I done what I had to do," he would say, "and that's all there is to it." After returning home from the war, Murl decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. He had found peace plowing the fields on his tobacco farm. But, during Chilton's visit to his home that day, Murl Conner was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.

And so it is that, after spending more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II, suffering seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross, and after a 22 year quest by Chilton and numerous others, and 73 years after the fact...on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Lt. Garlin Murl Conner, who died on Nov. 5, 1998, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor from the President of the United States of America. The Medal of Honor has at last come home.

(Taken from "The Silent Farmer: Decorated Soldier of World War II finally awarded Medal of Honor" by Joe Lacdan, Army News Service, June 14, 2018)

Friday, June 22, 2018

"Life Can Be Hard, But God Is Able"


Everything was going okay that day until all the other Post brothers got together in a huddle and decided to team up against Little Jimmy Post. I don't know for sure how things turned out for my buddy, but I have to believe that he made it through it okay. You see, life can be tough, at times as hard as crucible steel. That's what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his "Eulogy of the Martyred Children," which he delivered on Sept. 18, 1963. "[Life] 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." You don't have to face your struggles alone, if you believe what the bible says in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." We can all learn a lesson from Little Jimmy. I pray that you will.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Law and Prohibition


Things aren't always as they seem. Consider this story that appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal's "Greetings" column on Feb. 20, 1959, as told by Charles Brents. The actual incident occured sometime between 1926 and 1929, when my great-grandfather, A.H. "Hige" Boles, was sheriff of Clinton County, Kentucky.

When Prohibition went into effect in 1920, millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans chose to violate the liquor ban to satisfy their thirst for booze. Such was the case in Clinton County, which like all other places, thrived in the production and sale of illicit alcohol, such as moonshine.

As you can see in the photo, busting moonshine stills kept my great-grandfather busy during his term as sheriff. According to Brents, during one raid, Hige and his deputies found three men, one of whom was a constable who said, "Sheriff, you are too late. I have already captured these two fellows." While both men were convicted and fined $50 each, it was later learned that the constable had been a third partner in the still. His quick thinking had saved him from arrest and punishment.

Friday, June 8, 2018

"Getting Back Up"


Bro. Melvin Daniel said something at Steve Bell's funeral that really summarized, not only Steve's life, but mine, too. He said, "You don't win a prize when you get knocked down. You only win a prize when you get back up." That really hit home with me and inspired me to write the following.

I remember when a boxer by the name of Chuck Wepner went up against Muhammad Ali at Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. The date was March 24, 1975. Wepner was known for using dirty tricks in the ring, but the fight was thought to be an easy win for Ali, who did minimal training for it. After all, he had just beaten George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" match and was very much at the top of his game. So, everyone knew he was going to win. Everyone, that is, except Wepner, who knocked Ali down in the ninth round. Even though Ali claimed Wepner stepped on his foot and then pushed him, the referee ruled it a technical knock down. Wepner believed he was about to be crowned heavyweight champion of the world. He had almost knocked out the great Muhammad Ali. So, he goes over to his corner and says to his manager, "Al, start the car. We're going to the bank. We are millionaires." The manager replied, "You better turn around. He's getting up and he looks [mad]." Ali punished Wepner for the rest of the fight, scoring a technical knockout in the 15th round. The match would inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the script for "Rocky."

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! - from "Rocky Balboa," 2006.


The question in life isn’t whether or not we will fall down, but whether we will be bold enough to get back up again. It's easy to decide we can’t do it. For Steve Bell, getting back up took courage and a willingness and commitment to do it, even when he was scared or didn’t think he could. But, he kept getting back up, as Bro. Daniel said. Thomas Edison reportedly failed 10,000 times while inventing the light bulb. "I have found 10,000 ways something won’t work," he said. "I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."

You might not achieve all your goals during your life but that doesn’t make you a loser. Suffering defeat doesn't always mean you are defeated. In my life, I trust in God because He knows what is best for me. I firmly believe I am where He wants me to be. Getting up and continuing to get up, is me trusting in Him and allowing Him to work through me. The proof is in my writings. Over the years, I have written many faith-based stories or testimonials and had people comment, "I needed to hear this today." So, I am very content with where I am. What about you? Maybe God has another route laid out for you to take. "You don't win a prize when you get knocked down. You only win a prize when you get back up." So, get up!

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10




Monday, June 4, 2018

The Smell of Music

My dad was born on this day in 1938. It was through him that I learned about the smell of music. I began to ponder it during my early youth each time the guitar case that held his Chet Atkins-endorsed Gretsch Tennessean guitar was opened. For years, I could never find the right words to describe it, and then one day a friend suggested it was the smell of music. From the rosewood finish on the guitar and the plush velvet lining inside the case to the guitar strap that had dad's name on it, there was something special inside that guitar case and the first time I got a whiff of it my life was never the same. The smell of music set the course for my life's journey, thanks to my dad and his guitar. Happy 80th birthday in Heaven, Dad.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Till The Storm Passes By

During a recent singing at my church, friends Rob and Debbie sang Mosie Lister's great song, "Till The Storm Passes By." Before they sang, Debbie spoke about how God spared her family from a tornado that completely destroyed their brand new home in 1998, and how a shelter Rob had built in the basement had protected them from harm. For me, it was an all too familiar story of a tornado that came to my family's home when i was a small child.

The date was March 19, 1963. We lived in an apartment above my grandparents' garage at 601 Hopkins Street. My parents had gone out of town that day and my grandmother, Dimple Speck, was left to babysit us kids; Mike (4), Randy (me, age 3), Darilyn (2) and Ronnie (4 months). As a storm intensified outside, my grandmother looked out a window just in time to see the tornado that was fastly approaching. With only seconds to spare, she quickly gathered all of us together underneath the kitchen table and then, realizing she could not physically protect all of us at the same time, she told Mike and I to run to our parents' bedroom and get underneath the bed. We were overcome with so much fear that, no sooner had we got there, we decide to run back to the kitchen table.

By that time, the roof was already beginning to be pulled away from the building. My grandmother would later recall the haunting sound of hundreds of nails being ripped out of the wood. I cannot imagine how horrifying it must have been for her to see us running back to her at that moment. She was already holding our sister in one arm and our baby brother in the other. There was no way she could have physically handled two more kids, much less try to hold the table down.

My grandmother was a very spiritual woman. You could always find her sitting at the table with her bible either opened in front of her or laying beside her. There is no doubt that she did an awful lot of praying between the time she saw the tornado through the window and the sound of the roof coming apart. Instead of it crashing down on top of us, the tornado sucked the roof and most everything inside the apartment, outward. In the quiescence that followed, one thing that remained was that kitchen table, and all who were underneath it. God had spared my family, just like He spared Rob and Debbie and their family.

"Till the storm passes over
till the thunder sounds no more
till the clouds roll forever from the sky
hold me fast let me stand
in the hollow of thy hand
keep me safe till the storm passes by"

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Farmer and the Bicycle

Old farmer Jacob Rust lived about four miles from Albany, said a letter to the New York Sun. He had a good mountain farm and was very well-to-do in a rough and thinly populated region where a man with $10,000 was considered rich. Farmer Rust had several daughters and Ellen, the oldest, was considered the most 'handsomest' of them all.

This particular summer, a young man named Henry Curtis from Ohio, whose parents had moved there from Albany, had gone back to visit his relatives. He brought with him a bicycle. It was the first one to be seen in Clinton County, the letter said, and people came from miles around to see it. Henry, it said, was an expert rider and frequently displayed his bicycleship before the eyes of the mountaineers. He was even kind enough to let a number of the young men try his "velocipede," as it was called in Albany, but their bruised faces and sore joints soon made them very shy of the machine.

Henry fell in love with Ellen Rust. He pressed his courtship and was accepted, but farmer Rust was opposed. He objected to Henry because, as far as the farmer's knowledge went, he did not technically have what was known as any visible means of subsistence, or has farmer Rust termed it, "he was a lazy good-for-nothin' who had nothin' to do but go gallopin' around the hills on two wheels." Henry assured him he had a good business and fine prospects in Ohio, which was later transpired that his statement was true, but the farmer did not believe him.

So, Henry and Ellen waited. She was of legal age and they could have easily eloped, but they did not wish to do that. They wanted the old man's consent. The bicycle appeared to be farmer Rust's chief objection. He did not believe in it. "My gal," he said, "shan't marry any fellow who fools away his time on such a derned thing as that. Why, he might break his neck any day and then I'd have his 'widder' to take care of. I don't want for a son-in-law any man who rides on a velocipede. If he had a horse or a buckboard it would be all right."

Henry would not put away his beloved machine. The letter stated that he loved that bicycle, next to Ellen of course, and he meant to have them both. On Monday, Ellen was visiting a relative in town and Henry went to see her. They were getting angry at the old man's obduracy. "I will ride right out now, see him, and ask for your hand," said Henry, "and if he does not consent I will come back and we will get married anyhow. You are of legal age and we can have the ceremony performed here in town."

Ellen agreed.

Henry mounted his bicycle and headed for farmer Rust's place. The old man had just come in from a journey and his horse and buckboard were still at the yard gate. The young man immediately made known his errand.

" I told you once before that you could not marry her," said the farmer.

"Well, I am going to marry her, anyhow," replied Henry. "She is in town now. I am going back there and in less than an hour she will be my wife!"

"Then you will have to beat me to town," said farmer Rust. "I don't think any velocipede can get ahead of my old mare and the buckboard. If you get there ahead of me, i guess you can have the girl."

With that said, Henry mounted the bicycle and the old man jumped on his buckboard and the race was on. On a good turnpike or level road, read the letter, Henry could have easily outdistanced the old mare, who was not as swift as she once was, but it was altogether a different matter over those hills. But his recent experience with such difficulties stood him in good service, and, in spite of his rough path, Henry soon had the satisfaction of passing the farmer's bumping buckboard.

Henry waved his hand gleefully at his perspective father-in-law, who was swearing at his old mare and endeavoring to whip her into a faster gait. He wrecked twice, but each time Henry was able to right himself and his wheel without harm to either, and passed into town a quarter of a mile ahead of farmer Rust. He then stopped and waited for the farmer to come up.

The farmer looked at the bicycle for a moment and then exclaimed, "Well, I'll be derned!" Together, they went to fetch the Baptist preacher, brought him to the house where Ellen was visiting relatives, and it was there, on that day, that she and Henry were married.

- from the Sept. 26, 1889 edition of the Parsons (Kansas) Weekly Sun.

The story also ran in the Chicago Tribune, St. Paul Globe, Salt Lake Tribune, Daily Bee in Omaha, Times Democrat in New Orleans, the Clinton, Missouri Advocate and several other newspapers.

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