Monday, March 30, 2009

The Calling

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9

Bro. Danny Whetstone is preaching at our Church this week. He is from Kings Mountain, North Carolina. So much of my Church's history comes from there, as does one of my ancestors, and researching it always gives me something great to write about.

This story begins with the Battle of Alamance, which took place on May 16, 1771. The Regulators, mostly Baptists with some Quakers, were attempting to regulate the behavior of Governor William Tryon and his appointed agents who ruled the colony of North Carolina. The state church of the colony was the Episcopalian church. Tryon had imposed unjust taxation on the frontier settlers. The officials of the state were corrupt enough to pocket a large portion of the excessive taxes they collected. Before his death, the great preacher, Shubal Stearns, had organized Sandy Creek Baptist Church. It was 600-plus members strong. The government regarded Baptists and Quakers as enemies of Anglican order and, because of the success of their evangelism of Stearns and others, a hindrance to the growth of the Episcopal church. The frontier regulators organized resistance to these injustices and confronted Tryon's select militia, which was mostly Presbyterian and Episcopal, at Alamance Battleground, not far from Sandy Creek Baptist Church. Tryon's militia attacked the poorly armed and poorly led Regulators and defeated them. After the battle, Tryon hanged 12 of the Regulators and laid waste to many Baptist plantations in the area. Sandy Creek Seperate Baptist Church dropped from 606 members to 14 within a year of the battle.

The majority of the Sandy Creek refugees fled to Washington County, Tennessee, where they established Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church. Its first pastor was Tidence Lane. Bro. Lane was born near Baltimore, Maryland on August 31, 1724. In early colonial times, his parents moved from Maryland to Virginia and then to North Carolina. In his youth, Tidence was convicted and converted under the ministry of Shubal Stearns, who had been "itinerating" extensively in Virginia and North Carolina, and preaching with wonderful success. It has been written that Stearns was a marvelous preacher for moving the emotions and melting his audience to tears. Most exciting stories have been told about the piercing glance of his eye and the melting tones of his voice, while his appearance was that of a patriarch. Tidence once held "the most hateful feelings toward Baptists," but it was curiosity that led him to make a horseback trip of some forty miles to see and hear Shubal Stearns speak.

"When the fame of Mr. Stearns' preaching reached the Yadkin River, where I lived, I felt a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach tree with a book in his hand and the people gathering about him. He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I had never felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far. I walked about, Sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking of hands would relieve me, but it happened otherwise. I began to think he had an evil eye and ought to be shunned, but shunning him I could no more effect than a bird can shun the rattlesnake when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sank to the ground." Morgan Edwards' unpublished manuscript.)

Tidence Lane was a step-brother to one of Clear Fork Baptist Church's founding members!

Among those who helped start Buffalo Ridge Church in 1779, were the Denton and Crouch families. One of Clear Fork Baptist Church's founding members James Crouch, became a step-brother to Tidence Lane. After James' mother, Sarah, died in 1782, his father, John Crouch, Sr., married Bro. Lane's mother, Elizabeth. Later, James married Agnes Denton. Her brother, Isaac, made a profession of faith at the age of 18and was later called to preach. Just prior to 1800, after land in the western frontier opened up, the Crouch and Denton families migrated to Stockson's Valley, Kentucky, where they helped establish 'the Church of Jesus Christ on Clear Fork Creek'.

By the way, in 1780, nine years later after moving to Washington County, Tennessee and establishing Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church, many relatives and descendants of those refugees from Sandy Creek became "Overmountain Men," who went over the Blue Ridge Mountains to lead the effort which whipped Patrick Ferguson's British and Tories at the Battle of Kings Mountain. Tidence Lane and nine of his sons fought in that battle. It was a major turning point of the Revolutionary War.

This Thursday, April 2nd, Clear Fork Baptist Church will celebrate her 207th anniversary as a 'Lighthouse in the Wilderness.' Only by the grace of God has the Church been allowed to exist all these years. She has faced many struggles and harships. There have been many trials along the way, but thanks be to God for allowing great men like Shubal Stearns and Tidence Lane to influence a young man, who would end up serving as her pastor for 46 long years. Isaac Denton and his wife are buried near the front entrance to the Church.

For more information about the characters and places included in this story, click on any of the following:

Danny Whetstone, Shubal Stearns, Tidence Lane, Isaac Denton, James Crouch, Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church, Clear Fork Baptist Church, My ancestor, John Frost.

A Reason for Treason is another story I wrote that mentions King's Mountain.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Miracles and Wonders


Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods...

Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman)

Last night, J.D. came back from his outing with his nana with a pair of steel-toed boots she had bought him. I wondered aloud why he had bought them and he simply said he had always wanted a pair. My exact reply was, "Well I suppose that's a good enough reason." And then, this morning, the real reason showed up. I dropped the boys off at school at 7:20 a.m., and after J.D. had exited the car from the backseat, I slowly began to pull the car away from the curb. I had no sooner began to do that when suddenly I heard the back door opening! I slammed on the brakes as I looked back and saw J.D. opening the door. Before he could tell me that he had forgotten his baseball practice clothes, he said - rather calmly - "Pull up!" When I questioned why, he said - rather 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!"

Praise the Lord for small miracles, or perhaps big ones in J.D.'s case, since he wears a size 12 shoe, and that big foot of his could have easily been broken or crushed had it not been for those new boots he just brought home the night before. I asked him today if last night he said, "Nana, I need to buy a pair of steel-toed boots because in the morning my dad is going to run over my foot!" He just laughed.

...and wonders

I wonder

What today will bring

I wonder

About every old thing

I wonder

To and fro

I wonder

Where I will go

I wonder

What you are doing

I wonder


This morning, during my on-air shift, I was distracted by the telephone and forgot to put the 11:00 a.m. Fox News on the air. A song was playing on the air and I just happened to glance at the clock and then realized it was news time, so I hung up the phone and ran back to the control room. The song playing was a new one by Jonathan Singleton, called "Living in Paradise." In the control room, I started to take the song off the air and put the news on in its place. At that instant, I overheard the line in the song, which went, "Just one more day..." When I flipped the switch, at that instant, I heard the Fox News announcer say, "Just one more day." I thought, "Huh?" In that moment of confusion for me, I realized the announcer was talking about 'one more day inside the space shuttle,' while the singer was singing 'one more day in paradise.'

That sort of thing has happened to me more than once. The first time was when this lady from a record company was on the phone talking to me about a song, and in her comments she said the word WONDERFUL. At the same exact moment she said WONDERFUL, over the monitor I heard the word WONDERFUL in a song that was playing on the air. I lost track of the conversation after that, and as I was trying to 'sort things out,' I realized there was silence on the other end of the line. Apparently, she was waiting for me to respond to something she had said or asked.

I like to think that maybe I am just in tune with myself, eh? Okay, so well that sounded good anyway.

* Photos by Charlie Neal.

While researching some miracles and wonders, I ran across a fantastic blog by Amy Wyatt of Georgia. Visit Signs, Miracles and Wonders.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Incomparable Buddy Bell

One of the most popular local entertainers of all time is Charles Glyn Bell. You probably know him best as ‘Buddy Bell.’

The first time I can ever remember seeing Buddy perform was at the Old Kentucky Barn Dance in Burkesville. Right away I knew he was a crowd favorite. It may have had something to do with the way he was up on that stage braying like an old flop-eared mule. Over the years, Johnson's Old Grey Mule has become his trademark song stage, and he performs it well, even today at the age of 84. It didn't take long for me to develop a great admiration for Buddy Bell. Off stage, he is quiet and extremely laid back. But on stage, it's as if someone turned the YOU’RE ON light on as suddenly Buddy Bell would fall into step with the one thing he loved to do most - entertain.

Everywhere Buddy performs, audiences love him. He is one of those acts that folks can’t wait to see up on that stage. Although he might not do it as often as he once did, when Buddy Bell would sing his bluegrass and country songs superbly well, and even occasionally show off his versatility by playing guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass, the one thing he’d do that really got the crowd going was reach into his shirt pocket, pull out his comb, wrap a piece of tissue around it and play Yakety Sax. Another thing he’d do that the crowd loved was cup his hands over his mouth and emit a sound that made you think you were sitting there listening to Charlie McCoy playing harmonica.

Charles Lynn Bell was born May 11, 1925. His father was an old showman with a rodeo circuit, and Buddy learned how to entertain by watching his dad. He sang country and bluegrass songs, and always tried to throw in an hymn before his time on stage was up. But, it was the novelty side of his performance that kept the audience laughing and smiling and cheering for more. It was a routine that he would use the rest of his performing career.

Buddy started singing when he was about six years old. He has performed at several different venues in his lifetime, from the studio's of WANY to square dances, cake walks and on the bigger stages like at Renfro Valley, Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop, the Brown County Jamboree at Bean Blossom, Indiana, the Tennessee Jamboree at Knoxville, Carl Story’s Jamboree in North Carolina, on Channel 13 in Bowling Green, and on most every radio station in the area, including the legendary WNOX in Knoxville.

Buddy loved playing music with my dad, and also the late Elmer Goodman. I have recordings of him performing with both of them, and they are priceless! During his time at the Old Kentucky Barn Dance, Buddy performed with Big Don Burchett and the Pole Cats. He was also a member of The Suppertime Boys, which sang gospel music. Today, when he performs, it is usually with the Cartwright Express. I took the boys to Stony Point Baptist Church last October for the annual alternative-to-Halloween event. The boys went for the fun and games. I went specifically to see Buddy Bell. The place was packed, but I found him sitting over in a corner being his normal quite and reserved self. Once he hit the stage, I could tell by the crowd that I wasn’t the only one who had shown up to watch him. As the band started to play the familiar strands of ‘Johnson’s Old Grey Mule,’ Buddy came to life, and so did the crowd. On this night, when he finished the song, I gave him a standing ovation.

Buddy never learned how to drive a car. He has always depended on someone else to drive him places. That night at Stony Point, I found myself loading his guitar in the back seat of my car, and then it was off toward town, and his apartment. When we reached Hoot Owl Hollow, he started singing a song he had written about Bill Monroe after the father of bluegrass had passed away. About four miles from town, Buddy realized he had messed up the words, so he started over. One of Elijah’s friends, Nash, was in the back seat, and while Buddy sang as we traveled down the highway, occasionally I would look back and see Nash smiling. For even a 12-year-old boy, it was a fine, fine moment! As Buddy has said, he has appeared on stage with the great and the near-great. That night, I was with THE great, the incomparable Buddy Bell.

When we reached Buddy’s apartment, I helped him inside. Back in the car, Nash said, “That Buddy sure is one of a kind!

“Yes, he sure is, Nash.”

Johnson had an old grey mule and his name was Simon slick
He would roll his eyes and curl his tail and how that fool would kick
He took him down to the foot of the hill to try him out one day'
He kicked and pawed and he brayed all around and this is what that mule would say
He'd say, Whoa Boy!

Yee haw, haw, haw, yee haw, haw, haw
And down the trail he'd go

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When TV Was Good

Remember when we only had three TV channels, or four if you went outside and turned the antenna? I miss those days. We now know that TV was better back then, with shows like Gilligan's Island, Batman, My Three Sons, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Lone Ranger, Superman, Lost in Space, Gunsmoke and The Monkees. The list is long and memorable. I remember watching the Red Skelton Show and the Beatles of Ed Sullivan. I loved Match Game and To Tell The Truth, and Laredo. I was a TV junkie. I even collected TV Guides! I used to be able to quote the poem, High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., which was used by one of the networks during its sign off.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

...and so forth.

I lived for Saturday morning cartoons, like Huckleberry Hound, Felix the Cat and Underdog! After the cartoons ended it was time for the main event - wrestling! I grew up watching TV studio wrestling. Announcers Lance Russell and Dave Brown were my heroes. I wanted to be them so badly, but just never got around to seriously pursuing it.

Lance: "Yello' everybody, Lance Russell and Dave Brown ringside for another BIG DAY of Championship Wrestling!" Our first match of the day is between Brickhouse Brown and Beautiful Bobby Eaton. Let’s go to Davey in the ring for the introductions. Take it away, Davey.”

Oh man, I loved it!

My all-time favorite TV show is The Andy Griffith Show. My friend, Steve, who’s a bigger TAGS fan than I am, sent me an e-mail the other day of what late broadcaster Paul Harvey had to say about TAGS.

Since television ran away from home .. it has been wandering .. searching .. trying to find it’s way back to Mayberry. These days, whatever I’m watching, I’m unfulfilled. I can close my eyes and smell the crayons in Miss Crump’s classroom. I can smell the bay rum in Floyd’s Barber Shop. When I open my eyes, I see mostly mayhem. And as Charlene Darling would say "that makes me cry." From our weekly visits to Mayberry, we learned tolerance for Otis Campbell’s weakness .. and for Aunt Bea’s pickles. We learned compassion from Opie’s misused slingshot and we were introduced to soft love at Myers Lake. The bumbling Goober’s among us learned that we still may be smarter than anybody when it comes to fixin’ cars. Barney Fife .. taking himself so very seriously .. was a mirror reflection of most of us. And Sheriff Andy Taylor understood. Mayberry .. where are you now when we need you so?!? Might television ever find its way back to Mayberry? Is the image of father and son, hand-in-hand, going fishing too trite, too provincial for contemporary plausibility? One might think so .. except .. that episodes remain evergreen in re-runs. After all these years .. the bullet in Barney’s pocket still evokes a smile. City folks .. intimidated .. or seduced by drifters. Buddy Ebson as a hobo was helped to discover his own conscience in Mayberry.

Remember the impatient city visitor .. with no time to spare? But he ended up in the porch swing singing "Church in the Wildwood". Opie slept on the ironing board that night. Adventure sleeping, he called it. Today, we laugh at one another. In Mayberry, we cared about one another. That was confirmed even in the way the writers wrote around Floyd’s incapacity. An observation which this professional people watcher considers most impressive .. is that everybody to whom Mayberry was home .. might have been assumed by cynics to be play-actors. And yet, each in real life turned out real good! Aunt Bea remained in character until death did us part. Whatever it was about that small town brigadoon appears to have become an indelible influence on those who lived there .. and on us who visited. Television owes us .. and that accruing debt will be amortized, at least in part, if it keeps Mayberry alive against the day when behave yourself and love your neighbor .. comes back into style.

Paul Harvey hit the nail on the head. I don't watch a lot of TV today, even though there are over 100 channels readily available. If we could just go back to when there were only three...or four if we turned the antenna. As Archie and Edith Bunker once saing, "Those were the days!". Thank goodness for TV Land! Where's the remote?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pres. Sanford & his V.P. Son

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who criticized President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan as a pork-laden boondoggle that will plunge the country further into debt, said he may reject nearly a quarter of the money headed to his state, which would expand unemployment benefits. He also threatened to request a waiver to spend $700 million, targeted for education, etc., to pay on some of the state's debt instead. Some say he's only prepping to run for President in 2012 and putting his own political future ahead of the needs of his state.

First off, what is a boondoggle? Secondly, I think Governor Sanford should run for President.

A President Sanford, now that's what I would LOVE to see!

But, who could we get to run for vice-president and play the part of his son? Then, we'd have Sanford & Son in the Whitehouse, only it would be called Sanford Arms!

President Sanford: Looky here. This is the White Room.
[Slams door]
President Sanford: Green Room.
[Slams door]
President Sanford: Red Room.
[Slams door]
President Sanford: Bathroom.
V.P. Son: HEY!
President Sanford: Excuse me.
[Slams door]

Think about it....instead of 'Hail To The Chief,' we'd get to hear the Sanford & Son theme song at EVERY public appearance!

The official slogan would be "THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE, HALLELUJAH!"

They could bring back Condaleesa Rice for a cabinet seat. Of course, she would change her name to Aunt Esther. I can hear it now. 'Yes, Mr. President, I'll get on it right away you old fish-eyed fool!

Aunt Esther Coming To Visit The President:

President Sanford: Who's there?
Aunt Esther: It's Esther!
President Sanford: Esther who?
Aunt Esther: You know Esther who! Open this door fool!
President Sanford: I can't open the door!
Aunt Esther: Why not?
President Sanford: You too ugly!
Aunt Esther: Who you calling ugly, sucker?
President Sanford: I'm calling you ugly, I could push your face in some dough and make gorilla cookies.
Aunt Esther: Watch it, sucka.

On Pork-Barrell Spending:
President Sanford: We could have a little pork and beans now and a little zucchini later. Or a little zucchini now and a little pork and beans later. Or if you like the pork and beans, you can have them and I'll take the zucchini or I can take the pork and beans and you the zucchini so what will it be? Zucchini or pork and beans?
V.P. Son: The oven don't work.
President Sanford: Oh, in that case, we'll have some cold pork and beans now or...
V.P. Son: Would you stop that?

During the President Sanford administration, the President and his V.P. will not be needing the Secret Service as they will be protected by Officers Smitty Smith and Hoppy Hopkins! The part of Julio Fuentes should be an easy to fill since there are plenty like him running around here these days! Grady Wilson, Uncle Woody and Bubba would be the official Presidential advisers.

During the President Sanford administration, Camp David would be located at El Segundo!

Ladies and gentleman, the President of the United States, President Sanford!

President Sanford
: That's S-A-N-F-O-R-D period.

If any congressman or senators did not agree with President Sanford on issues, he would politely say, "How would you like one across yo lip?"

Concerning The Welfare System:
V.P. Son: Mr. President, that's what the welfare thing was setup for: for people in financial trouble. What do you think we pay taxes for? We'd just be taking advantage of something that was setup for people like us.
President Sanford: What do you mean 'people like us'?
V.P. Son: Poor people. The have nots.
President Sanford: The have nots? Well if the have nots could get something from the haves and the haves gave the have nots half of what they have, then the haves would still be the haves but the have nots would be the have somethings.

On Possible Policy Resistence:
Sanford Arms Counsel: We may have to go all the way to the highest court in the land.
President Sanford: All the way.
Sanford Arms Counsel: And you're willing 100%?
President Sanford: All the way. See, this is America, where a right makes might, where justice is blind, where law is king, where a man should be able to pursue his democratic right no matter what it costs him in time, effort and/or money.
Sanford Arms Counsel: Okay, I'll need about $10 to file the complaint.
President Sanford: I'll drop the case.

Wait, Sanford & Son sold junk. Maybe thats what boondoggle means. Oh well, where's the remote? Time to watch TV Land!


Friday, March 13, 2009

When it Rains

He said "Everytime I go to the dentist, it rains."

He meant it literally, because it was raining the other day when he went to get his new braces. It made me think about the trials and tribulations, the heartaches and pains, the sufferings, and all of the sad times I've had to endure in my life.

I thought about that Bing Crosby song, "Pennies From Heaven."

A long time ago, a million years BC
The best things in life were absolutely free
But no one appreciated a sky that was always blue
And no one congratulated a moon that was always new

So it was planned that they would vanish now and then
And you must pay before you get them back again
That's what storms were made for
And you shouldn't be afraid for

Every time it rains, it rains Pennies from heaven
Don't you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven
You'll find yor fortune falling all over town
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down

Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love You must have showers
So when you hear it thunder Don't run under a tree
There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me

I never wish for storms, but I know that, sooner or later, they are going to come, one way or another. I sure do get my share of them. I'm not here to complain, just making note. I know that it is while I am in a valley that I become stronger. I've heard it said that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. The Bible says the testing of my faith produces endurance. I have the hope that God will not allow any trial to test me beyond my ability to bear it, but sometimes it is hard to see it that way when i'm in the middle of a storm.

Daniel calls me every day at work and recites the AM sign-off announcement to me. He even sings the little jingle that comes at the end of the announcement. That kid cracks me up. He'll say, "Hey Randy, what are you going to do if your 'baccer don't sell?" (a reference to the song my dad wrote.) I'll say, "I dunno, guess I'll start cuttin' bugwood," and he'll say, "Or maybe even whittling or swapping knives, or something like that?" (Which are lines in the song.)

I said, "Daniel, maybe it rains when you go to the dentist because of the pain you suffer from going there," thinking he would understand the metaphor. But, he said, "No, I just go to get my braces updated,"and then he changed the subject by asking me to play him a song, except he got mixed up and said 'thong' instead of 'song.' He was in the middle of doing his daily laundry chore when he called me. I didn't ask, but he caught what he said and laughed really hard.

I've been going around for three days now trying to get what he said out of my head, but it's no use, I can't.

"Everytime I go to the dentist, it rains."

Daniel was born premature almost 16 years ago, resulting in some problems that required many surgeries. Today, he is a living miracle - a crown jewel for sure! It makes me ashamed that I whine about my problems.

Thanks for the gentle reminders, Daniel. I hope your umbrella is always upside down when it rains.

My 100th story.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pylap Medekle: Indian Medicine Man

He was one of the finest herb doctors ever to live and work in this region. His vegetable and herbal remedies and his applications to relieve the ills of the 'modern generation' was widey known and accepted. His name was Pylap Medekle (Muh-Deekle), and he was born in the swamps of Florida on March 23, 1847. His father was the full-blooded Seminole Indian medicine man, Waco, who was born just before the revolutionary war and lived to the ripe old age of 115. Growing up the Florida swamps, Pylap became highly skilled in the arts of hunting and fishing, as practiced by the Seminoles. But soon, he began studing medicine under his father. Pylap made a business out of gathering herbs and selling them until 1868, when he began traveling as an Indian Medicine Man. Often times, he rode horseback for many miles to tend to sick patients. (Notice the rattlesnake he is holding in the photo.)

Around the age of 40, Doc Medekle decided to take his traveling medicine show off the road, settling in places like Pall Mall, Tennessee and Wayne County, Kentucky. In 1915, he moved his practice to Somerset, where he set up a herbal laboratory on Langdon Street, and also rented the Ferguson Hotel and began seeing patients there. In 1918, he bought an old home and turned it into a home for indians, who were ill. He called it - Indian Sick Home. It was there that he treated and cared for literally hundreds of patients from many different states. It is said that most patients found the course of treatment and the care so beneficial that they returned year after year.

Pylap Medekle died on October 28, 1928. He is buried at Pine Knot Cemetery. His funeral was attended by a great number of people who came to talk good about 'Doc Medekle,' and how he did his part to help a suffering humanity.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Strolling with Bert Vincent, Feb. 8, 1958

My story, Hell in the Woods, caught the attention of my dear friend, Al Cross, who is Director for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. Al forwarded the story to Anna Hoover, who happens to be from the place where my story came from, and who is a graduate student and employee at UK. In a reply to Al, part of which was sent to me, Anna mentioned a writer I had never heard of before.

Bert Vincent wrote for the Knoxville News-Sentinel for nearly 40 years, from 1929 until his death on September 26, 1969. It was at The News-Sentinel, and largely through his daily "Strolling" column, that Vincent captured the hearts and minds of millions of readers. Anna mentioned that I might be interested in looking over Vincent's collections and I could not wait to do that.

The result was this delightful tale, which was published in Vincent's column on Saturday, Feb. 8, 1958. This story is well worth re-visiting (a first-time visit for me), so check it out....

Gather around, you younger folks, while I tell you about the strangest funeral ever held in these parts. It is the strangest because the old fellow rode the hearse to his own funeral, listened to the preacher, and liked every bit of it all. I can remember it, myself. It was only 20 years ago, come June 26. But what jogs me into writing this piece is a story about it in Walter Pulliam’s Harriman Record.

The old fellow was Felix Bush Brazeal. He lived alone in a log cabin in the Dogwood community of Roane County. He was 73. His time was getting short. So, he got to wondering about what sort of funeral he’d get when he passed on. In his younger days he once had been charged with murder. He came clear of the charge. He was charged with other lesser crimes. But he changed and joined the church and had been living the best he could. He hoped for a good funeral, and he wanted to know about it while he could appreciate the folks who came and the words the preacher said.

So Uncle Bush cut some walnut trees from his woods and had them sawed into good thick walnut boards, and he fashioned these into his coffin. Then he hauled the coffin up to Berry’s Funeral Home here in Knoxville, to have it lined and fitted. Right there’s where Uncle Bush got himself right into the middle of big-time stuff without even aiming to. The News-Sentinel heard about it. The news spread all over the nation. It spread almost as completely and as fast as the big ramp eating at Cosby more than 15 years later.

The News-Sentinel brought Uncle Bush to the big city. He was dressed up in a complete outfit of clothes. He went to a picture show where saw his first talking movie. He was a guest on WNOX. He selected his pallbearers from among his fox hunter friends. He arranged with his favorite preacher, the Rev. Charles E. Jackson, to come all the way down from Paris, Ill., to say the funeral words. Mr. Jackson had formerly been pastor of Rockwood Christian Church.

Came that great hour, 2p.m., Sunday, June 26, 1938. The hearse from the Quinn Funeral Home in Loudon pulled up by Uncle Bush’s log cabin. The polished walnut coffin was lifted gently by the pallbearers and eased inside the hearse. Then the hearse was covered with flowers donated by florists in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Lenoir City. Uncle Bush came from his cabin all dressed up fittingly, as a corpse, living or dead, should be. He took a seat up front with the driver of the hearse. So the strange procession started to the Cave Creek Baptist Church, several miles away. After about two miles the procession stopped. Such a traffic jam, Highway Patrolmen said they never expected, and had rarely ever seen. Why, they said there were 8000 people at that funeral.

Highway Patrolmen finally got a line opened up. But while waiting, hundreds of “mourners” came to the hearse to shake hands with Uncle Bush and to “mourn” his “passing.” And all the time news photographers were snapping pictures, newsreel fellows were grinding reel after reel to be shown everywhere, and news reporters were taking notes and asking questions. The procession stopped where the grave tent had been set up. Here pallbearers lifted the coffin from the hearse, and carried it gently and carefully to the tent. Doleful music was furnished by a WNOX quartet, a quartet of Kingston citizens, and the Friendly Eight of Chattanooga. Fred Berry, Knoxville, sang a solo. The “corpse,” or Uncle Bush, took a seat by the walnut coffin. He listened intently to Brother Jackson say the words. Among those words were such as: “It might be wholesome for everyone to hear his own funeral while he is living…..” “Here we speak of life, for if life is all right there is nothing to fear about death. There are no tears and heartaches, but only happiness at this service….”

After the service Uncle Bush shook hands and talked with folks who gathered around him. Souvenir hunters stripped the flowers from the casket. So that was this strangest of all funerals in these parts. A funeral where the “corpse” was alive and able to appreciate all that was said and done. The coffin was hauled back to the cabin home. There it waited for the next, the final funeral for Uncle Bush Brazeal, which came nearly five years later, on Feb. 9, 1943. And again the Quinn Funeral Home was in charge. And again the service was at Cave Creek Baptist Church. But I do hear that Uncle Bush Brazeal maybe wouldn’t have been so happy if he had been living this last time. The weather was cold. The crowd was small.

This story came from Clan Breazeale. To see replica of original article as it appeared in 1958, Click here.

Thanks, Anna, for turning me on to the great Bert Vincent.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hell in the Woods

Helenwood, Tennessee, near Oneida, was one very disturbed community back in the early 1900's. Some said it is why the 'Devil' came to town.

Actually, the 'Devil' was brought there by Cruise Sexton. He has been a soldier in China, where he had viewed many statues which were both monstrous in size and appearance. When he returned to Scott County, he decided he would build one of his own. Back in the coal mines around Paint Rock, Sexton began building the "Devil" out of bed clay, spending days trying to get each detail perfect. When he finished, the statue was larger than the average size man and weighed over a ton.

The "Devil's" features included very distinctive horns that came from the forehead, great detail in the chest area, muscles of the arms that were outlined, and genitals that were vaguely present. It is even told that one of the arms was chained to a leg, which was also done in great detail. Soon, word of the deamon began to spread like wildfire. Passengers and workers on trains that came through the area from Cincinnati to Florida carried the story to far away places, and it seemed like the farther it went, the bigger the tale became. People began to talk about why it had come to Scott County. Before the statue showed up, many people had been killed in saloon fights, duels, etc., and, according to townsfolk, this was why the "Devil" had come.

Soon, people were wanting to see the 'Devil,' so Sexton placed it in a massive coffin at the railroad station. People from all around the country would stop.....and pay 25 cents for a twenty-five minute view the gigantic statue. Some were reported to have fainted from the sight of the demon. No one ever really understood that it was just a statue made from bed clay.

The statue was exhibited at the 1921 Somerset Fair. An exaggerated account of its appearance at the fair was published in the Somerset Journal, dated Sept. 9, 1921:

There was exhibited last week at the Somerset Fair, an object that attracted several thousand people into a small tent. The object....has the appearance of a petrified form, about five feet, ten inches long, large head with horns, large nose and ears, wings reaching to ankles and teeth showing. The arms are long and slender and are crossed over the body. The hands have extra long fingers and the ankles are enlarged. The form is now reposing in a box with iron bands around it, four pad locks on the box, nails driven in the lid and a guard standing watch.

The "Devil" ended up being sold to the World's Fair in Chicago and was never seen or heard from again in Scott County.

Or, was it?

Just a few short years later, there was a huge blazing explosion in that area when twenty cases of dynamite and two hundred kegs of blasting powder stored at Webb's Mine Supply Store somehow ignited. The impact smashed or almost demolished every single building in town. The blast was heard as far away as Sunbright, twelve miles away. About 200 people lived in the little town and the entire community was literally wiped off the map by the explosion. The townspeople called the tragedy "Hell in the Woods", and thus Helenwood was born.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Marina and Bitty Ball

"Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part." - Casey Stengel

When Marina was in the first grade she told me she wanted to play Bitty Ball, so I signed her up. Bitty Ball is basketball for kids in grades one through four. It can be a learning experience, depending on how you look at it. The kids are allowed to play, without the whistle being blown so much, so you can imagine what they get by with. It can be quite entertaining.

The day of her first game arrived. When we got to the gymnasium, I took a seat beside Bro. Tommy Sexton. The game began and, after a couple of trips up and down the court, things seemed to be going pretty good for least that's what I thought. I had turned to say something to Bro. Tommy, when suddenly, I felt someone tugging on my arm. I looked around to find Marina sitting beside me. I looked on the court, then back at Marina, then back at the court. "One...two...three...oh no, only four players are on the floor, Marina is still in the game! What is she doing sitting beside me?"

"Marina, honey what are you doing? Get back out on the court, you're still in the game!"
"But, dad, they won't pass the ball to me!"
"Sissy, get back out on the court!"

Marina went back onto the court, but instead of getting involved in the action that was in progress, she ran to one of the referees and started tugging on her shirt. From where I was sitting, I could see her mouth the words, "Tell them to pass the ball to me!"

The referee took the whistle out of her mouth and laughed, while Bro. Tommy giggled and I just shook my head. Needless to say, Marina's basketball career was short-lived.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Meet Jodie Meeks!

In Kentucky, basketball rules. Always has and always will. It's just a fact of life. Ever since Adolph Rupp came on the scene...ever since King Kelly Coleman....ever since Carr Creek, basketball has been a religion in Kentucky. And,the University of Kentucky Wildcats is the Big Show! Someone once said that the total population in Kentucky is how many University of Kentucky assistant basketball coaches there are.'

Jodie Meeks is a 6'4 junior guard for the Wildcats. On January 13, 2009, he broke the UK single-game scoring record by scoring 54 points at Tennessee.

Born August 21, 1987 in Norcross, Georgia, Jodie Meeks was it at Norcross High, and he is it at the University of Kentucky. Along with the 54 point performance, he has also had games this season where he scored 46 points, 45 points, 39 points, 37 points, 32 points and 31 points.

In his first season at UK, he averaged 8.7 points per game in 34 games. Last year, he only played in 11 games due to a sports hernia and averaged 8.8 points per game. So, why the current splurge in his game performance? Who cares! GO CATS!

A few weeks ago, the boys and I were in Lexington as J.D.'s team played in the 7th grade state basketball tournament. Our first night there, after a couple of games, the boys and I were starving. So, we headed to T.G.I. Friday's, across the street at Fayette Mall. As we entered the restaurant and were seated, an excited Keifer Dalton came running up to our table and said, "JODIE MEEKS IS HERE!" After showing us an autograph as proof, J.D. and Elijah each grabbed napkins and left our table to find an ink pen. After talking one of the waitresses into letting them borrow hers, the boys were off to meet Jodie Meeks!

J.D.: "Hello! We're sorry to interrupt your meal, but we are big fans of yours and would like to have your autograph!

Jodie Meeks: "It's no problem. I don't mind it at all."

And just like that, Jodie Meeks gave the boys his autograph and then shook J.D.'s hand. When they came back to the table, J.D. was literally on cloud nine. Grinning from ear to ear, he exclaimed, "I am never going to wash my hand again!" Elijah was sitting there, quietly staring at the autograph that lay before him on the table. As soon as J.D. finished speaking, he said, "Who is Jodie Meeks and what is he doing in Lexington?"

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...