Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Water Is Wide

This song has been heavy on my mind today. It has literally wrapped itself around me and I cannot seem to shake it.

The song talks about the challenges of love that most have faced -- or are facing -- and sadly, it reminds us that even true love can 'fade away like morning dew.'

The Water Is Wide is thought to be an english or scottish folk song that's been sung since the 1600's. There have been many different verses written, but nothing has moved me quite like this version by the icon James Taylor.

To get the full effect, click the box on the lower right hand side of the video box to make it appear larger.

The water is wide, I can't cross over
and neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat, that will carry two
and both shall row, my love and I

There is a ship and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I'm in
I know not how I sink or swim

Oh love is handsome and love is fine
The sweetest jewel when first its new
but love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like morning dew

Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I
And both shall row, my love and I

Freedom Train

All the world over so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
Listen, please listen, that's the way it should be
Peace in the valley, people got to be free

You should see what a lovely, lovely world this would be
If everyone learned to live together
Seems to me such an easy, easy thing this should be
Why can't you and me learn to love one another

All the world over so easy to see
People everywhere just wanna be free
I can't understand it, so simple to me
People everywhere just got to be free

If there's a man who is down and needs a helping hand
All it takes is you to understand and to pull him through.
Seems to me, we got to solve it individually
And I'll do unto you what you do to me

There'll be shoutin' from the mountains on out to sea
No two ways about it, people have to be free
Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be
It's a natural situation for a man to be free

Oh, what a feelin's just come over me
Enough to move a mountain, make a blind man see
Everybody's dancin', come on, let's go see
There's peace in the valley, now they all can be free

People Got To Be Free was written by Felix Cavaliere & Edward Brigati, Jr. of The Young Rascals and recorded by them in 1969. The song is one of the most joyous and greatest pop statements of unity and brotherhood, and was written out of tragedy.

While Cavaliere was vacationing in Jamaica, the news of Robert Kennedy's assassination came to him. However, instead of opting for a statement of rage, Cavaliere wrote this jubilant anthem. Coming during one of the most tumultuous periods of American history, it served as a sort of balm.

The Young Rascals, later became The Rascals: Felix Cavaliere (keyboards & lead & backup vocals and songwriter), Eddie Brigati (lead & backup vocals and songwriter), Gene Cornish (guitars) and Dino Danelli (drums).

Look, you see that train over there?
Now, that's the train of freedom.
It's about to arrive any minute now.
You know it's been a-long, long overdue.
Look out, 'cause it's a-comin' right on through.

Click here -> People Got To Be Free

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Department of Sound

In the summer of 1968, a local band formed that would quickly grab my attention. I had heard of Lynn Avery, and had even watched him perform. I had been in his dad's store many times. I would find myself staring at him because I wanted to do what he did. Play music. I had also heard of David Pennycuff and had seen him perform. (Later, I would be fortunate enough to perform on stage with David many times.) Although I had never heard of the other members of this band that had just formed, I would soon come to know them well, especially the organ player, Jim Powell. Jim played organ in this band and I loved it. That's because I wanted to be a keyboard player myself. Then later, I watched as Jim played bass and drums superbly in other great bands he was in, and I thought, "Boy, this is gonna be tougher than I thought!"

The Department of Sound formed in the summer of 1968 and consisted of David Pennycuff of Albany (lead vocals/lead guitar), Jim Powell of Monticello (organ/vocals), Lynn Avery of Albany (drums), Ralph Gibson of Monticello (lead guitar), and, Ralph’s brother, Jerry Gibson, also of Monticello (bass guitar).

In an April 1969 article in the Clinton County News, the group announced it had signed a recording contract with Golden Records of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was on May 20, 1969, 40 years ago last Wednesday, when the band released a 45rpm record. Side A was “I’ve Got Money” and Side B was a song written by the group, entitled, “Things Have Just Begun.”

I didn't really know the Gibson brothers, but Dave, Jim and Lynn have been great friends of mine for nearly my entire life. I grew up in awe of each of them, greatly admiring their talents. So, it is an honor for me to pay tribute to The Department of Sound on the anniversary date of their record, and to say thanks for the music.

(Can you tell I was a fan?)

In memory of Jerry Gibson, who passed away March 26, 2009.


We visited Bolestown Cemetery over the weekend.

I saw the graves of my great-great-great-grandparents, John and Matilda Boles.

He was a member of Tinker Dave Beaty's Independent Scouts.

She was Tinker Dave's sister.

Before the war, John served for six years in the Tennessee State Legislature. He was elected state representative in 1850, and then State Senate in 1852. After the Civil War, John was the sheriff of Overton County until his death in 1869.

I suppose I am related to just about every single person buried at Bolestown Cemetery. I was glad I got the chance to visit there. Bolestown Cemetery is located in a remote cove atop a small rise with tree's surrounding it on three sides. The scenery there is breathtaking. It is beautiful beyond words.

On the way to Bolestown, we passed Boatland. Boatland is mentioned in Mark Twain's Obedstown, which is based on Fentress County. Twain's father, John Clemens, who was circuit clerk of Jamestown and had a law practice there, also owned land at Boatland. He also owned land at Pall Mall, where he was the postmaster the operator or a general store. Twain (Samuel Clemens) was born after the family had migrated west to Missouri. Tinker Dave lived at Boatland, reportedly in the same exact area where Dave Crockett lived while on a hunting expedition during the winter of 1817.

Read my story, Welcome to Boatland

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Fighting Field

On this Memorial Day, I want to pay tribute to two fallen soldiers. I hope you enjoy reading this story, which was written especially for my family. - Randy.

The Battle of Camden, South Carolina
During the American Revolutionary War, almost every able-bodied man, who was not a part of the Continental Army, joined their local Milita to help protect the settlement in which they lived. Such was the case for Jacob Speck. On July 21, 1780, General Horatio Gates was at Camden, South Carolina commanding a force of 3,200 troops of which Jacob was a part of. The British general, Lord Charles Cornwalis, was also there with an army of 2,100. Even though Gates had Cornwalis outnumbered, most of the americans lacked experience and training. The North Carlina Militia had never been tried. Gates was advised NOT to go into battle under the circumstances. But, he ignored the warning.

Just before dawn on August 16th, the British troops opened the battle as the right flank fired volley's into the militia regiments, causing a significant number of casualties. When the remaining militia looked up, they saw British troops advancing toward them with their bayonets drawn. This tactic had never been used before. The shocked militia realized they did not have bayonets to counter the attack! Panic began to spread and most of the militia fled before the British regiments reached them. General Gates was among the first to run from the field, leaving his remaining troops on the field alone. Within a matter of minutes, the whole rebel left wing had evaporated.

Five years earlier, Jacob and Catherine Speck had gotten married. She was 16 at the time. Jacob Jr. was now four, Michael had just turned two and a third son, George, my 6th great-grandfather, was less than two months old. It is hard to imagine what Catherine must have thought or felt as she watched her husband leave home to defend their new settlement. It is even harder to imagine what she must have felt later. For you that pre-dawn hour on that warm August 16, 1780 morning, when the smoke and dust from the cannon volley's had finally cleared, Jacob lay dead on the battlefield.

The Battle of Camden, South Carolina, which was depicted in the 2000 movie, The Patriot, was likened to 'the darkest hour before the dawn.' For Jacob Speck, it was his darkest and final hour. George Speck never knew his father, but I am reminded that God never closes one door without opening another. Before his death, He had allowed Jacob to plant the seeds that would produce many future generations of Speck family members, and I'm pretty sure that before he left home to do battle, Jacob must have looked at sons and thought about their futures...even one that included me.

The Battle of Point Pleasant
In 1774, the Ohio Valley indians were trying to drive back the white invaders from their hunting grounds and the Virginians were seeking only to protect their settlements from the rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife. The call for volunteers went out. John Frogge, Jr., now with a young pregnant wife and a three-year-old child at home, hesitated to enlist. But, wanting to join his cousins, neighbors and fellow countrymen for their retribution against the Indians, he told his wife that he would only provide an escort for the militia and would return prior to the engagement. He told her that he would only act as a sutler, behind enemy lines, providing them with provision such as, blankets and food between encampments. So, after organizing, the men marched to Point Pleasant, Ohio. What they did not realize was that the Indians were watching them. After dark on the evening of October 9, the Shawnee, led by chief Cornstalk, crossed the Ohio River and were ready to surprise the Virginians at daybreak, except.....for one unseen event.

In the early morning hours of October 10, 1774, two soldiers had left camp to hunt deer when they found themselves surrounded by the indians. One of the soldiers was killed. The other managed to escape and ran back to warn the others. The 300-man army suddenly found themselves standing face to face with the entire united force of the enemy Ohio indians. The battle lasted all day, until just before sunset, when the Shawnees mistook a group of reinforcements as fresh troops and fled across the Ohio and back to their villages. Even though greatly outnumbered, the Virginians had managed to win the fight. But the battle had claimed the lives of many men, including John Frogge, Jr., who did not have time to return to his family as he had promised he would.

On the morning of the battle, a little girl named Elizabeth, was sleeping in her home in Staunton, Virginia, when suddenly she waked, screaming that the Indians were killing her father. She was quieted by her mother, and again went to sleep. She again waked, screaming that the Indians were killing her father. She was again quieted and went to sleep only to be waked a third time by the same horrid vision, this time screaming beyond being hushed. When the same horrid vision was seen the third time, the girls mother believed it was a sign that her husband had been scalped by the Indians. Her cries drew together her neighbors and soon all of Staunton was in a state of commotion. Soon...all of Staunton would know that the little girls dream was real.

By the way...Elizabeth was that three-year-old daughter of John Frogge, Jr. He was my 5th great uncle on my mom's side.

This Memorial Day, I thank God for people like Jacob Speck and John Frogge, Jr, just two of my ancestors who died in battle while fighting for something they believed in...freedom.

Memorial Day Tribute

Absorbed in melancholy mood today,
I stood among the Crosses where they lay:
Heroic Dead, unmindful of acclaim
Or tribute paid to their undying fame:
The men who paid the utmost price that we,
By vigilance, may e'er continue free
To hold aloft the torch of Liberty.
A Gold-star mother moved among the rows,
She stopped by sacred spot
where one of those
Who slept in peace and undisturbed repose,
And there she died again,
-- the thousandth time.
Intrusion, then and there
Seemed short of crime.
Soliloquizing on the solemn scene,
My words reverberated clear and keen:
"Hail, Buddy! We die but once.
Know what I mean?"

Written by Sam H. Beaty on May 30, 1966. Originally from Fentress County, Tennessee, Hollins enlisted in the Army at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia at the outbreak of World War I. He served with distinction with the Fifth Infantry Red Diamond Division in France, reaching the rank of Sargeant. Later, he became a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. He died on January 29, 1975.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Unfinished Prayer

"Now I lay,"

"Repeat it, darling."

"Lay me," lisped the tiny lips of my daughter,

kneeling, bending o'er her folded finger-tips.

"Down to sleep"

- "To sleep," she murmured, and, the curly head bent low

"I pray the Lord," I gently added. "You can say it all, I know."

"Pray the Lord"

- the sound came faintly,

Fainter still...

"My soul to keep."

Then the tired head fairly nodded,

and the child...

was fast asleep.

But the dewy eyes half opened when I clasped her to my breast,
and the dear voice softly whispered,

"Mamma, God knows all the rest."

Oh, the trusting, sweet confiding of the child heart!
Would that I thus might trust my Heavenly Father.
He, who hears my feeblest cry.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Door

A traveler once, when skies were rose and gold with sunset, paused beside the fold where a shepherd housed his flock;

Only a circling wall of rough, gray rock - No door, no gate, but just an opening wide enough for snowy, huddling sheep to come inside.

"So," questioned he, "Then, no wild beasts you dread?"
"Ah yes, the wolf is near,"
the shepherd said.

"But," strange and sweet the words Divine of yore fell on his startled ear...

"I am the door!

When skies are sown with stars, and I may trace the velvet shadows in this narrow space, I lay me down.

No silly sheep may go without the fold
But, I, the shepherd, know.
Nor need my cherished flock, close-sheltered, warm
Fear ravening wolf, save o'er my prostrate form."

O word of Christ - illuminated evermore
for us, His timid sheep -

"I am the door!"

Author Unknown

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Ugly Seed

"If God can make - of an ugly seed with a bit of earth and air, and dew and rain, sunshine and shade - a flower so wondrous fair....I wonder what will He make of a soul like me."

I love those words from A.D. Burkett's poem entitled, "If You Will." They never fail to take me back to that day when I said to my son, Elijah, who was just a toddler...

"Elijah, why don't you just stay little like you are right now, and you can be my baby the rest of your life and mine?" He said, "I'm trying to dad, but God won't let me!"

His response really told the story of how God has it in His plan to make something of him, and I know that whatever He has in store for him will be nothing less than GREAT!

I sometimes wonder what God has in store for my children as they grow older, but most of the time I too busy trying to figure out what He has in store for ME!

Growing up, I recall there were those who did their part to steer, or attempted to steer, me in the right direction. Remember the slogan, “Let God Be Your Co-Pilot?" I spent way too many years driving, when I should have pulled over and let God drive. I'm glad I finally did. He's a much, much better driver than I am.

It is God's intention to make us all into beautiful flowers. Romans 5:12 says, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world." It goes on to say that ‘all have sinned.’ It's so easy to stray from the nourishment we need in order to become that beautiful flower God wants us to be.

And, that takes me back to what Burkett wrote...

"If God can make - of an ugly seed with a bit of earth and air, and dew and rain, sunshine and shade - a flower so wondrous fair....I wonder what will He make of a soul like me."

The answer is simple, ‘something beautiful,’ if I just learn to let Him do the driving.


I said: “Let me walk in the fields.”
He said: “No, walk in the town.”

I said: “There are no flowers there.”
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”

I said: “But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din.”

And He wept as He sent me back –
“There is more,” He said; “there is sin.”

I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.”

He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone!”

I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”

He answered: “Choose tonight
If I am to miss you or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given.
He said: “Is it hard to decide?

It will not seem so hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”

I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;

He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”

Then into His hand went mine;
And into my heart came He;

And I walk in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.

George MacDonald (1824-1905)
I found this last night while sitting at home thumbing through a book of verses that had been handed down to me. Though not too well known, MacDonald was an inspiration to many notables who came after him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Hunt

On February 14, 1789, 17-year-old Robert Stockton and his friend, Beechum Rhodes, decided to go bear hunting. Robert wanted to obtain enough skins that could be traded for salt, sugar, coffee and gunpowder and other things his family and others at Stockton’s Station could use.

A year earlier, Robert's family had been the first to settle at Stockton's Station, on the outskirts of present-day Flemingsburg, and with his father, George, away on business, Robert saw this as an opportunity for him to shoulder some of the responsibilities of both his family and the community.

A light snow had fallen the first day of the hunting expedition, and this aided in the successful tracking and dispatching of several large brown bear the second day. Unfortunately it also revealed the trail of the two young hunters to a small group of raiding Indians, who followed the trail.

Soon, the hunters would become the hunted.

After Robert and Beechum had finished preparing the bear hides, they built a fire and fell asleep. Likewise, the Stockton family’s two loyal hunting dogs, who had accompanied the young men on the hunting trip, curled up next to Robert and fell fast asleep. The dogs had always done their part to protect and help provide for the family, and of course they also served as blessed companions.

In the darkest of night, the small band of Indians, who had been watching the boys that day, crept up to within feet of the campfire and simultaneously fired their muskets several time into the two sleeping boys. The effect was devastating. Robert only managed to grab his musket, stand and point his weapon before falling to the ground dead.

Beecham was shot twice in the upper portion of his right leg, near the groin, but was able to crawl into a nearby creek, where he fought to remain conscious, but remained alert enough to avoid drowning and avoid being killed.

If the Indians thought they had made a big score, they were wrong. Just as the shooting ended, they were savagely attacked by the dogs. The attack was so vicious and so severe that all the indians had time to do was steal the horses and run away.

Eventually, Rhodes passed out from a loss of blood. When morning's first light came, he was able to stop his wounds from bleeding. But he could not move his right leg. Slowly, he began crawling toward Robert’s body. One of the dogs way lying on top of Robert's body and growled savagely at Rhodes as he drew near. The boys' muskets lay near Roberts body, but there was no way for Rhodes to reach them for fear of being torn apart by the dogs. He was alone in the wilderness - 15 miles from Stockton’s Station - without weapon, horse or food, and worse...he was unable to walk or even stand.

With a fierce determination, Rhodes took the only course of action available to him. He began to crawl towards Stockton Station.

Slowly, he began dragging himself forward using his hands and one good leg, refusing to quit and accept his death. He continued at his pitifully slow pace for seven days and nights, never stopping for fear of being unable to continue if he ever did. On the evening of the seventh day he had crawled to within one mile of home, but was forced to stop as the banks of Fleming Creek, which lay between him and his destination, were flooded. It was there that Beechum Rhodes stopped trying and accepted the fact that he was going to die.

He was very near death when Samuel Reed, a hunter from Stockton's Station found him. Reed immediately picked him up, swam the flooded creek and carried him the remaining mile to the station.

By this time, Robert’s father, George, had returned from his trip. He and others rode out to the boys’ campsite to bury the son of their leader and their dear friend. They found the boy where he had fallen.

At the campsite, the dog, which had been lying on top of Robert when Beechum crawled away, was still faithfully lying on top of him. A circle of earth around the body was torn and scratched. That, and a number of wounds on the dog, made it evident that the dog had protected his master from several wolf attacks. The body of Robert Stockton had not been touched by the wolves. The poor dog was out of its mind with pain and misery, and would not listen to anyone’s commands, but still tried to protect the boy's body. After several attempts, Robert's father was able to remove the dog from his sons body.

After burying Robert, his dad and the others began their sorrowful journey home. The sight of Robert’s father slumped in his saddle, sobbing and gently stroking that poor bloody dog as he rode along, was more than even the roughest among them could bear. The lamentations of both dog and man echoed through the ancient forest that day.

Beechum Rhodes eventually became a militia scout. The two dogs lived the rest of their days as heroes. Today, the place where Robert Stockton was killed and buried is known as Stockton Creek.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Stone

On April 15, 1863, Jacob Jackson Andrew signed up as a member of the 32nd Kentucky Infantry, whose primary objectives were to prevent incursions by raiders and guerillas, and to protect the capitol city at Frankfort during the Civil War. Andrew performed his duties faithfully until early 1864, when the U.S. government began disbanding many of its units. The 32nd Kentucky was included in the down-sizing and so, after nine months, Jacob Andrew's time of service in the Civil War ended.

Following the war, Jacob became a successful miller. His life was as uneventful as any other man of his time. He was born April 9, 1838 to John C. and Elizabeth Cooper Andrew. He married Luretha Sandusky on April 29, 1858, and he died on November 29, 1889.

It was what happened AFTER Jacob's death that proved to be unusual.

In the 1890's, Congress passed a bill entitling all Union veterans to a marble tombstone for the 'services rendered to a grateful nation.' Entitlement required an applicant to have served at least six months with an honorable discharge and proof of service, etc.

Someone in Jacob's family took the time to make an application on behalf of their late relative. The request was approved and the tombstone was made, more than likely in New Albany, Indiana.

Inscribed on the tombstone was:

Sergeant J.J. Andrew
"Company C"
32nd Kentucky Infantry

A lot of work and expense went into making the stone and then getting it to the cemetery where Andrew is buried. If it was made at New Albany, Indiana, then it had to be put aboard a steamboat on the Ohio River, and then taken downriver where it would have been transferred over to another boat on the Cumberland River and eventually making its way to Albany landing, where it would have been loaded onto a freight wagon and driven to Albany, and finally driven by private wagon to Andrew's final resting place. But, that's where the story takes a bizarre turn.

After all of the effort that was made, incuding the making of the stone, and the time and expense it took to get the stone to the cemetery...

Jacob's tombstone was NEVER set onto his grave! For 120 years, the stone lay on the ground...untouched.

As fate would have it, last October, while Andrew Cemetery was being cleaned up, Jacob's tombstone was FOUND buried beneath a pile of brush.

One of my readers, friend Kelly Upchurch, suggested that perhaps the family was split on their loyalty, North or South, and didn’t want the Yankee headstone in the cemetery. He is probably correct in his theory. Even today, North versus South emotions still exist. I had family on both sides of that war. One of my pro-Union ancestors on my mom's side was killed in the war, while one of my pro-Confederacy ancestors on my dad's side struggled after the war because the government would not approve his pension.

As far as Jacob Jackson Andrew is concerned, they say every tombstone tells a story. Now his story, at least some of it, will be known to anyone and everyone who visits his gravesite. This Friday, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars will conduct a service at Jacob's grave. Finally, Jacob Jackson Andrew will officially be laid to rest.

(Jacob Andrew, left, and his brother, Shelby.)

(Information for this story was compiled by my cousin, Gary Norris.)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

'Mothers are the heart of the American family. They shape the character of our people through the love and nurture of their children. It is the strength they give their families that keeps our Nation strong.'
(Ronald Reagan)

In 1981, Mother's Day was celebrated on Sunday, May 10th, just as it is this year. It was the day after we buried my brother, Ronnie, who had just been killed in an automobile accident.

Out of all the weekends in the year, I guess he had to die that weekend. I never asked God why, but I do know it was pretty hard on mom. Somehow, she survived it. And today, 28 years later, she still survives it. I don't know how, but she does.

Most people who know my mom, say she is one tough cookie. She has weathered a lot of storms, but only with God's hand on her. And, even though I know I don't always show it, I cherish these moments and days with her.

Happy Mother's day, mom. I love you.

...and to all my readers who happen to be a 'mom' - Happy Mother's Day to you, too.

Heaven In My Eyes

I built my dreams in castles
upon the shifting sands

But found them hard to live in...
they always tumbled to the ground

So I bought myself an ocean
and sailed along the sea

But stormy waters came
and took my ship away from me

And I was all alone
with nothing left to hold onto

Until you came to my rescue

Oh you!
You are my life
and you are heaven
in my arms
when I hold you tight

You are my dreams
that make the clouds roll away

You are my world...
you are Heaven in my eyes

1 4 3

If I were a dream lost at night
I would fly high into the sky
And I would find you, whoever you are
All of our dreams would somehow merge as one
If I were a dream tonight I would sail above the sky
And I would drift right above you
Ever shinning bright as a star at bay
You would forever hold my gaze


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Open Thou Mine Eyes

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

One evening in 1944, as Russian soldier Alexander Zatzepa lay in his foxhole awaiting the call to battle, he came to know the Lord. Knowing he might not return to his safe haven, he wrote the following words...

"Hear me, Oh God. Never in my whole lifetime have I spoken to you but just now I feel like sending you my greetings. You know from my childhood on they always told me that you are not. I, like a fool, believed them. I've never contemplated your creation and yet tonight gazing up out of my shell hole, I marvel at the shimmering stars above me and suddenly know the cruelty of the lie.

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

The signal... well, I guess I must be going. I have been happy with you. This more I would like to say. As you well know, the fighting will be cruel and, even tonight, I may come knocking at your door. Although I have not been a friend to you before, still will you let me enter even now and I do come?

Why am I crying, oh my God, my Lord? You see what happens to me?

Tonight my eyes were opened.

Farewell, my God. I'm going and I am not likely to come back. Strange is it not, but death I fear no longer."

Zatzepa died in the battle, but his words serve as an inspiration to all who read them. Alexander sought out and found the very same God I seek daily when I pray. He only met God for the first time in his foxhole, but now he is in Heaven, where he lives for eternity...knowing him.

I've seen a thousand wonders
By sea and mountain, been amazed
I've marveled at a sunset
By storm and thunder, I've been dazed

I've seen men at their finest
And by their greatness, been enthralled
I've seen them at their basest
By their degradatioin, been appalled

Through microscope and telescope
I've seen the great and small
But it is through the Holy Spirit
I've seen the greatest things of all

He showed me in the Bible
How Jesus bled and died
And how the debt of sin was paid
When He was crucified

Now, when the world oppresses
Above it, Let me rise
And to the greatness of thy power, Lord
Open thou mine eyes

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Serial Killer in the Land of Paradise

Here in the Foothills of Appalachia, things like this just does not go on. It just does not happen. Not this. Life is so much easier here. It is so laid back...nothing like what goes on in the big city ever goes on here. We wave at folk we meet along the highway. People from 3 or 4 states travel here in large numbers every weekend to run up and down the lakes or fish. It's paradise here. Why oh why is the headline talking about a serial killer amongst us? This cannot be happening here. Not this.

That is why the bizarre claims that have been made by an inmate at Indiana State Prison absolutely do not make any sense. It makes no sense at all.

How could a man who grew up in this area -- who lived in this area -- kill 17 women and sacrifice five infants, as he claims? It just doesn't add up.

David Bell said he was possessed by a demon when he tossed a plugged-in hair dryer into the bath tub and killed his own mother, when this crazy tale began in 1991.

He said he had always had thoughts about murdering people. But why? How?

It just makes no sense. It's too crazy to even try to comprehend.

He claims he sacrificed five infants to satan by burning their bodies each Halloween between 1995 and 1999.

The idea that his really did that makes me want to throw up.

Is it....true?

He told his ex-wife he had mixed body parts into food they both consumed during their marriage.


To think that man lived in the same town as my mom and dad, and my grandparents...I do not want to believe this is real.

Tell me this guy is making all this up. I am praying that police will find out that this man's claims are just not true.

What a nightmare this is.

What a sad day it is in this 'land of Paradise.'

Read more by clicking here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jammin' Down

From left to right: Landon Duvall on bass, Nick Williams on lead guitar and J.D. Speck on drums. (Recorded April 29, 2009)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Johnna Beth and her Big Brother

This is the story of Johnna Beth and her Big Brother.

Just so you know, Johnna Beth is my lovely and talented niece, who happens to be the most talented member of our clan. For the longest time, she has been campaigning for me to write a story about her. To be honest, it’s been quite annoying. She e-mailed me from her job at Wolf Creek Dam today, and it was during our conversation that she mentioned how the ‘government,’ whom she works for, watches over her emails and will not allow certain mailings to be opened – SUCH AS MY BLOG!


Her revelation caught me by surprise, so, I thought it best to continue our conversation in code:

“ohnna jay on't day ay say any a ing thay else a ause cay ig Bay other Bray ight may e bay eading ray is thay!”

But, Johnna Beth said she was not very good at reading Pig Latin.


The first time I heard the term, Big Brother, I had to ask my dad what it meant. The term was made popular in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the people are constantly told, "Big Brother is watching you."

Growing up as a kid in the 1960’s during the Johnson-Nixon White House era, I recall hearing the term Big Brother a lot, especially on TV.

The group, Rare Earth, had a hit with the song, Big Brother, in 1971. Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet Peter Rivera and hear him sing that song live on stage.

Whoa, hey, Big Brother, I know you're out there somewhere
If we don't get our thing together
Big Brother will be watching us
He ain't gonna get me
Are you gonna let him get you
He'll never get me
He'll never get me, no

So, Johnna Beth, here's the story you've been wanting me to write.

It’s about you…and Big Brother!

Peace…and be careful!

The Voice

One of my all-time favorite singers died this past Tuesday. Vern Gosdin had suffered a stroke at the beginning of April and died peacefully in his sleep at a Nashville hospital. He was 74.

Just the other day, I wrote a story about when my late uncle Wallace Allred owned the Ritz theatre in Livingston and how, in the earlier days, Ira Louvin used to climb up on the roof of the Ritz and perform. Vern Gosdin idolized Ira and his brother, Charlie, known to the world as The Louvin Brothers. He incorporated their style, and that of The Byrds, in with his own style and then gave the world something truly wonderful. As a child, Vern began singing in a church in Woodland, Alabama, where his mother played piano. As a young man, he sang in a gospel quartet called The Gosdin Brothers. Nicknamed "The Voice," an inheritor of the soulful honky tonk style of Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard, Vern Gosdin rose to the top of the business and notched hit after hit.

The one thing that forever attached me to him was how he dealt with his divorce in 1989. His album Alone was a concept album full of traditional country songs that chronicled the dissolution of his marriage. If I remember correctly, he scored nine big hits from that break-up. Songs like, Chiseled in Stone, which won the Country Music Association's Song of the Year award in 1989, Right in the Wrong Direction, That Just About Does It and Is It Raining at Your House.

What really got me was how he had the courage to let the world see into his heart, and how he was able to turn his emotions into songs that literally became mega hits. He taught me that it was okay to let the world see you cry; that it was okay to put yourself out there where people see you, even in your time of struggle and despair. It took a long time for me to gain the courage to let you read my stories or listen to my songs. I owe it all to Vern Gosdin. His ordeal has been played and replayed in my mind so many times, and I have leaned on him and his story so often, even though he never knew it.

You don't know about lonely
Or how long nights can be
Till you lived through the story
That's still livin' in me
And you don't know about sadness
'til you faced life alone
You don't know about lonely
'til it's chiseled in stone

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...