SPECIAL PLACES

Last weekend, Amy, Dallas, and I traveled to Cookeville. She attended a luncheon with some high school classmates, and afterwards, we spent time at the Cookeville fair. It’s the kind of fair that brings back
memories to some of us when the TVA&I Fair was a fun, safe event. What was most special to me was riding around Cookeville and the campus of Tennessee Tech and sharing memories with my son. 
We first rode down Highway 70 to the County Farm Road. That’s where Amy and her parents lived back in 1973. I remember driving to her house that first time. Nerves were frayed, and they were still in bad shape when I met Papa and talked to Amy’s mother. By the end of the evening, I knew that Amy Alice Moore was the most spectacular girl I’d ever met. I made trips down that road and to that house a couple of thousand times over the years dating and then visiting with Amy and the children.  
After driving to see the new Academy Sports complex and looking at other new places, we drove to a corner lot on Scott Avenue. A large business office is near there now, but years ago, Parkview Methodist Church sat on the property. That is where my brothers, their wives, and I attended church, and so did Amy. We met there, and at first, neither of us was much impressed with the other. It was the badgering of the minister, Bill Menees, that led me to ask Amy out the first time. He must have had some kind of divine intervention to have pushed me to do so. We married in that church, but even though it was destroyed by fire several years ago, those good memories survived. 
We drove by the TTU baseball field and softball complex. Amy and I spent a fall afternoon walking where that
softball field is now located, and it was a time when I marveled at how lucky I was to have found someone so beautiful and kind to love. Friends all knew that with her, “I’d outkicked my coverage!” 
Dallas and I next drove to the student center on campus. A new upper deck has been added to the back of the building. We found rocking chairs there and sat for a spell. The parking lot in back has been replaced with sod, but I still recall more good things that occurred in that area. A couple of days after
our first date, I was leaving the student center and exited just as Amy’s PE class ran by. She passed me and waved. Her hair was in a bun, and her shorts and t-shirt were much different from the outfit she’d worn on our date. Still, she was gorgeous. 
Standing in the parking lot not much longer after that, Amy and I told each other how we felt. She doesn’t remember that occurring, but I sure do. Why wouldn’t I? There stood a wonderful girl who told me she loved me. How much luckier could a plain person like me be? I’ve never been more stunned, excited, or happy in my life.  
I could have taken Dallas to more special places to me for quite some time, but I didn’t want to bore him too much. Instead, we made a trip to Ralph’s Donuts, a must stop anytime a person travels to Cookeville. Before long, Amy called for us to pick her up from the restaurant. I looked at her when she got in the car and smiled at how lucky I was and still am nearly 45 years later. It was a good trip to Cookeville and down Memory Lane.  

SEEN THIS BEFORE

Okay, let me get this straight. The year is 2019; this is the USA; and we’re again dealing with issues of race. What in the world happened? I must be in a time warp.  
The 1960’s became the heyday and the battle fields for that social change. After years of segregation, black people stepped out and demanded their equal rights. They wanted an end to separate bathrooms, water
fountains, and schools. Folks demanded the right to vote without having to pass a test that the even administrators couldn’t get through. They wanted equal footing in a society that was the greatest in the world. Most of all, the black community wanted the country to put a big period at the end of years of slavery that supposedly ended with the Civil War.  
I remember the tension that came with school integration. The first black students arrived at Karns High, and by the time I entered the school only couple of years later, several black students were part of the student population. What we white folks discovered was that humans with different skin color weren’t so much different from us. Teens still ate as if they’d been starved; they struggled through a day filled with classes; and after-school activities kept them busy and out of trouble.  
They loved families, friends, and girlfriends and boyfriends. Some had difficulties with other students and people in the community. People who feared “the invasion” of blacks into white communities made no attempts to know folks. They instead dug in to their own prejudices and railed against all of another race. They claimed those blacks were the evil behind every bad thing that went wrong. Folks jeered at them to “go back where they came from.” 
Sixty years later, the same ugly sentiments are rising. Political leaders demonize people who don’t look like them. They use scare tactics that say “the enemy” will take over the country, steal jobs, and live free off the
efforts of others. Racist feelings and actions spew over into deplorable actions like the one that occurred in Charlottesville not so long ago. The incidents of hate crimes spike, all with the blessings of a government that remains silent in face of a return to division.  
Before anyone states that I don’t tell the whole story, I will admit that not every person in these groups is law abiding. Some who cross the border have nefarious reasons for entering the country. Not every individual of a minority community chooses to obey the laws. However, those statements hold just a true for white folks. All groups have criminals, scammers, and moochers. However, for the most part, communities of all kinds are comprised of people who work hard to make ends meet and to provide for their families. These are the majorities toward whom our attentions should be aimed.  
I’m stunned that the same things that plagued the U.S. sixty years ago are once again rearing their ugly heads. One should have thought that we’d have evolved enough to get passed the beliefs of inferiorities of a group based upon its skin color. We’re headed for a whole bunch of heartbreak and strife if we are unable to do better. Leaders who spew such hate, bigotry and division must be ignored and ousted. That’s the call of the Christian basis on which so many declare this country was founded.  
The future holds wonderful challenges and victories for us, but first we must turn toward it and shut the door on the mistakes that were made before. Reliving or reintroducing them leads only to stagnation and continued problems. Let’s get on with the making of a better world, not reviving a dysfunctional one.  

REAL AND COMPELLING

Too many people these days are watching “reality television” programs. "The Apprentice” proved to be one of the more popular of all time, and it propelled the leading character to becoming the president of the country. Others include “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and “Survivor.” A cruder program has young people meeting up on an island to see who can hook up and how well individuals play the game. “Duck Dynasty,” “Honey Boo Boo,” and “The Toe Bro” have appealed to viewers’ baser instincts. Heck, one show features a vet who makes rounds and performs surgeries and procedures on his patients, things that make me more than a little squeamish.  
Those of us with a few years can testify that reality shows have been around for years. The ones we viewed were much better and more compelling that any half-witted series aired today. The first one is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. The Apollo missions that landed on the moon was reality show at its finest.  
I was enjoying the summer before the senior year in high school when the first moon landing occurred. At 3:17 p.m. on July 20, 1969, The Eagle landed on the surface of the moon. Only 39 minutes later, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. Mother, my brother Jim, and I watched the entire thing, and we were joined by an audience that covered the entire planet. Each second was breathtaking, and viewers stayed tied in knots as they worried about some ill befalling the mission.  
For years, my generation stayed mesmerized by space shots. We watched a television or listened to a radio as the man from Houston counted down the launch. A hold or cancellation replaced excitement with disappointment. No highs were better than when Alan Shepard and John Glenn entered the heavens or circled the globe. No lows were as crushing as the fire that took the lives of astronauts or the explosion in the sky that snuffed out the crew’s lives and shocked all viewers.  
Only a few years later another reality show gripped the nation. The Watergate mess began in 1972 and ended in 1974. The trial started in January, 1973. That trial called dozens of witnesses, but the most important one was Alexander Butterfield, who revealed the existence of the Watergate tapes. The tide of public opinion turned against Nixon with each new revelation in the trial, and the country watched with disgust, depression, and destabilization as he resigned before being impeached. We worried what would become of our country as the former president waved from the door of the helicopter and flew away in disgrace.  
Sure, we have reality shows airing almost every night, but I’d bet most of them are more contrived that natural. Also, not a single one of them has the ability to affect the entire nation and world as did those from years ago. Of course, with the present political climate, we might just have another serious reality broadcast before long. Only time will tell. I know I’ll watch every moment of it if it does come to the television screen, just as I did with those from fifty years ago. Unlike the inane programs that folks watch now, this one might shape the future of our country for years to come. That’s what reality does. It’s not always so cute, happy, or quirky. 

NIGHT SWIMMING

The last few weeks have been scorchers. They came after weeks of rain and soggy ground. I like the heat, but sometimes, the temperatures feel as if they’ll melt me. In the evenings, just the thought of a dip in the pool is enough to cool me off. It’s the perfect thing to do at the end of a day. 
Kids on vacations always love to swim at night. Before the Interstate opened up traffic to traveling speeds of 80-plus miles per hour, folks traveled state highways that wound through towns and the countryside. Air conditioning wasn’t a standard feature in those old cars; instead we used the 4-40 system: 4 windows down as the car traveled 40 mph. The entire family sweated and, kids’ legs stuck to the clear plastic that covered the seats.  
Long trips required overnight stays at travel lodges or motor lodges. Families piled out of cars and ran to their rooms. Shortly, they exited in bathing suits and made a B-line to the pool. Night had come, the lights around the pool were burning brightly, and bugs were attacking the bulbs and human flesh.  Children jumped into the water with squeals of delight and sighs of relief. Dads might hop in as well, but only under the pretense of keeping the children safe. More than once, parents shushed the children as they got too loud, and before long, the groups walked back to rooms. Parents smiled with the knowledge that pool time would sap little one’s energy enough to make them fall asleep quickly.  
When we were young, vacations consisted of a week’s stay at King’s Cottages, located on the other side of the road from the Greenbrier entrance to the Smoky Mountain Park. For the next seven days, we lived in the water. Days started with breakfast, and then we walked to the swimming hole. For the next few hours, we swam under water, dove from the large rock on the other bank, and skimmed rocks on the water’s surface. After lunch the bunch of kids walked to different areas and rode the rapids back down to the cabin. Instead of inner-tubes, we wore cut-off jeans and old canvas tennis shoes. Our backsides were sometimes bruised and sore, but the fun of scooting down the white water was worth it. 

 At night, we returned to the river. The cooling temperatures of the evening made the water feel warmer, and we swam by the light of the moon before walking back home carefully so as not to stub toes on rocks. We rarely moved in our sleep because the sun and water had wrung out every ounce of energy. 
These days, Amy and I spend as much time as possible by the pool every day. If the day demands too much of our attention, we know that the evening will allow time for swimming. I don’t enter the water as quickly as I used to do, but I still take a modified “Rector plunge.” My interests are no longer in diving or swimming. Instead, I let go and try to become as weightless as possible. Floating as I watch the traffic on Ball Camp Pike or watch the stars come out of hiding is the perfect end of a day. That dip in the pool is where I lose the aches and pains that this body of mine offers at the end of the day. 
Whether I was in a motel pool, the river, or the pool in my back yard, one thing has remained the same: my night’s sleep is always better after visiting the water. Oh, these days, I still crawl from the bed too many times during the night, but the sleep is still sweeter after the pool. I’ll be there again tonight and every night until the weather turns too cold or the leaves become too plentiful to keep out of the water.