A trip to middle Tennessee showed just how much damage the recent snow and ice storms have caused. The roadsides along Interstate 40 were littered with limbs and downed trees. For some reason, the sight of such damage brought on sadness.

Trees are one of the few things in our lives that we associate with strength. They reach high into the sky as their limbs stretch toward the sun. Huge trunks offer support during some of the toughest conditions. Trees hint at permanence in our otherwise temporary existence.

When I was a kid, one maple tree stood at the side of the driveway. Even then it was huge. One limb crooked at just the proper angle and lent itself to climbing for any children who were adventurous enough. I never could make it up there for two reasons. First, I was a large child; ah, heck, I was FAT. My skinny arms and legs couldn't produce enough muscle power to pull my girth up toward the limb. Even if I'd been strong enough to heave myself up to the limb, I'd never have done so. The other sad fact that I was afraid of heights kept me from enjoying an adventure in that tree. Even being a few feet off the ground terrified me. So, I stayed grounded as my older brother and boys in the neighborhood shinnied up the tree and spent hours in it.

More than 50 years later, that same maple tree is alive and thriving. It’s lost a couple of limbs over the years, but it still stands strong and offers its branches to any children who might come visit. The tree’s leaves offer dabs of color to fall days before avalanching to the ground. Even during the cold days of winter, the tree stands strong against snow and ice and brutally cold winds.

In the back yard, a maple sapling continued to thrive until it was a strong, healthy tree. Amy and I were married and living behind my old home place. By then, I could chin myself, and one particular limb served as the perfect bar for the exercise. My mother, brothers, sisters-in-law, and children escaped to the tree in summer months to enjoy its shade and the cool breezes that came to ease the heat.

That tree succumbed to some kind of disease a couple of years ago. Large limbs and sections of the tree withered and died. When nothing else could be done, the tree was cut. I watched and almost cried as it was cut into sections. It stung as I watched and remembered all those good times that my family enjoyed.

In high school, I rode the bus on occasion. One tree sat in the middle of a field on Oak Ridge Highway. It was the most perfectly shaped tree I’d ever seen. Its beauty was more apparent when golden leaves covered it during October. I dreamed of building a house in that spot and enjoying the tree each and every day of my life.

At some point, developers scraped the land and turned a vast hay field into a dud of a commercial park. During the site preparation, the roots of the tree must have been damaged because it lost its leaves, and before long, the grand tree died and was unceremoniously cut and piled up as if it were garbage. I suppose that was the first time I resented the unchecked abuse of land and nature’s creations.

I’ve seen trees take serious poundings on several occasions. In 1974, the same storm system that hit Xenia, Ohio, roared through Cookeville. I was a student at Tennessee Tech then, and I surveyed the damage caused by tornadoes that tore through the area. A swath had been cut up and down the hillsides and of Monterey Mountain. In 1982, an ice storm paralyzed the Knoxville area for a couple of days. It slammed trees and bent many of them with a weight over which they could not recover. They remained stooped and resembled old folks whose spines had curved. Crews came to end their miseries and left nothing more than chips from ground stumps. The landscape was barren.

Now we’ve had another ice storm that waylaid thousands of trees, especially ones in the Crossville area. Some of their limbs snapped and hang loosely until winds or decay bring them down. Others lie, dozens at a time, side by side on the Interstate road shoulders. Crews work quickly to remove them from the area, but once again, the landscape shows the savage attacks it has endured.

Trees are one of our grandest features from nature. They offer beauty to our yards and fields. It’s up to us to take good care of them. At the same time, losing them brings about sadness that mirrors that from the death of a loved one. No, I don’t suggest that you hug a tree, but you might look at those special to you and send up a word of thanks for them. 


Folks can get their hackles up over a variety of things. Sometimes it’s the result of an argument with friends. Nothing causes tempers to flare quicker than negative comments about a individuals’ families. Even attacks on traditions can ignites fires in some people. That’s the case right now in the Karns community.
The other day, new football uniforms were revealed on Facebook. One jersey is white with blue
numbers outlined in gray. The second jersey is blue with gray numbers and black outlines and piping around the V-neck. The helmets sport some kind of metallic design on a gray matte finish. Black pants go with the blue jersey, and gray ones are paired with the white one.
The screaming could be heard for miles as people voiced their displeasure. As of this writing, I’ve not seen one positive comment about the new attire. Coach Tobi Kilgore commented that the kids liked the uniforms, and that is important. However, other things might have been considered before these choices were made.
The old KHS that many attended was built in 1938. In 1980, students opened up the present high school. Over that time, thousands of individuals have graduated from the school, and today, many individuals still live in the community.
The official mascot of Karns High is the beaver. Yes, some think that’s funny. However, with Beaver Creek running through the community, the creature was a logical choice. Besides, a beaver is an animal that is territorial and isn’t afraid to defend itself and its home. If you don’t believe me, jump in the water around a beaver dam and see what happens.
The school colors are royal blue and gold. Over the years, variations of those two colors have appeared on uniforms, letter jackets, and many other clothing items and souvenir items. Cheers included “blue…gold” and became favorites of fans.
Now, the gold is gone, and the blue is muted. Someone decided to change the colors so that gray becomes a dominant school color. That might be just the right color to describe the feelings about the new athletic garb. Many people declare that the uniforms are dreary; they don’t resemble the ones of old that sported the official school colors. The blue, black, and gray uniforms will make players look more like bruises than players.
I understand the coach’s attempt to try to bring a spark to Karns High football. It’s been A LONG, LONG TIME since the Beavers had winning tradition, coming last during Red Wells’ and Jim Watkins’ tenures. The kids are hungry for victories, but not any more than are the parents and community members. These new uniforms have done the job: they’ve brought a spark…of controversy.
A high school should be the center of a community. That’s not so much true as it was a generation or two ago. Those who have lived in the area for years aren’t pleased with the uniform change. They long for the tradition that has long been associated with the school. No, these old fogies, as many will label them, don’t play on Friday night. However, many once did, and a truer fact is that they buy the tickets and fill the seats. They’ve been doing it for years and years, even though the teams have lost more games than they’ve won. Abandoning tradition just might be a way to drive remaining alumni away for good.
I coached a little football at Karns in another century. I graduated from the school even before then. Karns football needs something more than new uniforms for a revival. It needs a student body that wants to play for the school. That means keeping players from leaving for other schools. It also means that the community youth football program adopts the offense and defense of the high school and perfects their executions. That’s how winning schools have done it. Coach Kilgore mentioned winning programs like West and Alcoa, but I don’t recall any of them dumping their traditions. My suggestion is to forget the ugly Under Armour uniforms, return to the blue and gold, and build a winning program that starts with the youngest players in the community learning the system. I support the coaching staff at KHS; I just don’t agree with this change.


Recently, I rode in a van with fellow workers back from a trip to deliver cars to Nashville. At some point, I started listening to my iPod to help pass the time. It’s surprising just how much listening to music has changed in my lifetime.
My first memories of music came through a little white radio that sat on a corner shelf in the kitchen. Each morning we boys would dress and then arrive at the table to eat cream of wheat or cinnamon toast. All the while, WIVK AM played in the background. I remember Claude Tomlinson as he and his so-called sidekick Lester played music, gave news headlines, and announced birthdays.
One Christmas, my older brother tore open a present and found a transistor radio inside. He walked
around listening to WKGN with that one earbud, and he rarely shared any of the music that played. I wanted one of those small radios, even though hearing anything depended upon what station might have the strongest signal. On occasion, I’d see Dal holding the transistor over his head or turning slowly to pick up the signal.
When we were not more than 9 or 10, our parents bought a cabinet stereo for the family. It was a gigantic piece of furniture with orange material covering the speakers. The turn table and radio were hidden under a hinged door. Each payday, Daddy would take us to purchase ONE 45 record. We added “The Wings of a Snow White Dove,” “Burning Ring of Fire,” and
“Puff the Magic Dragon” to our collection. Other albums were added, and we boys would play them as we cleaned house on Saturday. I’d lip-sync songs from The Diamonds, Jerry Lewis, and Allan Sherman. As we grew older, LP’s by the Four Tops and Temptations were added.
During my senior year in high school, Mother bought us a Studebaker Lark to drive to college the next year. Our first order of business was wiring speakers and an eight-track player into the dash. We’d cruise along in a rather “lame” car and blare music by Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. For heavier music, we
cranked up Iron Butterfly’s “In a Gadda Da Vida.” Unfortunately, the player outlived the car, which threw a rod on Monterey Mountain during one trip home.
I had a component system in college. The sound from the set up was superior to anything I’d had before. My collection of records grew, and I played them the first three years and filled my time that sure wasn’t going toward dating anyone. Even after Amy and I were married, the system sat in special places in our apartments and houses.
Before long, we added a cassette player. It was a fantastic machine that dwarfed the cartridges played by the eight-track. Too, copies of music could be made on blank tapes. Yes, I was party to the first music piracy without knowing it. It was the only way folks with modest incomes could enjoy a variety of music. I’d carry a case of cassettes in the car anytime I traveled. A player had to be installed in the Datsun 310 that I drove.
More recently, iPods became popular. I purchased one with 4gigs of memory, and before long, the thing was filled. I’d download music from a song library on the computer. Over the years I’ve had
three iPods, none of which have data plans. Still, listening to my choices of music is enjoyable on them. Lots of folks add their music to iPhones, but mine is so old that it can’t hold much. I also struggle when I try to sync it to a Bluetooth device. I’m just not savvy enough to do it right, so I hand the iPod to the younger generations, my children or my six-year-old grandson, and they fix it for me.
Even on the computer I can listen to hard-to-find songs by clicking on things like Pandora or iHeart Radio. It’s ingenious how someone figured out how to play music in that way. I can set up my own stations and listen to only music that suits my taste.

Devices have changed over time. They are smaller, offer better quality sound, and hold literally thousands of songs. Still, I’m not so sure that music sounds any better now than it did when I was younger. Something magical comes with a turntable and record albums. My taste in songs is still stuck in the 60’s and 70’s. I’m convinced that older is better when it comes to how music is played.  


Everywhere I go this winter, I run into folks who are wheezing and sniffing and sneezing and coughing. This year seems to have brought with it plenty of snow, frigid temperatures, and COLDS. The television is bursting with advertisements for medicines that will knock that cold out quick. I remember some of the things my parents used to battle our colds and pains that came with them.
Any Baby Boomer remembers the treatment for a chest cold. Vicks Vapor Rub sold millions of jars to families throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. I remember feeling punk from those types of colds. The wheezing was audible, as were the rattles from the congestion. Mother would come into my room at bedtime with the Vicks. She’d open up my pajama top and cover my chest with a gooey coating of the stuff. Then she’d
button up my top. For good measure, she’d swipe below my nose with a generous portion of the goop. My night was spent in fitful sleep as the clothing stuck to my skin. The next morning, I did feel better but dreaded the coming night when the nasty stuff would be applied again.
When ear aches accompanied colds, we boys would be up all night with piercing pain. When wash cloths heated in water failed to stem the ache, our parents would have us stand close to them. They’d take a long, deep pull from a cigarette and gently blow the smoke into the hurting ear. A cotton ball kept the smoke in the ear, and immediate relieve allowed children and adults to catch a few hours of sleep.
Mother made a cough remedy that her parents had used years before. She took a jar of honey and added lemon and horehound candy. The
concoction was heated in a sauce pan until it blended into a thick syrup. She’d come to our room with a tablespoon and pour two helpings of if down our throats. It did help, but the memory of the taste of the horehound candy still turns my stomach.
Nothing is much worse to me than a stuffed-up nose. As a kid, I’d stick a finger-full of Vicks in my nose. At other times, I’d get a wad of toilet paper, wet it, and stuff it up my nose for a couple of minutes. For serious colds, Mother sometimes would put drops in my nose, something that first brought on tickles and then choking. All I wanted was enough relief to fall asleep. Then I could become a “mouth breather.”
For those hacking coughs, Daddy stepped in. He’d leave the house for a few minutes at night. After he returned, I could hear him opening the silverware drawer in the kitchen. His heavy footsteps echoed down the hall until he reached the bedroom. Daddy flipped the light switch and came to my bedside. He’d say “Open up.” I’d obey, and he’d pour a generous spoonful of whiskey into my mouth. When I swallowed, he turned and left. The stuff burned like the fires of hell down my throat, but
miraculously, the coughing subsided enough for me to rest. When I had those coughs, my first move was to cover my head with blankets and cough into my pillow; I’d try anything to keep from having to take a shot of whiskey for a cough. These days, I’m much quicker to give the remedy a try, whether a cold is raging or if I feel one might possibly be on the way in the next week or so.
These days, modern medicine has given cold sufferer shelves of remedies. The products are promoted through million dollar ad campaigns. Some products promise “sleep-at-night” results while others declare they can help folks with a cold get through the day with little discomfort. I don’t know about others, but I never had a cold with “cute” mucus in my head, nose, or chest. In fact, any time the color green is used in a discussion of colds, the words “infections” and “antibiotics” follow closely. We can take one of the old remedies or spend a bundle on medicines from the store; however, the fact is that with or without them, a cold will last 7-10 days. Cold medicines are there only to offer a bit of comfort while they run their courses.