AT IT AGAIN

I looked at the clock and turned off the alarm before it rang at 6:15 a.m. My eyes saw every hour as it ticked through the night. After dragging myself from the bed, dressing, and grabbing some on-the-run breakfast, I left home for my first day at school. What's going on?” I thought. This must be some kind of nightmare from which I haven’t yet awakened.  
The fact is that once again I am participating in the education of Knox County’s youth. More precisely, this is the beginning of the fourth year of subbing. Hardin Valley Academy, Byington-Solway, and Karns High have been the places where I’ve spent most of my time. In fact, they feel like home and house some friends that work hard and occasionally supply me with work days.  
This is my 61st year of being in school in some capacity. If kindergarten had been for children other than rich kids, one more year could be added. From 1958, I’ve spent most of each year in a classroom, either as a 
student, teacher, or now, substitute. Few people stay associated with their chosen professions this long, and I understand why. At some point, energy levels tank, and “I don’t care” attitudes soar.  
The most vivid memory from that very first day of school was a dark one. Children were escorted from our classroom to the stage in the gym. There they received vaccinations. I had no idea if my records were in order and fretted most of the day that someone would come to take me away and stab me with a needle. To this day, nothing strikes fear into the hearts of youngsters like the threats of shots.  
Each new year of school brought anticipation for something new and concern for what was expected. Ball Camp Elementary housed students 1st-8th grades back then. So, new school fears didn’t hit until we became freshmen. My grandson Madden entered middle school this year, and he had the same jitters that most every young’un has. I advised him to keep his head down, keep quiet, and maintain a low profile the first term. Then he would know the ropes well enough to venture out. That’s the warning we got upon entering Karns High School. The threat of having to push a penny down the hall with our noses, being beaten up by an upperclassman, or being thrown into Beaver Creek kept us living in terror for at least a few weeks.  
Even teaching came with some discomfort. Herding several classes was demanding, especially if they were sprinkled with teens who wished to be anywhere. That added stress to making sure thmaterial was covered and students were prepared for the following year. The routine wore on me; never being allowed to leave the campus was inconvenient, and knowing exactly what was to come each day made life somewhat boring at times. Still, I am glad that I chose a teaching career and wouldn’t change if I could replay my life.  
These days, I sit in classes and make sure students don’t kill each other. They won’t work if they don’t want to, and I have no power to make them. My instructions are always to do the work or find something to keep from disturbing those who want to complete assignments. I further add that if they don’t want to work, there’s no need to worry; plenty always look for adult workers with no high schoool diploma who want careers in fast food. 
I’m tired, plain and simple. With any luck, this will be my final year of working. Then, I’ll rise when I wish, work if I want to, and go when and where I choose. I figure 60+ years of doing anything is long enough. I’m ready for some new challenges and adventures.  

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.