To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. To blame things on the weather forecasters in the area is going over the top. The bottom line is I woke up this morning and expected to see some white stuff on the ground. Instead, all that came to view were puddles of water and soggy grass. The explanations of weather systems not moving into the right positions fall on my deaf ears. I want—I need some snow! All of us in East Tennessee need it.

I well remember the snow days that came when I was a boy. My brothers and I never had proper snow attire. Mother made us put on a couple of layers of clothes, and then we covered our old shoes with pairs of socks. They did little to keep out the dampness, but our feet stayed just a bit drier.

Some years we had some deep snows, and those were the best. We’d build snowmen and bombard each other with snowballs. On one occasion, the boys from next door joined in and we built an igloo. The work we put into the project kept us plenty warm, and the cold temperatures preserved our ice house for several days. It was large enough to accommodate two of us at a time. Suddenly we became “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” and Royal Canadian Mounties.

After long afternoons in the snow, we returned home to strip the soaked clothing from our bodies. Mother fed us tomato soup and melted cheese sandwiches. Afterwards, we went to our rooms and drifted off into long afternoon naps. As night began to fall, we made another trip outside and discovered that falling temperatures turned slush into ice, the perfect conditions for riding shovels and trashcan lids down sloping pastures. The ends of those days were topped off when Mother made a bowl of snow cream, something almost as good as homemade ice cream.

Snowfalls provide many people with much needed days away from work. There’s something wonderful about waking up, discovering snow, and burrowing under the covers again. Those times provide some of the best sleep that a person can experience. The remainder of a day at home is spent idly in activities such as reading a book, watching movies, or mindlessly surfing the web for unimportant topics.

During the early years of my teaching career, Knoxville was hit with several huge snowfalls. In fact, we missed so much school that days were extended and Saturdays were added to the normal schedule. Still, those days out were beneficial. I had time to take it easy and drive Amy to her classes at U.T. In the evenings I joined the kids outside, and they gave me turns riding their sleds down a steep hill on which we lived.

The best snow days have been spent with my two children. We survived the blizzard of 1993, as well as a couple of ice storms. When they were small, I’d give them rides on a coal scoop that I’d salvaged from my parents house. They giggled and laughed as I pulled them up and down the driveway and the road. When we bought sleds, I’d pull them across the slushy snow and ride down the hill with them the next day when the stuff froze into a solid sheet of ice.

After a romp outside, we’d go back inside, and I’d pop waffles in the toaster or pizza bites in the oven. Those two children followed the same patterns that my brothers and I had traveled: eat and sleep. We sometimes sat together and watched for the zillionth time “Princess Bride” or “Goonies” or “Willow.” Later, they’d ask to go back outside, and I’d tromp back into the cold with them for one last time each day.

These days Knoxville gets maybe a total of two inches of snow each year. I declare it’s proof that global warming is real and has changed our climate. No, I don’t want mountains of the white stuff, but I’d like one snow a year so that I can look out the window of my office and remember the good times from years gone by. I’d especially like to experience one of those “snow days” during this last year of teaching. They bring about a time of quietness and stillness that makes our lives slow down for just a while. Knoxvillians need to put an ad in the paper: Wanted…SNOW!

A True East Tennessean

One of the shows I enjoy on television is “Cold Case,” that is until I watched an episode the other night. The storyline had the stars of the show traveling to Nashville and Knoxville to question people about a murder that had occurred some time before. Some of the things that were included in the program griped me.

For one thing, the actors who played the parts of folks from Tennessee were foreigners. It was obvious by the way they spoke. Their fake East Tennessee drawls grated on my nerves. To those who don’t know better, the minor characters probably sounded fine, but to us who know how a real East Tennessean speaks, the accents were pitiful. Being able to speak the language of our region requires a flatness of pronunciation that just can’t be mimicked. It’s part of our laid-back way of life. We get where we’re going, but along the way there’s no need to run over everybody in the way; the same applies to how we talk.

I’ve taught thousands of kids over the years, and one thing is apparent: people from other parts of the country are moving here in droves. Identifying immigrants from north of the Mason-Dixon line is simple. They have different ways from ours, but what stands out the most is the accent. No matter how long a person lives in the areas after a move from other parts of the country, he never sounds like an East Tennessean. Don’t get me wrong; some of my best friends are from other parts of the country, but they don’t try to speak the dialect. Eventually, some of it creeps into speaking, but they just can’t get down pat the accent of the region.

Another thing that griped me about this show was the way Tennessee was viewed by the characters. It’s the same that’s held by too many others. At one point, the female detective decided to drive from Nashville to Knoxville. She did so because she held fond memories about getting married. According to her, she passed the courthouse in Knoxville where she and some young man went to exchange vows.

Tennessee and its cities are presented as either country music producing places or towns somewhat akin to Mayberry. In both cases, we who live in Tennessee are considered rednecks who come from a life that is backward at best and ignorance-filled at worst. WRONG! A few points about us need to cleared up:

  1. We have in-door plumbing.
  2. We wear shoes all year round—for most of the year at least.
  3. We do read.
  4. We can write.
  5. We don’t marry our relatives.
  6. Our homes aren’t shacks with rusted car bodies in the yard and porches with refrigerators.

In an effort to educate some of those who sneer at us, I present this demographic information from the Internet. Knox County has approximately 400,000 residents. When the surrounding areas are included, the number jumps to more than 700,000. Nashville has a population of 1,363,394. Combined, the two cities have a population of more than 2 million—and that number continues to grow. That doesn’t sound too much like “Hicksville” to me. Couldn’t we find the some small towns in isolated parts of New York State? The problem is that folks equate ignorance with our speech. They assume that we are less than intelligent because we speak slowly and with flatness in the enunciation of words.

A short anecdote might shed some light upon things. Several years ago I spent a weekend with my in-laws in Gatlinburg. Our room had a balcony that overlooked the main street, and we delighted in sitting there and watching people go by. I noticed that several people, young and old, were walking with pieces of rope that had been stiffened. On one end was a loop, and on the other was a configuration that looked like a harness of some kind. Other tourists stopped these people and said, “Geeeez, what is that and where did you get it?” The answer was that they had purchased from a souvenir shop a “dogless leash.” Yep, people who spoke accents peculiar to some northern state paid $20.00 a pop for pieces of robe with loops on each end. I could hear shop owners saying to those customers, “You come back now, ya’ hear!”

Enough said.