Dreams are wonderful things. I admit these days I don’t remember too many of them when I wake up, but every so often, one sticks around through the fog of early morning rising. That’s what happened to me a couple of days ago. I woke up with that dream in my head, and it brought an immediate smile to my groggy existence.
My mother’s parents lived no more than a mile from us. Their house was located on a road, named after Mamaw’s family. Her dad once owned a huge farm in the area. No one related the story of how it, at some point, left the family’s ownership, but the last few generations of the clan have all been middle class folk who have worked hard and earned honest pay for a day’s work.
I’d like to say I know all about Papaw Balch, but the truth is that I know only sketchy things at best. He was a tall man, one who seemed to be a giant to me when I was little. I never knew where he worked other than on a farm. (I have cousins who lived next door to him who will fill me in after this reading this.) To be honest, I always thought that he was just a tad laid back; work was something he did in order to provide, but he had no love affair with it.
Instead, Papaw’s affections were turned toward reading. Mother used to talk about how he’d sit in his chair in the evening with one leg slung over the arm. Papaw would read until the late hours, even though he had to be up by 4:00 a.m. to milk cows and complete a long list of chores before breakfast. His curiosity about things kept him plowing through books, much like his two brothers, one who taught high school Latin and one who worked at TVA as an engineer.
Each year, Mother and Daddy would put out a garden. It took over the back yard and covered at least a half-acre of ground. In my early years, I remember Papaw coming to the house to plow that garden. After walking from his house to ours and guide his horse Prince and the plow, he came into the house for a cup of coffee and conversation with Mother.
Before long, Papaw would exit the house and begin turning the soil with that single blade plow. I can see him grab the reins and throw them over his shoulder and then grip the plow handles. “Git up” was all he said, and that horse began pulling. For the next while, what seemed to be forever to little boys of my age, he walked back and forth and skillfully handled that plow and horse as the rich earth that had once been covered with mulch from the paper plant where Daddy worked was cut open. I learned the meaning of “Gee” and “Haw” from those times.
Eventually, the garden was plowed and then tilled until it was suitable for planting. Papaw would stop, pat co-worker on the neck, and walk toward the back door again. He’d walk in and collapse at the kitchen table. Mother would supply ice water and lunch for him. She more than likely fed him a sandwich. That was a weak meal for a man whose wife always cooked meat, vegetables, and some kind of bread for every midday meal.
After a while, Papaw stood and said his goodbyes. Then, he returned to Prince, and the two began the return walk to his home. Both man and horse moved with weary steps, and I wished that some way we could have given them both a ride home.

When I woke up after a dream that mirrored an earlier reality, I kept my eyes closed for just a few seconds. Two smells seemed overwhelmingly present right then. One was the scent of freshly turned soil. It’s that combination of dirt and moisture, and a kind of metallic odors that always signasl a new growing season. The second smell was that of Papaw. It was the sweat from his body and the years of his life that mingled, and to this day, it remains in my memory. In fact, after I’ve worked especially hard outside, that same “fragrance” comes again. Maybe it’s just the smell of old men after work, or maybe it’s something much more unique that is passed from one generation to another. Whatever the case, the whiffs of those things greeted me that morning and made me glad I’d conjured up a wonderful dream. 


During my travels up and down the Interstate highways in Knoxville and surrounding areas, I’ve noticed the electronic signs that the state has erected. Just the other day, the message read,
“Don’t text and drive; it’s against the law!”
I’m sure doing so is also quite illegal, but that hasn’t had much effect on too many drivers. In fact, I’ve made it a point as I ride along the streets to observe folks. The things they are number with cell phone is disconcerting, to say the least, but the most egregious is texting.
Okay, here’s where some folks will call me a sexist, but these comments are based on the observations I’ve made of late. First, the group that violates the cell phone usage law most often is made up of young women. So many times, I’ve passed a car to discover that the driver is a female who is “bobble-heading” between a view of the road and the one on her cell phone. She’s driving at break-neck speed and swerving as if she were under the influence of alcohol. On two occasions, I’ve been forced to swerve my car to avoid being hit. What makes the situation even more aggravating is the fact that the young female had no idea what she’d done; she was too busy looking at that phone.
No one can text and drive at the same time. I know that young people can type out a long message on a cell phone by the time I punch in my name, but they don’t have special powers to complete the task and safely drive a car. According to the CDC, 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured each day due to what they call “distracted driving.” A whopping 31% of drivers admit they text while driving. I suppose it goes to show that plenty of morons are behind the steering wheels of cars. If that statement offends you, then all I can say is don’t text.
Another thing that happens when folks are using a cell phone while driving is that they slow down. Most are so involved with their conversations that they forget to maintain a safe speed that keeps the flow of traffic going. Both men and women are guilty of this act, and they all need to be aware that the most important job they have is operating the vehicle.
Those who insist upon texting and yakking mindlessly while driving evidently didn’t get the memo about the perils they and other motorists face when cell phones are used. For that reason, I’ve made some simple, poignant points for them to consider:

1.      You don’t drive that well to begin with.
2.      Nothing short of the death of a loved one is so important that you have to use a phone while you’re driving. If you must text, pull over, stop your car, and don’t kill an innocent driver who is obeying the rules of the road.
3.      If you’re grown up enough to handle a 3000 pound projectile, then you’re old enough to take responsibility when you injure or kill someone. Don’t say, “It’s not my fault.”
4.      A prison cell is a lonely place where you won’t have the use of a cell phone.
5.      The road was not made for you alone. Your job is to share it, and, yes, that means staying in your own lane.
6.      Yes, females are able to multi-task, but that doesn’t mean they can drive and text at the same time.
Cell phones are the most dangerous things that interfere with driving. If you’ll notice, I don’t call them “smart phones” because too many idiots have their hands wrapped around them as they speed down the highways and back roads of the country. Not that long ago, folks got along fine without a cell phone. They completed conversations on home phones, but driving was their main focus when they climbed into a car. No one tried to drive with one hand, and text, dial phone numbers, smoke, eat, fiddle with the radio, and turn on lights or wipers with the other. I would have included turning on turn signals, but that’s another topic for another day. 

I know my fussing here won’t stop anyone who thinks it’s safe to text while driving. Still, if you have even an inkling of concern for other drivers, just put down the phone. 


I’m taking this opportunity to write about someone special. Instead of telling a story from my past or writing a diatribe about politics or the younger generation, my goal is to honor to a person who has touched so many lives. By the time I finish, I hope you’ll want to know her as well.
Catherine Nance arrived at Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church about 5 years ago. At the time I was section editor for another paper and interviewed her as a way of introducing her to the community. What struck me immediately about Catherine was her captivating smile. She was the kind of person who knew no strangers. Her open heart and open arms welcomed every person.  After I’d completed my interview, I knew then that I’d found someone whom I would hold dear for the rest of my days.
Catherine is a doer. No job is too difficult or menial for her. She jumps in to cook Wednesday evening meals at the church, serves the members who are present for supper, and even washes dishes. On more than one occasion, she’s been found setting up dozens of tables and a hundred chairs for the weekly get together. At other times, Catherine has rolled up her sleeves and spread mulch in flower beds around the church. All of these tasks aren’t included in her job description; they are additional to the services she provides as a minister, administrator, and counselor.
Those who have heard her speak can attest to the fact that she is a dynamic person in the pulpit. She simply has a way of capturing the attention of the congregation as she delivers her homily each Sunday morning. Catherine combines biblical readings with personal experiences and thought-provoking comments. Those of us in her church leave each Sunday service awestruck at the impact her sermon makes on our thinking and our daily lives.
Some people in other places call into question the effectiveness of a woman in the pulpit. Anyone who has listened to Catherine is put off by such misguided rumblings. This minister brings a woman’s perspective to Christianity. Her nurturing ways wrap themselves around individuals as she declares the good news of God’s love in each life. Even her children’s moments prove to be instructive times for all.
Most of all Catherine Nance is a friend. She accepted
Brad and Catherine Nance
me “warts and all.” We’ve laughed and joked; we’ve ached and cried; in short, she has opened herself so that I have felt comfortable doing the same. I respect and love her as a person, and I appreciate her help with my struggling and emerging faith. Her flock feels the hand of God touching them through the deeds and words of this minister and friend.
This year, the Methodist powers-that-be decided to move Catherine. The congregation did not want her to leave us, and I suspect that she felt more time was needed to complete her work at BRUMC. However, she is to become the minister of First Methodist Church in Maryville. It’s a much larger church, and we at the smaller place think she’s being rewarded for a job well done.
 The moving of ministers in the Methodist church made good sense in the 1940-1960’s. Then, mainline denominations were increasing in membership, and ministers with certain skills were assigned where they could be of most benefit. However, these days, mainline churches are bleeding membership. It simply makes no sense to move a minister when the congregation is happy and so is the minister. A pastor serves as the stabilizing force in a church. Her presence helps the congregation to remain strong, dedicated, and focused. Moving her causes much more harm than good. Put another way, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” The conference cabinet might do well to listen to the desires church’s members.

My emotions are more than a bit raw. I dread the departure of Catherine Nance. Yes, it’s selfish on my part, but she has become a friend, minister, and pastor to me and the other BRUMC members. We will miss her and hope that we remain in her thoughts and prayers.
Thank you Catherine Nance, for giving so much to the congregation at BRUMC. Our hearts are heavy with your leaving but joyful for the lessons you’ve helped us understand and the love and kindness you’ve showered on us.


I’m back in the workforce for a week now. Admittedly, adjusting to working as many as 10 hours a day is tough, but getting up isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, having a schedule by which to go is something I like…sort of.
This job is a perfect fit for me because I don’t have to think; instead, my duties are to drive a vehicle from Point A to Point B. My skill set includes the ability to do that. Some of the time is spent riding in a van with other co-workers as we travel to pick up cars or return to our home base. It’s in that van that I’ve realized and learned many things.
First of all, this is an elite group of shuttle drivers, and certain characteristics are common in us all. I’m the newest worker, a rookie, and I’m also the youngest of the bunch. Someone said one employee was in his 80’s, although I can’t confirm that. I’ve heard the guys talking about high school during the early 1960’s, and that puts them at least several years ahead of me. Every individual, male and female, that I’ve met so far either has completely gray or white hair or is follicly challenged.
One man informed me that our crew has been dubbed the “Ol Farts.” It’s an appropriate moniker for several reasons. All of us wear glasses; we all have at least a bit of a hitch in our giddy-ups; and we sometimes struggle to get out of the lower-sitting cars. We drink plenty of coffee and carry snacks in our shirt pockets in case pangs of hunger hit.
The guys are big on pecking order. Some sit in the front seats of the van, and others file in according to seniority. That, of course, means I’m stuck in the back of a 12-passenger van and take the full brunt of the potholes and dips of the road to my back.
The guys talk in friendly conversations throughout the day. In fact, two or more of them can occur at one time, and to someone not involved, it sounds a great deal like a bunch of racket. Still, the guys can carry on conversations about any topic. I heard comments on such things as UT women’s basketball, healthcare, local politicians, the president, and the economy. However, most intense conversation concerned today’s youth.
The guys talked about how their children texted all the time and wanted them to do the same. Some of the men said their phones didn’t have that capability, and others commented that the buttons were too small to push. Others lamented the fact that children would rather text than talk, something over which they shook their heads and sighed. Some marveled at how savvy their young grandchildren mastered the use of smart phones without any fear of breaking one or irreversibly damaging it.
My co-workers have come from many different places and professions. A couple of things stand out about them. First, they are not afraid of work. The men come in at 8:00 a.m. and are ready to work. They take on assignments, complete them, and move on to the next ones. A driver told me that young people were hired at some point in the past, but they were all gone now. He indicated that they left because they didn’t want to work or they didn’t want a part-time job.
These guys also say exactly what they think. I suppose age does that to all of us, or maybe it’s the result of a lifetime’s worth of experiences. Whatever the cause, guys like us don’t have filters through which we send our thoughts. They just come out. Sometimes our words sound harsh, but that’s rarely our intent; it’s just that we say what we think and leave the nuances for others to add or subtract to our comments. No offense is intended…unless we make it clear that we are in offending moods.

I’m thankful to have been hired for this new job. The income from it helps us. As much as anything, I’m thankful to meet new people who are interesting, intelligent, and funny. My part-time job has few dull moments, and the new job training continues.