Layovers can test the mettle of any traveler. Most folks are anxious to reach their destinations so that they can prepare for a business meeting, begin celebrations with family members, or simply collapse in those favorite chairs where naps take place. Still, killing time in an airport terminal, as well as on planes, is a fact of travel. The hours pass easier if an individual observes the folks around him.
The fun begins with watching people as they line up at the security check points. They often huff and puff and roll their eyes while waiting for the officer on the stool to make sure faces and id’s match. Dander is raised when someone walks up, cuts, and proceeds with little or no hassle.
Once in the line at the x-ray machines, customers are even more perturbed when they have to empty pockets, take off shoes and belts, extricate laptops, and then walk through a machine that might beep for no apparent reason. Some are selected to pass through a special machine that reveals everything,. It’s at times like these that people hate terrorists the most.
The gate areas are also sites of some amusing behaviors. Folks spread out in rows of chairs. They pack seats on either side so that other passengers aren’t able to sit close to them. That’s okay until a full flight packs the area with folks and no seats are available.
At the same time, people jockey for positions close to recharging stations. There they plug in several electronic devices without the least bit of regard for others who might need to charge their phones or iPads or iPods, or laptops. Unable to find at least one outlet, miffed individuals fume and glare at energy hogs.
When the boarding procedure begins, some of the worst things about folks come out. First class passengers walk to the front of the line and are swept on board as if they are royalty. The huddled masses yearning to board curse under their breaths and wish they had the money and clout to be first in line.
Oh, plenty of coach class folks have their strategies as well. Too many of them cut through the waiting crowd and forge to the front of the boarding line. They show no regard for other passengers, and if they are thwarted in their efforts to get in front, they take offense. Some even look as if they are prepared to fight anyone who blocks the way.
On board, space is at a premium. Flyers who are too cheap to check a bag lug on board “small suitcases” that hold their every possession. They swing heavy bags up to the overhead luggage compartment and cram them in. Then they stuff a second “personal bag” that contains the overrun from the first bag. Women also carry a purse the size of a shopping bag. Anyone who boards toward the back of the line either must check his carry-on or must try to cram it into remaining spaces.
Invariably, the flight must wait on a couple of passengers who are running late. A full travel roster sits in seats with no leg room and even less fanny room until some inconsiderate moron comes aboard. More time is
wasted as the late arriver searches for space for bags.
Frequent fliers know the unwritten rules of getting off a plane. No one goes until the people in front have moved. However, at least one jerk always jumps out of his seat, grabs his bag(s) from the compartment and almost sprints to front. Quick-thinking passengers sometimes stand in front of him to block the way, while others stare at him and shoot arrows of hatred his way.
Even after the flight has landed, passengers offer one last unflattering look at themselves. It comes at the baggage carousel. Every bag is going to come down the shoot. Still, some knock others out of the way so they can stand in front of the opening to get their suitcases. Never mind that the carousel winds along so that
plenty of room is available for all. Once the bag arrives, these people who must think they are too important or too busy to wait grab and swing them off the conveyor. If a person is in the way, luggage or golf clubs or some  other object strikes him, and he is lucky to receive even a simple “excuse me” from the offender.
Flying is faster than driving a car, or at least it’s not as tiring. However, it is not without trials. To be honest, flying would be sheer joy if it weren’t for other passengers


I received a message on Facebook not long ago. Bill Fogarty contacted me with information that his class was holding a reunion and that I was invited. Just being thought of was enough, but this class is a special one; it’s the first one I taught. Yep, the class of 1975 is getting together to reminisce and renew old friendships. To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing.
In August of 1974, I received a phone call from Knox County Schools telling me I should be at Doyle High School for an interview. It was another one of those times when God takes care when I can’t do it myself. I showed up for the meeting with the principal, Billy K. Nicely. The man intimidated me mightily, even though he stood only about 5’5”. You see, Mr. Nicely had been my high school principal, and on more than one occasion, I fell out of favor with him during those years. To my astonishment, I was talking with the man about a job as a teacher. He hired me, and for the first year, every time he called my name over the intercom, I panicked at the thought of going to the office for a paddling.
On that first day, I was all nerves. My classes included senior English. The students that sat in my classroom were no more than four years younger than I, and one, Bill Fogarty, was 19, the same age as the girl I was dating and would later marry. Some of the teaching genes passed on by Mother helped me get by. The rest of the time, I simply bluffed my way through. Oh, I knew the material, but I wondered how much kids who were almost my age would listen to me.
That first year, I served as a chaperone on a band trip to Kingsport. V.C. Adcock asked me to help, and it served as a good way for me to be a team player. I made friends with teachers Bob Shoemaker, Jim Pryor, Jim Talent, Bobby Campbell, and Frank Kennedy. Fellow English teacher John Gilbert and I carpooled toward the end of the year, and we sang John Denver songs coming home from school. Linda Lyle was a rookie that year as well, and we became friends and colleagues. It was a good faculty that year, and I felt blessed to be a part of the DHS family.
That December, I was to marry Amy in Cookeville. My classes sent me off with parties and presents. Back in those days, I smoked, and one group bought me a carton of cigarettes. Another class presented me with two pints of pure-grain alcohol. The third class embarrassed me with items that I cannot mention in this column without blushing.
The evening of my wedding, things were hectic. The church was crowded, but I spied something especially heart-warming. On the last pew in the middle section of the church, three of my students sat. Mike Lowe, Randy Massey, and Cindy Fleming had driven 100 miles to Cookeville to be there. After all these years, I still consider that one of the kindest things any students have ever done.
In January, my life was once again filled with chaos. Amy and I lived in married student housing on Sutherland Avenue, she attended UT and worked part time, and I was driving to Doyle and learning how to be a teacher. All the while, those students kept me going with typical teenaged things. We laughed, argued, and debated enough to keep class interesting much of the time.

Now, forty years later, I’m old, or at least I feel that way. This invitation to reunite has added just a bit of excitement in life. The anticipation of the event is mixed with nerves. Hey, I’ve not seen most of these folks since they were 18 years old. Now they’re 58 or more. I hope they have aged more gracefully than I have. I also hope that name tags are passed out so that I don’t have to put a teenaged faces and names to people who are now closing in on social security checks. By the time the evening  finishes, I’m sure an assortment of emotions will have come and gone. What I know most of all is that I am honored to have been asked to attend this reunion of the graduating class of my teaching career. It’s nice to be remembered—good or bad. 


I watched the U.S. women’s soccer team work their magic and claim the world championship before the first half was over. The stadium was filled with ecstatic fans who had dressed in their creative costumes and waved  flags as they chanted, “USA! USA!”
Saturday evening was filled with flashes of light and booms galore as families and friends gathered to enjoy the July 4th  festivities. Many folks dodged rain and storms to spend time on the water or in the back yard. The day once again proved to be a true celebration of this country and the freedoms that it offers.

With such a grand display of celebration in so many places throughout this country and neighboring ones, I wondered just what in the heck is wrong with us. Our schizophrenic behavior worries me. Just a couple of weeks before the big holiday, a maniacal, evil-spirited person sat with others in a Bible study for an hour before executing them. His acts were fueled by an intense hate for black people. How in the world could he have filled his heart with so much hate in so few years of life?
In other parts of the country, a return to the burning of black churches has occurred. Speculation is that individuals who despise another race of humans are hell-bent on causing as much grief and pain for them as possible. What makes them hate others so much?
The Supreme Court passed down a decision that okays same-sex marriages. Scores of supporters marched in parades of celebration. Those opposed declared that the court had lost its moral compass and should never have given its blessing to such a horrible thing. They are the same people who earlier praised the court for more conservative decisions.
The country is divided by political ideology. Half of the citizens despise the current president. In their vitriol, claims of President Obama’s affiliation with the Muslim religion and his lack of citizenship fill the air. Many have said he’s the worst president that has ever held office and that he is leading our country to ruin.
All in all, it appears a couple of days after this latest Fourth Celebration that our country is in sore need of a bit more patriotism and a lot less partisan politics and hate mongering. No, I’m not talking about caving in to things that people can’t accept. Instead, I’m suggesting that each of us learns what tolerance is. While I might not like one bit what another person or group believes or does, I owe it to them and to this country to be tolerant. Yes, I can express my opposing views on any topic, but that opposition should never include acts of violence or attacks on character.
This country was established by people of all sorts of nationalities and philosophies. Some wanted to remain tied to England’s apron strings while others insisted that the country determine its own path. Throughout the years, the rich history of the U.S. has been created by persons of all races and religious beliefs. We’ve managed to look past those things while praising the contributions they made.
Again, no one has to approve of another’s actions or beliefs. However, none of us is given the right to judge others. If I’ve read my Bible correctly, Jesus told those who were without sin to cast the first stone. So, I suspect that God-fearing people would never condemn people who think differently.

July 4th was another spectacular day for Americans. We celebrated what this country symbolizes: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t mean “as long as you think like me.” We face many challenges in the years to come. Some of them arise from forces that are set on destroying our way of life. Those are the ones we should set our sites on corralling. That means the time has come to quit attacking our own. Let’s decide this year that we will do those things that lead to all of us chanting, “USA! USA!”


I like the outside. Nothing depresses me more than being trapped in the house as the rain or snow falls. Working in the yard is a blessing to me, and I’d stay there all the time were I given the opportunity. The only drawbacks to being in the yard or the wooded areas at the side our house are the critters and creatures that I’ve encountered.
The first spring after we moved into the house we’d built was spent getting the yard in shape. I threw out grass seed after one snow covered the land in February, and to my surprise, I had a thick, lush stand of grass out back. When enough time had passed to give the grass a chance to take root, I pulled out the lawn mower and prepared to complete my first mowing.
The grass was high, and the mowing was slow to prevent the mower from bogging down. I watched to make sure no roots or sticks were in the path. All of a sudden,
I saw a wiggle in the grass. Such quick movement startled me, and I almost lost my left toes to the lawn mower blade. The movement continued for a couple more feet and left no doubt that a snake was the creator.
I hate snakes with a passion. In fact, the only good snake is a dead one that has been squished flat by the wheels of a semi-truck. My first act was retrieving a hoe from the shed, and I stalked that critter and chopped him into several pieces. Then I went inside and replaced flimsy shoes with work boots. A person can never tell when one of those giant snakes will try to take a bite out of a foot or leg.
One evening a few years later, I met up with another of God’s creatures. Our house has a one-car garage. My vehicle is parked under a carport at the end of a second driveway. I used to smoke but wanted to hide doing so from the children. (I convinced myself that the smell of smoke was easily hidden and that the kids would never know of my terrible smoking habit.) My favorite place to “burn one” was under that carport, and on a spring evening I exited the house to do that. Night had already arrived, and darkness swallowed up the carport and my car in which the cigarettes were placed.
I reached for the door of the car as my foot nudged something. I supposed it was a cat that cuddled around
the car for warmth. Along with my cigarettes, I retrieved a flashlight and shined it on the creature below. Instead of a cat, a possum stood only a couple of feet from me, and it was not happy about being interrupted. I got a good look at those razor-sharp teeth and heard a warning hiss. I broke into a full run back to the house and suffered a nicotine fit the rest of the evening. There was no way I was going back out where that menacing little marsupial might attack.
Snoop was just a pup still, and he loved to go outside to walk the yard and protect his territory. On this occasion, he began yipping before I could get the door open. I told him to relax until the door opened. With just a slit to get through, he shot outside and tore around the corner. I was behind him when I heard a yelp, not an attack bark, and immediately smelled the fragrance of a skunk that had been annoyed.  I prayed that Snoop hadn’t been sprayed, but he met me
quickly with his tail between his legs and a yellowish substance on his face and back.
The skunk hit the dog dead center, and for the next two or more hours, I washed Snoop in shampoo and tomato juice. By the way, it’s a lie that tomato juice kills skunk smell. Time does, not tomato juice. In about six weeks, my little dog was tolerable to be around.

My yard is my retreat. Evidently, it serves the same purpose for critters in the Ball Camp area. I’ll tolerate the four-legged ones, but snakes will have to find another place to nest unless they want me to cultivate them with a hoe.