Summer wound down much too quickly for me. If I were in charge, the hot days of the season would bleed into those colder ones of winter. I just don’t much care for cold weather and never have, nor do I like being under house arrest when it hits.

Others can have all the snow they can handle. I only wanted a couple of inches of the stuff during my teaching career. That way the schools would close, and I could enjoy an unexpected day off. Even if the snow fell overnight, my preference was for it to disappear by 10 a.m. Then I could go outside and complete any projects and feel safe in running errands.

Nothing drove me straight up the wall more than being trapped in the house after a heavy blanket of snow had made travel hazardous. I recall on one evening during my high school years that Jim and I set out on foot to visit Jim’s girlfriend who lived in Karns. We trudged to her house and arrived with nearly frozen feet, hands, and noses. Still, that condition was preferable to being stuck in the house.

I entered graduate school to earn a Master’s degree and become a principal. I attended summer sessions and took night classes at UT. On one winter evening snow and sleet began. Students looked at each other and wondered if Dr. Harris would release us early to begin our trips home. He did end class, but by then, the conditions were too bad. An ice storm hit Knoxville with vengeance; it crippled the entire area. We students found it impossible to move our cars on the icy surfaces, and walking also proved tricky and dangerous to our health.

I shuffled my feet down the sidewalk and arrived at a nearby motel. It seemed as if everyone had the same idea. The bar stayed open to serve food and drinks. At some point, pillows and blankets were passed out to folks, but the stockpile ran out before I reached the front of the line. The rest of the night, I traveled from the motel to Henson Hall to Krystal. On one trip in the early morning, I watched a UT student ski down the hill on 17th Street. He made a sharp turn west on to Cumberland Avenue and continued the entire length of the street with no fear that he would encounter a single car. At 3:30 that next afternoon, I finally maneuvered my car out of the parking lot and headed home.

In the early 1980’s, I left teaching and took a job as a school fundraiser. My territory stretched from Cookeville to six counties in North Carolina and from Chattanooga to the Tri-Cities. Kirby was the regional manager, and during the winter of 1983, he decided that every representative should meet. We drove to Eden, North Carolina, and spent time eating, playing golf, and plotting strategies. On the final day of the get-together, snow was predicted, and all of us begged him to leave early and get ahead of the storm.

By the time I started home, fine granules of snow pelted the windshield. Worsening conditions moved in, and sleet fell. I drove down the Interstate in Winston-Salem and glanced up in my rearview mirror in time to see two cars spinning in synchronized circles. I exited and found a room at the Holiday Inn. That night, an inch or more of ice covered everything outside. For two days I was held captive. Even after the roads cleared enough to travel west, traffic stopped for 4 hours as a wrecked semi that crashed into a bridge was cleared. I held my breath across the mountains and finally breathed easy when I reached the Newport exit on I-40.

The blizzard of 1993 caused plenty of headaches for folks, but my old ‘87 Pathfinder and I braved roads as we rescued my brother and his family from their home that had lost power. The deep snow made driving nearly impossible, but that old reliable 4-wheel drive vehicle allowed me to get out of the house. By the time the snow melted, parents were begging for school to open, and kids were, for a change, also ready to get back in the routine.

Predictions for the coming winter include colder, wetter weather. That sounds as if Knoxville is in for plenty of snow and blustery conditions. I hope the prognosticators are wrong. I know this much: summer weather rarely keeps me stuck inside the house. Folks can take all the cold weather they want; I’ll always take hot temperatures and sunny days.

The Wisdom of Dads

I recently changed jobs, but my duties still revolve around moving vehicles. In this new position, my travels are confined to the parking lot of the business. I’ve met some new folks and talked with them about a variety of things. It’s during one of those workdays that I discovered some wise words.
Most of the men are dads; they’ve been through the wars with their children, and from those experiences they have come up with several pearls of wisdom which have been shared with their children. I contributed some of mine during the conversation. In the end, we smiled, shook our heads, called to mind personal memories, and then sent up small prayers of thanks.
Every dad, as well as every mom, knows that at some point a verbal sparring match will commence. It begins around the time the first offspring becomes a teenager. What were once a pleasant home environments turn into a war zones where dads and the children lob explosive barbs at each other.
My daughter loved me dearly, at least until she entered high school. Then we argued and engaged in a battle
of wills. At one meal when she was only 14, Lacey said,
“I wish I could leave here and never come back!”
My reply: “I wish I could help you pack your bags!”
Four years later we followed Lacey to MTSU to begin college. After 45 minutes, Amy, Dallas, and I hopped back in the car and headed home. That night, my daughter called home and cried that we hadn’t spent any time with her. I was confused and told her that I thought she wanted to get away. A transformation occurred right then, and nothing better came from her college years than the return of the daughter who I love so much and who loves me.
Most dads set limits on their children. They set times to be home and limits as to when and where the children can go. The age-old complaint from the teen is,
“All of my friends can…, so why can’t I?”
A fellow employee told me how he answered the question. He simply stated,
 “I don’t feed your friends, but I feed you. I don’t care what they do.”
Sometimes our teenaged children are under the mistaken expression that they are brilliant; they are sure that their parents are drooling morons. This same friend had a serious discussion with his daughter. He told her that she needed to find something big to be in charge of while she knew everything. He added that it was important for her to do it immediately because her gift of knowing it all wouldn’t last too long.
Of course, sometimes dads allow quips to roll out of our mouths before they think. I’ve responded to some unbelievable stories from my children with,
“I was born at night, but not last night.”
Bill Cosby, before he fell into total disgrace, recalled that his dad threatened his misbehavior with the line,
“I’ll take you out and make another one that looks just like you!”
Perhaps the best comment that my new friend made to his daughter summed up the situation and what dads are trying to do. He once told his daughter,
“As far as life is concerned, you can see just to the top of the hill. I can see what’s on the other side. I can help you prepare for what lies ahead if you’ll take advantage of my experience.”

That’s what we dads usually are trying to do: guide our children toward the right decisions. If we are successful enough, our kids turn out to be good persons who seem to have listened to our unsolicited pieces of wisdom. The greatest compliment my daughter has given came after she’d disciplined her son Madden. She said she stopped talking and immediately realized that she sounded just like me. That’s good enough for me; maybe our “young-uns” are listening and will pass on the wisdom of dads.


The world faces continuing problems: assaults by extremists groups who seek to destroy anything or anyone that opposes them, threats of war from countries with chips on their shoulders, and natural disasters that leave millions homeless and helpless. With all that goes on each day, it’s hard to believe the petty, ridiculous things on which individuals waste time and energy.
On television, I recently viewed a commercial for vitamins. I believe in taking them daily, no matter what the newest studies say. What made me roll my eyes is the fact that now adults have gummy vitamins. Our adult population has become a bunch of wimps, so much so that now many have to have a “taste good” product. What’s the big deal with having to swallow a pill? Okay, some individuals have throat problems that keep them from taking a tablet, but most of us can half-chew and then swallow most anything we want. Is it that important to the world to have a chewy vitamin that takes young adults back to their childhood?
In the last week, one big news story concerned illegal immigrants. Many people took offense to the term “anchor baby.” In fact, calls for apologies for the use of the term came swiftly and loudly. What’s the big deal? The definition of anchor baby is, “a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country who has birthright citizenship, especially when viewed as providing an advantage to family members seeking to secure citizenship or legal residency.”
Too many times, the noncitizen is someone who has illegally crossed the border into this country. The fact that plenty of individuals actually cross over so that their newborn is a citizen of this country is well documented. Even rich people from other countries fly pregnant women to the US to have their babies so that they can have citizenship.
If that does occur, then isn’t that newborn child, in fact, becoming an “anchor baby?” It would seem that being born here and automatically becoming a citizen serves as an “anchor” for the entire family of “noncitizens.” Perhaps eliminating automatic citizenship of babies born to noncitizens would end the term and also clear up many of the problems with illegal immigration.
The most absurd thing to come around of late has its origins here in Knoxville. The Office of Diversity at the University of Tennessee has encouraged students, staff, and faculty to begin the use of gender-neutral pronouns. New pronouns for “he, she, and they” would be “xe, xem, and xyr.” Heaven forbid that we offend or fail to recognize any minority group that raises hell about being excluded. Here’s a news flash: most folks don’t correctly use the pronouns that we now have (“THEM boys sure have a good team!”)  I, for one, never plan to use these absurd words so that some group feels better about themselves. We have masculine and feminine pronouns in our language. No matter how some might protest that they are gender neutral, the fact remains that they are one sex or the other. If they choose to change that designation, I say fine. However, don’t expect me to screw up an already difficult language to make them feel better.
This country faces many obstacles. Murders in major urban areas continue to increase each year; distrust between minorities and police fuels riots and violence; politicians are more interested in solidifying power than in working together to find solutions to problems. Those are things on which all of us should focus our attention. That includes those at universities that allow even a second of consideration for such trivial subjects as new pronouns.

 “Xe, xem, xy”—SERIOUSLY?