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Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

For several months now, Ronnie and I have known that some friends of ours were going to quit their safe, secure jobs and become missionaries.  
Becoming a missionary is a worthy endeavor. a selfless act of love and devotion. At one time I wanted to become a Peace Corps worker and go to far away, exotic places and help people less fortunate become self-sufficient and, consequently, help them lead better lives. When I mentioned it to my father, he quickly apprised me of the fact that making 32 cents an hour was not all that lucrative and that I should find a better way to help others while supporting myself in the meantime. 
When we first heard that our friends wanted to become missionaries, Ronnie and I thought about how courageous these young people were to leave behind their worldly possessions and families and travel go a secluded destination to minister to disadvantaged and uninformed people. How noble!  
While most missionaries choose obscure locales where it is apparent that people might not have heard the word of God (islands in the South Pacific, remote areas along the Amazon basin, darkest Africa etc.), our friends decided that they could  effectively minister to people in more obvious places like —— France. 
Yes, folks, our friends are giving up the “good life” and going to France to minister to the masses. Naturally, I would have never thought of going to “gay Paree” and preaching to people who have probably heard “the message” and attend church on Sundays. I think it would be exciting to minister to people while walking on the Champs Elysees or while sunbathing on the Riveria. I should have thought of it myself! What better place to ‘smhooze’ while ascending the Eiffel Tower? And what about Italy? They have so many cathedrals and places of worship it would be easy to sit in St. Mark’s Cathedral and hand out pamphlets to the tourists. And, Greece would be a perfect place, too. At least you don’t have to worry about ending up as the main course in a headhunter’s supper. 
Although I am being sarcastic, I know these two well enough that sharing the word of God anywhere and everywhere you go is a wonderful outreach.  There are many people here in America who do not know God and need to hear the gospel so that they may have eternal life. Spreading Christianity, regardless of where you are, is the responsibility of all of us. Even if you’re not a missionary, the way you live your life and how you treat others is a ministry in itself. 
However, we were somewhat taken aback that France, a country where most everyone is already aware of the story, a country that celebrates Christmas and Easter, would not be a location that one would think needed missionaries. 
The last letter they sent included a card that gave various amounts of donations that you could give to help the young couple as they traveled to France to do their work. In lieu of a monetary gift, Ronnie and I decided to buy two tickets to Florida. What do you think about the Everglades? 
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile! 

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

Winters then, winters now… and never the twain shall meet    

In less than a week, a bunch of guys up in Pennsylvania will dress up in fancy clothes, put on top hats and turn their eyes to a furry little whistle pig to see whether or not he saw his shadow.  If you follow folk lore and all that stuff, that’s all well and good, but regardless of whether he does or whether he doesn’t, it will still be winter and I will still have to fight this feeling of glumness every time I pass the sign on the bank and see those chilly temperatures.
It didn’t used to be that way. Winters used to be fun.
When I was a kid, summer, fall, winter, spring (which was also the name of the Indian princess on The Howdy Dowdy Show) were all the same. Living in a coal camp at a time when the crop of kids often matched the production of coal, there was always something going on outside regardless of the weather, that long awkward pause between the beginning of winter and the beginning of spring being no exception.
I suspect that the primary reason that the kids I grew up with – be it rain or snow – were always ready and available for a game of cowboys and Indians or tackle football (which was always a lot more fun when played on a field – or back yard – covered with two or three inches of new-fallen snow), is that our mothers – no doubt to preserve their sanity – wrapped us as warmly as possible, pulled our boggans down over our ears  and shoved us out the backdoor as soon as we’d have a hearty breakfast on non-school days, and immediately after a supper of soup beans and cornbread when school was in session. I was never actually told not to come back inside until it was too dark to even play a game of kick-the-can, but looking back, I think it was pretty much understood and it seems I can recall a look of disappointment on Mom’s face when she’d realize that I had returned for the night while there were still thirty or forty minutes of daylight left, which meant of course,  thirty or forty minutes more of peace and quiet for her.
But, as they say, that was then and this is now. I guess that since we still have a ways to go before spring arrives, I’ll just have to grin and bear it. It’s not that I just can’t wait to turn a new ground or plant onions and lettuce; I just look forward to those first hints of green to appear on my hedge that promises that thick, rich green crop of foliage that will, as if by magic, spread itself over those naked, monochromatic hillsides, and replace the covering of ugly drabness that Mother Nature has seen fit to provide. Before we can learn to spell Punxsutawney Phil, it’ll be summertime again and we’ll likely all be wishing we could drive by the bank again for a glimpse at those chilly temperatures.

Flowers in the Garden of Life

One of the fringe benefits of my life has been the people who, once crossing my path, have lingered forever afterwards in my heart. It might not matter how casual our first meeting was, might not even matter if I did not often see them. I knew from the time of our first encounter that for one reason or another I was destined to love them. My friend Isobel Mowat was as this. It had nothing to do with the fact that after I moved to a farm in Michigan, she was the first to come, a stranger to my door, bearing a freshly baked loaf of bread to welcome me. It was not even the bread she brought. It was instead the recognition of an unwavering friendship we each could sense in the other. From our first meeting this was exactly how it was to be.
Then there was Mae Conley. She and I started out as seed swapping buddies. Eventually, this old time country woman became as dear to me as a sister. As with Isobel, she is now gone. Even so, I am blessed by memories of both of them. There have been many others whose names I sometimes forget but whose faces will now and then swim up through the sea of forgetfulness to be with me again, fresh and true to life as when I first knew them. Such was my dear friend Louise Meek. We two didn’t get well acquainted till late in her life, she having her membership at the old Whitehouse Church, and I at Hammond. Then Louise changed her membership to Hammond and we became fast friends. I loved her devotion to the Lord, and appreciated that in spite of the burdens of life, her sense of humor never failed her. One morning Louise woke, said to her daughter that she thought she’d go back to sleep for a while; which she did, going from a peaceful sleep to her new life where there was no more pain, no more cancer. I miss her; will always remember what a good friend she was. Then there was a lovely woman by the name of Ava Geraldine Conley. I actually only saw this lady one time, that being the day she came from her home in Nicholasville to bring me several pots of live orchids. She had read in my column how the severe cold of that winter had killed my collection of these fragile plants. So she called the newspaper to get my number, then called me to meet her; that she had a gift for me. So at her request, I went to the old K-Mart on Forty, where she was waiting for me. I was surprised that she was so small and delicate looking, almost dwarfed by the pots of orchids she brought. I was dumbfounded. Seven pots of live orchid plants! I wondered in a jaw dropping kind of reaction why this lady would do me this great kindness, and orchids are not cheap. Another time, she came to Paintsville to bring me some more. She had tried to call me, but getting no answer, had left the flowers at the newspaper office for them to give to me. I called her afterwards to thank her, but was never again to see her after that first meeting. I did not know that she had passed away till I read her obituary in The Paintsville Herald. I shed tears at her lose but rejoiced that surely her kindness will be written down on the plus side in her book of life. I have always liked the different approach we free-lance writers bring to our columns. Clyde Pack writes about coal camp memories. June Rice writes about Education and Common Sense. In addition, anything that Sara Blair does will bring us a smile, a chuckle. As for myself, I mostly write a Hodge-Podge of things; my ongoing love for my Savior, my family, my children; memories of old friends. Everlasting friends.
My mother used to say: Gather your flowers while you may. I consider friends as flowers in the garden of my life.

Education and Common Sense
How Old Is a Thirteen-Year-Old Girl?

This week the nation has been treated to the accounts of an escapade engaged in by a couple of teenagers from Grayson County. We have been told that the 18-year-old boy and his 13-year-old girlfriend have gone on a “Bonnie and Clyde” type of crime spree, stealing trucks, wrecking them, stealing other trucks and writing bad checks over three or four states, ending up in Florida.
They were finally found sleeping in the bed of one of their stolen trucks. I saw the picture of the young man on the television news this morning. He seemed relieved that the adventure was over and he was getting to go back home, even if it was under the strong arm of the law.
Because he is 18 and the girl is 13, he will probably be charged as an adult sex offender, as the age of consent for sex in Kentucky is 16. His mother said the girl told them she was 19 when they first became acquainted.
Of course I only know about this case what I have read in the papers and seen on television. I feel sorry for everybody concerned. The sheriff, who had formerly worked in the school system, said the young man had always made bad choices. I also heard that the 13-year-old girl was in the custody of her GREAT-grandparents. Can you imagine what a hard life that child has had? Her parents can’t take care of her; her grandparents are not suitable either, and her great-grandparents have to step in? I would certainly hate to have to be responsible for the care and reading and discipline of my great-grandchildren, though I love them dearly.
I don’t know anything about this child, but I am an authority on eighth-grade girls! For about 30 years I was the librarian at Paintsville Independent High School, and about 25 of those years I had the seventh through the 12 grades in my library. I got to know very well the idiosyncracies of the children in each grade.
The seventh graders came into the junior high-high school building a little in awe, as they had just been demoted from the oldest in the building to the youngest, as we had the junior high and high school buildings attached to each other with the library in the middle.  About the middle of the eighth grade, the girls suddenly acquired grown-up bodies, raging hormones, and their judgement did not grow as rapidly as the rest of their personalities.
Suddenly, we teachers found out that many of the eighth grade girls, who wanted desperately to go to the junior-senior prom in the spring, were getting very cozy with the junior boys, and the eighth grade girls were snagging many of the dates to the prom, leaving the junior and senior girls who did not already have steady boyfriends dateless!
We teachers fixed that by passing an edict that a girl had to be a high school student to go to the prom. We let some of the eighth grade girls be “servers” wearing the costume that carried out the theme of the prom. They could go and observe, but not take some high school girl’s potential date. This seemed to work well during the time I was there. I don’t know what the rule is these days.
I did observe the attitudes of many of the hundreds of students under my tutelege. The eighth grade year seemed to be the hardest for the girls. They suddenly seemed grown, but they did not seem to know what to do with their new bodies. If we were ever going to have trouble with a girl, it seemed she was in eighth grade—usually they are thirteen.
For the boys, it was sixteen—and a sophomore! Until they got a driver’s license and a girlfriend they were impossible to do anything with! I remember so many boys who settled down and became civilized when those two milestones were passed!
I just hope the law doesn’t blame the Grayson county 18-year-old for every bit of the crime spree the couple engaged in, because my opinion is that the 13-year-old girl was just as involved in the planning as he was!

Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

Grammatically speaking

People who are well acquainted with me are aware of the fact that I used to be a grammar snob. By saying “used to be,” I simply mean, like everyone else, as I’ve grown older I’ve become accustomed to the way we talk in normal conversations and have compromised my own grammar due to, for the lack of better words, lingual laziness. (Please note that I’m not a snob about anything else. I’m a terrible housekeeper, I’m a so-so cook, and I am continuously washing towels over and over again because I let them mildew.)
I was reminded of my grammatical tendencies this past week when a friend’s daughter posted on her Facebook page: “When a person starts a sentence with ‘I seen,’ more than likely the rest of the sentence will not be ‘the inside of a book.’” Upon reading this statement I literally LOL, which in internet language means “Laughing Out Loud.”
In the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, I wrote college papers on every subject for students attending colleges and universities around the state. I was paid for these essays, term papers, and twice, that I can remember, papers for people working on their Master’s. Currently, there are folks who are treating patients, attorneys who are representing people in court, and educators teaching children that I helped in getting their undergraduate degrees. The worst grade I ever received was from a paper on “Religion” I wrote for a student at a private college. But you can be sure of one thing, the grammar was never challenged although the content was. He received a C.
So when I used to hear people say things like “I have saw so many things,” or “I have went so many places.” I cringed. I don’t do so now because my grammar skills have dwindled to the point that I don’t even flinch when I hear myself say, “Ain’t it the truth.” However, I do think it is important to have good grammar skills because speaking properly gives others the impression that you might be smarter than you really are.   
Alpharetta Archer, an esteemed language teacher in the Paintsville school system for over 30 years, retired from teaching high school and took a position at Prestonsburg Community College (now BCTCS) teaching foreign languages. When she quit that job, she took a position with Social Services and worked with my mother for several years. One day Mother said that she heard Alpharetta lamenting as she walked down the hallway, “Oh, my Lord! Now they’re putting an ‘H’ in front of it!” Of course, she was referring to people saying “hain’t” instead of “ain’t.” Needless to say she was appalled.   
Presently, I am wanting to learn a foreign language since I feel confident that I can’t learn much more English. For obvious reasons, I would like to learn Spanish; then I would be able to press 2 whenever I’m contacted by telemarketers or call for information, and I could read all the instructions on any product sold in the United States. The only problem is that it would be cheaper to buy crack-cocaine in substantial quantities than to purchase a foreign language program that isn’t cost-prohibitive for the common user.  If I spent three months of my income to learn to say “Si” or “Adios” people would think I’m C-R-A-Z-Y! (Of course, many already have that conception.) 
So the next time you see me, don’t wonder if I’m critiquing your grammar because I’m not; at my age, I’m hard-pressed to even hear what you’re saying.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile.

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