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Downhomer
A saga of dogs

Last week I spoke of how we always feed our second-day leftovers to the family dogs. It goes without saying, then, that we have dogs, and not just one. Thankfully, these that make their home at our place are all outside creatures, are never in the house, but have full reign over our yard. They are healthy and husky dogs that come eagerly to devour all those leftovers we give them. In addition, Walter estimates that he buys at least three 50lb. bags of dog food for every month, even when those animals that we feed are not actually our own. To start with, there were nine in that pack of dogs. Now, and not because of anything we have done, they are down to five. This ongoing saga of our dogs began with a family member who had a much-treasured pet: a half Chocolate Lab, half German shepherd by the name of Cookie. This particular dog was kept outside when its owner was at work, but was taken in at night when the work day was over. Then when that daughter was planning to take a vacation, she asked if we would keep Cookie for her while she was away. “Yes. We’ll do that, but only if we can keep her outside. I just don’t want to have a dog in the house, even one as nice as Cookie.” So we worked it out. Unfortunately, after Cookie settled in at our place, she quickly developed a romance with a nearby neighbor‘s dog. We tried to protect her from that hasty attraction, but who can say nay to nature. Thus, in time Cookie gave birth to eight puppies, their father being that traveling salesman dog next door. Dismayed at this turn of events, and considering ourselves not up to the work involved in caring for eight dogs (nine counting the mother) we moaned and groaned a lot. Then someone said to us, “The best time to get rid of unwanted puppies is before their eyes open.”
When I asked how I could do that, they said: “You take them out and drown them.” Horrified, I vowed I could not do that, and neither would Walter. Our choices then, were down to slim or none. The daughter to whom the mother dog belonged worked two jobs, and felt she was not able to handle this turn of event. At our house, we knew we couldn’t just take them out somewhere and abandon them, so wanting them or not, we now had nine (spell that NINE) dogs to take care of. Then, as the pups grew, I started to explore the possibility of finding good homes for them. I began to put up flyers and wrote ads to run. No results came from any of these. Next, I began to call the supposedly available animal rescue services, those here, and those in outlying areas. When I told one of these outfits that the pups were not our dogs, and we were having trouble caring for them, I was asked: “How old are they?”
Thinking to strengthen my case, I answered, “They’re a little more than three months old.” “ Well, you have established ownership. After you keep a pup for three months, it becomes your dog.” I was told. Other such organizations said pretty much the same thing, and none offered us any possible solution. So we struggled along, feeding them and letting them live in safety in the place where they seemed happy to be. However, we are now down to those four pups, plus their mother.
As it happens, our house and yard is nestled among and surrounded by 38 acres of hills and woods, where the dogs love to roam. So do coyotes and other wild animals. With the way those critters have increased in recent years, we think some of them might have killed the dogs missing from our group, this a thing we deeply regret. Now to end this saga, let me say that if you would have need of a good watchdog, or just any dog, I recommend one of ours to you….


Education and Common Sense
Children should be the teacher’s main task

I started my teaching career in a little one-room schoolhouse on the north side of Green River in Butler County, Kentucky, in January of 1944—seventy-one years ago. As I look back on beginning my teaching career with only a high school education (all the qualified teachers had gone to the Service or War Work and they were desperate for teachers) I would have been petrified if I had known what I know now. But I knew how to read, write, spell, and work math, and I sincerely wanted the children to learn, and I was bigger than they were,  so what was the big deal?
Fortunately, the children had been trained to mind the teacher, and the next year (when the Board of Education had given me my own school instead of having to finish a school another teacher had quit) I started teaching at Wilson school, about twenty miles from my home.
I loved the two years I spent teaching the fourteen children in that little school. Now it seems light years away from the way school is now; more like “The Little House on the Prairie” than the Twentieth Century. I had chalk for the blackboard, a waterbucket to hold water from the well, a coal bucket to hold the coal for the pot-bellied stove, a hand bell to ring to signal the children to come in, books for each grade, and a suggested schedule to follow so that I could get all the classes in. No electricity, telephone, radio or television, but we had an outside toilet. Nobody came by to see if I was doing anything. I did not have to tell anybody what I had done.
But I truly wanted the children to learn, and they did. ALL the children learned to read, and I took advantage of a “Traveling Library” provided by some entity in Frankfort. It was fifty books in a wooden shipping carton that, when opened, became a book shelf. They were assorted age-level books, but some of the older children read all of the books. All of the children read some of the books.
They all learned to spell and work arithmetic, and I realize now I was in an ideal situation. Fifty years later we had a reunion of all those children, and every one that was still alive came back and remembered those years fondly.
After I went to college and found out all the things I should have been worried about when I first became a teacher, I got married and my husband took me to his home town of Paintsville, in eastern Kentucky. Again I lucked out, because one of the best high schools in the state needed someone with my qualifications. I was privileged to teach under the guidance of a wonderful principal, Oran C. Teater, who later became Superintendent of Paintsville Independent School.
Teater’s motto was “WE THINK CHILDREN FIRST”, and he really did. He truly wanted every child to learn. He pretended to be a jock, but he was really a scholar and a psychologist. He usually knew when a child had to sleep with the butcher knife under her pillow because she was afraid of one of her parents. I never took a student to the office that he or she did not come back with a better attitude. Sometimes he punished, but oftener he talked. I am sure he knew what was going on all over the school, but he let the teachers teach without overt invasive supervision. The students and teachers cooperated and the school produced good teachers who scattered all over the United States. My Facebook is full of many of them.
These days, I hear so many teachers complaining that they can’t teach children. They have to teach subject matter and how to make good scores on tests. They have to teach what is specified each day and log on the computer that they are going to teach it and then spend precious time logging on the computer saying that they taught it. I believe too many people who don’t know a thing about teaching children are making the rules as to what should be taught and how.
I am so grateful that all my years of teaching were spent in schools where thay gave me  a classroom and a textbook- or in the case of teaching how to use the library, I made up my own course of study, and nobody micro-managed me! Teaching was fun! teaching was an art! and a science! I was also blessed to be librarian in a high school for thirty years and have the same students from seventh through twelfth grades. I could get to know each one and find books each one would like to read. Many would come back and discuss the books they had just read. It was so rewarding!
I wish all the modern teachers could teach CHILDREN instead of STANDARDS!


Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

Control freak?

When I was 10 years old my Dad brought home the first portable television set I had ever seen. I was in amazement at the smaller compact version of my favorite object; it was white and was sitting on a gold colored piece of furniture that resembled a cart. To me, it was beautiful and Dad and I watched many Gillette Friday Night fights on it as I rubbed Absorbine Jr. on his feet. I can’t tell you how many times I turned that TV channel for Dad during the course of an evening, but I would calculate it was at least a hundred.
That’s why I found it equally amazing when several years later televisions came equipped with remote control devices that allowed you to change channels whether you were in a vertical or horizontal position from anywhere in a room without ever getting up.
For years I had thought I was a control freak, but Ronnie wins hands down —- literally. I don’t even know what channel anything comes on anymore. I actually find myself asking him several times a day, “What’s on TV?”      
I actually can’t tell you exactly what our present day remote controls look like. I know that they fit in the palm of your hand and that they are usually in the hand of a male figure. At least that’s the way it is at our house. And when my son comes to visit, he has one in his hand, too.
I don’t know why but men believe that they are the only gender that can properly operate a remote control. (How many times have you said you couldn’t get the channel on and he grabs it out of your hand and says, “You’re not pointing it in the right direction?”). I mean, how often do you see a woman with one of them in her hand? Seriously? If Ronnie is in front of the TV, the remote control is in his possession. If it leaves his hand it’s an inadvertent action. It’s as if he thinks if he relinquishes control of the object he can never get it back. Often times, it’s still in his hand when he goes to sleep. 
One day last week we couldn’t find the control to the bedroom TV. All I can say is “Chaos”! Every single inch of the house was combed as if a SWAT team had entered through the front door. It was eventually located in his coat pocket. (And he wanted to know what I had done with it!) 
I do have to admit that several years ago when the remote was misplaced I found it in my purse. I had mistaken it for my cell phone and didn’t realize it until I tried to use it. I can still remember how frustrated I was when I couldn’t get a dial tone. (He’s never let me live that one down.)
Anymore, I really don’t watch as much TV as I listen to it. I’m a multi-tasking type so I can do lots of other things without glancing in its direction. Unless it’s something I really have to concentrate on, I don’t need a visual —- and I certainly don’t need a remote!
All I can say to my female counterparts out there in TV land who are experiencing the same problem with their husbands as I do with mine when it comes to remote controls, “Stay tuned.”
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!    


Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

With age comes some pretty good memories

In just a few weeks I’ll have me another one of those birthday things. I don’t mind having them because as a friend of mine put it, it sure beats the alternative. But I will admit that it is kind of annoying when everybody else seems to know it too. I keep getting phone calls from total strangers who say they know my birthday is coming up soon and they know exactly how old I’ll be. The good news, said one guy with a heavy foreign accent, is that he can help me supplement my income now that I’ve reached that “special” age. I didn’t listen long enough to get all the details, but as I hung up the phone, I had to wonder if he knew who Benjamin Franklin was, but mostly I wondered where he’s been for the past forty years when a supplement to my income would have really been welcome.
I had to laugh last week when I got a letter from a company that makes those little three-wheel motorized vehicles that promises to be “stylish and comfortable with handlebars for easy steering.” And, the best news of all – if I qualify – I might get one for nothing.
I’m sure, as is evidenced by a visit to our favorite shopping center,  there are plenty of folks my age, or even younger, that are in need of such an appliance. But I’m not one of them, at least not yet. I guess the next thing I must get used to is the idea that everybody seems to think that just because I’ve long since reached the age of modern maturity, I’m supposed to be old. But I’m not. 
I’m thinking it’s just one of those false positives people talk about all the time. You see, they say “With age comes wisdom.” Guess the rule is that one needs to be real, real old before that would apply. Despite an ample amount of gray hair, ugly age spots and tons of wrinkles, I’ve yet to experience the “wisdom” part of the old axiom. Ergo, as far as I’m concerned, that proves my point. Not old, just older.
 One thing my growing “older” has made me realize, though, is that no matter how alone you think you are when it comes to certain ideas, there are lots of others who feel the same way. I’ve discovered, too, that one of the reasons that it’s taken so long to discover that particular fact is because one pretty much has to be beyond the age of giving a hoot about what others think before he has the courage to say what’s on his mind.
 But I don’t feel a bit uncomfortable admitting all that now because I’m one hundred percent sure there are many just like me out there who still remember the days of Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott, Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall; when popcorn was a nickel a box and movies made sense.
Perhaps I haven’t reached the “age of wisdom” yet, but it feels pretty good to know with age also come some pretty good memories.


Downhomer - By Eileen Parrigin Young
A little bread, a little meat, and the habits of life

We are all creatures of habit. We tend to follow the patterns of living that was formed in us in childhood. When we are adults, the habits we learned from those who peopled our world, have become as second nature to us. We do our daily routines so repeatedly that the ways in which we do them is almost an involuntary process. We follow those old habits automatically, unthinkingly, doing them by rote, as it were. And old habits are very difficult to unlearn.
The women in my family always cooked three full meals a day, organizing and preparing what they fixed to be ready whenever the family came in. What’s more, those queens of our kitchen always made a plenteous supply of food to eat, for they never knew who might wander by for a share. Any who did, always found a plateful.
Looking back, I remember my grandmother as a very good cook. I still relish the thought of her little graveled out new potatoes, scraped but not peeled, and then fried whole. I remember also that her fried chicken, her hot biscuits were out-of-this world delicious. She never used a recipe, just did it. I always marveled at this, how she knew exactly what to do, and how it was that it always came out the way she wanted it to. I think now that the secret of her abilities at this had to be that she always seemed to enjoy it.
In time, as my grandmother grew older, her daughters took over the cooking in their home. Good cook as she herself had always been, those daughters were even better. How could they not be, for didn’t they have her how-to-do-it pattern to follow? My mother was one of those grandmother’s daughters. Now! I am here to tell you that while my aunts were all good cooks, Mom was the best!
Now it is a fact that any little boy, any little girl will tell you their grandmothers; their mothers were the best cooks in the whole world. As they grow up, those same little girls, little boys know this as truth, ingrained as it is on their hearts, in their minds. As a child, I always knew the women in my family were all excellent cooks, and I still think so. In this same way, my own children seem to think that I also am fairly good at this. However, I do know I could never hold a candle to my mother, who learned the knack of meal preparation from her mother, the same way I mostly learned from mine.
I have often wondered if like me my Mom had the empty nest, my children-are-gone syndrome. I think she probably did, for I remember how she kept on cooking for the whole family, even after they were all grown and mostly ate at their own homes. I do this same kind of thing. I can’t seem to cook just enough food for two people. My old habits of cooking for the whole family is still ingrained in me, nudges at me. Anytime I start a meal, I always think I have to make enough for 10 people. My kids sometimes do come to share with us. However, more and more they seem to want to stay home, eat at their own houses. Nevertheless, I keep right on doing my habitual thing. Consequently, I often have lots of leftovers, and when we get to where we want no more of them, we give whatever scraps is left to the family dogs.
So far, I still fix a special dinner for Sunday. As a result, Monday is a leftover day at my house. Then I cook on Tuesday, and Wednesday will become another leftover day. Actually, if I just planned it right, I’d only have to cook every other day. I am not exactly sure if I can handle this, for old habits die slowly. Mostly, they never leave, but just lie in wait for the right circumstances that will let them be reactivated. So today then, I will cook, praising God that I can.



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