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Education and Common Sense
Election ramblings of an exasperated TV watcher

Well, It will soon be over. We will soon be able to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! without having to listen to the shortcomings of Alison Lundergan Grimes and those of Mitch McConnell. I wonder if they had applied the amount of money they have both spent on running for this particular office this year to the national debt that the country would have been better off and we would not have had nearly as negative a view of each of them!
None of the ads have changed my mind, and I voted for the one I thought was the lesser of the evils. (I have already voted by absentee ballot, due to my old age and the difficulty of getting to the polls.)
I got personal (robo) calls from both of the candidates, as well as calls from obviously paid callers. One caller kept wanting me to vote for Senator “O’Connell.” Some people have reported getting calls from Pat Boone. I don’t know who he was electioneering for. I feel cheated. I would have liked to have had a call from Pat Boone!
But after Tuesday it will be over unless we have a contested vote somewhere. I always like to sit up late and find out who won. I have not missed voting in any election that I was able to vote in since I reached the age of 21. In the Dark Ages, one had to be 21 to vote.
Voting for the people who run our government is a right that should be treasured by every citizen. If we do not exercise that privilege we don’t have any right to complain when our officials are not governing to suit us.
I am concerned that elections can be stolen if we are not vigilant that people do not vote more than once or that non-citizens may also be allowed to vote.
One of my mother’s poems, written when her brother, Homer Beliles was running for County Court Clerk of Butler County, Kentucky in the mid-nineteen-twenties began:
“We must go to the election/ And choose the officers we want./ We must choose them well and wisely.? We’ll regret it if we don’t.”
I think of Mother’s poem every time I cast my vote, and I try to choose “well and wisely.”
I am grateful for the Founding Fathers of our nation, who constructed a democracy that has lasted longer than any other democracy has lasted.
I pray that  we can keep it strong and viable until Jesus comes!


Downhomer
This and That, Memories and Signs of the
Times


Driving home from church on Sunday, Walter and I talked about how beautiful the hills were. Along that road we traveled, the land was adorned in autumn splendor, the trees growing on the up and down contours of their under-pining painting a picture no artist could ever truly portray. Only the God who gave all of nature its birth knew the secret mixture of those vibrant colors.
Thus, and even imperfect as my puny understanding of all this is, the afterglow of that technicolor panorama had me thanking God for the beauty that filled our eyes and soaked into our minds.
As we drove that day, we identified maples and oaks and sycamores, along with black walnuts, sourwoods and birches by their familiarity as much as by their specific coats of many colors, each of them according to their species.
We noticed that most of the dogwood had already shed their leaves, standing shorn of all their autumn glory. Only the redbud still wore any kind of covering, in this case not the lovely leaves the rest of the forest wore, but the million of seed pods that cling so tenaciously to each and every branch; enough seed that could replant a hundred thousand redbuds, as nature allows.
“You know,” I said, “I have noticed that among all these other trees, we sure don’t see many hickories. I can remember when I was young that there were plenty of those, and I also remember how we loved to gather their nuts in the fall. Maybe they weren’t as good as black walnuts, or butternuts, but hard as it was to pick out those delicate little nutmeats, I remember how much I loved the distinctive taste of them. I also can remember that hickory nuts were an important part of our fall gatherings.
Always, a bunch of us, mostly our siblings, some cousins, a few friends, would congregate on a Saturday morning at some prearranged spot where we knew some of the nut trees grew, knew also the exact time their limbs would be weighed down with their products so that we gathered bushels and bushels of just whatever nuts were available.
And it wasn’t that we gathered them because our family food supplies required them, but just because we enjoyed doing it. It was an event to us; one we looked forward to from the time those first nuts began to form till it was time to gather them. Bottom line was that we all knew where the different kind of nut trees grew, just as we knew where papaws were to be found, and later on. persimmons.”
“I also remember this.” Walter said. “For us, it would be me, brothers Hershel and Columbus, sisters Pearl and Dorothy, and her friends Agnes Blevins and Isobel Pope.
Also, Ruth Butcher often went on one of our nut gatherings, and now and then Clara Rose Meeks. We usually spent the day, scouting the woods, roaming the hills, climbing fences to get into some pasture where we knew a hickory nut tree grew.”
“Did you only gather hickory nuts?” I asked.
“Our bunch did.” Walter answered. “Joe Hickman and his daughter Bonnie Jean, with whoever was in their bunch, mostly gathered the black walnuts. We did too, once in a while, but first of all we gathered hickory nuts; not those little pig nuts but the ones from the scaly bark hickories with those big nuts that are so easy to hull out. Plus, they didn’t stain your hands like hulling out black walnuts will do.”
“But you still gather black walnuts, and you still hull them out.” I commented.
“Yes. I’d also gather hickory nuts if I could, but those trees are few and few between. There’s still a few of them around, but they don’t bear like they used to do!” Walter declared.
“Signs of the times, I suppose.” I summed up!


Poison Oak
And that’s the way it was some sixty odd years ago

It’s pretty much a given that for most of us seniors while we were growing up in this part of the world, our community consisted of a one-or-two room school, a church, and a country store.  In my case, the school was the H. S. Howe’s Community School, the church was Freewill Baptist and the store belonged to the Northeast Coal Company.  
The schools, with classrooms having more than one grade level at a time, had distinct advantages. Many a first grader learned all about addition and subtraction while listening to the teacher explain it to older students only two rows away; same with verbs and adjectives and the configuration of the solar system. Learning took place in some cases through the process of eavesdropping. Sort of like the party line but not quite as much fun.
Not so with church, however, on those Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights when we’d pack ourselves next to a watchful parent on made-for-discomfort pews. Too many fire and brimstone sermons were delivered with eye-to-eye contact from familiar booming voices from those called by the Almighty to spread the word and who insisted, “Your sins will find you out.”
Whether we meant to or not, we did learn right from wrong. Every once in a while, what we learned in school was in direct conflict with what we learned in church. In those cases, with only a few minutes of internal debate, and most of the time with those oft-repeated references to “the wisdom of God and the foolishness of man” echoing in our noggins, the church view always won. 
If reasoning still kept a question unanswered, the company store was always available. In my case, a forum of coal miners, both seasoned and green, every one of them as smart, or smarter that Wolf Blitzer is today, could always be found sitting around a pot-bellied stove in the wintertime or on the porch steps in the summer, solving the world’s problems. I often wondered how different our life would have been if those solutions could ever have reached Washington.
All that, of course, didn’t make us grow up to be any smarter than those who grew up elsewhere. But at the same time, it didn’t seem to hurt us either. We’ve spread ourselves far and wide and have continued to make our presence felt. I guess a person could not expect much more than that.


Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

I'm a proud parent
Since I attend hundreds of doctor’s appointments (or so it seems), I spend a lot of time in a vehicle. And because I’m usually “riding shotgun,” I have the advantage of noticing the scenery and seeing the cars we pass and the people who are in them. That’s not always a good thing, but it’s never boring.
What I’ve started to notice over the last couple of years are those bumper stickers that refer to people’s children and/or the schools their children attend. For example, “My Child Attends Harvard.”  Of course, when you pass a Cadillac Escalade that sports that adage, you secretly smile that your little “GMC puddle jumper” overcame them even though you blew your engine and received a speeding ticket for doing it by going a 100 mph.
While cruising down I-75 the other day, we passed one that said, “My Child is a Straight A Student.” I looked at Ronnie and sighed. “I remember when JR was in high school and I could have had a bumper sticker that said, “My Son Passed His Freshmen Year!”  Or “So Proud! My Son Cleaned the Pizza Off His Ceiling Fan.” Don’t you think that would be more appropriate for the normal parent?
A couple of years ago people started putting those little stick-figures on their back windshields. You know, the ones that depict a father stick figure, and a mother, and then one, two, three, and sometimes four children and a dog and/or cat. At first glance they seem so, well, so cute. After all, that depicts the perfect family, right? Then things started to change.
Soon I observed that many of the stick-figures on the back windows didn’t have a father stick-figure. There was a mother stick-figure and two or three kids and a fish or a turtle. I immediately started thinking what happened to the father stick-figure. Did he die or did he leave the mother of four with the dog and cat and find a 22-year-old buxom, blonde beauty with an IQ of 20 that would fulfill his every need and deplete his bank account in less than six months? It happens you know.
Then I noticed two male stick-figures with two kids and a horse, then two female figures with no kids and an icon of a condo in Vail. I even saw a windshield that had all the stick figures crossed out except for the female one. There was a Margarita icon on beside it with a bumper sticker that read, “I’ve Had It! He Can Help Them With Their Homework!” When we passed that car, the woman had the radio blasting, a glint in her eye and a cell phone to her ear, and she was laughing hysterically.
Ronnie came home the other evening and he had glued a bumper sticker on our KIA which read, “Proud Of Our Housebroken Dogs! It Only Took 12 Years!”
Have a great week and don’t forget to VOTE! Keep smiling!


Education and Common Sense
Haven of Rest: Celebrating Ten Years of Ministry

My daughter, Cathy, son-in-law, Marvin, and I departed for Eastern Kentucky last Satuday morning about eight o’clock. We were going to a “Ten-Year Celebration” of the Haven of Rest, a ministry to the families of the prisoners incarcerated in the Big Sandy Federal Penitentiary located in Martin County, near the Johnson and Floyd County lines.
I had reread the published collection of columns I had written about the Ministry for the Paintsville Herald and the Butler County Banner beginning in 2001 the day before. Again I was astounded by the miracle that I had been a witness to almost 15 years ago. As we traveled the three-hour journey from Louisville to the mountain, I remembered the beginnings. I remembered being saddened that my friends, Eileen and Carl Mullins, who had led churches in Enterprise Association for years, had a tragedy in their family. Their “good” son who had never had as much as a speeding ticket, had shot and killed his estranged wife. He had pled guilty without a trial and been sentenced to twenty years in prison.
I remembered that Eileen told me how she had cried and prayed Romans 8:28 “For we know that all things work for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose,” and God had told her that she would build a place of ministry to the families of prisoners. She said she shouted all over the house when she read in the Martin County Newspaper that the government was going to build a huge prison on a strip-mined mountaintop in her county.
She was in a prayer group with Linda Booth, the wife of James Booth, the owner of thousands of acres of strip-mined land. Mr. Booth offered a plot of land next to his mining company offices to build the building. Then Eileen went to Oneida School to a missions meeting and shared with the visiting ministers about her call. One of the ministers there got her a speaking spot at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. The Convention gave her $2,000 “seed money.” She was off and running.
Eileen asked me to be her “side-kick” because I knew her well enough and was blunt enough to tell her when she was going too far. Also, I had been on several boards and had friends all over Kentucky who knew I would not be a part of a “scam.”
I thought about all the people who had helped. The Association prayer-walked the area; we had an artist design a logo without charging us; Chad Meade, a local CPA, has done our accountant work gratis. We’ve had lawyers and architects do thousands of dollars worth of work at no charge, and church people have come from as far as South Carolina to build buildings, and work. Ever so many people donated small and large amounts of money and products.
I was worried that the people who had family in prison would bring drugs and liquor to the Haven, but the ones I have met have been very nice people, and they have not damaged any of the rooms that I know of.
The Ministry now consists of a caretaker’s cottage, occupied by retired minister Harold Scroggs and his wife, Joyce, who God sent to take over when Eileen was no longer able to supervise it, a storage building, two buildings with a total of twenty sleeping rooms, each with private bath. One building has an apartment for an additional worker. It is now occupied by Robin and Becky Botkin, two mission volunteers that oversee the Heavenly Treasures Variety Store that helps the people in the surrounding area, and brings in some support for the Haven of Rest. The main building consists of an office, a laundry, a kitchen with two of everything, a dining area that seats 36, and a chapel. The Great Room has recently been redecorated by Linda Booth. The couches that were given to Eileen by various people have gone to Goodwill (or the trash) and much nicer and easily- cleaned leather couches are in their place. A fireplace that burns gas logs is at the end of the room with the TV monitor above the mantel. It showed a slide show of historic pictures of the ministry all the time we were there. The carpet has been replaced by a vinyl floor covering that looks exactly like hardwood. So much easier to clean.
I was happy to see my buddies Eileen and Judy. Judy Short was enlisted soon after I was, and she with her expertise and her hardware store, continues to be one of the most dependable supporters. We call each other “Margaret”. It is a private joke among us three.
I saw Forest and Louise Pack, Linda Booth, Tom Biddle, who is the Chairman of the Board. He prayed a wonderful prayer and did a beautiful job presenting Eileen Mullins with a Kentucky Colonel’ commission.
I was delighted to see the new pastor of Liberty Baptist Church and his wife, Clay and Heather Wheeler, and my old buddy Mrs. Bonnie Adams who is one of the pillars at Liberty. “Miss Ann” was there from where she now lives in Barbourville. She was there to help Eileen with taking care of the laundry and supervising the cooking on the weekends for many years.
I spent much of my three-hour stay signing books. “The Haven of Rest: From the Beginning.” It is a collection of the columns I had written over the six or seven -year period that the Haven of Rest was getting established. They still have plenty of the books at $5 each. Contact Haven of Rest, 58 Haven Place, Inez, KY 41224.
The Ministry does not charge inmates’ families to come for a weekend when they can visit their loved ones. They have found that they have to have each visitor send a $20 deposit to be sure they will really come. They may have their deposit returned if they need it. Their food is furnished, but they do the cooking and cleaning up. The Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union has been generous to donate $2,000 a year from the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions to help with the food. The Ministry is Christian, but it is interdenominational. Many different churches help support the Ministry.
Another blessing of the Haven is that it is available for churches or civic groups to come and stay and do ministry work in the area during the week when there are no prison visitors. It is a great place for a retreat. Those groups bring their own food and prepare it. They each pay $10 a night to help pay for the utilities they use while they are there.
Another three hours back, and I was home in time for supper. But I had a lovely day seeing lots of old friends. I was so happy that God was still blessing the Haven of Rest.



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