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Education and Common Sense
Where is the other side?
All my life I’ve been told, “There are two sides to every question.” Lately, listening to the news media, I have wondered if that saying still holds true.
Unless you have been living under a rock with no access to any media source at all, you have been told by all sources that an unarmed black teenager who was going to enroll in college in the fall was shot and killed by a white policeman in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
This has caused rioting in the streets of Ferguson, looting and pillaging of stores, police responding with tear gas and other strong measures, Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, African American race agitators Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton’s visited the city, and everybody is in total sympathy with the family of the teenager.
Nobody has ever said a word in defense of the white policeman, except that he has never had any complaints about how he conducted his affairs before.
We did get a surveillance picture of the teenager, who was six feet four inches tall, and weighed 290 pounds, who, just before he was shot and killed, took a package of cigars from a convenience store and roughed up the store owner who tried to get him to pay for the item. It also seeped out that he was under the influence of marijuana when he was killed.
This morning I read on the Internet an article by Dr. Ben Carson, a black neurosurgeon who is a possible candidate for President. He brought out some of the salient facts we have heard very little about. I quote Dr. Carson’s post:
“Michael Brown was 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He had marijuana in his system and was purportedly involved in a strong-arm robbery prior to the shooting. He and a companion were walking in the middle of the street and obstructing traffic and therefore were admonished by a police officer to move to the sidewalk. Brown, who may have been pharmacologically impaired, became belligerant, and the ensuing struggle produced facial trauma and an orbital fracture to the officer’s face. The officer, who may have been dazed by a blow to the cranium severe enough to produce a fracture, attempted to apprehend the assailant, and shots were fired, six of which struck the suspect, resulting in a fatality.”
Dr. Carson continues: “Regardless of one’s position on the political spectrum, we can all agree that this was a horrible tragedy and needless discarding of a precious life. How could this have been avoided? Two obvious answers: The officer could have ignored his duty and backed off when it became apparent that his instructions would not be followed, thereby avoiding confrontation, or Brown could have complied with the officer’s instructions, according to his civic duties.”
Dr. Carson’s opinion: “ If police officers generally adopted the first solution, chaos would reign supreme in all of our streets. If the populace generally adopted the second solution, there would be even fewer incidents of police violence. Last year, 100 black males were killed by police in the United States. In the same year, 5,000 blacks were killed by other blacks, the vast majority being males. Could it be that we are erroneously being manipulated into making this into a racial issue, when it is a component of a much larger social issue?”
Carson goes on to blame the lack of fathers in the homes of both black, white, and brown families, and has his own ideas for solving the problem.
We have many, many problems of all kinds in our country, one of which is that we have trouble hearing both sides of any question.

Down Home Herbal Cures

I am a Kentuckian. As such, I grew up not taken to a doctor anytime I had an ailment. First of all, back then, doctors were few and far between. However, to compensate, whenever we children had a health problem, there was always a grownup who thankfully knew a cure. For instance, I remember having measles, and the rash not breaking me out as it should have. I had bouts of fever, did a lot of whining about how bad I felt, did a lot of twisting and turning in bed, none of that helped me feel any better.
Adding to the frustration of this, the long flannel gown they made me wear would twist up beneath me, causing them to turn me this way or that to straighten it. It was a small consolation that they let me wear the flannel underpants that matched the gown, and I remember being glad for that small degree of privacy.
I remember that they handled my body like it was some wrung out dishrag; was no longer my private domain. In addition, miserable as I was, the thing I remember most about this time was the spurt of aggravation that swept over me when the women gathered round me, talked about me as if I wasn’t even there, that I was already a ghost they were waiting to be done with. Of course they knew all there was to know about the rash of measles, or the lack thereof. So to see if I had a full chest of those little red blotches, every few minutes someone was lifting my gown to peer at my defenseless body. “Ifin she don’t break out, the measles could go in and kill her.” they declared. Thus, when the rash didn’t appear as it should, they made me drink hot ginger tea, which as I recall, was worse than the measles.
Finally, I did break out with what they considered the necessary number of those red blotchy spots. And did they leave me alone after that? No way! Whenever some new person came into my grandparent’s house, if they hadn’t seen my full-fledged breaking out, down would go the quilt, up would go my gown so that everyone in the county could see how well the ginger tea worked. Then Walt Wells, the son of neighbors George and Angie Wells, came by. Walt was almost grown at that time, at least ten or twelve, while I was probably four or five. Even so, as long as I could remember I’d had a king-size hero worship kind of crush on Walt. Surely, I thought, they wouldn’t show him my rash.
Inevitably, after Walt had said his howdy-dos to everybody, he came up to the side of my bed to speak some small word to me. Then just as I was afraid they’d do, down went the quilt, up went my gown and I was sure I’d die from the humiliation! In fact, for a long time after that, I never even wanted to see Walt Wells again, let alone speak to him! In time of course, I got over this. Then when I was a little older, my cousin Mable Branham and I went walking up the path that went from the house where her parents, my Aunt and Uncle Ben and Martha Branham lived. We walked along a little dirt path that went up and down and around the side of the hill to where our beloved Pap and Mam lived. Of course, there was a perfectly good road that the grown-ups always took, but what child would ever take that conventional, run of the mill way if they could choose to walk a path that went curving up along the hillside. “Watch out for that vine, coz. It’s poison ivy, and it’ll break you out big time! ’Bout itch you to death!” my cousin Mable told me as she pointed out where that culprit spread its tendrils. “Oh, it won’t bother me.” I said rashly. So to prove my point, I nonchalantly reached over, broke off a stem of the plant, and taking the milky substance that oozed out of the broken stem, I wrote two initials on my arm. Of course it broke out, in prickly red letters easy enough for anyone to see the W.W. that stood out in bold letters on my arm. W.W. for Walt Wells.
Now once again I had to avoid seeing that on again off again secret heartthrob. In addition, I had to bear the remedy the old folks at home slathered all over my arm. I remember it as baking soda mixed into a paste with plain ol’ coffee. It’s a wonder that I can ever bring myself to drink coffee, but I do.
I will tell you now, of another childhood experience I had with herbal remedies. I started school at Charles Russell Elementary in Ashland. During my first year there, everyone in school came down with a case of scabies - spell that itch! As a result of this, we all had to be covered with a paste made from lard and sulfur powder. Actually, I didn’t mind the smell of the sulfur, but even now, I can’t stand the smell of lard.

Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

The Naked Truth

In the last 15 years, “reality” shows have literally taken over the major networks like wildfire.  The first reality show to air on public television was back in the 70’s called “The Louds”.  The Loud’s was a supposedly typical American family who allowed cameras to come into their homes and film their everyday activities without editing capabilities.  The last I heard, the show went off the air and the Loud’s went in opposite directions saying that when their privacy was breached their marriage suffered irreparable damage.
Since that time many new reality shows have penetrated our air space and we have been subjected to such adventurous broadcasts as “Survivor”, and the  “Kardashians”.  But not until recently was I as “blown away” by reality TV than when I watched an episode of “Naked and Afraid” (my husband’s new favorite show).  Now, I have to admit that when the “Osbourne’s” aired several years ago, I was afraid that at any given time, Ozzie might bite the head off a bat or that Sharon would shout an obscenity.  But I was prepared for that. 
However, I am not prepared for “Naked and Afraid.”
First of all, I don’t like “Reality TV”.  I’m more geared for “tongue-in-cheek” comedy, off-the-wall satire, or intense drama rather than watch a venue that might accidently parallel my own life. 
Ronnie tries to dissuade me from talking bad about this new show.  He claims that since it airs on the Discovery Channel that it is educational in content.  I disagree.  Just because “Playboy” contains word content does not mean it is a literary journal. 
When Ronnie lived in San Francisco he said that he visited the nude beaches.  He told me that it was interesting to watch people walking around in their “altogether” acting as though it was the most natural thing in the world to do. (No, I didn’t ask him if he was wearing clothes or not, but at this point, I don’t want to know).  But even that is less intimidating than being out in the jungle in your “birthday suit”.  People walking around naked in the wilderness should be afraid, very afraid.
I don’t know how much money the people who appear on “Naked and Afraid” receive, but it wouldn’t be enough for me.  I know everyone has their price, but traipsing around fighting off mosquitoes and poison ivy without benefit of a fig leaf is not my idea of a good time.  In fact, if it were feasible, I would wear clothing in the shower.  Even a shower cap gives me a false sense of protection.  I can’t think of a single situation where I would want to see a stranger naked.  Why, it even embarrasses me to see my reflection in a mirror when I’m changing clothes.  Everybody’s favorite funnyman at the Mountain Arts Center, Munroe, seemed it up in a hilarious song, “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore”!”
And, now Ronnie tells me, there’s a new show called “Dating Naked”, where people meet for the first time wearing nothing but their “Birthday Suits”, and after a brief conversation decide whether they want to go out to dinner or to a movie.  But I think they might as well go to a baseball game because now they’ve not only made it to first base, but as Ronnie says, “From a guy’s point of view, they’re already rounding third and headed for home!”
Yes, TV has come a long way, but I think it’s finally gone too far.  (Does this make me an old fogey?)
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!

Poison Oak
Four things I’ll bet you didn’t know about Van Lear

When I was in the eighth grade, I was thrilled beyond words when I got the chance to participate in a basketball game inside a real, honest-to-goodness gymnasium. Our coach scheduled us to play the Van Lear eighth graders in the Van Lear gym.
I remember nothing of the game. I don’t recall who won or whether or not there were any spectators. For years, all I remembered was what a cool place Van Lear was … the town had its own gym and there were nets on both goals.
 See, we didn’t have a gym at Muddy Branch. We played basketball –a winter sport – outside. It wasn’t that unusual for us to have a basketball game rained out.
But as it turns out, that fancy gym and actual nets weren’t the only things that set Van Lear apart from the rest of Eastern Kentucky.
I just wrote a book about the town. It’s called, The Overnight City, the Life and Times of Van Lear, Kentucky 1908-1947. I went through decades of old newspapers to piece together the story of the town. Some of the stories I’d heard before, but a lot of what I found out surprised me.
·       In 1915, Van Lear’s electric power plant provided power to nearly the entire Big Sandy Valley. Not only were citizens of Van Lear recipients of the plant (that sat near where the Words and Stuff bookstore is now), but also the towns of Paintsville, Prestonsburg, Pikeville, Jenkins and all other points in between were connected.
·       In 1926 its high school football team scored its very first win as the Bank Mules beat the Paintsville Tigers. The score was 19-13. The star of the game was a guy named Red Lynn, who scored two touchdowns. Today, I’ll bet hardly anyone remembers that game, but lots of people remember Red’s son, Oliver. Of course, Oliver was best known by one of his nicknames, “Mooney” or “Doolittle.” He married a coal miner’s daughter named Loretta Webb. You know the rest of the story.
·       The speaker at the graduation of the Van Lear High School’s class of 1927 was Kentucky’s Governor W. J. Fields. It was reported at the time that this was the first time that a Kentucky chief executive had ever made a graduation address in the Big Sandy Valley. It says something about what Van Lear’s stature was at the time that he chose to make the 140-mile trip from Frankfort to Van Lear and not to a county seat like Paintsville, Prestonsburg or Pikeville.
·       In 1946, a group of Pikeville businessmen purchased Van Lear — 2,060 acres of land, 247 homes, a clubhouse and an office building —  for a grand total of $300,000. That doesn’t sound like much money. But when you adjust for inflation, today that would equal about $3.7 million. To put that in perspective, folks in Lexington were talking about spending over $350 million to fix up one building … Rupp Arena. 
If anyone wants one, signed copies of The Overnight City are at Words and Stuff, the Van Lear Historic Society Museum and Paintsville’s Ramada Inn.  You can get unsigned copies from Amazon, or download it from the Kindle store or Google Play.

Folk Lore and Herbal Remedies

I know several down home folks who at one time or another have been afflicted by Shingles. As one of the side effects of having had childhood chicken pox, with no other stimulus than a long living, leftover blip of that ailment, it will suddenly flare up, going where it will.
So far, this ailment seems to wax and wan. I myself have not had it. Even so, among the adult populace, no one seems to be immune and I can remember many among my friends and relatives who have been an unwilling victim of this resurgence. Of course, physicians do have medicines which help to make the condition bearable. However, there is always Catnip Tea; a natural remedy for the discomfort of Shingles. I fortunately always grow some of this plant, reseed it ever year from starter plants I buy at a local garden center, Thus I am able to give the leaves to any who ask me for it. I sent some by UPS to my sister in Connecticut, and gave some to one of Walter’s fox hunting buddies. In addition I have given the leaves of the plant to some local parents of a colicky baby, as colic is another thing catnip tea relieves. In support of this, I can only say that for as long as I remember, I have known this, having heard about it from the older women of my family. Of course, as my mother often said, a little is good, to much is nasty, signifying that all things must be taken in moderation. For a baby, a few drops of catnip tea should be sufficient. On the other hand, when grown up people ask me how to take it, I tell them to make a tea of the leaves, strain the lightly green liquid into a clean quart jar, put it into the fridge, and every time you think of it, take a sip or two! Recently, Betty Blanton, who once lived here, called to ask about a relief of the symptoms of Shingles that I had once written about. I told her all that I knew, and she being fortunate that she had catnip plants in her garden, vowed she would avail herself of this old herbal remedy. So far, haven’t heard how it turned out, but I hope to.
Now I come to other and similar things. I speak of wild spring greens that spark our winter weary taste buds. In addition, they cleanse our systems, gives us an influx of minerals and vitamins often missing from the bland, genetically engineered, store bought foods we eat.
I love wild greens. My mouth waters at the thought of poke and watercress, dandelions, speckled britches, lambs quarters, and shoney. I always try to consume one mess of some of these every spring, and not because I am so poor I have to eat them. I eat them because I like the taste, and because I don’t want to forget those things I learned about from the ones who went before me. More than this, I also love wild mushrooms. Every part of the year, maybe except for winter, some kinds of these are available. The only disadvantage except for finding them is that no kind is here very long at the time. This is true of my favorite Morel mushroom that pops up the middle of April, leaves the middle of May.
Of course, after morels are gone, there are other kinds of mushrooms that I know about, and have eaten. I always pass over the very prolific white meadow mushroom that comes up at about this time. I only eat these from a commercial source, those that will have no accidental look a-likes lurking among them. This is important because the familiar white, meadow mushroom looks exactly like the most deadly of all of those delectable freebees, it like playing Russian roulette to try to tell the difference between the two of them. That white mushroom look a-like is called the Destroying Angel, which is a very apt description. To compensate for these I won‘t eat, there are, happily, many other kinds of mushrooms, and I have tried a lot of them. But what have any of these to do with folk lore and natural remedies? Well, most of us know that mushrooms are pure protein, without any calories. More than this benefit, there is one kind of mushroom, fruiting just now, which is called the Hen of the Woods. This has long been thought of as a cure for cancer, which apparently the FDA doesn’t want us to know about. For they have made reference to this be not allowed; it's not profitable then, for commerce.

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