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Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

Google Cars and Squatty Pottys -- Oh, my

One thing’s for certain and two things for sure —- Wheeler Reunions are at best, interesting and informative. And the one we had over Memorial Day weekend was no exception.
All immediate cousins and siblings were on hand with the exception of our Georgia cousin Ann Wheeler Gordon. With all members present, we set out on a weekend of eating, talking, and cussing and discussing the past, present, and future —- and not necessarily in that order.
Aside from decorating graves and catching up on family gossip, the highlight of our get-together is always the visitation we have with our only surviving immediate family member from our parents’ generation, Barbara McPherson, who resides at the Mountain Manor Nursing Home in Paintsville. Aunt Barbara is Jan McPherson Ball’s mother and our paternal aunt.
All of us have vivid and happy memories of growing up with Aunt Barbara. Blind from birth, Aunt Barbara probably “saw” more of life than any of her “sighted” counterparts (us included). Insightful and knowledgeable, Aunt Barbara was a mainstay and confidante of the Wheeler family and we all respected and admired her —- we still do.
This year she regaled us with her poems (which she remembers verbatim), and we got her up-to-date with some of the modern inventions. Since my sister Amanda had just purchased a new vehicle, she still couldn’t find where the clock was located. She told us that she had “talked” to the navigational system lady who couldn’t understand Amanda’s command. Aunt Barbara was fascinated about this so my other sister, Melinda, began to tell her about the new Google cars that you don’t even have to drive yourself; you simply say commands and the car takes you to your destination.
“I want one!” Aunt Barbara exclaimed. “I could drive one of those!”
“They’re not perfected yet,” someone else intoned.
Ronnie countered with, “I don’t need a car to tell me where to go, Sara does that for me already.”
Although the Google cars aren’t on the market yet, you simply give it a command and it drives you where you want to go safely and efficiently —- supposedly.
Invariably, somewhere in the Wheeler conversations the subject of body elimination always comes up and this year was no exception.  In fact, we had already discussed it at length the night before after a relaxing dinner.  But our only boy cousin John’s wife, Shirley, told something that everyone of us were mesmerized to learn.
“All of you need a Squatty Potty,” she announced.
Of course, there were several jokes and observations about the name of the product but Aunt Barbara wanted to know more.
“How do they work?” she asked.
“Well,” Shirley began, “they wrap around the bottom of your existing commode and elevate you into a position that makes it easy for you to go to the bathroom.” Shirley explained that there is a place at the end of your colon that is curved, but if your feet are in a higher position the curve straightens out and makes elimination a whiz.” (No pun intended.) 
“Squatting is the normal way to go to the bathroom,” Ronnie assertively said. “Sara and I got our commodes mixed up when ours were installed, but mine was closer to the floor. It’s a proven fact that’s the only way to go.”
“I don’t think I could get my legs up that high,” I stated curiously as I attempted to get my knees up to my ears.
Shirley started giggling. “Your legs aren’t that high, Sara,”  she laughed. “You simply put your feet on an elevation that allows your colon to straighten out. You don’t have to get in a distorted position.”
“I want one of those, too,” Aunt Barbara said, excitedly.
Needless to say, a lot of other unprintable material was discussed, but our Wheeler reunion was, as always, wonderful. We hated to leave each other and wanted to share more time together, but unfortunately, life goes on and we all left anticipating our next get-together.
I hope that everyone’s Memorial Day reunions and get-together festivities were as enjoyable and memorable as ours and that all of us remembered those who gave their all so that we might live in the greatest country on earth.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile. 


Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

When the boys would yell and the girls would giggle

A lyric from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” says, “June is bustin’ out all over.” Ready or not, in just five days, it’s gonna happen.
When I was a kid, I sort of looked forward for this particular month (or at least as much as I was capable of looking forward to anything) because it was the first full month of my summer vacation from school. It was a time when I literally owned the world, and had an eternity to do with it whatever I decided I wanted to do.
It was generally near the end of May when those freckle-faced, pig-tailed girls and the rag-tag, tow-headed boys from Muddy Branch would pour out the front door of the H. S. Howes Community School and scatter like so many glass marbles hit by a steely taw. Even though the community wasn’t all that large, with all the many hollers and the way the houses were spread out, it was entirely possible that there might be some of the kids I’d never see until school started back again. There were some occasions when I’d never ever see them again because their family would move over the summer.
Anyway, when that last bell would ring, they’d head for Greentown, Rock House, Number Three, Boyd Branch and Silk Stocking Row. Regardless of the direction they’d be taking, though, they’d be yelling – especially the boys – “School’s out! School’s out! Teacher wore her bloomers out!” The girls would just giggle.
In celebration, some would even rip the pages from their notebook back and throw them in the creek as they hustled homeward to eagerly face whatever it was that summer had in store.
Apparently, June has been an important month for Kentuckians for a long time. Matter of fact, it was on June 1, 1782 that Kentucky became the 15th state. Bet you didn’t know that June is also Turkey Lovers Month (shouldn’t that be November?), National Accordion Month (bet that tickled Lawrence Welk), and National Ice Tea Month (Up to the Lipton, over the gums …). Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
But there’s more. June 4th has been designated as Old Maid’s Day. Which reminds me of a joke Minnie Pearl used to tell. An old maid called 911 one night and said, “There’s two men under my bed. Send the police quick to get one of them.” Anyway, June 7th is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, June 9th is Donald Duck Day (no idea why), and June 16th is National Hollering Contest Day.
Mostly, however, as far as I’m concerned at least, June is looked forward to and appreciated for its good stuff – like vacations, the first day of summer, pretty flowers and of course, the June bride. Allegedly, despite June 4th being Old Maid’s Day, more folks get married in June than any other month. The month itself, according to some sources, was named for Juno, the patron goddess of marriage.
And speaking of such, my precious Wilma Jean was a June bride. In exactly five days, it will be 52 years since we said “I do,” and meant it. So, I guess I’ve rambled on about all the above so I could say “Happy Anniversary” to my very own June bride. Looking forward to another half century.
God is good.


Education and Common Sense
Memorial Day - A Time to Remember

Decoration Day was once celebrated on the 30th of May and was instituted to decorate the graves of the soldiers who lost their lives in the War Between the States, often called the Civil War, where thousands of  American soldiers were killed. This war pitted brother against brother, and the graves were in our own land.
Now the holiday is called Memorial Day , and is celebrated the last Monday in May to give workers a three-day weekend.  It has been expanded to include decorating the graves of all service men and women who have died in the service of our country. This year Memorial Day will  be Monday, May 25.
I suppose the date was originally selected because, at the last of May, nearly all the flowers would be blooming, and there would be plenty of material  with which to decorate the graves.
In east Kentucky, where I spent sixty-three years of my life, we decorated all our departed loved ones’ graves, saw to it that the family cemetery on the top of the hill had the weeds trimmed off, and had a family reunion with “dinner on the ground” potluck and preaching at the graveyard on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Some people actually spread blankets and sheets on the ground, and other families built shelters and had picnic tables at their family graveyard.
I checked with Wikipedia (how wonderful it is to thave an encyclopedia at one’s fingertips without having to bother to check which volume I need to haul out of the bookcase!)  and this is what I found about the history of the national holiday:
“The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers’ graves were decorated in the United States before and during the American Civil War. A claim was made that the first Civil War  soldier’s grave ever decorated was in Warrenton, Virginia, on June 3, 1861, implying that the first Memorial Day started there. “The same article states that the Southern women started decorating the graves of the Confederate dead, and later started decorating all of them.
The article also states that Memorial Day was started in Charleston, South Carolina by black freedmen who were grateful to the soldiers who had given their lives to secure their freedom.
On May 8, 1868, in his capacity  as commander-in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans’ organization for Union Civil War veterans, General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for “Decoration Day” to be observed annually and nationwide, May 30 was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. According to the White House, the date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.
The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed to “Memorial Day”, which was first used in 1882. It was declared the official name by federal law in 1967.  On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. All states have adopted this date.
The traditional observance  is this: On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff, and then solemnly lowered to half-staff position, where it remains until noon, then raised to full-staff for the rest of the day.
The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who have given their lives in service of their country.  At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue to fight for liberty and justice for all.
However you celebrate Memorial Day: remembering loved ones, remembering dead heroes, going to a parade, listening to a concert, watching an automobile race, playing some kind of sports,  buying a bargain at a Memorial Day sale, having a picnic, cleaning off a graveyard, or enjoying a day off from work—have a good one! 


Downhomer
Letter from home

Dear Friends. This morning, I will tell you that except for a few minor glitches, our little mini winters are well and truly over. We thought it unending, one little cold spell following another, till we moaned about when would it ever end. However, spring, real spring, happens right on time, God’s Time. Now we dance a jig of delight as we say goodbye and good riddance to sarvis, and redbud, dogwood, blackberry and snowball, or any other kind of winter. In reinforcement of this, the locust trees are blooming. More than this, on the high up hills where they seem to bloom first, sourwoods are in blossom, and I’ve never heard of a cold snap after those two trees come into flower.
I love it when these bloom, the locust because they smell so sweet, the sourwoods because the honeybees also love them. They must, for I’ve seen how they swarm in to indulge in a nectar-induced orgy. My taste buds activate at thought of the honey the bees will make. Speaking of honey, I can testify that anytime you get two old honey experts together, you hear a lot about clover honey, how good it is; the preferred kind for the dyed-in-the wool honey consumer. For myself, I wouldn’t trade one quart of sourwood honey for three quarts of clover, but that’s me. I am just fortunate that, knowing my preference, Danny Davis always manages to tuck a couple of quarts of this kind of honey back for me, knowing that eventually I’ll be there to ask for it. Now. Warmer days are the name of the game, so local gardeners are out doing their thing. I admire the way bright green spears of sweet corn march down the rows where they’ve been planted. Even when it happens that one is only a bystander, we nevertheless watch and applaud, and rejoice at the fruiting of all that labor.
Last week was a Walla Palooka for my family. Daughter Grace had to have emergency Gall Bladder surgery, and post op, is doing well. She told me that she diverted her thoughts from the preparation stages of that surgery by singing in her mind the words and music to “The Old Rugged Cross.” I identified with this. When I had my open-heart surgery, I went in and came out singing a favorite song entitled: “Praise the Lord!” Hearing my dear daughter tell of her approach to surgery, and remembering my own experience, I smile as I think of what my sons say, that “the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree!”
Just a day after Grace had her surgery, I had my usual six-hour outpatient admission for IV magnesium replacement. This is an oft-repeated experience for me, and I have to say, for the umpteenth time, that at Paul B. Hall they treat me like a queen. In my heart, I know this is unrealistic, that the staff at that place treats everyone the same. Yet nothing so far has ever convinced me that I am not the special patient I think I am! In addition, one fringe benefit of my frequent visits to that hospital is that I get to see old friends. This time Furnell Rice came in to spend time with me while we played that game of “remember when?” I enjoy talking to Furnell, we two having so many similar interests. During this visit, she asked me; “Have you seen any blue birds this year?”
“Walter saw two early in the spring, but none since then.” I answered. “Us also.” Furnell commented. “Last year our yard was full of them. This year we also have seen only two. So I called the Kentucky Office of Ecological Surveys, was told a virus had shown up on the flyways of some of the avian species. It could mean that this year there might be a decrease in the number of those summer-time visitors we always expect to see.”
Blue Birds? Hummingbirds? Honey Bees? I hope this is not a portent of things to come….


Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

So who needs teachers anyway?

Anybody with a lick of common sense knows that anybody with a lick of common sense would never choose such an under-appreciated and under-paid career as that of a school teacher. If you ask me, such a person certainly could not have much of an appetite. How could you expect children to learn anything from people like that? Everybody knows “those who can do, those who can’t teach.”
We’ve heard it all before. And just between you and me and the gate post, I’m kind of tired of hearing it.
That’s why I was happy to see an article that appeared in the March issue of Reader’s Digest. Writer Taylor Mali, writes of a time when he was a teacher and was confronted by a sarcastic individual who, when apparently discussing salaries, asked him “What do you make?” Obviously tired of hearing it, too, here is a list of a few things Mali told him:
·I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
·I can make a C-plus feel like a Medal of Honor.
·I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in silence.
·I make parents tremble in fear when I call them at home.
·I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be.
·I make kids wonder; I make them question; I make them criticize; I make them apologize … and mean it; I make them write; I make them read, read, read; I make them understand that if they have a brain, then they follow their heart.
·Teachers make a difference. 
***
Now we read that every senior graduating from Paintsville High School – for the past two years, no less – has been accepted to at least one college or university. Although this year’s seniors weren’t even born when I taught my last class at PHS, this news makes me so proud I could pop the buttons right of the front of my shirt. It would appear that their teachers have indeed made a difference. Hopefully, in the 33 years that I taught, somewhere along the way, I made a difference too.
***
With Memorial Day weekend coming up, what better time to remember those members of my own senior class who are no longer with us.
It’s been 58 years since the Class of ’57 received its diplomas, and as would be expected, members of the class have spread far and wide. After consulting with class historian Robert Castle, as best we can ascertain, over those years our class of 60 has been reduced to just 38.
But as far as I’m concerned, in my memory the following individuals are not forgotten and are still adolescent teens running up and down the halls of Meade Memorial High School: Rest in peace Jeannie Burke, Tommy Burke, David Castle, Phyllis Daniel, Steve Davis, Glenna Dent, Margaret Dunnagan, Alice Greer, Derwood Gross, Ted Hager, Perry McCloud, Frank Meade, Millard Meek, Walter Meek, Jean Pack, Darlene Perry, Laura Price, Blossom Rowland, J. P. Short, Boone Ward, Jay Walters, and Delmar Ward.



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