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Smile Awhile
Double your pleasure?

Did you ever get a song in your head that you couldn’t stop thinking about?  According to a recent “Time” magazine article I read a couple of weeks ago, it happens to everyone every once in a while; and to stop the replaying of that annoying tune all you have to do is chew a piece of gum, because, according to the article, chewing gum inhibits your thought processes by up to 67%!
That’s right, folks; remember the stereo-typical, ditzy gum chomping waitress Flo in the TV series “Alice” whose mantra was “Kiss My Grits,”  and appeared not to take anything seriously? Or our school teachers telling us to “spit out our gum” before class? Obviously they knew something about the connection between gum chewing and learning way back then. 
As a matter of fact, have you ever noticed how “dumb” women are portrayed in TV and movies —- quite often they are mindless popping gum while performing mundane tasks during their conversations.
When I was growing up, our mother only let us chew gum on rare occasions.  Her reason for this was that she didn’t think it looked “ladylike” to chew it in public. And not only did she think it looked crude, she thought it would cause us to get cavities. 
I read this article while sitting in the waiting room of my retina specialist, Christopher Riemann. I shared this information with some of the people who were sitting there with me and thankfully, none of them were chewing gum at the time. 
“I used to chew gum all the time,” one of the patients commented.
“Why did you quit?” I asked.
“I don’t remember,” she laughed.
“Well, I quit when I got dentures,” another chimed in.
“I’ve still got all my teeth,” one woman said.
“I do too but I keep them in a glass,” a man grinned, gumlessly.
While chewing gum was enjoyable, the invention of bubble gum upped the ante. Not only could you chew it, you could blow bubbles the size of your head. We just didn’t know it could lower your IQ.
Once in a while I chew a piece of gum just because it tastes good or to freshen my breath. For years, Dentyne suggested, “if you can’t brush, use Dentyne.” I don’t think dentists would tell you that today but several gum companies still claim that it can “brighten your teeth.” But just remember, while you’re whitening your teeth you’re also “dumbing” yourself down.
Have a great week and don’t forget to smile awhile!

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

About age and one’s changing perspective

There’s no doubt about it: our perspective begins to change as we add mileage to our personal odometers; as age spots and wrinkles are suddenly discovered on once unblemished areas of our bodies, we come to realize that if we’re not yet living in the autumn of our lives, we’re certainly experiencing late summer.
Twenty years ago, I would not have bothered to read the article I saw a while back in The New York Times that discussed how residents in remote areas of the Great Northwest tend to live longer than folks do elsewhere. Now, however, not only did I read it, I’ve decided to share it.
Although interviews and statistics won’t likely cause too many of us to pack up and move west, at least in my case, the article, for obvious reasons, did grab my interest. For example, in an interview with a 91-year-old man, the author learned that longevity really is no big deal to these folks. The old gentleman said both his mother and father, one sister, three brothers and his wife had lived long, active lives. Their ages ranged from 87 to 100.
 Of course, we’re all aware of families even here in this part of the world who seem to have a tendency to out-live most folks. But we consider those people as exceptions. Among the farming communities of the Great Plains, however, they seem to be the rule. A bit of research on the part of the author revealed that during the previous year, fifty-one people had died in the county in which the elderly gentleman being interviewed lived. One woman was 100 and a man was 99. The average age of the women who died was 85. The men averaged 80.
So naturally, all this calls for some sort of logical explanation. What would tend to cause ordinary people in this day and time to defy such odds? Based on speculation of the people being talked with, the author summed it up like this: Clear air; going slow; patience; a low-cost, low-stress economy; stable marriages; and keeping an eye out for one another.
If this list really does accurately reflect the reasons for longevity, it’s little wonder that the rest of the country is not doing so well, including folks here in the mountains. Although we’re lucky not to have the problems of the big cities, we still don’t breathe clean air. Neither do we go slow. We hillbillies are also among the most impatient people in the world. And yes, we do fret over the economy, and it seems we too have decided to invest in the idea of starter marriages.
Fortunately, however, we have proven – as recent events have indicated –the tendency to take care of our neighbors. We may not be batting a thousand when it comes to the other categories, but in this particular one, we’re second to none. Personally, regardless of their age, I’ve never been prouder of the people in Johnson County. I don’t expect my perspective to ever change on that subject.


It is said that as soon as a baby takes its first breath of life, it begins to develop memories. This is how it learns, not just by assimilating each new experience, then laying it aside to go on to the next thing. Instead, they tuck all new perceptual information into their memory bank to be there forever. It’s how they always know the face of their mother, her voice out of all others. It is also said that the first thing a newborn duckling sees, automatically and instantly will become its mother, no matter what it is. I can remember a movie that describes how a little girl raised a nesting of duck eggs that the mother duck had left, for one reason or another. When the eggs eventually hatched out, they followed that little girl everywhere she went, she being to them their mother.
My mother had Alzheimer. I always hated how that disease robbed her of the here and now. However, I have always been glad for the rich memories that she had of the time before. She would talk to “Poppy,“ and “Mommy”, would have long conversation with them, with other friends and family members who were long gone but still alive and very real in her memory. Before that time, my mother told me I was born in my Branham grandparent’s bed, in their home at Lick Fork in Johnson County. I know I must have bonded instantly with my mother, for she was always more than special to me. I had this same kind of connection with my dear old Pap Branham. I think it possible that his face must have been, after that of my mother’s, the next one I saw as a newborn infant. I have only a vague recollection of my grandmother moving about in the room where we were, and I don’t remember my father being there at all. However, in my memory, in addition to my mother, it was Pap Branham on whom I focused . I can tell you this. Though he loved all his grandchildren, I knew with a knowledge beyond knowledge that I was special to him. Why would I not believe this? My own family had moved to Ashland. After I was in school, as soon as it was over for the summer, he’d come, all the way from Boons Camp, just to “Take my little girl home.” My mother would fuss, but he always won. So I spent my summers in the place where I’d been born, my home away from home, until that day when I would live there permanently. I have very vivid memories of my Branham grandmother and grandfather. I always see her as a delicate little woman who always dressed in long cotton dresses, with an apron tied around her, her hair pined back in a bun at the back of her head. And I remember my Pap. No matter how he was dressed, in bib overalls, in his go to meeting suit, I remember the hat he always wore. Not a cap like the men wear nowadays, but a hat, a fedora, a brimmed, soft crowned head covering that he was hardly ever without.
In those days of my childhood, he was to me a giant of a man. I know now he was not all that big, but he was still mighty in the life he lived, doing all as unto the Lord. I cherish this memory of him. Actually, I treasure all my memories.
I do know that many who live here in what is referred to as the Bible Belt, also had a family structure that was very much the same as mine. These then, have their own, their very similar but uniquely personal set of memories. I think young people today need some of this kind of stability, this foundation of life. It is unfortunate that there are so many distractions hindering them from time to accumulate those memories that will nourish their later years. I wish it was not so. However, if I sing a different song than they, it would have to bemoan the addiction to, the oft-times corruption of the social media. It is sad when this becomes an electronic substitute for family togetherness. For myself, I sing of the joy of memories. And I sing of that One who warned us to; “Come ye out from them and be ye a separate people….”

Education and Common Sense
Set a watch on “Watchman”

In my role as librarian for grades 7-12 in the same small school for a thiry-year span, I sometimes encountered deeply disappointed students, who had just found out that one or both of their parents had done some deed that shocked and saddened their offspring. I finally found a sentence that would at least ease the hurt. I would say, “You have finally grown up when you realize that your parents are not perfect, but you love them anyway.”
I bought Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman on Monday, read it on Tuesday, and am reporting to my readers on Wednesday morning.
Go Set a Watchman is a prequel/sequel/ first draft of her Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel which was published in 1960: To Kill a Mockingbird.
Written about 1955 or 56, Watchman is far from being a Mockingbird. It is fairly interesting, especially to those of us who already loved Scout, Calpurnia and Atticus, but it would have been much better if Nelle Harper Lee, who is 89, deaf and almost blind in a nursing home, had been able to do some revisions, or at least explain some of the allusions we had to figure out on our own.
We know that she never planned to publish anything else, as she had no way to go but down. She had hit the target with her first book that brought in enough money to keep her the rest of her life. Her lawyer-sister died, and her present lawyer, Truman Capote’s cousin, found the original manuscript, and convinced her to let it be published with no comment, no editing. They have already sold over a million copies.
Watchman is a coming-of-age novel for the protagonist, 26-year-old Jean Louise Finch, whom we met as Scout, the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. When Harper Lee submitted Watchman to an editor in 1955 or 56, the editor liked her descriptions of her early days and suggested she take the story of her father’s defense of a Negro who was accused of raping a white girl, and make a story of that. Watchman was abandoned.
So many people in Watchman are disturbed by “the Supreme Court Decision” and the 2015 reader is confused, because we don’t know WHAT Supreme Court decision is distressing the southern people so much. I looked up “Brown v. Board of Education” and found that the decision to desegregate the schools was decided in 1954.
In Watchman, Scout comes home from New York, where she has been working, to find her 72-year-old father, Atticus, still working, but afflicted with crippling arhritis. Her brother Jem has died suddenly and her childhood and lifelong friend, Hank, is her father’s junior partner. Hank loves Scout, and Scout loves him, maybe, but her Aunt and Uncle say his relatives are “white trash.” I liked Hank. He is becoming an Atticus.
Scout shows that New York has rubbed off on her, as I was a little irritated at the supercillious way she described some of the vagaries of the town customs. Evidently she has been heavily influenced by the New York papers.
She is furious at Atticus and Hank when she finds that they are attending “Citizen’s Council” meetings— not quite Ku Klux Klan, but anti- NAACP.
She is disappointed and calls them both hypocrites. Her retired doctor- uncle helps her to understand and helps her to realize that now she has her own beliefs and is not just a carbon-copy of her father’s beliefs, and her father is proud that she will stand up for what she believes.
In letting both sides explain why they believe the way they do, Watchman does a good job of presenting both sides of the racial question. Some of Atticus’ fears have come to pass in the last fifty-five years since the book was written, and “racist” has developed into the most dreaded attack language.
I have found that one of my favorite fictional characters, Atticus Finch, isn’t perfect, but I admire him anyway.

Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

The caffeine blues

Several weeks ago our coffee pot went on the blink. So after days of headaches and grumpy mornings caused from caffeine deprivation, I ventured out to purchase a new one.
For some reason, things aren’t easy for Ronnie and me. It seems like a small cloud hangs over our heads when we try to accomplish the simplest tasks. Everything seems to take on tantamount proportions when we attempt to do anything that requires manual labor.
A couple of years ago we were into grinding our own coffee until we found a coffee pot that ground it for us. That worked for several months until it went on the blink and we had to purchase a new one.  Soon after that one, my brother-in-law, Ed, gave us a new one. The type of pot that grinds the coffee is more expensive than conventional ones so we spent quite a bit of money until the new Keurig models appeared on the market and my sister Amanda gifted us with one. We quickly became fans even though the small coffee cups were expensive.
The first coffee pot I brought home was not a Keurig, but it was supposed to function the same way as a Keurig. When Ronnie finally assembled it, he could not get the cup to fill more than six ounces at a time. There was another level that gave you 10 ounces, but Ronnie was too aggravated to even try it.
“Ten ounces!” he exclaimed. “Ten ounces gets cold before I can drink it!”
“Well, just drink six ounces then,” I said.
“But I don’t want six ounces and I don’t want 10 ounces! I want a normal eight ounce cup!”
Predictably, the coffee pot went back and another one was purchased. This time he went to get it came home with a new Keurig that was just exactly like our old one except it was different.
“This one doesn’t have a reservoir and I wanted one of those,” I stated.
“Sara, this one is perfect. You will get used to it.”
“But I had my heart set on one that would hold enough water so you didn’t have to fill it up every time,” I whined.
“Well, I fix the coffee most of the time so I picked this one,”  he said adamantly. “And it only cost ten dollars more than the other we purchased that didn’t dispense the right amount.”
Needless to say, it’s important to pick your battles in life and in marriage so I let Ronnie win this one because I’m going to buy a new barbecue grill.
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile!

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