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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cooper's Soccer Game

Doug and I recently attended a soccer game, in which our eight-year-old great-nephew, Cooper, was playing.

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Truthfully, I don't know beans about soccer, but I'm pretty sure Cooper is the best player in the league.

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He's very focused. It makes his hair stand on end.

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But not as much as this kid's.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Richard

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A good friend of our was buried this week. I guess it's a sign of our ages that this is happening more often than we would like.

We had known Richard less than five years, but we had loved him and will miss him. He was trusting Christ as his Savior, though, so we know we will see him again when our time comes to leave this world.

We met Rich on the occasion of his marriage to our good friend, Pat. Both Rich and Pat had been widowed, Rich after 53 years of marriage and Pat after nearly 50 years. They met at church and quickly fell in love. Seeing no reason to waste precious time, they were married about six weeks after their first date.

Rich was an interesting guy to talk to. He had spent years as a long-haul truck driver. One night during those years, he stopped at a party store in Romulus, Michigan, to make some small purchase. While he was there, the store was robbed. Two armed bandits entered the store shortly after midnight and told the owner and the two customers: "This is a holdup. Hit the floor. We'll kill anyone who won't listen."

The store owner grabbed a gun that he kept hidden under the counter and began shooting. He was critically wounded almost immediately, with bullet wounds to the right chest and lower abdomen; but he continued to exchange fire. The other customer was also wounded. One of the bandits emptied his gun and threw it on the floor, as the other bandit fled. The store owner reached for a concealed shotgun and tossed it to Rich, who used it to hold the bandit who remained in the store. The bandit begged Rich to let him go because he had stopped the other guy from shooting Rich. But Rich continued to hold the shotgun on him.

After it was over, and the police had arrived, Rich discovered that the shotgun wasn't even loaded!

One of Rich's two sons was the victim of a murder in Grand Rapids, Michigan several years ago. Danny was a taxi driver and shared a cab with a college student that was working part-time on a different shift. On his shift, the college student had picked up two men who were high on drugs. Unable to put up with their behavior, he pulled over and made them get out.

Later, on Danny's shift, the same guys called for a cab and asked for the same cab number. Danny was the same size as the college student, and they both wore the same company cap. The guys who had been booted out of the cab by the college student shot Danny to death, apparently believing he was the same cab driver they'd had before. They were captured and tried and sent to prison. But Danny's death left a pain in the hearts of his family that never fully healed.

Rich had a favorite saying, which he would whip out whenever anyone younger than he would complain about aches and pains or failing memories. "It gets worse," he would say, with the authority of one speaking from experience.

His death followed a long illness, during which he eventually lost almost all ability to participate in his own care. Pat became his full-time caregiver, determined to keep him at home, as Rich wished.

Although Rich's physical abilities decreased during his illness, his mind and quick wit stayed sharp. One Sunday, before it became too difficult for Rich to attend church, he told his church family that he had been taking about eight pills a day. Recently, his doctor had put him on another pill, then gave him an anti-depressant, too. Rich said, "That way, if the other pills don't work, I won't care."

Music was one of the great loves of Rich's life. He sang and played guitar with a gospel band at church. Whenever his brother would visit from Virginia, they would spend an evening picking and singing together. Rich and Pat got into the habit of singing together each evening in their apartment, with Rich playing the accompaniment on his guitar. So, when his fingers stiffened up about three years ago, all part of the illness that afflicted him, and he lost the ability to play the guitar, it was a great loss for everyone.


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One day, about a year and a half ago, Pat left Rich resting in his recliner, alone in the apartment, while she ran an errand. From where he sat, Rich could see out the front window and saw a car turn into their driveway. Moments later, the doorbell rang. It was difficult for Rich to get out of the chair and to the door, and he wasn't dressed to greet a guest anyway. So he stayed seated in his recliner.

Soon an elderly woman started pounding on the front window...then back to the door, ringing the doorbell and even kicking the door. Rich tried unsuccessfully to reach Pat on her cell phone, hoping that she might be able to come home and see what the lady wanted. After listening to the relentless pounding for 15 minutes or so, Rich finally decided, "What you see is what you get;" and he opened the door.

The woman demanded to know where "Flora" was and wouldn't believe Rich that there was no Flora there. He finally managed to explain to her that there was an identical apartment complex next to the one she was in and that there was another apartment with the same number in that complex and maybe Flora could be found there. He said later that he should have added, "It gets worse."

Before they married, Pat lived in a farmhouse in the country and had always been one to bustle about when doing her housework. When they married and moved into Rich's apartment, Pat made an effort to slow down and work more quietly so as not to disturb the resident of the neighboring apartment. Recently, when a weakening Rich was spending the day in bed, Pat set about cleaning up the kitchen. When she returned to the bedroom, Rich told her he had decided on a name for her kitchen: "Bang-le-dish."

These stories give only a small glimpse of the man that Rich was. They show a little of the sorrow that touched his life, a little of the courage, and a little of the humor. He was a fun guy. I wish we'd known him longer. But we'll meet again. And then there will be all eternity to share with him.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Smokies, April 2012...Porters Creek Trail

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Porters Creek
On April 24, we drove over to the Greenbrier area of the Smokies and hiked a mile up the Porters Creek trail. It's a very pretty hike along Porters Creek, leading to a historic farm site at one mile. The second mile leads through a lovely display of spring wildflowers to a pretty waterfall. This time, though, we went only as far as the farm site.

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Ownby Cemetery on Porters Creek Trail
About three quarters of a mile into the hike, rock stairs lead up the hill to the Ownby cemetery. There are several of these little cemeteries in the National Park, left over from the days when people lived in the area, before their land was purchased for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have visited this cemetery before; and this time, as on previous visits, virtually every grave in the cemetery was decorated with some sort of flowers. Someone cares.

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John Messer Barn at Historic Farm Site
It's a marvel to us how those early settlers leveled their buildings with rocks, and this old barn is an example of that. The John Messer Barn was constructed in 1875. It's the only remaining structure of the pre-park community of Greenbrier Cove and was added to the National Register in 1976. The Messer Barn is a type of double-cantilever barn unique to East Tennessee and rarely found outside its immediate vicinity.

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Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Cabin at Historical Farm Site
The Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Cabin, located next to the Messer Barn on the Porters Creek Trail, is a dogtrot cabin constructed by members of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club between 1934 and 1936, one of the few non-National Park Service structures built within the park's boundaries during the 1930s. In 1933, the club's members met with the National Park Service director and convinced him to grant them a special-use permit to build the cabin.

A dogtrot house historically consisted of two log cabins connected by a breezeway or "dogtrot," all under a common roof. Typically one cabin was used for cooking and dining while the other was used as a private living space, such as a bedroom. It's a style of house that was common throughout the Southeastern United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most theories place its origins in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Some scholars believe the style developed in the post-Revolution frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Club used the logs from three dismantled cabins from the local area, and constructed the the Hiking Club cabin around an existing chimney fall. The club leased the cabin from the park service until 1981.

And what would a historical farm site be without one of these...?
 
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The Necessary

 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Smokies, April 2012...Cades Cove

There is a special spot in Cades Cove where Doug and I enjoy spending time just relaxing and reading. Over the years, as we've engaged in that activity, we've been privileged to see several critters, including bears and deer. Apparently made bold by our stillness, they sometimes come quite close.

Well, the bears didn't come close. There might have been screaming involved if they had.

Anyway, on this trip, three deer came tentatively out of the woods and watched us for awhile before bounding gracefully away. I was able to capture only one with the camera.

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Deer at our favorite reading place in Cades Cove
Later, after leaving our reading spot, we returned to the one-way, 11-mile loop road through the cove, leading to the exit. On the way, I snapped the following photo of one of the cove's historical cabins from the moving vehicle as we drove by.

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Carter Shields Cabin in Cades Cove
On Monday, April 23, we returned to Cades Cove, this time for a hike to Abrams Falls. It was a cold morning, but that suited us. It's much more pleasant to hike when the temperature is on the chilly side.

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Snow can be seen on the distant mountaintops on this chilly day
This area of the national park was ravaged by an EF4 tornado a year ago, making several trails in the park impassable, including the Abrams Falls trail. There were numerous blow downs on the 2.5-mile Abrams Falls trail and over 40 areas where root balls were ripped out of the trail surface leaving hot-tub sized craters. The National Park Service was able to get this popular trail open again very quickly, but there are still some trails that remain closed due to the tornado damage.

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Some of the damage from the EF4 tornado that ravaged this area on April 27, 2011
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Flowering shrubs along Abrams Falls trail
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Spider in web covered with raindrops along Abrams Falls trail
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Abrams Falls
This is one of our favorite waterfalls in the Smokies. It's a beautiful waterfall in a lovely setting, and the trail isn't terribly difficult, even for us old fogies.

Oh my. That reminds me of a funny thing that happened on another trail on another day. It was actually our first day of hiking on this trip, and we were taking it pretty easy, moaning about our aches and pains. We had hiked about a mile and a half up the trail and had decided that we'd better not push ourselves too hard on this first day out. So we turned around and started back down the trail toward the parking lot. We hadn't gone far when we met a group of folks coming up the trail, including a little old white-haired lady using a walker.

Doug looked at me and said, "If she can do it, we can do it."

I looked back at him and said, "Do you want to turn around and continue up the trail?"

He said, "No, I want to get a walker."

 

Friday, May 04, 2012

Smokies, April 2012...Cabin View and Newfound Gap Road

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The view framed by the deck rail of Teaberry Cabin
If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know that Doug and I love the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Since our first trip there in 1990, we have visited there, generally, once or twice a year, usually in the spring and fall. In recent years, we have most often stayed in a hotel in Pigeon Forge. Their spring and fall rates are very reasonable, making it hard to justify renting a cabin. However, we were able to get a very good rate on a cabin in April, making it possible for us to enjoy that luxury. The photo above is the view from the cabin's deck, in the late-day sun.

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Orange flowers growing on the mountainside above our cabin
On this visit to the Smokies, for our first day's outing, we decided to drive the Newfound Gap Road up over the top of the mountains between Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina. It's a beautiful drive, with lots of scenic overlooks, and provides a good overview of the national park.

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View from Newfound Gap
In southern Appalachian vernacular, a gap is a low point in a mountain ridge. New Englanders call such places “notches” while Westerners refer to them as mountain “passes.” At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The old road over the Smoky Mountains crossed at Indian Gap, located about a mile and a half west of the current site. When the lower, easier crossing was discovered, it became known as the “newfound” gap.

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View from Clingmans Dome Parking Area
Just south of Newfound Gap, the seven-mile Clingmans Dome Road climbs to within a half-mile of Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies at 6,643 feet. From the parking area at the end of the road, a half-mile trail climbs steeply to an observation tower. It's a difficult walk for us flatlanders from Indiana, living at an elevation of about 750 feet. We've done it in the past, but there are other things we'd rather do these days.

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Artists attempting to capture a great view on canvas
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A closer look at one of the paintings
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I don't know what they are, but they're pretty.
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Mingus Mill
Mingus Mill is located a half-mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, on the North Carolina side of the Smokies. Built in 1886, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. Water flows down a millrace to the mill, which has a working cast iron turbine. A miller demonstrates the process of grinding corn into cornmeal, and cornmeal and other mill-related items are available for purchase at the mill. Located at its original site, Mingus Mill stands as a tribute to the test of time.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Blue Ridge Parkway, Part 3

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Brown Thrasher
This Brown Thrasher should have been included in the previous post because it was near the end of our driving day on April 16, when we found him singing happily from the top of a dead tree at the Pine Tree Overlook. Brown Thrashers are a type of mockingbird, belting out the calls of a wide variety of other birds. This one had a wonderful repertoire and was giving us a excellent concert. He was startled away by the arrival of a large crow, but he returned to his spot in the dead tree as soon as the crow had left the area, picking right up with his mimicry of virtually every bird in the area.

There weren't many special features to enjoy on our second day's drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, on April 17th, other than the scenic overlooks. The attractions that we had on our list to visit were all closed, not having opened yet for the season.

Although the facilities at Mabry Mill were closed, we we were still able to walk through the area and view the old buildings and equipment. The mill itself is very picturesque, situated as it is next to a small pond and reflecting in the water.

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Mabry Mill
Since so many of the facilities along the Parkway were closed, we couldn't find restrooms. We wound up turning aside at Fancy Gap, NC. After using the restrooms at a gas station there, we went in search of a restaurant. Just past the bridge that led back onto the Parkway, there was an antique shop and a little deli. I think it was called Treasure Potts. Anyway, the daily special at the deli was a Monte Cristo sandwich, with chips and a pickle; and it was delicious. We may never be back in that area; but, if we were, we'd put that stop on our agenda.

The Parkway was closed between Mileposts 217 and 245, so we exited at Sparta, North Carolina. It was a little early in the afternoon to stop for the day, so we decided to drive on to Boone and spend the night there.

During the night, there were thunderstorms and heavy rains. As a result, there was fog on the Parkway the next morning, April 18th. Signs on the Parkway warn against traveling that road during fog, ice, or snow conditions; but we told ourselves that the fog would most likely clear up shortly. (We sometimes deceive ourselves.)

We entered the Parkway that morning at Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Initially, the fog wasn't too bad, so we kept going. The heavy rains of the night before had created waterfalls where there probably hadn't been waterfalls before. 

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Cascade at Rough Ridge Overlook

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Roadside waterfall near Linville, NC
But then the fog became pretty thick, making driving the winding road more difficult and the signs at the overlooks the only things to be photographed.

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Glassmine Falls Overlook

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This was the view as we exited a tunnel.

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This was shot through the rain-spotted windshield, in an area where the fog had lifted a bit.

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A wet wild turky scurrying off the roadway into the shelter of the woods
We decided to end our drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway at Asheville, North Carolina, even though it meant that we would miss the last 75-100 miles of its famous scenery. We left the Parkway at Asheville and headed for our rented cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Someday, we hope to cover those last miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, from the other end.
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