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The Downhomer
The Stuff of Life: Not Bread, Not Sugar and Spice and Everything nice. Not tomatoes! Salt!

Last week I wrote, however poorly, about how much I love tomatoes. I love eating them out of hand, love them cooked in almost anything. I love rice cooked in tomato juice, vegetable soup made with tomato juice, spaghetti with a meat sauce made from tomatoes, goulash made with tomatoes, garden salads with hunks of fresh tomatoes in them. To my notion, tomatoes enhances the flavor of just about anything you might cook them in, except maybe for desserts!
Now I will write a few words about that addition which enhances the taste of all food items; of tomatoes, and all other fruits, meat, bread, and vegetables. In fact, every single thing we eat seems unfinished without that little sprinkle of salt we give it, for it is how well our food is seasoned that always makes it taste better, be more palatable.
I have heard that the people of Scotland eat their breakfast porridge with salt and not sugar. In fact this is also how I like my instant oatmeal. If it is actually true or not for Scotland, I do like my instant oatmeal so much better with salt than with sugar. I like an orange with salt on it, like eating a grapefruit with salt, like frying up slices of sweet potatoes that are salted before the brown sugar that caramelizes them is ever added. I even like a sprinkle of salt in my fruit salad and what would bread be like without it. In fact, in many of our diet preferences it often seems that sugar and/or salt is often used inter- changeably.
To digress somewhat, we all know how we get sugar. Probably once upon time, it might have been gathered from the wild in naturally growing cane breaks. I have read how Daniel Boone and the early settlers of this land utilized the use of wild sugar cane as pig fodder. Of course they probably knew that by planting it for themselves they could make molasses. And better yet when they pulled out that sweet inner part of those stalks, after they allowed that inner goodness to dry, they had a reasonable facsimile of what in modern time we know as refined sugar. The history of the production of sugar actually goes back to the places where it first flourished; in Asia and India, Egypt, Israel and other warm places. I once read how one of the soldiers of Alexander the Great had broken off a cane stalk as they marched through a field of it and finding it so very good, he reported on its sweetness. So of course it was taken back to Europe where it eventually evolved into an industry that has helped to be part of a buying and selling cog that makes the world go round.
Today there are acres and acres of sugar cane under cultivation, as well as a certain kind of beet from which sugar is also made. Before that, people ate dates and figs and wild grapes, along with all kinds of other fruits in appeasement of their sweet cravings. Of course there was always wild honey, the honeybee probably created at the same time as all other wild things. Whatever, since then honeybees have just kept on doing their thing by producing the super sweet excretion which in time would be part of the diet of John the Baptist. The Bible tells us how that faithful forerunner prophet lived in the desert where he survived on locusts and wild honey which some of those always industrious little bees had made. In command from their Creator, and in preparation for a certain ordained purpose? I absolutely believe that from the beginning, God knew that honey from the bees He created would some day make the honey His baptist servant John would need to eat.
But how about salt?
Long before the time of Christ, salt was an important bartering item for the caravans that plied the trade routes of the world. In today’s world, we all know about the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, the salt of the Dead Sea located in the Jordan Riff area. We also know about caves of salt and the mines where tons of salt are harvested both here and in many other places around the world.
I won’t even bother to speak of the side effects of too much salt, believing the secret for its safe use being a practice of moderation! And though I myself do not have many problems with high blood pressure, I admit I am a salt-a-holic.
Recently, my son Vaughn and his wife came from Missouri for a visit home. While Janice and I worked together finishing up the soup beans, fried potatoes, corn bread and pork chops Vaughn had asked me for, we enjoyed talking, the two of us speaking casually of many things. We spoke of how important salt is to our day to day cooking, agreeing with each other that it was not as salty as it once was. Then we remembered that Bible verse where Christ tells us that when salt has lost its savor, it is only fit to be tossed out. We thought that this verse could easily be a description of some one who turns back from their first estate; becoming then an unprofitable servant. I pray this would never be so of me; my salt always viable and true.

Education and Common Sense
A Nation Divided Against Itself

Somebody (Abraham Lincoln, perhaps?) in the distant past said  “A Nation Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.”  Probably he was talking about the great debate over slavery that eventually took the lives of so many of our finest men, both Southern and Northern. The rift continued for many years after the shooting was over.
These days, I am grieved over the state that we in the United States find ourselves.  In the past, we have been able to disagree on matters of national importance and still remain friends. Now, if I do not agree with my friend about whether Mr. Trump is doing a good job of being President of the United States, my friend automatically hates me and refuses to have anything to do with me.
It seems that, like in the Civil War days, brother hates brother because of their different opinions.
I posted an (I thought) innocent question on Facebook yesterday. It read “Is anybody else tired of the government’s wasting time wondering what Mr. Trump’s group said to the Russians when they need to be worrying about Health Care and the Tax situation?”  I unleashed a hornet’s nest of posts, pro and con.  Some of them were actually disrespectful to me personally. I had never been disrespected all the time I taught at Paintsville High school. One of my dear surrogate daughters rebuked the rude person who had verbally attacked me. I appreciated her defense.
I don’t know how this is going to come out. Yesterday’s Courier-Journal had as their cartoon a platform with a noose hanging above it labeled “TRUMP”, and the caption below read “The Democrats’ Only Platform.” As the C-J is solidly left-leaning, I didn’t know whether they meant it to be funny or serious.
I have carefully avoided speaking my mind about the political situation because some of the people I love dearly have a different opinion than I do, and I have hesitated to speak my mind for fear of alienating them completely. My daddy was a Democrat and my mother was a Republican when they married. They never had any arguments that I ever heard, and both would decide which was the best candidate and vote.  Neither of them was so set in their ways that they would not vote for the better candidate of whatever party.
I have been a registered Republican since I was 21, and I always vote. I have voted for a Democrat for President at least once.
Those of you who have been reading this, know who I voted for in the 2016 election—or rather who I voted against. The Russians had nothing to do with my vote.
I have been pleasantly surprised at how hard President Trump has worked since he won the election, and I have approved of all the excellent people he has brought on board; I loved it when his group invited my little best buddy, Marlana VanHoose, to sing at one of his celebrations in Washington D.C.   I wish people didn’t hate him so much that they are willing to sacrifice the country just so he will fail as President.
I have had many friends who have differing opinions to mine. I hope I still have them. I can still love a friend who, to my thinking, is misguided. I hope that my friends can still love me, even if I have a differing opinion and can still speak to me and be my friend.
I hate for the United States to be divided against itself.

Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

Gullibility is not a virtue

Lately, I’ve been sort of noticing people, and what I’ve noticed is, by and large, Americans are a strange lot.
While no one would argue the fact that this is the greatest country on earth, we, as its inhabitants, are a bit strange in a lot of ways. For instance, we’re second to none in any category that man can devise, which, of course, is good. Unless, that is, the category is gullibility. That’s not so good.
There’s an old, much over-used saying that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Americans do stand -- and stand tall for many upright principles. Yet, unfortunately, we’re also prone to fall for just about anything, especially if it comes from that little flat screen thing that hangs (or  sits) in practically every room of the house. (Oh for the days when we mostly used it to watch Bonanza and Wagon Train.) But now, depending on your political views, which usually determines your preference of news channels, it continually spews forth that which it wants us to believe. As intelligent as we are, just because it comes from that electronic marvel that we have come to love and adore; that we believe knows everything about everything, we swallow it quicker than a catfish would grab a gob of chicken liver from a hook dipped into a pay lake.
But in our defense, that’s not just some sort of johnny-come-lately phenomenon. At least not in the modern sense. It was reported that fifty, or so, years ago NBC news anchor David Brinkley (folks our age remember him as half of the historic Huntley/Brinkley news team) was asked “What is news”? His response, “The news is what I say it is.” Since at the time, he and Ole Chet were among the few responsible for reporting what was going on in the world, I suppose he was right.
Problem is, as great and diverse as our country is today, we’re surrounded by a lot of people (even TV personalities) with weird ideas. And what do we do? We sit and marvel at these so-called “talking heads” -- the ones we admire for being so smart -- based of course, on the information they’re feeding us about stuff we want to hear because it’s the stuff we already believe anyway. But because it’s coming from the aforementioned flat screen, we absorb it as truth, instead of shaking our heads in wonder and realizing that Ole Barney Fife may have had something when describing Ernest T. Bass: “He’s a nut.” When you come to think about it, there is a lot of common sense ideas that might be learned from a good dose of Mayberry on a regular basis.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we celebrated our country’s 241st birthday. We spent a lot of money on cherry bombs and bottle rockets, and that’s how it should be. A lot of people have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. That, of course, includes the freedom to be gullible, to put common sense aside and let an electronic box tell us what to think. As I said earlier, we Americans are a strange lot.

Smile Awhile
Mountain Talk

In the late ‘60s, my husband, Ronnie, traveled to Michigan to get a summer job in a car factory. He was working his way through college and many of his friends went there together in order to save on expenses. Many Eastern Kentuckians had migrated north in the ‘50s and ‘60s after experiencing an economic downward spiral and some took up permanent residence in the growing industrial states.
One evening after work, Ronnie’s colleagues invited him to go to a local hangout and having nothing else to do he agreed. They had only been in the bar a couple of minutes before Ronnie spied an attractive young girl and walked up and introduced himself. He said that the girl glanced up at him and without saying a work turned and walked away.
Needless to say, Ronnie was a bit perturbed that the young lady had shunned his advances, but he continued to try and engage her in a conversation. Finally Ronnie boldly walked up to her and asked, “If I’ve done something to offend you, I apologize. But why won’t you speak to me?” Ronnie was surprised when she answered, “Because you sound stupid.”
This was the first time Ronnie had ever been exposed to the discrimination that I like to refer to as Hillbillyaphobia.
Hillbillyaphobia is the fear of talking to someone who doesn’t sound the way you do.
I was around 10 years old the first time someone made fun of my accent. We were on vacation in Florida and a couple staying in the room beside us kept asking me to talk because they loved how I pronounced words. I just thought they liked to hear me talk, and it goes without saying, I obliged.
We began talking about our mountain dialect after Ronnie read an article that debunked the theory that the way we pronounce words is merely the old Scottish/Irish vernacular that we have carried down through generations. I even mentioned that my high school English teacher used to tell the students that we spoke in the purist Old World speech patterns just like our descendants.
“We do tend to talk in a lazy manner,” I offered. “We rarely put the “ING” on word and we often say ‘gonna’ for going.”
“That’s true,” Ronnie agreed, “but that’s not indigenous to this area. Lots of people all over the United States do that, too.”
“Yes, but when you enunciate words in our native nasal tawny they still think we sound like Hillbillies, which in their eyes translates into ignorance,” I remarked.
“Sara, I lived in San Francisco for 22 years and no one made fun of my accent,” Ronnie said. “In fact, they always asked me if I was from Texas.”
As I stood there trying to get my mind around what a Texan might sound like I couldn’t help but think how humiliated Ronnie must have felt when that girl in Michigan said he sounded stupid.
“Did you ever see that girl who thought you sounded stupid again while you were in Michigan?” I asked.
“Nope,” he replied. “I never went back to the bar.
My heart ached as I said, “Did you not go back because you were embarrassed?”
“Absolutely not,” he laughed. “I didn’t go back because I wasn’t 21.”
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile.

Education and Common Sense
I’m greatful for so many friends

The Sunday school lesson for my class of “Extra Mature” Adults last Sunday was the story of the early Christian leader, Barnabus.  He was a Greek-speaking Jew who was one of the leaders in the early church in Jerusalem. It was made up entirely of Jews who were convinced (after Jesus rose from the dead—and they saw him) that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that the prophets had been telling them about for hundreds of years.
The church had been scattered after the early leader, Stephen, had been stoned to death for blasphemy. The stoners’ coats had been held by a young Jewish zealot named Saul; who was reputed to be hunting up more Christians to persecute.
The church at Jerusalem heard that Saul had been converted, and was wanting to join with the believers! Naturally, they were afraid that he just wanted to spy on them to see how many he could find and get rid of.  The church sent Barnabus to check out Saul. He did, and became Saul’s friend and mentor.  The accounts first tell about Barnabus and Saul. Later, after Saul becomes Paul, the accounts mention Paul and Barnabus. Later, Paul did not want to forgive John Mark for some misdeed, so Barnabus took Mark and Paul took Silas and they split up. The new Christian Saul needed a mature Christian Barnabus to help him become the Christian giant Paul.
I thought of so many Christian friends and mentors I have had over the years.  I found a great group of Christian friends when I went to college at Western in the Baptist Student Union. My roommate, Jennie Foster, was a great help to me when I joined First Baptist Church in Bowling Green.   Another great Christian lady was a veteran schoolteacher who came back to school in the summer, Miss Alice Patterson, whom we affectionately called, “Miss Pat.”
When I got married and came to Liberty Baptist Church and started teaching in Paintsville, I had lots of Christian role models: Katharine Chandler, Ruth Gunning, Peggy Kirk were three of the ones I remember fondly.
I gave each member of Sunday’s class a copy of the poem I wrote about my Baptist Student Union college friends in 1946, and told them that  each of them is  one of the friends that continue to inspire me. I will share it with my Facebook and newspaper friends. If you are one of them, you know who you are!

I thank, Thee, Lord, this lovely day
For strength to travel on my way,
For friends whose lives are like a light
That guides, and makes my pathway bright.
Their lives, to me, shine true and pure,
And, though my steps are far from sure,
The inspiration of their souls
Helps cheer me on, and makes the goals
I work toward somehow nearer. Lord,
Guide my steps that I may be
A light to those who follow me.
June Baxter Rice

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