Grand Ole Opry’s Longest Living Member, Jesse McReynolds, To Return To Famed Stage!

Bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds is ready to return to the Grand Ole Opry stage five months after an aneurysm nearly killed him.   For lovers of the nation’s longest running radio show this is simply fantastic.

On Sept. 22, McReynolds, 88, experienced severe abdominal pain that turned out to be a ruptured aneurysm. He had a 50 percent chance of survival when he underwent emergency surgery, and spent three weeks in the hospital following the procedure before returning home to Gallatin.

His road to recovery has been a long one — he says this five-month stretch has been the longest he’s gone without performing since his musical career began in the late 1940s — and he can’t wait to get back on stage.

McReynolds said he’ll perform on the Grand Ole Opry this weekend as it coincides with Reynolds’ 54th anniversary as an Opry member. He and his brother Jim McReynolds joined the cast in March 1964. Jim died in 2002.

Jesse is currently the Opry’s oldest living member.

Standing With West Virginia Teachers

A teacher’s strike is keeping public schools closed for a third day in West Virginia.   I applaud the action.   All school districts are closed in all their 55 counties.   While I understand this places hardship on some families when it comes to the need for watching a child when parents work there is also a need to underscore the awful wage conditions of teaching in this nation.

Governor Jim Justice signed teacher pay raises of 2 percent next year and 1 percent the following two years. But West Virginia’s teacher pay ranks 48th in the nation, and teachers say the increases are too stingy, especially as health care costs more.

No one blanches when reports of multi-million dollar contracts are made for sport figures, or ‘golden parachutes’ are provided for corporate executives. But to demand that we pay wages commensurate to the skills and importance that teachers provide to the nation and it makes many citizens angry.

Education matters, and Lord, we know that more now than ever.  Yet too many of our teachers are treated unfairly when it comes to wages.

“You know, as a professional degreed teacher, working two jobs, I qualify for WIC and food stamps,” said Jacob Fertig, an art teacher at Riverside High School in Belle, in Kanawha County. WIC is the Women, Infants and Children food and nutrition service, a federal program.
“We collected on the WIC, so that’s how low teacher pay is. There were a lot of times where we got to choose between groceries and health coverage for my family. This isn’t just an issue of a bunch of people squabbling over a little bit of insurance benefits or a little bit of pay — we are really in a bad place here as far as that stuff goes.”
It needs to be noted that teachers in surrounding states make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more than teachers in West Virginia.

No High Expectations For Congress

Recall decades ago when Congress passed a budget and did so within a process that worked–and then was also able to pass other legislation, too?


Members in both chambers return to Capitol Hill on Monday from a ten-day recess with four weeks left to put together a massive fiscal 2018 spending bill. And the package, which Congress must pass by March 23 to avoid another government shutdown, may be the last major legislative vehicle to advance this year.

Simply defined as totally dysfunctional.

Meet Hercules, Slave To George Washington, And One of America’s Early Celebrity Chefs

As we celebrate Black History Month we need to again turn the pages of history to encounter a most amazing man.

It’s a testament to both Hercules’s charisma and culinary skills that historians remain as enchanted with him today as his peers in the 18th century were. In recent years, a renewed focus on early African-American cuisine has revived interest in the story of a man who, while enslaved by the Washington family between 1770 and 1797, bested cruel, capricious treatment to become one of the most famous chefs in the early American republic.

Hercules seems to have run an orderly, sanitary kitchen. Though mild-mannered outside the workplace, he quickly rebuked anyone in the executive mansion who failed to meet his exacting standards. “Under his iron discipline,” Custis wrote, “wo[e] to his underlings if speck or spot could be discovered on the tables or dressers, or if the utensils did not shine like polished silver.”

According to Custis, Hercules especially shone during the dinners Washington hosted for members of Congress. These events were crowded and often hectic, but under Hercules, “it was surprising the order and discipline that was observed in such bustling a scene,” he wrote. “[Hercules’s] underlings flew in all directions to execute his orders, while he, the great master-spirit, seemed to possess the power of ubiquity, and to be everywhere at the same moment.”

Supreme Court Snubs Nose At Trump White House Over Dreamers

There is a great smile over the face of America today as the  U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Trump administration appeal aimed at ending deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants.  The court took an easy exit for itself by steering clear –at least for now–over the debate concerning the fate of hundreds of thousands of people.

The justices, without published dissent, turned away the administration’s appeal of a ruling that has kept the Obama-era program in place.   This is the reason for the smile.  To make it most plain the Trump attempt to play with the lives of brown-skinned people for the sake of partisan gain with the racist foundation of the Trump voter base has been up-ended.

If the justices had stepped in, the Supreme Court could have decided the case by the end of June. Instead, rulings from two federal districts courts will prevent the government from winding down the program until the legal challenge is resolved.

Under a lower court order that remains in effect, the Department of Homeland Security must continue to accept applications to renew DACA status from the roughly 700,000 young people, known as Dreamers, who are currently enrolled. The administration’s deadline of March 5, when it intended to shut the program down, is now largely meaningless.

The rejection buys time for the Dreamers and places Congress even more into the seat to agree to legislation that makes these young men and women legal.  Men and women, it needs to be noted, which in many cases are more skilled and able to make far better incomes than the racist base which seeks to deny them a place in this nation.   

The administration was asking the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of bypassing an appeals court and granting fast-track review of a federal trial judge’s decision. The court’s rebuff leaves open the possibility that the justices could consider the case later, after a San Francisco-based federal appeals court hears it.

But the political calculus has changed this morning and again makes congress responsible to do the right thing.

Letter From Home “Maple Tree” 2/25/18

Growing up as a boy on 100 acres of land, much of it wooded, I can assure you I never thought at all about the pruning and shaping of trees.   While my dad would annually trim and maintain a very long and eye-appealing pine hedge that ran in an L shape around the contours of our large lawn, I never considered that as more than the ‘maintenance of the evergreens’.    Meanwhile, the tall and supremely giant oak trees that anchored the front lawn and behind the house were never things to even consider adjusting as they were almost forces of nature.    The sprawling towers of limbs and leaves allowed for some of the fondest memories from childhood.

The only time that I recall Dad getting anywhere near one of those oaks with a ladder was when he assisted in my determination to save some baby red squirrels that had been jostled from their nest in a wind storm.   I still recall the hearty feeding of warm milk that Mom had heated on the stove, and dad fed with an eye-dropper while holding the small creatures.  Then with care he got up into the tree with the ladder and tried to aid in helping the parents locate their young ones.  That is surely one of the best summations of the care dad had for animals.

My favorite times with those oaks were spent in their shade while reading a book.  The massive one to the south-west of our home was where James Bond first came alive as the pages of an Ian Fleming drama unfolded.  Only a few feet away was a long wide strip of flowers that mom tended, the colorful blooms seemed ever-present and at times the scent of the flowers would waft on the breezes that made the tree leaves rustle.  (Pictured above is the place I sat as a boy–and stand as a man.)

What has taken me back to those days was watching a maple tree being structurally pruned in our yard this afternoon.  It was 11 years ago this summer that I dug a truly impressive hole to allow for the root ball on a tree, which was roughly my height, to be placed in the ground.  A neighbor on the next block offered us the tree after we moved into our home, carting the large container in a wheel barrow and then assisting as we positioned it correctly into the hole.  With the love of trees that was passed down from my parents–meaning the watering and adding nutrients to the soil– the maple tree is now about 35 feet tall.

Several months ago James and I returned from Friday night shopping and noticed a note placed on our front door.  A young man–who is a forester and is named Forrest–had walked countless times by our home gazing up the tree and, while admiring it, also noted it needed to be pruned and allowed to grow in a more healthy fashion.   Today he brought over his equipment and made climbing a tree look like what it takes for me to mow under the tree–seemingly effortless moves.

At times I stop and reflect on why I find pleasure in this or that–what has created the man I am today? When I look at the maple the answer is easy to find.  That maple is one that has cast shadows in summer afternoons on the Adirondack chairs which are placed on the lawn, and which make for a perfect place to read and enjoy a cup of coffee.

So many years have passed from the boyhood home, where under another tree, I found so many pages to turn.  The pattern of my life in countless ways revolves around the simple pleasures and constant connection to the memories from yesterdays.

That is what I call being rich.

NRA Is Also Anti-Semitic

The list of names spouted off by Wayne LaPierre last week might have sounded odd to you if you were listening carefully.  They had that Billy Graham feel.

Longtime National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre Thursday addressed criticism of his organization following the Florida school massacre, and his combative defense included expressions of dog-whistle anti-Semitism reminiscent of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” with descriptions of a powerful plot to destroy America’s freedom by “European-style Socialists” who he said had taken over the Democratic Party.

Again and again in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, LaPierre identified the enemies of the NRA, and of America, as Jews – from Karl Marx to Bernie Sanders, from Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor George Soros to former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. LaPierre singled out Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York as one of the Democrats who are “liars to the core.”

“History proves it. Every time, in every nation in which this political disease rises to power, its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated. It is all backed in this country by the social engineering, and the billions, of people like [philanthropists of Jewish lineage] George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and more.”