Give credit where it is due

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

This weekend is very important to several people. Last weekend I celebrated my daughters second birthday of the year. She turned three. Of course, she is actually 17, but most you know the story of her rattlesnake snakebite on July 25, 2011. God moved and she is alive today.
It was and still is a special day for us. So we celebrate a little and give God the glory for what he has done. Because we should give credit where it is due.
This weekend is special because the 25th Annual Corn Festival will be held. Very few people thought 25 years ago it would last long. But despite it all, we will crown another Corn Festival Queen and a corn eating contest winner.
The festival, which I believe should be renamed to the Powell County Corn Festival so maybe we can get more people to see its importance and join in, is a chance to bring in some tourists, show off what we have and have fun. But that’s my opinion, others may differ.
That was the general idea 25 years ago and I believe it remains the general idea today. We have to give all of those who were involved on day one; all of those who have worked to keep it going and even those who run it today their due. They have worked hard and they have tried to make it a special occasion.
In recent years we have seen attendance fall off and that includes even local people. We want to draw people into our county to show off what we offer as a community, but we need for our community to jump in too.
Remember when one of us prospers we all can, if we work together. So how about coming out and having some fun!
The festival has made it this far. Wouldn’t be great to see the 30th, 40th and even 50th Corn Festival if the Lord tarries? I don’t know about you, but that would be quite a showcase of how a community works together for the good of the community.
I’m just saying . . .

Count to 10 and look around, there’s still good out there

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

It has been a while since I have written a column. To be honest, I’ve really not had the time and to be completely truthful, I haven’t had the desire to write one. Maybe it is burn out or perhaps it is because I am trying to change a few things in my life.
You see I’m getting a little older, I’ve been back at the time for seven years now and I may not be quite as feisty or as rambunctious as I have been I the past. Maybe it is because I am paying attention more to my true calling and that is not journalism.
I know, for some of you, that comes as a shock.
What? Your not called to journalism, really? I am sure some of my biggest distractors are reveling in that revelation. But those who want to point out others faults for no other reason than to either have something to do or because they feel it makes them a better person. . . well I guess I’ll just pray for them.
To get back to my column this week.
Over the past few months I have found it hard to come up with a column without being upset about a subject and ready to rip someone apart because I thought they had no clue what was going on here in the real world. Unfortunately we have people around us who live in their own kingdoms where they come first and they have difficulty understanding why some of us don’t bow or curtsy or acknowledge them like royalty.
But I digress.
I took the advice of a friend. He told me years ago, when I was little more vocal, little more quick to act, and he said “Think about it. Don’t do anything right now, people are expecting it. Just wait.”
In fact he knew that if I had time to think I would calm down and see tings more rationally. He was right.
But in recent weeks that rational thinking is waning as I see things going on both here and around the world that makes me wonder how long are people going to take it like sheep being led around. But then I try to calm down, read my Bible and look for guidance.
Just when I thought there was nothing to put in my column except quick barbs, analyzing situations that don’t make sense or putting leaders feet to the fire, just when I thought maybe I should never write another column, I met someone who has helped me to change my mind.
Back on July 4, as my family was away visiting other family members (with this job I don’t  have much of a chance to leave town) I went to the home of Danny Martin and his lovely wife Carolyn (I hope I got that right).
I was there to interview Mr. Martin about his father, Albert Martin. The elder Martin had died in WWII when the USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine just days before the end of the war. The importance of that ship and men like Albert Martin (like every one who serves) is a part of history you should look up and read about.
Anyway, I’m not real good with feature stories. In fact, I usually dread them because I don’t think I do them any justice. But this was an important story as part of Highway 213 was to be named for Danny Martin’s father, to honor his service and ultimate sacrifice. At best I figured I’d be there about an hour.
But was I surprised.
Mr. Martin and his wife were so kind and hospitable. We talked about the honor being bestowed and went through memorabilia. He told me stories about meeting the survivors of the ship and about growing up without his father. He spoke about how good his mother Ruth was; and about his grandparents.
We talked about church, loving God, teaching classes and all the good things we could think of. We talked about our community’s problems today and how most importantly we need God to help with the problems.
No disrespect to anyone I have ever interviewed. I have enjoyed many interviews. But I will have to say that so far Danny Martin has been the best interview I have ever had the pleasure to conduct.
Three hours after arriving I was actually having to leave to get to another event. But a part of me believed I could have sat there all day and talked to them. Maybe it was his grandfather-like qualities or maybe it was because for those three hours I saw that there is still good around us.
I cover crimes, politics, courts, wrecks and everything that seems to be bad. That is the nature of the business I am in. But it can take a toll.
But on that sunny afternoon, while sipping some of the best sweet tea I have ever had, I had the chance to see good and to realize that good people are still out there and they have stories that need to be told.
So I just had to write this week and express my thanks to the Martin’s for allowing me to be a part of the ceremony to honor Albert Martin, a WWII hero. I also want to thank them for helping me to catch my second wind, so to speak.
Does this mean I won’t write any hard columns ever again? Of course not! I’ll write about subjects that I feel are both interesting and need to to be discussed. Will take a second before writing? Well just ask my wife. I wrote this column Tuesday morning, after being on a tirade about things that tick me off on Monday evening before I went to bed. I’d say I’ll try to think before spouting off – at least in writing.
So I guess I need to thank the Martin’s and a few others who have come up to me lately with kind words or encouragement. If we did that to our fellowman more often, imagine what a world we would live in?
I’m just saying . . .

Proposed mining project threatens safety of children, residents of Furnace Mountain

By Steve Day, Guest Columnist

If you haven’t taken a drive up Furnace Mountain lately, you should soon because the peaceful drive and the beautiful surroundings are in danger of being lost to Powell County forever. Many of the people that live on Furnace Mountain have bought property and invested all they have into their places. Many have lived there for generations and some have left busy cities to relocate there but regardless all appreciate its beauty, tranquility and grandeur.  After having a very small advertisement run (on the 13th page of the Clay City Times) about Red River Materials LLC intent to mine Furnace Mountain, a permit has been applied for to turn part of Furnace Mountain into a limestone surface mine.
I attended the meeting on the evening of Thursday, June 12th to discuss concerns and objections of those living on Furnace Mountain, Pecks Creek and Cat Creek. There were approximately 200 people that showed up for the meeting even though there was no public advertisement of the event. The meeting was disorganized, with the coordinators not even having a fully operational camera to record the meeting, and the plan was not outlined by Red River Materials, or a representative the applicant. Those that conducted the meeting answered relatively few of the questions & objections raised by citizens of Powell County. Many people, including myself, got the feeling that this is being railroaded through regardless. Contributing to this feeling was the response of the chair person that many of the concerns raised were not his department but shifted the burden over to other departments like the Department of Transportation, even though the regulations from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet clearly contain information regarding many of the objections. Below I will outline just a few:
Some objected about the safety of our children. Concerns have been raised about having Large Trucks hauling rock coming down Furnace. The road being steep and quite narrow which can hardly handle two trucks passing each other as is. Not to mention, have you ever encountered a school bus while traveling up (Highway) 213? It is enough to make your heart stop! Can you imagine encountering a haul truck? Or even worse, what would happen if a school bus and a hauling truck met each other? I am not prepared to lose even one life, not to mention a school bus of children for this mining operation. Yet, when this was brought up, the chairperson said it would have to be taken to the DOT, that it wasn’t his department. This is not true. The Regulations for Permit requirements (405 KAR 5:030E) clearly states in Section 20 Transportation Plan that “the application shall clearly contain a plan for the transportation on minerals over public roads.” “That the plan shall state the legal weight limits and vehicle size limits for each roadway or bridge” and “the plan shall describe the anticipated average number of trucks per working day that will traverse each part of the state and county road systems, and the anticipated dimensions, gross vehicle weight, and number of axles of the trucks.”
The Knowlton Church on Furnace has been there since the 1970’s and concern was raised about what this would do to the church, yet little credence was given him, but the regulations under Section 28, Criteria for Permit Approval and Denial, states “that the mine cannot be within 300 feet…of a church, community or institutional building.”
We have concerns over waters that flow down Pecks and Cat Creeks which originate from Furnace, we have concerns to our gas and water wells being diminished or destroyed. We have concerns over the noise, the dust, our health from breathing more limestone dust and the list goes on and on. People of Powell County and Eastern Kentucky, my family moved here because we wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy these hills and raise our children close to nature. It does not take long driving through rural Appalachia to see the scars left from surface mines that have folded and left mountain tops and hillsides destroyed. We implore you to not let big businesses destroy what we have, because when it is gone it won’t come back.
If you are desirous of notifying someone why you think this mine shouldn’t happen, please send a letter to Mark Tarter with your objections. His address is below.

Mark Tarter
2 Hudson Hollow
Frankfort, KY 40601
RE:  Red River Materials, LLC
Application #099-9402

We will also be meeting at the Knowlton Church on Monday, June 23th at 6pm to discuss this further. You are welcome to attend. If you are interested in receiving updates to what is happening on Furnace Mountain, please send an email to and we will add you to our updates.

Steve Day is the Director of the Home for Health Lifestyle Center located on Peck’s Creek in Stanton.

I’m just saying . . . So you’re upset . . . well, so am I


Times Editor

Each year we try to do a nice thing for our graduating seniors and their families. With the help of some advertisers, we put out a special section for them In recent years, since multiple photographers are used by parents and students, it gets harder and harder to get the photos we need for that section.
This year was one of the worst.
In a class with 188 seniors we received, from the school, just over 90 pictures despite extending the deadline twice. I understand that some may have been sent to the school and to a wrong email, but we printed the photos we had. We also print the name of students we don’t have photos for. We have to go by the deadline set for us by our printer.
Now, I am a person who believes in taking responsibility and I have shouldered some for others over the years. But not today.
I will say that we accidentally left out one picture we had in time and due to a fluke of pages sticking together we missed some names that should have been listed. I am making that right this week in this issue.
But I refuse to be cussed, mocked, have ill-informed social media attacks or generally blamed for the problems that I, or this newspaper, did not commit. It takes only a simple call or question to get a truthful answer from me. Belligerence or lack of a better word, hot tempers, generally do not move me to cower or jump at someone’s “order.” We did what we were supposed to with the information given to us – it’s just that simple.
I do apologize for those who may have hurt feelings over this and maybe a new system will now be instituted, like making all the seniors get a photo taken from one photographer so we will have a place to go and get them. But I trust it will be better in the future.
Am I upset? A little. Not because of mistakes, those happen. But because of the accusations slung in my direction. I want to see all of those kids make it and would never intentionally hurt a kid.
Once again I am sorry for any pain, but two wrongs don’t make it right.
I’m just saying . . .

Letters to the Editor

What does it take to get things done?
Letter to the Editor:
What does it take?  For nearly two years I “Grover Barnett” have been trying to get the School Board, Earnie Smallwood, and Powell County Judge Executive Mr. James Anderson to come together and move forward on making over one hundred roads in Powell County safe for travel by school buses.  Our State Rep. Richard Henderson has even called these people over a year ago about this problem.
I have personally called and talked to Mr. Tate, Mr. Smallwood, Donald Curtis, Diana Meadows, James Anderson, most of the magistrates in Powell County as well as Richard Henderson.  Earnie Smallwood himself gave me a phone number for the department over bus garages in Kentucky.  According to them there are no guidelines or specs that deem a road safe or unsafe.  That the person over the bus garage “Mr. Smallwood” makes the call on road safety according to Frankfort.
I have spoken at a few school board meetings and fiscal court meetings as well.  Here is what Mr. James Anderson has told me.  That in order to fix the roads the school needs not only to give him a list of roads and how to fix the roads, but the reassurance by the school board that the buses will travel the roads to pick up the students, this has been an ongoing issue for nearly two years.  So after nearly 2 years; what does it take to get Mr. Anderson the information he needs and the reassurance by the Powell County Board of Education, that the fixed roads will be traveled by the school buses!
Thank you.

Grover S. Barnett
Clay City

Thanks for making the Reading
Celebration a
Letter to Editor,
On behalf of the Powell County Reading Celebration Committee, we would like to thank the students, staff, parents, community partners, artists, authors, and volunteers for their contribution in helping make our Sixth Annual Reading Celebration a success.
It took countless hours of planning to ensure that the top student readers from each school were recognized during a special ceremony, along with showcasing students in various performing arts settings such as musical programs, plays, dance, technology, and more.
The Reading Celebration was a true collaboration among numerous community organizations and without whom this event would not have been possible! A special thanks to the Powell County FRYSC’s, School Library Media Specialists, Powell County School System Staff, Kentucky authors, and the countless others who volunteered or contributed in some way to make this event possible.
It takes a significant amount of time and money to coordinate the Reading Celebration and we will be looking for additional community partners in the months ahead as we continue to showcase student achievement and talent in reading and the arts.
Lynne Stidham
Reading Celebration

Reader proud
someone is fighting the closing of roads by forest service
I am writing to express my admiration of an April 10th letter to the editor, “ROAD WARRIOR” in The Lexington Herald by Jeffrey Dozier. He told it”like it is” regarding the closure of public roads by the National and State Forest Services in both Wolfe and Powell Counties. Since the Great Depression, POLITICIANS have campaigned southeastern Appalachia with their promises to aid this area with good roads, quality schools, improved utilities, incentives for attracting manufacturing and, hence, employment opportunities. I was a school boy in the 50’s when first exposed to their “hot halitosis-laden air”. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, one being Bert Combs, those promises never happened. I am of the opinion that Mr. Combs is revered in eastern Kentucky, especially in Stanton.
The action of the Forest Service of closing the roads identified by name in the “Dozier Memo”. my phrase, has had a negative effect on the economy of our area. Shame on you Forest Service! I DO have an appreciation for the men and women of State and National Forest Service; I find solace in my belief that the road action resulted from a directive by someone isolated in an office in a big white house. WWTRD (What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do?).
I am proud of my heritage as an Applachian-American and I am “turned off” with do-gooders who cannot understand my devotion. I ask not what Appalachia can do for me (in the way of handouts) but rather what I can do for Appalachia as an employed, self-supported, civic-duty motivated Appalachian-American (none of this entitlement “bunk” for me).
I have no easy solutions for the Appalachian economy. Any solution will be difficult and  require men and women with great caring and dedication. Certainly, to shut down opportunities for continuing growth and economic growth in the Red River Gorge area has been discouraging, and is a backward step which must to be “nipped at its bud”.
Is there a Bert  Combs “ in the wings” ready to take on “The Great Reclaimer” title. Why not multiple Berts an “Bertresses” to lead our area to economic stability?  Thanks again, Mr. Jeff Dozier for lighting my fire.

Marion Atkinson

Dreams never grow old

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

My grandmother used to tell me that I would feel it when I got older.
She was referring to the many times I did basically crazy things just having fun. Plus I was a little clumsy, so I now know where my daughter gets it from. Couldn’t pass along any good traits like intelligence (not a whole lot here), no I gave her the gift of falling down.
But I digress.
Back to my grandmother. She would tell me, as I was rubbing my knees or trying to stretch my shoulder after one of those “Hey, watch this” moments, that when I got older I would feel it.
She wasn’t lying.
Now I’m not considered “old” by many standards. Now teens and my wife say I’m old, but in the grand scheme of life, I’m more near middle age. But if you are only as old as you feel, then there are days I’m pushing 90.
It seems that there are joints and muscles in my body that are pretty much quiet until I try to act like I’m 20 again. Then they scream at me, “Hey, quit that!”
I had one of those moments this past Monday night. A group of us got together in a gym and I was working with my daughter on her softball swing, while others were shooting basketball. When my daughter and I was finished, I thought to myself, “I can do that, been a while, but its like riding a bike, right?”
I thought I would start out shooting free throws. The first three were either off to either side or hit the front of the rim. Not to bad for someone who literally has not shot a basketball since the early 90’s. The fourth shot, well I could hear the imaginary chants of “Air Ball, Air Ball” or that could have been my wife in the background, between her laughs.
So what is my next choice, move closer? NO, try the three pointer. Once again epic fail. I did finally hit a shot, from the blocks in the lane, on my third try. I can now remember why I stuck with baseball in high school. Though I was not nearly this bad in high school.
Within minutes of deciding to quit embarrassing myself, I began to feel it like grandma said I would. I began to hurt in places I forgot existed and I’m sure I found a few places that are completely new to me.
The night reminded me of our weather lately. A few weeks ago we had a day where it was near 70 degrees and then the reality of winter still being in season hit back hard. My body thought it was in the spring of life, but no, winter came back quick.
But there is a silver lining to this.
I have realized that I can let it stay that way, just let time take its toll on me. I can sit back, grow old and listen to my arteries harden, along with my joints. Or I can try to keep hope and youth alive. Because basically we decide most of the time just when we are going to give up. Be it in staying in shape or following a dream.
As long as we have a goal, a dream and a desire to go for it we are very much alive. When we stop, we slowly fade away. Maybe I can’t hit that foul shot or three pointer now, but who knows I may be able to next month or next year, as long as I keep trying anything is possible.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs that where there is no vision, no dream, we perish. That can be applied to any aspect of our life. Never squash someone’s dream, never let yourself “grow old” in how we think or in our desire to advance our lives. Because the Bible also says that with God all things are possible.
I’m just saying . . .

I’m Just Saying . . . Valentine’s Day is here. How do you express your love?

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

Valentine’s Day.
The day of love. It is also the perfect day to propose or even get married.
It is a day set aside for love. And aside from my two loves, who will be getting something special this year (yes the same as last year, but it comes from the heart), I also love the side affects of the special day.
Chocolate candy.
Oh yeah, and the sales that go on for days afterward as I can get my hands on those marshmallow chocolate hearts, ummm, umm – but I digress.
The day envisions a feeling of love and being with those we love. Sometimes circumstances may stop us from physically being there, but they are forever in our hearts and mind.
Why does the day capture us so much?
Maybe it is because regardless of what you may tell your friends, we all want to be loved. And to be loved we have to let down our guard and love someone. When you are willing to do that, love can fill your heart and the Lifetime Movie Channel apparently.
Once again I will digress.
We oftentimes search for love so much and let our guard down so far that if you are not careful you let the wolf in the door, not Cupid. The idea of a diaper wearing matchmaker, though intriguing, is still quite disturbing to me. But once again, I digress.
If we let the wrong person in or we allow someone we love to abuse the situation, often times we may not want to admit we messed up. That is how people get stuck in situations with people they should not be with if for no other reason that it is not healthy for them.
In those cases, fear is substituted for love and the person in fear also fears that if they don’t stay where they are, if they don’t allow the other person to be in control, then they will go unloved.
They don’t want that, so they stay in misery and call it love.
So sad.
Or how about the parent or friend that loves someone in their lives so much they take care of their every need. Even the ones where they should let their loved one work their way throughit.
It is those life lessons that they need, but then we jump in and stop them from learning. And we wonder why they are not working and we are bailing them out well into their 30’s.
That’s a form of love I guess. But allowing them to grow, learn some hard lessons and watching them work through situations so they can take care of themselves without having to depend on others for everything, that is love too.
That is probably the most efficient form of love. Teach them in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.
I think I read that some place before.
Helping when they truly need it is much different that helping in every tough situation. When do they get to be grown ups? Who will take care of them after we are gone if they can’t do it themselves?
God has a form of love that knows no bounds.
He loves us all no matter what. He helps when we need help and allows us to climb the mountains of life so we can learn how peaceful a quiet time in our life really is.
He is fair and always there, but stern and watchful as we sometimes refuse His love, only to come running back when times get tough.
Maybe if we showed  love to everyone, helped those we can and allow our young people a chance to learn as they grow but not always bailing them out but by being there as a morale booster sometimes, not a savior.
Someone else already has that position. All we can do is love them, care for them and let them grow. That is love. Not doing it all for them, not protecting them when they have to face the consequence of their mistakes, but be close at hand as they deal with it.
Much like we did for our kids when they were learning to walk or ride a bike.
Love is not easy.
You may have to say no if you love someone sometimes. But love can be forever and it can be a valuable asset to our lives. That is, if we know what love really is.
I’m just saying . . .

(I just wanted to say that I love all of you, many in the way God wants us to love people. I love some like brothers and sisters and of course I love my wife and daughter with all my heart. But my love for God is unmatched, and so is his love for me & you.
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!)

I’m Just Saying . . . Commercials are the least of our problems

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

People never, I mean never, cease to amaze me. Apparently some people are not happy unless there is something to fuss about.
I mean I know, part of my reputation in the newspaper business is based on the fact that over the years I have tackled tough issues and voiced my opinion, There is no question there and yes, at times, I have been . . . wait or it . . . wrong.
But issues over commercials seem to confuse me. So let me warn you now, this column may offend a few, but someone has to say it.
During the Super Bowl, a blow out to many people’s surprise, there was a Coke commercial. It was interesting and yes I did not understand every word spoken or sang, but I know the words to the song so it didn’t bother me too much.
Suddenly I was advised the internet was “blowing up” as social media was all a twitter (pun intended) about the commercial.
I read several postings on different websites. So let me go ahead and try to unravel the confusion of he upset masses.
First of all the song being sung was not, repeat NOT the National Anthem. If you thought it was and have lived here all your life, do not take part in this conversation.
The song was America The Beautiful. The fact some thought it was the anthem really chapped my hide, especially those who posted other comments against the commercial.
Secondly, with the exception of Native Americans, can anyone, I mean anyone, truly prove that their family lineage is totally American. I mean there are no blood lines that run from Europe, Asia or anywhere else anywhere in your family  ties.
I didn’t think so.
Look folks, am I in favor of people being here illegally, receiving benefits while others who are legal cannot, of course not. I’m a law an order type guy.
Do I like the fact that our country is being either sold out or given away by politicians everyday? Of course not!
But I am into being fair. The commercial with many different languages and many different nationalities (hopefully here legally) is a testament to what America actually is. Don’t you remember in school when they taught us that our great country is a Melting Pot and we all strive together to make this country the greatest on Earth?
Maybe they don’t teach that anymore, or maybe the politicians have legislated the  idea out of our minds.
Look, until we pull together as a nation, that means everyone who is an American citizen, to work together we will suffer he problems brought on by mistrust and play into the hands of manipulative leaders who seem to like having a race division, a nationality division or a divided America.
After all had we stayed together and stood up over serious issues instead of commercials, would we be in the trouble we are today?
It’s time to concentrate on serious issues and elections coming this fall. That is where change can happen.
I’m just saying . . .

I’m just saying: Let’s start 2014 out right

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

I want to start this column by apologizing to the Community Friends for missing their annual free Christmas Dinner. They work so hard to make sure no one is alone on Christmas. I usually show up, take a few pictures and do a story. But I guess all the running around caught up to me and I failed to make it.  I am sorry.
Thanks to Wallace and Deborah Reed for taking care of me this week. They provided the pictures you see on the front page of this year’s dinner.

As we begin 2014 we have to take a look back at 2013 just so we can see what transpired and how not to make the same mistakes again. We also want to remember the good things.
It is what we do.
We remember our past and plan for our future. I loved a lot of 2013, but I also learned a lot from it as well.
I got to meet more interesting people, do more interesting stories and had to say good-bye to a few heroes. We lost good men like Carl Wells, Sr., WWII vets Franklin Snowden and Harry Rose. All three were men I got to know a little better over the past few years. They will be missed.
But I also got to meet Homer McCoy. He is a WWII veteran who saw a lot, like many of that generation did. He took part in 16 invasions in the South Pacific. Not only was I impressed with his service, but the fact that he thanked God for everything. I was moved by that.
Of course, I made a few people mad doing my job. That comes with the territory. But integrity has to be maintained and telling the story as honestly as I can is all I’ll ever do.
I got to see one of God’s great creations for the first time. I got to see the Atlantic Ocean. It was awe inspiring as well as breath taking. Even better I got to see it with my family and it was my daughter’s first glimpse at it as well.
There are so many things I could not possibly list them all.
But last month I learned a great lesson I want to share with you.
I heard on the news about a teenager who suffers from “affluenza.” Apparently his family is so rich and he is not held to any consequences for his actions because of this. Apparently being a bad parent is OK if you have money. Anyway, this teen stole beer from a Walmart, got drunk and plowed over four people, killing them. He was supposed to get a 10 year sentence, but the judge agreed that “affluenza” affected the boy and he did not know he was in the wrong.
He gets 10 years probation and a trip to a high-priced rehab center. A poor boy would have went to jail in a New York minute.
How sad. The story made me mad.
But then while we were typing Santa Letters or our newspaper I came across a letter that gave me hope that there is still good out there.
I will not mention the child by name or their school, so I’ll call the child CC. But their letter to Santa simply asked that every homeless kid and adult have a home and some food for Christmas. They did not ask for anything for themselves. Every kid wants something from Santa, but not CC. It almost made me cry. I hope CC had a great Christmas.
In this big world, with a new year upon us, let us strive to be like CC and put the good of our neighbors first. I believe it is what God and His son wanted.
I’m just saying . . .

The greatest gift I have ever received

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

(I hope you don’t mind, but this week I reworked an old column to express how much I appreciate the gifts God has given me and the love I have for my daughter. I hope you will indulge me this week and I hope you have a great Christmas!)

At this time of year everyone starts anticipating about what gift they will receive for Christmas. Kids love toys, lots and lots of toys. Women like jewelry; money and anything that makes them feel special. We fellows have our own toys. It may be a new car, gun, bow and arrow, tool set – just whatever, let us be men.
Over the years I have received some real nice gifts. Growing up my parents always made Christmas special. Whether it was a G.I Joe, the Evil Knieval action figure and motorcycle, a bike, boom box or whatever, it was always just perfect for that time.
As a grown up I have always receive just what I needed. Good clothes, “man toys” like tools and such. (Recently I received a cool shirt that helps me show support for my favorite college football team from Didi Roe and her family.) One year I got a gray jacket that I wore all the time because it was totally perfect.
Looking back I can think of three gifts that are the best I could have ever received. One of which we all can receive if we choose to do so. That would be God sending his son to this earth as a baby, to grow up, feel what we feel and die for our sins. That is the greatest gift anyone can receive. By far, it is on top of the list.
But on this earth, and thanks to God above again, the best gift I ever received came to me on Dec. 13, 1996. I didn’t know it at the time, though I was quite excited and torn up about it.
You see, that is when my daughter was born. We knew a child was coming, but I didn’t know if it was a girl or boy. However, an unfortunate medical problem created a dilemma. My wife had to have emergency surgery. At one point the doctors asked me if they could only save one, which one were they to help – my wife or my child.
And you thought you had some tough decisions.
Fortunately, despite almost losing both, they made it. Not long after that I got to hold my little bundle of joy. Because her momma was sick and recovering, I guess my little princess bonded with me first.
It is a bond that holds fast today, even if she did just turn 17 tomorrow (Friday). Those 17 years have been full of surprises, some discipline and a lot of fun and love.
Over the past six months I have watched as my daughter has been driving by herself, looking at colleges and actually talking about a future where I may not be there with her everyday. My little girl is growing up way too fast. Her momma wonders where did all the time go and I wonder if I have done my best over that time frame to be a father she can be proud of. Because she is a daughter I am proud to have.
As I watch her and her friends, I catch myself remembering days gone by. Like the day I brought her home and our first Christmas together. And a day at the Fort Boonesborough pool, her first plunge and she wasn’t even a year old yet.
Then I remembered days like the Baby Show Contest at the Powell County Fair or the times she learned how to finger paint and gave me a picture.
As she helped out this past weekend at a clothing giveaway with her friends, my mind wondered back to the early Christmases when she would open a gift and the wide eyed excitement you could see on her face was priceless. Then she’d want Daddy to play, and we did. (Fact is, I still like playing. But the Just Dance craze is not my cup of tea, not in public anyway.)
I can remember the nights I would come home from working second shift at the Fayette County Detention Center. I’d be tired and trying to be as quiet as a 300 pound man wearing combat boots and a full duty belt could be as I came in. I’d sit on the couch and turn on the TV, then I’d hear her little feet hit the floor and she’d come creeping down the hall. Slowly peeking in I’d tell her to come on and she’d jump in my lap, tell me about her day and we’d sneak some ice cream out of the freezer.
My how time flies and we never seem to fully grasp what is going on until it is gone.
I can remember for 15 of those past 17 years (she started this when she was two) I’d be her butler on her birthday. This year I will be a part-time butler as she will be in school most of the day. After all she is a princess, at least in my eyes.  As the butler anything she wanted, Daddy was there to do and Mommy would just laugh at us. You see it was Momma’s job to keep both of her kids in line. She’s done pretty good with one and I’ll let you guess who she has a hard time with.
She is growing up too fast. Boys suddenly are awesome and then not so much as things don’t turn out as she had hoped. When she hurts, so do I. But there is always a silver lining.
Best of all she never causes me and her momma any grief. I believe that is because we gave her to God many years ago, and with us watching closely and God doing his thing all will be well. Two summers ago He gave her back to me, for a while longer.
That year I received another “best gift ever.” As many of you know she was bitten by a timber rattlesnake in our backyard. I held her and tried to keep her airway open as her face and neck swelled and her breathing became more and more shallow. For a while I thought I was losing my best gift ever. But God had other plans.
Thanks to a lot of prayers from this community, good medical care, fast action by emergency personnel and a God that cares, I got my Christmas for that year back in July.
Every year my wife asks, my friends ask and my family will ask – What do you want for Christmas? My answer is simple. I got one of the best gifts I could have received on Dec. 13, 1996. I got another one on July 28, 2011 and I got the one we all can receive some 17 years ago. I don’t need anything else. These are gifts that gave me a purpose, a life and a family of my own.
They are gifts I would never think about exchanging or complaining about (unlike some old sweaters I have received.) My daughter is the gift of a lifetime and she always will be. God’s love is a gift that will follow with me throughout this lifetime and into eternity
So remember, as you look for that perfect gift and ask yourself, what do I want people to give me, the answer may be closer than you think and you may already have it.
I know I could never get a better gift than my wife and God above has already given me. No way, no how.
Happy Birthday my little Princess. Happy Birthday Jesus. And thank you God again for another year with the perfect gifts.
I’m just saying . . .