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August 26, 2018

By special request from good friends who faithfully read these columns, I repeat an article you may have seen before. Their request was prompted by recent reports of pets and children left in hot automobiles to suffer in the dangerous summer heat. Whenever I of the death of a child under such conditions I angered by the irresponsible adult. At the same time, I am moved to pray for parents and grandparents who face unimaginable grief in the loss. Please understand how quickly a closed automobile can become a sweltering furnace.

I was saddened to hear the story of a dog that was found by a police officer in a hot car at a shopping mall last week. The officer shattered the car window to rescue the bulldog from the sweltering car. The animal was lying on the passenger seat, panting, wheezing, and unable to move. The officer took the dog to an emergency veterinary clinic before transporting him to the Humane Society. The shelter reported that the dog died due to complications from heat stroke after he was left in the car. The dog’s owner was arrested and charged with animal cruelty,

Earlier this summer, I read the story about a woman who left her miniature schnauzer inside her automobile in a hot parking lot while she spent more than an hour in an air-conditioned beauty salon. Though she left the windows partially opened so her pet would have fresh air, the well-coiffed lady returned, only to find that her dog had died. She, too, was charged with animal cruelty.

It makes you wonder why we call these hot, humid days the Dog Days of summer. Read more…



August 19, 2018

Last Week our grandson found a prized sea shell at low tide on Pawleys Island. Rolling in the ebb tide he spotted a lettered olive. A few days later he proudly showed me his treasure. I commented that he had found a prime example of the state shell of South Carolina.

“Why does South Carolina have a state shell?” he asked.

A quick internet search revealed that our state shell, the lettered olive (Oliva sayana) was named by a South Carolinian, Dr. Edmund Ravenel of Charleston. It was designated the official state shell by a vote of the South Carolina legislature in 1984.

In that same internet search, we found other designations of state symbols adopted by the state house and senate.

This is a brief, partial listing of some of our more interesting symbols followed by the date of adoption. Read more…


August 12, 2018

Henry James was an American author considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language. He was the brother of renowned philosopher and psychologist William James. Once when Henry James was concluding a visit with his young nephew Billy, his brother William’s son, he offered advice that the young man never forgot. “There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”

Most of us would agree that recently, kindness is a virtue that has been in short supply in many quarters of our American life. Most of us would also agree that kindness is a key to getting along with other people. From early childhood, we are taught to be kind to others.  Conscientious adults, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and leaders have impressed upon us the importance of simple kindness.

Kindness begins at home. This is a lesson that I had the opportunity to teach two of my grandchildren this very day. One concrete expression of kindness is sharing. This includes taking turns swinging in a hammock or sharing a favorite toy with a brother or a sister. At an adult level, how much more is human kindness expressed when we share food or clothing or a drink of cold water!

Kindness is homegrown. Children learn to be kind as they learn many other things –by example.

Several years ago, on the fourth floor of the Heart Center at Spartanburg Regional Hospital, I saw on the door of the Managing Nurse’s office, a sign that read “Kindness is power.” There’s something incongruous about that statement. Kindness is often associated with gentleness, as, for example, in the expression, “a kinder, gentler nation.” or in a list of virtues where kindness and gentleness are listed along with love, joy, peace, goodness, meekness, and other fruits of the Spirit. Rarely do we think of kindness as having anything to do with power.

The explicit purpose of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is the promotion of kind deeds. The foundation has a website that lists inspirational stories detailing how spontaneous acts of kindness have made a difference in the lives of individuals. A quote from Leo Buscaglia, former Professor at the University of Southern California and renowned author, affirms this concept. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” This brings to mind a Bible verse, “Be kind, one to another.”

Charles Kuralt, in his book, On the Road With Charles Kuralt, wrote, “The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.” The week of St. Valentine’s Day, February 13 through 19, has been designated as National Random Acts of Kindness Week. We can make a difference in this world if we are open to dispensing kindness.

William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, said, “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

One of my favorite examples of a random act of kindness involves William D. Boyce, a millionaire publisher from Chicago. In 1909, he traveled to Africa for a hunting safari. On his return trip, he stopped in London for a business appointment. He was walking through the streets on an afternoon when all of London was enshrouded in thick fog. Mr. Boyce was hopelessly lost.

Just then, a twelve-year-old boy carrying a lantern stepped out of the gloom. He asked the American publisher if he needed help. Boyce told him where he was to meet his appointment and the boy led him there. When they arrived, W. D. Boyce offered the boy a shilling as a tip. The young man refused, “No, thank you, sir. I am a scout.” Boyce asked, “A scout? What might that be?” The boy explained to the American about the new scouting movement. Boyce became very interested and asked if the boy could stay a moment to tell him more.

After the business meeting, the scout led W. D. Boyce to the British Scouting office. Lt. General Robert Baden-Powell, who was at the office, welcomed Mr. Boyce. The scout disappeared into the London fog. In the ensuing conversation, Lord Baden-Powell and William Boyce decided to make an effort to expand scouting to America. Baden-Powell filled a trunk with scout handbooks, uniforms, and other scouting paraphernalia. Upon his return to Chicago, William Boyce pursued his goal.  On February 8, 1910, the Congress of the United States granted a charter to the Boy Scouts of America.

What happened to the boy who helped Mr. Boyce find his way through the fog of London? No one knows. He refused the money, and he did not give his name, but he will never be forgotten. In the British Scout Training Center at Gilwell Park, England, scouts from the United States erected a statue of an American bison in honor of the Unknown Scout.

Because of one random act of kindness by an English boy, more than 100 million American youth have been a part of scouting. The slogan of the Boy Scouts of America is a reminder that opportunities for acts of kindness are available every day, “Do a good turn daily.” Scouts pledge, “To help other people at all times.” The sixth point of the Scout Law is A Scout is kind. A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. A Scout follows the Golden Rule, treating others as she/he wants to be treated.

Kindness is power!

Last week I received an e-mail from friends who reside near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They were concerned about “toxic behaviors and language being expressed in public meetings” in their neighborhood. They wanted me to suggest a clear, concise motto that would encourage people to be kind to each other; a few words that could be stamped on badges or screen printed on tee shirts.

I spent some time thinking about this request for words that would promote kindness. Of course, passages of scripture came to mind.


“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”

(Ephesians 4:32)

He has showed you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Kindness does not have a holier-than-thou attitude. Kindness is expressing empathy and understanding for where other people are in their life’s journey.  Kindness is accepting other people without trying to change them. Kindness is helping someone out; not to make ourselves look good, but out of genuine compassion for a fellow human being.

After thinking and praying about the request from our friends in North Carolina, I came up with a simple phrase. They thought it appropriate for their situation. I later posted it on Facebook. I can imagine these words emblazoned on a tee shirt.



And then I remembered the lyrics of an old Glenn Campbell song.

Let me be a little kinder

Let me be a little blinder

To the faults of those about me

Let me praise a little more

Let me be when I am weary

Just a little bit more cheery

Think a little more of others

And a little less of me.


Let me be a little braver

When temptation bids me waver

Let me strive a little harder

To be all that I should be

Let me be a little meeker

With the brother that is weaker

Let me think more of my neighbor

And a little less of me.


Let me be when I am weary

Just a little bit more cheery

Let me serve a little better

Those that I am strivin’ for

Let me be a little meeker

With the brother that is weaker

Think a little more of others

And a little less of me.


Here is a link to the song.


August 5, 2018

Last week, I opened the obituary page of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and saw three pictures with accompanying articles announcing the deaths of three men who were my contemporaries. It was a moment of realization that none of us will avoid our inevitable demise, “as long as the Lord tarries,” to quote my grandmother. I thought of my dad and how he faced his own death.

My dad and I often enjoyed having breakfast together. I took a small journal with me on those occasions so I could take notes on his many stories and his unique turn of phrase.  On April 3, 2011, Dad died.  Just one week after his death, I made my last entry in that journal. The day before he died, he said, “we weren’t meant to last forever. The good Lord made us with planned obsolescence. We are supposed to wear out. The trick is to try to have our mind and our body wear out at the same time.”

Last week a young friend of mine lost his mother. While her death was not a total surprise, it did come much sooner than expected. We talked about the woman that had shaped his life, as mothers do. In his grief, he recalled many of the things his dear mother had taught him. He especially mentioned her love of gardening and her deep faith. Following our conversation, we had a prayer together.

Later that day, I was prompted to search for that old journal I kept during those last years with Dad.  I thumbed back through the pages recalling breakfast at the Skillet or Papa Sam’s or at Dolline’s or at the Beacon. Looking back through the journal I came across an entry that reminded me of Dad. It was a note I made about a news story that occurred four years before his death.

On April 30, 2007, in separate incidents, fires ripped through two treasured city buildings in Washington, the nation’s capital city. The first destroyed the butcher, bakery, and fishmonger stalls at Eastern Market. Hours later a second blaze claimed valuable books, leather-bound documents, and artwork at the Georgetown branch of the District of Columbia Public Library.

The Washington Post reported that 400 D.C. firefighters responded to the three-alarm fires at the neighborhood landmarks, which are about seven miles apart. No one was hurt in either blaze. Chief Dennis Rubin said he did not know what led to the fire at the library, a Georgian revival mansion known for its collections of local history.

The branch had no sprinklers, and Rubin said two of the fire hydrants closest to the library were not functioning.

Authorities said they do not think the two fires were connected. Three-alarm fires are rare in the District. Officials said it was rarer still to have two such emergencies in the same day.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty raced from one place to the other with Rubin.  People in both neighborhoods were saddened by the loss of the landmarks.

In Georgetown, the 911 call came about noon. About a dozen people were inside the library when the fire started. Smoke soon billowed through the roof and across the Georgetown neighborhood. Traffic was closed off for blocks and replaced by more than twenty fire trucks. Other trucks had ladders extended through trees, trying to reach the library. Fire hoses snaked down and across the street.

The library’s archivist stood watching, heartbroken.  Firefighters brought out warped and soot-covered historic paintings and documents, spreading them on plastic sheeting. The branch’s holdings include photos, maps, and paintings of the neighborhood and individual files on each home in Georgetown. The files have been donated over several decades.

A young mother, Lely Constantinople, sat on a stone ledge with her 4-year-old and her 5-month-old daughters watching firefighters. Children’s story hours regularly drew as many as 100 kids.

“It was invaluable,” she said. “There are so few things for kids to do in this city before they turn 2.”

Suzanne Simon watched the action with her 9-year-old daughter and her 3-year-old son.

“So many people just go out and buy books. But it’s nice to have something like this in the community. The library will be missed,” she said.

When a library burns, the loss is beyond measure. Cultural treasures and valuable documents are irreplaceable.

One of the most tragic library fires occurred in the first century. The Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt, was destroyed by fire. Alexander the Great founded this ancient city on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The city became the capital of the last dynasty of the Pharaohs descended from Alexander’s general Ptolemy. Ptolemy II established the Royal Library as a part of a larger museum.

It is often said that the Romans were civilized, but their most famous general was responsible for this act of vandalism. Julius Caesar was attacking Alexandria in pursuit of his archrival Pompey when he found himself about to be cut off by the Egyptian fleet.

Caesar took decisive action and sent burning ships into the harbor. His plan was a success, and the enemy fleet was quickly aflame. But the fire jumped onto the dock, which was laden with flammable materials ready for export. The inferno spread and the Royal Library was reduced to ashes. 400,000 priceless scrolls were consumed in the blaze.

As for Caesar, he did not think it important enough to mention the destruction of the library in his memoirs. He was able to occupy the city without any trouble. His mind was on other things. The Roman general was residing in the palace with Cleopatra.

An adage from the Ivory Coast connects the deaths of my three contemporaries,  the loss of my friend’s mother, the death of my dad, and these library burnings. The African proverb says, “The death of an elderly person is like a library burning down.” This sage teaching reminds us that every person is a repository of knowledge. The wisdom of the elderly is a treasure we cannot afford to lose.

Much of what I have learned about my own genealogy I gleaned during a trip to Tennessee in 1985 with my great-uncle Hugh, my grandfather’s younger brother. We went to visit three of his cousins, all octogenarians. They shared memories, both poignant and humorous. I listened and learned from their interaction. Within two years of our trip, all four had died. It was as if four libraries had burned down. But I had recorded six hours of conversation on tape between four contemporaries of my grandfather, all grandchildren of my great, great grandfather. What a treasure!

In August 1996, I conducted a funeral for the oldest person I have ever known personally. Mrs. Lucie Foster died on her birthday at the age of 102. It was my privilege to conduct her funeral at Nazareth Presbyterian Church. Her son, Judge Miller Foster, and I had visited her together just a few months before she died. Even at the age of 101, she was alert and joyful. We sang hymns together, swapped stories, laughed together, and prayed together. At her memorial service, I shared some of her stories. I reminded the congregation that her death was like a library burning down. I encouraged them to take the time to preserve the memories, the stories, and the wisdom of the elderly.

One other event last week brought all of this together for me. I visited one of our local nursing homes. I thought as I walked along the corridor speaking to the people there, what wonderful treasures this place holds.

All of us can find and preserve the treasures that are deposited in the wisdom of our aging relatives. The most cherished gifts they have to offer are the life-long faith and the love they share with us.



July 29, 2018

Two weeks ago I had lunch with a group of men who graduated with me from high school. Seventeen of us, all members of the Class of 1962 at Spartanburg High School, gathered at a local restaurant.

It is difficult to imagine how old those other guys have grown. Most of us hobbled to the table, examined the menu through corrective lens, and almost to a man ordered the same thing we ate the last time we were together. After a brief time of reviewing health issues, we enjoyed sharing stories and memories from the good old days.

When our food was served, I watched the friend across the table from me. He picked up a bottle of Tabasco Sauce and proceeded to turn his cup of crab bisque fiery red with the hot sauce. He shook copious amounts of the magical elixir on his hamburger and his side salad as well. I asked the waitress to bring him more water. He laughed and said dryly, “Tabasco Sauce  makes everything better.”

I was reminded of one of our treasured family stories.  The first time my mother shared a meal with my father’s family was on a Sunday after church.  The event occurred two years before my birth.  I’ve heard the tale and repeated it so often I feel almost as if I was there.

The woman who would become my mother was the sweetheart of the man who would become my dad.  He took her to Sunday dinner at the family home, the very home in which Clare and I now reside, the home where we reared our own five children.

My dad was one of nine children.  The dining room table was large enough to accommodate the entire family. My grandfather, who I called Pappy, asked the blessing and then grabbed a bottle of Tabasco Sauce, shaking the contents all over his salad, a lettuce leaf topped with a pear half, filled with a dollop of mayonnaise, and garnished with grated cheese, and a maraschino cherry.

My mother, seated across from my grandfather, was stunned when she saw her future father-in-law dousing his pear salad with pepper sauce.  Noticing her surprise, Pappy quipped, “Louise, if you get ahold of something you don’t like, change it to something you do like.”

Tabasco sauce will change the taste of anything. Some folks, like Pappy, vow that the hot condiment makes everything better

Edmund McIlhenny, who invented Tabasco sauce, was a banker from Maryland who had moved to Louisiana around 1840.

McIlhenny was an avid gardener. A friend gave him seeds of red peppers from Mexico. At his home on Avery Island in south Louisiana, Edmund sowed the seeds and nurtured the plants to maturity.  The peppers they bore were a delight.

McIlhenny created a pepper sauce to add spice and flavor to food. Selecting and crushing the reddest peppers, he mixed them with salt, aging the mash for a month in crockery jars. McIlhenny then blended the mash with white wine vinegar. Aging the mixture another thirty days, he strained and bottled it.

It proved so popular with family and friends that McIlhenny decided to market his pepper sauce. He grew his first commercial pepper crop in 1868. The next year, he sent out 658 bottles of sauce to wholesale to grocers around the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans. He labeled it Tabasco, named for the state in Mexico from which those first seeds came.

McIlhenny secured a patent in 1870, and TABASCO® Brand Pepper Sauce began to set the culinary world on fire.

Labeled in 22 languages and dialects, sold in over 160 countries and territories, it is the most famous, most preferred pepper sauce in the world.

Tabasco Sauce is still made on Avery Island, Louisiana, at the very site where Edmund McIlhenny planted his first garden. Half of the company’s 200 employees live on Avery Island. Their parents and grandparents worked and lived there as well. The current president of the family-owned company is a sixth generation McIlhenny.

Until recently, all of the peppers were grown on Avery Island. The bulk of the crop is now grown in South America, where weather allows a more predictable supply.

Following tradition, the peppers are handpicked. Peppers are checked with a little red stick, le petit bâton rouge, to determine ripeness. Those peppers not matching the color of the stick are not harvested.

Peppers are ground, mixed into mash, and put into old white oak whiskey barrels to age for three years. The bright red mash is so corrosive that forklifts are reported to last only six years.

In addition to the original red Tabasco Sauce, several new types of sauces are now produced under the brand name. In addition, the company has cashed in on its name by licensing apparel including neckties and boxer shorts.

The hot sauce is used to season a variety of foods. It has been used to change the taste of desserts and even pear salad. NASA put Tabasco Sauce on the menu for Skylab, the International Space Station, and shuttle missions.

The spicy sauce has appeared in two James Bond movies.

The official Web site of the McIlhenny Company,, has nearly 200 pages of stories and comments from Tabasco aficionados. Among the entries are suggestions for alternate uses for the hot sauce.

  • Sprinkle Tabasco on flower and vegetable plants to repel pests, especially deer and rabbits.
  • Can’t get your teenager out of bed to get to school on time? A drop of Tabasco on their lip will awaken them.
  • Use a spoonful of Tabasco as a cough remedy.

These comments are included.

  • “When I was much younger my grandmother put Tabasco Sauce on my fingertips to stop me from chewing my nails. Half a century later, I still bite my nails, and I love Tabasco!”
  • “When I was little, if I talked back to momma, she would put Tabasco in my mouth. Soon, I started having a smart mouth on purpose because I loved the taste! To this day I’m just as sassy, and I love Tabasco even more!”
  • “My kitchen is full of Tabasco memorabilia. I even named my dog Tabasco!”
  • “My husband loves Tabasco Sauce so much, he asked me to get a Tabasco tattoo. He thinks it’s hot!”

Following the tradition of my grandfather, one of my cousins uses Tabasco on almost everything. I’m not sure if his wife has a Tabasco tattoo or not.


July 22, 2018

One Saturday afternoon, just after school was out for the summer, I was invited to go swimming at the Y.M.C.A. with five of our grandchildren. I enjoyed being in the water with these young ones who wanted their gray granddad to cheer them on in their newly developed aquatic skills. They especially took delight in shooting down the water slide and splashing the old man. Being with them in the water brought back recollections of distant times past when, as a boy, I went swimming on hot summer days.

Other folks of my vintage have similar memories. On a sweltering afternoon last week, a friend said, “I wish I could go swimming in Barr’s Pond back in Lexington County. On a scorching day like today,” he said, “Barr’s pond was the best place to cool off. We’d pile into the bed of a pickup truck. My father would back the truck right up to the water, and we’d all jump out and go swimming.”

Many folks have pleasant memories of a favorite swimming hole. A spot in a creek or a pond, one large enough and deep enough to go for a cooling dip provided blessed relief on a hot summer day.

In a time when there were few swimming pools, the old swimming hole was an important part of my growing-up years. Besides the swimming pool at Camp Croft, there were no public places to swim other than rivers and lakes.

In the popular television series, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Jed Clampett and his mountaineer family relocated to Beverly Hills. The family was fascinated by their swimming pool, which they called a cement pond. The Clampetts never seemed to grasp the intended use of the pool. Granny sometimes did the laundry in it and set up her moonshine still next to it.

For the Beverly Hillbillies, the cement pond was a less than acceptable replacement for a mountain swimming hole. So, too, the high tech pools of our time are just not the same as those natural swimming places that afford such great pleasure.

Some of our best swimming holes were rendered unusable by those whose disregard for clean water turned our waterways into trash dumps. I remember cooling off as a boy in the North Tyger River. By my early adult years, industrial pollution had altered the alkaline content of the river enough to burn human skin.  In recent years, environmental efforts to clean up streams and rivers have resulted in cleaner water and healthier places to swim.

Rainbow Lake, north of Boiling Springs, was a popular place to swim in our area. The fancy swimming hole featured a three-story stone tower for diving. I remember going to Rainbow Lake on hot summer afternoon with my Little League baseball team.

Tommy Stokes, our second baseman, did a headfirst dive off the third story of the tower. Tommy narrowly missed swimmers leaping from the first and second levels as he plummeted into the deep water.

I did my first backflip off the tower at Rainbow Lake. I made a valiant attempt. I flipped and rotated too far. The backflip became a painful back flop.

Soon after I graduated from high school, Rainbow Lake was closed. In 1968, amid the controversy of racial integration, Spartanburg Water Works officials announced that the lake would not reopen for the summer season. A great swimming hole was lost.

When I recall places that I have been swimming, the lakes at scout camp and at Ridgecrest come to mind. What joy!

I have been swimming in the Pigeon River in the Smoky Mountains, Elk Shoals on the North Fork of the New River, and at Burrell Ford on the Chattooga River. I have enjoyed a refreshing dip in pools at the base of waterfalls like Big Bradley on the Green River and Kings Creek Falls in Sumter National Forest. Sliding Rock on the Davidson River in Pisgah National Forest is perhaps the coldest swimming hole I have endured.

Safety is always a concern when swimming in a natural setting. Never swim alone! There are no lifeguards. Use the buddy system. Currents can be swift. Rocks can be hazardous.  Do not dive! Diving is especially dangerous because the water may be shallow, or there may be hidden rocks below the surface. Slowly wade into the water.  Always wear shoes! Broken glass and discarded metal are often present.

One summer Saturday, my parents took us swimming with our cousins at Lake Lure. On Sunday morning, my mother received a telephone call notifying us that a cousin with whom we had been swimming had been stricken with polio. This was before the Salk vaccine had been introduced. All of us were quarantined for the rest of the summer. There was no more swimming that year.

There were two swimming holes I remember most fondly. One was a small pool my friends and I made in a creek behind our house. We dammed up the unnamed stream. A large vine hanging from a poplar tree provided a ready-made swing. With a running start down the hill, we could soar across the creek and back. At the right time we would turn loose, splashing into the muddy pool. The water was a pale yellow. It coated us from neck to toe with a thin layer of mud.

The second place dear to my heart was my grandfather’s farm pond. Skinny-dipping is a well-established tradition at some remote swimming holes. My grandfather’s pond was not the place for swimming sans swimsuit!

Pappy had built a small dock that gave us a perfect launching pad into the cool water. I often fished in this same pond. While swimming, we could feel small bream nibbling our legs.

After we hooked a couple of granddaddy catfish, we didn’t even let our feet touch the bottom. Catching a washtub-size snapping turtle made us still more leery. In that same pond, Rudy Mancke and I caught thirty-eight snakes one night. After that, I didn’t swim in that pond ever again.


July 15, 2018

The 2018 Major League All-Star game will be played in Camden Yard in Baltimore, Maryland, this year. The Atlanta Braves have more players represented on the National League team since the days of Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. As I pen these words I look forward to the annual spectacle featuring the boys of summer. If you are a baseball fan this game on Tuesday night featuring the finest baseball players so far this year is a must see. The results of this year’s Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game will be in the record books by Wednesday.

On a recent Sunday afternoon after church, I made a trip to the public library. On my way back home I drove past beautiful Duncan Park, pausing just a moment to admire the old ballpark. It is a storied place. For me, it is the site of many fond memories. Read more…