Back in 1993, we had some snow. Called the Blizzard of ’93, some 15 inches fell in a day, not only clogging roads but blocking doors. I decided to hunker down at the Shopper office, then on Commercial Park Drive in Halls (later to become warehouses for Regal Entertainment and now probably empty).
I stocked in essentials: Ruffles, bananas, Diet Dr. Pepper. We never lost power or had a phone outage. I lived in the office for three days, rescued by Vicki and Gary Koontz stopping by after eating breakfast at the Waffle House.
When the roads melted for real, I was visited by my friend Jesse Butcher. “Well, I thank the Lord that I survived that blizzard,” he said. “My power didn’t even go off.”
“That’s good,” I said, shuffling papers on my desk.
“Wonder whose power was off the longest,” he said. “Let’s find out and give them some groceries.”
Jesse was off: “Let’s make it a contest. Call Marvin Hammond at KUB – he’s Kay from the bank’s husband – and ask him. You and Marvin make up the rules and I’ll put up the money.”
I quickly forgot the whole thing, but Jesse showed up two days later and said, “I found out that the power was off longest at some rich people’s cabins up by the lake. Hell, they’re in Florida and didn’t even know it. Let’s give somebody else the groceries!”
“Well, my cousin knows this widow woman whose power was off for 110 hours. And she didn’t have water because her pump is electric. And I know of these other folks over to Hogskin. They didn’t have power for 114 hours. Now you add it up.”
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s take them some groceries.”
“No,” said Jesse. “Leave me out of this. I’ve arranged with David King (then manager of Halls Winn-Dixie) for gift certificates. You deliver them and take pictures. Oh, yeah, and on the way, Hubert Majors has this sheep-goat.”
Betty Bean had left the Shopper to work at Metro Pulse, hanging out in smoky bars and haunting the City County Building. She needed a break.
“Hey, Bean,” I phoned. “Let’s go to Hogskin and take a picture. Also, I know about this sheep-goat. …”
Bean wore sandals.
Our first stop was the farm of the Rev. Hubert Majors where a curly little animal was pastured with a bunch of cows. “That’s my sheep-goat,” said Majors. “I got it from Shorty Acuff.”
“Wow,” I said, hopping over an electric fence to get a better view. “That’s a neat animal. One of a kind. Really unique. What are you going to do with it?”
“We might eat it,” said Majors.
Next stop was Fern Tharpe’s house in Luttrell. I borrowed her phone to call Harriett Muncey, who had been without power for 110 hours. She was out working in the yard, but somebody there said to come on over after I explained the contest. Fern said we didn’t need to drive. The Muncey house was “just up the road.”
“Is that it,” I asked, pointing to a house ahead. “Nope, it’s around that bend,” said Tharpe.
At the first house, three hounds started barking. “They’re OK,” Fern said. “It’s that other dog to watch for. The one that bit the girl. …”
I turned one eye left toward the woods.
“Yeah, we got us a cougar in these parts,” Fern said, waving toward the hill on the right. “We hear it howling sometimes. One night it got 28 chickens.”
Bean leaned over and picked up the skeletal remains of a 10-foot cedar tree. She thumped it on the road as we walked. I now had one eye looking left and the other looking right.
“We’ve got a waterfall,” said Fern. “Want to see it?”
It was lovely, cascading down the side of the ridge, just a quarter mile from the road. Fern said her relative Conley Tharpe organized a fall festival the previous year that drew 600 people. They cooked soup and stew and had some of Mama Merritt’s chicken and dumplins.
By now, I’m exhausted. We must have walked for a mile. And then I realize I had shot my whole roll of film on the sheep-goat and the waterfall. I’ve got maybe one more shot. “Smile!” I yell to Miz Muncey when we finally got there. But she was picking up tree parts and telling us about drinking coffee made from snow. It was hard to smile.
We gave her the certificates and took off. Past the biting dog. Past the possible cougar. Past the waterfall. We finally reached the car and drove away.
“You know, that Fern Tharpe has a great sense of humor,” said Bean.
“I didn’t notice,” I said, sweating.
“She was just putting you on about that dog and cougar.”
Huh! And that got me to wondering about that sheep-goat. …