PHOTO SUBMITTED This trio consists of, from left, Mike Proffitt, former CCHS educator and veteran football coach; railroading historian and writer Mallory "Mal" Hope Ferrell; and his best friend of Newport, Talmadge "Tal" Carey. They were at Bulls Gap in early March for the arrival of the Norfolk Southern steam engine.
Friday, April 12, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-04-12 19:26:56)
Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

Spring seems to have leaped into summer last week with temperatures rising above 80 and setting our hometown up for thunderstorms and fierce winds by Thursday. Many of you were anxiously awaiting Cosby school's 100th celebration this weekend.

Before getting back on track with my chat with train enthusiasts, I am excited to say we finally took a hike to the Rattlin' Cave, which I wrote about in past years. Thanks to Mike Proffitt and retired circuit judge Ken Porter you will read and see what we learned and an important theory of the death of a teenager who fell into the cave in 1946. The worst news I got last week came in the mail announcing the pending retirement mid summer of Dr. Ken Johnson. As I have an appointment with him this week perhaps, I will learn more.

Long-time friend and banker L.C. Gregg talked with me last week about his retirement after 43 years, recent years with National Bank of Tennessee (NBT). I also learned that another fellow Kiwanian will soon retire from NBT so you should be reading the Plain Talk about both of them.


How Chacha ended up here


Let me finish my chat about Chacha that I started last week. Sunny and cool, that afternoon in late March seemed like a good time for hot tea and a snack so I went to the E.T. Coffee Shop, which has expanded its size into the former Men's Den and is offering more variety of food. On my way in the back door I noticed a Chihuahua because she was standing on the dashboard inside a vehicle and didn't bark at me. There was a story here that I soon learned.

I chatted with Fred Myers, who retired years ago as general manager of the Detroit Gasket plant. He consults with an automotive gasket manufacturer in Mexico where he visits often. The city he works in is northwest of Mexico City and hospitable with hard working people, about 600, at the plant he helps direct. Fred told me the area is the home of many world-class auto manufacturers who pay workers about six dollars per hour. Thus it is difficult to keep workers at the gasket plant where they make about 55 cents per hour. I hope to chat more with him to give you an inside glimpse of Mexico today. When leaving, a man and woman were in the car and I mentioned taking a photo of the little dog that they called Chacha. Raven Carswell, of Hartford, told me a most unusual story of how she came to have the tiny dog. She was at her mother's home in Louisiana and an owl dropped the baby Chihuahua into the yard. Mom's Great Pyrenees picked it up and carried it to the house and this was about a year ago. It must have been natural for Raven to adopt it and bring it to Hartford to live. Chris Carswell was driving that day, we talked, and has lived in the county many years. He is better known on the Pigeon River as "Ewok," a guide for Five Rivers Rafting Company. The Carswells also introduced me to their backseat dogs: Mr. Fiix, a large old English Bulldog, had his blue coat on and was sleeping in the backseat. Milkshake was sitting on the back floorboard. She is an older Boston bull. Perhaps they have stories too.


Take a stream train


Weeks ago Mike Proffitt told me of his visit to Bulls Gap because of a couple of unique reasons. Most important for Mike, who loves local history and lore, was the presence of a nationally known railroad author and also passing through of a notable steam locomotive. I sat the information and photos aside for a while and suddenly remembered them after a chance meeting with Rob Mathis, the senior, at a store in Newport. He mentioned spending time preparing to set up a model railroad town and  rail line in his house, and I assume a basement or another room other than the living room. Mr. Mathis also said it might be of interest to know that an association of model railroad enthusiasts would be meeting on April 5 at Baneberry. So I marked my calendar to find out more and did attend.

Mike told me a little about the railroad author and historian Mallory "Mal" Hope Ferrell. He was visiting Tal and Sheila Carey, Newport residents. Ferrell is from Portsmouth, Virginia, and Mike noted that Mal and Tal are childhood friends from Portsmouth. After a few more of my reporter questions I was surprised to find out that Tal's wife, Sheila, is Lydia Shelton's sister. Then I remembered after writing about Lydia and her marathon running family that she told me she came from Portsmouth and was touring with a Free Will Baptist Bible College choir and that's how she met Larry Shelton in Newport.

Mr. Ferrell, Mal, is a most interesting and accomplished man, said Mike. Mal is a former fighter pilot who went on to be a Delta airlines captain. He has authored 21 railroad history books and is considered the foremost authority on narrow gauge railroading in America.

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