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
|Published: 7:26 PM, 04/12/2013
||Last updated: 7:26 PM, 04/12/2013
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
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
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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