Just when you thought
it was safe to go outside last week the late January storm clobbered our hometown with a cloud of
dry crystal snow that may hang around until February, when the groundhog finally arrives Sunday to
warm our souls.
Weíve been reducing office hours at the Plain Talk last
week because of the weather that became severe Tuesday afternoon when school buses were scurrying
to take children home. Wednesday morning was worse, as I had to travel to Morristown across Douglas
Lake bridge and started swerving on the iced-over surface. Few folks were about except for utility
and repair workers. Joe Keen had to arrive at the Plain Talk to get our heat cranked up. He came
again Thursday and showed me how the ice was clogging the intake vent shutting down the gas
furnace. We got a lot of phone calls from people wanting to know if carriers were delivering the
Tuesday paper and they did attempt to do so but some areas were impossible to travel. I am always
glad to know you miss the newspaper. Carriers are to be applauded for trying to deliver your paper
in these conditions.
Letís finish our
talk about Tim Berkel, executive director of Keep Cocke County Beautiful, before moving on to some
recent visits Iíve had with writer William Ray Baker, and a three-war veteran from the 1940-1960s
era who lives in Parrottsville.
Tim reminds me of many other successful
people Iíve known who had a broad background in work and multiple skills. He has sold life and
health policies, taught as an associate professor of international business at Carson-Newman
College, is a marine consultant, and licensed general contractor to design and build log homes. He
likes scuba diving, which explains why he swims a lot.
For those who
know nothing about KCCB it is not just about planting flowers along the roads and daffodils at the
community center. Primary concern is reducing litter, you know, all those bottles and trash along
our highways, milk jugs floating in Douglas Lake, and such. Encouraging recycling, like you see at
our convenience centers, is an important key program. Some of you already know that David Veridal
is a super volunteer with KCCB. Sheriff Armando Fontes contributes by making many jail inmates
available for litter pickup; the girls work on the litter crew, too, Iíve noticed.
Tim has gotten major corporations involved in helping Cocke County. Youíve seen
photos in the Plain Talk of Loweís employees at work planting trees at schools. Solo Cup put up
$3,000 for KCCB efforts. Coca-Cola donated many recycling receptacles at schools, parks, and
athletic fields. The really big grant came from Tenn. Department of Transportation, which awarded
only three $100,000-limit grants in the state. Tim and KCCB got a $91,000 grant to be used in local
education efforts. Part of the plan is to produce a video on all the things children can and should
do to protect the environment and beauty of these mountains.
been here since 2005, for after retirement he came to Newport and built a retirement home near Del
Rio along the Old Fifteenth. His wife, Barbara, is also a New Englander. I think it important to
know what is going on with Keep Cocke County Beautiful (KCCB). I am always impressed to find folks
like Tim Berkel with experience and credentials from their careers in a variety of fields and then
they use that knowledge to benefit our community and its citizens. During the recent old tire
recycling project, I learned from Tim that you can take up to four tires per person to the
landfill. So grab your old tires and take them to the landfill off old Asheville Highway. If you
can fit three more people in the vehicle, add 12 more tires and have fun.
Novel of ages bygone
William Baker first contacted us late last year
about his book Wrong Road to Eternity, which we are selling at the office. It is popular with
readers and I picked it up to read too.
In the recent week Iíve gotten
to know more about William Ray Baker, who just released his book Wrong Road to Eternity that is
being sold at the Plain Talk. He is a child of the Great Depression, born in 1930. This is what he
shared about how he came to publish the book. ďIn 1956 I had the urge to write and become friends
with novelist Helen Topping Miller, who lived at Arrow Hill, an old pre-Civil War mansion located
between Jefferson City and Morristown. One day after a long conversation, she bluntly told me if I
were going to be a writer, I would have to do it myself. She couldnít do it for me.Ē So Bill (Ray)
sent stories to a New York agent who returned them and politely told Bill he was a long way from
being a writer. But this did not deter him as he kept writing and eventually got a letter from
writer Evan Hunter, (Ed McBain, the police mystery series writer) who encouraged him to keep
writing. This was at the time McBain wrote his first novel and was paid $500,000. Ray did not do
any more serious writing until retiring from Newport Utilities.
in New Market he watched his father, a big physical man, work in the zinc mines. George Baker, of
Muddy Creek, married the former Bessie Dyle, a Dutch descendant of the Piedmont. The elder Baker
worked in the zinc mines during the late 1930s and 1940s. Ray was able to get on at the Jefferson
City mine when he was about age 20 and worked for two years, and he detailed for me some of his