It’s a Saturday night in Sparta, and the three sisters — all of them widows — are heading off to church in Cherry Lane for a singing. The kids and I just rolled into town for a family reunion on my mother’s side, but that’s not until Sunday afternoon, which gives us the evening and Sunday morning to visit with Janie and Louise and Lillie, all three of them sisters of my late father. But first, they’re going to Cherry Lane to sing hymns.

When we get to Janie’s house, she has a huge spread already laid out on the kitchen counter: half a dozen or so barbecued chicken halves wrapped in tin foil from the VFW, a platter of deviled eggs, some cut-up cucumbers, a bowl of pork and beans, a plate of sliced tomatoes, a big bowl of slaw, and a chocolate pound cake.

By Rod Harkelroad and Maurice Phillips

Our country’s healthcare system is in the midst of a massive upheaval. Never before have we witnessed such challenges that will impact both the type of care our community receives and the ability of our local hospital to continue providing the high-quality care that we know each of you have come to expect from our physicians, nurses and staff. 

The opening of the new BearWaters Brewing in Canton is a great shot in the arm for one of most unique towns in this region. But there’s more than just a brewery happening in Canton, and we hope the recent successes continue to create momentum.

Canton is a mill town. The paper mill that dominates its landscape opened in 1909 as Champion Paper and continues churning out items like Starbucks coffee cups and cardboard for juice and milk containers today under the umbrella of Evergreen Packaging. It and its sister plant in Waynesville still employ more than 1,000 workers, a rarity for a Western North Carolina manufacturer these days.

As I write this column, my two little boys are rummaging through LEGO bricks bickering about who needs which piece, KIDZ BOP Kids is playing on Pandora and eggs are boiling on the stove for egg salad sandwich lunches. 

This is my summertime work setting.

My dad’s been dead about 15 years now, and there’s still no fuzzy, larger-than-life, exaggerated memories that pop into my head when I remember him. As Father’s Day looms, I think of Lawrence McKinley McLeod as a man who created his own opportunities, a man with many strengths and many weaknesses, someone full of contradictions. 

He was born in Cheraw, South Carolina, a town that could have come out of Erskine Caldwell’s 1932 novel Tobacco Road or the mill-town movie “Norma Rae,” or perhaps a mix of the two. The son of a mill foreman from Robeson County and his half-Catawba Indian bride, Dad was born in 1929 and was the oldest of seven.

I should have been ready for it, but I wasn’t. My daughter’s sixteenth birthday couldn’t have come as a shock to me, and yet it did. I have had all these years to prepare for this day, but I am not sure there is any way that you can really prepare for it, that day when your child places one foot squarely into the swampy chaos of adulthood, with the other foot all too soon to follow. Because, brothers and sisters, once they get their driver’s license, it’s the beginning of the end.

By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist

It’s easy to make a mistake, particularly when relying on another person’s promises or character. It’s harder to admit one. That’s just human nature.

A lot of good people who put their faith in Donald Trump still can’t accept that it was misplaced. But if they care to be good citizens, there are some hard questions to ask themselves in the light of James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee:

When you’re a kid, there’s something magical about hotel pools. 

I’ve written before about growing up in a dance studio. Some of my fondest memories of dance competitions and conventions are the hours spent splashing and laughing in the hotel pool after all the formal events were over.

North Carolina’s efforts to change the elections process to help keep its GOP majorities in office have been declared illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court in three separate decisions in recent months. 

One can only hope that this will be the death knell for such a politically corrupt agenda, but I’m not holding my breath.

A friend of mine is in line at the drive-thru of a local fast food restaurant, and a guy with Trump decals all over the back of his truck pulls into the wrong lane, facing those who are trying to “drive through,” realizes his error, lifts his middle finger to all of those waiting in line, and then races off shouting out his window, “Trump, Trump, Trump! Like it or get out of my country!”

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