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By Martin Dyckman • Guest Columnist

Cars don’t kill. Drivers do.

Remember that? No one does, because although Detroit dragged its feet over the cost of making autos safer, it couldn’t pretend that it wasn’t possible or wouldn’t matter. Thanks to seat belts, air bags and other improvements we now take for granted, along with stricter enforcement of traffic laws, the highway death toll per capita has been cut nearly in half since 1960. That’s with more than three times as many vehicles on the road.

My grandfather loved guns. He had a magnificent collection, including a dazzling array of pistols, shotguns, and rifles, some very old and exotic. These he kept locked in a gun cabinet that was strictly off limits not just to children, but to anyone. Most days, he wore a pistol strapped to his side just like Wyatt Earp, though his was more likely to be used to shoot a copperhead or water moccasin than some rounder in a saloon.

Breathing in the good

My life is starting to even out. And while I’m happy about this, a peaceful, comfortable life doesn’t offer as much column fodder as a melancholy, tragic one. 

Five years ago, my mom found out she had breast cancer. Then a year after that, when she was in remission, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. It was complications from multiple myeloma that ultimately took her life. 

“I’m absolutely starving,” my wife says, digging through her purse for something as I walk into the kitchen, clearing my throat to get her attention. “Wow, don’t YOU look nice!”

I do feel pretty spiffy. I am wearing my new brown pants and a striped blue shirt. My belt and my shoes match. My hair is combed and sprayed, though it is really not so much “hair” as the suggestion of hair, a few brave and resilient strands that remind me on darker days of crabgrass growing in the crack of a sidewalk. She finds this preferable to the way I used to wear my hair, which is not at all — in those lonely days before she came into my life, I shaved my head, fancying that I looked more like Yul Brynner or Mister Clean than Uncle Fester.

Among the many gifts my parents gave me, both the most powerful and the most mysterious were the books that lined the shelves on either side of our stone fireplace. My dad built the fireplace as a source of heat in the large room that he added to our trailer, and its heat and light provided an ideal place for a child to read the books that arrived through the mail in boxes with exotic labels like Works by Jules Verne or Disney’s World of Fantasy. Even the books I could not read haunted me with the words I deciphered on their spines, such as Native Son, The Way of All Flesh, and Sense and Sensibility.

I’m not a snob. In fact, I’m more of a bleeding heart. But when it comes to beer and coffee, I’m admittedly a bit of an elitist. 

By John deVille • Guest Columnist

This is a letter I sent to Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin. Macon County Schools, Haywood County Schools, and all the other school systems in your district and the state of North Carolina, are bracing for a wave of fiscal chaos to wash over them this coming fall. This chaos can only be undone by you and your fellow senators.

Imagine, just for a moment, that it is 2010 again. The economy, which was on the verge of a catastrophic collapse just over a year ago, has pulled out of its nosedive and is now showing some tentative signs of recovery. President Obama, the first year of his administration now in the books, is beginning to find his stride and looking forward to a new year.

That feeling in the pit of my stomach is familiar. I imagine it’s something like what people with ulcers feel — nervous, tightening, churning, almost painful. It’s telling me that there is very likely going to be fallout from a story we are about to publish. I won’t sleep well that night after we send the paper to press. After all these years and so many editions, it still comes with certain stories.

Is what we are about to publish going to hurt a friend? Are we being fair?  Have we told both sides if that’s what the issue demands? Did a community leader I admire do something bad that we are about to report? Are we obligated to publish a story that is going to cost us advertising dollars, taking money away that we could use to invest and make the company stronger? Are we sure this is a public figure we are writing about, because if it’s not we could face libel charges?

Cartoon, Jan. 17, 2018

By Will Studenc

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