Sometimes, the urge to just go is irresistible

They didn’t know where they were going, their only waypoint the “S” on the compass rose.

They were both from Minnesota. For a laugh they could turn on the accent that became the humorous aside of the Coen brothers’ film “Fargo,” with the “yaah” and “geez” and “you betcha.” In their 50s, both had been able to retire early, she a landscape architect and he an Air National Guard pilot.

A healthy, diverse media landscape is a good thing

We who live in Western North Carolina are fortunate in many ways. We know that. It’s a beautiful place with a vibrant economy populated by interesting people from all over. It’s easy to commune with friends at a brewery or restaurant (adhering to covid restrictions) or slip away to the woods in the East Coast’s largest wilderness area.

A glimmer, and it sure feels nice

A year later. We’re still mourning the deaths and illnesses, the disruption of life as we knew it, the months of gut-wrenching unknowns causing unfamiliar anxiety. It was March 17, 2020, when Gov. Roy Cooper began shutting down businesses and most of us waited for the tsunami that we could see — or at least imagine — in the distance without having any idea how horrific its final toll, when the worst of it would come, when it would finally recede, and who or what would be left standing.

A long overdue plan to cut childhood poverty

The Covid relief bill now working its way through Congress will mark a transformation in the way this country treats poor children. It’s about damn time.

First the numbers, which vary ever-so-slightly from year-to-year, but which should be appalling to the citizens of the world’s richest country: 24 percent in Swain County, 26.6 percent in Macon, 22.5 percent in Jackson and 22.5 percent in Haywood. That the number of children living in poverty every single day of their lives. Right at one-fourth of the youngsters we see around our community every day.

How many visitors are too many?

The Smokies region is an outdoor mecca that attracts millions of people each year. For better or worse, that onslaught of visitors is increasing and likely to continue doing so. 

Who can you trust to tell the truth?

Another poll, another reality check for the media: Americans don’t trust us. The question that comes to mind, for me, is who does the public does trust for reporting the news? 

A Gallup poll released late last year revealed that 60 percent of Americans don’t think the media accurately and fairly reports the news, and 33 percent have absolutely no trust or confidence in the media. Finally, a whopping 27 percent have “not very much” trust in mass media (newspapers, television and radio).

Persistence pays off in rebel mascot issue

When I read that Annie McCord-Wilson was among those leading the charge to have the rebel removed as the mascot of her daughter’s elementary school — Cullowhee Valley — I almost couldn’t believe it. 

In 2002 when The Smoky Mountain News was only three years old and trying to establish itself as an information source for the region, I read a fantastic letter to the editor in the Sylva Herald. It was written by then-eighth-grader Annie McCord, and I was astonished at her maturity. Here’s an excerpt from that letter discussing the use of the rebel as a mascot:

For at least a while, all the noise stopped

Short escapes from all of the noise coming from everywhere are so refreshing, so worthwhile. 

The holidays were a fantastic time at our home. Lori and I and our children and their partners had been spending time together since the pandemic started, had been tested, and so we felt safe getting together. My birthday is Dec. 18, a week before Christmas, so from then until New Year’s Day we had children visiting, excursions out and about, long dinners and a relatively busy holiday. Great times, especially in this year when so much was not normal.

A promise to keep on keepin’ on

How does one best express gratitude?

That thought kept coming up as I sat down to write a column for this week’s paper. After the rush of a holiday season that was so different, I found myself in our quiet mountain house on an unseasonably warm and sunny day pondering the year to come with more than a little excitement. This is going to be another memorable year, and I can’t wait to push forward.

Nowhere to go but forward into 2021

This year has prompted a reckoning unlike any in memory, so we’re all looking to put a bow on 2020 and call it done, right? 

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