For many years there was a picnic table on North Lee Highway, about 200 yards north of Hickory Hills’ entrance. It was a place for hungry travelers to stop to rest and have a meal.
Years ago before there was an abundance of gas stations and fast food places, many traveling families would pack their food to eat on a long road trip. Others would stop at a grocery store along the way to buy bread and lunch meat. Of course they would buy small jars of mustard and mayonnaise or whatever they liked on their sandwiches.
At mealtime they would stop at one of these roadside tables and have a picnic. Of course there were no restroom facilities available, but near many tables there were woods with a path. These little sites were on state and U.S. highways throughout the South (maybe across the nation).
The table there on North Lee was apparently the last one for Bradley County. It was removed a few years ago.
When I was younger, my dad and mom took my big brother Cecil and me on picnics near and far. Over time we visited parks across Tennessee, North Georgia and Alabama.
When someone mentioned the old picnic table the other day, it brought back a lot of good memories. Memories of what I later realized of good, decent, devoted parents who were the salt of the earth. It also brought back memories of my big brother with whom I fought often but was very close to. I am proud of the way he turned out, and his life’s work. (I don’t think I ever told him that, since I was too macho for such talk.)
When my young grandchildren visit, I try to convey some of that same devotion and affirmation that my parents and my siblings shared with me.
Cathy and I built them a treehouse some time ago in the back yard. We also have a place to roast marshmallows or cook hotdogs. We can have a picnic there or they can participate in a “tea.” It sometimes can be a prim and proper event with our first-grader twins.
Their older sister is a sophisticated fifth-grader who is big time into reading books, but is also interested in plants, owls and birds of all kinds.
Their soon-be-to be 14-year-old cousin is into cheerleading, hunting, fishing, country music stars, Blake Shelton and sometimes dressing up and primping.
She has Grandpa worried that the boys are looking at her. I think she looks back from time to time.
Thank God for the good life!
But, for many years there has always been the bad side in view. Just the other day, I left my lively, bubbly little girls to visit a bright-eyed 5-year-old boy and a beautiful 3-year-old girl, both articulate, beautiful children.
They were foster kids.
Their mother and father are “meth heads” who also use other drugs. These parents both willingly signed away their parental rights so they would no longer have any legal responsibilities to these precious, innocent little children.
Mother and father loved methamphetamines better.
What a contrast in families right here in East Tennessee. Some children are loved and cherished, while others are neglected and despised. Some are a wonderful blessing, while others are a burden. Every year in Tennessee, we have 300 to 400 children placed in foster care because of the meth problem. As I have already mentioned, Tennessee is on track to be No. 1 in the nation for meth labs and meth problems.
Well, I have gained a renewed respect for foster parents and our state social workers as I become more aware of their work and successes.
The good thing about this sad story of the little boy and girl I visited is that it has had a storybook ending. A young couple who cannot have children went through the foster parenting program. In recent days, they adopted this little boy and girl. They have showered them with love and attention from the very first day as foster parents.
These kids are now content and happy. My prayer for this little family is that they live happily ever after. All indications are that this will be the case.
We all have something to contribute to making our part of the world a better place to live. I salute everyone who has taken this attitude no matter how humble the task may be.
Speaking of affirmation, a longtime friend was telling me of his having coffee with two of my other longtime friends. One I worked with as a city patrolman and the other I have known since elementary school. Both said they have appreciated my openness and “Telling it like it is” about the Sheriff’s Office and the needs of Bradley County.
This former policeman jokingly told our mutual friend I was known as “Mr. Squeaky Clean.”
I take that as a high compliment.
Almost every day I meet people around the county who read this column and very much like the transparency I have tried to show to the public.
A few folks have protested to the Banner that I have been too blunt. So be it. I am grateful to know that I am fulfilling my commitment of being transparent.
As they do on TV before going to a commercial, here is a teaser: “There is more to come.” Details never before revealed to the public. Stay right here.
Thanks for reading.