The Barbourville [KY] Mountain Advocate
July 27, 1989, p. 6
by Advocate sports columnist
I was asked the other day why I am never seen on the golf course or
around the many area fishing holes. While growing up, I spent lots of
time at my grandparents' home on Catron Avenue. During those many days
and nights while playing and generally having a good time there, I
heard a variety of topics from my grandparents. Having been raised in
the Masonic Children's Home in Louisville, my grandmother had a basic
set of Christian values and she expected each of her grandchildren
to adhere to the same principles.
My mamaw, known affectionately to many Knox Countians simply as Aunt Jennie,
told me never to tell a lie and not to hang around people who did.
So, I could never take up golf or go fishing.
During my years of professional journalism, Mamaw has been my biggest
fan and critic. She sometimes will write me a letter and tell me to be
fairer to the coaches and players. In one letter, she scolded me by
asking "Why don't you use that college public relations degree you
got the next time you tackle high school sports."
We all chuckled when she climbed my frame after I had ridiculed
county schools' boss Jim Harve Hampton. My grandmother wrote me
"Jim Harve is a good man and the only superintendent the county
schools has, so be nicer to him."
Fried chicken, gravy and real mashed potatoes were the menu each
Saturday night at her house, so I made sure I was there every week
in the 1950s.
Long before the World Wrestling Federation, the National Wrestling
Alliance and the other organizations discovered video tape, we used
to gather around my grandparents' television and watch the film of
Chicago wrestling followed by live broadcasts of the sport from
Channel 10 in Knoxville. Papaw, several neighborhoods kids and I
would gather in the living room to shout at the bad guys and yell
other remarks at the usual blind referees. Every few minutes, Mamaw
would appear from the kitchen and offer us endless glasses of Kool
Aid from that very large glass pitcher. She also would tell us all,
even my grandfather, to calm down.
Nothing seemed to rattle my grandmother, not even that time after she
had several trees cut down and bunched in a pile in her corn field
near the little building no longer used. I won't mention the names of
the boys who helped me, but we took three quart jars of gasoline and
covered the pile of brush. When the lighted match went into the pile,
all the gasoline ignited suddenly with a loud "Whoosh" and the ground
shook. Several of her neighbors came running and one lady, a Mrs. Duke,
kept hollering, "Mrs. Chesnut's chicken coop is on fire." Little did
she know the fire was not that far. After making sure the fire would
not spread, my grandparents took each of us boys back to the house
and instead of raising the roof admonished us calmly and then
gave us some Kool Aid.
I was wrong when I said nothing rattled my mamaw. Although raised as
a Republican, she has been a loyal Democrat since she married
Grandfather. She used to be faithful about watching and contributing
to the Rev. Billy Graham but she stopped when he had Richard Nixon on
the podium at a 1960s crusade in Pennsylvania. If you want to get her
low blood pressure up, just mention the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
My grandmother served the local First Baptist Church as head of its
Sunday School's Primary Department for about 40 years. Next to her
family, her religion had been most important in her life. She sang
hymns to us all the time and quoted Bible stories and verses every
chance we gave her. My grandmother even went so far as to have all the
neighborhood kids attend Vacation Bible School in the mornings at
First Baptist and in the evenings at Northside. In each of her letters
to me since I left home in 1964, my grandmother closes by telling me
of her love of me and admonishing me to go to church every Sunday.
Once, while talking to me on the telephone, she asked if I was going to
church. I told her "No, I don't care to be around all those hypocrits."
She responded by telling me
"Go on, Dennis, one more hypocrit won't hurt that church."
And one more time my grandmother had brought me back to earth.
Many middle-aged and rapidly aging citizens have their own stories
about my grandmother. Ask Cal Smith about the water well in my
grandparents' back yard. Russell Pope and Wilbert Evans were two of
her prize Sunday School pupils but even they can tell you a humorous
story or two about her. My grandmother still laughs at me and my
birthday greetings to her. Since I never could remember whether the
date was July 30 or 31, I would call her on the 30th to wish her a
happy birthday. But I have finally learned the date is July 31.
Since this newspaper will be getting to her Florida house the day
before her birthday, I figured this column was a unique way to wish
her a happy 86th birthday. Mamaw has been my Rock of Gibraltar
and I love and appreciate her every day.