Barney Had A Right to be Nervous

This is taken directly from, ” a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.”

Wide variety of subjects. provides daily new facts easily.

Today’s selection — from Andy and Don by Daniel de Visé. 

“Don was fourteen years younger than his next youngest sibling, William Earl, a boy so slender he was called Shadow. Don was an accident, Elsie, thirty-nine and married to a forty-two-year-old invalid, had not planned to bring another child into the world.

“Don’s childhood was bleak, even by the sepia-toned standards of the Depression. The house on University Avenue sat in a crowded row of unkempt wooden colonials set against a steep hill. He slept on a cot in the kitchen, next to the stove. Two of his older brothers, Shadow and Sid, shared a bedroom with a boarder. Willis Vincent ‘Bill’ Knotts, the most ambitious sibling, had already decamped to seek his fortune as a manager at Montgomery Ward. Don’s mother and father slept in the living room, and Jesse Sr. spent most of his waking hours on the sofa, staring into space. Don’s brothers liked to drink and fight; there was little to distinguish them from the vagabonds who paraded in and out of the University Avenue home.

Don Knotts early in his career as a ventriloquist

“Don emerged from infancy with a ghostly pallor, a skeletal frame, and a predisposition to illness, traits he shared with his older brother Shadow. ‘I did not come into the world with a great deal of promise,’ Don recalled. ‘By the time I started grammar school, I was already stoop-shouldered, painfully thin, and forever throwing up due to a nervous stomach.’

“Three decades later, Elsie Knotts would ask Don, ‘Do you remember when you were in nappies, and your father used to hold a knife to your throat?’ Don did not. Only in therapy did the memories come flooding back. Don spent his first years living in fear of the monster on the couch. Jesse Knotts harbored a primal jealousy toward Don, the unexpected baby who drew Elsie’s attention away from her bedridden husband. From the day Don arrived, he competed with his father for his mother’s care.

“The only path out of Don’s kitchen bedroom led through the living room, where his father lay. Don would try to tiptoe by. Sometimes he would pass unnoticed. Other times, the father would emerge from his fever dreams and train his bloodshot eyes on his youngest son. Don would freeze as he heard the ragged growl of an unpracticed voice: ‘Come here, you little son of a bitch.’ Don would slowly retreat from the room. Usually, the summons was an empty threat. But on occasion, Jesse would rise from the couch like a shambling ghoul and stagger into the kitchen to find a blade. Then he would stumble through the house in search of his son; the hunt wouldn’t take long, as there was nowhere for Don to go. Jesse would pin Don against the wall, raise the knife to his throat, and terrorize the child with dark oaths: ‘I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch.’ “

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show

Author: Daniel de Visé
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copyright 2015 by Daniel de Visé
Pages 4-5

Carpe Diem?

I’ve already acknowledged that isn’t easy to do all the time, at least in a positive way. So if not a day, then try to seize a moment. In times of sorrow, despair or confusion reach for controlling even just a moment.

Bewilderment, fear, questions, tears.      

When hit with unexpected news, especially bad news,everyone reacts differently: slow to take it in, spring to action, and every level of awareness in between.

Make it Yours

Focus on taking in information, accepting offers of help, and talking to those you trust. Prayer and meditation can create a calm that allows your beliefs to provide the answers you need.

Love and healing                                              

Right now I know several people facing serious issues, medical and otherwise, and others who experienced sudden losses in their families.

Then there is our world……

later that evening

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the

whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered




                 Warsan Shire


All I can do is think love and healing. So I am.




Aussie Anti-Tourists Live it up in East Tennessee

This is a re-posting of an article I wrote for

IMG_9007It is 9,750 miles one way from Melbourne, Australia to Knoxville,Tennessee. It’s a long way to travel to attend a few football games and concerts, but Graham and Debbie Blackley left their lovely home in Bairnsdale, Australia, for an authentic experience in Sevierville, Tennessee.

The Blackleys stayed in Karen Pyne’s Sevierville home for three weeks. Both Pyne and the Blackleys are members of the international Home which allows members to list their home, offering it as private living quarters for visitors. The exchange is a reciprocal agreement with Graham and Debbie using Karen’s home now, and Karen being able to use their home in return, at a time agreeable to both parties.

While Karen has been a member for several years, the Blackleys recently joined. Graham explains, “We are anti-tourists hence we steer away from the tourist meccas. A service such as Home Exchange makes it possible to find places to stay which are different from a standard motel or hotel.” During the Blackleys stay, Karen vacated the premises and enjoyed camping in the mountains and visiting her daughter.

And now the question on everyone’s mind…

How and why did you choose Sevierville?

Graham:  I have a life theory: if the mob all do the same thing, or head in the same direction, that must be the wrong way to go. We don’t like cities or crowds so we immediately eliminated the east and west coasts. The deep south and the flat central states also got the flick. We narrowed it down to here because we had good memories of traveling the south central region of Aquitaine in France, and Tennessee is very similar geographically. Karen’s home appealed to us [with] it being in a quiet spot surrounded by trees with water close by.

The Blackley's enjoying Karen Payne's backyard in Sevierville.

The Blackley’s relax in Karen Pyne’s backyard in Sevierville.

Where do you live in Australia?

Graham: Well, Australia has six states and two territories. Victoria is the state we live in. It’s southeast on the coast. I looked up some figures to check out how it compares to Tennessee and Victoria has 88,000 square miles compared to Tennessee’s 42,000, but close to a million fewer people. We live outside of town on 130 acres that is mostly pasture and woods. The nearest town is Bairnsdale with about 15,000 people.

Used with permission from

Used with permission from

What did you do during your visit?

Graham: When we made the exchange with Karen, I spent lots of time online looking at what things happened in East Tennessee so we had an idea of what we wanted to do before we arrived. I found that the Titans had a game in Nashville, which we went to, and then Karen’s daughter, Beth, and her son, Brock, took us to the UT and Oklahoma game. That was exciting. I know the Volunteers lost, but two overtimes!

I am a cabinetmaker and wood crafter and I found the Tennessee Valley Woodworkers Association and contacted them. We arranged to attend a meeting in Manchester and they gave us a very warm welcome. Then we met friends of Karen’s in Knoxville, the Tevaults, and visited in their home. Don is also a wood carver. I enjoyed sharing stories with him and seeing his workshop.

Graham talks books to Knoxville poet Linda Parsons Marion.

Graham talks books to Knoxville poet Linda Parsons Marion.

We’re really into music, so I looked online for musical events and that took us to Bristol, Virginia, to the Rhythm and Roots Festival. It was outstanding.

Debbie: Yeah, that was a great day. Friendly people all over the place. We even made the evening news! They interviewed us, said we came the longest distance. And we heard music downtown in Knoxville on the Market Square one evening. I got to try fried green tomatoes at the Bistro’s brunch before we went to a play downtown. I like browsing around in antique stores which put us in Clinton one day, looking around the shops.

Graham & Debbie Blackley at a Market Square concert.

Graham & Debbie Blackley at a Market Square concert.

What else do you count as highlights?

Graham: Anytime we spent in the mountains. We enjoyed you taking us to Cades Cove, and hearing the elk bugling at Cataloochee was spectacular. One day we just took off driving and went to Cherokee. Beautiful, beautiful scenery.


Debbie: Yes, the mountains. I got to see a bear at Cades Cove. Graham had seen them before in Canada, but I never had so I was thrilled about that. Let’s see, we saw elk, turkey, deer, the bear and two groundhogs. I was hoping for a skunk. We don’t have skunks or raccoons or squirrels in Australia. Karen has enough squirrels in her backyard that I don’t get excited over them anymore!

Why did you visit Cherokee, NC?

During my time as an educator…I placed considerable energy into improving the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students. I had an opportunity to travel to British Columbia and New Zealand to tour schools and meet with Indigenous teachers, Principals and Administrators. I read quite a bit about Native American history prior to our travels and saw the parallels with other Indigenous peoples as a result of European expansion and settlement. I had no time on our recent trip to engage in any way with the Cherokee…. I was keen however to visit the land of the people…and try to feel just a little of the story.

Tell me about your Australian home and those 130 acres. I understand it is partially underground?

Aussie house

Used with permission from

Graham: Yes, it’s an earth sheltered house. The east and west and roof are covered with soil so it is very heat efficient. We built the house ourselves except for a concrete bunker. A lot of the land is pasture and that’s rented out to a sheep farmer. We’ve got vegetable gardens and orchards with red currants and boysenberries, passion fruit, oranges, avocados, plums, olives and hazelnuts. We’re pretty self-sufficient when it comes to food. Everything harvested is canned, frozen, or dehydrated. I hunt and fish. We use the venison in place of beef, and lots of rabbit and fish. I made my own dehydrators for drying foods and a brick oven for making pizzas.

Used with permission from

Used with permission from

I have to ask. Do you have kangaroos in your yard?

Debbie: Yes, we have kangaroos and wombats and wallabies. The rail fences in Cades Cove gave Graham an idea of a fence to keep the wallabies out of the garden. We also have lots of parrots and cockatoos come to our yard. Australia, particularly in the south, has hundreds of species of birds: eagles, falcons, kites, honeyeaters. Lots of very colorful birds.


Debbie Blackley sees the first hints of fall at the Cataloochee Valley overlook.

Graham, you said you were an anti-tourist, but you love to travel. What are you looking for when experiencing new places?

Graham: In Stuart Wilde’s book, Infinite Self, which I highly recommend, he classifies people as ticktock people, those who are caught up in the drudgery and routine of life, and fringe dwellers. I like the latter. Fringe dwellers take steps to ensure they avoid groupthink mentality. We enjoy seeing the sights when we travel, but most of all we enjoy experiencing the culture. The way others live in their little corner of the world.

We managed to radiate out in all directions from Sevierville, going to Nashville, Bristol, Manchester, and Cherokee. We even went to Brock’s school in Norris one day. A check of the mileage on our rental car put us at almost 2,000 miles at the end of our visit.

Writer Judy S. Blackstock (center) and her family enjoyed a play with Blackley's.

l to r, Maxwell Blackstock, Carole Romeiser, and Writer Judy S. Blackstock (center)  enjoyed a play with the Blackleys.

We ate out more in Tennessee than I think we have in the last 20 years at home. Food was really good quality, we thought, and cheap. At home it is expensive and the cheap stuff is cheap for a reason. So we deliberately ate at pit BBQs and pancake houses. We stopped anywhere that was different to home. At an antique shop in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, the local oatmeal cake was recommended, so we had that and fried pies too. We both came home about 3 KG (6.6 lbs.) heavier!!

Would you come back?

Debbie: Definitely. I would love to take a week and camp in the mountains.

Any last thoughts?Graham: I like the idea of Tennessee because some things about it are everything I am not. For example, it is a Republican state, and I’m at the other end of the political spectrum. This however was even more reason for being here.

We don’t think we have ever seen such a concentration of churches. We have churches here but participation seems far more optional.

One interesting thing to me is something of southern culture I am unable to understand, but I thought of it after visiting in Seattle,Washington, our last stop before returning home.

Washington does not seem to have soul. Tennessee does. I had heard of southern hospitality and to us, this seems very real.

 If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy How To Be a Conscientious Traveler. Please look for it on’s site and check out the other articles on the unusual, the wacky, and the strange!

Unless otherwise noted, photographs by Judy S. Blackstock

© Judy S. Blackstock, 2015.


A Poem from Diana Amman Cruze

Papa and Uncle Charlie_picmonkeyed

Papa’s Recipe

by Diana Amman Curze

When I was 12

I Saw

Papa, father of my father
On his front porch swing
Waving at life passing by

Grey hair combed, suspenders neat
Each day a clean, white shirt, soon to be
Covered with tobacco spittle

Papa was widowed twice, but kept
An immaculate house, save for spittoons
Spilling juices like unwashed kitchen pots

Papa cooking soup
Papa baking bread
My Papa knew a secret recipe

I Saw

Two uncles dine at Papa’s house
Three old brothers slurping soup
Lips seeping snuff

Uncle Charlie, the Catholic,
taught me to play Canasta
He gave up cards for Lent

Uncle Port, they said was rich,
came to share the beans and cornbread
Two uncles widowed both and childless
Knew nothing of a secret recipe

I Saw

Auntie marching into Papa’s house
To empty his whiskey meant for fruitcake
Auntie tolerated no alcohol since
Papa had gone to take the cure

I Saw

Papa hiding his beer when Auntie came
She found the Heinekens and Falstaff
Auntie allowed no beer for Papa
She did not know of Papa’s recipe

I Saw

Papa creeping to the cellar made of dirt
Clutching RC Cola and paint thinner
Papa with his secret recipe
Papa drinking “Smoke on the Water”

And Papa lived to 95

Diana’s note: My brother and his friends used the term, “Smoke on the Water” when referring to any homemade alcohol mixture or recipe, especially home brew. 

“Smoke on the Water or “home brew” was a label used in Knoxville in the ‘40s and ‘50s.  In Suttree, Cormac McCarthy writes about a man drinking his own mixture of “Smoke on the Water.”

Diana is the author of “A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman,” a story that chronicles her years of selling products around the 1960s. Her book is available on and at Union Avenue Books,

Nick’s Cup

I think I  mentioned in one blog that I am not getting any nicer as I age. In fact, I may be going the other direction. I find myself unable, or unwilling, to control my feelings of vexation and irritation while dealing with others in everyday situations.

Being on an antidepressant does a lot to adjust moods , but the dark side is always there. I am responsible for my actions which are driven by my feelings so I try to keep an eye on myself.

Minding My Ps & Qs
An example of this was worry my sharp tongue might lead to my Beach Bunnies group tossing me into the marsh this year. I talked to a friend who wouldn’t be there. She said she would be thinking of me during the time and hoping the trip went well.

And it did. With her encouragement, my cooperating endorphins and Nick’s cup. 100_1984Nick is the oldest of my three grandsons and it is his sippy cup that ended up being saved…just in case another one came along.

One day when I felt negative about everything, I sat myself down and decided I needed to find a focus in order to block out the negative thoughts.

Nick’s cup was sitting there so I looked at it, checked out the design of the cup, thought of the beautiful dark-eyed boy who used it. Concentration on a concrete object suited my needs. 

Get Down & Personal
A friend recently diagnosed with cancer told me she found herself sobbing in the shower as emotions of anger and fear filled her body. Being a talented person with a needle, she decided to knit her vision of her cancer–dark yarn shaped like a ball, with knots and bumps, filled with mistakes. She can tear at it, throw it, grind it into the floor. It is her concrete release from fears of the unknown.

If you google visualization meditation there are many sites filled with methods and ideas for dealing with stress or negative thoughts. Look for what fits your life style and comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be complicated to work.

One last note: You might want to watch out if you hear me muttering, “Nick’s cup, Nick’s cup,” under my breath.