Family Wisdom

My grieving will resume after Dollywood.


By Dr. Jim Ferguson

We recently had a death in our family. Not like the death in the autobiographical novel by Knoxvillian James Agee. Our pony Checkers was old and had been declining for some time, but the final event was a broken leg.

We don’t know how it happened, although weather changes often cause horses to be quite frisky and gallop about. However, the old man hadn’t galloped in years. There were several broken boards in the pasture fencing which raised the specter that one of the younger horses had kicked him. However, there were no external signs of trauma.

Like humans, horses can fall and break bones. Humans also suffer fractures from osteoporosis. However, an “insufficiency fracture” from osteoporosis in a horse’s leg seems unlikely. Humans and animals can have “pathological fractures” from the spread of cancer to bones. I’m not a vet, but the x-ray did not show evidence of osteoporosis or the characteristic “moth-eaten” appearance of a malignancy. So, we are left with a farm mystery and loss.

Euthanasia is a controversial topic, at least in humans; less so in animals. Our countryside vet was compassionate, professional and made house calls. A broken leg in a horse is a mortal wound, and after sedation, Checkers was painlessly “put to sleep.”

Our kids and grans have grown up with dogs and cats, chickens and horses. They have learned about life and death, which is the natural order of things, but it still hurts.

Upon hearing the news of Checker’s passing, tender-hearted Oakley decreed that he would not be able to return to school the rest of the week. While consoling him, his mom reminded Oakley that the family was going to Dollywood the next day. His response? “Well, my grieving will resume after Dollywood.”

Years ago, when I used to listen to “government-sponsored radio” (NPR) there was a regular installment from Baxter Black, “Cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian.” I have euthanized dying pets, but I will never do this again. We were blessed by Checkers, but also by our large animal veterinarian’s house call and Checker’s painless transition to the Elysian Fields.

And I am appreciative of my son-in-law’s resourcefulness in Checkers’ burial. Burying a horse is a big deal, especially when you consider the crappy soil of South Knox County. I’ve told Ryand he should have married into a family with better soil. So, while the rest of the family (including the visiting Portland crew) went to Dollywood, Ryand rented a backhoe and laid Checkers to rest in the middle of the pasture where he once roamed.

Too often we travel to experience foreign vistas while ignoring the beauty of our own neck of the woods. That is not true of our Smoky Mountains. So, after the farm tragedy and the hustle and bustle of Dollywood, we crossed over to “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies” to stay in our cabin above Townsend. And the next morning we took the gang to the Tremont area, one of our favorite places in the mountains. But this time there was a new wrinkle.

When the Smoky Mountain National Park was formed, Tennessee and North Carolina negotiated with the federal government that there would never be a charge for entry into the park. Now, effective March 1, 2023, there’s a five-dollar daily charge to park your vehicle in the park, even though the new policy will not alleviate the parking problems in certain areas, increase parking spaces or guarantee a parking spot with the purchase of a pass. Furthermore, rangers will now become meter maids, Barney Fifes with a ticket book instead of a bullet.

As I’ve mentioned, I collect quotes which are clever or pithy observations. When we took the Portland crew to the airport, my Portland son-in-law Matt insisted we go to the Waffle House (WH) for breakfast. Perhaps like other local haunts, the WH has not often been a destination for me. But that changed when Matt observed that the Waffle House is a Southern tradition. “It is the Starbucks of the South.” He’s right, and it’s a better choice than Starbucks.

These days there are many things that challenge my perspectives. Becky and I both graduated from college and achieved advanced degrees. Higher education was the right choice for us. For years we’ve been told you need a college education to succeed, but, like so many other things we’ve been told, that’s a lie. A college degree in gender studies, sociology or history is essentially non-marketable and will not enable graduates to pay off their loans. Interestingly, I heard an interview with Mike Rowe who observed, “Four-year college enrollment is down and apprenticeships are up.” I’ve begun to see Knoxville billboards advertising trade careers, even as UT, a member of the industrial-education complex, continues to frantically build. Inevitably, the bubble will pop. The government has run out of printed money to subsidize universities, so professors may need to find a useful trade.

I keep looking for signs that people are wising up. I’m sure everyone has heard about the Bud Light controversy. The real question is why would a company allow their brand to be destroyed by some college marketing twit who refers to her customers as “too fratty”? The so-called King of Beers has already lost more than $6 billion and even managed to get their Clydesdale Horses canceled. I could add Budweiser products to my boycott list, but their beer is dreadful and I would not put it in my mouth.

Speaking of brands, you might ask why Biden’s handlers continue destroying everything American. These people are not stupid, they are just perverse and driven by a warped ideology. They are not your friend; they hate America. To a leftist, ideology is supreme and their worldview is destructive. To Democrats, the acquisition of power is far more important than Americanism or John Q Public.

Fearmongers continue to warn us of the dangers of Russia and China. But why would our enemies strike us now when they need but wait for the Democrats to destroy us from within?