By Joe Rector

Here in the volunteer state, news stories dripped in over the last couple of week. Oh, Christmas and New Year’s Day have come, and a peppering of break-ins and fires have made the nightly news programs. For the most part, however, not much occurs during this time of year. The result is that the normal becomes the spectacular.

Some television stations report car wrecks. I’m not talking about the ones where serious injuries or even fatalities occur. No, I’m talking about the ones where cars slide off the road when they hit slick spots and then plummet into a ditches. I am all for traffic safety, and anyone who crashes has my sympathies, but come on, nearly 17,000 car wrecks happen each day, so they’re not newsworthy.

The flu always seems to garner plenty of air time. Each year newscasts drown viewers with reports of the latest strands of flu and the effects of them. I think I’ve had the flu one time and don’t recall the experience as being a pleasant one. Over the years, colds and bronchitis (when I was a smoker) laid me low. The truth is that the flu bug, colds, and upper-respiratory ailments hit us Americans this time each and every year. It can’t be news to us. Perhaps a better story might be about how dumb we are for not taking a flu shot to avoid the misery.

Just the other night a local channel reported that three hikers had been rescued after being lost in the Great Smoky National Park. I was glad to hear it until the story went on to report what those rescued said. It seems that they weren’t prepared for the cold weather or snow, and those things contributed to their becoming lost.

What? Unless I’ve been unconscious or completely screwed up most of my life (some would say that assessment is correct on both counts), the end of December and beginning of January are part of the winter solstice. If that is true, then it automatically means that the temperatures will be low in the mountains. It also stands to reason that snow is a good possibility at higher elevations. So, what’s all this about not being prepared for conditions? If these individuals are that mentally weak, they shouldn’t be allowed out by themselves at any time. Let’s don’t give air time to show how short on intelligence they are.

The last few days stations have proven just how starved they are for stories. The majority of the news time has discussed the cold weather here in Tennessee, as well as the rest of the country. Snow storms and frigid temperature hammer several states to the north and east. Even as far south as Florida, temperatures are expected to drop into the teens.

Here in Knoxville, the prognosticators call for temperature in the single digits with windchills dipping into minus numbers. Some reports advise how to keep pipes from freezing and what to do with outside pets.

Are we really that stupid? I’m a native Knoxvillian, and I can recall multiple times when the temperatures dropped as low as today’s forecasted ones. In fact, one year the temperatures were so low that my car froze to the driveway, and I had to call AAA to unstick it. Knoxville recorded the lowest temperature in the nation with a -24 (January 21, 1985). Eleven days later my son Dallas was born, and the temperatures still hovered around the bottom of the thermometer.

In case anybody didn’t get the memo, IT’S WINTER! That usually means that temperatures plunge and, albeit infrequently these days, snow can fall. Many of us have crawled under houses to wrap water pipes with newspapers or to thaw them with hair dryers. Only the cruelest persons leave pets outside during unusually cold times. They should be the real new story. Attention should be on their acts and the trials that sentence them to prison for such terrible deeds. But the fact is that winter, even with all its freezing temperatures and piles of snow, isn’t news; it’s life. Now, folks who are hardest hit have our thoughts and prayers, but if they want to avoid such times, they might consider moving wise south of the Mason-Dixon Line, where temperatures are moderate.

I’ll be glad to see spring come. The terrible stories of the winter will be long gone. However, on a slow news day we will probably hear about all the rain and soggy weather that is coming. I, for one, would just as soon not hear anything about the weather other than the highs, lows, and chances of rain. If no important news is available for the day, a rerun of “Judge Judy” suits me fine.