I Pooped!!

And I am prouder than a two-year-old with a purple hippopotamus potty chair!!  Things have been back to (fairly) normal for several days now.  So, I am going to officially declare myself OVER, and I mean really over, Clostridium Difficile.  It’s been six yucky months.  I hope I never, ever make another blog post about poop.

On a less happy note.  I still have not gotten any books.  We left Wisconsin to come here to be close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ready to promote the books to anyone who might sell them.  Hugo House Publishers have let me down again.  No books in April. Still no books in October. I have missed the prime year to sell a book about a national park, with 2016 being the 100th anniversary of the national parks.  But, I guess Big Creek will still be there next year.

We have given up and plan to head south on Tuesday.  They’ll probably call to say the books are ready to ship on Thursday.

I have not posted a blog for weeks.  I haven’t stayed up late reading other people’s blogs.  I haven’t been practicing my singing for the Razzle-Dazzle Review at the yacht club in January every night. I haven’t even taken many pictures! I have been sleeping better. A little vacation is good once in a while.

We have decided to start looking at real estate here in east Tennessee.  We love the countryside here, with the rolling hills and views of mountains.  We have looked at a number of houses but,  I haven’t like anything I can afford yet.  We’ll look again next spring and see what is on the market then.


Tha Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

I have never been fond of bombs. But, Andy and I are both interested in science.  And, a tour of east Tennessee would not be complete without a visit to Oak Ridge.

I really did not know much about the Manhattan project, just had a few fuzzy facts in the back of my head. It surprised me how awed I was by the enormity and difficulty of the effort.  And, I am newly troubled by the moral issues of killing so many innocent civilians.  Yet, in the context of the time in history, I can see why that seemed to be the best, and maybe only, option at the time.

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park comprises some of the buildings still existing at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We drove just over an hour to the  Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge. Can you believe it?  I forgot to take my camera with me!!  I used my tablet but, the pictures didn’t turn out very well and I can’t find the cord to transfer them to the computer.  Dang!!

We took a bus tour to the laboratory.  I have to say, the tour guide was excellent.  He was a retired chemist who had worked at the lab for thirty-seven years. His explanation was so clear that I almost thought I understood the process for a few minutes there. There were two short (and very old) films in the museum before we got on the bus. It showed all the big names involved: Fermi, Oppenheimer, Szilard, Wigner,Einstein, and Roosevelt. The German scientists knew that Hitler was working on building a bomb.  Szilard, Wigner, and Einstein drafted a letter to President Roosevelt.  Roosevelt then provided some funding for research but, the big effort did not start until after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Then, with a massive effort.  The Tennessee valley was chosen for the site, the residents ejected, and a large secret town was built in two years.  They didn’t know for sure how to enrich uranium so they built three facilities based on the three methods they thought most likely to succeed. A town to house the 75,000 workers and their families was built along with the research facilities.

The first success came in the X-10  graphite reactor when they were able to produce small quantities of plutonium. That building is now a national historic site.  I grabbed this picture from the website. Those men are dummies.  I don’t mean stupid, I mean they are statues.

X-10 Graphite Reactor

The Y12 plant used Calutrons (from California University Cyclotron) developed by Ernest Lawrence.  A Calutron is a mass spectrometer that separated the isotopes of uranium.  It no longer exists.  It provided much of the uranium used in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. It was interesting that they hired only high-school educated girls to operate the calutrons.  The girls didn’t know what they were doing.  They simply operated the controls as they had been taught.

Calutron Operators at Y-12 Plant

Here is a virtual museum, better than my blather.

It was a sobering and fascinating day.   They performed an amazing scientific and technical task for an awful purpose. They met the goal of ending the war and saving many American and Japanese lives, if the war had continued, at the cost of two cities worth of Japanese civilians; Hiroshima (150,000) and Nagasaki (75,000).

Museum of Appalachia – Tennessee Fall Homecoming

Keys friends, Fred and Diane Colvard, were camped nearby and we visited them at Anchor Down RV Park.  It was fun to visit them while we were both “on the road”. While we were there, a neighboring couple stopped by to chat.  They said they were in the area for the Tennessee Homecoming.  I had never heard of it, but I’m so glad I looked it up and we went.

It is three full days of bluegrass music on four stages at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee. I had never heard of that either.   We had already missed several performers by the time set up our chairs in front of the main stage. However, my attention was drawn to the cane squeezing going on right behind the audience area. I have seen these sorghum presses but, never one being used. OK, I was excited.

Here is another picture for my animal butt collection.  It does show the whole scene, though. The mule is hooked up to the log that sits atop the press, or mill. The poor mule does the hard work, going round and round all day turning the press.  They did have two mules taking turns. The pile of sorghum canes is on the right and the pile on the left is the cane after the juice has been squeezed out.

Sorghum Press

Here is a closer look at the man feeding the canes into the press. The juice drips down into the bucket hanging under the press.

Feeding Sorghum Cane into Press

It took two men to do the job.  One of them had to periodically pat the mule on the rump to get him moving again. I looked it up because I didn’t know what to call the machine and found a nice article in Mother Earth News.

Then, I sat down to enjoy the music.  This is the Stewart Family.

The Stewart Family

Uncle Shuffelo & His Haint Hollow Hootenanny were great.  The woman on the left was playing the washboard and dancing her heart out. The boy in the blue-checkered shirt was playing spoons.

Uncle Shuffelo & His Haint Hollow Hootenanny

They were followed by the Ransom Notes. They are Amanda, Michael, and Amelia Ransom.

The Ransom Notes

I had to  look this up to confirm what I thought I heard him say about his steel guitar.  It is called a resonator guitar.  He is Johnny Bellar, a well known and awarded resonator guitar player.

Johnny Bellar

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers were also great. They are from Cincinnati, Ohio

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers

Mike Bentley & Cumberland Gap Connection had a hard-driving bluegrass style. Matt Hiser, on the far right, gave a virtuoso performance on that mandolin.  He was amazing!

Mike Bentley & Cumberland Gap Connection

I took a bathroom break and, while headed to the port-a-potties, took, a picture of the crowd. This is only a small portion of it.


Dale Ann Bradley is a five-time International Bluegrass Music Association “Female Vocalist of the Year.

Dale Ann Bradley

Bill and the Belles from Johnson City, Tennessee was a stand-out group of the day. They played oldies.  I mean real oldies. Like 1920s. Maybe some even a bit older. Their specialty is early country and popular music. Listen to the song on their website for an example.

Bill and the Belles

Leroy Troy was so mesmerizing that I didn’t even take a picture of him. A comedian and banjo player, his “Grandfather’s Clock” was delightful.  I found it on YouTube. While you are there, you may as well listen to his hilarious “Ghost Chickens in the Sky“.

We took a lunch break and missed several performers.  Flat Lonesome was playing when we got back to our seats. The three around the center microphone are siblings. They won three awards at the International Bluegrass Music Association last month. Best Song, Best Album, and Best Group.  I’d say they took the awards by storm.

Flatt Lonesome

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper were up next.  I realized that Michael Cleveland was blind when one of the band members led him onto the stage and up to his microphone. He was a child prodigy and has been playing the fiddle on the big stage since he was an early teen. He has been named Fiddler of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association TEN TIMES!!

Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper
Michael Cleveland

As I was listening to him play, I thought, “Surely, he has made a pact with the devil”. Watch and listen to him playing Orange Blossom Special and see if you don’t agree.

The last performance we saw was Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time.  Larry Cordle has written songs for many of  country music’s big stars. He formed Lonesome Standard time to get back to the real country music: bluegrass. Here they are playing Murder on Music Row.

Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time

We left the main stage to walk around and look at what else was happening on the museum grounds.  Lots of things were going on.  There were three other stages with bands playing but, I wanted to see what the museum has.

Blacksmiith Shop

There were numerous old cabins, including one that belonged to Mark Twain’s parents. (Not this one)





The large display building has every tool and craft imaginable from the old days.


I enjoyed watching the sheep herding demonstration.  The two sheep dogs obeyed the shepherd’s commands instantly. He was able to get them to separate or collect the sheep with just a few commands.

Sheepherding Demonstration
Log Cabin Church Interior

They were boiling down the juice from the sorghum to make sorghum molasses and were selling jars of it.

Making Sorghum Molasses

This is only a small sampling of the Tennessee Fall Homecoming.