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What T-Shirt Should You Wear

I love my state this time of the year! You can tell you are in Tennessee when the days begin to warm and the trees change from dark brown to colorful pastels, as well as by the number of festivals being held across our volunteer state. Spring, along with fall, is a wonderful time to celebrate the changing of the season after “Ole Man Winter” ran us all indoors for the past several months. It also gives us rural types a real good reason to get out and enjoy a whole lot of celebrations that relate to numerous things.  

Those of us who are native Tennesseans have the unique desire to want to hold festivals to honor food, animals or some type of produce. It must be in our nature, because if you check the coming events section of most of our reading materials you will find the majority of our festivals support those three areas of our culture. We honor the mule, bird dog, fainting goat, bee, horse, cornbread, strawberry, poke sallet, soybean, cotton, catfish, apple, peach, molasses, kudzu, pig, and many others too numerous to mention in this limited space.  
Being one who really enjoys this time of the year, I’m glad all these festivals occur and urge others to pull on their favorite tee shirt (which the majority look better on the item being celebrated) and head out this weekend to see some type of Tennessee festival at its best.  
Being somewhat of a specialist in good country cooking and also a bit on the unusual side, I was invited for a number of years to be a judge at the Annual National Cornbread Festival for the 4-H Division Cook-off in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Due to a few tummy surgeries I turned that job over to a very capable coworker, and now stick to judging my own cooking, which is pretty good if I do say so myself. If you have never attended the National Cornbread Festival, then you had better plan to be there the last weekend of April, because it is the event of a lifetime.  
For a cornbread lover like me, just to savor the smells and tastes of everything cornbread in one day's visit was almost more than I could stand. And then to have the opportunity to taste the ten best recipes of cornbread out of more than 100 entries from 4-H members from all parts of the country and this state, you had to know that I was in "country cook'n heaven."  
I got VIP parking, a large rosette judge's ribbon and several goodies from festival cook-off sponsors Lodge Cast Iron Cookware and Martha White. For a southern fat boy, what more could you ask for? But the greatest part of the day was meeting and judging the contest for 10 of the most charming 4-H members you would ever want to meet.  
They were elementary students, but they all had just as much determination and skill to compete as the adults, who would bake their goods during the afternoon national contest.  
The contest is held early in the morning and each contestant has to prepare their own recipe on a stage before hundreds of watching festival goers. After mixing their ingredients, they bake their cornbread creation on stage for the judges. They are judged on appearance, creativity, presentation, cooking techniques, product color, shape, crust, texture and most importantly of all, flavor. And by the way, they must prepare their recipe in cast iron cookware. As I always say, "Anytime you encounter cornbread made in a cake pan, you're dealing with imposters."  
The cornbread dishes I’ve tasted those past years were all really good and trying to pick a winner was tough. I ate enough cornbread on those judging days that all I had to do for supper at night was drink water and swell.  
It is a treat to see these kids put all their efforts into being the best. Lodge and Martha White are to be congratulated for promoting the town of South Pittsburg, but most of all getting these young people a chance to “make the best better.”  
During the festival you can tour the Lodge plant located in South Pittsburg, see hundreds of arts and crafts, watch the cook-off, go down Cornbread Alley and basically have a really good time.  
Maybe someday they will let me judge the big contest or even enter the Celebrity Cook-off. Just don't put me up against those 4-Hers. They are good at what they do.  
Hope you are packing your t-shirt right now and heading to South Pittsburg.                                                                                                                                                                                 
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at
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Is Cousin Clod Happy?

Since I no longer drive to work, I now am pleasantly awakened each weekday to the sound of my favorite radio station WSM and the Bill Cody program. “Cody In The Morning” is one way I start the day and have been doing so for sometime. His radio show is like a radio program should be on a station with a legacy like WSM.  It has always been a mainstay in my family and has also been around ever since I came into this world. As a matter of fact, we had an old brown Philco radio bought at the local Firestone store that sat on top of the white, green-trimmed cabinet in the kitchen that only would pick up “The Air Castle of South.” I still think it ought to be the law that all kitchen radios be tuned to a local AM station and the radio knobs pulled off so the station can’t be changed.  
At high noon each day back on the farm we always stopped for dinner, to not only eat, but also to listen to the market report on John McDonald’s Noontime Neighbors radio program. Whenever that dinner bell would ring you knew it was time for us children to get quiet because Daddy had to hear if the livestock market was up or down. The results of that market report also helped with his attitude when we went back to work in the field. Always liked it when they said the market was up.  
During my time of listening recently to the Nashville station, not only at home but also in my pickup, I heard a commercial that dealt with a certain brand of chicken you could buy at your local grocery. The thing that caught my attention in the advertisement was that they were referring to how happy their chickens were back on their farm. They said their birds didn’t receive antibiotics or other drugs like other chickens grown on other farms, and that they lived in special houses that helped keep their chickens healthy and happy.  
I appreciated the image the commercial presented, talking about the health of their fowl and that they were taking extra steps to keep their product safe for the consumer. It’s good to know that poultry producers are very aware of providing clean, safe and comfortable housing for their chickens and the consumer’s concerns are always a part of maintaining their operations.  
The thing that I have a problem trying to understand is how to tell if a chicken is happy or not. Telling folks your chickens are healthy and content is understandable, but saying they are happy is somewhat hard for many of us country residents to grasp. I raised chickens for years and was even the grand champion winner in my county 4-H club six times in a row for having the best group of twelve pullets. I have even had the grand champion Rhode Island Red rooster at the Tennessee State Fair, but I have yet to hear a chicken laugh. I can’t even tell if a chicken is smiling or not. They all have that sort of silly look with their mouths open, but I don’t think that means they are happy. Cousin Clod has a silly look and also walks around with his mouth open at times and I know for a fact he is not the jolliest person you would ever want to meet.  
Maybe they cackle every now and then, but does that mean they are happy? A lot of people think because a hen cackles after she lays an egg she is proud and happy of the accomplishment. I think she is just glad that the ordeal is over for the day and she doesn’t have to think about it again until tomorrow.  
We are still trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg. Nobody really knows why the chicken crossed the road. Is it true that the term dumb cluck comes from an observation of the abilities of chickens? Do we run around at times like a chicken with our head cut off? And, just what are the Colonel’s secret ingredients in his fried chicken recipe?  
Who would have ever thought all of this high level fowl pondering would have resulted from a WSM radio program. Maybe you would have thought it considering the shows content, but I still am not sure that a chicken can smile or be called happy.            
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at    
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Wash Your Hands Around Chicks

The last few weeks as I have visited my Coop to pickup things needed for around the homestead, I have heard a distinctive sound that shows up this time of the year and it is not tractors running preparing to plow fields. It is a peeping sound coming from hundreds of chicks and ducklings that have arrived at the stores so farmers and homeowners can restock their flocks for the coming year. Many people think it has something to do with Easter baskets and the celebration of spring, well, I hate to bite the ears off your chocolate rabbits, but that is not the reason they are there.  

Growing up on a farm, we always had baby chicks around due to the need for eggs. As a child, I was use to their being a part of the farm surroundings, but can remember when we would go into town on our Saturday visits to the square around Easter time to find brightly colored chicks for sale at the local Woolworths. They caught my attention because we never had any chickens that were pink or green. After my mother explained to me that those Woolworth chicks had been colored with food coloring and were probably not healthy, I soon lost my interest in dyed chickens. I found that the marshmallow Peeps were more to my liking and they stayed put in your Easter basket.  

There are those who still think it is cute to give their child a live chick or duckling for Easter, but coming from the farm, let me suggest you keep it to a toy one instead. Small children really don’t understand the care for these small creatures and the fact is that they are babies too, needing proper handling that a child can’t give.  

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture in a recent press release also mentioned the importance of avoiding baby chicks and ducklings for holiday gifts. They can also carry Salmonella germs causing extreme abdominal problems. “Live poultry may have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean,” Tennessee Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Tim Jones said in the recent TDA news release. “Those germs can also get on cages, coops, feed and water dishes and other items where the birds live and roam and can be found on the hands, shoes and clothing of people who handle the birds or work or play around them. We recommend families leave handling of live poultry to people trained in their appropriate care.”  

The release went on to say that you also do not let children younger than five, elderly persons or people with weak immune systems handle chicks, ducklings or other live poultry. If you do come into contact with a bird, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after.  

Being a 4-H member also taught me the importance of cleanliness, and with poultry as a major project of mine for many years, I know the importance of washing your hands around chickens. Each spring I would start out with 100 chicks and after having to feed, clean the chicken house and gather eggs, they weren’t as cute at the end as at the beginning of getting them.  

My chicken house was country-fied. The chicken nests were made out of wooden apple boxes nailed to the wall fairly high off the ground for a youngster.  It was my job when I got home from school to feed the chickens and gather the eggs.  Feeding the chickens was not that big of a deal, but reaching high over my head to get the eggs out of the nests was a different matter altogether.  The nests were just high enough for me not to be able to see in them, so I had to reach really high and feel around to locate next morning’s breakfast.  

I had heard all of the stories told by local old timers of finding snakes and other varmints in the nests and was always careful to feel my way along slowly as I reached above my head in the darkness. However, one spring day, I guess the call of going hunting in the woods with my favorite dog after gathering the eggs caused me to forget my concern of what just might be lurking high up in the darkness.  

I reached high and fast to get the hens’ daily donations.  However, what I felt was not the usual oblong shape of a brown egg from a Rhode Island Red hen; instead, it was warm and furry and seemed to cover the entire area inside the nest. I withdrew my hand hoping to have all of my fingers attached where they were supposed to be.  Before I knew it, I was in the barn lot making tracks to the house, with brown hen eggs splattering the trail that I was making through the jimson weeds.  

Once safely on the back porch, I sounded the alarm that the hen house had been overtaken by wild animals. Mother summoned my father to get the gun to protect the unsuspecting hens.  

With the entire family in attendance, we approached the dark structure near the garden with utmost caution.  My father slowly strained his eyes to adjust to the light of the darkened house and looked over in the nest.  With a laugh that only a father can utter when he has something of embarrassment on his child, he reached in to withdraw six gray kittens that our old cat had deposited in the nest earlier in the day.          


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at    

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New Companion

A few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and get something that has been gone from my life for over six years. Since the day I was born there has been one with me, and after losing one that had been very special to me, it has been hard for me to get another one until just recently. Oh, I have thought about it a lot, but she was so special that I just couldn’t make myself get another friend like her. However, I met the perfect one in mid-February, and in about five weeks we will be united for some great times. Yes, it is true - I’m getting a new farm dog.  
When the term farm animal is mentioned in conversation or in writing, most of us assume the obvious and think of a cow. Cows are important, along with sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and other animals that are vital to production on today’s farms. You can’t pickup a child’s book that has farms as its subject without the first thing you see being one of the aforementioned animals. But, there is also another animal on every farm across this land that has to be there to make a farm a true farm. All across America each and everyday, farmers and ranchers rise bright and early to face a day’s work with a farm animal at their side that has been on every farm since the early settlers arrived in Jamestown to create the “New World” we enjoy today. That animal does not produce food, does not plow the fields or even haul the produce, but the farm dog is just as important as any animal that graces the pages of any “Old McDonald” storybook.  
In the job I enjoyed for over forty years, I had the opportunity to spend numerous days on Tennessee farms with farmers who usually had a trusted farm dog nearby. They often rode inside or in the back of pickup trucks, eager to let the wind blow around their ears and usually with a tail wagging at a velocity that could power a TVA generating plant. I’m planning to do the same with Ranger in the coming years.     
Many are used to herd livestock, as well as protect other farm animals from wildlife not very kind to domesticated farm animals. But, most are companion animals that become a farmer’s best friend during long days of farm work. They are always there to support, greet and be a listening source that seems to understand when things are not just right, but attempt to make it right with a look that only your dog can give you. Hopefully, Ranger and I will become buddies just like that.  
In past articles, I told you about my late farm dog Sally. We adopted her when she was two, and as a very large Dalmatian, she never lacked for energy. She was never able to herd livestock or even go for help in an emergency, but every afternoon when I would arrive home, there she would stand with her tail wagging and her tongue hanging out, looking as if she had the biggest smile on her face (if dogs can smile) that you have ever seen. Her long pink tongue was always hanging to the side of her mouth and her thought cycle was almost as short as mine. But, when Sally and I headed out into the Tennessee woods of our farm on a fall afternoon for my walk and her run, she could transform my day of disaster into an afternoon of thinking about what is really important.  
She had the ability to make me see the beauty of a fall setting sun, listen to the evening call of a Bob White quail, and watch her enjoying herself in the browning farm fields. She could always accomplish what she does best, which was making me feel good. She loved without asking for anything back and was always there when I needed her.     
My new companion-to-be is a black lab pup named Ranger. In my retirement he will become my friend who I hope will teach me just as I will attempt to teach him. Together we will never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride with the windows rolled down. He will probably be the one with his head sticking out and tongue flapping in the breeze, but who knows, it could be fun.  
Together, I feel we both will have to learn some obedience and I’m sure he will understand that we will need to take some naps along the way, in addition to the runs and romps in the woods.    
Yeah, I’m looking forward to Ranger becoming a good farm dog, but most importantly of all, a very good friend.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at
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Don’t Tell An Agriculturist There Are No Farmers

While stopping by the Quickity Sack the other day to pick up a bottle of water, a farmer saw some of his discussion buddies conversing around the coffee drinkers table. They exchanged pleasantries about the weather, county politics and how well he cleaned up. They were kidding him about his Sunday-go-to-meeting wear being his attire during the middle of the week. He explained to them he was on his way to Nashville for a National Agriculture Week celebration to honor farmers in Tennessee and needed to look his best. Of course, he heard the usual comments about it would take more than nice clothes to do that.
That comment didn’t bother him, but one of the guys made the statement that there are no longer any farmers around and they shouldn’t be all that concerned about having an entire week to celebrate that in his county, as he downed his sausage and biscuit with a carton of milk.  
Delaying his trip for a few minutes, he looked at his sausage-eating friend and commented that the only marketing concern a Tennessee farmer had in past years, when selling his crop or livestock, was the price he would receive down at the local sale barn or grain elevator. He didn’t concern himself with what is being exported overseas, the need for soybeans in Asia, or even what is being bought on the west and east coasts. His primary concern was what is being paid for his product in his own hometown.  
His friend stopped drinking his milk and looked at the dressed up farmer with somewhat of a “what” smirk on his face. He continued with his stump address in front of the Yoo Hoo box. He continued on by saying, “Today that has all changed. With the world population at 7.3 billion as of this month, and expected to reach 9 billion by the year 2050, the Tennessee farmer has to focus on the global challenges, as well as the local agricultural concerns. With exports from our state of raw agricultural products totaling in the billions of dollars, international trade and continued changes in farming technology worldwide, trade issues have major impacts on Tennessee farms.  A world event thousands of miles away from a Tennessee farm can change a farmer's commodity prices immediately.” He now had the attention of all the coffee drinkers.  
“You said the number of farmers has decreased around here and you’re right,” he said to his sausage-eating friend. “But you’re wrong about there being none left around here.” He was now in his prime National Ag Day speech mode as he continued to address the captive audience. “Technology is allowing farms to get larger,” he said. “Fewer farmers are producing more, and the trend has no visible end. Less than two percent of our population today produces the food we eat. More than three million people farm or ranch in the United States. More than 74,000 farms are located in Tennessee. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99 percent of those farms and the thousands of people who receive their incomes from agriculture are a major source of our economy as well.                                                      
“So many today have been brought up with fairy tale books of farms that relate to growing our food the way we use to do it so many years ago,” he continued. “Farm equipment has evolved dramatically from the team of horses used in the early 1900s.  A new technique called ‘precision farming’ boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellites and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protector applications to local soil conditions. Today’s four-wheel drive tractors have the power of 40 to 300 horses. This makes for a large capital investment, as farmers pay anywhere from $97,000 for an average 160 horsepower tractor to $270,000 for a four-wheel drive model.  
“Today’s combines can harvest 900 bushels of corn per hour or 100 bushels of corn in under seven minutes! With modern methods, one acre of land in the U.S. (about the size of a football field) can produce: 42,000 pounds of strawberries; 11,000 heads of lettuce; 25,400 pounds of potatoes; 8,900 pounds of sweet corn; or 640 pounds of cotton lint. The efficiency of U.S. farmers benefits the Tennessee consumer in the pocketbook. Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world.”                                                                        
As he turned to go out the store, he looked back at the stunned faces and said, “No farmers you say. The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that sums up the importance of a Tennessee farmer very well. It said, ‘If you don’t eat, don’t worry about farmers going out of business.’ And fellows, don’t ever stop a man who is the keynote speaker and needs to practice!”  
March 18 is National Agriculture Day.  Take time that day to celebrate America’s agricultural industry. Remember - no farmers, no food.    
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Heads and Rocks Don’t Mix

Did you know that 95 percent of all available fresh water is in the ground? With the recent winter rains and snows, water has been flowing in areas across this state to a degree where too much of this valuable substance has caused problems. Hopefully, the weather will change from the pattern of ice to more of an opportunity where flowing water becomes something we enjoy looking at rather than fear.  
I have always been fascinated with flowing water. I've seen it going over Niagara Falls, Burgess Falls and Fall Creek Falls, as well as even stood and watched it flow down a roadway ditch to parts unknown. As a child, I played in all of the little wet-weather springs on our farm and almost got killed one time trying to build a dam.  
My almost-demise happened while trying to stop a spring's flow for the fun of it. It was a warm spring afternoon following a morning's rain and my cousins Hal and Bubba were visiting our farm. We had spent most of the day playing in the woods and fields enjoying the sunshine and freshness that a spring rain can bring.  
The rainstorm had brought all of the wet-weather springs to life and their crystal clear waters were irresistible to three little boys enjoying the day. After floating leaves and sticks down a bubbling branch near one of our cornfields, we came up with the engineering idea of building a dam to see if we could make a miniature lake. This was in the days before water quality permits, but when three boys get together, it would not have mattered anyway. There was going to be a dam built in that stream regardless of what the law said or if there were endangered critters nearby. Three boys and a bunch of rocks and water just totaled up to something going to happen.  
We began gathering rocks and sticks to construct our dam with me being the chief engineer, since I was the oldest. It wasn't long before the small stream's flow was slowed and water was backing up behind the makeshift dam. The backwater was filling up the branch's banks and spilling over into erosion cuts coming from the field nearby.  
Once the dam was completed and we saw our successful miniature lake being formed, we immediately did a happy dance and then pondered what to do next. The IQ factor and the creation of ideas in the brains of three small boys kicked in and we decided to turn from engineers into Air Force bomber pilots and bomb the dam we had just completed.  No need to leave a perfectly good dam intact when you can destroy it with boulders.  
Having used most of the good rocks for constructing the dam, we had to venture out away from the construction site to find good bombing rocks.  As we each returned with our missiles, the mayhem began. Rocks were flying everywhere, with water splashing, mud landing on the bombers and laughter breaking the silence of hushed woods on a spring afternoon.  
Having run out of rocks, I went to the stream's edge to retrieve more ammunition. As I bent over to pick up a really good round one, cousin Bubba sent a large limestone boulder hurling my way. It caught me on the right side of my head just above my ear with a sound that resembled a coconut being broke open to make a Christmas coconut cake during the holidays.  
A gash had been opened on my head and now my blonde hair was the color of crimson along with my white tee shirt. We were some distance from the house and immediately began walking in that direction with each step bringing on renewed flows of blood from my head. We soon arrived at our backdoor with cousin Hal hollering for my mother. As she opened the door and saw a scene that resembled a chain saw murder, she did what any mother would do.  She almost fainted.  
After my wound was washed and I was cleaned up, we resumed our afternoon of play with me having somewhat of a headache. There was no going to the emergency room or getting stitches. That just wasn't done back then. Instead, I was left to heal on my own, and to this day I still have that scar under my hair, which is one reason you will never see me with a shaved head.  
That stream we played in that day was a source of ground water around that farm. It was important then and is even more so today. However, today I don’t build any dams and avoid rock battles when possible. And when it comes to places where I stick my head, I most certainly pay attention to who is throwing the next rock.                                                                     
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at
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Cold Day Wondering

As the final cold winds of February made their way across the cedar tree and ice covered Tennessee farmland of my Versailles homestead recently, I made my way to the kitchen table with a cup of coffee to gaze upon some papers once belonging to my mother. The winds outside were knife sharp, but the glow from my fireplace and a scrapbook that she once cherished laying before me seemed to make the day much more bearable.  
Last year I lost my mother, making me the only surviving member of our original family of five. Along with my mother and father, there was my older and wiser brother of seven years beyond me, and my gorgeous sister who was five years older and seemed to be my second mother at times. We all lived in a small frame house on the family farm during a time when life seemed to be perfect, at least to me.  
Today, I was supposed to be finalizing some paperwork for finishing up the estate, but her scrapbook had caught my attention and seemed to fill the moment’s desires on a winter’s day much more than legal who’s and what’s.  
Within the pages, she had carefully arranged photographs of all of us, from the very beginning until the time she entered the nursing facilities over nine years ago. I could see in those pictures the house that I grew up in and the happy times we had together. There were pictures of us showing cattle, my father with his coonhounds, my brother’s first car and his first day to college. Inside the pages was a history of a family that lived from milk check to milk check, yet seemed to be the richest people in the world. On every page I found tables covered with fried chicken, vegetables, pies, homemade breads and foods fit for not just a farm family, but it was something you would think was more suited for royalty.  
Every picture contained smiles, if it was not because of funny hats at Christmas, then it was for a new baby born into the family as a grandchild. Not saying we didn’t have our share of bad times, which we did, but this book recorded the memories that reminded one of what was right.  
As I turned the pages, I often saw photographs of my mother in the kitchen. In just about every one of those pictures she was wearing an apron. She used it as a potholder to take food out of the oven. It would also become a dishtowel whenever one was not handy. But, I do admit, mama's apron was a pretty safe place when the world seemed to be coming at you a little too fast. There are times now that I wish I had an apron or two to hide behind.  
One set of pictures that really caught my attention was of my parents, individually, with my brother and sister at their sides. They had the date of April 15, 1948 on them. My father was all dressed up in a pinstriped suit and my mother was also in her Sunday’s best with a very large hat. This may have been Easter, but the thing that really stood out to me was the fact that here were family pictures made the year that I was born. I showed up in October of 1948, and these pictures were at a time when the four of them were there and I wasn’t. The thing that hit home that cold icy day was here I am now and they aren’t.  
Life is like that photo album. We go along year to year, recording the things that are required of us, but never fully realizing that someday it all will change.  
As I thumbed through the pages and removed the photographs to check dates on their backs, one thing stood out in my thoughts that caused me to smile. As I picked up a black and white photograph of our family made in 1959, I said to myself, “I sure am glad Mama never heard of Facebook because I probably wouldn’t be here looking at these pictures.”  
I do wonder what the future of photos for many families will be. Will Uncle Harry be lost on the Cloud? Will Aunt Sue be forever imprisoned in that stack of memory cards placed in the back of her niece’s sock drawer? Right now there are VHS tapes full of family memories that are falling apart and can never be re-captured, along with photos of people unable to be viewed any longer because the camera that took the pictures does not have a means to process the film.  
One cold day in February I had a chance to review my past and enjoy some memories that caused me to think. We make millions of iPhone pictures everyday, but I wonder if in six generations will anyone be able to see what those pictures looked like?  Think about it.           
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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Country Boy Survives Winter Storm

The recent winter weather, along with the state of emergency being issued in the Volunteer State, has sent many of us into a state of “cabin fever” that hasn’t been seen around these parts since people used to have cabins as their main abode of residence. I found myself panicking during the ice storm, not over losing power for heat and survival, but losing the only source of visual contact with other people, the television.  
By mid-afternoon on the day that freezing rain fell, panic did set in when the signal started flickering as the dish to my satellite TV incurred almost an inch of ice on the eye of the receiver. With the dish high up on the roof, I wondered how I would ever get the ice off the receiver so I could finish the latest Walker Texas Ranger. With freezing rain you don’t climb a ladder if you live alone, and I didn’t have anything to put hot water that far up on the roof.  
I believe Hank Williams, Jr. was the one to suggest that country boys will survive and with that thinking this old boy did just that. Remembering back in the summer buying up a supply of hornet spray that would reach heights of 28 feet and knowing the compound that makes up that stuff is a lot like de-icer we spray on tractor motors, I warmed a can up in warm water.  
With a warm can tucked inside my Carhartt hooded jacket and a tree limb trimmer in hand, I met the storm head on. After spraying the dish from the ground and lightly touching the receiver with the point of the trimmer, the ice fell to within inches of my feet. I hurried to look in the sunroom window and sure enough Walker was back on arresting folks and the signal looked brighter than ever! Amazing what a country boy with a can of hornet spray and a trimming hook can do while others huddle in their homes.  
Once the emergency is all over I’m sure everyone will never complain again about how hot summer is and will totally be satisfied with the weather in the future. Right. Just like the children of Israel were always satisfied when they had it made, if they just behaved.  
After days of being shut up in our houses most everyone will head out to the malls, restaurants and other places we go when we are not being held captive by weather. The restaurant idea does sound good to me because eating my cooking and oatmeal for three days does do things to a persons system along with added Oreos every now and then. Must admit I did cook a roast that had been in my freezer for a few months in mushroom soup along with potatoes and carrots that was tasty. Even that after 30 meals gets old.  
But to head out to the malls is not one of my things to do. I am not accustomed to spending. I still have the country training of spending only if you just have to. If it were not for my wonderful family, I would be among those who would be considered strangely dressed. If it was left up to me, I would be a mother's nightmare on how not to be found in an accident by the condition of my socks and unmentionables. Not that they may be unclean, but more so pretty shop worn. If the elastic is still good, then there is no reason to buy new ones - that is my motto.  
I just wonder how many pairs of sneakers and cellphones do a person really need. On every corner of most streets is a shoe store and phone shop. I guess we have become a society and nation that see our feet and ears as our instruments of pastime activity.  
Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy "goin' lookin’" every now and then, as well as helping the economy whenever I need something, but surely there is more to life than spending the weekend at the mall.  
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Americanism means virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood: the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life."  
That statement made by the 26th U.S. President Roosevelt, in 1904, could have some very true meaning for us today. We do enjoy our soft living, prosperity, and get-rich-quick theory of life. I just hope he wasn’t meaning something about my satellite TV and the need to see Walker.                  
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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You Rang?

A few years ago, there was a big push to get everyone on the National Do Not Call Registry for your home telephone. After wives, senior citizens and anybody else who just wasn’t looking for a phone call to come to their house because they were lonely had signed up, and the evening local call volume decreased. It was a pleasant time for those of us who really didn’t care to buy light bulbs by the case or to cruise the ocean with soap opera stars. That time of life was good and the phone receivers of America laid dormant for the betterment of man and womankind.
As our country prospers and all our worlds become part of the Worldwide Web, our phone numbers have also become a part of other cultures who don’t respect the “Do Not Call” system, along with those who use telemarketing in ways that are not fair and seek out those unsuspecting individuals as their prey. Being one who has become older in age, I am also being sought by these telemarketing phone number seeking highwaymen and it is becoming an exercise that causes one to look for ways to challenge their activities.
Over a day’s time, my home phone will receive as many as ten calls asking me to buy something, check my computer, change my bankcard or let them send me my brand new one button alert system ordered free for me by a friend. With most of the calls I have problems understanding the callers language due to the fact they don’t speak Tennessee and I don’t understand half sentences. I know my name is not that easy to begin with, but when you are trying to sell a person something wouldn’t you think you would attempt to avoid insulting him by calling him a name that sounds like a disease or something else unmentionable.
I have also wondered if a friend had reserved me one of those special alert systems that calls someone when I fall in the tub, would they not have let me know they were going to do so? Maybe my friends are not tub buddies, but I’m pretty sure they would have said something, even if it was a joke. First of all, it’s not that simple to get one of those devices on one of us old dudes in the first place like they show on television. It’s more like roping a steer that didn’t want to be a steer, because I tried to do it for my mother and it wasn’t easy.
The calls I get about lowering the interest on my credit card must number in the hundreds. The interesting thing is I don’t use a credit card with interest and recognize the call as soon as the little lady begins to talk. 
Many of these calls have started to become a game to me. The ones that pertain to my computer sending out signals around the world that this little guy wants to fix for me, and he can’t say the word “computer” in the first place, has been sort of fun. He relates the problem to a PC and I own a Mac. When I start questioning him, he loses interest real fast and our conversation is over.
One afternoon, I got a call about my free burglar alarm system that someone was going to give me. Before I could say anything, this young lady began asking me some personal questions about my home, family and things she really didn’t need to know. If any of you have ever watched the cartoon Foghorn Leghorn and know his girlfriend Prissy, I changed my voice to Prissy and became a sweet little lady giving her answers that caused her to think she had sold a system that she could retire on. I had more fun that day than Foghorn would have had with the chicken hawk.
You can still place your phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry by going to To register by telephone, consumers may call 1-888-382-1222. It’s still a good idea to do so and there are a lot of calls it does stop. But, for those who try to get around the system, just use the Foghorn strategy and enjoy the game. It’s fun when the telemarketers are the ones being had!
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at

Good Advice From Mother

During a recent visit to the local grocery store, I heard a young mother give her toddler some advice that I had not heard since my children were small. It was the same advice that mothers have been using since Eve had to deal with Cain and Abel, and it is just as important today as it has been through the ages.  
With all toddlers, anything that they may find that is not tied down will sooner or later end up in their mouths.  This little guy I was watching was no different, and as he prepared to put a discarded grape in his mouth his mother immediately gave that age-old advice, “Don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where it has been.”  
Those words spoken by a true mother echoed in my ears and brought back the memories of my own mother telling me the same thing many years ago. Just like the rest of you who heard those words of advice as you grew up (as well as the threat that went along with it and all of you also know what I mean) they still are a part of our conscience as adults.  
After seeing the child hand the grape to his mother and she discarded it, I proceeded to check out the meat counter and as I picked up a pound of lean ground beef I noticed the words “Product of the USA” printed on the label. Looking down at that imprint I wondered to myself if we really do question everything we put in our mouths as our mothers taught us. Do you ever wonder just exactly where the food you are eating was produced or where it came from? Did that T-bone steak you enjoyed so much last night come from Tennessee, California or even originate in the USA?  
I know we spend a lot of time expressing our “true” feelings about those officials up in Washington D.C., but thanks to our U.S. Congress, back in October of 2008, the country-of-origin information started appearing on meat product labels or on signs in the meat department to indicate the country or countries where an animal may have been born, raised and processed. The Country of Origin Labeling program, known to many as COOL, got its early beginning in 2002 after consumer groups approached Congress demanding its implementation. They presented numerous surveys proving their point that most of us want to know where our food comes from, just as our mothers have always insisted upon after we had already put something disgusting in our mouths. Their surveys at that time said that 56 percent of consumers thought that produce grown in the United States is safer than imported produce. They also said if price and appearance were equal, 61 percent of consumers would select U.S.-grown meat. Over the years, their thoughts have been somewhat true and today more individuals are hanging around the counter reading labels looking to see where their cows have been spending their time.  
When COOL was first implemented, I did spend a lot of time checking my meat purchases making those early surveys come true.  If you did also and continue to do so, then you have also noticed something else about the COOL labeling. That is, that some labels list more than one country. I have noticed in some stores that you will see a label that says, “Product of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.” With a label like that you have to wonder if maybe that ground chuck you are about to consume had been created by three cows at an international rally or something.  
But, there is a simple answer. A label with multiple countries of origin listed is from an animal that was born and/or raised in a different country or countries and then slaughtered in the U.S. Covered commodities in this category would have to identify all the relevant countries. Not often, but there are times when young cattle are imported from Mexico or Canada and are subsequently raised and processed in the U.S. For a meat product to have the label “Product of the United States” it has to be derived "exclusively from an animal that is exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the United States." Meaning that the animal had to be a homebody and never been anywhere else but here.  
Today, after additional laws in 2013 under COOL, USDA reports that retailers must provide their customers with information about the origin of various food products, including fruits, vegetables, fish and shellfish and meats. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is responsible for the implementation, administration and enforcement of the COOL regulation.  
Good advice like what your mama gave you is always important to remember and it looks like the American consumers are getting what they wanted from their policymakers. But, many mamas have also told their children there is no such thing as a free lunch. That is something to also remember, when you ask the U.S. government for something.     
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at      
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