Special events honor those who served

Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch stands with Joshua Tilson and veteran Hazel Berry during an event in the Town of Unicoi. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Locals took time to remember our veterans over the holiday weekend.

The Clinchfield Senior Adult Center teamed up with Caris Healthcare to kick off the Veterans Day festivities on Friday, Nov. 8, with a lunch and presentation for area veterans. According to Clinchfield Senior Adult Center representative Charlene O’Dell, there were roughly 45 visitors for the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center Veteran’s Day Lunch.

“We handed out 19 certificates to veterans that attended,” O’Dell said. “We had a full lunch with a very special dessert.”

According to O’Dell, former Town of Erwin Mayor Russell Brackins was on hand to welcome all of the guests. Dot Gardner, Sam Dalton and Ginger Dalton provided the musical entertainment.

The Town of Unicoi hosted its annual Veterans Day Lunch on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., in the Buffalo Conference Room. According to Town of Unicoi History Committee member Pat Lynch, the Town of Unicoi hosted more than 50 veterans and more than 100 attendees in all on Saturday.

“We are very pleased with our turnout,” Lynch said.

The meal consisted of handmade sandwiches and desserts and plenty of finger foods. According to Lynch, this was a joint venture between the Town of Unicoi History Committee and the Town of Unicoi.

Closing out the Veterans Day events, the Town of Erwin held its annual Veterans Day program. The Unicoi County High School AFJROTC presented the colors and Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman Bill Hensley welcomed the crowd to the Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Park next to Gentry Stadium. Hensley then handed the program over to Reverend Craig Shelton, who led the invocation and Allan Foster sang the National Anthem.

American Legion Post 25 Commander Ray Tipton presented the POW/MIA ceremony for those that have not returned.

“This is a ceremony for those that have not come back yet,” Hensley said.

According to Tipton, the sacrifices of veterans are reminders of the high price of freedom. “Those who have served and continue to serve are ever mindful of the sweetness of enduring peace that has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice,” Tipton said.

The guests then heard from a very special guest speaker, Jim Buchanan, who explained the history of Veterans Day.

“The treaty signed to end World War I, which was signed in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, is often regarded as the day that ended all wars,” Buchanan said. “The original concept was to gather for parades in remembrance and suspension of business to start at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.”

The attendees were treated to treats, refreshment and fellowship following the program.

The Erwin Record joins the municipalities and organizations of Unicoi County in thanking all of our veterans for their service.

Feathered Friends – Fall count celebrates 50 consecutive years

The recent Fall Bird Count conducted by the Elizabethton Bird Club tallied three Ruffed Grouse during a survey that found a total of 118 species of birds. (Photo by LisaTaylorPhoto/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

The 50th consecutive Elizabethton Fall Bird Count was held on Saturday, Oct. 5, with 29 observers in eight parties. Participants tallied 118 species, which is below the recent 30-year average of 125 species. Windy conditions throughout the day and dense fog on the higher mountain tops contributed to the reduced variety.  The all-time high on this count was 137 species in 1993.

The yearly survey is not limited to Carter County and Elizabethton. The long-running count includes parts of the adjacent counties of Unicoi, as well as Johnson, Sullivan and Washington.

The total follows:

Canada Goose, 635; Wood Duck, 97; Mallard,173; Blue-winged Teal, 30; and Green-winged Teal, 3; Ruffed Grouse, 3; Wild Turkey, 56; Common Loon, 1; Pied-billed Grebe, 7; Double-crested Cormorant, 10; and Great Blue Heron, 35.

Black Vulture, 78; Turkey Vulture, 139; Osprey, 7; Northern Harrier, 3; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2; Cooper’s Hawk, 9; Bald Eagle, 12; Red-shouldered Hawk, 5; Broad-winged Hawk, 2; and Red-tailed Hawk, 13.

Killdeer, 35; Spotted Sandpiper, 1; Lesser Yellowlegs, 1; Ring-billed Gull, 1; Rock Pigeon, 402; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 1; Mourning Dove, 153; and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1.

Eastern Screech-Owl, 10; Great Horned Owl, 5; Barred Owl, 2; Chimney Swift, 244; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 7; and Belted Kingfisher, 24.

Red-headed Woodpecker, 2; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 50; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 7; Downy Woodpecker, 36; Hairy Woodpecker, 6; Northern Flicker, 41; and Pileated Woodpecker, 17.

American Kestrel, 16; Merlin, 2; Peregrine Falcon, 1; Eastern Wood-Pewee, 12; Least Flycatcher; 1; and Eastern Phoebe, 82.

Yellow-throated Vireo, 1; Blue-headed Vireo, 18; Philadelphia Vireo, 1; Red-eyed Vireo, 7; Blue Jay, 347; American Crow, 442; and Common Raven, 10.

Tree Swallow, 118; Carolina Chickadee,141; Tufted Titmouse, 82; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 6; White-breasted Nuthatch, 28; Brown Creeper; 1; Winter Wren, 2; Marsh Wren, 1; and Carolina Wren, 114.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, 5; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1; Eastern Bluebird, 114; Veery, 1; Gray-cheeked Thrush, 6; Swainson’s Thrush, 37; Wood Thrush,15; American Robin, 212; Gray Catbird, 23; Brown Thrasher, 9; Northern Mockingbird, 56; Eurasian Starling, 555; and Cedar Waxwing, 70.

Ovenbird, 3; Northern Waterthrush, 3; Black-and-white Warbler, 4; Tennessee Warbler, 51; Kentucky Warbler, 1; Common Yellowthroat, 6; Hooded Warbler, 3; American Redstart, 7; Cape May Warbler, 1; Northern Parula, 4; Magnolia Warbler  6; Bay-breasted Warbler, 36; Blackburnian Warbler, 4; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 4; Blackpoll Warbler, 4; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 8; Palm Warbler, 56; Pine Warbler, 3; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 4; Yellow-throated Warbler, 2; and Black-throated Green Warbler, 7.

Eastern Towhee, 53; Chipping Sparrow, 46; Field Sparrow, 11; Savannah Sparrow,  2; Song Sparrow, 126; Swamp Sparrow, 4; and Dark-eyed Junco, 73.

Scarlet Tanager, 5; Northern Cardinal, 120; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 67; Blue Grosbeak, 1; and Indigo Bunting, 27.

Red-winged Blackbird, 194; Eastern Meadowlark, 14; Common Grackle, 1; Brown-headed Cowbird, 11; House Finch,  36; Pine Siskin, 8; American Goldfinch, 99; House Sparrow, 19.

Long-time count compiler Rick Knight spotlighted some notable misses, including Green Heron, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Prairie Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Red Crossbill.

“The crossbills were missed because Roan Mountain was completely socked in with fog all day,” Knight explained.

He added that only a few shorebirds were found partly due to shortage of habitat as well as the drought in the region at the time of the count.

Library Happenings – Time to offer someone the gift of kindness

By Angie Georgeff

November 13 is World Kindness Day. The observance was begun in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement in order “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” One of the things I like most about my job at the library is the kindness and good humor of the vast majority of our patrons.

We all have days when nothing seems to go right, but a sympathetic word or deed can transform a nightmare of a day into a dream of hope and gratitude. Kindness, it seems, is an incredibly powerful force, when so little of it can make such a big difference in someone’s life. If you happen to see someone struggling today, offer them the gift of kindness. Hold open a door, help carry a burden or make a phone call or visit to someone who is homebound. Nobody wants to catch a cold, of course, but kindness is just as contagious. Feel free to pass it on.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21. The public is welcome to attend. If you should require any special accommodations in order to attend, please call the library at 743-6533 and ask for Angie.

Spotlight Book

Do you remember the old nursery rhyme that starts “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie?” My mother recited those childhood poems to me from the day I was born, and I, in turn, taught them to my own son. My three grandchildren, however, are not as well versed in nursery rhymes.  “Baby Shark” is not much of a substitute, even if it is generally inoffensive.

Mary Higgins Clark evidently remembers those nursery rhymes and the lessons they taught us about bullying and cowardice. Her new thriller “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry” begins with an email that is sent to investigative journalist Gina Kane just before she leaves on a trip to Hong Kong. “CRyan” claims that an executive at television news network REL is guilty of sexual misconduct and that she is not the only female employee who has suffered.

Gina only has enough time to send an email to confirm that she is interested in the story and will follow up when she comes home. When she returns to New York, Gina begins her investigation and is shocked to discover that Cathy Ryan was subsequently killed in a Jet Ski accident that occurred while she was vacationing in Aruba. Recuperating from her jet lag, Gina takes off for Aruba … and danger.

Friends of Unicoi County Animal Shelter group continues support efforts

Linda Mathes, far left, discusses fundraising with other members of the Friends of Unicoi County Animal Shelter group during a recent meeting. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Friends of Unicoi County Animal Shelter and the Unicoi County Animal Shelter have been hard at work getting funds to keep the shelter going.

During the Oct. 22 Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter meeting, Linda Mathes updated the group on the total amount of money raised through numerous fundraising ventures.

The largest amount of funding has come from a booth that the animal shelter had at the recent Apple Festival. Selling various stickers, T-shirts and other items, $1,969.22 was raised for the shelter.

The next largest amount raised was from the annual garage sale that is hosted at Mathes’ house. More than $1,611.04 was raised during this year’s garage sale, which always takes place in the fall.

According to Mathes, The Second Annual Spay-ghetti Dinner, which was held this year at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center in Erwin, raised $1,101.22 for the shelter. The spaghetti, salad and breadsticks were donated by Olive Garden, and the drinks were donated by Food City and Food Lion of Erwin.

“This dinner was again successful,” Mathes said during the meeting. “We sold out of every ticket.”

First Friday events in Downtown Erwin presented by What’s the Scoop, Erwin Outdoor Supply and Union Street Taproom brought in more than $498 for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

The Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter had a booth at the Strawberry Festival, which brought in $586, and a booth at the Great Outdoor Festival, which brought in $302.61 to help the shelter. Masterpiece Mixers hosted a Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter night that raised $120 dollars for the shelter. During this year’s Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival, the Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter raised $39.97.

Mathes also announced that Friends of the Unicoi County Animal Shelter raised $6,228.06 for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

“We have worked hard to raise what we could for the shelter,” Mathes said.

Other fundraising events brought the total number of funds raised for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter this year up to $8,262.06.

Chili’s, located at 3040 Franklin Terrace, in Johnson City, raised more than $1,478 for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter with it’s monthly “Good Eats for a Good Cause” campaign. Chili’s donates 20 percent of each ticket to the Unicoi County Animal Shelter one day out of the month.

The shelter received a donation from Zombie Cats T-Shirt Company for $457 and raised $99 at this years Fun Fest.

According to Mathes, the shelter could always use more donations and supplies such as kitty litter both clumping and non-clumping and food for both dogs and cats, as well as cleaning supplies.

“As the weather gets colder, fleece blankets are always welcome at the shelter,” Mathes said.

If you are interested in donating items, or for more updates on future fundraisers, please follow the Unicoi County Animal Shelter on Facebook.

Feathered Friends – Dark-eyed junco provide inspiration for first column

The dark-eyed junco is a fairly common winter resident in the region. Rather widespread, different races of the dark-eyed junco are found throughout the North American continent. (Photo by Skeeze/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

I wrote my first bird column on Sunday, Nov. 5, 1995, which means this weekly column will mark its 24th anniversary this week. This column has appeared over the last 20 years in a total of six different newspapers, which I regard as a personal achievement as well as an accomplishment for our feathered friends. It’s on their behalf that I pen these weekly efforts to promote conservation and goodwill toward all birds.

I’ve played detective, helping people identify everything from “rain crows,” or cuckoos, to Muscovy ducks and double-crested cormorants. I’ve observed unusual birds, including white pelican, brant and roseate spoonbill, in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and spotlighted them in these columns. I still take delight in the kaleidoscopic parade of colorful warblers that pass through the region each spring and fall as well as the fast-paced duel of ruby-throated hummingbirds. I also offer sunflower seeds and other supplemental food for the resident birds like Carolina chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. My first column focused on a common visitor to yards and feeders during the winter months. In fact, dark-eyed juncos should be returning to the region any day. Here, with some revisions I have made through the years, is that first column.

•••

Of all the birds associated with winter weather, few are as symbolic as the dark-eyed junco, or “snow bird.” The junco occurs in several geographic variations.

John V. Dennis, author of “A Complete Guide to Bird Feeding,” captures the essence of the junco in the following description: “Driving winds and swirling snow do not daunt this plucky bird. The coldest winter days see the junco as lively as ever and with a joie de vivre that bolsters our sagging spirits.” The dark-eyed junco’s scientific name, hyemalis, is New Latin for “wintry,” an apt description of this bird.

Most people look forward to the spring return of some of our brilliant birds — warblers, tanagers and orioles — and I must admit that I also enjoy the arrival of these birds. The junco, in comparison to some of these species, is not in the same league. Nevertheless, the junco is handsome in its slate gray and white plumage, giving rise to the old saying “dark skies above, snow below.”

Just as neotropical migrants make long distance journeys twice a year, the junco is also a migrating species. But in Appalachia, the junco is a special type of migrant. Most people think of birds as “going south for the winter.” In a basic sense this is true. But some juncos do not undertake a long horizontal (the scientific term) migration from north to south.

Instead, these birds merely move from high elevations, such as the spruce fir peaks, to the lower elevations. This type of migration is known as vertical migration. Other juncos, such as those that spend their breeding season in northern locales, do make a southern migration and, at times, even mix with the vertical migrants.

During the summer months, a visit to higher elevations in southwest Virginia such as Whitetop Mountain or Mount Rogers is almost sure to produce sightings of dark-eyed juncos. Juncos may nest as many as three times in a season. A female junco usually lays three to six eggs for each nest, which she constructs without any assistance from her mate.

Juncos are usually in residence around my home by early November. Once they make themselves at home I can expect to play host to them until at least late April or early May of the following year. So, for at least six months, the snow bird is one of the most common and delightful feeder visitors a bird enthusiast could want.

Juncos flock to feeders where they are rather mild-mannered — except among themselves. There are definite pecking orders in a junco flock, and females are usually on the lower tiers of the hierarchy. Females can sometimes be distinguished from males because of their paler gray or even brown upper plumage.

Since juncos are primarily ground feeders they tend to shun hanging feeders. But one winter I observed a junco that had mastered perching on a hanging “pine cone” feeder to enjoy a suet and peanut butter mixture.

Dark-eyed juncos often are content to glean the scraps other birds knock to the ground. Juncos are widespread. They visit feeders across North America. The junco is the most common species of bird to visit feeding stations. They will sample a variety of fare, but prefer such seeds as millet, cracked corn or black oil sunflower.

There’s something about winter that makes a junco’s dark and light garb an appropriate and even striking choice, particularly against a backdrop of newly fallen snow.

Of course, the real entertainment from juncos comes from their frequent visits to our backyard feeders. When these birds flock to a feeder and began a furious period of eating, I don’t even have to glance skyward or tune in the television weather forecast. I know what they know. Bad weather is on the way!

Library Happenings – Military service research assistance available

By Angie Georgeff

It seems to me that November has just gotten started, but the first of its two federal holidays is already peeking around the corner. The theme for November is gratitude, so Veterans Day fits in well with Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the sacrifices made by veterans from the American Revolutionary War to the present day. I also am proud of the part so many of my ancestors played in the struggle for freedom.

It’s one thing to hear the stories about Washington’s men starving and freezing at Valley Forge.  It was quite another to learn that my fifth great-grandfather John Peery sustained 54 sabre cuts to his head, shoulders, arms and hands in a skirmish with “Bloody” Banastre Tarleton’s dragoons during the campaign that culminated in the pivotal Battle of Guilford Courthouse. I imagined his slow, painful return to his wife Sarah in Virginia. John was disfigured and disabled and grieving, for he came home without his eldest son Thomas, who was killed during the skirmish by Tarleton’s brutal horsemen.

John Peery was one of many who served and suffered. If your roots run deep in the hills of Appalachia, you probably have a similar story in your family’s history. This month, take time to ask your relatives, friends and neighbors about their military service and remember to thank them. If you need help finding information about the service records of your ancestors, then come to the library. I’ll be happy to help you get started. We need to remember so we can appreciate the sacrifices they made.

And “Remember the Ladies”

In a letter written to her husband John on March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams urged lawmakers to “Remember the Ladies.” It’s still good advice. Most of my foremothers stayed home while their husbands went to war. It fell to them to take care of the children, the farm and any other business in which the family was engaged. They had little choice and received little recognition.

My grandmother, however, found a way to serve her country during World War II while still taking care of her home and three children. Even though she did not go to war, she made a contribution. Alpha Gray Bradshaw was a WOW, a Woman Ordnance Worker, who worked as a chemist at Holston Ordnance making ammunition. It was dangerous work, but vital to the war effort. So don’t forget to ask about what your female relatives did during the war. You might be surprised.

Holiday Closure

The library will be closed on Monday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day. No items will be due on that date, but books and audiobooks only may be returned to either of our book drops, which are located at the library in Erwin and at Town Hall in Unicoi. Please do not deposit any DVDs in the book returns, since heavy books may damage them. To all veterans, thank you for your service!

Food City donates to Second Harvest Food Bank

Food City presents Unicoi County Church of God with a check to help with Second Harvest Food Bank. From left, Food City representative Kayla Salmons, Food City Manager Jacob Ratliff, Food City representative Austin Hensley, Unicoi County Church of God representative Eddie Blazer, Food City Representative Adam Carter and Food City representative Jeff Lucas. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Food City store, located at 110 N. Industrial Drive in Erwin, recently sent a donation of more than $1,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Store Manager Jacob Ratliff presented a check for $1,241.00 to Eddie Blazer with Unicoi Church of God, which has been raising money and supplies for Second Harvest Food Bank for more than 15 years.

According to Blazer, the funding will help feed roughly 445 families monthly.

“We keep busy and donations like this helps,” Blazer said.

Blazer also acknowledged that this donation goes a long way.

“We are very thankful for this; it really helps,” Blazer said.

The funds were raised during Food City’s Race Against Hunger campaign. Ratliff acknowledged that the funds were received prior to the opening of the Food City Erwin location.

He said he hopes that more funds will be raised with the upcoming Race Against Hunger, which will start at the Erwin Food City on Nov. 13.

“We will actually start our campaign on the 13th, and we hope to have more funds to donate next year,” Ratliff said. “We try to get all the money raised in so they can spend it on food and supplies before the fourth quarter.”

Ratliff also reported that Food City will be looking to help out any way they can.

“We can see there is always work to be done to help out,” Ratliff said. “We are always looking at ways to partner with the community. We encourage our shoppers to pair their Food City card with Unicoi County Schools so they can receive funds from Food City.”

For Ratliff, a chance to help the community is a rewarding venture.

“We have settled in nicely and I’m starting to learn customers’ names,” Ratliff said. “This community welcomed us with open arms; it’s been really exciting.”

If you are interested in helping Unicoi County Church of God, you can visit the office during normal business hours to fill out an application.

If you are interested in keeping up with Food City, please follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Feathered Friends – American crow one of nation’s success stories

American crows — large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices — are familiar over much of the continent. Crows are common sights in treetops, fields and roadsides and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. (Photo by Peter Pearsall/USFWS)

By Bryan Stevens

While seeking birds far afield, I have occasionally spotted some innovative scarecrows standing sentry in gardens and agricultural fields. I’m not sure if anyone still erects these human effigies for their original purpose of warding off crows and other feathered agricultural pests. These days, scarecrows likely serve an ornamental purpose and are often part of a yard’s whimsical Halloween or autumn decorations.

Regardless of the intention behind them, scarecrows have never been effective at driving crows away from human fields and crops. To put it simply, crows are too smart to get spooked by the human invention of the scarecrow. The bird with one of the smartest brains among all birds is more than a match for the brainless friend of Dorothy standing vigil in the proverbial cornfield.

The intelligence of this bird has long been known. Early American naturalist William Bartram wrote about a crow named Tom in a highly entertaining essay titled “Anecdotes of an American Crow.” Bartram, who lived from 1739 to 1823, brought humorous observations and keen insight to his subject as he wrote about the joys — as well as tribulations — of living with Tom, a crow that enjoyed tormenting Bartram’s dog and purloining the writer’s spectacles and trying to hide them.

The essay demonstrates that almost as soon as Europeans arrived in North America, some of those with a bent toward the natural world recognized the intelligence and amazing adaptability of the American crow. As well as writing about the natural world, Bartram earned widespread acclaim for his drawings of botanical and ornithological subjects. Tom, the featured crow in Bartram’s brief essay, certainly exhibited intelligence of an impressive degree. Not only did the crow steal his owner’s eyeglasses, he foiled Bartram’s first attempt to reclaim them. The story makes very humorous reading. To read Bartram’s account, visit www.geocities.ws/jswortham/crow.

What else have crows done down through the ages to gain such a dark and much undeserved reputation? It probably doesn’t help matters that a flock of crows is known as a “murder.” Ancient Greeks considered crows as omens, which often foretold death and other disasters. The warrior goddess known as the Morrighan from Celtic mythology often appears in the form of a crow or raven. She is also often portrayed as being accompanied by a group of these black-plumaged birds. Many Native American tribes revere crows as communicators between worlds. Crows have been documented using tools and solving problems, which shows an uncanny ability to analyze and strategize. The early Celtic people also noted and admired these traits in crows.

Crows are very social birds, often forming family flocks. They may also form much larger flocks for the purpose of roosting. When nesting, this social behavior comes in useful for a mated pair. Offspring from previous successful nesting efforts often serve as helpers. In addition to gaining their own life experience on successful nesting and caring for chicks, these older siblings may protect the nest site from predators or even deliver food to fill hungry beaks and bellies.

While famous for their associations to humans and our agriculture, crows forage far beyond the cornfield for their food. Many crows scavenge road-killed wildlife, such as squirrels, opossums and rabbits. While they certainly don’t turn up their beaks at the notion of eating carrion, crows do so less often than birds such as turkey vultures, black vultures and the crow’s fellow corvid, the common raven.

The kinship to the raven is evident, but even moderately experienced birders rarely confuse these similar species. The raven is a large bird with a heavy beak, a distinctive profile and a wedge-shaped tail. In a direct comparison with a raven, a crow looks downright puny. Both are members of the corvid family, which consists of 120 species including jays, rooks, magpies and jackdaws. Some of the world’s other crows include the descriptively named little crow, hooded crow, carrion crow, collared crow, long-billed crow and violet crow. While most of the world’s crows are thriving, the Hawaiian crow, has been extinct in the wild since 2002, although the species still exists in captive-breeding programs in various zoos.

Thanks to its resourcefulness and intelligence, the crow is deserving of more respect and even admiration. The American crow is a uniquely American success story. Think more of Bartram’s story of Tom the crow and not the dark, misguided myths and legends about crows this Halloween. Long may the crows fly.

Library Happenings – Strout releases sequel to ‘Olive Kitteridge’

By Angie Georgeff

All Hallows’ Eve is nearly upon us and the longest summer that I can recall (outside of the years I lived in Hawaii, of course) is finally beginning to fade into fall. In the stores, Halloween merchandise has already been replaced by Christmas décor, with Thanksgiving barely receiving a nod. The year seems to be rushing to a precipitous close, and 2020 is already looming large. 

Leap year, the 24th decennial census, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, and the 2020 elections will make next year one to remember, but I am in no hurry to get there. This is the time of year when I want to slow down and savor each moment before the rush begins.

If you feel the same way, you will be happy to know that we have recently received a large shipment of DVDs and a few more are on the way. Why not come to the library, borrow a couple of good movies, butter some popcorn and settle in for an evening’s entertainment?

As usual, a list of the new titles will be posted on the wall beside the bookcases where the DVDs are shelved. Take a look at it the next time you visit the library and see what tickles your fancy.

Spotlight Book

In 2008, Elizabeth Strout’s novel “Olive Kitteridge” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  The bestselling book was written as a chain of stories mostly set in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine and filled with a colorful cast of characters. Cantankerous, opinionated and outspoken, retired schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge is the link that holds them all together.

Taking up where the first novel left off, “Olive, Again” follows the same format and it features many of the same endearingly quirky Mainers.

Olive’s husband Henry has died and she is being courted by widower Jack Kennison. Her son Christopher still lives in New York. Olive’s relationship with him is strained. She has a grandson she has never seen and her son’s wife has just given birth to a stillborn baby. Grieving the child’s death, they are hoping for another pregnancy but Olive is not terribly supportive. After all, the couple already has three children between them.

I enjoy novels that are written as stories. With each chapter being a complete and satisfying serving of fiction, they’re perfect for those occasions when you know the time you have available for reading is limited. This may sound gluttonous, but there are times when I would rather enjoy a dozen cupcakes one at a time than devour an entire cake in one sitting. With “Olive, Again”, Elizabeth Strout offers us a baker’s dozen.

Unicoi’s Heritage Day takes visitors back in time

Lesia Willis demonstrates how to grind corn with an old-timey machine. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Unicoi took a trip back in time last week.

Town officials joined the Unicoi History Group to host their annual Heritage Day and on Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Bogart-Bowman Cabin. Local school children attended the event on Friday; the event was open to the general public on Saturday.

According to Town of Unicoi Communications and Programs Director Ashely Shelton, the event was a huge success.

“We had 258 students come through on Friday and more than 100 on Saturday,” Shelton said. “Although our numbers did not set our record, which is 300 in one day, 258 is one of the highest one day of attendance that we have seen since we started doing Heritage Day close to a decade ago.”

Shelton acknowledged that there were 13 vendors on Friday, and 12 vendors on Saturday. “Guests were able to tour exhibits that demonstrated blacksmith forging, beehive oven biscuit making, fireside apple butter cooking, quilting, corn shucking and so much more,” Shelton said. 

Heritage Day is designed to celebrate Southern Appalachian heritage and give visitors a glimpse into the daily life of settlers during the 1700-1800s. The students who attended Friday’s Heritage Day presentation were treated to a very special reading of the story of the Overmountain Men by the Overmountain Victory Trail Association.

Shelton said that the event was a hit among the youth of Unicoi County.

“The children loved it,” Shelton said. “I had one little boy come up and hug me and thank me, he was so excited; that child had a blast.”

According to Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, events like Heritage Day make the town unique.

“We are very proud of our town, and of events like this, that are both fun and educational,” Lynch said.

This was Shelton’s first Heritage Day experience.

“It was so neat. I’ve never been apart of anything like that; it was so much fun,” Shelton said. “There was such a sense of community among the vendors and demonstrators.”

Shelton acknowledged that Heritage Day could not happen if it wasn’t for the vendors and volunteers.

“We are so appreciative of all the volunteers. We had local high school students who volunteered on Friday, and we had community members volunteering on Saturday,” Shelton said. “We really appreciate the demonstrators as well. What makes this all possible is all of our great volunteers.”

The Town of Unicoi and the Town of Unicoi History Group will be focusing on the upcoming annual Veteran’s Day Lunch, which will be held on Nov. 9 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For more information on upcoming events, please follow the Town of Unicoi on Facebook and on Youtube.

Feathered Friends – Mysterious owl retains a low profile

The barn owl’s heart-shaped face helps this bird, which is also known by such names as death owl, ghost owl, and hobgoblin owl, stand out from the other owls that share the domain of night. (Photo by jeanvdmeulen/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

With common names such as cave owl, death owl, ghost owl, night owl and hobgoblin owl, the nocturnal hunter more widely known as the barn owl provides a fitting focus for exploration as the calendar counts down toward Halloween.

Barn owls lurk in the shadows of night, but most people would never know it unless they happen to hear some of the spine-tingling vocalizations produced by this poorly known predatory bird. Shiver-inducing shrieks and screams quite capable of piercing the veil of darkness are often produced by the barn owl. This owl doesn’t utter loud hoots like the great horned owl. Instead, the call of the barn owl is not likely one to be soon forgotten because of its raspy, nails-on-the-chalkboard nature. A hearer could easily be misled into misinterpreting the shrill vocalizations as originating from something far more ghoulish.

According to the website for the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Montana, barn owls are the most widely distributed owl in the world, and they may be one of the most common, as well. In Montana, where ORI is located, barn owl observations are rather sparse. ORI has documented 12 barn owl nests and made numerous observations in the last 12 years, according to its website. Likewise, the barn owl is not too often observed in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The barn owl is often associated with rural, agricultural areas, which is one reason they can often be found in old barns, sheds and farm silos. However, the first barn owl I ever saw in the wild was living beneath the eaves of a building on the campus of Mountain Home Veterans Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee, within walking distance of commercial buildings and the campus of East Tennessee State University.

The barn owl has no close relatives among the other owls found in the region. The barn owl is in its own unique family known as Tytonidae. The family name comes from a Greek word, Tuto, which translates as “night owl.”

Other owls in our region — great horned owl, barred owl, Eastern screech-owl, short-eared owl — belong to a family called Strigidae,  which are often described as “typical owls” by ornithologists and other experts.

The barn owl is one of nature’s most perfect predators. Among animals tested by scientists, the barn owl shows an almost uncanny ability to detect prey animals by sound alone. Prey, which is often small voles or other rodents, often doesn’t know of the danger until it’s too late. The structure of the barn owl’s wings and feathers is such that these predatory birds can fly through the darkness in almost perfect silence.

There’s a heavy cost that the owl must pay for these special adaptations. According to the Barn Owl Trust, an organization founded in 1988 in the United Kingdom to conserve one of the most beautiful birds on Earth, a barn owl’s specially adapted feathers are not particularly waterproof. In addition, barn owls are unable to store a lot of body fat. The Trust’s website notes that barn owls are unable to hunt in heavy rain and are particularly prone to starvation during prolonged periods of severe weather and/or prey shortage.

Much myth and legend have arisen around the world’s owls, including the barn owl. A native tribe in California known as the Newuks believed that warriors who proved courageous and virtuous became great horned owls after death. Men who practiced wicked ways, however, were thought to become barn owls.

This owl with the white heart-shaped face has long spooked humans. The bird’s head and upper body typically vary between pale brown and various shade of gray. Especially in flight, the barn owl can look rather pale.

The barn owl is the most widespread terrestrial bird species in the world, occurring on every continent except Antarctica. In addition to its various spooky common names, barn owls are also known by such descriptive monikers as monkey-faced owl, silver owl and golden owl. Some other common names include church owl and steeple owl. This owl acquired this name for its habit of utilizing steeples or bell towers in churches as roosting locations when barns or caves were lacking.

For a bird so closely associated with people and their dwellings and related structures, the barn owl remains an enigma to many. YouTube offers a variety of videos that showcase the creepy vocalizations of barn owls. Familiarize yourself with their calls, and you’ll be more likely to distinguish a barn owl calling after dark from the more sinister specters on the prowl this Halloween.

To learn more about barn owls or to make a contribution toward their conservation, visit www.barnowltrust.org.uk.

Library Happenings – Film festival, Halloween parties among upcoming events

By Angie Georgeff

Between the picture-perfect beauty of the autumn landscape and the frightfully good fun of Halloween, October is undoubtedly my favorite month. Curling up with a good book, watching a scary movie and enjoying sweet treats – especially those flavored with apple or pumpkin spice – are among the joys of October. And your Unicoi County Public Library can help you get in the spirit of the month.

Spotlight Book

Speaking of good books, “The Guardians,” the latest thriller from John Grisham, arrived early last week. We promptly cataloged it, processed it and sent it out the door with the first patron who had requested it on our wish list.

The demand for new Grisham novels is always very strong, so place a hold on it at https://owl.ent.sirsi.net or call the library at 743-6533 and we’ll help you get in line for it.

Twenty-two years ago, Quincy Miller was convicted of the murder of attorney Keith Russo and sentenced to life in prison. There were no witnesses, no motive and no compelling evidence, but Quincy Miller was young, black and one of Russo’s former clients.

Steadfastly maintaining his innocence, Quincy writes a letter to Cullen Post, a lawyer and Episcopal minister who runs Guardian Ministries. Post and his team take on a limited number of wrongful conviction cases at a time. They may be able to help Quincy, but it will be an uphill battle. The powerful people who are truly responsible for Russo’s murder will fight them every inch of the way.

Film Festival

Speaking of “scary” movies, the third and final film in our annual Halloween Film Festival will be shown tomorrow night. Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, for popcorn, candy and one of my favorite fall movies. It just might be one of your favorites, as well!

If not, there is still hope. We recently placed an order for what is for us a large number of new DVDs. We chose them from a wide range of genres – including horror – so there should be something to appeal to you. We’re hoping they will arrive soon. As usual, we will post a list of the new films when they are ready to be borrowed.

Halloween Parties

Our teen event to celebrate the occasion will take place on Friday, Oct. 25. Join us for scary stories and tasty treats.

The children’s Halloween Party will be held on Tuesday evening, Oct. 29 from 6-8 p.m.

Please visit our Unicoi County Public Library Kids and Teens Facebook page for details.

Work continues on Erwin’s new dog park

Located in White Fish, Montana, Hugh Rogers Wag Park is an inspiration for the design of the Erwin dog park. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Erwin is moving ever closer to opening a dog park along the Linear Trail.

According to Town of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice, crews are working on installing fences, but have hit a brief snag.

“We actually broke an auger bit on some rock so it has slowed production down,” Rice said. “Once the fencing is up and the concrete is laid for benches we hope to hold a ribbon cutting.”

Rice said there is no time frame confirmed for the project to be completed, but she is hopeful that it will still be completed in the next few months.

“Our community can expect 1.5 acres of a naturalized open space, scattered with old growth trees to give shade and small hills and tunnels for visual interest and variation,” Rice said. “This area used to be essentially a wasteland, on the backside of our brush dump, and years of construction debris and rocks were removed to create a beautiful green space.”

Rice acknowledged that unlike some dog parks, this one would be free to use.

“It will be free and open to the public during daylight hours,” Rice said.

There will be a spot for large dogs to play and a separate place for smaller dogs to roam.

“The space will be divided into two separate areas – one for large dogs over 30 pounds, and one for small dogs under 30 pounds,” Rice said. “There will be park benches donated by the Unicoi County Health Department, pet waste stations and a manual water hydrant.”

All dogs that use the park should have up-to-date shots, but according to Rice, this is a use at your own risk park.

According to Rice, the Town of Erwin will be taking on the responsibility of upkeep.

“We are hoping to establish a passionate ‘Friends of the Bark Park’ group to help with general oversight and possible fundraisers for future needs,” Rice said. “There are many amenities that could be added to the park at a later date, such as agility courses, jumps and tables among others.”

The park will be located close to the Kiwanis Children’s Playground.

“Parking will be at the Kiwanis Children’s Playground and the dog park is located a few hundred yards north along Linear Trail,” Rice said.

According to Rice, the design will be similar to Hugh Rogers Wag Park located in Whitefish, Montana.

The Town of Erwin is thankful for all of the support they have received in making the park a reality.

“The Unicoi County Health Department donated two benches, our parks and rec and fire departments have both been instrumental creating this space and keeping the grass watered during this dry summer,” Rice said. “We are especially thankful for the Randy Boyd Foundation for sponsoring the Dog Park Dash.”

The dog park is being built with the $25,000 grant that Erwin received from the Boyd Foundation Dog Park Dash in August 2018. Randy and Jenny Boyd started the Boyd Foundation Dog Park Dash to make Tennessee the most pet-friendly state in the country.

According to Rice, the Town of Erwin plans to stay within the budget of the $25,000 grant.

Feathered Friends – Palm warbler’s name unfortunate misnomer

A palm warbler forages on the ground among fallen leaves. This warbler is one of several misnamed warblers and does not actually show any special affinity to palm trees. (Photo by Jean Potter)

By Bryan Stevens

The warbler parade that begins each autumn with such brightly colored migrants as Blackburnian warbler, black-throated blue warbler and magnolia warbler usually ends with some of the less vibrant members of this family of New World birds.

On a recent bird walk at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton, Tennessee, I helped locate a flock of 13 palm warblers and a single yellow-rumped warbler. These two warblers, which look rather brownish and nondescript in the fall, pass through the region later than most other migrating warblers. In fact, the yellow-rumped warbler is one of the few warblers that routinely spends the winter months in the region.

The yellow-rumped warbler has a most suitable name thanks to the yellow patch of feathers on the bird’s rump. The resemblance of the patch to a pat of butter is uncanny enough to have encouraged birders to nickname this often abundant winter warbler the “butter butt.”

The palm warbler’s name is, at best, a misnomer. Throughout most of its life, the palm warbler doesn’t even encounter palm trees. Johann Friedrich Gmelin, a German naturalist who lived from 1748 to 1804, saddled the palm warbler with its inappropriate name. Gmelin based his naming of the bird based on the fact that a specimen had been collected on Hispaniola, an island in the Caribbean with an abundance of palm trees.

Gmelin published several textbooks in the fields of chemistry, pharmaceutical science, mineralogy, and botany. He also had a hand in publishing a catalog of scientific names for various species, including some birds that had until that point never been given a species classification. Thanks to his efforts, a warbler has forever been linked with a type of tree that is, at best, entirely incidental to the bird’s life cycle.

Palm warblers do seek out warmer domains during the winter months, including the islands of the Caribbean. Some of them do not even migrate that far, choosing to remain along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines of the southern United States. On occasion, individual palm warblers choose to remain in northeast Tennessee, southwest Virginia or western North Carolina during the winter months.

Every spring, however, palm warblers make a long migration flight north. This warbler is one of the northernmost breeding warblers, spending the summer months in the boreal forests of Canada. They build their nests in the thickets surrounding the many bogs along the edges of the great coniferous forests of this region of Canada.

The female palm warbler lays four to five eggs, but both parents will stay busy collecting insects once the young hatch. On an insect-rich diet, the young birds develop quickly and are able to leave the nest in 12 days. They will remain with their parents as their wings strengthen and they learn to fend for themselves.

While not able to flaunt vibrant plumage like such relatives as the Cape May warbler or the American redstart, the palm warbler is not truly as unattractive as a first glance might suggest. In fact, one subspecies, known as the “yellow palm warbler,” is quite dramatic in appearance with a profusion of yellow feathers accented with a bold russet cap and dramatic rufous striping across the yellow underparts. Even in autumn, the other palm warblers are not devoid of color. Most palm warblers show a splash of bright yellow on the throat and beneath the tail.

In fall migration and during the winter season, palm warblers often inhabit weedy fields, grasping the dried stalks of tall weeds as they forage for berries, seeds and insects and their larvae. Look for the spot of yellow beneath the warbler’s tail, which is constantly bobbed up and down as the bird goes about its routine. The tail-bobbing behavior is a good way to distinguish this warbler from the sparrows of similar size and brown coloration that often share the fields and woodland edges.

The bird walks at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park will continue each Saturday in October. Participants should meet in the parking lot at the park’s visitors center at 8 a.m. for a 90-minute stroll along the gravel walking trails. The walks are conducted by the Elizabethton Bird Club and are free and open to the public. Bring binoculars to increase viewing enjoyment. Chances are good that palm warblers will be seen on the walk, but with our fine feathered friends, nothing is ever guaranteed.

Library Happenings – Mystery box arrives from Great Britain

By Angie Georgeff

One of the reasons I love working at the library is that I never quite know for sure what any given day will bring. Last week brought us a surprise. It was a large box that had been mailed from Great Britain. I wasn’t expecting anything to arrive from across the pond, but these days an item that you order from an American company can circumnavigate the globe to get to your front porch.

I opened the box and found two fairly hefty books nestled in a cushion of paper. The first volume was entitled “Contemporary Kazakh Literature: Prose and the second Contemporary Kazakh Literature: Poetry.” The books had traveled 4,000 miles from England, but their literary content added an extra 3,500 miles from Kazakhstan to the journey. I hadn’t ordered those books, so I was puzzled, but also intrigued.

Fortunately, a letter accompanied the shipment. Under the leadership of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, a project called “Modern Kazakh Culture in the Global World” has provided for the translation of modern Kazakh literature into six world languages and the distribution of 60,000 copies to universities, research centers and libraries around the globe. We are one of those libraries.

Decades ago, when I lived in Europe and visited the Soviet Union, I was in the country that then encompassed what is now Kazakhstan. Even so, I was no closer than 1,700 miles from its current capital Nur-Sultan. I have never set foot on the steppes of central Asia, but through Kazakhstan’s prose and poetry, I can to a degree experience the land and its people. And so can you. Literature allows us to glimpse the horsemen racing across the steppes, hear the birds singing in the trees, smell the wildflowers blowing in the breeze, feel the heat of an August afternoon and savor the love in a mother’s good home cooking.

I’m curious: Which book do you think best captures the sights and sounds of Unicoi County and the surrounding area? Many of the novels of Sharyn McCrumb might be candidates, but I’d like to know what you think. Please let us know the next time you come to the library. We will keep a tally and I’ll let you know the winner in a future column.

Halloween Films

Our annual Halloween Film Festival continues tomorrow night with another vintage thriller. Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, for popcorn, candy and a movie that brings a chilling novel to gruesome life, 1930s style. Please feel free to bring a bottle of water or your favorite soft drink to enjoy with the refreshments that we provide.

UETHDA announces Commodity Food Distribution date for October 2019

From Staff Reports

The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will begin a Commodity Distribution on Oct. 21 at National Guard Armory at 615 South Main Ave. Items will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. All recipients must be residents of Tennessee. This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Each recipient must now have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities.  An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center. We strongly encourage each recipient to complete the application the week prior to the distribution, this will be helpful in reducing wait time.  However, staff will be available on site during the Distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If someone is picking up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application; limits to pickup are five orders.

The distribution will begin at 11 a.m. and will end at 1:30 p.m. or earlier if food is no longer available. Also, volunteers may be available to help elderly and disabled persons carry their commodities.

Misrepresentation of need, or sale or exchange of USDA commodities is prohibited and could result in a fine, imprisonment, or both.  USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program is available to all eligible recipients regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency: Head quartered in Kingsport at the VO Dobbins Complex, UETHDA has been providing the tools, education, and support for a better life for over 50 years. The agency is one of thousands of Community Action Agencies in the United States operated by the National Community Action Partnership. UETHDA serves eight counties in northeast Tennessee: Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Hancock, Johnson, Sullivan, Washington and Unicoi. UETHDA has a variety of programs from emergency assistance to more long terms paths for self-sufficiency, including national programs such as Head Start, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and more. UETHDA operates nine neighborhood service centers in those eight counties.

To learn more visit www.uethda.org.

UCHS band wins competition

UCHS Blue Devil Band members Emily Tapp, Aaron Fregoso, Makayla Clouse, Cynthia Mendoza, Ethan Erwin, Savanna Williams and Kate Hollenbeck celebrate victories at the 67th Annual Apple Festival Competition in Chilhowie, Virginia. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil Marching Band continues to build a winning tradition.

According to UCHS band director Evangeline Hurter, the band competed on Sept. 28 in the 67th Annual Apple Festival Competition in Chilhowie, Virginia.

“In class 5A-1 the band received first place in the following categories: music, marching and general effect, thus winning our class,” Hurter told The Erwin Record. “The band won the Upper Division Grand Championship, outscoring the bands competing in class 4A-1 through class 6A –  that’s 10 bands in all and the band also won the Band of the Day Award for having the highest scores out of all the bands.”

This year’s event featured more than 20 regional bands.

“There were 22 bands that competed from Upper Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia,” Hurter said.

According to Hurter, the marching band has put in the work to achieve these awards.

“The kids in this program are extremely dedicated, willing to work long hours to make every performance opportunity something both they and our community can be proud of,” Hurter said. “It takes a special kind of kid to do what they do and do it well. They are an amazing group and I am proud to be their director.”

Hurter acknowledged that the community has really rallied behind the band programs.

“This program has grown largely due to the blossoming middle school program. Hayley Goad is a tremendous asset to the entire band program,” Hurter said. “It also takes a great staff to be successful in the competitive marching band world and we are very blessed in that area; however, none of this would be possible without the hard work of the band boosters who provide support and financial means to make it all happen.”

The UCHS Blue Devil Marching Band looks to keep their winning streak going as they encounter future competitions.

“Our next competition dates are: Oct. 19 at the Hilltopper Invitational held at Science Hill High School; Oct. 26 at the Appalachian Classic held at Sullivan Central High School; and Nov. 2 at Tennessee Division 2 State Marching Band Competition held in Smyrna, Tennessee,” Hurter said. “The theme of this year’s show is Lost At Sea and will be continuously changing until our final competition as we add different musical and visual details.”

For more information about upcoming contests and ways to help sponsor the UCHS Blue Devil Marching Band, please follow Unicoi County High School Band Boosters on Facebook.

Feathered Friends – Water a magnet for waxwings, other birds

Cedar waxwings feed extensively on various fruits and insects, forming large nomadic flocks that can quickly deplete local resources. (Photo by Patrice_Audet/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

The extended spell of dry, hot weather we’ve experienced for the past several weeks threatens to spoil fall colors, but if you’re a person who can offer a water feature or birdbath, this might be the perfect time to observe thirsty flocks of birds. In particular, cedar waxwings, which often travel in large flocks, embrace water with an exceptional avian enthusiasm.

I still remember my first look at a cedar waxwing. Sleek as silk, wearing a mask like a bandit, with a jaunty crest atop its head, this fairly common bird commands attention when making an appearance in a yard or garden. Of course, it’s usually not alone, more often traveling as a member of a larger flock that can number as high as dozens or even hundreds of individuals.

Flocks of these sociable birds win fans almost anywhere they go. Chances of luring these birds to your home and property can increase by offering some essential requirements. Tall trees, especially those that bear fruit, are attractive to these sociable birds. It’s more often water, not food, however, that will bring a flock of these birds close. They love a good splash in a bath, whether the source is a shallow stream or an ornamental pool set into the landscape.

As noted, they travel in often sizable flocks, usually in search of new food sources. The many members comprising a flock can deplete resources in a remarkably short time. During the winter season, I’ve watched a flock of waxwings make short work of a harvest of berries from a holly tree. Their nomadic lifestyles make it nearly impossible to predict where cedar waxwings might make an appearance.

In most years, the wild cherry trees scattered around the edges of my yard are fully laden with berries. As they ripen in late August and into September, waxwings appear and commence harvesting the fruit. Once again, they arrived at just the right time last month to catch the wild cherries at their peak.

As much as the waxwing has a fondness for fruit, it’s also a bird that would have made an excellent flycatcher. Flocks of these birds will often congregate in trees near the edge of a pond, garden or yard — anywhere winged insects might be found in good numbers — in order to hawk insects on the wing. A waxwing will sally forth from a branch, snatch its prey in mid-air, and return to its perch for a quick snack.

Perhaps because of the late-summer abundance of bugs and berries, cedar waxwings are known for nesting late into the summer. They’re certainly not among the birds impatient to begin nesting as soon as temperatures turn mild in the spring. Some fellow birders recently reported seeing cedar waxwings feeding fledgling just out of the nest as the calendar flipped from September of October.

Why is the term “waxwing” applied to this bird? According to the website All About Birds, the name comes from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of wing feathers. The site also notes that the precise function of these waxy tips is not known. There’s speculation among some experts that the bright red tips on the feathers could play a role in helping waxwings attract mates.

The cedar waxwing has few relatives. Worldwide, there are only two other species: the Bohemian waxwing, of the northern forests of Eurasia and North America; and the Japanese waxwing, found in such northeast Asian countries as Japan, Korea and China.

Although it’s classified as a songbird, the cedar waxwing doesn’t truly produce a vocalization that anyone would contend qualifies as a song. They are, however, very vocal birds, producing shrill, high-pitched notes as they pass through the upper branches of tall trees. The excitable commotion of an active flock of these sleek and elegant birds is always a welcome sound at my home.

Library Happenings – Annual Halloween Film Festival begins this week

By Angie Georgeff

In Alice Hoffman’s newest novel “The World That We Knew,” Jewish mother Hanni and her daughter Lea live in Berlin in 1941. Keenly aware of the danger that threatens them, Hanni turns to Ettie, the teenaged daughter of a rabbi, for help. Together, they create a golem, a creature of superhuman strength modeled of clay and animated by kabbalistic magic. They shape the golem so that it appears to be a woman and call it Ava. Ava has no soul, but she does have a purpose, and her mission is to keep Lea safe and to love and protect her as a mother would.

Ettie and her younger sister accompany Ava and Lea as they escape Berlin on a train to Paris.  Once they arrive in France, Lea and her “cousin” Ava seek sanctuary with distant relatives, while Ettie goes on to join the French Resistance. As you might imagine, evil and danger continue to pursue Ava and Lea and those with whom they find shelter, but Lea has a dedicated and powerful protector in Ava.

My own copy of “The World That We Knew” is now at the top of my to-be-read stack at home, along with a box of tissues. Thinking about golems – which, frankly, I don’t do very often – has reminded me of Helene Wecker’s popular 2013 novel “The Golem and the Jinni.” If you are curious, a sequel called “The Iron Season” is planned, but apparently a publishing date has not yet been set.

Film Festival

Driven by autumn winds, dry leaves are skittering along the empty streets and twigs are scraping across window panes like phantom fingernails. It’s time. Our annual Halloween Film Festival begins tomorrow night. Due to the limitations of our site license, I can’t publish the title of the movie that we will be showing in this column. Since the subject has already come up, I can tell you that it’s not “The Golem.” That would be perfect for Halloween, of course, but it’s not covered by our site license. Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, for popcorn, candy and another movie just as suitable for the season. Please feel free to bring a bottle of water or the soft drink of your choice.

Holiday Closing

Columbus Day may be the Rodney Dangerfield of U. S. holidays, but I’m always happy to have an opportunity to sleep late. The library will be closed on Monday, Oct. 14, in observance of Columbus Day. No items will be due on that date, but you may deposit books in either of our book returns at any time. They are located in front of the library in Erwin and at Town Hall in Unicoi.

Since DVDs may be damaged if heavy books fall on them, please return DVDs to the library when we’re open. We appreciate your help keeping our videos safe. Thank you!

Lingerfelt announces retirement from CFCU, Banks named new CEO

Amy Banks (Contributed photo)

Sandy Lingerfelt (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

After a 43 year career of serving members at Clinchfield Federal Credit Union (CFCU), CEO Sandy Lingerfelt will be retiring at the end of the year. 

Lingerfelt began her career at CFCU in 1977 and was promoted to CEO in 1985. Holding many leadership positions, which include chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Credit Union League and chairman of the Audit Committee of CUNA, she was also the second person to be inducted into the Tennessee Credit Union Hall of Fame. She has been a strong voice in the credit union industry and will certainly be missed.

Lingerfelt is widely known as the lady who makes the bread; her bread has opened many doors and helped to develop friendships and contacts all over the country. Lingerfelt’s dedication to CFCU has created an atmosphere of loyalty, professionalism and financial stability for Unicoi County. 

“I feel very blessed to have enjoyed a 43-year career at CFCU and even more blessed knowing Amy Banks and our caring staff will continue taking care of our members the way they deserve to be taken care of,” Lingerfelt said.

Amy Banks, currently the senior vice president of operations at the credit union, has been named by the Board of Directors to assume the role of CEO effective Jan. 1, 2020. Banks started her career at the credit union as a part-time teller and has moved up the ranks in her 29 years of experience there.   

Banks is involved in numerous community activities, an active member of Evergreen Freewill Baptist Church, and obtained her Certified Credit Union Executive designation from the Credit Union National Association.

“I am honored to be named as the new CEO of Clinchfield Federal Credit Union, and I am excited about the opportunity to continue building on our history of success,” Banks said. “It is important to me to remain a strong supporter of our community and to provide the best member service to our members.”

“Banks is a great fit for the culture that Lingerfelt has set at Clinchfield Federal Credit Union,” said Wade Tilson, chairman of the CFCU Board of Directors. “It is with much respect and appreciation for both ladies to honor one’s retirement while welcoming another’s new leadership. The legacy that Sandy Lingerfelt has built will continue and CFCU will most definitely grow and prosper under the new leadership from Banks as well.”