Look Back: Sinkholes are common sight in area

Our articles this month have been about the very ground beneath our feet – and very interesting ground it is!

Due to the layers of soft limestone close to the surface and the layers of harder sandstone beneath them, we have some unique physical geography here in Middle Tennessee.

One of the most unusual features of our landscape is the prevalence of sinkholes, sometimes called “swallow holes” by the pioneers.

If you have never seen one, then you haven’t lived here very long for they are everywhere! But if you haven’t, let me describe one for you. A sinkhole is a big hole in the ground that appears to get smaller the further down you go, and then it just disappears.

Stanislav Doronenko / Creative Commons / creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode
Sinkholes come in all sizes, but the ones here in Trousdale County tend to be small, similar to the one in this picture. The larger the sinkhole, the larger the cave that is likely to be at the bottom.

The ground around a sinkhole will be rocky and when it rains, the sinkhole will look like the drain in a bathtub as water disappears into the hole.

Middle Tennessee is full of sinkholes, as is much of central Kentucky, but they can also be found worldwide.

And you don’t want to fall down into one!

But you can grab a flashlight, rope or ladder, and you can do a little exploring – that is, if you are adventurous – because most sinkholes will have a connection to a cave.

Let’s back up a little first. Why do we have sinkholes and how do they form?

Going back into the history of Middle Tennessee, when we were covered by water for millions of years, the oceans receded and the land rose, leaving layers of hard sandstone under layers of softer limestone.

In what is a very slow process, rain in the atmosphere picks up carbon dioxide, creating a mild carbonic acid. This acid gets stronger as it passes through the soil, where it collects more carbon dioxide. The water now gains the power to dissolve and eat away at the layer of limestone.

Starting with cracks in the earth’s surface, the water works its way down to the harder sandstone layers and then stops. It has to go somewhere, so it creates underground streams or rivers, while always eating away at the limestone.

Eventually those underground rivers become caves, but we will talk about them next week.

The cracks in the surface become bigger and as the process of wearing away works, the cracks become holes – sinkholes!

I’ve explored many sinkholes over the years and almost always find a cave.

One of the largest sinkholes I have explored was in the Cato area. It had been used by the family who lived closest to it as a trash dump. In fact, for years people have seen sinkholes as a good way to get rid of old appliances, dead cats and dogs, rusty metal and other garbage.

By the way, this is not the recommended way to use a sinkhole, as it can pollute the local groundwater!

I was joined by a small contingent of Boy Scouts, armed with an array of flashlights and lanterns that would make any spelunker proud. We clambered down through a century of trash to the bottom of the sinkhole, which ended in a large cave.

The floor of the cave was wet – no surprise – and muddy. But we enjoyed our exploration as we searched every nook and cranny, and emerged a few hours later, covered in mud and proud of our efforts.

That sinkhole, by the way, later made the news when its owner turned the cave into the famous “Tennessee Pot Cave.”

Most sinkholes are not so famous.

Sinkholes can be created in soft soils, when rains wash away huge areas underground and then collapse when a heavy person or object goes over it.

Back in the 1880s, a farmer in Smith County who was plowing bottom land by the Cumberland River saw his team of mules and plow just disappear right in front of his eyes! The team had trod over a sinkhole, causing it to collapse from their combined weight. Fortunately, the farmer was able to extract them after a few hours of digging and tugging!

Jack McCall: Big brothers deserve their own holiday

Well, Spring Break has overtaken us. The Easter holiday will soon be upon us, closely followed by Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Each is a special time of reflection and celebration.

From time to time, I entertain the idea of calling for a new holiday celebration. I think I would call it Big Brother’s Day.

I suppose, not to be sexiest, we could call it “Big Brother’s and Big Sister’s Day,” or it might be more appropriate to call it “Brothers and Sister’s Day.” But I have a big-brother bias, so I’m more inclined to call my version “Big Brother’s Day.”

When it comes to big brothers, I have one of the very finest. His name is Tom.

Submitted photo

The day I was born at Martha Gaston Hospital in Lebanon, my big brother, who was all of 3 years old at the time, walked the halls spreading the word to each stranger he met, “Hi, I’ve got a new baby brother. His name is Jack.”

If someone asked his name, he answered, “Tom Cat.”

Over the years, my big brother has taken great pride in his younger siblings.  Whether it was athletic contests, hog shows or any other special events, our big brother always showed up. He not only invested his time, but also his resources. My younger brothers, my sister, and I have reaped the benefits of his wisdom, his leadership and his example.

I cannot count the times he has come to my rescue. I know of one time he saved my life.

In our earliest days, we lived in a house on the D.T. McCall farm. A central feature of the house was a big, rectangular log cabin. In time, a kitchen was added to the west end. Not far from the kitchen steps, a big, wooden gate led to the barn lot. The feed barn stood no more than a hundred yards from the house.

Just to the right of the road leading to the feed barn, stood a lone, towering cedar tree. Beneath the tree, a wet-weather pond sprawled out into the barn lot. In the springtime the pond grew to a depth of two feet or more at its center. As summer came on, it was reduced to a wallowing hole for my grandfather’s hogs.

For my brother and I, that barn lot was a favorite place to play. Because of the pond, my mother had given Tom special instructions, in detail, regarding my safety.

Then came the day, she looked out the kitchen window to view a scene that took her breath away. Two little boys, covered in black pond mud, were coming up through the barn lot toward the gate. She ran out of the house to meet us.

Tom was resolutely leading me by the hand back to the house. I, reluctantly, was following along.

My mother later said we were covered in pond mud from the top of our heads to the soles of our bare feet. But the black pond grime could not obscure Tom’s shining face. With great pride, through shining eyes, he called out to her, “I did what you told me to do, Momma! Our baby got in the pond, but I didn’t leave him to come and get you. I stayed with him, Momma. I stayed with him ‘til I got him out! I did what you told me to do!”

Tom was 5 years old when he pulled me out of that pond. Fast forward to the fall of 1965.

I was somewhat apprehensive as I began my freshman year in high school. Eighth-grade boys who were looking forward to high school heard stories of beltlines and worse things done to them by upperclassmen.

On my first day as a freshman, I was standing in the hall with two of my buddies when two seniors approached us. One of the upperclassmen grabbed one of my friends by the arm, and then with the stone of his class ring turned to the inside of his hand, the senior popped a knot on the top of my friends head.

As my friend grimaced in pain, the senior grabbed my arm with every intention of giving me the same medicine. That is when the other senior said, “Leave him alone. That’s Tom’s brother.” My antagonist let go of my arm.

Over the next couple of weeks, those words became music to my ears: “Don’t bother him. He’s Tom’s little brother.”  “Leave him alone. He’s Tom’s brother.” By the third week, upperclassmen were calling me “Little Tom.” It was not a bad place to be.

So I’m big on big brothers.

The passing of the years has not changed his looking out for his younger siblings. To me, that’s a cause for celebration.

On my “Big Brother’s Day” holiday, we could celebrate the lives of our big brothers or little brothers, or even our big sisters and little sisters. And those who don’t have natural brothers or sisters, as well as those who do, could celebrate the lives of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Or we could take it a step further, and on that day celebrate the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind. We could even consider loving our enemies on that day. The possibilities are endless.

Just a thought, but I think I could be on to something here.

The Loop: Update on state government

Greetings Folks of the Fortieth!

What is it about snow that every time it happens it is simply magical? My only regret is that we just did not get enough of that “winter white” this season. So while a big pot of vegetable stew is simmering, and the music of ‘snap-crackle-pop’ of the glowing fireside warms me, perhaps I just may get that “winter white” wish yet, even in the face of springing forward to Daylight Savings Time!

“Advice is like snow — the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon and the deeper it sinks into the mind.”

Terri Lynn Weaver

Committees are full-speed ahead. I must admit, legislation I filed thus far has been neglected, due to the enormous task at hand of funding transportation with or without a permanent gas tax. I heard it said that a former legislator, before my watch, made it his policy that for every bill he passed, he repealed or removed one! Now that is one way to downsize and shrink the scope of government, which has far overreached its original purposes.

As Chairlady of Transportation Subcommittee, sending clean, concise policy forward to the full committee is paramount to me. Subcommittee is the gateway where the vetting and discussions that mean the life or death of legislation takes place. What was passed out of my committee recently were numerous amendments, all to the Improve Act! Unfortunately, that is how the sausage is made and it is not a pleasant process! New amendments will be filed timely in Transportation this week. Those of us who are on a mission to provide funding without a permanent gas tax, are working to do just that. Please see the letter and sign on, and pass it on!

As your representative, it is my duty to do the hard thing first – find a solution without a tax. Taxing Tennesseans is the broad and easy way to go. I am confident there is a simple way to fund our roads and bridges, remain debt-free and use the revenue you and I have already put in the kitty!

Education Administration and Planning is the other committee on which I serve. Vouchers are a big topic for which there are three main bills I am aware of: HB0126, HB0460 and HB0336. One is a pilot program for Shelby County only, and the other two would open vouchers statewide. Vouchers have always been suspect to me. And let me be clear, I am all about what is best for the child. We homeschooled our son.

But my concern has always been how to protect the private Christian schools who currently have their religious freedom to operate as they choose. Using tax dollars that follow the child could be the Trojan horse to bring Christian schools under the footprint of the Department of Education. Parents still have choice. You may work extra jobs to provide for private school, but to me, it seems if we eliminated the Federal DOE first, then we could have real level playing fields and competition, where children would then be the drivers of their education and travel to all and every option to meet their needs.

I close with this thought: even in our darkest moment we can find something to laugh about if we try hard enough.

“A good laugh is sunshine in the HOUSE!”


Terri Lynn Weaver

Football coach speaks at FCA banquet

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes held its second annual fundraising banquet last Tuesday at Trousdale County High School, and officials deemed it a huge success.

New Trousdale County football coach Brad Waggoner was the guest speaker.

“Coach Waggoner’s overall message was one of perseverance,” said Chad Harrison, area representative for FCA. “His pathway of going from coaching in high school in Georgia, to working at Georgia Tech, and then feeling led to go back to high school.

“It was a story of no matter what the odds are against you, working hard and pushing through and not giving up on your dream. It was very inspiring.”

FCA works to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influences of coaches and athletes. TCHS is one of 10 high schools along the Cumberland Ridge that Harrison works with to fulfill FCA’s mission.

This year’s banquet raised nearly $7,500, according to Harrison.

“Thanks to our sponsors and donors, we raised almost $7,500 that will be used to send teens to camp, distribute Bibles and other resources, and supply FCA staff to the Trousdale County schools,” Harrison said.

FCA also wants to thank sponsors for its banquet: Tri-County Electric, Hartsville Cabinet & Millwork, Citizens Bank, Wilson Bank & Trust, G&L Nursery, Pig Pen Barbeque, Beasley Construction, Holder’s Burley Exchange, Hartsville Church of God, Choice One Insurance and Mayor Carroll Carman.

“Our sponsors really set the stage for the event,” Harrison said. “We want those local sponsors in Trousdale County know that we appreciate them.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

County’s unemployment rate climbs in January

County unemployment estimates for January 2017 show the rates increased in all 95 counties.

Trousdale County’s jobless rate stood at 5.9 percent, up 1 percent from December and up 0.7 percent from January 2016.

Among neighboring counties, Wilson County was at 4.4 percent, Sumner was at 4.5 percent, Macon was at 5.2 percent and Smith was at 6.0 percent.

For the month of January, Davidson County has the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate at 4.1 percent, increasing from 3.7 percent the previous month. Knox County is 4.7 percent, an increase from the previous month’s 4.2 percent. The Hamilton County rate is 5.5 percent, increasing from a previous rate of 4.8 percent. Shelby County has a 6.3 percent rate, increasing from December’s 5.6 percent.

Tennessee and the U.S. have experienced an increase in the preliminary unemployment rates for January. Tennessee’s rate is 5.4 percent, increasing from the previous month’s revised rate by three-tenths of a percentage point. An increase of one-tenth raised the U.S. preliminary rate to 4.8 percent.

The state and national unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted, while the county unemployment rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series.

Letters to the Editor: March 22, 2017

Dear Editor:

Some Congressional leaders are proposing radical changes to the Medicaid program, which we call TennCare. They want to drastically cut federal funding for the program by converting it to “per capita caps” or a “block grant.” This would breach Washington’s commitment to the states. It will be a disaster for Tennessee, especially for rural communities where TennCare plays a critical role in funding the health care infrastructure.

File photo

For 50 years, Medicaid has been a federal-state partnership. The federal government funds about 65 percent of the cost, and Tennessee covers the rest.

A block grant will reduce the federal contribution by $1 trillion over 9 years. If health care costs rise more quickly than the economy – as they have done for 50 years and will likely continue to do – the burden falls entirely on state taxpayers. Within a few years, it will cost Tennessee billions of dollars. Not just health care, but education, public safety and everything funded through the state budget will suffer, or the state will have to raise our taxes.

Supporters claim a block grant will give states more flexibility in administering the program. But President Trump’s first executive order already gives the states the flexibility they need. Tennesseans shouldn’t face increased taxes just to gain flexibility it has already received from the new President. Congress should not burden Tennesseans with a Medicaid block grant.

Michele Johnson

Executive Director

Tennessee Justice Center


Dear Editor:

The Republican health care plan would hurt all of us!

Their plan will take health care away from 24 million people across the country and impose painful taxes on working people. Their plan weakens Medicare. It takes three years off the life of the Medicare hospital fund in order to give a huge tax break just to people earning more than $200,000 a year. Their plan does nothing to deal with skyrocketing prices for medical care and prescription drugs.

The people cutting America’s health care under the banner of reform have never had to worry about care for themselves or their families. How much greed is enough?

Thank you,

Curtis Pardue

Columbia, TN

Guest View: Fighting to preserve precious life

I’ve assured my wife that I will do everything to save and preserve her life should she ever be in a life-and-death scenario. Should she ever be in a hospital hooked up to wires and on the verge of death, doctors and nurses do not have permission to start pulling plugs and rushing hospice into the room. She has assured me the same support.

We realize that death will come to both of us and neither of us wants to linger in a vegetative state. Of course we don’t know what the scenario will be and no one does. We do believe we deserve every chance to pull through if it’s possible.

In 2002, a doctor said this concerning the illness of my first wife, “She has fought a hard battle; we can let her go on. Or, we can try to do everything we can to extend her life.” I opted for the latter. They actually extended her life at least a couple of weeks and she had numerous good visits with her family and two adoring sons. I know we tried everything available to us to extend and save her life. Yet, I will never be free from the disappointment and pain that we could not cure her illness and save her.

My wife’s grandfather was about to be released from the hospital and seemed to be feeling great. They decided to keep him and soon it seemed they pulled hospice in and he was dead in a couple of days. Please don’t hear me speaking against hospice. I know they do a wonderful job in many scenarios. Frequently, they appear to be called in too prematurely.

It seems to me that doctors, hospital staff and nursing home staff get tired of some people and help them exit life. I realize you may yell that I’m wrong, but I’m entitled to my opinion. Medical insurance doesn’t pay forever nor does it cover any and every kind of treatment and option to extend life. When the medical insurance is shaking its head “no” to further treatments, then what happens? Is this when life really ends?

I have eulogized over 400 funerals. I’ve made thousands of hospital and nursing home visits. So many times I have witnessed exhausted families and tired, overworked and underpaid intensive care staff caring for a patient who required painstaking treatment and attention. It was at these moments that it seemed I would hear, “We have tried and done all we can do.” Next, would come the onslaught of morphine shots that were supposedly for pain, but in reality they were the death nail to the helpless person who was being exited from life.

I don’t think you or any of us want to be held in this world helplessly tied to a ventilator and multiple devices. On the other hand I don’t think any of us would mind being plugged up a while if in a couple of weeks we might rouse up and be able to spend a few more months or weeks with our family, eating ice cream or even watching “Wheel of Fortune.”

This is all difficult stuff and I have dear family and friends very involved in the medical profession. I’m not pointing fingers at you. I’m pointing fingers at all of us. Fight for your loved ones and friends. Value, sustain and protect life as long as you can.

An old friend of mine died when she was about 90 years old. She lived alone. She didn’t have much but she was faithful in church and stayed busy. She was so fortunate in that she was never in the hospital for any length of time. Nobody had talked to her in a couple of days and a friend decided she had better go see about her. She was dead. She was sitting in her chair, the television was playing and she was surrounded with books and newspapers. She had passed on in the surroundings that were enjoyable and familiar to her.

I hope we can all be so fortunate.

Glenn Mollette is a syndicated columnist and author of 11 books. He is read in all 50 states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com.

Community Calendar: March 22, 2017

POLICY: Information for the Community Calendar submitted in person, by mail or fax is due by noon Monday for publication. Items mailed should be typed or printed and sent to: Community Calendar, The Hartsville Vidette, 206 River St., Hartsville, TN 37074 or brought to the office during business hours. Free listing of nonprofit events, community club and government meetings. We reserve the right to reject or edit material. Include name and phone number in the event we have questions.


Monday, March 27

7 p.m. – County Commission

The Hartsville/Trousdale County Commission will hold its regular monthly meeting in the upstairs courtroom of the courthouse.

Wednesday, March 29

10 a.m. – Water Board

The Hartsville/Trousdale County Water Board will hold its monthly meeting in the county mayor’s office, 328 Broadway.


Little League Rally Day

The Hartsville Little League has scheduled its Rally Day opening for the 2017 season for Saturday, April 8. Schedule will be announced at later date.

Pregnancy Center Training

New Life Pregnancy Center will hold training for all volunteers on March 27-30 (Monday through Thursday) from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church, 550 McMurry Blvd East, Hartsville. If you desire to volunteer at NLPC, please mark your calendar now. Training is mandatory for anyone who will have contact with clients.  New Life needs mentors to work through a provided curriculum with expectant moms. Volunteers are needed to organize donations to the library. People are also needed to prepare meals for families after babies are born; clerical volunteers; and more. Everyone is welcome. There is no fee. To sign up, call 615-388-2357 or email lalogsdon@comcast.net.

Family & Friends Day

Key United Methodist Church will have its Family & Friends Day on Sunday, April 9, with 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. worship services. Our Theme is “It’s Time to Fill the House.” The pastor of Key UMC, Rev. Diantha McLeod, will deliver the 11 a.m. message. The 3 p.m. guests are Rev. Fred Beasley and Smith Chapel AME Church from Bethpage.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteer drivers to deliver meals to elderly within Hartsville city limits. Drivers especially needed on Fridays. Call Ruby, 615-374-3987.

High School Yearbooks

Trousdale County High School has yearbooks from the 2015-16 school year available for $65. Call Christie Glover, 615-374-2201.

American Legion

Attention all former military members! American Legion Post 56 of Trousdale County would like to invite you to come spend time with us and get information on the benefits the Legion has to offer. You served your country well, now let us know how the country and your community can help you! Call John LaFleur, 860-268-7303 for more information.

Adult Education

FREE GED/HiSET CLASSES! The Adult Learning Center holds adult education classes each Wednesday at the middle school. Call 615-374-1131 to schedule an appointment.


Thursday, March 23

11:30 a.m. – BP by Suncrest

Noon – Birthday Dinner

Friday, March 24

9 a.m. – AFEP Exercise

10 a.m. – Tai Chi

11 a.m. – Yoga

Noon – Rook games

Monday, March 27

10 a.m. – Wii Bowling

11:30 a.m. – Mystery Lunch

Tuesday, March 28

9 a.m. – AFEP Exercise

10 a.m. – Yoga

12:30 p.m. – Current Events by Wilson Bank & Trust

Wednesday, March 29

9 a.m. – Line Dancing

Noon – Rook games

1 p.m. – Bible Study

Sheriff’s Reports: March 22, 2017

Editor’s Note: The following are suspects booked in the Trousdale County jail during the specified timeframe. All persons charged are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

March 13

Richard Chad Worley, 25, of Lebanon, was charged with failure to pay by Deputy Eric Langford. Bond was set for $378 and General Sessions court date was set for March 24.

March 14

Terry Wayne Wallace, 47, of Castalian Springs, was charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest by Deputy Joe Sullins. Bond was set for $5,500 and General Sessions court date was set for April 28.

Jerry Thomas Scruggs, 64, of Hartsville, was charged with worthless check by Deputy Joe Sullins. Scruggs was released without bond and General Sessions court date was set for April 28.

Angie Marie Berry, 33, of Hartsville, was charged with theft-all other larceny by Deputy Eric Langford. Bond was set for $4,000 and General Sessions court date was set for March 24.

March 16

Pamela Ann Rowan, 55, of Hartsville, was charged with harassment by Deputy Grant Cothron. Bond was set for $1,000 and General Sessions court date was set for April 28.

Charles Howard Harrison, 35, of Westmoreland, was charged with mfg/del/sell controlled substance by Deputy Jared Lake. Harrison was cited to court and General Sessions court date was set for March 24.

Candice Nicole Dickens, 36, of Hartsville, was charged with simple possession/casual exchange, mfr/del/sell/poss meth, unlawful drug paraphernalia by Deputy Grant Cothron. Bond was set for $4,000 and General Sessions court date was set for March 24.

March 17

Amanda Gail Glass, 28, of Pleasant Shade, was charged with drivers license revoke/suspend/canceled, assault by Deputy Eric Langford. Bond was set for $1,500 and General Sessions court date was set for April 28.

March 18

Gary Allen Beasley, 33, of Hartsville, was charged with theft of property by Deputy Brad Basford. Bond was set for $1,500 and General Sessions court date was set for March 24.

Savannah Brook Rhodes, 22, of Hartsville, was charged with domestic assault by Deputy Dusty Cato. Bond was set for $1,000 and General Sessions court date was set for April 28.

Damian Patlam Saucedo, 19, of Lafayette, was charged with DUI by Deputy Dillin Polston. Bond was set for $1,000 and General Sessions court date was set for June 9.

TCAT, TCHS plan expanded Mechatronics program

Hartsville’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology is teaming with Trousdale County High School to expand learning options for local students.

TCAT is providing equipment and other training materials for a Mechatronics program that is expected to begin at the high school in the next school year.

Mechatronics is defined as a branch of engineering that focuses on designing, manufacturing and maintaining products that have both mechanical and electronic components. Examples of industries that rely upon mechatronics include aerospace, appliance design and repair, farming, food processing, manufacturing and healthcare.

Funding for the expanded classes is coming from a $944,009 grant that TCAT received last year from Tennessee’s Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP).

“We have almost $300,000 worth of equipment as part of our LEAP grant,” said TCAT Hartsville Director Mae Perry. “Part of that was to partner with the high school and offer training out there.

“We decided on Mechatronics because we need skilled labor, and that’s the biggest draw right now. We’ve got classroom space, and the class is supposed to start in August with the new school year… Anyone who looks to be an engineer would definitely benefit from this program.”

Perry said equipment for the school would include electrical, hydraulics and motor controls. The high school classroom will be a gateway into more advanced training available at the TCAT campus. The program will also be part of the dual-enrollment program in which TCHS students can earn college credit during their high school careers.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said he was excited about the expanded partnership between TCAT and Trousdale County Schools, and the opportunities it can create for local students.

“The objective today, is for all students to graduate college and career ready prepared for a high-skill, high-wage job,” Satterfield said. “The Mechatronics program, which we are excited to start, will equip select Trousdale County students with a Siemens Level 1 Certified Service Technician that pays approximately $22 per hour upon graduation.

“The certification can be transferred to TCAT, where students can advance their degree in Industrial Maintenance, or to Vol State, which is starting a Siemens Level 2 Certification program for the 2017-18 school year.

“Eventually our graduates will have the option to transfer to MTSU, which offers a Siemens Level 3 Certification that is equivalent to a mechatronics engineering degree. We have been informed that Nissan and Bridgestone can’t hire enough Siemens technicians. It is certainly a field that provides endless opportunities.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Look Back: ‘Indian money’ is really ancient fossil

This month we are looking at the ground beneath our feet!

We have looked at dirt and talked about ancient seas that once covered what is now Middle Tennessee. This week we talk about some of the fossils that we find here.

“Indian money” and geodes are two of the most common seabed fossils found in Trousdale County. These are from the author’s personal collection.

You can find Indian money in just about any pile of creek gravel. The pieces will be brown or light grey in color and look like a small stack of coins piled together. Sometimes you can find an individual “coin” and it will have a hole in the center.

The correct name for these fossils is not Indian money. Instead they are “crinoids” and you are picking up a real piece of history when you hold one in your hand.

Remember that all of Middle Tennessee was once covered by ocean. So some 320 million years ago, during the Upper Mississippian epoch, small ocean plants lived and did by the billions.

As these plants died and were covered up by sediments of mud and sand, they fossilized.

What we pick up (see our photo this week) are the fossilized plant stems of the crinoid plant.

Crinoids had cup-shaped ends and had food-filtering arms as well. They were of a softer tissue and rarely survive the fossil process.

Trousdale County is hardly the only place to find crinoids though.

They are plentiful in parts of Great Britain, where they are called “Saint Cuthbert’s beads.” Poor people in the past would take the small fossils and drill holes in them to make rosary beads.

When asked where Saint Cuthbert’s beads came from, the people in rural England would say they were left on the ground by ancient snakes, or were the “devil’s toes!”

Despite my being told as a child that crinoids were Indian money, Indians in fact did not use them for money.

Other fossils we find from the millions of years that we were covered by ocean water are geodes!

A geode will look like a small fossilized brain and can be of any size! Like crinoids, they are found in creek beds or gravel piles.

A geode (see photo) is especially interesting for what is inside!

They are created when an air bubble or small cavity is formed in the sediment of the ocean floor. They can also be formed by gas bubbles in lava flows.

A shell forms around the air bubble as the surrounding sediment hardens. Water with silica will seep through the shell and into the hollow center.

Again, the process is millions of years long, but after the land rose and the oceans receded and the bedrock weathered away, the geodes were left exposed.

Now back to what is inside a geode – shiny quartz crystals.

I have seen people place large broken and unbroken geode in their gardens as accent pieces. They are sometimes used in garden walls, and I have actually seen a house built with geodes instead of bricks!

Both geodes and crinoids depend upon silica in the ocean water and thousands of years to develop. Middle Tennessee had the silica-enriched water and the right amount of time to create these fossils, and they are just another way that Trousdale County is unique!

Jack McCall: Remembering bare feet and callused hands

I had the privilege of reading for kindergarteners and first-graders at Trousdale Elementary School last week. My granddaughters, Oakley and Jane, were in attendance. I think I enjoyed the experience as much as the students did. It was requested that I come back at another time and tell the children about the “olden” days.

The “olden” days, my eye. I considered the olden days to be when my parents and grandparents were young’uns. But, now, in the eyes of my grandchildren I grew up in the olden days! That set my mind to wandering back in time – a time of bare feet and callused hands.

Submitted photo

There was a time when we couldn’t wait to take our shoes off in the spring. My mother held us off as long as she could, telling us the ground was still too cold for bare feet. The feel of cool grass under your feet in the springtime was exhilarating. Except for Sundays and trips to town, my brothers, my sister and I enjoyed shoeless summers.

Going barefooted has its advantages, but it has its risks. I have stepped on many a honeybee in my time. That always called for a trip to the kitchen to have my mother remove the stinger. Then she mixed up a soda paste and applied to the sting site. (If my father was around at the time of the injury, he would put some tobacco juice on the place where the bee left his stinger.)  That injury would usually keep a boy or girl off their feet for an hour or two; or you went back to play hopping on one foot. Of course, there were other unsuspecting perils to watch out for, the least of which were rusty nails and broken fruit jars. I have stepped on a few rusty nails in my time. That usually called for a tetanus shot. All my mother’s children were indoctrinated as to the seriousness of a puncture wound. You didn’t want to get the “lock jaw” (tetanus.)

One time my brother, Tom, was riding a horse bareback (he was also barefooted). When he dismounted at the edge of the yard, he landed on a broken fruit jar in high grass. He ran into the house leaving bloody footprints behind.

As he entered the back door, he called out, “Mama, you better come in here!”

My mother, who was never one to panic, answered, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Mama, you had better come right now! He insisted.

She found Tom standing on one foot, with the other foot hovering over a dark red pool of blood “bigger than a basketball” and growing. That barefoot incident called for stitches and a tetanus shot.

Of course, there were other hazards. Thorns and thistles, sharp rocks and cow piles made for treading carefully at times. By summer’s end your feet were as “tough as shoe leather.” I could run down a gravel road at full speed and never flinch.

The corn crib was a central feature of the feed barn on the farm where I grew up. The thought of that old corn crib brings many things to my mind – rats and mice, chicken snakes, barn cats, corn shucks and red corn cobs, to mention a few. I have shucked a lot of corn in my time. Coarse, dry corn shucks can do some damage on bare hands. Along with the shucking, I have also shelled a lot of corn in days gone by.

My grandfather, Herod Brim, had a corn sheller in his corn crib. I have turned the handle on that marvelous invention on many a turn. It was exhilarating to hear the shelled corn falling into the corn box as the red cob was ‘spit’ out of the sheller.

In our corn crib the corn was shelled by hand. I don’t know if someone taught me, or if I just figured it out on my own. But I mastered the art to shelling corn. First, you take out two rows of corn seed the length of the cob. Then, you twist the rest of the corn off the cob. A pile of red corn cobs and a bucket filled with yellow corn is a beautiful thing. Shucking and shelling corn made for tough hands.

Back in those days, there was tobacco to be hoed and corn (Johnson grass) to be chopped, wood to be spit, tobacco to be cut, spiked and hung, and hay to be hauled. That, too, made for the toughest of hands.

And that’s how it was in the “olden” days – days of bare feet and callused hands.

It doesn’t seem so long ago.

County Democrats plan organizational meeting in April

The Trousdale County Democratic Party will hold a Biennial Reorganization Convention to elect new leaders on Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m. The meeting will take place in the lower courtroom of the County Courthouse, 200 East Main Street.

Local Democrats will elect a new Chairperson, Vice Chair, Secretary/Treasurer and the Executive Committee for Trousdale County for two-year terms. All Democratic residents who are eligible voters of Trousdale County are urged to attend to discuss the party’s agenda and events for 2017-18.

During reorganization, attendees will evaluate the effectiveness of their Party bylaws and leadership. Each County Party determines its own needs, elects new leaders and enacts reforms to build a stronger grassroots organization.

The Reorganization Convention is open to all Trousdale County Democrats. Attendees should arrive early to complete credentialing forms and to be admitted prior to 7 p.m., when the meeting will begin. For more information, contact Jim Falco, Secretary/Treasurer, at 615-374-0416.

Rabies clinic to be held April 1

The Trousdale County Health Department is sponsoring a Rabies Clinic in the coming weeks.

Trousdale County’s clinics will be held on Saturday, April 1, with a charge of $11 per dog or cat. The vaccine is good for one year.


State law requires that any dog 3 months or any cat 6 months of age or older be vaccinated against rabies. Also Hartsville City Ordinance No 3-201 states “RABIES VACCINATION REQUIRED. It shall be unlawful for any person to own, keep, or harbor any dog or cat without having duly vaccinated against rabies in accordance with State Law.”

All dog and cat owners failing to comply with this law will be subject to prosecution.

Clinics will be set up in the following areas:

Cato (Old School, 8-8:45 a.m.)

Beech Grove (Old School, 9-9:30 a.m.)

Willard/Templow (Willow Grove UMC, 9:45-11:30 a.m.)

Castalian Springs (Keller’s Restaurant, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)

Providence (Community Center, 1:15-1:45 p.m.)

Hartsville (Parker Tobacco Warehouse parking lot, 2-3 p.m.)

For more information, contact the Trousdale County Health Department at 615-374-2112.

Analysis says GOP plan could cost 24M their coverage

Twenty-four million people by 2026. That’s the estimate given by the estimate given by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of how many people would lose health coverage if the American Health Care Act is passed and signed into law.

The report points out the AHCA allows insurers to charge up to five times more for older enrollees, and AARP’s policy analysts say states would be able to further increase that ratio.

AARP Tennessee’s new state president, Kraig Smith, says that’s only part of the problem.

“Older Tennesseans and the disabled depend on Medicare for affordable health care,” he said. “The voucher system which is currently being proposed by Congress would dramatically increase health-care costs for the current and future retirees. It could mean many thousands of dollars out of their own pockets.”

The report predicts that premiums will increase until 2020 and then drop to 10 percent lower than current rates by 2026. That only applies to the younger population. Supporters of the legislation say it will lower rates for a majority of Americans.

A key component of the House plan is its voucher system, which would provide vouchers to people to purchase insurance through a private insurer. Smith says that will leave the remaining costs passed on to the consumer.

“If the voucher system is enacted, there will be a baseline amount of benefits and dollar value and anything above that would be passed on to the beneficiary,” he explained.

This month, AARP issued a letter to Congress opposing the House plan, asserting it would shorten the life of Medicare, cause cost hikes in insurance premiums, risk the ability of aging Americans to live independently and give tax breaks to big drug companies and health-insurance companies.

Southern Women’s Show returns soon

The 31st annual Southern Women’s Show returns to the Music City Center from March 30 through April 2. The Southern Women’s Show draws thousands of guests yearly, who enjoy shopping, prizes, celebrity guests and delicious cuisines.

Guests can expect over 500 exhibits, with old favorites returning alongside exciting new additions. The Pavilion of Etsy Sellers will highlight local Etsy artisans that are featuring their one-of-a-kind pieces. Some of the artisans include Freshie & Zero and Litchen Hollow each with their own take on handcrafted jewelry; Tiramisu Paperie with a line of stationary and cards sure to delight; and Kaleidoscope Frames featuring beautiful wood working craftsmanship.

Courtesy of SouthernWomensShows.com
With over 180,000 square feet of space, the Southern Women’s Show offers something for everyone.

Additional exhibitors at the show are Flip-Hem, a product that creates adjustable hems in seconds; Rent the Chicken, backyard chickens for rent that provide farm fresh eggs; and HeArt of Nashville and Poppie’s Boutique, exhibitors that are bringing a traveling Airstream for show guests to shop in.

Guests can now purchase a 4-Day Pass, which allows them admittance into the show Thursday through Sunday. Friday, March 31 is Pink Friday, the Southern Women’s Show’s version of Black Friday, where exhibitors with pink balloons are offering exclusive specials. Mother Daughter Day and Girls Night Out are returning fan favorites; with free gifts and prizes to win plus the Local 140 Firefighter Fashion Show happens every day.

In addition to the incredible commerce, guests can also enjoy runway fashion shows, cooking classes and informed speakers. From beauty to home décor, travel to fashion, the show is an all-inclusive, pampered experience you won’t want to miss!

Show hours are: Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are $13 for adult, $6 ages 6-12 and free for children under 6 with a paying adult. Advance tickets can be purchased for $11 online at SouthernWomensShows.com or for $8 at Walgreens locations.

For more details, call 800-849-0248 or visit SouthernWomensShows.com.

Guest View: Sunshine laws keep public in the know

Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of government transparency, kicked off on Sunday. This year, opinion journalists might be tempted to turn critical eyes toward Washington, D.C.

The recently departed Obama Administration never delivered on its promise to be the most transparent in history, and the new Trump Administration seems to have an equal or even greater taste for secrecy. Heck, last year saw public records and the proper – or improper – handling of them help decide the presidential election.

There’s plenty of red meat to go after in the nation’s capital, but the obvious target is not always the best target.

This Sunshine Week, consider focusing on local and state governments.

Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what governments at all levels do. The Freedom of Information Act and the state public records and open meetings laws it spawned do not exist to serve journalists. They exist to empower the people to hold their government accountable. Journalists play an essential role in informing the public, but the tools of transparency are for everyone. For example, they are widely used economic tools as myriad industries rely on public records to plan, check up on rivals and prepare for public-private contracts.

We in the media sometimes forget all of that, and so do lawmakers.

I recently testified at a state legislative hearing on a bill that would set timelines for responding to public records requests. Journalists queued up to tell the senators why the bill was important, but the general public was notably lacking from the room. They weren’t excluded; they just didn’t show up.

When it was my turn to speak, I used the opportunity to remind everyone that the bill under consideration was for all residents, not just journalists.

Most people lack the time to visit a statehouse hearing in the middle of a workday, but their place in the sunshine almost always should supersede the self-importance of the press and the penchant for secrecy of the government.

When I was done speaking, one senator took issue with that view. “You said this wasn’t a bill just for journalists,” he stated. “I’d be more comfortable if it was because I do trust [journalists] to get the information and be responsible in the mainstream media.”

That senator, himself a former journalist, called out political opponents, candidates and bloggers. In his view, they use public records laws to cause problems, advance political agendas or try to get even. He suggested that maybe journalists deserve access but the public does not, or at least the members of the public who cause headaches for him and his fellows.

Down that slippery slope lies great peril.

Public records must not be the privilege of only the government-sanctioned few.

When the media don’t pay attention, secrecy entrenches itself. Local governments withhold details of investigations from parents or neighborhoods. State lawmakers, at the behest of special interests, pass creative exemptions to public records laws that move more information behind the wall of secrecy. Public officials high and low play fast and loose with their electronic communications, texting discussions to avoid scrutiny.

Those are the things the media and other watchdogs must focus on during Sunshine Week and every week.

Rest assured, there will be plenty of coverage of the Trump administration. The big media outlets – The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, etc. – the national blogs and other sources will cover and comment the hell out of the national open government news. If The (Portland) Oregonian, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and other papers weigh in, their commentary may be lost in the D.C. din. But when they editorialize about transparency in Oregon, Ohio or Virginia, they can lead the conversation that every community should have.

Watchdogs must not allow Washington red meat to distract them.

Christian Trejbal is the founder of Opinion in a Pinch and was AOJ’s open government chair for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter @ctrejbal.

Guest View: ‘100K Tree Day’ leaves impact on Tennessee

Tennessee is fresh off the heels of the largest volunteer community tree-planting event in our state’s history, and I am proud to announce the results of this undertaking.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the Tennessee Environmental Council orchestrated the “100K Tree Day,” during which we gave away 100,000 red oak, tulip poplar, Virginia pine, American plum and redbud seedlings. The seedlings were planted by 20,000 volunteers across all 95 Tennessee counties. Volunteers also ran some 130 distribution locations across Tennessee. Participants picked up and planted the seedlings in their yards, farms, public spaces and state parks. I continue to be amazed and inspired by the enthusiastic participation from all corners of our state.

The purpose of this event was to strengthen our communities and our environment. We live in the most biologically diverse inland state in America, and our tree canopy and forests are key to healthy ecosystems and a healthy economy.

We pulled this off thanks to the support and involvement of donors, volunteers, and key partners, including Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, State Parks, Department of Agriculture/Division of Forestry, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, UT Ag Extension, rural electric cooperatives, and dozens of organizations.

We offered 100,000 seedlings at no cost to participants, and they were planted 100 percent by Tennessee volunteers! Can free seedlings planted by volunteers carry economic value? In fact, yes. The economic value to Tennessee, both immediate and long term, is immense. Some of these values include the following:

Consumer value: At an average estimated retail value of $10 per tree, the direct economic value to participants is approximately $1 million.

Clean air value: $4.65 billion in air pollution control over 50 years (estimated $62,000 per tree x 75,000 trees.)

Clean water value: 3.75 billion gallons of rainfall intercepted in the tree canopy over 50 years, reducing stormwater runoff and downstream flooding (1,000 gallons/year per tree x 75K trees). The value to reducing stormwater and downstream flooding is significant. According to TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau, “Just 100 trees can capture nearly 140,000 gallons of rainwater annually, limit storm water runoff and add critical water resources to our reservoirs.”

Volunteer value: The estimated labor value of 20,000 volunteers contributing two hours each is $922,800 in service to our communities (20,000 x $23.07/hour x 2 hours).

Cooling value: “The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Climate value: 64,875 tons of sequestered carbon dioxide over 50 years (13 lbs CO2 per year per tree for first 10 years, 40 lbs per year for subsequent 40 years x 75,000 trees).

Shade value: When these trees reach maturity, they will provide between 300 and 700 acres (or more) of canopy (estimated at 200-400 square feet per tree x 75,000 trees).

Community value: 50 to 200 years of economic and environmental benefits to communities as trees mature.

The “100K Tree Day” succeeded because many individuals, organizations, and agencies took part in it. It was truly a statewide community effort, and I extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who participated! Imagine these 100,000 seedlings growing for decades, reaching maturity, providing shade, fruit, beauty, and a host of community values. These trees will provide benefits to our communities, to our children, and our grandchildren – for generations to come. All of this, from volunteers spending a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, planting trees.

And we’ll do it again next year! Mark your calendars and join us for the next “100K Tree Day,” taking place on Feb. 24, 2018. Registration for free seedlings will begin this fall.

John McFadden, PhD, has been CEO of the Tennessee Environmental Council since 2006.

Guest View: IMPROVE Act means a safer Tennessee

Safety is a major challenge on our county, city and state roadways, and funds are badly needed to address these issues.

The need for safer roads for our public safety responders was evident in 2005 when one of our THP troopers lost his life while conducting a traffic stop. Trooper Todd Larkins pulled over a vehicle on I-40 in Dickson County. As he was conducting the traffic stop, Trooper Larkin was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer.

As a former state trooper and now Commissioner of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, I know the impact of a strong interstate system. New roads and bridges will create a safer experience for both citizens and visitors. Road safety is vital to our drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and public safety personnel. Tennessee is growing in popularity for travelers and people who desire to relocate to the South. Our metropolitan areas are experiencing an influx of new residents. It’s imperative that we enhance the road systems that have gone too long without improvement projects.

On Jan. 18, 2017, Gov. Bill Haslam announced his vision for safer roads and bridges with the IMPROVE Act, which cuts taxes and provides the state a safe and reliable transportation network for the next generation. Tennessee is no longer a travel-through state. People are flocking to our great state as it has become an attractive destination to live. With the increasing population our state is experiencing, your safety is our priority.

Road projects must occur to enhance the law and improve safety for our state troopers and public safety officers who monitor your safety. The IMPROVE Act will address our aging infrastructure. Bridges, roads and intersections will all see improvements, which will translate into a safer drive for you and your family.

The IMPROVE Act will bring in $278 million in new dollars to the state as well as $78 million for counties and $39 million for cities – all for transportation while limiting the impact on the average Tennessee motorist to approximately $4 a month. The IMPROVE Act also makes sure non-Tennesseans pay their fair share for traveling on our roads. Being a previous Hamblen County Mayor, I know the importance of improving roadway systems. Enabling communities to experience economic growth translates into a vibrant place to live and raise a family.

On behalf of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Governor’s IMPROVE Act is vital to the basic safety and well-being for generations to come.

David W. Purkey is Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Letter to the Editor: Don’t rush health care changes

Dear Editor:

Congress is making decisions about health care that could profoundly change rural Tennessee. Congressional leaders plan to quickly repeal Obamacare, cut Medicaid and overhaul Medicare. These actions could reshape our rural communities for years to come.

That is because careless congressional action could close scores of small-town hospitals, irreversibly damaging the communities they serve. Tennessee already leads the nation in the rate of rural hospital closings, and half of rural hospitals are losing money. They get most of their revenues from federal programs, so changes to those programs can spell the difference between survival or extinction.

The loss of a community’s only hospital is disastrous. It diminishes access to care for everyone, whether or not they have health insurance. It takes longer to get to an emergency room after a stroke or car crash. Cancer patients must travel farther for chemotherapy. Doctors move away to communities with hospitals available to care for their patients.

The impact goes beyond health care. Hospitals are among the largest employers. When a hospital dies, it hemorrhages jobs. Without a hospital, it’s hard to recruit new industry. Young people move away. Communities wither, a cherished way of life fades.

Health care in rural America is very dependent on federal programs, especially Medicaid.

Medicaid, known in Tennessee as TennCare, has changed dramatically from its beginning 50 years ago. It has evolved into a principal source of funding for health care systems that benefit the entire community.

Medicaid covers over half of pregnant mothers and babies, funding the neonatal centers that are essential parts of Tennessee’s health care system. Medicaid covers over half of all Tennessee kids and is the single most important payer for services for children with severe health care needs. It covers a quarter-million Tennesseans with disabling illnesses. Medicaid pays for 61 percent of nursing home care.

It is the largest single payer for mental health and addiction services, a crucial role in Tennessee, where the opioid and meth addiction epidemics are among the worst in the nation.

In all its varied roles, Medicaid is especially important in rural Tennessee, where enrollment in the program is generally twice as high as in urban counties.

Congress proposes to cut $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next several years. Our elected officials must understand what that would mean for Tennessee, and must ensure that congressional actions do not harm rural Tennesseans’ health.

Please, Congress, don’t rush health reform. Rural Tennessee is depending on you to get it right.


Michele Johnson

Executive Director,

Tennessee Justice Center