“So Long To All My Friends In Tupelo, Mississippi” – RIP Captain Larry Bell

The Late Captain Larry Bell in a screenshot from a TV news story I was covering in the late 1990s back in NW Tennessee. This was a marijuana eradication he was involved in. My friend from law enforcement and TV news days died Thursday – August 11, 2022 with one of his closest friends at his side.

Dyer County, Tennessee

Larry Bell and I shared an office together in the 1980’s when I was still in law enforcement. We both had moved into administrative jobs, more or less, at that point and it became necessary to have an office together. I sort of knew Larry before. My mother and his wife Linda were coworkers for years. I must admit I wasn’t keen on sharing an office with him. But, by the time I left law enforcement in 1990 we had become such pals from our years in that office discussing everything you could think of.

 

Captain Larry Bell with the Dyer County, TN Sheriff’s Department mapping out search areas for a missing person in Tigrett, TN. The was in the late 1990s.

Fast forward to my post law enforcement career in TV news covering several states in the mid-south, I continued to run into Larry in a different capacity. But we still got along just like those days back in those small basement office of the Dyersburg Police Department.

Above, Captain Larry Bell clowning around with me just after they had stopped someone in a police pursuit. Larry knew how to be a very serious lawman, but also knew how to keep it light and all of us laughing. 

Years later when I was covering news Larry would always turn to the camera at some point when he could and say, “I’d like to say hi to all my friends in Tupelo, Mississippi.” It cracked me up every time and it became our laughing joke for may more years to come. It stuck.

Larry eventually retired when the sheriff he worked for became the US Marshal for the Memphis district. He and his wife Linda continued to enjoy life, ride horses and do the retirement thing. I’d occasionally get the opportunity to see Larry when I back in Tennessee after my move to Virginia, but it was a rare opportunity.

Larry wore many hats in his law enforcement career. After serving in the military he was a Tennessee State Trooper, eventually a Field Training Sergeant for the Dyersburg Police Department and then Captain (Chief Deputy) for the Dyer County Sheriff’s Department until he retired.

I knew Larry’s health was failing over the past year. Our mutual friend, Joe Markham who was much closer to Larry and his wife Linda, would keep me updated whenever he would go back to visit from his home back in Florida. Joe notified me on Thursday Larry took his last breath with him at his side in a Jackson, Tennessee hospital. Joe and Larry’s sister-in-law were able to get Larry’s wife to the hospital to see him just an hour or so before he passed.

Larry is literally a dying breed.  A true lawman. A true friend though thick and thin. One of the good ones. A good one I will reflect on fondly and smile. Often. Fly high Larry and RIP my friend.

Larry’s funeral and memorial arrangements are being handled by the Johnson-Willams funeral home in Newbern, Tennessee. You can click here for more info as it become updated. 

 

Captain Larry Bell with the Dyer County, TN Sheriff’s Department making our search areas for a missing person in Tigrett, TN. The was in the late 1990s.

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It’s Not The Same. But It’s Still Great!

Somewhere On The Bay

For 13 years we’ve been coming to this spot on the Chesapeake Bay. Summer calls you here after those long, cold and dark winter days.

Adam crawling on the beach of the bay in October 2009. His very first visit.

Adam and Yvette doing our first time at Chesapeake Bay in October 2009.

We gave it a test run one year in the October off season to see if we’d like the area. Adam wasn’t even walking yet back then. We loved it, so did he. Peyton wasn’t even born yet.

This year we weren’t all able to stay the entire week together. We managed to squeak out the weekend together. Commitments back home away kept Yvette and Adam from staying beyond that. But, Peyton and I have stayed the entire week!

Our daughter Peyton on the shore of the bay June 2022.

For over a decade it’s been all of us here together during those lazy summer days. Kids playing in the water along the shore along with crabs and shrimp on the porch overlooking the bay. It’s a special relaxing place and time of the year.

Our son Adam and mom Yvette chowing down on some crabs at the bay in summer 2021.

This year it’s been all about a dad and his daughter. A rare occurrence where we can just hang out and do nothing. Play board games, (I’ve yet to win a Monopoly session!) kayak along the shore and take long lazy naps.  Anyone that’s raised kids knows how fast it goes by. The days can sometimes be long, but the years are short. You turn around and it’s over. They are on their own and all of the sudden, it’s quiet again.

All of us on the shore back in the summer of 2013.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t take this special week for granted. I do miss those long conversations with my wife. The afternoon walks along the beach, an evening cocktail on the porch as storms work across the bay out front. But, I know this time is so special and so rare.

A thunderstorm marches across the Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 2021 during our stay.

Adam and mom grilling up some food during the brief time here in summer 2022.

Adam & Peyton almost a decade ago heading down to the water on the bay back in the summer of 2013. They’ve been bay kids since birth.

Peyton isn’t so tiny anymore. And the kid who wouldn’t even get off a mat and touch the sand years ago, is now venturing our on her own in the water with confidence.

Virginia is such a unique state. It’s really got it all. You can be in the Blue Ridge Mountains  where we live, and within 2-3 hours on the coastal waters.

It’s a great mix but an entirely different experience.

One I plan to enjoy 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Before Sunrise Summer Quietly Arrived And Unpacked

Kentucky Lake – Tennessee side 2022

Without a sound summer arrived this morning at 5:14 eastern time. I think I was still asleep, but I may not have been. I love summer. It’s my favorite time of the year. I really wish it officially started on Memorial Day weekend. (That’s the unofficial start anyway) By time official summer is underway, it seems like it’s already headed toward leaving and fall’s getting ready to move in.

There’s nothing like summer here in the mountains of the Blue Ridge, and there’s nothing like summer on the lake back in Tennessee. Summers on the lake there with one of my best friend, Burnie, have been a ritual since 1977. As teens we went there to his parents place. As adults some 45 years later we go back there at least once a summer and reconnect. It’s Burnie’s place now, his parents have long passed away. Boating across the water, remembering those days we’d tie up dollar store rafts to a pole in the water and float a cheap styrofoam ice chest out there filled with White Mountain Coolers. Yuck!

My friend Burnie pilots as we head back to the dock at the cabin after a beautiful summer day on Kentucky Lake about 20 minutes south of Paris, TN.

Today it’s fancier, and long gone are those spartan days of playing matchstick poker. There was no telephone back then at the cabin. We literally had to drive about 15 minutes into town if we needed to make a call. Today there’s internet, satellite TV and more. I still long for the matchstick poker days in some ways.

But regardless, I still love summer and all of its peepers at night. The lightning bugs, distant thunder and lightening across the Tennessee River channel in Houston or Stewart County. Or behind the mountains here at home over in Rockbridge or Augusta.

It doesn’t really matter where you are when summer arrives. Most of us, even if you hate summer and the heat, find some comfort in knowing we don’t have to fight the cold and snow for a few months. The pipes don’t freeze and naps on the porch are so much sweeter.

Summer will go just about as fast as it arrives. So I’ll enjoy the coming weeks. I hope you do too.

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Doug Viar Taught Me Everything I Ever Learned About Covering News – Sure Wish He Was Still Around

Photo courtesy of Clayton Hayes & his son Tod. : That’s Doug Viar in the black shirt on the far right. This was covering President Clinton and VP Gore back in the mid 1990s during an appearance in downtown Dyersburg, Tennessee. To my left was Tod Hayes.

I’ll never, ever forget the day Doug Viar’s daughter, Lori, sent me an instant message  over Facebook. “Tommy, daddy is gone.” It sort of confirmed something I had a funny feeling about that day. I’d been trying to reach Doug. There was a severe weather outbreak back in his area of Western Tennessee near Jackson. I never got an answer, not on his office phone, not on his cell. But, I figured maybe the power was out and storms had taken out cell service. Lord knows, he and I had covered dozens and dozens of tornadoes where we had nothing more than walkie talkies to communicate, or simply used pay phones and a roll of quarters. Though it was odd I hadn’t heard from him and wasn’t able to reach him with such a significant severe outbreak.

This would be Doug’s last Facebook post ever. He’d made mention of a severe wether outbreak on his own website then posted it that morning around 9:20. A few hours later, Doug was gone.

Doug had gotten up from his office chair that morning to go to the kitchen for a coffee refill. He was walking down the steps, literally dropped dead, and was gone.

I learned most everything I know about covering news from Doug Viar. Not some college classroom where they are talking ethics, that hardly ever get practiced anymore. No, I learned ethics and the true trade from Doug. And he had tremendous ethics. He was one of the best in the country. Learning under him helped make me a close 2nd or 3rd, but never a duplicate.


Above, some of Doug’s outros from various news reports over the years. He’s voice was well recognized all over the mid-south and the U.S.

Doug and I were a rare breed of reporters and videographers in those days. He owned all of his own gear. I did too later on after I learned the craft. We flew ourselves everywhere by private plane, both of us pilots. We often joked that we’d be to the scene of a news event, shoot and cover it, fly back and edit, fly the tape to the station, and be back home before the other guys even arrived! There were no sat trucks in those days except in large metro markets. TVU’s and even cell phones weren’t around in the beginning.

Doug and I chatting during a Clinton-Gore appearance in NW-TN back in 1996. Tod Hayes is over my shoulder with a camera on his shoulder.

Every year on this date, I remember Doug. Why? Because he meant so much to me personally. There were few real newsmen (yes, he would approve of the word men) like Doug back then. There really aren’t any these days. He simply would scoff and cuss at what he would be seeing now.

I stay in touch with his wife Margaret. I always call her my second mom. I still stay in touch with his daughters, Lori and Michelle. And his brother George, who taught me to fly airplanes.

Doug wasn’t one to dwell on the sad times. So I won’t here. Not much. He’s missed, and 11 years later it still stings. But, I’ll leave you on a happy note. One of the funniest times I can remember. The endless outtakes he was trying to do for the groundbreaking of a law enforcement museum near the home of legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser. It became quite the circus while he tried to finish. This is how I like to remember Doug.

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March Begins. I Can Coast Now.

That’s me back in March of 1968 in front of my childhood home, an old log cabin, standing in a rare March snow for NW Tennessee.

I can remember it. Clear as day. Every year on March 1st, even if it was snowing, my daddy would say, “Tommy, we can coast now. We’ve made it through February, that’s the worst of it.” He’d go on to tell me that even though we can get some major snows in March, and we did. Lort! 1968, 14 inches in one day and no power for a week on the farm back in NW Tennessee as a child growing up. My dad assured me March snows can’t stay around long and spring was well on its way! He was right.

Winter back there could be gentle or harsh. Even if we didn’t get a lot of snow, I recall winters as being really dead. Hundreds of acres of empty, harvested soybean and cotton rows frozen in sometimes single digit weather. My daddy would often be in his coveralls going out to break ice in the ponds so the cows could drink. Or, him on the tractor hauling square bales of hay to the wooden feeders out in the pasture.

My dad, Billie Stafford, and I back in 1966 out feeding the cows one day. This particular day didn’t look too terribly cold.

Winters here in the Blue Ridge aren’t that much different than those back near the Mississippi River. The county I grew up in was as far west as you could go without dropping off into the Mighty Missip! Though we were about 4 weeks ahead of the seasons in warm weather and four seasons behind with fall and winter arriving.

Even with a decent frost on the ground at the farm this March 1, 2022, there are sure signs of spring. Winter is packing its bags. Though we still have several weeks of back and forth cold vs warm weather here in the mountains, warmer days are quickly approaching.

I’ve never been much of a winter person, even back in Tennessee. I couldn’t wait until those hot summer days riding on my horse without a shirt around the farm and in the river bottoms with the sun blazing. The same holds true here in the Blue Ridge. I look forward to those late afternoon thunderstorms rumbling across the mountains off in the distance. Sitting in the creek near the house when it’s hot as hell and the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Soon the time changes, the days get much longer, and we can say goodbye to the ice and snow and the cold winds blowing.

Welcome Meteorological Spring Class of 2022!

My dad and I back in 1966 out feeding the cows one day. This particular day didn’t look too terribly cold.

 

 

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Want To Know Why What’s Happening Is So Bad? I’ll Tell You.

The last two years has done nothing short of destroying what we as Americans valued most. Tradition. Growing up used to be so simple for youngsters all across this country from Montana to Arkansas. Dates on a Friday night, getting married, raising kids and drifting off into those twilight years together until the last rays of sun shine.

It’s that teenage couple in Hoxie, Arkansas taking an afternoon trip to the Mississippi River to sneak a beer or two and a kiss as the sun sets to the west. It’s the couple from Virginia that made their home in Montana now with three kids and their entire life ahead.

In 2019 we were all pretty assured our lives would be fairly close to what our parents experienced. More or less. Grow up, date, marry, kids. You were assured of a decent job or career. If you wanted to create your own path and become very wealthy, you could.

It’s not that you can’t nowadays, but it’s even harder. The innocence has been stolen.

We are living in some historically evil times. Even biblical. Say what you want about the so called pandemic. It’s gone far beyond that. Never in our lives have families been torn apart in the name of “safety” to others. Being forced to leave your mom, dad, wife or child to die alone in a hospital room or nursing home isn’t nobility, it’s cruelty. And it’s not science.

Now inflation is at a point not seen in 4 decades. The closest thing I remember is when I was a teen living back in Tennessee. Interest rates were in the double digits, gas was being rationed, and there was no real plan to curtail it. Those were Jimmy Carter days. Not much unlike what we are seeing now. But this one is on steroids, and the worst is yet to come.

It’s my hope that kids who have been forceably masked soon see that’s in the past. It’s cruel and should have never happened. Faces are to be seen. Smiles exchanged, hugs to be given. Our governor here in Virginia is doing some pretty fast work to unravel all of that. So far, I give him high marks. Time will tell.

No one is sitting on the edge of their seat to hear what I have to say. But, if I could say one thing. Live your life. Life ends in death. Live it now, fully.

 

 

 

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So Long Mr. Luck

Mr Carleton Luck of Nellysford passed away on December 13, 2021. Photo via Hill & Wood Funeral Home – Charlottesville, VA

 

I met Mr. Carleton Luck over a decade ago in the Nellysford, Virginia coffee, wine shop & restaurant called Basic Necessities. One of my absolute favorite places on this earth, by the way.  I know of no nicer man on this planet. He was the consummate gentleman in every respect. We talked about everything, sales, science, politics, and yes, car restorations. He had the ultimate car. Well, actually an early SUV, a legit Ford Bronco!

 

My wife Yvette, next to Mr. Luck’s vintage Ford Bronco outside Greenwood Market several years ago. Yvette loved his Bronco and he was always so happy to let people check it our whenever he drove it.

Over several years Mr. Luck had the Bronco restored to its classic state, just off the showroom floor. Occasionally he’d drive it around the area and let people check it out.

Though I loved the Bronco, I loved Mr. Luck far more. His sincerity. His willingness to listen, always. His kindness. Chatting over a cup of coffee. His offering up of complements on our children. And his gentle advice on child rearing. “You’ve got a strong willed boy there Tommy. He will do great things later on and he won’t be a pushover to anyone.” Never forgot that one.

I found out by accident this Wednesday when chatting with a friend over lunch that Mr. Luck had passed. He asked if I knew Mr. Luck, he discovered he’d died while out of town over the Christmas holiday. Sadly I did know Mr. Luck, and I was floored.

I can’t remember the last time Mr. Luck and I spoke in person. Probably early fall 2021 over  over a cup of coffee. But I will never forget the 10 plus years of such great conversations he and I had. He was one of my favorite people of all time.

You can read more about Mr. Luck here in his obituary. 

I hope he’s driving that beautiful vintage Ford Bronco all over heaven about right now.

Happy trails Mr. Luck. You are missed, so very much.

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Two Years Later. Here We Are. What Are You Going To Do About It?

If there’s ever been a time to think clearly it’s now.

So here we are, almost two years into two weeks to flatten the curve. How are you feeling about yourself these days? You still buying into it? Do you actually believe the story you’re being told, that this is about your health and safety? At no time in history, for the good, have such extreme measures been taken to stop a virus with almost no real danger of being fatal. Yet, here we are two years later.

Back in April of 2020 I made this post called, “Keep The Fire Burning : Why A Hug, A Handshake & Friends Matter Now More Thank Ever.”

Here’s a little of what I said in that post. ”

I’m not debating the existence of a virus or its origin. I am debating the fact we are losing the very humanity we say we are all practicing by distancing. Ratting out neighbors and friends. It’s one of the most inhumane things being done right now. Many people that profess themselves to be good Christians are doing exactly opposite of what Jesus was known for. Washing the feet of others, taking care of the sick and diseased.  Instead we are now running and hiding, leaving a loved one to die alone in a nursing home or hospital. Some think this is the end of times. It is not.

I’m a hugger. Anyone that knows me knows that. These days it’s become such an anomaly that when two friends that are okay with it cross paths it’s another entire celebration of it’s own. High five!

Do you not see what those in power are doing to us as a society? 6 foot distancing. Masks. Don’t get near anyone. Don’t assemble. Don’t go to church. Can you imagine if someone told you this 25 or 30 years ago? You’d laugh in their face.”

 

I wouldn’t change a thing I said back then over 1.5 years ago. If anything it should be in bold!

We are losing, folks. Losing human touch. Even today you have to calculate if you should hug someone, shake their hand, ask permission. Fist bump instead?? How are you feeling about staying home and not visiting your mom, or grandma to protect yourself and others? Grandma is gone now, you never got to day goodbye. Why, because you have been intimidated, influenced by powers that could care less about your true well being. To the contrary. Have you turned off the idiot box long enough to see what’s actually happening in countries like Australia, Austria, Germany, Canada? People being locked in camps because they won’t quarantine, get the vax, and so on. Sound familiar? Go real a little history if not.

We’ve seen otherwise healthy, rational humans turned into scared, hopeless robots. And that’s exactly what’s wanted. Just when do you think this ends? Do you magically think it will end when everyone is vaxed? Has their vax passport? Believe me, people in these counties I just mentioned above know what’s up. They are leaving in droves. I personally know 6  people that did just that before they couldn’t get out. They knew what was coming. History repeating itself.

I won’t preach here. If you haven’t seen it by now, you probably won’t. I’ve had to let many people go over the last two years. It’s like watching someone drown. They madly thrash in the water screaming for you to save them. “Help, help!” But you know if you do, they will pull you under and you drown too. So you must let them go.

It’s my hope you hug, you shake that hand of a longtime friend. You release your fear. Be with friends. Take that mask off. Take the mask off of your children, now! See the smiles, live your life. Celebrate this season for all it has to give. Rebirth. Life. Hope.

If there’s ever been a time to think clearly, it IS now.

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I Didn’t Vote For Trump. I Didn’t Vote For Biden. Now For Afghanistan

Screenshot courtesy of Benny Johnson – Facebook.

To the dismay of many of my Republican friends. Here’s some news. I didn’t vote Trump. Lord knows I didn’t vote Biden. I’ve never been that intoxicated. I voted for Jo Jorgensen. Spare me the attacks of how I threw away my vote. I had my reasons. Now that we have that off the table. There is this.

One of the reasons I often vote libertarian these days is because both parties have failed us greatly. In short. They are habitual liars and I’ve yet to see a modern day Republican for smaller government. Cutting budgets or the like. Most of them look like drunken Democrats padding the budget even more.

Which brings me to occupation in other countries. I don’t support it. Take care of the homeland and then other missions where we can. That said. “IF” we are going to insert ourselves into battles globally (great going GWB) then we should at least have the decency to leave orderly and provide stability in a transition.

What we just watched happen in Afghanistan is beyond the word failure. It’s a tremendous humanitarian debacle that falls squarely on the shoulders of this president and his administration.

I have a good friend that I worked with for a number of years. She’s one of those hundreds of photos you saw during the fall of Saigon. This person has never verbally discussed what it was liked trying to flee with the family in tow as a child. But I’ve read her accounts annually when she remembers the day as a little girl in a plane headed to the US. Decades later she and her own family are doing well here. But you can tell from her written words it’s something we can’t imagine. I can’t help but imagine that she’s emotional over what’s playing out now. Though we haven’t discussed it.

Imagine someone in Afghanistan so desperate they cling to the wheels of a departing airplane rather than stay. Only to fall a thousand feet to their death back on the runway below. That’s how desperate the situation is there. We failed every person in Afghanistan that we promised, “We’ve got your back.” Hardly. That’s a big problem when we insert ourselves into other countries.

Another very close friend of mine is beside herself today. She has served 6 month rotations in Afghanistan for the past several years. She and hundreds of others did have the backs of the people In Afghanistan. She got home earlier this year. She is heartbroken and mad about what she’s witnessing. Rightly so.

This is so reminiscent of my teen years back in high school. Carter was President and Reagan was waiting in the wings. American let a lot of people down back then too. But we healed and made things better, eventually.

I could say so much about the current ongoing blunders. But Benny Johnson’s photo above & below says it all.

Screenshot courtesy of Benny Johnson -Facebook.

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Fly High. We’re Gonna Miss You Big Time Terry Martin

Terry Martin with me back in 2018 just after finishing up the detail job on my truck. His shop was in Nellysford, VA near the Blue Ridge Pig & Basic Necessities. Terry passed away over the weekend.

Kind and gentle souls are hard to find these days. I was lucky enough to find one in Terry Martin more than a decade ago. I got to know Terry over the years when I was the emcee for the annual Wintergreen Mountain Music Festival. Terry was often the sound man. All of those microphones, instruments, monitors, etc. Terry knew how to make it all work and sound absolutely perfect.

When you spent an entire day year after year doing those festivals, you get to talk a lot. Terry and I did that for sure. I found out Terry had an auto detailing business in nearby Nellysford and I started having him take care of our vehicles too. The job he did was impeccable. Every time he finished it looked like it was driven off the showroom floor.

Photo by Jody Carborn from Terry’s Facebook page. When Terry wasn’t detailing cars this is where you’d find him. At one of many concerts across the area in Virginia and beyond, setting up sound and running the mixing board.

Aside from Terry’s attention to the details in detailing, and being a topnotch sound man, he was just one hell of a nice man. We talked often when I was eating next door at Basic Necessities or if he was cleaning on one of our cars. A couple of years ago Terry dodged a big one. He had a heart attack, but bounced right back. He was back at it in no time. He told me, “That scared me. I thought I was a goner.” But he wasn’t and he lived to see more days.

And I haven’t even touched on the outpouring from the music industry. So many of them are remembering Terry in their messages after learning of his passing this weekend. He was so loved by all of his music family.

I don’t know what happened this time or how Terry passed. That’s not what’s important. Terry is gone and I will miss my friend. I’d always pass through Nellysford and look for the white BMW SUV near the old carwash and know Terry was in there busy detailing cars.

It’s going to be empty there now, sad and strange.

Fly high Terry, make some music and save us all a spot.

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