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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Farm Standard Time (FST)

Looking at the Blue Ridge Parkway from Maple Brook Farm, Virginia – July 2021.

We all know about DST. That’s where we advance our clocks one hour each spring of the year then fall back an hour in the fall to Standard Time.

Ever since I was a kid growing up on the farm back in West Tennessee near the Mississippi River I’ve been on what I call Farm Standard Time. FST if you will. I bought that same standard with me to the mountains here in Virginia back in 2004. Other than my time in the TV news business where, as my former TV weather colleague Dave Brown says, “You are a slave to the clock,” I’ve operated on FST.

Too many of us these days have become a slave to the clock and, hence, we miss most of life that’s in front of our very eyes. If the Covid debacle hasn’t shown that to you, I’m not sure what will.

Mind you, my life wasn’t always days on the farm here in Virginia. I had deadlines in a TV news job in the old days. But even then, I tried to carve out a gig that allowed me freedom to explore and not be under the direct thumb of some micromanager. For the most part I was successful in doing that. I traveled over several states hunting up stories I liked to tell except for the occasional plane crash or prison break, I was own my own doing my own thing.


Above, a sample of the life Yvette and I lived before checking out of the TV News business and a simpler lifestyle here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Yvette and I met we knew TV news wasn’t the lifestyle we wanted, especially to eventually raise a family in. We went against the grain and looked to get out, everyone thought we were crazy. We knew we weren’t. Today some of those very people wished they’d followed our lead and left. After a fellow anchor found out we were leaving TV News she said, “But you won’t be on TV.” Our response was, “That’s the plan.”

Some folks can’t sit still and enjoy a thunderstorm in the distance. The sound of creek on a hot summer afternoon. The sound of crickets and birds. Dew on a cornstalk just as the sun is rising over the mountains. I admit, sometimes it’s hard for me to shift into neutral, but not very often.

My son Adam on an afternoon run here in the rural mountains of the Blue Ridge. He and I run together about 3 times a week. It’s been one of the ultimate father/son bonding times.

If we all took more time, really took the time to ignore the noise, turn off the TV and enjoy what’s right in front of us, life would be so much better.

Ditch the clock and get on FST.

 

Looking at the Blue Ridge Parkway from Maple Brook Farm, Virginia – July 2021.

 

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The Mountains Miss You, And So Do I : Saying Goodbye To Steve Crandall

Photo By Tommy Stafford : My friend, the late Steve Crandall looks at the Blue Ridge Mountains off in the distance. Steve was always in awe of the beauty that surrounded where he lived. May 8, 2006

Roseland
Nelson County, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford

I’ve thought for months what I’d say when this day finally came. I really, really hoped I wouldn’t have to, but here we are. My friend Steve is gone. Mind you there are countless people that knew Steve far better than me. Lots of people have been friends with him much longer than the 17 or so years I knew him, but this is my personal remembrance.

Long before there was a Devils Backbone, Yvette and I became friends with Steve . We became friends with his wife Heidi and his children, Mallory, Justin & Brittany. Mallory was the first baby sitter our kids ever knew. One of their absolute favorites too! Heidi and other friends even hosted a baby shower at their farm for our first child, Adam, back in 2008.

Steve’s youngest daughter Mallory with our son Adam. On the left he was weeks old in 2008, on the right one year later at the one year anniversary of the opening of Steve’s Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. November 2008 & November 2009.

When a younger and more naive Tommy & Yvette came to Nelson, Steve welcomed us with open arms. When we started our magazine with nothing more than a red notebook binder with writing in it that said, “Story goes here, ads go here, etc,” Steve said, “I’m in.” He bought the entire first year and paid it up front. He barely knew who we were back then. But he believed in what we were doing. That magazine lasted 16 straight years. 193 issues. Steve was our first client, but this wasn’t a first for Steve. He did many firsts in business. But that’s not what I remember Steve for.

Steve with Yvette back in November of 2016 here in Nelson County, Virginia at his restaurant.

When Yvette and I were trying to have kids, and it wasn’t as easy as it looked, Steve constantly encouraged me. He said, “Being a father will be the greatest thing you will ever do in life!” He was right. Steve loved, loved, loved his family. Back then his kids were working their way through the final years of school and college. He was always talking about how proud he was of his entire family.

Steve was already sort of a celebrity in Nelson. His construction company Tectonics II was already very successful and it was normal seeing Steve around. I remember what Greg Shifflet, the former and longtime owner of Graves Grocery said about Steve when we did a story on the store back in the early 2000’s. “I don’t know how many people who come in, all they gotta do is shake their head at me and I can whip their sandwich up,” he laughs. Steve Crandall of Tectonics II in Beech Grove, eats breakfast there every morning. “He comes in, waves his hand,  and I got it for him because I’m the breakfast man!”

Steve (right) with his son Justin Crandall back in March of 2015 during the relocation of the old Arrington Depot across the lot at Devils Backbone. Justin took over ownership of the family construction business, Tectonics II, a few years ago.

Steve and I would often have what we started referring to as the men’s quarterly lunch. It was just guy talk about life and such. Steve always invited us to get togethers at his farm to make us relative newcomers feel welcome. Birthdays, Christmas parties, and such. I vividly remember two such parties. One was Steve’s 50th birthday, the other in July after a huge derecho hit the county. The temps were around 100 degrees and power was out everywhere, Steve still had his 4th of July party. And it was fantastic!

Steve (left) with one of his best friends, Tom Saunders just after a 2008 turkey hunt. Steve and Tom spent many days hunting and teaching others how to hunt.

Though Steve wasn’t responsible for teaching my wife Yvette how to hunt, he was the spark that got her interested. One of Steve’s very best friends, Tom Saunders, actually took Yvette under his wing and made her a very good hunter. But that started with Yvette being introduced to all of the amazing meals we had with Steve. Many from hunts he’d been on.

Steve in this photo from June 2012. His wife Heidi shot this as he was sawing his way down Route 151 after a major windstorm (derecho) downed trees from Northern Virginia to the NC/VA state line. Steve was literally clearing the highway where people could make it down the road after the storm.

The Steve I personally knew and liked wasn’t so much the energetic business, brewing and building icon that many others knew of him. It was just the guy that would sit on the tailgate of his truck and look in awe of the mountains and say, “Don’t we live in a beautiful place?” Or when the derecho downed trees everywhere he could be found sawing his way down 151 with a making the way for others. Or just calling me (at 5:45 AM!! – he was an early riser!) just to chat about something he was thinking about.

After spending the first 10 years in the north part of Nelson County, we finally bought a farm on the other side just a mile or so from Steve. He and his family became neighbors. I would pass his house several times a day headed down the mountain into Nellysford. Never in. million years did I think I’d be passing there one day and looking to the right and knowing he was gone for good.

I won’t go into details here other than to say that cancer took Steve’s life. He shared a lot of details, and concerns in those early days after the diagnosis. Fear wasn’t one of them, at least not back then. Steve was full of life and he knew all things in nature have a shelf life, including him. If it was going to be his time, so be it. He wanted to pass at home and, thankfully, he got that wish.

The last time I saw Steve and got to talk to him in person was shortly after Thanksgiving 2020. His wife Heidi called and said they had a lot of pumpkins if we wanted them for the pigs. While I was loading them, Steve walked out and chatted for a bit before walking over to his side by side and took off with a friend to check some game cameras. I spoke once more to him by phone in early 2021 and that was it. He never said it outright, but I could tell it wasn’t good. I never saw or spoke to him again after that. But I never quit looking at that house and farm on the right every single day as I passed.

And I will never stop looking at that house and farm on the right ever single day as I pass. I’ll smile and remember you Steve and all of those great memories of the past.

See you on the other side my friend.

 

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The Friend I Never Got To Know

I barely got to know Sam. In a matter of months we first met, became friends, and just like that he was gone. No, he didn’t die, but it almost felt a little bit like he did.

For 7 years we’d put up with a less than desirable neighbor. When you have a neighbor out in the country you generally have a lot of property bordering each other. So, it’s either really good or nothing at all. Ours was the latter. So when the property finally sold and one of the people living there was Sam, I was ecstatic. Sam was this slow talker with a thick Texas accent. Every word had at least three syllables. But he was good as gold, with a golden heart to match.

Sam was old school. And that, was just fine. He often quoted scripture. He was a brilliant cabinet maker and custom woodworker, turning out some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen. He’d often stroll down from the pine woods bordering our property when he’d hear me on the tractor. We’d have long conversations about current times, people and yes, Texas. Sam never quite felt at home in the Virginia Blue Ridge. Wind and snow didn’t help as we were transitioning from winter to spring. He missed those hot Texas days and many of his Texas friends. It was complicated too, I’ll leave it there. But …  Sam was my friend. Yvette had become really fond of Sam too.

I got a text one morning from Sam. He came in to load up some gear he was taking back to Texas. He said, “Hey I left you something on you back porch to remember me by!” I never got to see Sam in person before he headed back. I wish I had, I wanted to shake his hand, give him a hug, and a proper thank you. Don’t get me wrong his other friends that live there now are fine people and are truly wonderful neighbors, but I’ll always miss Sam dropping by to say, “howdy.”

That photo above is what Sam left on our back porch last week. It’s a custom made Texas star from wood collected out of a barn built in 1890. Sam used to make them back in Texas. He had a slogan for people he sold them to. “We can’t make you a celebrity, but we can make you a star!”

It was a perfect gift and a perfect reminder of the friend I sort of got to know. I’ll look at it often and remember those great conversations sitting on the tractor talking forever about life, God, and so much more.

You were a good one Sam and I’m glad we got the chance to meet. You truly are a star.

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