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Learning to be spontaneous | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on September 15,2022:

Spontaneity used to scare me – probably because as a child and later as a teenager, when I said or did something without proper forethought, I usually ended up putting my foot in my mouth or doing something awkward and embarrassing. As a result, I became an adult who makes lists, plans menus, and wants to know all the whens and wheres of an upcoming trip.

David, on the other hand, hates to plan. I’ve tried to explain that you miss some pretty spectacular events and experiences in life if you don’t make plans in advance, but he still prefers to follow his nose and see where it leads him. However, they say that married people become more alike the longer they’re together, and after over twenty-two years, we’ve both mellowed a bit. He’s learned that it’s a good idea to find out of someone will be at home before you go for a visit, and if the cook doesn’t plan in advance, he might not get his favorite German chocolate cake for his birthday. I, one the other hand, have learned that an afternoon motorcycle ride that turns into an overnight visit to Jefferson, Texas can be a lot of fun, even if you have to buy jackets because you didn’t plan for the cold front that came in overnight.

I recently experienced a lesson in spontaneity that will stay with me for a long time. Several times a year Believers’ Baptist includes a Family Fun Night in the schedule. In the past, this usually meant that, on a Sunday evening, we gathered on the parking lot bringing lawn chairs, outdoor toys and games, and desserts to share and spent the evening enjoying each other’s company. Earlier this year Family Fun Night was taken to the next level, and we had Church in the Park. We gathered at Sandy Creek Park where Red and Lori Lewis fried fish, hush puppies, and French fries, and the rest of us brought cole slaw, potato salad, watermelon, coolers full of soda, and enough desserts to send us all into diabetic comas. The children made full use of the splash pad and the playground equipment, and kids of all ages played football, corn hole, and other games. But mostly we simply enjoyed being together.

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Rains County Fair | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on September 8, 2022:

The first Rains County Fair was held on the courthouse square in Emory from October 31 through November 1, 1930. A lot has changed since then. The event has moved from the square to the Fair Grounds, it now extends over five days instead of two – and more if you include the judging of the exhibits before the Fair opens and the livestock sales afterward – and it is held in September. But most of all, the Rains County Fair is probably a lot more exciting than it was 92 years ago.

Of course, exciting depends on your perspective –but there’s something for just about everybody regardless of what your perspective is. There are rides for the thrill seekers and all kinds of treats for the foodies. It’s the big finale for students who have spent months raising what they hope will be the prize-winning animal in its class, and it’s the photo op of a lifetime for parents and grandparents whose young ones are competing in one of the pageants or showing off their courage and skill at mutton busting. Those interested and talented in creative arts, horticulture, mechanics, baking, and more can present their offerings to be judged, and those entries are then exhibited for everyone to see.

The Fair itself opens on Tuesday, September 13 and closes on Saturday, September 17. Fair week also includes activities that are not on the Fair Grounds. The 24th annual Classics around the Square car show will take place on September 10, and a parade through downtown Emory and a chili cook-off will take place on the final day of the Fair. There’s much more that I’ve missed, but you can find more information here in the Leader, on the Rains County Fair Facebook page, or at www.rains.agrilife.org/county-fair .

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Local Couple in The Chosen | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 30, 2022:

The Chosen is described on its website as “a fan-supported, seven-season episodic television series that creates an authentic and intimate picture of Jesus’ life and ministry, seen through the eyes of the people who knew Him.” It is also described as the #1 highest crowd-funded entertainment project of all-time, raising $10 million for Season 1 and over $40 million for Seasons 2 and 3. A press release says The Chosen has garnered praise from critics and fans alike for its historical and biblical accuracy, playful spirit, stirring drama, genuine humor, and disruptive impact.

The Chosen is offered free of charge on mobile and smart TV apps. Some income is generated for future episodes through the sale of series merchandise, but the majority of the funds comes from viewers who “pay it forward” by donating at certain levels based on the number of episodes that will be viewed for free because of their gift. Since they believed strongly in the project, local couple Kent and Stella Larson decided to support the series.

The Larsons faithfully followed website updates and newletters, and when a casting call for extras in Season 3 went out to funding partners early this year, their interest was piqued. Donors and immediate family members were eligible to participate and singles could bring one friend. The Larsons signed up and were accepted for the feeding of the 5,000 scene. Around the first of March Kent began to let his beard and hair grow, and they began to work on their costumes. Participants were given a choice of who they wanted to be – Jews, Greeks, Romans – and they were given a color palate based on that choice. Because of their Scandanavian and Northern European heritage, the Larsons opted to dress as merchants from the north.

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Crawfish – Up Close and Personal | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 16, 2022:

Crawfish. The first thing I did before beginning this column was to Google the correct name for these strange looking creatures. According to those who are supposed to know, people north of the Mason-Dixon Line normally refer to these miniature lobsters as crayfish while residents of the West Coast, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas call them crawdads. But since I married a Louisiana boy where they are known as crawfish, that’s what I’ll go with.

Texas wasn’t mentioned in the blog post I used for reference, but in the era before organized play dates and yoga classes for kids, my friends and I sometimes went fishing for crawdads in the drainage ditch near my house. We’d sneak a piece of bacon out of the refrigerator, wrap it around a rock, tie a string to it, and troll the muddy waters. I don’t think we ever caught one – in fact, I don’t remember ever seeing one. I don’t have a clue what we would have done if we had caught one – but if it was good enough for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, it was good enough for us.

As an adult, I tend to avoid the unattractive critters. I love a good shrimp boil, but I don’t get excited when the local restaurants begin advertising that the crawfish are in. I did have some fried crawfish tails once which, as I recall, I enjoyed very much. But I don’t want those feelers and legs rising to the top of my bowl of gumbo or gracing my plate of jambalaya. Maybe it’s the eyes. I’ve had a couple of creepy experiences with the eyes of seafood.

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Church in the Park | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 9, 2022:

The leadership of Believers’ Baptist Church puts a big emphasis on building relationships among the church family and the community. The Sunday morning schedule is set up with a fifteen minute gap between Sunday School and Morning Worship to allow time for members and visitors to meet new friends and touch base with old friends they haven’t seen in a week or so. It works so well that it’s often difficult for Pastor Jason to settle the congregation when it’s time for the service to begin.

On the last Sunday of the month, we have a casual Brown Bag Fellowship where people are encouraged to bring food from home or pick up fast food and spend some time together over lunch. We also have cookies and tea following business meetings, occasional potluck dinners, and an annual chili cookoff. And several times a year, we suspend regular Sunday evening studies in favor of Family Fun Night which usually takes place in the church parking lot. People bring lawn chairs, desserts, and outdoor games and enjoy more time together. This past Sunday we did something different and had Family Fun Night at Sandy Creek Park.

My research, which included a few minutes on Google and a note to Heather Rollins, indicated that the City of Emory purchased the land for the park sometime before 2015. With the help of various grants and other funds the City added bridges over the creek areas, a beautiful walking trail, several picnic tables and a concrete pad with some electricity for events. Recent City add-ons have included a splash pad and permanent restroom facilities. In addition, funds raised by dedicated people like Heather Rollins and her Keep Emory Beautiful projects have paid for an amazing children’s playground and a number of covered picnic tables as well as restoration of the arch bearing the Sandy Creek sign. They also planted some trees, but unfortunately, these were stolen. The hard work of all these people has turned Sandy Creek Park into a lovely retreat in the heart of Emory – the perfect place for Church in the Park.

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Perkins grew a salad! by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 12, 2022:

Back in March I wrote a column called “Back in the Garden” in which I mentioned David Perkins, our friend/neighbor who lives in our motor home. He had started a small garden, first in containers on the dashboard of the RV and then moving on to a couple of small plots near our storage shed.

The three of us along with Connie and Charles across the street have a small family-like community thing going. When they go to the 3rd Friday Food Giveaway at Freedom Church of God, they share when they receive more than they can use, and we sometimes think of each other when we shop. After reading my column about the difficulty of finding affordable vanilla wafers, Perkins – so called to avoid confusion with my David – brought me three boxes he found at Aldi. In return, I made a large banana pudding which was big enough to share. The sharing often extends to group meals, especially on holidays, but sometimes just because. Sunday was one of those more casual times.

The motor home is parked to the side of the driveway. It used to sit behind the house until it began to sink into the gopher runs. After that, David moved it to firmer ground, and we back the Kia in beside it. Perkins’ favorite perch is behind the computer desk which puts him next to one of several windows in the living area of his moveable home. Preferring natural air to artificially cooled, he uses fans and open windows until the temperatures approach triple digits. He says it gives him a feel of camping out, and it leads to a lot of our version of across-the-fence chats.

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It’s not just a book sale | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 28, 2022:

Another Friends of the Library Book Sale has come and gone, but it wasn’t just another book sale. During preparation for the fall sale last year, publicity chairman Marsha Rakestraw declared the sale to be an “event,” and so it has become.

Setup, which begins on Tuesday of sale week, has always been something of an event, but it was much easier this year. Having signed up for the first shift of the week, I arrived at the City Centre at 8:00 am expecting to walk into an empty space and begin setting up tables. However, several members and their husbands had already arrived, and almost half the tables were already set up. By the time the Road and Bridge crew arrived about fifteen minutes later and began bringing in boxes of books, the tables were in place and waiting to be filled. And I had done little more than help with table placement and stay out of the way.

The next three hours were a flurry of unboxing and sorting. Experienced volunteers coached newcomers on how to sort and display the books in a manner that led one customer to make this comment: “This is the best organized book sale that I’ve ever seen.” When David picked me up for lunch, there was still a lot to be done, but there were lots of people still working with more arriving all the time. I intended to return on Wednesday afternoon to help finish up, but by the time our ladies’ Bible study was over, set up was finished. All that was left to do was to rest up on Thursday and be ready when the doors opened on Friday.

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FOL Sorting Team is Ready for a Break | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 21, 2022:

Every week two or more dedicated members of the Friends of the Rains County Library meet at the Book Shed to go through accumulated donations and sort them in preparation for the next FOL Semi-Annual Book Sale Event. The Spring Event is happening this week at the Emory City Centre at 735 North Texas Street (Hwy 19) from 9 am to 5 pm on Friday and 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday – and the sorting team is ready for a break.

The team is headed by Jane Dillon and Alice Kissell and also includes Cindy Cooper, Marsha Rakestraw, Shirley Eversult, and Jim Dillon who provides transportation for picking up donations and muscle for moving and stacking boxes of books. When asked about the biggest problem the team faces, Jane Dillon immediately answered, “Space – that and the fact that most of us are over 70.”

One might expect the heat and cold to be a problem, but the team has that covered. Books were originally sorted and stored in the green-topped shed behind the Library, and an extension cord was run from the Library. But when the operation outgrew the space and a larger shed was installed on the other side of Doris Briggs Parkway, the team asked for and received wiring. Dillon says that fans and/or space heaters keep the temperature bearable, but most sorting is done in the morning to avoid the afternoon sun that shines directly on the shed door.

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Holiday Trees | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on March 17, 2022:

In this era of political correctness, one of the targets of the PC police has been the Christmas tree.  The use of greenery in celebrations isn’t a modern phenomenon. Evergreens of all kinds were used by the ancient Egyptians and Romans as a symbol of returning life in celebrations of the winter solstice, and Germans first brought a tree inside as a Christmas decoration in the 16th century. This tradition has become firmly entrenched in American culture and is the centerpiece of many celebrations of the birth of Jesus.

It’s hard to imagine how this beautiful symbol of such a joyous event could become the center of controversy, but in the mid-1800s several religious organizations, including the Roman Catholic Church, attempted to ban the Christmas tree as a pagan practice. However, by then the tradition was well-established in popular culture, and attempts to change that failed. Twenty-first century tree controversies have centered around the issue of separation of church and state as objections have been raised to displaying a Christmas tree in and around government buildings. These campaigns have met with limited success as have the efforts to call the trees “giving trees,” “family trees,” or “holiday trees.” There are probably parts of the country where holiday trees are popular, but those of us who were born and raised in the buckle of the Bible Belt have adamantly refused to follow that trend – until now.

The staff at the Senior Center in Emory goes out of their way to give this place where friends meet for food, fun, and fellowship a homey and sometimes festive atmosphere. The walls are decorated not only with informational bulletin boards but also with attractive pictures and artwork. And as various holidays come around, small centerpieces grace the tables and other decorations liven up the dining room. This is especially true around Christmas, and the focus is always the seven-foot tree that spends most of the year in a storage closet along with several boxes of ornaments and lights.

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Nothing to do, Part 2 | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on March 3, 2022:

Last week’s column about things to do in Emory attracted some attention, and my final request for suggestions of things I might have missed received enough response to warrant a follow up. Here are a few more ideas of things to do in Emory along with some of the things that make small town living special.

My cousin Bobby pointed out that Emory has a livestock auction on Tuesday and Saturday every week at the Sale Barn on Highway 19. I have never been to the auction, but I have seen lots of trailers full of animals going to or coming from the barn. The parking lot is always full on sale days, and it looks like it might be a lively social event.

Another Linda, one of my Friends of the Library buddies, suggested that weekly shopping at Good Samaritans Thrift Store is a fun social event. The Thrift Store is open to the public on Saturday from 8:00 am to noon. It’s a great place to find a wide variety of gently used and sometimes new items including clothes, household items, books, toys, Christmas decorations, and more. You will see the same people often, including my neighbors Pat and Dirk who frequent the Saturday sale, and the volunteers are very friendly. The Good Samaritans operation is also a great place to volunteer as they always need help sorting donations and managing the food bank during the week.

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