A Homecoming in Heaven

As I am so saddened to hear of the passing of Earl Hamner, Jr., I know there is a Homecoming in heaven. 1923-2016

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When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Great Depression, we always had friends and neighbors stopping by. My mother or father would meet them at the door and say, ‘Come on in and sit till bedtime!'”    Earl Hamner, Jr. 

“Where the Mountains of Virginia Know My Name,”  a beautiful video in honor of Mr. Hamner:

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THE WALTONS, Earl Hamner Jr.(seated), standing from left: Kami Cotler, David W. Harper, Eric Scott,
THE WALTONS, Earl Hamner Jr.(seated), standing from left: Kami Cotler, David W. Harper, Eric Scott, Jon Walmsley, Michael Learned, Ralph Waite, Ellen Corby, Mary McDonough, Judy Norton-Taylor, 1972-81.

Man (and Woman’s) Best Friend

If anyone has ever known me longer than ten minutes they probably know of my insane love for dogs. I say insane because sometimes I truly do question if it is normal to love dogs to the extent that I do. Todd and I have been rescuing dogs for over twenty years and some have been so severely abused it is almost incomprehensible. But the love and loyalty they give back to us is even more incomprehensible.

My friend Tom, who is also an insane lover of dogs (and I say that with pure love) sent me this video. It was made by Ben Moon, an adventure photographer – and a fellow dog lover in the deepest sense. He made this short video about his dog, “Denali,” and it is actually made from Denali’s point of view which is what makes it so moving.

Warning – this video will certainly make you cry so please have Kleenex in hand when you watch.  (I’m sorry I couldn’t load the video directly for some reason – but if you click on the link below it will take you to the youtube version. Once there, if you click on the bottom right corner of the video you will see a fragmented square – clicking on that will make the video go to full screen and much more enjoyable to watch.)


Grinning From Ear to Ear

My grin turned into a huge smile last night about 8:00 when my dear friend Charlie Cushman took the stage in Rocky Mount, VA with his 1929 Gibson banjo, along with five of the absolute best musicians on earth – The Earls of Leicester. And at the end of the show my face hurt from smiling so much.  It was quite literally the best music gig I’ve ever witnessed.

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The name is sort of pun for the Pioneers of Bluegrass, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, the  inspiration for the Grammy award winning group. Each musician was inspired by Flatt and Scruggs as Jerry Douglas (founder of the group) said, “I remember when I was growing up, in the mornings getting ready for school, Flatt and Scruggs radio show was always on.” Each member has a special connection to them – fiddle player Johnny Warren is the son of long-time Foggy Mountain Boys fiddler Paul Warren.  Johnny plays his dad’s fiddle today.  Faithful to the originals, the Earls have brought back that classic sound from 1954- 1965.

Their debut album won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass album and they were this year’s IBMA Entertainers of the Year. Lead singer, Shawn Camp was IBMA vocalist of the year and Jerry Douglas was the IBMA dobro player of the year. The list goes on and on.


Of course, their huge success makes me so happy because Charlie Cushman, along with Shad Cobb, are the stars of the CD that I produced, “Out of These Mountains.” Just after our record came out, Charlie went on to worldwide fame with the Earls. It was a wonderful reunion last night after the show when I got to give Charlie a huge hug and tell him how proud I was for him and that he deserved every accolade. He said, “You know, God can give us more than we could ever begin to dream.”  Congratulations my friend – there is so much more to come!

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All We Need Is Love

About thirteen years ago when we moved to Iredell, Texas – I bought Todd our first cow for his birthday. She was a registered Angus and I had a great dilemma trying to choose the right one. I knew she would be our foundation Mother Cow for our herd for all of time so it was not something I took lightly. While not being the most knowledgeable cattle buyer in history, I did know a little something about  what makes a good cow – a combination of confirmation and breeding, because I was an Animal Science major in college. So I made my pick and surprised the birthday boy with a special delivery from the breeder. Since his birthday is right near Valentine’s Day, we named her  … yes, “Valentine.”

We raise registered cattle because neither of us could ever bear to send a cow for slaughter. They are like family to us. So we sell them for breeding stock to a very high-end market and keep our numbers small. We are always a little bit disappointed when we have a bull calf because then we know for sure we can’t keep them. We do keep a majority of our heifers. Valentine has blessed us with nearly all bull calves! Ugh! A funny story – the one time she gave us a heifer is when the neighbor’s rangy, scrawny, Longhorn bull jumped the fence! Imagine our surprise when she had a teeny little white calf with spots!

Ok … back to my story – This year as we waited for Valentine’s calf to be born with much anticipation …. she gave us this beautiful babe – with an appropriate HEART on … yes … HIS forehead!


Perhaps I can convince Todd to make him a steer and keep him as a pet!

In closing today, we are all saddened by the loss of Joey Feek yesterday as she made her final journey HOME. But we are happy too – that she is singing at her Savior’s feet.  Miss Emi Sunshine made this video for Joey …



In the time that You gave me …

… Did I do all I could do?

I know probably every single one of you have been following the story of Joey + Rory, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it here –  because the story of Joey + Rory is a gift, a blessing, a testimony – and a story filled with the kind of grace and FAITH that comes along once in  a very blue moon.

Eight or so years back Todd and I enjoyed a show on CMT called “Can you Duet?” It was one of those talent show contests for country duets and that is where we met  Joey and Rory Feek. We have followed their career since then, and have fell in love with them because of the people they are. They are real, they are human and they have the greatest love affair with each other – and with God. Their faith is made of the most unwavering kind that is TRULY the kind I wish I had, and I strive each day for. Their life’s testimony is a GIFT to all of us.

I won’t go into all of the details because as I said, most of you know the story. But in the midst of a wonderful love affair and huge music career, two years ago they were blessed with the birth of their daughter, Indiana. Indiana was born with Down Syndrome and the couple decided to take a year off from touring and work to be home as a family at their farm in Tennessee. During this time Joey was diagnosed with cancer. After surgery and two rounds of devastating chemo and treatments, she is in her final days. Her husband, Rory, has been writing a blog for a few years about their life. If by some chance you don’t know their story – I highly suggest you stop whatever you are doing and go to his blog now, and read every word. Your life will never be the same.    http://www.thislifeilive.com

In his most recent post, Rory shared a video he made of a song they recorded awhile back called, “In the Time That You Gave Me.”  It asks the question …. “Did I do all I could do?” My prayer today is that if I were faced with the situation and was called Home today, I could say yes …..