A New Term

Yesterday I was sworn-in to a full term on Lamar Town Council.  I was elected earlier this year in a special election, so this was my second swearing-in ceremony.  Now, however, I’m in for a full four years.

My colleague on Council, Councilwoman Mary Ann Mack, was also sworn-in to her first full term after being elected last July.  Our new mayor, Mayor James Howell, was sworn-in, too, marking the start of his administration.

The ceremony was short and sweet.  We gathered on the front lawn of Town Hall at 5 PM.  The judge ran each of us through the oath of office, starting with the new mayor and wrapping up with myself.  There was a nice Christmas tree on the lawn, and lots of family, friends, and city employees were in attendance.  Mayor Howell brought out the biggest crowd, with Councilwoman Mack bringing a few family members.  I arrived solo, and had to take my oath on the Bible the local Methodist minister brought for her short invocation (apparently, I missed the memo to bring my own Bible—d’oh!).

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TBT^16: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!

In the tradition of the past few Thanksgivings (2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017), I’m reblogging my annual “It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!” post, originally from Thanksgiving 2017 (and on the old blog).  The Saturday before that Thanksgiving I fell from a ladder and broke my left wrist (and also got a nasty gash in my left leg).  I was thankful to be alive, and to have avoided brain damage (my head, thankfully, was unscathed).

Usually this part of a TBT post is italicized, but to help keep it clear which year’s post you’re reading, I’m alternating between italicized and non-formatted text.  I’ve also added some headers to keep the prior year’s posts straight.

It’s a been a good year—a very busy one, but a good one.  It seems that life is beginning to resume its usual rhythms (and tempo—mine is, apparently, prestissimo).

In looking back at last year’s commentary, I see quite a few changes from 2020 to 2021.  For instance, last year I enjoyed distance learning; the few times we’ve done it this year, I’ve found it unsatisfying and ineffective (but I still like working from home—ha!).

On a brighter note, my private lessons empire has come roaring back.  From a low of just one loyal student, I am back to teaching around ten to fifteen lessons per week—sometimes fewer than ten, rarely more than fifteen, and often somewhere in between the two—which has been fun, lucrative, and exhausting.  I love teaching private lessons; the problem I am running into now is that, in order to accommodate the maximum number of students, I’m having to eat into time spent on other things—writing, lesson planning, and grading.  It’s worth it financially, and lessons have become the highlights of my days, but it’s definitely created some time constraints, especially when tacked on after (and, increasingly, during) a busy school day.

Regardless, I am thankful for the opportunity to work with these students, and for the funds that come with teaching them.  I now have two students who take lessons twice a week, which is fabulous, and I’m looking to add two or three more in January.  I’m looking into shifting students at comparable levels into group lessons to lighten my load a bit, but also out of sheer necessity—I’m literally running out of times to slot students.

Beyond lessons, it has been a very eventful year.  I was elected and re-elected to Lamar Town Council; wrote and published a bookThe One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot; and got a dogMy SubscribeStar page is up to ten subscribers, though two of those are inactive; at one point, I’d reached eleven!

That’s all to say that I have much to be thankful for this year.  I’m also very thankful to you, my readers and commenters.  The comments thread on the blog has really come alive in the past few months, and has brought a refreshing energy that motivates me to keep writing.  Thanks to all of you for your continued support, in whatever way that support comes.

With that, here is Thanksgiving 2020’s “TBT^4: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!“:

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Lamar Election Results 2021

About forty minutes after polls closed, poll workers posted election results to the front door of Lamar Town Hall.

Here are the receipts for Lamar Precinct No. 1, which is south of Main Street, and Lamar Precinct No. 2, which is north of Main Street (I live in the latter district).

Those don’t include the absentee ballots, which a poll worker announced aloud.  Here are the final vote totals (winners in bold green):

Mayor’s Race

James Howell – 164

Inez Bess Lee – 155

Town Council (2 Seats to Fill)

Tyler James Cook – 162

Mary Ann Mack – 176

Jerry Shull (Write-In) – 111

Here is a picture I took from a lady’s phone; she managed to get a photo of what I think is the sheet the poll workers used to tally everything:

Lamar Election November 2021 - Totals

The numbers on the left are the vote totals.  The first number to the right of each name represents the absentee ballots, which is what the Darlington News and Press is reporting at the time of this writing; the second number represents votes from Lamar Precinct No. 1; and the third number represents votes from Lamar Precinct No. 2 (cut off in this photograph).

Barring any chicanery, these look to be the official numbers.

Thanks to everyone who came out and voted today.  I appreciated your support!  Congratulations to all of the candidates for putting themselves out there to serve the public.

Election Day 2021

Today is Election Day in Lamar, South Carolina, and in several other towns in the region.  We have a competitive mayoral race, and I am up for reelection for the Council seat I currently hold.  Another Councilmember is running for reelection for her seat, but neither of us have any officially filed competition.

There’s also an election in Society Hill with seven candidates running—three for mayor and four for council seats.  I’m particularly interested in that race because of a homesteading-related issue at the center of it, with one candidate running largely to fight an ordinance limiting the number of animals he is allowed to keep on his property inside city limits.  Hartsville, home to the world headquarters of Sonoco, has five candidates running for mayor.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Trick-or-Treat When You Want

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One of the more interesting aspects of serving as a Town Councilman is discovering the kinds of matters residents really care about.  While they tend to worry about big issue things—fixing the water system, for example, and keeping their water and sewage bills low—most of their day-to-day concerns are smaller:  getting lawn waste picked up in a timely fashion; being able to pay their water bill conveniently; requesting information about upcoming events.

That’s to be expected:  people have busy lives, and one reason we have representative government is because most folks want someone else to take care of the delivery of basic services.  Just as we expect the electric company to keep the lights on and our ISP to keep the YouTube videos piping in over high-speed connections, residents want their water to flow when they turn on the spigot.  I don’t lie awake at night wondering how to generate electricity because a lot of other capable people are involved in doing just that, and I’m happy to pay them to do it.

But one thing that I have noticed is that there are some matters that people really can figure out for themselves, but they still want some official guidance or direction.  I’ve noticed this most with questions about the time-honored Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating.

The issue is straightforward:  Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, which throws everything into chaos.  Here in the South, our relationship with Halloween is sometimes tenuous at best, although most everyone I know loves it and celebrates it in some way, including trick-or-treating.  But Sundays are for church, not for dressing up as witches and devils and ghosts.  Also, more practically, there is work and school the next day, and no one wants to be out too late.

The big question, then, is, “when do we trick-or-treat?”—or, as I have been asked by residents, “when does the town observe trick-or-treating?”

The Town of Lamar has answered that question:  Saturday, 30 October 2021, from 4-7 PM.  But I am still getting questions about trick-or-treating—more than about any other piece of town business.

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Lamar Candidates Forum

Last night my little town of Lamar, South Carolina, hosted a candidates forum to give voters an opportunity to learn more about the candidates for Town Council and the Mayor’s race.  Our Town employees did an excellent job organizing the event, which was held in the Fire Department’s fire truck bay.  I brought some sound equipment and setup a very basic sound system for the candidates.

There are two Council seats up for election, which Councilwoman Mary Mack and myself currently occupy.  We’re both running for re-election, so we are officially running unopposed.  Residents will have two votes to cast in the Town Council race, one for each position.

As such, Councilwoman Mack and I were invited to tell voters a bit about ourselves and our visions for the town.  The main event was the mayoral forum, which was structured in a series of questions (nine or ten) posed to each candidate.  The mayoral candidates received their questions in advance, and the audience was not allowed to ask questions (although I think several people did after the forum formally adjourned).

Both candidates acquitted themselves nicely, differing mainly in the margins.  Councilwoman Inez Lee focused on cleaning up the town, literally and metaphorically, frequently invoking Franklin Roosevelt’s “First Hundred Days”:  we have a number of dilapidated buildings on Main Street that are eyesores.  James Howell, a local landscaper, focused on improving the town’s infrastructure and zoning to make the town more attractive to businesses.

All candidates for all offices touted the need to fix Lamar’s water system, so we sell our own water again.  We are currently purchasing around four million gallons of water each month from the Darlington County Water and Sewage Authority, paying rates that are onerously high for residents.

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Playing Catch-up: TPP Update

Apologies to my regular readers for the very delayed post today.  Now that I have a large contingent of British readers, I really like to hit the 6:30 AM EST posting time, which I imagine is around lunchtime for them, so they have something to read over their tea and crumpets while my American readers have something to read over their grits and coffee.

As I’ve alluded to in other posts, the past two weeks or so have been absolutely insane for yours portly.  As my school’s music teacher, I’m also the audio-visual wizard on campus.  With Homecoming Week last week, it was my responsibility to make sure the sound system at the football field was working properly, and to assist with setup for some of the Homecoming games.  I also set up another ad hoc sound system for my High School Music Ensemble to play a couple of songs at a pep rally Friday morning.  When most of your musicians play guitar and piano, the logistics of plugging everything in become more daunting when taken outdoors.

Needless to say, all of my planning time was consumed with these activities, and I spent most of my Music classes using student labor to move equipment to and from the football field.  That meant more time in the evenings and early mornings working on school-related stuff, and less time to focus on the blog.

In the midst of all of the Homecoming Week wackiness, I’m also running for reelection to Lamar Town Council and practicing and preparing for the 2021 Spooktacular.  Tonight I have a candidates forum for the former, and last night my buddy John and I practiced for the latter.

Add to all of that a whopping dollop of after-school music lessons, and you can tell I’ve had precious little time for much else.  I had a fun-filled day with my girlfriend on Saturday, then turned around Sunday and immediately set to work finalizing first quarter report card grades.

I’m not complaining—I like being busy—but I hope readers will extend some graciousness and excuse some occasionally late posts.  My poor dog has been getting the short end of the bully stick, too, though we both collapsed into a snoring heap on the couch last night after John departed.

Such are the rhythms of life.  Here’s hoping things return to a more stately tempo after the frenetic rhythm of the last few weeks.  Again, I don’t want to be bored, but having a little more time to focus on writing would be great.

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The War on Halloween

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It has long been the position of this blog that Halloween gets a bad rap, especially from the Christian Right. The holiday’s association with deviltry, witchcraft, and the occult is, of course, difficult to deny, but the holiday’s name is an abbreviation of “All Hallow’s Eve”; that is, the evening before All Saints’ Day on 1 November.

Granted, the Internet atheists will claim the roots of Halloween in Samhain, the Gaelic festival of the harvest. They are not wrong, per se—the influx of Irish immigrants into the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought a peculiarly Celtic flavor to the holiday. But the holiday is a Christian, specifically a Catholic, one—the Irishmen bringing tales of Jack O’Lantern and his carved turnip (it would only later become a pumpkin) were not ancient pagans, but among the most devout believers in Europe.

Certainly the medieval Catholic Church had a habit of taking pagan holidays and replacing them with Christian observances. For some reason, Internet atheists always use these replacements as examples of Christianity’s secretly pagan roots. The argument is ludicrous.

When Hernan Cortez destroyed the Aztec temple at Tenochtitlan and built a cathedral in its place, was he honoring the bloodthirsty Aztec gods? Or was he symbolically noting that The Holy Trinity had displaced the false gods and idols of the Aztecs? It is almost certainly the latter. Similarly, when Christians took existing pagan observances and replaced them with Christian ones, they were symbolically and practically demonstrating the victory of Christ and His Church over pagan gods.

Indeed, much of the American Protestant objection to Halloween must have been due to its associations with the Papists, rather than the Devil. The mischievousness of the holiday in the twentieth century, especially the concept of trick-or-treating, probably has more to do with its more sinister modern associations.

But the latest assault on Halloween is coming from a different quarter.  No longer are conservative Christians alone in hedging their bets on the holiday.

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More Georgia and South Carolina Backroads

As I noted in various updates about delayed posts, I was back in Athens, Georgia this weekend.  On the way over Friday, my GPS routed me a different way than usual, apparently due to a massive wreck on I-20.

The rerouting took me off I-20 at Lexington, South Carolina, taking me through painfully slow traffic in the bustling county seat before spitting me out on US-378 West, which wended its way towards the Upstate.

I then hit US-178 West towards Greenwood and Abbeville, transferring to various State roads.  I eventually ended up on SC-72, heading through Calhoun Falls at the South Carolina-Georgia border.

At that point, SC-72 became GA-72, which took me through Elberton and Comer, Georgia, before depositing me in Athens.

As many of my readers are not from South Carolina—or even from this country!—let me translate that for you:  I went through a lot of small towns in very rural parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

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