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January 6, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – SNOW!   

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

 

As I write this, the east coast is under a winter storm warning. Blizzard conditions are possible and even expected in parts of my region. No doubt, based upon predictions, we will soon have heavy snow and wind to deal with. This ‘mother of all storms’ is forming off the coast of the southern states, which will turn into a frenzy that more resembles a hurricane or blizzard than a mere winter snow event. Making matters worse is that the good people of my region are not used to driving in, or dealing with significate snow. In fact, a dusting around here causes shutdowns and sends some into panic. What we may expect tonight here in the Mid-Atlantic States will be much more than a dusting. Predictions are that all of New England and ‘down-east’ Canada, will suffer even an even greater impact since they will experience the full fury of the flurries. (Please excuse me for that sad play on words.)    

Watching the national weather maps I see that Louisa may dodge most, if not all, of this storm. A small front may bring you a wintery mix, but that one will likely be short-lived. I wish the best for you and rejoice that ‘lucky you’ may dodge another bullet. I’m very aware that slick roads are bad anywhere, but far worse in the mountains. You will completely escape, but get an arctic blast of bitter cold. It is winter, you after all, so we’ll just rack this one up as a ‘normal’ event when compared to the history of Januarys past.

I remember many snow storms during my high school years there on the banks of the Big Sandy. One, in particular, was so heavy. It left the little town looking very much like a Currier and Ives print. The branches of evergreens were loaded and weighted down with a fluffy layer of white. This storm had sneaked up on me that night. I was with my girlfriend in the northern end of Lock Avenue at the time that outside conditions worsened. I enjoyed the distraction of my visit with this sweet young lady, but found that when it was time to go home, the walk was to take place in a nearly pristine and deep blanket of white snow. I don’t remember the peace being broken by any automobile traffic, and I didn’t see another living soul. I was alone, but somehow warm and altogether happy. Snow had coated the telephone cables, street lights, the bare branches of the wintering trees, and had created drifts covering bushes, porches, and sidewalks. It would have been easy to read the footprints left showing where I had been that night. It was quiet and lovely, but it took a while longer getting home since many of my steps sank deeper when I stepped from sidewalk to street. I used caution to avoid ditches, although in town, only the drains along the gutters were likely to cause serious problems if encountered.

I remember another storm that took me out of my home when the town’s fire alarm sounded. I grabbed my gear, ran and met the truck on Madison Street. I clambered aboard not knowing where there was a fire, but the other firemen holding themselves down on the bed of hose, told me what they had heard. The trip was along the tracks where a house was fully engaged in flame not far from the newly opened laundromat, but across the tracks. We sprayed the house with water that immediately froze, making beautiful designs of ice, much like frozen waterfalls. Even our ‘turn-out’ gear, jackets and helmets, were coated with ice. At some point, we had to break down the firehose that had been laid across the tracks, because a train was coming from the south. The break in the action ensured that there was little hope to save the house. We watered down neighboring homes in hopes the fire wouldn’t spread.   

It was spitting snow on another night when we traveled on the bed of the firetruck to Blaine. Their high school was in flames. It was to be a long night as we worked hard in our attempts to save the building. I was overcome with smoke while in the building trying to hose down the classrooms. Inside, through an open door, I could see that the floor had given way so we were able to spray water directly into the basement, where the fire seemed particularly bad. Even though I stayed low beneath the level of smoke, I was overcome. My fellow firefighters carried me out and laid me on a little hill. After a short time I recovered and headed back into the fray. At one point, Fire Chief Compton called us out of the building. I looked up and saw that the fire had broken through the roof, which was ready to fall. I remember that a friend had climbed a ladder and was up on the roof. Chief Compton frantically called him down. He had just gotten to the ground when the roof imploded.

 Blaine didn’t have a water system with fire hydrants, so we had to drive the firetruck to the edge of the creek bank, maybe two or three hundred yards away, to reload the water-tank. The bank was too high to use a pump, so we had to use the old-fashioned ‘bucket-brigade’ to refill the firetruck’s tank. The creek was the only water source we had. History will tell you that it wasn’t enough. Even though firetrucks and men from Paintsville, Prestonsburg, and Grayson where there in support of our efforts, the building was a total loss. The heat from the fire melted the snow for quite some ways, so while the fields were white, there was no snow sticking around the burning building. I remember as I huddled down on the hose-bed in our ride back to town that it snowed the whole way, but many of us were too tired and cold to care. I was wet and cold to the skin, black with soot, and ‘dog-tired.’ Chief Compton bought us some coffee, I think at the ‘Hamburger Inn,’ when we got back. It was the first cup of coffee I ever really enjoyed.

Back in the day when snow storms commonly blanketed the area, the school system would not run the buses out on the rural roads. Still, the town-kids would walk to school just as they did normally. Once there, we’d gather around the stove and try to dry our wet socks. We didn’t study or engage in lessons, but just visited and swapped stories. We would break outside from time to time for a snowball fight, but never for any major battles. We’d usually leave school early and tramp home, each in his/her different directions. For some of us it was time to break out the sleds and head for town hill.

I also must mention that a strange thing seemed to happen in certain yards around town. Snowmen magically appeared as if to announce they were somehow in charge. Many were draped with scarves, hats, and had coal or rocks for faces. A week or ten days later their remnants were the last reminder of the snow.  Little mounds of dirty, often nearly black, was all that remained. In thinking aback, the dirt was likely cinders from the many passing coal trains that broke the silence in our little valley. I suppose the soot was less when diesel fuel replaced the steam engines, but even day two after a storm, the sludge on the streets was dirty, already.

One winter’s day I was visiting my mother in Michigan when an ‘Alberta Clipper’ visited overnight. It was the first snow of the season for them, but it was a doozy. I’m sure it was something like two feet deep when I was sent out to shovel the front sidewalk. Once I cut a path through the frozen snow, high mountains were piled making a steep cliff on both sides. My mom and my half-sister were watching me work from the comfort of the living room, noses pressed hard against the crystalized glass. As it would happen, my foot hit an icy place and both feet went up in the air. I ended up sitting in the snowbank with only my feet, the snow shovel, and my arms sticking out. After the ladies enjoyed the sport of laughing at me they finally came out to pull me free. A good bit of the icy material had worked its way under my jacket and into my trousers, so I warmed up quickly while trying to shed the snow away from my uncovered shins. I never had that happen in Kentucky, so I was content to return to the little valley in the foothills. This event may explain my dislike for shoveling snow.

Another day has passed in writing this, so I have to report a phenomenon that so rarely occurs. THE WEATHERMAN WAS RIGHT! We got a little over a foot and are facing several days of very cold temperatures, which means it will hang around for a time. Roads are impassible and many, though not all of us, are out of power. It’s pretty, but has come at a cost. My TV dish is covered with snow and naturally just out of reach of brooms, etc. I have movies recorded that will help us entertain ourselves and the three toddler grandchildren spending their days with us. No cabin fever here, for sure. Just lots of noise and sweet little pumpkins running off their unspent energy. I think I’ll look for a room in which to hide. (So far they haven’t thought of making a snowman. Shhhh…)

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December 31, 2017 - Jan. 1, 2018

THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS...

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TOP 20 LAZER STORIES OF 2017 

BY TANE' WOODS MOSLEY

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These are the Top 20 stories in 2017 that captured the most hits on Lazer stories with the highest being 43,000 plus (not counting FB page hits) and the last one just over 14,700 hits. It's been a great year for TheLevisaLazer.com when it comes to getting traffic on the site.

We appreciate the patience of our viewers as well as their interest. And we could not inform the local citizenry without the help of our gracious Lazer sponsors...Click on one right now!

 

TOP 20 2017

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(1.)  JIM BOOTH BUYS THUNDER RIDGE, WANTS TO PUT IN 'RETAIL BUSINESSES' ...9/20/2017

 

(2.)  LAWRENCE CO. ATTORNEY 'WARNS' THAT GAS BOOM IS COMING 2/11/17

 

(3.)  LOUISA MAN LOSES LIFE IN WEDNESDAY MORNING CRASH 11/1/17

 

(4.)  MISSING: LAWRENCE CO. SHERIFF'S OFFICE ASKING FOR PUBLIC'S HELP 9/15/17

 

(5)  TWO COUPLES REMAIN INCARCERATED AFTER INDICTMENTS FOR CHILD SEX ABUSE 3/13/17

 

(6.)   MARTIN CO. CLERK'S DAUGHTER ARRESTED; BEING HELD ON $167,000 BOND 8/28/17

 

(7.)    SUSPECT ARRESTED IN YELLOW CREEK DOUBLE MURDER 11/20/17

 

(8.)  FAMILY MEMBERS EXTRICATED FROM VEHICLE AFTER ACCIDENT 3/3/17

 

(9) THIRD MISSING TEEN IN A MONTH TRACED TO 'ONLINE RELATIONS 9/26/17

 

(10.)   EXTENDED SCHOOL SUMMER BREAK LEGISLATION SIGNED INTO LAW BY BEVIN

 

(11.)   HEROIN INCLUDED IN SIX DRUG RELATED ARRESTS IN PAST 3 DAYS IN WAYNE CO. 3/9/17

 

(12.)   2017-18 DEER HARVEST UPDATE; 38 EASTERN COUNTIES IMPACTED BY EHD OUTBREAK 12/15/2017

 

(13.)   BREAKING NEWS! STABBING IN LOUISA EARLY SUNDAY MORNING 5/14/17

 

(14.)    SHERIFF THOMPSON ACTIVE AGAINST BULLYING 3/17/17

 

(15.)    ROCKY ADKINS STILL CONSIDERING RUN FOR GOVERNOR 6/2/17

 

(16.)   UPDATE: LOUISA WOMAN DIES IN CRASH IN LOUISA DUE TO FIRST SNOW OF YEAR 1/5/17

 

(17.)   FACES OF HOPE - WE DO RECOVER...LCHS TEACHER BOBBY ALLEN, A STORY FROM THE OTHER SIDE 9-11/17

 

(18.)  NOTORIOUS JOHNSON COUNTY MAN IN TRAUMA CENTER AFTER HIGH SPEED CHASE 7/10/17

 

(19.)  FACES OF HOPE - WE DO RECOVER...LEISA SALYERS STORY 9/21/17

 

(20.)  THREE FROM LOUISA/FT. GAY, ONE FROM DAYTON CAUGHT IN KENOVA METH DEAL 12/10/17

 

 

GROWING UP IN LOUISA -- OUT WITH THE OLD!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

By saying ‘out with the old, I am not advocating a general cleansing of old things. After all, I might qualify to be thrown out. That could have a profound effect on my happiness and health, and there’s an off-chance that someone might prefer to tolerate my character yet another year. Rather, it is the time we reflect over the salient events in our lives that arose in this ‘worn-out’ year and a time to refocus on making the next twelve months better than ever. That’s a resolve worth having and is common in our society. It is by the grace of God we can turn the pages of the past and purpose to do better in the future.

During my school years in Louisa the year-end seemed more about a simple change in the calendar. In fact, the first time I even heard about New Year’s celebrations, I asked my mom what that was about. Like any good parent she took a moment to explain that each year had twelve months. The party was to say good-by to the old year and to look forward to the new. January, my birth month, was the first month of the brand-new year, and December was the last. As of that moment I was a well-informed person, whatever age I may have been.

I have no doubt that kids who had school papers to turn in, and the many adults that were to fill out a check, or some other document, it took a month or two to break the habit of using the old-year designation. “Rats!” they would cry out, as they realized they had to start over. Back in the day it was fountain pens that were most unforgiving. Whiteout hadn’t been invented and nothing was digital except those small appendages at the ends of our hands. Mistakes meant it had to be done over.

I think it was either in late November or early, December when I annually helped pass out new calendars from the back of a pickup truck with a printed ad for Young’s Funeral Home. Thinking ahead, they had the new-year all clearly spelled out to remind folks of the date change. I would knock on doors, shove a new calendar into their hands and run back to catch the truck. Many of my friends, including Jimmy Young, I’m sure, worked all day in Louisa, High Bottom, and then part of another day in Fort Gay. In a way, I felt I was doing my part to bring the new-year to town.

In prior years, I have reminded readers of this column of the annual celebrations I happened to hear about, but as a kid, never really saw or attended. I could hear fireworks, but often that was from my bed. It was only in later years that I was allowed to stay up until midnight. I didn’t know much about the ‘big city’ celebrations, either, since TV was slow getting to my house. I guess it was the very late forties, or early fifties, when I first saw the fancy, lighted ball drop at the crowded Times Square building. I would discover over time that this location on Broadway was the focus of many different celebrations besides annual year-end gatherings. All I can say is that it must be more about the tradition and being able to say, ‘we were there.’ While I’ve been to the site, it has never been on the big night, nor do I ever intend to be there, at that time.

I guess Times Square has come to represent American celebrations. I remember that we saw crowds dancing in the streets at the end of WWII. We all saw the picture of a sailor bending the girl over backwards with a celebratory kiss. For some reason, I had the impression he didn’t even know the girl, but he planted a ‘big one,’ right there on the lips. Wow! Times Square surely must have been a ‘fun’ place, but it rang a little hollow to me. I guess I’m a fuddy-duddy. It was years later when I made several visits to Broadway at Times Square. I returned a couple of times and have seen the recent changes that greatly improved the neighborhood. When I first went, it was a rather shady area with adult entertainment. Now it is well-lit with huge TV screens advertising the latest products, plays in the surrounding theaters, or even the evening news.

As I’ve gotten older these kinds of celebrations are less important to me. Seeing them on TV is fine should I be forced by circumstance to stay up that late. Frankly, hearing the fireworks from bed is more attractive for these old bones. Symbolic moments that promise a bright new year are for the optimist, but I’ve seen enough in my lifetime to be unqualified to register as one of those. I’d like to think the world would learn from its past and improve, but forgive me for doubting.

Part of getting older is the acceptance that we tend to fall apart more each year. Even in our little town with its ‘turn-of-the-century’ (that other century) buildings and homes, many sag, or lean just a little. As with close friends, I note that several of the buildings I remember are missing. Some have been replaced, and other lots stand empty. Others have lost their usefulness, but continue to try to remain useful by adding yet another coat of paint. As with humans, makeup can do wonders. Ask Hollywood.

It is time for the newer generations to take up the gauntlet, fix what’s broken, and maybe create some new ‘state of the art’ traditions. Unfortunately, the gathering of revelers in one place nowadays is dangerous. It makes little sense to join the crowds given the number of crazies in this world. I don’t agree that not attending is giving in to terrorism. I think that using our brains and finding new outlets may be a safer, wiser choice. I figure that the old tradition can go out with the old year and new traditions can be created for happier, and safer times in the coming days. I don’t know what the new traditions will be, but millennials are known for their ability to think outside the box. Heck, we could even draw a new box, or do away with boxes altogether.

Times Square Times Square

Meanwhile, we can party as we will, remembering the perennial hope that better days may yet be ahead. Most people have their own special memories of certain Christmas holiday seasons that always ended about this time, right along with the old year. For you, it might be setting off fireworks, or the ringing of bells, perhaps a toast to fellow revelers, or maybe a romantic moment with that special someone. I hope this article helps you bring back the good times for a visit.

Before allowing yourself to drift off into those thoughts, I want to sign off with wishes for the best of New Years for you and for yours. Stay safe, my friends, and happy memories. 

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