Tennessee lessons I’ve learned so far

I’ve only been here a couple of days and I’m already seeing adjustments I need to make.

Allow plenty of time to get to where I’m going. Just because the road is driveable at 50 mph, doesn’t mean that’s what the speed limit is and people here usually drive under the speed limit.

I seriously need to clean up my language. I don’t believe I’ve heard the word ‘motherfucker’ even once since I’ve been here, even amongst folks my own age and younger.

I don’t care what the sky looks like at dusk, make sure the truck windows are ALL THE WAY UP before I retire in the evening because 15 minutes after I go to bed, it’s gonna rain at least a little bit during the night.

There is that Good Ol’ Boy network between the cops, District Attorney and Judges out here. I’ve been told that by everybody I’ve run into here. Keep my fucking mouth shut or I WILL go to jail.

I have never seen a more polite bunch of folks in my life. Strangers wave at you from their yards as you drive by. Seriously.

And finally, if I need something, just ask. Like I was told by a fella from Tennessee before I left California – people out here will do anything FOR you if you’re in need, but they’ll also do anything TO you if you piss them off.

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81 Responses to Tennessee lessons I’ve learned so far

  1. Toothless Dawg says:

    You’ll notice that guns don’t hardly draw any notice here either. You’ll see people carrying them in restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and nobody freaks out. I’m south of where you are, off of I-40 on the Plateau and you’re right about the rain too.

  2. fishdawg says:

    For future reference, pick up a can or two of windshield de-icer for the fall/winter. It can be very frustrating waiting for the defroster to work and icescrapers frequently don’t come near getting the job done. Especially if time is of the essence! Also pick up snow shovels .

    • Will says:

      Old trick from back in the ’70s when we had real winters in the Midwest – if you know you’re going to be in a hurry in the morning and want to defeat the frost on the windshield, lay down two rubber floormats on said windshield the night before. Morning comes, peel them off and voila, no frost on the windshield (it’s on the floor mats).

    • Rat Bastard says:

      RainX is also good. I was stationed in Groton Ct. for a while, and come winter months, I would just start my jeep and turn on the wipers and have a clean windshield.

    • Sarge says:

      ….. and don’t forget long johns …..

    • JeremyR says:

      Just a bucket of tap water will get it done. Learned that trick when I was a tot in Minnesota. Old Wives tale that it will crack the windshield is total BS.
      My kids, for a prank after my divorce, decided to get me. They put large cups of water on top of my truck with holes poked in them so the water would slowly run down the windshield and freeze. Got up that morning to an inch of ice. Took longer for them to pull their stunt than it took for me to get the ice off.

  3. crazyeighter says:

    Sounds like you’re getting the Important Shit down…

  4. PHIL says:

    AMEN Brother, welcome to the country and we’re glad to have you :) wish more people would leave CA…

  5. PawPaw says:

    I have managed to avoid California thus far, but I’ve lived my whole life (minus Army service) in the Deep South. People wave. The farther you get in the country, the more they wave, and if you live on a small rural road, they pay attention. They’ll know your vehicles, your comings-and-goings, and even your dogs. They won’t make a big deal of it, but they’ll know. It matters who drives down the road, because burglars and ne’er-do-well types need to be identified.

    In the Deep South, neighborhood watch is not an organization, it’s a way of life. People look out for each other.

  6. SmelliKat says:

    Amazing isn’t it ? My wife and I made the move to South Carolina from the shit hole called Maryland 18 months ago and it’s like a totally different planet. Congratulations on the retirement and recent move. Best wishes to you and Miss Lisa. Greg

  7. Grandpa says:

    yeah, the culture shock when we went from Calif. to north Georgia was a surprise for us as well… things like folks being polite and genteel was startling in its difference. When folks ask “how are you doing?” – it was because they care, it wasn’t just another comment made in passing. And on Sunday, everyone went to church somewhere… sure, a few didn’t, but they were a very small minority; and you learn quickly about the contacts and such made by and through folks who go to your church… And they take their hunting and fishing SERIOUSLY… and, even if you aren’t a NASCAR fan, “you gotta have you a driver” – or, sooner rather than later, you’ll hear “you ain’t got no driver?”- as they look at you in disbelief, as if you were from Mars, or had two heads – or were from California… finding out that many ‘mom and pop’ gas stations also had homemade biscuits in the morning was a pleasant surprise too…
    And at least once a week, breakfast was at Cracker Barrel, and supper was at Folk’s…

  8. bogsidebunny says:

    Good solid observations, Wirecutter. It’s the same here in North Carolina just over the mountains. Play nice and they’ll give you the shirts off their backs….Piss ’em off and pay the price.

    • Shannon says:

      Well said. That’s exactly how people are here. They’ll help anyway they can….but good lord…don’t piss them off

  9. “Like I was told by a fella from Tennessee before I left California – people out here will do anything FOR you if you’re in need, but they’ll also do anything TO you if you piss them off.”

    That was my experience in Morgan City, Louisiana in the late 80’s when I was working offshore.

    Those coon asses would do anything for you, if they liked and respected you.

    If they didn’t like you, the whole town would make your life miserable. I learned everyone was connected to each other in one way or another. If they thought you were weak, they’d make your life hell, too. One guy I worked with came down there from New Jersey. Folks took a dislike to him right away. He left after just a few months.

    • rightwingterrorist says:

      Morgan Shitty.
      I once spent an extended weekend in the clink there.
      It all started when the cop said to me: You sound funny, boy. Y’all ain’t from round here are ya?”
      At that point I knew I was in trouble.

  10. Bill Emery says:

    I lived in Memphis for a while, and I’ve been through other parts of Tennessee. You’ve about got a handle on it. Folks are polite and generally helpful, although there IS crime. There’s also a good deal of racial prejudice. I enjoyed the Memphis area.

    What part of Tennessee? How long do you expect to be there?

    • Wirecutter says:

      Northern Tennessee, above Nashville on the state line and I’m here for the rest of my life.

      • My brother lives in Palmyra, just west of Clarksville, so you’re not too far from him. Next time I’m headed to see him, I’d sure like to look you up and buy you and Miss Lisa a meal.

      • Sarge says:

        Make sure you go up to ‘Land between the lakes’ and take your fishin’ gear …. It’s one of the most beautiful places on this planet.
        I was stationed at FTCKY 73 thru 75 and got to fly over it many times !
        It really is an amazing place !

  11. 1911A1 says:

    Welcome to Free America Kenny. You’re right, it WILL take some getting used to. Since you’re almost a neighbor, I might have to wander up that way some time. I got some ex-pat Callyfornite friends in Murfreesboro so you never know.

  12. tom says:

    “There r two kinds of people in this world, Hillbillies & sons-a-bitches, which are you?” -Cousin Len from TN

  13. Wolf says:

    The worm has turned for you. Being in rural southern Missouri, just lay back and learn, don’t say stuff like “back where I’m from we did it this way”. Another tip, don’t make any bad remarks about anyone, most folks are related one way or another. One last tip, don’t take it personal when folks ask you questions, they aren’t being nosey, just trying to get to know you.

    • Cat Fish says:

      ” don’t take it personal when folks ask you questions, they aren’t being nosey, just trying to get to know you.”……

      Being a transplant from Southern Illinois to Idaho many years ago I am viewed as blunt , unprofessional, nosy and just rude by many people I run into that I find interesting and want to get to know.
      I hired a new guy last week and had to to tell him if I ask a question , he could always answer with a hearty , “It’s none of your damn business !” LOL!
      Of course this was after spilling his guts on a few topics that were absolutely none of my business.He coughed up some answers and explanations and was quite forthcoming.
      After this was when I told him he could always tell me it was none of my damn beezwax !
      And at that moment he turned red, we had a good laugh and he rolled his eyes at me.
      And the questions I asked had nothing to with the answers he gave me.
      What I wanted to know was how trusting he was with strangers, me being a stranger at the time.
      He trusts himself, his judgement,and as a result , other folks is my assessment.!

      He is a good kid and from a San Diego / Iowa family background !
      He seems cool and reasonable for a 20 year old.And more cool an reasonable than many 50 year old fellas I know!

      You can take Billy out of the hills, but ya cain’t take the Hills out of the Billy !
      Frog legs anyone?

  14. Robert says:

    And one more thing that may help from my years down south: If you see a dirt road DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT just go down it to see where it goes. Odds are not in your favor!

  15. BUY MORE AMMO! says:

    Damn Kenny you better watch out! If you put a pair of bib overalls on you could pass for one of Popcorn Sutton kinfolk. Could run into trouble with the Feds. Popcorn was a moonshiner and when he died his headstone was indeed a gem for all to marvel. Research him and his tombstone for a good laugh. He was a iiipercenter before the rest of us.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I’ve got me some bibs already and used to embarrass the shit out of my first wife when I’d wear them out in public.
      Ol’ Pop, he’s a legend, even in California.

  16. ya got more rain a comin…
    as soon as i seen the rifle post i knew you were on the road.. glad ya made it there without any problems… is charlie gettin a lot of trees to pee on . ;-) i like the picture of the tractor with him pissin on it..

  17. Bent says:

    Long time reader , first time to comment. Welcome to the best part of America.Relax and enjoy. Knowing you like to get out and roam around ,maybe coyote hunt ,plenty of varmints up your way.
    Get to know your neighbors and the lay of the land.
    One word of caution…..if your up in the mountains and hear banjo music playing, turn your ass around and RUN….RUN like your ass depends on it ,because it does.

  18. Anonymous says:

    That last point – it sounds like people there do not tolerate bad behavior from people they do not know. Treat me well – I’ll treat you well. Treat me bad – I’ll treat you worse. Sounds like you are adjusting to the new environment – hope your spouse and animals are doing the same.

    How are CGD and LL handling the move ?

  19. “Strangers wave at you from their yards as you drive by. Seriously.”

    That was one thing my wife had to adjust to, moving from the big city of Lexington to my rural small town.

    We would be out driving and I would wave at someone .
    Wife: “Who was that?’
    Me: “I don’t know.”
    Wife: “Then why did you wave?:
    Me: “Because they waved at me.”
    Wife: :They don’t know you? Why did they wave?”
    Me: “That is just what we do. If you are outside and someone drives by, you wave back.”

    And yeah, watch the language, especially around females. Cussing in front of someone’s wife, daughter, or especially their mama is grounds for a fight.

    Expect to be asked “What church you go to?” fairly often. Don’t get offended, that is just something else we do. If you notice, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a church.

    July, August, and Sept. tend to be the dry months, but keep your windows up anyway. Showers can hit any time. October, November and December are wet.

    Women’s hose will keep the deer ticks off you. They are awful to find, smaller than the point on a pencil, and usually leave a sore that lasts months if they bite you. Buy some DEET and use it if you get off the mowed grass. Don’t let any water stand on your property, it will breed mosqutios.

    Watch insulting Democrats in the rural areas. Most of the smaller towns and counties are still controlled by the Democrat Party. If you want to vote for a local candidate, usually you have to vote in the Democratic primary. This is changing some, but it is a slow process. You will run into a lot of “I’m a Democrat. My Daddy was a Democrat. His Daddy was a Democrat. The Republicans are for the rich man.” A lot of the area, especially just across the border in Kentucky was coal country and the UMWA had a lot of power. But then the coal companies treated people like crap. Paying them in script that they could only spend at the company store.

    I am about an hour north of you on I-24. Lived in this area most of my life.

    • Shannon says:

      Yes To everything said. Except…you don’t swing a dead cat. You sling the dead cat! Js

  20. Bill says:

    Something else you will notice. People take there shopping buggies back to it’s spot and you pull over when a funeral goes by. The respect is STRONG here in KY and TN. I’ve seen people get off their mowers and take their hats off when a funeral went by. Moved just north of you (B.G.) 8 years ago and love it.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I’ve always returned my carts to the front of the store instead of leaving them in the parking lot.
      And Lisa already clued me in to the funeral processions.

    • Steve in Ky says:

      Hi Bill I live in Scottsville, work in B.G. (raised in bg.) Kenny he is right. Respect and honorable behavior is the norm here. Some jerks too though. If you can you might consider finding a church. I love mine. God is moving his people where he needs them. Some may not believe but I do. We only see our small piece of a great battle.

      • Steve in Ky says:

        Really I live in Halifax but unless you know where that is the big city of 4600 souls Scottsville is the landmark.

  21. Philip Paul says:

    Yep, foul language is frowned upon back there. Good people though. Manners are big. The last time I was back there was in 99 when my Grandfather died, l little burg called Atwood, about forty miles North of Johnson City. I have kin scattered all over back there. It was like stepping into the Twighlight zone in the respect that even back then, they were still using rotary dial phones, the operator did not know how to place a collect call for me to Portland and I couldn’t find an ATM for miles.
    Lot’s of little towns all over connected by little county roads, every town had it’s own bank and no one took out of town checks. Churches and Civil War graveyards everywhere too.Even that little town had six churches.

    That was a Dry County so I had cousins who would drive over the county line to get likker and beer and they would always call up and asked if you needed something before they went.

    You are going to eat well though, real food man. That was the last time I had a real Southern meal and I miss it so bad I can’t hardly stand it.

    The fact that Miss Lisa has kin their will help greatly in people accepting you into the community.

    Everybody knows everybody and word gets around.
    I think you’ll be OK once you give them time to do some gossiping.

    Just a tip, pick a Chevy driver from the South, you can’t hardly go wrong there.
    Glad y’all made it without any troubles.
    Good luck.

  22. Glad you made it to the South. You will need to learn to eat cornbread, fired okra and fried chicken along with a BIG glass of Sweet tea…….haha. Seriously, the South has a laid-back culture. Most are willing to accept and respect you if you give them a chance. You don’t see people going to the east or north when they retire. I wonder why?????????????

  23. Just a Chemist says:

    I’m glad you landed in a solid, rural area. In Nashville, they don’t have those kind of manners, they just got the “do anything TO you” part here, so I try keep my head down.
    And yea, you kinda need to watch the language with folks, until you get to know them. It seems to be the cursing in public that rubs the wrong way, and much more so if women-folk are about. They younger redneck wannabees in the city, not so much (oddly, I’ve heard more vile cursing in Nashville than anywhere else if my life, even when I lived in bigger cities). I also suspect that language that relates to the Almighty or his Son will probably get you in more hot water than otherwise; but that is from 20 years ago, so I’m not sure if it’s still true. A prof I had many years ago found out right quick that you DID NOT use anything with “Jesus” or “Christ” in it, in Bowling Green (KY).

    • Crustyrusty says:

      Here in KY, had a little 5 foot nothing woman tear into me once when I got pissed and let loose with g- d- it… I wanted to cry afterwards.

  24. David says:

    Welcome to Tennessee. Where the weather reports are made up and the seasons don’t matter.

  25. Randy Vickery says:

    Let’s go fishing Kenny. Hell we are just about an hour and a half apart now. You got to get into Nashville and visit the Opry and Bass Pro. Hope this move is all you expect and want out of retirement. Lot of like minded folks in the south and you will fit right in.

  26. Another hint, the sap from poison ivy is nasty. The dogs get it on them, they can transfer it to you. Same with your clothes. Get the sap on your jeans and Miss Lisa picks them up to wash them, she can get the rash if she is allergic to it. If you burn some of it out, stay out of the smoke, you don’t want to inhale the oils after they vaporize.

    • Shannon says:

      Oh Hell yes listen to this guy. The dreaded PI. He is speaking the truth for sure. If you think you’ve come in contact…scrub down with soap and COLD water. Hot water opens your pores and makes it worse. We use the burts bees pi soap here daily. If we have a major rash of it….mix a little Clorox and water….it’ll dry it up. But only in emergency situations. That’s really not a good thing to do for obvious reasons….but shit…a major PI rash will make you nuts

      • Wirecutter says:

        I’ve never had a reaction to poison ivy or oak and they were thick in the Sierra Nevada foothills…… but I also know that a person develop a reaction at any time in their life.
        Thanks for the tip on the soap, I appreciate that.

    • Rob says:

      For FRESH poison ivy vinagar right out of the bottle kills it. I kept a jug with me when I was working in thw woods, when I noticed I was scratching a spot I’d pour some on.

      • Shannon says:

        Yep.. Vinegar scrub works well too. With a full on outbreak rash. If vinegar doest work…which it won’t… A few drops of bleach in h20 will. As horrible as it sounds. Only in extreme situations should the concuction be used.

  27. .l.. says:

    Welcome to the proper side of the Mason/Dixon (haha). It’s nice to hear a “aww, thank you” for holding a door open for little’ol ladies, isn’t it? I reckon before too long you’ll have people asking about that DLW holster (IF you open carry)!

  28. Alexander T. says:

    Welcome to the south. If you want to drive down a dirt road here to see where it goes then do so. (Respect the “posted” signs), If you’re in Louisiana we’ll wave from the porch as you turn around.
    If you need directions, ask. Ya’ll probably be invited to supper.

    Grant said,
    “I am not aware of ever having used a profane expletive in life; but I would have the charity to excuse those who may have done so, if they were in charge of a train of Mexican pack mules.”

    Best wishes.

  29. harry h horn says:

    welcome to macon county we live in willette just south of rbs even the cops wave to you been here 7 years some locals will never accept you but will respect you unless youre a liberal never heard anyone swear but they do around close friends

  30. wildbill says:

    Glad you made it. I’m due south of you about 30 miles above the Alabama line. Good people here but we also have our share of thieves. Lock your door when you leave home. Growing up here in the ’60s we didn’t lock the house but times have changed. Be careful in Memphis. Lots of crime. Lots of stuff to see and do in and around Tennessee. Google “Tail of the Dragon”. That’s in western North Carolina. Lots of history. I think you’ll be happy here. Welcome!

  31. Tom Baugh says:

    Nice homilies. All these comments sound like southern Mississippi when and where I grew up.

    However, it is a different world now. Meth labs are springing up all over, and where there is meth (practically everywhere in the south), there are meth heads. And these people will often use your good graces to slip in under the radar.

    Worse, if you live near a prison (and those are sprouting up all over the south like mushrooms), those inmates often are brought out into the community in work details, as they do here in rural Georgia. Think chain gangs without the chains, and no, I’m not talking about some kid on community service for joyriding in Grandma’s pickup. Think guys in striped jumpsuits hauled around in prison vans. When you have this going on, then you are going to have locals coerced or enticed into helping with transferring contraband (drugs, cell phones, tobacco).

    Where there is meth or prisons, eventually some segment of authority will be suborned into protecting that trade, so what used to be a system that protected local values, now protects crime profits. And family networks which used to provide stability and respectability now often are the ones profiting.

    In many areas, this is the new south (possibly the entire rural American landscape by now), designed to drug-war spec in DC, helped along by reduced state funding for agencies such as GBI, who don’t answer the phone for individuals, and who don’t investigate non-violent crime. Perfect formula for an open-door policy for burglary, and Facebook is full of people cheering them on like a bunch of Robin Hoods.

    Hopefully, with Miss Lisa being from the area and family already, you’ll probably fit in.

    For anyone else thinking romantic thoughts about moving here: don’t get too starry eyed; keep one eye over your shoulder as you smile and wave.


  32. HatchieDave says:

    Welcome to Tennessee Wirecutter! Glad to have you. You passed right by my home as you rolled outta Memphis towards Jackson. If I’d known you were passing through, I’d hung a WELCOME banner on the exit 52 “Koko Rd. Whiteville” overpass.

  33. john says:

    Expect your trips to be faster in KY. At least in my AO, 5 Deputies in the whole County so 55 means 65-70 normally. You run 55 and someone will be on your bumper. One other thing I had to learn, in KY if in the country a raod has a yellow line in the middle it’s55, no line it’s 35.

  34. rightwingterrorist says:

    All true.
    Don’t forget your “yes, sir’s” and “no, mam’s”
    Oh, and that meth head you accidentally ran afoul may just be the local chief’s niece or nephew.
    Not that you ever will, but it’s good to keep in mind.

  35. singlestack says:

    Don’t be too surprised by other drivers waving as you pass each other on the road, or waving you ahead at intersections and in parking lots. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will soon.

    • Wirecutter says:

      It has. It’s starting to surprise when people don’t wave.

      • Corn Likker says:

        There is a direct correlation between politeness and the likelihood I will ever see you again; that explains the anonymous middle finger ‘fuck yous’ of Cali and the index finger howdys from the steering wheel in the smallest towns. Spent most of my life in KY and like John Prine says about his grandma “went to school in Bowlin’ Green.”
        But there’s certainly something to be said for Nashvegas: don’t miss a chance to hit the Bluebird Cafe for Steve Earle or the likes. Enjoy yourself rightly brother and welcome to the country.

  36. Rob says:

    I’ve not commented on your move yet mostly because there has been so many great comments and well wishes for you to go through… but just as I’ve posted before… If you and Miss Lisa find yourselves a bit south in Chattanooga (tons of tourist stuff and civil war history to see here) The better half and I would love to offer ya’ll a home cooked meal and some great Kentucky bourbon. (I’m not saving the good stuff for ya though… lol.) We are really happy for ya’ll and wish you all the best the southeast has to offer.
    I’m a bit of a misanthrope but like minded people like you and Lisa are always welcome at our humble home.
    Truly happy for you and yours and we hope the adjustment is a breeze as we expect it will be.
    P.S. The better half says to tell ya’ll she isn’t a misanthrope… she just dislikes ignorant liberals.. lol.
    Drop in anytime Kenny.. you and yours are always welcome.

    • Wirecutter says:

      If we get a house with a couple of acres I’d like to host a Patriot’s Gathering – and I don’t like people either.
      Thanks Rob, I plan on doing a lot of battlefield stuff and will get ahold of you when we make it down that way.

  37. kevlar says:

    So happy to hear you made it to Tennessee.
    I cant wait to hear what you got to say after you
    spend some time in the great smokey mountains.
    New beginings, may you and miss Lisa be blessed in
    all that you do.

  38. Welcome to Tenn! We have a yard toss game called corn holein, but that can also mean something else entirely. If someone asks you if you would be interested in a little corn holein make absolutely sure which one they are talking about! From reading your blog, you don’t seem like the type who would enjoy the second game.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Okay, we passed a sign outside a store that advertised cornhole bags and I told Lisa “I thought we left that shit behind”.
      Now we know what they were talking about.

  39. bayouwulf says:

    To re-address what Kevlar said, Welcome and hope you do find time to visit East Tennessee. I live close to the Smoky Mountains also. Maryville to be precise. Have been in this area for 30 years as of last month, when I separated from the USAF. Tennessee aint’ perfect, but it’s close and I ain’t leaving. If you visit here, you may change your mind.

  40. Wire cutters Mother says:

    Sounds like Georgia where u spent the night in the hoosegow for chasing ducks!!!! It didn’t help to find out the judge, Sherris, defense attorney were all related! Then we had to drive around that county when we moved cause that judge told you NEVER too step foot in HIS county again!!! Welcome home Son.

  41. Tom W. says:

    Don’t know if it was already covered. Lots of outstanding comments. If your doing any shooting on Sunday, do it after church lets out. Hunting season is the exception. But if you have neighbors within ear shot of a shot, it was always the unwritten “way”. Makes me homesick for my time in very rural NC. God Bless.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Sunday’s a day of rest, yes, I’ve always observed that. Back when I was working for Safeway I refused to take any job that required me to work on Sunday. That was my Okie upbringing.

  42. Tsquared says:

    “Well bless your heart” is one of the worst things anybody can say to you.

    That Good Ol’ Boy network between the cops, District Attorney, and Judges is very tight. If you get a speeding ticket find out who the judge is and go to his law firm and hire them to fight your ticket. It will still cost about the same but the ticket will usually be changed to a non-moving violation so it will not hit your driving record or affect your insurance.

  43. The number one way to avoid trouble with The Man in most communities in Kentucky and Tennessee is to join the Masons and the Shrine.

    One of Milady’s sister-in-laws finally decided to run Milady’s brother off (not completely unwarranted, but about 15 years late). She and her big-city lawyer came to Little Mountain Town, Kentucky with an Emergency Protection Order and a lot of talk about threatening and danger. My father-in-law was in the nursing home, but he had Milady roll him to the office and got on the phone. Two calls to the Brethren, and the judge told said big city lawyer that that piece of paper wasn’t needed.

    Of course, there was a flip side to it. Idiot Brother tried to talk to her an hour later in the Dollar General, and she called the police. They were back in front of the judge within another hour. The judge reminded Idiot Brother that if, after the Brethren had helped him, he caused any more trouble to her or to them, they would take care of him themselves. He never did bother her again.

  44. Karl Ushanka says:

    Congrats on the move! Keep ol Karl in mind if you make a trip to/thru Cincinnati.

  45. elric says:

    Congrats on moving, enjoy being out of the land of the fruits and the nuts!

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