Wednesday, December 31, 2008


For several years, we've borrowed an idea from BBC News - which lists the things it didn't know, either last week or last year. In 2008 we learned many things about our area. And when you're declared "Idiot of the Week" during 2008 not once but twice, you need to learn as much as you can.

So what did we learn in 2008? We think a list of 100 things is a bit bulky, so we'll offer you 25....

1. Foundations can crumble -- even ones built with money, and not concrete.

We didn't know this until Tuesday night, when we found out the Tidwell Cancer Foundation is going out of business. It closes its doors today - but at least it resisted the temptation to merge with Columbus Regional.

Virginia McClure with the Tidwell Cancer Foundation told WLTZ the agency needed to become self-supporting, and that didn't seem possible with the current tight economy. Let's face it, only so many people in this area need Nicorette patches....

The Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center will remain open. But its marketing staff will be laid off. I'm not sure what this means to the "Tidwell and Friends" TV talk show. Perhaps Eve Tidwell will go back to her old restaurant on 13th Street, and hand out business cards.

2. If part of the Riverwalk is marked off with orange paint, it probably needs repair. It is NOT a box for setting up water tables for runners.

A couple of orange boxes are marked on the Riverwalk right now, between Rotary Park and RoadAmerica. I jogged in that area Tuesday, and noticed the pavement inside the boxes is cracked and sagging - as if too many football players stopped there to do jumping jacks.

3. Packages of "Christmas candy" tend to have more red-wrapped candies than green ones. But I don't think that necessarily makes the companies Communist.

We reached this conclusion through a ridiculously unscientific random survey. It's based on a big bag of York peppermint patties we bought for half-price at Target last Friday. Please don't get the wrong idea here -- we finished the bag Tuesday. We showed moderation, and took five days to eat them all.

The 19.75-ounce big bag (yes, it's called that) of York peppermint patties had 22 red-wrapped patties, compared with 12 green ones. Maybe this is a sign of things to come -- considering Georgia meets green-clad Michigan State in a bowl game Thursday.

(By the way, only five of the York peppermint patties were wrapped in silver. Another reflection of an economy in recession, I suppose....)

4. The only person in the U.S. who seems uninterested in receiving a handout of government money is Barack Obama.

Isn't it curious? The President-elect rejected federal campaign funding, and won the election. Now it seems like all kinds of industries want "bailouts" from Washington. If you claim you don't want one -- well, did you mail back that $300 stimulus check from earlier this year?

Columbus Metro Airport put itself in line for federal money Tuesday. Manager Mark Oropeza said he's applied for $11 million in grant money, to repair the main runway and move a taxiway. Apparently he's tired of waiting for the money to come from that proposed airport hotel.

5. Columbus has a football "Tiger Bowl" for children, which apparently is competing with the Peanut Bowl. And after the season the Auburn Tigers had, the name might change next year to the Tide-y-Bowl.

Have you seen the billboard downtown honoring the first "Tiger Bowl" champion? The Colts won the title in the new "River City Youth Football" program. The Pioneer program apparently broke away from Columbus Youth Football, after almost 50 years. Well, that IS a long time to stay with your parents....

River City Youth Football appears to be based in Harris County. So the former Pioneer Colts now are the "Columbus Colts." Some people are doing anything to get away from a connection with Pioneer Little League.

OK, enough of the detailed explanations. Here's the rest of our list....

6. White college graduates in their twenties know how to dance to "Crank Dat Soldier Boy." My youngest niece and her husband did it at their wedding reception in May. My late father would have fainted at the sight of that.

7. McClung Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 17,000 people. Now I'm REALLY wondering how it hosted Auburn-Georgia football games years ago.

8. Columbus can go three months without a Chevrolet dealer, seemingly without anyone missing it.

9. Soda pop is a "Satanic corruption" of water. So I heard a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor say -- but then I thought I saw a bottle of Sprite in the kitchen, for serving punch at a reception.

10. Muscogee County needs a full year to replace its school superintendent -- yet somehow, TV stations can change news anchors in less than three months.

11. Gas prices actually can drop below $1.50 a gallon in Columbus again. They hit $1.45 in my neighborhood Tuesday. All it takes is what some people are calling the "Greatest Depression."

12. If someone breaks into your home and threatens to cause trouble, you should threaten to wrap him in plastic wrap. It worked at one Columbus restaurant, you know.

13. Young people with skateboards actually can find the new skateboard park at South Commons. Those GPS devices are amazing.

14. High-definition TV makes WLTZ's Stephanie Tiso look fabulous. I'm not sure why it doesn't work for Calvin Floyd.

15. Some kindergarten teachers are so dumb, they have trouble spelling simple five-letter words. The really dumb ones don't even blame it on dyslexia.

16. The 14th Street pedestrian bridge can be rented for Sunday banquets. At least, I'm assuming that's what all those churches did in October.

17. Columbus has 36 police "beats." Thankfully, no one complained this year about the beating being excessive -- except maybe for Wallace Davis, and he wasn't even beaten.

18. Baseball teams leave everything unplugged when they move out of town. The Golden Park scoreboard clock has been stuck at 11:30 for months.

19. Columbus can have a radio station called "The Truth," which doesn't air a single political talk show.

20. Georgia campaign signs no longer need fine print about who paid for them. But it WOULD be nice to require fine print, explaining what candidates really think.

21. The "Boom Boom Lady" at Fireworks Outlet must be a Columbus Cottonmouths fan. Notice how she hip-checks the "Bang Bang Lady" off her feet in that new commercial.

22. Golfing with Wii is much more successful than the golfing of Michelle Wie.

23. Some Columbus attorneys have their own version of "Shop with a Cop" - only they shop for judges.

24. My alma mater Kansas can win a national championship in basketball AND a football bowl game in one year. Winning the Insight Bowl tonight will make 2008 even more miraculous.

25. A song called "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It" can be controversial. Now I'm not sure I'll ever do it again.

COMING THURSDAY: Regular blog readers should already know what's coming....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from 2007. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Monday was one of those days for me. You know what I mean, don't you - one of THOSE days. When the workday lasts twice as long as you expect. When you finally realize you've done something incorrectly for months. When, when.... well, when you can't even come up with a good punch line about it all.

So we're waving the white flag a bit today, and letting a couple of e-mails lead the discussion. First we hear from a local political leader....

Dear Richard,

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. As always, I enjoy reading your daily take on things. I did want to take exception to a portion of your 28 December 2008 blog entry. You stated:

"The Education Park Coalition announced in September it would take the "greenspace" issue around the main public library to the Georgia Supreme Court. Yet have you noticed the improvements along Macon Road in recent weeks, with shrubs and trees being planted? Before long, there will be so much greenery that we'll forget about the lawsuit - and library critics might forget it's even there."

It is correct that we filed with the Georgia Supreme Court an appeal of the Court of Appeals decision that affirmed Judge Pullen's dismissal of the lawsuit regarding the misuse of SPLOST funds by the Columbus Consolidated Government among others. However, the announcement in September was made by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that the Supreme Court had decided to take the case up on appeal.

In an average year the Court receives about 600 applications to review civil appeals that have already been ruled upon and of those it decides to review about 40 of them. In other words, our case is in the 6 percent or so of cases that the Supreme Court has decided is worth another review. That is what was significant about September's event.

As for your assertion about the amount of greenery around the Library, it is true that at long last monies long promised for landscaping in the front have evidently been spent in accordance with the 2001 Master Plan. The problem is with the 19 acre moonscape behind the Library that runs from its back door to Boxwood, to the old Carmike property and to the Rigdon Road School. It remains abandoned fencing and broken asphalt. That is always the area that has been in contention and remains so to this day, as none of the Defendants have spent one dollar to do anything to improve that area and bring it into compliance with the Master Plan adopted back in 2001.

I believe I have somewhere in my file a photograph of the Library property taken standing at the Carmike property looking back toward the Library. I will be happy to forward it to you. The only vegetation is the weeds you find between the cracks in the asphalt.

I have an update on Senator Harbison but I will save that, perhaps for later today.


Josh McKoon

We double-checked the blog archives, and I'll grant Mr. McKoon part of his historical argument. The Education Park Coalition announced a new appeal of the greenspace case in May [15 May]. But the "announcement in September" actually reached us by e-mail -- not from the newspaper, but Mr. McKoon! [24 Sep] It really pays to have Yahoo's unlimited e-mail storage.

The September e-mail from Josh McKoon said the greenspace appeal will be on the Georgia Supreme Court's "oral argument calendar" for January. The date is now set as the first case of the year on Monday, 12 January. But most reporters probably will show up for the last case of the morning - hoping Atlanta Bread Company will bring free samples.

It appears the Education Park Coalition will be in a "front door, back door" argument with the city, about the land around the Columbus Public Library. Is it still possible to achieve a compromise - and use all that asphalt to build a second skateboard park?

Hmmmm - what sort of "update" might the Muscogee County Republican Chair have on State Senator Ed Harbison? Could it be the recent contribution to his campaign fund from the political action committee for Wal-Mart? I suppose a $500 check costs less than building a new SuperCenter on Buena Vista Road....

Our other e-mail responds to a message we posted 23 December:

Mr. Burkard,

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to respond to this allegation prior to the posting on your website. Claire Marie Richards is not currently nor has she ever been on the Pioneer Little League Board of Directors. Thanks!!!

Susan Darrah Boyd

Pioneer Little League

This reached us Monday -- six days after we mentioned the denial from a Pioneer Little League official by phone. But other officials probably were preoccupied last week. You know -- scouting for new talent in Dothan and Albany.

Here we are at the end of December - and a youth baseball camp opened in Columbus Monday. It's going on through Wednesday at Pacelli High and St. Anne Schools. And the organizers are so optimistic that the sessions are in the morning, from 9:00 to 12:00 noon.

But then again, Northern Little League will open its 2009 registration in a couple of weekends. It's almost like youth basketball does not exist in Columbus - or else video games like "NBA '09" are enough for training new stars these days.

We thank everyone who writes us, pro and con. Now before we wrap up our review of 2008, let's check some Monday headlines:

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington told WXTX "News at Ten" Police Chief Ricky Boren is responding to Columbus's deadly December by creating ten new "beats." At least someone is! The Ledger-Enquirer and WRBL seem to have cut their number of news beats in half.

(Mayor Wetherington added Columbus is up to 30 new officers hired, on the way to 100. But he says the impact of the additional officers might not be evident for a year. He'd better be right -- or Wetherington probably won't be evident in the mayor's office in two years.)

+ Columbus Police reported someone crashed a truck through a door at Peachtree Mall. There's no evidence anything was stolen, and the driver crashed near a nail salon. Hmmmm - what percentage of nail polish consists of alcohol?

+ Stephen Hyles took the oath of office as Municipal Court Judge. Let's be thankful outgoing Judge Haywood Turner didn't follow the tradition of the Muscogee County School Board, and offer Hyles a handgun.

+ The owner of Alabama Wholesale Furnishings revealed he plans to reopen his Phenix City store in the spring as an "antique mall." So instead of selling the latest in bedroom suites, the items which haven't sold in months will be labeled as "antiques" at a higher price.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported billionaire Mark Cuban has bought ten percent control of Carmike Cinemas. Cuban owns pro basketball's Dallas Mavericks - but I'd rather hear Atlanta Hawks games on radio for free, than watch them in 3-D at Columbus Park Crossing.

+ The South beat the North 17-0, in the Georgia high school football all-star game at McClung Memorial Stadium. Someone asked me why this game was played on a Monday afternoon. I guessed it was done to stop the run of consecutive days with vandalized schools.

+ Alabama football coach Nick Saban suspended All-American offensive tackle Andre Smith from the Sugar Bowl. Smith broke some kind of team rule - and in New Orleans, I don't think that means Smith ate too much gumbo.

+ The Auburn men's basketball team annihilated Alabama A&M 82-40. This adds to a Tiger record which includes wins over Tuskegee and Alabama State. Maybe next season Chattahoochee Valley Community College will show some boldness, and get on the schedule.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, and goes in surprising directions from there. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: We've come to November in our review of the past year. And we all know how historic November was. Has there ever been a time like it in Columbus history - when the incoming District Attorney made news simply by getting a haircut?

Gun sales seemed to jump in Columbus and nationwide, after Barack Obama was elected President. I'm starting to wonder if that it really was due to fears about weapons restrictions -- or if some group was organizing for a record-breaking December in Columbus.

(Something else seemed to increase in sales after the election, of course - the number of commercials making Senator Saxby Chambliss sound like the worst thing to hit Georgia since Michael Registe.)

As far as we know, former school principal Phyllis Jones made her only public comment about an ethics investigation to this blog during November. She denied doing anything wrong, involving Rigdon Road School finances. At least she's only accused at this point of keeping book fair money - not investing any in that Ponzi scheme.

While November lacked the surge of homicides December has seen, it had some unusual crimes. One man was arrested for breaking into 64 cars - and surprisingly, it was NOT a "repo man" from Bill Heard Chevrolet.

Then there was the scofflaw who tried to rob a Columbus restaurant in November, and was found with his legs bound in plastic wrap. Someone should mention this when the PBR bull riding tour comes to town in January. It could launch a completely new event - calf-roping for women, only without the rope.

It wouldn't be November without some big college football games. Troy blew a big lead, and lost to Louisiana State. Auburn never even scored, and lost to Alabama. Yet Coach Larry Blakeney is still in Troy - while Tommy Tuberville might wind up coaching Brett Favre and the New (Jersey) Jets.

Columbus unveiled a "Walk of Fame" for great local entertainers in November, in front of the Liberty Theatre. If Bear O'Brian would give away some plasma TV sets there, his turn could come by 2015.

This month of December has seen people make history as well. There's the new Phenix City Manager. There's the new owner of Legacy Chevrolet. There's Auburn University's new head football.... well, two out of three milestones isn't bad.

The year ends with Columbus Council having settled two unsettling matters - the Kenneth Walker killing and the Zach Allen case. But why do I have the feeling any campaign donations in the next few months from Mark Shelnutt will be returned?

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: We're making a special list.... but why are we stacking candy wrappers?....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from 2007. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, December 29, 2008


Muscogee County schools are about halfway through winter break. I was stunned several years ago by a local TV news report, urging parents to keep children's brains motivated during the break. Do they really forget things, after only two weeks out of school? How many teachers make children wear name tags in January, like they do in August?

We've decided to hold a winter break "pop quiz" today on spelling. Muscogee County teachers may need it as much as students, after that hearing two weeks ago to fire a kindergarten teacher with misspellings on her posters. You wonder if any other teachers ever bothered telling the teacher about her errors. Instead, they may have acted like first-graders and said, "Ummmmm - I'm telling!"

When we commented on the teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary School [18 Dec], we noted that the school's web site had a glaring spelling error of its own. A check Sunday night showed "counselors" still is misspelled. Oh yes, and the MLK Day holiday date hasn't been updated from last January. The "Media Specialist" who oversees the site may be too busy tracking overdue library books.

We wondered if other local schools are setting a better educational example. But we quickly ran into trouble - as the Muscogee County School District web site was down for some reason Sunday night. The vandals who broke windows at Jordan High School may have unplugged more than they realized....

Keep in mind that I won a grade school spelling title when I was a boy, and took "best-in-grade" honors three years in a row. So we know trouble when we see it - and here's what some browsing around school web sites found:

+ Hardaway High School's news section reports there was a pizza night in August - and "the football team will RECEICE part of the proceeds." Well, this DID happen at Cici's Pizza....

+ The Clubs section of Midland Middle School's site invites students to join the Junior Civitan Club, and become "Builders of Good CITIZANSHIP." Maybe the Civitans require this spelling with other words, such as "beast of burdan."

+ The 17 December lunch menu for Stewart County Schools shows students feasted on "TURNIPS greens" and a cake with "Cream CHEES Frosting." We thank Mrs. Turnip for donating the greens - but is an English teacher double-checking what the cafeteria manager writes?

+ Lakewood Elementary in Phenix City invites you to watch a video clip with "Windows MEIDA Player." The principal's "Protected Reading Time" had better not protect children from the spelling books.

+ Meadowlane Elementary lists one of its Partners in Education as the "Order of the EASTER Star." I think that's supposed to be Eastern - unless this is a secret group operated by a Baptist church.

+ The December Headmaster's Letter from Brookstone School has the word "nonetheless" hyphenated twice. My American Heritage Dictionary disagrees with that - but any faculty member who dares to put fancy words like "acuity" in his letter leaves me impressed.

But all hope is not lost here. Our check found Phenix City Elementary School had no spelling errors on its site at all. So did New Mountain Hill Elementary, Calvary Christian and St. Anne Schools - although St. Anne has a phrase in Latin, and I haven't checked a textbook on that in more than 30 years.

OK, OK - I can hear some of you calling me nit-picky. But if we're going to improve local education, don't we need to redouble our efforts to make everything as accurate as possible? Well, some of us would be happy to see signs of the FIRST doubling.

(Of course, I could be REALLY nit-picky about spelling. People send us e-mails all the time with words misspelled. Those who know better are free to consider them embedded jokes.)

-> Our other blog starts with poker, and goes in surprising directions from there. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Since I'm making myself look like Mr. Know-It-All, let's handle this message....

Richard...I just want to say you made 2008 interesting. As we plowed through high gas prices and the low economy you kept us going..Your stories were informative,funny and thought provoking...Thanks for a great year !

Now a couple of questions..When is Chuck Leonard coming come to TV?. .Have you noticed Channel 3 is saying watch their news reported by familiar faces?

As I understand it, Chuck Leonard will be back at the anchor desk sometime next week. And WRBL's main anchor team has been together for several years. But sports anchor Shawn Skillman still isn't familiar enough to earn a spot on the station home page.

Now for some items you might have missed from the long weekend:

+ Which local car dealership reportedly has only about three months to turn sales around, or it will close? We're talking a new car dealer here - as 13th Street in Phenix City has so many used car lots that one probably wouldn't be missed.

+ The Atlanta Falcons ended the regular season by stopping St. Louis 31-27. Michael Turner rushed for 208 yards on the final Sunday, after rushing for 220 yards on opening day. If he keeps doing that in the playoffs, Ted Turner will declare him a long-lost cousin.

(The Falcons will open the playoffs next Saturday at Arizona. The Cardinals are coached by former Atlanta "H Back" Ken Whisenhunt. I never understood what the H meant - so maybe it stood for Huh?!)

+ A proposal was announced to build a new stadium for the Falcons, in the Atlanta suburb of Doraville. It would be built on the site of a closed General Motors plant -- so instead of a "retractable roof," it would be called a sunroof.

+ Instant Message to Sonic Drive-Ins: It's about time you had a "value menu." But c'mon - ONE "fresh banana" for a dollar? I'll hop out of the car and walk inside a supermarket for at least three, thank you very much....

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: October was a month with many endings in our area. The old Bibb Mill went up in flames. The legal battle over the death of Kenneth Walker ended. And the firing of Tony Franklin ended any thinking that Tommy Tuberville felt like a superior football coach to Nick Saban.

October was a month of change in Phenix City. First Councilor Ray Bush lost a runoff. Then City Manager Bubba Roberts learned he was being run off.

As election fever raged in October, Russell County sheriff's officers received a strange call. Someone left a voting machine at the end of a resident's driveway. The contents of that machine could settle the Senate race in Minnesota yet....

Columbus Council went on the record during October in favor of a national Cesar Chavez holiday every March. But it stopped short of making it a local holiday - perhaps waiting for permission to move the local date to Cinco de Mayo.

"Protect Columbus" billboards sprang up across the city in October, as the police department began filling 100 new positions. The female officer on the right side of that billboard may be in line for a promotion in 2009 - if the police chief allows her to be a "C-Town Hottie" in The Edge Magazine.

But some people simply couldn't wait for those 100 new officers. Frank Lumpkin III was arrested in October, when he tried to make a "citizen's arrest" to reclaim his stolen car. How did Clint Eastwood turn this case into the movie "Gran Torino" so quickly?

Bill Heard employees were stunned in October, when their final checks failed to clear the bank. Imagine how stunned they were two months later, when the new owner of Legacy Chevrolet actually wanted to hire some of them back.

While car sales were stuck in neutral for many dealers, the price of gas dropped sharply in October. Some SUV drivers were thrilled by this - because they didn't have to dismantle the rear-seat DVD players to improve fuel mileage after all.

Yet electricity prices kept increasing in October - and the Alabama Public Service Commission told Alabama Power to get rid of the commercials with talking birds. I think they were last seen flying toward Atlanta, hoping the Falcons will give them a job.

A Cataula man set a Georgia state record in October, by hunting and killing a 680-pound alligator. If only Shane Wilson had kept it alive - to give Glenwood School the scariest mascot in all of Alabama.

A Columbus baseball player appeared in the World Series during October. Since then, Tampa Bay pitcher Edwin Jackson has been traded to Detroit - so it's
no wonder he's resting here, instead of heading north to hear all those complaints about the football team.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008


In all my years, I'd never done it on 25-26 December before. But two mornings last week were mild enough to run outside at the start of the day. If you think I was weird, you should have met the woman I passed on the Riverwalk - who recited a loud prayer as I approached, as if I was about to mug her.

As I jogged, some family history was on my mind. This past week marked 25 years since my mother died. It happened during a bitterly cold Kansas City December. When you put a key in the front door of your brother's house and it breaks off in the lock, that's cold....

As we mentioned during our "Know Your Blogger" series in October [21 Oct], my mother had a brain aneurysm in December 1983. That led to a stroke, which put her in the hospital. To this day, I suspect smoking had something to do with it. The fact that my last conversation with Mom occurred with a cigarette at her hospital bed certainly couldn't have helped.

I was working in radio news in Oklahoma at the time, and took the six-hour drive northeast to be with my mother. But a strange thing happened during that drive, as I developed chest pains on the Kansas Turnpike. A stop at an Emporia, Kansas hospital showed nothing unusual. So I guess that's how a "heavy heart" feels....

I don't remember packing for that trip, except I forgot to pack a sportcoat for church. I bought one at a mall, when I reached Kansas City. Does the "Joe Namath collection" qualify as a sports collector's item nowadays?

I only had one brief chat with my mother during a week in Kansas City. Most of the time, she was resting in her hospital room. I took care of Mom's mobile home in a suburb, which included her little kitten. When it can squirm under the gap in the bathroom door and interrupt your "private moments," that's little.

One night the kitten seemed annoyingly anxious to go outside - and even though I'd been told not to do it, I let the kitten outside in the cold. I never heard or saw it after that. Hopefully it went to a nearby mobile home, where the residents could turn the kitten's energy into inexpensive heat.

I don't recall doing much during that week in Kansas City -- and since my mother's health condition seemed stable, I decided to return to work in Oklahoma. After all, she was only 59 years old. But I probably forgot my mother's battle with ulcers years before, the stress of a divorce from Dad -- not to mention my asking her for approval to move to Oklahoma in the first place.

A call came to the radio station on the Thursday after I returned. My mother's condition had worsened, and my brother feared this would be the end. Ever the journalist, I still remember one other event of that day - the only bank in the tiny town of Hopeton, Oklahoma was robbed.

The weather was terrible on Friday, 23 Dec 83 -- with high temperatures in single digits and no sunshine. A family from my church congregation generously offered to lend me a car for the trip. But I foolishly turned it down -- taking my used car with hardly any heat. Sometimes your feet can wind up doubling as blocks of ice.

My mother was on life support at this point, and my older brother decided there was no reason to keep it going. So as we say, the hospital staff "pulled the plug" at midday Saturday. I took a last look at my comatose mother, then went to a Sabbath church service. There were no special prayers for me or my family. After all, Mom went to church somewhere else....

The death of my mother made for a difficult Christmas for my brother and his family the following day. I slept in a spare bedroom - and because I didn't keep Christmas even then, I stayed in that room until the holiday activities were over. I cared enough NOT to give the family an extra layer of stress.

Because of the holiday season, the funeral for my mother couldn't take place until the following Friday. The cold wave lasted all week - and local sports fans may remember it, because Alabama played in 15-degree weather at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Those were the "good old days" when scientists actually were concerned about a new ice age beginning.

My brother and I had a discussion during that week about what casket to buy -- and religious differences showed in the process. I preferred something with a lower price, suggesting our mother would never know the difference. My older brother was a bit insulted by that. But I think when Mom is resurrected, she'll be looking for something other than a price tag.

One night brought the division of Mom's belongings at her mobile home. I still have a full set of Corelle dinnerware from her kitchen, as well as a flatware pattern that's now hopelessly out of style. But my sister-in-law was surprised when I did NOT take the microwave oven. I guess I believed the warnings that they were dangerous - which is still true, if you burn popcorn at work.

The funeral for my mother occurred at the family United Methodist Church. Even though Mom was a Sunday School teacher for years, the pastor was left to read the obituary which was clipped from a newspaper. I'm not sure why, since the big-drawing Christmas message requiring extra work was over....

My brother graciously lent me a set of thermal underwear, to make it through the graveside part of the service. The weather was starting to warm up - and as I recall, the high might have climbed all the way to 20.

After I returned to work in Oklahoma, the weeks that followed led to the discovery that my mother had tens of thousands of dollars stashed away in savings. She never mentioned it to me -- and sounded content simply to be left in a nursing home after she retired. Her bank accounts could have paid for one in Palm Springs.

My older brother and I split Mom's holdings 50-50. There was enough for me to finish paying off her car, and allow me to own a nearly-new Chevrolet. But I heeded the warnings about other people who blew inheritances on wild trips and lifestyles. So some of that money was invested, and remains invested today. May Congress NOT give the remainder of it back to me, in a small stimulus check....

Thanks for your patience, in this memorial trip. Now let's head back to the here and now, for some weekend headlines:

+ The much warmer weather continued in Columbus, as Saturday's high was a record-tying 75 degrees F. I was able to sleep with the bedroom window open - and in the comfort that I had NO fancy holiday gifts, which burglars might want to steal.

(It's been SO WARM that a snowman in the apartment courtyard appeared to have melted Saturday - and it was a vinyl snowman blown up by a neighbor.)

+ The Shoe Show shop on Victory Drive was hit by criminals for the second time in four days. Columbus Police say someone put a hole in the store's roof to steal merchandise. I thought the Manolo Blahnik fad ended when "Sex and the City" left television.

+ A gas war erupted in Ladonia, with several stations lowering their price for regular unleaded to $1.29 a gallon. Maybe this explains why brownie prices inside convenience stores are going out of sight....

+ Former Bill Heard Cadillac manager Chris French appeared in a new TV commercial - not for Legacy Cadillac, but Acura of Columbus. Of course, things could be worse. French could be standing next to the "Bang Bang Lady," selling fireworks.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer announced it will publish Fort Benning's weekly paper "The Bayonet" for the first time in 17 years. The reason for this should be obvious - the Ledger-Enquirer needs all the ad revenue it can get, even if it's from soldiers who think the paper is too liberal.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths twisted Twin City 3-1. The WEAM-AM radio broadcast from Winston-Salem, North Carolina sounded strange at times - like ice hockey had turned into water polo, and the announcers were using scuba gear.

+ Instant Message to Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik: Did I read that right - you have an assistant coach for "N.F.L. Relations"? Is his job to keep sports agents out of the locker room?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, and goes in surprising directions from there. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: September was a month which left many people in Columbus stunned. The stock market and banking business went into a free-fall. Bill Heard Enterprises closed all its dealerships. And did you notice how Georgia's football season eroded, after Larry Munson suddenly retired?

Plenty of things were in the news during September, to make people nervous. Hurricane Gustav brought some evacuees to town. Then Hurricane Ike made gas prices reach record highs. It's as if the Columbus Catfish knew something was coming - because they hurried off to Kentucky between storms.

The high price of gasoline led the Americus Times-Recorder to stop home delivery during September. Subscribers now get the newspaper by mail -- but at least it means the paper is less likely to wind up in a tree.

But Steve and Barry's announced in September its store at Cross Country Plaza would remain open. Whoever sent that news release left out a couple of important words - "until December."

Rumors swirled in the political world during September. One involved Alfonza Whitaker's picture not appearing on some billboards. Another involved the Harris County Sheriff being under an investigation. It ended with Whitaker losing his race, Mike Jolley winning his -- and still no apology from the people who claimed Jolley had been indicted and arrested.

A big vote took place in Columbus Council during September, as a proposal to expand the scope of a Public Safety Advisory Commission was vetoed by the mayor. Of course, this means the commission members now are back in anonymous hiding....

A curious crime occurred in Auburn during September, when someone stole 100 fire hydrants. As far as I know, they haven't been found - and if the new Hurtsboro Mayor was installing any of them, Robert Schweiger certainly would have told us.

The Education Park Coalition announced in September it would take the "greenspace" issue around the main public library to the Georgia Supreme Court. Yet have you noticed the improvements along Macon Road in recent weeks, with shrubs and trees being planted? Before long, there will be so much greenery that we'll forget about the lawsuit - and library critics might forget it's even there.

Speaking of education, September was a messy month at Carver High School. A sewer line leaked at the cafeteria -- and the staff couldn't even overcome that odor by overcooking collard greens.

Phenix City officially turned over "The Triangle" property to Troy University during September. It's a controversial move which will mean a new college building, a new high-rise condominium - and dozens more people for panhandlers on the 14th Street Bridge to approach.

September's big entertainment event in Columbus was a sellout concert by teenage country music star Taylor Swift. She's becoming so successful that she could give the "Swift-Boat" a completely new meaning.

September also included this famous quote by Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville: "I'm here to win football games, not make friends and run for office." At least he now has plenty of time to work on those last two....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,067 (- 100, 8.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, December 26, 2008


It's a requirement on some jobs that everyone HAS to take a dinner break during their shift -- even if it's a holiday, and even if you ate at home first. So that led me to take a walk Thursday evening to grab a snack I really didn't need. And that led to me spending three times more than I planned, on people I've never met. No, they did NOT claim to be secret Santas....

BLOGGER BEGGARS #11-12: The two young men stood on either side of the door, outside Circle K at Wynnton Road and Brown Avenue. I assumed they were waiting for a friend, as I stepped outside with a package of cookies. They certainly weren't working -- because they stared toward the street, and didn't open the door for me.

"Evening, gentlemen," I said quietly as I stepped around the man on the right to walk back to work.

"Can I have 50 cents?" that man asked. Yes, he WAS waiting for a friend - and anyone handing out free money was a friend of his.

I motioned the man to go back inside Circle K. "Why do you want it?" He didn't give an answer. But asking for 50 cents at the end of 2008 clearly means he doesn't want a pack of cigarettes - they cost much more than that.

The young man stopped at a rack, and pulled out a narrow bag of sunflower seeds. "This costs more than 50 cents," he informed me. Tell me about it - as Little Debbie is raising the prices of convenience store mini-donuts and brownies to 75 cents. Would Buford's Brownies please offer some competition?

"How much money do you have?" I asked the man. My 50 cents combined with his change could pay for the sunflower seeds.

"I don't have nothing." This is what happens when the consumer advice experts discourage gifts of gift cards.

"Can I have a soda?" The man standing on the other side of the front door had now come in, and passed us by while heading for the beverage cases. And you thought the big holiday doubleheader involved Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant....

I stood exasperated for a moment at this. I should have told the second young man to go find another target for his begging. But then again, Fox News Channel has taught us the importance of being "fair and balanced."

"How much is it?" the second man asked as we approached the soda cases. Hmmmm - he didn't know? Maybe his usual "turf" outside a drug store was closed for the holiday.

"What does it say?" I asked the second man - who then reached into a case and pulled out a 20-ounce bottle of $1.19 soda. At least he didn't go for the big-money brands. You know, Pepsi at $1.39.

"I'm buying for these two," I told the woman behind the counter at Circle K as the men approached with their groceries. "They were begging outside...." At that point, the man with sunflower seeds seemed to deny he was begging -- but if he had been asking for much more money on public television, I would have used the same word.

"These men are desperate," I continued to explain to the women. The men seemed ready to laugh at this explanation -- as if they expected me to start preaching about conversion any second.

The total tab for the beggars' sunflower seeds and soda came to $1.81. "I appreciate it," one of the men said as they hurried out the door.

"You're supposed to say thank you," the woman behind the counter said. I figured she must be new to Columbus.

"'I appreciate it' is Southern for 'thank you.'"

I didn't see the two young men when I walked out of Circle K, less than a minute later. In fact, no one was standing at the door anymore. Maybe those men and their posse moved along, before the next crazed weirdo showed up.

This tag-team action ties our total beggar count for 2007. And it makes three beggars in a row that we've encountered on Wynnton Road [28 Sep]. The ministries which organized those holiday dinners near the Chattahoochee River should rent a room on the Aflac grounds next year.

True confession: this beggar double play left me annoyed, as I walked back to work. Yes, I could have turned down their request for money - but then what would have happened? Would their door-blocking "request" have led to something worse? I don't mean "Mug" Root Beer....

As I finished the work shift late Thursday night, and went to my car, a Columbus Police car happened to drive up behind mine. "You had to work on a holiday?" the officer asked me.

"Yeah, I did."

"We're on burglary detail. Just checking."

"I understand - but I sort of wish you'd been with me around 7:00 tonight."

Let's check other things that happened Thursday, at all hours of the day and night....

+ The late-night news rode with a Georgia State Patrol officer along Interstate 185 in Harris County, at speeds as high as 115 miles per hour. The trooper complained the highway is "becoming a racetrack." That settles it! The Raceway gas station at the Victory Drive exit needs to move closer to downtown.

+ WRBL scraped up enough money to presented a surprise 12:00 noon holiday newscast. Fill-in weathercaster David Spunt declared the sun "seems to set a little earlier every day" right now. Well, no -- the sunsets are a few minutes later right now compared with early December. This proves he's a fill-in, and certainly proves he's not a Seventh-Day Adventist.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths lost to Knoxville 2-0. We're sad to report last weekend's attempt by the Cottonmouths for a world record for mass kazoo-playing fell short by about 1,000 people. Maybe Coach Jerome Bechard should stick to setting records for goal-scoring.

+ CBS Sports showed the "Chick-Fil-A Bowl Alma Mater" celebrity golf tournament. It had college sports twosomes -- and the Auburn team included Tommy Tuberville, while the Alabama team had Nick Saban and Ken Stabler. How did CBS keep this event's outcome a secret since last May?

+ Instant Message to the neighbor five apartments down from me: I appreciate you playing "alternative music" on Christmas Day. But playing a blues song called "It's Not Cheating Until You Get Caught" may have gone a little too far in the other direction.

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: Looking back from here, August was an ominous month. GMAC separated itself from Bill Heard Chevrolet. DeRon Furr fled Auburn University's football team. And when Skip Caray died - well, Atlanta's baseball team was pretty much out of the running already.

A debate about "low bonds" surfaced in Columbus during August, when the President of the Griffin Rotary Club was arrested during a trip to town. Based on what we've heard about his attorney since then, the bond for Mark Shelnutt soon could be set a lot higher.

Columbus Council was told in August of plans to bring back riverboat tours during the fall. Uhhhh -- have I missed them? Or does that big boat in front of Port Columbus need to be pushed into the Chattahoochee?

Yet there was signs of local progress in August. The new Riverchase Drive exit from U.S. 80 in Phenix City opened ahead of schedule. And Columbus Police started closing Broadway to cars late at night on weekends - proving crowds have returned downtown, in spite of Streetscape.

The weather made big news during August, when Tropical Storm Fay brought drought-busting rain to Columbus. It was welcomed by local Democrats every bit as much as Tina Fey would be....

Guns made news in our area during August. Several Fort Benning soldiers won Olympic medals in shooting, and people rejoiced. The Muscogee County School Board gave its superintendent a pistol, and people wondered why the "Gun-Stoppers" hotline wasn't called.

A nasty feud broke open at this blog during August, between civil rights activists Brother Love and Reginald Pugh. From what I read in "The Courier," it's still far from settled -- and Mr. Love's middle name might as well be "Tough."

The fight over the future of Hurtsboro went to court in August. A petition to dissolve the city was rejected by a judge - and Robert Schweiger has been listing his grounds for appeal in regular e-mails to us ever since.

Hurtsboro and other east Alabama cities held local elections as August ended. Sonny Coulter won a fourth term as Phenix City's mayor - but he still has a long way to go to become a Sonny-100.

Columbus radio took several interesting turns in August. Ratings results were released to the public, for the first time in more than two years. The Archway Broadcasting stations were sold to local owners. And then there was the bareback show, which.... oh wait. It was "Bear" who CAME back.

The television side of Columbus media had a separation in August, as WLTZ and the Ledger-Enquirer ended their partnership. WLTZ seems to be the surprise winner from this split. It now has newscasts in high definition - while the newspaper was reduced to sending Tim Chitwood out with a camera Thursday, to take pictures of car wrecks.

We shouldn't overlook one regional sports note from August. Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was named "the most powerful coach in sports" by Forbes magazine. That cover story was last seen on a bulletin board, at the University of Florida....

COMING NEXT WEEK: We mark a bone-chilling anniversary, and carry on some year-end traditions....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,167 (+ 28, 2.5%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008


There have been times this year when preparing this blog seemed a bit like the detective work on "The X-Files." Challenges of all sorts have come our way, and we've had mixed results in accomplishing them. One of these days, Derek Kinkade will challenge us to present a weather forecast.

The latest challenge took us to the edge Wednesday, in more ways than one. It came from an e-mail titled, "There Is a Sign":

It looks like a tombstone its underneath the bridge after you cross the chattahoochee bridge coming out of phenix city into columbus...I don't know what the tombstone reads because as you well know slowing down for anything there will get you killed. So good luck trying to find out.


Thanks for the good wishes -- but which bridge? Columbus has four river-crossing bridges for cars, and one for pedestrians. Of course, people who live on the north side of town may have never even seen three of them....

An e-mail exchange with Sam confirmed this sign was along J.R. Allen Parkway. There technically are two bridges across the Chattahoochee River there -- one eastbound, one westbound. It takes a really bad car wreck in the passing lanes to connect the two.

I've jogged on the Riverwalk under the U.S. 80 bridge a few times. But I never noticed a tombstone-looking item. People with roaming dogs tend to get my attention there -- and if they aren't around, you never know about the people who come downstairs from Bibb City apartments for 5:00 p.m. picnics on Tuesdays.

It's about a ten-minute stroll from the north end of the Riverwalk near Lake Oliver to the U.S. 80 bridge. Based on Sam's guidance, I started searching for that sign:

1. A concrete circle is on the ground, around the bend from the bridge. But it's secluded by brush, seemingly impossible to spot from the bridge - and the only word I saw anywhere near it said "sewer."

2. We looked directly under the eastbound bridge. No signs or tombstones are here. And thankfully, no one was around to holler "runaway boulder."

3. We carefully stepped toward the river, on the other side of the Riverwalk from the underbelly. The rocky path led us to some trash, including what looks like the top of a Riverwalk lantern. Couldn't the city build a small storage shed or something?

(We also found signs that people fished from this part of the Riverwalk. But I didn't think to pick up the three empty cans of Miller High Life, for recycling.)

4. Our careful stepping led to a northward view along the river. Could that round gray object be what Sam's talking about? We climbed up and around to get closer - and found it's nothing but a very smooth rock. The bridge builders apparently settled for one Horace King tribute at Dillingham Street.

Our searching, hiking and semi-crawling ended with no sign and no tombstone. Nothing along those lines was even visible on an island in the river, next to the U.S. 80 bridge. Sad to say, that could change if a kayaker runs into it someday.

So we drove home and prepared to blog about all this - but then we reviewed Sam's e-mail again. "The bridge AFTER you cross the Chattahoochee bridge"?! Uh-oh. We apparently did all that exercising and leg work, for the opposite of that old movie -- a bridge too near.

We hurried north again, thinking this other bridge was at the Second Avenue exit. But we had to go east on the J.R. Allen Parkway, turn around at River Road, then head west before we found the best clue so far. Two small crosses were along the side of the eastbound lane. Did some traffic victim really ask to have ashes scattered there?

It took one more turnaround at Riverchase Parkway to find what Sam saw - and make us thankful once again that gas prices have dropped well below two dollars a gallon....

The Second Avenue overpass above J.R. Allen Parkway is where that sign was placed. It's a marker for the "Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway," placed by the American Legion last spring [15 Apr]. I thought that marker was placed in Phenix City -- but then, rookie soldiers at Fort Benning can come up with all sorts of stunts.

Yes, we pulled over along the side of the parkway to shoot that picture of the granite sign. Thankfully, late-afternoon traffic was light Wednesday. And there's a wide-open curve in the road before the marker, so even a fast driver should have seen our left-turn signal -- not to slow down, but to change lanes.

So we thank you for an unusual adventure - not only in finding a new local landmark, but in careful reading. At least one person in our area actually means a bridge AFTER a bridge. With many people, such a phrase would have been dismissed as stuttering.

Now let's see what other adventures made news Wednesday:

+ Columbus Police arrested a man for holding up Shoe Show on Victory Drive. The suspect allegedly stole shoes and money at around 8:00 a.m. Come on, Buster -- stores are desperate to move merchandise on 24 December, but not THAT desperate.

+ An early-morning fire damaged Church's Chicken on Brown Avenue. I know what good is - and fire damage isn't good.

+ WLTZ did NOT show the "Bi-City Christmas Parade," as it did on 24 December last year. You know times are tough when Libby Allison can't even fly down from snowy Iowa, to ride in a car.

+ The midnight service at St. Luke United Methodist Church included Pastor Hal Brady mentioning controversial minister Rick Warren - but only in a story about Warren's children. Five years ago at that service, Brady dared to refer to the Kenneth Walker shooting. This year, he didn't even criticize the people who consider Barack Obama a messiah.

+ Instant Message to Golden Donuts: Thank you very much! I didn't realize when I walked inside that you were about to close for the holiday. Four "uglies" for the price of two, and I will sing a halle.... hey, wait a minute! That wasn't a sneaky statement about my appearance, was it?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, and goes in surprising directions from there. Visit "On the Flop!" <--

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: July was a political month in Columbus. When the primary voting was over, residents had said "Yes to Public Safety" - and no to voting someone out of office simply because a friend of his opponent had her car burglarized.

In several ways, the status quo was upheld in our area in July. Ed Harbison kept his State Senate seat. The Muscogee County School Board decided to keep Superintendent John Phillips on an interim basis. And a Phenix City church decided NOT to fire its pastor - although the next lightning storm could show whether that move was right or wrong.

The Columbus Civic Center closed for several weeks in July, while the concrete floor was torn up and replaced. The staff waited until after the Jehovah's Witnesses' convention, to make sure no minister would declare it a prophetic earthquake.

One of the strangest crimes of the year occurred in Columbus during July, as several people were accused of stealing cupcake pans from a Dolly Madison warehouse. Why they thought the pans might be made of copper and not stainless steel, I have no idea....

Fort Benning had a celebration in July, to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Army Community Hospital. Flu season reminds us this is the only place on post where staff members can give commanders a good shot in the derriere.

The approaching recession began to be felt in July. Columbus city officials proposed a reduction in trash pickup, to one day a week. A lack of trained lifeguards kept Phenix City swimming pools closed. And when a Phenix City plumber won a million-dollar Georgia Lottery prize, no one bothered asking if he might quit his job.

(I don't mean to say our economy is in trouble -- but the country music duo "Big and Rich" performed during July at Fort Benning, and seems to have dropped into seclusion since then.)

But of course, July's crowning moment came when a candidate for Muscogee County Sheriff declared your blogger "Idiot of the Week." Talk about a rare honor! I mean, I don't recall any candidate giving that title to incumbent Ralph Johnson.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,139 (+ 31, 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


"Are you an investigator?" a woman on the other side of the glass asked me Tuesday. Well, that depends on some things. Columbus residents probably would say no. But since I stood in east Alabama, I think the answer could be yes.

"No," I told the woman across the glass. "I'm a blogger."

"A b-l-ogger?!" I might as well have declared myself a Jayhawk -- although after Tuesday night's loss to Arizona, I might not even do that for awhile.

"I write a blog." By this time, I had the attention of a few people on the other side of the glass.

"What's a blog?" an older woman asked. Some people still don't know, after almost six years. I suspect these are the people who are going to inundate electronic stores in February, asking about converter boxes for TV sets.

These women apparently are too busy to read blogs, because they work in the Russell County Court Clerk's office. We went there because of a rather cryptic postal letter from the mysterious Hurtsboro tipster "Russell C. Ounti," which included this:

I wish I could have been in court today to watch Ken White squirm. He was on the hot seat. You should talk to that guy. He is a real loser.

This could mean several things. Phenix City attorney Kenneth White is the Hurtsboro Municipal Court judge. Or does this mean White has been arrested and was on trial -- joining seemingly one-third of Hurtsboro's residents?

The Russell County Courthouse used to have a computer terminal at the bottom of a stairwell, for looking up court cases. But I couldn't find it Tuesday. Maybe it was traded for that new security equipment at the 14th Street entrance.

But no - that computer terminal for public use was removed some time back. On top of that, the passwords you need to check the Alabama court system's online database have changed. So I needed help from the Russell County Court Clerk's office -- and east Alabama bloggers have been too busy hunting rabbits to blaze a trail for visitors like me.

The court clerks were willing to help me, if I knew what case I was seeking. But that was the problem. I didn't know. I was one block away from the river -- and fishing without any bait, much less a license.

"We can research the case," a woman on the other side of the glass told me. But older cases would take more time, and even a simple check of the files would cost me ten dollars. So I applied some simple logic from the poker table. If you have no cards to play, fold the hand and walk away.

The Muscogee County Court Clerk's office suddenly is much easier to use. You sit at a 1990-era terminal, look up a case by name and ask the staff for the folder on that case. In Russell County, I now have to trust the professionals - and pay a finder's fee to boot.

Armed with the right Russell County passwords, I could have looked up Kenneth White's name on my home computer. We've done that for several Hurtsboro items in recent months. But the court clerk's staff admits the passwords were changed because too many people were tapping into the online database. So which last name had more searches -- Saban or Tuberville?

The Alabama court system database allows bloggers like me to register at home - but at a price. "Background checking" allows ten searches per month for 100 dollars. And there's a 150-dollar "account setup" fee on top of that. These are supposed to be public records, but they seem to require a private investigator's income.

For a last resort, we called Kenneth White's law office Tuesday afternoon. But our message was not returned. For all we know, he could be out of town on winter break -- or in Montgomery filing some kind of class-action lawsuit.

So IF Kenneth White is on trial right now, we're stymied as to how to verify it. We have no case number. We have no specific charge. And we're not about to blow our entire 2008 income for this blog, to go hunting for an answer online. We're still leaving the Internet gambling to poker professionals.

Let's move on from speculation to things which really did happen Tuesday:

+ Which local activist was spotted in line at one downtown Columbus bank - while his famous-name wife works at a different bank across the street? Is this to avoid any conflict of interest? Or is it simply a clever of hiding a "Christmas Club" account?

+ The Russell County Commission voted to make Friday a holiday for employees. Take about short notice! Workers probably can't book a motel room in Orange Beach, so they'll have to settle for a day at Victoryland.

+ John Darr took the oath of office as Muscogee County Sheriff. WLTZ noted Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley was in the audience. Hey, if Susan Andrews can move south....

+ Groome Transportation told WRBL it's doubled the number of daily shuttle trips to the Atlanta Airport. If this trend continues, before long A.S.A. in Columbus will be D.O.A. - dead on arrival.

+ An Auburn clothing store sold what's described as "Tommy Tuberville memorial T-shirts." Wow - I really believed he resigned as football coach. Now I'm starting to wonder if university officials chased him out of town at gunpoint.

+ The William Henry Shaw high school basketball tournament held its semifinal rounds. This year the early-round games are in high school gyms, with only the finals at Columbus State University. Either this is yet another sign of economic cutbacks, or all the teenage basketball fans are busy riding skateboards for free.

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: OK, we're back - with the historic month of June. It was the month when Columbus gas prices topped four dollars a gallon. Local governments responded with ingenious energy-saving measures -- such as four-day work weeks, and once-a-month speeches before Columbus Council.

June was primary month in Alabama -- and a Russell County Commission race had some controversy. Ronnie Reed survived a review of absentee ballots by the District Attorney's office. And to his credit, we don't think he's been an absentee commissioner so far.

A strange turn occurred in the Columbus Police during June, as the "Is Our City Safe" activist of years gone by was fired from the force. Brent Rollins later told this blog the police chief was "ruining his life." Imagine how some of the murder suspects in Recorder's Court this week must feel.

School was out in June, but education made news in Columbus anyway. Ground was broken for the new Muscogee County "Educational Services Center." Critics wish those initials "ESC" worked like a computer keyboard - and we could escape spending so much money on it.

Columbus State University selected Dr. Timothy Mescon as its new president in June. He must be earning less than Frank Brown did - because otherwise that $13,000 statue of a cougar on campus would be drawing a lot more controversy.

While Columbus State celebrated, Beacon University announced plans in June to shut down. Of course, Beacon had a much happier announcement a couple of weeks ago. But that new Bible-based seminary needs to take a close look at that commandment on "bearing false witness."

Fort Benning did something unusual in June, by using Front Avenue downtown to test an upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicle. You could tell this was an important test, because it couldn't wait for "God Bless Fort Benning Day" in November.

A Columbus woman won the "Miss Georgia" pageant in June. Chasity Hardman is the daughter of a church pastor - yet still has not received a half-hour special in Mom's Sunday morning TV time slot.

Columbus had a world premiere 12 June, for a horror film called "The 13th Alley." It was a forgettable low-budget movie. And it was such a closely-watched event that the Wikipedia entry for the movie claims the premiere actually occurred in Oregon one day later.

The Columbus Catfish confirmed in June they would move to Kentucky. But the Aflac Outdoor Games came to South Commons and proved popular - suggesting local sports fans would rather see people climb wooden poles then swing them.

Two noteworthy passages occurred in our area during June. Dee Armstrong left the TV news with a modest goodbye message. Yet a bulldog named UGA VI which stood on football sidelines received a larger memorial tribute than most police dogs.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,103 (+ 31, 2.9%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Take U.S. 431 south, then Highway 165 south. Take a right at Nuckels Road, then look on your left for Uchee Pines Road -- and you'll find the home base of our area's most overlooked TV and radio star. She's on a national network, yet you've probably never heard of her. And no, Bob and Sheri have NOT moved to Russell County....

I admittedly overlooked this TV/radio star for a long time - but that changed in recent weeks, because of a programming change by WURY-FM. The Seventh-Day Adventist radio station switched to the Three Angels Broadcasting Network, with much less music from "Radio 74." In fact, the amount of time from that network is down to about a Radio 25.

The Adventist network known as 3ABN has both television and radio channels - and both of them feature the woman in charge of Seale's Uchee Pines Institute. Dr. Agatha Thrash has a program called "Help Yourself to Health." Of course, people without health insurance already know all about this....

"Help Yourself to Health" has some unusual topics. For instance, Dr. Agatha Thrash claimed during Monday's broadcast that high blood pressure is an indicator of fear. So don't be afraid of that high-cholesterol dinner later this week - just eat it.

Another "Help Yourself to Health" program has been posted away from 3ABN, because it endorses the "home remedy" benefits of charcoal. My neighbor at the apartment complex cooks outside often - so his charcoal must explain why I never see him exercising.

"Help Yourself to Health" is on 3ABN radio three days a week, with two weekly appearances on radio. That's apparently the only place where Dr. Agatha Thrash's program is broadcast. If she hasn't been invited to appear with "Duke and the Doctor," does that mean Thrash is legitimate or not?

Sad to say, at least one person claims Dr. Agatha Thrash is NOT legitimate. She wrote a scathing "ripoff report" which claims the cofounder of Uchee Pines Institute took $178,000 from her divorce settlement, while she worked in "white slavery." I thought the Seventh-Day Adventists moved beyond racial thinking a long time ago....

But to be fair, a reply to this claim in the last few weeks had a different view. It says the staff of Uchee Pines Institute is caring, and never tries to convert people to Adventism. But then again, the Thrash family may not have needed any "slaves" to remodel their home for a while.

We actually didn't expect today's topic to go in this direction. We wanted to focus on the chances of Dr. Agatha Thrash becoming like Dr. Jan McBarron -- another medical media star from the Columbus area. Instead, we found they're alike in other ways. Uchee Pines Institute seems to do it with seminars, instead of "natural food" stores.

John Chamin at Uchee Pines told me WURY-FM changed networks to provide more variety of programming, instead of Radio 74's emphasis on soft music. Yet the change also put Agatha Thrash on the air in Columbus, where she really was not before. And Dr. Thrash is now ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers, who can't be heard on radio at all.

-> Our latest poker night had a happy ending. Read all about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for some news convergence which seemed too outrageous to be true - and we were told Monday night part of it IS too outrageous....


I would appreciate it if you would leave my name out of this because of my respect I have for someone in the story. I know for a fact that this teacher is the grandaughter of a very well respected former Jordan High School Principal. Bill Screws was the Principal at Jordan for over 20 years. This teacher " His Grandaughter" I believe serves on the Board Of Directors at Guess where?, Pioneer Little League. I know for a fact that her children have been there for a while.

No, Claire Marie Richards has NOT been on Pioneer's board. So said Pioneer Vice President Lamar Pruitt, who's been involved with the Little League program almost 20 years. And the program's web site doesn't list any such name. But Pioneer's list DOES include a "Safety Officer" - whose job may include keeping feuding groups of parents on separate bleachers.

On to some facts (as best we know them) from Monday's news....

+ Columbus had a high temperature of only 39 degrees F. It was cold enough during the morning to leave ice on some fountains -- and I hope the Buck Ice crews harvested as much as they could, to store for next summer.

+ WRBL seemed to show taped weather forecasts from Harmony Mendoza at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., as she filled in for Bob Jeswald. If this station keeps taking shortcuts to save money, before long it'll do what WALB in Albany did 25 years ago - and simply replay the 6:00 p.m. news at 11:00.

+ The Columbus Kiwanis Club staged a party for children at Elizabeth Canty Homes. This was surprising, because residents recently complained about aggressive gangs forcing them to stay indoors. Did the Kiwanians have to hand out gifts in the driveway, too - as in bribes?

+ Opelika High School named Brian Blackmon its new head football coach. Blackmon has been serving as Opelika's offensive coordinator -- so someone in Lee County apparently got the message about not looking for a coach in Iowa.

(I thought I saw retiring Opelika Spence McCracken in a Kroger store a couple of weeks ago. He was heading for the medicine section -- and not holding any McCracken crackers.)

+ Georgia lost in men's college basketball 80-79 to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The visitors won by making a 42-foot desperation shot at the overtime buzzer - a shot practically as long as the school's name.

+ Auburn rallied from 11 points down in the second half to edge Alabama State 79-74. After topping Tuskegee last week, Auburn now can declare itself the champion of Interstate 85.

(Alabama State challenged Auburn with a seven-foot center, whose real name is Chief Kickingstallionsims. With a name like that, shouldn't he have transferred from Stetson to a more appropriate college -- like the Florida State Seminoles?)

+ Instant Message to all White House reporters: Aha - NOW I get it! Now I see why so many of you rooted for Barack Obama to win the election. It's those "working holidays" in Hawaii....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our year-end review resumes Wednesday. Call this a day off.)

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,072 (+ 26, 2.5%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, December 22, 2008


Do you realize Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington is almost halfway through his term? The man who campaigned to make Columbus safer now is dealing with his second crime wave in 18 months. Will that proposed increase in the hotel-motel tax for the Columbus Sports Council wind up training a civilian sharpshooting patrol?

It saddens me to see the Columbus homicide count at 27 for the year, with seven so far in December. I'm not counting that Saturday night incident on Reese Road, because police might rule that a case of self-defense. A stepfather accused of burglarizing his stepson's home tells me someone isn't paying close attention to those schmaltzy Christmas songs on the radio.

It probably was a coincidence, but a man over the weekend showed me a couple of long bullets -- at church. In the center aisle of where we hold worship services. The end-time "beast power" would have picked the worst possible day for capturing our congregation....

As far as I know, no one brought a gun inside the worship service. But the man with the bullets asked me if I had one, which could hold what he was holding. I assured him the only weapon I carry is a sword - which the Bible calls the word of God.

A manager at a downtown fast-food restaurant offered his own theory this weekend on these crime waves. He told me crime seemed to increase in Columbus when people relocated here after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Census Bureau numbers show Columbus's population has dropped slightly since July 2005. Did that many evacuees kick welcoming families out of their homes?

(An arrest was announced Sunday in one weekend stabbing in the Historic District - and the suspect is a Fort Benning soldier. At least he can choose from a number of attorneys who can walk to the scene of the crime.)

F.B.I. statistics show in some categories, Columbus has seen sharp increases in crime. The number of robberies is up 56 percent from 2004. The number of reported rapes tripled only last year. And who knows how many more steals have occurred in high school baseball and basketball.

A Columbus police spokesman tried to sound reassuring this past week, about the city's deadly December. He told WRBL in most of the homicides, the suspect and the homicide victim knew each other. That sort of comment makes me think about starting a Myspace account, then doing criminal background checks on all my friends.

Columbus city officials no doubt plan to reassure residents that help is coming. The first of the 100 new police officers should go on duty next year. But how will they stop feuds within families, or quarrels between estranged lovers? Riding up and down local streets with loud love songs playing probably wouldn't work for long....

In a less violent crime, Columbus Police reported Sunday someone broke into several offices at Jordan High School. Trouble is, the glassworking students who can repair the damage are on a two-week winter break.

Let's see if anything happier made news over the weekend....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer had a front-page story on the federal grand jury investigation of attorney Mark Shelnutt. Shelnutt again said no one's told him he's under investigation. Maybe this is like Chicago - and federal prosecutors are referring to him only as "lawyer number five."

+ Alabama Wholesalers in Phenix City ran radio ads, announcing the furniture store is going out of business. Sales must have reached a low point - so now we'll get discount pricing on the order of High Point.

+ The Atlanta Falcons clinched a playoff spot, by minimizing Minnesota 24-17. If you think Atlanta is good now, just wait until next July - when Michael Vick leaves prison, and there's some real competition for quarterback.

(Falcons Coach Mike Smith told his team after the game they're "still in the process." For instance, they're in the process of trying to secure hotel reservations for a first-round playoff game -- anywhere from Phoenix to Chicago.)

+ Troy University lost to Southern Mississippi 30-27 in overtime, at the "R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl." When your bowl game is sponsored by a truck line, is that a good thing? I mean, does that rank higher or lower than the old Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl?

(One Troy radio announcer expressed concern before the game about the yard-line numbers painted on the Superdome field, because they were an unusual distance from the sidelines. This guy must be a graduate of the Larry Munson school of worry-wart broadcasting.)

-> Our poker game last week had a happy ending. Read all about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: Fire played a surprisingly large role in the local news of May. The Ledger-Enquirer had a fire in its pressroom one morning. A fire destroyed Tyler's restaurant in Phenix City. Yet the Columbus Fire Chief somehow was fire-proof, and ruled "salvageable" by the mayor.

Water also made news in May, as the fountains came back on across Columbus. The drought danger has eased in our area this year -- making me happier than one of those endangered Florida gulf coast clams.

A national survey released in May declared Columbus the fourth-best city in the U.S. for bringing up a family. This detail was mentioned on TV over the weekend, during a holiday toy handout at the House of Mercy. Give me enough free toys and food, and I could bring up a family as well.

The Aflac shareholders meeting in May was dominated by a proposal to approve the pay of top executives. The idea proved so successful that some members of Congress now want to set the salaries of auto industry executives and bankers.

A public feud developed in May, after Georgia's Governor vetoed state money for the National Infantry Museum near Fort Benning. If Sonny Perdue isn't careful next year, one of the museum's promoters might hurl a commemorative brick at his car.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed a controversial bill during May, expanding "concealed carry" gun privileges to restaurants across Georgia. So far, I've heard no reports of customers shooting at lobster tanks to pick the best one for dinner.

Columbus news underwent some changes in May. The Ledger-Enquirer dropped to only two staff photographers. WRBL dropped its 6:00 p.m. weekend newscasts. And WLTZ started showing high-definition newscasts - yet the words used by anchors John Beard and Libby Allison didn't seem any bigger or fancier than usual.

A new radio station officially premiered in Columbus during May - WBOJ-FM, or "103.7 The Truth." It's probably no coincidence that you didn't hear live coverage of the political conventions on this station....

Pacelli continued the local high school baseball tradition, by winning a state title at the end of May. But the Russell County team was put on probation for playing too many games. I guess we shouldn't be surprised by this - considering how coaches sometimes can't remember if a batter has one strike or two.

COMING SOON: What's that thing under the J.R. Allen Parkway? We'll go look....

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,046 (- 48, 4.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008


If the weather forecast is right, our warm spell in Columbus will end today. But haven't the last few days been glorious? Isn't it nice to live in a place where you can walk around in shorts during December, and not be considered weird?

Take Thursday, when the high was 71 degrees F. It was a wonderful day to get outside during the lunch hour for some exercise. So I took a walk around Golden Park, and found about eight young men at the new skateboard park. A passion for skateboards is the low-budget kind of "four-wheel drive."

But admittedly there was another reason why I walked to the skateboard park during the lunch hour. Thursday was a school day, and I've read complaints that students are going there to play hooky from school. And there aren't even any goals set up there, for playing street hooky....

A couple of young men were unloading cars at the skateboard park, so I walked toward them. "May I ask how old you are?" I asked one of them.


"Shouldn't you be in school?"

"I live in Harris County." That's a sneaky way to dodge the truancy officer.

"They're out of school?" I asked on this Thursday afternoon.

"Yes. I'm in D.E.T." I didn't quite catch his explanation of what that meant. But if he was skipping school, he could soon be in d-e-b-t.

A check of the Harris County school calendar afterward showed Thursday was a scheduled class day. But the 17-year-old explained to me he was out of school under an "early release" program. Either he's on some kind of a half-day schedule, or he'd just been released from a Youth Development Center.

The other young man unloading a car wore a knit cap on his head. "I'm from Florida," he told me -- which obviously explains the cap. Columbus, Georgia is SO much colder in mid-December....

I didn't ask where in Florida the second teen made his home. But he told me he already was out of school for winter break. I suppose he might be a college student. Or it could be that all his high school classmates are still in Florida, working on the grapefruit harvest.

Yet the young man in Florida somehow seemed to know about the people at the South Commons skateboard park. When I mentioned the reports of students skipping school there, he said: "There are a lot of dropouts here." And he didn't mean the bowls of concrete below ground-level.

If all these young men have given up on school, I doubt it's worth the truancy officer's time to check on them during the middle of the day. After all, these teenagers may have jobs during the evening - and they're doing flips on skateboards, before flipping burgers at Sonic.

A TV videographer happened to be at the skateboard park when I showed up - but for a very different reason. Columbus Parks Director Tony Adams was announcing the city will receive grant money for park improvements. Lighting will be added, along with on-site restrooms. The Circle K store on the other side of Fourth Street is about to lose some income.

Some people scoffed at the city building a skateboard park at all, much less in South Commons. Yet the new park is getting plenty of use. I drove by it Saturday afternoon, and noticed dozens of people there. Many probably are young people who could be doing much more dangerous things - like getting obese on a couch, playing video games all day.

Yet I wonder if adding lights for nighttime skateboarding and BMX riding is a good idea. Will it encourage more truancy, without a nightly closing time? Will it breed crime, if the wrong kinds of people show up after dark? Or can the regular users turn their skateboards into defensive weapons, and chase criminals away?

-> Our Thursday night poker game had a happy ending. Read all about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our year-end news review from Friday prompted a reader to comment....


First of all, I hope you and your family have a wonderful christmas. Secondly, not only do you not see a Kendrick sign, What about Carver High school " 2007 AAA State Football Champions? It has been well over a year now. Thanks pal.


Charles Lawhon

In fact, this week will mark one year since city officials promised Carver a sign at the city limits [24 Dec 07]. Since the city apparently is out of money for this, can the Muscogee County School Board use the salaries of terminated teachers?

One such possible teacher tops our weekend news review....

+ A Jordan High School teacher was arrested on sexual misconduct charges. Some of us can remember when sex education was limited only to textbooks and slides....

+ First Avenue reopened downtown, after a giant crane was parked in the northbound lanes next to the Government Center for about two weeks. I'm told the tall crane was there to fix a faulty weather radar system. It did seem a bit late to string colored blinking lights around the tenth floor.

+ Chick-Fil-A on Wynnton Road held "Pay It Forward" day, with purchases receiving free matches in January. I went there for lunch at 11:20 a.m. Friday, and the restaurant was packed -- as if people were eating it forward, in case the food ran out by 3:00 p.m.

+ The "Budweiser Clydesdale" horses appeared at The Landings shopping center. I'm sure that brought a chorus of Boo's -- as in the package store.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths rolled over Richmond 7-2. But the main event had the Civic Center crowd attempting to set a record, for the world's largest kazoo ensemble. If only they had installed a pipe organ in this building to begin with....

+ Auburn surprised Virginia in men's college basketball 58-56. The Tigers won at Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena. Considering Jones's famous quote was "I have not yet begun to fight," they must play college hockey there as well.

+ Iowa State University named former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads as its new head football coach. Have fun, Paul - we'll see you back on the plains in about three years.

+ Instant Message to the organizers of Saturday's "finger football" tournament at Peachtree Mall: Aw c'mon - what's with all this "zone one" and dice-rolling stuff? If the football isn't made with a folded sheet of notebook paper, it simply isn't legitimate.

2008 IN REVIEW CON'D: April was a month when the crime reports were a bit strange. A Columbus maid was arrested for stealing from people's homes. An Alabama man pleaded guilty to stealing copying machines. And drug searchers who found nothing at Smiths Station High School may have concluded someone stole all the marijuana from students' lockers.

Trouble developed for the Columbus Fire Chief in April, when Jeff Meyer offered someone a job which wasn't on the city payroll. Yet the police chief has been recruiting and hiring new police officers this way for several months - once again proving you CAN be too far ahead of your time.

Your blog scooped the town in April, with news that Jeremiah Wright was coming to Columbus to preach at a church's revival. But Wright eventually canceled that appearance - and now old friend Barack Obama won't even let him give a prayer on inauguration day.

Columbus's biggest church celebrated a milestone in April, with Bill Purvis pastoring Cascade Hills Church 25 years. These days Purvis's name is on the television ministry -- and the title "Real Time" seems to be really out-of-date.

Kendrick High School alumni held a parade in April, to mark the school's 40th anniversary. In contrast, the only parade Jordan High School has held recently led to students being cited for an illegal protest.

One of the most fun stories of the year occurred in Ladonia in April. The grade school held a mock wedding ceremony for the letters Q and U -- and the little groom wore a University of Alabama football helmet. We never knew these cute events could help predict the outcome of the Iron Bowl.

A replacement for Riverfest was launched in Columbus during April, called "Broadway Springfest." Next year there will also be a Broadway Fall-Fest in October - only it will still use the name "God Bless Fort Benning."

Rumors swirled around the Columbus State University softball program in April. Eventually coach Tiffany Tootle resigned, less than one year after a College World Series appearance - so she left without a long-desired Tootle title.

April ended with Goodwill Industries opening a new store near Columbus Park Crossing, with the release of more than 2,000 butterflies. You have to be careful about where you obtain those creatures - because some people might be running a flies-by-night operation.

The number of unique visitors to our blog is up 32 percent from last year. To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,094 (+ 35, 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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