May is that kind of month where everyone gets awards, graduates and moves on. Two weeks ago, I went to Nashville along with two student editors to pick up an award and attend the tail end of the Evangelical Press Association contest. The highlight of the evening was the appearance of the Annie Moses Band, an amazing ensemble I’d never heard of before. It’s a band headed by some awfully good female violinists that sings/plays everything from spirituals to old stand-bys. They were so good, I gave them a standing ovation and I NEVER give anyone standing ovations. Veeka was there of course and she was in a bad mood all during the awards dinner but she quieted down during the music.
The next day, the students returned to Jackson and I headed east to LaFollette, where I had gone to report on 20-something serpent handlers. This time I was returning to the church of Andrew Hamblin, now 22, who I profiled for the Wall St. Journal a year ago. Amazing how much has changed over a year. I am now living in Tennessee and the Hamblins now have 5 kids. I tried shooting photos and video of the service but I’ve not loaded iMovie yet, so the video will have to wait. It was pouring rain all weekend, which dampened peoples’ ability to hang around outside, which is where I get into the best conversations with folks. So Veeka played with some of the little Hamblins while their dad opened the service with his classic speech on “There’s death in that box,” pointing to the snake boxes up front. And several of the folks there kicked off the festivities by lighting wicks in Coke bottles placed up front and holding those flames to their hands which presumably weren’t getting burned. The snakes came out around 8 pm and were passed around a bit but everything was over at 11 pm, which is early for this crowd. We headed back to Knoxville, as the Sunday service didn’t start until the afternoon and I couldn’t linger that long. Again, I think Veeka thinks that having boxes of rattlesnakes and copperheads in front of a church is normal.
A few days later, we had awards night for her Awana group, which she had attended all year and memorized Bible verses. Meanwhile, the newspaper I was advising put out its last issue, which included three investigative articles by students in my advanced reporting class. Yesterday is my mother’s birthday; mine comes in a few days and already I am booking Veeka into summer camps. There’s swimming lessons, gymnastics camp, vacation Bible school, music/art camp and one where she will be away from me for three days. By the way, for those of you who want the magazine stacks in stores, be sure to buy a copy of More magazine, a glossy of 1.2 million circ. that is for women over 40. I have a story in this issue about women who want to become Catholic priests. I realize lots of folks may disagree with this. But I’d been talking with the magazine for some time and this is what we agreed on and it took a ton of work last fall to assemble. And they have not posted the online version yet so for now, you have to go out and buy it. Have no control over that – sorry!