Monday, January 08, 2024

Appalachian Irishman, by the Numbers, in 2023 (published 1-8-2024; article #448)


New Year's greetings, dear reader! Hopefully, 2024 has started well. We don't know what this new year holds, but we know, or can know, Who holds the future, in this new year and everlastingly! I trust in Him, to guide and guard, come what may.

This second article, in 2024 -- the 100th, under the life (such as it is) topic section -- continues an annual tradition, by reviewing this website's 2023 statistics. Similar articles were for 2021 (the 12/31/2021 article) and 2022 (the 1/1/2023 article).

You, dear reader, are appreciated. May God grant you an abundance of blessings, in His service, in 2024. May peace come, to this troubled world, as we all follow the Prince of Peace.

By the Numbers

In 2023, I published 63 articles, 33 fewer than in 2022. The “Website Archive” section shows the number of articles, by year and month, from 2006 to 2024. I didn't publish any articles, in 2007, 2015, or 2018. I began to publish more articles, in 2019.

Articles totaled 446, from the inaugural article, on 3/6/2006, to the final article, in 2023. Articles are arranged topically, in twenty “Topic Sections.” An article may be included, in more than one topic section.

On New Year's Day, at 8 AM, all time article views (since 3/6/2006) were 233,550. Subtracting the 66 views, at that moment, on New Year's Day, means that all time views, from 3/6/2006 through 12/31/2023, were 233,484. (Viewing my own articles are not counted, since I can and do block my views.)

Last month, articles, on this website, generated 7,085 views, from at least 19 nations. In that month of December, the number of views, by nation, were as follows: United States 4,350, China 932, Russia 833, Bulgaria 198, Hong Kong 175, Germany 80, United Kingdom 63, India 49, Romania 40, Israel 32, South Korea 32, Ukraine 24, Singapore 23, France 20, Poland 19, Iran 16, Canada 14, Philippines 8, Sweden 6, and other nations 107. (Note that my manual count tallies 7,021, not 7,085. I speculate that this website's analytics vary, due to rounding. The variation, of 64, is negligible.)

Last year, articles, on this website, generated 70,453 total views (by my manual calculation), from at least 19 nations. Analytics, for the last 12 months, show 70,500 views (47 higher, assumed by rounding up). In 2023, the number of views, by nation, were as follows: Singapore 32,100, United States 20,000, Russia 3,860, Germany 2,540, China 1,520, United Kingdom 1,200, Hong Kong 801, Canada 553, Finland 433, Iran 427, Bulgaria 390, France 372, Israel 345, Netherlands 311, Belgium 269, India 266, Ireland 200, Romania 115, Ukraine 68, and other nations 4,660. (Note that my manual calculation, of the analytics tallies, by nation, is 70,430, not 70,500, 70 lower, again possibly due to rounding.)

In 2023, there were 36 new comments, on various articles. The total number of comments, from 3/6/2006, to today, are 248. While pleased by the views, I wish that more folks, who read the articles, would comment, every now and then.


This has been a brief review of my website, by the numbers, in 2023. The year 2023 is behind us. Only the Lord knows what 2024 will bring.

Research indicates that Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) wrote the hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” in 1873. The hymn begins and ends with the following verses.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

In close, my prayer is that whatever peaceful river flows or sorrowful sea billows, in 2024, that you, dear reader, will be well, in your soul. One fine day, our faith will be sight! Life, day by day, brings what it will. I trust in Him, who holds my future. I live for Him. The everlasting mindset brings peace and joy, even when temporal sorrows come.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Overcoming Loss Around Christmas: House Mountain Hike #188, on 12-31-2023! (published 1-5-2024; article #447)


Another year has gone by. I'd written several daily notes, in my 2023 desk calendar. Turn the page. Another year has started. My 2024 desk calendar has only a few notes, so far. Here we go again. The undiscovered country awaits us. What will it bring? We will see. It's an undiscovered country. Only God knows what will happen, in 2024.

Greetings, dear reader. We may or may not know each other personally. We may not be from the same country. I understand, however, why the first part of the title has drawn you to this article. I hope that this personal essay helps you. Writing it, over the course of seven days, has helped me. I will explain.

If you stay with me, to the conclusion, then you will understand why I selected the above image. This is the 20th article, under the topic section, “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” The conclusion will explain why that topic section is so titled.

My mind had pondered this article, for a few days. I thought about not writing it. On Friday, 12/29/2023, I decided to start writing. On that day, I searched online, by “overcoming loss around Christmas.” I found plenty of “how to” articles, which include bullet point advice, tips, and suggestions, to help readers. While well-meaning, such entries are a dime a dozen. Some articles approach the topic, from a biblical viewpoint. They are laced with inspiring passages. I already know those scriptures. You may know them as well. I was drawn to a few articles that share personal stories of loss, around Christmas. While more meaningful, I didn't find one that spoke to my heart. I may not have searched widely enough, but I saw the need to write this article.

This article, speaking from my heart, relates the ways that I have found, this year, in particular, to overcome the loss of a loved one, around Christmas. For me, the season of loss includes Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. This is not a “how to” article. It's a personal sharing, of what I did, once again, to overcome memories of loss, around the holidays.

The Loss

Actually, there were several. Every year, around Christmas, each loss combines, as one prolonged memory of loss. I feel as if a dreary cloud hangs above me, especially when the weather is also dreary. I feel as if I am near the bottom of a dark enclosure, such as a cave or ravine, with little sunlight. I attempt to clear the cloud and to climb up, out of the darkness, toward the light. The memories occur, in random order, usually triggered by the day.

My maternal grandfather, Aby William Wood (born 9/4/1901), became ill, on Christmas, in 1982. Christmas was on Saturday, that year. At age 22, I was renting a small apartment and attending East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. I was home, on weekends. On those weekends, I stayed the night shifts, with Papaw, at the hospital. On the Sunday morning, before he passed away, the next day, Papaw appeared to be better than he had ever been! In the sunny and crisp morning weather, as I walked to my 1978 Mustang Cobra II, to go back home and to prepare to go back to my apartment, I remember thanking God, for helping Papaw recover so well. Papaw passed, the next day, on Monday, March 14, 1983. I was stunned, when Mom called, to tell me.

I searched this website, by “Aby Wood,” to find several articles. I was drawn to the 3/14/2013 article, “Tribute to Papaw Wood - Revisited.” I won't write further, in this article, about Papaw's illness and passing. To do so would bring the bad memories, further to the front of my mind.

On Christmas Eve, 2002, Dad (Earl Ferrell, born 9/17/1927) was released, from the hospital, to home. Christmas Eve was on Tuesday, that year. Dad had been given six months to live. I followed my youngest brother, who was driving Dad back home. It was a cloudy and cool afternoon. Additional details are in the 6/20/2021 article -- in which I talk with Dad, in the first person -- under the section “December 17, 2002 to January 13, 2003?” Thanks to God's providence, Dad lived just over five years longer.

In late 2007, Dad's heart was winding down. Dad joined Mom, on Friday, January 25, 2008, a month after his last Christmas. Searching for articles about Dad, I focused on two: the 6/21/2009 Father's Day tribute and the 6/26/2010 article, titled “Well Machine & Water Truck Legacy.”

Papaw Wood and Dad were older. Papaw's Christmas Day illness that led to his passing and Dad's Christmas time illnesses and passing, a month after Christmas, were tragic, especially since they occurred, on or around Christmas.

Mom (Betty Lou Wood Ferrell, born 11/24/1932) was only age 67, when the ambulance took her to the hospital, on Tuesday, 12/28/1999. My wife and I had returned, from our five-year mission work, in Russia, on 9/30/1999. We were living in a small apartment, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and adjusting to life in America.

On 12/16/1999, Mom became ill. Shortly afterward, a local physician had missed the diagnosis. It wasn't just a bad case of influenza. Family gathered, for a subdued Christmas, thinking that Mom was recovering from influenza. It was a cerebellar hemorrhage, as a result of an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is a birth defect. Mom didn't have any symptoms, before the AVM leaked, on 12/16/1999. If it had ruptured, then Mom would have died instantly.

Late on New Year's Eve, 1999, a Friday, as New Year's Day was approaching, family were gathered around Mom's ICU bed. Mom was still in a coma. Medical staff were concerned about possible year 2000 (Y2K) computer problems. At midnight, I whispered, “Happy New Year, Mom.” I hoped that she could hear me.

Mom was hospitalized, in two hospitals, for 110 days. Surgery repaired the cerebellar hemorrhage. In shifts, family stayed with Mom, around the clock. The day shift was mine, usually. Finally, Mom recovered well enough, to return home, on Saturday, 4/15/2000, a cool and clear day. Out-patient physical therapy was continued by in-home physical therapy. On Thanksgiving, 2000, the day before Mom's 68th birthday, she looked and felt better than she had, since her hospitalizations. She said, “I think I can see some light at the end of the tunnel!” The next day, on her birthday, she had pain, in her side.

The pain wasn't due to the in-home physical therapy that Mom was doing. It was bone cancer. The cancer spread quickly, to her lungs and liver. Mom hadn't had any diagnosis or symptoms, until her 68th birthday.

On Christmas Eve, 2000, a Sunday, I followed the ambulance that brought Mom home. Before we left the hospital, Mom said to me, “You all have to let me go. I want to go see Jesus.” Mom wanted to die, at home. Three days later, on Wednesday, 12/27/2000, at 5:15 PM, Mom went to see Jesus.

This section has been only an encapsulation, of the one prolonged memory of loss, around Christmas. Many memories, which are tucked away, in the background through the year, come to the forefront, around Christmas. If you have stayed with me, so far, then you must be able to relate.


The days of the week, in December, 2023, were the same, as in 2000. The days also matched, in 2006 and 2017. Once again, I managed to clear the dreary clouds and to climb out of the dark cave, toward the sunlight. Thankfully, I suppressed and overcame the memories, of family illnesses and losses, around Christmas. I did so, by focusing on day-to-day activities and events. Also, I interjected humor, as often as I could. Filling my thoughts with these helped suppress the bad memories. The daily diary, which follows, shares what I did, to overcome the bad memories.

Christmas Eve, Sunday, 12/24/2023: on Christmas Eve, Sunday, in 2000, I'd followed the ambulance that brought Mom home, to “go see Jesus,” three days later. On Christmas Eve, in 2002, I followed my youngest brother, as he brought Dad home, from the hospital. God answered my prayer of desperation, while I was driving, by granting Dad over five more years of life.

Last Christmas Eve was on a Sunday. My wife and I drove, in my 2006 Frontier, to visit my sister, Carol Sue, her daughter, and her daughter's three children (two young adult sons and teenage daughter). We met the wife of one of my great nephews. (The short story, of 8/5/2023, explains how my sister and I adopted each other!) The six family members were staying, in a rental cabin, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. After having negotiated the narrow and curvy roads, which rolled up and down various hills, we enjoyed a wonderful family visit! Driving back home, my wife and I dined, at an area Shoney's restaurant. It was a full and rich day. The weather was unseasonably warm, sunny, and windy. The activity kept my mind, from dwelling on Christmas Eve, in 2000 and 2002.

Christmas, Monday, 12/25/2023: on Christmas, in 1982, Papaw Wood became ill. Mom's illness, on Christmas, in 1999, had been misdiagnosed as influenza. She was hospitalized three days later. On Christmas, 2000, a Monday, Mom would live two more days, before going “to see Jesus.” Dad's last Christmas was in 2007. He lived another month.

This last Christmas, on a Monday, was a rainy, springlike day. I'd spoken with my youngest brother, on Christmas Eve. My wife and I gathered with her family -- father, two younger sisters, niece, and first cousin -- at her father's nearby house. A family friend was also present. Focusing on the conversations and activities, my mind didn't dwell too much, on the bad Christmas memories. My next to youngest brother and I spoke, by phone. I left my brother, who is next to me in age, a phone message.

Back home, Molly, our eight-year-old “puppy,” entertained my wife and me. I avoided watching the various Christmas movies, on TV. The events of the day kept my mind, from dwelling on memories of bad Christmases.

Tuesday, 12/26/2023: it was another rainy, springlike day. My sister, Carol Sue, called, to say that the family had made it safely, from Gatlinburg, back to their Missouri homes. My brother, next to me in age, returned my call. These and other activities helped.

I must add one item! To my “long-suffering” wife, whom I call Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, I apologize! My wife likes to fall asleep, with the bedroom TV still on. The remote rests beside her, usually. At 9:37 PM, I photographed my wife, asleep in our bed, with the remote still in her hand!

That humor helped! Again, I'm sorry, dear! I did crop the image, to not show your sleeping face!

Wednesday, 12/27/2023: on Wednesday, 12/27/2000, Mom “went to see Jesus.” On Wednesday, 12/27/2023, the morning clouds cleared, and the afternoon sun was brilliant. I bought online and downloaded eight classic rock songs, which I had discovered were not in my collection. That simple activity helped. I enjoyed listening to the songs.

Moments before 5:15 PM, I sat on the edge of the bed and looked out the large double windows. Looking southeast, as dusk was bringing on the night, I could see our back yard and the ridgeline beyond it. I noticed the time, at 5:15 PM. I remained calm and silent, while I could hear my wife, in the kitchen, and Molly, in the back yard. I paused, in memory of Mom's passing, at 5:15 PM, on 12/27/2000. I pause, in a similar manner, every year. Afterward, I always get up and resume whatever activity had been occupying my time.

Thursday, 12/28/2023: on Thursday, 12/28/1999, my two younger brothers and I followed the ambulance that took Mom to the hospital. At the emergency room, in unison, we demanded that Mom be admitted. My next to youngest brother stayed that first night shift, with Mom. I relieved him, early the next morning.

On Thursday, 12/28/2023, I took Molly, our beloved dog, to her annual physical examination. The appointment was at 8 AM. The weather was mostly sunny and somewhat cooler. My wife, who still wasn't fully over her mild cold, took herself, to a nearby medical clinic. Later, I picked up her prescriptions, at a local pharmacy. We also had the pleasure of a surprise fill up, of our underground propane tank! Molly was glad to see Gordon again! (Reading the 10/31/2022 article will help you understand!)

The activities of that full, rich day kept the bad memories, on that date, 24 years ago, in their place. I'm glad that daily activities kept me busy. My wife, by the way, recovered fully.

Again, I must add a point of humor, at the expense of my wife! To my “long-suffering” wife, I apologize again, dear! My wife had fallen asleep, again, with the bedroom TV on and the remote in her hand! Once again, this time at 9:57 PM, I photographed my wife, asleep in our bed, with the remote still in her hand!

Yes, her family have already seen both photographs! I cropped the image. Thanks, dear, for giving me an opportunity, for humor, to help, as I remembered 12/28/1999.

Friday, 12/29/2023: the visitation and funeral, for Mom, were on the Friday evening, of 12/29/2000, at the East Rogersville Baptist Church, in my hometown. Joining the large gathering of family, friends, and church family was the surprise visit, by my sister, Carol Sue, and her husband, Mike!

On Friday, 12/29/2023, my attempted annual physical examination was a failure. The appointment was at 8:30 AM. The weather was cloudy and cool. The light snow melted, before it could accumulate. My fine doctor and friend had changed networks, unknown to me, at the time. I declined the offer, to be examined, at the self-pay cost, which was extremely high. Conducting my own physical examination, I determined that I am very healthy, active, and fit. Later, I busied myself, by hauling off trash and recycling, filling up my truck's gas tank, and buying groceries.

At the grocery store, an employee, with whom I enjoy talking, shared that his uncle had passed, that morning. I hope that my words of comfort encouraged him. Our final point of conversation was about seeing deceased family again, in heaven, when we join them.

I started writing this article. Writing it, however, was bringing up too many bad memories, around Christmas time. I didn't think that I would finish it.

Saturday, 12/30/2023: the graveside service, for Mom, was on Saturday, 12/30/2000. The high temperature was about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with a bitterly cold wind, blowing from the northeast. Family sat on cold metal folding chairs. The minister, family, and several friends endured the frigid weather, as we said our final farewell. I still have some of the roses, which had frozen, at the grave site.

Saturday, 12/30/2023, was a cloud and cool day. I awakened, about 4:30 AM, with a congested nose. Running salt water twice, through my nose, using a neti pot, decongested me. I called and spoke with my youngest brother. (We're still trying to figure out how to get the Christmas presents, to his daughters! Seeing each other, on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hadn't worked out.) I enjoyed the 4 PM Orange Bowl. The #6-ranked Georgia Bulldogs destroyed the #5-ranked Florida State Seminoles, 66 to 3.

Well, those activities fairly well distracted my mind, from those of 12/30/2000. I'd tried to write more, on this article, but the bad memories came back, too quickly.

New Year's Eve, Sunday, 12/31/2023: on New Year's Eve, 1999, Mom was in a coma, in the intensive care unit. It was a Friday. A year later, on New Year's Eve, Sunday, 12/31/2000, at Dad's request, my wife and I joined him, for the morning worship service, at the East Rogersville Baptist Church. My youngest brother and his new wife attended also. (They were married, on 5/6/2000. I was honored, to perform the ceremony. Mom was able to attend, in a wheelchair.)

On Sunday, New Year's Eve, 12/31/2023, the weather was sunny, windy, and mild. The temperature was in the low 50s Fahrenheit. After worship, what else could I do? I hiked House Mountain, for the 188th time! (This article is also included, as the 60th entry, under the “hiking” topic section.)

If you say that I only walked the two loop trails, at the mountain base, near the upper and lower parking lots, then I won't disagree. It still counts, as my tenth House Mountain hike, in 2023! I didn't hike up the ridge, to a bluff, since my truck and I still had to go to the Tractor Supply, where I bought Molly some dog food and treats.

The east loop is three-tenths of a mile. The west loop is shorter, at two-tenths of a mile. Both parking lots were full, so my truck rested, on the shoulder, near the lower parking lot. I “hiked,” or walked, if you prefer, the east loop, to the upper parking lot, where the information board, fancy two-seater outhouse, and covered picnic area are. I continued onto the west loop. Backtracking, I “hiked” back, on the west loop and onto the east loop. That made only one easy mile of “hiking.” Even stopping, to enjoy the limited views, I “hiked,” from 3:01 to 3:31 PM, thirty minutes exactly. Thirty minutes in the woods, even on the loop trails, is better than not having been there!

I took the photograph, below, at 3:21 PM. I had just started “hiking” back out, on the east trail. The setting sun was behind me.

The rock steps, in the lower right of the image, continue the trail, down. The trail then winds up, across, around, and down, back to the lower parking lot.

Remember, when small men cast tall shadows, the sun is setting, in the west! With shoes on, I stand six feet tall. The image casts a very tall shadow, of this Appalachian Irishman! The hiking politics of this is that the small leaders, of this once great nation, are leading our beloved nation, into, what I call, “Socialist Utopian Oblivion.” That's my political soapbox. I'm done. Dad, who followed politics, would enjoy my soapbox!

New Year's Day, Monday, 1/1/2023: on New Year's Day, in 2000, Mom's prolonged recovery had just begun. Then, only God knew that she would recover well enough, just to endure the other illness that took her from us. On New Year's Day, in 2001, a Monday, life, such as it was, continued, without Mom. On New Year's Day, in 2008, we knew that Dad's ticker didn't have many ticks left. Dad's heart stopped beating, 24 days later.

New Year's Day, of 2023, a Monday, was cool and cloudy. I sweep and vacuumed. (My wife dusted.) I watched some of the ReliaQuest Bowl, 12 PM start, to see #13 LSU beat unranked Wisconsin, 35-31. It was fun to watch #21 Tennessee dominate #17 Iowa, 35-0, in the Citrus Bowl (1 PM start).

Later, I watched the college football playoff semifinal games. Our good neighbor, Chuck, was disappointed, to watch #4 Alabama fall, in overtime, to #1 Michigan, in the Rose Bowl, 20-27. The game started at 5 PM. Molly, inside with us by then, was hoping that her buddy, Chuck, would not be sad. Molly and I saw and talked with Chuck, the next day. He took the loss well.

The Sugar Bowl started at 8:45 PM. My wife was in bed, as usual, about 9 PM, just after Molly bedded down, for the night, in her basement condominium. (By the way, my wife now sleeps, with both arms under the covers. With her asleep and the bedroom TV on, I find the remote on top of the covers, safely away from her hands!) Alone in the living room, I watched some of the Sugar Bowl. The next morning, I learned that #2 Washington had beaten #3 Texas, 37-31. I'd wanted Texas to win, since Washington state is a socialist mecca and Texas doesn't seem to be! (Okay, that's another political soapbox. I'm off of it now.)


Having read carefully, dear reader, you probably already know why this article is included, in the topic section, “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” and why the section is so named. The 12/26/2021 article includes a subsection, titled “Light at the end of the tunnel, the Backdrop (written 8/25/2016).” On Thanksgiving, 2000, Mom felt and looked better that she had, before her illness. She said, “I think I can see some light at the end of the tunnel!” If and when I complete and publish my book, it will be titled “Light at the End of the Tunnel.”

How do I overcome loss, around Christmas? The memory-filled emotions arise. I battle against them. I force myself not to dwell on them. I engross myself, with the activities of the day. I find or create something important, on which to focus. I force myself to think about good memories, around Christmas. I find or interject humor, as often as I can. I've been doing this, for 23 years. (As recent examples, the 12/29/2020 article and the first article, of 12/29/2021, mention my efforts, around Christmas, in those years.) I think that each Christmas season will be easier. Each season usually starts off easier. As the days draw closer to and pass Christmas, however, my struggle intensifies.

Thinking about and writing articles, such as this one, bring up the bad memories. I've been working on the draft, for this article, a little every day, since last Friday. I almost didn't finish it. By finishing and publishing this article, however, I can clear out and return the bad memories, to their places of safe keeping, until they come back again.

The main way that I overcome loss, around Christmas, is to focus on the everlasting. I will see Papaw Wood, Mom, Dad, and so many other beloved family and friends once again! Their heavenly joy is complete and beyond my full ability to understand.

Praying and reading the Bible help, of course. While working on this article, I read the pericope, in the Gospel of John, chapters 14 - 16. The setting is the Passover meal, in the upper room. Jesus comforts his disciples, before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Please read the pericope. I focus on the following three verses, in chapter 16, where Jesus said:

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy (verse 20, NIV).

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (verse 22, NIV).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (verse 33, NIV).

The disciples must have recalled and been comforted by Jesus' words, when they faced their upcoming grief. Jesus was taken from them, but He arose and was with them, until He ascended back to heaven (Luke chapter 24; John 20:1 - 21:25; Acts 1:1-11). Their grief was turned to joy, which no one could take from them.

The Christmas season -- from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day -- brings rejoicing to many, while some grieve. We, who grieve, will have our grief turned to joy. When we “go see Jesus” and join many beloved family and friends, we will rejoice everlastingly, and no one can take away our joy. In the world, we face trouble and sorrow, but we take heart and find peace, through Christ, who has overcome the world!

Friday, December 22, 2023

House Mountain Hike #187, 12-20-2023: Inspired by Two Young Men (published 12-22-2023; article #446)


Seasonal greetings, to you, dear reader! Wednesday, 12/20/2023, was my 187th (51st “bionic”) hike, on House Mountain. This brief preface will first update three recent “life, such as it is,” events.

The preface, in the 12/1/2023 article, mentions the first two. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman's good first cousin, Mike, is much improved. Family members have been caring for him, as needed. Molly, our eight-year-old puppy, is well, despite the scar, on her left ear.

In the latest news, my wife had another mild case of RRC. Mild recurrences seem to flair up, about every six months. (The humorous acronym, RRC, which I invented, stands for recurring, relentless “corony.” The 30 articles, under the “Corona Myopia” topic section, are my serious commentary, on the new cold virus, which is in my rear view mirror.) RCC is a mild virus. She came down with it, again, on Monday, the day before her six-month physical examination. She has overcome another round. Her two-week Christmas break started yesterday. Today, still yielding to the crass commercialization of Christmas, she joined the rush of procrastinating shoppers, to buy gifts, for three family members. Before her mild case of RRC, she'd already purchased gifts, for other family members. What do I want for Christmas? The gift can't be bought, in a store. The conclusion will explain.

I'd hoped to hike “My Mountain” several more times, before Wednesday. My last hike was on 11/29/2023 (the 12/1/2023 article). Helping care for Mike, however, took priority.


This article is for fellow hikers and for all, who are fighting the good fight, in the ongoing struggle to advance the biblical worldview! This is the 59th entry, under the "hiking” topic section, and the 17th, under "worldviews in conflict.”

My unexpected and pleasant conversation, with two young men, below the west bluff, explains why I was inspired. But first, let's hike up the west trail, on House Mountain!

Hiking Up to the West Bluff

I'd enjoyed playful activity, with Molly, before leaving. That's what delayed the start. I touched the marker, to start hiking, at 1:43 PM. The morning low was 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature was in the low 40 degree range, during the hike. The weather was mostly sunny, with a cool breeze. As a veteran hiker, my rookie mistake was to add a light outer layer. The T-shirt and sweatshirt would have been sufficient. I sweated more that I should have.

I challenge myself. It's me against me. While enjoying the hike, I noted the times, at key junctures. With the four lower switchbacks behind me and just before the first of the six upper switchbacks, I realized that I had taken 14 minutes, to reach that fallen tree. (That's about two minutes slower than my usual “pre-bionic” time.) The time was 1:57 PM. Undaunted, I hiked up the six upper switchbacks, in ten minutes. The time, at the sixth switchback, was 2:07 PM.

In “pre-bionic” hikes, I could hike from the base, to the west bluff, in 24 minutes. On this hike, it took me 24 minutes, to get from the base, to the sixth upper switchback. The trail, heading west, below the ridgeline, is just over two-tenths of a mile. It's rugged, narrow, and has some treacherous areas. I've never timed myself, until this hike, from that sixth switchback, to the west bluff. It took me 15 minutes, to hike that final segment! I reached the west bluff, touching the rock, to mark my time, at 2:22 PM.

My self-analysis indicates that I should not be so overly cautious, as I hike below the ridgeline, toward the west bluff. My surgically reconstructed right knee and foot are able to travel faster and safely, even up and across the treacherous areas. I still lack the mental confidence to move faster. I must discipline myself, not to be so overly cautious. Eventually, Lord willing, I will win, in the me versus me struggle. The goal is to hike, from the base to the west bluff, in about 25 minutes, as a norm.

I'd taken the photograph, below, at 2:30 PM. It's the only one that I took, on this hike.

I am sitting on the rock outcropping, on the west bluff. The sun is behind me. Mike's “Delta Saloon, Suicide Table” cap (mentioned, in the 10/26/2023 article) and my trusty canteen are hanging, where the fallen tree is regrowing. A few years ago, a strong wind must have snapped the trunk. The living roots are generating new growth. Can you understand the life lesson, to which I allude? I thought so.

At 3:31 PM, about an hour after the photograph, I started hiking back down and out, on the same west trail, up which I'd hiked. The next section recounts the conversation, of about an hour, with two young men.

I wasn't in a me against me challenge, on the hike out. I still noted the time, at key junctures. Overly cautious hiking, east, along the trail, below the ridgeline, I reached the sixth upper switchback, at 3:46 PM. (That's 15 minutes.) Continuing down the switchbacks, I reached the lowest upper switchback, at 4 PM on the dot. (That's 14 minutes.) Touching the marker, near the enclosed picnic area, at 4:23 PM, ended the hike.

Two hours and forty minutes, in the woods, is better than not having been there! The inspiring conversation is in the next section.

Inspiring Conversation

I'm glad that I decided not to hike east along the ridgeline, to the middle bluff. Standing below and looking up at the west bluff, I was contemplating taking another photograph or recording a video episode. I noticed two young men, hiking up toward where I was standing. Their upper layers were tied around their waists, so they were bare chested, at the time.

We struck up what I thought would be a quick and casual conversation. I summarized my “bionic” story, which started, on 3/29/2016. I related my first hike, as a “bionic man” (mentioned, in the 12/22/2016 article). Both young men are college students. One lives in Florida. He was in, visiting family and friends. The other is local. Conversation turned to geology, the field of study, for one of the young men. I described the location -- a few yards east of the lower middle bluff, below the north side of the ridge trail -- where I think a cave entrance could be. Years ago, I had crawled into the opening far enough, to see where dirt could have sealed a narrow entrance.

Our conversation shifted quickly, to profound dialogue, on worldviews in conflict. About four decades of age separate us; however, mutual affirmation, of the biblical worldview, unite our spirits! The two Christian young men shared their Solid Rock foundation. They are standing and will continue to stand, on that Solid Rock!

In their college years, these young Christians are facing intense and negative pressure, from a majority of their peers, who follow unbiblical worldviews. Those ungodly values tempt, challenge, frustrate, annoy, and harass each of us, on a daily basis. We, who affirm godly values, stand firmly on the sure foundation. The foul winds do not blow us off our course.

We spoke, in agreement, about how this temporal world is a “vale of soul-making.” They mentioned the phrase, with which I am quite familiar. As I stated, in the 12/9/2022 article, “John Keats, the poet, described the earth, filled with both evil and good, as a 'vale of soul-making' (in his April 1819 letter to his brother and sister).” Our conversation was about the so-called problem of evil. (The 12/9/2022 article includes my thoughts on the subject.) Impressively, these brothers in Christ have a depth of knowledge on that important topic.

We placed the looming fall, of this once great nation, in the context of the Old Testament account of the nation of Israel's falls and rises, hinged on allegiance to God. The Book of Judges came to our minds. We expressed prayerful hope that this once great nation will return to the Lord.

We understood our roles -- joining the voices of many and following the example of John the Immerser -- as voices “. . . crying in the wilderness . . . .” (John 1:23, KJV). We strive to share the saving truth of Jesus. We hope that folks hear and heed our words, for their everlasting benefit.

I brought up the maxim that we are either missionaries or mission areas. The two young Christian men are missionaries, as they continue their college studies. College campuses are certainly mission areas.

Our impromptu and reviving conversation concluded, as I encouraged the two young men, to continue to stand their ground. Above all, stand. Stand firmly. Remember, if you are on God's side, then you stand in the majority, even if you are the only one standing. Be encouraged and continue to stand firmly, on the Solid Rock!


So, what do I want for Christmas? The gift can't be bought, in a store. I will explain.

The article of 12/26/2021, almost two years ago, comes to mind. I had been reminded of my social media comment, on 12/21/2013. On that date, ten years ago, I had written:

After having engaged in the secular ritual of almost last minute gift buying, and feeling frustrated by the wanton secularization of the observance of our Lord’s birth, I stopped at a Weigels on the way home.

The older man, in front of me in line, was buying a gallon of milk. As he turned, I noticed his cap: Vietnam War Veteran. I caught his attention, as he turned from the checkout. All I did was look him in the eyes and offer my handshake. I didn’t have to say a word. He saw the words in my eyes. He looked in my eyes, man to man, and said, “Thank you,” as he shook my hand. I respect this man, whom I may never meet again, because he offered his military service, as a sacrifice to this once great nation.

Amidst the gift buying and giving, I pause, in the ultimate level of thankfulness, to “shake the hand” of the One, who sacrificed his all for such a lowly one as I. May I and all in this nation live in respect of the Greatest Gift of all.

That's what I want for Christmas! I want everyone, in this once great nation, to live in respect of the Greatest Gift of all. The gift is free. It's not sold in stores. You must be willing to accept it. Please do, if you haven't.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Sunday, December 17, 2023

2023 Christmas Gift: House Mountain Hike, on 10-17-2015 (published 12-17-2023; article #445)


Greetings, dear reader! I trust that you enjoy hiking and, more importantly, that you value family and heritage. This is the 58th article, in the “hiking” topic section. It's also the 118th entry, under the “family” section, and the 99th, under “heritage.”

Christmas is approaching quickly. Next Sunday will be Christmas Eve. My mind hears the commercials, as they jingle, “only seven more shopping days, until Christmas.”

My brothers and I stopped swapping Christmas presents, years ago. We just try to see each other, or at least call, on or around Christmas, each year.

This article is my surprise Christmas gift, to my youngest brother and his family. I hope that he doesn't open this gift, until Christmas day! Well, he can open it early, if he reads it, before then!

The Christmas Gift

The article of 12/1/2023 was about my 186th hike, on House Mountain, on 11/29/2023. That also marked my 50th House Mountain hike, as a “bionic man.” (The 17 articles, in the topic section “My Bionic Life - since 3/29/2016,” will explain.)

My youngest brother and his wife have hiked House Mountain, with me, three times. I didn't publish any articles, in 2015, as the “Website Archive” verifies. The following, as a late entry, is my Christmas gift.

House Mountain Hike, 10/17/2015

On Saturday, 10/17/2015, my youngest brother, his wife, and their two daughters joined me, as we braved the elements and the fairly treacherous areas, on House Mountain! At age 55, it was my 124th hike on “My Mountain.” It was the second hike, for my brother and his wife. It was the first hike, for their daughters.

My hiking log indicates that we hiked up the west trail and reached the west bluff, in 50 minutes. We then hiked east, to the middle bluff. Afterward, we hiked to the east bluff. We hiked back out and down, on the east trail. I'd taken two photographs, of my brother and his family, at the upper-middle bluff. As those images show, the weather was sunny and seasonably cool.

Yesterday, I was able to order and pick up, at the local Walgreens, 8x10 prints, of the two photographs that I'd taken. They are as follows, with my comments, below each photograph.

I'd taken the above photograph, at 4:24 PM. The view looks northwest. My younger niece is on the left. She had attained the grand age of six, three days before the hike. My older niece, on the right, was age nine, at the time. Do you see the personalities, in their faces? These were their humorous “styling and profiling” personalities! They still have them.

Three minutes later, having gathered the entire family together, I'd taken the above photograph. I still wonder why there was a need for two hiking sticks! My youngest brother was age 41, turning a year older, in four days. His wife is a few years younger than him. Don't worry, sister-in-law, I ain't telling the number of years!

This article publishes the memorable event -- of hiking with family, in 2015 -- as a family heritage snapshot in time. Youngest brother and family, this is part of your surprise Christmas gift!

Two Other Hikes

The first hike that my youngest brother and his wife took with me, on House Mountain, was on Saturday, 2/28/2004. (This website started two years later, on 3/6/2006.) My hiking log only mentions that this was my 17th hike on “My Mountain.” I didn't take any photographs, but I remember the hike well enough. As I recall, my sister-in-law was hiking faster than my brother and me! We had to ask her to slow down! Their two daughters were not yet born. Dad (Earl Ferrell, 9/17/1927 - 1/25/2008) was still alive and getting along fairly well. My wife and I had been living, in our newly constructed home, almost a year. That was “back in the day,” as folks around here say!

If the weather is right, any Irish-American, who is worth his or her salt, wants to hike on St. Patrick's Day! St. Patrick's Day -- on Sunday afternoon, 3/17/2019 -- marked the third hike, on House Mountain, for my brother and his wife. It was their daughters' second hike. It was my 156th hike (or my 20th hike as a “bionic man”). That hike -- which involved seven humans and three dogs -- is highlighted, in the article of 3/21/2019, titled “HOUSE MT. #156, Saint Patrick's Day: 7 Humans and 3 Dogs!” Two photographs are included.


Well, Merry Christmas, youngest brother and family! I'll have a paper copy, of this article, included with your surprise Christmas gift!

Family heritage is a very important part of this Appalachian Irishman's life. The heritage is good. The four of us boys were raised by godly parents. We had fine grandparents.

Remember, the greatest Christmas Gift is not found in stores. Set aside the crass commercialization of Christmas. Remember Christ, the true meaning of Christmas. Christ's Christmas gift is the gift of Himself. It is a free gift. It is available to all, who seek, accept, and live for Him.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

2023 - 2024 College Bowl Games List: with Commentary on the 12-2-2023 SEC Championship Game (published 12-10-2023; article #444)

Image by jorono from Pixabay. Free for use under the Pixabay Content License.


As a public service -- to American college football enthusiasts -- this article lists the forty-two (count 'em, forty-two) college football bowl games, from 12/16/2023 to 1/1/2024. The national championship game, on 1/8/2024, makes 43 total games. (This is the fourteenth article, under the “sports” topic section.)

This may become an annual public service. I'm reminded of my article, on 12/10/2022, titled “2022 - 2023 College Football Bowl Games: List and Commentary.” I still think that ten bowl games are enough! Those ten games are emboldened.

2023 - 2024 College Bowl Games

The source, for this list, is “2023-24 college football bowl game schedule, scores, TV channels, times,” on (as updated on 12/8/2023). Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams, in bold underline, are in nine games, down from eleven last year.

The ranked teams, in the list, are from the final College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, of 12/3/2023. (Source: “College Football Playoff Selection Committee Announces Final Top 25 Rankings of 2023,” on College Football Playoff, 12/3/2023.)

The following is my redacted and easier to read list of bowl games, based on the NCAA list (as referenced previously). Warning! Your eyes will glaze over, and your mind will start turning to mush, if you read through the entire list! I'd suggest that you only glance through it. I'll have a few pithy comments, after the list.

Saturday, Dec. 16 (7 games)
-- Myrtle Beach Bowl (Conway, SC): Georgia Southern vs. Ohio (11 AM, ESPN)
-- Celebration Bowl (Atlanta, GA): Florida A&M vs. Howard (12 PM, ABC)
-- New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, LA): Jacksonville State vs. Louisiana (2:15 PM, ESPN)
-- Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL): Miami (Ohio) vs. Appalachian State (3:30 PM, ABC)
-- New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, NM): Fresno State vs. New Mexico State (5:45 PM, ESPN)
-- LA Bowl (Inglewood, CA): UCLA vs. Boise State (7:30 PM, ABC)
-- Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA): Texas Tech vs. Cal (9:15 PM, ESPN)

Monday, Dec. 18 (1 game)
-- Bahamas Bowl (but renamed temporarily the Famous Toastery Bowl) in Nassau, Bahamas (but relocated temporarily to Charlotte, NC): Western Kentucky vs. Old Dominion (2:30 PM, ESPN)

Tuesday, Dec. 19 (1 game)
-- Frisco Bowl (Frisco, TX): Marshall vs. UTSA (9 PM, ESPN)

Thursday, Dec. 21 (1 game)
-- Boca Raton Bowl (Boca Raton, FL): USF vs. Syracuse (8 PM, ESPN)

Friday, Dec. 22 (1 game)
-- Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL): Georgia Tech vs. UCF (6:30 PM, ESPN)

Saturday, Dec. 23 (7 games)
-- Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham, AL): Troy vs. Duke (12 PM, ABC)
-- Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL): Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois (12 PM, ESPN)
-- Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX): Air Force vs. James Madison (3:30 PM, ABC)
-- Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, ID): Georgia State vs. Utah State (3:30 PM, ESPN)
-- 68 Ventures Bowl (Mobile, AL): Eastern Michigan vs. South Alabama (7 PM, ESPN)
-- Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, NV): Northwestern vs. Utah (7:30 PM, ABC)
-- Hawai'i Bowl (Honolulu, HI): San Jose State vs. Coastal Carolina (10:30 PM, ESPN)

Tuesday, Dec. 26 (3 games)
-- Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI): Bowling Green vs. Minnesota (2 PM, ESPN)
-- First Responder Bowl (Dallas, TX): Texas State vs. Rice (5:30 PM, ESPN)
-- Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix, AZ): Kansas vs. UNLV (9 PM, ESPN)

Wednesday, Dec. 27 (4 games, 1 SEC team)
-- Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD): Tulane vs. Virginia Tech (2 PM, ESPN)
-- Duke's Mayo Bowl (Charlotte, NC): North Carolina vs. West Virginia (5:30 PM, ESPN)
-- Holiday Bowl (San Diego, CA): #15 Louisville vs. Southern Cal (8 PM ET, FOX)
-- Texas Bowl (Houston, TX): #20 Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (9 PM, ESPN)

Thursday, Dec. 28 (4 games)
-- Fenway Bowl (Boston, MA): #24 SMU vs. Boston College (11 AM., ESPN)
-- Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, NY): Rutgers vs. Miami (Fla.) (2:15 PM, ESPN)
-- Pop-Tarts Bowl (Orlando, FL): #18 NC State vs. #25 Kansas State (5:45 PM, ESPN)
-- Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX): #12 Oklahoma vs. #14 Arizona (9:15 PM, ESPN)

Friday, Dec. 29 (4 games, 2 SEC teams)
-- Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, FL): #22 Clemson vs. Kentucky (12 PM, ESPN)
-- Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX): #16 Notre Dame vs. #19 Oregon State (2 PM, CBS)
-- Liberty Bowl (Memphis, TN): Memphis vs. Iowa State (3:30 PM, ESPN)
-- Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX): #7 Ohio State vs. #9 Missouri (8 PM, ESPN)

Saturday, Dec. 30 (4 games, 3 SEC teams)
-- Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA): #10 Penn State vs. #11 Ole Miss (12 PM, ESPN)
-- Music City Bowl (Nashville, TN): Auburn vs. Maryland (2 PM, ABC)
-- Orange Bowl (Miami Gardens, FL): #5 Florida State vs. #6 Georgia (4 PM, ESPN)
-- Arizona Bowl (Tucson, AZ): Wyoming vs. Toledo (4:30 PM, Barstool)

Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 (5 games, 3 SEC teams)
-- ReliaQuest Bowl (Tampa, FL): #13 LSU vs. Wisconsin (12 PM, ESPN2)
-- Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL): #17 Iowa vs. #21 Tennessee (1 PM, ABC)
-- Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ): #8 Oregon vs. #23 Liberty (1 PM, ESPN)
-- College Football Playoff Semifinal, Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA): #1 Michigan vs. #4 Alabama (5 PM, ESPN)
-- College Football Playoff Semifinal, Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA): #2 Washington vs. #3 Texas (8:45 PM, ESPN)

Monday, Jan. 8, 2024
College Football Playoff National Championship Game (Houston, TX): winners of the semifinal games (7:30 PM, ESPN)

My Pithy Comments

The ten bowl games that are sufficient are the Gator Bowl, Sun Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. The list is chronological, by when each bowl game is played this year.

Thus, thirty-two bowl games can, well, just flush down the toilet bowl. Of course, it's all about the money and following the money. Lackluster teams, several with 6-6 records, that don't deserve bowl appearances are awarded bowl games. It's similar to giving medals to children, for simply competing, even if they don't finish in first, second, or third place. See, if interested, “College Football Win-Loss Records & Trends,” 2023-2024 season, on TeamRankings (undated, no author listed).

Let's do a little basic mathematics. Research indicates that the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) is composed of eleven conferences and includes 128 teams. Since there are 42 bowl games (not factoring the National Championship Game), then 84 teams are in those games. Thus, almost two-thirds, or 65.6%, of the 128 FBS teams are in bowl games. Only forty-four teams are excluded. Again, I say that ten bowl games are sufficient! Let the FBS top 20 teams, the top 15.6%, compete in ten bowl games!

Stepping off my soapbox and onto a humorous note, the Bahamas Bowl (on Monday, 12/18/2023) is renamed temporarily the Famous Toastery Bowl. This year, the game will not be played in the Bahamas. It is relocated temporarily to Charlotte, North Carolina! I didn't know that the Bahamas were in North Carolina. Apparently, the stadium, in Nassau, Bahamas, has an “out of order” sign on it.

I call it the Rat's Mouth Bowl. I'm referring to the “Boca Raton Bowl” (on Thursday, 12/21/2023). The name of the city, Boca Raton, Florida, “. . . comes from boca de ratones, a Spanish term meaning 'rat’s mouth' that appeared on early maps and referred to hidden sharp-pointed rocks that gnawed or fretted ships’ cables.” (Source: “Boca Raton, Florida, United States,” on Britannica, last updated 11/23/2023.) I hope that the University of South Florida (USF) and Syracuse enjoy playing, in the Rat's Mouth Bowl.

The Sun Bowl (on Friday, 12/29/2023) should just drop that Tony the Tiger part. If not, I may drop it, from my list of ten bowl games.

Finally, I figured out, this year, that the Arizona Bowl (on Saturday, 12/30/2023) is not televised from a literal barstool. No, in fact, Barstool Sports is a real online entity, apparently. (I had to do the research.)

12/2/2023 SEC Championship Game

We have two good neighbors, whose first names are Chuck. One is an Alabama fan. Another neighbor has nicknamed him “Alabama.” This “Alabama” Chuck is mentioned favorably, in the articles of 10/22/2022 and 12/1/2023. I saw Chuck a couple of days ago. I shook his hand and said, “Good win.” He was polite and gracious. The teams were matched evenly. The game could have gone either way. I despise Alabama. I like our neighbor, Chuck.

On 12/2/2023, Georgia's SEC Championship Game loss, 24-27, to #8 Alabama did not surprise me. I knew that it would be a close game. That was my only sad Saturday, this season. Tennessee Vols (10-4) fans had four sad Saturdays. Two were expected (losses to Alabama and Georgia), and two were not (losses to Florida and Missouri). Georgia's mistakes and inability to throttle Alabama's running lost the game, by three points. Georgia's missed field goal, which bounced the right upright out, instead of in, was a key factor. The Dawgs' fumble, near their end zone gave Alabama a field goal. That was another key factor.

I plan, Lord willing, to watch the Orange Bowl game, on Saturday, 12/30/2023, at 4 PM, on ESPN. The #6 Georgia Bulldogs face the #5 Florida State Seminoles. Go Dawgs!

On Monday, New Year's Day, I hope to watch the Citrus Bowl game, at 1 PM, on ABC. The #17 Iowa Hawkeyes take on the #21 Tennessee Vols. Go Vols!


Well, yesterday, Army beat Navy, 17-11. I watched a few minutes of the game, after I'd gotten another Tony's Best Clips haircut, gone to the Tractor Supply, and filled my truck with gas. The weather was rainy, like today.

Georgia's loss to Alabama knocked them out of a potential third national championship, in a row. Georgia won national championship titles, the last two years!

Next season, the College Football Playoffs will include a 12-team bracket, expanding the current four-team bracket. The top four teams will receive a first-round bye to the quarterfinals. The six highest-ranked conference champions will get automatic bids. The remaining 7th to 12th ranked teams will round out the 12-team format. (Sources: “College Football Playoff Expands to 12 Teams Beginning in 2024,” on College Football Playoff, 12/1/2022 and “How the 12-team College Football Playoff will work: Teams, schedule, bids,” on, by Maya Ellison, 12/3/2023.)

Oklahoma and Texas will join the Southeastern Conference, in 2025. (Source: “SEC grants membership to Oklahoma, Texas starting in 2025,” on SEC Network, 7/30/2021.) The SEC started with ten teams. Arkansas, not in the southeast, and South Carolina joined, in 1991. Missouri and Texas A&M, neither in the southeast, joined, in 2012, making fourteen teams. Oklahoma and Texas will make sixteen teams (eight in the two divisions).

I thought that southeastern meant southeastern. I'll end this article with four questions.

Geographically, how are Arkansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Texas in the southeast? If not, what could we rename the conference? How about the Sun-Earth Conference? That name would fit -- for any college football team that is on the earth and under the sun!

This article calls on the Southeastern Conference to rename itself the Sun-Earth Conference. What say you?