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By Gerald Largen

Well, Gentle Reader, here we all are at the beginning of a New Year — 2014, Anno Domini, and so it is fitting to start out this first column of this new year with our wish for you and yours of a Happy New Year.
May it be healthy and profitable, as well as happy.
While we will no doubt have occasion from time to time to refer to something we have previously written about, it is time, by and large, to begin with a blank slate, what the Romans called a tabula raza, but there is one topic hanging over from last year with which we must concern ourself in the public interest, and that is the questions we sought answers to from Sheriff Jack Stockton.

In fact we concluded our last column for 2013 with this statement:
“We hope to be able to begin next years commentary with a report from High Sheriff Jack Stockton as to his answers to the questions about the jail which we posed some weeks ago. We assume that the reason he has not yet answered is that he has been tied up with Christmas shopping and planning New Year’s celebrations, which is excusable, but we would advise him that he should get cracking on providing answers, else folks are going to conclude that he is unable to answer these simple questions, or hiding something, and until answered the old curmudgeon feels obliged in the public interest to continue asking them.”

Despite this analysis of his position, the high sheriff remains as silent as the Sphinx.

But we remain optimistic that he will find out the answers, if he is in fact in charge of the people operating our jail, and if he is not able to make them give him the answers, he should confess his lack of control and tell us to whom we should look to get the answers.

These are the general questions we posed in our column of 25 October and repeated in the column of 15 November, to-wit:

“Just how is the jail house population calculated? For instance, is everyone who is booked into the jail added to the total jail house population for that day, even though the individual may spend less than an hour in actual incarceration while awaiting bail?

“How many of the individuals booked are there on a warrant, when the law clearly allows mere citations to appear, without incarceration, for many offences?

“How many members of the jail house population are not county prisoners, but instead either state or federal prisoners? How many of the latter are being paid for by the state or the federal governments?”

As you can see, gentle reader, these are simple questions, answers to which any concerned and competent jail house administrator should know, and would know.

Our sheriff apparently does not know the answers, and apparently isn’t even curious enough about what the answers are to ask the people he has put in charge of the jail, “what are the answers to the old curmudgeon’s questions about the jail population?”

Finally, we would suggest that the high sheriff soon communicate his answers to these legitimate and highly essential questions by way of a letter addressed to Gerald Largen, P.O. Box 266, Kingston, Tennessee, 37763.

We will be glad to pass them on to the citizens and taxpayers who will have to foot the bill for any stupid mistakes about the jail arising from a failure to know what the accurate figures for the jail population are.
Just over 13 months ago (23 November, 2012), we wrote a column entitled “We are thankful for the blessings of friendship,” in which, among other things we spoke of our dear, long-time friend Frances (Mrs. Bill) Roberts.

This is what we wrote:
“Another of our dear friends who is, thank God, still with us is Frances E. Roberts, widow of Bill Roberts. Bill and Frances were another of those couples that seemed to exceed the expectations that we mere mortals have any claim to. Theirs was a relationship that showed how deep and how loving can be the melding of two individuals into a single unit.

“But, Frances has always had a talent for attracting people, and if she ever displayed an unpleasant face or unpleasant attitude it was never witnessed by us, nor reported to us. She has just always been a joy to be around, and we only regret that we now so seldom see each other, but we know that she is, and always will be one of the nicest people that the Good Lord has seen fit to put on this planet. We feel privileged to know Frances and to be able to look back on the many years that we have enjoyed that privilege, beginning in the old courthouse when she helped Bill run the trustee’s office. She should have been named one of Roane County’s Treasures long ago.”

Thus we, as well as many others, were saddened at the news that Frances is no longer with us, she having died on New Year’s Eve.

But, that sadness is softened by the knowledge that she had graced her family and her community for 95 years.

During that 95 year span she shared the “Blessings of Friendship” broadly with countless folks.

She shared her smile, her sympathy, her support, and her society far and wide, with the poor as liberally as with the rich, and no one to our knowledge ever left her feeling worse than when they met her, and in most cases they left her feeling better and happier.

Of her, if anyone, that scriptural benediction applies — “Well done, thou good and faithful Servant.”

Our sympathy goes out to Marilyn and the boys, as well as all the rest of her family and friends. We will all miss her deeply.
As long-time readers may recall, we have written more than once in the past about the problems we confront from the Communist regime in China.

And each time we have intended to quote a poem that we first read in high school: Bret Harte’s “That Heathen Chinee,” written in 1870, which used to be quite popular, but appears not to be now.

We cure the former omission of quotation now.

Here is the last stanza:
Which is why I remark,
And my language is plain, That for ways that are dark,
And for tricks that are vain, The heathen Chinee is peculiar — Which the same I am free to maintain.