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Staff Editorials

Animal shelter workers, volunteers doing amazing things - everyday

By Christie Pool
Staff writer
    Over the past month or so, my daughter and some of her friends have volunteered at the Pickens County Animal Shelter walking dogs and playing with kittens. During the time I’ve spent there I have been truly amazed at the incredible work shelter employees and volunteers do -  every single day.
    Each time we’ve dropped by to give doggie treats or walk the dogs, we are greeted by the staff with stories of new animals they’ve rescued from the streets or from homes where they were being abused or neglected. From the Director, Phillip Tippens, to Assistant Director Judy Moody, Animal Control Officer Billy Lingerfelt, and Kennel Technicians Tim Beck and Jeff Cantrell, the Pickens Animal Shelter team always works to care for the animals that wind up in our shelter.
    Day after day they continue to be positive and supporting of these animals - some of whom, because of their advanced age or perhaps an injury, wind up staying at the shelter waiting for a home for many months. 
    And loyal volunteers, like Ashley Evans who spends countless hours photographing the dogs and cats to post online in the hopes of getting them adopted, take time out of their own lives every week to help immeasurably. Shelter workers and volunteers - and there are several others who donate their time weekly or monthly - are  incredible, high-quality human beings. They open themselves up emotionally to experience intense sadness and heartbreak. But they can also experience intense joy when a dog or cat that seems like he will never find a forever home, finally meets that one person or family who was looking for a pet exactly like the one they saw at the shelter.
    Director Tippens has said he expects at least 800 animals to be adopted through the shelter this year. That’s an amazing number. In the first six months of this year, the shelter took in 692 animals and placed 386 in permanent homes or with rescue groups. And each animal that leaves the shelter is spayed or neutered, reducing the county’s potential animal population by thousands.
    The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year.
    Some 2.7 million animals are euthanized in shelters each year in America - 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats. That number, however, is not bolstered by those at our local shelter where just two percent of the animals who are brought in wind up being put down.
    While we applaud the Pickens Animal Shelter employees and volunteers who work so hard to give so many animals a  chance at a life they deserve, we’d also like to encourage more of you to be a part of the solution.
    Get your own pet spayed or neutered so you don’t contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation. Volunteer at the shelter and become part of the solution. By volunteering you can make the jobs of everyone working for animals a little easier by lending a hand and spreading the message of responsible pet ownership.
    If you volunteer, you know your efforts will help an animal get ready and increase its chances for a new home. Help socialize the animals that may have been abused. Animals that appear happy and healthy have a higher chance of being adopted, and our shelter needs your help to achieve this. Besides, you’ll never find a more grateful companion than an animal you’ve comforted.
    So instead of walking laps to get your Fitbit steps in for the week, drop by the shelter and help an animal get some exercise too. Being a volunteer keeps your mind, body and emotions healthy. Sitting at home on weekends in front of a television can get boring; playing with a puppy sounds much more fun than being a couch potato.
    If you can’t physically visit the shelter, there are other ways to help. Monetary donations to Partners of Pickens Pets are always appreciated to help individual animals. Blankets and toys are always appreciated.

    [The shelter is located at 3563 Camp Road. Phone 706-253-8983 or online at
    They are open Tues. - Fri. noon to 5 p.m. Sat. 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.]

Book treasure hunting

By Dan Pool
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    One of my favorite events of the year is coming up Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
    It’s not as exciting as JeepFest and not as lively as a big DAWGS game, but all year long I look forward to the Friends of the Library used book sale – nobody laugh. I really get into used books.
    And with more than 10,000 tomes laid out for the public, this is the Holy Grail of old books, unusual reading selections and plenty of page turners.
    After going several years, I have a system of sorts to prevent me from coming home with too many books that I will never get around to, like that really old hardback whaling history that I bought about five years ago. [Though in my defense, last year on vacation I read a paperback of In the Heart of the Sea, a perfect beach book/adventure story about a whaling expedition – also a Friends purchase.]
    My system is to have one bookcase where I put all the Friends book fair purchases and I can’t buy more until I clean some off. It’s a pretty simple system but I always cheat as I never get around to reading all the ones I bought and can’t resist wedging in extra books to the point that the wooden sides may shatter some day.
    Using this system, in theory, I should only buy seven books this year and, in reality, if I stayed home this year, I have enough books in the bookcase to last several years. In theory that works, but in reality I am compulsive.
    Looking over the titles that I still intend to read, there is no pattern to my selections. There is a phone-book sized biography of Alexander Hamilton right alongside Christopher Moore’s Secondhand Souls, a funny and irreverent novel.
    There is a book called Dam Break in Georgia that deals with the disaster in Toccoa Falls, something I know nothing about, but it was only 50 cents so why not find out?
    On my book fair shelves is a novel by John Irving and Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, about the period of the Cherokees in the Appalachians. I liked his Civil War book Cold Mountain and will probably really like this one – if I ever get around to it.
    There is a collection of essays Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and a Wallander mystery by Henning Mankell still awaiting reading.
    Part of the excitement of going to the Friends sale is seeing what else you can find. Books at bookstores are expensive and you don’t want to waste money getting something like the dam break book that may turn out to be bad. But at the Friends event, price is no object. The challenge, and it’s fun one, is figuring out which books are worth carrying out of Chattahoochee Tech. I pick some can’t-miss-ones, like the Frazier and Irving, but also take chances like the whaling book.
    I am always inspired and worried about the people who bring carts to load up or leave with so many selections that volunteers help them out in several trips. If those are one-year supplies, then someone really burns the midnight oil with their reading.
    Me, if I find a couple of books I have been meaning to read plus a few unknowns that catch my eye, I consider it a good day.
    Do yourself a favor and go check out the sale and, follow my lead, buy at least one book on something you know nothing about or by an author you have never read before.


When yellow jackets swarm, Run!

By Angela Reinhardt
Staff writer
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    While my seven-year-old daughter, her horseback riding instructor and an assistant rode a wooded trail during last week’s lesson, my father-in-law and I propped on a fence and waited for the group to come back.
    After about 20 minutes I saw my daughter Scarlett, on foot, top the grassy horizon just beyond the edge of the woods and I noticed she didn’t have on a shirt. Initially I assumed she got dirty on the trail, but as she came closer I could see she had on her “strong face,” the one she makes when she tries to hold back tears. Her shirt was in her right hand.
    Out of breath from rushing back to the barn, also on foot with horses in tow, the instructor and assistant told me they were attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets. She said as quickly as she noticed Scarlett’s horse stir, “they were all over us.” 
    “I just told everyone to run and get out of there!” she said.
    All three riders were stung multiple times, but my daughter – who was riding the horse that stepped on the nest - weathered the brunt of the blows. Scarlett had fallen off her horse and, from what I could tell, was stung at least 15 times. She had welts on her face, on her abdomen, on her legs and on the back of her neck, as well as a large scrape along her side where she fell off.
    I scooped her up and ran to a golf cart parked nearby to assess the situation. I knew how severe reactions to wasps and bee stings can be and I was scared - but my father-in-law (who is highly allergic) and the instructor (whose father is highly allergic) eased my mind. After several minutes of observation we could see she wasn’t swelling or having difficulty breathing. They told me at this point she would have displayed serious symptoms if she had  a sensitivity, so I opted to doctor her at home.
    When Scarlett and I got in the car and drove off she completely broke down. She was scared to death. In between manic crying and sobs she told me it was the worst day of her life and she wished she never would have gone to that dumb lesson, and “Do I have any stingers still in me? And how do I get them out? Am I going to get swollen? It hurts so bad, mommy.”
    On the way home I picked up ibuprofen and Benadryl and dosed her up. I wet long pants and a shirt in cool water and put them on her, which she liked and which seemed to sooth the skin. I put her on the couch, gave her some cookies and turned on the television to take her mind off the pain.    
    Over the course of two hours she gradually calmed from her manic state and I walked onto the patio to get some air. Ten minutes later she walked out after me.
     “Mommy, I think I feel better!”
    I told her what a strong girl she was, and that she would have a cool story to tell her friends the next day. With her face still splotchy and red from all the crying, she held up her arms like a body builder, muscles flexed, and made a “grrrrrrrr” sound. Assisted by several hours of wailing and the Benadryl she eventually passed out and slept through the night.
    Ironically, the very next day a family friend brought a paint gelding to the farm where we live so we could ride. While I was at work my mother-in-law texted a picture of Scarlett on horseback.
       “Can’t keep a good girl down,” the message said. “Back in the saddle.”
         After some online research I discovered that late summer/early fall is when yellow jackets are most aggressive. It’s during this time of year that populations peak and food supply is limited. They’re testy and hungry and crowded and attack more often.
    The situation with my daughter could have definitely been worse, but until the populations die down in late fall be sure to take precautions, especially if you have an allergy. 
    There are plenty of online resources for yellow jacket precautions, and information can be found at the UGA Extension Office located inside the Pickens County Chamber of Commerce building. 
    And, just like the experts say, if you find yourself on the wrong end of a yellow jacket stinger do what my daughter’s instructor told her to do - “Run!”

The boy on the beach

    Aylan Kurdi began his day on September 2nd dressed in a red shirt, blue shorts and shoes. The three-year-old was travelling with his father, mother and five-year-old brother on a dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece, fleeing from civil war in his home country of Syria. His tragic day ended with him drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey.
    Since that day the toddler, whose mother and brother also died when the boat they were in capsized, has become the symbol of the plight of refugees.                     While not alone in his quest for a peaceful life (there are more than 16 million people in need of assistance inside and outside of Syria according to Mercy Corps), it was the drowned little boy  that  inspired a lot of  soul-searching among Westerners about how to deal with such a large influx of refugees into European borders.
    The photo of the toddler washed up, face down on a beach has wrenched the hearts of everyone who has seen it. The photographer who took the shot said “the best thing to do was to make this tragedy heard. At that moment, when I saw the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, I was petrified. The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard. When I realized there was nothing to do to bring that boy back to life I thought I had to take his show the tragedy.”
    As Americans, this tragedy seems so far away. We see these images of people fleeing from their civil-war ridden homelands on news shows and online and think how terrible the situation is. Then we turn our attention to other, less tragic news while thinking to ourselves this is something Europeans must deal with.
    But the picture of the boy changed that. It was shared widely on Twitter and Facebook and drew comparisons to the 1993 photo of a vulture near a starving child in Sudan.
    The sad fact is people are dying. Children. Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Wars are destroying families and lives. The people fleeing from war-ravaged Syria has been called “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” Half of Syria’s population has been displaced since protests began in March 2011 and there are now more than 4 million Syrians in refugee camps, fleeing from the mass-murdering regime of Bashar al-Assad and the violence of ISIS.
    While it would be ideal to solve the problems inside Syria quickly, practical experience shows Middle East triumphs rarely happen.
    So, as a global leader, America - a nation of immigrants ourselves - should stand with the Europeans and allow more than the 1,500 Syrian refugees we’ve already allowed in our country to resettle here. If an already crowded Germany (who announced Monday they can take in 500,000 refugees a year for the next several years) can make room, surely we can too.
    It can be overwhelming as individuals to consider the larger, global ramifications of intervention from a military or humanitarian perspective, often feeling we don’t know enough to offer useful comment on policy decisions. But the inscription on the Statue of Liberty should provide direction:
    “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
    Opposition to allowing more refugees inside our borders primarily stems from worries about terrorists slipping through. And our Homeland Security officials have already said that any potential refugees from Syria would receive “the most rigorous screening.”
    We couldn’t agree more. Yes, be thorough in the vetting process to keep out potential terrorists and don’t allow the refugee process to become a backdoor for jihadists.
    The State Department’s director of Refugee Admission for the Bureau of Population said: “It’s not a matter of should we do it, it’s really a matter of how we do it. One of the fundamental principles of our country is that we care about others. We will help others.”
    We don’t advocate that America should always “do something” about international situations, but with this tragedy we can humanely take in some of those dislocated by cruelty.  Absorbing immigrants and refugees is always disruptive - for the nations taking them in and the refugees themselves.
    We need to help in a meaningful way. We need to be a part of the solution that makes sure Aylan Kurdi’s father is the last parent who has to see his entire family eradicated from this earth.

The ebb and flow of fundraising events in Pickens County

By Dan Pool
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    Saturday night’s chamber of commerce Auto-Raffle at Rocco’s was unusual and not just because I happened to win one of the cash prizes.
    It is an anomaly in this county for an event to run into trouble because it proved to be too popular, too well attended.
    The chamber of commerce has held an annual auto-raffle for years. It used to be called  “the truck giveaway” because the grand prize was always a truck.
    It had been at the chamber building every year before and was well-enough attended; good crowds but nothing that swamped the hosts like Saturday. After moving it to Rocco’s this year, it seemed everyone wanted to attend.
    Right now two different groups of people reading this are gnashing their teeth.
    Those who had many-hour waits for food and nowhere to sit due to the unexpected doubling of attendance are fuming again. The organizers of most every other event held in Pickens County are also mumbling words we can’t print.
    Overcrowded? Not enough food? Not enough space? Too many people trying to get in? It’s as rare as winter parkas at the July 4th  to hear these complaints about a local event.
    The reverse is the norm: Event organizers left befuddled and broke because more people didn’t show up.
    The bluegrass festival this spring was the most recent victim of a fickle public. Organizers from veteran groups put in a lot of time and effort and money only to see very few local bodies show up. Music festivals have particularly borne the indifference of the area population. Concert events appear to do well in other locales but for some unknown (at least to us) reason, don’t catch more than scintilla of public interest here.
    And it’s not just a festival setting, consider that the sprawling empty space beside the courthouse was briefly the Sidebar, where owners poured in a fortune to establish it as a blues club. Didn’t work. The chamber has in several years tried to host some kind of concert in connection with the Marble Festival. Didn’t work a decade ago with country music and didn’t work more recently with bluegrass.
    Visual arts have found an equally tough row to hoe attracting support. Most tellingly, Sharptop Arts Association shut down after several appeals for support went unheeded. And this followed the demise of ArtFest which never gained a foothold despite showing a lot of potential in the second and final year. The Marble Festival has also dropped the fine arts portion of the weekend as it  produced mainly shrugs from festival goers.
    Outside the arts, the recent public safety day in Nelson  drew mostly presenters, not visitors.     The roster of events that don’t get off the ground could go on and on. And our aim in presenting the failures is to be sure other groups out there are aware how tough the environment can be. Too many times we have heard stories like one from  a principal a few years back who told us they were literally going to have to hold a fundraiser to cover losses from an earlier fundraising disaster.
    We hope someone proves us wrong by putting on a successful music or art festival here. We’d like to see it. We’d support it. But we feel it’s our duty to let various fundraising chairmen know the difficulty in getting a new event up and running.
    The chamber event Saturday and JeepFest, not to mention the Dairy Queen reopening, all demonstrate people here will come out but only if the event catches their interest. Anyone who thinks they can hire a couple of good bands and pack a field had probably better do some refiguring.
    Secondly, we’d encourage the public to be a little more willing to make time for events. Part of going to the bluegrass festival earlier this year was because you liked the music, but part (the biggest part) should have been to support the local veterans raising money for their needs.
    Next time you see a group putting a lot of work into a festival, concert or other fundraiser, show them a little support. It’s what a community is all about.