Roy Exum: My October Garden

Thursday, October 1, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Well, in my monthly walk through my garden I broke the sad news to my annuals and biennials that Monday would be our last weather with temperatures in the 80s, and that Father front would soon come knocking. My perennials were saddened, of course, because we’ve had a happy year. So, as my man Cleo dished out a round of Miracle-Gro and Osmocote to those that wanted a nudge before the finish line, we all had a good laugh after the bang-bang rose said with satisfaction, “This ain’t goodbye, just a ‘So long until next time.’” 

With the monthly water table still up, 5.64 inches of rain compared to an average September of 3.9, is fabulous for our farmers.
Yet the better story is our nine-month show of 57.81 inches compared to a normal of 39.16. How I wish I could share some of our blessings with the drought-scarred West. Because of the rains, my orchids and onions are at a peak, full and luscious, so in my first day of the month tradition, allow me to pass some along to this year’s most deserving recipients.

Here we go:


AN ONION to Sylvain Helaine, a tattoo enthusiast, who can't grasp why school officials at the Docteur Morere Elementary School near Paris, France, will no longer allow him to teach the kindergarten grades. He claims getting tattoos is his passion with over 500 hours in the artist's chair. My man has even had the whites of his eyes dyed black as a surgical elective. Helaine claims he will inspire his students to be more accepting, less racist, less homophobic, but several parents disagree, saying he scares the bejesus out of everybody. 

AN ORCHID in the memory of Rossville legend Bob Davis, the wise and wonderful Julia Hailey, engineering wizard Jan Evans, rowing pioneer Jack Fish, childhood chum Read Voight, second father “Big Bob” Caldwell, my locker-room partner Paul Hicks, educator/humanitarian Dr. Jane Harbaugh, and Lee “The Flea” Woolwine, who was one of my personal favorites when he would come by the newspaper to visit his dad and my pal Sam Woolwine.

AN ONION to both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, who acted like two brats quarreling over some girl on a fourth-grade playground during Tuesday night’s Presidential debates. Instead of convincing the voters to “vote for me,” the two exemplified why so many people in our country have already decided their vote on November 2nd. At this point, a repeat of such silliness is a foolish waste of time.

AN ORCHID to the tireless efforts of wonderful people to place Dayton’s First Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, now identified as ‘Trinity Chapel’, on the National Register of Historic Places. The church dates back to 1887 and, without Lindsey and John Bamber’s “rescue” in recent years, we would have lost a shrine that has inspired generations of Christians far beyond Rhea County.

AN ONION to the stark reality two-thirds of America believe our nation is “under siege” by protesters and counter protesters, this from a new USA TODAY poll. More than half surveyed believe a greater police presence is necessary, especially in Democrat-controlled cities that instead want to defund the police and firemen. Fifty-four percent say people should arm themselves (statistics show more Democrats than Republicans have spurred recent gun sales which caused a classic comment, “Republicans have had guns for years!”)

AN ORCHID TO Chattanooga’s most brilliant Cliff Cleaveland, who was just honored by the Kiwanis Club with arguably the highest honor that can be bestowed on a Chattanoogan - its Distinguished Service Award. A crusader for all that is good, UTC’s great literature professor Verbie Prevost identified the internist as a “true Renaissance Man, more than any other person I have ever known. While medicine has always been first with him, it is always connected to all the other things in life that he also values - literature, art and music as chief among them.”

AN ONION to me, when preparing for a story on western wildfires, one writer declared “BLM was just as guilty as other government agencies,” and I was totally flummoxed by the notion that “Black Lives Matter” was involved until a friend told me, “Hey Goof, for many years BLM has been the ‘handle’ on “Bureau of Land Management.” Got it.

AN ORCHID for the legendary Sherpa guide who was revered by the best mountain climbers around the world as “The Snow Leopard.” Ang Rita, who due to horrible health problems, hasn’t climbed in 25 years, became the first man to “bag” Mount Everest a record 10 times. A heroic figure in the land of Nepalese Sherpas, he advised countless climbers and other Sherpas before he died last month at the age of 72. Modern science advances and far-better equipment have allowed a number of Sherpa climbers to pass Rita’s 1996 mark. Today a Sherpa by the name of Kami Rita (no kin) has summited the 29,035-foot peak a total of 24 times but the coronavirus has closed the mountain and many of the Nepalese are starving as a result.

AN ONION to the thugs in Chicago; At 8 o’clock EDT last night, the monthly calendar for September showed a total of 398 shot in the last 30 days, 75 of them dead. That’s an average of 13 shootings every day and includes 84 under the age of 18. With three months remaining in the year, the nine-month totals - this January 1st until now - show 3,207 shot with 603 DOA. (The website dedicated to the Chicago shooter statistics,, claimed the September figures are the worst since the early 1990s)

AN ORCHID to those who defied a rigorous push by the United Auto Workers Union at Volkswagen. Just so you’ll know, former union president Dennis Williams pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union, this four months after his predecessor Gary Jones copped a guilty plea after helping to steal over $1 million from rank-and-file members.  Williams makes the 12th UAW official to plead guilty in a wide-reaching federal investigation. 

AN ONION to the news from the New England Journal of Medicine reports that claims Americans sharply increased their alcohol intake last spring due to the shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The report read, “The overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by 14 percent among adults over age 30 in the spring of 2020 versus the same period a year earlier. The increase was most evident in adults aged 30 to 59, women, and non-Hispanic Whites, results of the survey show.”

AN ORCHID to the smarter minds on Board of Trustees who just landed the Girls Preparatory School’s new leader, Megan Cover. What’s funny is to watch the liberal elites deny they had any part of the latest flub of the “Head of School.” Mrs. Cover will be the tenth principal in GPS history and has great promise, although the pompous title of “Head of School” can only be used by the white-wine crowd. Here’s to the hope Megan will be a regular person instead of a delight to just those whose designer high heels make their toes bark. The fact is I am repeatedly told the liberal elites at GPS are quite adept at driving hundreds of prospective students away because today’s modern girls weep over the prospect of being forced by their parents to act like “them.” I’m just saying.

AN ONION to the COVID virus for its intrusion into tomorrow’s Baylor-McCallie game. As a rare one who has been tossed out of both, the great beauty of the game is the fact that Baylor folks and McCallie people, after about the age of 25, adore one another. The game, therefore, is a giant reunion of friends who may have played against one another on “the friendly fields of strife” but now realize their friends they grew up with in grammar schools are far more endearing than the colors of red and blue. What a shame that a pandemic will temporarily sideline the laughter best shared with friends rather than foe.

AN ORCHID for Helen Keller’s sightless but keen observation: “Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbor was. “Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.” (Man, oh man, would you not love to get Annie Sullivan before some of today’s teachers?)

AN ONION to Erlanger Hospital for apparently driving a flood of longtime and well-admired physicians out the door. Comes word that Bill Moore Smith, probably the best sports medicine specialist in our area, noted pediatrician Ty Young, and the popular Keith Helton are out. Yesterday was the last day for arguably the best oncology/hematology group in Chattanooga that was forced to vacate their offices. “What the public doesn’t understand is how much incoming revenue these well-known and admired doctors leaving will cost the cash-starved hospital - starting Oct. 1.”

AN ORCHID to Cade Mays, a superior offensive lineman who was declared to be immediately eligible to play football for Tennessee this season. Having won his NCAA appeal for immediate eligibility last week, the offensive lineman, who joined the Vols from division rival Georgia in January, has been cleared to play in the Vols’ home opener against Missouri this Saturday. (12 Noon kickoff, TV: SEC Network.)

AN ONION for the rhubarb that has removed Kerry Steelman as the administrator of the Hamilton County Election Commission. Admittedly, I lack details of why the actions were believed necessary by the board, although I lean heavily in my admiration for board member Jerry Summers and his quest to do the right thing, this by Constitutional law. Mike Walden has done an ace’s job at the Chair of the board, which is chock full of good people. In short, what’s right will prevail. This I do know; led by a well-serving board of governance, I feel that a top-quality staff will respond quickly, especially with early voting for the Presidential election beginning two weeks from today.
Sylvain Helaine
Sylvain Helaine

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