Hello from Hogan Holler: A Free-Range Mind


I haven’t been very successful worshiping on YouTube. The church Margo and I attend, like many others, began online services one year ago because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yes, it’s been a year.

Blame it on my free-range mind. A mind with no fences and few boundaries. In other words, a wandering mind.

It’s important for me, even necessary at times, to put myself into a situation that supports the task at hand—such as being in a sanctuary for religious worship. There I can’t check sports scores, see who’s on Face the Nation, answer the phone, or go to the fridge for a snack. 

Even in the church house, there are often challenges. I’ve been known to feign scratching my wrist when I was actually checking the time. (Of course, the preacher would say the problem lies with me rather than the sermon.)

I would not be a good online school student either. We have three grandkids in public schools. Two of them have done well with virtual classes. The other one, even though whip smart, has struggled. Another free-range mind.

The library is a place where I can put a leash on my upstairs wandering. For me, the library is so much more than a place to check out books. I go there to read, write, meditate, as well as do a lot of browsing.

I read Horace Kephart’s 1922 book “Our Southern Highlands” in its entirety in the North Carolina room at our local Waynesville library. Kephart is one of the fathers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The late Paul Fink of Jonesborough was also an early advocate for the creation of the Smokies park and a close Kephart friend.

After the library had been closed for months during the pandemic, I was thrilled when the announcement was made that it was reopening, albeit with limited hours. Patrons were requested to wear masks and limit their visits to 30 minutes. So I headed there, thinking I could plop myself down in one of their comfortable chairs and read a magazine for a half-hour. But, lo and behold, all the chairs had been removed. No place to plop down! I know full well why those chairs were taken away. So folks like me couldn’t camp for hours.

Over the past year, I’ve become well acquainted with the Libby app and the North Carolina public library’s digital collection. With Libby and your library card you can borrow and download ebooks, magazines, and audiobooks. Libby is also available in Johnson City and Washington County. In the Volunteer State there’s also the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) providing access not only to ebooks and audiobooks but a host of other resources. Information about Libby and TEL is available from your local library.

My wandering mind can also be temporarily tamed in a movie theater. A good film on a large screen can command my complete attention. Unfortunately, many theaters are struggling for a number of reasons, including the growth of streaming services, big-screen televisions, and the expense of taking in a theater movie. 

According to author John Grisham, most movie-making money is going into TV now, which means fewer good movies in theaters. Several of Grisham’s early books, beginning with “The Firm” were big-screen movie releases, but none in recent years.

Many movie theaters have reopened with limited seating, but I’m not quite comfortable returning to the theater yet. I would hate to see the demise of the traditional movie theater. For me, the experience of watching a movie at home is not as enjoyable as in a theater. Besides, I can’t get my popcorn to taste as good.

My wandering mind and pandemic-related inconveniences pale in comparison to the over 500,000 people who’ve lost their lives to Covid-19, including my brother. One year ago in March, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. At the twelve-month mark, we’re finally getting some encouraging signs that we’re through the worst of it. Let’s pray this is so.

After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email at davealtonhogan@gmail.com.


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