It’s that time of year again.
I’ve gotten in the habit of writing a column every year at this time, sharing with you all the things and people I’m grateful for. There was a time in my life where I wasn’t thankful for anything, but thank goodness those days are in the rear-view mirror.
I know that you will read items I’ve listed in years past, but those are just things that are still really important to me. So without any further discussion, I’ll begin my long list of reasons to be thankful.
I AM THANKFUL that for one more day, I woke up without a hangover. December 18 will mark 29 years since my last one and if my math is correct, this is 10,568 consecutive days without one.
I AM THANKFUL for my dear wife Althea. She’s been the apple of my eye for more than 25 years and takes care of me when nobody else is able or willing.
I AM THANKFUL for veterans. Althea is the veteran in my family and I’ll always be appreciative for all the sacrifices she’s made along those lines to guarantee my freedom. Without a doubt, Veteran’s Day is her favorite and most significant holiday to her for obvious reasons.
I AM THANKFUL for my job as a sports writer. I began this wonderful journey on Nov. 6, 1979 when my buddy Roy Exum took a chance and hired me. I had no experience as a writer, but was a huge sports nut. And I’ll always be indebted to Ward Gossett, who took me under his wing and showed me the dos and don’ts of the business, like the importance of spelling someone’s name correctly or getting the final score right.
I AM THANKFUL that Roy, Dennis Norwood and Randy Smith also still write columns about stuff they’re thankful for. Roy was the original source way back at the News-Free Press and I’ve just sort of followed in his footsteps.
I AM THANKFUL for four Jacks in my life. They’re all gone now, but what an impact they had on my life among others. They include Jack Hunt, Jack Kay, Jack Stanford and Jack McEwen.
I AM THANKFUL for Chattanooga’s National Cemetary. What a sacred place that is and so beautiful on special holidays when small American flags adorn every grave and those big flags line the drives.
I AM THANKFUL for winners. My father always told me that I needed to surround myself with winners if I ever wanted to be successful. What a great suggestion.
I AM THANKFUL for reunions. A bunch of us old guys from the Free Press started getting together for lunch one day a month. What a pleasure to reconnect with guys I used to work with. And you wouldn’t believe the stories that get shared, some of which are even true.
I AM THANKFUL that the Silverdale Center is now finished and in full operation. The Seahawks have some of the nicest athletic facilities around and this new building that houses the gym, weight room and other valuable space takes away the need to play basketball and volleyball in the old lunch room.
I AM THANKFUL that Tyner and Red Bank are still in the hunt for a state football title and that Baylor has already punched its ticket to next week’s final at Finley Stadium. I was so in hopes that McCallie would beat MBA so they would have a big rematch with Baylor, but that didn’t work out. And I’m sure the TSSAA is sorry that rematch didn’t happen as it would have boosted their bank account in a big way.
I AM THANKFUL for my buddy Tom Gordon. He’s my computer expert and is always so quick to fix my laptop when it’s not working properly. In my line of work, my computer is my lifeline and I will always be grateful to Tom for his willingness, quickness and expertise in making it work.
I AM THANKFUL for the expression I get when I go to a doctor’s appointment and they ask what kinds of medication I’m on. They are always so shocked when I answer “none.”
I AM THANKFUL for John Wilson and the job he’s done with the Chattanoogan.com. It’s really a dream job for me as I get to cover just about everything I desire when, where and if I choose to. To get paid for doing something I love is the best job in the world.
I AM THANKFUL for my friend Bettye Gouger, who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 93. She and her husband Jack were my next door neighbors when I bought my first house in 1984 and they became two of my closest friends, never judging me for some of the stupid decisions I was making at the time.
I AM THANKFUL for Leslie Jordan. Our paths never really crossed, but he was my age and went to Brainerd. He made a life of making people laugh and helping them feel better about themselves and I’m just sorry his life ended way too soon.
I AM THANKFUL that I have absolutely no plans to be anywhere near a shopping mall tomorrow. I don’t like to go on a normal day, much less on Black Friday.
I AM THANKFUL for freedom. There’s a high price to pay and has been done so by so many people, but I live in the house of my dreams, I’m married to the woman of my dreams and I’ve really got it made when you really get down to it.
I AM THANKFUL for the Chattanooga Lookouts. I’ve had the opportunity to cover those guys for the past two summers and it’s a good thing. And there’s nothing better than the view of Signal Mountain from the press box at AT&T Field when the sun is setting.
I AM THANKFUL for my buddy Wanda. I don’t know her last name, but she’s the face of the Chattanooga Lookouts and still stands in the concourse promoting on-line game programs. She’s a delightful person who always has a smile on her face and love in her heart. She also works at UTC basketball and football games and is always quick to offer me a hug every time I see her.
I AM THANKFUL that my son Michael and I got to travel to Cincinnati in August to see the Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals. We had front row seats behind the St. Louis dugout and it was special seeing Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina as they wrapped up stellar careers before retiring. The trip was even more special as we toured the Louisville Slugger factory the next day before landing in Knoxville for Tennessee’s season opener with Ball State.
I AM THANKFUL for my grandsons Riley and Hudson. Riley just celebrated his third birthday on Nov. 14 and Hudson will be two in April. They live in Crossville and seem to be two of the happiest young people I know, but I also know that’s because their parents Michael and Kelly are two of the happiest parents alive and that’s where it all begins.
I AM THANKFUL for the fellowship of Alcoholic’s Anonymous and the continuous impact it has on my life. For someone like me who drank and drugged all day every day for more than 20 years, a life of sobriety is better than anything I can describe.
I AM THANKFUL for my sisters Emily and Nancy. Much like my mother and grandmother, both are outstanding cooks and keep including me when they make some of those old dishes I grew up loving.
I AM THANKFUL for my brother-in-law Paul Perrine. He was married to Emily for more than 38 years before he passed on Sept. 28 after a long battle with cancer and kidney disease. Paul was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known and I think about him about every day. Emily was one of the best caregivers I’ve ever known and never left Paul’s side during his illness, even spending nights in the hospital when he was there. No doubt in my mind that Paul was really blessed and probably lived at least six months longer because of Emily’s love and support.
I AM THANKFUL for my parents Bruce and Frances Hunt. My dad died in August 1992 and next week will be five years since my mother’s death, but what an impact they had on my life, doing their best to teach me the difference between right and wrong and the value of a job well done. I’m sure I put more gray hairs on their head than they deserved, but they loved me anyway.
I AM THANKFUL American flags and the beauty they display when blowing in the wind. You can see at least seven from the press box at Finley Stadium, but I’m most impressed when I drive across Chickamauga Dam at night and see all the flags attached to the cranes that work on the new locks.
I AM THANKFUL for the lump in my throat and the chills on my arms every time I hear the National Anthem played.
I AM THANKFUL that I have the ability to feel feelings these days and that I’m not ashamed to shed tears at the drop of a hat. Most of the time, those tears are for joyful events, but like I said earlier, there was a time in my life when I didn’t feel anything.
I AM THANKFUL for Hendon Hooker and the job he did as Tennessee’s quarterback these last two seasons. I was heart-broken to see him get hurt last Saturday, but I’m fully confident that he’ll be back stronger than ever and that he’s a better person than football player.
I AM THANKFUL for gas-powered wood splitters. I spend most of the year collecting wood to be burned in my fireplace and I rent one of those splitters for a weekend in the fall. I have a host of wonderful friends who offer their services as we work most of the day splitting that wood, but I can’t imagine how impossible it would be to do that work the old-fashioned way with a sledge hammer and wedge.
I AM THANKFUL for wonderful neighbors. We have Tom Friday on one side and a new family on the other named Joe and Christa Fabre, who are much younger than us. They also have two young sons, Jett who is just over one and Boaz, who was born in mid October.
I AM THANKFUL for people who value physical fitness. I used to be in pretty good shape, but have really gotten lazy in recent years. As the old saying goes, the older I get, the faster I used to be.
I AM THANKFUL that I won’t be taking in final exams in the coming weeks. I’ve paid my dues in the classroom and have the diploma to prove it, but I’m not sure I could or would do it again.
I AM THANKFUL for the beautiful fall we’ve had in Chattanooga this year. There have been years in the past where we went straight from summer to winter, but we really had some nice fall days where it was warm and not hot and cool and not cold. And that goes without saying how beautiful the leaves have been.
I AM THANKFUL for fireworks. If I live to be 100, I’ll never get tired of the flashing lights and the bang-bang of a good fireworks show. And to think the Lookouts do it every Friday night when they’re at home is really nice.
I AM THANKFUL for Phil Massey and the success he had this fall in his first year as football coach at Chattanooga Christian.
I AM THANKFUL for electric blankets. We’ve gotten used to sleeping under one every night and there’s nothing quite so soothing as climbing into a warm bed at the end of the day.
I AM THANKFUL for high school football on Friday nights. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of walking a sideline on a Friday and hearing those pads pop. And it’s even better when it’s not raining.
I AM THANKFUL for Krispy Kreme doughnuts and for Krystal hamburgers. I’ve given up a lot in my 67 years, but those are two things I’ll take to my grave.
I AM THANKFUL for open fires. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when the fire is roaring and the room is overflowing with heat. And to walk outside and smell the wood burning just makes it even better.
I AM THANKFUL that people still want me to mow their grass in the summer. I must admit I’m not able to mow like I once did, but there’s something about making a lawn look nice that really makes it all worthwhile. And I’ve never found another way to make any more money any faster.
I AM THANKFUL for the power of prayer. I’ll admit I’m not the most spiritual person you know, but I believe in a God who’s been taking care of me all my life. Prayer doesn’t always change the outcome, but it changes the way I look at it.
I AM THANKFUL for McClendon Curtis and the career he’s had playing football at UTC. He was a great basketball player at Central before becoming a football player and I just hope he makes a go of it in the NFL.
I AM THANKFUL for Dan Earl and Shawn Poppie and the job they’re doing as UTC basketball coaches. I just wish more people would attend games as they really are fun to watch.
I AM THANKFUL for all the outstanding high school coaches in the Chattanooga area. Not only do they do outstanding work leading their teams to victory, but they also take great pride in helping their athletes become better people.
I AM THANKFUL for miracles and that I am one.
I AM THANKFUL for my fishing boat and the fact we have so many wonderful bodies of water in this area in which to fish. I’ve planning to do more next summer as I only went out twice this summer. Even when the fish aren’t biting, it’s the most peaceful place in the world to spend a hot summer afternoon.
I AM THANKFUL that my Tennessee Vols finally beat Alabama. Add wins over Florida, LSU, Kentucky and Pittsburgh and it’s been an unforgettable season so far.
I AM THANKFUL for our pets Juliette and Sambo. Juliette is a long-legged dog we rescued from the pound who barks every time a car drives by. And Sambo is our black cat who just showed up one day, but has become a valuable member of the family as well.
I AM THANKFUL for my buddy Marti Brown and the fact she’s been my barber for more than 30 years. She’s the best at what she does and is also great at trimming beards. The time I’m in her chair is the most relaxing time I spend.
I AM THANKFUL for Andy Griffith and the fact his shows are on TV for four hours every day.
I AM THANKFUL for the Chattanooga Public Library and the wonderful assortment of books they offer for free.
I AM THANKFUL for my trips to Crossville to visit Michael, Kelly, Riley and Hudson. It’s a spectacular drive over the mountain to Dunlap and the roads are really nice the whole way.
I AM THANKFUL for snowfall and am hoping that we’ll get a few inches in the coming months. I don’t want to be like New York and get 75 inches, but I could be really happy with six or eight.
I AM THANKFUL for Coca-Cola and the fact the first bottling plant was right here in Chattanooga. There’s nothing quite like a cold coke on a hot day, but I must admit I prefer Dr. Pepper.
I AM THANKFUL that I’ll probably eat more food today than I deserve and that I’ll have the chance to take a nice nap when it’s all over.
I AM THANKFUL for ham, mashed potatoes, corn and rice and gravy. I might be accused of being un-American, but I probably won’t eat the first bite of turkey and dressing.
I AM THANKFUL that I have a host of friends who have known me a long time, know me better than I care to admit and love me anyway.
I AM THANKFUL to you my dear readers for spending the time today to share things that are near and dear to me. As my old buddy Jim Dugger used to say, thanks for reading all the way to the bottom.
I AM THANKFUL to those of you who express your feelings to me about stuff I’ve included here. I hear from friends near and far and that’s another one of the benefits I receive. Please feel free to email me if you are so moved. Those messages are often worth more than money.
And now as you sit down with family and friends today and enjoy some of life’s greatest pleasures, I hope you’ll find time to think about the things in your life for which to give thanks.
(Email John Hunt at [email protected])