• Updated

My grandfather, Harry S. Truman, initiated the protocols for the peaceful transfer of presidential power as we know them today. He invited President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower to send over his Cabinet and staff so they could kick the tires, as it were -- be briefed by their predecessors, attend meetings, try out the office chairs.

  • Updated

Following the announcement Saturday that Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States, President Donald Trump ought to concede and leave office with more dignity than he has shown as commander-in-chief.

  • Updated

Joe Biden described the agonizing wait for the outcome of the presidential election thusly: “Democracy can sometimes be messy.”

Last week many people noticed a strange, smokey sky over much of the country, not realizing why it was there. The haze was smoke carried across the U.S. by the jet stream from the giant wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.

  • Updated

WESTERN WILDFIRES, EASTERN SUNSET: Sun sets with a muted glow from diffuse clouds of smoke from West Coast wildfires traveling across the U.S. on jet stream winds. 

  • Updated

Sun sets in Niagara Falls, N. Y., this week with muted glow against milky sky caused by smoky residue from the West Coast wildfires that traveled across the U.S. on jet stream winds. 

  • Updated

The sun sets with a muted glow over Niagara Falls, New York, earlier this week, showing the effects of a milky sky caused by diffuse clouds of smoke from the West Coast wildfires traveling across the U.S. on jet stream winds. 

  • Updated

NORMAN -- Oklahoma University’s football team canceled practice Friday to march lockstep from the stadium to the campus Unity Garden to protest racial injustice and the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

  • Updated

If you oppose mail-in voting because President Donald Trump calls it a fraud, prepare to stand in long lines to cast your ballot on Nov. 3 Election Day.

  • Updated

STILLWATER, Okla. – The governing board of Oklahoma State University Friday ordered the removal of the name of the state’s 9th governor from campus halls because of his racist reputation.

  • Updated

Some events have the power of a match set to a mountain of dry wood. The video from Minneapolis, showing a police officer killing George Floyd in broad daylight, his knee pressed hard onto a handcuffed man’s neck as he pleads to live, all 8 1/2 minutes of it — this has been such an event.

  • Updated

Let’s not sugarcoat it. Your last semester in high school has gotten demolished by a global pandemic and it is wickedly unfair. Your graduation is now a drive-thru, your prom is imaginary, and instead of spending your last semester of senior year hanging out with your friends and taking a victory lap, you spent it in your bedroom doing classwork over Zoom and making Tik Tok videos.

MOODY, Ala. – A veteran Alabama police officer was shot and killed Tuesday night in a standoff between police and two suspects at the Super 8 motel in this suburban community 22 miles east of Birmingham.

  • Updated

George Floyd's death at the hands – or rather the knee – of Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin has sparked protests nationwide, including some looting and destruction of property in my hometown of Dallas. I do not condone senseless violence, but I understand some of the rage and frustration that fuels it.

  • Updated

With 2020 hindsight, a decade from now, we will want to look back not in anger and anxiety, but in relief and recognition that we struggled past the present precipice and worked for a better world.

  • Updated

In these dark times, with the fallen market and anxious employees teleworking if they are lucky, or receiving unemployment if they are not, we look out at empty streets and face more weeks of loneliness and isolation.

  • Updated

“I am an old woman, named after my mother… Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery… To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”

  • Updated

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Jeffrey Gerritt, editor of the Palestine, Texas, Herald-Press, has won this year’s National Headliner Award for editorial writing, one of the most prestigious honors in American journalism.

Health care dominated political dialogue leading up to the coronavirus crisis this month and if voters in the nation’s heartland are an accurate yardstick, the struggle over the best way to provide it will escalate on the road to November's election.

  • Updated

General Motors announced Friday it is bringing back 1,000 workers at two plants in Indiana to begin making ventilators for critical-care COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe and stay alive.

  • Updated

GREENTOWN, Ind. -- With their vows read and rings exchanged, Henry and Emily Riffles sealed their first moments of married life with a kiss Saturday, the wedding party and family looking on from proper social distance.

  • Updated

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials connected with the state prison system said Sunday.

  • Updated

GLASGOW, Ky. – Ronnie Ellis, an accomplished Kentucky political reporter, died Monday at a hospital in his hometown, two weeks before his scheduled induction into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. He was 68.

For decades, the nation's media have covered, and amplified, the controversies of rap music, from the hype of the East Coast-West Coast rivalry that framed the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. in the 1990s, to last year's murder of Los Angeles rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle.

  • Updated

CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. — Nolan LaValley, blind since birth, does not let his disability keep him from bowling and enjoying a sport he has learned from his high school coach and teammates.

  • Updated

OLIVE HILL, Ky. -- It had the trappings of a scene from The Natural. A hand-crafted bat made from scratch for Tim Johnson’s son J.T.’s summer season in the North Carolina North State League, showcase for college baseball players with big league dreams.

It wasn’t “Wonderboy” made for Roy Hobbs from a tree split by lightning. But it lickety-split earned the reputation of whim-wham lumber from J.T.’s Piedmont Whitetails’ teammates, including the winner of the league’s 2019 home run derby.

From there, word of mouth spread so fast that Tim Johnson’s woodworking hobby moved to the early stage of a budding bat production company, making customized and model bats for baseball and softball players of all ages.

Located in the northeast Kentucky hamlet of Olive Hill, the informally named Big Johnson Bat Company includes marketing maven Madison, Johnson’s niece and a softball player at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. She sells Johnson bats like they were hotcakes cooked in pork fat.

“I had to tell her to quit,” said the 54-year-old Johnson. “I couldn’t make them as fast as she sold them.”

With the assistance of his brother Shawn, Johnson fastidiously lathes blank cylindrical billets of ash or maple into sanded, customized bats, each taking three to four hours. Duplicates of non-customized bats take 20 minutes on a duplicator, a machine designed to ensure the legs on a chair are identical.

Customized bats are made to a hitter’s preferred length, weight and sweet spot. A wood-burning pen brands the barrel, then Johnson hand rubs each bat with seven or eight coasts of lacquer, a task performed in the bathroom of the family home because there’s too much humidity and dust in his workshop.

Johnson’s “plant” is his 576-square-foot garage, jammed with various machines, prototypes, raw wood, tool chests and a refrigerator for drinks in one corner. To cross the sawdust blanketed workspace, you carefully set your foot with each step.

Making bats is Johnson’s night job. During the day he’s an administrator for three area vocational schools, meaning he starts his bat-making around 4 p.m. He normally turns out two customized bats before calling it a night, though he’s made as many as five hand-turned bats in one very long night, an experience he doesn’t plan to repeat.

Johnson works on and off during the week, unless “Madison goes back to a selling rampage, then it’ll be every night.”

The Johnson customized bat sells for $125. Madison-designed bats for training, with an enlarged sweet spot, go for $75. One-handed bats cost $50. Johnson also makes long, lightweight fungo bats for hitting practice balls to fielders.

The Johnson brothers learned wood working at a young age, assisting their father, who owned a used furniture store that included refinished antiques. They also played baseball in high school and college before taking up successful high school coaching careers. That background has been helpful in bat production, said Tim Johnson.

“I know what a bat needs to feel like,” he said, “if it needs to be balanced or end-loaded, how thick or thin a handle needs to be, if you need a cupped end, a smaller taper on the barrel or a longer barrel, and what type of wood has the qualities that would be most productive with each particular swing.”

Johnson never thought his bat hobby would go this far. Yet he plans to retire from his school administrator’s position sometime next year, then decide whether to make bats for a living -- with the help of his brother Shawn, son J.T. and niece Madison.

They already have a tee-shirt slogan, “Swinging hard wood.” Now all they need is a natural like Roy Hobbs to popularize the power of the Johnson bat.

Zach Klemme, sports writer for the Ashland, Ky., Daily Independent provided details for this story.  

 

This Week's Circulars

Obituaries