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JANUARY 8, 2003


Column
By:Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
January 8, 2003

Traditions and legends don’t die quietly
A definition of news that I like goes like this: “News is a report of anything new that interests people.”
This column is not new. It is old stuff. The first piece I did was on Wednesday, September 20, 2000. The title was “Too independent to be organized.” It was the second in a series of columns I was doing about coffee clubs around town.
Kerri Graffius’ story on this particular club made the front page on December 15, 2002. And Mike commented on it in his column that day.
Now this.
Bruce’s Fine Foods closed on Sunday, Dec. 22. That was 18 days ago.
So why am I still writing about it? Looks like I could come up with an event more current than the closing of a simple restaurant. It’s not new anymore. It doesn’t fit the definition of news.
But interesting? You better believe it!
Three generations of Jackson County’s finest citizens find Byrd’s (that’s short for Bruce’s Fine Foods) very interesting. And if they have anything to do with it, it will remain so for generations to come. Legends, traditions and institutions don’t die quietly. Byrd’s was all three, and so it will hang on in the memories of the faithful.
Those of you who were not members of the club, or attended the university, or took advantage of the continuing education center at 605 Athens Street, Jefferson, will not understand.
But the regulars, especially the charter members, do. Everything they’ve ever wanted to know about anything, they learned at Byrd’s. And they didn’t have to ask. All they had to do was show up and listen, and sometimes — when everyone talked at once and tried to make his story heard above all the rest — listening was not an easy task.
In his column, Mike talked about political decisions that were made at Byrd’s. No doubt some of them were important, but more important — and lasting — were the friendships that were made there.
For all practical purposes, Saturday, Dec. 21, was the last day of class. Most of the regulars were there. A few showed up as early as 6 a.m. By 7 o’clock, the room was full.
Cindy Davis, Bryd and Ann’s daughter, who ran the restaurant during her dad’s recent illness, greeted each one with a Christmas coffee cup filled with goodies and this note from her parents:
“This coffee cup is just for you/To add good cheer and wishes, too./Please remember Bruce’s, the memories/And faces old and new./Good coffee, good friends,/And Merry Christmas to each of you!”
It took an illness to get Byrd out of the place. Jimmy Pruitt, who has been drinking coffee and eating breakfast with Byrd for 40 years, said the man took off one half day each year — at Christmas.
Some of you may not know Jimmy Pruitt. Perhaps you know him as “Hot Dog” Pruitt. How he came by that name is one of the many interesting things you learn at the club.
At Jefferson High School he went out for football. The late Stooge Davis was the coach. One day Stooge told Jimmy that he threw a football like Otto Graham. Graham was one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history, which leads one to believe that Stooge was being facetious about Jimmy’s prowess with the pigskin.
Anyway, as of that day Jimmy Pruitt became Otto Pruitt, and he remained Otto for some time.
But one day he went to work for John Godfrey, who operated the Standard Service Station at the corner of Lee Street and Athens Highway where the present Chevron Station stands.
Roosevelt Gresham, who also worked here, had trouble saying “Otto.” But he could say “Hot Dog.” Thus it is that Jimmy Pruitt has been Hot Dog Pruitt all these years.
It is amazing the important things you can learn at a coffee club, university and continuing ed center such as Byrd’s.
Did you know that Hot Dog used to be Byrd’s accountant and bookkeeper? It was a relationship that lasted less than three months.
The two were having coffee when Mike Waggonman, Byrd’s CPA, came in to get end-of-the-months paper work and tax information.
“I ain’t got that done yet,” Byrd said as the CPA walked in the door. It was the greeting the CPA got just about every month.
Mike pointed to Hot Dog. “Why don’t you let him do it?”
So Byrd hired Hot Dog to do it.
Hot Dog was going to Lanier Tech at the time, studying computer programming. Here was a project right up his alley. He would put Byrd in the computer.
Hot Dog discovered that Byrd didn’t have a cash register that worked. He decided right away that he didn’t want to build computer programs, and certainly not put Byrd in one.
Mike Waggonman moved to Wyoming, apparently to get as far away from Byrd Bruce and Jimmy (Otto, Hot Dog) Pruitt as possible.
Although Hot Dog didn’t last long as the accountant and bookkeeper, his tenure as loyal customer, friend, counselor and confidant remains strong and true.
“In the spring of 1971 we built this dining room,” he said. It was the room where nearly 50 club members were having their last cup of coffee at a place Mike called “the epicenter of city and county politics.”
“A year later we laid out two or three napkins, drew up a plan, and built the back dining room.”
That is where just about every civic club in Jefferson has met at one time or another.
One of the saddest sights on December 21 was Lions Bob Freeman and Buddy Hunt taking down pictures and plaques, folding the Lions Club flag and banners, and carrying them out of the building.
The Bruce’s Fine Foods sign out front became a fixture in 1974 or ‘75. Hot Dog couldn’t remember which. “And we moved the bathrooms in ‘74 or ‘75.” He still couldn’t remember which.
But he does remember that Byrd’s opened for breakfast in 1976, and that’s when the crowd started gathering for coffee. On Saturday, Dec. 21, they were all there — nearly 50 strong — for one last cup and one last farewell to a legend.
Sadder than Bob and Buddy removing the Lions Club paraphernalia was Hot Dog calling to me as I started out the door.
“Wait a minute, Virgil. Come take a picture of Cindy pouring me one last cup of coffee at Byrd’s.”
Where will the faithful go now? Stay tuned for the rest of the story. Like I said, legends don’t die quietly.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

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Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
January 8, 2003

Clones may be a bad joke
Until recently, clones have been only an element in science fiction movies. Then, in 1997, after more than 200 attempts, Dolly, the first cloned mammal was born to a surrogate mother. Since her birth, monkeys, cows, oxen and a few other mammals have been cloned.
The real question that plagues me is why? What would be the benefit of cloning mammals? Sexual reproduction is not threatened by inadequate numbers of males or females. So it seems to me the only reason for cloning is because scientists want to push the envelope. They are playing God with cells. Removing the cell nucleus from an egg and transplanting a new nucleus from a different cell so that the new being would have the same genetic makeup as the parent. I can’t see the scientific benefit. Why would two copies be advantageous? Bone marrow transplants perhaps, but is there enough need to rationalize cloning experiments? I don’t think so.
Clonoid claims the first human clone was born on December 26 to a couple in Florida. They say many more will be born in the coming months. The company claims it is creating 20 or more clones each month. But at this point there is no proof of their claim. Clonoid said the Floridians have thus far refused testing because they fear Florida state will take their child because lawyers have suggested the child would be better off with the state. In fact, Clonoid won’t disclose the names of their clients. Meanwhile, the entire world is watching and some people have suggested Clonoid made the whole thing up just to get media attention. Clonoid was founded by a group of people who believe human beings are the result of a cloning experiment conducted by aliens 2,000 years ago. Uh huh. So with all the talk of human cloning, millions are reading about and discussing their beliefs. Perhaps a few nuts are even interested in joining their group. It is to their advantage for this to last as long as possible. Meanwhile, the United Nations is gearing up to pass anti-cloning laws, yet our own United States government is handicapped. Democrats are afraid to pass any cloning laws in case that would infringe on stem cell research [which has been halted anyway by President Bush] or abortion.
So why is everyone repulsed by cloning? After all, cloning occurs every day. Plants send out effective clones when they send out runners. Gardeners take clippings and encourage them to grow roots and create copies of the original plant. Identical twins are clones of one another. Yet, even identical twins are different. One may be shorter than the other or weigh more. They can dye their hair or wear colored contacts. And they always have different personalities. Clones would be the same way so it isn’t the idea of a clone that repulses me. It is what scientists do to get a clone and the results of repetitive cloning that I don’t like. Before Dolly was born, more than 200 tries at cloning failed. And since her birth, other clones have been born with fatal problems. What parent would want to experiment with the lives of their children [and why would they want a genetic copy in the first place? One of the miracles of human existence is that each person (for the most part) has different chromosomes and thus is an individual.]? At this point, the majority of the human race considers cloning to be ethically and morally wrong, but some Americans have a particular challenge. How can pro-choice advocates and stem cell research proponents say cloning is wrong? If abortion is right, then cloning can’t be wrong because of the high rate of failure or because scientists are experimenting with embryos, after all embryos have no rights and they are not recognized as having rights until birth. You can’t say it’s wrong for two people to have identical genetic material because then you’ve outlawed identical twins. Maybe you can use the reasoning of one 18th century philosophy professor Immanuel Kant who said rational beings are ends-in-themselves and must never be used as mere means. Kant counseled people not to act inhumanely because lesser inhumane acts would lead to graver inhumane acts as a person gets accustomed to acting inhumanely. What that means to us and cloning is that if cloning experiments are allowed, it won’t be long before individuals are seen as dispensable; after all, an exact copy of an individual can be created in a laboratory.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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