An Open Apology To Dolly Parton 

It’s good to see first impression can change. I’ve loved Dolly since she first appeared many moons ago as singing partner to Porter Wagoner …

Dear Dolly,

I’ll be honest. I used to think you were a bimbo. I used to think you flaunted your big boobs, teased hair, tiny waist, and your syrupy-sweet southern accent just to sell yourself and your brand as a country singer. Granted, I was raised in the Midwest and lived as an adult for many years in the Northeast. I didn’t get you, much less the South.

For example, I’d heard about your origins as a poor girl from the hills of East Tennessee, and when I learned you’d created a theme park in your native Sevier County I rolled my eyes. “Really, a theme park?” I thought. “As if rollercoasters will really help the people of rural Appalachia. Why not create something truly useful to give back to your community, like a library.”

You have created a library, actually, and possibly in a bigger and more magical way than any brick structure filled with books could. And this is where my understanding of who you are really began to shift.

When I moved to Knoxville eight years ago I received a welcome letter from “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.” It informed me that Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among preschool children by mailing a specially selected book each month directly to any child under the age of 5. You had expanded it from Sevier County to my county, and if I had a preschool age child, it said, all I needed to do was sign her up and she would begin receiving books each month.

My daughter was not quite 2 then, and I can still see how her face lit up each time we pulled a book addressed to her out the mailbox every month. Several of them became her early childhood favorites, and are stored away should she have children of her own some day.

As a writer and editor, I’m a book hound and made sure my daughter has been exposed to reading at every turn. But you know better than anyone that not all kids have that privilege. I can’t imagine what a magical gift receiving a book every month must be for kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them or who don’t have easy access to a library. I quickly came to see the genius of your Imagination Library literacy program, and how you were making a difference in so many ways I never realized.

Your father was illiterate, which fueled your literacy passion. Now the Dolly Parton Imagination Library just surpassed gifting one million books to participating children around the world each month. To celebrate, your Dollywood Foundation randomly selected one of those children to receive a $30,000 college scholarship. Two-year-old Evey, from Conway, Arkansas, has no idea yet how fortunate she is, but her parents surely do.

But what finally brings me to this overdue apology is how I’ve seen you respond to the devastating wildfires that swept through your hometown communities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. At least 14 vibrant lives were taken tragically too soon, and thousands of buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed.

You made a public statement saying that you were heartbroken, while also expressing deep gratitude to the firefighters who protected Dollywood and evacuated everyone staying there to safety. Dollywood is the place I once dismissed, but now know is the largest employer in Sevier County and is the largest ticketed tourist attraction in Tennessee, hosting over 3 million guests a season. East Tennessee will count on that tourism to rebuild.

With the humble generosity and graciousness I’m learning is signature Dolly Parton, you’re not only planning a telethon to raise funds for the fire victims, but you’ve also created the My People Fund to provide, as you say, a “hand up to all those families who have lost everything in the fires.”

Those struggling families—and there are hundreds of them—will receive, thanks to you, $1,000 a month for 6 months. Countless stories detail how these families escaped with literally minutes to spare, and with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. And with each story, there’s a strong undercurrent of hope about how strangers helped one another and how this region is “mountain strong.” Your generosity both reflects and inspires this region’s spirit and resiliency.

Tonight, my daughter, who is now 9 and also loves to sing and act, has been using face paint to dress up as one of the DC comic heroines she and her friends admire. When she finished, she asked, “Hmmm, what other Superhero girl do I admire?”

I sat down next to her and said, “Let me tell you about Dolly.” In fact, I hope to take her to a Christmas show at Dollywood during this season of gratitude, and I’ll be making a donation to your My People Fund. I can’t imagine a more inspiring place to be, or a better way to support an amazing example of what it looks like to make the world a stronger place, starting with your own sweet community.

Dolly, I’m sorry I didn’t get you sooner—and I thank you for all you are, and all that you do.

Your biggest fan,

Amy Rawe

Source: An Open Apology To Dolly Parton 

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Donate to the “My People Fund”

Help Dolly Parton provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires in Sevier County, TN through Dolly’s “My People Fund.” #SomePlaceSpecial #MyPeopleFund

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Source: Donate to the “My People Fund”

It’s Been A Summer of Epiphanies

Oro was channel surfing one day and happened upon a show with this big man in beat up cowboy hat panning for gold in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. Oro began to reminisce about panning at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch when he was 14…then asked if I remembered Bob, the guy we worked with in Texas taking us into the high desert near Alpine to collect sand out of the dry washes and taking it home to process it for gold. From there his interest and curiosity grew until we were taking vacation time to go prospecting in North Carolina.

I had a great time with lots of pretties found and enough phone signal to do our radio shows with two smartphones and computer for battery power. I like camping, but also like a few creature comforts when I do. LOL

As life sometimes goes, Oro was forced from behind the wheel of Lil’ Pete and out of a thirty year career. That’s when Oro Expeditions moved from an idea into reality.

I must admit when the ideas started moving from paper and discussions into the real world, I was overly cautious. I was raised by the generation of parents where you worked a job for forty or fifty years, and lived your golden years on your pension, but that’s not the reality of my generation.

When Oro pulled out of the driveway on April 14, 2013, it was on a wing and a prayer. Thank goodness there were lots of bus trips this spring to keep the expedition going until it slowly began to support itself through the First Nugget Contest and the generous support of new and old friends, and Oro finding good places to mine for gold.

As we’ve gotten deeper into Expedition ’13, a few more things have come into the light. What started out as a new career path for Oro is slowing morphing into something else. Yes, it’s still about becoming self-sufficient through the retrieval of gold and gemstones, but it’s also become about other things…the continued access to public lands, teaching people a way to be out in Nature while learning a skill the whole family can enjoy (even if it’s just playing in creek), and that can actually add to your pool of resources as a ‘rainy day’ fund or those times when your retirement and Social Security whimper at the cost of living.

So Oro Expeditions is no longer just about Oro going out into the wilderness to bring home the gold–it’s also about sharing…stepping into the battle to retain the few individual freedoms that’s been left to us–sharing time with family and friends old and new in the breathtaking beauty that is the wild places of our country where we can breathe, and ground ourselves then carry that balanced and centered energy back into our everyday lives.

As Oro and I work to pull together funding for Phase II, we’re once again depending on those that can see the dream, and someday say, “If Oro can do it…so can I.” This time when he pulls out of the driveway to head South, instead of cautious, I am optimistic. It’s not just Miss Paula supporting Oro in his dream, but also being able to see all the things that can happen when that dream comes to fruition. That’s why I suggested crowdfunding to fund Phase II and beyond. I have seen the generosity of people when a dream catches fire, and hope they too can see our dream.

Blessings to Everyone and as Oro says on his Expedition videos…”More Later.”

Oro Expedition ’13 Crowdfunding Site

Stories From Gold Camp

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Join us, April 30th at 8pm edt on Oro Expeditions And Then Some… as Oro Cas And Miss Paula along with some of their new found friends from Coker Creek, Tennessee, regale you with updates on Expedition ’13’s adventures from gold camp, stories from the Eastern Gold Rush of the 1800’s, and the government’s plans to shut down all gold mining operations in the state of Tennessee by the year 2015.

You’ll be caught up in the natural wonders of our National Forests, regaled with tales of the ‘old days’ and angry at one more attempt by the government to force us out of the wild areas of OUR state and national parks.

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If you’re ever in or around Coker Creek, Tennessee be sure to stop in and see Bill and Marsha at Bill’s Pit Stop of Coker Creek. Tell ’em KDCL Media sent you.

Bills Pit Stop