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Moss column: Counting the blessings of Harvey

The slow-motion catastrophe that Hurricane Harvey has wrought in Houston, a storm off the coast of North Carolina, Kim Jong-un’s decision to lob a missile over the heads of the Japanese people and the carnival sideshow that is the American presidency have made me thankful this week.

There’s something about convalescing at home in front of a television set that makes one want to pull the covers over his head. I couldn’t do that. I was editing the pieces that make up the Apple Festival tab while coordinating the unrelenting assembly line of local news briefs, community briefs and photos for the live pages and calling apple growers to ask about this year’s crop. All this while keeping one eye on a natural disaster playing out in living color, as we used to say.
I was supposed to go on a bicycle ride with our group of riders — the “spokesmen” we’re called — on Sunday morning. I woke up early to send out a text to bail. A bad sore throat that came on me suddenly Friday afternoon was no better, in fact worse. It was an annoyance at first but by noon Sunday I was pretty sure it was strep throat. I reached Elizabeth at Steinmart — miracle of cell phones being what they are — and she rushed home to take on the Florence Nightingale role. Ironically, two weeks before I had done the same for her, when she came down with acute bronchitis.
The P.A. at Pardee Urgent Care, Clifford V. Boyce III, confirmed my intuition. But the great part was that my doc was a Lightning readers. He had recognized my name from the chart. “There can be only one Bill Moss,” he said.
“Yeah, and you wouldn’t want to be this one right now,” I thought.
I was happy to get the pink horse pills and get back to community briefs. Aside from a sinking spell from time to time, a (very) sore throat was my only symptom. I worked at home all of Monday and part of Tuesday before we sent this week’s issue to print. It didn’t seem to suffer from my offsite conducting of our small symphony. News designer Jan Chapin and advertising director Melanie Matteson worked just fine —better than fine actually, liberated from the pest changing this, updating that, nitpicking serial commas and improper capitalization. In the end we produced another great apple tab, if I don’t say so myself.

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So I have strep, a third of Texas is underwater, Trump is Trump, Congress is Congress and the price of gas jumped by a quarter. Why did I say thankful?
Well, because. Apple Festival week always makes me appreciate Hendersonville and the apple country and the Kiwanis pancake breakfast, even the traffic and the crowds.
Nineteen years ago, Stephen Black brought his first Apple Festival column to my desk at the Times-News. He lambasted, mocked and mutilated the Apple Festival up one side and down the other for 20 column inches. It was the only Stephen Black column I ever censored. I censored it for 12 years straight. He kept trying. I kept tossing it in the recycling box.
The young reporters in my charge referred to our four-day celebration as the Crapple Festival. I know a lot of local folks who grumble about the crowds and the kitsch and the restaurant lines. Big deal. If you don’t like it, avoid it. Seems simple enough. I flee, too, when I’ve had enough. I do because I can.
The best part of the Apple Festival is the nine-block walk from Barnwell to Sixth Avenue. Unless I give in to the very great temptation to acquire a mountain of hot salty French fries from the McMurray family’s Pop’s tent, I’ll stroll on past the food vendors, the crafts and the T-shirts and just enjoying seeing the people — from here and out of town.
I love that the Apple Festival gives people from far away a reason to see our town. It doesn’t bother me at all that if they’re around 60, they turn to one another and say, “This is where we ought to retire.” I’m for it. More retirees means more Lightning readers.

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I’m about recovered now from strep. My short detour from my regular routine is nothing like the long road to recovery that all those folks face in Houston. I pray for the people I see on the TV screen and their children and their dogs.
That is why I’m thankful. I’m not in a hurricane. I live in Hendersonville. A quarter million people want to come to my town this weekend.
Welcome. We’re glad you’re here.
You’re gonna love it!

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Contact Lightning editor Bill Moss at