Interesting! Last week's balloting in the Sad State of Alabama gave us North Carolinians either a powerful ace to play in Washington -- or an indication that a change in our own leadership team is overdue.
By defeating accused molester Roy Moore -- by the thinnest of margins -- voters in Alabama created a situation which gives North Carolina a huge ace to use in the United States Senate.
By electing a Democrat, Alabama's voters cut the Republicans' margin in the Senate to just one vote.
And we have two -- count 'em, two -- Republican senators who, if they vote together, suddenly can wield huge influence in the Senate.
Of course, that does imply that they both grow a backbone -- and listen to the voters back home, something that may be a stretch for Richard Burr and an even longer stretch for Thom Tillis.
For example, President Trump -- against strong opposition from our neighbors on the coast -- says he wants to open up the coastline of North Carolina to oil drilling.
Never mind that the price of oil is very low and that renewable energy is the wave of the future, The Donald wants us to risk our coastline, our tourism industry, our beaches and our fisheries so a few of his big corporate buddies can make a few million more.
Blocking that will be tough, even though a wide margin of North Carolinians say the risk of drilling is far greater than the benefits it might bring.
But if Burr and Tillis link arms and suggest they will oppose other Trump-backed programs in the Senate, they might be able to do a little horse trading.
Want tax reform, Mr. President? "No, sir, we're against it because we're concerned about our coastline."
Want TrumpCare health reform passed? "No, sir, we're still concerned about our coastline."
And so it could go -- and eventually they could deal. But they have to man up, vote as a block and become a political headache (or worse) in the Senate -- using their new-found power to benefit the great state of North Carolina.
Of course, if they don't do any of that, we also learn something.
What we learn is that it's time for a change in Washington, electing leaders with the backbone and political savvy to stand up for our interests in the predator-filled swamp of our nation's capital.
In the meantime, we should consider sending Alabama voters a thank-you card.
They not only decided to keep a serial molester out of the Senate and spare Republicans in Washington a blood-letting not seen in decades, those voters also handed us (and a few other states) a great deal of political clout.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in coming months.
This close to Christmas, that's enough about politics and all the controversy simmering recently.
This has been quite a year in Franklin County -- and we'll soon be doing a year in review piece that will serve as a reminder of how far we've come, how much has changed -- and maybe hint a little about the future.
We also just published our 11th "Guide to Franklin County" -- and we hope you enjoy it.
It's a double-edged sword for us -- both a lot of fun to compile yet a huge amount of work.
We spent countless hours pulling it together -- even though we delayed it to a little later in the year.
Normally, we go to press in late summer or early fall but this year there was lot of uncertainty and we didn't want to publish a two-year edition with so many loose ends.
For example, Louisburg College was in the final stages of finding a new president but hadn't finished yet, major local elections were looming and no one could predict what might happen in them and, of course, the hospital emergency room decisions that hadn't been made yet were pending.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, School Superintendent Pascal Mubenga would be lured away to Durham -- but his replacement would be hired and welcomed at the end of November.
Fortunately, all those loose ends were neatly tied up by the end of November for our "drop dead" press time -- and somehow we managed to get it all compiled.
It took a lot of organization, cooperation -- and maybe a trace of luck -- but it's out there!
Hope you enjoy it but, more importantly, find it useful.
Could be us?
I wasn't expecting to come away from the annual Person Place Preservation Society banquet meeting on Dec. 7 with one of those ideas that just won't go away, but I did.
The featured speaker was Tom Magnuson, visiting scholar for the Study of the South at UNC Chapel Hill and he talked about "Louisburg Before It Was Louisburg." (See last week's Franklin Times for a larger story.)
One of Magnuson's suggestions for this area was to develop heritage tourism -- and he suggested further exploration of a natural spring and surrounding area just west of Louisburg College and quite near the Tar River. I think it's called Baker's Spring.
He suggested an archeological dig might uncover artifacts, not only from the first European settlers in the area but also from hundreds of years of habitation and use by Native Americans.
The idea, he said, could be to discover "eye candy" that could be one way of enticing tourists to visit (and spend their money!) here.
At first, that seemed far-fetched -- but then I remembered the Gray Site in Upper East Tennessee near the unincorporated town of Gray in Washington County.
Back about 2000, the Tennessee Department of Transportation was preparing to build a highway and someone noticed unusual clay deposits.
They discovered the site dates from 7 to 4.5 million years ago -- and was once a semi-circular sinkhole that harbored a pond environment over a long period of time.
Amazingly, the state of Tennessee not only rerouted the highway but also stepped up to protect the site -- and then funded a museum and research center at the dig that's operated by East Tennessee State University.
If you knew TN government like I know TN government, you might be rendered speechless at such a progressive move -- but it happened.
The site is now yielding the remains of the ancient plants and animals that lived, watered, and died within the then-watery sinkhole.
The Gray Fossil Site is also the world's largest tapir fossil find and is yielding new and rare discoveries such as the most complete skeleton of Teleoceras (an ancient rhinoceros) yet found in eastern North America, a new species of red panda that marks only the second record of this animal in North America (the first red panda fossils found in North America come from the state of Washington), and a newly identified species of an ancient plant-eating badger.
There is a huge museum that's open to the public, guided tours of the dig site and enough incredible exhibits to fascinate the most jaded tourist.
Curious? Google it -- or far better, go visit!
Fossils on exhibit include a saber-toothed cat, short-faced bear, ground sloth, rhinoceros, alligator, camel, shovel-tusked elephant, Eurasian badger, tapirs, and a red panda.
Most likely we wouldn't find anything quite like that here -- but what we might find could be used to spark heritage tourism of an entirely different nature.
It seems to me that investing a few thousand dollars on an exploratory dig would be money well spent.
It certainly has the potential to do Franklin County much more good than the millions we have been handing out to industries in recent years, money that never seems to pay significant dividends.
It's just an idea but 17 years ago near Gray, TN, that was just funky looking clay! You just never know until you poke around and see what you find.
Well, although I can't quite believe it, this is our last edition before Christmas.
With that in mind, allow all of us here at The Franklin Times to wish you and yours a very happy, safe and merry Christmas -- and the very best holiday season.
I hope Santa brings you everything you wanted -- and a few things you didn't even know you wanted!