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Early each morning before Faded Glory and it's paying guests begin to buzz with activity, a select group of Fannin County's 'finest' gravitate to Louella's kitchen door to jumpstart their day with a cup of Isabel's specially blended coffee and warm biscuits fresh out of Louella's oven. Here, many mornings in the small alcove just off of Faded Glory's kitchen, Sheriff Kenny Payne; State Trooper Pete Warren; assorted Fannin deputies; and Ranger Matthew Tipton shouldered -- and hashed over -- the chronic problems of the outside world.

With Ranger Flynt Timber's relocation from Iowa just completed and Matthew Tipton up in Blairsville enjoying his first day at a desk job, the usual morning gathering in the alcove seemed to be missing something. As Kenny Payne, his chief deputy Andrew Sweatt, and Pete Warren made small talk over Louella's heavenly biscuits, nobody openly acknowledged the absence of Matthew Tipton from the early morning assemblage.

I guess it was Micah who first became aware of the drumming throb of a diesel engine just outside of the kitchen entrance, and the group looked up expectantly at the sound of Matthew Tipton's Forest Service SUV. Hearing a truck door slam and the sounds of footsteps on the porch stairs, Deputy Andrew Sweatt, coffee cup in hand, moved quickly to open the door for his long-time friend, Matt Tipton.

As a dog with super-sensitive hearing, I knew immediately that the footsteps on the stairs were not those of my old friend, Matthew Tipton. "Sorry to be late, but the wake-up call at my motel never came," said Ranger Flynt Timber as he came through the kitchen door and greeted his new-found companions. Dressed in his pressed, highly starched and tailored uniform, Flynt seemed even larger than life. With his brand new black leather belt, holster and cartridge case, the stiff new leather actually squeaked a bit when Flynt would bend or sit down. He found an empty chair and eased his huge frame into it. Suddenly, I saw Micah's eyes narrow as he flashed a distressed glance toward Sheriff Kenny Payne. Their eyes met briefly, and they both stared incredulously at Flynt Timber as he casually pushed a cardboard box containing two dozen Krispi Kreme doughnuts to the center of the small table.

"This will never do!" I thought as Louella disappeared into her kitchen to get another platter of her golden brown biscuits; but I knew in my heart that nothing could prevent the "train wreck" that might follow. Louella had not yet seen the box of doughnuts as she moved about, catering to her "boys."

There was just no time for anyone present to react to Flynt's thoughtful 'gift.' Louella returned from her kitchen carrying a fresh tray of biscuits which she placed on the table right next to Flynt's doughnuts. Seconds later, Louella focused on the green and white Krispy Kreme box and looked shocked and highly perplexed. "Are you gentlemen trying to tell me something here?" she asked rather bluntly in a tentative voice.

"No, Louella, not at all," replied Sheriff Kenny. "Flynt just didn't realize that you would have something to go with the coffee, and he brought along some doughnuts to go with it." By this time, everyone present was nodding eagerly in support of Kenny's reply -- including a very confused Flynt Timber himself.

I must admit that those glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts looked pretty tantalizing to me at the time, but the box remained virtually untouched as Louella's uniformed 'fan club' verbally back-pedaled, avoided the doughnuts, and enthusiastically dug into the fresh warm biscuits on her platter. It didn't take a genius to realize that Louella might take Flynt's gift as a 'slight,' and Flynt, short of apologizing, did his best to minimize any long-term damage. With two dozen untouched glazed doughnuts still in-play, my strict attention to the situation was guaranteed.

Well, it was not meant to be. My imagined clandestine, calorie-ridden rendezvous with those mouthwatering doughnuts would never occur. After everyone cleared out of the alcove 30 minutes later, Louella resolutely picked up the Krispy Kreme box and disappeared into her kitchen. Thinking that I might yet have a chance of rescuing those precious doughnuts from her trash, I, of course, was not far behind. When I arrived, Louella was pouring herself a hot cup of coffee; and, on her work table, right beside the steaming cup, was a saucer with two plump Krispy Kreme doughnuts awaiting their demise. Louella and Krispy Kreme doughnuts; strange bedfellows, indeed!

Here at Faded Glory many traditions are established by both the staff as well as our returning guests. For instance, morning biscuits and coffee with Fannin County's uniformed 'finest' is one of Louella's favorite morning pleasures. Also, even Micah enjoys holding court as he char-broils steaks on our huge grille up near the woodline on Saturdays at dusk. Although Fannin County is a dry county, county officials have traditionally looked the other way during Isabel's Guest Appreciation Happy Hours which are held every Friday evening. Sheriff Kenny Payne has always maintained that because the wine and liquor is not sold (or paid for) by our guests, we would be regarded as private citizens 'entertaining their houseguests.' Louella's "mile-high-pies are, and always will be, a famous tradition here at the Inn.

A very wise Micah Davenport says that traditions like this are the building blocks that comprise those lasting and happy memories that anchor us to a 'good place' in this very uncertain world. I couldn't agree more. Now, if Isabel would just continue her Bread Pudding tradition, I would be one very happy mutt!

© 2010-2011 David Johnson, All Rights Reserved