Tag Archives: Georgia

Holiday Green

Over the river and through the woods…  No, not to grandmother’s house.  My grandparents have all been gone for a long time. Instead, I’m off to find a Christmas tree!  The perfect one.

During the first half of my life my family would always wait until a week or so before Christmas and go off to find a fir or spruce tree somewhere.  Sometimes we’d go into the woods to cut one down.  Or we might go to a retail operation of some sort to get one already cut. And one year I remember that we got one that came with a root ball wrapped in burlap so we could plant it after the holidays.

That one was short and we kept it in a big galvanized tin wash bucket.  It got planted in the back yard and as far as I know it’s still there.  Part of a hedge.  That was fifty years ago.  It must be huge by now.

The tree would go into a bucket and wait outside, in the cold, until Christmas Eve when my father and I would bring it inside and stick it in a dinky little tree stand.  I don’t know how that thing held the tree but everyone had the same kind of three legged red and green contraption.

We’d put the lights on it, attaching each bulb to a tree limb, hoping like hell that none of the bulbs would go out and darken the whole string.  Then we’d eat dinner and go to church.  And after that, we’d put on the decorations.  My mother would stay up several hours after we kids went to bed (but not to sleep!) to put hundreds of individual strands of tinsel all over the tree.  How it would glimmer and shine.  She always said Santa put them there.  Ho, ho, ho!

During the second half of my life the routine has changed.  We launch our quest for that perfect tree the day after Thanksgiving.  And it goes straight from the top of the car to a tree stand and into the family room.  Over the years we’ve had the traditional spruce and fir trees.  And also leyland cyprus and cedar trees and pine trees.  I live in Georgia and blue spruce don’t grow here naturally.

Some years we’d go to a tree farm to cut them down. With a little bitty manual saw. Or we might get the people who worked there to cut it for us.  With a chain saw.  We have gotten fresh cut trees from nurseries, and charitable organizations, and the hardware store.  They are all different, but all good.

The first tree my wife and I got was an Italian green colored shrub.  The Amalfi Coast where we lived isn’t known for its forests or wild Christmas trees. But it was green and sort of tall. And we stuck it in a bucket of water and decorated it.  It fell over in the living room and I ended up tying it up to the handle on the door to one of the verandas of our villa.

It always takes several days to get the lights on it, but I can just toss them on and stuff them into the depths of the branches. No attaching. And if one bulb goes out, the rest keep burning!

Ornaments take several more days as we dig through boxes of treasured memories and place them lovingly in a special place.  Things the kids made.  Pictures from years gone by.  Ornaments from places we’ve been.  Oh, the nostalgia.  Put up an ornament.  Tell a story about it.  Put up another.  It takes forever!

But even the most Charlie Brown tree looks beautiful when we are done.  Short looks tall and scrawny seems bushy and burly!  It’s magical.  Like this time of year.

I love Christmas.  Maybe not for all the right reasons.  But it all makes me happy and I do my best to spread joy and cheer wherever I go.  And that’s what it’s really all about – making the world a better place for everyone.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Angelic Surprise

Surprise!  Sometimes the reaction to this word is good. Sometimes not.  Depends on what it is.  And who you are. When Ed McMahon shows up at the door with a fist full of Publishers Clearinghouse money it’s a good thing.  If it’s the cops at the door with handcuffs, not so much.  It may just be that the surprise throws you off your routine. Or changes your life. Neither of the above examples have ever presented themselves to me, although I’m still waiting for the Publishers Clearinghouse thing, but I’ve had plenty of surprises. Good and bad I guess.  Cant really remember too many of them off hand.

This one is still fresh in my mind.  Partly because it was very recent.  But also because I don’t recall having such a positive reaction to anything lately.

Scouting around at yard sales and junk shops takes a lot of my time.  Because I love it.  Any day when I can hit more than one is an especially good day.  But I’m always anxious because I know that if I can’t be at every sale as soon as it starts I’m going to miss something.  Some fabulous treasure. Of course I can’t be everywhere at the same time, so yes, I miss out on great finds here and there. The thing is, if I’m not there and someone else gets the fabulous treasure that I would have wanted, I’ll never know about it.  But sometimes I see people walking out with that great thing and I’m jealous and disappointed. Damn!  Missed another one.

This is especially true when you see the item, and then you see another persons hand reach in front of you to grab it.  So close!! But that’s the way it is and its ok.

Most of the time.  There are some losses that I can’t help brooding on. Such was the case this day.

I don’t even know where I was.  Somewhere in the middle of central Georgia.  Out in a field along the side of the road.  Tracing the steps of the Peaches to Beaches world famous yard sale.  There are a thousand yard sales along the two hundred mile path.  And of course, you can’t do them all in the two days allotted.  So you pick and choose.  Sometimes while slowing down a little bit and driving by.  Chances are that a stop with numerous vendors has good potential.

And I stopped at this one because there was a circus sized tent.  And lots of cars.  I looked and looked and looked.  And maybe I found a trinket or two.  But it was what was hidden behind the checkout desk under the tent that got my attention.

Two, yes, a pair, of blow mold angels.  With big wings and bright colors.  They looked perfect from where I was standing.  So I asked the woman behind the counter if they were for sale.  Only to find that some woman had just this very moment purchased them.  Daaaang! This was the worst.  I had to further torture myself and ask how much they had sold for.  So little that I cant even speak the words.  With my jaw dragging the ground I walked away.

Damn.  Oh well.  But really, damn!  Oh well…

Approaching the car I ran into my wife who had gone her own way when we arrived.  I asked her if she’d seen the blow molds.  We both have a thing for those things.  And she said no.  I told her my tale of woe and she mustered an oh well…

She’d gotten something so I opened the hatch of the van to put it inside.  My eyes bugged out.  Those two angels were standing there just as pretty as could be!  She was the woman who beat me to them.  My heart was warm and my spirit soared.  From so low to so high.  I even broke out into a smile.  Cheshire cat style.

When I think back on it, the fact that I had really scored the two angels wasn’t what was making me so happy.  She might still want to keep them for herself.  It was the surprise that my wife had played this wonderful trick on me.  I knew what she had paid for this item.  And she got a great deal.  But even if she hadn’t, the surprise was priceless.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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Population Zero

If you blink your eyes you will miss it. That’s how people describe small towns.. Towns with one traffic light. Or maybe just a stop sign at the main intersection.

We’ve all been through these small towns. A couple of buildings huddled around the intersection of two roads. A population in the double digits.

As we zip through, on our way to somewhere else, we sometimes ask ourselves, why is this town here? What do people do here? And what does the name mean?

Eastville isn’t that big. It’s on the map. If you zoom in real tight. But there is no red light. No stop sign. Just one building with a small sign on it that declares the existence of Eastville.

And most uniquely, there is no population. The building that stands there isn’t a house. Not a business. I’m not sure there is even a door. Its just a four walled brick structure with a roof. And the sign.

It seems like there must have been a real town there at some point. There is an old decrepit wooden building across the street. Its more falling down than standing up. With no indication of what it might once have been. That was the town.

The sign must just be someone’s way of trying to preserve the history that once was there. And the name? I don’t know. This location is on the western side of the county. As far as I know there is no East family. Maybe it’s a hoax. Or just a mistake. Half a mile away there is an intersection. And it has four stop signs and a flashing red light. There is a building on each corner, and two are even houses. But no sign, and no name.

I am always intrigued by how and why towns come to be. Someone knows the answers. I just choose, sometimes, to make up my own story. Keeps things interesting. But, truth can be stranger than fiction. I’ll have to get sleuthing!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?IMG_1935

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King Cotton

Cotton used to be king in Dixie. Now there are a number of other crops grown for a greater profit. Cotton wore out the soil and the boll weevil nearly killed it all off. But it is still grown.

In the fall we begin to see the bolls appearing on the plants around here.   The fields extend deep into Georgia, and the fluffy white balls are hard to miss as you drive down the roads. Small fields and large.

It’s a mystery to me as to how the farmers decide when to harvest the stuff. Looks ripe to me. But they wait. And not everyone harvests at the same time.

One day there will be a field full of cotton, and the next day it’s all gone. Depending on the equipment they use, some farmers grab all the cotton and plow the stalks under. Others grab the white stuff and leave the stalks. Some seem to leave half the cotton, and all of the stalks. Is it really a cash crop?

That question struck me today as I was driving past the fields. The crop had been harvested several weeks ago, but the bales of cotton were still in the barns and fields.

A bale today isn’t what you might have seen in the history books. Nowadays a “bale” of cotton is the size of a forty cubic yard dumpster. A huge solid block. Or it may be rolled up like hay. A cylinder five feet tall and five feet across.

But why is it still sitting there? Shouldn’t it be headed toward a factory or something? I guess it won’t go bad. Or rot.

So I wondered, do they just grow it for the tourists to see? Is it something they use to put minerals into the soil? Or is there some reason why giant trucks have to wait to pick it up and drive it somewhere.

There is a working cotton gin a few miles down the road from my house. And forty-nine others in the state of Georgia. How much can they process? And how quickly? I don’t know.

I’m not a farmer. They must know what they are doing. All I know is that eventually the cotton will make it into clothing I can buy. And lots of other items.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Little Submarine that Changed the World


Archeologists from the Piedmont Historical Center in Athens Georgia announced a discovery today that may forever change the way we know naval history. While construction crews were busy clearing land for the construction of a new parking lot in the rural part of nearby Oconee County, a small pond was partially drained. What they found in the pond was startling.

Historians had known for decades that the during World War Two the Germans had sent U-Boats to the east coast of the United States, and that they had ventured as far as the mouth of the Mississippi River near New Orleans. And on the West Coast the Army had found evidence suggesting that the Japanese had sent one man mini-subs to port cities in California. But what was found today had never before even been considered a possibility.

In the pond, which is fed by a stream and has an outlet to the Oconee River, construction crews discovered the rusted remains of a Japanese mini-sub from World War Two. There is no evidence of the crewman still being on board so his fate is a mystery. More mysterious however, is how the sub came to be in a pond in Georgia, and why it was there.

Speculation is that the sub was headed for the University of Georgia Cosmic Science Exploration Laboratory in Athens in order to disrupt progress being made by researchers investigating the possibility of harnessing the power of interstellar light for weapons purposes. In 1943, several scientists were conducting top secret research at the University of Georgia and had made significant headway in creating the first light ray weapon. This would have changed warfare forever. Not to mention the impact it would have had on the political dynamics of Planet Earth.

The submarine crew presumably was under orders to destroy the lab, and the research documents housed there. That mission was a failure.

However, another seemingly impossible mission was completed. The fact that the submarine was able to navigate from Tokyo Japan to Athens, Georgia is truly incomprehensible.

Across the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to the coast of California was one thing, but to continue the journey south past Mexico and through the Panama Canal, closely hugging American ships in order to avoid detection, then up the coast of Florida to Georgia and the mouth of the Ocmulgee River was a seafaring adventure comparable to Captain Cook’s first circumnavigation of the globe.

Entering the river mouth, the sub would have moved upstream to increasingly narrow and shallower waters. Apparently it reached the end of the road in this pond where it has remained for nearly seventy-five years.

Researchers from the Piedmont Center have been working around the clock to stabilize the sub so that it can be moved to their research facility. There may still be evidence on board providing insights into the mission, the crew and the fate of both. Pictured is the mini-sub.

You gotta be kidding! Ha Ha. April Fools! The picture shows a rusty old propane gas tank located adjacent to an old homesteads that was recently torn down. In the construction of a new parking lot. I couldn’t resist.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?



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The Phantom Camaro


Early Spring here in Georgia feels much more like mid Summer with temperatures hovering near 80 degrees and the sun shining brightly. Such lovely weather has a way of making people feel like being outdoors to have some fun. Some folks like to walk, others ride bicycles. People put the top down on their convertibles. And me, I go for a ride on my scooter.

Riding always makes me feel free and alive, but this special day for some reason I felt powerful. I’ll admit, my scooter is no Harley Davidson. Not a Honda, Kawasaki, BMW, Triumph, Indian or any other big motorcycle. It’s a scooter. But bigger than those little bitty things you see zipping in and out of traffic in the French and Italian movie scenes.

Full throttle, on a flat stretch of road, I can hit 60 miles per hour. And at that speed this day I felt good. I waved at other riders, always glad to see fellow two wheel enthusiast out enjoying a ride.

I try to keep my eyes on the road ahead, but I do take time to look in the rear view mirrors as well. And that’s where I saw it. It was bright red and it was trying to catch me. Wide and low I could hear it’s engine roaring. You know, the sound that a five million cubic inch engine will make. And it was decked out with air scoops, and air dams, and bright lights. In my rearview mirror it looked like a sinuous wisp of red smoke charging toward me.

But I soon realized that it wasn’t blasting past me at a thousand miles and hour. It wasn’t even getting any closer to me. A red sports car that you can’t drive fast because the police are always looking for any excuse to pull over a red sports car that might drive fast. I was racing a Camaro, and winning!

Shortly thereafter I noticed that the Camaro was slowly inching it’s way toward me. He must had had his pedal to the metal. HaHa! And then, as we rolled along up a slight hill, he cruised very slowly past me. Checking me out. What beast was this that could keep up with his Camaro!

And as he rolled past me and I looked over, fully expecting to see Steve McQueen driving, I took a good look. Funny looking Camaro I thought. Because it turns out it wasn’t a Camaro. Chevrolet yes, Camaro no. It was a Chevrolet Spark! This thing was shorter than my scooter! I was greatly humbled. But went on to enjoy the rest of my ride.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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Unexpected History Lesson

The back roads on a Sunday afternoon might offer a better chance of an antique store than the four lane.  That was my thinking anyway.  So we set out on what became a real journey through time.

On Friday we’d driven the highways down to Statesboro.  My daughter goes to school there and we were off to visit for the weekend.  Family weekend, all of us together.  Not much to see on this route.  Fields, forests, truck stops.  The road takes you around all of the towns, or what’s left of them. 

The weekend was great, visiting, with each other, and visiting the town.  But then it was time to go home.  Rather than return the same way, I thought we’d try another route.  Back roads.  Small towns.

We found small towns.  A cluster of houses centered on, well, I don’t know what.  Each other I guess.  With folks sitting on the porch just waving at the car as we passed by.  And some of the back roads turned into dirt roads.  This far south it’s not really dirt, but more of a sandy mixture.  The car’s tires turned white after rolling though it.

Along the way the conversation turned to the old relatives and we decided that my wife had family buried in a church cemetery somewhere near where we were.  The hunt was on for Mount Moriah.

The GPS we were using had a dirt road as a major landmark.  We got lost.  A young man standing in his front yard seemed likely to know where we were headed.  We pulled into the driveway to ask.  No he didn’t know, but if we rode down the road a bit, way out in the country he said, the lady at the store would know.  I could only wonder where he thought he was living if down the road, away from his home in what seemed to me like the middle of nowhere, was the country.  Off the dirt road?  After asking two more local people where the place was, with none of them knowing, we tried another dirt road.  Never did see the store with the knowing lady.

We did find another store.   The one that my mother in law remembered.  An old wooden structure, long since abandoned and now dilapidated, that had been her grandfather’s place of business.  It was he and his wife who were buried at the church, not more than a quarter mile distant.

We pulled into the church cemetery and started wandering and looking.  There they were.  Two tombstones, grandmother and grandfather.  My daughter’s great-greats.  Another car pulled up to the church and after a few minutes a woman came out of the church and across the street to ask us if we were looking for something in particular.

My mother in law explained what we were doing and the woman’s eyes lit up and she said “let me go get Joe, you’re kin to him!”  Joe turned out to be my mother in law’s cousin’s nephew.  We were family and just like that, we were taken in and treated like we’d known each other all our lives.

Rachel, Joe’s wife, was so nice to us.  She wanted to show us all around the church and show us pictures of all the old relatives.  The family was big in the church.  There was a stained glass window dedicated to my wife’s great grandparents.  There was a spot on the wall in the sanctuary where someone had unloaded a double barrel full of birdshot in the middle of the night.  We heard the story of how the church was built in 1867, and remodeled in 2009.  We saw the old outdoor baptismal font, across the street and in the woods.  She told us the story of how the road had been moved to get it away from the church’s front door. And how the last thing her father in law had made sure of was that the road in front of the church got paved.

There was a map of the cemetery plots.  And we heard about how this aunt and that cousin were buried down the road in another church cemetery.

I’m sure they would have invited us to stay for dinner, or even to spend the night, but they were starting their youth group bible class and we were now of a need to hit the road. Heading toward the car we all hugged each other, even us in-laws.  And of course they told us to come back, and we told them to come visit.  A southern nicety.

I’d hoped for an antique shop.  An old cemetery is always an interesting adventure.  But meeting these people, relatives, and experiencing their hospitality, that was all way beyond expectation.  And the best part of the day.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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