Monthly Archives: July 2021

Long Afternoon

That title–Long Afternoon–may not have any appeal to someone experiencing medical difficulties, hospitalizations, longtime care of patients. But north Georgia artist John Kollock made it very appealing in his book “Long Afternoon,” (Copple House, 1978) as well as in his painting by that name. John had a rare and delightful talent for bringing the past to life both in words and in the rich mountain scenes he painted or depicted in his pen and ink drawings. In “Long Afternoon” are scenes that take one back to the days when the afternoons melted from bright sunlight on a barnyard to evening shadows in a peaceful valley, from a grist mill to a quaint small steepled church. Of course life in those slower paced days were not just fun and games. There was the gardening to tend to every day. There were long afternoons behind a stubborn mule and a plow; there was the horrid time for little boys when they had to be scrubbed from head to toe in a tin tub. But there were weddings, quilting bees, and Sunday dinners–and swinging from a high limb into a cool creek.

I remember my own long afternoons roaming the woods with brothers and sisters when our most serious thoughts concerned lunch and suppertime.

There were long afternoons of building dams in the creek, freezing our toes, then climbing a bank to warm on soft moss. There were long afternoons of hunting birds’ nests, following rabbit trails, climbing trees to see out yonder. There were long afternoons of reading, of singing arias from a stump, of building a village with stones and clay. There were long afternoons when the sun shone past supper and the fireflies came out while there was still time to play.

You may, as I do, wish for our children and grandchildren those “long afternoons,” times of totally free play, of building, and reading, singing and just being children. And, yes, we wish for them some hardships, like picking squash or cutting okra, something they can tell their own children about someday. As everyone says, times are different now. But there is still time for children to play, just in a different dimension. I see them tumbling with each other in the grass emitting giggles and squeals of laughter just before a fierce fight. I see them climbing trees, studying butterflies, planting a peach seed to see if it will grow, sitting down with cats climbing their arms and necks as if they were mountains, and just relaxing in a porch swing with not a care in the world.

It may not be a book your child is glued to in that porch swing. Probably it’s his cell phone with games and videos galore. He may not be free to climb in and out of creeks, lie on his back in the broom straw interpreting the clouds. But wherever children are, they will find a way to play.

We want so much to protect our children, all our children not just those kin to us, to give them the building blocks they will need for the rest of their lives, to instill in them a love of God and country. We try to pull them away from electronics and give them a craft to do, or send them into the sunshine to run off their energy. These, too, are things we can do: we can listen to them, cheer them on, and, mainly, love them real good. But we cannot give them the long afternoons of our youth. What we can give them, at least some of the time, is the long afternoons of their youth, here and now–a game of Uno here, a conversation about fossils there, a session on riddles, and answers to questions like “If God knew Adam and Eve were going to sin why did He make them?”

There are still moments that add up to Long Afternoons, not the ones such as illustrated by John Kollock. But I thought of John when I came upon Kaison lying tummy-down in the porch swing, one foot kicked up in his utter enjoyment of the moment. I wish you were here, John, to draw this picture of a Long Afternoon.


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One afternoon a few weeks ago Charles and I took a short trip from north Georgia up to Highlands area in North Carolina. Pictures I snapped that afternoon take me there again when I get homesick for the distant blue slopes and the splash of waterfalls. South Georgia is beautiful with its live oaks and pines, its meandering roads between fence rows, its great fields of corn and soybeans, its sudden showers and heart stopping sunsets. And, contrary to when I first moved here, I now recognize rolling hills here in southwest Georgia. But I still miss the mountains. To change an old saying just a bit–“You can take the girl from the mountains but you can’t take the mountains from the girl.”

Folks used to ask me “How could you leave the north Georgia mountains to live here in the flatlands?” I would laugh and say this is where Charles Graham was, and that was answer enough.

But I do love to go the mountains when I can. Charles’s dad didn’t have much use for mountains because he wouldn’t be able to plant his nice wide fields there. In fact, after one trip we took him on he said of the mountains, “I’ve done that now. I don’t need to do it again.” But, whether he ever thinks that way or not, Charles wouldn’t dare express himself that way in front of me in other than pure jest. It would be highly disloyal, unpatriotic, almost a sacrilege. Instead, he takes me there when he can.

So when I asked to drive on up from Clarkesville, Georgia to Highlands, North Carolina his response was something like “Have we left yet?”

It was a sunny afternoon with drifting puffy clouds casting shadows on shoulders of the mountains. We drove up through Clayton and Dillard and Mountain City into Franklin spotting signs to Sylva, Cashiers, Bryson City, old familiar names. As we climbed higher up the winding road towards Highlands our ears popped with the changing altitude. We pulled over at every lookout to absorb the beauty of sky, mountains, a butterfly hunting its favorite nectar, springs trickling down rocky banks. Unlike my brothers, I never learned names of all the peaks we were viewing but they had such a sweet familiarity, like faces of dear old friends.

We came upon the sign to Dry Falls, a place rich with memories for both of us. As a child, my family (as many as would fit) piled in the 1934 Packard at least once a year and took a mountain trip (from way before dawn to deep dark) sometimes all the way to Mt. Leconte in the Smokies, sometimes rambling around these very roads including an hour or more at Dry Falls. It was absolutely amazing to me as a child that you actually could walk behind that very vigorous falls and only feel a cool mist in your face. Last time we visited it with other family members we found you cannot walk behind it any longer because of the danger of falling rock. On this sunny afternoon recently we decided against even attempting the steep descent to Dry Falls because of my temporary dependence on a walker. But we wouldn’t miss another much slighter falls named Bridal Veil.

The old road still winds behind the graceful falls but the new road now passes it by and a sign warns anyone from taking that behind-the-falls adventure. We parked and took pictures. I’m sure there are other bridal veil falls elsewhere but this one has to be the prettiest and most appropriate for that name. The filmy slip of water catches a gleam of afternoon sun as it ever splashes from black rocks like liquid lace. Again, memories flash for both of us. I remember riding behind the fall in the Packard, remember brothers jumping out to feel the splash. Charles and I together have visited it a number of times and it never loses its beauty, just changes with different times of day, weather, and seasons.

We took Road 106 back down to Dillard without going into the quaint little town of Highlands. The mountains and the waterfalls were our priority. In remembering that afternoon excursion I find the song about the Scottish Highlands singing in my head to the tune of “On Top Of Old Smoky.”

My heart’s in the Highlands,

My heart is not here.

My heart’s in the Highlands

A-chasing the deer.

A-chasing the wild deer

And hunting the roe,

My heart’s in the Highlands

Wherever I go.


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Triple Threat: a book review

Jason Rash, first time author and son of my good friend Sue Rash, has achieved something many writers yearn for: a surprise ending. His novel, “Triple Threat,” written with young adults in mind, is a page turner for the rest of us too.

Chris is a lonely misfit who has endured pretty ugly stuff for a high school senior. She has been abused by an uncle, has lost both her parents, and now is facing the trauma of a new school. She lives with her aunt Kathy who is good to her and hopes her niece gets a great new start in life. But, though Chris is befriended by Alex, handsomest boy on campus, he happens to have a very snobbish and selfish girlfriend named Laura. The girlfriend and her two buddies, proud of their nickname “Triple Threat,” set out to make Chris’s high school days a nightmare.

When Chris becomes desperate in her loneliness and rejection she turns to an option way too many teens are now turning to: suicide.

When the principal reports to the student body what has happened to Chris, the Triple Threat and Alex all recognize they were responsible for the girl’s depression. Even ten years later their lives are still affected by heavy guilt, though Alex and Laura are married and, to all appearances, they are successful and happy.

The twists and turns of the story become more and more stunning until the climax leaves the reader hoping the author is writing a sequel.

The opportunity to write this book came to Jason unexpectedly, though he says he’s long wanted to write. With a background in physical education, Jason is an avid basketball and pickle ball player. Recently he has discovered he has a birth defect causing great pain in one leg. He is having prolonged surgery for receiving cartilage from a donor. His hopes of starting an athletic business have had to slide to a back burner. So there is time to write and Jason has grabbed it.

Jason lives in Birmingham with his wife, Jennifer, who is editor of The Alabama Baptist.

Triple Threat is available on Amazon as well as at the publisher, Suncoast Publishing,

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Fourth of July Quilt

I love to celebrate the birthday of our country, the United States of America, without a doubt the most wonderful place in all the world to live! Whether grilling hotdogs and hamburgers, playing yard games, cutting a watermelon, churning ice cream or, of course, watching fireworks after sundown, we are in a celebratory mode. We celebrate differently at various stages of life. No more lawn games for me, but I can enjoy watching! At one time putting up flags early in the morning was part of our day. Now we have a handsome two-flag flagpole furling always the U.S. flag on top and under it one of either the Georgia flag, the Georgia Bulldog flag, or the Christian flag. If we don’t have a crowd of youngsters we don’t drag out the ice cream churn. But, whatever chapter of life we’re in we always celebrate, even if we only hear fireworks from afar.

This year, the Fourth being on Sunday, we worshipped our great God of all freedom with friends at Cairo First Baptist Church. In the afternoon we oven-roasted a London broil cut of beef, cooked green beans and Charles’s whole crop of Irish potatoes (one small bucket of cute little brown potatoes), and baked a blueberry pie with blueberries from our own trees. Did I say we took a nice nap? Of course at this mature chapter that’s a pleasant activity. But in between all this I was making a Fourth of July crazy quilt. No, not sewing one. I was writing it. Well, I almost finished it but became caught up in the televised “Capitol Fourth,” wonderful celebration with singers and bands on the Mall and from around the country. Then we sat on our porch and watched fireworks explode over the tops of our bamboo hedge, numerous neighborhood displays. I didn’t quite finish the quilt. So please help me out here! You add your own words or phrases as we write our quilt blocks.

My blocks for the quilt will be made up of things pertaining to life in the U.S. There will be a block of famous heroes and heroines. We will make another list of those heroes and heroines who never get any particular notice, see their names in the headlines, or carry home any interesting trophies. One block will be American foods, just brief descriptions or mentions. Another block will be covered with names of places, some of which you will know, some you may not. Remember to add your own favorites! And another could be musicians and their compositions. You get the idea. Thing about it is, I’m not going to do significant research. Everything will be “sewn” in place quickly like notes in a journal, higgledy piggledy, if you know what I mean. This is a crazy quilt, after all!

My American heroes include George Washington, John Adams, Lewis and Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Eli Whitney, George Washington Carver, Henry W. Grady, Rosa Parks, James Habersham, Billy Graham, Susan B. Anthony, General/President Eisenhower, Wright Brothers, Louisa May Alcott, John Philip Sousa, and Margaret Mitchell.

You’ll notice statesmen, generals, innovators, authors, musicians, and others. All these are famous people, part of the very fabric of our dear country along with many, many others.

Then here’s my list for the block on non-famous people. (I’m not doing a block on infamous people, though Al Capone comes to mind.) I’m thinking of First Responders, men and women in blue, veterans (especially brothers, brother-in-law, nephews and uncles), grocery store clerks, children who have worn masks to school all year, teachers who pour themselves into their students, every honest upstanding citizen doing their job, the pioneers in their soddies, all settlers trying to build a life in strange and scary places, railroad builders, ever vigilant airline employees, sellers at fruit stands, farmers who watch the skies anxiously but never give up, keepers of the home fires everywhere, those who lovingly tuck their chidren in at night and urge them awake the next morning. Could I add here particularly my “fairy godmother” who helped me through college, the lady who picked me up every Wednesday night to take me to choir practice in her business’s hearse, and my artist friend who would not let me give up on my dream to write a book?

American foods–hot apple pie (of course!), Chicago pizza, hamburgers slurpy with lettuce and tomato, Coney Island hot dogs, Louisiana gumbo, Alabama barbecue, Maine lobster at one of their quaint lobster pound shacks, fresh Alaskan salmon bake, baby back ribs at a small restaurant tucked on the back street of a little town, church “dinner on the grounds,” turkey leg so big it could walk off with the boy gnawing it at the country fair, big succulent shrimp straight from the Gulf, fried okra, black eyed peas, and cornbread–to name a few!

Don’t you love to collect names of towns, rivers, roads, if not on paper, at least in your head? Well, these days, if it’s not written down I may not remember it, and if it is written down I’m certainly not going to know where. But, like popcorn popping, here come a few. Old Egg Road (I’ve always wondered whether the road is old or the egg is old since I’ve never seen a New Egg Road), there’s Stove Creek, Little Tired Creek, Hard Labor Camp Ground (who wants to go there?), Triumph, a very nice tiny Louisiana town on the Mississippi River. Speaking of rivers, the Colorado and Columbia come to mind and closer by the Coosa, the Cahaba and, known to all Georgians, the Chattahoochee made famous by Sidney Lanier. I’m thinking of Three Rivers Park on the Florida Panhandle, Coon Bottom, and a town just over the Tennessee line, I think, from Georgia named Cherry Log. I went with a friend at Young Harris for a weekend at her home there. Some places bring up an image just by their name: Murder Creek, Black Snake Road, Moose Jaw, or maybe Six Mile or Climax. Then there are cozy sounding places like Good Hope, Homewood, and Apple Pie Ridge.

Historical dates? Let’s just smatter on a few dates and let people guess their significance: 1620, 1776, 1860-1865, 1898, 1918, 1929, 1941, 1945, 1963, 1968, 1969,1976, 1990-1991, 2001, 2008, 2020.

Some names of musicians I’d want to remember using maybe two or three blocks since it’s hard for me to narrow down my list: George Gershwin and his “Rhapsody in Blue,” Johnny Cash singing “I Walk the Line,” “A Rhinestone Cowboy” sung by Glen Campbell, a favorite of our little five year old daughter Julie when we adopted her. Also, any marches by John Philip Sousa which always remind me of our son William’s high school and college band career. I’d add Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” Carrie Underwood or George Beverly Shea singing “How Great Thou Art,” Francis Scott Key and his “The Star Spangled Banner,” sung by Marian Anderson in the 1960’s. “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” would have to be included and that’s not to mention the beautiful musicals like “Oklahoma,” “Annie,” and “South Pacific.” I’d have to include, too, the crooning voices of Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis as well as The Beach Boys and the signature sweet light music of Hawaii.

Well, I think we’ve done it, finished writing our crazy July Fourth quilt. Let’s put it together with lots of red, white, and blue with flags around the border. Happy Fourth on the Fifth!

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