He didn’t like to fly, but he traveled the world, missing the South always. When he was in some country afar and by chance heard a Georgian’s accent it pierced his heart. He was a Southerner and he wrote a book that became a Southern classic, “Red Hills and Cotton: An Upcountry Memory”. His …

The old window looks out on Highway 25. The view at best is limited. Standing behind the window, you’d peer through iron bars and yards away a pine thicket. The real view, however, lets us see many years into the past. This window set in Elberton granite with its stout though rusting bars be…

Another Christmas has come and gone. The trees that brought beauty to homes, stores, and more will soon come down. I’ve heard that if you leave your tree up past New Year’s Day, you’re asking for bad luck. Not sure about that but seeing all the trees this season brought back memories of spec…

You know the lyrics “Deck the halls with boughs of holly.” Sadly, songs like “Deck the Halls” fall victim to commercialism. This time of year businesses and ad agencies cram the airwaves with cheesy jingles. Yes, this time of year ads hijack Christmas songs to sell everything under the sun. …

Bulging whites with snake-eye slits for pupils and yellow teeth like chipped piano keys radiated light as if shadows could never exist. Its gruesome expression captured the way a face might look just before a bullet shatters skull bone and sends brain matter spattering. The angry face seemed…

I spend more time photographing country churches than attending my own country church. Not sure what that says about me, but I’ll go with it. The large churches of the city hold no power over me. No charm there to be honest, but let me drive past a gleaming white country church tucked in gre…

We all cross paths with a person we can’t forget. And so, a man by the beautiful name of Moses Corley lingers in my mind. If every life is a song, then Moses’s life was a sad, sad ballad.

You probably think an ordinary light bulb is boring in this era of LED lights. Well, the ordinary light bulb holds a special place in my memories. Our family visited my grandparents a lot of Sundays. That meant a trip to Mom’s family in the Beulah Community of Lincoln County.

“Lawdy, Miss Ruth, I don’t know when I enjoyed a funeral so much.” Whenever a funeral came up Mom repeated what this lady told her. I didn’t know the woman. She may have belonged to the Newberry Missionary Baptist Church or another church back home in Lincoln County, Georgia. I remember her …

All these years I still don’t know who is right, Uncle Joe or the beavers. I know one thing, though. The old mine hole, long filled by rain and a creek, is still going strong. A long time ago, men mined manganese on what is family land back in Georgia. The old Colley Mine has long been aband…

Outside the artful placing of lilies, camellias, daffodils and azaleas in vases, I never tried floral arranging. Thought about it, but as Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s got to know his limits.” As close as I got to professional flower arranging was a college job at Carolyn’s Flowers in Athens…

The beautiful Edgefield pottery piece you see is a gift. I received it for speaking at the Southern Studies Showcase this past weekend in Edgefield. It makes for a symbolic gift. Edgefield and pottery go hand in hand with history. Sept. 20 and 21, the Southern Studies Showcase hosted 14 spea…

The main barn’s an old early-1800 log cabin structure. Long poles uphold the roof. Look closely and you’ll see hinges a blacksmith made. One side of the barn demonstrates how nature reclaims what’s hers. Vines, saplings and a jungle of growth cover her, but solid as a rock she just shrugs he…

After 57 years, a case of missing rare objects, priceless to me, at least, closes. And yet it remains a mystery. When I was in the sixth grade, I took my coin collection to school, a foolish thing to do because human nature being what it is that collection risked being stolen, and that’s wha…

My grandmother called them snake doctors. Whatever name dragonflies go by, they’re deceptive creatures. I say deceptive because of what a woman told me. “I love dragonflies and think of them as beautiful, gentle, loving creatures.”

In a Dave Barry moment, an alert reader sent me quite a story. Wild turkeys have gone on the rampage down Florida way. I’ve been expecting this. The wild turkey descends from tyrannosaurus rex, so what you are about to read should not surprise you.

Last week, I approached litter as a problem that you own if you see it. That’s what Ken Leach and his anti-litter brigade do in Greenwood, South Carolina. They police the roads. It’s nice to think of how clean our roadways would be if we ordinary citizens all picked up litter, but it’s not t…

Things weren’t going well and my boss called me into his office. “If you see a problem, you own it.” Great advice. You see a piece of litter; you own it. Pick it up.

This time of year I love seeing big round bales of hay. Something about hay bales makes me feel good. Maybe it’s because I see man and nature assuring cattle and horses future meals. Maybe it’s because I stop and smell the hay.

The flowers you see here need no introduction. Nonetheless, I will give them one. They are stargazer lilies. Their fragrance is a subtle floral trace yet intoxicating and if their pollen touches a white blouse or shirt, it results in a yellow stain — one impossible to remove.

My family and I spent a week at the beach last week. We had a great time and did things tourists do. We hit seafood places and tourist traps. You know, places where folks buy overpriced T-shirts, coffee mugs, trinkets and sunshades. Get yourself a pair of cheap sunglasses as the song goes.

There’s something about being a writer that leads people to confide in you. Think about that a moment. Why tell a writer, a person who uses life itself as raw material your deepest secrets. But tell me they do, and sometimes their secrets break my heart.

For some time now, I’ve stepped back in time to write a book about the custom of taking a Sunday drive. A surprise often made driving an obscure road memorable. An interstate doesn’t serve up surprises unless it’s an accident so I take lesser roads whenever I can. The back roads provide a va…

Few people see them. Outside naturalists, conservationists, a few artists, photographers and writers, most people don’t even know they exist. William Bartram discovered them in his 18th century visit to the Savannah River — Rocky shoals spider lilies, a wondrous plant with deep green stems a…

When I got home six days later, the odometer said I had driven 940 miles, with a graduation foray to Raleigh thrown in as well. I first made a solo journey, a Sunday drive that lasted two pleasant days, rolling up a good many of those miles driving down North Carolina’s mountainous Highway 64.

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June 6, D-Day, is coming for two professors at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math. June 6 represents “Departure Day” for two professors who are retiring. SCGSSM, viewed from afar, is imposing, a fortress of learning. Within it, two teachers have long inspired learning …

You see some intriguing sights along the back roads. In my back road expeditions, I’ve come across ghost towns, ruins, forgotten cemeteries, log cabins, and country stores. I see some beautiful places, too. Among them, fields of sunflowers, waterfalls, whitewater rivers, rocky shoals spider …

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That line opens James Dickey’s poem, “Looking For The Buckhead Boys,” a dirge for those who move away but upon returning home hope to see old friends. When I go home, I hope to see just one old football teammate. I almost never do. They hide in their home, another town, or a cemetery. I migh…

In all my years of writing, I never stopped to write about an aspect of church we take for granted. I say we take it for granted because we do, but the folks who hew them from wood don’t. I imagine they love pews, those dark-stained wooden benches no church is without, even inactive, empty ones.

Family funerals are different from other funerals. A family funeral makes me drift. I look at the flowers and listen to the ministers and music but my mind wanders. I avoid looking at the casket, choosing to summon up memorable moments, like scenes in an old cinema. I remember the person in …

Editor’s Note: This story comes from “The Last Sunday Drive — Vanishing Southland,” due out fall 2019.

Springs creaking, Granddad’s maroon Ford jounces down Mom and Dad’s long dirt driveway. Its washouts make for a rough ride but that doesn’t stop Granddad. Here he comes selling Watkins products. His trembling hands pull a glass bottle of vanilla flavoring from a box, and whether it needs sha…

I took a deep breath and entered no man’s land, a hair salon. Dolly’s Salon, however, I would discover is not your ordinary salon. My muse, Memory, led me to write about this unusual salon in Edgefield. A classmate who did my mother’s hair for many years died. Each Thursday, Mom would go to …

I had to see it. I heard it was up North Carolina way, and with the aid of my son-in-law’s Garmin GPS I found it, the resting place of mules and horses. To see this poignant cemetery is to see how urban encroachment chews up farmland. To see it is to witness a changing Southland. Granite tom…

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Despite all those bygone years the memory remains. Having my photograph taken. That was a big deal before phones turned cameras. There I am, circa 1957, standing amid green and yellow clumps of daffodils. Dad posed me in their midst for my Easter photo. I stand just so lest I trample the ten…

On its way to a confluence with that Georgia river entire, the Altamaha, the Ocmulgee River flows through a place I’ve been to five times. The first time I crashed through Macon, Georgia’s city limits was in a high school bus when I went to state in the 440, a track event in which I washed o…

I’ve been writing about how the South is changing for a while now. That’s why I was asked to take part in Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit, “Crossroads: Change Comes To Rural America.” By the time you read this, I will have taken the stage at the Newberry Opera House in, where else, Newberry …

In Sunday drives’ heyday, air conditioning was gaining momentum but you’d be hard pressed to find air-conditioned stores and homes in rural areas. Oh, you might see a window unit or two but central air was rare. Breezes blew back windows’ curtains and whirled through screen doors on sultry s…

I played trumpet in the Lincolnton High School band. Well, that’s not true. I was in elementary school, not high school, so the band must have had another name and I never played the trumpet. I tried. I would quit the band to play football, and thus cart around lifetime memories of band dire…

Growing up before weather satellites was great when I was a kid. Come winter, I’d go to bed unaware that rain was washing in from the west and cold air descending from the north. A colossal winter collision was in the making and the next morning a blanket of snow softened the world, glorifyi…

Back around 1965, a fashion craze swept through high school. Cranberry, button-down shirts emerged as “the” shirt to have, and like other young bucks I had to have one. Nothing’s worse than being a teenager out of step with fashion. When it became apparent my folks weren’t getting me a store…

I just returned from eight days at what some call the North Coast. That would be the stretch of coastline along Highway 17 that runs from Georgetown, South Carolina, on up to Myrtle Beach and beyond. Funny thing about Myrtle Beach. Locals refer to it as K-Mart by the Sea, a reference to all …

The race to the moon. Another thing today’s kids miss. Was there anything more exciting than the race to put a man on the moon? It started on a cold October night back in 1957. Mom and Dad and sister, Brenda, and I stood out on a frosty lawn staring into the sky looking for Russia’s Sputnik.…