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.…

My back road travels take me by many a rural church. And what do I see? A fellowship hall. Often its architecture is out of step with the church itself but it’s not out of step with the times. To have a fellowship or social hall is a trendy thing. Well, it wasn’t always this way.

Many years it’s been since I fished — 40 at least. The drought ended Aug. 22. Out onto Port Royal I went with Beaufort fishing guide, Capt. Tuck Scott, and Tony Royal of Baystreet Outfitters. Out we went in Scott’s Hells Bay Stealth, a shallow water skiff. We sought redfish, which go by vari…

I was driving back from a speaking event in Lake City, the town that reinvented itself thanks to art and the vision and financial support of Darla Moore. Lake City was a tobacco town once, but we all know why tobacco fell out of grace. Well, don’t worry about Lake City. What a vibrant town, …

Note: The North Carolina Museum of Art has exhibited Marsha Polier’s work. A fellow at the MacDowell Artist Colony, she worked with Time Life Music on vintage imagery. For more than 30 years she documented events for the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. Guest colu…

A deck open to sunlight and the weather surely will lose its pizzazz. That’s when a good pressure washing works miracles. Prep it with some bleach and it’ll look even better. Bleach is cheap. I heard people say they apply it at 100 percent strength. “Works better that way,” they say. I’d see…

I can stand on the brick patio Dad laid down in the 1980s and show you right where we boys shot marbles. There in the 1950s, long before the bricks came along, we’d scratch a circle into the ground, fill it with marbles, and shoot ’em out. We didn’t complicate things with fancy words. We jus…

The year was 1958. On a cutting board beside a white enamel sink, Mom pounded fresh red cube steak with a green Coca Cola bottle, tenderizing a tough cut of meat. On other days she used that bottle capped with a perforated top to sprinkle water across white cotton shirts. As she ironed, the …

EDITOR'S NOTE: While this building looks darn familiar, it's nowhere inside the boundaries of Greenwood County — and definitely not along U.S. 25 between Ware Shoals and Greenwood, as was initially reported. Instead, it's along Highway 101 north of Hickory Tavern. If you're headed to Simpson…