I remember Mom talked of a flower with a strange name, hollyhocks. She talked flowers a lot mentioning dahlias, Cape jasmines, which go by jasmines, gardenia and a fancy scientific name, gardenia jasminoides. She mentioned too another flower with a poetic name, plumbago. The gardenia, it’s s…

Growing up in eastern Georgia deep in pines, I wakened to the wail of chainsaws six days a week. Yellow McCullochs and red Poulans sliced through green resinous pines as Dad and his partner, Bobby Cooper, tested saws they had fixed. Not repaired, mind you, fixed, in a sweltering shop of tin.…

My back-road explorations take me to little eateries tucked neatly in the middle of nowhere — whistle-stop places. Country folks run these deep-fried, lonely roadside stops, so you’d think they serve fried green tomatoes. Like some character in a Fannie Flagg story, I can pull into a gravele…

The book is 9.25 inches long, 6.5 inches wide, and less than an inch thick. Its 182 pages present a world well-fed folks can only guess at. Harry Crews got just one Christmas gift as a boy, a Baby Ruth bar. That prepares us for a brutal world beautifully described.

On my way back, I crossed Clarks Hill Lake twice. In soft early evening light, the water lay like a mirror. Smooth as glass as we like to say. Shoreline reflections rendered perfect hourglass illusions, like some fine photograph. Water mirrors people. It’s moody and can present a calm face o…

A botanical superstar lives in the South. It’s exquisite, ephemeral and periled, in that much of its habitat lies beneath lakes. I’m writing about the rocky shoals spider lily. As status goes, it’s a national plant of concern, but you’ll find it in just three states: South Carolina, Georgia …

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. It’s true. We live in a throwaway society and junkyard junkies seek bargains. Making use of discards is frugal. My late Uncle Joe found many a use for things others sold for scrap. Dad liked junkyards too. Mom said he usually came back with more stuf…

Among my father’s passions were birds and woodworking. He made bluebird boxes in his workshop and mounted them around home. He loved hummingbirds and looked for a hummingbird nest all his life. He looked and looked. Never found one. Well, some nests find us, and that’s where Dad’s interest i…

Over the past five years, I’ve developed two traditions I plan to never break. Come March and come May, I drop everything and head to three places so beautiful they compel me to visit them. Hence, the title of this column, “The Pull of Beauty.”

A searing, sweaty summer day … just as my friend leaned over to pick up his dropped keys, his glasses slid onto the asphalt and cracked. “Damn. If it weren’t for buzzard luck, I’d have no luck at all,” said he.

Rain, rain and more rain. It hasn’t been a biblical 40 days and 40 nights but sure seems like it. A record sopping-wet winter has creeks running high, swift and heavy with silt. Pockmarks dapple a drift of rain-pelted sand, and more rain’s coming but that old fisherman’s chair refuses to be …

The South and its vernacular, love it and never lose it. Seems to me, we have the finest, most colorful expressions. Yes, Southerners have a flair for talking with flair. I was in Dad’s saw shop on a blazing hot Saturday when a man stumbled in drunk. He wore striped overalls like some train …

Nancy’s eyes betrayed frustration and fear. “I can’t cut your hair right now. I’ve got to close.” Early April 2020, the year of perfect vision, what do we see? Closings. Not so perfect, but to venture out is to risk death. So they say. So they say.

Spring’s springing. I put my hummingbird feeders up for soon the feathered jets will arrive. My azaleas burst into living color as Disney phrased it, and hardwoods’ newly minted leaves look so green they’re fluorescent. The cypress I planted long ago sports tender bright green needles. Yes, …

The cold water hurt my teeth, and it didn’t come from a cooler. Nor a faucet. There was no faucet. My grandparents cranked a windlass, lowering a bucket into a hand-dug well and hauling up water a dowser said was there. Hand-dug wells and dowsers … erased by time. But the dowser was right. W…

The past lives in a rural version of an assisted living center for a parallel exists between elders and the sights along back roads. A lot of people live out their final days in homes these days. Unless you have reason to visit them, they are invisible. Like a society you never see, they non…

Rocks preserve our feelings, record important things and tell others that someone dear once walked this green earth. To the dismay of some, rocks commemorate unjust wars but they’ve also elucidated and educated us. Teachers wrote on slate blackboards and students wrote on slate tablets in th…

My great uncle cut my hair when I was growing up in Lincolnton, Georgia. That would be Waymon Walker, granddad’s brother. Walker’s Barbershop of white concrete blocks stood on the corner of Highway 378 and Main and stands still, though forest green now. To this day I see Uncle Waymon working…

The blue lake, white sands and green trees of summer camps live on as I recall days at Rock Eagle 4-H Camp. I dare not mention the mosquitoes but canoeing methods, crafts and tree identification broadened my skills. But hindsight’s 20/20. I work with words. If only I could have attended a cr…

As you drive from here to there in a rush, how many times have you turned around to stop at an abandoned store? I do that a lot. The older I get, the less I hurry, and being in a hurry on the back roads just doesn’t happen for me. I take the back roads to pay homage to those who came before …

Homes perch on rock piers in a forgotten land called Abandonment, but as that old Elton John song goes, they’re still standing. Now modern homes with closed-in crawl spaces look more together, but they deny kids fun. You see yesteryear’s dusty crawl spaces served as a playground. I’d get on …

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…

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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.