Will Takes A Walk

Jane and I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail a few years ago. I’m not sure exactly how far we went, but you could barely see the vehicles in the parking lot. If we had worn our walking shoes and taken a bottle of water, we likely would have gone on for another fifteen minutes or so.

Will Ransom is the only person I personally know that has hiked all 2,189 miles from Georgia to Maine. When Will takes a walk, he doesn’t quit until he gets to his destination.

Will’s father, Jack, has been a friend of mine since elementary school in Unadilla. Jack is an avid hiker. He and Rudy McAnally have carried their sleeping bags on mountain trails all over the Southeast. Will was introduced to these rugged outdoor excursions early in his youth. He’s now 31 and has a passion for seeing nature at ground level.

One morning in early December, I visited with Will in his home. It was interesting to learn about long distance hiking, but what I enjoyed most was learning about Will. He loves the outdoors, practices good stewardship, and has an admirable determination to pursue his dreams.

Will began his journey April 21, 2017, at the southern tip of the AT in Springer, Georgia. He finished November 9th in Maine. His dog, Rhetta, walked over 2000 miles with him, only missing small parts of the trail where dogs are not allowed. Baxter State Park in Maine is the northernmost end of the AT. The park land was donated with a stipulation that doesn’t allow dogs. Will walked Baxter State Park without Rhetta, then he went back to a dog friendly section of the trail that he had intentionally skipped. He had bypassed it earlier so that Rhetta could be with him for the celebratory ending.

It’s not often you find that kind of loyalty for a pet, or even towards a friend. Rhetta wouldn’t have known the difference, but Will would have. He impresses me as a man who has convictions for doing the right thing, even if it takes him down an inconvenient path.

Will walked away from a steady job with ten years of employment. Hiking the AT had been a longtime goal, but he wouldn’t go while his elderly grandmother, Audrey Ransom, was living. Her love and influence helped shape Will’s outlook. He valued their time together enough to put his dreams on hold. She encouraged him to pursue a degree in nursing, a possibility that he has not yet dismissed. I expect she saw in Will a compassionate heart, a young man who cares about people, and pets, and preserving our planet. When she died, December 15, 2016, Will knew it was time to begin his long walk.

Carrying a 50-pound backpack in rugged terrain for almost seven months takes a physical toll, even on a very fit young man. Will still has some sore muscles. Next time he’ll try to pack a bit lighter.

He wasn’t concerned with bears or moose. He smiled and said that he kept a knife hung around his neck in case of trouble. The blade was only 3.5 inches long. It seems to me that might only help if dealing with a really tiny bear. There actually were some tiny things that were rather bothersome, like the ticks in part of Vermont. Small problems left unattended can swell into big troubles.

Rain and freezing weather were minor inconveniences from Will’s perspective, a small price to pay for the deeply cherished times of quiet reflection. Trail Magic, a term he had to explain to me, often came when most needed. He told about a married couple, now in their 90’s, who had set up a spot on the trail to give out treats to the through-hikers, doing their small part to encourage others. Will ran into folks all along the AT who were there for that same purpose. One man had even brought a grill and cooked hamburgers, a welcome menu change for both Will and Rhetta.

Will plans to one day tackle the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Those two, along with the AT, are considered The Triple Crown of hiking. I don’t know much about long distance wilderness hiking, but I hope that next time Will carries a bigger knife.

He’s now working in Danville, Georgia, building tiny houses and planning one for himself. Will likes making something useful that also leaves a small imprint on the environment. He’s enjoying the path he is traveling, and patiently searching for the next turn in the road.

I’ll go on record with two predictions. First, I believe Will’s life will be one that makes things a little better for the rest of us. Secondly, I have no doubt that he’ll figure it all out somewhere along the trail. When Will takes a walk, he doesn’t quit until he gets to his destination.

Posted in 2017 | 5 Comments

Adam Ragan: An Unexpected Blessing

Forrest Gump had some notable lines in the movie of the same name. My personal favorite is, “My mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’ “

Adam Ragan was born April 3, 1984. His parents, Ken and Beverly, were young and healthy. There was no reason to expect anything out of the ordinary with this new addition to the family.

Adam’s delivery went fine. Ken and Beverly were thrilled with their beautiful son, their first-born child. They had no idea of complications until just prior to dismissal from the hospital. The doctor said there was a possibility that Adam had what today is called Down’s Syndrome. In 1984 the terminology was quite harsh. Six weeks later a blood chromosome test confirmed his suspicions.

I first met Beverly in the early 1970’s at Valdosta State College. I’ve known Ken for around 35 years, from his days as a car dealer in Unadilla. But I just recently met Adam. He, Beverly, and I visited in their Perry home. We sat around an antique oak table in Adam’s room. He sat near his computer, something he enjoys spending time on. He’s also a fan of professional wrestling, though he and Beverly disagree on whether it’s real or fake. I stayed outside of the ring. I asked how to spell someone’s name for the notes I was taking. Adam clicked on a company website, then turned the screen for me to see.

Beverly and I got sidetracked discussing Dooly County families that we share connections with. In a very polite manner, Adam finally interrupted his mother. He held up a hand and said, “My interview.” We laughed, knowing that he was right, and that he had been very patient.

I stood to stretch my back and Adam offered me his chair. It had a padded seat that would swivel and tilt. Beverly and I were in straight-back wooden chairs. I thanked him, but stayed where I was. I was impressed by his good manners and his generous spirit. I wondered if I would be that considerate to a guest in my own home.

Adam enjoys interviews. If you Google his name, you’ll find that he’s a celebrity. His brother, David, who is 18 months younger, is a well-known NASCAR driver. Adam is part of David’s crew and is his biggest cheerleader, plus he spends time with other drivers and competing teams. Carl Edwards gave Adam his first-place trophy from the Nashville Superspeedway in 2007, a hand painted Gibson guitar. Richard Petty gave him a specially designed cowboy hat and sunglasses. It’s a small group that wears a hat from The King. Around the oval tracks of racing Adam Ragan has a big circle of friends.

Ken called on his way home from work at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We left to meet him at Chick-fil-A, where Adam works three days a week. Adam rode with me. He told me where to turn, and made sure I noticed the traffic lights and stop signs. During our short drive he gave me his own Racing Hero Card. It has his autograph, several pictures, and some biographical information.

Chick-fil-A franchise owner David Grossnickel says Adam is an excellent employee. Adam’s work is more about pride than pay. Adam did, however, recently tell him that he thought he needed a raise. David explained the criteria for salary increases, then asked Adam how much he thought he should get. Adam said, “A million dollars.” Math is not Adam’s strong suit, but he compensates with his charm.

Jeffrey Preston is a good friend of Adam’s and the Ragan family. He took him to a University of Georgia football game in November. They watched the Bulldogs defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks. Jeffrey snapped Adam’s picture surrounded by a group of gorgeous young ladies. Adam gives credit to the AXE cologne he was wearing. He wouldn’t, however, guarantee that it would work for me.

Beverly and Ken grew up attending Henderson Baptist Church. Adam walked that same aisle in 2016. He assured them that he understood what he was doing. Beverly often finds him in his room reading his Bible. He reads rather slowly, which strikes me as perhaps more appropriate than my own sometimes hasty approach. The autographed card he gave me is near my Bible, a gentle reminder that I really don’t have any good excuses.

Adam Ragan is a blessing to his family, friends, and fans. I see in him some common threads with a child born in Bethlehem a long time ago. The blessings He brought were not what were sought, but were by His grace so much better. I was only looking for a story, but what I found was an unexpected blessing. In this Season of Hope, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Posted in 2017 | 3 Comments

A Perfect Ending

I rotate teaching duties in the Fellowship Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church in Vienna. Attendance in our all male group usually runs from ten to twenty. We have some youngsters in their fifties, and some seasoned veterans in the eighty range. I’m smack dab in the middle at sixty-five.

Several years ago, we had an impromptu discussion on death before our regular lesson began. It was Paul Prosser’s morning to teach. He stood quietly at the podium, listening to the comments and various opinions, patiently waiting for a lull in the conversation to begin our scheduled Bible study.

When the chatter subsided, Paul spoke in a low and very respectful tone. “I hope that I die like my grandfather,” he said. “He was 95 and went peacefully in his sleep………………. unlike the other three old men who were screaming as his car plunged off the cliff.”

It’s outside the norm for us to choose the time and circumstances of our deaths. Some are blessed with a gentle passing, while others endure years of suffering. I’ve known those whose final day came far too soon, and others whose merciful relief seemed long overdue. I’m not sure there is ever a perfect ending to life, but Shelly Chastain came as close as I’ve seen.

My late father-in-law, Bennett Horne, had two long-time fishing partners. One was Max Garland, a gentle giant of a man who died in 1997. The other was Shelly Chastain, who died October 22, 2017. I enjoyed fishing with them many times over several decades. We cast for speckled trout and reds where the Econfina and Aucilla Rivers meet the Gulf of Mexico in north Florida. Fishing with Mr. Horne and his friends provided me with a boatload of treasured memories.

Jane and I married December 28, 1974. During the four months before our wedding, she lived with her parents in Thomasville, while I rented an apartment in Tallahassee. Every Friday after work, I made the short trip north. Mr. Horne and I fished on Saturdays. On Sundays we went to church, then afterward feasted on Mrs. Horne’s roast beef. Late in the day I would reluctantly head south on 319.

I didn’t fish as often after we married, but still managed six or eight trips a year. A lot of times I fished with Shelly on Saturday, then saw him the next day at church. Before the worship services began he would be standing in his usual spot, often sharing the previous day’s results with his friends, sometimes adding expected exaggerations. My earliest memories of Shelly include him helping take up the offering at First Baptist in Thomasville. He was faithful in attendance and service.

Mr. Horne died January 22, 1995. I didn’t fish much after that, sometimes going only once a year at Thanksgiving with family. Jane and I would leave Vienna on Wednesday afternoon as soon as I got off work. That night I would call Shelly and get the fishing report. He, like Mr. Horne, had a tremendous ability to recall the precise location of places he had caught fish.

He would tell me to go past where the log house burned, and try the deep hole on the left side near the leaning palm tree. He’d remind me to watch out for the big rock just under the water, tell me when the tides would change, and let me know what kind of mirror lure or jig was working best for him. I’d call him Thursday night to give our report, then promise to tell him the truth on Sunday morning.

Besides his passion for fishing, Shelly was an avid bicyclist. Jane and I visited him earlier this year, and I asked if he was still riding. He said he didn’t go on long rides much anymore, that he and some friends took short trips around town on Sunday afternoons, trips of only 15 or 16 miles.

On Friday, October 20th, Shelly fished at Aucilla with his friend Johnny Johnson. He cleaned his speckled trout the next day. On Sunday at church he turned in his contacts card, and helped take up the offering. During his afternoon bike ride he had chest pains and was admitted to the hospital. Shelly smiled and told a grandchild that if he didn’t make it, she could have his brightly colored biking shirt.

Shelly was 90, but seemed much younger. He fished, worshipped, biked and kept his sense of humor right up until the end. I’m not sure there’s ever a perfect ending to life, but Shelly Chastain came as close as I’ve seen. He died doing what he loved, because he lived doing what he loved. His legacy is not about his death. It is, instead, about his life, and the wonderful example he was for the rest of us.

Posted in 2017 | 5 Comments

A Contented Man

My father belonged to a men’s Sunday School class at Harmony Baptist Church for over six decades. His cousin, Wendell Dunaway, was the teacher for much of that time. Many years ago, Daddy shared with me something from one of their lessons.

The scripture they had studied that morning was Philippians 4:11, where Paul says that he has learned to be content. Cousin Wendell asked the class if anyone knew a truly contented man. Alvin Hogsett, a relative on my mother’s side of our family, answered without hesitation, “Fountain Bembry.”

Uncle Fountain was a brother to my grandmother, Carrie Mae Bembry Hill. He lived much of his life in a small and very old house that was a few hundred yards from my grandparent’s home. In his later years he lived with Grandmama. Daddy and I were somewhat amused by Alvin’s answer. We knew that Uncle Fountain’s contentment could also be viewed as a lack of ambition.

When he was young, I think he farmed a few acres. That was before tractors replaced mules and horses. He drove a school bus for Pulaski County and worked as a store clerk  for a while. He did a little weekend barbering out of his house and sold Mason Shoes from a catalog. He worked enough to support his modest lifestyle, a lifestyle more simplistic than most would choose.

Uncle Fountain’s small farm was rich in iron ore. It was heavily mined in the early 1960’s. It’s the only place I know of in our area where that was done. Deep pits were left where the ore was removed. It was no longer suitable for farming or hardly growing timber. I don’t know how much money he got out of the iron ore, but he bought a clean used pickup truck, a light blue 1956 Ford stepside.

He wore a Stetson cowboy hat and a Texas string tie when he went to church or to see his lady friend. I was a child and thought that he was rich. I came to realize, however, that his wealth didn’t go much beyond what I could see.

He enjoyed spending time with Miss Mickie Calhoun, often bringing her to family dinners at Grandmama’s house. She was sweet and smart and would have made him a good wife, but he was a committed bachelor. He was satisfied with regular visits and an occasional trip to town.

When the weather was good, he would sit in Grandmama’s backyard under the shade of a big pecan tree. He kept two bricks under the front of his metal chair, tilting it back a few inches. Every hour or so he’d get up and adjust those bricks. Then he’d sit back down and cut a fresh plug of Bull of the Woods chewing tobacco. When necessary, he would lean over and spit, accurately but with little effort, into a tin coffee can stationed beside his chair.

I enjoyed visiting with Uncle Fountain under that shade tree. He was easy to talk to, never out of sorts, never complained that I can recall. I don’t remember talking about anything in particular. Sometimes it was just the two of us, or there might be a half-dozen men following a big Sunday dinner. The men all migrated to the shade tree or the side porch when it was time to clean up the kitchen.

When I was born in 1952, Uncle Fountain was 58 years old. I don’t know when he retired, but I don’t remember him ever working. He was old enough that retirement seemed appropriate. As I got closer to becoming an adult, however, I wondered why he hadn’t done more with his life. I wondered why he was content to live in a room he didn’t own, to date a woman he had no plans to marry, and to let his small farm be disfigured with almost useless clay gullies.

I wasn’t around in Uncle Fountain’s younger days. I don’t know if he worked hard or hardly worked. Ambition is sometimes doled out in doses that seem pitifully small. But too much ambition can be a treacherous thing, sometimes a lot worse than having too little.  We can get so busy building more barns that we forget the importance of shade tree visits.

For a long time I thought that Uncle Fountain’s wealth didn’t go much beyond what I could see. Now, though, I view it differently. I think his wealth was measured in contentment.  I think Uncle Fountain was a lot wealthier than I ever imagined. Alvin Hogsett was the only one that morning who had an answer for Wendell’s question. Alvin didn’t hesitate. He knew he had answered the question well.

Posted in 2017 | 2 Comments

Frank Hamsley & The County Jail

Frank Hamsley was the oldest of fifteen children born to Melvin and Alice Hamsley of Unadilla, Georgia. There were a dozen boys and three girls. Twelve of them were older than me and three were younger. They grew up working hard. They ran chainsaws, helped their daddy with his sawmill, and pitched in on the chores of a household bursting at the seams. But they played hard too. Their natural musical talents and laid-back humor blended nicely into a unique style of rural southern charm.

Those 15 children were all gifted in music. Roy Hamsley says that some were better than others, but everybody played something. They loved country music, good times, and family. Mr. Frank was the lead guitarist in their popular band, The Tradewinds. He played his share of honky-tonks until God put some new songs in his heart, songs for churches, nursing homes, and gospel singings. He left the dance halls behind for a straight and narrow path, a path that he humbly walked with a quiet passion.

Mr. Frank and his wife, Miss Florence, raised three beautiful daughters, Patsy, Bonnie, and Donna. Donna and I started first grade together at Pinehurst Elementary in the fall of 1958. Her family lived in town and my family lived in the country, so I didn’t know Mr. Frank very well in my childhood.

In the mid-1980s Fullington Academy started hosting an annual Hee Haw fundraiser, its format based on the long running television show. It was mostly country music with a few gospel songs, plus clean and simple comedic skits. Mr. Frank played lead guitar and Charles Jones played the bass. Three of Mr. Frank’s brothers, Benny, Terry, and Herman helped with guitars, drums, and singing. John Penney and a very young Monty Milikin often joined in. Mr. Horace Jones fiddled old numbers like “Boil Them Cabbage Down Boys.” Mr. J. D. Williford took a deep breath and played “Red River Valley” on his harmonica. Another twenty or so folks sang or performed humorous routines. I played the piano.

We practiced twice a week for a month or so before each program, sometimes staying for several hours. Mr. Frank preferred traditional country songs like those of Hank Williams or Johnny Cash. But when youngsters like Natalie Godfrey and Vickie Hamsley wanted to sing a current hit, he just smiled and kept picking. He would glance my way at the piano, wink slyly and say, “Maybe we can figure it out.” He quickly mastered songs that he had never heard before. Mr. Frank was the clear but unassuming leader of our band. We were all delighted to follow him.

I’m decent at reading sheet music, but I struggle when playing by ear. Mr. Frank quickly sorted out what I was capable of. If he saw that I was comfortable with a song, he would nod his head slightly at the end of a verse, letting me know to take the turnaround. If I stumbled, I knew that he would throw me a lifeline. He was generous in sharing the stage and always gracious with his help.

Playing in that band left me with some wonderful memories of Mr. Frank. He was a superb guitarist and became a dear friend. But the memory I value most is not from his music. It’s from seeing him with his black leather-bound Bible going into the old Dooly County Sheriff’s Department.

Our local jail was just across from where I worked at Bank of Dooly. My office window had a clear view of Cotton Street, a view that regularly included Mr. Frank getting out of his white Ford Ranger with his Bible. I once asked him how many inmates attended Bible Study. He told me that sometimes there were several and other times only one or two. Then he smiled in that easy way of his and said, “If it’s just one person, that’s okay. That may be the one that needs to hear something from God’s word.”

Sometimes I focus too much on applause and too little on purpose. But that memory of Mr. Frank helps remind me of a man who had his priorities in order. He took his Bible to a small stage. He wasn’t concerned about the size of the crowd, even a one-man audience was fine. He quietly worked for the one compliment that he knew mattered, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) I don’t know how many inmates he may have helped, but I know that he helped me.

I’m thankful I had a good view of Cotton Street through my office window, and I hope Mr. Frank knows that. If any of you see him before I do, please tell him what I said. He never chased applause, but I’m pretty sure that on August 1, 2004, Mr. Frank Hamsley got a standing ovation.

Posted in 2017 | 6 Comments

A Brown Paper Bag

Lee Harris called me recently, then left a picture of a paper bag in our mailbox. I’m almost certain that’s the first time that’s happened to me. It was a copier photo of a small brown bag, five inches wide and ten inches long. It wasn’t any different from a million others, except for a hand-written note dated July 27, 1998.

The bag and the message had long escaped my memory cells. It was almost 20 years ago when I sent it to my uncle, Claude Bowen. He was hospitalized at the time. The note read as follows:

Dear Uncle Claude,

I wanted to get you a nice card, but with the dry weather had to rework my budget. Did you know the hospital won’t accept collect calls? I told them I was your nephew, but that didn’t help. Perhaps you can talk to the administrator? Glad to hear you’re doing better. Best wishes from all of us for your continued recovery. Neil, Jane, Erin, Seth, & Carrie

P.S. I meant to enclose $20, but had already sealed the envelope before I thought of it.

Lee went to see Uncle Claude during that hospital stay. He said there were Hallmark Cards lining the room, but what Uncle Claude most enjoyed showing his visitors was the brown paper sack.

For anyone reading this who is under 20, you should understand that paper bags were in common use in 1998. They were used by grocery, hardware, and other retail stores of just about any description. For a few years the checkout clerks would ask if you wanted paper or plastic. Now it’s mostly plastic. I’m not complaining, but plastic is hard to write on, and I’m almost out of paper bags.

The late Reverend Doug Fullington deserves credit for the P.S. For a long time he pastored First Baptist Church in Pinehurst, plus he and his wife, June, ran The Fullington House restaurant. He also performed a humor routine throughout middle Georgia and beyond. He dressed up in overalls and a tie and pretended he was clueless about life. He would tell some funny stories, easily drawing laughter from the crowd, then close by reading a letter from home, a letter from his mama.

The letter would explain that she was writing slowly because she knew that he read slowly. It would be filled with other such clever little jewels, then end with that P.S. about the twenty dollars.

Brother Doug would come to the Bank of Dooly, where I worked, on Monday mornings. He’d visit with me a few minutes, quite often sharing something from the weekend. On one of those visits, he told me he had preached Sunday morning and then gone straight to the restaurant as usual. He worked hard for over an hour, helping take care of the bustling lunch crowd.

Brother Doug was tired and his feet were sore. He sat down at a corner table in the dining room to take a short break. Karlie Ingram was five years old, and was there from Vienna with her family. She walked over to Brother Doug. “Don’t you have any friends?” she asked. He smiled and said, “It sure doesn’t look like it, does it?” Then Karlie made him a really sweet offer. She said, “I’ll be your friend.”

He thanked Karlie for her kindness and told her he was just resting a bit. He was still smiling the next day when he shared that story with me. We both understood that Karlie had set the compassion bar rather high for the rest of us. We talked for a minute about Isaiah 11:6, “And a little child shall lead them.” Brother Doug’s hair had been silver for a long time, but Karlie taught the lesson that day.

Lee Harris reminded me of more than just a paper bag. He reminded me that small things can make a big difference. It can be as simple as writing a note, making a call, or leaving a picture in someone’s mailbox. It can be as tender as a child offering friendship to someone who is sitting alone. Sometimes we need to do big things, the kind of things that take a lot of effort. But the small opportunities are the ones that surface every day. They’re the ones that we have no good excuse to ignore.

That brown paper bag brought back memories of Uncle Claude, Brother Doug, and a young Karlie Ingram, delightful memories that I’m glad could be rescued. If I’m ever again given the choice of paper or plastic, I’ll take paper. I’m pretty sure that paper is where the best memories are kept.

Posted in 2017 | 8 Comments

A Recipe For Coon

My wife, Jane, claims she doesn’t have a recipe for coon. I didn’t see her look, but she seemed quite certain. It’s hard to believe that dozens of southern style cookbooks made the same glaring omission. But I wasn’t worried. I was pretty sure that I knew where to get one.

Ed Mixon married Lorene Lewis on June 27, 1959, at Harmony Baptist Church. Lorene was the daughter of Elmo and Dorothy Lewis. She grew up on their family farm about five miles south of Unadilla. Ed and Lorene spent most weekends with her parents during the early part of their marriage. Her Uncle Teasley, “Unc” to her, lived just a few steps down the road with his family.

Unc stopped by one Friday night and said, “Ed, I’ve got Ol’ Monkey in the truck. You want to go coon hunting?” Ol’ Monkey was Unc’s favorite coon hound. He had an instinct for hunting that’s found only among the best trackers. Unc, Ed, and Ol’ Monkey became a regular threesome on Friday nights. Sometimes they were joined by Lorene’s daddy, Elmo, or her younger brother, Tony.

Unc would put Ol’ Monkey out and they would listen for his bark. His bark let them know when he was following a trail, and when he treed something. He would often run far ahead of them, deep into the pitch-black woods. They’d catch up with Ol’ Monkey, then search the branches with flashlights for the coon’s shining eyes. Unc would invite him to dinner with his single shot 12 gauge.

A good outing might yield two or three coons, but they had one night of exceptional hunting in Mr. Son Register’s cornfield. Coons were everywhere. Unc shot enough for several meals, but hardly dented the population. Ed says there couldn’t have been much corn left in that field to harvest.

Possums were also on Unc’s menu. In the fall, Ed and Unc would shine their flashlights up the persimmon trees and lure the critters down. When a possum hit the ground, Unc would grab him by the tail and drop him in the croker sack that Ed would be holding. Ed would shake the possum on down in the bag, and quickly twist the top to keep him from climbing out. One night the bottom tore open and the possum landed right on top of Ed’s feet. That’s when Ed learned to dance. Unc caught the possum again, tied the bag at both ends, and took him on home.

Ed and Lorene were late one Friday night getting to her parent’s home. Ed still had on his dress clothes from work. He was not expecting to go hunting, but Unc showed up with Ol’ Monkey and Ed couldn’t resist.

Not long into the hunt, Unc heard Ol’ Monkey barking. He had a different bark for coons, possums, bobcats, and foxes. Unc said, “He’s got a possum treed in a hollow.” Ed, in his dress clothes, crawled through a wash to get under some briers. Ol’ Monkey stuck his head in the hollow tree and the possum nailed him. Unc cut a limb and trimmed the side branches to short stubs, making what he called a twister. He sat on the ground and braced both feet on the tree. He twisted the possum’s hair around those stubs, pulled him from the hollow, then sacked him for the trip home.

Ed and Unc coon hunted nearly every Friday night until Ol’ Monkey got run over by a car. That ended the family tradition, a tradition they had kept alive longer than most folks in South Georgia.

I visited Ed not long ago. A good friend of his, Mrs. Pearl Rouse, gave me her well-tested recipe for coon. She said to boil it in water with apple cider vinegar until it’s tender, then bake it in a loaf pan with barbeque sauce and a little salt. Cook some sweet potatoes with it, and cover everything in sauce when you serve it. The same recipe works for possum except you need to drain the grease off.

Miss Pearl fed a large family gathering one time before telling them what she had served. Some had been adamant in the past that they would never eat coon. She laughs now and says they can’t say that anymore. Miss Pearl says there weren’t enough scraps left over to feed a stray cat.

Ed turned 82 this year. His coon hunting days are far behind him, but he still enjoys recalling those long-ago Friday nights with Unc and Ol’ Monkey. Ed’s memories of those hunts have a flavor that’s tender and sweet. I don’t much want coon for supper tonight or for dinner tomorrow, but I’m glad that I got the recipe. I probably don’t need it, but somehow it just seems worth keeping.

Posted in 2017 | 6 Comments