Hey, Mama, I’m Keeping Your Junk (What I Found While Stuck at Home Cleaning Closets)

Dear Mama,

No one is any more surprised than I.  Neither of us ever imagined the day when I would hesitate to throw anything in the garbage.  This is your junk. It’s tangible. I touch it. I see it. A little burst of happiness explodes with laughter.  Remember the arguments you and I had about keeping things vs. throwing them away?  

“Mama do you have any carbon paper from 30 years ago before you could “Xerox, a copy.”

 “As a matter of fact, I do.  Look in that filing cabinet under “C”.  

 “You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not.  Just get what you need and leave the rest. Don’t take the whole pack.  Somebody else might need some other time.

“Good, gosh! What don’t you have in this filing cabinet?” 

“I’ll save everything while your throw yours away.   You can keep your cabinet tops and closets clean and when you need something, come get mine.”  

My tone was laced with sarcasm.

 “Okay, there’s no sense in us both having cluttered houses.”  

Same tone. Right back at me.

Coming to grips with your death has been difficult for me.  I often wonder if I told you enough how much I loved you. Our lives were so intertwined. 

All that “stuff” we argued about? It’s piled up in the shed just off my carport.  You said many times, “nobody wants this worn out stuff of mine.”  

You were right, because it is still sitting there.  

Like so many others, I’m at home avoiding the first global pandemic in a century. Many people on this Earth will be coming to grips with the deaths of their own loved ones. I pray we make it through.

To keep my hands busy and thoughts occupied, I’m cleaning out closets today.  A few things of yours remain, and those I will store, for a while longer,

 But, Mama, I still wonder, ‘why did you keep all this stuff?’  I don’t have an answer and guess I never will.  So, I’ll keep it for now. 

 If it’s still here when I leave this earth, Wendy & Ashley can decide what to do with it. They will probably keep it, too.



Today’s Corona-19 and the Lessons of Y2K: Better Safe Than Sorry

At the precise close of the 20th century, the nation experienced its first big scare of the new millenium: the Y2K phenomenon.  Many people believed that all computers would shut down at midnight on December 31, 1999. 

The public was told that banks, power plants, tech companies, and other critical businesses, would be affected worldwide. Millions of dollars were spent in an attempt to avoid the risks associated with computers not recognizing the year 2000.   In response to this perceived threat, the general public began stocking up on food and other supplies in readiness. Naysayers said Y2K was a hoax.

When my mother passed away in 2013, we found boxes stored in her house marked Y2K. Each was filled with canned goods, sugar, salt, paper products (sorry, there is no toilet paper left), and other daily necessities. 

She was prepared.  She could have provided for herself, her family, and distant relatives.  That was the plan.  

Fortunately, nothing happened.  Why? Because of public readiness.

According to Paul Saffo, a professor at Stanford University, “The Y2K crisis didn’t happen precisely because people started preparing for it over a decade in advance.”  

The fact that nothing happened gave way to skepticism of an actual threat.  The inherent nature of early warnings is that they often appear unnecessary when precautions are followed.  

We teased my mother many times about her over-zealousness in being prepared for Y2K.  Our opinions did not faze her, in the least. Instead, she was thankful that nothing catastrophic happened and secure in the knowledge she was ready if it had.  

Unfortunately, COVID-19 did not allow us the luxury of advance preparation. In the midst of these unprecedented times, most are simply trying to get a sense of direction.  We are anxious, uncertain, and yes, afraid. So, what do we do now?  

  1. We pray instead of worry.  Worry leads to panic; Prayer leads to Peace.
  2. Understand the role we play. Our choices will have an impact on the safety and well-being of others and our economy.    Simply following the guidelines of our state and national leaders, we will avoid putting others at risk.  This will slow the spread of this highly contagious virus and reduce the number of people infected. What a fantastic contribution.
  3. Find courage.  Mark Twain wrote that, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear-not absence of fear.”   Even though we’re afraid in the midst of this deadly global pandemic, we must move forward with hope and love.
  4. Make practical preparations.  The basics.  Food, medicine, and cleaning supplies.  Resist the urge to stockpile or hoard. The CDC states that people should have sufficient quantities of household items and groceries for a “period of time.”  Homeland Security recommends two weeks’ worth of supplies. In other words, we should not find boxes labeled “COVID-19” in the back of your closet in 2034. 

An Invitation to Personal Preparedness

I invite you to join me in another type of preparedness in choosing to remain at home with family. While sheltering, make a special effort to show kindness to others. Take care of your health. Rely on your faith. Use your phone and the internet to spread hope.  

When this pandemic has passed, and our loved ones are safe, we will know our efforts have not been a waste of time. 



Mud Pies: A Recipe for Home

As the days lengthen, we are reminded of the importance of simple things: the fine art of creative play and the enduring nature of family.  Twilight arrives too soon in this sweet, skip-time recollection of a south Georgia childhood. 

Memories like these sustain us as we collectively shelter with our loved ones to reduce the spread of Coronavirus-19.  For children, the boredom can be as difficult as the threat.

Gratefully, early morning  or late afternoon walks along our beautiful white sandy roads lined with wildflowers - with plenty of space for children to roam - remains open to us all. 

Mud Pies,

Frog Houses,

Lighting Bugs,

Barbie Dolls.


Imaginations play all day

Sadness at twilight

“Time to come in for supper.”

Mark our place. Finish tomorrow.


Tomatoes and Rice.

Biscuits in the oven

Table set-smells so good

Whose turn to say the blessing?


I am Home

  I belong

I am secure

  I’m happy.


Poem “Mudpies: A Recipe for Home” is © 2019 by M. Kay Carter. All Rights Reserved.

May you feel secure, healthy and happy in these days spent at home.

Daddy’s Truck and Simple Times: Who Could Ask For More?

Daddy drove an old, white pickup truck with a running board.

The neighbor on the corner used to joke with Daddy, that he could set his watch by the sound of that old truck coming down the street every day at six o’clock.

My sisters and I could, too. We would be excitedly waiting to hear or see Daddy’s truck headed to the house. The first one to spot him would scream, “There he is!”

With those three words, the four of us took off in a dead run to the end of the street, where we impatiently waited on the corner. As he approached at 5 mph and rolled to a stop, Daddy’s smile was the first thing we saw.

Sue and I step up on the running board, holding tightly onto Daddy’s strong, tanned arm through the opened window. Grace and Kathy are instructed to “sit down” in the bed of the truck where they can barely see over the edges.

We girls ride the short distance back to the house, scarcely moving and grinning from ear to ear.

Other days, Daddy would stop, lower the tailgate, lift us up, and we would ride there, dragging long, spindly sticks on the dirt road.

Without fail, someone always dropped their stick on the slow ride home. Later we walked barefoot down the dusty road to retrieve the treasured stick.

On Fridays, a brown paper sack filled with candy rested on the front seat of that old truck. As soon as we jumped down from the tailgate, we rushed to the truck door as Daddy handed out the bag of candy. Tootsie roll pops, Bazooka bubble gum, Mary Janes, Bit-o-Honeys, Lemon Heads, and a full-size candy bar for each of us.

Even today, when I take that first bite of a Baby Ruth, for a moment I am seven years old, standing next to that old white truck. My reflections of those Friday evenings are much sweeter than the chocolate bar.

That old truck wasn’t only for dragging sticks from the tailgate or riding on the running board. During the hot summers the entire family would ride to Aunt Effie’s house at Riverside in neighboring Brantley County.

We girls rode in the back of the truck, sitting with our backs against the cab, hair blowing, singing as loud as we could over the roar of the truck and the wind.

While the adults visited, we played outside until Mama called us to help pick grapes from the loaded vine in the backyard. For every grape that went into the bucket, we ate two.

Mama cautioned us.

“Don’t swallow the seeds, you’ll get appendicitis.”

Having no idea what appendicitis was, I was careful not to swallow any grape seeds and worried if I did.

Aunt Effie’s supper table was pretty simple. Sitting on the wooden benches around the crowded table, we devoured rice and tomatoes, fried bacon, homemade biscuits and honest to goodness homemade cane syrup.

Goodbyes were said as we climbed into the back of the truck and headed home, continuing to wave at Aunt Effie and Uncle Riley as we travelled down the lane to the hard road.

The sweet aroma from the buckets of grapes and vegetables sitting safely in the corner of the truck bed filled the night air, as my sisters and I huddled together for the 20-minute trip home.

Darkness was falling as we climbed down from the back of the truck, ponytails no longer tightly bound in rubber bands, faces still cool from the night air, and voices hoarse from singing.

Simple times filled with love, laughter, and joy. Who could ask for more?

This Valentine’s Day, Remember Your First True Love

Time has a way of diminishing some things, but memories of your first love lie just beneath the surface of your heart, waiting for the cue to take center stage, once again.

First love has the power to pull us back to who we used to be; to another place in time. In my experience, it’s the one relationship that never stays completely in the past.

The object of my affections was a handsome football player, who thought I was the most beautiful girl in our high school.

We shared classes during the day, talked on the telephone for hours at night, had standing dates on Friday night after the football game and then again on Saturday. If he was able to borrow his mother’s car, we spent Sunday afternoons together. For two and half years, we were inseparable.

The two optimistic teenagers that we were mapped out their futures, oblivious that their dreams were just that-dreams. Such is the hope of true love and the innocence of youth.

The tale we told ourselves went something like this.

We would attend the same college. Of course, we would be married by then. Study hard, graduate, and find the perfect jobs. He would become a great writer. I would teach high school literature to students who would be mesmerized by every word that I uttered.

That was the plan. In that order. Unflawed.

How would we finance two college educations? How would we pay for rent, food, transportation, and electricity ? I don’t recall those pesky little details ever entering our conversations. They seemed so insignificant at the time.

As high school graduation approached, things began to change. We chose different colleges. My family and I were moving over 100 miles away. Our relationship became a mixture of teenage drama, immaturity, and self-doubt.

When would we see each other? How would a long-distance relationship work? Finally, I broke his heart. The goodbyes that followed were sad and painful.

“If something happens and we never get back together, I will find you when we are both 65,” he said.

“I want to know how things turned out for you. I know you will be that same beautiful girl that I love.”

We went our separate ways, though I thought of him throughout the years.

“Was he happy?” I wondered. “ Had he achieved his goals?” In my mind he was still the serious-minded boy I that I loved with my whole adolescent heart so many years ago.

Fate, as it will, intervened with the answer to my questions.

Two months before my 65th birthday, I was working at my desk. Out of the blue, he walked into my office. Just like that.

I recognized him immediately, despite the smile lines around his eyes and a touch of thinning hair. He glanced at me, without the slightest recognition. (Ouch, that stung.)

When I introduced myself, there was a moment of hesitation and then the awkwardness melted away. We gave each other hugs. Catching up, we talked about children, grandchildren, and careers.

He had returned to his hometown, where we had attended high school. He remembered the promise to find me at age 65. Much to my surprise, he was living across the street from my old house.

“What were the chances of that?” I asked.

With a smile, he responded, “ I know. I see you every day.”

It was true love, or, so I thought. And, now? Yes.

First love withstands time. First love is always present, always true, filling your heart with warm memories. Those once in a lifetime magical moments are yours to keep.

So, this Valentine’s Day take a moment to remember your first true love. I hope your memories are as lovely as mine.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Thanksgiving Blessings of Times Past Remain to This Day

The bang of the door, the scent of home, and the love and laughter that comes from being surrounded by our kinfolk never grows old

Thanksgiving dinners were always held at our house on Georgia Street. Situated at the center of the block, it also held center stage for our larger-than-life family. Kinfolk gathered around 10 o’clock in the morning and the festivities ended well after dark had settled on the day.

Coming in from the outside cold, your senses were assaulted with scents of home as soon as you opened the back door. The kitchen was filled with whiffs of cakes baking in the oven, the sweet potatoes still warm, and the steam from the turkey giblets simmered on the stove-top. The turkey sat patiently on the counter next to the stove, waiting its turn to roast.

At the heart of the activity was Mama, standing at the kitchen table mixing up the cornbread dressing: one pan with oysters and one without.

Soon, the top of the deep freezer, now covered with a white tablecloth, as well as the kitchen counters, would be filled with enough food to feed an army. The buffet in the dining room was already laden with Japanese fruit cake, four pumpkin pies, four lemon meringue pies, two pecan pies (pecans were expensive) and Mama’s famous lemon-cheese cake.

More delicacies would arrive with the family. Next to their strong and unwavering sense of family, the Clarks loved food.

Carloads of relatives arrived and unloaded, and the yard and house soon filled to overflowing.

Uncle L.G., Uncle Noah Lee, and my mother, Gladys, each had families of five children. Uncle Laverne, Aunt Mildred, and Uncle Elbert had a combined total of 5 children.

Even though the children were instructed to stay in the yard, it was only a matter of minutes before the whole lot of us were off and running toward the barn, our favorite place for adventure. Slipping under the fence, we carefully made our way across the pasture. Walking as fast as we dared, no one made a sound for fear of alerting the horse or the cows, but especially the bull. The bull had never attacked anyone, but being kids we assumed the worst.

The mob reached the barn with one objective in mind. Climb it.

Reaching the top of the slanted tin roof required a special technique. After stepping on the lone cross tie, where the old hand pump stood on a pole, you would wedge your foot (shoes were recommended, although being barefoot was always an option) in between the smooth wooden slats of the lean-to. Then, begin slowly inching yourself upward by grabbing the end post, by which you pulled yourself up to the first level. This surface comprised the only flat portion of the roof. After the first kid was up, it was customary to give the city cousins a hand, as barn climbing was primarily a holiday experience for them.

After levering yourself upward another foot, you were now on the rooftop. Balance and caution were required, as the ground was approximately 20 feet below. The situation was better if everyone sat down, but when you were double-dog-dared to walk the length of the roof and back, no South Georgia kid worth his salt would refuse to take the dare.

Cobs of corn and hay string were passed out to everyone, with the instructions to securely tie the hay string around the corn cob, because there were no extras and once you were up, you didn’t go back down. After the corn was tied tightly to the cob, you would walk as far as you dared towards the edge and lie down on your stomach, meticulously dropping your string. Then, you’d wait. Pretty soon, one of the cows or the horse noticed the dangling piece of corn and came to investigate. In hushed, excited whispers we gave the warning.

“Be quiet. Here they come.”

The endeavor was kind of like fishing, except the unshelled corn was the bait, and we were trying to catch a cow instead of a fish. The first tug of the string as the cow took a bite was exciting, but a little scary. More often than not, the string was dropped in lieu of being pulled over the edge as the cow grappled with the corn.

Soon, we could hear the adults calling us to Thanksgiving dinner.

“Y’all come on in. It’s time to eat.”

Dropping our makeshift poles and lines, we clambered down, the older kids helping the younger ones. No child was left behind. The horse and the cows were occupied, busily eating the discarded corn. They paid no attention as we ran past them in a herd, headed back to the house.

Soon, 20 little angels said the blessing.

The men stood outside talking while the young’uns were served. Granny sat at the head of the dining table, smiling and enjoying every minute of the festivities, while Aunt Nita fixed her a plate.

As always, the boisterous and booming laughter and loud voices which accompanied the meal rang through the house. Kids ran in circles around the living room, playing with Uncle Noah Lee. Mama darted from the kitchen to the dining room in fast motion. Daddy removed to the den, trying in vain to hear the TV.

After dinner, we children drew names for Christmas, the day when we do the whole thing over again. Around dusk-dark, leftovers were served for supper before everyone headed home. Those who didn’t stay for supper filled a box, taking it with them to enjoy later.

As the last car departed, quietness settled over the house. Thanksgiving was over. But, the blessings of those days remain with me to this day.

Watch Out for Those Yucky Pumpkins! A Cautionary Tale

Before making your pie, make sure you know your yucky pumpkins.   

Three years ago, my youngest grandson, Logan received a diagnosis of ASD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder.  While the finding does not define him, autism is a part of who he is and for that reason, we embrace it.  

He sees this world differently.  It is no easy task for any of us, but especially for him.  

The happiness and laughter outweigh our sadness, as we live with this delightfully intelligent child.  He has a unique way of making sense of things, with a language and an operating system all his own. 

Occasionally, he is downright refreshing.   Oftentimes, he is entertainingly funny.

Last fall, his class assignment was to draw his favorite part of the book, The Ugly Pumpkin, and write a sentence describing the book.  He drew and colored four orange pumpkins, three with happy faces and one with a sad face.  

The sentence read, “The pumpkin was happy.” 

 Aunt Wendy was bragging on his pumpkin picture.  

“Oh, Logan,” she said.  

“These are beautiful pumpkins and they’re so happy. But, why is this last little pumpkin so sad?” she asked in a pitiful voice.  

Without hesitation, Logan replied, “He’s a YUCKY pumpkin.”  

“Oh.” Wendy responded. 

“If I was a yucky pumpkin, I would be sad, too.” 

Logan stopped.  

Without missing a beat, he looked at Wendy.

“You was a pumpkin?” he asked.

The moral of the story? 

As you whip up that pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, please make certain it’s not your favorite Aunt Wendy! 

This year, as you carve your family jack-o-lantern, will it be a happy or yucky pumpkins? Logan and his Aunt Wendy would love it if you would post a favorite pic of your family pumpkin to the wall on our Facebook page.

Post your pumpkin here.

A Harvest of Leaves: a Rare, Golden Moment Between Summer and Autumn

As a child, our backyard was home to several oak trees, filled with Spanish moss and leaves.  In the fall, we spent Saturdays raking and burning leaves. 

Most folks don’t realize that here, oak trees are evergreen. The rare, southern native live oak is evergreen, not deciduous. Each year, the 60 to 100 feet of canopy is tipped with new leaves which push the old ones aside to make room for next year’s growth.

Our yard was full of old oaks. 

We had never heard of a burn permit. You simply piled up the leaves on the side of the street and struck a match.  I remember throwing moss on the fire, listening to the crackling as the old, dried moss caught and burned, leaving a thin trail of black smoke, as the moss quickly disappeared.  

We’d pile tons of leaves into the back of Daddy’s old International pickup and climb on. Flowered scarves around our heads, round pink movie star sunglasses on. Then, too soon piling off with the leaves underneath the grape vines. 

The distinctive scent of a South Georgia bonfire leaves us yearning for marshmallows and simpler days and early fall afternoons spent outdoors.

A 300-year old live oak grove like this one is almost unheard of in these parts after decades of timbering. We took great care to site the lodge around the trees, leaving the natural habitat intact for everyone who comes here to experience and enjoy. 

Why don’t you join us at Newell Lodge and enjoy this rare, golden moment between late summer and early autumn? You'll love our Buffalo Creek campsites and the understated elegance of the nature that surrounds us this time of year.

Yes, at Newell Lodge, the Buffalo Creek RV and tent sites are open for the area’s festival friendly month of October.

During festival season, we offer a special rate for tent campers, glampers, and RV homesteaders who want to escape to the quiet elegance of the Newell landscape after a day – or night – of fun and frolics. 

This private offer is extended only to our loyal community of subscribers, and you won’t find it anywhere else. 

You’re invited to set up your home base at Newell Lodge for $30 night for tenting or 30-amp sites, and $40 night for 50-amp sites, now through October 31, 2019. That’s a 15% + savings over our regular rates, and it includes use of the amenities.

Newell Lodge lies in the middle of beautiful forested land accessed by sandy dirt roads. Burning daylight or rubber in these parts isn’t wise, especially late in the day. Therefore, RV check-in is not allowed past 6 p.m. Please plan accordingly.

Remember, we are located within an hour, give or take a few minutes, of many of the finest fall festivals our region has to offer. During October, we encourage you to consider the annual Okefenokee Festival and Pioneer Days at the swamp.

Plus, we’re set up for the best of the region’s outdoor living, from campfires and trail rides, picnics and bike rides, to clay shoots and bird watching. Or, ask us for directions to the area’s best-kept secrets for antiquing and sightseeing.

Let’s fest!

Ready to do a bit of camping at the Lodge – and grab this special rate - while you’re attending your favorite area fall or family festivities? 

We’re looking forward to hosting your visit. 

See you later, Alligator!

The Button and the Girl Who Could Not Sew

A missing button on pair of favorite slacks is such a simple thing to repair.  Yet, the task at hand would open a button tin of memory.

In a long-ago family of five daughters, four were excellent seamstresses.  When it came to a sewing project, there was nothing those girls would not attempt. The more complicated, the better they liked it. However, the middle child had no desire to sew.  At the insistence of her mother, she tried, tried again and each time, failed miserably.

This genetic flaw was a complete mystery to her talented mother and sisters.  They never understood how this could be. Even as adults, they would quietly commiserate to each other, “Kay has never learned to sew.”

Mine was a tightly buttoned family secret.

Just this morning, I stood looking at the slacks with the missing button, from out of nowhere, came the thought, “Call Mama to sew on this button.”

Just as quickly, reality reminded me that Mama was no longer here.  But, the memory of another morning, just like this one began to play in technicolor on a reel in my head.

“Mama, I need you so sew a button on for me this morning.”

“Do you have the button?”

“No, I assumed you could find one in that button tin.”

The bottomless assortment of buttons was always a good bet.

“I can’t believe you don’t have a button, a needle or piece of thread,” says Mama in dismay.

“Everybody ought to have a needle and a spool of thread in their house.”

“Why should I? "It is so easy to walk across the street to your house and have you sew for me,” I explained.

That response pushed her button, figuratively speaking.

Totally exasperated, she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you cannot sew on a button.”

We'd had this conversation more than once.

“You know I can’t sew.”  I offer, which was better than, “I don’t want to.”

"Who’s going sew on a button for you when I’m not here?” she retorted.

“I’ll take it to the laundry.”  I said, laughing.

Now, she’s mortified.

“I would be embarrassed to ask the laundry to sew a button on a piece of clothes for me. How much do they charge for sewing on a button?”

Still laughing, I reply, “I don’t know. You’ve been doing it for me.”

Ever the eternal optimist, Mama bought a small quilted sewing box for me. The flowered box was stocked with several packs of needles, two spools of thread, black and white, a pin cushion, and an assortment of buttons.

This morning, for the first time, I pulled that little sewing box from the top shelf of my closet and opened the lid. Each notion in that beautiful sewing box was still brand new, just as she had placed it there so many years ago.

Right on top lay a simple button that was exactly right.

That old familiar lump forms in my throat every time I think of my mother, and that button held an entire tin of memories.

Despite taking breaths as short as stitches, I could stop neither the smile, nor bittersweet tears that filled my eyes.

Yes, I sewed that button onto my slacks. Because I don’t know how much the laundry will charge, and I really need to wear those slacks today.

Thank you, Mama.

Pickin’ Butterbeans

Aunt Gussie always had a garden.  

As a child, I did not appreciate the value of that garden nor of the hours she spent in the boiling hot south-Georgia sun to keep it “going.” Yet, she planted an abundance of everything-tomatoes, butterbeans, squash, cucumbers, silver queen corn, snap beans, okra, watermelons, and any other vegetable that might catch her eye.  

Gussie Jean Carter Mitchell Miller kept her garden well-tended and plentiful.  She loved sharing the bounty of her efforts with her family, friends, neighbors, and her neighbor’s relatives along with their friends.  Filling bushel baskets of produce to overflowing, she’d grab a few extras, throw them on top saying, “Here. Take a few more.” 

Giving was what she did best.

With our large family, it was a given we were on the receiving end of her generosity and love.  My parents expected us to do our part in the harvesting and canning. So, we did. 

Tell me any kid who wouldn’t want to spend their Saturdays picking butterbeans on a row ½ mile long?  I know four. We complained. We argued. We bellyached. We did not want to spend our Saturdays in Aunt Gussie’s 5-acre garden.   

My mother’s philosophy was quite simple. 

“It doesn’t matter whether you want to go or not. Your wants won’t hurt you. Those tomatoes are going bad, if we don’t get them off the vine.”

 End of discussion.    

As soon as it was daylight, we loaded up in our ’57 Chevy and drove the 20 miles to Aunt Gussie’s for the day and half the night. Once we received our pickin’ instructions, Aunt Gussie would return to the house to start cooking.  Never mind that it was only 7:30 in the morning and she had just cooked an outlandish breakfast for us an hour ago.

Around 10:00 a.m. she returned to the field to check our progress. 

The heat was rising and so were our tempers.  We were sick of this. It was hotter than blue blazes out there. Why were we the only ones picking peas in the dust and dirt?  

I was at the far end of the mile long butterbean row when I saw Aunt Gussie headed my way.  

“What now?”, I thought.  

I watched as she scrutinized every blessed bush along the way. Occasionally she would stoop over to get a closer view. With each passing step she made, my annoyance grew exponentially. 

Might as well get this over with, so I headed her way.  I knew what she was going to say by the way she was looking at those gosh awful butterbean bushes. 

“When you get to the end of row, I want you to come back down on the other side and re-pick this row.  Let’s get all these butterbeans, so y'all will have a good mess,” she said. 

Inwardly, I screamed. “Nooooooo!” 

Over half the butterbeans I had in my bucket were so small you could hardly find a bean inside the shell. This butterbean horror would never end. 

How many butterbeans does it take to make a mess? I wondered, but kept my thoughts to myself and instead said, “Yes ma’am.” 

At the end of that two-mile butterbean row, sweat was trickling down my back.  The salty dampness found its way into my eyes. My irritation was so great, I could hardly speak. 

Finally, my spirits lifted as I approached the end of that three-mile row of butterbeans.  

We lugged our buckets to the truck four-miles away and helped Daddy hoist them onto the back of Uncle Roy’s truck.  

Headed home.  Finally. 

Nope.  Aunt Gussie had dinner ready.  Another feast.  

Fried chicken, ham, fresh peas with ham hocks, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, rice, stewed tomatoes, Silver Queen creamed corn, biscuits, pound cake, and sugar free sponge cake for Uncle Roy. (He was a diabetic.)  And, of course, a huge bowl of fresh butterbeans! 

Reluctantly, I ate my fair share of those butterbeans knowing the leftovers would re-appear on our table for Sunday dinner! 

As Aunt Gussie handed me that bowl of butterbeans to place in our take-home box, only one thought was running through my mind. As the old saying goes, “Spill the beans.” 

My life was richly blessed because I had an Aunt Gussie, who left me with a wealth of fond memories and a low tolerance for butterbeans.  

Happy Shelling. 

Newell's Last, Great Cattle Drive Sparks the Legend of Trail Boss and Cookie.

Growing up, did you want to be a cowboy or a cowgirl?

Saturday morning’s TV western line-up was a sacred time at our house. My sisters and I would sit on the floor in front the black and white TV with bowls of cereal filled to overflowing. We waited impatiently for the rugged Marlboro Man cigarette commercial to end and our shows to begin.

In the Old West, good triumphed over bad.  Right overcame wrong. There was no middle ground in Gunsmoke, the Roy Rogers Show, or Bonanza. Every Saturday morning, we were exposed to gun-totin’ good guys, outlaws, bank robberies, shoot-outs, and fist fights in Miss Kitty’s saloon. We’d imagine wearing the worn, dusty boots, and the broad, curled brim hat while sitting in the saddle, waiting to “ride out.”

To us, our cowboy heroes were as real as real could be.

Marshal Matt Dillion could break up a saloon brawl single handedly and never pull his gun. Remember Rawhide?  I had no idea who Clint Eastwood was, but I certainly knew Rowdy Yates. I travelled from Missouri through the Rockies on Wagon Train. Little Joe, Hoss and Adam were weekly family visitors here on the Ponderosa.

Fast forward some 40 years later.  Most certainly, you’d think the appeal of those childhood heroes had faded like Miss Kitty’s wallpaper. That we’d left the fascination with the Old West and cattle drives had been left in the dust.  

Think again.  

At Newell Lodge, we had the horses.  We had the cattle. We had a buckboard wagon, also known as “The Chuck Wagon.”  Most importantly, we had my husband Harvin’s imagination, creativity, and love for a crowd of people.

What comes next now, in retrospect, seems inevitable.

Word of the cattle drive spread quickly in our community.  Despite south Georgia’s scorching July heat, we turned horse and rider teams away. When time came to hit the trail, the ratio of horses and riders to the cattle was two to one.

The plan was to “drive” the outnumbered cattle a short distance to an adjacent property. There, a hearty cowboy repast would be prepared and served at the Chuck Wagon.  Our lunchtime layover would allow the cows to water and guests to enjoy a reprieve from the browbeating sun.

My husband, Harvin was the trail boss and I was “Cookie”.  Cookie was not a term of endearment. I was the cook. As in food preparation.    On cattle drives, it was common for the “cookie” to be second in authority only to the “trail boss”.   


The air was scented with dust, saddle leather and excitement as the cowboys and cowgirls readied their horses for the drive.  We burned daylight and then some. Turned out Trail Boss was experiencing few coordination issues. Everyone had a different approach to “driving cattle,” complicated by the fact that there was no one amongst us who had ever actually done so.  

Finally, Trail Boss said we were ready to go.

“Head ‘em up, move ‘em out.  Keep them doggies rollin’.”

He actually said, “Open the gates.”  

The cattle were a little confused by the open gate. They stood there looking at their horse counterparts, wondering what they should do and in need of a little encouragement.

Trail Boss and his horse worked their way inside the holding pen with an impressive cowboy whoop and a downward swipe of his hat.  In hindsight, Trail Boss should have maintained his lead position.

Cattle bolted from the pen in one direction, a blur of brown and white. Horses and riders scattered with pounding hooves as they quickly moved out of the way of the stampede.  

“Close the front gates”, shouted Trail Boss over the chaos.  Luckily, Cookie heard the call and quickly ran to close the front gates.  

If only it had ended there.  But alas, it did not.

The more experienced riders rounded up the strays and quickly had the livestock huddled together. Then, the front gates were re-opened and we made our way through with a sense of freedom, accompanied by high spirits.

Once the steers stepped through the front gates, they left us all in a dead run.  Several ran straight ahead. A few turned around and went back through the front gate. The remainder dispersed in every direction through the woods.  

As second in command, Cookie decided to turn the chuck wagon around and set up camp.  For the next several hours, riders searched for the cows. By sundown, the riders had long since eaten their hearty meals at the Chuck Wagon and headed home. Full on darkness approached and several of the livestock were still missing in action.

Trail Boss and Cookie took the pickup truck and a flashlight to search the dirt roads for stragglers.  We’d counted heads and come up two steers short. After hearing distressed bellows in a thicket, we parked and trekked into the woods.  With only a flashlight and sheer determination, we found the last two cows. Surprisingly, they seemed happy to see us and walked docilely back to the dirt road. Wiser now, we used the truck to guide them safely home.  

Nigh onto midnight, the gates were finally closed for the day.  The cows, at least, were fed and contented.

As we returned to the truck, Trail Boss said to Cookie, “I think everything went pretty well, don’t you?”  

My husband, the Trail Boss and eternal optimist.  

Happy Trails.