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”.   

Typical.  

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.


Words to the Wise for Would-be Brides

Getting Married? Getting Everything Done Can Be Easier Than You Think

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, More
Check Out Wedding Websites Galore,
Wedding Planners, Magazines,
Internet Articles, Old-Fashioned Opines
Random Thoughts from Family & Friends,
Wedding Apps – Oh, the list never ends!

The options for planning your wedding run like an endless litany through your head.

Think you might just go crazy? Try this before you run down the road to insanity, which has more traffic on it than I-95.  

Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Breath in. Breath out.  

Look at your beautiful engagement ring and think of that wonderful man who has just asked you to marry him.  Enjoy the wonder of being engaged.

First things first.  The wedding is not tomorrow.  But if it is, no worries.

Run down to the county courthouse, apply for your marriage license and find an officiant to perform the ceremony.  Tomorrow comes and you’re married. Whew! That was easy. It’s possible, it’s inexpensive, and you’re married.

But I imagine that’s hardly what you have in mind.  

Here’s my recommendation.  Before thinking of size, décor, style, money, bridesmaids, money, honeymoon, more money, or extended families, there’s one big question to ask yourself.

Here it is. Are you ready?

“What’s important?”      

Take a moment and answer that question truthfully. Your wedding is a time of celebration, when you share your most special day with the people you love.  

So, how do you, me, and we get to the wedding on time?  

We plan, using the 5 Phases to a Perfect Newell Lodge Wedding:

Phase 1.    Organization.

◻︎ List your thoughts and ideas in a wedding planner or use an app, whichever works for you.
◻︎
Include those you love in the planning stage, especially your fiancé.  Even if he has no opinion and agrees with everything you say (which is fantastic) he’s included and has the potential of being a great husband.
◻︎
Set a flexible budget.  (Flexible: Bending easily without breaking.)

The budget gives you an idea of what you want to spend vs what you can spend.  Sure, the $15,000 wedding would be phenomenal, but a smaller, less expensive wedding is equally beautiful. Plus, you’re married.

◻︎ Involve the financial-decision makers in the planning process (if you’re not paying for your own wedding). Your parents want you to have the best but may not want to take out a 2nd mortgage on the house.
◻︎
Choose your theme, style, colors, décor, & wedding attendants.
◻︎
Choose the menu for your outdoor Newell Lodge rehearsal supper, traditional reception, or buffet dinner. Customize your preferences with your catering pro.

Phase 2.  Make plans.     

◻︎ Make your guest list.  This is important. The number of guests will affect your overall budget and play an important role in your choice of the Newell Lodge Gazebo, the larger Pavilion, or choose a natural setting for your ceremony.
◻︎
Decide on a venue & book your date, as early as possible.
◻︎
Now is the time to mail “Save the Date” cards.
◻︎
Book the officiant who will perform the wedding ceremony.
◻︎
Choose your photographer, florist, entertainer, caterer & menu, hairstylist
◻︎
Choose your wedding gown
◻︎
Register for gifts
◻︎
Create your wedding website. Optional.

Phase 3.  Double Check.  

◻︎ Check your Phase 1 & Phase 2 lists, making sure all items have been resolved.
◻︎
Select & Order Wedding Attire for attendants.
◻︎
Honeymoon Plans. Ask about our special arrangements for newlyweds.
◻︎
Book your Newell Lodge reservations for out of town guests.

Phase 4.  Small Details.  

◻︎ Order the wedding invitations.
◻︎
Order the Wedding Cake & the Grooms Cake.  Ask the venue for details on delivery & setup.
◻︎
Rent formal wear, if necessary.
◻︎
Double-check lists.

Phase 5.  Finishing Touches.

◻︎ Do you have special requests to include in your wedding vows?  Plan them now.
◻︎ Touch base with your wedding vendors.  Make sure everything is ready to go, confirming dates, times, and deliveries.
◻︎ Apply for your marriage license.
◻︎ Take care of yourself by scheduling a manicure, pedicure, and massage.
◻︎ Mail the wedding invitations at least 6 weeks out.  

Everything is in place.  Your wedding day has arrived.  You’ll inevitably create special memories that you, your family, and your friends will fondly remember in years to come.  

To the happy South Georgia bride, it doesn’t really matter that the buttercream icing was melting before the cake was cut, or that the flower girl went to sleep as she waited patiently in the church vestibule.

When joined by loved ones beneath timeless, Spanish moss-laden oak boughs, yours will absolutely be the perfect wedding you always imagined.


Okefenokee May Is Beautiful, But You'll Need to Remember Your Swamp Manners

The last of the missing Easter eggs has been located under a sofa pillow, and the egg salad sandwiches have long since disappeared. Spring is moving quickly this year, so quickly that the month of May has taken us almost by surprise.

May is one of my favorite times of year. The sun is warm, but not yet hot. The Swamp hums with new life and honey bees. The Satilla and the Saint Mary’s Rivers reflect a Monet-worthy landscape of curved tree roots, Spanish moss, and wildflowers. The Tupelo and Laurel Bay add a sweetness to the air, and the skies are never a brighter shade of blue than right now.

At the Lodge, we keep our eyes peeled for any sign of animal babies. There’s the dappled fawn that follows her mother on dew-laden grass across the horse pasture. Or the young squirrels chasing one another’s tails while being scolded by their mothers.

Too, the lightning bugs resembling fairies at play twinkle at dusk among the palmettos.

A few years back, the New York Times sent a writer down here to canoe the swamp. They do that about every 10 or 15 years. The Okefenokee may not be as well known as the Louisiana bayous or the Florida Everglades, but in my humble opinion, it’s 100 times more beautiful. But don’t take my word for it. You’ll want to judge for yourself!

If you do go canoeing - which you’ll be tempted to do in this weather - just be certain to keep your hands inside the boat. Don’t be tempted to rinse off your hands in the silent water. Because the truth is, those still waters run deep. Alligators can smell you and your lunch coming from a mile away. A young, hungry gator could very well be sitting underneath your boat waiting for you to forget your swamp manners and reach out a hand.

Same goes for swimming. You don’t want to go swimming in the swamp, and don’t let your dog run about, either. Alligators will find either option whets their appetites in the right circumstances.

When it comes to alligators, it’s important to be respectful of their wallows and nests. You know that song, “Never Smile at a Crocodile?” Well, the same is true of mother alligators. Don’t look them in the eye, and don’t wait around if you do.

Not long after that New York Times article came out, my niece and her significant other decided to go canoeing. The pair accidentally happened upon a Mama alligator on her nest when rounding a bend up from King’s Landing. The outraged Mama bumped the canoe from underneath, then turned on a dime and snapped her jaws in warning. She put her snout right in my niece’s face, so close that she felt the air move and spittle hit her cheeks.

Do you reckon they paddled fast enough in the opposite direction? You’d be right!

Those of you who want to spend a day in the swamp will relish this beautiful time of year. And those who’d rather not can kick back in rustic style and sip homemade lemonade on the front porch and listen to the woodpeckers tap happily away at breakfast. Or that’s how we do things around here. Come on by, and we’ll show you.


Spring Weddings

In spring, it’s not uncommon for a young man or woman’s fancy to turn to love and then to marriage. So many couples are planning to wed between now and the end of June, that we encourage the bride to wait no longer to choose the destination for the happy event.

Family and friends who visit Newell Lodge for the weddings held here tend to enjoy the relaxed, rustic yet elegant landscape and lodging that feels like home. The 300 year old oak grove at the heart of the lodge is a picturesque symbol of the enduring love to which newly married couples aspire. Beautiful by day, the grove is particularly enchanting at night, offering an affordable option for a quality destination wedding and unforgettable celebration of love.

If you or someone you love hopes for a Newell Lodge destination wedding in the near future, we encourage you to reserve a time to talk. As the on-site wedding and event coordinator at the lodge, it would be my honor to learn more about the bride and groom’s vision for their special day.

Here are a few hints about making it real:

  1. Timing is Everything - During this peak time of year, brides will want to reserve their wedding and reception sooner than later. Waiting too long means the choice venues, lodging and weekends will no longer be available.
  2. Involve the Decision-Maker Up Front - if someone else is paying for the wedding, having their buy-in at each stage of the planning process ensures there are no surprises.
  3. Budget Bodaciously - Know that one’s vision can withstand a smart planning strategy. For example, when planning the reception, a budget-conscious bride may opt for a buffet or barbecue as a crowd-pleasing dinner option. Or, she might consider a cash bar instead of unlimited pours, if she’d like to serve alcohol without blowing the budget.
  4. Destination First - The place often influences the theme and decor of the wedding. So choose your destination early, then explore the expression of themes with the on-site event manager and preferred florist.
  5. Experience Is Everything - A destination wedding is not right for every couple. However, local or regional ties plus the arrival of out-of-town guests suggests that planning around one destination is on the right track. At Newell Lodge, we help plan romantic, family style adventures that bring the people you love closer together.

If I can be of service, please do not hesitate to ask.

 


The Mother of the Brides: A Tale of Five Sisters and My Mama’s Wedding Woes

To be “mother of the bride” is a daunting role, at best.  Maybe you’re the mother of a cherished daughter or even two.  But, imagine being the mother of five girls!  

If there was ever a perfect role- model for the mother of the bride, it was my mother, Gladys Clark Carter. To play the part of “mother of the bride” is daunting, at best, and downright impossible at worst.  Maybe you’re the mother of a cherished daughter or even two.  But, imagine being the mother of five girls! I now wonder, “How did Mama do it?”  

Please enjoy these short tales of five beautiful daughters, their elegant weddings, and the Mother of the Brides.

Daughter No. 1:  Phyllis Anne

my eldest sister, and the opening act to our five-act play

In the 1960’s,  Amy Vanderbilt dictated the scene: the church, the flowers, candelabras flanking both sides of the podium, an ordained minister and the bridal party.

My mother and sister had worked together, making the most economical decisions while maintaining simplistic beauty.

The big day arrived on August 5, 1966.  Finally, everything was in place.  

My sister was getting ready in one of the Sunday School classrooms and crying.  She cried as much as she did the awful day Snowball, the family dog, tragically died.  My mother and her sister, Aunt Mildred, were there. Tears streamed down their faces.  

My three sisters and I cried because it seemed the thing to do under the circumstances. The situation seemed dire.

Finally, someone had the good sense to send for our Daddy, who was the most loving, patient and understanding man I have ever known.  Never raised his voice, slow to anger, a man of few words. Until That Day.    

 He stepped into the room and with one quick glance at my mother, who was sniffing into a Kleenex and said, “What’s wrong?”  

We all looked at the Bride, with enormous, black tears (from the Maybelline Mascara) running down her face.  

“What’s the matter?”  he asked.  “I don’t know,” Phyllis Anne muttered through sobs.  

“Do you want to do this?”  he asked again.  

“I don’t know,” she answered again.

“Stop crying, because I’m calling this thing off.” He said, as he turned toward the door.

“But I love him”, she said.  

“Then, dry it up,” he said.  

Everyone heard that. It was like someone had flipped the light switch to the off position.

Blessed quietness, except for a few leftover sniffles.  The wedding went on as planned.

Phyllis Anne was beautiful, even with the swollen, tear-filled eyes and no mascara.

Thankfully, we must have gotten it all out of our system, as no-one cried during the wedding.

Daughter No. 2: Glenda Sue

Also known as the challenging, get out of my way, sister

Sue didn’t mind a good fight or pulling pranks on us kids.She never took her turn doing the dishes, refused to participate in household chores, and (when she chose) made our lives generally miserable.  

As Sue was always a source of concern for my mother, she felt it necessary to have a lengthy discussion with her fiance. In Mama’s infinite wisdom, and from her experience, she suggested that he call off the wedding.  

She underscored for him the above stated reasons, plus a few more for good measure.  

But her efforts were without avail. The young man couldn’t be swayed.

“But I love her,” he said.  

The wedding day arrived, and remarkably, not a tear was shed. (We clearly remembered the preamble to the 1966 wedding.)  

My mother whispered to the soon-to-be brother-in-law, as we waited outside the church.

“Remember what I told you.”  

Again, he ignored her.  He was in love.  

Fast forward to the second year of marital bliss.  An argument erupted between the husband and wife.  He was leaving. After some settling down and apologies, he thought better of his departure.  

“Where were you planning to go?” my sister later asked.  

Without hesitation, he replied, “To your Mama’s!”  

He knew Mama would understand his plight.  My mother and brother-in-law would maintain a strong bond until her death decades later.

To this day, anytime he needs extra ammunition, he reminds my sister, “Your Mama told me not to marry you.”

“Then why did you?” she responds. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sister No. 3.  Kay

The sweet one.  That’s me.  

The wedding was lovely: beautiful bride, handsome groom.  My two younger sisters, Grace and Kathy, were the bridesmaids.

Evidently, they were so young in the ‘60’s that they didn’t get the memo. Let’s just say that the no-crying mandate did not carry over into the ‘70’s.  

By the time to walk down the aisle arrived, they’d cried so much that both Mama and Daddy, had tears in their eyes.

“You don’t have to do this,” my daddy gently said. 

“But I love him”, I said.

So Grace and Kathy sobbed. Before the wedding, and during the ceremony, no less. Heart-rending, nose blowing sobs. With buckets of tears.

There were times, when the pastor paused because he could not be heard.  

Despite the overflow of emotion, the wedding was splendid. Amazingly, the photographs were also fantastic, despite my sisters’ swollen, tear filled eyes. After the wedding, they continued to weep, even as the cameraman tried to coax smiles.

Sister No. 4:  Grace

The dynamic, “I’m in charge” sister

If you know Grace, you know there’s no stopping her, although my mother tried, bless her heart.

“I don’t think this is the thing for you to do,” said Mom.  

“But I love him,” responds by sister.    

Grace, the fourth sister married shortly after our Daddy passed away, with an unenviable result: Mama had no backup on this one.

The wedding went off without a hitch, except for one small detail.

A well-meaning friend of my sister decided to stitch the fly of the groom’s trousers closed, a bit of a practical joke. A short delay ensued in the opening of the ceremony.

Everyone, with the exception of the groom, of course, thought the innovation hilarious.

Sister No. 5:  Kathy

The baby. Her wedding would be the grand finale.  

Mama wanted this wedding to be perfect in every way.  Maybe, because she had learned from the last four, and she knew this daughter’s marriage would be the last she’d orchestrate.

Phyllis Anne and Sue, my two older sisters, worked tirelessly alongside my mother.  Months were spent in preparation. Though, breaking with tradition, no advice was given to either the bride or groom.  Maybe, my mother decided there was no need to try, after four failed attempts.  

The wedding was perfectly peachy. No tears were shed. As the newly married couple finally pulled away from the church, tin cans clinking from the rear bumper, the entire family breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“Thank goodness,” said Mama. It was over.

What I learned about the qualities of a Mother of the Bride from my Mama:

A well-prepared mother of the bride is a godsend at a time when emotions run high. She fulfills many roles and performs numerous responsibilities.

As needed, she’s the driving force who makes it happen, with a smile on her face.

As the problem solver, she’s the go-to person for decisions and implementation.

The consummate wedding hostess, the mother of the bride must maintain her composure and listen to ideas from everyone.

Checking her list twice, she makes certain that Aunt Marthie and Uncle Arthur are on the guest list.

She navigates the emotional and financial roller coaster and smooths out rough spots.

Finally, she bears joyful witness to her beautiful daughters’ lifetime commitments to their new husbands.

Blessings to all Mothers of Brides. May they be as beloved as my own.


Twinkle and Shine! Join Us at the 2nd Annual Newell Lodge “A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights, Saturday, Dec. 22

Are you ready to get your “Twinkle” on?

This week, the Newell Lodge elves are busy hanging thousands of twinkling lights throughout the beautiful, ancient live oak grove at the heart of this special place. The horses are being brushed, and Santa’s wagon is at the ready, polished and shined.

Won’t you please join us this Saturday, Dec. 22, from 6-8 p.m. for our 2nd annual, family-style “A Country Christmas” Celebration and festival of lights?

In this unique region, we’re woven together in an intricate basket of friends and family, faith and friendship. It’s a joy and pleasure to share the uplifting spirit of this season and this beautiful landscape with our community.

Christmas in the Okefenokee is always special – and a little bit different than anywhere else in the world.

At the Lodge, we celebrate this difference with our Festival of Lights. Children of all ages will want to greet Santa Claus, the guest of honor, who will be available for family photos and selfies. Festive seasonal music and “twinkle-toes” dancing will be hosted in the Pavilion.

Smoky oak embers await in the firepit, with marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate by the fire for children aged 12 and under. The curious who wish to explore will enjoy an open house in one of the guest cottages with servings of hot cider.

Plus, there will be short horseback rides under the twinkling skyscape for children. And family friend food and beverages will be served at Swampfire, our “backwoods bistro.”

Christmas at Newell Lodge is a time of great joy and connection to family and friends, across the generations. Though we’re a bit off the beaten track, the drive out here is worth it.  Without city lights to distract visitors, the overall effect of the lighted landscape inspires a sense of wonder and adventure.

Please join us to create wonderful memories to last a lifetime.

Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy,

Kay

“A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights will be Saturday, Dec. 22, from 6-8 p.m. at Newell Lodge, 661 Ozzie Rowell Road (try ‘Firehouse Road’ on GPS). Admission is $5 per person at the gate; children 12 and under receive complimentary marshmallows for roasting and their choice of hot chocolate or hot cider. Email newell.lodge@gmail.com for more information, or call Newell Lodge at (912) 496-2838.


Counting Our Blessings: A Simple Family Tradition Renewed Our Faith at Thanksgiving

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

-Joseph Oatman, Jr. (1857)

Several years ago, in 2015, I ordered personalized coasters for our family Thanksgiving dinner.  As each family member or friend arrived, they were given a coaster and instructed to write on the back of coaster something for which they were thankful.  

The older children, already young adults, moaned in despair.  

“Why are you doing this, Me-me?”

My reply, as I handed them a marker, was “Just do it.”  

The comments ranged from reflective and serious to hilariously funny. Not everyone wished to have their comments read aloud and those were simply set aside.   It was a wonderful day. There was so much laughter and happiness, that I remember it as one of the best Thanksgiving Days ever.

The following March, my niece, Melissa was diagnosed with cancer at age 39.  We were devasted and for the next five months, we all fought a battle that could not be won.  Finally, August 24, 2016, was the last day with our wonderfully beautiful, intelligent and vibrant Lissy.  

Our grief was overwhelming.  How would we go on from here?  

We made ourselves prepare for Thanksgiving and when the personalized coasters were passed around, there were tears and quietness as we looked at the picture of Melissa on the coasters. We missed her.  

“Do we have to do this, again?”

“Yes.”  

So, we did.  We read the new comments and decided to re-read the coasters from last year, since some had been so funny.  The first one on the stack was Melissa’s.

“I am thankful for my faith, my grandmama’s prayers, and my family.”  

Too often, it’s the simple things in life that we take for granted.  Things like our faith, the prayers that are prayed on our behalf, and our families. However, these are the things that give us hope, courage, and a reason for being. How wonderful is that?  

So, when the coasters are passed around this year, I will share a heartfelt sentiment.

“I am thankful for my faith, my mama’s prayers, and my family.”  

That’s really all that matters and of course, don’t forget the turkey.

Thanksgiving Blessings,

Kay

 


Togetherness Is an Old Worn Out Atlas and a First-Rate Parking Space

Learn how navigating quality time with one’s spouse has its own set of challenges before you even get where you’re going.

A while back, my husband, Harvin & I decided to take a much needed get-away in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  We drove my car, which is equipped with the On-Star Navigational system.

As we prepared to leave, Harvin threw a worn-out atlas into the backseat.

“Hey, you don’t need that. I have On-Star”, I reminded him.  

He replied, “I really don’t want to ride all the way to Carolina, with ‘those’ people in the car with us. I’ll just use the atlas, if I need it.”   

We made it to Savannah, without incident.  

He said, “Start looking for a sign because I need to cross that big bridge.”  

I asked, “What’s the name of it?”  

He answered, “I can’t remember, but, it’s that big bridge. You know the one I’m talking about.”

As we approach the intersection, a quick decision must be made, because there are no bridges in sight.  So, Captain Kirk takes a sharp right and turns the Starship Enterprise into the old downtown section of Savannah. No bridge in sight.  

” We need to be on the other side of town, to cross the bridge.  And, I need to find a gas station. How far will this car go on empty?”

We found an undesirable convenience store and he pumps the gas.   “Lock the doors, while I go in and pay.”

As he gets back into the car, he reaches for the atlas from the backseat.

“What about On-Star?” I suggest.

No answer. He begins flipping pages.   After several more failed attempts, we cross “The Bridge”, which he knew was there.  

I never doubted the bridge existed, we just couldn’t find it.

As we see the sign for Hilton Head, Harvin says, “None of this looks familiar.”  

I don’t bother to comment.  I’m saving my breath for something important, like screaming in frustration.  I suggest we call On-Star for directions to the hotel.

His response, “Just give me a few minutes to get my bearings. I’m pretty sure I can find it.”  

And, he did.  Nearly an hour later and several wrong turns, circling around numerous blocks, and pulling over to read the atlas, we see the hotel.    

“Who lays out roads, like this anyway?”, he asks.  

“The Department of Transportation,” I answer.   

“Well,” he says, “they don’t know what they’re doing. It looks like they could have put a little thought into the construction of these highways. Nobody wants to think, anymore. That’s the problem.”

Then, he asks in frustration, “Can I move over to the next lane?”

When we arrived at the hotel, Harvin remarks, “I thought I remembered how to get here.”  

Sure, you did, Daniel Boone.  

We check in and order room service, because we’re both exhausted.  Plus, we parked near the building and he really doesn’t want to leave and relinquish the prime parking space.

The next day, Harvin decides to relax in the room.  I spend the day at the beach, where no one recognizes me in my bathing suit. The following day, he lounges in the room, I return to the beach.  Instead of going out for dinner, we choose the hotel restaurant, so we don’t have to move the car and loose our first-rate parking space.

“No telling how far we would have to walk to get back to the car, when we check out in the morning,” he says.

Inwardly, I scream.

The third morning, the trip is over.  We walk the short distance to our car. As we cross the big bridge, without the atlas, he said, “I have it now.”  

Finally, we arrive home.  

Maybe, it was a good thing we didn’t use On-Star.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have spent all that time together… in the car.


The Russians Are Coming

Summer 1961.  

My summers were endless days of playing with my sisters, with nothing more urgent than deciding what we wanted to do next.  Playing on the old grapevine, which never bore any grapes but was filled with masses of heart-shaped, green leaves, was usually our first choice.  We had constructed a “house” beneath the grapevine, taking advantage of the cool shade and fashioned furniture out of stumps, old buckets, boards, and concrete blocks, if we could carry them.  

Any items we couldn’t find, we used our imaginations and drew them in the dirt, with the longest stick we could find.  And, a long stick had many other uses. It could become a weapon, a broom, a blocked doorway, or it could just be a stick.  

The impressive part of our grapevine house was that second story! An old wooden ladder instantly became an elegant staircase which led to our bedroom.

We furnished this room with a hand stitched quilt smuggled from the house right before our Granny’s eyes.  The hexagonal chicken wire nailed across the top, protected with more of the lobed greenery, provided ample flooring, if we didn’t walk around too much. Everyone knew if you were in the middle you had to sit down. And, no jumping.  

As we sat in our “bedroom”, one lazy afternoon having tea (mud & water), my older sister, Sue then 9, decided to leave.  

“Are you coming back?” I asked. I have a fear of heights and needed her to hold the ladder while I climbed down.

She replied, “Sure. In a minute.”  

Quickly, Sue climbed down the ladder, leaving me and my two younger sisters alone.  I felt a little uneasy, already dreading having to climb down by myself because you never knew what Sue would do in any circumstance.

In a matter of minutes, her well laid plan came to fruition.   She came running across the yard, yelling, “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!”  

Simultaneously, an airplane flew overhead and maybe because we were on top of the grapevine, it seemed closer than it really was.

Sue looked into the sky with her eyes shaded and said, “It’s Khrushchev!”

As a seven-year-old child, listening to adult conversations, I had gathered that Russia’s Prime Minister Khrushchev was a cruel and evil man. In fact, we had a younger cousin who was so mean his own parents had nicknamed him Khrushchev.

Bad news all around.

The roar of the airplane, my sister screaming, “The Russians are coming” over and over, was too much.  Grace, Kathy and I scrambled to the ladder for an escape, hoping we were not in line of fire of the Russian airplane, with Khrushchev as the pilot.  

Yes, you guessed it. There was no ladder.

Obviously, life was over for us.  My two younger sisters and I were going to die on top of that grapevine, drinking mud and water. The crying was pitiful. The screams were worse.  

Evidently, the crying and screaming were effective. In a matter of minutes, Granny came to our aid, making Sue, who was laughing hilariously, return the ladder.   

While Granny helped us down, she spotted the quilt. “What’s that good quilt doing out here?”  

We were too shaken to answer, but simply pulled it down with us.  As badly as I hated to give up our precious quilt, I was happier to be off that grapevine and inside our real house. There, the threats of the Russians quickly disappeared as Granny served us sugar & butter sandwiches.


My Horse Heritage

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk.  He trots the air, the earth sings when he touches it.”              

William Shakespeare

 

“Put your foot in the stirrup.  Grab the saddle horn. Sling your leg over.  Take the reins. Hold on with your legs. Wait a minute.  Let’s untie your shoe strings.” Those were the instructions given to my sisters and me as we took turns riding our Shetland ponies, Daisy and Frosty.   Daddy insisted we untie our shoe strings whenever we rode a horse. When (being the operative word) we fell off, he didn’t want to risk having our foot caught in the stirrup, being dragged by a runaway horse.

There is nothing more frightening than a runaway horse, especially when you are the rider.  One late autumn afternoon, back in the 60’s, Daisy decided she’s had enough of me tugging on the reins and kicking her in the sides.  We did it her way. She took off at a trot, which escalated into a run. The reins were dropped, but not by choice. The only stationary item was the saddle horn, which I grabbed with a death grip, holding on for dear life.  It didn’t take long for Daisy and me to reach the barn gate. She went from a run to a dead stop. The sudden stop was my demise. Losing my grasp on the saddle horn, I toppled over and hit the ground. Daddy was there to help me up and find my Keds.  Before I could tie my shoes, my sisters had arrived, panting, out of breath, fear, and concern evident in their faces. I wanted to cry. The embarrassment and fear were secondary to the one option which remained to bring this riding fiasco to its conclusion.  Get back on that horse. Thankfully, Daddy led Daisy and me back to the barn, while I held onto the reins. And, the saddle horn.

Those were such great days.

Afternoons with Daddy taught me something important about the heart and soul of the horse.  If we quietly listen, the Horse will tell us that we are loved, we are accepted, and we are needed.

Those were qualities my Daddy had, too.

As humans, we have a long-standing relationship with the illustrious horse. In poetry, horses embody the freedom, spirit, and sense of adventure for which we long. We admire their drive and perseverance, their ability to combine high performance and graceful effort.

More personally, I have always found that the qualities of life for which we search are seen much clearly on horseback. Horses, like our dear Tuff, offer the gift of unconditional love. In his day, Tuff listened intently, sharing thoughts, dreams, hopes and life’s troubles.   He was never judgmental. Tuff was gentle, loyal, and a beautiful friend, the kind everyone should have.

Thankfully, you do not have to be a skilled rider, to bond with horses.  Riding is but one aspect of the horse relationship. If I fell off my horse today, it is unlikely there would be anyone there to pick me up and find my shoes, so I choose to spend time just being with the horse.  Grooming his silky coat, brushing tangles from his mane, smells of the barn, a 50-pound bag of sweet feed, and the leather in the tack room… these things have a deep, calming effect upon me.  

Time spent with a horse is never wasted.  These treasured opportunities allow you a sense of peace, a reflection of who you are or who you want to be. Time spent with a horse offers a time of understanding and acceptance of ourselves, for with horses we enter a rare relationship that becomes the mirror to our souls.  We can unleash within ourselves the grace, the beauty, and the spirit found within our horse.

Natural horsemanship trainer John Lyons said it best.  

“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine…you know you are loved.”

Don’t worry. If you don’t have a horse, I’ll be happy to introduce you to mine.

 

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