Published 9:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

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With the weather causing the thermometer to leap upwards last week, albeit briefly, there was time spent on my screened-in back porch.  In an earlier day, that space would have been called a “Florida room.”

A “Florida Room” offers opportunity for you to sit in relaxed comfort without any effects from insects which are arising from dormancy to bring misery to your life if you venture away from your protected enclave.

Window screen is the official name although I grew up with the term screen wire denoting that fabulous product that kept the insects more than arm’s length away.   You could listen to the whippoorwills at dusk: then the cicada’s, full throated and un-retreating, had the air waves all to themselves as darkness held sway.

In the by and by a hoot owl sounded forth which caused us kids, when we were in our early teens, to hoot back to see if we were flummoxing them.  Or, perhaps, making them mad.  After all, the nighttime belongs to them and their friends.

One afternoon, lately, as the sun was trending toward twilight, I treated myself to a Black Bush, compliments of my good friend, Mike Cheek, who once organized a tour of the Bushmills distillery in Bushmills, Northern Ireland. Bushmills is the oldest licensed distillery in the world and uses water from a tributary of the Bush River in producing its famous whisky.

I have always been given to daydreaming and frequently wondered if I might return to Bushmills and engage a fly fisherman who might take me out on the Bush River where I might successfully cast for a salmon.   After that, find my way to some pub and make a deal with the proprietor to have it cooked for my supper.

My respite on my porch last weekend caused me to think of the places I have been fortunate to visit and connect with—priority going to “local” luminaries –not forgetting others in faraway places but with down home qualities of my closest buddies.

Jimmy Harris and the unparalleled Chattahoochee; the late John Donaldson and the coastal rivers near Blackbeard Island off the Georgia coast.   A guy named Munson, who took me fishing in the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland.  He had a fishing rig with three hooks.  He would cast and reel in with three fish on his rig while I was desperate to catch a single.

A nice chap named Stuart Brown took me and friends fishing on a local lake in New Zealand.  It wasn’t a particularly good day, but we caught a couple of nice trout, took them to the hotel chef who cooked them for our Sunday lunch.

I thought of Amicalola Falls and would like to go there again; the blessing of the fleet at Darien where the Altamaha meets the Atlantic is on my to do list.  I started feeling good when I checked the Red Sox schedule and began initial planning to spend an afternoon at Fenway Park in Boston this summer.  You can never tire of going to such shrines, an emotional indulgence which enriches the soul.

Then after we sweat through the summer and fret about the dry spells, it will be August, but that won’t be so bad—there will be the coming of crepe myrtles.  And, of course, football season will dominate the scene.

That will eventually bring about October, the greatest month of the year.  The turning of the leaves and all that color!  Hallelujah!  Along the way, there will be gardens, plentiful and inspirational.

You can reach out and touch the people and the land when you move about not only our diverse state, humming “Georgia on My Mind,” as you journey about other landscapes, but distant locales, too.

There is more than the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, the San Diego Zoo, the Grand Canyon if you connect with the right people—a hotdog vendor at Dodger Stadium, whose customers can wait when Shohei Ohtani comes to the plate; a cable car conductor in San Francisco, a farm worker in Salinas, California, a fisherman in Green Bay wearing a Packer cap and sweatshirt; a waiter at the Frederica House on St. Simons, where you can get the best fried shrimp there is, a county agent in a small South Georgia town—one who can give you a remedy for everything you might need but who is unable to tell you how to deal with gnats.

There are the memories of those who have come our way and have moved on:  like John Sale at Callaway Gardens, a man who literally could talk to dogs—primarily his birddogs and coon dogs.

He hated shock collars, saying anybody who trained a bird dog with a shock collar “ought to be horse whipped.”  He coon hunted just for the dogs to have the night to themselves.  He had no interest in a bounty, just let the dogs frolic in the woods without restraint.

All his dogs were buried in his backyard.  There were epitaphs for each one of them.  He believed there will be an afterlife, and that he and his four-legged friends “will meet up again.”

The moonshiner in Resaca who gloried in the art of making moonshine and the message from his wife about selling white lightning.   “We warnt trying to do nothing illegal.  We just wanted to make a better life for our chilren.”

Any mention of moonshine always spawns a recall of colorful characters and amusing stories.  Like that of a visiting sportswriter to Athens who said that when he got to town to cover a Georgia football game, many years ago, he went by the Georgian Hotel to visit with three of his fellow journalists.

“They had spent the afternoon with a jug of moonshine,” he said.  “They were playing an interesting game.  One would leave the room and the other two would try to guess who had left.”