Once when I was working a temp job in LaGrange, a co-worker remarked that my childhood sounded like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. He was right. It really was. Mama and Daddy did everything they could to make it so.
In the field adjacent to Nanny and Pops’ yard was a fire-tower manned by Mrs. Irma Collins. Miss Irma climbed the seemingly innumerable flights of stairs up to the tiptop of the tower, where she watched, mostly in the late spring and early summer, for forest fires. She carried a small cooler with her lunch inside and not much else. It was rare that she came down from the fire-tower until time to go home.
Trucks run awfully fast on the highway that separates our house from Nanny and Pops’. So, most of the time, Mama would walk me to the road where Pops would be waiting on the other side. If Miss Irma was working in the fire-tower though, I was allowed to cross the highway by myself, only after calling to her as a lookout.
Standing on the edge of our yard, I’d call up to the little office at the top of the tower, “MISS IRMA? MISS IRRRMMMAAAA??” She’d stick her head out the window, look up and down the highway for me and shout back, “Go ahead Little Un.” I’d run across the road to Pops waiting on the swing in the front yard.
Admittedly, it was a charmed life.
Weather in South Georgia is not unpredictable. We always have super-hot summers and mild, short springs. Fall is usually an extension of summer with days warm enough for short-sleeves lasting through October, sometimes even November. Winter doesn’t really start until around January and even then, we can count on cold rain more than hard, deep freeze. From time to time, we can expect a tornado or two, or at the very least, a handful of warnings. In Southwest Georgia, we all know that hurricanes blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico have the potential to be more ominous than those from the Atlantic.
Sometimes though, weather alerts feel a little like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Our local meteorologists warn us for days about the potential for high winds and monumental amounts of rain, only to receive a smattering of rain with winds that blow over an outdoor trashcan. Inconveniences at best.
Thunderheads formed on the horizon as I drove home. I could see them in the distant twilight, a dark outline on the edge of lighter clouds. I was alone in the car and had Mary Chapin-Carpenter’s “C’mon, C’mon” on repeat. That song makes me remember, especially on a quiet night, alone in the car, with thunderheads in the distance. I love rain, always have. Mama says it’s because I was born during a summer storm.
I don’t like leaving my office during the day.
First of all, it’s South Georgia in July. So, I may as well be living on the surface of a very humid sun. For example, I straightened my hair this morning before work. Then, I walked the dog which took all of about seven minutes. I put Paisley back inside, grabbed my keys and purse and just happened to catch a quick glance of myself in the reflection of the oven door. Roseanne Roseannadanna has nothing on me. Ponytail it is!
When Nanny and Pops went to the camp, they most always took me. Pops built the camp in 1961 on a shady lot on the banks of the Itchuaway-Notchuway Creek in Baker County, Georgia. It was a joint purchase between Pops and four of his siblings, but he constructed and wired the house himself.
By the time I started going fishing with them in the early 1980’s, Pops had bought out his siblings, and the house had fallen into some disrepair. It sagged a little. The bathroom toilet was tricky. The refrigerator had rusty racks. Time and age had taken their toll, but Nanny and Pops didn’t seem to mind.
From what Daddy has put together, my great-great grandfather William Thomas Morgan was twenty-five years old and a member of the field artillery fighting at Gettysburg when he got word that his wife and children were sick with typhoid fever. So, he left his battalion and walked most of the 844 miles back to Quitman, GA.
We do not know if he made it home before both his wife and one of his little girls died. His only surviving child, Carrie, continued to live with her maternal grandparents until Mr. Morgan returned home once and for all after war’s end.