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Georgia

Cowgirl Blessings

My favorite artist is also good with words. Her paintings make me happy. Her stories make me laugh… and they stab me in the heart.

Amy Wilmoth Watts is multi-talented. She’s a cow farmer, a true cowgirl.

A Blessed Cowgirl.

She deeply loves her horses, her dog Snowflake, her husband James. And her sister.

“Never judge a book by its cover.

That statement is never more true than when associated with Amy. I mentioned she’s a farmer. She wears a farmer’s attire. Denim and cotton, whites, blues and grays. She’s not frilly. She’s not flashy. She’s not concerned with fashion. She may even cut her own hair, but I can’t say for certain.

Her art though… Her art reveals a warm, vibrant soul. And it is beautifully flashy. I’m including some of her art in this article, but today, I bring your attention to her words. Her stories. One story in particular.

She so clearly reveals the angst of a teen, the stinging wound of not belonging. The discomfort of being an outsider. It’s those teens, I believe, the ones who are left to observe from the sidelines, that are most tenderly in tune with the emotions of others.

Another thing I admire about Amy… she has a clear understanding that God is in the bold, and in the imperceptible, spaces of our lives. That nothing is by chance or coincidence. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the following story Amy recently shared:

“Summer of 1981 and 15 years old when I moved with my family to Georgia and what I could notice was the trees that formed green walls to block the horizon. After growing up in Nebraska where it is impossible to sneak up on someone, and the wind carries the scents of the stockyards and the sound of the tornado sirens being tested every Saturday morning, I felt panicked and claustrophobic at once. A new place, a new school and all around me the houses reached to the sky and all four sides brick. Suburbia, a new place where you would be defined by your “Neighborhood”! When I close my eyes to recall my childhood, I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and feel the wonder of possibility for the future, the excitement of things to come! Being a teenager, however, felt morose and ugly, the future seemed in my face and not happy to see me! There is a definite feeling I associate here. A feeling cannot be defined, but sheetrock and whitewash and newness, people from everywhere, MTV plays as a soundtrack, once it came out and everyone stayed home to watch it. “Our love’s in jeopardy>>” the first song I “saw”. Before that, famous singers and bands were mere pictures on album or cassette covers, now as they live and breathe! But, with all the newness and change, walls would close in on me in those days.

Our family of course could not rest in this new place until a church was located, and we were all keenly involved in the search. We tried a few here and there. A Saturday afternoon drive alerted us that a United Methodist Church would be found down a narrow gravel road with privet hedge growing so close that it scraped the sides of our station wagon as we followed it’s path. There we were to find a dark brown painted single wide trailer, hardly the kind of church building we were expecting and the sign said “Simpsonwood UMC”. My sisters and I had to laugh at the humble appearance! Surely this could not be a church of any spiritual import! The words my mother spoke ring in my ears to this day, “This church needs us.”

It was there settled and our family is written in the history books as charter members in what is now the Simpsonwood Church and Retreat Center. Our first Sunday, we went into the small room with folding chairs that served as sanctuary and with one small bathroom that opened up in the middle of the main wall. Cindy whispered that she had to go, and gave the door a yank. We all know how cheesy and ill made a trailer house door and knob can be and the throne was already occupied, with the woman there exposed for all to see! And we made our first impression thus. My sisters and I had been involved in youth group in Nebraska, and were sad to note that our new church did not have one. Maybe not, but this church “needed” our family! In a few weeks, we made posters to advertise a meeting, and persuaded a college aged young man to be in charge and what would be known as Simpsonwood UMYF(youth fellowship) was born.

The point of my story really begins here, as a few months went by, the new youth group “took off”, and young people already members came and brought their friends. My sisters and I were feeling like outsiders worse than ever. Not only were there other kids coming, but we were quick to recognize that these were a large group of the “popular” people, and not only were we not among them, we were newcomers to our own party. Cindy and I begrudgingly stuck with it, all the while distancing ourselves towards a morose and hormonal sulleness to which only teenage girl can adequately adhere.

The group became more than the college age young man could handle and God brought us a wonderful couple named Karen and Rob. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Karen and Rob saw right through the discomfort of our scenario, chances are good they were new themselves at one time or another. They reached out to us, and worked hard to makes us feel a part, just as Jesus calls all of us to do. When the time came for us to go on a camping retreat, Karen put Cindy and I in her cabin, and did all she could to make us feel special.

In the time of which I speak, a singer emerged named Dan Fogelberg and he was one of the soft rock kings of the 80s. He is best known in my world as the singer of “Run For the Roses”, which is recreated by various artists in Oklahoma City every year for the winner of the Reining Horse Futurity. “Auld Lang Syne” and “Longer” are two more hits at the time playing on the FM dial. On Saturday night of our camping retreat, word reached us that Karen’s dad had passed away unexpectedly. She made the decision out of necessity to stay with us, as she was one of our only chaperones and we were to leave the next day. That evening, we gathered around a campfire to sing(something all church groups should do more of!). Someone led the fellowship with his guitar, and without knowing of Karen’s loss, began to play and sing “Leader of the Band”. This is a song Dan Fogelberg wrote to honor his father as he came to the end of his life. It became too much for Karen, and she rose sobbing to return to the cabin. I sat frozen, and watched as my sister Cindy got up to follow her out. No one else seemed to even notice. As the song finished, I got up quietly and went out into the darkness to the cabin door and looked through the screen. Cindy and Karen sat together on a bottom bunk, Cindy with her arm around our youth leader comforting her. And there my sister ministered to one who had to her done the same. My sister was special! And what I already knew came plain. “Truly I say to you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

September of 2011 finds me in a charming café in downtown Santa Fe, and internet access has me looking through itunes to make a new running playlist for the streets of the Plaza call to me every morning while I am there. I found myself shopping through the “Songs of the 80s” and there on the list is “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg. I am immediately restored to a time and place, one seen through the distortion of a cabin’s screen door and the memory of my sister who now takes her own rightful place in heaven. I purchased the song, along with a few others, and memories followed in my footsteps along the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos that week and this is where the story, for those who have stuck with me, gets not strange, ethereal and satisfying. One evening, having a sandwich at the same café, I received a call from my gallery just a mile or so away. The woman told me with great excitement that she had sold my piece “Vaquero” a moment before, and the buyer was none other than the widow of Dan Fogelberg! She had just moved to Santa Fe after her husband lost his battle with cancer. My painting was the first thing she purchased for her new home. I was stunned, but not really by the coincidence. I have proof of Heaven above and those who dwell there on a daily basis and this is just one more. It makes me smile to think of Cindy watching over my daily affairs, and it is in her witness that I make decisions to guide my life as she always did, walking with the Lord! “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

~You can find Amy, and her art, in galleries around the USA. And on Facebook and Instagram.

Tough Enough – Amy’s tribute to the memory of her sister, Cindy.

Joe and the Christmas Chicks 🐥

Below is a story my cousin Joe tells every now and then. Joe is actually my mom’s first cousin; my grandmother and his mom were sisters.

Joe is a memory keeper and a story teller. And he’s a good man.

My written words won’t allow you to hear the warm southern comfort of his voice, nor will they reveal the mischievous twinkle of his eyes as he retells this story of a time gone by. But I hope you see the heart of a little boy, a poor boy… who was pained by the great sadness and mourning he witnessed all around him. He asked himself what he could do to bring cheer to his friends. He figured it out, the answer to his own question, and set out to make it happen.

The world needs more Joes.

Merry Christmas 🎄

“On November 22 1963, I was 10 years old and went to Canton Elementary School (Canton, Georgia). I was in Mrs. Elizabeth Johnston’s 3rd grade class.

On that day, I walked home for lunch, for I lived on Hill Street in downtown Canton, about 300 feet from school.

When I got home there was a news bulletin on the TV that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas,Texas. I ran back to the school and told Mrs. Johnston. She went to the other teachers and found out that it was true. All of the teachers were crying in the hallway. The following days, through the time of the funeral, and even into December, there was so much sadness. And I wanted to cheer everyone up. So I thought to myself, “what would make me happy?”

The answer was “a baby chicken”!

I lived just up the hill from Gold Kist Poultry. So I went to work collecting every Coca Cola bottle I could find around the “chicken plant” (Gold Kist), and sold them at Mr. Frongberger’s store, which was down the hill from the school as well. Not far from Gold Kist. I went strait to the hatchery with my bottle money, and knocked on the big door of the plant. The door opened and there stood two men. One of the men asked, “can I help you son?”.

I said, “I want to buy some baby chicks!” One of the men said, “we don’t sell to the public!”

I lowered my head, and when I did, the other man asked, “what are you going to do with the chicks?”

I told him that I wanted to give everyone in my class a present for Christmas.

He turned to the other man and said, “get the chicks for him”. When they give them to me, I handed the money to him. But he said, “keep the money, those chicks are free”.

The next day at school was our class Christmas party. And when I brought those baby chicks into the room, I saw that I was right, they liked baby chicks just as much as I did!

Jenny Holbrook put me in the school paper and titled her article, Joe and The Christmas Chicks.

I found out that day, how special giving is.

PS … by 6pm that same day, I got most of the chicks returned back to me.”🐥

Joe Daniel

Joe

Joe’s other Christmas Chicks, his beautiful daughters.

Be True to Your School

Three years ago, I woke up to a post, made by a friend from my childhood. It was a simple line from a song, a song made famous by Joni Mitchell, back when this friend and I were in elementary school. Her post read, “They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” Along with that ominous sentence, she shared a link to our hometown newspaper. If the article in the Cherokee Tribune was true, and I had no reason to doubt that it was, we were about to lose a big piece of our childhood history. Our town was about to lose two beautiful works of architectural art. Our wonderful old school building, (most of us called it “the school house” back then, because that’s what our parents and grandparents called it…) had a date with a demolition ball. That graceful lady of a building, was sitting square in the eye of a sniper’s scope. The old Canton Textile Mill Office building (built by the family of our hometown golfer, Bobby Jones… you know him, the one of Augusta National fame), was also going to see the wrecking ball. The two buildings would be replaced, according to the artist’s depiction in the Tribune article, with a parking lot, and a blocked-style, modern building. The replacement building looked very similar to a large CVS or a Walgreen’s Pharmacy.

Privately, I contacted my school friend and inquired of the details. She shared with me some of what she couldn’t share publicly. Yes, it was true, the building was going. The fate was almost certain. She knew, because she was an employee of the Cherokee County School System, and they were the entity responsible for the future paving of Paradise. It was all but a “done deal”.

The news hit me hard. It was akin to knowing in advance, that a loved one was going to be in a fatal fight, but unable to reach them. Incapable of stopping the oncoming slaughter.

I had spent all my elementary years at Canton Elementary School. I was a Canton Greenie to the bone. We all were. We didn’t really know what a Greenie was, but we knew it was us. The What of a Greenie just didn’t matter. We wore the Green & Gold proudly, even as, often enough, kids from other schools, those with tougher sounding mascots, poked fun at us. Sometimes they were kinder, genuinely curious, and phrased a conversation starter with the inevitable question: “So, what is a Greenie, anyway?” The CES girls usually responded with a shoulder shrug. The boys generally had a different answer, “That’s for us to know and you to find out!”

One year, probably in an attempt to stall the “what is a Greenie” question, the cheerleaders dressed six-year-old Patrick Bishop in a Greenie get-up, and called him Canton’s Mascot. He looked like an Irish Leprechaun in the costume. But he put a brave and adorable face to the Greenie. To this day, he is the Greenie I see in my memory.
We were the Canton Greenies.

All the others were the…

  • Woodstock Wildcats
  • Holly Springs Wildcats
  • Macedonia Wildcats
  • Hickory Flat Devils (Green Devils)
  • Buffington Blue Devils
  • Clayton Rebels
  • Free Home Rockets
  • Ball Ground Indians/Braves
  • North Canton Tigers
  • R.M. Moore Braves
  • Ralph Bunche

And in that old Canton Gym, our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, at one time or another, showed all the others, what it meant to be a Greenie. Even if we couldn’t tell them.

Once we made it to Cherokee High School though, we were all Warriors. Everyone of us. Until the late 1970’s, Cherokee was the only 9th-12th grade school in the county. And at some time in their lives, almost every CHS Warrior had walked the grounds of Canton Elementary. They may have attended one of the other schools, but they had sat on the iron and wood Merry-Go-Round, eating ice-cream, or drinking a Lime Freeze from Landers or Canton Drug, while their mama shopped downtown. They had played, cheered, and attended a basketball game or a Fall Carnival, in the old gymnasium. They had eaten fund-raiser chicken dinner plates, and the best Yeast Rolls in the world, all made by “the lunchroom ladies”, in the school’s cafeteria.
Without doubt, the old Canton Elementary building, and her red clay grounds, held memories for most of us.

And so it was, that Greenies and Tigers, Blue Devils and Wildcats, Rockets and more…. all Warriors, took to the streets of Social Media in a March to Save Our School, save our history….our cotton mill, poultry grower, foothills history…. our childhood school home. Our Classic, Southern, Neoclassical Beauty of a building.

Randy Saxon talked to everyone about our fight. I wrote a blog article and called news agencies. Others shared the story of our impending loss. Soon, Canton Alum, locally and from other parts of the world, began joining our fight. Historians took notice. Meetings were called. Words were spoken. Prayers were said.

Outwardly, the situation appeared hopeless. My son, usually optimistic in his support of my endeavors, attempted to prepare me for the worst. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to save it, Mom. But you can say you’ve tried. You’ve all tried. You’ve done your best.”

We didn’t give up. We came together as a community, even though many of us no longer live in Cherokee County. Randy Saxon was not about to give in without a battle. His mother had led a fight to save the old Canton High School (Building #2, or the Big Building, as we called it when we were elementary students), and he was determined to carry the legacy.

To be clear, our group’s effort wasn’t simply to save our school building. We wished to preserve the historical integrity of downtown Canton. And we did.

Soon enough, you, and we, will be able to shop and dine where little feet used to scurry about. The memory triggering fragrance of old books won’t be there, the dust of chalk will not be visible. But I hope to see some remnants hanging about, in honor of the educators and students who loved their time there.

Principal Shault Coker’s wooden paddle, though it terrified me when I was a first grader…. I would love to see it on display in the hallway, near where his old office was located.

Recently, I commented to Randy, “and to think we could have had a modern building and a parking lot there instead.” He replied, “Yes, I guess we’ll have to put up with this old thing for another hundred years or so”.
Yes, we will Randy. Because of your hard work and love for your hometown, we will. Thank you for your diligent work and outstanding progress. You’ve been the force behind the preservation.

For those unfamiliar, below is a link to the article I wrote in 2015.
I’m also including photos I’ve snagged from Randy’s Facebook page. And a video he posted today, it shows the progress being made on the school.

I’m also including a couple of photos of that Greenie I mentioned.

Go Greenies!
Sincerely,

Danita

Bully in the School Yard

https://wordpress.com/post/redclayponderings.com/450

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night….oh, wait.

When I was a kid, I looked forward to spending a week or two every summer with my aunt and uncle. My family lived in what I considered the “Boonies” of Cherokee County; but my aunt and uncle had moved from Cherokee to the big city of Cartersville. They lived on Douglas Street. My visit to Cartersville had all the makings of a great summer. Everything I needed was within the traveling distance of my bare feet.  Their house was a stone’s throw from Main Street; three blocks from the outdoor Olympic sized pool at Cartersville High School, and just a skip and a jump from the Iced-Slurpees of a convenience store on Tennessee Street. An old, wood-framed store was located a street or two behind their house.

 One afternoon, early into the visit of the summer of my twelfth year, my aunt sent me to the old store to pick up something she needed…most likely a Coca Cola.

Entering the ancient structure, my nostrils were greeted with the musty odor of old things. Once the screened-doors of the old store creaked to a close behind me, and my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I found it was a place I liked. The older man who owned the store kept a good selection of penny candy on hand and my Aunt Mae had told me I could buy some.

I enjoyed the independence and responsibility my aunt entrusted to me. I relished the idea of doing such a grown-up thing as walking to the store alone. But, the getting there that gave me trouble.

To get to the store, I had to walk run past a time worn, ivy covered house. The two-story home loomed eerily over the corner of Douglas and Carter Streets. At the corner, I had to pass immediately in front of the house and then turn left onto Carter Street. This journey that took me toward the rear of the shaded property.

Even on the brightest, sunniest, 100° days, there was something dark about that place. Bone chilling quakes rippled through me as I neared the house. No matter how many times I walked to the store, I could never shake the freezing fear I felt when I was near the house. Instinctively, I found myself avoiding the sidewalk in front of the house. Crossing to the other side of Douglas Street, turning left on the far side of Carter Street and then zig-zagging back when I was a safe distance from the “spooky’ house, made me feel somewhat protected. Holding my breath the whole time. 

Even now, more than four decades later, I can drive past the place and remember the coldness I felt there, on hot summer days. 

 This past Valentine’s Day, someone on Facebook posted this question: “Anyone know where the house is in Cartersville that is on the Travel Channel tonight?”

I scrolled down and saw that someone had posted an article with a photo of the house. My spooky house.

Turns out, in the 1930’s,  the area of the sidewalk in front of the house had been the scene of a murder. Which led to a kidnapping and a hanging. The murdered man was the Chief of Police of Cartersville….he had been seeing to the arrest of young black man. aged twenty-two years. While the young man was frequently incarcerated, the Chief would send for the prisoner’s beautiful, nineteen-year old wife. And so it went.

One night, the young man escaped and he and his brother drove to the home of the Chief, presumably to bring his wife home. She had confided in him, the details of the Chief’s despicable behavior.

When the brothers arrived at The Chief’s residence, he came outside. He was not willing to peacefully let the girl go. An argument ensued, and somehow the Chief’s gun wound up in the hands of the escaped prisoner.

The gun was fired. The Chief died on Douglas Street, in front of the house… (in the very spot where I had #fullbodychills on hot summer days).

The young man was arrested and jailed. A couple of nights later, local citizens kidnapped him from the city jail and lynched him in downtown Cartersville.

The young bride, fearing retaliation from the friends and family of the Chief, was afraid she would be killed as well. (she believed they would murder her before knew they would let anyone know what their Chief had been doing with the nineteen year old, black wife of his prisoner), She fled town and was never heard from again.

(This is the condensed version of the story, if you prefer to read more about the incident, I’ll post a link to an article written by local attorney Tony Smith. He quotes local historian Ed Bostick, author of “Lynchings in Bartow County” for the Etowah Valley Historical Society. He quotes and names many other local residents. You can read the full account of the murder of Cartersville Police Chief Joe Ben Jenkins, by scrolling down to “1930” at this link: http://www.tony5m17h.net/CartersvilleLynchings.html ) Thank you Phil Bridges for the link.

No matter how you feel about ghosts, haints, haunts, ghouls and lingering spirits….I know I felt something cold and creepy on that street, four decades after the tragic events which unfolded there.           

 Thank you for reading,    Danita

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Bully in the School Yard

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Did you know the old Canton Elementary on Academy Street and the Jones’ Textile Offices in downtown Canton, Georgia are on the National Register of Historic Places as being in the historic section of Canton? And did you know Dr. Frank Petruzielo, of superintendent fame, plans to demolish the school building and or the Jones Canton Textile building? He does. And very soon.

Because he needs a new office, you know. And a better place to park his car.

Canton and Cherokee County, do we have to allow another piece of our history to fall victim to the wrecking ball? I really don’t believe we do…or should. But….if some backbones, some green paper and a few history lovers don’t come together, within the next few months, we’re going to lose another piece of our history. Or as Ms. Joplin sang, we’ll lose Another Piece of My (our) Heart(s).

If we don’t act, Dr. Frank P will have his way with a building we love. He’ll replace it with another modern eyesore. Canton has too many of those already.

I’ve been told Dr. P has withdrawn all but bare-bones maintenance of the school building…allowing decline. To anyone watching from afar, it would appear his plan is for Canton Elementary to fall into such a state of disrepair, it will be non-salvageable. I’m sure by now the building is in terrible shape, it’s over 100 years old, after all. And when the county “remodeled” it in the mid 1970s, they didn’t bother with sustaining the integrity of the building or the original interior character. They replaced the windows, installed a drop ceiling, covered the hardwoods with cheap carpet and called it remodeled. What an insult to that beautiful, genteel Southern Lady.

I no longer live in Canton, but it will always be my hometown. My parents are still there, my cousins and their children and a spattering of aunts and uncles are still around town. They’ll be there until their last breath. Your family is probably very similar. Dr. P, most likely, will not. He’ll rip down a 100-year-old building, and for a couple of years, he’ll settle himself into a big comfy chair within that building…and then he’ll move on. Canton will be a faded memory to Dr. P. But we’ll remember him. Every time we drive downtown and see what is no longer there, we’ll remember. And we’ll say to our grandchildren what we’ve had to say to our children about other significant buildings around town: “There used to be the best old school building standing right over there. You should have seen the architecture, Neoclassical Style. Nothing else like it around here….”

We have given up so much of this cotton mill town. We gave things up without a fight. We let the hotel go, the magnificent Sequoyah Library where my love of reading began as a five-year old, the train depot (what other town destroys its depot?), the elegant homes on Marietta Street (replaced by a couple of architecturally unattractive brick boxes). We’ve lost enough.

The Historical Society doesn’t want to lose these buildings either. Below is a link to an article on their page. Surely we can come together and help them save a bit of history for the future citizens of Cherokee County.
https://www.facebook.com/CherokeeCountyHistoricalSociety

Thank you,
Danita Clark Able

Canton Elem3

If you want to be a part of preserving the character of Downtown Canton. Please sign this petition created by the Cherokee County Historical Society. https://www.change.org/p/cherokee-county-board-of-education-integrate-downtown-historic-building-into-new-design

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Flip Flops & Cut-Off Jeans

Seventeen Mag2

Discount shades, store bought baby oil tan, flip-flops and cut-off jeans…..

It’s a lyric from a song, but it nearly describes the summer of my seventeenth year. I just have to change up a few words, to make it fit. I heard that song yesterday and it took me back to the green, shaded hills of Cherokee County, Georgia and my seventeenth summer…..when everything in the world seemed possible. When time seemed abundant and long. When I believed the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine was a pleasure the whole world was privileged to enjoy.

That summer, I stood beside my cousin Sherry in New Hope Baptist Church and heard her say “I Do”; and bittersweet tears spooled from my eyes, because I knew a paragraph in a chapter of my life was being written by someone else. That season, I worked behind the soda fountain counter at Fincher’s Pharmacy, sipping copious amounts of Coca-Cola and reading a lot of Seventeen Magazine, contemplating cutting my hair in one of those cute, shorter styles….and knowing I wouldn’t. Here and there, my friends and my beau would drop by Fincher’s throughout the day…

because if we wanted to communicate it had to be done face to face

… and plans for the afternoon and evening were concocted; Jack Fincher didn’t seem to care as long as my company/customer purchased a Coke or a milkshake. When my soda-jerk shift ended, I did a quick Superman (change of clothes) in the drugstore bathroom and walked out into the bright afternoon sunshine feeling free as a bird in flip-flops and cut-offs. The only part of the day I dreaded was inserting my key into the ignition switch of my Ford Pinto, because I never knew if I would hear the rumble of my engine or the sounds of silence. Holding my breath and saying a prayer, I was always happily surprised when it turned over and connected….prayers answered (most of the time). It was then, with windows rolled down and the radio knob turned and set to Z93, my summer day took off. As Foreigner, the Commodores, the Bee Gees, and Fleetwood Mac serenaded me from a crackling speaker, I would meet up with a friend or two…sometimes we did nothing more than sit on a porch and talk. Sometimes we took in one of our brother’s baseball games at Harmon Field. Every now and then, someone’s parents (Chrys Eichelberger) would take us out in their boat and drag us around Lake Allatoona….simply “The Lake” to us. Some days, pitiful/hilarious golf lessons were on the docket. We went to Six Flags and one time, we ventured into the dark underbelly of Atlanta…the original Underground Atlanta…a group of little country-bumpkins from a town that couldn’t even boast of a McDonald’s…and thanks to our fearless leader who claimed to be familiar with the city…we made it out alive. Barely. We ice-skated at the Omni Hotel ice rink and bowled at the old bowling lanes in Marietta because it was the closest “bowling alley” to Canton. And one Saturday night, the Callahan’s had a party as big as an Atlanta concert, in their cow pasture (now a golf course). In my recollection of that night, my flip-flopped feet are grass-damp from the humidity and I remember wishing I had worn long jeans instead of cut-offs, because chigger bites are no fun. That was the night, at seventeen, I realized I preferred songs around a campfire or back porch jam sessions over big, rowdy parties.

Those days seemed like they would never end, but they did. And in their departure, they left behind sweet memories.

What about you? What was your seventeenth summer like?

“When I think about you, I think about seventeen….the stars in the sky…funny how a melody sounds like a memory, like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night….” Eric Church

I hope you’re enjoying your summer.
Danita

Sherry Wedding3

Bobby Jones: Boy of the Red Clay, Master of Augusta National

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“I’m an amateur. Do you know what the origin of that word is? It’s from the Latin root…to love…to be an amateur is to love the game…once you play for money…you can’t call it love anymore”.

Bobby Jones….I grew up knowing that name without knowing much about the man.

His family was important to my little hometown of Canton, Georgia. I knew that much. The Jones family built two textile mills in Canton. They built villages within walking distance of the cotton mills, so their employees could walk to work. Grocery stores and feed stores were built a short distance away. Jones’ Department Store was built downtown. The hospital and the library bore the Jones name. Without question, Jones was an important family in our community.

I had always heard Bobby Jones designed the nine hole, Canton Golf Course. A course built by Bobby’s grandfather. But that could have been rumor. I wanted to know for certain.

In 1977 I was still a student at Cherokee High school; by that time, Bobby Jones had been dead for six years. His family’s business was dying, too. So I decided I wanted to speak with the president of Canton Textile Mills and learn more about the history of the mills and the Jones Family. And maybe more about Bobby. I placed a call to the textile mill offices on Main Street in downtown Canton, and to my surprise, the secretary put my call through to Mr. Jones. He agreed to meet with me the following day. We chatted for a couple of hours and I learned he was Bobby’s cousin. Rather than discuss his family’s impact on our community, which we spoke of briefly, Mr. Jones wanted to tell me about Bobby. He was proud of him.

I learned Bobby was a good boy who became a good man. A passionate young man who learned to control his temper; a consummate gentleman. I learned he was humble, but confident, and exhibited grace under pressure…men respected that about him and women appreciated him for it. I learned that others recognized his gift of golf before he did, but once he realized it himself, there was no stopping him. I learned Bobby loved his wife and children more than anything else on Earth and I learned he died a slow, painful death. Others were in awe of him, even more than when he was marking history with his swing, because even in the face of agonizing daily pain and the knowledge that he would never recover, his spirit, attitude and sportsmanship never wavered. Mr. Jones told me scar tissue had grown around Bobby’s spine and eventually paralyzed him. He spent his last years in a wheelchair. (That information was close, but not entirely accurate. Bobby was diagnosed with syringomyelia. )

At the age of twenty-eight, Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam. Something no other golfer had ever accomplished. He was already showing signs of physical illness at that time, though few outside his family knew. Still, sports writer Grantland Rice said this about him after his historic accomplishment: “One might as well attempt to describe the smoothness of the wind as to paint a clear picture of his complete swing.”

Bobby loved the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland and after retiring from the game, not yet thirty years old and still an amateur, he wanted to develop something comparable in the states. He chose land in the city of Augusta, Georgia, near his wife’s hometown. And within a couple of years, land formerly occupied by the Fruitland Nursery became Augusta National. Eighty years later, one can be almost any place in the civilized world, and simply say Augusta to strike up a conversation about the Master’s, Jack Nicklaus and sometimes Bobby. Non-golfers worldwide know Augusta, thanks to Bobby Jones.

So with the practice rounds beginning tomorrow, I just wanted to take a moment and remember the true Master of the Game. Our hometown hero from the red clay of the North Georgia hills, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr.

The Face Of Homeless

face of homeless

Eons ago, when I was still in my teens, a friend and I walked out of the Fulton County Stadium on a sweltering Atlanta night and came face to face with a “begger”. Up to that moment, we had been goofing around: laughing, singing, having fun watching the Braves lose another one. The frivolity of the evening ended when I encountered homelessness for the first time. Prior to that summer night, I had been naive enough to believe everyone went home to a warm dinner and a comfy bed. And then this man approached us, “Excuse me, can you spare some change? I’m homeless. I’m hungry.” The look of him…the painful pleading in his expression, the desperation in his quivering voice, his dirty, wrinkled clothing…stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to make his life better but felt helpless to do so. A lump lodged in my throat as I reached for the fifty cents in my pocket, “This is all I have, I’m sorry”, I said. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you,” he said.

My friend grabbed my arm and pulled me away. “Why did you do that? Why did you give him your money? I can’t believe you fell for his trick. He’s just here to get people to feel sorry for him. He has the same opportunity everyone else has, all he has to do is get out and get a job but he doesn’t want to work. It’s easier for him to beg than it is for him to go to a job every day”.

On the drive home, my friend and I had a heated discussion about poverty and opportunity. We didn’t see eye to eye on the subjects.

Later than night, cool, dry and tucked safely beneath my covers, I cried for the man we had encountered outside the stadium. I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. His skin had the ashen look of poor nutrition, his eyes were hollow from hunger. I knew he didn’t live that way by choice. No one does.

I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t done much to help the homeless over the years. Donations and food drives have been the extent of my giving and service. But I know someone who has done so much more. Vitelle Webb’s life and work is an inspiration to all who know her. She has written a play about her own personal experience with homelessness. The Face of Homeless will be onstage in Atlanta this coming August 3, 2013. Vitelle is also the founder of the Feed the Homeless Tour. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Vitelle. Here’s what she told me….

The Face of Homeless is my life and experience, portrayed on stage. It is also the stories of a few other lives as well as real life situations that have been experienced by many. The show exposes various circumstances involving homelessness. My hope is the stories of our characters, Gary, Violet, Shelia, Mark and the others will help people to understand that homelessness can happen to anyone. Too many people have a stereotype of what they think homelessness is; a preconceived idea of who the homeless are. People think of the homeless as being an old man digging through a trash can and asking for change to get a beer. Our hope is this stage production will reveal the truth about who the homeless are. With our show, we hope to encourage people who are going through or have gone through similar situations as well as bring awareness to the community of what homelessness really consists of and that it exists in our own backyards.

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The Feed the Homeless Tour is a non-profit organization I founded seven years ago to help meet the basic needs of the homless from state to state. We provide such things as food, clothing and hygiene items. We assist people with finding jobs and housing and connect them with other organizations that may be able to help them based on specific needs. We never turn down someone in need due to a lack of identification or age and gender. We strive to end homelessness and have done so for many people!

Our stage production, The Face of Homeless, is one of many fundraising efforts to support Feed the Homeless Tour goals. It is our first stage production and we anticipate many more. After our Atlanta area premier on August 3, 2013 we will travel the country bringing this production to all fifty states, helping the homeless of each state we visit.

Tickets can be purchased at: http://www.FaceofHomeless.eventbrite.com

Note to Vitelle,

I want to thank you for what you’re doing to help others. God gave you a big heart and a willingness to sacrifice your time for your brothers and sisters. You are living proof that we can take our life experiences, both positive and negative, and use it to benefit others.

I wish you much joy and success as you continue your journey.

Danita

Saving Canton

Canton DepotCanton34 Canton First MethodistCanton46

Canton31 Canton Elementary 1913

In March 2012, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution published an article by Bill Torpy and titled it, Trove of Artifacts in Canton tell story of Indians. The article was a great, educational piece. An education on a very interesting bit of Cherokee County history that we can only read about now…thanks, in part, to greed disguised as progress.

Reading Mr. Torpy’s story, I couldn’t help but feel a huge emptiness for what the former land owner destroyed and the loss he allowed the county of my birth, when he sold his land to developers. I didn’t need to ask why he sold this historical land. I knew the why…it had something to do with a few men: George, Thomas, Abraham, Alexander, Benjamin, Andrew, Ulysses, William, Grover, James, Woodrow and Salmon P. Chase (lots of Woodrow’s and Salmon P’s). So now, instead of a museum…a historical, educational, archaeological site…and a memorial to the Native Cherokee families forced off their land….Canton has a Super Wal-Mart. Yay.
I was born and educated in Canton, Georgia. As a young girl, I watched with a feeling of loss as old homes, historical buildings and important land was destroyed to make way for stores, gas stations and post offices. I watched as the architectural integrity of beautiful old buildings was assaulted for ‘modern improvements’. In high school, I tried to start a campaign to save the abandoned Canton Train Depot. I failed…Canton won…and the building was demolished. I believe the structure was replaced with a vacant lot.

When I was a Cherokee County teen in the 1970’s, I thought our town was a million light years away from the cosmopolitan life of Atlanta. And I guess it was. I realized our families needed more opportunities for employment than the cotton mills and poultry plants in town. I knew we needed alternative stores, restaurants, and a few more places for a teenager to have a summer job. But I also knew there was historical bedrock beneath our ball fields and corn fields…and in the clay along the banks of the Etowah; I wanted it preserved. Eh, but what did I know?

Cherokee County has surpassed all expectations for growth and progress. No longer can every high school student in the county boast about being a Cherokee Warrior, all on the same unified team. Present day high school kids have more opportunities for summer employment than we ever could have dreamed possible. But our slow-moving river and the beautiful green hills of Cherokee County are now obscured by big box stores and the gaudy colors of pre-fab fast food spots. These days, Cherokee Countians have the privilege of sitting in traffic on Riverstone Parkway and Highway 20. Just what we wanted. Oh, Progress, how we love thee.

I hope Cherokee County will outgrow the need to play ‘progress catch up’ and gain a sense of responsibility for preserving her history. Somehow, I doubt the change will occur anytime soon. Still, I hope. Yet, every now I then, I hear rumors of demolishing the old Canton Elementary and High School buildings on Academy Street. Many of us spent our elementary years in those red brick buildings. A few still living spent their high school years there as well. Losing those buildings would be a disservice to downtown Canton; a disgrace kin to the one we suffered when the old Canton Hotel was demolished and replaced with an ugly bank building.

That’s my pondering for the day,
Danita

Below is a portion of Mr. Torpy’s AJC article.

For 15 years, hordes of shoppers have streamed into the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Canton.

The hilltop along I-575 is a prime commercial location in Cherokee County, a fast-growing community with one foot in metro Atlanta and another in the North Georgia mountains.

What few customers know is they are walking on land that was a hub for Native American life for 10,000 years. At different times, the patch of high ground overlooking the Etowah River has been a village, a fort, a trading center and, finally, home to a cluster of Cherokee families desperately trying to co-exist with the white man.

During the summer of 1995, a large crew of archaeologists and their assistants unearthed a trove of artifacts that told a story of the land’s ancient inhabitants. The property, known as the Hickory Log Site, yielded 48 graves and thousands of artifacts that filled 120 boxes. The discovery offered one of the most detailed looks ever at the life of Native Americans in North Georgia.

Local officials hope to exhibit the findings — ranging from 10,000-year-old spear tips to a rifle used by the Cherokees — at The Funk Heritage Center at Reinhardt University.

“It’s a rare chance to educate people [about] what happened,” said Paul Webb, the archaeologist who headed the 1995 dig and returned to Cherokee County last week to finally speak about his findings and lay the groundwork for the artifacts to return home. “It’s one thing to know this is Cherokee County and another thing to have this tangible evidence of Native American and Cherokee life.

“It remains one of the major projects in North Georgia in size and scope and in what we found. Hickory Log has probably seen 10,000 years of occupation,” he said. “You have high ground overlooking Hickory Log Creek and the Etowah River. It had ample water, rich farmland below. It was a good place to live with access to transportation.”

In essence, what made for a good hub for Cherokee County’s Native Americans later

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