Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scott Echols Tragic Accident

In a fleeting moment a couple of weeks ago in Blakely, Georgia, Scott Echols of Bleckley County was involved in a traffic accident that could have snuffed out his life. As it is, he will be hospitalized for “months, not weeks” in an attempt to recover.
How tenuous life’s journey can be! On Sunday evening November 7th, Echols, a 51-year-old Broker in the Alaskan Fishing Industry, started out for Enterprise, Alabama to check on his uncle who was in the hospital in serious condition. His journey took him through a route to Blakely where he was t-boned in his small automobile by a much larger SUV leaving him in critical condition—fighting for his life—in the blink of an eye.
Scott, the husband of Cherie Thompson Echols and the father of a daughter, Morgan who is a sophomore at Middle Georgia College, and a son, Jacob who placed seventh in the state in pole vaulting on the track team and also plays on the Bleckley Royals football team as a place-kicker, finds himself in the biggest battle of his life.
After Echols graduated from college, he traveled to Alaska to become a commercial fisherman in the rough seas of the 49th state. He fell in love twice—once with the fishing industry—and secondly with Cherie Thompson of Cochran. As Scott moved around the world fishing on boats, his new wife followed him and they eventually had two additions to their family.
After years away from home in Cochran, the couple agreed to move back and settle down where they grew up, giving their two children the hometown stability they felt they needed, and as a result of the Internet, Scott could continue his brokerage of the Alaskan Fishing Industry.
Echols father-in-law, Ron Thompson said one of the EMT professionals told him that “Mister Echols was as strong as an ox,” as they worked with him to get him onto the stretcher and immobilize his arm for the purpose of giving him IV fluids. “He was striving hard to free himself from their grip as he clung to the desire to survive,” one of the medical specialists said.
As they began the journey from Blakely to Dothan, Alabama which was the nearest Trauma hospital, someone called his wife in Cochran to inform her that Scott had been in an accident and they were now en route to Dothan.
Immediately, Cherie Echols made plans to drive to lower Alabama, uncertain of the directions or the seriousness of her husband’s injuries. Stopped in her tracks by her father, Mrs. Echols was told that he would drive her to Dothan, an area with which he was familiar. When they were an hour from their destination, Echols received a cell call informing her that they were going to move her husband to Birmingham where there was a larger and better equipped Trauma unit. Nevertheless they continued onward and arrived before the move was made.
Upon the action to move Scott to Birmingham, the family members continued their trek northward through Alabama.
In serious accidents of life or death, there are many quick decisions to make—giving doctors and medical teams permission to operate and further examine the injured party, locating a place where the family can stay, and determining visiting hours, etc.—and Cherie Echols had plenty to make. Through the worst of times cool heads and blessings sometime take over. A member of a Birmingham church arrived after a couple of days and offered Echols the use of a church-owned apartment for up to three months. Doctors continued working on her husband to save his life. Scott has suffered both lungs collapsing, ribs broken, legs broken, a ruptured spleen and many more serious injuries that will take a long time from which to recover.
Of course, one of the most serious problems the family is facing is tremendous medical and doctor bills and a very long time with no family income while Scott is no longer able to work. Cherie is in nursing school and has no income. A fund has been opened at the State Bank in Cochran, 112 Beech Street, Cochran, GA 31014 and it is entitled the Scott Echols Fund for those who can and will donate funds to help a worthy family in time of great need. Donations can be made in your name so the family can acknowledge their thanks to you, or donations may be made anonymously.
Contact Crenshaw at

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lance Cpl. Christopher Blake Rodgers

Almost everyone can remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001, the day of the worst attack on American soil in history which took over 3000 lives. The day almost immediately became known as 9/11 which remains ingrained in the minds of Americans everywhere.
Blake Rodgers of Griffin, Georgia was ten years old (shown above) when he witnessed the giant planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. He was so shocked that he cried. He also told his parents that he wanted to become a Marine, and he wanted to help fight against those who were involved in killing so many of his fellow Americans.
His father is Chris Rodgers, his mother is Jane, and his younger sister is Emily. Blake has a connection to the city by the muddy river. Many people will remember Mary Nell Barlow who, along with her brother Gene were raised by their aunt and uncle, Julia and Reeves Gilbert. Still others will remember C. W. “Chuck” Barlow who was raised by William “Bud” Barlow and who recently passed away after a long illness.
Perhaps not so well remembered would be their sister, Velma Barlow who was raised by her aunt and uncle, Estelle and G. W. Beeland in Griffin. The reason this family of children, all of whom are this writer’s first cousins, were raised by uncles and aunts was because their mother and father had separated and the father, Vance Barlow, (shown below right) at the age of 39 was later tragically killed in an electrical accident. The mother had disappeared. Three families who raised the children were aunts and uncles, children of William Right and Prezzie Wynne Barlow of Hartford, on the eastern side of the Ocmulgee River. The Barlow family—large, (shown below left) but no larger than many others in the turn of the Twentieth Century era—had twelve children of which ten survived to adulthood.
Velma Barlow Pierce shown above with her husband Paul are grandparents to Blake Rodgers.
As a child, Blake enjoyed building—anything his youthful imagination could conjure up — houses, buildings, ships, and planes. Blake built them with his Lego set. As he grew older, Blake played baseball on several youth league teams. He enjoyed camping, hunting, fishing, paintball, airsoft, shooting and just hanging out with his friends. He was a highly accomplished artist. Blake was also an authority on aircraft, a passion he indulged through reading, building models, drawing aircraft, visiting airports and attending air shows. It wouldn’t have been difficult to imagine him as a fighter pilot or aeronautical engineer.
On 9/11 all that changed! Blake, the 11-year-old, witnessed with horror and disbelief as airplanes were used as weapons to attack his people and his country. It was on that day Blake decided to be a Marine. Having made that decision, even at such an early age, Blake set out to make himself as knowledgeable about being a Marine as he had done with his beloved aircraft. He read, studied and played video game simulations in an attempt to glean information about weapons, strategy and tactics. He learned to shoot and became extremely proficient at it.
After graduation, Blake (shown here with sister, Emily and Mother) enlisted in the Marine Corps in July. In October 2008, he left home for the first time, en route to The Marine Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., and Marine boot camp. Almost immediately, Blake began to excel, culminating with his selection as his recruit platoon’s distinguished high scoring marksman. As one might imagine, in a branch of the military service wherein all Marines are riflemen first and anything else secondarily, earning the Expert Rifleman Badge is an accomplishment truly worthy of praise. Blake wore his with pride. (Blake Rodgers achieved his goal of becoming a Marine)

His acknowledged marksmanship prowess notwithstanding, no one, no matter how fit, how smart or how gifted with a rifle, ever becomes a United States Marine without first having endured a 54 hour marathon of fatigue, sleep deprivation and limited rations designed to push recruits far beyond their personal limits of performance and thereby expose the true “don’t quit, never give up” attitude and Marine spirit within them. Coupled with the running, forced road marches with heavy packs, constant barrage of simulated attacks, field problem solving and team and leadership building exercises are put to the test. It is there, in those seemingly unending hours of hell on earth, that the recruit proves, not so much to the instructors, but much more importantly, to himself, that he is worthy of being a United States Marine. That vital self affirmation was memorialized in the small, desert camouflage New Testament that Blake carried during boot camp; where the quote, “I will never give up, never give in, take it as it comes and grow stronger,” was written in his hand, on its inside front cover. The meaning and the rewards that phrase portended were forever etched into Blake’s mind when, on a cold Saturday morning in January 2009, he heard from his drill instructor the words, “Congratulations, Marine.”
At that moment in time, Christopher Blake Rodgers had achieved his goal, a goal he had harbored and single-mindedly pursued since that fateful day in 2001 — he had become a United States Marine.
Upon graduating from boot camp on January 16, 2009, with the rank of private first class, Blake moved on to the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, N.C. While there, he was recognized for his use of novel strategies and tactics in leading his assault team in overtaking a position held by members of the instructor cadre. Upon being overrun by Blake’s team, the surprised and dumbfounded instructors asked where he had learned those techniques. Blake’s reply was that he had devised them during his days of playing paintball and “Navy Squeals,” a takeoff on the movie “Navy SEALS,” with his cousins and friends. So impressed with his methods were the staff that Blake’s techniques are now taught to other
Marines as part of the curriculum there. (shown below left are some of the thousands who lined the highways to show their gratitude to the fallen Marine, and shown right are the Marine Pall Bearers)

Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Blake Rodgers died doing what he loved, for those he loved, with those he loved as brothers at his side, in harm’s way, in a land far away. We can never and will never forget his sacrifice.
Blake Rodgers was killed in action Wednesday September 1, 2010 in the Helmand Providence of Afghanistan, hardly a worthy place to claim the life of such a warrior. Helmand is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
(Below is the presentation of the United States Flag to Blake's Mother who is accompanied by his sister and father)

It is in the southwest of the country. Helmand is the world's largest opium-producing region, responsible for 42% of the world's total production. He was laid to rest Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, a date chosen to commemorate that seminal moment in history wherein the course of our nation was forever changed in the blink of an eye, a date that so affected an eleven-year-old boy from Griffin, Ga., that he dedicated his young life to service and to righting that horrific wrong, a date that irrevocably altered his life, our lives and through his sacrifice, the lives of people he never knew.
Semper Fi Marine

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Picture Show Thompson's Theater

During my childhood, my friends and I would walk south on Jackson Street on our way to the magical display on the wide expanse of the green lawn in front of the home of Picture Show Thompson. It was indeed magical to our youthful eyes. It was the most decorated yard we had ever seen.
Unlike today when everyone seems to be able to decorate their homes and yards for the Christmas Season, people were either too poor or lacked the imagination to turn their home and property into fantasy. After we got there, the equivalent of four blocks from where we lived, we stood in awe at the manger scene, the wise men, the shepherds abiding their flocks and even Jolly Saint Nick in his sleigh following the reindeer—minus the now famous Rudolph who had not yet been created. I remember it passionately, wishing the characters could move around and greet all of us. In reality, they were cut-outs from wood—painted and decorated to celebrate the season—but all the wishing would not turn them into a live scene.
Just when we thought it could get no better, Picture Show Thompson did the same thing by bringing all the Joel Chandler Harris characters from “Song of the South” a wonderful movie about Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, Brer Fox and especially our beloved Uncle Remus to his lawn—probably in the Spring—while promoting the great movie. If he had never done anything other than to thrill the residents of the city by the muddy river with his wonderful lawn decorations, he would have put himself in the minds and hearts of many young people. But that wasn’t all he did for us. Through his movies, we learned how to go on adventures with the Durango Kid, Roy Rogers, Lash LaRue and of course he taught us to laugh at the likes of the funny sidekicks, Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes and Fuzzy St. John. He brought us a weekly villain to teach us how to cheer for the good guys—cowboys with white hats—each week and to learn right from wrong by showing us that the bad guys might get away with evil deeds, for awhile, but not in the end.

Who was this man we called Picture Show Thompson and where did he come from to enter into our lives with his magic?
He was born on the cusp of the Twentieth Century, 1896, in a small village in Alabama named Detroit. He was educated in Amory, Mississippi and took his first job in Memphis, Tennessee as a messenger boy for Western Union before relocating to Dallas, Texas where he and the movie business got acquainted. He became an usher, and later a doorman, for the Old Mill Theater. That was in 1917-18.
Afterwards, he entered the selling business and his product was theater advertising, which he did for several years.
Later, he began to sell films for Fox Corporation in Atlanta.
His son-in-law, Guerry Boone Stribling, now deceased, who married Thompson’s first-born daughter, Sandra, remembers some of the humorous stories about the man who brought the merriment into our lives through the talking pictures. “During those days of selling films,” Stribling said, “Pappy, as our children lovingly called him, told of an incident which showed his ability to create a reason for people to purchase films from him. He drove a truck in those days loaded with films. He parked in front of the local theater, got out and put up a display telling about a film he had concerning a man named Floyd Collins who had become national news when he got stuck and lost in a cave in Kentucky. After putting up the display, Pappy walked down the street to have a cup of coffee. He told me when he returned there were at least a hundred people standing around the display clamoring for a way to see the film. The theater owner came out to him and pulled him aside to make a deal to get the film. He was a hustler and a showman. He really enjoyed dressing up in a cowboy outfit.”

His daughter, Sandra believes that he was a frustrated actor who would have loved being a movie star—probably a cowboy actor.
In 1931, he made a life altering move when he purchased a small theater in the tiny town of Hawkinsville. The theater was named the Princess, and his career kicked into overdrive when he later purchased the Princess in Eastman, the Princess in Baxley and the Auditorium Theater in Cochran. With the growing company, he decided to incorporate and named the business, All-Amusement, Inc. The early years—1931-1933 were not all business as he met and married a beauty named Ernestine Milam. The couple had their first child, Sandra Faith Thompson in 1934 and the next year he merged his business with a Columbus man named Roy E. Martin and the name of the corporation changed to Martin and Thompson Theaters, Inc. with Thompson serving as President in 1935.
The man we called Picture Show Thompson had the unlikely name of John Herman Thompson, but was known by associates and friends as Tommy Thompson. Although he was heavily involved in his chosen profession as Vice president of the Georgia Southeastern Theater Owners Association, Thompson never was shy about participating in civic affairs of his new community, having served for two years as president of the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, and as Vice-president of the Pulaski County Fair Association. Perhaps it was his high energy level that got him appointed as the Chairman of the one hundred year Centennial Celebration of Hawkinsville garnering headlines in the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Newspaper for the successful festivities.
As a credit to his business sense and/or his desire to keep his adopted hometown in the loop with movies, he apparently took a deep breath and moved ahead with a plan after a tragic fire demolished the beloved Princess Theater in downtown Hawkinsville in the 1940s. This writer remembers seeing the theater after it was destroyed and wondering what our lives would be like without Roy and Dale, Gene Autry, Charles Starrett, Alan “Rocky” Lane, Lash LaRue and Sunset Carson.
Picture Show Thompson, the man we had come to depend on for our Saturday entertainment did not miss a beat. He immediately arranged for some temporary building changes to the old City Auditorium—now known as the Old Opera House—and suddenly we had movies again until the re-building of the new theater complete with a new name, The Thompson Theater became part of our lives.
In another move, during the 1950s, we were introduced to a new medium by Picture Show Thompson. Movies underneath the stars—the M&T Drive-in Theater! I remember clearly the opening movie being Ma & Pa Kettle, a hilarious couple with a large family, a bossy mother and a sedentary father who all made us laugh.
At the Thompson, he had on stage such cowboys as Lash LaRue and the bad guy, Jack O’Shea, Tex Ritter who sat on stage singing his hit song, “Rye Whiskey.”

Dan Duryea who played Black Bart in the film with the same name came to our town and paraded throughout the city in Thompson’s Cadillac while many of us chased the car on our bicycles.
But in the early 1950s even in the heyday of movies, a new phenomenon was lurking in the background that would change everything for the dynamic showman who brought many movie stars to our small community. It was something called television, but the great movie showman was not worried. He even rejected the offer from his partner Roy Martin to get into the television business, thinking it would not last.
“Pappy said that three things would save his movie business,” his son-in-law said. “They were Bill Haley’s movie “Rock Around the Clock,” Elvis Presley and popcorn. He really didn’t believe TV would amount to anything.”
Today, the vacant shells of old theaters sit empty in small towns across America, a sad reminder of a great past and the great owners of local entertainment. The newspaper which prints this article stands now in the same location of the old Princess and later the Thomson Theater. A cemetery is now located in the spot where Ma & Pa Kettle made us laugh.
As the famous movie star, Bob Hope would say, “Thanks for the Memories.” Picture Show Thompson will always be in our wonderful thoughts of what used to be.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hall! Office! Zero!

I was still young, albeit by most standards—with the exception of older brothers and sisters who for some reason thought they should be able to tell me what I could do by virtue of being the youngest of seven children—over 25 years-old and with a family of five or six of us. I lose count. (Shown to the right are my wife, Sheila, my parents, Ellis and Lola and four of our children in 1972. L-R Beth, Sheri, and Julie and in my ever-loving arms, Sam, Jr.)
It should be noted that my favorite comeback to my elder siblings was, “I put the grits on my table; I’ll make the decision, sans your advice.”
I was about to embark on a college career thanks to the GI Bill for veterans. At the time, we were living in Warner Robins. I decided to attend Middle Georgia College and to seek a degree in Business Administration. I arrived at the college and went to the assigned testing area to take my College Entrance exam. There were quite a few people, mostly freshly graduated from high school and one or two my age or in that vicinity.
I could not believe it when I looked up to the front of the room and spotted a very familiar face, one I had not seen perhaps since my days in high school.
My mind immediately drifted back some ten or twelve years and into my high school math class. As the teacher scanned the role, she called out the names of my classmates and she paused only slightly when she came to one name. She called out my name with an edge of bitterness to it. “Crenshaw!” To my credit, I answered promptly with either a here or present which seemed to rankle her. Was it just my imagination or did she growl slightly?
Well, the answer came instantly! She did growl! “Mister, I had your brother in my class for two years, and you can just forget acting like him. Do you understand me? He didn’t get away with it and neither will you! Are we clear? Do you understand me?” she asked without leaving room for an answer. (Sam at age 17 looking truly innocent, don't you agree)
That was the beginning of a tumultuous couple of years in which her weapon was bullying me and others whom she had reason to suspect she needed to bully. I should explain that the nature of a “brilliant teenager” is one in which he seeks an opening for a laughter-induced remark. Inevitably, it probably wasn’t worth it, because she would pullout her grade book and say, that’s it! You get a zero!
In time, she put up with any rebellion even less and shortened it to something that I recall as, “Hup! Hup! Hall! Office! Zero!” while folding her arms across her ample bosom and pointing toward the door. As the man said when the Hindenburg crashed and burned, “Oh the humanity of it!”
Somehow, I managed a C+ for my four years of high school, but when I looked at the familiar face supervising the College Entrance Exam, I shook with humiliation and fear from my strange high school days. There is little doubt that she had looked over the last of names of those of us who were scheduled to take the test, because, when I raised my hand in an attempt to ask where I should put my name on the test sheet, she flew into a rage and went directly into her past life.
“No sir! Not in here, Mister! This is college! You will not be allowed to disrupt this test!”
“I just want to know where----.” She cut me off and looked around the room at all of the nervous little kids from high school for their approval of how she had just handled her former student.
I raised the white flag of surrender and just printed my name on the paper where I thought it should go.
Oh the trauma I suffered!
Purchase my book "Stories From the Cotton Patch" by ordering from Sam Crenshaw, 966 Barlow Road, Hawkinsville, GA 31036. $10 plus $3 S & H.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Something’s Happening Here

The musical group, Buffalo Springfield recorded a song that started as follows:
There's something happening here,
What it is ain't exactly clear.
There's a man with a gun over there,
Telling me I got to beware.
Quite frankly, I never paid a lot of attention to it, however in today’s world, I suggest that we may need to take heed to what’s happening here and now.
There are too many troublesome things that are happening that may change our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren as well.

At the beginning of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did his dead-level best to keep us neutral and out of the horrendous things that were happening in Europe and in the Pacific. The old hide your head in the sand and hope it will go away syndrome. Then Pearl Harbor was attacked brutally and mercilessly by the Empire of Japan one early Sunday morning in one of the deadliest sneak attacks in history.
America declared war on Japan! History records that the horrible act drug us into World War II, followed immediately by Hitler’s Nazi Regime declaring war on us. We were in that war less than a quarter century after the end of World War I which had brought Germany to its knees. Men left farms, jobs and families as they enlisted and were drafted into branches of the military to battle enemies on both continents. Before it ended in 1945, over 3,000,000 lives were sacrificed for the effort to bring America to the forefront as the greatest power in the world. Once again, Germany was shattered in defeat—Adolph Hitler was dead of suicide, but it would take more than that to defeat the tyrannical Japanese military which had inflicted the horrors of death and punishment upon the POWs who were captured. Japan was withdrawing to their homeland and declared to fight to the last warrior.
President Harry S Truman made that impossible when he unleashed two atomic bombs—the world’s first weapons of mass destruction—on major cities of the land of the rising sun. Then, and only then did the Japanese quit. Power made them do so.
Today, our nation has elected a man, half-White and half Black who says he is Black and many people were proud that this nation had shown that kind of greatness to elect for the first time in history, a man of color.
He campaigned brilliantly on “hope and change” and he was elected in a landslide over former POW, Senator John McCain. To say that Barack Obama was vague in his pledges would be an understatement. After a little over a year, the President and a majority of Democratic Congressmen and Senators have shown there is little doubt that the change part is for real.
If you think for one minute that it is over, you had better think again.
The Health Bill that was rammed through Congress and signed into law by Mister Obama is being challenged by many, but he has clearly stated that it will not be repealed, even if the Republican Party takes back the majority in either the House and/or Senate, because he will veto such an effort as long as he is in office. There is a clear majority of Americans who feel the bill should not have been passed and will turn our medical care and facilities into a form of socialism.
A great number of people have formed a movement called The Tea Party with protests against the Health bill as well as other items on the agenda. A brand new survey indicates that only 22% of the American people trust our government. That is a sad state of affairs.
Many feathers have been ruffled by the words of President Obama as he has gone around to other countries stating that America is an arrogant nation and offered apologies for this nation’s behavior. He has on his agenda an effort to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world. To say that would be a lofty goal, recalling the words of our enemies around the world who have been extremely vocal about destroying our nation’s freedom and liberty.

It is not just about the brutal attack of September 11, 2001 when four planes were hijacked and used as weapons to destroy the Twin towers of the World Trade Center and an open attack against the Pentagon both—including the fourth plane where all lives were taken in a crash in a field over the Pennsylvania countryside—resulting in thousands of innocent lives being destroyed. No!

This open attack on our nation has been underway for many years by the radical Muslim extremists. Remember the Muslim bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland! Remember the Muslim bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993! Remember the Muslim bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon! Remember the Muslim bombing of the Military Barracks in Saudi Arabia! Remember the Muslim bombing of the American Embassies in Africa! Remember the Muslim bombing of the USS Cole!
Destroying our nuclear advantage by giving up our arsenal which is the only thing that keeps us safe against the despots who wish to destroy our way of living is akin to the many successful attempts to disarm Americans, taking away our Second Amendment rights of the Constitution. Don’t ever forget the adage of when they take our guns away, only the bad guys will have guns. History is rife with examples of this.
In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Defenseless people that have been rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control number in excess of 56 million. I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment and I fall into the category who use the line so elegantly put by the late Charlton Heston when he said, “From my cold dead hands!”
Some time ago, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House said, “In the future he plans to speak out publicly about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.
He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, bomb attacks in India, Iran and North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III. He said. “We need to connect all the dots for Americans.”
He said the reluctance to put those pieces together and see one global conflict is hurting America’s interests. He said people, including some who urge a restrained response from Israel are wrong, “because they haven’t crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war.”
“This is World War III,” Gingrich said. And once that’s accepted, he said calls for restraint would fall away.
According to a report by the Associated Press, President Barack Obama snapped back at Sarah Palin and her criticisms about his nuclear defense policy, calling the former Alaska governor “not much of an expert on nuclear issues.”

Obama's comments came when asked for a response about a Palin critique that “he was like a kid poised for a playground fight who said ‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.”
“I really have no response,” Obama told ABC News. “Because last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on nuclear issues.”
The interview occurred in Prague, where Obama signed a treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that orders both nations to shrink their nuclear arsenals. That deal that must still be ratified by the Russian Parliament and the U.S. Senate.
Palin was referring to another development on the nuclear front this week, a rewriting of American nuclear strategy.
Among many other elements of that new plan, the U.S. makes plain that if a non-nuclear nation is in compliance with an international non-proliferation treaty, the United States will not threaten or use nuclear weapons against it.
If such a state were to use chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. or its allies, it would face a potentially devastating conventional military strike by the U.S., but not a nuclear one.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For the Love of a River

A couple of years ago, Publisher Chuck Southerland of the Hawkinsville Dispatch & News had a vision to bring an Oral History Forum of the Ocmulgee River—a main portion of a living history of Pulaski County—to the historic stage of the Old Opera House.
His idea was to have citizens of our community, who had different perspectives, talk about how the muddy river has been a huge part of Hawkinsville and Pulaski County.
The public was invited to hear first-hand accounts of how the river has played a role in various parts of our lives.
First on the agenda, was eighty-two-year-old Sam Way III, a historian extraordinaire, of no small amount of knowledge concerning the history of the river and our county. Way pointed out that the development of history follows the rivers and trails of the world. When the European settlers came to the shores of this new land on the southeastern coast of what is today the United States of America, they found tribes of Indians living on the coastal plains. As more and more Europeans came ashore, they began to push the tribes inland. The Indians followed the Ogeechee River first and as they were forced to move on, they took to the Oconee River and finally to the Ocmulgee River. (Dedication of Bridge across the Ocmulgee River in 1917 drew a large crowd.)

They settled in this area and finally the Europeans came here as well, forcing the natives further west onto what we know today as the Flint River.
Just east of the Ocmulgee River, a small settlement was named Hartford, and because of the river and the ability to cross it where some rocks made it easy to do so, coupled with this area being a heavy cotton producing region, the small community began to become of great consequence. As Way told us in his talk that day, transportation was practically all by river, and the Ocmulgee following northward to Macon helped our area become even more significant in the trade and supplies which were a result of river travel.
Today, people can drive right through tiny Hartford, the area which at one time was a border town, and as a matter of history, it was one of the communities which were nominated to become the State Capitol of Georgia—losing by one vote as history has recorded it. The area along the banks of the Ocmulgee River connected by rocks was later named the Uchee Trail after the Indian tribes who lived here and finally to the Flint River where it ended in Macon County.
Again, keeping in mind that rivers and trails developed the history of the world, it is important to know that other trails came through our area.
The second trail was known as the DeSoto Trail discovered and named for the Spanish explorer, Hernando DeSoto who was looking for gold. After exploring through Florida, he later became famous for discovering the Mississippi River.
The third trail was known as Slosheye and it traversed to Vienna, a city which has become famous for its cotton production and its barbecue contest annually known as the Big Pig Jig which brings in folks from across the country to compete.

The fourth trail was named after Jefferson Davis the President of the Confederate States of America.
It was named after the political leader because he was making a desperate attempt to escape the Union forces which were hot on his trail. He was finally captured on the morning of May 10, 1865 in Irwin County in the small community of Irwinville. Speculation is that he may have spent one of his final nights of freedom in Pulaski County near the Ocmulgee River.
The fifth trail was named for the Chickasaw Indians. That trail runs from nearby Empire through Hartford, and is known today as the Chicken Road. Those trails along with the remarkable muddy river we know as the Ocmulgee were important in bringing five railroad lines into Hawkinsville during those historic times.
They were the Macon-Hawkinsville RR, the WT RR from Sandersville through Dublin to Hartford where it turned around and headed back eastward. The Hawkinsville and Florida Southern RR left here and headed south to Pineview-Pitts-Cordele and on down to Ashburn. The Hawkinsville & Western RR came in our direction from Browndale, and lastly, the Ocilla Southern RR came in from Irwin County and then left Hawkinsville en route to Fort Valley. Today, a railroad track is difficult to find in Pulaski County, most having been paved over.
John Calvin Hadden, Jr. a son of the last Riverboat Captain—who captained stern-wheeler steamboats up and down the Ocmulgee River—remembered the story of his father waving to a young woman who was fishing on the banks of the river, and she waving back in turn. The couple finally met and later married.
Around 1958, a group of men, approximately 200 plus, formed a charter of boat owners and some of the most fast-paced and exciting times ever took place on the muddy river as the boat club members raced for trophies to the enjoyment of many citizens who were celebrating the sesquicentennial of Pulaski County. Some of those who took part, other than Hadden, included Emmett Head, Ed Darsey and Mark Hall. How many people cross the bridges over the Ocmulgee River today without even a glance? There is much history in our muddy river! Some men such as Thomas Herrington and the late George Slappey taught their sons (George Slappey, DDS Retired, below) the value and enjoyment of fishing and hunting from the banks of the river.

Others like my brothers and I enjoyed the river of our youth while we were growing up within a stone’s throw of a splash. Most of us who have been on the river have tried our hand at water skiing at one time or another as did my old friend, Wendell Greer, grandson of Railroad Station Master, J. K. Greer.

On one occasion, with me pulling Wendell, my daredevil buddy spotted a water moccasin swimming across the river, but instead of trying to avoid him, he directed his skis on top of the deadly snake. Brave or crazy! Your guess is as good as mine! He enjoyed pulling me past where the sewer used to flow into the river and make a quick turn forcing me to sink right in there. Maybe he was just crazy.
This article would be incomplete without mentioning two things: floods and people who drowned. In 1994, we saw the river at its all-time recorded high when a good portion of old Hartford was underwater.
Through the years, quite a number of people have drowned in the Ocmulgee River because of a lack of respect for the swirling sink holes in it. If you want to hear first-hand knowledge of the danger that can lurk in our river ask Ed Darsey, a man who literally grew up swimming and fishing in the muddy waters and he has a true love of the Ocmulgee River.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adventures in Camping

We began camping in 1968—wow! That is over forty years ago—when we rented a pop-up camper and headed west, as in Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. At that time, we had never so much as put up a pup tent, nor had we ever cooked outside the confines of our kitchen.
To make it interesting, we planned the trip with my brother, Billy, whose family lives in Florida. They made the first leg of the journey to our home in middle Georgia. We spent the night in our house placing pallets everywhere to accommodate them and their five children and ourselves and our four children. Did I say they also were camping virgins.
We spread maps which we had acquired from AAA in Macon, and the debate was on about which route we should take. We felt confident—with strength in numbers—that we were up to the task. The plan was to get an early start and to make it as far as possible the first day, thereby gauging the length of time it would take us to get out west. What is the old saying about, “the best laid plans of men and mice,” or something like that. My memory is vague at this time as to why we were delayed in our effort for an early start, but a good guess would be that the women-folks probably had to stop at the grocery store.
Once on the road with the wind in our face and the miles spilling out behind us, we made good time, I think? Let’s see now. It is approximately 115 miles to Phenix City, Alabama, our first stop on the journey west. Where is my calculator? At this rate, we would need several weeks to reach Texas.

Actually, we made much better time the second day, arriving at a very crowded state park in Missouri. We were excited as we set up our campsites for the night. Everything was fine until the storm hit in buckets of rain.
How were the kids supposed to know the canvas covering on the camper would leak if they touched it? It was a very wet night, and everything was thoroughly soaked.
Alas! Better days were ahead as we decided to push the envelope by driving through the night. Ahh! To be young, and full of adventure. By the time we stopped in the foothills of Colorado, which seemed like mountains to us, we decided to make camp. How were we supposed to know that pancake batter would bubble up in the thin air of the high peaks, and how were we supposed to know that our Coleman stove would not light because of the thin air? Petty obstacles! A sure cure for that is Vienna Sausages. The thin air did not stop us from opening the cans.

We learned much from our two-week journey west, and we loved the adventure of it—seeing places we would not have seen otherwise. After our return home we began looking for our own camper to purchase, and became avid campers for the next three decades. Our children have so many memories—that money can’t buy—of those years.
Family values can be strengthened by the adventures of camping. Put it to the test, and enjoy the great outdoors!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dirt Roads and Two-lanes

So many things have happened to the world which we knew throughout our youth. Occasionally, I receive e-mails from folks who have dug up Burma Shave signs somewhere in cyberspace and think I would like to see them.
Well, I do! Growing up in the city by the muddy river, I never dreamed there were other worlds outside the realms of our tiny community. For instance, a rare trip to Atlanta found my school class going to the Capitol to see, shake hands with, and receive an autographed picture from Governor Herman Talmadge.

I think I was thrilled, but not overwhelmed by it. I much more enjoyed my first trip to the world famous Cyclorama, a hand painted wonder of the Battle of Atlanta. It looked so real, and I was struck by the manner in which the artists were able to blend in real clay with the heavy oil painting. For certain, it was like being there during the battle. In those days of my youth, they even put in a portion of the Cyclorama that was taken from the movie classic, “Gone with the Wind.” To my youthful mind, it seemed natural that part of the classical painting should be from the immortal film.
There was no Six Flags over Georgia nor the World of Coca Cola or other things which people go the “Big A” to visit today. Oh sure, there was a Stone Mountain, but back then there was nothing but the huge granite rock—no Laser Show.

In other words, a trip to Atlanta was basically a long drive into another world.
There were no Interstate highways, and to be sure there was not nearly the traffic jams known by any visitors to Atlanta today.
On the trek to Atlanta it seemed to take all day long on a trip up and back in one day. Of course we were young and there were games to make the trip more enjoyable. Does anyone besides me remember Cow Poker, counting cows, old gray mules lone-standing chimneys and of course having all the points erased if a cemetery should appear on your side of the road?
In those days, we used to entertain ourselves with counting the B. Lloyd Pecans signs on the curvy road through Roberta, Barnesville and Griffin. Another group of restaurant signs belonged to Stuckey’s Candy, a great place to take a break from the laborious trip.
To be sure, there were no McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger Kings to stop for lunch. There was a Krystal here and there, and yes the small square burgers—more bun than burger—cost only nine cents each, but we may have only had a dollar for the entire trip. A dollar was not easy to come by. No one had come up with something called an allowance, at least at our house.
Regardless of our feelings for the day long journey in those days, they seem to remind me of the pre-Interstate highway days when roads were two-lane and side roads were mostly dirt. Associated with those kinds of roads today are some classical and historical towns at the end of them. But take caution, and run, don’t walk because even the most wonderful places in our beloved state are fast going the way of the modern era.
Nothing is sacred wherein developers and builders are concerned. In the 1970s prior to my mother’s death, we took her to the North Georgia Mountains and to the quaint, little Swiss Village of Helen, Georgia prior to the population explosion.
We could actually walk around without bumping or being bumped as we sampled their cheese and crackers and other goodies. It was a treat for my mother which I will never forget. A basic non-traveler, she thirsted for, and drank in the scenery of the pristine mountains of forty years ago. My last trip to Helen involved a traffic jam and a very slow trip through a basically noisy place for the younger set to drink, laugh and talk loud at modern-looking bars and taverns.
If you have never been across Blood Mountain, you should experience it once in your lifetime. It is better than a roller coaster of any magnitude. Even in the mountains which can become too crowded in the Fall of the year, there are still some two-lane roads which have escaped the widening of those very roads by the heavy caterpillars and cranes which are taking them away from we the people.
Many of us talk about the sadness, lack of security, and terrible condition of the world situation which turns us away from traveling abroad to see the wonders of the earth, but most of us have yet to see the wonders of America and what this land of plenty has to offer.
Even more so, most of us live a life too involved in speed and crowded four lane and Interstate roads. We’re in too big a hurry to get where we think we want to be to get out and drive on dirt roads or take two lanes to small towns such as Ideal, Byromville, Ty Ty, Claxton, Parrot, Attapulgus, Cherry Log, Elberton, Hiawassee, Sylvania, Eatonton, Haddock, Jesup, Talking Rock, Buena Vista, and those places are just a few of the small, historic towns which have so much to offer. Even the wacky things in some towns such as Warwick, self-named “The Grits Capitol of the World” where people make, eat and enjoy the southern staple.
They even have a contest wherein people get into a huge vat full of grits with overalls and are given a few minutes to load up with wet freshly-cooked grits—pockets, sleeves, trousers, ears, and hair—to see who weighs the most additional pounds after a pre-weight has been recorded—all in fun of course.
The good thing about visiting these small treasure-troves of small towns, attainable by two-lane and dirt roads, is they are terrorist-free.
Enjoy Georgia first!