It’s Independence Day, Monday, July 4, 2016, and I’m up early reading. This time it’s “Light in August” by William Faulkner, and as I’m already past page 300, I believe that for the first time, I’m going to finish a William Faulkner book.
Janice gets up later, walks through the room and asks if I want a bowl of cereal and peaches. Just the thought of those gifted, delicious Taylor County, Wainwright peaches prompts a quick answer, “yes,” and in a few minutes I’m enjoying a delicious first meal of the day.
So, as I eat the peaches, Rice Krispies, Cheerios, sugar and milk, where does my mind go? Just like most times, it’s back to the 1950s, probably 1957, and Charlie Etheridge and I are putting labels on baskets as the full bushels bump down the conveyer belt at Tabor’s packing shed in Peach County about 10 miles north of Perry.
I haven’t seen Charlie Etheridge a dozen times in the last 50 years, and our total conversations in that time haven’t lasted an hour, but peaches always remind me of Charlie. I would slap on glue to the side of the round basket with a brush and he would put a label identifying the brand followed by another shot of glue brushed across the label. Then after an hour, or so, we would change stools and jobs.
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Occasionally, we would handwrite notes and place them in the baskets which read something like this: “Help, two young boys are being held captive in a peach packing shed in Middle Georgia. Charlie and Larry.” No rescue attempt was ever made. I always think of Charlie Etheridge when I eat peaches.
I have a poster from the 1940s of Herman Talmadge announcing a gubernatorial campaign rally in Greensboro on Friday, May 19, at 3 p.m. It was given to me by Carey Williams, owner and editor of The Herald Journal in Greensboro, and I am very proud of it. It hangs in our barn in Perry with other political and family memorabilia.
Let me say this: I knew Talmadge personally. I quail hunted and broke bread with him on numerous occasions. I liked him very much, and I miss him. But, when I look at my “Carey Williams — Herman Talmadge poster,” it’s not Herman that I think of directly. What I think of is two former state senators, Bobby Rowan and George Hooks, and, how, in a large group that used to try to imitate “Humman,” they were the best. They were sometimes better than Talmadge himself, and were hilariously funny, and that’s what I think of, today, in 2016.
My daddy was in the farm equipment business for about 40 years, and I had a variety of experiences at what, during my youth, was Gray-Walker Tractor Co. But despite my many hours of working there and going all over Middle Georgia with Daddy, as he tried to and did sell equipment, none of my lasting and often “called-up memories” are of these things.
My first “Gray-Walker memory” has to do with Mr. Donald Brand, a fine man — Daddy’s first employee — and how in trying to tease me that he was going to paint my hair with a paint gun, he actually painted it orange, a good and complete job, much to the chagrin of my mother.
And then, it was when Daddy and Grandbuddy (my grandfather Gray) built a new and what I thought was the biggest building I’d ever seen, and Daddy let me write my name on the side of the building in the wet cement. It’s still there, today, (as the home of The Perry Players) as is my name and the year “1947.” I was 5 years old.
Lastly, both as to the tractor place and this article, is another lasting memory and it’s kinda like life itself. I think it was in the summer, and I was probably 12 years old or so when Daddy got a call at night that Mr. Sam Nunn Sr.’s blue lupine (a plant with pods that contain seeds that I remember it being a plant that enhanced the fertility of the soil and was promoted by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service) was popping out of the pods and had to be harvested immediately lest all was lost. And, I remember that we went out to Mr. Sam’s farm with equipment, that night, and that men used the equipment and helped him harvest the lupine.
You know, life is like Mr. Sam’s lupine. You don’t know what’s going to pop up or pop out next. And my memories are like the lupine. I don’t know what I’ll think of next, but it’s usually pretty interesting, at least to me.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry, Georgia. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly, and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org