Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: Papa and The Macon Telegraph

Papa was a short, spare man, perhaps 5-feet 6-inches, and on a good, full day, 150 pounds. In my mind’s eye, I can see him hitching up the mule and planting the corn, drawing water from the well, milking the cow or repairing the little back porch with the sink where he kept the watermelon seeds spread out on a paper to dry for next year’s planting.

Grandma, a saintly woman, ran the house and also fed the chickens, sewed, washed, cooked two hot meals a day (breakfast and what we called “dinner,” with dinner leftovers for supper), gathered the garden proceeds and tended to her flowers with me spraying DDT on them with a spray gun that had a “quart-can-looking container” holding the poison.

I’d visit in the summers and at other times, including Christmas. I loved it. I loved the visiting, and I loved them.

Grandma cooked the best peach tarts in the world, and she was just as sweet as the sugar she poured on the fruit. Papa could make anything, including slingshots for me.

Grandma and Papa’s house stood at the confluence of Centralia Rachels and Sparta-Davisboro dirt roads. The house was always dusty and was hot in summer and cold in winter. The house had a fence around it. The fence was in part to keep the chickens out of Grandma’s flowers. The yard was bare of grass and weeds, and was broom-sage swept clean, sometimes by me.

This is another picture I have in my mind. It’s about 1952. I’m 10 years old, and it’s dinnertime. Papa has taken his brogans off and dropped them on the back porch. He sits in his squeaky rocking chair clothed in white socks, a blue set of overalls and a long-sleeve shirt.

Papa, in his early days, was tending toward a red-head (I suspect he had Irish in him), and he did not take well to the sun (which, of course, he was in constantly). Grandma is frying the chicken for dinner.

“Larry, I believe Mr. Ralph Duggan has run, and the paper should be in the mailbox (the mailbox is at the corner of the house site facing Sparta-Davisboro Road). Please go get it for me.” I do, and he sits and rocks and reads The Macon Telegraph which he apparently reads six days a week, year-round. This paper and The Progressive Farmer were the only two things I ever saw Papa read.

Grandma reads the Bible, every night, out loud to Papa and me. And she prays and requires me to “say my prayers” out loud and down on my knees. She also reads her Sunday School lessons, which will be discussed at Pinehill Methodist Church, and The Macon Telegraph.

This was my introduction to this paper in which my first article appears today. And an unforgettable introduction it was.

Time, as always, passes, and Janice and I end up buying this little “mule farm” and very modest farmhouse. And at some time, probably in the early 1990s, we decided to take up the linoleum in the den/bedroom/dressing and gathering room to put down carpet. Under the removed linoleum, being used as insulation, is a copy of The Macon Telegraph probably dated in late 1946 with headlines reporting on Georgia’s infamous “three governors controversy.”

I sent this yellowed and fragile copy of The Macon Telegraph to Sen. Herman Talmadge and received a letter back from him declaring that “these were squirrelly times.” To Grandma and Papa, I’m sure that these were simply “hard times.”

I like The Telegraph, formerly The Macon Telegraph. I think it is a good and worthy paper, well done and wise expenditures of a reader’s time and money. I never thought when I’d go out to get the Ralph Duggan-delivered paper for Papa that one day I’d have an article in it. I wish Papa was still here to read it.

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.