In Search of Atticus Finch

There was a time in the South when it hung all about us, when we felt it with all our senses. It was a mist and fog of a land untouched by thorny past that marred its beauty.  Walking down a road in the hot, musty summer days was as much an adventure as the eventual destination.  The canopied dirt or clay or asphalt two laner seemed like our own private path. Verdant greens enveloped us and gave off delightful aromas, honeysuckle floated out over the sweetness of decomposing leaves falling amidst brown rich soil steaming from the dissolving rains. Dripping canopy and chirping melodies accompanied us. A sprig of sassafras pulled from the soft earth, washed in a stream, satisfied the urge to completely immerse ourselves in the land. It was an intoxicating addictive brew that generated a peaceful welcoming sense of place.

Perhaps there was a house at the end of the road or path. A wood framed house with a wraparound porch and a rusty old tin roof. Maybe it was painted once, years ago, maybe it had been white. It smelled of wood smoke and cracklings, hard fried in a sculptured iron skillet on a top burner soon to be dumped into a pone of cornmeal and buttermilk and dipped in molasses or cane syrup.

The old folk that lived in these houses knew the past and some could tell it in ways that have been mostly abandoned now. It was the old folk that had to tell because the middle ones still had to forgo the front porch in order to pay the mortgage and buy groceries and other such mundane stuff.  They had to speak quickly with others that were in a hurry too and had no time to speak in harmony with their heritage.

Sometimes we were lucky and we found one already looking for us and we drew one another on to the front porch. We ate the pone and washed it down with cold rich sweet milk that had been chilling in the creek and listened.

Kathryn Tucker Windham was one of those story tellers. I did not meet her but I know her, she sat on the front porch and taught me, with style and grace, to be Southern . RIP Kathryn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j2Omlyu00E

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6 Responses

  1. Nice, Pt. Very poetic and evocative. I once felt the presence of ghosts…or something….at Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, AL in Mobile Bay.

  2. Well thanks FN. It is true one writes best about what one knows well. I myself have never had a ghost experience. Once I had a dream about 2 people I had worked with but hadn’t interacted with in several years. The next morning one called to tell me the other had passed. It was freaky scary.

    I am sorry I missed Ms Wyndham in life, she is very much like my childhood memories of front porch talks with people in Red Level and Evergreen Ala. Very strong maternal influence.

    I have only recently discovered my paternal genealogy never having met any of them until age 53. It is my hope to continue writing about that and my love of the South. I have apparently always been searching for Atticus for a reason I am just beginning to understand.

  3. > Verdant greens enveloped us and gave off delightful aromas, honeysuckle
    > floated out over the sweetness of decomposing leaves falling amidst brown
    > rich soil steaming from the dissolving rains.

    > It is my hope to continue writing about that and my love of the South.

    The language in this post tells me you can write fiction for sure PT. I do not think in that evocative way.

  4. I totally agree with spencercourt. I hope you’ll tell us more stories. You know, I’ve lived in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida…and then, a short two years in Iowa. It was a grand adventure, and there is much to recommend Iowa, but I found myself longing for the South for reasons I still can’t put into words. The best I can do is say that I missed the heat, the greenness, and the contradictions.
    As for Fort Gaines and the ghosts…I’m not sure what it is about that place. It isn’t as well-visited as its sister fort, Fort Morgan. So you can be there and it’s very empty, and the wind is blowing and whistling off the Gulf, and you can just feel the presence of the people who were there. I feel stupid even saying that, since as we all know (!), I’m not the spiritual type 🙂 But my companion Art felt it too, and he was even less spiritual than I am, if that’s even possible 🙂 There is a spookiness but a beauty about the place. I hope one day you get a chance to see it for yourself. Here’s a link:
    http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fortgainesal.html

  5. You expressed those feelings I’m not able to put into words perfectly. This was a perfect post.

  6. Aw shucks guys! 🙂

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