Stories from my little corner of the world, the South. Some are from the present, some from the past...but all are from my heart.

They reflect my thoughts and views, my musing about the world, and each carries with it a bit of my heart
and soul.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Something to think about...

I'm going to try really hard to keep this in mind in the coming me it says to make your own happiness, be true to yourself, no matter what others or outside forces are doing or trying to "make" you do or be.

Just be YOU and TRUE to yourself.

Christmas Tree..OOOHHH Christmas Tree

There's nothing that gets us in the mood for Christmas like getting a tree to decorate. Most of us have fond recollections of such an excursion. I have a memory of a time when I was young, and my mother and aunt decided to take my cousin Tony and me into the forest to find a tree. The excursion had an unexpected turn of events that none of us would soon forget.

If my momma had her way, we wouldn't have gone into the woods for our Christmas tree that year. She would have preferred having one of those flashy aluminum trees which were all the rage in the early 60's. Their silvery shine, alluringly illuminated by strategically placed spotlights in the window of Kressie's Department store, had caught her eye on our last visit to Waycross. She hinted how beautiful one would look in our house, to which my father snorted, "Why would I want to pay for a fake Christmas tree when we can go out in the woods and cut a real one!"

Momma had been after Daddy to cut us a tree, but he was busy with work and often didn't get in until after dark. Ever resourceful and more than a little miffed about not getting what she wanted, she took matters into her own hands. She called Aunt Lenora and suggested that the two of them, with Tony and me in tow, should go cut their own tree. Who said they had to wait on a man to cut down a tree and bring it in? Yes sir, even way back then, in 1963, my mother was a feminist!

We left our house early that Saturday morning in our little Ford Falcon. We drove only about fifteen minutes to reach our intended destination, an old farm place where a hundred years earlier hardy pioneer settlers had roughed it in this swampy, formidable part of southern Georgia. As a testament to their fortitude, part of the old fat lighter house was still standing. All around it, where there was once a vegetable garden and a barn, were many cedar trees of various shapes and sizes.

We trekked to the front of the house, Momma carrying the ax. Aunt Lenora had a ball of twine to wind around the limbs and tie the trees to the car. Momma and I wandered to the left of the house while Aunt Lenora and Tony took off to the right. The grownups called back and forth to one another when a likely prospect was sighted for inspection by the whole group. Although we were only six and four, Tony and I were given an equal vote in selecting the trees. After about thirty minutes, both households were satisfied that the perfect selections had been made.

The process of cutting the two trees was done in an efficient and practical manner; my mother and aunt both were used to gathering firewood since they were children. The first tree was felled, dragged to the car, and tied securely on top. We all headed back to finish and hurry home to hot chocolate and brownies.

We returned to the second tree, Tony and I playing tag, while Momma and Aunt Lenora discussed how far to trim branches and where to begin cutting.

It was Tony who first saw the wild boar that bolted into the clearing beyond where we were standing. Our boisterous game suddenly stopped because Tony was no longer running away from me. Instead, when he looked back over his shoulders to check on my progress, he froze in his tracks. His mouth became a perfect oval, his eyes widened, and a look of terror enveloped him. He mutely mouthed a warning. At first, I thought he was just trying to play a trick on me. Then I turned to look in the direction of his shaking, outstretched finger.

Immediately, I understood his look of fear. An enormous wild hog stood less than ten yards from us. The beast's sides, covered with muddy black and rust-colored fur, heaved with exertion. Protruding from his slobbering mouth were two razor-edged tusks. He seemed frozen too, and then he smacked his teeth together in a warning chomp. He snorted and charged in two short steps toward us. To us, it seemed as if his black, beady eyes were sizing us, trying to decide which one to eat first. We both began to scream shrilly, frightening the animal and ourselves.

Momma, who had been holding the ax, dropped it and began to run. Aunt Lenora followed closely on her heels. They continued screaming as they ran. The problem was, they weren't running to Tony and me, but instead were racing away in the opposite direction toward the road where the car was parked!

Tony and I stopped screaming. We were stunned. We couldn't believe we were being abandoned. As we watched helplessly our mothers disappeared around the bend in the road.

I remember looking over at Tony. His bottom lip was quivering like mine. We rushed together and hugged tightly. We tried bravely to reassure each other that everything would be all right. I began to pray that our daddies would come and save us.

By this time the boar had disappeared, probably frightened half to death by all the commotion and screaming. We were relieved when we glanced and found him gone. Our mothers, upon reaching the car and realizing they had left their only children to the mercy of a wild animal, rushed back to the tender scene of two young cousins trying to comfort each another.

We were gathered into their trembling arms and hugged to near unconsciousness before being released. Both mommas emphasized how it would be better if we didn't tell anyone about seeing that mean, nasty old hog, and what would we say to a trip to town for a dollar's worth of penny candy for both of us from Leviton's store.

Under our Christmas tree that year I reaped the bounty of my mother's guilt and perhaps, unintended bribery. That was the first Christmas I remember getting everything I asked Santa for, even that Barbie doll house that Momma had told me not to count on getting because Santa might run out of them before he got to our house.

You can bet one thing though--we had a beautiful six foot silver aluminum tree the very next year, and Momma and I both thought it was the prettiest Christmas tree in the whole wide world!

Rose Steedley Williams©2002

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ashes Rising...A Ghost Story

 Ashes Rising...A Ghost Story

I pulled into the yard and turned off the car. Dread, who had been my passenger for the last five miles of the ride home, crawled into my lap for a better seat.

I sat silent and still, trying to steady my breathing which was now short and shallow. The dogs trotted up to the car door expectantly, awaiting my exit. Dread wouldn’t move out of my lap, I was immobilized.

Taking a deep breath, I shook free. Our dogs, Hominy the one-eyed mixed breed bird dog and Moon, an English/Pit bull mix wagged and pranced around my feet, showering me with love. It was as if they sensed I needed their support. I petted both their heads and started towards the steps.

Dread was still with me, hanging on my back with a chokehold. I found Fear lurking at the back door. I looked around for the dogs; they had abandoned me at the bottom of the steps. Their sweet furry faces seemed to convey concern.

Surely, you aren’t going in there, they seemed to say.

I patted the side of my leg and whistled to them.

They wagged their tails, but neither moved an inch. I called their names, “Here Moon…come on Hominy, let’s go inside for a Milk Bone!” The forced gaiety in my voice didn’t convince any of us.
Not even the promise of their favorite treat could coax them inside. The smell of Fear was stronger than the lure of food.

The refusal of our dogs to come inside was the clincher. Even with all the odd and frightening things we’d experienced in the past ten months, those dogs reacting the way they did to the house was the most disturbing.

After several instances of the dogs rushing to the back door to be let out, barking at nothing,  and then Moon the last time he was in the house, looking back and growling at something behind us that we couldn’t see, we knew we weren’t alone anymore.

Opening the back door I tried to keep Fear and Dread outside, but they shoved their way in. There was no way they were going to miss the show they knew was coming.

As if on cue, within minutes of my entry, I heard the bumping noise in the bedroom. IT knew I was home and offered a welcome.

I laid my things on the dining table and went into the kitchen to start supper. I needed a cool drink of water for my parched throat. The trick was to not drink too much, or I’d have to go to the bathroom which meant going through the bedroom.

I avoided being alone in the bedroom at all cost these days.

I took out pots and pan, turned on the radio to drown out the noise, and busied myself to keep from thinking. This show of bravado seemed to make Dread take a seat and Fear to back out of the kitchen.

Think about work, sing with the radio, don’t let it get to you…all of these thoughts ran through my head. The clock said 4:45, it would be at least another hour or more before my husband was home.

A loud THUD came from the bedroom, followed by the metal clatter of clothes hangers spilling on the floor. The evening show was beginning.

  Fear jumped at the chance to grab me and breathe its icy breath on my neck, sending goose bumps down my spine. The hairs on my arm raised and sweat started to bead up on my brow. Dread was lounging at the dining table, sporting a smirk of a smile as it glanced knowingly at the doorway.

Didn’t I want to go investigate that noise? Hmmm, what could it be? Why there was no one in the house but me and my friends Fear and Dread and…

I had no intentions of going in there; I knew what was going to happen next. The same scenario had started to repeat itself over and over the past couple of weeks.

First, the loud thud in the closet- then, the clothes hangers falling- then, a scratching, scraping sound that lasted a about five minutes-then, silence.

I turned off the radio. The silence was stifling, except for my heart thumping wildly in my chest, my ear, my temples, my eyeballs. My breathing was hard and labored like I had bounded up two flights of stairs.

I heard the maniacal laughter of my friends, Fear and Dread, ricocheting in my head.

I felt cornered, breathing was difficult, and finally, I decided I’d had enough. Grabbing my purse from the table, I dashed out the back door.

Outside,  I rushed to the far corner of the yard. The dogs came bounding from the front of the house, happy to see me safe. They flung themselves at my feet and offered up their soft underbellies for scratching. They knew I felt scared and upset and offered up their own vulnerability to me as a way of comfort.

See, they said, it doesn’t matter that your house is haunted; you’ll always have us and our unconditional love.

It was more than I could stand. I plopped down between them and let my emotions run amok. I was overwhelmed with all of this; it was hard to lose the refuge of our home to something we couldn’t even see.

Our house, our haven from the world had become a prison. I dreaded entering within its walls.
Hominy, always in protective mother mode, cuddled close to my chest and offered solace. She licked at my tears and nuzzled my cheek.

I cried harder.

Moon, always the puppy even now at a year old, whimpered softly at my distress. He nudged his wide forehead under my fingertips and coaxed me to stroke him.

I glanced around thinking that our neighbors, if they could see me, must surely think I had lost my mind. If my husband had not been seeing and hearing the same thing I had, I would have agreed with them.

Finally, the tears slowed and I found myself wrapped in a warm blanket of doggie love.

This was how Wayne found the three of us, nearly forty minutes later. My tears were all gone, but my puffy eyes told the tale. The dogs had drifted off to sleep, in their simple minds it was all settled, I would just stay outside with them and everything would be perfect.

He rounded the corner of the house, just dropped off by his ride from work, and stopped in his tracks when he spied us. The dogs jumped to their feet and welcomed him home.

He knew the minute he saw me. “It happened again?” he asked.

I nodded, unable to speak without the threat of rising tears.

“OK, well we just have to start looking for another place to live. We can’t go on like this, it’s not good for either of us.”

We moved about a month later. The activity in the house was reaching a fevered pitch, happening every night now, sometimes several episodes. Besides the noises, there were the icy cold spots, the feeling of dread and being watched, objects falling from mantles or dressers, and windows and doors slamming shut.

The house, our first together as a married couple, had been rented the year before with great expectations. The giddiness of being newlyweds seemed to keep IT at bay for the first couple of months.

Then, the subtle unexplained noises started. From there it grew so that over the period of six months we were certain there was no longer just the two of us in our little honeymoon house. Our cozy two had become a terrifying three.

On the last day we as were moving out, one of our neighbors came to tell us goodbye. She was a sweet elderly lady who had befriended us one day after I introduced myself and asked to borrow a cup of sugar. The town we were living in was very rural and small. Borrowing from a neighbor was completely acceptable.

When Mrs. Beal came to the front door, on our last day in the house, she stopped at the bottom of the steps. I heard her calling my name and went out to greet her. She offered up a sweet potato pie and said she just wanted to say bye and she would miss us. I suggested she come inside, there were still dining table chairs to sit on, but she refused.

She had never come inside our house the whole year and a half we lived there. I realized that now and suddenly something else occurred to me.

No one in that little town had ever stepped a foot inside our door. Some had come to the porch to visit but never inside. A couple of the younger men and sat on the front porch with my husband to talk and play guitar...but no one had ever come inside. Why was that? In a small southern town that was not the norm, it was downright odd.

Had they all known something and failed to tell us?

I decided to ask Mrs. Beal for the truth. She blushed and looked down when I posed the question. When she looked back up at me, she seemed ashamed.

“Yep, Honey, most folks here knowed this place was haunted. But it didn’t seem to bother y’all none, at least not till just lately. Me and the husband figured that’s why y’all are movin’ to Valdosta.”
I sat down on the top step, bewildered!

 I was from a small town originally, I knew how clannish southern rural towns could be, but I still couldn’t believe that everybody knew this house’s secret and nobody bothered to tell us.

“Well, do you know the story about this house, because I want to know Mrs. Beal? I think I deserve that much, don’t you?”

She nodded and sighed. Then she told me a sad tale of an old gentleman who had rented the house for many years from our present landlord. He had little family and was on bad terms with his only son. She described a grouchy old curmudgeon that didn’t seem to have a kind word for anyone and kept to himself.

He minded his own business and didn’t visit or interact with folks, except when he absolutely had to. Even with the distance he kept, people around town noticed after about four days that no one had seen him out on his porch in the rocker or up at the general store.

Someone called the landlord, Mr. Jones, who went to the house and knocked, to no avail. His old truck was in the yard so if he was gone, someone would have had to come and pick him up.

Mr. Jones called the son, who lived somewhere out west, and was told that he hadn’t talked to his father in several years. He had no idea where he might be, and said that he didn’t really care. They had nothing to say to each other anymore. He authorized the landlord to use his master key to go inside.

Mr. Jones called the sheriff’s office to let them know what he was going to do. They sent a deputy around to the house so there as a witness, just so the old grouch couldn’t claim anyone had done anything to his property.

When they opened the door, the sickly sweet smell of human decay welcomed them. It quickly led them to the closet where they found the old man on the floor. The cause of death was later ruled as a heart attack. He had apparently been stricken and grasped at the hanging clothes to break his fall, pulling down several empty hangers with him. I imagined he hadn’t died right away, but had scrabbled about on the floor of the closet alone, struggling to get up.

When she finished her story, I was too stunned to move. Now everything we had heard made sense.

We moved away from there and rarely spoke of what we experienced. It seemed too hard to explain. Most people wouldn’t have believed us, so why invite ridicule?

At a party once when someone asked if anyone knew a good ghost story, we cautiously trotted out our experience. Everyone listened, hanging on our every word, and finally clapped at the end. When we assured them it was no story, but what we actually experienced all talking stopped.

 At first there was dead silence, then nervous laughter. Surely, we were joking, someone asked?
We glanced at each other, realizing that although people might say they want a ghost story, they didn’t necessarily want a real one. The fear of the unknown was far more frightening than anything Hollywood could conjure.

There is an interesting ending to this story. About six years after we moved away, I got a call one day from my mother saying she had some news to share. I had finally told her about what we encountered while there and she made a point to notice if there was anyone living in the house when she passed through the little town.

The house would be rented now and then, but the occupants never stayed very long. Finally, after a year, it was empty and no one ever moved back in.

When Momma called that night, she said,  “You will never guess what happened last night! Go ahead, just guess.”

I was clueless and said so. She gave me a hint. “It had to do with that little haunted house y’all lived in.”

Hmmm, I don’t know, did someone else move back in it?”

She burst out, “No, this is something really creepy!”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, at least part of me didn’t, but there was another part that was dying to find out. I felt like when I was a kid watching a horror movie from behind my cupped fingers. They were always spread just wide enough to let the scary movie through, filling my mind with dread and my heart with fear.

“OK, tell me, I haven’t got a clue.”

“It burned to the ground last night! They had a big thunderstorm and lightning struck it. It raged like an inferno until there was nothing left but mostly just ashes and the bricks from the chimney! Can you believe that?”

I sat speechless at first, but my mind processed what she'd told me. I managed to talk a bit longer and then hung up.

I was stunned by what I'd heard, but it made sense to me, in a way, perfect sense. I knew he was finally released. God had taken matters into his own hands with a lightning bolt.

The house had burned to the ground, nothing but ashes…ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The troubled, restless spirit was finally set free. No more lonely haunting, no more anguished reliving of the last moments of his life, no more lying there alone without so much as another friendly face to comfort him as he waited for death to come for him.

No more falling down, over and over and over again.

After all these years, he was finally set free.

Rose Steedley Williams

Note---And yes, indeedy, this story is true. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Good-bye Ms. Sally Ride

So goodbye, Ms. Ride, goodbye~
we wish you well on this journey
to the vast unknown,
our hearts are heavy as the moon.

You, Ms. Ride-- Role Model Extraordinare,
will be sorely missed.
You, who dared to toss
the possibility of lofty dreams
to young girls everywhere.

You, whose actions spoke volumes
showing them they could be and do anything,
you lifted them up from societal roles...
you freed them from convention.

At ten, you inspired my daughter
not only to think of all she could be,
but to actually BE you,
a walking, talking Living History example
for her classmates.
Sara-1992 as Sally Ride for a Living History Project at Glen Springs Elementary

You motivated our family to recreate you-
the full costume, down to the air tank
and helmet, the shiny silver space shoes
we worked together,
inspired by our imagined you...
recreating a young girl's dream
into an enthusiastic school project.

We joined in that dream readily
thankful for you pioneer spirit
energized by your daring soul that leapt
gleefully from the boundary of Earth,
opening doorways and minds,
to soar into the Heavens.

So, fly free and fast to that Great Beyond
forever etched as a hero
in my minds and heart.
We wish you godspeed, love and light.

Rose Steedley Williams

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thunderstorm A-Brewin'

Sometimes I get so caught up in all that Life is hurling at me that I forgot to take notice of Nature...but when I do, she never fails to replenish my weary heart. 

Last evening, as the sun was setting, I looked up as I was walking the dogs and saw this amazing colossal thunderhead cloud building...I had to get my camera and come back to watch the show. 
 Again, as so often in the past, Mother Nature put on a beautiful show...

Just remember to always look upwards, even when it seems Life is weighing you down.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two long years....

Two Long Year

Lying awake at dawn, I remember them.
With a love that is almost joy I remember them.
Lost, and all mine, all mine, forever.
~John Hall Wheelcock


I dreamed of Micah and Daddy all night, of a time long ago when he was just a little boy, and the three of us with Boomer and Benji were riding in the woods one afternoon finding ditches for Micah to wade through with his new rubber boots. He was maybe six, and after we got on the back of the truck for the last time before going back to the house, he turned his face to me, with a smile as wide as a river, and said: "Aunt Rosie, it just don't get better than this!"
No it doesn't, and I feel blessed to have such precious memories of him, especially doesn't feel like 2yrs today, and then at times, it feels like it's been a lifetime since we lost him.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's Always Okay to Cry

This quote has been a great source of comfort for me these past two years...through so many tears:


It's Normal for Grief To Stay With Us For A Lifetime

When we are drawn into the brotherhood or sisterhood of loss, tenderness seems to be our natural state. We are so vulnerable. Everything brushes against the raw wound of our grief, reminding us of what we have lost...Martha Whitmore Hickman
 It’s interesting that often when we are feeling low and need something to lift our spirits, how it comes to us. Such was the case with an article I read recently online about grief. Last Friday morning there it was in my news feed on Facebook, and as I read it felt like a balm to the wounds in my heart.

No matter how hard we all try to be strong and resilient in the face of adversity, the truth is we are so fragile. We are such fragile beings of blood and bone, skin and sinew, muscle and memories, wrapped in our earthly forms, our hearts mottled with emotions and the yearning to understand the great mystery of Life.

 All the days of our lives here on Earth we work and struggle to live and make a living. With our family and friends around us, we go through day after day living, laughing, loving and wrestling with the great mystery of why we are here, and where we go when we die.

Then, sometimes unexpectedly, a loved one dies, and we find ourselves racked with such unimaginable sorrow and unspeakable grief that nothing about our lives makes sense anymore. We lose track of hours, days, and sometimes even weeks as we stumble along trying to understand the pain of the intolerable heartache that has befallen us.

 It seems to me that lately my family and I have been confronted with this question far too often. In the past two years, I've struggled, sometimes daily, to understand why. 

So, seeing this article was exactly what I needed at the moment. Written by Ashley Bush, a psychotherapist, it first caught my eye because of its title: “Grief Has No Closure (Fortunately)”. 

But wait, haven’t we always been told there is and should be closure? It might take time, but closure will come eventually, is what we were told for decades. 
Not so, says Ms. Bush, closure may not ever come to us fully, and that's okay, as long as we come to terms with our grief.

What she said next about grief made the most sense of all: “And it doesn’t just hurt for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. The impact of a major loss is lifelong. Emotional “closure” is a cultural myth.”
Finally, someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth about how grief works and the acknowledgement that it's healthy and normal to feel the loss forever. After all, this is real life we’re talking about here, where things get messy and complicated and painful at times. It’s not the make-believe world of a television sitcom where everything is neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow within a thirty-minute time frame.
  For me personally, losing four family members and one very dear friend to death in just a little over two years left me feeling vulnerable and raw, the wound of grief never quite healing before another loss comes. 

 My heart feels weary and scabbed with the losses. My body feels tired- physically, mentally, and emotionally. I've often fluctuated between tears and anger and between denial and acceptance, all the while questioning the meaning of it all.

Reading that all of my emotions were perfectly normal and that it may never be the same for me was reassuring. Suddenly, I felt more equipped to handle my losses than I have since it all began. I am relieved to hear that I am not expected “to get over it”, as was suggested to me by someone last year. This woman, a therapist, suggested that I not express the sadness that I felt as my nephew’s 16th birthday neared. I was shocked and angry that she would say this. How could I not be saddened knowing that this would have been the birthday he would have gotten his pick-up truck, that important ritual of passage for a young man.

What this author suggest, however, is not that we forget our grief, but rather that we eventually transcend our loss in such a way that brings more meaning and purpose to our lives. To me, that makes far more sense, the notion that we would find through our grief a way to better understand Life and our place in it.

She suggests we consider three things to help us as we navigate the grief that surrounds us:

1.   Loss is lifelong-it is with us always, but we can learn to accept it as time passes. It’s with this gradual acceptance of loss that we are able to move on with our lives.

2.   Love is eternal- the love we have for those who have passed is ongoing and will always be a part of our lives. It is part of who we are and talking about them and remembering the good times we shared acknowledges the important place they hold in our lives.

3.   You are changed- Make no mistake, you and the rest of the family left behind will never be the same. How can any of you be the same with the missing person you all loved no longer part of you lives? Yet this change is inevitable and part of moving forward. As Ms. Bush says: “As you let yourself be changed, you will find that growth is possible.”

More than anything, I think it’s important to remember that our loved ones would not want us to become so mired in grief that we cannot move forward in our lives. We honor their memories by loving and remembering them, but also by moving forward with our own lives. 

Rose S. Williams©2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Little Reminders

I took a few of your toys,
left behind like lonesome puppies,
to make some small memories
in my garden.

These flowers I love to grow
the ones I love to work in,
planting, weeding,
they bring me some solace.
That last pair of gardening gloves
that you bought me
are worn beyond use now.

I remember your little boy face,
smiling broadly,
as you handed them to me,
a gift you knew
would make me happy.
You were always such a thoughtful child.

So I keep these toys of yours
here in my flower garden
where I thrust my hands in the earth
groping for comfort,
digging for peace of mind...
here in my little patch of heaven.
I put these reminders of you
as a means to help me heal.

They seem at home there
and seeing them makes me smile...
Imagine that,
smiling at a little reminder of you
instead of tears...
maybe this old heart is healing
just a bit,
it seems about time.

So, guard my flower beds
with your trucks and tractors,
help me heal with these blossoms
as the date draws near,
I hope and pray
for some sort of peace...
not just for me,
but for all of us.

Love you and miss you so,
Aunt Rosie

Southernstoryteller©Rose S. Williams~ 2012

**Thank you Meg for the inspiration. I love having Micah's toys so close, they are helping my heart to heal every time I see them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Four Generations

From 1916 to 1982~
We span six decades
of living and learning
of knowledge and love
through both good and hard times
and we represent the past
that span backwards 
for longer than we can imagine
to our ancestors,
women we never knew
but whose genes and blood
courses through our own veins.

Momma, MaMa, me & Sara in 1995~ Sara was 13, I was 38, Momma was 54, & MaMa was 80

We are all alike in some ways,
yet different in many others
but always connected
by heart strings
by blood line
by matriarchal ties
we represent the future
that marches forward with
or without our consent
but with representation
through each new generation.

 Sara, MaMa, me, & Momma @ Baptist Village visiting MaMa Mother's Day weekend 2008.

And even when one is gone
those left behind remember 
the words
the deeds
the memories 
forged from family ties
and we carry on
in their memory
and add to the legacy
in our own unique ways.

For MaMa Sweat whom we all miss every day, but especially on Mother's Day.

For Momma who still guides us with her wisdom and ever-present,unconditional love.

And for Sara who is the best gift I've ever received in this life of mine~ when you were born, I finally understood what all the hoopla about being a mother was really all about :)

Love y'all so much,


Rose S. Williams

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Treasure Trove of Toys

It can seem, sometimes, that Life likes to throw you a sucker punch...completely out of the blue. This photo below was one of those times. Seeing all these toys here in one place made my heart skip a beat.

The toys were Micah's from when he was younger. They were found by someone Momma hired to cut back some of her shrubbery. He found them stashed all over the yard among the shrubs where Micah used to play when he was staying at Fargo. Here among the overgrown shrubbery were the toy treasures of the little boy we all loved so much.

Momma told the young man to put them all on top of the dog box by the back porch, it was too hard for her to look at them. Here in plastic and metal forms were the physical remains of someone we all loved with all our hearts, someone who loved playing and being in the outdoors every chance he got. When he was at Fargo, if he wasn't in the woods with his daddy or granddaddy, he was outside playing with these toys. Momma would call to him every now and then and he'd say: "I'm right here Granny, I'm plowing a fire line." And in his vivid imagination, that was exactly what he was doing.

For any of you knew him as little boy growing up, and if you ever visited my parents here at Fargo when he was here, then you probably drove up to see him down in the dirt, playing with this trucks and tractors completely immersed in his own little world. It was a world of logging and bogging and making the biggest mess possible in the mud and he reveled in it.

When I saw them I got that sucker punch, it literally knocked the breath out of me. They are SO Micah. Some are missing wheels, he was constantly repairing, replacing and trading the wheels on his various vehicles. He was master mechanic, top notch heavy equipment operator, and master of his outdoor universe when he was in play mode.

  There was nothing that made him happier when he was here at Fargo, than to go outside after a rain and play in the mud with his toys...except for going in the woods with his daddy and granddaddy on the four-wheeler or the Kubota mule and running through the biggest mud hole he could find. He'd been in those woods and around big equipment since he was just a baby boy. Here's a shot of him and Daddy in a motorgrader at a forestry trade show they and Jamie went to when he was maybe all of two years old:

 The photo below is of him and Daddy at a fire in 1999. The two of them and Jamie and I rode out there to see the fire. Micah, of course, had his own hard hat and got to carry around Daddy's walkie talkie.

Here he wanted his photo taken in front of one of the bulldozers. He told me to make sure I got the whole thing, including the blades. The blades were very important to him, you see,  because they pushed the dirt. I know this because that's what he told me :)

 You may not see it clearly, but believe me that little four year old has such a HUGE smile on his face.

Then, the water truck came by and I had to get this shot because it so clearly showed his fascination with all things connected to the forestry and fire equipment. And how many four year olds do you know that had their very own hard hat with their name on it?

   So seeing the toys there, all in one place, brought back such a flood of memories to me...and tears as well. There's something soothing and yet heartbreaking about the possessions that belonged to our loved ones who have died. They are both a welcome and painful reminder of the person and the immense loss we've suffered. Next month we are coming up on two years since Micah died, and the huge hole in all our hearts is still there. I think it always will be.

 We love you and miss you so much Micah, always and forever.
Aunt Rosie

Monday, April 30, 2012

Trying to shake things up for my training session at work next week, so I thought I'd try one of the Xtranormal movies, it was a LOT of fun. The changes to the federal regulations can be very dry at times, so I thought this might be a novel way to present it my coworkers :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Houston, We Have a Problem"

~April 13th, 1970~

The number was 13
dreaded, feared~
drenched in superstition
and on this day
it stayed true to
its unsavory character.

A voyage to the moon
headed for the Fra Mauro highlands
was interrupted
by an explosion~
the grand plans 
of lunar exploration 
morphed into a looming tragedy.

Down here we watched,
hearts in our throats,
as this tiny tin can 
hurtled through space
on a wing and a prayer
200,000 mile from Earth.

Three astronauts
Lovelle, Swigert and Haise
manned the "successful failure"
with no power, little water
or oxygen...
for four agonizing days.

A sling-shot maneuver
hurled the capsule to
the dark side of the moon
while we hoped and prayed
fear clutching our hearts
at what might happen.

But then, a miracle
a free return trajectory
boomeranging them back to Earth
to bathe in the Pacific
and finally,
to touch terra firma.

Being home never felt so good.

Rose S. Williams

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A New Fire Season Begins...

Where There’s Smoke, There’s a New Fire Season

Photo by Jamie Steedley

It's April, and as it has been for the last several years, it's also the beginning of a new fire season in South Georgia and north Florida.

This year's first fire is found in Pinhook Swamp. Where and what, you're probably asking, is Pinhook Swamp? Located south of Council, it’s a vast area bounded on the east by Florida highway 2 and on the western side by US Highway 441.  It’s a swampy land bridge that connects the Okefenokee Swamp and Osceola National Forest, a veritable backwoods highway for the Florida panther, black bears and other species. In Janisse Ray’s book in 2005, Pinhook, Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, she aptly describes it this way: "It is 170,000 acres of dreary dismal. A giant piece of ground too deep for a human to wade in, too shallow for a boat to draw...Some of the last real wilderness in the South."

 This is where the County Line Fire, as the Florida Forestry Service is now calling it, began last week. It was only a little more than 300 acres in the first day or so. Unfortunately, it has grown exponentially to more than eleven thousand acres as of Easter Sunday.

 I know this because my brother has been out there around the fire since it began. He's there because it's in his blood. He's been following forest fires ever since he can remember because he was our daddy's shadow, and wherever there was forest fire, you found J. T. Steedley.

As much as we have all missed Daddy since his death in January, I know Jamie misses him now more than ever. This first fire of the season is difficult for him, as it would have to be, for there are too many memories of hours spent together during past wild fires, long days and nights riding boundary lines and discussing strategies.
Because of the size and location of it now, the fire is large enough to garner the attention of the Feds. They're calling in reinforcements and will soon take control. But for all their manpower and equipment, those federal guys will never have the know-how and experience the locals have when it comes to battling these blazes in our area.

The Georgia and Florida Forestry Service, the local timber companies, and private landowners have so much experience on their side when it comes to fires down here. A fire on the edge of the Okefenokee or Pinhook Swamp is far different than fires in the mountains of Colorado and California.

Besides Jamie missing Daddy during this fire, there are others that miss him as well because they counted on his experience during these wildfires. Although Daddy had been retired for several years, as soon as there was a wildfire, he was present for all the daily incident reports and was there to offer advice or to give his opinion on the best way to approach battling a blaze. 

 Below are photos of Daddy from the Bugaboo fire in 2007:

He lived and breathed each forest fire from the first lightening strike to the end where rain flushes out the last embers. As a matter of fact, he was quoted by a Florida Times Union writer last year when asked what he thought about the Honey Prairie fire. He said in his no-nonsense way: "Lightning starts it, rain puts it out and the rest of us just mess around with it in the middle."

Daddy’s fifty-two years as a forester for the Langdale Company garnered him a lot of respect among his peers. In addition to this was the fact that he personally put in many of the roads on the property surrounding the Okefenokee Swamp and the roads and bridges in Pinhook Swamp made him a walking, talking GPS system of knowledge for local firefighters. He grew up and lived all his life in the very area where the fires often were, so that he literally knew the area like the back of his hand.

I knew, respected, and admired his knowledge. Back in 2007 I rode with him for a total of seven hours on two days, and listened as he talked about not only the Bugaboo Fire, but also the last big fires in 1954-55 in the Okefenokee Swamp.  He talked a lot to me about what it was like fighting those fires that burned from July 1954 to June 1955.

That kind of experience, actually driving a tractor in the midst of a raging wildfire, is something no amount of education or desk work or computer modeling can give a person. Being in the midst of the raging beast as it roars and bellows around you and making split second decisions are not something that can be taught in a book. The respect by the local fire fighters for Daddy's input on the fires in the past was based on their knowledge that he had been there and done what they were now doing.

As a little girl, I can remember worrying about Daddy when there was a wildfire. He would leave before daylight, be out in the woods all day long, and finally come in well after dark. He looked exhausted, his clothes and hard-hat smoky and dirty, soot streaking his face, and he’d sit down on the porch to take off his boots. After taking a bath, he’d get bite to eat. He might lie down and sleep for a few hours, then be back up and out the door to go back battle the beast.

I know that’s what lies ahead for all of the firefighters in the coming days and I’ll be keeping them in my thoughts and prayers. I applaud their dedication and hard work. And even though Daddy is not there with them physically, I’ve no doubt he’s there in spirit.

Rose S. Williams