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.

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

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Lilies

Easter Lilies

My belly pressing damp earth

I fidget and angle my camera,

snapping several shots

as around me, Easter lilies tower.

Their slight, sweet fragrance carries me

to another decade...the sixties

where I, as a young tomboy,

with only male cousins, played here.

I smile at a memory of me

Tackled, prone on my back

playing football, pigskin clutched fiercely.

I fought to prove I was just as tough

We played here in this field

beside my childhood home,

clumsy feet trampling the fragile lilies

as I fretted silently about hurting them.

I stopped, plucking a few to save

and plopped them in a makeshift vase,

someone’s abandoned tea glass.

Then, raced back to the game.

My center position called me,

yet each time I glanced their way

the Easter lilies cheered for me

from the back porch railing.

I was their savior, their hero

rescuing them from certain death.

They were my salvation~

a girlish link to things dainty and beautiful.

I return here to capture them now,

descendants of those delicate lilies

arising each year in Spring’s wakening

to remind me of the little girl I was.
Me and a couple of my cousins, Joey & Rusty, Easter 1965. We were just back from church and anxious to change clothes to go egg hunting and then play football ;-)

Rose S. Williams

The resurrection (or as we call them) Easter lilies bloom at Council every year, so I wrote this memory poem from when I was a little girl :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012