Posts Tagged ‘tucker ga’


Growing up in Tucker Georgia is where I learned to socialize and compromise. And take the consequences for my actions – realized at the tender age of 6.

“I’m wearing that skirt today!”

“Oh no you’re not! Mary Ann is,” said my older sister, Patricia.

“You and Mary Ann always wear it,” I argued.

“Diane is right, Pat,” argued Becky Leake in my defense.

And that’s the way it was in our playhouse behind Tom Story’s workshop. The playhouse walls were made of thick rows of pine-straw fetched from the Tucker Woods just a few feet away. Furniture consisted of bricks and boards discarded from the workshop. It was fun to play dress up and “manage” our own home, but more fun to wear the long skirt which designated “Mother.” Becky and I were always on the losing end. We were the “guests,” and no vintage clothes for visitors. One day, Becky had enough. She crossed Morgan Road in a huff, but returned moments later all smiles. She was carrying a mink coat.

“You’d better put that back, Rebecca!” Mary Ann Leake advised.

“Nannie won’t care. She won’t need it until Christmas. We can play with it today.”

With reluctance, Mary Ann conceded to her (slightly) older sister. All four of us were intrigued by the beauty of such a jacket. After we all tried on the mink coat, Pat and Mary Ann decided to continue wearing the brown and white checked long skirt. Wanted no part of the mink. We had no problem with that, since Becky and I had a turn at trying on the long skirt. It was a tad too small for Becky and too big for me. Becky had no problem wearing the gorgeous coat. She pretended to be an “important guest” from New York City. As she stood there in her mink coat, she described the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway.

Then it was my turn. The jacket length coat was to my ankles. Even with open toed sandals and shorts – it was too hot to wear the mink for long. Georgia summers too hot and humid for such attire. Soon after my grand entrance, the mink coat was hung on a pine tree limb which doubled as the “hall-tree.” As I sat there enjoying my invisible cup of tea, I told stories of the North Pole and how I run into Santa. I played a guessing game so that they could guess what awaited them Christmas morning, all the while stroking my mink coat as it dangled from the limb. Mary Ann enjoyed guessing until it came to her turn. She did not want to know what she was getting for Christmas, even a pretend game. But summertime was more than playing house. Warm days gave way to soft ball games, swimming, and rainy day games of Parcheesi and Clue. Then came the fall. Seeing the Leake girls at school and walking to and from was the only time we saw them.

One weekend Becky and Mary Ann joined us playing in the red and gold leaves that covered our woodsy yard. An odd thing happened while playing in the leaves. Patricia’s kitty, Precious, ran wild in circles. It was apparent that something was seriously wrong. Mama called the animal control center. They could not catch Precious. The frightened cat climbed up on top of Daddy’s workshop out of reach. Afraid the cat would disappear into the woods asked for help.

“If anybody can, my daughter can get that cat for you. That cat will do anything for her,” Daddy said as he looked at Patricia.

Patricia hesitated. She did not want to turn her cat over to the animal control. Eight year old Patricia tried to control her sobs as she asked for a baby blanket.

Four year old little sister, Barbara, courageously gave up her long time baby blanket. Pat took the blanket and ascended the ladder while Daddy held it secure. When atop the roof, Patricia flattened the blanket and called out, “Here Precious, here Precious.”

Precious heeded her master. Pat wrapped her Precious then climbed down the ladder where she bravely handed the poor cat over to animal control. They put Precious in a cage. One man said the poor cat had a bad case of the wolf-worm (caused by green flies). As soon as they drove away with Precious, Daddy looked for the “fly infestation” while Mama consoled Patricia. Daddy did not have to look far. Just behind his workshop was Nannie Leake’s forgotten mink coat on the ground infested with flies. The tree limb “hall-tree” broke under the weight of the coat. Apparently the soft furry coat was a napping place for Precious.

The playhouse story came out as all four girls told how the mink coat got behind the workshop. With a long board, Daddy scooped up the coat, placed it on a big pile of red and gold leaves. He drenched the coat in gasoline and threw a lit match on it. With a matter of fact voice, he said, “Diane, go with Becky and Mary Ann and tell Nannie Leake what I just did to her mink coat.”

Whoa! Are you kidding me? Those were my thoughts, though I remained silent with my feet frozen to the ground. I think Daddy must have read my mind.

“Did you wear the coat, Donnie?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then go with them,” gently urged my father.

As I slowly walked away, Helen Story added,  “Diane, you made your bed, now you must lie in it. Now, get a move on.”

The three of us walked across Morgan Road to the Leake’s house. Becky was distraught. Mary Ann wept. I walked in silence wishing Tom Story believed in corporal punishment. I would gladly take a spanking rather than face Nannie Leake today. When face to face with her grandmother, all Becky could do was blurt out, “Nannie, I am so sorry.” She collapsed to the floor with grief. Mary Ann was the one who did the talking.

I whispered, “I’m sorry Nannie Leake.” My throat tightened making it unable to speak.

Nannie Leake was still and silent, finally she spoke in a strained voice.

“Girls, we will speak of this another day.” It was as though she did not see us as she made way out of the house and into the front yard. There she stopped and watched the dark smoke billowing from behind our house. And though she was distraught, this elderly lady stood there looking grand as though she was a queen watching her castle burn from a far. After all, the mink coat had been a Christmas gift from her late husband. She wore the coat during the Christmas season, whether it was cold in Georgia or not, and now it was gone.

After a while, she spoke urgently, “Mary Ann, go inside and cut a generous piece of your mother’s pineapple cake and wrap it pretty with pink ribbon. You’ll find the ribbon in my top dresser drawer. Bring it to me.”

Mary Ann returned and her grandmother examined the beautifully wrapped plate of cake. She nodded her head in approval and said, “Give it to Diane. Diane, please give this cake to Patricia, with my love.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I took the cake and when I was about to cross Morgan Road, Nannie Leake again called my name, “Diane, please tell Mr. Story, that I send my apologies.”

Nannie Leake was a gracious lady even when the world did not go her way. Often I do not meet the standards demonstrated so eloquently on that day of the mink coat burning. But with each and every failure, my memory bank offers up an image of a mink coat to correct me. These are just a few of the things that I learned while growing up on Morgan Road in Tucker, Georgia.

I took one look at my report card and knew I was in trouble; all A’s and one blank with teacher’s comment: “Diane simply talks too much.” Yes I was in trouble with a blank for conduct. I walked home slowly hoping somehow the blank would change by the time I got home. My mother met me at the front porch, and I handed it over.

“Diane, you didn’t get a grade in conduct? What? Diane simply talks too much?” Mama was not happy.

“I know…”
“This is unacceptable. You know your father is good friends with Ms. Keith.”

Yes, I knew that. Ms. Eula Keith was one of only two people that ever called my father “Tommy.” He thought the world of Ms. Keith and the feeling was mutual. That made it all the worse.

“I can tell you one thing young lady. Next quarter, you had better have a grade. This is your warning; you have one quarter to work on it. I hope I do not have to punish you,” Mama said and she was not fooling around, “but I will if I have too. Severely punish! You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I was ashamed and tried hard to please Ms. Keith.

But Ms. Keith was not hard to please. She was an elderly gentle woman and excellent teacher. I met her on the first day of second grade, in what folks in Tucker called the little white building. It was on Lavista Road next to the old Tucker High School. The little white building took care of the overflow of Tucker Elementary.

Ms. Keith’s sister, Ms. Hattie Pryor, taught a class right next door. Ms. Pryor looked to have been a blonde at one time. She wore her hair in braids that disappeared around her head in the back; she had a stiff smile. Ms. Keith looked to have been a brunette at some time and had a soft smile. They were both short on height.

And that is how Ms. Keith broke her arm; taking a tumble from a chair while reaching high to decorate our second grade classroom. Ms. Pryor made us all promise to knock on her door if Ms. Keith tried climbing up on a chair again. We all loved Ms. Keith and looked after her. We signed her cast and celebrated the removal of the cast with cookies and juice.

Time march on and second quarter came around. The week before the report cards came out I told Ms. Keith that I had to have a grade in conduct. My mother would not accept a blank grade. It had to be a letter grade. “If I get another blank I’ll get punished – severely.”

Ms. Keith looked deep in thought and said, “Very well Diane, if I must.”

I was thrilled thinking that I was much improved. And the big day came.

I scanned my report card quickly; all A’s and one F – F in conduct. I was shocked. I went straight away to Ms. Keith’s desk to talk to her. My heart pounded as I thought about the walk home down Morgan Road to Mama. Ms. Keith was busy with another student and as I stood there waiting my turn, I saw her ink pen. My mind was racing. I was under more pressure than a seven year old should ever be in. I made a snap decision – one that I would regret. I picked up her ink pen and made a straight line – making the F an A.

There. That will make Mama happy. But Helen Story was not happy, not at all. As she studied my report card she questioned me. “Well, I see you made all A’s this time. But, Diane, why did Ms. Keith make all round A’s and one square A?”

“I guess she wanted it to stand out,” I explained, “so you can see I made an A in conduct.”

Stand out, that was for sure. And within two minutes Mama had broken me and I confessed; after much sobbing Mama spoke.

“Diane, this is what is going to happen. Tomorrow morning I will walk to school with you,” explained Mama, all the while, I was thinking that was the last thing I ever wanted to happen. “And you will go to Ms. Keith and tell her what you did. I want you to tell her that you took her pen and changed your grade in conduct. I want you to tell her you did a dishonest thing. And then you will apologize. And when you get back home, I’ll spank you. Tonight I want you to think about what you have done. No TV.”

For real? All that? This was too much for a second grader. I did think about what I did and was truly ashamed and prayed the morning would not come. But it did. And Mama and I walked to the little white building. Mama stopped at the door and remained in the hall. I walked up to Ms. Keith. She gave me a warm smile and a pleasant “good morning.”

I burst into tears and handed my report card to her. I pointed at the Diane made A. All I could get out was, “I’m sorry.”

Ms. Keith looked at the report card and put it away quickly. She hugged me tight until I stopped crying. Noticing Mama at the door, Ms. Keith took me by the hand and we walked to Mama. As Ms. Keith spoke to Mama she made “there there” pats on my head and shoulders.

“Diane has done wrong and has made it right. Honestly needs to be rewarded, even if it comes late. She has whipped herself. Helen, please forgive her.”

Mama and Ms. Keith forgave me that day. I tried to repay them by being as quiet as possible in class.

I was certain that I would make an A in conduct the third quarter, but instead of getting better, I got worse. I could not stop talking. I was failing conduct again. I wondered what in the world would become of me.

And then my eyes started twitching and I cleared my throat in an unusual way.  My head jerked and the jerking descended my body. I dropped things and when I tried to take a step to walk, my legs wanted to run.

I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Sydenham Chorea, a physical symptom of rheumatic fever. I was placed on bed-rest. I finished the second and third grade at home in bed.

The only contact with Ms. Keith and my friends was through cards and letters. Ms. Keith always wrote: “To an A+ young lady.”

And there were many days when I found the confinement unbearable. I cried. Mama held me until I stopped crying, all the while giving me “there there” pats on my head and shoulders.

I thank the good Lord for our teacher, Ms. Keith.

 

 

 

 

 

Dieudonne Randolph Bentley-Steed was born and raised in Lincolnton, Georgia, where she enjoyed the best of life with her books, fine china, and real silver, which she used daily in spite of the fact her modest home was without running water or electricity. She was proud of the fact that she graduated from State Normal College, and was quick to let you know that “Noh’mal” was a part of the University of Georgia. And though she had a Southern accent which resembled another language all together, she insisted that her name Dieudonne be pronounced with the “propah” French accent.

Often she reprimanded us by saying: “If you can not accomplish this small feat, then just call me Donn.”

We all called her Donn. Donn was my father’s mother’s older sister.

And we all knew where to find Donn. “Get yoahself a Geo’giah map and look fo’ the county which resembles a Chai’kee broken ar’ow head pointing nawth, dividing Geo’giah and South Ca’olina. There, you will find yoah Aunt Donn in Lincoln County.”

Aunt Donn was a retired school teacher who wed late in life and did not have children of her own. She claimed and named all nine of her sister Nancy’s children. Her sister Nancy was my father’s mother, and Aunt Donn named my father Thomas Jonathan after Stonewall Jackson.

And as any day, Donn Steed read a book, but today was different as she was mindful of the mantel clock as it chimed the sixth hour. Eventide was approaching and she would be ready for it. She continued to silently read Ecclesiastes, pondering time, mindful of the ticking away of minutes.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…A time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

Donn marked her spot, then read a verse one more time before closing the book, “Yes,” she thought, “A time to keep, and a time to cast away.” And aloud Donn spoke these words with deliberation, “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Tears ran down her face as she continued to read aloud, “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for wawh, and a time for peace.”

Time and the proper thing to do filled every crevice of Donn’s thoughts these days. The dancing and laughter was over, that much was for sure. Could it be a time for wawh? She would have to speak to “Sistah” about this and she would this day. “Yes,”  Donn thought, “it is a time to speak.”

Shadows crept into the room, a time when Donn normally lit the kerosene lamp, but not today. Today she stood and reached for her “shawt fur” and wrapped herself warmly. As she stepped across the room, Donn suddenly stopped at Dr. Bentley’s roll-top desk. She yanked open a drawer and shuffled about until she found an old school photo taken at Liberty Hill in Lincolnton.

An unexpected smile crossed Donn’s face as she admired the photo. “There is Nancy and Lawton, Caleb, Cha’lie and Ca’oline. And just do look at that sad face on Ella Spires! And Ella wearing the rose Nancy gave her.” Donn shook her head in disbelief, “It’s as though this pictu’e was taken just yeste’day. Yes, Nancy and Ella were upset because the photog’aphah wouldn’t let you sit togethah.”

And with a chuckle that could not be contained, “And me!” Donn blew her cheeks out big holding her breath and rolled her eyes to the back of her head as she had done in the photograph. Suddenly she reached for the desk to steady herself. “Well, I can’t do that anymore. It makes me swimmy headed. Yes, y’all scolded me about making funny faces at the photog’aphah, but I didn’t listen. Y’all were right,” Donn mused, “I never listen to anyone. And now I have to live with that silly face for the ages.”

With that, Donn returned the photo to the past under letters and documents of old to her grandfather’s desk. She opened the back door and walked out into the yard to her now dormant flower garden.

“Donn, where’re you going at this hour?” asked Walter.

“Oh, just a shawt walk, I want to cleah my head, Waltah.”

“Don’t be long, it’ll be dark soon.”

“I shan’t be too long Deah, don’t wor’y about me,” Donn tried to reassure Walter. Her husband had always cooked for Donn, but had become an old mother hen since Donn’s sister, Nancy, passed away in April.

Yes 1938 was a year of sorrow for Donn. It was the year her sister, Nancy Bentley-Story died of heart failure. Nancy lived in Tucker near Atlanta, and Donn lived in Lincolnton many miles away. But distance could not part these two sisters. And Donn had come to realize that death could not part them either.

As a child, anytime Nancy went missing, she could be found in Dr. Bentley’s herb garden or Mother’s flower garden. That was when they were children; back when family and time together were taken for granted.

Tonight Donn walked to the only garden she had – pitiful as it was. Her garden was not at all as fine as the Leathersville gardens, but it would have to do. She looked up at the twilight sky searching for the first sign of a star. Allowing herself to be a kid again, she sang quietly to the tune of a child’s song, “Star light, Star bright, Furst star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight, Calling on Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story.”

When the first star winked back, Donn settled down with a smile, “There you are Sistah, glad to see yoah as beautiful as eveh.” Quickly, Donn’s smile dissipated as she got down to business. “I need to talk to you about something, rathah impo’tant. There is chaos in yoah home.” Donn chuckled nervously as she continued, “Yoah husband has always encou’aged the chil’ren to be high spirited, and now he has to live with the consequences! You were the one who b’ought ordah to the home. And my deah sistah, now you are not there.”

Donn was quiet for a moment while she allowed the cold air to comfort her face, “Little Nancy is doing the best she can. She makes a big pan of biscuits every mo’ning and pone of co’nbread at suppah time, and gets her lessons. That’s a lot for a twelve yeah old. She told me that Mothah taught her to make biscuits. She said you instructed her while sitting in a chair; sitting in a chair, because yoah hawt was too weak to suppo’t you. And little Nancy, yoah namesake, is doing a good job with the biscuits. I wanted you to know that.”

Namesake Nancy Bentley Story

Though tears streamed down her face, Donn couldn’t help but smile when thinking of her brother-in-law, Lawton. “Sistah, Lawton got so aggravated hea’ing the doahs slam shut, he fo’bade the chil’ren to use the doahs! So now they use the windows instead. What a sight! Chil’ren crawling in and out of windows! What will the good people of Tuckah Geo’gia think?” Donn shook her head in disbelief, “I am sorry to tell you, but they have made kites out of yoah quilts. And that baby boy of yoahs, that Tom Story! He lassoes live snakes. Then he ties a wiggling snake to a stick and chases little Nancy. Gene is just as bad! One day a while back, their fathah sent the three of them out to the field to bu’n dried cawn stalks. Gene and Tom wanted to play ‘jump the fiah,’ but little Nancy wanted to get the work done, so they wouldn’t get a whoopin’ from Papa. She took off her new shoes, yes, Lawton bought the child new school shoes. She is tickled pink ovah those shoes and took them off to keep them clean. She told the boys to help with the wurk. But no, Gene and Tom would not stop playing. Then the boys got the idea to tie Nancy’s shoe strings togethah and dangle her new shoes ovah the fiah, fo’cing the child to play with them. And yes, they got a whoopin,’ little Nancy too, for she would rathah be punished than call out her brothas. Yes, Lawton Story is losing his patience. I do believe he is at wit’s end.”

Donn was silent for a moment; as though she was giving her sister time to digest it all. “I know how the chil’ren feel; I remembah the day Mothah died as though it was yeste’day. I remembah Fathah standing at the foot of her bed as her spirit ascended to the good Lawd. He said, ‘A time to be born, and a time to die. Today is a time to weep and mourn, for my lovely Grace Amelia has left this earth.’ Fathah wept so on that dreadful day.”

“Donn, come in, it’s dark out already,” Walter called out to Donn through the night air. Before Donn could answer, Walter noticed something strange. “Donn! Is that you standing in the dried up gladiolas?”

“Yes, Waltah, I am in the ga’den. “I’ll be there directly Deah,”

“I don’t like this a bit, not one bit,” Walter grumbled to himself.

Donn heard the screen door squeak as it closed, and knew she was alone with her thoughts again. “The chil’ren won’t admit who took a pencil and poked out the eyeballs of their grandmothah, Sallie Gunby in the po’trait of her and Rad Story. But one of them did it. It’s strange, they seem to enjoy tortu’ing each othah, but will band togethah when one is put upon. They will not fo’sake one anothah for the wauld! No mattah how much trouble they get in.”

Donn wiped the tears from her face and pulled her fur tighter, “Caleb doesn’t cause as much mischief as do Gene and Tom. Caleb is struggling, Sistah. I hate to tell you, but his pa’alysis is getting wurse.” Donn took a deep breath and felt a burden lifted when she got that information out. She quickly changed the subject, for she did not want to tell her sister that Caleb would never recover.

“I do not believe Caleb instigates the mischief; he enjoys the excitement of the unexpected. So, he does join in with the encouragement of mischief, I am sorry to say. Yes, he enjoys every minute of the chaos.”

“Donn, I’m making tea for you. Come on in now,” called out Walter through the night air.

“I’ll be in shawtly Waltah,” called out Donn. Then she whispered up to the stars, “I know Waltah means well. But a body needs time alone with the Heavens and I cannot explain that to him in feah of him thinking me daff!”

Donn took another deep breath and quickly continued her conversation, because she knew her time was growing short. She knew that Walter Steed would walk out there to get her if she did not come in soon. She had to get said what needed to be said. This was a time to speak.

“Sistah, I must speak to you about something of great impotance. Lawton has met a woman. I’ve heard that she is from a pioneeh family of Tuckah. Her name is Minnie Beatrix Brand. She helps little Nancy in the kitchen and is good to the boys, especially Tom. They say, when a sto’m comes, she gets Tom to sit at her feet while she holds his hand and rubs his back with her other hand.” Donn cried as she explained, “I guess what I am saying, is the chil’ren are going to get anothah mothah.”

Donn wept uncontrollably. “Oh Sistah, how I wish you had not gone away; this would neveh eveh happen if you were heah. You are the love of Lawton Story’s life, even back when that silly school picture was made, eve’yone knew you were meant fo’ each othah! Why did you have to go? But who am I to ask such a question? The good Lawd says ‘A time to die.’ It breaks my heart to know it was yoah time to die, leaving foah chil’ren at home. I know you had nine, but the othahs are grown and mar’ied. The foah left at home are but chil’ren. And they are in need of a mothah so badly. Sistah, maybe it’s time for them to have anothah mothah.”

“Donn!”

“I’m coming Waltah!”

The screen door closes again. Donn has few minutes left. It’s time to get serious.

“Sistah, you know it was raining on the day you left us. It was as though the angels were crying their eyes out.  It had been raining fo’ days, and the Hea’st got stuck in the mud when they tried to leave with you. The wheels mi’ed up and made big ruts in the yawd. All the chil’ren cried for you, especially the young boys. Caleb said, ‘They’re stuck, that’s ‘cause Mama doesn’t want to go leave us.’ Gene said, ‘I don’t care what Papa says – Mama doesn’t want to go to Heaven.’ And Tom cried out, ‘Dear God, please don’t let my Mama be dead!’ Tom had to be restrained fo’ days.”

Donn wiped her eyes again, “But it was Little Nancy that worried me the most, for she did not cry. She stood firm and stared as they took you away. For days she could be found staring at the dried ruts left in the yawd. As days passed on, the ruts crumbled and disappeahed. That’s when little Nancy cried. It was as though her teahs picked up where the rain left off.”

Donn was silent for a good long while, “Sistah, I knew if I talked to you, you would advise me. And you have, wisely. Yes, I know what to do now. It is a time to plant the seeds of kindness. I will get myself to Tuckah and meet this Miss Minnie and I will accept her on behalf of the enti’e Bentley family.”

Donn heard the screen door open again, “Donn, it’s dark, your tea is cold, and I’m coming to get you.”

“It’s okay Waltah, I’m on my way now. Just wait for me at the doah, Deah. My feet know the way.”

With that Donn stepped out from the midst of dead gladiolas and headed back toward the house. She suddenly stopped and looked up one last time at the brightest star in Heaven, and whispered, “Good night Sistah.”

Author’s Notes:

The one room school house in Lincolnton was Liberty Hill, near Leathersville.

Children in the Liberty Hill 1894 class picture are: Left to Right – Front Row – #4 Caleb Hardin Bentley, #6 Horace Lawton Story, #16 Nancy Elizabeth Bentley. Second Row – #12 Ella Spires, #16 possibly Effie Louise Bentley, #17 possibly Casey Lowe Bentley. Third Row – #5 Dieudonne “Donn” Bentley, #9 Charlie Ramsey Bentley holding a chalk board with his initials CRB Aug 1894, #10 Caroline Grace Eugenia Bentley.

Ella Spires never married nor left Lincolnton, and lived to be a very old woman. Though blind in the last years of life, she always smiled when hearing the voices of Nancy Bentley-Story’s children. Nancy’s children called Ella, “Cousin Ella.” As a young woman, Ella embroidered a bouquet of flowers using Nancy Bentley’s hair as thread. Nancy Bentley and Ella Spires were life-long best friends.

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley and Horace Lawton Story were born in 1886, photographed in school class picture in 1894 when they were eight years old, married in 1906.

Charlie Bentley became a teacher and Caleb Bentley moved to Florida where he became vice president of a fruit company.

Genealogy of the Bentley children in the school photograph: Parents Dennis Brantley and Grace Amelia Ramsey-Bentley, grandfather Dr. John Bentley, great-grandfather Balaam Bentley, and great-great grandfather Captain William Bentley II. Captain William Bentley II was granted land in Wilkes County which is now Lincoln County, for payment of services rendered in the Colonial Army during the Revolutionary War. He was from South Carolina. Over the years the Bentleys traded services for hides and land. The land became known as Leathersville. Leathersville is just south of Lincolnton, Georgia.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Rad and Sallie

Radford Gunn Story 1858-1904

Seventeen year old Horace “Lawton” Story stood frozen with tension allowing the cold December air to hit his face as he stood outside the McDuffie County Jail. It was early in the morning just two days after Christmas. Yes, waiting in Thomson, Georgia, a city that’s been called by many names: Frog Pond, Hickory Level, the Camellia City of the South, and oddly enough, Slashes. Lawton would wait until 10:30 A.M. for the jailhouse church service to be over. The boy and the gallows waited for the two men being prayed for this cold morning. Yes, thought young Lawton, today it ends.

Young Lawton Story was a lanky young man of six five, just like his father, Rad Story. Rad’s only son last saw him on December 1, 1904. It was after dinner when Rad left home to handle a problem at one of his farms near the community of Thomson. The problem being cotton was going missing. Rad had a plan. Inspect the farm, then double back when not expected. Take a different route as to not be recognized from a distance on his white stallion. And that is what he did, and it was the last time anyone ever saw Rad Story alive.

As young Lawton Story waited for the jailhouse door to open, he thought about what a difference a day made, a day he could never forget, a day that rocked his world in this sleepy East Georgia countryside.

When Rad went missing, the boy prayed for a different ending, anything but this. His mind thought of a million reasons why “Papa” could go missing. After all the family owned ten thousand acres. Anything could have happened. But no, Rad’s body was found thrown in a canebrake. How could he live without his beloved father? Lawton’s life would never be the same.

Radford Gunn Story was properly buried at the Arimathea Methodist Church just a short distance from his home. In a blink of an eye, a family of six children was without a father, a loving wife without a husband, thirteen brothers – now twelve.

“Rad Story was a highly respected gentleman.”

And this highly respected gentleman was well known on sight by the white stallion he rode. At eventide, December 1, 1904, his stallion returned home without his faithful rider. His wife, Sallie Gunby-Story did not have to wait on a search party to find her husband, she knew some terrible fate had befallen him.

According to the Augusta Chronicle:

“Mr. R. G. Story, one of the best known and most respected citizens of the county, had a plantation two miles from Thomson. There he went on the 1st of December to see after the work on the place. In passing through some woods, he caught two men in the act of stealing cotton. By their own voluntary confessions, made before and after arrest, he said to them: ‘Boys is this the way you treat me when you think I’m gone? How often have you done this?’ They replied that they had done it only once. Mr. Story then said, ‘Well, come with me.’ As he turned to go, (one man) shot at him three times, one bullet striking him in the side of the face. Both of his assailants then ran, and Mr. Story staggered down the road towards home. Then (one) declared, ‘Well, we are in for it now, let’s finish it.’ (The man) then started after Mr. Story with an axe, but (the one) having no axe, outran him and overtook Mr. Story, whom he held until the other came with the axe, struck Mr. Story in the head. Then (the man) holding down Mr. Story took the axe and struck him. His corpse showed four mortal wounds to the head. The two men then dragged his body off the road and threw it into a canebrake.”

A search party formed, and on December 2, his body was found.

“Rad Story’s body was found by his father, Henry Allen Story and (half) brother, Claude Story who were amongst the search party. On December 3, there was a tremendous gathering in Thomson. Judge Hammond in Augusta was wired and he took the next train to Thomson. The hearts of the people were deadly stirred, the most deadly passions were aroused. But good judgement and good morals stayed the hand of vengeance.”

But good judgement and good morals were getting hard to come by with the people pouring into Thomson. They came from all over the county and state. A special meeting was called at the courthouse, a meeting of resolution. An expedient course of action had to be taken if the city was to be saved from destruction and violence. Five more judges hurried into Thomson, the Honorable: West, Farmer, Ellington, Callaway and Sturgis. A resolution was adopted and the trial was scheduled. The docket was cleared and trial set within the week.

The Honorable Judge Henry C.Hammond quoted Proverbs to calm the mass of people: “He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.” Rad Story’s own father pleaded for peace and order, to allow the law to take it’s own course and that punishment be meted out by the courts.

One of the two men arrested had confided in a girl. “I had a fuss with my boss, Mr. Story, and I shot him.” She went to the authorities with the information.

The man’s home was searched and a bloody axe with hair on it was found under his mother’s bed. Both men pled “guilty.” The two men were asked to withdraw their guilty pleas and attorneys were appointed to represent them. They were tried and sentenced by a grand jury. They were found guilty and would hang by the neck until dead.

Seventeen year old Lawton Story was as distraught as his mother was stricken with grief. His little sisters cried themselves to sleep every night calling out for “Papa.” Lawton could not help but want the killers of his dear father dead. He counted the days until December 27. It was a private hanging with only a few were in attendance, young Lawton was there. Nothing could bring back his Papa, but he would finish it by seeing the execution through.

It was a cold day in Georgia when Rad’s son waited to face the men who swung an axe that day on Thomson Road. Judge Hammond had already resolved the issue with this statement: “Though a sad, yet yesterday was a great day for the city of Thomson, and the county of McDuffie. And the trial held there reflected credit upon the south and its civilization. May this wonderful example of self-control and high regard for law be followed throughout the land. At late hour last night all was peace and quiet in Thomson, and there was not the slightest apprehension of trouble.”

But it would not be resolved for young Lawton until he stood before the gallows. Now justice would be done. With a pounding heart, Lawton’s senses were sharpened as he took it all in. He would see this and remember it all the days of his life. And that is true, he did remember it all the days of his life, but not in the way that he thought he would.

Finally, the moment came and the two convicted men were marched onto the gallows together. According to the Augusta Chronicle, both were cool and composed and said they were ready to die. One was serious over the matter, while the other man smiled and announced, “I’m ready to skin the cat.” And according to eye witness, young Lawton, that man also said, “Let ‘er rip!” At that, the death cap was placed on them, they hanged.

Young Lawton stood there in shock. He wanted to close his eyes, but they were frozen open. When he was able to move, young Lawton left the jailhouse and rode his horse hard; hard until he had an asthma attack. He choked about the time his horse spooked and he was thrown. His uneasy horse left him all alone on Thomson Road with his misery.

Lawton struggled to regain his breath. He fought with everything he had, but succumbed to exaggerated breathing, choking, and hot tears of despair. If only his father was here now, the gentle giant of a man would cradle his son’s head and shoulders in his arms like a new born baby. His soft reassuring voice would stabilize his son’s heart rate. His gentle hand on his brow would slow Lawton’s breathing. Rad knew what to do. Lawton knew he was safe in the care of “Papa.” Without his father, what would he do? Lawton knew the answer to that question; he would surely die.

Overwhelmed with grief, he could not rise just yet. He lay there staring at the cloud formation wishing he could turn back time and be with his father, just one more day. Lawton finally stood and realized how sore and weak he was from the asthma attack and fall from his horse. He slowly made his way down the road back to his Clay Hill Lincolnton home, all the while, wishing he could run away and forget.

As Lawton walked, he recalled another time when he wanted to leave Lincolnton. As a child, it was the worst day of his life, the only time his father laid a hand on him. He was so distraught from the swipe across the backside, the boy decided to run away from home. He set out for the Thomson Train Station – walking. He spent all of his money on candy while in the station. He had no money left for a train ticket. Not knowing what to do, he sat there in the train station until “eventide.” That’s when Rad Story showed up on his white stallion. Little Lawton slept lying against his father’s chest all the way home.

How could his world change so much in such a short period of time? Just a few weeks ago, he and his father went hunting together. The Radford Story family shared Thanksgiving together. It was a happy time. Soon after, the family discussed how they would celebrate the birth of Christ. There were verses in the Bible to recite and songs to be practiced. There was a lot going on within the family, a time of joy.

Life had made a staggering turn. Lawton wanted to run away, forget everything.

Mother was making preparations to move the family to Uncle Ed’s home in the city of Thomson. The Rad Story home-place was about to say goodbye to sisters: Maude,Theodosia, Eddy, Reesie, and three year old, Ruth Radford Story. Lawton’s world was truly turned upside down in a matter of days. His mother never remarried. She eventually wound up in Decatur, Georgia, where she is buried in the (old) Decatur Cemetery along side her brother, Professor Charlie Gunby and her daughter, Theodosia.

But that December day in 1904, the family exploded. Lawton saw the handwriting on the wall as he walked. If he stayed, he was about to be the only one left at home, the home his father built, the home where just a few weeks ago his father said grace over their Thanksgiving dinner.

Seventeen year old Lawton would remember that prayer forever, but it was what happened just after the “Amen” that Lawton would replay in his mind. When Rad Story said “Amen,” he raised his head and looked into the eyes of his son and said, “Now girls, remember to thank your brother for the turkey. He’s a straight shoot.”

“He’s a straight shoot,” replayed in the mind of this grieving son as he slowly walked home. He remembered the lingering look from his father that day at the table. It was the last time he recalled looking into his father’s eyes.

Yes, Lawton wanted to leave and never come back. But who would take care of Papa’s horse? Who would put in the crops this spring? And who would put flowers on Papa’s grave?

This was a heavy burden for a seventeen year old, not yet a man, but no longer a boy. As he approached his Lincolnton home, he looked out across the land and then allowed his eyes to set on the mourning door draped in black.

Would he go, or would he stay? He faced his future and made the decision right then and there. There was never really a question in his mind about leaving Lincolnton. It was too late. Lawton would stay. He was already in love with the Bentley girl, Nancy. If he could have looked past that door, he would have seen himself there with his Nancy. He would have known that eight of his nine children would be born there, one being my father, Tom Story.

Lawton “Papa Story” with Diane, Barbara and Patricia Story at Christmastime

As the eighteenth granddaughter of Lawton Story, I sat on my parent’s front porch on Morgan Road in Tucker, Georgia, and heard this story told many times by my grandfather. Yes, my grandfather was the seventeen year old boy who lost his father that cold December in 1904.

After dinner, my grandfather, my Papa Story, walked to our front porch and sat down. When the sun set, we knew to be still. We sensed it, because Papa Story became very quiet during eventide. His demeanor changed. And then when the darkness enveloped us, his voice seemed to deepen and he spoke to us in a quiet grave tone.

This made my mother, Helen Story, uneasy and she always whispered to my father, “Tom, the girls will have nightmares.”

My father ignored her and looked intently toward his father, as we three little girls did. Mama sat back and remained tense. She wore her thoughts on her sleeve, “How far will Mr. Story go this time?”

One night Papa Story looked at my mother and ever so gently said, “Helen, this is important. The girls must hear this.”

And then he continued with his “important” story.

“Papa did not come home. His horse returned without him – at eventide. Even unto this day – at eventide,” Lawton paused to take a deep breath trying to stave off an asthma attack. Eventually his throaty whisper found our ears through the darkness of night, “I can hear the sound of my father’s horse running to the barn. I feel uneasiness in my stomach – knowing something’s wrong. I hear the distress bell – Mother rang. I sense fear stirring in my little sisters. I was with my grandfather when my father was found in that canebrake. When Grandpa (Henry Allen Story) saw Papa lying there, he hit the ground like a mighty fell oak. He was never the same. Soon thereafter, it was chaos. There was a call to order – Thomson was about to explode, folks wanted to tear it down, starting with the jail. My grandfather pleaded for peace. He did not want to lose another son.” Lawton paused to reach into his sweater pocket. He pulled out a small handheld respirator and blew into it. When he had recovered, he went on. “And – – – –  at eventide – – – – I see the faces of those two men standing on the gallows.”

And then as always, my grandfather sat still and very quiet. We all sat frozen with suspense, though we knew exactly what he would say next.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

When my grandfather looked back on that day, he was at peace with the fact that the men were brought to justice for the murder of his father, though he regretted wanting them to hang.

One night on the front porch after my grandfather told the story about Rad’s death, my sister, Patricia asked, “Why didn’t Rad pull his gun out on those guys and shoot ’em?” Which made my mother almost swallow her tongue, although silently my father nodded his head in agreement to the question. And Papa Story answered, “Rad Story never carried a gun unless he was hunting. He didn’t need a gun. My father was a big man and he not afraid of anything.”

After reading the newspaper articles about my great-grandfather’s death on Thomson Road, I now realize that Lawton Story told his little granddaughters this tragic story with great delicacy. It breaks my heart to think about how painful this must have been for him to dredge it up and relive it. I wish it was possible to go to my grandfather and give him a big hug and tell him how much I love him. But I cannot, so I will remember the stories he told and how he made sure we heard these words:

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” And, “He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.”

According to my Papa Story, they were words to live by. And by the way, Papa Story gave credit to King Solomon and never mentioned anything about a judge  when it came to the quote about ruling the spirit. I found out about that in the Augusta Chronicle.

And I will remember Christmas; a time that has always been a season of great celebration in the Lawton Story family. My grandfather went through the motions, but he could be singled out easily in our large family. He was the quiet one with the faraway look in his eyes.

Though the newspapers identified the men responsible for my great-grandfather’s death, I chose to omit their names. Nor could I force my hands to write a complete description of the condition of his body.

May Radford Gunn Story rest in peace.

Author’s Note:

Radford Gunn Story was born October 1858, died December 1, 1904. His grave was moved to the William Aurelius Gunby family plot at Dunn’s Chapel when Arimathea Methodist became a part of Clarks Hill Lake. The Augusta Chronicle stated Rad G. Story was forty-seven years of age in December 1904.

“Thomson, Ga, Dec 2. The body of Rad Story was found this morning by his brother Claude H. Story and his father H. A. Story who where among the party searching for him in a cane swamp about two miles north of Thomson…” – Augusta Chronicle

Headline quotes from Augusta Chronicle December 3, 1904: “Mr. Rad G. Story Foully Murdered Near Thomson  Well know Resident of McDuffie Attacked From Behind  Head Crushed In”

Other quotes and headlines: Story Slayers Hanged at Thomson, Speedy Justice Stops Lynching at Thomson

Most of the details (quotes) about the crime came from the Augusta Chronicle, some information from the Wilmington Morning Star. Knowledge of the newspaper articles came from Patricia Moss, granddaughter of Ruth Radford Story.

Rad Story was the third son of Rachel Ann Montgomery and Henry Allen (Buck) Story. They had five other sons: Samuel (Fox Huntin’ Sam), James, Henry David, Benjamin and Columbus (Lum). When Rachel died, Henry Allen Story married Susan McDaniel and had seven more sons and four daughters. Radford Gunn Story was named after Reverend Radford Gunn of Little Brier Creek Baptist in Warrenton, Georgia.

Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

Christmas photo 1956: Every time a granddaughter was born, Papa Story (Lawton) wanted her named Sallie after his mother. No one took his advice. Christmas 1956 we visited him to show off our Christmas dolls, whereupon my little sister, Barbara, held up her doll and said, “Her name is Sallie, and she has blue eyes and blonde hair just like your Sallie.” With tears in his eyes he put Barbara on his lap along with “Sallie” an requested a photo. He loved us all, but was especially fond of Barbara.

REWRITE 2019:

I Am a Scot. I do not need your approval, your opinion, your attitude, or even your notice of me. I do, however, need you to step aside and get out of my way. Great things are in my immediate future, watch me do exactly what you said I could not. ~Author Unknown

At Eventide

1904

Chronos, an imaginary god who represents chronological order. The ancient Greeks called him “Father Time.” The man cloaked in darkness carrying a sickle, imagined or not, marks all rich or poor, weak or strong. A mark that divides the then and the now. The moment whispered about. If only we could go back, but time is unforgiving. No appeal possible. If ever such a blow marked a man it’s this one. His moment to endure at the tender age of seventeen. His great sorrow.

He was born a Story in 1886 in East Georgia. His Scottish roots lend meaning to the name and the man. Stor meant big and strong while rie meant large body of water.

His philosophical grandfather called him Horace, which meant keeper of time. His formidable grandfather rejected the versifier notion. He called the boy, Lawton, a good honest farm name. Hlaw – meant hill or mound, while tun meant fenced settlement. Thus a strong man destined to become a storytelling farmer, life impacted by a big body of water.

Big? He was six-five, strong as an ox, but helpless to stop the flood of events that rocked his world, including the submergence of his Lincoln County farm. He’d lose then as he lost now. Winter of 1904 rammed death in his face, not one man, but three.

A December sunrise found Horace Lawton Story pacing the red bricks of Journal Street with Mother’s words echoing in his head.

“Don’t go.”

Lawton stood firm. No choice. Rad Story’s only son, oldest child. Pacing Journal, he waited to be summoned. Waited in Thomson, a city that’s been called by many names: Frog Pond, Hickory Level, the Camellia City of the South, and oddly enough, Slashes. The boy and the gallows waited for two men being prayed over; 10:30 A.M. was Amen time.

“Today it ends,” were his thoughts.

It started on December 1, when Lawton’s father left home to investigate a problem at one of the big farms. Cotton going missing. Rad had a plan. Inspect the farm early, then double back unexpected. That was the last time anyone saw Rad Story alive.

Next day a search party found the body. Radford Gunn Story was buried at Arimathea Methodist, a place known as the White Rocks, land adjacent his home in Lincoln County. In a blink of an eye, six children without a father. Sallie Story, a widow. “The Thirteen” (brothers) now twelve. That missing spoke in the wheel created turmoil throughout the State of Georgia.

Rad Story was known by the white saddleback stallion he rode. At eventide, December 1, 1904, that horse returned without him, marking his disappearance. It was the Augusta Chronicle that recorded the sickle swing of Chronos. It was to become the Evolution of Horace Lawton Story.

Augusta Chronicle Dec. 2: Rad G. Story, a highly respected gentleman residing one mile from Thomson, was brutally murdered two miles north of this place yesterday evening. Mr. Story had been bothered for some time by having parties steal cotton from some of his tenants, and he left his home shortly after dinner yesterday evening and went over to investigate the matter and it is thought that a fuss arose between him and the parties who were accused of the stealing. While returning home he was waylaid and knocked on the head with an axe three terrible wounds having been made on the back of the head, crushing in the skull and causing the brains to ooze out. After the murderer or murderers had killed Mr. Story they took his body and threw it in a canebrake about 20 feet from where the crime took place. Mr. Story failing to return home on last night, his wife became uneasy and gave the alarms. A searching party was organized and after a diligent search of several hours his body was found by his father, Mr. H. A. (Buck) Story and his (half) brother, Mr. Claude H. Story, this morning about 11:00. Suspicion at once rested on John and Guy Reid and John Butler, the strongest suspicion being on John Butler, as an old axe was found under his bed that had blood stains on it. The coroner summoned a jury and went out to where the crime was committed, and began an investigation. The evidence so far seems to be very damaging to John Butler, as one girl had testified that John told her that he and his boss, Mr. Story had had a fuss and that he, John, had shot him. So far the body does not show any gunshot or pistol shot wounds, but a more thorough examination will be made in the morning. Mr. Story, the deceased, was 47 years of age, and leaves a wife and several children to mourn his sad death.

Upon further examination it was confirmed that Mr. Story had a gunshot wound to the side of his face. Three men arrested, one released.

Augusta Chronicle, Thomson, Ga. … On December 3, there was a tremendous gathering in Thomson. Judge Hammond in Augusta was wired and he took the next train to Thomson. The hearts of the people were deadly stirred, the most deadly passions were aroused. But good judgement and good morals stayed the hand of vengeance.

But good judgement and good morals were getting hard to come by with the anger pouring into Thomson. They came from all over by every means imaginable. A special meeting was called at the courthouse. An expedient course of action needed if the city was to be saved. Five more judges rushed into Thomson, the Honorable: West, Farmer, Ellington, Callaway and Sturgis. A resolution was adopted and the trial scheduled. The docket cleared and trial set within the week.

The Honorable Judge Henry C. Hammond quoted Proverbs to calm the mass of people: “He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.”

Rad’s father pleaded for peace and order, to allow the law to take its own course and that punishment be meted out by the courts.

Upon further investigation:

Augusta Chronicle Dec. 6: Mr. R. G. Story, one of the best known and most respected citizens of the county, had a plantation two miles from Thomson. There he went on the 1st of December to see after the work on the place. In passing through some woods, he caught two men in the act of stealing cotton. By their own voluntary confessions, made before and after arrest, he said to them: ‘Boys is this the way you treat me when you think I’m gone? How often have you done this?’ They replied that they had done it only once. Mr. Story then said, ‘Well, come with me.’ As he turned to go, John Butler shot at him three times, one bullet striking him in the side of the face. Both of his assailants then ran, and Mr. Story staggered down the road towards home. Then John Butler declared, ‘Well, we are in for it now, let’s finish it.’ John Butler then started after Mr. Story with an axe, but Guy Reid having no axe, outran Butler and overtook Mr. Story, whom he held until Butler came with the axe, struck Mr. Story in the head. Then Reid took the axe and struck him. His corpse showed four mortal wounds to the head. The two men then dragged his body off the road and threw it into a canebrake.

Augusta Chronicle Headlines Dec.6: A Record for Law and Order of Which the Good People of McDuffie Feel Proud – GUILT CLEARLY ESTABLISHED – They Were Sentenced to be Hanged on Tuesday, December 27. Perfect Order and Respect for Court Prevailed at the Trial – Will Remain in Thomson Jail

Hanging day couldn’t come soon enough for young Lawton. His little sisters cried themselves to sleep, home overrun with armed guards. He counted the days. It’d be a private hanging with few in attendance. Nothing could bring back Rad Story, but his son would face the men who swung the axe.

Judge Hammond resolved the issue with this statement:

Augusta Chronicle Dec.6, Thomson, Ga. Special: Though bowed in grief over the tragic death of one of their worthiest and most beloved citizens, the people of McDuffie County are relieved and delighted that the law has been upheld and vindicated. The history of this crime, and the trial and conviction of its perpetrators, are worthy of record, for it demonstrated that in a highly civilized and progressive community, no matter how dreadful the murder or how wretched the murderers, the law will be allowed to take its course, and the present and consequential horrors of lynching avoided. Mr. R. G. Story was one of the best known and respected citizens of the county, had a plantation two miles from Thomson.

Though a sad, yet yesterday was a great day for the City of Thomson, and the County of McDuffie. And the trial held there reflected credit upon the south and its civilization. May this wonderful example of self-control and high regard for law be followed throughout the land. At late hour last night all was peace and quiet in Thomson, and there was not the slightest apprehension of trouble.

No resolution for young Lawton. While pacing Journal Street he caught a glimpse of the Thomson Train Station through the alley. He recalled the day a ten year old runaway sat in that depot. His thoughts interrupted when the door opened. They called his name. He entered.

Two convicted men walked onto the gallows. Both composed and said they were ready to die. Reid was serious over the matter, while Butler smiled and said, “I’m ready to skin the cat. Let ‘er rip!”

With death cap in place, it was over within minutes.

Lawton left without a word. Rode his horse hard. Had an asthma attack. Horse spooked, threw him, leaving him on Thomson Road choking on hot tears of despair. Overwhelmed with grief, he stared at cloud formations wishing to turn back time. What he’d give for another day with Papa. He walked toward home in Lincoln County. Thoughts swirled. Wanted to run away. He wept like a broken hearted child, just like the day his father hit him.

Yes, that was the day the ten year old took his money to the Thomson Train Station for a ticket to ride. Anywhere but here. But the candy jars beckoned. Lawton partook until no money for a ticket. Eventide brought a reconciliation with Papa as they rode home on the white stallion.

On December 28, 1904, seventeen year old Lawton Story stared at the horizon looking for the white horse. His mind said, he’s not coming, while his heart cried out, look for him!

Last article found of 1904 slaying:

Augusta Chronicle Headlines Dec. 28, STORY SLAYERS HANGED AT THOMSON, Murderers Butler and Reed Pay Penalty of Their Crime Same Month It Was Committed, DIED IN EIGHT MINUTES. Necks of Both Were Broken.

The details of the crime are still fresh in the public mind, for it was committed less than a month ago. Their apprehension, conviction and execution makes a new record for dealing out quick justice in Georgia. Only twenty-seven days elapsed between the murder of Mr. Story and the expiation of the crime of his murder by the two on the gallows … The two men were sentenced to be hung, being given just one day over the misdemeanor time allowed by law. Had they been given only the minimum they would have been hanged Monday, the day that was observed as Christmas Day.

The crime was a heinous one, and the people of McDuffie County deserve congratulations for upholding the law and order under the trying circumstances. The prompt action of the court officials is also worthy of commendation, as it had much to do with preventing violence.

Coping with Great Sorrow

The world changed in just a few weeks. No need for armed guards in the house then. A gun was for hunting, not protection. His little sisters, Maude, Theo, Eddy, Reesie and Ruthie asked their go-to-person one question.

“Why, Buster?”

How could Lawton explain what he did not understand? That’s not all. Mother was making preparations to move the girls to Uncle Ed’s home in the City of Thomson (thereafter from place to place).

Young Lawton saw the handwriting on the wall. Home alone, home where Papa said grace at Thanksgiving just a month ago. A moment he’d never forget. After the “Amen,” Rad raised his head and looked into the eyes of his son, “Now girls, remember to thank your brother for the turkey. He’s a straight shoot.”

“He’s a straight shoot.” The voice, the words, the lingering look, the only time he recalled looking deep into his father’s eyes. Too painful to sit at that table again. Too painful to look at Papa’s empty chair. He had to go. But who would care for Papa’s horse? Tend the farm? Place flowers on the grave? A heavy burden for a seventeen year old, not yet a man, no longer a boy. As he approached home, he looked across land allowing his eyes to set on the door draped in black.

Would he go or would he stay? He faced the future then and there. Never a real question about leaving Lincoln County. Too late. He was in love with the Bentley girl, Nancy. If he could have seen the future through that mourning door, he’d seen himself with Nancy along with nine children, one being my father, Tom Story.

Tucker Georgia, 1950s

As a child I heard this story many times. My grandfather was the seventeen year old who found his father in a canebrake. After supper the old gentleman headed for the screened-in front porch, the time he called eventide. His voice changed as darkness crept in. The firefly dance signaled the jailhouse story. The groaning of the swing’s chain supernaturally dwarfed his words – raising the hair. All of which forced my mother to speak, though a mere whisper.

“Tom, the girls will have nightmares.”

My father ignored her, perhaps didn’t hear. Tom Story was mesmerized by details of the grandfather never met. Mama’s thoughts easily read, “How far will Mr. Story go this time?”

One night Papa Story said ever so gently, “Helen, this is important. My grandchildren must hear this. My father did not come home . . .”

Tension mounted as throaty whispers found little ears. Our silent anguish cried out with the groaning of the swing.

“His horse returned – alone. Even to this day at eventide, I hear Papa’s horse running to the barn. I hear the distress bell. I feel the fear in my little sisters. When Grandpa Buck saw him . . . he hit the ground like a mighty fell oak.”

He breathed deeply. We honored his moment of silence, but not so the swing. It moaned and groaned despite all.

“Then came chaos. There was a call to order – Thomson was about to explode. Tear it down! Is what they shouted. Judges flooded the city. Deputies sworn in by the dozen. To clear the docket, court convened day and night. Deputies knocked on doors twenty-four-seven telling witness and defendant – you’re next, let’s go.”

Rubbing his face, Lawton dried his eyes.

“Grandpa Buck spoke to the mob. Pleaded for peace. Couldn’t bear to lose another son.”

Paused a moment as he reached into his sweater pocket for his asthma whistle. We froze with suspense, though we knew exactly what he’d say. Because he said it every time, words he wanted his grandchildren to hear.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Lawton Story was at peace with the men being brought to justice, but much regretted wanting them dead. My sister, Patricia once asked, “Why didn’t Rad pull his gun out and shoot ’em?” Which made our mother almost swallow her tongue, although our father nodded in agreement.

“Well Petunia, Rad Story never carried a gun unless he was huntin.’ Didn’t need a gun. My father was a big man, could handle anything. He was Buck Story’s son. No one would ever mess with a son of Buck Story, not The Thirteen.”

I was fourteen when my grandfather, Lawton Story, passed away in 1963. His legacy was Storytelling of East Georgia: McDuffie, Columbia, Wilkes, Warren, and Lincoln County. Often I think of that teenage boy living alone on 155 acres, a farm located on a dirt road off Salem Church Road in Lincoln County. December 1, a bustling household of eight. By month end, alone. September 26, 1906, he married Nancy Bentley. She moved in with her piano. They had nine children.

Christmas after 1904

Lawton Story honored Christmas-time by going through the motions, but was easily spotted. He was the quiet man with a faraway look in his eyes. It was the day Tom Story whispered to his daughters, “Make sure you tell him that you love him.”

“I did, Daddy.”

“Tell him again. Do it for me.”

Lawton longed for a granddaughter named, Sallie to honor his mother, Sallie Gunby Story. Never happened. One Christmas we visited to show off our new dolls. My little sister, Barbara, held up her doll and said, “Her name is Sallie. She has blue eyes and blonde hair just like your Sallie.” With tears in his eyes he placed Barbara on his lap along with “Sallie” and requested a photo. He loved all twenty-six grandchildren, but was especially fond of Barbara Gail Story.

Arimathea Methodist and Dunn’s Chapel

On the left past Salem Church (on Salem Church Road) is a dirt road Arimathea, unmarked except on detailed maps. That abandoned road dead-ends into the lake. There under water once stood Arimathea Methodist where Rad Story was buried. His tombstone and scoop of dirt was transferred to Dunn’s Chapel when Arimathea Methodist was flooded in lake expansion. Rad’s remains probably in Arimathea grave under water. To the right of the church stood the house that Rad built for Sallie.

May Rad and Sallie Gunby Story Rest in Peace, for in life they were separated by violence, time, distance and a big body of water.

Radford Gunn Story (1858-1904) was named after Reverend Radford Gunn of Little Brier Creek Baptist in Warrenton, Georgia. His parents were Henry Allen “Buck” Story and Rachel Ann Montgomery. Buck and Rachel’s children: Sam, James, Rad, David, Ben and Lum Story.

Wow, I’m finally on the plane; a miracle. Just yesterday I was in a four car collision. When I saw the black Beetle bounce toward the hood of my car,  I thought, I’m spending my vacation in the hospital. When I looked to my left and saw the SUV aiming out of control at my car door, I thought I may not be here to be in the hospital.

I missed that hair and nail appointment.

I wanted to look polished while in London, England. I wanted to look forward to my birthday and was not sure how I would accept becoming fifty. So, I decided to leave the country when April 3rd rolled around.

“Too busy,” was my excuse for avoiding parties with family and friends, “lots of packing to do. Gotta get my passport.” I wanted to be in London no later than April 3rd.

I met with every roadblock imaginable, one delay after another, and the trip kept getting pushed up. But here I sit next to my son, James, on my way to see the sites of London and take in a few plays.

After checking into the Lime Tree Bed and Breakfast, we took a quick walk up the street to Westminster Abbey. So anxious to see the burial sites of Elizabeth I and her cousin, my favorite heroine, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland. I was astonished when I overheard a priest doubling as a tour guide, brag about how Edward I was known as Edward Longshanks Killer of the Scots.

“ The greatest Scots killer that ever lived! He hammered the Scots to death! My dear, wouldn’t you like to see the grave of the famous Longshanks, Edward the…”

“No thank you,” I snapped back. Imagine the nerve of that guy, and wearing a collar of the priesthood.

James pulled me away and whispered, “I’m sure the Scots have something to say about the Brits on their tours.” James chuckled and said, “This is tourism Mom!”

That priest and the jet lag were getting to me. We stepped out for some air. There we were met by another priest in an open corridor offering hot tea. Looked like a priest, sounded like a priest and acted like a priest.

“Well thank you Father, thank you so much. I will have a cup if you don’t mind.”

James anxious to move on wanted to go his own way. “Mom, you stay here and rest awhile, I’ll come back and catch up with you here.” James smiled mischievously as he teased me, “Now Mom you are staying here? You’re not gonna circle back and straighten that Longshanks priest out are you?”

I promised James to stay put and behave. The kind priest nodded in agreement.

So James and I parted ways and I thoroughly enjoyed my nice cup of hot tea in an outer hallway of the Abbey. I found an uncomfortable bench and looked out through the open arches and watched the rain drizzle onto the lawn on the Large Cloister.

I’ve been trying to get here for so long, not just weeks but years. My nephew, Bubba, was our family traveler. He regularly flew to London, Paris, Boston, New York and the Bahamas. But it was London that he spoke of most often.

Robert Lowry Logan III

“Aunt Di, you and mother must see London. Whole regiments march through Harrods playing bagpipes at Christmas time. If you think you love the Highland Fling at Stone Mountain Park, wait until you hear the bagpipes at Harrods.  And the museums and plays are the best in the world. You can’t imagine how beautiful the palaces and castles are.  Pictures don’t do them justice! The school children wear snappy uniforms and flags are flown everywhere. I want you to go with me sometime. Promise me you will go to London with me! You and Mother must come!”

“I’m here Bubba, I’m here. Mother wanted to come but she couldn’t.”

Fatigue gave way to sadness as I remembered the days long gone in Tucker, Georgia. I thought of Bubba and how we celebrated our April birthdays together along with my younger sister, Barbara. My older sister, Patricia, would have us over to her house on Woodcreek Court in Tucker. It was always a surprise, and of course, we all played along.

I could see it now. I walked around to Patricia’s back porch about sundown and could see nothing but the blaze of candles. Not just one cake with a few candles, but three cakes, one for each of us, and a candle lit for every single year of life. At first glance, it looked like the house was on fire, and then came the singing and laughter. Then the drama of the children falling to the floor gasping for breath as the smoke rose to the ceiling. And even more laughter.

Young Robert Lowry Logan III

That was before Bubba left us. At the young age of twenty-six, Bubba went to Heaven. It was a sad day and without him, we stopped laughing.

Our birthdays were never the same. And it was too hard for his mother, Patricia, to carry on the spring birthday tradition.

That’s the real reason I was hot to get out of town. How could I celebrate such an important day without Bubba? So I flew all the way over here – Bubba’s favorite place. The place we were supposed to visit together.

The rain came down harder and the wind blew me back inside the Abbey seeking shelter. I roamed around looking for James. As I strolled about and admired all the marble work, it occurred to me that England does not want to bury their dead. Rather they place the remains in crypts with lifelike images of the deceased made of stone on top. Every date and critical moment of life is carefully recorded near the site. Famous authors, scientists, musicians, kings, queens and military men and women. If they were somebody in the Kingdom of Great Britain, they were here.

I found myself in a very large room. People from all over the world could be spotted here, all reverent and spoke in hushed whispers.

A long line formed up ahead and I slowed down to see if I wanted to get in there with them. I did not see or hear of any priests swearing out the Scots, so I got in that line. Must be something special; I smelled incense burning. The closer I got, the quieter the crowd became. I waited in anticipation. Who could it be? As the line veered slightly to the right and around a corner,  I saw a huge rack of candles, most lit and some not. The people would take a candle and light it and then drop coins in an offering can.

I managed out a few pounds from my pocket and got them ready to drop. I had a few more minutes to think and I decided to light a candle for my family and thank God for allowing me to finally make it to London. When it was my turn to light a candle, I closed my eyes and said a little prayer. As I opened my eyes for just a moment, I was in another place and time.

I was no longer at the Abbey, but at my sister’s back porch on Woodcreek Court in Tucker, Georgia. I was looking at the huge blaze of fire on the three April birthday cakes. And though I was over four thousand miles from home, I was celebrating my fiftieth birthday with my family.

As I gazed at the candles beyond the smoke rise of the incense, I could almost see my nephew smiling back at me.

About that time, someone’s conversation intruded into my thoughts.

“What’s the date please?” I overheard a man ask with a thick British accent.

“April 13th,” another man replied.

Of course it is, April 13th. Happy birthday Bubba!

All Roads Lead to Stone Mountain Georgia is dedicated to my dear nephew, Robert Lowry Logan III – our “Bubba.”

All Roads Lead to Stone Mountain Georgia  © 2012 by H. D. Story All Rights Reserved

 

Gail Lineback

“That lipstick is too bright,” said my good friend Gail.

“Really? I don’t think so. Maybe I need to blot…”

“You can blot all you want, won’t do any good. The color’s too bright.”

I have had a lot of best-friends at different stages of my life. But when I think on my very best-friend, my mind will time wrap all the way back to the sixth grade at Tucker Elementary. I returned to public school mid-year after an on-and-off illness of four years. The first person to greet me at the classroom door was Gail.

“Welcome back Diane! I know you don’t know me, I’m kinda new, I’m Gail Lineback,” Gail said with a big smile. But I know you. I signed some of the get well cards. It’s okay if you don’t remember my name. If you get tired, let me know. I can carry your book bag. My father is a doctor, and he told me how to look after you,” Gail assured me, “I know what signs to look for.”

Before I could speak, she said, “My parents are divorced. I live with my mother and little sister, Little Nancy – just off Chamblee Tucker Road – not too far from where you live – just off Chamblee Tucker Road. I have an older sister Ellen; she’s moved out and doesn’t live with us anymore. My father has re-married and has another family. My mother has a boyfriend, but she probably won’t marry him. Little Nancy collects Barbie dolls…”

Gail could go on for hours. She was determined to be my friend, and did her best to look out for me. It was Gail that I talked to during the seventh grade dances. We were the two tall girls in the class. It seemed that all the boys were short and did not really grow tall until late high school. The most popular girls were short; makes sense. We would dream about how different our lives would be if only we were “short girls.”

High School came and Gail was still looking after me, on occasion, remarking about my skin tone. “You look pale, want something to drink? How about a piece of cheese? Maybe it’s your lipstick. It’s too bright. Honestly, Story, the birds know it’s you that’s coming down the road, when they see that lipstick.”

“Well, I look paler with lighter lipstick, Gail. When I look pale, they think I’m sick!”

“Just take it down a couple notches.”

“Well quite frankly, Lineback, I like this shade.”

“You need to get your eyes checked out.” And on and on the conversation went. Gail Lineback could never offend me, nor could I offend her.

In our eighth and ninth grade, we had Physical Education together. One cold morning after walking out to the practice football field behind Tucker High School, Gail said, “You look flushed, sit down, Story.” Gail instructed me as though she was a real doctor. “Here, sit on my purse so you won’t get wet.” She stood tall and gave a big wave to Miss Bell and Miss Curtis our PE teachers. They gave her the “yes” nod. “See, it’s okay, you sit here until you feel better.”

I was never allowed to run laps around the field with the other girls, I walked one lap. If I walked too fast, Gail would pass me and yell back, “Story, slow down!”

In the tenth grade, Gail and I did not have any classes together. She was also busy with drill team practice. It had been a while since I talked to her, so I decided to call her at home and catch up. I was met with an unfriendly voice.

“Well hello Diane.  Why the sudden burst of friendship?”

“What?”

“Diane, you haven’t spoken or had lunch with us in weeks.”
“I know I’ve seen you around, I know you’ve been busy with the new girl…”
“Of course, I’m busy with the new girl. I want her to feel welcome. You should be busy making her feel welcome. By ignoring your friends, you make her feel unwelcome. She thinks you don’t like her.”

“Oh no, I didn’t mean to do that. I’ve been busy and thought y’all were doing a good job taking care of her…”

“That should never be the case. You should go out of your way to speak to a new person; have lunch with her.”

“You’re right, I just didn’t think…”

“Dee Dee’s funny. You’d really like her. Join us Monday in the lunchroom, you know the table.”

Gail was serious about her friends. I was very fortunate to be included in that list. The other thing she was serious about was her French. If ever she had a moment to spare, she had her nose in that French language book. Her accent needed to be “authentic.” She wanted to impress her father and make her mother proud. She worked hard to strive for perfection.

We graduated from high school and went our separate ways. I found myself soon married and living in the Canal Zone where my husband urged Green Berets to jump out of helicopters into the jungle; jungle training for Viet Nam. Afterwards, my life became focused on my two sons. Gail became a school teacher. Her life became focused on her children; her students.

I saw her once at a THS reunion. Gail met me at the door. She was still pretty, but I was concerned about her eyes since she wore glasses with very thick lenses. She was married briefly to a British man.

“What? Not French?”

“No,” she laughed, “but he could sure speak French! It was an authentic accent! I couldn’t resist. Oh, by the way Story, your lipstick is too bright.”
Gail missed the next reunion.

The years slipped away quickly and again, I prepared for another class reunion. Hopefully Lineback would come to this one. I would look for her at the door and this time, I would introduce myself to her. I was certain she would not recognize me since the years had changed me so much.

When we graduated, I was five seven and weighed just under a hundred pounds. My dark brown hair had given way to — shall I say — platinum blonde. Some would say — almost white. My Twiggy short hair was grown out pony-tail length. I had gained over forty pounds. No one would recognize me tonight, not even Gail Lineback.

I walked in alone – divorced. Before entering the ballroom, I looked for my senior photo button pin. I walked about a long table looking for it. As I made my way around the table, I happened to look up and saw Gail’s photo framed – on the Memorial table. My heart almost stopped and I could hardly breathe. I walked over and stood before her smiling face. As I looked at her smile, I had a silent conversation with her.

“You’re still meeting me at the door, girlfriend…”

I had seen enough. Just as soon as I get my bearings, I will turn and walk out that door. I will slip out and not talk to anyone. There were a few people about, but no one had spoken to me yet. I’m sure no one has recognized me. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. I was not prepared for this. Why had I not heard about her death? Why couldn’t I have been a good friend and stayed in touch?

“Diane, here is your pictured down here!” called out Brenda Martin from the other end of the table.

Steve McLeod walked into the hallway from the ballroom, “Diane! I thought I saw you come in.”

How in the world did they recognize me? I know I look like a stranger.

 

Then I thought…uh oh! I need to check my lipstick. I hear you girlfriend!

As I walked down the hallway to the lady’s room, I thought, I don’t want to appear unfriendly to my friends. I will finish in here, and then I will enter the ballroom, where I will speak to each and every friend here tonight.

Yes, Lineback, I still hear you – loud and clear!

 

AJC Obituary 2007: Gail Lineback was an artist, a teacher, and an avid and accomplished gardener. She pursued a wide range of interests, including St. Matthew’s Handbell Choir and Cajun dance. She was active in the spiritual communities at St. Luke’s Episcopal and St. Matthew’s Episcopal churches. She was a passionate advocate for women and families in need, giving generously of herself. She will be remembered fondly by friends and family. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Family Promise, to Bethesda Elementary Care Team, to the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association.

And Gail Lineback was my best friend.

“Now Diane, I want you to take this and put it in a safe place. I want you to have this,” smiled Mama as she tried to hand me one of her porcelain what-knots, three little white kittens – two kittens side by side on the bottom and one kitten stacked up on top.

“No, Mama, that’s yours.”

“Well, I know it is, but I want you to put it in your secretary in your living-room. It’ll be safe there. I have too much stuff around here. It could get knocked over and broken. I’m too old to look after all this stuff…” Mama shook her head as though she was overwhelmed with her house. Then smiled while a far-away dreamy look took over her face, “Yes, I remember the day I got this pretty little thing. I wouldn’t take nothing for it. I got it at your Aunt Bonnie’s house, you know, the old Henry Cofer home place.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Bonnie and Lawton Story gave me a bridal shower – back in about – 1946. And this was one of my gifts.”
“Who gave it to you?”

“I wish I could remember; I’m sorry to say I don’t. That was sooo long ago. But I do remember unwrapping it and opening the box. I held up the little kittens and looked into their faces. I knew in my heart of hearts, that one day I would have three little kittens.” Mama sat there quietly gazing at her little kittens for a few minutes. I do believe she was at Aunt Bonnie’s home in her mind and was not yet ready to return. Finally she spoke, “Yes, I knew I would have three little kittens – as pretty and sweet as these little kittens. I knew it, and I did.”

THS Prom Night, Patricia and Tommy Story

“Mama, I hate to tell you but, you had four little kittens.”

“No, Diane,” Mama perked up and spoke confidently with a twinkle in her eye, “I had three kittens —- and a Tucker Tiger.”

A Tucker Tiger indeed!

It was the “three little kitten” for many years before the Tucker Tiger was born. My father always teased us “three little kittens,” by calling us his “boys.” Patricia, Diane and Barbara were called, Pat, Donnie and Bob by our father. When we three sisters were fourteen, twelve and ten, another baby was on the way to the Story home.

It was a cold January morning with snow, ice and power lines on the ground. The three sisters peered through the windows, and watched Mama and Daddy walk gingerly on snow and ice to the car. We watched the car tires spin and slide on ice as Daddy fishtailed up Morgan Road, and thought how in the world will they make it all the way to downtown Atlanta? And would they make it in time? A challenging day with the elements and time issues; this was the kind of day my brother, Thomas Jonathan Story, Jr., decided to be born.

And what a welcomed sight Tommy was! We were all elated to have a little boy in the Story house, a first! We could not stop looking at him! Daddy could not wipe the smile off his face, and teased us often as he said, “If I had known y’ mother was having a boy, I’d a picked her up and carried her across that ice!” He would then burst out with laughter, and we all joined in on the fun. Then we would quickly go back to our obsession of looking at our new little brother.

That little baby boy grew up with three sisters watching over him – at least one sister no more than four feet away at any given time. Though on several occasions, I have heard Tommy say, “Sisters? I don’t have any sisters; I have four mothers.”

And he is just about right!

And for all practical purposes, Tommy was an only child. But not even that stopped him from playing his favorite sport, football.

Little Tommy kicked a football up in the air as far as he could, and then ran to the other side of the front yard to catch the descending football. He got so good at beating the ball; he made a game out of counting how many seconds it took the ball to land in his arms. And the higher he kicked the ball, the more seconds he racked up. No one ever had to look outside to check on my little brother while he played football, because you could hear the thump of his left foot kicking a leather ball – about every two minutes. This went on for hours, days, months and years.

Fitzgerald Field, (named after Charles Fitzgerald), was the place Tommy put his hard work to good use. My father never missed a practice or a game. I received a telephone call from my proud father to tell me about a Saturday morning football game at Fitzgerald Field.

“Donnie, you should see your brother at that football field. ‘Never seen anything like it.  This morning he kicked a forty-five yard field goal. He’s just twelve years old. They don’t even ask the Falcon’s to do that.” Our father was so proud of his son. And sadly, that was the last football game Daddy ever saw Tommy play.

That phone call was the last time I heard my father’s voice.

That following Friday, on an October day, my father fell from the roof of the Avondale Elementary School. He was up there piecing together a new section of roof with the old section. The day after his accident, my brother had a Vikings game scheduled at Fitzgerald Field. Mama told Tommy he could stay home, stay at the hospital, play the game, or stand on the side line with Coach Doug Smith. It was his decision. After careful consideration, Tommy said, “I’ll play ball for Daddy.”

Mama and my two sisters, Patricia and Barbara, along with a host of family and friends, stayed with Daddy. My husband, Jim, and I took Tommy to Fitzgerald Field. Jim walked the sidelines, because he wanted to be close to Tommy in case he changed his mind. Jim clapped and cheered the Vikings on. I was glad Jim was there, because that’s where Daddy would be if he could.

I sat there alone on the bleachers looking about at that gorgeous autumn morning. It was a perfect day in every way, except for the fact that my father was in intensive care on life support. I thought how strange it is that the world continues on so beautifully, during a time such as this. I froze my tears and plastered a smile on my face. I can’t tell you who won, because I don’t remember. The whole game was a blur, but I do remember that every time my brother jogged out on the field to kick the ball, I stood up to applaud him.

After the game, we returned to the hospital, and waited for the inevitable. My father went to live – Up Yonder.

Each boy on Tommy’s football team honored Daddy by wearing his purple Vikings football jersey to the funeral. They sat together as a team, and as a team, they were the first to follow the coffin out of the church. The team, coaches and parents were of great emotional support to Tommy and our mother throughout the remaining football season and many years to come.

It was a difficult time for the whole family, but especially for Mama and Tommy. Mama had to learn to drive a car, and to become an independent woman. Tommy stayed busy in after school physical education where he excelled in running techniques and hitting hoops. Staying after school helped Tommy keep busy until Mama came home from work – that way – he did not have to enter an empty house – alone. And now, Tommy Story had completed his Tiger training and was ready for Tucker High School.

And what a high school career Tommy Story had! He was on the Tucker Tigers Basketball Team in his eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth year.

He was on the Tucker Tiger Track Team in his eighth, ninth, and tenth year. Tommy loves to run. He knows every mile of jogging trails in Tucker like the back of his hand. And to this very day, runs up to the top of Stone Mountain just for grins.

And last but not least, Tommy Story played his heart out as a kicker for the Tucker Tigers Football Team in his eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth year. In the ninth grade, he played first string Varsity Football as a kicker. Many articles were written about him in the AJC, local Tucker and Dekalb County newspapers. And Tommy was awarded the honor of All County and All State his Junior and Senior year.

Tommy graduated with the THS Class of 1980.

Mama supported Tommy by attending all of his games – that is except basketball. At first she thought she would enjoy basketball more than football. “Oh I just can’t wait to see Tommy play indoors! I won’t have to sit out in the cold air – through rain, sleet and snow! These Tucker people don’t have any quitting sense! They’d play football in the middle of a tornado,” Mama laughed. “Basketball will be sooo much better.”

That is what Mama thought until three minutes into the first basketball game. And she had a lot to say about that game.

“I sat on the floor level. I decided to let those younger mothers climb those bleachers. There I sat – as close to the center as possible; I wanted to see y’ brother up close and personal play basketball. All of a sudden – a whistle blew. Like to have scared me to death! I couldn’t take the noise! The yelling —- the screaming! The boys running making their shoes squeak! And that ball bouncing around —- echoed inside my head. It was just too loud! And there was too much pushing and shoving going on. And the referees didn’t do a thing about it. It was too rough. I prayed – Please Lord – don’t let these boys get hurt; this is so dangerous! And the little cheerleaders – they need to get out of the way. I wouldn’t have a daughter of mine in the middle of that mess.”

Mama rolled her big brown eyes and swallowed hard, “And then, another whistle blew – lonnng and loud! Somebody was down! A boy was hurt! I could‘ve told ’em that was gonna happen! I couldn’t see who it was, ‘cause so many were standing around the poor hurt soul. Then I looked down and saw your brother’s foot sticking out from the crowd! It was Tommy! I wanted to go down there, but y’ brother told me not to get on that court for any reason. He told me it didn’t matter if he died; I was to stay off that court.”

Mama teared up a little just thinking about it. She wiped her eyes with her dress tail, “I held my breath and prayed. Please Lord, let Tommy walk again, let the boy live. That crowd of folks stayed bent over him for such a lonnng time. It felt like an eternity. But finally —- they carried him off the court.”

And then Mama became a little bit outraged, “And they blew that blamed whistle again! I couldn’t wait for that game to get over. I told myself, Helen, if you ever get out of here, you’re never coming back!”

And Mama kept her word to herself; she did not attend another basketball game. But she found other ways to support her basketball playing son by selling tickets, baking cookies, pies and cakes. Mama never missed a pancake breakfast, and always supported the Tucker Tip Off Club. Her tickle box turned over every time she slipped the cheerleaders into Tommy’s bedroom to hide candy in his dresser drawers, and color his room in a sea of maroon and gold balloons and streamers. She also made terry-cloth tiger outfits for her grandchildren to be little Tucker Tigers.

Mama was proud of her Tucker Tiger! She never missed a football game!

On a beautiful autumn evening in Briarcliff at Adams Stadium, my two sisters and I sat with Mama at a Tucker High School football game.  It was a perfect night in every way. But strangely, I became overwhelmed with sadness as I watched my brother jog out onto the field to take his punting position.

Tommy took his time as usual to size up the situation. Now he was ready. His arms by his side, fists clenched, upper body bent forward, he stood frozen, the way he does when he blocks out everything – except for the football. The snap was good and Tommy had the ball in his hands. He paused for a moment, took a couple steps, and then put his left foot into the football. The crack of leather was the only sound made except for the crowd’s gasp. The ball soared up into the sky, past the lights and out of sight. That ball went waaay – Up Yonder.

I leaned into Mama’s shoulder and said, “I wish Daddy could see him now…”

Mama spoke with conviction, “Oh he sees him! Tom Story knows what his son is doing, believe you me! In all these years, he’s never missed a practice or a game. Y’ Daddy’s got a front row seat!”

About then the football fell back into view, and the spell was broken. The Tigers were deep in enemy territory. The crowd stood and roared in unison while the Tucker Tiger Marching Band played. The Tucker Tiger Drill Team and Majorettes danced. The children dressed as tigers clapped their little hands. The Tucker Tiger Cheerleaders jumped into formation and cheered their hearts out. It was pure magic!

Mama stood and we three sisters stood with her, as we followed her lead.

GO TIGERS! GO – YOU MIGHTY – MIGHTY TIGERS!

Little Tiger Kimberly Logan, Tommy Story's niece

 

 

Action shots taken at THS practice field – courtesy of Nona Boyd AJC 1979. Click on photo to enlarge.

 

Note: In 2008 our dear mother passed away and we have not been able to locate the newspaper articles of Tommy playing football. If you have an article or any action shots of him, and would like to share, please email: story@tuckerdays.com I want to post them for this Story! Thank you!

 

Squash Blossom

Long ago I left my small-town Tucker and moved to prominent Dunwoody, Georgia. My husband, Jim, had George Bramlett build my dream house, a spacious Cape Cod, on fourteen acres which was adjacent to more than two hundred acres of family owned, Pounds-Spruill property. My family and I enjoyed this equestrian domain, all the while convenient to Perimeter Mall and specialty shops, a perfect world to rear our two sons.

Although all seemed perfect in a perfect world, one night I laid in bed, longing for the simplicity of my sweet hometown, Tucker. I had had enough of “the good life.” My bubble of happiness in a perfect world had burst. It was over. And there I lay, with hot tear stained cheeks. I unplugged my phone and covered my head. I was at the end of my rope.

You see, I had a problem too big to handle. I lost all hope and felt as helpless and alone as ever I could be. How could this happen, with a lovely home, horses and barns, cars and trucks, beautiful meadows and big woods to walk through all the way to the Chattahoochee River? I had no answers, only a disturbing reality to face – the look of constant overwhelming despair in the eyes of my sixteen year old son.

Lois and Wade Voyles - "Memi and PawPaw"

Lois and Wade Voyles – “Memi and PawPaw”

I closed my eyes and longed for sleep. Relief, I must have some relief. I found it, in my dreams that night. I found myself driving my car down Main Street – Tucker. I drove slowly past Cofer Brothers. I stopped as always at the railroad crossing and proceeded with caution. I drove past Matthew’s Cafeteria. The traffic light caught me before I could cross Lawrenceville Highway. The light changed and turned green, giving me the okay to continue my journey. I drove down Idlewood Road, and turned right into my Memi and PawPaw’s drive-way. I put my car into park and opened the door.

I was delighted to see Memi and PawPaw standing on their front screened-in porch, already on their feet in anticipation to our visit. PawPaw stood and waited for me in the coolness of the far corner of the porch, while Memi stood in the doorway leading into the house, both smiling and happy to see me. I took my time as I strolled past Memi’s zinnias, and took a moment to admire the blossoms on PawPaw’s apple trees and snowball bushes. I made my way up the three steps and opened the screened porch-door.

Suddenly I heard someone behind me. I turned to see who it was, and was met with two little arms reaching for my neck. It was my son – at age five. I bent over and joyfully received his hug and heard him whisper, ‘Mommy, I love you,’ in my ear. I savored that unexpected moment for as long as I could. He pulled away from me and looked as though he wanted me to examine his face. I peered deeply into his eyes. Gone was the depression. There lived only the complete and total joy of a five year old.

I stood up and turned excitedly toward my grandparents, “Look who’s here!” But for some reason, my Memi and PawPaw refused to respond. They seemed preoccupied in their own thoughts – far away. I spoke to them directly, but still, they refused to speak. Their faraway gaze was frozen.

Curiously, I turned to my small son, but he was gone. He had disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. He was nowhere to be found. I called out for him as I searched the apple trees, the rope swing in the backyard, as well as the vegetable garden. I even called out to Mr. and Mrs. Westbrooks, trusted long time neighbors. I saw Mrs. Westbrooks pouring milk into the cat dish outside her backdoor. Mr. Westbrooks was busy tending to his tomato and pepper garden.

“Have you seen a little boy running around here?”

Neither acknowledged my call.

“Hello! Mr. and Mrs. Westbrooks! Have you seen my son?”

Again, I received no acknowledgment from either one. I searched the Westbrooks’ Muscadine arbor, but to no avail. My son was not there. I walked around to the other side of my grandparent’s house and saw Mrs. Almand playing with her two granddaughters, Cheryl and Carol Williams.

“Mrs. Almand! Hello! Have you seen a little boy out here today?”

Garden toolshed now in a deteriated state

Garden tool shed now in a deteriorated state

Mrs. Almand and her granddaughters continued to play their game of ring-around-the-roses, and completely ignored me. This was strange. These neighbors were always so quick to throw up a hand and give you a smile, but not today. Everyone seemed to be in their own world and I was invisible to them.

When I turned around, I saw something I had missed before, something I had not seen since my own childhood. There set my Memi’s dining room table and chairs under the coolness of the shade trees in the backyard. The table was set with china and loaded down with food ready for the whole family to share a meal – together. In the center of the table was a six layer stack of Memi’s apple pies; pies made from PawPaw’s apple trees. Ham and chicken were surrounded by her pickled peaches and spiced apples. PawPaw’s snowballs graced the table. I realized that the whole family was expected, but where were they? And where was my son?

I turned and went down a path in my Memi and PawPaw’s vegetable garden. I made my way through the pole beans and squash blossoms. He must be in their little garden tool shed, but no, he wasn’t there. As I walked back to my grandparent’s house, I noticed the tree swing empty and being pushed about idly by the wind. I came to the realization that my little boy was gone. Indeed, he was not the little five year old who so easily expressed his feelings.

Now he was approaching adulthood and struggling hard to find a reason to exist.

I awoke the next morning renewed and rested – back in my Cape Cod home in Dunwoody – ready to face the present world. I thought about my dream – my unexpected visit to Tucker. I realized that my Memi and PawPaw had given me a gift, a much needed gift, a heartfelt hug from my son. It was a gift that reminded me of just who my son really was and is. A gift I will cherish all the days of my life, especially in the difficult days just around the corner. It was a time when I discovered All Roads Lead to Tucker.

Daddy with the three sisters Diane, Patricia and Barbara

“I don’t want to stay here,” I pleaded with my father.

“We’ll see what the doctor says,” he said as he tried to console me.

Even though I was just seven years old, I knew Daddy was placating me as he looked around the over-crowded waiting room. I sat on a bench crunched up as close to Daddy as possible. Mama was in and out of the room. She was busy filling out papers and answering questions. Both seemed upset, but tried hard to appear removed from the grief in their eyes. I tried to be still, but fidgeted as any small child in such an atmosphere. The anxiety rose to a breaking point.

“I want to go home now! Please, Daddy, take me home! I’ve already seen two doctors and I don’t want to see another one!”

“Well, Donnie,” Daddy said, “the doctors may decide to let you go home…”

“If they don’t, you’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

“I would if I could, but I can’t. You know that I have to work.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with me?”

Daddy took a deep breath and bit back his tears as he answered, “No, Donnie. You know she can’t.” My father rubbed his throat as though it ached, “She has to look after your sisters, at home.”

“I’m not staying here. I promise you, I will not stay here, especially alone,” I warned Daddy as my voice broke. I continued to negotiate with Daddy with questions and threats. I came up with every reason in the world to go home. The doctors and the nurses were too slow, not to mention, they were strangers. What happened to not speaking to strangers? And they couldn’t even get blood out of my arm. The doctor had to be called and he took it out of my leg! The hospital was too big. I could get lost or operated on by accident. And the hospital is in Atlanta for heaven’s sake! Atlanta is a big place! Still, nothing I said moved Daddy. He stared straight ahead not responding. As a slightly bloody gurney rolled by, I asked, “What if the sheets are dirty? Will you make me stay in a big hospital in downtown Atlanta – alone – on dirty sheets? Will you leave me here Daddy?”

“No, Donnie I won’t leave you here if the bed has dirty sheets.”

“You’ll take me home?”

“Yes,” he struggled with the words, “I’ll take you home.”

That’s it. I had it, a plan. I closed my eyes and silently prayed in earnest, “Dear God in Heaven, let this place have dirty sheets, in every room, on every bed. Please God, let there be dirty sheets!” I crossed my fingers, toes and legs for good luck.

Daddy gently touched my shoulder to interrupt my prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw a nice man kneeling before me. The man waited for our eyes to meet, and then he smiled at me – with a big huge smile. He then reached into a large bag and pulled out a brand new doll wrapped thinly in white tissue paper, so thin I could see the doll’s face. The nice man handed the doll to me.

“Here, she’s yours, all for you.”

I hesitated and looked up at Daddy. He gave me the okay look and I accepted the gift. “What’s your name?” asked the young man.

“Donnie.”

“Donnie? That’s an unusual name for a lovely lady like you.”
“My real name is Diane. Donnie is my nickname,” I explained timidly. We smiled at each other for a moment. He patted my head and shook Daddy’s hand. Daddy did not speak, but nodded thank you to the man. The man then moved on looking about the room for another child. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided to look at my new gift. I held my new treasure close to my chest. I felt a little guilty that my two sisters at home did not get a new doll too. We always got things together. I hesitated about tearing the paper away.

Daddy finally found his voice, although it sounded a little strained, “Go ahead, Donnie, open your gift. See what that nice man gave you. Go ahead, open it,” encouraged my father.

Reluctantly I tore away the tissue paper to expose her face. The doll looked just like me with short dark hair and blue eyes. She seemed to smile at me. Her smile was contagious, and I could not help but smile back at her. For a moment I forgot about the doctors, blood tests and the worrisome thought of spending the night alone in a strange place so far from home. I forgot, that is, until I looked up and saw Mama. As she walked closer, I realized the man pushing a wheelchair was with her.

They put me in the wheelchair, and pushed me to the elevator, and then down a long corridor. I held my new doll tightly, and prayed silently – eyes wide open – all the way, “Please dear God, let the bed have dirty sheets. Please, let me go home. My Daddy won’t leave me here on dirty sheets. He promised to take me home if they’re dirty. He won’t leave me! He won’t! I want to go home, please, let the sheets be dirty. Please Daddy! Take me home!” And then the wheelchair stopped.

Daddy spoke first, “Wait a minute, Helen. I want to take a look at those sheets.” He examined the bedding. Daddy  did not look at me when he approached me. He just bent down and picked me up in his strong arms. He set me on the bed. Mama dressed me in a hospital gown. Daddy walked about the room examining everything.

“You see Donnie? You see how clean everything is?”  Daddy tried to reassure me, all the while, making sure our eyes did not meet.

“Yes sir,” I answered in a faint whisper.

“That’s right, everything is nice and clean here,” Mama agreed, “and the nurses will take good care of you. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be back some time tomorrow – as soon as Pheobe can come over and stay with your sisters.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Daddy has to work tomorrow. He’ll drop me off and then come back. When he picks me up later in the day, and you can visit then. Isn’t that right, Tom?”

Daddy nodded yes. He didn’t speak. Mama took over, “now, say your prayers like a good girl.”
I choked back my tears, bowed my head as I struggled to find my voice, “Loving Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Make me gentle as Thou art, come and live within my heart. Amen.”

I wanted to cry out and beg. I wanted to throw a fit and demand, but I knew none of those tactics were of any use. I was defeated. My throat ached as I silently accepted my fate. Mama and Daddy gently covered me up to the chin with a blanket. They kissed me good-night and good-bye. I was a big girl; I did not cry when they left me. As I lied there alone in the dimly lit room, I longed for my home in Tucker. I wanted my sisters, Patricia and Barbara.

The only one to hear my late night sobs was my new doll. She was my best friend that night, and stayed with me throughout my two week stay at the hospital. I returned to the hospital frequently throughout the next four years, and my special doll always accompanied me. I grew up and outgrew my heart condition. Forty-five years later, in 2000, I returned to another childrens hospital in Atlanta – this time as an aunt.

Emilee and Kate Story

Sisters Emilee and Kate Story

My dear sweet two year old niece, Kate, suffered a brain tumor. Kate faced surgery and more than a long year of chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and morphine. Kate did not like being in the hospital. She longed for her home in Tucker. She wanted her sister, Emilee. Early into her diagnosis, Kate received treatment in the community room of the hospital. There she was entertained by a group of actors. Kate especially loved the dragon-lady, and had her picture made with the lovely green creature.  Kate admires that photo often. No matter how Kate feels, that photo always brings forth a genuine smile. And though Kate returned to the hospital frequently for treatment, she did not cry. As her parents carried her down the long corridors, her only question was, “Ma-Ma, Da-Da, where is the dragon-lady?”

May God bless all hospital volunteers!

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Tom, Helen, Barbara, Diane and Patricia

Tom, Helen, Barbara, Diane and Patricia Story

“Girls! You won’t believe what’s happening!” Mama turned to us and said as she hung up the telephone. “Lib Garrett just told me that Tucker is getting ready to have a birthday! A fiftieth birthday!”

“How do they know how old Tucker is?” I asked.

“’Cause, Diane, Mr. Hutchens says so. Roy Hutchens keeps up with things like that in the Eagle. He knows more about Tucker and Lilburn Georgia than anybody in DeKalb or Gwinnett County. And if he says we’re about to turn fifty – then we are.” Mama laughed as she poured herself a glass of tea. “Of course, Jack Hudson and Dewey Turner know a good bit about Tucker too. Lots of historians in Tucker! Everybody’s gonna dress up in old fashioned clothes for the party.”

“Old fashioned clothes?” My ten year old sister, Patricia asked.

“That’s right Patricia,” answered Mama.

“Where are we going to get clothes like that?” asked Patricia.

Mama thought for a moment and then said, “I’m gonna call Cousin Anna. We’ll just have to make a trip out to West End and go through Granny and Aunt Tillie’s old trunks. I’m sure we’ll find something at Cousin Anna’s to wear to a semi-centennial.”

“When can we go to Cousin Anna’s? How about tonight?” I loved to visit Cousin Anna King-Maxwell. She lived in a big house near the Wren’s Nest; a house with sixteen foot ceilings. Each room had a  huge fireplace and over-sized furniture. The center of the house hallway was long and wide – large enough for my sisters and I to roller skate without bumping in to each other. The house made haunting sounds from the grandfather clocks throughout the house.  And when the clocks chimed, it sounded as though they were speaking to us saying, ‘We seeee you. We seeee you. We seeee you.’  When the house quieted down, we squealed with fright and delight. It was thrilling! Each room had a large trunk full of items from the mid 1800s – back when Cousin Anna’s mother – Matilda “Tillie” was born. Tillie’s younger sister, Emma  “Granny” Voyles was my mother’s father’s mother. Lots of vintage clothes in those old traveling trunks.

Palmer sisters - Tillie King and Emma Voyles

Palmer sisters - Tillie King and Emma Voyles

Cousin Anna King-Maxwell

Cousin Anna King-Maxwell

Before Mama could answer me, Patricia asked,“Semi-Centennial?”

“Yes, that’s what they’re calling it. Ya’ Daddy’s been hearing talk about it for weeks. And now, Lib says it’s been decided. Tucker will have a celebration party!”

“Where’s it going to be?” asked Patricia.

“Main Street Tucker. I don’t know all the details yet,” went on Mama, “except that we’re all supposed to dress like folks did in 1907 or in the pioneer days.”

“Why the pioneer days?” asked Patricia.

“Well, because you know really Tucker was settled in 1821 – back when Monroe was president.” We looked at Mama with anticipation. We loved her history lessons on Tucker. “Tucker used to be called Browning District. But in 1907, they changed the name from Browning District to Tucker.”

“How’d we get the name Tucker?” I asked.

“Well, the train came through Browning District – you know the one that crosses Main Street in downtown Tucker – it came ever so often to deliver supplies and mail. The conductor of the train was Captain Tucker. So folks would see the train coming and say, ‘Here comes Tucker.’ And I guess it just caught on.” Mama smiled and explained, “You know I’m not that old. I just heard about it. And here it is 1957! We’ve been called Tucker for fifty years. Patricia, how do you want to dress?”

“I don’t have anything old like that Mom. Maybe Cousin Anna will have something for me too.”

“I have something to wear. I can wear my Pilgrim dress you made me, Mama.” I answered.

“That’s right Diane. That’ll be perfect.”

“Pilgrims wore those clothes in the sixteen hundreds. That’s a lot older than 1907! Or 1821! Only the Creeks were here then.” answered Patricia.

Helen and Frances.

Helen and Frances, Helen wearing the dress from the travelers trunk

“I know, Patricia, but that’ll be alright,” explained Mama, “Lib says that a lot of the women are wearing long dresses with bonnets.”

“Barbara, we’ll try one of Patricia’s dresses on you. I think the hem should just about touch the floor on you. If that doesn’t work I’ll have to get busy on my treadle sewing machine,” Mama said to my six year old sister who was quite happy to ignore us, and play with her doll, Sally.

“Better hurry up!” said Daddy as he walked in the backdoor. He was grinning from ear to ear, “They’re gonna have a high sheriff, and if a woman’s not wearing a long dress and bonnet, he’s going to arrest her!”

“What! I’ve never heard of such a thing. Tom Story, don’t tease the girls like that! You know this is going to be a fun event! You’ll have them afraid to go.”

“I’m not kidding,” grinned Daddy, “and if a man doesn’t have a beard, he’ll be locked up! And no way out of jail, unless someone pays you out with a wooden nickel. Real money won’t do.”

There was no way I was going to be afraid to go to the Semi-Centennial. With a smile like that on Daddy’s face, I knew he was just teasing us. We all watched and listened for Daddy to tell us more.

“Yep, they elected Joe Reeves to be the high sheriff.”

Tom with Sister Sarah Story-Graves

“What? I thought they would elect Gene Cofer,” said Mama.

“No, Gene’s gonna be busy with the parade. He’s gonna drive one of his fancy antique cars through Main Street. In fact, he may drive more than one. He’ll park them in a safe place back behind Cofer Brothers and change them out,” laughed Daddy.

A parade, a jail, wooden nickels, a high sheriff, and Gene Cofer’s antique cars, wow, this party was shaping up! And I was not worried a bit, because I already had my outfit. Only thing, I was a little hesitant to wear my Pilgrim dress. It was a pretty dress. Mama made it for me; a long black cotton dress with long sleeves. The cuffs were made of white cotton with a white cotton apron, all topped off with a white Pilgrim cap. I wore the outfit in a Tucker Elementary School Thanksgiving play, one that I could not recall my line. I knew everybody’s line and took it upon myself to coach everyone. Betsy Snead broke the awful silence by skipping over me. All I had to say was, “Please, won’t you have some corn?” That was one time when I wish I had listened to Mama when she told me to “sweep around your own backdoor.” It was embarrassing, and I had not planned on wearing that dress again. But it would have to do. I did not want to be locked up in jail.

“Exactly where will the jail be, Tom?” asked Mama.

The Williams Family

The Williams Family

Now that was a good question I thought to myself. And where and how do you get a wooden nickel? Just in case!

“They want to build it across the street from the new Tucker Federal, somewhere along there,” said Daddy. Then he started grinning again. Now, what was he going to say? He had our attention. “Doc Newsom wants us to build a saloon.”

“My stars! Have the people in Tucker lost their minds?”Mama asked.
“No,” laughed Daddy, “Fred Hannah and Dan Hopkins want to call it the Red Dog Saloon!”

“Who is going to build all of this stuff?” asked Mama.

“Cofer’s will supply the materials and it’s all voluntary. I’ll help.”

“Build a saloon? Daddy, are you really going to build a saloon?” asked Patricia.

“Yeah, and I’m gonna play my guitar there too.”
“No way!” we all said. Every time Daddy opened his mouth, it was something else just unbelievable.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get busy practicing the Great Speckled Bird. For sure, I want to play that one…”

“Tom Story, I think you’ve been hanging out around that Tucker Coffee Club at Fountains Drug Store,” teased Mama. That’s where you’re hearing all this isn’t it? That’s where Lib Garrett heard what she knows.”

“Doc Newsom’s in on it too, Helen!” laughed Daddy. “Yep, we’re gonna build the saloon and jail on Main Street. That way if anybody gets locked up, everybody will see it.”

Tom and Clarence

Tom and Clarence

“You can’t see through walls,” I noted.

“Won’t be any walls! Just a cage, made out of two by fours.”

The days passed by, one more exciting than the next. All our Morgan Road neighbors were busy figuring out how long it would take to grow a proper beard, what to wear, exchanging dress patterns and trying to find a horse. Yes, now it was not only antique cars, but horses, buggies, wagons, mules, the Tucker High School Marching Band, cheerleaders, majorettes, and a beauty queen. Some beautiful and lucky girl would be crowned Miss Tucker. And, Daddy heard down at the Bank of Tucker, that attorney, Charles Alford, was after Horace Richardson to paint signs to advertise the celebration as an entertainment event.

And a horse the Morgan Road neighbors found! Right across the street from my house lived the Leake family. It was Jack and Frances Leake and four kids, Jackie, Becky, Mary Ann and Billy Boy, and Peggy Ann. Peggy Ann was a frisky pinto pony who lived in the Leake’s barn back behind their house. They also had a chicken pen covered in gorgeous pastel pink roses. And, they had a bull in a back lot behind the barn. The bull was too big of a challenge – we left him alone.

The Leake’s home was a miniature farm in the middle of the Morgan Road neighborhood. We tried to think of some way to incorporate the chicken family into the parade –you know dress them up in doll’s clothes – but the chickens would not cooperate. Jackie Leake took Peggy Ann out every day, and hitched her up to a wagon. We took turns riding, trying to get her used to pulling a wagon, and being around a lot of people. A lot of the kids in the neighborhood joined in to help, including Ricky and Ronnie Westbrooks, Saundra Bulloch, and the new Williams family, Larry, Laura and Laverne, and on occasion, Walker Garrett.

All was going well with the training until one afternoon – Peggy Ann got spooked and took off running – with my sister, Patricia in the wagon. The poor little brown and white spotted pony was frightened. And so was Sister. Patricia held on for dear life as Peggy Ann ran out of the Leake’s apple and plum orchard. They crossed the Williams’ yard, crossed the Westbrook’s yard, and finally made it onto the Smith-Garrett’s yard, where Peggy Ann made a wide swing around and into the road.Horsebuggy

The wild runaway pony then ran back across the Leake’s side yard in the direction of the barn. She stopped only because the wagon got hung on a steel horse shoe pole. Patricia was dumped out of the wagon and sustained a cut leg. Mr. Leake told Jackie to put Peggy Ann back in the barn. She could not participate in the Semi-Centennial. Now we were back to square one. No animals. We’d just have to make it on our own with the costumes. Larry Williams and I were the only two not worried about a costume. He was going as Davy Crockett and I, of course, the Pilgrim.

And finally Saturday came! Not just any Saturday, but the Semi-Centennial Saturday!

“We can forget driving Helen,” said Daddy, “look outside. Cars are parked all up and down the little school-house road – all the way down past our driveway.”

“That means the churches and the school parking lots are full. Where in the world did all these people come from? There’s not that many people in Tucker,” Mama said amazingly. “We can’t carry your guitar and amplifier, and hold on to the girls.”
“We’ll walk there. And then get permission to drive my car to that little side road near the saloon. We’ll figure it out,” said Daddy.

Tucker DaysAnd with that, we tied our bonnets on and struck out walking with the Williams’ family. My little sister, Barbara walked hand in hand with her new best-friend, Laura Williams. And for the first time, she left her doll, Sally, at home alone. Barbara was really growing up, and if she could have looked into a crystal ball, she would have known that she was truly becoming a Williams. Years later, she married Laura’s cousin, Lawrence Williams.

The Storys and the Williams’ walked up Lavista, and crossed the road and stopped at Thomas’ Grocery Store. Mr. Bill Thomas saw us coming and hollered, “Look here! Here come Tom and Helen with all those little boys!”

“We’re not boys! We’re girls!” all of the girls let him have it.

“Look like boys to me!” Mr. Thomas laughed, “And I see you rounded up Davy Crockett! Looks like ya’ll are gonna have a good time today!”

“Well, we’re not boys,” explained six year old Barbara.

“Tom, what’s their names again?” asked Mr. Thomas.

Daddy grinned, “Pat, Donnie and Bob.”

“See there, that’s boy’s names,” teased Mr. Thomas.

“Well, we’re girls! We’re Patricia, Diane and Barbara,” explained little Barbara.

Mama laughed, “Okay, we know you’re girls. He’s just teasing.  Come on now. We’re gonna look in on Dr. Anderson,” said Mama, “I want him to see the girls.”Horsebuggy2

“Oh, you’ll find Clyde already on Main Street, Helen. He canceled all his appointments for the day. Did you see how pretty the old courthouse looks today?”

“Yes, we did,” said Mama, “It’s all decorated with flowers, very nice.”

“Y’all have fun,” Mr. Thomas called out to us as we walked on toward Main Street.

The closer we got to Main Street Tucker, the more excited I got. About the time we reached Tucker High School, I could smell popcorn, boiled peanuts, roasting ears of corn, and barbecue. I heard a marching band, whistles and laughter. But the most exciting thing was the sound of horse hooves click clopping on pavement – not just a few – but dozens of horses! Then as the sound of the marching band faded into the distance, I heard an awesome sound – bagpipes!

The men in kilts stopped their marching, stood still, and played Going Home. Sarah Lee Turner stood behind me and sang to herself. She sang, “Going home, going home, I’m just going home.” And then again she sang, “Coming home, coming home, I’m just coming home.”

It made me think of the story Mama heard from Roy Hutchens. The story was about a Scottish man, Greenville Henderson, who fought in the Indian Wars back in the early 1800s. The Governor of Georgia honored this man by giving him a gift of approximately three thousand acres – now known as Tucker, Georgia. And whether this brave soldier was a comin’ or a goin’, surely his spirit was upon us, here today in Tucker.

When we walked down along side Main Street, I could not believe my eyes! Horses, buggies and everybody dressed from another place and time. But it was real and right here in Tucker.

A large banner followed the bagpipes. The words on the banner were: FOUNDING FAMILIES. The next banner had lots of names on it. Some of the names on the banner were: HENDERSON, BROWNING, FLOWERS, CHEWNING, GOZA, JEFFARES, LIVSEY, TALTON, FRUIT, THOMAS, ENGLAND, LEAVELL, JOHNSON, PAYTON, TUCKER,  and BURNS.

And the people! Where did all these people come from? Surely the whole state of Georgia must have turned out for the Semi-Centennial.

“Gun shots!” I exclaimed as I looked at Mama and Daddy.

“Blanks, Donnie. Don’t worry they’re not real bullets,” said Daddy, “it’s all in good fun.”

The high sheriff, Joe Reeves had him some prisoners, a few guys who did not grow a proper beard, and he was shooting up in the air to get everyone’s attention.

“Aren’t you glad you grew that beard, Tom?” laughed Mama, “I can’t believe you grew that thing. I really can’t believe you blacked out your teeth!”

I could not believe it either. My father was a fanatic when it came to his appearance. The first thing he did every morning was to shave and comb his hair. He would not let anyone see him undone. His new beard aggravated him, but he did his part to participate in the spirit of the Semi-Centennial. And, he did not want to get locked up by Joe Reeves.

Then a pretty girl walked down Main Street, alone. She was dressed in Scottish attire carrying a banner with MUIR written on it.

“Tom, do you know any Muirs in Tucker?” asked my mother.

“Moore, Helen, that’s Scottish for the Moore family…” answered Daddy.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, please focus your attention to the next phase of the parade!” called out Conrad Allgood over a microphone as he rolled by on a flatbed truck. “Stand back just a little bit so the show can begin!”

We stood back toward the store fronts as much as we could in the crowd, and the antique cars rolled by. We all waved at the Tuckerites as though we had not seen them in fifty years, and they returned the waves with enthusiasm. Gene Cofer accompanied by his father, Mr. Reid Cofer, led the parade of cars, and then circled back with another antique car, and that’s how it went for a while. Some cars were old and black, while others were shiny and colorful.AntiqueCar

Ms. Louise and Ms. Belle Cofer wore beautiful long dresses and big hats, and waved as graciously as the Queen of England as they were escorted up Main Street in Gene’s fancy cars. Ms. Louise and Ms. Belle were Cown sisters who married brothers, Kelley and Reid Cofer, the founders of Cofer Brothers, the largest store in Tucker.

And I recognized Ernest and Elizabeth Atkinson as they rode by in an antique car. Elizabeth was just beautiful – gloves and all. And every so often, Doc Newsom owner of Newsom’s Drug Store, circled around on his big tricycle in a turn of the century suit.

Daddy pointed out an old antique car and said, “Look, Helen, here comes King Whitaker! That 1920 Olds used to be owned by Judge Mathis – Justice of the Peace. He used to hold court in the old Browning District Courthouse. I believe King had the first wrecker service in Tucker.”

“Whit’s Garage and Wrecker Service?” asked Mama.

Daddy ran up to take a snap shot of the automobile, “Yeah, that’s the one. What a beauty!”

And then there came more horse drawn wagons, full of folks dressed in the old ways. Most of the women were dressed in long dresses made of calico and gingham prints. They wore bonnets or old hats with netting. The men wore everything from overalls and farm hats to fancy cowboy attire. Tucker Elementary’s principal, Mr. Conrad Allgood, dressed in a turn of the century suit topped off with a round hat called a derby. And all the while, guns were shooting and Joe Reeves was lockin’ ‘em up.

And then the moment came that we had all waited for, the winner of the beauty contest. Weeks before, gallon jars were placed in all the Main Street Tucker stores with a picture of each beauty contestant on each jar. The contestant with the most pennies won. Mary Carol Snead was crowned the very first Miss Tucker.

And we had our pictures made to a fair-thee-well

And we had our pictures made to a fair-thee-well!

We ate foot long hot dogs, fried chicken, French fries, cotton candy and candied apples. We drank Coca Cola, and frozen lemonade. We laughed, socialized, and were thoroughly entertained by the events of the day. And, we had our pictures taken to a fair-thee-well!

But as the day went on, I became shadowed by the loss of my great-grandmother who passed away a little over a year ago. Since Granny passed, I had struggled with scarlet fever and then rheumatic fever. My heart ached for her.

“What’s going on? Where’s your smile, Diane?” asked Mama.

“Most everybody here is dressed like Granny.”

“I know. I was just thinking that myself,” she answered. “You know Tucker has been here for fifty years, and next year Tucker will be here fifty-one years. Time moves on. Granny had eighty-seven good years here, and Emma Voyles would want you to enjoy your time, just like she did.” Mama gave me a quick hug and said, “There’s Miss Collins with her easel in front of the beauty shop. Why don’t you go over there and let her draw your face. She said you could sit with her if you got tired.”

As soon as Miss Winnie Collins saw me, she said, “Well, hello there little Pilgrim girl, I brought you a chair. Come on over here and keep me company. Yes, indeed, and we can work on another drawing lesson if you want to.” She handed me a large tablet of drawing paper and a felt marker. Do you remember how to draw your egghead people?”ConradAllgood

“Yes, ‘ma’am, I do. Place the eyes half way down in the circle – even though it looks wrong, it’s the correct proportion.”

“And how do we draw the face of a baby?”

“Round circle.”

“A skinny person?”

“Almost like a carrot.”

“That’s exactly right! You are a great little artist, if I do say so myself!” she laughed.

Miss Collins was a dear sweet older woman who lived on Old Norcross and rode an old bicycle every day – not just on the Semi-Centennial. She carried a suitcase strapped onto the back of her bicycle full of her “stuff.” She gave me art lessons while I was sick with rheumatic fever. She also performed many puppet shows for me on Sunday afternoons – all with puppets she hand-knitted or crocheted.

I stayed with her and watched her exaggerate her customer’s facial features and turn them into cartoons.  She sold her five minute “masterpieces” for a dollar each, which was donated to the Semi-Centennial committee. Everybody loved it!  And they loved Miss Collins. In her younger years, she worked at the CDC in Atlanta where her father was a doctor. She was somewhat worldly and loved sharing a little bit of culture with the “good Tucker people.” Once she hired my father to paint her bathroom white – with enamel paint. Daddy tried to explain to her that enamel paint was used for trim, not sheetrock.

“Tommy, now you just watch me. I need the walls to be slick! Paint them white enamel for me,” Miss Collins told my father.

She used an artist brush to paint black on white street scenes of Paris on the bathroom walls, and it was fabulous. And today at the Semi-Centennial, she wore a 1910 Parisian dress with a large hat which featured long peacock feathers.

Miss Winnie Collins packed up her easel and retrieved her bicycle from Isabelle Johnson who agreed to keep her bicycle in the Tucker Beauty Shop during the celebration day. The day was winding down, and Miss Collins wanted to get home before dark.

Red Dog Saloon, Tom Story Center

Red Dog Saloon - Grady Willis, Fiddle Player, Tom Story, Mr. Cook & Jimmy Craft

As the sun went down, Mama took us to the Red Dog Saloon to hear Daddy play bluegrass music with his friends.

I think the most fun of the day was seeing all the grown-ups laughing and having such a good time. It was like watching normally serious grown-ups play act like children, for a day.

I was very proud of Daddy for being on stage and playing his guitar.  And Daddy looked different up there. He did not have on his “down and out” farmer clothes, nor did he have a beard. Some time or another, he went home to get his guitar and amplifier and shaved. He wore black dress pants and a white dress shirt with a black ribbon tied in a bow around his neck. And, his teeth were white again.

Doc Newsom parked his big tricycle outside the Red Dog and came in. “Drinks are on me!” shouted Doc Newsom. Everybody clapped, and sarsaparillas and popcorn were passed around by the saloon girls. The music was good, but I really don’t remember too much about it, because I fell asleep and woke up Sunday morning on my bed, still dressed as a pilgrim.

The Semi-Centennial was over, but not the talk. Every time Daddy went to Tucker to buy building materials to build cabinets for someone, he came home with the latest information.

“Yeah, everybody had a good time and it brought in the revenue. The committee wants to do it again next year. It might become an annual event. Red Cruce said that we are well on our way to having the means to build Tucker a library and recreation center.”

“Oh, Tom, a library would be wonderful!” said Mama. “The mobile library is well and good, but a real library would be splendid.”

“Daddy do you really think we will have another Semi-Centennial?” I asked.

“How can you have a Semi-Centennial two years in a row? That’s impossible, Diane,” said my older sister, Patricia. “You can only be fifty years old one time.”

“Well, what would you call it then?”More Horses and Buggies 2

Mama said, “Dewey Turner wants to call it Horse and Buggy Days. Some say, Tucker Yester-Years. And Ann Blanott said that she heard some tourists ask if Tucker was the capital of Dekalb County. I’d like to see it called Bonnet and Beard  Day. That way, Tom, you’d have to grow a beard every year!” laughed Mama. “And by the way, I think Joe Reeves went too far locking up visitors who didn’t know about the dress code.”

“He wanted to put wheels on the jail and roll it around, but Charles Alford said – Tucker doesn’t need a law suit,” laughed Daddy.

“Whatever they call it, I’ll just be glad we get to see the horses again,” I said.

This supper table conversation went on for several weeks, until one evening Daddy came home grinning. He said, “They’ve decided on a name for the Tucker birthday celebration for next year.” Then he was silent.

“Oh, come on, Tom, don’t hold the girls in suspense for so long! What is it?”

Daddy grinned and looked at Patricia, Barbara and I to make sure he had our attention. All eyes were on him. And then he said it, “They’re gonna call it – Tucker Days!”

Going Home

Going Home, gbonnetshorsesoing home

I’m just going home

Quiet light, some still day

I’m just going home

It’s not far, just close by

Through an open door

Work all done, care laid by

Going to fear no more

Mother’s there expecting me

Father’s waiting, too

Lots of folks gathered there

All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

I’m going home

Nothing’s lost, all’s gain

No more fret nor pain

No more stumbling on the way

No more longing for the day

Going to roam no more

Morning star lights the way

Restless dream all done

Shadows gone, break of day

Real life has begun

Sarah and Tom at the jail

Sarah Story-Graves with brother Tom Story at the jail!

 

There’s no break, there’s no end

Just a living on

Wide awake with a smile

Going on and on

Going home, going home

I’m just going home

It’s not far, just close by

Through an open door

I am going home

I’m just going home

Going home, going home

I’m just going home

Scottish Hymn – Author Unknown

Similar version of Going Home – written by William Arms Fisher and Ken Bible

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06-Going-Home.mp3

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