The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Small Town Curiosity
By Marie Craig
This is the 14th place I’ve lived in my life, and sometimes I think back to all the locations where I’ve resided as a child, a student, a teacher, a mother, and a retired person. I’ve lived in flatlands and in the mountains. Every place is special, and the people and experiences were great to enhance my life. The one that comes to mind first was of short duration but full of drama.
We lived, as a young couple, for two and half months in a little mountain town in north Georgia. In late May, we had driven into this town to find a home to rent. I had just finished teaching math for the school year, and while my husband went to his new office for orientation, I went to the local high school to see if they needed a math teacher for the following academic year. The principal talked to me as he supervised the last few days of their school schedule. He didn’t have a math opening, but he was hoping I’d teach some other unrelated subjects – no two classes the same. I had great anxiety about this challenge but tabled the thought as I drove back to pick up my husband and see if we could find a home to rent. Down a side street we saw a man mowing his yard next to a seemingly empty house. We stopped near him, and he walked over to the car. He looked in and saw my husband’s US Forest Service uniform and then looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re the new teacher!”
This was the beginning of many such episodes. Everybody knew something about us, but we knew nothing about them. We attended church close to our home, and on one of the first Sundays, a woman came up to me and asked, “Could you play the piano for Sunday School today? I know you play because I’ve seen the piano through your window.”
An important career promotion caused us to move to Tallahassee, Fla. after only two and a half months. We drove down there and bought a house and came back to prepare to move. I was in a big hurry and dashed into the local hardware store. The woman who owned the store was sitting on the counter. I asked her if she had a page of paint swatches. She responded, “Why do you need paint — you’re getting ready to move away.” I explained to her that we would arrive at our new home the day before the movers brought our furniture and that we were going to paint a room before moving the furniture into the room. She understood, then, and got down to help me choose a color.
It was an interesting place to live with all those curious people. Since then, I’ve been amused by thinking of this short experience.
The Summer of the Pies, Part I
By Julie Terry Cartner
“Take this,” Mom said, holding the old red and white handled spoon. As I did, she continued, “Now dip out enough Crisco to fill the spoon and round off the top.” Her experienced hands guided mine as we dipped into the iconic canister until the amount was just right.”
“What will I do when I don’t have this spoon,” I asked, half-jokingly. “Do I get to take it with me when I move out?” At all of ten years old, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, but it was never too early to plant a seed.
It was the summer between fifth and sixth grade, and Mom had decided it was time for me to learn how to bake. As it was strawberry season, we’d decided to start with Dad’s favorite, strawberry rhubarb pie.
“Not likely,” Mom laughed. “I think I’ll hold onto this one.”
“Then how will I be able to make a pie crust?” I whined.
With another laugh, Mom said, “Let me tell you a story.”
I loved Mom’s stories, so I looked at her expectantly.
“When I was a newlywed, I had no idea how to cook. My mother didn’t cook, so I never learned. Moving into the farming life, I had to learn, and quickly. Fortunately, my mother-in-law, your Grandma Jessie, was an exceptional cook and was more than willing to teach me. The problem was, she knew how to cook from experience and didn’t measure anything.
“Picture this: As she was pouring ingredients into a bowl to make a pie crust, I stood beside her catching the ingredients in measuring cups and writing down the amounts. She took pity on me and slowed down enough that I could catch, measure, and write, but it was still quite the adventure. I’d have to go back later and re-write everything, so I could read it.
“After she combined the dry ingredients, Grandma Jessie took this spoon,” Mom said, “and measured out the lard, then using forks, she worked the lard into the flour.” With a fond smile of reminiscence, Mom continued. “She was so fast; those forks flew through the dough. Now I use a pastry blender, but I learned with those forks.”
“How do you know when to stop?” I asked.
“ ‘The size of peas,’ that’s what she told me. I remember thinking, what size peas? But I knew the look I’d get if I asked…poor city girl.
“I was a mixture of in love with, in awe of, and terrified of Grandma Jessie. She was so, so…everything. A great cook, loved by everyone, or so it seemed, and she ran the farm. Grandpa Bill might have owned the farm, but she was the woman behind the man, a formidable force. But, at the same time, she was kind enough to take me under her wing and teach me.”
“I wish I could have met her,” I mused.
“I wish you could have too,” Mom replied, “but in a way, making this pie crust, her way, with her recipe and her spoon is a way of knowing her. And someday, you’ll teach your daughters how to make a pie crust. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to use this spoon,” she concluded with a grin.
Unwilling to let the conversation end, I asked, “So how did your pie turn out and what kind was it?”
“Oh, Honey, that’s a story for another day.”
By Gaye Hoots
This week I had most of the chores that I could do by myself caught up and drove to The Bean, a local coffee shop in Oriental. The Bean seemed to be the gathering spot for residents and tourists. The first few weeks after I bought the condo, I would use their free internet daily. Once they connected my internet, my visits dropped from daily to weekly. The staff and locals were always friendly and welcoming. My twins loved to go there for ice cream.
I took two books from home to donate to the small lending library there, Lonesome Dove and Streets of Lorado. After browsing a few minutes, I picked up a book by a local author, Heather Brewer Cobham, titled ‘Hungry Mother Creek.’ When I turned, a young man asked, “Is that Lonesome Dove? I loved Lonesome Dove!” I explained this was a lending library, and I was donating the two books, and the second book was the sequel. He grabbed the books and exclaimed, “You just made my beach week,” and he left with the attractive young woman at his elbow.
After treating myself to a Dr. Pepper and a banana nut muffin, I returned home to enjoy the book I had chosen. The description of local scenery and restaurants held my attention, as did the story of a young woman seeking to find her identity after the death of her husband in Hurricane Katrina. I finished the book in two days because I liked the characters. The struggle of Maya to build a life in Oriental was captivating, and as a retired psychiatric nurse, both her challenges and the self-help books she used were familiar.
The bookmarker included with the book gave some info on the author, and I wondered if she lived locally, so I looked her up on the internet to find that she had published a second book, “Hungry Mother,” which I plan to purchase.
Outdoor chairs that I ordered on the internet arrived in pieces, so I called a local handyman to put them together. He finished the chairs and washed the deck. When the deck dried, I moved the chairs outside to enjoy the boats on the waterway. My next-door neighbors stopped to talk, and I mentioned reading and our writers’ group.
“If you enjoy writing, you should meet Heather in the end unit. She and her husband live here and are helpful and knowledgeable about our HOA.”
“I did meet her when I first moved here because the previous owner gave me her number, and Heather gave me valuable info. Do you know her last name because I just read an excellent novel by a local writer named Heather Brewer Cobham and want to purchase her second book?”
“That’s her, Heather; she is working on a third novel now. She works as a counselor, so you two have a lot in common. She is off on Wednesdays and usually is home. I am sure she would be glad to talk to you.”
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