The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:19 am Thursday, September 30, 2021

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Brown Signs

By Julie Terry Cartner

It all started innocently enough as I recall it. I had always been a focused driver with the mentality to get there – wherever there might be – as quickly as possible, not allowing myself to be deterred by any distractions.  I was unapologetically a green sign girl, paying attention to nothing but my basic needs, food, gas, direction, and miles to go.  As a result, I could make the twelve-hour drive to home in the allotted twelve hours with stops for food and gas the only additional time.  My husband was like-minded, so when we set out to go somewhere, as long as traffic cooperated, we would generally arrive at our targeted time. Later, when traveling with one, then two…and finally five children, I admit more stops were made, but we still had the eye on the prize mentality.  How fast can we safely get there so the kids can get out of the car!

Many things in our lives change with the offset of retirement and the empty nest, but one that I never would have considered was the lure of the brown sign. At first, I could define it as a lark, a whim, but now, I can no longer deny it. I’m addicted.  I remember the first time like it was yesterday.  I was driving to a library in Alexander County to give a talk on a book.  I was way ahead of schedule as I drove up Interstate 40 when I saw it. Bunker Hill Covered Bridge.  The white letters on the brown sign called my name. My first thought was an emphatic NO. This is not on your schedule. Keep driving.

But the little fellow on my other shoulder said, why not? You have time. Go for it.  Almost without thinking, I flipped on the turn signal and found myself on the exit ramp, then turned right as the sign indicated.  I justified my actions.  I’ll just go, take a few pictures, and see the bridge. I don’t even have to get out of the car. As soon as I parked my car, I knew I’d told myself a story. Within seconds, I was out of the car. I explored, taking pictures of the idyllic scene. I walked through the covered bridge to the other side, smiling at some of the graffiti, and followed the siren’s call of the path meandering beside the river. It was lovely. It was harmless fun and within thirty minutes, well, maybe forty-five or so, I was back in my car scooting down the interstate.  I arrived at my destination on time, early in fact, so, no harm, no foul.

The next trip I found myself leaving a little earlier, subconsciously preparing for another foray into the world of brown signs. On the previous trip, I had purposely ignored the other brown sign at that same exit, Murray’s Mill.  I think, subconsciously, I knew it would reel me in on the next trip.  At the exit, my hesitation was almost not worth noticing, and soon I was turning left heading to my next distraction.  Another idyllic time out with a water wheel, a dam, and cascading water. and another path rambling under a bridge, and I was hooked.

Now, when I travel, I seek out the brown signs, the historic markers, and make time to follow their call.  Most recently, on a trip to Connecticut my husband and I stopped at Valley Forge and enjoyed the National Memorial Arch and Washington Memorial Chapel, along with the other historic landmarks.

Taking time to get off the fast-paced highways of life and follow the meandering paths that cross our travels has allowed me to see things that I otherwise would have missed. In the same way, how much better would life be if we could allow ourselves to bypass some of the green signs of day-to-day life and enhance our time with the hidden wonders of the brown?

Back Porch

By Gaye Hoots

There is a slight breeze as I settle into a comfortable chair on my back deck. The temperature has dropped in the last few days, and it is pleasant here all day long. I have a small bird feeder and a hummingbird feeder that attract cardinals, wrens, doves, and hummingbirds. My view is of Green Creek emptying into the sound. There are sailboats docked at our dock and across the waterway. Today is a Sunday, so there are frequently large boats, sailboats, kayaks, and sometimes jet skis visible.

Sipping my coffee, I fully appreciate the view and bird sounds and am thankful that my family is well amid all the chaos broadcast. My news does not come via broadcast but from the internet. I scan the headlines, read any recent COVID research, and say a prayer for protection for all of us from all that assails us. Being in touch with nature centers and calms me.

Now that I am at peace, I reach for my Kindle. Books are my first choice, but my fingers get sore from holding them and turning the pages. I can enlarge the print on Kindle, lay it flat on my leg, and read without touching it. I realize the irony of my reading choices. Instead of Sunday morning scriptures, I am reading a murder mystery, always my favorite reading material.

My reading choice leads me to muse over my career choices. I like a peaceful atmosphere, order, and structure. My career choice was to work in psychiatric nursing, usually, a crisis environment where I was challenged daily to restore peace, order, and structure, sometimes successfully. I worked to try to achieve this in my family and social life also. Maybe I liked the challenge.

When I retired, I had more control over my environment, and when I am here alone, I can experience peace and order. I wonder if the murder mysteries are my way of compensating for the excitement of my work environment. We are complex creatures, and our choices say a lot about us. I am also a psychology student and try to analyze my choices, but I still can’t articulate them. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying them. Find A Grave

By Marie Craig

There are many wonderful websites for researching family history.  Some of the ones that come to mind are FamilySearch, Ancestry, and My Heritage.  The first is free, but the other two are paid subscriptions.

One of my favorites is  This site is free and searchable without a subscription.  Volunteers have attached photographs of tombstones to be shared to the public. However, if you want to be a volunteer, you must obtain a free subscription. Then you can add images of gravestones, portraits, and documents such as death certificates and obituaries.

I am on the volunteer list to take pictures of tombstones for this county.  An example: a researcher in a distant state has an ancestor buried near me. They request a photo, and I get an email asking me to supply a picture. I go to the cemetery, take an image with my smartphone, and upload it to the ancestor’s page. I can also create a tribute page if one is absent. I have received some sincere thanks from the requester.

Deceased family members can be linked together.  I have benefitted from others’ research and also provided missing links.  I located a living distant cousin who shared some interesting portraits of family members.

Most researchers are accurate, generous, and helpful as we trace our family trees together.