The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 10:25 am Thursday, May 12, 2022

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By Julie Terry Cartner

Visiting a local farm the other day, I stopped to watch a family of four picking strawberries. Charmed, I watched a little girl, probably about five or six, filling her little basket. It went something like this: eat one, put one in the basket, pick another and start towards the basket then eat it instead. The next one, a large juicy red one, was clearly irresistible, and it went in her mouth also. Of course, it was too big, so red juice ran down her chin as she enjoyed the tasty treat, oblivious to the telltale streaks sliding across her face and drizzling onto her shirt.

The older sister, I’d guess eight or nine, was a study in opposites. Clearly ready for a photo shoot, her hair curling from a topsy turvy ponytail, she was pristine, carefully plucking each strawberry and placing it gently in her basket. Though she probably longed to eat one or two, she was clearly trying to set a good example for her little sister. Not a stain marred her blouse, and no telltale streaks ran down her face. Mom and Dad watched the two girls, smiling at each other as the little sister popped another berry into her mouth and the older sister shook her head as if to say, I don’t know what to do with her.

I couldn’t help but delve back into my memories of strawberry picking with my dad. A firm advocate of no school, no shoes, I’d dance barefoot between the rows of berries, picking only the ripest and juiciest. Occasionally, I’d step on a discarded berry, the red pulp squishing up between my toes and laugh, only concerned if I’d destroyed a good berry. I’m sure my sister, with her perfect honey blonde hair, would shake her head at me and think, how in the world could we be sisters? I’m sure she consumed her fair share, but she’d do it neatly, unlike her little sister.

When Dad would get to the end of a row, his basket almost full, he’d look at my almost empty one and my berry-stained lips and just shake his head. “How about putting some in the basket this time?” But he’d smile as he’d say it, understanding, there’s just nothing better than a sun warmed strawberry.

We’d finally finish picking the berries and take them home. That night we’d hull the strawberries while Mom made shortcake, a recipe passed down from my Grandma Jessie and who knows how many generations before her. I imagine the recipe was similar to all of the ladies of the town, but I always believed ours was the best. Mom would put the dough in the oven, and soon the house would be filled with the delicious aroma of baking shortcake. When the bottoms were golden brown and the tops just tipped with brown, we’d pull them out of the oven, slice them in half, slather both halves with butter and cover them with strawberries. On special occasions there would be whipped cream to put on top.

The first shortcake of the year was a meal – one shortcake for dinner and a second for dessert. A strawberry lover, I think Dad sometimes stretched it to three, though I imagine he was miserable for having done that. I could never get past two. Mom liked strawberries okay but would have been perfectly happy with buttered shortcake and whipped cream. Well, each to his own, I’d think. Once I started baking myself, I understood better the appreciation for well baked desserts.

My family has continued the tradition. Picking strawberries, making shortcake, enjoying every bite. Now grown, they are now sharing this treat with their families. And so the shortcake lives on, one generation to the next.

As I watched that family picking strawberries, all I could hope for them is that they are making memories as precious as the ones I hold close to my heart. I hope the younger girl never loses her joy in life, and I hope the older daughter is happy too – though I do hope she lets go of her need for perfection and lets strawberry juice drip down her chin occasionally. And I hope the parents are soaking up every moment with those precious girls and storing them away. After all, isn’t life really about the small, precious moments like these?

Down East

By Gaye Hoots

Today I rode from Oriental to Washington and Bath and near Aurora on the return trip. Aurora and Bath are small towns on the water, like Oriental, with populations of less than 1,000. Washington has a reported population of around 10,000 but appears to be smaller. The main street is lined with buildings over 50 years old and has historical churches from the 1700s.

Many of the older homes in Washington are begging to be restored. and some have been and are beautiful. The economy in each town seems to be struggling, but there are many retirees in these areas. The waterfront views are stunning, and there a few good local cafes, there is none of the nightlife some young people like. The area is ideally suited to my tastes.

On the drive to Washington and home, I could see nothing but acres of farmland and timber stretching for miles without a house in sight. This was reassuring as the latest housing market uptick had me wondering if overcrowding was becoming an issue.

I loved the waterfront views and found many older homes I wish I could rehab. Our writers’ group visited Washington a few years ago, and we stayed in a bed and breakfast that was beautifully restored. The food was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the company and our trip.

The most prominent building I saw out in the middle of nowhere turned out to be a prison. You could see for miles around it so that was a suitable location. The farmland was presently sown in grass or grain that was coming in. I don’t really want to go back to working on a farm, but the farms give me fond memories of my childhood.

The buildings on the main street of Washington were all old; some had been updated, and others like the old theater and the ancient hotel across from the diner where we ate, were original. The worn brick, aged floors, and doors spoke of generations of use. I prefer these to any new building they could be replaced with. Maybe like my preference for the music I grew up with, the older buildings remind me of my childhood, and I was blessed with precious memories.

My grandchildren were born over a 30-year span, and I hope they will retain the same fond childhood memories. They love the family stories, and while they never met my dad, they beg for “Big Daddy stories.” They like the large modern houses on the water and say they want to live in a house like that when they grow up. Initially, their plan was for all of us to live with them, but after some thought we were told the big house is for them and their kids and we can visit. I was granted permission to live there because I would be their full-time babysitter. When I was their age, I did not have a career plan and never thought about a house of my own. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.


By Marie Craig

A few of us are able to remember pre-television.  It was a simpler age, with cleaner entertainment and fewer social ills.  Listening to the radio was a pleasure; the imagination was stimulated to include visuals of scenery and action.  Once people acquired TVs in the 1950s, front porches and neighborly conversations diminished.  Actually, now I don’t have TV programming; I just stream a few things on my computer.  Violence and explicitness are repulsive to me.

I remember enjoying early TV shows that were humorous and educational.  The continuing popularity of the Andy Griffith show which began in 1960 and continued to 1968 with 249 episodes shows that people yearn for the simpler, cleaner entertainment.  1960 was 62 years ago!  That’s hard to believe.

My hometown was much like Mayberry.  As I see the characters in the show, I can match them to my childhood memories.  We had a Floyd, the barber, and a Goober, the car mechanic.  Our post office director was Joe Gudger who lived with his mother his entire life.  Mrs. Gudger was a sweet old lady.  My good friends were her neighbors and helpers.  She had a little black and white TV which she watched constantly.  One of her favorite shows was the Arthur Murray Party.  Arthur Murray and his wife, Kathryn, hosted this weekly show which featured ballroom dancing and beautiful evening dresses for the ladies. Once, they announced on the show that the next week they would broadcast the show in color. What they didn’t add was that you had to have a color TV to see it in color.

The next week, Mrs. Gudger was so excited to watch this show. Afterwards, she phoned all her friends and told them about the beautiful dresses in gorgeous colors that she’d seen on this dance show. She went into great detail about the many different shades and tints of beautiful evening gowns.

When I first heard about this experience, I laughed a lot. But now, I think, “What a wonderful imagination she had to actually be able to see all the pretty colors on a black and white TV.”