Monthly Archives: September 2017

West Goose Creek

We’d driven to St. Marks to watch shore birds. It was a lovely day in every way, a day free of cares with Charles and I exploring the area on no particular time table. A good sea breeze was up and sunshine disappeared as clouds moved in. A light rain encouraged us to climb back in our car. Charles wondered out loud where West Goose Creek might be. He knew it was somewhere nearby. We tried with no luck to find it on our car’s GPS.

It was about 2:00 when we ordered grilled shrimp in a folksy restaurant right on the St. Marks River. Dogs were allowed on one side of the restaurant and not the other, an interesting feature to me. Charles asked the waitress why the difference in sides, both seeming equally open. She guessed it was because one side was nearer the kitchen so it might be a health issue. Then Charles asked his real question. Did she know where we might  find West Goose Creek. She had never heard of it. She asked another fellow but he didn’t know either. We needed someone with some age on them. All those folks were too young.

It was delightful eating by the river with raindrops freckling the water. As we nibbled we remembered times at West Goose Creek.

Charles’ family, consisting of him, his parents and his siblings, as well as Uncle Lewis and almost the whole clan of Morrises, made an annual trek down from Thomas County in the fall to buy fresh fish from seiners at the seinyard and then cook them right there. His memory is of cool air, a long wait for fish to “come in,” resulting in plenty of time for cousins to chase and play on the beach before the fish fry started.

“It was always Uncle Lewis’s idea,” Charles said, sipping iced tea. “Mama and her sisters brought side dishes–potato salad, baked beans, pimiento sandwiches, chocolate cake, all that stuff. We’d get so hungry waiting for the fish, we kids tried to slip bits of food from under the covers but someone nearly always caught us.”

I remembered going myself with the family once after Charles and I married, probably about 1966. It was great fun. I enjoyed the adventure, seeing the stretch of Gulf beach, the warmth of the fire as the sun went down. I thought we might do that every year, but that was the last time, I think because Uncle Lewis moved away.

We really wanted to see if we could find that place after all these years. “Let me see if my phone GPS can locate West Goose Creek,” I said.

And there it was on my screen. The directions indicated it was only nine miles away.

It wasn’t an easy nine miles. The last three or four were lonely narrow mud and sand roads with only an occasional mailbox and even fewer visible houses. It was beautiful but not a place you’d want to be when you ran out of gas or had a heart attack. Finally we drove clear of the tangled forest and found ourselves in an opening onto a small cove. There was an old ruins, a very well kept informational sign about West Goose Creek and Wakulla Beach, and several big water birds shopped for tiny crabs and fed among grasses in a stretch of wetland. We saw a limpet (I think!), a couple of ibis, a willet maybe. There were, of course, big brown pelicans diving into the sea, and I saw at a distance some little ducklike birds swimming and then disappearing for whole minutes in the waves. I was thrilled to see all the birds and compare them to pictures in our guide book.

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The birds were amazingly unafraid. These two ibis let me follow them at a distance.

 

We both learned a lot more about West Goose Creek, Wakulla Beach, and East Goose Creek.

In the 1880’s, according to the historical marker, folks from north Florida and South Georgia traveled to Wakulla Beach/West Goose Creek to seine for mullet. They went in wagon trains (the wagons made into covered ones with stretches of tarp) at the end of the harvest season, as described by William Warren Rogers in “Thomas County 1865-1900.” Many groups would stay as long as a week. When the schools of mullet “ran,” the men would pull them in with great seining nets, then everyone pitched in salting the fish down in barrels to take home. At night the harmonicas and fiddles were brought out. A bonfire glowed brightly by the shore. The singing and storytelling, sometimes even dancing, went on for hours.

The marker indicates that West Goose Creek Seinyard was the last to close down and that was when Hurricane Kate, in 1985, destroyed all the sheds.

The ruins we saw were of a pretty sophisticated tourist hotel having had columns, a concrete foundation and plumbing. Seems it was the dream, actually the third of three dreams, of Daisy Walker, wife of Senator Henry N. Walker, Sr.  Daisy dreamed of a town, East Goose Creek, and even laid it out in streets. But today it’s only a ghost town covered by vines, palms and scrub oaks or live oaks. The first hotel, built in 1915, became the Walkers’ home after a few seasons of welcoming guests. They built another hotel which seems to have been destroyed in a tropical flood in September, 1928. Then they built the hotel, remains of which are still there. It was a two story building with kitchen and dining room on the ground level, sleeping rooms above.

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Ruins of an old hotel at West Goose Creek. (Don’t miss that foraging bird in the background.)

 

I was telling a friend about our adventurous day and he became quite interested in the actual creek of West Goose Creek. I had to admit I didn’t see a creek. Maybe he will discover it and, if there’s a trail to it, I’d like to see that. On some other adventurous day!

 

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I’ve Got the Joy!

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Some cousinly joy

 

Remember the song called “Joy In My Heart”?

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”

What has brought you joy lately?

There are plenty of things that have splashed pain and suffering, caused disillusionment and disappointment, spurred anger or brought on bewilderment, horror and grief. Hurricanes, earthquakes, threats of war and more war, heartaches, surgeries, accidents, deaths….

But stop right now and consider what has caused you joy.

Here are a “couple” of joy moments I’ve experienced lately.

Six-year-old Charli, my granddaughter’s daughter, asked Jesus to be her Savior a few weeks ago. I was privileged to be the one to talk to her and pray with her the night she announced she wanted to give her heart to Jesus. We all rejoiced with her and her big sister the day they were baptized. Last Sunday was her first opportunity to participate in taking the elements as our church gathered for what we call “The Lord’s Supper.” Charli sat beside me and I explained to her the meaning of this symbolic meal and manners for same, stressing that it is a time to remember what Jesus did for us. It was a joy to receive unleavened bread and grape juice with this little girl for her very first time. She was filled with awe and was very careful to hold her tiny glass steady until the very right moment to drink.

Another joyful moment occurred this week when I made my weekly visit to a nearby assisted living facility. We talked about fears. We all have them, some worse than others. Following our discussion about how we need so much to trust in Jesus when we are afraid, we sang “He Keeps Me Singing.” These folks usually enjoy the singing but not all of them open their mouths and actually sing. That day everyone, even Jack, sang the words: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know. Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.” Some of their voices were weak and quavery, but their faces were full of light.

One morning recently Charles called me to see something out the breakfast room window. I didn’t get there in time. He described the bird, said it had been swinging on the hummingbird feeder. A few minutes later I saw the bird myself, and incredibly beautiful black headed bird with orange breast, similar to an orchard oriole or a black headed grosbeak but not matching either one. The sight of that beautiful bird brought me joy as did the sharing of that special moment with my soulmate.

The phone rang. My friend had called to tell me our mutual friend’s son had just died in Washington State. As Sue and I prayed and cried together, the word joy didn’t come to mind. But later, as I thought about the sorrow we shared, I realized what a joyful thing it is to have a Savior Who understands our deepest griefs–and to have human friends, too, with whom to cry.

I turned 75 last Sunday. I have received such thoughtful gifts, cards, phone calls, and Facebook messages. What a joy to have dear caring friends and family! Charles even took me on a jaunt to the sea coast which brought us both joy, mystery, and adventure. More about that another time.

What has been your most recent moment of joy? Think about it.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10d

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Reflections on Irma

 

Please send help to Hurricane Irma victims–through Samaritan’s Purse, Georgia Baptists, or your chosen organization, one that will give ALL of your gift where it is needed and use none for administration costs. We who were blessed have the sweet responsibility of sharing with those who were ravaged.

Was it about three weeks ago we began to hear about Irma–maybe even a month! A hurricane developing off the coast of Africa. Who would have imagined how big an impact she would make on all of us? Well, the skilled hurricane scholars could imagine, actually. They began early on predicting dire possibilities, many of which came true, many of which did not come true for which we are so grateful. The largest hurricane and holding strength the longest of any unless one back in the forties.

News of Irma became a regular on the evening broadcast. It became a common topic of conversation wherever one went. Harvey had just decimated Houston, after all, so we were well aware of what could happen. Everyone was trying to figure out what each one could do to help folks in Houston–and now this thing came looming up through the Caribbean.

Was it going to hit the east coast and go up through east Georgia and Carolinas? Or was it going to hit the west coast and maybe hit us when it went up through the Panhandle elbow? Or–as it began to appear–was it going straight head-on up through the middle of Florida? Or even maybe it was going to weaken from a horrible FIVE to a two or three. Maybe it was going to turn and go out into the Atlantic–and please, Lord, be with the ships at sea!

We listened. We prepared. We prayed.

My niece and her family in Ft. Lauderdale were coming here to get away from Irma. Then they weren’t because they dared not get on the road with all the others inching along. People didn’t know where to evacuate to, some went west and then scrambled when Irma came that way. My sister in Habersham County had relatives come there from St. Mary’s Georgia and that was a good thing because that coastline really suffered.

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As of Sunday morning, we thought it was going to be a Cat #2 when it reached Grady County. Schools closed, our church cancelled evening services. We all went home to brace for it. It was almost a wintery day. The skies were dark and the temperature dropped to a very cool 60. Then the storm weakened, but it would still be fierce.

I lay in bed Sunday night (yes, bed, because the real hurricane was predicted to hit us about noon on Monday) listening to the howling gusts and spurts of torrential rain. God has given me a love of storms, not that I want anyone to be hurt or that I want to be out in one. But I do love to listen to the wind and feel the safety of a good snug house. That storm went on all night but the power didn’t go off until dawn.

Gradually the wind died down. It wasn’t raining over much, just a steady patter. Were we in the eye now? When was Irma going to hit us? Looking out, we discovered a large pine splintering at its base and leaning at about a 45 degree angle. And, as far as we knew, the real storm hadn’t hit yet. We read, played piano, talked, and of course ate cold cereal, bananas, and furtively looked at weather reports on cell phones or made quick calls, not wanting to run the charges down.

The power came back on about 11:30 and we hurried to have a hot lunch before it went off.

Next thing we knew we were hearing of Irma causing damage north of us! She’d passed us by.

It was still dark and dreary and cold but the wind was gone. Charles and Charles D went to work picking up debris. It took them two hours to pick up all the twigs and limbs. We had a hot supper and, television being restored by that time, watched the horrible devastation up both Florida coasts and later here and there all over Georgia, flooding in Savannah and Charleston. Millions in Florida and Georgia were without power. We wished we could share ours!

My family reports that Habersham County in northeast Georgia has been without power since Monday night and they don’t know when they will have it again. In Birmingham where our son lives there was rain and wind but they, like us, did not lose power.

We were in a pocket of safety and we are grateful. The candles sit strategically around the house, a generator sits ready to run, a nice thick comfy air mattress is ready for use in the hall. We have water stored, a ton of breakfast bars, and porch furniture stashed.

And that large splintered pine angled across our driveway is a strong reminder of what Irma could do.

The sun shines today and all is peaceful. We could have had an oak tree on our house as so many thousands did. We could have had to be rescued by boat or helicopter.

We can only be thankful and send help to those so hard hit. We’ll send a gift through Samaritan’s Purse or GeorgiaBaptists.org and pray it will really make a difference to someone who’s lost their home and everything they owned.

 

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Gone Fishing

Every family has them, the family fish tales. Ours is no exception. Whether good, bad, or crazy, these stories are part of the fabric of our relationships.

In a veterinarian’s family quite often pleasure and business are mixed. That means that an afternoon of fishing might occur at a farm pond after the calf delivery or the relief for a bloated hog had been successful. Something like that was the setting one Saturday afternoon when William was about ten and Julie nine. It was a planned occasion because we had folding chairs with us, not usual equipment for a veterinary truck. The chairs became part of the adventure. Julie wanted to sit in a chair and fish. The bank was steep. She couldn’t get her cork far enough into the water to suit her without moving the chair. Her dad warned her repeatedly that the chair would fold if she kept moving it. She continued to edge it closer and closer until–Julie and the chair splashed into the pond. True to her spunky nature, Julie surfaced spluttering and laughing. It was a chilly afternoon and we weren’t ready to leave so our resourceful vet pulled a pair of coveralls from behind his truck seat and we set Julie into them. Even with the legs rolled up as far as they would go, she could hardly walk. The crotch was dragging the ground. I don’t remember whether we caught any fish that day!

One day when she was visiting us, my sister Jackie went fishing with the kids and me. We thought she should experience some South Georgia pond fishing. William and I baited everyone’s hook and I sighed happily. It was always so good to be on a nice grassy bank with the sound of crows cawing high in the pines and a cork floating ready to disappear any minute. Jackie was happy to be outdoors but not so pleased to be holding a fishing pole. She held it dutifully, somewhat as if she were prepared to attack a monster. After five minutes she said carefully, “I believe I’ll just lie down in this nice grass and take a nap.” I insisted she had to fish. “Fish will start biting just any minute,” I encouraged her. She held on as if the pole were holding her up. In a moment I heard a soft cry. Jackie had caught a fish. It took William and me both to pull it in and flop it in front of poor Jackie who looked ready to faint. It was a big sleek yellow belly. While Jackie, now thoroughly exhausted, lay down for her much desired nap, William put the fish in a bucket. Turns out, that was our only keeper that day. And it was the last fish, to my knowledge, that Jackie has ever caught.

William (later to be called Will) as a teenager, used to go river fishing with Mitch Kemp. He would tell wild stories about the dangers of the Ochlocknee River–alligators, snakes, and such. His main catch was gar which he never brought home. Now it gives me pleasure to hear him tell of occasional fishing escapades with his boys on Alabama rivers.

Our favorite family fishing memory is not a fish tale but a crab tale. Charles asked an employee of his, David Lee, to go with us one day to Panacea and show us how to crab on the salt flats. We took a roll of nylon cord, a five gallon bucket and a sturdy fish net. In Panacea we purchased the grossest, most unsightly, smelliest fish heads the fish market had. David helped us find the “perfect” crabbing spot, a salty pond surrounded by sea grass but with trails to the water. Following instructions of our dark skinned friend we pulled in and netted forty blue crabs that day. There were high squeals of glee, some of dismay, lots of laughter and mud. At home, even after sharing with David, we had all the crabs we could eat. We boiled them and sat around our kitchen table cracking claws, digging out the sweet morsels, and jabbering about the fun we’d had.

Charles Douglas acquired a love of fishing at a very young age. He loved to fish before he could either put bait on or take fish off. I remember well because I was the one who threaded those yucky worms on and then extricated the fish, one slickery one after another. I was glad when he became an “independent” fisherman. Even then, though, help was needed sometimes. I think he was about ten when he accompanied my sister and me to our niece Joan’s apartment in Jacksonville. Joan was awaiting a liver transplant at Mayo Clinic and we were her designated companions for that night. Her apartment was right beside a nice picturesque canal. Charles D went out to investigate, and we were having a quiet chat when he came in with a wispy willow branch asking for thread and a safety pin. Joan, always an encourager to the young, found these items and we laughed as he went back out. A sign plainly warned, “No Fishing” but who would worry about a little boy and that flimsy stick? Well, he caught a fish all right, a seven or eight inch one. And he couldn’t get it loose from that pin. There we were by moonlight beside the “No Fishing” sign struggling to get that poor fish loose and back into the canal. I expected to be caught in a big search light’s beam any time.

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Proof of the catch by Charles D. Reeves, April, 2011

 

Charles D made a much bigger catch a few years later at a Grady County pond. He caught a few small ones that afternoon but what he wanted was a big wide-mouthed bass. He’d reported to Grandaddy there was a bass cruising near the shore. Grandaddy was sitting in his truck studying his Sunday school lesson when he heard a great shout from across the pond. Charles D says that fish kept nibbling and nibbling on his bait and then suddenly the line went to whining as the fish realized he’d been snagged. He tried to pull Charles D but he’d met his match. Charles D tugged and pulled and wrestled until he finally piled him up on the shore. Grandaddy agreed that was one for the taxidermist so he still presides in Charles D’s room, along with a long snake skin.

Will enjoys beach activities with his kids–throwing Frisbee, building sandcastles, swimming–but if he gets a chance he really likes to fish too. On one occasion he decided to fish far out in the waves away from all swimmers but the trip back and forth for bait became annoying. So he packed his pockets full of bait and prepared to have a care-free time. He’d no sooner begun than he noticed ominous fins which quickly surrounded him. He managed to get back to shore without being attacked and decided fish bait in the pockets was not a good idea.

My brother Charlie likes to tell about the time our quiet, very proper little mother visited him and his bride in Alaska. They took her camping on the Seward Peninsula. Mamma went for a walk on the seashore. By and by Charlie and Elaine saw her approaching carrying something. With a perfectly straight face she held out a very dead fish and said, “I found supper for us.”

I’m sure you have much bigger, funnier, more adventurous fish tales. Claim them, enjoy them, spin them eloquently around a campfire or your kitchen table. Even if you tell them truthfully and accurately, they will still be entertaining.

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