In setting up the shopping cart for the Crafty Branch, I had the unenviable task of designating tax rates by county in the shopping cart (since Georgia requires sales tax reporting by county) and the only way to really do that was by zipcode. Now, let me just say that while some states assign zip codes in reasoned batches, it looks like someone threw all the available codes up in the air and where they landed on the map of Georgia is where they were assigned. And Georgia has 159 counties.
It was a bit of a slog to sort all the codes out and by the time I’d checked and double-checked everything, I might have been a bit punchy. I was also making up little punny phrases with the county names, and that’s where today’s post comes from. I decided (in that same punchy state) that it would be a fun, creative writing exercise to take this list of counties and use as many of them as possible in a story.
This sounded like a better idea when I was in that punchy state of manic productivity. But I’m both stubborn and enjoy a challenge, so here we go! (And if this isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to scroll down to the video at the end of this post.)
# # #
“CallÂ Dekalb company so we can head downtown,”Â GradyÂ Pulaski said to his cousin,Â Thomas Screven, as he came downstairs.
“Downtown,” the man replied, “I thought were heading to theÂ Rockdale and roll show at the county line?”
“You’ll have to dance the Catoosa withÂ Carroll WilkesÂ another night, I’m afraid. We’ve been called into a Chattahoochee at City Hall!”
Though Thomas questioned his cousin about the nature of the Early-evening meeting in their sleepy town ofÂ Habersham, Grady was not atÂ Liberty to Cherloee any more information as heÂ had none himself.
“Just what theÂ Effingham is going on, here,Â Elbert?” asked Thomas when they arrived.
“It’sÂ FayetteÂ Irwin andÂ GlynnÂ Randolph, Tom,” the older man replied, “TheyÂ were out Appling and PeachÂ Pickens on the Banks of theÂ Ben Hill and there were Twiggs all around.They looked Upson into the branches and some Hart-hearted Sumter-other had stripped the trees positive-LeeÂ Berrien!”
“That’s a-Spalding,” Thomas said.
“Isn’t it just?”
“Who would do such a thing?”
“Don’t rightly, know, but they took theÂ Barrow, too, so I doubt they’re from around here.”
“Well, if they’ve gone on aÂ Wheeler, we should be able to catch their Butts before the Hancock crows! Let’s call up the boys!”
Grady called GwinnettÂ Talbot,Â GwinnettÂ calledÂ BryanÂ Rabun, andÂ Bryan called theÂ Clarke twins,Â Chatham andÂ Dougherty (you always had to call both, because no one couldÂ Terrell them apart). Meanwhile, Thomas assembled flashlights, Coffee, and an ample supply of shotguns and shells.
The night air was Crisp and the Fulton moon provided some light between cloud banks as they headed towards the orchard. Under the leaves of the partially-denuded trees was a Warren of limbs and debris. Leaves that were turning fromÂ Greene to yellow and red littered the ground. Devastation reigned. The nine people had never seen such devastation in their sleepy little town.
“Don’t Murray, we’ll find ’em,” Grady said, patting Fayette’s shoulder. He Newton that she was worried about Harvest Home, the one time of year people went out of their Clay to head to Habersham instead of the larger cities closer to the Interstate. The fruit that grew in this particular orchard was always a centerpiece of the Harvest Home communal supper, plus raised funds for community improvements through the sale of jams, jellies, butters, and candies. No one owned the orchard, but the entire town took their turns looking out for and after it, in their own way.
“If the Meriwether holds we might still–” Fayette was interrupted by Elbert’s raised hand.
“I thought I Heard something. Everybody be quiet!” Elbert said, his voice a hoarse stage-whisper.
* * *
Across the Ben Hill, BrantleyÂ Lanier had a problem and her name wasÂ BleckleyÂ Candler. Brantley and Bleckley had been sweethearts since grade school, so no one inÂ Taliaferro was surprised when the couple announced their engagement this summer whenÂ Brantley returned from college to run the family farm and “settle down.” It was expected.
It didn’t take LongÂ to plan the wedding, either, as Bleckley and her mama had been storing up goods and favors among their friends for years; the whole thing had come together in a matter of weeks and the wedding day was looming. One week, Brantley thought, just seven days and all this madness will be over.
It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, he’d always loved her, it was, well, it was hard to put into words. Bleckley was, as an only child of the small town’s bank owner is prone to be, a bit spoiled. Still, she had a sweet nature that made up for it, most of the time, but the wedding was bringing out more of the spoilt and less of the sweet. So close to the date, the burner was up on high and the pot had overflowed this evening.
“Franklin, Brantley, I don’t give aÂ Camden why it happened,Â I just want to know how you intend to make it right!” Bleckley, for her part, was entirelyÂ ex-Jasper-ated with her fiancee over this latest hitch in their plans. She smoothed her hands down theÂ Bibb of her cupcake-emblazoned apron and and stood as tall as her mere 5 feet would allow her.
“This pains me Morgan you know,” she said, “but you must fix this tonight or don’t expect to comeÂ Crawford back to me!” And with that, she turned on her heel and left him stunned, staring after her.
Brantley had been in a hurry to make it to the Candler’s for lunchÂ that dayÂ and had, in his haste, forgotten to check that all the outbuildings on the farm were shut up tight. Not only that, butÂ a calf got away from the hands and,Â that’s how he found himself, now, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing for, he hoped, the right reasons. Never before in his life had he wanted so badly to just pack up and get out ofÂ Dodge.
* * *
Nothing but silenceÂ EcholsÂ in the woods as the search party stood stock still and listened for a long, tense moment. The distant cry of aÂ Calhoun Pierce’d the quiet.
“Maybe we should split up,” Chatham (or was it Dougherty) suggested. “Town’s east and we know no one there did it, so if three of us each go north, west, and south we’ll cover more ground and find theÂ Dooly that did this and get to go home.”
Everyone agreed this sounded like a sensible thing to do, and everyone also agreed that they’d prefer to be doing whatever they usually did on Saturday night instead of being out in the half-dark searching for a fruit thief. So Grady, Thomas, and Early headed north towardsÂ Chattooga, a town known for itsÂ Polk-aÂ Troup, while the twins and Bryan headed south in the direction of Muscogee with it’sÂ Seminole museum.
Fayette, Glynn, and Gwinnett took theÂ Houston road towardsÂ Whitfield and several other towns beyond it, hoping the wouldn’t have to go farther than their own town before someone signaled the search was over. GlynnÂ softly hummed aÂ Treutlan melody–he just couldn’t stand the quiet.
Even though it was the dead of night by now, Fayette and company were not exactly surprised to seeÂ GordonÂ Lumpkin out in his front yard.
“Evenin’ Gordon,” Gwinnett said to his neighbor. “How’re the stars doing tonight?”
“Oh, you know, revolving in their heavens as per the usual.” The man said from behind his telescope lens, Gordon was what the town considered a bit eccentric, with his head in the clouds and stars more than on the ground. Popping up from behind the large piece of equipment, a puzzled look on his face, “Gwinnett? Is that you? What are you doing out so late?”
They explained their mission and asked if he’d seen anyone suspicious that day or evening come by.
“Oh, well, the telescope doesn’t BurkeÂ as well pointed at the road, you know. Schley, have you talked toÂ FloydÂ Henry? He was awfulÂ Madison ran off with thatÂ Monroe girl fromÂ Mitchell, last Harvest Home, and vowed revenge. He’s the type to hold a grudge you know.”
They nodded, reminded of the scene at last year’s festival. Floyd’s son,Â Oglethorpe, Oggie for short, has made a fuss over his father pushing him to propose to ColumbiaÂ Clayton, the girl he’d been sorta courtin’ over the last year. But Oggie was having none of it, claiming he andÂ Laurens Monroe were headed off to Vegas that very night, and if he didn’t see another apple pie or peach cobbler in his life it would be too soon! Can you imagine? No one ever thought Columbia wasÂ the Marion kind.
Bryan and the twins had, predictably, run into no one on their road, and saw no signs that anyone had been this way in quite a while. They were debating turning around and heading home when a voice boomed out of the darkness.
“Just Ware do you think you’re goin’?”
Lamar Oconee, White moonlight bounced off his Baldwin pate, was leveling his own shotgun at the backs of the three. “Turner around slowly and let me see who dares disturb my peace and quiet!”
Knowning not to take any chances with trigger-happy Lamar, the boys slowly turned around and smiled sheepishly at the older man. They’d plum forgot that Oconee patrolled his boundaries in the middle of the night to discourageÂ cow-tipping teens. Used to be he could trust Forsyth to sound the alarm, but he’d beenÂ watch-Douglas since the hound hadÂ passed last spring.
“Oh it’s just you. What in the Tattnall are you doing out here at this hour.” A disgusted “Harumph” had been Lamar’s only responseÂ after the twins told the story of the missing orchard bounty. The four stood around awkwardly, one shotgun still raised, before Lamar relented.
“No one’s been through here for a while, I’ve been watching. You go get back home, now.”
They didn’t argue.
That left Grady, Thomas, and Elbert. They were just coming upon theÂ Union bridge which connected Taliaferro with Habersham.
It was an old joke to some and a sore spot to many, that bridge, but all agreed the irony in the name was not lost on them. The two Towns on either side of the river could never agree who really had rights to the fertile ground on its banks, resulting in a decades-oldÂ Tift between former friends and neighbors. The official records were a tangle of handwritten back-and-forths and oral agreements. It was like a game of telephone that had been going on for decades and the messages were, indeed, garbled.
Grady was the first one to spot it. A shiny red apple at the foot of the bridge.
They picked up their pace as they came the bridge and small a small trail of peaches and apples leading across to the other side in theÂ Wayne-ing light of the moon. They hurried along,
“Stop!” Grady hollered as a man crossed the beam of a street lamp and froze in place. Brantley looked over his shoulder, saw the unfamiliar men (with guns!) charging after him and picked up his own pace! From a dead stop he sprinted towards the nearest home, jostling the wheelbarrow of fruit, his spoils thudding to the ground, and banged on the front door of the home.
“Help! Help! Call the Cobbs!” Brantley shouted.
“No need, gentlemen, I’m already here! Jefferson “Jeff” Davis, sheriff and would-be feudal lord of Taliaferro emerged from the shadows. A porch swing with a haze of tobacco smoke was now visible as it swung gently as the man rose. “What’s this, Habershams in my town,Â HaralsonÂ our good people?”
“That’s Bulloch, and you know it! If anyone, it’s us who’s Harrised” Elbert wheezed, bending over to rest his hands (and shotgun) on his knees. “That man’s aÂ Brooks, took almost all the fruit from the orchard on the other side of the Ben Hill.Â OurÂ side.”
“Your side, you say,” the sheriff said. “You know as well as anyone, ElbertÂ Atkinson, that both sides of the Ben Hill belong to Taliaferro.”
A Gilmer of hope shone in theÂ Colquitt‘s eyes.
“I know no such thing. The river devides our towns, we take care of that orchard, and you know we harvest it for our fall festival every year!”
“That you care for the land may be true, but you know good an well there’s no enforceable deed on it. But if you insist on thundering around our town armed and dangerous, you’ll find yourself before JudgeÂ Glascock on Monday morning.”
“The Jones you say,” Thomas thundered. “Lowndes sakes, man! We’reÂ Putnam in the pokey! He’ll be in front ofÂ our Judge on Monday. Not the other way around. What do you have to say for yourself”
Brantley, who’d been watching the exchange like a tennis match,Â was once again the center of the attention. He should have run while the strangers and the sheriff were sparring.
His mother’s words rang in his head:Â what a Webster we weave, when first we practice to deceive. The man sighed and tried to explain, “See, myÂ Coweta bunch of the Dade-gumÂ McIntosh apples andÂ Decatur-er said she needed all this fruit or there wouldn’t be a party Worth having!Â And if I don’t fix this, well, instead of a wedding they’ll be laying me in myÂ Toombs!”
Elbert eyed the young man up and down. “Ain’t you ever heard of a grocery store?”
* * *
The smell of fryingÂ Bacon wafted in through the window fromÂ Emanuel‘s diner a block away, and the smell of yeasty bread came from theÂ Bakery across the street. Once the rest of the search party had arrived in front of Davis’ home, with their own DeputyÂ StephensÂ McDuffie in tow, the two officers had a terse conversation and agreed that, at the very least, Brantley was probably guilty of theft of the wheelbarrow, though the fruit was another matter.
So he sat, feeling like aÂ Pike was running through his head from a restless night, on a slightly padded cot in the Habersham jail.
I don’t think I’mÂ going to be able to BartowÂ myÂ way out of this one, he thought.
Wilkinson Candler walked into the small sheriff’s station of Habersham and made a beeline for the single cell with Brantley in it, Bleckley close on his heels. “Well, son, what do you have to say for yourself?”
The bride-to-be pushed byÂ her father to reach through the bars. “Thank ‘Evans you’re all right, honey! What ever possessed you to steel a wheelbarrow? What were you Lincoln?!” The switch from elation to beratingÂ gave the young man a case of mental whiplash.
The door opened again, this time it was SheriffÂ CharltonÂ Montgomery along with Fayette, Glynn, Grady, Thomas, and Elbert.
“Gentlemen” Wilkinson voice ricocheted around the small room, “and ma’am” he nodded at Fayette, “this is all just a little misunderstanding. Don’t you think the poor boy’s been punished enough, spending the day and night in jail. Quaint though it may be.”
Early eyed him warily, “Nothing wrong with some time in theÂ Clinch toÂ StewartÂ over what he done.”
The sheriff held up a hand to each party, “Now, now, Wilcox out the truth of the situation just as soon as we get everyone’s statements taken.”
“What’s there to take statements on? The boyÂ borrowed a wheelbarrow to transport so wild produce, the wheelbarrow has been returned, why can’t we simpleÂ Washington ourÂ hands of the whole silly thing?”
“Sheriff,” Bleckley spoke up, “Brantley was just trying to please me and I may have been a little insistent on the subject after that unfortunate incident with the barn door on Saturday was discovered. My Cook needs this week to prepare the pies and pastries for our wedding on Friday, and I need my groom for his final tuxedo fitting at noon at the Taylors. We’ve got people coming in from three citiesÂ for this wedding and I simply don’t know what I’ll do if word gets out Brantley spent the night in jail. Over fruit!” She started sniffing into a lace-edged handkerchief that appeared as if by magic.”
Everyone knew that, of the three citiesÂ the Taliaferro daughter referred to, none of the guests were from Habersham and felt less sympathy for the girl than she’d obviously hoped to engender.
Wilkinson rocked back on his heels a bit, hands in pockets, looking expectantly at the local lawman expecting to get his was as many aÂ Richmond was used to doing.
Finally the sheriff spoke. “There’s still the matter of the apples and peaches to settle.”
“Really, you’ve got to stopÂ Jenkins people around about that orchard. It belongs to no one so how can anyone steal from it?”
“But what about Harvest Home,” Fayette said, “What about our town? You can’t just Walker in here and pretend like that doesn’t mean anything.” Her face was red from frustration, and Glynn wasÂ Fannin her with a nearby flyer, trying to keep her from expiring then and there. “It’s just notÂ Telfair!”
At least the banker had the decency to look a little chagrinned at her outburst.
The telephone on the Sheriff’s desk broke the tension in the room. After a brief, conversation, he hung up and addressed the room.
“Okay, folks, this is how it’s gonna all go down. Glynn,Â Jackson his way with the county records, including whatÂ Quitman claims we have regarding the land the orchard stands on. Now, we all know there’s a MillerÂ paperworkÂ Walton on the one key to figure it out. That might not happen today, so, Brantley, I’m going to let you out of here but you are not to leave town.”
“But our honeymoon!” Bleckley said, “We’re leaving for two week’s at Johnson falls on Sunday.”
“Wilkinson, unless you want an outlaw for a Dawson-in-law, I suggest you make other arrangements for her.”
# # #
Okay then! That was… a bit tougher than I expected (it was those last 25 counties, man, they were brutal to shoehorn in!) and, yes, it’s a bit nebulous there at the ending. Who knows, maybe I’ll write a version without the county names littered throughout and actually figure out where it goes from there. But not today.
I hope if you actually read this far that you enjoyed the silliness of it all. I also hope you’ll consider taking up this challenge yourself!
Do you know how many counties (parishes for our Louisiana friends) are in your state? Could you use all of them in a story? If you do, please, please,Â please let me know that you did and if you have it posted anywhere send me a link. Madness, like misery, loves company.
And speaking of county fun, last week we headed to a neighboring town in our own county to check out the 3rd Annual Witches Night Out in Boston, Georgia. Here, have a vlog about it:
(Direct link for the feed readers: Witches Night Out in Boston, GA)