Down in the County

Just for Fun

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.)

# # #

“Call Dekalb company so we can head downtown,” Grady Pulaski said to his cousin, Thomas Screven, as he came downstairs.

“Downtown,” the man replied, “I thought were heading to the Rockdale and roll show at the county line?”

“You’ll have to dance the Catoosa with Carroll Wilkes 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 of Habersham, Grady was not at Liberty to Cherloee any more information as he had none himself.

“Just what the Effingham is going on, here, Elbert?” asked Thomas when they arrived.

“It’s Fayette Irwin and Glynn Randolph, Tom,” the older man replied, “They were out Appling and Peach Pickens on the Banks of the 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-Lee Berrien!”

“That’s a-Spalding,” Thomas said.

“Isn’t it just?”

“Who would do such a thing?”

“Don’t rightly, know, but they took the Barrow, too, so I doubt they’re from around here.”

“Well, if they’ve gone on a Wheeler, we should be able to catch their Butts before the Hancock crows! Let’s call up the boys!”

Grady called Gwinnett Talbot, Gwinnett called Bryan Rabun, and Bryan called the Clarke twins, Chatham and Dougherty (you always had to call both, because no one could 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 from 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, Brantley Lanier had a problem and her name was Bleckley Candler. Brantley and Bleckley had been sweethearts since grade school, so no one in Taliaferro was surprised when the couple announced their engagement this summer when Brantley returned from college to run the family farm and “settle down.” It was expected.

It didn’t take Long 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 a Camden why it happened, I just want to know how you intend to make it right!” Bleckley, for her part, was entirely ex-Jasper-ated with her fiancee over this latest hitch in their plans. She smoothed her hands down the 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 come 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 lunch that day and had, in his haste, forgotten to check that all the outbuildings on the farm were shut up tight. Not only that, but a calf got away from the hands and, 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 of Dodge.

* * *

Nothing but silence Echols in the woods as the search party stood stock still and listened for a long, tense moment. The distant cry of a 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 the 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 towards Chattooga, a town known for its Polk-a Troup, while the twins and Bryan headed south in the direction of Muscogee with it’s Seminole museum.

Fayette, Glynn, and Gwinnett took the Houston road towards 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. Glynn softly hummed a 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 see Gordon 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 Burke as well pointed at the road, you know. Schley, have you talked to Floyd Henry? He was awful Madison ran off with that Monroe girl from 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, Oglethorpe, Oggie for short, has made a fuss over his father pushing him to propose to Columbia Clayton, the girl he’d been sorta courtin’ over the last year. But Oggie was having none of it, claiming he and 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 was 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 discourage cow-tipping teens. Used to be he could trust Forsyth to sound the alarm, but he’d been watch-Douglas since the hound had 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 response 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 the 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-old 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 the 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, Haralson 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 a Brooks, took almost all the fruit from the orchard on the other side of the Ben Hill. Our side.”

“Your side, you say,” the sheriff said. “You know as well as anyone, Elbert Atkinson, that both sides of the Ben Hill belong to Taliaferro.”

A Gilmer of hope shone in the 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 Judge Glascock on Monday morning.”

“The Jones you say,” Thomas thundered. “Lowndes sakes, man! We’re Putnam in the pokey! He’ll be in front of 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, 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: what a Webster we weave, when first we practice to deceive. The man sighed and tried to explain, “See, my Coweta bunch of the Dade-gum McIntosh apples and Decatur-er said she needed all this fruit or there wouldn’t be a party Worth having! And if I don’t fix this, well, instead of a wedding they’ll be laying me in my Toombs!”

Elbert eyed the young man up and down. “Ain’t you ever heard of a grocery store?”

* * *

The smell of frying Bacon wafted in through the window from Emanuel‘s diner a block away, and the smell of yeasty bread came from the Bakery across the street. Once the rest of the search party had arrived in front of Davis’ home, with their own Deputy Stephens 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 a Pike was running through his head from a restless night, on a slightly padded cot in the Habersham jail.

I don’t think I’m going to be able to Bartow my 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 by 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 berating gave the young man a case of mental whiplash.

The door opened again, this time it was Sheriff Charlton 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 the Clinch to Stewart 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 boy borrowed a wheelbarrow to transport so wild produce, the wheelbarrow has been returned, why can’t we simple Washington our 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 cities 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 cities 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 a 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 stop 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 was Fannin her with a nearby flyer, trying to keep her from expiring then and there. “It’s just not 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, Jackson his way with the county records, including what Quitman claims we have regarding the land the orchard stands on. Now, we all know there’s a Miller paperwork 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, 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)

49 | Creative Prompts: Omens

64 Arts

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring the everyday applications of The 64 Arts.

As we wrap up this relatively brief foray into omens and related topics–let’s face it, you know whether you buy into superstitions, omens, etc. or not and it’s not my goal to convince you–we’ve come to my favorite part of each Art, the creative prompts.

See, what I said above is true: I’m not here to convince you one way or another. But my goal with this series is to encourage us all to live more creative lives. And that means approaching topics in creative ways. So here we go!

1. Have your chart done.

Chart? You mean astrology? Yeppers!

Now, you might be wondering why I believe (as friends have opined) that clouds of gas hundreds of thousands of light years away have any bearing whatsoever on my day to day life. Let me quote Guggenheim Grotto:

It’s not that I do or don’t believe
It’s that I just don’t not believe
In god and aliens and love at first sight…

And astrology. Some folks have said that since the Moon can affect the tides, and we’re made up largely of water, it’s not impossible that celestial events affect our pedestrian existence. And then there’s the point I read about how we’re not who we are because of where the stars were when we were born, but that we were born when and where we were in relation to the stars because of who we are. I tend to really like that last bit, because it puts astrology in the same light as reading Tarot and other forms of “divination:” a tool for reflection, meditation, and insight.

For instance, Mercury is about to go retrograde on September 18, which signifies an increase in technical issues, computer problems, and communication upsets. Now, most people see this as a prediction of doom, gloom, and general miserableness for 3 weeks. I prefer to see it as a reminder to be more careful with what I say, not to jump to conclusions, give people the benefit of the doubt, take my time, and backup my computer data. See, it’s all about perspective.

But I digress.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to have your chart done. Not just your sun sign, but the whole shebang. While you can pay people to do these for you, I’ve found a really fabulous resource in and if you know the time and place of your birth you can generate your entire chart and look up all the bits and pieces to explain it. And if you’d like some very down-to-earth astrological advice, I suggest heading over to I’ve especially enjoyed her “Style Your Ascendant” series (your ascendant being your “rising sign” and the sign other people initially perceive you as; for instance, I’m sun/moon Taurus with Virgo rising, so most people’s first impressions of me fit the Virgo mold more so than Taurus).

2. Grab your crayons and destress with this coloring page I made you.

See, one of the many “side effects” of paying attention to superstitions, omens, astrology and more could be a propensity towards worrying. Worrying leads to stress and stress leads to all kinds of other bad things. Not to mention, stress can bring about a lot of those things we’re already worrying about, or seem to, self-fulfilling prophecy style. Apparently the simple act of coloring can be very therapeutic (who knew? Oh, right, I did–it’s been a sure-fire way to bust through a creative block for ages).


Just click the pdf link here jvanderbeek_omens_coloringbookpage to download a full-size version.

And if you have watercolor pencils (or my Portable Plein Air kit, now available on etsy) you can absolutely print this out on watercolor paper and have even more fun with it!

3. Writing prompt: Hindsight is 20/20.

Sure, omens are all about portents of the future, but what about the past? Once a chapter of our lives has come to a close, it’s far easier to see the signposts along the way that we may have missed or brushed off as nothing in the moment. What can we learn about trusting our gut and our intuition by examining the past?

Along the lines of ‘those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,’ take an experience from your past (or a friend’s or family member’s past, if that’s what comes to mind more easily–we can learn from other’s mistakes just as much as our own!) and write about lessons learned and ways it can be applied in the future. Or draw something, collage something, create something from it. Anything goes, medium is up to you.

In my comic book, Rings on Her Fingers, I talked about the different signs and omens I ignored leading up to my first marriage (which, by virtue of calling it the first one, I’m sure you can guess that it didn’t last–not really a spoiler there). Case in point:



If you choose to do one, two, or all of these prompts, I’d love to see what comes out of it. Leave a comment here with a link or tag me (@scrapsoflife) on twitter or instagram!