Banks County Opinions...

July 18, 2001

By Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
July 18, 2001

Love conquers hate in berry patch
Never say hate, my mother always said, though I was sure that I truly hated lima beans and my little brother.
Years later I can say I love my little brother and lima beans are OK, but there are a few things I most definitely could live without.
My hate list:
#1: Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.
Does it have a good use? If there is one, tell me, please. I've looked for the nasty little plants' redeeming qualities. I can't find them. I step outside and get within five feet of the stuff and I'm done for. A month of shots and calamine and steroids will finally rid me of the resulting rash from my frolic with the out-of-doors. The last time I got it was during my junior year at Agnes Scott and the rash cost me $175 in doctor's visits, hospital visits and prescriptions. There's no one to sue for damages, so the three-leaved abomination can rot.
#2: Mosquitoes and biting flies and chiggers and little red things that bite me and like to land on my baby.
Again, I ask, dear reader, is there a positive purpose for any of them? Surely they're not of God's creation. In a group of people, the durned things will swarm to me, which is good news for everyone else-they have no use for bug spray or OFF candles. I wouldn't mind being the one to push the button that would eradicate them all.
#3: Snakes.
Snakes freak me out. I blame society. I have seen too many movies of jumping, biting snakes that sneak up behind you. Just the thought of a snake gives me an all-over shiver. I don't want them dead or gone (they do lots of good things), but I would like for them to slither clear of me and I'll stay clear of them.
Yet, this weekend I braved my three most hated foes for one great love-blueberries heated by the sun and fresh from the bush.
In 90-degree Georgia heat, I donned black pants, knee-high socks, a long-sleeved shirt and leather boots. I sprayed my body with DEET and trekked to my grandparents' blueberry patch with a bucket. One bush at a time, I waded through knee-high poison oak, picking one ripe, plump berry at a time. I ate all the ones from the tops of the eight-foot bushes. If I had placed them in a bucket they would have been sucked into anonymity and eaten later in a pie or a cobbler by someone who didn't recognize that to get that berry I had to sweat in winter clothes and stand on tip-toes to reach the berry while I imagined I heard a snake slither behind me in the brush. And, with my hands full of berries and branches and buckets, I stood unable to swat at the mosquitoes drinking blood from my face-the only part of my body not covered with DEET. They wouldn't know that I washed in Clorox water afterward on the off-chance poison ivy had snuck past my layers.
But as I stood there and ate those warm berries, I realized that it was worth it. Bugs, itchy rash and potential snake bites were nothing compared to that ripe blue taste.
For the love of a good berry, I would do it again and again.
Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

By Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
July 18, 2001

The corps of recovery
We're back now. That means that we've been away. We've been a long way away. All the way to Washington state and back in a motor home. Try as I might, I'm not sure exactly what we were thinking about at the time.
It was all my wife's idea. She came up with the plan back in the fall and spent the winter fine-tuning it. In the end, she recruited her parents, their motor home and her aunt and uncle for her expedition to the Pacific Ocean.
It didn't sound all that dangerous at first. You know, just a leisurely and scenic tour of the states west of the Chattahoochee. Interesting, and maybe even educational. Where's the harm in that? Having just finished reading Stephen Ambrose's account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it almost sounded patriotic.
"Who's going to keep the kids while we're gone?" I asked innocently.
"They're going with us," she smiled matter-of-factly. "It'll be a great experience for them."
"In a motor home? For three weeks," I stammered.
"Of course," she said. "They'll be fine." Then she headed up into the attic to start the luggage sorting. I stayed downstairs wringing my hands and feeling a little queasy. We were about to follow in the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery all right, and the indians were riding in the wagon with us.
Not even a couple of seasoned soldiers would cross the continent with my 7-, 5-, and 3-year-old daughters. Not even if the president asked them to. Let's face it, and remember that I love my kids, they just don't make motor homes big enough for such a thing. And you can forget about that patriotic malarky, that's just plain reckless.
How does one even prepare for such a journey? The only real challenges facing Lewis and Clark on their historic undertaking was the fear of failure, starvation, privation, scalping, death and total annihilation. That's nothing compared to the ordeal of trying to explain to three little girls that not every campground has a swimming pool.
It makes you wonder if any of the soldiers of Lewis and Clark's Corps ever threw a running hissy fit in plain view because the pool was closed by the time camp was set up for the night.
"You said there'd be a pool and a playground."
"Well, there's not, so just get over it. Besides, you'll feel better after you eat a buffalo."
"No I won't. I don't want a buffalo. I hate buffalo. I wish I'd never even seen a buffalo. Why can't we ever have something like macaroni and cheese instead."
It's hard to imagine how that conversation would have ended up out on the lone prairie. For us, it usually ended up with a quick little court martial proceeding in the back of the camper.
Besides the hazardous accommodation issues, there is the danger of gift shop overload. For the record, it only takes a couple of stops to buy plastic trinkets and junk made in China before the axles on the wagon buckle under the weight. Fortunately, the cheap plastic trinkets last an average of only three minutes before they're torn up and tossed, and you're up and running again.
But easily the most daunting part of our journey started within 10 minutes of leaving home. "Are we there yet?" It's like acupuncture for your brain using a jackhammer, only a jackhammer will eventually wear down and stop working.
The only way to screen out the high-pitched whine that goes along with hearing those words repeated 1,433 times over the course of 6,000 miles is to undergo a prefrontal lobotomy. On the other hand, if you check into a medical clinic somewhere along your route for that purpose, chances are good that you're not going to remember much about the trip. Besides, it's a really drastic and cowardly way to deal with the challenge of traveling with your children.
Phillip Bond Sartain is a Gainesville attorney.


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