More Jackson County Opinions...

JULY 31, 2002

By: Kerri Graffius
The Jackson Herald
July 31, 2002

The playground factor
As I held my newborn nephew for the first time, I couldn’t help but think, “Poor kid, what kind of life has been set up for you?”
Like so many other kids, Ashton Dakota was blessed with well-intentioned parents, who made a bad decision—especially when it came to his name.
In the weeks preceding Ashton’s birth, the general sentiment in the family was, “Are they REALLY naming their kid that? Nah. Maybe they’ll change their mind when he’s born.”
Nope. My step-brother, Danny, and his wife, Jamie, opted to keep the name Ashton Dakota. And at the same time, we warned them their son was destined for verbal playground abuse.
But when you stop to think about it, most of us have names that became the subject of teasing and ridicule at a young age.
For example, my name, Kerri, rhymes with practically every letter of the alphabet (merry, berry, cherry, fairy, harry, weary, dairy, etc.). Then, it also sounds like several other similar-sounding names (Larry, Garry, Mary, Terry, Perry, etc.). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve answered to people calling out another “ary” name.
On top of that, I have one of those names that can be spelled more ways than imaginable (Keri, Kerry, Kerrie, Cary, Carrie, Carry, etc.). So, I was an easy target for playground jokes.
Needless to say, when I was a kid, I hated my own name. I tried changing it to Karen in the fourth grade, but when my parents intensely questioned me about it, I decided not to go by an entirely new name. Instead, I would go by middle name, Michelle. Yet when my fifth grade teacher said there were already “plenty of Michelles” in the class, someone (me) would have to go by their “real name.”
When most people name their children, the middle names seems to either be the name with more meaning or doesn’t mean a thing at all.
Some people have a middle name identifying their family lineage, such as their mother’s maiden name or a deceased relative. My dad’s family does that by giving each male the first name of Thomas, then sticking in some other random middle name (so there’s no juniors).
But in the process of doing so, the middle name becomes the “have not” name.
There are so many of us who want to give our children such creative and original names, but we just can’t do that. No, instead, we throw those names into the middle of the pile.
Have you ever asked someone their middle name—and then tried not to laugh? Or least ask, “Where did your parents come up with THAT name?”
Perhaps the best story of a middle name gone horribly wrong happened to my friend Jonathan. When he was born, his parents still had not decided on his name. Following an intensive labor and delivery, Jonathan’s father asked his wife what they should name their newborn child. Still recovering from heavy medication, she said, “Jonathan Courtney.” Astonished, but willing to side with his wife’s request, his father turned to the nurse and said, “My son’s name is Jonathan Courtney.”
Another poor kid, who later suffered on the playground.
But, for many of us, no matter how hard our parents considered “the playground factor,” we still have situationally-dumb names. Pop culture, oftentimes, can dictate the funniest names.
For someone named Monica, I’m sure she has received plenty of President Clinton jokes. Or for someone with the last name Jackson, first name Michael or Janet (“Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty,” as the song lyric goes).
At times, we collectively seem to give our kids the same names. When I was in junior high, Jennifer was the popular name (there were seven Jennifers in my chorus class). Jason and Justin were also popular names. Now, it seems like Madison, Breanna and Caitlin are becoming the saturated names of the new century.
My parents apparently thought they were being clever when they named my younger sister Kelli—just two letters different from my name. To this day, when Kelli and I are in the same room, we have to resort to our middle names so people can identify us.
Hopefully, Ashton Dakota will not have to change his name or excessively explain its meaning. But something tells me he probably will.
Kerri Michelle Graffius is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
July 31, 2002

The Danny and Debbie garden show
The only gardening Danny and Debbie Tankersley did in Gwinnett County was a few tomato plants in pots.
When they moved to Jackson County in October, 1992, that’s all the gardening experience they brought with them.
Then they met Helene Greene. Helene, who lives off Jett Roberts Road in Jefferson, patterned her raised beds after those of a world famous gardener on Westmoreland Drive.
One day Helene’s husband, Arthur, brought Danny to see the world famous gardener.
The rest is history. In ten short years, in some of the hardest and reddest clay in Georgia, Danny and Debbie Tankersley developed a garden that makes that world famous guy look like a piker.
That the piker can mention his name in the same breath with the Tankersleys makes the piker very proud. This old gardener may have quit, but so long as young gardeners love the Good Earth the way Danny and Debbie do, gardening will never quit — or die. It will live forever. Danny and Debbie will pass it on to the generation that follows them. Yes, sir, the torch will be passed. And that is why there is hope for the world. Ain’t no gardeners in jail.
Danny and Debbie started the right way: small.
“My greatest love of all time — next to Debbie, of course — was tomatoes. So I set out four or five plants. Had one row of beans and two or three rows of corn — all bunched together.”
Today, their vegetable garden occupies about 3,000 square feet of their beautifully landscaped lot on Hickory Hills Drive.
And just about all of the warm weather crops you can think of have joined the tomatoes, beans and corn. Before long the Tankersleys will follow their spring and summer veggies with the cool season fall crops. All told, they grow more than 25 good things to eat.
Oh, I almost forgot the flowers. How could I do that? I guess it’s because the blooming things never fit in with my gardening philosophy: “If you can eat it, I grow it; if you can’t, I don’t.”
The Tankersleys grow almost as many flowers as they do vegetables, and the way they have blended beauty and practicality makes them better gardeners than this old truck farmer ever was.
Danny and Debbie turned hard, red clay into black, rich, fertile soil that is productive year ’round.
But Danny doesn’t wait for the season to change to plant seasonal things. On a recent Monday he harvested his spring beans one last time and pulled up the plants. The next day he planted summer butter peas on that raised bed. He has faith that the butter peas will mature before the first killing frost in October.
It is interesting that only half of Danny and Debbie’s vegetable garden grows vegetables. The other half is what makes this garden special.
The walkways, those areas between the raised beds, are as pretty and green as their immaculate centipede lawn.
Three years ago Danny tilled the walkways and planted fescue. It made a big difference in the garden — and in the gardener.
“It’s clean and neater now. After a rain I don’t have to wait for the garden to dry out. I can spend more time in the garden. Don’t have to wait to harvest the vegetables.
“And I don’t get mud between my toes anymore,” Danny laughed. “I never did like that.”
The enterprising and innovative gardener mows the fescue with the lawn mower, and therein lies another benefit. The grass clippings are one of several different mulches that he uses in his soil building program.
The lady of the house is usually the one that’s into flowers, but Danny is equally proud of their colorful collection of blooming plants. They grow about as many flowers as they do vegetables, and some of the flowers have found their way into vegetable territory. Zinnias are blooming amongst the peas, and two huge sunflowers are next door neighbors to the tomatoes.
“We love flowers,” said Danny and Debbie in unison. “They are beautiful to look at,” Debbie added. “And the bees love ’em, too,” Danny chimed in. “Without the bees, a lot of the vegetables would not get pollinated.”
The main reason Danny and Debbie are such good gardeners is because they flat out love it.
Danny begins his day very early in the morning, in the garden, with a cup of coffee, checking things out. “I am at peace out here, calm and relaxed. It’s the best medicine I know for stress. Tomatoes don’t talk back to me.
“No, no, no, Debbie doesn’t talk back to me, either. But she does think sometimes that I need to pitch a tent out here.”
Oftentimes, after work, Danny would check out the garden before going in the house. Right now Danny and Debbie are out of work, and the garden means more to them than ever before.
Until recently both were employed at Lucent Technologies, Inc. in Norcross, Danny for 19 years and Debbie for 20. Incidentally, that is where the couple met.
Danny has been laid off. Debbie voluntarily quit under the company’s buy-out plan.
So they have more time for gardening now. “I used to work 50 to 60 hours a week,” Danny said. “Gardening takes up a lot of that time now. I would be bored to tears without it.”
Danny hopes to be called back to his job at Lucent. If he isn’t he is confident he will find work elsewhere.
In the meantime, the Tankersleys aren’t worried. They said they could live six months, just off the vegetables they put up.
Danny and Debbie have worked long and hard to develop a beautiful lawn and bountiful garden, but they downplay their role in all of it.
“All we do is just plant seed,” according to Danny. “After a long, hot, dry spell we get a good soaking rain. We just look up at the sky and say ‘Thank you, Lord.’”
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.
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