Madison County Opinion...

DECEMBER 3, 2003

By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
December 3, 2003

Frankly Speaking

Recent news brings back childhood memories
“Skeletal remains found near the North Oconee River,” the headlines screamed in the Athens newspaper. That story immediately caught my attention. The west bank of the North Oconee River was my playground as a kid. We lived on the Newton Bridge Road on a hillside just above the present convenience store where the victim was last seen.
The news release suggested that the victim was suffering from extreme anxiety and possible paranoia. He reportedly bolted from his sister’s car as she attempted to drive him to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Police speculate that he become lost in the wooded area and died from exposure. They added that he might have fallen into the river and drowned.
The area of woods and swamp where Isaiah “Zeke” Sims was found consists of old cotton fields, wetlands, and a series of pits were clay was mined for a brick manufacturing plant. Those pits are quite dangerous to anyone not familiar with them. The sides of these pits are vertical, and being in a clay deposit, they are quite slick. If you fall into one, you do not climb back out.
I was instrumental in the rescue of a fisherman who fell into one of the pits. It was just before dawn on a hot summer day when I woke to the sound of cries for help. At first, I thought it was a screech owl, but as I became more alert, I was able to make out the words “Help, Help!”
I woke my father and we took our flashlights and headed toward the sound. We found the man in one of the pits hanging on to a tree root. He had been set-hooking in the pits and stepped to close to the edge. We pulled him out of the pit, made sure he was OK, then went back home. He chose to continue his fishing expedition.
I was able to hear the victims cry for help because we had no air conditioning. In hot weather, we had to keep all our windows open to catch any breeze that came by. Someone in those pits today would likely never be heard. Everyone in the area would have been in closed, air conditioned cars and buildings. Any victim of the clay pits would likely succumb to exhaustion and drown without being found.
As I approach retirement age, I find that my view into the past far exceeds my view into the future. Frequently, I find news items that trigger past memories. This was one of them. Dear readers, please forgive me if my future columns take on a more reflective nature. It is far easier to describe the past than to predict the future.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is

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By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
December 3, 2003

A Moment With Margie

Some holiday thoughts
Maybe it’s just me, but all the hoopla surrounding the “commercial” Christmas seems to get worse every year.
We hardly have Thanksgiving anymore.
Heck, we hardly have Halloween or Labor Day. I started seeing Christmas items in some stores before the end of August.
What’s all the fuss about?
Well it certainly isn’t about the real reason for the season - to commemorate the birth of Christ - it’s about money, of course.
We hear over and over that the holiday season is “make or break” time for most retailers, so it stands to reason that the sooner the public starts thinking about Christmas shopping the better.
Now I’ve been known to get out there with the best of them for that day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree, as much as a form of socializing as anything. But funny thing, the last few years especially, I don’t feel so sociable when I’m up and out at 6 a.m. standing in a line somewhere, and no one else around me seems to feel that way either.
This past “black Friday” I didn’t feel so good and neither did my usual shopping partner, my daughter, Miranda, so we both opted to stay home and in bed. When the day dawned rainy, windy and cold, I was glad of the decision.
Not only did I not spend money I didn’t need to spend, but it felt more like the holidays as we unpacked holiday decorations and put some of our “everyday things” away to make room.
More and more, “home” is what Christmas means to me. I enjoy the warmth of a quiet evening with our family’s Christmas tree, candles lit and a warm fire burning if it’s chilly enough. We put our tree up Thanksgiving Day and our indoor cats (all three of them) promptly made a bed underneath it’s branches.
For me, that’s more cozy than a pile of presents.
The commercials announcing a diamond is the surest way to show love for someone, that finding that special gift is what the whole holiday hinges on, doesn’t mean so much to me anymore.
Things like a quiet evening with family, a good meal and fellowship with friends; a hug and good wishes, or a card in the mail from someone I haven’t seen in a while do more for me than any present.
In this harried, hurried world, a little bit of friendship and compassion can be like drops of water in a desert.
I find that when I’m in town, it’s the unexpected smile from a stranger, a door held open, or someone who gives up their place in line when they have a lot to purchase and I have a little, are the things that make me feel the best. Conversely, if I take the time to give away my smiles freely, hold open doors and give way in a checkout line, I feel as though I’m giving away something that costs me little, but perhaps will help make someone else’s day.
How many of us wouldn’t rather be remembered, even if it’s only by a stranger, as someone who smiled, rather than someone who frowned; as someone who held open a door, than someone who let it shut in another’s face because we were in too big a hurry; or defended our position in line because we “got their first,” no matter what.
Some of the best gifts we can give to each other, often cost us nothing but maybe a little thoughtfulness.
Have a very happy holiday season.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.
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