More Jackson County Opinions...

JULY 28, 2004


Column

By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
July 28, 2004

Everything’s a trade-off
I never thought I’d see the day I’d bum tomatoes. Not to mention green beans, sweet corn, new potatoes, English peas, okra, cucumbers, squash, peppers, cantaloupes and a host of other vegetables.
For nearly 50 years (that’s half a century!) I kept the Westmoreland Drive neighborhood and surrounding territory in fresh tomatoes and other goodies from the garden.
Sharing: that’s what I enjoyed most about gardening, and miss the most, now that I’m not doing it anymore.
Mostly I shared with Bobby Bailey. The reason: it was convenient. Bobby was my next door neighbor. I was free to graze his scuppernong vines and blueberry bushes, and he was welcome to come over to my place and gather a mess of sweet corn and pole beans.
Now he shares and I don’t. I don’t have anything to share. Well, maybe a few memories.
Nick Bledsoe, who is trying to sell my house, included this line in the promotional leaflet: “best garden spot in Jackson County.”
Not too many years ago, amateur gardeners and professional horticulturists called it the BEST GARDEN in Jackson County. I didn’t argue with them. Like the late, great Dizzy Dean used to say, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”
Today, the only evidence that it used to be a garden is the electric fence that surrounds the area.
The fence is a story in itself. It never did work. It was a kick, a blast and a high for the deer. They’d approach the garden, rub up against the hot wires, get their fix, and then go under, through and over the wires to the luscious vegetable buffet inside. (The deer were one reason - but not the main one - I quit gardening.)
Anybody interested in a used electric fence? Nick wants me to take the thing down and let what used to be the best garden in Jackson County - now the best garden spot in Jackson County - become a part of the lawn.
For all practical purposes, it’s already there. When Jeff Baskett comes to mow the yard, he also mows the garden; excuse me, garden spot. Now the crabgrass and weeds in what used to be the garden match the crabgrass and weeds in the front yard.
That’s pretty much the way it was when we built our house in 1951. It was all yard and no garden.
Claire was born in 1948, Shannon in 1950, and I remembered what it was like growing up with Mama and Daddy in the 1920s and ‘30s. Gardening was an important part of our lives. During the Great Depression, it you didn’t grow something to eat, you didn’t eat.
But as I followed Daddy around in the garden, dropping seeds, pulling weeds, picking colored butter beans and thumping watermelons, I discovered that gardening was more than a necessity. It was also fun.
I dropped out of high school in 1941, joined the Navy, saw more of the world than I wanted to see, won the war, came home, enrolled at Murray State College in Kentucky, met and married Mary Smith, graduated from Murray, enrolled in graduate school at the University of Georgia, got a job at UGA and dropped out of grad school, left UGA and worked for Jefferson Mills and The Jackson Herald (at the same time), bought The Hartwell Sun, sold the Hartwell Sun, got my old job back at UGA, retired in 1982, and lived happily ever after. (Almost.)
There was a span of about 12 years in that mess somewhere when gardening, if not the furthest thing from my mind, certainly was on the back burner.
But when we built our house and the kids started coming along and growing up (Neal and Miles joined Claire and Shannon), my mind went back to McLemoresville, Tenn. (population 311 if you count dogs, cats and chickens) and the vegetable garden in the Adams family’s back yard.
So only with a shovel and a hoe, I started digging in my back yard in Jefferson. I don’t remember what I planted the first year, but it was not very much. You don’t do much gardening with just a shovel and a hoe.
Later, a friend and his wife split, and he had to sell everything. I lucked up on his two-wheel, front-tine tiller for 50 bucks. That thing nearly beat me to death, but in the 1970s and ‘80s it helped me develop what I later wrote about in newspapers and magazines - and even did a few TV shows. I persuaded my editors and producers that it was the world’s greatest gardening method. I called it “the Adams raised bed, double row, furrow irrigation system.”
I simply planted seeds in the tiller’s wheel tracks - about 14 inches apart - dug a small V-shaped trench between the rows, and ran water down the middle. Thus the name for the world’s greatest gardening method.
Sometime in the mid ‘80s, Bill Broadway, my editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said he was tired of my recycling so many of my old columns. He thought maybe I should find something new to write about. Actually, he did more than just think about it. (I hope I’m not giving Mike any ideas.)
So I became an organic purist. I quit using chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, and started using cow manure and other smelly stuff. And I collected pine needles, fallen leaves and grass clippings all over town. I saved Jefferson’s sanitation engineers a lot of work. I’d pull into a yard and start bagging compost material, and the kids would run in the house yelling, “Mama, the leaf man is here.”
I not only had something new to write about, but the garden became even more beautiful and bountiful.
Then the kids flew the coop. That means they got married, moved away, and started having Mary’s grandchildren and mine.
In 1996 Mary died, and gardening was not much fun anymore.
I told the kids not to worry about their inheritance; that I’d never fall in love with another woman.
I piddled at gardening for a couple of years.
In 1998 God answered half of Shirley Gentry’s ten-year prayer (that he would send her a good man) and changed my mind about never falling in love with another woman.
After the wedding, I continued to piddle around in the garden for a couple more years. But Shirley and I were living in Athens and gardening in Jefferson, and that didn’t work out very well. A garden is like a marriage. It takes a lot of love and a little work each day. A garden is also like a vacant house. It deteriorates rapidly when nobody’s around to love and care for it.
A year ago I decided to sell the house, along with the best garden spot in Jackson County, what used to be the best garden in Jackson County.
Sure, I miss it. But everything is a trade-off, and the garden for Shirley was — and is — a great deal. She is worth far more than the best garden spot in Jackson County. I wouldn’t trade back for all the gold in California. I’ve told a lot of people that I would be either dead or in jail if it weren’t for Shirley Gentry.
But I still miss fresh, homegrown tomatoes, and I’m a bit embarrassed to bum from others. But Bobby and all gardeners everywhere are always in a sharing mood. God bless ‘em.
I also miss the blue birds. But they are a story for next week.
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: April Reese Sorrow
The Commerce News
July 28, 2004

Things changing in Nicholson
I returned home from vacation to find a piece of Nicholson’s history torn down to the ground, run over by a bulldozer and tossed into a dumpster. Lester and Betty Beauchamp have operated a gas station, gift shop and short-order restaurant at the caution light in Nicholson on Hwy. 441 for over 44 years.
It was a landmark by which directions were given, “turn right at Lester’s, Benton is down on the right.” The expansion of 441, which hasn’t even come close to starting yet, closed the store a few months back and apparently, during my two-week stay in Myrtle Beach, the building had to come down. Beauchamp lost his house too.
The expansion also closed Rusty’s and any oppurtunity for citizens to stop for gas, milk, coffee and community companionship. A group of retired gentlemen used to gather every morning at Beauchamp’s, drink coffee and talk about the ‘good old days’. Another group used to meet at Rusty’s. I wonder where they will go now?
There is talk of a new gas station being built close to where Beachamp’s used to sit. I wonder if it will have tables where people from the community can come together and sip coffee and eat a buscuit. I wonder if it will cater to the current citizens or if it will be planned for the expected growth like the new 441.
I’m sure there are good reasons for shutting down the old gas stations, some people probably consider the places an eyesore. Yet, other people relyed on the small town stores for bread and milk to feed their famalies, these stores extended lines of credit to those in need.
It would usually take me about 45 minutes to drive to the corner for milk, I only live three minutes away, but I would always run into someone I wanted to chat with and time would just tick by.
Beauchamp built a new country store outside of Nicholson, towards Commerce. I went by the other day. Tables and chairs are available for fellowship, a restaurant and gift shop complete the new store, and you can get gas there too. It is different though.
Nicholson will grow, this I know. People have discovered our little community and I don’t blame them for wanting to live here, it is a beautiful part of the state and a great place to raise a family. My husband was born and raised in the small town, his parents were too, and their parents, and those before that. I am afraid that with all the growth we will lose what it is these people have lived to protect; a small town where your neighbors are your friends and everyone knows everybody else.
The city council recently heard a proposal from a developer wanting to build a 1,400-home subdivision in the town. Fourteen-hundred new homes! A development like that would more than triple the town’s current population.
Jackson County has become a bedroom community, housing Atlanta’s workforce. Providing schools, police, fire protection and roads for those fleeing the city. Good for them, bad for us.
Braselton, Jefferson and Houschton are smothered in subdivisions. They weren’t ten years ago. Is Nicholson next? If so, what else will change. Will Charlie Smith be forced to shut down his antique shop? Will Benton Elementary have to renovate, again? Will property values escalate and cause taxes to go up so much that generations of farmers will be forced to sell their land to the next big developer? I don’t know. But, I hope we can hold on to what it is we call home. A place where everybody knows your name, a place where a smile and a hand shake is always welcome and a place where generations of families have made their home.
April Reese Sorrow is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.


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