Sunday, July 18, 2010


When I was born in 1947, the Power Plant Road was a dirt road and remained so until I was around 16 or 17 years of age. Now living a on a county dirt road has many advantages as well as disadvantages. Of course these are seen from different perspectives, depending upon the age of the observer.

From my earliest years, I remember long flowing stalks from the cane break near the house, stripping all but the top leaves to make the tail of the "horse", putting the cane between my legs, slapping my thigh until it was cherry pink, running up and down that road stirring a cloud of red dust, and shooting and fighting outlaws, cattle rustlers, and any other varmint that I had seen at the Royal Theater the Saturday before.It would take all week to restore justice on my road until I could go sit in Air Conditioned Heaven for another installment. 

As I grew older, I became interested in cars. THUNDER ROAD, starring Robert Mitchum, man what a thrill. Every boy worth his salt wanted to be him, running from the law, driving fast, his best girl waitin' at home--the stuff that dreams are made of. "thunder was his engine and white lightning was his load"

Mind you I was still just a kid (driving fast and evading the law didn't come until 1968, when I had arguably the fastest car in town), so our motley crew had to improvise. We would scour through every personal garbage dump in the area. In those days you took care of your own trash. In our area, most folks had a deep ditch or gully somewhere on their property that they just piled the trash in, sometimes burning it, sometimes not. We did not generate near the amount of trash as we do today, so this was usually a good method. On good hunts, we could find discarded baby buggies, lawn mowers, lots of other things with wheels. We would strip off the wheels and anything else that would prove useful as part of a race car.

Back home at our barn, we would locate the lumber needed, sometimes "borrowing" planks from the stalls. attach the back wheels to a fixed board/axle and the front wheels to a movable board with a rope for steering. Those racers usually looked like something from "THE LI'L RASCALS", mostly because we both had the same budget. We always tried to get matching size wheels for each axle if possible, but you have to take what comes along.  Some of those wheels were so mismatched that it would nearly shake you to death on smooth ground.

When we had made two of these beauties, we would pull them to the top of the hill, flip to see who got which rut; one was smoother than the other depending on the weather and such. Then, like in Olympic Bob Sledding, we would push our partner to a certain point and hope the thing held together to the bottom of the hill. We would then swap riders and repeat the process. This went on until, 1.we got too tired, 2. Mother called us for supper, or 3. either or both of the racers fell apart, which was usually the case. After a good night's rest, it was back to the barn and start over.

In my early years of going to the Hogansville Schools, I rode the school bus. Back then the drivers owned their own buses and leased them to the County, which in turn provided bus service for county children going to Hogansville. Mr Thomas Evans was our driver. A good man and friend of the family, if you got out of line, you could only hope that he would let the principal give you the paddling you had coming and not wait until he got you home and tell one of your parents. Then you got TWO! One for misbehaving and one for embarrassing your parents. My Grandfather, Papa Cook to me, and Uncle Bob to the rest of the community always call the road scrapers, Rain Crows, because almost without fail they would scrape and loosen the dirt the day before it rained.  If it came a hard rain, or rained for several days, you need not expect to see the school bus stop at your driveway. Power Plant Road would become to muddy and slippery and the bus could not make it up the hill where we raced. At my house you had to wrap yourself up to stay a dry as possible and march yourself through the cow pasture (hoping that damn bull was penned up) and catch the bus on Corinth Road, and don't dally because if you missed the bus, you walked to school. I drive a school bus now and parents pitch a fit if the bus stops at the driveway next to them and not at theirs, a distance of 20-30 feet usually. WHAT A BUNCH OF PANSIES!

This really has nothing to do with a dirt road, but it all happened while I lived there and I get to tell it my way. In my youth all tires had to have inner tubes to keep the tires inflated. They were made out of real rubber and much like rubber bands today, you could stretch a length of tubing from here to yonder. You cut about an inch wide strip, 2 feet long. With the leather tongue from an old pair of shoes, you take some "mill string" and attach the pouch to the rubber. NOTE: I got a very memorable whipping once for cutting the tongue out of my SUNDAY shoes, who knew my mother would notice? By weaving the end of the rubber between your fingers, pulling back as far as you could, and giving your holding hand a little "flip" a just the right time, you could knock a bird or squirrel out of a tree most times. Our gang (in the Spanky and Alfalfa sense of the word) did not hold with indiscriminate killing, so we looked for other targets. Usually while we were at the local trash dumps looking for "racing parts", any type of glass bottle found would be laid aside for just such times as target practice called for them. I make semi-true claims to be in the antique business today and I can tell you from my knowledge of antique glass, we must have busted a fortune in what was then trash and now is treasure.
One parting thought, when you cut up an old inner tube, make sure that it has lots of patches on it indicating it is in fact old. In my haste on day, I cut up a brand new one that Daddy was going to install that weekend. That was the last sling shot I ever made. My butt still hurts when I think about it.

When I was 9 or 10, Mr, John Cranston drove the milk delivery truck on our route, and did he ever drive fast. I grew up to be a teenage hellun and he had me beat! It was a short wheel base, squatty little truck, made just for the job. In the back were dozens of metal crates filled with quarts, pints, and half-pints of milk. There was also a young black boy who would fill the order as John barked the order to him.

Just past our driveway was a section of "corduroy" road. This is dirt road that has ruts washed into it from side to side resembling an old wash board. That section was also banked and in a curve, even I had respect for that bad section. One day here comes John like the Hounds of Hell are nipping at his heels. He hit that section of road, bouncing one way, then the other. Quicker than you could say, "Oh shoot!", that little truck was on its side. My brother Billy and I were playing in front yard along with the Caldwell boys, Paul and Johnathan. We ran down to see if John was dead or alive, just as he was crawling out. From the back of the truck we could hear faintly, "Mr. John, Mr. John, don't leave me!" How that boy kept his life that day is beyond me. There were metal crates tossed everywhere,milk bottles of all sizes in a pile, some broke some not. We helped the boy out, he seemed to be able to move every joint and miraculously only had a few little cuts. We helped him to sit down at the front of the truck. John said that he was going up to the house to use the phone. As we watched John limp up the driveway, the four of us boys looked at each other all at once. Without a word we went the back of the truck and started drinking half-pints of chocolate milk as fast as we could. We tossed several cases worth in the high weeds on the side of the road, later putting them in the cool stream that ran beside our house. When things calmed down, we rationed the rest of our booty and made it last nearly a week. We justified our larceny with the fact that by the time they got back to the dairy, all that milk would have spoiled and they would have thrown it out. Besides we returned the empties!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


October, 1962, I was just a kid in a small town in West Georgia, but we grew up fast that year. All the "Super Powers" of the world were, it seemed, intent on blowing up the world to own it?!

If you are a "baby boomer" like I am, then you no doubt remember the atomic bomb proof school desks that we used to hide under during air raid drills. Some how I could never understand why we had to go out into the hall and kneel down against the lockers during a tornado alert, as our desk would not withstand strong winds, but would shield us from gamma rays and other things scientific.
I hope those guys at the school desk company worn correct protection when they tested those desks before shipment.

I once bought several hundred surplus school desks at a county auction. For a brief moment, I thought about taking the tops off and lining my house with them to shield me from the space rays that invade my head (I found that lining a baseball cap with tin foil is just effective AND less labor intensive--always a plus for me) so I traded them for a lawn mower and 2 weed-eaters.

Back at Hogansville High School, standing between the drive and the old water tower, was the Canning Plant. I was told that back before my time local farmers could bring their produce from their gardens and can the extra. WOW! Wouldn't that be great today, what with all the "Green" markets that are held everywhere from Hogansville to Atlanta. 

The cannery is long gone now, but back in 1962, someone came up with the idea to can water for everyone to put in their fall-out shelters. Sadly I do not know the details on this project, but it sure would be a great little piece of history for our little community. 

The head of the department for developing young men was Mr. V.R. Stephens. Actually he taught Shop and Agriculture. He was the sponsor for the F.F.A. and almost single-handedly turned young boys into young men. He was one of my boyhood heroes and I hope to do him justice in a blog soon. Mr. Stephens either was asked or volunteered to head up the canning project. I choose to believe that he volunteered--that was the kind of man that he was.

Because this was such an urgent project, Mr. Stephens would have his classes go to the canning plant to run the plant instead of sitting in class. This was good character development and we didn't even know it. It was a pretty straight forward process running the plant. You just had to boil the water and keep the cans on the assembly line and the automation handled the rest.

Now we come to the "fly in the ointment" of this story. Back then smoking was a big part of everyday life. If you got caught smoking at school, you didn't get sent to alternative school (there was no such thing then), Mr. Stephens, or any of the other teachers would give you 3 licks with a heavy paddle and send you on your way. Most of the women teachers usually sent you to one of the men, because the men could more punch into it. Mr. Stephens was especially against boys smoking and was on constant patrol.

Mr. Stephens should have know better than to leave us unattended to go back into the school. There was steam swirling around and coming out every window when someone said, "We could smoke a cigarette and no one would know." So before you could say," Fidel Castro don't love his mama", everybody had lit up.   

Well that was a dumb idea from the get-go. There wasn't 3 puffs taken of those cigarettes, when the look-out said, "Put out the cigarettes, here comes Mr. Stephens!" You gotta know we didn't have a plan of what to do after we lit up. Hell, teenage boys can't think that far ahead. Something to do with undeveloped DNA or something like that. At any rate, The Hand of Justice (Mr. Stephens) was coming and we were all holding! There was only one logical solution, throw all the cigarette butts in one of the cans going down the line and seal it before we get caught.

As soon as Mr. Stephens stepped through the door, he got that look on his face. Of course he smelled the cigarette smoke, he was a non-smoker to make matters worse. He never said a word, going all about the room looking for that tell-tale cigarette butt and the guilty party involved. He never mentioned the incident, he could not find his evidence.

Years later, I used to think of all sorts of scenarios of what would have happened if someone had needed that precious can of water and to have opened it up to find nearly a pack of half-smoked cigarettes. What a bunch of dumb bunnies we were!

The only thing that saved our sorry asses was that JFK called the Soviets bluff and they backed down. I am not a Democrat, but I was for "fourteen days in October!"

Saturday, July 10, 2010


There are certain scientific principles that have been in effect since GOD created this planet. The one that this story concerns is "SWAMP GAS". This natural phenomenon is known by different names, depending on the region of the country that you are from.

FOXFIRE is the local name most given to this stuff. WEBSTER'S LEXICON DICTIONARY defines it as, "The phosphorescent light emitted by decaying timber infested with certain fungal growths; a fungus which causes decaying timber to emit such light."

All this is well and good, if the characters in this story had ever bothered to read a dictionary, or a book for that matter. Such are the ingredients for urban legends, although this "LEGEND" happened in the woods, miles from anywhere.

Off to the side of a dirt road named PIKE ROAD, in the rural, far reaches of HEARD COUNTY, GEORGIA, the groundwork for our tale unfolds. Sometime around 1960, the stage was set; someone, either poachers or moonshiners, had hung a braided steel cable from the limb of a large oak tree. Nearby some discarded wood lay, decaying and fermenting into the ingredients needed for the swamp gas that was to appear years later.

There is no clear beginning to the sightings of the SWAMP GAS CREATURE'. It was, in all probability, first discovered and dismissed, by area "coon" hunters. This is a Southern sport and tradition that can only be conducted after dark. Many a young child earned his manhood on his first coon hunt. For you see, coon hunting in my youth was a reason for men to get together: to hunt, drink, and play practical jokes on the innocent boys that went along for the excitement.

I would  not be surprised to learn that 'THE LIGHT'  had been known for many years by the hunters and was probably one of the many scary tricks that was played on the first timers.

What is known by me is that sometime after 1962, guys started taking their dates to see "THE LIGHT" in an effort to get hugged closely by the frightened girls. I say, after 1962, because that is the year that CLAUDINE CLARK released her hit single, PARTY LIGHTS, the song that was often sung when the mysterious light of Heard County was mentioned.

Well as most innocent things usually begin, it was guys scaring their dates, as already mentioned. Then along comes the macho factor, with young men daring others to go up to the tree, etc. Young men, who by the way, carried guns (this, after all was in the 60's before gun control or registration) and moonshine, that was easier to get than whiskey. A bad trio; guns, alcohol, and fear!

Let me stop here to set the stage for one would see when visiting the "THE LIGHT" on the perfect night. I do not remember all the science behind why it worked, but several things had to come together to make this a remarkable site. One that would even make the hair on the back of the head of an informed person rise.

First, as mentioned at the beginning, decaying wood with the proper fungus had to be present.
Second, the proximity of the oak tree, oak having the best ability to attract electrons; stand next to one with "cloud lightning" around and see for yourself.
Third, the steel cable and however close to the ground it was.
Fourth, the humidity, air pressure, or whatever meteorological elements had to come together to make the "creature" come to life.
This usually happened after midnight in the summer time. I always thought that was because it took a long time for the ground to cool off and the conditions to get right.

When everything finally converged, this is what you would see; the strange formation of a pale green light or vapor at the source of the decaying wood. It would travel over the ground to the nearby oak tree (being attracted to it to be more exact), up the tree, out on the limb, and down the wire. There it would quickly dissipate while a new batch was formed and repeated the route. This would continue until conditions of the weather changed and it would suddenly stop, usually only lasting for a few minutes on the nights that it happened at all.

Like most things in life, waiting for an event to happen, whether it be good or bad, causes much anxiety. This was certainly the case when this was thought to be "supernatural". Also at this time I need to tell you that the people sitting on the hoods of their cars, drinking homemade courage, carrying guns, and without the benefit of science or common sense, are to be feared. I mean what person in their right mind would think you could shoot and kill a light, no matter what caliber weapon you used. In my opinion, the tire pressure of their pick up trucks was usually higher that the I.Q.'s of these gun totin', shine drinkin', morons waiting on the "boogy man"! 

And as would happen, the crowd would usually start to gather early, with some alcohol being consumed, followed by who has the best gun (war stories abound at such gatherings--I call them pissing contests). The mostly abandoned girls would turn to talking amongst themselves, with someone tuning in a car radio the local rock 'n roll station. The neglected girls would dance with themselves in the beam of the car headlights. Then some guy would get interested and cut-in to dance with a girl, most often the wrong girl. Then nature takes over and the when the boyfriend sees a guy with his girl, his manhood is threatened and the laws of red-neck love dictate that said boyfriend start a fight. After that the only lights seen that night are blue and attached to the Sheriff's car.

By the time I became aware of this weekly event, the crowds had grown to be rather large by Heard County standards. I do seem to recall seeing as many as 100 or so cars/trucks/pulpwood trucks stretched along that dirt road. I don't recall that many cars at our home football games and we drew the crowds back then. I guess it depends on what you have to offer the people as to whether you can get their interests.

Well, like I have said in the past, you throw a few rednecks in the stew and it will go sour quick. The Saturday Night Event (and for some reason only Saturday) soon evolved into a reason to go out on a dirt road to drink and start a fight.

Sheriff Virgil Bledsoe was as fine a sheriff and gentleman as you would ever want to meet. He knew that there was not much to keep people entertained back in those days and a little drinking and a couple of licks passed didn't amount to much. But remember I said that there were rednecks in the woodpile, and their sole purpose in life is to screw up everything for everybody else. So when there started to be gunfire at nearly every gathering, the sheriff had enough.

He ordered a local pulpwood crew to go out and cut down the 'TREE" and everything within 100 feet around it. I don't know if the sheriff knew who owned the land or even cared. He meant to put a stop to the disorderly conduct before someone got hurt. That was pretty much how things were handled back in that day.

A short time after that, someone came in and "clear-cut" the property, meaning that they cut down everything, plowed up the stumps, and had tree planters come in and replant everything. Well this plowing action naturally disrupted the swamp gas, never to rise again in that location.

I remember some 15 years later when I went to work for Franklin Police Department, I asked Sheriff Bledsoe about the LIGHT and he still cussed "them stupid s.o.b.'s".



Sunday, July 4, 2010


July 4th has always been both a happy and a sad day for me. Of course, it is happy, for it reminds me of all the men and women who put their lives and fortune on the line for my freedom. A freedom that many take for granted, but that is part of freedom, I guess.

Then there is the sadness that comes with this day. The above photo is that of my Great-Great-Grandfather: COLONEL DAUGEREAU  BONNEFONTE COOK.  He was affectionately known as: WILD HORSE COOK by the men under his command.

On July 4th, 1863, in one of the many unnamed battles of the WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION, my ancestor lost his life in a most horrific manner.

 A FOURTH OF JULY truce was thought to have been in effect. Having been surprised by the sneaky, ill-mannered, and most likely, fatherless YANKEES, the Colonel ordered the brave soldiers to advance---to the rear! Without giving thought to his own personal safety, he turned swiftly to begin the charge to the rear.

Unseen, by this the bravest of Confederate Officers, were strewn about the ground, abundant amount of bottles, once holding the night before, what can only be described as "SOUTHERN COMFORT".

Stepping upon one, then another, the hapless man of courage became a victim of physics and the laws of science. His feet flew high over his head, his head in turn knocking down the main tent pole, which fell into the the camp fire, which blazed up and set the Colonel's coat on fire.

As he was running away from the inferno, flames trailing, a wagon loaded with "ladies of the evening"(that had stopped by the night before to administer the said beverages), ran over the poor man and trampled him to death.

Not to give credit to the enemy, but that yellow dog SHERMAN was correct when he said,


All-in-all, I guess that things worked out for the best. When my Great-Great-Grandmother: Mrs. HATTIE BELLE JANICE COOK, heard what had happened, they say she pitched a hissy-fit to end all hissy-fits. It was so bad in fact, the slaves were praying, "LAWD, gives us liberty or gives us death, but we'uns got to have some relief!" 

So as I sit back tonight and shoot fireworks that are illegal in Georgia, I too, like the slaves of old pray that you get the relief that you seek!

HAPPY 4th of JULY!