By Sam Burnham
The recent trip to Virginia gave me many ideas for stories to share here. I think there are many ideas that go with our small town theory we've been discussing and we'll get to that soon. But Before we do, I'd like to focus on one of the more beautiful sites I encountered along the way.
In the South, the great houses are a thing of legend. In all likelihood, this particular home was the first among them. Completed in 1722. the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg served as the the seat of power and the home of the king's designated colonial governor of Virginia. The governor that is discussed the most in the Revolutionary City was the final royal governor, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore typically called Lord Dunmore.
The original structure was destroyed by fire in 1781, just months after the capital was moved to Richmond. John D. Rockefeller made the commitment to restore the city as a historic landmark and the Governor's Palace was reconstructed using plans discovered at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson had drawn up detailed plans on the structure while planning some renovations during his tenure as governor. While the plans were not used by Jefferson himself, they proved invaluable to the reconstruction effort.
The color in the gardens is beautiful even during the onset of fall. There's a resident cat, "Sir Thomas Grey" who roams the gardens much like his predecessors would have. Among the other life are squirrels and more than a few birds.
While such rooms and gardens are not practical in most of our homes today, this was not an ordinary home. This is a gem from yet another bygone era. An fitting reproduction of an elegant home of yesteryear and a recommended stop for anyone finding themselves in the area.
By Sam Burnham
He stands atop the hill, his gaze fixed on the distant horizon. From atop his perch, he has sustained the onslaught of wind, rain, sleet, snow, and the sweltering Georgia sun with nothing but his homespun jacket and the brim of his hat to shield him from the elements. He has his rifle ready, yet not aimed.
His mission is not martial. He stands guard, not against foes with guns or sabers, but against time, forgetfulness, and apathy. His existence is intended to stand tall and gallant, "lest we forget". He stands for those who can no longer do so themselves - his courageous forebears whose bones, now dust, lie in neat rows beneath six feet of red Georgia clay. They came from all over. They died here. Some of their stones are adorned with their names, their home states, their units. Others are marked "Unknown", having fallen far from home leaving their loved ones to wonder where, when, how, and why their loved one was gone.
This particular sentinel stands alone, mostly out of the public eye. Many of his colleagues, those crafted with the same intended mission, have stood their watch on town squares and courthouse lawns across The South. Most face North, guarding against the threat their charges faced, symbolically guarding against further intrusion.
But these sentinels face a new threat. It's not a plague or invasion from far northern lands. This one is local. It's all around them. Ignorance, indifference. and the effort to focus any and all understanding of the Confederate side of the War Between the States on the role of slavery and nothing else, whatsoever. The effort insists that every single Southern participant in that conflict was fighting directly for nothing but the continuation of slavery and no other cause could have motivated any participation in the war. It claims that any person of any rank was the same as the most active and dedicated members of Hitler's SS and no one could ever find any nobility or character in any moment of any one of these soldiers' lives.
So all over our land, these sentinels are under attack. They are removed from our public squares. They are vandalized under cover of night by people who must be really brave, as assaulting a stone statue in the darkness requires an amazing level of valor.
But these sentinels stand for far more than these protests would ever be willing to admit. The men who lie in the clay have complex stories, as complex as the cause they took up. They were as complex as people today. None were perfect. The prayer books in their haversacks would teach them that. Some were better than others, just as men of our day.
But the sentinels also stand as a monument of what can happen when polarized political forces see no reconciliation between opposing policies. When politicians lose all hope of compromise and communication, things can get ugly. The sentinels should remind us to talk, to listen, to think. As long as one stands, there is a reminder of one of the darkest and most tragic times in American History. We can learn from it...or we can repeat it.
For now this particular sentinel stands. His glance remains set against the progression of time and the elements. He stands tall, a reminder of so many things, good and bad. His presence is much less threatening than his absence could ever be. Long may he stand.
By Sam Burnham
There's a theory about everything these days. Crop circles, cattle mutilations, aliens, overlapping plot lines in Disney animated films, even one that suggests that Ferris Bueller's Day off was nothing but a dream in one boy's mind and nothing more.
I don't usually subscribe to silly theories and such but there is one that I have in my own mind. There are two songs that are obviously connected in my mind. Oh, there are a few little edits involved to try to throw us off the trail - a few additions or omissions to make the conspiracy and maybe even some mystery to prolong the controversy while attempting to deny any connection at all. It makes for a typical Southern storytelling experience.
In 1968, just months after the death of our first storyteller, Otis Redding celebrated sitting on a dock on San Francisco Bay doing a whole bunch of nothing, something Southern men have a gift for doing. Give us a porch, a dock, a riverbank, or a place around the fire and we will put on a clinic in the art of accomplishing nary a single thing. Nil. Diddly-squat.
So that is what the subject of our first story is doing when we meet him. Nothing. He has his reasons. He explains some of the reasons but not in a lot of detail. We don't know what all led him to this lonely state. But we can always listen to the rest of the story
Because five years later, Gladys Knight and her Pips released the sequel. While a Southern man is capable of doing nothing better than anyone else, there is one thing that can catch his attention, and make him get up and accomplish more than anyone could ever imagine possible. That one thing is a good Southern woman.
So what happened, if you can see the whole story, is that our hero left Georgia, young and stars in his eyes, he hit L.A. with big dreams that crashed hard, drifted north to Frisco and reverted to his roots, just a Georgia boy taking in the sights and relaxing in an attempt to lick his wounds and regroup before deciding his next move.
That is where our heroine makes her entrance. I see the visual in my mind. Looking down the dock. Her graceful silhouette approaching the stack of crates supporting the reclined silhouette of our hero.
We aren't privy to the conversation. We're not sure exactly what she says or does, not specifically. It was likely something on the range between "sweetie, let's go home and have some beans and cornbread" and "get your sorry butt up off those crates and let's go home". Probably a bit of both as Southern men can be stubborn. But as the sun makes its way to a dark concealment somewhere beyond the Pacific horizon, our hero stands up on his own feet and starts strolling back towards town. Our heroine takes over the vocals for the second half of the story and our couple find themselves on that Midnight Train to Georgia.
Sure, there will be naysayers, but I won't be deterred. Our hero doesn't mention L.A.? How many of your failures do you sing about? She'd rather live in his world? They're going to live in his hometown. It's so obvious as to not even be humorous. The songs are inextricably connected and I cannot be deterred.
Now, I'm off to do a whole bunch of nothing, but I'm sure not going to be doing it in San Fran.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire