Day 511: Goal Poll

Laetitia and her group left Tate and stopped to hike in Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park before continuing on to South Carolina. They walked the three-mile circuit that includes both the north and south rims past waterfalls, some of which plunge more than 700 feet into the canyon below. Later they did a scenic drive through Chattahoochee National Forest before heading for Ware Shoals, South Carolina, their evening’s destination.

The town grew up around a nineteenth-century gristmill operated by William Ware at Rutledge Ford on the Saluda River. Today the town has around 2,400 residents. It was a textile milling town during the early twentieth century, but the mill buildings are now gone. The restored Ware Shoals Inn, a commercial hotel built in 1923, serves as a reminder of the town’s past. Laetitia and her group did a walkabout in the town before arranging a time and place for dining.

At dinner that evening, Laetitia was within earshot of a table of locals whose topic of discussion was a recent survey about students’ goals conducted at the local high school. Most of those at the table were shocked at the gossip and what they viewed as an inappropriate response by a local teenager named Reed. Students at that age generally haven’t had enough life experience to choose realistic goals for themselves, so they write down what they think will please their parents and teachers, but Reed apparently shocked everyone by stating his actual ambition.

Laetitia knew from her own experience that educators like to encourage teenagers to have goals, but she wondered how sound this idea was. In high school, she would not have listed becoming a limericist as a goal. She became one as the result of a chance encounter at the Leprechaun Hotel in Limerick.

The one example Laetitia knew of someone who seemed to have achieved her stated high school goal was femme fatale Matty Walker, played by Kathleen Turner in the film Body Heat. In a scene near the end of this nouveau film noir, seedy lawyer Ned Racine (played by William Hurt), serving time for helping Matty dispose of her wealthy husband so they (she) could collect his fortune, receives a highschool yearbook in the mail that confirms that he’s been betrayed. From the yearbook pictures, he learns that Matty’s real name is Mary Ann Simpson. Mary Ann has impersonated her friend Matty, lured her to Florida, and then murdered her. Ned concludes Mary Ann has likely fulfilled the ambition stated under her yearbook picture, “To be rich and live in an exotic land.”

“Enough of this musing,” Laetitia thought, “I’ve got a limerick to write.”

When the guidance department ran polls
To establish high school students’ goals
Reed truthfully said,
“To take girls to bed”
Which shocked the whole town of Ware Shoals.

Day 509: Nest Egg

Laetitia and her group began the day hiking in Roper Park in northern Georgia near Jasper. Afterward they went to Tate, where they were spending the evening. Tate is an unincorporated community known for its high-quality marble. The community was named after Colonel Samuel Tate, who owned the Georgia Marble Company. His home, built in a Neo-Classical style in 1923, is situated on a 27-acre estate resembling a park. Officially named “The Tate House,” the home is sometimes called the Pink Palace because of the extensive use of local pink and white marble in its construction. A railroad was built through town in the 1880s, and the old station remains, though it has not been restored. Laetitia and her group visited both in the afternoon.

At dinner the conversation at the next table was about an elderly local man who had been a hippie in the 1960s. He was gainfully employed for most of his adult life until he retired, but he kept his long hair as a tribute to his lost youth. The townsfolk usually referred to him as “a flower child gone to seed.” He had a habit of sitting, and usually napping, on the town’s sole park bench in the afternoon. The story was that on one particular day when the man was asleep, a bird made a nest in his shaggy hair and laid an egg in it. The story smelled like a tall tale, but it made a good limerick, so Laetitia used it anyway.

When a long-haired old fellow from Tate
Found a bird laid an egg on his pate
As he slept in the park
He went home when ‘twas dark
Then fried it and found it first rate.

Day 508: Bacon in Macon

Macon is a city of about 91,000 residents in Central Georgia. It grew up around Fort Benjamin Hawkins, an American fortification and trading post built in 1806 on the site of a Creek Indian village. It is located on the fall line of the Ocmulgee River, where the hilly terrain of the Piedmont Plateau intersects with the coastal plain.

Laetitia took her group first to the Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens located on the campus of Macon State College. There are sixteen different plant environments in the 167-acre campus including Asian, European, xerophytic, and hydric environments. Later they visited the Hay House and the Cannonball House. Her group requested that they go to a vegan restaurant that evening, and they chose a place that featured vegetarian Indian food. Several women occupied the table next to where Laetitia was sitting, and their conversations were about a man one of them had jilted because he didn’t respect her decision to become a vegan and kept trying to get her to eat meat. It became the limerick of the day.

A cocky young fellow from Macon
Thought he could woo vegans with bacon
Or Spam or beef jerky
Instead of Tofurky
But in that, he was sadly mistaken.

Day 507: Sweet Vidalia

Laetitia and her group headed west out of Savannah. Their destination was a small city with about 10,500 residents called Vidalia. Vidalia is a household word, not because those familiar with it have actually been to Georgia, but because they have eaten or heard of the sweet onions that are grown in the vicinity. In 1931, a farmer named Mose Coleman found that his farm produced onions of an exceptional sweet quality. Other farmers began to grow the same onion, and over the years its market share increased dramatically. In the year 2000, Vidalia onion production from the 20 Georgia counties allowed to use the brand name exceeded 40,000,000 fifty-pound bags. In 1990, the Vidalia onion was designated the “official vegetable” of the state of Georgia.

The Vidalia Onion Festival, held annually at the time of the spring harvest, was what brought the Mind’s Eye group to Vidalia. The five-day festival features a car show, an air show, a rodeo, live music, an onion-eating contest, a motorcycle rally, a carnival, a recipe contest, a five-kilometer run, a children’s parade, and, of course, food. Because of the diversity of options available, Laetitia gave her group a time and place to meet in late afternoon and let them explore the festival individually or in small groups.

She found a bench shaded by a tree and sat down to watch the passing scene. The bench was opposite a large booth that featured European food specialties. Nearby was a man dressed in a ham costume. He was promoting the Westphalian ham sandwiches sold by the booth. Fanciers of the product claim that the acorns eaten by the Westphalian pigs give the ham its unique flavor. The walking ham displayed a sign that read, “Hi! I’m Ham Schinken from Westphalia, Germany. I want you to try one of our Westphalian ham sandwiches. They’re delicious.”

Two teenage girls walked by, and one said, “Eeeew! Yuck! I think it’s awful to dress up like a food. Look at his name. He’s even named after a food. That’s even more disgusting.” The other girl said, “I agree. Let’s get out of here and go over to the carnival, Vidalia.” Laetitia grinned and wrote the limerick of the day.

A young girl saw Ham from Westphalia
Dressed up in his ham-like regalia
And thought it quite rude
To be named after food
Though her own name, in fact, was Vidalia.