A Thanksgiving to Remember

SANCTUARY

A Legacy of Memories

By T. M. Brown

Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories = Fiction Finalist, American Book Fest “Best Book” Awards 2018

CHAPTER TWENTY

We followed Megan’s easy-to-read directions and turned onto River Road as we left town. A few minutes later we pulled in front of an impressive gated entrance. 

“Well, I guess we’re here.” 

I lowered my window and pushed the red call button on the speaker. A polite voice promptly responded, “One moment please.” 

The black wrought iron gates crept open seconds later.

The oak-lined drive wound back and around to Harold’s two-story estate home complete with an oversized detached three-car garage. Harold’s secretary waited on the front steps as we exited our vehicle. She waved and greeted us with a warm smile.

Liddy and I walked hand-in-hand to the grand front entrance. “Megan… what a surprise,” I said with a slightly puzzled look.

Megan smiled and said, “Mister Phillips, good to see you again. This must be Missus Phillips.”

I glanced at Liddy’s surprised expression. “Liddy, this is Megan from Harold’s office. She’s the young lady who dropped off the directions that guided us here so precisely.”

Liddy offered her hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Megan. Your directions were most helpful. Thank you. Are you joining us today?”

Megan giggled beneath her hand, masking a coy smile. “Why yes ma’am. I live here.” She received Liddy’s hand and then declared matter-of-factly, “Harold’s my father-in-law.”

“Which Archer are you married to, if I may ask,” I said.

“Hank’s my husband. I believe you’ve met him.” 

“Why yes. In fact, we’ve met all of Harold’s sons and can tell he’s quite proud of them all.”

We removed our coats in the foyer and admired the double stairwell leading upstairs from opposite sides of the expansive front entry. A wide hallway led into a massive great room with seating on each side of a floor to ceiling, stone open-hearth fireplace. Two sets of patio doors on either side provided access to the veranda. Panoramic window panes offered an unobstructed, breathtaking view of the manicured fenced yard, rolling hills, and distant meadows. 

Megan broke the silence. “Beautiful, isn’t it? I just can’t get enough of it either.”

Liddy recovered from her open-mouth stare. “Is all this part of your family’s property? It’s absolutely breathtaking and beautiful, as is this house as well.” 

Megan smiled with a rehearsed nod and pointed to two imposing tan suede leather sofas. “Please join me. Harold’s upstairs and will join us shortly. He asked me to keep you company.”

Liddy, a pro at small talk, put on her most polite, inquisitive smile. “Megan, excuse me, but I was just wondering if you and Hank have any children.”

Megan’s smile tensed. “No, ma’am. Not yet, but Hank and I expect to surprise Harold soon. We just celebrated our fourth anniversary, and hope to be in our own house that’ll include a nursery by the time we celebrate our next anniversary.”

I said, “I bet Harold will make a proud grandpa. There’s nothing like it.”

Megan wrung her folded hands, though her posture and tone appeared relaxed. 

Liddy rescued Megan and asked about the new house.

Megan’s tentativeness eased as she spoke. “Hank and I plan to build on the property Harold set aside as our wedding gift.” She pointed out the picture window behind her. “You can’t see it well from here, but it’s just beyond those trees. It’s a beautiful piece of property with a view of Shiloh Creek, ideally suited to raise a family.”

I smiled and nodded. 

“Mister Phillips, how many children do you have?”

“Please, Theo and Liddy.” 

“Why thank you, Theo.” She turned to Liddy. “And Liddy is such a pretty name. Is it short for Lydia?”

Liddy blushed as she nodded. “Yes, it is.”

Megan said, “Lydia’s one of my favorite names. In the Bible, Lydia was a strong and confident business women who helped launch a church.”

Liddy’s reddened cheeks grew as she smiled and sat an inch taller in her seat. She knew the story of Lydia from Philippi well and enjoyed the image of her namesake. 

Liddy held up two fingers and said, “We have two wonderful grown sons, and they’ll be visiting Shiloh with their families for Christmas.”

“That’s wonderful. Bet you’re anxious and counting the days.” Megan sighed. “As for me, I was born and raised right here in good ol’ Shiloh. My mom and dad still live just outside of town. And since I don’t have any brothers or sisters, mom regularly harps about any news regarding the prospect of their first grandchild.” 

Uncomfortable, awkward silence followed before I changed the subject. “I’m not sure if Harold said anything, but did you know I’m working on a story about Jessie Masterson? Since you were raised here, I’d love to talk about your experiences and memories related to Coach Masterson. I imagine he was at Shiloh High when you went there.”

Megan beamed at the mention of Jessie, but an exuberant laugh interrupted our conversation. 

Harold looked down from the balcony rail. “Theo! Liddy! I see you’re enjoying the company of my charming and talented daughter-in-law.” 

Liddy and I both rose to our feet as he approached. He shook my hand and gave Liddy a generous smile. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

“Mista’ Harold, you and your guests, ‘bout ready?” said Harold’s matronly gray-haired African-American housekeeper. She stood patiently at the doorway leading onto the veranda wearing a traditional white broad collared maid’s uniform with a starched apron.

“Maddie, if you’re about ready out there, I reckon we’re ready.”

With a little huff, Maddie said, “Come on, then. I’ve been waitin’ on you folks, Master Harold, and I’m sure these nice folks has been waitin’ on you.” She opened the door and pointed to a table all set for us.

Harold sat at the head of the table, and we sat across from Megan. A plump, partially-carved roasted turkey accompanied by butter beans, green beans, collards, mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, dressing and both pumpkin and pecan pies covered the other end of the table. 

Harold pulled a bottle of Chenin Blanc off the side cart behind him and popped the cork. He rotated the label for us to see. 

I smiled. “Yes, looks like a nice wine choice, thank you, Harold,” and then he filled four crystal glasses and passed them to each of us. 

I took a sip pretending to know a little about savoring wines. I offered a modest grin of approval. Liddy took a smaller sip and smiled politely towards our host before she placed the wineglass down and nonchalantly reached for her glass of tea.

“I’m glad y’all approve. Thought it’d be an appropriate complement to Maddie’s honey-basted turkey.” Harold extended his arms wide, drawing attention to Maddie as she prepared a plate for each of us.

As I waited for my plate to arrive, I said, “Harold, this is a nice treat, and the Lord certainly gave us a beautiful day to eat outside like this.” I then pointed to his immaculate lawn and gardens. “How do you find time to take care of all this? I’m jealous.” 

Harold’s laughter filled the veranda. “I’m far too busy. We’ve got a regular crew that maintains the grounds around here for us. But Theo, it’s me who’s jealous. You’ve done wonders with the old Priestly home. It’s obvious, y’all don’t mind getting your hands dirty.”

Maddie laid a full plate in front of me, careful not to disturb the pan gravy that floated atop the cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes. “I hope you ladies and gentlemens are hungree.” She pointed at the far end of the table. “There’s plenty more but leave room for some pie, and I’ll be right back if ya needs me.”

Harold applauded. “Maddie, mm, mm…you’ve outdone yourself, once again. Thank you.”

Liddy said, “Yes. Thank you, Miss Maddie.” Maddie’s round cheeks blushed as she stepped away. 

Throughout the meal, Harold directed the conversation and offered an endless history of the house and the property that had been passed down to him. He boasted about his family’s long history in Shiloh that began not long after the Civil War ended. 

He looked at Megan with a twinkle in his eye. “And it looks like Hank and Megan will be the first of my sons to build their own home. I’ve little doubt that Megan’s ready to move into her own house after putting up with four men coming and going all the time.”

Megan‘s cheeks turned pink, but she continued to focus on the food in front of her.

After we finished eating, Maddie reappeared over each of our shoulders and set a white coffee carafe on the table. “Missus Phillips, would you like pum’kin or pee-kan or maybe a little of each with your coffee?” 

Maddie served each of us with the same soft voice question. She wasted no time or motion as she efficiently tended to each of us. She then loaded each of our dirty plates along with the leftovers onto her wooden serving cart and rolled it away.

Between nibbles, Megan shared stories about serving as Harold’s administrative assistant. She left little doubt that she enjoyed the status of the position, and Harold glowed as Megan told stories about him.

At a point during the playful and respectful roasting from Megan, Harold pushed his chair out from the end of the table, grabbed his empty dessert plate in one hand and leaned toward me. “Theo, now you’ll see why I struggle with my weight.” A jolly laugh followed him to the other end of the table.

Megan’s stories continued as her eyes appeared to scold Harold.

“Ah come on Megan, it’s Thanksgiving. You know Maddie always serves me just a tiny piece anyway,” Harold said before he gobbled down a loaded forkful of pecan pie and tapped his belly. “Um, good. Don’t you agree, Theo?”

I looked at Liddy, leaned back in my chair, and tapped my stomach. “As for me, if I ate another bite, I’d bust, not to mention Liddy will make me walk home.” 

After our dessert plates disappeared, Harold stood. “Megan, why don’t you offer Liddy a tour of the house and the grounds while Theo and me take a drive around the property.”

Liddy smiled at Megan and nodded, then I looked at Harold and said, “Sounds great to me.”

Before Harold and I walked away, he said to Megan, “We’ll probably be a couple of hours. I’ve got my phone if you need to reach me.” Then he looked at me. “We’ll go in my truck if that’s okay with you?”

“Sure,” I said as I looked over my shoulder and saw Liddy and Megan disappear into the house. “Harold, you’ve got a great daughter-in-law.”

A slight grin appeared on Harold’s face. “If only you knew how exceptional she truly is. That boy of mine doesn’t deserve her. There’re times I wonder why she puts up with him. I hope they’ll settle down soon because I just couldn’t do what I do without her.”

Harold pushed his truck’s key fob as we approached the garage, and his black dually’s diesel engine roared to life. “Door’s unlocked. Hop in. You can just toss my satchel in the back somewhere.” Country music already filled the cab but thankfully more appealing to my ears than Hank’s taste.

I adjusted my seat and buckled up. “Harold, this is nice. I’m impressed.” I ran my hand over the personalized logo burnt into the chaparral leather that covered the center console.

“I put a lot of time in my truck. Being mayor and all the other stuff I’m involved with around town; I figured long ago that I might as well enjoy my ride, don’t you agree?” He maneuvered the huge dually onto the gravel road and drove us to what he referred to as the Pine Groves. When we arrived, we stretched our legs along the path that wound through the property.

Harold boasted about the work involved in the maintenance of a profitable harvest of timber. I admired the patience and persistence required to cultivate and harvest pine trees. 

“Harold, clearly your family’s been a big part of this community, and you’ve well-established deep roots on this property and in town.”

“That’s true. The family still owns 500 acres, but going way back, we once owned two thousand of the most fertile acres that ever produced cotton and peanuts in these parts. There’s been an Archer on this land since General Sherman served as military governor of Georgia. Sadly, though, my great, great grandfather sold much of the property during some tough times that ravaged the plantation owners around here about 100 years ago. Although he did hold onto the most fertile acreage.”

“How did your family end up in Shiloh? It’s been my impression that your family’s always been here.”

Harold hesitated before continuing in a loud whisper. “Shh… we’ve Yankee roots. My family migrated from Pennsylvania. The story goes, not long after the war ended, my great, great, great grandfather heard about the abundance of fertile plantation land being auctioned off for taxes, so he sold his farm near Gettysburg, packed up and came here.”

The word “carpetbagger” crept into my mind, but I kept that thought to myself. “I imagine he bought the land for pennies on the dollar. Although much of the original land got sold off, I’m sure you’re still proud to one day pass your family’s land and heritage on to your sons.”

Harold smiled and nodded. 

Visit https://tmbrownauthor.com/shop to order your copy of SANCTUARY, A Legacy of Memories, or any of the SHILOH MYSTERY stories.

Pondering of the Past: Harper Lee, A Southern Literary Legacy

Harper Lee, A Southern Voice that Opened Eyes and Hearts Across America

A Southern Classic that Exposed a Broken Culture Caught in its Past

Nelle Harper Lee (1926 – 2016), simply Harper Lee to millions across America, a Southern voice for decades based on her first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Her other book though written in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman, did not see the light of day until 2015 and was published as a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize classic. 

Harper Lee wrote what she knew best, the Deep South of the 1930s from a child’s point of view. Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama provided her with ample opportunities to portray the irrationality of adult attitudes in the racist culture that permeated the South.

A footnote worth mentioning: the character in her novel named Dill was based upon her real childhood friend, Truman Capote. What were the odds that little old Monroeville, Alabama would rear up both Truman Capote and Harper Lee? Today, Monroeville, Alabama entertains thousands of visitors who flock into town to get a glimpse at the old courthouse and homes that Harper Lee wrote about in To Kill a Mockingbird. Might I suggest you might want to visit the link below to learn more-http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/monroeville.html

What’s Coming in 2023…

Shiloh Mystery Series, Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories & Testament, An Unexpected Return. Watch for updated new book covers in 2023 and a flurry of personal appearances to promote the anniversary of all three Shiloh novels, including Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Expanded distribution and availability of the printed and e-book editions coming.

July 2023, The Last Laird of Sapelo (Koehler Books) is coming. A historical novel that explains why at the end of the Civil War virtually all the freed Geechee slaves risked their lives and found their way back to the only homes and land they ever knew. And, why for the rest of the tumultuous Nineteenth Century the Spalding family became the only permanent white residents on Sapelo Island. A unique and near-forgotten legacy linked the post-war Geechee community and the Spaldings until the last Spalding passed away and the Geechee descendants fell victim the wishes and whims of the rich and famous in the first half of the 20th Century.

Watch for more about The Last Laird of Sapelo in the coming months…

Sapelo Island

Hometown Novel News Podcasts Launch

October not only ushered in another display of autumnal colors, it launched the first Hometown Novel News podcast hosted by Newnan Times-Herald, Newnan, GA thanks to Clay Neely, Co-Publisher.

October’s podcast launched with a discussion about the Enduring Legacy and Value of Local Libraries with special guest, Susan Crutchfield, Director of the Newnan Carnegie Library.

Newnan Podcast Network

Historic Newnan Carnegie Library

Special Guest: Susan Crutchfield

Hometown Novel News: Episode 1

OCTOBER 18, 2022 NEWNAN PODCAST NETWORK

Hometown Novel News: Episode 1

Hometown Novel News, November

A discussion about the value of locally owned book retailers today with a focus on what’s happening in downtown Newnan and Coweta County. Be sure to subscribe to learn more about this and future Hometown Novel News podcasts.

Southern Voices from the Past: Zora Neale Hurston

(Read all the way down and catch a recent interview of T. M. Brown by Canvas Rebel Magazine.)

Zora Neale Hurston, an Undeniable Southern Voice

1891-1960, Zora Neale Hurston 

Zora Neale Hurston, a Notable Southern Voice from the Past

Zora Neale Hurston became an influential African-American voice for Southern literature in the 1930s. She portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th Century South. Of her four novels and numerous published short stories, plays, and essays, her 1937 book Their Eyes Were Watching God brought her the most notoriety.

Born in Alabama, her family relocated to Eatonville, Florida in 1894. While attending Barnard College in New York, Zora became a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance and befriended Langston Hughes. She returned to North Florida and wrote her novels about the African-American experience, folklore, and her personal struggles as an African-American woman. She would be instrumental as an instructor at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida and later at North Carolina College for Negroes, now North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina.

Posthumous Notoriety, Continued Recognition

Zora Neale Hurston’s works continued mostly unrecognized until Alice Walker in 1975 published “In Search of Zora Neale Thurston” in Ms. Magazine. Two of her works published posthumously were Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001) and Barracoon (2018).

Posthumously Published by Harper Collins, 2018.

A little extra for those curious about T. M. Brown, Southern Author & President of Hometown Novel Writers Association, Inc.

Below is the recent interview by Canvas Reel Magazine. It provides a broad picture of Mike as an published author and founder of Hometown Novel Writers Association in Newnan, GA. There’s much to look forward to in 2023.

Upcoming appearances, Saturday, October 15th, Arts on the Creek Book Festival, Johns Creek, Georgia, 10 AM.

Southern Voices from the Past: Erskine Caldwell

Along with Tobacco Road (1932), God’s Little Acre (1933) destined Erskine Caldwell to become one of the greatest Southern Voices of the Twentieth Century.

After a stellar, extended career as an author of twenty-five novels, countless short stories, and twelve non-fiction books, Erskine Caldwell became a charter member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, 2000.

Born in 1903 to a Presbyterian minister and a schoolteacher mother in Moreland, GA, he lived an itinerant life in his early years living in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee before his family returned and settled back in Georgia near to Augusta. His father’s compassion for the desperately poor folks impacted Erskine. His first notable writing came while he studied at the University of Virginia. “The Georgia Cracker” (1926) established the themes that infused his future writing: political demagoguery, racial injustice, depraved religion, cultural sterility, and social irresponsibility. He continued to develop as a writer through several groundbreaking magazine articles before F. Scott Fitzgerald recommended him to Maxwell Perkins, the senior editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons. Besides many short stories and articles, Caldwell wrote three highly successive novels by 1940, Tobacco Road, God’s Little Acre, and Trouble in July. Through these novels, Caldwell brought attention to the Depression’s dire effects upon Georgia’s tenant farmers, abuse of southern industrial workers, the disintegration of family values, and punctuated the brutal, racist attitudes aroused by white southern fears of interracial relationships.

Though interest in his novels waned by the early 1940s, they received a resurgence in the paperback revolution in American publishing following WWII.

In Caldwell’s later years, he turned to non-fiction to focus on social injustices earned him some harsh criticism of his views during the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Though he lived and traveled extensively away from his beloved Southern roots and family home in Wren, GA, he wrote to then GA Governor Lester Maddox in 1967, “I think that I am as much a Georgian as Brer Rabbitt.” Peachtree Publishers published fittingly his final book in Georgia a month before his death, April 11, 1987, an autobiography, With All My Might.

Personal Insights

During a conference on Lost Southern Voices two years ago, I listened and learned how Erskine Caldwell influenced and interacted with the likes of Pat Conroy and Terry Kay. I live not ten minutes from Moreland, GA’s tribute to Erskine Caldwell. One cannot survey his humble beginnings and the collection of memorabilia on display without a sense of awe. How many more Southern novelists did he inspire?

Thanks to my extended conversation with folks behind Moreland’s exhibits on Erskine Caldwell, it is worthwhile to note that his novel successes and notoriety in the early 1930s stirred Madison Avenue publishers in New York to leave their sanctimonious ivory towers and scour the South to discover more nascent Southern voices.

Mixon, Wayne. “Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 16 May 2016. Web. 11 July 2018.

Watch for great news regarding my latest historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo”!

Subscribe to my newsletters and future mailings. You may get chosen to become a member of the launch team and get a free copy of my next novel. Be sure to visit @TMBrownAuthor on Facebook to catch my latest appearances and book signings.

Darien, Georgia’s Waterfront at the breakout of the Civil War.

Southern Voices from the Past – Caroline Miller

Throughout this fall of 2022, I’ll be focusing on former Southern voices that forged the way for all Southern authors…

Caroline’s inaugural novel, Lamb in his Bosom (1934), won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Caroline was the first Georgian to earn this esteemed award, which changed Caroline’s life forever, and the floodgates opened for future Southern female voices.

The pioneer women in her family and hometown stories passed down as she grew up became the inspiration for Caroline’s writings. As an adult, she visited older folks throughout her community, pen in hand, to capture more stories from the past. Their tales of the past, replete with colorful backcountry sayings and distinctive dialects, made it into her book Lamb in His Bosom.

“Don’t let people tell you there is no drama in your life, or that your surroundings are too colorless for novel material. If you can’t find the novel in someone else’s life, look into your own. Perhaps you don’t have any Georgia pines to write about, but there is something else quite as lovely in your life. I am certain of that. There never was another you. Write the way you feel it.” Caroline Miller.

Excerpts from Biography of Caroline Miller.

Watch for more Southern Voices from our past that have established what it means to be a Southern Voice today.

T. M. Brown, Southern Author – Stories with a Message

Stay tuned to news about my latest historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo

Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories
Testament, An Unexpected Return
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest
Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy face the challenges of retiring in Shiloh, a time-lost South Georgia town after raising their family and Theo’s long publishing career away from their rustic roots.
 

Older, and hopefully wiser.

Find out more about me and my pondering on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/T.M.BrownAuthor