R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Friday Photo: 2/24/17

“Winter Sky and Fence”
University of West Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia – 26 January 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Wednesday Photo: 2/22/17

“Table Corner, Sunday Morning”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 12 February 2017

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Hillside Monday: 2/20/17

“It’s Always Mardi Gras Somewhere”
LaGrange, Georgia – 3 January 2015

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Friday Photo: 2/17/17

“Winter Day, 4:22 PM”
Heard County, Georgia – 7 December 2015

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Wednesday Photo: 2/15/17

“Pecan Branches with Windshield”
Heard County, Georgia – 7 December 2015

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Hillside Monday: 2/13/17

Marshall Ruffin‘s Girl”
Pure Life Studios
LaGrange, Georgia – 21 January 2017

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Friday Photo: 2/10/17

“Lace Skirt and Wall”
LaGrange, Georgia – 17 December 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 2/8/17

“The Real House of Blues”
Denver, Colorado – 10 November 2015

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Hillside Monday: 2/6/17

 

“Mirror Oak”
LaGrange, Georgia – 31 August 2014

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Friday Photo: 2/3/17

“Metal Chair in Turquoise and Red”
Waverly Hall, Georgia – 11 October 2015

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The Little Peach Tree That Could

In the mid-1930s, my great-grandfather planted this dwarf peach tree in the side yard of his house in southwestern Heard County, Georgia. By the mid-1950s, when my mother was old enough to remember the family’s yearly trips down from Michigan, the tree bore heavy yields every summer.

Pap would slice up quart after quart of fresh peaches, from which he and Grandma Edith would make ice cream in an old crank-handle freezer. It was the finest she had ever tasted, Mom would say years later. When she first moved south in 1968, Mom lived with Pap and Grandma while she saved up for her own apartment in LaGrange. Entering its fourth decade, the little peach tree was still producing as many peaches as the three of them could eat (read: a lot).

In 1988, Mom moved back to Heard County and began fixing up the old home place. By that time, the tree was just about dead. Sap ran sticky amber-brown from the peach borer holes along its trunk. Ice storms had broken off about half its branches. The other half, fiercely proud and unwilling to admit defeat, struggled to stay even halfway upright.

The kind thing to do, Mom supposed, would be to cut it down. No sense in letting it suffer. It had served its purpose for many years. Now it was time to plant something new.

But the saw stayed in the shed.  Mom couldn’t stand to cut down the beleaguered little peach tree while it was still half-alive, or even a quarter alive. “When it’s finally dead, I’ll cut it,” she kept saying. “In the meantime, we’ll just mow around it.”

Which she did—very carefully, with a rickety push-mower and a pair of yard shears. Mom mulched it. She sprayed it for insects and fungus. She watered it during droughts, and pruned away the branches split by the weight of snow and ice. For a dying tree, this one sure was getting a lot of care.

Year after year, the little tree hung on. Every spring, the familiar pink blossoms appeared. By early summer, fuzzy green baby peaches the size of jelly beans dotted the branches. By July 4th, the baby peaches would lie rotting on the ground, felled by some fungus or insect predator. At least the fire ants and yellow jackets were eating well.

For almost 20 years, we had hoped for peaches. For almost 20 years, we had none. I began to accept that peaches, as much as I wanted them, were just not going to happen.

Fast forward to 2003: a warm spring day at the old home place. My mother and stepfather had almost finished rebuilding the long-collapsed front porch. Useless with a hammer but still wanting to be part of the action, I stood nearby.

“Uh, Mom?” I said. “It’s about your little tree.”

“I know, I know.” She mopped the sweat from her brow and grabbed another fistful of 16-penny nails. “I’m giving it one more chance. If it doesn’t make fruit this year, it’s coming down.”

So the spring turned into summer, and the blossoms turned into fuzzy green baby peaches. But this time, the baby peaches stayed on the tree. And grew. And grew. And ripened.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, we had peaches.

I felt badly for having hoped we could cut down the elderly peach tree. I had doubted it, yet it had come back—perhaps to prove us wrong, but more likely because that’s just what trees do. This lonely, gnarled little tree suddenly bore two bushels of peaches just because.

That summer, we had the best homemade peach ice cream and the best homemade peach cobbler I have ever tasted. Since then, the tree has managed to produce at least a few desserts’ worth of fruit every season. It has survived nearly a century of drought, disease, ice storms, and straight-line winds—and, one time, a sweet, hungry, clumsy 2,800-pound Black Angus bull. This beloved little tree refuses to quit.

What will this year bring? We don’t yet know. The peach tree probably doesn’t yet know, either. No matter what happens, though, I will always be grateful to it for showing me what endurance really means.

Photo: “Green Peach, Black Cat” (Heard County, Georgia – 27 May 2014)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Note: An earlier version of this piece appeared at my former blog, Forgotten Plants & Places, on 12 April 2012.

 

Wednesday Photo: 2/1/17

“Some Strings Attached”
LaGrange, Georgia – 11 July 2015

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Hillside Monday: 1/30/17

“Tornado Sky #1”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 November 2014

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Friday Photo: 1/27/17

“Pink Baby Trio”
Denver, Colorado – 4 November 2015

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Wednesday Photo: 1/25/17

“Freight Bandit: You Never Knew, You Never Will (3/13)”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 April 2015

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Hillside Monday: 1/23/17

“Tin Roof, Winter Storm”
LaGrange, Georgia – 7 January 2017

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Friday Photo: 1/20/17

“Anvil-Head Storm Cloud”
LaGrange, Georgia – 14 August 2016

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Wednesday Photo: 1/18/17

“Fuel Door, Age 38”
Heard County, Georgia – 26 November 2015

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Some Quick Writing Advice

Recently, a friend asked me for some writing advice. In the midst of three different projects, though, I didn’t have many extra words to spare. But I did have these quick tips to offer. They often help me. I hope they’ll help you, too.

  1. Read a lot. Read the same things multiple times, and at different points in your life.
  2. Write down little pieces and snippets of ideas whenever you have them, and however you can write them down. Text them to yourself. Type them in your phone’s “notes” feature. Scrawl them on the back of your hand, or in the margin of your class notes. Get them down, any way you can.
  3. Save all those weird snippets. They will come in handy.
  4. Notice everything around you—especially the things that the rest of the world refuses to acknowledge.
  5. Let all this touch your soul.
  6. Write about it.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 1/16/17

“Crape Myrtle and Winter Sky”
LaGrange, Georgia – 3 January 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

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