R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Guess What?


Elkton, Tennessee – 19 September 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 3/4/15

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

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The Daffodils That Always Mean “Home”


Living in a small town often means commuting a long distance to work somewhere else. In my case, I commute 45 miles one way. It’s the price I pay for the relatively slow pace of life in west central Georgia. While the drive sometimes gets old, the scenery does not.

I take U.S. Highway 27 from LaGrange, driving through rural Heard County, to get to Carrollton. Despite the fact that the U.S. 27 I knew growing up is no more—the new, four-lane highway took its place some years ago—the new road still traverses some beautiful countryside.

So it’s March now—the in-between time of year when the weather can’t decide between ice storms and tornadoes. This year has brought out the daffodils a little early. I delight in watching them pop up along U.S. 27’s shoulders.

When you see daffodils, you can safely assume that someone put them there. Unlike seed plants, daffodils and other bulbs have to be dug up and planted. In order to get them from where they are to where they’re going to be, someone has to carefully dig them up at the right time of year (late spring, after blooms and foliage have died back), transport them to a suitable location, and plant them.

Most daffodils we see along the roadside make their homes in someone’s yard. Sometimes they’re in neat flower beds. Sometimes, as is the case with my own yard, they’re randomly planted in a sunny patch of lawn to surprise everyone year after year with their unexpected yellows and creams in a sea of brittle brown grass.

But what about those planted in or near a roadside ditch, without a house nearby?

Just because you don’t see a house doesn’t mean one hasn’t ever been there. Daffodils stay underground most of the year. Once they’ve finished blooming, their leaves die back and don’t reappear for another year. So old houses get demolished, their sites fading into and gradually out of memory—yet the bulbs embedded around them come back. They come back every spring thereafter, house or no house.

Plant ghosts, I call them. They don’t know the house and the people are gone. They come back because this is their home. In every sense of the word, they are rooted here.

These are very simple, single-cup daffodils, a very old-fashioned variety found in the yards of very old houses. They’re about 12” tall at most, and amazingly hardy. Judging from what’s left of the house, and from the size of the flower clumps, these daffs have been here for about 50 years.

Behind the thick, overgrown privet hedge, nearly 20 feet down the bank from the southbound lanes of U.S. 27 in Carroll County, appears the faint outline of a house. Or, rather, what used to be a house. Out in front: these happy yellow bells.

I wonder why the last residents left. I wonder if they left in a hurry. I wonder who decided to let a once-sturdy farmhouse simply fold itself back into the earth.

I wonder if, on leaving for the last time, they took a long, final look toward the flower bed. I wonder if they wept for the flowers waiting beneath its surface, for the daffodils that always mean “home.”

NOTE: An earlier version of this post appeared at Forgotten Plants & Places on 25 February 2012.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Hillside Monday: 3/2/15


“I Don’t Know What Happened Here, but I Kinda Like It”
LaGrange, Georgia – 28 February 2015

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Sunset, Ringer’s Old Store


Carroll County, Georgia – 16 September 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 2/25/15


“The Bench of Sorrow”
University of West Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia – 14 October 2014

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Hillside Monday: 2/23/15


“In Memory of a Friend”
LaGrange, Georgia – 19 January 2015

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Soybean Field, Autumn


Heard County, Georgia – 25 September 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 2/18/15


“Granite with Lichens”
Heard County, Georgia – 7 February 2015

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Hillside Monday: 2/16/15


“Everybody Shake a Tail Feather”
LaGrange, Georgia – 25 January 2015

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In a Churchyard at Dusk


Heard County, Georgia – 7 February 2015

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A Valentine’s Day Program in Three Acts

ACT ONE: February 14, 1981
With our meager savings from allowances (50 cents a week, if we make all A’s), my sister and I buy the fanciest Whitman’s Sampler we can find at the drug store. The heart-shaped, padded box features a dozen closely gathered rows of lavender satin ribbon and white lace trim, and boasts a monstrously floppy purple silk rose in its upper left corner. Scarlett O’Hara might have worn something like it, had her story wrapped up in a New Orleans cathouse.

But Val and I do not yet know this. We want to make our mommy happy, especially when she works so hard all day sawing boards and nailing them together into big containers for even bigger machines to fill with concrete and turn into bridges that will span really, really big rivers.

When we present our hard-won gift, Mom tries to hide the tears. She loves the beautiful fancy box. How did we know Whitman’s is her favorite? Still dressed in the old Army fatigues that she has had on since 5:00 that morning, she hugs us so hard we think we might snap in two.

Thirty years pass. Standing in Mom’s bedroom, helping her clean out her dresser, I spy the faded lavender-beribboned box. The sides, once sturdy and thickly glued to the cardboard base, now verge on collapse. Frail, feeble, gaudy—faithful.

Mom notices my stare. “Oh, this? I just keep stuff in it. Little trinkets you girls have given me.”

My turn to hide tears.

ACT TWO: February 14, 1983
After third grade morning recess, I return to Mrs. Rogers’ room and find her on my desk—a bendy-legged, rubbery doll whose white eyelet bonnet whispers “Little House on the Prairie” and whose dress and stockings shout “Panama City Spring Break WOOOOOOOO!” She smells neither of strawberries nor of shortcake. Instead, she reeks of something strange and acrid: one part stale oatmeal creme pie, two parts aspartame, three parts Vicks Vap-O-Rub.

Inside the tiny envelope at her waist, a carefully scrawled note:
“Will you be my Valentine? Love, Tommy.”

Since first grade, I have liked him. Silently. From afar.
And now—oh, oh. And now.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I start across the room. That’s when I see the other bendy-legged, rubbery lumps—one on every girl’s desk.

For the rest of the school year, the doll stinks up the cubbyhole beneath my desk, then befouls my top dresser drawer until mid-summer, when my grandmother throws it out. Decades later, Tommy will become a Holiness preacher.

ACT THREE: February 14, 1994
After class, I return to my University of Georgia dorm room to find my roommate standing puzzled next to our answering machine. She presses Play. The tape crackles with a man’s voice. He speaks my name slowly, deliberately, in an extended belch that puts every beer-drinking, alphabet-burping grandpa on the planet to shame. Then, he serenades us:

“Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style—somedaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy…”
[stifled belch]
“Ohhhh, my little heartbreaker!”

We laugh so hard that we have to hold on to my roommate’s desk to keep upright. While we save the message for the rest of the academic year, we never figure out my admirer’s identity.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Tulip Poplar Stencil


University of West Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia – 12 January 2015

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Wednesday Photo: 2/11/15


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

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Hillside Monday: 2/9/15


“Winter ‘Z’ with Contrails”
LaGrange, Georgia – 31 January 2015

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View from the Engine House

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Leadville, Colorado – 9 August 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 2/4/15

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“Petal Steel”
Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Colorado – 10 August 2014

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Hillside Monday: 2/2/15

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“Detail, Restored Coca-Cola Mural, Doc Spier’s Place”
LaGrange, Georgia – 24 October 2014

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In Which I Read My Work to Strangers, Part 2

Thank you to everyone who came out to last night’s Creative Nonfiction Open Mic at Carrollton’s wonderful Underground Books. It’s great to meet new people and hear them read their work. Here, I read “On Inspiration,” which first appeared on this site one year ago today.

Stay tuned for the next CNF Open Mic sometime in early May 2015!

Formica and Glass

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LaGrange, Georgia – 14 January 2015

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