R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: Thank You (page 1 of 12)

thankyouverrmuch…

So many thanks!

Many, many thanks to the following for their patronage!

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods
Connie Frank
Ellen Koga
Jeff Miller

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Even $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait: Night, Early August” (2015, 2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

A Story for All Hallows’ Eve

Most Halloweens I spend at my mother’s house. It’s the same house where her father was born in 1922. Like many old houses, it has plenty of stories to tell. And it won’t tell them to just anyone. Oh, no. The house plays favorites when it has something to say.

In non-drought years, Halloween means we build a bonfire in Mom’s yard, then make s’mores and tell family ghost stories. We listen to the deep, hollow hoo-hoo-hoooooot of the great horned owls in the pasture next door. Sometimes, well after dark, the local coyotes begin choir practice. Their not-quite-dog-like barking, their yip-yip-yip-yip-ooooooOOOOOO! far off in the woods, stirs up in the human heart something ancient and primal. That’s when Mom and I feel the hair stand up on the backs of our necks. It’s our All Hallows’ signal to grab the dogs and scurry back indoors.

Since 1834, there has been a house on this spot in Heard County, Georgia. The original cabin burned in the 1880s; people built another using the foundation and field-stone pillars from the first house. When that one burned 30 years later, they built yet another house. That’s the one my mother and stepfather live in today.

Mom and Steve have spent the last couple decades renovating the house, taking what was essentially a falling-down sharecropper’s shack and turning it into a cozy home in the woods. It now has insulation, gas heaters, a full kitchen, and two bathrooms with hot running water. They even refinished the 14-inch-wide heart pine floors, original to the early 1900s version of the house and likely similar to the floors in the first two houses on this site.

The ghost story about the house that I always heard goes something like this:

Late July 1864 saw one of west central Georgia’s few Civil War battles: McCook’s Raid, in what is now Coweta County (about 45 miles east of Mom’s house). In the days after the battle, one Union soldier appeared, on horseback, on the dirt road that once passed in front of the house. The soldier, who didn’t look much older than a teenager, was all by himself.

He wasn’t in good shape, either. He was slumped over onto the horse’s neck, over the horn of his saddle, unconscious. The skin-and-bones horse seemed to follow the road of its own accord, carrying its rider per its beastly duty. The people inside the house no doubt heard the hooves clop-clop-clop on packed dirt, and walked onto the porch to stare.

Just then, the Union soldier fell off his horse into the middle of the road, a dead-weight heap in blue homespun. His eyelids did not even flutter as the people ran out into the road, hoisted him by his armpits and ankles, and brought him inside.

They lay the soldier on a straw mattress, and fetched fresh water from the well out back for some cold compresses. The Union soldier was still knocked out, and now sweating profusely.  He was very badly cut and bruised. Other than his ragged dark blue uniform, the young man offered no other clues as to his identity. The people wondered if he had been wounded in a nearby battle. Or perhaps he had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead by unknown assailants, many miles from where he was now.

There were no letters from home stashed inside the young man’s coat—no mementos, no lock of hair, no faded daguerreotypes of loved ones waiting for his return. He simply lay there in the bed, barely breathing, just a kid sent far from home by a country who probably didn’t even know where he was.

He never woke up, and died the next morning.

They buried him in the cemetery 300 feet down the road. His coffin was made from weathered old boards pried off of the barn. They marked his grave with a large rock. It was all they had.

In the spring of 1928, C.B. Adamson decided it was time that the unknown Union soldier had a fitting tribute. C.B. was a child when the solider died at the house on the ridge. So he composed a long poem for the soldier, and went down to the graveyard, where he mixed up some homemade concrete, poured the fellow a gravestone, and stamped the poem in the wet concrete. Community historians sent a request to Washington, DC for an official Union Army headstone. When it arrived, they placed it next to the concrete slabs. Despite nearly 100 years of harsh weather and occasional neglect, the unknown soldier’s grave is still intact. Caretakers patched the slabs back together a few years ago after an ice storm sent a four-foot-thick white oak crashing into their center.

When Mom moved down here from Michigan in 1969, her grandparents were still living in the old house where she lives today. She moved in with them until she could find a job and apartment. In 1989, she returned to Heard County, and has lived in the family home ever since. Of course, Mom grew up hearing stories of the Union soldier’s ghost. While she’s never seen him, she’s heard him walking around and felt his presence in the house.

“When I hear him,” she says, “it’s usually the sound of heavy boots along the floor—like the boots don’t fit very well, or maybe the person’s feet really hurt. It happens when I’m the only one at home. Other times, it’s just a funny feeling I get, like someone’s in the room with me or is watching me. But when I look up, nobody’s there.”

On Halloween 2006, Mom and I made our usual bonfire a good, safe 50 feet from the house. About 9:30 that night, I turned my back to the fire and was finishing the last of the s’mores as I watched how the blaze illuminated much of the yard. For safety’s sake, we’d left the lights on in the kitchen, dining room, and living room—the rooms on the west side of the house, and the ones I into which I could see from where I stood in the yard.

That’s when I saw him in the house.
A man.
Dressed in dark blue.

He walked from left to right: starting in the kitchen, he made his way slowly through the dining room, and into the living room. I watched the man, of average height and build, walk along and reach with his right hand as if to open a door. His dark blue sleeve reached to his knuckles, as if his shirt or coat were several sizes too large. He walked steadily through the house, opening one door and the next, passing by all the windows. When he reached the living room’s old chimney. . .he vanished.

“Mom, is someone in the house?”

“Nobody but the cats. Why?”

I blinked hard, and began shaking. “I just saw someone walk through the house. From the kitchen, to the dining room, on through to the living room.”

Mom sat straight up in her lawn chair by the fire. “What?”

“I swear to God, Mom. I just saw somebody walk through the house. A man, wearing a long-sleeved blue coat or shirt.”

Mom was quiet for a long moment, then turned to me. “You know what this means, right?”

“No. . .”

“It means you’re the first person I know who’s actually seen the unknown Union soldier.”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 10/29/18

“Big Chicken, at Rest”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2009

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 10/10/18

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
— James Baldwin

“For Wes, Part 7 (You Don’t Know My Pain)”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017
© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

A Late Grocery List

Candy corn.
Michelob.
Sardines.

Candy corn:
It is the worst of the worst Halloween candy, plentiful as fleas and twice as hard to get rid of. In all its corn syrupy FD&C No. 6 glory, it refuses to masquerade as blood sugar-friendly. He never craved sweets like we did, but it was his favorite—in small quantities. At Halloween, when we brought home sack after sack of the stuff, he never complained. Had we asked him to, he would have eaten it until Kingdom Come.
Overall: Cloying, slightly giddy, with a letdown at the end.
Base: Unabashed enthusiasm.
Top Note: A bad case of the Sunday evening can’t-help-its.

Michelob:
Maybe he switched from PBR and Bud tallboys to feel more sophisticated after the divorce. Maybe it was too many late nights spent thumbing through Cosmopolitan, trying to figure out “the modern woman” and what she wanted. She wanted back then the same thing she does now: To be treated like a human being, with respect, dignity, and compassion. Besides, would a modern man in a modern relationship with a modern woman drink a redneck beer? Of course not.
Overall: Hoppy, skunky, with a bitter finish.
Base: Rancid barley.
Top Note: Mule piss.

Sardines:
In oil, in mustard, in cream, but never in hot sauce. His ulcer couldn’t handle it. How he could work fourteen hours in 110-degree heat on just a tin of these and a box of saltine crackers is still beyond me. Meanwhile, the rest of us on the crew tried not to honk up our turkey-Swiss-teriyaki-meatball-chitlins-on-wheat lunchtime transgressions. He tossed the empty cans behind the stock pile, where they proceeded to attract every stray cat within a half-mile radius.
Overall: Stridently fishy, yet earnest, with a hint of struggle.
Base: Sweat-soaked long-sleeved Dickies.
Top Note: Waccamaw River silt.

Candy corn.
Michelob.
Sardines.

In memory of Newt Williams
5 October 1946 ‒ 16 January 1997

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Thanks again, patrons!

Many, many thanks to the following for their patronage!

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods
Connie Frank
Ellen Koga
Jeff Miller

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Even $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait with Gray Shirt and Reflections” (2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 9/17/18

“Roof and Sky, Two Days Before Disaster”
LaGrange, Georgia – 26 June 2018
In memory of John McNamara (1961-2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Thank you, patrons!

 

Many, many thanks to the following for their patronage!

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods
Connie Frank

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Even $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait: Rabun Gap, Early October” (2017)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Three years ago today…

Grayson Hugh‘s newly-released album Back to the Soul arrived in my mailbox.

It’s still surreal to see my words on the inside of a CD booklet. Writing those liner notes remains my proudest achievement to date. I am also proud to call Grayson and his wife/co-producer/art director Polly Messer my dear friends.

Love and thanks, with all my heart

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods
Connie Frank

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Even $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Image: “Self-Portrait, Two Weeks Before Disaster” (June 2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Hillside Monday: 7/23/18

“For Wes, Part 2”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 7/16/18

“For Wes, Part 1”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

On Returning from Maryland

As of 5:42 this morning, I was physically home from Maryland. Never have I cried so hard at a memorial service as I did on Tuesday, at my friend John “Mac” McNamara’s funeral. A thousand thanks to all of you who’ve helped me make this pilgrimage of sorrow, of loss, of gratitude, of goodbyes.

Despite having come there because of tremendous heartbreak, I did not want to leave Maryland. Emotionally, I’m still in College Park, Silver Spring, Annapolis. I can’t explain why. My intuition told me to stay: “Don’t go just yet. You’re not done here.” We shall see.

For the rest of my days, forever, I will be grateful to John. His kindness and encouragement literally saved my life on that March afternoon 16 years ago. When death felt like the only thing that would stop my suffering, John appeared almost out of nowhere to challenge that notion.

John was the first professional writer I ever met. He was the first person to take me seriously as a writer.  He was the first person to suggest I write about my father’s 1997 murder. Not only did I have a story, he said as he smacked his hand on the table for emphasis, but a story that I told as no one else could. He was the first person who meant it when he said I had talent. He was the first person who wanted me to understand, more than anything, that my stories were worth sharing with the world.

John’s words have buoyed me for almost two decades.

In the weeks since his murder, I’ve made almost no new photos. I’ve written hardly any new words. Words fail me, as does my sense of what makes a powerful image. At least I know this is normal. It’s how grief and trauma work.

But on the way to Maryland, at the Virginia state line rest stop, I did finally snap an image that fits the entire trip. Next to the sidewalk, this dead butterfly lay beautiful and broken—for no apparent reason. I saw it and sobbed like a little kid.

Dearest Johnny Mac:
Thank you, sweet friend.
You are the reason I am still here.
You are the reason I am still telling my stories.
I will miss you forever.
I will see you on the other side.
And when I see you, I expect you to roast me (again) for being a Celtics fan.

Always your friend,
Rachael

 

Friday Photo: 7/6/18

“Bass Fiddle, at Rest”
Nashville, Tennessee – 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Hillside Monday: 7/2/18

“Cat Waiting, with Light and Shadow”
LaGrange, Georgia – 2016
Model: Smokey (2007 – Jan. 2018)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

For John

My friend, sportswriter and editor John “Mac” McNamara, was one of the five newspaper employees killed on June 28 in Annapolis, Maryland. He was 56.

When we met, I was living with friends in Atlanta. Depressed and broke, I had a dead-end cocktail waitress job at a Midtown bar. The long hours and the daily parade of new faces took the edge off the misery of almost, but not quite, making ends meet.

John was in Atlanta covering the University of Maryland Terrapins’ appearance in the 2002 NCAA Men’s Final Four. He stopped in for a burger before heading out to that evening’s game. It was a strangely slow afternoon, despite the Division I college sports tournament happening a few blocks away. In that cavernous bar, John was my only customer.

Which turned out just fine, since he was one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Not many of us can carry on a lively, intelligent conversation about literature, college and pro hoops, music, and journalism with someone they’ve just met—oh, and while they’re at it, also be funny as hell. But that was John.

He wound up spending maybe four or five hours at my bar. We talked the entire time, with me getting up now and then to check on my three other customers, or to pour him a fresh beer from the tap. When he left, he gave me his card and some parting wisdom.

I had a storyteller’s gift, John said. He hoped I’d write about my dad one day—that I’d tell the story of Daddy’s 1997 murder and the bizarre aftermath. “What happened to your father is horrible. It’s worse than heartbreaking. But you make it compelling. That’s a gift. Not everybody has it, but you do. If you ever decide to write about it, Rachael, I’d love to read it.”

Please forgive me, Johnny Mac.
Your words have kept me afloat like no others.

I had meant to finish the book before now.
So you could read it.
So you could see your name in the acknowledgements.
I’m so, so sorry.

For those of you looking to help or pay tribute to John, Rob, Wendi, Gerald, and Rebecca, the owner of the Annapolis Capital has set up a fund. The proceeds will help with funerals and other expenses, hospital bills, scholarships for victims’ kids, help for surviving coworkers as they recover, and so on. Another fundraiser for victims’ families, set up by a D.C.-area journalist, has raised double its original goal in just three days.

Although I met him just once, John McNamara’s kindness and sincere encouragement have stuck with me for almost two decades. For the rest of my days, I will remember him with gratitude—and with love.

Photo of John “Mac” McNamara via The Annapolis Capital
Post text: © R.S. Williams

Thanks, y’all!

Amanda Guyton
Bill Brown
Allison Fix
Kweilin Wilson
Lisa McGovern
Kelley Frank
Ali Lauer
Grayson Hugh
Nicole McLaughlin
Emily Katzenstein
Dana McGlon

Crystal Woods
Syd Mooney
Kit Ketcham
Cheryl Lougen
Carole Thorn

Scott Johnson
Kenny Gray
El Queso
Luann
Greg Clary
Marlena Frank
Danny Alexander
Dann Brown
Molly Kay Wright
Charlie Bruin
Eric Woods

Val Williams
Gina Adamson-Taylor
Steve Taylor
T. Westgate

These folks’ monthly contributions help me produce more of the stuff they enjoy. They get my original photos, short stories, and creative nonfiction series not published anywhere else. Thanks again, y’all!

You, too, can help support my work. Even $1 a month earns you special patrons-only content. Find out more on my Patreon page.

Photo: “Self-Portrait with Red and Black” (2015)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 6/22/18

“Michael’s Fine Clothes for Men”
Kansas City, Missouri – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 6/6/18

 

“A Quiet Moment in KC”
Kansas City, Missouri – 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Notes from the Past

Twenty-three years ago today, I sat in a University of Georgia classroom taking brief end-of-term notes on final portfolio requirements. The seminar instructor, Dr. Christy Desmet, remains one of my all-time favorite professors.

No, I don’t know how I managed to save this notebook for over two decades.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Older posts

© 2018 R.S. Williams

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑