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Opinion

Tall Tales


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • May. 07, 2021 - 8:38 AM

Tall Tales

Alex McRae is a writer and ghostwriter and author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: alexmmcrae@gmail.com.

I didn’t expect to luck out at Home Depot or Lowes, but I was shocked that the local military surplus store was fresh out of flamethrowers.

That’s a problem because I’m about to go to war against a huge patch of poison ivy.

The flamethrower shortage forced me to seek alternatives. The Farmer’s Almanac claims that nothing removes poison ivy better than a hungry goat. My local Goats ‘R Us doesn’t deliver.

Another solution is pouring boiling water on the plants. No thanks. That sounds too much like a movie scene where defenders of the evil king’s castle pour boiling oil on invading peasants.

I’m starting out with a concoction of salt, water, vinegar, and liquid dish detergent. If that doesn’t work, lawnmower gas might.

With any luck, the poison ivy war will turn into a decent story. Maybe even good enough to be told at family reunions.

My dad’s family was a colorful lot, but the men, including my dad and his three brothers, didn’t talk much in front of the kids. Neither did my Aunt Mary. Aunt Martha never stopped. I got most of the McRae family stories years later from my cousins. They were great.

Things were different on my mother’s side of the family. When the Greenes gathered it was hard to slip a word in edgewise. The only story I remember about my father was told by my mother at a Greene family reunion.

It was a romantic tale about their first meeting.

Mom and pop were both enrolled at the only school in Ft. Gaines, Ga. Mother was in the eighth grade. Pop was a senior. One day, my dad dashed into mother’s classroom, chased by a buddy. They ran through the room and dove out the window, laughing all the way.

Mother must have been impressed.

The best stories were told by my Uncle “Booster” Greene. My favorite was his tale about hitchhiking from Fort Gaines, Georgia to California during the Great Depression to look for work. Booster’s epic journey always reminded me of Homer’s Odyssey.

In his prime Booster could remember every mile of that trip and the name, hometown, and occupation of every person who picked him up.

My Uncle Roy, a South Louisiana Cajun, was another great tale-teller. He traded his teething ring for a rifle as soon as he was weaned and spent his youth shooting swamp critters to feed the family.

While stationed at a tent encampment in Burma during World War II Uncle Roy used his Army rifle to kill a leopard that had a taste for men in uniform.

He sent the leopard skin home to his wife, my Aunt Sally. She took extra jobs and lived on tap water and soda crackers and after a year had saved enough to have the leopard skin made into a coat. She was the talk of her Savannah Sunday School class.

I think maybe hearing those old tales made me want to be a storyteller. And when I interview people before writing their life stories I’m amazed at how casually they mention something that turns me inside out.

I’ve written for quite a few Northerners and Midwestern folks, but I think Southern storytellers are the best. Maybe because so many of their tales feature characters with names like Junebug or Skeeter.

And speaking of skeeters, warm weather will soon start drawing those blood-sucking demons to my yard. With any luck, the military surplus store will be stocked with flamethrowers by then.

Alex McRae is a writer and ghostwriter and author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: alexmmcrae@gmail.com.