By Betty Edwards
When Joellen Artz asked me a few weeks ago if I would submit a news article to the Citizen, I immediately thought it would be nice to write a column in honor of Mama. Writing a weekly column was a suitable position in life for her, but when I tried to put my thoughts on paper, I went blank, so I turned off the computer and abandoned my effort, telling myself maybe I would have a brainstorm later.
I was sweeping off the front porch one morning a couple of weeks ago and decided to take a break and do some “porch sitting,” as Mama called it. Mama enjoyed many simple pleasures in life and that was one of her favorite pasttimes. She took great delight in sipping on her cup of tea or coffee and watching the world go by as she sat on her screened-in front porch. Many of her news columns stemmed from something she saw, heard or thought of while sitting on the porch, often about the birds and her little chipmunk friend.
When I sat down, my mind was a whirlwind of thoughts. Soon I realized how tranquil the morning was. Then the thought hit me! A great way to pay tribute to Mama was to write about what was staring me in the face– some of the sights and sounds of the small town she loved so well.
The sun was shining on the wet grass, its rays dancing on the dew drops, making them glisten like millions of diamonds on the blades of grass. The birds were singing their sweet serenade and the squirrels were scampering about in the yard. I saw the Crepe Myrtles blooming across the street and thought how it seems like it is not time at all after their blooms fade that it is time for the neighborhood children to get geared up for another school year. I thought about how much fun they have been having on their summer vacation from hearing them play when I am working in the yard, a sound I enjoy so much. I heard the bellowing of the Boyd’s cows in the distance and two roosters crowing back and forth to each other, as if in competition of which one could crow the loudest. It almost seems like you are out in the country here at times. The serenity was interrupted briefly by a train’s whistle, letting everyone within earshot know it was approaching and to beware. I thought about the many times Mama said “Here comes loudmouth” when she heard it blowing while we were talking on the phone.
My next thought was about my morning walks, so serene as I walk by the beautiful homes toward town. When I approach the center of town, I walk by Rutledge Baptist Church, founded in 1845. It is flanked by stained glass windows, wide front steps and a stained glass-draped double doorway, inviting everyone to come in. Mama loved that church and her church family and spent a lot of her most treasured hours there. I can look down and see the commemorative brick in front of the church with “Lois Harper Family” embossed on it, placed there among the others.
When I cross the street, I walk by the lovely flowers in front of the gazebo in the park. The Rutledge Dirt Girls have done a wonderful job again this year mixing complementary-colored blooms and foliage planted in various sizes and shapes of pots, planters and tubs. They also have flowers in planters lining the sidewalks. It is evident with the clean sidewalks, roadsides and manicured grass in the park that the city crew is doing an outstanding job. You always see them hard at work on some kind of project, from mowing to preparing for upcoming events or holidays.
As I walk by the historic buildings on West and East Main and Fairplay streets, I sometimes slow down and look in the shop windows at their various wares, from gifts, artwork, bric-a-brac, home decor, frames and plants to health products, antiques, grocery items, little handmade dresses, hardware, crockery, iron skillets, honey, soaps and more. You feel like you are stepping back in time when you enter their doors. On my left after I pass all the shops on Fairplay Street is City Hall, which resides in the former Rutledge Depot. Its facade and interior is maintained much the same as it was back then. I then walk across the railroad tracks and go up Dixie by where my folks lived. It looks so different with the brick building gone that was out in front of the house. It was originally a service station and one of the older buildings in Rutledge. For quite a few years, Daddy and Mama used it as a produce stand, but closed it when Daddy’s health declined and they weren’t able to go to the Farmer’s Market anymore. Mama’s retreat, the screened-in porch, has been replaced. Mama would be pleased with the house renovation and landscaping, but I am not so sure about the front porch and the brick building.
Another impressive sight are the beautiful murals facing me as I walk back across the tracks. The one on the right, by local artist Molly Lesnikowski, symbolizes the Rutledge Seal designed by well-known artist and Rutledge resident, the late Jackson Bailey. Those on the left of Fairplay Street represent postcards. Buckhead artist, Eugene Swain, portrays a vintage card of the depot. It has a cotton field in front of it and a man driving mule-drawn wagon loaded with cotton, recalling a time “when cotton was king” as stated on the Rutledge Seal. To the left Molly added a card with the message “Weather is beautiful. Wish you were here. Love, Polly.” It implies she is having a wonderful time at Hard Labor Creek State Park, and beside it is a scenic card of the park. As I walk toward East Main and look in Yesterday Cafe, I see pictures capturing fondly remembered Rutledge residents, store fronts and homes in their former glory. When I venture on, I have full view of The Caboose restaurant, which is the last caboose to travel the Rutledge rails. On the CO-OP building at the corner of Fairplay and East Main streets is a cheerful mural of sunflowers by Molly.
On East Main I walk by another beautiful church, Rutledge Methodist. It was founded in 1915 and graces stained glass windows, a spire steeple and white columns. When I double back to the square on my way home it is hard to resist sitting down to take a breather in one of the inviting chairs in front of The Caboose or on the pretty bench in front of LilyBeth’s. Some mornings when I pass the Medfords’ house, I am greeted by their dog, Spike, also known as “The Rutledge Ambassador.” He walks right by my side with his short legs topping cotton and follows me home knowing I will give him a tasty treat when we arrive. At times I carry treats with me so I can give them to all the dogs that I encounter. Almost every day his brother, Huck, will come over for some hugs and a treat. He keeps me company a lot of days when I am working in the yard, but runs home to welcome Drew and Brandy when they come home. We don’t own a dog and are grateful we can share in the pleasure of loving on the neighbors’ dogs.
My front porch retreat was rudely interrupted when mosquitos started feasting on me, so with body and soul rested, I got up and went in to carry on with my housework. I pondered the rest of the morning about my brief respite and about how special Rutledge living is, or as Molly’s mother said, “Life in Rutledge is good.” It also ascertained what Mama said to me so many times in reference to rushing around and not enjoying God’s wonderful world. She would tell me to “take time to stop and smell the coffee.”
Concert at the Gazebo Music by David Clemens, country performer from Covington Friday, July 26 7-9 p.m. Downtown Rutledge