Donna Everhart

Deep South

Last Friday, July 25th, we set out just before 5:00 a.m., heading to Mississippi.  I couldn’t wait to get there.  My current work in progress is set in Lafayette County, MS and I wanted to reacquaint myself to this state in whatever way I could.  Maybe I’d uncover some additional descriptions of the landscape, or discover some odd detail I hadn’t noticed on an old tobacco shed, or come up with some new way of describing the sound of a rusty, swinging gate at an old abandoned farm.  I planned to be on the lookout for anything and nothing in particular.  I just wanted to enhance the setting, or spice up the dialogue with some local use of words.  I wanted to soak it all in.

We headed south, down I-95, passing South Of The Border about 75 miles from our house.  We jumped onto I-2o, turning west around Florence, South Carolina.  As I stared out the window in SC, all I could think of was BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA, Dorothy Allison’s tale of Ruth Anne Boatwright, or,  “Bone.”   I thought of this story because the stretch through South Carolina was, as my husband put it, “desolate.”  And by that I mean, although we traveled along an interstate,  for miles and miles around, and for miles and miles ahead, we saw only road – and trees.  And more trees, and by then, I came to fully appreciate Dorothy Allison’s ability to tug us into that rural setting.

Personally, I loved it.  This is a bit of a different route than we normally take, and it not only knocked off about two hours of our time, it was what I’d call easy driving.  Just make sure you have a full tank for certain stretches, because civilization seemed rather far away.

That is, until we got to Atlanta.  Hello five lanes and eighty miles per hour.  The next town worth mentioning is Birmingham, AL.  I could talk about the race riots, but how about if I mention another book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  Harper Lee lives in Monroeville AL, which is about three hours away from Birmingham.  She grew up in the thirties, so you can imagine how the situation in the early 60’s in Birmingham held such a strong influence over her writing. I almost wanted to divert our route, if only to pass through her little town, just to say I’d been there.

Finally, after about 12 hours, we arrived in Holly Springs, MS – which is actually in Marshall County.  Lafayette is right next door.  And it wasn’t long before I was soaking up that deep south exposure, from the fried pickles (to die for) and the catfish, (swoon) , to the fresh garden tomatoes and an enormous watermelon a neighbor plopped onto my in laws front porch, the fruit still warm from the sun.  There were the ever present coyotes howling at night.  The frogs croaking so loud in the pond at dusk we had to raise our voices just a notch to be heard.  The massive amounts of lightning bugs flickering in “the bottom,” and a view of the stars above, shining ever so bright because the farm is so far out in the country.

My father in law had a buddy drop by, “Bobby Mac,” and they got to talking about all of their antics during Field Trials, the types of saddles that were good, the hunts they used to have and the good old bird dog, Misty Morn, my father in law (Nathan Cottrell) used to work with.  They told stories about old friends, one gentleman who went by the name of Flick Ash – or “Flicky Ash,” as he was sometimes called.  There has to be a story with a name like that.  And there is, right here.  It wasn’t long before they mentioned “Hotdog,” and told crazy stories about what all he’d done in the past.

We were gone a week, but in that time, I came away, once again, with an awareness of just how much I love the Deep South, it’s ever present sense of history, the fine people who inhabit quaint little towns, the traditions, the soft southern dialect that is slightly different – even to my ears, “honey, pass me them cucumbers, would you?”  The easy, breezy lifestyle where you go down a country road, and if encountering another vehicle, you always, always receive a wave.

It goes without saying that all of my stories are set in the south, not only because I’m from here, but because I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

What places have influenced your writing?


3 thoughts on “Deep South”

  1. Oh Donna, how wonderful your descriptions. Makes me almost want to head south and brave the sweat. Key word “almost”. I hate the heat. I think my blood is as thick as Vermont Maple Syrup in January
    What places have influenced your writing?
    New England for sure. I may be a Connecticut girl (southern New England) but Maine is in my heart. My father loved Maine. We had a vacation home there and I bought him a plaque which he hung on the wall, which is mine now, “If you are a good man and live a good life when you die you’ll go to Maine.”

    But there’s another place I went to fifty years ago which owns me. The Teton Mountains in Wyoming. The setting of my first book.
    That you got to sink-in-the-south is something I have wanted to do out west, and have dreamed of doing since the day the Tetons receded in the back window of my mom and dads car when we left. I’ve never been back. It’s just so far away for so many reasons. There are no words to describe my feelings when I think of those magnificent mountains. In a former life I must have lived there, why else would that place be so imprinted on my soul?

    1. Speaking of sweat…we’re having a weird summer here. Cooler than usual, lower humidity. Normally we get two to three months of solid 90+ temps and a steam, tropic humidity level…, but, not so this year…and it’s put me in a weird mood.

      Maine!!! I have a very close relationship with the state of Maine. My mother is a Maineiac (which my father loves to say) and so we used to spend summers there from the time I was born until I was in my mid teens. I still clearly remember trips to Old Orchard Beach – and getting my swimsuit full of that red seaweed, Sebago Lake, and Reed State Park, where my brother and I would climb the rocky areas, go half way into the frigid water, then run across the wooden walkway and plunge into the waterhole fed by an underground stream (the water in the ocean was in the 50’s I think, and this tidal pool was in the 60’s – so you know, it felt like bath water compared to the ocean). I remember eating at the Cole Farm restaurant – and my mother makes a salad dressing of theirs to this day.

      I recall you mentioning the Tetons before. You’ll have to go back one of these days…you just have to because anything that’s “imprinted,” requires attention.

      1. Our house was in North Anson, on the way to Sugarloaf. My husband and I plus a bunch of friends stayed at Sabago Lake a few years back. We were there for a beer festival. After that week all the guys talked about was some young honey in a short dress, she had NO panties on. Someone finally wrapped her tiny skirt with black electrical tape because all the old men were walking around with their tongues dragging on the ground.

        Yeah, I have mentioned the Tetons before. I can honestly say that seeing them again is just about the only item I have on my (places I want to visit) bucket list (overused term). So I’m pretty lucky.

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