Nostalgia

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Last night we got the call. My Uncle Jerry, who was staying with Pa through the night, called about 10:50 p.m. with the news. Everyone was in bed, so I answered the phone, and Jerry said, rather simply, “Well…Pa’s gone.” I asked how it happened and he said Pa went in his sleep–he just stopped breathing. The Hospice nurse was on the way and making arrangements to move Pa’s body to the funeral home. I woke mom and let her know. Although we knew it was coming, it was a strange feeling…a kind of hollow feeling. I didn’t sleep well.

Pa at Mabry Mill

“Pa” Collins was 99-years-old. He was a farmer and a sharecropper, and over the years he also worked the sawmill, on a road crew, and as a janitor at the local elastic plant. He was a simple man, and honest. He couldn’t read very well, and aside from his name, couldn’t really write, either. But he could tell you how to rotate your crops to maintain the soil, so the field wouldn’t need to lie fallow. He could raise and keep horses, cattle, pigs, and train a dog not to roam. He could grow, harvest, cure tobacco, and sell the crop at market. When my dad and I built a tree house for my kids up above his house, Pa explained how it wasn’t going to remain stable for very long due to the way we secured it to the tree, and as the tree grew, well, you can guess the rest! When he was a young man, he made illegal moonshine with his brother-in-law Frank, and even showed me how to do it using a mock-up still that was on display at Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He may have been a simple man, but in many, many ways, he was smarter, and certainly much wiser than I.

Pa never said much, but when you got him alone, he would open-up with stories. I remember visiting him once and there was no one else around. I wanted to take some pictures of the old buildings on the farm and especially around the old tobacco smokehouse in the pasture below his house. Pa came with me and as I snapped pictures, he talked about the buildings–how they were built, the purpose they served, the work he did in them. He told me he would sometimes walk out to the barn in the afternoon and take a nap on the bails of hay stacked there. He loved his home and the land it was on. When we returned to the house, Pa asked me if I wanted a beer, as he pulled two cans of Bush out of the refrigerator–I don’t think I had ever seen him drink. We sat on his porch, sipped our beer, and watched the occasional car drive by the house, returning the inevitable wave delivered by the driver of the vehicle. We didn’t say much and were just content with each other’s company. And now that I think back on it, I never enjoyed a beer quite as much as I did that day.

I miss you, Pa.

Pa and the Gator hat

Lee Eligah Collins
February 9, 1919 – July 3, 2018

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the kids paid a visit to the oldest Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in the world…

Ripley Ripley

I remember reading “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” in the Sunday comics when I was a kid (and evidently, after almost 100-years, you still can)…

Ripley

I find it very interesting that in this cartoon from January 2016, they used an image of Barnabus Collins, the vampire from the late 60’s soap opera, “Dark Shadows”.

And “Believe It or Not”, despite the freezing temperature of the water (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating), they went to the beach afterward…

Beach

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There’s a song by Kenny Loggins called, ‘Celebrate me Home’. It’s about a man (Kenny, I suppose) who returns home for the Holidays to be among his friends. They play music and sing. For the man, the music recalls memories of home when he’s away. Kenny sings,


Please, celebrate me home
Play me one more song,
That I’ll always remember,
And I can recall,
Whenever I find myself too all alone,
I can sing me home.

So, what’s the point? I originally heard this song in 1977 and had a copy of Kenny’s album of the same name. At the time, ‘Celebrate’ didn’t have much impact on me (my favorite song from the album was ‘Lady Luck’). However, I would rediscover this song almost 10-years later. In 1986, I was living in Colorado Springs and on my first Air Force assignment. Until this time I was never more than 2-3-hours from home, so it was easy to return for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now, I was 1,500-miles from home, which is no easy drive. In December 1986, I was spending my second Christmas away. Although I had a family of my own (my son was less than a month old), nostalgia was tugging at me, then I heard ‘Celebrate’ on the radio and the song took on a whole new meaning.

This year we’re spending Christmas with my folks and extended family. And although I can ‘count on being gone’, for the next few days you can ‘Celebrate me Home’…

Celebrate me Home

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I came across this picture today. This was my high school circa 1962, which was the year before I was born…

OPHS

13-years later, I’d be sitting in one of those classrooms. By that time, the high school had expanded to to the left of these buildings, and this would be a photo of what had become Orange Park Middle School.

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