First Job in a Cemetery

My first real job was working in a cemetery. My freshman year of high school, I spent my Saturdays laying tombstone for Wilson Memorials in the cemeteries all around Jackson, Barnesville and Griffin.

Ralph Wilson, the owner, was my first boss and a good one. I had known him all of my life. His daughter Annette and I grew up together. My dad said to me one day, “I spoke with Ralph Wilson and he needs some help with his new business. He needs you to help put some tombstones down.”

“As a volunteer?” I asked.

“No. He’s going to pay you. He said he’d pick you up at 6 o’clock on Saturday.”

“In the morning?”

“Yes, it’s called work, Will.”

Ralph pulled up at daylight. I had my jeans, gloves and work boots. He said, “Will, we’re heading to Elberton this morning. We got to pick up the stone.” We chugged along with all the jerky motions of a heavy stick shift flatbed truck with a boom on the back. Ralph stopped in Monticello and grabbed us both a biscuit at the local gas station. The people knew him by name. We made our way toward Elberton. I asked him, “Do you ever worry about stepping on the graves?” “Oh no. You get over that pretty quickly. It’s not the dead people I worry about. It’s the ones above ground.”

We pulled into the shop where they cut the granite, the workers in t-shirts and smoking cigarettes. He asked, “Will, do you see that saw? They have diamond tips to cut through the stone.” After loading the truck with headstones and slabs, we headed off with an extra 2,000 pounds. You could hear the truck guzzling gas at this point.

As we drove through the curving two lane roads, past gentle sloping cow pastures and ponds, I fell asleep. I have to admit my embarrassment of sleeping on the job my first day. The truth is I didn’t lift a finger on my first day of work. Ralph dropped me off at the house. I have often wandered if Ralph knew some of my own difficulties. I had a terrible hip injury as a kid and now that I was in high school I had pretty severe limp and was trying to figure out life and friends. Having someone believe you were good enough to hire meant something, although I wasn’t sure what at the time.

In the following weeks, my friend Eron and I worked on Saturdays with Ralph. Ralph was also part owner of the local funeral home. We’d begin by meeting him there and wait near his office. Although Eron and I never ventured too far back, we knew there was probably a body in the back room. We’d wait for Ralph and head to his outdoor shed to grab our tools for the day. There’s no work like digging holes, wheelbarrowing dirt and pouring concrete in July in Georgia. It gave me new respect for people who use hand tools all day. I was surprised by how much precision went into the work. We had to ensure the tombstones were level which required lots of crowbar work and Advil.

The most interesting feature of graveyard work is the way it makes you think about death. On most every job, we knew how a person had died. What was most haunting for me is that many of them had died young. Ralph retold the stories as we passed by the graves. “He was a good kid. Everybody loved him. He just a made stupid decision and got behind a wheel drunk. That’s all it takes. Don’t ya’ll do that when you turn 16.” “Now, she was in the band. Terrible situation there.” As you work with heavy stone that sits on top of a vault six feet in the ground, the gravitas of death begins to sink in. Just four years earlier, I had barely escaped death from a car accident at our home. I had to be life-flighted to Atlanta. I couldn’t help but imagine being under my own headstone and having my peers working with Ralph having a similar conversation about me. As heavy as such a thought may be, it’s also quite liberating.

Ralph loved to talk. Eron and I would begin a job and Ralph would amble over to a visitor who had come to see the plot of their loved one. They would talk near the loose red dirt where the tombstone would be. I was always amazed at how he could make a sale and comfort a grieving widow with a shovel in hand. We spent a lot of time waiting for him in the truck, but we were getting paid for it so we didn’t mind. Eventually he’d finish and take us to eat catfish for lunch. We were no good for the rest of the day.

I was always appreciated that first job. I wasn’t used to getting a check. On several occasions, as Ralph was trying to balance his books, he’d call me, “Now, Will, you got to cash the checks.” That first job taught me a lot about the value of a hard day of work and to take pride in it. Every time Eron and I would pass by a tombstone, we’d admire how level it was. “That must have been one our jobs.” We were quick to criticize the sloppy work of other companies.

Years ago, after my dad died, Ralph did his tombstone. After it had been installed, I came to the Jackson cemetery to see it. No one was around. I touched the stone and felt the engraved words, “You shall mount up with wings as eagles.” I thought of that day my dad saved my own life. And because he did, I was standing over his grave instead of he over mine. I stood and I admired the beauty and smoothness of the marbled granite and remembered my wonderful dad. I stood up and suddenly heard the shovels of another company nearby being thrown into their truck as they completed a job a hundred yards away or so. As their loud truck pulled away through the cemetery gates, I remembered that day when my dad told me about this new job in the cemetery. “It’s called work, Will.” Indeed, it was work and I’m thankful for it and for all those who have given me work since.

Deer Hunting on Brownlee

Some of my favorite memories as a kid in Jackson were the hunting expeditions with my dad. Hunting was a way of life for many folks. Pull up to any gas station at 11am on a Saturday morning in October and you’d find a truck with camouflaged men and deer in the bed.

My dad loved the outdoors. He grew up in Valdosta, Georgia where he spent his weekends fishing, duck hunting and deer hunting. He passed that love to us. I had two older brothers and they had been hunting with dad for several years and had killed their first deer. By the time I was 7, he wanted to take me, which I had eagerly awaited. While hunting never became quite the passion for me as it was for him, I did enjoy that time.

He was serious about gun safety. He ensured I took my gun safety course and he pressed me at every step. “Will, treat a gun like it’s loaded every time you hold it even if it’s not.” “Always keep the barrel pointed to the ground.” He owned lots of guns. He was a prison warden and although he wore a suit and tie to work, I came to learn there was always a gun and his badge within his reach. He joined a local deer hunting club off of Brownlee Road. I remember the first time he took me. “Will, this is Mr. Billy.” Billy organized the club and was generally known as one of the premier hunters in Jackson as evidenced by the deer heads hanging in his house and rabbit stews he would host in the winter. He was good man who talked with a toothpick in his mouth. “You come on out with the guys tomorrow and we’ll get you a deer.”

We hunted on Saturdays. Sundays were dedicated to church. I went to bed early that Friday night. I felt a light tap on my shoulder, then the flickering of lights. It was 4:30 in the morning and already I could smell bacon and hear grease popping. We had an entire closet dedicated to camouflage and boots. I geared up, ate my breakfast and headed to the truck. My dad had the loudest truck in Jackson, which seemed like a bad idea if you were trying to sneak up on on deer. It was an old yellow Ford truck with no muffler or heat, but it had it had big tires for muddy roads which came in handy in the red slick clay of middle Georgia. It had a gun rack in the back window with a Bugs Bunny sticker, which seemed odd but gave it a little character. As an aside, prisoners on work detail one afternoon near our house hot-wired the truck and sped off in an attempted escape. They ran over our bushes on the way out of town. But with a truck that yellow, loud and slow, they were caught 10 miles down the road. Apparently one of the prisoners lamented, “You would think the warden would own a better truck.”

We pulled into into the hunting club and parked our truck near the others. It was a heavily wooded area. My dad inspected the map of the deer stands. It was stapled to a wooden sign with hard plastic covering the map and a red pencil hanging down for the hunters to mark where they were hunting that morning.

We grabbed our guns. I hunted with a 30/30. My dad had taken me the week before for target practice. He taught me how to put it on safety, which was no easy task. You had to pull the firing hammer half-way back until it clicked. But perhaps the scariest part for me was learning how to take a fully cocked firing hammer and bring it to safety. Because it was a lever action gun, every time you loaded ammo you put it into a firing position. I learned to apply pressure on the hammer with my thumb and squeeze the trigger and slowly bring the hammer to a fully disengaged position. But a slip of the thumb would mean an accidental firing. It terrified me.

As we sat on the tailgate, my dad brought me over a brown bottle. I said, “Dad, what is that?” “We’re going to put some of this on your boots.” It was an awful smell. It was fox urine that was meant to hide the human scent. We headed for our deer stand in the cold morning, our boots stomping the hard dirt and the deer sure to mistake me for a fox.

I climbed the nails hammered into the side of the tree and my dad followed me up. We pulled our rifles us with a rope with barrels pointing downward. We sat in the cold. My dad pulled out a tall green thermos and I could hear the slight squeak as he turned it. He poured a cup of coffee with a little steam rising that you could see now as the orange sun slid through the trees. He sipped it and offered me a cup. It might as well have been a beer the moment felt so important.

We sat in the cold. My dad read a magazine while my head was on a swivel. I was sure every squirrel rustling below was a 10 point buck. Suddenly, I heard the faint sound of barking dogs. My dad looked up from his magazine. He gave me a nod to say it was nothing. I put the gun back down. The barking grew louder. This time dad put the magazine down. In the distance, I could see it. It was a big deer with big antlers. “Will, get your gun ready.” The dogs were still out of sight, but it was obvious they were on the trail of this deer. “When he stops, I want you to shoot him.” I whispered, “No, I’ll miss. You shoot him.” “Get your gun ready.” I put my eye to the rifle’s scope and could see the brown and white fur. But it never stopped. It kept a good pace. “Will, just take a shot.” My heart was pounding. I cocked my rifle, felt the cold brass of the trigger and had him in sight. “You shoot him daddy. I’ll miss.” My dad pulled up his rifle, but it was too late.

All we could see was a white tail flying in the air, sprinting in glided motion to the horizon. A few minutes later the dogs appeared under our stand. “Well, that’s ok Will.”

On the way home, we stopped for gas at the local Gulf station. Daddy went inside to get us a Coke while I pumped gas. A couple of hunters walked over to our truck and looked in the bed. “Well, it’s still early in the season.”

I hunted many more times with my dad. I never killed a deer. As I got older, I exchanged the camouflage for sports uniforms. I’m not a hunter today. I’m not sure I was one back then. Most hunters will tell you that just being in the woods, away from the noise and into the morning dew is enough. Perhaps that’s true. But for me, it was riding in that loud truck with my dad and brothers, early morning yawns and laughter that I remember most.

Little league in a small town

Little league baseball was close to a religion in Jackson, Georgia. I remember one season in particular. I got the call. “Will, I hear you like to play short stop. And I hear you can pitch.” I was 11 years old and was going to be on Homer William’s little league baseball team. Homer was legend in Jackson. He had coached little league baseball teams for the Parish Drug Co. for more than 20 years. (A good thing about a small town is the way the local businesses sponsored the local recreation teams.) I had never met Homer but had heard the chatter around the baseball diamonds about his teams. Like many coaches, he had learned how to recruit players. He would choose a player’s parent to be an assistant coach. Parish Drug had 4 assistant coaches that year.

On the first day of practice, Homer was holding a worn green canvas bag full of baseball equipment. This was a standard issued equipment bag from the Butts County recreation department. When you saw that bag as a kid, you almost began to salivate. Baseball had arrived. Homer had a plump red face, gold rimmed glasses and chaw of Red Man tobacco tucked away in his right jaw. At the end of the season, many of the parents wanted to gift Homer with a month’s supply of Red Man, but other parents, including my mother, didn’t want their money going to the tobacco company.

This was before the days of travel baseball. Perhaps there were travel teams around, but they just didn’t travel their way to Jackson. I would not have had it any other way. Most of my friends didn’t just play one sport. We played them all and were the better for it.

There was some hard lessons in baseball. The rule was that every player got to bat and play in the field each game. That seemed fair enough. Except it became common practice to put in players at the end of the game to satisfy the rule. I watched many of my classmates gingerly cheer on the team as they awaited for the coach to put them in the last inning with the game usually out of reach. I’m not sure if this was a lesson in the real world or more of a reality about competition, but it was part of the game. I remember not liking it.

Perhaps the most exciting day of the whole year as a kid was opening day at the baseball field. It had all the ambience of Easter. Spring was in blossom. The crowds populated the bleachers. The uniforms were colorful and the concession stand was loaded with frozen Reese’s cups.

We had the ceremonial throwing out of the first pitch. It was usually done by the mayor. Ernest Biles, the director of the recreation department, would call out every single player from all different ages to jog onto the field. It must have taken an hour but we didn’t mind as we stood in the spring breeze with the scent of hamburger smoke passing under our noses.

It would take a longer blog post to describe the next point, but it’s worth mentioning. Little league baseball brought together black and white people. Jackson was an amazing town, but it was also a southern town with all the tensions of our racist pasts. Although I had good friends at school who were black, we rarely saw each other outside of the classroom. But the baseball field was one of those places. It reminded me that fields were a place of reconciliation where I could learn to speak a common language of strikes, double-plays, pop-flies and teamwork. We shared lots of laughs together and built trust. In some small ways, I am haunted by sports fields to this day because I miss them and the common ground it gave my black friends and me.

As I think back to the opening day of recreation baseball, it was a beautiful moment to watch unfold. The parents stood in rapt attention. Every single player’s name was called. The crowd cheered for every child no matter the color of skin. We stood in the sunshine, our back pockets filled with gum, our heads tilted high with the hope of a new season. Yes, opening ceremonies felt like a sort of Easter, but maybe more so.

My first sin in Jackson

Most of us can remember our first sins. In my hometown of Jackson, we didn’t have the lures of things you’d find in the big city. In fact, our local government prohibited the sale of liquor throughout Butts County. And yes, Jackson is in Butts County. If you are a licensed Jackson driver, you get the joy of riding around the world with the word Butts stamped on your license plate. (I’ve caught more than one person taking pictures of my car tag when I was away at college). But back to sin.

I was 7 years old. I was over at Joey Brown’s house. He and I were best friends since birth. Our parents had put us in the same nursery care at Playtime Nursery. Joey lived off of Highway 36 which was one of the main arteries in and out of Jackson.

Joey’s mother, Cathy, had a green thumb. She had a bed of roses she tended just off her driveway. They were beautiful each year. These were the days before knock-out roses. These roses were bigger, more full and beautiful. They had also long, sharp thorns, a lesson I learned pretty early as I chased errant basketballs. But next to the roses was their apple tree. I don’t remember many apples trees in Jackson, but for some reason they had one. They were pretty sour in taste, but they were just the right size for throwing.

On this particular day Joey and I were outside. The Browns lived on a pretty severe curve of Highway 36. You could hear the cars whizzing down the road for a good half-mile before they suddenly appeared around the corner. I looked at the apple tree and then I listened for the cars.

I said to Joey, “I bet I could nail one of those cars.”

Joey and I stock-piled the apples on their driveway, then ducked behind the tree and waited for cars as if we were deer hunting.

The first car appeared. I jumped out like a ninja and threw the apple with all my might. I missed by a football field. If you’ve ever played quarterback or have shot clay pidgeons, you know the real skill is in leading your target. I had never played quarterback at this point and I certainly had never tried to aim at car screaming down the road at 60 mph. We would need more apples.

For the next 30 minutes, Joey and I took turns but with no luck. Until we did. Through trial and error, we had figured out the secret. You had to throw the apple before you saw the car.

We listened again. We could hear the wobble of rubber tires. Joey and I both jumped out and heaved our apples at the same time. Then a blue Plymouth turned the corner. The apples were high in the air and time stood still for a moment before we heard a thump and watched the pulp splatter across the windshield.

In sheer exhilaration and terror, we high-fived each other. We gathered more apples. But before we could meet our next victim, we saw the same car traveling from the opposite direction turning into the Browns driveway. The Browns had woods and creek in their back yard. Joey and I ran like escaped inmates.

One of the great disadvantages of living in a small town and you know everybody. The lady driving knew the Browns and reported us. Ms. Cathy, perhaps the most generous of people I knew, didn’t say much to me, but the word got back to my father. Have I mentioned my dad was a prison warden?

I grew up in the local Methodist church. A sin like this probably wouldn’t get mentioned at church. But Joey was baptist and this could take a little longer for him. And I felt bad about that.

I’m sure I had committed many sins before this day, but this was the first one I could remember. I knew it was wrong. I bragged about it. I found pleasure in it, despite how dangerous and destructive my actions were. I guess that’s what makes sin what it is.

A sour lesson on Fox Hollow

Fox Hollow was the first neighborhood I could remember. It was only a couple of miles from the city courthouse. Our parents moved there when I was 5. As I got older my friends and I would ride bikes to the city square where we could get a Coke for 35 cents outside the Rexall Pharmacy. (A Coke can also mean a Sprite). But back to Fox Hollow. It was one big circle of houses, a mile around. I lived a few houses down from my friend Will Garland. (As an aside, Will and I always called each other by our full names. We were Willgarland and Willzant to each other, I guess not to confuse ourselves). The Garland house was the house where it happened. They loved all things British, including gardens, antiques, and Welsh Corgis. It was the place where my friends and I all met. Will’s parents didn’t seem to mind the racket. I give them tons of credit for allowing a bunch of rough boys to run around the house with all the expensive antiques and paintings. The one rule was not to wake up Mr. Byrd at night or else he would call our parents. Will’s room was upstairs and directly over his parent’s bedroom. You were taking your life in your own hands to try to sneak down the steps. They were the loudest steps in the world. Will’s older brother would later introduce us to the rooftop exit off of the upstairs playroom. Thankfully, it was only an 8 foot drop to the porch.

One of my first memories in Fox Hollow was setting up a lemonade stand. I’m pretty sure our parents just wanted us outside the house for a while. Will and I lugged a table down to the bottom of the hill. Our parents dropped off the lemonade we had made. In fact, we had made it from scratch. Will and I squeezed lemons, mixed in sugar and chipped out the ice from his freezer. It was quite the Norman Rockwell moment as we set up shop near the bottom of the circle where Fox Hollow Drive and McCaskill Drive intersected. There was a creek at the intersection where we would spend hours in the summer with small nets trying to catch crawdads. (Are there crawdads in Georgia?)

Our parents had instructed us not to pester our neighbors as they drove by. Will and I stood behind our handmade sign that priced the lemonade at a quarter. Sure enough, our neighbors stopped and gave double our cost. We stored our earnings in a Tampa Cigar box. We split the money at the end of the day. I saved up for some Upper Deck Baseball Cards. But what I remember the most was the next day. The next day, my dad was driving me home from school. As we turned onto McCaskill drive, we were swarmed by 3 other neighborhood boys. They were Will’s older brother’s friends. (I won’t name names). They were the cool older guys in the neighborhood. They were jumping up and down with signs for $1 lemonade. They obviously got wind of our financial prosperity the day before. My father purchased a cup for the two of us. He handed me mine. As I looked out the window, I could see these older guys jumping down towards the next car behind us. I took a sip. It was pink lemonade and weak and had the slight taste of water hose.

As we pulled into our driveway my dad said, “I like yours better.” I asked, “Dad, why did they copy us?” He said, “Will, that’s life. Get used to it.”

Stories from Jackson

It’s the New Year. Time for resolutions. I’m not going to fool myself and make a year-long goal. I’ll just try to kick things off for January.

I am going to write down some of my favorite stories of growing up in Jackson. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps I am wanting to sharpen the writing craft in this new year or needing to bounce around a sermon illustration or two. But it’s more likely I want to stroll down memory lane and visit old friends. Like that time first time hunting with my dad and having to smear fox pee from a bottle on my boots to hide my scent. Or those fall nights when Peek’s Clearing and Grading opened up their shop for a Towaliga community stew with cakewalks or playing little league baseball for the legendary (to Jackson at least) Homer Williams who was so superstitious about winning that we wore the same underwear to each game that he had his wife mark with black thread. I hope some will be fun, others sad and some revealing. But mostly, I hope they’ll stir up good memories.

Today, I relate differently to my childhood friends. I hardly see them. I share different viewpoints about life and my Christian faith. I want to remember my friends well and the time we shared without overthinking it. They made me laugh and invited me over to shoot basketball and watch a movie on a Friday night. I look forward to visiting in spirit old friends. They’ll be rough cuts for sure. I’ll try to crank out a story every few nights throughout January. So if you’re interested, join along.

Update on Vintage Campers: Done and Decorated.

Blair is reading a new book called, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. We are finished with our two vintage campers and it feels good. There are some touch up items still to do, but the heavy lifting is done. Our crafty group of church members decorated all day. Because I’m a bit tired, I’ll simply share the photos. We are ready to serve hot chocolate and s’mores tomorrow, social distance in place! I’ll post about the ways we’ll share our message. One is to write a message on each cup with a person’s name. For instance we would write, “Will, there is hope,” “Will, there is peace,’… to help share our Advent/Christmas good news. Keep us in prayer!

Camper Update

We’re just 5 days from premiering our vintage camper. There’s still work to do, but here are the latest updates. We installed the new serving window and it’s huge. For our hot chocolate bar, the plan is to have “quaranteams” in the camper. It should be spacious and open enough to hold a family of 5 inside as they serve up hot chocolate and cider.

We have also worked on our bar top and it should be installed today. It was more work than I anticipated. Our guy Ben had to take it to a planer in Rutledge, Georgia because of the size. Then we sawed it down to the right dimensions. Then came the sanding. I was amazed to feel how smooth you can make wood. I learned about the different grades of sand paper. Then the staining. I love the craftsmanship. I was reminded of the scripture’s testament that Jesus was the son of a carpenter.

Although I am no woodworker myself, I do enjoy learning craft. My craft is words. Using words is a craft with similarities to woodworking. You need some good raw material. You dream what the story could be and begin. Once you have have a rough cut, you trim the word count to the appropriate size. Make it tight. Sand down the rough sentence structures. Coat it with some colorful words to give it some gloss.

Sam worked hard on the electricity and the outlets work inside the camper. I helped with some of the painting and was reminded how satisfying working with your hands can be. We finished the painting the top half white. We’ll paint the trim a fun turquoise this week.

In the midst of this, we’ve also renovated Haygood’s old tree lot camper. It was in rough shape. We had originally thought about using it for our hospitality bar, but it just was not in good enough shape. Instead, we decided to gut it and use it for storage for the tree lot tools. We’re going to give it fresh paint job and make it picture worthy for family Christmas photos.

Here are some pictures of both campers. I hope you enjoy. We’ll have more to post in a few days.

Here’s Sam replacing the rusty screws. You can also the paint design. We’re keeping the blue arrow.
This is the old camper. We have worked hard on getting it structurally sound inside. Now we need to give it fresh coat of paint this week.
I went ahead and painted the trailer hitch and an empty propane tank (that’s the color of the trim).
This is the renovation of the inside of the tree lot camper. It will be used for tools.

Update on Vintage Camper

We are in a bit of a holding pattern for our camper. Over the last couple of weeks, my friend Sam and I made some decisions about the serving window dimensions. We decided to make the serving window open and large. The dimensions will be 80 inches wide and 40 inches high. That helps us get rid of the three awkwardly situated windows on the left side of the camper and creates a spirit of openness, which is what the church should be about. We had to custom order the window because of the size. It’s an 18 day turnaround from a store in Indiana. The back log is due to the high demand of these sorts of windows for these sorts of projects. Apparently, we were not the only ones with a little time on their hands for a DIY project during a pandemic. But it’s ordered and should arrive within the next week or so.

Sam and I also waffled back and forth on the serving bar. In addition to the window, we wanted a wooden serving bar that would give the camper a little pizazz. Maybe we went a little overboard, but we hopped on Facebook marketplace and researched places that sold slabs of wood. We found the perfect piece of old growth heart pine at a saw mill in Alto, Georgia. My only connection to Alto is that my father was a prison warden and there is a state prison in Alto. When I was a kid, the warden of that prison invited us up to fish some of the local ponds. We pulled in some big bass one morning. I can remember vividly fishing in a john boat early in the morning as the sun was breaking to light up the still water with the fog rising along the red clay banks. It was quite a day with my brothers and father.

Sam and I took a Friday road trip in his truck to pick up our new treasure. For this knotless, 2 inch thick and 10 foot long piece, we paid $150 which seemed pretty cheap for such a fine piece of wood. As we pulled into the mill, I suddenly realized I was a wearing a nice polo which didn’t exactly scream saw mill. Sam took notice and we both decided we might get a better deal if I was in my white t-shirt so I quickly changed. The owner was friendly man, with a lip full of dip. He ran the saw mill with a small team and purchases were by appointment only. He was an honest man that trusted a personal check. The mill itself looked a like graveyard for trees until you got close to some of them. In fact, I asked why some of them looked so grey. He brought out a planer and planed one of the slabs. You could see the rich color once you sanded the dull weathered surface. “Any tree is going to turn grey if you leave it out in the sun all day, but it’s good inside.” I’m sure there’s a metaphor for people in there too.

We loaded it up and made our way back to the church and dropped it off in the garage. We have some measuring, cutting and sanding still to do, but we’re getting there.

Here’s the old heart pine when it was first cut.
Here we are at the saw mill.

Here are a couple of other small updates. We have an older camper that’s been part of the tree lot for years at the church. It’s a Scottie camper from the 1960’s. While we’re waiting for our parts for the new camper, we’re gutting the old one and using it for tool storage. We’re giving it a new floor with LVT (luxury vinyl tile, sounds sophisticated, right?) and we’re going to paint the outside because it’s got that vintage, fun look about it that people travel miles for their Christmas picture. Our “Scottie” is in pretty rough shape. We’re going to give it a paint job and dress it up with some lights and wreathes. It will make the perfect backdrop for family pictures this Christmas season.

We have a little committee at Haygood that has started dreaming about how to use our campers for the tree tot. They came up with the theme, “Christmas Campfire”. We’re going to bring out the hay bales, three fire pits and s’more packets. We’ll be ready to serve hot chocolate and have campfire stories at night of “The Grinch,” and “The Polar Express” and of course the greatest story ever told about our savior Jesus.

We believe this new venture will help our community warm up and come together safely during this awful pandemic. That’s it for now.

Vintage Camper Project

I needed something cheerful to work on during this pandemic. We purchased a 1965 Nomad camper for our church. My good friend Sam Heys and I traveled up to Morristown, Tennessee this past Monday to pick it up. It was quite the adventure that included a beautiful story of the woman who sold it to us (I’ll tell it later). And we were accompanied by Ben Bishop who will help us with the renovation. (Ben is also in a Nirvana cover band and plays around the Atlanta area). The aim is to renovate the camper into a mobile hospitality camper for the church. In particular, we plan to use it in our Christmas Tree lot at Haygood as a hot chocolate bar.

This might be one of the more crazy ideas I have pursued, but that’s what a pandemic will do to you. My bigger hope is that a fun vintage camper with lights and Christmas cheer will be a small sign of hope during a dark time. The plan is to use the proceeds to support In-town Collaborative ministry, the local food bank. I’ll keep you posted on our progress as we go along. The inside of the camper had already been renovated with vinyl flooring, side paneling, lights and electrical outlets. The next step is to cut out the serving window and give it a good paint job. I’ll keep you updated. And here’s a shameless plug…if you want to contribute to the renovations, let me know. We have some ideas about some extra add ons. Many thanks to the North Georgia Conference for a hospitality grant to help us purchase it.