Are you eating collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread?

“Each ingredient has meaning and purpose. Black-eyed peas represent coins, collard greens represent dollar bills and cornbread represents gold. Eating each Southern staple on New Year’s Day is supposed to guarantee a prosperous year, ensuring wealth and luck. While, I do not believe in luck, I do believe in the power of tradition.”

– Amber Wilson in her blog For The Love of the South

Wikipedia Photo
Wikipedia Photo

As far as I know, I had black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread only once on January 1. Something bad happened in the days after that and while my parents and their friends discussed the fact that the meal wasn’t a magic charm in my case, I no longer remember what the bad thing was. Must have blocked it out.

Even though I like these things (the collards take a lot of vinegar to disguise the taste and the black-eyed peas have  to be fresh rather than baked into a brown mush like many people do), my wife doesn’t like any of them. Well, we both like cornbread and still have some left over from Christmas Day.

Why tempt fate by eating this combination again at New Year’s?

I like a lot of Southern food: boiled peanuts, mullet, fried catfish, hoppin’ John, pumpkin frybread, Vidalia onions and yellow squash, hush puppies, grits, and a ton of stuff from New Orleans. But collards never got into my top 100 things to eat. Neither did black-eyed peas, for that matter.

Maybe we’ll have steak on new year’s day along with a baked potato wrapped up in tin foil and some fake bacon bits ready to go. Of course, if you believe in the whole collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread spell, go ahead an eat it at your own discretion and maybe it will bring you luck for 2017. By the way, if you click on the link above for Amber’s blog, her recipe for this old Southern spell actually looks pretty good.

Happy new year!



The Falling Down Smokehouse Blues

That old smokehouse been fallin’ down,
Yes, that old smokehouse’s fallin’ down,
Seen wind and rain, babies born, babies grown,
Seen cotton, corn, and okra sown,
While roof and siding been fallin’ down.

When my wife and I had a house built on the site of her family’s original homestead, she became the 5th generation to live on property that’s been in the family since the 1880s. We moved here in January and found the site none the worse for wear for all the trucks, people, dumpster and piles of building materials that have been coming and going since last June.

We told the builder not to run over, back into, damage, knock down or even dent the old tractor garage, well house, and smokehouse. Along with the property’s one hundred year old trees, these remaining outbuildings represented the land’s history and the continuity of family over the years.

Several years ago, a tornado tore out one of the more ancient trees and, in the process, damaged the well house roof and the smokehouse. Now they have been repaired. We’re trying to stabilize everything old and restore a sense of “home” to this patch of ground, and that includes the two rose bushes we planted where my wife’s grandmother once had two rose bushes, and keeping watch over day lilies that bloomed this spring after spreading while people came and went.

Here are two BEFORE pictures:


Here are the two AFTER pictures showing the new door, two new corner posts, new siding and a new roof:

smokehouseblogBMoving to this place has been–and continues to be–an adventure. We need more trees and shrubs in the yard, some fencing, a closer look at the well to see if we can get water from it again, and we need to finish unpacking things inside the house.

But today, that old smokehouse no longer has the blues.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”


Crawford W. Long Museum Opens Wall of Fame Exhibit

Wall of Fame - Dave Rosselle photo
Jefferson, GA, January 8, 2011 — The Crawford W. Long Museum unveiled its new Wall of Fame exhibit honoring the museum’s founding contributors at a dedication ceremony here this afternoon. Known as the Birthplace of Anesthesia, the museum—in its three historic buildings on the town square—celebrates the work of Dr. Crawford W. Long’s first use of ether for surgical anesthesia on March 30, 1842.

Plaques on the Wall of Fame celebrate the names of almost 600 individuals, families and businesses who donated time and money to create and develop the museum which opened in 1957.

Speaking to the one hundred guests—including relatives of the museum’s founders—Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner said the exhibit honors “those whose vision led them to create an educational memorial to Dr. Crawford Long on the site of the first use of anesthesia for surgery, a discovery now considered America’s greatest contribution to modern medicine.”

In 1951, Jackson Herald publisher T.P. Williams and Crawford Long biographer Dr. Frank Kells Boland met with the Georgia Historical Commission in to discuss the creation of the museum. The commission said it would provide half of the funding for the purchase of a building if the citizens of Jefferson could raise the money. The local fund-raising drive was successful in less than a year.

The Crawford W. Long Memorial Museum Association was incorporated in 1955. Officers included those who had led the fund-raising drive: Frary Elrod, Storey Ellington, Robert Bailey, Edmond Garrison, Morris Bryan Jr., Thomas Bryan, Jack Davidson, and T.P. Williams. The museum is now owned by the City of Jefferson with the ongoing support of the Crawford W. Long Association.

Association board president Roxane Rose presented museum projects manager Lesa Campbell with a bench in honor of her late mother Sallie Holsonback who died last September. The bench was placed in the museum’s 1850s Pendergrass Store building.

Today’s dedication ceremony coincided with the first anniversary of the museum’s re-opening after a two-year restoration project that included exhibit upgrades and structural renovations to the facility’s historic buildings. During the past year, over 2,000 visitors and 43 groups have toured the museum.

Last year, visitors attending the museum’s re-opening came out in force on a bitterly cold day. Today’s guests attended the Wall of Fame dedication while weathermen were broadcasting winter storm warnings. (The six-inch snowfall held off until everyone got home.) With luck, Mother Nature will be more accommodating for upcoming events, including a March 30th Doctors Day celebration and the opening of a Civil War medicine exhibit on April 15th.

Election in a small town

After living in the Atlanta metro area for over 20 years, there are a lot of reasons why I was more than happy to move out of the sprawl into a small town some 60 miles away a few years ago. (As I saw the news stories yesterday for the giant cruise ship “Oasis of the Seas,” I thought, my goodness, my whole town will fit aboard that ship at one time.)

In contrast to the lines in Atlanta, there are seldom any election-day lines here. This morning I was in an out of the polling place in five minutes, and that counted the time I took chatting to the people I knew. I never saw anyone I knew at an Atlanta polling place.

Here, I know the mayor and the members of the city council. A friend is running for the city council, but even in a small town there are wards, and his seat doesn’t extend to this part of town. I know the city clerk and the city manager. I’ve worked with them, seen them at weddings and funerals, had them over for parties.

Of course, the close-knit nature of things here can lead to a strange apathy. A friend who ran for council two elections ago lost by six votes because a lot of people in her neighborhood didn’t vote. Each had an excuse–at kid was sick, car trouble, the boss made them stay late at work. But oddly, none of them worried about the vote because everyone assumed they were the only ones that were playing hooky from the election.

One way or the other, here you know you’re making a difference. You can see the fact that your vote counts; and you can see the consequences of not voting. I like that because none of us feel like we’re getting lost in the shuffle.