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!


Got rain? Send it down to Georgia

The Presidential campaign, the election, and the subsequent arguing about the result have gotten a lot of people on edge. A psychologist friend on Facebook told me that her patients are feeling a lot of stress about all the discord in th country. So, for those of us living in north Georgia, the drought is rather like poisonous icing on an already toxic cake.

Late afternoon haze.
Late afternoon haze.

The drought has been going more or less all summer, but has gotten worse during the last month. Earlier, we’d get a few sporadic rain showers from time to time, but now, nothing. Add to that, a series of smoky wildfires that have kept a constant haze over our county near Rome, Georgia. We get fronts coming through, wind, cold nights, sunshine, and no rain. Should we blame this on global warming or bad luck?

When we moved here to a house on the farm where my wife grew up the year before last, we decided to start putting in small trees. We hoped they be better than a lot of grass to mow (not that it’s been growing very fast lately) and also provide some privacy from the cars along the road (not that they’re many).

drought2016The thing is, these trees aren’t well established yet and need watering. Really, a good soaking rain is the best thing. Second best is a little rain. At the bottom of the list is walking around with a hose. Today is our day to use the hose, but only for a few hours late in the day.

So far, nobody’s been able to do a proper rain dance or get any solid stormy weather hexes into place.

There is a well on the other end of the property. The pump hasn’t been used for a couple of years. If we can start it and string a tenth of a mile or so of hose down the old wagon road to our house, that might be the only solution. (We’re allowed to water with well water or–in cities–with so-called grey water that’s not potable but good for plants.)

But, we’d much rather have y’all send us some of your extra rain. Just don’t go overboard. We don’t need a tropical storm or a hurricane for Thanksgiving. Three inches of gentle rain would do just fine and tide us over for a week or so.

Thanks in advance.


atravessiadecoraMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, paranormal and fantasy novels and short stories. The Portuguese edition  of his paranormal short story “Cora’s Crossing” is now available on iTunes, Nook, Kobo, Sribd, and coming soon on Kindle.


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.”


Review: ‘Lost Lake’ by Sarah Addison Allen

Lost Lake, Sarah Addison Allen (St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, January 21, 2014, paperback January 6, 2015), 304 pp.

lostlakeKate Pheris is waking up after the worst year of her life, the year she lost her husband and almost lost herself while her young daughter Devin waited for life to begin again and her mother-in-law Cricket orchestrated their future like a puppeteer with an agenda stronger than love.

But older ties are stronger even though they might have seemed forever lost.

Kate and Devin serendipitously discover a fifteen-year- old postcard in the attic while getting ready to move to Cricket’s house where neither of them wants to be: Greetings from Lost Lake, Georgia: a Magical Experience. Sent by Kate’s great-great-aunt Eby after Kate’s best summer ever at the ramshackle cabins our of another era in South Georgia, the card stirs up old hopes and memories.

Kate’s never seen the card before. Her mother, who had a falling out with Eby that summer, hid it away along with its message, “You’re welcome to come back anytime you’d like.”

It’s too late, isn’t it? Lost Lake and Eby are probably long gone. Yet, Lost Lake really isn’t that far from Atlanta. What if Kate and Devin drive down there and look?

While Cricket organizes the future she wants with indomitable and merciless force, Lost Lake suggests possibilities with a gentle touch, one that pulls on the heartstrings of those who have come back for one last summer before Eby sells the place she can no longer afford to keep and flies away to see the world.

The book features a cast of memorable characters and–inasmuch as this novel is magical realism–a magical setting. Everyone who arrives to say goodbye to Eby and Lost Lake is looking for something, and they all have their secrets and their losses.

Like an oasis that’s almost visible for one moment and gone the next, the magic and the synchronicity of the setting are deftly handled by Allen (Garden Spells The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper), adding mystery and, perhaps, a sense of hope that a seemingly lost future is not altogether lost.

One cannot read Lost Lake without noting a certain predictability in the plot and the syrup of sentimentality it the developing themes and coming-out-of-hiding histories of the characters. One can say the same thing about It’s a Wonderful Life.  Nonetheless, movie viewers return to It’s a Wonderful Life every year at Christmas just as the faithful, if not aging, guests return to Lost Lake every summer.

Lost Lake gives those guests what they’re looking for even though most of them are too stubborn to admit it. Readers may know, or think they know, how Kate’s and Devin’s summer at Lost Lake will end. They may be right. Even so, the book casts a spell that’s impossible to resist.


KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” set in the Florida Panhandle where folk magic lives deep in the piney woods.



It’s all in what you’re used to…

…when it comes to hot weather.

todaysweatherMy wife and I lived in houses without air conditioning when we were growing up. Her north Georgia house finally go A/C after she had long-since moved out; my north Florida house got A/C when I was in college. When hot weather came, we turned on the fans, sat on the front porch and drank iced tea, hers with sugar and mine with lemon.

Our A/C unit was limping along at the end of last week and finally quit on Sunday. Sunday’s the most popular day of the week for stuff breaking down. Fortunately, the temperature got down into the high 60s last night, so we were finally able to get some cooler air in the house.

Nonetheless, our cats acted like the A/C breakdown was our fault.

Okay, I know people are living in places where the daily temps are always over 100. I don’t want to hear about it. They’re used to it. Plus, my DNA was probably altered by the fact I was born across the bay from foggy and usually cool San Francisco. When I was a kid, 88 wasn’t too bad.

But, years of soft living with A/C, have conditioning me to need ten degrees cooler–if not more. I’m a winter person in spite of growing up in the land of hurricanes, alligators and hot weather.  So, until the repairman arrives this afternoon with a replacement part for the unit, I’m not a happy camper even though I’m not actually camping. To add insult to injury, iced tea now gives me heartburn.

Maybe we’re all just getting older. (You may want to write that down.) Maybe 88 degrees is hotter now than it was fifty years ago. Maybe it’s global warming and the weathermen have inflated the temps to keep up and it’s really 120 in the shade outside.

If worse comes to worse, I suppose we could go sit in the car with the A/C up on high.

TSStitleTo segue to another sun-related subject, Second Wind Publishing will be releasing my novel The Sun Singer this week in e-book and paperback editions. That’s cool news after the novel has been out of print for a year. I’m looking forward to the new edition.



Freshly washed woods

GorgeMost of us don’t like hiking in the rain. Last September, my brother and I got caught in a very cold Glacier Park thunderstorm near Mt. Gould. Before we got back, we had also been pelted with hail. Without umbrellas, we were drenched.

Fortunately, we found a warm fire in the hotel fireplace after the hike

When my brother and I, along with our wives and a spirited nephew hiked in light rain at Tallulah Gorge in the Georgia mountains last week, we carried umbrellas. We weren’t as cold as we were in Glacier. And we weren’t hiking in a hurry because–unlike the Glacier hike–it was raining when we started.

MalcolmLesaTallulahEverything was fresh and the scents of wet rocks, wet earth and wet leaves were a far better than anything thing you can buy in an aerosol can at the grocery store. When we were kids, we walked and rode our bikes in the rain on purpose. Whether it was our feet or our wheels, we splashed through the biggest puddles we could find.

We avoided the puddles at Tallulah. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the freshly washed woods. It reminded me of childhood walks.

It reminded me of how much we miss by purposely setting up most of our hikes under sunny skies. Within moderation, there’s much to be said for night, wind, rain and snow.

So-called “bad weather” is a face of nature we miss by staying inside.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” available as an audiobook (shown here), paperback, and e-book.

Falling Trees: Part of the ‘joy’ of owning a home

Our house was built in 2001 on a heavily wooded old farm near Jefferson, Georgia some 60 miles north of Atlanta. We liked the fact that the developers had kept the old trees. However, we were also aware that they had graded too close to many of them, ensuring that they would die off in less than ten years. Add to that the drought conditions we’ve experienced during many of the years we’ve lived here, and you’ve got a recipe falling trees.

The day after we got back home from the Thanksgiving holidays, one of the trees in the tree island in the front hard toppled over and damaged the roof over the garage. Fortunately, our insurance covered the repairs and allowed a little something for having the tree removed before the home owners association sent us a note saying, “Do you know you have a fallen tree in your yard?” Since this was the third tree to fall in 2011, we didn’t want another snippy note.

On new year’s day, two more trees fell. Fortunately, these missed the house. Unfortunately, the dead one knocked over a live one on the way down. While the tree people were here cleaning up the mess, they cut down four other trees that seemed to be aimed at the house. We hope we don’t have to call them again any time soon.

When I see advertisements for houses on wooded lots, I often think: “Yeah right, the lot is wooded now, but how long will it stay that way?” Growing up in a subdivision in Florida where care was taken with the grading, I got a bit spoiled. We had 40 trees on the lot when we moved in and none of them fell down in the 33 years the family owned the house. Maybe we were lucky: they were all slash pines and several hurricanes came through town. We always had plenty of pine straw!

As a tree city, our town keeps track of its percentage of tree canopy. Looks like the next survey (using aerial photographs) is going to show a few gaps in our neighborhood.


No need to destroy a Georgia mountain to build a new road

When I lived in Rome, Georgia in the late 1970s, driving to Atlanta—a mere 56 miles to the southeast, as the crow flies—became problematic in Bartow County. Quite simply, the route that began as a four-lane highway at Rome turned into a mess of urban sprawl before one reached I-75 South for the remainder of the trip.

Today, when I visit friends in Rome, the US 41/411/SR 20 interchange has another 30 years worth of development around it to make it a driver’s nightmare. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has a proposed a 411 Connector solution.

For reasons that are not easy to comprehend, DGOT favors a costly and an environmentally unsound solution (Route D-VE) that includes the destruction of the beautiful Dobbins Mountain.

Members of the Coalition for the Right Road (CORR) want a 411 Connector. But they believe alternative routes are not only cheaper, but also avoid destroying a mountain.

If you live in northeast Georgia and believe it’s important to guard the environment against massive and unnecessary civil engineering projects that also represent a waste of taxpayer dollars, you can sign the petition here asking GDOT to select a cheaper and shorter route.

According to the latest CORR update, GDOT has announced it is studying up to three modified routes for the 411 connector. The cost of the original GDOT “solution” may be as high as $279.5 million. The estimated cost of at least one alternative route is $98.4 million.

Upcoming CORR events

  • Saturday, April 30: Taste of Cartersville at Friendship Plaza in downtown Cartersville.
  • Saturday, April 30: Southern Veterans Festival at Adairsville Middle School from 10 am to 7 pm.
  • Saturday, May 7: Spring Fling Festival in Kingston from 11 am to 4 pm.
  • Saturday, May 14: Duck Derby Day at Riverside Park Day Use Area in Cartersville from 10 am to 5 pm.
  • Monday, July 4: Stars, Stripes & Cartersville at Dellinger Park in Cartersville. Parade starts at 9 am; activities at 10 am.

We Need a Road

Drivers between Rome and Atlanta need the new road. It will cut time off the trip and reduce gasoline usage. Those who live and work around the current US 41/411/SR 20 interchange need long-distance traffic removed from their surface streets.

We just don’t need to move a mountain to make this happen.


CORR graphic showing proposed mountain cut

That Little Horse They Call ‘Miracle’

While horses have played important roles in my novels “The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey,” I haven’t ridden a horse in 30 years. Nonetheless, within the infinite pastures of my memory, I recall riding bareback across a snowy field on a cold morning, sitting like a proverbial sack of potatoes on an old roan named “Flame” in the sunshine on a high Alberta mountain trail, and fording a wide Montana river by the light of a bright moon.

These days, I might find a stationary carousel horse to be a riding challenge, proving, I think, that my practical horsemanship skills are limited. Yet, even from my limited perspective, I’m quite sure that there’s a special hell for those who abuse horses and a special heaven for those who save them.

Miracle: “Well Broke Under Saddle”

In February, a friend whose farm stands across the road from my father-in-law’s farm here in Georgia, drove out to look at an 8-10-month-old filly he saw advertised as well broke under saddle. The horse he found had been so badly injured, starved and otherwise abused, that he convinced the seller to let him haul it away and at least give it a decent burial.

The top photo, taken February 3, shows the horse lying down because it couldn’t stand or walk. The lower photo shows Miracle a month later. Our friend cared for her until she could travel again, and then she was moved to the nearby Sunkissed Acres in Summerville, Georgia for a rehabilitation.

According to the Sunkissed Acres blog of February 3rd, “She has no legs, she has no chest, she has no hope. She is literally run into the ground. I can almost pick the little thing up by myself. She is eating and drinking well, when we stand her up, she can walk around but when she gets tired, she lies down again and cant get herself up.” (Click on the photo for the entire post from SunKissed.)

Miracle’s New Home

On March 14th, the angels at Sunkissed Acres finished their work. The starved and damaged horse that couldn’t stand up was now able to run. Miracle now runs and eats well in the heaven of a horse retirement farm named Paradigm.

On the day the filly arrived, the Paradigm Farms blog said, “Today Miracle had an ending and a beginning. Her time at Sunkissed Acres came to an end today. Lori, the founder of Sunkissed Acres Rescue, did an amazing job of rehabilitating Miracle and getting her healthy and strong enough to move on to her new life. When one chapter ends a new one begins, and today was the beginning of Miracle’s new life with us.”

The U.S. Equine Rescue League defines neglect “as failure to provide sustenance and care sufficient to maintain an equine’s good health. This includes food, water, shelter, veterinary and farrier care.” Because of the compassion of a farmer named David, the loving rehabilitation by a rescuer named Lori and the long-term care being provided by Jason, the little horse they still call Miracle no longer fits this definition.

This is one story with a happy ending. With our donations and with the good work of the folks at farms such as Sunkissed Acres, the number of prospective miracles is infinite.

You May Also Like: Night in the Shape of a Horse


When the Grits Trees are in Bloom

Grit Flower

“Giving Northerners unbuttered instant grits is an old remedy for getting rid of tourists.” — Lewis Grizzard, author of “Don’t Sit Under the Grits Tree with Anyone Else But Me.”

You know it’s spring in south and central Georgia when the grits trees are in bloom.

True grits, as the late Atlanta humorist Lewis Grizzard would attest, are not INSTANT: “The idiot who invented instant grits also thought of frozen fried chicken, and they ought to lock him up before he tries to freeze-dry collards.”

After a hearty breakfast of grits and red eye gravy, true Southerners drive south on I-75 through Macon into what was once Stuckeys and pecan praline country toward Tifton where, years ago, Captain Tift once built a saw mill in support of his family’s shipping business.

The captain was also into turpentine, tobacco, pecans, sweet potatoes and grits. Northern historians, thinking grits were made in factories, overlooked Tift’s grit orchards, so you won’t find them in your grade school history books. But those orchards flourish today and every year on March 25, the kind of people who might take exception to freeze-dried collards, head into the lush agricultural lands of Georgia’s coastal plain in search of evergreen trees with large white flowers.

Years before the white man knew there would one day be a Southern state named Georgia, the Apalachee Indians discovered that the natural result of crossing a Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) with a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was the Grits Tree (Quercus grandiflora Zea mays).

Like pearls in oysters, Grits are created in the soft tissue of the tree’s magnificent flowers. In the late summer and early fall, Grits fall like rain from the trees where Grits Sweepers gather them into windrows that look like dunes of snow. They dry in the sun until they are ready to be vacuumed up and cast before swine in the form of bacon, ham, and breaded pork chops.

But in the spring, it’s the white grits flowers that attract the attention. The kind of person who would eat freeze-dried collards or who thinks red eye gravy is the airline food served on long, over-night flights, will mistake a grits flower for a magnolia blossom. Magnolias have a musky, cloying scent. Grits flowers smell like Waffle House.

True Grits are in the Bag

“Sitting under the grits tree” is a phrase that goes back to founding of Georgia Grits Day on March 25, 1901 in honor of the birth of Georgia Brown beneath such a tree near Tifton. Sitting under a grits tree is about jazz and having babies and eating red eye gravy on a hot summer afternoon when it seems like every breath of air between Macon and the Florida border smells like breakfast at a Waffle House.

There’s no love better than the love built with true grits. It’s Southern love and you can’t get it in a factory and you won’t find it in the hashed browns part of the country. Every March, we celebrate true grits, not the movie, but the food and all it stands for.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical novel, “Special Investigative Reporter” on Kindle for about the same amount as a steaming bowl of grits.