Tuesday, July 3, 2018



It all started with a visit from Brenda Lowry and Bubba (Joshua) Murrell a few days ago. Brenda arrived on the heels of a trip to Washington, DC where she was honored with a first place award for composing music and lyrics to a song entitled “America’s Story in Art,” in a contest sponsored by the national DAR. Bubba, a Grammy award winner in music, showed us his video digital images he had created using Planet Coaster made by a UK enterprise named Frontier Company. These talented New Iberians perform in a religious program they wrote and produced called "Women at the Well," and in a blues music duet, "Blue Merlot."

We lunched with the Sisters at the Convent of the Order of St. Mary, Sewanee where we started a conversation about creativity and the proliferation of artists in south Louisiana, particularly in New Iberia, site of my winter residence. We continued this conversation as we drove down the Mountain into the valley and pulled into the railroad museum at Cowan, Tennessee. I was collecting information about the Cowan Pusher District and Cumberland Mountain Tunnel built by the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in 1849. This small museum wasn’t totally air-conditioned but we had to drag Bubba away as he’s attracted to all things technical and is always collecting data about “What makes this thing work?” 

Later, we had dinner at the new Octo-π (Octopi) Pizza and Wine Bar Bar in Sewanee where gourmet pizza has been perfected, revisiting the subject of creativity over Cthulhu and Blue Ring Sting pizzas. Once we re-entered this subject, Bubba went into something the four of us call “The Bubba Zone,” a zone in which he moves from anecdotes about quirky characters to origins of music, aerodynamics, and interpretations of the Bible. He’s a genius, and Brenda is the only person I know who can stop him when the hour grows late. He also grows a lush garden in Loreauvile, Louisiana and is the one friend I have who might be able to converse with higher mathematicians about the origins of the zero.

A day after my friends’ visit, we drove to Blue Ridge in North Georgia where I love to visit when peach season is launched. Also, the town lays claim to pursuits in art, music…even has a playhouse. It’s located in Fannin County, Georgia, known as the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the Cohutta Ridge rising in the west and the Blue Ridge to the south and east.The Cherokees called the Cohuttas “the poles of the shed” holding up their sky, and they farmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the warmer months, leaving the area in the winter for the Cherokee village of Aska.

At one time, the town of Blue Ridge was a health resort because it featured pure mineral waters. One hundred thousand acres of the land in Fannin County is managed by the US Forest Service, and during the 1940s, the wonderful CCC boys reforested acres and acres across Fannin County.

On the way to Blue Ridge, we stopped for lunch at the edge of Ellijay where we had a real country meal — fried chicken, turnip greens, green beans, mashed potatoes, and cornbread. The restaurant was crowded, even at 1 p.m., and we had to wait a spell for lunch, but we felt like we had entered the Bubba Zone when a man sitting at a table close to us took off his outer shirt and, dressed in his white undershirt, began telling a story. It seems that he knew a man he said was such a champion fisherman, he could catch fish in a mud puddle in the middle of the road. The friend had serious mental problems brought on by age, but the guy in the white undershirt actually saw this apparition fishing in the middle of the road, picked him up, and took him to his girlfriend’s house… sans fish. 

This story led to the raconteur’s tale about finding a vertebrae in a cave that had an arrow deeply imbedded in it, which he brought to the attention of experts who identified the arrow as the point of a spear probably thrown by an atlatl but couldn’t identify the huge vertebrae. This raconteur left before I could approach him for an interview, so I settled for strawberry cobbler that my friend Vickie kept urging me to order, exaggerating my southeast Louisiana drawl. However, I wouldn’t have received any notice because the Georgia accent around me was so thick my drawl wouldn’t have impressed anyone.

More about the Bubba Zone later. Also, when I arrive back in Sewanee this week, I hope to review New Iberian Margaret Simon’s new book, Bayou Song.

Photographs: selfie of Brenda and Bubba and train engine by Victoria Sullivan

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