Books, Friends, Turtles, and Dawgs

It’s always great to live in the Classic City, but I find that it’s particularly nice when my funds are limited.

Saturday found me with a lot of options that led to a full and wonderful day.

I’ve always loved to read. Both of my parents were readers and books have always been important to me. I have about 1,500 books (although half of them belong to my brother Tim) on shelves in my house and at least another 1,000 in boxes in the basement. I’ve tried to reduce the inventory. I imagine that I gave a couple of hundred books to Goodwill and to the Athens-Clarke County Library last year. Trying to cut down, but days like Saturday don’t help.

Saturday was the last day of the Friends of the Library summer book sale and I had waited until Saturday to go because it was bag day. $10 to the library and you can fill up a grocery bag with books. I said before I went that I had to limit myself to one bag and it wasn’t easy. Before I bought a bag, I went through the room in order to eyeball the layout and see what was available. This didn’t help much because even though the sale had been going on for two days, I could have still filled a dozen grocery bags. I got a couple of coffee table books, one a book of biographical sketches of people of the 20th century and the other was a Dick Clark book on the first 25 years of rock and roll. I got three short story books including a large print edition of Louis L’Amour stories. I got two humor books (I keep trying to figure out what makes things funny), a collection of speeches, a short history of Tampa, Florida, a book of Garrison Keillor stories, and two  books on the JFK years, “The Best and the Brightest” and “A Thousand Days.” I think that I have both of these books at home, but I don’t know where. They are probably in one of the boxes in the basement. I got a book of Martha Odum’s watercolors. The prize of my bag is an Episcopal Hymnal published in 1940. I picked it up, opened it and the song before me was “Greensleeves”. I bagged it.

15 books to take home and stack by my bed, to be looked at, browsed through and maybe even read. Then they’ll go onto a shelf if I can make space or into a box in the basement and probably eventually donated back to the library for their next sale.

I resisted the urge to go home and read and instead headed for Bishop Park and the Saturday morning farmer’s market. This place always makes me feel like I’m young again. The smell of the coffee and bread and pastries. The piles of colorful vegetables stacked up in one stall after another. The local craftspeople displaying their work and most of all the people.

I wondered around stopping at the stalls and finding my way through the crowd. I stopped and listened to the music and as I was making my way towards the exit I had a thought. This was the first time that I had ever been to the market and I hadn’t run into an old friend or acquaintance. Then I stopped and looked around smiling because I felt like I knew everybody there. The truck farmer who I bought $3 worth of tomatoes from, the lady I teased because the only two loaves of bread she had left were slightly burned, the man selling Boogerhill honey, the little kids laughing and making their chalk drawings on the pavement in front of the musicians. I knew them all.

My stomach was growling so I stopped at the house and had a tomato sandwich, left my bag of books and headed towards the UGA campus. I had a plan.

Since injuring my knee in June I’ve had a very sedentary summer. Do my exercises, keep my leg elevated and my knee iced. Be patient and avoid surgery. Be well by football season. I’m getting close and I decided that it was time for a test. I would park my car at one of my favorite spots on campus, the Horticulture Research Garden behind Snelling Hall, and walk to Sanford Stadium. The Bulldog athletes were holding picture day for their fans. There were hills and steps and this would approximate what I’d walk to get to a game. It was time to test the knee.

I made the walk to the stadium. Up the inclined street, down the steps by the geography building, down more steps to the stadium. No pain, no problem. I walked onto the bridge and stopped halfway across to stare. I always find it wonderful to gaze around a stadium. But when it’s my stadium, that I’ve been going to for over 55 years it can borderline overwhelming.

I made myself continue on to the north side of the stadium where the fan/picture day activities were taking place. I wondered through the gate and took in the activities before me. Under this awning the cheerleaders, over here Harry. in the shade of the stadium (where it was probably only 90) the athletes were seated, signing autographs and posing for photos. Hundreds of fans were waiting patiently in line for a few seconds with their young Bulldog heroes.

There were schedule posters being given away and I loaded up on them. They make great presents for the nieces and nephews. Of all of the new posters for the fall sports, my favorite one is for the Equestrian team. It has a picture of Harry Dawg riding a horse, with the reins in his left hand and his right hand raised in the air letting everybody know who’s #1. It’s a really cool photo and this will be the first year that the Equestrian poster has gone up in my house.

As I made my way through the crowd I came upon UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity talking with several UGA employees. I walked over and told him who I was.  Greg’s brother Stuart and I have been “Y” friends since we were six and went to school together, but I’ve always just kind of known Greg in passing and didn’t know if he would remember me.      “Of course,” he smiled and shook hands “you brought me a ‘Good Thought Notebook’ right after I was hired. I keep it on my desk.”

The “Good Thought Notebook” was handed out at the Athens YMCA when we were kids by Cobern Kelley. It has helped me through some tough times over the years and when Greg was first hired at Georgia it seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong was going wrong. So, I thought that a copy of  “The Good Thought Notebook” might help him. I’d forgotten all about it, but it makes me feel proud that it’s on his desk. There’s a kinship shared by everyone who went to the Athens YMCA in the ’40’s through the ’60’s and learned about sports and life from Kelley. More on that another time.

I made my way back across the bridge, up all of the steps, up and down the roads, and back to my car without even a small bark from my knee.

I celebrated by sitting in the gazebo at the Hort garden and enjoying the beautiful flowers and the nice little breeze that had kicked up. After a relaxing 15 minutes or so that stopped just short of a nap, I got up and walked the 50 or so yards towards the Ecology and Forestry Buildings where I wanted to visit the little turtle/frog pond that sits out in front of the buildings.

As I crossed the small parking lot a white SUV came from the wrong direction. Realizing that she was headed the wrong way on a one way street, she stopped and rolled down the window.

“Can you tell me how to get out of here?” a pretty, fortyish looking woman with shoulder length blonde hair asked.

“Yes ma’am” I answered, “you just drive around that building there.”

“It sure is confusing” she said.

“Yes it is,” I smiled “why don’t you just park your car and come look at the turtles with me?”

A bewildered look crossed over her brow and she headed out of the parking lot without another word. I walked on around the fence and sat on a bench by the pond. I didn’t see any frogs, but it was a great time of day for turtle watching. They were sunning themselves and once I got seated they didn’t even know I was there. I watched the blue dragonflies and the turtles for a while before heading home.

A full day of being among friends and neighbors in Athens, with a dash of nature thrown in. Tomato sandwiches for the next couple of days, a stack of posters for the nieces and nephews, and a bag full of books for myself. All for just thirteen bucks. Maybe I could have afforded to buy the blonde a beer.

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