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Tales Of The Old South : A Duel In Honeysuckle

Updated on May 17, 2014
Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin is a true southern male who enjoys writing about the past in his part of the world. I hope you enjoy my Tales of the South.

Our home in North Carolina before the move to southern Georgia
Our home in North Carolina before the move to southern Georgia | Source

We moved from North Carolina down to South Georgia in 1879. My uncle Charlie had bought some land in the region a couple of years before, had returned home to visit and in the process, convinced my father to come down and buy a piece of land for himself. “Hell Blake,” he said to my father “they ain’t a rock in the ground to trip yer plow up an’ ain’t no steep hills tuh terrace neither. I tell yuh, you kin grow a garden most year round if ye want to.”

At first I thought this was what finally convinced my father to make such a drastic move. A piece of bottom land is what most small farmers in the foothills of the Appalachians wanted. But the best land was already claimed long ago in this area of North Carolina, unlike down in the Coastal Plains section of the country where flat land was the normal state of things.

And then there was Mamma--Lori O’Brady her married name was--Hildy my older sister, and Ted my younger brother to consider. Mamma wasn’t too keen on the idea at first until Aunt Myrtice--Uncle Charlie’s wife--told her about the fine new church in the nearby town of Honeysuckle. “Why honey,” she crooned “you’ll jest love thuh preacher to death. Such a solid man of god he is. And his wife is sweet as can be.”

The church at Honeysuckle
The church at Honeysuckle | Source

But later on I remembered Uncle Charlie and Dad huddled together out by the smokehouse, talking low and private like. I didn’t think much about it then, but later on it made sense in a way I should’ve suspected at the time. You see, my father’s side of the family was completely different from my mother’s. Whereas my mother’s family was very reverent, always attending church, prayer meetings, revivals, and any other time the churches door were open, the O’Brady’s were just the opposite.

Yes, the O’Brady’s liked to have fun in life, loved music and dancing, good food, and a bit of Irish whisky too if the truth be known. My father was the best fiddle player in these parts. He could play all night if he had a sip of whiskey every once in a while Therein lay the only problem between my parents. My mother would not let Dad play the fiddle inside the house. “Thuh devil’s toothpick,” she called it “only fit tuh throw in the far an’ burn fer kindlin‘.” Of course my father disagreed, but still, he tried to honor mama’s wishes.

So off we went down into the flatlands of Georgia. No more to view the blue mountains or slog through the snow again. But just as my father wished, no more stones to bother with either. It was quite a while before he got over the fact there were no rocks to plow around or lug to the edge of the fields. And despite the heat in the summer, my mother loved having a garden almost year round. But this was later on, and not when we first arrived in Georgia.

The train to Waycross, Georgia.
The train to Waycross, Georgia. | Source

We made the trip in the early fall, so as to avoid the snow and ice for the first winter we all remembered without it. We brought most of our household goods with us on the train, along with our mule Jack, and the farming implements we intended to use on the new farm. Father had sold our little plot of acreage for a good price, better than he ever expected to get for it. The new owners--a young man and his newlywed wife--looked upon it with proud eyes. “Thuh same as we did one time,” my mother sighed softly, a tear of memory forming in her eye.

Uncle Charlie met us at the depot in Waycross Georgia, bringing his wagon to ferry everything out to the new farm. We’d make do with the old log cabin built by the former owners until we could build a new house for the family. We were right down the road from Uncle Charlie’s place, but our other neighbors lived quite a distance away. So we were there over three weeks until we met anyone but the kinfolk we already knew from North Carolina.

But finally the time came when we were invited to a cane grinding over in McConnell’s Bay. Yes, we were a bit nervous about mingling with a bunch of Scotts, we being Irish and all However, Uncle Charlie said they were fine folks to know, so we took his word for it and loaded up to go.

Source

Through The Swamp

We put on our best duds, clean overalls and white shirts for the men, new cotton print dresses for the ladies of our family. As Pa always liked to say, “We took a bath every Saturday night whether we needed it or not.”

We traveled through the swamps to get to the frolic--as Pa referred to any festive event. We hadn’t been this close to the moss shrouded trees which seemed to surround many of these mysterious wetlands before this outing. Along with the wild deer and hogs we caught glimpses of as they darted across the trail, we were fascinated by the profusion of alligators which inhabited the murky waters of the bay itself.

It was so different from what we were accustomed to, but also somehow familiar to us as if it were home already, and it was in a way. We were committed to this life, with no thought of going back to North Carolina, with no sense of failure in our future. There was no turning back now.

Source
At the cane grinding.
At the cane grinding. | Source

The Duel

“I seen you a-puttin’ thet ole fiddle in thuh wagon, Blake,” my mother said. “You planning’ tuh play it in front of them strangers?” My father winced a little but straightened his shoulders and replied, “Mebbe so Lori, music kin make friends better ‘n talkin’. Besides, I hear tell there’s gonna be a good fiddle player there, a good one Charlie said.”

Nothing else was said till we got to the cane grinding and heard the music. My father sat in the wagon for a bit, listening to the reels and ballads floating through the air around us. He smiled like he knew something, knew a secret no one else knew. He then reached back and pulled the old fiddle out of the wagon and made a bee line for the fire.

There was only a single fiddler sawing away while others danced a reel. Like the other men, he wore a clean pair of overalls and a long sleeve shirt which was light blue in color, reflecting the flames from the fire. Father took his place directly across from the man and joined him in the reel. The man smiled at father and quickly changed the tune to a quicker tempo. The others sensed something different was afoot and quickly stepped aside to watch.

Pa in the later years with myself on the banjo.
Pa in the later years with myself on the banjo.

Home At Last

Uncle Charlie began to nod at everyone as if to say, “Yep, thet’s muh brother a-playin’ thet fiddle, I told yuh so.” I’d never heard my father play like he did that night, never suspected he had it in him, but he made a bit of magic then, showed those Scotts how an Irishman could wring the old songs out of a Devil’s Toothpick. Finally the other musician stopped and simply listened as my father played a sad song from the old country, causing the ladies to weep softly at the end. Even the men folks removed their hats in respect for the sound the old fiddle made.

The man who had bent to father’s will--admitting defeat in the process-- walked around the fire and held out his hand in friendship with a broad grin on his face. “Mr O’Brady I presume,” he said. “And who might you be,” my father asked returning the smile and shaking the offered hand. “They call me Brother McDowell,” he said. “You mean you’re the preacher?” my father gasped. “I’m afraid so,” he said “and this must be Mrs. O’Brady, welcome to Honeysuckle.”

And so our move was complete, was finally satisfactory to everyone, even mother. Pa and the preacher became good friends and fiddling companions as well. I wish I could tell you Pa started going to church regularly along with my mother, I really wish I could. But he had his own beliefs not to do with gods and such, and rather to do with mankind itself and the good things in life to be enjoyed just for the sake of it. I don’t believe he was faulted for it, at least not by those having the privilege of hearing him play a sad ballad on his old fiddle. Make a joyful noise….

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    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 2 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thank you, Janice. I appreciate your time and nice comments. :)

    • jpridgen profile image

      Janice Pridgen 2 years ago from Bellingham WA

      Very interesting story. It was very well written too.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I'm always pleased when one of the "clique" enjoys my tales, Hollie. Actually I have ancestors from all over the British Isles so I'm fortunate to be able to write about all of them on occasion. Georgia was settled by British, Scottish, and Irish immigrants and is one reason the people here are so tough and enjoy the wilder part of this wonderful state. And yes, my great-grandmother was a Brady, formerly O'Brady. Blarney is in my blood! LOL!

      Thanks for your great comments and time. :)

    • HollieT profile image

      HollieT 3 years ago from Manchester, United Kingdom

      Beautifully told, as always Randy. My uncle, my Mother's brother, played the harmonica but she married into an Irish family. My Dad's favourite song of all time was 'Danny boy' I could have sworn your ancestors were Scotts (prolly me hallucinating again) Anyway, if you have Irish blood running through your veins that would explain your musical bent- and wonderous ability to spin a yarn- and you can! :)

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 3 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this short tale, Rebekah. Although this is not one of my favorite pieces of fiction, I can relate to the characters in it as they are based on some of my long deceased ancestors. I'm pleased you liked both the tale and photos accompanying it. I appreciate your time. :)

      Randy

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 3 years ago from Tampa Bay

      I had to come and read some of your fiction as you were suggested as a great fiction writer in the forums. I couldn't stop reading. You have such a welcoming writing style and your characters make us want to know them better. Well done. I love the images you have found to go with the story. Perfect.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      @cam--Many thanks for your input as always, Chris. I did indeed enjoy writing this one as it was a common occurrence for music to bridge gaps between people of different backgrounds during this time period. My ancestors proved this when they came down to Georgia. Thanks for sharing it on your great freelance page also, I do appreciate it, Chris! :)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Randy, I was swept back in time and felt the weight of rocks to be moved and could hear the music of fiddles as I read. Beautifully told. I'll be sharing this on my freelance writers fb page.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hey Alastar! So good of you to check out this tale, and you know a bit about my family's history with the fiddle also. Yes, there may be a bit of truth in this one, intermingled with my imagination, of course.

      The Rutland side of the family was in the Albermarle sound area in 1699 before coming further south and eventually to Georgia, so I can identify. The fiddle was considered evil by some and good by others. I wanted a tale in which it was accepted by both sides as a peacemaker. Thus this hub.

      Thanks old friend for your fine input and a bit of understanding. :)

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

      You really speak for so many families in this gem of a story, Randy. Apologize for being late but some out-side HP stuff has kept me busy lately. I did enjoy this tale - it was like reading some unpublished memoirs or something. Devil's Toothpick ha ha must admit I did suspect a Devil-Went-Down -to-Georgia ending but you produced something finer in how people and communities in the South could welcome newcomers. Btw, one side of my family left the Virginia Mts. for the rich soil of eastern N.C. and the other left the coast for the Mts of N.C. And one sides surname was Bradley. Very fine one my friend, very fine.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Yep, Charlie Daniels certainly is a great fiddler alright. My cousin won the National Old Time Fiddling Championship in the late 40,s and my other 2 cousins were the only fiddlers invited and played several shows a day at the World's Fair in Tennessee when it was there.

      I wrote hub about the fiddling talent on this side of the family and there is a video of my cousin playing the old fiddle my great-grandfather toted and played during the Civil War. He's playing it at the foot of my G-GF's grave. Cool, huh?

      https://hubpages.com/entertainment/Rosin-In-The-Bl...

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Randy, I took my son to a Charlie Daniels concert a few years ago. I don't think there's a better fiddler than Charlie Daniels in today's day!

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hi, Shauna. This one was a bit more lighthearted than "A Fortunate Man" as I needed to change my mood somewhat. Yes, this tale was based on my mothers side of the family with their reputation of being gifted fiddle players. And they also came down from N.C. to "get a piece of bottom land."

      Much appreciation as always for your time and input, Shauna!

      --RG

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Great story, Randy. I'm glad the fiddler and his talent came forth in the end. Nothin' like good ole fiddlin' accompanied by the banjo!

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I probably need to, Becky. I always agonize over whether to click the "publish now" icon or not! lol! Sometimes I go back through my stashed tales and go "hey, that's not too bad." Never remembering writing it at all. I think some get better with age. HA! :)

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Randy, you could always send them to me and I will tell you if they are good, bad or just need more work. Hahahaha.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      @Bob, Becky, and Will--You guys made me run go look to see what my commentator status was now since y'all's have changed. Still a VII for the moment, but I'm wondering why some have abruptly changed all of a sudden?

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      I appreciate that, Becky! This makes me feel better about leaving it up. I'm glad you came back and told me this. I have always respected your comments. :)

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hey Bob, yes some of the photos are mine and some aren't. I try to use as many of my own pics as I can, but sometimes I cannot find any of my own which fills the bill. I'm glad you liked this one as I almost deleted it this morning. Just goes to show I'm a bit too tough on my own work. It makes me wonder about all the others I have packed away.

      And yes, there's a bit of family history intertwined in this tale, as in most of my efforts here. I write what I know! lol!

      Yep, you take a break and Will takes advantage of it! lol! Thanks for your comments, I truly appreciate hearing from you.

      --RG

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks for checking this one out, Will! I always welcome your input on my short tales. I really worried how this one would be welcomed as I really didn't have "the feel" for it --if you know what I mean! lol!

      Thanks again for your time!

      --RG

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Will, they demoted me too. Like I don't comment.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "I take a break and they promoted Willstar above me as a commentator...sheeeeeet!!"

      On the contrary, Bob...for some mysterious reason, they demoted me from a level 8 to a mere 7.

      I know not what I did to displease the HubGods

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Randy, I really am glad you published this anyway. I think it is one of your best.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I was puzzlin all the way through if this was actually your story or a fiction based on the circumstances back then, especially as some pics. were credited and other appeared to be yours.

      Now I can see there was a lot of both in this tale and it lost nothing because of it. How I miss that great nation.

      I take a break and they promoted Willstar above me as a commentator...sheeeeeet!!

      Bob

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Another winner! Your stories are so very readable and enjoyable. Voted up and across the board.

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks to a once-local gal for reading this one, Thelma. And I've spent a lot of time in the Jacksonville area, and the Amelia island area in particular. I almost didn't publish this one as I didn't think it was very good at all compared to some others I've created lately. But it just goes to show sometimes I'm my own worst critic. lol!

      I really do appreciate your time and comments and I will stop by your profile and see what you are writing about. Thanks again! Check out this one if you get the time:

      https://hubpages.com/literature/Came-A-Carpetbagge...

      I think you can relate. :)

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Randy I love hubs about south Georgia! I'm a north Florida girl (Jacksonville) that is now transplanted to north Georgia. I look forward to reading more of your hubs. This one was outstanding!!

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      So pleased you enjoyed this story, Mr. Archer. My ancestors made this same journey south during this time period and I'm sure they experienced some of the same new sights and sounds as those in my short tale. The move had to be a bit scary because of the many differences in their new surroundings. But, here we still are today.

      Many thanks for checking this one out. :)

      --RG

    • Randy Godwin profile image
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      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hello again, Jane. Thank you for your time and comments on this piece of historical fiction. Many "Tar Heels" moved south after the Civil War to take advantage of the flat lands when the vast pine forests were leveled by the carpetbaggers. The swamps were also populated by many settlers of Irish and Scotch descent with their families learning to get along together. Often music was a contributing factor in this aspect.

      I really appreciate your input and time!

      --RG

    • Randy Godwin profile image
      Author

      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Good morning. Becky! This tale was a spur of the moment attempt and I didn't know how it would turn out till I finished it. A bit of family history mixed with fiction inspired this story and I'm very pleased you liked it. Thanks as always for your kind words. :)

      --RG

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      I was hooked at the beginning and never stopped being so. Really great story of the past. The characters seem alive! Great job Randy!

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      Jane Holmes 4 years ago

      What a great story! Not only is it a fine nostalgic piece but it gives the reader and peek into a lifestyle they've probably never witnessed. I enjoyed it tremendously! Voted Up, pinned and shared with others~

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      This is a great story Randy. I really enjoyed it. It held my total attention from the first sentence.