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Phil Whitley

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Member Since: Apr, 2006

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Large Leaf Ivy
By Phil Whitley
Thursday, February 05, 2009

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Memories of a summer day in rural Georgia, 1955

"There's a new guy moving in at the old Sikes place," my best friend, Jimmy, told me as we free-wheeled down Cabbage Patch Hill on our mostly homemade bikes. "He's got one o' those new trailer homes. Wanna go watch `im?"

"Sure," I said as we rounded the curve that led to the main crossroads and heart of Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia, home of both our families for at least three generations of very southern folk. "Are there any kids with `im?" New kids were always objects of interest to us.

"Nah, didn't see any kids. Not even a wife, I don't think," Jimmy said as we neared the scene of an elderly bald-headed man working on the awning of a really neat Airstream travel trailer. He was putting the wrought-iron looking supports up that would hold up the eight foot awning.

"Need any help, mister?' I asked him, really just wanting to find out more about him so we could tell our parents about "the new guy". Parents used their kids as spies in all circumstances like this, so they wouldn't be considered nosey. It was okay for kids to ask the really good questions like, "Where ya from? What's yer name? How long are you plannin' on stayin’?"—things like that.

"Well, my name is Howard, and I have recently retired. I am from New Jersey and I plan to live here a long, long time." Only he said, "New Joisey," and he talked really fast. Our "YANKEE" flags went up! Now our job was to get him talking so we could hear more of this strange new language.

We helped him for the rest of the afternoon, said goodbye at sundown and went home to submit our reports.

The following weekend I was headin' over to Jimmy’s house and saw Mr. Howard working around his porch again. This time he was down on his knees planting something at the base of the porch supports.

"Whatcha doin' Mr. Howard?" I asked as I leaned my bike against his mailbox.

"Planting Large Leaf Ivy." He said as he wiped the sweat from his face.

"Where'd you get it?" I inquired as I helped him push the dirt around the bulb of an all-too-familiar vine.

"Back there at the edge of the forest," he replied. "There’s lots of it back there. Want some to take home?" The word "forest" was another clue to his yankeeness. We would have said "woods".

I carefully suppressed my grin and replied, "No thanks. We've already got lots of it." I watched him as he watered, then fertilized both plants at the two corners of his porch. I couldn't wait to tell my parents what I had seen and I had to leave before he asked me what the heck I was grinnin' about.

I felt kinda bad about two months later for not tellin' him what it was he had planted, because by then you could barely make out the outline of his trailer… beneath the canopy of Kudzu, the Large Leaf Ivy of the South!

       Web Site: Keechie ~ A novel of survival and Adventure

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