As family and friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, I share my gratitude for this sample of blessings:
§ For Big Dink and Margie, our parents from the Greatest Generation, who were daily lessons in love, compassion, giving, and the values of hard work and a good name. My dad professed, “We may not be the smartest or the richest, but we can be ladies and gentlemen.” Mother was forever a beacon of hope. Sisters Sandy and Sheila would agree that our family’s motto could have been “We will work.”
§ For my wife, Pam. There’s no grander “Myma” on earth. Just ask Wyatt, Hayes, William, Henry, Fenn, Bayard, Smith and Stella. Pam and I must have eloped during junior-high recess to have been married 53 years. Not really. Thanks to fraternity brother Spunky Good, who suggested the UGA blind date in 1968.
§ For our “Disco Babies,” Alan, Emily and Eric, born in the 1970s. They, too, are UGA grads, as are their spouses—Heather, Tom and Connell. All six are productive citizens, community leaders and successful in their careers. But in my opinion, their highest achievements have been in parenthood.
§ For the good fortune of growing up in small-town Georgia. Starting in my Jack-and-Jill-Kindergarten-sandbox days, I began making lifelong friends. Add to that list of special people classmates and teachers at First Baptist Church and in Jesup public schools. I believe it was Harry Truman who said that we must save America’s small towns because that’s where we get our presidents.
§ For Mrs. Ruth Oglesby, who introduced me to the University of Georgia. When our eight grandchildren were born, I paid for each of them, too, a lifetime membership in UGA’s Alumni Association. That means when our family dines together, there are 32 Red-and-Black-loyal feet under the table. Imagine a Sanford Stadium-size swath of Velcro. If you tried to snatch from us our devotion to UGA, here’s what it would sound like … rrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiip!
§ For my uncles Joe and Billy Vines, who immersed me early into the outdoors. Neither had sons, so they loved me as their own. They taught me how to bait a hook, paddle a boat, handle a gun, trail a bird dog, pick out a single
covey-rise quail and drive a Jeep. They were honorable outdoorsmen who inspired me to treasure God’s gifts of nature. I have done my best to instill that same passion in our children and grandchildren.
§ For my grandmother, Essie Vines, who was a blue-ribbon snuff dipper. Ditto for her nighttime, front-porch storytelling. Her rocking chair squeaked as loud as her laugh. And how could I forget the taste of Nanny’s blackberry cobbler? She educated me in her salt-of-the-earth ways, while making sure I understood my family’s roots were in the soil, generations deep.
§ For football coaches Clint Madray and Ben Park, who helped me discover that I had a backbone below my sweaty shoulder pads. Clint barked, “Even a dead man has one more step!” Ben was “Give-Me-No-Excuses” Park. If a teammate said, “But, coach,” he’d sing, “Alibis, alibis!” Army boot camp was a breeze, thanks to those two builders of boys into men.
§ For Elliott Brack and Dr. Lanier Harrell, I am grateful that they accepted me—a newspaper greenhorn—as their partner at the Wayne County Press. I had dreamed of being a lawyer. But when ink got into my veins, well, the rest is a 52-year history.
I could extend this list far beyond your attention span. Instead, I’ll part with this: I am grateful for your support of this newspaper and reading these words. You help make this and every day one of thanksgiving.