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A  Downhome Perspective


I am
a writer
who sings
 a song of the South. 
My heart beats in unison
with its people;
my soul is soothed 
by the sighs of the wind
as it drifts through the needles
of the arrow straight pines
standing sentinal against the back drop
of a cerulean sky.
Sharman Burson Ramsey

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Home for Novels of Sharman Burson Ramsey Partyin' on the Plantation summary
Partyin' on the Plantation: Prologue

Partyin' on the Plantation: Chapter One
   Prologue for Swimming with Serpents
Swimming with Serpents: Chapter One

Partyin' on the Plantation: Chapter One


            Your life can change in a moment. Mine did. The day the Speed-Extra truck ran a stop light and killed my husband of 35 years. I got down about as far as I could go. But when you’re down, there’s only one way to go. 

You’ve got to get down to get up I reminded myself.  

It took about two years for my get up to get started. I guess you could say it started in the middle of  PK Marx on a sunny spring morning. It was bright and early on a day when the merchandise truck was supposed to arrive. I was pushing my empty, but expectant, cart down the glass wares aisle when I just happened to overhear the conversation in the next aisle. 

            “I am so lonely since my divorce. I haven’t been out in the dating world in quite a while. Where do you find a man worth having these days?” I heard a woman say.

            “You’re divorced, looking for a man and have a condo in Florida?  Girl!  What are you doing here in Domingus, Alabama?  You’ll never find a man here!” The other woman replied.

            I picked up an Irish crystal vase and pretended to inspect it. The conversation drifted over the aisle clearly. Not that I was listening … I mean, really … listening.

            “Everyone I know who has gotten remarried lately has found a new husband in Cove City.” She proceeded to name senior and middle-aged newly weds that I was well-acquainted with. Women I had known through clubs and organizations down through the years. 

“But, when you’re here in Domingus, I hear grocery stores are great spots,” she concluded. 

            “Humph,” I sniffed, as I carefully set the crystal down and picked up a beautiful crystal decanter to inspect the price tag … and set it down very carefully. I had seen too many men mangle the mangoes and grope the grapefruit in the fruit section to give much credence to finding a sensitive guy utilizing the grocery store theory. 

            By then, the glass wares aisle was crowded with women totally engrossed in the stemware. As the two in the other aisle said their goodbyes, we glanced guiltily at one another and backed out of the aisle, now too crowded for us to pass with our buggies. Apparently the merchandise truck was late. It was time to leave. The Craft Shop should be open by now so I could pick up my scrapbooking supplies, now on sale. Since Kevin’s death I had become obsessed with chronicling all of life’s events for me and my children--who never seemed to have time--for scrapbooking or me. 

            Having been a widow for several years, I was used to women like the one in PK Marx giving advice on how to find a husband. Being married could often be a test of your religion, but the good times always made up for aggravating days when testosterone was on overload. However, I had thus far ignored their advice and had successfully avoided entering the dating fray. But, it wouldn’t hurt to “theoretically” assess the potential, would it?

            Merciful heavens, what was I doing?  A middle-aged grandmother--a girl can fudge a little on her age when she’s talking to herself. As I was saying, a middle-aged grandmother assessing assets. I chuckled. My children would be appalled. They still liked to think Mom and Dad played pinochle when the bedroom door was closed. As my husband used to say, “I may be married, but I’m not dead, yet” when I would catch him looking at another woman. Now he was and I wasn’t…dead that is. And I guess I wasn’t really married any more.    

            So now absolved, I continued. I hadn’t assessed assets since my cheerleading days when my best friend and I favored basketball over football because the guys’ uniforms made that assessment so much easier. I smiled remembering how naughty my friend and I had felt and how we’d giggled. Oh, well, I sighed, those days were long gone.

            The brightly colored flats of annuals at House Market were just too much of a distraction and with the weather mild and the pansies bright and welcoming, I decided on a detour. I grabbed a buggy… just to hold my purse because I had no intention of purchasing anything and…disregarding caution…headed toward temptation…those beautiful, colorful, fanciful pansies. It was the perfect day to get good and dirty digging in the yard. 

Nothing like working up a good sweat and breathing deeply in the early morning to get your juices flowing. I groaned. Since hearing that conversation at PK Marx, my every thought seemed like something straight out of one of those romance novels I read late into the night until I finally fell asleep. 

            I heard his voice first. It was one of those deep Johnny Cash voices. The kind you wanted to program your car’s navigation voice with and play over and over saying “What is your command?” 

I pushed my buggy down the aisle inspecting the many colored pansies as I followed the voice. I turned the corner caressing an aspidistra. And then, with what I hoped was nonchalance, glanced up to see if the man’s appearance matched his voice. My eyebrows shot up and my eyelids popped open. I forgot to breathe. The man’s assets were of Richard Gere quality. The man in a muddle in the middle of the mums was clearly a gem of the first order as any regency romance writer would clearly recognize. His jeans were so tight you could see the bulge of his wallet worn around the edges. His t-shirt was tight across the well-developed pects. I sighed and my eyes continued upward.

The silver grey of his hair was a relief after all of my ogling. I took a deep breath and plucked a dead bloom off of the nearest petunia. 

            I would call the doctor as soon as I got home. I had to get my hormone dose increased!  These hot flashes…

            Too good looking, I decided, risking another peek. Probably too dumb to count…or, worse yet, gay. What a waste, I decided. And so many single women looking for a good man! I started to push my buggy away. 

            I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard his gravelly voice say, “My wife used to do all the gardening. But she died a year and a half ago. Since then I immersed myself in my practice. Lately, I have discovered gardening. Working up a good sweat in the sunshine is great for producing endomorphs and it makes you feel so much better.”

            “Late wife,” he’d said. The garden lady looked appropriately sympathetic. I wondered if she too wanted to give the poor man a purely platonic hug. I glanced at her. And then back at him. Be honest, girl, that man couldn’t get a purely platonic hug from any member of the opposite sex over puberty unrelated to him.   

My heart fluttered. A widower who still loved his wife. A single man. Like the red matador’s cape unfurled before the approaching bull, there wasn’t a red-blooded woman alive who would not hear that as a challenge.    

            “I am looking for flowers native to this area,” he went on. “I want my yard to have the life and color it always did when my wife cared for it.” 

            My heart clenched with the emotion in his voice. He sounded so sad and lonely. There was more than plants missing in his life. 

            Suddenly, it dawned on me. This was the moment predestined…the reason I had struggled through Rayburn Vinson’s tests. Master Gardener training could actually pay off. I actually knew what flowers were native to the area. It was my duty as a Master Gardener to share my knowledge and help others. Perhaps this could count toward my service hours. I now felt almost sanctimonious about addressing this perfect (and I do mean perfect) stranger. Thank God I had worn my Liz Claiborne blue jeans and blazer for a casual shopping look to go to The Marx today rather than my usual mud encrusted sweat pants.

            While the garden lady scurried off to get her garden book on indigenous flowers, I said, softly, with as much courage as I could muster, “Those Black-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, are native perennials.” 

He looked at me and smiled. Whitening strips couldn’t produce that gleaming a smile. Maybe he was a dentist. I thought. Then I continued, “They don’t live very long, but they are beautiful while they do.” 

            He listened attentively encouraging me by his expression as I rattled on. He picked up the plants I suggested and held them in his arms. 

            “This Lance-leaved Coreopsis, coreopsis lanceolata, is yellow like the Black-eyed Susan and they look great planted together.” I told him.

            “The best specimens seem to be down on the ground,” I said with my fingers crossed behind me. It was just a little white lie. He had to lean down, denim hugging his inspirational assets, to pick them up. Honestly, they all looked alike. But, I’d be going home to an empty house soon, with only memories. Cut a girl some slack I told my conscience. 

             “The Mexican hat, Ratibida columnaris, in red and yellow with its columnar shape adds variety and height to the garden. And you cannot go wrong with Sunflowers … Helianthus

            “These are all easy to grow from seed if you sow them in your garden from late October to mid-November or even early December…if a late dry heat persists.” As if on cue … another hot flash. I grabbed the church program out of my open purse and started fanning. 

            “You seem to know a lot about planting seeds,” he said, focusing his vaguely familiar blue eyes on me. Must be because they were definitely bone melting Mel Gibson blue, I decided. (And I almost hadn’t pulled into House Market, I thought). 

            “Three children,” I said. 

His eyebrows went up. 

“I mean I planted seeds with my children to teach them how plants grow.”

            “And I am a Master Gardener,” I said. I grabbed the nearest plant. 

I cleared my throat. My mouth was dry. 

            The garden lady came back with her book. When neither of us acknowledged her, she turned her back and huffed away.

“I am sure you know that the two most common methods of plant propagation are from seed…” I stuttered on, by this time fanning furiously.
            Who would have thought that everything that had to do with gardening could be taken as innuendo?
            “ …and from cuttings,” I remembered to add.
            I could no longer look the man in the face. That gorgeous smile turned into a grin as he said, “Tell me more,” in a voice too husky for the middle of House Market in the middle of the morning.

About what? I asked myself. 

Native flowers. Oh. Yes.

“The coneflower reseeds itself and is quite easy to divide from the roots,” I stammered. Was I making any sense? 

I grabbed another flower. “Take this Ox-Eye Daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, for example. It is the first to bloom in April.”

Better. I thought. Much better.
            By now, we were both covered in dirt from the plants I had pushed into his arms and those I now held like a bouquet as we stood staring into each other’s eyes. 
            “It is wise to be wary,” I said, and he nodded, suddenly solemn. Somehow I thought the conversation had veered away from flowers and we were talking about something totally different.
             “I mean, about introducing plants near native areas where they might escape and threaten…natural species.” 
             “You don’t talk much,” I finally said, breaking the silence, but still mesmerized by his blue, blue eyes.  
             “My husband, Kevin, didn’t talk much,” I almost whispered. “He used to say I talked enough for both of us… my late husband ... I mean…  He isn’t late. He isn’t here. I mean he’s dead.” 
            Suddenly, unexpectedly, tears blurred my eyes the way they always did when I spoke of Kevin. He’d died too soon and left me in a world that seemed big and scary without him. Sympathy shone in the stranger’s eyes. What would Kevin think of this guy whose name I did not know with the Johnny Cash voice, the assets of Richard Gere and the Mel Gibson eyes?  But even more important … what was I doing comparing this stranger to my husband of 35 years?
               The persistent garden lady returned. I could tell she had reapplied her lipstick.  
               “We have lots of seeds that you can choose from,” she said. “While we have mixes,” she added, “we Master Gardeners,” (and she shot daggers at me with her eyes) “do not recommend mixes because they have too many non-native species. They combine tall and low plants which insures that flowers on short stems will not be seen. Personally, I plant in drifts of different heights for my yard,” she said.
           “It isn’t far from here,” she added.
           Sanity returned. 
           “Well,” I said. “You’re apparently in good hands. This lady is obviously also a Master Gardener and probably knows much more than I do.”
           I thrust the plants I held into the surprised woman’s arms and I scurried away, eager to return to the safety of my own garden. 
           I pulled the door to my Tahoe shut and rested my head on the steering wheel. 
           I am never going out of the house again I vowed. 
           Kevin always told me I would get in trouble talking to strangers. I should have gotten my scrapbooking supplies and gone straight home! I turned the key in the ignition and turned to look over my left shoulder before I pulled out. 
          My heart clenched with an almost paralyzing fear … and then I shrieked. 
          There he was. Almost eyeball to eyeball. I was about to live out my youngest daughter’s favorite horror movie, A Terminal Affair. Now my heart pounded in my chest. He was a stalker—a male Glynna Claus.
           He stepped back and held up his hands. “I’m not about to hurt you,” he chuckled.   

“I have the advantage on you, I am afraid. I was the anesthesiologist for your   colonoscopy. As soon as you started with the Latin names of all of those flowers, I recognized your voice. You are the only patient I have ever had that recited the Latin name of flowers in her sleep.”

My face must have shown my continued apprehension. Then mortification set in. I could not blame hot flashes for the flush of embarrassment that enflamed my face just thinking of what he had seen of me, certainly a part of my anatomy that I had never considered my best asset.

 “Please,” he said, coaxingly. “I simply must have you tell me whether monarch butterflies are attracted to any of these plants.” That gravelly voice could melt a girl’s bones.

What a wonderfully sensitive man to show his concern about the declining numbers of butterflies!  No wonder he’d stayed married to that lucky woman so long. I was sure he would pass the fruit department test! 

 “I understand monarchs are having a hard time in the winter havens. They fly back to the U.S. from Mexico, and find the milkweeds, the food of their caterpillars, mowed out of existence on our roadsides.”

“Losing one’s home is very sad,” he said, his voice husky and seductive. I knew he was talking of the essence of home…that feeling of coming home that only came from having the right person there to greet you. 

I sighed and nodded again. Tears once again threatened as I basked in the strange feelings welling within me once again as one soul reaches tentatively out to another. 

“Coneflowers also attract butterflies,” I said, just to have something to say, impressed that I still had not lost all of my senses gazing into his Mel Gibson eyes.

“Could I interest you in lunch?” he asked, stepping closer to the Tahoe. “The hot dogs here are really pretty good. And I must pay for all of those plants we selected.”

I had to make a decision quickly. I could refuse and go back to my solitary, lonely life or take the chance that he was an axe murderer. It would take courage to step out of my cocoon. 

I nodded. My mouth was suddenly too dry for words. I recognized fear. I was about to step out into uncharted territory and my heart pounded in my chest. He opened the car door.

I turned off the car, climbed down from the Tahoe and stepped toe to toe with him. 

And then he said, “By the way, I made sure the doctor got those double prints you requested of your colon for your scrapbook. When the proctologist lifted the sheet and found your sticky note reminder in that unique spot, it made it  … and you … hard to forget.”

My heart stopped beating. The blood rushed from my head. My feet felt glued to the asphalt. How should one react to having hero quality manhood admit to having participated in the exploration of your previously uncharted nether regions…and having the pictures to prove it?

I took a deep breath. I must have been white as a sheet and wobbling a bit, because he grabbed my arm to support me. 

His touch brought the blood rushing back. I felt like Caesar must have felt at the Rubicon. He smiled down at me. I stepped forward and let him guide me toward the hot dog stand. Little did I know that small step was the beginning of my life’s turn-around. The die was cast.







Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster