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From Sweet Dirt and Southern Bones
by Cindy Smith Brown

I didn’t like the mail I got. It was an invitation to my high school class reunion–you know what I mean–all cheerful, full of reminiscent type folderol. I ambled back from the mailbox, cussing the dog for jumping around me and trying his best to trip me in my reading-while-walking state. Had it really been thirty some odd years since my class had graduated, clear-eyed, healthy and naive?

I, baby-boomer Ray Nelle Lyons Soperton (married name Goodloe) was born in the year of our Lord 1948 in Sweetsboro, Georgia, on a day that was hotter than a June bride in a feather bed, according to my mama, Mary Elizabeth Soperton, wife of my father, John Robert Soperton, Sr. My Mama had a saying for all weather conditions and their adjunct activities. By the time I was twelve years of age, I had been "raised up" in the way of a typical southern female of the fifties. I had worn my first hat at age four, my first Brownie beanie at age seven, and had struggled into my first garter belt at age eleven. I knew the proper way to set a table, make a bed and make a fuss. Failing to perfect the time-honored art of flirting was one of my few failures, but I did know how to snooker my parents’ friends. People described me as "that nice little Soperton girl."

Our family members were Methodists, Elks Club members, and Democrats–and according to whom you spoke, the order of those entities might change. Ruler of the Soperton clan was my Uncle Craig Soperton, an austere gentleman who didn’t know the South had lost the war and still had his granddaddy’s Confederate money stashed in a secret location. Uncle Craig had voted a straight Democratic ticket in every election and would have done so even if the devil were a donkey. Uncle Craig was now in a nursing home in my hometown and thinking of him made me feel slightly guilty, as I had not been to visit with him in a while.

Everybody who knows anything about the culture of the southern states knows there has to be at least one eccentric, and preferably crazy, relative barely hanging onto a branch of the family tree: we had just such a relative in Aunt Priscilla. Aunt Priscilla, fondly known as Prisci, was Daddy’s oldest sister–she was now ninety-five years of age and had managed to outlive Daddy’s baby sister, Eugenie, who died at age sixty-five. Aunt Eugenie was called the baby sister until her death. (In our neck of the woods we classify folks in funny ways). Aunt Eugenie had been a fairly normal woman for her time and was respected in our community.

Normal was never a word used in describing Prisci. With a cigarette in her left hand and a shot of good bourbon in a crystal glass in her right, Prisci sat in a rocking chair on the vast porch of her old home and cursed everyone who walked by, nodding her hatted head all the while. My aunt’s hats were enormous creations and often adorned with huge, brightly colored, horrible-looking flowers. Prisci’s porch sitting and cursing weren’t what earned her reputation, though. It was the probable killin’ of her first husband and the sure killin’ of her second husband which earned Prisci a place in a crooked limb of our family history. Prisci was too smart to be caught in the first case and just crazy enough to get away with the second crime and to brag among friends about her actions. I always liked the old lady. When I was a young child, Prisci would let me have a snort of her bourbon and would allow me to wear her cast-off hats. Mama always said I had a little Prisci in me. Nowadays, I wish I had more.



BIO: Cindy Smith Brown, a lifelong Georgia resident and native of Dublin, Georgia, began her newspaper career at The Warner Robins Journal. She has written weekly newspaper columns for Jackson Progress-Argus and The Covington News, and also enjoys writing for magazines.

Cindy and her family have been residents of the Covington/Jackson, Georgia, area since 1972. With five grown children and seven grandchildren, there is always fodder for book material. Her special interests are genealogy, history, reading and crossword puzzles. A firm advocate of reading at least one book each month, she attributes her love of reading to her father, who instilled in her the importance of the written word and the great joy reading brings.

Cindy is now at work on her next book, and she, along with her husband Ben, are enjoying their venture into the literary world.

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