The Mysteries of the Trustees’ Garden, part 2

      Here’s the remainder of my article that ran in the past issue of Georgia Backroads Magazine.  Again, if you like history take a look at your local book store in the South.  I found copies at Barnes and Noble, but you can order back issues or subscribe at Here’s the first section of the article.  Over the next few weeks you can read it here in its entirety. ————


The Kehoe Iron Foundry building at Trustees Garden before the start of renovation. Owner William Kehoe was a classic Horatio Alger character who came with nothing and made well in America.

The Mysteries of Trustees’ Garden, Part 2.

by James Byous

     The Savannah Manufactured Gas Works was built on the bluff in 1849 in part to supply gas lighting to Savannah’s wharves a stone’s throw away at the bluff’s base.  Light was needed to discourage kidnapping on the docks, where the shanghaiing of sailors was rampant.  Five years later, the mayor reported that of 100 policemen working for the city, 60 were assigned to the wharves to combat the problem. Lighting helped, but kidnapping continued to be a problem for decades.

The Lamar wharf was situated about 600 yards northeast of Trustee Garden.  In 1859, Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar earned the distinction of being the last person in the United States tried for illegally importing slaves.  The neighboring Gordon wharf was owned by the family of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America.  Just to the west, Willink’s wharf is where the ironclad C.S.S. Georgia was built and launched in 1862.

At the gas works on the bluff, coal was converted into gas for lighting.  This process created coal tar residue, a byproduct of heating coal in ovens.  This tar seeped into the sandy bluff.  Over the course of a century, the black, gooey, toxic solution found its way through the sand and eventually into the Savannah River.  In 2001, the soil inside the wall, remnant dirt from Fort Wayne, was excavated and hauled away for cleaning.

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The Gas Works Wall at Trustees’ Garden was built in 1853 and replaced the earthen structures of Fort Wayne and Fort Prevost. The arch area is the powder magazine section and is the only segment of the wall that dates back to the American Revoluntion.

That project provided an opportunity for a fast-paced archaeological study.  The work revealed the long-forgotten arrangement of interlacing brick walls that supported the old gas-holding tank.  When the team excavated several pits a few feet from the wall along the road bed, benzene and ammonia belched from the holes.  Later, these contaminants were removed so that only traces remain.  Correcting these missteps of the industrial age took years of hard work.

The Kehoe Iron Works complex once occupied the south end of the Garden property. In 1842 the Irish-immigrant family of ten-year-old William Kehoe moved into a tenement house at the south edge of Trustees Garden.  The boy had no idea that 40 years later he would own a successful iron foundry across the street.

William Kehoe is a success story that merits the label “Made in America.”  Four of the main buildings he built have stood empty for decades. The oldest structures were built in the 1880s and are scheduled for renovation in the next few months.  Work on the one known as the Metal Building is nearing completion.  Erected about 1900 the iron-framed utilitarian-style structure was at the point of collapse.  The crew that excavated the foundation uncovered a window into the past.  The brickwork revealed that several structures were successively built on an original foundry footing.  At least four previous foundations make up the final wall that stands on a spot that once served as a pre-1870s community dump and an earthen War-of-1812 fortification wall.

Engineers and architects also discovered an interesting Metal Building characteristic linking it directly to one of America’s captains of industry.  The columns and beams feature raised “Carnegie Steel” lettering.  This dates the building since J.P. Morgan purchased Andrew Carnegie’s steel company in 1901 for $480 million, making Carnegie the richest man in the world at the time.  Thereafter, the columns and beams manufactured by the company would bear Morgan’s “U.S. Steel” trademark.  Since the building does not appear on insurance maps printed in 1898, it had to be built between that year and the year of Morgan’s purchase of the steel company.  This discovery makes the Metal Building one of the last Carnegie structures built… another peel of the historic onion.

Kehoe Iron Works_Bldg Demolished

Kehoe’s newer complex built in 1916 before demolition. William Kehoe died in 1930 before the depression economy drove the business into bankruptcy. This facility, which was located near the Savannah River, was a fixture in Savannah’s industrial history. Photo: Library of Congress

The name Trustees Garden has continued from generation to generation.  For many years, Savannahians deemed the garden to be “outside” town even though it was only a quarter mile from the original city gate and eventually came to be included within the city limits.  Throughout the city’s 280-year history, the garden area was a location for the underclasses.  In the beginning it was a neighborhood of slaves and freedmen and later included the Irish.

The Trustees Garden is unique in that it was an integrated community for a dozen decades prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Blacks and white Irish workers shared employment in the foundry and labored together at the gas works.  The need for iron-hardened workers provided employment for men who endured the hellish conditions in both facilities.  In the summer months, workers inside the brick buildings experienced temperatures of 130 to 140 degrees while hand-stoking coal or pouring liquid iron.

Blacks and whites of the Garden community worked together, ate together, drank together – sometimes heavily – and shared housing.  Savannah society tolerated this lifestyle with an out-of-town, out-of-mind viewpoint.  It was unlawful for blacks to frequent white stores, bars and restaurants, but they did so in the Garden.  It is suggested that no beat-cop wanted the job of ousting the black friends and co-workers of burley, rough, just-off-the-boat Irish dock and iron workers, so tolerance was the better part of valor.

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The retort building at Trustees’ Garden where coal was heated and gassified for burning in Savannah’s street lights. The pre-Civil War building now serves a the Charles H. Morris Center and is used for meetings and events.

Mary Hillyer, the wife of Savannah Gas President Hansell Hillyer, took on the project of restoring the Garden and its buildings in the late 1940s.  She recruited local realtor Dot Courington to help.  Together, they oversaw the project that would transform the Garden’s greasy, smut-and-oil coated buildings into a residential apartment complex with at positive cash flow.

Savannah resident Patrik Ruddy recalls living in an apartment in the Three Gables Building in 1996.  “It was a cool place to live,” he says.  “The energy bills were low because of the eight, twelve-foot-high windows,” that ventilated his two-bedroom, one-bath apartment that overlooked the Savannah River.  He remembers sitting on his decorative iron balcony to watch the fireworks during the 1996 Olympics yachting ceremony.  There was one drawback:  a door that refused to stay locked and continually opened by itself.  Ruddy recalls, “The neighbors would walk by and ask, ‘Why is your door open?’  I had it locked. But it would open by itself.”

History buffs often comment that they “feel” history.  As I stand looking at the gray-brick wall in the Trustees’ Garden, history is talking to me.  All of the earthen fortifications are gone, but the powder magazines of two of the strongholds, Fort Prevost and Fort Wayne, were in line with the wall to my front.  The shallow arch hadn’t made sense to me during past visits, but a map overlay shows that this was a partially-covered doorway, the original entrance to this once-buried bunker.  Apparently when the earth was moved to fill the terrace, the brick-constructed magazine presented extra work and cost.  It was the perfect place to put an oven for burning oyster shells into the lime used in the filtration of gas.

Like Kehoe’s foundry foundations, it was easier to build on the past than to destroy it.  Preservation came down to dollars and cents.  I suppose that’s proper and normal.  As Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

     A retired journalist in Savannah, James Byous holds a master’s degree in historical archaeology and is a history consultant in southeast Georgia.  He is currently writing a history of Trustees’ Garden and Savannah.

© J.D. Byous 2015 All Rights Reserved.


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Lee Maddeford, Alaskan-Suisse music? Lederhosen laden lumberjack? No, wait… that’s cool!

Lee Maddeford

  Lee Maddeford


Lee Maddeford who are you and where have you been?  You do what you do and it’s interesting stuff… your music that is.

Recently I discovered Lee Maddeford while, of all things, looking for a royalty-free Black Gospel track.  There in the middle of a long list of great spirituals was a tune called “Woman just like you.”   I clicked it (below) and it was immediate and certain, love at first listen.

It’s a melancholy melody that contain verses that any man could sing, wished he could sing or secretly aspired to sing.  It’s reminiscent of a guy’s first love, current love or maybe even a future love.  It summons memories of the first time he met his one-and-only, when he sees his dream-girl passing on the street or when she sits across the bus or the office or a dimly lit bar through a smoky, dream-like fog.

Those who know me will tell you, I am not a “music” kind of guy.  I enjoy lots of styles, but am far from a connoisseur.  But, one can hear several influences in this guy’s music; Billy Joel, French Cabaret, a little Johnny Mercer.  He often sounds like one of my favorites, Eddie Wilson, here in Savannah, GA.  There’s a bit of the blues, jazz and, below, I definitely hear the Beatles at the start of “Be what you wanna be.”   And,… oddly… what sounds a like the strains of Disney animation tunes in a few of his pieces – Dick Van Dyke could do a bit of light kicking and tapping to a couple.   I like all of these styles but can’t be called a super fan of any of them…. except maybe blues and the Beatles of my youth.  I’ve heard enough Disney from grandkids to last a few years, though I know I will miss them terribly as my progeny grows.

Most of Maddeford’s songs are bellowed through soft washes of gravel that ripple downstream to create a handsomely mellow and warm voice.  It’s a great style and is reminiscent of the legendary Russ Taff.  The cut, “Berceuse du temps qui passe,” (Lullaby of passing time?) with its French title starts with a clunk that sound like a dropped studio mic then resonates suspiciously into an Irish drinking song… performed and accompanied by a crowd of inebriated Irish patrons.

I know the sound well.  Being Irish I have participated in said sing-along sessions and recognize the archetypal slapping and thumping that emanates from beer covered, pretzel-crusted pub tables.  But, don’t give up, listen on.  Darned if it doesn’t work… no, really.  It’s an enjoyable, insightful and interesting song that was undoubtedly written for a Suisse stage play.  It’s becoming one of my favorites.

There seems to be little written about him… Lee Maddeford, unless you happen to read French… which I do not.  Other than the French version of Wikipedia about all that I can find is that he was born in Alaska and studied music in Seattle, Washington and worked as a lumberjack at one time, high in the northern woods of Alaska.  He apparently went on a backpacking trip to Europe and stayed.

As of 1981 he resides in Gourze near Lausanne, Switzerland.  Some of that info came from one of his emails that mysteriously popped up online.  And, I read that he writes for choirs, theater and big bands. More interesting is his web site,, which contains at least 150 mp3’s that he has made.  He allows anyone to download them for free, non-commercial usage.  And it’s pretty darn good music – free or not.  Oh, there are a couple of the songs that are, in my aged opinion, pure crap… but I’m sure he would disagree.  You may too.

However, all in all, and a few more clichés… would someone bring this guy to the forefront as he should be?  Maybe bring him to Savannah for a while.  I’d like to hear a duet with Eddie Wilson.

– JB


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Courage: Profundity on a half shell.

Courage: Profundity on a half shell.

By J.D. Byous

What is courage?  Recently I’ve been reading and studying courage… almost to my chagrin.   I know that courage is a virtue I admire.  It’s noble.  It’s a great ideal for one to aspire.  But, man, it is hard to describe and dissect.  I hadn’t really attempted to diagnose the real meaning and meanings.  Now that I do it’s hard for me to wrap my mind completely around it.  It’s an enormous wrap.

I find that there are variations on the heart of the meaning.  For instance, to be courageous in battle or in times of physical conflict or disaster defines the most common form of courage we think of.  They give medals for it.  The recipient is a called “hero”.

But, courage is more than the charging-in-despite-the-odds actions of an individual or group.  Though those can be great and admirable actions.  The idea of courage, the totality of courage, the essence of courage, is distinct and much deeper.

Sometimes courage is physical.  Sometimes it is mental.  Sometimes it is spiritual; the keeping-on, keeping-on that many around us silently face each day.  Not taking a drink, not shooting up, not eating just-one-more helping can require courage.  It is also a man comforting a friend in trouble or a mother holding the hand of a child wrapped in bandages, surrounded by monitors, invaded with feeding tubes and probes and needles in tiny veins.  Or sometimes it is the act of taking a chance in business or in life or in love knowing the odds say that you will fail, but you continuing on because you know it is the honest and correct thing to do.

That is courage.

Winston Churchill was an advocate and evangelist of courage.  His grasp of the power of will, determination and steadfast continuance helped him lead Britain through the perils of his time.  America lead the battle to defeat fascism in the 20th century but Winston Churchill lead the way by doggedly expounding his call for courage.

One quote attributed to him states, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  I don’t know if he really said it, but he should have because it holds to his message.  The perseverance to keep on keeping on.  Sloshing through the trudgery and drudgery, to fight on for a righteous cause without giving in.

That… is… courage.

However, the key word above is “righteous”.  Righteousness can simply be the will – the courage – to not give up hope, to hold a grain of, a faint flicker of faith in that which is correct and true.  Often that is the hardest.  And, often one must have courage in order to hold on to that faith or even to grasp its tiny fringes that persistently whip and twist in your mind’s gripping fingers.

Then again, it seems to me that one must have faith and hope in order to have courage.  I suppose they are the totality and quintessence of the subject; the same frame of mind, of spirit, of determination.  But the real power of those three is in the possession and implementation of all, the letting of one germinate, nurture and grow the others.

Courage – positive courage, the courage that is victorious – is a bundle of all; hope, faith and courage.  See, to have hope without faith is hollow.  To have faith without hope is impossible.  To have courage without hope or faith is needless sacrifice.

Conversely, standing to fight the indomitable beast knowing that you have no possibility of winning but knowing that you may slow the beast and assure the salvation of others… that revelation is the presence of hope and faith, not in one’s self, but for a greater good.

That is awe-inspiring, skin-tingling courage.

Then again, with all aside, would it not take courage to run and fight another day?  Would that be called wisdom?  Because in order to exercise wisdom one must usually have courage.  So now we have another variable.

And finally, love… love is a progenitor of the first three and sometimes all four.  If implemented alone it can create any and all of the others. But to have love without wisdom… that opens another can of twisting mental-thought worms.

The final decision to delve into the ramifications of what we may find and how it affects us and how we will deal with the acquired knowledge and IF we will implement those findings… that takes… courage.

See?  It’s an enormous wrap.

I think I’m going to lie on the couch for a while and vedge.

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Poetry from the past

The following is a true story embedded in verse, a bit of cowboy poetry. It is from my youth when I was in my first year of college.  The names have been changed or avoided to protect the innocent.  I wrote it about 30 year ago, but recently revised and expanded it a bit to better tell the story.  As my friend Dave Marston would say, “It is the truth…… as I remember it.”


Oh… for all of my city friends or the Easterners that might read this, the word “brimmer” is a Western-American term for a Brahman bull.  A brimmer is a mean, vicious animal that is best eaten with A-1 sauce, but otherwise should be avoided at all cost.


Also to explain – as is so around Ceres and Turlock, California where I grew up – in the West you can drive out across open country with miles of nothing then find empty, seemingly orphaned rodeo arenas.  However, on certain days of the week or month the site becomes a crowded place for the gathering of the testosterone-numbed minds of young men who engage in actions that result in the procurement of broken bones, twisted limbs and dirt-injected orifices, all to the ooohs and awwws of young women of a similar age.  I know.  I’ve been there… on the male side.


But, thankfully simple logic dictated, in my way of thinking, that the cause and effect of such actions is to predictively hurt like hell or perhaps die looking like a rag doll being ripped apart by a pit-bull terrier.  I learned to suppress the hormone-induced stupor of my youth and am quite proud of that decision.  As a result, I am still here as of this writing.


I call the poem:


My True Life Experience at Bull Riding

and Why I Was Able to Live To Be So Damned Old


By J.D. Byous


When I was a boy

And feelin’ quite manly

I went down to Turlock to ride


With the other boys

On the backs of bulls

And show off our manly pride


As we waited our turns

We sat on the fence

And talked of how good we’d look


Then we cocked our hats

To the sides of our heads

And spoke of the guts that it took


Well… the first boy out

We called Whirlwind Bill

And he crawled on a mean lookin’ brimmer


But, under his backside

Down beneath that bovine hide

You could see the hate start to simmer


I spoke –

“Well, it’s my turn next”

I bragged to my friends

Those bulls have this boy to fear


I then talked about courage

That I was never discouraged

As my time for ridin’ came near


But then…


Over in the chute

Bill’s bull started to boil

About the time they opened the gate


That bull articulated himself

As anyone could see

‘Cause he was spoutin’ and seethin’ pure hate


And then…


An obvious hush

came over the crowd

As we viewed the horror and awe


The image that day

Is burned in my mind

As I watched with fear-slackened jaw


‘Cause that bull squealed like a demon

As he launched like a jet

Then he bounced, and he bucked, and he flipped


And threw poor Bill

High up in the air

For a landing he was poorly equipped


‘Cause Bill landed flat

As prostrate and spread

As a cheap, second-hand, yoga mat


Now Bill’s feelings I know

Were not the bull’s worry

That animal just didn’t care


His sensitivities for Bill’s comfort

Were not on his mind

See… he had no emotion to spare


‘Cause he reared straight up

Rammed his head back down

And he buried Bill about a foot deep in the mud


Then he backed up again

And he took a nose dive

And the whole arena shook with a thud


And he pushed poor Bill

clear …across… to the fence

… And I flinched


‘Cause back behind him

Wasn’t nothin’ but a bunch of bull tracks

…And Bill’s shape in the form of a trench


Grab your gear, cowboy

I heard my friend say

‘Cause now it’s your turn to play


But when he turned around

Ol’ Jimbo weren’t there

I was in my truck about five miles away


Now I’ve had years to think

Of my retreat from the brink

Of death, or of mind-numbing pain


That the flight-fright notion

Is a valued emotion

That God planned and instilled in our brain


And to see the condition

Of all my old friends

All bent, all crooked and lame


I’m standing right tall

Not ashamed, feelin’ small

For my bovine hoppin’ refrain


You see…

It’s bronco bustin’

For some of the guys

And I’ve been known to try that some


But when it comes to ridin’

On the back of a bull

This Okie boy

Sure as hell

… Ain’t that dumb


©J.D. Byous 2016, all rights reserved

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E-Web, Schmee Web, A Walk in the Park…

…well, at least a walk down the drive.

The walk down the drive with my grandkids is only 200 yards long.  The school bus arrives just before sunrise this time of year for the ride to their North Georgia middle school.  Most times I carry my camera when I visit.  Doing so this morning did not let me down.  The terraced hill above the house is shrouded in a low thin mist that divides the embankment from the forest that grows tall and dense past the farmland along the ridge.  But, this morning’s view contains a bonus.  Hundreds of small one-half inch spiders had dotted the landscape with their delicate and beautiful nets.  Covered in dew, they stand their silent vigil, patiently awaiting their morning meals… that and for the offhand chance that I might grab their portrait on the dawning light.  I comply.  Here are the results.  A good way to remember September 11.  A good way.

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Just prior to dawn the mist rises from farmland between the berm next to the drive and the forest beyond and separates the scene.

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A cast net hangs motionless before the morning breeze begins.

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A slight puff of wind bends this web as its owner waits for the sun to rise.

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Barely visible, and just as does several cousin spiders, this one holds a droplet of dew in his jaws as he awaits breakfast.

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A record shot for my granddaughter, her school project, a pumpkin plant, blooms in the dawning.

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A ray flower greets the morning. A “daddy long-legged” spider pokes three of his appendages from behind the petals…. Look close.

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A less spectacular garden spiderweb stakes out a lower and less showy net.

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A grass spike is outlined by a recent visitor.

The morning sun peeks above the hilltop creating dew-diamonds on the webs and plants.

The morning sun peeks above the hilltop creating dew-diamonds on the webs and plants.

© J Byous Company, 2015 All Rights Reserved.

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The Hill

s 1 1 _9922 Byous Property view of Oklahoma Mountain and Sugarloaf from the property

A predawn photo of Eastern Oklahoma. The cone-shaped hill to the right is Sugarloaf where my paternal grandfather was born. Oklahoma was wild back then filled with rock-hard and tough people.

The hill by my grandfather’s house was a world unto itself, without a tear or care or worry.  Eastern Oklahoma was a place where the dreams of small boys lived… where they played… where everything came together for a young American’s life.  It was not a place for sorrow back then, or so I remember it.  It was beyond life.  The grass on the hill was lush and green, where summer flowers bloomed and was always just the right height for running through and diving into and wallowing about, all in blissful laughter… chiggers and tics be damned.

The watermelon fields were down below the barn beside a bend in the road.  And it seemed that each time we visited was just the right time for the melons to be picked and cut open and eaten and the seeds spat to see who was champion.  I was champion once though I was the smallest of the lot.  While sitting on the fence beside the barn I spat one large black seed, oh… twenty feet or more.  It jetted half-way to the horseshoe pit where my uncles Clyde and Paul were pitching.  Those times were fun.  The girls didn’t like it, but seed spitting was part of the ritual.  Seeing their twisted, contorted faces was worth the occasional, slobbery drool.

What seemed to be huge house back then was a simple four-room country home that sat in another bend of the road.  Before my teens the bathroom stood a thirty-yard dash away on cold winter nights.  The road out front door was half way, either way, to the left or to the right, half way to town, five miles distant.  To the left you wade through Mountain Creek, through Kennedy and back across again, then on to 133 and turn left then you’re there.

If you went to the right from the house the lane wound past the Midgley’s farm, then past Uncle Clyde’s.  From there to town was an endless string of relatives, J.C. Donaho, L.T. Johnson, cousin Dural at Morgan hill.  Then it was straight to town… unless of course you decided to cut past the Chapel, the small church building a short jog off of the main road.  There the grounds are dotted with mounds and stones and crosses of family gone before, all related, all remembered and always illustrated and described by the elders in the family.

When old enough I rode a young bay mare those long, quiet, interesting miles to town.  There I stopped at the Dairy Queen where my cousin worked the window.  I still see it.  A quick hello, a few minutes gazing into her captivating brown, Cherokee eyes… damn!  She had to be my cousin.  First cousin at that.  Second cousins maybe, third would be okay, but this beautiful lady was way to close, that and ten years my senior.  “Sometime life’s not fair,” I thought.  Later she married a fellow from the next town south.  So, I continue on.

A gulped-down malt, back in the saddle then back on the road.  The bay canters along the road, rocking-horse smooth, wind gently flows over my face and through my hair.  Time and place have no meaning.  I am here and all time is here.  There is no other place.  I am moving down the same route that had been traveled by my family generations before – along the hoof-marks made by the mounts of my grandfathers and my uncles and my cousins.  Back to the days of the outlaws, of Jesse James, the Youngers and Belle Starr.  Their lives cross those in my family along with lawmen Heck Thomas, Bill Tilghman and Chris Madsen.  Their times were tough.  So were the people.  Rough-edged would be a descriptor.  Life is good and easy today.

My grandfather’s wagon traveled this route many times over the years.  When I was small; what wonderful times we enjoyed.  Drawn by two horses we would ride over the hill and down to town for supplies.  The carriage was made of rough-hewn wood and rolled on rubber tires changed-out during the depression when wood-spokes were scarce and even more expensive.  Along the washboard road we bounced and jostled over pot-holes and pock-marks cut by the fast, modern, in-a-hurry vehicles.  Their tires spinning on the gravel course, bounding, vibrating and digging the lane, turning the surface into a tooth-rattling, bone shaking, corduroy of rocky roadbed.

We, at a slower pace, picked our route along the springless journey, holding tight to the sideboards, waiting for the next bump to launch us above the plank-lumber bed.  The bobbing heads must have been a strange sight to those passers-by in the sleek-finned automobiles that zipped past with a wake of dust and grit.  But we loved the wagon.  We loved the driver.  We loved the land that we crossed.

And the mound, the hill…  The hill had a life and being of its own.  It was a magical thing – like no other entity or place.  To a child it was where castles formed in a stand of trees and mountains from the clouds.  Where good guys and bad guys gunned it out for the sake of the fearful townsfolk.  It was where dragons were fought and conquered, sometimes twice a day, sometimes three… and it was where an old white mare carried three knights at a time again and again from campaign to campaign… only to avoid our every command at feeding time, unless, of course, we too wanted to wander back to the barn.

But mostly I suppose, it was the people of the hill.  The bond of love.  The binding of family, of friends, of caring.  It’s a good memory.  From time to time it bubbles up from the past and grows a grin on aged lips and shines a light on a life-battered soul.  Memories are good.  That’s what youth is for – making good memories.  Those memories are good.

I think back to the hill and I smile.  The people are all gone now.  The house is too.  Only the hill remains.  Those memories are good to review – good for lifting the heart.

Now days I think of it often.  And, it’s very, very good.




© J Byous Company, 2015 All Rights Reserved.

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And one last time… Butterfly Country

Yosemite as you have never experienced…

Here is a group of Butterfly Country cartoons form the ’80s that I call the Golf Series.  Unless I find a few more in storage these are the last of the strip samples that I still have.  Again, these are from a group of cartoons that were considered by several news syndicates…… and from which I received a resounding, fervent and unanimous, “NO!”

As for the game.  Golf, that is.  I once played golf… all the other times I hacked at a small white ball in manners that cannot be categorized as technically “playing” golf.  I am still paying “divot” penalty fees to several courses in the West.  They all agreed to take payments if I would avoid their facilities.  Years ago I gave up the game at the request of… well… everyone that had ever walked the links with me.  I also received a few requests from others that, merely passing afar, took the initiative to contact me anonymously and affirm the need for my disengagement from the activity.  It was for them alone and en mass that I quit… that and the rude, threatening, golf-spike-pinned notes that mysteriously appeared on my front door.

So, here’s my take on the game of golf by way of Vinicent Buckley and Amos Alonzo in Butterfly Country.  The content, events and personages of these drawings are fiction and in no way reflect actual events currently or in history.  Likewise, the scenes depicted here did not happen to me… No, really.  But, there was that one time at Augusta…

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© All content copyright J Byous Company 2015 all rights reserved

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Drive, click, plan… drive, click, plan!!!

…Tips to make your travel pics sing.

by James Byous

Calculate, anticipate, concentrate.

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Sunrise plus 30 minutes. Gearin Road near Dahlonega, Georgia.

Mental notes were being jotted down in the back of my noggin’;  light, sky, color, the fall of shadows.  I had traveled down the same roads in North Georgia a number of times over several days.  As is normal on any other trip, at home or on assignment, I am always searching for pictures.  And, I always carry my Galaxy S 5 cell phone to capture scenes that I may want to photograph later with my Nikon. — In some instances I don’t need the Nikon, but that’s another story.  And no, neither company pays me to mention them. —  Anyway… while traveling  I watch the track of the sun and shadows… if I have time.  Later I retrace my route and when the conditions are right I grab as many images as possible. It’s a bit like harvesting ripe fruit in one outing.  Here’s the first part of my usual game plan.  This series will run throughout the next few blogs here on Southeastern Bound.

1. Find the right locations

If possible scout ahead and plan your route.  On a recent trip I had passed this ancient mill site,  photo 1, several times on trips to and from the gold mining town of Dahlonega, Georgia.  The old Gilstrap Mill is on the road of the same name a few miles from town.  Each trip the light is high, but the location and composition was natural and easily seen.  The challenge is that the light does not “sing.”  The sky is blue, but dull.  If time was tight I probably  stop to capture what I could.  In this instance it is not an issue.  Later in the evening clouds drift over the area.  After a weather check I make plans for a sweep through the area the next morning.  Clouds should be dotting the sky in the pre-noon hours.

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Photo 1, Sunrise plus 90 minutes.  The old Gilstrap Mill near the gold mining town of Dahlonega, Georgia,

I’m not a morning person but getting great images sometimes requires a sleepy, early-morning, groping walk to the car.  As I drive down the drive the dawn slowly brightened.  As my tires hit the main road the sun’s first rays come over the ridge to the east.  A few blinks-and-yawns later the lighting over the hilly terrain pumps a dose of adrenaline into my system… either that or the coffee finally kicked in.  The day is started.  Great photos seemed to be on every turn.  So many shots, so little time.

Systematically I drive, shooting different locations as the sun slowly crawles above the horizon.  I make sure my route keeps the mill scene within the acceptable time for lighting – the time from sunrise to sunrise-plus-two hours.

As a historian and photographer this is a primary location on my list.  The building has been partially restored by the owner with the historical integrity intact… a handsome relic that seems to freeze time.   Snuggled in a gap beside a sloping hill, a bend in the road and the briskly-running, oddly-named Wahoo Creek, it represents a time in Georgia when many of the small rivulets in the area were harnessed to grind grain.  It is now one of the few mills still standing.

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Photo 2.  The frame of the Gilstrap Mill water wheel remains in the shadows. The water course is now dry and flanked by trees, one decayed to a  stump.

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Sunrise plus 10 minutes.  The intersection of Gearin and Gilstrap Mill Roads, a different angle of the same hill in photos 3a and 3b.

Both history and aesthetics are important to the records that I make.  Too many historical images are simple uninteresting shots, images used for scholarly reports with little concern for artistic qualities of the scene.  I want to record the building but to also create an image that will look great on my – or any – wall, photo 2.  As is true in real estate, in landscape photography the most important thing is location, location, location.  That and light.

Therefore, like finding the right storefront on the right street in the right town, finding the correct picture location can be broken down to within a few feet.  You must find the area, then the site, then the spot, then the square foot that makes the best image in the correct light.  In photo 3 and 4 the difference in showing power lines next to the trees was a matter of moving closer and several feet to the left.

You will notice the straight cut of limbs on the tree to the right of the frames.  This was done by the power company because inches outside the edge of the photo the wires were obvious.  My first position of choice, away from thorns and spine laden plants, was directly below the lines.  Unfortunately there was no way to get the photo without them showing.  I had to buck up and push into the brush to get this image.

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Sunrise plus 120 minutes, light cloud-cover in the east blocking the direct light. The Moon with a Lady Reclining Over the Trees, photo 3a on left, was mildly difficult to capture. Positioning under power lines, guide wires, brush and a barbed wire fence required a determined photographer… who carefully watched for snakes.  Taken in at the same stop along Gilstrap Mill Road in another season, phtot 3b shows the same trees complete with power lines, wires, brush and fencing for comparison.

Calculate the light for your photos, the angle, the intensity.  Where will the sun move if you wait or come back on another day?  Will clouds enhance the scene?  My most frequent suggestion is “pray for clouds.”  Anticipate which locations you might want to capture at different times.  Will the shadows be better in the morning or in the evening?  Which is the most important scene to catch?  Concentrate.  Consider all of the above conditions, locations and options.  To grab a memory card or film roll of great shots, plan it out… even if you have to plan on the fly.

Coming soon, More of the Game Plan,  Tips on composition.

© All content copyright J Byous Company 2015 all rights reserved

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