Tag Archives: Tourism

Poetry from the past

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By Jim Byous

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 years 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 seeing 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 nosedive

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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A Chip Off the Old Block?

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

I am not proud of this gritty chip of stone.  Nor am I ashamed of it.  It was, oddly enough, part of an inheritance from my father.  Tucked away in a dresser drawer it had been one of his possessions – a souvenir – that he took from a gravestone in Missouri when I was young.

Chip of Jesse James Grave Stone bw

A small symbolic sliver of stone from the headstone of outlaw Jesse James.

It is a fragment cracked and split from the headstone of the outlaw, Jesse James. Taking a chip of that stone was the norm at that time in history…  Hell, everybody did it.  Few complained.  And, this small chunk, a fragment of the lower section, was from the second headstone to mark the site.  The rest of the monument had been flaked away by hundreds or even thousands of earlier visitors who had grabbed a rock and splintered off their own piece of notoriety.

The first stone was and is preserved in a museum display after years of chipping history-seekers.  We as Americas… as tourists… have changed.  We understand the need to preserve history – take a picture, leave the artifact… the old National Park slogan, “Take nothing but pictures.  Leave nothing but footprints.”  But, to look back at those who came before us and judging their actions must be weighed with the social and cultural norms of the day.  Our generation and their generation differ in thought, in ideology, and in actions.

Beyond obvious abhorrent and evil actions in history, we cannot effectively judge previous generations.  Bias of the present obscures seeing the reasoning of the past, the old Monday morning quarterback syndrome.  We can say they were wrong and we should strive to do better.  But to judge in hind-sight is akin to being a referee in a sports event in which we have never played.

Getting into the heads of past or future generations is a difficult if not impossible undertaking.  People don’t think the same between cultures, they really don’t think the same in differing centuries.  Two hundred years from now we will be judged on things we now find sacred.  What will they think of us?  What are we doing wrong in their future eyes?

Understanding the mindset of serfs of medieval Europe and their acceptance of social station is a concept that is foreign to most Americans and people of free societies.  People tend to conform to the norms of the day.  They adapt.  They survive.  They tend to settle for what they think is expected of them and get on with living.  That mindset is still prevalent in many cultures.  Singer Ricky Skaggs sang it in his song about don’t-get-above-your-raisin mentality.

So, this simple sliver or limestone is more than a snatched souvenir.  It’s an artifact, a symbol of changing cultures, differing ways of thinking and views on life from generation to generation.

Anybody want to buy a rock?  It has a great story… and, the statute of limitations has run out.

Jesse-james-farm

The Missouri home and the third gravestone of Jesse James. Credit: Americasroof, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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© J Byous Company, 2015 all rights reserved

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Sunsets and Opportunities

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Sometimes that is true, sometimes that is not-so-true.  Then again, sometimes pictures need words to express the details or the emotion of an event.  And, sometimes pictures create more questions.  Here are a few that do all of the above.

These were shot within a thirty-minute time frame in locations that were about two miles in distance.  Shooting fast and keep moving to change the scene I was able to capture these images at North and South Beach on Tybee Island.  The weather, nature, and God take care of the colors.  Photoshop helps to darken, lighten and intensify what is already there.  If the color is not hidden in the original image, it is hard to make it work.

1 1 1 BYO_2660 sm

The Tybee Lighthouse on Tybee Island, Georgia from North Beach.

1 1 1 Sun behind Tybee Lite 2 BYO_2706 jpg sm

The setting sun moves behind the lens on Tybee LIghthouse.

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Lifeguard stand #16 near the Tybee Pier.

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The last rays of the sun looking from the Tybee Pier toward the pavilion.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

 

© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

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The Mysteries of the Trustees’ Garden

The History of the Trustees’ Garden

The Gas Works Wall

The 1853 Gas Works Wall at Trustees’ Garden is often mistaken for “Old Fort Wayne.” Studies find that it is partially… very partially… true.

 Historians and archaeologists uncovered a wealth of military and industrial history on the grounds and in the buildings situated on an historic bluff overlooking the Savannah River.

The surface is rough and scratches at my fingertips as I run them along the plane of fire-hardened bricks.  A faint-but-pungent scent of coal tar wafts from the walls that have been forgotten and misinterpreted for generations. In sequence, seven earthen fortifications stood here through the years.  There is nothing left of them today – or so many historians believe.  But here is the evidence:  a small section of one fortification did survive, undetected by decades of history buffs and connoisseurs of the past.

This remnant of an earlier Savannah is old.  Well, “old” by the youngest-of-the-thirteen-colonies benchmark.  Hidden in plain sight for a century and a half, the now sandy-brown wall reflects the morning light through a narrow archway. A few yards away sleepy commuters navigate past, their vehicles climbing the road-grade beside the city’s legendary Trustees’ Garden. If a piece of land could be a movie character, Savannah’s Trustees’ Garden would be Forrest Gump.  Always in the background, excluded and ignored.

But like the character portrayed by Tom Hanks, the site holds secrets of which the bus-stop folks know little.  The Garden’s ten-acre plot of sloping ground has, as some say, “more history per square foot than any other spot in the city.”  And, I like to think, possibly in the southeast.  I love and study history.  Never have I seen one small plot of land with so many significant and overlapping historical characteristics. The Trustees’ Garden was planned in 1732 when Georgia’s founder, James Edward Oglethorpe, enlisted the help of John Pine, an English artist, and engraver.  The two of them conferred and drew a plan for rows, rank, and file for mulberry, orange, peach and other trees and then inked the lot lines for the rest of the town.

When the settlers arrived in 1733 Oglethorpe staked-out the garden and had it planted the following spring. The garden itself lasted less than two decades.  In historical records, the area is always an afterthought — a footnote.  Life and history are like that.  Who knew this chocolate-history-bonbon in a box held so many hidden treats and treasures?  You never know what you’re gonna get. The land has changed hands many times over the years.  Early on, the profits expected by the Trustees failed to blossom, so the title was passed to former Royal Governors, then to industrialists, and eventually to hotel developers.   The current owner, Charles H. Morris, initiated a shift toward the preservation of the Garden’s rich history.  The renovation and historical inspection of the site is slowly revealed forgotten stories that seem to peel away, like the layers of a Vidalia onion.

A historian in his own right, Morris took his time with the renovation.  “I want to get it done right,” he said.  “I want to make sure we think it through.” The Garden’s northernmost section, alongside the Savannah River, has long been known as a strategic military location.  Over the years, military leaders fortified the bluff to provide protection against enemy ships that might sail up the river from the Atlantic.

Earthen fortifications were built on the site when hostilities seemed imminent.  Then, as each war or threat of war ended, each successive fortification fell into ruin. Dirt is easy enough to move, so for each new conflict, the battlement-du-jour was staked and excavated in accordance with the newest defensive plan.  The soil from the dry moats was “thrown up” to the inner line to create the parapets… time after time, fortification after fortification. At least seven battlements have stood on this site, beginning with colonial times and extending through the Civil War, when the last fort anchored the Union Army’s line on what was then the terrace of the Savannah Manufactured Gas Works.

In order the seven were; Oglethorpe’s fort, built circa 1740, Fort Halifax, circa 1759, Fort Savannah, 1778, British cannon emplacements employed during the Siege of Savannah 1779, Fort Prevost, 1780, Fort Wayne, 1813, and the Union fortifications in 1865.  There is evidence that there may have been additional fortifications as well, but that is yet to be determined. An interesting legend surrounds the brick wall that currently stands watch over the river at the location of the recently discovered Revolutionary War-era structure.  Guide books refer to the wall as part of “Old Fort Wayne.”

Many historians do the same.  The confusion is justified.  The building of the wall in 1853 destroyed the older fort that was the namesake of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.  The older earthen ramparts were shoveled into the interior of the wall to create a terrace for gasholders.  Workers unearthed old cannons that they placed along the wall, making it look like an old fort to generations of Savannahians.

Everybody in town knew that the fort had been located on that spot. After all, the cannons were there to prove it. Fort Halifax, the second on the bluff, was built in 1759.  It was a tender spot and tinder box during the days leading up to the American Revolution.  In December 1765 the “obnoxious” stamps that represented taxation by the Crown were stored at the fort.  Royal Governor James Wright placed the stamps there for protection against the local Sons of Liberty, who vowed to burn them.  Fifty-five Royal Rangers under the leadership of the Governor and Captain John Milledge stood guard.  Nearby, 200 angry Patriots awaited an opportunity to strike a blow for liberty. Wright had the stamps moved by ship to Cockspur Island at the mouth of the river, thus defusing the matter, at least for awhile.

And that’s only a partial history of the site. I’ll post more later.

– JD Byous

Looking east from the location of the ancient powder magazine.

Looking east from the location of the ancient powder magazine.

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The Trustees’ Garden in the beginning

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If cotton was once king of the South, then the royal cradle was the sandy plot of land along Savannah’s eastern bluff called Trustees’ Garden. The role of the Garden changed over the years following the modes of history along the currents and courses that progressed from agriculture to industry to tourism. Events there helped form the face and destiny of Savannah, of Georgia and the world.
Cotton was first introduced to the New World in Virginia and Florida but was first nurtured for the commercial market at Trustees’ Garden in 1734. Joseph Fitzwalter, the caretaker of the Garden, wrote James Oglethorpe in January 1735, “I have met with some cotton seeds from Guinea, which from it I have raised… [a] thousand plants, some of which have shot eight feet… and a second season will come to their bringing forth fruit [of] cotton to the Trustees’ use.”
From the beginning, silk was the desired product to be produced in Georgia. Modeled after London’s Chelsea Botanical Garden, silk production was the goal. Cotton was seemingly a second thought for the Trustees and to founder James Oglethorpe.
Though the Garden fell into disuse after only a few years, the advancements achieved there were wide-sweeping. The short time when cotton plants were nurtured at the end of Broughton Street was an instrumental step in the development of a product that shaped the politics, the culture and the events of a growing region, nation, and eventual world power.
The bluff at the Garden was more than an agricultural nursery. It was situated with a strategic military overview of the Savannah River. Many forts and cannon batteries occupied the spot that also served as an anchor spot for fortification walls that ringed and protected the city from advancing armies, real or projected. On a map entitled “Savanna Town” a diamond-buttressed fort just outside of the Garden area entitled “Castell” can be seen. A battery of cannon was located on the bluff of the Garden.

The Gas Works Wall

The Gas Works wall at Trustees’ Garden is often mistaken as Old Fort Wayne because it stands on the same spot.

Later in 1759 Fort Halifax occupied the bluff. The fort was named for the Earl of Halifax, the godfather of the second royal governor of the colony, Henry Ellis. The bluff was an emblematic location during the days before the Revolution. Demonstrations against the Stamp Act by the newly named “Sons of Liberty” erupted in the city in December 1765 when two hundred protesters mustered around the fort to destroy the loathed papers. Governor James Wright reported, “The Liberty Boys, as they call themselves, had assembled to the number of about 200 & were gathering fast and that Some of them had declared they were determined to go to the Fort & break open the Store & take out & destroy the Stamp’t Papers &c”. The Governor and fifty-four Rangers moved in to protect the stamps. When the crowd of protesters grew to three hundred Governor Wright spirited the stamps aboard the ship Speedwell that was docked at the base of the bluff. They secreted to Cockspur Island and the protection of Fort George at the mouth of the Savannah River. Wright had reason to be concerned since the fort was in a state of disrepair from neglect over the years.

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