Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unusual Books

It never occurred to me to publish my own book, but in the past few years I have been given books that individuals have elected to publish.  With both of these books the authors have invested their own resources in the creation of these bound volumes.  One of the books is one by Betty Bird Foy Sanders, wife of the former Governor of Georgia, Gov. Carl Sanders.  The book is a collection of Mrs. Sanders art and it's a beautiful coffee table book.  I received the book one year during the holidays when I was helping with the packaging and mailing of the newly published volume.  

The second book I want to discuss is one called An Extra Eye, by Roy Ward.  It's interesting to note that he has published five books prior to this one though I have never seen the others.  Roy Ward is a retired country doctor who lives in Watkinsville, Georgia and much of his works highlights life and art in and around Oconee County, Georgia.  I've met him once and truthfully he would not have been someone I would have noticed in a crowd but to me his book is notable.  

The book features Dr. Ward's photography with scenes of farmers, fields, animals, country roads, barns and "four-square" churches.   Most living in the Athens, Georgia area are aware of the development and urban sprawl that has taken place in the past 10 years so Dr. Ward's book captures many sites that have begun to slowly disappear in the south.

My favorite chapter in the book is one titled A Woman of Importance.  It tells the story and showcases the art of Amelia Simpson.  Dr. Ward tells the story of being a young doctor who'd finished school to return to a small town only to quickly decide he wanted to go  live in a city.  His story goes that he first met Amelia as a young doctor when she was sick and he had been treating her for pneumonia.  The night before he left to start his new work in Jacksonville, Florida, it was cold and pouring rain.  He couldn't stop thinking Amelia Simpson.  There was no one to care for her.  It was that night that he decided to stay in this rural community to serve as the country doctor, where he retired and lives today.  At the end of the chapter Dr. Ward says, "she never knew she changed my life, and to some degree, that of our community as well."

Amelia Simpson lived in an old tenant house that had been thrown together on an old estate, most probably dating back to the days of plantations. The house had never been painted and the wood had weathered beautifully over time.  In the winter the house was all closed up so the house, warmed by a wood stove, smelled of whatever was cooking.  In the summer the house was completely opened up - no air conditioning and would smell fresh with the fragrance of the season.

Of course Ms. Simpson had a garden that provided for her and she maintained a perfect swept yard (I love swept yards and will be posting more about them in the very near future).  She lived there alone and was often heard saying, "she never needed no man."   The significant thing about Amelia Simpson was her artistry.   Dr. Ward spent a lot of time over the years with Amelia Simpson, capturing her with her amazing quilts, a beautiful swept yard and garden, "wall paper,"  lady-whirls and  of course, bottle trees.  
This photo captures two lady-whirl paper designs
In many of the old tenant homes it was very common to see walls decorated with scraps of paper, thus creating "wallpaper."  Bottle trees, like swept yards, were a tradition that was derived from an African burial tradition.  Slaves were the original southern gardeners who brought to America new and beautiful techniques that were unfamiliar to European settlers that were quickly adapted to what became known as the southern garden.  

In his book Dr. Ward expresses regret that through the years he tried repeatedly to draw attention the the incredible eye that Ms. Simpson had, especially in her quilt designs.  Each told a story using  whatever fabric was available.  The book features many of her quilts and fabric designs that covered chairs, tables and the bed in the house.  

Interestingly, all of these photos were taken more than 50 years ago.


  1. Fifty years ago!! Just goes to show: quilts are timeless.

  2. The photos are as fresh as though they'd been taken yesterday.
    What a lovely story about how a young man came to serve a community.
    Swept yard, bottle tree and lady-whirl are all new to me - I love what I learn from blogs, and this one was very interesting!

  3. Very interesting post! I would enjoy this book of photos. Thanks for sharing this great story!!

  4. Wow, interesting! I, too, love swept yards and bottle trees! The quilt is gorgeous! I come from a family of mountain women who quilt...but I never learned...a shame! It looked like she had pole beans growing on Castor bean plants. I haven't seen that in a while! Thanks for sharing this amazing story! Happy weekend...hugs...Debbie

  5. I love this! It shows that art does not need expensive supplies and this woman was such an artist! I would love to read this man's book, now that you have piqued my curiosity!

  6. Very intersting write up - I would never have known this info without you.

    The quilt she made was so beautiful.


  7. This is a wonderful account of a time gone by. Dr. Ward's decision to stay reminded me of George Bailey, in It's a Wonderful Life, never being able to pursue the travels he dreamed of. Yet, simply by staying put, he saved lives and changed lives.

  8. Beautiful indeed.

    I was toying with the idea of self publishing till just recently. Heard so many horror stories about it. Not too mention I had to review a book last fall that was done by a local author by self publishing and it was just a nightmare to get through. The author had pages where she mixed up her own characters, other pages that were double printed etc.

  9. thanks for sharing this story of the country doctoe and this woman. have a good day. rose

  10. Another great post my dear friend Cheryl. Have a great new week ahead. Hugs.

  11. Your blog is fun to read I like the way you wrote .To look at reading blogs, it's like reading a book . I'm on this allot too. LauraQ

  12. Beautidul photography and a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

    - The Tablescaper

  13. I love books like that like and could get lost in the photos for hours. Thanks for sharing that post. Hope you are doing well. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


  14. Wow, what a neat post. I love the idea of both of these books. I am especially intriqued by the lady-whirl. Something I have never heard of before.

    Thank you for this great post!

  15. What a wonderful post! I am amazed that the photos were taken over 50 years ago! I knew about swept yards and bottle trees but had never heard of a lady-whirl before.

  16. Cheryl, I am in awe of you wonderful post! The photographs are just awesome. I am so happy I found my way to your blog, via White Spray Paint! Our parents were friends, that is how long we go back!

    Thanks again for a great post!


  17. I have very much enjoyed this post and the previous one. Love the "friend/sister" thing! I have two sisters and a number of "sister" friends. What would life be without them?


  18. Wow I would never have thought those photos were taken 50 years ago! They look so contemporary. What a wonderful record of a time, people and crafts. Amelia's story was very interesting!