My Good Friend, Steve Blackmon
The writing life introduces me to some memorable people. Steve Blackmon found me when his daughter, Myra, read my feature, “Remembering Danburg,” in an online journal of Southern culture. She told her father about my story and Steve called me. “Would I speak to his Kiwanis Club?”
How well I remember my day in Washington, Georgia.
March 22, 2016—I met Steve and Eleanor at their home of comfort and beauty. I saw a piano with intricate scrollwork and claw feet, brass candlesticks, family portraits, a metronome, and a familiar sight, a rotary phone like Mom and Dad once had. I walked through what I deem a vintage Southern home.
We didn’t tarry. Steve had planned a pre-talk mission. He had a list of eight “mobile” homes for us to visit with a timetable an airline pilot would envy.
Now these were not doublewides, mind you. In the 1800s, the ills of old age made going to see the doctor too much of a challenge. The solution? Folks moved their home into town. As Steve drove me to homes with names like Holly Court, Hollyhock, Woods Huff’s House, and Colley House, we talked of the old days. Our reflections, combined with Steve’s “mobile” home tour, amounted to a time capsule of a day, most appropriate given my upcoming talk.
My book about the disappearing rural South, Georgialina, A Southland As We Knew It, came out in November 2015. Speaking to Steve’s Kiwanis Club, I explained why I wrote the book. A smiling Steve bought a copy. In the days to come he called me several times as my stories took him back to the times when people made do, to days beautiful for their simplicity yet brutal for the hard labor they demanded. Things like chopping cotton and firewood—something younger generations miss.
“Your book ought to be required reading in school,” he told me over the phone. Steve and I went on to have many a phone conversation. He’d read a column that brings back memories and reach for the phone.
These days I wait for the phone to ring when a column of mine like “When A Church Dies” is published. I wait knowing things aren’t as easy as they once were, but even so I can hear him talking to me right now with excitement in his voice.
As it does to all who live a good long life, Steve, late 90s, feels aging’s effects. When and he and Eleanor moved into assisted living, Steve called to tell me where they were. When I can, living two hours away as I do, I stop by Southern Manor Senior Living and visit. We talk about recent columns and memories of growing up in our Southland. The last time I stopped by an Elvis impersonator was putting on a show. I watched it with Steve. His beloved wife of seventy-five years had passed September 16, 2022.
I’ve not had a chance to see Steve of late and I hear the phone is a bit of a challenge to him, as it can be to all of us in this cell era. Weak signals, calls drop. The landline had no such issues, and I miss it a lot. And I miss my talks with Steve Blackmon.
Had I known this Southern gentleman in 2016 as I do today, I’d have given him my book. Instead I give him this. It’s good to know people like you are out there, Steve. You make the long hours writing in isolation worth it. You give me friendship and a connection, and that’s all it takes to keep the words coming.
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