Upon Reflection: ‘My Friend George’

[imgbelt img=George.jpg]The memory of a neighbor and friend thrives in stories, family and some transplanted crocuses in Jackson County, North Carolina.

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Bruce Barrett

Crocuses, like the ones planted by George and the author.

Megan pulled up in the driveway next door with her baby Julie the other day. She came over to dig flowers and bulbs from the place where her Great Uncle George had lived in Jackson County, North Carolina, for many years.

George passed away a couple of years ago, and before that he had lived with his sister Julia over in Wayehutta, in the house by the  river. But George continued to come by the old house and tend his garden and flowers. The house had stayed in the family with one of George’s nephews continuing to live there. It also served as a gathering place for family reunions.

It’s actually a pretty special house. It was the original Jackson County, North Carolina, jail going back to when Webster was still the county seat. George’s parents had moved here in the early 1940’s when their place in Clay County was taken as part of the Fontana Dam project. The house has 18-inch thick masonry walls, and the upstairs floor rests on an I-beam, the first in Jackson County, and has a poured concrete floor. For many years the family ran a small store from the house and the old Webster Post Office, a 12 X 16 building still sits on the property.

All told there’s about nine acres, a couple of barns and some outbuildings. George ran cattle on the land, tended bees and had one of the biggest, most productive gardens in the area. When I became postmaster of Webster in 1998, George and I took to each other right away, and I quickly became his gardening partner. George’s thumb was greener than most. He always had another trick for growing something better or smarter. He was also infinitely curious about learning new methods or trying new crops. My grape vine, a Fredonia, was one of the last things we planted together. It’s lovingly named “George,” and this should be the first year it really bears.

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