09 February 2019

[Ellis Millsaps] - Memoir Chapter 2 ; The Valley of The Shadow

The Valley of the Shadow
By: Ellis Millsaps                                                            

This is the house in which I grew up. I don't need to show you a photograph. You’ve seen it many times...                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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It’s a rectangular red brick structure with a carport on one end, the standard post-war lower middle class dwelling. It has three bedrooms and one bath. There’s a gas floor furnace in the central hall which if you’re eight years old you can pee in if no one’s home. After all it’s just asking for it and it makes an oddly pleasant toasty smell.
   
When I am six years old it’s in Cedartown, GA, from seven to fourteen in Holly Springs, GA and after that in Fannin county where it has four bedrooms and two baths but still no air conditioning. I was grown before I lived or attended school in air conditioning.
   
Here I focus on the Holly Springs model. In the carport is a large Dodge. We get a new one every three years. In front of our house is a city street down which cars occasionally pass and down which my dog Happy chases each one. Happy exhibits a daredevil, matador flair in his car chasing. He sticks his head under the fender in front of the passenger side wheel while barking a continual challenge to the invading machine.
  
Happy did not have a happy ending, but it wasn’t a car that did him in.  One summer day he became rabid. I well remember looking out the window at him foaming at the mouth. My mother yelled out the window to my nine-year-old neighbor, Jan Camp, who then ran through the church parking lot with her hands raised toward heaven yelling, “Oh Lord! Oh Lord! Mad dog  Mad dog!.”
  
My father somehow got him locked in the playhouse my mother had built and the next day shot him with his single-shot 12-gauge shotgun, the only  firearm we ever owned.
  
The church parking lot borders our driveway to the left of the house and surrounds the Holly Springs Baptist Church. Directly behind the church is the town’s only cemetery where I sometimes play. The richest family in the town, the Barretts, have the largest headstone. It's two tiered and maybe 8 feet tall and fun to climb on. You can launch paper airplanes,blow bubbles, and toss off toy soldiers for which you have constructed parachutes from plastic bags.
  
Always living next door to the church and the cemetery it's not surprising that death was a subject my young mind often pondered. And if that weren't enough to scare the bejesus out of a six-year-old, from my earliest recollection I was put to bed with Now I lay me down to sleep/ I pray the Lord my soul to keep/ If I should die before I wake... Wait a minute! If I should WHAT? Before WHEN?

 
 Every night I fought off sleep for as long as I could.

 Ellis Millsaps

Ellis is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved... 
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