07 December 2021

Ellis Millsaps: How I Spent My Summer Vacation, (Part One?)

  I spent a lot of time on my porch this summer watching hummingbirds and squirrels. Of the many squirrels I've seen in my section of Porterdale, only once have I seen one on the ground. Squirrels here travel by tree, rooftop and to a great extent by utility line. We have some really thick electrical lines on West Palmetto, I assume because when installed they were furnishing power to a huge mill on the river, the one up river from the one that is now The Lofts and equally as large.

 The last of the hummingbirds left for Costa Rica in late October. Now it's just me and the squirrels.

 As noted in a prior post, I spent most of my indoor summer hours reading. I started this reading binge in New Orleans while staying in my daughter's in-laws’ empty for the summer house. I looked at their book collection and discovered The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, a writer with whom I was familiar. In my semi-educated opinion Whitehead along with Donna Tartt are the best American novelists at work today.

 The Nickel Boys won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2019. It is not a fun read. It will leave you unsettled. It's based on an incident I remember from the news in 2014. After years of complaints about abuse at The Dozier (reform) School For Boys,  South Florida University students at the behest of the state discovered over a hundred (the number is still growing) unmarked graves around the school’s official graveyard. These were the graves of boys who over the years were reported to have escaped the facility. In fact they were each beaten to death. Whitehead gives the story through fictional characters but spares no detail of the gruesome and well-researched factual account. I highly recommend this book.

 Over the rest of the summer I read fifteen more books. I rated them for myself on a scale of one to five ranging from a low of Fahrenheit 451 at 3.0 to three books I gave the full five. Some of these  books were really long. War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Magic Mountain are over 4000 pages all together. My three books rated five were The Nickel Boys, The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman, the second in a proposed fantasy trilogy which like his earlier prequel trilogy rivals Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and the only non-fiction book on my list, The Body by Bill Bryson. If you've read any Bill Bryson you know that he is a widely self-educated man. He has no medical training that I know of but this work is erudite and fascinating,  It contains interesting tidbits such as the fact that all of the penicillin in the world came from the mold on one cantaloupe in Peoria, Illinois discovered during WWII, and that ,in spite of what we’ve always been told, hair and fingernails do not grow after we're dead. Look it up.

 I've continued this reading frenzy in the fall and I am now up to twelve more  lengthy volumes finished. Maybe I'll talk about them next time or maybe I'll talk about something else. Till then, TTFN. 

Contributing Writer & Editor Emeritus of The Piedmont Chronicles

Ellis "Da" Millsaps 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...