As a youngster, my summer oasis was a little town called Ellaville, Georgia. G-Mama and G-Daddy lived in an old civil war era Victorian that was located at the corner of South Broad and E. College Street just a stone’s throw from the town square. That house, the pecan trees in the yard, and the nighttime whistle of the train rolling through town are as much of the fabric of who I am as anything else I have ever come across.
During the summers, I would go down and visit for a few weeks at a time. My G-Daddy, Jack Gilchrist, was a writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and then, Georgia Farmer magazine. He also penned one of the greatest American short stories in history titled ‘Opening Day.’ As an effort to encourage our young, creative minds, G-Daddy offered my sister and I $1 per page for any stories we would send him.
An avid outdoorsman, G-Daddy was always in to something. If I wasn’t inside floating on the smells of boiled peanuts, watching the Braves, and listening to the rhythmic clacking of his typewriter, I was usually on his hip sticking my nose into his latest craft. He raised chickens for G-Mama to have fresh eggs, stocked his garden ponds with koi, curated bonsai trees in his greenhouse, unexplainably started a turtle farm, crafted beautiful wooden bows to hunt with…the man could do it all!
One of the things I enjoyed most was our excursions. In my early teens, I remember going out to a fox hunt which merely amounted to men sitting around drinking whiskey while their dogs ran hell around a property. We always would make the pilgrimage to Montezuma where the Mennonite’s had a restaurant and bakery that would convert any wayward soul. That place changes lives (http://www.southerncomfortfood.com/Yoders_Deitsch_Haus.htm). We would ride out to Andersonville and visit the Confederate POW camp site, treck out to a mysterious place called Pasaquan where G-Daddy loaded his pistol before we snuck in through a hole in the fence, or shoot on over to Plains to visit (after all, G-Mama and Rosalyn Carter were college roommates).
A constant through this incredible adventure was the red clay that adorned the sides of the worn country roads. As G-Daddy would drive down the center line at 80 mph telling stories, I would watch as the red clay turned into a blurred stream flowing by. It became a part of my internal fabric.
As I’ve navigated through life and career, I have never lost the feeling and attachment to those times. I feel that that narrative is what makes Southerner’s so undeniably linked. We share a connection to our past, our stories, our land.
When it came time to create a brand, the name Red Clay organically came about. Life has a funny way of bringing you back and putting you on the path you were meant to follow all along. Mine just happens to be a road traveled alongside the narrative of many others. I’ll see you on the journey.