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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - April/May 2003
A Scot in America

During February 2003, I had the good fortune to spend two weeks in the USA courtesy of the Odom Library in Moultrie, Georgia and The Family Tree (Really by Braveheart Scottish Weekend 2003) and thought it might be of interest to tell you about it.

I arrived on 12th February at Tallahassee Airport where Beth Gay had arranged to meet me and take me to where I would be staying in Moultrie. With Beth was her husband Mel and Woody Bowers, their good friend, who was going to put me up for the duration. Also with Beth were Billy and Dawn Henderson from Mississippi, who were there for the Braveheart Scottish Weekend 2003, who had volunteered to use their big van to pick me up. They immediately made me feel right at home and this was to be the theme of my whole stay in America... friendly folk who went out of their way to make this local Scot feel at home!

I was of course there to attend the weekend in Moultrie where some 400 or so Scots-Americans turned up to celebrate the event. The event is of course all the work of Beth Gay and her army of volunteers. The Odom Library hosts many events throughout the weekend.

The Odom Library does in fact hold the archives of some 125 Scottish Clan Societies in America so there were lots of Clans represented. There were special talks given on a whole range of topics and all were well attended.

Raymond Campbell Paterson was the Honoured Guest of the event, being the author of many Scottish history books, and as a fellow Scot we had a grand chat and we both agreed the hospitality was outstanding.

To start the weekend off we attended a lunch given by Anne and Monty Carlton who have graciously hosted a lunch at all the Scottish Weekend events down the years. It was an excellent lunch and I for one very much appreciated the good food that was served up. Woody, my host for my stay, drove me around ensuring I got to all the events in time.

I met Melody Jenkins who is in charge of the Odom Library and she was most welcoming and kindly listened to all my wee stories and gave generously of her time. Of course I also met Miranda Mabry who helps out Beth along with many of Beth's helpers such as Harriet Carlton and also her special trustee prisoner who was helping with the event.

I should at this time tell you an amusing story. I was going out the back door to get something from Beth's car but couldn't open the door. I then went back to Beth to say I couldn't get the door open and she said just to press a wee button at the side and the door would then open. Going back I confess I couldn't find that wee button so was heading back to confess my failure when I met the prisoner. I said to him "Any idea how to open that door as I can't get out" and he kindly showed me how to open the door. It wasn't until later that I realized the irony of asking a prisoner how to get out!

The food was outstanding at the event as we had big dinners on both Friday and Saturday nights and you could eat as much as you wanted. There was great entertainment from Smithfield Fair, Carl Peterson, Colin Grant-Adams, Rixey & McMillan and Bobby Murray. Lots of banter, wee stories and lots of laughs... just like a good ceilidh ought to be with many individuals taking the microphone to give their contributions. Everyone was having a great time.

Mind you they sure caught me out at the Braveheart Scottish Weekend 2003 as I was to give a half hour talk and when I got up to give it I was asked to just give 20 seconds... I was a little puzzled about this but did as they asked. Then Jim MacIntyre made an appearance to present me with an honourary membership of the Clan MacIntyre Association... I was kinda dumfounded as it was a complete surprise but most appreciated and I probably stammered out my thanks. Then Beth came up to say how much she appreciated the work I was doing for The Family Tree and then presented me with a Superman T-Shirt!

I'm not sure if you are aware of it or not but Scots on the whole have a hard time at taking compliments, although we do appreciate them, so I guess I did more stammering and probably went bright red as well!

Anyway... all was much appreciated by me for sure and thanks to them both for their "surprise". I then went on to give my half hour talk and when finished I was heading off to get a wee smoke when I got tapped on the shoulder. "You have to give another half hour talk Alastair". Err.. I said... are you sure about that... I thought I was just to do one half hour? Be back in 10 minutes I was told [gulp]. So that was my other surprise and it was just as well I had a store of stories I could tell. Anyway, I think they all enjoyed it and I certainly enjoyed meeting such a lot of friendly folk.

After the Braveheart Scottish Weekend 2003 I spent lots of time with Beth and Miranda in the library and helped where I could. I was introduced to the great fried chicken from the restaurant over the road from the library where the staff were most kind in ensuring I got to taste everything. They even got me wee samples of food so I could say I'd tried them and on my last morning there they organized a breakfast cup of their special grits - which I must say were excellent. Thanks to them all for making me feel at home.

Beth, Mel and Woody then ensured I got to visit as many other restaurants as I could and we went all over the place. I have particular memories of the Farmers Market where you could eat as much as you liked for only $8.80. The food was great and there was a one man act there that sang any song you asked for. I had a great time.

We also went down to the Gulf of Mexico and Woody took the special scenic route so I could get a better appreciation of the country and it was outstanding. Hadn't realized there were so many trees. We ended up at a special seafood restaurant which was excellent. One other outstanding evening was spent at The Cracker Barrel in Tifton, Georgia, where after an excellent meal we sat on the rocking chairs outside and chatted for ages saying "hello" to folks as they went past. It was certainly a night to remember.

During my stay I was also the special guest at the Jacksonville Highland Games. I was staying with Neill Baker and his wife Francine. Beth dropped me off at their house where I was staying for the next couple of nights. They saw to it I got to the Highland Games and they looked after me with great hospitality. I attended their special Sponsor's night on the Friday along with Beth and met lots of great people while I was there.

I also got the opportunity to meet a few of Beth's friends on the way down to that event. She took me to a cousin, Watkins Saunders, who had just renovated a beautiful home on the banks of the Suwannee River at White Springs. Afterwards we had lunch with her friends, Barbara and Jerry Williams, in their beautiful home in Middleburg, Florida - on another river. I was getting to see a goodly portion of the country for sure.

While in Jacksonville I also got to meet two venerable ladies who are very special people in Beth's life, one in her late 80s (Miz Peggie) and another in her late 90s (Aunt Mildred) and both were most hospitable and fun people. Beth decided to have a run on the beach so I kindly went with her and while she ran I sat enjoying the beach albeit there was a heavy fog. In fact it was so heavy that I figured I'd better stand right up to the sea so that Beth would know she'd returned to the right spot. Eagle-eyed Beth found a huge Megladon shark's tooth, millions of years old, which she gave me as a memento of my day on the beach :-)

The Jacksonville Games went off very well... it was lovely and sunny albeit with a high wind and only in the last hour did the threatened rain make an appearance. A great time was had by all but I have to say I was exhausted. Beth is the fittest person I've ever met... she tows a wee buggy around with her giving out copies of The Family Tree newspaper to all the clan tents and vendor tents as well as any one else she speaks to. I have to say she must have ribs of steel as she is so well known at these events she gets loads of hugs. About three quarters of the way around I confess to giving up and sought out a wee seat but she marched on! I'm full of admiration for the work Beth does.

As a local Scot I was amazed at the sheer passion there is for things Scottish in America and how proud our Scots descendants are of their Scottish roots. Their enthusiasm rather puts to shame us local Scots as we don't seem to know how to promote Scotland very well in America but they certainly do.

Neill, the past president of the Jacksonville Highland Games, couldn't understand why people like VisitScotland didn't take part in these events. As he said to me... "Around a quarter of the people at these Highland Games are 'professional Scots' in that they will probably have already visited Scotland or bought Scottish products and with a little encouragement would likely visit Scotland again or more often and would be interested in buying more Scottish products."

When I returned to Moultrie for my final day and night I got the opportunity to meet with Mayor William McLeod McIntosh of Moultrie (what a grand Scottish name) and he kindly gave an hour of his time to chat about the town and area. I also got to meet Daryll Moore, President of the Economic Development Corporation, as well as a number of other important citizens. They all gave generously of their time and made me feel most welcome. I also got interviewed by The Moultrie Observer and an article came out in the Monday issue just before I left. I received a personal showing of some outstanding art collections at The Arts Center in the town and was amazed at the importance of some of their collections.

Outside the Odom Library there is a wee bench where one can sit and as a smoker I confess to adopting that bench as I would pop out for a wee smoke. It became a meeting place where lots of folks stopped for a blether and I learned lots more about the town and area. You really couldn't find a friendlier bunch of folk anywhere.

There was just so much I got to see and experience that it would take me a book to tell you all about it. I don't think I've ever eaten so much... had so many laughs... had so much fun. My overall impression was of a great people, friendly and welcoming, and willing to put themselves out to ensure a wee Scottish chap had a great time in their country.

The Scots are alive and well and living in America! A massive thanks to everyone I met and I can't wait to go back!

Return to April/May 2003 Index Page


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