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Dink NeSmith

Time for a Southern ‘Top 10’ questionnaire

On a January morning, tip over a five-gallon can of molasses and watch how slowly it drips. Don’t get impatient. It’ll give you enough time to bake a pan of buttermilk biscuits. And it’ll be worth the wait.
No one teases my friend Larry Walker more about his slow, molasses-like drawl than Larry himself. Unhurried speech is one of his signatures, but don’t be fooled by the way he gets his words out. That’d be a mistake. There’s a racehorse mind beneath his shock of silver hair.

Sometimes writers need extra protection

Some days, I’m lucky not to be shot.
But the potential shooters aren’t angry readers or criminal types.
No, no.
They’re loyal, inner-circle associates who endure my impulses. The problem is my brain, or the lack of brains. Either way, what gray matter I have rarely shifts into neutral.
I pack my days tightly, so strategic planning is crucial. I believe in a prioritized to-do list, but I don’t want to live as if I’m wearing a corset with the strings pulled too tight. Give me some room to wiggle and wake up with a “Hey, let’s try this.”

New friend has surprising old statue

Curiosity killed the cat, or at least that’s what old-timers claim.
Curiosity made me drive to Atlanta, and a month later, I’m still shaking my head.
The commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service is a good reason to navigate maddening traffic and scavenge for a parking spot near the state Capitol. Gen. Pete Wheeler, 89, still suits up and goes to his office in the east tower of the Floyd Veterans Memorial Building, across from the Capitol.

‘Research’ at mall finds big problem

You don’t have to be a Ph.D. or a statistical wizard to conduct research. All you need is a mall bench to watch what walks by. Within less than an hour, you’ll see two of America’s biggest issues.
What I’m about to report from my “research” is going to make some of you mad. I’m not trying to be mean-spirited or judgmental. This is just what I see every day. And I conclude that we have a serious problem with overeating and overpopulation.

A front-row seat to space shuttle history

Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five Four. Three. Two. One. Liftoff!
With those 10 seconds, and about 15 more before Atlantis disappeared into the clouds, the 16-hour round trip became a priceless “Kodak moment” to witness history. NASA’s 30-year shuttle program came to an end, and I had a front-row seat.
Who could have imagined, 56 years ago, that my boyhood buddy from Jesup would be a key player in the space program?

Double-talk is funny political tradition

When it comes to double-talk, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards and Anthony Weiner are amateurs compared to the late Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat Jr. The former Mississippi legislator, lawyer and judge would have been a “star” on broadcast talk shows and the Internet, but he died before those media venues were born. When the Mississippi legislature was debating legalizing liquor in 1952, here’s what Soggy had to say:

Dunking basketball goes off ‘bucket list’

Back when my skinny behind was wedged in a school desk, teachers tried to keep me from squirming.
I couldn’t.
My mind didn’t wander. It took field trips. I made laps around the globe without ever leaving the room.
Nanelle Bacon diagnosed my condition. She didn’t know what Attention Deficit Disorder was. She just declared, “Son, you’ve got ants in your pants.”
A half-century later, those ants still are stinging. That’s why I make lists. A daily to-do list keeps me on task.

Hog potion sure to turn hefty profit

My friend doesn’t have mad-cow disease, but he’s got cows and a bad case of the mad. His ill mood is caused by another four-hoofed species. Call it feral hog fever.
For 46 years, Larry Walker has earned a reputation as one of Georgia’s most capable attorneys. His batting average before juries would make Chipper Jones envious. But when he closes his law books at the end of the day, he’s a farmer.
His south-of-Perry (SoHo, South Houston County) spread is a showplace, most of the time. But that’s not good enough for Larry.

Uncle keeps his word on special land

Imagine your uncle died and left you a fortune. How long would it take for $10 million to burn a hole in your pocket? But before the spending spree starts, read the fine print. There’s a you-can’t-ever-spend-it string attached to the gift.
What?
That’s exactly what Uncle Jake Moody did in 1952. And it’s the same way his inheritance came. Jake Moody was a rich man, but you wouldn’t have known it. Jake found happiness living in a log cabin in the middle of 3,500 acres hugging the Altamaha River north of Baxley.

Horse racing in Georgia is a winning proposition

The nightmare has lasted long enough. Now it’s time to dream - big - about spurring Georgia’s economy and adding jobs.
Georgia is perfectly located on the Eastern seaboard for horse racing. Now, here’s a dream that could become reality and spawn thousands of jobs, providing millions in new tax revenue. To make that work, we’d have to legalize pari-mutuel wagering.

Envelopes bring back memories

Without warning or explanation, the simple instruction was: “See that Dink NeSmith gets these.”
And with that, the visitor exited the White County News in Cleveland.
Three days later, our son, Alan, handed me two large envelopes from the stranger and said, “Let’s show these to Grandmother.” I escorted my mother into the room and settled her into a comfortable chair.
Before his brief preamble, Alan retrieved a box of Kleenex. Her grandson and I knew tears would be spontaneous as the contents of the packages were spread across her knees.

Girls should not look like streetwalkers

The hotel is in the middle of a military town, so the elevator was filled with an eclectic slice of Americana. I’m a gung-ho, support-our-troops guy, but four occupants in the tiny cube arched my eyebrows.
If the four young ladies had blinking neon on their foreheads, they wouldn’t have been any more take-a-look-at-me obvious. They were 16 years old, maybe.

Here’s how you ‘gnock’ pesky gnats

If you haven’t choked on a quart or two of gnats, you haven’t been in Georgia long. I grew up gagging on gnats. You learn quickly how to defend yourself from the pesky bugs. Traditionally, you fan your face. Cardboard funeral home fans are good gnat “gnockers.” Pros blow gnats away by puffing from the corners of their mouth.
If you are a real Georgian, you know exactly where the Gnat Line splits the Peach State. I’ve heard some North Georgians sniff, “I’m not going down there. They have gnats.”

Laughter is the best medicine

If you consider how most Americans are clawing to survive, finding something to tickle your funnybone is about as hard as finding a few extra bucks in your wallet. You don’t have to look far to find misery, so why would you want to laugh?
Laughter is good medicine for what ails you. When you lose your ability to guffaw, you are slipping. And if you stop laughing, you just might start crying - or worse, commence cussing.

Heroics, humility make UGA legend Trippi ‘The Man’

The Man - that’s what they called the Pennsylvania teenager when he scorched the gridiron for the University of Georgia.
Recently, I had lunch with Charley Trippi - The Man.
Rarely do you get to break bread with a legend, but the 89-year-old Bulldog gave me two hours of his life. All 7,200 seconds were an example for modern-day athletes on how humility helps define true greatness.

Free speech like oxygen in America

People ask, “What’s your description of a good newspaper?” I believe a good newspaper is a smorgasbord of information - something for everyone. A good newspaper also is a community talking to itself.
If news is the lifeblood of the paper, the editorial page is the backbone. I evaluate a newspaper’s strength by its willingness to take stands on important matters and stimulate discussion. I’ve never seen a newspaper with too many letters to the editor.

Nicknames as Southern as sweet tea

As sure as a South Georgia boy shows up for the second grade snaggle-toothed, he’s going to have a nickname. I didn’t have to wait that long. Before Big Dink ever saw that I had his blue eyes, I was destined to be Little Dink.
Monikers are as Southern as sweet tea. Just ask George Irvin Perdue III. Don’t know him? Sure you do. He’s the governor of Georgia. Sonny knows that he, like me, could have been tagged Bo, Buster, Bubba, Booger, Hoss, Rooster, Pig, Catfish, Turkey, Cooter, Pork Chop, Jet, Fuzzie, Skeeter, Speck, Slim, Chubby, Peanut, Toad or Frog.

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