|George Buster Singleton|
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Old Man Winter takes his time leaving the county” was originally published in the Feb. 13, 1992 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
If one looks closely, faint signs of coming spring have begun to dot the countryside. Old Man Winter goes slowly about gathering his cold weather paraphernalia as though he did not want to leave.
I am reminded of a visitor or relative, who although was welcome at the beginning, might have stayed too long. Now all the family seem eager for this relative to leave. But as the Old Man gathers his belongings, it seems he is taking too much time in the selection of his hour of departure. Everyone was glad to see him, but now it’s time for him to move on.
In the hill country just north of Monroeville, the faint signs of spring seems to want to push forward. Spring seems a little afraid to come forth, afraid that the Old Man who carries the chilly north winds and blankets of Jack Frost in his handbag might just decide to stay for a longer period of time.
The buds of the mountain laurel and the huckleberry bushes wait for a sure sign that spring is on its way. The countryside is slow in beginning to brush away the drab signs of the Old Man’s visit, in fear that somewhere down the road, he might decide to return.
Even the wild birds and animals seem to be anxious for the Old Man to leave. As I stood and watched a large woodpecker, it seemed that he was impatient to get to work. He would fly from tree to tree, each time pecking a time or two. Then, he would try to burst forth with a shrill call. But afraid his loud song would be ill-timed, he cut his call short as though waiting for a better moment.
Across the deep valley below Nancy Mountain, the trees seemed eager to put on their spring apparel. Everything looked as if it was standing ready, hoping to see Old Man Winter crossing the hills to the north. The feeling in the afternoon air seemed as if some beautiful, young mountain girl was about to step forward in a new gingham dress, but was afraid the colors of her dress wouldn’t match the beautiful red hair that fell from her shoulders.
High overhead, a large spotted-tailed hawk rode the air currents from the valley below. As he turned slowly, this way and that, he seemed to be looking for the currents of warmer air that had been long in coming to the low lands there by the river. Then he could spread his wings, to the fullness of their length, and the gentle winds of spring would bathe the budding mountain laurels there on the steep slopes.
Chilly north winds
As I stood there and marveled at the creation before me, I too felt a bit of impatience as the chilly north winds caused me to tremble and shiver a bit. I also wanted the Old Man to leave; I found myself wanting to see the green leaves of the sweet gum and the beautiful pink blooms of the nearby mountain laurel and huckleberry.
I wanted to see the many birds, busy making their nests, and I wanted to see my friend, the eagle, return to the evening skies, high over the valley below.
As if by some prearranged signal, the vagabond blood that had lain quiet in my veins for quite some time seemed to stir and come alive. Thoughts of far away places shouted to be remembered as the call from beyond the distant hills grew louder on the afternoon winds.
I could feel the warm spring winds brushing my cheeks as my mind sped to distant places such as Shiloh, Lookout Mountain, Vicksburg and others. I could feel myself speeding across the Mississippi Delta on my motorcycle as the banks of the Tennessee River waited as though just for me, just over the horizon.
A rustle in the leaves over to my left caused me to turn. Slowly, a large armadillo made its way across the high ground where I was standing. It, too, seemed tired of the chilly air; I’m sure that he was also ready for Old Man Winter to pack his bags and disappear for a long while. The armadillo was probably thinking of the nice juicy herbs and other things that spring would bring to his diet.
As a blast of chilly air swept across the hillside, the vagabond blood that had stirred my brain cooled a bit. I began to realize that regardless of how impatient I became, spring would not appear on the scene until the time was right.
I had heard somewhere that everything has its season. My impatience wasn’t going to matter one tiny bit when it came to determining the time for my friend, Old Man Winter, to say goodbye and journey home.
But maybe before too long, spring will appear, as would that young, beautiful, red-haired mountain girl, stepping forward in her new gingham dress.
The lovely blossoms of the mountain laurel and the huckleberry will cover the hillside like a beautiful handmade comforter, sewn by the hands of Mother Nature.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)