|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 “Secret to happiness is nearby” was originally published in the May 7, 1998 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
Most people nowadays have trouble finding something to occupy their time and keep from being bored. They watch television from early morning until the late hours of the evening. During a 24-hour period, they see at least three brutal murders reenacted on the boob tube and at least three or four families broken up because of money, lack of money, hanky panky among the parents, or just plain boredom.
I watch television very little because I don’t have time to sit and watch a small piece of glass with figures dashing to and fro, kicking and killing like a bunch of nuts. Mind you, I’m not knocking the television industry. More power to their advertisements and the thousands of items that are supposed to make one stay younger, smell better, live longer, be happy living on a small island all by yourself and acquire the macho look by using a certain brand of snuff, and all that goes with it.
Of course, no one has asked me what the secret is to being happy, and probably won’t ever. But, I believe I could tell them that one trip through the backwoods with the spring colors appearing across the hills would surpass any television program. I could tell them the challenge of investigating certain stories and legends around the area would provide more excitement than 40 murder stories or hidden loves among the rich and famous actors that are seen on the screen.
I could tell them that one early Indian village site could provide enough interest and excitement to last a person for a whole month. I could suggest a certain hill, not too far away, where an evening sunset, like those I have witnessed during the past week, would be remembered for a long, long time. Or, I could give directions to a certain fresh water creek where one could stretch out in it on a hot summer day and never move again until frost fell in the late autumn.
I hear the excuses each day of being old, tired, afraid, retired and just being plain lazy. I just don’t understand people, I guess. I long for the day when I can devote all my time to roaming the countryside, seeking and discovering the many things that await there to be found. I feel sorry for those individuals that don’t have the initiative to go forth and search for the unusual that is to be found almost everywhere throughout the hill country.
Once the barriers have been broken down that keep one from doing the above mentioned things, a few items will need to be gathered for the spending of a perfect afternoon. A cheap coffee pot, a book of matches, some coffee in a small plastic bag and now you are ready for almost anything.
Then, if you really want to live it to the highest expectations, acquire a cheap sleeping bag and a large sheet of plastic. Search out the high hills and find one where the wind blows through the pine trees. Prepare to spend the night there atop the hill there on the ground. Wrap up in the plastic to keep out the dew and moisture. Lie there in the solitude of the late evening and listen to the music of the sighing winds blowing through the pine needles. Don’t be alarmed if a curious armadillo tries to get in the sleeping bag with you. He won’t hurt you, he is just looking for his evening meal.
Listen to the sounds of the coming darkness for a while before you go to sleep. Try to identify each sound as you fight off the sandman and drowsiness. If at any time you feel that you are not the luckiest person in the whole world, remind yourself where you are and who is watching over you, the feeling of contentment and peace will begin to come there on the hill.
And, with the coming morning, look around you and learn to identify all the species of plants and trees. Learn to know which ones will cure various illnesses of mankind. The knowledge of being able to live in harmony with nature brings on a feeling of great satisfaction. You become more sure of yourself, you become more aggressive with life’s daily problems. You become ready to meet the problems head on. The desire to explore and seek out the mysteries that yet remain draws you forever onward.
Remember, you are a part of the universe. You have a right to be here, but you must also learn to respect the rights of everything else. They too are a part of this great plan. Happiness and contentment is here for all that search for it, don’t be found wanting.
And, as I sit here this late afternoon atop a high hill north of Flat Creek, and watch the glorious sunset on the western horizon, I know that all is well within me. I know that I am witnessing a breathtaking spectacle that all the money in the world cannot buy, a creation so wonderful that it could only be created by God himself.
(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.)