I’m from Atlanta, and my mother was Scarlett O’Hara and my father was John Wayne. Not literally, but
figuratively, of course. I was born on Christmas Day in the middle of an ice storm, while relatives were in
different hospitals, none expected to live, but all alive to tell me the story later.  Three cocker spaniels had
puppies and fought for possession of the kitchen in my Grandparents’ empty house.  No one celebrated
Christmas that year until July.  I was life in the middle of death, but fortunately, no one died that year.

Death was frequently the topic of conversation in the household. My grandmother, whose migraines were
legendary and reputed to be life threatening, was famous as “the little girl who lived in the jail.” She had
grown up living in a balcony apartment in the “Tower”, the Atlanta city prison, where her father was the
engineer and her mother was the first women’s matron for the state of Georgia. Great-grandma took care of
her lady prisoners while wearing an apron instead of a uniform; she taught them how to sew and held church
services for them, and my grandmother’s first friends were prisoners, some of whom were hung.

As a little girl, Grandma went through three iron gates to get outside to walk to school every morning. She
knew Leo Frank, a famous convicted murderer of the times, and she taught me how to read palms and tell
fortunes using playing cards, things she’d learned from city prostitutes, serving their sixty days for
“solicitation”. She had the gift of telling the future through dreams too, and she was never wrong.
About the Author
Her daughter, my mother, lived through the Depression, and created her own legends as she grew up in that
wonderful city of the South. Less than five feet tall, she played string bass in several children’s orchestras.  
She owned three blouses and one skirt to wear to school and lunched on a single peanut butter cookie,
without milk, but she had thirty-five evening gowns. She and my uncle performed almost every night, many
of the performances in the Fox Theatre where stars twinkled in the ceiling above their heads, and that
required evening wear.
When the Disney movie Snow White premiered in Atlanta she was chosen to wear the costume and be Snow
White for the huge celebrations welcoming the movie. She laughed about spending a long day in the heavy,
metal costume and having to lean on the dwarfs, children chosen to play the parts, when going up and down
steps. It was a high point for a woman who spent a lifetime battling severe narcolepsy.
My dad, a large and small practice veterinarian, whisked my mom out of her magic city and into a small
Georgia town, where he was the only animal doctor for three counties. There I made my own legend. At
three years old I was a smooth-talking chatterbox with a huge imagination and the need to act out my
fantasies. I would walk out of the front door of the huge old house we owned, cross busy Main Street and
continue across town, leaving the domestic staff hired to keep up with me searching desperately.

When I got tired I’d walk to the nearest door, knock, and ask whoever answered to “please call my Dad.
He’s Dr. Sloan, the animal doctor. I’m ready to go home now.” Impressed by my manners and command of
the language, they would always make the call. Ten minutes later a taxi would come for me and take me to
the animal hospital where I’d sit on a tall stool and watch my dad operate.  No one ever had to tell me where
babies came from.  I watched it happen hundreds of times.

Finally Dad rescued a young man from the chain gang, supposedly to act as his veterinary assistant, who
rode herd on me. Nathan gave up knife fights and I gave up walking. We were a team.
At age ten I was sent to Atlanta to be checked for a “brain tumor” only to be sent home with good news and
a bottle of aspirin. We moved to Albany, Georgia and I spent long hours looking for tadpoles and turtles,
eating watermelon, and swimming in a natural spring that had the coldest water ever to bubble up from
underground. We kids tried to dig a hole to China and were stopped by worried adults who were afraid we’d
crawl into the hole and it would collapse on our heads.

Dad was responsible for rabies testing for the county and he brought home a mountain lion, which lived in a
cage on our carport. Later he added a fox and a raccoon, which shared a cage. The raccoon used to beat the
snot out of that poor little fox, but they got along, after a fashion. One night he arrived with Flower, a little
de-scented skunk, who became my faithful companion.  We also kept five dogs and a billy-goat in the yard
of the little house in a subdivision. No one complained.

We had a large crooked tree in the front yard and one of our dogs would run up the sloping trunk where she
would sit nestled in the leaves, viewing the world from that high vantage point. More than one surprised
motorist landed in our ditch.  

Minus Dad, we made our way back to Atlanta eventually. I acquired a teaching degree but hated grammar
schools, not a good combination, and as you can see by the following picture, I made my share of political
mistakes early, too.
After a short career as an encyclopedia salesman and then as a teacher, I lived in a boarding house near 5th
Street in downtown Atlanta writing bad poetry and working for Fulton County as a caseworker.  This era
came to an end when I discovered that a miracle had happened. I had a little daughter on the way, my own
child to receive the gift of legend. Filled with the joy of knowing that my life did matter, I married her Dad
and we raised a wonderful young woman, now a crime scene investigator who faces horror every day,
continuing the tradition begun by her great-great grandmother.

She is the next step in the legend and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to place her on this
earth.  No matter what happens, whether she realizes it or not, she continues the chain.  She is predestined
to make a difference, and it will happen. She’s made of tough stuff, and I’m proud of her.
While raising her, I continued my education, earning a counseling degree. Not finding a local job in that field
and more interested in being at home for my child, I decided to be good for nothing…in other words, a
volunteer.  I spent three years as a night-time and weekend Domestic Violence shelter director for the
battered women’s shelter in Canton, Georgia, was a Girl Scout leader, and then spent six or seven years as
a disaster volunteer for the American Red Cross.

I started out as a board member for the Cherokee County Chapter, beginning right at the top. Eventually
the small chapter merged with the huge Metro Atlanta Chapter and I remained as a Northwest Metro
Service Center Assistant Captain and as Captain for Disaster Services for Cherokee County. I also was a
part of DSHR and went to a number of national disasters over the years, usually working as a Family
Services Volunteer but trained in all aspects, reaching supervisor status before changing my life again.

I talked to survivors of floods, of tornados, people who’d lost family members and everything they owned,
who hid in a bathtub as life as they knew it changed around them, through no fault of their own. I became
impressed with the inherent nobility of our species, in spite of its flaws and weaknesses.  What do you say to
someone who’s lost a child to the wind?  Nothing. You hand them a sandwich and you listen to them. I
learned that there are times when words mean nothing and being there is the only thing that matters. Life
goes on.

And life went on for me. At age fifty I chose a new direction, fell in love with a man I’d known only on the
Internet, and traveled with him more two thousand miles to make a strange place my new home. Now I write
books, and I work, and I dote on the two guys who are my world …and yes, one of them IS a cat. My story
is not over yet and I expect it to be written down in third person for all of you to enjoy. And did I ever know
a cross-dressing, head-lopping, serial killer? You never know. I do shop online.

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From The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine - March 12, 1961
Music: Kevin MacLeod
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