A Little Bit abOut Me

I’m Tim Westover, (1982 - ?). I’m not a native Southerner – no accent, no family roots here. I’m Southern now through exposure and exploration and no small amount of good luck.

Baking time with my oldest daughter

Baking time with my oldest daughter

I was born in Rhode Island, and my family moved to Tennessee and then to London, England. We came to Georgia when I was in high school. I graduated from Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, GA, and then went to Davidson College in North Carolina and the University of Georgia. I traveled for volunteer work and language studies, going to Russia, Iceland, Germany, Croatia, Cuba, and all over the United States.

Near the Arctic Circle, Iceland

Near the Arctic Circle, Iceland

But after all that, I came back to Lawrenceville. Today, it’s an Atlanta suburb, filled with chain restaurants and Interstate traffic. Right in the middle, there’s a pretty square with an old brick courthouse. Going on walks during my lunch break, I’d read the historic signs, and I learned that under the pavement, there’s a lot of history and tall tales. The present courthouse is actually the third one on the site: the first one burned in 1871, and the second one was so poorly constructed they tore it down in 1884. Lawrenceville used to be on the frontier of Cherokee territory; important trials and debates in the tragedy of the Trail of Tears happened here. There’s gold in the river and, tucked between subdivisions, there’s a line of mounds that might be in the shape of a giant serpent. Citizens protested puddles on the dirt roads by casting their fishing lines into them. Oak trees cast their shade on crumbling stone horse troughs. Men and women swapped horses and gossip and listened to the patent medicine sellers on Honest Alley. Mrs. Maltbie took her whacking cane and smashed up the saloon that sold her son one too many drinks.

The present historic (third) Lawrenceville, GA, courthouse

The present historic (third) Lawrenceville, GA, courthouse

Back in the day, Lawrenceville built a low black fence around its square because they’d leave the doors open on hot days, and pigs would wander into the courtroom and cause a ruckus. There’s a legend that anyone who sits and takes a rest on that fence will never leave Lawrenceville. I decided to sit down.

The foundations of a nameless old house on the backstreets of Lawrenceville

The foundations of a nameless old house on the backstreets of Lawrenceville

I learned how to make biscuits – we didn’t have a family recipe, so I had to start one. I’ve shoveled dead possums off my driveway. I taught myself to play the clawhammer banjo. I’ve met the mule that turns the wheel that grinds my favorite brand of grits (Red Mule Grits, the mule’s name is Luke). I say “y’all” unironically.

A banjo I made from a kit. It’s quieter than my regular one, so I could play while my daughters napped.

A banjo I made from a kit. It’s quieter than my regular one, so I could play while my daughters napped.

On the weekends, I drive to other little Georgia towns. Each one has a history just as rich as Lawrenceville’s. Some only exist as historic markers now, or as ghosts. A pile of stones in a traffic median north of Dahlonega is the grave of an Indian princess, Trahlyta, who drank from a fountain of youth but died when she was captured by rival warrior and carried away from her land. Outside of Winder was a boiling lake of mud that was known as “Cherokee Hell” until it exploded one day in the 1800s. A giant invincible turtle lived in the caves in the mountains; settlers knew they couldn’t kill it, but they kept throwing rocks and stones until it retreated in annoyance to depths unknown.

Russell Farm Historic Site - Mountain Rest, SC

Russell Farm Historic Site - Mountain Rest, SC

I tell people that I don’t make up anything that I write. Generations before me have already found the best stories. I collect what I can from old folks, young folks, museums, signs, pamphlets, and old newspaper articles. And I tie them up with a little narrative to save as many of the old stories as I can.

Sharing an RC and a Moon Pie

Sharing an RC and a Moon Pie

I’ve worked for a small medical software company in Lawrenceville for over twenty years. I live in Grayson, GA. From our back porch, we can look down to Big Haynes Creek and a place called Hope Hollow, where the Winter sisters may once have lived. I didn’t make them up. I think they’ve always been here.

Playing the pan-jo — made out of an old pie plate

Playing the pan-jo — made out of an old pie plate