A couple of months ago, I got on a kick to read a bunch of history related books about Lake Martin. I even went so far as to create Lake Martin Voice Library. There are quite a few good ones out there that go into much rich detail about the land before the lake, the Indians, the settlers, and the people that developed it after the dam.
Sandwiched in between those readings, I returned again and again to a privately published collection – Growing Up by Bailey Jones.
I had heard of him before. I used to look forward to reading his column every month in Lake Martin Living. To me, it was a highlight of the magazine. So you can imagine my pleasure to secure a copy of this book, a collection of some of his more popular columns. At first I figured his quick reads would supply a brief palette cleanse in between chapters of history. Yet I found myself sneaking more reading time on Bailey’s book instead of doing my homework.
I have been writing this blog for a couple of years now, and some of my more complimentary friends joke that I am the Garrison Keillor of Lake Martin. Hogwash. My writing stinks in comparison.
I say Bailey Jones is the Garrison Keillor of Lake Martin, except without the nose whistle and constant references to Scandinavian superiority. Plus, I doubt Keiller has any real skilz like catching frogs and running from responsibility, getting stuck and unstuck in red clay mud. Has Keillor known both the impotent feeling when the outboard won’t crank, and the Ragnar the Viking like thrill when it roars to life, when you have to hang on to the jon boat with one hand and steer with the other?
I think it’s relatively easy to spin fictional fables about the frozen north. Give me a writer who can catch ring necks, get out of yard work, conquer wasps, scare weaklings in the dark, and take a good nap.
That’s why it doesn’t matter where you like to go on Lake Martin, you will see yourself in Bailey’s childhood memories. His book isn’t filled with location specific stories. In fact, I only figured out where his cabin was by reading a (now timely) piece about the original Catherine’s.
It doesn’t really matter that you currently own or rent a place on the lake. If you read this book, and have taken it personally when you don’t catch fish, or have known the pride of a decent TV antenna giving you clear reception in otherwise bandless lands, then you will smile and nod as you read.
His dedication to boredom, to doing absolutely nothing, is chief among his wise advice. That’s what I loved the most about going to the lake when I was young, was the nothing. I guess now “experts” would call it time for creativity. Whatever. But Jones gets the fact that the most fun, the richest experiences are gained when nothing is going on. Do you want a total immersion experience? Why travel to France when it’s available in Elmore County?
When I was growing up, especially in my post teenage years, we Coleys tested each of my new girlfriends (such as they were) and my sisters’ boyfriends by one simple rule – do they love the lake? If we sensed any sort of hesitation about swimming in the lake, they were out. If they did not absolutely swear that the Blounts put on the best fireworks show, they were traitors. If they so much as raised an eyebrow at The Herculon and Kelvinator, well, they never got a second chance. Sure, it was an extreme standard. But Jones gets it, and I hope he would approve.
I could go on and on, but I guess I would risk over-hype. I will say this – buy the book. Go to Bailey Jones’ website here and order it. When I scrape together some more advertising dollars, I will be buying 10 more copies. In all the Lake Martin homes I tour, I have never seen this one sitting on the coffee table. I’d like to think that those who are in the know, and own the book, have it sitting, well read and well loved, on their bedside table.
Just don’t buy the book if you want to know about the number of miles of shoreline on Lake Martin, or who won the Miss Wind Creek contest in 1954. He doesn’t tell you.
What he does tell you, is the why of Lake Martin. To me, that’s all you need to know.