On the 59th anniversary of Reece’s death, 53 members and friends of the BHR Society gathered in the Union County Community Center in Blairsville for the 14th annual meeting. The mood was upbeat, and the attendees enjoyed the renewal of friendships and the opportunity to become informed about Society activities.
Society chair Keith Jones presided over the meeting, which included approval of minutes, a financial report, an update from Reid Dyer (chair of the Farm Management Committee), an advance notice of Reece Centennial Activities that are in the works, and the report of the Nominations Committee and the election of directors for the coming year. (Check the list of directors for 2017-2018 in the Society section of the website.) Special music was provided by Jackie Elsner and Jerry Taylor, who have produced a new CD of Christmas poems set to ballad tunes and selected organ music. Jackie sang, a cappella, several of those poems, to the delight of all present.
Janice Moore, chair of the Literary Activities and Program Committee, introduced John Kay as the keynote speaker. Chair of the founding committee and then chair of the Society for 12 years, Kay spoke on the topic of “Reece’s Legacy: Songs within Our Reach.” The speech traced highlights of Reece’s literary legacy and challenged members of the Society to become faithful stewards of the songs that are now beyond the poet’s reach but remain within our own. (Go to the Features page of our website if you wish to read this message.)
Following the address, the newly elected directors convened to elect officers for the coming year, while others in attendance began to enjoy the delicious buffet meal prepared by the Community Center food service staff. The directors elected Sanford Freeman as the new chair, with Reid Dyer as vice chair, Debra March as treasurer, Carol Knight as recording secretary, and Bill Jernigan as membership secretary.
Please reserve the date of Saturday, June 2, 2018 for the 15th annual meeting of the Society, this time to be held at the Reece Farm and Heritage Center.
During these winter months the Reece Farm awaits the coming spring when nature revives and the gates to this hallowed venue reopen to the public. One can picture the Reece family hunkering down to withstand the bitter cold, enjoying close proximity to the welcomed warmth of the fireplace. We may fancy that it was during a typical January evening that our poet was led to pen the words of the following poem, entitled “A Fire of Boughs” (from The Season of Flesh, 1955).
At onset of December
When the cold comes to stay
I bring boughs, leafed in May,
To feed the cheerful ember
And warm the wintry night.
Folded into his fur,
The cat disdains to stir
But dreams by firelight.
And I should follow suit
Except that boughs in turning
Shapeless in the burning
Alarms the more than brute
Caged within my being
That often plays at blind
But stirs and shakes my mind
With grave misgiving, seeing
Wood fall from coal to ash,
Its substance burned to nothing,
Its luminescent clothing,
Its shine, its flash,
Expended, one with night—
And is not comforted
That such translation shed
Both warmth and light.
What are your musings these winter days? However pleasant or perplexing they may be, we hope you will plan to come our way again in April, where a visit to the Reece Farm and Heritage Center may bring you both warmth and light.
In the first half of the last century, in that period when Byron Herbert Reece and his family lived on the acreage now constituting the Reece Farm and Heritage Center, the months of winter were anything but idle. The land enjoyed its recuperation time, but the male occupants attended to such duties as mucking stalls, mending fences, cutting and sawing wood for cooking and warmth, sharpening tools, animal slaughter, etc. The womenfolk were busy as always with household duties, which included mending and making clothes, butchering and canning pork and beef, cleaning house, and preparing meals. Everything was in preparation for the coming seasons.
Time and its relentless changes have substantially altered this scenario.
Now, in the four months the Center is closed, there is a noticeable lack of activity at the Reece home place.
Only occasionally does anyone appear for anything more than minor maintenance. Some work involving cleaning and inventorying intermittently occurs within the Welcome Center. Prospective brides are being met for a tour of the venue, and weddings are being scheduled for the months of the Center’s open season. The garden spot lies fallow, awaiting spring tilling.
But in March the pace will quicken. Staff members and volunteers will reappear to begin preparations for the April opening. The gift shop stock will again be restored to its rightful places, and new items for sale will be added. The exhibit areas will be cleaned and made ready for public viewing. The grounds will be cleared of fallen limbs and other debris. Volunteers will be contacted and scheduled, and new ones recruited.
All in anticipation of Thursday, April 7th—the very first day of the 2016 open season, the fifth for the Reece Farm and Heritage Center.
Y’all come! You will be more than welcome.
There’s a nip in the air, a fragrance of apples and hay and corn put away for the winter, and a rustle of leaves – it’s the perfect time to visit the Reece Farm and Heritage Center and spend some time just slowing down to enjoy this all too brief season.
Photos by John Kay
Thanks to the creative efforts of Union County kindergarten classes, a dozen or so scarecrows have taken their stand at the Reece Farm and Heritage Center. Instructed and assisted by their teachers, these students had great fun in dressing and assembling their respective scarecrows, leading to an impressive variety.
This project was a joint venture involving the Reece Society’s Special Events Committee, chaired by Shirley Cole, and the Union County School System, with kindergarten teacher Jennifer Turner as the coordinator. Mrs. Cole supplied the materials and suggestions for assembly, and the children and their teachers put together the scarecrows for public display.
The families, friends, and general public are invited at no charge to visit the Reece Farm in the remaining open days in October to see the handiwork of these students. Should visitors also wish to tour the Farm exhibits, they may do so for a fee of $4.00 for those 12 and older.
The Reece Farm and Heritage Center is located one mile north of Vogel State Park on Highway 129, and is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10:00 to 5:00 and on Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00.
If you are visiting the North Georgia Mountains this Fall, don’t miss a stop at the Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Center. It is the perfect pause in your busy travels in the area.
Visit the exhibits to see how Georgia’s Mountain Poet lived and worked and how farming was done in the mountain area during his lifetime. Wander through the gardens and walking paths, enjoy the sound of the creek and the beauty of the season, and bring a picnic and dine at a creekside table.
Be sure to visit the Gift Shop where you will find beautiful locally produced items so you can get a head start on your Christmas shopping.
It was a perfect summer day at the Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Center to celebrate the 2nd Annual ‘Maters and Music. The valley rang with music from two great local bands, The Shady Grove UMC Bluegrass Band and the Bennie Shook Family Band, while volunteers served juicy tomato sandwiches with iced tea. There was a lot of toe-tappin’ and lip-smackin’!
White bread, mayo, farm-fresh tomatoes, and a little salt and pepper – Ah, perfection!
Reece Farm Volunteers ready to create sandwich magic.
Shady Grove UMC Bluegrass Band. Photo: Toni B. Jernigan
Shady Grove UMC Bluegrass Band boasted two fiddle players.
Bennie Shook Family Band – Bennie, Justin, Susan and Stacy Shook. Photo: Toni B. Jernigan
Enthusiastic visitors enjoyed the music and ‘mater sandwiches at the pavilion.