October 23, 2013

Mark Millican: They’re ba-ack!

Mark Millican

— “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” — The Eagles, 1977

It’s felt that way if you’ve worked in downtown Ellijay the last couple of weeks, especially on Fridays. Traffic coming into town for the Apple Festival or the annual “leaf looking” tours will hesitantly let you out, but begrudgingly let you back in. Judging by how hard it is to find a parking space, the parking lot here at the Times-Courier seems to be a premium locale for tourists launching into local restaurants and shops, and most of our regular customers know to visit us early in the day.

Otherwise, you may need to bring a bar of soap to wash out your mouth from those words you thought you’d forgotten. And it’s not just that there are so many visitors, it’s that some of them drive ... so ... slowly ... to see what’s in the store windows as they creep by.

Nevertheless, we’re thankful for those who visit our fair town to gander around and go antiquing — and of course, buy a copy of the newspaper.

Speaking of creepy, have you driven into Ellijay late at night recently? Myself, I’m an early riser who may get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m., but hardly ever past 5:30. Yes, my time as one of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children (the U.S. Marine Corps) ruined me forever from sleeping late. Conversely, that means by 8 or 9 p.m. my motor has pretty much ground down. Call me before then if you want me to make sense.

So, if we’re ever coming through town in October from a function after dark I’m already tired, and then I’m freaked out. That’s right — Ellijay’s “Standing Dead” are everywhere, those “scarecrows” dreamed up by the chamber of commerce. Even in broad daylight driving around the square I keep thinking a tourist is going to bolt right in front of me from their standing position there at the curb.

“The Walking Dead” have nothing on this town.

* * *

Getting to the actual Apple Festival early applies as well, as in when it opens first thing in the morning. It’s always a learning experience, it seems. For example, on the first weekend I noticed at one booth a jar of sourwood honey was priced $2 higher than the same size jar of wildflower honey. That’s because there was not as much sourwood honey produced this summer, or at least that’s what the honey man told me.

Because of the rain, I asked. That’s right, he said. Ah, so — and I had to have one of each.

Then I learned the winner of the apple cake recipe contest won $300 — he was a guy — and the second-place baker got $100. That got me to thinking, next year it’s an apple pie contest. What if I learned to ... yeah, like that’s going to happen.

In the news recently there have been reports from other parts of the country that many youth sports — even playing tag on the playground — are being outlawed because kids can get hurt. Excuse me? Does that mean in the future children will be forbidden to climb trees, play Tarzan by swinging on vines they find in the woods, and not be able to splash in rain puddles lest they slip and hurt themselves?

Critics of people trying to keep kids from being kids and getting a skinned knee on occasion call it the “sissy-fication” of American children — and rightly so.

And yet, I met a girl at the Apple Festival who broke her arm less than two weeks before climbing on a mechanical bull — and then got thrown off on her wounded arm without complaining. And whose mother told me that despite her daughter seeing several doctors for her epilepsy, the 11-year-old was receiving her black belt in karate in a few days.

So I also learned this at the Apple Festival — with kids like her, there’s still hope for America.