An Unusual Encounter Near a Group of Peach Trees in Spartanburg, South Carolina
|These are articles, stories and accounts of my life, as I recall them, and are copywrited. Unauthorized use will be pursued at my determination, to the degree that I am inclined. Any hard feeling caused by memories that don't match yours are unfortunate and you'll just have to get over it! Feel free to contact me if you have a request for their use. I am not writing for prose or poetry, but just to tell a story. Neither do I try to be politically correct. I consider that an act of cowardice, trying to placate the uninformed, ignorant of history folks that are filled with ego and braggadocios, demanding that their perspective be the prevalent one.|
It was early June, 1973 and a typical summer in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The days were extremely hot and humid with sweltering nights that provided little relief, and as I started to turn out the shop lights after another 15 hour day, I noticed that it was almost midnight, but I could not get my mind off the mental notes of the unfinished work, final preparation and the remaining assembly needs that remained as we prepared the long track car for the upcoming race in College Station, Texas. The car did not need repainting from the previous race in Charlotte, giving us a slight time advantage, but I had decided to change all the front end components, including the ball joints and tie rod ends and I had fabricated all new upper control arms this afternoon. All that actually remained was to install a new clutch, dial in the bell housing, change the drive shaft universal joints and then install the motor. The most glaring unresolved issue bound to arise was that we were going to try a new style of headers, and that never comes without a plethora of issues of fit and clearance, as well as deciding where to install the balance tube in the exhaust pipes, all of which required a lot of bending over the fenders and crawling in and out from under the car, and every bone in my body ached from an incident a few weeks earlier.
With all these mental gymnastics going on in my head, I was gaining little ground in an effort to calm down and relax before heading home to hit the sack, so I decided to do a little detail work on my freshly painted bright red corvette parked just outside the far side shop door, next to the neighbor’s fence where we usually parked the race car trailer. I left only one light on at the rear of the shop as an especially bright moon lit the outdoors, and all I needed in the shop was enough light to locate a tool or a shop rag.
I approached the car from the rear with some rags and rubbing compound
and a milk crate to sit on because my intent was to clean off some of
the paint overspray that was remaining on the left rear bumper and the
tail light bezels. I had just sat down and applied some rubbing compound
on the shop rag when I noticed some movement among the shadows in the
peach trees that lined the adjacent fence in the neighbor’s back
yard bordering the race shop parking lot.
I knew very little regarding the neighbors, only that they shared part of the driveway to the race shop, and I would occasionally glimpse the middle aged couple driving in and out the driveway in a ten year old pea green Rambler station wagon with black sidewall tires and we would exchange an infrequent wave and an occasional ‘hello’. She looked like a rather dowdy librarian and was usually seen in a woman’s wide brim straw hat turned up around the edges, and the gentleman was most often seen in a tan single breasted suit, wearing an olive green bow tie like those that an accountant might wear, and his straight, medium length dark hair was kept parted right down the middle and that always made me laugh. If their daughter was riding with them, she sat right in the middle of the back seat. I never heard them talk among themselves, play a radio or listen to music either in the station wagon or coming from their house.
I had actually seen more of the daughter as she would walk from the school bus up the same shared driveway, both going to and coming home from school. She was rather tall and looked old enough to be a senior in High School, but looked quite demure and reserved, as her bright red hair was usually in a single pony tail and often coiled above her head. She always seemed to me to be a little over dressed in long sleeved tops and skirts longer than seen on most young ladies her age, but she liked to wear brightly colored attire, and I would often notice her pausing in the driveway, smiling as she would listen to the music that we played, usually quite loud, and often observed her tapping her feet and even making a dance move or two to herself on occasion. If she saw me looking at her, she would wave slightly as she turned towards the house, usually just a mere bending of her fingers as opposed to an actual waving of her arm.
As I was trying to discern what, if anything, I had seen in the shadows beneath the peach trees next door, I remembered that ever since moving to the Carolinas in 1970, all I had heard was ‘there is no peach like a Southern peach’, and ever since I had noticed their trees in bloom, I had been wanting to ask the neighbors if I might have a peach or two from their trees, as they appeared to have an abundant crop this season.
South Carolinians were more than happy to make note of the fact that South Carolina was gaining ground in the yearly peach sales versus the perennial favorite Georgia, due in no small part, I’m sure, to the Coolie Brothers at the Strawberry Hill farm 15 miles up route 221 in Chesnee, where they had been developing sweet peaches since the late ‘40’s. I have had several peaches from the Strawberry Hills farm, but a free peach beats a bought peach anytime, and the neighbor’s trees were very inviting.
I had also heard on more than one occasion, right here in Spartanburg that the key to having good peaches was having hot nights, and that assured me that the next door neighbor’s peaches were doing spectacularly well. I was sitting down at near midnight and sweat was dripping from my forearms as I toiled in the moonlight.
Again, I catch a glimpse of movement on the other side of the fence, but the absolute blackness of the night, highlighted by the random strands of moonlight have turned this corner of the neighborhood into a black and white photograph, and as I become mindful of the absolute lack of any sort of a breeze, I grow concerned about the cause of the moving shadows from next door, and begin to prepare myself for the possibility of an intruder entering the race shop, thinking that it is uninhabited.
When I look towards the trees again, I see no more movement, but I do hear a slight whimper from just off to the right, and turning in that direction I see her for the first time and begin to understand what is going on, but cannot understand why.
It is the neighbor’s daughter, naked as the day she was born, and she is picking peaches from one of her own backyard trees by alternately reaching upward to steady a tree branch with one hand while pulling a single peach with her other hand, then bending towards the ground to place it into one of those oblong, woven baskets normally used for this very purpose, one peach at a time.
Here I am, it’s midnight, I’m sitting alone on a milk crate, in a parking area outside a race car shop in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the full light of a brilliant moon, motionless, so I do not disturb this vision, as I watch the red headed vixen, with her hair hanging freely half way down her back, contract, then fully extend herself until she has picked exactly twelve peaches, and places them into the woven basket. As quickly as she appeared, she disappeared, taking the peaches with her.
It is an image that I will never be able to fully erase from my consciousness, a profoundly delineated black and white image with no trace of gray.
In one split second, an image was indelibly inscribed in my mind, as if it were seared in place by a bolt of lightning, and it was the instant she had fully extended both arms, standing on the tip of her toes, with one hand on a tree branch and the other encircling a single peach.
It was at that precise moment in time when she appeared in both the light and the darkness. The contours of her back were highlighted by the moonlight, while her feminine charms remained an outline in the shadows.
The clearly defined line between light and darkness started at the very tip of the little finger on her left hand as it grasped the very tip of the stem of the peach. The delineating line continued down the edge of the palm, past the left wrist to the center of the elbow, bending slightly and continuing downward towards the sculptured outlines of the shoulder muscles, where the parting line took another slight bend and continued downward on the torso, lightly exposing the edges of a developed, but vulnerable rib cage and revealing the entire length of what appeared to be freshly brushed strawberry blond hair that fell below the middle of the curvature of the back.
The line between dark and light continued with a more gentle arc as it began to reveal the curvature of the buttocks and the more gentle deviations exposing the surprisingly muscular appearance of the upper thigh, and down past the knees to another slight bend when it became apparent that the calve muscles were well toned as well. The dividing line ended up with another more pronounced bend at the ankle and one at the curvature of the little toe.
I now discovered that I was tension free from the days turmoil’s, and after picking up my milk crate and putting away my rags, I headed home and easily drifted off to sleep.
At about 7:15 in the morning, as I was opening the large shop doors, I glanced across the parking area and saw her standing there at the edge of the concrete with a paper bag in her hand, and as she saw that I had noticed her, she held it up to me and started to walk towards me. Cautiously, I approached her as well and when we got close she handed me the paper bag and said “Would you like some peaches? I’ve seen you looking at our trees. I picked them myself”.
I was not sure exactly what to say, so I simply said “Thank you, I appreciate it”
As she turned and walked toward the driveway, I opened the bag to find
six peaches, and as I was looking up, she looked back and said “My
name is Georgia”.