My boyhood trips each summer to Milledgeville (a bird sanctuary!) with my older brother Peter Cline, Great Uncle Louis Cline and his sister, my Great Aunt Cleo Cline Tarleton were always an adventure. We would stay just outside of Milledgeville at Andalusia, known to us simply as “the farm.” Until her death, Aunt Cleo would chaperone as she didn’t think our host, my Great Aunt Regina Cline O’Connor, as energetic and resourceful as she was, could handle a couple of loud, inquisitive boys (well she couldn’t). Example: Regina would have jigsaw puzzles prepared on the dining room table — designed to occupy our time, all of our time, I’m talking 24/7 kinda time — the puzzles remained untouched. Everyone knows boys prefer to be outside, especially when there are snakes, peacocks and farm animals to taunt, so Uncle Louis would get Hoke (I guess you'd call him a “family retainer”) to take us fishing, he’d bait our hooks while he caught turtles for his dinner.
I remember delivery trucks coming to the Hill House (a tenant house where Hoke and his wife lived) to drop off food. The house was a curiosity to me as it was wallpapered with Campbell’s soup can labels and newspapers—I didn’t understand that this was because they lived in abject poverty. I asked Uncle Louis “why is their food delivered?” He said “if I give them money they spend it on liquor and disappear for a week, and you KNOW what that’s like!” I oh course had no clue what “that” was like!
Being a nice(ish) Catholic school boy, I always complimented Aunt Regina on dinner, Aunt Cleo, always competitive with her sister in all things culinary, would sit next to me, poke me in the ribs, laugh and exclaim, “PLEASE it’s all canned!” or “Regina cook, ha! ” Uncle Louis, stoic as ever, knew to keep his mouth shut in such matters, I followed suit and Regina was completely deaf to her sister's taunts.
Following dinner, Aunt Regina, exhausted, would send us promptly to bed, meaning 7pm. She would retreat to the ancient, rambling Cline family house on Greene St. and I guess Louis and Cleo would chat or listen to the radio.
In the summer the sun would be up for another 2 hours and my brother and I would always be frightened by the peafowl when they would fly into the trees to roost for the night — as in doing so they would let out a spine tingling, classic, horror movie howl — think Psycho — got it?
I especially remember one drive down to Milledgeville, and yes the 75 miles from Atlanta with Uncle Louis at the wheel would take a minimum of three hours with all his stops to visit clients as at the time he was a representative for a hardware company. Aunt Cleo was one of the best natured, funny people one could ever know (her kitchen was famous for being filthy but that’s another story, Regina's kitchen on the other hand was spotless). This particular trip, I must have been 8 years old, Cleo brought along small paper bags that she said were for “our entertainment.” The entertainment meant we would blow up, slap and pop the bags and each time Louis would jump and the car (going 30 MPH) would swerve and Aunt Cleo would just laugh until she was blue in the face. Boy do I miss her cheese straws, but I miss her, Regina and Louis more!
A trip to Milledgeville with Louis was never complete without a trip to visit the dearly departed Clines at Memory Hill Cemetery, I think he missed his brother Bernard Cline terribly.
|Looking out over Andalusia's front lawn from the upstairs guest bedroom.|