Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pictures in a Parlor

Visitors to Andalusia this summer are in for a real treat. In the back parlor we have a new display of some vintage photographs of the farm. These pictures are the generous gift of Frances Florencourt, first cousin of Flannery O'Connor. A number of them, dating from the late 1930s, feature Flannery and her Florencourt cousins on horseback. There are also photos from the same period of Flannery's uncle, Dr. Bernard Cline. Born in 1881, Dr. Cline was a renowned ear, nose, and throat doctor in Atlanta. He was a prominent member of society and served for some time as president of the Piedmont Driving Club. In the early 1930s Dr. Cline purchased the Andalusia property and used it as a weekend getaway as well as a place where he could raise horses and quail. He also entertained his friends with lavish barbecues and hosted special parties at the farm for his beloved nieces. Dr. Cline died unexpectedly in January, 1947. Though he was sorely missed by all who knew him, his legacy lives on at Andalusia. According to his niece, Frances, "the farm and all its land and buildings still speak of him and his love for us."
- Mark

Friday, June 25, 2010

Southern Sauna

It's the first week of summer and already daytime temperatures are in the mid-to upper -nineties. The humidity is just as high. With the steamy days we've been having, you'd think that it might keep our attendance down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Already in June - and believe me it's been hot - we've had 240 visitors. Not bad. O'Connor fans, as I've learned in the year I've been at Andalusia, are a pretty hearty bunch and they're not going to let a little atmospheric unpleasantness interfere with visiting the farm of their favorite writer. The hot weather has brought other visitors to the farm, ones not as welcome as the two-legged variety. Last Saturday afternoon, as I was getting ready to close the highway gate, a four foot timber rattlesnake slithered across the driveway and up the embankment. We've also noticed a red fox prowling around the premises behind the main house. Obviously, he has taken notice of the peafowl, who gladly remain beyond his reach in the safe and secure confines of the aviary. The presence of such critters is just a part of life on a farm and does not present a threat to our visitors provided they exercise a little caution. It is strongly encouraged that, when visiting Andalusia, you stay in the mown areas and do not venture off into the tall grass or woods (except when hiking the nature trail). Remember, the animals out here are timid and are more scared of you than you are of them. Still, a little precaution is in order.
- Mark

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Farewell to an Old Friend

If you have not heard the news yet, you may be saddened to learn that Flossie, the beloved hinny at Andalusia, died last Friday. Since she lived to be nearly 40 years old, her passing was not totally unexpected. Still her absence leaves a palpable void. Personally, I will miss hearing her whinny when visitors came up the driveway, and her uncanny knack for figuring out ways to roam away from her pasture. Flossie had great affection for those who knew her well and would sometimes roll on the ground in delight if a friend would come up to the pasture gate with carrots or Cheerios, two of her favorite treats. Flossie enjoyed a long and happy life and was perhaps the most photographed critter that has ever lived out on the farm. While she may be gone, her memory lives on in the hearts of the Andalusia staff and the many visitors she charmed over the years.
- Mark

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On this day in 1961...

Flannery O'Connor wrote a letter to her friend Betty Hester describing a terrible accident at Andalusia (see The Habit of Being p. 442). A few days earlier Willie "Shot" Manson, a hired farm hand, was sucked into a hay baler up to his elbows. A mechanic had to be summoned to extricate him from the machinery. When they finally got him out he was "pretty badly damaged." The baler "tore out some big gaps of flesh and gave him several third-degree belt burns." As severely injured as Manson was, Regina O'Connor managed to get him into her car and drive him to Baldwin County hospital where he stayed for some time. O'Connor reports that while minor crises were something of a common occurrence out on the farm, this particular incident was a major one.

Major or minor, many of the "crises" O'Connor describes in her letters involve Manson and/or Jack and Louise Hill, the couple he boarded with in the house on the other side of the driveway. It is, therefore, fitting that the next major project at Andalusia is the restoration of the Hill house. Not only did this house serve as an inspiration for some of O'Connor's most memorable stories (e.g. "The Displaced Person"), it is perhaps the oldest structure on the property. Since it is such a significant part of the farm complex at Andalusia, please consider making a designated gift to help us save the Hill house.

- Mark

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Andalusia Anniversary

As I drive to Milledgeville past the blooming mimosas, I am reminded that it was a year ago on June 8th, that my wife, Judy, and I made our first visit to Andalusia. That day will be forever etched in my memory. The day was clear and pleasantly warm. I can still recall turning onto the dirt driveway bordered by the front pasture and canopied in lush foliage. As the driveway bent gently to the right the farm house slowly came into view. When we got out of the car I was struck by the serenity of the place. So peaceful, so tranquil. At the front door we were greeted by Craig who welcomed us and graciously showed us around. Though we stayed for two hours I could have easily lingered there the rest of the day. Little did I realize then that this would be the first of nearly 200 (and still counting) trips to Andalusia. The memory of that first visit still resonates a year later when I come out here. If you've never been, I invite you to visit Andalusia during these lazy, hazy days of summer.
- Mark