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Along Twin Ponds Road

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Surely the presence of the Lord in in this "space".

By Ray Willis

Reading a book about a place I am about to visit or spend some time has been one of my greatest thrills in life.† If its a good reading experience you become more excited and thrilled with the idea of finally arriving at your new destination, especially if its a long dreamed about vacation spot or a new home in more pleasant surroundings.

A book may be categorized as one of fiction, however, it seems in so many cases the writer is writing about his or her own, real experiences that provided the motivation for writing the novel.

James Michener's Hawaii is one of those books. The book is fictional, yet throughout this wonderful novel Michener draws upon his own vast experiences and travels as well as his knowledge of Hawaiian history and intensive research of its people, culture and even geography.

I spent seven years living in Hawaii and had married a Japanese woman, as had Michener.† Honolulu was my homeport while serving aboard a Coast Guard cutter. I read Hawaii while at sea. I cant remember a more enjoyable reading experience because I was involved and lived in the same setting as the novel in which I was so engrossed.

Major James Devereux was the commanding officer of a battalion of U.S. Marines on Wake Island during World War II. The Japanese forces took over Wake a few days after Pearl Harbor.

Devereux wrote The Story of Wake Island not long after he was released as a prisoner of war. The book provided a very detailed account of life on Wake during the war.

Before I was stationed at Wake Island during the Vietnam War I read Major Devereux's book. I felt I knew every piece of terrain and could picture those horrendous, last days on Wake during WWII.

Upon gazing out from the eastern shore of Wilkes Island (one of the three islands comprising Wake Island), I could view the hulks of two Japanese ships of war sunk during the skirmish. I was able to recall the action from the book as I viewed the wreckage.

My year stay on Wake Island became so much more meaningful because I had read a few books about the place.† In my off time I was able to do much exploring.

My wife and I recently finished Gloria Jahoda's book The Other Florida written in 1967. We are fortunate that someone had recommended reading this wonderful book.

Gloria Jahoda was a well educated woman who arrived on the Florida panhandle in 1967, when her husband accepted a professorship at FSU.

The writer set out on her own to discover for herself some of the geography and formidable or legendary characters of northern Florida. Some of the places she visited many would dare not venture because of rough or forbidden terrain.

My only regret after reading the book was that Jahoda had not visited more places and written of many more remarkable characters. Her writing provided much depth to the people she had sought out, and her accounts of the locations visited were vividly displayed.

Whenever my wife shares experiences of growing up in Jefferson County I perk up my ears and listen closely. She grew up during the time when segregation still prevailed in the South. A few black students were allowed to graduate in Judy's class at Monticello High in 1966, for the first time.

What a time that must have been. I went to school with black students in the late 40s so its rather difficult for me to envision how things were here in Florida.

My wife and I have begun reading a new novel recently released here in our region.† Each day shortly after lunch and just before turning the bedside lamp out we read a little from our new book.† It provides us not only enjoyment but some insight as to the way life was living in the Tallahassee area in the 1960s.

Mary Jane Ryals has recently finished and had published her novel, Cookie and Me. Like my wife, Mary Jane grew up in the Tallahassee area during the tumultuous  ‘60s. She has vivid memories of the time when Blacks were not allowed to eat in restaurants nor attend the same schools as the white kids.

Author Mary Jane Ryals is not only a writer, she is a teacher of writing at FSU. She is also currently our Big Bend regions first Poet Laureate.
We have been blessed as this gracious writer and teacher has agreed to visit Gadsden County to provide us with a reading of her new book, as well as give us time to purchase the book and have it signed by her.

I do hope to see many of you on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m., at the main branch of the library located in Quincy at 732 Pat Thomas Parkway.

We also owe thanks to Dr. Carolyn Poole, Directory of Library Services in Gadsden County, for all she has done to make this promising event possible.

I don't know about you, but I've never met an author at an actual book reading/book signing event. I'm excited.

God bless you.

I can be reached at coot5864@hotmail.com.  Insert “Twin Ponds” in subject line, please.