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A funny ride through time around Georgia

POSTED: November 6, 2011 12:19 a.m.

Wouldn't it be exciting to travel in a time machine and witness some of Georgia's historic events?

Emory Jones of Cleveland thought it would be fun, too, and used his considerable imagination to take readers on a fanciful flight through the years in his book with the outrageously long title, "Zipping Through Georgia On a Goat-Powered Time Machine with Ludlow Porch and a Parrot Named Pete."

Porch is the late Atlanta radio personality, humorist and author. The time machine is his creation; he is the pilot, and his passenger is author Jones, whose previous works include "Distant Voices: The Story of the Nacoochee Indian Mound."

Their seats are brand-new Cracker Barrel rocking chairs, and the time machine is powered by Grady the goat chasing overripe rutabagas on a treadmill, Pete the Parrot perched nearby.

Sound ridiculous? It is. Ridiculously funny as the time machine sets out for Savannah to witness James Oglethorpe's arrival in 1733. They wanted to see what kind of clothes Oglethorpe's entourage might be wearing back then.

But whether by design or the machine's miscues, they land first atop Stone Mountain in 1928, when the only carving on the rock at the time was that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. As Ludlow details how the sculpting got to be finished 42 years later, he inserts bits of other history about one of Georgia's most well-known attractions.

The time machine then detours to northwest Georgia and Barnsley Gardens, which was called Woodlands in 1864 when Porch and Jones arrive in their make-believe machine. Again, Porch as the tour guide, tells trivia most Georgians probably don't know about this historic place, which is now a posh resort and tourist attraction near Adairsville.

Trying to get back on track to Savannah, the time explorers instead plop down in Mossy Creek in White County. Jones knows this because he sees his grandparents working in a field and in the distance recognizes Yonah Mountain, near where he was born and on which he lives today. But this is 1939, and farmers are planting kudzu vines. Porch explains this was the start of the kudzu curse in Georgia. Kudzu was promoted as a vine to stop land erosion, but it grew so voraciously it caused more problems than it cured.

Jones tells Porch what he says is a true story about a couple buying a house and under all the kudzu in the backyard were surprised to discover an in-ground swimming pool.

Then it's on toward Savannah, but the time machine pauses in Kennesaw in 1862, where Porch tells you more about the Great Locomotive Chase at the start of the Civil War than you ever knew or wanted to know.

The guys then stop in Royston in 1956 when Ches McCartney, the Goat Man, is making a pit stop. Jones can even see himself from the time machine as a 5-year-old visiting the Goat Man's camp. Again, Porch relates little-known details about the man who traveled the state with a wagon pulled by goats for many years.

The time travelers also stop near Irwinville in 1865 to witness the somewhat comical capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which if the book's "facts" are anywhere near accurate, would be a comedy in itself. The book also dispels rumors over the years that Davis was a cross-dresser.

Finally, Porch and Jones make it to Savannah, where Porch claims the town originally would have been named Eleanorrugbyville if founder James Oglethorpe had had his way.

The book is a quick read, a laugh a line, if you're in the mood for something fun and out of the ordinary.

Porch designed the time machine and contributed his substantial wit to the book, but suffered a stroke and died before helping Jones complete it.

Jones is scheduled to autograph copies 2-4 p.m. Nov. 16 at Peach State Bank in Gainesville and Nov. 17 at Frames Unique.

Newspapers, social media, radio and television can be pretty tough on politicians these days. But back in the day, newspapers were pretty plain-spoken and critical, too. The Gainesville News minced no words in how it felt about the sheriff in 1904. During an election, the paper referred to him as "the present incompetent" instead of "incumbent," and it wasn't a typo.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, Ga. 30501; phone, 770-532-2326. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.



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