Girl From Goat Pasture Road

Musings of Susan Swicegood Boswell



7 Days: Merry Mags (Reprisal)

Mags Circa 1975 and 2015

Four friends, forty years…

The gift of friendship is one of the most life-affirming, sustaining and positive forces in anyone’s life. Forty years ago, these three girls and I were inseparable, the terror of Tyro Junior High School. After college, careers, children, illness, marriage and divorce, broken hearts, ailing parents, second chances, getting skinny and then getting fat again, we seriously reconnected with each other about five years ago with the tenacity of a baby hanging on to its mama.

We deemed ourselves “The Steel Magnolias” as an ode to our Southerness and our ability to persevere through the ups and downs life.Over time, our name was shortened to “The Mags” because although we are Southern, we are simply not that genteel or proper.

Some days, I feel so, well old… but when we are together, the years simply melt away. At our get-together last night, I surprised them with this picture I found among some old family photos. After much analysis of our clothing and hairstyles, we believe this was taken around Christmas, 1975.

Look closely you can see Marilyn (who at that time, went by the nickname, “Ralph”) seated, posing as Santa dressed in an impromptu Santa outfit: toilet paper beard, toboggan and Christmas bow hat. Vick’s the child on Santa’s lap while Tracy and I look on. Then, just as now, I was the daydreamer in the group, my eyes looking off-camera, lost in my own thoughts and my own little world. Tracy, the beautiful blonde, my friend of “Shoe – Whore” fame, still towers over everyone else’s head and represents the heart and soul of the Mags.

Last night, after several bottles of wine, crackers, cheese and pizza, one of us thought we should recreate the original photo. Trying to coerce the cooperation of the cell phone, the props and all parties involved was a bit like herding cats. Of all the photos that were taken, Tracy sent me this one. I was like, “Are you serious, this is the best one? You’ve got to be kidding me…”

On the outside, we’ve gained the weight- equivalent of another middle-aged woman- there’s another Mag draped around our hips and poking out of our skinny jeans! Our boobs have migrated impossibly south, dropped way down yonder like the crystal ball in Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve. We’re using night serums on our face and waxing the chin hairs from our chinny-chin-chins.

The irony is that if you asked any one of us the most surprising thing about a friendship spanning more than forty years, we would tell you how little we have changed.

The four of us are as different as night and day. We’re teachers and CPA’s, hospital administrators and creative types, writers, preppies and earth puppies, direct and evasive, sex kittens and hermits. There’s several tattoos in very strategic places among the group.

As to who and where, my lips are sealed…

Today, we’re still there for each other in all the old ways, but more so. We laugh harder and cry more easily. We listen more carefully and we’re not afraid to ask the hard questions or disagree. We hug harder and hang on longer. These women are my “go to girls” and I’ve no doubt they would love me through anything. They’d help me hide a body, break me out of jail or at least hide a key in my cheesecake.

Because if we’re together, you bet there will be dessert!

If you have friends like these, thank God for that gift! They will go with you through hell and back. If you don’t have friends like these, do something about it NOW! Make a phone call or look up your old friends on Facebook. Time leaves it mark on all of us but good friends and laughter are truly the best antidote for aging.

Merry Christmas Mags!!!

8 Days: Brown’s Ole Opry

fullsizerender-11 In a little barn at the end of Timbermill Road, the world becomes a very good place on Friday nights. It’s cold outside- there’s a chance of freezing rain-  but inside the room is the kind of warmth that defies a mid- winter cold snap. The room bears none of the decorations which have come to symbolize “Christmas” in our contemporary society. No Christmas tree, no dangling strings of Christmas lights, no mistletoe as far as I can tell. Instead, you can recognize that it’s Christmastime in this particular segment of the South by the array of festive holiday sweaters adorning the womenfolk and a very tall man wearing a Santa hat and white shoes with heel taps.

The place is called Brown’s Ole Opry. Located in the small town of McCleansville, a 15 minute drive but a lifetime away from our home in downtown Greensboro, Brown’s Ole Opry is found at the end of a small side road flanked by tobacco barns and modular homes.

We are greeted by smiles and hellos from several dozen “regulars”. Tonight my co-worker and good friend, Dick Franks, is playing guitar on stage with a group of pick- up musicians, as is his monthly gig. Dick is one of those people with a keen mind, quick wit and an eternally youthful outlook that makes him seem younger than most people half his age, which I won’t repeat on account that he’s my boss. When he sees us walking in, Dick gives us a quick nod without missing a beat. I see another of my co-workers, Pat Robinson, here to support Dick, as well. Pat is perched on the bench seat lining the wall on the other side of the room. When she spots me, she hollers, above the din of guitar, banjo and fiddle, “Well, there’s Su-san!” Pat is one of the few people I know who is louder than me, a surprising statistic considering the fact that she is barely 5 feet tall with feet the size of a ten year old. Tonight, Pat has her sassy on and I comment on the serious biker’s jacket that covers her petite frame.

The band sounds really good- there’ s maybe 6 or 8 musicians- in fine form, jamming on-stage. Mounted to the rafters above their heads is a large framed American flag and a series of large, mismatched photographs standing guard over the assembly. The photographs, I learn, are the now deceased brothers and sisters of the proprietor, Mr. Brown, who at 94 years old is seated in his usual seat on the back row. From this vantage point he can enjoy the comings and goings of his lively guests by either shaking your hand or giving the ladies a peck on the cheek as they walk by.

When I ask Mr. Brown how many years he has been doing this, his answer is simply, “a long, long time.” Some of the other folks tell me this has been going on for more than 40 years. Used to be, this venue operated both Friday and Saturday nights, where numerous bands would set up both inside the barn and out buildings, where musicians spilled out onto the grassy knoll with a view to a large pond in back. These days, it’s just a Friday night venue. I could joke how one night a week is all these folks (most of them a certain age) could handle but that would be a flat out lie. The truth is that most any of them have more energy than you or me.

Over the course of coming here, 3-4 times since last summer, I’ve learned the names and the faces of a few of the “regulars”. There is a spirited redhead, a lady named Diane who has been kind enough to try to teach me to “flat foot”, a dance my mama used to do. I will admit “flat-footing” didn’t look like much of a dance when I watched mama doing it, but seems much more difficult when I am the one trying to do it. If feet could get tongue-tied, that’s what happens to me; I shuffle my feet a few beats before I think too hard, trip up and have to start over again. I love it that nobody here cares whether or not I can dance very well. One of the ladies pats me on the hand and says, “Honey, at least you are having a good time!” Diane moves across the floor effortlessly, all smooth and easy. She is a favorite dance partner with the menfolk and I love watching her interact with them, smiling, animated and attentive.

Pat and I strike up a conversation with a smartly- dressed lady wearing a leopard- skin top, long gold necklace and an expensive pair of shoes she says she bought from Arthur’s Shoe Store here in Greensboro. After we make our introductions, the lady- whose name is Tiny-  explains, almost apologetically, that she used to be “tiny” but now she is not. Tiny says she likes shopping for nice shoes and clothes since her husband died several years back. Now, she says, she simply buys whatever she wants. We also admire her large beautiful ring, which she says is a fake. Her beautiful “real” jewelry, she says, was stolen a while back when she was out-of-town by a contractor working on her house.

Since my contact at the Greensboro News & Record had just spoke with me earlier that day to say she would be featuring one of my Christmas stories in the newspaper the following week, I shamelessly inquire with Tiny if she reads the local newspaper. Tiny explained that she reads the Obituary Section every day to see if her former boyfriend had crossed the river.

Something tells me that she’s hoping his ship will sail sooner than later…

There’s a man Perry and I call “Happy Feet” whose dance moves most closely resemble the little penguin of the same name. Happy Feet flaps his arms and stomps his feet, jumps straight up and then over and generally commands the show. Most people would have a heart attack just attempting these moves.

Pat, in her biker jacket, has attracted the attention of another of the “regulars’ in the crowd. When she returns from a waltz, she tells me that he dances somewhere or another almost every night of the week. I imagine this man is somewhere in his seventh decade, but he smiles as he says plainly, “I feel sixteen.”

I don’t know it at the time but Perry is planning to ask me to dance. His plans are thwarted, however by a rival in the group. Vernon is in his 80’s but he beats Perry to the punch and wheels me out on the floor and instructs me how to follow him three beats to the measure. I step on his foot a few times but he doesn’t seem to mind. We laugh and talk and before you know it, I forget to care at all about what my feet are doing. It’s all about having a good time here on Friday nights at Brown’s Ole Opry.


$100 Dollar Hairspray


Recent unanticipated expenditures in the Boswell household including the purchase of a new car have caused my husband and I to take a closer look at our monthly budget. We’ve cut back on eating out and begun shopping the discount bread store. I’ve value-engineered our cable and cell phone packages including a (rather ingenious) intervention on my part which involves simply cutting off my son’s data and texting privileges when he somehow exceeds the “unlimited” plan I spend too much money on anyway.

One of the areas I am most reluctant to cut is the one marked  “Health and Beauty”. A recent review of my monthly expenditures confirm the “natural” look I have boasted for so many years is costing me an unnatural amount of cash. Hair color, styling products and make-up are expensive!

Having grown up in the shadows of  Farrah Fawcett, Cindy Lauper, and the Breakfast Club, I have never relinquished my love for big hair. As a Southern woman of a “certain age” I have lived years under the honor code of “the higher the hair, the closer to God”. It’s an expression nearly every woman in the South between the ages of 50 and 60 not only believes but  lives. Therefore when I recently ran out of my favorite salon style hairspray, I was thrilled to find a huge $9.99 can of something called “Big Sexy Hair” at my local TJ Maxx. With visions of St. Peter and ’80’s angelic icons dancing in my head, I knew this was the right hairspray for me! While I was at it, I also splurged for the $6.98 “Sexy Light” shampoo, which promised manageability and control, without weighing me down, attributes that would surely help my hair, if not my social life.

The next morning as I got dressed for work, my hair was initially light, manageable and gloriously big! I congratulated myself on my purchases and began to spray “Big Sexy” on my newly styled “do”. The first spray from the aerosol can sputtered out in a glob. Giving it a good shake, the second attempt came out in a fierce narrow stream.  Undaunted, I closed my eyes tightly and began to spray, my arm doing a series of rapid and elaborate figure eight’s as I tried to dispel the stream into a spray. I opened my eyes to find disaster!

I had been “flocked”!

Dear God, I looked like a cheap Big Lots Christmas tree, my uppermost branches adorned with heavy mounds of fake snow. I slipped on my reading glasses and squinted at the fine print. “Big Sexy” was not hairspray at all, but some sort of styling mousse. I tried to brush the snow from my hair but it was useless. My “Big Sexy” hair had taken a definite turn for the worse!

Later in the day, as I was recanting my “disast-hair”, one of my friend’s who I can always count on for sound advice suggested I visit Sally’s Beauty Supply where I could purchase professional products at a discounted price. After perusing their shelves over my lunch hour, I determined their hairspray was such a bargain, I would purchase 2 cans. The sales clerk at the checkout told me that for an additional $15.00, I could save 10% on all purchases for the next year. Since I use a lot of hairspray, this seemed a no- brainer.

The next few days did not go so well. The rain and humidity that saturated Greensboro over the next few days were not my fine hair’s best friend. The hair that held such heavenly promise had taken a harrowing turn, if not towards hell, certainly the flatlands.

“What happened to you?”, asked another friend noting my sagging locks. Realizing that my newest “bargain” hairspray offered no resistance to humidity, I conceded my latest purchase was no bargain at all!

By Sunday, I didn’t care what it cost. Desperately tired of looking like an abandoned pound pup, I was willing to pay anything. I drove thirty minutes to the mall to purchase my original hairspray from the expensive salon. Perusing the shelves, I was suddenly confused. My old trusty brand now came in two selections, both offering maximum control. I asked the young sales clerk to explain the difference.

She peered out at me dramatically from dark, side-swept bangs. “Uh, this one says “Platinum”” the eye said while the mouth smacked loudly on a wad of gum.

“Yes, I can read that”, I said testily, “but is one of these better for humidity?”

“Ummm, I guess I need to familiarize myself with this product”, the eye confessed. “I don’t really use hairspray.”


I roll my eyes , a gesture the clerk fails to notice. This person cannot help me.

At this point, only God and Farrah Fawcett can help me. “Give me one of each,” I say, handing the eye the last of my $100 bill.

“And a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, while you are at it!”

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