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Darrell Huckaby - 03/08/09

I realize that we have barely recovered from a rare Southern snowstorm - and you Yankee-Americans, please feel free to scoff - of which our area just missed being the epicenter, but my mind is on summer. Late August, to be exact, thanks to a friend I have not yet met.

Let me explain. I came in from work last Wednesday and logged on to the computer to check my e-mail. I guess if we were still in "Leave it to Beaver" days June would have met Ward at the door with his laptop and slippers instead of the mail and the evening paper. I hate to admit it but I have somewhat tentatively joined the Facebook generation and, to tell you the truth, although I am relatively unschooled in the finer points of the system I have found it somewhat addictive and most days am eager to sign on and give a shout out to my friends - but I digress, as usual.

When I opened my e-mail account I discovered that I had been sent a rather unusual request, and I mean even by my standards.

A lady from the Pacific Northwest had written, saying that she came across my name on the Internet after "Googling" the phrase "shelled peas." I would have suspected that I could be found a lot of ways. Authors. Writer. Linthead. Right-winged lunatic fringe. Again, there might be any number of ways that a person could find me, but it never crossed my mind that "Googling shelled peas" might be one of them - but apparently, it is.

It seems that this particular lady is a writer herself and is working on a book in which her characters are sitting on a Southern front porch, in late August, shelling black-eyed peas. My new friend wanted her story to seem realistic and thought that I might be able to give her a little insight into what sort of legumes her characters might be shelling. "Would they be dry peas or fresh," she asked, along with several other questions. I think she wanted as much information as possible on the subject and even allowed as to how she wasn't married to peas and might be open to having her characters shelling butterbeans or "some sort of pea or bean" that she "didn't even know about."

I have received lots and lots of random requests over the past 15 years or so in which I have been writing books and newspaper columns. A young lady from Oxford, Miss., called me one evening at about 11:30. I had been sound asleep, understand, since about 9 o'clock and wasn't at all happy about having to wake up in the middle of the night. But the young lady sounded really sweet so I rubbed my eyes and talked to her. She told me that she was writing a book report on my first, and at that time only, novel, "Need Two" and could receive extra credit for interviewing the author.

"Let me guess," I said to her. "Your report is due tomorrow morning."

"Oh, no sir," she assured me, "it's not due until fourth period."

Another time, after writing what I intended to be a humorous piece about two UGA students who had captured and cooked a wild raccoon - you probably remember those guys - I got a call from the head of the SPCA in St. Louis, demanding that I come to Missouri - on my own dime, naturally - to attend a sensitivity seminar, so I wouldn't make light of such situations in the future.

I stayed home.

Yet another time I received a phone call from a writer at a big city newspaper in the Midwest wanting a play-by-play description of "Streak Week" on the UGA campus - an event that happened, ironically, 35 years ago, almost to this day.

But I had never heard from anybody who assumed that I was an expert on the shelling of black-eyed peas. But there is a first time, so they say, for everything and this time the lady picked the right man for the job.

I told her that her characters should be shelling purple-hulled peas, or crowders - not black-eyed peas. And I told her that they would be using their thumbs and zipping the shells open and rifling peas into the pan in their lap without a second thought while carrying on a non-stop conversation about nothing of consequence. And I told her they would be tossing the hulls onto newspapers spread out on the floor and that their hands would become stained during the process.

I also told her that butterbeans would be an acceptable alternative, but if she chose butterbeans, the shellers would be complaining about every fourth or fifth bean not being "filled out" and, thus hard to shell - making their thumbs sore all the way to the quick of the thumbnail.

By the time I got through with my response I was in late-summer mode and began making plans for a garden of my own this spring. But Good Friday is still a good five weeks away, so I am sure that if I take two aspirin and lay down for a while, the urge will pass.

Darrell Huckaby