Fear of the Ground…

It’s that time of year when the hotel I work for has all of its 6,350 windows washed.


Of course, my immediate and somewhat clichéd thought on seeing the window washers is “Well, at least my job description doesn’t include windows,”  but after having an office-wide discussion this morning about the whole “what kind of guy cleans windows on a skyscraper?”  we collectively now assume that these guys must be rock climbers/rappellers/crazy people who jump out of perfectly good airplanes/adrenaline junkies anyhow.  It takes a set to dangle 723 feet above the ground, suspended by rope and harness and I can’t imagine it’s something you’d do if you didn’t wildly adore the rush.  Let’s face it. There are other jobs.


While I do like heights, there’s about zero chance I’ll ever be joining them. Of course, as Sir Terry Pratchett said, it’s not the heights you should be afraid of, but the depths; so my worries wouldn’t at all be about being that high up in the air or the safety of the equipment, which assuredly goes through thousands of checks and tests before it’s used.  My paralyzing fear would be more about the wild gusts of wind, whipping around the tops of these really high buildings, sweeping me up and squishing me like a bug against the glass, where I’d then slither slime-ily 72-stories down to the ground like Wile e Coyote after a failed attempt to catch the Roadrunner.

wil e

So in lieu of participating myself, I’ll make a point to enjoy watching them.

Amazingly, they look pretty calm and happy, so hanging from the sky just might be their way of staying grounded.

It turned out that when Miss Level had asked Tiffany if she was scared of heights, it had been the wrong question.  Tiffany was not afraid of heights at all.  She could walk past tall trees without batting an eyelid.  Looking up at huge towering mountains didn’t bother her a bit.
What she was afraid of, although she hadn’t realized it up until this point, was depths.  She was afraid of dropping such a long way out of the sky that she’d have time to run out of breath screaming before hitting the rocks so hard that she’d turn to a sort of jelly and all her bones would break into dust.  She was, in fact, afraid of the ground. 

– Terry Pratchett

A Hellacious Belle’s Pictorial Guide to the New South: I is for Insects

I is for Insects

/dam bəhɡz/

The Southern States, being all warm and moist like a fresh-baked buttermilk pound cake, are a natural mecca for insects of all kinds.

While we have some really cool fancy insects (dragon flies, praying mantis, lightning bugs, butterflies, katydids,banana spiders, ladybugs, etc.) that no one really minds  (in fact, most consider all the previous as “good luck bugs,”) we also have more than our fair share of biting, stinging and swarming little varmits that drive everyone nuts, most all spring and summer long.

As a matter of fact, just call me a walking chigger snack.

Mosquitoes, (/skētərz/) while a nightmare to most, don’t really mess with me, despite my light skin, hair and eyes (typically their preferred cuisine); but put me in 5 miles of a chigger, and damned if that rascal won’t catch an Uber and be gnawing on my ankles within a second of me stepping out on a patch of grass.

Chiggers are microscopic red spiders that love tall grass (and blonde girls named Kim). They leave mean little red blood blisters as bites, that once you touch them, itch like all flaming get out and take weeks to heal completely.

Ticks are another plague of heavily-wooded parts of the South.

I can remember being a child and pulling ticks off the dogs (and myself), with nothing but fingernails and an annoyed proficiency,  dabbing a bit of nail polish on the bite to “kill the tick head.”

Now with all the horrors of tick-borne diseases making the news, the vicious suckers are taken much more seriously.

Most folks wear a hat and cover up when walking in the woods (I know many a case where a tick’s fallen from a tree and buried itself into the part of an unwary walker’s hair.)  No more childhood days of careening around in the bushes barefoot and in shorts, hollerin’ just ‘cuz you see a patch of poison ivy – now ticks are the enemy. After a day of play in the great outdoors, kids’ll face a modern Southern Mom and thorough tick inspection with the tweezers, right down to the private bits, and the dog’ll get the same treatment as well.

Fire ants are the scourge of the front yard.

If their nest is disturbed, they will swarm and attack you with the impassioned intent of trained guerrillas. Fire ants aren’t actually native to the South – the black fire ant was a stow-a-way on a South American ship that docked in Mobile, Alabama, back in 1918. Its distribution is still limited to parts of Mississippi and Alabama.

However, red fire ants (/viSHəs  hĕl dēmən’ fəkəhz/ ) snuck in from foreign (/fur-ən/) parts around the 1930’s and have infested more than 260 million acres of land in nine southeastern states, including all or portions of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.  They are just about impossible to kill.  People pour poison on them, they douse the mounds with gasoline and set fire to them; they dig them up, mow them down, disperse them to the very winds and the next day, they’ll be back, mound rebuilt bigger and higher, with a distinct miasma of vengeance weighing heavy in the air.

One of the best pieces of advice I can impart to anyone visiting the South:

If it’s a bug, JUST LET IT BE.  If it bites, DON’T SCRATCH IT. If you see a fire ant mound on the lawn, for all that is holy, LEAVE IT ALONE.

“I’ve just been bitten on the neck by a vampire… mosquito. Does that mean that when the night comes I will rise and be annoying?”
Vera Nazarian

A Hellacious Belle’s Pictorial Guide to the New South: H is for Haint Blue #AtoZChallenge


H is for Haint Blue

/hānt blo͞o/

Haint Blue is a traditional ceiling color of Southern porches, dating as far back as the early 1800s, with tones ranging from blue-greens to bright cerulean to blue-violets.  The purpose of the paint is to mimic water or sky and there are a couple of interesting theories behind the custom.

The Gullah people of low country Georgia and South Carolina believe that Haints, or Haunts (spirits of the dead trapped between dimensions) can’t cross over water.  Painting a ceiling (or door or window sill) a watery blue confuses the ghosts and wards them from the home.


Sky-tinted ceilings were also believed to keep away birds and insects, fooling them into believing they were flying unprotected under an open sky.

The real truth behind this myth was most likely not the similarity to the heavens as much as the composition of colonial paints, since they were mixed with lime, which acts as a  repellent to flying critters.

Regardless, my husband swears that although lime-free, our Haint Blue porch ceiling keeps away the wasps.

Well, it’s rare I see a wasp and honestly, I don’t believe I’ve seen much in the way of ghosts, either.

“Ghosts won’t cross over water because they are afraid of getting their sheets wet.” – Anonymous

A Hellacious Belle’s Pictorial Guide to the New South: G is for Garden and Gun #AtoZChallenge


G is for Garden and Gun

/gärˈdn’ ĭn gŭn/

Garden and Gun  is a preeminent lifestyle magazine and the self-acclaimed, “Soul of the South.”

G & G, in the vernacular, is an ode to the traditional Upscale Southern lifestyle loosely translated to everyday living in the New South.

Sure, most of us don’t squeeze in a few rounds of sporting clays before hosting a 5-course candlelit dinner for 20 VIPs, prepared by Charleston Chef Sean Brock in a run-down but lavishly-staged barn on Flannery O’Connor’s family farm…

while wearing Dior…

but damn, it’s awfully fun sometimes to pretend you might.


And that’s what G & G does the best: saturate its reader with the lush landscape of the South, exploring culture and history; publishing essays from the South’s finest writers; showcasing food, music, art and travel – all the while inspiring a higher level of eating, drinking, decorating, story-tellin’ and just plain ol’being Southern.

(Oh, and it goes to the dogs, every year, when readers submit photos of their beloved pooches to vie for honors in the wildly lauded Good Dog competition.)

Enter the Garden & Gun Good Dog Photo Contest

In our home (not so’s you’d be surprised), we actually use it as a verb.  “Hey, let’s Garden and Gun up the local, small-batch heritage pork sausage display with Granny’s china and some flowers.”

“Garden & Gun Magazine’s style is bright and exuberant. The magazine revels in the culture, traditions, and heritage of all aspects of the South. Do you wish you had a place to turn for a cultural touchstone, or just to find the right comforter to complement the window dressings? This magazine is what you’ve had in mind all along.” – Amazon.com Review

“You don’t have to be Southern and you don’t have to live in the South to appreciate Garden & Gun, but you do have to have the time to read.” – Barbara Bing, Garden and Gun in interview with the New York Times


A – to – Z Challenge Note: we were out of town the last four days on a visit to the North Georgia Mountains and our rental home had no internet.  I could squeeze out an email or Instagram or two, via the phone signal but WordPress slapped me in the face and refused all communications without wifi, so I wasn’t able to post Friday, Saturday or Monday, thus 86’ing myself from the competition.

 I’m having fun, though, so I’ll keep trying to play along regardless and hopefully, you’ll keep reading.  Thank you all so much for all your kind comments so far!




A Hellacious Belle’s Pictorial Guide to the New South: F is for Frog’s Hair #AtoZChallenge


F is for Frog’s Hair

/frɒɡz hɛ-əh/

If you realize that you’ve never noticed hair on a frog before, that’s because it’s so very fine it can’t be seen.


Down South, we use this as a common measure of an extreme level of “fineness.”

“How y’all?”

“Fine as Frog’s Hair!”

This can be further expounded (for things of an amazing and exemplary fineness):

“How y’all?”

“Fine as Frog’s Hair, split 3 ways!

(Now that’s pretty fine.)

My daddy, a very positive and cheerful guy, takes it one step further.

“Hey Jim, how y’all been?”

“I been fine as Frog’s Hair, split 3 ways and sandpapered down the middle!

“What do the old folks say,
She’s finer than frog hair split four ways” – Shooter Jennings, “The Deed and the Dollar.”


A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: E is for Egg Salad Sandwich #AtoZChallenge



/ĕg săl′əd samĭch/


An icon of Southern porch and picnic cuisine, the humble Egg Salad Sandwich gets a ton of press this time each year in its role as a snack stand staple of the Master’s Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Along with its buddies, the Pimento Cheese Sandwich, the Master’s Club Sandwich and the Master’s Bar-B-Que, this (surprisingly) reasonably priced sammy has become a cult favorite with the golfing crowd and a legend of the Augusta culinary scene.

Since the Augusta National Golf Course refuses to release the exact recipe of the eggy tastiness lurking between two pieces of white bread and tidily wrapped in green cellophane, a slew of copy-cats have emerged; each claiming the key to making the perfect Egg Salad.

So if you’re bored, actually into golf or just want to see a really pretty golf course, put the Master’s on your watch list this weekend, pop into the kitchen and whip up some of these practically authentic treats (sand traps are optional.)

Oh, and brew up a jug of sweet tea.  Nothing washes down an egg salad sammich better.

Unless, of course, it’s a cold beer (/kōld’bir/  – said as one word, accent on the first syllable).  That works, even gooder n’ better.


6 hard-boiled eggs, shells removed

1⁄3 cup or slightly more, to taste, of Duke’s Mayonnaise

3⁄4 teaspoon yellow mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the eggs in a large bowl until just slightly chunky. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Serve on white bread.

“Oh man, Friday, I really wanted an egg salad sandwich and I was just obsessing about it and I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna make one of those.”Andy Stitzer, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”