I did not grow up in the hills of Northeast Georgia. But I have taken a great liken to the people there. You talk about friendly, honest, straight forward folks. They will tell you what they’re thinking before they think about what they’re thinking.

I was munching on meatloaf and cabbage at M & J Home Cooking in Toccoa when the skies turned dark. The wind started to howl, the rain turned to hail as a thunderstorm of the first magnitude roared past. I nodded thanks to my waitress as she poured more tea but the waitress over by the large side window held my attention.

“I wonder where the tornado struck.” It was way more of a statement than a question. Apparently, in a former life, she was a TV weather personality. “You know a quick storm like this always spawns a tornado, or two. And they always hit a chicken coop or a mobile home. It always does. It’s just the way it happens up here in Georgia!”

Well now, I’m thinking “do tell” as she diverted her eyes from the distant skies and moved across the room to lean against our table. “It was like over at Red Hill one time.” She waved back toward the big window like everyone in the world just naturally knew where Red Hill was. “A big one sat down there—I believe it was two years ago, took out a mobile home and every chicken coop in the place!”

I reached for a bite of creamed corn not realizing weather girl was just getting warmed up. “I’m telling you, it was feathers, chickens, guts and gizzards flying in every direction! And don’t think I’m throwing off on mobile homes. I live in one myself. I’m just stating facts; it didn’t cut a hair on any other building. It’s just always mobile homes and chicken coops. You ever notice that?”

Shucks, she had me there. I didn’t live in a mobile home and we’d never had a tornado hit our chicken coop. But then, to be honest, I couldn’t test her theory…..we’d never really had a tornado out at our end of Stonewall Street. They always hit over by Huntingdon.

I was picking at my meatloaf and thinking about those guts and gizzards as the chronicle continued, “My aunt Pat lives out at Red Hill, she saw it coming through the trees. She said it lifted the Loftens’ mobile home right off the concrete blocks ‘like it was a doll house and smashed it to smithereens. The tornado hadn’t no more disappeared toward Helen than those Erskine boys was out picking up chicken pieces…..’”

Somewhere in the middle of the peach cobbler and ice cream a ride out to Red Hill sprang to life. I was hoping a part of the Loften home might still be lying around. It would be worth the trip to see what “smithereens” looked like.

Both waitresses and the hostess were waving goodbye and inviting us back as we drove off.

You talk about an entertaining lunch! I’d never enjoyed one more. And Amanda wasn’t pushy, nosey, a know-it-all or craving the spotlight. She was just, in the most friendly and disarming manor, telling us the “way things were” in her precious neck of the woods.

I did have to cough up two tips.

It took a while to locate the place. It was so small it didn’t register on our GPS. And, as we discovered on the drive about, there aren’t many “Welcome to Red Hill” signs in this world.

We did find a house of worship on every corner, hill and dale, side road and back alley on this hunt. It had to be the greatest concentration of evangelical buildings ever! And to our great relief, we didn’t see one tornado damaged steeple in the whole bunch.

North Georgia has churches named after mountains in the Bible, rivers and towns—both Biblical and local—ageless saints and what any given congregation might like to see: New Hope, True Word, Heavenly Tabernacle, Living Waters, Zion United……

This many churches could only mean one of two things. They really like God up here or these good Christian folks don’t get along at all! I would have to ride back by the restaurant and get the “low down” from Amanda.

I will tell you this for dead certain sure, one more trip to North Georgia…..and I’ll have enough information to write that book people keep asking me about!