It is seldom that we can read a delightful and revealing story about a mountain family written in poetry, with just enough prose interspersed to make the line quite understandable and appealing.
Charles Weymon Cook who was born to Rufus and Nora Davenport Cook and calls Blairsville his hometown has done just that with his newly-published autobiographical poetry book entitled Beyond the Mountain Haze. Weymon, as he was known growing up in Union, now lives in Macon, Georgia. He is one of those native citizens who has gone out into other places and done well, first as a teacher, and now in his retirement as a writer. In this book paying tribute to his mountain heritage, he has captured in impeccable rhyme and rhythm many aspects of mountain life that are fast passing away under the guise of progress.
What makes the book even more appealing is the fact that its author is what I like to call a “walking miracle.” Charles Weymon Cook underwent heart transplant surgery on September 21, 2000. Not only did he live and do well, but he has been able to write and compile his delightful autobiography in verse and make it available to any who would like to know more about life in the “miracle” dimension of restored health. One way of offering his thanks for the gift of life is this book, well-crafted and pleasing to the eye as well as to the reader. It walks us through woodland paths and family solidarity, helps us meet and greet people significant in his life, and allows us new perspectives on the beauty of nature and the harmony of creation. And with thanks to his beautiful and compassionate wife, a teacher as he, LaVerne Young Cook, and their only child, daughter Christy, who assisted him with manuscript, typesetting and organization for the book, we have for our perusal a volume which I predict the reader will return to again and again.
Charles Weymon Cook’s father was Rufus Cook, “Mr. Ranger,” one of the earlier forest rangers in North Georgia who learned his skills as a forester under the able tutelage of Ranger Arthur Woody. Charles tells us that his father spent 43 years as a U. S. Forest Ranger. Among his skills were certified surveyor, timber-marker, forest-fire fighter, recreational facilities designer and builder, tower radio equipment manager and repairer—whatever the need within the far reaches of the mountain forests, Rufus Cook was there, walking the forests, keeping an eye diligently on the land and its care. Nine of Charles’s poems pay tribute to this giant of a fellow, both in stature and morally and spiritually, who gave him the firm foundation of a solid upbringing. We can sense love in every line in which this poet describes his father. Here’s but a small example from “Mr. Ranger”:
“I thank my God that I was thereHis mother, Nora Davenport Cook, has her section in the book. Both parents and their influence are seen throughout the book, but their own sections are especially provocative, leading the reader to recall and appreciate family roots that went deeply into the soil of a developing life and bore fruit in years “beyond the mountain haze.” A descendant of the early Davenport settlers to Union County for whom Davenport Mountain was named, Nora Cook was a stay-at-home mother who worked hard as an avid gardener and a dedicated housewife and mother. She did not tolerate “sassiness,” back-talk, or half-done chores. Her discipline and astuteness to details and homemaking values assured Charles and his siblings that they had a warm loving home where they were taught the principles of life:
To live and love and grow
Amidst the shadow of a giant,
With smiling face aglow.” (p. 65)
I have the recent privilege of being associated with Charles Weymon Cook, teacher, poet, friend, having met him only in recent years through our associations in the Georgia State Poetry Society and the Byron Herbert Reece Society of which we are both members. Occasionally I am able to meet for a meal with him and his wife, LaVerne, or to travel to a meeting together. Having grown up in the same county, Charles and I didn’t know each other back when we were youth. I did know Charles’s older brother, Donald, as we were nearer together in age. The day of Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva’s 104th birthday celebration in February, 2009, Charles and I were both there and were able to read to her our individual poetic tributes for her profound influence on our lives. She had much to do with each of us choosing and pursuing careers in teaching.
“You taught me love with gentle hands,
Encouraging all the way;
You laid the founding cornerstone
By teaching me how to pray.” (p. 54)
Charles Weymon Cook writes in his “Introduction” to his book, Beyond the Mountain Haze: “My southern style ‘earthy’ verses simply reflect people, places and events that have influenced my life. Some things just tear at the heartstrings and trigger a melody in your soul that you wish to share with friends and neighbors.”
This very modest appraisal by the author of why he had to write the book only goes partially into why he should, indeed, have shared it. He had something to say, and he said it with apparent ease and facility. Find a copy of Beyond the Mountain Haze. My prediction is that you, as I, will return to its pages again and again for inspiration, information and enjoyment. He lifts the haze and allows us to see a miracle heart, restored and ready to give praise to the Creator of all beauty and the Sustainer of life. And this he does in understandable, sensitive and positive poetry. Congratulations, Charles Weymon Cook, mountain lad grown to productive citizen, whose knowledge and appreciation of family, environment and associations shine forth from the pages of your book.
c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Mar. 18, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.