2011-06-30 / Opinions

Visit to Helen leads to inspiring moments with interesting folks

By LORAN SMITH columnist

HELEN – Most of the times I have been drawn to this village on the Chattahoochee, it has been for fly fishing with an old friend, Jimmy Harris. But the last trip, during which I happened to meet some interesting people—one of whom has a refreshing take on telecommuting—was an inspiring experience.

Upon my arrival, there was time to browse around the Nora Mill Granary. I noticed with fascination a sign that said, “Georgia ice cream, white speckled grits.” If you want old-fashioned corn meal and grits made like they did it years ago, you can find it at the Nora Mill Granary. The miller, Tommy Martin, on weekends, will activate the 1876 grinding stones, using water power from the Chattahoochee like they did in the old days. Next, I fell into a pleasant conversation with Kathy Medlock. Kathy, who won countless clogging competitions in her day, loves the Chattahoochee and remembers her grandmother sitting by the river crocheting blankets and spreads. Her grandparents owned a general merchandise store at one time. “ They sold a little bit of everything, but you don’t see places like that anymore.”

After a spell, I moved on next door to the “Jumpin’ Goat Coffee Roasters.” An attractive lady with a perpetual smile was accommodating with the questions that came her way.

“What is your name?” I asked. “Lou,” was the smiling reply. “Your last name?” Then she really smiled and said, “Well, if you put my last name first, I am ‘King Louie.’” You can only imagine how amusing that response was on a lazy north Georgia morning. That is how I came to know Lou King, a onetime Florida resident, who married a carpenter from Cleveland. Seems that her husband went to Florida to visit a friend, who introduced him to Lou. “Neither of us had a cell phone or a computer,” she laughed. “We wrote letters. We fell in love by mail.” How warm and fuzzy is that?

The conversation meandered like the Chattahoochee, until Lou exclaimed, “You should meet this young girl who stopped in a day or so ago. She has an airstream trailer and a pickup truck and works by e-mail as she travels.”

Lou handed over the business card of Sharon Pieniak, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and most recently a resident of Portland, Maine. Sharon is a graphic designer and travels with her husky, named Harley. Sharon returned my call and met me for coffee at the Jumpin’ Goat deck the next day.

“After high school, I enrolled at Boston University and earned a degree in graphic design. All my life, I wanted to be self-employed and independent. After making corporate connections in Portland, I came upon the idea of traveling and enjoying this marvelous country while working. I have a handful of regular accounts, including a food magazine. I am primarily a magazine designer,” Sharon said.

“My business is named, ‘Silver Snail.’ I have my home on my back and it is silver. The interesting thing about my lifestyle is that there is so much to see out there. I could live like this forever and still have places to discover. My life is one of freedom, but if I want to join a party somewhere, I can make that decision based on how I feel.”

How wonderful that this young woman has managed to create a successful business and an enlightening lifestyle. Her story befits the changing world we live in. She has found a way to enjoy life and support herself while traveling the country.

You give a thumbs up to Sharon, but you also lament that there are very few general merchandise stores still standing at our crossroads any more. As we have often been told, “Life goes on.”

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