Editor's Note: The committee for Kudzu Chronicles: A Southern Writers Event at Art on the Square held an essay contest before the event, which was Friday and Saturday at the Athens State University Center for Lifelong Learning.
Essay winners were announced at the Friday night kick-off party. The requirements for essay submissions were that they contain the words “kudzu,” MoonPie” and “Athens,” and that they be 500 words or less.
Winners received vouchers from Art on the Square, which were used Saturday to purchase artworks during the fine arts festival.
“Two Toed Tom lives around here. The meanest alligator ever! Comes out at night looking for something to eat.”
“What does he eat, Granddaddy?”
The children's eyes were big as they listened to the story, anxious to hear details added since the last time the yarn was told.
“Two Toed eats anything he wants but he has some favorites. Like kudzu salad.
They serve it in the restaurant downstairs.”
The children were the three oldest cousins – Suzanne, her little brother Brad, and cousin Phillip, youngest of the three. Baby cousin, David, snoozed on a pallet by the bed. This was a traditional holiday gathering at Wheeler State Park not far from their Athens home. They had been swimming and playing all day and their parents were hoping bedtime was near. But Granddaddy's tale was not part of that plan.
“Kudzu salad doesn't sound good,” said Phillip who was not known for eating undisguised vegetables.
“Ooo, gross,” said Brad, using a word he had recently learned.
“It might be good. You don't know!” said Suzanne with her usual pattern of disagreeing with the two boys.
Granddaddy broke into the culinary discussion with more details.
“But kudzu salad isn't Two Toed's favorite. What he really likes is MoonPies, banana
“Aw, Granddaddy!” All three children were clutching their own round, yellow, marshmallow-filled snack. “You're making that up.”
“Two Toed Tom eats his MoonPies in one big bite, wrapper and all. And if somebody's hand is holding it, he eats the hand too!”
“Well he won't eat mine cause I ate it up,” said Phillip.
Brad, the slow eater, said, “Now I've got to protect mine from Phillip and Two Toed
Suzanne, future nutritionist, was already developing a selective palate. She said, “HE can have mine.”
“Two Toed's very favorite thing to eat is something he can only get at night here at the lodge. Two Toed has learned how to open doors. Guess what he's looking for.”
The children nervously looked at the door and shrugged their shoulders.
Granddaddy slowly eased forward and grabbed the children's toes as he shouted,
“Toes! Toes! Toes!”
The children squealed and grabbed their feet. Suzanne, by reason of age, nature, and feminine persuasion, looked to her mother with a quizzical expression. “Mama, is Granddaddy lying?”
Her mother laughed and replied, “No, honey, not lying – embellishing.”
For our literalist friends, is there a difference? If you are selling a used car or testifying in court, then the two are very close kin. Embellishing in these cases sneaks out from under the umbrella of integrity. However, for the storyteller, embellishing is a tool to be refined, used, and cared for. There is no law, civil or moral, against it. It provides the bells and whistles, the buttons and bows, the curves and squiggles of the story. Shhh! Sit back and listen. If you live around Athens, cut back your kudzu, hide your MoonPies, and keep your toes under the cover!