One-Shot & Me

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Becky & Jenny at the One-Shot Cabin

When I was six, my Great-aunt, Wylly Folk St John published her first book, The Secrets Of Hidden Creek.

She was 58.

After Wednesday’s post, you can probably understand why this knowledge is more than a bit comforting to me.

That said, Aunt Wylly wrote for years before publishing her first book. As a journalist for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, she had to constantly meet deadlines and she was paid to write long before she graduated from the University of Georgia where 47 boxes of her writings are archived in the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

She went on to publish eight books, two of which were nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Mystery Writers of America award.

My cousin, McKenzie posted a comment on Facebook yesterday where she talked about how she and her young son were reading one of Aunt Wylly’s books at bedtime and how it gave him more insight into who his Grandmother Becky was as a girl, as well as his Great-great-grandmother Wylly.

Aunt Wylly loved using real children as characters in her books so McKenzie’s son is enjoying reading about his grandmother as the teenager she was in 1966 when The Secrets of Hidden Creek was published. Much of the story’s setting and characters are clearly modeled after the real thing. First books often pull in parts of the author’s life and my unfinished novel is no different.

If you’ve followed my blog for long it probably won’t surprise you to learn that there is a character in my book who is modeled in some ways after my aunt and you might also understand why seeing McKenzie’s message on Facebook felt like a little cosmic push especially since I’ve  been so unproductive lately.

Aunt Wylly would probably appreciate my thinking she was sending me a message given her interest in ghosts when she was alive.

The hammock in the first picture figures into the story that McKenzie is reading with her son. It was used on the book jacket in 1966 as you can see from the image below. In addition to Becky and Jenny, their brother, Chuck is in the illustration with them.

Wylly Folk St John

I have some lovely memories of time spent at the cabin with Aunt Wylly and later on with my cousins. And while my daughter doesn’t really remember it, she once had a chance to wrestle for the hammock like her cousins did as characters in Aunt Wylly’s book.


Miranda & Elizabeth at the One-Shot Cabin 1993

This oft fought for spot had to be replaced more than a few times over the years as the humidity of hot Georgia summers and squirmy children did their damage. One of my favorite memories of Aunt Wylly’s lakeside hideaway, it was always snug like a little cocoon, making a perfect nest to read a book and drift off to sleep. Comforting and safe, it was a place I where could let my guard down during a dangerous time in my life and just be for a while with normal kid worries and daring daydreams.

The seed of storytelling for me may not have been planted at the One-Shot cabin, but it was most certainly nurtured there … in a hammock, on a porch, overlooking a lake, with a secret hidden deep under the water.

Big thanks to McKenzie for helping me aerate my roots a bit. 

Life Changes & Family Reunions

The picture above was taken around 1995. From right to left we are … Becky, Shelley (with son Josh) McKenzie, Mikellah, and me. Since this picture was taken, all of the girls have children of their own and Shelley has added two more sons to her brood of three boys. Sadly, and it makes me tear up to write this, my cousin Becky, the mother of these three darling young women died suddenly last year of a heart attack.

I’m up early getting ready for my drive up to the North Georgia Mountains where I’ll reunite with my cousins at the One-Shot cabin. Since the cabin is up for sale, it will probably be the last time I’ll have a chance to be in the space that has such personal meaning and memories for each of us.

I’ve been looking forward to this reunion for quite some time. It has been years since I’ve seen the girls and I’ve not had a chance to meet their children yet with the exception of Josh. Life gets in the way of families getting together sometimes and you always think there will be more time. Maybe next year we tell ourselves and the years just pass us by. The last time I spoke with Becky I remember exactly where I was sitting and what we said. We both thought at our age that we had all the time in the world. Her early death last year reinforced how we may not always get another chance.

While I’m home for the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and friends, I’m taking time this time, to see Becky’s girls and grandchildren making good on that promise I made a few years ago to get up to the cabin again.

Even though the two women I associate most with the One-Shot cabin will be missing in body today, I feel sure that the echo of their distinctive voices will somehow be present. Both my great aunt Wylly, who named the cabin and infused it with her energy and her grandaughter, my cousin Becky, who raised her family there and called it home had the kind of voice you would never forget. I don’t even have to close my eyes to hear them now. I have a feeling I’ll be hearing them again today. Whether it’s a whisper of the past calling out from a corner of the cabin, or in the voices and expressions of Shelley, Mikellah and McKenzie, I think I’ll have that moment together with them all, for one last time at the One-Shot cabin.

Rebecca Anne St. John & Wylly Folk St. John

July 4, 1972