Kesley Colbert
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This is not the girl from Ipanema

Since I’m not writing anymore, I’ve had more time to think…. about life, choices, mistakes, heartaches, good times, main events, and the short list of folks who just barely crossed my path, but had a lasting effect on my small, narrow universe. I would count Rebecca Cortney Lancaster in the latter category.

Becka was a “character” in every sense of the word. I called her RC, after the cola. And I have no clue about star-crossed, meant-to-be, divine appointments, entertaining angels unaware, horoscopes, Ouija boards, or blind luck. But I do know life took a circuitous route for both of us to stand face to face.

The summer I turned 15 I had no place to play baseball. Our small West Tennessee town didn’t have a league for that age. I hitchhiked 20 miles to Paris and “tried out” for the American Legion team there. Coach Chick King watched me hit, run, and throw and graciously handed me a uniform.

RC grew up in Cottage Grove, which was several miles outside of Paris, in the absolute middle of nowhere. It was about the size of one of those 1963 8-cent U. S. Air Mail postage stamps featuring Amelia Earhart that came out that summer. 

You’d think our paths didn’t have a hoot-in-a-whirlwind chance of ever crossing….

Mr. King “discovered” Gary Wilson in Cottage Grove hitting baseballs so far over the high school fence they were landing halfway out into Buford Watson’s cotton field. RC tagged along with Gary to one of our games.

Listen folks, I have always prided myself on being from the country. I went barefoot in the summer, I was raised on brown beans, turnip greens, and pig knuckles. Dessert was crumbled-up cornbread in a glass of buttermilk. A new pair of shoes for me was Leon’s worn-out hand-me-downs. I never actually plowed behind a mule – but I rode on its back while my Uncle Clifford did.

I thought I was the “countriest” fellow in seven states. But let me tell you, upside Rebecca Cortney Lancaster, I was a first-class, uptown city slicker!

“Howdee,” my goodness, she was a 15-year-old Minnie Pearl, who looked like Heidi, and shook my hand like a lumberjack on steroids, “you don’t look much like a baseball player.”

You garnered from her first sentence that political correctness, social politeness, putting on airs, or trying to be “cool, suave, and debonair” in all situations wasn’t in her nature. I would have laughed at her pigtails, Duck Head overalls, and oversized flannel shirt but she just seemed so earnest and sincere. And her smile was as wide as all outdoors….

“I came to the ballgame with Gary. But we’re not an item. He’s more like a brother.” You talk about putting all the cards on the table as fast as you can! “I don’t exactly live in downtown Cottage Grove.”

No kidding.

This was back when if a girl was interested in a guy, she would ask her cousin to ask his best friend to ask the brother of the “intended” if he might be interested in her…. RC cut through the red tape like a Case knife whittling down a soft willow stick. 

When she found out I knew the words to every song Hank Williams ever sung, she invited me out to her house to meet the folks. “Out to the house” was down a graveled road five miles west of Cottage Grove, out towards Palmersville. I didn’t know if we were in Henry or Weakley County!

The closest recognizable thing to her house was the Ridgway Cemetery. We’d walk over and read the headstones. They had folks resting there that were born in the late 1700s. As we talked about eternity, we played the “country music” game. She’d say, “Faron Young” and I had to give her a few lines from “Going Steady” or “Hello Walls.”

I’d say “Kitty Wells” and she had to sing at least a verse from “Makin’ Believe” or “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” We worked our way through Johnny Cash, Sonny James, Roy Acuff, The Delmore Brothers, Ira and Charlie Louvin, Lefty Frizell, Little Jimmy Dickens…

You couldn’t stump her. In between songs, she talked about the goodness of life… and the possibilities that lay before each of us. You talk about a poet, a wit, a prophetess, a down-to-earth friend who loved every moment and expected even better things around the next corner….

I never saw her after that summer. I drove out there several times but I couldn’t find the house. Gary thought her dad took a job at a sawmill in Union City.

As the years rolled by, and new guys like Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks sang their songs, I often wondered if RC “kept up” with the game. Knowing her only briefly, I would not bet against it.

We were not like two ships passing in the night. I have pondered on her transparent nature and love for all things more times than I can count as the world chugged me along. Gosh, what a wonderful example of how to go about life….



Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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