It’s baaaaaaack — fair haiku season!

The Hilbilly — As seen and shared by fairgoer Ryon Edwards

It’s that most wonderful time of the year (almost)! Fall means back to school early mornings, Gamecock football and the South Carolina State Fair! Continuing in the fine tradition of years gone by, that also means something else as delicious as an Elvis burger: fair haikus.

Have a visit to last year’s beautiful haikus and then post your own in the comments. Remember: Three lines. First line five syllables. Second line seven syllables. Third line five syllables.

Maybe you’ll win some fair tickets from me!



In the kitchen the other day, I told Cathy this was one of my favorite Thank You Project letters so far. To take the opportunity to thank someone who had a hand in shaping you as a human being is pretty incredible. Hopefully, this letter will make it to Aris Demetrios, the oldest son of Virginia Lee Burton. She wrote and illustrated several of my absolute favorite children’s books (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House). Sadly, she died in 1968 but her wonderful, award-winning stories live on.


Dear Aris,

My name is Julie Turner. I am a writer in Columbia, SC. I have started a yearlong project of writing thank you letters to an important group of people. Some are local, some far away. Some people I know well, and others — like you — will have absolutely no idea who I am.

I come to you by way of your mother, Virginia Lee Burton. During her life, your mother created several of my all-time favorite children’s books: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House. I read these two books time and again throughout my childhood and today read them to my own two sons, ages seven and three. Now that I am 41, I have rediscovered the important messages of the stories, especially The Little House.

What I really wanted to share with you is that I truly believe reading The Little House shaped my guiding principles.

Today, I live in a great 1950s split-level ranch house in a mature city suburb. We revel in our home’s history, and wouldn’t trade its charm and frightful rooftop R-values for anything. Our home has beautiful old wood windows and plaster walls. It’s small by today’s standards, but just the perfect size for a family of four. It has character and detailing no new home can ever match. It is our Little House.

I hope this letter in some way honors your mother for the gifts she’s given to generations of children and adults. She taught me friendship, gratitude and appreciation through her wonderful stories. I have proudly passed her books on to my own children and will again to their children someday.

The world is a better place thanks to people like Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne, and to your mother who brought them into our lives.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Julie Turner


The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

The cane squeezing.

It’s pretty rare to have an opportunity to do something you’ve never done and a Saturday with no plans. That’s just what happened to us on Saturday. There was no soccer, no to-do list, no house project. Just an invitation to join friends at a cane squeezing at Hatiola Hunt Club somewhere deep in Barnwell County.

What’s a cane squeezing you ask? No need to be embarrassed. I didn’t know what it was either. So I googled it and found this.

Armed with some background and the invitation from friend and hunt club member, Andy Riley, we were off. It was just about an hour or so from home, but you’d think we were hours away. The kids marveled at horses and cows. And noticed there were very few houses. But one of the most interesting sights on the drive was the cotton.

We passed field after field. Pure white soft puffs looking oddly out of place on dead-looking twigs. We were even thrilled to catch a glimpse of cotton being harvested. I could have watched that for hours, I think. Ready-to-harvest fields, old machinery, endless rows of cotton. So un-digital. So un-modern. So wonderful.

When we arrived at Hatiola, an old homestead/hunt club/setting for grown men to tell their tall tales and cook to their hearts’ content, we saw the draft horses turning the ancient press. Inside the horse’s path, one person pushed stalks of sugar cane between two giant wheels. As the horse slowly ambled around the circle, all the sugar was pressed from the stalk leaving behind a stringy snake-skin looking husk.

I asked Andy what they did with the liquid since it all seemed so purposeful and important. He laughed and said they’d tried to make syrup, then rum. Now they just try to give it away.

It was a perfect southern Saturday. The sun was warm even though the wind had a bite. The whole day yawned before us. The Gamecocks hadn’t yet lost to Arkansas. A live bluegrass band, The Blue Iguanas, provided the perfect soundtrack.

After a few announcements, lunch was served. We wound our way up the rickety front steps and were asked to sign the official register. Based on the number of pages already signed, generations of friends and family have enjoyed the cane squeezing before us. Then we saw lunch. In the hallway on table after table, lay every variation of every Sunday casserole you could ever imagine. Andy had already assured us the main course was the best “effa’” chicken bog. I assure you, he is right.

We loaded up our plates and headed back out to enjoy lunch al fresco while shooing off a flock of very well behaved hunting dogs and the yellow jackets who by now had figured out there was good stuff to be had.

Later, we enjoyed a ride through the property in the back of Andy’s pick up truck. We stopped twice. Once so the kids could climb all over Andy’s deer stand or “treehouse” as they dubbed it. Then again a bit later so the kids could take a close look at the cotton and pick a puff or two to bring home as a souvenir. It was a fun, adventurous day.

Andy said we were welcome to come back next year since we didn’t do anything to get barred from the property (which has apparently happened a few times). I am so grateful. There was a whole historical discussion on the back porch I missed. There must be so much to show and tell in a house that storied. And to hear it told in person is a treasure in itself.

I started the day thinking the cane squeezing was all for show. Just something they’d always done. But later on I realized that it’s the most important part of the day.

It’s the reason for the celebration. The squeeze draws long-time friends together. It draws children, families and new friends from miles and hours away. It’s a slow kind of easy that’s absent in most of what we do today.

And to think it all came to be because we had nothing to do on a Saturday. I think we need to free more Saturdays. Days like the one we had at Hatiola Hunt Club fill in the holes left by the grind of everyday life.

Something everyone could use more of.


Shannon Bueker

The Thank You Project



Dear Shannon,

I own an original painting of yours and have for some time — my best guess is eight or nine years by now. It’s a lovely painting of a bunch of flying pigs I discovered at Portfolio Art Gallery in Five Points in Columbia, South Carolina.

I have no idea how you painted it, what inspired you to paint it, or when you painted it. What I do know is that the first moment I saw it; it spoke to my heart. And it has done so every day since then.

I admired it long before I owned it, in the days when I could barely make the rent and car payment. Then one day I went to see it and it was gone. Many months later I was back in the shop and asked if there might ever possibly be another one — knowing all the time the answer would be no. But the answer wasn’t no. Turns out, someone had been test-driving the painting at home and the pigs were coming back to the gallery the next day. That’s how your pigs came to roost with me.

Your painting has been a gift in my life for many years and I am so grateful to have it. It’s one of my most cherished posessions. Thank you for creating it.


Julie Turner

The Thank You Project is a Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.

830 Maple Street

The Thank You Project



Dear 830 Maple-ites,

Thank you for the sweet, inspiring messages you leave every now and again on your front porch!

I often drive by your house in my quest to get from Devine Street to Millwood Avenue and back. I treasure the days I catch an inspiring message you’ve written on the small chalkboard that’s at the top of your front porch stairs. It’s usually just a few words or a simple thought but it never ceases to make me smile.

Thank you for taking the time to lift others and share an inspiring thought — even if it’s with strangers driving down your street.


Julie Turner

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.

Susan Yelverton

The Thank You Project



Dear Susan,

Being a teacher is a remarkable path. There are some teachers, however, whose footsteps echo very differently than many of their peers.

When I attended Crayton’s Beauty and the Beast show a few weeks ago, I was there to cheer on a friend. In truth, though, I was hoping the production would spark a little creative energy inside me. An exceptionally busy winter on every front had left me a quart low.

When you snuck that white envelope into my hands, I had no clue what was inside. I should’ve known. Coming from you, the contents had to be magical.

I don’t know how you knew I needed prayer bracelets that night, but I did. Very badly. I am so grateful you took time on one of your busiest nights of the year to give me such a meaningful and much-needed gift.

It goes without saying that you’re an exceptional teacher. The few years I watched you at Satchel Ford, I saw you excite, inspire and love students like few teachers I have seen in my life. But the other night showed me you’re more than simply a good teacher — you’re an amazing person.

Thank you for the gift you are in all of our lives — both young and old-ish.


Julie Turner


The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.

Trustus Theater

The Thank You Project

The Thank You Project



Dear Jim and Kay,

When you founded Trustus Theater in 1985, I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of what you did. All these years later I see what the gift you’ve given.

You embraced risk willingly and went out on dangling limb by founding a unique theatre in what can safely be called a conservative community. You followed your dream and that risk has ensured season after season of fresh, thought-provoking theatre. You’ve given us laughter, tears, joy and music. You’ve given actors and playwrights untold opportunity.

Every production staged at Trustus gives us the chance to grow.

Today Columbia is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. I can’t help but think you two kickstarted that way back in 1985.

Thank you for your willingness to risk financial ruin. In doing so you enriched many, many lives for years to come.



Julie Turner

The Thank You Project is a Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live. It was supposed to last a year, but good will shouldn’t have an expiration date. 

The Baldauf Sisters

The Thank You Project

The Thank You Project



Dear Beth and Mary Pat,

Thank you both for all you do to make our fun, funky little community such a warm and inviting neighborhood, too.

We are blessed to have two enthusiastic people who do so much to keep residents up to date and in the know. One (or oftentimes of both of you) can be relied upon to post pictures, send lemonade stand and garage sale coordinates, volunteer for anything needed, tweet upcoming events, search for wayward pets, cheer on the troops at Fort Jackson, attend community meetings and events, or let us know when trash or recycling pick-up is out of whack.

Your willing service and enthusiasm are gifts to this community and to all of your neighbors, too. It’s clear you both love Forest Acres and all the work you do on behalf of it inspires other to care about it even more.

There are very few people I can think of who contribute so much to their community so willingly and so well. Forest Acres, in fact, shines brighter because of the both of you.

I am proud and grateful to have you as neighbors and friends.


Julie Turner

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.


Richland County Public Library

The Thank You Project



Dear Richland County Public Library,

How I’ve loved you for years. As a child, I remember my mother driving me across town to the Cooper Branch on Trenholm Road – back in its days as a portable. Sure, it was small, but there were clearly enough books to spark anyone’s imagination.

Things are so very different now.

Not only do we have branches all over town, the library as a whole offers far more than books and magazines. There are children’s activities, job-seeking assistance, a media library, classes and educational opportunities, community meeting rooms and enough fun, monthly activities you could fill your calendar. And, now instead of it being my mom and me, I am the mother driving my own two children there.

Each time we step into the giant revolving door of the Cooper Branch, the same thought crosses my mind. How lucky are we? We have such a well managed, enriching free resource available to every citizen in Richland County.

The library of my childhood was a place we went to borrow books.

The Richland County Public Library of today is an entrance to so much more: other worlds, learning, global communities, research, new ways of thinking and even stress-relieving relaxation. Even all this just scratches the surface.

I am so grateful to have enjoyed so much opportunity at the hands of the Richland County Public Library. You have broadened our county — and me — in so many ways. Thank you!


Julie Turner


The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.


Debbie McDaniel

The Thank You Project

The Thank You Project



Dear Debbie,

Some communities flounder without leaders. For years, you have ensured Five Points isn’t one of them. I decided yesterday that if anyone epitomized the heart and soul of Five Points it’s you.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Revente and have enjoyed shopping there for years. It’s great to have such a wonderful store with so much variety and gently used affordability. In fact, your store helped shape my new clothes shopping philosophy: there are already enough awesome clothes in the world.

Thinking back, I should’ve written this letter months ago when I saw the story about the Invest in a Vest fundraiser. It was you who saw the need, rallied the troops and made something happen. And, it was all in the name of community responsibility.

But earlier this week in the dreary rain, I was once again impressed by your generosity.

On Millwood Avenue with an hour spare, I finally popped into Revente’s Last Call for my first visit. Not only did I find two new-favorite designer tops, it was gratifying to know I was shopping at a store that benefits those in need. Your support of The Women’s Shelter gives me great reason to choose your store — one that few other stores can offer.

Part of my desire to shop there and at Revente, though, is you. Just as you support others, I want you to know how much I support you.

Thank you for your generosity and community spirit. We are a better city for both.



Julie Turner


The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.

Blue Sky

The Thank You Project

The Thank You Project



Dear Blue Sky,

I grew up in Columbia and always remember part of the mandatory out-of-town guest tour was driving by your Tunnelvision mural. It was the most original thing happening downtown back in those days.

Only recently have I realized how much you’ve done (and spent, I imagine) for decades to inject bold art into the humdrum of everyday life. From the Neverbust chain to the extinct Kawasakisaurus, you have gone where few artists tread. To me, that’s the most beautiful ground of all.

I find it funny that my children associate one thing with the hospital they were both born in and it has nothing to do with the hospital. It’s Busted Plug Plaza. Ask them where they were born and they’ll tell you quickly — by the giant fire hydrant.

When I take my oldest son to Satchel Ford Elementary School in a few days, we will walk by Man Escapes and it will make me stop in my tracks as it always does. How lucky are we to have such an exceptional piece of artwork in the beigeness that is a public elementary school hallway?

I really can’t think of any place more deserving of a dose of well-placed inspiration.

Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do to broaden our minds and expand our outlook.




Julie Turner


The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live.