From Rolling Stones to Green Acres

By Leavell, Chuck | American Forests, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

From Rolling Stones to Green Acres


Leavell, Chuck, American Forests


With the coming of a new millennium, I find myself reflecting upon the 18 years my wife Rose Lane and I have lived and worked at our Georgia home, Charlane Plantation. Much of that centers on its history and how fate came to place me in the thick of things here. If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would divide my time between being a rock musician and managing forestland. I would have said without hesitation that they were nuts.

But the Man upstairs has a way of carving out careers for people and gently leading us to where we want to be, even if we don't know it! So mine is the story of a musician and his loving wife who came to be forest landowners and managers, and it's the story of saving the family farm. It's a story of learning to adapt to a situation, of taking things as they come, and of cultivating a love of the land and the wonderful creatures and beautiful flora that live on it. It's a story of balance and of learning how to maintain that delicate balance. It's also a story of love and of family heritage.

To give you some background, the bulk of our land was inherited from Rose Lane's grandmother who left soni 1,200 acres to her in 1981. This land. known in the family as the homeplace, was purchased by Rose Lane's grandfather, Alton V White Sr., back in the late '20s. Mr. White was a forester, and he and his business partner would buy and sell tracts of land and timber. This tract caught Mr. White's eye, as it was only a few miles from where he and his wife, Miss Julia, lived. Eventually he bought the tract. We think he paid a little more than a dollar an acre for it, probably a tidy sum back then.

For many years Miss Julia would hitch up a horse and wagon and head to the farm, where she spent long hours overseeing the operations. The family moved to the farm in the 1930s in the midst of the Depression. They dubbed it Whiteway Farms and raised cotton, corn, and soybeans; some cows; and had hayfields for the cows in addition to forestland.

With the Depression, life was tough and they worked hard for what they had, but they were making it. It was a rural existence; folks, it's rural now-out in the middle of nowhere-so you know is was really rural then. Dirt roads, no highways, and making a phone call necessitated a trip to the store. The Whites became pillars of the community, active in the local Baptist church, with many friends and relatives nearby. Cars were still relatively new and many's the tale I've heard of wagons laden with hand-picked cotton that were so heavy the mules strained to pull the enormous load.

For fun there were horseback rides and fox hunts; Mr. White had more than 100 fox dogs in a big pen out back. I can just imagine the scene when they turned those dogs loose and Miss Julia and Mr. Al, or Chief as many called him, rode through the woods on a beautiful afternoon, the sun filtering through the trees and the horses dancing over fields and ditches and other obstacles as the dogs howled. What a scene it must have been!

In the early '50s tragedy struck. Chief had a heart attack and died on the way back from a trip to look at some fox hounds. It was a terrible blow to Miss Julia, who was quite a few years younger than Mr. White. She vowed not to remarry and to keep the homeplace going by herself-a tough decision for a woman on her own in the 1950s. But she did it and did an admirable job of it.

She had tier own two children to help, of course, although by then they had lives and children of their own. But in 1974, when her son Alton, Rose Lane's father, contracted cancer and passed on, it proved too much for her. She fell ill and passed on in 1981.

Although I never met Mr. White, I was privileged to know Miss Julia, headstrong and determined with an iron ,will. She loved to socialize and it was usually at her house that the big events were held-Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving. Miss Julia loved to throw a party, a trait she passed on to my wife! …

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