I am Homer . . . It isn’t easy being a dog, an old one especially; and I’m still proud to say I don’t drool. I am a sable Labrador mix, and my name is Homer… Homer Ulysses Whitlow, and I reside at the Faded Glory Farm, a bed and breakfast located on State Route 60, a few miles south of Blue Ridge, GA. My father was a black and white Border Collie by the name of Ulysses (they called him “Uley’) from the Brasher farm up in Union County, GA, and my mother, Tess, was a purebred Yellow Labrador Retriever owned by the Tipton family here in Fannin County. Uley and Tess were only in love for about an hour, but it was just long enough to start one extensive family. I was selected from a litter of six by Isabel and Ray Whitlow back in 1972 and they named me Homer. These days, I am only referred to as Homer Ulysses Whitlow when I am the object of Isabel’s negative attention and subsequent anger; so, most of the time, I just answer to “Homer.”
Unfortunately, Isabel’s late husband, Ray Whitlow died when his Ford 8N rolled over on him one sunny day in April of 1981. He was bush hogging that day and he never saw it coming…I streaked up to the house barking until my lungs were about to give out; but when Isabel and our neighbor Randy Tipton finally got to Ray, it was too late. Isabel inherited the rundown farm and a whole bunch of bills, and I got his favorite recliner and a much larger place in Isabel’s heart. But she still pines away for Ray to this very day.
Life for a dog living at a B&B is pretty good, due to the fact that it is a place where folks come to eat and relax. Table droppings are plentiful, treats abound, and the petting never ends. Sometimes, you would think the guests had never seen a dog before! Yes, thanks to Isabel, Faded Glory Farm is ‘pet friendly’ with folks from Atlanta, Chattanooga, Montgomery, and as far away as Miami hauling in all sorts of four-legged creatures, to enjoy the open fields, fresh air, and occasionally, me. People generally believe that a dog’s sex life ends when they hit ten, but they’re wrong: in this place (for me), it is never-ending…thanks to Isabel for making our home ‘pet friendly.’ More about this later… But I digress, and sometimes boast a bit…
Much of my day is spent waiting…lying on the painted floor of the wide front porch in the shade of Isabelle’s favorite Japanese Maple, a tree that receives more praise and comment than the fine gingerbread trim that seems to define this old Victorian home.
Seems like yesterday, Isabel Whitlow was an ardent fan of Ricardo Montelban when Fantasy Island was popular on TV. And today, the arrival of guests at Faded Glory call up memories of those beloved episodes in which Herde Villechaize (Tattoo) would run to the main house shouting “Hey, Boss, The Plane ! The Plane !” At the first sound of a car kicking up gravel at the end of our long driveway, Faded Glory Farm virtually explodes with activity; with Isabel running to make sure that the flowers are fresh and the guestbook is opened to the right page, while Micah Davenport (Isabel’s hired man), straightens his bolo tie and sterling belt buckle in the vestibule mirror before heading down the steps to shout a welcome and assist new arrivals with their luggage, while I throw in a joyous howl or two to punctuate the memorable occasion. All in all it adds up to being a cordial North Georgia welcome, to be repeated again and again all day Friday until the inn is finally full.
A ‘full house’ at Faded Glory Farm means that Isabel has managed to book guests in all six guest rooms, sometimes even with the potential addition of folding cots for children, in-laws and other extraneous visitors. A huge, comfortable living room with an inviting array of sofas, loveseats, ottomans, easy chairs, an 1860’s fainting couch, set off by a large fieldstone fireplace, enhances the guests’ common area. This rather dark, but unbelievably cozy room brings guests together to make new acquaintances and has fostered many a boisterous conversation. While Ray was still alive, the polished, wood-paneled library/music room with its fancy walnut pocket doors was combined with an already sumptuous formal dining room, to become a new and larger room that now accommodates a monstrous Duncan Phyfe mahogany table capable of seating sixteen. A smaller, more intimate Victorian sitting room, with its original solid-walnut Aeolian-Skinner pump organ, is situated adjacent to the dining room, and has been retained for overflow. Fortunately for Isabel, Faded Glory has been busy, almost nonstop since Ray’s death in the early 1980s, and this sitting room is used often.
This isn’t a story about the subtle graces of Victorian architecture, however, it is about the many folks that are drawn from all over the southeastern United States to this tiny, rural Georgia community, and the life and traditions that make it what it is. There is, however, as in any story, a ‘cast of characters.’ In our case, these folks are the real deal. They live here, they work here, and, I suppose, like me, they will die here.