As a docent at Andalusia, we have heard and answered a lot of questions over the past few years. But there are always a few, asked with absolute sincerity, are just a little weird, but always leave a smile on our faces. Since so many have asked, we thought we’d share them with you! When you get the chance to visit remember, there is no such thing as a bad question.
“Is the house haunted?”
This a question that seems to span all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and religions. Several times I have given a regular, run-of-the-mill tour. When I get to the end where I ask if there are any last questions, someone will get that uneasy look as they glance around the room and ask, “Is the house haunted?” I have no ghost stories to report, besides the random squeaks and groans that all old houses make. As someone who has been in many old houses, I wondered why so many people would ask such a thing when nothing strange had happened on the tour to prompt the question. That was until one of the ladies at the water office saw my uniform shirt and told me the local rumor was that Andalusia was definitely haunted. This was supported by another encounter with a GCSU employee who had come out for an evening event and found the wooded grounds to be a bit eerie. If the house is haunted, the ghosts must be pleased with us because they have yet to show themselves.
“Was Flannery happy?” or “Was Flannery depressed?”
The docents get this question from time to time, typically from people who have just recently been introduced to her work. It is a hard question to answer, especially since we never met her personally. On the one hand, she had things to be unhappy about. She knew her illness was incurable. Therefore, in order to rehabilitate, she moved permanently the farm, rather than live as an artist in New York or in Connecticut with friends. However, when you read her letters, she has a great sense of humor and takes her situation in strides. She is thankful for what she has, excited by the writing she was doing, hopeful for the future, and amused by her birds. It’s a complicated question, but I understand that people ask it because they really want to get to know Flannery as a person rather than just an author.
Are you from the South?”
While many of our visitors come from Atlanta or middle Georgia, we do get a fair number of visitors from all across the nation or even other countries. The ones from outside the southeastern US sometimes comment on the docent’s southern accent if they have one. One of our former docents had a particularly twangy way of speaking, which pleased a couple of women that came for a tour one day. During the tour, the docent heard one of the women jokingly tell the other one that she was relieved they got a docent with a southern accent because it “added” to the story. As someone born and raised in Georgia, Flannery had a ‘humdinger’ of an accent herself. If you have never heard Flannery’s speaking voice before, I highly recommend listening to her read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” which is available on YouTube.
“What are Peafowl for?”
My all-time favorite question came nearly half-way through a tour, “Sorry, I just have to ask. We’re not familiar with peacocks. What are they raised for? I mean, do you . . . eat them?” I smiled, laughed, and quickly replied that Flannery’s peafowl were just pets. The only product they really produced was their feathers, which Flannery would occasionally send to her friends. I have had one other person ask me this question since then, but the first really sticks out in my mind as the questioner seemed almost afraid of what the answer might be . . . as if I was about to tell them that Regina would routinely order Flannery to go pick out her least favorite bird to eat for supper.
Speed round! These are some of our favorite things we have heard our visitors ask or say.
Q: “Why is one of the peacocks missing its tail?”
A: She is a female (peahen). Only the male (peacock) plumes the colorful tail.
Q: (Before we even begin) “Who was this Flannery O’Connor person? Was he a writer or something?”
A: Sometimes people are just too eager to wait, all in good time!
Q: (On the front porch) “Why isn’t the ceiling blue?”
A: Painting a porch ceiling “Haint Blue” (or a soft blue-green) is a southern legend that keeps away evil spirits, but not all have them.
Q: “Who is Panhandle Slim?”
A: An artist who lives in Savannah, GA, and often paints portraits and quotes of cultural icons.
Q: (After introducing myself as Mary Beth) *Excitedly* “Is that a catholic name?”
A: I guess it can be? But not in this case.