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Shannon Bardwell: Charlie Purple Turnipseed


Shannon Bardwell



I ran my hand over the book cover which I'm in the habit of doing. A pretty cover attracts me. The book featured delicate anthropomorphic characters framing a drawing of a kindly man wearing an oversized purple shirt, a garden hat; he was leaning on a long stick and holding a sunflower. Bumblebees bumbled all around him. I'm afraid I might be one of those people who judge a book by its cover. 


Earlier that day I had a phone call. The caller identified herself as Lella Reed. What a lovely name I thought, I had not heard it before. It rolled off my tongue.  


Lella explained that she and her husband, Charles, had a book they would like to give me. She said I might like it because the author loved all the things that I did. The author, Jerry Brown Schwartz, loved nature, animals, books and she was a southerner from Atlanta, Ga. 


We agreed that the book would be delivered by way of husband, Charles who would be attending the library book talk that day. At the end of Rufus Ward's talk on Columbus's "intelligentsia," a gentlemanly man with a small book in his hand made his way to me. 


The book, "Charlie Purple Turnipseed & the Dixie Brood" was lovely. The pages actually felt like fine stationary and the illustrations of the beaver, the mouse, the red fox, the squirrel, the owl, the snake, the snapping turtle and a duck called C.C. were wonderful. Why the animals looked like those in my backyard.  


The book said that the character Charlie Purple Turnipseed and his wife Tee lived a "frugal lifestyle." Yes, I was sure I would like this little book. 


The next day I shared with Shirley, my walking partner, my meeting with Charles Reed and the book. We do that, Shirley and I, we share our previous day's happenings on our morning walks. 


"Did you say Charles Reed? Used to work for the phone company? His wife is named Lella?" 


"Why yes, that must be him," I said.  


I've only just now heard the lovely name Lella; certainly there could be only one. 


"Well, Charles Reed is about the nicest man on the planet," Shirley continued. "I used to work with him at the phone company."  


Shirley shared stories about Charles. She said he had bad knees and so every day he rode his bike from east Columbus downtown to the phone company to help his knees.  


Often he would call Lella and ask if he could get anything for her. He knew she loved the popcorn from Gibson's Discount Store. Charles would plop the popcorn in the basket on his bicycle and ride it home to Lella.  


Seems the Reeds are well acquainted with author Jerry Brown Schwartz, You have to wonder if possibly Charlie Purple Turnipseed and Charles Reed might have a whole lot in common. 


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is [email protected]  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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