Tom Belfast becomes a “man for all seasons” (i.e., one who has the courage of his convictions and keeps to those convictions) and Campfires of Cracker Tom tells the story of this remarkable person and his fascinating lifetime odyssey. Tom, a descendant of Scots-Irish settlers, came to coastal Georgia and helped carve out a unique culture. The story follows his trail and numerous campsites, examines his values, contradictions and failures. But its major focus is on his insatiable itch to right wrongs and contribute to a more just society. In sum, the story is about a man who has tried to keep alive what was, and what could be, good in the world. The book opens with an historical retrospective of Coastal Georgia, from the early Spanish and French explorers and English settlers, through the rise and fall of the rice plantations, and finally to the early days of the boisterous Scots-Irish “Crackers.” The story of Tom Belfast begins on the eve of the Great Depression and recounts early vivid recollections and tales in the lost town of Bethany, Riceboro, Sterling, and Savannah, Georgia. Tagged “Cracker Tom” at an early age, he later learned that the term “Cracker” was first applied to forebears by admiring Carolinians. Taking pride in the nickname as a marker of ethnicity, he would in time learn that “Cracker Tom” was also the name of a creek and elevated bluff up McQueen’s Inlet on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia. As an adolescent, Tom recalls wartime Savannah through the streets and pool halls. Dropping out of high school, he wanders aimlessly for two years and then, at seventeen, enlists in the Marines. Arriving back in Savannah after his hitch, he falls in love. Moriah, a country girl herself, becomes his lifetime anchor. They wed on the day Truman declares war on North Korea. Within three months, he is recalled to service abroad. Tom returns from service with a thirst for learning and a deep commitment for making the world a better place. After extensive formal education, Tom’s many campfires unfold for him, including a missionary stint in Ghana, being a college educator and having unusual college leadership roles, becoming a business entrepreneur, and suffering the transition through life-threatening health concerns. In each of these campfires, Tom shares explicitly his unique and enlightening perspectives on the people, places, circumstances and ensuing situations. The last campfire has Tom returning to his “Cracker Tom” fishing drop in front of St. Catherine’s Island, basking in the solitude and sun and being thankful for being alive and in such a special place. show more
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