Short Takes: January 2020


Ember Ceramic mug

A smart coffee cup? It’s smarter than you think!

This smart mug connects to your phone through Bluetooth and allows you to set an ideal temperature for whatever you’re drinking (up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the beverage reaches that temperature, the mug will maintain it. (After two hours of sitting idle, the cup automatically goes into sleep mode as a safety measure, but if you keep moving it, it’ll keep the drink warm.) On the outside it looks just like a regular cup, but beneath its unbreakable double-walled stainless steel and ceramic exterior, there’s complex tech making this seemingly simple item work.


The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden

Female journalists are rare in 1879, but American-born Clara Endicott has finally made a name for herself with her provocative articles championing London’s poor. When the backlash from her work forces a return home to Baltimore, Clara finds herself face-to-face with a childhood sweetheart who is no longer the impoverished factory worker she once knew. In her absence, Daniel Tremain has become a powerful industry giant, and Clara finds him as enigmatic as ever. However, Daniel’s success is fueled by resentment from past wounds, and Clara’s deeply held beliefs about God’s grace force Daniel to confront his own motives. When Clara’s very life is endangered by one of Daniel’s adversaries, they must face a reckoning neither of them ever could have foreseen.

Elizabeth Camden is the author of four books, including the Christy Award winner Against the Tide (2012), and a RITA, National Reader’s Choice Award and Daphne du Maurier Award  finalist. With a master’s in history and a master’s in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. Camden lives with her husband in Florida.



Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The most visited of all of America’s national parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles North Carolina and Tennessee and offers breathtaking scenery and wildlife viewing as well as remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. It’s a short drive, making it an ideal weekend getaway, and be sure to take the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What to Do

With 800 miles of hiking trails, it is surprising that relatively few visitors actually walk the trails; most choose the scenic view from their cars. But the designated international biosphere reserve is home to an incomparable variety of plants and animals and is worth a more than a passing by.

Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley surrounded by mountains and is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies. It offers some of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing in the park. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are frequently seen, and sightings of black bears, coyotes, groundhogs, turkeys, raccoons, skunks and other animals are also possible.

Where to Eat

Log Cabin Pancake House. Family-owned and-operated since 1979. Offering breakfast specialties, omelets, waffles, French crepes or all-you-can-eat hot homemade fluffy biscuits and sausage gravy. You can also try one of their cooked lunches or the lunch buffet.

The Park Grill. Taste the Smokies with hearty fare, an open door and a friendly smile. It serves the finest, freshest cuts of beef, pork, fish and chicken, and all entrées include a bountiful salad bar overflowing with fresh vegetables, cheeses, fruits, dressings made from scratch and much more. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a delectable homemade dessert. Come taste the Smokies in a rustic mountain lodge located near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Where to Stay

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. On the front porch of her family’s one-room cabin in the Smoky Mountains, entertainment legend Dolly Parton’s never-ending dreams were conceived and nurtured. A creaky old floor made of second-hand planks became a stage for little feet, and she dreamed of sharing her beloved Smokies with the world beyond.

Today, you can relax and play on Dolly’s newest front porch – Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa™. Built around the rich traditions of storytelling, family and togetherness, this Smoky Mountain resort is just minutes from Dollywood’s award-winning theme parks. This hotel in Pigeon Forge near Gatlinburg upholds the spirit of the South in a fresh new way, as it can only be imagined by Dolly and Dollywood.

Black Fox Lodge Pigeon Forge, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. Lodge-style charm in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nestled in the heart of Pigeon Forge with mountain or river views and an outdoor pool and fire pit. You can slow the pace right down or get into the action of eastern Tennessee.


Stan Byrdy Augusta author, sports historian & award-winning journalist

Stan Byrdy has covered sports for multiple television stations and now, having written two books and produced a documentary about Augusta’s long and storied golf history, Byrdy is writing a little Hollywood history too.

With Against All Odds: The Donnie Hixon Story: Burt Reynolds’ Stunt-Double in The Longest Yard, Byrdy tells the redemptive tale of Donnie Hixon’s life growing up poor in the Harrisburg section of Augusta.

Inspirational, motivational and informational, this book by Augustans is for Augustans.

“I first met Donnie Hixon when I moved into the same subdivision in 1998, where we lived opposite sides of a cul-de-sac,” Byrdy says. “That is where I began to hear stories about his early life in Augusta and his appearance in The Longest Yard, one of the most iconic sports movies of all time. Donnie has since moved twice and I have also moved, still we remain neighbors, now in adjacent subdivisions.”

“I was working as a sportscaster when I first met Donnie,” Byrdy recalls. “I was immediately drawn to the Burt Reynolds and The Longest Yard aspects of his life. The other stories were far too dark and complex and would take much more time to develop.”

Hixon was born and raised in Augusta and followed in his brother’s footsteps as a standout athlete.

Separate tragedies that took the lives of his father and brother before his eyes as a young boy had a traumatic effect on his childhood.

To make matters worse, as a young teen, he was forced to quit school to help provide for his mother, dashing his dreams of playing high school sports.

Hixon’s athletic interests were suddenly put on hold and replaced with an overnight shift at Augusta’s iconic produce curb market, Fat Man’s, within earshot of Richmond Academy football games.

After a minor infraction with authorities, Hixon was surprisingly sentenced to four years in the U.S. Marines, and with that redemptive twist of fate, his life was changed forever.

After his adventuresome service in the Marines ended, next came the semi-professional Augusta Eagles football team,  and Hixon as quarterback benefited in ways he never could have imagined, not only from being on the team, but in the aftermath, when Hollywood came calling.

In 1973, Hixon caught the eye of Paramount Pictures and was chosen as Reynolds’ stunt double in The Longest Yard. Paramount was searching for Georgia semi-pro football players to join movie stars at Central State Prison near Reidsville, Ga.

Hixon met Reynolds during the filming and maintained a relationship with the actor throughout the years, and more than four decades later, Hixon began writing his memoirs in 2016.

Byrdy says, “As Burt Reynolds first told Donnie in 1973, I also advised my neighbor to put his thoughts on paper upon which Against All Odds is rooted. I condensed and rewrote and reworked his 160,000-word memoir and tied it together with a constant thread of Augusta history. Then I introduced bios of Burt Reynolds and football great Ray Nitschke and 16 members of the Augusta Eagles semi-pro team that also had parts in the movie.”

Of Dixon beating the odds of the hand he was dealt early in life, Byrdy says, “Donnie’s most endearing quality is his heart for the less fortunate. Because of where he has been in life, Donnie recognizes that many others face similar situations that he was forced to endure. Especially to those in need, he is quick with a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, and at times, even the shirt off his back.”

Byrdy continues, “For Donnie Hixon or anyone else it takes perseverance, motivation, discipline and a positive attitude to beat the odds. Hard work is a by product of the motivation to get the job done, every single day; Donnie says to ‘count your blessings every day, you never know what tomorrow will bring.’

According to Hixon, ‘To the world they may be nobody, but to somebody they are the world.’ In writing this biography of tragedy to triumph, that is the one statement that resonates. It did when I first read it, again when I wrote it into the book, and even now.”

For more information, visit

Appears in the January 2020 issue of Augusta Magazine.

Have feedback or a story idea? Our publisher would love to hear from you!

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RSS Augusta Magazine’s Front Porch

  • Episode 11: Jay Jefferies
    Jay Jefferies stops by to deliver the weather and much more!
  • Episode 10 - Nesia Wright
    We had the pleasure of sitting down with Nesia Wright, owner and CEO of the Georgia Soul Basketball Team. Ashlee and Nesia discuss life as the owner of a basketball team, retirement and more.
  • Episode 9: Venus Morris Griffin
    Venus Morris Griffin, one of the top real estate agents in the Augusta area, stops by our front porch to talk about her success and her upcoming book. This episode is sure to set a fire in you to go for your dreams!
  • Episode 8: Michael Romano
    Michael Romano, self-proclaimed carbohydrate king and executive pastry chef for Edgar's Hospitality Group stopped by our front porch to chat with Ashlee.


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