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The Green Ghost

Traveling on SR (State Route) 60 in Fannin County is, for some, a life-or-death proposition. For many years Route 60 has been a very popular destination for motorcyclists from Georgia and surrounding states, and it's steep inclines, winding and hairpin curves are many times underestimated by even the most skillful of our visiting riders. Unfortunately, from my vantage point on Faded Glory's front porch, I get to see it all.

On Saturdays and Sundays in the Spring and Fall, it is not unusual to see a small parade of law enforcement and EMT vehicles speeding to a rescue. Sadly, when it is obviously too late for further medical aid, these vehicles drive with lights flashing, but at normal speeds, to carry out a body recovery.

In many of these motorcycle crashes and car-chases, Sheriff's Department vehicles, EMT crash wagons and Georgia State Patrol cruisers have historically been shadowed by the familiar green US Forest Service truck driven by Ranger Matthew Tipton or his more quiet counterpart, Asst. Ranger Toby Taft.

In the urban areas of Blue Ridge, Morganton and Dial, law enforcement vehicles are in their element, but in the more desolate mountainous areas of the Chattahoochie National Forest, the cliffs, steep ravines and grades on SR 60 make safe passage a bit more problematic. In the old days, moonshiners and nere-do-wells trying to evade law enforcement would choose SR 60 as a convenient escape route because there were so many opportunities to conceal themselves on the side roads and fire trails branching off of it. Luckily, since Ranger Matthew Tipton knows this territory like the back of his hand, folks now find it difficult to outrun the law, and local law enforcement are grateful to have him on their team.

During his tenure as Ranger for the Eastern Sector of the Forest, Matthew has always stayed busy. Several times a week, he has responded to homeowner problems involving bears, wildcats, wolves, skunks, rattlesnakes, and, occasionally, even feral hogs. Lost hikers and hunters in the Forest probably top the list in terms of Matthew's search and rescue responsibilities. When sections of the Forest have been opened temporarily to logging and shelter cutting, Matthew has served as a valuable intermediary between homeowners, lumbermen, and the U. S. Forestry Service. Isabel says he is a great public relations person for the USFS. During his teenage years, Matthew hiked, hunted and fished the National Forest until he graduated high school and left the mountains he called home to earn his degree in Forestry at Clemson University in North Carolina.

Ray and Isabel first got to know Matthew eleven years ago when, as a young man, he arrived to investigate out-of-season, nighttime deer poaching in the Tipton's huge apple orchard just below the Inn. I was just a pup then, and I was pleased to receive my first good back-scratch from Matthew during that visit. I have never forgotten it. Matthew's investigation that night resulted in the arrest and conviction of two misguided local hunters, and we have had very few situations like this since.

Matthew has never gotten directly involved in car chases, and he has never singlehandedly apprehended and cuffed any of our more elusive criminals, but he is considered an expert tracker and on-the-fly strategist. Without his assistance, many of these perpetrators might surely have escaped. Micah Davenport is quick to point out that if you look carefully at news photos of local arrests, you will usually be able to spot his big green SUV parked among the law enforcement vehicles at the scene. Isabel and Micah say often that Matthew has been, many times, an unsung hero, and a virtual lynchpin in many of our County's more colorful arrests.

Now, at the age of 53, Matthew's recent promotion will place him behind a desk up in Blairsville, and our local authorities will be looking to Ranger Flynt Timber to become the new 'green ghost' to assist our law enforcement community. Although he doesn't have a local background, Micah and Isabel both believe that Flynt Timber will bring his youth, energy and vitality into the equation and represent the USFS very well here in Fannin County.

So far, Ranger Flynt Timber has blended effortlessly into his new position here in the mountains. His back scratches are not yet as effective as Ranger Matthew's, but he will learn with practice. Since he definitely prefers Louella's 'lighter n' air biscuits' to Krispy Kreme doughnuts, his continued popularity at Faded Glory seems to be assured. He has managed to establish an excellent rapport with members of the Georgia State Patrol as well as Sheriff Kenny's growing staff of deputies.

Our county is 'on the move' and growing very quickly as people retire and relocate here from towns and cities all over the south. Isabel and Micah believe that the basic services and infrastructure existing here in the county will be tested and stretched as we continue that growth. As sole proprietor of Faded Glory Farm, Isabel, as well as her staff, are banking on it.

Meanwhile, I can smell a fresh batch of Louella's biscuits baking in the oven, and Ranger Timber and his new-found law enforcement buddies have yet to arrive. Wouldn't it be nice if my old friend, Matt Tipton, arrived with them! I do miss Matthew just as I expected I would. In the meantime, Isabel has started the coffee, and I am ready for the new day. Bon appetit, my friends!

© 2010-2011 David Johnson, All Rights Reserved