Hed: Sams delivers Helen Foster Lecture
By Eileen Bailey
Using his Southern charm and wit, author Dr. Ferrell Sams delighted and wooed an audience of about 400 who attended his Tuesday night lecture at the Lee County Library.
Sams, 73, of Fayetteville, Ga., was the 1996 Helen Foster Lecturer. He joined a list of 27 other authors who have spoken at the yearly event that began in 1974 through a trust from the late Helen Foster.
Pale blue eyes twinkled as Sams talked about his writing career. “I was surprised when I began writing. I’m still surprised,” he said. “I live in a constant state of astonishment.”
Sams, whose first novel was “Run with the Horseman” in 1982, said he rises every morning at 5:30 to write. The characters in his six books are drawn from his own experiences and the experiences of others.
Most of the female character he shared with his audience Tuesday night are “not fiction, at least not yet,” he said. From the elderly spinster to the “most joyful hypochondriac,” Sams used a variety of accents to introduce the audience to his ladies of Georgia.
One character was a woman who used to call him every morning. The woman had the idea that if she did not use her phone she was losing money. “Every morning she would call me at daylight,” he said. As she would begin to tell him stories, Sams said he would get up and brush his teeth and perform several other duties. He would then go back to the phone and say “Uh-huh.” Sams said he would continue this for several minutes before telling the woman he had to get ready for work.
Miss Kate, along with her two sisters, Miss May and Ms. Louise, also provided Sams with numerous stories. “Miss Kate was the most joyful hypochondriac I have ever known,” he said.
Miss Kate also was the second woman in Fayetteville to own a mink stole. She would wear the stole to church and if someone sneezed she would pull the stole up and cover her face.
As she got older, Miss Kate would get sick more. “She drove a baby blue Lincoln that matched her baby blue hair,” Sams said. She always traded for the same type of car each year.
Sams said that to help Miss Kate he would tell her to park on the side of the building and he would put her in a treatment room where she could wait away from the “sick people.” He said once when she was at the office he went in her room first by mistake. As he was leaving she told him to wash his hands before he came back.
Before reentering Miss Kate’s room, Sams said he was determined to be nice. When he entered she asked, “Have you washed your hands?” at which he said he began to get “ticked off.” Sams said he scrubbed his hands and as he finished he would look back and saw her glaring at him. After the second time, he decided to do something else. “I pulled off my shoe and sock off of one foot and began to scrub,” he said. “Kate asked me what I thought I was doing. I told her ‘Just this minute I decided I’m going to kick your a–.'”
Sams said he has a healthy respect for women. “Half of my ancestors were women,” he said.
After his speech, attendees met with Sams at a reception where he signed autographs.