by Donna McCollum
Cornie's Blossom Hill is on a cedar bluff. It's where Cornie Fletcher, a given name held proudly, calls home. "Well honey, it's not fancy, but it's fun," said Fletcher, a woman who has will power that's hard to match.
Her playground is over 350 acres of rolling hills. She grows trees, lots of them. Tree planter Jerry Fletcher was interrupted briefly for an update. "We're averaging about 5,000 a day." And Ms Cornie who is approaching 87 expects to see them all grow up. "Oh sure. I'm being pretty optimistic, but indeed I do."
This reader, poet and constant learner is a hands on tree farmer. She does her own mowing and purchases high quality seedlings. Fletcher explained, "I went the extra mile, particularly on this real heavy kind of soil and gravel just to be sure that I had a good survival rate."
This former nurse learned never to cut corners. Her fussiness toward quality earned her a nickname. Let's just say, granny witch...with a 'B'. "And I said now listen folks you honor that name because I worked hard to get it." But do the job right and with pride you'll know Ms Cornie as a gentle woman. Brewer called her "really sweet."
Ms. Cornie marvels at the knowledge and ingenuity in growing a tree. "Isn't this just marvelous. Hasn't man made a lot of wonderful improvements in farming?", she said while watching an automated tree planter at work. Yet basics are important to this frugal woman. She lives in a restored sharecropper's house. Her hobby is making quilts. Those of trees, of course. Fletcher uses them to share her farm with others. "I say I'm gonna bring my farm to you and I have a pine tree, an oak tree, a dogwood tree."
Ms Cornie says she once lived in a fine brick house in house, but she says, "You can't be a farmer without being on the farm." She's most at home among the trees. "It's just wonderful to see trees grow and to come out everyday. It's just growth," she said during a walk in a pine forest.