Andy Outlaw watched the dough boys march by. He rarely saw the sun in the noon day sky or heard a baby's midnight cry. Andy lived alone indoors for most of his life, surrounded by the things that meant the most to him, without a child or a wife. And, he loved it, because Andy Outlaw was a hermit.
A son of Morgan Outlaw and Roxann Snell, Andrew M. Outlaw, was born in Johnson County, Georgia in 1859. When he was merely five years old, Andy recalled Sherman's army invading his hometown of Wrightsville. He remembered that his mother pleaded with the Yankees to save Wrightsville's churches and its school, courthouse, and Masonic Hall. To his dying day he knew in his mind that Roxann Outlaw's pleas touched the heart of the Union general and spared the Johnson County capital from total annihilation.
Andy was known as a quite handsome man in his youth. Though he loved them from afar, Andy was afraid of girls. No one could ever remember him courting a single girl. The Outlaws were determined to give their children the best education they could receive by sending them to the academy, an octagonal building located on a ridge on the outskirts of town. London born and bred teacher, Wycliffe Loyd, was able to capture and bring out Andy's ability to write in fine style.
Upon reaching manhood, Andrew Outlaw removed himself from Wrightsville to Bartow, a railroad town some twenty crow-fly miles away in Jefferson County. After three years in the mercantile business, Andy became deathly ill. He got the fever. When Bartow's finest physicians couldn't cure him, they sent Andy home to die.
But Andy didn't die. He lingered in his room in the Outlaw's hotel, which was erected in 1861 and operated by his father, who was then sheriff of Johnson County. Though Andy recovered from his illness, as far as the world around him was concerned, he was all but dead.
In the nearly sixty years before his death, townsfolk noticed that Andy ventured outside of his large home only on three or four occasions. The first time anyone could remember was the time when he got curious and walked across the street to get a closer view of a traveling show. There was another time when Andy took part in a fiddling contest. He won five pounds of mullet, a jar of preserves and a free pass that day, a memorable time which remained in the old man's mind for many decades. And, he did go to church, just once.
Andy continued to live with his aging mother until her death. He felt comfort in roaming the dark and narrow halls looking at and touching family heirlooms which filled the two-story, ghostly home.
The old parlor, once the site of gay parties, was so dark that the thick coat of dust covering the furniture could hardly be seen. Right in the middle of the parlor sat a Chickering piano, which his parents bought in 1875. As an 80-year-old, Andy demonstrated his still outstanding musical abilities to W.R. Manry, a reporter for the Courier Herald. Manry described Outlaw as a man having an inborn, better than average musical ability who could play the flute and the violin. He had nine violins until he gave two of them away. Andy did keep his prized violin in a bureau drawer. It was a Stradivarius, one made by the old man Antonio Stradivari himself in his prime way back in 1713.
"Andy could make two noises with his cheeks and mouth, snap his fingers of both hands, kick both feet together off the floor and shake his head - all at the same time - a feat very few people can do, regardless of age," wrote Manry.
The old hermit rarely threw anything away. Stacked next to the fireplace mantle was a collection of old almanacs. In nearly every room in the house, Andy strung strings of twine along the walls. Rooms adjoining the parlor was filled with mounds of boxes, bags and paper sacks. Kits crammed with kaboodles covered every corner, nook and cranny. In justification of his hoard, Andy cited the Biblical phrase, "Blessed is he that hath of his own for he shall want not." His quote actually does not appear in the Bible, but it did seem to justify in his own mind his addiction to accumulation.
The old hotel, which was frequented by Gov. Herschel Johnson during his time on the bench of the Superior Court, was filled with antiques and collectibles. There was an old organ from Arline Chapel Church, which he got in a trade. Above the mantle was a working 1818 open face clock and a mirror with relief sketches of heroes of the Spanish American War. All throughout the house were framed pictures of loved ones whose lives Andy could recall in exacting details. One of Andy's prize possessions was a picture of George Washington, which he cut from a cardboard box of plug chewing tobacco. One could hardly step without moving around an old broken chair, scattered stacks of tattered books, or some useless antiquity that he hated to discard.
During six decades of seclusion, Andy did a lot of reading, though in his old age, he had to wear glasses to keep from ruining his eyes. Outlaw developed a keen interest in astrology. Particularly fascinating to the recluse was the day of July 3. What was special about this particular eve of Independence Day was it was the day when his father was born, married and died, a feat which may happen to one in nearly 49 million people. But there was more. His brother was born and married on the same day, but didn't die on July 3, a fact which meant nothing to him since he died on another day anyway.
Andy was superstitious too. Over his door, he nailed a horse shoe and recited to his visitors as he rarely welcomed them, "Be sure you nail it right and you will chase the witches away tonight." To keep himself free from harm from witches and other evil specters, Outlaw carried in his shirt pocket an alligator tooth wrapped in waxed paper, a good luck ring and an assortment of spirit repelling charms.
The once handsome man became a decrepit, but friendly, octogenarian. Dressed in heavily patched britches and a torn army blouse, a gray-haired Andy Outlaw told reporter Manry, "I would rather be filthy than sickly." Andy's long life came to an end on May 8, 1943.
In the last years of his life, Andy sat by the window peering out into the modern world. He could see the new two-story courthouse, large brick stores and warehouses around him. He could see cars go by and planes flying in the sky. Andy lived through four major wars, saw the end of slavery and the coming of the automobile. He lived long enough to use the electric light, though he never used it much. He lived long enough to listen to music of the phonograph and the side-splitting laughter and the suspenseful screams coming out of his radio.
Andy Outlaw, once a good looking rich kid, died a far poorer man. For he turned inward instead of outward and missed the magnificence of the wonderful world outside the walls of his home.