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Loran Smith Columnist

Published Saturday, March 03, 2012

The lady fisherman

NEW BRANCH – If I could do Dianne Stanley the justice that a Rembrandt or a Renoir might do, then everybody would want to know her -- men and women alike.

She is a pretty woman with an altruistic and hospitable bent. She effortlessly segues from the kitchen -- where her expertise from casseroles to roasts to deviled eggs to desserts will knock your socks off -- to the outdoors, supervising landscaping and construction of new guest quarters and baiting a visitor's hook as he catches fish on the family's 80-acre lake. Her days are filled and fulfilling.

She and her youngest son, Vince, were accommodating hosts, as I settled in with them following a Kiwanis lunch with Wendy Brannen of the Vidalia Onion Committee. Lake Stanley was placid and inviting on a cool afternoon, lumbering Canada geese honking overhead and joined in flight underneath by scampering mallards and mergansers. If you were not compatible with outdoor living, then you could quickly become a pariah with Dianne. She is moving about the boat, coaxing Vince to "try that spot over there by the stump," taking fish off the line with an aplomb that would make Mark Trail envious.

We had six poles in the water. Then, there was a flurry of activity -- fish were sucking down our minnows with such alacrity that I found myself on several occasions, holding two poles with a sizeable white perch on each line -- some over two pounds. Ever try to take a fish off a line without a free hand? That's when Dianne takes over. All the while, she is fussing over her guest, making sure that she took the fish off the hook and replenished it with fresh bait, all in a fluid motion -- like a shortstop gathering in a hot grounder and deftly flicking it over to the second baseman on a double-play ball. There was no down time. We brought the fish aboard, baited up again, and flipped our lines back in the water. She exclaimed with the most congenial of outbursts, "Oh! I just love this!"

The Stanleys are Vidalia onion growers. They work hard, but they like to play, and the Great Outdoors is their playground. There is always ongoing activity at the Lodge, which is where everybody hangs out. Mainly because you know that Dianne will have plenty of snacks and treats on standby. She starts early and turns in late, daily a whirring dervish throughout the Stanley compound.

She loves to cook, and cooking for her requires a kitchen with a big stove, big pots and big pans. When her children and grandchildren come for supper, no less than 15 join hands when R. T., the patriarch, says grace. Reverently offering thanks for a meal is as routine with the Stanleys as is washing your hands before you eat.

Dianne enjoys entertaining. It has been good for business, but it comes naturally for her. She wants her children and grandchildren to bring their friends over for meals. Just the other day, she went out on the lake, caught a mess of fish, brought in her bounty, and prepared lunch for the construction crew building the guest house out back. Such hospitality defines this remarkable woman.

While she might not have bested Annie Oakley at the state fair, I think you should know that when hunting season comes in, she expects to get her limit at the Vidalia Valley dove shoots. Two quail on a covey rise? Duck soup for Dianne. A wily gobbler in the spring usually meets his match when Dianne, in camouflage, takes to the woods with her turkey call. She can call a turkey with the best.

She has a generous personality and a comforting and infectious smile. She gives of herself to the things she loves -- most of all her family. When her family is gathered around her, she melts away emotionally. There are many successful women in America today, but none more accomplished on the home front than Dianne Stanley.

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