Originally created 11/30/03

Winding rural road offers plenty of life stories



Nature, like us, is sometimes caught without her diadem.

- Emily Dickinson

Thursday's turkey was eaten and I was heading over the river and through the woods from grandmother's house to home.

I'd left the rest of the family with the in-laws in west Georgia, veered off the interstate outside Columbus and turned east, cross country.

I like to travel this way. There's something almost intimate about driving on rural two-lanes rendered almost empty by the Thanksgiving holiday.

It allows me to see things.

For instance, I see two young guys playing golf in a cow pasture. The field has become a holiday driving range and they are whacking shots close to the herd. The cows don't seem to notice.

Down the road I see two older guys standing at the edge of a grove of pecan trees. They are talking, as country men sometimes do, without looking each other in the eye. Perhaps they are in-laws forced to share an afternoon when they didn't really want to.

I suspect such tension because one appears to pick up a couple of pecans in a big hand, then cracks them by squeezing them together, before picking out parts to eat.

In the small town of Geneva, I see a big sign offering gas for $1.17.

A bargain, I think.

A mistake, I find out.

The gas station that once sat below the sign has been razed. The lot is vacant.

Small towns will surprise you that way. In Roberta, west of Macon, you can't miss the city's war memorial with its large marble monument to fallen dead.

This time of year, the stone is "guarded" by two 8-foot-tall ornamental soldiers from a Christmas Nutcracker display.

Despite the holiday, most of the small convenience stores along my route appear to be open. I pull into one - Kwik Stop No. 3 - somewhere between Macon and Eatonton. The parking lot is full and inside it smells like a fried pie.

I buy a newspaper and a soft drink and can't help but notice that the counter of most convenience stores offer tobacco products, adult magazines, lottery tickets, "hot and sweet" pork rinds and a place to pay for beer.

Sin, my grandmother would say, should not be so convenient.

I think of my grandmother because somewhere in the middle of nowhere I drive by an old house - very, very old. And big - very, very big. It looks like someone had tried to build a Southern plantation without benefit of architecture or carpentry training.

It leans a little, probably because the front pillars are missing, and its white paint is severely peeled. There are no trees anywhere near it, and the yard appears to be mostly dirt.

But in the dirt on this day are seven pickup trucks, all shiny and carefully parked. The holiday has brought them home.

And home is not always found in cities or along interstates, but often it sits off a winding country road where an old house leans a little on a late November afternoon.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.