THE LONELY LAND SPREAD OUT
Traveling through south Georgia and southern Alabama; hot, windless and meandering. I am on a three day sales trip and survey. Contracts are ready, but I’m not really thinking about that.
The drive makes me ponder. Slowly. The land is still. I drive, not too fast, but definitely too fast for here. Towns with names like Bainbridge, Cairo, Eufaula. There are crossroads in the middle of nowhere, and I drive to a stop and look for no one coming. Old homes stand lonely in front of long, hard roads, frozen in a time that has long since passed by. And gone away. No one’s in those houses, probably. There’s nothing here, except the wind that doesn’t move. Occasionally, and only maybe, a lost, mangey dog will appear from under a raised porch, maybe a couple of chickens pecking about. Crows hop across the road to salvage a flattened aardvark.
There are beautiful old “downtowns” where the occasional two story brick buildings face a town square, a courthouse, a church. But all the quaintness of that is given up to the more efficient strips that conquer it with franchised food and familiar service. They set up down the road, sucking the business as they go out, out. The old town can’t give the store fronts away anymore and they slowly are consumed by kudzoo and neglect. Councils are assembled, initiatives are created, but it’s not enough to hold off the neglect and the "who cares". I miss that town, even though I never knew it.
Everyone’s in the field, I suppose, or looking for work elsewhere. Those that I do see are old, and tired. There are lots of stories there. I can even remember some of them. So do we all, I think. Most have something to do with the weather. It connects everyone. Not much else does. There are long, straight rows of peanuts and soybeans and corn. Methodically and mechanically watered from the modern, but old looking irrigation wheels. Here is where the stuff emanates, but it’s devoid of people, and the fields have no weeds. Efficiency, eventually, has a lonely feel to it.
I have many warm and emotional feelings about this land. The red clay is imprinted hard in my memory. I miss it terribly. I think the country misses it too. We have all left, and we abandoned our strange aunts and uncles behind to tend to it. It feels like home, but the wind doesn’t blow here anymore. There's a slow and silent howl that lifts the buzzards aloft. The hawk’s head hangs low on the power line. The smell of peanut shells and diesel hangs heavy in the hot air, with a faint whiff of fried chicken somewhere. If I were to call out to Reilly and Alberta I’m not sure they would hear me in this lonely place. I drive. I drive. It waits behind. I see it in my rear view mirror, long glowing green fields, inviting me, maybe begging me with a golden light of come back. But it's already gone.