Small Town, Georgia, Girl

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           I have a new baseball cap that labels me as exactly who I am. It says “Small Town Girl”. It has a map of Georgia embroidered on it with a star designating my approximate location in the state. It was a gift, and I love it!

I guess I’ve always been a small town girl, even though I was born in Piedmont Hospital in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, in 1948. But even though I was born in a large hospital in Georgia’s capital city, I never claimed Atlanta as my own.

I grew up in Decatur, Georgia, which during the 50s and 60s was indeed a small town. We were six miles from downtown Atlanta, which to the child that I was seemed like an awfully long way from home. It was too far to walk, so we had to take the trolley if we wanted to go downtown to go shopping at Rich’s. My mother didn’t drive a car, meaning that most of our shopping was done right there in Decatur. It was when Mama needed patterns and fabric to make clothes for my sister and me that we dressed up like we were going to Sunday School, hopped on the trolley near the Decatur train station three blocks from our house, and spent the entire day downtown, getting off the trolley back home in Decatur late in the afternoon, just in time for Mama to prepare our family supper. Sometime in my adolescent years, Decatur lost her small town status to become part of Metropolitan Atlanta. But she remained a small town for me until long after I moved away at the age of sixteen. Today, even though Decatur retains much of her small town charm, the traffic congestion and difficulty in finding a place to park that doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg, along with the variety of pricey restaurants, remind me that she really doesn’t qualify for “small town” status in my mind anymore. Even the houses on the street where I grew up are now priced so far out of my reach when they go on the market to be sold, I could never afford to live there these days!

Enter Monroe, Georgia, the small town I have called home for the past five years. Now, this little town reminds me more of the Decatur where I grew up than any place I know. Yes, we have our traffic snarls on Broad Street, especially when the big trucks are trying to get through town on their way from one of the interstates to the other, and when I am trying to come out of the Walmart parking lot during rush hour or on Saturday. It’s a lovely little town, with friendly people, welcoming churches, a terrific little community theater, a Saturday farmer’s market, lots of small shops for browsing and purchasing interesting items of all kinds, safe places to walk my little dog Sunshine, a strong medical community, and the warm touch of Georgia hospitality. People here wave as they drive by, and they pause on the sidewalk to say hello to my dog. They don’t ignore me as I walk past and will look at me and greet me with a smile.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be living in Monroe, Georgia, I probably would have shaken my head, pondered in my mind just where Monroe is on the Georgia map, furrowed my brow, and asked, “Where? Why?” It isn’t important why or how I landed in Monroe, but I am happy that I did. I was even able to purchase a small home – one that I could afford – to set down a root or two. I am making this my home for awhile and claim this little town as my own, even though I am a transplant.

Small Town, Georgia, is a good place for someone like me. I live a simple life, enjoy listening to the birds singing in the trees around my home and watching the deer in the park, appreciate that nothing that I need is further than 10 minutes away by car (and I could walk if I had to!), and have made some very good friends. All this, and more, are what make me a true blue “Small Town Girl.”

In the novel that I wrote, “Fishbowls and Birdcages,” the main character was someone like me, a person who moved around from town to town, never quite belonging, and never sure just where Home was. She finally found her place, and it, too, was in Small Town, Georgia, although hers was a fictional town. She learned that the saying, “bloom where you are planted,” had a positive meaning for her as she developed her own identity and strength through her faith in God. Fran found her place, and I have found mine.

Yes, I am now officially a Small Town Georgia Girl. My new hat is proof of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Moore’s Ford Bridge Lynching – Past and Present

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In 1946, two years before I was born, a horrible “incident” happened in Walton County, Georgia, where I am now living. My friend, Bill, told me about it, asking me if I had ever heard the story, peaking my interest and curiosity. I began doing a little research on my own about what happened so close by, so many years ago.

I am not going to go into detail about it, but in a nutshell, two African-American married couples were ambushed one day on their way home with their employer, a white farmer, at Moore’s Ford Bridge on the Appalachee River by a mob of white men. They were tied to trees, and brutally shot multiple times. One of the women was seven months pregnant.  One account that I read said that the baby was cut from her body, but I am not sure of the accuracy of this part of the story. The murders were never solved, nobody was ever arrested or convicted, and over the years the story has resurfaced from time to time in an effort to solve the crimes. It is still a mystery, and a tragic one, at that.

This story has taken residence in my brain, and I can’t let it go. The horror of that day, and what those poor people experienced is more than I can comprehend, although I am very much aware that at that time in the south, racism was king, and segregation and bigotry were the rule of the day. In my research, I found the location of the murders, or lynching, as it was called.

This morning, my little dog, Sunshine, and I went for a Sunday morning drive to Moore’s Ford Bridge to see the spot where this incident happened so many years ago. It was a beautifully quiet Palm Sunday morning as we turned off of US78 and drove down country roads past several small churches with parking lots full of cars and trucks. We passed farm land and several beautiful modern homes on the way to the bridge. I saw a few American flags waving in the breeze in front of homes, and I looked – half expecting to see – a Confederate flag on display in front of at least one of them. (There are still many places in this part of Georgia where this flag still flies). I was relieved that I didn’t see a one. As we approached the bridge, I parked the car on the shoulder a short distance away, deciding to walk to get a closer view. I heard the sounds of birds singing, the rhythm of a riffle in the river as the water cascaded over a small drop in its bed, and the morning breeze singing a mournful song through the pine trees. Sunshine, who is usually very curious at a new location, tugging at her leash to get a better smell of things, was eerily calm. She walked next to me in a close heel, tucking her tail, and didn’t want to leave my side. It was if she sensed that this was not an ordinary stretch of road.

I could feel the sadness in the morning breeze, and I could sense the tragedy that had happened there 68 years ago. The sounds of gunshots, the fearful cries of the victims, and the angry voices of the white assailants echoed across the river, as I imagined what that day must have been like. I could sense the pleas of the two couples, long dead, reaching across time, begging for justice as I stood on the bridge imagining how horrible that day must have been.

Then, I heard the song of a bird in the trees calling, “cheer-up, cheer-up.” Time had erased all physical evidence of what happened at Moore’s Ford Bridge back in 1946. The river played an accompaniment to the bird’s song, and the breeze brushed my face with the scents of springtime. Tears welled up in my eyes as the energy, both evil and pure, of that long-ago day, still lingering, reached into my heart, and touched me in a way I cannot describe with words.

This happened such a long time ago. The people responsible for this crime may all be dead by now. I wonder if they ever felt any remorse for what they did. The two couples who were murdered were denied their lifetimes of joys and sorrows that life brings to us all. This “incident” changed many lives…

Including mine.

 

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