Friday, January 6, 2012

Journey Through Flannery O'Connor Country

A week ago, we were midway through our journey from South Florida to South Carolina.  We hit the road, right through Flannery O'Connor country (northeast Georgia, hilly but not the foothills of the Appalachians).

Here are some things I noticed:

--most of the west coast of Florida is for sale:  industrial, farming, residential, you name it, you could buy it. 

--Florida is either the 3rd or 2nd largest cow producing state; I'm not sure how the drought-stricken Texas ranchers selling their herds affects the statistics.  On the east coast of Florida, we don't see as many cow herds.  We saw a lot in our journey up the other side of the state.

--We also saw a sign that announced we had entered the dairy capital of Georgia, but we didn't see a single cow.

--We did see lots of religious billboards.  On the east coast, there are plenty of anti-abortion billboards.  On the west coast, we got a diversity of messages.  All conservative, few humorous.  Who pays for these billboard rentals?

--We also saw lots of faded (non-religious) billboards, like they'd been up for several decades.  Hmm.  Is the sun that more intense on the west coast?  Do people have less resources to keep the billboards looking fresh?

--In South Georgia, we saw lots of billboards for lots of spas.  Really?  There's that much demand that can support more than one spa in South Georgia?  We got our first hint that the word spa might not mean what it means in the rest of the country when we saw billboards advertising truck parking.  We had a few moments of spasmodic laughter imagining the burly trucker coming in for a mani-pedi.  Then we quickly realized we were looking at ads for houses of prostitution.  Many of the "spas" had Asian names:  Lotus Flower Spa, for example.  After awhile, what was first funny became disturbing.

--Once we got off the Interstate, we stopped seeing those billboards.  Of course, I was never sure we were on the right road.  We followed my mom and dad, who followed their GPS device.  For some of the time, it informed us we were in "unverified territory."  Great.  It's not like we were in the interior of Alaska.  It made me long for an old-fashioned paper map.

--Sherman found his way through this "unverified territory."  We saw a sign in Eatonton, GA, home of Alice Walker and Joel Chandler Harris (of Uncle Remus fame) that reminded us that Sherman had come through during his march to the sea.  I thought of how far away we were from the coast and what a long, dreadful march it must have been, on foot, in heavy boots or no boots or boots with holes in the soles.

--We also drove by the exit for Andersonville, one of the largest Civil War POW camps where 1/3 of prisoners died.

--This part of the country has never really recovered from the Civil War.  We saw lots and lots of trailers, and most of them weren't in great condition, or even good condition, even though people were clearly living there.  We saw lots of people walking by the sides of the road.  It felt very other-worldly--or 3rd wordly.

--Of course, we also saw lots of peach orchards and cotton fields--cotton, still being grown in this country!  It was a good reminder that the land, even though it looks like red clay, can be very fertile.

--What interesting place names:  Moccasin Wallow; Promised Land (SC).

--We saw a cow standing by an empty feed trailer.  We imagined it saying, "I'm ready for the dessert menu.  The service here is really awful.  I'm not coming back here any time soon.  If this waitress thinks she's getting a good tip, she better get a move on!"

--I saw several places that still had a jack-o-lantern on the porch.  You'd think someone could plop a Santa cap on it or something.

--I knew that for a large chunk of our trip, we weren't far from Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O'Connor.  I thought of her short stories.  I wouldn't have been at all surprised to see a Bible salesman with a stolen wooden leg in his case or an escaped Misfit murderer.

--And we'd have missed all of that, had we taken the more obvious route, Interstate 20.  There were moments when I had my doubts.  At one point, I said to my spouse, "I think this two lane road just became a one lane road."  He said, "At least it's still paved."  Indeed.


Kathleen said...

What fun to take this journey with you! Some of it was familiar to me, as I'd passed through either literally or literarily at some point, and some hilariously (or disturbingly) new!

Jeannine Hall Gailey said...

Too bad it's not tomato season - they grow fabulous tomatoes out there!