By choice, we live in a county without a Wal-Mart, movie theater, Starbucks, or shopping mall. A typical Saturday afternoon for us may differ from the average American household — and that’s just fine since none of those things hold our interest for very long anyway.
Last Saturday, we headed for the Pine Mountain Trail in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. I grabbed my camera, a hoodie, bottled water, and a bag of pistachios. Josh drove with the windows down and “A Country Boy Can Survive” played on the radio causing the dashboard to hum with the twang of guitar. A sea of Georgia pines lining the road blurred in the side mirror as we bounced along the back roads and I had my hand out the window like I’d done as a kid. When you cup your hand in the wind just-so, it feels like there’s a cool sponge in your hand.
I can plow a field all day long, I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn… sang Hank Williams, Jr. as I watched the power lines and mailboxes disappear as we drove on toward the small town of Hamilton.
Wisps of my hair which had pulled loose from my ponytail whipped around my face and I noticed loose dogs coming out in the road behind us. There aren’t any leash laws in our county, either. The dogs were trotting around the smudge of roadkill where painted yellow lines might have been if this road led to anything other than another back country road. Their tails wagged and I watched them roll — gleefully — one at a time.
We came from the West Virginia coal mines, And the Rocky Mountains and the western skies
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot-line, And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive…
Then I saw it. Standing in the ditch chomping on the newly sprouted spring grass having escaped the confines of a fully-fenced field stood a woolly bearded buck.
“Goat! Goat! There’s a goat!” I yelled to Josh excitedly, as if it were the single greatest discovery of the past four centuries — better than vaccines, refrigeration, bifocal lenses, Swedish foam mattresses, or the electric light bulb.
He looked at me and we both burst out laughing. Gosh, it was good to sit comfortably on the bench seat of a truck with the clouds just rolling away overhead and the countryside blowing by… just cracking up. Before long, we’d passed through Hamilton, Georgia with its charming court square, rusty signs, and classic courthouse. In a blink, we’d topped the hill to the first overlook of the valley. Being that I am a bit of an overlook snob (having lived in Virginia and then Washington… well, Georgia mountains just don’t blow my skirt up), I wouldn’t comment on that particular spot except to say that it’s a very nice place to park the car which is basically like writing a review for a gallery and only complimenting the picture frames.
The trees seemed to lean toward the road creating a tunnel of knobbly scrub pines. I snapped a few pictures while Josh noted the start of the Pine Mountain Trail for hiking purposes. Meanwhile, I tried to mentally replace the forest of sickly-looking monotonous pine trees with oak, elm, hickory, birch, poplar, walnut, and maple. Of course, there were oaks scattered throughout the woods but I was missing the Skyline Drive something fierce. My heart hungered for Virginia… for home.
We parked below the main ranger-station-gift-shop-cottage-rental place which simply belonged in the forest with its stone walls, wrought iron lamps, and heavy wooden doors. The architecture was completely different, of course, but it reminded me of Fallingwater because it worked so well with its surroundings. Josh inquired about maps while I wandered around lost in thought, relieved that no one seemed to mind my introspective mood.
We drove all over the park: down to the stables with their grassless paddock full of bored trail horses, past unfriendly unsmiling horseback riders (Note: Who can look unhappy on a horse? It’s like frowning on a jet ski… can’t be done), past red dirt trails, glittering puddles, and by campgrounds. As we drove, we discussed the upcoming move and our future. Most married folks would like people to think that their conversations always flow smoothly (as smoothly as our conversation in the truck) but the truth is that those moments are special and while they aren’t uncommon — they are precious.
And so the day ended… a small town afternoon, in a different overlook parking lot (not the unremarkable one). Josh’s hand was in mine and a cool breeze rippled through our shirts as we watched the sun disappear into gray clouds. In that moment, I found the peace I’d been searching for.