Gone with the wind

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As Dad got older, he often asked me to take him back to the old homeplace just outside the city limits of Garfield. He never complained about his new life in Swainsboro, but he began to have a strong feeling that his country way of life was vanishing along with the wind.

Seedless watermelons and chicken nuggets were showing up more in our local grocery story, and $0.10 for fatback was escalated to more than $2 per pound. Fruits and vegetables were being grown with so much fertilizer and insecticides that he no longer recognized the pure, country taste of coolness he knew so well as a young boy.

Scientific procedures, corporations, modern farm machinery, and big-time farmers had pushed the little man and his family out of business and into a nearby town. Old farming plows and farm implements lay rusting away now. The big farmhouses with long hallways that held so many childhood memories are frozen silent in time, all lost to history. The smokehouse is quiet with unique smells from the past, and the chicken coop only remembers when the tall, red rooster belted out his call at daybreak while his flock of Rhode Island reds scratched furiously for worms in the front yard. The fields are barren now with flashes of purple and white wildflowers intermingled with patches of golden sunflowers where cotton and corn once grew. Old, bumpy dirt roads have been paved over while old, rustic bridges have been torn down and replaced by sturdy, concrete ones.

Daddy was amazed how the landscape had changed since he was a boy. The old homeplace seemed to be a relic from the past. Pine trees had been planted over the entire farmland. The old family fish pond was no longer visible from the road, and when the dirt roads had been surveyed and paved, several acres of the farm were taken up for the rights-of-way. Visually, Daddy didn’t recognize his childhood home; it had silently gone with the timeless wind.

He recalled when he was a young boy, he and his brothers had dug stumps and cleared thick underbrush to clear the woodland for land that was suitable for growing cotton, corn, and peanuts. He realized that the land had returned to its natural state, but he was sure that the woods nearby held the offspring of rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums he and his brothers had hunted on warm moonlit nights and that the brooks and streams were surely filled with fish because no one had fished them in years. It was clear to him now that nature always prevails in the end. Man leaves his mark, but it is soon “gone with the wind.”

Ronnie Johnson

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