Tag Archives: Sylvester Georgia

Change of scenery

houston
Where I lived for 15 years. Houston.
street
Where I’ve lived for 17 years.

THE FIRST five years of my life, I resided in the countryside, a farm not far from Sylvester, Georgia.

The latest census puts Sylvester’s population at about 6,000 souls. Lord knows what it was in the late 1940s when I was toddling around there in the dirt.

My current mountaintop pueblo is home to about 80,000 folks, dwarfing the population of Sylvester, but 80,000 is a far cry from the 6 million you’ll find in Houston’s metropolitan area or even the 2 million in the city itself.

Before moving to my mountaintop, Houston was where I lived and worked. I don’t work anymore unless you count pulling weeds and watering veranda potted plants.

I play and relax.

The switch from Houston to this mountaintop pueblo was a drastic move. I’m a big-city boy. And my child bride is a big-city girl. Why are we here?

Lack of communication.

One morning, about two years after constructing and moving into the Hacienda, we were sitting on the veranda in our wicker rockers, talking. We discovered that we’d both have preferred settling in a big city.

How did we not know this? Answer: I assumed she wanted to live here because relatives live here, especially her favorite sister. She assumed I wanted to live here because I was here and had moved here intentionally.

But we never discussed it specifically. Dumb, huh?

Why not sell the Hacienda and move elsewhere? Actually, about that time, I did advertise it online, and got an offer for twice what we had paid to build this place.

But I chickened out because I love our home, and there is a large city nearby, the capital down the mountainside. But, aside from weekly Costco shopping jaunts, we rarely go there.

We’ve become small-city folks. But every time I see a photo of Houston, I sigh. And she likely does the same when we make our twice-a-year visits to Mexico City, which is where she lived when I found her.

But we can stand in the yard on dark nights and see stars from horizon to horizon. And I never heard roosters at dawn or burros anytime in Houston.

Just occasional gunfire.

* * * *

(Note: We’ll be home this afternoon from San Miguel de Allende where we fled on Sunday to avoid the worst of Carnival in our hardscrabble neighborhood.)

Granny’s farm

AS MENTIONED a time or three, I spent much of my youth at Granny’s house, actually living there full-time my first six years.

It was my grandfather’s house too, but he died when I was 12, so I associate the house primarily with my grandmother, my mother’s mother.

The whole lot of us — me, my older sister, my mother and father — lived on the farm right after World War II. I wonder what my grandparents thought of that, having daughter come home with a family in tow.

Fortunately, there were three bedrooms in the big, clapboard house, which was built around 1890 by Granny’s father, a fabulously wealthy farmer who was named Dard Moree.

After moving to Jacksonville, Florida, just before I started the Second Grade, we returned often to visit. My mother was an only child, you see, and you know how that goes. Powerful parental connections.

I often think of this place and those days that were so different.

One of my favorite pastimes was to take walks. This was a 500-acre farm, mind you, and the house was set more or less in the northeast quadrant. Usually, I would take these walks alone, and there were two ways to go. Forward from the house was one, and behind the house was the other.

* * * *

SETTING OUT

pumpLet’s go forward first. The house faced a dirt road that went from the Five Points General Store a few miles to the right to the bustling metropolis of Sylvester, Georgia, to the left, passing first through a few inconsequential settlements and one gas station.

Walking off the front porch, crossing that road (which today is a paved highway) you were facing a field that sloped downward to a narrow creek about a quarter mile away. I don’t remember much ever being in that field, sometimes a horse, but we didn’t do horses. We did cows.

The creek ran, more or less, parallel to the dirt road above and, as is often the case, the creek had trees lining its edges. It was a very small creek that you could leap across or step over using stones or confused tree roots.

Greenery of all sorts loves a good creek.

So I would walk down to the creek just because it was cool in the summer, which is the season I spent most time there after moving to Florida, and there were minnows to watch. Turtles too at times.

And the sound of the water, which was incredibly clear, passing over and around those confused tree roots and stones.

It was simply a fine place to be.

That was the forward walk, a pretty simple proposition, but it sits well in my memory, and I wish I could do it again, but I cannot.

Then there’s the backward walk.

* * * *

GOING THE OTHER WAY

At a right angle to the dirt road, there was a set of two parallel ruts formed by tires of pickups and tractors (We had Ford tractors.) that formed an even simpler road that ran along the house’s left side, going behind, and continued to the pond and beyond to plenty of corn.

cowAs you walked along these tire ruts, there was a large grove of pecan trees to the right, plus the really humongous chicken house (abandoned when we left), plus a storage/tractor shed.

On the left was a field that usually contained Hereford cows. They grazed there, but they also hung out under the pecans because there was no fence. I say cows, but there always was one bull because, well, you know.

Like Route 1, this consisted of about a quarter mile too. Then, if you continued ahead, you’d come to a broad expanse of corn rows that went on and on. You can get lost in a corn field, you know, but not forever.

But just before the corn started and the pecan grove ended, you could angle down to the left, heading northwest on your walk, down what was usually a broad gully that ended at the pond, which was named Wavering.

* * * *

BABY IN A TREE

This pond, it seems, has been there for centuries. Local lore has it — and maybe it’s true — that a last battle between nasty “old” white men and noble “Native Americans” took place on the shores of Waving Pond.

babyNot so much a battle as a rout, it is said — the “Native Americans” fared badly — and that those Indians hightailed it out of there so fast that a baby was left behind hanging from a tree limb.

According to the story, the baby was adopted and raised by a loving, white family to be a good Christian who ate at a pine table with forks and knives and napkins and good manners.

And that is the story.

* * * *

WATER AND CYPRESS

The pond is about two acres, which is to say very large, a lake, actually. You cannot see from one end to the other, but that’s due more to the proliferation of towering cypress trees than it is to sheer distance.

There was always a rowboat waiting there, pulled out of the water and tied with a rope, and two oars. I traveled many a day in that boat, looking over the rail into the murky water where lurked snakes, turtles and fish.

My mother swam there in the 1920s and 1930s, diving from a board nailed high on a cypress tree. But I never jumped into those dark waters.

You never knew what you could encounter.

I’m not sure anyone knew the pond’s source, the overgrowth and trees made it difficult to pinpoint one, but I did my best to find it. There were arms of water that would veer off at certain points, but you could only go so far in that rowboat before you were blocked by fallen limbs.

There were other places to walk on Granny’s farm, of course. Just going out into the pecan grove to scoop fallen nuts was good eating, and there was a third walk, also across the dirt road — but farther to the right — that would take you to huge fields of peanuts and cotton that had truck ruts through the middle that made for fine walking in summer’s sun.

* * * *

CAP BAITING A HOOK

But before leaving Wavering Pond, here’s the only photo I can find of it. I tossed so much when I left Houston, too much. This is Cap, who was Granny’s handyman for decades and all through my childhood.

He and his wife, Willie, our maid, lived in a mighty humble house provided by my grandparents just across the road and down a bit. He’s baiting a fishhook on the edge of Wavering Pond.

Cap loved whisky and never uttered a word more than necessary. He died when I was in my mid-20s. My father found him on the floor. I have no clue how old Cap was. Regrettably, we took him for granted.

Cap was the in-between generation, between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, between President Grant and President Johnson.

And he liked to fish in Wavering Pond.

cap