It is early Fall here and the tropical air mass has brought an unusual amount of rain. The ground is muddy, the air is humid and the low lying swamps have more standing water than usual. These inclement conditions are not putting a damper up on the start of huntin' season. I have seen more gun shops, taxidermists, meat packers, and sporting goods shops advertising great sales on deer paraphernalia than anyplace else I've been. Car dealership parking lots, adorned with large American flags, are filled with rows of pick up trucks that are ready to be purchased with no money down and e-z credit by burly looking outdoorsmen. Even the shape of the State of Florida looks like a pistol.
I have driven almost exclusively on rural highways. The original business district of most small towns has rotted away with few historic buildings gentrified. It has been replaced by one or two strip malls containing a generic gas station/"country" store and an assortment of pawn shops, gold and silver buyers, a Burger King, a beauty shop and, most important, the Dollar General. The surrounding land is either pine, cypress, or oak forested or plowed with crops of cotton, nuts or peaches. Interspersed among the scarcer brick or whitewashed-siding farm houses are countless single wide mobile homes, many in seriously shabby condition. It is confusing to me to grasp what goals and dreams their inhabitants have. Many of the residents are the people who attend the hundreds of oddly-named churches which line the road which push goofy divine messages from plastic reader boards. I doubt these people are ever reached by Eastern establishment pollsters who ask questions to develop data on the nation's opinion of U.S domestic or foreign policy. Even though many are certainly eligible for public assistance and fall well below the poverty line, some pay dearly the costly price of participating in the system at large. Every bridge I crossed has been renamed and memorialized for a local fallen youngster, who saw his ultimate way out and to "salvation" by joining the military.
After covering many miles, I arrived late in the afternoon in Athens, Georgia, the home of the University of Georgia and immediately began experiencing a different environment than I watched roll by me during the day. I found it pleasing and relaxing to see the stately antebellum buildings of the campus. I saw young people carrying books and heard them laugh. I saw billboards on telephone poles advertising dance troupes and theater productions. While I sought dinner last night in a local hangout, the waiter carried his Physics book along with my menu. These places produce people whose dreams I better understand. Tomorrow I leave for Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. I'm curious about what I will find.