Recently, a fellow was commenting on one of my columns and he said to me,
"We must have gone to different schools together."
It took just a few seconds for that to register. I said, "Yes, that's
quite possible. And I had a car just like yours except mine was a green
Chevy with fender skirts, and it was a four-door."
And in essence, that's a remark I hear quite often. People like to share
similar experiences. No one specifically had to own a '57 Chevy to know
what it was about. That vehicle was as much about a time and place in
history as it was about General Motors. And a person could have been in
Tyler, Texas, and another in Ludowici, Ga., in regard to that time and
place and felt some bond or kinship, although their paths had never
crossed except cosmically.
As well, no one ever had to actually reach under a creek bank and pull
out a catfish to understand the joy of country boys sitting around a
lightered knot fire telling lies about their Saturday night dates, all
the while a chorus of bullfrogs could just as well have been laughing at
us as opposed to singing to us.
Recounting and comparing our younger years might even be something that
I recently had a 90-year-old call me and say that she must have grown up
just like I did -- only a half century apart. I suppose hitching up mules
to a tobacco sled doesn't change that much over 50 years. The mules
change, of course, but not so much the event.
Several years back, I read a book by Ferol Sams, of Fayette County, Ga.
It was a best seller titled "Run With the Horsemen." It recounted his
early days living on a farm in the shadow of Atlanta. And although there
are many years difference in our ages, all through that book I became
"the boy" he wrote about.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sams and in our conversation, I asked
why he waited so late in his career to write a book. He said he had
planned to write earlier and one day he decided to go ahead and do it
while his secretary could still read his typing.
Also a few years back, Jim Minter, the former editor of The Atlanta
Constitution, wrote a review of my book "From My Back Porch." And in his
very kind comments he said it was remarkable that though we came from
different parts of the state and although he, too, was significantly my
senior, that our life experiences were quite similar.
Now sometimes we hear people say that those earlier times were the "good
old days." I think that's relative. The past is a nice place to visit,
figuratively speaking, but we can't live there. And while I look back
fondly on the family sitting around a glowing wood-burning heater and
discussing the new preacher or the impracticality of bomb shelters, I do
not miss getting up at daybreak and stoking up the embers in that old
And while I still get a laugh out of the sight of my cousin charging out
of the outhouse when the oak snake dropped down from the rafters, I
would not want to go back and count the odds of the same thing happening
to me. Nostalgia has its place.
In that regard, hearing from readers is as much therapy for me as the
writing. I find considerable comfort in discovering that more things
bind us than separate us -- that the kooks and the fanatics who would
steer our planet into another orbit are not in control but are only loud
and obnoxious. Many of us have shared similar thoughts whether we are
young, old or somewhere in between. Whether it was a '57 Chevy or a '59
DeSoto with push-button transmission controls mounted in the dashboard,
Hank Williams sounded the same on their radios, giving me the idea that
stuff that is good will find its way to us.
And I suppose that we still ponder many of the same questions that we did
then and that someone else did before us.
Although in parting, I'll offer you one that I would bet has never
crossed your mind: Which came first, hospitals or Jello?
(Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545.
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