SMITH COLUMN: Enjoying the rural life

Published 11:30 am Thursday, June 24, 2021

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This agribusiness community is about as laid back as one could experience.  Taking U. S. Highway 82 in the direction of Cuthbert from Albany, you ride through fields of corn and grain, all accompanied by giant irrigation rigs.

Already the corn is refreshingly green and has reached heights of six feet and more. With the advent of irrigation, farmers, for the most part, no longer have to worry about a harvest. Nonetheless, as one long-time farmer noted, “It is still hard to make a living farming.” There will always be fat and lean years. Oft times when production is up, markets are down.  One rambunctious hailstorm can wipe out a crop in 15 minutes and ruin a farmer’s year — to say nothing of his banker’s.

Cotton fields appear promising on the roads I traveled on a recent journey.  Cotton no longer has to be chopped. That feature to cotton production has been eliminated but it also brought about the end of “hoedowns.” You have to date back to remember that at the end of cotton chopping season, farm families often gathered at a neighbor’s barn. Somebody brought a fiddle and the community constituency danced the night away — with a few sips of the best moonshine in the county.

Soon it will be laying by time. Then, the harvest will follow. There is no more worrying about the boll weevil. That dastardly insect has been virtually eradicated. The “goodest” news is that nobody has to pick cotton anymore, thanks to technology, which has brought about the mechanical cotton picker.

Flags fly from many farm houses — the Stars and Stripes along with Georgia Bulldog flags. Garden plots, with an assortment of vegetables, are maturing with anticipation. Soon there will be field peas, butterbeans and roasting ears set before families for the noon and evening meals which traditionally have been known as dinner (noontime) and supper.   

For every sedan — from Fords and Chevrolets to a Lexus here and there — you see a pickup truck. Some ferrying heavy loads, some taking a family on a sojourn to some place.  Some with children, scrubbed and neat, smiling and curious about the passing traffic.

Modest white churches abound throughout the countryside. Parking lots are empty and so are many pews on Sunday which makes it difficult to afford a minister.

Nonetheless, they keep the faith and soldier on. As generations before them, rural folk still are adept at making do. They are resourceful and imaginative. 

Their forebears didn’t take kindly to a fox lurking around the henhouse.  It is the same today with coyotes.The solution for this unwanted intrusion is the same: fil the varmint’s carcass with buckshot and turn him over to the vultures.

The same contempt is reserved for rattlesnakes. Even if this dastardly serpent is endangered, he best not slither into view. Rattlesnakes are not highly regarded in these parts.

As I watched people come and go, I was struck by the modesty and humility that is reflected in their lifestyle. They represent the “salt of the earth” contingency.

They have the same contempt for debt that they have for rattlesnakes.

They never partake of a meal without pausing to say a blessing. They earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow.

It was from folk like this that the Greatest Generation evolved, bringing pause to your day and engenders this enduring question. If there is need for a next Greatest Generation, will we be up for it?