SMITH COLUMN: Road scenes

Published 11:45 am Thursday, April 14, 2022

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This is an unincorporated settlement, which is little more than a long blast off the driver of a PGA professional golfer from Interstate 20 — a place that has a connection with sports history that is losing its gloss with the passing of time.

Before we get to the historical link, a note about how I came to take a brief respite in this Warren County community. 

Last week for the Masters golf tournament, I chose to commute to Augusta from Athens. Sleeping in one’s own bed never gets old. Getting to Augusta for years was taking the two-lane route of U. S. 78 through Crawford, Lexington, Rayle, Washington, connecting with I-20 East at Thomson and on to my destination.

Lots of pretty countryside, greenery, fields, farms and minimal roadside trash and repugnant billboards greet you along the way. Also, abundant pickup trucks which exacerbate traffic congestion when they turn left as they always seem to be doing. Then there forever seems to be that one log truck followed by a timid lady who is reluctant to stomp on the gas of her Chevy blazer, pass the crawl of the log truck and give backed up traffic a break with a chance to pass said log truck.

My preferred route is not without such traffic deterrent, but Georgia highway 15 south to Greensboro and Siloam is a much better choice — if you are going Augusta’s way. Much quicker, too. Pickup trucks abound and an 18-wheeler may frustrate, but once you meet up with I-20 at Siloam, which gets its name from the Old Testament’s Tunnel of Siloam which was used by Hezekiah in the defense of Jerusalem, the drive could not be more relaxed and satisfying.

You are now on a less traveled thoroughfare which starts near Kent, Texas and stretches some 1,535 miles east to Florence, S.C. I bet there is no more becoming stretch of I-20 that what you find from Siloam to the Washington Road exit near the Augusta National Golf Club.

As the exit markers come up, you are advised of several options. Near Crawfordville, you can exit and find the home of Andrew Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy. Further up the road there is the Harlem exit where you can explore a museum of Oliver and Hardy, stars of the silent movie era. Stan Laurel hailed from Lancashire, England and Oliver Hardy was a native of Harlem.

It is interesting how people meet and make an impact on society in some way. Then there is the exit advisory right out of Siloam for Sandersville but no reference to the fact that the seat of Washington County is the birthplace of Elijah Muhammed, the founder of the Nation of Islam. Same with Thomson not having a sign about native son, Jeff Knox, whose golf game is good enough for him to play in the Masters when a marker is needed when an uneven number of players makes the cut.  When that happens, Jeff is sometimes the last amateur standing in the tournament.

There is nothing signposted near Evans for Theron Sapp, the former Georgia fullback who broke his neck in high school but recovered to make All-SEC at Georgia and play nine years in the NFL. He has been remembered as the man who broke the drought when he scored the touchdown that ended an eight-year losing streak to Georgia Tech.

This brings us back to Barnett, the birthplace of a major league pitcher by the name of Jim Bagby Sr., who begat Jim Bagby Jr. The senior Bagby was born in Barnett and enjoyed a nine-year career in the Big Leagues. He was the first pitcher to hit a homerun in the modern World Series.

Jim Bagby, his son, would also make it to the majors and would enjoy the distinction of being the pitcher who ended Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. 

If you are a baseball fan, then you know about DiMaggio’s famous streak which came to an end at 56 consecutive games on July 17, 1941, in Cleveland. (By the way, Jim Bagby Jr.’s son, Charlie, was an outstanding basketball and baseball athlete at the University of Georgia.)   

On the collective drives to Augusta, there were the blooms of spring to enjoy, fallow fields which soon be seeded and turned into plants which will yield a harvest in the fall. Turkey hunting is good along this route and kids are playing baseball.   

Perhaps, one of them might be good enough to make it to the Big Leagues and enjoy “a day in the sun” just as it was in the past with the “Bagbys of Barnett.”