SMITH COLUMN: Stetson Bennett’s hometown

Published 9:30 am Thursday, December 22, 2022

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HOBOKEN – Georgia Highway 15 passes uneventfully through this crossroads junction which is eleven miles east of Blackshear which may change its name to Bennettville, any day now, in honor of UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett.

I have made a stop here, on the way to Blackshear, because I heard that Hoboken is the “Sacred Harp Capital of the World.” For years I have passed through this junction on the way to Florida and have never paid it any attention. It was just another intersection in a pulp wooding and agribusiness community.

Back in the spring, I had lunch with Stetson at the local Circle K station which is also a restaurant and convenience store. I had stopped here in the past but only for a Coke and a pack of Lance’s peanut butter crackers.

Stetson drove me here in his dusty pickup truck which allowed for a conversation about his life growing up in Blackshear and playing sports on the back lot of his family’s pharmacy in Nahunta.

I have always been addicted to small towns across the country. While there are countless locales throughout Georgia, with which I am familiar, there are many throughout the country which are similarly fascinating and remind one that the simple life may be the best one of all.  It is a “live and let live,” way of life where extravagance is not available. Not even desired by the local constituency.

The Internet suggests that Hoboken may have gotten its name from Hoboken, New Jersey. Why would a town in South Georgia choose the hometown of Frank Sinatra with which to identify itself? 

Hoboken is the sacred harp capital of the world. (Wonder if Stetson is aware of that?”) Singing acapella dates back 150 years and has attracted network television. Four miles out of Hoboken in Twin Parks, two bluegrass conventions are held each year where blue grass aficionados from all over gather in their RV’s and pop-ups to swoon to bluegrass music. Looks like everybody in Hoboken has the urge to sing something or other.

When I arrived in Blackshear for a book signing at “Christi’s Downsouth Living,” the whole town was abuzz with patronizing offerings regarding their hometown hero, the aforementioned Setson IV. “We just love that boy.”

“Is that not the greatest story ever?” And “He has shore put our little ole town on the map.” Ruminations in a vernacular with a local flavor that emanate from down-home folk who are button popping proud for what Stetson has brought about for his hometown. On a table, there was a sign with a poignant message that is commonplace in this part of the world. “Wash your hands and say your prayers. Jesus and germs are everywhere.”

A book about Stetson’s serendipitous success will make it into print down the road, and if he can lead his team to two more victories, surely someone with a Hollywood connection will come calling. Might happen anyway. After all, he will soon wear two of the important rings a Georgia boy could possess — a national championship ring from 2021 and another for winning the recent SEC championship.

Everybody loves a winner. That the Stetson Bennett story is playing out as it is over the state but especially in Deep South Georgia will warm your heart even if you hang your hat a half day or more away.

Blackshear is the home of the Pearce County Bears, and the local citizenry has a downtown statue of a Bear, which Stetson once was, dressed in Stetson’s white No. 13, Georgia jersey. All throughout the towns and counties in this state, you will find Georgia’s logo. Blackshear is proud of the Bulldogs, Stetson, and his heritage as a Pearce County Bear.

Local pride is special when it comes to small towns. 

They like it when one of their own achieves headlines such as Stetson has done. It is a point of pride that he can be seen on SportsCenter but when he comes home, he hangs out in places like the Circle K station in Hoboken. He might even stop in Christie/s Downsouth Living and shop with Christi Pitts, the proprietor. After all, he is that type.