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Tag: rural living

I’m Home

The darnedest thing happened to me recently and I have just now sat down to make sense of it all. We moved. OK, now I have done this before—over 30 times in fact as an adult. This time, though, is different. After 4 years in Crawford we sold and then bought a house in Stephens. Actually, not in Stephens, but 2 miles out a dirt road between Maxeys and Stephens!

This city girl is now on a well, septic tank, no governmental trash pickup and no visible close neighbors. My husband thinks he’s in heaven with 2 acres in this quiet spot. I was just glad to start my next remodeling project in this 100-year-old folk Victorian farm house.

He made me promise that, barring some dramatic change in our lives, we would stay here. ACK! Our last two homes, one for 5 years and one for 4 years, were both aberrations for me–the former military dependent, the world traveler. And now we are going to stay here?

We started moving on Saturday–you know, the day before the ice storm. We moved on Saturday with the sleet, Sunday in the ice and Monday during the snow, and it went downhill from there. No power on Sunday, no candles or flashlights (packed somewhere), no heat, no water (oh, for city life!).

In my distress and discomfort, I insisted on a motel for Sunday night. Well, we and the three dogs stayed in a fine establishment in Athens that accepts pets (no, I didn’t volunteer how many pets we had). I could overlook the cigarette burns on the tub, the worn carpet and threadbare sheets, and even no towels (the motel hadn’t washed due to no power that day). It was warm!

The next day we met the Rayle Electric crews on our way home and made sure they knew where we lived. Everyone else had power back that we could see but not us. By 2 p.m. we had power. That night I sat in my recliner underneath the afghan trying to stay warm (the heat doesn’t work right). I was reading a bit when suddenly I heard a noise. I looked up to see sparks arcing from the water heater. I duly noted its death.

During the 2 weeks that followed we continued this streak of bad luck through various mishaps and problems. Now my shoulder is inflamed and I can’t do any of the work I moved here to do. By last Thursday I was depressed and frustrated and regretting ever moving.

And then it happened. That darnedest thing. I suddenly had a feeling that I had come home. Not only did I not have to go anywhere, but, yes, we are here to stay! I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just realized it today—following a Saturday morning at the Commercial Bank. I talked with the president, Bill Cabiniss, (my friend!—I remember telling him 4 years ago that I wanted a personal relationship with my bank.) I spoke to Gradine and other bank employees; I was hailed by a coworker from Greater Georgia Printers; I ran into Donna Meyer Disque who bought my house in Crawford; and as Bill suggested, spoke with the ladies from the women’s club as I was leaving.

After I got home, I began thinking about Ralph Maxwell’s invitation to write for the paper, about how folks were getting to know me and about how they would be getting to know me as a writer. I began thinking about Rachel’s column and what I would like to write about…and here it is.

I’m home, Oglethorpe County.

LOST!

I can’t believe I got lost! I have one handy talent that my husband doesn’t have. I always know where I am in relation to the world. This came in real handy during all my travels and during those years of newspaper delivery. Poor old Tommy is “spatially challenged”—he gets lost inside buildings just by turning a corner.

So he’s delighted that I have missed our street three times recently in the darkness. Now this kind of thing just doesn’t happen to me so I have had to dig deep into memory and knowledge base to figure out why in the world do I frequently have flashes of “where am I?” while driving home.

This is my third residence outside of Athens: commuting isn’t anything new to me. I well remember the long drive to Carlton—so well, in fact, that I could (and probably have) driven it in my sleep. I certainly had no trouble getting home while I lived in Crawford.

Out here we even have a security light marking the location of the Alltel substation shortly before our road. Tommy says he has no trouble finding our road because of that and what’s wrong with me.

I guess my zoned-out auto pilot is at fault. I’ve spent enough hours on the road that I automatically fall into a suspension trance—”I’ll be home soon, soon, soon…”. Leaving Athens I don’t have to be aware of where I am at all times—a quick glance can establish my location without any problem. I traveled the roads to Carlton and Crawford daily for years, but I haven’t done as much traveling out here.

The first time I missed my turn out here, I felt dumb. It was so unlike me that I figured it would never happen again. I did, however, find myself emerging from my trance abruptly during my ride home and anxiously reading the street signs. All of these intersections look the same in the dark; the only distinguishing trait is the street sign. I decided I just needed to be more vigilant for a while and it would fall into place. I would soon be automatically be turning into our lane, sleep-driving as usual.

Soon after that some inept or hostile driver knocked our street sign askew and a few days later an unknown party lifted the street sign. There was no reflective marker there and no lights at all. I missed the turn again.

I decided I needed assistance just like on a paper route. I would purchase some type of reflective marker and stick it on the side of the stop sign. I bought 2 rectangular markers placing them in the shape of an ‘L’ (get it? Lunsford, Lower Wirebridge Rd). This worked ok until last week someone ripped them off the sign. I missed my turn again.

Now I don’t know who took them off. Why, I can even suspect my gloating husband or a vicious vandal who hates me, but I realize the truth may be that county employees may have removed the unauthorized additions to the stop sign.

It was at this point that I decided I had to know the dynamics of this “lost” phenomenon. It just isn’t something I’m accustomed to though Tommy has described his thoughts and actions to me many times. After much reflection, I finally decided my new country lifestyle had struck again. For the first time in my life I no longer live just in the city limits of a town. There is no sign, no stores, no obvious residences, no street lights, no city out here. There’s just land, trees and an occasional Alltel substation…and me, lost in the countryside.

I decided to bring in the big guns: I placed a call to Robert Johnson at the commissioners’ office this morning. I don’t know if he or the roads department is even aware our street sign is gone. (I mean, after all, we are the last ones to get our electricity restored—we now make sure we touch base with Rayle EMC whenever the power goes out.) I expect it will probably take a certain space of time to get a replacement sign.

I guess I need to quit teasing my husband so unmercifully about his “disability”. I guess sleep driving isn’t such a good idea. Maybe I’ll get used to this type of home drive and then maybe not. Maybe I’ll buy some more reflectors like those stick-in-the-ground things. Maybe not.

Oh, dear, I guess I’ve just given my new (and old) friends another reason to tease me! Please, folks, take pity on me. I have been humbled. Be kind

Dirt Roads

I’m a pretty typical transplant to Oglethorpe County; in fact, I thought at the time nearly five years ago that I was part of a coming thing out here. Now I’m sure I’m right about that. We didn’t just choose Oglethorpe County as our dream home; we were driven out of Clarke County and ended up here. Oglethorpe County is starting to grow—due to people like my husband and myself who are seeking more favorable habitation.

We came here to get away from the communication towers and crime in our Athens neighborhood. My biggest worry then and now was the lack of definitive zoning out here. I was terrified someone was going to build a convenience store across the street from us in Crawford or put up one of those towers I had escaped from.

Now my most immediate worry is my dirt road.

We moved out of Crawford to this quiet spot in the countryside to get away from the noise of the “city”. I knew that someone would come along eventually and decide to pave our road and I was afraid it would be sooner than later. Three months later representatives of the Oconee Baptist Church are requesting “improvements” to our road.

Our first couple of weeks out here post ice storm were treacherous. The continual freezing and thawing kept the road in a nasty condition. Since then we have been amazed at how well the road has been maintained. We also have had three tires repairs in these three months.

BUT…we don’t want the road paved. I’ve spoken with a few other neighbors near me and further out the road and not one has said they want the road paved now. I’m sorry that the church goers feel this road presents them with a “hardship”. This road is well maintained (even better than we expected) and is rarely a problem. I live here. I know.

This lesser problem of road paving is a symptom, however, of what is already happening here. Growth. Oconee County is no longer the idyllic, close to the city, almost rural haven it was ten years ago when we actually considered moving there. Now it’s getting crowded; land prices and taxes are rising; schools are bursting at the scenes. This growth has reached a stage that presents their residents with new problems that sound like the old ones they moved away from before. Now they are leaving Oconee and heading here.

Jackson County and Barrow County are seeing the same thing with the sprawling Atlanta growth. Folks have only one way to go and, friends, it is our direction.

Barbara Cabiniss recently told me that the school system has 30 new students monthly. The traffic in Crawford has reached difficult proportions. A bypass is being planned that may change the face of Oglethorpe County forever.

I originally moved to Athens in 1968. I have had the opportunity to watch the growth over the last 30 years. I have had the opportunity to personally experience the problems that growth and the lack of planning for that growth have brought. In the end, that is exactly why I live in Oglethorpe County. That is exactly why Oglethorpe County is growing.

You can’t stop the growth; you can’t stop “progress”. I am strongly aware that someday someone will pave my dirt road.

BUT…hear me—it’s now time to lay plans, study what has been done wrong in other places, make decisions about how this growth is going to be managed.

I know that zoning is being worked on here. This is a crucial step to controlling our lifestyle. Fortunately, we don’t have to do this from scratch. For example, Gwen O’Looney told me after the tower fiasco in Athens that they would be glad to share their rewritten tower ordinance. If you haven’t lived in the shadow of one or two or, in our case, three of those towers, you cannot imagine what it’s like. Let’s be sure to look at this carefully.

Growth brings solutions to problems as well as problems. Let’s concentrate on improving services such as our fire departments. This affects everyone’s pocketbook as well as safety. Please lower my insurance costs and help me to feel safer in my 100 year old home.

Let’s upgrade our sheriff’s department. Increase my taxes and pay the officers better and hire more officers. Go ahead, Crawford, start a city police department. If it can pay for itself and make the streets safer up there, I’m all for it.

We have to build more schools. Let’s lay good plans for that now. Let’s start building before our kids are attending schools in those trailer classrooms. Let’s not wait ‘til the buildings are busting out at the seams.

Let’s start planning for growth in our city water systems, our city roads, city water treatment systems. These will cost money.

All this growth will cost money. We have to make financial decisions about the future and paving roads is part of that. Robert Johnson says we got less LARP (Local Assess Road Program) funds this years. We can’t pave as much in the county as before.

Let’s look at priorities. On my want list, paving roads is at the bottom and then paving county roads outside city limits is lower than that. The county has to decide where to rank the roads. At $200,000 per mile, paving dirt roads just doesn’t seem important.

Please let’s not let the coming growth ruin the very reasons for that growth. Please, let me and many of our new neighbors stay here for a long time and enjoy what Oglethorpe County offers now. That happens to include our dirt road.