Each week, I try to bring some idea to give folks at home an idea of the challenges and rewards of being a Bulldog in Exile. I’ve written about BBQ, football, other sports, my travels, and whatever generally strikes me midweek. A few weeks back, I wrote a guest column for my home county’s newspaper, The Blackshear Times. It was a general retrospective, but after hearing from people that live here, who happened to read it, I decided to put it in the blog.
In it’s entirety, with thanks to Robert Williams:
Where are you from?
Where are you from?
Think about that question: Where are you from?
For the 20-plus years since I last lived full-time in the Otter Creek community, I have always answered “Pierce County,” usually having to add “Georgia” after getting puzzled looks. It usually isn’t the last time I get funny looks from people if they are around me longer than four minutes; my personality usually ensures that.
People’s personalities are a sum of their experiences. While I have had the opportunity to travel much as well as live in three very different places since I last lived in Otter Creek, the most lasting memories and impactful experiences are still those from Pierce County. In essence, I am an amalgam of the people and events of Pierce County from the last quarter of the twentieth century. That is something I am very proud of and something everyone else who is from here can be proud of.
It’s been 23 years since I pulled out of the parking lot of the Oak Plaza, where I had breakfast with my mom the morning I left for Athens and college. To this day, I remember the thoughts and feelings I had about leaving. I also took great comfort in knowing the place I call home had prepared me for the few successes and many failures I would encounter along the way. So much of what I am today has its roots in things and people from Pierce County from before and after I left home.
I like to tell people I am an ambassador of all things Southern in the Midwest, where I currently reside. In fact, I am really an ambassador of all things Pierce County.
I believe BBQ is a noun, not a verb. BBQ is pork and nothing else, and it should be served with mustardy sauce on the side, so folks can put as much or as little as they like on it. I believe Friday should be exclusively reserved for high school football. Saturday is for Georgia football (if you like Tech, I guess that is acceptable if you went to college there). Weekly papers should come out on Tuesday or Wednesday. At least one restaurant in town, no matter the size of your town, should have a lunch buffet with fried chicken. Prom should be held at your high school, and the juniors should be responsible for decorating. If you have a real party, you either have it at the river or the golf course. Fishing should be done in a river to count as sport. Peanuts are boiled and never with anything but salt.
On a broader scale, we are ambassadors of our experiences here. We are the product of tobacco picking, stacking hay, football camp, band practice, forestry competition in Broadhurst, three-hour bus rides to “away” games, cruising from Hardees to the old high school and back, newspaper sales drives to win a bicycle, the swimming hole, Fernandina, Sunday afternoon movies, Vacation Bible School, picking peppers, car washes, livestock judging, swimming on Thursday night in Patterson, one act plays, Forest/Pecan/Fall Festival, friends dying from cancer and car wrecks and other senseless things, the Big Z market, July 4th in Patterson, first kisses in Wall’s parking lot, scouting cotton, school consolidation, the Timber Bowl, golf, walking to the rec department to play pickup games and countless other things.
However, my story isn’t unique. There are literally thousands of us that no longer live in Pierce County and still proudly call it home. That in itself is a remarkable testament.
Even if people ask where I live after hearing my accent, I will ask if they mean ‘where am I from?’
I am always proud to say “Pierce County,” even if it gets me funny looks.