I felt like I had been whisked back to a much simpler, less harried way of life. As I settled into this different way of life I began to discover how much real rural country there was to explore. There was an abundance of abandoned farmhouses for me to photograph. You literally could not go 5 – 10 miles without seeing an abandoned farmstead. My dog, Remy, and I started driving around to small towns and down back roads to see what we could find.
OMG! I’ve been tramping around all these abandoned houses in low rise hiking shoes! Needless to say this knowledge has cut into my exploring a little. I started looking for snake chaps right away. I also realized that I couldn’t go out alone anymore, because if I did perhaps get bitten, I would be so far away from any help that I could die. Now that’s a sobering thought.
Every time I talked with one of my photography friends I would tell them about my adventures. I was sure they thought I was exaggerating because coming from the Charlotte area, you just can’t imagine there would be so much to explore. Finally, my friend, Maxine Gordon, decided tocome down and spend a week with us and ride the roads with me. Max is a great navigator and has a secret weapon called the Gazetteer Map. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a Gazetteer for Georgia.
We made do with a county map and started on US 1 in Augusta and going through Wrens, Louisville, Bartow, Wrightsville and finally Dublin. All these small towns were very interesting, especially Bartow, which is abandoned. We found what appeared to be a huge old general store, and we visited a Revolutionary War Graveyard.
The next day we drove to Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia during the Civil War. Along the way Max foundlots of potential roads for us to explore. She taught me that the names of the roads often held clues to what we might find. Road names with ‘Mill’ in them often led to an old mill. We also stopped in Gordon, McIntyre and Irwinton.
During our back road journey we got lost on a long dirt road. Off in the distance, on another dirt road, we saw a tractor and driver. We drove down to meet them and get some directions. As we got closer, we realized it was a tiny, little woman on a big, older model Ford tractor. Max and I looked at each other…OMG this was the icing on the cake! There she was in a dress with boots, and not one, but two sun bonnets and cheeks so rosy that it appeared she had just been told something very scandalous and was in full blush.
She was smiling and I said “Hi” and I just couldn’t help telling her how beautiful she was. She really blushed and her smile got even bigger. I asked if I could take her photo, and she looked so shy and said, “Well, I guess.” I snapped away afraid the moment would be lost.
As I sit here writing this now, I wish I had gotten out of the jeep and really taken some more thoughtful photos. Anyway, we asked for directions, and she gave them, and off we went. I look back now and a thousand questions come to mind; how did she get up on that huge tractor, did she livealone so far removed from any town, did she farm, where was she going, what was her life like? I would give anything to sit down and talk with her.
For me, I will never forget the tiny woman on the big Ford tractor with the double sun bonnets, rosy cheeks and huge smile because if nothing else, she will remind me to slow down and seize the moment, because more than likely there is a story right in front of you!