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May 18, 2015
When I was a boy, I spent most of my summers in the northwest corner of Georgia, among the hills and small mountains of Floyd County. It became, for me, a mythic region, I guess because it's natural for a boy to make his summertime adventures into mythic tales. My father's six sisters lived there, and they, their husbands, and children constituted a horde of relatives who gave me a sense of enveloping family more vivid than I think I ever experienced anywhere else. When I was with them, I felt that I was where I was supposed to be.
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My experiences, I suppose were, fairly common -- cracking open gigantic watermelons and devouring them in the fields, seining the creeks for fish that turned into the principal food for family feasts, picking cotton till my fingers bled, following the cows down a long pasture lane into deeper shade than I have known elsewhere, eating scuppernongs till I thought my stomach would burst, cramming myself in the morning with coarse cornbread from the biggest pone I've seen anywhere, sitting on the porch in cane-bottomed rockers, watching the sun go down. In a way it was all about as prosaic as anything could be. But that's not how the days presented themselves to me. Truth is, I thought they were quite magic.
Last week we spent five days at the old farmhouse that used to belong to my cousin's grandparents. She owns it now, and keeps it as a kind of rural retreat, spiffed up more than it ever was when it was the center a functioning farm. And she is gracious enough to let us know we can go there and stay whenever we want. I'm grateful for the opportunity. When I take my book on the porch in the morning, with a cup of coffee, and try to concentrate on the text, I find my present self being taken over, and I become, at least for flashing moments, the child I was when Floyd County seemed bigger than the whole world.
I've gone back there often over the years, and as I have the corroding power of adulthood has convinced my rational mind that there's nothing stupendous about Floyd Country. It's just another stretch of rural America, with cultural features that aren't perfectly admirable. Even so, my rational mind can't really stand up against the myth. It shines in a way rationality never can.