A Museum Donation

Sunday, November 18, 2007 -- A. H. Stephens State Historic Park

It's hard for me to believe that Thanksgiving Day is next week and that at the end of this month we'll have been on our sabbatical for 5 months... and 5 months is almost a half year. How fast time passes!

On Friday, we drove around the area to some surrounding towns. Dar read that there are some good examples of antebellum homes and buildings scattered about, so off we went. Along the way we stopped, based on a recommendation from a local, at Holcomb BBQ for lunch. This place is open for lunch on Friday and Saturday only -- a common thing among barbecue places here in the rural south. Throughout the south, barbecue is a primary staple food and local people have strong feelings about what they consider their favorite. I get the feeling that fist-fights break out when people disagree on the subject.

Based on what I've observed, one pre-requisite for a good BBQ place is a broken-down building with a dirt parking lot. Holcomb's met that criteria. Inside, a couple thick inches of what they call sawdust -- course sawdust or wood-shavings, like from a sawmill -- covered every square inch of the floor, which apparently makes cleaning the floor unnecessary most of the time. The building was narrow with two long continuous rows of tables with benches, and a long aisle down the middle. We ordered chopped pork, what they consider their best style, and a small bowl of Brunswick stew, a spicy southern specialty made with chicken (or small game) and corn and tomatoes and lima beans and okra and onions and potatoes and whatever else they have laying around. It was all good, very good, but I'm not to the point where I'm gonna fight with someone defending my favorite food yet.

After lunch we toured around Sparta, GA., checking out the old homes and buildings from before the Civil War. My observations and thoughts about the condition of small towns around this part of Georgia will be the subject of a separate post in the next few days. But, in general, I finding these towns to be lacking energy and pride. The few I've seen are really rather depressing. But more on that later.

Friday night Dar called Bill and Nancy, our next door neighbors when we stayed at Camp Soldner in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in late August. They spend summers in the UP and winters at their home near Athens, GA. We met them for breakfast on Saturday morning and had a great time catching up and planning new adventures for next summer.

We then made it to the A. H. Stephens home and museum which is in the same park we're camped in. Alexander Hamilton Stephens was a native of Crawfordville, GA., and lived here for most of his life. He was an intelligent, but frail and sickly man who never weighed more than 100 lbs. during his 71 year life. He was a lawyer and spent time in the Georgia Legislature, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Senate, was Vice President of the Confederacy, and, near the end of his life, was the Governor of Georgia. He had a reputation for being a champion of the underprivileged, for thoughtful deliberation and clear thinking, and for good judgment. He never married (an example of his good judgment?), is not known to have fathered children, but had other family members living with him for most of his adult years.

I get a real kick out of learning about notable people who've shaped our history. Our tour interpreter has lived in the area for all her life and could add bits of background that added to our overall understanding. Stephens had a lifelong good friend by the name of Robert Toombs who lived in another nearby Georgia town. Toombs was also a lawyer, like Stephens, and they practiced law together in the Eastern Georgia Circuit. Stephens had a bedroom set aside in his house for Toombs whenever he was in town. In that room, during our tour, we found a decanter and two glasses on a small table surrounded by two comfortable chairs. Toombs, our interpreter said, was a bourbon drinker... probably to excess. She also added that during a recent renovation of the room, someone emptied old Toombs' decanter of the liquor it held. We and the interpreter chuckled about this, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it I had volunteered to re-fill old Toombs' decanter with a little of his favorite brand -- Jack Daniels. So, a little later in the day, Dar and I returned with our personal donation to the Stephens' Museum, and with some ceremony, added to the authenticity of the exhibit.

The day ended with hotdogs over a campfire. It was warmer than the previous few nights so the perfect night for a fire. We mused a little about Thanksgiving -- we still don't know where we'll be for sure. We do know we won't be with family and that's the downside of what we're doing this year. But wherever we are we'll make the best of it.



Slightly Better than Most