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Story of the coming death of a small town in SouthWest Geargia.
[1,227 words]
Writing Resource
Mark A Stuart
43 year old former Naval officer and professional manager that grew up in Southwest Georgia and believes that others may find interest in the lifestyle and events of small towns. I am a father of two beautiful girls that has been married to a wonderful woman for 18 years who has encouraged me to follow my desires and write.
[November 2004]
[email protected]
Bad Habits (Short Stories) Sometimes old habits aren't useful in new places. [710 words]
Charity (Short Stories) Lessons of about human kindness and the shortage thereof. [3,818 words]
Comparisons (Short Stories) Being thankful for the things that you don't have. [1,020 words]
Driving Miss Rachel (Short Stories) Some advice on dealing with new drivers in your household. [719 words]
First Love (Novels) Story of a young boy's first foray into the world of the opposite sex. [4,987 words]
Flight School (Short Stories) Story about a young boy's refusal to accept conventional wisdom. [1,733 words]
Gone Already (Short Stories) COnfusion can arise out of good intentions. [2,452 words]
Grass Fields (Short Stories) Learning lessons the hard way. [3,276 words]
Snakes (Short Stories) Teenage foolishness involving reptiles, drunks, and firearms. [3,107 words]
The Abduction Of Sammy Lee (Short Stories) Tale of a kidnapping in a small SouthWest Georgia town. [6,320 words]
Mark A Stuart


     I talked with my Mom on the phone the other
night. I don’t call nearly as often as I should
and am a rotten son as a result. We talked about
how everyone was; how my Dad’s diabetes was
progressing, what was the latest news with all
of my relatives, how the weather had been lately,
and how the girls were doing in school. Normal
stuff when talking to your Mom. We have never had
the kind of relation that would allow us to delve
into deeper or darker subjects and that has always
been fine by me. I may be a rotten son, but I
have never felt it fair or even desirable to
unload all of my crap on Mom in some sort of
enematic purging of my soul. She has her own
crosses to bear and doesn’t need any of my issues
to adopt as a foster problem.
     As always, the latter part of our call was
devoted to the names of all the people that had
been buried since we last talked. I have come to
expect this and if I needed any reason not to call
more often, this would be a ready- made excuse.
There is always someone that has passed. Most of
the time, given the small population of the town
that I grew up in, I knew the person(s) that were
most recently added to the list. I listen in
silence as Mom goes down the roll call of the most
recently deceased. She always gives me a full
accounting of the service: who was in attendance,
what distant relatives had managed to make it for
the funeral, who delivered the eulogy, how many
flowers were in the church, and usually what the
women of her church circle had prepared for the
family in the way of food. I sometimes wonder
when this ritual will come to an end. How many
people that I grew up with are left to die?
I don’t think that it will be much longer.
     My home town has been in the process of dying
since I first moved there as a twelve year old;
pissed at the world for being up-rooted and
transplanted to the Godforsaken land that I
thought Southwest Georgia to be. It was never a
large town, perhaps 1100 hardy souls at its peak,
and has been getting smaller annually as
continuing generations of young people decide that
they do not want to make a life in the midst of
the gnats, pig farms, peanuts, and little else. I
can hardly blame them. I made the same decision
and left on the first train available when I was
seventeen. The fact that the five years I spent
living there now seems like a lifetime says much
about the place.
     I can still feel the summer heat – the kind
that would hit you as soon as you stepped from any
air conditioned space and threaten to knock you
down –and remember the taste of dust and the smell
of sweat that permeated all living things.
I believe that even the trees sweated in July and
     Farming was then, and remains now, the major
form of whittling a living from this place.
Everyone was involved in this life style to some
extent. Even my parents who were teachers. If
you were not farming yourself, then all of your
friends’ families were and there was no one that
I knew that hadn’t helped bring in a corn crop or
take a load of pigs to the stock yard or that
couldn’t drive a tractor. It was what the land
offered for the community.
     Plants springing from the ground each spring
knew their time was limited in the areas around my
town. Young shoots of corn would rip through the
crusty earth and then take a look around as if
deciding if the next few months were worth the
effort. Even the big Oaks each spring would bud
out, already aware that this was just a temporary
thing and they would spend the rest of the summer
plaintively urging fall to come so that they could
go back to sleep.
     Those lost souls that farmed would work
countless hours during the growing season. Up
before the sun, their days were long and hot as
they coaxed a living out of the earth. There was
never a shortage of things that had to be
accomplished and they always found themselves
behind. Spraying, tilling, irrigating, mending
fences, fertilizing, and feeding were everyday
occurrences that threatened ruin if not completed.
     These people too looked forward to the
harvest and the shorter days of autumn and winter
so that they could recuperate and build up the
reserves of energy that would again be required
next year. I still marvel that any of these men
lived past forty five. I would see them sapped,
a little more each year, of the vitality that had
characterized them when I had first met them.
Like the surf endlessly pounding the rocks along a
shore, this occupation drained them over time,
wearing them down bit by bit, before permanently
changing the landscape of the coast line. One day
you just noticed the rocks were gone, and then
there would be another service to attend.
     I escaped and have chosen another life to
wear me down and to shape my jagged edges. All of
my brothers, save one, made the same decision, so
now there are three less potential families to
endure the miserable summers and carry on the
traditions and pass along the hard-earned lessons
of this band of simple folk. I have not in my
travels to date met another person that can
readily grub for worms, or knows how to make cane
syrup, or too many that have ever castrated a hog.
 This may not be important, but somehow it does
seem wrong that this lore will be lost to our
world sooner rather than later, as my town and
many others like it continue to die on the vine. It makes me wonder if those left, like the young corn plant, get up each day and ask why they bother to carry on. It is increasingly apparent that in the future most of them won’t.
The awe that is inspired by witnessing the growth
of things that will feed others and the nurturing
that is required to see the effort through will
be lost on coming generations I think. In my
mind I see the whole enterprise reduced to some
antiseptic, laboratory-like process in which no
one will ever stop and see it for the miracle
that it is. And no one will appreciate it for
this either. All food will come from cans, or
freezer bags, or from the magic factory where
steaks are made along side charcoal and lighter
fluid. It will be a sad day; one that will be
come and gone before most people knew or cared
that it was ever approaching.
     The day that the roll call ritual ends will
most likely be the day that someone calls to tell
me that my Mom has died too. I despise this
person in advance more than they will ever be
able to comprehend. It is not fair but it is the
way that it is. The dreaded call will not only
mean the end of my Mother’s life, but will also
let me know that the town I grew up in, and
sweated in, and played in, and worked in, and
went fishing in, and grew up in – and finally
abandoned – has at long last been officially
     I don’t know what I will do.



"I am trying to see how you receive feedback on this thing" -- Mark Stuart.


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© 2004 Mark A Stuart
November 2004

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