First, some disclosure. When Pembroke City Administrator Alex Floyd and I first talked about a column, I thought Floyd had volunteered to write my Pembroke Mafia Football League Editor’s notes, as this thing has morphed itself into during the offseason.
Seriously. It started last week with his allegedly finding humor in my written observation that Pembroke Mafia Football League founder B.J. Clark had twice voted for President Obama, a claim which, though made as a joke, may have opened me up to legal proceedings from Clark.
Floyd: "He almost had me fooled with his gunny haircut and Don’t Tread On Me t-shirts."
Me: "You should write my column, it would be an improvement. I think we’ll do it next week."
Floyd: "Deal, let’s do it."
Well, we did, only he didn’t, as you can see from his column that posted earlier.
Note: Newspaper folks like me are occasionally about as thick as several thick planks stacked on top of one another.
That said, Floyd makes some good points on things happening in Pembroke, a place I have always been fond of since the first time I drove through there in the late 1980s looking for Georgia Southern.
I am also fond that Pembroke hasn’t changed much over the decades, but that’s beside the point — which is that I expected no less than the column from Floyd, a stalwart member of the Pembroke Mafia Football League who once covered Bryan County High School football for this newspaper.
For a government big wheel, he has a knack for the English language on a par with this newspaper’s esteemed assistant editor, Ted O’Neil.
I, on the other hand, am a hack who can’t diagram a sentence. I tried it online, once, and wound up getting no farther than "I am a penguin" before giving up and watching the real Three Stooges on You Tube.
But here’s my response to Floyd’s column, which is as eloquent as the one that prompted it from Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter, Bryan County Chairman Carter Infinger and Bryan County School Board Chairman Eddie Warren.
Be careful. That’s all. Be careful.
Be careful that Pembroke doesn’t grow too fast, or too furious. Be careful until there’s a time when Bryan County at large reaches a happy place where people have what they need, need what they have and can leave the rest alone.
But then, I dislike growth as it manifests itself these days.
I’m a country boy and prefer lonesome roads to crowded ones. I also tend to bemoan the fact pine trees still don’t have much of a chance now that the dirt under them is more valuable and paper companies are growing subdivisions instead.
But it’s not just coastal Georgia that is run rampant with development.
I found this out last week when I had to go to my ancestral home in the South Carolina Upstate on some family business. I hadn’t been in some years, and was saddened to find Seneca — little old Seneca — had turned into another Pooler, with similar commercial sprawl and aggravation.
There was new construction and more new construction, and traffic to make your head hurt while wondering where everyone came from, and why, and when they might be going back.
The good thing (I think) was that despite that growth, my paternal cousins who live in Oconee County had not changed much.
They’re the umpteenth generation of Whittens from that neck of the woods, with no useful connections for livelihoods other than shared DNA passed down from lifetime stacked upon lifetime of ancestors who toiled too hard on dirt farms and cotton mills that are as gone now as they are.
To this day my cousins and their offspring go about their business, working hard or hardly working, in used cars and pickups with tires stained from the red clay. They still find solace in church and meaning in owning guns or picking guitars, and some have internet TV, but otherwise there isn’t a pretentious bone in their bodies. They may have their faults, but hubris isn’t one of them.
Down to earth, several of my cousins live in house trailers off Singing Pines Road a winding two-lane blacktop not too far from the growing roar of traffic and the fall crowds at Clemson football games. It’s a beautiful spot.
Some of my cousins work for Clemson in various jobs, and many root for the Tigers by virtue of geography, none having ever showed much of an aptitude for or interest in attending.
Despite that, and though my sister went to Clemson before running off to Colorado to become a hippie, I do not like the institution and never will.
I credit this to my paternal grandfather, Henry Grady Whitten, who disliked the school because it somehow absorbed and made off-limits land he hunted on as a youngster when hunting was about keeping food on the table and college was for richer kids than he.
He’s gone now, buried on a lonesome hill surrounded by Clemson land. One day I’ll be gone too. We all will, except maybe Ernie Mitchell. Ernie is the epitome of cool, and so he’ll be around long after global warming means you have to row your boat from Pembroke to Pooler to get to Walmart or Applebee’s. For Ernie being retired Navy, that trip will be a breeze.
But when I think of my cousins and their offspring back in South Carolina, I mostly hope they don’t get run out or overwhelmed as the Upstate changes around them and upscale housing developments they can’t afford to live in encroach further into the red and orange mud of the hills our ancestors roamed.
And when I look there now, I see a lot of here.