By Sam Burnham, Curator
"In 1850, this redneck's great-great-great grandparents bought this farm..."
That's not my line. It's the line I was told to open this story with by said redneck who still retains possession of the farm to this day. He hatched an idea a few months back. By most measures of our times it was an idea that was ill-advised at best. Gather a few folks that only know each other via Twitter, add some adult beverages, music, an ammo box full of cigars, and, of course, firearms.
What could possibly go wrong?
Let's talk about part of the title. If you are new to the term "Cracker" you might be worried that we are throwing around a racial slur but that isn't the case. In Southern History, the Crackers were the settlers who moved in and settled the land, took up agriculture, especially cattle farming, and learned the ways the land worked and how to make a living off of it. The Crackers were typically found in Georgia and Florida. That's what we mean by Cracker.
So a group of men descended from those settlers gathered in Lowndes County at the beautiful Franks Creek Farm, not too far from Snake Nation, to shoot the bull, some quail, and maybe some whiskey.
Our adventure begins on a Friday afternoon as we all begin arriving at the farm. I was dilly dallying in Turner County (as is my habit when I'm near Turner County) when I received a message that Matt, our host, was about to go and retrieve dinner. Keith messaged that he was near Lakeland. I realized it was time to get back on the paved road. So at Inaha I got on I-75 and headed south at a much faster pace. I arrived at the farm and was greeted by a man I've known for some time now, but had never met in person.
Let me say this. Matt Lawrence is a master of hospitality. And should he decide to open such adventures for paying customers, you need to become a patron. I cannot imagine a better host for such an event. We sat in rockers and camp chairs on the screened back porch of the ca. 1890s farmhouse and drank beverages and enjoyed cigars from the ammo can. We had an appetizer of freshly fried pork skins with pepper jelly from Woodstack BBQ Tavern in Valdosta.
After everyone had arrived we moved to the dining room where we partook of more deliciousness from Woodstack - brisket, ribs, macaroni and cheese, greens, beans, and a desert of banana pudding. Matt had made homemade cornbread and had local cane syrup to go with it. After dinner we sipped on Madeira and discussed how this wine came to America.
We moved back to the back porch and began to discuss numerous topics - some of which will be revisited in future posts. We had a Georgia playlist for our evening soundtrack which made music and musicians one of the topics of discussion. There were more cigars, more beverages, more stories. The conversation was so good we were shocked when Matt pointed out it was 1 am. We turned in for the night.
The dogs are half the fun of quail hunting. Matt carried three along with us Mollie has a strong retriever instinct, so she came along just in case we needed to find a lost bird. Judge did most of the work with Jury coming in when Judge needed to take a breather. Matt used his whistle to signal the dog and we'd watch as he ran, the bell on his collar clanging so we never lost his direction, looking for a scent. When he'd find a covey of birds he would stop, body stiff and pointing at the birds. That was our cue to be ready to shoot. Matt would give the command and the dog would lunge forward, causing the quail to take flight. Then there would be gunfire...unless the quail flew back up in my face and toward my hunting buddies...or I pulled the trigger only to realize I still had the safety on...or the quail used the dog as a human...er...canine shield. Sometimes a bird would fall and sometimes they would get away. You might find them again for another shot or you might never see them again. That's all part of it.
Between our turns we'd sit back at the wagon and re hydrate. We'd watch the other pair of shooters and laugh as the two dogs with us would bark after each shot. They were all so eager to be the one that made pursuit after a shot. But only one dog at a time got to do that.
By Sam Burnham, Curator
What I'm about to tell you is based on a true story. I'm embellishing it to prove a point. The facts of the story aren't changed. I'm just unleashing the potential in the scenario.
Let's assume for a minute that a couple is visiting Italy's beautiful Amalfi Coast.This couple has connections in Berrien County and therefore are in possession of some of the finest roast pecans in the world. Our couple is lodged in an Aibnb belonging to some citrus farmers in the Amalfi Coast area who therefore have in their possession some of the finest limoncello in the world. They leave a bottle of the nectar and a few lemons the size of your fist as a gift to their renters. As a thank you gift the couple leaves some fine roasted pecans and then a standing swap is proposed. Pecans for limoncello, strictly for personal consumption. Somehow the pecans make it through but the limoncello never sees its destination. (You're not fooling anyone, drunk customs officials.)
Now, for the parable, let's assume that a pecan farmer in south Georgia and a citrus farmer on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy realize this trade can make both of them some cash if their swap creates enough sales in each other's countries. Direct import/export. Limoncello available in farm stands in Adel, Nashville, Hahira and roasted Georgia pecans available in Salerno and Positano. The products could be shipped from Savannah to Naples or flown air cargo out of Atlanta or Jacksonville.
This sounds like small money until you think there are, again, hundreds of these towns that can produce agricultural and manufactured goods that could be shipped to hundreds of locations overseas. But the rural areas need better connections to potential customer-partners overseas as well as better shipping options. We get enough people with small operations utilizing the expanded Port of Savannah or even a possible robust air cargo option in Tifton, Albany, Valdosta...it could become a big deal. But we have to look at connections, regulations, and logistics that are working against this possibility.
It's a crazy idea, one that is admittedly a stretch but it is an idea.
I'll be back soon with a report from a great weekend road trip and some details about cool things happening in South Georgia right now.
By Sam Burnham, Curator
We've discussed small towns across Georgia in at least one previous article. I've also spent some time discussing how these are the towns that we need to aim incentives at in order to foster true and widespread economic growth in the state. But let's talk about some positives here.
There are a lot of thriving historic downtowns in The South. I want to talk about some of them. There are also some that still hold a lot of potential but still need a shot in the arm. The trick is to do this without ruining the charm that is there or the culture than can thrive there. The trick is leaving these places charming.
It is easy to talk about places being "in the sticks" or "the middle of nowhere." But they aren't in the middle of nowhere. This is where people live and work. These places are where their slice of the American Dream is unfolding. This is their home. it just doesn't look like the idea of the American Dream that we are being sold today in popular media.
Decades ago these towns were built for a reason. There were businesses there that had a customer base to support them. There were also parks, theaters, dance halls. These places had live music, acting troupes, they hosted travelling entertainment acts. These towns offered opera, symphony, early country music acts, some even hosted the performers on the Chitlin Circuit.
New life could mean a cultural revival. Many of the old theaters and dance halls can still be found in these towns. This could offer opportunity for local talent to get in front of audiences,to make a name for themselves. Many of these towns have healthy community theatre or music. A healthy economy could bring bigger audiences, bigger budgets. Rather than being another playbill in a huge metropolis, these acts could have a chance to shine a little brighter.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire