It began simple enough. How my poor children ever reached their current ages without a meal at Waffle House, I'll never know. Our journey began with breakfast and the discussion of exciting plans.
The road was kind to us and the HOV lane helped us proceed through Atlanta relatively easily. They say the best thing to ever come out of Atlanta was I-75.
We found the southbound version.
With great traffic and the skillful navigation of a great driver (me), good companionship from my family and perhaps a few tips from the Google map voice that lives in my phone we arrived at Ocmulgee National Monument.
It's places like Ocmulgee that get overlooked in the study of Southern History. And that's a shame because at the estimated date of 15,000 years ago people began to inhabit this location. The first bunch were nomadic people which simply means they were, like us, on a road trip. (Although theirs was at least marginally longer)
Somewhere in the centuries people settled down. And they lived off of agriculture, the industry of the South. You see, the South, from the very beginning depended on nature for survival. While Europe and the North were spewing carbon and other so-called "greenhouse gasses" into the atmosphere, the South was relying on plants, forests, rivers and the sun for survival. The people depended on these resources to be healthy and abundant in order to make any sort of living. Factories and pollution were imported later on and, now that we're dependent on it, are now demonized and regulated by the very folks that forced it upon us.
Make up your mind!
Back to the mounds. Seeing the work that it took to build such structures and the care and dedication it took to carry basket after basket of dirt to create such monuments really impressed me. The Earth Lodge with it's original floor, dated ca. 1000 AD is truly amazing. There is also a very good view of Downtown Macon from atop the Temple Mound. Throw in a good museum and an outstanding ranger and it made for a great morning.
We spent the afternoon 22 miles down the road at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins. If you are ever in that part of Georgia and have even the slightest interest in the history of the Air Force and/or Army Air Corps, stop in. The museum has excellent exhibits, including the living ones you'll find working in each hangar. Many of the volunteers manning the museum are veterans of the very aircraft on display and are ready to answer questions and give first hand accounts of history made with these machines.
Ok, time for a candid moment. During the tour, we happened upon a couple of gentlemen and a conversation ensued. At first it was great, lots of good information as one of the men was himself a vet that shared information of his experiences. However, there is a butt...er...but to this part of the story. The gentleman explained to us, after learning about our road trip plans, that he was from Pennsylvania and stressed his displeasure with "that stupid, stupid Civil War". He then progressed to deride the Confederate soldiers and to talk about what a terrible place Georgia is. In fact, it is so terrible that he chose to live in Dublin. Then he pulled out some story about what a great humanitarian Sherman was. He finished his speech with some of his disappointment with the direction that our country is going and blamed our central government for it. Really? I was laughing as I thought it inappropriate to cry in a hanger full of fighter planes. Oh how I wished to correct him, oh how I wished to sling a 30 minute soliloquy on him to point out that his beloved Sherman had forced that strong central government on us all at gunpoint and then invite him to return to Pennsylvania...but self-control got the better of me. I sat there with the words of the sage ringing in my ears - "It wastes your time and annoys the pig."
As the sun set on the first day of the Georgia trip, having seen the contributions of Native Americans from the Mississippians to the Creeks (Muscogee) and members of the Air Force, including the 332nd fighter group, "The Tuskegee Airmen", I was glad to have started to demonstrate the diversity of the people that made Georgia and the South great.
The first day didn't challenge my thinking the way the following days would. It wasn't very controversial. But it was quite enjoyable and laid the foundation for the days that followed. The next day would hold surprises I could not expect and tore at my heart in ways that I don't even think my family realized...
...but tomorrow is another day...
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire