Sunday, March 4, 2007

Leary, Georgia

(This is Sabbath Blog #7)

Our daughter Sara and several of her friends left the campus of Mercer University yesterday for a Spring Break (yeah, I know, it’s not even Spring yet, but the academic calendar is the academic calendar!) trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast. I hope they have a good and safe time.

Sara called her mother late yesterday afternoon and said, “I had to call and tell you that I’m in Leary!” Debra was excited. Leary, Georgia, you see, is the hometown of Debra Johnson Ruffin. It’s a small town of around 650 located in Southwest Georgia about twenty-five miles west of Albany in Calhoun County. It’s along one of the routes that folks take going from many parts of Georgia to the Panama City or Destin areas.

I don’t think that Sara was ever in Leary before her trip through it yesterday. Her grandparents, Dick and Kathleen Johnson, moved from Leary to Mr. Johnson’s hometown of Colquitt, Georgia around the time that Sara was born so we never had a reason to go there. Among the sights that Sara reported to her mother was the peanut mill where Debra’s father earned his living. It was Harvey’s Peanut Company back then; I think it’s called something else now.

I had never heard of Leary before I met Debra. When she told me where she was from I don’t think that I said what many of our Mercer classmates said when they heard it: “I bet you’re leery of being from there.” At least I hope I didn’t.

After we had been dating for a while, Debra took a deep breath and took me home to meet her parents. I had never been in the southwest part of Georgia before. As a matter of fact, I had made precious few excursions south of Macon in my short, to that point, life. I was unaccustomed to the wide open spaces of rural South Georgia; I was, after all, a city boy from Barnesville (pop. 5000). Debra’s family lived three miles outside of Leary. It was quiet out there most of the time and it was very, very dark at night. I liked it. I liked it mainly because Debra was from there.

Leary is known for a few notable things. It’s known for peanuts and soybeans and other agricultural products. It’s known as the place where Jimmy Carter reported that he, along with ten members of the Leary LIONS Club, witnessed a UFO in 1969. It’s known as the place where scenes for the movie The Long Riders (1980) were shot.

And it’s now known to you all as the hometown of Debra Ruffin, Leary’s greatest export!

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