Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

[This article appears this week in my hometown newspaper, The Barnesville (GA) Herald-Gazette]

I admit that I may not be the ideal person to comment on this, given that I left my hometown in 1975 and have since returned only for the occasional visit. On the other hand, perhaps my perspective as one who grew up in Barnesville and who sees it only once in a while is valuable in its own way; it’s kind of like being the vagabond uncle who sees his niece every few years and so notices the changes in her in a way that those who live near her and see her all the time can’t.

I got to thinking about this last Friday night as I sat in the cold watching the Lamar County Trojans defeat the Jefferson Dragons in the state playoffs. We always come to visit my family for Thanksgiving and it has become part of my tradition to stay over and watch the Trojans’ game on Friday during this nice run of the last few years. When it was announced that the Trojans’ next opponent would be Benedictine, which is a military school, my mind really took off.

I remembered watching the football games played at Summers Field by our own military school, Gordon. Many weekends during my childhood I would watch Gordon Military High School play on Friday night and Gordon Military College play on Saturday night. Out on Forsyth Road, the Booker T. Washington Tigers were playing, too, but we—or I, at least, didn’t give that much thought.

We lived in a divided community.

Immediately following the integration and consolidation of our county schools, I remember attending the games of the newly formed and named Lamar County Trojans at the former Booker stadium at the newly christened Forsyth Road School, then in subsequent years watching the Trojans at Summers Field where the Gordon Military Bulldogs once campaigned against their—and our—foes.

We were together but we had not yet come together.

Last Friday night, I sat among and stood along with the crowd in beautiful Thunder Alley, thrilling to my alma mater’s victory over the defending state champions. As I looked around me I realized how beautiful the crowd was. Yes, it was a large crowd. Yes, it was a boisterous crowd. Yes, it was a remarkable atmosphere—the most remarkable I have ever experienced—for a football game. But the most beautiful thing I saw in that crowd was the camaraderie and commonality. I thrilled to the realization that my home county has become a community even more than I thrilled to the football game.

Now, Lamar County is not heaven (no matter what some people say) and so it is not perfect. You who live there know that much better than I do. Still, as a hometown boy who occasionally comes back to town and who joins with the current residents of Lamar County in celebrating the accomplishments of the football Trojans, I just want to say how proud I am of the community that gave me my start in life.

You’ve come a long way, baby. Keep it up!

And Go Big Blue! Bring Down the Thunder!

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