Friday Firesmith – Blakely Georgia

Damascus is a tiny town in South Georgia hardly still there at all. Back in 1993, I was there for a few hours, long enough to discover the population was around two hundred people, and now there’s two hundred and twelve. 

Let’s return to the present, 2024, thirty-one years into the future from when I was last in Damascus. The six AM Pilates class in Valdosta is sparsely populated, there being few souls daring enough to get up before the sun to stretch and bend, flex and reset. I am both older and stiff, and if I wish to remain old and stiff, sleeping in is the best way to facilitate this. If I wish to be more limber and stay mobile, there is work to be done. 

The class is populated by two younger women, both of whom I assumed were much younger than they are, and neither are college students. The youngest of the two, at twenty-four, is outspoken and assertive. When the instructor asked one morning what areas of the body anyone thought we should work on, she spoke up immediately. It was a trap. The instructor will take this information and turn it into an hour-long pain-fest of exercises we have never seen or heard of before. Yet, again, this is the chosen path. You have to work muscles you didn’t know existed if you wish to become stronger. 

The older younger woman is more silent, yet she asked me yesterday how it was that I became a writer. I told her of Damascus, and my vision there so many years ago, and she knew where Damascus was. Oh? She’s from my hometown of Blakley Georgia. Wow! And her father is someone I went to high school with. WOW!

He dated my sister for years. 

Holy Sh!t!

I gave out just enough information to allow her a glimpse into her father’s life before he was her age, yet not enough to frighten her. I remember her aunt, the dogs, and the little family-owned store. 

When I left back in the mid-1980s, I never looked back, and never kept in touch with most of the people there. Yet for many years, until the time I did leave, I knew all of these people, knew where they lived and what they did and who they dated. Now, after decades of being gone, I meet the daughter of a man whose name hasn’t been mentioned in conversation in over thirty years. 

I tried to look up the family home on Google Maps, and I realized I don’t remember exactly what it looked like, and the landscape is alien now. A strip mall has sprung up, houses have been built, and others torn down. The last time I was in Blakely was over a decade ago, to bury a friend. I suspect I won’t return until someone else dies. 

I finally met someone from my hometown who had never heard of me, didn’t know anyone in my family, and likely had never heard of anything of the events I experienced in my life. 

Oddly, in a way that I cannot possibly explain, I find this deeply satisfying. 

Take Care,

Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

6 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Blakely Georgia”

  1. Being a member of a large fraternity at UGA, I thought that I had a brother from every small town in SW Georgia, from Georgetown and Ty Ty on the North to Donaldson and Hahira in the South, but I can’t find anyone from Damascus. That must have been a very small town back in the 1960’s!

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  2. I went back to my home town about 6 years or so ago. I went because I was driving back to southwest Ohio and my power steering broke. Fortunately, a friend of mine (we have know each other since 4th grade–many years now) knew a mechanic in my home town. I got to town before the appointed time, so I drove around and found the three homes we lived in–one in town and two just outside of town. Only the one in town looked like someone lived there. The one just outside of town–the one between the town line and the junior/high school used to have one property across the street. The woman who lived there’s late husband used to have a plane, so they had plenty of space for a grass runway; the ranch home and the hangar was still there; now, it is a strip mall of about 5 stores.

    Growing up, there was about 3,300 people and three traffic lights. Now, there is about 4,200 people and still only three intersections have traffic lights.

    I get that things change–but that trip (the last time I was in my home town) was the last time I was there. It also reinforced that saying, “you can never go back” or whatever it is.

    My mom and step-dad left the town back in ’96 or so, so there is really not a reason to head back. My siblings, like me, left after graduation–my brother and I after we graduated college and my sister after she graduated from high school.

    Also, my home town is not known outside of SW Ohio, so around here (NE Illinois), I tell people I grew up in southwest Ohio near Cincinnati.

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    • Tim, I haven’t been back since 2013. I don’t feel the draw some people feel for their old hometowns. Most of the people I once knew haven’t seen me since high school, and we have nothing in common anymore. Still, it’s strange to get on Google Earth and see the places I grew up. Some of them unrecognizable, others are eerily the same.

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