Mom and Dad up front. Me and my sisters in the ’48 Olds back seat. Everyone loving a road trip. Destination unknown.
Dad’s routes take us over Georgia: out to the next county to visit his tree farm; south to Savannah where the beach, the fort, the horseflies, and the Spanish moss and pulp mills were; north to Dahlonega where the gold rush began and you ate family-style at the Smith House or jumped into the teeth-chatteringly-cold lake at 4-H Camp Wahsega if you were brave enough.
Or south again to Eatonton—Uncle Remus’s home and where the Woodland Indians’ big Rock Eagle was merely a mound until you climbed the white man’s tower and looked down; northeast to Winterville to visit the chicken-farming Harrolds in the country and admire their architect-designed home with the back porch in the center of the house; and west to big city Atlanta, seventy-two miles on a wandering two-lane road, passing by the hauntingly abandoned Confederate carving on Stone Mountain.
Sometimes we’d stop, and Dad, a professional forester, would explore a stand of pines. I never knew what caught his eye in those trees, but I was transfixed by the roadcuts along the highway.
They were eroded red clay slopes, steep slopes which never healed. The mighty kudzu plant itself couldn’t hold them. Kudzu which could conquer everything else moving slowly or not at all—trees, power lines, houses, windmills, barns, dead cars, dead tractors, maybe small sleeping boys. Kudzu brought over from Japan to stop this fissuring and sliding was powerless against the will of the clay to move with the rain.
In those cuts, a left-behind miniature of rugged ridges and valleys, scattered plateaus and tabletops, a land where slivers of mica and silica sheltered bits of clay from the power carried in small drops of water.
Caves and box canyons, dry river beds and earthen dams,
A world torn and scarred.
Dakota Badlands and Washington Scablands made familiar.
Kudzu portrait outside Athens, GA. Ron Carver