Sense of Place

“Place” is important to many of us. For instance, I’ve always wondered just exactly where is the “ridge where the West commences,” (from the song “Don’t Fence Me In”). Best I can figure is this ridge is some north-south crest maybe in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas or Oklahoma where once you top the hill, you can see for perhaps 100 miles, mostly of the plains. In the great distance, you might could see even higher land, all with no trees. We suspect there are cowboys are out there … somewhere.

Perhaps someone reading this will know specifically, in their estimation, “where the West commences.” If so, please let us know. We would not mind going there and seeing for ourselves. And if that area of the country is not promoting itself as the “gateway to the West,” their Chamber of Commerce should be. I know of at least one tourist who would pay to go there.

Fog rising from the Chattahoochee River in Georgia's Piedmont However, far more important a “Place” for me is the north-south divide in Georgia, particularly the “Fall Line.” In Georgia, most people put the Fall Line as basically zig-zagging from Columbus to Macon to Augusta, a line above which the rivers become mostly non-navigable.

To me, the Fall Line was more south and east of Macon. And it had special meaning for me, particularly since I was born just about right on top of what I consider the Fall Line.

For it was what is now Georgia Highway 112, east of Allentown, Ga., in Wilkinson County, the place I was born. Being specific, it was about a mile and half to two miles on this road, east of Turkey Creek.

Here’s why I have always thought of it as the Fall Line: to a young person’s concept of the topography of that area, it seemed to me as if everything south of Georgia Highway 112 was flat, sandy soil (the Coastal Plain) and great for row crops. Everything north of that same road was hilly, red clay and difficult to plow, essentially the Georgia Piedmont. It is far better for grazing cattle than trying to break the ground and raising any crop in the mostly red-clay soil.

This dividing line was, to me, a sharp deviation in the lay of the land, north to south, similar to that “ridge where the West commences.” It puts my mind at ease about matters in general.

Yes, though I seldom get back to this “place,” it is from where my Brack family is descended. (My mother’s family, Collins, was centered about 10 miles north – in the red clay area). We get back now to these places mostly for funerals or family gatherings. And I’ll spend my last road trip when a hearse takes me back to be planted in the cemetery at Walnut Creek Baptist Church. It’s about another two miles east from my birthplace on Georgia Highway 112. We’ve already got a plot in the cemetery waiting for us.

Since the church is on the north side of the highway, I’ll be buried in the red clay soil of the Piedmont of Middle Georgia. Had it been on the other side of the road, to me that means I would have been in the sandy soil of the Coastal Plain. With modern backhoes, the grave diggers won’t have much difficulty in opening up the soil in the “place” they will be putting me.

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Editor's note: This story originally published at GwinnettForum.com. Image credit: Fog rising from the Chattahoochee River in Georgia's Piedmont licensed by LikeTheDew.com at Fotolia.com © Austin Foote
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.