Odd towns part of state heritage

I have said it before and I will say it again. We are presiding over the decline of civilization. They are putting mayonnaise in square containers, sugar in five-pound plastic drums and ketchup in bottles with the top on the bottom. There is no end in sight to all the madness.

I know. I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but when it comes to most change, I'm like the old country preacher who, when asked about sin, said "I'm comin' out ag'in' it!"

The latest madness is being instigated by the Georgia Department of Transportation. As has been widely noted, as of late, the DOT has come out with a new 2007 Georgia road map, but it doesn't look anything like the previous maps issued by the state. This year, they have eliminated a few small towns and communities - 488 to be exact.

Four hundred and eighty-eight names taken right off the map. Say it ain't so!

Now I know you are familiar with the DOT road maps. They are the ones they give away at the state welcome centers when you come back home from Florida on Interstate 75 or Myrtle Beach on Interstate 20 or wherever you go when you leave the state on some of those other highways.

I like having a map around, and I pick one up every time I pass through a welcome center. Sometimes I read the maps for entertainment. There are some interesting place names on that Georgia road map - or at least there used to be. Folks used to have better imaginations than they do today, I suppose.

Of course, I use my map, too. You wouldn't believe some of the places I have visited in just the past 12 months. I will go anywhere to speak to anybody, you see. The big dogs - folks who are widely known on the banquet circle - get invited to speak in places like Las Vegas and San Francisco. I get invited to places like Morven and Splitsilk.

I was in The Rock earlier this week and traveled all the way to Hartsfield last month - the community, not the airport.

To tell you the truth, I'd a whole lot rather speak to a group in Splitsilk or The Rock than San Francisco.

But I may have to limit my itinerary next year because there are 488 places that just got a whole lot harder to find - because, as I said, they have been taken right off the map.

I will freely admit that not all of the names that disappeared from the map were actual towns. Many were old farming communities, but to the folks who were born and raised there, these places were home.

Dewy Rose has disappeared from the map, for example, and so has Experiment. Now, honesty compels me to admit that I have never been to Dewy Rose, that I know of, but some of my daddy's people lived in Experiment, and we used to visit them every month or so. It's a shame to look at a map and not be able to find any mention of it.

Sharp Top is gone, too, and so is Wooster and so is Roosterville.

The reason, you might ask? The DOT said the map looked "too cluttered."

I don't really understand that, because I don't think we've been adding that many new communities to the map. I think the decision was just part of the current trend of consolidation and growth and "bigger is better." I think the state is showing disdain for its heritage and tradition. In doing so, it is showing a lack of appreciation for many of the folks who have long been the backbone of our country.

Rural America is disappearing fast enough as it is. We don't need to have the state erasing its memory from our collective conscience.

Now, I know that in the great scheme of things, whether Jake or Cloudland or Hickory Level are listed on the maps we hand out at our rest areas doesn't amount to a hill of beans - unless you are from Jake or Cloudland or Hickory Level. Then it might matter a mite more.

I know I would hate to see a map without Porterdale listed - and there aren't all that many people living in Plains or Bonair or Young Harris, but some pretty important folks have sprung from those remote places.

In its defense, the DOT has said that it will reconsider the fate of some of the communities that have been taken off the map and will restore those with a ZIP code or some distinguishing landmark.

Now, that's something you don't see every day. A state agency reacting to public outrage. Maybe we should show a little more of it every now and then.

At any rate, I still have a half-dozen road maps from previous years, so if I need to get to Hemp or Santa Claus, I will be OK.

And if you are planning a convention in San Francisco or Las Vegas - give me a call. I know what I said about preferring Splitsilk, but I guess I could make the sacrifice if I had to.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.

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