“How far is it to Auburn?” I asked my friend Cletus.
“That’s hard to say,” he replied. “Depends on where you leave from.”
Jane and I were heading to Alabama the next day, so I asked Cletus about the trip, knowing he keeps a Rand McNally road map in the glovebox of his truck. Our oldest grandchild, Abby, is a student at Auburn University and was about to move from a dorm to an apartment.
According to a sign the complex was constructed in 1939. It’s still wearing what appears to be the original interior paint but possibly is more recent. The information noted a 1945 renovation. We had a one-day window to splash a fresh white coat on the doors and trim. The realtor said not to touch the walls. I suppose the owner doesn’t want a historical 80-year patina to be disturbed.
I told Cletus his answer to my query reminded me of a story I heard years ago from a fellow named Schuyler Floyd. Schuyler grew up in Camilla, Georgia, and graduated in 1970, the same year I was paroled from Unadilla High. I didn’t know Schuyler back then. It was a long way to Camilla.
A couple of decades have gone by since Schuyler and I first met. My wife and I were in Tennessee visiting her brother, Rick, at Center Hill Lake. Schuyler was among a group of friends who tied their boats together on weekends, dove into the clear waters of the Caney Fork River, then visited for hours while riding blue noodles. Not everyone can straddle a foam stallion all afternoon, but I learned from Rick’s buddies that lake-loving cowboys know how to relax in the saddle.
Schuyler and I had a splendid time discovering how many Mitchell County friends we had in common. Several people he had grown up with were among those I later met at Valdosta State College. We had different stories about the same folks and enjoyed swapping fading tales of yesteryears’ pals.
After we filled our buckets with memories, Rick asked Schuyler to tell me a story he’d once shared with him about a man selling pigs. I don’t remember the details, but maybe this is close enough to convey the gist of it. My column policy is not to overachieve when it comes to accuracy.
The way I remember it there were two neighbors who lived on small adjoining farms a few miles outside of Camilla in the 1940s. One was named Joe and the other Bill, but I may have the names backwards.
Joe had a dilapidated two-ton truck that could haul about twenty pigs. He had a good load of number ones ready for market and asked his friend Bill to come over and help him run the hogs up the chute. Joe planned to take them to the weekly sale in Camilla on Wednesday. Bill said he’d be glad to assist, but when Wednesday came Joe had changed his mind.
“Hogs ain’t bringing but ten cents a pound in Camilla,” said Joe. “I’m gonna wait until Thursday and take them to the auction in Moultrie. They’re bringing three cents a pound more over there.”
“I don’t blame you,” said Bill. “That’ll be worth the short drive.”
On Thursday Bill showed up ready to help, only to learn Joe’s plans had changed again.
“I found out hogs are bringing 17 cents a pound up in Macon,” said Joe. “I’m gonna take them to the sale barn in Macon on Friday.”
“Whatever you say,” said Bill. “That’s a longer trip but I guess it’s worth it for 17 cents.”
When Friday came Bill drove over and found that Joe had once more decided on a different route. “I’m gonna wait until tomorrow,” said Joe, “and haul these pigs to the Saturday sale in Savannah. Hogs are bringing twenty cents a pound in Savannah!”
“That’s a mighty good price,” said Bill with hesitation, “but Joe, it’s a long way to Savannah.”
“You’re right about that,” Joe agreed. “It is a long way to Savannah. But that’s okay Bill, ‘cause time don’t mean nothing to a hog.”
I said, “Cletus, that’s how I feel about the road to Auburn. Time doesn’t mean anything to a grandfather.”
Cletus carefully folded his map and gently pressed the creases before speaking. “Then it really won’t matter where you leave from,” he said. “What matters is that you go.”