There’s a long, boring stretch of road between Macon and Savannah, but one exit always grabs my attention and reminds me of a summer adventure I could have had. If you stay alert while traveling on Interstate 16, you’ll spot the exit for Soperton, the hometown of another David, a high school friend who invited me to spend the summer picking tobacco in the hot fields that lie just northwest of Vidalia. One of his relatives owned the property, and each summer, David was in the field, harvesting fresh leaves and pocketing loads of cash. And this time, he wanted me to join him.
I guess it was natural for my friend to invite me. We had some classes together, and he’d surely seen my scalpel technique in Human Physiology as we dissected things that I won’t mention here, being lunch time over at your house. Slicing up a pickled critter would be good practice for slicing up tobacco leaves, wouldn’t it? Well, I thought about his offer for a while, and could’ve used the money, but I didn’t want a working summer vacation. If you recall an earlier column about the Alaskan fishing job I turned down, you can see that I was rather lazy in my teenage years. I still wonder what would’ve happened if I’d spent those hot months in a Soperton tobacco field. I would have itched, and burned, and sweated gallons, but I’ll never know what wonderful adventures I passed up.
Well, I say "wonderful adventures" like I know what I’m talking about, but farm equipment can be dangerous, and there are rumors that South Georgia gnats can get as big as kitchen appliances. What if I’d been hurt while picking tobacco? Or worse, what if I’d liked tobacco farming so much I’d enrolled in UGA for a degree in agriculture? Losing an arm in a combine or getting gnawed on by something the size of a toaster oven is bad, but South Georgia has great hospitals and they can fix most anything the farm can dish out. But going around barking, telling people to "hunker down," and wearing red-and-black clothes with pictures of bulldogs on them is something no hospital can cure. Yeah, I’m glad I stayed home that summer. Tobacco is just too dangerous a substance for an impressionable teenager to mess with.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at email@example.com.