By Jeff Hood
It’s early morning on Sat.March 21, and there’s evidence spring is in the air.
The azaleas are blooming, pollen laces the ribbon of asphalt outside of my home in Oconee County and a brilliant blue sky awaits today’s journey I call life.
I’m an avid runner. My typical Saturday (when I’m in town) begins alongside dozens of my closest friends in Clarke County in a group we call the Athens Road Runners. We meet briefly, take a photo for Facebook, then burn up the blacktop on our weekly six-mile run around the Classic City.
But today is different. There will be no group run because the experts are telling us we are at war with an invisible enemy.
It’s 7:32 a.m. and a tear comes to my eye as I jump into my convertible (with the top off) and pull out of my driveway fully aware that our weekly running ritual has been canceled. But there is a greater mission on this delightful morning. The battle to regain life as we know it is underway.
So, what’s one to do but head south to my beloved Morgan County?
After being hit with numerous gut punches throughout a turbulent week, I am hit with another after learning music legend Kenny Rogers has died.
As I turn onto Hwy. 441, what’s one to do? Why, crank up the sound system and let the music of the Gambler lead me to my beloved Mad Town.
First stop? The DuPree Track across from Morgan County High School (Morgan High School, we’ll be faithful…). I may not be able to join my friends on our Saturday morning weekly takeover of Athens, but I’m still determined to get in some miles on my own.
There’s only a handful of walkers/runners there, so “keeping my distance” surely won’t be an issue.
A trip to Madison wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Rhett and Lynn Goodman’s home out on Clack Road. I consider my aunt and uncle to be among the most delightful folks in Morgan County. I’m always assured of some lively conversation when I drop by. Plus, they always offer me food!
This Saturday morning is no different. Over the course of 90 minutes, we reminisced. And then we reminisced some more. There is virtually no mention of the horrible virus that has enveloped our country and, for that matter, the entire globe.
Instead, our conversation focused on family, going fishing, eating at Bonner’s Triple B (or is it Triple BBB?), our kids and music.
Ah, music. I’ve been on this earth for 55 years and my musical passion has always been classic country music. I attribute that mainly to my dad.
You could bet your bottom dollar they’d be a Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson or Statler Brothers song on an 8-track tape playing if you stepped into his pickup truck during the 1970s. And I was there to hear it over and over and over until I fell in love with it. That love affair continues in 2020 and will into the foreseeable future.
After looking at the clock on the wall, it’s back to the convertible and a short trek to see my favorite non-family folks in Morgan County, Bob and Elsie Monk. We crack jokes, we talk family and we talk God. That’s a lot of subject matter to cover in 30 minutes.
Back to the convertible and I speed away to the Hill Park Tennis Courts to meet longtime childhood friend Deanne Lindsey. Deanne lives in Montgomery, Ala., but is in town for the weekend to see her mama, Connie Stanton.
Deanne is a proud 1988 Morgan County High School graduate; I’m a 1983 MCHS Bulldog alum.
I swear to this day Deanne is the sister I never had. Whenever we happen to be in town on the same day (about twice a year), we have a standing meeting for a tennis match.
We don’t keep score. We have fun, we laugh, we run, we sing, we swing, sometimes we miss, sometimes we get lucky, connect and pretend we’re John McEnroe and Chrissy Evert.
About 45 minutes into our hotly-contested match (well, not really) Jimmy and Connie Cunningham walk by and we strike up a conversation.
Everyone knows Jimmy and Connie, they owned and managed the famous Ye Old Colonial restaurant for decades. I consider them to be local celebrities.
Tennis finally resumes and 30 minutes later, Deanne and I are ready to call it a day. Game, set, match, chase some tennis balls we hit over the fence.
Deanne heads back to her mama’s house to do some gardening, as I roll in the opposite direction.
On this picturesque spring day, there is no Fox News or CNN to tell me the world has gone crazy.
As I roll down lovely Main Street at 30 miles per hour, I peer at God’s beauty in the form of the lovely antebellum homes, blooms on the trees, the Cultural Center and downtown Madison.
Home really is where the heart is.
Sing me back to Oconee County, Gambler, so I can hug my wife and kids.