Effingham County is a land of no distinction. Virtually no hills dot it’s acres and a homogeneity of slash pines arranged in neat, over planted-plots lulls the brain into a sleepy, meandering labyrinth. There is history here, but it scrawls on rusty plaques funded by the state. Almost every historical marker goes on and on about the specific locations of Sherman’s troops on certain dates. The Salzburgers landed at Ebenezer and nearly everyone can trace an ancestor to them. The occasional town stalks the winding roads and if you’re lucky, there is a semi-decent Barbecue restaurant lurking there.
I grew up driving on the roads of Effingham and Bulloch county. Dirt was a friend to us because police rarely patrolled the more isolated areas lacking pavement. We could pick up absurd speed on the red paths, dodging oak trees and spinning out at the hairpin turn on Go-Kart Road. No story to that name, there was literally a karting supply shop and go-kart track among the mossy limbs and cow pastures.
It was just land. People lived there. Before those people, others lived there before them. They left nothing but foundations where some kept the home, but others let the pines surround their rotting husks to lurk as black shadows in the gathering heaps of straw. I always wanted to call the place ghostly, but ghosts have more presence and one can usually find out from whence a ghost has come. This place was haunted by the fragmented remains of memory, dissipating in neurons long dead and only held together by the degrading filaments of protein in a corpse.
Ebenezer Road was supposedly the origin of my family. Neidlinger, Bailey, Grovenstein, and something else. Grandfather was adopted. Grandma was a bastard daughter likely born to a carpet bagger or God-forbid a cousin. It was better for us to not dig to deep into our past. Ebenezer, the retreat built around the historical landing of the Salzburger clans. It had a pool, tennis courts, trails, and a pavilion where family reunions boiled in Georgia shade. Paddle boats dotted the tiny dock where a gator once attacked a cousin fishing from the bank. That was the same spot my foot sank into sopping wet moss and I ruined my new dress shoes.
I never felt that connection to Ebenezer. It was a place like any other. It could have been the lonely isolation of Low-Ground road which flooded with even a light sprinkling of spring rain. It could have been Courthouse road where the mobile homes huddled in the clay, grassless patches. It could even have been Grovenstein lane, the two ruts named out of our county’s necessity to label all paths between property, no matter how unused or remote. Nothing dwelled on those roads except an occasional hunting club and more corridors of pine. We were left permanently lost, unable to draw a distinction between our here and our there. The past and the future mingled in an unending procession of turns and returns. The pines swallow all, plows, bullet shells, the remains of a pug that never did anything but annoy the neighbor, our wrestling action figures, love notes never exchanged, stumps dad always promised to pull up, rabbit cages, christmas lights, golf cart batteries, and the graves of infants at the feet of their mother who died giving birth to them.
On these roads, you will lose your sense of self, and learn that there was nothing there to begin with.