The Summer Life Changed

July 11, 2024
Tom Poland

By Tom Poland


Why Do You Live Where You Do?

April 18, 2024—Dickey Betts’s passing took me back to 1973, a very hard year for me. Betts and his band mates played a therapeutic role in my life that summer. Yes, the summer of 1973 made for forty miles of bad road, but a reborn Allman Brothers band buoyed my spirits.

In the basement of a brick house off Highway 78 in Athens, Georgia, I played the Allman Brothers albums over and over. Lord knows I had wasted time and suffered trouble aplenty. Eat A Peach eased my mind. “Ain’t Wasting Time No More” and “Trouble No More” seemed written for me.

I couldn’t know it, but my life was about to change big time. A foreshadowing of sorts arrived when I totaled my three-speed Plymouth October 1972 in Greenville, South Carolina. A streak of bad luck took hold that bled into 1973. Anything that could go wrong did. Being young is a foolish and dangerous time. I almost got shot. In another instance a man put a gun to my head. Family troubles. A tornado destroyed my home. Living out of a suitcase, I scrambled to finish a Master’s but didn’t. But I would.

Hard times all around. Two years earlier Duane Allman had died in a motorcycle accident in Macon. A year later, Berry Oakley suffered a motorcycle crash three blocks from where Duane had his fatal accident. Both men were 24. In that musty basement I listened with rapt interest to new members Lamar Williams and Chuck Leavell’s contributions to Brothers and Sisters, but it was the Allman Brothers’ debut album that got me through the summer of ’73. “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” and “Whipping Post” were great, but “Dreams” haunted me. We all have dreams, don’t we? Don’t you?

Summer passed and wham—abrupt change arrived in the form of what seemed another October disaster. My department chairman told me she was sending me to Columbia, South Carolina, to teach at a small, private college.

“You can come back in six months.”

I never did.

In time it turned out okay. Over the years several things kept me in Carolina. New friends. New adventures. Oh, the disruption of moving and my wishy-washy ways kept me there too. Good and bad times transpired. I lived day to day. I took things as they came. “Just one more mornin’ I had to wake up with the blues” as Greg sang. Surely the next day would be better.

Step by step, I evolved, and the heart of the matter comes down to this. I got a job as a writer after four years of teaching at the college. In time that led to other things, good things. As for leaving Georgia, it’s a hurt that never heals. I tried to go back in 2001 during another especially bad time, but my father told me to stay put. “Columbia’s your home, son.”

I stayed.

I’ve heard of people who didn’t plan their life; they designed it. Not me, in 1973 I had no idea where things would take me, but it wasn’t back to Georgia. I stayed put, I should add, because my family lived in two states for a long time. I lived within a few hours’ drive of all. Today, family lives from the west coast to the east coast—from Oregon to Indiana to North Carolina. Staying put today is a nonissue, no big deal.

We sometimes have what intellectuals call an epiphany. While writing a book about Georgia and South Carolina, I realized that all my years of driving between the two state had given me many friends on both sides of the Savannah River, and a unique home, “Georgialina.” Some folks have two or more homes. I claim two states.

That’s it, the long and short of why I live where I do. How about you? What’s your story?


Georgia native Tom Poland writes a weekly column about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture and speaks frequently to groups in the South. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, stating, “His work is exceptional to the state.” Poland’s work appears in books, magazines, journals, and newspapers throughout the South.

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