As I drive, I a catch the faint smell of peanuts through the AC. I instinctively roll down the windows and take in the fresh country air. The smell of the harvest rolls over me and I realize, I am home.
This is how I feel when I go home, though the seasons and the smells change, I can always tell by the change in the air I am nearing home. It’s a different and fresh world, and I love it. For me Fort Gaines, Georgia is home. It is a small quiet town in rural Southwest Georgia, but it has become one of the favorite getaways for the friends I’ve made over the years. They always love going home with me because they know it is an escape each time. The world moves a little slower and it’s easy to just relax.
I know for most “city folk” would look at this town as a place where there’s nothing to do. Well they are right and dead wrong all at the same time. You can drink in history or you can just sit in a swing and drink sweet tea; it makes no difference to us. Just kick back and relax as the world spins a little slower.
Fort Gaines was an active fort during the Indian wars. It held a prime spot on a bluff over-looking the Chattahoochee River. The fort is long gone but there is a historic village that has been created where it once stood. Historic homes that once rested all over the region have been donated and moved to this location to give visitors an idea of what things looked like 200 years ago. A tower stands atop the hill that is a recreation of one of the towers that originally stood as a part of the fort. As you climb inside and look across the river you realize why this was the perfect place to set up defenses. A massive cannon is still perched ready to fire on Alabama. The Frontier Village as it is called is a wonderful place to visit any time of year. Most of the buildings on the site are open and you are free to look around. There is a large hall that remains locked that was once home to the Fort Gaines Women’s Club and is still used today for gatherings of all kinds including my wedding reception.
There is one day each year this building is open to the public. It is the day Fort Gaines and the Frontier Village sees the most visitors and that is the day of the annual Christmas at the Fort. Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving the Frontier Village is swarmed with guests browsing the seemingly endless lines of vendors carrying everything from home-made jams and jellies, crafts, jewelry, boiled p-nuts and fresh ground cane juice and syrup made as you watch. If you’re hungry grab one of Granny’s Apple Dumplings after you’ve picked up your barbecue made in the VW Bug smoker or any of the delicious goodies you can find. Wonder around the used book sale as you enjoy the music from live local performers. Everyone’s friendly and you’re sure to find something you love.
November has become a busy month in Fort Gaines now that they are having the second annual Georgia’s Longest Yard Sale. It stretches from the Georgia line down 60 something miles of Hwy 37 through numerous small towns. You can find all kinds of goodies from antiques to crafts and home-made barbeque on the Saturday before Veterans Day each year. You may want to bring a trailer to carry all of your goodies home with you.
On the northern side of town you will find Lake Walter F George. Here you can find some of the South’s best fishing in this 23 mile long lake stretching between Georgia and Alabama. The dam houses some of Georgia Power’s best hydroelectric generators and helped form this beautiful lake. The shores are home to the annual July 4th fireworks show that draws visitors from areas all around. A few miles north of town you will find George T Bagby State Park sitting right on the banks of the lake. Here you can stay in their spacious lodge and enjoy your meals in the restaurant porch while you gaze at the lake or share a more intimate visit in one of their lakefront cabins. The park has several hiking trails that wonder through the woods and allow you to experience its southern nature. If you take a walk through the park around sunset you are almost guaranteed to see some of the many deer that inhabit this park or the local family of foxes that call it home. If you are a golfer , Bagby is home to one of Georgia’s championship golf courses.
If you just want to experience more of the town’s history there is a town tour you can take. Put on your walking shoes or hop in your car and follow the map around town. It points at many historic locations and gives you some of the history of these places. Don’t expect to be able to go inside most of these locations since many of them are homes, including my parents house which was built in 1880. One place you can go in and look around is the museum. Located downtown, it is filled with items that have been donated by families in the area and is rich with history.
Crickets and frogs will sing you to sleep each night and you’ll see more stars than you can imagine. As you drive on to where ever the road leads you every car you meet will greet you with a smile. It’s a simple town but its simplicity will relax your mind and rejuvenate your soul. Roll down your window and drink it in.
Mallory Hill is a proud Army wife who splits her time between Fort Gaines, GA and Fort Hood, TX. She recently started her own photography business, Pope Hill Photography, with which she specializes in helping military families share their lives.