My English program colleague Donna Coffey Little has published a piece in Story South about the local Pine Log Mountain:
Mining Pine Log Mountain: Place and Memory in a Southern Landscape
I’ve just harvested 250 bushels of corn, Bob tells me. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a gigantic red combine with Bob Neel, CEO of Aubrey Corporation, which owns half of Georgia’s Pine Log Mountain and leases 14,134 acres to the Department of Natural Resources as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Aubrey Corporation grows hundreds of acres of corn and cotton at Pine Log and near the Etowah River in Kingston. Bob is the CEO, but he still harvests his own crops.
The combine is two stories tall and two normal vehicles long. You have to climb a ladder on the side to get in. In the front there are eight large prongs that look like upside down canoes. As we approach each corn field, Bob aims the upside down canoes into the spaces between the rows, forcing the corn into the giant blades that pluck and shred the stalks, sending the corn into a storage compartment in the back. Each time it fills, we drive over to a shipping container and a giant hose spits out a cascade of corn.
This is the first time I’ve met Bob, who is a reedy and handsome man, as athletic 68, with a sardonic wit and a distrust of college professors. There is something Clint Eastwood-ish about him, as if he is waiting for me to say or do something stupid and make his day. It’s clear that he prides himself on being a no-bullshit kind of guy.
He won’t let me write anything down and at one point asks me pointblank if I am recording him.
“No,” I protest. He shifts his sunglasses and peers at me with penetrating blue eyes, always the skeptic.
“I’ve got a good memory, though,” I say. I can spar, I can hold my own. My curiosity outweighs my shyness.
“You’re not going to portray us as a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, are you?” he asks. “People look down on farmers.”
“I don’t,” I say. “Why do you think we just bought a 15-acre farm?”
That seems to satisfy him. He knows my neighbors Jim and Cathy, who sold me and my husband the farm we bought this summer. He and Jim are both part of the Euharlee Farmers Club, the oldest and most prestigious institution in Bartow County. Jim vouching for me is probably the only reason Bob has agreed to let me interview him about the history of Pine Log Mountain.
Read the whole thing.