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Here’s how you ‘gnock’ pesky gnats
If you haven’t choked on a quart or two of gnats, you haven’t been in Georgia long. I grew up gagging on gnats. You learn quickly how to defend yourself from the pesky bugs. Traditionally, you fan your face. Cardboard funeral home fans are good gnat “gnockers.” Pros blow gnats away by puffing from the corners of their mouth.
If you are a real Georgian, you know exactly where the Gnat Line splits the Peach State. I’ve heard some North Georgians sniff, “I’m not going down there. They have gnats.”
Back in the mid-1980s, Tal DuVall, then the University of Georgia Extension Service’s director, flew to Gnat Country to ask me to serve on a task force he dubbed Georgia 2000. He wanted us to be ready for the new millennium. Our job was to peer around the corner to see what might be ahead. He wanted Georgia to be ready.
At our first meeting, sitting next to me was a future friend who would become the unofficial spokesman for the Gnat Line, that strip of real estate that stretches from the Chattahoochee River in Columbus to the banks of the Savannah River in Augusta.
Larry Walker has spent 68 years on the Gnat Line. He’s an expert on gnats, but his Google-like knowledge doesn’t stop there. Larry whizzed through the University of Georgia and its law school in five years. He was in a hurry to get back to his hometown, Perry, right smack on the Gnat Line. By age 23, he was a municipal court judge dealing with racial tensions.
And when his buddy started handing out “Get Tough, Send Sam Nunn to Washington” bumper stickers, Larry took Sam’s spot under the Gold Dome in Atlanta. Few have been more effective in the General Assembly, but Rep. Walker walked away after 32 years.
With that breather in his packed life, he organized and published a book. The ink is barely dry on his collection of columns from the Houston Home Journal titled, what else, “Life on the Gnat Line.” (For more, see www.gnatlineproductions.com)
Larry and I have swatted our share of gnats, most recently as we fed crickets to bluegills in the Altamaha River swamp. I enjoy his company. He excels as a listener, and delights you with his endless trove of stories. His recall, humor and drawl are priceless.
On the back cover of Larry’s book, former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn comments, “An outstanding public servant ... a unique leader ... an excellent writer with the rare ability to convert the best features of Southern small-town culture into solid building blocks for future cooperation and progress.”
His pastor, the Rev. Jenny Jackson-Adams, says, “Larry will touch your mind, heart and spirit.” I’ll add “laugh, cry and maybe, if Jenny or Larry’s 90-year-old mother, Hilda, isn’t listening, cuss.”
Larry gets it right in all 544 pages.
If Georgia is always on your mind, you’ll love Larry Walker. He’s as down-home as a plate of your grandma’s cathead biscuits. His wit and insight are a flavorful match for a mouthful of hickory-smoked, pulled-pork barbecue.
Here’s another remedy for the gnats: Retreat to the screen porch. Turn on the ceiling fan. Plop down into your rocking chair. Crack the cover of “Life on the Gnat Line.” And dig in.
Dink NeSmith is president of Community Newspapers Inc. in Athens. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This column was printed in the Athens Banner-Herald.