Oconee Joe: The Old Homestead


(Photo by Cate Short)

Behind the bridal veil of spider webs, an old door hangs slacked jawed on a front porch. Above, sky blue paint peels where Mama used to rock her chair and Daddy smoked his pipe while reading the Word of God. Curled varnish flakes now yield exhausted wood grain. It seems the gate to the House of Holies ain’t that pearly after all...

(Photo by Cate Short)

People wail in dismay, gnashing teeth and renting their clothes against the decay and mildewed wallpaper. Used up and forlorn, our house has become the Whore of Babylon in the eyes of Man. The crowd begs for action against the anarchy and entropy of neglect, from the groping vines, the graffiti defiler, and desecration of the drunken pyro-vandal. Rarely, however, do they take an actual lurch forward to the salvation of these silent structures. They lament how an old homestead could end in demolition condition... Verily, I say unto you scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites the reason is more complex than most care to ponder...

(Photo by Cate Short)
(Photo by Cate Short)

Across Americana, but especially in the South, these places often represent the remains of an old family homestead. The timber corpse hunches over ancient familial lands with descendants either incapable or uninterested in keeping up the ghost, renting her out, or selling...

(Photo by Cate Short)
(Original photo by Cate Short, eyes blacked out by Oconee Joe)

Like soot-lined hollows of a twisted chimney, deeper reasons coat the subconscious mind of the Southerner. Sharecropper footprints once walked the heart pine tongue and groove of the tarpaper shack. Gapped tooth spindles stab out from under a broken handrail. A stairway leading to a haven of siblings who once shared their single beds – not including the lice- they shivered when winter winds blew through the sawmill slats Even the most regal of Victorian palaces with gingerbread lattice rot underneath the warm blanket of southern humidity.

(Photo by Cate Short)
(Photo by Cate Short)

These old houses stand as sentimental shrines to the cherished family members, and old times not long forgotten... Instead of selling to an outsider, a potential carpet bagger, or even renting to, God forbid a damn Yankee, the once grand habitation is held in a suspended state of faded Sunday lunches, Christmas dinners, and front porch sittings. Warm hearthstone and cool back porch well water... dip the ladle and drink deep from the pool of nostalgia...

(Photo by Cate Short)

Even in decay these historic homes serve as futile reminders to the mortal life of One’s own harvest season and the lost causes of family memories. All the while kudzu continues it’s eternal March oe’r the roof line and onto the Sea...those who chose to, ought to look away, look away... please... look away as the bulldozers snort... Dixieland...

(Photo by Cate Short)

About Cate Short...

Cate grew up on the east side of Athens and currently works at the Historic Athens Welcome Center. Her work is featured with Historic Rural Churches (HRCGA) documenting chapels and can be bought locally here in Athens. Since given a camera in childhood and driven around rural Georgia where her grandparents once lived; Cate has continued into adulthood, photography becoming an act of passion and preservation. Contact: Instagram: @cate.elise.s


About Oconee Joe...

Eternal Student of the Oconee Land and Waters.

He has lived along the Oconee River for over 10,000 years. The River is his Mother, the Land his Father. You can continue to read about Oconee Joe, his guided trips, and explorations along our local river, here on Classic City News...

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