Here the roads are all stained red from the thick red clay that seems to be spreading thoughout this area. I swear I don’t remember ever seeing so much of the stuff. Yesterday I took a short walk with my nephews and managed to cake my boots with it. There’s lots about the south that can just get on you like that. It sticks to you, marks things you don’t want to be marked. Leaves stains that last a long, long time.
I’d forgotten, too, how large the churches are here–like recreations of old plantation homes in some respects. They start out small and somewhat modest but grow as their congregations grow. Each new addition is marked with a different shade of brick, a slightly different architectural style.
The other thing I tend to forget about this place is just how spread out everything is. There’s space between everything–even in the more urbanized areas. It’s as though everything is built in the same vein as the churches–with the knowledge that, someday, things will certainly change and expansion will certainly be necessary.
But on the other side of the tracks things are different, slower, more quiet, even less developed. (I’m not in Clemson proper, but rather sitting on the line that divides this town from a much smaller one named Central–named so for having once been the halfway point between Atlanta and Charlotte when train travel was more common). Here there’s one grocery store, a run down old supermarket that sits far off the main road in the midst of a parking lot full of chewed asphalt. Here is where they say the gangs hang out at night. And there are definately signs–the outside of the store has been tagged with graffiti, cigarette butts, skid marks. Here is where, my nephew tells me, a man was shot and killed not too many weeks ago. Here is where gang members drag in fifty gallon drums, set fires at night and dare others to come into their territory. Here is where I used to ride my bike. Here is where I used to catch the school bus.
Things are different here, there’s no doubt. It’s sad, in some ways to see that progression has not come here and that, instead, what has come to this area is crime and a lack of development. It’s sad, too, to know that this is the place I tend to write about, a place that, in my mind is still innocent and lively.