EATONTON – Here in the heart of Georgia’s Piedmont, native American history has been said to date back as much as 3,000 years — long before the first dairy farm came about in Putnam County and long before Joel Chandler Harris began writing folk tales that were popular in his day but not so much anymore.
Although it would probably be politically incorrect in these times to create an Uncle Remus narrating stories, the lessons and logic of those tales remain celebrated and useful for their insightfulness. Our world is abundantly populated with folk slugging the tar baby today.
Harris was not the only celebrated author to hail from these parts. Additionally, the list includes poet Louise Prudden Hunt; Alice Walker, author of the novel “The Color Purple”; and David Driskell, leading scholar and promoter of African-American art.
S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was a native of Eatonton. If you take time to browse around the city, you might just bump into Vincent Hancock, who won gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympics in men’s skeet shooting.
Seven miles north of here is the popular 4-H Club enclave Rock Eagle, home to enterprising young boys and girls who eagerly practice the tenets of the 4-H Club creed. There is a bypass highway that takes you away from downtown Eatonton, but if you journey in this direction, don’t take the expeditious route. Spend time in this city named for William Eaton, an Englishman who distinguished himself in the first Barbary War.
Seguing from the historical to the pastoral, there are plentiful farms and woods in Putnam County with Eatonton being conveniently located between two popular lakes — Oconee and Sinclair.
If you have an idee fixe for stalking white tail deer or a tom turkey, there is overflowing opportunity in these parts. The seasons don’t overlap, which means you may enjoy a seasonal double — a whitetail in winter and a tom in the spring — but you have to be more cunning and wily than those being stalked.
At the invitation of an eminently successful graduate of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, Darren Devore, I have found my way to his second home, a fetching place in the woods where you can reach out and touch the great outdoors.
Darren is managing partner of Broad Pine Investments, the holding company for various private equity and venture capital activity; he serves on a number of boards. In addition to partnering with and leading a number of global companies to peak performances, overseeing business and marketing strategies that have elevated profits and expansion, he finds time to coddle his Bulldog passions serving on the Terry College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council. He is an alumnus who simply cannot do enough for his alma mater.
He was a member of the executive committee for the 2017 U.S. Open championship at Erin Hills, which reflects his affection for varied pursuits. The essence of this loyal Bulldog is his resourcefulness and his adaptability. Darren is as functional in the kitchen, for example, as he is in an upscale boardroom in a big city skyscraper.
I was privy to the former when he invited me to his spread recently. We were joined by one of the most colorful personalities in our state, Supreme Court Justice John Ellington, who, like Darren, enjoys the highs of preeminent professional status but glories in being amongst the wildlife in a downhome setting.
We arrived midafternoon for colloquy with a libation in rocking chairs, which accommodated stimulating vistas that compelled you to silently offer thanks for the moment. As the shadows began to slide down the horizon, we were in a turkey blind with the judge, an accomplished hunter, bent on a tete-a-tete with a wily tom. He talked. In the distance, a tom talked back. A hen appeared, but the toms stayed put.
It wasn’t a day of futility, however. The host brought out steaks with rich marinade and inviting seasoning. When the host pairs such with a robust cabernet, you forget about uncooperative toms.
Stimulating conversation followed to cap off a fulfilling sojourn into the hinterlands of Putnam County. We didn’t sing “Glory to ol’ Georgia,” but felt like it. Not to worry. Darren, the gentleman host, said there would be a follow-up invitation.