November 15, 2021

Look around and see Oglethorpe’s quality of life

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

                                             —Yogi Berra

Major League Baseball’s immortal legend, Yogi Berra, had a quip for just about every situation. Saturday, I thought about Yogi’s observation on observation, but you can look without seeing. 

Lunchtime at the Rowdy Rooster was an opportunity to see, really see, what many Oglethorpe County residents consider to be their top priority—quality of life. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The morning’s goal was to paint The Echo’s lobby. The trio of painters consisted of volunteers Jane Robertson, Fran Rauschenberg and my wife, Pam. I was their errand boy and furniture mover. 

        By midmorning, I was thinking, “I sure am hungry.” And then in walks Kathleen deMarrais with a plate of scones and a pot of coffee, courtesy of Ralph Maxwell, The Echo’s recently retired editor and publisher. Kathleen, along with Jamie Lewis, is the Rooster’s proprietor. Talk about quality of life. There we were, tasting it on our work break at 221 E. Main St.

        Other morning visitors were John and Jill Hill, the newspaper’s down-the-street and around-the-corner neighbors. John said he was a pretty good handyman and asked, “How can I help?” I showed him a dripping bathroom faucet. He said, “I can fix that.” Historian Tom Gresham and his wife, Gisela, stopped by. Tom allowed he was “pretty good” with yardwork. I laughed, pointed at our crop of kudzu and said, “It’s all yours.” 

Donny Faust came by, too. He’s much more than Crawford’s municipal waterworks expert. Donny is an invaluable volunteer photographer on The Echo’s sports-reporting team. Edward Toledano of The Gillen House in Maxeys also asked, “How can I help?” When we look back on the launch of this newspaper’s new era, we will see—really see—how volunteers made the difference in its success. 

        God gave Oglethorpe County some magnificent geography. I love the woodlands, the wide-open spaces, the rolling hills, streams, lakes, historic landmarks and proximity to other amenities. What completes the quality-of-life package are the civic-minded people of Oglethorpe County.

        And that’s what I saw—civic-minded people—when we crossed East Main Street. and walked into the playful spirit of the Rowdy Rooster’s patrons. As Lexington postmaster Lincoln Lindsey entered, wearing an Abe-like black stovepipe hat, he got a “rowdy” welcome in the Rooster.

        Kathleen introduced me to Marilyn Hill, who was eager to volunteer. Terry Rowlett and Cheryl Washburn were there for lunch, too.  Ralph joined Fran, Jamie, Pam and me, while we sampled the delicacies of Kathleen and Jamie’s kitchen. Looking around, I imagined we were on the set of TV’s iconic sitcom Friends.

        Before we left, I showed Kathleen a photo that I had taken the day before. Others looked, too, and a chorus chimed, “That’s Shannon and her children!” Shannon is an artist. She had illustrated Am I Still The Ocean, a book for sale at the Rooster. 

         Twenty-four hours earlier, I had observed a young mother pushing a triple stroller through The Echo’s parking lot. Strolling with her were a fourth child and a puppy on a leash. I had to get a closer look.

        As Hwy. 78’s big rigs and vehicles swished by, I learned Shannon Haynie and her husband, George, had moved their family from New Jersey. George is with UGA’s engineering department. Shannon and her entourage were running—well, walking—an errand to the post office, with a stop by Kendall Strickland’s roadside vegetable and fruit stand.

        How about that, Yogi? 

        You can’t “observe” much better quality of life than that. 

        And it’s all available, right here in Oglethorpe County.