Didn’t notice? That’s understandable. Most of us have been trained to look at news events in isolation and not as part of pieces of an overall passing scene that tells a larger and more important story.
Even those citizens who noticed, or were involved in, some of the elements that made this past Thursday special likely may have only “felt” or sensed it.
Three “happenings,” of themselves unrelated and not connected, actually told a tale of their own: Greater Rome is not an ordinary place. That, in turn, may help explain why so many people seem to love this place, and remain for generations, without actually grasping why.
The “big local news story” that drew the most notice/attention/interest was, of course, the black bear wandering through the heart of town. Actually, it was the least unusual and most ordinary of the three events.
Black bears wander through Rome all the time, probably every year, but only every once in a while are detected. The latest visitor was probably drawn to Riverside Parkway by the delicious smells coming from the Riverwalk restaurant strip trash containers, a fairly new attraction along the Ursus americanus migratory path.
GEORGIA ESTIMATES its black bear population currently as 5,100. Many are born in the mountainous preserved lands to our immediate north and it is in the nature of bears for “daddy” to boot grown sons out of his house where all the food sources (and females) are his property. So junior, even weighing 250 pounds or so, must find his own place to settle generally using the rivers, with which Floyd County is laced, as an interstate. Indeed, the same day two black bears were spotted on the move in Chattooga County, one inside Summerville.
It’s really kind of neat to live in such a place (black bears won’t bother you if you don’t bother them, their nature being much different from grizzlies and such). Indeed, all sorts of sights not usually found in concentrations of human civilization are no big surprise in these parts. American bald eagles are nesting at Berry College. Unknown to most, resettled sturgeon are slowly growing in our rivers as future sources of game fishing and caviar harvesting as in days of yore. Beavers, hawks, owls, turtles, geese, ducks, herons, etc. ... not as “remarkable” as black bears but often encountered.
The bear was last seen headed in the direction of Jackson Hill where he was undoubtedly encouraged to leave town by the constant cannon fire coming from there that same day. An original Noble Foundry cannon of Civil War vintage, born in Rome, was brought home by neighborly South Carolinians and loudly demonstrated for the first time since it was likely test fired into Mount Aventine.
WAS THAT Robert Noble, the Rome architect whose ancestors made the thing, helping with the firings? More proof that generations stick around these parts. Were those the strains of “Dixie,” a favorite of Abraham Lincoln but now seemingly outlawed by the forces of “political correctness,” that was heard once again?
That all gave added emphasis to the special, rich history that remains a part of lore, legend and everyday life. Not all cities have this and while even Rome’s is not as front and center as it deserves to be, neither does it fade away — and it involves far, far more than the Civil War era.
Yet, to this point it remains private interests (this newspaper with its Past Times magazine and steady editorial badgering, and the citizen-launched nonprofit Rome Area History Museum) that have kept it front and center. Is it worth mentioning that the firings were done on the side of the barely visible, city-owned and largely unrestored Fort Norton site used by both Confederate and Union forces? Sigh ...
That day’s third “big deal” was the formal opening of the 2.1 mile Armuchee Connector with its new bridge over the Oostanaula River, the $12 million for it entirely funded by local taxpayers — no state or federal highway dollars involved.
WHILE the route opens up “new territory” for future development, probably in the distant future given the sputtering economy, and will certainly help with access to the proposed Tennis Center of Georgia (which is a “when” and not an “if” given it is an idea birthed locally) on land donated by Berry College after local voters approved the new road, it came into being for a different reason entirely that reflects magnificently upon the sort of community this is.
Before the connector, all access to/from much of the fast-growing northwest end of the county, as well as to Berry College, the mall and so forth had to cross the intersection of U.S. 27 (Martha Berry Highway) and Veterans Memorial Highway (State Loop 1). Were ever one of the many logging trucks and gasoline tankers crossing that spot to collide and tip over all travel would have to be shut down for hours.
Annoying, bad for business, etc. but the real risk stressed prior to the referendum: Thousands would be cut off from ambulances and hospitals, fire engines, police response and so forth unless “another way to go” were created. Since state/federal road builders showed no interest in eliminating this risk caused by the crossing of state/federal highways, it was up to “us” to it ourselves. It’s not every community where neighbors (the majority of voters live elsewhere) vote to spend $12 million to make life safer for other neighbors.
SO LET’S sum up the three aspects of somewhat smallish local news events — certainly not murders or other such headline-grabbers — that appeared on a single day:
Greater Rome is a place where humans share space rather comfortably with nature’s original residents even though it is a “metropolitan statistical area.”
It is a place that honors, respects and keeps alive its history (though still not as intensely as it should) and those who came before.
It is a community where members pay attention to and are willing to spend their own money to make life safer, and better, for neighbors — the very essence of being a community.
Not bad to all come into evidence on a single day. Not bad at all. This past Thursday was a really big day for spotlighting what makes Greater Rome feel special, even if one has to be aware that what actually “makes news” is how seemingly small pieces fit into the big picture.