Georgia Red Clay
I’m sure you’ve either heard of it, or maybe you’ve even gotten your clothes stained by it, but Georgia is famous for “Georgia Red Clay.”
The reddish soil that covers much of the state of Georgia, along with areas in surrounding states, gets it’s color from iron oxide, the reddish-orange shades varying as much as any shade of red rust. It’s almost everywhere.
As a matter of fact, a good portion of the secondary roads in my area look just like the one above.
Georgia White Clay
On the other hand, especially around these parts (Washington County), there is another kind of clay: Kaolin.
As opposed to the common red clay, Kaolin (nicknamed “white gold” because of its color and its profitability) is mined, processed, and sold locally and around the world in various forms for use in products ranging from paper to lipstick. Actually, over 50% of it is used to give coated paper the “gloss” you might see in quality printer paper or magazines.
FYI, just click on the attached link and learn about one of the world’s largest producers of Kaolin located just 10 miles south of me in Sandersville, GA: Thiele Kaolin Company.
However, what I wanted to write about was not the types of clay that can be found in middle Georgia, but those red clay dirt roads…just like the one two houses down from me…right where the pavement ends.
It’s About the Dust
Two days ago, as I drove by one of these dirt roads, I sensed there was something profound…an important lesson…that I needed to learn then share. However, asking myself “What’s so spiritual about dirt roads?” over and over didn’t bring me any closer to a revelation. Then, as I was in the shower this morning, the truth of it all became clear (or clean, whichever):
It’s about the dust!
What do you get on your car after you travel down a paved road? Nothing. What do you get when you travel down a dirt road? Dust! It covers everything.
Think about it. You could drive a thousand miles down a nice, paved highway, and nobody would be any more the wiser of your long, hard journey. But travel down a dirt road and people will know you’ve been somewhere.
It’s About Serving
In a small, rural town like mine, the people have the tendency to care a little more about their neighbor. It’s not a firm and fast rule, but generally speaking, here you’re more likely to have someone lend you a helping hand than in the middle of a metropolis.
Yet, how do people know when you need a helping hand? How do people know you’ve traveled down a long, dirt road?
So often, in our “big cities,” we live such guarded, relationally-sanitized lives that we could be driven to near exhaustion and no one would be able to tell from the outside. In other words, our cars are clean.
But get down to a place where “everybody knows your business” and what do you find? A more openness about the road of life, a transparency that admits the road is dusty and dirty and has an affect on you.
Are bigger towns with the paved roads really all that better? Consider what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery had to say about “streets” under the heading of “A Window into the City’s Common Life”:
[The] street as a setting in the Bible represents what is commonly true of the mood, spirit and well-being of the city. Streets typically line the entirety of a city and serve as its reference points. Descriptions of what takes place “in the streets” therefore function as generalizations about what is going on in the city as a whole. – Leland Ryken et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 820.
If the streets of this middle-Georgia pastorate are any inclination, there’s a lot of opportunity to be like Jesus…to be a servant. At least down in these parts people are a little more willing to admit the need to have their feet … or their tires … washed.
So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. – John 13:12-16
It’s easier to be a servant where the roads are dirt 🙂
9 responses to “Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Dirt Roads”
Wonder if it’s the same as Mississippi Red Clay? We didn’t have many red clay roads in the city, but go out to the country a bit and there were somewhat common. Plus, the Interstate often cut through hills where you could the red clay deposits on the hillside.
Probably very similar. The stuff around here also has more sand mixed it. Lot of sandy soil around here.
Looks like I can’t find my response I started, but from the US DOT – https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/sandclay.cfm:
The idea was that adding clay to sandy roads gave them stability; adding sand to clay surfaces prevented them from rutting and becoming sticky in wet weather.
That was something else… I did not expect to see all the smooth roads. I expected to see more ruts. But they’re all nice to drive on, actually.
have you ever wondered, where the sand came from. Or what the several hundred feet of soil below your feet come from?
Well, I can tell you what “they” say. I live in the area called the Fall Line. They say this stretch across Georgia was at one time “oceanfront property.”
So if directly under you is Ocean property, do you think Mammals could live on that land? And since that same sort of stuff is all around the world, doesn’t it pose a problem.
One would think.