Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
A quick trip to Thomasville, this most hospitable of communities, allowed for a visit with friends, which brought about recall of a different day and a treasured friendship.
Barbara and Gordon Dixon were our hosts for a brief respite in the land of the piney woods and the quail plantations, where anticipation prevails. In fewer than four weeks, the hunters will begin their fixation on stalking quail in a setting that generates feelings of expectancy and serenity. There is recurring affection for quail hunting. Doesn’t matter how many times you have had the experience — when a Bob White thunders up from the brush and you aim straight and true, it always gives you a rush. It’s like hitting a clean, crisp single over the shortstop’s head with men on base. The arrogance we often find in today’s world could easily be ameliorated by a quail hunt in the fields and woods of south Georgia.
An invitation to someone’s comfortable guest house allows for congenial relaxation and overwhelming warmth. There is a porch with a rocking chair, where you can become enraptured by stately and picturesque pines. Solitude always accompanies the visit, and no matter how brief, it is good for your health.
When you are with old friends, you enjoy the moment but you also reflect on the past. Barbara Dupree Dixon, a beauty queen and a terrific athlete, grew up in Athens. She always had affection for the outdoors, which is why today she still rides horses and plays tennis. If she had come along a little later in life, she would have been one of the first to have been recognized in the women’s athletic movement.
Seeing her and enjoying her hospitality on her wooded acreage, where you can find wild quail, deer, and turkeys, I concluded that she and Gordon could supply venison for the entire neighborhood from the backyard patio, if they were of a mind to.
As casual conversation escalated, I thought of Barbara’s late father, Sterling Dupree, a longtime coach and recruiter for the University of Georgia, whose hair turned white early in his life. With the passing of years, he became known as the “Silver Fox.”
As an athlete, this Sylvester native, who had the greatest of affection for quail hunting, became a clever football coach. Although he had many qualities which set him apart, the most redeeming thing about him was his overt loyalty. In the mid-’50s, when times were hard for Wallace Butts in Athens, Dupree was uncomfortable with the “backstabbing” that he saw taking place.
Dupree was a colorful character. For a brief time, when he ran track at Auburn, he was the fastest man in the world. He was a member of the Greatest Generation and was honored to have served under General George Patton, whom he revered.
This story came to me from Jim Clay, who was an outstanding football player at Georgia Tech. Clay and Coach Dupree were in the same unit in Patton’s Third Army. One day when they were out in the field, who would come riding up but General Patton himself. Patton stopped his jeep and began conversation with Clay and Dupree, asking them where they were from, meaning which company they were attached to.
Clay gave the proper response. In reply to Patton’s question, Coach Dupree, who had put his raincoat on because of a light mist, an action that resulted in his lieutenant’s bars being covered (he was, therefore, technically out of uniform), smiled generously and proudly said, “Sylvester, Georgia.” Patton, about to dress him down, asked, “Do you know who I am?” To which Dupree replied, “Yes sir, you’re General Patton, the ‘fightingest’ general there ever was.” Patton swelled up with pride, saluted, and drove off.
I didn’t have to drive to Thomasville to reminisce about my friendship with Sterling Dupree, but seeing his pretty daughter in this piney-wood setting made me recall my time with him.
While I can’t talk to him anymore, I can, through friendship, remember his time in Athens. He was truly an unforgettable character.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.