Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
In those formative years of the past, my imagination would always run rampant with the words of certain songs with which I became familiar by listening to the radio.
One was “Home on the Range.” I often wondered what it would be like to brush up against the Western experience where “the buffalo roam and the deer and antelope play,” as Dr. Brewster Higley described it in his 1876 poem, which became the state song of Kansas. Seldom do you hear that song any more, but whenever I do I think of how nice it would be to find my way to a setting in one of the Western states where there would be a range as real as the ones described in those familiar lyrics.
Recently we found a modern-day “home on the range” in middle Georgia where there is some semblance of a range setting, at least emotionally, at the home of Marshall and Jane Butler, whose spread offers an outdoor exposure that is far from a campfire with a puny bed roll and a hobbled horse nearby. The atmosphere is as revealing and satisfying as the setting Higley found out West.
A successful businessman, Marshall wanted a place where there was space to enjoy. He found acreage with a sloping terrain that allows for a view into the distance where cut and kempt grass meets a distant tree line, which forms a view than only nature can concoct. He wanted to watch the deer encroach on the furthermost reach of his property but not so close that they could become the pests that they can be.
No problem there since his six dogs-Jackpot, Lottery, Sugar, Honey, and J. R.-make sure that the deer don’t venture too close to the Butler homestead. Seeing deer cavort on the edge of the tree line is a rich experience which is part of the fabric of the Butlers’ lives. Turkey flocks seem to proliferate in the spring, and there are eight-and ten-pound bass in the ponds on his property.
On a recent weekend evening, Marshall and Jane began a laidback social as the sun was setting, serving a red wine that would make you salivate. The deer were keeping their distance as a flock of Canada geese honked overhead. A rabbit or two bounded about here and there, and somewhere in the distance crows were doing as they do, speaking in cacophonous tongues, a precursor to the evening call of a whippoorwill. Out near Maynard’s Mill Road, a John Deere hay bailing machine was cutting hay, kicking up a light dust as evening shadows approached. One of the scenes I would paint if I were an artist would be a field of hay bales all rolled up and lying in wait for pick-up and storage for the livestock when winter brings about the fallow conditions that cause a summons for evenings by the fire.
Marshall and Jane have been successful in the car business and have integrated their children-Morris, Marsh, Bonnie, and Dixie-into the business. They wanted a home-on-the-range setting where the grandchildren could play.
If you were to venture by the Butler farm, you might find Marshall jogging with Toyota and BMW, his two stallions which prance along with him, in addition to the gangsome of dogs-which have pool privileges when they finish jogging with their master.
Dinner out by the pool in the early evening under a starlit sky-featuring salad, green beans, potatoes, and more from Jane’s exceptional kitchen touch and Marshall’s filets from the grill-make you realize it is difficult to beat a home-cooked meal with friends. After a restful night’s sleep, there was breakfast on the patio-eggs, bacon, fruit, Rosalie’s jam, English muffin, orange juice, and coffee.
The Butlers wanted to live in the country so they could enjoy the views and sounds of nature. “I find the living peaceful,” Marshall said, “and that is what I wanted. One of the reasons I believe in God is from the exposure I have had from nature.”
Most of us need peace in our lives, and there are different ways to find it. Marshall and Jane Butler have found it refreshingly down on the farm in their own personal “home on the range.”
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.