When I was a child, I wrote a poem bemoaning the paving of the dirt road near my home.
I liked riding my ponies on the road. I enjoyed the rural atmosphere, and I did not like the change.
The roads where I live now are in the process of being paved. Considering the damage the bumpy, ridged, pot-holed and sometimes muddy roads have done to my truck and the death the roads caused my previous car, I appreciate the improvements to the community - but I still bemoan the loss of the rural charm of dirt roads.
For those who have never enjoyed a lazy Sunday afternoon cruising through the country, exploring isolated dirt roads upon which they have never traveled, my love affair with dirt roads may well be unexplainable.
I love the country - vast, thick woodlands almost untouched by human feet; black water creeks slithering through those woods, large open fields of pasture rolling with hills and dotted with either cattle or huge rolls of hay.
I love seeing acres and acres of farmland, and cringe when I see woodlands cleared for construction.
I realize construction and growth is a necessary thing, but I still dislike seeing the thick pine forests slain, rendered into square lots upon which modern houses will be built.
Coyotes, deer, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, hawks, owls, snakes, lizards, squirrels, foxes, bobcats and even skunks (yes, we have them in Bulloch County) are being displaced. That's why they slink onto our porches to steal dog food and run across the road to be slammed by flying vehicles. We've taken their homes!
In the past, I have not been a fan of Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and his shenanigans. However, a recent decision to spend $35 million for 20,000 acres of land in three counties meets my approval.
The money comes from land conservation funds, which Perdue worked to include in the state budget. The property is in Paulding, McIntosh and Decatur counties. According to Associated Press reports, Perdue has a special interest in the Paulding Forest along Lake Corley in Paulding County.
"‘‘These rolling hills of timber will be protected for generations to come,’’ he said in an AP story. He mentioned the particular property in his State of the State address last January.
I can relate to Perdue's love of wild lands and his wish to conserve them. I've fallen in love with many tracts of land over the years, and had my heart broken too many times when progress ate them up.
One is a piece of property along Cypress Lake Road, bordered by Cassie Ree Road, was where I once pastured my horses. A huge pecan tree, a falling-down barn and a spring-fed pond made the place special. Now a house stands on top of where my beloved horse Champ is buried.
At the end of Cassie Ree Road, the dirt road once disappeared and a trail through the woods lured us as we explored the area on horseback. The trail ended at a creek, where beavers built dams and the woods were so thick you could not hear traffic - only the cry of a red tail hawk, the chatter of squirrels, even the calming but eerie sound of silence.
There are houses there now.
We splashed and played in the spring-fed pond until the day I spotted a huge water moccasin with her squiggly babies. That ended that.
Houses now stand on the trails that once rambled through woodlands that are now the most recent phases of Irongate Subdivision.
The rolling pasture that is home to my equine rescue operation is another piece of property with which I have fallen in love. Secluded, quiet, beautiful, with thick woodlands, wild blackberry brambles, a serene pond and pecan trees - old barns, fences with pine posts that have turned into fat lighter, home to rabbits, hawks, deer and other wild life.
I hope it never changes.
Paulding Forest has been open to the public for hunting, fishing and outdoor enjoyment since 1990, and now will be safe from destruction.
The Silver Lake tract at Lake Seminole in Decatur County near Bainbridge, now owned by the state, was owned by International Paper Co. for decades and a population of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers live there.
The Townsend Wildlife Management Area along the Altamaha River in McIntosh County will open up for recreational use. The state is working with the military on this one, and the Nature Conservancy called the Altamaha River ‘‘one of the most biologically rich river systems along the Atlantic.’’ It winds 137 miles through hardwood bottomlands and cypress swamps.
These woodlands and untouched places are treasures well worth preserving, and I applaud Perdue for this move.