Thursday, August 28, 2008

North of Wrightsville - Pure

It was a late Saturday afternoon in April when I left my brother's apartment in Milledgeville and drove out to Wrightsville, thirty minutes away. I took the back roads, going through a couple of small towns and taking a few pictures along the way. It was a pleasant drive, but I didn't come across anything memorable or special. I was heading to Wrightsville because I knew there was an old Pure gas station several miles north of town on US 221. I'd seen the gas station before, in the middle of the day, and figured the gas station would make a nice picture just around dusk. Leaving Wrighstville, I drove past an old, weathered recruitment sign for Sons of Confederate Veterans and farm after farm. The sky was overcast and when I reached the gas station, thirty minutes before dark, my immediate prospects for a picture were not looking good. I decided to stick around for a little while, hoping the sun could somehow find a way out of the clouds before it reached the horizon. A cold front was on its way, and I felt one of those perfect sunsets would happen if the sun just made an appearance. As I walked around waiting for the sun to go down, the clouds slowly began to light up, as if Hopper was putting his finishing brush strokes on a painting I recognized but had never seen before. As I began photographing the scene, knowing I could never capture what my eyes saw or how I felt, I wished that someone else would drive by and see the remarkable scene that was unfolding before me.

While I was having these thoughts, a pickup truck trailering an old fishing boat pulled up on the other side of the road. The driver rolled down his window, and we began to talk. I don't remember his name, it's been almost five months since then, but I'll never forget our conversation and the backdrop for it. He was a couple of years older than me and lived down the road, somewhere behind the gas station. We made some small talk about college and sports, he'd gone to Georgia Southern for a couple of years, but had moved back home because this is where he wanted to be. His family owned the gas station but they hadn't sold gas in 20 years. Now it was just a reminder of a time when things were different. We talked a little longer and ended our conversation on fishing, which was where he was originally headed. He was on his way to pick up a buddy, hoping they could get in some night fishing before the front came through. I wished him luck, knowing he'd have an enjoyable time whether or not the fish were biting. As he left, I thought about our conversation and how lucky I was to be here on a Saturday night in April. He seemed more concerned with the fishing, almost like he'd seen this painting before.