“I want you to do a follow-up story on Farley Higgins.” Mr. White, my editor, handed me an assignment work form.
“Who is Farley Higgins?” I looked down at the form for clues.
“You don’t know who Farley Higgins is? And you call yourself a reporter. Why Farley Higgins helped put Georgia on the map.”
“Oh, was he one of the founding fathers of Georgia?” I tried to look as dumb as possible, which was easy.
Mr. White laughed his famous belly laugh, which everyone heard throughout the office. I was turning red. I must have missed something.
“Good ol’ boy Farley died about 12 years ago. I want you to go down to his home town of Farland and check it out. Get some interviews and tell me what people are saying about him today.”
I hurried to my cubicle and Googled a web search for Farley Higgins. He was quite a character in his day. He put the drawl in southern and was both a philanthropist as well as a columnist on this same paper. I printed out directions on MapQuest so I could find Farland. I jogged to the parking garage, jumped into my Honda Civic, and headed south.
As I drove into the city limits, I noticed the faded welcome sign with a faint outline stating this was the hometown of Farley Higgins. I slowed down to the 45 mph speed limit followed quickly by a 35 mph speed sign. Like many rural Georgia towns, it had one blinking yellow traffic light at its only intersection surrounded by mostly vacant stores.
A small faded sign pointed west to the Farley Higgins Museum. I hung a quick right and drove down an old neighborhood street of rundown homes with rusty, relic car bodies scattered among the tall weeds. A block down on the right I saw the Farley Higgins Museum. A small grayish house with an oversize faded sign out front‑Farley Higg Muse…‑welcomed the visitor.
I stopped the car in the gravel parking spot in front. Only a robin looking for worms greeted me. I peered into the dirty front door window‑just a few boxes of stuff around. There was a placard on the back wall which said “Entry fee $5.”
I got in my car and drove back to the main intersection where I observed three teenagers leaning against one of the storefronts. The store looked open so I parked and walked up to the boys.
“Hey, guys. Have you ever heard of Farley Higgins?” I looked at the tallest one.
“Heard of him,” was the barely audible voice.
“Any of you been to his museum down the street?” I pointed toward the museum.
“Nope,” they all chimed in. “Sure not going to spend any money to see some old dead person’s stuff.”
“Does anybody come by to see it?”
“It’s closed.” The stocky kid looked bored with my questions. “They don’t come this way anymore.”
“Thanks.” I went in and grabbed me a coke out of the cooler. There were two old men sitting at a barrel playing checkers near the front window. Two, 100-watt bulbs hanging from long cords lit the dusty general store.
“Gentlemen, I hope I’m not interrupting a championship move.”
“Pull you up a chair and sit a spell.” The white man motioned to the spare chair nearby. “I’m Clyde and this is Rufus.”
“Glad to meet you. Thanks. I’m a reporter down here to do a follow-up story on Farley Higgins. Do you know who he is?” I twisted the cap off the coke.
“Y’all are definitely a stranger in these parts. Why Farley Higgins put Farland and Georgia, for that matter, on the USA map.” The black man, Rufus, spit into an old Styrofoam cup full of a black gooey substance.
“So did either of you know Farley?”
“You betcha. All the folk in Farland knew Farley. He not only talked about us in his paper but he helped us out during some tough times.” Clyde pointed up at an old painting of Farley on the cluttered wall.
“How did he help you, Clyde, if I might ask?”
“’Bout 20 years ago the misses was having a battle with cancer. He stepped in and made sure the doctor bills got paid.”
“And did you know him too, Rufus?”
“Oh, knew him real good. I used to drive him around to all his meetings all over the state. Took him to the airport lots, too. If he hadn’t hired me, I don’t know what I’d done. Got into some trouble when I was young and he hired me anyway.”
“Do you see anybody down here looking for his hometown?” I took a sip of my coke.
Clyde tipped his chair back. “They used to come down here all the time. The museum was full especially on weekends. People used to stop in here and buy his books and tapes. All these stores were open and everyone was making a decent living.”
“Now?” I asked.
Clyde looked at me with misting eyes and shook his head. “They don’t come this way anymore.”