There is sadness in little Georgiana, AL tonight. Because this morning in Birmingham in the final four of the state high school basketball tournament, the team from this little hamlet lost 60-58 to a private school in north Alabama in the smallest division schools compete in.
I was in Georgiana last Thursday night at the Butler County school board meeting. A large crowd of locals, at least 75 people, were in the audience. At one point Georgiana High principal Curtis Moorer reminded the audience that the school was in the final four and that buses would be taking folks to Birmingham.
He promised that the school would win the state championship. The crowd agreed.
But now we know it will not be.
As I said in an earlier post, I was in my element that Thursday night. I don’t know who they were, but I am sure some in the crowd and I share some of the same ancestors. Lees have roamed that little speck of south Butler and north Covington counties for nearly 200 years.
They, like everyone else, waged a daily struggle to simply get by. They followed mules down sandy cotton rows, stacked peanuts in the fall, made sugar cane syrup to drag biscuits through at breakfast, killed hogs when the weather got cold in the fall, ran sewing machines making pants and blouses and under garments and worked one end of a crosscut saw until sweat sloshed in their brogans.
They were yeomen farmers and sharecroppers. Simple people who went to primitive Baptist churches and were baptized in a creek or pond. They fried chicken to take to dinner on the grounds. They helped their neighbors when help was called for. They buried their own in pine boxes and decorated graves with shells they found in a creek, and maybe even some colored glass.
The last census said Georgiana is now less than 1,800 souls. Like most of rural Alabama, the citizens are older and poorer than those in the cities where their young have fled to.
Because of such circumstances, the school is more than JUST a school. IT IS the community. It is where races mingle in a grandstand and cheer for their team. For their boys and girls. It is where hope springs from in a community that doesn’t have many chances to celebrate success or cling to hope.
They lost to a small private school in a town 250 miles away where the average student comes from a totally different environment.
I cast no rocks at the school that won. Any time you play a game, one side wins and one side loses. That’s the way it has always been and will always continue to be.
Still, my heart hurts for Georgiana
Because the DNA of its citizens is my DNA also.