Somewhere on the lonely stretch of interstate between Tarpon Springs, Florida and Lake Winfield Scott, Georgia there is a smokestack. It stands alone in a field, with bricks as red as the clay earth, surrounded by the dry husks of weeds long parched by the Dixie sun. It is a silent sentinel, a testament to Antebellum days long past, and the only reminder of the bustling world of which it was once a part.
It has been a year since I last saw that obelisk of Old South prosperity, but the memory of it still haunts me. I was 16 on that car trip, on my way to spending a week camping with my father in the Georgia Appalachians. It was a week I will always remember, for amongst the stargazing, the firewood gathering, and the day-long hikes, I found a part of myself.
I learned of endurance, I practiced survival skills, I dedicated myself to learning about nature and living alongside it. But most of all I learned about the world. That day in the car as we sped through the heart of the Confederacy at 70 miles per hour I caught a glimpse of the past.
The smokestack stood as a testament to the power of forces within a nation. Built in a world resting upon the backs of slaves, soon to erupt into the bloodiest war America has ever seen. Brother shooting at brother, father killing son.
With my nose pressed against the cold glass of the window, I could just make out the Union soldiers razing the factory, flames licking the sides of that smokestack, as those southern clay buildings collapsed to the heart-rending ballad of a nation destroyed from within.And all that remained of that once flourishing world was an old red brick smokestack beside the interstate, crumbling in the Georgia sun.
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