At any rate, I’m sitting in the coffee establishment, minding my business, sipping a decaf and reading a book on my electronic reader, the Kindle, when the man and woman sat down at the table next to mine. They settled themselves in, talked a bit, drank some coffee, and then leaned over the space to speak to me.
“Do you live in this area?” he asked.
“I do,” I said. I gave them my name and they gave me mine.
“We’re passing through on vacation,” said the woman. “What a quaint little town this is,” she added. Something about her tone and manner gave the impression of condescension. “Jim and I stopped here on Tuesday and have been looking around, sort of sightseeing, you see, but I must admit there’s not a lot of sights to see except for those historical markers about the Civil War. Other than that there’s not much to see around these parts, is there?”
“Actually, there’s quite a bit to see around here. Have you visited Cloudland Canyon?” I gave them a verbal tour of that little depression in the ground up in Dade County. I told them about the wall on top of Fort Mountain just the other side of Chatsworth and threw in, free of charge, my personal opinions on the origin of the wall and how I thought it was of religious significance for the early Native Americans. I told them about the Etowah Mounds and how a few European germs had all but wiped out that civilization. Then I told them about New Echota and the origins of the Trail of Tears.
He interrupted me. “Echota, so that’s how you pronounce it. We drove past there the other day. Just seemed like a bunch of old buildings. Seems to me you folks would have restored it a bit more, if it’s so important. I can’t believe how inadequate that sight is.” He paused and pulled a paper from his pocket. “So with this place being a center of Native Americans at one time, I guess that’s where all these crazy names come from.”
I looked at the paper and told him, “Coo-saw-wad-tee.”
“Weird word,” he said. “How about this one?”
I looked at the paper again, “Ooos-ta-nal-la.”
“Another weird one. How about this one?”
Again I looked. “Con-na-sue-ga.”
“Jeez,” he almost sneered, “you’d think you guys would have renamed the rivers to something you could pronounce when you stole this place from the Indians. I guess that’s because you didn’t have many schools down here back then.”
The color of my face now must have become a bit red. I felt the ire rising inside me. Mama told me to be nice to strangers. I couldn’t think of anything nice to day so I kept quiet. Nevertheless, I’d had enough. Even for a Southern gentleman hospitality has limits. I placed my Kindle in my back pack, wadded my napkin and placed it in the empty cup. I tossed it into the trash receptacle when I left. As I walked past the window I saw them leaving, also. They left their trash on the table. I couldn’t help but wonder if they could pronounce “Reprobate.”