Wednesday, June 20, 2012

AUNT DIXIE (1913 - 2012)

A lady bent and drawn with age sits in a wheel chair just inside the door of her granddaughter’s home. When someone enters she asks, “Do you have a car?” If the answer is yes, she then pleads, “Will you take me home?”

The home Aunt Dixie longs for is a place most do not know ever existed. Its location was approximately eight miles northwest of downtown Athens at the intersection of current County Roads 180 and 187. There Dixie’s father, J. G. Wattenbarger, once operated a country store which also served as Fiketon Post Office. Though all traces of the original structures are gone, the location is still designated on some maps as Fiketon.

In 1849 Dixie’s grandfather, Jacob Wattenbarger, traveled a few miles south from his parent’s home in the Tranquility community and married Louisa Thomas, daughter of plantation owner Jonathan Thomas. Jacob and Louisa acquired property from Jonathan in the vicinity of Rogers Creek Baptist Church and built a log house where they reared their family.

When the Civil War broke out, Jacob faced a dilemma. Being from the Tranquility Community, which supported the Union, he was living at the very center of a community which supported the South. Jacob hid out in the hills above his home to elude conscription into the Confederate Army and sometimes slept in a cave that to this day bears his name.

Dixie’s other grandfather was John Hart whose property joined that of her grandfather Jacob. John Hart was a strong southern supporter and fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War, enduring the Siege of Vicksburg and other battles. John Hart and Jacob Wattenbarger were each sincere in their beliefs. Now the two former adversaries lie on opposing hillsides, separated by the community that now only exists in the mind of Aunt Dixie.

Yesterday Dixie Wattenbarger Runyon returned to Fiketon and now lies at rest beside her husband Charlie and daughter Bobbye in the family cemetery overlooking her childhood home. It was a custom in Dixie’s grandfather’s day that one toll of the church bell be sounded for each year the deceased had lived. As Dixie was laid to rest, ninety-eight tolls rang out across the valley.

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