People around here frequently say, despite Columbia County's population long ago ballooning past the 100,000 mark, that this really is just a small town.
We need no further proof than the fact that the undisputed social event of the year has been the opening of a grocery store.
Tuesday, everyone in the county - or so it seemed - came to the ribbon-cutting and opening-night benefit sneak preview at Earth Fare, the "natural"-themed grocery store in the old Winn Dixie on Furys Ferry Road in Martinez.
I had to park in Hephzibah just to get in. Incredible. The event raised a lot of money for the Greater Augusta Arts Council, and apparently the store's opening made a lot of granola-heads ecstatically happy.
Karen Chjrapin, for example. I didn't realize the Chamber of Commerce director is a vegan, and had been lobbying for several years to persuade Earth Fare to move to our area. Until now, she says she's been driving to Columbia to get a better selection of the sort of things vegans eat. I'm not really sure what those things are, but somehow I suspect it involves tofu.
As a dedicated meatitarian, I've never had much trouble finding anything to eat. Even a gas-station hot dog works for me. Still, Earth Fare is shiny and pretty and well-stocked with lots of stuff labeled "natural" and "organic," and appears to be off to a good start toward success - especially if that opening crowd is any indication.
White? Never mind
Speaking of crowds, I remain astounded at the number of people commenting on the Lakeside High School football cheating scandal, and on the length of time the heated debate has gone on.
Amidst it all, I got what has to rank as my funniest call of the year.
What sounded like an older gentleman called me (actually, I think he was just calling whomever answered the office phone) to raise Cain about the media furor over the Lakeside scandal and coach Jody Grooms.
"You see trick plays and bad calls in the NFL, NBA all the time and y'all don't write about that!" the man yelled (and I'm paraphrasing his comments). "They get in fights over bad calls in baseball and y'all don't write about that!" he continued.
I tried to tell him that the Lakeside episode wasn't about a bad call, but was blatant cheating; that didn't suit him. He had more to say, and finally got around to what seemed to be his real reason for calling.
"Y'all are just going after him because you've always got to go against the black man!" he yelled, punctuating the rant with a few cusswords.
I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud as I pointed out that Jody Grooms is, in fact, white.
Harlem's last laugh
Incidentally, the athletic director and head football coach (Scott Chadwick) at Greenbrier High School also is white, and he is now taking some of the heat off of the Lakeside situation.
In fact, the unfolding scandal at Greenbrier - with multiple ineligible students apparently playing football - could turn out to be far worse than Lakeside's situation because of the length of time it was allowed to go on.
Meanwhile, the Evans and Harlem teams played by the rules this year (please, dear God, as far as we know), and have been rewarded with state playoffs for Evans, and with a great season for Harlem.
And Harlem's folks, their mascot stolen before the game against Thomson, will get the last laugh.
They're selling T-shirts lampooning the theft. The front has a picture of the fiberglass bulldog with the caption, "Property of Harlem High School."
On the back, in a jab to the Thomson thieves: "Buy Your Own Dog."
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.