If you are a football fan, you probably enjoy following your favorite team on the road. You can make the trip more than “Gameday” with just a modicum of enterprise and effort—provided that you have friends who can accommodate and make your day.
Except for the game itself, which has been a tenacious toe-to-toe tussle over the years, making the trip to the Auburn campus is fraught with plentiful outdoor options to say nothing of the hospitality of good friends.
Ed Roddenbery, former member of the Georgia golf team, and his sprightly wife, Becky Sue, said some time back in a good neighborly vernacular, “Spend the Auburn weekend with us. You can stay in Andy’s pool house.” Son, Andy, is a general surgeon who is named for his paternal grandfather, Dr. S.A. Roddenbery, who was an outstanding football player, under Harry Mehre at Georgia and a long-time member of the UGA athletic board—the Bulldog standard-bearer in Muscogee County for decades.
Andy, his wife, Mary, and their three Bulldog energizer bunnies—Mimi, Anderson and George formed a welcoming committee, well-mannered, hospitable and full of questions about the “Dawgs.” Ask for a Coke and a mad dash for the refrigerator ensues. Their precociousness overwhelms. Fall weekends in Athens have them playing touch football on the lawn at the Georgia Center each home game weekend. Their parents seldom go out of town without their offspring in tow. All three enjoy reading. “How ‘bout them young Dawgs!”
There is much to experience in Columbus. The infantry museum at Ft. Benning is worth a day trip from almost anywhere in Georgia. Callaway Gardens still has a lot to offer and the Pine Mountain trail allows for views of this part of our state that are incomparable.
Ed had arranged for a bass fishing outing on a lake near here with one of the most accomplished outdoorsmen in the state of Georgia. If I didn’t know better, John Lee might have been the model for artist Ed Dodd’s Mark Trail. (Interestingly, King Features, as of 2020, distributes the episodes of this comic strip character worldwide.) Ed Dodd may well have been Georgia’s first environmentalist.
John Lee is an affable and introspective graduate of the Medical College of Georgia with a deep and abiding passion for the Georgia Bulldogs, his love of the team handed down to him by his father, Tom, who also taught him how to fish. John became so good at fishing that he fished in professional tournaments while in medical school that brought in more income than his salary as an eye-nose-and-throat-specialist-to-be.
He always wins a tournament every year and there have been times when he has won as many as five. His trophy room doesn’t suffer from a lack of hardware.
His successful medical practice has a fixed routine that allows him certain afternoons off to fish lakes and rivers within a hundred miles of his home in Harris County where he rides horses and daily coddles his 13 bird dogs. He fishes year-round and never tires of the solitude on the lake and the yelping of his bird dogs in the woods.
He and Ed reeled in nothing but three pounders and up while I watched in abiding respect. There were some that exceeded five pounds. I had a good day, too, but “runts” seemed to find their way to my hook.
An avid quail hunter, John now prefers to watch his dogs work the fields, training them with an accent on making their day by allowing them the freedom of outdoor rambunctiousness. “I just want them to enjoy a long and happy life,” John says, noting that he hardly ever takes a gun with him to the fields. However, if his wife, Terri, needs an assist for the dinner menu, John can always do his part. It is a case of how many quail she wants to cook. If she says a half dozen, then he takes six shells to the fields.
Quail, dove, deer and turkey—he has enjoyed bountiful harvests over the years and is always in step with good conservation and environmental practices. For example, where he fishes in Eufaula, Alabama, there are 70-year-old alligators that often attract bounty hunters. “Just leave them alone and let them rest in peace,” John says. Nothing he enjoys more than catching and releasing fish.
The excursion ended on Sunday morning at Dowdell’s Knob on the Pine Mountain Trail where I found a chestnut tree that has survived the dastardly chestnut blight. That was an objective at the outset, a reminder that you don’t have to follow your favorite football team to enjoy the best in outdoor experiences of two states—but it can be a nice by-product of such avocation.