I'm back in Statesboro Georgia. Arrived yesterday early evening. This afternoon the sky has finally brightened and around town is looking pretty, with the dogwoods all delicately in blossom.
I've walked the official McTell Trail for the first time - the trail for which I wrote the text on the signs they've erected. Part of this pink and white concrete walkway runs alongside the train tracks, passing the spot where Willie lived in a small wooden shack with his mother when they first arrived in Statesboro, when he was a child - the tracks he travelled along many times in later life.
As everywhere in the Georgia I know, once you turn your back on the malls and you're away from the interstate, the world Willie knew still lies all around you. In Statesboro it's more even than the sense I sometimes have that he might be sitting on a porch around the next corner. I feel him here anyway, shaping my view of the place, a presence, a personality, as if he's showing me round town. I hear his speaking voice in my head.
And as I'm typing this, I can hear that lonesome whistle blowin': that beautiful big acoustic sound, that pushes the molecules of the air around like big brass band instruments do.
Of course these days, revisiting Statesboro means that I'm following in my own old footsteps as well as Willie's. It's sobering to realise that I first went to Thomson GA in 1998 - twelve and a half years ago, and that it's a decade since I first came to Statesboro, and began to write Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes.