Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Language and Land

by James Glaser
April 13, 2007

For this Friday's column, I thought I would start with something about the language I hear down here in the South. There is a construction crew working right near my studio and having worked heavy construction for many years, I have an affinity for construction workers. I stopped by to talk to these workers to see what they were doing.

They were taking down two concrete bridges that at one time were used by a sawmill up the hill to get the logs trucked to the saw mill from the rail road yard. That old rail yard is where my studio sits today. There are still train tracks right next door, and I would guess close to a dozen trains come through Tallahassee every 24 hours.

Well, mostly I just watched as big dump trucks would pull up and be loaded with demolition materials. Like any government financed job, there were several guys standing around shooting the breeze. Some were waiting their turn to load, other guys were setting up a transit, as they had to put in finished grade stakes, and then there were the bosses from the construction company and the engineers for the city.

After a couple trucks were loaded, work came to a standstill until those two trucks came back for another load. It was a pretty relaxed work site. So, when the trucks left, the loader truck shut down, and since it was now quiet, the workers and the sidewalk superintendents (that would be me and about six other guys) could talk. Mostly I listened, because frankly I couldn't understand most of what these guys were saying.

I had not a clue what the African American workers were saying. Heck I couldn't even catch a word now and then. For sure it was a foreign language to me. The white guys were almost as bad. It seemed like everyone had a huge plug of tobacco in their mouths, and they kept their teeth clenched except when they were spitting. Amazingly, even with their teeth were clenched tight, they were talking a mile a minute. The black guys talked to their fellow black workers, and the white guys talked to other white guys.

Two groups of workers on the same job, speaking two different languages, and I'm sure that neither one was English. It was very interesting to watch, and I guess you could say there were three groups, because those of us watching were talking too.


I have been looking for land to buy down here as I think I have one more house in me to build. In Northern Minnesota we worry about the cost of the well and septic, but down here those two costs are minor compared to the price of land. Up North where I came from, expensive land ran you $1,500 and acre, but down here I have been finding it from a low of around $17,000 to and average of $35,000 an acre, and those prices are for land out in the country. If you are looking for beach front property, you had better be a millionaire. A nice acre near a town like Saint Augustine or Jacksonville is going to run you about $80 grand.

There are still some places that we would call out in the woods, where you can get something for a lot less, but you are still in the $7 thousand an acre range. So, I am in no real hurry to buy. House prices are starting to come down, and I am hoping that land prices follow suit. At the prices they have down here, a person can afford to take their time and search out a good deal.

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