He was correct. It was the long, mournful whistle of a freight train.
On Tuesday morning of Masters week, I had driven to the course along Broad Street through downtown Augusta, past an old black neighborhood with small houses and tin roofs. Red lights flashed, and the long, thin, wooden crossing barriers came down as a freight train chugged through, whistle blowing. I put the car in park and kept hitting the scan button, skipping past the many evangelical stations looking for music. In the exact moment I sat there, with the train rolling past my gray rent-a-car, an Augusta country station was playing the old Marshall Tucker anthem, Can't You See?
Take me Southbound,
All the way to Georgia now,
Till the train run out of track.
Last week at Augusta National, Stuart Wilson didn't make the cut, Tom Watson didn't catch lightning and get in the mix, and Jim Furyk didn't win the tournament. Only a very few people cared.
I thought I had come to Augusta to help Wilson play two rounds of golf within 10 shots of the 36-hole leader. I left realizing that this trip to the Masters was like every trip to the Masters. You come to Augusta to mark the arrival of spring, where it comes early and boldly, and when you get there, you remember the Deep South as it was. You wear a white jumpsuit or a green club coat or press-tent khakis or a Scottish pin or some other damn emblem that tells everyone the one thing you are. That world, where everybody knows their place, is just about dead. (Hallelujah!) For a week in Augusta in April, the old order rules.