I Was the Avis of Bath County, Virginia

bath county

I think I’ll always feel like I’m Avis of Bath County. For fifty years, Avis’ slogan was, “We’re #2. We try harder.”


Well, in Bath County High School, I was usually #2. Sometimes, often even, I was #3, #4, #5 and so on. You get the picture.


A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a Facebook page dedicated to Bath County. People had been posting images of people, places and things in the small, rural county of western Virginia where I grew up.


Things were nice for awhile. It was a safe corner on the internet to go and hangout. I could revisit old friends and old places without having to write why the government in Argentina is lousy, homelessness should be eradicated, the growing militarization of American law enforcement or dodge police tear gas and rioters’ rocks and bottles.


And then Agust had to go and ruin it for me.


This morning, he posted,

“I think we have memories that are not buildings, places, people or things. I think we have personal memories.”


Yes, Agust, I have personal memories. And I’ve spent 40 years stuffing those memories into the waste receptacles of my mind. Thanks, buddy, for dredging them up again like a member of CSI dragging the river for bodies no one wanted found.


It will be easy for Agust, Gary, Dennis, Robert, Jeffrey, Ritchie, Rocky and the rest to share their personal memories.


They were the cool guys.


They were the ones who always seemed to fit in. They were the best in sports and the smartest in the classroom.


While I struggled in Mrs. Mackey and Mrs. Neff’s classes to understand exactly why x=y< > z, they breezed through algebra, calculus and all the other esoteric mixings of the mathematical alphabet.


I spent two years with Mrs. Palumbo trying to parse French verbs and they, from the first day of class, were speaking Spanish like a native.


Ricky could dribble the ball the length of the court with one hand, and one foot, tied behind his back. I was as graceful and co-ordinated as a buffalo on roller skates — on a frozen lake.


I never made it to the “cool table” in the cafeteria. While I sat alone and picked at my french fries, I could watch them talking and laughing. Social skills seemed to come easy to them. I always had the right thing to say, but for me the “right thing” always came three weeks later — when no one was around.



So, no thanks Agust…I think I’ll keep my personal memories, well, personal. I’ll just sit back, enjoy my morning cup of coffee and enjoy the memories of how you — and the rest of the folks at Bath County High School — were always someone for me to look up to, admire and hope to emulate one day.


To be fair, many of the cool kids tried to include me in their universe. But, like Pluto, I was always more comfortable spinning around the outer edges of the solar system. Then when I was 18, I broke away from the gravitational pull and started my trip among the stars.


The cool people of Bath County High School are still cool. I admire the lives they’ve built and the careers they’ve forged. They’re still someone to emulate and each of them — in their own way — propelled me out into the world.


As for me, Avis’ motto is still mine, but with one minor change. I’m #2, and I’m ok with that.


Jerry Nelson is an internationally known photojournalist and documentary photographer. His work has appeared in international major media. His passion is for stories about social justice and this passion keeps him going, always looking for “the” image that will make a difference in the world. A native of Hot Springs, Virginia, Jerry is now based in South America. Busy now on assignment, Jerry is always interested in discussing future work opportunities. Contact him today.