Monday, September 24, 2007
Oscar "Rock Man" Robertson
It makes me a little sad to go through Ball Ground, GA these days. No more Oscar "Rock Man" and his red truck. No more chance meetings with the old man that many were afraid to even speak to. I've been going to this quaint little town in North GA for the past 15 or 20 years. The first time I drove through with friends from college, I absolutely had to stop and check it out. They thought I was crazy, maybe I was.
Building after building full of wonderful treasures - rocks, gemstones, geodes, crystals, minerals, beads, glass, wooden sculptures, and I can't tell you how many other things all displayed with the utmost of care. Nothing marked with prices that I could see. Not one thing.
The streets were lined with slabs of marble propped up against the old buildings. Every piece deliberately placed. Some behind old chain link fences in parking lots and others in areas cordoned off with rusty cables and yellow caution tape. All weathered over time but still sending a clear message to keep out.
Each of the eight storefronts had "No Admittance" and "Employees Only" signs hanging inside the windows and on the doors. Much of the contents seemed to be pleading to be let out while others seemed perfectly content with their destiny. Perhaps they were just waiting patiently for someone to liberate them from behind the picture windows.
The first dozen or so times I was there, the windows were lined with clipboards of mostly handwritten and photocopied manifestos. Everything from his official Honorable Discharge military documents to his flat tax resolutions. These papers have come to be known as "The Oscar Manifestos". Rock Man made no qualms about sharing his thoughts with anyone who cared to take interest and even some who didn't.
I don't even remember when it was that I first met Oscar but I do remember it was a very unusual and somewhat intense meeting. I was stopped along the road looking in the windows and up drove a big red truck. Then out stepped Rock Man. I can't even tell you what we talked about that first time but I do remember looking at his huge red nose and noticing how it looked like Jimmy Durante's nose. I bought a couple of things from him that day, a string of colorful glass beads and a hematite necklace.
Another time I stopped and got to talk with him, we talked about marble. I wanted some to build an outdoor patio. I asked him how much the slabs of marble were and he told me $20 a piece. I looked at him like he was crazy (which many thought he was) and told him that I couldn't afford to pay that price. Then he asked how much I wanted and when I told him that I didn't know for sure but I was guessing a truckload, he told me to bring my truck and we'd make a deal.
When I tell people about Ball Ground and Rock Man, someone always asks me how I know what the prices of everything are if nothing is marked. I tell them something along the lines of the prices being directly related to how well he likes your stories.
The last few times I went up to Ball Ground I didn't see Oscar and his red truck. I had a friend of mine from Colorado so scared of this old man that he later told me he was relieved he didn't show up when we were there together. Sadly enough, I later learned that Rock Man died in October of 2005. I was just in Ball Ground this past Saturday with another friend and everything is just as I remember it with the exception of all of his manifestos removed from the windows.
Thankfully, there are others who have taken the time to document some of the stories of this interesting little southern town and the colorful old man who made it was it is today. My stories are all first hand but you can find more information on Oscar "Rock Man" Robertson of Ball Ground, GA in Trent Cluley's very well written post titled Farewell to Oscar "Rock Man" Robertson. Linked from his blog, I also found photographs of "The Oscar Manifestos". Thanks to Slashplat for making that a public gallery. Check them both out when you have the time. You'll find much more detail than my accounts in this post.
More information on Rock Man and Ball Ground from another blogger called "The Dyer Consequences Blog". Thanks for finding me!