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Georgia Journey: Stephens County Nature Collector
Scott Myrick WNEG NewsChannel 32 Friday, December 1, 2006
Take a walk through Leon Gathany’s back yard, and he’ll show you some of his special things.
It’s just like Lincoln Logs. There are no nails or pegs or anything,” Gathany tells NewsChannel 32.
Things like the 90-year-old barn he moved from Mt. Tabor and put back together himself. It took 15 years to get it the way he wanted. You’d better set aside some time if you want the grand tour.
“I appreciate that. So many people are in such a big rush,” he says.
Around back, he’ll show you the fireplace he built –by hand — a few years ago, with stone he collected on cross-county trips.
“This is a piece of Pennsylvania Blue Stone. This comes from where I was brought up in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” he says.
The stonework is impressive, but his real treasures are inside. His most prized collection: 4,600 arrowheads. But there’s more to see ? like fossils.
“My wife says I’m a fossil. She’s about right,” he says.
Gathany started collecting all this stuff when he was a young man. At 86, he’s still going, but he didn’t find all this stuff himself.
“For instance, the Arctic Fox that was sent to me and given to me,” he says.
Friends have helped him all along the way, finding new, interesting things for his backyard museum.
“You didn’t know this, did you? I also collect insects,” he laughs.
But he wishes he could share his collections with more people, and the old barn can barely hold what he has.
“All of this has a story — I’m just giving you the top of the list,” he chuckles.
Gathany taught at Toccoa Falls when it still had a high school. Now the folks at the college want to make sure they keep a part of him around forever. They’re building the Leon B. Gathany Natural History Museum so all of Northeast Georgia can see his collections from nature.
“There’s a history behind everything, and I enjoy sharing this with other people,” he says.
He’s got mixed feelings about having his name on a museum. It’s an honor, but he wishes it could be named for his friends. It’s friends, after all, that make him — and his collections — what they are today.
Toccoa falls still needs about $27,000 to build the $140,000 museum. Contact the school if you want to help. Project organizers hope they can break ground in a year.
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