A New Backroad Magazine

June 13, 2024
Tom Poland

By Tom Poland


Backroad Portfolio

You cannot raise your ancestors from their grave, but you can appreciate how they lived. Just take a backroad deep into the countryside and perchance turn onto a dirt road. You’ll see old farms and their decaying corncribs and smokehouses and collapsing country stores. All speak to your kinfolks’ way of life.

Backroads are museums; picturesque, poetic avenues to the past and for those who love the backroads I’ve got good news. A magazine devoted to the backroads is now available. Backroad Portfolio, a new quarterly magazine, gives armchair enthusiasts and those gripping a steering wheel a map to the past. Now you can travel roads bordering endless fields and beautiful landscapes in the comfort of your home. You can drive to small, cozy towns with either a magazine or steering wheel in your hands—why not both.

Bob’s Store, Highway 23, Ward, South Carolina

The stories will get you outside and onto lesser byways. You can get an online and print edition (for traditionalists who enjoy the fragrance of ink and paper) and discover stories, traditions, and artisans that make each stop along the way memorable. Leave the interstates and thoroughfares for what one photographer calls the “beauty of decay.”

Backroad Portfolio gives writer-photographers like me an outlet, a way to share discoveries ranging from old fields of broomsedge where farmers’ wives made brooms to wild rivers and wild flowers to forgotten towns, drowned towns, and towns spiraling into abandonment.

Note Nipper, the dog, famously stares into a Victrola’s metal horn as he hears his deceased master’s voice.

Dirt roads take me to old springhouses, forgotten cemeteries, abandoned churches, and collapsing barns. They take me down memory lane too. To childhood where road graders scoured away potholes and ridges and pick-ups and cars trailed dust that powdered leaves and grass. In a land increasingly plastered over with solar farms, cell towers, and asphalt, I pray progress bypasses dirt roads that tunnel through oaken alleys.

One day while driving a lesser highway I came across an old store, long closed, with a hand-lettered sign on its front wall. I got out to read a Corinthians verse hand-lettered in red paint: “Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, love never ends.” On another day the store was open, a rare thing. I had to stop. That’s when I saw the store was stocked with goods from yesteryear. I spotted an electric football game of the 1960s. I saw dolls, road signs, Coca Cola signs, and antique car tags. Best of all I saw an old Victrola gramophone with its bright gold horn. A marvel in its day.

Some of the discoveries I’ve made are things you don’t see everyday … an oak that’s grown up through a pickup’s engine compartment … a tree that’s grown up and out a silo … a woman who still makes fried pies the way my grandmother did … Not long ago I came across a setting Normal Rockwell would have liked—an old homeplace with a old hand-dug well, corncrib, and outhouse. A fine old cedar leaned back as if taking a gander at my camera and me. Why there was even the skeletal frame of an old school desk propped against a wishing well, and what did I wish for? More adventures in the land of my ancestors—the backroads.

No, you can’t raise your ancestors from their grave, but you can still see how they lived all those year ago. Get the magazine and get moving. Explore the back roads. I’ve discovered there’s a hunger for stories and images of all that we’ve lost. I suspect you crave the sight, sounds, and fragrances of the backroads too. Check out Backroad Portfolio at www.backroadportfolio.com … see it online for free. You can order a print edition as well.


Georgia native Tom Poland writes a weekly column about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and culture and speaks frequently to groups in the South. Governor Henry McMaster conferred the Order of the Palmetto upon Tom, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, stating, “His work is exceptional to the state.” Poland’s work appears in books, magazines, journals, and newspapers throughout the South.

Visit Tom’s website at www.tompoland.net

Email him at [email protected]