Fly Down Hill

June 26, 2024
Tom Poland

By Tom Poland


I reached deep into my sense of place and reckoned the road ought to come out near Anthony Shoals Road, and it did. My parents drove me over that road when a boy. It was a dirt road then, and praise the Lord, it still is. Its official name is Bolton Road.

That colorful name, Fly Down. There was a hill on that dirt road. When Mom’s family had a brown 1937 Hudson I believe it was, they’d fly down the road and top that hill, momentarily leaving Earth. It took their breath away and flipped their stomach upside down.

I wanted to experience that thrill, and so I set out exploring on a day when others had that Mexican celebration on their calendar. I turned onto this vintage dirt road and immediately found myself in the backcountry. Despite the rains of May 4 and 5, it was quite passable. And lusciously green. And wild. The cicadas’ shrill song deafened you. Third gear seemed about right. In some places, second gear worked better. The road narrowed and all that green closed in on me. I saw plants I didn’t recognize.

A road that led to a vacation spot, of sorts, in the early 1900s.

All was well in this semi-tropical jungle until I came to a wooden bridge. Recently refurbished, I figured it could get me across, but I didn’t try. Beyond it an older bridge promised passage over a rain-angry creek. Cell service? None. Who might rescue me? No one. I was too cautious.

My satellite-fed Garmin worked and I used it to get a big view of the region. This hallowed dirt road’s other end came out at Delhi Road. (How a road in rural Georgia took the name of a city in India baffles me, but I like it.) I would go to Delhi and come in from the other side. While backing from the wooden bridge, I glanced into the rearview mirror and saw a wild hog black as midnight dash across the road. I found its tracks. Probably 200 pounds. Its well-used trail cut through switch cane and brush.

I made my way to Delhi Road and soon saw a dirt road to my right. Bolton Road. I passed an old barn and an abandoned baseball field. Then I hit a pretty good hill. Two veins of granite ran through it. Fly Down Hill. A fair amount of speed would vault me over it, but I didn’t dare. Chancy. Too many cars now, though I saw no others that day on Bolton Road. Playing it safe.

Nervous and fearful—that’s what it would make many a soul today dare they drive an old road where cell service is nonexistent. Where backing out a considerable ways is a pain in the neck, despite those rearview cameras. Why you might even see a wild hog. And driving over a primitive wooden bridge? No way.

The old folks were brave. They just didn’t know it. Some of them were dirt poor by today’s standards but a dirt road gave them riches. They’d zip over Fly Down Hill without worry. As my mother recalled, when the crops were in, farming families vacationed after they “laid by.” “They’d take watermelons, cantaloupes … a flour sack of homemade biscuits and haul everything in a wagon pulled by two mules down that dirt road to the shoals.”

Eighty-seven year later, I followed the path of wooden wagons, mules, old cars, hurdling through air, and trips to the shoals. It all became real to me. I will go back soon and throw caution to the wind. I’ll cross both bridges just as they did, and I’ll hurdle over Fly Down Hill, and tell my children what I did.


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.

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