By Tom Poland
Along A Back Road
My sister, Brenda, gave me a cool shirt for Christmas, “Take The Back Roads,” one of those Life Is Good shirts. That four-word phrase has come to be my calling card. About six years back, when I started covering back roads, I had no idea how many people would enjoy stories and photos about lesser roads. Lesser as modern ways go. For some of us, high-tech life can be a bit much. I don’t care for apps but I do have an appetite for back road sights and so do a lot of readers.
The day after Alabama stitched Buckeye mouths shut with 52 points, I took lesser-traveled roads from Georgia back to Carolina. Along the way, I came across this old farmhouse. The day was cold and wet. A mist fell across my windshield. My wipers were either too slow or too fast, so I let the mist gather. You know what I mean.
Spying this old shack through mists was a bit like time travel, backwards travel. Was that an old burn barrel? Remember when we burned trash in a 55-gallon oil drum? We didn’t use herby curbies or dumpsters back then, and we made few trips to the dump, today’s new-fangled landfill. When someone burned trash, it scented the air in a pleasant way. I can’t say that for the massive landfills you see along certain interstates and highways. They reek of garlic. I hear it’s New York garbage come down South. Damn-a-mighty.
You can’t see them, but old cars and trucks are all back of the house. And so an air of antiquity attends the place. The tin roof, rusted, brings back memories of a hard rain at my Grandfather’s country store. The rain drummed.
Now those crepe myrtles, maybe I am a bit crazy, but their trunks bear a strong resemblance to young women’s lean legs. The trunks have knees even. Don’t believe me? Check out your crepe myrtles.
Thanks to new growth, the peach orchards cast a faint pink glow this time of year, but come March they will explode into coral shades that stop you in your tracks.
Way over to the right by that tree? Irises coming up? I see a lot of irises at old places where the home has long been gone. Just out of sight sits a forlorn iridescent purple ’76 Chevrolet Caprice with daffodils popping up close by. Later it’d be nice to photograph those butter-gold blossoms against that purple backdrop.
Concrete blocks sure find a lot of uses. “Just put a see-mint block under it,” says an old timer. The utilitarian concrete block is inescapable. From entire houses to propped-up pick-ups you see them everywhere you go. Too bad they didn’t use some to help those steps reach the porch. Making it to the porch will be one giant step for a small man.
That ladder back-chair seems lonely, although that table with wobbly legs keeps it company. And between the pots and crepe myrtles sit beehives. They ought to be busy when the orchards burst into color.
Look at the porch in shadows. Should some souls live here soon I can hear the old wooden screen door slapping shut as folks come and go.
So many old ways out there wasting away. Want to see them ’fore they’re gone? Take the back roads and like me you’ll see many a place like this one.
Take one last look and look closely. See that strip of highway behind the crepe myrtle out by the sign? There runs Highway 23, a back road that’s as interesting as any I’ve driven. Try it. And do yourself a favor. Slow down and see life in an old way.
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