June 5, 2012

Dirt Roads

Riding around in Eastern Lauderdale County recently; I recalled how many of the roads were dirt when I was a child. It was a time that they were just beginning to pave the secondary roads around Grassy, Whitehead and Newton Town. We stayed at my aunt's while they were building the old house back after the fire. This was right in the middle of the paving of the Beaver Dam Road. This road goes from the Betty Ann Highway back to County Road 51, just before you get to Lexington. The location that all the Ritter's live. There were road grater's everywhere. Each trip made out in the old car my aunt had, was faced with the possibility of getting stuck on the freshly grated road. When it rained it was nothing but a muddy mess. It was summer time and dry at the ending of the road project, this made for a dry dirty dust that rose with every trip to the end that met the Betty Ann Highway. The telephone poles where in the middle of the road; I found this very interesting. The big yellow bulldozers were something I spent hours watching. They parked them at night in the yard. Imagine what four kids would do when unlocked bulldozers were parked in your yard? Yes, we did, we climbed up in them and pretended we were driving the big vehicles. We were of course not supposed to be on them. It was easy for some reason to not be caught on them by the grown-ups. They were really busy in the house. Mama and my aunt trying to find something for supper and the men doing there usual nothing, but drinking. Dirt roads are almost non-existent now, but I have a place in my heart for a ride down a dirt road.
The Beaver Dam Road would have historical markers of my past if it was possible. The house we stayed in was the first curve on that road. There was no paint on the house. It was just grey weathered wood sided. There was not an inside toilet, but I don't recall where the outside one was at this house. Bathing was done in the kitchen sink. That was a tight squeeze even for bony almost starved little me. The next marker on this road would be the creek that Gillis Garner had the scalding bath for getting the hair off of the pigs we killed. I am sure he charged us for this, but it was something that had to be done. Grandmother did not pay for anything that we could do on our on. There is an old story about Gillis making hay bales weigh more so he would not have to pay so much for the bailing of the hay. The payment was according to bail count. It is said the bails were so heavy that they were almost impossible to load in the barn.
Next stop on this road is the bridge and bottom land. This is were Crecy's grew. I may not be spelling that correctly, but is is a type of poke salad/green. We on one occasion went there to pick that wild green. I really don't think it was worth the time we spent and we did not ever do that again. One bright idea that my grandmother had that she realized was that great. Next stop is the Cottrell home place. He had the ugliest wife I ever did see. He was skinny and my main memory of him is on a tractor. Next was crazy Miss Boles. Her granddaughter lived with her because her the mother was even crazier. Jackie was her name and she lived with Paul Howard on the road over from the house we lived in with my aunt, while the old house was being built back. Paul Howard gave me a stuffed monkey once. It was a big monkey holding a plastic banana. The monkey was a treasure to me for many years. Jackie was his second wife. His first wife lived just down the hill and was married to the landlord of the house we were living in.
Then there is a cemetery, Harmon. Then you are almost back to the dump road, County Road 51. It was paved when we moved here. The road I lived on for more than forty years.
There is a field road that I rode down just a few weeks ago. I was curious to know if the Brown Cemetery could still be seen from the field road just before Courm's Cemetery. I road down it till I was uneasy about my car dragging. I then got out and walked to the place I recall the cemetery being. I could not see any stones that marked the old graves. It is sad to me that the people buried there have large trees growing in the place they chose to rest. Down this dirt road I discovered that we can be easily forgotten as years and years pass. This field road was the one we used when we had cane planted. The location of this road is what I refer to as close to Newton Town. Newton town was given this name by us, because of Edgar Newton's Grocery. He was one of the great businessmen of that day, to me. It was my belief that anyone that owned a store had to be rich, or close to rich. I was always wanting to make money for different things. My grandmother was always helping me by suggesting to the farmers, as well as Edgar Newton that I would do odd jobs for them. Edgar sold sweet potato slips to be planted. The process involved the plants be covered with saw dust to hold moisture. The watering of the beds was a four hour job. I was paid to walk up and down the beds with a hose, watering back and forth to soak the saw dust covered beds. This was easy, boring money. I am not really sure what condition that Edgar Newton was afflected with, but he slobbered and slurred as he spoke. He also walked in a stubbling manor. I sort of think it was MS or something similar. He did well with his disability. He had the most colorful wife in all of the neighborhood. She had huge boobs, and flirted with all the men that came into the store. She hated kids, and made no secret of it. She would almost growl at us when we came to the store. She was nicest when she was trying to find out some gossip about our family. She always quizzed me about my grandmother and Luke Davis. It was always rumored that he and Syble Newton had been caught wrapped up together by a customer.
It would be years before the roads from Bonnertown to Appleton Tennessee would be paved. Those were some of the greatest Sunday afternoons we ever spent. Riding on the dirt roads and stopping at each creek that was across the road to cool off. Those Sunday's were the days we washed the old clunker cars that Daddy drove. He of course had to venture to Minor Hill for some beers. He would always get us a Slim Jim and Coke. The wonderful taste of Slim Jim's then was much better then. I have even went out on a limb and tasted his pickled eggs and pickled wienies. There are times now that I have a huge craving for Penrose Pickled Sausages, because of the way I recall them being such a treat when we rode on those dirt roads. They would also make cook you a Tony's Pizza if you wanted. I know people that to this day will drive to Larry Long's just to get one of his pizza's. They are not Tony's brand now, I don't think. It may be the beer that makes them seem so good, though.
     This morning my aunt came to my mind, I wondered if this was what is meant by keeping someones memory alive. I wonder if when I am gone will I just come to my loved one's mind every now and then. I think often of how we took for granted the generation that was my parents. An entire generation is now gone, but in my mind they live on because I do think often of what I gathered from them; The love of simple things; dirt roads, Slim Jim's and the area that I still call my old stomping grounds.

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