Sometimes driving with no set destination opens pathways in my mind and allows me to think.
Yesterday, I drove down through Sloss Hollow and by the place where I spent most of my childhood. There’s not much there anymore.
When the new road came through in 1969 (I’m not sure why I still call it the new road), it changed the landscape of my community forever. The state bought all the houses on the west side of the road and demolished most of them. My friends scattered like startled quail.
When I glanced in my rearview mirror, there were several cars behind me, and I realized I was driving 15 mph below the speed limit. I hit my blinker and I pulled off to let them pass.
I got some nasty looks as they wheeled around me, but I’d like to think they would have cut me some slack had they known I was driving down memory lane.
It was 93 degrees, so I left my truck idling so I wouldn’t roast like a Walmart chicken. As I looked around me, I realized that a great deal of my young life was spent within 100 yards of where I was sitting.
Sitting on my daddy’s lap, I learned to steer a car right here on the old tar and gravel road that ran in front of our house. I also learned to ride a bicycle here with my sister Mary Lois running beside me to keep me stable until I found my balance.
Traffic was so infrequent, we also played baseball on that road; it’s where I learned to throw a curveball.
This place is also where I learned to tend chickens and grow tomatoes, where I learned to shoot a gun and fish.
It’s where I experienced the first true fear of my life when I walked up on a cottonmouth moccasin on the creek bank that ran through the community.
The Parkers lived across the road from us, and they had kinfolk from up north that visited each year.
One summer cousins Joe and Alan came to visit the Parker kids, Edward, Tommy and Susie. Joe brought his guitar. It was there, sitting on their front-porch swing, that I strummed my first awkward chord on a guitar.
It sounded almost as bad as fingernails on a chalkboard, but my love of playing music began on that sweltering August evening and it’s remained with me all my life.
Once when an old freight train rattled down the track that dissected West Pratt, I discovered that you could make a penny as big around as a quarter and thin as a postage stamp by placing it on a rail.
As I sat there yesterday replaying the old tapes in my head, I took out a notebook and smiled as I jotted down notes. There’s nothing like strolling down memory lane to get the creative juices flowing.