I have always had a fondness for the “back roads’ of America – so much so, that I take them to Alabama, even if it does add time to my travelling when going home for a visit. I can’t help but to take in the scenery. Back roads tell us the story of any given area – not so much in words, but in the visual.
Occasionally, there may be an exception to the no words/visual only idea. On a particular meandering, I stumbled on a lovely back road with a small cemetery, a couple of old, but well kept wooden churches (historically old churches…) and huge trees. The large oaks were of the size that provided a wonderful shade from the oppressive sun in the summer.
As I snaked past the lovely, old Episcopal church on the left, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the old Baptist church, encased behind an old white picket fence. I could plainly see that while both structures were over 100 years old (based on the plaques in each churchyard), they were well cared for, and apparently still functioning churches. Somebody, even now, was taking care of the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings and their yards that held them.
These sights were so much more pleasant than driving the interstate or main highway that displayed nothing more than gas stations, Wal-Mart’s, and fast food joints. Back roads like this offer up a fabulous alternative to that part of America that is such a wasteland.
As I resumed my travel down this road, I heard a sound….one of my favorite sounds left over from my childhood in Birmingham….the lonesome wail of the horn of an approaching train, along with the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the tracks as it approached. I did not see the tracks immediately, as they were around a curve. As I rounded the bend in the road, there was the tracks, and the lights were flashing as the arms of the gate came down. I saw the train approaching from the left; it was a long train, and I was glad, because it gave me time to reminisce about hearing the trains in downtown Birmingham when I would open the windows in my bedroom at night.
As the train finally passed, I was forced out of my day dream. The lights quit flashing, and the arms of the gate rose, giving me clearance to cross. At the moment that I ‘woke up’, I noticed an interesting visual that had been first hidden by the train: a ‘junk heap’. This junk heap consisted of a blue couch, it’s cushions not readily visible (maybe they were contained in the huge cardboard box), a laundry basket full of various clothes and shoes, as well as another smaller cardboard box with knick knacks….things one might find in the Goodwill Thrift Shop. I fathomed that this was some sort of unique “donation center” specifically for hobos that jumped box cars – a scenario I felt was straight out of the Great Depression.
Even more interesting than the items and the spot they occupied was the home made sign that read, “I wanted scrap metal 7 Days a Week”. I pulled over the tracks and onto the dirt shoulder and promptly took a picture of this sign. It begged me to share the sentiment. The author of the sign struck me as an individual who had some sort of entrepreneurial spirit beyond couches, clothes and knick knacks. I went on to ponder where exactly this person resided…..they undoubtedly were not a box car jumper, I was CERTAIN of that. Otherwise, the 7 days a week would never have been expressed.
After ten minutes of lollygagging, the setting sun dictated that I might need to move along. The winter was still in full force, and in spite of the hour being early, the sunset was early as well. It was time to back track and head back home….before another train came along and held me up.
This back road is in my present city of Savannah. Over the past 4 years of living here, I have returned fairly often, as Chevis Road is one of my favorite back roads to travel….or maybe it is because I want to stay tuned to the continuing saga of the individual wanting the scrap metal. 7 days a week. The sign is still there. I still do not know who the author of this sign is. And I do not know if he or she has ever attained their goal.