April 20, 1997. On a corner lot was a Handy Andy, a convenience store brand I didn’t know was still around. It reminded me of the first time I saw a Handy Andy in Hawkinsville during my childhood. Mama said she had gone to high school with the man who started it. She was glad he had been successful, but she wished he would close on Sundays and stop selling beer. I figured the seven-day schedule wouldn’t last, thinking not many people would go shopping on the Sabbath.
A man with a cane fishing pole was walking along the road, headed to a pond I assumed was just over the hill. I wondered if he used Red Wigglers or Louisiana Pinks, if he dug them in the wet area from his kitchen drain or bought them a mile or so back at Sunsweet Grocery and Bait Barn.
Tragedy comes even to country roads. The small wooden cross had an arrangement of artificial flowers neatly tied in the middle with pink ribbon. A faded banner read, “In Memory Of,” and had a name I couldn’t read. She was somebody’s daughter, sister, wife, or mother, or maybe all those things. I wished I had a rose to leave. It’s odd that we can care about folks we don’t know, sometimes caring more than for the ones we do.
Wildflowers grew in several spots. A grandfather had stopped on the way home from church to let a young princess pick a bouquet for her mother. Black-eyed Susans seemed her favorite.
A 1959 black Ford Thunderbird was pleasantly entangled by wild pink roses in a pasture long absent of cows. The junk man would probably pay thirty-five dollars and take it to the crusher, but good memories are often worth more than money.
Hobbs Station Grocery had a gas pump out front that hadn’t worked in decades, and a nearby tenant house looked to have been vacant for about the same time. I figured the folks who had lived there moved to town and bought their gas from Handy Andy on Sundays.
Two graves in a field looked serene but lonesome. A husband and wife, I imagined, whose children moved away. I wondered if their grandkids knew they were buried there, and if anyone ever pulled weeds from around their markers or left a vase of flowers.
A mobile home seemed like a bargain and made me wish I was in the market. “FOR SALE – $6000,” read the bold print. Smaller letters added, “$5500 with wife and 3 kids.”
A redbird flew across the road and perched in a pecan tree. The tree looked past the age of bearing nuts, but it still provided a welcoming shade. Old things are sometimes too soon discarded when their value is not as easy to see.
A black runner quickly slithered over the hot pavement. I could have decorated his back with steel belted bands, but I had no reason to. I was once chased a few feet by his kind in the woods at Grandmama Hill’s, but that was a long time ago and the snake had as much right to be there as I did.
Four different colors, none of them recent, blended in tentative harmony on an old Chevy pickup. After the wreck it had been repaired with used parts from at least three other trucks. The owner probably fixed it himself for under $200. Ingenuity thrives on two lane roads, and I knew If the truck were ever stolen it would be easy to identify.
The train tracks ran beside the road for five miles or more. When I met the two o’clock special, the engineer blew the whistle without my even giving the sign.
I slowed to an almost stop at Van Gundy’s Motor Court in Tifton. It was the same shade of pink as the wild roses in the pasture and seemed unchanged from my mother’s description long ago. She and my father spent their one-night honeymoon there in 1947. The grass was green and neatly edged and the azaleas were in full bloom. The windows were so clean I saw my reflection while driving past.
You don’t see your reflection in chain motels on four-lane roads. No one waves and trains don’t greet you with friendly whistles. You don’t see redbirds in old pecan trees, homes with tin shingles, or barbeque places that advertise prayer. You don’t see old ladies in cowboy boots or grandfathers watching young princesses pick wildflowers. Even the snakes don’t bother trying to get across.
There was much to see along the road. There was a lot to think about.