Up the Road a Piece


The GPS has taken away the delight of stopping at an old country store to ask directions.

If it’s summer, three or four men are always sitting outside, or winter they’ve all formed a circle around a pot-bellied stove that someone has chunked a couple of hickory logs into.

The person you want to ask is the fellow sitting on the wooden keg that once held 50 pounds of ten-penny nails. The steel rim on either end sticks up about two inches above the keg, and he is the one most anxious to get up and point in the direction he’s about to tell you to go. And he will stand up, because simply telling you how to get there in words is not sufficient.

He appears to be meditative in giving directions. What he’s doing is sizing you up. He really wants to know why this urbanite is out here in the middle of nowhere wanting to know where somebody lives. Southern courtesy forbids him to ask.

“You go up the road a piece.” He points to the right.

You look right and then left. The road is perfectly flat either way. No hint of a hill anywhere. You do wonder how you can be going up the road when left or right wouldn’t tilt a level in either direction

Also the best you can tell, you’re looking to head east, and not north or south, the presumption being if you were heading north you would be going up the road, or south down the road.

But this is the fellow who seems to know where you want to go, and you certainly don’t want to insult him with what he might consider inane questions.

Then he elaborates. “You first pass a Baptist Church on the right. If’n they’re having a burying, stop and pay your respects.”

You’re thinking I’d like to get out of this place before dark, and get back to the main road to know where I am.

He continues, “As you go on, on your left is a fence post with a Garrett Snuff sign on it.”

You’re thinking why would anyone pick up an old Garrett Snuff sign one only knows where, and nail it to one of the fence posts? Do those cows use Garrett Snuff?

He’s not finished. “A bit further, if you hit it just right, the fellow on your right will be coming out to get his mail. He’s a friendly fellow. His name is Jones. He likes to talk a lot. Stop and chat with him. Tell him I sent you.”

You’re thinking I didn’t bring any overnight luggage.

“Down a smidgen further on your left is a bull that will be standing by the fence, He’s mean. Don’t stop and talk to him, because he’ll be trying to get you to hop over the fence in his pasture. How fast can you run?”

He doesn’t stop for an answer. “You city folks have a mailbox at every house. Down here (I thought we were up here) there are twelve mailboxes lined up so the mailman, I mean mail-lady only has to make one stop to fill up those twelve mailboxes. Just beyond that on the right is the house you’re looking for, white, tin roof. A nice place.

He gives me the once over again. That chaw of Red Man in his mouth has just about matured, and he wants to spit. He’s looking in my direction, and I’m backing a little further away. He smiles and picks up a spittoon.

I thank him and mosey on up the road, at least that’s what he said I should do, mosey.

According to him, it sounds like my destination is only two miles away.

I’m three miles down the road and only then come to a church on the right. The Redemptionist Free Will Baptist Church. Check off one landmark. Thank goodness they’re not having a burying.

Two miles further there is a fence post with a Garrett Snuff sign on it. One cow does look like he’s reading it.

Four miles further that does look like Mr. Jones on the right. I only wave, but do not stop.

Another three miles and there’s the bull. Does this bull have a cell phone, and the fellow at the store called him to tell him I was coming up the road? I do stop the car momentarily, and look at him. He stares at me. I decided I wouldn’t reach over the fence and try to pet his head.

Fourteen and a half miles up the road from the store I pass the twelve mailboxes (I counted them).

There’s the white house on the right.

I introduce myself. I’ve forgotten why I came here in the first place.

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