Which Way Did You Say?
A friend of mine asked me the other day where I had bought my guinea fowl. I told her there is a man who lives down the road from me who raises exotic birds and she asked me for directions. My reply was, “His house is at the bottom of dump hill across from the old McEntire place.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed as understanding dawned. “I’ll drop by and see him.”
And that is the way directions are given here in the country. We rarely know the highway or county road numbers. If you tell me that some one lives on County Rd 5006 I am totally lost. But if you say that they live at Anderson Flat and you turn left across from where the old Church of Christ building used to be, then I can go straight there.
Country folk rely on landmarks to navigate their world. I think it hearkens back to a time when fences were few and far between, and even if there was a fence, you were welcome to cross the land using a well-worn trail. Down the side of my field is an old wagon trail that intersects with another one coming up from the “hollar.” To this day you can see faint groves in the ground where the iron or wooden wheels covered miles of country. We keep the path clear through the woods purely out of sentiment, and actually use part of one for our driveway.
We have places known as the Bruno Hill (where I live), the Bruno Ridge Road, Tomahawk Ridge, Dump Hill, Tabor Hill, and landmarks such as the Bruno Fire Dept, the old Eros Store, the Nanny Cemetery, Clear Creek, and a few new ones like the cell phone tower (just up the hill from me), the Bruno-Pyatt School, and the green water tower.
We have many obscure references too, such as “Where the old swinging bridge used to be,” “Where the Anderson Flat store used to be,” “Where the old Church of Christ used to be,” “Turn by the old Phillips place,” etc. Things only a local would know. Which leaves new people very confused.
A couple of years ago, I got a phone call. A woman started yelling at me that my goats were in her yard eating her flowers. I looked out my window, counted my goats, and responded, “I’m sorry ma’am, but my goats are all here.” Then trying to be helpful I asked, “Where do you live? Maybe I know whose goats they are.”
“I live on the Bruno Hill,” she informed me, “and you are the only one near me with goats!”
I mentally considered my neighbors and knew of no one else close with goats so I asked, “Where exactly on the hill do you live?”
“I live right down the road! We just moved in three months ago.”
“Are you in that big house up on the bank by the first curve?” I asked trying to get my bearings.
“What curve?” she demanded. “I’m just down the road from you. Now come and get your goats!”
“But I need to know where you are. Are you up on the cemetery road? Are you before or after the cattle guard?”
“What are you talking about?!” she demanded. “I am on the Bruno Hill not far from you. You live in that rock house where the road forks and I am just three miles down the road.”
Ah! The light was beginning to shine through the fog. “Ma’am,” I gently explained, “you live on the Ridge Road. I live on the Bruno Hill. We are several miles apart and my goats are all here.”
“What are you talking about? I live on the Bruno Hill!! You come out of Bruno, go past that long field and across the creek and at the top of the hill there is a fork to the right. You live at the fork and I live down the road.”
“I’m sorry,” I politely told her, “but I live on the Bruno Hill directly up from Bruno and just past the cell phone tower. You live on the Ridge Road at the top of Dump Hill and there is a good two miles or more between us. Those are not my goats. You have the wrong number.”
Her response was some nasty words and she hung up on me. I heard later that the owner of the goats (who I had gone to school with) had come along while we were on the phone and started collecting his wayward livestock. I never heard from her again, and I’m told she moved a few months later.
Thankfully, not everyone is frustrated by our navigation system. Most newcomers find it rather charming, and we locals try very hard to use easily defined landmarks. We have even learned some of the more prominent road numbers to assist them. But among ourselves, we revert to the old directions. Its rather comforting, and we always know just exactly where we are.
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