Saturday, February 28, 2015

02-27-15 – Riding Shotgun – Barreling Down Memory Lane

I’ve been hauling salt this week, and seeing some old familiar places in the process. I’ve mentioned in posts past that the folks took me and my sister to the mountains for day trips and over-nighters when we were growing up. That often involved traveling east on the old Northwestern Pike as far Red House, Maryland, then heading south, back into West Virginia. Sometimes, we turned south at Clarksburg and traveled old Route 19 to points south. Occasionally, we’d even take the old Staunton Pike eastward into interior West Virginia. Along the way, we stopped at places of interest and had picnics in the road-side parks so common back then. When I was a teenager, we also traveled to Buckhannon quite often for a year, as my sister went to school there her first year of college. Lord only knows how troubled my parents lives may have been back then, but it was “the good ol’ days’ for me, though I didn’t think about it then.

We hauled salt to Mill Creek this week, a ways below Elkins. The directions that we received were extremely inaccurate, but we got there anyway. Along the route, I watched as best I could from the four-lane and compared certain points to the same spots during my youth. I have ancestors out that way, and I noticed family names on both gravestones and local businesses as I whizzed along. Needless to say, there have been a lot of changes over the years. The road-side parks are long gone, victims of disuse, vandalism and sexual deviants. The natural sites are intact, of course, and various signs still point the way to them. A lot of businesses from back then are gone now, either sitting empty or replaced by new ones. The mom and pop places have largely been replaced by restaurants, stores and gas stations owned by chains from out-of-state, further impoverishing our state.

I still remember the feeling of wind coming through the open car windows, the scents of local restaurants (and barnyards), and the scenic vistas that we encountered along the way. Then there was also the taste of sandwiches made with country ham, along with big helpings of potato salad, or a few deviled eggs, all washed down with strong, sweet iced tea (all made by Mom). As often as not, dessert was homemade cake with chocolate icing, transported in the huge, squeaky Styrofoam cooler along with everything else.

We hauled salt to Millstone this week also. The journey involved loading near St. Mary’s, then driving across Route 16, through Ellenboro, Harrisville, Smithville and Grantsville. We stopped before getting into Millstone proper, since the DOH garage was on the northern side of “town.” Two drivers were ahead of me and the driver that was running with me, so any chatter on the CB was just between the two of us. I suspect that he got tired of my comments about all the places we passed where I’d delivered for Red Rose Feed 36 years ago. There again, many of the places were still there, but many were also out of business or operated by other people. No doubt, many of the people that I dealt with then are in their graves now.

We came back by returning to Grantsville and taking Route 5 to Elizabeth and then 14 to Parkersburg. That happened to be the same route that my first wife and I sometimes used when returning from Glenville, where we’d visit her paternal grandmother. I didn’t mention that to the other driver. Along the way, I saw the little church where we once had to pull in to change a flat tire. She still has distant relatives there, proved by the sign on one of the businesses along the way. In fact, I also have cousins there that I’ve never met, for one of my family names is common up that way, and everyone in the country with that name is descended from one particular man. As we neared Elizabeth, we passed through Burning Springs. Oil from a well there lubricated the machinery drilling the well in Pennsylvania claimed to be the “first oil well in America.” So much for the accuracy of the history books.

My last run on Friday was to Spencer. The salt dealer sent me out later than they should have (2:30), considering that it was Friday and the DOH tries to close shop at 3:30 when possible. I decided to go Route 14 rather than south down the interstate and east on Route 33. I hit town just as two other drivers were leaving. I never saw them, but I spoke to them on the CB. The guy at the DOH knew I was coming, so he waited on me and, five minutes after getting there, I’d unloaded and was leaving. Knowing that it was an easier route, but would take 15 minutes longer, I still chose to go back 33 and I-77, rather than fight the crookedness of 14 all the way back. I got to the shop at 6:30 that morning and didn’t get off ‘til 6. That made sort of a long day, but started my next pay period off well.

I covered a lot of familiar ground on the way down. As a child, I often went with the folks when they visited my mom’s maternal uncle in Elizabeth. Most of the time, we’d go on to Spencer on Route 14 and visit with her maternal aunt, too. Lots of times, we’d take her parents (my grandparents), along so Grandma could visit her siblings. They lived down there a couple times when Mom was a kid, so there were a lot of memories there for them. My very first memory of life is of one of those trips, so there are a lot of memories there for me, as well. I wish I could have slowed down and enjoyed the journey a little more, but that wasn’t my purpose for being there. Still, it was nice to get my memory jogged, even if it was at a high rate of speed.

The way this old world is getting to be, those memories are growing more precious every year. I miss seeing those folks, but I guess I’ll see them soon enough since, like me, they trusted in the Lord. © 2015


Mamahen said...

It's often bittersweet to look back on the past, but what a comfort to know they're in a truley better place.

Vicki said...

Isn't it funny, Gorges - You and I grew up in different parts of the country and yet we have the same memories of roadside picnic areas, ham sandwiches, potato salad and deviled eggs. Here too, so many of the parks and businesses of my youth are gone, replaced by fast food joints and pizza parlors. But the memories of Sunday afternoon drives and picnics with the family still linger, and that's what is important.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yes, Mh, and that we'll see them again!

Guess we're just "old school," Vicki.

deborah harvey said...

love this kind of post.
had forgotten the roadside parks where we used to sit in the shade along rte 2. we'd go along the river and then cut inland,
saw kids out with the coffee cans picking tobacco worms. do they still do that?
i could be wrong because maybe it was better hidden but i think sexual deviance has gotten worse.
what do you think?
as i remember the barns were sweet smelling but now they have a terrible sour odor and i wonder what they are feeding those poor cows.
no wonder they say beef isn't safe to eat with all the hormones and antibiotics.
thanks for the memories.
deb h.

Chickenmom said...

Ah, the Sunday drive and picnic! Sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, a jug of lemonade and if we were lucky, a watermelon! If there were no roadside wooden tables and benches, a large blanket would do just fine! Good times, Gorges, good times.

Gorges Smythe said...

Glad you enjoyed it, dh. A lot of cattle feed has urea in it to boost the protein. Urea is also used as fertilizer. Google the word if you're curious.

Yep, Cm; them was the good ol' days!