I walk these roads, same as I always have for decades.
I walk along and I see things that you may never know were there. I see a life growing up in a small town. Every mile holds a thousand memories.
I see the ramshackle barns that once held working dairy parlors and kept a family and their farmhands employed without having to make the daily commute to a nearby town. Some of the barns are completely gone, burned or torn down and all that remains is a utility pole and flat earth. That’s all you’ll see now, but I still see the heifers in the field and the hum coming from the machinery in the milkhouse.
I see the houses of people long gone. Some are in a state of disrepair from abandonment all these years, others housing families whose faces I don’t even recognize. Occupied or not, I still see the old timers there on the porch, taking in the cool evening air of early Summer. I walk by the abandoned homes and can’t help but wonder what the inside looks like, stuck there in time these twenty odd years since the old man died. I wonder what old stuff is still there in his garage locked tight. It’s all I can do not to go poking around, but I manage to refrain.
I walk these roads and in my mind I can see the cars parked up and down the road for the Firemen’s carnival, “Field Days” as they were known here, the highlight of Summer in a small rural town. If I listen carefully I can hear the music coming up the valley as the band “T And The Goodtimers” play classic country music or call out a square dance.
Driving by you may see a patch of lawn in the center of town but I see “The Park”, where we would often gather to play football or baseball after school. Closing my eyes I can almost hear the voices of children, us, as we played together. We’re now scattered all over, but in some ways we’re still there.
I’ve walked every mile of these creeks that run through town more times than I can count. I can show you where we used to swim or where I set my first trap.
I’ve walked these hills, and feel like I know them as well as, if not better than, my own living room. Sitting here at my desk I can travel them, telling you exactly how to get to several small ponds that may or may not even exist anymore, depending on if time and nature has filled them in or allowed them to remain. I know where there is a spring with the sweetest water to quench your thirst; why there is a mirror embedded in the tree there and who placed it.
I can show you the places where old farm dumps lie buried under decades of forest debris. Where there was a small cabin built, used, and rebuilt by area youth. Someone asked me once if it’s still there and the honest answer is I don’t know, and I don’t have the heart to go look lest I find it torn or knocked down.
It’s no longer there.
“Time marches on” they say and so it does. The hands travel around the face of the clock until they can’t anymore, yet time continues.
Sometimes I feel like that, walking up and down these roads. Like the town is one big clock and there I am travelling along back and forth while the years pass by. And when I am gone, life here will too, and I will be but a memory added to the thousands that exist already on these old country roads.