full circle in the hundred acre wood

Buck and I dropped Maggie off at her favorite dog spa, Cain’s Dog House, to spend the night while we went off gallivanting.  There’s a fluffy white little West Highland Terrier named Charlie who was smitten with Maggie the last time she visited Cain’s. Maggie is a 65 pound chocolate Labrador Retriever, a real bronze beauty. Charlie might weigh 5 pounds soaking wet. His tender ministrations to Maggie in the lobby that day won her over instantly. She comes from a home where we girls know a good thing when we see it. I don’t know if Charlie was there this weekend, but Maggie waggled her tail through the door to the kennel and never looked back.

The north end of Pensacola’s Escambia County sits right up against the much-maligned state of Alabama. We left Maggie and began our Great Meander. We drove north out of Pensacola on Highway 29, noting that a portion of it has been renamed with the grand appellation “Palafox Parkway.”

The first defined wide spot in the road  town is Cantonment, then on to Molino, Pine Barren, Bojia, McDavid, and Century, where Florida ends and seamlessly enters Alabama at Flomaton. Silvia’s Unisex Hair Salon was in Century, but you knew you were in Alabama as soon as the ubiquitous FIREWORKS!! signs appeared.

Hot boiled peanuts.

Wildflower honey.

“Jesus is Lord of all.”

“Potts for Senate.”

Hand-lettered or mass produced, the multitudinous road signs all at once litter and enliven.

We cross the “Skippy” White Bridge and continue on through Brewton, which a big sign informs us is the “Home of Music Legends.” That may be. It was also the home of my Daddy, and it used to be the home of a fine bar and grill called “Willie’s Place,” where a couple of young lovers could drink Scotch whiskey, eat a ribeye steak at the bar, and polish off their meal with the last piece of blueberry pie in the house, erotic somehow in the way a shared meal in a different county can be.

Brewton is looking reasonably prosperous with it’s Georgia Pacific plant and the manicured campus of the Jefferson Davis Community College. We ease past Brenda Faye’s Buffet, Jim’s “We Buy Cans”, and a small hand-lettered sign: “Taxidermy.”

A changeable sign on a community center declares: “Perfect Love Casts Out Fear.”

We cross the Conecuh River on the road to Damascus, past churches, cows, and a pretty little yellow frame house. I’m a sucker for pretty little yellow houses.

My ears buzz and I feel flushed when I see two brick chimneys standing upright in the middle of a field off to my right. The burned out remains of a house are lying in large shards in between them, surrounded by a field of serene green.

A few miles on down the road, I am admiring a field full of spirited-looking horses, when I notice a deer blind on the other side of the field. Buck notes, dryly, that a concelaed shooter would be pointed directly at the highway.

Red-top clover lines the roads, a hawk flashes golden, and a cypress knee swamp takes me back to fishing tales told by my Uncle Arthur, who looked like a poor-man’s Dean Martin.

We pass the Auburn University Silvicultural Test Center and several miles of beautifully manicured forests and fields. I see Highway 137 to Wing.

Wing, Alabama. I’ve never been there, but love the name.  “Oh, yes, I’m from Wing,” I might say, and someone, someone like Sir Sean Connery, might murmur, “But of course you are, Darling.”

Just before we get to Andalusia, a great big sign shouts “Dean’s Cake House.”  Then we gawk like I’m sure everyone else does when we pass by a huge, ostentatious mansion followed straight away by an equally huge but more at ease with the landscape place called “Lonesome Dove Ranch.”

I like roaming around the countryside and seeing how people live when there is no homeowners’ association busybody telling them what they can and can’t do.

Mostly, people do the best they can, anyway.

Our destination for this day was Lake Gantt. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what we saw there.

Maggie is snoring and waving her paws around in a dream. Buck just folded down the page in his book, and I am beginning to nod a bit myself.

Sweet dreams.

0 thoughts on “Back Roads and Blue Highways, Part 1

  1. John says:

    I love reading about the South. This is a great post on your travels in Alabama. I look forward to reading parts 2 and 3. It’s interesting to me the power that is present in the landscape of the South. Especially when I read Faulkner I think of the South as an almost holy land, and in many ways, I wonder if it is. I felt that again when reading this piece. The way you describe the drift from town to town, highlighting the pieces that stand out to you. It’s really quite beautiful.


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