Even old folks need a break every now and then. Especially when most of your time is spent being dumbfounded by the insanity surrounding public education these days.
For me, that usually means aiming my 18-year old car down a country road. A few days ago my longtime friend Jo Bonner sent me an article from the Mobile Press-Register that appeared in 2014. It was about a section of south Wilcox County known as the Grampian Hills and the love affair Tommy Lawler has long had with its hills and hollows.
Frankly, I’d never heard of them and promised Jo a trip would be forthcoming. (You can see the Press-Register article here.) (I also promised i would have lunch at Miss Kitty’s in Camden, which I did.)
A couple of days later I headed southwest out of Montgomery, going west on highway 80 till I took a left on 21 toward Hayneville. A road I’ve seen many times before.
From Snow Hill to Camden the road is relatively flat with gentle curves weaving in and out of the Black Belt. But take 265 from the courthouse square in Camden toward Beatrice and in four-fives miles you suddenly are in much deeper cuts and sharper curves. Not at all unlike hilly sections of northeast Alabama.
These are the Grampian Hills, formed more than 50 million years ago in the Paleocene age. Back when some really weird-looking critters wandered the land. (At least that’s what articles I found on Google told me.)
But this afternoon Google was nowhere to be found, nor a GPS since I don’t have one. Just me and the sun and the old car. A country boy on a country road.
Not too far past Enon Baptist Church the road began to flatten some, so I turned around and headed back north. Just past a tower where forest rangers used to climb a lot of steps to spend the day in a small room at the top looking for wisps of smoke I took a dirt road to the left. Had no clue where it was taking me, nor did I much care. But figured at some point I would come to a crossroads and would go on from there.
I only saw trees and kudzu. Eventually I came to a grown up graveyard on the side of the road, evidence that this little patch of earth was once inhabited. I climbed the bank and looked at the headstone of someone who was born in 1822 and died in 1902. I wondered what tales he might have told me. No doubt the same kind my own great-great grandpa in Covington County, born in 1828, could’ve related before he went off to the Civil War and never came home.
At one point I met a dump truck, found a wide spot in the road and waved as he went by. After seven miles I decided the wise thing was to turn around and retrace my tracks. (I learned later this road would have taken me to Vrendenburgh in Monroe County.)
Reaching 265 again, I headed north again and stopped at Lawler Timber Company. Tommy was not there, but his older brother by 18 months, “Big Daddy” was. We had a long chat and he told me his father had farmed the little patches in this part of the county and that an ancestor from North Carolina caught a musket ball in the leg at Vicksburg and on the way home, decided to stop in Wilcox County.
According to his card, Big Daddy is the “Gettin’ Outdoors” radio network You can see his website here. While there, check out the “Unofficial 2017 West Central Alabama River alligator hunt results.”
By now it was time to head home for supper, but before I left, Big Daddy invited me to come back in late fall when foliage is at its peak in the Grampian Hills. “I’ll give you the whole 12 mile tour,” he said.
I’m looking forward to taking him up on his offer.