Woke up this morning, pleased with how I felt considering the race the day before. Packed up the car, loaded the bike and said my goodbyes to grandparents and mother. I drove two towns over to visit my other grandmother.
She lives in between a town that has 1,250 residents and a village that has 281, a place where the arrival of the first 24-hour convenience store heralded the closure of a Piggly Wiggle and the local supermarket.
There’s a McDonalds and a Hardee’s and a Foodland, now, so they’re in high cotton. The barbecue place where I picked up lunch uses the walk up model most often seen at ice cream stands. The menu is littered with delightful typos. The town library, which looks like a bank, is closed on Sundays and Mondays. But they’ve expanded their Wednesday hours, where you can now get a book until 5 p.m. All of this isn’t bad for a literal one stoplight town.
Fishing and being between here-and-there are the two main calling cards of the community, which is growing. A few more storefronts popped up last year, and there are 51 more people in the town than at the turn of the century.
At the second largest intersection in town — a block from the largest, which is really just the U.S. highway that runs through the area — there is an old Coke sign on the side of a building. When it had faded beyond recognition they re-painted it. They displayed the same old Christmas decorations for at least 25 years, and they were old when I first saw them as a child. Hanging on to history is important here. I suppose that is why most of the local websites haven’t changed in years.
Just down the street from that second intersection is a four-gravestone cemetery with this marker:
I found that in 2010. Andrews volunteered in 1862, at the age of 69. He was a pensioner from the War of 1812 when he signed on to ride for the CSA. There are some arguments, apparently, that he would have been the oldest soldier in the Confederacy. His captain, John H. Lester, would remember him in 1921 in a publication called Confederate Veteran:
He was discharged in 1863, in his seventy-first year, on account of old age, against his very earnest protest; in fact, he was very angry when informed that I had an order to discharge him. I appointed him fifth sergeant of my company and favored him while in the army in every way consistent with my duty. He was a neighbor and friend of my great-grandfather, Henry Lester, in Virginia.
The local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is named in his honor. One day I’ll meet one of those ladies and find out what they know about Andrews. The only other thing I know about him is that he was a grocer.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if he was behind that old, local supermarket?
Anyway, down the side road, beyond the place where we once ran out of gas and all the familiar old houses and the new sports fields and through a miniature subdivision that sprouted from a fallow field. We’re back on roads that just have county numbers now, in a place that, until recently, still used “rural route” on their mail until they thought being a bit more precise might be a useful thing in case of emergency.
Finally to the road that my grandmother lives on, next to the house that her parents built, where her son lives. She’s surrounded by pastureland and woods and a babbling little creek, idyllic places where I spent so much time as a child.
We had lunch and chatted and watched a bit of television. She caught me up on family health and pictures of people’s kids. There’s always a medical update or a studio portrait to see.
Drove home, in time for the neighborhood potluck. Tonight’s theme was country cooking, guaranteeing I would overeat, know it at the time, and not regret it at all. All of those things came true.
Oh, yes, these. There’s a new interchange coming that will serve as a southern bypass around Montgomery, a city that already has a bypass. I have to go under them every so often and am interested in the progress. You look up through the thing when it is just framework and imagine, “One day, there’ll be cars and trucks there.”
This phase, which started in 2011, was originally slated to be completed this year. That seems unlikely at this point. The entire project is estimated at a cost of $500 million and a completion goal of 2022. If you’ve ever seen a highway project, you’re guessing over and after.
And if you think that is plywood, let’s just all assume it is a trick of the light. We’ll also let someone else be the first people to drive over it.
Lastly, Weird Al Yankovic is releasing a video a day for the next week in what is surely the most brilliant marketing move we’ll see from the music industry this year. Here’s his first: