In the days before GPS and rural addressing it was those of us who listened carefully to directions who weren’t lost.
Growing up in the country we knew the county roads but they didn’t have names. Well not organized names that were published on a map. We had names for places that meant nothing to someone from outside the county.
Poker Flat Road, Cemetery Road, Chalk Hill, Rocky Corner, Cedar Breaks, the Narrows, Sugar Beet Road, Turnbough Corner and Sun Dale Valley Road. You only knew those places if you lived nearby. Or as one Western singer/songwriter once said, “If you know where Woody Creek is you’re probably from there.”
My dad did custom harvesting and hauling for years and his job took him onto the backroads. He could listen to a farmer give directions to a field and immediately know how to get there. However, when he had to give those directions to one of his family to bring a part, a meal or another hand to the field you better be paying attention if not taking notes.
Head out the Lovington Highway 13 miles then turn east at Old Man Smith’s place. Go to the third section line then head south for a mile and a quarter, turn down the turn-row there and go through three gates. When you see the windmill head around the corn patch to the west.”
You had to be up on where various folks around the county lived because that’s how we gave directions. It wasn’t enough to know where folks lived though you needed to make sure you knew dad’s nickname for the old boy that lived five miles south of Bethel. Sometimes you even needed to know who lived there when granddad was a young man.
There were no cell phones but occasionally after you were hopelessly lost you might find a farmhouse with someone at home or a farmer in his field. If not you could always drive back to the last country store you passed and get another set of directions. If you were lucky the storekeeper would even draw a map on a brown paper grocery back and send you on your way with an RC Cola and a moon pie.
Without a doubt the best set of country directions I ever received were from a fellow directing us to a fishing hole on the Pecos River, on 40 miles of dirt pasture road just a couple miles from the end of the world.
We followed his directions perfectly going in but forks we hadn’t noticed on the way to the river led us astray and soon into a wide circle on the way home. Finally we got back on track when my little brother exclaimed, “This is the road we need to turn on because I remember seeing that bull there when we came in (a day or two earlier).”
We all had a good laugh at his questionable choice of landmarks, but it turns out he was absolutely right.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org