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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


cloud cover hovers over pine swamp

Driving up Wolf Branch Road, and if you know the road you know what I mean by up, at the top I saw this great panorama of this section of Pine Swamp. Pulled off the road to get this picture of such a great cloud display, benevolent clouds with neither rain nor lightning in them, clouds that filter the sunlight's glare. Above is just a section of the panorama at the top of Wolf Branch Road. Pine Swamp Road runs from one end to the other in the picture. It was just ahead from where I pulled off the road. This particular view is a bit undramatic where landscape is concerned, but the clouds more than make up for the absence of dramatic hills.

Back in the car, I drove on up to Pine Swamp Road and turned left toward home. At the top of the rise in the road New Salem church house caught my eye, pristine as a jewel. The sun was on it full front, like the light was coming out of the wall. It shaded the features nicely, making it articulate in the spotlight. I thought of stopping to take another picture, but the light was so intense, I thought it might come out blue like pictures of snow in sunlight. I probably would have done well to that, because it's been on my mind ever since. I've never seen it as beautiful as it was today.

Seeing New Salem, a memory came to mind from a quarter century ago when New Salem was Regular Baptist. It was a night during a revival, late in the revival, maybe Friday night. Elder Millard Pruitt was the one preaching. He had the spirit that night and everybody was feeling good. When the preaching was over, the hand shaking began, everybody singing, and the hand shaking spontaneously made a circle. Everyone kept on singing when the hand shaking was done. No one offered to leave. Everyone, maybe 20 or so people, stood in the circle singing and singing, song after song. In a little bit somebody got happy. Directly across the circle from where Brother Millard was standing a woman of 250 to 300 pounds in a Coca-Cola truck red skin tight jumpsuit, throwing arms all the way wide open to clap her hands indicating she was on her way to out of control. Her brunette hair had either just been to the beauty shop or it was a wig. I've never seen the woman before nor since.

She took a bead on Millard and set out across the space inside the circle hopping like a red Michelin woman with all her undergarment lines pronounced like they were on the outside, hopping like a frog as in the child's game May I? Take 6 frog leaps clapping. Every time her feet hit the floor she clapped her hands. Her weight went to the bottom as soon as she hit the floor and sprang back up carrying her with it into the next frog leap. Millard Pruitt weighed less than a hundred pounds. Preaching drained his energy drastically. He was a frail shut-in who spent his days in a recliner after several heart attacks. I saw her weight hopping in voluminous bounds across the inside of the circle and realized Millard was in trouble.

In my mind's eye, I saw her engulfing his entire head between her breasts, him loving it, her flinging all her weight on him expecting him to catch her like she was 4 years old hopping to daddy. I saw her take hold of him and take him over backwards, her grip tighter than ever, and the next thing an ambulance carrying him to the funeral home. He could not have survived it. I slipped out of the circle and planted my feet firmly behind Brother Millard and put my hand up to catch him when she struck. She did just as I saw, buried his face between her breasts, engulfed him with her big arms. He lurched backwards and I pressed my hand firmly against his back holding him up, inconspicuously as possible, giving him some flex too so she wouldn't knock the wind out of him. He would have died for sure if she'd fallen on top of him. He thanked me later, said he thought he was a gonner.

At the bottom of the hill on Pine Swamp Road where it turns right is a stretch of road before the left turn onto Brown Road at what used to be Cary Brown's dairy. In the middle of that little bit of a straight stretch I saw a dead possum on the road a 25 years ago. Next day another dead possum lay flattened beside it. I thought: Romeo and Juliet Possum. Every time I pass that place I think of those possums and feel a second of sorrow. I forget that roadkill animals and birds have mates that miss them, same as cats and dogs have humans missing them. A little ways up Brown road I pass the place where the truck self-immolated leaving a black stain on the gravel. Memories of flames shooting 10 feet out the window both sides. Memories of buying a fire extinguisher at Farmer's Hardware to carry inside the car, not in the trunk as recommended on the packaging. It's probably sound counsel for someone with a car several people have access to, kids, leaving kids alone in the car. Trunk is a good place for certain circumstances. For my circumstance, it goes within easiest possible reach, the armrest between the seats. Out of sight. Fits perfectly. Easy access.

Pass Green Mountain on the left, the mountain Jr named the Green Mountain Boys for, where the fire tower used to be, replaced by cell phone towers, now a Cuban subdivision, one of several around the county. I climbed the fire tower in my first years here when I was a bedazzled tourist in my new home. It did, indeed, have a view all the way around. Leave the pavement and head up the mountain on the gravel road with ferns on both banks of the road, trees, shaded around the first curve almost dark from thickness of the trees, and eyes adjusting to the shade after being wide open in full sunshine. New houses, new houses. The subdivision along Air Bellows Gap Road. My road next to the old house that is one of the original houses on the mountain that continues to stand, the only house I like, the house the other people up here want torn down, except Allan Joyce, because it's an eyesore. The mountain azaleas along the winding road down the hill are in full flower. Before the road was paved, every time I drove down the hill on my road seeing the little valley I live in, I would think this was the most beautiful place I'd ever been. Since they tore down the trees and raised the road 2 feet, widened it and paved it, making it a highway and a weekend racetrack in the summers, it's just another road. But, before it was a gravel road it was a pair of wagon tracks and before that a horse and foot path.


  1. I laughed out loud during story of your heroics that saved Millard.

  2. thanks for protecting Uncle Millard....LOL