bullhead mountain from bullhead road
I drove to Justin and Crystal's house today in Glade Creek to see to the cat's food and water, spend some time with her, give her a break from lonesomeness. Thought I'd watch the race, or part of it, but could not figure out how to make the tv work. Didn't really care anyway. Read some Louise Gluck poems I'd carried along. Glad not to have a hundred commercials drilled into my head. The drive there and the drive back was the event of the day. It would have been the perfect day of the year to drive the parkway. I imagined bumper to bumper Sunday afternoon lovers in pickups and corvettes, families in SUVs, couples enjoying the parkway after church. All the cars and pickups glossy and clean. I like to gawk too, but I knew a back road, a one lane gravel road through a forest of trees and zero traffic. I could tell by the extreme colors at Air Bellows that Bullhead Road would be spectacular today. Entering the gravel section of Bullhead Road was the same as entering a tunnel of lights, yellow, orange, red and green lights.
I was in no rush, on no schedule, nothing on the radio of interest. I decided to make this a photographic tour of the road, knowing before turning onto the gravel I made the right decision. This year the reds are vibrant. The last several years the leaves of the red oaks turned brown. This year they are glowing blood red. The first frost came on exactly the right day to turn the oak leaves to their most living red. A large portion of the leaves had already fallen, which I like for it opening the woods to better see deep into the distance through the trees with a pointillist veil of colors. The first pictures I took through the windshield. The bank to the left went the equivalent of straight down, a pinball game for a car leaving the road, and many have, bouncing from tree to tree. The scenery to the left out the side window was the tops of trees that were growing down the hill. Several times I stopped the car midway between two blind curves to get pictures out the side window. I don't like leaving the car on a road. Sure as I do, a car will come along.
I became fascinated seeing Bullhead Mountain in the distance through the trees. I was in awe from one end of the road to the other where it meets Mahogany Rock Road at the foot of Bullhead. Turned left onto the paved road, a tunnel of yellow and orange trees in full leaf for half a mile along the foot of Bullhead. Memories of other travels on Bullhead Road, one of my favorites in the county, played in my head throughout the transit. The car moved at maybe 1mph and stopped frequently. About midway in a place with trees full of yellow leaves a crow called to me and followed me for awhile calling to me. It was not a raucous command to get out of the bird's territory. It seemed more personal like it was one of the crows I feed, it recognized the car, calling to say, Hey, I recognize you. I was about 4 miles from home by road. It would be half that "by crow." Two miles is no distance at all for a crow. My feeding station has been going every day for seven years. I took it that this crow and probably all the crows of the region know the car.
In the time my friend Jr Maxwell was in his feebleness, using a walker and his mind fading fast, he wanted to drive his car. I believed he could do it. He only wanted to drive the back back roads. He did not drive fast enough for it to matter and he was an excellent driver of mountain roads from a lifetime of experience. We did this three times. The last time was on Bullhead Road. The road is nothing but curves. We were going the opposite of today's direction, the bank straight down out my side window. I was wondering if either one of us would make it to the bottom alive. It was too out of my control to worry self over his driving that crept a little too close to the edge from time to time. One time he kept on going straight ahead when the road curved sharply to the left. I did not want to disrespect him by telling him to turn. I waited and he was not turning. When I saw for certain he was not turning, I said, "Keep it in the road." He said, "What?" I said, "Keep it in the road." He jerked the steering wheel to the left when the right front tire was one inch from the edge. I'd already relaxed into it so much it didn't even make my heart pump fast. Relaxed was the only way I could handle riding with him.
photos by tj worthington