There were three things that were always enjoyed when I was growing up – epic road trips, hanging out with ancient people, and my visits to Sand Mountain in north Alabama. With the exception of one aunt the folks on Sand Mountain have all passed on and without them the magic is gone. So, I have to satisfy myself today with road trips and hanging out with ancient people.
When I refer to ancient people this is not to be confused with elderly people. As an example, in 1967 it was my privilege to help Eddie plant his garden and mend the garden wall after school. He was a veteran of the Spanish American War.
Road trips are woven into the very fabric of my being. I was just short of my second birthday when we made the first coast to coast drive. My family still swears I was potty trained along the highway. By the time I celebrated birthday number ten we had lived in North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, and Arizona.
Seldom were our adventures the story book kind of motels with swimming pools, station wagons, and tourist traps or amusement parks. They were epics of Biblical proportions that often provided a very deep understanding for the hardships described in The Grapes of Wrath.
Right up until around 1970, we camped along the road more often than we stayed in motels, ate cold beans from the can at a roadside park, washed our faces in streams, and us kids rode in the back of the truck under a tarp. We patched tubes under a broiling sun, spent our allowance on the first day, usually lost what we bought by the second day, and were always amazed by the changes each day brought. But most of all we had fun.
I still take road trips but the camping along the road and patching tubes is now but a memory. My friends today are veterans of World War II, not World War I. But my visits to Sand Mountain are something I was never able to share with my son or wife for that world, briefly suspended in time before the tides of change swept it away, vanished long before Nixon left the White House.
Some kids grow up to have fond memories of Disneyland or trips to the beach. My Disneyland was Sand Mountain with its swimming hole on Pisgah Creek, watermelon picked from the vine below the back porch, and a dust covered ice cream cone as we walked back from the Dunton General Store.
There were sweltering evenings cooled by gentle honeysuckle scented breezes and Sunday dinners with tables pile high with turnip greens, poke salad, fried chicken, black eyed peas and ham hocks, watermelon preserves on fresh biscuits, churned butter on corn cobs, and sweet tea by the gallon. For desert there were fresh cantaloupes filled with ice cream we had made, and biscuits smothered in sorghum made at the mill down the road.
There were long days of helping to shuck peas, pick corn, and feed chickens, cows, and pigs. Then I would fall asleep on the porch swing watching the fireflies dance around my head while the uncles and their brothers played the music their families brought from the hills of Virginia more than a hundred years before or Jimmy Rodgers crooned from the wind up Victrola.
But it was the people that made it magic on Sand Mountain and that allowed me to imagine that this was the real world and that the life lived in the suburbs of Detroit, or later, my dusty adopted hometown in Arizona, were the illusion. 
Roy played a mean fiddle but mostly helped the women around the house as the black lung from years spent in the coal mines had made him a man old before his time. Carlotta, never without a cigarette when she was awake, was the tough one that refused to let anyone forget it was the Yankees that created the problems facing the south, she was referring to the Civil War, a conflict her dad told her stories about.
Burt looked just like Dopy in the animated version of Snow White with his big ears, long neck, and protruding Adam’s apple. He could always make us kids laugh by pulling a half dollar from our ear or by making funny animal noises.
He was the quintessential caricature of the mountain hillbilly. He cashed the checks from the TVA at the bank in Scottsboro so he could make his mark as he never learned to write, ran a grist mill, had a still and ran liquor up to Monteagle in Tennessee, played the banjo, guitar, and fiddle, never had a harsh word to say about anyone, and was generous to a fault.
Viola was the gentle soul. Stray or sick animals were always brought to her for care and no one on the mountain had a family problem she didn’t know about and there was always a fresh pie or cobbler for these folks that “were on hard times.”
Some folks still tilled small garden plots with a mule and plow. The blacksmith shop was always busy. The sorghum mill had treats and hornets.
Its funny how the memories from childhood season the world of the adult. I may be a desert rat with a love for the empty places but my foundation is Sand Mountain memories.  

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