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Stomping Ground

May 1, 2007

This past weekend, some friends and I travelled to dear old Polk County for a leisurely day of touring my old stomping grounds.  Now I’m not so self-centered to think that there is anything so fascinating about my life that it would warrant a “tour.”  Ne’ertheless, I like to ride the backroads and reminisce … and to their misfortune, these friends evidently were up for a slow Saturday.

Our main goal was to visit the Mennonite Farmer’s Market in Delano.  Back in the days, we didn’t have any Mennonites, or for that fact, any body of a foreign nature in Polk County.  We didn’t even have a farmer’s market. We did have Mr. Stone who sold corn on the cob from his pick up on the roadside.  Having the Mennonites in Delano bring a bit of culture to Polk County … and no one complains too much because their sticky buns and pizza bread … and veggies are just too good to dismiss.

These Saturday travelling friends fit quite well with my own quirkiness (as they are a bit quirky too, though upon reading this blog they might not realize it).   They do have an adventurous spirit in that they enjoy seeing and meeting new folks. The Mennonites are not a talkative bunch, but as it turned out, one in our group knew one of the Mennonite families and we all were able to visit in their home for a bit.

Here’s the quirky part of it.  Not one of us needs one more sticky bun in our lives or on our hips, but can you believe we waited  for over an hour … maybe even close to two … for that sticky bun?  And then the next day, all three of us just raved about the pizza bread, which was ready and on the shelf when we got there.  Quirky.

The Mennonites have a friendly and unique way of telling you that they have a dress code when you visit their market.  Over one of the vegetable bins, there is a sign that says something like … “Next time you come, we’ll appreciate you being appropriately dressed.”   They weren’t telling folks to leave, but strongly encouraging them to respect their customs and beliefs.

Of course, none in our group was scantily clad. (at least not on the outside).

After we gathered the much anticipated sticky bun, we were hungry. (no we didn’t eat the buns right away) So we headed out to Etowah for lunch at The Farmhouse.  Quite yummy.  Back in my day, there wasn’t a Farmhouse either. Since the 4-lane highway has being built for a while, all my old eatin’ places have closed.

After lunch, we headed back to Polk County and I offered to show them the river and we drove up to the Hiwassee Powerhouse.  The river was very low and you could see every rock in the bed, which was a disappointment since the whitewater is always so pretty.  As we drove along the river we had just about decided that it was “men’s day” on the Hiwassee … except for us, there didn’t seem to be a gal in sight. Finally we did encounter a few on the swinging bridge.

Driving along the Hiwassee, going up to the Powerhouse, has always been a very relaxing past time for me and my children.  Sometimes, it’s the only place I can find true refreshment … and I don’t mean from sticking my feet in the water.  There are places in this world that an athiest just cannot stand and attest to his lack of acknowledgement of God.  Along the Hiwassee River is one of those places.

While at the river, we saw a copperhead.  I was quite proud that we stood and watched it swim right toward us.  Perhaps all those shows I’ve been watching on Animal Planet or National Geographic have given me that extra ounce of bravery that I lacked when it comes to snakes.  But we were wise women, and knew when it was time to get back in the car and drive on.

These friends received the royal scenic route of my stomping ground.  I could not begin to share with them the many stories that made it a bonafide stomping ground. (they would not have fully appreciated it, and there was a child in the car)  But we did stop by an old store, where my daddy’s picture hangs on the wall with a rather large catfish that he caught.  In that store there was a sticker for sale at the counter that read, “Girls who behave have no history to tell.”   I guess that’s enough said about why I couldn’t go into detail with my stories.

They were just along for the ride but along the way, my mind was recalling every hole in the wall, every backroad, every side road and even a few “no roads” — that provided some bit of stitchery in the tapestry of my life.

I can’t imagine anything more boring that to have someone show you around a place that you’ve never been, tell you some slice of life story about people you’ve never known and will never know … and think you enjoy it. YUCK.  (Good thing they had a sticky bun)

Now…if I had a tour bus…with one of those microphones for announcing and sharing “inside scoops” like they do when you tour the homes of the stars, I’d enjoy leading a few of those trips.  I think I could tell a few stories that even if you didn’t know who I was talking about … before it was over, you’d wish that you did.

As I was driving, in my heart and mind, I could not help but recognize the “romance” of it all. My mama used to tell me stories about her high school days, and my mind would run wild with imagination.  It all seemed so romantic … and she was basically a very shy and backward girl in high school.

I used to work for a great man named Dude. One day, I may write a whole book on just what I learned from being around him.  But one thing he told me once pertained to memories and “stomping ground.”   He said, “You might as well enjoy your life and make a lot of memories.  ‘Cause one day, memories might be all you have.”

He predicted that though he had lived what many would consider a wiry life of some ill-repute, he claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  And he said, when he got older and was sitting at the nursing home, rocking and smiling, some might wonder what in the world he was smiling about.  But, it wasn’t any of their business back then … and it wouldn’t be any of their business in the future.

Rock on, Dude.

I complain alot about the politics and the small mindset of Polk County society, but the truth is, I had a pretty good time growing up.  It’s a place where if you don’t have nothing else in the world to do … a ride along the river will do just fine.  It’s a luxury even (especially now with gas prices).  I can’t imagine growing up in Cleveland and not being able to escape to the riverside … or drive up on the mountain … or just tootle along the backroads stirring up dust.  What a life!  What an incredible life…and I promise you, it is absolutely full of story and history.

Tickets are on sale now for the next Stomping Ground Tour.

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