When I was eighteen Lord I hit the road
But it really doesn’t matter how far I go…
Lyrics to a lot of songs seem to hit home with me, the above line in Don Williams Good Ole Boys Like Me always reminds me of when I left South Carolina not realizing that it would probably be the last time I actually lived in my home state.
I had graduated from High School in June of 1978 and taken a job in doing construction work leaving behind the meat market at the local Bi-Lo grocery store that I worked for while in school, my new job took me out of town all week long and brought me home late Friday nights to play all weekend as long as I met up with the guys in time to leave town at about 5:00AM Monday mornings. We built a hospital in Waynesville, NC, cottages and motels at Lake Junaluska, NC, built add-ons to the airport in Columbia, SC and was working in Chapel Hill, NC on a housing project when I got a summons for jury duty, I had to show up at 8:00AM Monday for jury selection which meant I would miss my ride to the job site and a weeks worth of work, I had moved back to my hometown of Easley, SC and picked up this summons from my Moms house where I had lived before.
I fretted all weekend about this because I had never been called to jury duty before and this would be my first, the pay that I would get from this would not match the check I was losing so I was a bit ticked about it anyway. I showed up to the Greenville County Courthouse on time and waited to be called in for my interview, I filled out the forms and played with the pencils while waiting, I added my address change to the forms because I’m honest like this and guess what I was told for being so honest? “Sir I see you have moved, is this your correct address” I replied yes to which I was told, “You are now living in Pickens County and cannot serve on a Jury for Greenville County” I was dismissed and went on my way, now I was really upset because I didn’t have to serve and I had missed my ride to the Job site in Chapel Hill, now instead of trying to find directions and driving my own car to work I did what my eighteen year old brain said and that was to cash my paycheck, load up my car and take a “Road Trip” to New Mexico. My Grand Daddy lived here and I had not seen him since I was little and my Dad also was living with him, it had been several years since I had been with him also, so it made sense to pay them a visit.
I had very few clothes so it didn’t take long to pack, the only thing of value other than my car was that .22 rifle I had used for collateral, it was carefully wrapped in some of my clothes and loaded into the trunk, I told Grandma bye and stopped by the gas station to fill up and get a map to study, I actually made it all the way to Lonoke, Arkansas the first day and got a motel room for the night, my last paycheck was running out pretty quick by now, I bought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and settled in for dinner and a movie, early next morning I was again on the road, now picture this a long haired eighteen year old kid in a hot rod looking Gran Torino, no power steering, no cruise control and no air conditioning, but a killer stereo and a CB Radio that kept me in touch with what was going on around me, you know I blended right into the crowd, especially when I hit Amarillo, Texas and was trying to find the right exit to continue my trip in the right direction, “breaker one nine kin ennybody tell me whut road ta take ta git ta Mexico” I think my Southern accent gave them all a good laugh because I got a lot of hateful comments explaining that it was New Mexico not Mexico and if I didn’t know the difference then I deserved to be lost, OK I was scared now I guess my accent gave it away that I wasn’t from Texas, yes a South Carolina accent is different from a Texas one contrary to popular belief so I wasn’t getting much help until a trucker with a soft Southern voice told me which exit I needed and actually which one I would take on the next highway to get to the town I going to.
He was 100% right and riding down that lonely highway I saw the most beautiful sunset I had ever witnessed, I made good time and arrived in town at just about dusky dark, I had my Grand Daddy’s address so after inquiring about the street I was looking for while filling up I drove straight there, he answered the door and was grinning from ear to ear when he shoved me behind the door and opened it widely to hide me, he yelled for my Dad to come and look for the newspaper because he thought they had missed his yard again, I could see the agitated look on my Dad’s face as he crossed the room to the door from the crack behind the door I saw him looking for the paper, when he said “Daddy I don’t see it but looks like somebody parked in our driveway” Grand Daddy pulled him back in and closed the door, I was now face to face with my Dad who just stared and softly said “Jimmy?”
Thirty something years later I remember my home state clearly as it was then and still think of moving back home, my Dad moved back a long time ago and Grand Daddy has been passed away over twenty five years now, so the ones I came to see have left me behind so to say, they tell me you can never go back but I do feel a tug that direction ever once in a while, I am blessed with my wife and I would have never met her had I not come this direction, so maybe she was actually the reason for this road trip and the reason I am still enjoying the ride.
I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees…