I Walk These Roads

Over the past ten or twenty years, people who know me from our hometown seem to know me in one of two ways. Well, at least it’s what they tend to comment on. First is, “You’re the guy with the chickens.” Now this one has long had me kinda stumped, as we live in the country, and keeping chickens seems as though it should be an unremarkable trait. At least it does to me. Although to be fair, at one time we had a LOT of chickens, as well as ducks, turkeys, pheasants, and Lord knows what else. So maybe our place did stand out a little at one time.

The other thing I hear is, “I see you out walking your dog.” Again, not an entirely unusual event here in the country, or anywhere that matter. Perhaps a little more sporting with he way people drive more often than not, but still, common enough. Incidentally, someone once told me they couldn’t believe I walked on our road, the way people speed through here. I told them the days I wear the reflective vest isn’t so much so drivers can see me it’s so EMS can find my body easier if I get hit.

But kidding side, it’s how I’m wired. I always have always had a penchant for wandering and don’t think I come by it strange. I’ve heard it said my grandfather’s nickname was “Christopher Columbus” as he too was always out exploring.

Often times when me and our spoiled rotten dog are out on our daily strolls there’s a lot going on in my head. I’m making a list of things to do when we get home. I’m thinking about what to write in my next book, brainstorming silly ideas like this website. Other times there’s absolutely nothing going on in my head and I’m just enjoying the fresh air and exercise.

Other times though, I’m remembering what life used to be here in these hills, waxing nostalgic for those days when life seemed simple and made sense.

Years ago I wrote about this very thing, which you can read below:

I walk these roads, same as I always have for decades.

I walk along and I see things that you may never know were there. I see a life growing up in a small town. Every mile holds a thousand memories.

I see the ramshackle barns that once held working dairy parlors and kept a family and their farmhands employed without having to make the daily commute to a nearby town. Some of the barns are completely gone, burned or torn down with only a lone utility pole or bare earth remaining. That’s all you’ll see now, but I still see the heifers in the field and the hum coming from the machinery in the milk house.

I see the houses where people long gone once lived. Some are in a state of disrepair from abandonment all these years, others housing families whose faces I don’t recognize. Occupied or not, I still see the old timers there on the porch, taking in the cool evening air of early summer. I walk by the abandoned homes and can’t help but wonder what the inside looks like, stuck there in time these twenty plus years since the old man died. I wonder what old stuff is still there in his garage locked tight. It’s all I can do not to go poking around, but I manage to refrain.

I walk these roads and in my mind I can see the cars parked up and down the road for the firemen’s carnival, “Field Days” as they were known here, the highlight of summer for a kid in a small rural town. If I listen carefully I can hear the music coming up the valley as “T and The Goodtimers” play classic country music or call out a square dance.

Baldwin Fireman’s Field Days, c. 1985

Driving by you may see a patch of lawn in the center of town but I see “The Park”, where we would often gather to play football or baseball after school. Closing my eyes I can almost hear the voices of us as children as we played together. We’re now scattered all over, but in some ways we’re still there.

I’ve walked every mile of these creeks that run through town more times than I can count. I can show you where we used to swim. Or where I set my first trap as I tried to emulate those trappers and mountain men whose adventures I loved reading about.

Baldwin Creek

I’ve walked these hills, and feel like I know them as well as, if not better than, my own living room. Sitting here at my desk I can travel them, telling you exactly how to get to several small ponds that may or may not even exist anymore, depending on if time and nature has filled them in or allowed them to remain. I know where there is a spring with the sweetest water to quench your thirst. I can tell you why there is a mirror embedded in the tree there and who placed it.

I can show you the places where old farm dumps lie buried under decades of forest debris. Where there was a small cabin built, used, and rebuilt by area youth. Someone asked me once if it’s still there. At the time my answer was “I don’t know.” I didn’t have the heart to go look. Eventually curiosity got the best of me and I went to see. As suspected, not a trace remained.

Memories and this picture are all that remain.

“Time marches on” they say and so it does. Life is like an old clock, whose hands travel around its face until they can’t anymore. Still time continues, even when the clock doesn’t.

Sometimes I feel like that, walking up and down these roads, traveling along back and forth while the years pass by. And I know that someday, when I am gone, I will be but another memory added to the thousands that exist already on these old country roads.

Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of the In Times of Trouble and In Times Of Trouble: Aftermath, a post-apocalyptic series set in Upstate New York, and is currently working on the third book in the trilogy. To learn more, go to cmsherwood.com

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