July 24, 2011

The haunted bridge...

The meal had ended hours before, yet we sat there talking. The conversation had turned to one of the favored topics, ghosts and haunted houses. We were spinning tales when a new one was sprung on us. It seems that the bridge on Roscoe Road was haunted by the spirit of a woman that had lost a child there before the new bridge was built.

Before the current bridge was built the road hugged the sharp curve to the right as you went down hill around what was a small quarry on your right, where stone had been cut to use in Dunaway Gardens, an area directly across the road, that once played host to a theater that featured shows starring people like Minnie Pearl. When you rounded the curve a guardrail was to your left, topping a bank that led down to a deep creek on the edge of a swamp. You had to make an immediate left to get on the bridge, which was an old affair, with a framework above the bridge, a rather rickety old thing to look at. The new construction had called for a straightening of the road as well as the bridge being replaced, so that now it flowed from a smooth curve to the right onto a straightaway heading over the bridge.

The story we were presented with went that a woman had rounded the curve at a high rate of speed and gone through the guardrail, ending up in the creek. She had been traveling home with her child, a baby in the front seat with her, when the accident occurred. She was never able to find her baby despite an intense search by the local sheriffs department and a small army of volunteers. According to legend, two things were supposed to happen at the bridge. First you had to sit in the middle of the road and wait for a car to come screaming around the curve, the car would speed up and begin blowing its horn for you to move, but you were to hold fast to your position and the car would disappear a second before it struck you… No one was brave enough, or thick enough rather, to try that one… The second thing reported to happen at the bridge was the appearance of a ghostly figure in the swamp next to Dunaway Gardens. The apparition was said to be the lingering spirit of the mother, doomed to search the swamp for her beloved child for eternity…

Yeah.. We couldn’t pass this one up.

Shortly after midnight we loaded a truck with people and headed over to the haunted bridge, a short ride of just a few miles. We knew the layout well, having been on and around the bridge many times. Having traveled north on Roscoe Road for years, the sight of people backed down the little dirt road next to the bridge so they could fish from their tailgates had become a common occurrence. We had all been down there before and knew that you could walk under the bridge on the north shore of the creek and see the graffiti left there over the years. Indeed, that place was the setting for one of the more harrowing horror stories of my youth that was told to me by a guy on a school bus years before. When I was younger the old quarry was clear of the growth of shrubs and trees that stand in it now, back then you could clearly see where the stone had been cut away from the hillside. I was told that just a few summers before our afternoon bus ride, a scene of horrific devil worship had been found there. A goat had been found hanging upside down from the stone wall, with its throat cut and a pentagram drawn on the ground below it, next to a circle of stone where a fire had been built. He went on to tell me that the area was full of people that were part of a local satanic cult. That set my young mind into a frenzy of paranoia about the area that lasted for several years… My grandfather had added to my childhood fears by telling me that a Sheriff, made famous in a book and later a movie about a local crime kingpin’s arrest and execution, had dumped the bodies of people he had gotten rid of in the same swamp that sat next to the bridge. “He would come down here and turn his dogs out, claiming he was going coon hunting, but we knew what he was doing… He was keeping an eye on everybody around while his boys were out dumping the bodies of anybody that got in the way of his own illegal liquor business..” These thoughts and images were running through my mind as we rode on the back of the pickup down Macedonia Road and made the right turn onto Roscoe towards the bridge.

We crossed over the bridge and turned around where the dirt road started on the right hand side, making sure the car was pointed south towards our home, in case the need for a quick getaway should arise… We piled out of the back of the truck and stood there in a line staring at the bridge, that was an eerie place. Facing south, we looked onto a scene straight from an old werewolf movie. The moon was shining bright, illuminating the fog rising from the swamp as it wafted over the side of the bridge. To the left you could look down the short dirt road and see the light dancing off the surface of the water as it made its way under the bridge to feed the tepid swamp. A cluster of trees hung over the right hand side reaching over the rails of the bridge. Vines had grown down from the trees onto the surface of the road, running into one of the drains cut through to allow water to drop into the creek below. The air wasn’t moving at all, the silence was deafening as we walked slowly toward the bridge.

We didn’t speak as we walked the bridges length, once at the north end we turned and started back, stopping in the middle to look around. Nervous conversation had started on the walk back, daring one another to sit in the middle of the road and wait for the reported ghostly car to round the curve, and tempting any ghosts that may be hanging about to come out and speak to us..

I walked to the right side of the bridge and looked out onto the swamp, I was thinking about the tales my grandfather had spun as everyone around me talked loudly in a much more relaxed fashion when suddenly a loud crash sounded out, the entire bridge began to vibrate as the sound echoed across the swamp. The blood drained from everyone’s face as we stood transfixed, unable to consider moving. The adrenaline was pumping and the heart rates increasing as we looked from face to face for a reaction, slowly we began to move toward the truck.. Shortly we were all running as fast as we could, diving over the sides into the bed of the truck shouting to the driver to get the hell out of there… He decided not to cross the bridge, so we headed north towards Roscoe. We took the first left and sped as fast as we could to a church parking lot down the road… we sat there for a while breathing hard as we discussed our next move… It was decided that we should go back. Since no one was brave enough to walk on the bridge again we wound up driving across it slowly several times to see if the sound reoccurred. The driver once stopped in the middle of the bridge, but was loudly castigated for his actions (while many cans and insults about his mother were hurled at the cab…)

We eventually found the nerve to return to the bridge and repeat the steps that we took that night, and… oddly enough, we were never let down. Each time we went there we would hear the loud bang, it would be different, some times one loud bang, sometimes several at once. You may hear it once during the night hours or many times, never at the same time and never the exact same sound, but with each episode, your blood would run cold and the bridge would vibrate as if pounded on by a large sledge hammer…

We agreed that the sound was the residual haunting of the moment the car broke through the guardrail and hit the water of the creek below us. That place became a haunt for several months worth of late night hours, even including an excursion into the old quarry to seek out the spot where the goat had been sacrificed… and yes.. we did find it, there was a pentagram spray painted onto the rocks at the foot of the wall, almost dead center in the quarry, exactly where the guy on the bus had pointed to years before...

I told my son these stories one night and found myself suddenly in need of a can of soda from the vending machine in front of the Roscoe General Store… I made my way quickly over the bridge, not slowing down or looking, bought a can of soda and began the drive back. I remember the feel of the night air as I let the windows down in the car and slowly drove across that bridge, thinking of those nights so many years ago… I did stop the car on the middle of the bridge and listen for a few minutes. I didn’t hear anything, but damn, that place is still creepy…

July 18, 2011

Here... eat this

These things came to mind when my son recently acquired his driver’s license…

I think it would be safe to say that “back in the day” there was a whole lot of drinking going on…

The word that comes to mind when I think back on being relatively young is lucky. Lucky that I’m not dead, lucky that I never killed anyone, lucky someone never killed me. I started out in a 1981 Chevrolet Malibu classic.. A four door sedan.. Needless to say, that meant I was chauffeur at large for the people I knew. I had fun for a while. In high school people approached me all the time wanting a ride home, at the time, that was fine with me because it meant gas money… As time went by it became quite a pain in the ass. So I contacted a friends dad that sold cars and told him that I was in the market for something small. He called me a few days later and told me he had a car for me if I was interested. I went over and discovered a 1985 Pontiac fiero.. Perfect for my needs… hey.. I was young, what did I know about lemons? He let me drive it around for the weekend and I decided I wanted it. Thus ended the days of the phone calls, “Hey… want to go to the mall?”

What transpired from that day forward is a blur of color and sound that could only be matched by the fury of a south Alabama tornado.. The festivities would begin on the odd Friday night around elevenish, when everyone’s dates would be over and the gathering would begin… I would have a leg up on them from an early start, after a visit to a local convenience store to stock up on a twelve pack of Budweiser and a bottle of blue nun wine. I had it timed out so that the inventory would be almost depleted by the time they started arriving. Then we would go out drinking…

A few highlights come to mind from around then…

I lived through a live version of the scene in the movie vacation when the camera pans around the car to see each member of the family asleep, finally landing on the dad, sound asleep with the rest of them, just before the big wreck in the desert. We were in an early seventies impala, one of those cars that got around three tenths of a mile per gallon that could comfortably seat around thirty people, screaming down the road I live on, in a curve no less. There we were.. all asleep, just as happy as we could be. Well, passed out was more like it. By some miracle the two of us in the front seat woke up just as we were driving off the side of the road into my brothers front yard, a drop of some six or seven feet down a nice steep bank… I think, “Hey… what, what.. Holy shit..” was the next comment that came out of the driver..

There was the guy in the back yard who, when asked what he was doing on his hands and knees, answered with, “I’m holding on to the grass so I won’t fly off the earth”..

Then there were the late night ventures through the tech tunnel in Atlanta to see what parties were taking place on the Georgia Tech campus… after parking at the varsity.. Those nights usually ended with a drive down Stewart avenue to yell at the hookers and drug dealers..
The night the guy jumped in the car was a good one, “Whatever you guys are looking for I can get for you, drive up in here.. Yeah.. that’s right, up in this hotel complex… right through that gate into that courtyard.” I took one look around at all of the non-English speaking people haunting the dimly lit courtyard in the open doorways of the rooms as they stared the car down with looks of hunger and opportunity and decided it wasn’t the right place to be.. That was the fastest twenty seven point turn I have ever done.. That evening started with turning around in the A&P parking lot wondering why the traffic wasn’t moving, until I realized I wasn’t in line for the light to the exit, but was in line to talk to the hookers..

One night started out in the parking lot of the boat ramp on the Chattahoochee river at Whitesburg… When we arrived, there were two street lights across the river, and at last count there were four or five. We woke up the next morning wondering just how in the world we made it back home… a thought that still haunts me to this day..

One of us had imbibed too much one night and was about to be ill when I thought of something that might be funny… We were hanging out on the road in front of our house as he was lamenting his condition, “I’ll bet I can get him to throw up in less than ten minutes.” is the thought I had. I ran into the house, stumbled into the kitchen and proceeded to make a three inch thick sandwich with tons of mayo, salt, pepper, and lays potato chips, with just a few drops of mustard for flavor… the three inch thickness of the sandwich was after compressing it down from about eight inches.. I dutifully ran back outside handing the conglomeration over in triumph with the words, “Here eat this, it’ll make you feel better.. I promise..” Yep… less than ten minutes later…

Another night found us in the car as the statement, “Holy shit.. You are bleeding…“ was said out loud. Only god himself knows how that paper bag covered in blood wound up in the church parking lot… a mystery that will haunt me until my dying day…

The absolute highest moment of pride came the night it all ended though… I was surrounded by a group of Carrollton’s finest in a garage that I quickly noted was luckily without any camera coverage. They closed in around me in a tight circle as a short, red headed deputy stood on his tip toes, got in my face and said, “Well then do something about it boy…” That exchange was prompted by me saying, “Hey… don’t do that… it hurts..” immediately after they pulled me from the back of the squad car by my left elbow, while I was wearing handcuffs… those cars ain’t built for fat people…

Several months and a court appearance later, I had my life back. I decided then I would take a road less traveled, so I turned to the side and headed off into the woods. It only took the sound of a cell door being shut behind me one time to cure me of all that nonsense.

I have been brutally honest with my son about what could happen to him as he heads out on his solo adventures since garnering his license… I’ve talked to him for years about what is right and what the prices are for not toeing the line. I heard the comment the other day of, “I can’t wait to be that comfortable with it.” when I said that saying to my son, “Run to the store and get..” was one of the coolest things ever. I responded with, “I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with it, I just have to take a deep breath trust him.” Famous last words I know, but there comes a time when you have no choice, you just have to let it happen.

I think that I have instilled a fair amount of common sense into him, maybe its just paranoia.. But then that might be a good thing, fear keeps people in line.. doesn’t it?

July 17, 2011

The front yard

We were watching a movie the other night that included a scene of a cremation. James is seven and turned to me asking what they were doing. I explained to him that sometimes people choose to not to be buried when they die, but burned, usually to have their ashes spread at a place that they love to spend time at, or that has become special to them over the course of their lives.

That one sparked a conversation….

He asked me what I wanted to happen when I die, so I told him that I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes tossed off the pier on Tybee island outside of Savannah… He asked me why and I told him that to me it’s always been a place of extreme peace, I love to sit there and watch the sunrise over the ocean. But… that more than likely nobody would find the time to do it and I would end up in the bottom of the closet in my bedroom with all of the shoes that get lost.

He assured me that he would see to it that I ended up where I wanted to be, so I asked what he thought he might want to have happen when he dies. He thought about it for a while then told me that he would want his ashes spread over the front yard. I asked him why and he said, “I love it out there. Nobody bothers me. I can build a fort anywhere I want to and set things up just like they should be….”

Then he surprised me by continuing with this..

“I miss grand daddy. He always told me about how things were around here when he was little and I like to play like he is little again and out there with me helping me build things. He knew about all the guns I have and told me how each one works, I miss that too.. Do you miss him sometimes?”

I told him that I did. He then wanted to go riding around on the Kawasaki mule and have me tell him about what things were like when I was little, that’s one of his favorite things to do. So we went out about nine o’clock that night, loaded up the mule with all manner of toy guns and headed out at walking speed… We circled the yard, then went off into the woods, I told him about everything we saw. I pointed out all of the coolest trees, showed him where I played as a kid, told him about the cookouts we had and the games we played, told him about the trampoline we had that was like the one he has. We then went up the road and I pointed out where houses used to be and who used to live where and who they were. He sat quietly and listened to everything I said, prompting me from time to time to go somewhere and tell him about something I had talked about before.. We had a long ride that night.

The dogs were running along side the mule with us as we drove about, it was quite the parade we had going on, but he seemed to be deep in thought, where normally he would be shooting all the monsters that were following us, he was silent. When we turned onto the driveway he didn’t say anything, usually he starts chanting, “Go fast. Go fast. Go fast.” but that night he said nothing.. Once we had parked, he stood up on the seat and looked around for a bit then turned to me and said, “Yeah… I think I want my ashes spread right here in this yard., it’s about the best place in the world…”

July 15, 2011


“He comes to easin’ round the coner…” That was always one of my great aunt’s lines that I loved to hear when she was telling a story from her childhood. I remember asking my father what a “coner” was… He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Corner, boy… corner..”

That was the way of it. I loved to listen to people tell stories. I sat at the feet of many older relatives and listened to them spin yarns of the days when they were kids. I was thinking about this earlier and wondered why things like that don’t happen anymore. Where are the times of listening to older relatives? Hell, for that matter where are the times of sitting and talking for hours on end?

When was the last time you went to a genuine cookout? By cookout I mean one of those affairs that lasts all night, when kids run themselves into the ground playing games like hide and seek while the adults sit around and talk or play cards until the wee hours of the morning. You know what I mean… a table laden with food in the background that gets picked over for hours, free flowing coffee and sweet tea, and laughter, sweet, simple laughter. The sound of which is carried on the wind and you feel it’s still roaming around out there somewhere. A day when you drank from the garden hose and were burnt by the sun, but nobody cared or got upset because the spf 50 wasn’t applied in earnest the moment you got out of the car…

Do you remember when no one cared what anybody wore, or drove, or acted like? Everyone seems to be regulated now. Regulated by television or the internet. How many people do you know that have built a house in the last decade that absolutely had to have stainless steel appliances, or the right sort of tile in the kitchen? What about the huge flat screen television with the Nintendo wii so the parents could tell themselves that their children were playing video games that forced them to be active so they wouldn’t be couch potatoes? Stop and think for a moment about the reaction your grandmother would have if you told her that you pay over three dollars for a cup of coffee?

Where did it all go? What happened to it? Why do people not feel satisfied any more? That made me think of a pbs television program I watched a few years back named “frontier house”. the premise was to have a handful of families live in cabins as if it were the turn of the century and the competition was to see who could appropriately get ready for the oncoming winter, they were judged by historians who oversaw the amount of food and firewood they gathered during the Summer months. I was struck by an affluent family of four that were miserable during the entire contest. They complained nonstop about the living conditions and absence of modern day conveniences, as they were all crammed into a one room cabin. A mother, father and two teen daughters who had just built their dream home, a standard mcmansion. They spoke continuously about how they couldn’t wait for this to be over so they could get back to their new home, it was finished just as the program started and they hadn’t spent any time in it at all.

The mother cheated by smuggling in makeup and having her husband clandestinely move an old box spring from a junk pile into the cabin for more comfortable sleeping. The daughters were complaining nonstop about missing their cell phones and televisions. The father took it all in stride, yet he too defended their cheating, “If people back then had found a good box spring to put a mattress on they would’ve brought it home too!” The judges didn’t see things their way and scolded them pretty harshly for their actions. Yet when the competition was over and they made their way home to the new digs… they were miserable. I remember the interviews with them that took place a few months after filming had been completed. They were all in their own parts of the new home, the mother at the pool, one daughter at the grand piano, the other locked in her room on the laptop, the father in his man cave… They were sad. They missed each other. Living in the one room cabin had brought them closer as a family. The daily chores had taught them to work together to get things done, they had to rely on themselves because that’s all they had. In other words.. They were lonely. They had the world at their finger tips via technology, everyone had the latest greatest car to run around in, yet they simply missed being together… and did not know it. They couldn’t pin point why they were all so melancholy. One of the show’s advisors pointed it out to them and that evening they did something they hadn’t done since the filming came to an end. They sat down for dinner together and talked while they ate. They talked and laughed and before they knew it a couple of hours had passed.. That night they all slept in the living room of the new house and breakfast the next morning was ringing with talk and laughter as they made their plans for the Saturday they would spend together..

There is a label for everything now, every person falls into a category and is immediately judged by others and stereotyped to the point of shutting down all relative and real communication. We have become so cynical towards everything that we fail to see the truth of our lives. We have indeed fallen victim to life according to mass media…

Is there anyway way out of this?