Florence County Library to host author
Experience Tom Poland’s illustrated talk about his new book, South Carolina Country Roads—A Place Called Obscurity. Tom spent over three years driving more than 10,000 miles while avoiding the interstates. He’s collected South Carolina’s crumbling treasures and put them in one place for our posterity, giving them context and honor. The book contains 57 color photographs from the back roads that are sure to revive memories of a South some thought long gone.
Excerpts from the book: So, just what is a back road? A typical dictionary entry might read something like this: “a little-used secondary road, especially one through a rural or sparsely populated area.” I offer a more involved definition. It’s a road that has no eighteen-wheelers on it. You can take your time. You won’t find any fast food. You won’t end up in a traffic jam but you might find some strawberry jam. A bona fide back road will shower you with gifts: classic barns, country stores with old gas pumps, and ruins and forsaken places. It’ll cross a river upstream before it broadens, letting you see where that river calls home. You’ll see abandoned tractors covered with vines. You’ll drive past cemeteries where old cedars grow.
Come spring, you’ll spot yellow-green clumps of daffodils signifying the presence of an old home place. Patches of blackberries along the shoulder will tempt you to hit the brakes. You’ll drive past fading advertisements painted long ago by “wall dogs.” You’ll cross rusty, steel truss bridges into a land of beautiful wreckage and truck tires painted white overflowing with red geraniums. You’ll catch a whiff of tantalizing smoke—pit-cooked barbecue. Sometimes it’s a dead-end road where you hear a murder of crows on the attack and catch the sweet acidic scent of a bed of ants. Life in the country.
Catch sight of old homes like Thorntree restored by those who value the past. The Pee Dee’s oldest known residence, Irish immigrant James Witherspoon built Thorntree in 1749. A back road is a cultural paradise, an interstate, a wasteland. Sure, driving an interstate saves time, but the downside is long stretches of nothingness. As Charles Kuralt pointed out, “The interstate highway system is a wonderful thing. It makes it possible to go from coast to coast without seeing anything or meeting anybody.”
Now and then I remind myself that driving itself is remarkable. In fact, it’s astounding. You’re rolling across the surface of a planet. You are a wayfarer, an explorer in your own planetary rover with a passport to adventure. Your best bet? Back roads. For somewhere down a road few consider, you’ll find a place called Obscurity where old home places linger. It’ll put you back in touch with your roots. And do so in a beautiful way.
Author Tom Poland will give a talk and sign his latest book, South Carolina Country Roads: Of Train Depots, Filling Stations & Other Vanishing Charms on Tuesday, June 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Doctors Bruce and Lee Foundation Library. Poland, known as the “writer of southern things” invites his audience to venture off the beaten path to forgotten roads, where a hidden South Carolina exists.
Among Poland’s 14 other published books are: Classic Carolina Road Trips from Columbia: Historic Destinations & Natural Wonders (History & Guide), Save the Last Dance for Me: A Love Story of the Shag and the Society of Stranders. He writes a weekly column for newspapers and journals in Georgia and South Carolina about the South regarding its people, traditions, and lifestyle. He is the editor of Shrimp, Collards & Grits, a Lowcountry lifestyle magazine.
Poland will have a number of his books available for sale at the program, which is made possible by Friends of Florence County Library. Admission is free. For additional information please call (843) 413-7074.