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Mack Williams: New(er) car in the night

Mack Williams

Well, I’ve gone from ’92 Lumina to 2000 Alero to 2007 Pontiac G6 (I remember a “G6” song, but I think that was a plane).

I’m buying my newest car 2007 from future son-in- law Richard down in Winston. It was used by my daughter Rachel who works and lives in Williamsburg and drives to-and-from Winston on the weekends (in a paraphrase: “Driven only on Fridays and Sundays).

My daughter-in-law Rose’s sister Stephanie took me to Winston to get the car, leading me back via 158, as I am somewhat “urban-driving challenged” when it comes to Winston-Salem and its environs (about 30 miles radius or so).

Enroute, we saw the remains of a locally famous old store and gas station barely poking up out of the weeds in Caswell County. I’m glad the remains of the old store were not bulldozed away, and lie beneath weeds. I’ve read that some archaeologists are even excavating old trash dumps in woodland gullies, finding old discarded “baby-boomer” toys (when the boomers weren’t much more than babies).

When these archaeologists reach the “strata” containing Red Ryder cap pistols, Slinkies, and Hoola-Hoops, they will have justified their grant money!

The remains of that old US Highway 158 Caswell County store were once “collectively” know as O.B. Watlington and Son, (built 1906). Local Caswell artist Russell Watlington has sold many of his pen-and-ink drawings of the old family store; and those pictures are all that remain of the old store’s “visage,” as it was destroyed in a violent windstorm.

Since its remains are now slowly “seeping” into the soil, perhaps they will become a future example of the “Archaeology Americana” of which I just wrote, carefully explored by trowel and brush.

This was the first time I’d been night driving for a long distance, for a long time. I had the windows down to save on gas by not using air conditioning. Passing by country gas stations (at my own, slower rate), I heard people shouting friendly “good ol’ country greetings” to one another (just now, I remember that my father, Bernard Williams, loved the song “Basin Street Blues” and I especially remember the lyrics: “The band’s there to meet us, old friends to greet us,” and “You’ll never know how nice it seems, or just how much it really means”).

The car windows being down, I smelled the dried remains of corn field stalks, and was later met with what must have been the dried remains of some low-lying crop. One “blast of odor” through my window seemed “weedy.” These areas were mostly un-illuminated, so only my nose detected them.

At one lonely turn, I just made out the unlit shape of a house to my left, an old brick home of the 1920s or 30s with “churchly” archway porch, the kind seen in Rowan and all through the Southeast. Of all the buildings being converted into churches nowadays, this kind would seem “pre-destined” for such use (now my Presbyterianism is showing).

Those dried plant smells recalled a flower boutique in the long-dead(and bulldozed) Carolina Circle Mall, which my late wife Diane and I would sometimes frequent. But those “night smells” on US 158 East were only hints, compared to some of the boutique’s plants, seemingly supplemented with Eau de Cologne. While some people gasped for breath in that store, I enjoyed the semi-exotic fragrance (I did not get “high”) and the artistry achieved in that “dried plant store.”

Upon smelling a wetland smell, I knew I had crossed the swampy US 158 border from Rockingham into Caswell, with Danville not far away.

Oh, and with fresh memories of the feeling of being “stuck” without transportation, begging rides to church and elsewhere, I went ahead and got the old Alero repaired, keeping it as a spare, wishing to be “stuck” no more!

In paraphrase (and minus the radish), “As God as my witness, I’ll never be wheel-less again!”


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