2017-07-27 / Editorial Page

Searching for Promised Land

Across The Savannah

P&D Old Country Store & Market. 
(Photos by Tom Poland). P&D Old Country Store & Market. (Photos by Tom Poland). I saw it on a map and decided to see it in person. Promised Land. I was about to head out on an ex­pedition of sorts. My destination? Promised land and a place called Obscurity. Day one of my two- day, 410-mile back road excursion broke heavy with humidity. A swel­tering day lay ahead. Mirages, dust devils, and heat apparitions would be my companions on this journey in search of seldom seen sights.

I made my way to Highway 34 to Silverstreet where I stopped at the P&D Old Country Store & Market. P&D, I presume, stands for Patty and Doug. Just outside the back entrance is a handmade sign, PD’s Produce and Firewood.

Inside I met Patty Dale, a friend­ly lady.

“This store keep you pretty busy,” I asked.

“Gives me something to do.” Patty sells jewelry here that she makes. You will find tomatoes, on­ions, and bananas here too. Dolls and stuffed animals. Jams and art. Canned goods, spaghetti sauce. Lots of things. Consider it a gen­eral store.

A bridge to nowhere. A bridge to nowhere. We chatted as her infant grand­daughter watched us.

Nearby an old wood stove await­ed winter.

“How do I find Tiny Town,” I asked her.

“Drive on down 34 and look for a white house on the left.”

“Ok,” I said, wondering just how many white houses might be on the left. “How do I know if I’ve gone too far?”

“You’ll end up in Chappells,” she said.

I never saw firewood at P&D but I saw produce. Off I went looking for a white house on the left with a little Western town behind it. Larry Newman and his family built it, starting back in 1991. Tiny Town features a Bureau of Indian Affairs, a general store, chapel, bank, jail, livery stable, that essential build­ing— an outhouse, and more.

A true back road sight. A true back road sight. I found it about halfway between Silverstreet and Chappells. Would have missed it had I not spotted an old hay rake out front of a white house on the left of Highway 34. Glancing back, I saw a cluster of small buildings behind a house. I turned around on Green Acres Road and headed back to Tiny Town, a magical sight. Newman and his family’s hard-but-fun work will resurrect memories of old Westerns. I half expected to see the Outlaw Josey Wales ride up.

I headed on up to Chappells, a one-time thriving town before a tornado, flood, and economic downturn doomed it. With Prom­ised Land on my mind, I headed out and by the time I caught sixth gear something told me it would not be easy finding Promised Land. It wasn’t. I needed a route to the elusive Highway 10. In Ninety Six I pulled up to a service station where two fellows were gassing up a big truck with a huge boat teth­ered to it.

“You fellows must be local, go­ing out on the lake?”

“Yep, nope just trying to get the boat to run.”

“Can you direct me to Promised Land,” I asked.

One fellow hemmed and hawed a bit until his younger cohort came to his rescue. “Yes, take a left before that Hardees right yonder and just keep driving straight.”

I did and eventually I wound up nowhere. My map rescued me. Back into and out of Ninety Six I drove where I found Highway 221 which led me to Highway 10 via a right-hand hairpin turn and a place called Verdery, a spot in the road but a beautiful spot. There I came across a magnificent old store that begged to be photographed. As I took shots, I heard a dieseling truck headed my way. A fellow pulled up and asked me what I was doing. The store had long been in his fam­ily.

“Just taking photos of this old store ... you don’t mind do you?”

He thought and grimaced a bit ... “It’s ok.”

As his truck’s diesel engine rattled, he told me the store had been built around 1870, making it close to 150 years old. Said he had thought about tearing it down but was afraid the roof might collapse on him. On the side of the building was a beauty of a 7-Up sign, pure vintage art.

“Tell me about Promised Land,” I said, which I knew was just up the road.

“Promised Land got its name from a promise a man made to give his slaves land. Sure enough, when he died, he did. That was before the Civil War, most unusual back then you know.”

The fellow drove off and I took a few more photos. In a few miles I landed in Promised Land. Mission accomplished.

The next morning, using a real map, I plotted a drive up the Savan­nah River where I would work my way to an old bridge that crossed a rare free-running stretch of the Savannah River. Yes, you can find a stretch of free-running river be­tween Lakes Hartwell and Russell.

I crossed the Savannah River on Highway 184 where I took a left onto a highway of the old days, Highway 187. It was on this high­way that I saw a big black snake slide across the pavement. Then, just like that, the snake vanished ... ’twas only a mirage.

I found the old bridge, which I had crossed years earlier, a bridge of the old days, rusty steel, a throwback. Neither you nor I will ever cross the bridge again. Its South Carolina terminus has been cut away. It hangs over the river, a dropping off point if ever there was one. A wide concrete bridge, which seems to be the trend now, has replaced it. Barriers prevent you from driving onto the old bridge, a good thing. Drive this bridge and you essentially walk the plank with a plunge into the Savannah River your fate.

Randomly taking back roads, one of the great joys of driving, set me on a course back home. Along the way I spotted an old racecar parked on top of a small building. It’s sights like these that elevate back roads above interstates.

You know you’re on a back road when you spot log trucks, weedy overgrown road signs, big round bales of hay, radiant red and yellow canna lilies in yards, and old china berry trees hovering over collapsed homes. Maybe science or a forestry expert can explain why Chinaber­ries spring up around abandoned buildings. I see them all the time, always shading old timbers, stones, and ruins of abandoned buildings.

You know you’re on a back road when you see hand-lettered signs, “Firewood for Sale,” and “No Tres­passing” signs. “You will be pros­ecuted.” You’re certain you’re on a back road when you pass a dirt road winding along between deep green cornfields.

Even on a steamy day it’s a joy to drive the back roads. The car’s thermometer hovered around 98 degrees. I took Highway 702 along the western edge of Lake Green­wood and made my way back to Highway 34 where my adventures had begun the day before. Time to head home with yet another back road excursion in the rearview mir­ror. And the claim that, Yes, halle­luiah, I’ve been to Promised Land.

Visit my website at www.tompo­land.net

Email me at tompol@earthlink.net

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