I live on a country road out in the middle of nowhere. It curves through the woods, climbs up hills and dips into hollers (hollows, for the over-educated) like a slow-moving serpent that is caught out after the first frost. I have strolled down this road with a fishing pole on my shoulder in search of the big one. I have pedaled my bicycle up and down this avenue with friends on long summer days looking for a swimming hole (and once an out-of-town neighbors pool) to cool off in. I have even walked down this street once, in 1993, in snow up to my waist. You may say that sounds like any country road across the South and for the most part you would be right. But there is one more part of this road that sets it apart from all other roads. There is one distinguishing landmark that makes this a special trail. At the end of Fairview Cove Road there is a bridge.
Just before where Fairview Cove Road runs into Highway 179 there is a one lane bridge that crosses Bristow Creek. This has been that way since 1917. I remember as a boy driving across the bridge and the sound it made as the lumber jumped up underneath the car. I also remember crossing that bridge when I started driving and how immediately after getting to the other side you went uphill to stop at the highway. The road entered almost in a curve so you had to gun it when you started out, and if you were driving a straight shift you always hoped no one was behind you because if you didn’t know what you were doing you either went dead or rolled back down the hill toward the bridge. I even heard of a redneck in a GTO one time taking off there in such a frenzy that he broke an axle but I suspect that maybe the axle was already cracked. When a young driver could make his or her way from Fairview Cove to 179 without incident they were ready to go to town.
After a few years of trying to straighten out this old road I moved off. When I tried to explain to people I met along the way where I grew up and they were from this general area I would tell them the road with the old bridge at the end and they knew where I meant. It’s funny how certain things stick in our minds and make things stand out. I spent a few years away from this place and thought I was moving forward. I found after a while that I missed living in the cove and that ragged road. I missed getting to the end and waiting for a neighbor to cross first. I missed the clickety-clack that sounded out when I crossed the bridge. I missed home.
I got married in 1999 and moved back home a couple of miles from where I grew up in 2000. That bridge was a welcome sight. A neighbor had taken to decorating the bridge according to the seasons which only served to make the place that much more endearing. My wife and eventually my children loved to see how the span would be adorned. These are the things that make a place special, somewhere to be from. This is the stuff of home. It is why I love where I grew up and why I returned.
In 2016 it was determined that the Fairview Cove Road entered into Highway 179 at a dangerous place and I suppose it did. The road would be moved a little which would mean a new bridge. This also meant that the little one lane friend of ours would not be used anymore. The bridge was deemed historic, however, so it would stay there. They built a new, modern looking bridge and even painted lines on it so you know which side is yours. The dear, sweet saint that decorated the bridge passed on that same year. She, like her bridge, can never be replaced. This road and that bridge hold a special place in my heart. They will forever be a part of who I am and now even who my children are. My son told me Sunday on the way to church as we passed over the new bridge that it still seemed weird not going over the old one. I guess it always will.