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THIS AND THAT: Muddy waters, cold weather and Christmas

November 24, 2018

Going off the beaten path can lead to some interesting places.

Normally when going from place to place, my goal is to get there as quickly as possible. Interstate highways usually do the trick. But interstates have their limitations. They go where they go, but they miss a lot.

Last weekend my wife and I found ourselves going to places we had never been and never imagined. With family members we went through Rock Hill, the place where Mary Lou and I first dated 48 years ago. Going east, we passed through York, a town that almost cost me the chance to have a first date with her. (Another story for another time.)

Continuing on country roads that got narrower and less traveled, we passed through Sharon – which we were told is pronounced Shay-run – with a 2010 census population of 494. Not far from there is a smaller town, Hickory Grove, with its 440 people.

Taking side roads, and side roads off of side roads, we found ourselves at a farm/hunt club with rolling hills and rich bottomland. The 1,000-plus acres included cultivated fields, pastures for cattle and thick hardwood forests home to hundreds of deer trying to avoid the aim of hunters at this time of the year.

Mary Lou and I had never been mudding before, but by the end of the afternoon we had a new appreciation for land, water and the mixture of the two as well as little vehicles that can seemingly go anywhere. Boarding a pair of Polaris Rangers, we were driven to places on the property that would be unreachable by the vehicles with which we are familiar.

These three-seat vehicles took us up and down hills with ease and plowed through mud holes that would bog down lesser motorized contraptions. Mary Lou rode in the lead Polaris, while the one I was passenger in followed behind. I was amazed at the swampy areas and mud holes it was able to run through. And only once did these have to go in four-wheel drive.

The previous night we had watched “The Patriot,” some of which was filmed in the northern part of South Carolina. While riding through swamps and woods, I felt taken back to the time of the Revolutionary War and imagined going through that terrain on foot, on horseback or in a wagon.

While much of the trip was in the lowlands sopping wet with recent rainfalls and overflowing creeks, there were also hills near the end of our journey that took us up to a 10-mile view of gorgeous woodlands. Don’t ever doubt that ours is a beautiful state from mountaintops to seashore.

IT IS SAID THAT GROWING old is not for sissies. Every day makes me more of a believer in that adage. The cold gets colder every year.

The temperature may not seem overly chilly, but my body tells me differently. Perhaps it’s thin blood or maybe just old bones, but what was once cool now feels cold; what was cold before is now frigid; what was previously frigid is now unbearable. And we have not yet arrived at winter.

I recall my grandmother’s visits from her Florida home after she and my grandfather retired there from western Pennsylvania. They would come to Aiken in the spring when our flowers were in bloom and the sun’s warmth was warming the land.

To me, it was warm, almost hot. But when I got home from school, I often saw my grandmother in the front yard, seated in a chair, facing the afternoon sun and working the daily crossword puzzle. And always she had on a sweater.

Barely 5 feet tall and reaching 100 pounds only after a hardy meal, she was cold most of the time. Now I understand why she fled south to make the Sunshine State her home. No, I don’t want to move to Florida, but I don’t mind donning a sweater or an extra layer when the temperatures begin to drop.

LET THE CAROLS BEGIN. Yesterday was Black Friday and the Christmas season is now in full swing. I’ll put on my Christmas playlist on the iPhone and begin getting into the spirit.

Next up will be watching my selection of Christmas movies, eating a few holiday treats and trying to decide what to get in the way of presents. Not to put pressure on anyone, but it is exactly one month until Christmas Eve.

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