Night Walk

by Henry Swain

In 1949 the only blacktop roads in the county were the two state highways and the road from Nashville to Helmsburg. Many of the creek crossings had what were called “slabs” instead of bridges. Slabs consisted of one or two culverts covered by concrete approaches. There are two of these left on State Road 135 South.

Our new three room house was four miles from Nashville off Clay Lick road. When I asked Ed Wayman the county highway superintendent the name of the road we lived on he said, “It doesn’t have a name. I guess you could call it the first left prong off Clay Lick”.

When artist Ken Reeve created a county road map for the newly formed Chamber of Commerce, I suggested that he name it Wallow Hollow road because its watershed begins at Bear Wallow Hill. He did, and it has been called that since.

At that time we forded the creek five times to reach our property—three times on Clay Lick slabs and twice through Wallow Hollow creek. There were often times when high water kept us from getting in or out. Fortunately high water on the smaller creeks subsides after a few hours.

I got caught by this condition one early spring night after I had attended a meeting in town. Unable to cross the first slab on Clay Lick, I decided to park my truck at the end of Eads road and walk home through the woods. I had studied the contour map of the area and knew that at the end of Creamer road there was an abandoned county road that rode the back of a ridge ending at the Lilly Woods near Bear Wallow hill. I surmised that if I followed that ridge until I heard the rush of Wallow Hollow creek I should come out near our house.

There was no phone line up Wallow Hollow at that time and I knew my wife Mardi would be worried should I not return. I took off though the woods from Eads road. It was a warm, humid night after the rain and I could keep my bearings by the lights of Nashville glowing off the overcast sky. The leaves were not out yet and it was an eerie venture through the woods for phosphorescent glows would show up now and then from rotting logs.

After a time of walking I came out on Creamer road. I stopped at the first house, which happened to be Warnie Creamer’s. I told him of my plan to walk on to Wallow Hollow creek. He told me I wasn’t far from the abandoned road I intended to take, which would be at the upper end of what was later to become Greenbriar Lake. Warnie’s parting remarks were “Hey, you could get lost out there.”

What appeared foolishness to him was to me simply following my intuition. When I heard the rush of Wallow Hollow creek, I dropped off the ridge and saw the light of the lamp from our kitchen window. But there was one last hurdle. Our house was on the other side of the creek. It was difficult to gauge the depth of the water in the dark, and the only way to test it was to try to wade across.

I took off my shoes and strung them over my shoulder. The water was well above my knees and the going precarious. It was amazing how much gravel flowed over my feet with each step I took. I managed to make it across by grabbing the branches of a bush on the other side.

Mardi was reading by lamplight at the kitchen table. I startled her when I rapped on the window, but that soon turned to relief when I came in and she saw how high the wet mark was on my jeans.

I was young and in love (still am, with the same woman) when I made my night trek to get back to her. I’ve always been a romantic. It was poetic, and I thought I was rescuing her from a night of worry.

Fifty-seven years later we have bridges instead of fords. We even have some blacktop, but not all the way. In all the years we have lived here I have never walked all the four miles to town. I’ve started several times, but someone always stopped to give me a ride. The walk I remember most vividly was the night walk through the woods and seeing the lamplight as I came off the ridge. I think of that when I hear Bob Bodett finish his Motel 6 commercial, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”