Often when I arrive at someone's farm — or when I am about to leave it—I am asked about my route.
“Did you come over on 17?” they might ask, or, “when you leave, will you go down 35?”
The truth is, I usually don't know. I can drive for 10 hours, navigating through three or four states, and not remember the names or numbers of the roads on which I traveled. Like a lot of folks, once I tell my phone my destination, it takes over and tells me how to get there and where to turn.
Of course, it wasn't always like that. Like everyone else, before the advent of GPS and smartphones, I used maps. And back then, I actually knew the names of the roads on which I drove.
Last year, after going on a daylong bicycle ride with two of my brothers on a Wisconsin trail, I got in my car and headed for the driveway of the trailhead parking lot. At that moment, I realized my phone's battery had died and, for some reason, refused to recharge using the cable I had with me. I knew I wanted US Route 151 to get home, and generally in which direction it lay, but still spent a half hour meandering around trying to find it. Finally I bought a new cable at a convenience store and voilà, my phone came back to life, and I could plot a course home. (When I bought the phone cable, I also bought myself a couple maps — just in case.)
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Speaking of plotting a course, I’ve firmed up my plans for a road trip in March, which, by the time you read this, will be already over. I'll head down to the farm of Jerry Hicks and Jerry Neff in Fleming County, Ky., where I hope to do some filming, then head to Morrison, Tenn., to meet Zach Odom, who happens to be on the cover of this issue. I hope to spend a day with Zach in the woods, but, as he is recovering from recent knee surgery, we may have to limit our work to simply planning a shoot in the future. Then I will go to White Pine, Tenn., to meet Henry and Alice Hoover, who make Canjos, a single string accoustical musical instrument that uses a Spam can as a resonator (henryhoovercanjos.com). They sent me one to try out, and it has a lovely tone. I just need to learn how to play it.
From there I'll head to somewhere near Equality, Ala., to meet up with the Montgomery Wagon Train on its 50th Anniversary trip. I'll tag along with them for a couple days until we end up in Montgomery, when I'll head off to Washington, Texas, to film at the Beasts of Burden event held by the Texas Draft Horse and Mule Association at the Barrington Plantation State Historic Site.
Next I go to visit Johnny and Linda Kee at Beebe, Ark., where they’re laying in their usual large garden plots to grow vegetables for themselves as well as some local food pantries. My last stop will be at Elkins, Ark, to visit DIck and Maeve Courteau and talk with them about upcoming projects for the magazine.
Then home after about a dozen days on the road. A week later, I’ll head to Hurricane Mills, Tenn., for chuckwagon races at the Loretta Lynn Ranch April 1-2.
Later in April, we'll be at the Kalona and Central Wisconsin Draft Horse and Equipment sales, before heading off to Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania at the end of the month to cover a couple plow days and visit some of the shops Dale Stoltzfus writes about in his Pioneer Equipment auction story.