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  • Betty Girardeau


Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket? Fortunately, I haven't, though I came close one time. When I was recently doing census work I felt I needed to be particularly careful, not only because I was working for the government and thought that getting a speeding ticket while on the job could be especially bad, but also because most of the roads I was on were narrow and twisting and unfamiliar. And it is impossible to speed along a road when you are also looking for a specific address. But it didn't take me many days on the job to realize something else about driving more slowly on these roads. I actually got to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. Goldenrod was at its height, and I remember one little country road where the banks on either side of the road were solid gold with the blooms, making it look more like a lovely garden path. Round bales of hay dotted many fields, making them look like works of art in the late afternoon sun. There were a few boarded up country school houses and lots of churches, mostly Baptist with a sprinkling of Methodist. Most of these have fine new buildings, but some of the gravestones were old style ones, suggesting that there had been houses of worship in these locations for many years. We have a fairly large population of Amish in this part of East Tennessee, too, and there were signs reminding me to slow down for possible horse and wagon traffic. When you are doing census work, you also have to drive more slowly so that you don't miss the road sign for your next turn. These days almost every road is named, even the dirt ones. Often they are named for early residents or churches. But some sections of a road that my GPS would take me too more than once was the Old Federal Road. These days it is not a single continuous road, but there are fragments of it here and there, and I frequently found myself almost all of the Tennessee portions of them. In my part of Tennessee the history of this road is quite interesting and even sad. The starting point for the Tennessee/Georgia Old Federal Road was the Tellico Blockhouse which historically had connected Knoxville to the Cherokee settlements in Georgia. It was along this road in 1835 where the Cherokee were rounded up and placed in internment holding camps before beginning their migration west on what is now known as the infamous "Trail of Tears." Being able to drive faster on multi-lane modern highways is certainly a plus in many ways. But if you are willing to slow down and take some of the byways instead, you will have a chance to really appreciate the richness and history of the places around you more so then when you are speeding through them.

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