The sun rises behind me, and to my right, shedding cold and sparse light upon Tallokas road at dawn. Harvest is over, school is out, Christmas is close, and I’ve the road to myself this morning. The thirty plus miles to Moultrie are a meditation, a time of thought, and the curves in the road are like the body of a lover I’ve known for years. I plug into the MP3 player, and allow each song to pilot me through its time, and its meaning to me.
Tallokas is an odd road that seems to be two totally different paths depending on if I’m coming or going. I found the puppy Lucas just north of where Tallokas is violated and bisected by SR 122, but that’s nearly halfway between here and there. Dense stands of hardwood trees drape over Tallokas on the first part of the trip, bendy and curvy and dark is this road. I come around one of the curves and press the brakes down slowly as a herd of deer tries to consider the path out of the way. Two go this way, three more go that way, and their hooves are slipping on the asphalt. We’re all meeting at the bottom of a hill and their white tails flash in the half light. The three switchback over and follow the two, and suddenly they were never there at all, no trace of their presence exists past what you read here. I stop to look into the woods, and as I dig the camera out, I realize I haven’t the woodcraft to follow their path.
Tallokas stretches out into the morning, past Lake Nicolas, where the spillway offers a way station of sorts, between the north and the South drive, a path notch to let travelers know they are not on two different roads now. I know this point in the drive both ways, but just past this point the road blurs into its two separate personalities. The north path leads into more civilization, and the South path leads back into the countryside. One path leads to work, and the other is the way home. One path I’m gearing up to what is coming into the day, and the other I am winding down, to be back home again.
I cross over SR122, and the cotton gin lies just north of here, and the homeless man lives under a stacked pile of old plastic sheeting, right against the fence, with his bags full of aluminum cans. His shelter is a flat one, and unless you knew there would be no way to know a human lived under that pile of junk, but there is one man’s home. Steam rises from the flat shelter on cold mornings, and he sits near the shelter drinking out of a brown paper bag in the afternoons. North towards more people and less humanity, South towards home. It’s difficult to believe there is a homeless man this far out, but then again…
A red fox stalks along a fencerow just a few miles past SR122 and I watch as it hurries along to escape the coming sun. This morning the mutts sang with the Coyotes, and it was the first time Lucas sang with them. Twice, Lucas has come running back into the house to bark at the Coyotes from a window, fearful of his wild cousins. Bert and Sam sing with them, always, with Bert’s deep voice climbing steadily, and Sam’s houndish yelp following along. Lucas has a voice, puppy still, but he’s getting there. They, like the red fox along the fenceline, stay clear of the dogs, and the voice of a puppy growing stronger is something they’ll note with no happiness.
Loki Mutt territory, where I found the puppy Lucas comes up, and it’s easier for me to locate where I found him traveling north. Tallokas road gave me a path to a woman’s house, many years ago, and now it’s given me a stray dog. In her own right she was a stray, as we all are in some way, and there isn’t a morning I travel this road that I don’t think of the times I drove this road to see her, to be with her, and to feel loved. I remember the night she called me, and invited me over, and the rule against me staying the night because of the children went out with the lights that night. The efforts to hide our relationship from the kids went from strict to nonexistence in the matter of a few hours. They would have to view their mother as something more than just a mother, and I would be a surrogate father for a while. Tallokas road took me down that path, and took us all down that path, and we followed.
Past the Old Berlin road, the country gives way to tract housing and cookie cutter subdivisions. Lawns replace yards, and old farm implements become kitschy lawn ornaments side by side with plaster gnomes and garish tame plants. The hardwood trees have been cut down, beaten back, and now stand in tiny concentration camps for trees, never to see their seeds grow into the giants they might one day. Here dogs are kept in cages at night, and they know no song. The people have rearranged nature to suit their sense of aesthetics, but it reeks of a certain sense of anesthetization. Flowers sleep in beds here and are not allowed to grow wild, to surprise the hiker and wow the wanderer. Here nature is not admired but embalmed. Acres and acres of grass are water, fertilized, and then decapitated, as if we cannot escape the need to farm, but are fearful of actually trying it.
The massive four lane that is US319 captures me, and I am drug along the flow of traffic into Moultrie. Concrete and steel, asphalt and traffic await me. No deer nor foxes, no more dawns or mutts for me, until I return to Tallokas Road, to make my way back home again.