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Spires: Back roads and hidden gems

Spires: Back roads and hidden gems

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Taking back roads have always been a passion of mine. I like to get off the beaten path to see what lies around the next corner.

Over the years, I’ve made some interesting discoveries by taking the back road.

Once, many years ago, I had a job traveling around the southeast. This was well before GPS, when you only had a map from the local gas station or one of those atlases to use as a guide.

I was way over in the Mississippi Delta and had called on a client in a small town and noticed there was no direct route to my next stop about 20 miles away showing on the map.

I asked my customer if there was a back road I could take to get to my next stop.

“Oh, yeah, there is, but you have to make a couple of turns to get there,” I was told.

In a couple of minutes, I had a map on a small sheet of paper as to how to go. His directions went something like this: You go two blocks behind the store and take a right on King Street. In about a mile, there will be a large stump on your left. Turn right, that’s Crowder Road, follow that for about six miles and start looking for the double bridges. Turn left just past the second bridge on to Willow Branch Road, that road sign was knocked down a couple of years ago, by the way.

The road will dead end at the old Barrows store that burned down about 20 years ago. Turn right and eventually the pavement will run out, so you’ll have about two miles of dirt road before it dead ends into Highway 221. Turn left and that will take you into town.

The map and the verbal directions worked perfect. I arrived at my destination without a hitch; however, one interesting thing happened along that complicated back roads trip.

It was a hilly drive and as I topped one of the many hills I saw two fellows standing beside the road hitchhiking. Normally, I don’t pick up hitchhikers and actually passed these two fellows until I realized I knew them.

Here I am in the middle of nowhere, way up in the Mississippi Delta, and see two young guys I know standing beside the road trying to catch a ride into town.

I stopped the car and backed up. As much as I was surprised, they were even more surprised to see me. After the initial shock they got in the car and I took them to the next town. They were visiting an aunt and had just stepped out on the highway to thump a ride into town.

I’m sure the odds of running into someone you know in the middle of nowhere like that are astronomical; however, taking a back road probably cut those odds down quite a bit.

That is why I’m fond of taking back roads: you never know what you might see.

Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at


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