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Today is May 20, 2018

Mississippi Seen

Roads least traveled are the most fun

Roads least traveled are the most fun

Around the bend of a country road can be anything. That's part of the appeal of driving them. Could be another bend. Or a fork in the road! The disappointment with a fork is you can choose to go only one way; you’ll just have to wonder what may have happened had you chosen the other. Photo: Walt Grayson

    I am anxiously awaiting our readers’ entries for the next “Picture This” feature in this publication. The photo theme as announced last month is Country Roads (details on page 18). And since I have spent the last 30 or so years of my career traveling mostly country roads, I want to see how many of the photos submitted are ones I’ve driven. Or, more importantly, ones I haven’t. Yet.
    Charles Kuralt is the first television reporter that I am aware of to make a career of traveling the lesser-traveled paths. I am indebted to him for paving the way (inadvertent pun) for feature reporters like myself to follow him.
    I really believe if his “On The Road” series for CBS News had never happened, people who do what I do for a living might have had to do something else. But Charles Kuralt proved that television audiences (which means people in general) want to see something other than bad news on their sets.
    Of course, when Kuralt set the precedent, he also set the bar very high. He is probably remembered as a travel reporter. But very few of his stories were about traveling. They were about the people he met at the end of the journey. And he was a brilliant thinker with keen observations and insights. In comparison, I try to get by.
    I bring up Charles Kuralt in association with country roads because when I saw the upcoming (April) theme for “Picture This,” the first thing that popped into my mind was something he said about modern America. Here it is:
    Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.
    Of course, no one doubts the need for America’s superhighway system. Yet the other side of the coin shines through without having to flip it over. To me he is also saying something to the effect of: We have progressed as a society and modernized and streamlined, but we’ve left something behind in the process. What is it we’ve left behind? Drive a few miles down any country road and you will find it.
    My Grandmother’s house was on one of those country roads. The cemetery where she and several prior generations, as well as members of the current generation and my Mom and Dad, are buried is on a country road.
    Many of the most picturesque churches in the state (in January’s “Picture This,” by the way) are on country roads.
    Most of the places where history was made are down country roads.
    When I am trying to get my thoughts together I can either find myself or lose myself (depending on the need) while driving a country road. They not only carry you to your destination but also transport you through a variety of scenery and topography, and can even take you back in time along the way.
    A part of a country road’s appeal to me is the anticipation of what’s around the next bend. Around that bend may be an old farmstead or a town you’ve never seen before, or another bend. And sometimes around the next bend there may be a fork in the road, one you weren’t expecting. If your GPS isn’t handy, deciding which way to go is a dead reckoning. Whichever way you choose has another set of adventures.
    I suppose the destination is the ultimate reason for the journey. But traveling a country road makes the destination an anticlimax, compared to the drive.

    Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television, and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Contact Grayson at walt@waltgrayson.com.

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