Go take a walk. Maybe you’ll learn something.

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I needed to move my two ponies from the pasture here at home to a pasture closer to town, necessitating a round trip walk of three to four miles. It’s not a bad walk at all, so I often choose to walk rather than borrow Allen’s truck and trailer. Anyway, exercise is good for us, even if it is uphill most of the way there. The downhill, return walk home is the reward.

So, I started out walking one Thursday morning, ponies in hand. Our driveway (7/10 mile) is the first part of the trek, and the rest of the walk is on the only remaining unpaved section of Howard Gap Rd.

Our first encounter was with a Saluda resident named Mr. Thomas who was on his way to check on his ailing father-in-law down the road. I have known his name for years, but never met him. It was really nice to be able to put the name and the person together.

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After climbing the last big hill on Howard Gap, I saw a neighbor working in her pasture, killing weeds with great joy, so I stopped to talk to her. It was great catching up on “important” information, such as “How are your alpacas doing?” and “Oh, you have miniature horses now, too” and “Are you training them to pull a cart?”… important stuff like that. By then the ponies were restless to get to the new green pasture, so we moved on.

On the way home (just the dogs and me), we met Mr. Thomas again and found out that all was well at his father-in-law’s house. A few minutes later another man stopped his car, giving the dogs time to get out of his way, and see if he might have a treat for them to eat. That man introduced himself to me, and then said, “You sound like a Yankee” when I introduced myself to him. For the life of me I cannot remember his name, but it was a very friendly, fun little conversation and I will surely remember him next time we meet.

In a period of two hours I had four delightful encounters with people right here in our little community, and none of it would have happened if that section of Howard Gap Road was paved.

Fifteen or 20 years ago, two property owners on that section of road refused to sign the right of way agreement required to allow the state to pave the road. Many people were angry. They tried a petition but no one was willing to put up the money necessary to take these two ‘ornery’ landowners to court. Gravel roads are hard on vehicles, and they required more regular maintenance. And, most importantly, cars cannot drive as fast, safely, on gravel roads. Quick stops simply don’t work on a gravel road, with the result that cars and pick-ups end up in the ditch.

My thoughts on the last leg home that day centered around the fact that often we do not see the results of our decisions until 20 years after those decisions were made. My observation that afternoon was that decisions made with our heart, regardless of whether they made good practical or financial sense at the time, tend to be the right decision in the long run. Walking down the road, stopping to talk with our neighbors, made a connection that made that day better for all of us. That was made possible because of an unpopular decision made 20 years before by two people who chose quality of rural life over modern practicality.

As the (tired) dogs and I crossed over I-26 on the big wide overpass, we entered into the results of another decision made 20 years before. That was the decision to remove any possibility for commercial or residential development from 450 acres between I-26 and the Green River being sold by Duke Power. That decision was made by a group of Saluda residents, working together, to allow for a few homes to be built but also to allow people to share ownership and responsibility for the natural integrity of the land.

At the time it was a poor financial decision, but in the long run it was a good decision. It was a decision made from the heart.