Friday, July 22, 2005

a ride through the old south

In the past week, I've ridden the windhorse on back roads from the South Carolina mountains through the piedmont to the midlands, and from the midlands through the sandhills to the low country and the coastal islands. Like I said last week, South Carolina is very beautiful if you get off the interstate. It is amazing that a state so small, could be so different from one end to the other.
Riding through the sandhills just below Columbia, one thinks that if it rains too hard the entire southern half of the state should just wash out to sea. Then you turn a corner and cross a county line and you step back in time. The tiny towns along route 321 are seemingly untouched by time. Tiny mainstreets with hardware stores and tobacco and cotton warehouses running parallel to the train tracks across which are the grain elevators. Every town has a barbecue joint equipped with an old oak under which a dozen men loiter and talk about the heat wave of '51. "this ain't nothin' like that summer was."
On the outskirts are the montrous houses of yesteryear with their dilapidated slave quarters in back. Drive on out of town under oak limbs canopied over the road from miles of evenly spaced century-old trees trimmed perfectly to accommodate the exact height of a semi trailer.
Out from under the trees, the July sun beats down so hard that your tires strain under its weight and you look out over the fields and weep for the slaves that labored under that midday sun, and you hear their songs of hope echoing through the fields - songs of hope that have yet to be fully realized a hundred and forty years later. You feel the stark contrast of the freedom of riding a motorcycle through those same fields on an oppressively hot day.
These are the thoughts of the day as I ride back north through the low country of South Carolina on this hot July day, away from the ocean and a contemplative morning in the surf.
There is still so much slavery and oppression even today as I celebrate freedom in the wind. I wonder how many people I can pile onto my windhorse and invite them into the breeze and lead them along this road that leads to a very different kind of oppression, and looks far back on the suffering they once endured. Can songs of hope long forgotten still be re-learned?