Friday, May 28, 2021

A Goose Chase, a Snipe Hunt, and Down a Rabbit Hole

With our frenetic life,  everyone these days talks about living in the "Rat Race", "Running in Circles", going on a "Goose Chase" or "Snipe Hunt", falling down a "Rabbit Hole", etc. Often, my life is so crazy I am usually dizzy, feel as if I should have some geese and snipe to show for something, and I am very wary of Rabbit Holes.

For the record I have hunted snipe - real snipe, not just the fool's game or a joke often played on campers. My daddy belonged to a hunt club in the low country and one of their quarry was Snipe. Yes, they exist. They are actually not easy to hunt because when they are flushed they go straight up and then have an erratic flight pattern. (The term "Sniper" came from a Snipe hunter as in one with excellent hunting skills.) So now you know, but I digress.

Several weeks ago, I decided I would search out some very old churches in the upstate. After identifying the ones I wanted to see, I had to locate them on a map. This was no easy feat given many of them are located on small roads in cryptic locations. Any directions I could find may as well said something like, "When you get into town turn right by the old Piggly Wiggly. Then after the third blue house make a left. Go until you see farmer John's pond on the right and the church will be on your left."

From experience I know the Piggly Wiggly probably have closed several years ago, so figuring out that landmark is a crap shoot at best. One of the blue houses burned down and the other two have now been painted white, and how in the Hell is someone supposed to know what pond belongs to farmer John?

This is where I feel as if I am going down the rabbit hole - following ambiguous directions to small towns that are now just a deserted general store, to find the unmarked street down which a two hundred year old shuttered church sits among the kudzu. And why you ask? A photograph? Yes, I too, often question my sanity.

All that said, last week I headed out with lists of vague directions to arcane places of worship. As I proceeded down Highway 25 I came upon a sign that said "Historic Cokesbury College". Having never heard of such, I decided to detour left and take a look see. It wasn't on my well prepared list but then proper planning is so overrated.

While visiting this spot, the gentleman sweeping the front porch, offered to show me around. While doing so, he asked what had brought me there. I explained I was on a photo tour of old churches. His face lit up. He mentioned several churches that were on my list. Then he asked me if Mt. Vernon on Hwy 61 was one I planned to see.

Not being familiar with that one, I inquired about it. He explained it was a beautiful old historic church that I could find off Highway 61 on Mt. Vernon Church road. A friend of his was trying to buy the church and move it. I made a mental note to add it to the list, thanked him, and made my exit.

When I got in my car, I pulled up the area of the state on Google maps. I could not find Highway 61 nor could I find a reference to a Mt. Vernon church. Whatever. I went on my way.

I turned off Highway 25 onto Highway 10 had headed toward Troy (population 93) found the first church on my list. After a circuitous route over the river and through the woods, I found the next church on my list. As I headed up Highway 81 toward Mt. Carmel (population 173) and the next church on my list, I noticed "Mt. Vernon Church Rd" to my left. Aha! Highway 81 not 61.

I turned around and turned off onto Mt Vernon Road. Sure enough a mile or so down the road on the left I saw the sign for the church. However, when the church itself came into view I was somewhat taken aback. Instead of an old wooden structure, a century old brick building, or historic masonry hall I had been expecting, what lay before me was a non-descript white squatty vinyl siding covered building that was twenty years old at most. This was of no historical significance. I looked behind it to see if there was a original structure, but no.

Not to be deterred, I continued down the road a bit to see if perhaps the original church remained on another site. After several miles I gave up chasing that goose.

Back on Highway 81 I made my way to Mt. Carmel and found that small old church exactly where it was supposed to be. There was one more house of God on my list I wanted to find while I was in the area. The directions were even more fuzzy than the others. When I was researching the other churches I could not find a photograph or drawing of this one. I found several references to it, but no history per se. My curiosity was peaked.

After heading the wrong direction for several miles and making a few wrong turns I felt like I must be pretty close. I drove down the country road through stands of pines and hay fields. Much of the land in this part of the world looks the same. Finally I saw the sign for the church. Great. As I saw it I realized this was one of the first churches I had photographed that morning. When you start running in circles it is time to take your goose and go home.

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