A friend who also speaks country language gave me an article about how country people give directions to various locations in the area.
Especially before road and street signs came into being, those directions could be quite colorful and could be easy to follow if they were given to other country people. When given to strangers to the area, they could be almost impossible to comprehend, much less follow.
We used various landmarks to explain how to go from one place to another. Even today, residents of rural communities continue to give similar directions despite the signs in the area. Of course, none of us could give directions without using our hands and moving our bodies.
The article reminded me of an incident that occurred when I was about 10 years old and was taking care of the lma Store and post office for Uncle Burnace while he came to town to buy supplies.
I heard a vehicle coming quite a while before I could see it and was standing in the doorway when it topped the rise south of the store. I could tell at a glance those people were no one I knew because I could recognize every vehicle in the community.
As they approached, I noted the license plate was from Iowa. That was a real experience in itself because I hadn’t seen such a plate before.
When they stopped, the woman rolled down the window and I walked over to the car to speak. They said they were on their way to Santa Rosa and thought they were lost. Trying to be as grown up as possible, I told them they weren’t lost even though they could have taken a different road. They had a few questions about the store and then asked if I could tell them how to proceed. While they had been talking, I had been thinking about how to give the directions. I then told them to keep going in the same direction they were headed and explained they would be going down a fairly steep hill into the Alamogordo Valley. I explained that they would pass one house that was about a mile from the foot of the hill and the road would be graded for another few miles to the county line, which was marked by a tall pipe beside the road. After crossing a cattle guard there, they would then follow a track road on across the valley, would come to a fork near the next hill and would take the right turn to stay on the road up Jones Hill. All they had to do then was to continue in the same direction until they would come to Highway 66, which they would take on to Santa Rosa.
Had I been talking to a neighbor, I’d have said to go to that big tree, turn left, then look for that red sand rock before turning left again. That big tree was amid a whole area covered with cedar trees, but all of us knew just which tree we were talking about and which sand rock we meant. Gate posts were also included in our directions, because they were taller than the fence posts to let us know where gates were located. Any item that stood out on the landscape helped clarify our directions.
Many people got lost, but most found their ways to their destinations.
Lynn Moncus is a Tucumcari resident and can be contacted through the Quay County Sun by calling 575-461-1952.