This column originally appeared in the Aug. 15, 2015 edition of the Mountain Messenger
Now, I’m a newcomer to Friars Hill; I’ve lived there only 11 years and my people only recently moved there back in 1996. I don’t claim to know a Workman from a Blankenship, and as far as I can calculate, Woody Hanna farms every field out that way. Everyone seems to have place names for certain areas of Friars Hill, and I think that what certain areas are called depends on who your family is.
Here are some of my family’s place names.
As you turn in to Friars Hill Road from U.S. 219, the initial, infamous section of road is called the Straight Stretch. Don’t let that name fool you, this is not a place put the pedal to the metal. The south side of the road ends in a massive drop off that, given foul weather or general inattention, can send your car plunging hundreds of feet straight down into Spring Creek, provided the trees don’t break your fall.
In the winter, the Straight Stretch is my least favorite section of road, because it is so narrow, and when it is snow covered, it is impossible to tell the shoulder from the asphalt. When I’m driving in, I like to hug my tires to the mountain side, but sometimes ditches and boulders force me to pull my car back onto the asphalt, and that little change from shoulder to road makes me feel like my car is going to careen out of control, sending me down over the cliff to my death.
Summertime is not quite so bad, so long as you don’t meet a State Road truck, a logging truck, a pickup truck, a squirrel, a compact car, or an Ohioan. Those obstacles force a quick calculation on how and where to brake, swerve and wave, all while maintaining all four wheels on the ground.
Next up is Bunny Bend, where all the autumn olive blooms in the spring. I also like to call this section of road “Harepin” Turns. This is a series of blind curves where the driver must navigate a series of kamikaze rabbits and oncoming drivers who like to take their half in the middle. I usually just keep my passenger-side tires in the shoulder during this stretch, my foot bouncing back and forth between the brake and the gas pedals depending on the curve of the road and the speed of the bunnies scurrying by.
Once you clear Bunny Bend, you approach the second most infamous section of the Friars Hill Road, Deadman’s Curve. Deadman’s Curve is an excruciatingly narrow, hairpin turn with rock face on one side and a cliff on the other.
Here are some of the vehicles I’ve encountered on Deadman’s Curve: a school bus, a Neathawk’s truck loaded up with roof trusses, a logging truck, 75,000 Subarus, 14,000 SUVs, a MonPower cherry picker, countless pickup trucks and one Ford Pinto. I haven’t hit any of them, but I’m not making any promises.
There used to be a goat that climbed the rock face at Deadman’s Curve, but I haven’t seen him for a few years. I always wondered about that kid. Who did he belong to? He had a fat belly and, apparently, a disregard for farm fences. I miss seeing him around.
Past Dead man’s Curve comes Spring Creek or Dry Creek, depending on who you’re talking to. I don’t call it Dry Creek because it’s only sometimes dry; I call it Spring Creek, because I assume that’s what it is. This is where a couple of Woody Hanna’s fields are, so we always comment on the height of the corn this time of year. Right now, it’s got to be about 10 feet high. I bet that field is just full of bears.
Past that is Esty, where the post office and the C.J. Richardson used to be. Go straight, and you’re headed up Leonard Cordova toward Brushy Flat. Hang a right, and you’re on Crane Road. Keep left and you’re staying on Friars Hill, heading up Apple’s Hill. We call it that because a lady named Apple lives nearby. After Apple’s Hill comes the Kesecker’s. It’s a pretty little blue farmhouse where the Keseckers used to live. They moved to town a couple of years ago. Past that is Meg’s Hill because a woman named Meg used to live there. She moved to town, too.
After a bit, you pass the Goat Farm, where apparently someone kept goats about 15 years ago, and then Hanna Farm, where some Hannas actually live. I’ll tell you all about all of them another time. They’re good people, just watch out for their peacocks.
Once you come to the intersection where the gas station used to be, you can head on up Laurel Hill if you’re so inclined. Along that mountain road, watch out for Devil’s Pothole. You might get stuck or lose a tire there. A few years ago, they paved a couple stretches with bona fide asphalt. We call those two sections the Superhighways.
Up top, you get to Chestnut Hill Road. When the state put up road signs a couple of years ago, the sign said Williams Road or something like that. Then, one day, the sign was removed and replaced with another one identifying it as Chestnut Hill Road. I don’t know what happened there. I find it’s best not to ask questions like that unless you have time for a cup of coffee. It’s probably a long story, and frankly, it probably depends on who you ask.