A couple of evenings ago, an old pickup truck stopped on the one-lane dirt road right in front of our house and honked the horn. My husband went out onto the porch, and shortly afterwards I saw him talking to a man who looked as if he were right out of Central Casting. Missing a few teeth and dressed in worn clothes and work boots, he was the quintessential mountain “local.” He had come to look at the property for sale.
We didn’t know there was any property for sale, but apparently the 4-acre wooded area behind our neighbor’s house is on the market. The land doesn’t belong to the neighbor; it belongs to someone who lives 80 miles away in Atlanta. In the years we’ve lived here that property has changed hands several times, and now the access road is so overgrown that it is impossible for any vehicle to drive up there. The man on our porch wanted to look at it. Apparently, he had gone first to the neighbor’s house, but they were not at home. So he came to us saying, “I wanted to ask permission so I wouldn’t get shot.”
My husband told him to go ahead and drive up the access road as far as he could, but then he would have to walk the remainder of the way.
Later that evening, my husband (who has lived here now almost 20 years but is from the urban North) very solemnly asked me if the man could have been serious. Was he really afraid someone might shoot him? “Of course,” I replied. “This is the rural South.”