People Needing Direction

 On days when you need some direction, it’s always smart to consider who to ask for advice. Answers differ depending on who you approach.
Truckers would probably direct you on a route that includes all the best truck stops along the way. Linemen would have you looking at power lines and substations. Foodies would send you in a direction that takes you by way of all the best restaurants. A preacher’s directions would be cut and dried but their explanations would still make you feel like a lost soul giving you only two directions in which to go. New residents to the area would advise you on which turns not to take, then explain why with their whole getting-really-lost-when-we-first-moved-here disaster story.
When I was a kid my grandpa always had my mom confused in finding her way around her own home when he came out to help with plumbing, electrical or construction work at our house. He gave her directions like the farmer that he was. He’d holler, “GO TO THAT SOUTHEAST ROOM AND BRING ME THAT TREBLELIGHT,” or instruct her, “THERE SHOULD BE AN EXTENSION CORD PLUGGED INTO THAT NORTH WALL,” or “SEE IF THERE’S POWER TO THAT NORTHEAST BEDROOM,” instead of referring to the name of the room or someone’s bedroom. In addition to giving north, south, east, and west directions, farmers also reference section lines, correction lines, and mileage distances.
My favorite directions advisers are Pringle ranchers (although it may be universal with all ranchers). They give directions using area landmarks and names for roads that locals go by instead. When explaining which roads to take, ranchers refer to landmarks or locations where an event took place like haying, hunting or branding.
My husband gives directions peppered with landscape curiosities like “the old truck cab” that’s set along a dirt road for decades. “Where the salt rock is,” isn’t really a rock made of salt but a huge, flat rock where we put salt blocks out on. “Cindy’s Place,” is where Cindy used to live, but has since moved away. The buildings have been torn down and no one can even tell a house was there. The round, concrete cylinder pipe along the highway has been known as “Harry’s Well” for years even though all he did was suggest it be put there when the highway was being built. “Groucho’s Auto Gate” didn’t really belong to Groucho, who was a recluse; it’s just the name given to the cattle guard by his house and “Eighteen Mile” is a road as well as a windmill. “Rifle Pit” was formerly a shooting range turned campground that isn’t either one anymore. Then there are the two Argyles which aren’t socks but roads; Argyle and West Argyle.
When area ranchers mention “The Elk Foundation” they’re referring to the ground owned by the foundation southwest of Pringle, not the organization itself. My husband regularly references places in relation to where he got an elk. He’ll say to me, “Where I shot my big bull in ’95,” or “At the place I showed ya where I shotthat bull with the goofy horn.”
When I travel, it’s better if I don’t stop and ask for directions. People’s explanations have me going in circles and just frustrate and confuse me more. If I get lost of my own accord at least I know I’m going places.
column originally published August 23-29, 2009

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