Emergency Exit

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Day 1Day 2Day 3The Trek BeginsDay 4WalterboroDay 5SummervilleExits and Entrances

Day 4 . . .

The night passed without event. The tent and the sweltering low-country heat made sleep a little uncomfortable, but not too bad. I did, in the end, get a good night’s rest.

The morning brought not only birdsong and the faint light of dawn, but also the increased sound of traffic on the main drag not far away. The city crunch seems to have reached almost every corner of this country, even back then. I got up and had some breakfast, mostly space-bars and other dry goods. I snuck deep into the woods again, to the spot I had used the night before, and did what mother nature requires us to do. I washed up a little, needing to be careful with my water supply, and then pulled down my tent, packed everything up, and started up the Old Sheldon Church Road.

Except for the pavement, I could have been in the antebellum south. Wooded land on either side. Large trees overhanging the road, all thick with Spanish moss. There was one house, right at the corner of US17 and the old road, across the road from where I slept. But other than that, nothing else. Absolutely nothing for the first mile. I had a spring in my step, feeling like Bilbo when he first left the Shire.

A mile or so down the road, something caught my eye off to the right. A bit of a clearing in the woods. Then the signs of an old building. An old ruin. I walked 150 feet or so up into the woods. There were pillars of brick and mortar, and the arches of some very old building. Wandering around I found a plaque. It was called the Old Sheldon Church, but is often referred to as the Old Yemassee Church.

The spot had been originally built on between 1745 and 1753. It was burned down in 1779 during the Revolutionary War, and was rebuilt in 1826, only to be burned down again by Sherman during the Civil War in 1865. I continued my exploration of the place. What really fascinated me were the few tombstones and crypts that were scattered about. All so weather worn that the dates and inscriptions were almost impossible to detect, much less read. Why I did not pull out my cameras, I do not know. I felt that I had been thrown back in time, and as such, the idea of a camera may have never entered my mind. However, it is more likely that I had used up the film in my black and white, and had only a few shots left in my color. So I was probably being frugal.

I explored the old church for a while, and then started back up the Old Sheldon Church Road. From the spot where I had camped the night before, to Yemassee itself, is between seven and eight miles. Honestly, I do not remember much of the trek. Clearly, other than the Old Sheldon Church, no event of any kind took place or I would have some memory. All I do remember was walking and thinking, and singing out loud.

I thought about myself, and my insecurities. But at that age I thought they were the normal insecurities of youth. I had no idea they were the seeds of deeper fears. I thought about the few women I had experienced in my life, and by few, that meant four. There were D1 and D2. D1 was a one day misadventure. D2 was the girl I learned how to kiss with. There were several dates before I was asked to move on. There was L, the first girl I was able to touch first base with, and was later asked to leave the game. And there was Scooter, whom I had only recently met, and whom it seemed like something real was possible.

I thought about sex, and wondered what it was like, and if I would ever experience it. At 17, I was familiar with being horny, but other than masturbation, I had no idea what to do with it.

I thought music, and sang whole songs, and hummed and mouthed whole instrumentals. There were no iPods back then. Not even Walkmans. What portable music devices we had were clumsy, heavy, and battery hungry. I had elected not to bring any such device.

I had been walking for about three hours when I arrived in Yemassee. The morning was still young, the air crisp, and clean, and warm. Yemassee wasn’t much of a town, at least back then. Run down and small, a few buildings, as many empty as in use. I sat outside of an abandoned building, under an old rickety set of wooden steps that led to an upstairs entrance. There I opened up some beans and had a quiet lunch.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Auldbrass Plantation is near Yemassee, but I didn’t know that. These days Yemassee is a town, with a school and major roads cutting through it. Maybe it was that back then too, and I only found some small outskirt of it. All I remember, other than the old building and beans, was walking and thought.

After my lunch, I followed some road signs, eventually bearing north east on US17A, the Henderson Highway. It was another back-country, marked, two lane highway. Bigger and more traveled than the Old Sheldon Church Road, but not a major road. It had signs indicating that Walterboro was about 18 miles away. A distance I could make before nightfall. A landmark to shoot for anyway, and if I didn’t make it, I could camp anywhere, really.

I got a ride for a short bit of that distance, late in the afternoon. The ride and driver were unmemorable. Only now, thinking hard about it do I have some fleeting glimpses that are so soft, I cannot tell if they are real or conjured. I could have easily walked the whole way, for no single event stands out in my mind to the point that, when my great adventure was done, I made no mention of this portion of the journey in any journal or notes. No photographs or even hints of this leg of the quest exist. Until. . . .

Old Sheldon Church Yemassee By PhotoSteve

This is the Old Sheldon Church, just as I remember it. I was particularly taken by the crypt and tombstone, and a few others scattered about. As I said, I did not think to pull out my camera. This image came off of GoogleEarth, by PhotoSteve.

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