|Whispers Along The Way
by Mike Bailey
Whispers Along The Way:
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I have wanted to write this story for a very long time. Almost every time I am out driving through
the countryside and just poking along quiet, peaceful country roads, I experience an emotional
state or awareness that I call, “Whispers along the way.”
Thoughts about it have been bugging me for years but I never really understood what was nagging
at me until I drove home on backroads across SC several months ago on my way to a friend’s get-
together in Sumter called the ”Gathering.”
The feelings I felt that day were the strongest yet and they finally allowed me to understand what
I have been experiencing for as long as I can remember (and I am talking about being aware of
them when I was 6 or 7 years old and riding up to Camden to visit with cousins and my family's old
homestead on Tombfield Road).
Even then, when I was 6 years old, I heard the whispers -- like voices in the wind. When we passed
by some of the old homesteads, or deserted buildings, whatever along the way, I can distinctly
remember asking my Aunt Ethel who was riding in the car with me as we made our way up to
Tombfield Road, “What are those people saying?”
She would smile and look at me, pat me on the leg and say in a quiet voice, “It’s OK, those are
just whispers along the way … they won’t hurt you.”
When I think back now on all this, she is/was the only other person that I have ever met or known
that heard or even knew what I was talking about. When I have brought this up in later years with
people I know and trust, I just get weird looks.
On my last trip to SC, I actually got freaked out. I was travelling on SC 34 between Ridgeway and
Lugoff and was thoroughly enjoying my ride through the rural backroads of South Carolina when I
started passing several abandoned home sites. In my mind I was slightly stressing about the fact
there here were the ruins of so many once beautiful home sites that were now just sitting here by
the roadside and deteriorating away to nothing but a pile of memories.
Then I heard them -- whispers along the way.
Only this time, I heard them for the first time in loud, clear tones that shook me to the core.
As I drove by this one place that was once a proud, two story house with many rooms, I could hear
as clear as a bell -- and feel it also in my bones -- a young girl’s voice crying out, “Please don’t beat
me and Mama again tonight!
I almost drove off the road -- the thoughts in my mind rattled me so much.
Then I could hear angry voices -- male and female -- screaming at each other and then the sounds
of the girl and her Mama screaming in pain as the daddy beat then with his fists and belt.
I literally slammed on the brakes and slid off to the side of the road -- I could not even begin to
think about trying to drive my car. I sat there in a cold sweat with my mind raging with the sounds
of the struggle coming from that house -- that abandoned house that had long since gave shelter,
warmth, and love to a family.
How could this be? My mind screamed for answers. I realized then that my ability to hear the
whispers had reached a point that for whatever reason, was able to actually fine-tune into what I
was hearing in my mind to the point as if I was hearing it in real time -- like I could race over to
that house and save that little girl and her mother from another senseless beating by the man in
I must have sat there on the side of the road for close to an hour –- I was that rattled. In my mind,
I was screaming, “I hear you -- I am coming to help you.”
After a while, I heard a child’s voice that said in a clear, calm, and quite voice, “It’s OK, we’re OK
… you can go.”
I drove straight to Sumter -- almost in a trance -– with the scenes of what just had happened to
me playing over and over in my mind. By the time I reached the hotel I was staying in, I was at
peace with myself.
These “whispers” that I hear along the way while traveling is I know now, a part of me that I
cannot make go away or explain. No matter where I go, or what roads I take, I can hear the
“whispers” if I relax and let my mind tune into the road-side scenes as I pass by them.
I hear laughter at times, giggling, harsh words, yelling and yes, at times I hear sounds of anguish
and screams. I know that these abandoned places that I pass by are supposed to be free and clear
of all things spiritual, but my experience while traveling tells me otherwise -– some feelings,
thoughts, memories, whatever -- linger there forever maybe -– or to maybe until someone like me
comes along and hears them and tells them, I’m coming to help you.
This past weekend, Deanna and I drove up to Dillard, GA to meet with her two sisters and her
brother-in-law that had come over from Asheville, NC to visit. We met at the Dillard House for
lunch and after a few hours visit and a wonderful meal, they headed back to Asheville and we
headed back south to Marietta.
Once we reached Clayton, GA, just 7 miles away, we turned and headed west on US 76 -- a
beautiful ride across the top of Georgia all the way over to Blue Ridge where we finally turned
and headed south back down to Marietta.
The trip across rural GA on US 76 had all my senses going. Deanna has settled into a long and
restful nap and I had the drive all to myself -– and my visitors -– the whispers. I counted 65
abandoned houses between Clayton and Ellijay (about 75 miles) that I could clearly see from my
car as we zipped through the countryside.
Voices, whispers -– you name it –- I heard them all as we drove along. Nothing was stand out like
the instance I mentioned about the child above, but was rather just a background of sounds -- all
mixing together and at times, letting a few clear words slip through. Maybe I was not in a 100%
clear-cut receive mode, whatever that might be, and I could only hear the chatter of the voices
and nothing in particular.
Regardless of what was wrong/right with my hearing, I realized later after I got home why I felt
so weird and was so mentally worn out. I lay down on my bed for a quick nap and boom -- I was out
like a light for 3 solid hours. When I woke up, I knew why I had been worn out and was glad that
closing my eyes and going to sleep had let the whispers just fade away.
Like I said earlier, my Aunt that I grew up with in my Grandmother’s house is the only person I
have ever known that has experienced and/or knew about what I have tried to describe here.
As I drive pass all the abandoned homes and buildings that seem to dot the landscape everywhere
around us now, I continually find myself wondering, “With all those homes empty now … no more
sounds of laughter and love filling the air within them … will they just sit there all alone, the rooms
empty and the air within them cold with despair as all the good memories they once held fade away
into the emptiness and the darkness of the night?”
Will they ever hear the sounds of life again -- or feel the vibrations of footsteps and life within
their lonely walls -- only time will tell?
Maybe someday, someone like me will pass by and hear the lingering signs of life and will
acknowledge them -- giving proof of their existence that is so rapidly disappearing from the
world around us that we know and live in.
I know for certain that there will be more times in my future when I travel and I will hear whispers
along the way. I hope the whispers that I hear are the happy ones and not those of pain, fear, and
anger. I realize that those of fear and anger, etc., are real and are out there, but hopefully I have
without knowing how, learned to tune out those that cry out with despair and pain in their voices.
In my mind, I will hear and acknowledge them, but hopefully, that will be enough to let the
senders know that I heard their cry for help and wish that I could help.
Maybe, and I hope and pray that it does, that will enough to ease their pain.
As to all the rolls of laughter, giggles, waves, smiles, tall tales of accomplishments and
achievements in life that so many other spirits (that also dwell in lots of the abandoned dwellings
along the way) love to share with strangers that pass by them, I look forwards to these with an
open mind and heart -- for these are the whispers that make the long journeys down lonely roads
bearable and fulfilling.
I knew that when I starting writing this story that I would end up here -- talking about a new set
of whispers that haunt me every day now when I think about them.
Earlier I mentioned a recent trip back to my home town of Sumter, SC. Whenever I do return for
whatever reason, I always make two stops during my visit. One is the Sumter Cemetery out on the
corner of Oakland Avenue and S. Artillery Drive to visit my mother's grave and those of my
Uncles and Aunts that I grew up with when I lived with them while growing up on Church Street.
The other place I go by is of course, 410 Church Street where I was born and lived until I went
off to college in 1960.
On this particular visit, I was hit hard by the view before my eyes because no longer stood a big
old two story beautiful house that had been filled with love, laughter, good times (and a few bad
ones) and just an overall nurturing environment for over a 100 years.
Now stood a sad and lonely rundown house -- sitting there abandoned alongside the road like so
many others I have encountered on my journeys. On this day, the whispers of despair and
loneliness where all directed to me as if she knew I was there.
As I drove on by her, I cried inside for I knew that there was nothing I could do even though
this now abandoned place was once my home.
All I had left of her where whispers along the way.
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