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Mick Scott: Let’s go down, come on down
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Mick Scott: Let’s go down, come on down

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It was a rainy March day and it was time for a driveabout, so I threw a heavy jacket into the car and headed northwest.

Up N.C. 67 through East Bend, I took the turn that leads across the mighty, muddy Yadkin River and stopped at the Rockford General Store to fuel up on candy. The lady behind the counter and I greeted each other through our masks.

“How’s business?” I asked.

“Slower than usual, but not bad,” she said.

I wound up with two bags drawn from the store’s big glass jars: one for chocolates, the other for Cherry Sours and Red Hots — which, I learned, don’t actually go together as well as one might think. But they kept me alert.

The rain had tapered off, but the air was still cool, so I donned my jacket and strolled through the concrete and crumbling brick of Rockford Park, built among the remnants of an old hotel, the town’s own little Bayon temple.

Back in the car, I was surprised to find that I could pick up WDAV from Davidson County. I’m a WFDD devotee, but it was a day, not for commentary, but for Rachel Stewart and Mozart Café.

North then, on winding two-lane roads, turning north at every intersection, slowly around the steep curves, further north, as I rolled past tractors, tobacco barns, brightly painted houses, fields, fences, turkeys, cows, crosses, flags. At one point I came across somebody’s goats, making a run for it.

They were polite enough to step aside for me.

Before long, the vista opened up and there were the mountains, blue in the distance.

Eventually, I lost the station. While playing radio roulette, I landed on the plaintive folk spiritual that goes:

O sisters let’s go down

Let’s go down, come on down

O sisters let’s go down

Down in the river to pray

Further north, I crossed the unmistakable ribbon of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Eventually I reached U.S. 58, turned east, and meandered through Stuart and Martinsville, winding up in Danville, Va.

I parked near the farmer’s market in the river district, asplash with former tobacco warehouses and cobblestone streets, where people were lining up to be inoculated, and walked across the pedestrian bridge that spans the Dan River, pausing to watch huge tree limbs being washed downstream by that morning’s rain.

Standing above the Dan, usually shallow and bright, but now swollen to match the Yadkin in volume and color, I thought about a song from my childhood, sung by The Wilburn Brothers:

Roll muddy river, roll on muddy river, roll on

I’ve got a notion you’ll go to the ocean alone

I’ve got a baby in Tennessee who’s long been awaitin’ for little ol’ me

Roll muddy river, roll on muddy river, roll on

Back on the south side of the river, the paved multi-purpose trail led me toward an antique mall I knew, with two floors full of junk and treasures. The last time I was there, the proprietor and I ran into each other in an aisle. We both pulled our masks up and she, gesturing to hers, said, “These are crazy times, aren’t they?”

“Yeah, they sure are,” I agreed.

The mall was closed; the building vacated.

I looked around, hoping someone would come up and explain this to me.

No one did.

As I walked up Main Street, everyone I passed wore a mask. They seem to be taking the virus seriously in Danville.

I thought about the skeptics who believe this, a worldwide phenomenon that has taken millions of lives, all to be some scheme, some elaborate theater for some ill-defined purpose. Who benefits, mask-makers?

Does it ever cross their minds that they could be wrong? Look at all the other things they’re wrong about.

The end of our COVID era will come, eventually, but not all at once. There will be no grand pronouncements, no declarations. It’ll end with fits and starts, with tragic flare-ups here and there, now and then. We may need our masks, intermittently, for some time to come.

Eventually, some will claim that we over-compensated. We panicked. We didn’t have to do all that.

To which I say: good. We should over-compensate. We should take ridiculous precautions.

Because if you don’t want to fall off a building, you don’t stand on a ledge and dare the wind to push you.

After wandering around a little more, it was time to go home. I drove past the historic houses on Main Street, took U.S. 29 to Reidsville, U.S. 158 to here.

With my chocolates almost gone, I ran by the grocery store. In the aisles, as I passed other shoppers, we caught each other’s eyes and nodded. A little nod to civility. To good will. To good health.

We’ll pull this country through to safety — kicking and screaming, if we have to. But we’ll do it. We’ll cross that river and meet on the other shore.

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