I have wonderful memories of my year as a right-of-way man trying to close the gap in the Silver Comet Trail between Rockmart and Cedartown. The rail was still active between the two cities so options for connecting the Silver Comet centered on convincing thirty plus property owners to let us pass through.
My partner-in-crime was a Cedartown lawyer named Joe Anderson. Joe was one of the coolest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Joe also knew everyone in Polk County. Before we left his office to call on property owners, Joe would get a sheepish grin on his face and tell me how we were going to convince the folks we were about to meet to give up the land we needed. I played the role of the city slicker with deep pockets and a vision to fulfill. Joe just smiled and played himself. We were a daunting team with a boatload of passion and determination as we cobbled together right-of-way for what would become the Silver Comet Trail between Rockmart and Cedartown. I wish Joe was still around so he could enjoy the tale I am about to tell.
Joe’s telephone negotiations with the owner of a parcel on the outskirts of Cedartown had failed to produce a firm commitment for trail right-of-way. Joe called me to suggest I drive out to Cedartown for a face-to-face with the owner over lunch. Maybe a tag team and a free lunch would convince him to provide the needed easement.
I rolled up and parked at the Bojangles Chicken on the main drag in Cedartown. Joe said this was the gentleman’s favorite restaurant in the whole wide world. There sat Joe in the corner booth with his maps rolled out and that sheepish grin across his face. Joe loved the pursuit as much as the catch.
He’ll be here in a minute,” Joe said. “He thinks his property is worth a lot more than I do. Maybe if we feed him we can talk him down a little.” About then, the property owne (we’ll call him Hank) pulled up in a faded red pickup truck with a big barnyard dog riding shotgun. Hank climbed out of the truck and rolled the driver-side window halfway down for the dog. He swaggered into the restaurant and moseyed over to greet us.
After a round of howdy-do’s, we all got fried chicken and headed back to the booth to talk. “I need $10,000 to make this happen,” Hank said through a mouth full of chicken.
This is $10,000 more than we hoped he would ask but the fact that he was negotiating a price rather than a yes/no was a win for us. “Let’s take a ride out and look at what we need,” Joe said, hoping a field trip might soften Hank up a bit. Joe suggested we all ride in one car and he was willing to drive.
Hank proceeded to collect all of the chicken bones on the table and put them in one of the boxes. On the way to Joe’s car, he stopped by his pickup to dump the box of bones through the window into the driver’s seat for the dog to eat. I didn’t dare look at Joe because I knew that grin of his would send me over the edge.
A couple of weeks later, we got our easement from Hank for $6,000, provided we install a short spur trail off the Comet to the site of a retreat he planned to build. We had convinced him that hundreds of cyclists from Atlanta and around the world would be passing by his property each day. Hank envisioned an overnight retreat catering to weary cyclists needing a place to chill. Joe and I were quite the salesmen in those days.
I’ve often daydreamed about our encounter with Hank and the barnyard dog; how greasy the driver’s seat must have been for the trip back to the farm; how bad the dog’s indigestion must have been after consuming the bones from six pieces of chicken; how the truck must have reeked of dirty dog and simmering chicken scraps. Sometimes when I think back to that day, I question whether it really happened or not. I mean who feeds a dog chicken bones?
Hank passed away a few years ago, the retreat never got built, and who knows what happened to the barnyard dog. The spur trail is behind a chain-link fence and covered up with pine straw and limbs. The encounter we had with Hank and the junkyard dog is one of many incredible memories I have from my days as part of the Joe and Ed show. I mean, who sits in a seat previously occupied by a dog eating chicken bones?