Saturday, February 16, 2008

Where in the World is Railey Ridge?


The view from the ridge, early in the morning--click on it to get a larger view

Where I live, apparently.

Last week a sneaky person left a red paper tube hanging on my porch. They must have come in the middle of the night, because the tube was not there when we went to bed.

"Your new address is: 909 Railey Ridge Road."

Hunh? Where in the !*%# did the 911 committee get that name?

Years and years ago (at the turn of the century--1899-1900, that century) the old county tax maps had this trail of a road labeled as "Clerc (pronounced Claire) Riley Ridge." It was named for two of the earliest landowners on this hill. That made sense, sort of.

But no one has ever called it that. For many years it was called N***** Ridge (you fill in the n word) Ridge because the only black man still left in this county lived at the far end of the ridge near Rte 21. People didn't think anything of calling it that because there was no one who saw a problem with the word--everyone was white. (Which I find curious because the old county census records show quite a few blacks here in the late 1800's-early 1900's, so where did they all go, and why?)

With the advent of the civil rights movement, people grew less comfortable with the name. The ridge began to show up as "North Hill" in some places, but old-timers still used the earlier name. Probably because of its less-than-politically-correct former name, no formal name was ever used. When the paper published the school bus route each year, it was referred to as "follows ridge road."

We're also referred to as "the ridge between the two forks of Joe's Run." Geographically correct; Joe's Run Rd turns off US Rte 33, following the path of the small creeek called Joe's Run, named for Old Joe Parsons who once had a store at its mouth. (There is a story that during the Civil War, Union troops raided the store and poured all the liquor (probably moonshine) into the creek and set it on fire. The literal fire-water traveled into Big Mill Creek and continued burning for quite a way downstream).


The road meanders about a mile and then the creek, and so the road, forks. Both forks of Joe's Run have their beginnings (or heads) on this ridge.


Our current address, R2 Sandyville, gives little indication of our location either, since Sandyville is 16 miles away in a direction no one who lives up here travels very often--only our mail comes from there. Sandyville is one of the huge generic rural mail areas with a very tiny settlement of homes. In its day, Sandyville was quite a hub of activity, with a flour mill, railroad tracks and several stores, schools and businesses. Now only a few houses remain, and even the post office moved to New Era (pronounced New Ery) about ten years ago, although it continued to be called the Sandyville PO.

Now we suddenly have a name, and not one chosen by anyone who lives here. It's not a bad name, it's just a name with no meaning at all, like subdivisions named "Whispering Pines" when there are no pines in view, or "River Creek" when there is neither (and how do you make sense of that name? Is it a river or a creek? Can't be both).


I suggested a name for the ridge to my neighbors. Since there are only Hinzmans and Holsteins living up here I told them, let's call it Hineyhole Ridge. They pointed out that Derenbergers also lived up here (I forgot about their sister) so I suggested Dernhineyhole Ridge. I doubt the 911 Committee would like that name, however.


We're not alone in our name disconnect. The Right Fork of Joe's Run already sports a new sign: Farmers Drive. The opinion of the residents of that fork can be interpreted from the bullet holes that appeared in the sign a day after it was posted.

So: Railey Ridge Road is supposedly where I now live. I haven't moved, but somehow I feel like a stranger in my own land, traveling a road that has become an unfamiliar name in the map of my life. I suppose I'll get used to it, but I will never like it. It will always be "the ridge road" to me. Or, more precisely "the ridge road" because to me there is no other place in the world quite like the place I call home.

But home will never be Railey Ridge.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Railey Ridge? I grew up on Railey Ridge? Railey Ridge... Sounds like you mispronounced something. Like Railey Risth. Great, a name that sounds like a speech impediment. No history, no real lineage... Just a name made up by someone that does not live there. Heck, Hinzman ridge would have at least been accurate. At least that name has History. Just sit down with Devon sometime...

Chick

Granny Sue said...

Isn't that some news? I could understand Hinzman ridge too, but Railey? There's never been anyone named that on this hill in all its years of settlement. There were Clercs and Hawks, Parrishes, Parsons, Winemiller, Fulmer, and maybe two or three others I don't know about--but that's it. The land has stayed in the same hands for long periods of time.

I guess we'll get used to it. But I don't think I'll ever like it.

Amy S. from the "left fork" said...

I wonder if it's too late to do anything about it? Poverty Fork seems to have changed names twice.
The whole thing is stupid. I've always thought of Joe's Run as a loop, not two forks with a ridge in between.

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