To be seen on my walk...

Posted 2/17/21

February finds Chatham County shrouded in dampness, a dampness that clings to everything and will neither freeze out nor warm up. It creeps in with the chill, keeping the days cold and clammy under …

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To be seen on my walk...

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February finds Chatham County shrouded in dampness, a dampness that clings to everything and will neither freeze out nor warm up. It creeps in with the chill, keeping the days cold and clammy under wan sun. Moisture seeps through exterior doors and windows, swelling the frames and sashes, making them squeak and groan and stick. Idle tools rust in the shed. Shaded boards glow green with mold.

Winter air sneaks into our house through the dog door. I discovered this when I heard the magnets in the plastic flap beating time with the wind chimes hanging outside off our back deck. Not that I hold it against the mutt; no one wants to be caught short in the middle of the night, and giving the animal its own private access to our fenced in backyard lets me enjoy long winter naps.

Our dog is a rescue, and with her brown fur coat she looks like a smaller version of Santa’s Little Helper, the dog from TV’s The Simpsons. I am convinced that rescued animals always make the most loyal pets because they remember how bad they had it. Ours ran loose around the neighborhood playground for weeks before we caught her. The veterinarian said someone probably dumped her there and that she survived by eating garbage and the things that eat the garbage. My wife lured her through the open gate of our back yard with a can of tuna fish. Once inside the house she made a lair underneath our bed, and after some months she trusted me enough to come when I called.

Like all dogs everywhere she loves going for a walks, and since both my vascular surgeon and my wound specialist gave me the green light to walk as much as I can, the dog has found a new appreciation for the big scary man with the deep voice. A retractable leash I bought at Pittsboro Pet Supply lets the wee beastie dash ahead of me, linger momentarily over one of the more delectable smells, then race after me and catch up in a sprint, all without me having to breaking stride. I recommend it to all dog walkers, and I am sure the dog would concur. My goal is to walk as much as I did when I lived in Brooklyn.

The dog and I venture farther and farther each day, me pushing the envelope of recovery, it engaging in an olfactory orgy. The sidewalks are now open on Vine Parkway where it T-bones into Thompson Street, so we turn and walk uphill into Pittsboro’s very own version of Levittown, passing houses in various stages of construction as we climb.

Judging by Kenneth Jackson’s book, “Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of America,” Chatham Park has four of the five major characteristics of any post-war suburb. First, peripheral location; I think we can all agree that Pittsboro is no metropolis. Second, relatively low density; it might look crowded to someone from out in the county, but these are freestanding structures, not row houses. Third, architectural similarity; all the structures are essentially single family homes. Fourth, easy terms of acquisition; one need not be rich to buy a one- or even a two-storied structure. The fifth, and perhaps most striking characteristic of the suburban subdivision is its income and racial homogeneity. Whether or not Chatham Park becomes an enclave of upwardly mobile whites remains to be seen.

I also wonder if this planned development is merely the penultimate culmination of 20th Century design. The only nod to the new millennium I see from the sidewalk is a couple of charging stations for electric cars.

At the top of the hill unbroken wind slaps me in the face, giving my nose a treat, too. Somewhere through the trees is a home with a fireplace or a woodstove. The damp air has a distinct tinge of wood smoke; not the dirty odor of locust or the sharp sting of evergreen, but the softer aroma of hardwood like ash or hickory or oak. The damp, smoky air back brings a flood of memories, all of them good. I hope that place through the woods will be spared the bulldozer.

I hear my dog’s tags jingling. I look down too late to stop her from rolling in something. I should have been paying more attention. If it stinks I will have to wash it off. Luckily for me, our dog’s fur coat is the same brownish orange color as Chatham County clay. Maybe Ms. Walls will not notice the smell.

Dwayne Walls Jr. has previously written a story about his late father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and a first-person recollection of 9/11 for the newspaper. Walls is the author of the book “Backstage at the Lost Colony.” He and his wife Elizabeth live in Pittsboro.


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