The problem is that the entire area around Dadeville, Alabama that James Madison Pearson (my grandfather's grandfather) and his son Charles Lafayette Pearson (my grandfather's uncle) owned back in the 1800' and 1900's is now owned by Kimberley Clark. Today, that land is good only for logging.Thick stands of pine trees cover the hills and valleys, and where there are no pine trees, then stands of sycamores, oaks and maples exist. In some places kudzu covers the scrub trees like a green blanket over the earth. Getting lost in the forest is not hard to do. The trees are thick and tall.
The directions to General Charles Lafayette Pearson's cemetery are clear and direct. Take Highway 280 east out of Dadeville for a couple of miles until you come to Slaughter Crossing. Head north on Slaughter Crossing for .9 miles, turn left, cross the railroad tracks, at 1.6 miles, turn right, at 2.4 miles turn right and go up the hill to the cemetery. The problem with the directions is that the road is closed at the first turn and a warning is posted that you are about to trespass.
Armed with my Garmin, I tried all sorts of ways to get to the spot from north, east, and west. The attempt from the west took me to a road called Booger Hollow. Yep, "booger", as in that thing we pick out of our nose, or, in this case I guess, the boogeyman. Booger can also mean a despicable, worthless person, as in, there are nothing but boogers living in Booger Hollow.
But before I descend into Booger Hollow, I need to know what exactly a "hollow" is. Technically, it is a low lying area where the water drains to.Colloquially, “down in the hollow” means “below the houses,” where the field ends and the solid woods begin. In other words, it is the edge of civilization. And yes, it is usually pronounced "hollar", as in, I am gonna' hollar if someone jumps out of the woods at me.
Before driving down Booger Hollow, I stopped to ask directions of a white gentleman weeding an old family cemetery. The cemetery was open in an open field with a pretty view of the area. Well kept houses dotted the landscaped. He was perhaps ten years older than me, but it seemed by his mannerisms that he was part of the old South. His advice was to go down Booger Hollow, but don't stop to ask directions, as there are some scary people down there. We chatted for awhile about the cemetery and how to get there from here. Somewhere back in the youth of his mind he remembered going there, but couldn't remember how. He did remember General Pearson, or at least he remembered stories of him. But the one story he wanted to tell me was that General Pearson had a "mixed family". Mixed as in he had children by a black mistress. The kindly gentleman then told me that the General had to send his kids up North to be educated.
I don't know if General Pearson had a "mixed" family. I doubt it as I know that he and his wife, Zenia Blasengame, had nine children. One of these children, Rush, had indeed gone North - to live with my grandfather James Madison Pearson. The story seemed implausible to me. The General who was born in 1854 and died in 1940, had spent time in France, was trained in law, and extremely busy in his many land deals. Judging form the land records in the Tallapoosa County Courthouse, the General must have been, like his father, one of the largest land owners in the area. But what struck me as strange, was that the conversation of race would come up at all. Go figure.
Booger Hollow was, as the gentleman warned, a bit of a scary place. Then again, I imagine that the Sleepy Hollow of upstate New York only became scary because of a great story told about a headless horseman. Beyond the fields where the woods took over, I was greeted with ramshackle houses populated with chickens and rusted out cars. Humans, if they existed, stayed pretty much indoors. Eventually, I came to a road called General Pearson, and I knew I must be on the right track. On to the logging trail marked General Pearson, I slipped and slid over the mud from a recent rain. I went for a couple of miles before I came across another human being. This one a logger, white again, all by himself covered in tattoos and sitting in his truck with nothing much to do. I asked him for directions, but he politely told me that he was not from the area. On again into the mud before it became impassable and I had to head back.
I was to find Booger Hollow again the next day, trying to get to my destination from the west. Again, the road just petered out. But along the way I saw quizzical black homeowners who must have wondered what a white guy in a Nissan Versa rental car was doing so far off the main road. Some of the owners just stared, some gave a gentle wave of the hand, you know, the kind that country folks use in Kansas to signal that they are peaceful. I of course, waved back.
Eventually, I was to find the cemetery, but it was not by going down Booger Hollow. Booger Hollow was just a strange side trip, a taste of two cultures, white and black, and the dichotomy that is Alabama.