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Highway 17 and Ponds Cold Cream

We anxiously awaited the arrival of my sister Bettye. She, along with three of her dear friends, Frank and Jean Collins and Mary Duncan Hall were scheduled to be at my house around 5:30. I, with the help of a sidekick friend who is always game for entertaining, had been working hard for a good part of the day on a seven course Italian meal we thought was sure to please my Mississippi guests.

The phone call came right around 5:00 in the afternoon. Bettye and I had been texting throughout the trip checking on their progress with the route. I was certain the incoming call was to let us know they would be arriving as planned. How wrong I was!

Bettye immediately burst into an animated, very exasperated tone, “ Listen, we are a little turned around.” I was trying to get in a word edgewise, when she started up again,

“Don’t worry, we can’t be that far off track.”

Karen had seen me mouth the dreaded words THEY ARE LOST and now walked away from the stove where she had quickly moved pots off of hot eyes. With a worried, how-am-I-going-to-delay dinner look on her face, she asked, “Find out where they think they are.”

“Bettye, do you see any road signs? What town did you just come through?”

After much back and forth deliberation, it was established the group at least thought they were on Highway 17. Karen was frantically looking on her phone to find that route. In the meantime I asked , “Did you guys get on 575 heading out of Atlanta as we had discussed? That produced a negative answer. Knowing better than to cry over spilled milk, I moved to the next question, “Why did you say you think you are on 17?”

Bettye attempted to assure me they all thought they had seen a Highway 17 sign somewhere back down the road. She also pointed out, “ Mary Duncan feels certain 17 will take us straight there.” Just as I was about to add that no back road in Georgia and the word straight should be in the same sentence, a dreadful detail was added, “We saw the 17 sign at the same time we saw the South Carolina sign.”

As if that bit of news was not enough of a concern, Karen was shaking her head and letting me know she could not locate Highway 17. Now, in my experience, you are in trouble when you cannot find a highway as an identifiable route on Google Maps. We were both concerned. It was late evening. The fog at my house was already thick as potato soup. Rain was predicted throughout the mountains. My guests were somewhere on winding dark roads in what we now understood to be the state of confusion, never mind South Carolina or North Georgia. A not-yet-voiced fact hung heavy in the air. Cell service would disappear soon.

Thankfully, within the next few seconds we could hear a cry of relief, “There’s a sign to Clayton, Georgia.” Amid raised voices I finally made myself heard, “Turn toward Clayton!” I assured them if we could get them to Clayton, they would see a Dairy Queen and a sign to Hiwassee, GA. Then rather sternly, I added, “Remember what I just told you, for you will more than likely lose cell service very soon.”

An hour and a half later, they surfaced in the world of technology and called in to let us know they were indeed in Hiwassee at a Dollar General. Before this group of travelers would head back home to Mississippi, this time taking the tamer, more civilized 575 route back into Atlanta, they chalked up at least three more stops at Dollar Generals.

I can only conclude when one has experienced being lost, stressed, tired and in need of some creature comforts, nothing works better for these three women than buying quantities of Pond’s Cold Cream. I can only assume Frank agreed for survival purposes.

Comment: This story was previously published in Grenada Star(Grenada, Mississippi).

This picture is proof that we survived and thrived when the Mississippi Madness finally crossed the North Carolina line. What a fun time!

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