I was driving home from work on I-77 in Charlotte. My carpool buddy, Mark and I were joking about the silly way they routed the intersection of I-77 and I-85. I jokingly suggested that maybe there were old munitions dumps that they had to avoid and that there might be live bomb shells there to this day. Ok, it wasn’t all that funny, but we were in a silly mood.
What is striking is that, when I said that, I immediately had a feeling that there were people buried beneath the road bed where we were driving. Feelings frequently do not make sense and these feelings really didn’t make sense! As bizarre as I knew it was, I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was that same feeling that I get when I almost remember a dream, but not quite. What was the dream about? When did I dream it? I couldn’t remember. It must not have been a dream after all.
The feeling was so strong that, as silly as the idea of dead people under the road bed was, I had to talk about it. So I started to describe the feelings to Mark (who was probably ready to tell me to pull over and let him out). As I was explaining that I didn’t know if it was a dream or not, the whole thing became clear…
I love to tell stories to my family. We frequently go to the Cracker Barrel restaurants where they have old advertisements and family photos on the walls. Many times while we are waiting for our food to come, someone will ask me to tell them about one of the pictures. I will invent names and whole lives for these images… sometimes I create relationships between folks in different pictures. So an old lady in one photo is the aunt of a little girl in a biscuit advertisement. I frequently get so caught up in the story myself that I’m sorry when the food comes. I want to know what happens too. It can be loads of fun!
Just a few weeks earlier, late on a Sunday night my lovely and I were driving home from our daughter’s home on I-77. (In fact it was the same stretch of highway that Mark and I were driving a few paragraphs ago). Suddenly, we were forced us to the far right lane by orange cones that road crews had put out closing three of the four lanes of the highway. Of course this bottleneck caused a bit of a traffic jam. It wasn’t much more than a minor nuisance.
Annoyed, My Lovely asked (rhetorically), “Why do they have to do this now? What are they doing, anyway?”
Unable to resist a great setup for a story, I told her that many years ago, before there were any super-highways through this region, there were other roads and highways. In fact there was another road that followed this very same route. Road construction can be extremely dangerous work, but back in those days, it was perilous. Many construction workers gave their lives to build that road. Unfortunately, they were dealing with business pressures to meet deadlines for getting the road and they couldn’t take the time to appropriately deal with the bodies of these workers. That meant they just buried them right there in the road bed and paved over their graves!
Recently someone had discovered that these graves were still under the road bed! Even though they had replaced that highway with the current I-77, no one knew about the graves at that time, so no one did anything about the bodies. Of course the government officials didn’t want the bad publicity that would come from such a revelation, so they decided that they should quietly exhume the bodies and move them to a cemetery for a proper burial. “Quietly” meant that they had to do it at a time when there wouldn’t be much traffic and also at night so people wouldn’t see what they are doing… and so no one would get the blame.
So that’s what they were up to on that Sunday night… or so I told My Lovely.
When I remembered the story, I could hardly tell Mark for laughing at myself. So that’s where those feelings were coming from! As outlandish as the story was I must have believed it, on some level of my unconscious! Maybe that is what makes old grandpa stories so engaging. They start believing them themselves. I guess I’m just getting ready to be a grandpa.