Recalling the days before map apps

As I was riffling through desk drawers, bins, camera bags and various and sundry other containers just a few minutes ago—looking for a battery charger for an old and seldom-used digital video camera—I  decided to check inside my duck box.

It’s a wooden container with a finely carved mallard resting on the lid. It’s colorful—green head, yellow beak, orange breast and various hues of brown, gray, blue and black running from the neck to the tail feathers. I’ve had it for years and seem to recall that it was a thank-you gift at some meeting I attended.

I can’t remember the last time I pulled the lid off to check contents, so I was not surprised to discover that no battery charger was secreted inside.

Other treasure was, however. I found a playing card, the two of hearts—all by itself. Well, there was a complete deck of miniature playing cards, slightly smaller than business cards and about impossible to shuffle.  I have no idea where either of these mementos came from or why I stuck them in my duck. Maybe I didn’t; perhaps Pat was looking for a place to get them out of her way. Not likely; that sounds more like something I’d do.

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I found a handful of Confederate money. I don’t know where that came from either, but I seem to recall an aunt giving it to me many years ago. It’s not real Confederate currency, by the way, but photocopies of Confederate bills, mostly $20. They may represent real bills that my aunt Trudy found somewhere in the attic of my grandparents’ farmhouse in Anderson County, S.C. I don’t think they’ll stir up much interest on the Antiques Road Show.

But the real treasure was the maps. No, not treasure maps, road maps. You remember those, relics from the last century, back when any trip more than two hours away from home required  some guide to show you which road to take. I know, primitive. One of them—a freebie that I picked up at a Texaco station years ago, includes maps of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  Near the top are two numbers—81,358 and 81,506—obviously mileage notations for an expense report. Another map, this one from an Esso station—which certainly dates it back a few years—covers Kentucky and Tennessee. It also has a mileage number—81,915, so it was probably from a trip I made shortly after the one noted above. Oddly, it has only the one number so I apparently didn’t come back.

A map of Nashville, Tenn., had no mileage notations, so I probably never went there.

A more recent map covers the Dallas metro area, and I must have bought this one since it has a price tag on it—$3.95. No mileage notations. We probably picked this one up about 15 years ago, when we moved here and before we bought phones with map apps.

I used to keep a large road atlas in my vehicle and recall many occasions when I’d pull off the road to find out how to get from places like Cairo, Ga., to Possum Kingdom, S.C., or Slap Out, Ala., to Two-Egg, Fla. (You can’t make this up).

Now I just punch in the state, city, street and address into my GPS unit and a sultry female voice tells me each road to take and what time I’ll arrive. If she could just tell me where I put that battery charger I’d be set.




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