I went rock hunting the other day. I went far out in the country, miles from nowhere, to an area where they used to mine mica. It was an old mine which had seen its heyday during World War II. There was much mica found there, but other goodies showed up from time to time too — among them the occasional gemmy crystal of aquamarine.
So with high hopes I spent several hours looking, wandering all over the old site. I’ll bet I walked two miles, up and down slopes and back and forth through undergrowth, but I found nothing.
Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
Finally, hot and tired, I called it a day and headed back to the truck. But as I lifted my foot to climb into the driver’s seat, what should I see but a glint of something sparkling and blue in the dirt right where my right foot had been?
Yes, you’re right. The gem I was looking for had been there, right where I started, all along.
But this is not a story about rocks. This is a story about silos.
Silos Park, a microscopic little park next to a strip center near the intersection of Arnold Mill Road and Crabapple Road, is like that fragment of crystal — a tiny and often overlooked gem. Its centerpiece is, as you might expect, silos — a cluster of them, towering gray structures with half-sphere tops painted rusty red. Once there were several, but only three remain. They stand as reminders of how things once were in a place that has become, by any measure, something altogether different than what it used to be.
The silos are neat, to be sure. But if you’re like me, learning about history of a place is half the fun of being there. To discover the “used to be” side of these silos, check out the site’s fourth (and much smaller) silo, a recent structure that houses captioned photos which depict the area as it was in days gone by.
You’ll learn something when you do. And besides, it offers welcome shade from the sun.
Standing inside that little silo the other day, I found myself thinking about this area as it was when I discovered it years ago. It would have been the early ‘70s, I guess. I’d just started driving, and my folks had just bought a few acres in the area. They wanted to build a place in the country. My dad said he figured that a little bit of land “way up there past Alpharetta” would surely fill the bill.
Back then, Alpharetta was just a little country town. You had to leave “the city” and drive through “the country” to get there. You’d drive and drive and drive some more. Highway 140 was a little two-laner, and other roads were not paved at all. But I didn’t mind. Such roads beg you to slow down and savor the landscape. And then (after a while) there it was – Alpharetta, that place out in the country. It was a real place in every sense of the word.
Often I’d take my cameras (that was in my “photographer” phase) and explore that landscape through the camera’s lens. I’d borrow the family station wagon (remember those?) and wander those roads for hours, stopping way too often to take photos (on film, of course – it was, after all, the previous millennium). Sometimes a friend would go with me, and on occasion that friend was the lovely lady who eventually became my bride.
Later, with rolls of exposed film in the camera bag, I’d make the long journey back to far-away Stone Mountain to process film and then make some prints. Sometimes my future wife would help me develop the film. Her grandmother, who we called “Mother Dee,” teased us one day and said we just wanted to “go into the darkroom to see what develops.” Mother Dee was a perceptive person.
I remember that my goal on one of those trips was to photograph the silos. Somewhere I’ve probably still got the negatives. Maybe they’ll turn up someday and I can see it again as it used to be. I do wish I knew where they are, for old negatives are remarkably like memories – you may not realize how significant they were until one day you discover that they’re gone.
These days, of course, that vaguely-remembered landscape is gone. It’s changed. I still look for it sometimes, meandering along country roads (yes, there are still a few), taking my time and letting echoes of the past wrap me up in their oh-so-comfortable embrace. But the reverie usually doesn’t survive long. Somebody behind me, in a hurry to get somewhere else, will roar up and flash lights or blow horn. I’ll pull over and let ‘em zoom by. They disappear over the next hill, going fast, going urgently. But the calm returns once they’re gone, a soothing calm, a comfortable state of mind and a place where I like to linger.
I think about all this as I stand in the cool, shaded interior of that interpretive silo and look at the evidence of how things used to be. And then it’s time to go.
A plaque mounted to the right of the interpretive silo’s entry tells one and all that this little park is “dedicated to the memory of days gone by with the hope that they will inspire those to come.”
Yeah. There’s no doubt about it. Inspiration is a heady thing.