Deaf and Blind on Shelton Laurel

Hickey's Fork, Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 2013.

A couple of weeks ago, as we drove up Hickey's Fork looking for a barn with tobacco hanging in it, we passed by this sign. We were already driving slowly, but immediately slowed even more in case we encountered this unseen "deaf resident." I thought of this person and the sounds he was missing - the wind and rain in the forest, the bugs at night, a screech owl calling a mate. I also thought of a photograph I had made in 1998, also shot in Shelton Laurel, not far from where I was today. In it, the driving public was warned of a "blind resident" who walked Highway 212. I included the earlier photograph in my book, The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia. 

The two signs are, for me, reminders of the intimacy and immediacy of small places. They tell me of the concerns of real people, of neighbors and family, who have real concerns that could be affected by our actions. These are not signs one would see on the Interstate. Rather, they are gentle suggestions of acceptable behavior in this small, quiet and slow place. A place where values and lifestyle are such that disabled residents are at ease walking our roadways; knowing drivers will heed their personalized appeals, slow down, and respect them for their strength and resilience.


Highway 212, Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 1998.