The Roads Home
The Bear Creek Clubhouse was about two miles from my home in Tuscaloosa County. Deer season started in mid November and closed January 31st. The limit was one buck per day. Our hunting area was eight miles south. Drive on down Bear Creek Road and turn right into the Cal Prude Road. Topping the hill you reach the ruins of the Prude home place. A large walnut tree stood close by, reaching out to support the sagging house. In 1963, John Parker and I picked up sackfulls of walnuts. Now I have a huge tree and walnut saplings all over my property.
Prude family home in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama 1911 – The house was built in 1822, and as of the 1930s it had never been remodeled. James Oscar Prude was born in the house in 1856. (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Recent rains make a waterfall
Turn right when you reach Indian Creek Road. Continue to the Indian Creek Bridge. It was a wooden bridge that never saw the sun in spring and summer. The hard wood trees shook hands over the bridge. It was a nice shadow tunnel for fifty yards and on each side of the bridge. In summer, I would stop and listen. The creek bed was filled with grasses and rushes. The water had a hard time pushing through on it way to Big Sandy Creek. Recent rains made it sound like a waterfall.
Travel through brush and briar thickets
Go about two miles west on the Indian Creek Road and turn left at the first house on the left. This was the Zach Hewitt home place. This road was the Big Sandy Road. You travel by brush and briar thickets that want to get personal with the sides of your vehicle. Out side rear view mirrors have fallen victim to these thieves. You travel through longleaf pines that tower above the road, a nice spot in the fall. Huge longleaf pine cones lie on the pine straw. The cones were used for Christmas decorations. The longleafs end and a buried pipeline crosses the road. Cross the pipeline and drop into low gear. The road increases its winding and enjoys dropping at a precipitous rate. High banks overtop the road. Wild plum thickets grow on these banks, overhanging the road. Don’t get too slow-the plum thickets will grab at you.
The road soon bottoms out and becomes very sandy and soft – don’t slow down. To the east is the juncture of Indian Creek and Big Sandy Creek. I went to this point once with my uncles and we lucked out on a bream bed. It was sit on the bank, spit in the creek and pull out a fish.
Continue to Big Sandy Bridge
The road continues to the Big Sandy Bridge. This wooden bridge was about thirty yards long. A loud rumble sang out as you crossed. Pull over after you cross. A fishing trail runs along Big Sandy bank. I was walking that trail on one sunny afternoon. Something out in the front made three huge leaps and was in the creek. I had to stop and put my heart back in my chest. It was a big green bullfrawg (sic).
Drive up the hill and our entrance gate is on the right. Unlock the gate and you have arrived at the Bear Creek Hunting lands. I eagerly anticipated Saturday mornings during deer season. Rain or shine, we hit the woods. I saw very few bucks, but hope sprang eternal.
The road much taken no longer exists. Someone destroyed the Big Sandy Bridge and it was never replaced.
Now our land was reached by going through the Talladega National Forest – a much longer trip. In short, you couldn’t get there from here. I purchased land in Fayette County. This land plus hunting leases became the Bambi Hunt Club.
I now hunt the Bear Creek land in memories.
do you have any info on the RICE family from Lauderdale County..Especially Ben Rice, who was killed building the DAM over the Tennessee River I think in the 30’s ? the family was quite prominent in Florence area …
do you have any info on the WALLACE family from Florence ? Especially Ned Wallace and John Shelby Wallace…
My kinda place
This story was written by my father in law. My two daughters called him Pop Pop
My son is true hunter I took him bow hunting since he was a young child love it
I so enjoyed the story by Mr. Champion. I know the places he wrote about and only live a few miles from them. I remember the family names and the names of the roads and their paths. Some 42 years ago as a teenager I had a shiny two owner Jeep, we traversed the route many times and Mr. Champions description was spot on about the roads going down into “the forest”. Sir, in my mind I was able to re drive those trails once again too. Thank you for a refreshing memory of years gone by. Tim Ryan at Maxwell just North of Big Sandy.
Rhonda Holland Turnipseed
Bradley Dorough how cool!
My late father-in-law wrote this story.
Chris Otts, do you know where I can get a copy of the book? I’d love for my 92 year young, Mother to read it, she still lives on Bear Creek Road and knew all the Champions! I’m on Facebook and Messenger! Thanks!
Peggy Pate there isn’t a book that I know of. He wrote several stories of his childhood. His sister wrote some too.
Message me I will get you what information I can
Chris Otts, thanks! I’ve read some of Jean’s, some the things she was talking about, I remember! Is there anywhere to get copies of the articles?
Chris Otts he and I descend from the same Champion line around Sunny South.
Peggy Pate I will see what I can do
Chris Otts, thank you!
I grew up about a mile from the Clubhouse! My Daddy and most of the men in the community were members! That was along time ago!