Contact Al Dunkleman

Track 1—From When We Were Young (2011)

Once Upon A Road

Tom T. Hall, Dixie Hall, Good Home Grown Music


Once upon a road, when I was innocent and free

And the back roads of America, were like a toy land to me

It surely was the promised land, and we had ourselves to please

And how the milk and honey flowed, once upon a road


Once upon a road, we could live off of the land

Watermelons on the vine, chicken cookin’ in the pan

Water clean and water free, you could sleep beneath the trees

Love and freedom was our code, but that was once upon a road


Once upon a road, really was a crazy time

We believed we could move mountains, so we moved them in our minds

Blood and sweat and bitter tears, took the days and took the years

And we have little left to show, being once upon a road


Once upon a road, we were young and we were fair

Changed the face of all America, never hung around in the barber chair 

We were fighting for a dream, fought a mighty big machine

And there ain’t nothin’ that we know, but being once upon a road

We have little left to show, of being once upon a road


I first heard this song in January of 2010 via “Bluegrass Junction” on satellite radio. I immediately connected with the message and relevance to the overall theme of WWWY (When We Were Young). The song is from the album “Tom T. Hall Sings Miss Dixie and Tom T”—Blue Circle Records, 2007. Tom T. and Dixie Hall have truly captured the spirit and ideals of the younger generation in the 1950s and 1960s (not that I know anything about these decades).


The beginning verse of the song reminds me when I was young and would ride my bike up and around the gravel roads where I grew up.


Once upon a road, when I was innocent and free, and the back roads of America were like a toy land to me


Especially during the summer, there were two specific activities that occupied a lot of my time in my youth—scavenging through old junk yards and going fishing. With a large wire basket fastened to the front of my bike, I would frequently head up the sparsely traveled Witch Valley Road and spelunker through a roadside dump (which I’m sure was illegal at the time, but not enforced very well). I was especially looking for old baby buggy axels and wheels. These prized parts made great components for the homemade go-carts that I would craft in our garage.


Further up Sommerville Valley Road in Ellicottville, NY, where I grew up, were several old dumping grounds that had not been disturbed for several decades. Inspired by my grandfather’s hobby of digging for old bottles, I acquired the “bottle bug” and would balance a potato digger across the handlebars of my bike and make the mile or two journey up the road to treasure hunt.


When I’d arrive at a dig site, I’d often have to dig down four to five feet through the rich black soil before unearthing antique beer and whiskey bottles and old raised-letter medicine bottles. I even dug up a couple of antique flat irons and once unearthed a hand-cranked water pump.


When it came to fishing, the earthworms you could find under old boards and fence posts around my uncle’s silos were the biggest and best you could find for catching largemouth bass. My uncle’s pond was just up the side of the hill behind the dairy barn. With my black Zebco reel, Mason jar of worms, pocket knife, pair of pliers, extra hooks and red and white bobber, many a summer evening were spent catching prickly-spined sunfish, scary looking bull heads (catfish) and prized bass.


As you climbed up the steep bank of the pond, if you would crouch down and walk quietly, you could sometimes catch a rare glimpse of a Great Blue Heron that would hang out feeding on small fish at the pond’s edge. It seemed as if this graceful, yet dinosaur-like creature had a ten-foot wing span.


I’ll never forget the evening that I borrowed a milk pail from my uncle’s milk house and happened to catch my biggest bass ever. The fish was so big that its tail dangled out of the pail by four inches. And that’s no fish story.  


Once upon a road, when I was innocent and free

And the back roads of America, were like a toy land to me.