By Crystal Burns
A Trenton native put his feet to the pavement to get new perspective on his home county.
Steve Black, a 1987 graduate of Peabody High School, finished his 10-month journey on Halloween and has already begun writing a book about the natural history, local history, and his observations of Gibson County.
Black began the physical portion of his project last Christmas Eve, but the idea for the book burrowed itself in his brain about five years ago when he ran across a bio-regional quiz that asked him how well he knew his birthplace.
Black though the questions provided fodder for stories. As he struggled to figure out how to frame those stories, the light bulb above Black’s head lit.
“It just hit me,” he said. “I could walk around the county and answer the questions over the walk. The walks are the frame for looking at the history.”
Black’s first walk took him from Trenton to Rutherford. Later, he would walk from Rutherford to Skullbone, Skullbone to Milan, Milan to Humboldt, Humboldt to Brazil, Brazil to Yorkville, Yorkville to Kenton down to Rutherford, and finally Rutherford to Trenton. His shortest route was 13 miles, and his longest was 18. All told, he walked about 120 miles.
To plan his trips, Black looked at a map to find logical starting and stopping points. He did his best to stick to the back roads, only using highways when absolutely necessary.
Black carried a walking stick and pepper spray but didn’t have to use either defensively. His luck held with the weather, and each route gave him ample opportunity to notice characteristics of the terrain drivers often miss.
A fulltime yoga teacher with 14 years of teaching experience, Black said his mental concentration helped him with the physical endurance.
“After about eight miles, your brain gets fuzzy,” he said. “After 12 miles, it hurts.”
Black has about 70,000 words written from his travels, mostly in the form of journal entries. Since he’s finished walking, his primary focus is polishing the writing to prepare for publication. While he has published essays, Black has never published a book.
“I’m just going to see what happens,” he said.
Black earned his associate degree from Dyersburg State Community College and transferred to the University of Memphis where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in English. In addition to teaching yoga, Black was an adjunct professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis until COVID-19 hit in March.
Finding the silver lining, Black said the break from Southwest has freed up time for him to write.
Steve Black is the son of Nancy Austin of Dyer and the late Terry Black.