Ski Story #12: The Yard Girls

The first time I saw Road Atlanta with my own eyes wasn't until 1993 or 1994. Photographer and friend Brian J Nelson and I drove down in my Mustang. I can't speak for Brian, but I had spent very minimal time in the south prior to that first trip. It was quite an eye-opener for me, fresh off the farm.

We made it into Georgia clean enough, but somehow became lost trying to make a short cut into the area of Braselton. Obviously, a map was the only way to navigate back then and somehow ours was not terribly accurate. We drove around aimlessly for hours on Georgia backroads, for the most part just enjoying being lost and seeing the sights. We stopped and photographed old tobacco barns and field trucks back when I'd still shoulder a camera with Brian next to me and push the shutter.

(I stopped doing that when I saw his photographs. You can fake being a writer. You can fake being a mechanic. You can't really fake being a good photographer, I learned.)

As we hurtled down a winding Georgia byway, our sense of being lost added an extra layer of excitement to our adventure. Suddenly, a curious sight unfolded before us like a scene from a Southern novel come to life: a handful of women perched gracefully in colorful lawn chairs, their presence a striking contrast against the backdrop of the sun-drenched day.

In that moment, we were compelled to make a swift decision. We swung our vehicle into the inviting driveway, our tires crunching on the gravel as if announcing our arrival. These enigmatic women, framed by the Georgia landscape, sat poised and tranquil by the roadside, as though they were guardians of some hidden, mystical knowledge.

As I gazed upon this peculiar tableau, a memory stirred within me, like an old photograph rediscovered. I recalled a tale from historian Robert Caro's book, one of a young Lyndon B. Johnson, who, as a child, resided on a remote farm. He and his brother would amble down to the main road, perching on a rustic fence, patiently awaiting the arrival of a passerby, yearning for a simple connection and conversation.

Turning to my companion, Brian, I couldn't help but draw a parallel between that distant memory and the scene before us. I mused aloud, "Same thing probably, huh Brian?" It was as if time had folded in on itself, blending the past and present in a tapestry of intrigue, weaving a story that only Georgia's enchanting byways could conjure.

We exited the car and walked over to the women. We asked them for directions but they were not real talkative. Suddenly an older man appeared and he seemed gregarious enough to make up for the quiet row of women. “HEY BOYS! COMING FOR SOME FUN?”

“Yeah, we are here for the motorcycle race at Road Atlanta," I told him.

He didn't know where Road Atlanta was and didn't care. He pivoted hard when asked for directions to a main road. “COME ON NOW BOYS WHICH OF THESE GIRLS YOU WANT?”

Ah, what?

Brian told him, in a nice voice, we were just looking for directions. How would we get to Atlanta, then?

The guy then turned to me, and ran the same line by me.


I fixed my gaze upon him, my expression akin to that of a bewildered spectator stumbling upon one of those enigmatic old Hee-Haw skits from my distant childhood, a quirky piece of entertainment that always left me utterly perplexed.

Summoning my best attempt at a composed demeanor, I couldn't help but burst out with a chuckle, "Could you point us in the direction of North, then?" I asked him.


We got back in the car and drove off.

After a few minutes one of us brought up the stop. I asked Brian, “Why would that guy want to give us one of those women? That was pretty strange, wasn't it?

He agreed it was.

“Maybe they just needed a ride,” I theorized.

We finally made it to Road Atlanta. I went to the media center to work and Brian followed the light. We met up later that day at Ski's pits.

"What took you guys so long gettin' down here," Ski asked. He was oblivious that no one else could match his ability to drive 40 hours straight, never stopping for a bathroom break and also never stop talking, challenging, or giving verdict on any subject from riding, horticulture, embalming or to how to paint a car or build a house as Ski did magnificently. (Ski truly did believe he knew everything, I think.)

“We got lost,” I told Ski. Then, either Brian or I started telling Ski about the weird situation we had trying to get directions out of locals. Ski asked a few questions. Sitting on lawn chairs by the road? How were they dressed? Big old house in the back?

I then theorized that perhaps they didn't like that we had a car with Minnesota plates on it and were men without twangy accents, plus the unmistakable "Minnesota tan" which meant our legs were more pale than brand new white socks.

Hearing that, Ski didn't outright laugh but he chuckled a little and then said, "Dean, those were yard girls."

“Yard girls?! They didn't seem like they were up for doing any yard work,” I actually said to Ski.

Ski then explained to me that what we'd come across was a vestige of the old south. A bordello in the sticks with working girls sitting by the road awaiting customers.

Seriously, when I fully comprehended this, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
— ends —
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