Adventures while walking about Auburn, Alabama and its environs...
4 October 2015

Nixon Steel Company

My long walks through the county lands have not only allowed me to discover new places, but they have also reconnected me to places that I had only vague memories of. A case in point: the Nixon Steel Company.

Back in the 1980s, when I was a teenager, I once visited a steel company and scrapyard that was somewhere out in rural Lee County. I was tagging along with an older friend. This fellow was doing the driving, so I was not paying too close attention to where we were headed. At this time in my life, I rarely traveled outside of Auburn's city limits, so as far as I was concerned we we just somewhere "out in the county".

Still, the drive must have made some impression on me, because years (decades) later I remembered the journey (I don't remember exactly why the two of us wanted to buy some scrap metal, but this guy knew about the place to get it). By 1990 my parents had moved outside of Auburn and onto some land in Lee County, and I started thinking more and more about where that steel company might have been.

After starting my long treks, I soon decided I would walk out to my parents' place (which is at least 15 miles away from my house). I had planned my route carefully, and expected it to take me 5-6 hours. I set off out Moores Mill Road and in just under two hours was at the "La-Z Bee" gas station intersection where I took Society Hill Road southward. Very shortly after that I had a strong sense of déjà vu.

"I'm somewhere near the turn-off road to that old steel company," I thought to myself. This was nearly thirty years later, and things had changed quite a bit, but I was pretty sure my walking path was coinciding with that drive long ago.

I could recall that there had been a large sign for the business which I thought was named "Union Steel Company" or something. There was no such sign these days, but I did happen upon a dirt road (CR27) branching to the left:

I had vague recollections of riding in that truck years ago, turning onto a dirt road, going up hill quite awhile, encountering a bridge, and eventually getting to the steel company. And here, I thought, was that same dirt road.

So I walked down it.

Sure enough, the road went steeply uphill, and I eventually came to an old, condemned bridge:

Obviously this kudzu-covered bridge had not be in service for some time, but it very possibly was the bridge I was thinking about.

(sidebar: I love it when I'm walking and see a "Bridge Out Ahead" sign. Such signs are usually only meant for drivers not walkers; chances are that the bridge is still passable for someone on foot. Furthermore, it means it is quite unlikely that I'll encounter any vehicular traffic since, well, the bridge is out.)

After taking a short break at this bridge, I continued across it (still going south on CR27) and started up another incline on the dirt road.

And then, at the top of this hill: BAM! Major déjà... all over again.

I was looking at the old warehouse of Nixon (not Union) Steel Company (note the name on the mailbox):

Here, out in the middle of Lee County, about halfway to my parents' place, I'd stumbled across an area I hadn't been to in nearly thirty years. And yet, when I saw the place, I knew, positively, that this had been it. It was no longer a steel company of any sort.

Thinking upon it now, it seems strange to me that there was such a business out here in the middle of nowhere. No railroad tracks near by, no anything nearby. But, a quick internet search later confirmed that, indeed there had been such a business at this location for twenty years (from 1982 - 2002).

These days no steel is sold, and it seems the Nixon family (which still owns a lot of acreage in these parts) has focused on raising cattle.

Whatever the case, it was a thrill to revisit this spot after all this time.

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