Every Wayland on his itinerary
DJ Smith is about to embark on an adventure. A former intern with The Livingston County News and present editor of the Dansville-based Genesee Country Express, Smith steps down at the end of this week to commence a 5,000 mile excursion across the United States — with the objective of visiting and learning about each and every ‘Wayland’ known to exist.
DJ’s research suggests that there are at least ten such places ranging in size from a near ghost town in Texas to a substantial community in Massachusetts, exceeding the population of any village in Livingston County.
The overt objective is to write a book about what he encounters; to examine the differences and commonalties found among the Waylands, properties probably reflective of the American Experience as whole. But the motivating objective seems to be something else.
It’s about tasting that raw freedom which only ‘the road’ can offer.
For DJ, it started in his childhood, in the cab of his dad’s semi-truck, seeing the states of the union with the casualness of running to the corner grocery store for a loaf of bread.
Then there was an incident in 1975, hitchhiking from Potsdam to Oswego during a third and — as it turned out — final semester of an aborted first stab at college. DJ happened to be wearing his Wayland varsity jacket.
“This orange Volkswagen suddenly whipped off the road. The door opened and an animated guy appeared, talking wildly,” DJ recounts. The driver’s excitement, as it turned out, was about DJ’s jacket. He was from Wayland, Mass. and was eager to find out about this New York namesake.
“It was the first time it hit me, but I figured it makes sense: There are other Waylands our there,” DJ recalls.
It needs to be disclosed that DJ is technically not Wayland born-and-raised. Rather, he is from the smaller nearby community of North Cohocton. Nevertheless, as DJ himself proclaims, his status as a Wayalnd Central School alumnus makes him as much a dyed-in-the-wool Waylander as you could find anywhere.
Over the years DJ has remained fixated on the subject, discovering among obscure facts that ‘Wayland’ is the Norse god of blacksmithing, giving him a surname connection to compliment his geographic connection.
So DJ leaves for Michigan during the first week of October. Hoping to keep ahead of the winter cold, the next destinations will be the trio of close Midwestern Waylands, then Texas, Kentucky, and back east. There is no set timetable. He’ll be talking to native sons and daughters, digesting some history, the local values, and getting a view of the social pecking order of each place.
“As long as there are interesting facts to dig up and interesting people to talk to, I’m staying out there,” he said. “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.”
Les Bowen from the state of Washington will be taking charge of editorial responsibilities at the Country Express.
See complete story in our Sept. 16 print edition.