We live about a mile off the main road from Boondoggle to Fewmit here in Northern Idaho. Whenever we want to go into town, we travel that mile on a dirt road.
Actually there is very little dirt involved. The road was originally constructed across a sheet lava flow by a logging company that shortly thereafter went out of business. I believe their failure was due to excessive tire damage and axle replacement costs.
Fortunately, over the years enough top soil has been blown in to soften many of the rough spots. Actually, if caught in the right light (very very early or very very late) it looks a lot like one of those charming old cobblestone roads, except for the gullies and the knife-like edges on many of the cobbles.
Heading out to the main road you pass a couple of homesteads and a farm. The distinction between “homestead” and “farm” is actually quite simple. It all depends on the speed in which the owner is going broke. Many farms, like radioactive isotopes, have a half-life of about ten years. Unless an outside economic energy force is applied, like an off-farm job, the farm rapidly decays into a homestead.
Our road is named Cherry Pit Lane. “”The Pit”” as it’s known by the residents, is accessible all-year round, meaning that it remains more or less in the same place no matter what the weather. And every year, just after the snows finally melts, a curious malady strikes the male residents of “The Pit.”
Later, after the dust settles, the women folk will shake their heads and exchange lists of their significant others’ faults, but I believe that the women-folk share a large portion of the blame for the mayhem and madness.
It begins with the simple sentence, usually made by the female half of the partnership, who says, “This road is a mess. Somebody ought to do something about it!”
How anyone can be so foolish as to utter words like these to real country men is plain beyond me. After all, these are the kind of men that still have their official “Dan’l Boone” coonskin caps secretly buried beneath the “pants that may fit again some day” in the bottom drawer. And every one of them owns some kind of equipment that is theoretically capable of moving earth. The subsequent carnage is terrible to behold.
My neighbor Murray, went out and bought a professional road grader, fully capable of ripping huge chunks of basalt from the road bed at 20 miles per hour and leaving a wake of bathtub-sized potholes behind. Fortunately, this is meat and potatoes for another neighbor of mine, Harvey, whose specialty is filling potholes with road rock he gets “cheap” from a local talc mining operation.
About the time that vehicles start sliding off the soapstone-filled potholes, my friend Caleb begins his work. Caleb is between earth-movers at the moment, so he works primarily in water, or specifically in the re-direction thereof. Every evening, after the pothole manufacturer and the grease pit installer call it a day, Caleb is out on the road with his shovel, re-arranging water courses and drainage ditches to ensure that runoff… doesn’t.
I don’t think that’s his intention, of course. Caleb had a rather limited educational experience in his youth due to a regrettably large number of legal hunting days, and therefore missed out on some of the finer points of scientific thought, like the fact that water runs downhill. And erosion.
You might think that having this many people improving the road at the same time might lead to friction (which might be an improvement for the soapstone-filled potholes). But very little animosity occurs on “The Pit.” Like an M.C. Escher drawing, each of our road warriors seems oblivious to the work of the others, happily plucking or filling or washing away each other’s work for days on end, until the fishing or boating or hunting seasons begin their seductive call.
Fortunately, the damage possible on “The Pit” is limited by the kryptonite-like nature of the road bed itself. Come the late spring, the road begins to dry and harden, and the rough spots, either natural or man-made, begin to slowly fill with the remaining top-soil from an adjacent “Homestead”. And peace reigns again.
Until the next time someone says “This road is a mess, somebody ought to do something about it!”