The Old Dirt Road

By Leah
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When I was a child, all roads except state highways were dirt roads. It was 10 miles to the county seat and 27 miles to the biggest town, so trips were limited to once a month. The school was only 3 miles from our home, but the bus routes covered many miles of dirt roads, and as my father was the bus mechanic/driver for my school, I learned all of these dirt roads by heart.

The roads were maintained by huge road graders that moved through our area at least once a month, occasionally more often in foul weather. If I was playing outside, then they became part of my games as I imagined them as mighty dinosaurs or alien spacecrafts moving slowly and methodically up and down the road by our property. My Daddy knew everyone in the county, so the road crews liked to park their graders by our house to protect them from vandals. Once they were parked, the drivers occasionally allowed me to climb up into the cab and sit while they visited with Daddy and drank a glass of iced tea before going home for the day.

I spent much of my childhood on dirt roads. I rode my bicycle over them, occasionally skidding out on the gravel. I still have scars. My best friend and I spent many hours wandering the tree covered lanes, chatting and picking wild flowers in the ditch lines. It was a kinder, gentler world where a child or teenager could roam without fear of abduction.

I learned to drive on dirt roads at the age of 12. Daddy started me in the hay field in first gear (we only had stick shifts back then), and after I learned to control the gas peddle and maneuver the gears I graduated to the side roads. By 14 I was confidently driving along all country roads, though always accompanied by my father. Mother disapproved. A lot of the roads had creeks crossing them and instead of a bridge, the county poured what we call a “slab” — a simple concrete patch in the road that allowed the water to flow across. If the water was too high, it could wash the car off the road. Mother was always convinced it would happen to me, but it seldom happened to anyone local.

Most women back then hated the dirt roads. Every time a car went past, dirt fogged up and if the breeze was blowing in the right direction, your nice clean rooms became instantly covered in dust. Not to mention the lovely ruffled curtains that had to be washed every week. No one had air conditioning so windows were always open. Clotheslines were kept to the back of the house, hopefully out of range.

There are very few true dirt roads left in our area. Most are covered by gravel and chat, while many more have been paved. A few days ago, I took a ramble down some of the dirt roads of my memory. The neighborhood has changed dramatically since my school days (1968-1979), but the scenery is still amazing and there are many lovely surprises to be found down a dirt road in the country. I will leave you with some of those views and maybe inspire you to take a ramble down the next dirt road you come across.