Where the pavement ends
A few days ago my cousin shared a photo on Facebook. It wasn’t a personal photo; it was shared from another site, but it was easy for me to see why he shared it.
It was a photo of a weathered barn next to a dirt road with some hills with trees in the background. When I saw that photo, my response was immediate:
“It looks like home.”
“Home” in this instance isn’t here in the Florida panhandle, but is southeastern Ohio/northwestern West Virginia. Hills, trees, rock outcroppings, farms, creeks (cricks), dirt roads. The country. Home.
I never stop missing it.
Something about that photo stuck with me. I had to think about it a bit. Not every photo of a barn in the hills evokes that response from me, but something in this one made me feel ten years old again. It was that deep kind of familiar.
And then I saw it.
It was the road. That dusty dirt road curving out of sight, one side hugging a hill and the other bordered by a field.
I knew that in dry weather, that road would throw up a cloud of dust whenever a car passed, and in wet weather, it would wear muddy ruts.
I knew it had just enough rocks on it to make it vaguely uncomfortable to go barefoot, but not so many a diehard country kid would bother with shoes.
And I knew that road wasn’t quite wide enough for two vehicles to pass. In fact, it was about 1.75 vehicles wide, assuming one of those vehicles wasn’t a tractor hauling a big trailer stacked with bales of hay, ’cause those things pretty much fill the road.
Yet, cars and trucks and tractors pass one another on those roads all the time. Even big trucks. There is a rhythm to the courtesy of driving narrow dirt roads, an unspoken acknowledgment that the road is truly shared. Both drivers can pass if each one inches a tire off the edge of the dirt, and it often works that way. Sometimes one driver will pull over in a slightly wider spot on the road so that the other driver can pass without having to leave the dirt at all. There isn’t a set rule about which driver will yield. The one who can yield most easily usually does.
Oh, and it’s rude to not wave.
Living in the contentious and litigious culture that we do, I miss the simplicity of a dirt road where courtesy and cooperation reign. “Me first” isn’t practical on a dirt road, let alone neighborly. And if you live somewhere that requires you to drive on dirt roads, you probably have a deep vein of practical and neighborly bred into you.
It seems to me that life would be a lot more pleasant if we preferred one another with dirt road courtesy.
Even if you’re a city slicker.