Monday, May 14, 2012

County Roads

If you live on an unpaved road, you develop fellow feeling for your neighbors. It’s not the same as a neighborhood, more like a mutual complaint society about maintenance and a secret delight in watching the year unfold along the roadside. We open our car windows to breathe the scent of wild plums in April. Horseback riders and joggers inhale the fragrance of dogwood, sweet rocket and wild roses in May.

Wild plum
Maintenance is fairly good, but of course we all complain when it’s slower than we would like. Most roads seem to be graded once a week. This can result in a line of boulders in the middle of the road for a while — the closest we get to a center stripe. Snow removal depends on conditions all over the county. It doesn’t always get us to work on time. School cancellations are based on the state of the bus routes.

Rough-leaf dogwood
Last fall a crew from the county lopped overhanging trees — a long overdue procedure undertaken because of complaints from the school bus drivers. A week after the mail carrier noticed that the lane was getting muddy, more rock appeared on the road. Residents don’t get that quick a response.

Even the nearest blacktop is a bit primitive. Some of us call it a paved dirt road. The folks in a hamlet just off the blacktop decided to pave their main drag several years ago. It’s only about a mile long, but the asphalt heaves and buckles and cracks all year. Drivers swerve across it randomly, avoiding potholes and washboards. There’s a warning sign just before the crest of the last paved hill. A local wit edited it with press-on letters.

Elderberry and day lilies usually line the ditches in June, but this year they’re starting early. A utility crew cut a swath of small trees and underbrush beside my stretch of the road last year. Mother Elder has reclaimed it all. Her frothy white fronds are budding among poke and ragweed. The witch of the woods is back.

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