I have lived on the same dirt road for most of my life and I will readily admit that I love dirt road life. Yes, my car and the rocking chairs on my porch stay dusty, but there is just something about dirt roads that endears them to me.
I reflected on my little dirt road during recent meetings of the Washington County Commission. Many people in the county want asphalt on their dirt roads. I don’t fall into the same category as them. I’m an old soul and dirt roads remind me of a slower pace of life.
There have been times that dirt road living has been inconvenient. During heavy rains, my road has gotten sloppy. The thick mud has caused vehicles to become stuck. That can be a pain. I recall a rainy winter while I was in high school and the school bus could not travel the road. Instead, one of the teenage boys who lived on the road loaded all the kids up in his dad’s 4x4 and took us to the highway to meet the bus. After school, we piled back into and onto the same truck and were safely deposited at our own homes. Thankfully that does not happen often!
Dirt roads usually have just one lane. This means when you meet someone, one of you has to pull over and let the other pass. I love this because it is (sadly) one of the only times I catch up with some of my neighbors. We will usually roll the window down and speak for a moment. It’s a country quirk.
Dirt roads are for ATV riding. Like it or not, the younger crowd brings their ATVs to dirt roads. As a teenager, I rode my fair share. Now I see my friends’ children riding the same road frequently. Sometimes they will stop and visit for a while if they see us outside. It’s always pleasant and again, a country quirk that sets us apart.
One-lane dirt roads aren’t conducive to speed. There are some that challenge this, but typically, you drive slower on a dirt road than a highway. A slower pace allows you to notice things like dogwood blooms, rabbits and the water level in a branch. On the highway, these things are a blur.
Dirt roads don’t lead to major cities or major attractions. They are a way of getting to a home, a farm, a small country church, or a cemetery. You won’t encounter a lot of traffic, but you’ll likely see livestock, ponds, barns and kids out playing in their yards.
In addition to leading to quiet destinations, dirt roads are also for walking. Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are of walking the dirt road with my grandmother and great-grandmother. They said they were walking to get exercise, but looking back, they didn’t walk fast enough to burn any calories. They were walking for enjoyment and to go see relatives and neighbors that lived down the road. It never involved a planned visit, just joining someone on the front porch for a few minutes before needing to, in my grandmother’s words, “mosey on.”
At the end of our road, there’s a little country church. It’s a nice reward for walking one mile over the rocky road. It too is a reminder of a slower pace.
With a full calendar and no end to activities in sight, I think I need to prioritize better and take a stroll down the dirt road more often. For me, the little dirt road that I have always called home will be a reminder of sweet, simple memories and opportunities to enjoy all the quirks that country living has to offer.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.