Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

I travel it twice a day, five -- sometimes six -- times a week and I've been doing it for a year and a half. You'd think I'd be numb to it by now.

The road between my house and the farm where I work is so phenomenally beautiful you would think it was deliberately laid out just for aesthetic purposes; like someone directed, "Put the mountain here and that little foothill there, a broken down barn right on the road, sprinkle a few sheep there and there and -- oh -- have that light come in from the east at just this angle to light up this, but not that...and a cow -- there must be a cow!"

Actually, it is never the same day to day or even hour to hour. The seasons change, the weather changes, the light changes and even the residents initiate change. Yet there is consistency also. The housing boom and subsequent bust had very little affect on this road -- there is only one vast empty field accessed through an elaborate stone archway festooned with now-tattered flags announcing, "Homes!" "Lots for Sale!" The sign with contact information has been knocked over and broken in the ditch for over a year now.

Naturally there is other evidence of the housing crisis cropping up here and there; but there is an overall stability also that speaks of a privilege peculiar to this part of the country -- properties are not sold, so much as passed down to relatives. There is a lack of foreclosures along this road because few of them carried mortgages.

So it is comforting to know that there is a rhythm on this road that I can count on; the plowing in spring; the foraging trails of deer during the winter that on any other road would be a catastrophe; sheep shearing; calving; and even skunk mating season that results in a minefield of putrid-smelling roadkill.

It isn't all boring regularity, though. There are those bizarre little minor events not important enough to remember to relate at the dinner table, but that are funny in their rural, bucolic context. For instance, there are several poultry farms near here and one day someone must have left their turkey pen open. Driving into town to make a bank deposit I saw about a dozen turkeys on the side of the road, apparently conferring with each other over which direction to take. On my way back, maybe 20 minutes later, they were still there. I decided they were waiting for a bus.*

I'm rather proprietary about life along this road, as if my mere presence ensures that life will continue. If a tree falls along Back Road will it make a noise if Sisiggy isn't driving by to hear it? I think not. I am convinced that on my days off the little man who takes a walk everyday just to the end of his vast property and back stays indoors and the lady who walks her Beagle just ties him up in the backyard and sleeps in.

On a sharp curve is a huge, tidy farm with sheep and cattle. Many times when I drive by in the early morning the owner (at least I assume he is) is on his front lawn with his cup of coffee, surveying his good work. Two border collies sit obediently at his feet, awaiting their orders. I wave to him and his return wave is practically a salute. There is no sign of a female presence on the property; no flowers appear on the porch in the spring, nor any other decorative indication that one season is any different from another. The only vehicle in the driveway is the immaculate early-model farm truck. The outside of the house if devoid of a single bush or border and the white paint is renewed regularly. He is in control of his land; a tight, iron-grip of control.

I have decided I like this man but, like the ex-wife I've conjured for him, doubt anyone could ever live with him. By now he's convinced himself he likes it better this way and, were he a talker -- which he is not -- he would tell you so in a firm tone that would prevent your disagreement.

I have built stories like this for each of the houses I pass. The ramshackle farmhouse where a little old lady regularly hangs out her laundry, rain or shine; she's a little addled, but she makes due with regular visits from old friends. There is the young family who live next to a tiny country store; I'm positive the oldest boys is recruited to make regular trips next door for milk and, in my mind, he's always barefoot and in need of a haircut. I've made up an entire medical history for the little man who walks to the end of his property each day.

Even the mountains have a story and I try to picture what this valley looked like when those mountains were as big and craggy as the Rockies and here I am, a tiny speck driving through in my little Subaru Anachronism.

My very favorite thing is finding old road beds and trying to conjure what this area looked like before this nice, convenient road cut off the maze of small country lanes. You can still see the shadows of the old paths, especially when you come across a very old house that has been modified so that its back is now its front.

I get a little annoyed when I meet up with another vehicle on what I consider "my road," especially when they pull behind me and want me to drive over the limit because they're in a hurry. Their heads usually have that sideways tilt, letting me know they're on their cell phone because, you know, it's been an entire three minutes since they dropped off little Finster and his his status may have changed. (What is it with people who can no longer drive without a cell phone attached to their ear? Are their families that inept?)

Sometimes...more times than I like to drive is the best part of the day...unless, of course, there's something good on TCM...

*Don't worry -- since I was unable to determine which farm the turkeys were from, I called the sheriff's department, which had already been informed (several times over) of the wayward turkeys and were dealing with the problem at that very moment. I considered heading back to the site to watch the turkey round-up, but decided to leave the sheriff's department with their dignity intact.


Tim said...

I stumbled onto your blog today by tapping the "Next Blog" button. What a lovely surprise! You write beautifully. In a world filled with advertising copy it's so nice to happen upon such thoughtful insightful writing.

Sisiggy said...

Thanks, Tim, and welcome!

And I did get around to enabling your previous post.

Darkgarden said...

Oh no... Sis... You did NOT call the S.O. on the turkeys, ... did you?

Sisiggy said...

I call them whenever the livestock are heading for Safeway...if I can't find someone else. You can't call VDOT anymore -- they won't even pick up when they're dead. I tried to let the guy at Walker's know and he said he just calls the sheriff's office.

I used to call the sheriff's office when the cows across from Tea Berry got out. Cows can do a lot of damage on a state highway. What -- you too busy watching soccer to go out and round up the livestock?