I hated living on a dirt road when I was a kid. I thought it made us that much more like backwoods hicks, that much more of a blue collar family trying to make it way out in the boonies. A dirt road meant no cable TV and no city water. We relied on a well with a pump that froze every winter and a rickety antenna that only picked up three channels. I dreamed of a two-story brick house on a paved road somewhere…anywhere but the road I lived on. I vowed that I would get out of the country someday and never look back, which is one of many such impetuous, youth-fueled vows that I’d like to take back.
Late summer was the absolute worst possible time to live on a dirt road, because the dust would rise in great clouds with every passing car. It covered everything—the front porch, the cars in the driveway, the poor shrubs that grew by the road—anything unlucky enough to be exposed. We’d turn on the attic fan and open the windows in a vain attempt to stay cooler through the relentless dog days, and the dust would inevitably get sucked right into the house. It was gritty and smothering, which is exactly how my life felt at the time. I could have sworn that someone dumped me in the middle of the Mojave instead of a little house near the Georgia-Tennessee line.
The irony is that I miss dirt roads occasionally—not living beside them, but having the option to travel on them. I get around exclusively on asphalt these days, so I got my wish for “civilization” with city water and more cable channels that I would ever care to watch. This pervasiveness of pavement explains why Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” went to the top of the country charts…and why “people that live at the end of dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride,” as Paul Harvey said.
Dirt roads are rough teachers. Besides the bumpiness, dirt roads change all the time depending on the weather, and they force us to slow down. We can only go as fast as the gravel and pot holes will allow, which provides ample time for looking around at what’s passing by on either side. Blessed Be.