Dry year means rough rides

By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist

Because I had heard colorful descriptions about how rough some of the county roads are, I decided to do a little driving to be sure the people knew the meaning of rough roads. Well, they surely did!

Aggie and I spend much time driving on dirt roads every week, and I grew up learning to drive on them; thus, I’m a bit aware of corrugated, cardboarded, wasboarded, and corduroy roads. All of my cars have had extra rattles from bouncing along on those washboard ridges and have certainly lost a few nuts, washers, and bolts. Depending upon how deep the ridges are, one learns to drive fairly fast in order to avoid a teeth-rattling trip or very slowly in order to remain in control of the car so it won’t land in the barrow ditch.

When we came upon one stretch that had received a coating of ground paving, I tried both speeds and decided to go slowly before Aggie fell off the seat and before the engine bounced out. Fortunately, that was a short drive, else we might have tried driving in the ditch had we been able to get down the slope without high-centering. The people hadn’t exaggerated their stories, and we had a good laugh later as I talked a bit about our experience.

Later, while listening to the radio, I heard a new machine has been purchased to turn such roads back into those almost as smooth as some of the better caliche one in the county. This “grooming machine” is supposed to shear off most of the ridges and to pick up much of the metal that has fallen off the vehicles as they have bounced along. We can but hope it will work so more parts and pieces won’t fly off as we drive along.

Most of us who have grown up on the land are aware that the combination of drought and wind make road work a bit more difficult. The wind just naturally tends to cause those waves on grades roads, making them look as if an ocean has been ebbing and flowing along the way. With no moisture to hold anything in place long enough for it to be packed down, we can even discover deep ruts that weren’t filled in well after the last major ruin fell. Almost constant grading becomes necessary at such times, and we know that isn’t possible on the hundreds of miles of dirt roads we have in our country. Besides, the road beds can be scraped only so deep if we want to retain the gravel and caliche.

Some of the roads are therefore almost as rough as some of our streets and make almost as rough as some of our streets and make driving an active experience. The driver can’t sip from a coffee cup because most of the coffee will have already sloshed out on the floorboards, and the rest will be hard to get to the mouth. Besides, both hands on the wheel are often necessary in order to keep the car between the fence posts. If only we had a churn full of cream, we could have some delicious butter at the end of a trip without having to turn that crank.

Those of us who have been in these parts for awhile can well remember that we didn’t see road graders very often in the past and that rough roads were just a way of life. We have become a little spoiled during these later years because more equipment is available and more work is being done. We also know how hard that work can be and how unpleasant it is when the wind is about to blow the grader over. We also know that people along the route can get a little excited because that wind tends to blow the loose dirt right into the homes and outbuildings.

Aggie and I may just find feed roads on which to travel for a while. Unfortunately, this car isn’t really built for travel on anything but a glass-smooth highway because it will high center on a small ant hill and will lose it muffler if we don’t straddle the ruts on those pasture roads. Now that the weather is warm, we may just find a good place in which to park and do a lot of walking for a change.