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Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Reflections on the loss of dirt roads in remote places, and the gifts of beauty, wisdom, and humor it gives to all.

There are still rural spots in this nation. Spots that may be on a map thanks to satellite imagery but will never appear on an online booking site. Counties where one school serves K-12, and where there are no doctors, let alone hospitals. Places where the firefighting force is all volunteer, and charity is doled out by neighbors—not 501(c)3s. Where Wi-Fi is fleeting, and cell phone service is spotty at best. And dirt roads appear in equal denomination as asphalt.

Poverty has loomed so large in these places and for so long, that it has pulled up a chair and appears at dinner, the front porch, and at Sunday sermons. But this is not a piece dedicated to describing the egregious choices poverty inflicts, plenty of those in academia have made that case and will continue to for years to come.

No, this piece’s purpose is to describe the beauty, wisdom, and humor surrounding these forgotten places. One that is shared equally by all its dwindling citizenry and those who return to reminisce.

Seen through the lens of progress, many would never understand the pull. The real value of a place like this is not in the monetization of farmland or timberland, but what lies deeper. And like an onion, the layers must be unraveled.

Regardless of the size of one’s paycheck or abode, all are able to share—equitably—in the landscape that surrounds these places. Being enveloped by nature’s bounty leads to imagination, peace, and a constant reminder of time eternal. Seasons, harvests, flora and fauna, and panoramic sunset vistas are not withheld by a chosen few, tucked into neat subdivisions behind gates and codes.

And so we come to dirt roads, those antiquated means of travel. When progress comes, it comes for them first. Generations of memories are paved over and the pushers of asphalt preen in being lauded in this achievement. It matters not what locals want—make way. And road by road, the past is lost. Except in the recollections of those who remember the time…

Joy, trauma, births, deaths, desperation, and peace are the ingredients that form the grains of these roads. The asphalt has come ever closer to where my first steps were taken, and it will not be long before that place succumbs as well.

But let me tell you of the humor and wisdom of this place. I refuse to end this piece with an obituary of sorrow.

  • The joy of swinging in an old tire swing from a tree so large, you could never even fathom an attempt to climb it. Also, forgetting it rained two days ago and only realizing it when your pants get soaked. Then realizing it doesn’t make a difference now, and you might as well continue.

  • Or better yet, securing one via a rope to the bumper of a pickup truck and sitting in the tire with a cousin as you are driven through mud puddles holding on for dear life. Coming home utterly proud of yourself, thoroughly dried and caked.

  • Fields and fields aplenty, always being able to tell what is growing without consulting a person or manual. Also, seeing bushels of snap beans piled up and knowing what you will be doing for hours.

  • Oh Spanish moss, you can get lost watching it sway. Only outsiders or toddlers too young to know better attempt to touch the nasty stuff, it’s run up with critters.

  • The soothing sound of rain on a tin roof rocking you to sleep. Also, the severe thunder and lightning that has you questioning the rationale of a tin roof.

  • Dirt road driving is a learned skill, and there are perils on either side. Drive in the middle or you will have to be pulled out of the ditch, most likely by a family member with a large truck.

  • Chicken hawks, those massive creatures. Never leave a baby or toddler out of arm’s reach when these things are in the yard. (That one is not meant to be funny, that’s a fact.)

  • That’s not a woman screaming or crying in the middle of the night, that’s a bobcat. Too many ways for me to spin that, so I’ll just leave that one here.

And finally, Van Gogh is no match for these starry nights.

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You have a gift!

Holly Bills
Holly Bills
31 de jul. de 2022
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Thank you!

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