Ode to the Road

The road I live on is a rural beauty.  Hang a left out of our driveway and you pass just two more houses before the dirt road descends into the forest–no more houses for a mile and a half to its end, where the forest meets farmland.  A small stream trickles down the hillside, following–or followed by–the road.  At one point a small waterfall is bridged by a dead tree limb, felled long enough ago that it’s now blanketed with a thick coat of moss.  The stream and steep hillsides have nibbled away at the edges of the road, making for an alarming experience when you round a bend and realize that you are playing chicken with an oncoming car, both of you in the middle of the road–is there enough room for both to pass?

I’m told that the road is plowed in winter, though it used not to be.  I’m also told that the name of the road “Piney Woods” brings a grimace to the faces of old timers whenever it’s spoken.  Apparently it was “Pine Woods” until some flatlanders decided it would be more evocative as an adjective.  I side with the old timers on that one.

To repeat myself, it’s a wonderful little stretch of dirt road that I have growing affection for.  But there’s one problem.  It’s a dumping ground.  Presumably because it’s so little traveled and because there are no houses or lights, people seem to feel free to toss all nature of things out the window of their cars or off the bed of their trucks.

A quick list:

Beer bottles and cans

trash bags full of who-knows-what

a child’s car seat

an old boom box

and, this fall, a couch showed up, complete with cushions, upside down in the weeds, where it still remains.

It makes me angry, and a little sad, to see the road despoiled in this way.  And, to be honest, it gives the road, or its aura, a slightly menacing feel.  Who would notice if a truck whizzed by and clipped me, sending me spinning down the ditch?  What kind of people drive over to a secluded road and dump a couch?

Every year for the last 4 decades, Vermont has held “Green Up Day,” on the first Saturday in May.  People take to the roadsides to clean up their neighborhoods.  They collect trash in green bags and leave them by the roadside for collection.  I’m already eagerly awaiting the next one and hoping to be able to coordinate with some neighbors to get Piney Woods truly clean.  I’m sure it won’t last, but maybe one of the reasons why it’s starting to resemble the local transfer station is simply because it’s become so abused that people think, “what’s one more piece of trash going to matter?” Maybe if we can green it up next Spring people will think twice before sending another beer bottle sailing out the car window.

One can only hope.

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5 Responses to Ode to the Road

  1. Karl says:

    I’m strangely ambivalent. Living in a place with all different kinds of people is messy. There’s no trash in gated communities. It is sad when a pristine natural environment is soiled by trash, evidence of human carelessness and neglect. If we pick it up, more follows. Life is a series of ironic juxtapositions. Imperfection is everywhere.

    • I don’t think this is a class issue. I’m not talking about one person’s manicured lawn versus another’s yard full of car parts etc. I think there’s a difference when a back road is littered with household waste and worse. That’s not about class, per se. I think it’s about something else but I’m not quite sure what.

  2. Jo Woolf says:

    Good luck with your efforts. It’s the same over here in the UK – many quiet roads are used by unscrupulous contractors on their way back from a job, as a dumping site… we regularly see builders’ rubbish, furniture etc. It’s depressing but so hard to catch them.

  3. Deb Rickner says:

    So you should also know that when we first moved in a farmer stopped by and told us that the square island of land that you live on, created by the three roads, Piney Woods, Hardscrabble Rd. and Barnum Rd. is called “The Ghoul”. He didn’t explain why, or maybe he couldn’t remember why, because there is no way we wouldn’t have questioned him about that! There’s a research project for you!

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