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Dirt vs. paved roads

04/03/2008

By Kevin Eurich

The Valley Viewpoint question asked of the persons on the street regarding dirt versus paved roads got me to thinking about growing up in The Valley when the only paved road was Route 100 and, until 1953, that pavement stopped at the Kingsbury Bridge, just before the Sugarbush turn. From there to Granville, the road was dirt. In 1953, that section of Route 100 was straightened and paved. I have a copy of the engineers' drawing showing the highway design from the Kingsbury Bridge to just south of Warren village. I'm old enough to recall trips on that old road to my grandparents' home at the base of Fuller Hill. 

Great strides have been made in terms of building and maintaining dirt roads.  Though we still get the ruts and endless slime, it is nowhere near the disaster it was when we children enjoyed two weeks off from school during "Mud Season." Roads were, literally, closed, or at least to buses which brought us from the hills to the village to attend to our learning at the old Waitsfield High School.

Some of you may remember Marshall Dodge, a "Down-easter" humorist. Though not a native of Maine, he could spin yarns with an excellent down-easter dialect. He also wrote books, his most popular being the <MI>Burt and I<D> monologues. Down-easter tales were often embellished or exaggerated to emphasize a particular point or theme. One such tale centered on Mud Season with two old codgers trying to one-up each other in terms of which one had experienced the worst mud season. I will shorten it in respect for expediency:

Seems Percy Smith, the mailman, took the United States Postal system's motto of "neither snow, sleet nor rain will stop them from delivering the mail" to a much higher level. Brothers Cy and Zeke were sitting on their porch observing the rainy day and the endless depths of mud on the road there in front of them. Cy spotted something moving up the road. "Looka yonder there, Zeke. What is that?" Zeke strained to identify the object. "Well, by jing, looks like a hat movin' along." Cy nodded, "You're right, Zeke, and I do believe that it's Percy Smith's hat. We ought ta take a look." So the brothers walked to the edge of the road. When the hat got near their mailbox, Cy reached down and lifted it from the muddied highway. He exposed a human head. "My Gawd, Percy, is that you?" "Ayup." "Well you just hold on and we'll pull ya out." "Well," replied Percy, "You better get more people then." Cy looked at Percy, puzzled. "Why, by heck, me and Zeke can get ya outta theyah." "Ayup, spect you can, but I'm ridin old Ned and it will take a darn site more men to pull that old horse out too."

I think dirt roads have their own set of issues, but so don't paved roads.  Mindful grading can make our dirt roads better, but one has only to look at Duxbury Hills as an example of what it takes to repair a paved highway. I think dirt roads, in certain places, make economic sense as well as providing us with a nostalgic link to bygone days.

Kevin Eurich lives in Moretown.
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