A dirt road brings me home. A dirt road brings me to where I grew up in Nova Scotia in the Gaspereau Valley. This dirt road is made of mud and rocks and my memories.
One visitor who drove down the dirt road many years ago to visit my family once said that we could lie in the middle of the road all day long and never get hit. That was because no other vehicles dared come out this far. No one wanted to venture from the quaint town of Wolfville, into rural South Mountain. The area had a reputation for backward folk and unspeakable things –things, mind you, that happened in town, too.
My family did live in the middle of the woods but we never felt isolated. The bus picked up my sisters and me and took us to and from school via the dirt road. My parents took us on that road to Girl Guides, swimming lessons, band practice, church, soccer and highland dancing lessons. Even when the snow was flying and piling up and up and up under the wheels of the car, we still went north on the dirt road.
Southwest on the dirt road takes us to a lake, a short stroll from my home. Its tea-coloured water cools down any hot day. When I was younger, I could walk the brown-packed earth to the lake and back in my bare feet. My soles were as hardened as the dirt tamped on the road. I couldn’t do that today. I’m used to pavement and sidewalks and shoes protecting my skin from the city.
I’ve run with my dogs on the dirt road. First, with Jasper, the golden retriever my family got when I was about 12 years old. Then came Kola, our fuzzy blonde puppy that loved the snow and cold and still had energy after she jogged 12 km alongside me.
We found our next pets, little beagles, on the dirt road. There were two brown and white dogs running up and down and down and up the road. Who did they belong to? Us now. Madeleine, the mama dog, became my first dog as an adult and went with me to New Brunswick. Her baby, Ali McBeagle, moved in with my parents.
I’ve been an adult for many years and the traffic on the dirt road has increased. It has doubled, tripled and super-quadrupled. SUVs and trucks and cars zoom towards the lake, pulling boats, Sea-Doos and families in the warm months. Teenagers ready for a bonfire, and perhaps a kiss, head to the small rocky beach in the evenings. In the winter, snow machines and skiers make their way up the road. No matter what season, the amount of passing traffic is bothersome. The dirt road is busy.
Sometimes there is talk about paving the dirt road. Maybe it will always be a rumour because it never seems to get done. Dust flies into the air on dry summer days. In the winter the dirt road is among the last to be plowed. Then, when the snow thaws, the mud ruts run deep. It’s terrible and you have no control over where your vehicle is headed. Nevertheless, you eventually get home. In the spring there are so many potholes you have to move your vehicle from side to side, dodging the big craters but hitting the smaller ones. These problems don’t stop people from driving on our dirt road.
I was just home last week. My friend and I walked up the dirt road on a calm late spring evening. Black flies and mosquitos were buzzing in our ears as we talked to neighbours I haven’t seen in a year. Their family has lived in this area for over one hundred years. I wonder what stories they could tell about the dirt road, before I arrived and started making my own memories.