I read a book years ago that had been dictated to an author by a woman who had lived the first 89 years of her life in part of the Appalachian Mountains completely cut off from the rest of the world. She couldn't read or write a word, didn't have a tooth in her head, and never once laid her eyes on the neon and stucco edifice of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Just shy of her 90th birthday, they began to build a highway through her part of the mountain creating a shortcut connecting two freeways. She used vernacular that had been obsolete since the Native Americans had stood on the coasts, squinting at the lumbering ships on the horizon, realizing they should probably have some immigration laws. She tells the story of the day she stood on a hill as she watched men spread the tarry blacktop, pungent in her nose like a cast iron skillet gone rancid, and declared, like a minor prophet of the old testament, "They've just made way for the crazies to come in."
Well, dear reader, the virgin recesses of The Land experienced the same thing today on a smaller scale. Way was made for the crazies. I got a driveway!
Maybe it's silly that I love the driveway already and long to drive my little Ford along it through the woods to my precious little knoll...but I do.
There's something about the road home, no matter where you live or how much you love where you've just been, that feels a little special. The section of the old rural route that I grew up on still makes me think of my mom in the cozy kitchen with the picture window and my dad jogging along the back yard pushing a mower in front of him while pulling a mower behind him, and the treehouse my brother and I had nestled among the pecan trees. On that street we had ridden bikes for hours on end, played football games that lasted until someone went home bleeding, been b-b gun snipers and water balloon launchers. We had trick-or-treated, skint knees, gathered beloved pets that had been killed by speeding cars, learned to drive, and gotten into trouble. But most of all, on that section of road, we were always almost home.
Today we created our new road home. It's only a red clay road through trees and down a hill with a culvert. One day it may show a tendency to wash out in the bottom or flood a bit and I may cuss the day it was created. But today I think it'll be the best road home we've ever had.
By the time I arrived today the red clay stood in burnt orange piles scattered along the cleared path and a man named Chuck with an antique John Deere was already bulldozing it down into place while my nephews climbed and dug in the piles of dirt.
If you have ever heard the expression "Happy as a pig in s***" (editor's note: My mama is reading this, y'all!) you understand the sheer glee that my nephews experience where dirt piles are concerned. I have watched them be drawn away from us from the very earliest days that they could walk when their little eyes spied good dirt piled for new construction or repairs to the road. I remember watching my nephew Dylan before he could even speak, walk right up to a pile of topsoil my dad had ordered, scramble his way to the top, and, putting his hands on his hips and taking a deep, barrel chested breath, survey the land like a sea captain gazing out on uncharted waters or a pioneer claiming his new homestead.
I love that kids, especially little boys, seem to be born with the drive to climb to the highest part of anything they can get to, be it dirt or ladders or, like my brothers and I, every roof in the neighborhood.
I can't help but think this innate tendency is, in part, what has pushed men to tackle Everest and dare to think that you could circumnavigate the globe or traverse an ocean in an airplane. Before we ever know about a corporate ladder or a dog-eat-dog world, we just want to be the king of the mountain.
Probably to the dismay of some very dirty little boys, the piles were gradually spread thin like bright orange oil paint in one of Bob Ross's happy little sunsets. There's no orange that compares to Mississippi red clay. Once, in my redhead days, I had a very southern older lady tell me my hair looked like a gravel road on a rainy day. I thought she was commenting on my personal hygiene and went home searching my scalp for the flower garden my mom always told me would grow in dirty hair...until I found myself on a gravel road after a rain. It's a color like no other and I didn't really mind having hair that matched so many of the backroads in my great little state. That's not to say I would ever go to a salon and ask to have my hair colored "Backroad Orange" or "Dried-up Riverbed".
The gravel is yet to come and we still need to spread hay and grass seed along the sides to help prevent erosion but it's exciting to me that the way in has been made. Funny, maybe, to celebrate the road home before there's a home there. But it felt good to stand on the new path and imagine my friends driving in to see us or my kiddo hiking out to the road to get the mail.
One thing is for certain, The Land will never be the same, God help it. The crazies have a road in.