This photo is not the road in the text, but the path leading from my present day home.
Eleven miles to the post office. I need to go today and need to use the road that no longer is mine. Why is that? And how can one own a whole road? Only seven and one half miles did I actually own, and, of course, I never actually owned it. So what the heck am I saying?
In the far past I enjoyed that road. It took me from the farm to my town, where I went to high school. There I’m calling the town mine too.
Yes, back then I considered it my town. Besides school, we (my late parents and I) went to that town on Saturday nights for visiting and buying groceries and selling cream from our dairy cows. It gave me the chance to visit friends, throw green apples at the back door of the bar on the south side of the street, and, at the young age of 12 to about 16, I was able to lust after the girl—who walked the streets arm-in-arm with some other guy—who didn’t know I was alive. Other girls knew but not the one I wanted. But girls are not what this post is about.
It’s about “things we miss and things we long for,” which is the tentative title to my possible second autobiography. Some friends have asked me to write another one like the first one. My answer is always, “But I have only one life story.” But maybe that’s not true. A lot has happened since the first one.
Back in those early days, besides a creamery (which also served as the local telephone exchange) the town had two well-stocked groceries (well, one wasn’t too well-stocked, and quite often sold food way past prime, but that’s another story) a full-service gas station and garage, a bulk-fuel supplier, a hardware store, a lumber yard, a grain elevator, two rowdy bars, a cafe, and what was called a fire hall which also served as a community center and American Legion meeting hall.
All that with a population of only about 200 people, plus the surrounding farms. Back then there were a good number of farms. Not so many today. Today many farmsteads have been burned, bulldozed, buried, and agribusiness has mostly taken over…not necessarily a happy, good, thing.
Today that town has only the post office, the elevator, one bar, a church, and one business that has nothing to do with the idea of “community.” The brick school house was torn down to make room for a house, and the road going south from the school was totally destroyed to make room for bedroom-community housing. I miss the school because it was my school. I miss the road because it served for my one and only nature field trip led by a teacher who I admired.
Getting back to why I called that road my road and my town, well, I loved it there. I loved the town and its people, and I loved driving that road because I knew everybody who lived along that seven and one half miles. Today some of the farmsteads are still there but I know nobody living in them, not many in the town either. That would be a good reason for saying it’s no longer my road and my town, but it’s not the reason.
The real reason is because I have to pass what used to be my parent’s farm, and what would have become my farm. A half mile away I can still see some of the trees. Sometimes I’ll forget to look, but that doesn’t help my heart. I know it’s there whether I look or not, and knowing that…well, it no longer breaks my heart, but my heart becomes heavy, all the way to town and all the way back.
I suppose I could go 28 miles out-of-my way and avoid that heavy-heart feeling, but that’s a lot of extra gas. And I would know why I’m going all that distance. So, instead of only 15 miles of heavy heart it would be 28. I deserve to go down that road. I deserve that heavy heart because I allowed my dad to sell that farm, I even told him I didn’t want it.
Since then I have changed my mind at least one hundred thousand times.
Because I have rural delivery, only a few times per year do I need to visit the post office.
So, with heavy heart I will continue traveling that road that’s no longer mine.
I’m not alone with my heavy heart. Thousands, millions of people have left farms and other homes and places they loved, and once it’s left there is no returning.
The country lanes pictured in the video are not like my road in the text. There are no tunnels, no redwoods, no ocean, no rest stops on the road I used to own, but for the thousands of people with memories of places left behind, maybe here in this video is a memory or two for them.