The road in from the highway was hilly, narrow and barely graveled. Half rotted timbers from the original log road broke through the dirt in places and the ditches were overgrown with weeds. In spring, buried culverts swelled the road in mounds that looked like beached whales sunning in the middle of nowhere. These bulges remained until the frost completely left the ground then descended to almost level by midsummer only to be heaved up again in the winter. The effectiveness of the culverts suffered as years without proper maintenance passed.
Travelling on the road in the summer produced a cloud of dust that followed a vehicle like the exhaust of a jet engine. With care, two could pass, but it left occupants in a choking, dust cloud for several seconds. It also meant driving nearly blind until the dust settled. Graders came down the road at least once a summer hauling weeds and dirt up from the ditches and spreading a lump of debris on the center of the road, including embedded rocks. These rocks could be as high as 18 inches although it usually was more like14. Passing a grader meant taking a chance driving over the hump and then clinging to the margin of road remaining. Until the grader made its exiting pass the road was practically a one way street.
Soil on the sides of the road varied from sand to clay to black muck. The corner where the concession road broke off to our side road was entirely black muck. One summer a ditch clearing backhoe got sucked in by the muck. In trying to make corrections the rear of the machine slipped sideways and got sucked in even deeper. The hapless operator radioed for help before climbing out of his sinking machine. By the time two large trucks arrived to assist, the rear of the trapped backhoe was barely visible and it had started to tip onto its side. With little room for manoeuvring the men pondered logistics, situated their trucks as effectively as space allowed, and then attached chains from the backhoe to the trucks.
Diesel engines strained unsuccessfully at the load, their exhaust crowding the air with spent fuel, their wheels digging into the logs beneath the surface of the road. Visible tremors hammered the area shaking dead limbs off surrounding trees sending flocks of birds skyward. The backhoe sank further into the muck. The owner arrived and after some discussion he climbed through the muck, and got into the partially submerged cab. The crew balked but the owner pressed them to pull as he revved the backhoe’s sinking engine.
The wheels of the large trucks sent clots of dirt, logs, and stone flying. The owner, his determined face barely visible inside the cab, gunned the backhoe’s engine. Muck started spraying out from behind the submerged machine sinking it deeper. It looked like the muck was about to swallow both machine and man when it suddenly released its hold. The backhoe sprung to the road causing one of the rescue trucks to plunge into the edge of a diagonal ditch. Its liberation was not nearly as dramatic, but the damage to the road during this whole operation was substantial. Two loads of gravel made a cosmetic repair, but the road continued to sink over the remainder of the summer.
Where and when was this road? In a third world country?
No, it was Northern Ontario and it was the road that led to the path into our home in the late 1970’s. That path led to our one room house where we lived with our children, a handful of animals, and a lifetime of memories.