the loss of dirt roads
means no more big marbles rings
or slow-drive washdays;
and, this, more importantly:
neighbors who know each other!
- (I grew up on a dirt road on the cusp of City/County in Central Florida. Hogs across the street just before the great blueberry and blackberry bogs and a drainage canal that would yield minnows and a few tasty mud-bugs (crawfish or crayfish to you sophisticates). Mail delivered at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and even the road grader driver knew to go extra slowly on Wednesday washdays, especially in Summer when the clay-mostly road would get all lumpy and bumpy and the fine white sand parched from no recent rain would cloud a woman’s best work and would pulverize we boys’ dirt-clods which we’d later bombard all our front yards – and sometimes ourselves – of a twilight fine Summer’s evening as The Ladies would gather by that umbilicus road to share their dreams and days – ahead and beyond and past. Proud pappas knew to drive slowly regardless of the lack of flutter on the backyard clotheslines: their kin were liable to run between houses and from under trees and shrubs in desperate search of foemen and friend alike. But it was the 15-foot-wide marbles rings stick-drawn in the dirt in which our mostly boys neighborhood would conduct our only authorized form of gambling: playing keepsies on Cedar Avenue whose North-South truncated (because of a swampy woods just two blocks away to the north, and the new-fangled soon-to-be-four-laned 25th Street to the south, our momentary wars and rages conducted amicably over the meaning of two knuckles high rulings and arguments about a “shooter” not making it outside the ring’s encompassment and whether a bumbie or a peewee was legitimate fodder. We raised pheasants and later racing and tumbling pigeons in our back yard behind a screen of sour-root oranges and had a massive garden – kept down on the available grass needing mowing sometimes every four days in high – and wet – Summer. I came home from Vietnam – my head swathed and my heart roiled – and saw they had paved my little two blocks (which would make four if it were properly divided) and there sat a Catepillar D-Something-or-other sitting in silent slumber at the intersection of Cedar and 25th Street, issuing its insolent challenge: Play marbles on this!)