Dene's latest book, Down A Country Lane, inspired a couple of thoughts about our country lane for me, too. (Photos of our real country lane by Katie Whipple Photography.)
Through circumstances too complex to explain here, when we bought our five acres, it was the only piece in about 200 acres with a clear title. This had the great advantage of providing a lot of elbow room for us and play room for the boys. The downside was that I was solely responsible for our 4/10 mile access lane. It was created by driving through what had been open pasture and woods down the right-of-way created by a surveyors plat map.
Florida is sandy. It rains 4" today and you have to water your plants the day after tomorrow. Except, in our area, there is a subsoil strata of clay about 2 feet down. Thus, in a 50 yard long depression between two rises in the lane, the rain collected into a one to two foot deep puddle that took days to percolate through the soil. It had no outlet to run downhill and away. About the time it dried out, it rained again. The car had to be parked outside the puddle. Elsewhere, Dene has written about wading through, drying our legs and going to church and reversing the process to get home. Don't come to us with frivolous excuses for missing church (read that: all excuses are frivolous).
Obviously, I had to do something. Just as obviously, I could not afford equipment rentals. An insurance customer had several dump truck loads of roofing rock from a demolished building. He asked me to take all I wanted. Every night after I finished selling, I stopped and shoveled a load onto my Isuzu pickup and drove home with my nose in the air, front wheels pretending to touch the pavement. Every morning, I shoveled the rock until I had covered that 50 yard area of the drive about 3-4 inches deep. The rains came again and the rock beat into the mud and we had to get the neighbor to pull us out again. And, start wading again.
So, I dug a ditch over 100 yards long to the highway with a shovel. I threw the dirt up into that same Isuzu pickup and hauled it down to the house to landscape to divert the water from running under our DWMH. I shoveled, Dene raked it out. The ditch was 2 shovels wide and was hip deep to cut through the rise but tapered to less than a foot deep at the road. Finally, we had reliable access to our home 22 months after we moved here.
Much of my "training up the boys in the way they should go" came from necessities like this. Of course, the first lesson to them was how important church was to us. You cannot teach your children to love God if every obstacle prevents you from assembling to worship. They follow your example, not your words. Did I mention that we killed about a dozen rattlesnakes and cottonmouths in this same period? During this time, we followed a weak flashlight beam ¼ mile from the puddle to the house. We never missed services due to this inconvenience.
This was roof rock, so it came with nails and pieces of glass. I paid the boys (age 9 and 7) a nickel for each nail they found in the road and a penny for each piece of glass. I stressed how important it was to find them all as we could not afford to buy new tires if one caused a flat. Thus, they learned about working and earning but also with a sense of responsibility toward the family and making a contribution to our survival.
They saw persistence and saw it pay off. More than one person said the ditch could not be done without equipment. The boys learned to never give up by seeing the results. When one thing did not work (the rock) we started another. We never quit.
They saw a father in action caring for his family with all he had. I had no money, limited income, no equipment. But, I did all I could because my family needed me to do so. None of it was heroic. There are no medals, no monuments except those that live on in my two sons.
[This photo shows how much the original road has been built up over the years and the ditch graded out.]