We lived on a dirt road in a remote rural part of the country. It was an election year, so they were paving as many roads as they could squeeze in before the frost. We’d all watched with great excitement all summer long as the huge graders and pavers and whatever-you-call-ems made their way slowly up the road towards our place. Finally, FINALLY, this year it was our turn. Finally, FINALLY, the road would be paved right up to our driveway.
No more getting stuck in the bright red mud every spring. No more mufflers lost to the massive ruts that would freeze overnight so if you had the misfortune of falling into one, getting out was like climbing a mountain. No more having to park your car a mile and a half away on the nearest pavement if you wanted to go somewhere tomorrow and leave anytime after 7:00 a.m., when things started to thaw out and it got too treacherous for an ordinary car.
The only trouble was, the driveway would still be the same old clay. We’d still have to park on the road in the spring, and any time it rained when we got home from a day in the city, we’d still have to change into our gumboots in the car or we’d not only be tracking mud from the car into the house but ruining our city shoes. Such a shame that the paving crew couldn’t make a tiny little detour and just spread a little wee bit of that lovely pavement on our driveway.
Or could they?
We deputized Leonard, who had a way with the locals, to approach them. The rest of us watched from the window of our big old farmhouse as he casually strolled out to the road and located the crew chief, as if he were just out for a walk and was stopping to chew the fat for a few minutes, just being sociable. But soon they both turned to look at the house, pointed here and there, looked at each other again, looked at the house, more pointing, and well, you get the idea. After about ten minutes of this we could see the crew chief starting to nod, as if he was coming around to the idea, and finally we saw Leonard reach into his pocket before shaking hands and heading back to the house. I went to put the kettle on.
The big day finally came, when the great yellow asphalt machine would reach our part of the road. By mid-morning we could see it inching its way from the corner, belching sticky black tar from its rear end, followed by the oversized roller that would seal the stuff to the clay below. By noon, they were at the foot of our hill, ready to do the driveway right after lunch. We took them some our homemade cookies — the ones with regular white flour and the real chocolate chips, not carob — and settled in to watch while we did some necessary weeding.
The machines were so big and the driveway so small that by the time we’d reached the end of one long, sweaty row of broccoli and worked our way back, they were already gone. We nearly ran the rest of the way to the house, past the barnyard, past the leaky old barn, past all the leaky old outbuildings and sheds.
Oh glorious day! There it was, just like they said it would be, a beautiful strip of clean, unmarred blacktop, still steaming, running all the way up from the road so we’d actually be able to get out of the car and into the house without having to step off the pavement, and ending… just ten feet short of the outhouse. Just ten more feet …