On the road … I s’pose

The Compass - - Editorial - Harold Wal­ters Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville. He thinks it’s cool to live in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. He does not think it cool to live in a prov­ince that taxes books. Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@gmail.com

Ah, the Ore­gon Trail. Amer­i­can set­tlers fol­lowed it west. Shut your eyes and picture it — cov­ered wag­ons strung out across the plains like … well, like wagon trains. And like a choo-choo train’s wheels fol­low­ing the fixed course of steel track, the wag­ons’ wheels fol­low the fixed route of axel-deep ruts.

For­get the ruts in the Ore­gon Trail and con­jure up im­ages of rut­ted roads closer to home.

Right. Any high­way here in Ball’s Room, eh b’ys?

For the set­tlers trudg­ing along the Ore­gon Trail, heavy rain meant trou­ble — the ruts be­came axle-deep chan­nels of muck in which wheels stogged and oxen and mules bogged down.

Rain is a boon to trav­ellers in Ball’s Room. It makes the ruts more vis­i­ble. Driv­ers can fit their au­to­mo­biles’ front wheels into the high­ways’ bab­bling brooks, en­gage cruise-con­trol at less than hy­droplane speed, and trust the wa­ter-filled chutes will guide them to their des­ti­na­tions.

And that’s with­out on­board Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem de­vices. And that’s with­out any guide­lines on the road.

“Harry, the life-of-my-high­way honey,” says Dear­est Duck from the back­seat, so to speak. “Are you beat­ing a dead horse, or ox, or mule, as the case may be?”

“You’m funny, my Duck,” say I.

True though, eh b’ys? For most of the year there are no well-de­fined high­way lines. Oh sure, now and again — ac­cord­ing to Govern­ment Pol­icy I sus­pect — if the weather is suit­able [!] paint crews chug along in trol­leys and spray-paint some pas­tel wa­ter­colours par­al­lel to the ruts in the as­phalt.

A cou­ple of heavy sum­mer show­ers later, the lines have washed away with the cur­rents.

I con­fess, fol­low­ing the ruts along a sin­gle lane high­way isn’t so aw­ful. It’s al­most com­fort­ing.

The hor­ror is seen in mul­ti­ple lanes and ma­jor in­ter­sec­tions where the ruts roil and churn like the white-wa­ter con­flu­ences of mighty rivers.

Mark my words, some­day some­one will fall over­board and drown at such a cross­road.

“You might be mix­ing metaphors, Harry my love,” says Dear­est Duck.

“What odds, my Duck,” say I. “I never could fig­ure out that stuff. It’s like po­etry or some­thing.”

Switch­ing gears — kinda — and prob’ly mix­ing those fig­u­ra­tive chum­mies again.

Switch­ing to pot­holes, the cav­i­ties into which the high­ways’ rivers pour like cataracts.

There’s a se­ries of those quarry-like pits di­rectly in front of our house. I’m con­stantly cau­tion­ing Dear­est Duck to steer [!] clear of them for fear los­ing her to the Un­der­world.

I wit­nessed the fol­low­ing event with my own two eyes.

“Harry, some re­dun­dancy there,” say Dear­est Duck. “Stop it … my Duck.”

A dump truck struck one of those pot­holes with such a jolt that por­tions of its un­se­cured load bounced free and crashed into the road.

Maybe the driver was un­aware of the pot­holes. Maybe he was driv­ing too fast. He surely should have had his load se­cured.

What­ever the case, when he climbed from the cab and stood on the crater’s rim, a cop car was parked a safe dis­tance from the edge and a po­lice of­fi­cer, ticket pad in hand, ap­proached.

Tick­eted, and forced to prop­erly se­cure his load un­der a makeshift tarp, the truck driver jock­eyed the truck’s trans­mis­sion back and forth and even­tu­ally wrenched the ma­chine from the pot­hole and drove on down the road — slowly — care­fully skirt­ing the chain of canyons ex­tend­ing to the hori­zon.

“He should have watched where he was go­ing in the first place,” says Dear­est Duck, not one to sym­pa­thize with heed­less­ness.

“That’s not the point, my


And b’ys, that’s not the end of that pot­hole story.

The next day a high­way re­pair crew showed up on the scene, walked out to the pot­hole’s crum­bling lip and peered into its maw.

Af­ter brief con­sul­ta­tion, one of the crew re­turned to their pickup and fetched a mea­sur­ing pole. He walked the pot­hole’s perime­ter, check­ing the var­i­ous depths and jot­ting them on a tally sheet.

A sec­ond worker went to the pickup and re­turned lug­ging a sack of as­phalt patch — the kind you can buy in a 50-pound bag at Kent for un­der $20 — and emp­tied it into the pot­hole.

Fol­low­ing the grad­u­ated mea­sure­ments on the pole the crew, in­dus­tri­ously rak­ing the as­phalt and tamp­ing it down with a shovel, pro­ceeded to patch one end of the pot­hole. Truly, one end of the pot­hole! “Harry, you are ex­ag­ger­at­ing.” B’ys, would I do that? Thank you for read­ing.

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