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Going up the country



When we first found our four-room, wood-stove-heated little house at the end of a rutted, packed clay drive in 1972, the road that led home wasn't paved. I had an old, faded maroon Volkswagen van with a roll-top roof, a platform bed, a 6-volt battery and what must have been a dozen windows. Going down a few of the hills, I'd floor it just to ensure I could make it up the other side. After heavy rains, I'd simply park the van. It couldn't handle those slippery inclines. Once, I didn't park it so well, so it rolled through a cornfield, just missing a little creek.

With all of its twists and turns, our road offers plenty of bucolic views and blind spots. It's in those blind spots that people dump all kinds of stuff. An old television set or washing machine, or a truck bed full of roofing tiles, or a litter of puppies: You name it, we've seen it, straddling a ditch, surrounding a stump. It takes about three minutes, I figure, to pull over to the side and off-load about anything.

It's getting hard to find the time. When it was a dirt road, you couldn't drive faster than 40 miles an hour and get from A to B in one piece. Now paved, though, the road is a speedway. Appropriately, on a good day, when the wind was right and they were still racing out there, you could hear the cars at the nearby old Orange County Speedway. But faster traffic means less time at your preferred blind spot. You've got to be quick while unloading all of your ex's stuff these days. It's, after all, a crime.

But I'm not totally dumping dumping. It has purpose. A few days ago, in fact, a guy was wandering the roads with a GPS system, mapping an old Indian trading path from Roxboro to Hillsborough. It curled right around our row of power lines. After main roads overtook old trading paths, local farmers used those old roadways as dumps. Look around and you'll find piles of old Mason jars and rusted-out trash burners.

Plus, out here, we're holding on to our clunkers. There are four kinds of pickup truck drivers: the speeders, the dumpers, the hunters and the recyclers. Most of us are members of at least two of those groups. The other day, for instance, somebody backed in three truckloads of tree debris to an abandoned driveway. On an overcast Saturday morning, I took possession of their mess—a massive mound of sawdust, limbs and quartered stumps of white oak. It took longer to load it than it took to unload it, but I can't wait for the first frost.

Another guy in the neighborhood runs a barbecue business. He must provide the coleslaw, too, as, once a month, there's a nearly empty box of cabbage nestled in the underbrush on one of the road's curves. For chickens used to cracked corn, that cabbage is like ice cream. They just have to get to it in time. And we have to watch out for the blind spots.

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