That old gravel road

It’s one of those houses that’s always been there, except, of course, no house has always been there. Somebody built it. Somebody saw something in nothing, and then with hard work, and with help from friends and family, he built a house there. 

That house became a home and then, a landmark in the community. The long gravel road that cut through the fields in a straight line was like a necklace where each of the houses was a pearl. There were no signs, nobody needed them, because everybody knew which family lived on which farm. The postman knew everybody and everybody knew him, and from a far, they’d seem him riding his bicycle along that gravel road.

They built their houses, and then their saunas and their barns there. Cows got milked, and the chicken and pigs fed. Children were born in those saunas, and bands played wedding songs in those barns. There was the telephone, then came the indoor toilet, the radio and the TV.

They built their houses there, and they farmed their land, and they grew roots that went so deep into the soil that it took generations for them to loosen, and even then, they never really completely disappeared. Like a rubber band, the harder they pulled, the more the roots pulled them back. 

 And at some point, the next generation took over and they built and re-built the houses. They cleared land that hadn’t been cleared before, and they added their own flavour to the farm, following their interests and the frivolities of the times. Where the pigs used to be, there was now a garage, and where the cows had been, a warehouse for … stuff. 

They sent their kids to the same school they had gone to, to be taught by the same teachers they had been taught by. They sent the kids out to play in the same yards, the same fields they had played in, do the same chores and run the same errands they had run at the store they had shopped and worked at. If the store had changed its name, nobody noticed it.

Other things started to change, too. There was a new banker, one who didn’t know where everybody’s money was kept anymore. The postman traded his bike for a car, which was all the same because it wasn’t the same postman. 

And the farm, well, the land took more than it gave and they gave it everything. 

But the roots, they went deep. The sunrises were the same, and so were the sunsets. They could read the winds so they knew when a storm was coming and they knew when the gravel road would be covered with snow so deep you couldn’t see where the ditches were anymore. 

Their houses are still there and the spirit is there, and the road is as straight as it ever was, but the old houses are surrounded by new ones. There are many of them and soon – if not already – those people don’t even know the name of the house in the exact mid-point of the road as they pilot their cars toward the City. They don’t even stop to wonder.  

But those who know, know. 

And we’ll never forget. 

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