Between our subdivision and town is a gravel road. Just one. It curves its way through fields and rocky hills, over an almost-creek, and toward another subdivision. The beginning and end are far from country; yet the space in between is a slice of rural heaven. Husband grumbles his wish that it be paved every time we use it. But I – I secretly hope it never is. That the gravel road lined by horses and cows somehow never ages. For even in its beautiful Colorado state, this dusty, random path is a nostalgic slice of Kansas.
When I drive it I’m thrown back to childhood. Age five. It is summer and we are going to my cousins’ farm to play. The same farm where I hauled the barn cat under my arm like a football and insisted I always be carried inside because the sweet, harmless dog was somehow terrifying.
I am still five. We have driven a dirt road to Daddy’s childhood home and are now traipsing beyond it through the woods to the river. He knows them both like the back of his hand. Some days we hunt the woods for morel mushrooms. Others we find a sandbar to picnic. Sweat from the sticky Kansas heat molds my shirt to my back. We all smell of bug spray and sunscreen. This is how Daddy was raised – hunting, camping, and fishing on the land just beyond his doorstep. My young mind almost cannot comprehend it, but I am comforted knowing he is so strong and capable. I am proud.
Suddenly I am 15 and learning to drive. There is immense comfort in learning to operate a car without the pressures of city traffic. Dad is constantly reminding me to relax my death grip on the steering wheel. He occasionally reminds me to stop watching the road directly in front of the bumper and is terrified by my square turns, insisting he has never seen someone turn the way I do. It is on a maze of country roads that I learn how to read them – to evaluate the looseness of the gravel, their washboarded depths, and sopping wet edges which bid us closer to companionable ditches. The hills scare me as I approach, filling me with worry that someone will fly over the top right in the middle, taking us out as it goes. Those Eastern Kansas hills. Some rolling and others steep, ensconced between the fields of corn and wheat.
Now I am 17 and a senior in high school. The angst of adolescence pushes me to those roads. Quietly driving them brings solace. They center me as I over-analyze every nuance of this chaotic existence.
I miss those dusty paths. My old stomping grounds. They cause me to crave our little Colorado gravel road. My beautiful reminder of the past. A small, unexpected piece of Kansas to share with my son. It’s a place rich in sunsets much like those of childhood. Shades of pink caress the hilltops and tuck in the fields for a long night’s sleep with Chipmunk softly shushing them from the backseat.
It never escapes me: the beauty. Whether the road pulls me to the past or keeps me solidly in the present, the quintessential allure is always there. Beckoning. Welcoming. Engulfing.
As someone who loves putting a smooth black pen to a crisp sheet of paper, this article about what is lost as handwriting fades gave me mixed emotions. I am thrilled to see someone highlight its importance. At the same time, it saddens me to know its focus in school has faded. Don’t even get me started on my favorite form of handwriting: cursive.