One night last week I was half way listening to the local evening news and thought I heard something about building gravel roads in several counties in South Texas. What? I thought. That can't be right. Why on earth in this modern day would we return to gravel roads? So I checked on the internet for the news article. Yes, I did hear right; in several counties TXDOT wants to convert the asphalt roads into gravel roads. Sounds backwards, but the reason is that they are the counties that are having heavy truck traffic traveling to and from rural oil and gas drilling sites and the asphalt roads can't support the traffic. TXDOT plans to convert about 83 miles in the next few months, provided they get approval from county commissioners.
As I read the article I had a flash back in time, to the time when roads in the country were not paved, they were gravel. Now, I've driven down a few gravel/caliche roads in Texas (and was admonished to stay in the ruts by the man in the passenger seat). But when I think of gravel roads I see the ones of my childhood; rural roads with tiny red gravel that are flanked by banks of that red Mississippi dirt that I love so much.
Visits to either set of grandparents were always accompanied by drives in the country. Sometimes we went to see relatives, sometimes it was a visit to a cemetery (we do that kind of thing in the South) or to just drive by the "old home place". But a lot of the time when we visited my paternal grandparents we were also going out to do some target shooting. Yes, we used real guns and live ammo and the children were allowed to shoot the little .22 pistol with adult supervision.
There were usually too many of us to all fit in one car, so we would load into two cars for our drive. For some reason neither set of grandparents ever had an air-conditioned car. So that meant two cars with windows rolled down, or at least part of the way down, driving down a dusty gravel road. The first car had to drive slowly or it would kick up too much dust. The second car had to travel a good distance behind to avoid a car full of dust; however, it always seemed that the second car had to roll up the windows and still endure travelling through the dust cloud of the lead car. I think that it was usually quietly worked out to put my mother in the first car to keep from having to listen to her fussing about the dust!
Those were good times, just out for a drive, a visit, or a little gun shooting. I always enjoyed the sound of the tires on the gravel and the fresh, country wind blowing in my face as we travelled down the country roads. The memories of those times are priceless to me now. Although I honestly prefer driving on a paved road with the air-conditioning blowing I think the next time I'm in Mississippi I will roll down the windows while driving down a little country road and pretend that it is gravel.