My wife had only one rule for finding a new house.
“It has to be on a tar road,” she said.
“How about concrete?” I asked.
She thought about that. “Okay,” she said, “I can be flexible.”
“Why a tar road?”
“Because,” she said, “I have always lived on gravel roads and I am tired of the dust.”
I could see that.
So we bought a place that had everything we wanted: a two car garage, a laundry on the first floor, a finished basement, a pond, a pasture and a large shed to store all of our stuff but best of all, it was not on a gravel road.
Our township begs to differ.
They insist the road is gravel but that is not what I see. I have examined the road carefully and have yet to find a single pebble: an essential ingredient for something to be called gravel. In fact, I have yet to find anything large enough to be called a grain of sand.
What we live on is a dirt road. More accurately, a dust road – and the dust loves to fly.
It chases cars and runs down pickup trucks. It tags after grain carts and hitches rides on tractors. It even follows me when I walk my dog. It is not so much a road that we live on as a cloud, a man-made meteorological event that shifts with the breeze, mingles with the fog and stains the bellies of passing clouds.
Because our road is a frequent flier, the township maintains a futile program to replace what has blown away. To that end, a constant convoy of bottom-dumping trucks roars past our house laying down a contrail of dust – one so thick, so wide, so high and so permanent that the Minnesota Geological Survey is debating whether to give it a name.
The end result is that we live in a monochrome world: one painted only in shades of beige.
Our house is the color of a waffle; our yard, the shade of a bran-muffin – even in winter. Our cars are the hue of dry bones and our driveway looks like it was cast from crumbled crackers. We dare not wash anything because when the dust sticks to a wet surface, it forms the basic recipe for concrete.
So why did we move here?
We met our neighbors and we liked them.
Good neighbors can make up for a lot of negatives and these people are great neighbors. They never fail to wave as they pass by. They stop to talk when we meet on the road. They are always willing to lend a hand and ask for a hand when they need one.
You couldn’t ask for better.
Still, the dust is beyond ridiculous and I talked to one of my neighbor about it. He has lived here all his life and he gets twice the dirt that we do.
“I like living on a dirt road,” he told me.
“Why is that?” I asked him.
“Because, ” he said, as we both turned to avoid a cloud of dust rolling across his yard, “you have to be a special sort to put up with it. On a tar road, you get everybody.”