They dragged the ditches a few weeks ago. They hauled their big, noisy, mustard yellow machines out to my edge of the county — the imaginary line separating Bulloch from Evans — and set about scooping every imaginable form of detritus from the long, open graves. Once exhumed, the roots and rocks, broken bottles and aluminum cans, plastic bags with faded logos, were tossed into — and left in — the middle of the road.
I am not complaining. The cost-benefit analysis that one constantly makes or finds being made on one’s behalf when one chooses to live in the country makes it pretty clear that, between the two choices, dragging the ditches is the lesser of two evils.
One option is to allow the ditches to slowly fill with the leaves and vines and fallen branches, a choice which will eventually result in leaving the rain nowhere to drain, no way to reach the creek, and in creating what I like to think of as a combination of "Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride" and the Log Jamboree without the expense of a trip to Orlando or Six Flags. The other option is the aforementioned dragging, which leaves the road temporarily lumpy and littered with hazards that, not avoided, can puncture a tire or knock off a muffler and feeling like — to continue with the theme park metaphor — something akin to the Dahlonega Mine Train.
And, so, the ditches got dragged.
It was a beautiful afternoon, one of those 70-degree days that made us think Gen. Beauregard Lee had, at long last, entered his dotage and couldn’t tell his shadow from a hole in the ground, and Owen and I had ventured well over a mile from home. He kept running on ahead and I kept stopping to examine the items that had been left in our path. The road turned into a veritable archaeological dig — branches longer than my leg and bigger around, with jagged ends that testified to the storms that had ripped them from their trees; big chunks of concrete, the size of a tabletops; and fewer plastic bottles and beer cans than I would have expected, but still too many.
For a brief moment, recalling a vague image from HGTV of a walkway made of salvage concrete, I actually considered borrowing Daddy’s truck to haul it home. It would not be the craziest thing for which I’ve borrowed his truck, but I released the idea as I remembered the number of loads of pea gravel that cute couple from Mississippi had needed to finish their project. Still, I moved the biggest pieces to the sides of the road, out of the middle where the cars and trucks and four-wheelers might not see them.
The idea I didn’t release, though, the one that followed me home and stuck around was the idea that roads aren’t the only things that need the occasional ditch-dragging, the every-once-in-a-while digging up and tossing aside.
I went to visit some friends the other day. It wasn’t a long visit; it didn’t have to be. We ate well, we laughed and we dragged some ditches. Talked about some things that, over time, have accumulated in dark and damp piles, things that have clogged the water flow. We just threw those things into the middle of the road — the road we still had to walk — and took good long looks at them to decide which ones were harmless enough to leave where they were and which ones needed to be moved.
Because there are some logs, some pieces of concrete that are just too dangerous to leave where they are. Because the next time you head down that same road, you might be in a hurry or distracted; you might not see the log or the concrete or recognize the bad choice.
It’s better then, when you can, to take the time to not just drag the ditch, but clear the road.