Monday, December 14, 2015
Foggy night drive...
If you're like me, you've read the wintry poem by Robert Frost many times. It's one of my favorites. I think of it when I'm out here walking through my woods or driving down the lonely gravel road when it's snowing. It's a peaceful, quiet feeling.
Tonight I drove home from town by myself. The weather was caving in; the air was heavy, frost covered the trees and fences, and there was fog. Heavy fog. Instead of driving on the highway, I decided to go by the road less traveled -- just ten miles of highway and 35 miles of gravel road. With a dense fog, I would rather go it alone on a desolate gravel road than follow lines of semi-trucks and cattle trailers, and pass by speeding oil field workers driving hard back to town.
So as I drove the highway stretch, I thought about all those years when this was the main route that we took before we had a paved road most of the way home. Our old, brown suburban was filled with kids, who sometimes fell asleep, one by one, after a big day in town. There were many foggy, snowy nights when I had to take notice of the landmarks, bridges, and my odometer to make sure I turned off at the right spot. And then I had to do the same as I meandered along the gravel road home. Tonight was like that. There were few landmarks in the fog, but it's funny how easily the mind remembers the ebb and flow of the road, the twists and turns, and the fences that are there for a while and then a car gate comes up and the fence disappears into open range.
I took my time tonight. I settled back into my seat and relaxed and tried to just enjoy the ride despite the fog that interfered with my sight of the whole road. I put the lights on dim. There was no sense using the brights when all it did was reflect more fog into view. There are only eight ranches on the 35 mile stretch and so I always make a mental note when I pass each homestead just in case I have car trouble and must walk; or if I have cell service, I could tell someone where I am. It also helps me to remember how the road lays in between places. There are lots of curves in this road, but at least on the South Dakota side, there are a few road signs that tell a driver what's coming up. It's helpful, but I know the road and its ways by heart.
On this December night there were no windows rolled down, no sound of meadowlark trills, no green grass blowing in the wind, and no earthy sagebrush aroma to breath in. Just fog, the road, and a few white jackrabbits darting across the road. I remembered that there were a few black cows along the Sloan Lane and slowed down a little just in case they came into view. I saw a couple cows off to the side, but thankfully none were on the road. Upon crossing into Montana, the old road narrows into more of a trail, and the yellow road signs disappear. It feels more and more desolate and yet familiar as I get closer to home. I like that feeling. A ways further down the road I remembered that our neighbor had taken in some sheep. There are no fences where they roam so I slowed down again to watch for them. More jacks dart across the road, popping out from tall clumps of frosty grass. Another ranch is identified with each set of thu-wumps I feel as I cross another car gate. I know exactly where I am. Just a little closer to home, and now the fence comes back to the roadside. Our fence. I know the sharp turns of the road here. I ride down into the curves. If it was snowy I'd drive high on the curves to avoid plowing into deep snow, but not tonight. The lights from our ranch and the homes below appear as tiny, blurred candles in the dark, foggy night. Closer, and I can see the yard lights and Christmas lights that outline the wood shop and homes. Soon I come up to the mailboxes and see the Star on the Barn and turn in. There's nothing like driving down the road into our place. I get out and the dog greets me with a joyful whine and much tail wagging. There are chickens to tend to. There will be birthday cake tonight for a special Grandboy who is ONE year old! It's good to be home. There's no place like it!