At The Farm GateDusty Truth
A West Coast cousin is guaranteed to call out “rush hour,” when more than one car passes the farmyard during our annual game of wiffle ball. Since childhood, we have played a ball game every year that our city cousins visit the farm. Now adults, they still poke fun at the traffic pattern of primarily the mailman and some neighbors who wave as they pass.
Back home in the city, my cousins travel well-lit residential streets and expressways. Out here in the heart of farm country, few roads are lined. Certain stretches of our rural roads may become impassable in winter. Road curves can measure nearly 90 degrees, and some intersections of narrow gravel roads lack stop signs, relatively common in Illinois’ most rural, low-traffic settings. That’s just a fact of living in rural, more remote areas.
Urban and rural alike, Illinoisians try to get from point A to point B for jobs, school, business and social events. Road infrastructure proves important to all Illinois businesses with goods to move, families with places to go, and workers with jobs to complete. In an urban setting, people most commonly travel lined asphalt or concrete highways. In rural areas, unstriped blacktops and dusty gravel road connect us to destinations, including the fields that produce food, feed, and biofuels.
The primary difference is that rural roads, generally, are made of less durable materials than urban or high-traffic county roads. And that reduced durability can limit activity. In the late winter and spring when the frost exits the subsoil, rural roads begin to soften and weight restrictions impact the movement of commodities from the farm to market. In the summer heat, oil-and-chipped roads can bleed, demanding more roadchips, or small rocks, to protect the surface.
About a mile south and a bit east of our wiffle ball game, the one-lane bridge sits crooked to the road. The Laura Blacktop near town has a crumbling shoulder. And you’ll want to avoid my road in the thaw of March unless you desire the unofficial title of “most deserving” in the car wash line. While in high school, I wrote well wishes in the gravel grime on my car for our state-bound basketball team. I’m not sure that I made my city cousins jealous.
About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family in West-Central Illinois, where they grow corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cover crops and raise beef cattle, backyard chickens and farmkids.