When Grandpa John Was a Kid - Paved Roads Under the Cottonwood Tree

When I was a kid, summers were made for play. A large cottonwood tree in the yard next door shaded the area below the tree so that no grass could grow. This bare dirt space was where my friends and I built our little town with paved roads. Each boy in the neighborhood had a small car that would fit in the palm of his hand that was just right for driving on our roads.

In the 1930ís the use of the city garbage service was optional. My family chose to burn our trash at the back of the yard in a fifty-five gallon barrel. After a few months of trash burning, ashes would fill the bottom part of the barrel. Since these ashes were the same color as cement, we mixed the ashes and sand with water to make concrete for pouring our townís roads. Rain was scarce during the summers of the dust bowl years, so our roads would last for many weeks.

My friends and I would visit any new construction sites within several blocks of my house. We would salvage scraps of wood and bent nails left by the carpenters. A few blows with a hammer would straighten most nails. Wood scraps added structures to our town and were used as forms for pouring our concrete roads. A bridge might be needed to span an exposed root of the cottonwood tree.

I listened carefully to the sounds of cars accelerating away from the driveway in order to master the proper sound effects of motor speeds while shifting through three gears. After once hearing squealing rubber on a quick stop, my car usually stopped that way too. As a boy I never heard any rubber squealing by a car starting up. I suppose even the teenagers didnít want to wear out their tires.

After pouring some roads, my friends and I would wait a day for the hot dry air to firmly bake them. Next all the boys gathered with their cars for a drive. If, after a few days, we tired of driving our cars, we began more construction. The road construction followed by car driving, followed by more construction, went a long ways toward filling the summer days between the ending and the beginning of school.

Copyright 1998 by John C. Westervelt

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