Recently I have been working on a series of short stories based on a family that lives along a dirt road in North Carolina. The series is loosely based on my neighbors as along with them 'I live on a dirt road'.
There is a belief that those who live on dirt roads are poor or at the bottom of the human heap and in many cases this belief would be true. The road I live on remains dirt because of the way North Carolina property laws are written.
The road I live on is over 10 miles long and only 1 mile of it is unpaved. In North Carolina all the residents on a stretch of road have to agree to giving up about 3 feet of their property to allow a road to be properly paved. On the section I live on one family refused to give up those 3 feet so we remain unpaved. The laws governing this are old and, I am sure, written at a time when people feared having their land usurped by the government. I can understand this and as a renter have no standing in this battle that plays out every winter.
The most inconvenient thing about living on a dirt road is the constant battle against 'dust' that is fought 24/7. I might add here the the battle is never ending and unwindable. If you were to drive this section of road one thing would jump out at you. Almost every car is white or a light color to hide the dust. Unfortunately my car is a dark green and requires rinsing off every time I drive it.
The key to living here is your neighbors as I am sure it is every where. But in a place like this, where everyone knows everyone else by first name, having good neighbors is a key to a relaxed living atmosphere.
My neighbors, on either side of me, are as different from each other as people can be but in both their cases I could not ask for better people.
My neighbors to the east of me are a young couple, both being 20 years old, who have a 3 month old girl and are struggling to make ends meet. The young wife stays home with the baby as any job she can find would barley cover the day care expenses. Staying home is the best choice. Her young husband works for a fast food restaurant as an assistant manager. Low pay and long hours with little chance of advancement.
They do not own a car so I drive him to work almost every morning at 2 or 3am. It's an inconvenience but in a place like this it is the right thing to do. I even drove them to the hospital the night the baby was born.
They are good people and have become like my son and daughter. It is funny how having someone to help take care of gives me a sense of joy. I believe that I get as much out of helping them as they get from me. I have even moved my dog pen closer to their house so she can keep watch at night.
Now my neighbor to the west of me is a freaking mess that has wasted most of his life in a liquor bottle. These days he only drinks beer but he drinks an 18 pack of beer every day. EVERY DAY!!!
And even with all the beer he still manges to get to work and actually never misses a day. He works about 6 hours a day, spends $140/week on beer and cigarettes and is drunk and asleep by 6pm every evening.
He has a habit of falling asleep in his recliner and is so loose that he slides onto the floor and sleeps the night there. I find him there most nights when I check on him late evenings. I check because he also has a habit of falling asleep with a cigarette in his hand. I was gone a week to Florida, last December, and I really did not expect him to be alive when I got back. Some how he managed to stay alive. The grace of God I guess.
But if I ask him for help doing something around my house he is always ready to help in any way.
When I lived in New York City I never knew my neighbors. It seemed that we went out of our way to avoid contact with each other. It is impossible to live like that on thus dirt road. People are always stopping to chat with you about everything form their arthritis to how well the cotton crop is doing.
Mowing my lawn, if I were left alone to get it done, takes about 2 hours. But on this road the second you step out of your house my neighbors find reason to visit and mowing takes twice as long.
I would not have it any other way!!!