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Road Builder

       Before I went to the first grade I had a lot of free time on hand and not much to spend it on. A favorite toy was a small dump truck about 18 inches long. One spring my dad plowed a field near the house. The weather was very dry for a week or so and the furrows dried up, leaving me a large dusty playground. I needed a road for the dump truck so I found a way to break down the furrows and build a system of small roads. The part I liked best was running along pushing the truck fast as I could so the dust cloud rose realistically like the big trucks. I used to lose track of time because I was so busy inventing my next entertainment. One time I was so absorbed in a project I didn't stop to go to the outhouse until it was too late! This was long after wearing the last diaper. In addition to the embarrassment, there was a lot of hollering going on for a while.
       One of the best toys I ever got for Christmas was a play wagon. In the mid '30s, Christmas meant one toy, so it had to be something you really wanted. A wagon was lots of fun while living on a side hill.  The top of our hill was about 300 feet higher than the lower part. I could drag the wagon to the top and ride for 5 minutes without a stop.  The road where I stopped was nearly level, and the wagon would stop before reaching the main road. I spent hours taking the wheels off and trying oil, then grease, and even udder salve to make the wagon coast farther.

       On our farm we had a large shale pile from a coal mine tunnel dug into the side hill. The shale pile was a great play ground. I graded a road on the shale wide enough for the wagon. The road gave me about 100 feet of incline to gain the speed needed for a good run. The wagon had roller bearings but no amount of grease would let me coast to the main road. Then I got a bike and gave up on the wagon.
       We had backup transportation on the farm. Our biggest pig would walk under us kids if we shelled corn between our legs. Then we would sit down quick and hang on. Pigs may be fat but they can run right out from under a skinny farm boy. The best ride on the farm was on the buggy axle. The front axle from an old horse drawn buggy was easy to push up the hill. We learned to sit on the axle and steer it by slapping the spokes with our hands. I didn't have to build roads for the pigs or buggy axle, and they went pretty fast without grease.
       The main transportation for the family was a farm wagon until 1940. The wooden spokes and iron tires left no rock unnoticed. When dad ran over a rock on the road to town, we kids would bounce about a foot in the air. We had to maintain our own road. Every couple years some men got together and hauled shale from our pile to the road. The rain washed it away in a few months. When I was twelve I had a Ford truck named the Greyhound.  It became my job to haul shale to the road. Along about then the town took over the road maintenance and the shale was almost gone. 

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