IRA MAINE, From his private journal: The New Road.
…all’s changed, changed utterly…’
Of course Mr.Yeats was concerned with deeper more profound stuff than we are concerned with here in the Hills. This is not to say that profundity escapes us, far from it, but our changes, our decline, both physical and mental, came about, absurdly, through nothing but good intentions.
There’s a long dirt road between here and the bitumen. The Shire does its best but revenues are stretched so nobody hereabouts can remember the last time the road had any official attention. Unofficially, an empty trailer in town will drag a load of gravel back up the hill and we road residents will set to with our shovels. We tried sending a bill to the Shire for the gravel but their bureaucracy was so traumatised by this failure of orthodoxy that counsellors had to be found for the Councillors.
When the Council members eventually did recover they established their lines, buttressed their bulwarks and woke us at six in the morning. Roaring and belching behemoths bestrode our road ripping it up with a ferocity that demonstrated the Shire’s absolute dominance over recalcitrant roads ,tracks and boreens. “Take that!” they seemed to say whilst the road cringed, cursed and crumpled under a seemingly unstoppable onslaught. Huge trucks arrived with huge trailers and humped out huge heaps of gravel. More huge machines set about the gravel heaps, heaving and hauling, pushing and shoving ‘til the road was a new and stranger thing, reborn, rebuilt and unrecognisable.
It took us a while to get over the shock. It was like the aftermath of an earthquake. This new road didn’t have sharp bends, deep holes or swampy bits. There was, as a consequence, nothing familiar about it, nothing to grasp onto, nothing to trust. For a couple of days people didn’t go out, simply stood at their front fences and looked. Others, perhaps a bit more nervous, threw exploratory rocks at it. It took a while for people to get used to the idea that this road wasn’t going away.
Down at the Haystack it was grudgingly admitted by Father Corrigan, the first local to venture his truck onto the new road, that the risk of winding up in the ditch had definitely been lessened. People nodded in agreement but you could see little enthusiasm in it. They were remembering… thinking of how things had been…especially after rain…
In the rain, in the wet you could bounce along this swamp-pocked road, your heart in your mouth, the suspension groaning, sometimes airborne, sometimes sideways, a plume of mud, water and bits of local agriculture marking your passing. It required grit, true grit, and the surface didn’t have a scrap of it. Wasn’t that how Jack had met his better half, by crashing into her? And not the first romance either, brought about by this rough old bit of road…
What about the time when Mick got a puncture and skidded off into Murphy’s paddock and Father Corrigan was discovered in a compromising position. God bless us and save us, and Mick helpless with laughter having nearly run over them! Remember that?
I think that’s what we all miss. We miss not knowing if you’d be alive or dead before you got to the bitumen. We miss the gut-wrenching odds against having the wheel torn out of your grasp and the car hurtling headlong into the bushes. But most of all we miss the
excitement. For one brief shining moment we were there, at the wheel, us against the elements,Titans, thunderbolts, geriatric Gods, and alive, damn it, alive!