Down a Country Lane

Happily, around the Island, there are still many dirt roads. These unpaved roads usually meander and tend to pass through pine and scrub oak woods. Sometimes, of course — particularly if they are not well traveled — poison ivy grows on the middle crown and explorers on foot must watch out for it. But walking down a dirt road through the woods, hearing the birds sing, the pines sough, the oaks creak and finding wildflowers and berries to pick is well worth the hazard.

Sometimes a beach is at the end of a dirt road. Or at the end of a truly untrammeled dirt road there may be an abandoned structure — a house, shed or barn with floorboards that squeak when they are stepped on and doors falling off their old hinges. As the Vineyard becomes increasingly populated and more and more out-of-the-way places are discovered and set aside for modern house sites, there are fewer such mysterious structures, but they can still occasionally be found.

Dirt roads can also pose a danger to car exhaust systems and if they are stony, they are not good for car tires. Dirt roads without runoffs develop deep puddles after a rain and are not inviting, especially for shiny new automobiles.

But dirt roads never were meant for cars. Most, originally, were designed for horses and wagons in an era when it took more time to get places. It seems a pity when cars take these roads over and drivers demand that they be modernized, substituting ground-up blacktop for old-fashioned dirt. As the dirt roads disappear, so does the art of maintaining them with a tractor, an art which every old farmer used to know.

And as more of these roads disappear, so too does a little of the magic of the Vineyard.