Driveway was a work of art

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer March 04, 2013 09:16 am

The driveway to our ranch home was a work of art and my dad was the artist. He worked in an unusual medium — boulders. 

We lived in heaven. But the driveway was hell.

We moved to the home when I was 4. The six-tenths of a mile driveway followed Crooked Creek as it tumbled down a series of rapids and pools lined with alder trees, blue herons, kingfishers and blackberry vines that could, and sometimes did, hide dead car bodies and herds of cows. 

We were land rich and money poor. The cows were eating us into bankruptcy — or would have had we borrowed money. Instead, we paid for everything in cash. 

Most of what we ate was harvested from our garden or fruit trees, or from the salal and blackberry bushes that grew in profusion along Crooked Creek or in the nearby hills. We got milk from our own dairy cows, and Mom made our soap and gave us haircuts. If we came out of the haircuts looking like the Three Stooges, so be it. The price was right.

The driveway was not graveled with crushed river rock, as were most driveways of our neighbors. Instead, our driveway was lined with boulders mined from the surrounding mountains or taken from Crooked Creek. That was before the days an alphabet soup of agencies governed creek use and abuse. 

Pothole patrol

When potholes developed in the driveway, Dad would load his pickup with boulders and fill them. Potholes, however, always seemed to be one step ahead.

The result was an obstacle course worthy of a rural version of Disneyland. We drove the road at less than 1 mph, riding the brake and work the steering wheel to dodge the worst of the potholes. We had to plan way ahead to make it to church on time, Sundays. 

Visitors invariably broke this unwritten rule. When they came by after dark, we could see their lights bouncing wildly as they negotiated the roller-coaster amusement park ride. Since the driveway was six-tenths of a mile long, even when they were driving too fast for conditions, it gave us time to clean the house, wash the windows and maybe even give the dog a bath.

Mom might even have cinnamon rolls ready for when company finally arrived, the bumpers of their cars tied on with baling wire and prayers. Dad the artist would turn on the outside light and greet them at the door with a big smile. 

The visitors’ eyebrows would remain in a startled position throughout the visit as if they would long remember their exposure to boulder hell.