Life at the end of the road

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer April 05, 2013 11:21 am

I’ve always felt most comfortable being on the edge of things. 

Perhaps you do too. Goodness knows, dry side of Oregon places like Cove and Imnaha, Troy and Flora, are, if not at the end of the road, far enough off the beaten track to miss most of the hubbub of life. 

Growing up in Crooked Creek, on the wet side of Oregon, I lived near the end of a county road. Back in the 1960s, the road was gravel and arrived at a dead end a couple of miles up the box canyon from my home. There was no through traffic. Either you lived there, you were visiting or you were lost.

Grandma, who lived a mile closer to the end of the road, would take note of a rare car going by and peek out the window. Most times it was someone we knew, not a creepy crawly.

Later, when the road became paved, more houses were built and more people drove back and forth. The city was 16 miles away. Occasionally, they let the city folks out for recess. 

But it was still mostly locals going about their business and not strangers on a Sunday drive or out for mischief.

The box canyon was a storm catcher, and we got 66 inches of rain a year. Once or twice a year, it would snow, or the wet crud we called snow, there. The road would be an icy mess for a day or two. Then it would warm up and the snow would disappear. 

The road would be washed clean.

Life was quiet, mostly, at the end of the road. Most sounds would be self-generated. A lawnmower. A chainsaw. A tractor. Most stress would also be self-generated. If our blood pressures were high, it was because we had spent too much time watching the TV nightly news, from the outside world, the parade of fires, crimes and accidents. It was because we sprinkled too much salt on our meat and had a bit of potato with our butter. 

Today, nearly everywhere you go, sometimes even at the end of the road, the world is a noisy place. Car stereos blare out the latest hit songs. TVs fill in the gaps, with 299 channels, many of which involve people arguing over the issue of the day, whether that be Second Amendment rights, gay marriage or the latest on Wynonna Judd and “Dancing with the Stars.” We turned the music down, back then, in the old days, and the TV off, often, since we only got one channel, and that one was filled with ghostly images that added a nightmarish tinge to any fire, crime or accident.

Life at the end of the road was one of sweet dreams and lonely cows trying to make connections with adventurous calves. It was one of kingfishers flying under the radar.

We weren’t afraid of the quiet. We did not have to fill in all the gaps with sound. We cherished the serenity, at the end of the road.