30 Days of Dirt Roads: My Dirt Road Roots


First off, my apologies for missing two installments of 30 Days blogs.

I’ll be completely honest though.  The last few days have been difficult.

Thursday afternoon I got a phone call telling me my Gram had suffered a massive heart attack and they weren’t sure she’d make it.  There are 18 long hours & some pretty sketchy roads between where I am and where she is.  So the last two days have been spent on the phone almost constantly, communicating with various family members, coordinating schedules, deciding whether to hit the road, or sit tight and wait for the next consult with the doctors.

We’re still in a holding pattern.  And Gram is holding her own for the time being.

But it seemed like the perfect time to write a blog about my Dirt Road Roots.  It’s one of the only blogs I’ll ever write without pictures….because no picture could ever do justice to the pictures in my mind.  Hopefully though, in sharing the very sweetest memories of my childhood,  I’ll be able to paint a picture in your mind too.

Until I was 5 years old, my maternal Grandparents lived in a homestead barn-turned-shack in the backwoods of Northern Idaho.

There was no running water, no indoor plumbing, no heat, no a/c, questionable electricity, and a wood burning stove for cooking.  Keep in mind, this was the mid-70’s.

And while these conditions were anything but ideal to most– my Grandparents made the most of it.  They made it a home, and raised 3 children in that shack.

But for me, that reclaimed barn was a utopia.  It was a haven.  Magic.

There are so many details etched in my forever memory.  The smell of the wood burning in the pink cookstove.  I remember Gram opening the door & hanging a towl to warm.  Then wrapping me in it and a big bear hug when my bath was done.  That bath, was in a metal washtub with water heated on the stove.  No indoor bathroom.

I remember pink wallpaper with silver sparkles in the room with the bed piled with quilts.  Peeking out from under those quilts in the frosty morning and my breath hanging in the air.

I remember the sound of rain on the tin roof.  I insisted on a tin roof in our own house because the sound is so soothing to me.  (I did stop short of pink wallpaper with silver sparkles though!)

I remember trips to the outhouse in the night, Gram leading the way with a flashlight.  It was a two-holer…pretty luxurious by outhouse standards… and Papa had built a small version of the adult models for little bums.  I remember feeling so proud on that little chair, built just for me.  Even at that age, even in the outhouse, I knew how cherished I was.

And I remember the porch.  That porch was a portal to everything good.  It’s timeless in my mind.  The wood planked floor.  The old Maytag wringer washer.  Stacked firewood.  Fishing poles.  Pepper and Julie, the dogs, wagging & wiggling their greeting.  A faint light coming from the little window to the house.  And the smell of burning wood, pine trees, Grams garden, dogs, and whatever was baking in the house.

The thing I remember most though, is the feel of that place… that moment in time.  It was warmth and goodness and kindness.  It was safety and security.  It was a cloak, protecting me from the scary imaginings of a 5 year old mind.  It was love and contentment.  It was happy.  It was where my innocent child’s face met God.

And leading to all this….was my first Dirt Road.

Turning off the blacktop that led from town.  My little hands clapping.  Gravel crunching.  Bouncing on the seat.  Mom’s window down to smell the pine.  Barely contained euphoria.  The light & shadows from the trees playing peek-a-boo on the narrow path.  Laughing…we’re almost there!  Shoes on, poised, ready to leap from the car.  Then the last turn…I can see it!

Crossing the wood bridge across the little stream, the tires thunk thunking.  Gram & Papa waiting there.  Hugging, crying.

And the dust from the Dirt Road.

I was baptized in that dust.  An eternal child of rural roads.

I’ve never traveled a Dirt Road I regretted.  There’s always been something good waiting at the end.

But there will never be a road like that first Dirt Road.  And never a memory like the one at the end of that first road….

Thanks so much for reading the 30 Days of Dirt Road series here on the Farm.  I’ll keep up as much as I can over the coming days.  And I promise to make up the missed posts before the 30 days are up!

There’s lots of other great ’30 Days’ reading to keep you occupied here though from these great blogs.  Give them a look.

And I’ll see you soon on the Farm (and on a Dirt Road!)   -Shauna

8 Responses to "30 Days of Dirt Roads: My Dirt Road Roots"
  1. Such talent for descriptive writing and a tribute any grandparents would cherish. Hopefully someone was able to read this to your Gram.

    • Thank you, Brenda! It’s easy to write about what moves you. I’m sending a copy to her in the mail, but it’s a great idea to have someone read it to her…I’ll get that set up. Thx!!

  2. My most remembered dirt road was covered in snow when I was a boy. My family of 7 (Mom & Dad and 4 siblings) were returning from a visit to our relatives farm on the prairies, we went for Christmas but had to return to Calgary on boxing day. We were about 1 hour into our trip and got hit by a blizzard, the road became impassable and after becoming bogged down Mom & Dad started talking about sleeping in the car and hoping we could stay warm. We were letting the car cool down then starting it up to get it warm enough to stay alive, it was the second set when out of the blowing snow came the head lights of a very big John Deere tractor. He hooked up to the car and took us to his home just over the rise. They had seen the headlights of the car from their second story and they came out to get us. They treated us to one of the nicest Christmas treats we had ever had. We were welcomed to the nicest warmest farmhouse I can remember to this day! Their family had been prevented from coming to visit because of impassable dirt roads and we became their surrogate family for that winter. These farmers will always be remembered in my heart til the day I die.Dirt roads and farmers what a team. Keep up the good work Shauna I love to read your blog as well as some of my Asian second family.

    • Don, that is an amazing story! It makes me feel all warm & fuzzy that complete strangers took your family in like that. I can certainly understand why they’ll always hold a place in your heart. Thank you so much for sharing it with us..and thanks for reading! Please send our greetings to your Asian family as well!

  3. This brought tears to my eyes, and you are correct. No photo was needed to picture this place of your childhood. My first dirt road led to my grandmother’s house as well, and while it was a bit more modern, the same feelings of safety and warmth were there. Thanks for sharing, and I’ll keep your grandmother in my prayers!

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