The Coming of the Roads

November 26, 2013 - 11:00 AM

It was in the day before the super highways crisscrossed the length and breadth of the land and the two lane blacktops ran through the rural areas passing through every little town and crossroad along the way, where most of the lights were out by 10 at night, and the folks were all in bed resting up for another day of hard work.

I can't recall exactly where I was, somewhere in rural Louisiana I think it was, but it was late at night. My gas gauge was listing far to the left, and there was nothing but dark highway and cotton fields, and I knew I would soon be sitting beside the road out of gas and out of luck.

I drove up to a small country store with a gas pump, but nobody was there to sell me any fuel. I did something that was perfectly logical in those days. There was a pay phone outside the store. I called the local police department, described where I was, asked the name of the person who ran the store, looked it up in the phone book, called the gentleman, who promptly got out of his bed, came to the store and sold me a tank of gas and wouldn't accept an extra penny for his trouble.

And not only that, he was courteous and helpful, never uttered one complaint about being roused out of his sleep in the wee small hours, pumped our gas, wished us well and headed back to his bed.

Why do I remember this obscure late night event from my distant past so totally insignificant in the general scheme of things? Because it reminds me of an America that doesn't exist anymore and the people who made it what it was.

The coming of the super highways, 200+ channels of television, cell phones, all-night convenience stores and all the other accouterments that have sprung up to service our ever expanding 24-hour a day civilization has certainly made life much easier. The internet and cell phones have placed the world at our fingertips, and it's possible to traverse the globe in days instead of months now.

The planet has shrunk. The mega markets have put most of the corner groceries out of business. The neighborhood drugstores that made the greatest milkshakes in the world have given way to chains of national pharmacies that don't even have a soda fountain, and the little country store with one gas pump has been replaced by a well lit convenience market with three islands of fuel pumps selling everything from burritos to chewing tobacco.

New agricultural technology and planting and harvesting equipment have made it possible to farm hundreds of acres of crops, decimating the small family farm where a man raised a family on a few acres of ground with a mule and a plow.

I remember when Saturday in a small rural town was about the grandest thing that could happen to a country boy – the one day in the week when work stopped at noon and everybody went to town. The ladies went to do the weekly grocery shopping, the kids to the drugstore for ice cream and on to the movies to catch the weekly black and white western, and the men to benches on the courthouse square to spit and whittle and talk about the price of fertilizer and a six point buck somebody brought down last week.

Saturday was a social event, and Sunday was a day of rest when the only thing operating in a small town were the churches and maybe one place to buy gas.

Now the folks who still live in the country just stop off at 7-Eleven and pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk and drive in to the supermarket to buy their groceries any time during the week they want to. The kids stay at home on Saturday and play with their X- Boxes or text on their cell phones, and except for not having to go to school, Saturday is just another day.

Now don't get me wrong, I take advantage of all the new conveniences and technologies. I love being able to get all the Sunday NFL games on TV and communicating with people around the planet with a few keyboard strokes.

The exponential advances in medicine have saved untold millions of lives, and I have been one of the people to reap the benefits. The interstate highways have made the life of a traveler like myself much easier.

So I'm not complaining at all about the new America. Sometimes I just miss the old one. What do you think?

Pray for our troops and the peace of Jerusalem.