The Ohnward Fine Arts Center Presents:
On Those Clay Roads
There was uncertainty in declaring a trip to town, to the neighbors, etc. because the weather, affecting the mud roads played a leading role in transportation.
All the side and main roads were dirt roads, which meant a heavy set of chains must be put on the hind wheels before you backed out of the garage. Often a link in the cross bar of the chains disengaged and kept a forceful clicking against the fender makin such a noise it was impossible to hear anyone talking in the car.
The roads were very narrow and a frightful stretch of road called the Rock Cut was the tough road when we traveled south from our home. Why? It was a one way road and you could not meet another vehicle as there was not enough room to pass - so before you entered the rock cut, that is if it was a good day and someone may be coming north, you would shut off the switch to listen if another car was approaching. Then you started up the motor and hurried through to be the one car on that stretch.
One night the lights plunked out just as we entered the rock-cut going north. It was very dark so my brother stood on the running board of the car and swung his leg out so his foot could touch the bank this assuring we were close enough for safety If he called, “Pull left,” we knew we were too far to the right and might slide down a steep bank - and into a creek, but somehow we managed and got home safely.
Social life was greatly affected by this road condition. The good old Melleray dances might be postponed, or expected company would cancel, and second best clothes were always worn, as we might have to walk miles in the sticky mud to get home. But this was sometimes averted by a check on the clouds and listening for thunder at intervals all evening.
But the old side-curtains must not be forgotten. These were made of canvas with small insinglass peek holes, which were very easily broken. As soon as the shower was over the curtains were folded carefully andput under the seat. The shoemaker would replace these isinglass pieces at a reasonable price.
We knew when winter was near, as the man from Peosta never failed to drive the cattle home from the pasture after a rain, and the next a.m. it froze, and we jerked over the rough cow tracks all winter.
Of course if the car couldn’t go, the horses could be hitched to the buggy and taken, as nothing would stop this social undertaking.