Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Corduroy Roads, Take me Home

Photo from Google Images

This past weekend, my family and I settled into Caer David, our weekend cabin at my parents place.  Our extended family had gathered from afar to spend a few days together visiting and celebrating my grandmother's 90th birthday.  We shot trap, ran 4-wheelers and played spoons.  We ate bountiful meals together and talked into the wee hours of the morning.  We made new memories and recounted old ones while babies slept and children played.

One afternoon, Maid Elizabeth and Miss Serenity and I went for a walk in the wilderness behind my parents home.  As we hiked on old, forgotten logging roads, we came upon a relic of another era - a corduroy road.  The road was little more than a remnant of rotten old growth timber, but it stood as a testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of the men who had built this country.

Corduroy roads are an old-fashioned remnant of the past.  Years ago, when men needed to move freight (or people) through marshy, boggy, low-lying lands, they built corduroy roads.  They would fell small trees, about 8 to 10 inches in diameter, cut the branches off and lay the trees perpendicular to the roadway.  These roads were usually built in small runs, through the boggy areas of an otherwise solid road.  Corduroy roads were an ingenious solution to a real-world problem, invented by men who depended upon their own resourcefulness.

I was 8 years old when I saw my first corduroy road.  My parents and I were walking behind our back creek on the property my folks had recently bought when we stumbled upon decaying logs on an OLD logging track.  My brother and I ran from one end of the small run of corduroy road to the other trying to figure out what it was.  Who would build such a thing in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere?  And what in the world was it?

Soon, we had our answer.  King, our elderly neighbor, who's parents had homesteaded our land, had helped build those roads as a child.  King's father had logged our property, using horses, nearly 100 years before.  The land has creeks and marshy areas, along with bogs and springs.  King's dad had built a bridge over the creek, using his team of horses to skid old growth Douglas Fir to span the distance so that he could access the timber on the other side.  Once he reached the far side of the creek, he realized that the ground between the creek and the timber was marshy and too wet to haul wagons loaded with logs.  And so, with his son by his side, he built his very own corduroy road.  Log by log, King and his father laid a road born of necessity, a road built by pioneers, both in spirit and truth.

I stood, gazing at that long-forgotten road and realized that it summed up the very values that had been instilled in me since childhood - self-reliance, ingenuity, resourcefulness.  That corduroy road, in its decomposing beauty, encapsulated all that was good and true in our country - in our people.

And now I watch the decomposing beauty of our crumbling society and quietly pray "Corduroy roads, take us home to the place we belong".


  1. we have a couple of sections of swampy trails that we will look into this as a possible solution. TY.

  2. Our intermittently graded gravel roads are frequently the modern version of these..."washboard". They will loosen the bolts on your drivetrain, but lesson the "riff-raff" traffic! Natokadn

  3. I remember walking that corduroy road with you when we were young. What a wonderful memory you brought back to me. Thank you!

  4. I heard that term many times but thought it was just another for 'washboard roads'. Very interesting. And thanks for sharing that story.

    Necessity (and American ingenuity and industrious spirit) was the mother of invention. Today those pioneers would be incarcerated by the government.

    So there, we covered the rise and fall of a once-great nation.
    Montana Guy

  5. Ah - a misplaced memory! Hadn't thought of these in years!! Thanks for the reminder. I am afraid however that the crumbling and rotting of our society will continue unabated...glad I know how the story ends!!

  6. Funny you posted this, we are building a trail to the larger river on our property and I mentioned to my helpful volunteers that we would have to Corduroy the trail in places before we could get the big tractor down to grade the other sections. They all looked at me like I had gone off the rocker... a quick explanation and discussion of the "pants" ensued until I could get the point across!

  7. That's amazing, that it's still there. I love old things,and love how the people then used what they had available

  8. Some of those corduroy roads will filled with gravel and are still in use up here. Every few springs some corduroy will work it's way to the surface on some of our backroads.

  9. In WWII large parts of the Alcan highway to Alaska were built this way - the highway was a rush project because of the fear that Japanese submarines could cut off supplies to Alaska.
    I've never done it, but I've heard that it is a tremendous amount of work.

  10. Enola,

    What a lovely visit and get together with family to celebrate your Grandmother's 90th Birthday. Happy Birthday Enola's Grandmother!!!!

    I so remember the old corduroy roads up north.

  11. I will pray with you. I hope that we, in our worship of that which is shiny and new, convenient and easy, will remember the old ways before it is too late.

    If it isn't already (I sadly think it is-- that spirit has been killed out of too many people).

    I'm glad you had a pleasant visit.

  12. I've seen (and walked/driven across)short bridges over creeks built that way, but not a road. It makes sense, though. Available Materials Engineering. That spirit is still around-it might be in a slightly different form, but it's still around. Or it is here, anyway.The Institute of Advanced MacGyverism has plenty of practioners..