Early Road Drags
(Page 2 of 2)
About the only recourse the road users had was to "drag" the ruts closed, so that they could then be reopened by the first "rigs" that struggled through.
The United States Department of Agriculture issued a bulletin that gave, in great detail, directions for constructing a road drag.
In brief, it consisted of securing two six-foot long heavy logs, or, better yet, railroad ties, chaining or bolting them together with a platform to hold a few huge field boulders for weight, and then adding a hitch so that the contraption could be pulled slouch-wise along the road, smoothing and leveling the mud. Most times, daily dragging was the only way the mud could be "worked" and finally dried out.
The knee-deep footprints of the horses would be covered, at least in places, by the drag, and then, should a sharp freeze occur, a solid smooth surface would greet the early rising buggy driver. By the time he returned from his errand, he was sure to be greeted by re-created ruts or hunks of broken, half-frozen clods that tipped, snarled and bruised the team.
Before the 1920s, many farmers "worked out" their poll tax by dragging the road several times during the winter. Poll tax was the charge every man (women had no vote in those days) had to pay for his right to vote.
By the mid-twenties, factory-built drags and wheeled graders had become available, and with a few farm-to-market roads being built, the farmers were not so isolated. Then, with more and more automobiles on the road, the demand for township and state support for better roads brought on a road-building boom.
A few towns in Illinois were the recipients of tantalizingly short stretches of politically inspired "farm to market" roads, one on either side of the city. A few are still visible, and are worthy candidates for historical preservation. The right side of the road was paved so that the loaded farm wagon would have a solid surface as it approached the market, but the left side was left in natural dirt or mud, as the case might be. As one farmer said, "The city fellers want to help me get to the market, but after they get my money, they send me home with light pockets."
One very fine example of such a road is near Paris, Ill. This one is unique in that it is built of paving brick, and is still in perfect condition and in its original form, just off the Clinton Road. FC
The late Perry Piper was a columnist for newspapers in Illinois and Indiana for more than 12 years. His columns, reprinted here from his memoirs, appear in Farm Collector with the permission of his family.
Page: << Previous 1
| 2 |