Those Country Washboard Roads

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Photo by the Farm Collector staff
Dirt country roads have a tendency to form a series of small surface ridges in dry periods. The only good thing about them are the jokes they produce.

Among the drawbacks of living out in the country is that, during extremely dry times, the dirt roads have a tendency to form a series of small surface ridges that I call washboarding. I have heard many theories of why this happens, none of which I believe in full. About the only plus of washboard roads is the jokes spawned while rattling along the byway.

My wife, Ruth, and I once visited the Indian ruins of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The access road was some 29 miles of the worst washboard surface we had ever encountered. Our van was nearly shaken to pieces before we finally finished back at the Indian trading post, where we turned off of the highway.

We stopped for a cold drink and commented to the lady proprietor on the condition of the road. “The Anasazi Indians left the area in about 1100 A.D,” she said with a straight face. “As far as we know, that was the last time the road was graded.”

A neighbor lady, whose elderly father had spent his entire life on the family land located at the end of a long dirt road, gave him a birthday present by taking him to see the Palo Duro Canyon. A few days later, one of his neighbors asked him how he enjoyed his trip. “It was sure pretty and the road was paved all the way down and all the way back home,” he said. I’ll bet his road got pretty washboardy down through all those years.

No doubt the weather, especially drought, takes its toll on the many dirt and caliche (rock) roads in the Panhandle. The county employees do a good job, in spite of the weather and dwindling budgets each year. Most of them could write a book on the excuses and reasons they have heard about why a particular road should be graded immediately.

Recently at the Alanreed Coffee Shop, the Gray County precinct foreman dropped in for coffee. The “slurpers” present started in with stories. “My road is so rough,” one man said, “that my false teeth rattle loose every time I travel to get the mail or go to town. I have to use Gorilla Glue to keep them in place.”

A second man added his two cents. “My road is so rough that my hearing aids turn on too high, go to squealing and finally fall out onto the seat,” he said. Then a third commentator chimed in. “When I take my daughter to school,” he said, “the ride is so rough her gym socks fall down around her ankles – and they have elastic in the tops.” The foreman never batted an eye as he quietly sipped his coffee.

Then the final man at the table cleared his throat. “Each time I carry my wife to town for groceries,” he said, “her pantyhose rattle down to her knees. When we hit the pavement, we have to stop and let her re-dress.”

At that, the foreman put down his cup, pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called the motor grader operator. “Drop whatever you’re doing,” he said, “and come grade County Road Y immediately.” Now that is the truth, so help me! FC

Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; email:

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