ROADS OF THE ROARING TWENTIES


| March/April 1979



Big Hook

Courtesy of Walt Thayer, Wenatchee, Washington 98801.

Walt Thayer

Wenatchee, Washington 98801

Gr. Nr. Ry. #931 4-6-0 wrecked in Washington about 1910. 'Big Hook' is picking it up.

Back in 1967, I read a story called '30 Days in a Rut' and it brought back memories of those rough and rugged trails they called 'roads.' One of them went by our old homestead. In the early 1920s it was 'State Road #26', but it now U.S. #45' and it goes from northern Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. Cars whiz by the old homestead (still occupied since it was built in about 1910) at 60 to 80 miles per hour. I remember these roads were graded by some farmer who had a contract of some kind with the state or county.

One of my uncles had such a contract and used a team of big black mules that could 'outpull' most ordinary horse teams in that territory. They were a good team for roadwork or farm work and he took good care of them and kept his contract for many years.

In dry weather these so-called roads were dusty and rough with washboard surface, but in early spring the 'bottom went out' with the frost. Some of the ruts, sinkholes, and quicksand traps would high-center even the high-wheel Buicks, Pierce-Arrows, Maxwells, etc. I remember hauling rocks, brush short lengths of wood, and other materials to fill up the ruts so the cars could get through without getting stuck.

When the highway department decided to relocate a part of highway #26, they detoured the traffic over a county road that wasn't as good as the state road. One of the worst sinkholes on this detour was close to where my great uncle lived, and he made 'fair wages' pulling cars out of the sink-hole with his team of his Fordson tractor. He was of Scottish ancestry and made 'Abe Lincoln screarh for mercy' on every penny that came his way. When the sinkhole started to dry up it also 'dried up his easy money' so at night he hauled water to it to keep it 'open and soft.' But his neighbors soon found out what he was doing and convinced him to 'let it dry up.' He was a thrift Scot, but I think the neighbors called him a few other names when they found out he was keeping the sink-hole open so he could make more money.