It is such a joy to meander through the countryside seeing grass fed
cows; ancient barns that are going, going gone in their various stages of decay; wildflowers, like Queen Anne’s lace and lavender everlasting pea (a cousin of the Sweetpea but without the scent); tiny bus huts where children wait in the rain; or clearcuts as they scour the hills and then grow back again with replanting over the years. I never tire of the views.
It is so infrequently traveled that last July (2013) bold copper thieves
dug up the underground bundles of wires confident that very little traffic
passed by and they could do their deed in broad daylight and never get caught, although it left us without telephone service for three days.
It is only at night that the curves seem sinuous without lights of any
kind, save a cozy farm off the road or the large confident illuminated cross
high above one bend. Without radio reception and without the moon, it seems a very long trip then, even though we know the road like the back of our hand.
It was long ago on one of those trips that we invented the car
The rules are fairly simple. Any car coming into town as we are going home is worth a point. Motorcycles are worth ½ point, although we round up at the end. If we pass a car ahead of us, we subtract a point, and that can be a dangerous proposition in the dark if you are the driver and your number has already been reached. The score is exact, no “closest to” in this game, so there’s rarely an outright winner. That’s what makes it so sweet.
We start at the beginning of the highway in town where the road T’s, and
we must make a left turn. At that stop we must pick a number and not waiver. There are many considerations at that point. I think that the riflemen on the plains of long ago called their calculations Kentucky windage, and they wet a finger and stuck it up into the air to see which way the wind was blowing. Ours are much more elaborate. We have to take into consideration what month it is because traffic, and I use that term lightly, is usually heavier in the summer than the fall or winter.
What day of the week is it? People have been known to go into town later on the weekends. What time of day is it? Twilight encourages the winery visitors to return home by this route, and only a few diehards are traveling when every farmer and school child is alreadyin bed.
So, it’s trickier than it might seem.
When we have guests and are returning to the farm, we encourage them to
play this game with us, and we tell them that we’ll go first picking our numbers to show them the range. Seven has always been lucky for me, and Ted usually likes to pick nine if he has to go second.
Visitors find this hilarious, and select huge numbers in the twenties. They can’t imagine passing so few cars in nearly a half an hour. We remind them that we will probably be the only car going in our direction.
At this point, children like to fudge. When their number is reached and they
are normally out of the game, they ask to change their number, and we let them, saying that since it’s their first time, we will be lenient. Sometimes they ask, “What is the prize?” I told one boy, “It is the privilege of taking us all out to dinner” at which point he asked his parents if there was enough money in his college fund to cover that. That’s how overly confident he was.
The truth is that the winner only gets bragging rights, and we take those
very seriously. When we’ve come to the second“T” which is Territorial Highway and about five minutes from home, a number holder can get cocky. A chant of “I won. I won” might be heard just as a final car rounds the bend to ruin that score. Or, as happened once, a car pulled out of a neighbor’s driveway in the last half mile just as we were approaching our own farmhouse.
Usually I am not driving, and the person who is at the wheel, unlike me, is especially competitive. He has been known to wait at Gillespie Corners an inordinate amount of time for a car to approach from the left before he makes his right turn if that vehicle will secure his chosen number. He has waited at our last left turn an unusually long time for the same reason, and don’t forget the passing technique to gain back a point.
I keep track by bending a finger into my palm so I don’t lose count.
Sometimes we get talking and then the approaching car score is disputed,
but when you’ve jabbed a nail into your hand for any amount of time, the number is irrefutable.
In the last few years, we have been surprised at the number of cars
going into town in the dark since the local winery opened its restaurant for
dinner. One summer evening we counted 29 cars in amazement. It has thrown off our whole game.
There’s been talk of moving somewhere less populated because of this turn of events. After all, the city has added about a thousand people a year in the last thirty years that we have owned the farm. Idahois one candidate often
discussed, but I can’t go there. I’m too old to work on a new set of variables.
Besides, who would keep an eye on the scenery?