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Appalachia Through My Eyes – The Muddy Time of the Year


This has been the coldest winter we’ve had in several years which you all know I love. The part I don’t love is the mud that comes along with the cold. When the temperature stays right at or below freezing for several consecutive days the moisture in the soil freezes. The dirt expands as it freezes. As the temperature begins to rise the ‘expanded’ dirt turns into the muddiest soupiest mess you ever saw.

It’s been quite a few years since our driveway has been in the shape it is now. Mind you it’s never that great, but it’s really bad now. The girls and I have been parking at Granny’s and walking for the last week. They can’t believe how bad it is. Their last ride off had them both saying they weren’t going back up in their car till Spring. I told them they’d just forgotten how bad the mud could be. I remember more than one early morning ride down it when they were in high school with both of them screaming I was going to kill them. Apparently they’ve forgotten those episodes of hysteria.

The UPS driver made a delivery to Granny’s right when we were getting ready to head up to our house the other day. He said he’d just come from our place. Chitter said “You didn’t try to get up it did you?” He said “Naa I parked at the bottom.” Chitter told him she was sorry about the mess. He said “Don’t worry about it every road in the county is like this.”

If it wasn’t for my new car I’d still make it up and down every day. Muddy driveways are something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Pap and Granny’s could get muddy especially in the days when Pap drove an oil truck home every day. My uncle’s driveway is paved now, but in days gone by it got to be as bad as ours is every year-and it’s longer. Papaw Wade lived with my uncle in those days.

Pap used to have a 1973 white Impala. One day we were going up to see Papaw Wade. He hit the driveway with everything that car had. We made it about half way up and did a complete 360 in the middle of the road. Before I knew what happened we were turned around headed back down the hill. I about cried but Pap just laughed. I can’t remember if we made it up that day on another try or settled for walking the trail through the woods.

The road we live on was gravel until the girls were about five or six years old. When I was a teenager the gravel road would get bad in certain places. I remember one year it was especially messy just above Clate and Mary’s. I had a little black Ford Exp. I worked at Catos so I had to dress up nice for work. One day I was coming home and got stuck in the mud. I tried to spin myself out a few times, but soon gave up. I didn’t have any other shoes to put on so I finally took off my heels and hose and walked the half a mile home in my dress. Granny got a big kick out that she laughed and laughed at me. I said “Well what else was I supposed to do wait for someone to come find me?”

If you look close in the photo you can see Chitter is barefooted. I’m not sure how she got down the hill without her boots, but she didn’t have any to wear back up. Granny tried to get her to put on a pair of her old shoes but Chitter wouldn’t have it. Said she wanted to feel that gushy mud between her toes.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    February 4, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    I enjoyed your blog today and the comments that others made. I guess you could call me a City-slicker. Only when I was very young did we have a dirt road in front of our house. (We were only 2 miles from the center of town!) I was about 8 or 9 when the county put asphalt on the road. Then the only mud we had was in our own driveway.

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Enjoyed all of these. I grew up farther south but still had a red clay hill to drive and when it rained it was slip and slide. My dad use to tell you aren’t stuck as long as you can move an inch so in low gear until we could go no farther, shift into reverse and back up and low again and forward and maybe gain a couple of inches. IF we made it all the way to the top we would be so happy. When you went out to town you always prayed it would not rain while you were gone or if it did you were not the first one up that hill. Its paved now.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 31, 2018 at 1:05 am

    Muddy roads were common in Choestoe, too. Our road got “knee-deep” in mud many times. But for several years (now that I’ve long since moved away from my dear Choestoe (Cherokee Indian for “the place where rabbits dance”–and can’t you just imagine the rabbits dancing in the mud???–that road, now name Collins Road for my great, great grandfather, Thompson Collins, first white settler in that particular section of Union County, GA–THAT ROAD, and many others in Choestoe District–are PAVED! Even the one by Track Rock Gap in Arkaqua District, where the “distinctive tracks” in rocks can still be seen after centuries, I guess, is a paved road, too!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Tipper,With my big toes now laying under my small toes from arithritis I couldn’t enjoy the mud ,but I sure have good memorys of mud between the toes!! God Bless.Jean

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I saw the 360 you wrote about, but I was too interested to notice the difference. I knowed better cause I work with figures all the time, being a Machinist. Pay no attention to that, cause we know what you meant. …Ken

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    My road and driveway are okay, (they are chipped) but walking around the yard to the bird and squirrel feeders can be a mess! It’s clay soil and not only does it get soft, it gets slippery!! Have to be very careful, especially since I’m walking around these days with a quad cane. But maybe it’s a good thing, as the cane does give me something to lean on other than my imagination. 🙂

  • Reply
    harry adams
    January 30, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    I ordered a truck load of gravel yesterday to be delivered tomorrow. Need I say more.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 11:35 am

    When you turned around and headed back down the hill you had done a 180. A 360 would have had you still headed in the same direction.

    • Reply
      January 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Jackie-you know I even googled it to make sure I was right about the 360 LOL and I still got it wrong : )

      • Reply
        January 30, 2018 at 5:42 pm

        It’s a 540°! It’s called a 1½ in diving. You do a full circle and half of a nudden. When you git to swapping ends it’s hard to keep up with how many degrees it is.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 11:30 am

    My road is a mess too. I’m almost 70 and I ain’t never seen so many Cold days before. I don’t think it ever got above 20 degrees for about 20 days until recently. I just try to mash the routes down, and thank God for 4-wheel drives. I can’t wait for Spring to come and thaw out this whole country. By the way, I had 1/4 inch of Snow at Topton. …Ken

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Oh does this ever bring back almost forgotten memories. I am so amazed now to look back and remember how we took the very worst of circumstances in stride. It seemed as though the mountain roads were either muddy or snow covered all Winter. Our beloved stern principal required skirts or dresses , and pants were against the rules. Well, this created quite a dilemma for vain young girls who wished to show up at school looking like they had just stepped out of some fancy magazine. A dear man named Harry built a storage box between two mailboxes. That gave us a place where we could store our muddy ugly slick boots until we got off the bus that evening. We would then don the latest shoes of fashion whether it be what we called ” pointy toes” or saddle oxfords. We would arrive at school with frozen legs, but our shoes would be spotless because the bus ran on a hard top road. I don’t know where Mom found such slick boots, but they had no tread at all. It certainly helped me later be brave enough to drive on bad roads, and I had remarkable balance up until just recently . I wish Harry was still here so I could thank him for his kindness. Kids have a way of remembering either the kindest of deeds or the meanest.

    This may be an inconvenient for these girls right now. Later in life it will become a treasured memory, and this helps with molding our character. If a tough upbringing is any indication I should have the best character in the country 🙂

    • Reply
      Ron Stephens
      January 30, 2018 at 8:04 pm

      Pinnacle Creek, you know they say adversity builds character. But did you ever wonder, like I have, if you really needed so much character? In my case, I fear the answer is, “Yes, and you need more character yet!”

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 10:06 am

    When I way young we didn’t have to contend with all those problems you poor people have with ice, snow and muddy roads. We didn’t have a car.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

    It’s not winter when I dread my muddy road, it’s spring! I have a load of gravels put on it every other year. My daughter is building a house five miles from here and I have not seen it since the concrete and the lumber delivery trucks started coming in. It’s way too far to walk up that hill, but she has been walking it morning and evening. She either falls on the snow and ice right in front of the construction crew or shows up at work looking like a mud wrestler. Her job requires her to drive to several counties every day. She was thinking about fuel economy and not navigation when she bought her new car without all wheel drive. I haven’t said, I told you so…

  • Reply
    Barb Johnson
    January 30, 2018 at 8:59 am

    We live in Michigan. We live on a hill that is one of the highest elevations in our county. Our driveway is long and steep, but paved. The first winter we moved here,I had a regular car,when it snowed I could not get up the hill. We started keeping boots and snowpants in the car so we could walk up the hill. That was a long winter but my kids still remember the “fun” we had walking in 10 or so inches of snow! Needless to say, we purchased an SUV with four wheel drive and a tractor with a plow!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 30, 2018 at 8:58 am

    One of the downsides of country living. And you are so right, the ground is downright smushy. The lingering deep cold drives the frost line steadily downward as time goes by. So the thaw is likewise deep, thus deep mud.

    On the upside though, it makes the garden soft.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Today’s entry stirred up so many thoughts:
    “Chitter telling the UPS drive she was “sorry” “: I was assigned to work on a college project with a young man from NY. As we got acquainted he mentioned that his 2 year old had fallen off a swing and broken her arm. My response was “Oh, I’m so sorry!” He actually rared up at me practically yelling at me that I had nothing to do with it and nothing to be sorry for! Until that moment I hadn’t thought about saying “sorry” being an apology OR expressing sympathy – I just used them both ways – maybe it’s a southern/midwest sort of thing. . .
    “Coldest winter”: although we had hit a record low of 9 degrees in our little nook here in Central Texas, we’ve also been jumping back up into the 70’s between cold snaps. Unless February is particularly chilly, our averages won’t be among the coldest for the region.
    “What else was I supposed to do?!”: it was prom night and daughter and her date had a flat tire. He didn’t know how to change a tire; she knew how to change a tire; this was before the days of cell phones. He wouldn’t put his jacket on the ground for her (rented tux) so she just got on her knees and took care of business. Except for a little dust on her dress (knee length) and having to take off her hose once they got to the venue, they were only “fashionably” late for prom
    “wanted to feel that gushy mud between her toes”: that would be me too! One of the things I loved about irrigation days in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas was sloggin’ through the mud, The deep, rich, old delta soil in the orchards seemed to hug my legs all the way up to my knees. I never wanted to wear irrigation boots, although that would have been the wiser thing to do. In the hot summertime the upper layer would be cozy warm and the lower level would be soothing cool – a real life mud bath – and to think some people pay for such experiences!
    “hit the driveway with everything he had”: daughter was working on the set of The Patriot. She was the only female on the scenic crew; she had a new but small truck; it was late winter and they had been painting a valley field green to look like summer; unfortunately the weather had been much like you described and the road up and out of that little valley was a mess; a couple of the guys with their big trucks had made it up to the road; they tried to get daughter to ride with the last big truck but she wasn’t about to leave her baby in that valley. They guys lined up to watch her thinking that at the very least they would have to rescue her – at the very worst radio for 911. She’s a stubborn one and although she gave them quite a show, she and her new baby on 4 wheels made it up earning her a few more points in her crew mates estimation!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 30, 2018 at 7:28 am

    I guess it’s fair to say we are ready for spring! I sure do miss getting to come see you once in a while and the last time I visited I walked up. Spring will come, I know it will!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 30, 2018 at 7:01 am

    I remember living on roads like that, we did, however, have to drive on them to get to our driveway. It was a mess and sure to make mama hose us down before being allowed in the house

  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 5:37 am

    I was raised on a rock road, and every once in a while the county put fresh rock on it, but not very often, in the winter it would get really bad in some spots, I remember there was one spot where you came down the hill, before it leveled off to come by our house and it would get so bad folks would have to know how to navigate it or before you made it up or down the hill you’d be in a ditch, no telling how many new comers that didn’t know how to navigate the hill would end up in the ditch. It had a curve at the top and the bottom and if you didn’t hung the outer edge going up or down you’d slide rear end first and the rear would fall off into the ditch. It would always catch the neighborhood Drunk Drivers during the night, you could hear them just about to blow the motor up on their car trying to get out and only made things worse, I’ve seen them sleep all night long in the car and the next morning one of the neighbors would take a tractor and pull them out. Since we moved some 36yrs ago the county has paved it.

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