Skip to content

Letter From Home: “Motor Graders” 8/22/16

August 22, 2016

It was the scent of the exhaust from the motor grader that took me back in time.  In an instant nearly five decades simply dissolved.  I found myself in perfect alignment for the fumes emitted from the road equipment even though the constant lake breeze blows away pesky mosquitoes while bringing private sidewalk chats closer.  Sitting outside today with a book I was transported back to my childhood when the road in front of our Hancock home was reconstructed.

There must have been some reservations about whether I would have been asking for rides on the large trucks or directing traffic as my Mom made me watch the excitement that summer from inside the house.  I did not yet know the Geneva Convention surely would have outlawed such cruelty! But even from that confined space I could smell the exhaust fumes from the open windows as County Road KK was fashioned into something other than pressed stone.

Watching that road over the years was part of my boyhood.  Tractors, bean pickers, and every now and then a souped-up car making the long straight stretch roar with excitement was part of summer.  But in winter, after a harsh storm and the first push of snow from the plows, Uncle Karl (Schwarz) would come with a county motor grader.  What made it most impressive was the second extended wing that not only pushed the snow out of the way but up into amazing piles of white that stretched down the road as far as I could see.  Every now and then when I would wave energetically enough to get his attention he would wave from the cab.  Though he never sensed my real desire and stop to take me for a quick trip around the block.

I am sure my uncle was not driving the motor grader during the road construction of my youth.  Doubtless a company was hired to do that job.  But whoever was going back and forth grading our road had my full attention.

I still recall the many wooden stakes all over the road back home–and Dad telling me not to touch them.  I thought about that today as the man in the cab merely pushed his computer console to adjust the level of the blade that cut to the right depth of the grade.   I have no idea how the road workers of my youth made the perfect slope to the road but their eyes and experience were finely tuned as the project made everyone smile when it was finished.

I was reflecting on this when I thought how nice it would be to look at a picture of those days from when I was maybe seven or eight.  No such pictures exist, of course.  Who took pictures then of such a trivial event?

That was when I decided to snap a photo of the motor grader in front our home.

We all grow older and many new experiences and events take us far from the places of our youth.  But it is so special when something as ordinary as the scent of the exhaust from a piece of equipment can stop us from whatever we are doing while carrying us many miles and years away.

May it always be so.


  1. Solly permalink
    August 23, 2016 8:46 AM

    #1, I tease because I love
    #2, My uncle’s name was Tony. One-eyed Tony would have made a good mafioso name.

  2. Solly permalink
    August 22, 2016 10:38 PM

    #1, this explains a lot. “I could smell the exhaust fumes from the open windows”
    #2, My uncle was also a (Brown) county road grader operator. With only one good eye. His coworker, a neighbor, told my Dad he was the best the county had, fast and right every time.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: