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Rural roads

In rural areas, roads can mean anything from state highways to trails through cow pastures. With so many people moving to the country, county governments are drawing the line at maintenance of newly constructed roads. Do not assume that the road you travel from the main highway to your driveway is a county road. Ask someone official. If it is not maintained by the county, you will have to consider how you will deal with snow removal, erosion, and possibly, bridge replacement or repair. Will you buy the equipment such as a tractor and blade to move the snow? Will you hire the snow removed? Are there dependable people to hire? Are they already stretched so thin in their commitments that it will take them several days to reach your road? What about the driveway into your private property? Neighbors often will help you out — once. After that it might be assumed that you should be prepared to take care of yourself.

Even though you may choose to live in an area that historically has little snow, you need to realize that weather is one of the biggest hurdles rural residents face. History does not necessarily reflect reality for that one morning you wake up to many inches of snow. What type of soil is your road? If it’s sandy, rain water seeps in quickly and the road is fairly easily traversed. However, if it is gumbo, also called clay soil, it will be extremely sticky and probably impassable for several hours after a rain (or snow melt.) Short of driving a tracked-vehicle, or possibly a tractor with tire chains on the tires for added traction, nothing can be done to get you down your road until it dries out somewhat. This inconvenience enforces the need for alternate plans in case you cannot get home, or you cannot get out.

Public transportation in rural areas is non-existent. You will want to purchase vehicles that are heavy enough to not disintegrate into a bucket of bolts after a few trips over the rough, gravel roads. There are reasons people own and drive four-wheel-drive pickups and utility vehicles and they have much to do with the realities of rural living.

Rural areas do not have sanitation workers who clean up dead animals from the roadway. Usually the carcass just lies in the road and gets run over many times. Between that and the bird scavengers, after a while it will be gone. If an animal is hit by a vehicle and is lying on or near the road, it is best to call law enforcement and they will come to shoot it and usually remove it from the roadway.

When driving in the country always be aware that animals may be on the road. They could be wild animals or domestic animals that are out of their pastures. A stretch of road might be marked open range which allows the animals to be free roaming on, and next to, the road.

These “rules of the road” will serve you well if they are heeded.

Peggy writes from their farm in southwestern South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is out at thankafarmer4food@yahoo.com. ❖



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