The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Road Maintenance, the Old-Fashioned Way

Traffic jams and bad weather in the news lately got me thinking about traffic problems in the old days. Back then, too much competition for road space wasn't the issue...rather, it was hard enough to find a passable road, period. In winter, especially, roads tended to disappear, buried under the tons of snow that used to fall here in the Northeast way back before Global Warming.

But the old-timers, used to finding wooden solutions for almost every problem, found one for snow-covered roads.
"January was usually the season for winter road-work in the northern states when the snow was packed and graded to make the sledding season as long as possible. Snow was shoveled into melted or otherwise bare spots by snow-wardens, fed into covered bridges, and packed down with giant snow rollers by the road commissioner to keep the sleds going. Snow rollers are among the rarest of antique vehicles - perhaps no more than eight exist in America. Snow roads of a century ago were nursed along during the wintertime, just as modern ski-runs are, and when March winds melted the snow of the northern countryside, most of the old-time roads were still snow-packed."
- Eric Sloane, The Seasons of America Past
 What? Snow rollers? Can you imagine what those must have looked like?

Fortunately, Mr. Sloane provided us with one of his famous drawings to help us imagine. And naturally, wood played a part...

From Eric Sloane, The Seasons of America Past

And if you think these snow rollers could be a lot of fun under the right conditions, guess what? You're not alone. As usual, the Canadians are way ahead of us in the realm of the unusual.

Now that's what I call Going Wood With Style.

1 comment:

Deadhead9 said...

There is a snow roller on view at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake New York. I have a Diary entry from a rural woman writing from White Creek New York in winter of 1904 who mentions that she wants to go visit some sickly relatives "Before the roads break up". It might seem odd to us to WANT to travel in winter in unheated wagons and sleighs but it makes sense if you think that we have an entire SEASON devoted to MUD here. She also writes about people being completely UNable to get around using horse transport as the mud was too bad for them to be able to walk thru it.

I was thrilled to be able to put an image to the comments she made about the roads when I went to Blue Mountain Lake--this was before the age of the Net!