by: Phylis Warady
In the first dawn when the ocean receded and life evolved, the road was but a path trod upon by gentle Maidu Indians who gathered acorns. Their culture comprised of basket weavers and boatmen, apexed and ebbed, giving away gradually to the Spanish.
Harsh Santana’s rippled sand, obscuring the path from coarse-cloaked Friars who trekked over stubborn crags. In the virgin vale, padres buried pits and planted seeds. The valley burst forth in fruit and grain. Vaqueros on horseback etched the footpath more clearly.
Ruling Dons widened the dusty trail to accommodate their mantilla-coiffed women in wagons teeming with muchachos. The proud patriarch watched his cattle graze, blissfully ignorant of indolent sons gambling away their inheritance. Their hoof beats pressed in a relentless staccato—and the road grew more defined.
Yankee pioneers arrived sporadically by wagon and stage. In season, their teams laden with fodder and fruit, rumbled over the rutted mountain pass, then crossed San Fernando Valley to sell their wares at farmer’s market. Children rode bareback down Norwegian grade to collect the mail at Camino Real junction.
The road required straw in summer to keep down the dust, only to be transformed by winter rains into a muddy sea. Men used it to fetch a doctor for their women in childbirth. The road brought the whistler, the pianist, the singer and the teacher to their isolated valley.
When the neighboring county decided to pave the road up to the summit, women in poke bonnets marched with pick and shovel to improve the remaining portion. Their men sent them home, then labored and sweat to transform the road into a smooth stretch of asphalt. Along it, the women planted eucalyptus and lugged water until the seedlings took root.
Model T’s chugged along the tarred roadbed, distressing horses that shied and snorted. The trees stretched skyward.
One fine day, entire families from the adjoining valley streamed down from the pass road to settle into endless rows of matchstick houses. The pock-marked road suffered under its new burden. Mornings and evenings transit traffic snailed over the pass.
Tempers flashed. Traffic approached, then surpassed, maximum density. Bicycle and horse vanished from roadside. Motorists played Russian roulette at intersections. Traffic lights were erected as monuments to luckless pedestrians, who in their demise, served as payment.
Daily fresh new asphalt strips bisected the main road. Work crews toiled from dawn to dusk to broaden the road into a four-lane highway. Those mighty eucalyptuses were mercilessly decapitated. Dynamite shattered peaks of solid shale standing in the path of the freeway.
Thus the road moves on—impervious to Indians, to Spaniards, to early and latter-day pioneers. It moves on, impervious to man, horse, wagon, stagecoach and automobile. Serene that It will live after trees are felled and mountains and lowlands are despoiled. The road moves on, serene that it will exist after all are dust. It moves through evolution to eternity.
Phillis Wardy’s award winning short fiction and essays regularly appear in anthologies, reviews, journals, and literary magazines in the USA and Canada.
Advice for starting writers: If you yearn to be published, persistence pays dividends.