I had to drive Daughter #2 into the larger town this morning to be part of a group of high schoolers who would be giving advise to the graduating 8th graders about what to expect entering as Freshmen in the Fall. All year she has been part of a county wide leadership program, involving the two smaller "villages" and large town's students.
Trying to be efficient, I decided to take the dogs and walk them around the neighborhood of the middle school, waiting for my daughter to get done with her talk and then I could drive her back to her school, located in a much smaller community about ten miles, up the highway.
I often do take the dogs "to town" to walk but had never walked them south of Main. I don't think I will be doing it again, either. All towns have a neighborhood where the property values aren't so high, but the police seem to be called there regularly. It's often referred to as the other side of the tracks. Sometimes its the southern part of town, or in the floodplains or lowlands. The hills and slopes reserved for those with nicer homes where the views are better.
Not even a block from the parking lot of the Middle School, I was greeted by a gauntlet of harassing dogs behind chain link fences and no trespassing signs. I had to hold back my two sizable dogs and zigzag from one side of the street to the other, or walk down the middle of the street. Dogs who never leave their yards are a special kind of crazy. In more than one yard there were three of them barking and rushing the fence, which also contained broken down cars and rubbish. I hurried past an old beat up truck, its cab being used for storage or as a place to sleep, both windows carefully blocked by blue towels from the inside as was the windshield.
I took the first street back up to Main and crossed at the light to the north side, where I spend most of my time, my church, the yoga studio, the soup kitchen and our favorite restaurants all right there. I breathed a sigh of relief and loosened up on the leash I had been holding firm to the last three blocks.
Passing the county offices, I was greeted by smartly dressed assistant DA's, their Oakley sunglasses and mountain bikes atop their SUV hints at what they would be doing on their lunch break or after work. One more block and I turned left to walk down the tree lined median of the boulevard most towns in the West also have. The dogs, now relaxed, sniffed the grass to discover the paths of the dogs and walkers already past by. On both sides of the grassy center, cars rolled by at a slow pace and beyond them were cute Victorian and Arts and Craft houses, well kept up, with blooming trees and tulips in their front yards
I often walk the boulevard, much easier then trying to keep two dogs, one blind, on a narrow side walk. But I usually walk it the opposite direction, able to go almost a mile down to the library and park. But this morning, I had to get back around to the Middle School to pick up my daughter. The dogs only had two blocks of grass to sniff, before I led them south again, navigating a horrible intersection of three converging streets, where the neighborhood quickly becomes not so desirable, pressed up against the highway and the edge of town.
Things went okay for a couple of blocks with little traffic, I walked on the edge of the street to avoid the narrow sidewalks again. Then it changed, when at an intersection, I was greeted by a older lady in a old Trans Am. Apparently I was walking right where she needed to park and she intended to push me off the street, slowly rolling towards me, not having the time to wait at the intersection for me to pass by. So facing a car, I pulled the dogs up on to the curb, no sidewalk available there and stepped around some xeriscaping, so she could get settled in her parking place.
Now this all seemed extra humorous to me because all week I have been researching, thanks to you-tube and Gopro- road rage, that between road biker and cars for a project and then today I get pushed off the road by a car. Let me just say, never take a bike tour of New Zealand and I wouldn't ride a bike in London.
Crossing back to the south side of Main, I walked by a large vacant lot where street vendors sell out of their trucks produce or puppies and a guy has been selling those fuzzy sports logo blankets for years, but lucky it was too early for anyone to set up shop. Next to the lot, a chain link fence cut off a narrow sidewalk and the highway coming into town, from the sports fields of the Middle School. I made my way around, kept the dogs close, impressed with the green growth of the school's Farm to Table program I was passing, neatly in raised beds in front of a greenhouse. One of the many programs in our community that is trying to bridge the gap between the North and South sides. Sadly getting kids excited about real food even has to be done here in such a rural area.
Continuing around the curve of the track field and bleachers, I would soon be right next to the large semitruck making their way up Highway 491, the main north south thoroughfare in the Four Corners. The sidewalk was narrow, but at least there was one. Then I noticed the biker, coming towards me, on the sidewalk. Not a road biker, or a recreational biker, but a DUI biker or can't afford a car biker. But still a biker on the sidewalk, who had no intention of riding on the road, next to the semi trucks. Unfortunately he could hardly ride a bike for the way he was rocking this way and that and either did not see me or did not care that well, I was in front of him. So for the second time that day, I got out of the way of an on coming vehicle, but this time, stepped down onto the road and keeping one eye on the large blue semi rushing towards me, maneuvered around the biker and back up on the sidewalk before the whoosh of the semi passed me by. The look on the bikers face, was either of a man who had never ridden a bike before and was trying to learn or was too hung over to remember how, but I was convinced if I held my ground on the sidewalk he would have hit me or one of the dogs.
Yesterday, I cooked at the soup kitchen. We fed about a 100. The day before at the other church who cooks lunch for the community, they fed 140. If I put too many vegetables and beans in things, I hear about it, If the salad is too fancy I hear about it. If we get fresh herbs donated, I have to use them, because no one else knows what to do with them. We need the Farm to Table programs schools are offering and we need the leadership programs my daughter is a part of.
Disadvantages economically, socially and in education are part of poverty. But teaching rural kids for almost a decade, working with families through our church and schools, cooking at the soup kitchen I have seen people too often not take the opportunities they could have, seeming to not want to move away from all they know and that is a testament to how strong our heritage, where our families have come from is. Something I have been pondering after reading....
reviewed here in the Washington Post
I'm not the only one pondering such things. The large town's school district is on academic suspension, many of the parents driving their children to enroll their children in the two other rural/village school districts who are doing much better. The latest superintendent took the gloves off in a meeting recently making the conclusion that it appeared to him many parents who remained in district did not want their kids to do better in school, afraid if they did they might leave the area. Farm to Table programs and leadership programs might not be enough?