Ditches2016One morning last week, Keith and I loaded the bed of the truck with a shovel, rakes, bush cutter, gloves, leaf blower, and ear-covers. We headed down the mountain road to pick up where we left off the previous week. The road is our lifeline so we clean ditches twice each year, in late autumn after the leaves have fallen and again in late spring or summer before road re-grading and gravelling.

We found a rhythm in tune with our partnership. Keith planted the forged metal rake in the far side of the ditch then dragged a rain-heavy mat of leaves onto the road, thrust, heave-to. I cut back weeds and hauled debris across the road, down into the ravine.

Small worms and bugs crawled around the organic matter. The decaying leaves smelled like a swamp because of poor drainage and lack of oxygen. Exposing them to the air would aid decomposition of vegetable matter into fertile soil, humus.

When we hit sticks, stones, or larger impediments, we reached down and hurled the logjams across the road. Now rainwater would flow smoothly along its designated path. Without ditch cleaning, culvert pipes clogged and water ran over the road, washing away our freedom to come and go.

On this Fourth of July, living near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, I am reminded of the Declaration of Independence. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

How true were our founding fathers to these ideals. How true is our nation today? How true am I? Am I grateful for what my Creator has done for me? Am I doing what God calls me to do?

Keith pulled another clod out of the ditch. I thought about life, liberty, and pursuit-of-happiness logjams, how I’d ignored debris and blamed others. Or had become an impediment to them. Then I’d lamented when rains washed out my road, my lifeline, or my relationships.

Maintenance now seemed cheap compared to repairs.

DitchCleaningTools“That’s enough for today,” Keith said as we reached another drainpipe. We packed our gear into the truck bed, climbed into the cab, and headed home.

We will not clean ditches today here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s the Fourth of July holiday and raining, a good day for rest and reflection. But our rakes and gloves stand ready.


  1. Randy Taylor

    Wonderful use of daily life to see bigger things….like freedom…and the ultimate freedom of unending life without tears, rotting materials, or even the slightest iota of sin. I’m thankful for the thinking and word-smithing skills our God has given to his beautiful daughter Carol…and to Keith.

    • Carole Duff

      Many, many thanks for your kinds words and the blessing of friendship.


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