Graded Road

image0Shelby Huffaker had the only horse-drawn road grader in Woodruff. Since he lived up near the foothills south of town, he took a personal responsibility for the upkeep of the roads into those hills. Cattle and sheep spent the summer on the mountain, and the ranchers managing those animals needed a decent road, flat enough to bring the cattle back and forth, and without potholes, which could break a horse’s leg.

His next neighbor through hay fields to the east and north was Fred Stacey. They were such close neighbors the Staceys had lived in Shelby’s old farmhouse which was on the Huffaker place overlooking the future Stacey farm and Bryson Lake in the distance. They even helped each other in their work. For a while Fred had the only Caterpillar tractor in town. Whenever anyone in Woodruff had a job which needed a Caterpillar tractor, Fred provided both the tractor and the driver: his son Bill Stacey.

Mountain roads were unpaved, rough and steep, but as long as they had been graded so the rocks and potholes were gone, a horse and rider could negotiate them. No one knew better than Shelby Huffaker. His place was right next to the hillside which led up to the foothills. One day in 1939 Shelby came to his neighbor Fred Stacey. “Fred we need a new road up to the hills. Could you bring your tractor and pull my grader?”

image1image2Fred already knew the answer: “My son Bill is a better driver than I am. I’ll send him.”

Bill Stacey loved a challenge almost as much as he loved that tractor. His dad had bought that tractor in 1938, and Bill had taken over its care and maintenance from the first moment his hand touched the bright yellow paint. “When do you want me there?” he asked.

“Tomorrow morning I’ll meet you at my house and we’ll go up together. It’s pretty steep and I’ll have to show you the best place for a road.”

So the next morning found young Bill Stacey, only nineteen years old, hitching his dad’s new Caterpillar Tractor to the old grader and spending the day making a road up the steep mountain slope. Sand and rocks combined to make the job very tricky. The steep slope and dry, dusty soil made it dangerous. Finally Bill could see his life may even be in danger. Wondering if any minute he could be at the bottom of the ravine under the tractor was a sobering thought for a nineteen-year old.

Then he thought about what had happened a few days before. Velma Dickson had just turned him down to go with another boyfriend Fay Kennedy. Bill had been terribly disappointed about her choice. Velma knew he was disappointed. If anything happened to Bill, would she think he had done himself harm because of her. “That won’t happen,” he said. “I’ll be so careful nothing will hurt me. I don’t want Velma Dickson thinking I can’t live without her.” Slowly he dug a trench on the inside rim of the road. After the first run he could guide the big back wheel in the trench while he slowly flattened out the slope into a negotiable road.

image3The mountain road stands there to this day, very much the same way it looked in 1939 when Bill leveled and smoothed it. Even the grader stands on the Huffaker place near where the road Bill graded takes off Desert Road. He never went back to work on it because the next winter he went on a mission for the LDS Church.

image4A graded road needs attention or it slips back into nature. The occasional car and horse using it would not have been enough through the years to maintain its balance in the economy of the unstable mountainside. Shelby probably continued maintaining it, which accounts for the fact that the grader has stayed for almost a century in his yard.

Velma eventually fell in love with Bill, and their separate paths combined to make one. To this day they have maintained that path. “Marriage,” they say, “is like a graded road. If it is to remain smooth and beneficial to all, it must be maintained daily. Potholes must be filled without delay. Cracks and seams will turn into impassable crevasses if not immediately repaired. Boulders must be cleared.

Don’t ever expect your marriage to maintain itself. It requires sacrifice and work or it slips away. Both partners are needed, but one can take over for the other when necessary. If both stand aside wondering why no one is maintaining the road, unmanageable potholes will take over. If both hold back wondering why their sacrifices in maintaining the road aren’t appreciated, it will soon wash away.”

Sacrifice and work are what it takes to find heaven together. That’s what Bill and Velma Stacey want: Heaven. Together.