Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Waste Of Good Dirt

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The very first week that I was driving dump truck, I spent a couple days hauling dirt from a church parking lot and dumping it along what I’ve called (in some of my posts) the “Little Cannonball” River. My employers own a campground along said river and were filling in some rough areas to make them higher and more useable for building at some later time. Farm boy that I am, I knew it was good soil the moment that I got close enough to smell it. There’s something heart-warming in laying open that first furrow in the spring and to smell the source of all physical life on earth. That’s what the smell of that soil reminded me of—spring plowing.

That section of town was once the plantation of an old judge from way back. The old plantation house is still standing, and still lived in by descendants of that judge. My wife once helped her aunt clean the old house and says there’s a 360 degree mural of the plantation in the front hallway that shows, among other things, the slaves out working in the fields. Despite being a slave-holder, the old man stayed with the Union during the Uncivil War. It probably wasn’t long after freeing his slaves that the old man started parting with some of the property around the edges of the plantation.

My folks could remember when it was still a farm of sorts. Circuses and county fairs were held in one of the large fields. I have a couple old photos of a fair that I suspect were taken there, though I have no way to know for sure. The rich ground there was a sandy loam, deposited centuries ago by flooding of the Ohio River. Little by little, the rich soil was covered up by houses and streets and businesses. Eventually, most of the auto dealers in town were located in the area and some folks referred to that section of town as “Auto City.”

 Among the buildings there was the church which was making a slight addition to their building, and a change to their parking lot. Over the years, just enough slag, gravel, pipes and concrete had been strewn on the surface and under, that it couldn’t be used as top soil without some effort to separate it, and that wasn’t financially feasible. And so, I hauled the dirt to another place where buildings and parking lots may someday cover it again. At least for a while, there will be some deer and geese using the soil as it was intended. Some of both were in the area as I dumped the dirt there.

And so it is again where I’ve been working this week. I’m taking red clay soil from a hill and covering a large, rich field of sandy loam, complete with a healthy crop of soybeans growing on it. All this is for more warehouses to make a rich man even richer. Once that soil is covered with six to eight feet of rocky clay, it’s unlikely the rich soil will ever again see the light of day.


There’s something inherently insane about using the very best farmland for building cities and factories. In hilly country, the homes often end up being built on the hillsides, with the factories and businesses on the flat land. Since no place is left to grow food, it then has to be brought in from out-of-area, at a much higher cost. Insane isn’t strong enough, I think. Maybe “immoral” is more like it. © 2014
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7 comments:

Crystal Mary said...

I enjoyed reading this, I love history and also understand your appreciation of the lovely smell of good soil. Its a shame how people don't use the land as they should. I saw a couple of plantations while I lived in TN. I am glad there are no more slaves! That was a terrible era and so were having Bond Servants (USA) and convicts to Australia. I cannot fathom the cruely of those times, and how humans degraded other humans for their own advancement.. Yes it still happens today in a less obvious way.We have people here in Oz who will get someone to work, no salary for a couple of weeks on the pretense of work if they do well, but its just a ploy, because then they put the person off with no pay.
I praise God for your job. It sounds much nicer that telemarketing. May God Bless you
always.

Vicki said...

Some call it progress. I call it a crying shame.

Gorges Smythe said...

Crystal, I'm reminded of the expression "man's inhumanity to man."

I agree, Cm!

Sunnybrook Farm said...

It will eventually correct itself, just no time soon. I have made gardens in clay but it takes work, nature will do the work over many years.

Gorges Smythe said...

Clay can be made into a rich soil, thank goodness, or West Virginia farmers would be in trouble, SF. Still, there are several feet of good rich sandy loam being covered by it, where we're filling.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

They do the same thing here. They took good farmland by the river, which floods by the way, and built up levys and then created a huge high end mega shopping district and office area. Many years ago, before it was THIS built up, the levy broke and flooded everything. It will again given enough time and then everything will be under water.

Gorges Smythe said...

Kathy, I've never figured out why people can't grasp the simple idea that you shouldn't build anywhere that was once underwater, even for a little while.