In 2003, our community's covered bridge came crashing into the creek.  It's a tiny community and other than the bridge, an elementary school and a mom-and-pop store, there isn't much here.  The bridge had been a fixture in this community since 1892 and residents were anxious to rebuild it.  The county presented various options to a large community gathering, letting us know it
would be the community's responsibility to raise the funds.  Though my neighbor Jamie and I fought valiantly for a pedestrian bridge modeled on our beloved covered bridge, we were outvoted by the hundreds of others in attendance.  So another drive-thru bridge it became.

We had argued for a walking bridge in the hope of getting our rural community on foot, greeting each other and building the bonds communities used to have.  With all of us in our cars, there is no interaction other than perhaps a random wave through the windshield.  On foot, people make eye contact, greet each other and comment on the weather--at the very least.  We lost.  Pathetically so, something like 300 to 2.

Years ago, Scotty Mason was a fixture in our community.  He lived not far from us but not on our dirt road.  Scotty was in his 80s and didn't drive, an oddity for anyone this far from town.  Scotty would set out on foot to the grocery store (8 miles away), the doctor (20 miles away) or some other destination.  He wouldn't get far because the next car along would stop to pick him up and deliver him wherever he was heading.  You knew it was Scotty by his signature hats--I never saw him in the same one twice.  Scotty knew every one of us.  He was much loved and cared for and we all enjoyed our rides to town with Scotty as our passenger.  Because he walked, his connections were richer.

We've lived in this community since 1978.  My husband Scott works out of his shop at our home and nearly every day of the past 33 years, he has walked back and forth to the mailbox with the dogs.  It's about 4/10ths of a mile each way, a nice unambitious walk but beautiful as the woods envelop you.  During vacation months and now daily since my retirement, I've joined him.  Today we marveled at the luscious purple lupine, the abundant wild iris, the goofy cat's ears and some tiny blue flower that has appeared in a new spot.  There are wild lilies growing in the woods near the road too and we noticed the deer had chomped most of the flower buds off.  Too bad.  We also noticed the profuse yellow blooms of the horrid scotch broom closer to the main road and the juicy look of the newly leaved poison oak.  We noticed that Scott's cousin had groomed the area along the road near his home and that someone had tossed a beer bottle into the blackberry vines.  One of the dogs scampered ahead, exploring eagerly even though it's the same route she's walked every day of her life.  The older dog limped along, sore but determined.

What was most curious about this walk today though was Scott's answer to a question I posed.  While we were walking, four vehicles passed us on our dirt road.  That was a first; usually there's one or none.  Four is like a veritable rush hour.  Usually those who pass are doing what we're doing, getting the mail, the newspaper or stopping at the store just across the bridge.  But they drive.

I asked Scott if in all these 33 years, had he ever encountered another neighbor walking on our road?  He thought it over and said no, other than occasionally children coming home from the school bus and our part-time neighbors Jamie and Paul (she who doubled the vote for a pedestrian bridge).  Not once in 33 years.  There are 15 households on this road.  Everyone has dogs.  Why doesn't anyone walk?

If we want to build community, if we want to enjoy where we live--wherever it is, if we can slow down just a tad, let's all try to walk a little.  I'd like to see you, stop and chat about whatever nonsense comes to mind, and get to know you.  Won't you please walk?