Seven Mile

“Hansen, there’s a man ahead of us, looks like he is digging a post hole, let’s stop and ask him for directions.”

“Good ideal Claire.”

"Excuse me sir, looking at this map I see we need to drive another 21 miles south, then cut back north 19 miles on the other side of this mountain range to get to Bitter Rock, is that the best way to go?".

The farmer looked at me, pulled his shovel from the post hole, and set it against the fence.

He rubbed his jaw, and said, "Just where did say you were going?"

I said, "Bitter Rock."

He smiled, and told me I had an old map, and the name Bitter Rock is now Sweet Water - happened around four years ago. He went on to tell us a story – that’s when I shut the car’s engine off - about a road starting about a mile or so south of here that runs across the mountains. He said they call it Seven Mile because that's how far it is too Sweet Water. It’s a two-lane road, older than salt. In fact, it started out as a deer trail then turned into a regular road back in the 1870's. That's when half of the folks in Crossroads - the town you just drove though - moved to Bitter Rock

. It was once full of chuck holes, some big enough to rattle your teeth. Now as you know, a chuck hole is formed one little crack at a time – mostly by bad weather. You know the freezing, thawing kind. Then theirs that constant pounding from cars, trucks and motorcycles. When that first hole appeared everyone just adapted by driving around it. Later – wasn’t that long though - another hole shows up, then another, and another; those chuck holes kept growing at an unforgiving rate. Sort of what people do with a rumor and such, you know what I mean.
Now over time people in Clearwater started complaining about the condition of the road. They complained to each other, wanting to know why someone doesn't repair it. The complaints spread like a rumor all the way to Bitter Rock. The complaints kept spreading and before you knew it they went from the road, to complaining about each other, and anything else.

Some months later, at a town meeting in Clearwater, one of the school teachers told them he bypassed the town council, and called the county to complain. The country didn't buy the need to fix that road. Our school teacher drew up a petition. Was something to see because every one of those complaining adults in Crossroads signed it. A convoy of cars escorted the teacher carrying the petition to the county seat right into the commissioner's big office. It took some time cycling that petition through the local agencies but at last action.

A crew came down from the county with their hot asphalt, shovels and rakes, and filled in the holes; spent a week or so at it. Now we all know how patch work holds out; it's just a patch. It's something that requires recurring maintenance to keep it up while not making it a permanent repair. Figured the county was just trying to save some cash.
Folks here at Crossroads realized they needed folks in Bitter Rock to help convince the county to take some action to rebuild Seven Mile. Well, several meetings later a committee, made up of folks from Clearwater and Bitter Rock, convinced the county to rebuild the road.

They brought in one of those big asphalt chipper machines that digs grooves in the old asphalt. Those grooves provide a solid permanent means to keep the new asphalt in place - reminds me of how folks get together to expose what’s been bothering them, and resolve their differences. Has a lot to do with things like understanding, compassion, and love. Anyway that work crew swept up the debris; the old road was ready for a new surface.
I don't know if you have watched one of those asphalt machines lay down a new road but it's something to see. A truck backs up to it and dumps hot asphalt into the hopper. That machine then crawls along while the asphalt is fed out the back end and pressed into the old road. The holes are filled, and the entire road is covered; as smooth as silk. They let it dry.
A few days later they came back and painted the center lines and such. Course all this work meant one-way traffic for a while, but everyone took it in stride. We were looking at a smooth Seven Mile drive rather than the forty-mile run. Yea we didn't complain about that at all."
Right after Seven Mile opened the two towns got together at Bitter Rock for a barbecue and dance. Got to tell you that was the best time ever. Been having one every year since then; a new tradition you know. With all that grinning and back slapping going on at that first barbecue the folks at Bitter Rock let everyone know they changed the town’s name to Sweet Water. They said it just didn't seem right to have that old road sign "Welcome to Bitter Rock", when all that bitterness had left.
Now, just before you enter Sweet Water from Seven Mile road, you will go around a big rock that an old timer had named Bitter Rock; you will know why if you lay your tongue to it. It has a bitter taste - not that everyone goes around licking rocks. The interesting thing is theirs an artesian well on the east side of the rock, and its pushing out the sweetest water this side of heaven.
Funny thing is no one knows why half of Clearwater had moved to Bitter Rock those many years ago. Some people figured it was because of the constant fighting between the generations of the two original families that created Crossroads. Don't know if there is such a thing as hereditary hate, but it ended when Seven Mile was reworked.
I Said, "Thank sir, we will certainly take that new road."
The farmer said, "In that case I have one other thing to say. About five miles down Seven Mile road you will come across a church originally built in 1882 and named Sweetwater Chapel. The original church has been remodeled many times since. Two years ago, they rebuilt it again. Sure is a nice looking place. They used to hold two services – one for each town - but that changed to one big meeting four or so years ago when Bitter Rock became Sweet Water. The church started growing right after everyone got together and began beating on the county about the road.

The Pastor running the place, is name's Yancy Harobro, brought our two towns together with his preaching. About five years ago he told his two congregations, probably 50 between the two services, he was tired of all the bickering going on. He started a series on forgiveness, beginning in Matthew 18:21. He walked them through every reference to forgiveness in the Bible. He said how un-forgiveness is like cancer, it just keeps growing. Then he pointed out how forgiveness is Gods version of chemotherapy, only 100 percent effective.
He preached to them from the book of James, talking to them about their tongue. Pastor Yanc - that's what everyone calls him - gave them some practical day to day tools by spending several weeks in 1st Corinthians 13. Yes, things defiantly changed. Well folks started talking to one another about things that really matter. It was like fresh summer breeze after a rainfall had cleared the air of dust. Looking back, it’s not hard to see what helped getting the two towns together, and Pastor Yanc used the new Seven Mile as an example of what can happen when folks forgive one another. He pointed out the similarities between forgiveness and Seven Mile, but he had to go over the story a few times before everyone understood what he was talking about."

I looked at the farmer and said, "Thank you. Not only have you given us a great story, and history, you also told us where Yanc, my wife's Uncle, is."

The farmer said, "Well you are more than welcome," and turned around headed for his shovel.

Started the car, smiled at my wife, looked through the rear-view mirror checking for traffic and pulled onto the road; something was missing, then it dawned on me.
“Claire, I said, “I can’t see the farmer.”
I backed the car where we had parked. No farmer, no shovel, and no post holes; just a fresh cool breeze blowing in my face.