A different kind of deer drive

“Working on the highway laying down the blacktop, working on
the highway all day long I don’t stop.”

These lyrics, first sung by Bruce Springsteen back in 1984, kept
going through my head as my friend Dave and I worked to repair the
dirt road leading from the Tioga County highway down a steep hill
to the lower half of our friend’s farm. The road was created about
25 years ago when a gas company drilled a well on the property,
tapping the natural gas found in what was called the Trenton Black
River formation about a mile under the property.

They pumped gas for a few years but now the gas is gone and the
well site has been abandoned for years. In fact, all gas-drilling
operations in the area have ceased, but the old well site is still
important to Dave and me. We use the area as a starting point for
our hunts during deer season and if one of us gets a deer, we need
only drag it as far as the old well site and load it into our
truck. Neither of us is getting any younger, so getting a deer out
of the woods in the back of a pickup truck is far easier than
having to drag the animal a considerable distance up the steep
hill. This year we had trouble. The heavy spring rains we had here
in the Southern Tier washed out the road to a point where it was
almost impossible to reach the well site even with a four-wheel
drive truck. Work had to be done.

Dave was on the tractor bringing up buckets of washed out gravel
while I manned the shovel and rake, moving what seemed to be a
mountain of stone and gravel back into the deep gullies created by
the rushing water. The sun was hot, the bugs were unmerciful and I
kept wondering how anyone could do this for a living. Talk about
walking in the other guy’s shoes. This thankless job made me more
fully appreciate our highway system and how hard others have to
work to make the needed repairs.

As I worked, Springsteen’s words kept going through my head.
“Working on the highway blasting through the bedrock, working
on the highway, working on the highway.”

The work was going slowly but we were making progress. Deer
season would be here in another three months and we had to be
ready. I planned on repairing or rebuilding one of my favorite
treestands but the road work proved to be more than we bargained
for. Without a drivable road, it would be extremely difficult, if
not impossible, to put up treestands or to bring in the material
needed to make repairs to the existing ones. Without a doubt,
fixing the road took precedence over anything else that needed
doing, so we worked for the next six hours scraping gravel, filling
holes, moving stone and creating a few “thank you ma’ams” to divert
the water from future storms. Hours later, our task was far from
complete and, reluctantly, we agreed to spend at least part of
another day “working on the highway.” Just as well. My knees were
killing me and I was soaked with perspiration but we felt a sense
of accomplishment knowing if we had to, we could now pick our way
down the washed-out road to the well site. My treestand rebuilding
project had to wait for another day.

Categories: New York – Mike Raykovicz

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