Hey Judge, Watch the Signs Already!


If you drive an unfamiliar road, you watch the signs. Usually, those road signs give you fair warning of what’s about to come up. I used to drive a Honda that handled so well that I knew I could take corners at up to 20 mph faster than marked before it felt like it was too fast to make the corner. ‘Maria Andretti,’ I know, but I also know that my little pickup doesn’t handle like that, so I heed those signs and take corners per my truck’s mechanical capability. No brainer.

Last night as I was just about ready to feed Odin, this flatbed tractor trailer hauling a crane went speeding by my driveway, and eye-balling that monster, I judged it to be going close to 50 mph.  Now, this photo was shot while standing in my pasture and shooting in the direction that truck was headed. See that sign? Well, it really is a 90 degree curve there, and not that far away. The speed limit on my road is 35, so that sign is placed where the corner coming up wouldn’t be a problem if going the speed limit. But, at 50?

I held my breath and listened hard. What complicates things even further is that my road is a gravel road, and the recent rains have made it pitted and muddy, and that corner is shaded by trees on both sides, so it’s a good bet that it’s still quite goopy. I heard the engine disengage, heard the tires lock up and skid, heard a few big, metallic clanks, and then the engine roared once again. Somehow, that driver made that curve, and with the crane still on the flatbed. I have no idea how.

That got me thinking. And seething. When I bought my land back in 2005, the seller told me the dirt road was slated to be paved the next year. I have no idea which “next year” he meant, because it still isn’t paved. Well, not on my end it isn’t. The other end of the road was chip-sealed earlier this year. That chip-seal ends right about the place where the county judge lives. Isn’t that convenient?

You see, the county judge presides over the quorum court, and the court’s main purpose is to handle the county’s money. One main function of the county is to care for county roads.

To give credit where credit is due, the roads were cared for pretty well around these parts. I’m still not used to roads with no shoulders or guard rails, and I still think the little wooden bridges on gravel roads are quaint, but the gravel roads were usually graded and stoned often.

Well, they were maintained – up until the latest natural gas boom and the subsequent screeching halt of said boom when miles of pipe bought from India was put into the ground to get that natural gas to market turned out to be unable to handle even half the pressure the pipeline was intended to handle. During testing of the sub-par pipe along 26 miles, several sections exploded. Suddenly, whole companies closed down, the money stopped flowing into the county coffers and things started going to hell. The gas companies had agreed to pay half the cost of maintaining the roads their heavy trucks tore up for the duration of the natural gas boom. Now, the compromised roads crack, wrinkle and pit at will, disintegrating with just normal traffic use.

Until you’ve lived on a gravel road, you don’t know what dust is. My home is 300 feet back from the road, yet if I dust on the weekend, by Wednesday morning, everything inside is solidly coated. You can’t see out your rear view mirror while driving down the road at a conservative 25 mph, and forget about washing your car. The size of the ‘gravel’ stone they lay down is about the same size as the stone laid under railroad tracks, and it chews tires up as if they were paper.

Still, my gravel road, from beginning to end, was maintained far better than it is now, and I attribute the lack of care more to the fact that the other end is now chip-sealed than anything else. The good ol’ judge goes to town the other way, and though his garbage trucks come this way, he himself never sees this end of his road.

No surprise, the final straw is that my end of the road is the “poor” end. Though far more numerous, the homes on this end of the road are worth only a fraction of the palatial mansions on the other end.

Yeah, there’s all sorts of signs pointing to who gets what. Maybe if one of those garbage trucks painted up to advertise the judge’s last campaign will hit one of the huge potholes on this end of the road and bust an axle. Then, maybe then, the rest of the road will be chip-sealed too.

Then, when a huge tractor trailer goes flying by at 50 to hit that 15 mph curve, I really will hear metal crumpling and crashing.


  1. The tractor's driver should have known better. I don't know how he/she managed that curve but I certainly don't see any point in taking the risk.

  2. ...especially when the speed limit is marked as 35mph! It's very risky driving fast on a gravel road - the tires aren't always on solid footing, if you know what I mean.

  3. That part about the pipelines and gas companies made me nervous. They are moving into our area big time now and I wonder how many promises they made about maintaining roads that they don't intend to keep. Hmmmm......

    People can be really dumb when driving. A vehicle is indeed a deadly weapon in the hands of many people.

  4. As a former truck driver myself, I hate when drivers do stupid things like that. Those signs are there for a reason, and they should be followed. Not only for the safety of the driver, but the safety of the people who may be on the road as well. UGH! GRR!

    Having grown up on a gravel road, I understand how horrible a poorly maintained road is. I hate it when they get ignored like that, such a frustration.

  5. It was just such a crane truck speeding with baddly maintained brakes that killed my kids highschool coaches 2 children and nearly killed him and his wife when it didnt "make it" around the curbs on Joy mountain.
    The gas companies have raped us in many ways. Not only the horrific roads, thousands of busted windshields, and ruined our peaceful country lifestyle, they have even killed people. They dont care to address the problem and that is obvious. Gas associated trucks continually drive very fast up and down the blind narrow curbs on my road making it too dangeorus for the school bus to use the road anymore. It now turns around in my driveway to avoid certain tragedy. All they would have to do is stay off of my section of Deer Rd to avoid this alltogether but will that happen? NO! Its pathetic what the state lets them get away with.

  6. Lisa, be watchful. Those roughnecks are paid by the hour to wreak havoc, and that's exactly what they do. Most are young men who have no problem working days straight before getting a few hours to sleep, so you know they are as single minded as they come.

    Jac, yes, it is frustrating. To think all that tonnage is just flying by ticks me off.

    Karen, I figured it had to be a roughneck moving equipment. They are in a hurry to get that stuff from site A to site B! But, to kill two kids...

    I don't much care to hear that the trucks are now interfering with school bus routes. NOT good.

    Hey Judge, have you read all this yet????

  7. Theresa, I know exactly what you mean about the tires not always on solid footing on gravel road. It is definitely very irresponsible of the driver. Even reading your post brought me cold sweats. Just reading to the end and knowing that he was alright give me great relief; he could have ended up not seeing his family and friends forever.

  8. That's true too, Boon. Not only could he have killed the neighborhood children and pets with his dangerous driving, he could have killed himself. He was lucky this time, but I hope he smartens up and quits playing with Lady Luck!