I can remember when Hyde Park was a new subdivision on the outer fringes of Shreveport, and Crabapple and Flournoy Lucas crossing Mansfield Road were rural areas prior to Bert Kouns Industrial Loop. As the southern growth of Caddo Parish continued, there was a time when people referred to “Soaky Oaks” off Colquitt Road because houses flooded during hard rains. But a new drainage system put in when they widened Dean Road helped immensely with that problem.
The fact is that road construction, while necessary, can also be inconvenient and aggravating to folks who have to navigate road construction sites.
Work on Dean Road had been going on for way over a year, and I was running late on my way to a baby shower. The house I needed to get to was five houses off Dean Road on a side street, but Road Closed signs were up where I needed to turn off Bert Kouns onto Dean. I faced a dilemma: if I went all the way around Walker Road to Colquitt to get to my destination I was going to lose precious minutes, but if I just circled around those road closed signs and drove a half mile or so down the formerly black-topped, but currently red-dirt road, I could save valuable time. That was the plan.
It was a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon in December, and I could see abandoned road working machines way, way down Dean, so I figured if those machines could drive on the dirt, so could I. After all, as a hostess for the shower I had strawberry / pineapple punch that needed to be on time, so I gave my woman’s logic full reign and got out and moved one of the signs just enough to let me pass through. I soon realized though that what looked like harmless red dirt was actually a muddy, clay-like substance that caused my maxi-van to slide around. I had trouble staying in the middle of the road. Who would have thought that professional road builders would have topped a road with snot-slick red clay? The rain wasn’t helping matters either, but as it was too late (and impossible) to turn around, I just aimed the van straight ahead and hung on – until I slid off the road into a water-filled ditch. At least it was pretty close to the street I needed to reach.
Getting out of the van was exciting. I tried to stand on the running board to open the back door to get the punch bowl out, but in all the skidding around a lot of mud was thrown onto the running boards. My feet slid out from under me, and I ended up sitting in the ditch. As the shock of chest-high, cold, muddy water soaked through my Sunday dress, I realized that I should have removed my high heels and prayed all the snakes were hibernating.
It also crossed my mind to hope nobody was looking out their windows at me. Eventually I got up and got the back door open, still standing in the muddy water. With the way the van was angled downward, I had to get my short legs up the slippery side of the ditch and climb into the van to get the punch bowl. Everything attached to me made it onto the running board except my shoes, which were stuck somewhere in the mud, snaky-looking grass and cold water.
It took a few tries before I could get my slippery arms around the sloshing punch bowl without sliding back down to sit on my rear end in the ditch again. I was still imagining there were a host of snickering people watching through their windows with good intentions of helping me once they stopped laughing, but nobody showed up by the time I climbed out the other side of the ditch holding tightly to the heavy punch bowl. I didn’t bother locking the van or shutting the door because my main priority was getting out of the muddy, water-filled ditch without losing the punch bowl, and it took both arms.
I walked barefoot past the first four houses looking like the victim of a tsunami; pieces of fruit and punch mixing with the muddy water running down my formerly Sunday-best dress. Finally, reaching my destination, I rang the doorbell with an elbow and stood there dripping till the other hostesses opened the door, wide-eyed but sympathetically understanding about the short-cut I took on Dean.
They took the punch bowl to the kitchen to clean the mud off it while I went directly to the shower. I had to borrow some dry clothes from the taller woman of the house, but at least I was covered when guests began arriving. None of us were particularly surprised when the doorbell rang and Sharon stood there with her muddy shoes in hand and mud up to her knees. “I could see Elaine’s van parked down Dean Road so I thought it was okay to drive around the road closed signs …” she starting explaining.
It made perfect sense to us women why Sharon decided to ignore the road signs, but explaining to our husbands about why they needed to come pull us out of the mud on a closed road … well, let’s just say that our men lacked understanding.
It was unfortunate that when other people saw my van and Sharon’s new sports car on Dean, they thought it was alright for them to go around the signs too. By the day’s end, there was a whole line of vehicles slimed and stuck on Dean Road. Apparently, when residents (mostly women) of the community, saw our cars on the road, they thought, “Oh, the road must be passable now,” and here they came. It was a muddy mess!
-- By Elaine Marze