Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

Summer vacation time is here and many folks will no doubt be heading to the seashore for some R&R, or rest and recreation. The beach, with all its pretty views and fresh salt air, not to mention great seafood, is a place I always look forward to visiting.

Maybe it started in my childhood. Vacations were hard for my dad — a one-man crop and dairy operation — to find time to take. However, every year around late July or early August, when the wheat and barley had been harvested, the straw baled and the corn wasn’t yet ready to make silage, my parents would escape for their annual three-day vacation to Atlantic City. They did not take my brother and me along with them — we got to stay with relatives. Our vacations were when we each went to a week of summer camp-church camp (for me) and 4-H or Scout camp (for my brother).

My parents always returned with wonderful tales of Atlantic City’s Steel Pier with its diving horse and all the attractions on its famous boardwalk. As I got a bit older, my parents started the tradition of a one-day trip to Atlantic City with me, as well as an aunt and uncle or two. It was a long drive down and back, but I still have fond memories of changing into our bathing suits in the locker room of the old Lexington Hotel and then literally walking under the boardwalk to get out onto the broad expanse of beach and the gleaming ocean beyond. The only down side was a crowded beach that made it difficult to spot your family’s beach blanket and caused you to worry what would happen if you couldn’t find them.

It’s pleasant images of those childhood daytrips that still go through my head any time I hear the classic beach tune “Under the Boardwalk,” a 1964 hit by The Drifters. However, in recent months, I’ve been looking at a different type of boardwalk that has nothing to do with vacation or the beach. It’s the boardwalk of wooden pallet-like “mats” that was placed on the ground along the southern perimeter of our farm back in spring. I jokingly refer to it as the “Bowman Boardwalk.”

This boardwalk was installed there by construction crews doing a utility pole replacement project for the electric company. Having seen firsthand some negative outcomes when pipeline contractors placed crushed stones into cropland, we were insistent that other steps be taken so that heavy equipment wouldn’t unduly compact our soil, nor would small stones be left behind in our fields. The use of wooden mats — actually over-sized square wooden pallets — seems hopefully to have addressed those concerns.

The new electric poles are now in place and over the past few weeks the wooden mats have been taken up and carted away on the contractor’s trucks. It looks strange to see the barren strips of ground that were under this boardwalk revealed once again, weedless (for now) and surrounded by waist-high corn on one side of the road and ripening wheat on the other.

While this wasn’t a fun-in-the-sun kind of boardwalk bordered by sand and surf on the one hand and shops on the other — and we resisted the urge to go bike riding on it — we’re hoping it served its purpose well. We won’t know that for certain until crops are growing on this fertile ground once again. In the meanwhile, we join our farmer in looking forward to a fair reimbursement for the crops lost to this construction project. (And we also look forward to future trips to a seaside boardwalk without the early morning wake-up calls from back-up beepers on heavy equipment.)

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.