The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2006

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Highway Geology


Stephen Lewandowski

I lived on Boughton Hill Road in the Town of Mendon, County of Monroe, for a number of years. My house was a rambling, mustard yellow frame structure with a hundred-year-old spruce out front.

Traveling Boughton Hill Road every day to work in Canandaigua, I had time to think about its remarkable straightness. It departs south from NYS Route 96 in the Town of Phelps to form the Main Street of the Village of Clifton Springs, right over where the smelly sulphur springs surface. Miles farther straight west, it enters the Town of Manchester and forms the Main Street of the Village of Shortsville, passing over the Canandaigua Lake Outlet near the falls which powered a number of mills.

West on a bee-line, it crosses the Town of Farmington, intersects Canandaigua's Rochester Road at Hathaway's Corners and passes over Mud Creek, another mill site, in the Hamlet of Mertensia. West again, it passes directly over the top of Boughton Hill in the Town of Victor, with a Seneca village and graveyard on the north and an early settler-cemetery on the south. Leaving Boughton Hill, it snakes a bit passing through the Hopper Hills, pauses at Strait's Corners, and enters the Village of Honeoye Falls right at the falls, another old mill site.

In other words, as Boughton Hill road stretches east and west it lies over a major outcrop of limestone bedrock, harder than the adjacent stone, which causes waterfalls and villages at the power spots. In further words, it is an ancient trail whose surface has felt the traffic of feet, hooves, wooden wheels, iron wheels and rubber tires.


The lifespan of a post in the ground is what? Ten, twenty years? The post which held up our mailbox on Boughton Hill Road had reached its useful life's end, broke at the ground and toppled over. The box lay with its mouth open, its flap lolling like a tongue. Those days, I corresponded with many people and relied heavily, especially during the winter, on mail for a social life. The sight of the expired mailbox moved me to immediate action. I bought a pressure-treated, six-foot post at the lumberyard in Honeoye Falls, redug the hole, inserted the new post, tamped the hole and attached the old mailbox.

A poet friend living in the State of Colorado had his own radio show where the talents of his friends were often on display. He asked me for a tape of my work to play on his show. Near the midwinter, I had the time and the inclination, once my mailbox chore was done, to sit down with a tape recorder in the kitchen to tape some of my work. Nobody else was home so the house was very quiet, and I set the recorder up in the kitchen at the back of the house.

I was reading my poems into the microphone, pausing to make comments on the scene from the kitchen windows and the weather. It was a medium cold day with some snow but not much. There was enough wind, though, to move the scant snow around a lot. As I read and talked, I began to hear a background noise, a scraping sound far off on the highway. I said to the microphone, "We have just enough snow for the highway crews to go out. Maybe they're just on a training run, though." The scraping sound got louder and louder as the truck drove east toward my house. I wondered if they'd be able to hear it in the background on the tape.

The sound got quite loud as the truck passed the house, and there was a loud bang. I turned off the tape recorder, walked through the house and out the front door. The truck was nowhere in sight, but my fresh, new mailbox post was sheared right at the ground, and the mailbox was again lying in a snow bank with its mouth open. I stood and looked at it for some time, then got cold and returned to the house.

I walked back through the house to the kitchen where the phone hung on the western wall. Mendon Town Hall was west of the house, so I was facing in the right direction. I dialed in the number of the Mendon Town Clerk and when she answered, I said, "Your snowplow just hit and broke the new post I installed this morning to hold up the mail box."

She said, "When did this happen?"

"Two minutes ago."

"Well," she said, "what took you so long?"

© 2006, Stephen Lewandowski
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