In the suburbs restless and wayward kids play a game called Ding Dong Ditch where one of them is dared to approach a house, ring the doorbell and then run away unseen. The homeowner opens the door puzzled to find nobody there. If it’s repeated, it quickly becomes annoying. This game was certainly not part of my childhood growing up in rural WV. First of all, the hunting dogs would have announced your presence long before you even got to the house. Then there was the likelihood of getting shot for trespassing…so Ding Dong Ditching never really caught on.
I have learned a thing or two about ditches though. Our driveway is steep and if the ditches aren’t kept shoveled out, the water will wash away gravel and erode the tire paths. For anyone feeling inspired to clean, we keep a handy shovel stuck in the ground next to the pieces of guardrail (open culverts) laid across the driveway. I’m always amazed how even a few tiny rocks can clog up the flow of water. It’s very satisfying to clear the path and see water diverted to a better location.
My infatuation with ditches started when we were little and walked to church around the bend. On warm spring mornings we would stop on our way home and catch penny back newts hiding under fallen leaves in the ice cold ditch water. Where the ditch widened at the top of the driveway, there were usually spring peepers. During my teenage years that same beloved ditch stole one of my sneakers when we were chasing cows--and I had to keep running barefoot when the mud would not surrender the shoe. We never did find it!
Daughter Alex got familiar with the ditch recently driving Nanna back from the post office and meeting an enormous log truck in a sharp curve on the one lane road. She bravely drove into the ditch (her only option), and when the truck passed, put the Jeep in four wheel drive and skillfully drove out of it. Her tracks were there two weeks later, reminding us of God’s mercy.
One time my sister and her husband were driving back from town and something in the ditch caught her eye so they went back to investigate. It was a woman passed out amongst the leaves! She began to stir when they asked if she was alright and started to grab for a nearby, almost empty, bottle of whisky, which my brother-in-law quickly kicked it out of reach as they phoned for help. It’s interesting how sometimes when we find ourselves in a ditch, we reach for the very thing that got us into the ditch in the first place.
I’ll conclude with a happy ditch story. The year was 1959 and Dad was driving Mom to meet his parents for the first time. Due to heavy rains, the dirt road had been carved into deep ruts and the mud pulled Dad’s 1950 green 4-door sedan into the ditch. “As not to get his shirt dirty”, he took it off, much to Mom’s embarrassment. Flustered, she remained in the car while Dad jacked it up and pushed it over, jacked it up again and pushed it over more, until he finally got it (and her) out of the ditch.
What have I learned from all this ditch talk? Like my daughter with 4X4-Drive and Dad with his muscles and car jack, we need to be equipped to get out of the figurative ditch. Simply put, that preparedness comes from reading scripture and praying. We also need a friend (or be that friend) to help us out--to kick things that hurt us to the curb and tell us when we’re reaching for the wrong things. And I say this as much to myself as to anyone else, when it comes to “ditching”, don’t be a ding-dong!
Janet Cowger- Fliegel