Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Post Dad's Memory / An Experiment With a Path

That reminds me of another of Dad's experiments.  Not that he set out to make an experiment, just that it ended up being one and he told us about the result because it was a valuable thing to know.

I've previously mentioned that Dad was moved around a lot as a child.  I have a vague idea that this might have happened in Rolling Hills, back before there were many houses up there.  Wherever he was located, there was a field along the route between his home and the grocery store.  

As the oldest boy, he was the one sent to the grocery store to get random things.  If he cut across the field it was a shorter route, so that's what he did.

Other people also cut across the field to that store.  There was a meandering pathway through it.  To start with he followed the path.  Then with the inspiration of a kid having to do a chore and wanting to do as little as possible (not his words), he started to wonder why the trail didn't go straight.  It wouldn't be as far to walk if it was straight.  

Perhaps the trail was avoiding rocks or holes.  He explored that idea.  No.  There seemed to be nothing for the trail to avoid.  He considered.

Then he decided that it was better to cut straight across the field, even if he had to push through tall grass, than to meander for no particular reason.  At first, there was no lingering sign that he was doing that.  The grass bounced back.

Then the grass started to be pressed down, so that you could see an impression of a path, if you looked.  Later, it was obvious that the grass had been tramped down.

Within a few weeks, other people had started to use his shortcut.  Additional feet meant that the grass became worn quicker.  The more worn the grass became, the more people would take the new path instead of the old one.  As soon as both paths were worn to bare dirt, the majority of the foot traffic traveled the straight path.

Dad watched as slowly the grass in the meandering path grew and eventually hid it from view.  Now people didn't even think of it as an option.  

Telling the story, you could hear pride in his voice.  Pride for his younger self, and pride at recognizing that this was a memory that was important enough to keep and pass down.  

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