Memories of gravel

Peter Jackson
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I've always been sentimental about gravel.
I love the sound of it under car tires.
When I was a kid, I'd hear that special crunching sound a lot as we drove along unpaved roads. More often, though, that sound signalled an arrival of some sort: at a shop for ice-cream, at a park or ballfield, or a relative's house or cabin.
If I was distracted by boredom or nausea, it might take me by surprise. We're here already? Rubber on gravel - a welcome sound.
I even have a fond memory of a certain gravel pit. It was a short walk down the road from a summer home we once stayed in. The sides of it were very high, and the rock was loose and crumbly. A friend and I would throw rocks at the sides, trying to cause mini rock slides.
Fortunately, we didn't cause any major ones. (This is a very stupid thing to do, kids. Don't try it at home.)
I like certain types of gravel better than others. The most useless kind is purple-ish in colour. It's hard, but light in weight. It's especially rough to walk on in bare feet, and gets caught in the wind if you try to throw a fistful of it into the ocean.
Throwing fistfuls of gravel into the ocean is a surprisingly satisfying pastime. You can pretend you're carpet bombing some deserving totalitarian regime. Take that, commies!
Gravel-throwing is a diversion from the usual drill of throwing larger rocks as far out as you can. If you're lucky, you might even hit the buoy. You can hear the hollow "thunk" as the rock careens off the bright orange rubber. Joy!
Sometimes, amid the gravel on the side of the road, you'll find a few choice beach rocks. Then it's time for some specialty shots. There's the always satisfying skipped stone, if your rock is particularly flat. Or, you can try a deadman's dive. Throw the rock as high as you can and watch it punch into the water with hardly a ripple. (Another stupid alert here: make sure you throw the rock out, as well as up.)
Gravel has many practical purposes, of course. It's the perfect foundation for everything from roads to patio blocks. Too lazy to bother with stylish bricks on that walkway? Dump a load of gravel, rake, and voila! Your walkway is ready to be trod on.
Got cement? Mix in some gravel, and you've got concrete. Just pour and let dry.
If you skin your knee on gravel, that's another story. It's a messy, jagged cut. The dust mixes with the blood and forms a crust. Little pebbles get jammed under the broken skin. A kiss won't make this better. You need a good flushing.
Yes, gravel is certainly an integral part of our existence. It's the perfect hole-filler. It's solid, yet flexible. It covers the shoulders of our journey through life.
Gravel pit camping?
That's illegal, isn't it?

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's editorial page editor. He can contacted by e-mail at

Organizations: The Telegram

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