Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Woodchuck Way

One of the hallmarks of a magical place is that it's not easy to find. Dragons and moats and twisting mazes guard the place from the outside world.  Only the bravest, the smartest, and the most patient will find their way to the inner sanctum.

Our neighborhood fit this bill nicely.

There were no straight roads in Sandy.

When Brigham Young brought the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley, in 1847, they established a very uniform system for laying out city streets -- a nice grid, with city blocks of uniform size, separated by wide streets, running arrow straight to the cardinal points of the compass.
All of Salt Lake City radiates out from one central block, in streets with coordinates where their names should be -- 100 South, 200 West, 300 North, 400 Ea...well, you get the point. And this extends for hundreds of blocks. This makes it very easy to find addresses in the Salt Lake area. Most other towns in Utah are laid out in a similar manner.

Sandy is not like other towns.

I don't know who laid out the plan for Sandy, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Brigham Young. In fact, I suspect that whoever it was, they were dizzy drunk, and had probably just been kicked in the head by a foul tempered, half blind mule, with a chip on it's shoulder. The streets in our old neighborhood are so convoluted that, in later years, I found it was just easier to meet people elsewhere, rather than try and explain how to get to my house.


Quail Hollow, one of the largest streets, literally ran north, south, east and west. It's a miracle of modern urban design. Somehow, where you would think one street would end, and another would begin, the road just...kind of...curves...and continues on. I don't think I ever found the end of Quail Hollow. It went off the map in my head -- and there, there be monsters.


All of the streets in our neighborhood were named after birds -- making it that much more difficult for Utahns, accustomed to Brother Brigham's ways (100 west, 200 sou...you get the idea) to get anywhere. There were roads named for teal, and partridges, and goldeneye, and wood thrush, and falcons. There were peacocks and wrens and meadowlarks. And tons of quail.

And, right in the middle of this flock of feathered friends, lay the street that I lived on.

Woodchuck Way.

Not Eagle Boulevard. Not Hawk Street. Not even Turtle Dove Drive.

Nope. Woodchuck Way.


I grew up on a street named for a fat, buck toothed, timber tossing, rodent. Woodchucks are not glamorous. They're not flashy. They're not plumed. They're not graceful. They're not beautiful. Mostly, they're just a nuisance. No one ever composed an Ode to a woodchuck.

 Until now.

You see, most of what made me the person I am, happened to me somewhere between two addresses on that magical, bending road. The center of my universe stretched between 2508 (my home) and 2350 Woodchuck Way, where Aaron Ball, the best friend I've ever known, lived.

Woodchuck Way held the dreams of children standing at the edge of the world, watching civilization grow up around them. What happened on Woodchuck Way was a million small things, and thousands of minor adventures that, together, wrote a story that became a legend, as all good stories do.


I have no doubt that everyone who lived on all of those other streets, named for pretty birds, felt the same way as I did. The truth is, the magic wasn't in our streets, it was in our friendships, and our shared vision of the grandness of the life, as we watched the world through eyes, bright with possibility and undimmed by time.


1 comment:

Brad Ball said...

I have found memories of Woodchuck Way myself... from playing King of the Hill with Aaron and Daniel in the 1980's... to raising my own kids on Woodchuck Way in the 2000's. BTW... 2350 Woodchuck Way is going up for sell next week... just in case anyone is interested in buying it!