In the early part of the 20th century roads were not much more that dirt paths, especially in the rural areas. Some counties in Indiana, to help farmers earn money to pay their taxes and a means to put gravel on the roads, created a system of township road commissioners who were appointed to oversee the hauling and spreading and grading of the roads. My Great Grandfather, Lewis Isley, was the road commissioner in Washington Township, Shelby County. Hauling gravel was usually done in the winter and was cold hard work not just for the farmers but for the horses as well. Wagons were fitted with “gravel boxes” that held ¼ yard of gravel and they had slats on the bottom so that when they arrived at the designated place the slats were turned and the gravel ran out as they drove down the road. The gravel was hauled from various sand/gravel bars in nearby creeks or rivers. The teams were driven into the streams and the farmers would shovel the gravel to fill the box. Not sure what a ¼ yard of grave weighs but I’m sure it is heavy and the horses or mules had to pull the load up the bank which only the best could do without serious yelling and whipping. Many bets were made and it became a really a boisterous occasion.
My great Grandfather was a very honest man and of those hauling gravel his 7 sons and son-in-law’s were participants. Therefore it was critical to him that his “boys” abided by the rules. Gravel boxes were measured so that everyone hauled a full and proper load.
So now the story belongs to another, Great uncle Plato. To those directly related to him I apologize because I don’t think he was a bad man just different. I do remember him when I was probably seven and he was a very old then. But I do remember stories my dad told about his uncle Plato and how he lived. Different, very primitive, and almost beyond belief even in the late 1940’s. No screen doors, chickens in the kitchen and on the table. At family reunions we always got there early and dad would set at the food table so he could watch who brought what because he would not eat food brought by certain relatives. I soon learned to follow dad thru the line when food was served. I have digressed, but there were many really good people from Uncle Plato’s family and to them I mean no offense.
Uncle Plato built a new gravel box and it was quite a bit short of the ¼ yard. He painted it and then added a 1 or 2 inch unpainted board on top to make people think that the box had been measured and the unpainted boards added to bring it up to the specifications. However, even with the addition it was still short of the ¼ yard. He thought that no one would question the volume because surly everyone would know that someone had made him put the box into proper configuration, even his dad. Boy was he wrong! The 1st time he hauled gravel for his dad Great Granddad measured the box and made him add more boards so that he hauled the proper amount he was being paid for.
This story was told to me by my Grandfather, Webb Isley and was not so much about his brother Plato but about his father and how honest he was and how he expected everyone to be honest including his own children.
Thanks for listening
The Crotchety Old Man
Edited and approved by Linda