All roads on the island of Bennington were, until recent times, of the worst variety. Local history keepers, and those in charge of roadway upkeep, were easy in placing the blame for such on a 17th century goat by the name of Alfred VII. A dairy goat by nature, Alfred VII was living a rather ordinary life until the day he grew bored with the hay and alfalfa provided to him.
“Blaaand,” was Alfred’s wobbly complaint to the dairy farmer and his wife, who were enjoying a meal of bubble and squeak. “Blaaand.”
“Carry on, caller,” the dairy farmer instructed.
Hungry, Alfred proceeded to make a meal out of clothesline trousers, and a half-peck of apples. Belly only half full, Alfred distanced himself from the dairy farm, trotting with the direction of the North Sea wind until he came upon a road crew that’d been charged with constructing Roman roads in the middle of nowhere.
“Blaaand,” Alfred bleated to the road crew after sticking his muzzle into their lunch cauldron of hot slaw – a slaw that he felt needed a good shake of vinegar. Alfred proceeded to eat nearly the entire cauldron of slaw despite the blaaandesss. And in order to clean his teeth afterwards, he gobbled down a pile of mail order instructions that detailed How to Build a Roman Road in Ten Days (or Less).
No longer hungry, the goat known as Alfred VII trotted his way back to the dairy farm, where he resumed an ordinary life of eating the hay and alfalfa provided to him.
Far too ashamed to request another set of mail order instructions after Alfred VII had eaten theirs, the road crew blindly went forth with constructing Roman roads that, once complete, would allow farmers and journeymen a safe and reliable passage to the capital city of their queen: Bennington, Bennington.
Basic common sense led the road crew to first dig miles upon miles of ditches, all of which was done over a five-year period. Confused on what to do next, the supervisor of the men demanded that the ditches be dug deeper. So the road crew dug deeper, as instructed.
Yet it was during this deep dig that several weeks of torrential North Sea rain, combined with an additional month of relentless North Sea rain, caused the ditches to become canals of water. Finding these canals incredibly convenient once sturdy vessels were acquired for transport were the farmers and journeymen, who continued to conduct their trade by way of waterway until a dry spell came upon the Queendom. Soon the canals were no more. Yet the original ditches remained, allowing road construction to once again commence. Absent, however, was the road crew, for like all perishable items in this world Silent City they’d long gone.
Dutifully setting about the task of completing the roads after locating a manual at the local Roman Road Shop instructing how to do so were the sons of the original road crew, who were not nearly as educated in the craft of artful dodging as their fathers.
The sons of the road crew first layered the sturdiest of stone upon ditch bottom. On top of this stone they poured gravel and sand for weeks upon weeks until it was time to lay the flattest of flat stones at road surface. When turning to the page on how to concoct a concrete mixture that would solidify this top layer of flat stones, the sons saw that the goat known as Alfred VII had struck again.
So it was in the spring of 1742 that Her Majesty, Queen Preshea Fercy, smashed a flagon of Bennington Butter Rum (BBR) against wobbly flat stone to signify the completion of the Roman roads that led to her Bennington proper.
The farmers and journeymen of Bennington took advantage of the roads immediately. Yet they were a bit dismayed when in the summer of 1742 a toll system was established. When asking, “What purpose these tolls serve?” the shaken drivers were told that all toll funds would go towards the construction of “new, and much sturdier” roads. Agreeing that these newly constructed roads needed to be replaced with newly constructed roads, the tolls were reluctantly paid by those who could barely afford the journey as is.
Yet no new roads were built. Nor was a concrete mixture poured between wobbly flat stone. Cracked wheels and axles soon began to litter the roadways outside of Bennington proper. Carcasses of horses and mules that had to either be shot or strangled due to broken bone made millionaires out of vultures.
“‘Tis forever a drag, this drag,” a local flip-thru commented at the time.
Angering the farmers and journeymen more than their transport losses was the fact that all roads inside the capital city of Her Majesty were those of a macadam variety, whereupon a six-inch layer of broken rock was laid atop soil, giving proper traction to heavy loads. When repeated appeals for the construction of macadam roads on the outskirts of Bennington were presented to Her Majesty on bent knee, the present queen at the time would simply restate what the previous queen had replied: “All Roman roads shall lead to Bennington.”
Taking inspiration from the infamous Rebecca Riots of 1839, whereupon angry Welsh farmers dressed as women deconstructed toll road gates with axes, the farmers and journeymen of Bennington banded together. Dressed as farmers and journeymen, the farmers and journeymen stormed a local library with scythes and flaming torches, demanding that a book concerning “cement and such” be presented for checkout purposes, primarily a book about, “cement to be poured between stone of a rotten Roman road’er.” Upon discovering that all books that referenced cement in relation to Roman roads were currently checked out, the local librarian, who was the size of a well-fed fox standing upon its hind legs, produced a book that instructed in vivid detail the construction of cobblestone roads.
After lighting the library’s nighttime depository box afire, the farmers and journeymen set about the secretive task of replacing the Roman roads of outer Bennington with cobblestone. Working at twilight, and on observed holidays, the farmers and journeymen constructed cobblestone roads that saw not a wagon wheel broken, nor horse or mule shot unless stubborn by nature. The rather masculine queen at the time, Queen Hortence Thorsteinsson, was impressed with the crafty work of the farmers and journeyman, and soon demanded that the macadam roads of the capital city be immediately replaced with cobblestone, thus creating the adage that, “All cobblestone shall lead to cobblestone.”
To this day, the most frequently traveled cobblestone in all of Bennington is the cobblestone laid upon Hazelhandy Avenue. Hazelhandy Avenue runs north to south through the capital city of Her Majesty, and divides five of six neighborhoods into east/west districts. One can always tell the class of neighborhood they are traveling through by the distance between each stone laid – a general rule being that the bumpier the ride, the less coal in the fire. And in the neighborhood of Beverly Coats, where the filthy heroes of our story reside, some say for every soul living in squalor on a given street that there is a hair of an inch between each stone laid. Which explains why the roadways of Beverly Coats are often flooded when there has scarcely been a mist in many a moon.
© 2019 DAVE GUNN