CLEARING ROADS . . .

AND MINDS

 

Several times each year Pitcairners must renew the roads to keep them safe for foot, motorcycle, and tractor traffic. Even though the island only contains 1120 acres of land area, it has 9.07 miles of roadways, most of them steep and at times treacherous.

The original footpaths, worn into the hillsides by generations of bare feet, have been widened in recent years to allow tractors, Mini Mokes, and motorcycles room to maneuver. These roads are constructed by a D-4 Caterpillar bulldozer (a new one was air-dropped in May of 1983) and its predecessors.

Clearing the roads, however, has been traditionally assigned to the category of public workthe Pitcairn equivalent of taxes. When "three-bells" sounds, all able-bodied men are expected to report to work, each bringing his own tools.

Most of the work involves cutting back lantana (a bushy shrub that grows like wildfire), and occasional tree limbs which have grown into the right-of-way. Islanders tramp every inch of roadwayusually bare-footedas they swing hoes and bush knives at the weeds. Tractors follow the clearing team and plow the roads smooth, scraping down the ridges, and filling in the hollows caused by water erosion.

Normally roadwork requires the full time of every adult male for two or three days, but on October 6, 1982, some of the women also joined the team. (The men had been busy for six weeks building a new longboat, and it looked as if they had another six weeks of work to do on it. So they didn't want to take any more time than necessary for roadwork.)

Early in the morning platoons of road workers advanced in several directions, wielding their weapons against the enemy weeds. The campaign succeeded beyond all hopes, for Charles proclaimed victory at three in the afternoon, when the tractors leveled the last bit of roadway in front of Len's house. Several islanders judged it the first time the entire road system had been cleared in one day.

This task of renewing the roads resembles the work each of us should do in clearing away the weeds of destructive habits and thought-patterns from the pathways of our minds. As Paul so ably wrote: ". . . be transformed by the renewing of your minds," Romans 12:2.