A Sinking Feeling

I wrote recently of my high expectations for a new well. Expectations
and reality are about as related as third cousins, twice removed;
something I relearn on a regular basis. This week we got our well
finished; plus I gained an experience. This experience will be forever burned into my memory, from
which Alzheimer’s Syndrome or traumatic brain injury will be my only escape.

It was too wet Monday morning to dig a trench to connect the well to
the pump house. No guts, no glory I say, so we began to dig anyway. Within
the first few scoops of the backhoe, the ground began to crumble and
fall away. We started behind the pump house and so the earth that
crumbled into the newly-dug pit was the same stuff holding up the
little house and the foot thick concrete pad upon which it sat. There
is something so unnerving about seeing even a small structure slowly
sliding into a crevasse. It’s like there is nothing underneath you
anymore and what you are watching is a breach of nature’s rules.

Larry Kruse from town (St Hilaire, Mn) broke the little shed’s fall with his backhoe. Jeff
Davidson from Newfolden, Mn was there too so he and I began shoveling wet, unstable, structurally-worthless mud in an effort to shore up the whole mess. We ran a strap around
the building and tied it to a trailer; it looked like a kite shaped
outhouse. The next day Larry and I went about the work of raising
the structure and shoring it with rock. Larry lifted the shed with
his back hoe and I lifted rock with my back and shovel. I spent most
of that morning up to my knees in quicksand’s closest cousin and
almost lost my boots to its vacuum several times. The trench, dug just
one day prior, had been flooded overnight with three inches of rain
and was impassable. My hat blew off at one point and landed on top of
the slurry. I tried to get it back but I could see it landed a top of dangerous slurry, unreachable, and became one of that days casualties. It was probably my favorite work hat.

We tried so many different ways to lift that shed but what finally
worked was sliding a large piece of channel iron under one end then
lifting with the backhoe. It took an amazing amount of work to
position the large chunk of metal so that Larry could slide it under
the building with the backhoe. My efforts in the muck were twice as
hard because the mud made my legs useless so I could only use my
upper body. Larry would pick the building maybe an inch and I would
maniacally shovel rock with a pumping action. Larry and I got the
building back in place with so little damage that it was like it
never happened.

I should have taken a picture of that awful scene but it felt too
much like taking Polaroid’s at a funeral. You could see the effects
of our work by the sheer destruction of our yard; mud everywhere,
deeps ruts, bent steel, fence posts half-buried in rock-encrusted mud
all made shiny with nervous sweat and water that smelled like dirt.

We didn’t lose that day so I guess you can count it as a win, although we really only recovered ground we already once held. I told Larry, “thank-you for not giving up on this project.” Larry smiled
back at me and said, “I never give up.”
I’m glad he doesn’t.

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