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Ian & Raven raveian@wolston.com 541-971-0372


Old Stuck in the Mud

by Ian Caldicott

It the rainy season again and what would the rainy season be without a visit from "Old Stuck in the Mud".  When you live in a flat valley alongside a small river you know that you live in a flood plain.  If you are a farmer you also know that your land will get very wet when the rains are heavy, because somewhere down under your soil is the old river bed, most likely composed of rocks and clay, a combination that does not drain well.

Our little valley is no exception, and in many places that clay is only a matter of inches below the surface.  It will come as no surprise then that nobody lives here for very long without at some point getting some contraption or another stuck in the mud.  Wanting to fit in and be accepted as part of the community, I made it a point shortly after we moved in last fall to get my truck stuck in the mud while trying to put up a fence.  Fortunately it was close to the driveway (all planning, really, I swear) so the local garage was able to use their tow truck winch to pull it out.

For the next week everywhere I went in town my arrival was eagerly anticipated so that everyone could get a chance to make their favorite clever comment and tell their favorite story about someone else who got stuck in the mud (funny how no one told his own story).  A few weeks later I did the unthinkable, I managed to get my truck stuck in the main pasture far far away from a firm surface.  I was trying to pull a drowned ewe out of the Nile, the ground didn't look TOO wet and as heavy as she was there was no other way to get her out.  Well, I did get her out, but not much farther before I bogged down.

The truck stayed in the field for over a week.  The kids on the school bus were dreaming up more and more elaborate schemes to get it out (helicopter airlift, using a tank) until one simply said "I guess he will leave it there till spring..... like my dad did." Out of the mouths of babes.  Fortunately not long after that we met another of our neighbors when he stopped by one evening to ask if we needed help getting our truck out of the field. It turned out he owns a big four wheel drive tractor that can go almost anywhere.  After that I stayed out of the fields with anything on wheels... for awhile.

Spring is a beautiful time of year, lambs playing in the fields, birds singing, buds on the trees, and fencing to be done.  Not the kind of fencing with swords, the kind that involves digging post holes.  I had a rented tractor and was happily digging post holes until I hit one of those spots where the clay is a couple of inches below the surface.  Awhile later there I was out in the field with my truck trying to get the post hole auger out of the ground.  It was in good, the tractor was stuck, time to go for more help.  It was at this moment that I noticed that while I had been working, my truck --which I had cleverly parked in a soft spot-- had sunk.  It is about this time that a new name began to appear in our vocabulary, "Old Stuck in the Mud."

The neighbor with the big tractor came to our rescue again, with a chuckle.  Stuck in the mud three times in about five months: a rather dubious claim to fame, but one I swore would end there.  Who was I kidding.  Here we are in the middle of our second rainy season, a small rented backhoe on the farm to help improve drainage, and me driving all the way out to the back of the farm in it.  I was feeling quite secure, it was a backhoe after all, if you got stuck you used the hydraulics to pull yourself out.  Mother Nature once again was chuckling at my expense.  With an ominous squelching sound the little machine sank up to its axles.  All attempts to crawl out failed miserably, the backhoe bucket and front bucket just slipped through the muck like it was water, which it mostly was.  I had found a spot with thick, deep, soggy, gravy-like topsoil.

This time the helpful neighbor didn't even need to ask what, just where.  I have a feeling I may be stuck with "Old Stuck in the Mud" for some time to come.....at least until the next new guy moves to town.