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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003
Yeah, I won the $600 mentioned in the previous (Previous? More like ancient) entry.

It lasted about oh, say two days. But I did come away with a really kick-ass new pool stick. And one helluva bar tab.

Wish I’d come away with a kick-ass pool game to go along with it.


It’s been positively heartbreaking. Corporate buddy Stu and I wake at 4 am, make a 5 am sojourn to the remote jobsite in weather that could well be described as typical for regions nestled snug up against the North Pole. And proceed to get sidetracked every single day.

It’s always something, be it mechanical or human, something that falls into the category of “How to Screw up a Job”. Got all your materials ready and lined up outdoors for a really productive day? It rains. Can’t get enough framing lumber to finish the job? That’s ‘cause the delivery truck broke down about 20 miles away (and the driver is ensconced at the local Burger King wailing excuses. Which would be fine if it was 15 degrees inside the Burger King and 68 outdoors, instead of the other way around).

Today was no exception. Sunny, clear and brisk, if brisk is a word that you would associate with 30 mph offshore winds and 25 degree temperatures. We were back on the fence line, readying yet another 30or 40 custom fence panels to loft skyward and place at the fringes of the city we are building. Just to set the record straight, here’s a little primer for how to best do this sort of thing.

1. Layout and drill a series of holes in the ground exactly 8’-5½” apart, on a straight line.
2. Toss a 150 lb. piece of 6 x 6 salt treated lumber in the hole as a post.
3. Using your handy laser level, find a level line to set the fence panels by.
4. Carry a 200 lb. fence panel to the posts and nail it off.
5. Cut the excess part of the top of the post off and nail a cap on it.
6. Pour concrete in the hole.

Repeat 20 times. Then, and only then can you crawl back to the heated truck and attempt to thaw out random appendages which have succumbed to the blast of raw air coming off the Chesapeake Bay.

Notice the very first thing you have to do. Drill holes in the earth. A simple thing, something even primitive man found interesting and useful to do. Maybe not for fencing, since nobody was really interested in fencing in those days. Why they are interested in it now, when we are supposedly so much more enlightened, is beyond me.

Anyway, you use a gas powered auger, it takes two men to operate it, and on a warm day in September you can really make the dirt fly. Two minutes per hole, 30” down and 10” diameter. Precision gopher work.

Not so on a January day on the Shore. We were attempting a run through an area which had sat underwater for quite some time, rainwater being what it is. A thing which seeks the lowest point of ground to collect and dissipate. The primitive man would probably have made a note of this, might have been able to issue an early warning for the two lads in their insulated coveralls with their mighty gas auger. Neanderthal man could probably have saved us the trouble by simply saying “Hey, dumbasses! Know what happens to water when it gets underground in the winter? Yup, it freezes! Makes for some wicked tough hole digging, yes indeedy.”

Stu fired up the auger with a yank on the cord and we trundled it over to the first pin. I squeezed the lever and the big bit turned and scraped haplessly against the tundra, sending a pitiful handful of dirt shavings aside. After a full five minutes of boring, we’d proceeded into terra verra firma a scant two inches.

“Holy mother of concrete, Stu. This stuffs as hard as an architects skull!”

We poked at the earth with a pick and shovel. We loosened the crusty frozen surface and eventually got the auger into play and got our hole, but the production speed was as glacial as the air temperature. We muttered, we cursed, we did 3 more holes at about the same rate and were becoming two very frustrated gophers. Great clouds of superheated steam were coming from the general area of the fur-trimmed hood which indicated where Stu’s face might normally be.

“’Sno good I tell ye! We need to wait for the spring thaw! Stuff’s hard as a rock!”

“Aw c’mon,” I pleaded. We’re supposed to be good at this sort of thing. The whole fence line can’t be this bad. Couple more and we take a break, whaddya say”?

The primitive man would have given it all up for a fire and perhaps a gnaw on a venison bone. Primitive man would have already packed it in for the winter and spent the day making arrowheads or painting the cave or something. Primitive man would have been warm and dry and reasonably well fed, sitting around dreaming up his next invention.

Modern man was out on the fence line freezing his ass off and getting ready to be stupid.

We started hole number five and the auger died, rather suddenly and inexplicably. Rather mysteriously. We took a look, yep, plenty of gas, oil okay, no obvious thing. “It’s a sign, brother. We ought to just hold up for the day.” Stu was getting that look in his eye, the look that warned of impending doom.

I might have said “Fiddle-de-dee” or something equally profound but my teeth were chattering too hard. “Fire that thing up.”

The auger turned about three more times and the shaft snapped with a loud pop.

Which is why I’m sitting in my nice warm house. Like any sensible modern man would be.

Might just have to run down to the pool hall to check out my latest theory, though. Whether I can roll a pool ball into a hole that small or not. It’s an awfully small hole.

It’d be a darned embarrassment to any gopher.

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