Swampy Muck

Swampy Muck

“There’s nothing like swampy muck to make hard work out of something –
especially when it sucks your shoes off!”

I had occasion to be reminded of a couple of weeks ago. It seems my son and his friend wanted to take a drive through the woods out back. Now, I was raised in those woods, and I have discovered – mostly by trial and error – where it is safe to venture and when. Springtime in the swamp is not a good time for a drive, even if one is out for a little adventure.

And ‘swamp’ pretty well describes one section of the woodlot back there.

After a couple of rounds on established trails, Mike’s friend, Dan, decided to try an area where a two-track was filled with water. They had already pulled though one wet spot on the roadway without doing too much damage. But this was not the slightly-flooded lane they thought it was. It was a dead end into deep muck.

Several years ago, some of our big trees were logged to open up the canopy for the younger ones to have a straight reach for the sun. That was done in late winter when the ground was mostly frozen over. Due to sudden wet weather, however, some logs had to be dragged out later using a high-wheeled skidder, which sunk deep ruts into the ground. Since this area of the woods had never been maintained as a roadway, as it stays swampy except about mid-August, no one bothered to patch those gaping holes.

These ruts, now filled with water, did not reveal their true nature, as the boys were about to discover. The ground around those watery lines looked stable enough. And when two get together looking for fun, the logic of one that would otherwise hesitate is lost. Dan had never been in those woods before, nor had Mike been of driving age in the past to have considered where the path might end.

I came into the action when the boys walked to the house and asked for a ride into town to get another vehicle to pull Dan’s truck out. That prompted a look-see, of course, knowing that I had sunk my own wheels in the woods a time or two in the past. So we piled into my little Dodge Stratus and headed down the lane to the woods. After the disbelief that they were where they were geographically faded into reality, I decided we were in it together to get them out. We tried some digging to get things ready before I sent them with my car into town.

Later, they returned, prepared to jerk the truck out with the high and dry second truck, which didn’t remain that way for long!

They excavated some new holes with the front of that truck, too, and the tow strap broke after a few tries, anyway. They jostled thoughts of amazement at how stuck they really were with the worry of damaging the truck long before the payoff at the bank arrived, and back to the pride of doing it right when it came to getting the thing stuck in the first place, and then to the dumbness of it all.

They had sense enough to get out of there and try to develop a Plan B before dark. I suggested they build some ‘bridges’ as I had learned to do over the years, but they thought that sounded like more effort than they wanted to generate. A quick fix with a tow strap was what they had in mind. They disappeared up the road in the second truck and headed into town. I busied myself in the rhubarb patch, expecting them to return at any time, but they did not.

That night, we received an inch-and-a-half (38 mm) of rain.

The next morning, I was out in the woods early, dragging sticks and stones and whatever I could find to firm up the path behind the truck. I was able to drive to within about 100 feet (30 m) of the scene with my little car, so I hauled in some broken concrete blocks and some lumber. Looking around, I found numerous wedges and slabs of tree trunks where the loggers had felled the trees, so I began lugging them to the scene, too. They worked quite well, as they were broad enough to plane out in the mud and lend some serious stability to the pathway.

Well after lunchtime, the boys returned, asking what I was doing back there. Weren’t we in this together? Imagine! They thought I’d leave all the fun to them!

Selfish old woman that I am, I proudly showed them the results of my efforts. I had even filled in the holes where they had tried to sink the second pickup the day before. Now yes, I do know that they should have had to put the labor into that process to really learn from the experience, but kids these days just don’t have the inclination to get that kind of dirty – the work kind – you know?

Well, it didn’t matter much. The truck wouldn’t budge and the tow strap broke. We noticed that the front end kept going deeper, while the back remained high. Some additional excavating with a shovel showed us why. It seemed that the rear axle had lodged on a large root that had not fully rotted away. To get the truck out, that root would have to be chipped away with the shovel while lying on the muddy ground. As my son works part time for a moving company, he had a moving blanket that he put down to absorb some of that wetness. It was not easy going, nonetheless, and the day was getting longer.

I came up to the house about 4 p.m. so tired and achy that I couldn’t pick my feet up high enough to climb my concrete steps, and thus I fell hard into them.

Ouch! That really hurt!

Funny how the other aches that had had me nearly in tears for hours didn’t matter – they were the fruits of problem solving, and I love a good puzzle. But falling into the steps with my full weight on my shin didn’t count as part of the adventure. The pain generated one last kick of adrenaline, though, and it got me up the stairs and into the shower where I needed to be.

I haven’t had that much fun in a while, I have to tell you. And I didn’t break my leg as I imagined, after all.

Finally, a second BIG truck was employed, and before dark they were free.

– Beverly Lyon
Mason, Michigan, U.S.A.

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